Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Bob the Builder Award: You, feeding the hungry

I cannot understand why so many people are hungry.  There is food everywhere.  I mean really, everywhere on this planet.  It has never made sense to me. 

September is National Hunger Action Month.

Most hungry don't have the power to speak for themselves.  So I officially volunteering to speak for them today.  I am a helper like that...

Friends, lots of folks are hungry.  I don't mean "Man, where is that pizza?  I guess I will eat this carmel corn until the pizza guy shows up..." like I just thought about 45 minutes ago kind-of-hungry.  I mean the kind of hunger that drives children to eat things like paper and adults to simply completely go without.

This is information from the Kansas City area.  But I am sure you could insert your city name here.

66,000 people a week are served by Harvesters--The Community Food Network
37% are children
8 % are senior
40% of households have at least one adult working
30% choose between buying food or paying their medical bills

If you know me, you know I have a soft spot for the hungry.  I have given away a lot of Mr. Fun's money to buy food I haven't eaten.

Did you know that money is actually more productive to give to the food banks than food.  $1 will buy 5 meals for five folks.  $1. 

Here are some ways to help the hungry in your community:
Pledge to help
Stay informed on hunger issues in your community
Donate extra produce to the Harvestor's "Grow a Row" program
Collect cans of food from your guests at a party or BBQ you host
Donate money
Kraft will donate one meal for everyone who joins http://www.huddletofighthunger.com/
Do someting on September 11th -- National Day of Service
Bring a brown bag to lunch for a week and donate the money you saved from eating out
Sort food at a local food bank
Cook a meal with your children and discuss the problem and how your family can serve
Play on the internet http://www.freerice.com/ For every right answer, 10 grains of rice is donated to the World Food Programme. 

Good luck friends.  :)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

And he called her "Ninny"

I have been thinking a lot about friendship.
I remember the first time I saw her. I was in 7th grade Mrs. Maughan’s English class.

Sheri was the attendance girl, which means she picked up the attendance slip that hour of the day for the front office. A highly coveted gig.

And she had this plum colored jumper that she wore. Name brand and very trendy.

That isn’t all she had going for her.

She was “dating” the enigmatic cross country running stud of the school-- Todd E. The boy that all girls had a crush on at one time or another.

That isn’t her first memory of me though. And I quote:
My first thoughts of you were ones of jealousy and anger. I can’t remember how old we were, maybe 10 or 11. We were both enrolled in the Northern Lights Dance Studio School. I was jealous and mad because you got to be a bumble bee and I had the not so glamorous parts of a carrot and leaf.

Sheri is a Sterling girl who lived 5 miles out of town. I lived about a mile out of town, so naturally my social ranking would require that I should be a bee—a better dance costume for sure. Hello, I lived closer to town (a defining social qualifier….Mr. Fun lived smack in the middle of town, so you can see how it defines our adult future lives now…) You can understand why a Bee of my stature couldn’t be bothered to remember a carrot posing as a leaf, or is it a leaf posing as a carrot?

We became true friends in the 10th grade when we started working on the Homecoming class float together.

We have been best friends for the last 26 years, which is saying a lot when you are only 41 years old.

She has had hair trauma since high school. I haven’t changed my hair since third grade, when my mother chopped it all off. There was that one year at BYU I tried to pull off a terrible looking mullet….

We both have two kids. Both our daughters are first born. We are first borns, too.

We are both converts to the LDS church. We joined about a year apart.

We have lived together or by each other at the University. In two different states.

Sheri has always worked. I have not.

She has hated most of my boyfriends. I wished she could have really dated Ed.

We both worked a night shift together at the town diner. Holy hannah!  Some stories there involving the strippers from the local club and some scary head cook named Mary. There was also a bus boy named Rick, who I thought was just doing a great job taking out the trash, but was actually smoking some “kill bud” out back BY the trash.

There have been some awkward moments too.  Some naked crouching that she witnessed.  There was that once in college that someone jumped though our kitchen window that was open for some fresh air.  Our SECOND story kitchen window. 

Mr. Fun doesn’t like to play Taboo with Sheri and I as a team because with one word, we can guess each other’s right answers.

