Sunday, January 1, 2017

The Story of the Role of my Role Model

I have been blessed with many women and men I can look up to in life. I would like to express my thanks to three of them.
Sister Clark (now passed)
My Daddy
and my sister-in-law Ria.

Sister Clark was the first women that I had to stop and realize I wanted to model my life after. No offense to my own mother intended. We simply have different wants in life. Sister Clark seemed to me the kind of woman I would love to emulate, and also had a chance of actually becoming.
Sister Clark was the mother of many boys. And I mean a lot - we are LDS, after all. Most of them were around my age, so the activities we went on was the reason I was able to learn a bit more about their mother. They were all very nice boys, (I was the weird kid, so there was no chance of romance with them, just to get that out of your heads right now.) so it stood to reason they had strong examples. Their father was strong and moral and a hard worker. Their mother was a stay-at-home-mom that while helping her family in every way she could and dedicating an amazing amount of time to each and every one of them, never lost herself and her inner strength.
I have always wanted to be a mother and wife. But I was terrified of becoming less of myself and losing my own strength in the face of those roles. I grew up in an age of girl-power. I remember vividly my peers at rather young ages tell anyone who would listen that they didn't want to have kids because they wanted to work, not be "just a mom". I'm pretty sure, looking back, they just didn't want to be like their mothers. Which is a very common fear among teenage girls that feel misunderstood by parents. But there was also a drive that we could all feel to be just as good as men, just as strong, and never give up anything to be put into a box. The awakening of feminism in my peer group, you could say. I listened to this. I didn't add much to those conversations (okay, I wasn't invited into them. I eavesdropped like the creepy little child I was) but I took in a lot of what they were saying.
I didn't want to lose myself. I didn't want to be "just a" anything. I didn't have any particular dreams to strive for yet, but I was under the impression I could be anything I wanted to be, and the idea that being a wife and mother would take that away from me was terrifying.
And it didn't look to me like Moms had very much fun.
Then I noticed Sister Clark. She loved all her boys and her husband and was dedicated to them. I saw and respected that. But I also saw that she didn't give up any of her interests. She learned to enjoy a lot of what her sons did. Then she also went and did the things she loved.
In particular, there was one day I remember very well that I understood how good of a woman Sister Clark was. We all had gone for a hike. (It was a church activity. I hated exercise and tried to get out of it, to be clear.) I was dreading the day. While it was everyone my age and the adult leaders, I was very aware that I would have no friends there. I was the weird one that the kids my age didn't like as I made them uncomfortable. And the leaders were going to push about Personal Progress goals (A whole other story) and/or lecture me about fitting in and trying harder. I was prepared for an unfortunate day.
The hike was much more difficult that anticipated by anyone. Which is what you get when you ask a man-child newly returned from boot camp to pick an easy hike. It was longer and much steeper than nearly anyone was used to hiking. Many people, young and old alike, started to get fatigued quickly.
I was not in shape by any regard. I was about 110 lbs at the time, awkward, and didn't even like climbing the staircase in my own home because I got winded so easily.
I started to lag behind the others. My sibling was on the hike as well, and he had a backpack with our water bottles in it to stay hydrated. A great idea. Except for the fact that when around other young men he became very competitive. He was at the head of the pack with the most fit of the young men, striving to be the first to the lookout point. (They argued about it, but I'm telling you this was a freaking mountain. The made me climb a small ish mountain!) So I didn't have water, couldn't catch my breath, and was overheating quickly.
Sister Clark didn't know me in particular. She was not a leader for the young women. She was just a mom that was helping out with an activity and saw that I was not doing well.
Sister Clark was used to hiking. All her boys liked that sort of outdoor shenanigans. In fact, that man-child I mentioned that picked the hiking trail of torture was one of her older boys. She was up to the task. But she noticed a skinny unhappy girl falling behind and about to cry. Sister Clark immediately slowed her pace and started to walk beside me. This is a kindness that still gets me.
She started to talk to me as a friend would. She wanted to know my interests and goals. She shared funny stories of her life that made her more approachable. When I asked how it was to have a house of all boys, she was very frank. She had had to keep up with young energetic boys. She had to be willing to do strenuous things that they wanted to do. She had had to learn a lot of different sports in order to cheer them on in what they were doing. None of which were things she had known before. And she was clearly happy she had learned. Sister Clark told me she had at first appreciated those kind of things. Then she came to enjoy them herself. But she also said that she hadn't given up her own things she liked to do for fun.
I honestly can't remember what all of her hobbies were. She had a lot. And this was nearly two decades ago. What I do remember is thinking that she hadn't given up anything at all to be a wife and mom. She kept herself. She was herself all the way, but she added new things on top of that. She didn't let some of her drop to pick up "guy things". She did those things happily as well as what she wanted to do. She made time for her boys and husband, but also herself.
And she was nice.
A child of any age can easily tell when an adult is humoring them. It is painfully obvious when someone doesn't want to be hanging out with you, but it doing it because they think it is the right thing to do. Or they pity you.
Sister Clark didn't have to walk with me. She didn't have to make me laugh. She didn't have to try to relate to grumpy little me. But she did, and she seemed honestly interested in me as a person.
When I got too tired to continue, she stopped with me to take a break, though it meant she was going to miss seeing her boys reach the lookout point and take pictures. She pulled out her water and offered me some.
I refused. Because I had some, just not with me, and she should have her own water. She was the one who had prepared.
In total mom fashion, she didn't let me get away with that.
"Open up!" She said, and tipped the bottle over me. I had to open my mouth or waste the water for both of us. I appreciated this kindness bullying.
When we finally got to the top and I hobbled my way to the lookout point, she not only took pictures of her boys, who were refreshed, having resting while waiting for the rest of us and now goofing off way too close to the edge of the drop off, but made sure to take pictures of me and my brother too. She included us.
I have never seen those photos. I don't even know if they turned out. But I like to think she kept them and remembered me and that day.
Sadly, Sister Clark is no longer on this earth. She has passed into the eternities after a long battle with cancer.
Even after the hike, she took notice of me at church. She spoke to me in the hallways, which seems like a little thing but made all the difference to me.
During her battle with cancer, she was always kind and cheerful. Even when she knew for a fact that she was going to die. She sent a son on a mission while knowing there was a good likelihood she would never see him again. She came to church every week, even when she needed help walking and standing. She took the sacrament every week until the end. I always admired the strength of character and love for the gospel that kept her coming. Though she was for sure hurting, she never let it make her mean or preoccupied.
Hers was the first funeral I ever remember attending. I didn't go look at her in the casket. I refused to remember her as anything but living and vibrant.
She is still a standard for me to live up to.

