Monday, December 31, 2007


As promised, this is a post about one of my grandfathers. This particular post happens to be about my paternal grandfather, Elwood Jones Corry.

I lived in the same city as my paternal grandparents for about fifteen or so years of my life, and so I was able to see them quite frequently. Here are some general facts about my grandpa:

He was born in Cedar City, Utah
He attended college in Cedar City, Utah
He was a Mormon Missionary in England in the early 1930s
He served in World War II as a clerk-typist (more on that below)
He owned an insurance and realty business
He became a widower at relatively young age, when he had three little girls and three little boys
He later remarried and had another little boy
He and his wife served an LDS mission in San Jose, California in the early 1990s
He developed cancer, but fought it very successfully for quite a few years (like 5-10)
He eventually passed away, not from cancer, but just from his body being old and worn out

Now, for a few more details:

When my grandfather was drafted into the war, he had three children at home. When he got the notice, one of his daughters was sick, and his aging father-in-law was living with them for what would turn out to be that last few weeks of his life. He didn't feel like it was a good time for him to tell his wife, and so he carried the draft notice around in his coat pocket for three days before he finally told her.

After basic training but before he was shipped out to Hawaii (where he ended up spending most of his war experience), my grandfather was processed in Camp Beal, California. There he was put through a physical examination, and one of the examining physicians found a heart murmur that my grandfather had had ever since he had been a young boy. My grandfather tried to tell the physician that the murmur was nothing, that he had had it for years and that it had not impeded him at all, but the physician didn't listen to him, and he was eventually sent to a cardiac ward of a large army hospital. While my grandfather was there, most of his company shipped out to Europe, and many of those men ended up fighting (and dying) in the Battle of the Bulge.

I think about that sometimes. My father was born after World War II, and so if my grandfather had shipped out in that company, I might have ended up being born into a very different family than I was. For his part, my grandfather was always convinced that he was kept out of Europe because of (as he put it) "the overruling hand of divine Providence."

I have lots of memories of the time I spent with my grandfather, but I'll just share one, and then that will be it for this post.

About two years before my grandfather passed away, I had a conversation with him that I hope I never forget. I'd been home from my mission for about six months, and I was having a tough time of it. Upon coming home, I had immediately moved six hours away from my family, (where I knew almost no one), enrolled in graduate level accounting courses, (although I hadn't even thought about accounting once in a year and a half) and was trying to figure out where I fit into the world. It was a hard adjustment to say the least, and I was feeling lost, alone, unsure of my future, and scared.

Around this time, I went to Cedar City to spend my two-week summer break with my family. While there, I decided to drop in and visit my grandparents. When I arrived at the house, my grandmother was out running errands, but my grandfather was there, so we had a little visit. By then my grandfather was mostly blind, a little forgetful, and didn't get around too much. In spite of all of this, he still had a lot of wisdom, and he hadn't lost a bit of his extra kind soul. As we got talking about this and that, my grandfather started reminiscing about some of his experiences, and the twists and turns that had come through his life, some of them good, and some of them really terribly difficult. And then, he said something that I still repeat to myself when things get hard. It's not rocket science, but it's definitely comforting, and I definitely believe it.

He said, "You know, if you just keep at it, things always work out for the best."

This was not the first time I'd heard that statement. It was (and continues to be) a favorite saying of my father, and I'd even heard it from my grandpa before this time. But this time was special to me, and it's almost like I believed it more. I felt inside of me that he was right, and that I could depend upon what he was saying. So I trusted him, and I kept at it.

So far, he's been completely, totally, 100% right.


Friday, December 28, 2007

a quick note

We had a good Christmas. We traveled to Cedar City to spend the holiday with my family there, and it was a whole lot of fun, with a few good surprises and a few surprises that weren't so good. Overall though, it was a great time, and I feel more ready to take on the world again, after having a little break.

Among the not-so-good-surprises, We stopped in Salt Lake City en route to look at the lights on Temple square. It was beautiful, but freaking freezing! Also, during our time in Cedar City, there was this strain of the stomach flu that made the rounds of different family members. For the sake of discretion, I'll just say that we were not entirely untouched. Yuck. We're feeling much better now though.

Among the good surprises, for the first time in ages, we had nearly perfect weather for the multi-hour drive down, and quite decent weather for the (again multi-hour) drive back. Nice. And then, I can't forget the beautiful silver sparkly necklace that Eric gave me for Christmas (among other things). All my nieces (who were entranced with their princess dress-ups, princess tea sets, princess telephones, and princess Polly Pocket dolls) seemed just a little envious of my "real princess" jewelry. Fortunately, their envy didn't extend so far that they took me up on one of my rash (and not-well-thought out) offers to trade. (Whew!)

And that's about it. Looking over that last paragraph, I think I'd better end this, before I write a whole page entirely made up of parenthetical remarks. I seem to be getting on a roll.

Happy holidays!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


One of my sisters-in-law ( Melissa ) tagged me to write 6 mystery things about myself. I've been kind of burned out on blog tags lately (because you know, I've done like three other blog tags on this blog, and that's just a whole lot if you ask me-wink, wink), but since it was Melissa's first time, and since I did enjoy reading hers, I decided to give it a go. So, here they are, the six mysterious things about me:

1. (Warning: This one is a little bit gross. Feel free to skip it) When I was in high school, I ate a raw fish eyeball that was sticking out of the skull of one of the trout that my brothers had brought home from a fishing trip. By doing it, I won a bet, and Brother#1 gave me $10. I used it to purchase crochet magazines at the craft store. From then on I lived in fear that someone in my family would tell my friends and they would be too grossed out to hang out with me anymore.

2. Just a few years ago (when I was old enough to know better), I bet Brother#4 $20 that he couldn't fit all of an almond in a mold the size of a regular Hershey Kiss. I lost the bet. I have no idea how Brother#4 spent that money.

3. I once received a marriage proposal via a game of Hangman. I was on my second date with a guy, and he asked me to play hangman with him. I thought it was odd, but I agreed to do it. The spaces for the letters looked like this (except there were spaces in a few places. I can't get blogger to do that. I don't know HTML and so I can't fix it):

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ ?

As I guessed the letters, I realized (with shock and dismay) that the words spelled out the phrase, "Will you marry me?" My answer was no. I don't think he was too heartbroken however. I learned the following summer that he had proposed to another girl mere weeks after our hangman experience.

4. I love chocolate in practically everything, with the one exception that I can barely stand English Toffee in any form.

5. Although my favorite color is yellow, when it comes to flowers, I prefer reds, lavenders, purples, and other jewel tones.

6. I rode through the Great Smoky Mountains in a Suburban with my family when I was 17 years old. We were exploring the Southern United States, and as we were driving through the Great Smoky Mountains, I was much more interested in reading my book than looking out the window. This seemed odd to my mom, and she told me that if I wasn't careful, my only memory of driving through this national landmark would be of the book I was reading.

In a way she was kind-of right. I don't remember the book I was reading, but the one thing I DO remember about drive through those mountains was that very conversation . (I did go back to the Great Smoky Mountains a few years ago, and I didn't crack a book the whole time we were there).

