Where the hampster wheel always turns

About Me

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Middle aged underweight high school graduate
"It is not advisable James to venture unsolicited opinions. You should spare yourself the embarrassing discovery of their exact value to your listener." - Francisco d'Anconia, Atlas Shrugged
"The soundest way to raise revenues in the long run is to cut taxes now." - John F. Kennedy

Tuesday Update

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Day 2 of the "Food Storage challenge" is going well. I made two large chicken pot pies this morning and a large pot of bolognese sauce. Quinoa and veggies in both. I traded one of the pot pies for some eggs and granola.
Breakfast: Pancakes and bacon. I used flax meal as an egg substitute and powdered milk. They were a hit. Dinner: Pot pie, fresh squeezed OJ.

Nemesis: 376 Me: 13 - the increase ratio is extremely disproportionate.

Many years ago I was exposed to some of those weird optical illusions that look like one thing but actually are two. One I remember specifically is the old lady/young lady. I could easily see the young woman in a hat looking away, but had a really hard time seeing the old woman. I would stare and squint while the kids around me expressed exasperation. I was frustrated, and tempted to lie and say “Oh yeah, I see it.” Optical illusion peer pressure can be among the most intense of the peer pressures.

Suddenly, I saw her, the old woman. It was anti-climactic as my friends were less than impressed with my accomplishment, and my new awareness had no value whatsoever.

The 80’s were full of pop art optical illusions. Everything from the never-ending staircases of M.C. Escher to the tiny redundant prints that held a 3D image if you blurred your eyes enough. Seems we spent much of our time trying to see hidden things, follow never ending pathways and feeling superior when we were one of the few to uncover the secret. To this day, I have still never seen one of the floating 3D images that people swear are there.

The small town I grew up in, Ojai, California, (pronounced o-hi), is encircled with mountains. The word Ojai comes from a Chumash Indian word that supposedly means “nest.” One of the highest mountains is called “Chief Peak,” and bears the image of a stately Indian in repose. I’ve always been able to see the “Chief.” It’s so obvious, but I’ve pointed it out to many a person who was completely unable to see it.

Like my grade school friends I repeatedly found myself frustrated that my companions couldn’t see the image I so clearly pointed out.

Having had to make peace with the fact that I can’t make out 3D art, I’ve come to realize that seeing what other people point out is rarely important. My dog Sanook reinforces this fact. He loves other dogs. Over and over I’ve pointed with my finger at another dog in the distance only to have Sanook look directly at my finger, completely missing the ‘puppy.”

The reality is that what we see is much less important than how we see. I’ve spent hours in a friend’s powder room contorting my face and body trying desperately to make out one of those 3D images hung on the wall. As the frustration built, the intensity of my commitment to see the “floating heart” increased to frantic proportions. With people banging on the door begging to get in, I had barricaded myself in isolation obsessed with figuring out the cypher. Avowing not to exit until I had accomplished my quest.

There is nothing remotely healthy about this behavior. I never did see the heart. And unlike my dog, I had all these negative emotions about it. The reality is, my fixation made me miss out on a bunch of other fun stuff. I would have seen much more if I had, like my dog, looked for the “puppy”, seen only the pointer finger, been happy, and moved on.

Having made some feeble attempts at maturity I’ve realized that if you fixate on “Chief Peak” you miss all the other mountains. Perspective is often more useful than detail. The big picture is lovely.

The other mountains are spectacular.

Monday Update

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thank you everyone who has offered to smuggle us contraband food storage items. It's nice to know how many of you have my back. Or stomach as the case may be. Since we're only on day one, we're not gnawing on the door frames...yet, but maybe by Wednesday I'll be pleading for assistance. We're allowed to barter, and I do have LOTS of oranges.

The shorthand update for today: Breakfast: Apple cinnamon oatmeal, banana smoothies. Dinner: Tacos with cilantro lime sauce.

Nemesis: 323 followers. Me: 12

Mormons are funny creatures. We often refer to ourselves as a ‘peculiar people’ as though a scripturally based euphemism will make us less weird. We’re famous for all sorts of oddities. Aversion to coffee, tea, alcohol, tobacco just to name a few. Plus there’s that pesky confusion over polygamy, people like to wonder about us, others like to point and stare.

This was the case when my neighbor first saw my pantry. She pointed to a 6 gallon white bucket and said “What’s in there?” “Wheat” I reply as matter-of-factly as I can. “That one?” “Rice” “That one?” “Oats” Her quizzical expression turned to the look someone uses when seeing bad plastic surgery. This wasn’t going too well. I tried to salvage the experience by directing her attention to the organic macaroni and cheese. It would have worked if it had only been a box or two. The fact that it was enough mac - n - cheese to feed then entire fourth grade at my kids’ elementary school for a week, didn’t help.

Mormons are admonished to accumulate an emergency supply of food and water. When this first started, a hundred or so years ago, the counsel was a seven year supply. For most of my life it’s been a one year supply, and recently it’s whittled down to a three month supply of the food you eat and a year supply to keep you alive. I’ve done my best to follow the year’s supply counsel. Hence, the very stocked pantry. Most Mormons have struggled with this concept. A peek into the average ‘year’s supply’ will reveal a case of olives, some chocolate chips and a can of Spam. Even though I do it, I get that it’s weird.

Usually I do my best to blend in among the natives. When I’m in social stealth mode my strategy has been to order a glass of orange juice at the ladies coffees, to offer to be the designated driver, and to keep my pantry hidden from world view.

Now my security system has been breached, my weirdness has been made public. It was only a matter of time.

