Pick Me!

A weblog by Laura Moncur


Welcome to my Weblog

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 11:26 pm

I am a secretary at an electrical engineering firm in Salt Lake City, Utah. I was born in Portsmouth, Virginia on April 12, 1969, which means that I’m an Aries, but if you cared about those things, you would already know that. I have a Bachelor’s Degree from Westminster College, with a double major in Mathematics and Education, neither of which have helped me write this weblog in the least.

My Motivational Quotes of the Day page is maintained by my husband, Michael Moncur. My first attempt at a weblog was the Quotes of the Week Page back in 1998, but I soon wearied of trying to write solely about quotations. This site gives me the freedom to talk about whatever I fancy.


Road Trip to Vegas

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 1:06 pm

We are planning a trip to Las Vegas and I’m giddy with joy. Living in Salt Lake has the happy advantage of only being a day’s drive from Sin City, so we have been there many times. Looking at myself from the outside, I wonder why I’m still excited to go there. I have been there so often that I know the geography almost as well as Salt Lake. I have been to all the hotels on the Strip and I can tell you the coolest things to do for almost no money.

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. Charles Kuralt

On the drive down, we always stop in Filmore. It’s a tiny town whose slogan reads: You Have a Friend in Filmore. I always wonder who it is that’s my friend there because the clerks at the gas station aren’t all that friendly. I keep hoping that I’ll eventually find that friend in Filmore, so we stop whether we need gas or not.

We also stop in St. George. You have to drive along Bluff street and pay homage to the Friendship Inn Sands motel, which pretty much looks the same now as it did in the sixties. We get gas here because if you wait until Mesquite, you’ll pay about twenty cents a gallon extra. Rumor has it that there is a muffler man in St. George, but I’ve never seen him.

This time, we are planning on staying in a hotel in Jean, Nevada, which is about twenty minutes south of Las Vegas. The hotels are clean and cheap. For only twenty bucks a night, we will get a clean room and access to the hotel pool, so I’m stoked. So what if I have to drive a little to get into town. It’s about the same as what I commute every day to work, so I’m not complaining.

Before he sets out, the traveler must possess fixed interests and facilities to be served by travel. George Santayana (1863 – 1952)

First on my list of activities this time is Paul Van Dyk at Ra. The Luxor Hotel is the one that looks like a huge pyramid. Totally cool in and of itself, but add to that a nightclub that stays open until dawn and Paul Van Dyk at the turntables and I’m in heaven. This is the reason we are going down to Vegas, so he is first on our list of activities.

We are also going to see Simon and Garfunkel in concert. The tickets are horrendously expensive, but this might be the last time we are able to see them in concert together. I just wish that I could go back in time and see perform in the sixties. This is the next best thing since time marches on.

Everywhere I go I find a poet has been there before me. Sigmund Freud (1856 – 1939)

My most fixed interest is relaxation. Sure I have plans and items on a to-do list that need checking, but the most important thing to me is to get relaxed and ready to face the next year. In the past, I have kept a traveling journal, but I have never done that in Las Vegas. I have written in my regular journal, but a traveling journal is different. I usually draw pictures and write about the new experiences in the new locale, but Las Vegas is like a second home to me, so I’ve never bothered recording my thoughts about this city. That sounds like the most relaxing thing I could do on this trip. Keep a traveling journal for Las Vegas. Goody, I get to buy a new journal! Maybe I’ll be the first poet to go to Vegas.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 6:47 am

I have one unborn child. She has dark, curly hair. It will grown into an unruly rat’s nest, but right after her teens, she will be reconciled with it. At age three, however, they will be soft, dark curls that will make her look like an angel. Her name is Amanda Joe, but we were going to call her Joe. If she wants the girly name that her dead and unmet grandmother wanted for her, that’s her choice. We would have called her by that grandmother’s middle name instead.

Our children change us whether they live or not. Lois McMaster Bujold, “Barrayar”, 1991

I don’t know if she will ever be given life. She has visited my mother-in-law’s dreams. She haunts my conscious thoughts. Her father would be uncomfortable around her, but she would crawl into his lap and put her little arms around his neck and squeeze the discomfort right out of him. I know she would like him best, but that doesn’t hurt my feelings. Kids can’t help but choosing a favorite.

The unborn haunt us in times of death. She is lurking in my mind, holding Calvin’s hand. She is perpetually three in her unborn state, but I can imagine her at every age. I can see her in junior high school. She is learning algebra and programming computers in Pascal. I can see her in high school. She is more interested in clothing and sex than mathematics and prose. I can see her as an adult. She is contemplating her own unborn children.

Humans are the only animals that have children on purpose with the exception of guppies, who like to eat theirs. P. J. O’Rourke (1947 – )

I am a member of the first generation that actually gets to choose whether or not we have children. I know that my mother’s generation had the choice of the Pill or prophylactics, but the former wasn’t perfected and the later was stigmatized. This is the first time that we can go into a grocery store and choose from twenty different styles of condoms without shame. This is the first time that women like me can be protected from pregnancy for all of their child-bearing years using a variety of methods (pills, patches, IUDs, female condoms, diaphragms, shots, and the list keeps growing). There is no excuse for unwanted children in the United States. If someone says that a child is an accident, they are lying. Just because you didn’t plan it, doesn’t mean that it was an accident.

I am a member of the first generation that will be haunted by unborn children by choice. There are many who have been haunted by unborn children. Some of them are unborn because of physiological circumstances that are beyond their parents’ control. Some of them are unborn because they didn’t get in line quick enough. My situation is different. Joe is unborn because I have chosen to be “responsible.” More and more of these unborn ghosts are unwanted, like the discarded pictures that I have been adopting.

There was something awesome in the thought of the solitary mortal standing by the open window and summoning in from the gloom outside the spirits of the nether world. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

I have such an entourage of ghosts that follow me that sometimes I feel like a celebrity. I have Calvin as my protector and bodyguard. I have Joe to remind me of work that still needs to be completed. I have my paternal grandmother to keep my nose to the grindstone. There are many others that follow me. So many that it’s a wonder that I ever feel lonely.


Sing in Unison

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 7:22 am

I’ve been singing alone for years. After years of singing under the abuse of a temperamental choir director, I sang alone gladly. No angry reproaches were directed at my self-esteem when I sang the wrong words in the shower. No music stands were lobbed at my head when I sang an incorrect note in my car. I was able to sing alone and I did it very well.

Inside myself is a place where I live all alone and that’s where you renew your springs that never dry up. Pearl Buck (1892 – 1973)

Singing a cappella is scary to some. There is no accompaniment to find your notes. There are no other voices to hold the note if you need to breathe. It’s just you and your voice. Every note must be perfect because that’s all they’re going to hear. Every song must be interesting and compact, because that’s all they’re going to hear.

Singing a cappella holds no fear for me. There is no accompaniment to prove that I’m off key. There are no other voices to sing the correct words and show the world that I sang the wrong ones. Every note is my own. Every song is for me alone, because I’m all they’re going to hear. Most importantly, there were no music stands directed at my head.

I celebrate myself, and sing myself. Walt Whitman (1819 – 1892), Song of Myself, 1855

Still, I was called. I don’t believe in a higher power, but I was asked to sing in the choir by the choir director. I had made a pact with a friend that we would both join when the summer ended. Even though she is in another state now, I still joined. It was partly in memory of her and partly because it had been so long since I had sung with other voices.

I’m not choosing the music, so sometimes I have to work my range to its fullest. I’m not choosing the lyrics, so sometimes I have to sing words that are uncomfortable to me. I’m not choosing the meeting times, so sometimes I’m tired and not eager to sing. All of these are ways for me to grow, where I have stayed stagnant for years. I didn’t even know that I was stagnating before I joined.

