It’s the first full, dislocated day in Vienna.  I am standing in front of our apartment on Spittelauerplatz across from a small park with huge sycamore trees.  The building is vintage, a bit shabby, with a caged elevator to take us to number 8, an oversized apartment with high ceilings and large windows, loaded with Ikea furnishings.

It’s raining.

My laptop was stolen.

I’m cold.

I teach my first class tomorrow at ten a.m.  Did I tell you my laptop was stolen?  My laptop with my life on it.  I had it in my carry-on luggage.  It made its way across the country but in Dulles Airport, the Austrian Air ticket agent told me my bag was too large and she would have to check it into baggage.  Some time after that, it was stolen.  My laptop that is.

Also one black dress shoe is missing and one textbook.

The printer doesn’t work.

The tram no longer runs around The Ring.  We got lost.

People smoke in restaurants.  There is more graffiti.

On the other hand, I walked past the statue of Goethe, the opera, the Parliament, a dozen flower vendors, the Votiv Kirche and my favorite British interior design shop.  I ate  Semmeln for breakfast and Wienerschnitzel for dinner.  In Karlsplatz, you can go to a bathroom that plays waltzes all day long.  And, of course, I saw Mozart dressalikes selling concert tickets.

I’m in Vienna.

Now if I could only find someone with an iMac wearing one dress shoe.


I can’t remember where I first read it, but it was something along these lines: that Mr. Rogers and his liberal habit of telling kids they were special—for no reason—is to blame for a generation of entitled adults who never lived up to the praise they received scot-free as children.

Now, I’m not about to blame Mr. Rogers or his sweater for anything, but something in me (perhaps that cold, blackened part?) was glad to hear someone else bristle at that voice adults often use when they’re speaking to children.

It’s like that study I always seem to hear about where two sets of kids were given a puzzle and upon completion, Group A was praised for being so smart and Group B was praised for working hard. When given a more difficult puzzle, the group that had been labeled smart gave up, whereas Group B worked until they completed the task.

I often wonder how the things I say to my daughter will affect the way she sees herself. I hope my contributions are the kind that help her grow up and be a teenager and then an adult who loves herself—who is confident enough to know when to keep going and when to stop. In other words, I want her to have a good self-esteem.

But what is that? More pointedly, what kind of a goal is that? Teach her to love herself?  If I’m honest about it, my belief system doesn’t focus on the importance of loving yourself. The way I read them, scriptural directives about love are always pointed outwards. Love others. Love God.

Which I’m finally realizing is the answer if I really do want her to respect herself. Thinking back, the times in my life when I have been happiest with who I am are those times when I experienced more clarity about my relationship with God.  Understanding that relationship—sometimes a difficult and seemingly unnatural thing to do—has been the source of real self-esteem for me. The other day, a friend pointed out that when he was younger and went through sustained periods of self-doubt, his emergence at the other end was nothing he conjured. It had decidedly come from outside of him–and not from other people’s compliments either.

I agreed with him. At least in my experience, self-esteem is a misnomer.  Does it sound like I’m putting myself down by saying I’m convinced it comes from somewhere far more noble than my very own right here? And have I crossed the line by saying that not even Fred Rogers could produce it?


Because I’m an adult, I could decide one morning in VA to drive that afternoon to the family’s home in NY.

I could

  • rent a Toyota Corolla for $13/day from hotwire.com
  • stop by the airport to pick up the car, stop by my office to pick up my notes, stop by the bank to make a deposit
  • forgive myself for running late
  • forgive that driver who called me a b, when I’m pretty sure she was the one who cut me off Read the rest of this entry »

Dear Apron Stagers,

Tom and I are exhausted with cleaning our house and packing for Vienna. We’re in the thick of it, as they say. We leave on Monday. Alice, our dog, will be taken care of by my sister (for a month) and by a couple who is living in our house for two months. You see the problem. You don’t have to clean nearly so efficiently if you just close up your house, but when other people live in your house–well, there we are again–cleaning out of shame.

You could drink out of three of my four toilets today.

You could eat off the bathroom floors.

Tom and I take breaks by playing Ms. Pacman. I have been to the Pear board! Eating ice cream is also a nifty diversion.

I wear a back brace when I clean, because of weak, old back. Also I found my vintage fox fur and wore that as well. I think cleaning is more fun when you have little fox eyes looking up at you.

Took a whole lot of bedding to the D.I. I don’t even a own a full or queen-sized bed.

Closets are neater than they’ve ever been.

Which is to say, there is no substantial blog. But next week, I write from Vienna! Auf Wiedersehen, darlings.

I wondered if mothers and fathers with unattractive children could see that their children weren’t stunning.  Going through some old pictures of Adelaide’s hair, my suspicions were confirmed: THEY HAVE NO IDEA.

