Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mr. Nielson Gives Thanks

View Christian's message on YouTube here.

*Photo and writing on photo by Stephanie Nielson*

On the off chance that you ever happen upon my blog, Mr. Nielson, Thank You <3

Your love for Nie inspires my husband and I to always make time for each other, to listen, to be silly together, to always keep our love alive.

Your rejoicing in your children, being there for them, allowing them to be who they are, sharing your sense of fun with them... If my husband and I are blessed with children, I hope we can take a cue from you.

Your love and appreciation for your parents, siblings, and entire extended family is remarkable. Your example has caused me to reach out to members of my family in a way I never have before.

Your faith is awesome. Though I am not Mormon, I do have faith. I have always tried to live according to His example, but I am beginning to be aware of how much more I can do. I am more attuned to His call and more inclined to answer it.

I know that I am not the only one whom you have touched through Nie's blog and through your incredible strength and grace in the wake of the accident and on your path to recovery.

As I watched your video I cried happy tears and kept thinking, "This is beautiful, Mr. Nielson, but it is we who should be thanking you."

Thank you, Mr. Nielson, and Happy Thanksgiving!

*All images courtesy of Nie's blog*

A Vegan Goes to Burger King

I am a vegan. For the past 6 years, I have been a vegan. Initially I made this dietary change for health reasons, but I have become more aware of and sensitive to the animals as well. Anyway, it has been unprocessed whole foods such as beans, lentils, whole grains, fresh veggies, tofu... You get the idea... for me for 6 years. Yesterday, I went to Burger King.


I love my Teen Voices girls.

Yesterday, the three girls finished Edit One of the article they are writing on HPV. It was not easy. Together they wrote the introduction, the "Did you know..." section containing facts and statistics, and the questions they will ask the doctor they will be interviewing. They divided up three other sections: One wrote a section about the vaccine; One wrote the "Words to Know" section containing definitions of words related to HPV; One wrote the "Why, How, and Where to Get Tested" section. A lot of hard work was done. They deserved to celebrate their success. What did they want to do? Where did they want to go to celebrate?

Maybe Starbucks for coffee and sweets? Maybe Qdoba for a burrito? Maybe Al Capone's for pizza or subs?

All are nearby the office.

No. They wanted to go to Burger King.

We went. I told them it was my treat and they could have whatever they wanted. They were quite surprised. I guess I hadn't made this clear enough before we set out.

In retrospect, I wonder if they wanted Burger King because, though I tried to make it clear, they did not realize I was paying.

Two Number Nines with Sprite, One Number Six with Sprite, and a slushie (I had to pick something). $19.84


The sandwiches were huge. The amount of french fries was more than generous. The drinks were enormous. Even the girls commented, but finished their meals anyhow.

Outrageous Portions.

Super Mario was pictured on my cup.

Targeted Marketing.

I am still vegan. I am still anti-fast food. So, why did I bring the girls there?

Mostly because I try not to force my beliefs and choices on others.

The girls did ask, "Miss., why aren't you eating?" I explained that I am vegan and what that entails. I told them that I did it for health reasons, but there are others who do it out of concern for animals.

They asked what I do eat and if I am having Tofurkey for Thanksgiving. So we talked about that. I told them that I am making a Shepard's Pie without meat for Thanksgiving, but there will be turkey and fixin's for everyone else. Two of them chimed in with how their moms make Shepard's Pie and one of them told me they make something like that in her culture (Puerto Rican), but they call it something else.

"Miss., is your husband vegan, too?" No. I cook meat for him, but I don't eat it.

So, prompted by the girls, we talked about healthy foods, nutrition, choices, etc.

Oh, and we talked about Thanksgiving, boyfriends, family, music, and

P Diddy's "Stunna" son.

Plus, we sang the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air Theme song and giggled... a lot.

Yep, a vegan went to Burger King.

Lovely & Talented Micha

I stumbled upon Micha's blog, Dandelion Daydreams: Micha's Musings, through one of her comments on CJane. I was immediately hooked.

Last week she published her 200th post and decided to give away a gorgeous bowl that she made. I made a comment.

Yesterday Micha announced the winner here. It seems this beauty...

is coming to live with me!

