Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Rewrite: Fail/Success

When tragedy strikes, I mentally take a step back and consider how I want the story to enfold and how I want my story told, which gives me perspective and an illusion of control. Allowing myself time and multiple drafts to mold my story, creates a narrative that I can treasure and remember with emotions and colors. Writing is an art form of depth and beauty. Stories emerge from words draped across a page; however, the first draping often leaves a frame that needs tweaking.

After reading through Dennis G. Jerz’s post Short Stories: 10 tips for Creative Writers, thought I could retell my Cranberry story with more flair.


“Frozen cranberries, frozen cranberries, frozen cranberries,” I muttered hastily, scanning the frozen fruit section at the deserted Giant. “Strawberries. Blueberries. Pineapple. Please tell me they have cranberries,” my thoughts raced as I considered other options I could bring for Sunday dinner tomorrow evening. Knowing Mr. Chappell and pizza were waiting, the tension in my body released as I spied the bag of cranberries on the bottom shelf. Success.

“Frozen cherries!” Fail. Knowing that I had disappointed all cranberry relish lovers, I reexamined the label on the package I had just removed from my freezer. In clear blue letters the bag certainly indicated: Dark Sweet Cherries. My lips pursed and my eyebrows furrowed.

Shaking my head and chuckling, I acknowledged that I, once again, have fuel for another ridiculous story. My grandmother makes cherry sauce for ham: I’m certain cherry sauce will be delectable on turkey. Right?

Carrying my warm concoction, trepidation fills my heart. Mr. Chappell knocks. The door opens and we are welcomed into a home I’m sure I’ve seen on Pinterest. Small talk ensues. I hold my sauce. I smile. I thank. I comment on the decor. My grip tightens on my sauce.

“I had a problem,” the words explode from my mouth as all eyes turn toward me in shock. “Not a big problem, just a mistake,” I back pedal in reaction to the chorus of oh nos. As a school girl confessing her error to her teacher, “I accidently bought…um…cherries instead of cranberries, so we’re having cherry sauce instead of cranberry relish.” Trying to be humorous, I add a coy grin and a short shoulder shrug.

Turns out, 98.6% of the dinner guests do not like cranberries, but they do like cherries. Success!

Dark Sweet Cherries

Friday, March 16, 2012

Cranberry sauce blunders

Saturday night, Mr. Chappell and I run out to grab a few things at the grocery store and pick up a pizza. We split up so we can get our pizza while it is fresh. I am tasked with getting the cranberries. In my rush, I grab cherries rather than cranberries, an honest mistake, especially when you consider the packaging.

cherries 3 cranberries

Sunday afternoon, I pull the bag out of the freezer and chuckle at my mistake. Since it’s the Sabbath, our cranberry sauce is just going to have to be cherry sauce. Turns out we all like the cherry sauce better than the planned cranberry sauce.

Here’s the recipe inspired by Cooking Light’s Cranberry-Apple Relish:

Cranberry Cherry-Apple Relish


2 chopped and peeled Granny Smith apples (~ 1 1/2 cups or 0.5 lbs)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white grape juice
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 package frozen dark sweet cherries
2 Tb cornstarch



Combine all ingredients except the cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat. Combine 2 Tb cornstarch with 1/4 cup cold water, stirring with a whisk until smooth. Slowly add cornstarch mixture to the saucepan. Simmer until thick (about 15 minutes).

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Wild Blue Yonder

Enamored with airplanes, my grandfather left the Civilian Conservation Corps after spending a few months clearing land and building fences for the booming business of aeronautics. He arranged to take a thirty-day course in aircraft mechanic work. His dreams of flying, fueled by building real flying airplane kits from the Provo Woolworth store made from balsa wood and Japanese tissue, were transforming from boyhood imaginations to manhood realities.

Leaving Payson, Utah, behind, he boarded a bus and headed to Los Angeles, California. Some say he took a bus. Some say he skipped trains. Personally, the idea of my grandpa as a real-life hobo makes the adventurer in me gleam. Perhaps he did a combo of these two, but either way he qualifies as an adventurer in my book.

