Monday, October 27, 2008

Church and State and Proposition 8

My husband found some remarkably good articles about how Porposition 8 does not threaten the separation of church and State and how imposing same sex marriage is threatining the constitutional rights of freedom of speech and religion I really reccomend them to anybody who wants some good secular arguments on the subject. The main site has a wealth of information, well researched, and written by people of conscience who understand our nation's laws and its ramifications.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

is it a choice?

I totally believe that there are some people whose feelings are so strong that they could never have a fulfilling heterosexual relationship. On the other hand, There are many -- especially teens -- who are confused about sexuality in general, and are willing to experiment with whatever is acceptable in their peer group. I know that during puberty, I had some very weird feelings and dreams, and if I had not been taught that all sexual contact outside of marriage is a sin, and will lead to unhappiness, I probably would have done some experimentation myself, just to see what the fuss was about.

The same goes for smoking -- I often have dreams where I'm a heavy smoker. Probably, if I tried smoking, drugs, or alcohol, I would quickly become addicted, and they would become a defining part of my life. Yet I've been warned that they're not healthy physically, emotionally or spiritually, so I stay away from them. Am I missing out on something? Yeah. I don't get those highs. But do I therefore feel that my life is empty and unfulfilled? No.

The people we're doing this for are those children who, in an atmosphere of permissiveness about sexual experimentation, would make choices that would lead them to unhappiness, yet in an atmosphere that stresses abstinence until total fidelity in marriage, would make choices that will lead to eternal happiness.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Exercising my constitutional rights

As I've said before, I believe that Proposition 8 is an important moral issue. For some though, morality is whatever they decide it means that day, so makeing arguments from a moral standpoint is useless, and so we need to find other arguments. Most of them have been rehashed over and over in the blogosphere, even in my own blogs.

In a letter to my cousin, who was asking about this, I said:
In a nutshell, the non-moral arguments are these:
  1. Saying gays have a "right" to marry under the equal protection clause of the constitution says that homosexuality is on the same footing as things like gender race and age. The problem is that anyone can claim to be homosexual -- there is no test for it -- and therefore, those that self identify have enormous political power over the rest of us.
  2. If sexual orientationis a discrimination class like the others, then they will invoke the decisions from other civil rights cases to:
    1. force churches and clergy to perform gay marriages or lose their tax exempt status.
    2. force photographers and other wedding service givers to give them service even if it conflicts with their religious beliefs and there are others willing to give the service.
    3. force religious adoption agencies to place children with same sex couples or close their doors entirely.
    4. preaching against homosexual behavior in church will become classified as "hate speech" and expose churches to lawsuits

  3. Gay marriage and gay sex will be taught in school diversity and sex ed classes on the same footing as traditional marriage, and parents will have no right to ask for their children to "opt out" of these lessons.

In the name of "civil rights for gays" which some judges find implied in the constitution, they are trying to take away our first amendment rights to freedom of speech and religion which are explicitly spelled out. That's why this issue is worth fighting for, even if you don't think it's a moral issue.

In the last few days, I've been exercising another of my constitutional rights -- the right of assembly. I attended a rally for the Yes on 8 bus tour. It was obviously staged as a media event, but I can find depressingly little news coverage of it. There was a professional photographer of some sort who took some photos of Elizabeth playing with my prop 8 sign. Since we're doing this for her, and other children like her, I thought I'd post my own photo of hope for the future.

Peter, Elizabeth and I also went to a sign waving event. They had people waving Yes on 8 signs on every major intersection of a main street in town. We were there for about an hour and a half, and got an interesting reception. The majority of cars just drove by with no response. Lots of cars honked. Many people waved, yelled encouragement, and gave us a happy thumbs up. A few gave us thumbs down or booed. A couple made obscene gestures and swore at us. If those proportions show the way people feel about Proposition 8 in our town, then there are more people who really care on the pro side than against.

I'm told that the manager of the F.Y.E. store across the street, where there were more sign wavers, called the police. Evidently several police cars showed up, but the cops told the manager that we had the right to assemble on the public sidewalk. They said that we were doing it peacefully and courteously, and there was no grounds for complaint. They told the sign wavers to be sure their cars weren't parked in that business's lot, and to stay off the grass, then the police gave them a thumbs up and drove off. This is one more instance where the people on the other side are trying to deprive us of our most basic constitutional rights because they don't like what we have to say. Luckily, in this case, the law is still on our side for now.

