Happy (sort of) New School Year…

So, my kids start school tomorrow.

Two-thirds of them, anyway.

Last year at the this time began The Year of Brittany and it was awesome. Maybe not so much for some (one) of my kids, but it was for me. My youngest started first grade which meant six hours a day (mostly) of me time. Six hours a day to heed the voice in my head whispering write, write, write! And swim, bike, run!

Sure that voice got annoying because sometimes I just wanted to sleep in or sit on the couch and watch a lot of bad TV. But it wouldn’t shut up. It had been drowned out for a long time by kids and a husband and dirty floors and endless laundry. Then, suddenly, the three loudest voices were gone for much of the day and I could hear that little voice again.

And it sounded a lot like…

 me.

I’d kind of forgotten who that person was. Or maybe I was really getting to know her for the first time. And, you know what? I liked her. A lot.

Don’t get me wrong. The Year of Brittany wasn’t all typing/swimming/biking/ running and smiles. There were no unicorns and rainbows. Just a lot of hard work.

And maybe some neglect of important things (i.e. not floors and laundry). But still a good year. For me.

Here’s the thing though. When I turned in my finished manuscript to the publisher, I forgot about it. When I crossed the finish line of my triathlon, I felt only relief, not elation.

I’m proud of those two accomplishments, I really am. I don’t regret the time and energy I put into writing and training, but the question I had to ask myself after I finished both was whether it was worth it. Did the cheers and congratulations make up for the time I’d taken away from my family?

I honestly don’t know. But the voice is gone now. It’s not driving me to finish that second manuscript I’ve started or to start training for another race.

And I don’t miss it like I thought I would.

This school year is going to be a much different year. Girl 2 & 3 will return to their public school tomorrow while Girl 1 stays home.

On Monday Husband and I both step into the dark abyss of The Unknown (a place neither of us is super comfortable entering) as he opens his own law firm (hooray! in a scary way) and I start home schooling Girl 1 (I just heard a collective gasp from all those who know me and my lovely, headstrong daughter personally).

Add to that a favorite aunt, sick with cancer, who–fortunately for me–lives nearby, and this year is looking more  like a Year of Others instead of another Year of Me.

And that’s okay. My Year of Brittany taught me that I can do hard things, which is more important than a fleeting sense of accomplishment.

I’m going to need that education this year… but I think it’s going to be a better year.

Bra Etiquette

Can we talk bras for a minute? And by talk I mean, will you listen (with your eyes, of course) while I rant?

Also, feel free to imagine my voice as old and judgmental because there’s really no other way to hear it while you read this.

I’m old enough to remember when a peaking bra strap was akin to living in a van by the side of a river. My mother was always tucking straps back in for me or even pinning them when necessary and my friends and I did the same for each other when our mothers weren’t around because none of us wanted to be known as “that” kind of girl. Because if a girl let the strap of her bra show in public, she was probably willing to let a lot more show in private.

Reputations were ruined by a disregard for proper bra etiquette.

Well, the times they have a-changed.

Famous people (and I use the term loosely here) feel comfortable not only going out in public, but also being photographed and viewed by millions of people like this:

You look like maybe you have something serious to say, but all I can think is:
 “I know those are fake, so why do they look so saggy?”
 You could be announcing that you’ve just found the cure for cancer and still, this is all I am going to think.

Really? Have we sunk so low that it’s okay to match shoes and accessories to our underwear?
Isn’t it bad enough that neon is back in that we shouldn’t have to see your wrist, feet AND boobs encased in it?



I know this isn’t a new trend. It’s been fashionable for years to let a little sexy strap show. And if people would stop  there I could get over it. I mean, the word  “trashy” still flashes through my mind every time I see it, but that’s my own issue, not the girls/women who follow the trend.

But yesterday things came to a head when I watched the lady parked next to me IN A BUSY PUBLIC PARKING LOT stand outside of her car, put her 3 hook, double D, nude bra on over her bikini top, take the bikini top off, THEN WALK AROUND IN HER BRA. FOR A LONG TIME.

