Monday, July 6, 2015

Potato Salad Plagiarism


And for the record, blogging is not like riding a bike. I couldn't even remember my email address to log into blogger. That's how long it's been. But after almost a year, I am excited to report that I finally thought of something to say. Or rather, something to ask.

Does anyone want any left over potato salad?

Anyone? Anyone?

Free of charge? (OBO)

Every year I receive a text from my bro-in-law asking if I will bring a potato salad to the annual 4th of July party. And every year I write back and say,"Can I bring a pasta salad instead?" And he says, "Nope."

"Baked beans, maybe?" I ask. "Cowboy Cavier? Seven-layer dip? Something I can add jalapeno to?Something that packs a little punch? Has a little edge to it? Has a little heat under it?"

"Whatever you want," he writes back. "But bring potato salad too."

I have spent a lot of time analyzing, calculating, and graphing this request. Based on the scientific method, I have come to the conclusion that everything I can do, someone else can do better. That's why I get stuck bringing potato salad.

Either that or they're trying to hide my candle under a bushel (of potatoes).

I'm not a huge potato salad eater. I don't hate it, I just can't put cilantro and lime in it, so I have no experience preparing it. Because of this I tell my brother-in-law that I will have to buy the potato salad from Costco, and that I won't even think about putting it in a bowl and pretending I made it.

You'd think he would say, "Good grief, just bring a pasta salad then," but instead he says, "Fine."

So every year I brave the Costco holiday crowd, spend $6, and plop the potato salad down on the table at the party. A teaspoon and a half gets eaten, I bring the rest home, put in the back of the fridge (just in case there is an earthquake and we run out of food storage), and throw it out around Labor Day.

But this year I got a ridiculous far-flung notion in my head. I would make the potato salad myself.

"As God as my witness," I said, shaking my fist at the sky. "I will make the best potato salad ever! And no one will ever go hungry at the party again!"

My husband shook his head. "Pride cometh before the fall," he said.

"No." I said. "This bowl will be empty when I come home. People will be going back for seconds, and begging for the recipe, and I will become a potato salad legend among your family."

He shook his head again. "Sometimes you have to take the low road,"

But I was determined, so I googled potato salad recipes and the first one that popped up had a money back guarantee to be the best potato salad in the history of the world.

Lucky, right? And on my first try.

I followed the recipe EXACTLY. Step by step. I made it just as grandma Mary Jane made it back in the day. I even bought special potatoes and Miracle Whip and celery seed and used plain yellow mustard even though I prefer Dijon, and plain white vinegar even though I prefer rice wine.

I decided to make the salad 24 hours in advance so the flavors could spend time together, get to know each other, maybe even fall deeply in love with each other.

I boiled potatoes, and I boiled eggs. Then I peeled potatoes, and I peeled eggs. Then I chopped and marinated and rested and salted and blended all of the ingredients. And I did it all with committment and devotion, as if I were a potato salad whisperer. Please help me gain the respect I crave, I whispered. And if it's not too much to ask, please bring me potato salad fame and glory.

On the Fourth of July I awoke with a flutter, and tenderly pulled the bowl of potato salad from the fridge, gently removed the tinfoil, and trembling, raised a spoonful to my mouth.

"How is it?" asked my husband.

"Well, it's not the best potato salad in the history of the world," I said, "but it tastes . . . familiar."

I couldn't put my finger on it."If I were a judge on Chopped I might say it tastes plain white and plain yellow."

"You mean it tastes buttoned up?" he said.

That's when my epiphany struck. "It tastes like . . . COSTCO!"

In other words, for the low, low price of only $5.99, I could have had the best potato salad in the history of the world. And spared the explosion in my kitchen.

No one went back for seconds at the party, or asked for the recipe. And I proved my scientific theory that everything I can do, someone else can do better. (Especially Costco.) But there's a moral here. There are several morals here, actually. Pride cometh before the fall. Sometimes it's best to take the low road. Don't trust the first best recipe on the internet. Bring a back-up dish, preferably one with a little bite to it's bark

Far and away the best moral of this story is that recipes are great. Follow them over and over. Imitate them. Understand them. But then, when you are ready, trust yourself and add your own flavors. You can't become the potato salad legacy you were meant to become by copying Grandma Mary Jane.  

Next year I think I will splash the potatoes with cilantro and lime, and add a touch of jalapeno to the eggs.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

No Room in the Laie Inn

I recently received this text from a good friend: "Did you really put all of your clocks in the freezer?"

