Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Orlando and Me

Many of you know I love Tolkien's trilogy Lord of the Rings. I'm especially passionate about one character, the Elf Legolas.
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In the movie, Legolas is portrayed by actor Orlando Bloom, who also plays the part of Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean. He starred in Elizabethtown, Troy, and Kingdom of Heaven, among other films. He even had a role in Black Hawk Down. He's a big Star.

After school today my sons went to see Race to Witch Mountain with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, so I decided to use my free time to stop at Safeway and pick up a few groceries. I parked, got out of my car, and glanced over at the SUV that had just parked beside me.

Imagine my surprise when Orlando Bloom got out of the SUV! We live in a resort town and see big names a lot. David Spade, George Strait, Allison DuBois, Charles Barkley, Madonna, many others--got a glimpse of them all. But Orlando Bloom!
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I tried to be cool and just smiled and said hi, but I was shaking. Thank goodness I started carrying my camera when I began blogging!
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What a nice guy, very friendly. He said he just finished filming a movie in Los Angeles, called Sympathy for Delicious. He plays an aspiring rock star. (See the pic below I found online.)
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Someone had told him the White Mountains was a great get-away so he came to check it out, maybe even find a place to rent.
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He was so easy to talk to, I found myself telling him about the novel I'm writing. It's based on Tolkien's Elves 1,000 years after the events in Lord of the Rings. He said it sounded very interesting, and he must have meant it because he invited me to dinner to talk some more.

Oh--my--gosh! I was stunned! I drew him a map to my house on a receipt I found in my purse. Then I picked up my boys from the movie and hurried home to get cleaned up and change. (I was never so glad to be 25 lbs lighter!) Jacob and Dylan, of course, thought their mom had lost her marbles. They changed their tune when he pulled up and came to the door at 6:30, though.

I suggested an Italian restaurant in Pinetop called The Pasta House, and that's where we went. It's small and intimate, so I figured he wouldn't be bothered much by fans. We had a nice dinner with great conversation and some good laughs.
He's a funny guy, not at all like a big star. Here he is posing with his pasta, tomato, & feta cheese dish. He told me he's a practicing Buddhist, but I don't know if he's vegetarian. I didn't ask!
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He brought me home after 8:30. I was sad to have this amazing night end, but excited that it happened at all! Then he shocked me by giving me a kiss--not just a peck, but an actual on-the-lips good-night kiss! What can I say? It was. . .

An April Fools joke! Okay, so I'm old enough to be his mother. (Not that I would turn down a kiss from Orlando Bloom if he offered!) But I bet I had you going for a few minutes there, didn't I? Gotcha!

Wishing you an April Fools Day that is everything interesting and fun!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

How I Spent My Spring Vacation

I thought I'd blog several posts this week, being Spring Break and all, but it turned out I was busier than ever!
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My kids thought I'd turned into the Wicked Stepmother, because I had them scrubbing for 4 days straight. We worked from about 10am to 7pm every day, until my poor old back ached!
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But our house and yard are clean! Drawers cleaned out, closets reorganized, baseboards scrubbed, corners cobweb-free. It feels good!
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We took a break yesterday. Jacob and his friend Bryce went on an overnight Scout camp-out and hiked Tonto Trail near Globe, AZ. They'll be home this evening.
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Dylan spent the afternoon with friends while Sarah and I went to see a movie with our friend Gwen. We saw Knowing, a very intense movie with surprising religious overtones. The special effects were outstanding and the message was both chilling and thrilling. I really liked it.
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Then Gwen joined us for dinner, an Indiana Jones DVD, and games. We got very silly, laughed a lot, and had a great time.
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Today we slept very late and plan on a relaxing end to our break.
One of the great things about being at home is having time to be creative and prepare nutritious meals. When I'm working it's hard to come up with ideas for interesting low-carb lunches.
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Breakfast is easy. I love the versatility of eggs: fried; boiled; deviled; scrambled (plain, or with onions & chilies, or with chorizo); omelets with just about anything thrown in (my favorite add-ins are cheese & spinach leaves or homemade chunky guacamole with tomato, green onion, and chilies); even Egg McNuthin's (a sausage patty topped with a slice of cheese topped by fried eggs, but no bun).
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Dinners are an adventure. There must be protein and a nutrient-dense vegetable, so it can be as easy as grilled meat and a salad or as fun as a modified casserole minus the noodles/rice/potatoes.
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Even snacks aren't much of a challenge. There's sugar-free Jello, an ounce of Monterey jack cheese (or string cheese, if you prefer), a half-cup of cottage cheese (sometimes with diced veggies added in), a dozen olives, a handful of nuts, a few strawberries, celery sticks stuffed with cream cheese or natural peanut butter, a small pickle, an Atkins shake, sugar-free Popsicles, or even my beloved Ross dark chocolate bars. Atkins also has yummy candies like peanut butter cups.
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But lunch at school? Boring! Mostly leftovers or salads with protein added.
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It was fun to be creative this week. Here's a lunch I came up with that was quite good. Each stack is a half-ounce slice of Monterey jack, 2-3 spinach leaves, a thin slice of tomato, and 1.5 oz. of albacore tuna mixed with about a tsp of mayo, and paprika sprinkled on top.
The poundage did not drop off this week like I'd hoped, but I did lose 1 more pound, bringing me to 25.7 lbs. lost in 12 weeks. So I did meet my goal of hitting the 25-lb. mark!
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The best part is that I have more energy now. Three months ago I could not have spring-cleaned nonstop for 4 days in a row. And I'm willing to bet I added some nice muscle in the process!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Spring Has Sprung