My Daddy and I didn't always get along.
I was a difficult and unhappy child and teenager. Daddy is a hard man to understand.
I'm aware that he did his very best. Now. At the time I took things personally and wasn't willing to put aside my hurting to see things from his side.
It wasn't until I had the realization that Daddy prioritizes actions considerably more than words that I began to understand him.
My Daddy doesn't say "I love you" unless you push for it. He doesn't give a lot of hugs and isn't going to read anyone a bedtime story or tuck them into bed.
I had a long time of disliking my father before I understood how he said I love you.
He was always willing to give us a ride or pick us up if we really needed it.
He taught us how to do simple things with less effort.
He never yelled except in jest.
He tried to get us in on his (really strange) jokes.
He was always willing to be the bad guy if we needed a way out of something.
He never gave up on us, even when we were being awful to him (and we were, all of us)
He showed us respect for women by the example he set for always putting our mother in his highest regards.
He taught us respect by never allowing us to disrespect our mother.
He was willing to take any question by any of his kids seriously. Even the hypothetical silliness that sometimes arose at the dinner table.
He made sure there was always enough food for us and Momma, even if that meant he would leave the table not quiet full.
He started traditions with us.
He taught us how to use tools correctly so we could always get a quick fix done.
He never lectured about feminism - but showed my sisters and I we were capable of things even we didn't think we were.
He let us make mistakes and then helped us learn from them.
He took an interest in our lives and goals, even if they weren't what he wanted for us.
He respected our choices even if they hurt him.
He would praise us on those hard decisions we had to make.
He would make us talk our way through our own problems to come up with a solution.
He could get everyone to giggling about nothing.
He had a tendency to show us good food when we didn't want to forgive him yet.
He let us find our own wants and passions and how we would fight for them.
He waited to lecture until he wasn't angry anymore.
He understood when he was wrong and tried his best to not make the same mistakes twice.
He made sure Santa on the fire truck knew our names.
He never ruined the imaginings of any child.
He controlled his fear of stickiness to hold a grandchild in order to give relief to one of his children.
He sits with his children when they are sick and just spends time with them doing what they are doing.
He is willing to watch a chick flick to make someone happy.
He does things that make him uncomfortable or feel ridiculous for someone else to feel good.
He takes my mom to stores he absolutely hates because he knows she likes them.
He doesn't allow any of us to stop learning new things every day.
That was a list. And those are only the things I can think of from the top of my head.
I realized my Daddy was there for me and showing his love when I clicked what was happening with the dinner dates.
I had to go to a chiropractor. I had and still suffer from a bad back. It causes a lot of pain, and during that time it was getting difficult to move around and do my job. So Daddy took my to one of his friends who was a chiropractor, and started me on a treatment plan.
Past the fact that he footed the bill for the treatment, he made a deal with me.
The chiropractor was on the farthest possible side of town away from where we lived. It was quite a drive there and back, and took a lot of time Daddy could be spending elsewhere. So Daddy made me the offer of taking me to the chiropractor twice or three times a week, as needed, if I would treat him to dinner every Monday at a place of his choosing.
I accepted, because I'm no dummy.
First of all, I think the best part of these dinners for Daddy was when they would hand him the check and he would hand it right to me. The faces of the wait staff when I happily paid every time was priceless. Daddy really likes letting people come to their own conclusions about things, even if they are showing by their shock they have reached the wrong one. He likes a silent joke.
During the dinners, however, we usually talked about the same sort of things. What my plans were. My plans for university. My goals for my life in general. He wanted to know how I planned to save and use money. He let me gush on about writing and my stories. What my plans were to use my writing and get published.
Daddy wanted to know where I was going in life.
At first, in the mind of a grumpy teen, it felt like he was grilling me. I thought he wanted me to somehow prove myself and show I had a brain and wasn't going to be a burden to the family. The first few dinners I took offense and was hurt by his seeming distrust that I could figure my life out.
Then I realized that he was telling me he loved me every week. He was helping me solidify a detailed plan of what I wanted and how I was going to get it. He was supporting my ideas. He accepted what I wanted to do though he wanted so much more for me. He was trying to show an interest in my life.
Daddy was trying to help me reach all my dreams in the only way he knew how.
That was when I really got it.
Daddy doesn't say I love you all the time, because he wants people to feel it from what he does instead of just hear it over and over. When I asked him about it directly one day he told me that if he has to say it for his family to know he loves them, it means he failed in showing it.
So I thought back to all the times he was silently showing his love instead of saying it.
Daddy likes to buy shoes or purses for me that he think I will like. And he pays attention, because everything he has bought me I have loved. He gets me.
My Daddy has shown he is proud of me when I had to make hard choices to miss out of fun and family in order to be responsible.
He made great efforts to understand and like the man I chose to marry.
The moment I realized he approved of My Lovely I felt like I had finally lived up to his high standards for me.
My Daddy, and yes, I still call him Daddy. I never did stop, even when we weren't on the best of terms. I don't care how old I get. He is my Daddy. My Daddy is all the above. He is a solid intelligent man that wants the best for his family and shows his love through little constant things.
He is my role model in that. And also because he became my standard of a man.
Daddy wasn't always strong in the Church. He had his trials just like anyone else.
While I don't necessarily like the way he worked through some of his trials or agree with how he thinks other things should be handled, I can see how he overcame them. He had to struggle and come to some hard decisions.
Then he decided for himself and on his own what he wanted out of life. He came back to the Church and the countless meetings and activities that comes along with that. He changed what he had to to become a better man. My Daddy became so strong in the Gospel that many people would never believe he ever had a single struggle with it.
I don't think he ever lost his testimony of the Gospel. But there is a serious difference between the doctrine of the church and the people that make up the congregation. People are difficult to always get along with. Socializing is hard.
Daddy took all of that and decided to take the bad with the good in order to become the man he needed to be.
I watched as he turned it all around. (Yes, even eavesdropping. Leave me alone) He started cutting out sleeping time to read the scriptures on his own. He started trying to get the family to read together in the mornings. He bore his testimony in little ways. He shared fun little tidbits of Gospel facts during family meals. He was just around more for us to get to know.
Daddy became the standard of what a priesthood holder should be. He became strong in the Gospel on his own and helped others get there too. He has always been a great teacher and I watched as he took joy is explaining things to anyone, young or old, who had a question. He was very patient with those that were a bit more irksome.
My Daddy went from a man I was fighting, as only a teenager can, to a man I measured my potential dates against. If someone I was interested wouldn't be as spiritual, respectful, and kind as my Daddy, it wasn't going to happen. If my Daddy can bare his testimony with simple clarity, so can any guy that wants my attention. If my Daddy goes to all his meetings and fulfills his callings happily and completely, then you know I expect that from any man I would consider.
My Daddy is my role model of what a man should be.

