Millard Canyon Falls

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This morning I finally convinced Caroline to go for a hike with me, after asking every other family member several times. It's the first time I've successfully convinced a family member to hike with me since we moved here; it's as if they're all above hiking, that it isn't up to par for them. My dad thinks only biking at high speeds in realllllly tight shorts, or running on the treadmill in reallllllly short shorts (or Allie in bright pink spandex) is worthy of their time for exercise. Thankfully, Caroline hiked with me. I had been planning on trying out several local trails, since my house is on the beginnings of the slopes of the Angeles National Forest. So we set off, driving 20-ish minutes to the trail head in Altadena. The hike was only 1.4 miles (according to a website I found, Dan's Hiking Pages.) It has lists of several hikes around here. So anyway, Caroline and I jumped up quickly. It was a very pretty hike, fully shaded by trees and following along a small brook. When I felt like I was just getting warmed up, we hit the falls, and the trail stopped. It was a little disappointing two senses: 1, we were just getting started when it ended. 2, the falls were less than spectacular. I should have realized that it was a super-short hike, because the website says it is, but I didn't foresee how un-fulfilling that would be. It's cool though. To add a little depth to our journey, we (I, with a reluctant Caroline in-tow) decided to scale some rock walls to get to the top of the waterfall. Here's Chica coming down a trail that we improvised, since we weren't too keen on scaling back down. Anyway, I would mention for any that would feign to attempt such a treacherous and all-consuming hike, it's pretty crowded (there were 25-30 other people on the trail) and there was a lot of man-made junk around, or at least more than there should be on any hike. All of this man-made junk was of the metal variety, and rusting. I at least enjoyed this random hunk of metal, it seemed... poetic. Please indulge this photo. There wasn't anything scenic on the hike, as far as sprawling vistas go, but on the drive out there was just such a scenic sprawling vista. Here's a photo, labeled for your enjoyment: It'll be a longer hike next time!

Awww... put a ring on it!

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So, some of you might know that my mom likes Beyoncé. In fact, a few months ago she said "Lauren, I need to know more about this Jay-Z. I'm tight with Beyoncé, but I just don't know much about Jay-Z!" It upset her that she wasn't on a first-name basis with her BFF Beyoncé's new hubby. She's the one who informed me for the first time that they had tied the knot.
To back-track a bit: when I was a teenager, I used to think that my mom was like the most un-hip person on the planet. She knew nothing about 311, or the Spice Girls, and she hated my Everlast poster. She tried to make me take it down! But ever since Beyoncé hit the scene, things have been different. I sort of consider Beyoncé the family's ambassador to Pop Culture, and here's an anecdote or two describing why.
I'm not sure why, either just randomly or when she has some secret prerogative, my mom will out with "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)" by Beyoncé. If you haven't heard it you must live in a cave. It's all over the place. So anyway, she'll just out with it. But she never gets the lyrics right, no matter how much we try to coach her! Correctly sung, it would sound like "if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it, if you like it then you shoulda put a ring on it, oh oh ohoohohohohohohoh" (I didn't count out how many "oh"s I would need, I just threw them in there). Instead, she sings "if you like it then why don't you put a ring on, put a ring on it." It's funny in and of itself, but then she'll get my dad involved. "Brian, come do this with me" and they'll stick out their ring fingers with their wedding rings, and do this creepy little hip-shakin' dance while my mom sings her version of the lyrics and my dad beams with pride at being part of a spectacle that makes us laugh. A veritable freak-show.
So today we were in the car, and my dad doesn't like the conversation. So he says "aw, put a ring on it!"
When I got home, I had a text message from Tracie that says "now every time I hear Beyoncé, I think of your mom!"
Freak show.

10:15 PM Edit This 1 Comment »
So... I accidentally died my hair black. Don't ask how, more details to follow.

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays!

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No matter how far away you roam...
My sister Alexandra is coming home from the Middle East tomorrow for Christmas break (we're all basically peeing our pants in excitement) and my brother and his wife are coming in a little over a week from Boston, so I've been thinking about my most exciting journey home. It's too good a story not to tell.
In 2005 I spent 2 months in Senegal, West Africa on a BYU Study Abroad with the French department. I could write a book about the experience, like how to turn down marriage proposals politely (especially when they're asking you to be the second or third wife...) but one of the most adventurous parts of the whole trip was trying to get home. After the 2 months, a lot of my fellow students and I planned a 3-day stopover in Morocco, kind of a last hoorah before leaving the motherland for the good old USA. We flew from Dakar, Senegal to Casablanca, and then took a 3-hour train ride to Marrakech. Marrakech, by the way, is a very fun place to visit for a few days. We spent lazy hours by the pool of our hotel in the nice weather, walked to some cool mosques and other buildings, and spent a good chunk of our time in the souq (marketplace commonly found in Arab countries) drowning ourselves in the most delicious fresh-squeezed orange juice known to man, narrowly escaping death by crazed henna artist, and even being assaulted by domesticated monkeys (that's a whole new story for another day.) Well, after our pleasant sojourn to transition from third-world conditions in the villages of Senegal to iPods and malls, we had to get from Marrakech to Casablanca to catch our flight home. No problem. Our plane left some time in the mid-morning... maybe 9 or 10:00 am? so we took the earliest train out of Marrakech (around 4 or 5:00 am) to make it to the airport with enough time to check in and board. With a 3 hour train ride and then the hour minimum for international flights, we were cutting in close, and there was no room for egregious errors. But we had no choice, the trains didn't run all night.
So... we got our butts on the train with our 2 months worth of Africa-smelling laundry and souvenirs. No problem there. We had to switch to another train line in the middle of Casablanca to get to the airport, so the train stops, and we all start getting off the train. Here's where the fun starts: half of our group is off the train, half is still on. We're trying to negotiate baggage. The train starts moving, leaving the station. Panic. Our connecting train comes into view, further panic. After the last of us jump off of a moving train, we realize that we have to go down a flight of stairs, under the track, and up another flight of stairs to get to the other platform. Our connecting train is already at the station... we have seconds to make these trips, which would have been a feat with ourselves alone, forget about our baggage! Luckily, Africa is full of friendly, helpful people that contradict our inherently chaotic way of looking at things. A bunch of guys just jumped off the train, looked both ways before crossing the tracks, picked up our bags and walked across the tracks (totally illegal, I'm sure) and got us on the train. Thanks guys! You saved us!
(this says never get on or off the train until it's made a complete stop...)
For some of the travelers, the excitement ends there. Chrissie Tsaturyan can tell you the story of being detained in Salt Lake with a sword herself... as for me, I got to JFK and split from the group continuing West to Mecca (aka SLC) and I just had a short hop to Boston. Funny thing was, it was raining. My flight was canceled. So here I am in JFK, smelling like mother Africa (sweat, dirt, body odor, fruit...) and completely out of money in anything but obscure African "francs CFA" with no cell phone and no way to get home. Hilarious. So, I eavesdrop into what the other passengers are doing. Before I continue, I should note that I'm the person who gets really really stressed out about little things, but things that should worry me don't bother me a bit. So I walk straight up to a group of young professionals, and say "hi, I couldn't help but overhear that you're going to rent a car. Do you think you could drive me to Boston too? You could drop me off anywhere, if I can just use someone's cell phone I'll arrange a pick up." I'm sure I looked like hell, all haggard and unkempt. Luckily for me, someone who looked even more like hell also wanted to solicit a ride (the guy was freaky, I'm telling you) so they took me as the lesser of two creepy evils. Yay! I heard "Holla-back girl" for the first time on that car ride--these accountants on a business trip were amazed at how culturally behind I was. Bah. They dropped me off at the car rental place at Logan, daddy picked me up, (I saw his Jag for the first time) and I got home and took a serious shower.

Mucking around in a spice stall in Marrakech

They keep me around because I ask the hard questions.