And that means Spring Break is here! After months of uncertainty and stress over economic downturns and how our jobs will be affected, we all need this break more than ever.
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No big plans for us. We started spring cleaning today and tackled projects like small repairs. I love going back to work with a freshly organized and clean house. It never quite lasts the 8 weeks until school is out for summer, but we enjoy it for a few weeks.
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The weather has been breezy but otherwise beautiful. Of course, here in the mountains that can change. Last year we even got snow on Sarah's graduation day!
Last week was slow both in passing time and in weight loss. It seemed like it took forever for Spring Break to arrive, and it seemed like the numbers on the scale would hardly budge!
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Of course, slow can be good! This poor guy probably lost hundreds of pounds, of course, but I'd prefer to avoid the sagging flaps of too rapid loss!
Yet it's frustrating. I never ate anything unhealthy all week. Jacob made biscuits and gravy this morning (from scratch) and I left them alone.
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But I made him bake me a sugar-free cheesecake in return for taunting me! As you can see from the picture, we ate half of it last night before bedtime. The other half will be gone tonight.
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The secret to the best tasting cheesecake? Add a teaspoon of orange extract to the batter!! Jacob did that by accident one time, thinking he'd grabbed the vanilla, and we loved it!
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I hope Spring Break will be a plus. I'll be more physically active, with housecleaning and all. I don't get hungry much when I'm busy with projects. I'll get more sleep and have less stress. Hopefully that's a recipe for success!
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I only lost o.6 lb. this week, but at least it's a loss and not a gain. It brings my total to 24.7 lbs. in 11 weeks. By next weekend I hope to hit and pass the 25 lb mark.
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Wish me success!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Seventh Season

It seems like we just finished up soccer season, and here it is Little League time again! Dylan is heading into his 7th year of baseball, America's favorite pastime.
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Yesterday I took Dylan to his try-outs at Mountain Meadow and shot a few pictures of him, well, trying out. The 35 or so kids had to bat, run bases, and catch both grounders and pop-up flies while the coaches from the major teams watched and took notes. Pretty stressful for these young guys.
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Dylan did very well. He is, of course, his own worse critic and only remembers every little mistake he made. I was able to tell him honestly that only a few of the boys performed better than he did.
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As for me, I stood at the fence with my camera and cheered him on. It was a sunny day with a bright blue sky overhead and just a few whisps of cloud here and there.
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I got my first sunburn of the season. Only a light one, thankfully. I've got to start remembering that sunscreen!
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But the wind! In grade school I remember learning the line "March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." So far this month it's been true! While watching Dylan, my hair was whipped into criss-crossing knots that had to be ripped rather than combed from my hair.
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I actually love the wind. My sinuses and my hair aren't too crazy about it, but I love the sound of wind rustling in the pines and the feel of it in my hair.
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I especially love when it howls around my house and sets all my wind chimes off on a random, tinkling melody--exactly like it is doing tonight!
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Now the try-outs are over and we have to let the chips fall where they may. Dylan and I had our little talk about the pros and cons of staying in the minors where he'll get more play time and being drafted up to the majors. (You can guess which he is hoping for.)
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In a few weeks we'll know which team he's on and who his coaches and teammates are. And we will once again spend several evenings each week at the Little League field, proudly cheering on our young athlete.
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Bring it on!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