And there you have it: fish eyes, Hershey Kisses, marriage proposals, English Toffee, flowers, and the Great Smoky Mountains. It's a regular potpourri of random-ness, don't you think?

And with that, I leave you. All is well with us. I made Gumbo for the first time last night. It wasn't as good as my Texas Belle Tayneshia used to make, but for a first time, I was pretty pleased.


p.s. If you have a blog and would like to write six mysterious things about yourself, consider yourself tagged. Or, if you don't have a blog, and want to leave a comment with six mysterious things about yourself, that would be just fine too.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Charlotte and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

So yesterday wasn't my favorite day.

  • I turned off my alarm twice without realizing I was doing it, which made it so I was an hour late getting up for the day. This meant that I didn't have time for my morning walk, which is when I get all my anxiety and angst out. Consequently, my morning was a little high in the anxiety and angst department.
  • On my lunch hour, I went to three different stores, on a Christmas errand, all for naught. While I was out searching for this (secret) item, I noticed that the rear tire in the RAV was dangerously close to being flat. Fortunately, I was near a service station, and the very nice attendant turned the air on for me for free, thus saving me 75 cents (a small amount, but it meant that I didn't have to change out my dollar bill, and I was grateful). Also fortunately, I found as I filled the tire with air that it wouldn't be needing any further maintenance.
  • After my (non-lunch-eating) lunch hour, I went back to work to find that the software program that I use for all the accounting data at the opera (i.e., the program that is the most critical to my success, sense of fulfillment, and ability to stay in this particular position of employment) was being incredibly temperamental.
  • After trying the few tricks I knew to no avail, I called technical support. That's when things got really bad. I'll not bore you with the details, but I will say that I spent over 2 hours on the phone with a woman whose native language was not English, trying to talk computers, software, and accounting. Sixty minutes into the conversation, my technical support representative realized that she was looking at the wrong version of the software than the one I was using. (I just about started crying at that point). Finally we got the situation to a point where it was temporarily (but only temporarily) livable.
  • I left work a little bit late, and broke down and went to Wal-Mart for the (secret) Christmas errand (breaking my "no Wal-Mart from December 1 through December 25 rule"). Wal-Mart was just as crazy as you would imagine it would be on December 17, but I did eventually find what I was looking for. I had fifteen minutes before the post office was to close, and I rushed over there.
  • The line at the post office was out the door. At least the postal workers and other people waiting in line were almost all in good moods. That little fact helped me out immensely.
  • I got my package mailed, and headed home. As I was unloading some groceries from the back of the RAV, I noticed a 2-liter bottle of Diet Pepsi that I must have purchased on some previous shopping trip and never brought into the house.
  • Now, I am not a drinker of Diet Pepsi. (You may remember how my body tends to deal with caffeine) Eric, who used to be a drinker of Diet Pepsi, is currently trying to kick the habit (and being pretty successful, I might add). So, I was going to just toss the bottle, but upon reflection, I decided that a nice cold Diet Pepsi might be just the thing that would help me start to turn this day around.


  • The soda had frozen during its time in the back of the RAV, and as I tried to open it, it started fizzing. No big deal, I just tightened the lid until the air was just gently escaping from the bottle. I let it sit for a few minutes, until I decided it was probably ready to be opened.


  • As I opened the bottle a little more, suddenly, I was surrounded by a Diet Pepsi fountain! Diet Pepsi was everywhere! It was on the counter and all over the sink. It was all over my shirt and all over the kitchen floor. It was on the ceiling and on the cabinets. It was in places that I haven't even yet discovered.

At that point, I lost it. Thankfully, on this particular occasion, "losing it" entailed me bursting in to gales and gales of laughter. I got the Pepsi taken care of, and as I worked on that, I just laughed. I laughed until I had tears running down my cheeks. I laughed until I thought my stomach would be in a permanent state of cramp-ness. I laughed until I thought I might be going crazy. But I'll take a fit of hysterical laughter over a bout of inconsolable sobbing any day. You may think this laughing fit might have been the thing that would start to turn this day around.


The rest of yesterday evening got a little bit better each hour, and today has been much better. At work I was able to come up with what I think will eventually be a livable (and even better) solution to my software issues, my Christmas errands are all but complete, and at this particular moment there's not a drop of Diet Pepsi in sight.


Monday, December 17, 2007

I'm just curious . . .

Are there any lurkers reading this blog?

I check about five to seven blogs quite frequently, and all of them are written by people with whom I've had some kind of interaction. A couple of those interactions were via blog comments, but still, they were genuine, two-way interactions.

There are other blogs that I check regularly, but not exactly frequently. These are written by additional friends and family members, people who don't update their blogs as frequently as the people I've mentioned above.

And then there are probably three to five blogs that I check even less often, but fairly consistently. These are written by people I've found on the blogrolls of other people, or the "blogs of note" link on, or via google searches when I was looking for something specific.

None of these people know I that exist. If they saw me on the street, they would walk right by, not knowing me from Adam. And yet, I know all about their lives. I know that one of them recently purchased a new tent trailer, and that another one of them has a daughter that recently performed in her first ever ballet recital. I know about their vacations, their frustrations, their joys, the weird things that happen to them in the grocery store, and the wonderful things that happen to them in their living rooms. In short, I know a fair amount about their lives, even though I've never met any of them, and really don't expect to ever meet any of them.

So, I'm just wondering . . . do any of you reading this blog right now fall into that category?

If you do, and you'll indulge me, leave a comment and say so. It's totally fine with me if you comment anonymously, or you can use a fake name, or you can use your real name and/or a few details about yourself. It's totally up to you.

As I said, I'm just curious . . .

Creamsicle as it's never been done before

Any of you who are curious to see what happened to the creamsicle orange sweater (previously mentioned here)

Should go HERE.

Here's a little teaser:

Friday, December 14, 2007

golden oldies

A couple of days ago, my friends Sylvia, Nicolena, and I provided a very short Christmas program at one of the assisted living centers here. We ended up singing six songs, and Sylvia did a little reading as well. The whole thing took less than 1/2 an hour to perform, but it was a great experience, and it got me thinking a bit.

I've sung at several different rest homes, nursing homes, assisted living centers, and retirement villages over the years, and although each experience has been unique, there are certain similarities between them all. I think by and large, the residents of these facilities tend to be more forgiving of musical errors, and more generous in praise of musical prowess than pretty much any other demographic. I'm certain there are many factors that combine to cause this, and I wonder what they are. I could probably guess some of them, but I'm fairly certain that there are others that would surprise me.

