Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Weaving in the Ends

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:29 am

I think that a cyclical hobby is helpful for creativity. Crochet is one of the hobbies that I enjoy, especially at this time of the year. It feels good to snuggle up with a huge afghan that I am working on. In the summer, it doesn’t feel so good to have the huge thing covering me, but in the winter, it is really comforting.

A hobby a day keeps the doldrums away.  – Phyllis Mcginley

Afghans aren’t the only projects that I crochet. I like to work on sweaters also. With sweaters, however, there is so much work putting them together. It’s really easy to crochet all the little parts of the sweater, but putting them together is much less pleasant. I have all the pieces of a sweater ready to be put together in my closet right now. They have been waiting for over a month for me to complete them. Even now, I’m much less excited about finishing the sweater than crocheting the parts.

Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs.  – Henry Ford (1863 – 1947)

My absolute least favorite part of crocheting is weaving in the ends. You have to do it with sweaters and afghans. There is no ball of yarn big enough to crochet an afghan. Ok, that’s probably a lie. There is probably a “Biggest Ball of Yarn in Minnesota” that could crochet an afghan, but I suspect that it would have spots where it was tied together, too. Weaving in the ends is a necessary part of the process. Having pieces of yarn sticking out of your work not only looks sloppy, it invites fraying.

There are two kinds of people, those who finish what they start and so on.  – Robert Byrne

It’s like I enjoy working on it much more than finishing it. Most of the time I have little joy in the finished project. If the sweater fits and looks nice, I’ll wear it. If not, it goes to the Salvation Army. Most of the time, I give the afghans away. After I’ve finished cuddling with them while creating them, there is another waiting to be created. All the joy in crocheting for me is working with the needle: the systematic movement of the stitches and the feel of the yarn sliding through my fingers. The rest is just paperwork.


Fighting the Demon

Filed under: Musings on Being a Writer — Laura Moncur @ 5:29 am

Show up at the page. That’s what they say. If you just show up and start writing, you will never be short on ideas. Here I am at the page. I have shown up. Where’s my idea? Do I just spend the entire entry talking about having nothing to talk about? No, that’s not good enough.

Eighty percent of success is showing up.  – Woody Allen (1935 – )

It’s not like I don’t have anything to talk about. I know exactly why I’m blocked. I’m staring the Demon of Perfection in the face again, and I even know from whence he spawned this time. I have a friend who has a son who is in need of letters. This happens often in Salt Lake City. There are so many women who have sons on horrific LDS missions that need letters, that this plea is common to me. I’ve written to many strangers, just because they need input from HOME. This situation is different because the son is not on a mission, but that is of no importance.

I don’t confuse greatness with perfection. To be great anyhow is?the higher achievement.  – Lois McMaster Bujold, “Mirror Dance”, 1994

How do you write a letter to a stranger? I usually just talk about myself and describe the weather at HOME. When I tried to write that letter, however, it sounded superficial and trite. He is in such a predicament that the weather at home isn’t foremost in his mind. I found myself trying desperately to write the letter that I promised and came up short. I kept staring at the blank page. Then I remembered.

Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything.  – Eugene Delacroix (1798 – 1863)

I remembered that I write a letter to strangers every day. Every day I sit down at the computer and hack out a letter to the world. I could just print up the last few entries that I had written and send them to him. The last few entries included the epilogue for Calvin, though, so I thought maybe I should send back to where Calvin’s story started. Hell, if I was going to go back that far, I might as well just send him from the beginning in September.

Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.  – Antoine de Saint-Exupery (1900 – 1944)

After printing up fifty-two pages of text, I came to terms with what it means to show up at the page every day. It meant that I had written a heck of a lot and I didn’t like most of it. Just as I’ve said before, my weblog isn’t the kind that I would like to read, so I caught myself being incredibly critical of my entries before I had even sent them to him. He’s dealing with some major shit right now and I don’t think he’s going to care one wit about whether the sparrows fly past my window. I sent the entire thing anyway.

Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life.  – Dr. David M. Burns

Now, here I am, staring the Demon in the face again. Back in 1998, he won. This time, he doesn’t have a chance. I’m just going to show up at the page every day. I know that there are twenty people in this world who like this enough to log on every day. I don’t know their names, but they log in every day. They read my blog at work. They download my blog onto their Palm. If I’m late and don’t post until 11 am or so, they keep hitting my site until it finally shows up. Whatever it is that you like about this site is going to keep showing up here every day, whether I think it’s worthy or not.


The Darkness

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:36 am

I’ve been fearing Old Cowboy Winter this year. It’s the darkness I fear, not out of some primitive fear of monsters and bogeymen. No, what I fear is very real. I’m scared of being sad. Not the normal sad that comes from negative events in our lives, but truly sad. The kind of sad that has you sitting on the edge of the bed in the morning, just convincing yourself to get going.

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.  – Homer (800 BC – 700 BC), The Odyssey

Oh, they have lots of words for it, but I don’t like any of them. Depression is my least favorite. Depression has been classified as a disease and it makes it seem like something that you just have to live with for the rest of your life, like sciatica. “Don’t mind the tears, it’s just my depression.” Depression also implies medication. “Just take this pill and you’ll be just fine.” I don’t want to live my life all drugged up one quarter of the year. There has to be another way. I don’t classify it as a chronic condition for myself. I just get sad in the dark.

[Sleep is] the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.  – Thomas Dekker (1572 – 1632)

What if it didn’t have to be that way? Maybe I’m not sad, maybe I’m tired. I heard someone say that the days get dark earlier to remind us to rest. Maybe spring, summer and fall were so full of activity and excitement that I need to rest. Maybe the winter season, with all of its celebrations are enough to make me need a rest. Maybe I’m like a bear and I need to hibernate for a season instead of struggle against it. That is how I am going to deal with Old Cowboy Winter this year. I’m going to sleep with him.


