Sunday, August 22, 2021

Late Summer 2021

 Jonathan flew out today on his work trip. Whenever he does this, I feel like I have to go live life on my own, instead of doing the activities that I usually do when he is around. I didn't even drive him to the airport. His mom did. I went to Mirror Lake with my mom, brother, and his kids. Mirror Lake is a good 1.5-2 hr drive from home. It takes us through Provo Canyon, across Heber Valley, along Jordanelle Reservoir, past Francis and Kamas, and finally up into the Uintas. It's a really stunning drive that reminds me that I don't have to lament living in Utah. I do notice the encroaching housing developments popping up on the way, but they thin out and eventually disappear as the elevation rises. When we pass Kamas, where the roads are not serviced in the winter, the real natural beauty begins. It smells different up there. The air is cleaner. It was about 60 degrees up at the lake. No one wanted to paddleboard, but Truman and Hector were swimming in the lake. I could hear Truman from a mile away. So full of exuberance and energy. Cameron fished with Helen. Atticus and Sherman hiked up to Mt. Baldy (what a lot of people call Bald Mountain). I never thought I'd see the day when my kids choose to hike something that I'm not making them hike with me. I didn't even go with them. I took CeCe on a walk around the lake looking for Cameron. She swam a little. I noticed that the wildflowers I observed last time were spent. However, I did see some gorgeous red feathered grasses about a foot high waving along the roadside as I neared the turnoff for Mirror Lake. There was mud everywhere from the recent rains. The streams that flowed into the lake were babbling loudly down the mountain. It was lovely. 

  I drove home with Hector and Sherman. Well, Sherman drove the 968 back. I tried to stay awake, but I dozed a little. He did well enough. I was still a little stressed having him drive. I just don't know if I'll ever get to the point where I don't feel like I need to worry when my kids are driving me around. Atticus and Helen went with Cameron and my mom. Cameron was going to take Helen to a few of his secret fishing spots. When he finally got to my house it was dark. Helen (with Cameron's help) had caught a really big trout under a bridge in Francis. She was ecstatic! My mom said when she saw Helen jumping up and down and flapping her hands, she knew they'd caught something. Yep, Helen loves to jump and flap her hands when she's excited.  


      I got a text from Jonathan saying that he was able to board the plane. He'd had some difficulties with his COVID test not having enough saliva to test. What a horrible way to ruin his trip! He's been planning this trip for over a year and waiting for it to finally happen. Well, somehow he figured something out.  

Friday, January 1, 2021

Reading Goal Review 2020

 





I believe that ‘carpe diem’ should characterize every day of your life whether it be lounging on your couch reading, making dinner, or skiing down a very steep mountain with your clothes off (for some people that is fully living). Anyway, last year I wanted to read more books. I reached my goal of 25 books and even exceeded it. 27. In addition, I also listened to 2 audiobooks. Yes, I’m proud of myself. The books I read left me with a couple of byproducts ranging from personal superiority to guilt. I’ll discuss these resulting feelings briefly in the following paragraphs and then propose a twist on 2021’s reading goals.



 Some of the books were books I read for classes and were considered classics or must-reads to understand Russian literature or life or whatever. Reading those gave me a sense of superiority, which most people need to deny they like feeling. Come on people! Who reads Crime and Punishment and doesn’t feel a little bit awesome? Getting through some of those books was tedious. A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch rewarded me with one lone notch on my belt and no desire to ever even talk about the book. Many people laud the book and its writer. I thought it was a terrible read. I’ve read other accounts of camp life, specifically If This is a Man by Primo Levi, and it was a beautiful read. I actually wanted to read it. Solzhenitsyn’s book made me not want to wake up in the morning. Not because the content was so disturbing, but because there was no flow. I felt like I was paddling a huge raft upstream through class 5 rapids. The other novels I read by Russian authors made me feel pretty superior, but they also left me with the desire for more. What I’m saying is that I’m a sucker for depressing novels. They leave me with a clean feeling, the opposite of how you feel when you eat too much cotton candy.