For example:  Topic:  Alcoholic drinks
Sheri:  My cousin. 
Val:  Brandy. 
Mr. Fun:  How did you know that? 
Well, Sheri has a cousin named Brandy. 
See what I mean?  They didn't stand a chance.  :)

We have had a fun little game we have played for years called Loser of the Week. We both feel cursed a good part of the time, so it makes it less painful. My submission this week is that I seized all through church. Sheri’s is that her button popped off her pants the first day of school (she is a teacher). Awk-ward, Mrs. D.

One the greatest days in our friendship is when long distance phone bills came all bundled in the phone bill at one cost, no longer itemized. :) God bless free long distance is all we Alaskans can say.

I cannot count how many times we have said “I am so sorry” to each other in consolation. Broken vehicles, cancer, pregnancy, bad hair days and family.

I was thinking about the scripture from Proverbs 18:24 today, which started all this reminiscing… "a friend who sticketh closer than a brother." My brother is pretty darn great, so I am twice as blessed to have a friend like that as well.

Sheri, with a blog dedication like this, there is no way you are the winner in Loser of the Week this week. :) loving you

Friday, August 27, 2010

All that and a bag of chips...

Her name was Betty.  Betty S.
Juni named her from the letters on my license plate.
Much like the photo here, except she was even cooler.
She had a maroon top to match the pin striping.

Not as shiny clean as this model.  We don't have a lot
of pavement where I come from.

I got Betty when I was in the 12th grade.  She cost $700.
My parents paid half, and I used my permanent fund
dividend money to pay the other half. 

My dad installed about 34 new alternators and starters
before she finally gave up the ghost....dead in the dorm
parking lot of my first year at the university--
three hours away (one way). 
Thanks Dad for making those trips.  :)

Betty was a member of our circle of friends.
Juni had a car, but as my father would say
"The Rice Rocket" couldn't hold that many folks.
And the back floorboard of her Datsun B-210
was rusted out and you had to be careful not to put your foot
through to the ground.

And Sheri wasn't allowed to have friends
ride with her.

So Betty hauled us around.  In style. 

I have one specific memory that is legendary in
the Popper family. 

"Val--The Road Kill."
(kids--don't try this at home)

It just so happens that for whatever freakish reason,
I was voted a school Homecoming princess in my senior year
(I am sure it had something to do with my sweet ride...)

I got the classic "ride around the track deal during halftime" ride,
and even had a sash and crown.  No sceptre though...

The next day, Acinom, Juni and I were
over on Stacy Drive, the Johnson County of Soldotna
(for you local folks).  It was a Sunday afternoon
and I remember in those days I boycotted showering and
all around good hygiene on Sundays.  I was dressed
in men's boxers (before they were trendy) and a sweatshirt.
Lookin' sweet.

One of them said I should hop on the hood of Betty
so that I could relive my glory moment of the day before.
So I did. 

I sat on Betty's hood like I had good sense, and began
my best Miss America wave to the neighborhood.

Apparently Juni couldn't handle Betty's power upgrade
from the Rice Rocket, because she started going pretty fast.

When I say pretty fast, I mean, I suddenly found myself
sprawling out on the hood, men's undies flapping in the wind.

I rolled over, like you would see in the movies
and grabbed on to the windshield wipers for dear life.

I remember screaming
while Juni and Acinom laughed. 

Then disaster.

Juni turned the corner onto the main street, and hit the curb.
Did I mention it was a big curb?  Really big.  Maybe
the biggest curb ever made...I'm sure of it  :)

I was bounced off the hood like a pebble
hitting the windshield.  Honestly, I am lucky I
didn't get run over.

There I was, on a main street in a town
with not too many of those, in a mangled,
crumply pile of road rash flesh.

They pulled over and I remember Acinom
jumping out to open the back door
and shove me in.

It was such a stupid thing to do
that I was scared to tell my parents.
I didn't want to.  But I am sure they
could tell by my bloody legs and the
way I hobbled around.

The good news is I have since made a full recovery.
And I haven't ridden on the hood of a car since.  :)

Friday, August 20, 2010

Where is Zarahemla?

Don't be afraid.  I am not going to preach to you.  But I have been thinking.  Really thinking.

I am reading the Book of Mormon:  Another Testament of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon can be explained by some much wiser than me (they are called missionaries and they would be happy to stop by and have a visit with you...just leave your number...:))  But it does have some really great stories in it.