Mr. Ford and Mr. Robertson
Welcome to Los Angeles – photograph was taken by a street photographer in downtown Los Angeles

On the bus, he met Virgine Ford, whom he roomed with for some time. Virgine and my grandpa learned how to rivet in the mechanic’s course and were immediately hired at Douglas Aircraft as an assembler making 50¢ an hour. They built DB-7s for France’s war effort. These twin-engine airplanes were much like the US’s A-20 and A-26, which they started to build after the US entered the war.

With this lucrative job, he was able to manage his finances so that he could spend $7.50 once a week on 30-minute flying lessons. Flying felt natural to him, and he was permitted to go on his first solo flight after just six hours of flight time, even though the law required eight hours. He was able to build up a few more hours, “before other events interrupted these happy times.”

Virgine ended up flying B-17s in the service and eventually B-29s in the Pacific theater. With a tinge of envy, my grandfather wasn’t eligible to be a pilot in the service because he was color blind. He figures it was for the best since he’d, “have probably been shot down in Europe.” Instead, he waited to join the effort until he was drafted by the Army as an airplane instrument technician. I’m glad he waited, as that gave him some time to figure out some things and meet my grandmother.


Sunday dinners were held at my grandpa’s house in El Cajon, CA, when I was a kid. His house was within the flight path of the local air shows. We’d all stop and look up at the airplanes that flew overhead, and Grandpa would tell us all about the crafts that soared the skies.

Here are some planes from the 1940s that we may have heard my grandpa describe while eating lasagna and luscious salad:


A-20C Havoc being serviced at Langley Field, Virginia, 1942


Beachcraft xa

Beechcraft 28 Destroyer/XA-38 Grizzly



Boeing B-52


Do you want to know more about the 1940s and your grandparents? Check out the 1940 Census Project. While you’re there, you can join the census project and sign up to become an indexer.

As part of the1940census.com ambassador program this blog post enters me into a drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card.


1940s – Looking all young and handsome

If I had been in my 20s in the ‘40s, I would be stunning, well, at least in photographs. Looking through my grandparents’ pictures, I’m impressed with how striking they look.

Here’s a great picture of my grandpa:

1942 dad in uniform

When describing this picture, he stated, “This is a professional photographer’s picture of me in my army uniform, looking all young and handsome in the army there.” It’s true: he really does look quite sharp. I can certainly see why my grandmother fell for him (and he’s not just a pretty face!).

Reading through excerpts from his auto-biography, I realize that the 1940s for my grandpa weren’t all that different from this decade for me. It was a journey of self-discovery, of love, of decisions about faith. While my story lacks the swing bands, riveting, and uniforms, I see the same themes woven through his stories that are emerging in mine.

In honor of the 1940s census being released next month (only 18 more days!), I’ll be sharing some of my grandparents’ stories from that decade through the next couple of weeks.

Here are some sneak peek pictures for you to gawk at my handsome grandpa. Sorry ladies, he’s taken.



Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Look I'm Normal Too! (And I'm a Mormon)


Stories are one of my treasures, so I naturally love the I’m a Mormon PR campaign. At first I thought it was the beautiful narratives from people’s lives that appealed to me; however, underneath, the real draw of this campaign is the message: I can be normal and Mormon.

As a group, we want the world to accept us as normal. However, often trying to be normal sends out red flags and makes others question what we’re hiding under our cover of normalcy. The trying then causes a distance and insincerity that is difficult to overcome and marks individuals and groups as a bit odd. Interestingly this craving for the perception of normalcy may be a mark of Mormon culture. 

I just finished reading Jay Bookman’s article: A different take on Romney and his Mormon heritage. He explained Romney’s tendency to appear too eager to please and to seem like he’s trying too hard may be associated with his Mormon pioneer roots.

As a group Mormons have paid heavily for their religious freedoms and the perception that they are different and odd. Bookman reviewed the history of persecution and noted, “A history like that marks a people. It marks a family. It creates a profound cultural memory and it changes how you perceive the world and how you interact with it.” Our history of being separated and punished for being different has changed how we interact with people outside our Mormon culture.

He elaborated that many social groups that have been “marked” by persecution develop group defense mechanisms. Bookman concludes that for Mormons, our cultural group defense includes, “an over-eagerness to be perceived as normal, wholesome and accommodating as possible. Being seen as different has cost them dearly.”


