Thursday, November 29, 2007

Save the lunch meat, save the world?

There's no accounting for taste. Bubba, who will happily eat Totino's pizza rolls, Aunt Jemima's frozen breakfast, and Cheese Wiz, adamantly refuses to touch cold lunch meat. So when it comes to packing his lunch each day, I'm left with only 2 sandwich options: peanut butter and jelly or peanut butter and honey.

Who among us haven't at one time subsisted on a steady diet of PB&J sandwiches? Even after I graduated from high school, I still toted the brown bag with said sandwich to work. They're inexpensive, easy to make, and have considerably less calories than a #1 combo from Burger King. I've even perfected the preparation process: after applying a lavish scoop of peanut butter to one slice of bread, I spread a thin film of peanut butter on the other slice to prevent the jelly or honey from saturating through. Works like a charm.

Despite the benefits of the PB&J, I must admit I've grown weary of the sandwich. These days I rarely choose to eat a PB&J for lunch. Which is why I feel more than a little guilt as I prepare Bubba's lunch each morning, knowing he too will soon tire of the sandwich, if he hasn't already. I pose the question "honey or jelly?" energetically, trying to pretend that he really does have a vast array of menu options to choose from and that they are all delicious. I comment on his waistline and the extra dollars in our checking account, hoping to lengthen the time he'll endure packing the brown bag to work.

I recently came across a website that may further aid my cause to keep Bubba eating the PB&J. The PB&J Campaign claims that skipping on lunch meat and eating a PB&J sandwich just may save the planet. How so? you wonder. The site claims that if you have a PB&J instead of a ham sandwich or a hamburger, you save the equivalent of almost 3.5 pounds of greenhouse gas emissions. A PB&J is a plant-based meal, and converting animals into food is so inefficient. Eating a PB&J conserves both water and land. According to the site, the water it takes to produce the beef on one roast beef sandwich could produce peanuts for about 17 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and the land that it takes to produce that beef could produce peanuts for 19 PB&Js.

Could it be that Bubba's aversion to lunch meat stems from his concern about the environment? Will he soon be promoting a green agenda and winning Oscars and Nobel awards? Probably not. But if I can convince him that eating a PB&J not only saves his waistline but the environment too, we might have a few extra greens in our wallet each month.

Saturday, November 24, 2007


All weekend, and I mean ALL weekend, Bubba and I have tried to take a picture of Henry to send out on Christmas cards. We have taken well over 60 pictures and NOT ONE has been successful. Henry is much too fast and will not smile on demand. Below are some samples of our poor photography skills.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

6 Things You Might Not Know About Me

I've been "tagged" by Lindsay Ream . I'm supposed to write 6 things people might not know about me and then "tag" 6 other people to do the same. Here goes...

I only had a dishwasher for 9 months of the first 7 years of my marriage. Oh, I forgot, you already know this because I tell EVERYONE about it. I've learned how to state the fact in a way that makes me appear extremely disadvantaged and deprived. As if I'd gone without regular dental care for the past several years. Oh wait, I have. Poor me.

I HATED living in London. It was uncomfortable, dark, and our living conditions were horrible. But, now that we're back in the States, I think about our stay in London all the time - I even dream about being there - and the dreams are always pleasant and lovely.

When it comes to racing, I cave under pressure. If I'm just jogging for exercise, I am really competitive and will try to pass anyone I see. But put me in a race and I have a mental breakdown. I'll often end up running slower than I ever do. This reached it's height when I was running Cross Country at the University of Utah. Please don't Google my name - I'll just
tell you, I did take last in almost every race. Oops.

I was fired from Papa Murphy's. I worked there my Senior year of high school, and was fired for missing work when my family decided to extend a vacation by a few days. How many people can say they've been fired for absenteeism? Okay, probably a lot. I also worked at ZCMI for one day, but walked out on my lunch break because, well, I was assigned to work in the hosiery department. What other explanation do I need?

