Monday, August 31, 2009

Blog Homework #1

~ Write a page about you. Introduce yourself. Prompt: If you were a character in your own book, what would your name be? Describe your inner self and your outer self. Prompt: "He saw her sneak into the classroom. She was ____, but he could tell she was____. . ."

Assignment #1

Professor Snickety began the class as he always did, peering over his glasses at his students, and smoothing over that lonely swath of hair sitting at the tip of his forehead.

"Today I'd like you to ponder Shakespeare's ability to make even the most despicable characters...."

The door creaked open as Scarlett tried to stealthily sneak into the theater styled lecture room. She tried, but really, it was hard not to notice the echo of the door hinges and the dark, rich colors paired together simply on her average frame.

Her friends in the class knew she physically looked like someone who would hide in the back of the class and never speak up, and perhaps she was in the past, but they smiled knowingly, because Scarlett never let an opinion go unsaid, if she could help it.

They also knew, that though she kept her beauty regimen simple, running around without a dab of makeup except on Sundays, she was quite a complicated, fussy woman when it came to food, learning, and magnifying the talents she didn't think she had.

She was the type of girl who was immediately warm and friendly, but also knew to give space when someone didn't respond with that same warmth. She was very loyal, but destructive when crossed. She would be quite gentle with words in person, but scathing on paper. If there was one thing her friends could count on, it would be her ability to stand true to her values. There was a stubborn streak, a generous heart and an addiction to humor that endeared her to those closest to her.

She loved to make everyone feel comfortable and at ease, but valued having few friends - she'd prefer to have a few loyal, sincere friends than flippantly gather up quantity. In essence she was a mix of contradictions and "if this...then that".

Professor Snickety sighed, as Scarlett was known to always run a bit behind. He then smiled unwillingly, as she dropped off a bag of fresh pears on his desk. Against his will, she had burrowed herself into his amused affection. He waited for her to sit down, cleared his throat, and continued his sentence.

"...could make even the most despicable characters, relate to each reader. Why is it, my dear students, that we often despise those that are most similar to our darkest selves? Turn to your favorite play and create a character analysis of the villain or villains, and discover what traits are similar to yourself."

After a brief comment to her neighbors, creating a giggling fit, the students bowed their heads and began writing.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why? Because you can.

My trainer Jen is amazing... when she presents us with crazy hard exercises she asks "why? Because you can." It's her positive motivation and placing the responsibility of shaping our bodies on us that I love.

So... because I was browsing my google reader tonight, I saw my friend La Yen's working on this - with the TravelinOma. She saw it on our friend ~J's blog and I noticed my friend CW is working on it too... well.. now I want to do it...because I can. How I will fit it in is a mystery - but it looks like fun!

If you want to join... do it baby. And... if you wouldn't mind referencing me so I get some extra school credit too.

... I am so excited!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

In the blink of an eye

Today was a normal day.

I went to cardio and yoga.

Then we had a run-in and disappointment with Stanley Steemer. We told them to go home because they started right off the bat with "I don't guarantee I can get any spots out." Then tried to back-track by saying ... "well, that would be extra". I categorize it all as plain lazy.

My hubby had an errand to run for the upcoming Stake Youth Standards Fireside, and I had some to run for an incoming Beehive we get to kidnap out of Primary on Sunday.

After our errands we went to a local BBQ spot we'd never tried. It was scrump-diddly-upmtious. I love BBQ, pulled pork, BBQ baked beans... mmmm.

On our way home we were blissful.

Then about 0.5 or 0.8 miles from our exit, a small black integra about two, three cars in front of us in the far right lane swerved over to the right towards the drop-off embankment, then sprinted so fast over to the far left lane hitting two SUVs. The second SUV flipped over as the integra then spun out of control back across three lanes into a giant lamp post, which came crashing down in front of us.

I was so shocked I didn't even make a sound.

The integra then dived down the embankment into the field below.

