Saturday, August 30, 2008

Pop or Soda?

As a Minnesota transplant I’ve noticed a number of terms here that we just simply didn’t use in southern California when I was growing up. If you live in Minnesota you’ll be able to guess some of the more obvious ones like “you bet” or “oof da”, which seems to be losing its popularity amongst the younger crowd, but you get the point. Then, there are the pronunciation differences in words like “roof”. When most Minnesotans say roof it sounds more like the sound a dog makes when it barks than with the long “o” sound that you’d hear in words like choo-choo train. I will admit to having changed my vernacular over the years so that now I have this sort of half Minnesotan/half west coast kind of accent that baffles the best of linguists.

I don’t know when it was that I actually started calling soft drinks pop, but it’s been the term I’ve used for many years now. So much so, that when I visit other parts of the country I’m not really sure what to call it in order to get my point across. If I say, “what kinds of pop do you have?” in the south, I’m afraid they’ll ramble off the different types of guns they sell!

Someone, who apparently feels that what people call soft drinks is a vital issue, actually did a study on it and determined the terms used all over the country. This map has details from each county throughout the United States and how the people in those counties refer to soft drinks.

Click here to see a larger version. The people in Alaska and Nevada seem to have differing opinions throughout the states. How do they manage? Is there a potential for soft drink wars in those states?

The thing that cracks me up the most is the number of states that refer to all soft drinks as Coke. I’m sure the Coca-Cola people are happy, but isn’t that confusing? “Would you like a Coke?” “Sure, bring me a Dr. Pepper.” I’m going to the East Coast next month. Out there it's soda - besides practicing a Bostonian accent (like I could ever pull that off), I’ll have to remember to call it soda. Maybe I’ll just drink water.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Our church practices what’s known as “believer’s baptism” and every year at our annual church picnic a number of people are baptized. This year, John decided to be one of them. He grew up in the Catholic tradition and was therefore baptized as an infant. I grew up Methodist, so was also baptized as an infant, but did a believer’s baptism at a Baptist church I attended in high school. (It’s not that we’re church hoppers, it’s just that God has taken us through many paths on our way to the one we are currently traveling.)

I was excited for him but I really didn’t think I’d be so emotional. Pastor Anthony told me afterwards that he thought they’d have to come down and help me, but I made it through. Before each baptism the pastors spend some time talking to the person who is going to be baptized. I’ve always wondered what it is they talk about. Is it deeply spiritual, are they just telling them to plug their noses, what? So, I asked John what it was they were saying. No kidding, this is what he told me. “I told them that I’d always planned to be baptized by Billy Graham in the Jordan River but I finally decided that wasn’t going to happen.” Where does he come up with this stuff?

In addition to the baptism, the whole picnic was a blast. Great food, perfect weather, and I got to hang out with some of my most favorite people in the world.

John is apparently cracking jokes with the pastors before his baptism.

All smiles with Pastor Anthony Richards and Pastor Justin Mack.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I spent part of tonight watching some Olympic diving. I love the diving but I seriously have to wonder who comes up with this stuff. Did someone just say one day, “why don’t we put a platform 10 meters above the pool, tell some unknowing fool to do a handstand, then push himself out, twist around a couple times and land in the water with perfect form?” I can tell you what would happen if I tried to do a handstand on a platform 10 meters above the water (or anywhere really). I’d either fall off, hit my head and land comatose in the water, OR I’d land flat on my back on the platform and would be forced to lay there, cameras focused on my contorted face, as I waited for the paramedics to arrive.

When I was in high school I was on the swim team – junior varsity. In other words, I wasn’t a star swimmer, but they let me try. I must admit my favorite part of being on swim team was getting to have a chunk of a giant Hershey bar before the meets. Apparently, the sugar in the bar was to give us extra energy. Whatever - just pass the chocolate!

At one point, I decided that the divers were super cool and looked so graceful going into the water. I should be a diver. I talked to our swim coach and she agreed to let me try it out. It looked so easy. Of course, I would start on the low board. I’m not sure how many dives I actually did, but I clearly remember when Mrs. Warren, my coach, told me to go on the board, turn around, jump backwards, then dive forward into the pool. I got on the board, turned around to face backwards, and considered the idea of jumping backwards and then heading back TOWARDS the board. After several moments of standing there doing nothing, I looked at Mrs. Warren and said, “You know, I don’t think I really want to be a diver after all.” I think she was relieved.