Thank you, Micha!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Odd Shopping Lists and their Unintended Effects

Mr. B&B and I did our errands this weekend, but forgot a few odds and ends. Tonight, after dinner, I headed out into the nippy New England evening to pick up the forgotten at CVS. Thinking of Mr.B&B lounging in his pajamas, wrapped in a blanket on our couch warmed me through and through.

Eggs (one dozen), recycled toilet paper, postcards, and a family planning aid.

Yes, folks, it is perplexing, isn't it?

The cashier seemed non-judgmental and unaffected, but she forgot to charge me for the toilet paper.

Newest Nie News

Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days. I am so Thankful that Nie is recovering near her family in Utah and the Nielson children have been reunited with their father, Christian.

Read the most recent article here.

Find family members' blogs at cjane, Alice Kind, and Lizzy Writes.

See how the quilts I mentioned contributing to are coming along at Threads of Love.

Remarkable recovering. Remarkable people. Remarkable family and friends. Remarkable blog community.

Remarkably Grateful. Remarkably Thankful.

Please continue to keep the Nielson's and their family and friends in your thoughts and prayers as Stephanie and Christian soldier on through the recovery process.

Thank you!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Apple Pie High

Every other year Mr. B&B's company has an Apple Pie contest. I always make a pie. I always lose. I keep coming back because: a) It is a ton of fun and b) Mr.B&B helps by doing the dishes and c) I like to think that in some small way I am contributing to Mr.B&B's career success.

Monday, November 17, was the date of the 2008 Apple Pie Contest. Sunday night I set out to make the pie. I couldn't find my favorite recipe. I scoured the internet, but nothing was quite right. I peeled and chopped apples. Back on the internet, I found an o.k. recipe and began mixing flour, salt, and butter to make the dough for the crust. Everything was going well until I had to slowly add the water. I am not always a patient person. I rushed it and ended up with a gooey, drippy, watery, pasty mess.

That mess and my resulting frustration could have been the end of this story if not for the encouragement of Mr. B&B.

In the end I used the filling instructions from the o.k. recipe, with my own flourishes of course, and found a different recipe for the crust. After assembly, using a knife, I poked holes in the center of the pie in the shape of an apple. How pretty my pie was going to be! Not so much. After baking, the pie only looked o.k. If I had used a few more apples in the filling it would have been fuller. If I had sealed it around the edges more carefully there would not be goopy filling ooze around the edges. The apple design was pretty, but would it make up for the slight sunkenness and the ooze?

Mr. B&B proudly submitted our pie on Monday Morning. Monday afternoon I got the call. The lady in accounting won first place. Someone else placed 2nd. Mr. B&B and I came in third out of 14 pies! Lucky for me and Mr. B&B, the contest was about taste only.

It may not have been the prettiest pie on the outside, but it was scrumptious on the inside. I think there is a lesson in that.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Three Teen Girls and a Baby Boy

At the end of October I met Three Teen Girls, my mentees at Teen Voices Magazine. Tuesday and Thursday afternoons we spend two hours together working on their article. Four hours a week doesn't sound like much, but those hours are jam-packed with work, talk, and giggles. Those girls fill-up far more than four hours of my week and no one is more surprised about it than me. I think about the girls every day. I jot things down in my internship journal constantly. I look for tools and resources to help them with their work. I loosely prepare plans for our time together. Time consuming, eh? Why? The only conceivable answer is LOVE. I love the magazine, the work, and, most of all, the girls.

The girls. They have opened my eyes, my heart, and my mind.
My eyes are attuned to details, to each girl's individual world...
My heart is more expansive in responsive to the love the girls so willingly give...
My mind recognizes differences in similarities and similarities in differences...
Eyes, heart, and mind are less stubborn, less resistant, far more flexible...

I am so grateful for the girls' trust, honesty, hard work, and openness to possibilities. It is amazing that we are halfway through our time together. I am loving every minute.


One morning a week, I volunteer at Perkin's School for the Blind. I work with an eleven month old Baby Boy. Baby Boy has Nystagmus, possibly 80/20 vision, and low muscle tone. I work with him one-on-one in the early intervention classroom (two trained teachers are present) while his mother goes to an informational workshop with other parents.