Let us go singing as far as we go: the road will be less tedious. Virgil (70 BC – 19 BC), Eclogues

After two months of practices and three performances, I haven’t seen one music stand fly in anger. The choir director is patient and loving. I’ve never worked under a patient leader before. I still worry about perfection, but that is my personal demon that has surfaced in more creative areas than just music. Our next performance is Sunday, October 26th at the South Valley Unitarian Universalist Society. Feel free to see how much I’ve grown if you’re in the area.


Iris – Goddess of Energy

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 8:04 am


After School Now

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:53 am

I am childless. I’m not barren. I’m not selfish. I’m not happy about it. I’m responsible. I don’t believe that a child should be brought into the world if her father doesn’t want her. I love my husband and I am willing to wait for him. Additionally, I have a teaching degree. In short, I’m the perfect person to volunteer for something like Big Brothers Big Sisters or maybe an after school program.

I was at the mall last weekend and was bombarded with chastisement. The Ad Council in conjunction with After School Now had placed a number of incredibly offensive public service announcements on the mall kiosks. At first I thought they were a joke. They said things like:

How much do I think about helping kids?” with a picture of a woman holding her fingers very close together and smiling happily about it.

Need volunteers to shrug off the needs of children? Count us in!” with a picture of two strong and healthy men, canoeing.

In our busy lives, we still make time to not help kids.” with a picture of a happy young couple in-line skating.

We’re turning our backs on kids, and loving every minute of it!” with a picture of a happy couple tandem biking.

There’s nothing more refreshing than neglecting our nation’s youth.” with a picture of a healthy middle-aged man, swimming.

They all seem to be chiding me for not taking care of other people’s children. They are reproaching me, the perfect candidate to volunteer for an after school program. Before I saw these ads, I didn’t even know that after school programs needed help. This is how they ask for it? This is the response that their advertisements elicited from me: “Tell them to take care of their own children, you ungrateful beggars!”

All of the advertisements seem to tell me that I am selfish because I don’t volunteer to help other people’s children. The irony is that if they had asked me nicely, I probably would have jumped at the chance. It could be that Joe has been born to another family and she needs me to help her. There is a hope for me to find her like others have found their unborn children. If she is part of an after school program, however, she is lost to me forever.

The entire advertising campaign makes me militantly against all child-based charitable organizations. I am responsible. I didn’t bring an unwanted child into this world. Other people haven’t been responsible. That’s not my problem. What gave these people the right to assume that it’s my responsibility to shoulder the needs of unwanted children? How dare they insinuate that I’m selfish because I haven’t brought children in the world before both my partner and I am ready for them? How dare they chastise the adults who have already successfully raised their children for not volunteering to raise a stranger’s also? I’m not like the lady holding her fingers very close together; I’m giving a one-fingered salute to them.


The Black Beetle

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 12:48 pm

The other day when I was meditating, the vision of a large, black beetle in my right hand came to me. I had accidentally squished in between my fingers and palm and I felt immensely sad about it. I don’t know if I had been saving the bug for something or if I wanted to show it to someone. I have no idea where it came from or what I wanted to do with it. Whatever it was, I was very disappointed and sad about crushing the bug in my hand. It wasn’t a disgusting thing. I wasn’t sickened by flattened insect in my hand. I was sad that it was dead with no concern for the mess. It was a huge disappointment to me.

Some days you’re a bug, some days you’re a windshield. Price Cobb

As soon as I realized that my mind was wandering, I went right back to concentrating on my breath. The vision was so disturbing that I forgot to send it a little loving kindness before I cleared it from my mind. As I talk about it right now, I am still very sad and disappointed. It’s like that feeling when you finally get that ice cream cone that you really wanted, but when you lick the lumpy ball of sweetness, it falls off the cone and into the gravel at your feet. All you are left with was the sugar cone, empty and lifeless. That’s how it felt and I’m still feeling it right now.

If you step on a beetle, It will rain. If you pick it up and bury it, The sun will shine again. Omens

What did it mean? Was I nearing that point in meditation where I was about to fall asleep? Was that the precursor to a dream that meant nothing more than my mind was trying to process the day’s activities? If that were the case, where did that overwhelming sense of loss and disappointment come from? It was a loss of my own doing, but it was a senseless and accidental loss.

The loss which is unknown is no loss at all. Publilius Syrus (~100 BC), Maxims

I believe our minds are stronger than we know. I believe that our senses are taking in so much information that we would go mad if we couldn’t filter it somehow. That filter, however, can block important information sometimes. That’s where our dreams come in. They help to remind us of everything that we saw and experienced lately. Some of it is important, but most of it is irrelevant. This sense of accidental loss that overcame me is one of the important things. I just need to think about it some more.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 3:35 pm

Part of the agony of throwing a huge party is hearing the excuses of those who don’t want to attend. Rather than saying, “That just doesn’t sound like something I would like to attend,” they rack their brains to think of an acceptable excuse. I guess they are worried about hurting my feelings. Not accepting my invitation never hurts my feelings. All of this year’s excuses were perfectly valid excuses that I had no argument with. Instead, I was perfectly happy to support them.

Two wrongs don’t make a right, but they make a good excuse. Thomas Szasz, The Second Sin (1973) “Social Relations”

“Ramadan starts the next day.” I said, “I noticed that I had planned it on that day. I thought you might have a conflict this year,” but I wanted to say, “I’m glad that you are observing Ramadan this year. Since you’ve started practicing your religion faithfully, you seem much happier.”

“I’m deathly allergic to cats.” I told her, “I knew that you wouldn’t be able to come because of the cats, but I didn’t want you to feel left out.”

“I’m exhausted so I’ll be in St. George.” I said, “Good for you. I hope you can rest there,” but I stopped myself from replying, “It’s about time that you took a break. I’ve been worried about you.”

Saying you’ll come and flaking on me kills me, though. If you can’t be truthful with me, then I’d much rather hear the excuse before the party than afterward. The excuses that come after the party, break my heart. I usually respond politely, but I always have that inner cynic that wants the truth from you. Last year I heard many outrageous and sad excuses.

It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one. George Washington (1732 – 1799), letter to his niece Harriet Washington, October 30, 1791

“I would have liked to come, but I had a family emergency that night.” Inside, I truly worried about your family emergency. I wanted to say, “What sort of horrible things are you experiencing in your life right now that would stop you from coming to a party that you really wanted to go to? Why haven’t you asked for my help?”

“I thought the party was on Halloween.” I kept quiet, but I felt like saying, “Halloween was on Wednesday, bozo. Do you actually believe that I would throw a huge party on a Wednesday? If you really wanted to go, you would have read the invitation.”

“I couldn’t find a sitter.” I said, “I understand how difficult it can be to get a sitter,” but I wanted to say, “I gave out my invitations three weeks before the party. You weren’t able to find a sitter after three weeks of searching?” If that were really true, then my heart breaks for you.

Why is it so hard for us to be truthful? It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me perfectly valid excuses. It’s hard for me to say what I’m really thinking when people give me totally lame excuses. I know you’re lying. You know I’m holding back. We both think the worst and our friendship suffers because of it.

The only man who is really free is the one who can turn down an invitation to dinner without giving an excuse. Jules Renard (1864 – 1910)

Everyone repeat after me. The polite way to turn down an invitation truthfully, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” Come on, I didn’t hear all of you repeating. Let’s try again. Repeat after me, “That really doesn’t sound like something I would like to do.” The impolite but funny way to turn things down, “No, I won’t be coming. That sounds like sheer hell to me.” Even that is more polite than a lame excuse for not attending.


Chaos Theory

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 12:45 pm

Today is my Halloween party. I only throw one party a year and I plan for it all year long. The costume, the mix CDs, the movies in the background, and the slide show are all mulled over and thought about starting in February. This year, I’m going as “The Homecoming Queen’s Got A Gun.” It took a long time for my costume to evolve into what it is, but now I’m decided. It’s too late to change it anyhow.