Utah Fog

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

The fog comes
on little cat feet.
 – Carl Sandburg (1878 – 1967), Chicago Poems (1916) “Fog”

It was foggy the other morning when I drove into work. It was as if the clouds ran into the mountains and got stuck in our valley. I remember as a child flying to Billings, Montana to see my grandma and grandpa. When we got into the clouds, I was so disappointed that they just looked like so much fog that fills our city almost every winter. Instead of the fluffy and soft pillows, they were just mist.

They call it an inversion. We get them almost every winter here in Salt Lake. Unlike many people, I like it when it comes. I’m not claustrophobic, so the enclosing mist that clouds the vision of drivers feels like a hug to me. It makes everything smaller. Instead of being able to glance out my window and see my beloved mountains, I have to strain. I have to look through the fog to see a glimpse of them. Sometimes they are totally invisible behind the clouds that are stuck in our valley.

Even though I live with fog every winter, I don’t think of it as a feature of Salt Lake City. Fog is for romantic cities like San Francisco and London. I can’t even imagine the mysteries that can be hidden in the fog could possibly hide in our fog. Our fog is bright, even though it obscures the sun so much that you can barely see the yellow disk peeking out from behind it. Sometimes a foggy day can feel more bright than a cloudy day. How could evil lurk behind our fog when it is so bright?

Our fog is very dry. It’s not the kind of fog that sticks to your skin and clothing like it does in San Francisco. No, this is the fog of a desert winter. Our fog is not really a mist. It’s more like scentless smoke. I guess I’m meteorologically challenged. I don’t know how it can be so dry and foggy at the same time, yet I experience it every year. Dry fog isn’t nearly as picturesque as the kind of fog that makes the hero shine with tiny droplets. This stuff is more like the junk that comes out of a fog machine without the stink.

Maybe a visitor would think our fog was romantic. Maybe it’s just that I see it every year that it seems like there is no danger lurking there for me. I remember roller skating to school in the cold, dry fog. There was no danger in my mind. There was just fast skating with the cold wind on my face. The worst that I could imagine was a stray rock that may have escaped from the RV parking of a neighbor’s house. Maybe if this was a new town to me, this fog would feel dangerous. How could it be dangerous when I roller skated through it so quickly?


Buddha Six-Pack

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:41 am

“How much for this one, with his hands in the air?”
“That’s three dollars. If you buy the set, it’s ten dollars.”
“How many are in the set?”
“Six Buddhas.”
“I’ll buy the set.”

Mike gave the young man a ten dollar bill. The day is good. We got six Buddhas for ten dollars. That’s $1.66 a Buddha. Enlightenment for a buck sixty-six.

If only it was that easy. Spend three dollars, get enlightened. Spend ten dollars and get even more enlightened. If only one could buy enlightenment or peace, for that matter. Instead, peace is free for all who are willing to follow the path of peace. Enlightenment is free for all who follow the path of enlightenment. If only we could buy it, it would be so much easier than following the path.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.
Bible, King James Version, Exodus 20:3

Instead of practicing my meditation as regularly as I should, I buy a little Buddha (six, actually) and hope peace and enlightenment will be mine. It’s idolatry, plain and simple. There is something to be said for symbols that can remind us of our duties and devotions, but it also makes us vulnerable. My little Buddha makes me vulnerable instead of strong.

I felt the stab of pain. It was the night of 9-11 and CNN reported that the people in the streets of Pakistan were celebrating our loss. I saw the faces of rejoicing men burning my flag. It felt like a rage within me welling up and it made my eyes fill with tears of anger. How could they rejoice at our pain?

Of course, my paranoia instantly kicked in. I don’t trust CNN. I always feel like Winston in George Orwell’s 1984. The person who controls the news controls the world. So they showed me some people rejoicing. That could be old footage for all I know. The pain and the rage subsided, but it was a vicious taste of the vulnerability of idolatry.

Here I am, looking at my Buddha with his hands turned up toward the sky. He reminds me to meditate. He reminds me to place my mind in a peaceful calm. If I continue to use him to remind me of these things, he will become a true idol to me. If I continue to do them on my own, I will have enlightenment without the benefits and vulnerability of idolatry. And I thought I was getting such a good deal.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 2:47 pm

I am sitting at the Barnes and Noble by my house. I’m facing the magazine section. A couple of minutes ago, I came to the realization that we live in a culture that worships women. Every magazine in the Women’s Interest section is covered with a picture of a beautiful woman. Half the magazines in all the other sections are also covered with pictures of women. As a woman, I must admit that my eyes is also drawn to the magazines with the pictures of women as opposed to all others. Even the computer gamer mags have digitized women on their covers. We are bombarded with visions of women all day long.

The more I study religions the more I am convinced that man never worshipped anything but himself.  – Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821 – 1890)

This realization was so striking to me that I felt the immediate need to write it down. I went to the blank journals section here, grabbed a book and started writing. I haven’t even paid for it yet, but I had to get this observation down on paper before it slipped out of my mind. The Palm would have been too slow. Graffiti is faster than trying to type on a tiny keyboard, but it’s still slower than pen and paper. No, what hit me in the eyes was too important to try to fuss with Graffiti. It even feels too important for writing. Maybe I should carry around a tape recorder. Of course it seems that eloquence comes out of my fingers much better than it comes out of my mouth. It’s almost like writing is a physical activity of my hands more than an intellectual one.

The skill of writing is to create a context in which other people can think.  – Edwin Schlossberg

Anyway, I’ve lived in a society that has told me that women are downtrodden. When I was a child, women burned their bras on the nightly news before my eyes. I didn’t quite understand what the undergarments signified to them. They had never been a symbol of anything to me except being a grownup woman. I definitely wanted to be a grownup woman.

Another belief of mine: that everyone else my age is an adult, whereas I am merely in disguise.  – Margaret Atwood (1939 – ), Cat’s Eye, 1988

Now, I’ve been smacked in the face with the realization that my world isn’t what people have told me it was. I actually live in a world that worships women like goddesses. Jennifer Lopez is the focus of the J-Lo/Ben Affleck obsession. Oprah Winfrey mentions a book on her television show and it’s an instant best seller. Martha Stewart goes to jail for insider training while all the male insider traders silently go to jail without notice or press.