Recent events have made my peculiar habits not seem so crazy to the rest of the modern world, but it is still pretty weird to have the side of your house lined with blue barrels of water. The blessing in all of this has been we haven’t had to really live off of my rodentesque collection.

Yesterday at church we were asked to live this entire week off of our supply - no going to the store. Food, water - everything. I groaned a little when we were asked. I’ve got the stuff, but I’m so ‘busy’. This totally cuts into my bon bon eating time. I’m now going to have to plan, to organize. Crap.

Scott of course finds the whole thing an adventure. He’s up before dawn mixing up a batch of powdered milk and digging out the siphon pump for the barrels of water. Reluctantly I get on board. I have prepared for this. We can do it, and if I quit bellyaching, it will be fun.

So now with our food and water supply cut off, we embark on a week of what I’ll call “Fancy Camping” We are allowed to shower & flush the toilet. Bishop didn’t say anything about the dishwasher, so I’m still using that. We are civilized after all. By the end of the week we’ll see how savage we get - wrestling for the last can of chicken noodle soup and fighting over sprigs from the herb garden.

Update 2

Friday, March 27, 2009

I've broken 12!!! 50% Show their faces! What a great Friday night!! I may catch my nemesis yet! ;) On a bright note, today's Blog of Note was much better than yesterdays... so I can still aspire to be the "BoN" one day.

The "Blog of Note" is now up to 174 followers, since 151 this morning.

Logging in to my blog this morning to post my daily musing I’m notified of the Blogspot “Blog of Note” blog for the day. (Only a few short years ago the key words in that sentence didn’t even exist.) Say that five times fast.

Of course I’m curious. I’m enjoying my little blog and appreciate everyone who takes the time to read and comment. Up until I was ‘encouraged’ to try blogging all these little thoughts just bounced around in my head or took up space on the black hole of my hard drive.

So, I click on the link. Sometimes I click the link at the top of my own blog that says ‘next blog’. It takes you to a random series of blogs, most that tend to be in foreign languages. I dabble in a few languages, so it’s fun to try and cypher what the blogger is saying. I especially like to sullen poetry that seems to be popular in Chilean blogs.

Anyway, I click on the “Blog of Note” link excited to see what cyberspace has to offer this morning. In general, I don’t spend a lot of mental energy comparing myself to others. I always lose when I do that, so I’ve trained my brain to be pretty happy with what is. I must admit as I look at this blog, it is WAY more aesthetically interesting than mine. OK, I know EVERY blog is more aesthetically interesting than mine, that’s not my thing. But this “Blog of Note” is a veritable cornucopia of tidbits, countdowns, twitters, cat pictures and followed blogs. Across the banner is a beautiful Ansel Adams type photo of a bridge, after that it gets pretty messy.

I’m a content girl, so I ignore all the noise in the margins and dive right in to her post for the day, then her post for yesterday, then her post for the day before. Apparently to become the “Blog of Note” you must answer lists of questions about what’s on your nightstand, what concerts you’ve attended, and how much sleep you got last night.

Now, I wish mankind well, but I can assure you I could care less how much sleep you all got last night. I barely care how much sleep I got last night. This kind of discussion puts me to sleep. This blogger has 151 apparently sleep-obsessed followers. Plus those of us who were duped into getting excited about the “Blog of Note” for the day.

I LOVE a great musing. I read a series of different pieces daily and even if I disagree with the author, I love the intellectual awakening engendered from the exchange. This blog made the left side of my brain hurt from atrophy.

My list of followers is much smaller - eleven who will actually admit to reading, five who will actually put a face to their name. I feel so protective of my little flock. Every time a new follower joins I jump for joy. I couldn’t imagine putting them through the exercise of reading about how much sleep I got, but this may be where I go wrong. Numbers don’t lie, and 151 people are interested in what “Blog of Note” is doing.

So for today, I remain at peace with the fact that my musings don’t attract the masses. The masses are stupid. For evidence, just watch T.V.

Although if my numbers go down, I may resort to discussing how much sleep my dog got last night...

Blog of Note:


Bad Hair Day

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I just watched a clip of Obama talking with the astronauts on the space station. It is truly amazing that we have been successful in creating and sustaining long term living conditions in space. It’s the stuff science fiction was made of decades ago.

We can do amazing things, and the people who qualify themselves as astronauts today are certainly among the elite of our kind. So, please explain to me why every time I see one of these clips, and it’s about every year that I get to witness such a presidential exchange, the girl astronaut is sitting in the back looking like a freak relative of Don King?

I get it, there is little to no gravitational effect on hair in space, but the day you’re going to be broadcast on television nationwide, possibly worldwide wouldn’t you think you’d grab a rubber band?

It makes me wonder how smart these people really are. I know, the training is rigorous, but really, is there truly a point when you become so technically adept and book-smart that you loose all ability to see that your vagabond hair is distracting us lesser beings?

The whole time Obama is chatting with the space team I’m completely focused on the floating hair. Apparently I wasn’t the only one since part of the conversation went like this:

Obama: “Can I ask you a question -- were you tempted to cut your hair shorter while you were up there? Or is it fun in weightlessness?"

The astronaut replied that short hair was probably "ideally" "the way to go" but that a shorter cut wouldn't look good on her.

"I think it's a real fashion statement," Obama said.

Now come on. Shorter hair wouldn’t look good on her? Let’s just right here and right now call into question this woman’s ability to exercise good judgment. Should she really be named as an integral member of this elite team? Short hair would look worse than this??? Isn’t she in a blue jumpsuit, wearing a diaper with a vacuum hose attached to it? And she’s really concerned that shorter hair just won’t go?