As a side note, I also have been seeing about the same proportions in my work calling voters for the campaign. Most don't answer the phone at all. Of those that do, most say, "Yes, I'm for 8 and traditional marriage." A few hang up or refuse to answer (which is totally within their rights), and only a very few say they are against it.

I have more hope for humanity today than I did before.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

There's a study that proves...

In my conversations with people about Proposition 8 and same sex marriage, proponents often say that there's no danger in raising children in families with same sex parents. They dare you to cite one study that proves otherwise. Of course, on the spur of the moment, you can't come up with an answer because, come on, can you cite one study that proves anything on the spur of the moment?

Well Troy has saved us all the embarassment of not having a citation to hand and/or the hassle of finding just the right ones to make your point. On his blog (here's the link again), he gives an exhaustive list of "facts and sources" about the issues surrounding Prop 8.

I got this link from my brother's blog. In his post, he says, "I think that the ability of the court to overturn legislation they believe is unconstitutional is a necessary part of our government to protect the minority from the majority. So while I disagree with the court’s decision to overturn Prop 22, I can’t complain about the process for doing so. It’s not “sneaky” or “underhanded” in any way; it’s the way the government is supposed to work. However, the ability to amend the constitution is the balance to that check, and we have the ability to turn it right back."

I thought that if my brother, who is a smart guy, didn't understand why people are upset about "activist judges legislating from the bench," then there might be others who are confused too. The problem is not that the court overturned a law as unconstitutional -- that is indeed what courts are supposed to do. The problem is that the court said that since they overturned one badly written law expressly forbidding something that has never been allowed, that means that the thing which has never been allowed is now allowed, legal, and encouraged.

That's like saying that when the court overturned the handgun ban in Washington DC, everyone who wanted to could go out and buy a gun that day to keep in their homes. There are still many other laws about guns including waiting periods, licensing regulations, and permits to carry concealed weapons that still have to be followed in the wake of that decision. When a court overturns a law, conditions should return to the status quo before the law was passed, not infer that a law endorsing the opposite has been created out of thin air.

I'm going to make up a case now that has no real bearing on reality in order to make a point. I'm sure that there are problems with the legal matters in my example because of things I don't know about communications law and fraud law. Ignore those, and try to see the larger idea. Imagine that the legislature passed a law forbidding fraud using a cell phone -- fraud is already illegal, and so is committing fraud using a regular phone, but the legislature sees that somebody might say that a cell phone is a different kind of technology, and so not subject to the same rules. They write a law, which a court overturns as unconstitutional because of somethingorother (I told you there would be problems with this example, but hear me out). That does not mean that all fraud using cellphones is now legal and that any con man who wants to protect himself should just go out and get a cellphone, and then he's a law abiding citizen. Fraud is still illegal, not to mention morally wrong.

In another recent case from California. A family of eight children was being "homeschooled" by the mother. In this case, the homeschooling consisted of minimal instruction accompanied by a lot of neglect and abuse. The court said that the parents did not have a constitutional right to homeschool their kids when the mother didn't have a teaching credential, that the legal fiction they were using to enroll their children in a private school they never intended to attend was not sufficient to satisfy the law, and that the welfare concerns of these children trumped any of the other pro-homeschooling options. Parent groups were up in arms over this decision, thinking that these judges were trying to legislate from the bench, but the decision made it clear that they were concerned with this one specific case, the Department of Education did not go out that week and start charging all homeschoolers with truancy, and later court decisions affirmed that in general, homeschooling is a legal option in California. This is the way courts are supposed to work. They are supposed to say, "the law can go so far and no farther," not "this law is bad, so the opposite is now legal."

What the California Supreme Court should have done in the same sex marriage case is what the New Jersey courts did in a similar situation. They found that the state's law forbidding same sex marriage was unconstitutional, but when striking down the law, gave the legislature six months to either write a law that was constitutional, or write one that allowed same sex marriage. It's the legislature's job to write laws, not the court's.

Saturday, October 18, 2008


One thing that people who are against Proposition 8 keep saying is that it won't affect you or your family. They're lying. The major players in the No On 8 campaign are actively working to make sure that same sex marriage is taught as an acceptable alternitive in public schools to children when they are very young and impressionable. Don't believe me? This article has the facts about so called diversity education.

The thing that really upsets me is that in the Massachusetts case (see the video below if you don't know what I'm talking about), the judge ruled that parents can't opt their children out of such instruction. I've been a public school teacher. it horrifies me to think that if I went back to teaching I might be required to teach something I find deeply morally wrong. More than that, it bothers me to think that I'd have no control over what my children were taught. I can think of several things about this case that go completely against the current rules about opting out of things in schools.