After Henry was born, I became addicted to make-over shows, specifically What Not to Wear and 10 Years Younger. Was my choice in television genre affected by the fact that my post-partum self desperately needed a make-over? Possibly.

Lionel Richie's "Dancing on the Ceiling" is among the CDs in my music collection. Do I listen to it? Sometimes. Am I ashamed? Yes.

What 6 things may I not know about:
Stacy Heaps
Marci Hansen
Janel Williams
Kimberlee Jensen
Jenny Meese
Denise Avey
You're it! Ready, set, post!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Dictionary of Terms

The thing I hated about studying Math in school was you always learned things that made you respond: "When am I ever going to use that in real life?". I liked History and English, because they delved into subjects like love and hate and power and beauty. So I decided to study English in college, only to find myself asking: "When am I ever going to use that in real life?", real life now being the work force. Turns out studying Literature doesn't easily translate into dollars and cents in the real world. Even still, my study of words does inform my real life from time to time. Following is an excerpt from my real-life dictionary.

Hyperbole: Extravagant exaggeration.
Example: A recent headline for a story on MSN: "Every woman's worst nightmare: Cellulite."

Delusion: a persistent false psychotic belief that is maintained despite indisputable evidence to the contrary.
Example: The University of Notre Dame soliciting donations from a recent graduate (Bubba) who still owes said University thousands of dollars in student loans.

Euphemism: The substitution of a mild or less negative word or phrase for a harsh one.
Example: Chase Bank congratulating me for "paying off" my American Express card when I transferred the balance to a new credit card account.

Misnomer: The use of a wrong or inappropriate designation.
Example: Hearing someone say they want "free health insurance" in America like they have in England.

Oxymoron: A combination of contradictory terms or images.
Example: This lovely decorative piece in our neighbor's yard:

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Just A Mom

A few weeks after Henry was born, we attended a bar-b-que with some friends from high school. As we caught up with our friends, one new mother replied that after having her baby, she had quit her job, and was now "just a mom." Another friend immediately reprimanded the new mom, and, after extolling the merits of motherhood, said the answer "just a mom" belittled the role of mother.

Of course, this friend couldn't have answered that she herself was "just a mom", as she not only took care of her two children, but ran a successful home business as well.

Since joining the roster of stay-at-home moms, I've been struck by the ambivalence with which women approach the role. It has been said that "it is the fate of women everywhere to be miserable always", and I think motherhood has much to do with this misery. When it comes to choosing between working or staying home with the children, it's a damned if you don't, damned if you do situation. If a mother decides to work, or must work for economic reasons, she inevitably will feel guilty about time spent away from her children. If a mother decides to stay home, she inevitably will experience isolation, lose additional income, and struggle to feel validated.

There are 2 opposing views of stay-at home moms. The first maintains that stay-at-home moms lead lives of ease, spending days reclining on the sofa while watching soap operas and eating bon-bons. The second maintains that stay-at-home moms lead lives of deprivation, a sleepless, bleary-eyed, unshowered breed of women who spend isolated days changing dirty diapers and subsisting on scraps of toddler food and diet sodas. Speaking from experience, I can say that the job is somewhere in between these two extremes (I have yet to eat said bon-bon).

The level of scorn or sympathy one extends to stay-at -home moms most likely depends on if the individual is a stay-at-home mom herself. On declaring myself a stay-at-home mom, I have received responses that illustrate both views of the position, from "Oh, you're one of those women" to "I wanted to slit my wrists when I started staying home."

Scorn and sympathy aside, sometimes I am hesitant to say I am a stay-at-home mom because I'm afraid the term will define me. Stay at home mom = minivan and Winnie the Pooh diaper bag = boring. I'm afraid that the term doesn't allow for everything that was me before Henry came along. That the sum of me can be distilled into the phrase "just a mom." Maybe we women tend to focus on what we lose when we have a child rather than what we gain. We become so absorbed in mourning our former selves that we fail to fully enjoy our new lives. We forget that the "mother" hat isn't one-size-fits-all. We forget that as much as motherhood defines us, we define motherhood. We forget that life was often difficult and hard and tedious before the baby came along.