My husband kept our car in control the entire time, while I sat stunned, holding my breath.

Instantly several things happened at once, people streamed out of their cars to help the turned-over SUV driver and the other car. My husband told me to call 911, and quickly went out to see if anyone needed help.

The 911 operator had to tell me to calm down multiple times as I tried to get the information out as fast as possible. I don't know why, but I started feeling emotional... I cry a lot these days.

Soon we saw a young guy (maybe a father) and a little boy, maybe 9-10 yrs climbing out of the embankment from their integra.

Knowing the Firemen were on their way my husband navigated us out of the wreckage. I saw the woman in the toppled, totaled SUV on the side of the road being tended to by passersby... they even had her neck in a brace. There was blood. We said a family prayer and are hoping that everyone is safe.

I can't help but wonder - what happened? Did the guy in the integra over-compensate? Was he not paying attention? (probably) Did a tire blow out?

As we drove away I saw the amount of wreckage strewn across the freeway, and couldn't believe that it only took mere seconds for all of this happen in front of us.

I am so grateful we weren't in this accident. I am so grateful my husband noticed the integra getting squirrely in front of us and backed off the gas. I am so grateful for cell phones that allow us to call for help. I am so grateful for people who see tragedy and jump to aide those in peril.

I am just so grateful my family and I are safe... time to snuggle closer tonight...and remember how in just a blink of an eye how fragile, and fleeting life is.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Foto Footh Friday

... when you can't find easy-come alliteration... make it up.

This is me... feeling strong and tough when I workout with weights... (it's hard to see the guns this far away...but trust me...they're there... really, they are... I swear)

This is my Dauntless Daughter, messing around with me when her big sis is at school...

This is Avant Garde Gal... my dainty one.

This is all of pajamas.

Yeah...we're in pajamas again... but we're also playing instruments...

This is us, nearly 3 years ago... still in pajamas...

Time flies when you're having fun and making faces... I'm just grateful to be there.

ps. we love pajamas

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Mother's Heart

We're on our second week of school.

The first week was tough...

My Avante Garde Gal was adjusting to a new class of people she didn't know. She was learning a new schedule, new environment... you name it ... it was a lot.

When I'd pick her up I'd ask her how her day went.

QS: So what did you do today?
AGG: I watched my friends (what we call classmates at this stage) play tag.
QS: Wow, how fun. Did you play too?
AGG: No, I just watched.
QS: Did you want to play?
AGG: I don't know if they will let me.
QS: Do you play with any friends?
AGG: mmm... I like to be on my own.

That's when my eyes start brimming with tears.

So at back-to-school night last week I asked her teacher how she was doing. The report was that AGG wasn't adjusting as well socially with the other kids. That she was timid, lacked confidence and tended to congregate near the teachers. I was heartbroken. She was a mini-me at that age. I never, in a million years wanted her to be like my scared little self.

As the teacher was talking to us, she assured us that she knew what it was like. Her own daughter had that very day been crying, making her cry... she understood as she saw my eyes well-up with tears.

The next day at drop-off AGG's teacher mentioned to me that she had thought of something to help my daughter. I was so touched. She teaches two classes with another teacher. One in the AM and one in the PM. In total there are approximately 45 kids she's teaching.

She told me she would email me, and I was so grateful I told her to do it when she had time. I went home and realized it might be easier if I sent her an email first so she didn't have to search for mine.

On Monday when I dropped my daughter off, I noticed her teacher wearing glasses. I didn't think anything of it until I got home and saw the email she had sent.

She responded to me and apologized for not getting back to me before the weekend. I couldn't believe how thoughtful she was - I wasn't even expecting her to get back until the next Monday, and for goodness sake she did not need to apologize. She told me that in our conversation at back-to-school night she remembered that my hubby had said that AGG's behavior, normally confident, out-going and friendly, started to change about 6-8 months ago. I couldn't believe she remembered. She then proceeded to ask if this was when AGG received her glasses. It just so happens - it was.

