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Monday, September 29, 2008

Virtual Girl’s Night Out—Twitter Style!  

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Do you Twitter? Do you want to learn how to Twitter? Already a pro? Twitterific! Join us Tuesday, September 30 for the mommy mixer of all mommy mixers—a girl's night out from the comforts of your own home. All you have to do is get in front of your computer, kick your feet up, and tweet your heart out with twitter moms from around the globe!

To join the soiree:

  1. RSVP through Mr. Linky by inserting your "username's Twitter" in the "Name" box (see my example in the first link).
  2. In the "URL" box, type in your twitter URL and/or your blog URL. (Your twitter URL is: Where jyl_mommygossipis YOUR username.)
  3. Please comment here!
  4. Please click on everyone else's twitter link here to 'follow' them.
  5. If you'd like to join the Twitter Girl's Night Out Group on Twitter Moms, please click on the box in my sidebar for more information.

Tuesdays Topics:

Each week, you can expect two formal topics—one philosophical and one tutorial—in addition to lots of tangents! Come prepared to discuss the formal topics or veer off the beaten path.

  1. Intimacy—How it Enhances a Relationship and What Gets in the Way
  2. Tutorial—Stumble Upon

"See" you Tuesday!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Love Is in the Details  

PhotoStory Friday
Hosted by Cecily and MamaGeek

Dear Grandma,

Your loss isn't so painful, because I see you everyday in the details. Thanks for painting my life with the most vibrant of all colors.

You taught me to love and appreciate nature. Hummingbirds remind me of you. (Thanks to the Painted Maypole for this beautiful picture.)

Your backyard has orange trees. How many of those oranges did you squeeze just for me? Oranges remind me of you. (Thanks to my baby sis Brooke for this pic.)

You were in the middle of three books the day you died. You taught me to love literature, to adore the piano, and to be a life-long learner. Books and pianos remind me of you.

You had pomegranate trees and taught me that playing with me was more important that red stains on the carpet. Pomegranates remind me of you.

You were down on your knees in prayer when you died. You taught me that the purpose of this life is to prepare to meet God.

You taught me that death is but temporary while love and families are eternal. I know I will see you again. I am reminded of this everyday in the small and simple details you taught me to love.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

That Is Some Serious Morning Breath!  

Introducing my new niece Jane!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

WW—Vampires Aren't Just for Halloween  

Thanks to those of you that commented on yesterday's post I Am the Next Stephenie Meyer. You have helped me see that perhaps I will follow in her footsteps. If you didn't get the chance to weigh in on the decision, feel free to make your opinion known by commenting on that post.

Since the topic was so popular, I thought I'd post a teaser trailer and some pics for WW to get everyone in the mood for the Twilight movie release in November. For more WW posts, visit Angie at SevenClownCircus.


So... Exited to see the movie? How do you feel about falling in love with a vampire?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Am the Next Stephenie Meyer  

Ever since she published the Twilight Series, my family has been saying that I am going to be the next Stephenie Meyer. To see if they are right—cuz who doesn't want a little dough, I made a list of the similarities between me and Steph (do you think she'd mind if I called her Steph?). The list got a little long. Apparently, we are a lot alike ;)! Have a look and decide if you think I will be the next Stephenie Meyer.