So I'll say it, I am a stay-at-home mom. And I'll gladly take all the time I get to spend with Henry. And hopefully when he's grown, I'll find that I've not only retained the things that define who I am, but improved and added to them. I am more than a mother, but I also am more because I'm a mother.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bubba, rotten tomatoes, and ghouls gone wild

A few years ago, Bubba stumbled across a web-site that changed our lives. Well, at least our movie-viewing lives. The site was Rotten Tomatoes, a site that compiles reviews of movies from critics across the country and gives it either a "fresh" or "rotten" rating. If more than 60% of the critics gave the movie a positive review, it is considered "fresh"; less than 60%, it is deemed "rotten."

I didn't know it at the time, but Rotten Tomatoes would become the litmus test in determining what movies we will watch. It is our entertainment oracle, if you will, our cinematic crystal ball, a trusted advisor who must be consulted before a movie is viewed. After Bubba became converted to the site, he went to great pains to look up our entire DVD collection to see what percent of our movies met the "fresh" status. He was pleased to find that only 2 were considered rotten: Bedazzled (49%) and Just Married (20%).

Bubba gets a lot of flack from my family about his devotion to Rotten Tomatoes. My dad slyly derides his obsession by refusing to refer to the site by its proper name: it is either Soggy Tomatoes, Rotten Apples, or some other corruption of the title. This mockery has left Bubba unfazed: he is shameless in his promotion and devotion to the web site.

A few Halloweens ago, his devotion was challenged. My mom had purchased a Halloween film for us to watch, a frightening flick called "When Good Ghouls go Bad." Haven't heard of it? Count yourself lucky. This is one of those films that is so bad, it's bad. After the painful viewing process was over, Bubba suggested we look up the movie on Rotten Tomatoes, in an effort to prove once and for all that Rotten Tomatoes would have saved us from this cinematic nightmare. With bated breath we huddled around the computer, waiting for the assuredly "rotten" pronouncement. The result, however, produced an audible gasp from us all: not only did the website consider the movie "fresh", it had received 100% positive reviews.

Bubba was crestfallen. The credibility of his site was destroyed. My family continues to make fun of Rotten Tomatoes. Bubba continues to defend it.

The moral of the story? To borrow from Anchorman (64% on Rotten Tomatoes), when it comes to the infallibility of Rotten Tomatoes: Sixty percent of the time, it works every time. The other 40%, you better trust your instincts. And avoid morally challenged ghouls at all costs.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Henry's Snarl

Recently, Henry has started to "snarl" at us; he'll scrunch his face together and breathe in and out through his nose really loud. It's a little alarming. Beware, the following pictures may not be suitable for viewers under 8:

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Last Hoop?

Hoop 1: LSAT
Degree in Philosophy and unremarkable GMAT score prompt Bubba to apply for Law school. Becomes obsessed with preparation for the LSAT. Our conversations revolve entirely around the test and its ramifications.

Hoop 2: Application process
Test results reveal that admission to Law school is both probable and possible. Spend several hundred dollars applying to schools. Believing he is a Rudy-figure, Bubba decides on Notre Dame. We commit the rest of our lives to repaying student loans.

Hoop 3: 1st year
Move to South Bend. Bubba dons black frames to appear academic. Studies. A lot. At work, I endure the embarrassment of wearing unflattering scrubs and being verbally accosted by Richard "Digger" Phelps. Unfamiliar with the "down to earth" Midwestern style, I pride myself on being among the few Walmart shoppers who actually wears a belt.

Hoop 4: 1st Summer Internship
Return to Utah. Car reaches 100,000 mile mark on trip home. Sleep on a semi-truck mattress and share bathroom with Katie. Ruthless arguments over borrowing clothes ensues. Bubba invests in "business casual" attire for his job at the DA, including two pairs of shoes from Payless Shoe Source. The shoes are not argued over.

