Wednesday, December 1, 2010


I am now publishing my nerdy writings on  Here is my first entry.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Bat cave

I think I'm becoming a bit like a bat these days.  I tend to wear black quite a bit and I start and end my days hanging upside down in an inversion table.  The life I live in also has some resemblance to a cave these days, and the solitude of that situation is doing me some good.  Now it isn't any sort of absolute solitude that anyone needs to worry about.  I still see friends and I spent a wonderful weekend with Tom and his family, and I am certainly not depressed.  It's just that I am thinking a lot these days about myself, society, my family, my perceptions and my interactions with everyone.  I am not really ready to talk about any of it yet.  It's all still too uncertain and kind of big, like a dark cave still unexplored.  Sometimes, as I venture a little farther into that space, I feel myself change a bit and expand.  I'm figuring things out. In those moments, when I feel myself grow, the cave transforms into a chrysalis, or perhaps a whale's belly.  When I am either sufficiently developed, of simply tired of where I am at,  I'll emerge, perhaps somewhat changed and hopefully for the better.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Miriam's eye view of Bolivia

I could fall into the easy pace of time in Bolivia where the people sleep until it's warm enough to wake, work hard, eat and sleep again.  There are schedules in Bolivia, but they run according to the body and the sun, rather than the clock.  It's perhaps the thing I miss most about being there.

I showed up to work today thinking it's Thursday and it's actually Friday and I am still a bit sleepy, perhaps from the jet lag, but more likely from the fatigue of working long days followed by a very long flight home. I had a great time in Bolivia.  I am already getting teased about my pictures.  I guess in some ways, the photographs I took are more revealing the photographs taken of me. So anyway, here is a Miriam's eye view of the experience.

Dead Baby Llamas in the market.
A Happy Wall

Excellent dental services

Scary mannequins
Ministry of work
Church where we went to get pipe for water project
View from the top of the hill where we hiked to actually start the project.
It was a very long hike. That is Wade looking at the valley below.

I found two of these flowers while we were digging.  
They seemed very happy to me when I found them.

Tyler Berg sitting on his shovel while I reapplied sunscreen.
It did not prevent sunburn, it only limited how bad the sunburns were.
Chris Peel explaining to me where the adobe bricks came from.

Scenic view
The shovel balancing act and proof that there were girls besides me on the trip. 
From front to back: Jordin, Richard, Chalyce, Megan and Tyler Berg.
I did interact with girls.  There just isn't much photographic evidence of that.
Jordin and I washed each others hair and talked ballet (she is a dancer).
Chalyce and I spent a lot of time figuring out iphoto and milling around La Paz together.
Megan and I talked digital textbooks.
I did spend time with girls*.

Tommy taking pictures of everyone while he is standing directly in from of the water source.
After the water project, we went to Lake Titicaca.

Jeff paid my way and claimed me as his date.  He jumped in four times.  It was freezing cold.  I know.  He got me very wet.

Tyler Delange also jumped in three times.
And here they both are warming up.

We went to some ruins where I hung out with Nick and his sister Megan (not in photo).

This is a picture Megan took of me at the ruins.

And Tommy again back at camp.

There are a zillion more pictures on Facebook and whenever Tommy uploads his 8000 or so, there will be zillions more.

*I would like to add at this point, that I went to school with mostly men and I work mostly with men, and I have figured out how to participate in male bonding (by discussing making bombs and blowing stuff up) and I am much more comfortable hanging out with men, than discussing them with the girls.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Battleground in Bolivia

So, I  have spent the last week battling poverty in Bolivia and I am covered in battlewounds.  I look a bit like an over ripe and bruised piece of fruit when naked.  There is a bruise developing on my foot from where a jumper seat in a van got slammed down on me, my legs are covered in bruises as are my arms.  I think most of them are from shovels and rocks while digging and filling trenches for the water project we worked on. 

Everyone here wants me to say something profound about this experience, and I think that will come, but right now, I am worn down and beat up and there isn´t much I can think of to say.  I am leaving La Paz in an hour and when I am done with the flight, I will see Tom.

We hiked a mountain here that reminded me of Tom some.  Day 2 in Huancuyo started with a three mile hike that began at 13,000 ft and ended somewhere closer to 14,000 ft.  We didn´t know we would be hiking that far.  We were going to lay pipe and fill trenches and we thought we would just have to go about .5 miles from camp to a white church where the pipe was stored.  When we got there we were told we had to hike to a farther point and when we got there, we had to go to the top of the mountain right to the water source.  I was slathered in sunscreen and covered in layers of clothing, but I still got burnt.  I am in pretty good shape, but still found it hard to breathe.  I didn´t know we would be gone so long and I had no water.  I worked for a few hours like that and found myself thinking of Tom.  

The specific instance I remembered was a hike up above Yosemite when we climbed to the top of a mountain and there was no trail.  I got stuck in a rockslide and everytime I moved, the ground fell out from under me.  I called for help and Tom started working his way over to where I was.  We were too far apart for me to see him and I didn´t know he was coming.  I got tunnel vision.  That is the only time that has ever happened and I don´t like it, but it did make it so my entire focus was centered on boulders stably embedded in the ground and I made my way from one to the other with the ground falling out from under me as I went.  Just as I was about safely out of it, Tom appeared and took my hand and teased me about finding the most fun way up the mountain.  He stayed with me while I was at the top and the helped me pick a safer path down.  As I thought about Tom, I knew I would survive the hike and the trench digging.

As I filled in trenches, I thought about a decision I made a while ago to bury my weapons like the Lamanites.  As I looked at my bruises, I thought about that decision again. And I thought about Michael a bit and how when we got in a bike crash, his first thought was about my safety even though his own hand got smashed.  He was more concerned about my own bruises than his own.

 There are big enough battles that leave bad enough wounds that we don´t need to create any more.  It is not really the place of one person to fight with another.  We have disease and poverty and hunger to fight.  Maybe the best way we can fight them is simply through kindness.

I am grateful to have brothers who show me how this is done.

Friday, August 6, 2010


I am in La Paz and I´ll post pictures when I have a camera cable again.  It is crazy here.  They sell dried out dead baby Llamas in the markets.  I do not know what one is supposed to do with those.  There are clothes on some of them.