If you are still reading, I am kind of impressed. Thank you.

The last person I will gush about on this post is my sister-in-law.
Ria does everything that can be taken out of context as that put-upon "just-a-mom" worry, but she does them in the absolute perfect fashion.
I want to be her when I grow up.
Ria has multiple children. She is a stay-at-home-mom. She home schools those kiddos. She makes bread from scratch. She sews clothing for her children and for fun gifts. She makes cards for each person to make them feel special on birthdays and anniversaries. She always has kind things to say about anyone. She makes healthy meals for her family (that are delicious, I'll have you know) nearly every meal. She maintains her weight. She works out every day, and goes on jogs by herself every morning. She makes time to chat with anyone. She is there for anyone in need. She always remembers to thank people.
Ria is just amazing.
Lots of those things, out of context, could make people become worried.
A lot of women try to get back to a certain weight for vain reasons or because of fear or pressure. Ria doesn't. She wants to be a healthy size for herself. She wants to feel good about herself and feel strong and healthy. She isn't doing all the fitness work to be a certain look or fit an expectation. She wants to get back to the place she felt the best, both physically and emotionally. She doesn't get pushed into it, but she wants to do it for herself.
As a result of her doing those good things for the right reasons, she is therefore being a perfect example to her children. Their Momma is doing hard things to be her best self.
She feeds her kids and husband good meals. They get to understand a have an appreciation for foods. They aren't getting all the junk that is in so many foods. And she does so not only for health, but because she genuinely enjoys cooking and providing meals for her loved ones.
Ria is kind. She rarely ever has anything negative to say about anyone. If anything, she takes too much on her own shoulders for others unkindness. She is very considerate and respectful of others choices and opinions. If she is aware someone else has a different preference for something, she does all she can to please them.
She is fun to be around. She wants to learn something from everyone. She listens amazingly well. She is happy to join a joke and give someone a laugh.
Ria has been in cahoots with me on several things because it made me happy. She was always very generous in having me over when we lived close and spending time with me. Ria gives the best, level headed advice.
She helped me greatly in polishing my novel in order to get it published.
My sister-in-law Ria always makes time to be kind.
I love her.
She is my role model because she is living the life I want to emulate, and she is doing it happily, of her own choosing, and for all the right reasons. She is incredible and sincere and loving.
She is my sister through marriage, but I consider her my sister in heart. I know I can always go to her, and I want to always be there for her if she needs the same.