Sooner or later, man has always had to decide whether he worships his own power or the power of God.  – A. J. Toynbee

When I was exercising at the gym the other day, I scanned the five televisions in front of me. BET had Ashanti singing and slapping her boyfriend. MTV had the girls from The Real World competing in some artificial log roll. VH1 was ridiculing the fashion of women on the red carpet. CNN’s female anchor told me that fifty percent of the upper management was female. Spike TV, “Television for Men”, was playing Star Trek: The Next Generation where Commander Riker was believing Deanna Troi’s intuitive instincts about a visitor to the Enterprise. Even “TV for Men” was worshiping women. I’m sure Oxygen and Lifetime were devoted to women instead of the male worship that logic would suggest.

I think that God in creating Man somewhat overestimated his ability.  – Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

How does all of this affect me? I am female. I am the goddess of this culture. Do I feel like a goddess? Hell no. How could I possibly live up to that expectation? In a society that worships women as goddesses, how does a woman live? Should I expect adoration?



Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:32 am

I don’t remember ever seeing any pigeons in Utah when I was a kid. I remember Burt on Sesame Street talking about how much he loved pigeons. I remember the Pigeon Dance that he did, but I don’t remember ever seeing them in Salt Lake. I vaguely remember asking my grandma why we didn’t have pigeons like Burt and Ernie did and I think she said pigeons only live in big cities.

God gives every bird its food, but He does not throw it into its nest.  – J.G. Holland

My first memory of Salt Lake pigeons was in 1991. I had been married for over a year and we lived in a 400 square foot apartment in the Trolley Square area. My friend, Dawni, lived in a different apartment complex just down the street, so I would walk over every day or so to see her, swim in their pool and play tennis on their courts. On the walk over, I passed an abandoned church. I don’t know how long it had been dormant, but it had been long enough for the birds to move in. I remember being shocked at seeing so many pigeons in one area. I thought we weren’t a big enough city to have pigeons.

Those little nimble musicians of the air, that warble forth their curious ditties, with which nature hath furnished them to the shame of art.  – Izaak Walton (1593 – 1683)

Last Saturday, while I filled the gas tank on my car, I noticed a long line of pigeons on the electrical wires above me. They were intermingled with my beloved starlings that swarm the skies all year long here. The pigeons are so much larger than my beautiful little black birds that they were easy to distinguish. I began to think that maybe I just didn’t notice the pigeons when I was a child.

I once had a sparrow alight upon my shoulder for a moment, while I was hoeing in a village garden, and I felt that I was more distinguished by that circumstance that I should have been by any epaulet I could have worn.  – Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

I remember noticing the sparrows. They were the little birds that my cat, Sugar, hunted relentlessly. Sacrificial sparrow heads would show up at our doorstep every week or so. No matter how much we fed her, she never gave up hunting the little birds all year long. We removed our bird feeder, because Sugar was catching a bird a day when it was up. It hadn’t been a bird feeder; it was a cat feeder.

I remember noticing the starlings. They swarm like locusts instead of flocking like birds. The black cloud of birds would swoop and hover all over the fields of Kennedy Junior High. I remember watching them and wondering why they seemed more like insects when I looked at their flight patterns.

The moment a little boy is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, he can no longer see the birds or hear them sing.  – Eric Berne

No, I’m wrong. I was the type of child to notice the shiny feathers and strange walk of pigeons. I had been on the lookout for them because Burt had loved them so much. If there had been flocks of pigeons in Salt Lake when I was a child, I would have noticed it. I guess Salt Lake is finally a big enough city to have pigeons.


Strange Karma

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:26 am

Stacey and I were shopping on Saturday for Christmas presents and an outfit for me for the Christmas Party (it went extraordinarily well, by the way). We went to Fashion Place Mall in Murray. We shopped a little and then went to the food court. We split a Subway Sandwich and Stacey insisted on giving me a couple of dollars for her half. She put it on the table and wouldn’t take it back. Before we left, I picked it up and gave it to one of the employees who clean off the tables. I told her that I wanted to make sure she got her tip.

Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  – Bible, Galatians 6:7

We went to a couple more stores before I realized that I had forgotten my coat in the food court. You  have to understand that I’m a cheapskate, so the coat was of little value. I had bought it at a K-Mart clearance last year for eight dollars. I wasn’t worried about the coat. I was worried to death about my car keys in the right hand pocket, though. The Beetle has one of those fancy remote keys, which are about $75 to replace. Plus, anyone could steal my car if they got a hold of those keys. I was panicked.

You could spend your life feeding the poor and still not make it because your karma required you to bear and nurture children. The path home to God is different for every person. Only communion with your Higher Self will reveal your path to you.
– Elizabeth Clare Prophet

We ran back to the food court and the coat was gone. There were no employees to be found anywhere, so I went to the lost and found while Stacey went to guard the Beetle. I felt bad because I knew it would be cold for her out there. I would have lent her my coat to keep warm, but, you know…

Karma does not constitute determinism, the deeds do indeed determine the manner of rebirth but not the actions of the reborn individual–karma provides the situation, not the response to the situation.
– The Encylopedia of Eastern Philosopy and Religion

My coat wasn’t in the lost and found. I left my name and number with them just in case it showed up and wandered back to the food court with the desperate hope that my coat would be there. I found an employee who was emptying a garbage can and explained my predicament. I could tell by his eyes that he didn’t understand anything I said, but he pointed at a different employee. It was the girl that I had given the “tip” to. I was embarrassed to explain that I had forgotten my coat. It was right here. It was brown and my car keys are in the pocket. She nodded and said that she had found it and had given it to security. I melted with appreciation.