Anyway, I won't go on and on with all my thoughts here. There are too many of them, and besides not wanting to type them all, I also don't want to bore you with the inner workings of my own mind (not today at any rate). However, the experience has gotten me thinking about my grandparents, and some of the memories I have of them. I've already written about both of my grandmothers (here and here), but I haven't said too much about either of my grandfathers, or my Uncle Scott or Aunt Ruth (who were basically a third set of grandparents to me, as well as many of their other great-nieces and great-nephews). I don't think today is the day for that, and so I think this is all I'm going to post for now. But don't be surprised if there are some grandpa stories showing up here in the next couple of weeks. It's probably about time.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Another Round of Random Pictures

Well, it's been quite a while since I've posted a random group of pictures, and as it turns out, today is the day when I feel like doing just that. (As you might remember, I was going to do a "random picture post" a few weeks ago, but I got distracted by the picture of my tree, and went off on a description of that instead)

So, here they are. The one thing all these pictures have in common is that they were all taken at some point in the year 2004. This first picture is Heidi and I at our Simon and Garfunkel Party. In the fall of 2004, Simon and Garfunkel had a reunion tour, and they came to Salt Lake City. As I remember, I was a little hesitant about forking over the money for the high-priced tickets (which ended up selling out rather quickly anyway), and so we organized our own concert. We invited all our friends over to our apartment, and watched the DVD of Simon and Garfunkel's Concert in Central Park, and pretended. Heidi even worked it out so we could make our own iron-on t-shirts to commemorate the event. I still have my t-shirt actually. It's getting a little raggedy, but it makes a great Saturday shirt to this day.

This next one I took at an Aggie Football game, again in the fall of 2004. As I remember, I attended the game with Ilsa and Dorothea. I have no idea who those people are, but I liked how there were so many navy blue shirts, and so I snapped this shot to remember the moment.

And finally, we have the photo that is in homage to the fact that in just twelve short days,(!!!!!) Eric and I will be in Southern Utah, at this very gate, headed up to my parents' cabin for a day of Christmas Eve sledding, chili and salt water taffy eating, hot chocolate drinking, and general playing. It's one of the Corry traditions, and it might be my favorite one. Ever since I was a little girl, my dad (who is the man pictured most prominently in the picture) would take all of us kids up to the cabin on Christmas Eve Day, thus getting us out of my mom's hair so she could finish her Christmas preparations. We would spend the day sledding, eating chili dogs and salt water taffy, drinking hot chocolate, and making a whole bunch of memories. The tradition continues, although nowadays my mom comes up with us. Sometimes there's so much snow that it looks like a Winter Wonderland, and sometimes it's a bit sparse (as it is in this photo). Regardless of the snowpack though, we always have a fantastic time.

And I think that will do it for today.


Monday, December 10, 2007


Scene: The breakfast nook. Charlotte and Eric are feasting on their typical sumptuous evening meal.

Charlotte: So, are you planning to come to that Christmas concert that I'm singing in?

Eric (somewhat surprised at the question): Well, I have to come, don't I?

Charlotte (pleasantly surprised at the answer): Actually, yeah, you pretty much do.

Eric (seeing a brand new window of opportunity and kicking himself for not negotiating earlier) : Well . . . I mean, you probably don't really need me there, right?

Charlotte (feeling herself losing ground): Well . . . I guess not, but I'd like to have you there.

Eric (a little unsure): Well . . . if you really want me to go, I guess I could. I could bring my sketchbook or something to do.

Charlotte (remembering some of the more boring concerts she's attended over the years): Well, we'll see. Let me think about it for a bit.

Scene: The kitchen, by the sink. Charlotte and Eric have just returned from church, and are participating in a little bit of Sunday afternoon snogging.

Charlotte: Okay, I have got to leave in FIVE MINUTES for this concert!

Eric (a little distracted): Why so soon?

Charlotte: We have a rehearsal before the performance, and if I'm late I'll be in big big trouble.

Eric (tentatively) :Umm . . . so, what time is this concert anyway?

Charlotte: Seven o'clock. You aren't planning on coming, are you?

Eric (face twists into a "What can I say here that won't get me in trouble, but won't entail attending this concert" expression): Ummm . . .

Charlotte (magnanimously): Because you don't have to. (She thinks to herself: "Because I want to save my 'do-this-because-you-love-me' wild cards for a time when it is REALLY important to me")

Eric (obviously relieved): Oh, really? Well, okay, I mean, if you really don't care . . .

* * *
So, the concert was last night. It went really well, and I had a great time. The music was beautiful, and the Tabernacle (where the concert was held) was absolutely packed. I've never seen so many people in that building at one time before. There were people sitting on the windowsills (I've seen that before), and people who had to stand the entire time (I've never seen that before). I was amazed.

Tonight I think I'm going to make the Christmas tamales, and Eric has to finish the Young Men's budget. If we have any conversations over these activities that are blog worthy, I'll be sure to post them here.


Friday, December 07, 2007

quiet rebellion

Well, I couldn't stay away.

Not that I really tried. As much as it may appear that I do everything recommended me by my monthly Reader's Digest, I've chosen to continue to blog in spite of next month's cover story. So there.

(Incidentally, what's up with sending out the January issue so that it arrives in my mailbox on December 5th? I mean, December 24th or 20th I could understand. But, December FIFTH?? Is that just a Christmas thing, or is it a general thing? I'll have to pay attention, and see when the February issue comes.)

All is well with us. Today I'm having lunch with Dorothea. Yippee!! Monday I'm having lunch with the Sugar Gliders. Yippee!! Tonight Eric and I will probably be dining on leftover Chicken Enchilada Casserole while we enjoy not having to go anywhere or do anything for a whole evening. Double Yippee!!

And that pretty much sums things up for us at the moment. Since this entry is a bit on the short side, I leave you with a listing of random questions I've had lately. Some of them could possibly show up in future blog posts. You just never know . . .

--What is it about sports that is so thrilling to my brothers ? They all scrutinize, analyze, often criticize, and generally obsess-size over every aspect of college and professional sports. What am I missing there? And what does BCS stand for?

--Why oh why did I buy two skeins of nice, super-soft baby yarn in creamsicle orange? Who in the world would be even the least bit pleased to receive a baby jacket in trend-setting creamsicle orange?

--What is it about comic books that makes me so drowsy? I've tried listening to relaxing music, white noise, recordings specifically generated to induce sleep, boring radio talk shows (no yellers though), and a whole bunch of other things to help me when it's too late to be awake and I'm too keyed-up to fall asleep. Nothing works as well as having Eric read to me from his comic of choice. Why would that be?

And finally,

--What should Eric and I give ourselves as a reward if (when) we make it through the holidays without gaining any weight? We're having our official weigh-in tomorrow, and we both need something to keep us from porking out too much over the next four weeks. It will have to be really good though, because we both love to eat (especially me), and Christmas is a time when there are a lot of good treats that you don't get any other time of year. So, the inner joy and satisfaction that comes from taking good care of our bodies just isn't going to cut it this time.

And that's it for today. May you all have fabulous weekends.

(And if any of you want an infant- size creamsicle sweater, let me know. I bet I finish it this weekend.)

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

like ra-yay-yain on your wedding day

So, you'll remember (from reading my first post, because I know that you have all read this blog from beginning to end by now)(or you could have read the "about me" portion in the sidebar, but I never know when I'm going to update that, and so by the time you discover this post, I very well may have changed it already) that the whole reason that I even started blogging was because I read an article in Reader's Digest about it, and I decided to give it a try, right?

Well, this morning, as I was finishing my morning walk, I stopped by the mailbox and what should I find waiting for me but my January edition of Reader's Digest. And what should be the cover story of this particular issue?

I quote:

Work, E-mail, News, Blogs, Voicemail
Get Simple
Get Smart
Stay Sane
PAGE 106

Does that strike anyone else as being just a little bit ironic?