Partying is such sweet sorrow. Robert Byrne

The people I know fuss about the party more than I do. “Who’s coming to your party?” She has given her excuse for not coming but she’s still interested. I’ve told her twice, “I don’t really know. I pretty much only get negative RSVPs. It’s always a little random.” That answer isn’t good enough for her. If it were, she wouldn’t have asked me twice.

“Have you planned the food?” She knows it’s pot luck, but she still asks, “Well, I just thought that you would assign things to people who couldn’t decide.” I just shrug at her and say, “No, it always seems to work out.” I can feel it, she’s worried that everyone will bring the same thing, “Just think about it, if everyone brings Oreos, it will be the funny party where all we had to eat was Oreos.” We make some jokes about what to do with extra Oreos and she calms down.

Watch out for the fellow who talks about putting things in order! Putting things in order always means getting other people under your control. Denis Diderot (1713 – 1784), Supplement to Bougainville’s ‘Voyage,’ 1796

The strange thing is that I love this party. I have it within my power to plan every facet of it. I could only invite those who I KNOW will show up. I could plan all the food and beverages. I could even pinpoint the time during the party in which they would eat. I could plan and control every thing. Doesn’t that sound like fun? Not even close.

There are some things that I want to control. If there is good music, people have something to talk about, thus the mix CDs. If there is something for them to watch on TV, they can escape people and just be alone with the television if the socializing gets too much for them, thus the scary movies. If you show them that you care, they will automatically enjoy it more, thus the slide show of Halloweens past. Those are the things that I can control.

I’ve found that the parties that are the most fun have some element of chaos to them. I don’t want to control who attends my party. I would much rather invite everyone and let the Gods of Chaos work it out. Dealing with the food is stressful. I would much rather let Chaos Theory take care of it. The one party where everyone brought chicken was still a good party. We had chicken curry, Kentucky Fried Chicken, chicken wings, some great chicken thing that Don brought and I don’t even remember the rest. Neither does anyone else. We just remember the funny party where everyone brought chicken.

That which is static and repetitive is boring. That which is dynamic and random is confusing. In between lies art. John A. Locke

That’s what a party is about: talking, fun, not getting overloaded, caring and funny memories. I won’t report about how it turned out. I can tell you right now. It was great fun and a little random.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 8:20 am

We sent her to San Diego with a quiet party and loving hugs. We were so proud because she’s going to graduate school. She was accepted. She found a great place to live. She is going to be happy there. We got a couple of emails from her and we learned about the zoo and what school was like for her. She was sharing the flat with a tank full of fish.

Well, there’s a hot wind blowing tonight in the east, And I heard that the park is filled tonight with police. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

Friday, I got an email in which the most crucial thing going on was a sick starfish. But yesterday, I got the email saying that she is packing up just in case she needs to evacuate. Since I have gone on my news fast, this is how I hear about the events that shape our lives, from friends. Her city is on fire. Six hundred houses have burned already. She is packing up her beautiful flat.

On the TV hear they’re telling me the roads now are all closed down. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

What about graduate school? The school has been cancelled because all the roads to it are blocked off. She is at home, paying vigil to the television set. The fires are to the east, south and north of her. The only way to go is west. No, April. Go east. Come home to us.

You said that if you couldn’t take the car you’d walk instead. It was the last thing you said before the line went dead. And now I’m waiting by the window holding all the things of yours I’ve found. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

Yes, if April could come home, things would go back to normal. Maybe the whole West Coast will end in conflagration. Then she could come back home to us. She was supposed to be in the choir with me and we could have sung “No Man Is an Island” together. We could go dancing at Banana Joe’s again and maybe this time she wouldn’t cut her foot on a beer bottle. I could have a girlfriend to talk to again.

But there’s fire tonight on your side of town, Orange light in the sky without a sound. Fire tonight on your side of town. I watch and wait for you to come around. Information Society, Fire Tonight, 1990

No, that’s greedy. I only want her to come to Utah because I miss her. This is part of moving to a new city. A new home town will suffer its turmoil and for her to become a native, she must suffer through it too. No matter how much I would like to protect her and her city. She must stay. She must pack her belongings and she must save her starfish.


A Dog In The House

Filed under: General,Our Pets,Sid — Laura Moncur @ 4:25 am

I received an email the other day from a close friend. She got a dog. The boys love him. She loves him. He is housebroken and can sit and shake on command. She sent me a picture and he’s huge. I immediately wanted to email her to say how happy I am that she is safe now. She’s a single mother and the thought of that huge dog in her house just made me feel like she is so much safer.

I didn’t write back immediately because I was busy at work and I’m so glad it intervened. After thinking, I realized that it might not be such a good idea to suggest that she was unsafe before. It’s actually a little disrespectful. She’s an adult. She’s tough enough to handle anything that could come her way and how dare I say that she couldn’t make it without a dog. I’m glad that I didn’t get the chance to dash off a response.

Ah, this is obviously some strange usage of the word ‘safe’ that I wasn’t previously aware of. Douglas Adams (1952 – 2001), Arthur Dent in “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”

The truth of the matter, though, is that I feel safer with a dog in the house. My dog’s name is Sid. He’s not huge, but he’s a mean sucker when a stranger is in the house. I didn’t realize how much safety I feel comes from having him in the home. I was alone in the house for about fifteen minutes last week. Mike had taken Sid with him to the corner convenience store and it was just me and the cats in the house.

Before they left, the screen door was all that stopped the world from crashing in on us, but it was ok because Sid and Mike were there. After they left, I locked that door up tight. I had been dancing and singing to my older Halloween mix CDs, but all that changed when they left.

Looking at it logically, I am insane. This should be written down in the Book of Life against me. She is insane because she thinks that a 50-pound dog can save her from anything. The truth is, I am never safe. None of us are. The only thing that keeps me safe is that the Victim-to-Psychopath ratio is skewed. If someone really wanted to harm me, there is nothing out there that could stop them. It is only an illusion of safety that keeps any of us from hiding in the mountains with shotguns.

There is no safety in numbers, or in anything else. James Thurber (1894 – 1961), New Yorker, Feb. 4, 1939, “The Fairly Intelligent Fly”

Yet, there is something so secure about a dog. We rescued him from a shelter and took him into our house. In return, he is nice to the cats, barks at other dogs, and protects me from the bad guys (whether they be the movers or the mailman). He is an entirely different species, yet he is willing to stand beside me against the evil. That’s what we’re all looking for: someone to stand with us against the evil.


Bugs! in 3D

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 9:39 am

I want to write something happy and funny today. I’m not really in a funny and happy mood, but I feel like I’ve been too depressing the last couple of days and really feel like I need to lighten the mood. I have no idea what to say. Lots of funny and happy things happen to me all day. They are what keep me going when I get down.

If debugging is the art of removing bugs, then programming must be the art of inserting them. Unknown

The funniest thing I’ve seen this last week was a billboard advertising an IMAX movie for the Clark Planetarium. Mike read it out loud to me, “Bugs in 3D! Sponsored by Terminix.” I laughed so hard. I thought he had added the sponsorship, but it was true. I had this image of a completely different movie with a sponsorship of Terminix. Instead of the fascinating and scientific look into the microcosmic world of insects, I imagined a shoot ’em up type of movie instead. That’s the best laugh I’ve had all week.


Snuggle Tight, Little Birds

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 11:42 am

Over the summer, my office was visited daily by a small flock of sparrows. They would fly to our parking lot individually, as if they were worried that people would notice if they all flew in together. They would eat something out of the weeds that had grown in the cracks of our parking lot. Under Tom’s truck, he always parks in the same spot, was the best growth of weeds and the little birds would fight each other for the treats that awaited them there.   I value my garden more for being full of blackbirds than of cherries, and very frankly give them fruit for their songs.  – Joseph Addison (1672 – 1719), ‘The Spectator’

I had to look for them carefully. They usually fed on the weeds for only about a half hour each day. They would fly in, eat whatever it was that tasted good in that dry mess under Tom’s truck and then fly away just as quickly. Every time the lawncare company came, I held my breath, hoping that they would neglect the weeds in the parking lot for one more week so I could still see my little birds.