My Karma ran over your dogma.  – Unknown

After getting my coat back, I called Stacey to bring her back in from the cold. The second that she met me at the food court, she asked me, “Was it the girl that you gave the tip to?” I nodded, still embarrassed. “That almost makes me believe in karma.”



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:45 am

“How’d you get in charge of the meditation class? I thought Lorna was in charge.” “Lorna’s still in charge, I just volunteered to do the next five weeks because I got a great idea for some meditations.”

I believe that there are no hostile takeovers or coups. I think people get in charge because they volunteer to be in charge. They get to be in charge because they hate it less than the others around them.

I was driving to meditation two Saturdays ago when the idea hit me. Lorna and I had been talking about the fact that we don’t have any incense in the meditations. She said that she refrained from bringing hers because she was worried about allergies of the participants. It brought to mind the idea of our senses.

We could have a meditation series on our senses in which we take one class per sense. For scent, we could have incense or small handkerchiefs that we could hold to our noses. For sound, we could have conducive music or maybe a nature sounds CD playing in the background. For sight, well, I’ll figure that one out later. By the time I arrived at the class, I had worked out ideas for almost every class.

I ran the idea past the people at the class. I could tell by the looks on their faces that I wasn’t communicating the brilliance of the idea very well, so I just volunteered to be in charge for the next five weeks. They breathed a sigh of relief. At least someone would be in charge for a while and they wouldn’t have to rack their minds for ideas. Sure, Laura, go ahead.

So, here I am, knowing nothing about meditation except that I have to sit still and think about nothing. Now, I am in charge of the meditation class for the next five weeks. Lorna is still the facilitator, but I’m coming up with the ideas and bringing the props. Sometimes when you want something to exist, you just have to create it yourself.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:27 am

Last Saturday when I was worried about the company Christmas party, but before I lost my coat at Fashion Place mall, I presented my first idea in the meditation class. I chose taste because it was the easiest for me. I am well acquainted with my sense of taste. We are the best of friends and the worst of enemies.

You can tell a lot about a fellow’s character by his way of eating jellybeans.  – Ronald Reagan (1911 – ), quoted in Observer, March 29 1981

Lorna set up the little table just like normal with the Buddhas and candle. I added a huge selection of different flavored mints to it. Every flavor of Altoid that has been released was present, along with Tic Tacs, Smints and a few others brands I didn’t recognize or even remember. I realized that I should have test run this idea before running the class on it because I had no idea how long a mint would last in a person’s mouth.

Live each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each.  – Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

We started by bowing to the Buddha in all of us and got right down to the business of eating. The first meditation was fifteen minutes, just like always. I chose the ginger Altoid, which was a good idea at first, but there was a point in which I just wanted the thing out of my mouth because it was burning me too much. I didn’t think that ginger could make my tongue feel so hot.

Everything in excess! To enjoy the flavor of life, take big bites. Moderation is for monks.  – Excerpt from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein’s “Time Enough for Love”

I could only taste the mint on the tip and sides of my tongue, so I moved the mint around quite a bit. Other than that, I left it unmolested. No biting. It was incredibly hard not to chomp the mint, especially when it was paper thin and threatening to cut my palate. I resisted, though, and I felt it disintegrate between my tongue and teeth in a final flaming burst. I let my mouth rest from the hot ginger. I wasn’t ready for another mint to touch my tongue yet.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.  – Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1755 – 1826), The Physiology of Taste, 1825

I was surprised at the chime announcing the end of the fifteen minutes. That one mint lasted almost the entire time. The most amazing thing is that the focus of my attention was entirely on my mouth the entire fifteen minutes. The taste of the mint, keeping it safe from crunching, the burning sensation in my mouth and the feeling of its final disintegration kept my attention fully in the moment. It was one of my most successful meditation sessions ever.

I volunteered to teach these classes because I wanted to experience them myself. I hope everyone else enjoys them as much as I am going to.


Full Moon Monday

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:55 am

When the full moon rises over the Wasatch mountains, it looks like the biggest damn moon you’ve ever seen. You can see the silhouettes of the trees on the top of the mountain against the bright disk of the moon. It’s so difficult to photograph that I’ve given up. I have decided that it is far easier to paint what I see rather than try to wait for the perfect moment with my tripod on cold Salt Lake evenings.

Beauty is a form of genius–is higher, indeed, than genius, as it needs no explanation. It is of the great facts in the world like sunlight, or springtime, or the reflection in dark water of that silver shell we call the moon.  – Oscar Wilde (1854 – 1900)

The main problem is the Moon Illusion. I see a bigger moon than the camera does. It’s an optical illusion that the camera can never capture, so my pictures develop a disappointingly small moon compared to what I remember seeing.  I have seen photographs of our moon look just as spectacular as the real thing, but I can only think that they are altering the picture somehow.

You can’t have a light without a dark to stick it in.  – Arlo Guthrie (1947 – )

Last Monday, was a full moon. As I drove home on I-80, it was rising in the crevice between two of our mountains. It was a smoggy day, so the moon was fuzzy. The sun was setting in the west, so the misty clouds around it were a soft pink. It was the kind of pink that makes you think of stuffed bunnies and Easter. I was alone in the car and there was no one to share it with.

One cannot fix one’s eyes on the commonest natural production without finding food for a rambling fancy.  – Jane Austen (1775 – 1817), Mansfield Park

By the time I got home, the illusion was over. The moon was high enough that it looked its normal size. The sun had finished setting, so the pink afterglow had evaporated. All that was left was the cold air and a greenish hue to the evening sky. I felt as if I was the only person in Salt Lake City to see the loveliness this month.


A Flock of Starlings

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:25 am

Starlings don’t flock; they swarm. I have said it before, but last week when I was driving home, they swarmed in such a strange manner that I had to make a note of it in my mind. I am stuck on I-80 driving home almost every evening. The traffic is so slow that I have the time to notice many things like the full moon and the flight of birds. On I-80 is a billboard for Bud Light and the Utah Jazz.

