Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Baby, it's cold outside.

It is cold.  Very cold.  Stormy.
And I just went out in the teeth of the ravening storm to get firewood and chop kindling for a fire.
Because it is COLD. 
And I love a fire on a cold, stormy, winter evening.
I feel, in a way, as if I am defying the weather.  As though, snug in my old, old house, I am more powerful than it.  The wind can rage, the snow can blow, but I, and my house, my drafty old house, we will stand the weather.

For the record, however, wild, tangled curls,which I have and which may look fabulous, are not helpful when chopping firewood.  The wind blows and the curls get into in my face, rendering me blind.  Blind with an axe?  Not good.  Just so you know.
And, in case you wondered, TMOTH said he was going to make some peanut butter cookies for me (he makes the world's best peanut butter cookies.  Perfect combo of salty and sweet.) if I went and got firewood, but those cookies have yet to materialize.

So, here I sit, in front of my roaring fire, cozy, with my feet tucked securely under me...typing my blog.

I am wearing a black, turtleneck sweater.  Did you know, I consider a tight, black, fine-gauge turtleneck to be the perfect piece of clothing.  For a number of reasons.  I own several, but I would like to own several more. Cotton.  Wool.  Silk.  I want them all.

The Small One is hanging upside down off the couch and watching Bubble Guppies.  The dog is snoring contentedly in the middle of the floor.  She was in my spot, here in front of the fire, but I made her move.  This is MY spot.  The cat is curled in a tight little ball in the corner of the couch.  All is well and comfortable.

Now, I think I will knit my bit.

Monday, February 27, 2012


I have this dream vacation in my mind.  And, I might be a little frightened to actually take that vacation, because, what if it didn’t turn out as well as I imagine?  I would be terribly disappointed.  Wouldn’t you?

Shall I tell you what my dream vacation is?  It is a lovely dream.  For me.

I would wake up in a small hotel in Paris.   Narrow street.  Balcony.  White muslin curtains on the French doors.  Mediterranean  tiles on the floor, white walls.  There would be an old iron bedstead, cushioned with a deep feather mattress; soft, white bedding; squishy, inviting pillows.

It would be old, but lovely, smelling of wood and plaster.  The bathroom would have a large, inviting slipper tub, with a hand held shower and thick white towels on the bars.

I would be there in the late spring, early summer, before the weather gets too hot.  A light breeze would ruffle the curtains as I lay in my bed, sun streaming through the doors, contemplating what I wanted to do that day.

And what would I do?  Well, it’s Paris?  I would wander.  I would lose myself in the maze of streets.  Peek in the windows of small shops.  Eat French cheese with abandon.  And croissants.  And baguettes.  Oh, the food.  The gorgeous smell of fresh baked bread.  The musty, moldy smell of well aged cheese.  And the chocolate.  The deep, rich, fruity scent of real chocolate.

Then, I would find my way to the Louvre to indulge in the art.  To be sure, the Louvre would take days and days to get through.   This is my dream vacation, right?  I have endless days if I want them.

I would watch the sunset from le Tour Eiffel.  I have done this, you know.  And it is glorious.  As amazing and romantic as one might expect.

I went to Paris once.  It was…not what I had expected or hoped for.  It was hot.  It was the Paris Open and there were so many people there.  But there were incredible moments.  One I remember in particular has always been one of my favourite memories of France. 

Shall I tell you?

My friends and I had to split up to get a place to stay.  A and I went to a very nice hostel, but they only had room for two of us.  So B and ML found a place at a small hotel.  In the morning, after breakfasting on baguettes, jam , fresh fruit and hot cocoa, A and I went to find B and ML.  They were several streets away in an old, old building.  We had no idea what room they were in and there was no one at the front desk.  Not knowing what else to do, I stood in the street and shouted B’s name.  A few moments later, the shutters on the second floor were flung open and my lovely friend leaned out, her long brown hair swinging across her face to shout “Bon Matin!”  It was lovely, delightful.  So perfect;  an old, plastery, whitewashed building, with dark wood shutters and my beautiful friend framed in the window.  I laughed and wished I had a better camera.

Later that night, after sunset on the Eiffel Tower, the two girls went back to the hotel, tired, hot and cranky.  A and I decided we weren’t quite ready for bed, yet.  After all, we were in Paris!  So, we went to the park across from and under the Eiffel Tower and lay down on the cool grass, shoes off, breeze blowing through our skirts, just relaxing.  The lights on the Tower came on, the city came to life.  And we lay there and watched. 