3:41 PM Posted In Edit This 1 Comment »
1.) Are you texting the same person that you're sending a facebook message to right now?

Like you've missed me...

6:35 PM Posted In Edit This 2 Comments »
I haven't blogged in FOREVER, meaning anyone who checks my blog has probably checked enough times without an update that they've probably given up on me. The truth is, I just haven't felt like there was anything blog about! Every time someone asks me the innocuous "what's up?" all I can say is "same old, same old." Boring! I'm aching for something new, but it's just not showing up. Tonight at the dinner table, my mom said "you know what your problem is? You haven't had a good long break." First, I didn't know I had a problem. Second, maybe that is my problem! I like my job well enough, but I find that I have more fun with my 2 hours a week side-job than I do with my real job. Is that bad? Luckily, some change is gon' come. My ultra intimidating regional director told me that this week I'm going to have an interview for a promotion that I'm hoping for. The woman's awesome, but anyone who watches over your work that closely is going to be scary. So that would be cool... I'd go from Behaviorist to Behavior Consultant, basically a position of more leadership, and instead of solely implementing behavior programs, I'd be helping to create them. Pretty cool.
I've also been thinking a lot about graduate school. I'm not positive as yet if the job I have now (which is awesome, and definitely has opportunities for advancement) is a life-job, though I guess nowadays that concept has all but vanished. Even if it is my calling and my end-point, I might still want to do graduate work to supplement what I've already done, for the sheer joy of learning. I'm interested in getting a Masters+Credential in education, or a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis, or something along those lines. I just don't know what to do! And it can be very frustrating to have these big life decisions in front of me, and I'm just avoiding making them. Luckily I've missed grad school app deadlines for the fall, so I bought myself more time to mull over the possibilities. If only I didn't have to make big decisions ever again... but I know it's good for me. I'll figure it out.

Endurance and Invigoration

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About a month ago I started exercising to supplement my diet in my attempts to get healthier so I can live to see hover crafts replace cars. Or at least to a ripe old age like 80. It definitely started slow... It took some major mental strength to get out the door to have a leisurely walk with my dog down the street. Now I wake up at 5:30am on weekdays so that I can get my hour of exercise in before I have to shower and eat breakfast. As time has gone on, my workouts have gotten more and more intense, with more weight per repetition and higher speeds or inclines or resistances on cardio machines. Only on weekends can I make my workouts longer, and I often do. I've also started doing incidental workouts... I was at Universal Studios last night and a few of my friends and I decided to run up the stairs instead of take the escalator. This is a feat I never would have attempted or let alone have thought enticing a few weeks ago, but we ran up it and giggled at the top feeling each others' pulses and enjoying a rest before everyone else made it up on the escalator. I wanted to look up how many stories tall it is to brag, and I found out that the escalator we ran up is the second longest in the world.
The picture above shows less than a quarter of the whole escalator.
Anyway, that's the endurance segment of our program. To discuss invigoration, I've also noticed with my newfound physical fitness that I feel much more energetic and peppy on days that I work out in the guten morgan. On days that I don't, I feel lethargic and it takes a lot longer for me to become fully awake---I don't feel bright-eyed and bushy-tailed until 9ish, as opposed to 6ish on days I work out. Furthermore, after a workout I feel ready to take on the world, ready to go. It's a great feeling.
Now there's a hidden agenda to my thoughts in this post, that is, to share some of my intensely personal and real feelings about the gospel. As I was sitting in church this morning contemplating the things of the soul, my mind made the connection between physical fitness and spiritual fitness. Just like I have made great strides in my cardiovascular and muscular endurance, so too have I come leaps and bounds in my spiritual endurance from where I was just a few months ago. I had a fabulous spiritual experience in July while mentoring teenage girls at a summer camp in Idaho away from technology and temptation that made me understand that one of the most important things for my salvation will be to read the Scriptures every day for the rest of my life. Now, I don't have a perfect track record, but my commitment to this goal has steadily increased and it's that much easier for me to crack open the good book every morning at 5:30 before I hop on the weight machine. I've also been given an assignment at church that makes it so that I'm in a church building for at least 5 hours every Sunday, sometimes up to 12. Today it was 10. At first I couldn't hack it, I'd skip some of my meetings to go home and take my Sunday nap, I'd complain, and I'd feel dead by the time I got home. Now I don't need that Sunday nap... I've been functioning just fine without it. And while it used to be hard to stay for my second and third meetings of the day, now I can make it to my sixth with no problem and I feel almost giddy throughout it all. Now, going to church is how it should be, and how it long has been for people much better than me--it energizes me and reboots my system for the week to come. I'm thrilled to be there, and I feel like I'm in the right place at the right time doing the right thing. With the increase in endurance came the increase in invigoration, just like with my physical fitness. There is no doubt in my mind that the gospel is true if that's the case. If it weren't, someone as imperfect and nap-loving as me would never make it through.
I know that the Lord loves us, I see it in countless ways everyday. From the children that I work with that are blessings from God, to the opportunities and mercy that I see in my life, there is no doubt in my mind that he is constantly aware of us and intricately involved, if we let him, in the inner-workings of our lives. I'm so grateful for that. Thank goodness for running shoes, and thank goodness for church pews.

And it goes a little something like this...

9:23 PM Posted In , Edit This 3 Comments »
This one's dedicated to Miss Clare Palmer, beloved cousin and new member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints! Saturday we shlepped out to Agoura Hills (a 45-minute drive in average traffic... a journey I had made earlier that day for a client!) to celebrate Clare's baptism. To summarize, it was a fabulous time, and if you weren't there... yikes for you! Now let me break it down for you. When we arrived at the chapel where the shindig was going down, Clare caught a glimpse of me and, as daintily and reverently as ever, yelled "LAUREN!!" and gave me a running tackle-hug in the middle of a crowd of well-wishers. The girl's a rockstar. So after the running tackle-hug, we sat our little tushies in the room with the font, but the crowd was so big (double baptism!) that we had to move into the chapel. From our family, we had Lance and Jen's crew, our crew, Grandmas and Grandpas Palmer and Browning, Mike and crew, and Liz with her little tyke Nathan. Triple that for total attendance...
Anyhow, it was a typical mormon baptism... a talk about the ordinance (by Auntie Liz) and then the dunking. After Lance had said the prayer and submerged an excited little gal, Clare gave him the same tackle-hug RIGHT DOWN IN THE FONT. If he didn't have such giant feet and legs, she probably would have re-baptized him right then and there! Then the other little lady was baptized, and we went back into the chapel. There was a talk on the Holy Ghost and the confirmations, after which Clare tackle-hugged everyone in the circle: grandpas, uncles... but I guess the Bishop and First Counselor didn't feel secure enough on their feet and held her off at an arm's distance. That was another hilarious sight.
A little 9 year-old boy who belonged the entourage of the other baptisee sang a primary song about baptism that I'm not familiar with, and it just about put me in cardiac arrest. My heart popped out of my chest at that little soprano and melted into a puddle on the floor. If he were a little older, I probably would have sponged it up and offered it to him. Take me I'm yours! After the baptism was over, we headed over to a park nearby and had food and chit-chatted and fawned over Miss Clare-bear. Her enthusiasm over her baptism was not only contagious, but utterly inspiring. Why can't I be so psyched to go to church every Sunday? Well, I'm working on it.

PS: Little girls love me.
PPS: Notice the amazing BCBG dress I'm wearing: I got it at TJ Maxx for 90% off the MSRP!!!
PPPS: Notice my hotness. Yes, I've lost 30 pounds. No, it isn't easy to be this ridiculously good-looking.

Lemonade, Murder in the Hood, and some Cray-pas.