Hoop 5: 2nd Year
Move to London. Bubba enjoys going to school within a rock's throw of the beautiful Trafalgar Square. I enjoy pregnancy by sharing a toilet with 6 strangers. England's cuisine is not able to fulfill my craving for a corndog.

Hoop 6: 2nd Summer Internship
Back to Utah. Bubba returns to the DA's office, only this time to the civil division. Work proves to be much less interesting than the criminal side, as much of his tasks involve collecting outstanding library fines. We welcome beautiful little Henry to our family.

Hoop 7: 3rd Year
Make the trek back to South Bend. Journey is much more formidable with Henry in tow. Bubba and I enjoy leisurely lunches eating grilled cheese sandwiches and watching Magnum P.I. Interest in school work is noticeably waning. Despite this, Bubba finishes well and graduates. Receives his diploma while holding Henry, who decides to award his father by having a massive blowout. Return stained graduation robe to bookstore.

Hoop 8: Securing Employment
Take the first job offer Bubba receives. Hope that working in Hammond is better than unemployment.

Hoop 9: The Bar
The joy of graduation is mitigated by threat of the impending Bar exam. Bubba sells kidney to pay for Bar/Bri review course. Fear of failure motivates him to study excessively. I spend lonely evenings alone at Walmart, dressed in sweats and make-up free, and begin to feel oddly at home. Bubba completes the bar which involves re-enacting Tom Cruise's role in A Few Good Men, summarizing a John Grisham novel, and a staring contest with a district judge.

Hoop 10: Admission to the Bar
Bubba passes the bar! Drive to Indianapolis to be formally admitted to the Indiana Bar Association. Bubba now can add the title "esquire" to his name.

Congratulations Bubba!!!!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Near-life experiences

We've all heard the term "near-death experience." It goes without saying that we go to great lengths to avoid this type of situation. You may not be as familiar with the term "near-life experiences", those incidents that occur when our lives collide with those around us. Oddly enough, it seems that most of us avoid these situations with the same vigor with which we avoid the more deadly variety.

We've developed tactics for avoiding near-life experiences: we don't sit next to someone in a movie theatre unless it's the only vacant seat, we take the empty booth on the other side of the fast food restaurant, we become strangely interested in the floor of the elevator when another person gets in. The more congested an area is, the more we feel our personal space threatened, the more introverted we become. When your face is smashed into some man's armpit on the train, you have to create some kind of barrier, if only a mental one. This explains the seeming paradox that proximity breeds isolation.

Bubba and I had a memorable near-life experience while attending King Kong in a London movie theatre. We had arrived early to the show and were the first ones in the theatre. We took the prime seats: the middle of the first row of the stadium seating (you don't have anyone in front of you and you can put your feet on the railing). While I was using the restroom, another couple entered the theatre and, oddly, took the seats on the end of our row. Another couple entered, and the man actually asked Bubba if he could move down so they could have the middle seats (mind you, NO ONE else was in the theatre!). Bubba moved all right, several rows back. When Bubba related his reason for relocating to me, I was indignant and incredulous. The nerve of some people!

My dad had a near-life experience that yielded a different reaction. He and a co-worker were eating lunch at a mall food court. Their lunch was interrupted when they heard a man yell, "Hey, will you feed me?" Seated at a nearby table was a man in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down, with a slice of pizza in front of him. My dad and his friend continued to eat their lunch, when the man looked at my dad and again yelled, "Hey, will you feed me?" My dad somewhat hesitantly approached the man and asked "How should we do this?" The man instructed my dad to hold the pizza to his mouth and he'd chew. With some trepidation and awkwardness, my dad helped this man eat his lunch.