You can know the name of a bird in all the languages of the world, but when you’re finished, you’ll know absolutely nothing whatever about the bird… So let’s look at the bird and see what it’s doing — that’s what counts. I learned very early the difference between knowing the name of something and knowing something.  – Richard Feynman (1918 – 1988)

Today, Tom’s truck is gone. He is vacationing for Thanksgiving, along with the rest of the nation. The weeds are still there. They have gathered the crispy dark red leaves from the trees that separate our parking lot from the neighboring business. There is some hint of green, but the birds have long gone. I know these sparrows don’t fly south for the winter. Those fat little birds are still here, but whatever attracted them to that patch of weeds in August is gone and they have no reason to come to me every day.

Birds sing after a storm; why shouldn’t people feel as free to delight in whatever sunlight remains to them?  – Rose Kennedy (1890 – )

I miss them. Old Cowboy Winter has hit us hard with a biting North Wind and snow of all shapes and sizes. We have already been hit with the big fluffy flakes, the tiny ice pellets that go right through my clothing and feel like microscopic knives on my face, and the mushy slush in between. We’ve had white-out conditions. We’ve had icicles clinging to the bottom of our cars and off the edges of our rain gutter. We’ve had all of it melt with warm South winds. It’s only the end of November and we’ve already had all that the Old Cowboy could throw at us and we’re expecting more.

I don’t know where you hide, but I have a feeling I won’t see you for months. Snuggle tight, little birds.


Jewel Cases

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

I’ve been ripping all my CDs. It’s not for some nefarious file sharing plan, it’s just so that I can listen to my music on my computer without dragging out a CD and fussing with it. MusicMatch will let me Auto DJ my music and it’s better than any radio station in the world.

I think I should have no other mortal wants, if I could always have plenty of music. It seems to infuse strength into my limbs and ideas into my brain. Life seems to go on without effort, when I am filled with music.  – George Eliot (1819 – 1880)

In addition to the process of systematically reading all my music into the computer, I’m transferring my CD’s into a book. For years, I’ve had shelves of CDs glistening on overstocked shelves, announcing to the world how much I like music. It used to be that people would look over the shelf and pull out a CD to listen to while they visited, but that rarely happens anymore.

My heart, which is so full to overflowing, has often been solaced and refreshed by music when sick and weary.  – Martin Luther (1483 – 1546)

I don’t know when things changed. Maybe when music became so readily available on the Internet, the focus of music listening changed from the CD rack to the computer hard drive. Instead of looking at CDs to see what would be good for a spin, it would be a question of looking at people’s computers. No one has ever asked to look at my computer to see what I have there, though. I don’t know. Maybe music isn’t as cool as it was for those few years when MTV was king.

Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body.  – Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809 – 1894)

A by-product of condensing my CD collection into four binder books is a huge pile of CD jewel cases. I have been just as systematically boxing them away for storage. I don’t know why I can’t bring myself to throw them away, but I really feel like they should be saved. It’s not like I want to sell my CDs and I need to have the original boxes. I really don’t know why I don’t want to throw them away. I realize the value of the CD is lodged in my computer, but there’s something about the pretty paper and shiny box. Maybe it’s the packrat in me. Rats love shiny things.


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.


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.


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.


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.


New Mouse

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:14 am

About a month ago, I got a new mouse at work. It has four buttons and a scrolling button. It totally screwed me up. I’ve talked before about tactile learning, and this is another example of that. All of a sudden, I had a different mouse at work than I had at home and I couldn’t use my mouse at home.

It’s such a strange feeling to reach for something that you intellectually know is not there. When I used my mouse at home, my thumb would reach for the “back” button on my mouse, but it wasn’t there. No, damn it, that was my mouse at work. “I need a five button mouse at home!”

So I got one. Mike, the ever-vigilant husband that he is, bought me a five button mouse for Christmas. It’s a Logitech and my, it’s spiffy. It actually has a sixth button right on the top under the scrolling button. I have no idea what it does, but it has a little folder on it. Maybe it organizes my folders for me. Nah, only secretaries do that. I just tried it and all it does is switch between programs. I can do that with Alt+Tab anytime I want to.

Unfortunately, the problem is not solved. In fact, it’s even worse now. Now, I know that my mouse at home has a back button. My thumb instinctively reaches for it in the same place as my mouse from work and it misses every time. This mouse’s back button is in a different spot than the one from work. My poor thumb is as confused as ever.

It’s like when I suddenly find myself on one of those ergonomic split keyboard. They are totally out of fashion now, but Mike still uses one. It’s one of the reasons that I shun his totally cool computer in favor of my own. When my fingers are on the keys of his split keyboard, they are suddenly lost. They are at a different angle and the keys are ever so slightly off-kilter. Typing is impossible for me and my speed goes from 65 wpm down to about 20 wpm. Typing isn’t an intellectual activity: it’s a tactile one.

What will happen? Will I get to the point that my little thumb will learn where the back button is on both mice? Will I learn both of them and switch without even noticing or will my thumb forever revert to the buttons for the work mouse because I use that one for eight hours a day? Maybe I should just buy myself a Logitech mouse for work. Then I could have the magical folder button at work and at home. Then I wouldn’t have to Alt+Tab to switch between programs anymore.


Raw Sewage

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:28 pm

It’s a lucky thing that I write these entries ahead of time. If not, I would have just disappeared off the face of the earth a couple of days ago and my weblog would have been silent. Here’s a sample of what my personal journal entry looked like a couple of days ago�

01-02-04 10:32pm

This year has come in like a lion, so I’m hoping it goes out like a lamb. If it holds for March, maybe it will hold for the year. We noticed that the drains were slow a week ago. Yesterday, they became impassable. When I took my shower late in the day, the tub took thirty minutes to drain. The toilet caused an overflow downstairs, so we called a roto-rooter-type place called The Drain Doctor.

Drain Butcher was more like it. It was all downhill from there. He came at five this morning and ran the roto-thing down the toilet drain. The drains seemed the same, but he said it would take couple of hours to fully drain. With trepidation, we paid him and let him leave. We hoped, rather than believed, that he was right.

By 10:30 am, we knew he was wrong. We called the Drain Doctor again and asked them to send him back. By the time 12:30 pm rolled around, we gave up on his coming and called them again. The plumber finally called at 1:30 pm with a lame excuse about just barely getting our page and would be there in 45 minutes.

He finally showed up, put the camera down the drain a mere ten feet and found water. Surprise, surprise, it wasn’t draining. Just like we had said on the phone (and knew before we even let him leave), the clog hadn’t gotten any better, so he went to get the super jet-rutter thing and a helper. They tried the small jet-rutter, then they tried the huge jet-rutter, which they ended up getting stuck in our pipes.

By 8:00 pm, they just cut off the jet-rutter hose and said they’d call us back tomorrow to get it out. Mike and I hadn’t used a rest room for nine hours. Additionally, Mike hadn’t slept at all the night before, so he had been up for over 24 hours straight. We were ready to freak out.

Thank God for Mom and Reed. They are letting us stay overnight in their Taylorsville condo. There is a bed and a washing machine. Most importantly, there is a toilet that can flush. We can shower here and do the laundry. We brought Sid and I am so grateful to them. I’m sure really good karma is coming their way as we speak.

I forgot to mention the most spectacular part of the whole thing. When they were using the smaller jet-rutter, they forgot to put a plug on the hole in the bathroom where the toilet had been, so a huge geyser of water sprayed our entire bathroom. Water that had been through the sewer pipes, mind you. I’m amazed that I didn’t break down and lose it right there. It is still unclean and lying open as we speak. Mike and I just left the cats at home, grabbed Sid and our laundry and drove to the condo.