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I'm going to go in reverse order of the title and start with the Cray-pas. For those of you who didn't go to Winn Brook Elementary school, you might not call all oil-pastels Cray-pas. I googled the word to get the correct spelling, and apparently it's a brand name of cheap oil-pastels for "junior" artists. I don't use that brand, but I still call all oil-pastels (and all pastels, really) cray-pas. It's like calling all tissues Kleenex... same deal. So lately, since my dad put my giant tub of oils somewhere I can't find, I've been using my cray-pas to assuage my artistic cravings. Here's the latest installment, though be warned that it's a really bad picture of a great little drawing... I took it with my cellphone and it's all weird and distorted. The gunk in the sky are little stars made out of tin foil.

When I asked my notoriously loving and supportive mother what she thought it was a picture of (before the palm tree went on) she said "smog?" Thanks, mom. I guess sunrise isn't too far off... it is pretty smoggy around here!
Murder in the hood. Yikes. So after an uplifting weekend of General Conference, I'm thrust back into the harsh realities of life. As I drove to work, there were all these helicopters circling and the gated community that I was in was swarming with Police and security guards. Turns out, a man who was in dire financial trouble shot and killed 5 family members and then himself in his home last night... 2 blocks away from where I work. Here's a news truck that I snapped out of my windshield on the way home:

My mom told me when I got home that the headlines on the local news said "man kills family and self over economic crisis." Oh, the sensationalists. Great.
So when I was at Whitney's party ruining my life with some delicious homemade pizza, I talked to one of her friends about "The Master Cleanse" -- a cleanse where you basically flush the heck out of your bowels and intestines and eat nothing, but drink up to 1200 calories a day of a homemade lemonade mixture of fresh lemon juice, grade b maple syrup, cayenne pepper and water. Since I have some pretty gnarly IBS and my internals hate me, I decided to try it. A little over a week after the party (I hadn't pooped since the pizza at this point) I started the cleanse. Every night you drink a laxative herbal tea, then in the morning you drink a quart of salt water (which is like a laxative, only MUCH stronger and MUCH faster) and then you do the lemonade throughout the day, plus water. I'm at the end of day 4 out of 10 at this point, and I'm feeling pretty dang good! I'm not ridiculously bloaty like I am most of the time, and I just feel better in the tum-tum. I've kind of had enough of this whole no food thing, but I can make it a little longer. I've realize just how much I crave WHOLE WHEAT BREAD! All I've really craved is bread bread and more bread, even though I would have expected to crave mostly fruit and diet coke. Nope! Oh well, it's totally worth it. Apparently a lot of people use it as a crash diet, only drinking 500 calories a day of the lemonade and therefore losing 20 lbs in the 10 days. I've lost 2, probably because I'm drinking sufficient lemonade to stay healthy. Seriously people, 500 calories a day IS NOT GOOD FOR YOU! And on those crash diets you just gain it back anyway. Ridiculous.
So that's the update, sorry that I talked about pooping. It's on my mind a lot... IBS really sucks. Here's the token picture of Miss Hadley, the love of my life. It was taken during game 2 of the ALDS (GO RED SOX!). She loves to nestle herself in the pillows, and she wasn't about to let Caroline's leg get in her way!

Pics from Whitney's Party

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Well, I went ahead and stole these from facebook. Here are a few pictures from Whitney's party... one of Whitney and I (I'm the one with the red hair, in case you don't recognize me) and one of Whitney and Goose! Soooo fun! (PS> I'm basically in love with Whitney's dress, from anthropologie.)

Heavy Metal on Wall Street

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Lately I've been reading three newspapers everyday -- we've been getting the Los Angeles Times since we moved here, but I find it ridiculously superficial. On one of the early days of the economic crisis, the front page headline was about the Emmy's. So I decided to scan those headlines, but really invest myself in that wonderful source of news, the New York Times. So, I read the Times electronically in the morning, and scan the (subordinate) Times over cereal. That was working for a while, until... Dad decided he had also had enough of the LA Times, and subscribed to the Wall Street Journal. Thus, I read 3 newspapers. Needless to say, though I'll say it anyway, I get a lot of news.
One would never expect the two to go together, but last week I stumbled across the unlikely synthesis of Metallica and the Wall Street Journal. On the bottom of the front page was an article entitled something like "Metallica too loud even for heavy metal fans." I enjoy a dose of Metallica here and there, and I saw them in concert in 2004, so I read on. (AWESOME concert, by the way.) The article explained how lately bands have made their recordings "louder" so that they stick out more on the radio and on iPods. I can't say I had noticed. The article goes to on say that producers increase certain layers of the track at the expense of minute musical details and expression to give the illusion of a louder song, and that the new Metallica album "Death Magnetic" falls prey to this folly.
Well, I was curious, so I determined that when I got home from work I would investigate these vicious felonies -- WHOA! Law and Order SVU took over for a second... that I would investigate these claims myself by comparing "The Day That Never Comes" with an older song, say, "For Whom the Bell Tolls" from the album "Ride the Lightning." Well, being busy, that never happened.
Luckily, my burning curiosity was assuaged today as I sat in my car and the radio so lovingly played what I needed to hear. Though I am by no means a Metallica connoisseur like, say, Ian Ward, I could definitely hear a lack of musicality in the new song. Metallica, whether you like them or not, is a group of pretty fabulous musicians. It's impossible to deny that. And though the song is extremely well written and really fun to listen to, I did hear a lack of depth in dynamics and the balance seemed off... like the bass and the cymbals were too loud. Great album, guys, but I'm guessing your more loyal listeners aren't going to appreciate the cheap tricks...

The weekend in review

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Saturday was quite a busy day for me! I was all over the place seeing all sorts of people, and it was a blast.
In the morning, I had a session with my client in Agoura Hills. Her house is always fun for me to be in, because there are 8 kids (3 with autism) and the place is tingling with excitement. Her mom is also really cool, so during down time I love to chat with her. All of the kids want to play when the tutors come over... apparently my client cries if her brother and sister have sessions and she doesn't. It's funny to me, because sometimes she wants me to leave her alone once I'm there. But other times, like on a previous Saturday, she BEGGED me to sleep over, "please please please please!"
Anyway, Saturday we were sitting at the breakfast table, and my client's little sister was demanding that her breakfast show up miraculously on her plate NOW. When mom explained that it was still in the oven, she said "When I grow up, I'm not going to buy an oven!!!!" She's 6 and still can't say her 'R's, which made it that much funnier. We laughed pretty hard.
Then we did some fall-inspired Arts & Crafts, and the same sister made this lovely rendition of me. I'm happy, and I have lips! I'd say it's a pretty good likeness.

It's amazing how kids learn to draw, and what they incorporate to make their own style. By age 6, they've picked up on what their images are supposed to look like -- hair, hands with 5 fingers, flowers are pink and leaves are green. But my client's older sister, one of the other autistic children in the family, has a style all her own. She's much more severe than my client -- she's 4 years older, but has to be coaxed to make any intelligible words; otherwise she shrieks like a bird of prey when she's excited or mad. Like many people diagnosed with autism, however, she has an uncanny ability.
It's almost impossible to see in this picture because of the sun shining on the concrete, but this little gal can draw like nobody's business. I had the girls using sidewalk chalk to encourage interactive play, fine motor skills, colors, drawing, etc., and of course big sister was invited. Well, I did not expect what I saw! She just busted out with these amazing drawings around the poolside. They're very modern in style, women with understated facial features and overstated arms and torsos. I was so taken aback -- I couldn't believe what I was seeing! Honestly, done in watercolors in vivid colors, I would buy these in a gallery. Wow.
After work I popped into the Palmer's house in Agoura Hills to visit my Uncle Lance and his 3 little munchkins, who I've blogged about in the past. They all had neon-colored hair from Hudson's soccer game, and they were getting ready for the beach, so I didn't stay long. Nonetheless, I managed to get a little video of Hudson's showing off his newest tat -- a Boston Red Sox strip I brought over that his dad so deftly applied. What a guy.