When we encounter other people, do we distance ourselves from them or engage with them? Have you ever had a day when a kind word from a stranger is desperately needed? Are we too often impatient and careless in our interactions with others? Do we nourish or neglect? Perhaps we should be less hesitant in engaging in near-life experiences. There seems to be something instructive in the tale of my dad feeding the paralyzed man, something almost biblical, something bordering on a parable.

Even still, I won't be eagerly seeking out an opportunity to ride on a crowded train anytime soon.

(*I borrowed the term "near-life experience" from the title of a book by Olivia Birdsall)

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Oops! I did it again...

When the Today Show aired a segment about Britney Spears's custody battle this morning, Bubba stopped eating his cereal and I gravitated out of the bathroom to stare fixedly at the t.v. screen. The usual experts were on hand, individuals with no personal knowledge of Spears but nonetheless "qualified" to dissect her motives and project the outcome of the legal proceedings and the certain havoc it will wreak on the lives of her children. And I have to admit, as I eagerly digested this tidbit of news, that I was more than a little ashamed.

Why are we so engrossed in the misfortunes of people like Britney Spears? I tried to delve into this question with Bubba as I drove him to work this morning. Frankly, I don't think he was too interested in the question and humored me by saying that maybe it's because we're concerned about her children. Oh really Bubba? I don't think so. It seems our motives are far less benevolent than that.

Maybe it's the media's fault. They're the ones that keep pushing these stories on us, anyway. But recent events undermine this argument. Case in point, the 2007 Miss Teen USA pageant. The contestant from South Carolina, Lauren Upton, responded to a pageant question in an embarrassingly incoherent way. Video of her response on YouTube drew a couple million hits. The so-called democratization of the media allowed the public to replay this young woman's embarrassing moment over and over again: and we did.

Neither Spears nor Upton seem to have much control over how the media represents them. Contrast this with the story of a carefully crafted media image. In Joan Didion's Political Fictions, she recounts an event she witnessed at the San Diego airport during Michael Dukakis's presidential campaign. Dukakis got out of the plane and, after being instructed by his campaign manager, tossed a ball back and forth with his press secretary on the tarmac. After enough photographs and live footage had been taken, the ball-tossing abruptly ended. Didion asserts that this ball-tossing was a set-up; however, in the weeks to follow numerous news articles referred to the event as evidence that Dukakis was an every-day guy.

If an individual can attempt to shape the media, can't the media shape an individual? If the media coverage of Dukakis as a regular Joe was fictive, isn't it possible that the coverage of Spears is too? In a recent opinion column, George Will called our obsession with gaffes, flubs, and other public embarrassments evidence of the coarsening of society. He said that the attention drawn to Lauren Upton's verbal missteps was cruel. Cruel is a harsh word. But be honest and ask yourself if you don't derive a certain amount of pleasure in watching Britney's life spiral out of control. And if so, isn't that, if not quite cruel, at least not kind.

If we become a society too willing to revel in the misfortunes of others, we risk losing our ability to be compassionate. So the next time the Today Show features a story on Britney, I'll try to not be so entertained. Or, like Bubba does, I'll think of the children.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

My skinny baby

In April my mom bought Henry a pair of jeans (size 12 months). They didn't quite fit back then:

I tried them on him again today. He didn't seem to fare much better. They kept sliding right off him. He didn't let it keep him down though:

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Some days I still feel like this girl

I read a short story in high school that described the development of self as a layering process. If we could dissect our personalities they would be like the layers of an onion or the rings of a tree. According to the story, each year we add another layer to ourselves, a distinct, identifiable part that contributes to our personality and behaviour. As this layering process continues, the traits we acquired earlier become less prominent, but they are always there, lying beneath the surface, waiting to emerge. So when I calmly respond to Henry eating deodorant by flushing his mouth with water while dialing Poison Control, that's the part of me that's 27. When I overact to a completely benign comment Bubba made by running to my room and slamming the door, that's the part of me that's 11. When I am inordinately happy because I just spotted a blue jay, that's the part of me that's 3.