I have been blessed with many role models.
Thank you for letting my gush about these three. They are huge influences for good in my life and give me a little hope each day.
I try to be an equally good person, for myself, and hoping I can some day be a kind of role model to someone else, even if I'm not aware of it.

Who are your role models in life and how have they impacted you?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Writer's Word Anxiety

Here is a short and sweet post for you.
Letting in you in on a little piece of my stressed out mind.

I love words. I love reading and writing, and listening to a really elegant speech. I just love how words can make an image and invoke a feeling and create a world. I love words to an incredible degree.
They also cause me some of the most anxiety ridden moments of my life.
I can be talking away with a friend, coworker, church friend. I will be blabbing on, so pleased I am finally making a connection with another person - because socializing is hard and scary - when they stop me mid sentence asking "What does that word mean?"
Don't get me wrong, I'm glad they ask. I'm glad they don't just smile and nod and have no idea what I am talking about, which means all of my efforts trying to make a personal connection are lost.
But this question is the bane of my social life.
Usually it is because I was not trying to talk at a 'high level'. I do know a lot of words. That comes from reading thousands upon thousands of books over the years. I know lots of strange, big, unusual, or just out of their time words. But I try really really hard NOT to use those weird ones in public when talking to others. I was not trying to speak over their head. I'm not trying to make anyone think I am smarter than I am.
When people ask this I feel like I have been doing really well communicating in what could be considered a second language to me. The language of to-other-people. I am in my own head a lot, and then maybe on paper, that communicating to another is difficult and stressful and, I feel, full of all sorts of unexplained rules that I don't understand or get the context for. So I have been doing so well, speaking this language. And suddenly I am thinking that I have messed it all up. That I slipped in a word that isn't part of their paradigm.
I struggle at this point. Hesitate and looked pained. I know this because people tell me. I am not pulling a face. I am internally panicking and trying desperately to translate a word.
Going from a 'big' word to a 'little' or 'normal' word is not dumbing it down. People need to stop thinking that, because it doesn't do justice to anyone. It is translating the word.
So I stand there, frozen in fear trying to translate a word that I thought WAS in their language. And often I can't come up with the translation, because the word just IS.
While I am trying to translate I am also stressing. Because that is what I do.
I am thinking that I have come off like a total snob. That I look like I was using a big word to make them feel less, which is certainly not the case. That I was talking like I am intelligent, when we all know that is not something I self profess. I am so worried that I have been sounding like a pretentious know-it-all when I was just trying to express a passing thought. This makes translating that word hard. Because I am sorting through where I know the word from and how it is usually used in context to see if that is why the word seems foreign. My brain demands to know if I used that word correctly, and if in my blathering I just misused a word and it is all my fault. I try to remember what decade that word is from. Often I am a generation out. Or more - as I have a serious love for Victorian, Edwardian, and Elizabethan time period writing.
This is all happening in my mind as I struggle to also come up with a more common, but just as poignant, of a word. Something that will convey the exact same message, but that the person I am talking with has most likely heard before. This is usually the most difficult part. So I usually just give a brief definition and worry that I sound like a dictionary recording.

I don't write this to get people to stop asking me what words mean. I want clarity, and if you don't know what in the world I just said, I need you to tell me so I can be aware of what I am doing, and also to explain myself so if I blunder again you will have some sort of idea what I just said. And I prefer people to be honest with me.
I am relating this part of my anxiety to reason away the stupid look on my face when I do this panic translation. I am aware some people misconstrue this expression to be distaste, dislike, annoyance, or like I think they are the most annoying scum of the earth I just found on the bottom of my shoe. I apologize, I have natural stank-face. When I am not paying attention to my expression it often reverts to a look of disgust and hatred. I don't know why.
It drove my mother crazy as I was growing up, as when she would say something that I had to think about she thought I was pulling a face at her when I was just computing the information. I thought hard, which made me look like I hated her and thought she was an idiot. Not a great face to revert to in front of my mother. Don't do that.
So if you ask that question, "What does that mean?", and I suddenly look like a woman that can't stand you, I'm sorry. I don't mean it. I am going through mental files and concentration makes me look like a jerk.
Please keep asking what words mean. I love words and want to share them all with you. Please don't pretend you understand what I'm saying if you don't. We both deserve better than that.
Just know that my social anxiety often looks like I hate you. Oops.

I hope that clears something up for a few of  you, and gives most of you a laugh. If it does not now, just imagine every time I pull that face that there is actually the sounds of stressed-out-whale in sound rehearsal that I am internalizing being vocalized. It will most likely make the situation more bearable for both of us.

Smile Always.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Story of the Speaking Walls.

Have you ever wondered what your home would say if it could speak?
Maybe it is the writer's brain in me, but I think of this often. So I decided to write a story about a sentient wall in my home with a lot of attitude and a mouth to match. Enjoy. And feel free to give a reaction in the comments below.