The men sitting behind here were parting her hair like dried brush, so they could see the cameras. The whole thing was ridiculous.

Off hand I can think of five or six styling options that would have given her more credibility. Even looking like Pipi Longstocking would have been a better choice.

So in an open to letter to mankind, I am announcing, as my contribution to international brotherhood and scientific advancement I’m mailing a jumbo package of scrunchies to NASA today. One small step for man, one giant leap for womankind.

The Extra Room

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

When children move out, I understand parents are often grieved that their child has matured to a new life stage. It is common to keep the child’s room just the way it was for many years until finally, the parents can accept the child has become an adult.

This wasn’t the case with me or my room. As my relieved parents waved goodbye to me at college, there were no tears of separation. They have told me on many occasions they were thrilled to see me go. Apparently I wasn’t the fun, easygoing spirit I am today.

So now, faced with an extra room, what were they to do? Some families put in a work out room. Some a library or a hobby room. I’ve heard of media rooms, guest rooms, and art rooms. What I’ve never heard of, from a non-Asian family of course, is the installation of a family shrine. To the best of my knowledge we’re not Asian. So imagine my surprise on returning home to find my previously teen-decorated bedroom turned into the family shrine.

Now, most shrines that I’ve seen contain photos of items belonging to deceased ancestors. Not this shrine. Excepting the photos of Benson and Hedges, our long deceased house cats everyone else in the shrine is very much alive. There are medals, ribbons, photos, plaques, trophies, awards, certificates, proclamations, newspaper clippings, medallions, diplomas - it’s a veritable collection of approbation.

The amount of time and effort it must have taken someone (clearly one of my parents) to assemble, arrange and display this stuff is mind boggling. It’s also boggling how much stuff we’ve been awarded as a group. We’ve always seemed somewhat average; I had no idea we were so decorated. After seeing this room, who wouldn’t want to hang out with us? We’re amazing.

Well, not all of us. After a quick count my sister has about 60 items displayed. She is an amazing athlete and was even named to the Ventura County Sports Hall of Fame. I have 14 items displayed and after looking closer at some of them three aren’t really mine. The Rotary award for “Daughter of the Year” is really a swipe at my dad since the plaque contains the inscription “Thank goodness she took after her mother.” I was never actually presented with this award, they gave it to dad at a meeting, likely fined him dues for receiving it, and he hung it on my section of the wall. Luckily I was still deemed worthy to contribute to the family collection.

So next time you’re thinking “Who should I go to lunch with today?” Remind yourself, nothing says scintillating like someone related to a County Hall of Famer!

Winners and Heroes

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Tomorrow is National Medal of Honor day. I recently read an article that shared the story of a flight attendant offering free drink coupons to anyone who could name one Medal of Honor recipient. Shamefully, I would not have received a drink. Even more shameful, the entire plane full of people was also stumped. Although they could name a plethora of American Idol Winners.

I’m no fan of war. I do, on the other hand, hold profound respect and even awe toward those who willingly serve in the military. It takes a certain moral fiber to live the life of a soldier. I know there’s a myriad of reasons why people enlist, but at the end of the day we’re in a period of combat and too many of those enlistees actually see action. With that reality I believe there is a special element of selflessness in each soldier’s character.

Each Memorial Day we take our children to the National Veterans Memorial Cemetery. The Boy Scouts honor each grave with a waving American flag. Fluttering in the breeze they are an awesome sight in a literal sea of red, white and blue. Each of our children carries a bouquet of red flowers, poppies are hard to find, and spends time placing them among the fallen.

Most of the graves contain the remains of those who were honorably discharged and passed during their civilian life. But there is a section of new graves. These graves contain soldiers who recently lost their lives, many of them in combat. There is not one of them I know personally, yet I shed tears every trip.

As we pass through the vast rows of headstones it is hard not to be consumed with gratitude. Each of these people gave a portion of their lives in service of their country and in service of their fellow man. I certainly can not say the same, and feel profound thanks for those willing to serve.

Because I too can name most of the American Idol winners, I’m spending time today learning about those who in split second decisions sustained great loss. Yet in their sacrifice gave life to the men who served with them and to us an amazing example of heroism.

There is a tremendous difference between a winner and a hero. Knowing the difference awards us a much greater prize than drink coupons.


If other eyes grow dull and other hinds slack, and other hearts cold in the solemn trust, ours shall keep it well as long as the light and warmth of life remain in us. - Memorial Day Order, John A. Logan, May 5, 1868


Thank you for your valor and sacrifice in Iraq or Afghanistan

Marine Cpl. Jason Dunham
Navy SEAL Lt. Michael Murphy
Navy SEAL Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor
Army Spc. Ross McGinnis
Army Sgt. 1st Class Paul R. Smith.

Details found at:

Comfort Zones

Monday, March 23, 2009

Traveling is both an exciting adventure and a challenge. Filled with new sights, sounds and experiences, travel expands our frame of reference. Travel has much to teach and a great power to expand. As we travel, we become more open, more accepting and more understanding.

Unless you’re traveling back to your childhood home. That’s a different story. Every time I return to the home I grew up in I realize how persnickety and particular I’ve become.

Tonight I needed an ice pack for my hip. At home I have a collection of ice packs in the freezer just waiting to soothe any injury that might occur. I have small packs, large packs, lunch packs, cooler packs, hard packs, and my personal favorite: gel packs. So as I’m digging through my father’s freezer for an ice pack I gain frustration when all I can find is frozen food. How does one survive without ice packs? What kind of back-woods joint is he running here?

