Things I just want to say without the pressure of telling anyone to read them...


posted Apr 9, 2013, 7:08 AM by Christine Merrill

When I was a kid, my mom wanted some trees to block the evening sun on out west-facing house.  She planted two choke cherry trees, if I remember right, one on each side of out front lawn.  Unfortunately, the front lawn was also the neighborhood kick-ball field, and despite our best kid efforts, we knocked over the trees a few times, and they eventually died.

Today I went out and found one of my new pear trees pulled up by the roots and left to doe on the grass.  I don't know who or when or why - most likely Ellis, who is going through a destructive phase right now.  I wish she had told me when it happened, so I could have done an emergency re-plant.  I put it back in the ground and I'm giving it enough water to revive, if there's any life still in there.  But it's made me cry.

Oh, my lucky husband...

posted Feb 24, 2012, 6:17 PM by Christine Merrill

I think the understatement of the month is that my husband's been a little busy recently.  That's ok, but it does mean that he hasn't put as much time into some of the things he used to.  Like, back when we were undergrads at Utah State, and we used to celebrate E-week (Engineering week).  E-week generally involved eating Marv 'n Joes, participating in engineering competitions for fun, and generally bonding in geekiness.  Studying was minimized and engineering (well, sorta...) was maximized.  Ah, it was great...

But, what with being busy, Marriner didn't make any plans to celebrate this year.  Actually, I don't think he'd remembered that it was E-week.  Such happens to so many of our young engineers, and it is sad.  But, Marriner has something the rest of these young, busy engineers don't have - a WIFE that celebrates E-week, too!  And oh! the joy, to come home to a nice dinner of Marv 'n Joes, some banana cream pi, er, pie, (incidentally, 100% made by his children.  Impressive, no?) and a nice tower building contest with (uncooked) spaghetti and (fruity) marshmallows.  Which, he won, with a 53cm tower, to my lowly 32cm tower.  But mine was cuter :) 

It just doesn't get any better than this.

Does anyone care how much this costs?!?

posted Aug 2, 2010, 6:09 PM by Christine Merrill

Marriner got swimmers ear at Scout camp.  He came home and needed an antibiotic, so we looked up a doctor that took his insurance, he went in, it took him 2 hours total (including travel) and the doctor billed $255.  The insurance got a $102 discount, and finally paid $152.

Two weeks later, it came back.  But he didn't have two hours to spend on another trip to the doctor.  I found that there was a Minute Clinic a little further away in Alexandra.  He went there, it took less than 1 hour (including travel - about 15 minutes in the office) and they charged $69, discounted to $52.

They both did the exact same thing.  Hmmmm....

Why I love USA Soccer

posted Jun 26, 2010, 4:52 PM by Christine Merrill

I know, I know, bad day to write this.  I just paid exorbitant Metro fares and rode a bus and a train for an hour, with 3 kids, to watch the US lose to Ghana.  But despite the bad game today, my mind keeps turning back to the games again Algeria and Slovenia, and I realize that I'm in love.  I have watched a lot of soccer games these last couple of weeks.  Some teams play with more finesse, but there's only one team that gives me that excited and happy feeling!  Some people write poems when they're in love, but I'm an engineer, and I write bullet here it is, "why Christine LOOOOOVVVVEEES USA soccer"
  • Oooh, they're fast!
  • My husband has the same height, weight, and hairline as Landon Donovan.
  • Because anyone who keeps sprinting up and down the field for 91 minutes without giving up is awesome.
  • Because every time I walk away from a game thinking, "That other team was playing so dirty, and diving all over the place!  I'm glad our team isn't like that!" it's the honest truth.  And, crazy as it sounds, I'd rather have a team with dignity than a World Cup.  (Of course, it would be even better to have one with both...2014, baby!)
  • Speaking of diving, Clint Dempsey is down on the ground about 3 times every game.  And you would think that someone who was mauled that often just might be doing a little bit of acting.  But every time I watch the replay, it is clear that poor Clint Dempsey is just getting beaten up out there.  Anyone who can take so many elbows, cheap shots and bloody noses without complaining is just in a higher class.
  • Because Alexi Lalas is now doing commentary for ESPN and he looks exactly like the walking stereotype of a sportscaster, and nothing at all like the way I remember him from '94.  And it cracks me up.
  • Because when I told Lige he was as fast as Landon Donovan today, he said, "Landon Donovan is that fast?!?"
Happy World Cup, everyone!

A motivational thought I read long ago.

posted Mar 19, 2010, 10:42 AM by Christine Merrill

I read this years ago, by Ardeth Kapp, telling about lessons learned overcoming the trials of not having children.  Even though we have children (some people think we're a HUGE family!) the lessons still resonate with me:  trust God, don't be selfish.  Enjoy!