And here’s my problem with that:
1. We were at a lake with dressing rooms where she could have changed.
2.  She was not on the catwalk at the Victoria’s Secret fashion show where it’s acceptable to wear a bra as apparel as opposed to underwear.
3. Sure her bra covered more than her bikini top, but does this make it a suitable substitute for a shirt?
4.  SHE WAS WALKING AROUND IN HER BRA LIKE IT WAS TOTALLY NORMAL.

Clearly our society is in need of a little refresher course on UNDERwear and how to wear it. So, Crazy Bra Bearing Lake Lady, this is for you and all your cohorts (and also for my girlfriends who don’t really need it but the bra lady told me to share it with you and I am nothing if not obedient when it comes to strangers in YouTube videos who want to make the world a little more classy).

Kids, Cows, and California Drivin’

I’m back (sigh) and I know you’re dying to hear how the cattle round-up and calf showing went, so I’ll tell you. In pictures. Because, you know, a picture’s worth a thousand words and I’m really too tired to type that many.

Cattle Round-Up With Very Few Pics of Cows Because It’s Hard to Be Both Herder and Photographer at the Same Time. Also, I Thought It Would be Impolite to Let Cows Get Away Since Our Hosts Depend on Them for Their Livelihood and Not Just Their Summer Entertainment…

Cache County Fair Calf Showing Wherein Girl 2 Wins the Show Stick. Cali Girls Represent!

See her scratching the heifer’s belly?
That’s what you do with a show stick
The stick is also used to get the cow to move
 her feet to the right position.
There she is with her ribbon and her prize stick which she will have little use for in California.
 I, however, will be using it as a Get-Out-of-Bed-Now/Keep-Your-Hands-Off-Your-Sister Stick.
Which you’ll have to imagine because my attempt to Google a picture of such a thing failed.
As did this joke without the picture.
Girl 1 is more a cowgirl than a Cali girl.
Calves make her smile more than waves do.
You can only hear so much about how feminine and maternal

 a cow’s features are before you get a little bored.





On our drive home I seriously considered packing up and moving to Utah. Mostly so I would never have to do that drive again–because I would already be there.

I also saw a sign just outside of Barstow that said:

End
Lane
Control
And I felt kind of bad because I didn’t even know that lanes were fighting for their autonomy. Then I wondered why– as long as we’re trying to end things–we don’t put an end to Reckless California Driving. We could make public service announcements that say things like:
“Driving a BMW does not make you impervious to death. Not that I’d care if you died, but it also does not make you impervious to killing other people who are choosing not to weave in and out of lanes while driving 120 mph.”
or:
“Do you really want to play chicken with Death right now? Because you’re a pretty short distance from Hell when you’re in Baker, California.”
Ahhh, it’s good to be home.



Refrigerator Jenga

Have I mentioned I’ve been hanging out in Utah with my parents for a while? Like about three weeks. And maybe you’re wondering what I’ve been doing during all those weeks. Or maybe not. But either way, I’m going to tell you.

There have been some visits to some water parks. Like this one we went to after watching my nephew play baseball in Malad, Idaho (population: enough to have a dollar store and that’s about it):

Downata Hot Springs in Downey, Idaho (population: seriously, does anyone even live here?) has a couple of water slides and a pool, but this is the only thing I took a picture of because Girl 3 asked me to and it was close to my lounge chair.  All the water comes from a natural hot springs which means swimming in the pool felt like floating around in a giant bathtub and riding down the hydrotube felt like a claustrophobic trip through some one’s intestines before being shot out into a toilet. So basically it was a little like being in a giant bathroom, but definitely worth $7.

We’ve eaten at Chuck-a-Rama, been on some picnics, done some fishing, gone on a monster hike

during which my nephew cried for most of the way up that he wanted to go home and then when we got to the top he said, “Wow! Look at the view! It’s beautiful up here!” and Girl 3 said, “I feel like the most awesome mountain hiker ever!” Actually all the kids were pretty impressed with themselves for making it to the top and I was too.