Monday, December 03, 2007

An Update

Remember our tree?
Remember our squash?
I really should take it in, I know. I'm just not a very good clean-up-after-the-garden-is-finished-being-fun-and-exciting-and-producing-new-things kind of girl.

Yesterday as I arrived at our church, one of my new friends (a woman who I hadn't even met six months ago) asked me how my lemon pies turned out. I had mentioned my lemon meringue pie quest to her about three weeks previously, and she remembered it all that time. This exchange (which was really heartwarming to me) was preceded by me spending all of the previous morning sitting at a table with three other neighbors (also people I hadn't even met six months ago), chatting and working on a couple of very crafty projects.* The fact that I was able to do this is significant for two reasons:

1)With the exception of crocheting, I am not the least bit crafty.

2)I tend to be somewhat shy at times, and certainly cannot carry on light banter for more than about fifteen minutes unless I'm pretty well in my comfort zone.

Isn't it nice when things work out like that?

(Oh no you don't! You had to look it up! Admit it!)

The concert is this Sunday night. It's a community inter-faith Christmas concert/Food Pantry benefit. This is the 10-year anniversary of the event, and to commemorate it, Craig Jessop (Conductor for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir) will be coming up to conduct a few of the numbers, and bringing some of his choir with him. How fun, huh? We've been rehearsing since the first part of November, and it's been fun to learn some new challenging songs.

As fun as these rehearsals have been, they've taught me through uncomfortable experience that my breath support is not what it once was. That's a little discouraging. It's hard (actually, it's impossible) to stay on top of all the things that you'd like to do and learn and experience and maintain, you know? I'd love to spend more time singing and studying vocal technique and improving that particular skill, but honestly, at this particular time, its place on the priority scale just isn't high enough for me to make any major changes there. And that's okay with me. I've done some of that, and now it's time to do some of something else. And perhaps one day it will be time to return to doing some of what I've done before. Or perhaps not. I guess I'll just have to see.

And on that philosophical note, I'm going to go downstairs and make myself a very un-philosophical pastrami sandwich. Have a nice few days.


*I can't tell you what the projects were, because two of you faithful readers will be receiving samples for Christmas presents. It would be a shame to ruin the surprise, right?

Friday, November 30, 2007

O Tannenbaum

It's been a few days since I've posted, huh? Yup, a few CRAZY days. Things have settled down a bit now though, and I have a few moments for blogging.

As I've been reading some blogs out there, I've seen quite a few pictures of Christmas trees. It got me thinking about some of my own Christmas tree experiences (some might actually call them fiascoes, but I prefer the term "experiences", thank you very much)

Here are two of them--one short, and one a bit longer:

The house in which I grew up had a giant Pinon Pine right smack in the middle of the front yard. When I was in elementary school, I used to bribe my younger brothers and sister (it only took one normal-size bag of M&Ms for them all to share) to sit at a small card table with me for hours on end, coloring sheet after sheet of type paper. We'd then cut the paper and make extra long paper chains, which we would hang on the tree outside. One year we did salt dough ornaments as well. Those are good memories, although as I remember, the tree never looked all that great. Wind and snow (two elements always present in a Cedar City winter) tend to be kind of hard on paper and salt dough I guess. (Kudos to my mom for letting us put a bunch of tacky ornaments right in the middle of the front lawn year after year after year)

A few years ago, I bought my first ever live tree (we were a "go into the mountains and cut your own Christmas tree kind of family", so I didn't have any tree-buying experience). I couldn't justify spending a whole lot of money for something that I was just going to toss in a month, and I couldn't fit anything all that big on the top of my car anyway, so I ended up with a tree that would have made the Charlie Brown Christmas Tree look like the king of the forest.

My tree that year was so thin that no matter what I tried, I couldn't get it to stand upright in the the tree stand. To solve this, I put my high school yearbooks under half of the tree stand. That made the tree stand crooked, which made it so the actual tree was straight. Brilliant! Unfortunately, (as we will find out later), there was some leakage from the stand, which warped my yearbooks from my freshman and senior years at good old CHS. Luckily, the damage wasn't complete, and I can still see all the pictures. More importantly, I also still have a written record of all the people who wanted to me have a nice summer, who wanted me to K.I.T.*, and who thought I was

2 Good
2 Be
4 Gotten

What a relief!

As I lovingly took the tree down at the end of that Christmas season, I discovered that I’d accidentally bleached a nice little patch of carpet in the middle of our living room. How did that happen, you ask? Well, I'll tell you. As I remember, the nice salesman at the Christmas tree farm had told me that a solution of bleach and sugar mixed in with the water would keep my prize tree more fresh. Following his advice, for about four weeks I religiously added sugar and bleach to my tree stand. What my salesman friend neglected to mention was that I should BE SURE to check my tree stand at home and make sure that there were no cracks or holes in the base.

And this is where we get to THE CHRISTMAS MIRACLE OF 2003. About a week after I discovered the bleach patch in our living room, carpet installers came to our place to replace all the carpet in the room. My then-landlord had already scheduled the replacement, (the carpet had seen its day even before the bleach stain) and so I never got busted for the bleach fiasco.

Having learned my lesson, I purchased an artificial tree at the after Christmas clearance sales that very year. Since then, I've had Christmases that were pretty much tree-fiasco** free.

Don't even get me started on gingerbread houses though . . .

*K.I.T. = Keep in Touch
**Don't think for even a moment that these two tales are the only Christmas tree-drama stories I've experienced. I didn't even get to the year that I used a Ginsu knife to make my 8-foot tree fit under my 7-foot ceiling (Hey--they cut through aluminum cans, right?). I'll save that story for next year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Signs of the Season

Or--we could just call this one "Playing Around with the Camera during Thanksgiving Break"
(What could possibly be keeping these FIVE boys completely mesmerized? Could it be . . . a robot?)

(Remember this sweater?)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

twelve short months

Well, the pies turned out just fine, even the Lemon Meringue. Whew! As it turned out, I made a key lime pie and an apple-cranberry pie in addition to the chocolate, pecan, and lemon pies that were planned. They all turned out surprisingly well. I took pictures, but I can't find the USB cable to get them downloaded at the moment. So perhaps I'll post some later. Perhaps not though. I mean really, how exciting could these pictures be? They are just pies, after all.

The night before Thanksgiving, (after I had finished with most of the pies) Eric and I went to a movie. We saw the new Disney flick, Enchanted, and we both really enjoyed it. It's cute and really funny, and it made for a great evening for us. Then, the actual Thanksgiving dinner was just a lot of fun. We didn't have too much extra family this time around--just Eric's parents, Greg & Tamara (Eric's brother) and their kids, and one other family who have been long-time Cantwell friends. So, no one had to travel through the canyon to get to our holiday feast, which made it really convenient for all of us. The food was fantastic, and it was really nice to have little down time, especially for Enrique the great. Poor guy, between school and work and Young Men's, and some of his other projects, he's barely had time to breathe lately.