After an uplifting and non-controversial Relief Society Broadcast, I hopped over to Whitney Low's in Simi for her 23rd Birthday Party! I reminisced in the car about my funniest birthday present in June... $50 in singles in a gift bag from my Grandma Palmer. And the only person who thought it was funnier than me: her. Thanks Marilyn, for being in my life :) Anyway, at Whitney's party -- where Whitney was the belle of the ball in a lovely coral anthropologie dress that made me green with envy -- I met lots of new people who I'll probably never see again, and I saw my old friend Gustavo Soares! I met Goose through Whitney at BYU several years ago, and I quickly learned to associate him with good humor and good times. There have been drag races down 9th east, spur of the moment water polo games, and of course the notorious butt shaving incidents. Goose, however, being a young gentlemen, left us to serve a mission in BOSTON! He's Brazilian, so he was called Portuguese speaking and spent time getting to know lots of my old friends. Well, Goose is back from those 2 years of spreading the good word, and it was so good to see him! Whitney's parents made a killer dinner for the party, and it was an evening well spent. Happy Birthday Whitney!

Photo of the day:

7:05 AM Edit This 1 Comment »
This is my dad.
When my dad is really hyped up about how ridiculous something is, he throws his hands up and exclaims "what's the deal?!"
This is exactly what that looks like.
I wasn't there for this photo, I found it on a link my Uncle Erik sent me of pictures of a little no-kids party that the Aunts and Uncles and Grandma and Grandpa had at Lake Powell. I saw it and I knew exactly what he was saying when the picture was taken... And knowledge is half the battle.

Old McDonald had a pretty pimpin' farm, didn't you E-I-E-I know?

7:36 PM Posted In , Edit This 3 Comments »
So let's talk about work. Some people feel dread when it comes to waking up Monday mornings, trudging into the office slurping down a hurried cup o' Joe, wishing they were still warm under the covers.
Not me.
I love getting up to go to the Infant/Toddler program in the mornings, even if I have to leave my house before 7:30am! And I'm here to share an anecdote as to why my job rocks, and it may just make you question your personal career paths.
Every morning after a few minutes of supervised play, and then at the end of the day before sending the kids home, we have 15 minutes of "Circle Time." Sounds simple enough to anyone who went to preschool, but our circle time is a little different. The kids have to have an adult hovering over them at all times to prevent the kind of shenanigans that autistic toddlers try to run on us. They try to jump out of their chairs to do this that or the other thing, or in the case of this morning, one of them tackled me to kiss my arm. But I digress, so here's the long-awaited, fabulous story.
We have one little guy (who I'll refer to by his cartoon alias Johnny Bravo, as to the company privacy policy) who picks Old McDonald to sing twice a day, every day. Heck, sometimes when we're not even doing circle time the kid will run over to where we keep the picture icons and demand to sing his song. Now, his preferences don't end there. We have these knit finger puppets (that look identical to the ones I found on the internet, here)
and every single time Johnny Bravo chooses the pig. You see, each kid gets to choose an animal from the pile to sing about. So Johnny Bravo pulls the pig, screams "pig!" and then proceeds to oink in sheer glee every day, twice a day.
Today, the lead tech in charge of circle time had a great idea. It confused the kids, but it proved for some pretty intense adult laughter! You see, we have some reject finger puppets that don't really work for Old McDonald, and we usually skip them. But the teacher is on vacation this week, and we decided to do something sneaky. So here are the animal options we gave the kids: Old McDonald had a farm, E-I-E-I-O. And on that farm he had a... (snowman, snail, toucan, octopus, chupacabara, brontosaurus) E-I-E-I-O. The funniest thing about the Island of Misfit Toys remix of our song wasn't the animal choices, but our attempt to make up the noises that these animals make. It wasn't premeditated, so it was a cacophony of strange sounds... if you're reading this alone, or in the privacy of your own home, try to make their noise out loud. TRY not to laugh.
Verily, a chupacabra is a mythical creature and there's a lot of controversy as to what the thing looks like. We didn't have a chupacabra, we had a lizard. But, lizard is boring. So chupacabra it is. In case you were wondering, this is what google makes of the chupacabra:

Tagged by McKenna Lee Lane

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(I think this is how this works... she listed me at the bottom as someone she wanted to tag, so I perpetuate?)
8 Things I am Passionate About:

1. Art - creation and appreciation of all types
2. Family and close friends
3. Universal childhood education
4. Understanding of cultures and identities
5. Special Education! And educating folks about our differently-abled neighbors
6. Faith
7. Peace, both internal and external
8. Health

8 Books I Have Read and Enjoyed:

1. The Awakening
2. The Scarlet Letter
3. Anything by Jhumpa Lahiri
4. Miss Rumphius
5. Tristan et Yseut
6. L'étranger
7. L'aventure Ambigue
8. The Poisonwood Bible

8 Words/Phrases I Say Often:

1. That's gangsta
2. ...and a medium diet coke, please.
3. Good try! One more time, then you can have a break.
4. Time to work! ... come here come here COME HERE!
5. Look at Hadley!
6. It's WHAT time?
7. Will you pop me some popcorn?

8 Things I Want to Do Before I Die (In no particular order):

1. Get married and have at least 1 child, preferably a girl named Olivia.
2. Eat something really weird in a foreign country, like tempura tarantula.
3. Visit Japan
4. Live abroad
5. Start an NGO to raise awareness of developmental delays in Africa
6. Dye my hair purple
7. Have a vegetable garden with LOTS of heirloom tomatoes
8. Be the "go-to" girl for something, like cooking advice or a shoulder to cry on

8 Things I Learned in this Past Year:

1. Applying to graduate school sucks.
2. I have the patience of a saint... with children.
3. Guys at church can still be disgusting pigs.
4. I don't like nature sounds keeping me up at night
5. I'm deathly afraid of rattle snakes, even dead and beheaded ones
6. I'm a lot more comfortable talking about bodily functions than my family
7. My mom often compares me to Jack Black
8. Even when I express respect for another person's religious views, they still condescend when talking to me about mine.

People I Want to Tag:
1. Christopher and Megan
2. Kristen
3. Heather B. Armstrong
4. Tina Fey
5. Chrissie Tsaturyan
6. Chica

a long overdue update-roo

7:16 PM Posted In , , Edit This 4 Comments »
So it's funny to me, this blogging thing. I started a blog for the first time when I was in London, mostly because it made me feel cool, and so my mom could read it
(when I reminded her to several times). Then I randomly kept blogging. And yet, it's still novel to me that people read my blog the way I read theirs, that they check back and think "poop" when I haven't updated. So then there's that thing, that if you write all the time you risk sounding mundane with every minute detail of your life. But if you only write once in a blue moon, you're so overwhelmed by the task that you put it off forever. So here's a bulleted list, some updates, and maybe some expansion beyond that.
First, here's the token Hadley picture:

Don't worry, I'll add another by the end of this post ;)

So, I could write about...
*losing 25 pounds, a process that has made me much healthier, and much more constipated.
*the joys and travails of working as a behavior therapist.
*being hired to work in my company's infant/toddler program in addition to my regular clients.
*dying my hair red.
*what attracts me to and keeps me from graduate school.
*Major League baseball... how the Red Sox didn't quite make it, and how I've adjusted to Dodger territory.

So, here's a few pictures of a Dodger's game I went to a few weeks ago! The field shot is when Manny was at bat. I was so thrilled, of course, to support my boy Manny!

The Dodgers played the Diamondbacks, with Derek Lowe pitching an outstanding win of 8-2. Here's a picture of myself and a young chap from my ward, Greg. My face looks oddly distorted, but I'd say it's recognizable.