I don't know how I missed that. I was so grateful she had that insight. AGG has had issues with her glasses. She is a very verbal girl. Her eye specialist even told us that verbal children tend to care about their appearance. And mine does. She is concerned about what people think about her. She also gets frustrated because occassionally, due to her lazy eye, she sees double (I see two mommies). Often the characters she pretends to be, because she is my little actress, don't wear glasses, and she will refuse to wear them.

AGG's teacher said she'd start wearing her glasses more often, as no one else in the class wears them. She said that she doesn't need them during the day, but for night vision, but that if this helps AGG - she'd do it. At this point... I was crying, again, and I'm not even pregnant...

It's been a few days since then, and I've noticed a huge change. Today AGG drew a picture of her classroom, with all the different cubbies, stations, and even her teacher, complete with glasses. She's been playing with the kids in her class. Even her teacher, today mentioned a noted difference.

I can't even begin to say how much this one teacher, who has taken the time to go the extra mile means to me, and my little AGG. I feel like there's not much I can do to repay her I'll work to do as much as I can. Let's just say, anything in terms of volunteering, materials, baking, can count on me to do. I feel so blessed that my sweet daughter, with the tender heart has a teacher with a mother's heart.

Monday, August 24, 2009

The Cover Art ... is just Marketing

I grew up boy crazy.

If you were "sneaky, sneaky" and you opened up my journals from elementary school, middle school, high school and college, you'd find it littered with pathetic poem attempts, highs and drastic lows, and... lists of boys that I thought were.... "cuuuuuuuuuute".

It's entertaining to read through my childhood...and remember how I felt, smile knowingly at the budding soul...and thank the Lord I grew out of that...somewhat (celebrities not included).

When I was a young 'un it was all about how a boy looked. That was all that was important. Of course, if he was mean to me - he'd instantly be off the list. Even at that young age, how someone acted would either elevate them higher on the "good-looking" list, or plummet them off my chart.

And... oh yes... I played a lot of MASH.

I am a bit sheepish to admit that "boy crazy", kind of defined who I was, even in high school. I even took pictures with "hot" TAs. I am so utterly embarrassing.

A turning point came when one of my friends in high school turned to me one day during brunch or lunch and said, point blank, in reference to my frivolous obsessions, "why don't you get a personality"?

That hit me hard. It struck right to my core. I realized, she was right. I was so one-dimensional, dull, and let's be honest - silly - that even if a boy was interested in me, there was nothing of substance to sustain any kind of mature relationship.

So I took that to heart. I realized I needed to be more than just brainlessly obsessed with one thing.

Through college I discovered that a person's attractiveness... at least for me - increased based on their personality, character, and heart. I learned that by watching how a person reacted to doing acts of service, treated the "outsiders", took initiative... those things they did when they thought no one was watching, spoke volumes about the person behind the facade.

I have looked back at "THE" list. I'm sure you've done one. The list of what you wanted in a spouse. I was surprised, and a little relieved that my list was full of qualities and traits, not physical appearances, and shallow requirements, that in the end, mean very little.

I was also pleased that I had eventually abandoned that first list as a focal point, and had created a list of qualities that I knew I could work on to make myself the type of woman a good man would want to marry. A woman that my children would want to have as a mother. A woman that I would be able to respect.

It's amusing to hear my Beehives talk about the kind of men they want to marry - it's not much different than when I was young. I wish I could pull out my experiences and hand it all over to them, so that they can be that much more ahead of the game in discovering what is important.

Then again, it's not my turn to learn - it's theirs. And... while I can hope that they learn it, I know there will be some that might not learn it as quickly. I say that because I still see women, grown women, who are mothers, who only like to be friends with women who look like them - or look like the women they'd like to be associated with. These women judge a person based on if they look old/young, or fat/skinny or burlap sack/fashion-forward. They don't see that our appearances aren't something we have much choice in. If they could look behind the physical appearances, they'd discover how brilliant the women they write off are.