Yesterday Eric had to work, but I didn't, so I spent the day doing at little shopping (not at 4 a.m. though, thank you very much), doing a little cleaning, and getting our Christmas tree and other decorations all set up. Since I was by myself most of the day, I had a little bit of extra time to think. Sometimes having extra time to think can be a bad thing for me, because "think time" can turn to "worry time" within a matter of seconds, if I'm not careful. But this time, it turned out to be a very good thing for me.

You see, yesterday and today, I've been realizing what I was doing last year at this time. A year ago tomorrow, I returned home from a trip to Paris. It was a great trip, and I enjoyed it thoroughly, but it did have a down side in that I'd been dating this guy for a couple of months before we left, and I'd given him my heart enough that I missed him quite a bit while I was gone. I especially remember walking through the Louvre, looking at all these different paintings, and missing my Eric. So, that was kind of hard. Sometimes hard things can turn into joyful things overnight though, and that turned out to be the case with us. See, at the same time that I was moping around Paris missing my Eric, (I later discovered) Eric was moping around Cache Valley, missing his Charlotte.

And so, I don't think it was any coincidence that within a week of us getting back in the same country, we had determined that we wanted to get married. It took us a couple of weeks after that to get a ring and make it all official, but it was just under a year ago that Eric and I decided that we would marry.

As I look back over the last twelve months, I remember a year with a whole lot of excitement and a whole lot of change. It's also been a year of a lot of discoveries, and stretching, and growing, and learning. (It's also been a year of a lot of kissing! Wa-Hoo!) Actually, it's been a year of more experiences and lessons and priceless moments than I could even begin to write (lucky for you). And it's been an exceptionally good year for me.

Probably my favorite so far.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Things to Do


(Which will happen in March)

1. Perform Chopin’s Andante Spinato in a piano recital-DONE 10/12/07

2. Learn Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator

3. Finish at least one full-size afghan and one baby-size afghan DONE 11/18/07

4. Hand embroider at least 4 pillowcases

5. Learn at least one new guitar song

6. Learn the names of 10 new people

7. Be able to do Urdhva Dhanurasana (Upward Bow Pose/Backbend) eight times for 5-10 seconds each time

8. Learn to make a new main dish-DONE 10/3/07

9. Learn to make a new salad

10. Go two months without eating one bite of deep-fried food

11. Sing in public at least one time DONE 12/9/07

12. Be able to do Vrksasana (Tree Pose) for five minutes on each leg

13. Attend the temple ten times

14. Host a theme party of some kind

15. Lose at least five pounds (preferably 10-15)

16. Go to Smith & Edwards with Eric

17. Sing with members of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir DONE 12/9/07

18. Plant an indoor herb garden

19. Get caught up on reading all my back issues of Reader’s Digest

20. Give away one Book of Mormon

21. Play the piano in Primary at least once

22. Go to a town/city/place that I’ve never been in before

23. Write a poem or a song (birthday poems don't count)

24. Attend General Conference in person DONE 10/7/07

25. Complete an assignment as a "mystery shopper" DONE 10/17/07

26. See my very first Wagner Opera DONE 10/19/07

27. Shampoo our carpets all by myself for the first time ever DONE 11/8/07

28. Get a Pedicure (for the first time ever)(using a gift certificate from my wedding shower eight months ago) DONE 11/17/07

29. Make an edible Lemon Meringue Pie (preferably in my pajamas, apparently) DONE 11/22/07

I've actually done lists like this one on and off for many years now. I usually try to put at least a few things on the list that will really make me stretch, as well as having a few things on the list that are just plain random and fun. Then I always have some things on the list that I already have lined up to do. If you think that's cheating, you'll want to stop reading here, because I take it even one step further. As I go though the next six months, if I end up doing things or having experiences that I think are "list worthy", I'll come back, add them to the list, and then mark them as being complete! So, by the time March comes around, this list will probably have 30-40 items on it at least.

It's probably not really fair to do it this way, but what do I care? As my friend Pedro has been known to say, "It's totally up to us (or in this case, me)!"

*(this post was originally posted on 9/26/07, but I've been moving it forward as I've completed some of the different tasks.)

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Thanksgiving Eve

Before we get into the real meat of today's post, I have two "I'm-in-charge-of-buying-groceries-for-a-(really small)-family-now-instead-of-just-running-into-the grocery-store-when-I'm-out-of -milk-or-yogurt-or-chocolate-chips-and-(now that it's more than just me) I-want-to-save-money-AND-be-healthy" questions.

(With statements like that, I'm extraordinarily lucky that anyone even tries to read this blog. Don't think I don't know that.)

Question one:
How lean does ground beef need to be to be considered "extra lean"?

Question two:
What's a good price for extra lean ground beef?

(Did you notice that I said "before we get into the real MEAT of the post", and then asked two questions about beef? Amazing. I'm simply amazing.)

Okay, so all is well with me and Eric. Today is my last day of work until Monday, and I'm thrilled about it. Actually, Sunday night I started getting a little bit of the "Sunday night blues", until I realized that since I would only work three days this week, that the next day would be more like a Wednesday than a Monday. Then I felt much better.

Monday turned out to be nice, but yesterday wasn't exactly my favorite day. I got some bad-ish news at work and some bad-ish news from the doctor (nothing to worry about though--but since when do I need something to actually worry about before I start worrying? I'll tell you since when--since never!), and it was just a hectic run-around-like-crazy-day on top of all of that.

But, today is a new day, and it's turning out to be a much more relaxed day, and I've figured out a plan as to how I'm going to deal with the work stuff, and I've realized that I had over-reacted (for a change) to the health stuff, and tomorrow is Thanksgiving. So, what's not to like about all of that?

Tonight I'll be making pies. That's my Thanksgiving assignment, pies. I'm making chocolate cream (my favorite), pecan, and lemon. Eric wants me to try lemon meringue, and I've agreed to give it a shot. I've never made it before though, so we'll see how it goes. Perhaps in a few days I'll be blogging about my meringue catastrophe, or perhaps it will be a meringue triumph. Is the suspense killing you? It sure is killing me.

And with all that rambling, I leave you for a few days. Happy Thanksgiving Eve.


Monday, November 19, 2007

Makin' it to the Shire

Conceivably, Eric and I could live out the rest of our lives within a mile of where we live now.

For about 7 years, I lived in a town home/condo with Heidi on the other side of the valley from where I live now. After a while, Heidi got the hankering to move, and after about a year, I agreed to go with her. (I'm lucky Heidi was so patient with me) Heidi found a great apartment in a brand new complex on the other side of the valley. We moved in, and lived there for a year.

As we were living there, I started getting the itch to become a homeowner. There was a townhome community that I would run through during my morning exercise at times, and to make a long story short, I eventually purchased one of those homes. That's where Eric and I live now.

Eventually, Eric and I are hoping to have a few children (and no, this is NOT an announcement). When that happens, we will probably outgrow our three-bedroom townhome, and we'll need to find another place to live. Fortunately, there are a few regular-sized homes within a few blocks of where we live, and it seems that at least three to five of them are up for sale at any given time.

But, what I'm really looking forward to is when we get old enough that our family-sized home seems way too big for just the two of us oldies, and we can't stomach the thought of mowing another lawn or shoveling another walk, ever again. Because, within about a five minute walk from where we live now, there is a whole plethora of hobbit homes, disguised as a retirement community!