  1. Parents have the right to opt their children out of sex education (at least up to a certain age). If this isn't sex education, I don't know what is.

  2. Parents of Jehovah's Witnesses children are allowed to ask that their children be automatically opted out of any discussion or celebration of holidays, among other things, despite the frequent disruption this causes in class (the disruption argument is one of the ones used to deny Masachusetts parents the right to opt out).

  3. Parents can request that their children opt out of ANY given curriculum they find offensive, and most schools comply without question. As a drama teacher, I had my kids do a play about some archaelogists in an Egyptian pyramid. They saw mummies and cats and spiders and snakes and a few of the Egyptian gods. Some of the kids' parents had them opt out because this was "teaching them to worship idols." I thought it was bunk -- I was telling the kids about what the Egyptians believed, and told them that nobody believed it anymore -- it was just their way of explaining the world. And mostly it was just a reason to learn how to put on a play and do some dances. But I had to respect the parents' wishes and send their kids to the library every week for a semester.

These people don't just want to teach about other lifestyles, they want to actively promote them. That's just not acceptable to me. And telling me that this is the one thing I can't opt out of is simply ridiculous.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Catching up with an old friend

An old friend from High School (actually my brother Mike's only HS girlfriend, if you can imagine that) contacted me this week, and as we traded emails and exchanged news, I thought that there was the makings of a good blog post in the letter, summarizing my life, and family. So here it is -- a document for history.

I went to your page and took a look at your photos -- your daughter is so cute!! It looks like she's going to be a red-head, huh? I have a lot of those in my family (lots of Scottish blood) What a sweetie!

Yeah, Elizabeth is really cute. We really hit the genetic jackpot with a red-headed girl on our first try! She also has a very easy temperament -- we call her Sweetness because, as you say, she's so sweet.

I didn't have a chance to read everything you wrote, but it looks like you have found a good, supportive group of people in your community. That's always really important. I've lived in a bunch of different places since high school, and I never feel at "home" until I've got a good group of friends.

I really do have a good group of friends here. I'm pretty shy when it comes to meeting new people, so it's hard work making friends. Luckily, most of the young mothers at Church meet Mondays at the beach, and Fridays at the park, so there's lots of time to talk.

As for Peter, I hope he finds another job soon. That's really tough, and I know a lot of people are going through what he's going through right now. I don't happen to know anyone looking for a novel editor, but I'll keep my ears open. At least there are lot of different industries in CA. I'm sure he'll find something soon.

This is the most stressful part of my life right now. Peter could do a great job in a lot of different industries, but he only WANTS to be in publishing. sigh. We do have a couple of good leads, and we're hoping one of them pans out. Until then, he has a temp job that says they'd be happy to keep him as long as he wants to stay, so at least we can get by without the whole hassle of going on welfare.

I assume you went to BYU -- when did you graduate? What did you end up majoring in? I recall that you (like all your family) were quite brilliant in high school. Did you have a career before starting you family? I always saw you as a doctor, for some reason. . .

Yeah, I went to BYU (that's where I met Peter, though we didn't get married till years later). I did a semester abroad in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1997, and graduated in 2000. I majored in Elementary Education. Directly after college, I began working for a company that makes Practice Management software for dentists, converting databases. Then I moved back to Ohio and taught school for a year until the tax base dropped out after 9-11 and all the junior teachers got laid off. I looked around and said, "I'm single and unemployed in Cleveland! What am I doing with my life?" and moved to California to start over. I lived with my grandparents and bounced around some part time jobs and substitute teaching --hoping to get a full time teaching job -- but they were having bad times in Ca too, so I ended up taking a job at an insurance brokerage doing filing and administrative work.

I got tired of some of the tedious parts of that job, and started writing programs and automating databases to make the computer to them for me. My bosses noticed, and put me on a team that was trying to do that for the entire company. It was a fun job with lots of opportunities to hobnob with the bigwigs and travel, and do creative stuff, but there was a high stress component too. The database we were working on was keeping track of billions of dollars worth of insured property and millions of dollars worth of premium, and a break down on a key day could be catastrophic. It was also my job to divine what people wanted the database to be able to do, when they couldn't put it into words themselves.

It was while I was at that job that I met Peter again, and we got married. Once our debts were paid off, I quit in order to get healthy enough to have a baby (the stress took a toll on my mental health, and that took a toll on my physical health).