Sometimes our physical manifestations of our age don't keep up with the corresponding layer. Even though I'm currently working on layer 28, my voice still thinks I'm on layer 14 (okay, I'm being generous, layer 12). My complexion seems to be stuck on the spotty, troublesome layer 16. Even more obnoxious are those physical manifestations that precede our current layer (but who wants to talk about aging, anyway?).

The trouble with family is they know all of our layers. We can wrap ourselves confidently in our current, sleek layer, and perhaps convince the clerk at the grocery store or a casual acquaintance that yes, I really am this calm, collected and cool. But our families know better. Our families know the parts of us that overreact, irritate, and annoy. They know the parts of us that are mean, unforgiving, selfish, neurotic and moody.

But our families also know the best parts of us. In consideration of this, perhaps the layering model isn't adequate. Maybe a patchwork quilt model is preferrable, one that allows for revision and replacement. So we can keep the curiosity of layer 3, but temper it with the patience of layer 25. We can remove irrationality and selfishness and replace them with compassion and reasonableness.

I'm afraid the patchwork quilt model would tempt us to remove other personality traits, too, the little quirks and peculiarities that make us wonderfully identifiable as "us". I'm glad that I know the part of Bubba that lost his wallet days before our wedding. I love the part of Traci that could be convinced that wearing a belt over her nightgown made it adequate attire for a night out with her friends. I wouldn't want to forget the part of Scott that couldn't quite get the timing right when laying out the plot of a scary story. Sometimes, we are perfect in our imperfections.

If we could get rid of all our undesirable traits, who's to say that our current layer is our best? Perhaps the layering model will have to suffice for now, allowing us to both repress the worst and recall the best that is in us.

Even on my best days, I couldn't reclaim the innonence or sweetness I possessed at 9. But at least I've ditched those glasses.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Henry's New Do

We cut Henry's hair on Saturday. I held him down and Bubba did his best with the scissors. Unfortunately, his best wasn't great. Henry went from looking like Shaggy on Scobby Doo to Dennis the Menace.



Side view:

Thursday, September 13, 2007

To read or not to read

I have a confession to make: I am a book snob. I didn't read the Harry Potter books. I shy away from Danielle Steel, Nora Roberts, and Mary Higgins Clark. I prefer John Steinbeck to John Grisham. If a book is sold at the check-out stand in the grocery store, you can bet I haven't read it.

Bertrand Russell said, "There are two motives for reading a book: one, that you enjoy it; the other, that you can boast about it." Despite my literary standards, I have found that bragging rights alone aren't enough to read a book . I tried reading Joyce's Ulysses last summer, and while I would love to be able to brag that I have completed the novel, I couldn't stomach my way through it. Dare I say that some so-called classics are downright miserable to read?

Should we read for edification or amusement? I recently read about an evangelical campaign in the early 1800s that implored readers to "Put down that novel!" The organization feared that reading solely for entertainment would lead to the "grossest darkness and spiritual ignorance." There is something to be said for substance, with or without style. But we want to be entertained, too.

While I was visiting my family this summer, my mom kept persuading me to read some book about vampires. I resisted. She persisted. I would wake up to find the book on my bed stand. She would slip it next to me while I was talking to my sister. Despite her best efforts, I rejected her recommendation in reading material. My mom came to visit me last week. We went to the Magnificent Mile in Chicago, and stopped in at Borders. And there was another one of these vampire books, the store's number one best-seller.

Should I succumb and read Stephanie Meyer's novels? Are they brag-worthy? Even if not, are they entertaining enough to make it worth my while?

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

This will literally take only 2 seconds to read

To introduce the Primary lesson I taught on Sunday, I wrote on the board 'What is the most incredible thing you've ever heard?' The lesson was on the Resurrection, and I thought this question would be a nice way to introduce this truly incredible and important gospel principle. I made it clear to the class that whatever their responses to this question were, they had to be true. What I failed to consider was that my class consisted of four ten-year old boys. It turns out, these boys have heard lots of incredible things, although the veracity of these incredible facts is somewhat questionable. Their examples became increasingly more unbelievable, and the discussion completely devolved when one boy recounted a story that included a freak accident involving a highlighter-sniffing classmate, a semi-truck, and a bicycle. I won't awe you with the details.