There is nothing more lovely to me than the friendships I value. I don't look physically like any of my friends that I respect. But I hope I do look like them in the things that matter. I hope I match (or one day match) these great women I respect in faith, service, humor, joy, devotion, wisdom....They are beautiful to me.

I'm grateful to that friend in high school. The one who was mature beyond her years, to call me out. Our looks are just cover art... but what's inside... well, we can make it glorious.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Where did the time go?

Here, Avant Garde Gal, is modeling her first day of school outfit. (a la Old Navy) When we go shopping I let her pick out her own clothes. She has quite the fashion sense... something I still don't quite have.

All month she's been coloring in a caterpillar each day, counting down the days until Kindergarten. We've worked on some reading, writing and simple skills like cutting and gluing. The night before school she had a Father's Blessing. Little Dauntless Daughter had one too... in preparation for preschool. And then after our family prayer I told both girls a story about their first day of school. We were excited!

The day of, I think my clock was slow... because we were actually a couple minutes late. Luckily, that didn't matter. Also, my hubby came too - but made it just one minute after AGG entered her classroom. So we all peeked through the glass.

We could tell she was a little shy at first... and wearing my sunglasses I felt tears well-up. But I had to swallow them so that my little one wouldn't think something was wrong. I never really thought this would happen so quickly. I still remember every detail of her birth...I can't believe how I'm thrusting her out into this world... I think I need a safety net.

I will say, I am grateful for such a great school. We have great teachers, beautiful facilities...and solid families. I'm excited for her to enjoy learning. She's inquisitive and quick to catch on. My friend Sally was worried my oldest might get bored...

QS: It's time to go to bed.
AGG: Why?
QS: So you can go to your third day of school tomorrow.
AGG: I don't want to go everyday!
QS: Why not?
AGG: It will get boring!

My oldest has a sweet heart. She is also timid with change. So I worry for her. I hope the other kids include her. I hope they reach out to her. I hope she finds the courage to step out of her comfort zone. I'm afraid she gets that from me... I was painfully shy as a child. I hope my aching while she's away at school is just crazy...and not called for. She is a little ray of joy... and so I hope, I hope she have a marvelous experience. It's hard... letting go.

While my oldest is away at school for half a day... this is what my little one and I have been up to.

We were at Claire's to pick up birthday goodies for my Beehives. So my little one, Dauntless Daughter, picks up these crazy glasses.

DD: Mommy can you take a picture of me?
QS: Of course! *click*
DD: Ok, now your turn.
QS: Oh, I don't need a picture.
DD: Yes, you do. I will take a picture of you.
QS: Ok.
DD: (giggles) - you look silly Mom.

She also loved the Old Navy dog... she prefers dogs that just don't move. We also had lunch. After we dropped off her big sister on Wed we had this conversation.

DD: I'm hungry.
QS: But we just had breakfast!
DD: Yes, but I'm hungry again.
QS: Okay, we'll go home and have something to eat.
DD: No, I want to go somewhere.
QS: Where?
DD: I want to go somewhere to eat food.

I then had to explain we couldn't go out all the time... Daddy works hard for the money. (queue music)

... I don't feel old... and yet, time keeps moving past me. I am not ready for my girls to leave me this quickly. I'm not quite ready to give up the freedom of our initiated schedules for a regimented one. I miss the carefree days of summer...and toddler-hood. I am so grateful that I stay home with my most precious gifts. I can't imagine anything worth giving up that time with them. I really could use a pause button for life, right about now.

Thursday, August 20, 2009



Focus your eyes.
Focus your mind.
Focus your body.


...they're taking a free 30-day Tae Kwon Do class and just received their white belts... my Kungfu Panda Gals are THRILLED!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The numbers game...

Loved this recent post on Power Line.