Ironically, I think I asked for this. I sometimes feel like I control the universe because I am here, living what I asked for. Two weeks ago, Mike and I were going to run away. We were going to take a couple of extra days and go to Vegas or Boise for a quiet getaway. I told him that I wanted to relax and do nothing, so we decided to stay home. We were going to clean the house from top to bottom and then I was going to stay at home and just write and read and crochet. I was going to unplug and hide. No TV, no shopping, just a clean house, writing in my journal, reading a good book, crocheting the afghan, and listening to music.

As we speak, that is exactly where we are. We are hiding and isolated at Reed’s condo. No TV. Just my MP3 player, my book that I got from Stacey for Christmas, this journal and the dog at my feet. I am sitting next to the heater vent and I am unplugged. This is exactly the escape I was hoping for. I was planning on getting it at my house, but here, there is no choice. I have to unplug because there is nothing here to plug in. I’m doing laundry, which falls right into my cleaning house gig. Once we get this drain problem solved, that house is going to receive a cleaning like it has never seen before. That damn geyser hit the fucking ceiling.

I feel totally contaminated. I should take a shower as soon as I have some clean, dry clothes to change into. It is 10:45 pm and I vow to finish the laundry before I go to bed. While we waited for the plumber to come, I napped, so I can work a little extra right now. I also crocheted an entire skein on the afghan while I waited for them to get their shit together.

So, I’m vacationing in a strange house. Just me, Mike and Sid. Mike is finally sleeping. Sid, uneasy, scared, and feigning sleep, is at my feet. I am writing because that is what I do when I’m upset. I write. I put pen to paper and let all the frustration flow out of my mind, out of my heart, down my right arm and right into the paper. I just took a deep, cleansing breath. I can feel the stress leaving me. Tomorrow, we will meet the Drain Doctor at our damaged and abused home. They will correct the drainage problem. They will remove their damaged and abused equipment from the pipes of our home. All will be right with the world tomorrow. I just have to get through tonight.

The entire house has experienced the joy of Clorox. It only took $488 to get the damn thing out of our pipes. Our drains drain. Our toilet flushes. Our water flows. For now� The ominous prediction of future problems looms. It’s an 80 year-old house, and I’m still writing.



Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:10 am

Alina cut four inches off. I told her to, so it wasn’t a surprise when she turned me toward the mirror. Two years ago, there was a failed experiment with bangs and another hair dresser. Ever since I found Alina, we have been growing out the bangs and this weekend, they were finally long enough to make the big cut. All my hair is the same length again. It’s all really short.

When you look at the hair magazines, it’s classified as “medium.” I guess it’s not short according to society’s standards, but compared to what I’m used to, it’s really short. It reminds me of myself in the 80’s. My hair was this length and cut when I was obsessed with living Molly Ringwald’s life. Now, you couldn’t pay me enough to trade places with her.

I look at my picture, here on the weblog, and I realize that I look nothing like it anymore. That’s the difference a radical haircut can make. Instead of the relaxed and casual woman with the hippy hair, I look like Sigorney Weaver in Working Girl. I look like Elizabeth Perkins in Big. I look straight out of 1986. I’m a determined business woman on the way up the corporate ladder.

There is the alternative. I could straighten my hair. It takes about thirty minutes every day and it is incredibly damaging, but I could wake up a little early and actually work on my hair instead of just washing it and allowing it to air dry. I could blow it out with a round brush and work it over with the flat iron. It takes some doing, but it’s entirely possible.

Of course, then I’m yet another person. When it’s straight with this cut, I’m still not the relaxed and casual woman with the hippy hair. I am the frigid bitch. I am Selma Blair in Legally Blonde. I’m Sarah Michelle Gellar in Cruel Intentions. I have a stick up my butt and I’m a successful business woman at the top of the corporate ladder.

The only way out of this is through. My personal style is long and curly. I needed to go short to fix my previous indiscretion. This is the penance that I have to pay in order to get back to my true nature. I will live through this short hairstyle. Within the year, it will be longer and closer to my favorite length. Until then, it will look good, it just won’t look like me.

In the end, I don’t really care about my hair. I’m happy as a clam because my toilet flushes and my drains drain. It’s absolutely amazing what I take for granted and how grateful I feel when I realize it.


Lisa Loeb Glasses

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

That’s all I needed. If I straighten my hair and wear a pair of Lisa Loeb glasses, I look like a hippie chick just as much as I ever did with the long curly hair. I don’t know why I had forgotten about Lisa Loeb. I have the same haircut as she does when it’s straight. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it.

Now, I just need to go to Hot Topic and buy three or four different pairs of nerdy girl glasses. Wow! An excuse to go shopping! I think that I’ll get some with rhinestones. It has been so long since I’ve indulged in rhinestones. I’m totally stoked. This haircut is so me if I wear Lisa Loeb glasses. I can be a hippy chick and have short hair. Just in case you were worried about my style dilemma, I’ve got it all worked out.

Really, I don’t care because my toilet flushes and my drains drain. The rest is just frosting.


Get Out Of Dodge

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:43 am

After the sewer fiasco, we decided to go to Wendover. It is the place that the locals go to run away. Slimy and small, Wendover, Nevada is a two-hour drive from Salt Lake. They have a few casinos and hotels for reasonable prices. It’s a gambling town. Its sole attraction is gambling, which is outlawed in Utah. We don’t even have a lottery. We have to drive to Idaho for the lottery and Wyoming for the beer. There’s plenty of Jesus here, though, just in case you were worried that we didn’t have anything to turn to.

Being a mathematician, I’m inherently not a gambler. Every time I put a dollar in a machine, I can calculate the return on my investment. I’m always so surprised when the casinos announce their payback rate and it’s something like 95% or 97.3%. That’s like telling me that I’m losing 5% every time I play. Why the hell should I play? Plus, I’ve doctored enough numbers myself to know that those machines don’t payback 95% all the time. The only way I can win is if I don’t play.

I’d much rather pump my quarters into that Dance Dance Revolution game, anyway. That’s the machine I’m hoping the casino has. I love that game. I could play it all night and not feel like I got ripped off. It cheers for me when I do well. It boos at me when I dance poorly. I work up a little sweat and I love it. I could never do aerobics because they don’t have little arrows on the floor to tell me where to put my feet. This thing is better than any dance class I’ve ever taken.

I’m bringing books and my afghan that I’m crocheting. I’m going to sit in the jetted tub in the room and just relax. I’ll be far enough away from Salt Lake to not care about it anymore. I took time off work and I’m going to enjoy myself. I just feel like I need to get out of Dodge. Pray for good weather for me so the drive only takes two hours.

If you want some ideas on where you can “get out of Dodge,” check out Starling Travel:


Wendover, I Love You…

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

01-09-04 12:45 pm: By the time this entry posts, I will be home. I probably won’t be unpacked. I might even still be waiting for Mike to bring Sid home from the kennel. When this posts, I’ll be home, but right now, I’m in Wendover.

For the first time in over 24 hours, we left the hotel. We hurriedly showered and dressed so that we could make the 10:30 am deadline for McDonald’s breakfast. Yesterday, we didn’t even let the staff clean the room. That’s what it’s like to hibernate. We hide in the room, leaving for food and rarely even leaving the hotel. Today, we actually let them service the room.

We allowed ourselves to explore all that West Wendover had to offer us. After McDonald’s, our first stop was the discount liquor store. Nevada has the amazing liquor concept called “the mini-bottle.” You may have heard of it. We can’t buy mini-bottles in Utah. They make us buy a huge bottle of the stuff. If we hate it, tough. We always buy lots of mini-bottles when we come to Nevada. It allows us to try new alcohol without committing to a whole bottle of the stuff.

We drove past the local strip club, Southern Exposure, and the dildo shop, the Blue Boutique. Same names as back home. It’s nice to see local businesses grow and branch out to other cities, don’t you think?