I thought about going into medicine when I was in Jr. High, but quickly realized that while it might be interesting, I would be responsible for saving (or not saving) people's lives and health and happiness, and I knew that I wouldn't be able to take that kind of stress -- especially not if I made a mistake. Since I ended up with a breakdown when I was just dealing with money, I think I made the right decision.

I didn't really get a chance to ask Mike about the rest of your siblings. I know that he mentioned Doug was doing really well, and was doing some project with the Department of Defense. How is everyone else doing?

Mike's in Mt. View, Ca with Google. He's married with three boys (about 9, 4-5, and 2).

Doug just left his job in Ohio with the Air Force, and he's moving this week to Maryland, to get more schooling in his particular field of computer graphics and programming (paid for by the military) so that he can eventually make even more fancy ways to enhance and compile satellite images in realtime on the battlefield. He's married and has a son (about 4 or 5 years old).

I'm here in CA, as you know. Married with a 7 month old daughter.

David is in Oregon, pursuing a doctorate in Chemistry. He's married and has a son who's about 18 months old, with another baby on the way.

Steve just got married in March -- so no baby news yet from them. He lives in Columbus Ohio where he's working on a Master's Degree -- he wants to be a school counsellor, perhaps in an American School on a military base overseas.

Heather had her first baby, also a girl, a few months ago. She's living in Texas with her husband.

Mom and Dad are still in Amherst. Mom's parents moved in with them late last year, and Grandma has been in and out of the hospital and rehab facilities ever since, so that's rough on Mom. Daddy retired from Ford, and is having fun working on all the projects and inventions he never had time for when he was working.

I hope you'll keep me posted, and I will continue to visit your blog page to keep up with you and Elizabeth. Let me know if you're even in the Phoenix area, and we'll have to get together!

That would be fun! It's good to hear from you.


Monday, July 21, 2008

Flylady Interview

Many of you know I'm a Flybaby -- I get Flylady's emails every day telling me what chores I ought to do that day, and it's really helped me to keep my house clean. Somebody forwarded a request for an interview to the list (some journalist is doing a story about housekeeping), and I thought I'd post my answers on my blog.



Where do you live? (City, State):
Torrance, Ca

Stay at home mom/writer

Married or partner?:

Do you have children? What ages?
One daughter - 6 mo

How would you define yourself as a housekeeper? Explain.
I used to be a roller coaster housekeeper -- letting chores pile up till they NEEDED to be done, now I'm much more consistant.

How often do you clean your home? Describe your cleaning habits.
I do some house cleaning every day. I tidy up the stuff and toys that get brought out during the day, I do a load or so of laundry, I do the dishes as soon as I finish eating (no dishes get to sit in the sink -- though I do have a dishwasher, which helps). I also wipe the counters and stove/microwave every day

Once a week or so, I clean the bathrooms and vacuum, and sweep and/or mop the kitchen floor.

How satisfied are you with the cleanness of your home?
Very satisfied. I'm very proud of my home

If you are satisfied or dissatisfied, explain why.
When I was in roller coaster mode, I put things off, then felt guilty seeing clutter or dishes or laundry, and I didn't want to think about it, so I ignored it till it was really bad. Then, I'd finally get up the energy to clean, and I'd work very hard till I was exhausted. Then I'd feel like I could take a week off from working, and the stuff would pile up again.

Now, by doing a little every day, it doesn't pile up, and I don't feel guilty, and I don't have to work till I'm exhausted. I'm at peace in my home, and people are impressed when they come over.

How important do you think it is to have a clean home?
I think it's very important to have a CLEAN home for reasons of health and mental health. It's less important to have a TIDY home -- it should be OK for kids and parents to live in the house. A day or two of mess for a big project or if somebody's sick, is just fine. And if you keep it consistantly clean on a regular basis, it'll be easy to tidy up after that mess.

Do you hire a housekeeper? If so, how often does the person comes?

Do you find that many times you leave all the cleaning and de-cluttering to the housekeeper and sometimes even feel embarrassed when he/she comes?

Do you notice a difference between generations as to the importance given to keeping the home clean? If so, what differences and among which generations?
I think that at different phases in one's own life there are different standards. When you're a kid, you think there are more fun things to do than clean house. When you move out on your own, you have to find a balance, and it's easy to swing to extremes before finding it. It's easier to keep things clean before kids, and so parents may relax a bit.

I think that in my grandparents' generation, the people who lived through the Depression and the War often either hoarde things or travel light, and that can make for very dirty or very clean houses.

I think there's a lot more variation in personalities and how you were raised in regards to cleanliness rather than blanket statements for whole generations.