  1. Stephenie grew up in Arizona and I grew up in Arizona. Check!
  2. She attended college at Brigham Young University and so did I. Check!
  3. She majored in English. So did I. Well, these are the easy ones. Lots of people fit these criteria.
  4. She graduated college and got married within a year of each other. Me too! And, in the 90s as well. Hmmmm…
  5. She is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also known as the Mormons). Oh! My! Gosh! So am I.
  6. She was born in Connecticut. I went on business and spent one Thanksgiving in Connecticut. I am starting to see the similarities now.
  7. She has all boys and so do I. See! We are like that (insert image of me crossing my fingers).
  8. She writes about fantasy and romance. Again… the likeness is eerie! I have fantasies about romance. I can't even believe this.
  9. I heard that the story about Twilight came to her in a dream. Yep! You guessed it. Alike again. I dream too, and sometimes even at twilight. This is getting crazy. Maybe my family is right.
  10. The main character in the Twilight Series is Bella. Wow! Who knew? One of my favorite foods is Portobello mushrooms, which in Italian is the male version of Bella if I translated it correctly. I don't speak Italian so I could be wrong. And, now that I think about it, neither does Steph, right? A similarity within a similarity—weird, or not if you know what I mean!
  11. Another character in the series—this one a Native American—is a werewolf—or turns into one anyway. And wouldn't you know it, I have a nephew named Jacob, we had a Native American foster sister, T-Daddy has hair on his chest and back like a werewolf, and he used to go skiing at Wolf Mountain. Now, this is seriously getting spooky!
  12. Back to Bella… you know how she moved from Arizona to Forks? Well, I moved from Arizona to Argentina, where they use forks. I'm telling you, there may be no denying this.
  13. Meyer writes young adult literature. If you think about it, I am pretty young for an adult. I mean 38 isn't relatively close to say, 90!
  14. Stephenie's fans write their own stories about Bella and her pals and post them on the internet. I have my own kind of fans that write their own stuff about my stories too. Thanks peeps for all of your comments!
  15. Steph published this year and so did I. Check out my recent article at Divine Caroline.

My question on this one—because I am really not sure—is: Do her fans reduce cellulite by commenting writing, because I may be drastically different in this one small arena, but we'll let it go.

Now, I would hate to compare things like our income or the number of times we've been published or made it on a top-ten list. Whatevs, right! Some topics of conversation just aren't appropriate in public, you know. But… honestly, maybe my family has a point. Maybe I am the next Stephenie Meyer! What do you think?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I've Got Rythm!  

Red Rover—my oldest boy wonder—is a groovin' kid. From the time he could kick in the womb, he rocked out to music. Not to anything in particular, but to everything! When I was preggers with him, we would walk in the church doors to hear the organ playing and my little peanut would start kicking the crap out of my insides dancing like there was no tomorrow. His bust-a-move ways inspired me to make music more accessible to him. So from the day he was born, I played the piano, placing his little baby fingers atop mine—hands-on learning, literally! And again, he didn't care what I played as long as he was cradled up against me with his hands moving up and down the keys.

I have been biding my time for seven long years until the day I could sign him up for piano lessons. So, when my neighbor across the street called to say her friend was available to teach, would instruct Red Rover at our house (Score!), and charged an exceptionally reasonable price, I jumped at the opportunity! Because of all of the people who couldn't keep their mouths shut strong opinions I had heard, I scheduled a visit with the piano teacher prior to the first lesson just to make sure Red Rover was piano material and of age.

At the visit, the teacher—a guy from the local university—asked Red Rover some basic questions: How old are you? Have you ever had lessons before? And, what type of music do you like? Expecting to hear a genre-type answer to the last question—you know, classical, blues, ragtime, jazz, etc.—we were both surprised to hear, in all seriousness, this phrase quickly pop out of his mouth: "Suddenly I See by K.T. Tunstall." Move over organ I want something rockin'-er!

After this experience, I started noticing what a music snob how much pickier he is. His recent quandary is over why he can't order songs on the radio like he can a get kids meal at Mickey D's. He doesn't get that they preselect the songs and are in charge of playing what they want, when they want. Have I passed on my control freak genes or what? The other day, he heard a commercial on the radio. You know the type where they announce the station and then play a music montage—a sampling of sounds, if you will. When the advertisement finished, you would have thought the kid had broken a major bone the way he cried out in pure agony.

"What is wrong?" I inquired.

"Hurry! Hurry, mom! Turn the station. We are missing my favorite song." He shrieked.

"But, I didn't turn the station, honey." I said delicately and then continued, "That was just a commercial. They weren't going to play the whole song—just a snippet to show us that they like to play it on this station."