When children tell outrageous tales, we call it 'telling stories.' When adults tell such tales, we call it lying. Still, our childhood fascination with telling stories never really escapes us. We know that when we tell a story, it should have a point, but it's even better if it's interesting, too. And so, when we tell our own stories, our own personal narratives, the impulse to exaggerate, to embellish, to enhance is always present.

A good example of this is found when people recount events that took a specific amount of time. We often hear things like, 'It literally took me all day to finish that paper!' Or, 'I literally spent 8 hours in line at the DMV.' When you say such things, it's almost as if your subconscious knows you're about to lie, and sends a message to your brain, saying, 'Throw out literally! Then we'll really fool them!'

Of course, we omit information as often as we exaggerate it to make our personal narratives more interesting: I took 1st in my division (out of ...1), I only got 'A's in college (I only enrolled in and completed 1 course... bowling), I scored just below the 95th percentile (okay, I scored in the 75th percentile).

I could go on, but I have a really important meeting with the Prime Minister of Malaysia in literally 2 seconds.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Happy Birthday Bubba!

Happy Birthday to you! Happy Birthday to you!

Make a wish!

30 little candles, 30 great years.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

He works hard for his money

Henry's days are very full right now. When I'm not making him sweep the floor, he's busy fixing dinner. He can't be bothered to put on pants or comb his hair. He was going to post these pictures himself, but he's too busy cleaning the bathroom.

Monday, August 27, 2007

My 2 cents

You may find Kevin Federline an unlikely spokesman for the "Save the Penny" campaign. I too experienced feelings of doubt when I heard the news. Couldn't the organization have found a more credible advocate to champion its cause? But when K-Fed justified the penny's continued existence by stating "I feel good about the penny", I knew the campaign had found their guy.

Could it be that K-Fed is the penny incarnate: obnoxiously ubiquitous, nearly valueless, and frustratingly unavoidable?

Perhaps. Kevin Federline joins the growing ranks of celebrities who are famous for being famous. This was made painfully aware to me when I saw him promoting his new rap album on Ellen. Watching him perform gave me the same sense of vicarious embarrassment you sometimes experience in a Fast and Testimony meeting when the member chooses to express her sentiments in song. Unaccompanied. Sadly, those performances are at least as good, if not better, than K-Fed's attempt to break into the music biz.

Paris Hilton leads the growing number of vacuously talentless celebrites. Sure, she's starred in movies, advertisements, and even released an album, but the theatre she most frequently performs in, and is best known for, is real life. I don't care to follow the chronicles of Paris, but their details are almost unavoidable. During the height of her imprisonment debacle, I was relieved to find at least one tabloid promoting itself as "Paris-free", but crestfallen when I found the subject of their headline story to be... Nicole Richie.

I encountered an irritatingly striking example of the 'famous for being famous' phenomenon while living in London. Her name was Chantelle Houghton, a reality t.v. star who had garnered attention because of her uncanny resemblance to Paris Hilton. Looking at her gave me the sense of being in a living room, with a picture on the wall depicting that living room, with a picture on the wall depicting the picture of the picture of the living room, ad infinitum. Or ad nauseum.

This multiplication of identities, this replication of resemblances, was also made manifest in England in another, more pecuniary form: the two pence. If you think the penny is annoying, try two stuck together. It seemed I was always receiving the dreaded coin as change for a transaction, but was never able to reciprocate and actually spend it. Even now they turn up every once in awhile, in the bottom of a book bag or the pocket of a seldom worn jacket, daring me to find any utility in their existence.