I am tired and I should be hungry, but I´m not.  It may be from having no sleep for two days or from altitude sickness.  I am leaning towards the tiredness.  I did get some sleep in the Lima airport, and I was impressed that no one balked when I blew up my air mattress.

I have avoided any major catastrophes so far!

Mostly I am incoherent and so I will stop before my typing denegrates to the same level as my Spanish.

More later!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding control

I am learning to swim laps.  I like it except not when I get water in the back of my throat and start choking.  It all goes to pieces at that point.  But,  that is happening less frequently.  So there is hope for me yet.

I have started doing physical therapy on my knee.  It just wasn't getting totally better and then I saw how my kneecap was a bit out of place.  So I crunched it around a bit and got it back to where it looks like the other knee cap.  There is some ligament that is really sore after that, but the physical therapy exercises don't feel harmful now, so I might be able to get back to kick boxing soon.

I am reading dating books.  They are annoying but possibly useful.  I have learned that it does me little to no good to be nice to guys.  I just have to be sassy and interesting.  I don't think that I can muster being a jerk face, but I am becoming sassier.  It is fun.  I annoy people now more than they annoy me.  I briefly considered trying to adopt a sexy persona when I go to Bolivia since I will be hanging out with a bunch of people I don't know yet, but I decided that I am probably just not that kind of girl because I am prioritizing protecting myself from mosquitoes and the sun over flaunting my sex appeal.  So maybe there is no hope for me.

I was reading about basic business planning in developing countries and they said that you must consider what goods and services you can offer and what resources you have to start a business providing those goods and services.  For people with few material possessions and barely enough money to feed themselves, prostitution immediately came to mind.  Low start-up costs and immediately available goods and services.  For some reason, microcredit has not been emphasized in our business planning classes.  I am  making sure it makes it in though.  I do not think prostitution is the means of escaping poverty that I would like to impress upon anyone.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From some odd numerically based email address which did not automatically go to the spam folder.

Message 1.) Send ya the picture



Message 2.) Send ya the picture


(Oh no!)

Message 3.) Send ya the picture



Message 4.) Sorry it took me so long! 

But here is my master piece.


Message 5.) Torkoise, white, 

blue,yellow,red and...  


(I can just close my laptop it isn't from 


(Opened with some anxiety)

By Emma Barlow

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have been realizing lately what a strange place Utah is and I don't mean in the eats-the-most-jell-o sort of way.  Utah is much stranger than that.

When I moved to NY, I needed a haircut, had no car, and the only place near my apartment was called "Peach Fuzz"  and it was a hair salon with an exclusively black clientele.  I got the worst haircut I have ever had (besides the one I gave myself in a fit of rage that once) there though they did their best.  Before then, I had never known that there were separate hair cutting establishments for different ethnicities.  It makes sense that there are given the differences in hair texture and styling preferences, but I had never thought of that.  I grew up in Utah, which is a pretty white place.

Now with all that whiteness around, people might think that there is a lot of racism and to be truthful, there are some Mexican jokes that get told.  The jokes are entirely inappropriate, but they stem more from  socioeconomics than skin color.  (That doesn't make them any better.) Those jokes were told about the migrant workers who were poor and sometimes stole things from the houses near the fields where they worked.  But I didn't hear any jokes told about the Mexican kids we went to school with.  My best friend from K-3rd grade was a Mexican boy.  I didn't even realize he was Mexican until we were in high school.  He was a nice kid.  His parents were cool.

Utah is strange, because even though there are tons of white people there, almost every language on earth is spoken fluently, and fairly authentic cuisine from every region of the earth can be eaten between Salt Lake and Provo.  It's because of all the missionaries that go everywhere.  And then they come back to Utah, thinking that whatever remote corner of the planet they served in is the best place ever.  They tell stories about the places and the people that they loved and they keep eating the food and speaking the languages and they teach their children the languages.

I remember getting my grandparents to speak Swahili and Lingala for me.  They weren't fluent in those languages, but they knew enough to survive in the parts of the Congo where the people spoke no French.  I thought (and still do sometimes) that going to the Congo would be about the coolest thing on earth. Maybe that's why when I met all of the Sudanese refugee boys who had finally been given a home in the US, I thought they were the coolest people I had ever met.  Maybe that's why I was willing to date the Kenyan man I was friends with in Atlanta.

We never actually dated though.  He was far too shy and there was a lot of social pressure in Atlanta against black and white relationships.  So we stayed friends and he was very nice. That was more than I was able to do with the Black security guard I was friends with.  He was from Seattle and going through bad culture shock in the South.  He loved that I was from the West and we would talk about the things we liked in the West and he would give me a hug each morning when I walked past the booth he sat in outside the parking garage.  And that was all fine until an elderly black guard saw him hugging me and put a stop to it.  There was nothing wrong with his hugs.  They weren't tight with him all squirming against me because he wasn't getting enough action.  They were just light like acquaintances at a party.  And he didn't get in trouble because he was a security guard and that was overly familiar behavior.  Believe me.  There were black girls who went through the metal detectors in halter tops and daisy dukes with navel piercings and the guards felt them all up and down and I never saw a wand come out when those girls set the metal detectors off.  Hands were sufficient.  No, the hugging wasn't the issue.  It was that he was black and I was white and after that day when we got "caught" he called me "miss" and nodded curtly. Now I am not saying that nothing like that would happen in Utah, but what I am saying is I never saw that sort of thing happen in Utah.

When Hurricane Katrina hit and drove the people of New Orleans all over the country, a lot of black people ended up in Utah.  They were fed well (though they complained that the "jambalaya" was not jambalaya and I believe them) and they were clothed and helped and when all was said and done, a lot of them decided to stay in Utah and thought that maybe that the storm had been a blessing.  And I think the blessing went both ways.   I bet it is possible to get some real jambalaya in Utah now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I am a fairly obtuse person and it isn't easy being that way.  I generally mean well, but I just plough through  life and sometimes forget what another person might be thinking or feeling.  Sometimes I don't ask the important questions about the things that a person is really excited to talk about.  And sometimes I say all the wrong things and bring up those that hurt the most.

