Thursday, May 31, 2007

Free money


My sister Sarah told me to do this years ago, but I finally got around to it today.

I signed up with Upromise. It's pretty easy. They just had me link my credit cards and grocery store cards to my Upromise account, and then when I spend money at participating places, including a lot of online websites, they'll give me a percentage of the sale back into the account for my kids to spend on college. The money can sit there in a non-interest bearing account, or I can link it to the kids' 529 plans, and it will be invested. I really should have done it a long time ago.

For those of you who have been accumulating free money doing this for a while, I have some questions. Specifically, have you been able to earn significant cash or is it more like $3.74 over the course of 7 years? Regardless, I think it's way legit, so I am encouraging everyone out there who comes upon my little blog to sign up with Upromise so that all the purchases you make anyway can give someone (yourself or a child) a little bit of a kickback to go toward college expenses.

And if there's anyone out there who would be willing to link their purchases to my kids' accounts, I'd be most honored to accept.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Lame-o

In my neighborhood,

a car parked in the general vicinity of my mailbox + a rotter mailperson = no mail delivery for me.

I thoroughly enjoy mail. Since I was a teenager, when I reigned as the Queen of Mail*, I have enthusiastically looked forward to getting the mail every day. Sometimes I will check the mailbox 5 times to see if it's come. Needless to say, it puts me in a bad mood when I see the truck sail on past my house, punishing me for the exterminator's car parked out front.

Grrrr.

*Items I was likely to receive in the mail on any given day during my adolescence: every single catalog known to man, letters or tapes from missionaries, chain letters, pen pal letters, letters from boys I met at Student Council camp who lived far away, sweepstakes offers, mix tapes from friends, prizes from all the contests I entered, solicitations for money from Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, UT, postcards from every friend who ever went on vacation anywhere, Sassy magazine, New Era magazine, Elle magazine, lots of other magazines, BMG packages full of my 7 free cassettes and a bill for $18 for shipping. . .and on, and on, and on.

Monday, May 28, 2007

It's late

This happens all the time:

I'm out in public with my baby. A baby-adoring sort of stranger walks up to us, saying, "I have to see the little one." Then said stranger begins to ask questions, in a high-pitched, supposedly baby-appropriate voice to the baby.

"Hello! Well aren't you cute? What's your name? Hmm, what's your name?"

And I don't answer, because the stranger is talking to the baby, right? If the stranger wants me to tell him or her what the baby's name is, he or she would ask me what the baby's name is, right? There's inevitably a moment of awkwardness during which I am punishing the stranger for being dense enough to ask a question to a person who doesn't speak, and then expect an answer to come from an entirely different person. After I feel the stranger is sufficiently punished, I usually cave and respond with the expected reply, because that's the kind of person I am (a usual caver).

Sometimes I'll respond with, "It's Norah," to which the stranger will certainly say, "Sonora?" And sometimes if the questioner is asking my baby a long series of questions, never getting the hint that I am bothered by this practice, I will smile and say, "She doesn't talk yet" and leave it at that.

Tonight this scenario happened while we were having a picnic at Tempe Town Lake. I sat on a bench with Norah, and watched the lady on the next bench over watching Norah and trying to make her laugh. Then she came over, and I was strangely drawn to and distracted by the leftover pieces of lettuce from her salad in a closed plastic container. Also, I was confused by this lady's motives. For a second, I thought she was going to try to sell me something, and for a half-second, I thought she was going to try to sell me the leftover pieces of lettuce from her salad. I was disoriented, just a bit. Then this lady started asking Norah questions. For this lady, I'm certain this encounter was entirely within her realm of normalcy, but for me, it was a little bit unsettling. I wanted to question the questioner: Do you want me to answer the question you are asking my 8-month-old? How do you want me to proceed? Are you trying to sell me something, or maybe, ask for money?

I didn't ask any questions. Norah didn't tell her her name. I did, I told the lady Norah's name. But I did not buy any lettuce bits. And the lady went on her merry way, having just been very friendly with the people on the next bench over.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I watched too much tv last night

SNL -- Chris Farley was so funny. I need to Netflix some of the Best Of from the early 90s.

Lost -- What!? I have more questions than ever. Goodbye to sweet Charlie.

AI -- Props to the hometown girlfriend. Glendale, AZ is tight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

What can brown do for you?

This happened five minutes ago.

I just came home from swimming with Isaac and Norah at a friend's house. I took off my swimsuit and was about to jump in the shower when Norah and Isaac both made it perfectly clear they each wanted to be fed first. Aware of the open blinds, I grabbed a blanket and wrapped it around me while I found some food for Isaac. Then I grabbed Norah, shedding the blanket, and sat on the couch furthest from the windows, and began to nurse her, all the while thinking--(hoping)--about how my neighbors wouldn't be able to see me, even if they did look out their windows.