We’re going on a cattle round up tomorrow and Girls 1 and 2 will be showing calves at the Cache County Fair again this year while I head to Bear Lake for a writer’s retreat before we head back to the Golden State (population: So, so many people. And they all seem to be tan and blond).

But a vacation at my parents’ wouldn’t be a vacation at my parents’ without multiple rounds of Refrigerator Jenga every day.

This is their fridge, aka Where Condiment Hoarders Hide Their Shame:

And this is how you play Refrigerator Jenga:
1. Think to yourself, “I would like something to eat.”
2. Open fridge slowly and be prepared to catch at least one jar of some condiment that will try to escape.


3. Move a giant tub of cottage cheese stacked on a small tub of sour cream, various sized containers with leftovers that nobody will ever eat, and a giant brick of cheese resting on a jar of mayonnaise, to find what it is you’re looking for only to not find it.
4. Try one of the other condiment shelves. There are four of them.
5. Move 53 bottles of different flavored fruit salsa. Most of them are stacked precariously on small containers of yogurt, so they should be easy to find. Remove 75 half empty bottles of salad dressing, another giant tub of cottage cheese, and at least one bottle of some sort of ice cream topping. Wipe up whatever dressing has spilled because the lid wasn’t on tight. Decide to try the next shelf.
6. Warning! Be careful not to move too quickly or you will knock over one of the open soda cans Mom keeps in the fridge waiting for it to go flat because it’s the carbonation that’s bad for you, not the high fructose corn syrup, food coloring or artificial flavoring.
7. Move the industrial sized Miracle Whip. You could throw it away, but there are two more just like it in the pantry, so what’s the point? If you passed on the first container of mayo you found, there’s another one here. You only have to rearrange the rest of ice cream toppings to get to it.  
8. Clean up the soda you just spilled. I hate to say I told you so but, I told you so.
9. You wanted jelly? Sorry. I was sure there was some in there somewhere.
10. Try the garage fridge only to find that it is used solely to store twelve packs of soda, leftovers, and sour cream.

Seriously, the excitement never ends!

So Now What?

Survive Triathlon

Now that I’ve crossed that off my bucket list I need something to fill its spot. Especially since that was pretty much the only thing on my nonexistant bucket list. Plus, I’ve got a few extra hours to kill a day since I’m not running, biking and/or swimming.

So now what?

I thought about taking up crafting, but how can I top this:

So maybe I’ll give parenting another go.

No Spudman is an Island

I did a triathlon and all I got was this mildly inappropriate t-shirt:

That’s a potato or “spud.”
It’s resemblance to male genitalia–I assume–is unintentional.

And an ugly black eye:

The bruising will get better.
Sadly, the wrinkles can only get worse.

Oh, and a sense of accomplishment. I guess there’s that too. Because swimming 1.5k, then biking 24 miles, then running 6 miles in 2 hours and 57 minutes is hard. Unless you’re the 45 women in my division who did it faster than that. Then it’s even harder.

But my sense of accomplishment doesn’t come from finishing the race. It comes from all the training I did over the last nine months.  That’s right. Nine months. And most of that training was basically me trying to learn how to swim.

I think we’ve already established that it takes a village for me to not only raise my kids, but also find my stupid dog. Well, guess what? When I decide to do something hard, it also takes a village.

In this case it took my swim-instructor-extraordinaire friend Bethany to teach me how to blow bubbles out my nose so I could make it across a 25 meter pool and then back again. But I needed to be able to do that 32 times–at least–in order to do the Spudman. Which meant calling in someone much meaner than Bethany who would MAKE me do the impossible.

Enter Ironman extraordinaire Coach Belnap who for five months stood in the pool and shook his head with disappointment every time I attempted to swim. There were many motivational speeches with phrases like, “stop fighting the water!” and “you’re not going to drown!” and “RELAX!” and “do another fifty!” (There may or may not have been much cursing on my part).