On the flip side, some of the books I read, I’m embarrassed to say, left me with that crummy feeling of self-loathing. I’d compare it to how I feel when I walk by a ton of beggars on the side of the road and tell them I have no money to spare, and then I go pig out at the McDonald’s when I’ve already eaten an hour before. In addition to that feeling, I also can’t even remember the names of the characters or anything distinctive about the story. The books I speak of are in the clean romance genre. Proper Romance, they state on the front cover. Is there really a proper way to experience romance? I obtain these little snippets of self-indulgence from my mother-in-law. Her sister and she read them and then she kindly passes them along to me. So, I read three of them this year. Here are their titles: Promised, The Lady and the Highwayman, and Rakes and Roses. I think I have an addictive personality. I won’t put these books down once I start them. I learned that about myself the previous year when I read more of them. So, in 2020 I only took them on vacations so I could read them in the hotel because I had more free time. This made it possible for me to ignore my husband and neglect my kids. I knew this. And then my husband started calling the books Woman Porn. This led to an argument because in my culture, being accused of indulging in porn is shameful. To summarize, I had to defend myself and the outcome of the argument was in no longer reading the genre. As a result, not only am I a Mormon who doesn’t drink caffeinated tea, coffee, or alcohol, I also abstain from drugs, tobacco, and Woman Porn in the form of Proper Romance.



I’d now like to delve into the noble reasons for which I read books. Lessons I need to learn that are learned by the characters, meaningful quotes that float around in my subconscious, characters that I wish I knew in real life, or places that wish I could see, and an excellent compendium of research about a subject. When I read a book I consider good, I’m left with at least one of these products. Something I can take with me in life. If it can stand the test of time in my brain, then it is forever placed in my memory as a good book. I must tell you that my memory is quite weak. Maybe that’s why I can’t remember the names of the characters in the Proper Romances, or in any book for that matter. But I remember having a feeling about something. If I read a quote in a book that stands out to me, I will probably not remember what it was, but I will remember that I read it in a certain book, and know where to go to find it. My memory is good enough to remember how I felt about a book. Kind of like when you meet people briefly at a party. Either you like them and wouldn’t be sad to know them better, or you didn’t like them or just wouldn’t go out of your way to spend more time with them. Eventually the books that didn’t leave an impression drop out of my memory forever until I don’t remember even reading them. Here are some short notes on each book that I have placed in my ‘good’ category.



-Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin. Without the guidance of my Russian literature professor, I probably wouldn’t have enjoyed this story at all. The description of the landscape and nature was crystal clear, and the relationship between Tatyana and Onegin is entertaining. It’s basically a story of a girl recognizing her worth and standing up for herself. The flimsy person of Onegin is nothing to be admired from my standpoint, and very boring. I love how she shatters him in the end. KaPOW!!!!!



-Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I had preconceived ideas about this book because I saw the movie, which I was not impressed with. I learned that it is impossible to participate in the taboos of your culture and expect to be accepted socially. If you have a personality that requires social acceptance, don’t commit taboos. You’ll end up killing yourself. It made me grateful for the culture I live in now.



-Woodswoman by Anne LaBastille. I remember having a desire to live alone out in the wilderness because I love nature and I love testing my abilities to see how much I can do. I read this book because I thought I’d see what my life would have been like if I had chosen a different path. The lesson I took from this book is that if you decide to be a zealot about living in the wilderness, you’ll die alone. From what I know about her, she gave up some relationships because she wanted to have a certain style of life. Her lifestyle was more important to her than the people she could have loved. And she died of Alzheimer’s in a nursing home, alone.



-Empire Falls by Richard Russo. I read this book because it takes place in Maine and it won the Pulitzer Prize. It turned about to be an excellent story about people that were stuck. It resonated with me because sometimes I feel stuck in life. The protagonist is very average, but they way he confronts his normalcy and his stuck-ness in favor of his daughter is exemplary. Living an average life, loving the people you’re with, in the same place and never moving, seems really hard, but the author brings out how right it feels to do so.