At the very moment that I was pondering my naked condition and thinking about the open windows and basking in the freedom to be naked in your own house if you want to be--surprise!--a head showed up from out of nowhere, walking past the window towards the door, package in hand. And of course, looking straight at me through the window. D'oh! Naturally, my reaction oozed grace and suaveness: with a look of utter horror on my face, I jumped off the couch with Norah, fully exposing my naked self to the UPS guy, and sprinted into the kitchen, where I cowered behind the bar counter.

He didn't ring the doorbell.

He left me these:



Wasn't that nice of him? I'm pretty sure I gave him something, in return: a good laugh with the guys back at the loading dock.

Note: Let it be known that I chose to blog about this immediately, so I still sit, this time wearing a blanket and some new red flats, in front of the open windows facing the street. Lesson not learned.

Friday, May 18, 2007

I feel like crying

Beat the (dirty) Spurs, Jazz.
Get some new refs, NBA.


I'm bitter.

{We'll always have Game 3.}

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The most ipowtit thing


Aaron can be a cantankerous child. Often, this is the case. He is very aware of what is unfair, he is very reluctant to do chores, and he is often annoyed by his younger brother who wants to be like him.

But sometimes, when the stars are aligned and the gods are smiling upon us, Aaron can do a complete 180 and become the sweetest, most helpful, most agreeable child ever to walk the earth. This happened the other night. He cleaned his whole room, got on his pajamas, brushed his teeth--all without being asked, thanked Steve for going to work, thanked me for folding all the laundry, and then hid away with a pencil and paper until he finished his masterpiece and proudly presented Steve and me with this gem:

Monday, May 14, 2007

YES!

UNBELIEVABLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

And if you don't know what I'm talking about, you're not a Suns fan.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wonder child


Norah does yoga.

It's true. She does downward facing dog, forward-bend, locust, cobra, dog pose, a variation on triangle pose, and then a whole series of Pilates moves.

Also, she crawls.





Yay, Norah.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Should we talk about the government?

The other night I drove down to scary, road-construction-torn, quiet, dark, industrial Tempe at 8 pm to sit on a market research discussion panel and get paid $100 in exchange for two hours and my opinions. We were a group of 8, all Mormon, sitting around a table in front of a two-way mirror and a moderator, answering questions about our system of values, our vision of America, and our impressions of what could only be excerpts from a potential stump speech that borrowed from King Benjamin in the book of Mosiah.

I can't begin to fathom whose presidential campaign might have been funding this little bit of research re: how people (Mormons) will respond to this speech based on religious background. (Yes I can.)

Tell me, do you consider me a liberal human being? I like to think I'm open-minded and able to see different positions on an issue. But at this little gathering the other night in the name of all that is market research, I was--by far--the most liberal person at the table. Maybe the moderator was liberal, too, because he kept smiling at me and asking me to elaborate on my views. There were a couple of girls at the other end of the table who were cool, and I liked them. They weren't necessarily ultra-conservative in their views, and they dressed cute, but they didn't have too much to say when the topic turned to current events or politics. One girl next to me and one boy next to me on the other side hardly said a word the whole night. So that left four of us to do most of the talking, and frankly, I probably was the most verbose. What can I say? The moderator egged me on, I like to hear myself talk. Sometimes I'm a little arrogant that way, and then I always regret being a conversation-hog the next day.

One old man would get asked a question regarding some aspect of values that were important to him and he would practically jump on the moderator, turning it into a Sunday School lesson, complete with quoting the scriptures. "You see, in our church," he proselytized, " we believe that faith yada yada yada like it says in Ether 12. . . ." We all laughed pretty much every time he took the opportunity to try to convert the moderator, which was often.

There was an older lady who was thoughtful and articulate and whose political views were almost 180-- no, probably more like 90 degrees-- from mine. The scripture-quoting gentleman was so smitten with what this lady had to say that at one point in our discussion, he declared he was looking for a wife, and was she married? She was. It was funny. Nobody proposed to me.

The last guy at the table became my A-No. 1 sparring partner. Practically everything I said would incense him and cause him to get red in the face. I'm exaggerating, but only a little. He seemed aghast at my current top three faves for president: Romney, McCain and Obama. He likes Guiliani and Thompson and Romney. No one else had any opinion whatsoever. Too early to follow the campaigns, they all said.