Indignant, but resigned to my quandary I march unhappily back to my room with a package of frozen ham. Covered with red price stickers I could tell the sliced luncheon meat had been purchased from a bargain bin at the grocery. Based on the thawing effect it was about to experience, I decided it was the most responsible choice out of all the other options.

Sitting on my improvisational ham I’m longing for my own ice pack collection, my own bed, my own shower... I realize that for my memorable formative years this was my shower, my bedroom and my freezer, and it was just fine.

We all have tastes and preferences. My mother-in-law loves a particular brand of yogurt. I think the brand of yogurt tastes like one of the ingredients is bug spray, but I buy it for her every time she comes to visit. My father brings his own coffee and my mother packs in all her own food. When I say all, I do mean all.

Just about the time I’m going to add “ice packs” to the list of things I need to pack when I come visit, I realize my hip is sufficiently numbed. Interestingly enough, frozen ham makes a very effective ice pack. Apparently I will survive this rugged challenge.

I also realize, it’s pretty hard to be persnickety when sitting on frozen ham.


Friday, March 13, 2009

I haven’t had much luck with things that fly. I find them fascinating and beautiful, but somehow they don’t return the Karma.

This beautiful spring day I’m in my kitchen, with my back door open to the splendor that is Arizona spring. I’m minding my own business (which means I wasn’t cleaning up like I should have been) when a ... I don’t know what to call it - flock? Herd? Hive? of bees flies in.

I looked it up, it’s a swarm, duh.

So, a swarm of bees flies in to the kitchen. Immediately I remember a documentary I saw about Africanized bees taking over the Southwest and I’m filled with a conflicted fight or flight instinct. Sanook the dog is no help, he lays on the floor oblivious to our imminent danger. Now to be fair, there were only eight bees, but we were still outnumbered 4 to 1, and if this gang of eight (political pun intended) are Africanized mercenaries and have plans to take dog and I hostage, there’s not much we can do.

My nine year old wanders in, and like the dog, she’s completely unaware of our peril. I resist the urge to tackle her, shielding her with my body, protecting her like a good mother should. I choose to remain frozen wondering if bees are like birds and only see movement. I learned this from the movie Jurassic Park. This knowledge saved the paleontologists and likely will save me. Oh, and my child.

After a few moments of casing the joint, the swarm is attracted to the large windows in the breakfast area. I’m sure they are attempting to signal reinforcements so they can take over the whole house. It would indeed make a nice hive, and now that they’ve checked it out they’d like to set up camp. While my monthly honey bill would certainly decrease, I don’t think they’d make good roommates. I’m trying to decide if invoking the Third Amendment will have any binding power on bees.

Clearly I need to man-up in order to save my home and family. Switching from statue-mode to stealth-mode I escape into the yard. Removing the screens from the windows I sneak back inside, and tell the bees to leave. One immediately obeys while the others ignore me, kind of like my parenting. Gently wielding a magazine in each hand I coax the intruders toward the open windows. They fight me with everything they’ve got. Stubborn bees.

As I prod the last bee out the window to the cheers of my adoring public I sigh with relief. The dog and child are mightily impressed. Locking the house up tight I press my face against the windowpane. This is the first time living in an orange grove seems not such a great idea. This showdown will likely have a repeat. Mark my words bees, I’ll be ready for you next time.

Self Discipline?

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As I stare down the chocolate doughnut left over from yesterday’s Boy Scout meeting I’m trying to figure out why this evil, simpleminded, fried blob holds such enticement over me. It’s from WalMart, as doughnuts go, it’s not gonna taste that good. It’s old, leftover from yesterday. I know I’m not gonna feel that great after I eat it, and yet, like some siren out of the Odyssey it calls to me.

I’ve tried to ignore it. Busying myself with more productive endeavors. Organizing the fridge - throwing away the baggie of slick, black, rotten cilantro does nothing to sell the rest of the fridge’s contents. I eat a yogurt. With all the press yogurt has been getting lately you’d think after eating yogurt I could singlehandedly negotiate Middle East peace, solve the economic crisis and develop a force field against the spell of the doughnut. Apparently all I will be able to do is poop.

I move to the laundry room. Tackling my nemesis will clearly be more fulfilling than eating the doughnut. The fresh scent of fabric softener perks me up. Sorting the whites from the darks I reminisce on how good the dark chocolate glaze looked against the white of the golden cake. I’ve named the doughnut Earl.

Enough of this. I march to the kitchen, scoop up the box and dump the whole thing in the trash. Triumphantly striding back to the laundry room I bask in my self-disciplined glory. I am victorious! I am the Master of my Domain.

This phrase reminds me of an inappropriately funny Seinfeld episode about self control. Which reminds me of another Seinfeld episode... the one where George ate the partially eaten chocolate eclair out of the garbage. Earl looked a little like the eclair. George didn’t die. That was from licking envelopes. Garbage is a whole different genre...and Earl is still safely ensconced in the box.

I often wonder if in the afterlife we will have our lives replayed to us on a huge Panasonic flat-screen. Maybe God and I will share a tub of popcorn while watching me eat my friend Earl out of the garbage. Not one of my more shining moments, and I can’t promise it won’t have an encore.

Let Me Entertain You

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Tonight on American Idol one of the judges gushed, “You hit notes I didn’t know even existed.” Quite a compliment. This exact phrase has been said to me. It was used in quite a different context.