-East of Eden by John Steinbeck. The gifts of this book are twofold for me. First, the location description is special to me because I grew up near the Central Valley in California. I know how the sun feels and the dirt looks, sounds, and smells. Second, there are people who are very, very different in this world. Kathy is one of those. Evil. When I think of appealing to a person’s humanity, I ask, “What about Kathy?” The same methods don’t work with her or people who are different like that. I often wonder if I’ve met people like her and just didn’t know it.



-The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin. With the Black Lives Matter movement happening, I felt like I should read some Black American authors. I chose James Baldwin because he lived and loved Istanbul, like me. What did I take from his writings? Well, I basically need to read more because I have no idea what is going on as a White lady who doesn’t have that many Black friends. There is a lot of anger among Blacks. The fire referred to is the fire that’s gonna fall on the Whites. Also, I did appreciate Baldwin’s hope that America can repair itself instead of breaking into two nations: Black and White.



-Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. I don’t read science writers much because I’m not a science person, but Carson is a biologist with a gift for writing. Her descriptions of the Great Basin make me feel wistful and nostalgic. This is one author I would like to meet in person. She must have been uncommonly courageous to write such a condemning account in the world of her day.



-One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp. I saw this book recommended by a person I don’t even know on Facebook. It looked like something I’d find in a Deseret Book store. The author is not Mormon, but she is a religious Christian. She is also a mother of six? and homeschools them. I found her writing tedious to read, but the message useful. Very useful. Though this is a book I would never choose to read normally, I thought it would be a good exercise to read something that I didn’t really want to read. I’m a bit stubborn and set in my ways. Reading this book helped me sift through the writing that I didn’t like, through to the message.



-The Second Chance Club by Jason Hardy. I never really understood the purpose of parole and probation until I read this book. Did you know that it costs American taxpayers an average of $33,000 to jail a person for a year? And an average of $4,000 to put them on parole or probation? Now I understand why it isn’t good for Americans to simply seek to put all offenders straight into jail. Obviously there are some offenders that are criminals and very dangerous to society. But the ones that aren’t violent or harmful, can be disciplined and helped in other ways. I learned so much about the difficulties of helping people out of drug addiction, homelessness, and gangs, and how important it is to donate to organizations that seek to rehabilitate these offenders and give them services they so very much need.



-White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo. My place of employment encouraged its employees to read this book and join a book discussion. We were monetarily reimbursed for our time and given a free copy of the book. I’m glad I participated. It helped me to know how to do my part in recognizing in what ways I am racist. I didn’t really like the voice of the author, but if I were her, and I had to talk to a bunch of people who thought they weren’t racist over and over again, I’d probably dispense with any expressions of compassion as well (meaning compassion for Whites).



-The Bristlecone Book by Ronald M. Lanner. I picked this book up at the visitor’s center at Great Basin National Park last fall. I learned all about Bristlecone Pines. They are the oldest trees on the planet. Learning about the features that contribute to their longevity was fascinating.

My reasons for reading are self-serving. I used to see it as a noble pastime. As a child, I’d never heard anyone ever say that reading was a waste of time. But after reading so many books this year, and focusing on a specific number goal, I realize there are different approaches one can take to customize the results. I reached my number goal. Great! But as I mentioned in my previous paragraphs, I felt superiority when I read classic literature, guilt when I read Proper Romances, and a deep fulfillment when I read books that left me messages that I could take with me. I don’t want to read books to appear superior to others, nor do I want to read books that leave me feeling guilty that I’ve wasted 20 hours of life. Rather than repeat the same goal, but with a higher number, in 2021, because I seriously doubt I’ll have more time, I will set my goals with non-numerical results in mind. For each book I read, I will create a work of art that stems from ideas in the book. I’m not much of an artist, but I like art, so I think this will motivate me to do more of it. 2021 will signal the end of my conspicuous consumption of books. Happy New Year!      