Talking with people about Perkins, the common reaction is "How sad." and/or "Seeing what can happen, your desire for children must be much less." For me, there is only joy and my desire for children has remained high and possibly increased. I have always been an optimist, a wisher, a hope'r', and a dreamer.

"How sad." is never something I have felt at Perkins. "How amazing! How inspiring! How adorable! How strong! How beautiful! How smart!" Those are feelings I have had. Every morning I spend there with Baby Boy brings joy. Each successive morning, Baby Boy makes progress. The first morning I spent with him, he napped from 11 to 11:45, but each week he has slept less and less. As time goes on, I notice him sitting up on his own for longer periods of time, reaching for things that I place further away from him, showing me that he is growing physically stronger and that perhaps he can see further than doctors first imagined. He shows me his intellect by repeating actions I have shown him in the past such as banging two items together to make "music". This week, for the first time, when I laid him on the changing table he began furiously kicking his feet, grinning from ear to ear and giggling. Pretty fantastic for a little guy with low muscle tone. Often children with low muscle tone also have trouble with talking and start making sounds much later than normal, but Baby Boy talks more and more each week and especially enjoys talking with me and the giant teddy bear in the classroom. Baby Boy has taught me to live even more in the moment and pay even closer attention to every detail, any shred of progress, than I already do. He has also taught me to be more determined and to push myself well past the imaginary limits I may place on myself. Baby Boy is Joy. Joy leaves no room for sadness.

As far as my still strong, perhaps even stronger, desire to have babies, I don't see how volunteering at Perkins could ever negatively impact that desire. The parents I meet, especially Baby Boy's mother, are inspiring, empowered, and educating themselves in order to be the best parents and advocates for their children. It is a privilege to know them and to observe them. They are incredible and I am in awe. Working with Baby Boy, noting his progress, cuddling his cuddliness, imagining his infinite possibilities, reveling in his accomplishments... How could any of that decrease my desire for babies? Yes, of course these parents and these children have additional challenges, but I watch them continuously meet and overcome them. "but you must have some fear of your children having a disability..." you might venture. I acknowledge that there is always fear when one takes a chance and leaps into the unknown. Bringing a child into the world may be the ultimate gamble any human ever takes. I say, the bigger the gamble, the bigger the reward. I also feel that having this experience at Perkins, getting this hands-on education about differently-abled children, has so far given me greater confidence in my ability and readiness to deal with any challenges my children may have. My strong desire to have children is still intact.

So, fellow bloggers and blog readers, that is where I have been spending my time, with Three Teen Girls and a Baby Boy. Not quite Three Men and a Baby - "They changed her diapers. She changed their lives.", but, minus the cheesy tagline, better I wager.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Go Vote!!!!

High Flying Flag - December 2007 - Hollywood, Florida

Today I woke up at 6:30 giddy with excitement. "IT'S ELECTION DAY!" I excitedly exclaimed to my husband as I threw back the covers, threw off my clothes, and hopped into the shower. His hearty laugh at my childlike excitement echoed through the house, but he stayed put on the couch watching the DVR'd Racheal Maddow Show from last night and savoring his steamy oatmeal. "It is not a day like any other day!" I fought to keep from shouting.

We went through our morning motions of showering and dressing. He laughed that hearty laugh again as he watched me try on three different tailored jackets over my black long-sleeved cotton t-shirt and dark wash skinny jeans before settling on the neutral velvety olive green two-button. "After two long years the big day is finally here! Aren't you excited, Hunny?" I asked eagerly. "I love you <3" he replied as he kissed my head on his way out the bedroom door.

At 6:55, all bundled up, we crossed the street to the middle school, our polling place. "Chilly, but what a beautiful day for voting." I thought to myself. Once inside we were faced with a looping line. "Good to know people are coming out to vote." Mr. B&B and I commented. There were people with children and people with dogs, brown people and black people and yellow people and white people, young people and old people and somewhere in between people, there were poll workers walking up and down the line in case people wanted to be sure they were registered and to help elderly voters or others with physical ailments go straight to the front of the line. It was civilized. It was community. It was democracy at work.