Obama's been tossing this 46 million and sometimes 50 million number around about this mass of uninsured that we must insure. Why? Why must we? The article breaks down what this number represents and it comes down to a number closer to 15-10 million uninsured.

A few of my favorite quotes from the article:

Obama knows he needs a big number of "uninsured" to even get in the vicinity of selling what he has in mind to a skeptical public. But the big number he has selected would not get him in the vicinity if the public better understood who it consists of.

One of the purposes of most health care "reform" proposals, stated or unstated, is to force these young people into the system--to force them, that is, to contribute money to pay the medical bills of others, beyond what they already pay in Medicare taxes. Whatever you think of either the justice or the wisdom of such a policy, it is not worth turning our health care system upside down in order to achieve.

And... remember those Canadians... their oft exampled health care system? The Canadian Press reports that the incoming president of the Canadian Medical Association says their system is imploding. The current CMA president finally admits that they need, there is room for private health-care delivery... because the government funded one... stinks.

... things that make me go.... hmmmmmmmmmm

Saturday, August 15, 2009

A Good Daddy is SEXY

HAPPY HAPPY 35th BIRTHDAY my... cutie wootie, cuddly wuddly, sexy wexy, hunny bunny... we love you!!!

Here are fifteen... yes 15 reasons why....(15? that's too many bits...)

He loves his family... and knows how to spend time and act silly with them.

His baby daughter loves to confide in him.

His oldest daughter knows he has all the answers.

His wife benefits from his patience, love and humor.

He is strong...and tender

He is faithful...and playful.

His daughters adore him...and run screaming joyfully - "DADDY!!!" when they hear the garage door open.

He creates sweet treats to present to his sweetheart... (mmmm)

He works out in the yard...and collects insects for his girls.

He provides constant entertainment for his girls.

He takes time to spend with his family, gazing up at the heavens...teaching them about the universe.

He creates gifts that he knows will make them happy

He scours temple gardens for a tiny frog...because he can't wait to show it to his girls

He treats his wife like a queen.

He loves good food...and after all this hard work...he deserves his favorite drink... lemonade.

We love you!!!

(even the toes?!)

Friday, August 14, 2009

A thank you love note

So I realized I better post this before my hubby's birthday....

We're both passionate Leos (wink, wink)...and I need to start working on his birthday post stat!

A week before my birthday my beautiful, sassy friend Sally dropped off the most thoughtful surprise. She had made me my own herb garden. She also brought some giant varieties of zucchini and squash grown in her own garden. She also brought me many other treats too... she is one of the most kindred spirits I have met.

Sally and I are a lot alike. We're very reciprocal. She is one of the few friends I have that the friendship never feels one-sided. I don't think I've ever had a friendship quite like that... with someone in real life, by my side. Sally is always thoughtful. We're a funny pair. Whenever she comes up with a great treat to share, I immediately return the favor. When I bake up something ... she immediately finds a way to share something with me. It is one of the first relationships with a friend that I have felt my friendship box overflow faster than I can ever empty. I always feel blessed to have her in my life.

My birthday was on July 26th...a Sunday, so my honey took me out Saturday evening to Hawks restaurant. Loved it. My friend Carrie - my gourmet friend - recommended it. She was spot-on with this recommendation. From the amuse-bouche to the main entree and dessert ... it was everything my senses had been needing.

After the lovely dinner with my sexy companion... we went to see the latest Harry Potter movie. It was... meh.

Sunday morning I woke to find a delicious omelet made by my talented hubby, and a luscious glass of fresh strawberry lemonade. It was so fun to have my girls sing and wrap me in their little arms.

I had calls from my Mom, my adorable sister Jess ...and even a text from a brother.