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Peaches

                  I've always liked peaches. I grew up in California where there was always fruit growing. My father, however, never went to great pains to feed us kids fruit. During his time in Vietnam, he learned to cook. His creations were famous around our neighborhood. All our friends knew what we were having for dinner. Slop. Slop #49. Slop #33. Yet, they still wanted to eat over at our place. I wonder why. I always thought the grey gelatinous concoctions were gross. Bubbling slowly at the bottom of the big pot on our stove. The worst was when he'd add canned mushrooms.Yuck! Just yuck! 

         The kinds of fruit my dad would buy were bananas, apples, and oranges. That was it. Oh, and sometimes grapes. Never berries, never tropical fruits like mangoes or pineapples, and never peaches. But, when my mom would take us kids to Utah to stay with our grandparents, we got to taste things like cherries, apricots, peaches, raspberries, and blackberries. My grandfather was a product of the Depression, so he grew a little bit of everything, "just in case". My brothers and I, during the hot summer afternoons of boredom, would raid the root cellar and bring up jars of fruit to make smoothies. When we made nasty ones, we'd never admit we didn't like them. Whatever we made, we liked. My grandparents and aunts were health nuts. They didn't have an ounce of chocolate in the house, but they had carob powder. Our smoothies were full of the stuff.  

      So, thankfully the Depression pushed my grandfather to grow his own peaches. I love them so much. I love how you can tell if they are ripe or not by their smell and how they feel. You can't fake a ripe peach. Maybe I love them because they are a lot like me. I'm not so great at faking things. And grocery stores can't fake a ripe peach. I don't even know why people buy those hard things. Maybe the people that buy them are just hoping. Hoping that someday, a ripe peach will appear in the produce section.

     Last year, we bought our first house. Behind the chain link fence in our backyard are rows and rows of peach trees. Right now the leaves are abundant and there is green everywhere. I've bought three boxes of peaches so far. Red Haven, and Suncrest. Before this year, I didn't even know the names of the different varieties. The owner of the orchard attends our church. We see him pruning in late winter. Tree by tree, he snips off bits and pieces to keep the shape under control. It's pretty amazing how one man can control the outcome and oversee such a wonderful operation. Yes, yes, I know there are other people. In fact, whenever I call on the phone, his wife answers. She relays all the messages and probably does a ton of stuff too. It's a family business.

      So, the purpose of my post today is in honor of peaches. Last year my friend, Patricia Miller, taught me to bottle peaches. This year, I'm doing it on my own. Who isn't doing things on their own this year? 

  

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Independent pets for Independence Day

Our kitten, who is not even nine months old herself, gave birth to a litter of six this morning. I went in the room where our two kittens sleep at night and I saw Nestle in the cat carrier with what looked like a row of Beanie Boos all clustered around her tummy. I was so excited. But then I looked at the cement floor leading to the door, and there was a lone kitten laying on the floor, alone. It wasn't moving. I started breathing faster, but knew I had to act fast. I went closer and realized it was still alive. I knew I needed to get it warm quickly. I picked it up but it was stuck to the ground. Underneath its tiny body was its umbilical cord, dried to the floor. Maybe that's why Nestle, the mama, couldn't move this kitten herself. I broke the connection with my fingernails and put the kitten in my shirt. It began to move and meow in its pathetic, wimpy way. I ran to Google to see what I should do while it looked around for a nipple. That was a good sign, right? Then I decided that it was very much alive and could probably find itself some food on its own. So, I went and put it with the other Beanie Boos. Mama Nestle began to purr and seemed really happy that her lost kitten was restored to her. She licked the kitten, another good sign. And now they are all together in the cat carrier. I'm still worried about that runty one that I found. It's not as fluffy and big as the others. I don't know how long it was just laying there on the ground. When I have these concerns, I voice them aloud. All my kids can hear me. Cincinnatus, our Kitty Slam-Slam Whisperer Guy, said that he couldn't deal with a dead kitten. I said that maybe I'd have to get a bottle and some kitty formula to help that runty one out. He responded, "I'll pay for it. Buy the best bottle and the best milk for it." He's very determined that all the kitties live. Maybe he'll become a veterinarian. He seems to care a lot for the weak and disadvantaged creatures of this word.
ANNOUNCEMENT: Free kittens available around the 4th of July. Reserve your Freedom Kitty now! White ones come with red and blue scarf.
patriotic A-MEOW-CATS - Cute Kittens Photo (41445824) - Fanpop 