As I drove home from Las Vegas, I was thinking about grace.  As I so often do, I started thinking about Kay Whitmore and his kindness to me.  Now I may be obtuse, but I am at least a little intelligent and it didn't take long after meeting him for me to realize that Kay Whitmore had been through every experience I could imagine and many that I couldn't and that he had navigated most of them successfully.  I viewed him as a source of unfathomable wisdom and he willingly shared his wisdom with me.  There was once though, when I think I took things too far and asked a little too much.

Kay Whitmore had a special familiarity with us students.  He was our Branch President at church.  There were 60 Mormon college students in Rochester and he was sort of the watchful shepherd over our little gaggle.  He had dry, wicked humor and would frequently talk himself into a hole over the pulpit.  He would give us updates on the married and now expecting past members of our group in colorful anecdotes sprinkled with innuendo.  He would give candid assessments of dramatic musical performances put on by the Eastman music students, about whom he was so enthusiastic that they never took offense.  (None was ever intended.)  And he had a famous speech about gender differences that went like this "Men are like microwaves.  You can turn them on and off with the push of a button.  Women are like crockpots.  It takes a while to heat them up, but once they're hot, well..... they're hot."

I had wanted him to talk to students about how to be successful.  Clearly he knew how to succeed.  He had been CEO of Kodak and that was more success than most students would ever come close to.  Yes, he had been fired from being CEO, but no one and I mean NO ONE (among the people I talked to) thought that he had deserved being fired.  He had inherited some really big problems and had proposed some measures to keep Kodak managers and executives honest and they hated those measures and he got fired for them.  Pure politics.  Someone had to take the fall for the company's problems and since he was the top guy, it was him.  Everyone felt that way.  So I thought.

I had hinted to President Whitmore that I wanted him to talk to us, the students, about being successful several times.  He always asked "And what are my qualifications for success?" and I would say "You were CEO of Kodak.  You must have done something right." And he would look into my adoring face, smile, and shake his head.

I got my real chance to set this up when I was asked to organize the speakers for a LDS YSA conference.  I had the venue and I didn't know many people and so I issued a formal request.  When I did, he looked stoic and he asked me "So you are asking me, as a member of the Church, to do this for the Church?"  and I didn't really understand the question and I just smiled and said "Yes."  And he nodded and said "All right, for the Church, I'll do this."  And I was thrilled.  His secrets of success would be ours.

When the time came for his talk, I treated him with all the professional courtesy I could, but I took the liberty of introducing him myself.  I talked about all of the service he had done in the Church and that was all fine. But when I got to the CEO bit, he blushed bright red and waved his hand to the side indicating that it was time for me to finish up and move aside.  As he looked out at the group of students, I saw fear and embarrassment and I suddenly realized the situation I had put him in.  He was looking out into the faces of children whose parents had been laid off by him.  He was looking into the faces of people who had seen the very public demise of his career on the local evening news.  He was standing there facing failure.

Kay Whitmore gave us the best talk I have ever heard about how to be successful.  He did so with humor, grace and enthusiasm.  He gave us concrete advice that was instantly implementable and useful.
1. If you can stand it, learn math.
2. Accomplish the most important thing every day.
3. Build in time for yourself so that you don't burn yourself out.

The entire group took notes furiously and asked really good questions.  I thanked President Whitmore and gave him the small gift that was provided to all of the speakers and he blushed and took it with much embarrassment acting as though he didn't deserve it.

I saw pure grace though, because after that, whenever his experiences as CEO seemed helpful to someone, he would share them with whoever was in need.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I spent an hour talking with Grandpa tonight.  We have a special bond that was born when I lived with him and Grandma for a year during college.  My grandparents heard the uncensored Miriam that year, instead of the putting the best foot forward to make them proud sort of Miriam that I had been before then.  They would ask me for my "cool-collected opinion" of various situations and I'd give it.  I'd ask the same of them .  I painted Beer steins with Grandma, and attended the book club she hosted for her friends.  I did yard work with Grandpa and helped him clean the basement after the sewer line got clogged.  He secretly got me a Cummings chocolate Easter egg when they were in season (food of the gods) but told me I couldn't let on to the cousins or he'd have to get them all one.

I love that year.  I guess during a time when most late adolescents are getting to know themselves, I was getting to know my grandparents instead.  And they got to know me.  It was a good year.  They learned to trust my opinion and I learned to trust theirs.

Tonight, as I was talking to Grandpa, he talked a lot about Grandma (their wedding anniversary would have been yesterday).  He told me about the last time they went to California together, that "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" was one of his favorites at Disneyland and he told me about their trip to Washington when I was a baby and they came to see me and my parents (and Marie too).  He asked how James was and I told him that James is dating a nice girl who is going on a mission soon.  I also told him I'd argued with James and not gone for sushi with him and his girlfriend.  He said "Well, if she is a nice girl, she deserves to go on dates without you there."

I think he's right.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The effect of etiquette books

It would be interesting, I think, to study the effects of etiquette books across various social strata.  The first time I ever cracked open an etiquette book was when I was was fourteen or so and James was eating mashed potatoes with his fingers.  I felt that there was certainly a better way and I went to the authorities for backup.  James (age 5) was convinced, and though his manual dexterity was still developing, he awkwardly used a spoon and dinner became much more pleasant for everyone after that.

I have seen etiquette books used in other ways though.  For example, when Marie's English students were rude in class, she required that they copy some number of pages (proportional to the offense) from an etiquette book. For some of her students in the hood of Las Vegas, it may have been the only exposure they ever had to basic manners.  It would be interesting to determine what influence those exercises had.

I sometimes think I catch a glimpse.  For instance, once I was eating dinner at the home of a no longer friend.  There weren't enough baked potatoes so I volunteered to split one with someone else and then proceeded to cut the potato crosswise instead of lengthwise.  We were in the midst of a hilarious discussion about pumping septic tanks.  Bread had been distributed in a manner similar to a football that is passed 20 yards for a glorious touchdown.  So I was surprised when the conversation stopped and everyone started staring at me.  Everyone.  I asked "What?"and they all started laughing at me and told me that any fool knows a potato is cut lengthwise instead of crosswise when it is shared.  I expressed surprise that such a rule existed and the etiquette book was procured and the rule was read. I jokingly asked if anything was said about discussing sewers or chucking bread around the room.  Neither of those topics were mentioned in the etiquette book so clearly no rule had been broken in either case.  The fault was clearly mine.