Eric was talking to one of the residents of said community a few weeks ago, and was told that the development was planned to look like a Thomas Kinkaide painting. They are really charming houses, and I can see why they are so popular (The picture below doesn't really capture the quirky charm of the area). Overall though, their appeal to me comes down to the fact that I like to think of myself living within a short walk of my friends, Bilbo, Frodo, and of course Sam.

(although, if we're going to be technical, I guess only Sam would still be there, right?)

Friday, November 16, 2007

Happy Birthday to Captain Magnifico

Today is the birthday of my Enrique, also known as Eric, Elijah, Snook-a-roo, Sparky, the Captain of the Geek Patrol, and Mr. C.

And, since I haven't quite gotten through my birthday poetry phase quite yet, I present you with yet another bit of poetry perfection.

Here it is:

Ode to Eric

By Charlotte C. Cantwell

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

You have got to be the most handsome, talented, good-natured, considerate, patient, kind, tolerant, easy-going, twinkly-eyed, forgiving, magic-ly-full-of-fun-and-good-times man that I have ever met,

And I love you.

Easily my most creative and innovative poem so far, don't you think? Yeah, but what does it matter? Eric checks this blog maybe once per month. It could be Christmas before he sees this post.

May you all have great weekends.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Limericks for Sisters

What is it about November?

It was my sister's birthday last Sunday (Veteran's Day), and the birthday of one of my sisters-in-law yesterday. Yet another sister-in-law has a birthday on Saturday. So, in honor of all these auspicious women and their auspicious birthdays, I present to you:

The Three Sister Birthday Limericks

-by Charlotte C. Cantwell

Limerick #1

For Becca
We were two daughters mixed among boy after boy,
We shared a room, but very rarely a toy.
But now we laugh on the phone,
And we might laugh over this poem.
And over the memories that time won't destroy.

(Talking with Becca on the phone rates right up there with singing and eating chocolate cake for me. There really aren't many things that I like more. )

Limerick #2

For Maegan
I met this girl when she was quite young,
On my father's track teams she did run.
She is fleet on her feet,
But even better, she's sweet.
And she sure adds to our family fun.

(Four out of my five siblings married people they became close to while running on the Cedar High School Cross-Country and Track & Field Teams. Maegan is an especially talented runner, but even more importantly (to me), she's terribly friendly and quick to laugh)

Limerick #3

For Tamara

And now we're to the sister I (more often) see,
Since she lives within a few miles of me.
We play "Acquire" too late,
And at times double-date,

And in many ways, my hero is she.

(Tamara is the mother to two boys and three girls, with the oldest being only six or seven years old. I have no idea how I would manage that. Now, I'm sure Tamara has her hard days, but I get the distinct impression that she has far many more happy & content days than otherwise.)

In other news, things are mostly fine with us. For no really discernible reason, I got pretty grumpy last night, which led to me feeling overwhelmed, discouraged, and sad, and those bad feelings carried over into this morning. I hate it when I let myself do that. Anyway, I'm feeling quite a bit better now. There's nothing like writing a cheesy limerick or two (or three) to really lighten your spirits, you know?

And with that, I'll end today's ramblings. Tune in tomorrow. It's Eric's birthday and I've got yet another birthday poem in the works. You won't want to miss it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Smattering of Gratitude

Just a few recent (or at least somewhat-recent) entries in "the gratitude book":

  • Today I had a lovely time with some friends. We talked and laughed so hard and so long that my face hurt. it's been awhile since I laughed like that, and it felt GREAT! (March 18, 2006)

  • Today I'm grateful to have handwriting that is (usually) legible (April 26, 2006)

  • Today I'm grateful that I was able to just go out and buy a new digital camera when mine broke. (May 16, 2006)

  • I have so many blessings, it is hard for me to choose one to write about here. I'm grateful for THAT. (July 5, 2006)

  • Yesterday I was working on the depreciation schedule for the audit (at work). As I was doing that, I felt really smart. I love it when that happens. (October 13, 2006)

  • Everyone at work has new cell phones now, so our ring tones are not the same anymore. I'm grateful for that. (February 10, 2007)

  • I'm grateful that Krista (my very very musical sister-in-law) has kind of taken over the responsibility of putting together a musical number for grandma's funeral (March 12, 2007)

  • I get to start out every morning by snuggling with the man I love. Wahoo! (May 13, 2007)

  • Yesterday Eric and I went to church at a different ward than usual. While we were there, a woman made a comment that helped me see that my best is good enough for the Lord, even if the level of "my best" turns out to be different from day to day. What a blessing her words were to me. (June 4, 2007)
  • Yesterday I called [my aunt] to ask her about [a dinner we were hosting]. I also told her about my bad experience in church. We laughed and laughed together. It was wonderful (July 3, 2007)
  • Yesterday Eric and I went out to dinner. Because of some mistakes in the kitchen, we ended up being able to eat for $8.58. What a deal! (September 21, 2007)
  • Yesterday my mom called me. It was the second time I'd spoken with her in a week. I'm grateful that I live in a time when I'm able to have super frequent contact with my mother. (October 18, 2007)

(I usually write in the gratitude book within 15 minutes of being awake for the day. That's why there are so many entries that begin with the word "yesterday")

Saturday, November 10, 2007

To be re-read (by me) in 2009

Well, I rented a Rug Doctor from our neighborhood grocery store last Thursday, and that evening I deep-cleaned our carpets. I am AMAZED at how much better I feel about our home now. The thing that I'm most amazed about though, is how long it took for that "good feeling" to kick in. As I was running the machine, I got really discouraged, because it seemed like it was a lot of work, and I couldn't see that it was doing any good at all. I mean, there I was, dumping tank after tank of filthy water down the drain, and still the floors looked brown and dingy (well, our carpet IS brown, but still). As I was trying to get the motivation to finish the job, Eric informed me that the carpets looked much better to him (I may never be certain about whether he was telling the truth or just trying to cheer me up). After surveying the cleaned part of the room, I couldn't see that it looked better at all, but I decided to trust him, and I finished the job.

Well, yesterday morning I came downstairs, and was AMAZED at how much better the carpets looked. I had the same experience yesterday when I came home from work. They look sooo much better, and they feel sooo much better on my bare feet, and I feel sooo much better about the whole experience. Now, I'll just have to remember to come back and read this little entry in a year or year-and-a-half, when it's time to do it all again.

To celebrate the successful cleaning experience, (and because it's Eric's birthday next Friday, and I'm all about celebrating birthdays for as long as is humanly possible), we went out for Chinese food last night. I ordered Kung Pao Tofu, and Eric ordered Kung Pao Shrimp. It was delicious. Then we came home and watched season one episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender on DVD. You wouldn't think that eating chinese food and watching cartoons would be very fun would you? But, it was. Maybe we're just overly immature, but I'm telling you, it was GREAT. Last night was the perfect way to end a hectic week and start a hopefully-more-relaxed weekend.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

a day in the life . . .