Sitting next to my dear friend Claire at the close of a lovely Christmas program we were singing “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I love this song and I sang with gusto. Around the middle of the first verse Claire started to giggle.

Immediately my radar went up. I knew something interesting was going on in the room and I was missing it. Scanning the audience with a fervor I kept trying to find the entertainment. As I caroled, “wild and sweet the words repeat” Claire was doubled over in full gffaw.

What? I whispered a little too loudly. Clearly it was something I didn’t want to miss. “ringing, singing on its way...a voice, a chime, a chant sublime” Claire was losing control and I was getting frantic. Had someone’s false teeth come out? Did someone’s toupee slip? Toilet paper hanging out the back of their pants? Whaaaat? To no avail. Claire could not even speak and I warbled on.

The hymn ended and rather than pondering “peace on earth, goodwill toward men” I was beseeching Claire to let me in on her secret. The closing prayer was offered. My mind spinning with everything but the words of the prayer. Upon the pronouncement of the Amen Claire pushed past me out into the hallway having completely lost all composure.

I caught up with her as she was grabbing the arms of fellow parishioners and saying, “Have you ever heard Aselin sing?” People stared blankly at the crazed Briton. Claire is British and everything she says has an air of musicality. “She doesn’t leave any notes out!” “She sang notes that don’t even exist.”

Well yes, it’s a gift. It hadn’t dawned on me that I was tonight’s comic entertainment.

I have no delusions about my vocal abilities. In fifth grade I was typecast in a local theater production as “Young Louise,” the clutzy, tomboy, off-key singer that grows up to be the stripper “Gypsy Rose Lee.” Critics raved at my ability to capture the nuances of the character at such a young age. Little did they know that my performance was just a celebration of my lack of talent.

There are many among us who can’t sing. But I do believe it is a special talent to be bad enough that you make those around you lose their composure.

It’s a gift.

Where is John Galt?

Monday, March 9, 2009

A few years ago I registered myself as an "Independent." I couldn't see any correlation with the political party platform I subscribed to, and the actions of the elected legislators. While it was a small protest that went largely unnoticed I couldn't be aligned with those who brazenly digressed from their stated philosophy.

Then came the primary elections. In some states "Independents" are allowed to vote in either party's primary elections. Not Arizona. I discovered, mostly because I did no research prior to re-registering, that I now had no voice. It was painful for me, but because I would be allowed to vote in the general election I did not register again. I cast a provisional ballot in the Republican party election and went on my politically alienated way.

Now I'm watching as the federal government embarks on a looting spree of epic proportion. Effectively quashing any motivation toward entrepreneurial efforts and restricting the freedom of small business to grow. Propping up failing businesses on the shoulders of successful business and taxpayers. At some point, the system will implode.

I have long been a fan of the novel "Atlas Shrugged." As I stand at this moment in history the book seems eerily prophetic. Much of the current discourse seems to echo dialogue in the 'fictional' work. I actually tear up at this realization. As the producers, the job creators, the entrepreneurs of our nation ask 'why should we build, create, grow...?' there is a vacuum where there should be incentive. There are no words to encourage or build confidence. Atlas will indeed, eventually shrug.

The reality is we cannot return to prosperity on the backs of each other. We must each bear our portion of the burden. We must return to the spirit which makes America great - the freedom and liberty to succeed. By penalizing productivity we will not only remain in this downward spiral, but guarantee our inability to rise from it.

We have not been good stewards. We have not been good stewards of our environment, of our families, or our classrooms, of our bodies or our liberties. Now our national policy seeks to not look to ourselves and each other to unite and pull up the bootstraps. Rather it seeks to label as many as possible as victims, looking to faceless members of society to support them in their victimhood. To tax the "businesses," to unionize, to have the government save us from ourselves. The fundamental flaw in this is the government only exists to protect. It has no capacity to save.


"You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else.

When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it." ~ Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931


"We shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." - John F. Kennedy


"If you saw Atlas, the giant who holds the world on his shoulders, if you saw that he stood, blood running down his chest, his knees buckling, his arms trembling but still trying to hold the world aloft with the last of his strength, and the greater his effort the heavier the world bore down upon his shoulders - What would you tell him?"

"I…don't know. What…could he do? What would you tell him?"

"To shrug."

Back in 1989 I stood in a line for over two hours to see the embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin. To this day, I’m not sure why I did it, I guess it was something tourists to Red Square just did.

Russians like their lines. My sense, after seeing lines in every city I visited, was that lines helped them feel a sense of purpose. There were lines to get into the grocery store, lines to enter various buildings, and lines to see deceased, mummified leaders of state.

I’ve never been a fan of lines or the dead, so after finding myself in line to see a guy who died in 1924, I should have thought the whole thing through a little better.

As the line wound back and forth on itself, the tourists were intermingled with Soviet line/Lenin lovers. We all displayed appropriate reverence and hushed tones. It was certainly unlike any of my other touristy line experiences.

Upon entering the creepy black stone mausoleum, a chill encompassed my whole body. It was real-life tales from the crypt and the heebie jeebies were crawling up and down my spine. Instinctively I placed my hands in my pockets.

Suddenly the hush and the decorum of the room exploded. An angry guard threw me up against the cold wall ramming the side of his machine gun against my chest and screaming at me in Russian. In a panic I lost track of where I was and he aimed his gun at my face with a continued barrage of verbosity.

Confused, consumed with alarm and being the object of attention I stood frozen as one of my fellow line standers helped me out and reached past the guard pulling my hand out of my pocket. I followed with the other hand, holding my palms awkwardly out in front of me. Somehow this small movement appeased the guard and he fell back into stoic place.