Etiquette finally started making real sense to me in France.  I was staying at the Fondation Mérieux for a week, eating three meals a day prepared by the second best chef in Annecy (which is known for some excellent cuisine).  I had the pleasure of eating with some fine and distinguished French gentlemen.  They were from a generation where etiquette was important and their plates were kept impeccably beautiful and clean throughout the entire meal.  I managed to use the correct utensils and I worked out the timing between talking and eating pretty well.  The men thought that I was delightful and charming, but as I watched the way they kept their plates so well composed, I felt like a complete slob.  "Aaah" I thought, "it does matter which way a person cuts a potato."

Monday, July 12, 2010

There's no place like home.

It's good to be home.  Mom is doing well post tendon re-attachment and we are hanging out on the couch a lot.  We watch movies.  Some are better than others.  We watched one with Harrison Ford as a scientist curing a disease.  That was heartwarming and mildly pleasant.  Then we watched The Time Traveler's Wife and we both cried when it was over.  We cried in a mourning things lost sort of way.  I held mom and she held me  and when we were done crying  I promptly drove to the nearest Redbox and jammed that movie back into it in an unkindly way, all the while thinking about how it had made my mom cry and it could just die for all I cared (except that it was just a DVD so it couldn't really) and I felt a little vindicated.

Michael taught me a bit about tennis tonight.  He taught me an even better way of gripping my racket with a bit of a downward angle so I am not lobbing balls all over any more.  He worked with me on the correct swing and preparing for a swing while running and then swinging while I am running.  I watched Michael play, and he is beautiful (sorry to say it that way bro, but it's true) while playing tennis.  His long arms and long legs extend, graceful and fluid as he swings the racket.  He has absolute control over where he sends the ball and the court somehow seems to shrink as he works his way around it.  The aesthetic rivals ballet in some moments.

James and I will go for Sushi tomorrow.  We will probably discuss concepts of Zen or something like that.

Dad likes what I cook usually, which is nice because cooking is a pretty big responsibility for me right now.  I am cooking cuisine that is gluten free, harmonious with a cardiac patient's diet (no fat or salt), and no poultry, avocado, or tilapia (Michael just became allergic to that too.)  I have been utilizing herbs heavily and it seems to work out okay in the recipes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I just submitted my application to do humanitarian aid work in Bolivia.  It's all Tom's fault of course, as most good ideas are.  We had a long heart to heart after I asked him about his thoughts on freezing eggs.  He was a little surprised to find out that I felt so strongly abut having children and that I was willing to go to extreme measures for the gamble of having children through my 40s.  He suggested that if I was willing to go to those lengths, maybe I would be willing to do some other extreme things to get my life going a bit more that way I want it to.  I asked him what he was thinking of and he said he was scared of offending me.  I assured him that there was nothing he could say that would be any worse than things I had already thought and that there might be some good ideas in there that I could use. 

So he started asking me questions and we ended up talking about online dating sites (which got a boo from both of us), cosmetic dermatology, and travel.  He asked what I like doing and I told him service work.  So he suggested that I go abroad to do that and meet people with a similar interest.  It seemed like a good idea.  Then a guy that I play FB Scrabble with, Christian, mentioned that he is going to Bolivia to do humanitarian aid work and so I asked him all about what group and what you have to do to go and he told me and so now my application is in. 

I am on a waiting list, but I pitched all of my CDC experience and public health skills and the organizers of the trip thought I sounded useful and that they could use my skills.  I'm pretty excited.  This sounds really enjoyable to me.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Getting Organized

I got a desk, filing cabinet, and shredder and went to work.  About four hours in, I started reflecting that either Loki was the personification of entropy, or that he somehow got himself written into the second law of thermodynamics.  As I tried to dump the second load of confetti from the shredder, the edge of the bag slipped and a breeze was blowing around like snow in the summer time and there was a big mess to clean up.  I knew that it was funny the way it had happened and wished I could have been watching it rather than experiencing it so that I could have laughed a bit more.

Later, I was cleaning out stacks of papers in a cupboard and found an old essay about Salvador Dali's painting Cannibalism. When I wrote it (in high school), I thought that the painting was profound, but as I remembered it, it seemed cliché.  Little pieces of the woman sitting in the man's spoon and in her own. The essay went into the shredder.  I remembered a more recent endeavor in art.  It was two Christmases ago and Carl convinced everyone to go out with the children to build snowmen.  It was the first Christmas in 20 years with enough snow for that.  We teamed up with the little ones and they started asking us to help them roll the biggest snowball.  It was fun, collecting all of those little snow flakes  and turning them into something substantial.  We ended up with some snowballs that were about 5 feet tall and quite round.  We all piled them up and had to climb on the picnic table to get the top one on.  And then somehow, that wasn't good enough.  Hilary was hugely pregnant, and still rolling snowballs to try to get the baby to drop. There was a gloriously pregnant woman and a new baby due any day and that seemed worthy of a celebration.  We  rolled more snowballs that became a huge stomach and two enormous breasts.  We shaped an enormous snow Venus, reminiscent of the stone one found in Willendorf, but with a face.  Tom teased us about our fertility goddess and although we didn't worship it, it was satisfying to have a large tribute to the woman bearing the child who would be the newest member of the family.

As I remembered that, I was struck by how much I have changed between the essay on Cannibalism and the Snow Venus.  How my views about women and men have changed.  I started trying to think of defining moments in my life that brought about those changes in perspective and I couldn't.  Defining processes?  Yes.  Defining moments?  ......No.  I started wondering if the way that one approaches life can be counted as something definitive, when that approach is causing constant change.   Are Michelangelo's Awakening Giant,  or Young Slave fully defined, left as they are in the middle of the sculpting process?  There is still a lot of extra marble that could fly of of those figures and get blown around as dust in a studio.