Well, everything is going well here these days. Today is the day that Eric should be able to register for the one class that he needs so that he can qualify for all the graphic design classes that he needs to take so that he can (eventually) graduate (Wa-Hoo!). This morning as I left, he was on-line, trying to get registered, and encountering some technical difficulties. I hate technical difficulties.

Tonight we have a thrilling evening planned. Eric is meeting with as many of the 14-18 year-old boys in our ward as he can get to come over, and they're going to plan out some of the service projects, scouting work, and recreation activities that they're going to be doing for the next few months. As for me, I'm going to attempt to price carpet shampoo rentals. Our carpet hasn't been deep cleaned in several years now, and it's probably time.

My biggest accomplishment of the day is that I voted. I'll admit that this is one election day that I won't be sorry to see end. In addition to all the controversy and noise about vouchers, the town that Eric and I live in (a bedroom community really) has been embroiled in what appears to be a dispute about growth, which is coming to a head as a dispute about water (as nearly as I can tell, anyway). There's probably no need to go into details, so I'll just say that the discussion has gotten quite ugly and unhappy from time to time.

And that's the story today. As I look over this post, it sounds a little on the discouraging side. I guess technical difficulties, carpet shampooing, and community discord don't make for rosy blog posts do they? All that notwithstanding, I stand by the first sentence I wrote. Everything is going well here these days. The sun is out, and there's not a cloud in the sky. I'm employed at a job that I enjoy, surrounded by friends and family that I love, and when I woke up this morning, I didn't have a single ache or pain anywhere in my marvelously efficient body. Not bad for a little girl from southern Utah.

Until next time,

Friday, November 02, 2007

Lessons From My Tree

This started out as a "random picture post", but I ended up writing so much about two of the photos that I've decided to just have those this time, and save the rest for a post in the future.

These are photos of a tree that I used to walk/run by at least once a week on my morning run/walk. The second photo is actually a close-up of the first. Now, from a distance, this tree looks kind of like a great big giant (like 12-14 feet tall) bush, and for several months, that's what I thought it was. Then one day, I got a little closer, and I realized that it was in fact not a bush at all, but a tree. To be more specific, it was a tree that had suffered some incredible trauma (I'm guessing it was struck by lightening), trauma that had caused its trunk to crack nearly in two.
I would have thought that the kind of trauma that this tree would have experienced would have done it in, but I'd be wrong. The tree continued to live, and even thrive, in spite of the difficulty associated with this injury.
After seeing this tree so often during that time period, I began to take a little bit from what I imagined its experience to be and apply it to my own life. Now, Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables notwithstanding, I'm not one who believes that trees think or feel or anything along those lines. But, for purposes of my thoughts, I imagined how the tree might have felt when it was struck by lightening. I imagined that it had probably been growing quite tall, and had some big plans for its future. Perhaps it wanted to be the tallest tree in the area. Perhaps it wanted to provide shade for people as they ate picnic lunches. Perhaps it wanted to provide really tall branches, where birds could build their nests and keep their little ones safe from predators. Or, perhaps it just wanted to be absolutely beautiful and to be seen from miles around.
Well, if it did have any of those plans, they were completely derailed when its trunk was damaged so violently. I would think that as that happened, the tree must have become very very discouraged. Add that discouragement to the pain that the damage must have caused, and I'm surprised that the tree survived.
But, it did. It not only survived, but it thrived. You can't really tell from the picture, but the fact is, that tree is huge! It's huge and it's absolutely beautiful. It was one of the first things I noticed about my surroundings when I moved to its neighborhood, and even now, when I'm back on that side of the valley, I'll often plan my route so that I can drive past it. That tree took tragedy and turned it into triumph. That tree took a bad situation, and turned it into something good. It turned itself into something that taught me a lesson that I hope I never forget.
I know some people who remind me of my tree. I don't think I'll write too many details about them, because many of them read this blog, and if I got into too many specifics, I'm sure it would embarrass them, and I don't want to do that. But there are people in my circle of friends, people in my family, and people in my world at large who bear an uncanny resemblance to the best things about my tree.
As for me, when I was growing up, I made some plans for what my life would be like in the future. For some of those plans, I am right on track. Others I've abandoned, deciding at some point along the way that they weren't things that I really wanted after all. Still others I've sacrificed because my decisions have made it unlikely that these things will turn out as I had wanted. But there are still a few other plans that I made that are probably not going to turn out as I hoped, for reasons that are completely out of my control.
And that's okay. Because just like those people, I can be like my tree too. I can take my disappointments and set-backs and waylaid plans and I can work around them. Maybe I can't be or have or experience all that I had originally wanted to be or have or experience. But the fact is, I can be and have and experience an awful lot. And, I can take all that I have and all that I'm given, and I can make something beautiful and lovely and helpful.
Just like my tree.

(p.s. For those of you who are trying to speculate about what my mysterious unfulfilled plans are, and why I chose to write about this today, save your energy, because there is nothing to figure out. Honestly, I just happened to stumble on these pictures as I was looking for some random ones, and so I decided to write about the tree. That's the absolute truth. There has been no recent tragedy in my life, there's been nothing that I've needed to process through, there's been nothing out of the ordinary. Trust me. This is just another random post. Next week I'll probably write about how I've learned life lessons from the electrical outlet in my kitchen. Won't THAT be interesting?)

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Pumpkins, Cars, Fondue, and Stars

Well, it's been a busy few days. Busy but enjoyable. That might just be my favorite way of life.

Last night Eric and I had our first ever "Capricious Captivating Cantwell Carving Commemoration" (man, am I good or what?). It was just lovely. We each had a pumpkin to carve. As it turned out, one of us was finished with the pre-cut drawing, scooping, cutting, adding of candle, testing with candle, and cleaning off the sides within about 20 minutes. The other one of us took an extra 20 minutes or so to finish his project. (One of us is an accountant, and one of us is an artist.) One of us created a jack-o-lantern that was incredibly generic (except for the sunglass lines leading from the eyes, which are supposed to look like sunglass shades), and the other one of us created something rather original and unique.

But, we both had a good time, and it turned out to be a great evening. (One thing--when you look at that picture below, know that I'm obviously taking it myself, (because Michelangelo had quite enough on his plate with his orange canvas, and I didn't think it was fair to ask him to take photos as well.) I think because I did it myself, I got the angle of the camera and the pumpkin and my face all situated in such a way so as to make me look a little on the purple side. Odd, since I don't usually have a purple face. Eric told me I should photoshop the picture, and I think I will--once I cover "making purple faces look normal" in my photoshop lessons)

Otherwise, things are pretty basic around here. On Saturday night I found that the RAV4 wouldn't start, which was kind of stressful, since I immediately started imagining all that could be going wrong with it, and then I went right into mourning for the loss of a car that I have truly loved. But, Eric and his father got right on the case, and it turned out that we just needed to get a new battery in there. Those fine men took care of that yesterday, and today I'm back in the gray RAVioli, jammin' to my man Peter Breinholt, and enjoying life as much as ever.

Tonight we'll be testing out the fondue set that we got for our wedding, as well as handing out Bit-o-Honey to those cute trick-or-treaters that live in our neighborhood. Since we live in a townhome complex, most of our under-age neighbors are elementary-school age or younger. It makes for some really really adorable trick-or-treaters, that's for sure.