I thought about writing back, "HYPERBOLE," but she is an English teacher so she knows that hyperbole means obvious or intentional exaggeration. Claiming to put all of my clocks in the freezer isn't technically exaggeration because I didn't put any of my clocks in the freezer. I didn't even think about putting any clocks in the freezer.

So I texted back, "LYPERBOLE," because technically it was a a lie. An obvious and intentional lie.

Pretty much everything I say on this blog is an obvious and intentional lie. Unless I'm telling a story about my mother-in-law. Everything I say about my mother-in-law is recorded word for word exactly as it comes out of her brain. I may have to put words in my husband's mouth and my children's mouths based on my ability to read their minds, but my mother-in-law says and does exactly what she's thinking, so there is no need for literary devices to get her point across. I can just tell it like it is.

For example, on Mother's Day she brought a Walmart bag to dinner.  I assumed it was a gift, based on the following five clues.
  1. All of her gifts come wrapped in Walmart bags.
  2. It was tied with pink curling ribbon.
  3. I could see a box of Sees Chocolates inside
  4. It was my birthday.
  5. There was a card on the bag that said To Dummy. 
But even Forrest Gump could not have prepared me for what was inside that box of chocolates. Where chocolates are usually neatly stacked, I found rows of toothpaste samples. And dental floss. And a few tools that only a retired dentist would have access to.

See what I mean? No punchline needed. No fancy spin. She is the fancy spin.

For the record, she was genuinely surprised that I mistook it for a gift. To her it was nothing more than the fruits of her labor while cleaning out the storage room.

And I believe her. She has never told a lie. She really believes that she has never told a lie and I believe that she believes that. As for me, I tell lies sometimes because I think that occasionally speaking in lies can get you closer to the truth. Other times speaking the truth can get you closer to the truth.

The problem with truth is that it takes longer to tell. Sometimes you need some emotional space before you can say what you need to say.

I wrote the following post back in April and I just now have the guts to publish it.


I recently said to my husband, "I wish I cared about more things. There are so many things I should be passionate about, but I'm not."

"Like what?" he said.

"Like wearing purple," I said.

He tried to console me by listing the things I care passionately about.

"You care about socks," he said. "Mismatched socks, stinky socks, holey socks, socks on the floor, socks under the beds, socks between the couch cushions and car seats, socks in Lulu's mouth . . ."

"Socks?" I said. "That's the best you've got?"

Luckily something finally happened that I cared enough about to raise my voice--the sports programs at BYU-Hawaii were cut. I felt so angry about it that I decided to write the administration a letter.

Dear BYU-H

Please don't do this.
Pretty please.
With sugar on top.
Don't do this, k?
Seriously. Don't do this.
And p.s. don't phase out fine arts either, k.
Or Pacific Island Studies.

I don't know if you could tell, but on that last please I was doing pouty lips and puppy dog eyes.

If there's one thing I ain't too proud to do, it's beg. Especially when I'm crying on the inside like a clown, but also crying on the outside, like a clown who's Alma Mater just told her that there's no room in the Laie Inn for athletes. And that also there's no Laie Inn, so technically there's no room in the Laie Marriott for athletes.

I am bummed about this decision on so many levels. Four levels, to be exact, but I can only talk about one of them publicly. I mean, come on, peoples! Sports can shape character, teach discipline, give focus, give something to root for and be inspired by, blah, blah, blah. Sports can be a vehicle to get an education on an island far, far away, and rub shoulders with awesome people from 70 different countries, while blowing the mind wide open, expanding cultural horizons, changing the course of life, and altering destiny!

Ahem . . .generally speaking, of course.

I just feel so sad for all the future athletes and coaches and families who will never get a chance to have their minds blown wide open, or their cultural horizons expanded, or their destiny altered on an island far, far away, while rubbing shoulders with awesome people from 70 different countries.

They say it's about progress. That it's simply a way to become more efficient and effective.

Here's my question: Why does progress have to feel so cold and sterile?

I mean effective and efficient can be two different things, right? Being more effective is not always a result of being more efficient?

Think about it.

While you're thinking about it, allow me to speak in parable:

For three years I walked my dog every day in a field overwrought with wild flowers and weeds, lined with trees and bails of hay, and penned in with crooked irrigation ditches. There were crops too, of course, because that was the purpose, but it was so much more than a field full of crops. It was a place for birds to chirp, and butterflies to flit, and dogs to chase geese, and dog owners to take deep breaths and stretch out across hay bails and listen to ditches gurgle. But then the field was sold, and the owner wanted to make it more productive, so the ditch was filled in, and an enormous rolling, robotic sprinkler system was installed. The trees were cut down, and the hay was hauled away to make more space for the rows and rows of corn, that were not being grown to feed people, but as a commodity--to feed cows maybe, because cows feed people, and if we can grow them bigger and faster, they can produce more meat, which produces more money.