Sure, I may have given up being super cool, or winning an Olympic Gold, but at least I don’t have a huge scar across my forehead. Besides, if I ever won a gold medal, I’d be the one standing on the podium bawling. My face would be red and scrunched up, snot would be running out my nose, and any semblance of super coolness that I might have acquired through the years would be totally lost. I think I made the right decision.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Alum or Paprika?

Though I had some plans for this afternoon, they ended up being cancelled. That left me with the dilemma of what to do with all my free time.

I decided there are a few things in my house that need some organization. O.K., that is a humongous understatement. There are great quantities of organizational projects staring me in the face. I decided to pick the one that was bugging me the most. While this narrowed down my options, it still left me choosing between my bedroom closet and my spice cupboard. I know it sounds strange, but I can spin that stupid lazy Susan around five times looking for the desired spice. Since I don’t much like cooking anyway, the “spinning time” only added to my frustration. So, armed with some new “spice information,” I tackled the cupboard.

First of all, let me share with you my “spice information.” The McCormick Company says that ANY spice of theirs that is in a tin (other than black pepper) OR was packaged in Baltimore, MD is at least 15 years old. The life expectancy of ground spices stored in a cool, dry place is 2 – 3 years and, for leafy herbs it’s only 1 – 3 years, depending on the herb. That information eliminated the alum and paprika from my cupboard right off the bat. I wasn’t so surprised to have unused alum because, seriously, what do you use that for? According to the package, which by the way, is still in pristine condition, it’s used for pickles and relishes. Alrighty then, that explains why I have an entire unused container. Perhaps it was a shower gift when I got married 33 years ago!

Upon taking stock of my spices, I discovered that I had doubles of allspice, bay leaves, dill weed (I actually had three of these), garlic salt, nutmeg, ground mustard, pepper, poppy seeds, crushed red pepper, tarragon leaves, and peppermint extract (which technically isn’t a spice but still, I have two.) I had to throw away a few jars of spices packaged in Baltimore, MD, and then a few that I would clearly never, ever use. Once, I decided on what to keep, I alphabetized them all. This may sound a bit over the top but I had my spices in alphabetical order about 20 years ago and I loved it. Then, my girlfriend, who loves to organize, came for a visit and talked me into putting them in “spice groupings,” such as “Italian spices,” ”pumpkin pie spices,” etc. It sounded like a good idea but I later discovered that this method only works for people who know what goes in each category. I haven’t a clue. When I make spaghetti, I use Ragu. It comes pre-spiced so my Italian spices sit idle.

After the “spice group stage,” I’ve had 18 years of a completely disorganized stage. I know this exact time frame because it happened when we remodeled the kitchen. In my frenzy to get the kitchen items out of my dining room and back into the cupboard I just threw the spices in with a promise to someday alphabetize them again. And today, it finally came! It was WAY more fun to make dinner tonight. I mean, I still prefer to order out, but hey, I found every spice I needed in one spin or less.

It’s still possible that there are spices in my cupboard that are more than say, five or ten years old. Wouldn’t you think they’d label them with an expiration date? It would surely up their sales. Maybe I’ll send McCormick a letter – someday. In the meantime, do you think I could get big money at the antic store for the tins of alum and paprika?

Before organization!

After organization - finally in alphabetical order again.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Olympics are Killing Me

I’m having some issues with the Olympics. I’ve mentioned in my previous blogs that I’m a fan of the games and I hate to miss my favorite sports – Swimming, Gymnastics, and Diving. My issue, however, is that I haven’t been to bed much before 1:00 a.m. for the last week! I’m too old for this! Apparently, I’m not the only one having issues with sleep because on tonight’s Olympic coverage they gave tips for dealing with sleep deprivation. Tips like “tell yourself you only need four hours of sleep” (yeah, that will work), “stay hydrated”, and one of my personal favorites, “wear sunglasses to cover up your red eyes.”

Add to the lack of sleep the stress of the close races, the disappointment of some interesting judging, and it appears that I could be dead if this goes on much longer. Thank goodness there are only six days left! Then, I’ll have time to watch the events I’ve had to record and another four years to rest up.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Super Suits

Tonight, the United States swimming team won the gold medal in the Olympic 400-meter medley relay, making it the 8th gold medal for swimming superstar, Michael Phelps. I have to admit, I was pretty stressed just watching the race from home. I can’t imagine being his mother in the stands. I’m excited for Michael. They are calling him the “best Olympian of all time” and sure, that’s good for him. But more importantly, he dared to dream a big, bodacious dream and he made it. It makes me wonder what the rest of us could do if we really dared to dream.