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Online school and promiscuous teens

             
As of last week, school has been cancelled. Well, not cancelled, just shifted to an online format. It really is a new kind of approach for everyone. I think what this is teaching us is that the required school learning can happen a lot faster when kids aren’t at school for 6 hours a day. There are other ways. My kids miss their friends though. They are bored once their assignments are finished. Dining in restaurants is prohibited. No gyms. No church. It’s a bit weird for us, but nothing really bad yet. I was feeling pretty depressed about it on the first day of online school. I had such high hopes for the month of May. My job and classes would be finished and my kids would still be in school. A whole month of me time. So, that’s probably why I was so bummed on the first day of guiding them along. It felt like my life in Turkey when my kids didn’t go to school and I had to homeschool them. They had nowhere to go. They couldn’t really talk with anyone because they didn’t know Turkish well enough. Playdates weren’t a thing. Anyway, I feel pretty prepared mentally for this type of life. I’ve done the isolation thing before for years of my life. I can do it again. The difference is that other people are doing it too, so I know I’m not alone.
              Lately our young ladies, Jingles and Nestle, have reached teenagehood (about 6 months). Nestle in particular has been in heat the last few days. She meows at the back door wanting to go outside more than usual. We’ve seen some suspicious looking tomcats lurking around these parts too. A rough looking calico and a big black one. Yesterday, we caught a glimpse of her walking along the back fence just inside the peach orchard as if she had no idea there was any other cat around. Nestle is a pretty little thing. Mostly white, with grey ears and a grey striped tail. We could see the Big Blackie sitting not far from her. Probably just 15 ft. away. Then he started walking toward her. When he got real close, she turned her head toward him as if she were saying, “Oh, it’s you! I didn’t know you were right there.” (Yeah, the playing dumb thing that teenage girls do when they know guys are watching them and drooling all over themselves). They exchanged a few kitty communication signals and before you knew it, the black cat was on top of her. At this point, I screamed, “Get her! Save her!” to Sherman and Jonathan who were watching the whole thing with me from our kitchen window. (More like, “Save us from the responsibility of taking care of more kittens!!!!!) Dad responded really slow, but Sherman screamed, “Rape!” and they both ran full speed to the back gate and saved Nestle from Big Blackie. I really hope my kids can learn about sex from this. Generally, boys like sex. Likewise, girls like sex sometimes. They have to be willing. And even if they are willing, it doesn’t mean it’s okay. It certainly doesn’t mean having sex is okay if the girl or boy are underage, like my darling kitties. I could go on and on with this inner dialogue about kitty sex, but I won’t. All I can say is Nestle got out of the house once again that day. She was out with you-know-who well past sunset and deep into the night. Cinci, who is our Kitty-Whisperer, was able to fetch her successfully. He told me today that he had found her in the branches of our big Blue Spruce and the two big guys were prowling around below. Cinci gave them all a talking to. He says his secret to getting her to come back is to yell at her with a broom in hand. Hmmm. I’m worried what he’s gonna do to his teenage daughters when they disobey. Perhaps Kitty-Whisperer isn’t quite the right name for him then. Maybe Kitty-Curser. Or Kitty-Slam-Slam. He certainly likes to mutter, “You should be ashamed of yourself,” to her every time he carries her back to the house.
              You may wonder why we worry about our darlings having kitty sex with Big Blackie or Crusty Calico (no offense to the owner of this magnificent beast). We just haven’t gotten our kitties spayed yet. It’d be nigh near impossible for me to get an appointment this week unless I wanted to pay $600 per cat. Do I have $1200 for that? No way. I do have an appointment for April 16th at an affordable price and I am really excited for it. Then our girls can go outside just as much as they want. And maybe Big Blackie and Crusty Calico can go slum it elsewhere, and leave my innocent, ditzy, teenage kitties alone.
              I’ll be writing about this later on if I find out Nestle or Jingles are pregnant already. Kitty abortion. Now that’s a topic worth writing about. Pro-choice or pro-life? Hmmmm. Jonathan is feeling pretty stressed right now at the thought of more kittens in our household. Is there any reader out there that would like a kitten? Be thinking about it, okay? 

