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Meg · Stout

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* * *
Usually on Monday, someone will ask:

"How was your weekend?"

For some reason, I rarely remember the details of those blissful days away from work. Maybe I'm too compartmentalized. Work is work, and not work is not work.

Or maybe I'm just having so much fun I fail to sleep enough during the weekend, and thus my Monday morning mind cannot comprehend the glory that was my free time.

This weekend was unusual because I knew, going in, that it was overbooked. There was Capclave, the local specfic convention. There was CropWalk, an annual charity fundraiser. It was Ward Temple Day. And we had tickets for the 2009 tour of So You Think You Can Dance in Richmond. That doesn't even count cool things that would be fun, like the fall "Market Fair" at the Claude Moore Colonial Farm or fall activities at the local garden parks and stores. It certainly didn't include any chores.

Luckily or unluckily, water eliminated two of the contenders. A water main 60 feet under the parking lot of the Washington DC temple burst, closing the temple for a week. Rain caused organizers of most outdoor events to either cancel or send letters acknowledging that sane people would be staying home.

So life was only chockablock instead of insanely overwhelming.

My husband and I had dinner with a group of friends from my writer group (Go Codex!) before spending a leisurely evening taking in readings and discussion groups at Capclave. The next day I was back, for another reading, picking up tips on doing podcasts and revisiting the writers' workshop.

Then it was home to fix food (home-made butternut squash soup and egg foo young) before driving to Richmond for the awesome, rocking, 2009 SYTYCD concert. As usual, we stayed after for autographs and were amongst the last to leave. We got to bed by 3 am, honestly...

Sunday was the usual opportunity to worship. Being LDS, our church service lasts 90 minutes, with two other classes that add up to a 3 hour block. But since I have "stuff I have to do" before meetings and choir practice is after church, I was at church for about 5 hours.

After that it was lunch with sandwiches that included home-made sprouts (we all decided we like mung bean sprouts better than alfalfa).

Off to an Eagle Scout court of honor, a church youth discussion with our autistic daughter, a nap, and baking two loaves of homemade bread from fresh-ground whole wheat.

Then at 8pm there was the weekly chatzy with my Mom and sibs, including my brother in Afghanistan (it was 4 am for him). Read a chapter from scripture out loud with my own family, prayed, and then lingered around sharing craft ideas and clips from the web or magazines or books until everyone decided 10:30 was too late to be up before a school night. An hour later my husband gave me a kiss goodnight and went upstairs.

So now it's just me, typing a blog entry, listening to the gurgling of the dishwasher and the hum of the computer, wondering if I'm going to eat yet another slice of fresh, buttered bread before calling it quits and going up to bed myself.

No to the bread, yes to bed, so here's Goodnight!
* * *
At least that's what my doctor said when I went in recently.

The context is this: I hurt myself a year and more ago. Significant pain. In fact, it took weeks before it receded enough to realize it was focused on my arm.

In the course of treatment, they prescribed relafen for the pain - kind of a kinder, gentler ibuprofen.

Since then I've had times when I forgot to take the relafen, or ran out, or left it home when going on travel. Most recently I went on travel/vacation for several weeks without meds, and I was an achy, sore, irritable person by the end.

I've been taking the relafen religiously, night and morning, ever since.

I mentioned this to my doctor, and he was shocked. Apparently he never intended for me to take relafen on a long term basis.

"You're young!" he exclaimed. "You're just a baby! Only 46!" He proceeded to explain what long-term use of relafen could do. Oh my.

So I've been avoiding pain meds ever since. The doctor did refer me to Capsaicin cream, a remedy based on red hot chili peppers that works better than placebo and won't destroy my innards.

I guess I'll just have to start actually taking care of myself.
* * *
Mormons care about family.

It's not just the cuddly kids and parents stuff either (though that is very important). It's tying families together across time and space, in hopes that someday all mankind will have the choice to be linked together.

That's what temples are for.