How would your mothers rate your home if they went for a visit?
My mom thinks I do a great job keeping house, and she's told me so.

Do you have the same standards of cleanness as your mother did? Explain why or why not.
Yes and no. I get a lot more anxious about mess than my mom did, so I probably keep my house cleaner than she did -- though I haven't got six kids yet, so I don't know how I'll be when there's more people making a mess. At the same time, Mom taught me how to clean, and how to tell when something needs cleaning, so a lot of my viewpoint is based on hers.

Do you find that many times your mother or mother-in-law, when they come to visit, end up inspecting the cleanness of your home, or give you recommendations on how to organize it and clean it better? Do you have arguments with them because of this? Please describe and offer a lot of anecdotes on this aspect.
My mother in law also thinks I do a good job. We have a great relationship, and if she had suggestions, I'd seriously consider them as coming from a loving helpful place in her heart. I even sometimes call her for advice about things (though not always housekeeping).

Do you think that your children (whether they are grown or not) and your husband/partner care less about cleaning the home as you do?
My husband definitely cares less than I do -- but he's supportive, and will do a specific task if I ask nicely and show him how it's done. We also have a kind of truce about certain things -- I don't mind if he leaves it out, if he doesn't mind if I put it away.

Do you think men are participating more in the house chores?
My husband participates about as much as my dad did in the everyday housekeeping. Neither does very much, but neither classifies it as "women's work" either. I care about it, so I do it. He doesn't, so he doesn't. But he cares about ME and he'll do what it takes to keep me happy -- including voluntarily doing dishes, taking out the garbage (sometimes without being asked), etc. I also ought to point out that bith my husband and father work(ed) full time to let their wives stay home and raise the kids.

How do you think the next generations will deal with the issue of housekeeping from what you can see today? Will they care more, care less, and why?
I think it'll be about the same. They may have better technology to help them (like I have better than my mother and grandmother did, but they'll still have to make the same decisions about a balance between time and comfort.

Do you feel that the economic recession in any way impacted how often you clean your home? For instance, have you fired the housekeeper you had, are you cleaning less because you are overworking, etc.
The recession has definitely had an effect -- My husband lost his job, so he's home all the time. This gives me the ability to have him take care of the baby so that I can focus on cleaning and cooking (which I didn't do much of before he lost his job).

How cluttered is your home?
I don't think it's cluttered -- based on what I've seen at other people's houses. On the other hand, we use ALL of our storage space.

Do you keep many things that you don't need? Like what?
I have a lot of craft supplies, children's toys for ages that I don't have in my house, LOTS of costumes, and LOTS of books. Are these things I don't need? I dunno -- I don't often use any given thing, but I often am happy that I have just the thing I was looking for when I want it. I try to give myself a limit on how much space the stuff can take up, and when I want to get a new thing, I have to make room for it by getting rid of something else.

Where do you keep stored most of the things that you no longer use or need?

Does it make you feel anxious to have so much clutter?
No -- I don't have more clutter than I can put away, and if it's put away, it doesn't make me anxious.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Tribute to Grandma

I was writing a tribute to Grandpa, and wanted to link to the tribute I wrote for Grandma in May 2007, but realized that I hadn't posted it on either of my blogs. It's on the Unitus website, but I wanted to have it somewhere handy, so that it'll end up with my other journalling. So without further ado, here it is:
I grew up thousands of miles away from my Grandma Helen, so I didn't know her very well. That changed in 2002. My husband left me, and as I was trying to put my life back together and start over, my grandparents generously opened ther home to me (as they had for several aunts, uncles and cousins in need over the years). I lived with them for almost a year while I looked for a good job and found some good roommates.

I discovered that my grandmother was an adventurous person -- she hauled her family all over Europe when Grandpa was there in the Airforce, often camping and driving in overcrowded un-airconditioned cars. Doing this she helped instill in my dad a love of great culture, operas, literature, and history -- which he then passed on to me. I know that she planned several other trips that she never got to take because of health problems, and because the people around her weren't quite so adventurous. I know she'd love to ride around Los Angeles in a limo -- standing up and looking out the skylight.

Grandma may pretend tobe overawed by her intelligent grandchildren, but she knows at least two languages, and got a masters degree with several small children at home -- that's not easy to do.

She's an excellent storyteller -- I remember that when I was little she would tell us the most wonderful stories that she made up on the spot. She also loved to read aloud to us, and kept our attention easily with her choice of stories and skill at reading.