We even made it to Church on time... my hubby knows that's something I love...being on-time. ;-) At least for my birthday... I was on-time. (haha) As we pulled into the parking lot my sunburst of a friend Kim ran over with a gift for me. She is a light wherever she goes, joyful, thoughtful, ridiculously filled with unstoppable energy. She has five beautiful, lovely, intelligent daughters... I hope to follow her example (not with the quantity...but with the quality). Anyway, she presented me with her family cookbook... I felt so privileged. She knows I love to cook and shared with me precious treats from her family. I felt so lucky to have had her and Sally remember my birthday... two of my in real life friends.

As I get older... I'm not a big fusser of my own birthday. I like to remember birthdays when I can. So it was icing on the cake to have had two of my friends who live in my hood take the time to celebrate with me. They both have had a very special spot in my heart for a long time now.

After Church my hubby and the girls whipped up dark chocolate cupcakes... with a Bavarian cream made from scratch, and the dark chocolate frosting my hubby just made up on the spot. As you can see... it was heavenly... and sinful.

I have to say... my friends far away... who don't live in my hood also made my day. It's so lovely to be in touch over facebook and share life's moments. Their messages were... special treats.

To those who took the time... thank you for making my day such a treat. I feel very, very blessed.

I heart you.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

San Diego

We decided to take a quick trip before Avant Garde Gal (AGG) starts Kindergarten, and Dauntless Daughter (DD) starts Preschool. We figured we haven't been to Sea World and the San Diego area - so why not. Also my cousin Ann lives there and it would be fun to catch up with her.

Sunday and Monday
Drive to LA Sun and then San Diego on Mon

Little Italy - Filipi and Extraordinary Desserts

Ann suggested we go eat at Filipi's and it was scrumptious... or maybe we'd been driving for so long. I actually found the pasta I've been looking for ... for years. It's the thin pasta that has curly edges. It's the kind Pasta Pomodoro uses in their Shrimp and Asparagus Malfaldine. I have looked for it for a while and was so excited that Filipi's had them.

After dinner we walked a few blocks in Little Italy to hit Extraordinary Desserts for... wait for it... DESSERT! ;-) We ordered their delish kiwi lemonade... that is my new fav drink. LOVE the kiwi in it. (kiwi, lemon, lime and Italian soda) We also had their dark hot chocolate and two desserts to split... yum.

I love Little Italy... it is simply adorable.

Hotel Pool

So because I felt all jiggly I got up before everyone and hit the gym. When I got back the girls were rousing but Phantom (my hubby) was still exhausted from the drive. So I took the girls down to the pool. Phantom joined us a little was so nice to relax.

San Diego Zoo's Wild Animal Park

So this is so cool. I mentioned on one of my FB statuses about San Diego and an old friend of mine, Rebecca, from middle school lives in SD. She said she had 2 adult and 1 child tickets to SD's Wild Animal Park... free. Apparently since she and her hubby have passes - these tickets they were given, they couldn't use...and wanted to give them away before they expired. She contacted me and we were able to meet up... the last time I'd seen Rebecca was at my wedding in 2001. It was fun seeing her, briefly - and meeting her daughter Evie and having her say hello to my family. I have to say... had it not been for facebook - this would've never happened. So lucky to be in touch with people from our past.


Coronado Beach

I love this beach. I love this "island". The sand is more in-line with what I am accustomed to... and prefer in Hawaii. None of that nasty driftwood all over the place like in Santa Cruz. I can't stand the beaches in Santa Cruz... it's like your feet are constantly poked with crap.

The sand was perfect... it was flat and the kids could run around, dig... the air and the sound of the waves... I could have spent all four days here. Next time... I am staying in Coronado. I had no idea it would be like this.

Sea World

I wish we could've taken advantage of our 2nd day free at Sea World... we simply did not have enough time, and it didn't help that we didn't get there until close to 2 or 3 pm.

My cousin Ann joined us after 6pm from work. Then we headed to Oceanside to Joe's Crab Shack...because I just wanted seafood. Ann was so nice to oblige since she is a vegetarian.