Once the stream of little witches and ballerinas and pirates slows down and it gets really dark, we're hoping to make it up to the observatory, if it's open. Eric has to go there for one of his classes, and I haven't looked through a telescope since I went to the "check-out-Mars-tonight-'cause-this-is-as-big-as-it's-going-to-get-in-your-lifetime event" with Heidi back in 2003 or so. I'm probably due, don't you think?

And with that, I wish you all a Happy Halloween.



Monday, October 29, 2007

Vouchers! Vouchers! (a guest blogger)

For those of you who don't live in/vote in/have interest in what happens in/ Utah, you might want to skip this post.

For the rest of you, perhaps a bit of explanation:

Last winter, the Utah State Legislature passed a school voucher bill, which the governor signed into law. Before it went into effect however, hundreds of citizens collected thousands of signatures protesting the law, and so on November 6, Utah citizens will be voting on whether or not to make the bill part of Utah law.

(That's my understanding of what happened anyway. I freely admit that I am FAR from an expert in this matter though. )

So, anyway, my mother (who is more of an expert on all of this) has been following the voucher situation quite religiously, and last week she sent the following e-mail out to a bunch of people, including me. I am completely biased about anything that has to do with my mom, of course. That being said, her letter explained a few things that had been confusing to me, and I found it helpful enough that I asked her permission to post it here.

So, if you are uncertain about where you stand on the whole voucher thing (as I am at times), there is some good information here. If you aren't uncertain at all, and are against vouchers in Utah, then there is some good information here to back you up. If you aren't uncertain at all, and are absolutely in favor of vouchers and nothing will ever change your mind, then there's really no point in reading beyond this--unless you happen be be a "Charlotte Fan", in which case, you can skip to the last paragraph where my mom talks about volunteering in her daughters 1st grade class. Why is that so important?

Well, who do you think the daughter in question is?

And with that lengthy explanation, here is a somewhat lengthy letter, written by my dearest mother, Barbara Corry.

Dear Family and Friends,

Some of you know that I have been involved in public school and politics for many years. I have been serving on my local school board for over 16 years and before that I was involved at the State level with Utah PTA. I have been on Capitol Hill for the legislative session yearly and worked with and discussed legislation with our Senators and Representatives many times.

I feel a need to express my opinion on the voucher issue and ask that you not be swayed by high power endorsements or “cookie” math, but honestly study the questions raised by this voucher bill.

House Bill 148 (the voucher bill) sets only 4 requirements for a school to qualify for voucher money: enroll 40 or more students, operate outside a residence, not encourage illegal activity and not be a residential treatment facility licensed by the state. There is no mention of number of school days required, acceptance of students with disabilities or special needs, subject matter taught or tested, or accreditation to ensure that the credits-diploma earned will be accepted by colleges, other schools and the military.

Public schools are held to a high standard in each of these areas as well as accountability for tax dollars. School Districts hold budget hearings every year as well as truth in taxation hearings when the District’s mill levy floats below the level the Legislature requires for participation in several of their education funding programs.

Voucher schools would be required to file a limited financial report every 4 years.

There are no minimum educational standards for teachers or administration in private voucher schools. You won’t know if the teacher teaching your child even has a college degree.

Private voucher schools will have to administer one standardized test of their own choosing and make those results available to the parents. Public schools are required to test all basic subject areas and make public their test scores for scrutiny and comparison with the state and nation.

HB 174 allows excess money from the weighted pupil unit (WPU) (each student is allotted so much money in figuring out how much money schools and districts receive) to return to the district when a voucher student leaves. This has been one of the strongest selling points of the pro voucher group. Presently, there is NO mechanism that allows money to be in a district without an actual body present. When asked repeatedly about this concern, legislators say airily, “they will take care of it”. It is presently against state law.

Districts receive funding based on their October head count. If a student returns to a school district or enters a school district after that date, districts do not receive any funding for that year for that individual. Studies have shown that 20% -25% of voucher students return to their resident school mid year.

The non existent tracking system will not even attempt to track students who enroll in voucher schools out of your district, so even if there truly was a way to recoup some of the money for the next 5 years, it would only apply to students living in your district attending a voucher school in your district boundaries.

According to the voter information pamphlet the cost of vouchers will outstrip even these possible financial benefits in the second year of implementation.

Voucher proponents continually quote $7500 as the amount of money Utah spends per student. This is NOT an accurate figure. It is an inflated estimate made by voucher supporters on what Utah MAY (but never has) spend. The US Census Bureau figure for 2004 is $5,008. The National Center for Education Statistics for 2003 is $6,114. The Utah Foundation Research Reports states that funding for 2005 was $5,257. Whatever figure is used, Utah’s per pupil expenditure is the lowest in the nation- 51st.

I have read numerous articles concerning voucher programs implemented throughout the United States and the world. As with any education program that changes the way of doing things there is generally initial success. This is true even in the public schools when a new principal, a new teacher with exciting ideas or even a new math program is initiated. For states and districts who have had vouchers for 5 years or more, the results are disappointing. Voucher schools, private schools and charter schools do not show an increased level of scholarship over public schools. There are no significant differences between these schools and public schools in terms of academic achievement. One article I recently read pointed out that private schools offer significantly less AP and concurrent enrollment opportunities than the public schools. Utah public schools lead the nation in the number of AP classes offered and credits earned.

Funding is of major concern. In Florida vouchers cost $107 million in 2005-06. In Milwaukee it is estimated in 2007 that vouchers for 17,000 students will cost $110,517,000. As the program costs have increased, money has been diverted from public schools to private schools. The school district has raised property taxes to offset the loss of funds. These two programs are strictly limited to either special needs students or those meeting financial guidelines. Utah’s voucher program is open ended, available to each and every one who applies. Milwaukee is currently looking for a legal way to eliminate the voucher program mainly because of the financial burden it is imposing.

Finally, philosophically, I have strong feelings about the value of public education. Schools are the final, last and only place where whole community values are taught, discussed and lived. As our society was become more and more fragmented, our communities lose their sense of who we are and what our values and expectations are. Schools have historically provided a gathering place, a safe arena for students and parents, and a place where you learn about others, both in formal education and informal playground, lunchroom, athletic activities.

Douglas D. Alder stated: “Students in public schools learn about democracy by living it. They learn that everyone counts. They establish friendships throughout the whole social spectrum. The smartest students learn a lot from their average peers and vice versa. The academic achievement of students is very important but so is social learning. Segregating students, as vouchers would do, is not the way to teach them to participate in a democracy.”

I got involved in the schools by volunteering when my daughter was in 1st grade. My reason was selfish; I wanted to see that she was getting the education and care she needed to be successful. I have continued to be involved because I learned that the more I did for others, the more I did for my own children. We do not live in a vacuum. We need the support and strength of others. We need to work to keep public schools viable. They are successful, they are not failing, they are mainly staffed by caring individuals who study and learn how to make each child successful.

Please vote against referendum 1.

Very Sincerely,

Barbara Willis Corry

P.S. I have documentation for the numbers and studies sited in this letter. (If you're interested in this, shoot me an e-mail or leave a comment, and I'll get the documentation from my mom for you)
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