Sport is imposing order on what was chaos.  – Anthony Starr

The Utah Jazz is Salt Lake’s professional basketball team. In our best year, we were in the finals against the Chicago Bulls. Michael Jordan kicked our ass, but we took them to game seven to do it. It was a golden age for basketball. Karl Malone and John Stockton were young and still playing for us and we were there for that brief moment when basketball was about basketball. There was no talk of rape cases or haircuts. Charles Barkley was ridiculed for the kinds of temper tantrums that are commonplace now. I have no taste for the sport anymore.

Not every age is fit for childish sports.  – Titus Maccius Plautus (254 BC – 184 BC)

Back to last Monday and the swarming starlings. I’ve said before that I’m an atheist that struggles with superstition, and this is one of those superstitious things that I find myself clinging to: the flight of birds. I was stuck in traffic, watching the full moon rise between the mountains, but the starlings to my right distracted me. They were swarming clockwise around the billboard for Bud Light and the Utah Jazz. I watched them fly around it three times before I had to move on with the slow traffic. I thought to myself, “I wonder if the Jazz are playing tonight.”

Nature is just enough; but men and women must comprehend and accept her suggestions.  – Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825 – 1921)

They were. I looked it up a couple of days later. They played the Boston Celtics. They lost phenomenally: 80 to 102. Did the starlings predict it? They were to my right, which is supposed to be a good omen. They flew clockwise around the billboard, which is supposed to be a good omen. They were starlings, my favorite bird, another good omen. Maybe they were just trying to tell me that I should drink more beer.


A Man and a Woman are Driving on I-80…

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:15 am

I-80 has blessed me with many experiences this week. I have another to share with you, but I need to set up the story by saying, once again, that traffic is slow. I know it’s a freeway and there are supposed to be freeway speeds, but I-80 slows to a crawl when I’m trying to get home in the evenings. It’s bad in the mornings, too but I haven’t had any amusing experiences in the morning to relate to you. Maybe I’m too tired to be mindful of what is happening around me in the morning.

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.  – Thich Nhat Hanh

Last week, I was driving home on I-80 when a white Toyota beeped at me. Many people will do this when they need to move over, so I waved at him, slowed down and made room for him to get into my lane. He didn’t move over. I shrugged and pulled forward again.

Sometimes when you look in his eyes you get the feeling that someone else is driving.  – David Letterman (1947 – )

He beeped again and waved at me. “Ah,” I thought to myself, “He thinks he knows me.” You see, I drive a bright green Volkswagen Beetle. He must know someone who also drives a bright green Volkswagen Beetle and is under the mistaken impression that there is only one. This also happens to me quite often, so I treat it like a taste of good karma. I wave back and move on with my life.

Never refuse any advance of friendship, for if nine out of ten bring you nothing, one alone may repay you.  – Madame de Tencin

He beeped again and signaled for me to roll down my window. “Shit,” I thought to myself, “Something’s the matter with my car.” I rolled down my window. My lane was so slow that I could talk to him and keep an eye on the road quite easily. His lane, however was moving faster, but he kept at my pace. “You’re cute!” he screamed at me. I responded as I always do, “Thanks, but I’m married.” The cars behind him were beeping and flashing their lights for him to get a move on, but he responded, “Lucky man! Merry Christmas!” Only then did he finally speed off, catching up with the rest of his lane.

The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.  – Carl Jung (1875 – 1961)

That was a first for me. I’ve never been hit on in traffic before. At least there’s nothing the matter with my car.


One-Time Friends

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:42 am

I’ve had some really good friends in my life. When I was a child, I assumed that I would be friends with them forever. I still cling to them. I have their addresses. I know where they are and what they are going through in their lives. I try to see them every once and awhile. I try calling. I try emailing them. All of this never quite feels like it did when we were friends.

Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.  – Georgia O’Keeffe (1887 – 1986)

I feel guilty that I don’t really need to see them anymore. I’m not in their lives as much as I used to be. Thinking about the daunting task of Christmas cards, brings to mind how many people used to be in my life that I haven’t heard from. Do I send them a card? Did they send me one last year? Do they even care? Do I?

There isn’t much better in this life than finding a way to spend a few hours in conversation with people you respect and love. You have to carve this time out of your life because you aren’t really living without it.  – Real Live Preacher, RealLivePreacher.com Weblog, August 27, 2003

Last week, when I was driving home, I decided that it’s ok. It’s ok that they’re not in my life anymore. It’s ok that I don’t need them anymore. It’s ok that they don’t need me anymore. We were friends for awhile, but now we are separate. We have no shared experiences beyond that brief moment in the past and not being friends anymore is just fine. I don’t have to send them a Christmas card. I don’t have to expend energy to try to rekindle what we once had.

True happiness is of a retired nature, and an enemy to pomp and noise; it arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.  – Joseph Addison (1672 – 1719), The Spectator, March 17, 1911

I’m getting only enough Christmas cards this year to send to the people who are still actively in my life. If I don’t hurry, they will be New Year’s cards. To all the others, I still miss what we once had. Have a wonderful life and if you miss me, drop me a line.


A Call from My Dad

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:06 am

My cell phone rang at the restaurant, but I answered it because it was from my dad. He hadn’t called me in at least six months.


“Hello, Laura, this is your father. Do you have Stacey’s phone number?”

I gave him my sister’s cell number. It matched the one he had. I also gave him Dan’s cell number just in case she didn’t answer hers. Her husband is much better about answering his phone than she is.

“Ok, thanks. Goodbye.”

That was it.

Two days later, after meditation class with Stacey:

“Dan lost his job.”

“Oh geez, I have been so worried about that happening. When did it happen?”

“Last week.”

“Why? Did they go out of business?”

“No… he was fired.”

“Fired? Why would they fire him?”

“OSHA violation.”

“OSHA violation? How could he break any OSHA rules?”

“He worked on a hot machine.”

“Hot machine? What the… Oh, you said DAD was fired. I thought you said DAN was fired. I’ve been so worried about that web company he works for…”

“No, they’re doing great! Dan’s just fine. DAD got fired for not locking out a machine before working on it.”