All-in-all - a fun adventure.
Time to get ready for SCHOOL!

ps... I forgot to add - I LOVE SD's downtown. It's so clean, safe, laid back and filled with charming, and chic eateries, design shops... it's totally my kind of downtown. I love it more than SF and LA...because there's always a bit of fear when I'm in those cities. I (heart) SD... it's just groovin', beach girl style.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Mix eight adults, a wet, foggy beach, constant clouds, wind, tents, and too many kids 12-18 years old...and watch what happens

On Thursday, July 30-Saturday, August 1, I was at Dillons Beach and Lawson's Landing for three days and two nights roughing it... in cold, misty fog and scary toilets. We had a stalwart group of youth aged 12-18. I was there with tireless youth leaders who are such great examples to me. April our energizer bunny YW Pres who our Bishop was inspired to call. Erin and Lisa (3 mos away from giving birth to her sixth) who provided more than enough food for all the kids and adults...and then some. Amie who brought the camper for the women leaders, literally saved us. Aaron the YM Pres who like April was unstoppable in energy and joy. Rob who could capture attention without a bullhorn and could get down and have fun with the kids.

We listened at the fireside, to my friend Candice share some frank and inspiring words to the youth about following the standards the Lord has set. Her message warmed our hearts and touched our souls. Our Bishop shared stories from his youth and inspired our youth to strive to be good examples.

I survived, given that I'm no camper. Camping to me is work. When I go on vacation I don't want to work. I came home with three small cuts on my left palm from various camping tasks, and four chipped nails in varying array of annoyance... I don't know why I didn't pack a nail clipper. Oh wait... reread the first sentence of this paragraph.

I returned home to find two little girls who missed me. A sexy husband who not only had a brilliantly fun time with our girls, but who replaced a sink disposal, did yard work and kept the house cleaner than when I left.

I returned with a greater appreciation for the simple task of walking a few steps from my bed to my bathroom in the middle of the night. I even ate strawberries that weren't triple washed in salt water... I hear dirt will do me good...

The last day, the sun finally broke through the clouds. We had an amazingly lovely time out at the beach. Despite the cold, the wet and the wind... the youth remained remarkably positive. As did all our leaders. It was a fantastic youth conference. Perhaps the Lord was smiling on us that last day...."well done".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

An Honest Man

So I cheated.

Our book group last month was supposed to read John Adams by David McCullough.

I had every intention to. I read fast. I chew through books. For some reason I only got to page 43 of the only 656 pages. I can do that in a day and a half...but not this one.

Not because it was dull or uninteresting... but because it was packed so full of fascinating information. I think I underlined more of the book than I read (is that possible?).

So, since I had to host book group the last Wed of July - I did what any kid in high school probably still does. Find a movie to watch about it.

My friends Netflix and HBO came to the rescue. It's a three-disc, 7 part, miniseries. I watched this with my husband. We were fascinated. It was rich with history, stellar acting (Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney) and heart.

In the discussion at book group - it turned out only one of our number had finished the entire book - just hours before our meeting. Even our discussion leader hadn't finished the book.

Some things came out... as I hadn't finished the last disc of the series. I thought Thomas Jefferson was an amazing character. I came to like him a lot through those first two discs. He was a polished man who was more comfortable writing words than oration. My friend who had read the book - totally disliked him. When I watched the third disc, I found a Jefferson I didn't like much.

John Adams on the other hand I respected. He was a man. A man who desired honesty, spoke frankly and thrived on action. I admire his vision, his fortitude and for his love of Abigail, his indomitable wife. I have to admit - I completely related to, and empathized with Adams. His style, honesty, and sometimes frustration at not being understood totally resonated with me.

I loved the friendship, devotion, and love John and Abigail had. I love that while he was a fiery, man of action who often spoke before he thought - he was willing to be chastised, lovingly by his wife. He would take her kind, criticisms to heart, and change. I loved that he valued her opinion above all others. I love that he needed her, and she needed him. I love that they were both people of strong morals, and deep courage.