My heart was pumping at 400 beats per minute and I had peed my pants a little so I tried my best to just blend in. I moved along with the line and peeked at Lenin’s leathery blue-gray hand and his torso that fell flat after his rib cage. I couldn’t bring myself to look at his face.

The line finally began ascending the stairs, my lungs gasping for the fresh air and freedom the sunlight brought, I couldn’t speak for many minutes. My instinctive self-preservation had caused international incident, and disrespect to the corpse. How was I to know Lenin disapproved of pocket use.

Now, I know it was disrespectful to place my hands in my pockets, to draw into myself as I felt uncomfortable, but there is nothing more instinctive than the desire to feel safe. Descending into the darkened tomb naturally put me on edge and I suspect I wasn’t the first unsuspecting tourist to break protocol. Protocol is very important but we should have some sort of protocol primer when entering areas with armed protocol enforcers.

Many years later, having broken protocol more than a few times, I’ve learned that while protocol is important, there are too many situations where the enforcers just seem to be waiting for someone to mess up. Waiting to point out the mistake.

For instance, the hullabaloo this week when our new Secretary of State gave the Russian ambassador a special button she had made and inscribed with the word “reset,” to represent the resetting of their diplomatic relationship. Who would expect that the State Department could have translated that tricky word “reset” correctly? The chuckling Russian ambassador explained that they had actually inscribed the button “overcharged.” Oops, protocol violation.

Or the British press going bonkers over the generous gift our new President gave the visiting British Prime Minister. Even 10 Downing Street can use the Costco DVD collection of 25 movie classics including The Wizard of Oz and Star Wars. What ever did Gordon Brown do for fun before this? Oops, protocol violation.

Now, we all make mistakes. We all have used the wrong fork, offered a hand when our Asian guest politely bowed, pointed out a garish hat to a man married to its wearer. Social gaffes are part of being human. I’m just hoping that none of the International Protocol Enforcers feel inclined to demonstrate their displeasure at our gaffes with their guns in our face.

Ham and Sushi

Friday, March 6, 2009

My kids will eat anything. Really. Even stuff they don’t like. Connor loves octopus. Haley eats feta cheese out of the container with a spoon. Darby loves garbanzo beans. They all love sushi. I have great respect for them when I remember my childhood. I vividly remember the “Great Ham Standoff of ’75.”

When I was a child I did not like ham. Most other cured or smoked meats the kielbasas, sausages, bratwursts tempted my palate; I loved my bacon. In fact my sister and I had what I considered a great agreement, today it sounds more like the Jack Sprat nursery rhyme. When bacon was served we would squirrel ourselves to one end of the table shredding our alloted strips, sectioning the meat and the fat. I would get all the meat and she would get all the fat. Remembering our arrangement grosses me out.

Well, my parents were serving ham, again. Clearly punishing me and trying to ruin my life. It was well past dinner time, and I was still sitting, alone at the table with a gargantuan portion of diced ham on my plate. Staring at the fetid pile I felt caught in a high-noon stand off. As the clock loudly ticked off the seconds of my life slipping away I tried again and again to get a bite into my unwilling mouth. Picture a session of Fear Factor.

I was allowed all the water and catsup I could consume to wash and disguise the putrid entree down my throat. I would fill an entire tablespoon with catsup and place a sliver of ham in the middle. It was all to no avail as I dry heaved repeatedly with my parents looking on in exasperation. If memory serves I spent three days seated at the table before the meat turned to jerky and I was excused, resplendent in victory.

Fast forward a few years. My palate has matured and my tastes expanded to even enjoy such rare delicacies as ham. But fish is a different story. I was in my twenties the first time I tried sushi. Having a string of bad fish encounters in my youth, I detested fish as an entree. The smell made me gag. Badly cooked over ripe fish is something you don’t get over easily.

While on a double date my adventurous friend Andrea exclaims she “loves sushi” and would love nothing better for dinner that evening. As the boys both express interest in trying the delicacy I break into a cold sweat. It is so hard to be worldly and suave while you’re gagging.

Andrea orders an assortment platter and as the waitress sets it down with a bow, it just looks wrong. First of all these gift wrapped little morsels were not bite size. I could tell you couldn’t just take a nibble to try one, you had to go for the whole thing. Awkwardly holding one of the tamer looking wads I’m discreetly trying to use the little table chart to identify what I was about to eat.

Andrea is going crazy; she’d eaten three pieces. Studying the chart intently as my table mates were clearly enjoying the fare I knew I needed to catch up, but I was having ham flashbacks.

I figured out the piece I had was eel, which I thought I could handle and just as I had raised my piece to my lips Andrea lifts what looked like a slab of octopus arm in the air and asks “Anyone want a piece of testicle?”

I dropped my chopsticks. My date actually spit his food out on the table. We all stared at Andrea in horror as she turned beet red and backtracked - “Tentacle, I meant tentacle.”

The damage was done. Andrea had the rest of the plate to herself. My date had rice in his sinuses and I was absolved of trying to keep up with any of them. No one scoffed when I ordered a plate of teriyaki chicken - no catsup needed.

Beginning, Middle and an End

Thursday, March 5, 2009

I bore my testimony in church last Sunday, which is the equivalent of a spontaneous mini talk. Anyone can get up and bear testimony, it’s pretty much open mic night in the chapel. There are some terrific stories of fantastic happenings being shared from the pulpit. Usually the testimonies are exhortations toward better living, or travelogues which challenge the audience to find the spiritual message in visiting great aunt Edna in Des Moines.