Then, of course, we got the clever idea to go dip our legs into the fountain at the Palais de Chaillot.  That was a mistake.  The water was green and there were a few plastered French boys hanging about who tried to push us in.  Sort of ruined the mood.  So, we went back to our hostel.

But, back to my dream vacay.  It would involve walking down the Champs Elysees, appropriately attired, naturally.  Because, you know, there are different clothing requirements depending on the activity at hand.  Of course, in my dreamy hotel room, whilst deep in slumber, I would be wearing a soft, white gown of cotton lawn.  Very old fashioned.  For wandering about the Louvre and down the Champs Elysees, something black and narrow.  Cigarette pants.  A well-fitted button down shirt.  My hair cascading down my back in auburn waves.  And sunglasses, of course.  With a brightly coloured handbag and French flats.  Do you see it?  Are you there with me?  It would be lovely, would it not?

Later, I would climb the steps of Sacre Coeur and take in the view, following it with an exquisite French dinner in a small cafĂ©.  Then perhaps an open air concert in le Jardin des Tuileries.  After, back to my small hotel for a long, hot bubble bath and bed.  This time with the evening air ruffling the white muslin curtains and the stars shining in my window.

Saturday, February 25, 2012


February is a hard month for me.  And, for a lot of people, I think.  Especially here in the cold mountains.  It is that point in the year where I tire of the cold, the wind, the short days.  I long for sunshine, and heat.  Long days, balmy evenings, bare toes skimming through the hot grass.   I want to lay on my lawn, face in the shade, body in the sun, getting baked.  I want to wear flip-flops every day.  Or no shoes at all.  (I am a barefoot girl).  I want to wear sundresses made of light cotton that catch the breeze that occasionally blows through.  

I am like a cat.  I want to bask in that ray of sunshine that comes through the window and hits the floor.

Sadly, I do not have a south facing home, and in fact, there is only one south facing window in my house and it is small and shaded.  Lamentable, really.

My bedroom, fortunately, has a large window in it, unshaded mostly.  In that window is a chaise longue, a squishy, welcoming chaise, with a side table.  This is the spot that beckons me on a winter afternoon, in that too small space of time when the sun climbs past my roof and the trees and before it starts to descend below the roof of my neighbor.  It is the spot in which I like to lounge on a sultry summer afternoon, sun blazing through the window, fan blowing gently on my damp skin.

And, when I lounge thus, I don’t want to do anything, think anything.  I want to lay there, and absorb the glorious sunshine.

Don’t get me wrong, once I have been in the grips of 90+ degree weather for a time, I am as likely to whine about it as anyone.  But still, I can handle the heat better than the cold.  As long as it is dry heat.  Desert girl, for sure, here.

I have mentioned this before, but I shall again. Once, while in London, I had a horrible headache.  I lived in the city, amidst the tall buildings, the weather was  dreary, there had been no sun for awhile, and what sun there was only lasted moments.  I would sit in the window of my front room, catching what few rays I could.  But, on this day, I felt I had to get out of the city.  I took the Tube out to Kew Gardens and wandered about.  It wasn’t helping.  It was cloudy out at Kew as well, and cold, so I hied myself over to the greenhouses and wandered about there instead.  I came upon a small room, in the “regions of North America” section, and as I entered, it was as though I had walked into heaven.  Hot.  Dry.  Bright.  I looked down at the room label.  “Desert Climate-American Southwest”.  Ahhhh.  I could breathe properly.  I sat in there for a couple of hours and dried out.  Headache went away, breathing was clear.  It was paradise.  Or Zion, if you prefer. ;)