But for my grandmother and her siblings, that was an impossible dream. Their father, Mormon apostle John Whitaker Taylor, was famously excommunicated back in 1911 (for marrying too many women). Thus he was barred from claiming his wives and children (36 of them) in the eternities.

It has caused untolled sorrow in this group of believing, faithful folks. The later wives, the ones who "caused" the schism between John W. Taylor and the church, wore shame like a brand. They never dared attend the temple together, lest the name Taylor alert suspicion. And yet they deeply loved their husband and refused to permit anything to stand between them and the possibility of eternal reunion with their husband.

Five of the wives were barred by US law from inheriting any of their husband's estate when he died in 1916. Despite the resultant poverty and their large families, each of John's widows received offers of marriage.

If they had remarried, John's children might have come to love a living stepfather. The children might have decided they preferred to be linked eternally to some man other than John.

John's wives never gave their children that possibility. Every one of these six beautiful (and they were beautiful) women went to their graves mourning their decades dead husband, poverty and loneliness notwithstanding.

As recently as 2009 descendants of John Whitaker Taylor and his brides were requesting permission to "seal" the family together, to no avail.

Then, suddenly, almost magically, a change took place. The church-owned database (available via new.familysearch.org to church members) was quietly updated just 100 years after John Whitaker Taylor disobediently married his last wife.

The record now shows John and his wives eternally and uniquely bound together (assuming, as always, that they so choose and God agrees). Not only that, but the sealing dates for two of the wives has been updated to reflect the day on which they were married in 1901, and their children are now shown as "born in the covenant."

All thirty-six are gone now, the last one gone to her grave in 2004. But those who comforted John's children and heard their cries know how much this means.

We who remain are left to contemplate this scripture, given to Joseph Smith in March of 1830, before the Church itself was even founded:

Woes shall go forth, weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth...

Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no end to this torment, but it is written endless torment... that it might work upon the hearts of the children of men, altogether for my name’s glory.

Behold, I am endless, and the punishment which is given from my hand is endless punishment, for Endless is my name.

For the descendants of John Whitaker Taylor the torment of separation is now over. All is knit back together. The family can be at peace.
* * *
I got a call on my cell phone from my married daughter. She knows we can
talk for "free" when we use those phones.

We had a good time reconnecting and sharing stories. Then she said,

"Oh. And the reason I called was to tell you we've topped $1000 saved."

She and her husband are married college students, her husband has a job in a
deli, and they've been assiduously stashing away money. So for them having a
$1000 emergency fund is quite an accomplishment.

While we were talking, I was putting away food I had purchased from Angel
Food Ministries <http://www.angelfoodministries.com/>. Angel Food is a
Christian food ministry, but you don't have to be indigent to take advantage
of their food. In fact, each box processed does two things (besides save
money for the person buying the food):

1) The charity distributing the food gets $1, which usually goes towards
their own food pantry or good works ministry.
2) Any excess food goes to the charity distributing the food.

As it says in their website, "There are no qualifications, minimums, income
restrictions, or applications. Everyone is encouraged to participate. Some
churches even encourage participants to apply the money they saved to help
someone else in need."
Lastly, I checked eBay, and I did win the grain mill I was bidding on for
less than 70% of the price of a new grinder. Milling grain means being able
to make our own whole grain bread, etc. Good stuff. Then again, the true
coup goes to my sister, who found a Whisper Mill at a yard sale for $1.
That's less than 0.5% of the retail price, which beats my 70% all hollow.

Now off to reserve hotel rooms for our end-of-summer vacation at
* * *
The other night I had the chance to attend one of three lectures about
family issues, with the promise of ice cream and cookies afterwards. How
could I lose?

The first two rooms I passed were discussing 1) aging parents and 2) how to
discipline children. Since my parents are crazy healthy and my remaining
children at home are girls, these classes were only of passing interest.

The third class was on Marital Happiness. The lecturer was a Dr. Bowen - a
mental health professional.

The first set of statistics was interesting. I'd heard how 50% of marriages
end in divorce. But the interesting part was the statistic that 80% of those
who remain married are living parallel lives - physically in the same
marriage, but not much more. Only 20% of those who remain married (10% of
those who marry in the first place) are enjoying thriving relationships.


