Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Some thoughts on pretty, in honor of my 41st birthday

The embarrassing truth is that apparently, all this time, being pretty was wrapped up in my self-identity. And yet, as I look in the mirror on this my forty-first birthday, I have to admit: my lifetime supply of pretty is rapidly diminishing.

I recently happened upon this blog post and was struck by the line, “You don’t have to be pretty.”
"You don't owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don't owe it to your mother, you don't owe it to your children, you don't owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked 'female.'"
I realized that a lot of my uncomfortable feelings about my forty-year-old face and body came from a feeling that to some extent I owed it to people to be pretty. To my mother, to my children, to my husband. But why? 

Pretty is like the shallow cousin to beauty. The Lady GaGa to Madonna. The Lindsay Lohan to Elizabeth Taylor. The Rihanna to Michelle Obama. In real life, I don’t go too much for pretty. I've always been more attracted to, found more beauty in things that are a little worn or off-center or unmatched. I’m a fan of pied beauty.

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And all trades, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled, [fortyish] (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        10
                  Praise him.

When I look at older women—and lately I've been doing that a lot. Checking out jowls and necks and brows, comparing, trying to figure out how some women manage to look old but beautiful—I admire most the ones that are more than pretty. The ones whose faces show strength of will, force of character, life. And when I look at young women—Those smooth foreheads! That glowing skin!—sometimes the prettiness looks a little unformed. Those unlined faces look to me literally incomplete. And I think there will be more beauty when time seasons a little of that pretty.

It felt like a revelation and a relief (and okay, maybe a bit of sour grapes) to just let go of pretty. Elegant, handsome, stylish, beautiful, confident, striking, fit, attractive—these I’m hoping for a lifetime supply of. But pretty, my stores on that are running low. And maybe I’m okay with that.

Friday, October 26, 2012

How to Make an Awesome Blanket Fort

Do "forts" have the cachet at your house that they have here? Every few weeks we build a fort that takes over an entire room.

The tricky part is often the ceiling. Like in this picture from last year. The kids had used buckets of toys and boxes of books to try to hold blankets up for the ceiling. And it all came crashing down.

Fortunately, I have now figured out The Best Way to Make an Awesome Blanket Fort for the Amazement and Entertainment of All Your Friends.

Step 1: Make two rows out of your kitchen chairs. The chairs are the four corners of your fort.

Step 2: Fit each corner of a fitted sheet over the chairs. This is your ceiling.

Step 3: Drape sheets over each side. These are your walls.

Step 4: Enjoy. Bring in snacks, clipboards and crayons, a mini DVD player, a stack of books, your sister...

Friday, October 19, 2012

6 Word Love Poem: October

The truth is, it's been a long week. Teenager trouble, car trouble and the resultantly exacerbated money trouble. Then Mark took Logan and my car (now shipshape) to Goblin Valley with the Young Men for the weekend, leaving me and kids stranded and a little bored.

Good day to take the long view and post another 6-word love poem in honor of our upcoming twentieth anniversary:

Thrift store. Temple altar. Target. Turkey?

One of our first dates was to a thrift store. Target seems to encapsulate a lot about our life now. Turkey is on our list of places we'd like to go. (along with Bhutan, Jerusalem, Costa Rica, Rome, Mumbai...) You know, when we're old and free from teenager trouble, car trouble, and money trouble.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Year Less

This morning while we were all getting ready to go to Levi's soccer game, we turned on the TV to listen to the beginning of General Conference. While I was making my bed, I heard President Monson announce that, effective immediately, young men were eligible to go on missions at age eighteen instead of having to wait until nineteen. Tick, tick, tick, it dawns on me that this means Roscoe will likely leave for his mission this summer. In just a few months.

For a couple years now I've been on a conscientious program to gradually prepare myself for Roscoe leaving on his mission. For the day I pull into the MTC driveway, drop him off, and drive away not to lay eyes upon him again for two years. No matter how much I love the gospel and cherish the beautiful image of Roscoe growing the testimonies of himself and others, this is a hard pill for a loving mama to swallow.

We had thought that he would graduate this spring, go to college--probably here in Utah--for a whole year, then go on his mission the following summer. And we've been counting down, cherishing each of the months he lives under our roof, imagining him coming home for movie parties and laundry-thons on weekends. We've always known that our family's time as a complete whole--with both Roscoe and Betsy on scene--would be precious and short.

And now it's a whole year shorter.

Within seconds of hearing President Monson's announcement, I began to sob. I cried and cried and cried. I just couldn't stop. We just lost Roscoe! I kept thinking. The tears flowed and flowed. And I decided to let them. Let's just get a bunch of this out of the way, I thought. It was the good kind of crying, the kind that lets a wave of sadness come out and have its moment in the sun before melting away.

About forty minutes later, we seriously needed to get out the door to that soccer game. So I crawled out of the corner (literally), washed my face, and headed out the door. Much to my relief--and that of my confused family--I was better. Ready to start scheming and planning and getting excited about what's before Roscoe. As the day has progressed, I've started to feel about the imminence of Roscoe's mission the way I always have about the imminence of a new baby: That this is a much-needed impetus for our family to take it to a higher level. This is an opportunity to do more of what we believe is most important in life.

The crazy thng is that Roscoe's out of town for the weekend. We haven't talked to him about any of this at all! I'm thinking it's a good thing he wasn't here to witness what shall surely be known among the Qshurst-McGee children as The Day Mom Totally Lost It for No Reason We Could Discern Whatsoever.

Sabbath Update:
As the initial shock was worn off and we've had a lovely General Conference weekend, it's been a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our family and gospel service. I still feel the make-our-family-better push like I feel when I find out I'm pregnant. And I also feel a lot like I do when Mark or I gets a new calling: That we are doing something that is good and that our Heavenly  Father wants us to do, and so as a result God's hand and support will be over us. I feel a sweet confirmation of the rightness of Roscoe's mission, and the assurance that blessings are in store for our family. We've also received sweet phone calls from lots of family members excited for Roscoe.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Kitchen Day

One thing I've instituted this year is Kitchen Day. I decided I would devote an entire day each week to the kitchen to do things like soak and cook beans, bake bread, make freezer meals, try new recipes, bake granola, and all sorts of things that will keep our menu a bit deeper and yummier throughout the week. Here are some things I did on my last kitchen day:

Soak and cook garbanzo beans...

 ...then spice and bake them to make crunchy chickpeas, one of my favorite lunch snacks.

Slice apples for pie.
 Harvest tomatoes from my garden for this soup. Very yum.
 Run the dishwasher. Repeatedly.
 Consult cookbooks and pinterest.
 Make a big mess of the whole entire kitchen.

Good thing I had a sweet little helper to wipe the counters for me. 

I cannot get over the cuteness of this outfit. It's slaying me!!

I also made a batch of dressing for one of our new favorite meals. This dressing is so fantastic that it turns this salad into a gourmet treat. It's not a quick process, though. It involves zesting nine limes! But one batch is enough for at least three meals. (I divide each batch into thirds and freeze two of them for later.) And I'm telling you, this is an amazingly delicious and nutritious meal. You will be grateful for each and every bit of that zest.

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Dinner Salad
with Honey Lime Dressing

6 T white wine vinegar
zest and juice of 9 limes
3 t cumin
3 t chili powder
3 t kosher salt
3 jalapeno peppers, cored and diced
3/4 c honey
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 canola oil

Mix in large mason jar. Can be made ahead of time. Serve over any of the following:

brown rice
lettuce or fresh spinach
sweet potatoes
black beans
sweet peppers
green onions
toasted almonds