I couldn't help but admire our forefathers of this great nation. To do the things they did to bring to life the birth of a new nation, while eeking out survival in a wild country - is nothing short of miraculous. I am grateful that our founders believed in, trusted in, and felt accountable to God.

I am grateful to John Adams' posterity. For the sacrifices they had to make so that their father could build a place of freedom. The book and miniseries deals so much with Adams' own family. It was poignant, and painful to watch. It struck home the simple fact - that yes, we can do great things, but at what cost? Each choice we make demands a sacrifice. We have to decide what we value most, and then - accept those consequences, good, or ill from our choices.

There's a scene where Adams is in France asking the French to help fight against the British. Adams is sitting at a lavish banquet hall with the elite of France. The contrast of an established, wealthy, gaudy country, versus our new, rough and tumble, poor country couldn't be starker. I think one of the French ladies asked Adams about art... or some such thing. He states so eloquently something to the effect that he doesn't have the luxury of studying art or music, he fights so that his sons and daughters will study law and commerce, and that their children will study finance and medicine so that their children will have the opportunity to study art and music. (I know this is a total hack-job of a memory - but you get the gist). Each generation stands on the other generation's shoulders... based on sacrifices each generation makes. It was a perfect response to the French who applauded Adams.

One of the other things I loved about this miniseries is the frankness of how things were done back in the 1700-1800s. There's no glamor - there's work, by the sweat of their brow. There's John Adams, after he's retired from serving as President of the United States, working in his own field, building his own fence, mending his own tools. For some reason I really, really like that. It makes me sad that someone of Adams' stature - the honest type - would never, ever get elected today. (I also hope to be proven wrong)

I also thought it was fascinating how we often hold our founding fathers on pedestals - at least I do. And watching this I discovered that sabotage, politics as usual, and power-grabbing were greatly alive during their time. Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson were effective in their use of slyness, and the politics that we despise in our leaders today. It was sad to see that our great war general, George Washington was easily manipulated by Alexander Hamilton in matters of politics.

After we became a new nation, Hamilton for his part wanted war, when France needed our help for their failed revolution. Why? Because it would bolster his party's grab for the Presidency. He even promoted a national debt to keep the federal gov't powerful. I understand certain things were needed... it's the intention, the ambition, that disturbs me. Human nature - hasn't changed.

It was sobering to find out that the media of today was not much different than the media of yesterday. Still sniping, still tearing down, still utterly biased, still completely powerful.

Remember that painting... that revered, famous "Signing of the Declaration of Independence" piece of art by John Trumbull?

Yeah... Adams' hated it. It was something he knew would twist the truth of reality. I'd always operated on the assumption that the signing happened, just like in this picture. All the delegates in a hot, humid, suffocating room. Turns out when the declaration was signed our new country was at war. The signers were running in an out of the city during a dangerous time, signing their names on this document penned by Thomas Jefferson. Not only that - it took great courage to do so. For if we had not been victorious against England, they would be tried, and put to death as traitors to the crown.

I also loved this comment in the movie where after John Adams is President and one of his colleagues says something like "you should be proud - the people are with you." John Adams responds with something like "just because the mob are with you doesn't make them less of a mob."

Watching this, learning and relearning things I had forgotten - made me incredibly grateful. Grateful for this blessed country, with it's faults, and possibilities. I am grateful for the men, and the even more amazing women like Abigail, who counciled their husbands wisely, and raised the next generation of citizens, grateful because I have the privilege of living in this great nation.

The closing quote from John Adams hit home. We show our gratitude for them - the great men, women and children who sacrificed their lives - and for this freedom we take for granted, all freely given... by exercising, protecting, and sharing it.

"No, posterity, you will never know how much it cost us to preserve your freedom. I hope that you make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in Heaven that I ever took half the pains to preserve it."
- John Adams