I left with many handouts and lots of thoughts about how to apply what I'd
heard to my own marriage. One book that was mentioned particularly was "And
They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment." I
bought the book on Amazon, and took some time to browse the pages that
Amazon lets you view. The core idea is that chastity is great (abstaining
from sex outside of marriage) but in the context of marriage sex is not only
nice but necessary. Far too many good people, the author contents,
fundamentally hurt their marriages either through ignorance of how to
sexually fulfill their partner (and receive fulfillment) or are hindered by
the idea that sex is nasty and sinful and disgusting. To make matters worse,
they perpetuate that ignorance or that prudish worldview in how they teach
(or not) their children.

At the same time I've been trying to do research for my novel, in which one
character (historical, I didn't just make this up for the fun of it) falls
from grace because of his obsession with physical love. In the course of the
research came across a variety of websites that I found surprising. There
are even more words I will now no longer use because I know their
connotation. On the other hand, folks who approach sex unburdened by
hang-ups and willing to "improve" their skills in providing pleasure in the
pursuit of receiving greater pleasure will reap the blessings, if you
will, associated with honoring that aspect of their physical being.

One fun comment Dr. Bowen made was "Sexual intimacy is best after thirty
years of marriage." The unspoken qualifier is that it's among those who
learn how to become truly intimate, the 10%. And it would not apply to those
who constantly seek new partners in pursuit of a hot fling.

Of course, such stuff simply reeks for those who would, themselves, be
capable of intimacy, but have either remained single or lost a spouse due to
factors beyond their control.

A final note is about what it takes to start of well in marriage. Dr. Bowen
asked a volunteer to rank their connection with their loved one based on
Physical, Emotional, Social, Intellectual, and Spiritual aspects. On a scale
from 0 to 100, the volunteer ranked their relationship as 60, 70, 80, 95,
and 90, stating they were 100 as far as commitment to the relationship. Dr.
Bowen turned to the board on which these scores had been plotted and drew a
line at 80. "If you are not yet married and have any of these areas that
are not at least 80, then don't marry." That was surprising. But on
reflection I thought of Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," where the
heroine, Lizzie, could have married Mr. Collins. It would have been a
marriage, but doomed to be one of those "parallel" marriages (as Austen
demonstrates when the practical Charlotte does later agree to marry Mr.

May we all become like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, rather than like Mr.
Collins and the hapless Charlotte.
* * *
* * *
I just bought a new car. New to me, that is.

My husband has a philosophical issue with buying new cars. I think it is
bound up with the idea that a car depreciates thousands of dollars the
moment you drive it off the dealer's lot. Or maybe he's just allergic to
that new car smell.

I thought the $4500 from the "Cash for Clunkers" program would overcome that
objection. But it turns out our V8 Cadillac Coupe deVille actually gets 19
mpg and doesn't qualify as a Clunker.

I had resigned myself to driving the Cadillac into the ground when it failed
to pass inspection. Twice.

So, how to go about finding a comprehensive listing of used cars?

I ended up going to cars.com and using their Advanced
This lets you search all makes, models, and body styles within
range of your zip code (say 30 miles from your zip). You can specify max
price, max mileage, year range, or leave these all blank.

Hit return.

For example, today I find 32 cars priced $1000 or less within 30 miles of my
zip code.


When I'm seriously looking for a car, I'll go ahead and purchase access to
carfax <http://www.carfax.com/> to find out the history for cars I'm
considering based on their Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). For less
than $40 you can run an unlimited number of carfax searches [see a sample
report <http://www.carfax.com/vehiclehistory/sampleclean3mxown.cfx>], which
will tell you all the intimate details of accidents, recalls, and odometer
readings when the car was registered over it's life.

Most of these have pictures of the cars that you can browse and a VIN
number. If there is no VIN number, there is a phone number (for example,
for listings from newspapers). You can call, chat, and get the VIN number
from them.