"Okay, but you have been saying that for three months."
Her husband gestured to the wall as if that answered all of the questions to the world and solved a few equations while at it.
Mavourneen held up a finger to the wall in a symbol to wait. It was a very motherly gesture. One she would really have to break before her child came into the world or she would become a stereotype.
"I just want to make a plan for it. And I want your help." She told her Lovely. "I have no talent at decorating."
"Or organizing, or de-cluttering. Or most cooking."
"Hey!" Mavourneen turned to the wall and glared. "I am a great cook."
"My smoke inhalation begs to differ." Snarked the wall of her home. "You set off the smoke alarm every time you cook past 8PM, then I have to choke on that and freeze my paint off because you open all the doors and windows in the middle of the night."
Mavourneen had no response to that. Often her neighbors only heard from her when the alarm went off at 3AM because that is when bacon must to done.
"But I'm putting up the pictures." She offered instead.
"The ones leaning against me in the closet? The ones that have been there since the first week you moved in and have moved only twice to make room for the shoes you don't wear? Those pictures? Or the ones in a box in the corner of the room you never go into? The ones that are going to corrode from being cuddled next to unused computer parts?"
Now it was Lovely's turn to glare. Though his glares always came off as manly pouts. "There is no need for that."
"I'm just saying that the plan of hanging pictures has been restated for three months, if not more, and I see no evidence of progress."
Mavourneen turned back to her husband, who the conversation really should be directed towards. "If we can just get some command hooks so we don't kill the walls, we can hang them this weekend and it will look like a real room."
"A really cluttered room." Came from the wall.
They both did their best to ignore that. "Why can't we use the ones we already have?" Lovely requested.
"Because they are tiny. I thought they had some hold, but they are for less than half a pound of weight each, not the three pounds I thought. They don't even hold up the aprons." Mavourneen explained. She didn't mention the pans. They both remembered the pans incident perfectly well. She no longer worked in the kitchen when Lovely napped for a reason.
"Don't we have photo gripper ones?"
"We can use those on some of them. But I want your help deciding where to put them. You don't want your rug above your computer."
"Because hanging rugs on my isn't offensive." The drywall complained.
"Decorative rug." Mavourneen shot at the wall and then turned back. "I just want the room to look lived in."
"Oh it does, that."
Mavourneen turned to the wall again, pointing at it as if that would change anything. "I've been busy. And you are supposed to only care about spider infiltration and if a mouse comes looking to set up shop. Not critique my homemaking skills. I will design on you any way I please."
"That's what she said."
Mavourneen turned a blank stare to her husband. "Screw it, lets use nails. I'm up for the damage bill."
Before her husband could come into the conversation with her and the supposed-to-be-inanimate object, and most likely regret become referee, the wall was willing to enter into that argument.
"Also what she said. And if you even think of taking nails and a hammer to me I'll drop those pictures so fast the flooring and I will have a blood feud." No paint rippled or texture changed. The wall just had a voice. But Mavourneen could tell it was gearing up for a fight.
While she had no way of knowing if the sentient wall could in fact push nails from itself, she was at the end of her patients. "Then keep your opinions to yourself. Or I will leave crayons out for the kids across the way and let you feel a little art culture. This is our apartment and we can decorate or not how we please. We keep this place clean, if cluttered, and you should just appreciate what you get." She gestured to the largest wall. "This will be a display, and you will like it. Because you are a happy home that is going to reflect a happy family and productive wife, even if it ends you."
Her eyes narrowed. "Or do I have to call the maintenance man about the curving bathroom wall again. I think it looks like mold."
"I was put in that way." Came the now tight voice. "It is not my fault my pipes come out that far. I'm perfectly sanitary, and I don't need people pressing on me like I'm damaged goods."
"A likely story." She pointed again. "But I think some pictures are going up. The closet and the spare room ones. And I think you are going to cooperate to show them off to best advantage. Advantage to me. Or I think that wave might be getting suspicious again."
As she turned away the petulant little voice had to put it one more word, so it could have the last.
"Fine, but don't think I have forgotten about the piece of tank threatening to gouge my perfect finish in the Spare Closet."

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Public Service Announcement: Tricking Treats

Public Service Announcement

Please distribute among all Cackling Community Members, Black Cat Patrol Officers, and Humans Handling Magic Act enforcers.

The Cackling Community would like to congratulate you on another year of service and training. We are pleased to announce it has now been 17 years since a death-resulting-incident related to broom traffic. Please remain vigilant to continue this trend and avoid all planes, fireworks, rockets, kites, and the ever more present drones.
We at the Cackling Community would like to remind you that it is again the time of year that the human Rituals of Candy Accumulation and Consumption. RCAC, also know as Halloween, is understandably a time of year with raised pressure and frustrations, but we would like to keep clear some regulations as you enter this season.