But alas, today is, as Pooh would say, a blustery day.  It is cold.  The sun is shining, but it is a thin sunlight, providing no warmth.  And so, to combat my current bout of Seasonal Affective Disorder, I planted another flat of seeds.  It makes me feel as though I can contend with the weather and perhaps conquer.  Despite the cold, despite the thin sunlight, I can start my warm, dry summer.  I love the smell of the loamy soil, the warmth that it generates in the little greenhouse.  (So does the cat, he keeps laying on top and squishing it.)  I love the sight of the little shoots pushing their way up toward the sun (or the artificial light hanging over them, you choose).  It makes me happy.  And gives me something to look forward to.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Yesterday, a Facebook friend posted a link to some Youtube videos.  In these videos, adolescent girls were asking the viewer whether or not they were attractive.  My friend was (appropriately) horrified by this, as was I.  But our point of view differed.  She was horrified because these young girls posted the videos, only to be told by perfect strangers that they were ugly, or fat, or stupid, or what have you.  I was horrified because why would you post something asking what a perfect stranger thought of you?  And why would you care? 
We both came to the same conclusion.  The self-esteem of these girls must be impossibly low to even WANT to ask that question.
Now, my question is why?  Why is their self-esteem that low?  How do I prevent my daughter from feeling this way?  Friend and I grew up in similar circumstances, though she is almost 10 years younger than me.
Same socio-economic status, same religion, similar expectations, similar mental health issues.  But she suffered from a very low self-esteem.  I did not.  Where lies the difference?
I grew up poor, in a less than stellar part of my town.  There were a lot of drugs and alcohol, most of the violence in the town happened in the area in which I lived.  Wrong side of the tracks, if you will.   I grew up Mormon.  High expectations when you are Mormon, by the by.  I struggled (and still do) with depression.  But I did not, nor have I ever, really, had issues with self-esteem.
Do I credit my parents?  My genes?  What?  Is it nature or nurture?  I don't know, I really don't. 
Not being privy to the details of the home life of my friend, I cannot really gauge what her parents did with regards to that. 
I am not sure that my parents were deliberately trying to build up my self-esteem, or if it was just a by product of their parenting style. 
Whatever it was, it worked.  And it worked for most, if not all, of my siblings.  We think we are pretty damn awesome.
I think this irritates people sometimes.
But why?  What is wrong with thinking we are awesome?  We are awesome.
In my home, it was assumed that if you wanted to do something, you could.  It might take a lot of effort, you might fail a few (or several) times, but if you wanted it, you could get it. 
I grew up thinking I could be anything I wanted to be.  I just had to do it.
I grew up thinking I was incredibly intelligent.  I still think that. 
I didn't grow up thinking I was particularly physically attractive, but that didn't really matter that much.  I wasn't interested in a guy that was more interested in how I looked than how I thought.  If my brains and personality weren't enough for him, he could stick it.
But why?  Why, when I was surrounded by girls who were so concerned about whether or not someone found them attractive, did I not particularly care?
Honestly, I cannot really remember whether or not my parents told me I was pretty.  I don't think it would have meant much to me if they had.  (They probably did, but the fact that I can't remember it says something.)  I do remember that they told me I was intelligent, and clever and witty and determined (which is a polite word for pigheaded).  And that mattered to me.  I wanted to be all of those things.  I LIKED that I was all of those things.  But aren't most of us those things?  Why do we want to be something that we aren't? 
My dad told me a few years ago that he used to worry about me because I wasn't popular and he was afraid that had bothered me as a kid/teen.  I was shocked.  I couldn't for the life of me understand how he could have thought I wanted to be popular.  Why on earth would I want to be one of those people?  I thought they were pathetic.  All sorts of obsessed with their money and their clothes and how pretty they were and if they were dating the right person, blah, blah, blah.  Really?  I had no desire to be part of that, one of them.  I had no respect for them at all.  I am sure they were probably lovely people, but they certainly weren't MY kind of people.
My kind of people were geeks.  Nerds.  Whatever.  I still love geeks.  I still am a geek.  But, you know what?  It's the geeks that rule the world.  Not the popular people.
Maybe my parents tried to steer me into the popular crowd and it didn't work.  I don't know.  I certainly wasn't popular crowd material.  I was poor, I wore weird clothes (I had eclectic tastes back then, too), I had this crazy mane of frizzy red hair and lots of freckles.  I didn't wear makeup much.  I was smart.  I was in Drama.  I had nerdy friends.  All these things added up to NOT COOL.
But I liked my weird clothes, especially since I made most of them.  And I liked my crazy hair, it made me different from everyone else.  And I didn't really care about makeup most of the time, because no one was looking at me anyway.  And I liked being smart.  And I liked drama.  And I liked nerds. I would have had to give up all of those things if I wanted to be popular and why would I do that?
Maybe it has something to do with having your eyes on the prize.  I knew, had always known, what I wanted.   And I knew how to get what I wanted.  And once I decide what I really want, dammit, I WILL get it.  Nothing is going to get in my way. 
In junior high and high school, where I think attacks on self esteem are the worst, I had already begun my quest.  I was making a beeline for my goal, which at the time was college.
So, is that the difference?  Is that why what other people thought didn't much matter?  I don't know.  I do know that other's opinions of me were peripheral to the goal.
Did I get made fun of in school?  Sure.  Of course I did.  I was a weirdo, a geek.  But, when you think the person making fun of you is a pathetic, dim-witted ass, what they think doesn't have much affect.
And in my way of thinking, if you don't think I am smart, or funny, or awesome-well, you are probably dumb, or an ass, and I don't really care what dumb asses think of me.  Why would I?  Why would anyone?
See, this is where I get confused.  Why would anyone care what some dumb ass thinks of them.  Seriously, why?
The reason this question gets to me is because of The Small One, of course.  I don't want her to be one of the girls that relies on the opinion of others.  I couldn't bear it if my daughter was hurt by the opinions of some mean non-entity. 
So, how do I raise her to be like me?
I know, it sounds terribly prideful, but I do want her to be like me.  I want her to be able to throw off the unwanted opinions of others, I want her to know she is smart (she is), I want her to know she is clever and funny and witty and strong and determined. I want her to know that she is just as good as anyone else, and possibly better.  And I want those things to matter to her. I want her to know that she can be anything or anyone she wants to be and that no limitations need hold her back.  (The Small One is also pretty and has lovely hair.  But I prefer that not be the important thing to her.)
Trust me, I know that I am not perfect.  I know that I have flaws.  Everyone does.  But I also know that I am great.  I like the good bits of me.  I try to fix the not good bits about me.  The not good bits that are out of my control, well, I accept them for what they are and try to not let them take over.  I would certainly rather be me than most other people.
In my family, one is awesome simply by virtue of being one of us.  DeGreys are smart.  We are witty.  We are clever.  We are funny.  We are determined. We can do anything we put our mind to.   If you are a DeGrey, or born of one, you are amazing. (Other people are amazing,too, but that is neither here nor there.)
Is it nature?  Is it nurture?  Is it hubris?
I don't know.  But whatever it is, I want to make sure my daughter has it. Some people don't like it, but I don't care what they think.;)
Thoughts?  Opinions?  Success stories?  Throw your comments my way,  I love to hear from you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