I ended up finding a clean, single-owner minivan with less than 100,000
miles for under $3000. Wow.
* * *
So I've been using ping.fm to update all my social

Unfortunately, I didn't read the manual... So all the stuff I intended for
twitter and Facebook also ended up on my blogs. I should go back and fix
that sometime (but not tonight).

I also realized that I was losing the connection with other folks, because
while I would get responses to my posts, I wasn't commenting on other
people's posts. Made for rather one-sided conversations.

So in a few days I'll look like I always knew what I was doing, with all the
untitled status updates removed from my blogs.

* * *
I couldn't help but be glad that Jaime Ford's Japanese Keiko and Chinese Henry fail to find married love in the 1940s.

As a half-white child of the 1960s (back when such things were illegal in many states), I recall the hatred and torment I received from my peers (though my peers never physically beat me). The pain a Chinese-Japanese child would have endured during the 1940s is mind boggling.

Even as late as 1963, my Chinese aunt was driven from her marriage, her church, and her adopted country because of inter-racial hatred (daring, as she had, marry a white man).

My aunt even attempted suicide, as Jaime Ford's characters never do.

But in real life, as in fiction, time heals much.

My aunt and her first husband are remarried Death and time have freed them from pain, bigotry, and the second marriages that followed their 1963 divorce.

They are happy now, and I am glad of it.

* * *
Last month I had a chance to tour a friend's garden, and saw his very nice
composting setup. He'd acquired 2-3 very nice compost tumblers over the
years from neighbors.

Alas, I don't have any neighbors offering such stuff up for free. Even on
eBay the least expensive compost tumbler I could find was well over $100.

A search of the internet provided inspiration. The post How to Start a
Compost Bin in the City (with Little
me. My 20 gallon Rubbermaid bin cost $12, but I was able to throw in
an extra lid (to catch the compost tea) for free. Five minutes with the
drill, and it's done. The week's paper shreddings and vegetable bits are
now happily ensconced there together.

In other news, we will be building a rain barrel later this month. Then
we'll be able to combine water conservation with having 55 gallons on
non-potable water in case of an emergency.
* * *
I recently purchased a new-to-me iBook off eBay. The primary purpose was so
I could use Scrivener <http://www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.html> , a
powerful novel-writing program.
My other motivation for buying the iBook was wanting something I could write
on comfortably.

I had lots of computer things on which I could type before:

2 desktop computer systems
2 Asus EeePCs (7 inch screens)
3 AlphaSmart Keyboards

I love the little EeePCs, but eventually had to admit that the keyboard is
simply too small for me to use comfortably.

I don't mind the desktops too much, but they are fixed in space (and a
precious commodity in our home of net-savvy people).

The AlphaSmarts are ultimately portable and battery life is measured in
weeks rather than hours - particularly important for really long plane
flights. The keyboard is adequate, but not pleasurable.

I would never have purchased a laptop merely to have a more pleasurable
portable keyboard experience. But since I couldn't have Scrivener on any
platform other than a Mac with OS X 10.4 or later, I "needed" a Mac.

This particular Mac is an iBook G3 900 MHz machine with wireless, a 40 GB
hard drive, and a 12.1" screen. It's delightfully intuitive. Now that I've
downloaded Scrivener and the Flip4Mac WMV player, I had everything I need to
import my writing and upload my audio files for transcription, as necessary.

I already have been able to import and organize bits and pieces that have
languished for months (Sept 2008 and December 2008 for my "Children of
Heaven" (COH) and "Pearl of Alba" (POA) novel projects, respectively).

With my POA manuscript, I experimented with dictating scenes, planning to
transcribe the audio files and then organize the transcriptions into a first
draft. I found myself with a backlog of audio files to transcribe at the
end. Once I had transcribed the files, I had several hundred interspersed
snippets of text and that's where I left POA in December 2008.

The tangled mass of snippets that seemed overwhelming without Scrivener now
seems entirely manageable and I'm energized to move forward. Hooray!
* * *
* * *