-Poisoned Apples are only meant to be made in small batches for intended 'participants'. Poisoning apples in bulk quantities not only makes them less effective, but it has come to our attention that human children are completely immune to their effects in the weeks surrounding RCAC. This could be due to the side effects of high fructose corn syrup that is nearly half of their blood volume at this time of year, or, as it has been suggested at our last Cackling Cauldron cook-off, children completely reject all produce based products for the entire month of October. Please refrain from giving out any form of apples or pears.
-Sleeping Spells only last a total of 336 hours. Any doctoring of recipes to increase this time frame is strictly prohibited. January is when our community's Spells Potency Competition is held. We congratulate Farrell B., our last year's winner, and her impressive record of 893 snowmen moved/altered in a single spell. We at the Cackling Community ask that you do not test any altered Sleeping Spells on the young children coming to your door. Standard 336 hour spells are of course approved, but any alteration of the spells will be met with ineligibility in the Spells Competition of January.
-Witch's Brew is a highly intoxicating beverage and should not be added to non-Member function punches or eggnogs. Brew is untested in the human society and we ask that you leave all experiments of this nature to specialists and professionals. We assure you that there are studies underway in health offices across the nation. Adding Brew into punches and nogs can lead to serious medical complications to humans that include frog-in-throat voice alterations, and spinning heads that can lead to death.

The Cackling Community would also like to make it clear that razor blades in any kind of treats is a criminal offense. The Cackling Community does not take this offense lightly, as it reflects badly on the community and magic users in general. Any cuts to the fingers or mouths of children will lead, but is not limited, to an immediate Broom Ban for one life sentence and/or the complete revoking of Membership which would include the removal of your Pointed Black Hat and Black Cat Patrol security/surveillance.
It is also to be noted, that while the use of illegal human based drugs is not monitored or enforced by the Cackling Community or their affiliates, any altering drugs used on human children is not only needlessly expensive, but will not reach the desired effect with children. Human children on altering drugs are more unpredictable, loud, and demanding, not less. High Fructose Corn Syrup is not considered an altering drug, though the effects are somewhat similar.

Please refer back to this as needed during this trying time of year and remember that your local Cackling Mentor is always available to help.
Thank you and have a magical day.

Mary Weathers.

P.S. We have been made aware that any potions smelling or tasting like pumpkins or related spices are remarkably effective among adults during RCAC months.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Lovely Quotes.

Lovely Quotes. And by that, I don't mean they are particularly nice. I mean that my Lovely, my husband, said them. Then I collected them to share.

  • "Hey, Pig Man! This is what you get for coming out of Hell!" Chopping murder sounds from computer.
  • "If a Hell Salesmen knocks on the door, I'm not here."
  • "I am the Pig Lord. Sshhh, tell no one."
  • Smacks a fly out of the air. Turns to see that I noticed. "Mighty Hunter!"
  • Comes in while I am trying to make the bed. "Sleep time! Not project time!"
  • Him: "Don't bend down anymore. Have me fetch things for you." Me: "You aren't a dog!" Him: "Well, it works."
  • Holds up quart of eggnog. "This IS my serving size!" Proceeds to offer me some.
  • Referring to game he had me 'watch' while he went to the other room. "I see he is still alive. Well done, wife."
  • "Our baby can't be a vegetarian! He already doesn't like chocolate! No Hippies in this house!!!"
  • Speaking of his Mother. "Oh, she is the perfect person to babysit. She is kind and loving and willing to hit you over the head with a pole if you need it. She's great."
  • "You have to keep that in the living room. The Bedroom can't be your creative space. Books are already a problem, if you bring in a laptop or craft things you may never sleep again." And in a quieter voice. "And pins!"
  • Pokes my pregnant belly. "Be nice to your Mother. She has the power!"
  • In a very dramatic old-man southern accent. "I'll take ya behind the barn and beat ya. I wonder if an 'organic' celery stick will hold up better than them those GMO celeries!" (We pretend to be characters having conversations. It is a creative thing.)
  • Me: "I really want to start-" Him: "You have to finish the book series I got you first! We need to talk about them!"
These are just some of the ones I have thought to save. There are many more. My Lovely is very good about making me feel amazing and getting me to laugh on even the worst of days. I am sure I will have to have a second post on his quotes at least.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Story of the Peanut Butter Cookie Gifts

 I am a compulsive gifter.
More so when I am nervous about meeting people, have to teach someone, or really want them to be my friend.
Recently, I was in a situation where I needed to do all three. So I baked.
I know that peanut butter based things are not the very best for a first gift. You have to worry about allergies, if they are on a diet that you didn't know about, or are just one of those contrary people that like the crunch instead of the creamy peanut butter, or vice versa.
Sadly, I didn't have much choice in my gifts. I am broke (or very near like it, as I am saving every penny and pail for baby coming soon), have no space in my tiny kitchen to make something too elaborate, and I am also the laziest person I have ever met and didn't want to go out to get extra ingredients. So I looked up things based on the things I already had and, wham, I am making peanut butter cookies.

I have trouble with baking where I live now. I used to be at sea level, and know all about how to cook and bake back home. But I moved from water level baking to my home here that is high elevation. I know there are charts and tricks and your momma's favorite hack to change a recipe from sea level to high elevation to make it a taste just the same and all this. I have tried everything in my know-how to get baking to do what I want here. I have been to multiple cooking classes and used all of the methods taught. My baking here just always fails. I can barely get bread to work.
So, I was nervous about these cookies. I wanted to make a good impression, but it was a gamble.
Following the recipe I will include at the bottom of the page (just scroll down to it if that is all you are here for. I'm not offended) I was pleasantly surprised to find the consistency exactly as described. So I went ahead and made about 50 of them.

