Monday, May 30, 2011

Defending Our Territory

A few days ago, I bought this nice parcel of land at a county auction.

Some of you might look at the photo and say, "April, isn't that your own backyard?"

You have a valid point.  In fact, my husband and I brought up the same point to the county when we received a letter announcing that the county would be auctioning it off.

After extensive research, we learned that the title company made a mistake when we acquired our property four years ago and excluded a bit of our yard from our title. Oops.  The previous owner stopped paying taxes on the land because he had sold it to us, so the county appropriated the land and sold it to someone else at a county auction a few years back.

Blissfully ignorant of all of this, we went about treating our backyard as if it were our own.  In the section that legally belonged to some stranger, we installed a flagstone patio, a grape arbor, a raised herb garden, and a perennial flower bed.  It was hard work!  When I first tried to plant in this area, the ground was so compacted I couldn't get a shovel into it.  We literally had to drill holes into the ground to get plants in.  On my first try, everything I planted died.   After three years of layering manure and wood chips, I was thrilled to find worms in this soil for the first time this spring; it is finally an ecosystem capable of supporting life.  After all that effort, I was a bit peeved to learn that I technically did not own this parcel.

Lucky for us, the person who bought my backyard the last time the county auctioned it off didn't pay his/her taxes, either, so the county sent us a letter saying that if he/she hadn't paid by last Thursday, they would confiscate it and auction it off again.   They helpfully sent the letter to us because they thought we might be interested in this property, since it happens to be right behind our house, in front of our fence.

When we contacted them, the county told us that since the parcel is not accessible to a street--it is, after all, a backyard--they would only sell it to us or the owner of the property behind ours. We decided the easiest way to deal with the situation was to cross our fingers that the current owner wouldn't pay and our neighbor wouldn't show up to compete for our backyard.  Fortunately, that is how things played out and we did not have to resort to Plan B: Painful Legal Battle.  After a stressful month of waiting, we showed up at the auction and bought our backyard for $390.

On the bright side, since it was apparently not part of our title when we got our mortgage, we own our backyard free and clear.  If anything should ever happen and the bank forecloses on us, we could always set up a tent on the patio by the grape arbor and live there.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Blog Makeover

This is pretty irrelevant, because no one actually reads my blog until it auto-feeds to Facebook, but I gave my blog a new look.  So if you ever happen to read my posts at their original site, they will look different now. (Oh wait.  I forgot that one of my little brothers reads my blog.  Hey bro! )

By the way, do any of you Facebook friends have blogs that I don't know about?   I know that blogs are infinitely less cool than Facebook, but I like them and I would love to read yours. It would be fabulous to know more about your lives than can be reported in a teeny little status update. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Mommy Track

A few days ago, every single one of my office coworkers was promoted. Except me.

It's okay. I don't have that many coworkers in my office (3) and I was not expecting a promotion. I have been working part-time since my 6 year-old daughter was born. In some ways, it is the best of both worlds. I have lots of time to devote to my kids, but I earn some money and continue to build my job skills.  On the downside, no matter how fabulous your job skills are, your job mobility is severely crippled if you aren't willing to work full-time. Sometimes it is hard to watch as people with less experience or education pass me up on the career ladder.

And of course, I'll never be a domestic goddess at the rate I'm going, either. But who are we kidding? It would take more than full-time housekeeping to make me over into one of those.

Friday, May 13, 2011

New Utah Flag: More Accurate, Equally Ugly

During the most recent legislative session, our lawmakers changed the Utah state flag, correcting a mistake on it that has been wrong for the last eighty-eight years.

Unfortunately, they left the rest of the flag alone.  Our flag is still the state seal copied and pasted onto a navy blue background.  Or perhaps I should say cut and sewn, since our pioneer forbearers put that ugly thing together without the aid of computers.

I do not blame the pioneers. Pioneers had rough lives.  They had to walk across the plains, grow their own food, and defecate outdoors.  As if all of that weren't bad enough, they also had to design a state flag without the aid of Photoshop. It's perfectly understandable that when flag design was added to their long list of chores, they did a rather shoddy job of it and ignored basic design principles.