“I guess I should have known. He called me out of the blue to ask for your number. He hadn’t called me for six months. He just asked for your number and said goodbye.”

“He wanted to go over his resume.”

“Yeah, I guess he would.”

Considering that he could have been killed or maimed, getting fired is a best case scenario for working on a hot machine. I can’t help him get a job. I can’t make him be more responsible. I can’t give him the logic facilities that he seems to be lacking. I can be grateful that his lack of common sense didn’t kill him, though. Thank you, Providence, for sparing my father.



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 11:52 am

The swarm of starlings was resting on the Bud Light/Jazz Billboard last night during my commute home. They looked like thick black lines under the picture and along the top. I saw a couple of small flocks of starlings join them. The black line was upset for a second, but room was made for them and the line was reestablished, thicker and fuller than before. “They must live there,” I thought to myself.

When thou seest an eagle, thou seest a portion of genius; lift up thy head!  – William Blake

The traffic was stopped cold. We were merging onto I-80 from I-15 North. Others were merging onto I-80 from I-15 South. Even more were coming from the 201. Of all those cars and all those faces, I didn’t see one looking at the birds. A huge flock of at least one thousand birds was less than 50 yards away from them and they were oblivious. In every car I looked, I saw quiet and neutral faces looking ahead.

There’s no present. There’s only the immediate future and the recent past.  – George Carlin (1937 – )

Am I alone in this world? It seems that so many people around me are not present. They are not in the room with me. They are in the past, thinking about what happened yesterday or fifteen years ago. They are in the future, thinking about what will happen on Christmas or when they finally meet the right person. They are five hundred miles away, thinking about power lines that don’t even exist yet. They are anywhere but here, with me.

I tend to live in the past because most of my life is there.  – Herb Caen

I must admit that I’m the same. I think about yesterday, tomorrow and far away. It’s when I’m completely here and now that I realize how far away everyone else is. Is it possible to be here and now all the time? When I’m writing this, am I here? Am I across the world in Denmark and Australia, where you are, reading this? Why is it that I’m only here and now when I see birds swarming?



Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:16 am

Today is the third entry in my Senses series in our meditation class, but I never told you how last week’s class went. Last week we concentrated on our sense of touch. I brought many interesting things to place in your hand while meditating. Stacey brought some pine cones and cornstarch. I brought some crocheted test swatches, an interesting carved rock, modeling clay, lentils and horse chestnuts. Mike was nice enough to go out in the cold and the dark to gather the horse chestnuts from the snowy ground for me. He also brought back some chestnuts that didn’t reach maturity.

Age is no guarantee of maturity.  – Lawana Blackwell, The Courtship of the Vicar’s Daughter, 1998

Before chestnuts reach maturity, they are housed in a spiky shell. It looks like the end of a mace or spiked flail. Nature’s battle axe against hungry birds, the shell over the horse chestnut is quite sharp. I brought them to the meditation just for fun. I didn’t think that anyone would choose them for their meditation item.

Choose your pleasures for yourself, and do not let them be imposed upon you.  – Lord Chesterfield (1694 – 1773)

Eddie did. She could have cuddled with a little square of crocheted yarn. Let a magic pine cone take her on a journey. She could have rested her hand in a bowl of lentils and felt their slick skins slide past her skin and yet somehow still support it. Instead, she chose the spiky and painful little balls of the undeveloped horse chestnut. I was eager to hear her speak after the meditation. She did not disappoint.   When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.  – Ernest Hemingway (1899 – 1961)

After a while holding the sharp ball, she realized that it was like the painful times in our lives. If she was careful and held it gently, the ball didn’t hurt her, it merely kept its presence known in her hand. During the painful times of our lives, we need to hold ourselves and our loved ones gently. If we treat ourselves with kindness and care during these times, life will be less painful. Thank you, Eddie.



Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 2:38 pm

In the original series Star Trek, you could tell when a woman was supposed to be beautiful because the screen would get all soft and fuzzy.  I’m talking the Star Trek with Captain Kirk and his many amours. Our views of beauty have changed so much since then that I can only tell that a woman is supposed to be beautiful when that filter is on the screen and the romantic music starts playing.

I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may – light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful.  – John Constable (1776 – 1837)

That is how my city felt on Saturday. There was a soft and fuzzy filter all about it. It made me feel romantic toward the mountains, the leafless trees and even the traffic. All the cars that passed had that same soft and fuzzy grime all over them from the salt on the road. I know it should make me think that they need to be cleaned, but I could hear the romantic music when I saw them. They were beautiful.


The Couple On The Street

Filed under: People Watching — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

I’m at lunch. I should be at the gym, but I’m sitting in my car at the park. I feel like I need to rest. I would like to say that I’m resting at the park, but I’m not. I’m writing tomorrow’s entry.

They are sitting under the pavilion on the metal picnic table. He is wearing a red trucker hat. She is wearing a jacket that is several sizes too big. It looks like it could have been a letterman’s jacket in another life. It has a black body with brown arms. What team has black and brown for their colors? None, I guess. She probably bought it at K-Mart.

She was hanging on to him like he was a raft.
We both agreed, we’d never be the couple on the street.
 – Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

Her hair is brown and French-braided. It is bound at the nape of her neck with a white Scunci. They are both wearing jeans. He is straddling the bench and she is between his legs. I catch them looking into my car at me. “Is she watching us?” “No, baby. Come closer.”

Like a still life of our worst fears. I love you so much. Won’t you tell me please
We’ll never be the couple on the street.
– Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

They are in love. The way they are talking and looking at each other, I can taste their love from twenty feet away. I feel a guilty pleasure watching them out of the corner of my eye. The tree above my car keeps dropping snow onto my windshield, obscuring my view. If I use the wipers to remove it, they’ll know that I am spying.