I also thought I'd post a cute picture of one of the little guys I work with, Tyler P. I'm good friends with his cousin Kristen Rane Lanshe, which is a complete coincidence actually. Anyway, his happy face is a good example of why I do what I do. To reap the rewards of good behavior. Let's just say, I'm his mean task-master, and he smiles when I scare him into obedience.

People always assume he's my son when we're out together. I've also probably been suspected of being his kidnapper, too... once I took him to get a haircut. He has sensory problems that make his neck HYPER sensitive... if you brushed the nape of his neck by accident, he would literally perceive it as pain. So the haircut obviously didn't go over too well... he started screaming expletives and running down the street in a ghetto part of Pasadena, yelling "help me! help me! Oh SH**!!!" I smiled and waved at all of the concerned onlookers with my best Miss America wave while chasing him, hoping to keep him out of oncoming traffic. Well, it all turned out nicely in the end, no harm no foul!

Anyway, here's another picture of Hadley. We told her to dress up, but we didn't realize that she also had gender identity problems. Or maybe it was just rebellion against to bows we make her wear all the time? Either way, we're much more explicit to tell her to put on a dress or a skirt now.


The city is restless; it's ready to pounce

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Welcome home Lauren!! I've been back for a week and a half from Idaho, and I finally have enough time to write a little bloggitty blog post.

Last week and this week I'm working on a farm called "Danny's Farm" here in the Pasadena area with Tyler Penniall--I call him my free-lance client. I'm also working at my regular job with ABC, and let me tell you, it's a party. The farm is just in the middle of a suburb called Altadena; it's on just a lot the size of a residence, with a little corral and some stalls for the animals. We've got pigs, goats, cows, mini-horses and one regular horse, chickens, roosters, and doves, bunnies, sheep, guinea pigs, cats... I think that's about it. It's really fun for the kids! The two weeks that I'm doing it I'm Tyler's 1-on-1 aide, one of the few aides there. All of the children are developmentally disabled, and most have autism. Funny stuff always happens... like Samantha, a little girl with gorgeous strawberry-blonde hair and freckles with Down Syndrome who is OBSESSED with Hannah Montana. She doesn't really talk, but she constantly head bangs and dances like Hannah Montana. I kind of feel like I need to get a Hannah Montana T-Shirt and wear it to see what she does :)
Probably the best joke I've ever heard was from one of the little guys at the farm-- every day he had another one to tell us that never made any sense. He said "What did Batman say to Superman?" "Smash the door!!" And then he would laugh hysterically. What fun!
An interesting thing that happened to me last night from the farm -- it proved that our house is cursed for birds. Someone came and dropped off a baby chick for us, and I took it home so that it wouldn't be alone in the office overnight. We bonded all night... I let Peace (his or her name) walk around the ground to follow me around all over the house, which was so so so cute, and then I put her to bed. Well, when I went to get her in the morning, she was dead in her cage. It turns out that the chicks really need a heat lamp if they're away from the mothers, to simulate the heat of the chicken coop. Well, I was pretty mortified when I had to tell the director of the farm, but then she tells me that she thought it would die. Well thanks for telling me, Lisa.
Well, y'all might be interested to know that I am now a vegan. I have some digestive ails, and I decided to try going vegan to see if it would help me feel better. And I have my life back! I feel much, much better all the time now that I'm eating vegan. It's pretty exciting, and it feels good to be successful. A little story... when I was 11 I was a vegetarian for 6 months until my grandma forced me to eat her Chicken à la King... she cited death by protein deficiency. Since it's a dietary preference and not idealogical, I've also decided that if I'm somewhere that I need to be polite, I'll eat the chicken or fish and just be constipated for a few days. But I don't imagine it happening very often, because if I don't eat at home where I cook my own food, I'm usually at a restaurant, not in someone's home.
Anyway, life's a party over here! Between the tofu, dead chickens, and flesh wounds from out-of-control autistic children, life is good.

A Family Affair

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Ever heard of Stevie Wonder?
We have! On Monday night, mom, dad, allie and I had the pleasure of attending a Stevie Wonder concert... his first tour in 15 years. Here's us, thrilled! before the show starts:
So Stevie played a lot of great stuff. And he's so funny! He's got a really engaging stage presence. So Stevie had all 3 of his kids on stage participating in the show, mostly Aisha as a backup singer/dancer. At one point, Stevie invited Aisha to sing a solo, which she did (it was a love song) after which he said "don't cry bebe" in a funny little accent, then broke right into "Isn't She Lovely" with Aisha right on stage! It was cute. Later, Stevie mentioned the Guinness Book of World Records, and how there are these records for the longest song, and whatnot, and said "but I wonder, how many people have made love to one of my songs?" He then pulled his son (in his 20's) up on stage, and asked him if he ever used one of dad's songs to get a little something-something. He had his son sing it, and then sang it again himself. Mom and Dad did a little cuddling during that part. I wonder...
We had a great time! It was so fun, and the Hollywood bowl was a great arena for the show. Here's a picture before the show and during:
On the second shot, you can see the little screens with Stevie rocking out on the harmonica!! Dad and I got beer dumped on us from behind, but other than that the night was a complete, joyous success.

My Multi-media Message

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Alright folks! Here's my multi-media message, a little posting to share a few great sounds and sights. First, I thought I'd share this great little video that my brother sent me online. It's from the old TV show "Cheers" that we all remember from TV Land, and of course it takes place in the bar "Cheers" in Boston. I don't know if any Bostonians actually go there, or if it's a tourist trap now, but it still gives me civic pride. In fact, on KROQ when they were giving away free trips to a concert in Boston, they played a clip of the theme music to really give a sense of place to the listeners. I wonder who even got it? I sure did...

The rest of my little message is about music. As I'm sure y'all know, I love the stuff. Especially really good indie hip-hop and alternative. So today my recommendations are two great songs by two great little lady-fronted indie alternative bands. The first is called "The Ting Tings," and the song I'll suggest is "Shut Up and Let Me Go." The second is called "Tilly and the Wall," and the song I'll suggest is "Pot Kettle Black." You won't be disappointed. In fact, I was so excited about it that I bought tickets to see Tilly and the Wall in LA next month! Yippee! So get your google on a listen to some great music!

Chrissie Tsaturyan: a gentlewoman and a scholar.

2:06 PM Edit This 3 Comments »
Today I had the unparalleled privilege to see my good friend Chrissie (with daughter Rose and sister Megan in tow) for a few hours. They happen to be in town visiting grandparents in the valley, and popped over to lighten my life. We ran over to the Huntington Gallery to get out of the heat and yet actually do something... unlike my typical day-to-day life. I was so glad of the company that I probably talked their ears into oblivion.
Here's us on the grounds:

I basically gave a condensed version of the tour I had the last time I went to the Huntington, with my mom and all of her other menopausal friends. We only stayed about an hour, but I think that was plenty for all of us (it is so hot lately... and we forgot the stroller for Rose, so we carried her the whole time!) I made sure to highlight my particular favorites for them, like the William Morris textiles and furniture.
Next we came back to the homestead (which makes it sound like home, home on the range... maybe I should call it the château?) and chilled for a bit, me doing more yakking, etc. Chrissie's sister happens to know lots of Belmontians, the most exciting of which was Collin Beecroft.
Chrissie's daughter, Rosemary Ella Tsaturyan (or Rosalind, as I've taken to calling her) is so cute! I find a lot of babies repulsive, but this one's beautiful. She has really soft skin and beautiful blue eyes like her mom. And, just in case we need to up the coolness factor for her already at 3 months, she's 5/8ths Armenian! Word up!
I really enjoyed their company, and apparently they enjoyed mine. Of course, you can still tell that I'm awkward around babies, since I asked Chrissie, "Will you take a picture of me with your child?" Sometimes I'm just strange, but I've come to terms with that. Last night after an extraordinary Celtics victory and some very easy babysitting, Alexandra and I watched Stardust. In case any of you haven't seen it, it's a fantastic film. It's really light-hearted, totally creative, and Robert DeNiro is TO DIE FOR. If you're a DeNiro fan, get ready!