After 30 minutes of waiting in line, we had our ballots in hand. 2 minutes later 2 booths opened up. 5 minutes later our ballots were filled out. 5 minutes later our addresses were checked and our ballots were cast. Once safely out of the gymnasium and into the hallway I clapped my hands with glee, "We voted! Yippee!" I said, embracing my husband and giving him a peck on the cheek. "Awfully excited about voting, eh?" the woman manning the bake sale table said with a smile. "Yes. I can't possibly be the only one..." I replied. "Is it your first time?" she asked. "No. I am 27." I informed her. "But you look so young..." "We'll take the Banana Bread." my husband with the tummy full of oatmeal decided. Our civic duty (both voting and buying banana bread to benefit the PTA) done, we crossed the street back home.

"We've earned our right to complain." Mr. B&B said. "We've done our civic duty. Our votes count. We've exercised our right. Our democracy is intact." I replied. Holding hands, leaves crunching under our feet, smiles on our faces, we slowly made our way home. Upon arrival, I called my parents and Mr. B&B called his. "We voted!" we proudly spoke into each of our phones respectively.

Today, no matter who you choose to vote for, please go to the polls and exercise your right to vote.

Bring your spouse, your children, your pets. Especially, bring your children if you can. I remember my parents bringing me to the polls when I was little and letting me fill out the circles on the ballot to their specifications and I still go to the polls, but now I get to fill out the ballot to my specifications.

Today, no matter who you choose to vote for, please go to the polls and exercise your right to vote.

The people are friendly. You might even reconnect with neighbors you haven't seen in awhile or make friends with neighbors you never would have met otherwise.

Today, no matter who you choose to vote for, please go to the polls and exercise your right to vote.

The lines move quickly and are worth waiting in if only for that exuberant, sweet, proud feeling that comes after you have cast your ballot.

Today, no matter who you choose to vote for, please go to the polls and exercise your right to vote.

Do your civic duty. Make your vote count. Exercise your right. Keep our democracy in intact.

Happy Election Day!

Monday, November 3, 2008

More Dreaminess

Wendy Whitaker of Blue Lily is wonderful at capturing the essence of things and the little moments that make life worth living.

Check out the pictures she took of the Nielson kids and their Clark aunts and the husbands of their Clark aunts here. Simply dreamy!

A sneak peek...

A Book and A Movie

Yesterday I read a dreamy book. This morning I watched a dreamy movie. What better way to wake up from this dreaminess but to keep it alive by sharing it with all of you and interspersing my stories with dreamy photos I have taken.

The book I read in one sitting is The Last Summer (of You and Me) by Anne Brashares who also wrote the The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series. The story is about two 20-something sisters and Paul who they have grown-up with during summers on Fire Island, New York.

It is about the family we are born into and the family we create. It is about love of all kinds. It is about growing up and all the fears that accompany it. It is about living your dreams. It is about tragedies and the many ways to cope with and overcome them. It is about choosing how to live your life and letting go all at once. In short, it is dreamy. To be part of the worlds of Alice, Riley, and Paul for a short time was magical for me. A big thank you to K1 Teacher for loaning it to me.

The movie I watched is Elizabethtown starring Orlando Bloom & Kirsten Dunst and directed by Cameron Crowe of "Fast Times at Ridgemont High", "Jerry Maguire", "Almost Famous", and "Vanilla Sky" fame. It is about expecting the unexpected, love of all kinds, throwing caution to the wind, a father and son, accepting and embracing family and all the craziness that comes along with family, a journey personal and otherwise, letting go, accepting and loving yourself flaws and failures and all, finding yourself in someone else and seeing yourself and your possibilities through someone else, the idea that your life can change in an instant and learning how to manage that... Ok, I am being far too listy today, but YOU JUST HAVE TO SEE IT! Even more amazing, the cinematography and the gorgeous images of the great United States of America.
A glimpse of that gorgeousness from the Elizabethtown Official Website...

Dreamy, isn't it?

A Book and A Movie reminded me that without rain there would be no rainbows...

and without dreaming there would be no dreams come true <3