Another interesting turn in Olympic swimming is the breaking of 20 world records. They say it’s because of these fancy, new Fastskin LZR Racer Swimsuits. Supposedly, they help reduce the drag in the water and make Michael Phelps "feel like a rocket in the water.” That could be, though I do wonder if anyone has actually measured the pool in Beijing to be sure it’s truly 50m long. What I really want to know is if these suits are available for other applications? For instance, could there be a super suit for cooking, laundry, and cleaning that would allow you to get all those jobs done in record time? I want one of those.

I heard a funny story today about former Olympian Mark Spitz who won seven gold medals back in 1972 while I was busy wondering if he was too old for me. He had (as any middle age woman knows) a mustache back then, which is unusual for any competitive swimmer. The Russian coach asked him about why he had a mustache and wouldn’t that slow him down? He admits to feeling a little impish that day and told the coach that the mustache allowed the water to deflect away from his mouth, helped raise his rear end, and made him bullet shaped in the water. Even though he’d intended to shave it off before competition, he kept it and won the seven medals. The next year all of the Russian swimmers had mustaches. Spitz’s iconic mustache was apparently the 1972 version of the super suit.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Living your Strengths

Warning – potentially long book review ahead. Actually, it’s a review of two books, maybe that’s why it’s so wordy.

I bought the books Strengths Finder 2.0 and Living Your Strengths for the purpose of figuring out what I’m going to be when I grow up. I think it’s time. I first bought Strengths Finder 2.0 because of someone’s recommendation. Then, I was told that Living Your Strengths was written for people who worked within the church environment, so I bought it. Both books include a code to allow you to go online and take the Clifton Strengths Finder assessment. The basic premise is that we all have innate talents and when we add skill and knowledge to the talents it develops our strengths. So, in fact, what the assessment is really looking for are our inborn talents.

I absolutely loved these books. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous when I went online to take the test. I mean, what if I got all done and it turned out that my real talent was something I hated doing? How horrible would that be? Would I then feel obligated to spend the rest of my life creating spread sheets when I’d really rather write a book? But, I was both relieved and surprised at what I thought was a pretty accurate assessment of my strengths. You’d think it would be possible to make the test say what you wanted it to say but really, it’s not as easy as you might think. I wonder how they come up with this stuff? Figuring that out is not one of my strengths.

There is an age old adage that says “you can be anything you want to be.” It’s true, of course, but a bit misguided. Sometimes that old adage has us thinking that we should work really hard so that we can be the best at something for which we really have no talent. My conclusion from this book is that while we can be anything we want to be, we can be so much more if we learn and develop our strengths. One of the books uses the analogy of the famous Notre Dame football player wanna be, Rudy. Rudy, for those of you who haven’t seen the movie, wanted, more than anything, to play football for Notre Dame, but he really didn't have much talent in that area. Rudy talked the coach into giving him a spot on the football practice team. (You really need to see the movie to get the whole story.) At the end of the movie, Rudy gets to play for five minutes of the last game of his senior year. It’s a great, feel good story. BUT, imagine what Rudy could have done if he’d put the same effort into an area where he had a real talent? Joe Namath, on the other hand, had a great talent for football, put forth an extreme effort, and is now known as being one of the best football players of all time.

Suffice it to say that this book encourages you to develop your innate talents and work in those areas. What a concept! And the best thing about working in the area of your strengths is that it gives you the freedom to quit trying to be someone you were never created to be, and start being the person God created you to be. I would highly encourage everyone to get a copy of this book, read it, take the assessment test, and start living their strengths! God may have some amazing things waiting for you that you have never considered. Or, better yet, you may feel totally affirmed in the areas you are already using your strengths. Whatever you do, don't wait until your over 50 to figure this out!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not Shocked, but Definitely Dismayed

If you didn't see them, you most definitely have heard by now that the Opening Olympic Ceremony was incredible. I mean, you'd have to be living in a bubble to have missed the talk about them. But tonight, I read an article regarding some lip-syncing going on during the ceremony. This news saddened me, not because I'm so opposed to lip-syncing, but because of the reason the decision to lip-sync was made.