And then later as I was cleaning up the dust from all of my organizing, it hit me that there was one defining moment that I could remember.  I was six (and knowing what I know now I would bet that it was not too long after I had fallen at school and knocked myself out when I hit the back of my head hard on the black top).  I couldn't sleep at night and I was so scared.  It seemed strange to me that I was more afraid at age six than I had been at two or four.  I was ashamed of how scared I was and wished that I could sleep so that I wouldn't feel afraid.   I wanted Mom to stay with me until I was asleep night after night. And I had wet the bed twice, which was something I had never ever done, ever. A six year old doesn't have much to be proud of and sleeping well and good bathroom skills had been two of the best things I had going for me.  My little life was flying apart.   Mom thought I was jealous and needed more attention.  I tried to tell her I was just scared and I didn't even know I was asleep or that I had to go to the bathroom when I wet the bed.  It just happened.  She asked me what I thought we should do about it and I didn't know.

Later, when I was awake and afraid, I remembered I could pray to not be afraid and I prayed. And then the defining moment came.  I felt very warm and very calm and well loved and I fell asleep.  Some sort of new material was gathered up into the little six year old person I was.  I still woke up three or four times in the night just to check if I still felt that way.  I did, every single time until the morning came.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

be beautiful!

I love this a lot and want to share.
It is by Noelle Dass who sells T-shirts and other pieces of art online

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Strong and Immovable

This month, I keep hearing about Julie Beck's conference talk.  Everyone is reading it, studying it, and teaching it.  It is an exceptional talk.  I think that part of what makes it so great is that she sets up a standard for what women should be.   I think about Marie when I read it, which is also a part of why I like it so well. My favorite part of it is this quote:

The second general Relief Society president, Eliza R. Snow, said this to the sisters: “We want to be ladies in very deed, not according to the term of the word as the world judges, but fit companions of the Gods and Holy Ones. In an organized capacity we can assist each other in not only doing good but in refining ourselves, and whether few or many come forward and help to prosecute this great work, they will be those that will fill honorable positions in the Kingdom of God. . . . Women should be women and not babies that need petting and correction all the time. I know we like to be appreciated but if we do not get all the appreciation which we think is our due, what matters? We know the Lord has laid high responsibility upon us, and there is not a wish or desire that the Lord has implanted in our hearts in righteousness but will be realized, and the greatest good we can do to ourselves and each other is to refine and cultivate ourselves in everything that is good and ennobling to qualify us for those responsibilities."

It is a relief to have some strong and immovable ideas of womanhood that are broad enough to encompass our varied lives, but specific enough to give each of us direction.  

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

motes and beams

I have had some thoughts on religion that I want to share.

In Matthew 22, on of the Pharisees asks Jesus

36. Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
37. Jesus answered saying, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
38. This is the first and great commandment, and the second is like unto it.
39. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
40. On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets.

I think that it is necessary to love God in every way, because when we do, we trust that His commandments will be for our good even when we don't understand how.  That makes it possible to live them.

I think the second law is explained in Matthew 7.

3. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
4. Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull the mote out of thine eye;and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
5. Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.

I think that the beam that Jesus refers to is a failure to love others as ourselves. And it is a huge problem to not love others.  We can only see how to help others when we love them.  By comparison, all other flaws are motes, whereas failure to love is a beam that gets in the way of everything.  Not just helping others, but every interaction.

When Jesus said that "On these two commandments hang all the law and prophets", I think he was explaining how we are to save ourselves and others, and that it is simply and sincerely though loving God and mankind.  I think that when those two commandments are kept, then keeping the rest of God's commandments follows more easily.

I can think of zillions of reasons that it is hard to love others as ourselves.  I struggle with that.  It is easy to love my family, but hard to love annoying or dishonest or mean people.  It's something for me to work on and it is hard for me, but I am trying to do it.  I have a lot of growing up to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Politically Correct


Carroll Barlow

You have already read this as an e-mail but I wanted to post it here on the family blog as a matter of record.
show details 3:46 PM (1 minute ago)

I found this article on the Newsroom Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I thought you might find it interesting. Click on the link below to view:

Last night when dad and I had our nightly prayer I found myself asking for wisdom in dealing with political issues. I feel that we need to speak up for true principals, be a force of good in helping to preserve them, and be effective in presenting these truths to others. Often I feel that even I can become diluted by the world and its one sided media, carefully teaching us how to think. The adversary is very tricky. I know that we need to understand and hold on to eternal principals. As we are weighing an issue we should test it against guiding principals.
Today when I got home from church I turned on BYU TV and I think at least a partial answer to my prayer was given. This talk from Elder Oaks discusses these very issues.
I know that everyone is very busy and it may be hard to find time to read this devotional. However I think you would feel blessed in doing so, especially in these times. It is wonderful to have Apostles who are experts in their occupational fields along with their spiritual powers to guide us. I often reflect on the love and intelligence of the Lord in guiding his children in mortality. While listening you might grab a piece of paper and take notes.
I love you all. You are my most wonderful treasures. I am so confident in each of you! I thank you for all the good work you are doing. I know life seems hard at times, (It really is!). Stay close to the Lord, stay positive, reflect on your many blessings. Always use your talents to serve the Lord. (what a talented bunch you all are!) Even with all the talent you possess ask that those talents can be expanded so that you can be even more potent in His service. Pray often. Help each other in love and kindness. Strengthen each other especially in your individual families and also the family at large. Thank you for you patience and and unconditional love toward me and dad. Propriety demands that love, we are father and mother. Better than that, however, you have over looked our misgivings and love us still. Thank you!
Have a great week know that you are continually in our hearts and prayers.

Love, Mom Barlow

Friday, April 16, 2010

Catching up

I'm sorry I have been so remiss in writing, but there really has been quite a bit going on. House hunting, broken legs, spring break and the usual routine of things. I'll try to give the last four months a good summary. First off the winter olympics. After we had two visitors who stayed overnight on their way to the Vancouver Olympics we decided we ought to take the kids since we live so close. We enjoyed seeing places from when I was a missionary there over ten years ago, and getting into some of the festivites.
Tom and the three oldest kids ice skated on the rink after we saw a show of the mascots.

Here we are with none other than the Mountees.

Olympic tattoos. It was at this point that the rain started falling rather thickly. We decided to head home.