50 Springs

We know it's spring when my brother LeRoy's birthday rolls around, since he was born on the first day of spring in 1959, March 21st.
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Today he is 50! Now he can join me in tearing up those pesky letters from the AARP!
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LeRoy lives in the Phoenix area with his wife Lori and their kids, Nathan and Katie.
I thought it'd be fun to check out some baby pictures. I wish I could have found some adorably embarrassing bare-bum photos like I used in our brother Jeff's birthday blog, but no such luck.
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In fact, this is the earliest picture I could find, taken on Halloween 1959 when LeRoy was 7 months old. I know there are others taken when he was smaller, but I'll have to find them for next year's birthday!
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It was LeRoy who ended my days as an only child when I was four-and-a-half. I forgave him for that long ago . . .
One year and 8 days before LeRoy's birth, our brother Gerald was stillborn. During her next pregnancy my mom was very worried until she had a dream. In the dream some men came into the room and put a baby in her arms, saying, "His name is LeRoy Thomas." She knew then that this child would be fine. She said LeRoy looked exactly like the baby in the dream!
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April 1960 at Roeding Park Zoo in Fresno, CA: we moved to Fresno around LeRoy's 1st birthday and lived with Grandpa & Grandma Haley for a few months. Our parents, Myron & Jane, were ages 25 and 22. LeRoy had just turned 1 and I was 5. Mom was very close to delivering our next sibling!
Here is LeRoy the biker around his 2nd birthday in 1961. He's practicing his expression for when the Hell's Angels recruit him! (Hasn't happened yet, but he still practices that scowl sometimes!)
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LeRoy has a great sense of humor, a little bit dry like mine, but he was also the most intense of my 4 younger siblings. He felt things deeply yet he was inclined to mostly keep them inside. People learned quickly not to mess with him when he was in a serious mood!
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He's pretty much lightened up since then!
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Here are LeRoy and Dad in July 1961 at Bass Lake, where our family vacationed often.

Who would have thought that cute little body would become the manly physique that Lori would someday adore?
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Our Uncle Gene (Mom's older brother) owned a cabin at Bass Lake. That's where I learned to love the mountains, pines, and lakes I still love today. Those were the days when I began to wish I could live in the mountains someday . . .
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In September 1962 we're back at Bass Lake. Here's 3-year-old LeRoy zonked out on a daybed in Uncle Gene's cabin after a full day of sand, lake water, pine trees, giant daddy-long-legs, and exploration.
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Here we are celebrating LeRoy's 4th birthday in 1963. He looks like such a little man with his hair all slicked down like that!
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It reminds me of watching my dad comb my brothers' hair when they were small. He'd squeeze their little cheeks so tightly to prevent them from moving, they'd have little puckered-up fish lips! Then, of course, a little dab of Brylcreem would hold every hair in place!
Then came kindergarten! Here is 5-year-old LeRoy dancing around the tribal campfire, practicing for the little school program that was coming up. (That's sister Karla in the background.)
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Notice he's actually smiling in this picture? I'm sure it had nothing at all to do with the hatchet in his hand . . . (Little boys do like those weapons, don't they?)
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And I can't conclude without a picture of "The Boys." My 3 brothers were always the best of buddies, and they remain so today. Here we have LeRoy (age 9), Jeff (age 7), and Darryl (age 5) in December 1968. (Check out the matching sneakers!)
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That's our blue-black-and-white '56 Dodge Lancer in the background. A classic!

I just realized that I do have an early portrait of LeRoy, hanging right here on my office wall. I quickly scanned it in and--voila!--we have a picture of LeRoy when he was only 4 weeks old, in April 1959. (I was 4 at the time.)

Well, LeRoy, you made it from that cute little baby all the way to ripe, old middle age. Welcome to geezer-hood! It's been quite a ride so far, hasn't it?

I sure wish I could be with you to give you a birthday hug (and to really rub it in), but I'll have to settle for wishing you a wonderful birthday. It's been a pleasure (most of the time) being your big sister.

I love you, little bro! Happy birthday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Overnight Guests

We had 2 special little guests spend the night with us last night. My brother Jeff had to get back on the road headed to Colorado, and his wife Dana had to travel to Mesa, so my daughter the nanny brought her 2 young charges to stay the night. We so enjoyed having 4-year-old Brinley and 2-year-old Callie Jayne here with us.
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People ask me often how Callie is doing. The video clip above shows how full of life she is. Callie is a bundle of nonstop energy. It's amazing to remember where she was just 6 months ago. In this clip, Jacob gives Callie a dog cookie to feed Diego, but it doesn't go very smoothly. (Excuse the view of my dirty house--Spring Break is next week, and I've given up on hounding my kids to keep up with their chores. They'll make it up next week with spring cleaning!)

This is beautiful Brinley sitting on the sofa-bed and watching The Little Mermaid 2. That's the movie she chooses to watch every time she comes over.