We drove through the small residential area here in Wendover. The mobile homes seem to outnumber the houses, condos and apartments all together. I can’t believe the mobile homes are sturdy enough to keep out the bitter desert cold. Some of them look so neglected that I’m amazed that they are still standing. The rust molecules must be holding hands.

If living conditions are poor, it doesn’t seem to affect the morale of the locals here. I am a people watcher. I watch them when they think that I can’t see. I see the locals working here. They talk to each other happily. The shop keepers were surprised at our presence, but not bitter. They seem happy. It’s nothing like Las Vegas. In Vegas it feels like the locals hate me. They want me gone. Don’t shop here. Don’t eat here. Just get out of my sight. No, Wendover is totally different. These people are actually happy here.

The visit to Wendover accomplished exactly what I needed. I needed to rest. I needed to hide. I needed to immerse myself in a town so wholly different from my own. How can I thank an entire town?


Man, it’s cold…

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:47 am

As I write this, it is 19 degrees and foggy outside. One of my engineers just came back from a site visit and he said that his toes felt like they were going to break off before he would be able to get back into the car. I wonder how the surveyors feel out there. I have gone into hibernation.

I’m usually an outdoors person. I walk to the local restaurants from my home. I walk to the local stores from my home. I walk for fun to the park. I sit outside in my backyard just to enjoy the outdoors. Since Old Cowboy Winter hit us this year, I have been hiding in the house. It’s just too cold to enjoy a walk outside.

Of course, when I say it’s too cold to take a walk, I think about the New Yorkers. They walk everywhere. They walk to the Subway. They walk to their local stores and restaurants. They do it in humid cold, which is way worse than our dry cold. When it’s 19 degrees outside and 19% humidity, it actually feels like 19 degrees outside. When the humidity is up to 40%, it feels much colder. If they can walk to their restaurants in the freezing cold, what’s the matter with me?

Well, for starters, I’m not a New Yorker. I’m not forced to walk everywhere; I choose to. I have a perfectly functioning car that can keep me warm while I go out and about. I guess I just miss walking everywhere. It feels good to be outside in the sunshine and I miss it. When my engineer came back from his visit, I wished that there was a reason for me to freeze my toes outside and get paid for it.

I just need to get out there. Next time I feel like leaving the house for a local restaurant, I need to just put on my heavy coat and boots and walk there. The feeling of the cold air on my cheeks is invigorating and it feels even better when I finally get to my destination. Winter evenings are so quiet compared to the summer. It’s like the snow dampens the sound and keeps it from bombarding me. This brown bear is leaving the cave, no matter how cold it gets.


2 X 2 Matrix

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:49 am

Mike and I really get along with Stacey and Dan. Everything we do, we think, “Hey, let’s call Stacey and Dan and see if they want to come along.”

That’s what Darrin and I call a 2 X 2 Matrix. It’s very rare to find another couple that the both of you can like. You should be grateful.

I sat there, feeling ungrateful for not noticing that we had such a good friendship. Penny seemed almost jealous of it, but there was nothing I could do. I think she left her last 2 X 2 Matrix in Arizona. She was obviously missing them.

We invoked the rights of our 2 X 2 Matrix last Saturday and fun was had by all. We met after my meditation class. We didn’t have much planned. Mike and I wanted to take them to The Melting Pot and I had found a store that I was sure that they were going to like. That was it. Our reservation was for 6:05 pm and we got together at lunchtime, about noon. I was feeling under the pressure because I didn’t have any thing in particular planned to keep us busy until The Melting Pot would let us in the door.

I guess I shouldn’t have worried. We found lots of things to do. We were going to check out the Chroma Gallery over by our house, but it wasn’t open at its appointed time, so we blew it off. Someday we’ll get to go there and enjoy more than just the paintings that we can see from the front window.

Instead of the gallery, we looked at an antiques store and I came this close to buying a Fisher Price Record Player. It had plastic records and wound up. It worked like a music box and each record would pluck different parts of the music box. It was only $28, but I realized that the only reason that I wanted it is because I would want my unborn children to have something like that to play with. I realized that if I ever do have children, they probably would be unimpressed with the Fisher Price Record Player. It was more a gift for my inner child and she really would prefer colored pencils or another canvas.

We also went to Experienced Books. Ok, we tried to go there, but there was a friggin’ oxygen bar in its place. I literally started swearing like a carpenter with a throbbing thumb when I saw the oxygen bar. Never fear, Experienced Books is still there, they just have sized down considerably. It didn’t stop me from finding three Somerset Maugham books and Mike found a couple of mysteries. B.Daltons all over the city are closing, but we still have Experienced Books, thank goodness.

I found a place for Stacey and Dan. Last week, Mike and I drove past it going forty miles an hour. I only got a glimpse of The Light Spot, but I was able to see enough to know that Stacey and Dan would love it. We don’t have IKEA here in Salt Lake, so we poor souls rely on local modern furniture shops like Manhattan Loft and San Francisco Design. I found a new place called The Light Spot.  They loved it and I fell in love with the Punk Rock Futon. All I would have to do to replicate it is take a black sharpie to my comforter. Cool…

All of this and it was only two in the afternoon. We had four hours to burn before The Melting Pot, so Stacey and Dan took us to the Dutch Shop and Europa, which are two ethnic markets right by our house that we didn’t even know about. We got lots of Russian and Dutch candy. Mike bought four flavors of licorice and two flavors of pfeffernusse. Dan got some really cool caviar (By the way, you left it in my fridge, man).

After the candy-buying binge, we all went back to my house to eat the candy until someone wisely mentioned that we were going to The Melting Pot in three hours and we needed to “save our appetites.” We all nodded knowingly and each snuck one more bite of exotic foreign candy that tasted exactly the same as the home grown variety with different packaging.

Instead of bingeing, we planned our next family vacation. We chose the dates, reserved the cabin within a few miles of the Yellowstone border and decided on the type of vehicle we are renting that can hold all of us and our crap on the trip up to Idaho. The most surprising thing is how easy it all was. Mike and I had thought that we were going to go to Yellowstone and we should just ask Stacey and Dan if they wanted to go. Within an hour of asking them, everything was decided and we were going to take my mom and Reed too. A whole family vacation to Jellystone! Yeah!

When six o’clock rolled around, I was so hungry that I was ready to order the full four course meal at The Melting Pot. They were looking at having oil instead of broth, sure go ahead. I was starving. We ordered drinks and ate tiny bits of food on long forks for three hours. We even were able to decide what we were going to fight about on the Yellowstone trip.

Nine hours together and a good time was had by all. Just chillin’ and hangin’ out. That’s what a 2 X 2 Matrix is. The four of us were able to enjoy each other, plan for more good times and make fun of Russian television. What more could we have wanted? Ok, there was one thing missing from our evening. Next time we go to The Melting Pot, we’re going to smuggle in a bag of ‘Nilla Wafers.


Apple Pear Potato

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:14 am

They say that if you plug your nose and cover your eyes, you can’t tell the difference between an apple and a potato. I’ve never tried this. I’ve eaten raw potatoes many times. I eat raw apples every day. Their texture is identical, so I guess I buy it. I can believe that they are the same if you can’t taste or see what you’re eating.

I was sitting at my seat before the Weight Watchers meeting started. I never eat before I weigh in, so I’m always ravenous when I get to my seat. I had brought an Asian pear and a cheese stick to eat while I waited.  I don’t usually choose Asian pears at the grocery store. The Bartletts always tempt me away from the Asian variety. I had gotten this pear in a fruit basket for Christmas. As you can tell, I had already eaten my favorites and I was down to the dregs. My choice Saturday morning was the Asian pear or one of two grapefruits. I took the more portable option and ran.