It's funny, because I've never met her, but the whole night I was thinking about Carina, or Azucar, if you will. If I'm vocal and opinionated and liberal (and the thing is, I'm really not!), she's 20 times more so on all three counts. I was having fun picturing her in this group, telling the die-hard Republican Mormons what-for. The images I was coming up with kept making me smile. Maybe that's why the moderator liked me.

Well, I just wanted to share my little experience. I probably signed something somewhere saying I wouldn't discuss the details of the discussion group. So at least I haven't told you my suspicions on who I think funded it and wanted to know how we felt about all that stuff. Let's just say I have a couple of friends working on this particular campaign this summer, and wouldn't it be funny if it was one of them's responsibility to analyze the market research data, and the videotape footage of Liberal Emily duking it out with the far-right conservatives surfaced? I would laugh.

By the way, Azucar, I thought of you again regarding this market research thing because I'm taking my check and buying a ticket to see The Police. I know you wouldn't approve, it being a big stadium tour of a 30-year-old band, and all. Usually I'd agree with you. But, it's The Police, The Police! You can come with us, if you want.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's a revelation thing

Discussions of The Mormons are all over the place. Is it weird that the first time I ever heard of the documentary was the end of last week? Let me opine briefly on what I thought, before I read too many other commentaries by people who can better articulate what I am thinking.

I mostly liked it and think it was long overdue.

I am kind of fascinated by the reaction people have had to our Church throughout its short history, and I don't just mean the negative reaction, although that part fascinates me the most. Join this newfound religion and leave England to follow a prophet who has seen God? Leave my wife and young kids to fend for themselves on the farm while I go on a mission for three years at a time? Pour tar over people and roll them in feathers? Issue an order to exterminate an entire civilization? Not elect somebody because of his religious affiliation? Teach anti-Mormon classes to the 7th graders at my church so they can approach their Mormon friends fully equipped with knowledge about horns on their heads and cultish behavior? Okay! Lots of people have said, Sign me up! I find it all very intriguing. I'm also kind of surprised when I hear that Mormonism is out of the mainstream. I suppose that's true in many places, but in my little world, I eatbreathesleep Mormonism and it's not obscure in the least. So I thought this program was overdue because it's time that a dialogue began about this young religion that reaches all corners of the earth and that stirs up such stong reaction.

I like knowing and learning about the history of Joseph Smith and the early Church. Sometimes I wish the Church was more forthright about mistakes made in the past because I feel like the truth has nothing to hide, but I understand the motivation of putting the best foot forward. I certainly don't feel the personal need to be defensive regarding polygamy, blacks and the priesthood, DNA evidence (note: I am not insinuating these are mistakes that the Church has made), or any other hang-ups some people have, and this is why: it's a revelation thing. I have strong, firm convictions that the Church of Jesus Christ is led by--who else?-- Jesus Christ, working through a living prophet and through relevation that each one of us can receive. Faith persists beyond societal pressures or scientific data or human error. I can't remember who said it last night, but I liked that part about how legitimate belief and participation in a religion cannot nor does not depend on empirical evidence. By definition, faith is "things that are hoped for, but not seen."

Abby and Nancy, you both mentioned that you thought the documentary was skewed and inaccurate. Please correct me if I'm putting words in your mouth, but I wonder if you felt that way because the Gospel was not presented as you are accustomed to perceiving it. Steve used the word "hollow." To those of us in the faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ is presented through the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is peace, it brings happiness, it offers hope. When everything is as it should be personally, the gospel is more than a history of events or a way of life or a group of people cleaning up after the wreckage of Katrina. It feels like truth, and it does not depend on empirical evidence. Attacks or criticism on these beliefs we value so highly therefore sometimes end up feeling like a punch in the gut.

Back to the documentary. Regarding the production value, I think it mostly cast a favorable light on Mormonism. Of course, everyone gets out of it what they want to get out of it. Haters probably got justification for hating, critics probably got justification for criticizing, believers won't stop believing. I wish the director had been more clear on who was speaking and how they came by their expertise on the subject. I would have liked to have seen fewer lengthy narrations by a couple of talking heads, and more contribution by more contributors. Maybe that's just because I get bored easily, and don't trust one-sided stories. I thought the absence of Jan Shipps was notable, although the credits listed her as a consultant. I thought Elder Jensen was thoughtful and well-spoken. I appreciated Elder Oaks' concession that the Mountain Meadows massacre was wrong on all fronts. I thought it was wonderful that the subject of eternal families was covered so thoroughly. If there is one message that I think we as a church ought to be broadcasting to the world, this is it. I saw my friends Mary and Craig Romney on tv! I'm sad for the child whose mother died in childbirth and whose father said some days he wouldn't do it again, but I was touched by the testimony that was shared in the telling of this story. If I think of more to say, I'll be back.

Your turn.