Monday, June 18, 2018

The second half of my life


I’ll be turning 40 in a few months and as I look back on my life I’ve done many worthwhile things. I’ve done many things that have made me happy and have produced good and happy memories. I’ve experienced the usual rites of passage for my generation and culture such as graduating from high school, first kiss, first job, having that favorite teacher, going to college, serving a mission for my church, falling in love, getting married, having kids, graduating from college, traveling to cool places, blah blah blah. Now that I’m almost 40, which ever since my childhood has always been old, I’m am scrutinizing what I’ve done with my time. Am I happy with it? Can I say I’ve done enough? Do I have any regrets? Are there things I’ve wanted to do or learn that I have never approached either because I didn’t have the money, time, talent or age for it? Turning 40 doesn’t mean you’re dead, no. By all means, no. But, there are some things you just can’t do when your body isn’t young. Having kids for example. I wouldn’t want to wait until I’m 40 to have kids. Becoming a ballet dancer is another. I’m 20 pounds overweight and I’ve got bad knees. Now is not a time to begin a dancing career.
The thing is I’m not beginning a career. I’m living life. I’m experiencing life through this body and mind I’ve been given. So, that’s why I’m taking up dancing again. I love music. I love dancing. My mother put me in ballet classes when I was a little girl and I went to those classes for many years. Until I was 12 or 13. Basically, I didn’t have a ballet dancer’s body and when you’re 13 and you’re looking at yourself in the mirror next to the other girls in the class, and you realize you’re just bigger than everyone else and you actually have boobs, you just want to quit. It was your mom’s idea anyway, right? So I quit and never looked back until I reached my mid 30s. Then I recognized there was peace in ballet movements. The mobility I could have maintained had I retained my ballet habits would have been beneficial to my health through the decades. The fitness trends of the day are jarring and fleeting and are unable to engage my mind as much as dance can. Plus, watching someone dance is entertaining. It’s a gift to spectators and a work of art. Running on a treadmill is purely self-serving. So, next week I’ll be the fattest, oldest lady signed up for the community belly dancing class at the local university. My fat will jiggle but I’ll try not to care.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8re8kEIMbJ0  She rocks!