"That's rude, mom!" He stated matter-of-factly.

I wonder if they have K.T. Tunstall in easy reader piano books even though, as he informed me on the way home from school yesterday, he has now moved on to Estelle's American Boy. Oh! My!

For another terrific post on the love of music, check out Lindsay's blog today over at Our Lives—In a Nutshell.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The “Write” Reward  

I did not call my blog Mommy Gossip because I thought it was catchy, cute, or because it was the last one on my list not already taken JK. And, I didn't even name it Mommy Gossip because I like to gossip. Because, when you look up the definition of the word gossip, it usually includes another word—scandalous. And scandalous does not define me or my blogging philosophy. Nope, I named this lovely site Mommy Gossip, because I love to share stories. I love to chit and to chat, because I have found it is one of the best ways to see that the greener grass is right between my very own toes.

But, gabbing wouldn't mean anything if it weren't for all of you mommy babes in blogland who gossip with me—who share your stories and the shade of your own green grass, whether it be in the winter or summer of its lifecycle.

So today, I want to thank several people for bestowing awards on me. This blogaritaville sugar is the purest and sweetest variety there is. I'd also like to spread the love by giving these awards to many mommies I call my friends.

This award comes from Elizabeth at Parenting Pink and Parenting Pink. (Nope, I didn't accidentally repeat those. Click on each link to see how this amazing mommy can multi-task.) Then, visit these sites to see who my blogging BFFs are.

Candid Carrie—Let the Healing Magic Begin literally made my cheeks hurt from OD-ing on laughter. I didn't think it was possible, but Carrie showed me it could be done.

Posh Point of View—The two Jennifers (see below) definitely deserve this award. I always wanted to be BFF with a homecoming queen. And these two are some of the finest—and competitive—you'll ever meet.

Happily Ever After Land—(See above.)

Decisionally Challenged—Georgie is hilarious. Visit her site and then read her guest post on Postcards From the Edge to get a good laugh.

Can't Hardly Wait—Georgette is brave, bold, and candid in her posts. She's tough and tender all at once. Love this girl!

And speaking of Georgette at Can't Hardly Wait... Her and Melody at Pennies in My Pocket took me international with this award. Drop on by to get in on the goods. And remember, I am guest posting at Following in My Shoes today, so make sure to comment where you are there.

A Cowboy's Wife—Just dropped by here today for the first time. Love this site's design. Plus she has another site dedicated to food. What's not to love?

Following in My Shoes—Rachel is hilarious and her Little Lady is adorable. What a combination.

Bloggedy Blog Blog—You will want this gal to decorate your house, take pics of your kids, and eat lunch with you. Love this site.

Moms, Ministry & More—I've got nothing on her public restroom experience. Go to Following in My Shoes to see mine and link here to see hers. All I can say is WOW!

On the Flip Side—Love the current yet sensitive topics addressed and the differing opinions expressed here. Check out today's post that deals with pornography. It's G-rated. Don't worry!

Postcards From the Edge—Deb is spicy and keeps great company with Jill Jill Bo Bill, Amelia Bedilia, and Georgie. Add some flavor to your browsing pleasure by visitng her site.

Classy Chaos—How could you not love someone who describes herself as a stilhetto ho and a dentist's wife?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Lost in Translation  

T-Daddy and Red Rover enjoy great father/son bonding time while making the daily morning commute to school. Only once in a blue moon am I privy to the secrets and stories they share. Today was that day and since it is such a rare occasion, I thought I'd spread the news. This is mommygossip after all, right? And this gossiping gal is true to her name! Here's the scoop…

T-Daddy (speaking to Red Rover): I'm so proud of you for playing with Bright Eyes yesterday, R2. His dad has been really sick and has been in the hospital a lot lately.

Red Rover: Why is his dad sick?

T-Daddy: Well, he had a problem with his body. The doctors had to cut him, so they could get inside and fix the problem.