If you saw the ceremonies, you'll remember the adorable little girl with pig-tails singing and smiling her way through "Hymn to the Motherland" as the Chinese flag was brought into the stadium. But, as it turns out, it wasn't her voice we were hearing. Apparently, a contest was held to determine who would sing this particular song, and a little girl named Yang Peiyi was chosen to sing. But, at the last minute, it was determined that she was not pretty enough to sing at the opening ceremony. (Yes, you read that right.) An executive member of the Chinese government decided that Yang did not fit the image they wanted to portray of their country, due to her buck teeth. Mind you, Yang Peiyi is a beautiful little girl, it's just that she is 7 years-old and her brand new teeth don't quite fit into her mouth yet.

I realize that the Chinese government is not known for building self-esteem in their nation's children, but seriously, this is a crime! It makes me wonder if China, and even those of us in the United States, wouldn't be better off, if little girls and boys were encouraged, instead of discouraged. And, can I just say to the Chinese officials, "if perfect teeth, perfect hair and perfect facial features are what brings you pride, perhaps you need to consider pulling some of your athletes out of the competition. Why should the rules be different for the athletes?"

Yang Peiyi, you are beautiful, and you have a dynamite voice. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Sunday, August 10, 2008


The Chinese are very big into numbers. Apparently, the number 8 is a good number because the Mandarin word for eight (ba) sounds very similar to the Mandarin word for wealth or prosperity (fa). This is apparently why the Chinese officials chose to start the Olympic opening ceremony at 8:08 p.m. on 8-8-08. And, it seems that some 16,400 marriages in China began on August 8. From what I read, there isn’t actually any kind of a ceremony that day for the couples, it’s just the day that they go to the courthouse, pick up their marriage certificate and “poof” they are married.

Now, on the American side, there was a baby girl born in Fergus Falls, MN on 8-8-08 at 8:08 a.m. weighing in at 8 pounds 8 ounces. What are the odds? And now, for the somewhat freaky part; I posted a blog on August 8 regarding the start of the Olympics. I realized after the fact that it was my 88th blog post. I’m not really into lucky numbers, and I certainly didn’t have the forethought to plan it as my 88th blog, so as I said, I just find the whole thing a bit freaky!

It doesn’t really matter what date it is, I still love the Olympics. My favorites are swimming, diving, and gymnastics so these first few days have been awesome!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

33 years

Today, John and I are celebrating our 33rd wedding anniversary. I’m sure that there are some who placed bets that we wouldn’t make it this long. We are quite opposite, to be sure, but we started this marriage with a promise to see it through to the end, and we aren’t the type to break our promises. The other day, I was talking with a friend and she commented how, after 30 years of marriage, she had finally learned that there is no use trying to change her husband. I don’t think I actually quit trying for 31 years, but I did eventually figure out this important truth. There is no way I’m going to change John. Heaven knows I’ve tried, but you know what? Once I gave up trying, I was a lot happier. I’m sure John was, too. My comment to my friend was, “all those people getting divorced after 25 years of marriage are just giving up too soon. If they could just hold on for five more years, they might make it!”

There is a Bible verse in Titus 2:4 that says “These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.” It seems, much to my dismay, that I am now one of the older women. This means I need to pass this truth onto the young girls in my life. Quit trying to change your husbands. It’s not going to happen. Learn to appreciate what’s good about them. Or, as my former mentor, Linda, told me, “stop looking at the hole and focus on the donut.” I’m glad I did. I love my man!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Let the Games Begin

I love the Olympics. I’m not sure why. I mean, in general, I’m not a sports fan. But the Olympics seem so much bigger than sports. Tonight I’m watching the opening ceremony. It is nothing short of amazing! What I’ve loved the most is watching the children. I can’t help but be reminded of little Jack that I met in China while visiting in 2006. We were visiting a Chinese, upper class, Kindergarten classroom. Jack, who also had a Chinese name, that I can neither pronounce nor remember, was 3½ at the time. He stole my heart. as I sat by watching him color. He would color for a few minutes, then get a great big smile on his face, look at me, and speak very quickly in Chinese – he could have spoken slowly but, it wouldn’t have helped my understanding. After I affirmed whatever it was he’d just said, Jack would go back to his coloring. As we left the classroom that day I was nearly in tears. I knew I’d never see Jack again. I felt the Lord speak to me as I left and remind me that even though I’d never see Jack again in this world, I could pray for him. And I have. I fully expect to meet up with Jack in heaven someday. I can’t wait to see him.