She's kind -- she often noticed when I would come home feeling sad, lonely or depressed, and would simply put an arm around me and say that she loved me. She always has compliments ready -- she calls me her beautiful Karen. Even whe I was little I noticed it because she couldn't bear to beat any of her grandchildren at a board game, and would actively cheat to make sure that everybody was happy at the end of the game. (some of the cousins got together one day, and rigged a game of Fantasy Forest so she would beat everybody by a mile, and then MADE her play and win :) )

And now when Grandma's sick, her biggest concern is how not to be a bother to anybody and how to keep people from worrying about her.

I love my Grandma, and the more I get to know her, the more I can see that I can trace many of the things I like about who I am to her influence on my Dad, and myself.

Friday, May 30, 2008

XKCD Dreams
Every Damn Morning

I often feel like this. I dream intense, fascinating, confusing dreams almost every night. Most days, I've forgotten what they were about before my eyes are open.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Smart Baby

I just wanted to share what a smart baby I have! Today, we had to go shopping, but I didn't want to wake her up from her nap to do it. So when she woke up on her own, I fed her and put her in the carseat. She patiently sat as I drove to the post office and three stores -- looking bored, but docile. When I get home from any outing, I have to stop halfway into the driveway, take the baby out and take her insde, then take the groceries in, then fold in the rear view mirrors and pull the car forward into our very tight driveway. Elizabeth waited patiently in her carseat through most of this, but when I came into the house after pulling the car forward, she started complaining in her, "I'm tired of being strapped into this stupid carseat" voice. I quickly threw the perishable groceries in the fridge and freezer and knealt down in front of the carseat. She stopped complaining and grinned at me, wiggling happliy out of the seat as I unstrapped her.

I thought it was really cool to see how sh was familiar enough with the various situations to know that complaining at the store wouldn't get her much, but complaining on the floor at home would likely get her quick attention. I sure hope she coontinues to be willing to be patient with shopping trips in the future, and I hope that she really does understand that I'll do what I can to meet her needs when it's possible to do so.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

More dreams

I've been paying a lot of attention to housekeeping lately, and I even frequent the flylady forums, so it shouldn't surprise me that I had a house cleaning dream. We were trying to get the house cleaned before the babysitter came, and I needed Peter to help me. For some reason there were dirty dishes in the bedroom, a lot of them, and they were all full of that nasty cold greasy dirty dish water. So we had to pick them up very carefully and dump out the water in the bathroom sink before climbing through the two Christmas trees that were blocking the doorway between the bedroom and living room (Don't ask me why there were two Christmas trees there. There just were.) When I sent Peter to the store to get milk and groceries he returned home with a sixpack of IBC rootbeer (actually there were just five bottles since he had drunk one -- even though Peter DOESN'T drink rootbeer) and almost nothing else. Then the baby started crying. I went into the bedroom to pick her up and found that Peter had laid her in the wire cube shelves, and she had wiggled into a position where her head was on the shelf, but her bum was over the edge, and the middle of her back was pressing so hard on the wire at the edge of the shelf, it was making a deep red line. Her legs were sticking straight up, and her feet were stuck in the little wire squares of the shelf above her. No wonder she was upset!

Compare that to the dream I had the other night. I was at somebody's house in the subdivision Grant Thompson built at one of the Metroparks (this subdivision is a regular feature of my dreams. I've seen the entire construction and landscaping. My brain is sure it exists). The back porch of the house looks out on a beautiful large pond. I went out to watch the sunrise over it, and there were flocks of pretty yellow birds. Then a herd of horses came down to drink and swim in the lake. They were happy and playful and there were several baby horses with their mothers. It was such a peaceful, happy scene. Somebody came and brought me hot chocolate, and I just sat and sipped, and drank it all in.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008


Peter thinks I should write down my dreams -- not because they make sense in any plot sort of way, but because they don't seem to make any sense at all. Last night we were living homeless -- in a cheerful Bohemian sort of way. We slept in a couple of different places: a community center with a couple of hundred other people bedding down on the floor (they all seemed to be there by choice having given up the materialism of ownership); a big bed on somebody's veranda with a couple of other people, where we could wake up to watch the sun rise over the ocean; a dingy hotel where Dad was staying for some reason; and a very posh hotel where Mom was staying for some reason. I have the feeling that Mom was on the lam, and had some sort of contraband hidden in her backpack under the knitting. At the posh hotel, we went to a concert of experimental music where a lady played a drum accompaniment to the sound of various types of bread and fruits being fed into a wood chipper. At the intermission, everybody went up and ate beautiful hors d'oeuvres made of the chopped food.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Seven Random Things

  1. I don't like food. I don't like cooking, and in general, I don't like eating. Occasionally I'll enjoy really good food at a restaurant, or some really flavorful fresh produce, but if I could survive without eating I would.