Brinley was sad when she first came because she wanted her sisters Haley and Hayden to join us, but they had to stay home for school today. Once the movie went into the DVD player, however, she quickly forgot how much she missed her sisters!

Sarah and both girls slept on the sofa-bed together, but only after they watched the movie all the way through once and then started it up a second time. It was well after 11pm when they all finally crashed!

Here's our perky Callie with a mouthful of butterscotch pudding at bedtime. She likes to steal the show!

Last night Jacob found some missing pencils in his room and exclaimed, "Yay, I found my pencils." From the kitchen, Callie yelled "Ya-a-a-a-y!" and started clapping for him. She just melts our hearts with her adorable enthusiasm.

Callie followed our dog Diego around all night and called him MooMoo (Moonbeam is the name of her family's cat). Diego is fascinated by Callie, but he sometimes isn't sure what to make of her.

When I woke up at 6am, I found our 3 girls all wrapped up and cozily asleep. I just had to snap a picture! They slept until nearly 8am, waking just before I left for work.

The girls spent the day here with Sarah and went back home when Sarah left for her college class this evening. We already miss them.

Thanks for spending a day with us, Brin and Cal!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

On St. Paddy's Day

It so happens that on St. Patricks Day 167 years ago--on 17 March 1842--the Relief Society of the LDS church was organized by Emma Hale Smith.
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With the motto "Charity Never Faileth," the Relief Society is the largest women's organization in the world. It's also one of the oldest.
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In honor of Relief Society's creation, a birthday celebration is held every March to remember its mission of service and to recognize those who've carried out its work over the years.
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Tonight we enjoyed a program of music and speakers while delighting in a traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, salad, assorted cakes, and refreshing cucumber water.
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Here at my table I was joined by good friends Charla, Wyndie, and Gwen (left to right, starting with Charla in the red). Our friends make everything more fun!
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By the way, I was good! I didn't try even one bite of bread or potato or cake, though it was certainly inviting. But the salad and the corned beef and cabbage were delicious and filling.
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At the end of the program, a group of ladies sang this song about sisterhood. I'm sorry the sound is so faint, because it was a beautiful song sung beautifully! The ladies are, from left to right: Karen, Vonnie, DeeDee, Wyndie, Jona, Jeanette, and Flora. (Jona is the sister of my sister-in-law Dana. I'm sorry to say I don't know the name of the sister on the far right in the yellow dress.) It was a lovely, uplifting program that reminded us of our power to change the world through service to others, by following the example of Jesus Christ. What better way to end the day for the wearin' o' the green!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Staying the Course

Another 1.8 lbs has left my neighborhood, bringing me to 24.1 lbs lost in 10 weeks.
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I find I am happy but impatient! It seems like in the past the weight has come off much faster. I put it down to being younger in those days and having a healthier metabolism.
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Then I took a look in my last Atkins Journal, the one from early 2003 when I really stuck with it and lost 63 lbs. Guess what? In the first 10 weeks I only lost . . . you guessed it, 24 lbs! So I guess I'm on track, after all!
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I really miss the Atkins Journal. After Dr. Atkins (my hero) passed away, the company he left behind struggled and had to restructure. They discontinued most of their products for several years and have only recently begun reintroducing them.
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Unfortunately, no new journals so far.
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The great thing about the Atkins Journal was it held me accountable for everything I put into my mouth.
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Plus I rewarded myself by listing any temptations I passed up, highlighting them in yellow so I could look back over the past week and think, "Wow, I don't even miss those foods now!"
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It was a great visual record of my progress.
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I've tried doing online journals and carrying around a small notebook. I've even tried to duplicate the Atkins Journal, but nothing else worked for me. Until now.
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This blog has filled the empty space where my trusty journal used to be and helped me stay strong.
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To those of you who encourage me along the way, thank you!
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And now to confess to this week's temptations.
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Jacob's culinary arts class catered a party for the City Council, and Jacob brought home all these plates of leftovers. They included almond cookies, roasted bagel bites with cream cheese, chicken egg rolls, and spinach rolls.
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I admit to one small bite of each item, which I figure was the equivalent of one complete roll. (What can I say, I love trying new foods!)
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However, I am mastering a new skill: taking one bite of something tasty and then walking away.
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When the kids had spaghetti and garlic bread on Friday night, I took 2 bites of spaghetti and a tiny bite of bread, then ate my own little meal.
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You know what? It turns out the food isn't as irresistible as it seems. It doesn't even taste as good as expected!
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I may get this whole lifestyle change thing down yet!