So I felt moved upon to share. I climbed the stairs, well, stair, to the podium and delivered my thoughts without falling, crying, or snorting in the microphone. For this I feel the event was a wondrous success. Hearts were softened and lives were changed. I think an angelic chorus swelled for effect.

After the meeting a fellow parishioner approached me to give me some feedback. Here are her words verbatim: “Aselin, I really liked your testimony today. It had a beginning, a middle and an end.” I thanked this thoughtful sister and walked away trying to figure out if that was some sort of backhanded compliment, or slam.

Retelling the story in the car the kids busted out in uncontrollable gfawws. Unnamed child #3 chimes in and says - “Good job mom, usually your talks have no end.” Wit apparently does not correlate with self preservation. Unnamed child #1 says, “Did you talk today?” Unleashing howls from all three of them. Feeling like Rodney Dangerfield, getting no respect, I pondered how many different ways I could make them cry.

Sadly for them the next morning I had occasion to check some of their chore work. There was going to be a whole lotta cryin’ when I caught up with them. Needless to say, this was not their best effort. In fact this was no effort. Bathroom sinks crusted with hair and toothpaste, empty soup bowls with dehydrated residue cementing the spoon inside, closet floors that couldn’t be located under the debris pile. It was a pathetic, shameful, lame-o effort. Much like times when I was a chore workin’ kid.

Of course, my personally crafted discourse brought weeping and wailing, gnashing of teeth, pulling out of hair, rending of clothes, ardent declarations of future effort, promises to change... and with all this my message had a beginning, and a middle....

Poor kids. I’m still going.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I’ve been working pretty hard compiling a cookbook of some of my unique recipes. I’m not a vegetarian, but I’ve adopted an eating style that displaces or completely erases meat from traditional recipes. People really seem to like it, our family loves it, so I keep going. I’m up to 237 and counting. Tonight we had a fantastic quinoa bolognese.

Much of my cooking centers around a unique piece of kitchen equipment: a pressure cooker. Normally when I mention pressure cooker someone brings up family lore of great grandma’s face being blown off by a culinary explosion. Fortunately I didn’t come from a cooking family so I had no preconceived ideas when introduced to my first pressure cooker.

My relationship with my pressure cooker has blossomed into a love affair. I use the thing 3,4,5 times a week. Making delectable pots of mmm, mmm, vegetarian goodliness. I’ve gotten pretty darn good at the process.

But this week on the food network, Tyler Florence made pulled pork. As I’m wiping the drool from my keyboard I’m having flashbacks to my Austin, TX days when I learned BBQ isn’t a food, it’s a religion. Quite frankly, I’ve missed worshipping at the open pits.

So I high-tail it to my local purveyor of pork, WalMart, and purchase a lovely pork butt roast. Swathing the hunk of deadness in my own dry rub concoction I’m a little queasy. Don’t get me wrong, I still love meat, but it’s taken on a richness and paradigm for me that unseated it from the top ten things I must eat list. Browning the roast in my pressure cooker, covering it with a sliced onion and a bottle of Austin’s own BBQ sauce I seal the lid and set the timer for 40 minutes.

I can’t tell you the ecstasy with which my family devoured the fork tender roast. It was fantastic. After dinner we were all leaning back in our chairs, the kids had unbuttoned the top button of their pants and there were random moans that doubled as giddy sighs. It was dang good.

Even the dog had rolled over in a stupor after enjoying the table scraps.

So, OK you say, it was a good meal. Big whoop.

Well, I mention it to a few friends, who go home and make it for their families with the same reaction. Then they tell a few friends who make it for their families, and so on and so on... like the old shampoo commercial. I used to go out in public and be recognized for being the grain lady. All my carefully crafted and cultivated grain image building has been destroyed with one fell swoop of the pork butt. Someone I don’t even know stopped me and said “You’re the pork roast lady right?”

Well, so much for my niche. Connor tonight asked if I’d make the bacon-wrapped fillet wellington again. I guess, despite the other 363 days of the culinary year, I’m really a carnivore.

When I Grow Up

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

When I was little I had great plans for my future. About the age of nine I decided I wanted to be Quincy, MD - a forensic pathologist. To my little mind it was the coolest job ever. Running around, solving crime, using a microscope and a cell phone the size of a briefcase. I mean, hey, the job made Jack Klugman look cool, so imagine what it could do for me.

I held on to that dream for many years, through the Ojai Valley Inn summer job, typewriter typing letters to club members one by one. (I threw away more letterhead than I mailed.) Through the mind numbing bookstore clerk hours spent on a stool behind a seldom used cash register. Through the steer (cow) sitting jobs for the neighbors, digging post holes, mucking sheep pens... I always knew I was destined for greater things.

Imagine my delight when standing in a food line today a man sidled up to me and blurted “Are you a receptionist?” Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with receptionists, we need them, but there was no place inside my brain that thought this was a compliment. I’m turning 40 this year... I was dressed up in a skirt and heels... I’m not friendly on the phone...what about me says receptionist?

As my mind tossed around a jumble of responses he beat me to the punch and said “Gettin’ lunch for the boss huh?” Every neuron in my brain was firing, not in a good way. I almost had a seizure from the disorientation. The very sad thing is what I should have said to the original question, after I kneed him in the groin, was “No, I’m a neurosurgeon,” or, “a forensic pathologist.” But I was grappling with the truth that “No, I’m a housewife” doesn’t have the same smack down effect I was looking for.