 Before you get too impressed with that nice big number, I made 50 cookies that were each the size of a medium sized button.
I did them this size because I don't have full sized cookie sheets and wanted to get them done and ready in the shortest amount of time. So I made about 50 very small ones so they would cook fast and the batter would never get suspicious on me while I was waiting for the first ones to bake.
I also don't own cooling racks.
I know, and I call myself domestic? I'm working on it, promise!
So I used paper lined foil on my tiny little cookie sheets so when they were half cooled and not going to break when moved, I could slide them over to my tiny little work space and let them finish cooling while I got the next batch in.
You will notice a cookie or two is missing from the picture above. I had to taste test. To be sure they were moist enough and all that. And because button sized cookies seem to make us all feel as if they are guilt free. Warning - you might just inhale the first five cough-ten-cough before you realize you should control yourself. They be good.
 Well, as I said, I am a gifter. I didn't want to just hand over a plate of cookies that were smaller than they should be. And my paper plates are in low supply - real plates in low number and cannot be spared. I also consider myself very crafty and domestic. So I had to prove myself.
Peanut butter cookies have this habit of that cross hatching on the top, made by pressing them down with a fork before baking. I don't do that. One, I like to be different. Secondly, I didn't want crumbly bits to make them even smaller before I could get them to the ladies they were going to. So I smashed with a spoon instead of the fork. I know, breaking boundaries here. Cutting edge baking here.
These un-crumble cookies also made them perfect for stacking.
I will admit, this idea of gifting came from my husband. My Lovely is just as crafty as me, and gives me so many ideas of how to improve my crafting.
He thought I should use those mason jars that everyone is head of heels about, and fill them up with thumb sized snack like cookies or home made cheese crackers or chocolate dipped pretzels. Then decorate the mason jar. His thoughts were that every woman he has ever met thinks miniature anything is adorable and wonderful. (You know he is right. How do you think mini M&Ms became a thing? It isn't because you get more chocolate)
I wasn't going to make thumb sized peanut butter cookies. I am just NOT that patient. So these button sized ones were a great midway. And I had some empty peanut butter jars. I get the smaller jars through WIC, and when we empty one I clean it out and keep it. Because you never know when you are going to need a small plastic jar.
And luck would just have it that these button cookies fit the jars perfectly without hitting the sides. I was able to stack 8 cookies on top of one another, put the jar over them, and turn to make a cute little car of cookies.
I have no idea why I had saved the labels of the peanut butter jar lids. Crafting has a tendency to borderline on hoarding. Just don't tell My Lovely that I admitted that.
But I am so glad I had them, because re-wrapping them on the jars was just adorable, and told them it was creamy peanut butter to boot. (Judge me, crunchy lovers, if you dare!)
I didn't have twine on hand and my ribbons were all in the bottom of a bin somewhere. I also didn't want a ribbon to soak up the bit of oil peanut butter anything will always have. So I grabbed some brown paper I use to make my own patterns, and put it between the lid and jar.
The lids are not air tight. I am well aware of that. And the paper is not protection. But it is a little extra step that I thought was cute.
I also wrote on the paper, so when they opened the lid they would get a cute little note before cookies. See, domestic craftiness re initiated. I got this.
I wrote "Peanut Butter Makes Love Stick to Your Heart!" on the papers. (Because it is not only cute, but true) I was running out of time and so apparently forgot to take a picture of that step. Oops. How will you ever forgive me?

I made three of these small jars as gifts. Because I had three jars. And I had to get more cookies out of the house because apparently I still have not developed any impulse control. They were really good.
When I delivered the first of the jars the lady it was meant for was not home. Her husband was happy to take it for her, though his confusion at being handed a jar of peanut butter was pretty priceless until he got a better look. The children all around his knees know the ways, though, and immediately knew there were treats to be had.
I left him there to control the suddenly ravenous kiddos, pleased.

The quality of the pictures is not great, and I'm no professional anything, but I thought you would like to see the project and how I put it together.
It makes an easy gift at the last minute, or just because you think someone needs more Love stuck to their heart.

Recipe (format from Great website/app that you can grab recipes from almost any site on and access from anywhere. I may do a post on it later. Not a sponser, I just love them.) :

Peanut Butter Cookies

 cookies, dessert, peanut butter


    • 1 1/2 cups flour
    • 1/2 cup butter (113g)
    • 1/2 cup brown sugar
    • 1/2 cup white sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1/2 tsp baking soda
    • 1/2 tsp salt
    • 1 cup peanut butter (crunchy or smooth)
    • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


    1. pre heat the oven to 180 C (375 F)
    2. beat the butter and sugar together until creamy
    3. add the egg and beat some more
    4. add the peanut butter and vanilla extract and beat
    5. sift the flour, baking soda and salt and add to the batter
    6. mix briefly until the dough comes together
    7. roll the dough into small balls about 1 inch (3 cm’s), place on a lined baking sheet and press down with a fork
    8. bake for about 10 to 15 minutes until a light golden brown
    9. remove and allow to cool on a cooling rack

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Story of Uncomfortable Questions.