Red Rover (with an incredulous look): Inside his body???? How did they even fit, dad?

For another Lost in Translation moment brought to you by Red Rover, check out Must Have Sugar Now—it is sure to make you bust a gut!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

When in Rome… The Pros & Cons of Being a Foreign Exchange Student  

August marked the 20th anniversary of my return from foreign assignment—to Argentina, that is, as a foreign exchange student. People often ask me: "If your child wanted to be a foreign-exchange student, would you let him?" Not knowing right off, I decided to make a pros and cons list from the views of a 17-year-old North American girl in Argentina.

PRO: Had my very first credit card. I bought, count them, 11 bathing suits. They were sooooo much cheaper than in the States. I was able to buy so many clothes with all the money I saved J.

CON: Lots of screaming from the padres, threatening to cut me off financially. These were during weekly $3-a-minute phone calls. Oh! The torture! Certainly, they had never experienced such heat and such savings.


PRO: Went on my very first girl's vacation.

CON: I planned it all myself without a travel agency and without knowing hardly any Spanish. Don't you just have to get on a bus and head in the general direction of the beach? Let's all say it together: "Glad you are still alive, Ms. Thinks-She's-Totally-Invincible!"


PRO: So many guys liked me! Wow! Who knew? I may as well have been Bella the way all the guys were trying to, well…

CON: Mom forgot to tell me about how the only movies South American teens saw—at least in those days—were about American ho bags. NICE!


PRO: I had hot, running water in my house.

CON: Twenty-five cockroaches accompanied me during my first shower. ewwwwwwwww! They still haunt my dreams to this day.


PRO: I lived on a turkey farm for a week in the middle of the Rain Forest. How is this a PRO, you ask. This short-lived experience helped me go undefeated many times during college at the game Three Truths and a Lie. People always thought this story was my lie.

CON: The Rotary Club in Argentina wasn't at all organized. They didn't have my host families lined up ahead of time, which they totally lied about. I was supposed to have stayed with the same family all year, which considering the cockroaches wasn't too much of a disappointment. But, a Turkey Farm in the middle of nowhere with no kids and really no one I could talk to or learn Spanish from? Are you kidding me? I would have died out there. Talk about bugs!


PRO: I learned about a truly phenomenal culture and met some dear friends.

CON: Seeing them again has proven much more difficult than I had thought. And, I miss them.

So, would I let my children go on a foreign exchange? What would you do?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wordfuless Wednesday—Dreams of a Straight-A Student!  

I am participating in Wordful and Wordless Wednesday. Click on the links to join in the fun!

Brooke is my baby sis. She Photoshopped this pic, so that tells you right there how awesome she is! And, irreverent, considering we were at the cemetery. My grandma is busting a gut in heaven as she looks down on this :). Anyway... although Brooke and I are 20 years apart, we are the most alike of any of the rest of our Sisterhood of the Traveling Pant—ies. And just as it so happens, the main thing we have in common is our love of writing. So, when she signed up for a writing class this semester—her first semester as a freshman in college, no less—I agreed wholeheartedly to help her. After all, I worked more than 10 years as a writer or in the writing industry. How hard could editing freshman papers be?

The first paper was pretty cut and dried. Nothing too complicated. A reader-response essay. The next just happened to be on Gladwell's book The Tipping Point, which I loved. When I saw the required reading and accompanying homework, I literally said: "This one is in the bag." I edited the paper four times. Can you tell which one of us really wants to be in school? And then one little letter makes me take a walk down memory lane. She got a C! WHAT? I am a professional writer. I recognize I haven't won any nobel prizes in literature, but still. How could she get a C? I got Cs when I skipped class, not when I turned my homework in. What is wrong with this picture?