As inspiration I will always remember the women I’ve met in my life that despite their age, have tackled new activities. I met a woman in her mid-fifties in Los Angeles who decided that she was going to learn Latin dancing. Alyona was her name. She had come to the USA from Russia to take care of her grandchildren and as they grew she began going to college again to improve her English, to get certified to be a math teacher in the States and to top it off, she learned how to Latin dance. She would even go dancing by herself at the Latin clubs in LA and dance with men half her age even though she was married. She had no intentions of slowing down. I have no idea if she knows what an anomoly she is.  
Another woman I admire is Gayle Davis. She was a librarian at the San Jose Library for many years. If you believe that the things in your house reflect something about you as a person, then she is definitely the most interesting person in the world. She didn’t have a huge house but she had a full size loom in her front room, a piano, and all the usual furniture most people had. She had a collection of masks and hats on her wall, a collection of magnets on her fridge, a collection of mini flags that bordered her dining room, and lots of scientific gadgets and knick-knacks sitting around. Microscopes and a bird-bobbing thing on her kitchen window sill. She was obsessed with the Day of the Dead and would make dioramas and jewelry. There was a timeline drawn on her wall that continued down her hallway simply because history literally goes that far back. Another interesting thing about her is that she is an enormous person. Most people would look at her and say she is just another fat lady. But I believe she has a health condition that causes her obesity. She has to buy two airplane seats when and if she flies. When I was a young child she moved around fine. But now she has to use a walker to move around her house and to her car. It has inhibited her movements for a few years now, but it has never kept her from accessing the things she’s wanted to access. After she retired from her librarian position, she took a bead making class and became very interested in making jewelry out of different materials. I even brought her back a collection of bottle caps from Turkey. She’s a kind, empathetic person and has been my neighbor and emergency contact for as long as I can remember. I admire her greatly and always try to visit her when I visit my parents. 
I also know many older women that don’t inspire me. They let themselves be limited by their culture, by their fears, by their age, by their size, by what they don’t know. It is depressing to watch how their lives are unchanging as they drift off into the oblivion.
If you know me, you know I love Dostoevsky with a passion.
I think my husband is even a little jealous sometimes when I snuggle with The Idiot or Brothers Karamazov at night instead of him. Fyodor said this:
It seems, in fact, as though the second half of a man’s life is made up of nothing, but the habits he has accumulated during the first half.
I intend to prove my precious Fyodor wrong.   

Sunday, May 20, 2018

FORCING KIDS TO DO THINGS THEY DON'T WANT TO DO


      
San Pietro has so many ladybugs. I enjoy their company.
    



       

San Pietro before I began working there.

 I can’t express how happy I am in some aspects of my life right now. Ever since I’ve been back in the States I’ve had access to an empty lot of land that my brother and sister in law own. I call it San Pietro, after my brother in law, Peter. But also to remind me of one place my family and I lived in Rome one summer. We rented a little cottage in a jungle hidden right in the middle of Rome, near Vatican City. And walking out of our nestled hideout in the shade of the trees we could see the Basilica of San Pietro looming above us down the street. So, now I have my own little jungle in the middle of Provo, Utah where it seems every last tiny bit of land is being purchased so developers can build some more cookie cutter homes for potential buyers. This little natural area is by no means a jungle. Even though it has tall weeds now that are probably an eyesore to the neighbors, I don’t care. I go to San Pietro at least three times a week to work my ass off and feel my back strain as I wrestle with stubborn rocks in the soil. I like how my body aches and feels like it’s going to crack when I finally stand up straight again. I know the exertion probably contributes to an early physical demise, but I prefer to live fully in the present rather than amble along in mediocrity.



       Yesterday, I forced my whole family to come with me to San Pietro to work. Yep, I forced ‘em. Sometimes I read books that make me feel guilty about forcing my kids to do anything. Like Punished By Rewards by Alfie Kohn. I enjoyed the book and I believe what the author is saying, but when it comes to putting that stuff into practice, I crumble, as a lot of other parents do. Well, to my defense I offered no reward to my kids to come and work at San Pietro. No money. No surprises. Actually, I did say that we were going to get Slurpees but in the end we didn’t get them because my husband, a big cheapskate like myself, wanted to wait until 5 pm to get points on our 7-Eleven rewards account. So we passed right by the 7-Eleven at 4:15 PM with the understanding that we would return in the middle of our labors to get our beverages. By 5 PM we were all engrossed in our dirty garden tasks that no one even mentioned any Slurpees or Big Gulps. For those readers who have never stepped into a 7-Eleven convenience store, a Slurpee is a frozen sweet flavored drink that is like pourable snow. There are usually at least four flavors to choose from in each store at a time. A Big Gulp is a large, American version of large, soda or beverage of your choice that you can get yourself from the tap. I go to 7-Eleven for the Slurpees or just because my kids want to. (In the past I’ve tried to act like I’m too good for 7-Eleven, but I’ve come to the realization that I’m not. 7-Eleven is a truly working class American establishment run by lovely Indian people who to me seem very upbeat and hard working. I’m American. I work hard. Therefore, I belong at 7-Eleven when I get sweaty and want a beverage that isn’t water.) They do sell water though. But the only people that buy it are the Americans who don’t really belong to the working class. They kind of accidentally arrive at 7-Eleven because they are from out of town and don’t know where anything else is. Kind of like my relationship with McDonald’s but I’ll explain that another time.