  2. I'm a packrat. I love to collect and organize things, and I love to have a complete set of something. I do give myself space limits, though, and frequently purge in order to keep my house from overflowing.

  3. I memorize things easily -- often without trying. Other things, I just remember exactly where to find the information which is almost as good.

  4. I'm very shy socially. Many people don't believe this because I try so hard to do things to make up for it, but meeting new people is incredibly hard for me.

  5. I like to make origami. Many people, when they see my origami collection (or my crocheting, or cross stitching or any number of other things I do) say they'd never have the patience to do that. I respond that it's not patience that accomplished them, but nervous energy -- I can't sit still.

  6. I think hedgehogs are some of the cutest animals in the world, and I know how to say hedgehog in over 40 languages.

  7. For my job, I get to do English adaptations for several manga series. When they're first translated, depending on the skill of the translator, the books are more or less written in Engrish. It's my job to smooth out the grammar, throw in some slang, and generally make it sound like native English. The hardest things to do are puns--sometimes the translator doesn't even try and just says, "Insert pun here." It's also tough to know what to do with phrases that just sound dumb in English like, "I will show you the power of my Justice!" (BTW: I work on +Anima, Silver Diamond, Dazzle, GetBackers, and Kyo Kara Maoh)

As for tagging somebody else to do this, everybody who reads my blog and has a blog of their own has already done it, so I guess it's a moot point.

Peter looks like 'Lizbeth

Here's a comment I made on Peter's Mom's blog that I thought I'd post here too:

I do see a lot of Peter in Elizabeth -- and occasionally a bit of Elizabeth in Peter. A couple weeks ago when he was sick, I went into the bedroom to ask him if he'd like some soup. He had been drowsing, and when he jolted awake, he flung his arms out, and stared around wide-eyed just like she does.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Heater vents

Today a man from the utility company came to do an energy efficiency check on our house. He put in 10 CFL's, replaced the showerheads, and checked for links in the heating ducts. Something about the whole process stirred a childhood memory that I want to share here.

When we lived in the white house in Michigan, there was a heating vent in the living room under an end table. When the heat came on, I (and my siblings) liked to crawl under the table and just soak up the hot air from the heater. We also liked to put coats over the vent to get them nice and toasty warm before we went outside. Mom allowed this, but only on a small scale. every so often, she'd come in and tell us that we had to move away from the vent because if we kept it covered, the hot air would never reach the thermostat and the furnace would stay on indefinitely. As a child, I could never figure out why this was a bad thing. I liked sitting by the heater when it was on, and sitting by the heater made it stay on, so why should I move and let it turn off?

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Christmas Letter

I wanted to post our Christmas Letter here, but since I assume that nearly everyone who reads this blog regularly got one in the mail, I thought I'd wait until I was sure they'd all arrived before posting it. Anyway, here it is.