Until finally one day I heard the words I’d been working so hard to hear. “Now you look like a swimmer!” Coach Belnap smiled, nodded his head, then swam away into the sunset. His work was done; his only reward the satisfaction in having done the impossible. He had taught me how to swim.

Unfortunately, there was still the matter of my wetsuit anxiety. Not to mention my fear of touching squishy river bottoms. Because this was no swim-in-the-pool tri I was training for. This was an open water swim where, by all accounts, I would be getting kicked in the head and whacked all over as hundreds of swimmers tried to get ahead of me.

And sure it was a current assisted swim in a river I grew up on, so if nothing else I could float to the finish in somewhat familiar water. But this is also the same river that once made the whites of my eyes swell up. Not my eyes, THE WHITES OF MY EYES. Can you picture how gross that is? So you can understand that this is not a river I wanted to just hang out in.

Also, I live 1,000 miles away from that river now, so it’s not like I could practice in it beforehand. Instead I took my wetsuit, goggles, swim cap and cheerleaders to the man-made lake four miles from my house where I mortified my eleven year old by wearing a swim cap in public and my cheerleader friends Paula and Heather swam beside me yelling at me to keep my head down and go just a little further. And I almost didn’t freak out. For that we ate ice cream and french fries.

It took me a few more times of swimming in the wetsuit to get past the thought I was being swallowed by a boa constrictor, but I did it. And on the day of the race I did like Dory and told myself “just keep swimming.” Over and over and over. Even when I got kicked in the eye. And sure I did a lot of side stroke and a pretty awesome backstroke that put me horizontal to the finish line, but I didn’t stop and I didn’t freak out. Mission accomplished.

Or part of my mission anyway. I still had to bike a pretty long distance. Which I couldn’t have done without my friends Cheri and Tania who took me up and down giant hills in California so that a flat, twenty-four mile course in Idaho didn’t seem so tough. The bike my awesome cousin Dixie loaned me also came in pretty handy for that part of the race.

I wish someone could have loaned me some legs for the run, because mine were pretty shot after the first three miles. I did more walking than I would have liked during mile 4, but I ran the last mile. My friend, Scott, who I hadn’t seen in twenty years cheered me across the finish line where my husband waited for me cheering louder than anyone. And really I couldn’t have done it without him either, since he’s the one who signed me up.

I haven’t even mentioned my younger brother Barrett who made me go on my longest bike ride EVER after I’d had only four hours of sleep and an eight hour drive. It may have been his slowest bike ride ever, but he kept telling me I was going pretty fast. Also, he let me stop at McDonald’s to pee about ten minutes into the ride without too much ridicule.

Anyway, I’m feeling pretty good about doing the Spudman.

I’m feeling even better about my village.

Here’s the thing with villages: they step up. I chose to do something hard and I couldn’t have done it without help. But I am more impressed with people who have hard things thrust upon them than I am with myself. And I love hearing about their villages.

Like my aunt who just found out she has cancer and is in surgery right now. Her Mormon friends have her name on their temple prayer rolls. Her Baptist friends have her name on their prayer rolls. Her Sikh friends are praying to Allah for her and her atheist friends are sending good thoughts out to the Universe on her behalf.

Or my friends from high school whose son died a month ago from a rare disease. People across the country released balloons in his memory and have donated money in hopes of finding a cure for JM so other kids don’t have to face the same hard thing.

Or the twelve year old girl in my city who rallied an entire community to donate items to go in Joy Jars that she gave away to kids suffering from cancer before she died of it herself. She’s gone but her village is still giving away Joy Jars.

I think John Donne said it best. “No man is an island.”

And why would we want to be?