I have been thinking a lot about one recently.  About a fella named Amulek.

Amulek was quite the guy.  Gold, silver, precious things, women, kids, and knew a lot of folks.  He sounds pretty bright.  "I am also a man of no small reputation among all those who know me."  He is confident.  And quite honest.  He begins to share his story of his total coolness and then leads into his conversion to religion.  I especially liked this one piece:  'I did harden my heart, for I was called many times and I would not hear; therefore I knew concerning these things, yet I would not know." 

I like how he owns his rebellion.  How many things will I not "know?" 

He goes on rebelling "even until the fourth day of the seventh month of the 10th year of the judges...".  He even remembers the day he made a change.  When he began to "know."

His story is out there for the non-believer.  He has an angel tell him to turn his journey around and go home so he can host a prophet of God who could use some help.  Needs a snack.  Place to crash.  It doesn't say why Amulek.  It just says it is.

And in Amulek's own words, he is blessed.  His family is blessed.  His father is blessed and things were going his way....I imagine they do when you are hanging out with a prophet of God. 

Amulek converts and joins with Alma to preach the gospel of Christ to others.  And frankly, it doesn't go so well.

They end up really offending the wicked-doing locals and they get thrown in jail.  They watched fellow believers burned alive (some speculate some could have been his family).  They were beat for days.  His hometown is destroyed.  Amulek ends up "forsaking all his gold, and silver, and his precious things...and for the word of God he was being rejected by those who were once his friends and also by his father, and his kindred." 

In a nutshell, he loses everything for the precious truth he gained.

This is the part of the story that I like the best.  After Alma gets the other new converts settled, it says "Alma having seen all these things, therefore he took Amulek and came over to the land of Zarahemla, and took him to his own house, and did administer unto him in his tribulations, and strengthened him..."

Alma's house, in Zarahemla, was Amulek's safe place to land.  For some reason, it makes me like Alma all the more.

It was ironic that the reason this story touched me so deeply is that I happen to be in that section of the book when I took some time to read aloud to Tom, who was laying in the ICU from his cancer surgery the other day, too sick to read it for himself.

The LDS people have a name for these "coincidences."  We call them "tender mercies" from God.  It feels like a little love note from God saying to me, "Valsy, this is your time to administer unto him in tribulations..." 

I know a thing or two about bringing people home to my version of Zarahemla.  And, of course, others have taken me home to theirs. 

My hometown of Zarahemla has been a house with a circle driveway on the Spur Highway.  A basement apartment with a too-small of kitchen.  A big furnitureless duplex on Lincoln.  A guest room with a koi pond view. 

I learned how to bring people home from my parents.  Perhaps they didn't administer the way I do, but they set the example for me.  My example Almas...if you will. (I am pretty sure my dad swears a little more than Alma). 

The Zarahemlas that have made the most difference to me haven't been places at all.  They are people.  There is a list so long I would never dare to make it.  Certain voices, a short email note from a Iphone, a photograph, or even memories takes me to that safe place...in good and bad times. 

Another piece that I love is that Alma SAW Amulek struggling and did something.  He didn't just say "Man, that stinks.  Sorry dude."  He did more than say words.  He did something about it.  Was Alma tired?  Probably.  He had shared those same expriences. 

My Zarahemla is a pretty simple place.  No gold, silver, or precious things here.  Just plain old love.    Wanna come over?  :)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Val's Funeral Plans

To quote Nat--to post or not to post.  I wrote this a couple days ago....I am feeling it today. 

"Nothing like a funeral to make you feel alive..."  Nikki Stixx--"Life Is Beautiful"

Great song, but it has a different effect on me.  I don't feel alive at a funeral.  I feel like planning.

I have always been a planner.  Even as a kid, I would see an open space and wonder what I could do in there.  Movie theaters, football fields, school common areas. 

Death of course brings funerals, which brings the planner out in full force.  I have comtemplated more than once (and this week more seriously than other weeks) about being a funeral director. 

When my grandmother died a few years ago, we had a party of sorts after the funeral.  Everyone else in the family was drinking "Mike's Hard Lemonade" (translation for the Mormons:  spiked lemonade) while I got chummy with the funeral director (who was also having some Mike's).  She said I was a natural, because of course she had a few in her and had known me all of 20 minutes.  I bet she says that to all that families that drunk her up during her afternoon shift. 