The first bite was the most interesting. I bit it gently, expecting it to be soft like an old Bartlett. Instead, it was crisp and cold from the refrigerator. Crisp, cold and tasting exactly like a potato. The texture and flavor were the same. It was a surprise and brought to mind the apple and potato taste test. I just finished that bite, thinking of all the times that I’ve eaten raw potatoes.

I usually eat a bite of cheese with each bite of apple. I had no apples, so I thought the cheese would go better with the pear than the grapefruit. Taking bites of that pear and cheese together was interesting. It made me think that maybe I should be eating more raw potatoes. It didn’t make me want to eat another Asian pear, however. I’m sure I just got a bad one, but it wasn’t good enough to ever risk choosing over a Bartlett.

I always feel self-conscious when I eat at a Weight Watchers meeting. It’s morning. It’s breakfast time and I’ve delayed my breakfast until after I weigh in. Right after the meeting, I have an hour to exercise at the gym and then I immediately go to my meditation class. There isn’t much eating time scheduled in there, so I fit it in right before the meeting starts. I never see anyone else eat. I see some diet sodas and coffee mugs, but it’s rare that I ever see another apple being devoured, much less a potato-flavored pear.

What is it about eating in public places? I know it’s considered rude to eat in front of other people, but there are times when I have to eat. Logically, I realize that I don’t register in the consciousness of any of the other members, but emotionally, I feel their eyes on me. I think that they must be appalled at my eating in a Weight Watchers class, even though I’m eating healthy food. Do they think that I have no control over my eating? Do they covet my pear? Maybe I can convince them all to shut their eyes while I eat. Then they wouldn’t be able to tell whether I was eating a pear or a potato.

Kristen Had a Stroke

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 9:16 am

Mike’s sister, Kristen, had a stroke this morning. I have some prewritten entries that will show up like clockwork. I will keep you posted as soon as I know anything.

Kristen Update


Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 10:36 am

They were unsure yesterday, but last night, they knew. She definitely had a stroke. There is a blockage in her carotid artery. The CAT scan was useless yesterday, but the MRI showed the blockage. She is going in this morning for another MRI. Waiting sucks…

Kristen Update


Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:29 pm

The doctors and therapists are hopeful. She has regained a lot of movement in her right arm and leg. She was able to walk down the hall with some help. We are still holding vigil.

Final Kristen Update


Final Kristen Update

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:37 am

This entry was written on my Palm. I’m waiting and it looks like I’ll be waiting for a lot longer. As far as strokes go, there will be less waiting than usual. That doesn’t make me feel any better, though.

The hardest part is not helping. The occupational therapist comes in and her job is to reteach Kristen how to dress herself. I just want to jump in and help her get that right arm in the sleeve. It’s like biting my tongue, except there’s no tongue to bite.

The physical therapist comes into the room and his job is to help her learn how to walk again. Her balance is off, so I see her leaning to her left. I want to rush to her side to set her right, but she needs to learn how to balance again. It’s a journey that I can’t spare her. I can’t help her. I can only watch in agony as she learns what standing upright feels like again.

This must be what it’s like to be a parent. My legs work. I want to spare her the pain of learning to walk again. Just use my legs, but that’s not an option. Only she can learn to walk again. Only she can travel down that road. I have to stand by and watch. The only good that I can do is give encouragement and even that feels hollow and empty.

A gag order has been issued and because Kristen is Mike’s sister, I will comply. She has a long road in front of her. The doctors are predicting two weeks in rehab and continued therapy at home. That’s incredibly fast for someone who couldn’t move the right half of her body two days ago. For her sake, I hope they are right.


Conversations in Women’s Locker Rooms

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

Here it is. Everything you’ve always dreamed of. What do they talk about when they’re in the locker room? I will give you, word for word, everything that was said in the locker room after my workout.

At first there were three of us: the gym babe, a blonde in a towel and me. I came in and started talking.

ME: “You know what’s really weird? When you’re listening to a song on your headphones and when you turn it off, the music overhead is playing the same song.”

BABE: “No kidding.”   BLONDE: “You know what’s weirder is when you change the radio station and the exact same song is playing on a different station in the same spot.”

We all nodded. The babe left the locker room. The blonde continued to dress. She put on a blue and white print sundress that looked far too cold for the Utah weather outside. We’ve had a heat wave at 37 degrees. It has addled our minds.

ME: “I love that dress. It looks like a blue and white china platter.”

BLONDE: “Yeah! I saw this dress at Ross and I just had to have it. I got this suit with a skirt and pants, for work. It was only twenty dollars for the suit and the pants were seven.”

ME: “Wow. What a good deal!”

She held up the blue pinstriped suit. I knew that I should be wearing nice outfits like that to complete my secretary costume, but in this cold, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Here is this girl in a sundress in the middle of winter. What’s the matter with me?

I noticed that she had a ankle bracelet on her right leg and a tattoo on her left. The tattoo was very colorful and quite large, covering half of her calf. I hurriedly changed out of my sweaty clothes and jogging bra, hiding behind the lockers so she couldn’t see me.

BLONDE: “What do you think of this sweater?”

She had topped the sundress with a long, blue sweater. It matched perfectly and ended where her skirt ended. It was fabulous.

ME: “You look great! I love that sweater. It’s perfect.”

We both went to the mirror to put on makeup.

BLONDE: “Sorry I’m taking up so much space.”

ME: “There’s plenty of room.”

BLONDE: “I just take up half the thing.”

She indicated her gym bag.

ME: “Yeah, me too.”

We silently put on our makeup. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her looking at me. I wondered what she thought about my boring jeans and bright green shirt. She started talking, but it wasn’t to me. She was on her cell phone.

BLONDE: “Yeah, I’m almost done.”

She took the towel off her head and her long blonde hair was wet, perfectly curly and fabulous.

BLONDE: “I had to shower because I was stinky, so I’ll be there soon?Ok, bye.”

I was done and now it was time for me to hurry back to work. I really looked at her before I left. She was decked out in sparkly blue eye shadow. At that moment, I wanted to trade. I wanted her to go back to my engineers and their construction specifications and I could go to her life and the voice on the other end of her cell. She obviously was living a much more exciting life than I was allowing myself to live. I wanted to be her.

ME: “Wow! You’re sparkly! You look great! Have fun!”

I walked out of the locker room and back to my engineers.


Calling Card

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:13 am

Last Sunday, when I was at the gym, Ocean’s Eleven was playing on the television in front of my treadmill. I haven’t seen that movie again since it came out, so I was glad to watch forty minutes of it while I ran. I listened to my new music and read the closed captioning for the movie. How’s that for sensory overload?

There is a scene where George Clooney is recruiting Matt Damon. He had been watching Matt pickpocket a man on the subway. George lifted the stolen wallet off Matt and left him a calling card that said a date, place and time written on one side and his name printed on the other. Just his name, like the kind of cards that we got in high school at graduation. I still have half a box of cards that say: “Laura Susan Lund” on them. They sit useless in a box with my tassel and diploma.

What were we supposed to do with those cards? They were small compact and only said our name. I can tell people my name. They won’t remember it, unless it’s important. If it’s not important, I don’t care if they forget my name and if it is important, they’ll remember. I ended up taping a card in each yearbook I signed that year. There is one taped in Michael’s yearbook. I still only used half a box. What was I supposed to do with the rest? Useless unless I want to recruit criminals and I don’t want them to know anything about me except my maiden name.

What I need are calling cards with all my essential information on them. It was all so easy when I was a realtor. I would just give friends one of my business cards. My cell phone was always on, so my friends could always find me with my business card. Now that I’m a secretary, I don’t need any business cards, but there are countless times that I’ve written my email address on slips of paper for people. What I need is a card that has all that info on it so I can give it to friends who want to read my blog or email me a cool link. Handwritten notes are so easy to misread. Preprinted cards with my name, address, phone number, email and blog URL would be so convenient.