Mattie's snowman was picked from her class to be in the city wide school art show.

I (Keriann) went with some friends to Forks, Washington (home of the vampires from Twilight in case you have been living under a rock). I had a great time, although much to the detriment of my nieghbor who was watching my kids when Mattie got the stomach flu. She, her husband all three of her kids ended up getting it. Then it went through half of us. What a friend, eh?!

Tom turned 31, and grieved a bit because he was supposed to have a cabin when he was 30. Ahh well, maybe if we stayed put for more than two years it could have happened.

Love this picture of Sam on Easter Sunday. This was the sunday after Tom and I had been in San Diego for a week doing house hunting, and then returned to Spokane where my brother lives and did some skiing. Mattie broke her leg on the Friday before. Here you can see her splint.

Hazel in one of her Easter dresses.

All the nieghbor kids comparing their loot.

Mattie getting her cast. She broke her tibia, just a crack. We, or she espicially, is hoping it heals quickly.

She now uses both crutches and a wheelchair. She gets around pretty good.

The other exciting thing going on in the Barlow household is some "special" cooking. Tom and I have taken two classes, one on cheese (hard and soft), and the other on bread. Tom is eating a piece of bread we made with cheese we made, with jam we made. MMMMM! It's so good.

Our first loaf by ourseleves.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grandma's Christmas Cactus


When Grandma died and all of her belongings were divided between us, there were a few things that nobody claimed. They were to be taken to the DI or to be thrown out. Among these things were a couple of houseplants. One of the houseplants was a Christmas Cactus. I asked everyone if they wanted that plant, nobody did. I couldn't bear to throw it out. Grandma had loved it and taken care of it
Christmas Cactus' are an appealing plant to me. They aren't necessarily the most beautiful plant but they are a rugged and can take quite a bit of abuse. They actually bloom better if you keep them rather dry. The blossoms they produce are quite beautiful. I have a friend that has a Christmas Cactus that started from another Christmas Cactus that started from another Christmas on down to one that came across the plains with the pioneers. Maybe Grandma's Christmas Cactus is progeny of a pioneer plant, I am not sure. I do know that her Cactus is smart. It blossomed lovely blossoms at Christmas time.
A couple of days ago I thought it might be more attractive if I dusted the leaves, as I dusted it I noticed 3 new buds, these would be spring blossoms, just in time for Easter, I think, designating the birth and resurrection of the Savior.

I just wish I could visit or call Grandma and tell her all about it. It would please her so.

That plant once destined for the garbage now has become quite dear to me.

Friday, April 2, 2010

What Did I Do This Time?

Today A doctor looked at me square in the face and said "You are toughest lady I ever met!
This comment came after he examined my injured foot. Let me tell you about the injury.
Last week, in preparation for making dinner, I sharpened my knife. If you know me well you know I like my knives sharp. After honing it with my very efficient electric knife sharpener, I set to cutting a roast into cubes. I then laid that knife on a crowded counter and some how it fell. I felt the knife strike my foot. It hurt but I was surprised when I looked down and saw it bleeding profusely. It fell, blade first, and cleanly cut my foot above my great toe, horizontally. I began assessing the injury. Stitches would be appropriate treatment. I considered going to the E.R. I thought about the long wait and the 75.00 co-pay. I decided that I would dress the wound myself. After all, it was a clean cut into my foot. Looking through the first aid supplies, I even found Steri-Strips sutchering tape. The decision was made. I would stop the bleeding, disinfect it, close the cut and hold it that way with the tape. I protected my toe carefully not to overuse it or disturb it. The healing went well. I was convinced I had make the right decision.
3 or 4 days later when the wound was sealed I tried to wiggle that great toe. I could wiggle it downward, but not up. This didn't bother me too much, I thought my toe was traumatized and that it would get better. I had gone to water aerobics that morning and it really didn't hurt. After showing my toe to my co- workers, they convinced me to get furthur medical attention. I called my son Tom, the doctor. He told me that I had probably severed the tendon that attached to a muscle in my leg that allows me to raise my toe upward. Yes indeed, that is what happened.
Next Thursday surgery is scheduled to re-attach the tendon. I will be in a cast for awhile.
I just thought I would let you know.
I am tough and gritty, however I am questioning my judgment. The longer you live the more you learn!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Springar fra Bergen

Men are bending over backwards to do nice things for me these days.  I don't even ask them to.  It is very strange, but I like it so far.  I had an entourage last weekend.  I have never had an entourage before.  After I purchased my car, two men from the dealership drove my car and an extra car 30 miles to Modesto so that I could return my rental car and drive my own car home.  It was not part of the deal to sell me the car.  It was after I had already agreed upon the price (after 3 hours of negotiating in which I told them what I wanted to pay and waited until they met me there.  I was not an easy sell.) and the salesman just was being nice.

When I got to the rental office, the man there didn't charge me for leaving the car at a different place than the one I got it at (though he had said he would).  He was very nice.

Then on Saturday, a guy in the parking lot of the grocery store offered to haul my groceries to my car for me.  At first I declined, but then I reconsidered and told him I'd take his help if it was no trouble to him.  I was perfectly capable of hauling my own groceries, but if a man wants to be kind to me, I guess I can let him be kind.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

No Poker Face

I have started playing the girl card.  It took a lot to get me to pull that one out, but now that I'm using it, I like it a lot.  It started when I had no car and the tow truck driver insisted on  taking me home.  He said he wouldn't do that for a guy, but there was no way he would let a woman walk home at night through a questionable neighborhood.  That was nice.

A couple days later (car still in shop), I walked to the grocery store to get a few things.  The grocery store is only about a mile away and it is a safe walk getting big deal.  However, it was getting dark while I was walking there and there was a big crack in the pavement with raised edges right next to a very high curb.  I didn't see the crack and stumbled on it while I was stepping up onto the curb.  I stumbled on my right foot, but caught all my weight with my left and jammed that knee and turned my ankle.  Nothing serious, but definitely painful.  So the next day, I decided to rent a car.  It was windy and I didn't want to walk the two miles to the rental place but I had no other way of getting there.  I thought about the tow truck driver and called the rental place and asked the guy on the phone to come pick me up.  They normally don't have a shuttle service and he had to close the entire rental office down while he came to get me, but he did it and said he would happily take me home when my rental is done.  Very nice indeed.