Part of those trials is facing alternatives and making decisions. For those of us without children, the choices may seem incredibly difficult to make. What would the Lord have us do? To what extent do we seek medical attention? What about adoption and foster children? What about no children? If that is the choice, then what do we do with our lives? The choices are never simple. During these times of searching, we often find ourselves caught between conflicting counsel from parents and friends and leaders and doctors and other experts. Some couples I've known even consider divorce, each one thinking the other is responsible.
From my own experience, I've learned that the only lasting peace is the peace that comes when we learn the Lord's will concerning our opportunities in life. To do that, we must consider our alternatives, formulate a decision, and take it to the Lord. Then, as President Dallin H. Oaks observed when he was president of Brigham Young University, "When a choice will make a real difference in our lives"  and where we are living in tune with the Spirit and seeking his guidance, we can be sure we will receive the guidance we need to attain our goal. The Lord will not leave us unassisted when a choice is important to our eternal welfare." (BYU devotional address, 29 Sept. 1981, in Brigham Young University 1981-82 Fireside and Devotional Speeches, Provo: University Publications, 1982, p. 26.) I believe that. We just don't know the Lord's timeline, and that is where our faith comes in.
It was like a beacon in the dark. It became a motto, a guiding light. That night, speaking I think by inspiration from the Lord, the patriarch of our family said to me, "You need not possess children to love them. Loving is not synonymous with possessing, and possessing is not necessarily loving. The world is filled with people to be loved, guided, taught, lifted, and inspired."
My husband and I knew that parents are constantly placed in situations that develop unselfishness and sacrifice. We began to realize that if we were to learn the important lessons that our friends with children were learning, we needed to place ourselves in situations where we could serve and sacrifice. So we began to say yes to everything and to everyone.
It wasn't long before we had many opportunities to serve and sacrifice. Often, at the end of a long week we would plan for a moment together"just the two of us"and the telephone would ring. We'd postpone our moment together and carry on with joyful, grateful hearts for our opportunities, hoping to qualify even in some small measure for the quality spoken of by Elder Neal A. Maxwell:
"So often our sisters [and I would add brothers] comfort others when their own needs are greater than those being comforted. That quality is like the generosity of Jesus on the cross. Empathy during agony is a portion of divinity!  They do not withhold their blessings simply because some blessings are [for now at least] withheld from them." (Ensign, May 1978, pp. 10-11.)

--From, "Just the two of us for now", Feb 1989 Ensign

Maryland (1/30/10)

posted Feb 25, 2010, 2:02 PM by Christine Merrill

Things I love about Maryland:

    * We'll just sum it all up into one category: "the sites".
    * The view of the Washington Monument from the bridge over the Potomac river
    * The bank and the library being right next to each other, less than a mile away.  And believe it or not, Aldi is even closer than in Lafayette!
    * Where else do you hear, "In local news, the State of the Union speech is tonight"?
    * Our house is absolutely perfect for me!  Huge, south facing front window, etc.
    * All of the 60 degree F days that we've had this month.
    * A really great ward that asked us to speak our second week.  After being "in limbo" for so long, it was great to be needed.
    * 3 miles to work
    * Having cousins nearby.  I don't know if they love having us nearby, since we've called on them for last-minute help more times than we wish :)
    * Seafood and Chicken restaurants on every corner.  Someday, I'm going to eat a real Maryland crabcake.
    * The Tagalog Sunday School class
    * People coming to visit us

Things I miss:

    * Walking places - we live in a suburb now.
    * Cheap public transit
    * Having Mormon neighbors nearby
    * A bank that knows me and gives me what I want
    * Going out without locking my house
    * Fixing my own house when things break
    * Driving places without checking Google traffic first...
    * A local newspaper
    * Being able to visit Marriner at work (NRL=hush-hush)

What?!? You don't listen to CES Firesides?!? (9/10/08)