10:17 PM Edit This 1 Comment »
So, my life continues to be monotonous. In fact, this post will probably bore you to tears. I had a pretty good weekend, though I got a little sick Sunday/Monday. I think I was dehydrated or had a little bug or something. That, and I'm COVERED from head to toe with bruises... some are mysterious, but others are from my new client who likes to beat the crap out of me when he doesn't want to work. Who knew malnourished 8 year-olds were so strong??
Wow, there's no point in continuing... I have nothing!

a love letter to doc rivers, paul pierce, and ray allen:

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It doesn't take a genius or a college graduate (though I happen to be both)
to realize that the Celtics are going to win the NBA finals this year. I mean, of course they will, right? We've got the whole Boston sports thing going for us with the ridiculously passionate and loyal fans through thick and thin, and the players and coach to beat them all. Furthermore, we had a record-breaking come back today, and even statistically speaking, the Lakers are screwed. So take that LA! GO CELTICS!!

(There's nothing like a Celtics game to get all of the girls in our house screaming, except maybe a Banana Republic gift card.)

It's official.

9:49 PM Edit This 2 Comments »

It's official. I've decided that I absolutely MUST purchase a house on Prince Edward Island someday. You see, my sister Allie and I are currently watching Anne of Green Gables, and so I got curious. You can buy a 5-bedroom house on PEI for less than 100,000 dollars!! Canadian!! We used to go to Canada on vacation a lot when I was little, since we were too poor for airplanes and would drive up from Boston. Anyway, fabulous. Imagine me, on an island in Canada, with a giant garden. The eccentric lady in the neighborhood.
So anyway, today I got a breather from working. My client canceled, so I hiked up to my Aunt's house in Agoura Hills and spent the day with her and some of my cousins. I fell down the stairs on my way, which was fun. But the best part of it all was my two little boy-cousins being OBSESSED with the word "buttocks." I asked one of them, Hudson (he's going to be in Kindergarten next year) "what do you want to be when you grow up?" He said, and I quote directly, "I want to be a BUTTOCK maker!!" Then the 3 year-old did a little dance yelling "Buttock buttock buttock!!" It's a joy, a sheer joy.

This is Drewby in the pool. I asked for a high-five, which I got, and which he corrected me: "it was a wet-five!!"
Then there's Clare. She's my bosom-cousin... we have a deep connection. A few years ago she told her mom "Lauren's my girlfriend!" She's going to be 8 in September. She kept introducing me to her little friends today as "my college cousin." She was shocked to learn that I had in fact finished college. She did cut me some roses from her garden though! That was cool.

I won't comment on the Celtics game.
Of course, here's a picture of Hadley! It's her yakking on the phone. Sometimes we can't get her to stop talking! Of course, she doesn't have opposable thumbs, so she doesn't text. But we never know exactly who she's talking to...

The daily doggy dish:

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Imagine 4 or 5 quarters stacked on top of each other. Better yet, STACK 4 or 5 quarters on top of each other. See that? Feel that? A bunch of stones bigger than that came out of my doggy's bladder a few days ago. She came home from the vet today after her surgery, so I actually held one of the things in my hands. I wasn't going to, since it was IN HER BLADDER, but my sister Caroline held the stones out to show me and I was so shocked that I had to touch it and hold it in my hand. It feels just like a smooth rock that you would get on the shores of a lake; the perfect skipping rock. It's sick. Can you believe that? No wonder she kept peeing on the couch!

Today at work a few funny things happened. 7 year-olds are great, maybe my favorite age for kids. They're old enough not to be as obnoxious as they once were or throw temper tantrums, and they're young enough to still be soo soo cute and innocent. To preface my first story, you should know that I call all little girls either "girlfriend" or "mademoiselle." Last summer my little cousin told her mom "Lauren's my girlfriend." It was maybe the happiest moment in my life. So anyway, I kept calling my client "mademoiselle" today, and eventually she said, in utter confusion, "I'm not Mademoiselle! I'm Aminah!!!!" It was really cute. I didn't bother explaining that one today. Later on, she showed me her sense of humor when we were doing receptive animal noises. She knows them all and gets them all right (she's 7 for Pete's sake) so the second time I said what "kind of animal makes this noise?" (ROOOAR like a Lion) she said "YOU DO!!!" I'm such a party animal. For that, I made her get up and do a silly dance with me.

Randomly changing gears, my little sis had her wisdom teeth out today. She lucked out in that she only had 3, and one of the missing one was a bottom one (which are much worse.) She's physically fine. When I had mine out, I started the adventure with outrageous, Valium-induced laughter, went on to vomit my blood, gauze, and guts out, then sat on the couch subdued as my cheeks swelled beyond recognition. I was a little sad from a recent breakup, but I'd say I dealt with my pain pretty graciously. Well Alexandra, who can eat and drive and walk around, is the grumpiest little pissant you've ever seen. My mom said "it's like she's angry at the pain." It's hard to be around. But, I'm so glad she doesn't have to go through what my brother and I did! He cried for two days straight and accused the entire family, in a very passive-aggressive note on the counter, that we were on crack.

Books, art, and more on being an old lady.

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I've used enough Aspercreme on my arthritic hands to be able to type comfortably for a few minutes, so why not take advantage of it? I thought I'd share some thoughts on the three books that I've read recently in the past two weeks. My criteria for really loving a book is that it both touches my soul somewhere deep and agonizing, and it teaches me something shiny and new for my arsenal of useless knowledge. Books that attain neither of these are simply entertaining, not worth much mention or contemplation.
The first book I read in the aforementioned time period was The Secret Life of Bees but Sue Monk Kidd. It only satisfied one of my two criterion: I learned a lot about bees, honey, spirituality (especially non-tradition, personal spirituality) and so on, but I didn't really connect emotionally with the book. I thought it was great and beautifully written, and I would definitely suggest it. I think it would be especially cathartic to anyone with an abusive parent, or a parent that died in childhood.
The second book I read was C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. This was a great! It wasn't as overtly entertaining as the other two, I'd say, but it has a dry witticism that is subtle and fun. I felt like I gained a lot of really wonderful insights from the book (I used one in church the day after I finished it!!) and that I learned a lot about myself. This one fit both criteria, and I would suggest it to anyone that professes him/herself a Christian. No matter what, you'll understand yourself and your faith better after this one, and you'll get a few good laughs.
The third one, I just finished about 10 minutes ago, was Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See. Oddly enough I chose two books with the word "secret" in the title, and the main character in both of them is named Lily. Don't even ask... I'm trying not to look too far into it. I keep seeing a secret daughter named Lily, and I don't want that happening EVER so--anyway, the book was fabulous! The language was rich and it transported me into another world. I could almost feel my toes breaking as the characters bound their daughters' feet. I learned a lot more about Chinese culture than I ever knew... it's such a daunting task in History class to try to memorize the order and dates of the dynasties that my mind tended to just shut off during China time. Anyway, I felt like I really identified with Lily's pangs of remorse and trying to make a retribution for her wrongs. I've had a lot of wrongs. The beauty and dignity of her suffering were very inspiring. I would suggest this to anyone and everyone, especially men who don't understand women (oh right, that's ALL men!!!), but I wouldn't read it if you're going through a depressed state, or in the depths of a snowy winter.
This morning I went to the Huntington Museum/gallery with my mom and all of her menopausal church-friends. It was hilarious to trot around looking at art with these dentured, permed, orthotic-wearing ladies... they certainly weren't hard to keep up with. The great thing is, whenever I'm out with my mom, everyone always says, referring to me, "is this your friend?" I mean, do I really look like I'm in my 40's? Because that would suck. At the same time, it's kind of fun for us to smile and just say no, we're that great mother-daughter combo that's smart and charming and witty. Okay, we don't say that, but you can see it in our perfect teeth and sparkling eyes :)
Anyway, the Huntington is great! I feel spoiled by all of the museums I've paid tribute to across the world, but they do have a great collection. Among the highlights are pre-Revolution French tapestries, lots of great William Morris stuff, exquisite jasperware, TONS of Gainsborough, and our London study abroad's favorite, Sir Joshua Reynolds. All of the gals that were with me will chuckle in irritated recognition, and will be proud to know that I identified one of his paintings as his before I even saw the placard! Go me, I'd pat myself on the back if it wasn't for my damned arthritis.