I have been thinking about design principles a lot this week.  During that same recent legislative session, Utah lawmakers decided to change the name of the state office I work for, so I have been madly building a new logo, with a new web template and graphics to match.

It is coming along pretty well.  If they had ordered me to make them a new Utah state flag too, I'll bet I could have pulled off something better than the current flag.  I'm not boasting when I say that.  I also believe that any 13 year-old could make a better flag.  In fact, a 13 year-old did design the Alaskan flag, and it is a thousand times better than Utah's.

I worked for a summer at the United States Capitol, where I frequently traveled through a hall which proudly displays a flag from each state.  Actually, flags like Alaska wave proudly.  Utah hangs there like wallflower.  Why would such a beautiful state choose such a drab rag to represent it?

Next session, I think our state legislature should focus its efforts on flag design.  It would be a fun project and might distract them from more damaging legislative endeavors.  Maybe they could be inspired by some of our better state symbols.  The beehive, representing our state slogan of industry, is already incorporated into our current, awful flag, but it is too tiny to see and is surrounded by a busy mess of other items, including pictures of flags, raising two questions:
1.) Didn’t the pioneers anticipate that the flag might be raised aloft and therefore need to have a simple pattern large enough to see from the ground?
2.) Why would you decorate a flag with pictures of flags?

So one solution might be to erase all that other junk and have one large beehive on the flag, with no other distractions.  Or maybe take the bee idea one step further, and just go with a black and yellow striped flag.  In addition to bees, Utahns like sea gulls, our state bird.  How about a nice bird sillouette?  Or what about inspiration from some of our natural wonders?  You can choose a Utah license plate promoting either Delicate Arch or the Greatest Snow on Earth.  A big, red arch or white dots representing snowflakes could look great on a flag, too. 

Of course, not all state symbols are equally inspired.  Also during the most recent legislative session, our delightful lawmakers made Utah the first state to designate an official state gun.  How would that look on a flag? 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

About a Rather Stupid Facebook Chain-Post

Okay, I just have to respond to the silly (and admit it, childish) status update my Republican friends have been copying and reposting on Facebook urging everyone to credit the military, and not President Obama, for the successful mission on Sunday.  Of course the military deserves credit, including its commander-in-chief Pres. Obama, who made the executive decision authorizing the mission.

I'm a Democrat, but I have no problem also crediting former Pres. Bush for groundwork that led to this successful conclusion.  If any of you are listening to the news, you will note that Bush himself congratulated Obama.

I understand that you are naturally jealous that a Democrat was in power at the time of this victory, but please try not to be so petty.

Monday, May 2, 2011

My Baby Is One

The Loves of His Life

My two older children were socialites from birth, but my last baby is a Momma's boy. I am his favorite person and if he had his way, I would hold him all the time. (Honestly, he does have his way a great deal of the time.)

The Great Outdoors
Lots of babies resist walking on grass when they are first introduced to it. Not mine. He always loved to crawl or walk in grass. He also likes to pick grass, and find things like pine cones and rocks and flowers. When the doorbell rings, he hurries to the door and escapes through my legs. Even when the weather is bad.

The Cat
Since his birth, he has had a special relationship with our cat, who seems to think of my baby as her own kitten. Sometimes, I am impressed with how sweetly he pets the cat. More often, he gets over excited and smacks the cat or climbs on top of her, but she puts up with it.

His Greatest Life Challenges (so far)

He has been cursed with lousy skin, which is now under control with powerful steroid creams. When he was about three months old, his skin became so nasty that he couldn't sleep. He just stayed awake scratching and screaming. I took him to the doctor and another mother at the doctor's office confused me by complimenting me on my beautiful baby. He looked like a troll.

His Teeth
Or rather, the lack thereof. The poor child wants to try everything he sees or smells others eating, but we can't share most non-puree foods with him because he still doesn't have a single tooth to chew them.