What is Forgive and Forget?
We hear it all the time. We are told to do so. But what does it actually mean? The flippant response of a person "It's fine, forget about it." doesn't really seem appropriate.
If you need to forgive someone, and say the words "I forgive you", does that really lend to thoughts of a little offense? If you have to forgive someone, doesn't that at some level equate work?
We are told to draw on the Atonement for the strength to get through something and truly forgive someone. The Atonement is not only to wash away sin, but also pain. True pain. If Jesus had to bleed for that pain in the Garden, is it really something that could be considered small? Or is it more than just not being mad at a friend anymore?
If someone has hurt you, enough that they need to be forgiven, would you put them back in that position to do it again? If you have to call upon Heavenly Father, through His Son that died for you, in order to work through that pain of how you were hurt, should you put yourself right back in that logistical place?
What about the Forget part? I personally believe that in today's language we have a different meaning for the word than was intended. Does Heaven Father truly expect you to never think of the instance ever again? Is that even how people are created? Is that how we learn for next time we are put in a dangerous position? Or could, possibly, that second part mean something slightly different than just not ever thinking about it again?
Could the Forget of Forgive and Forget, simply mean that we allow ourselves to heal? To let ourselves not be consumed by the thoughts, perhaps? We are told so many times that holding on to anger, hate, and grudges does ourselves more harm than the person we are thinking so unkindly of. Wouldn't this lead to forgiveness as well? What if instead of never allowing ourselves to think of the thing again, which that forcing usually means we are only bottling it up for later, the Forget means that we don't hold on to the thoughts? We don't let that thing, person, or thoughts be our only waking thoughts. We don't live in those thoughts. Wouldn't our minds heal so much faster, and more permanently, if we allowed a passing thought, but then allowed it to move along? To allow ourselves to forget. A process of forgetting. Is forgetting a process of allowing ourselves to heal? Wouldn't that be a kind of freedom? To give yourself a freedom, over and over, wouldn't that be wonderful?
Wouldn't it be easier to Forgive someone if you are not thinking about them at every moment and that hurt they caused you? Could you truly Forgive someone when you are reminded of them and or what they did over and over?
Heavenly Father created the world, and us to live in it. He knows how we all work and react. He has inspired men in so many ways, including science.
Health science is a thing. Heavenly Father, in my mind, wouldn't expect you to ignore a resource of a mental health, and the professionals that practice it. So, wouldn't listening, with discernment, to the truth of your doctors also be part of the Atonement? Wouldn't Heavenly Father want you to use all your resources that he has provided for you?
Doesn't mental health, under that thought, have some basic suggestions of how to deal with the person that hurt you? Even if that mental health professional is not of a faith, wouldn't they have some basic idea of what is healthy for you in that regard?
Would Heavenly Father, or that doctor, expect you to socialize and be on good, friendly terms with that person that hurt you? A person that hurt you so much that you needed to seek help from the Lord and medical personal alike?
Remember, we are not talking a "It's fine, nevermind" situation here. We are talking someone that caused you harm enough that you fell into the arms of your Savior, and are willing to pay hundreds of dollars an appointment for a doctor to boot.
Perhaps the health professional would suggest that you meet with that person that hurt you. Would it be every day? Every other day? Every week?
Or would it be once, to find closure?
Could you ever really find closure, which is a CLOSEing, if you put yourself in a place where you are constantly reminded of what sent you desperately needing the Atonement and other help? Can you allow yourself to Forget if you are constantly speaking with, preparing to socialize with, or being influenced by that person that hurt you so badly?
We know that the people you are around are the people that influence your life the most, yes? Isn't that the reason that we sing Love at Home, so the people that we are around the most, our family, are full of love instead of hostility? Isn't that the reason for Family Home Evenings, and Family Prayer? Even those not of the LDS faith know the importance of the family eating dinner together around the table, yes?
We want to create bonds with the people that will love us, and therefore influence us to do the most good, right?
So if you are in the process, or already been through the process, of Forgiving some person that put you in a place where you needed the Atonement to Forgive, why would you be asked to never be able to Forget?
If you are asked to be near that person, over and over and over and over again, wouldn't that person now be an influence on your life, wanted or not?
Would it ever be acceptable that a doctor, who is seeing you for mental health, ask you to allow that source of anguish to have an influence on your life?
Would your Father in Heaven ask that of you?
Would you ever be able to actually Forget?
If you can't Forget, can you actually be well enough to Forgive that person?
The Forgiving isn't for them, though it is surely a possible help. It is for you. You need to Forgive in order to move on, and not hold the anger and grudge that we know are so bad for us.
So, would it be appropriate for anyone to ask you to, or expect you to, Forgive without being able to ever Forget?
There is a reason certain people leave our lives. Some are just along with the passage of time. Other we let or make leave.
Is it okay to have the person who hurt you leave your life, even if other's weren't comfortable with it? Wouldn't Heavenly Father want you to be healthy and happy rather than popular?
That isn't to say you can make it so that you never see that person again. Depending on the situation, you may need to be in their association again, however shortly. You may have to do so sometimes. It wouldn't even be bad to paste on a smile and be civil, helpful, and even kind.
But, wouldn't it be easier if you knew that once the instance was over, no matter how needed or worthwhile or kind it was to everyone involved, that you knew that you can allow yourself to Forget again?
Forgive and Forget. Those words aren't together because it is catchier and easier to remember.
Don't you want both?

Smile Always.
(I know that was a little darker, but try to.)