[I]t’s one year later I still don’t have an ending.
The inspiration left.
I guess we’ll never be the couple on the street. – Jill Sobule, The Couple On The Street, 1995

He kissed her. I can see the scruffiness on his chin and almost feel the scratching on my own face. They stand and she gives him the coat. Oh, I should have know. It was his coat. He lent it to her because she was cold. “I swear she’s looking at us.” “No, she’s just on her lunch or something.” He takes her in his arms and the two of them are wrapped in his black and brown coat while they walk away from me.


Confession of a Christmas Shopper

Filed under: Christmas — Laura Moncur @ 10:52 am

When Mike and I were teenagers, Mike worked as a bag boy at the Albertson’s on 5600 West and 3300 South in West Valley. I worked at the K-Mart next door. Sometimes he would visit me on his lunch hour, but that was before we were in love. We were just friends then. The two of us know what Christmas can do to a store. K-Mart would have every register open and lines snaking back into the aisles every Christmas. Mike only had to deal with typical Super Bowl Sunday type of crowds that consisted of lots of people with only a case of beer and some chips in line.

Wednesday, Christmas Eve, I was waiting in line at the Albertson’s in Sandy. They were snaking back into aisles. This was not your typical Christmas Eve at the local Albertson’s. Something was different. Every single register was open and full of people. They had carts filled with food. I was a typical Super Bowl Sunday shopper, with a tray of deviled eggs and a few other snack items, but I was the exception. I was surprised at the crowds, but I had dealt with crazy crowds at stores throughout my teen years, so I calmly got in line and asked Mike to go to the store next door to get the wrapping paper that Albertson’s had run out of long ago.

He was behind me in line: a friendly guy, the type that talks to people when there is a long wait ahead. I heard him talking about sports to the man behind him. I had pulled out my Palm and was playing a game. My turn came to unload my deviled eggs and cookies onto the belt. I finished quickly and motioned to him so he could start loading his purchases as well. That opened the door.

“Can you believe these lines?”

I could, actually. Nothing surprises me in the retail industry. I could have just as easily believed it if I had been the only customer in the store. “Yeah, they’re crazy. They have every register open, though, so I’m not going to complain.”

“Any other day of the year, everybody would be screaming their heads off at these lines.”

“Yeah, but it’s Christmas. Everyone seems to be in a really good mood.”

He nodded and it was my turn to talk to the frazzled employee. She was tired and the bag boy was telling her that he hadn’t had a lunch yet, even though he had been there since nine that morning. My purchases were rung up and paid for with very little interaction from her, but I didn’t need interaction. I just needed to get out of there so that I could wrap some presents. The confession with the Christmas Shopper hung with me, though. I talked to Mike about it.

“Those lines were crazy.”

“Yeah, that wasn’t typical Christmas Eve busy. That was crazy Thanksgiving busy.”

“I think people want to celebrate. Maybe it’s because we caught Saddam.”

The second I said it, I knew it was true. At least it was true for me. Sure, I didn’t want to go to war. Sure, I’m not pleased with what my president is doing. Sure, I feel shame at the bully attitude that my country is expressing in the world. But, damn it, I’m glad we found Saddam. We found him cowering in a hole looking like the smelly guy who willing takes half of my burrito when I’m too full to finish it. Not only that, the vision of Saddam, captured and degraded, has convinced Gadhafi to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction in Libya. Peace on Earth, Good Will To Men. We took one step closer to that ideal this year. I felt like celebrating it and so did every other person in that grocery store Christmas Eve.


Living with the Snow

Filed under: Christmas,Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 am

Yesterday we had a snow storm. After years of drought, I realized that I had gotten forgetful. On the drive to work, it didn’t take long to for the instincts to kick in: don’t use your brakes, coast slowly to a stop, take your foot off the gas when you start to slide, turn into the slide. It took me an extra twenty minutes to get to work. That’s how time used to be measured in the winter. I remember now. In the winter, you need to wake up twenty minutes earlier, just in case it snows.

I dream of wayward gulls and all landless lovers, rare moments of winter sun, peace, privacy, for everyone.  – William F. Claire

It didn’t stop snowing, either. I was assigned to work the day after Christmas: we needed someone to man the phones. It was me and one engineer. The rest of them took the day off, knowing that they would want to celebrate the holiday and thanking themselves for that planning when they woke up to a foot of snow. The longer I stayed, the more nervous I got for the drive home. The plow came twice to clear the parking lot.

And for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of that country know them to be sharp and violent, and subject to cruel and fierce storms. – William Bradford   I don’t know why, but we usually get a drafter to shovel the sidewalks. There were no drafters yesterday, so I bundled up and shoveled the heavy, wet white stuff. I enjoyed being outside in the bright. My body heated up with the physical exertion and my hair became damp with the wet flakes.   The tendinous part of the mind, so to speak, is more developed in winter; the fleshy, in summer. I should say winter had given the bone and sinew to literature, summer the tissues and the blood.  – John Burroughs

The red trees that separate our parking lot from the neighboring business lost their leaves long ago. Yesterday, their branches were weighed heavily with the snow that clung to their limbs. I am still worried that their branches will break under the weight and there will be fewer branches for my sparrows when they return from wherever they are hiding. Some of the limbs hung all the way to the ground.

In the bleak midwinter Frosty wind made moan, Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone; Snow had fallen, snow on snow, Snow on snow, In the bleak midwinter, Long ago.  – Christina G. Rossetti

Welcome back, Old Cowboy Winter. You have been a dry and brittle visitor for the last few years. It’s nice to see that you still have a snowy side. I’d love to talk, but I’ve got a driveway to shovel.


Tactile Learning

Filed under: Philosophy — Laura Moncur @ 5:31 am

There is some learning that is entirely by touch. This last month, I learned this first hand. About a month ago, I spilled soap onto the counter in the women’s bathroom. I reached over and my thumb barely hit the button and my hand was in the wrong position to catch it, so the soap hit the counter in a messy glob.