       So, before coming, my oldest son, Atticus, moaned and groaned because he wanted to hang out with his friends. He tried to get out of coming to San Pietro, but I stood firm. The other kids kind of just accepted the idea and didn’t put up a fight. We piled into my in laws’ Subaru Forester because our 7 seater Eurovan is STILL in the shop. There were a few punches between Cincinnatus and Sherman but we got to San Pietro alive. We kind of exploded out of the car like a shaken up bottle of soda. San Pietro is so great for kids because I could see immediately how the kids interacted with the space around them. At home there are walls and flat floors and nothing really pliable that they are allowed to touch and break. At San Pietro they have made pathways in the weeds. Three weeks ago when they all came, I gave Cincinnatus the job of walking back and forth on a set path so there would be a clear path in the future. At that time, the weeds were about a foot high. Yesterday, the weeds were 3 to 4 feet high. The paths have remained and as the kids walked through them I could see their hands reach out and grab the waving weeds. Sherman waved his arms back and forth on them and watched them bend back to their original place. Hansel and Gretel, I mean Helen and Hector, scampered off into the pathways and chattered as they went. Cincinnatus just started walking back and forth, doing his thinking. That’s his main activity, thinking. And Atticus, who didn’t want to be there but is also a very dutiful boy, asked, “What do you want me to do?” I gave them each a job to do and we all completed our jobs without complaint except Sherman. I won’t go into detail, but let’s just say, all this outdoor work and activity has made him think seriously about doing better in school. Now he wants to go to Oxford and have some businessman job where he wears nice clothes and works in an office, preferably in England. Maybe he can follow Meghan Markle’s example. He is a little old to be marrying little Charlotte though.

       To tie up all this blabber, I just wanna say that sometimes forcing your kids to work in a garden with their parents is not such a bad thing. They may not see the benefits at that moment, but as a mom, I got to see where their strengths lay. How did they respond to the task? How did they figure out how to do the task if they didn’t know how initially? Did they complain constantly? Did they have a good work ethic? Could they envision the outcome of their labors? Did they work well alone? Could they even stand to be alone for a second? Did they appreciate nature? Could they care less? I learned a lot about each one of my kids during that two hour period.

  • Atticus- he likes using brute force on things, he relishes killing monster weeds, works well alone
  • Sherman- he doesn’t like working in dirt, doesn’t like being alone, doesn’t like being ignored, the only thing he was interested in was the sprinkler system I was setting up
  • Cincinnatus- he likes walking, he likes being alone, he’ll try to do work if he knows how to do it, he gets really frustrated if he doesn’t know how
  • Hector- he has a really short attention span and often forgets what job he was supposed to do, he notices colors, rainbows in the spray of the hose, ladybugs, and admired Helen for finding 25 ladybugs, is scared of touching bugs and dead weeds
  • Helen- loves bugs, not afraid of dirt, really short attention span and doesn’t really like to do hard work but will do small tasks without complaint, loves planting flowers and saving drowning ladybugs, not afraid of getting dirty and touching bugs and weeds


  My kids will probably have no interest in gardening until maybe when they are older, I know. My mom loves gardening and was always involved in her garden. Was always watering her plants and talking about the plants and using their names. I thought it was a hobby for old people. Well, I guess it is, because now I’m almost 40 and now I like gardening.

Helen eating her packed lunch at the garden after school. 


I will “force” my kids to come with me again in two weeks. We’ll see what jobs I can think up for them. By that time my plants will be growing which will add excitement, at least for me and Helen. I’m hoping they will think of their own jobs and want to make or build something on their own. We’ll see.