There are other aspects of the girl card I like.  It is good to talk to girls about solving problems.  When I tell guys about my car problems, they ALL give me a lecture on the mechanics and requirements of an engine (except Tom, who taught me all of that stuff years ago).  I have told all of them that two mechanics haven't been able to figure it out, but they keep saying it shouldn't be that hard.  So I finally gave up on guys and told some gal pals that I needed advice from a girl (all the guys started to flee until I told them it was about car problems...then they all stayed).  Rather than trying to solve the problems with my car, they gave me advice about how to dispose of my current car most profitably and they told me they'd give me rides to wherever I buy my new car so I can pick it up.  All of the guys started chiming in that my car should be simple to fix and started giving me a lecture about how an engine works and I told them that was why I needed a girl to talk to.

The "girl card" is not the same as the "damsel in distress card".  I can still get stuff done.  The man repairing my -80 freezer has absolute confidence in my opinion.  He was ready to start buying parts for my freezer based on my assessment until I suggested that maybe he should come in and just make sure my assessment was right.  At the end he told me that I'd been absolutely right and he seemed a little proud of me.

Also, my friend Lynda brought her truck to my house and we loaded up all of my old furniture that I don't want anymore and took it to a women who left a violent relationship with one suitcase and then moved across the country.  It was heavy, but we did it.

Monday, March 15, 2010


There is nothing mechanically wrong with my car and yet it won't start.  After 3 days, my mechanic told me that no one could figure out what was wrong (second time in ten years and by the way there is no charge) and that maybe the dealership mechanic could.  Today it is getting towed to the dealership.  Those mechanics there are crooked.  They once told me that they needed to replace a $500 part which would cost $300 in labor because a piece of my air conditioning system they had just replaced wouldn't connect to the downstream part.  I tried to connect them and failed, but my brother-in-law did it easily, which saved me the $800.  Then they wanted to charge me $100 for a spare key which I was able to get from a locksmith for $3.00.  I am curious to find out what they say is wrong with my car. I would be fine junking my car and I would be fine driving it a couple more months and trading it in, but this not knowing is terrible.

Possibly worse than that however has been the disappearance of butter in my house.  I went through nearly a pound in the past two weeks.  As I live alone, I don't even have denial as an option, but I honestly can't account for all that butter.   I was going to blame the bread that is in the freezer (in the spirit of denial), but one loaf is fat free and the other only has two tablespoons. There are a bunch of frozen blondies too (yum!) and those had almost a half pound of butter, but still...... I realized this last night and sincerely hoped my fresh out of the dryer jeans wouldn't be tight this morning.  They are (of course).  Sigh. Not really much of a mystery there after all.  Carrot sticks and celery for lunch this week.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Kitchen Calamities

I would like to say that I made the worst bread on earth yesterday, but that would be giving it too much credit.  I am sure worse breads have been made at some point in the history of mankind.  The Anasazis probably had sand and pebbles in their breads sometimes and while that would not, in an of itself qualify their bread to be worse than mine, a failed, burned, cornbread full of grit would have been worse than what I made.  Bread that fell off the side of a tandoor and got covered in charcoal would probably be worse though that would depend on how much of the charcoal could be brushed off.   I also remember witnessing the removal of a loaf of bread from a bread machine that had collapsed and was so full of salt that it tasted like brine and made my hands sting a little.  (No one ever figured out how all the salt got in there.)  That might have been worse than the loaf I made yesterday, but what I made yesterday was uniquely bad.

I used the America's Best Recipes American sandwich bread recipe because I have found that it's pretty easy to adapt their recipes to gluten free ingredients.  I was excited to try my rice/oat/potato flour blend that has been working so well.  I added more xanthan gum than usual in an attempt to mimic gluten... perhaps I was also curious about whether one could add too much xanthan gum because I added one Tablespoon per cup of flour.  Normally GF recipes are soft and runny compared to recipes made with all-purpose flour. Not this time.  After adding all of the liquid, the dough was dry and clumpy like play dough that had ben left out too long.  I gathered it into a ball and smashed it all together and decided to see if it would rise.  It wouldn't.  As the yeast produced CO2, the dough just fell apart in clumps.  It was sort of a fast forward version of watching the sedimentary rocks in the desert erode.

I added water to it.  The dough absorbed it all and was still dry and still just fell apart as the yeast grew.  So I added more water.  In total, I probably added an entire cup.  This was on top of the cup and a half of liquid already in the loaf of bread which was still very dry, but staying in a ball (albeit  a very heavy ball with all that water).  How something can be made mostly out of liquid and still be so dry is a mystery to me, but I am convinced that one could lower rising ocean levels or drain a lake with a certain amount of xanthan gum.

The dough was starting to smell a little like yeast, the way rising bread should so I formed a loaf and put it in a pan and waited to see if it would rise.  After adding all that water, the size of the dough had grown and there wasn't much room in the pan for it to rise anyway, but I though I'd just see if it would.  After a half hour, not much had happened.  I took a bath. Still nothing much had happened.  I read a few short stories.  The dough was cracking and looking like it might start to fall apart again, but it had risen slightly.  It was 10:30 and I was wanting to go to bed so I decided to finish up the bread and see how it came out.  At 11:30, I pulled a heavy, heavy pan out of the oven and cut into the loaf which was so firm that I didn't even run the risk of smashing it even a little bit while it was hot.  The slice of bread fell apart in clumps as I feared it might.  I tasted a bit of it and the only possibly redeeming aspect of it was that the flavors of honey and milk and a little salt came through and it tasted sort of like normal bread.  

I am scheduled to go to pottery tonight,  I haven't used my sack of clay in a while and it is sort of dried out an clumpy.  I may have had enough of that last night.  I am tempted to stay home and see if I can make a dough that is more like bread than clay.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Kitchen Victories!