I continued to walk my dog in that field even though there were no more birds or butterflies or trees or gurgling brooks, but one day I was chased down by a tractor and kicked out for trespassing.

My point is, if a field's purpose is to feed cows and make money, then YES, more efficient is more effective.

You get me?

But if a field's purpose is to integrate both spiritual and secular learning, and to prepare students with character and integrity who can provide leadership in their families, their communities, their chosen fields, and in building the kingdom of God then . . . well . . . 

Athletes can be great leaders too, right? Athletes can build the kingdom of God too, right?

Sports isn't just balls and bats. Sports is people. People who are part of a community, and contribute to a community. When you eliminate sports, you don't just eliminate events, you eliminate a whole population of people. From the community. People who are actually living in the community now. And people who might live there in the future. That's athletic abortion, right?


I just hate it when whole populations of people are eliminated, even if it seems more efficient without them.



Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Labor Phenomenon, or Naked and Afraid, or Whatever!

I just noticed that Nevadanista left a comment on my last post. "I really wish you'd start blogging your brains out again," it said.

I really wish I would too. But I'm just too preoccupied right now. Playing solitaire. And when I'm not playing solitaire, I spend a lot of time standing with my feet firmly planted, arms outstretched, jaw tightly clenched, trying to stop this:

This is my life. It has no brakes. I can't stop it. I can't even slow it down. I try. OMG, how I try. 

Just last week, for example, I had an idea in the middle of the night and I jumped out of bed to make it happen. The next morning I woke up expecting to hear Sonny and Cher singing as my clock radio flipped to 6:00 a.m. 

But my clock radio was gone. 

"Uh . . . why are all the clocks in the freezer?" called my husband from the kitchen. 

Needless to say, I didn't get to live that day over again. Or any day since. And now I only have four days left to play solitaire before my oldest son leaves the nest and flies away. 

Far. Far. Away. 

I haven't cried about it. As much as I've wanted to. I think it's because I started drinking Mt. Dew again. It's supposed to take the edge off, but I think it puts the edge on. And I can tell you exactly how long it takes if you're consuming at a steady pace. Four hours. That's when the little men in your head pull out their mallots and begin pounding on your skull. 

I don't mind though. Laying in the dark with an ice pack on my face draws attention from the little men pounding their mallots on my stone cold heart. 

I swear they won't stop until they break it.

But whatever. Just don't do the Dew. That's my best advice. Even if freezing your clocks doesn't stop time. 

And never, under any circumstances, drink and cry. Or text and cry. And if possible, don't cry and cry. 

Have you ever noticed that you're more prone to addictions when your children start leaving the nest? Or when your brother-in-law gets cancer that starts at stage four? Or when your mom gets a new knee which requires emergency surgery and infectious disease specialists and six weeks of IV antibiotics? Or when your hemophiliac son gets a thigh bleed which requires a mattress in the living room and all nine seasons of The Office. Plus all six seasons of The Wonder Years. Plus Shark Week. And two seasons of Scooby Doo. Plus the Catfish documentary and the Sea World Documentary. And Food Inc

When my daughter left I got addicted to Hallmark Christmas movies. But with my son leaving I'm hooked on Naked and Afraid. It's not the nudity that draws me in, it's the fear. And the misery. There's so much fear and misery. The dangers are so immediate that being naked in front of a stranger isn't even on the Richter scale. 

It reminds me of what I call The Labor Phenomenon, which is that moment when the intensity of the baby pain makes having a needle the size of a pencil jammed into your back feel like chicken soup for the soul. 

There is something about the combination of fear and misery and nudity that brings people to their knees. All that humility man, it's breathtaking. 

All that humility makes me root for them. I want them to catch some fish with their traps, but they never do. I want them to start a fire during the monsoon so they can purify water so they don't get dehydrated, but they never do. 

But I still hope for them. I hope that they won't get yellow fever or Malaria or diarrhea. That they'll get their shelter done before dark. That the snake that just bit them will give them enough protein to create enough energy to keep their fire going after they chop off his head and roast him. 

I hope that the leeches won't suck the marrow out of their bodies. 

And that the cancer won't suck the marrow out of my brother-in-laws body.

And that the infection won't suck the marrow out of my mom's body. 

And that the bleed won't suck the basketball out of my son's body. 