This is when I remembered exactly why I hated school. Teachers and their love of marking you down but not giving you any feedback, leaving you to wonder what in the h.e. double toothpicks you did wrong and could improve. Lazy is what that teacher was. A couple of brief comments in the margin to let my baby sister—first-time college student that she is—guess what she means by "unclear." Unclear? Unclear to who, you subjective little don't-know-a-good-paper-when-you-see-one biotch (Yep! I just called her that.) That's for all the teachers that were too lazy to properly edit my papers and for the ones who are attempting to squash baby Spice's educational excitement right out of her.

To Brooke I say one thing and one thing alone: Blog! Blog where you can be you and people write sweet comments. And where if they don't, you can delete them and not get a bad grade.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pant—ies!  

You know when you are putting together a puzzle and the pieces don’t seem to fit? It can be so frustrating! You force them. You rearrange them. You go for the obvious all to no avail. Then suddenly, the parts groove and pictures start to appear, making sense of the odd-shaped pieces. It’s a beautiful sensation, making the effort so worthwhile.

This describes a recent trip I took with my sisters—four very different women, spanning twenty years in age—38, 34, 28, 18. From religious and political beliefs and fashion sense to education and motherhood responsibilities and desires, we are as different as like-colored puzzle pieces with only their color—and in our case, our last name—to bring us together.
But, what better than a sister’s vacation to bridge the age gaps and build some common bonds? And better yet, three days without kids or spouses, an agenda, or internet access. Nothing, as it turns out!

We laughed our way to and from Arizona (sorry for any of you who may have been on our flights). We lounged by the pool. We visited relatives. We ate at Ned’s Krazy Subs twice and had Mexican food three times. We went to the movies. We went to a dinner theatre. We cried at Grandma’s grave. We went down memory lane in the old hood. We took a picture in front of our favorite pomegranate tree. We got pedicures. We ate frozen yoghurt at the same place we used to go to after school more than 20 years ago. Yep! It is still open. We stayed up until 2 a.m. talking and slept in until noon. We got ready in the same bathroom. We took more than 500 pictures and studied them on the flight home to see in what ways we looked alike and different. We were sad to say goodbye.

Growing up and even into my adulthood, I felt so lucky for my wonderful friends. Whenever I found a kindred spirit, I considered myself the most fortunate of all people. But, my Sisterhood of the Traveling Pant—ies made me realize and appreciate the strength in sisterhood and where my real fortune lies.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Land of the Free and Home of the Brave—The Before and After  

September 11, 2001: As if watching a tennis match, my head turned from the TV to my 9-month-old baby to the TV and back and forth and back and forth, wondering, hoping, praying that he would enjoy freedom, know this to be a land of opportunity, perhaps not bask in luxury but at least have heat that winter and food the next day. The before and after shots—on top: land of the free—the invaded, but the free—and on bottom: the home of the brave—a people willing to move forward on this journey that is life.

Read touching posts by these amazing mommies:

Good and Crazy People
Everyone Has a Story to Tell. This Is Ours.
Cutie Booty Cakes

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wordfuless Wednesday—How Does Your Garden Grow?  

All we did was turn over the dirt and go on vacation. Apparently, that is all it takes to make this garden grow. Sunflowers, pumpkins, and tomatoes, oh! my! Happy Fall!

I'm participating in both the Wordless and the Wordful Wednesday groups, hence the name Wordfuless Wednesday. Join the Wordful Wednesday crowd by clicking on this button.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Culture Arrives to Vanilla City USA  

Just when I think I am not giving my kids the cultural education they need living here in vanilla USA, I realize all I need to do is step outside my front door car door and look around to see the culture that surrounds us. Because there is nothing like the State Fair—on kids-get-in-free night, no less—to open your kid's eyes to the amazing differences that abound.

What's more fun that watching a sheep get a haircut? Eating deep fried fatPB&J sandwiches? Seeing all of those people who were too sick to be at a State Fair toting around oxygen tanks? (Aren't those for the ocean, mommy?) Looking at Wilbur and wondering what in the heck he did to deserve being carted to the State Fair if one of Charlotte's kids is there spinning words into webs? Watching not one, not two, but three cub scout dens walk by, wearing clown hats and red noses? (When will I get to wear one of those cool shirts, mommy?) Watching a fakehypnotist poke a needle in Mickey Mouse's bum and seeing five people on stage jumping and holding their booties in response? (What are those people doing, mommy?)