Everytime I attend a funeral, I see parts I want at mine or not.  I always tell Mr. Fun the changes, addendums, the additions, the subtractions.  Several years ago, when Tom was diagnosed with cancer and we planned his funeral, I planned mine as well.  Some of that has changed since then.  I did write it down, but you know, I think he might could find it easier here. 

If you are interested, you can read along....drumroll please....

Open Letter to Mr. Fun about Val's Funeral
Mr. Fun,
You said to write it all down.  Here it is, lovey:

Opening Song:  Because I Have Been Given Much (LDS hymnbook page 219)
Opening Prayer:  Charity Martin Reno
Obituary reading/Eulogy:  Dave Tallant (if he is still alive--he is pretty old :))--I have seen him in action and he does a great one
Talk: Sheri Dean--add some heathen touch
Special Musical Number:  In This Very Room
Talk:  Natalie Anderson
Scripture:  And David's soul was knit to Jonathan's
Slideshow of Valsy and some of my favorite pictures I have taken
Open Mic Time
Closing Remarks:  whichever bishop is running the show (some good words like Val was a nice librarian) (not too churchy or my parents will get bored and skip for some golfing  :))
Closing Song:  Well Fount of Many Blessings (in some old hymnbook you find at the DI thrift store)
Prayer:  Tiel Smith

I would like to be buried in fluffy socks, a pillow and blanket.  A soft blanket.  Maybe with a photo book of my work.  Don't leave me alone in the church at night.  You know what I am saying--sleepover.

Can you make my face have a smile on it during the viewing?  My blue earrings I always wear...they don't poke the back of my neck.

Food:  Lori will be a great one to run the food.  She knows I will haunt her if they serve Funeral Potatoes.  Especially the ones with corn flakes on top.  Gag.  Our kids don't like those.  Make sure there is some homemade bread...with strawberry rubarb jam for all you Amish jam lovers.  Homemade raspberry lemonade in the summer or hot chocolate in the winter for drinks.

Cheap smooth casket.  I like The Girl's idea to signing the casket with Sharpies during the viewing.  Like a big strange yearbook.

Cheap burial spot, with some sort of garden seat so that you can rest your weary bones. Have some of those pretty dollar store clear stones so that peple can put them on top of my tombstone so I know they were there. Like Oskar Schindler's grave.

Make sure the obituary ends with "Buick for sale."  :) 

Donate any flowers to the Oncology floor of the local hospital to the patients who never have visitors.  Ever.
Maybe take some to the dinner tables of the homeless shelter. 

I would prefer no flowers actually but instead donations made to the North Kansas City Rotary Club Charitable Fund (and it is tax deductable) so the money can go to good use.  They will know how to best serve the folks who need it.

Pall Bearers:
Mr. Fun
The Boy
Big Daddy Joe
Brother Brian
Tiel Smith
Tom* (all depends on the health)
Nathan P
Dave T

Darrel W
Dick G.
Tom Thorpe
The Girl
Tom A.

Did I forget anything?  Man, I sure am bossy for a dead girl.  :)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bob the Builder Award: Got Bread?

Hot. Homemade. Bread. 

Close your eyes...no wait, if you do, you can't read the rest of this all engrossing post!  Pretend you smell this scrumptious homemade treat RIGHT now....deep breath.....hmmmm.

I have been thinking a lot about bread, especially since February.  If you are close to me, you know that I am off the bread.  No kidding. 

I haven't had a slice of bread since February.  I miss it, especially the homemade kind.  It makes me sick to my stomach, so it is out.  :(

I do have a tiny piece each week at church for our main worship.  I figured it was best I make the exception for God and His boy, Jesus.

You know how it is.  When you have something you just have it.  When you eliminate it, that is when you REALLY want it. 

Remember Dave the Hot Rod Builder Rock Star of the Northland?  His wife, Carol, her father died Sunday.  Cancer for the last six years.  Still painful.  Still sorrowful.  Don't even get me started to where her father's death has been taking me in regards to Tom and his cancer.  (Side note:  He is not well, and is scheduled for surgery next Tuesday to remove another ping pong ball sized cancer from his chest.)