If England ever launches a 'Save the Two Pence' campaign, I think Chantelle Houghton would make a great spokeswoman. There's a certain poetry in one irrelevant duplication defending another.

Thursday, August 23, 2007


Here are some pictures of Henry. Clothing courtesy of our friends Jaime and Chris.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Identity Crisis

Have you ever introduced yourself to someone and been asked, after stating your name, "Is that your given name?" Most of us have never been on the receiving end of such a query. However, when you go by Bubba, the question is not uncommon. The inquiry does two things: 1) implies that your name is unusual, bizarre, or unfit and 2) calls into question the sanity of your parents, who may or may not have bestowed such a name upon you.

In Bubba's case, he can luckily reply "no" to the question. Born Michael Dan, he is neither the recipient of an unsound name or unsound parents. His current moniker, however, was no less Bubba's choice appellation than yours or mine. And, unfortunately, it's giver did not have the wisdom or life experience that many parents possess when choosing a name for their child.

It could have been worse. In many ways, Bubba got off easy. I went to high school with kids nicknamed Cheese, Sleaze, and Fruity. Or, he could have followed in the misguided steps of those who choose self-imposed nicknames: Corndog (chosen by the individual because of his love for the delectable treat) or Fritz (I don't know why this person chose this name).

Regardless of the quality of his nickname, Bubba has, in the words of Alexander Pope, "first endured, then pitied, then embraced" it. Which brings him to his current dilemma. Until now, Bubba has been, well, Bubba. But our recent move to Munster has been accompanied by a life change, i.e. a job. Bubba is, in some sense, a professional. And is it fitting for a professional to go by the name of Bubba? We don't know the answer to this question yet. But ask yourself, seriously, would you hire a lawyer named Bubba?

For the time being, Bubba is using the alias Michael at work. The members of our ward have been less receptive to calling him Bubba than other congregations have been in the past. Some members have flat out said they would prefer to call him Michael. Michael? Who is this man? Surely I haven't been introduced to him.

The term "given name" implies that it is, in some sense, a gift. For people with given names of Thomas or Sarah, this concept seems plausible. Less so for those with the given name of Jazz or, as I recently encountered, Prima Donna. In these situations, it is reasonable to ask if a given name is indeed a gift, or rather a curse.

The implications of the term "nickname" are less certain. How does one, exactly "nick" a name? Is a nickname merely a substitution of one name for another? A replacement? I fear in Bubba's case it may be not a substitution of one identity for another, but a multiplication of identities. Will Michael bring about the demise of Bubba? Or can the two exist simultaneously?

Only time will tell.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Ode to Blogging

When I told Bubba I had started a blog, his reaction was "You mean just for family to look at, right?" No, Bubba, I was hoping my blog would rival The Drudge Report. You see, Bubba is suspicious of bloggers. Why do they blog? he asks. Why do they think that what they have to say is so interesting? Why does anyone care?

It reminds me of the Dharma & Greg episode when Dharma's dad sets up some old radio broadcast equipment in their living room. Greg stays home from work and spends the day playing DJ. For those of you fortunate enough to have seen the episode, you'll remember Greg's utter dismay when at the end of the day he realizes the broadcast equipment was not plugged in. He compares his wasted day to being ten years old again and playing make-believe by talking into a hairbrush.

But the thing is, Greg had a great day even if no one was listening. And I guess that's why I wanted to start blogging. Motherhood is great, but it can be isolating. At the moment, Henry's not the best conversationalist. There are lots of times during the day when something happens and I want to tell someone, anyone. Blogging may become the next symptom of depression. "Doctor, I'm experiencing lack of appetite, decrease in energy, and the urge to blog." On second thought, perhaps, it's the exact opposite. Communication, or at least the impulse to communicate, is not destructive. It's creative. So I guess Al Gore did me a favor when he invented the internet: he gave me a hairbrush to talk into. And pretend it's a microphone. And hope someone's listening.

And that's a truth that's not so inconvenient.