Shawn, me and Barrett with our Spudman Cheer Squad

My Life in the Lab

I know I promised a Philosophy Phriday post and now it’s Monday, but let me tell you one of my many philosophies: There’s no shame in putting things off in favor of a nap. This is maybe why I don’t get very much done.
Anyhow, instead of Philosophy Phriday how about a Meditation Monday? And then a nap. Because I’m feeling productive today and will put off nap time until after I blog.
So here’s what I’m meditating about. I love my bedroom and I love my bathroom and I don’t really like my kids to be in either of those places. Because kids make messes and sometimes I just want to get away from the messes. And maybe the kids.
So imagine my reaction one morning when I looked up from my shower to see this in my tub:


That’s a Littlest Pet Shop floating in a jar that used to contain my soothing bath salts. And it kind of reminded me of this:

Which brought on the epiphany that I’m living in a lab. A big old science lab. And I’m the scientist. The mad scientist. (And I mean that in every sense of the word. Just ask my kids how often I yell).
I’m always trying some new experiment to get them to clean rooms/practice piano/do homework/stop fighting/make beds/go to bed/sit still/move faster. And as soon as I find some formula that works, they go and add some new variable that totally screws it up. That’s where the mad scientist part comes in.
The latest experiment involves the following hypothesis:
How does a mother spend hours a day swimming, biking, and/or running in order to train for a triathlon and then spend more hours a day writing because she likes that too and convince her kids to do all the housework and enjoy the parental neglect they are suffering from, all without feeling guilty?
If you have the formula for that, please pass it along. In the meantime, I think I’ll take a nap while the kids are entertaining themselves.



We Have A Winner!

The winner of the Summer Lovin’ give away is….

Joana Arteaga! Thank you to everyone who participated and became followers of my blog. Look for some more give aways this fall. I know of a few more great, clean books coming out!!

In the meantime, look for the second installment of Philosophy Phridays this Friday!

Summer Lovin’

So you know how I’ve been ranting about porn for women?

 No?

Well, I did it here AND here, just in case you missed it. But lest you think all I do is rant, I’m going to put my money where my mouth is and give away some non-porn for women.

That’s right, non-porn. And by that I mean a book that, for what it lacks in graphic sex, makes up for it with good writing, romance, and actual story-telling. Pretty novel (get it? Novel. It’s a play on words) idea, right?

So here’s the book and the blurb:

A Ghost of a Second Chance (Rose Arbor series)

An eastern wind carries more than dust and ashes; it uproots secrets and everyone knows that once one secret is told, no secret is safe. Laine’s haunting secrets–the estrangement from her husband—the unknown body laying in her grandfather’s coffin—the sudden and strange appearance of a difficult ghost—take her to the tiny town of Rose Arbor, her grandfather’s hometown and the place of her grandmother’s death.

As Laine unravels the mystery of her grandparents’ marriage she is forced to face one more question of the heart—Can love live even after it has died?

Sounds pretty good, right? I can verify that it is since I’ve already read it. And it’s only the first in a series written by Kristy Tate set in the little town of Rose Arbor, Washington which is chock full of all kinds of interesting characters.

So, you want to read it? Well all you have to do is comment below to be entered into the drawing I’m having as part of the Summer Lovin’ Giveaway Hop I’m part of starting July 11 and ending on July 17. If your name is chosen I will send you a signed copy of Kristy’s book.

But if you don’t win, you can go here to order Kristy’s book on Kindle for only $3.99.

As an added bonus I’ve included a list of all the other blogs participating in the blog hop where you can go to find–and maybe win–more non-porn. It’s a win-win for everyone! So get to commenting and hopping and ignore all the porn for women hype!


I App, Therefore I Am

Here’s a new segment for you:

Philosophy Phriday

If a person goes on a 32 mile bike ride but forgets to start the app that tells everyone on Facebook how far she’s gone, did the ride actually happen?

My legs tell me it did, but the fact people can’t “like” my ride kinda lessens the thrill of accomplishment.

And if part of that ride included a really long, steep hill, but my Facebook peeps can’t see how long or steep, was it really that long or that steep?

You’ll just have to believe me that it was, even without the elevation posted.

And if I can’t see how many calories I burned, did I actually burn any calories?

I’m going to assume yes and go ahead and eat half a jar of nacho cheese.

View from the top of the hill I biked.
No stats, but it’s the only proof I’ve got.