Only in California, and How I've Become an Old Woman.

11:15 PM Posted In , Edit This 0 Comments »
So I saw a few amusing things the other day when I was out in the valley with a client. I thought I'd share those amusing things:
First of all, "SPEED HUMPS"??? Really? Because everywhere else in the world they're speed bumps. It's just so random and hilarious to me. Second of all, if you look at that sign and put the stress on the second syllable of "contract," it sounds like a miracle pill that allows promiscuity. Maybe I'm just sick, but hey that's what I noticed. Of course, it's a cell phone add, but hey seriously.

Another funny thing that I saw out on a walk through the La Cañada Country Club with my dog was a street sign, kid you not, "Star Trek Dr." That was a good one. I should probably take a picture of that one! I mean really, Star Trek Dr. in a ritzy country club?

As for becoming an old lady, I have arthritis! Can you believe that? I have arthritis in my wrist and maybe in my back, and I have to use "Aspercreme" to be able to use my wrist at all. It's a little sickening. How does that possibly happen to a 21-year-old???

Shalom world!

10:38 PM Posted In , , , , , , , , Edit This 2 Comments »
I just had to show a picture of my dog... my excuse for not blogging regularly is that whenever I have time to, I always want to lay on the couch with her. She's just so precious! Luckily for all "y'all" (as my Grandma would say) she's stinky and needs a bath. Groomer tomorrow at 8:30am!! She doesn't look like it, but she was attacked by a coyote a little over a month ago in San Diego, and she was inches from doggy doom. Luckily with her IVs and collapsed lung, she didn't go to that warm, inviting light to doggy heaven. Or maybe she remembered seeing "All Dogs Go to Heaven" in her previous life as a French Princess and recalled that "you can never go back!"
---Changing gears...---
So it's been a busy, interesting week. I feel like I'm lying whenever I say that I'm busy since I'm only working part-time, but I'm never just sitting at home relaxing. I guess that will only happen when I retire. College is over, it's time to get serious. I did a lot of sewing of course, since I'm a superstar sister and quilter. I've been working on this quilt that I promised my brother and sister-in-law for their wedding (over 2 years ago) and it's almost finished. Also, Samantha sat on some kind of gunkitty-goo on the metro while holding her little boyfriend's hand and it threatened to destroy her pantalones. So, being an awesome person, I sewed some cute fabric over the stain.

The fabric is a scrap from a quilt that Alexandra is working on, so that was convenient. I bent a needle and a pin beyond recognition, but I make sacrifices for my love. Notice my cute toes to the right of the picture, with the big toe naked as the day I was born, and the other ones alternating white and black. I won't even try to explain what happened with that. Just smile, shake your head, and say "what a hippie." Also notice my mom and dad's sweet new rug.
This week has been loaded with interior design-ness from top to bottom. I went antique shopping with my mom most of Saturday, and she found a few pieces of furniture that were going to be ideal for the house. When my parents moved from Boston to La Cañada in August, there was suddenly a lot more space to cover. So anyway, the most promising was an Empire table, American, 1890, solid Mahogany for the entry hall. It is really beautiful, but of course we couldn't just bring it home because... my dad would probably have a hernia. And believe me, I know hernias. The ladies who we worked with were these spunky, vivacious, slightly tacky 70-year-old twins, Ann & Kay. If you're ever in Pasadena, you absolutely have to go see them. So my mom and I ended up going back for the table on Tuesday, at which point we hit up more antique spots and found more good stuff. So the cycle continues, and some day after dad has moaned and complained about furniture enough we'll get our way. I've never been that exposed to or interested in antiques, but now I'm in love. And even though I don't have my own place to put my own stuff, I saw a lot of potential in the old jewelry. It's funky retro chic is right up my alley, plus I would re-work a lot of it to make it look more modern (and therefore stylish, not kitchy), which feeds my need for working with my hands.
Anyway, after all of the antique business, we went carousing into Culver City, where there's this ridiculously amazing design store (like the size of a small home depot) called "Berbere Imports." Just the name is enough to make an African Studies minor like me salivate, but the inside was practically orgasmic. (My mom's mom would crucify me for that mark... when Meredith moved from "The View" to "Good Morning America," she used the word orgasmic and I heard about how inappropriate it was for a few days.) Anyway, it's all stuff from Europe, Africa, and Asia, and they sell to the trade. They have indoor and outdoor stuff, furniture, textiles, decorations, GIANT DOORS, you name it. They have these amazing, tall wooden doors that should be in the British Museum or something. They look like the doors of Jericho or a fortress in Assyria. I called them the doors to Narnia. So most of their stuff, I'd say, was Indian for indoor and Chinese for outdoor. They had killer Moroccan lamps and stuff, and the whole place was amazing. Well, we bought this cool little side table for the family room, which wasn't easy. You see, we were two lay-people walking into design Mecca, and it turns out that they only really sell to designers. But, we talked a cute guy into letting us have it, and I told him that it was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. That is, after trying to solicit my services to him. I definitely mentioned both having lived in Africa and speaking fluent French, but he neither proposed to me nor hired me on the spot. Such is life!

This table is from India, about the height of my knee, and it's inlaid with either bone or lacquer. It's definitely cool. My mom said "A touch of ethnic is just perfect," to which I replied "a touch of non-ethnic is just perfect," at which we laughed and drove off into the sunset.

une grande dilemme.

7:27 PM Posted In , , Edit This 0 Comments »
After a fantastic, rather quiet weekend of antique shopping and old-French-movie-watching alone with my mom, my joy was brought crashing down around me as I made a sad realization: I'm pretty sure one of my sisters doesn't love me. We'll call her "X" for anonymity's sake: well I was with X driving to downtown LA to pick up a different sister, and before we were even pulled out of the parking spot X started berating me that I didn't have my cell phone with me. Now, never mind the fact that she didn't have her cell phone with her either, but she was practically crucifying me for not obliging to what she thought was a necessary nicety: how dare I leave the house without my cell phone? She was really honestly upset. So, as an attempt to protect our already rocky relationship, I told her that I wanted her to stop talking about it, that she was being too aggressive and I didn't want to yell at her or say something mean. I thought "wow, pat on the back self. You're being mature in the way you handle this situation." Well, she clammed up for the rest of the ride (1.5 hours) and didn't say a word. Now imagine a flashback from a TV show with all of the squiggly lines:
When we were little kids, I admittedly treated X like crap. My older brother used to kick me around a whole lot, and we get along really well now, so I kind of took that example on how to treat my other sisters. Turns out, it didn't work. She would tell her friends how incredibly awful and terrible I was to her, and they would in turn tell their older sisters (my friends) about it. Then my friends would tell me I was a total jerk and they couldn't understand how I could be so awful. I was ashamed and humiliated when that started happening, so I decided to be a better big sister. Well, that didn't work because she still hates me.
When I went off to college I had high hopes that absence would help to cure our problems. The first summer I came home went okay, but by the second summer she was telling me that I was a "fat, lazy, cow" and that was 30 pounds ago!! She started having this pattern of not wanting "share" people: if we had mutual people in our lives, she would either lose interest in them all together or become incredibly (and quite vocally) exclusive of them, and tell me how they were hers (in many more words.) Basically, she wanted nothing in common with me. And her personality went from sweet and shy to loud and in-your-face. And we haven't really ever learned to get along.
Back to the present, I have tried for a long time to improve my relationship with her. I buy her stuff, I try to talk to her, I try to spend quality time together, etc. etc., but she still is pretty aloof and cold towards me. And after dinner, after 5 or so hours where she hasn't looked at me or said a word to me, I'm pretty sure that she doesn't love me. I think that she likes me 10% of the time and can tolerate me about 50% of the time, and other than that, we're doomed. Why else would she persist to verbally abuse me every time we meet new people? It makes me look like a giant loser.