Friday, March 13, 2009

March 13, 1958

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On this day 51 years ago, my brother Gerald Lynn was born. On this day 51 years ago, he died just hours before his birth.
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There are no pictures of him, of course. They didn't do that back in 1958. In fact, my mother--who carried him for 9 months--never even saw him. They whisked him away as soon as he was delivered. In those days, they thought that would be kinder, easier.
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My dad got to see him, though. He told my mom that Gerald had lots of golden hair and was perfect in every way. My mom took comfort in his words.
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These are my parents soon after their wedding in August 1953. My mom, Jane, was 15 (her 16th birthday was 6 weeks away) and my dad, Myron, was 18 (he was 19 two weeks later).
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Would we fall in love and take a risk on marriage and family if we knew what hardships lay ahead? Yet what joys would we miss if we didn't risk all on love?
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An autopsy was performed, but no one is sure why his spirit suddenly left his little body. Other than a "spot" on his lungs, which didn't appear serious, he should have been a healthy, squalling newborn.
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It must have been hard for my parents to wake up one morning expecting a new baby and then return home that night with empty arms to an empty crib. Especially since my mother had suffered 3 miscarriages before finally carrying this baby to term.
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I was just 3 when Gerald was born, so I only know what my mom told me when I was older and what she wrote in our big, metal family Bible. If I have any memory at all, it was that my mom was sad for a while and I wasn't able to comfort her.
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Mom said she woke up on the day of his birth and went into labor. The baby was moving around and all was fine. She went to see her doctor, and while she sat in the waiting room Gerald suddenly stopped moving, never to move again. Mom somehow knew he was gone.
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She was only 20 then, very young to bear the broken heart that comes with the loss of a child.
Mom recorded each of our births in the old family bible. Over time the ink began to fade, so she encased the page in clear contact paper.
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She noted that Gerald Lynn was delivered by Dr. Thomas P. Downey at Daniel Freeman Memorial Hospital in Inglewood, Los Angeles County, California. He weighed 5 lbs 10 oz and was 19 inches long.
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Then, sadly, she records that it was a stillbirth and Gerald was buried at Inglewood Park Cemetary in Inglewood, CA. The grave was dedicated by a Brother White of the Hawthorne Ward.
I don't know if I attended the funeral. I think I have a vague memory of it, or maybe I'm remembering pictures I've seen. I tried to find the photos, but apparently I never got copies.
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One photo showed my mom sitting at the graveside, wearing a short, light-colored jacket and looking solemn. Beside her was the little grave, covered with a mound of beautiful flowers.
Gerald, though we didn't get to grow up with you, our mom made you real to us. We always knew you were part of our forever family. I love to think of the great joy Mom found in being reunited with you when she left us almost 7 years ago.
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I look forward to getting to know you myself someday, little brother. Happy birthday, Gerald.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hey!


Last night Sarah, Jacob, and I attended Dylan's band concert at the high school auditorium. Sarah's college class was cancelled due to her professor's illness, so we were lucky she got to join us.

There were several bands and orchestras and groups from grades 4-8 that peformed during the program. Dylan's 5th & 6th grade band went first. More than half the kids in his band have only been playing since September, and they sounded great. Dylan plays the flute very well and still dabbles in percussion. He keeps trying to talk me into buying a drum set.
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Here is a shot of his whole band with their conductor, Mr. Day. Mr. Day is awesome! He comes from a very musical family. His mom is a music teacher in our district and his 12-year-old brother sang a solo at the community performance of The Messiah.

Their older brother, Spencer Day, is a professional musician who came in 2nd place on the last season of Star Search a few years ago.

Here are Dylan and his band-mates leaving the stage after their performance. (Dylan is very resistant to the idea of dressing up these days!)

Other groups performed, as well. The guitar class sounded so great on their acoustic guitars. I wish Jacob had kept up the guitar lessons so he could serenade me!
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Here is a group called Spotlight, dressed as hippies and singing "I'm a Believer." (Ahhh, the memories of my crush on the Monkees!) All 3 of Wyndie's sons are in this group.
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Here we have the Darlin' Divas singing "A Happy Working Song" from the film Enchanted. They were so adorable.
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This group of cuties features Dylan's best gal pal, whom he is kind of sweet on. (She's second from the left.)
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Below is a short clip of Dylan's band performing "The Hey Song." The kids love it because it's popular at football games when the high school band plays it. The audience participates by shouting "Hey!" during the rests.
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Dylan said he jumped and started to laugh the first time the audience yelled "Hey!" After that he had a hard time keeping a straight face. It's always so much fun to watch the kids develop their talents and perform with their peers!

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