How to be a Vera Wang

So, I got a job the other day.  Not exactly what I wanted to do, but one must weigh the pros and cons and make a decision.  I decided, for the time being, at least, that the pros of getting a job outweigh the cons.  But it was close!
Don't worry, though, it isn't some awful 9-5.  It is piecework alterations three days a week.  No biggie.  It will mean a regular paycheck.  And it doesn't mean that I stop doing my own thing, not at all.
Anyway, during the interview,after seeing my portfolio pictures, the owner of the shop asked me why I don't open my own shop.  I have been asked that several times, actually. So, here is the answer.
Right now, I don't want to. 
Before I had The Small One, I worked a lot.  I worked at Brigham Young University full time and also did custom gowns on the side.  After I left my job to care for my (much adored) nephew, I still needed an income, so I kept doing custom gowns and even advertised.  I got very busy, but was still able to care for my nephew as he was a very sweet and easy baby.
When nephew was 3, I had a baby of my own.  She was not a sweet and easy baby.  She had colic to begin with, which made working hard.  She is/was an infinitely more demanding than little nephew.  Different personalites, you know?
So, I dialed back the work load to care for the baby.
Well, when she was 1.5, I think, the business with which TMOTH was affiliated went belly up.  We lost, big time.  So, I went back to work at a bridal salon as a designer/alterations manager.  That lasted for a while, but didn't end up working out.  The Small One did not deal well with me working full time.  So, I left and went back to doing alterations and custom gowns out of my own space.
Fast forward to now.  We have some things we want to do which require money (like pay off debt, for one.  Go to the UK for another), so I have decided to get a job with a regular paycheck.
TMOTH was not thrilled about the idea, he thinks I am shortchanging myself.  So do a lot of other people, for that matter.
But, here is the thing.
Running a business is HARD.  Really hard.  And you have to work more than full time to be successful.  Why?  Because, not only are you working full time at the actual JOB part, but you have to work a lot outside of the job marketing, finding work, doing paperwork, hoping you are figuring your taxes out correctly, worrying about whether it is worth it to have employees, etc, etc, etc.
So, I weight the pros and cons.
I could be successful at a bridal salon of my own, I think.  I am good at what I do.  I have a pretty good eye for design, I am a really good manager. 
But.  I also like my kid.  (Not to imply that other people who work don't like their kids, I know they do).
What it boils down to is this. 
I can make more money, but not see my daughter very much. 
Or, I can deal with being poor, and hate it, but get to be with my daughter like I want to.
I could have my own salon and not much time.
Or, I can work for someone else, let them deal with the business stuff, make a bit of money and be home with The Small One like I want to be.
For now, anyway.  Things will definitely change when she is in school all day.  I won't have her with me, anyway, so I may as well put in some effort towards a business of my own, right?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

It's the Small Things...