Caution: don't let the "happy mormon family" look deceive you.

un grand succès!!!

4:59 PM Posted In , , Edit This 1 Comment »
So yesterday was a day of successes for me! In the morning, I drove up to my office in Valencia to take Part II of my training test. On Thursday we took the written portion, and then were dismissed to stew in fear of failure at home until the oral portion the next morning. I got in there right on time, and my trainer Mario said that I had been particularly fabulous on the test: one other guy and I had passed with flying colors, and had been especially thorough and had kicked the hard parts' butts. So that was a fist-bump with my ego! Anyway, I took the oral part with the Program Manager pretending to be my autistic student. I had to run a lesson with her and correct a behavior problem, so I did! I definitely felt the pressure, I mean here's the Program Manager testing me, scrutinizing my every move! But it went well, and I got even more praise from Mari-izz-o for using several different disciplinary methods. Go me, fist-bump again. Or, as Ms. LaRoche used to have us do in the 1st grade, give myself a pat on the back :)
I got my schedule right then and there, and I had my first real live session yesterday! So I went to this little lady's house (I can't give any specifics, or I could be prosecuted.) She's almost 8, but has the verbal capacity of a 2 or 3 year-old. But she can read, and she's very sweet and has almost no behavior problems. I think she's going to be a really good first case, since she's pretty easy. I'm so excited! I was 45 minutes late to the house because their street has three segments separated by dead-ends, but it was cool... the Field Trainer didn't seem too upset, and it all worked out well. I'm the bomb, which everyone already knew, but... pat on the back Lauren!!!

Today in the news

10:45 PM Posted In , , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
I personally am not good at keeping touch with the news, but I come from a family that's pretty well connected. The only thing I do with the newspaper is the crossword, and when I watch TV it's for the TLC reality shows or ABC dramas. Anyway, a few interesting articles have passed by me lately, and I thought I'd share two. One is for fun and fascination, and the other is for reflexion.
"Weird Beastie" Shrimp Have Super-Vision"

National Geographic is getting some free advertising from me tonight!! So I saw this crazy freaking picture scrolling through on the homepage of the aforementioned equivalent of ecstasy, and I had to read on. This "weird beastie" is a crustacean called a Mantis Shrimp (it's not a shrimp though), and the cool thing about it is that it can see 12 or 13 primary colors! So we see 3: red, yellow, and blue. This freaking thing can see 4 times the amount of colors we can! Infrared, UV, different wavelengths and polarizations, etc. My favorite part about the article was the ending: "What the significance of that is... not clear." These brazen scientists spent all this money finding fancy colors that they can't even see, for fun! Well, at least they're honest about it.
"Ex-USC student pleads no contest in dumping of newborn in trash bin"
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought that USC was a pretty good school, and that you had to have some degree of education and sense to get in. But of course, Miss Holly Ashcraft didn't have enough sense to snap on a condom! This 23 year-old woman has dumped 2 -count 'em 2- babies in her short life-time. And of course, she is serving no jail time after her court hearing today. Once when she was 19 and once when she was 21, this chica has dumped her newborn baby like a sac of rotten fruit. Can anyone explain that to me?
As horrifying as this is, the most interesting thing for me was a reflexion from my mother. She mentioned that people are horrified about a woman dumping a newborn, but most don't even blink at abortion. She was saying this in political neutrality, probably because she didn't want to start a fight with her most flaming liberal offspring, but really it was an interesting commentary on our society. What changes in the 6 months between an abortion and the murder of a born baby that makes us go from apathy to horror? Just something to think about.

On the senses

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If had to lose any one sense, what would it be? Touch, sight, smell, sound, taste? It wouldn't be touch, because I love the feeling of my dog's fur, or the way water feels as it rushes past you in the ocean. It wouldn't be sight or sound, I love those sensations too much and the art that often accompanies them. It sure wouldn't be taste, because I'm kind of obsessed with food. I mean, imagine not tasting British White Stilton cheese anymore? Or Gouda with apples? It would definitely be smell. I could do without smell, especially gasoline, bananas, and Hadley's breath. I'm thinking about senses because of a few things: 1, I'm in pain. I cut a bunch of the nerves in my right pointer finger over a year ago with a notoriously stupid blender accident, and against my greatest wishes from my magic genie that I keep under my bed, they still afflict me. And my back has been hurting from the indentured servitude that began when I moved home. Would I be willing to sacrifice touch in order to never feel pain again? Or do I appreciate pain, because it makes me realize how great not being in pain is? That's sure a sunny outlook... sounds like something an African would say.

Reason 2, my mom just bought tickets to a Stevie Wonder concert! It's pretty awesome, because Stevie Wonder is pretty freaking awesome! For anyone that doesn't know her, my mom is this super classy, proper lady who was raised by strict Mormon parents in Bel Air. She went to Law School, always uses impeccable grammar, is embarrassed to use the word "fart," and won't allow thongs in the house. But somehow, thrown in the mix, my mom LOVES R&B. Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind & Fire, Michael Jackson, The Commodores, you name the 70's black music and she's all over it. I'm not suggesting that this music is unclassy, just that it's an awesome, slightly unexpected facet of her deep personality. Stevie Wonder has been able to work through blindness at a time when it sucked to be a blind man, not to mention blackness in a time when it sucked to be a black man, to be a prolific, versatile, and extremely talented musician/singer/songwriter/long-braids-with-beads-wearer. Our family tends to love his albums "Songs in the Key of Life" 1 and 2, tending more to funky-fresh, less to the sappy old-school stuff of the 50's and 60's. In fact, the ring tone on my cellphone for family calls is his song "Superstition". And now I have tickets. Pretty freaking sweet.
Recommended songs:
Superstition, Past-time Paradise, Isn't She Lovely, Have a Talk with God, Sir Duke, I Wish, and Ebony and Ivory. Enjoy!!!

idk, my bff jill?

8:42 PM Posted In , , , , , , Edit This 1 Comment »
So watching that AT&T commercial, where the teenage disaster is texting up the yinyang, I always just laughed and thought it was pretty funny. Like oh, haha, that's funny. Well, that was until I moved home. Now, that isn't funny. It's sadly realistic... My little sisters Samantha and ESPECIALLY Caroline are texting freaks. They text all day! It's gotten to the point that my parents had to officially ban texting from the dinner table. Really, where has common courtesy gone? If my Grandma Carmack, the etiquette queen, lived with us, she'd drop dead. And you know what my sisters do? They sneak texts like little kids dropping their veggies to the dog!

So today Samantha was opening her birthday presents (Happy Sweet 16!!!!) and a phone buzzed. She dropped the fresh new clothes from H&M, very concerned that she might have a TEXT MESSAGE, the holy grail of all teenage communication. But "no," my mom said "Caroline's phone farted." Meaning, she got a text message. Which, to the rest of us in such a profuse quantity and while everyone is trying to enjoy togetherness and cake, is just as distasteful.
Luckily the evening wasn't a total waste... my mom made the connection between her favorite new adjective, "gangsta," and the Steve Miller Band classic "some call me the gangster of love." She sang it beautifully while folding her unmentionables.