Dear Family and Friends,

I almost didn’t bother writing a Christmas letter this year because the two really big pieces of news are things that you’ve all been fully aware of for six months or more. But as I got to thinking about it, I realized that it’s nice to have something to send out along with a generic Christmas card, and it’s a good habit to get into. Then, when I started looking back on what has happened this year, I found that there’s more than enough to fill a letter, so here goes:
  • Our most exciting news is that our family is about to get bigger! Our first baby is due to arrive around January 10th. The doctor says it’ll be a little girl, and we’ve pretty much decided to call her Elizabeth Anne Ahlstrom. People have been very generous, and it looks like we’ve got most of the things we’ll need. I’m really excited about FINALLY getting to be a mom at last, and I hope I’ll turn out to be a good one. Peter says, “I am also excited and I’m sure that Karen will be a great mom.”
  • Our second biggest piece of news is that we bought a mobile home this summer, and we’re now living in Torrance. It means that Peter’s commute is much longer than it was when we were living within a few blocks of his office, but it also means that we have room for the new baby, we have a bit of yard (though not a very big bit), and we know that there will be a place to park our cars every time we come home. You can see pictures of the mobile home in the November posts in my blog:
  • With the new home comes a new ward, and we’re very happy to be in this one. The demographics of our LA ward made it rather disorganized, and it’s nice to be back in a ward where all of the organizations are at least functioning. The ward members are very friendly, and we made several friends almost immediately. We were a bit worried when they announced that they’d be reorganizing the stake a few months ago, but luckily all our friends moved with us to the new ward, so that was OK. Peter has been called as a Ward Membership Clerk (Peter says, “But they still need to give me a key to the office.”), but I don’t have a calling yet -- I assume they want to let me relax till the baby is born.
  • At work, Peter got promoted to Editor. I’ll let him tell you what that means. Peter says, “That means I am in charge of my own books instead of just marking mistakes in other people’s books. It’s lots of fun.” For those of you who’ve forgotten, Peter works for TOKYOPOP, a company that mostly prints Japanese comics in English. If you look in the Manga section of your local bookstore (Peter says, “Usually next to the Science Fiction”), you’ll find a lot of their books, many of which have Peter’s name in the credits. He also spends a lot of time moderating their online forums.
  • I’ve been doing several things as part-time work. I tutor low income children (paid for by the NCLB act -- its one good point as far as I can tell). I’ve been doing contract work for TOKYOPOP, making the direct translations sound more like something English speakers would actually say. I’ve also been teaching some dentists I know how to use their computer systems (since I used to work for Dentrix, the company that makes their practice management software).
  • It’s nice living closer to Grandma and Grandpa Stay. I was able to spend quite a bit of time down there when Grandma was so sick, and now I go down about once a week to visit and make sure their bills get paid, and their electronic gadgets keep working. I’ve really enjoyed being able to really get to know them since I moved out here a few years ago.
  • In June, just after we moved into the new house, we took a trip to Ohio. We got all of Peter’s stuff from his parents (Peter says, “Actually there is still some stuff left.”), and a LOT of my stuff as well. I now have a game closet fully stocked with all my old dolls and toys. It was great fun to see all the tiny clothes Mom had made for Strawberry Shortcake and friends.
  • Another fun thing we’ve been doing this year is reading the books written by Peter’s friend Brandon Sanderson, and sending him comments on them. He often sends us rough drafts of stories, and it’s fun to see the progression from concept to reality. Peter says, “Unlike some people’s friends who write books, his are actually published. You can find them in the bookstore. They are called: Elantris, Mistborn, and Alcatraz vs the Evil Librarians.”
  • Finally, my other literary pursuit is my poetry blog, which I’ve been writing for more than six months now. I don’t manage to post every day, but I do generally have several posts each week. Along with a poem, I post my thoughts on poetry in general, philosophy, and what’s going on in my life. You can find it at

Well, that’s about all we have to say at the moment. We love you all, and miss having you around. If you ever visit LA (even for a long layover at the airport) we’d love to see you!

Karen and Peter Ahlstrom (and the baby)

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

New Year's 2008

Here's an email Peter wrote about our New Year's eve, which was just about the right amount of activity for us
Happy Happy Happy Everyone!!

We got back from our New Year's Get-Together a few minutes ago. We went to a local couple (Susanna and Rob)'s house, with both their mothers and one father. (Their kids went to bed before we got there a bit before 9.) We played Rummikub, and then got the idea to get the Chaos Toy, so I drove home and got it (3 blocks or so). The rest of the evening was spent putting it together. It wasn't quite done at midnight, but we finished it off shortly thereafter (after watching the New York ball drop replay on TV) and fired it up. For something thrown together, it worked pretty well! Not all the balls fell off every time, and it had a trampoline, two catches, two drops, a vortex, a pendulum split, a couple bells, and a bell drop. Maybe in a few days we will have some pictures to share (we forgot to bring our camera, but Susanna took some pictures).


I wanted to go out this year, though not to any big party, because I think that if you simply sit at home with no real plan on New Year's Eve, you might as well just go to bed. I remember clearly just when I decided this. It was the night of Dec 31, 1998 to Jan 1, 1999. I believe that my family had all been in Utah for Christmas, but had to drive home before New Year. I had just moved into the Allred apartments -- after the long process of getting out of the second half of my contract for the last apartment because of problems with roommates, and bad living conditions in general -- but I hadn't met any of my roommates except my cousin Holly since they were all elsewhere on winter break. I don't remember where Doug was that day, but I ended up spending New Year's Eve all alone in the new apartment. I watched the six hour Pride and Prejudice, pausing it at midnight to watch the ball drop. Somewhere in Provo, they were setting off fireworks, so I went out on the porch to watch them, and shared my ramen noodles with a stray cat. It was extremely depressing in a start-of-While-You-Were-Sleeping sort of way, and I decided that it was important to me not to spend any more New Years alone.