Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An essay on Chocolate

I have been scanning the internet for ways to properly articulate the relationship I have with chocolate, and I realized that there isn't one. Here is a brief piece that I submitted in a writing community to explain that chocolate should never be categorized as "candy"

There is a big difference between candy and chocolate; the only commonality is their sugar content. Candy – the billion dollar industry – is meant for children. Brightly packaged, customized for every holiday, and sold alongside beloved cartoon characters -- candy is designed to delight the inner five year old. It is sweet, sour, gooey, crunchy, and colorful all in one temporary bite. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll steal a peanut butter cup from a child’s Halloween stash without hesitation, but I don’t BUY candy. I didn’t buy candy until I became a teacher anyways, when I realized that the promise of a sugary reward was highly motivational for teenagers. I have seen some of the best group work produced just to earn one Jolley Rancher. When I upped the ante to HiChews? Amazing results.
Candy is bribery. It is sent in the middle of teacher appreciation week, it is set in front of me in training meetings, it is in a wicker basket on the counter of the local printer’s shop. Suddenly the tables turn as I recognize the motivation factor to be better and better, and I know that I have been caught. If someone gives me candy, it means that they want something from me.

There is candy, and then there is chocolate. Hold the sweet tarts, give me the good stuff.

“If chocolate could sing, it would sound like Josh Groban.”

I could mention other clich├ęs to describe the unique relationship between a woman and her chocolate, but you need look no further than a Cathy cartoon. A stressed out woman wearing a bathrobe and exclamation points above her head with the unspoken caption: Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.

No one gives me chocolate, I buy it. To me, chocolate is therapy. As a smooth piece of it melts away on my tongue, so do my problems. I contemplate nothing of what needs to be done, instead I push pause on it all until there is nothing left to dissolve in my mouth. When I’ve had a day full of students asking for extra credit or a living room full of my husband’s shoes, I choose to ignore it all. Just for five more minutes. I open my chocolate in secret, pulling it out of my secret hiding place, usually in my desk under the post it notes or away from my family behind some girly-smelling lotion. Chocolate is my trusted confidant, it is not meant to make me accept a new protocol or coerce me into any more favors than I already do for other people. Any over packaging of is pointless; bright colors do not belong nor do they entice the seeker. After a day of unknowns gone unexpectedly awry, this is my moment knowing exactly what is going to happen next. I open my soul, not to a therapist, but to myself as I open the small foil package -- I have great hours and bill very reasonably.

This escapism requires a very specific kind of chocolate; I prefer mine pure -- chocolate isn't some cheap thrill mixed with coconut or any other nut.  I don’t like the intensely dark model that is rising in popularity; I like my chocolate like I like my superhero movies, dark enough to be interesting but not so dark that I need extra time to recover. A good sampling will have a clean break when bitten into, or a satisfying SNAP when divided. Chocolate is complex, there is more to it than that one sweet note of its sugary cousin; it is bitter and sweet and salty and smooth all at the same time. The flavors should not conflict, no, they should build on one another to create an altogether poetic experience in your mouth as the overall impression of roasted cocoa beans remains on your tongue long after the bite is over. The taste that lasts far longer than the fleeting initial contact is not the sweetness, but a pleasant flowery bitterness reminding me it is okay to take a break.  All of this describes one perfect moment, when the world can take a back seat. There is a difference between candy and chocolate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


My husband and I are together all of the time. As newlyweds of only 7 months, we still find that spending time together is preferable to spending time apart outside of the workday. It is all very lovely and quite precious. Thank you.

A large quantity of that time spent together is spent driving in the new truck we bought the month that we were married. It has all of the blue tooth capabilities that an iPhone-loving man could want and my husband quite enjoys his time playing DJ while cruising up and down I-15. The problem lies with in his  music choice, or should I say lack thereof.

He has one music playlist on his phone with about 250 songs that he repeats over and over. And over. My only salvation is that the songs are on shuffle mode. His music choices are BAD per say, they just parallel the musical decisions our parents made as teenagers. The most predominant artist is the 1960's classic Beatles. Did you know that all of the Beatles' songs sound exactly the same?! After 7 months of the song "Hard Day's Night" you'd daydream of a car accident to end the music too.