I hacked the secrets of gluten free baking.  They depend mainly on 3 ingredients:  Rice, oats and xanthan gum. I mix rice and oats in roughly equal proportions but then vary the amounts to control the moisture of the baked good.  By adding more oats, it becomes more moist. Adding more rice flour makes the final product less moist.  I combine that flour mixture with potato starch in about a 1:1 ratio.  Xanthan gum is the real trick though.  It binds things together, and thickens them a lot.  Gluten free recipes skimp on xanthan gum and the baked goods usually fall.  By adding about two teaspoons of xanthan gum per cup of flour, the consistency of the dough/batter comes out the same as with wheat flour and the final texture of the baked good is also about the same.

 I am still tinkering with flavors.  So far, the biggest complaint about my baked goods has been that they taste a little different than those made with wheat flour.  I am not sure if I can fix this problem and it is hard to play with since I can't eat wheat for comparison, but I am not giving up yet.

Monday, March 1, 2010

All I needed to know that I didn't learn in Kindergarten

I am learning really basic things these days. For example, Marie is teaching me to read literature. As she reads American Gods, she is explaining it to me.  So far she has pointed out parallels with Huckleberry Finn, interesting things about various mythologies, and a lot of humor that would have been lost on me otherwise.  It turns out that reading literature is a lot like reading science.  You have to look stuff up.  Except with science, I usually just have to go to a good dictionary and with literature I guess you look all over, but Google and wikipedia make that pretty easy.  I am tempted to get an ipad to make it even easier.

The second thing that I am learning is humor.  Marie is hilarious.  She started out the funniest conversation I have had in a long time by describing what she interprets as a hat depicting the holy trinity  of Disney (Micky, Donald and Goofy).  There is Donald's bill and then an ear apiece from the other two.  She went on and on about the sacrilege of it.  And then I told her about my Sunday school lesson and how the shyest quietest girl in the class read a verse from Genesis that included something about how Abraham sat upon his ass.  The whole class lost it.  So did Marie when I told her.  When she was finally able to talk again, she said it was like when she was teaching  English and some kid raised his hand and asked whether right then would be a good time to come out of the closet.  She told him that he could go right ahead so he announced to the class that he was gay.  Everyone knew he wasn't, but there was no recovery.  By that point in the discussion, we both had tears streaming down our faces. I don't know how I have gone this long without fully appreciating Marie's wild sense of humor.

Last, but certainly not least, I have realized that I have the romantic prowess of an 11 year old.  That was one of those personal truths that I would rather not have be true.   However, once I was done being upset over that realization, I decided that it is incredibly empowering.  It means that every negative experience I have ever had with males or that is in anyway related to romance or sexuality is no longer valid.  I am letting myself go back to where an eleven year old is and relearn how to fall in love.  I am possibly more confident and independent than most eleven year olds, which I hope will enable me to do a better job at this the second time around.  At present, holding hands and talking about random goofy things are lots of fun.  I think that more will follow in response to mutual trust, kindness, attraction, and commitment rather than by pressure or degradation.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Maybe success!

I think I got a fundable score on the grant my last grant application. The scores came in today. I am not going to go through the lengthy explanation of the strange, recently reworked and somewhat confusing scoring system, but I do know the good side from the bad side and I am close to the end that is good. I have to wait for the council review which will be a couple more months, but I think I might get funded this time. Hooray!

Miriam meets...well... Miriam

Style set in this weekend. It has trouble written all over it as I seem to have expensive taste. I went to the mall. I haven't been clothes shopping since last spring and the situation was getting dire. My six Threadless shirts could be better described as threadbare shirts (well almost). I was shocked to find that for the first time in my life, I had concrete ideas about what I was looking for rather than just trying on zillions of things until I found something, anything that looked good. I found that I have a set of rules for clothes. Well cut sleeves are a necessity as are clean lines. Ruffles equal automatic disqualification. Sashes and bows aren't quite that bad, but come close. Gathered fabric is okay if it is done in a way that doesn't interrupt the lines of the clothes. None of this was too surprising because those rules match my taste in architecture. What was a surprise is that sequins, sparkles and studs!? are okay (I am almost embarrassed to say so, but I have confidence in my stylish sensibilities, so I'm saying it.) The other surprise was that I look better flat chested than wearing a push-up bra. There are a few outfits that are exceptions, but in general, I think that subtle (in my case very subtle) curviness is best.

I also got my hair cut. I have generally liked expensive haircuts when the price includes the hairdressers sense of style. Not this time. I walked into Aveda at the mall and asked if I could get my hair done. I have often been told that if a stylist is available for a walk-in, it is best to pass on the cut. That was the attitude at Aveda and they assigned me to Tiffany. She was perfect looking. A model of classical beauty. Perfect skin, perfect facial structure, perfect body, and perfect hair. High heeled shoes. She was also washing the towels that the other stylists had used. I could tell she was young, but I also didn't get the Acck-this-will-be-a-bad-haircut sense that always precedes a bad haircut. She gave me scalp massage with scented oil. I had never had one of those before and it was great. She made washing my hair into some sort of relaxing spa therapy and then we proceeded to the haircut. I asked about her age. 18. I asked about her experience. She had been cutting hair for "a while". We discussed what to do with my hair. Neither of us had any idea. At least, not at first. She started cutting my hair and I could tell that the technical skills were all there. Then she dropped her scissors and the comb and the other stylists reassured her that she was doing okay and it hit me that hist was her first day on the job and that she was giving me her first haircut since graduating from beauty school. She was terrified but keeping it together pretty well. So I started directing her on the exact angles and lengths that I wanted my hair. I was surprised that I was able to do that. We both played with my hair and figured out that it needed a lot of texturing and a lot of layers. I made her do my bangs twice and we took them one lock at a time getting them to the exactly right length and the right contours. I was surprised that I had concrete opinions about that. In the end, it was a good haircut. Okay, better than that. It is the best haircut I have had in California. The other stylists were tremendously impressed and Tiffany was beaming. Absolutely glorious triumph written all over her face. I left her a big tip because the haircut cost very little and I have paid a lot more for haircuts nowhere near that good.

Today after our morning walk when I took my hat off, Jenny Vezzani tousled my hair a little and it was as good as when I had started the day. She told me it was the best haircut I have ever had (Even better than Pat's) and I think Tiffany may have her first regular customer.