A few weeks ago, Mr. Chappell and I went to a delightful chocolate tasting at Cocova featuring Rob Anderson’s Fresco Chocolate. We were happy to just savor the flavors and enjoy the ambiance; however, the chocolate maker obviously wanted to talk to everyone who came to the event. He somewhat awkwardly made small talk with the 20 something crowd, teaching them a tidbit about the art of chocolate and catching a glimpse into their lives. Internally I was somewhat dreading the encounter because I often manage to say something ridiculous or offensive (like I’m good identifying pride!) while at the same time advertising that I’m a Mormon. (Who wants to give bad PR for their faith? Not me!) 

When it was our turn to speak with Rob, I was actually surprised how easily the conversation flowed. I figured those 10 years of experience I had on the 20-somethings crowding the gallery eased the interaction. Then Rob asked if my family also loves chocolate. Of course I had to tell about my pioneer great grandmother and her adoration of Logan’s Bluebird Candy Co.

My cover was blown! He was tipped off to the fact that I might be LDS! Of course, he asked. I cheerfully responded yes and asked if he knew any other Mormons. When he declared that he was Mormon,  Relief, Joy, Acceptance filled my soul. Knowing that he wouldn’t judge my church based on this encounter and that he had the same cultural background allowed me to relax and just be myself. My husband laughed when he saw me light up and begin to chat naturally and without the forced small talk of strangers.

I find myself fretting about appearing normal to people outside the Mormon church, which puts up walls and makes me appear like Romney: stiff and trying too hard. I am somewhat relieved that this behavior is an anthropologically correct response to the treatment my family and culture received. However, I like to break the bounds of culture, especially Mormon culture.

Bookman’s conclusion gives me new perspective on what it means to be a Mormon American:

The truth is, none of us are really “normal.” We aren’t born that way, and we won’t die that way. As a racially mixed child brought up in part overseas, Barack Obama had to come to terms with his own exotic background, which may explain why he too is sometimes accused of being aloof and failing to connect. In some eyes he is too black, in others not black enough, and he admits to a period in his young life where he himself wrestled with his identity.

In the end, it may be that struggle that makes both Romney and Obama authentically American. In countries such as France, Germany and Japan, national identity is a given for most people, a stereotype to which they are pressured to conform. American identity is more fluid and personal, more experimental. It’s harder that way, but probably more rewarding as well.

I’m part of this fluid, personal American identity. My life isn’t focused on conforming to a stereo type, rather to discovery and exploration. My faith has a few quirks, but it’s part of who I am.

I’m American. I’m different. I’m Mormon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012


So there I was minding my own business, sharing some concerns I was having about my life with Mr. Chappell, when he accused* me of using negative self talk. Gasp! I boldly and firmly explained, “I do not use negative self-talk. That was not negative self-talk, just an honest assessment.”

Honest assessment may = negative self talk

image source: www.thegirlandrhino.com

So, I did some homework. (If you’re going to make such bold and firm statements, it’s good to check your facts.) Come to find out, I apparently am prone to some negative self talk. *sigh*

All kidding aside, how do you deal with the negative influences in your life whether they be external or internal? After more research and some self reflection, I decided to write my own positive counterstatements to my alleged negative self-talk.

I enjoy taking care of my body, mind, and spirit.

I am strong and powerful.

I choose to feel joy as I fill my lungs with fresh air.

I accept and believe in myself.

I pray for help.

I recognize the Lord’s hand in my life.

I am a daughter of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love him…wait a minute…this sounds familiar

This is not a new concept. Without even knowing, I was taught this powerful concept of countering negative self-talk with positive affirmations when I was a twelve year old girl at church.

Each Sunday, my friends and I would stand and repeat the Young Women Theme:

We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.
We will "stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places" (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are: Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works, Integrity and Virtue. We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.

Thanks Young Women leaders of years past. Now to just implement those skills they taught me as a teenager. *rubs hands together while plotting*


* Please note that this is an instance of sarcasm. Those who know Mr. Chappell understand that his definition of “accusation” is to lovingly suggest that he might be identifying an aspect of pride. (While identifying pride is one of my skills, lovingly identifying pride is one of his skills.) He’s such a blessing. (Is that too cheesy?)