Gratefully, my buddy wandered off to get utensils and I sulked in a puddle of professional envy. The thing that is the most frustrating for me about this whole experience is I really, really like my job. I’m not embarrassed, or looking elsewhere for employment, I’m quite fulfilled. And, I’m OK with people saying “Oh, you don’t work” to my housewife response. I just never pictured myself as a receptionist.

Luckily, the next time Buddy wandered over he changed the subject. Otherwise we were both destined to be a headline, “Housewife Pathologist in Non-Receptionist Looking Skirt Stabs Innocent Dolt with Fork.”

Wholly Inappropriate (PG13)

Monday, March 2, 2009

For the most part I try and mind my own business. I can walk down a busy street and no one will notice me. I like it that way. People who stand out have moved to the extreme, and often seem oblivious to that fact. This is why they annoy me.

Last week while watching a variety show, a self proclaimed “snake charmer” in MC Hammer pants performed his bit. He wasn’t really charming snakes, more like pulling fat boa constrictors out of a small basket and draping them over his body like, well, boas. As he pulled out the final, largest snake from the basket I threw up a little in my mouth.

Snakes don’t bother me. Molting snakes shedding huge scabs of skin all over the stage is completely disgusting. Snake charmer dude seemed not to notice, care, or be remotely concerned that large numbers of the front row were fleeing the area. He wrapped the sloughing animal around his waist and performed a bump and grind dance that caused even the toughest audience member to avert their eyes.

The show would have had the intended impact with the three large non-molting snakes. Leave the poor decorticating animal at home to shed in peace. As he left the stage the remaining flakes fluttered like large leaves, except they were really gross leaves - and he left them there for the upcoming acrobats.

It was distracting, disturbing and made me mentally scream “How can you not notice YOU’RE DISGUSTING?”

Unfortunately, this is tame. There are those that walk among us who truly have no clue. The dad at the soccer field in matching skimpy orange tank top and shorts. Both skin tight. Both too short. Both not enhanced by the rug of body hair matted at the exit sites. Again, I scream. There are children around...

This week I was pushed over the edge. Luckily I was at an adults only resort or would have been forced to call the authorities.

A little groundwork: I get the concept of a Speedo for male competitive swimmers. I do want to point out that the better of them seem to have moved more in the direction of the jumpsuit, much to Scott’s delight, and away from the Speedo brief, but it still has a purpose.

The Speedo does not have a purpose in say, beach volleyball. There’s jumping and diving, and it’s hard to know where to look. It’s less hard to just look away.

So given my small threshold of tolerance for such attire, imagine my delight when I looked up from my book and saw this:

What is wrong with people? Who takes a Speedo and turns it into a thong? Men shouldn’t wear thongs - ask Scott.

The swimsuit is already revealing enough. It's hard to choose the right design for a body. So consider this a public service announcement: Please people of the human race, don't pull your Speedos up your butt cracks anymore!!!

Girl Lists

Sunday, March 1, 2009

This week I have been asked to give a talk to a group of women about women - don’t laugh. As I have mulled the topic, trying to prepare I’ve been considering some of my fellow vacationing sisters. You learn a lot about people when you travel.

During the week we spent together I decided that each of these women has made one or more of my short lists. I have a short list of phone-a-friend people I will call when I’m on “Millionaire.” I have a list of people who will actually answer the phone when I need help moving. I have a list of people never to accept food from... my list of lists is extensive.

This week I was lucky enough to travel with four women, three of whom I met on the trip. I’ve put one of these ladies on the list “People I want with me if I’m ever caught in a foxhole.” I want her there. Based on my observations she will have likely packed a rocket launcher, night vision goggles a helicopter and handiwipes.

I watched her conquer extreme anxiety, catapulting her fear of snorkeling to a scuba certification in a matter of hours that made me cheer with pride. She also made a fascinating art out of looking good, no looking great, always - even coming up from the bottom of the pool tangled in scuba gear, radiant with accomplishment. This skill takes time, planning and effort. I need to become her indentured servant.

Another sister made a different list “People that must always be around for my entertainment.” Right and left she was seizing moments with a gusto hitherto for unseen. She had no hesitation, no social fear that often holds the rest of us back. She’s developed a whole host of talents she can use in rare moments that leave the onlookers in awe. I can roll my tongue like a taco, she can do the worm and sing with a depth that can make grown men cry. She has a collection of dreams and goals that keeps her looking forward with both anticipation and purpose. I can’t wait to hear about her tomorrows.

Sometimes the quiet among us have the most depth. I also met a steel magnolia of a woman, unflappable yet demure. More than once I pictured her skin diving with a knife between her teeth, hunting some dangerous bivalve. She exhibited a curiosity for life that brought an intimacy to the people lucky enough to be with her. She paid amazing attention to detail proving she was really listening, really interested and just made me enjoy her company. Her smile and gentle nature belied a strength and confidence rare in people. She’s on my “people I want to skin dive” with list.

My final list today is “the list I’ll never be on.” I watched in amazement as my friend exuded an unflappable peace, despite a deluge during a golf round, a husband with no social boundaries, and being on vacation with me. She celebrates those in her life for their goodness, and not only does she not dwell on their shortcomings, she can’t even see them. It’s really admirable, and totally outside the scope of my sassy, sarcastically wired brain.

But the reality is, I should be more like her. I should be more like all of them, and this is the great thing about having friends. All of my friends enrich my life, help me see things differently and often more clearly. They’re all on the list “people I’m glad I know.”