I thought of this idea on Wednesday last week, so I dropped by Staples and bought some cool business cards that you can run through your printer. Sure, they’ll be perforated, but I’m only giving these cards to people in lieu of writing my info on their hands, so perforated edges aren’t really a concern for me. I’m not trying to impress anyone like I was when I was a realtor. I’m just trying to get information to them in a clean, concise way. Plus, they look all natural and handmade papery. It’s bogus and just printed on one side, but I’m ok with that. I’m not a real hippy, so it doesn’t need to be real, handmade paper.

All of this was started with a criminal that doesn’t exist putting a cryptic note in the pocket of another criminal that doesn’t exist. My calling cards will be used by my friends and acquaintances, yet the idea of having a calling card on hand just makes me feel a little more like a criminal on the edge. Wouldn’t it be funny if there was a pickpocket who always left his calling card complete with blog address? You could read about yourself the next day. It’s making me chuckle just thinking about it.


Man in the Dressing Room

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 2:34 pm

Today there was a man in the dressing room when I went to the gym. I saw him doing electrical work when I walked in. My inner dialogue immediately started invading my head:

Come on, Laura. It’s just a guy. He’s working on the other side of the gym. He can’t see anything by the lockers. Just change your clothes just like you always would. You’re not embarrassed by your body, are you? Ok, you are, but you vowed that you were going to act like you weren’t. What would that beautiful Oriental girl with the fake boobs do? She would just whip off her jogging bra like she didn’t even notice he was here. Of course, she’s probably an exhibitionist, but that’s another story. If he saw me, does that make me an exhibitionist because I was willing to change in here, knowing that there was a guy on the other side of the wall? Fuck it. I’m going to be proud of my body. It isn’t anything he hasn’t seen before, right?

And with that, I remembered the old trick from ninth grade. I could change into my jogging bra without a risk of him seeing anything, even if he did walk right into the locker room area. The old Flashdance trick. It takes extra time, but the risk just turned down to nothing. So I did it. I changed with a man in the locker rooms. There was no way he could see anything while I wiggled under my clothing, but I did it. Maybe he would be gone by the time I was finished with my run.

He wasn’t. And I couldn’t. I just couldn’t bear to risk trying to change in front of that guy. I just sucked it in, felt the shame of my body and waited my turn to change in the tiny dressing room that had suddenly become popular.

The irony of it all is that he was installing lights over the makeup counter. I had just been wishing for lights in that area. Be careful what you ask for…


Running on Fumes

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:38 am

I feel empty today. Kristen came home last Friday and she is almost as good as she was before the stroke. It’s amazing how quickly she has recovered and we are so grateful. The stress is over. The danger is past. We visited the hospital for the last time on Thursday. Everything has caught up to us.

Mike has been sleeping for hours and hours. All those days when he only got three or four hours’ sleep have caught up with him and he is sleeping a big sleep. Last Sunday he was like a bear. I woke him before we had to go visit family. After we visited family, he came home and went back into hibernation. Now that the danger is past, he can sleep.

I have been immersing myself into so many projects that I can’t keep up with all of them. I feel like I need to trim some things, but I’m reluctant to take the pinking shears to any of my life. I know that I have to simplify my life, but its all so good that I don’t know where to snip.

Do I cut out my weekly meditation class? I have such good friends there. I love the interaction that we have between meditations. That extra hour and a half is so nice to have on a Saturday morning. That’s the temptation. Go home and do chores. Stay for an extra half hour at the gym and sit in the hot tub. That might be more stress relief for me than the meditation class. How do I tell them that I have to leave?

Do I cut out choir? We are practicing for a special meeting in March that will include a bunch of songs that don’t really fill me with the spirit of goodness. There are the normal practices on Sundays and additional ones on Wednesdays with the choir director from the First Unitarian church downtown. Rumor has it that this other choir director isn’t as nurturing and kind as Jan, our choir director. If that’s the case, then I’m out of there. I find out tonight if this other guy is worth singing for. If he is a nice guy, then, I’ll stick around. It’s only until March.

Do I cut out Weight Watchers? Hell no. I need to learn how to eat healthy once and for all. I’m there for the long haul. However long it takes to get to goal weight and learn how to live this life as if it were my own, I’m there.

Do I cut out family activities? Hell no. I love to be with family on both Mike’s side and mine. Maybe I’ll take less responsibility with things, but I’m not cutting out my family.

Do I cut out my friends? Well, Mike and I don’t have much friend time. We try to keep contact. If any of our close friends come to town, we make sure we see them, but other than that, we keep things pretty casual. There isn’t much to cut there.

I feel like I’m spread so thin, but upon analysis, I don’t really have too much of a life outside of work and home: a class, choir practice, Weight Watchers, family and friends. When I list them like that, it sounds so hollow and empty. Maybe I’m feeling empty because I don’t have enough in my life instead of because I’m drained.


Distracted Driving

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

The neighbor’s cat has been walking on my car again. I can see his muddy footprints on my new windshield. I can see the spot right near the roof where he slipped on the curved roof of my Beetle. I feel a little vindicated that my car made him look silly. I can just imagine him slipping a bit and furtively looking about. He’s embarrassed and he’s worried that some other cat saw him being very ungraceful. It’s against the Cat Code, you know, to be ungraceful.

When I drive home from work now, I can see the sun. The days are getting longer and I scramble for my sunglasses to protect my winter eyes. It has been so long since the sun has visited full strength that I rush for the dark glasses with the 100% UV protection. In the summer, I just wear sunglasses all the time. When I’m outside they are on my face and when I’m inside they are on my head. During the winter, they hide in my purse. Right now I’m in limbo between the two. Sometimes they are on my face, sometimes they are in my hair and sometimes they are hiding in their case in my purse.

The footprints on my windshield leave little shadows on the passenger side chair. I try not to look at them while I’m driving. I am driving; I should be watching the road. I should not be staring at the sun, or looking at the cat’s prints on my windshield or following the shadow of those prints on the seat next to me or even composing my next entry in my mind. I should be keeping my full attention on driving safely so that I will be able to stay alive long enough to get used to the returning sun, clean off those footprints and write my next entry.


Burning Down the House

Filed under: General — Laura Moncur @ 5:00 am

I’m scared of setting the house on fire. It’s not like I want to set the house on fire and I don’t trust myself. It’s just that I’d like to start oil painting again, but I’m scared that the brush cleaner will ignite and cover the entire house in flames.

You can’t blame me. There is a little picture of that very fire right on the bottle of brush cleaner. The little guy has his arms in the air because he is covered with flames that have been ignited by the pilot light of the furnace. If I look at that picture long enough, I can see myself in place of that little guy in the safety warning picture. My arms are in the air and I’m trying to locate the dog and cats so we can get out of the house before the brush cleaner kills us all.

You can’t blame me. That is exactly how the condo across the way burned down in a flurry of flame. It was July and everyone thought that kids must have started the fire with some random fireworks. It was later that we learned that the artist who lived in that unit spilled some of her brush cleaner and the vapors traveled to the pilot light before she could clean it up. Within two hours, everything was gone. They called the fire departments for Taylorsville, West Jordan and West Valley. Mike and I were watching the fire from the safety of our condo when the windows blew out. We could feel the heat from the blast in our own building and it was then when we realized that we were not safe. The firemen saved our condo, but the place across the way was devastated.

I used to paint in the basement all the time at our house in West Jordan. Even though the furnace was so close, the basement was just one huge room with plenty of ventilation. I had very little fear of fire there. This new house in Sugarhouse has so many leaks that I don’t even feel safe upstairs because the vapors could creep downstairs and find the furnace. I’ve only painted one painting since we moved in July and I worried the entire time.

Mike has tried to reason with me. Cooking fires are the number one cause of house fires, followed by heating equipment failure, electrical distribution equipment failure, smoking, and candle fires. Oil painting doesn’t even make the top five. There is no logical reason for me to be scared of setting the house on fire, but I’m not a Vulcan. I am a Human and we get skittish for no reason sometimes.

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