So much weirdness fun in such a small place. Who needs travel when you can go to the State Fair—even though the cost is remarkably comparable?

After, we went to Cookie's apartment and she took some lovely pics. Thanks Cook!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What Happens When You Have Way Too Much Wax In Your Ears  

Red Rover had his first encounter with a bully the other day at school.

Red Rover--age 7: Mom, my teacher said she handled the situation and I would never be bullied again, because bullying isn't allowed at our school.
Chatter Box--age 5: Duh, Red Rover. Of course there isn't any bowling allowed. We don't even have a bowling ally at our school.

Serious Sunday—How Do I Teach Culture to My Children?  

This one is for Serious Sunday. Is there such a thing? If not normally, today there is. Truth? This is long. Candor? This is for me. What is it? This is a journal entry—my stream-of-consciousness thoughts I still ponder nearly a year later as I try and figure out a very important topic to me: How do I teach culture to my children while trying, but not truly understanding differences myself? Feel free to read it. Feel free to comment. Please don’t misjudge my honesty as I work through it.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dear Travel Journal:

I jumped off my vanilla Salt Lake City flight to Detriot, boarded flight 5573 to JFK, and entered another world with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures, speaking foreign languages. I looked forward and saw an Indian baby wrap her fingers around her mother’s finger, instinctively of course. I watched one woman, head covered in a modern mauve scarf, smile to another woman with a stylish chocolate head covering. A million words of understanding transferred between smiles. It was a silent language foreign to me, yet intriguing at the same time. Questions spring to mind but go unanswered.

An African American guy sits in 4A, sporting an intricate corn-row weave and is seated next to the modern head-covered woman. Observing the two side by side, I am astutely aware of how significant hair and head coverings are in politics, style, cultural traditions, religion, and storytelling. Storytelling? Because everyone has a story and tells it in their own ways—starting at the tips of their heads. Without the ability to speak to each other, how do we tell and understand our stories?

The Mary Englebright quote “Bloom where you are planted” both inspires and confines me. It releases me, empowers me, gives me ideas, and at the same time reminds me of entering a small opening to a bat cave while sea canoeing in Thailand—a claustrophobic, apprehensive moment that nearly shaved the skin right off the top of my nose. Restrictive. I could follow Englebright’s urge and create the most amazing cultural-awareness program in white city USA where I live. Bring the world to us, right? I could introduce a culture in my home on regular intervals by learning and preparing new recipes and such. I could, along with my children, visit exhibits. I could travel and bring back information and trinkets and candy of course. But, how do you bring a culture into your own living room—bring back the actual experiences that forever make you see life differently? How do you teach your kids culture?

How do you communicate the experience of visiting a guinea-pig raising family who lived in a shed inside the gates of a used-car parts lot in Ecuador? Did I mention the dirt floors they slept on or the one room they cooked and ate and slept and reproduced in? We worshipped together every Sunday, where differences didn’t matter. They let us into their lives, and I walked away with friendships and something even more precious, perspective.

What about the “clean” river dividing Bangkok? The stark contrast of our dinner cruise with its exotic fruit and superficial conversation with Thai life around us. Children bathing in the water, squealing in delight, as their moms washed dishes next to them and their grandmothers on the other side collected leaves for their basket-weaving livelihood, making possible the family’s meager existence. Their eyes: Deep, dark, seemingly knowing, but utterly, almost blissfully, ignorant. All living in the shadows of lavishly adorned temples and gold-plated Buddhas.