Jack is on the right side of this picture. How could I not fall in love with this adorable little guy?

As I’m typing this the Olympic athletes are walking into the stadium. The announcer has said that, in the past, 87 of the 204 nations that participate in the Olympics have NEVER won a medal. Tonight is their moment in the sun, and they are well aware of the fact that they most likely will go home before the week is out. But, for this moment, tonight (more correctly, this morning), these Olympic athletes are all together. And, I guess that’s what I like about the Olympics. For a few short days, it seems as though the world is getting along. I know they aren’t, mind you, but it appears that they are, and I love it. I love the pageantry, I love the spirit, and I’m amazed by the hard work put forth by all of the athletes. Their dedication to their sport is nothing short of incredible. Let the games begin!

Thursday, August 7, 2008

First Thursday Fun Fest

There were big things going on in Cannon Falls tonight. First of all, our bank had free brats (the edible type, not the undisciplined children type) and "fixings", so yay, I didn't have to make dinner! Who can pass up that opportunity? Then, the downtown merchants had some sidewalk sales; plus there were bands, artists selling their goods, and a whole plethora of local people. Good times.

As we headed back home, John looked at me and said, "How many votes did you get tonight?" I looked at him quizzically. He tells me I work the crowd like a politician. He's sure I could win if I'd just run for something. Well maybe, until they all figure out I know nothing about politics, and that, in fact, my brain starts to misfire when the subject comes up.

The local police had a booth at this shindig. They passed out a list of things that I should have packed in a backpack in case of emergency. They call it the grab and go bag. It should include, in addition to the normal emergency items, a set of comfortable clothes, a lightweight blanket, an extra pair of shoes and a minimum of a gallon of drinking water. Oh, and a good book, playing cards and crossword puzzles. What I want to know, first of all, is where do I buy a back pack large enough for all of these items (the list is quite extensive), and secondly, who is going to carry it for me in the said emergency? I mean seriously, it's going to weigh over 50 pounds by the time I get it packed. And, what if by the time the emergency comes the clothes are too big, or worse yet, too small? Everyone in the family is supposed to have one and we are supposed to keep it by our beds. Are you kidding me? I'm supposed to keep a 50 pound back pack next to my bed where I can trip on it in the middle of the night? And then, I'm supposed to remember to grab said back pack should I need to evacuate quickly in the event of a fire? Wouldn't it make more sense to just put a wallet next to my bed and stick a couple hundred dollars in it to buy this stuff with once the emergency happens? In the event of a global emergency, I can't really imagine that my one gallon of water is going to make a difference between life and death. Who comes up with this stuff?

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Weekend fun

This past weekend we were in Lutsen, MN for John's niece's wedding. It was a true Minnesota North Shore experience. John's sister, Pat, graciously invited us to the rehearsal dinner, even though all we'd be doing for the wedding would be sitting in our chairs. I didn't need to rehearse that. I have sitting down to an art form. But, the rehearsal dinner on the Lutsen resort beachfront was great. It was a perfect Minnesota evening, complete with a bonfire.

Saturday dawned as a perfect day for a beach wedding. By the time Anna, John's niece, walked down the aisle it was 72 degrees with a slightly overcast sky, which kept us from roasting in the sun. You couldn't ask for better wedding weather. It was beautiful.

Anna and Jason had a little different take on the unity candle theme, and used water instead. Perfect for a wedding on the beach, and still conveys the same meaning! Note the flowers in Anna's hair. Jason's mom told us at the rehearsal dinner that Jason had once said that when he got married he wanted his bride to wear flowers in her hair and go barefoot. How cute is that? He got the flowers but I'm fairly certain there were shoes on Anna's feet.
Anna's niece (and our great - or is it grand? - niece), Grace, was the flower girl. As a song was played during ceremony she just had to dance and twirl. Really, what else can a four-year-old, who takes dance classes, do? It was adorable.

We took a little time for fun with our kids during the weekend, too. Before we left on Sunday morning we went to the Alpine Slide on Lutsen mountain. I always like to do things that, deep down, scare me to death, but that I'm pretty sure I won't die from. What a blast! I would have gone for the 40 ride pass if we'd had more time. I was accused of racing my niece (not Anna - Emily - who was joining us for the drive home) down the hill on our second turn down the mountain. But, seriously, we weren't racing, I just went a little faster on the slow track than I did on my first trip. I'm way more adventuresome once I'm sure I won't be killed having fun!