Sunday, I and another church lady,  prepared a meal for Carol's entire family, delivered only a couple hours after the van had taken her father's body to the funeral home.

The family looked tired.  The home was surprisely quiet and peaceful.  Perhaps they were all cried out for the moment.  I had brought homemade soup, chili, cookies, and salad.  And homemade bread.

Of all the food three trips from the car brings, it was the homemade bread they commented about first.  The warm, homey smell to go with the homey peace that was there.  It was Kiera's bread that brought them to the table.

Homemade bread soothes.  I remember when Tom had his first cancer surgery almost four years ago.  A nice woman, Janelle, dying of cancer herself (she died two months later) brought doughnuts and you guessed it, homemade BREAD, to the hospital waiting room to us.

It is almost like homemade bread is magic...and apparently I am not the only one who thinks so.

These ladies began "Spread the Bread" a non-profit to show love and kindness in their neighborhood.  It is now a grassroots worldwide movement.  You should read about it.  It makes your nose tingle and your tummy yearn for some.  And makes your hands itch to make some to give away.  :)


Sunday, August 8, 2010

A big fat welcome to Wayne

Meet Wayne Brady, the newest member
of the Wildlife Habitat Pond in the back yard.
I picked him out for Mr. Fun because I LOVED
those crazy scales.
I especially liked the other members of his family,
buck-bucking each other.

Friday, August 6, 2010

National Geographic Photography Quote


When photographers function as observers and explorers, they serve as intermediaries.  By investigating the place with a camera and refined sense of the culture (or not so refined), they are, in effect, explaining that place through photographs to others, including themselves.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Wanna Take A Field Trip? Let's go to Army Fort Leavenworth Cemetery

The Anderson boys are four wheeling all around the Colorado mountains, so the Girl and I are on "staycation."  That translates to us eating junk food, watching mindless tv, and taking field trips for no reason besides "just because"we can. 

Also, no cooking dinner.  NICE.

Putting the trash on the street.  Not so nice.

I have not been the cemetery of Fort Leavenworth.  It is amazing.  Humbling.  It is only 8 miles from our church building, so after church we changed clothes in the car in the parking lot of the grocery store nearby (you missed the show) and went over. 

It is strange to me that two random people like us could just drive onto the base for fun...doesn't seem very safe.  I guess dusty Camry's aren't the first pick of a car bomber...

My father is a vet so he could be buried here
if he chose to.  Well, technically he would be dead
so we would have to choose to do it.  Which we won't.

He wants to be cremated...which in our family tradition
means his ashes will sit in a small cardboard box
 on the bedroom stairs with a post it note with his
name on it....Joe.  At least that is
what happened with our dog....Goldie.

I was thinking about William Bailey.  It could be partially
for him that this cemetery was established. 
Abe Lincoln named 12 national cemeteries during his presidency,
which I am sure were related to the Civil War.
Notice William died in 1863.  He might have been
one of the first buried here.

Here lie four of many men whose stories are lost to history.  :(

"Thank a Soldier" T-shirt from Snarky Belle

The Girl LOVES LOVES LOVES Vets and if you recall,
her teacher said she has a "brilliant military mind."
She loves coming here.  She is working on becoming an
escort on an "Honor Flight".

We were sad with John McHugh here.  He was 22
and was buried two months ago.  There were fresh flowers
on his site, along with a Boy Scout Pinewood Derby patch
pined to his flag.  He served in the Persian Gulf and
died in Afghanistan.  Rest in peace Colonel McHugh.
There scenic views along the Missouri River to stop and rest.
The river is so dirty that it looks like the
chocolate river from Willie Wonka and Chocolate Factory.
They say "It is too thick to drink and too thin to plow."
There is a memorial to the Calvary soldiers.  It was cool.
We were playing with the camera settings.

There are tons of folks that live and serve on this base.
But it was so quiet and tranquil. 
Everything seemed to sense it was hallow ground.
The trees. The people.  The animals even
had a spirit about them.

This squirrel wouldn't stop staring at the Girl.

We came home in the sunshine and the fish looked so great.
I have been thinking that without soldiers, I don't know
if I would have fish.  Of course, the fish are symbolic
of the freedoms we have to be, do, live and
exist as we choose.

The pursuit of happiness...even if they are slimy

God bless the Soldier and God bless the USA.