Before you start scolding me, I assure you that I cleaned it up. There are only three women working in my office. It’s not like I could tell Prim that Oksana did it. They would know that it was me who made the mess, so I cleaned up after myself. That’s all beside the point, anyway.

The point is: there is some learning that is entirely tactile. Unbeknownst to me, the old soap dispenser was removed from the wall and a new one was put in its place. There is a mark on the wall where the old one used to be. The paint is a different color and a bit of the wall came off with the old dispenser, leaving the brown paper from the drywall. Well, because the new one is shaped differently, it isn’t exactly in the place of the old one. It’s ever so slightly higher and it is slimmer in form. Thus, my thumb almost missed the button and my hand wasn’t correctly placed to catch the soap.

I didn’t know that I knew where the soap dispenser was solely by touch. I never go “feeling around” for the soap. I just put my hand there and caught it every time. There must have been a time when I was a new employee and I didn’t know where the soap was and had to “look” for it, but that time was long ago. Now, my hand reaches for it and I don’t even notice when the dispenser changes unless it is so drastic that I end up missing the globule. I believe that they could put a huge sign on the dispenser saying, “Do Not Use! Acid!” and I would still unconsciously squirt the acid into my hand. No matter how large or red the letters were, I wouldn’t see them because I get my soap with my sense of touch instead of sight.

It’s a month later. I use the women’s room without any soap mishaps. Just the other day, I noticed that my hand reached to the exactly correct spot to dispense the soap and I caught it without spilling a drop. I guess it takes about a month to learn something by touch. I didn’t even know I could learn things that way. How long until I know everything about myself? Will I ever?


Snowed In

Filed under: Living in SLC, UT — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

CNN won’t tell you this, but we got a buttload of snow on the 26th. It’s not like there is a conspiracy going on and CNN is hiding the truth about Utah snow. It’s just that there’s that huge earthquake in Iran and all the hoopla about Saddam. Almost three feet of snow in Salt Lake City and the corresponding power outages isn’t enough news to hit CNN’s radar unless they are talking about the ski resorts in fluff pieces.

Trying to determine what is going on in the world by reading newspapers is like trying to tell the time by watching the second hand of a clock.  – Ben Hecht (1893 – 1964)

I live on a small street in Sugarhouse, which is very last on the list of streets to be plowed. On my drive home on the 26th, I got stuck twice just trying to get into the driveway. Once the Beetle was safely in the driveway, it stayed there for two days. We knew it would get stuck again if we tried to leave, so we stayed. The plow finally came the afternoon of the 28th, so we dug out our driveway again and ventured out into the city.   Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it to gnaw through the leather straps.  – Emo Phillips

You’d think with two days at home, I would have written lots of blog entries. You see, I work like a newspaper. I write my entries a couple of days in advance. While the snow was falling like crazy and I was trapped at work watching it cover the trees, the sidewalk and my car, I wrote Saturday and Sunday’s entries. But while I was held captive in my home, I didn’t write a single word.

The way you define yourself as a writer is that you write every time you have a free minute. If you didn’t behave that way you would never do anything.  – John Irving (1942 – )

It’s not like we were suffering. Our power wasn’t out for two days like it was in some parts of the city. The power was out just down the street. Gandolfo’s was running on generator power. Walgreen’s and Smiths had backup power only. We were the lucky ones. We only had a couple of brown outs and three feet of snow blocking our exit.

Although the world is full of suffering, it is full also of the overcoming of it.  – Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

After all the shoveling, I just wanted to sleep and rest. Even typing on the computer sounded like too much work to me. I couldn’t go to the gym either, but all of that physical labor gave me a better workout than I’ve had in weeks.

Why do strong arms fatigue themselves with frivolous dumbbells? To dig a vineyard is worthier exercise for men.  – Marcus Valerius Martialis (40 AD – 103 AD)

Well, I’m back. The driveway is clear and the Beetle is able to go anywhere again. I am free to go anywhere and do anything and I’m at home writing a blog entry. Maybe I can only write when it’s something that I choose to do. Maybe being stuck in the house without external input gave me little to write about. Maybe I just finally caught up on sleep enough to recover from all of that shoveling. Whatever it is, I’m glad to be back.


New Year’s Eve

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:34 am

I always feel like I should write an entry that has something to do with the major holidays, but I write them in advance. I’m not writing this entry on New Year’s Eve, so I feel a little like a hypocrite writing about a holiday that hasn’t arrived yet. I know it’s totally illogical, but here I am.

I really don’t even know what I’m going to be doing on New Year’s Eve. I think that my family might have something planned at my mother’s home (which of her homes, I don’t know, but that’s a completely different story).  Who is going to be there? What are we going to do? Where is it going to be? When are we supposed to arrive? How are we supposed to know? None of this has been communicated to me and I’m still in the dark…

So, I may or may not have a party to go to. I am totally in the dark about the holiday and, actually, it’s alright. I’m not willing to plan a New Year’s Eve party on my own, so I’ve left it up to Chaos. I may find myself celebrating with my family. I may find myself celebrating privately with Mike. I may find myself in the middle of a crowd and in the middle of the cold. I may ask myself, “Well, how did I get here?” Whatever happens will be fun and a little bit random. 

New Year’s Eve (Update)

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 3:53 pm

I was going to try to do it. I was going to try to flow and just let whatever happens happen, but I can’t. I need to know what you’re bringing tonight.

I’m bringing a cheese, beef stick, cracker, bread, cheese ball-thing.

Oh good, we don’t have anything like that. What about a dessert?

We’re bring a Victorian Lace cake. It’s really pretty.

Victorian Lei cake?


Oh, it sounds really good. Did you make it?

No, we just bought it.

The party is at Stacey’s house. The only way my mom would agree to have it at her house was if we agreed to sleep over because her new place is “so far out there.” That ain’t gonna happen, so we’ll party at my sister’s house instead. I’m supposed to be there at eight and she was panicked about the food. She’s not so willing to allow Chaos to take care of her parties as I am.

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