I mean, we knew enough to take pictures of it, knew enough to consider cutting it, but that was it.  I have memories of my sister-in-law saying she was “dying to get her hands on that hair,” but she went to beauty school so we just figured she wanted to get her hands on everyone’s hair.

I ask my friends why they never said anything about it to us and they’re always all “we thought you knew…”



Note: I’m narcissistic enough to be bored when other people tell me their dreams, unless I’m in them.  If you feel as I do, forgive me.  Unless you are one of the people in this dream.  Then call me.  CALL ME.

I had a dream once in which I was dating the most attractive man I could imagine.  I remember thinking in my dream, “Wow, this is the most attractive man I can imagine.”  He was tall.  He was broad shouldered.  He was wearing a suit.  He smiled at me.  I was impressed I’d come up with him.

In my dream, I was carrying a big baby on my hip.  As is typical in my dreams, I was somehow responsible for the baby, but the baby wasn’t mine.  It wasn’t my boyfriend’s either.

In my dream, my suit-wearing, broad-shouldered, tall boyfriend smiled at me.  He wanted to talk.  He lifted me up, and I remember being carried, while still carrying the baby, and thinking to myself, “Wow.  Now this guy is even more attractive to me.  I didn’t know that was possible.”

Read the rest of this entry »


Andrea asked her two sons Eli and Adam how they would introduce her. They say:

You never think anyone is really hurt until Dad comes back from taking them to the emergency room. You love naps. You really like naps. You want us to eat healthier food. You like going to the YMCA with Telia to swim at 6 in the morning. You don’t like cleaning, but you love naps. You love reading. You’re good at getting pink eye. You like writing stuff like this. You sneak everything into our food—our corn chowder has sweet potatoes in it. You don’t like speeding, unlike dad.

A few months ago, my friend Alida gave a great presentation on finances at a women’s retreat I attended. That very day, I vowed once again to make a BUDGET. Creating and following a budget, like successfully using coupons, seems like rocket science to me. It just plain baffles the old kidneys. After tracking my expenses for several months, I have been slowly, carefully working out a system that I think I can follow.

As part of the new BUDGET, I will be implementing a new system for teaching the boys about money. In the past, we told them that we would give them a dollar a week. We essentially never do this, and every once in a while one of the boys remembers and says something that sounds a lot like Napoleon Dynamite complaining that we’ve ruined his life. Dan gets paid twice a month, so starting with yesterday’s pay day, the boys will now receive $5 each per pay period. With their $5 they will be expected to put 10% into tithing ($0.50), 40% into savings ($2.00), and they can spend the rest ($2.50) as their hearts desire.

I started telling the boys about this new system yesterday, and that is all they talked about this morning. Read the rest of this entry »


I have been lying flat on my back for two days with back pain taking lortabs and muscle relaxants.  Tomorrow I will get up and do something, wearing a back brace.  Back pain is new in my life—only began two years ago—but it keeps returning.  I think what I’m supposed to learn is not to carry, push, pull or lift heavy items.

I have to remind myself, “You’re a wimp now and cannot push your furniture around without serious consequences.  Hey Wimpy, let the kid lower the china plates from the cupboard.  Do NOT lift that TV!  Oh dear old thing, you thought you could carry a tv!  Don’t you know you’re old and weak?”

I still do other things like  singing St. Louis woman with your diamond rings—Or I’m too sexy for my hat, too sexy for my shoes—I’m just too sexy to sit around hurting.

Big Tancook Island is a 45 minute ferry ride into the harbor of  Chester, Nova Scotia.  There isn’t a real grocery story on the island. You have take the ferry over and back to get your groceries.  Does that sound like an adventure or a pain in the neck? Should I choose to move to Nova Scotia and live in the middle of Mahone Bay or stay here in Daybreak, Utah. Vote yes or no.

Last week, the doctor put me on bed rest.  I called my second-opinion friend. She has a nursing degree and I don’t believe anything a doctor tells me until I clear it with her.

“What does bed rest mean?” I asked her. “We have tickets to a show tonight, I’ll just be sitting there.”

She said no. Get in bed. Get someone to watch Adelaide. Get up only to go to the bathroom. Recumbence.

With that, I took to my back.

Luckily, Levi was able to work from home last week—and did he ever work. In addition to his professional responsibilities, he cooked every meal,* played with Adelaide,** kept the apartment clean. He answered my every call: a drink, a sandwich, some chapstick, a different book. Read the rest of this entry »

Taken after my early morning religious class and before school, no doubt while waiting for the family to gather for family prayer, maybe 7 am, maybe circa 1997.  The specifics aren’t important; this happened every day.  That is my older sister lying on top of me.


One day when I was 17 and in eleventh grade, during orchestra class, I went into the music office, called my mom, and said, “You need to give me a reason to stay.  Otherwise I’m coming home.” Read the rest of this entry »

Louise Plummer

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