Now sometimes, if I'm really lucky, my husband will choose to listen to Pandora instead of the old faithful playlist. Then, I get treated to "Michael Jackson" radio that has been tailored to my husband's baby-boomer-generational tastes. More Beatles. The occasional Journey song, and of course every single obscure Michael Jackson anthem that my husband inexplicably knows all of the words to. When listening to Pandora, I get excited about the commercials for the sake of variety in the truck ride to Sandy.

I am telling you all of this because I can't complain to the DJ/Driver. We drive to Sandy, because that is where my parents live and he is driving through to traffic to get to know them better.While I do crave for the top 40's or the occasional NPR story when we are in the car together, I wouldn't trade my dominant DJ for anything. He is stubborn, set in his ways, and only 26 years old. Lord help me when he is 76. I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My best

Inspired by Brian Regan's "My Best"  (A recommended read)

I decided to think of some of my finest moments.

<  (me thinking of said moments at my desk)

My best (and most expensive) nap.
My new husband is a die-hard sports nut. I mean EVERY single time we go to the mall, we have to make a stop in every sports store. Whether it be a FANZZ or a Sports Authority, we make our way there at some point. Every night his twitter ritual is the same, checking sports scores and injuries before they hit the front page of ESPN. I know what I married. It could be worse.

My biggest mistake was convincing this nut of mine that I too was a huge sports fan during our courtship. Don’t get me wrong, I claim the Jazz and the BYU teams as my own, but FANZZ doesn’t get me all tingly. Neither does seeing LeBron James up close and personal. But alas, that was our chance.

At a charity auction a few months ago, we ‘won’ some row three seats for a Jazz game. They were going to play the Cavs. We would be so close to LeBron that we would be able to identify individual sweat beads. “Babe! This is going to be better than HD!” I was told.  After heated bidding, we won the tickets. 165 a pop. Not together. Each.
Naturally, this game was on a school night. 9 pm on a weeknight is not when a first year teacher is normally at his or her best. My husband and I were there, on the third row, so close to LeBron that I could have heckled him and made it count during a free throw shot. Instead, I wasted my opportunity by dozing through the 2nd quarter on my husband’s shoulder. He didn’t notice until half time when he saw me yawning profusely.

My best lost in translation moment.
As a missionary in the wilds of Brazil, I came to expect moments of confusion frequently. I would mostly just smile and nod when I didn’t understand what someone had just said. I once accidentally agreed to sew a dress for someone on my P-day (when I don’t know how to thread a machine), and told somebody else that I used to be a bus driver. These moments of looking like a ditzy blonde were so frequent that my companions became very deft at changing the subject.

In English there is a word for my problems: Homonym. When words sound the same, but have a different meaning. In Portuguese, oil, garlic, and eye all have very similar sounding names and things got tricky a few times. The worst moments came when I confused homonyms in English and THEN translated in 90 degree, 90 percent humidity weather into Portuguese. One particular day, a sweet sister served us a delicious meal full of local favorites including but not limited to a boiled beet salad. I told her that her BAT salad was out of this world. No, no, not the baseball bat; the flying, echolocation expert that lives in the night. My companion didn’t even know how to fix that one.

My best performance
In fourth grade, my teacher decided that we were ALL gifted and talented. Of course, we all believed her and were eager to show off exactly how talented we were. A talent show was scheduled, and we were all to share some kind of talent. Even though it was 15 years ago, I remember some oddly specific details about this wonderful event. I recall the girl who played the Jurassic Park theme song on her clarinet, squeaking her way through the visions of Kauai water falls. I also can also still see the awkward baton twirling routine. I don’t care who you are, batons are not that cool.

For my talent, I came up short. I didn’t want to sing, I would rather have died than danced, and I had no advanced instrumental abilities. I told my teacher that I was not going to perform, because I certainly wasn’t talented. After some patient brainstorming, she convinced me to memorize and recite a poem. I could do that. In hindsight, I’ll bet she was envisioning some Robert Frost or even some Shel Silverstein, but I gave her the most dramatic poem she’d ever heard about a bologna sandwich. I put in all of the exasperation and drama that I could into my performance of “Jim’s lunch box” and I knew that it was gifted and talented worthy. To this day, I still have the whole poem memorized. I pull it out at parties and when things get boring before the bell rings.