Sometimes, when life gets a bit overwhelming and unpleasant, I have to try and focus on the good stuff.  You know, count your blessings and whatnot.  Of course, I am very blessed, even in my trials.
Things could be worse, right?
Although, sometimes, I am reminded of that cliche when a child doesn't want to eat his/her dinner and the mother says, "Eat it, there are children starving in Africa."  That never made sense to me.  Ok, mail them my dinner.  I don't need it.
Obviously, the point was to be grateful for what I had.  To be sure, my mom never used this one on us.  I don't think it ever made sense to her either.
My friend, Jim Bennett, son of (hang on while I name drop for a second) former Senator Bob Bennett, posted something rather wise on Facebook yesterday, which is what made me think of this whole post.
Here it is. 
 I find the relativity of suckiness to be irrelevant. It is suckiness itself, any of it, which concerns me. I personally want less of it. Recognizing that my suckiness levels are ten times, fifty times, or a thousand times lower than someone else's reduces my own suckiness not a whit. However, it does produce guilt, as in "how dare you complain about your suckiness when Floyd's life is six times suckier." So there's that, I guess, but since guilt is sucky, that reinforces my central point.
He is wise, is Jim.  I hope he doesn't mind me quoting him.  I should probably ask.  Oh, well.  Maybe tomorrow.
Anyway, I think he is right.  We all have our own trials, right?  And they all suck for us, right?  I mean, I know that what doesn't kill me, makes me stronger but sometimes it feels more like What doesn't kill me will invariably come back and try again until it eventually succeeds.
So, rather than focusing on the fact that it could be worse, because it could indeed, I am trying to focus on the things that are good in their own right. 
No question that I am lacking gratitude sometimes.  I should be overwhelmingly grateful that we have a home, a car that runs (knock on wood), etc. etc.  But those things don't always cheer me up, because the reverse is so damn depressing.
So, instead, I like to focus on the small things that make me happy, bring a smile to my face.
Here are a few them-
-Jim Dale reading audiobooks.  Awesome.  Listening to Harry Potter for about the 30th time.  Never gets old.  And, if The Small One and The Man of the House are being noisy (fighting, usually), I still  know what is going on at any given time, because I pretty much have the books memorized.
Wanna know what one of my most favourite parts is?  Of course you do! 
Book 4, Goblet of Fire.  Ron and Harry in McGonagall's class having a sword fight with 2 of the twins fake wands.  Ron's has turned into a tin parrot, Harry's into a rubber haddock.   At the moment McGonagall yells at them to pay attention there is a pause and then the head of Harry's rubber haddock slides silently to the floor, having been severed by the parrot's beak a moment before. 
I die.  Every time.  Laugh out loud funny.  It is such a classic jr. high moment. 
-Norm Abrams voice/This Old House/New Yankee Workshop.  Why?  I don't know.  It is so classically lazy Saturday morning to me, I think.  It means TMOTH is in a chill mood.  It usually means the house is tidy.  And there are beautiful things being made/done that I can ask TMOTH to make/do for me.  Good stuff.
-When The Small One is driven to giggles.  The real ones, not the silly, fake 4 year old hamming for attention giggles.  Her nose squinches up, her eyes get tight and all her teeth show.  She looks and sounds so utterly delighted that I can't help but laugh with her.  It is adorable.
-TMOTH and The Small One laying on the floor, eating popcorn and watching movies.  It is hilarious.  They talk to each other like contemporaries. 
-Dewberry shower gel and lotion from The Body Shop.  This scent is what my flat in London smelled like.  11 years later and that smell still conjures London for me.  If you combine that smell with cigarette smoke and car exhaust, well, it sounds disgusting, but that is what a Kensington street smells like to me.  And it is a VERY happy smell.
-Knitting.  What else is there to say?
-The way the chickens shout for attention when you go out in the back.  Or follow you around if you they are loose.  It is hilarious.  They love people.  And treats.
-Hot baths in my gorgeous claw foot tub.  My mom rescued it for me when an old house in Salt Lake was being renovated.  It is huge.  And deep.  With a slanty back. 
-And lastly, for tonight.  The fact that my friend's 4 year old is in love with TMOTH.  For 2 reasons.  He has a fire truck, and he can fix ANYTHING.  Dreamy, apparently.

In other news, I have decided to put The Small One in a French Immersion program for school.  This means that I will have to drive about 30-35 minutes twice a day once she starts school, but from what I hear, it is worth it.  Should prepare her well for our trip to the UK and France in a couple of years.  It has been a hard decision.  Who knew choosing a kindergarten could be so angst ridden?