And that my kids' absence won't suck the marrow out of my body. 

Okay, I take back everything I said earlier. Do the Dew! Just Dew it! There is no cry, only Dew! 

But when you're laying in bed with an ice pack over your face, make sure there's a clock in it. 

And make sure that clock says Whatever!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

GUESS WHAT!? . . . nevermind . . .

Guess what!? I'm craving spaghetti, which means only one thing: I will be throwing up later tonight. I never crave spaghetti unless I'm about to get the stomach flu. It's a strong indicator.The fact that everyone else in my house has the stomach flu is also a strong indicator. And also the fact that I have a funeral to go to on Thursday. The last time I had a funeral to go to on a Thursday I also got the stomach flu. I went anyway, and made it all the way to the church, but not all the way out of the car.

I would love to explain these two deaths to you, but as soon as I start, my words get tangled up in my emotions and I think, nevermind.

I have a student who says this all the time. But first he raises his hand with astonishing enthusiasm. He raises his hand with his whole body, but as soon as he tries to gets his thoughts from his hand to his mouth, his body deflates. "Nevermind," he says.

Nevermind is the writing mantra I have had to adopt since I've become a teacher. I do try. I really, really do, every so often (four times, to be exact) try to get my thoughts from my hand to my mouth (or vice versa in my case). But halfway through the process I have to duck and cover because another set of thoughts come rushing in, demanding my attention. They come in waves. Endless waves of never ending, half finished thoughts.

Either that or I lose my train of thought.

In March I started writing a post called Sometimes I Don't Feel Like a Fatherless Child after I attempted to sign my son out of school early and ended up standing in the hallway with sweaty eyeballs listening to his seminary teacher compassionately explain to the class what happens to souls after they commit suicide.

Nevermind, I thought, halfway through the post.

I also started a post called, No Room in the Laie Inn, after I found out that BYU-H was getting rid of their sports programs. 

Nevermind, I thought, after working on it for hours. There ain't even room in the Laie Inn for the Laie Inn.

And what can I do about it, anyway?

Then I wrote a post called Life Before about how it felt to find out my brother-in-law has Leukemia.


I wrote other things too. I wrote some hilarious jokes about how many socks it takes to raise three teenage boys, and I wrote some hilarious bios for my son when he was nominated to be in a beauty pageant. He asked for funny, and I gave him funny. You know I did. But he didn't find any of it funny. Probably because it was all true. I had to explain to him that great humor is derived from not-so-great truth.

Am I right, or am I right . . .

Wait, what was I saying?

I just lost my train of thought.

Nevermind.  None of this has anything to do with what I wanted to say anyway. What I wanted to say was, GUESS WHAT!?

I have this other student who always greeted me this way. "GUESS WHAT!?" she'd say, just like that, in all caps. I always expected something extraordinary to come out of her mouth, but it never did. She just wanted to remind me that I needed to get her grade up. She was passionate about me getting her grade up. This helped me see the importance of being passionate about what you say, even if it doesn't make sense. And what I am about to say does not make sense, but GUESS WHAT!?

I think I'm in love. With being a high school teacher. I think I get it now. The appeal.

Crazy, huh?

As part of my final exam this year I asked my students to tell me the most important thing they learned this year in history and language arts. They said they learned that teachers make typos too, and I'm grateful I could be the one to teach them that. But GUESS WHAT!? They said other things too. Not the things I expected them to say, like "I learned that George Washington was a studmuffin,"  or "I learned that slavery sucks," or "I learned me some mad annotation skillz, and MLA format rulez."

But they didn't say these things. They said things like, "I learned that writing is inspirational."

"I learned how to tell a better story, and how to live a better story."

"I learned that sharing my opinion helps me, but it could also help others."

"I learned that true courage is being true to yourself," "that in order to be self reliant I have to be self reflective," "that I have the power to do anything with virtue, honor and courage," "that we all have the ability to do something amazing," "that I can help people," "that I should doubt my doubts," "that I can make decisions."

"I learned that I write good stories," "that if you want something, go and get it," "that you shouldn't do good to appear good, you should do good to be good."

"I learned to figure out where I stand on issues," "that conformity is the thief of originality."

"I learned to own my actions and thoughts."

"I learned to embrace my differences."

Some students wrote whole paragraphs, and one sweet girl went home and typed two pages about what she learned. Single spaced.

This is why I'm in love. Because what's not to be in love with, right?  What's not to be passionate about?

And GUESS WHAT!? There ain't no nevermind in passion.

(But there is passion in the stomach flu) (Just sayin')