Or, what about the commute to and from work in Frankfurt, Germany? Eating vegetables and fruit bought at the train station or at corner markets. Running into stores from the rain to be totally avoided—ignored really—by shop girls. No fight over customers to increase their commission. Not wrong, just different. Looking in their eyes time and again to see the distrust and anger of a nation so torn apart and beaten that nothing makes much sense anymore—even more than 60 years later. Realizing that I just don’t understand—not the distrust, not the anger, and not the claim that Americans are too superficial when we are just open. Is being an extrovert so wrong? Again, not wrong, just different.

When I look at my own road to forgiveness and my lack of understanding in my own situation with one family and to me, a horrific experience of betrayal, and contrast that with the Germans’ horror of a past, I realize I just can’t compare my story to a whole people crushed by their very leader, betrayed by not one neighbor, but by possibly and very likely every single person they came in contact with—all for a chance to trade you for power or food or clothes or sleep or faulty ideals. How do I make sense of my own path to forgiveness when I put the two experiences side by side? Yet, mine is real. It is my story. That said then, how do I not become untrusting—so bruised that all potential friends get pushed aside? How do I keep a Western country, small city, trusting perspective after feelings of betrayal—however significant in world history? What can I learn from the survivors? What can their forgiveness, their ability to move on and rebuild teach me?

Out of my thoughts and back on the plane, a Jewish mother and son sit across the aisle from me—asleep, mouths open. My immediate neighbor—Middle Eastern—quickly changes seats with them to oblige a son’s request to sit next to his mother—even though he doesn’t like aisle seats, as he confessed to me after the switch. Behind my neighbors and across the aisle sits a hip Japanese boy next to a balding, white haired, seemingly upper-middleclass man. Both are wearing button-down shirts, one striped, the other checked. Mary Kay is our, I’d like to say Mid-Western flight attendant, although she sounds Southern. The woman with the maroon head scarf exudes confidence. The Jewish mother seems at once totally dependent and yet strict—the type where you play by her rules. The lineage does pass through her, you know? She carefully opens her peanuts. She talks to her son with such respect, calculated and calm. Babies cry. They don’t notice differences—not in themselves, not in the passengers. They tell their own stories: “I’m hungry. I am wet. I have gas. I am dependent on you and you aren’t meeting my needs. Waaaaa!” What is everyone else sharing?

Every passenger sits upright on his or her best behavior. All of the skeletons in our closets are behind closed doors. All of our story books are tightly closed, not revealing the tales we would spin or share if we felt we could—if we knew we wouldn’t be judged or hated for the candor. This fact keeps me guessing.

The tall, lanky, late 40-ish Texan in the 38-30-sized Levis in front of me may be going on a business trip, leaving a wife he adores, meals he is used to, and is so afraid of flying that the word search occupying his every move is the only thing that can keep his mind off the inevitable crash. On the other hand, he may be trying to get his mind off the minutes until he reaches his mistress. Now, he’s French, not Texan, even though his Levi’s are still the same size.

The question I ask myself is: Can I ever get a straight story? A first impression is what?—only an impression, right? Will my own lens through which I view the world so obstruct my view that it keeps me from seeing or accepting the truth of people’s stories? Does my own perspective that I sometimes mistake for knowledge bind me to subscribing to commonly believed stereotypes even though I put myself above them? I mean look at what I’ve written so far? French men aren’t the only ones that have affairs. Texans, I am sure, do fine in that department as well. Jewish sons don’t always respect their mothers, and Middle-Eastern—are they really from the Middle East?—women wearing head scarves may be anything but confident. The smile that passed between the two may be a sorrowful understanding of their plight: “Bloom where you are planted,” right? It may be a thousand other things. It may be nothing at all but a polite, yet silent greeting that I just read into and stereotyped.

So… I am off to a wedding in NYC. Solo. The only Mormon girl with my story that no one will know the real meaning of. Or. Know. Period. Does she live a Big Love lifestyle? How can she have so much fun and not drink? Why isn’t she weird—she seems so normal? Just another story book, closed no matter how open. We never know, do we? So… Back to my original question: How do I teach culture—void of stereotypes—to my children when I am trying, but do not truly understand it myself?