posted Feb 25, 2010, 2:01 PM by Christine Merrill

The CES Fireside: where an apostle or other church leader addresses young adults, 18-30 years old. Yes, I know I'm about to graduate from this demographic. We used to be enthusiastic fireside attenders, but as children and life have made Sunday evenings less flexible, we have moved to the "watch from home" or "listen sometime later" crowd. On Tuesday, I was listening to a talk given last Sunday by Elder Jeffery R. Holland. After a couple of hard days with my husband gone and my pregnancy hormones attacking with a vengence, I sat in awe to see every question of my soul addressed in this talk. Could God have known that I would listen to the talk late after having a couple of bad days and sent the message just for me? Well, it probably wasn't just for me, but I felt in my heart like it was an evidence of a loving God who is concerned for each of us individually. So, this afternoon, I went to the CES website looking for a transcript of the talk. I didn't find that talk (yet), but there were transcripts from all the talks given since 2001... and I will admit that I was in school back then. I browsed throught - there was the talk by President Hinkley that Marriner took me to for our 2nd date (don't be a cynic, be optimistic!). There was the talk by Elder Scott about dealing with stress. Of course, a pivitol talk in the Merrill household was by Elder Oaks, where he said that he doesn't give a talk to be enjoyed but to be put into action! (This was the same talk that addressed hanging out vs. dating...some of you may remember that one.) I can't believe that talk was way back in 2005. The talk by Elder Nelson about families, 3 days before his wife unexpectedly passed away. The talk by Elder Bednar about connections, patterns and themes in the scriptures.

Do you remember any of these talks? I know that most of these memories mean WAY more to me than they do to you, but these were serious life-changing moments for me! I just had another one yesterday, This is powerful stuff! Go to, click on Firesides, and start reading! I hope you fall in love with these intensive doses of 100-proof gospel like I have.

To my generation: Why you should care about Family History.

posted Feb 25, 2010, 2:00 PM by Christine Merrill

Family History is for old people who have time to work on it, right?  What's wrong with that?  I'll tell you what the problem is:  tons of old paper records and obsolete computer files that nobody can understand when Grandma passes on.  (This is no disrespect to my very computer-savvy family history Grandmother, who is a marvelous exception.)  Sure, your whole family history has been done.  But does anybody know what it is?  Has anybody passed the information on to the next generation?

In Ezra, the children of priests whose genealogy was lost after the Babylonian captivity were denied the priesthood because they could not show that they were of priestly lineage.  (Ezra 2:62)  Here's the newsflash that I've had while I've been working on my family history:  It's not Grandma's responsibility to make sure I know what my heritage is.  And it's amazing how much of that information is getting harder to find as people get older.  I thought that if I wanted my genealogy, I would just ask, and a nice computer disk or some paper copies would be supplied with all the information I need - NOPE!  Someone has some information, but they think that So-and-So has more.  So-and-So claims that he never had any of that, it was Aunt Jane...

Computers have completely changed the nature of Family History, and who is best poised to gather all the information and make it accessible to other family members?  It's us, the people who grew up with computers.  We have to make sure that the information makes it to our generation!

If I've inspired you at all, and you are in my family, you can see the Family History page for more information...and/or talk to me about how you can help.

(1/30/08) Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Fields

posted Feb 25, 2010, 1:59 PM by Christine Merrill

Several months ago, my advisor sent me this article regarding women in STEM fields and asked my opinion. I wrote a lengthy email with some of my feelings, and he recently said that he thought I should publish it somewhere. I don't think that he's right - I would have to do a lot of polishing before I could publish it, but my little friendly webpage is a casual venue. As with all my opinions, you're welcome to comment/disagree all you want.

I respond to one interesting article with another: I read this a couple years ago (when the article was published) and thought it to be the most interesting article I had read on the topic of women in engineering in a long time...even though that wasn't the exact topic. Anyway, you can tell me what you think of both of the articles. I think that the Scientific American article is pretty true: there are inherent differences, learned differences, and biases that all combine to influence career choices for women. I believe more strongly than my peers seem to that there really are significant inherent differences between men and women, and that gender roles aren't just archaic remnants of male domination. I don't think that Larry Summers would have made so much news if he said that fewer men stay home with children because they don't tend to have the same level of innate ability as women do for nurturing....nobody seems to have a problem with that concept.

Still, there are lots of women who would (or do) enjoy STEM areas...and enough biased experience seems to come to a whole lot of them sometime in life to cause some other choice of career. I balk at the idea of "coaxing" more women into engineering - it makes me feel like the women are being shoved into engineering against their own preference for the sake of the principle...I prefer the idea of supporting women who choose STEM areas - but, of course, this has it's own set of complexities. Actually, the part of the way things are right now that bothers me the most is the pressure put on any woman who goes into engineering to work - a lot of my friends have admitted that they would like to have a family and stay home, but the social pressure to stay in the workforce is very strong - and strongly nurturing women are turned off of engineering because of the perception that an engineering degree is only for the career-oriented woman.

Amazing American Women: 40 Fascinating 5-Minute Reads, by Kendall Haven

posted Feb 25, 2010, 1:57 PM by Christine Merrill

I pick books by randomly wandering an isle of the library and grabbing a few that look interesting, then going home and seeing if they really are interesting.  This time, my pick was luckier than usual, interesting AND inspiring.  I picked it because it had short stories - that works well for a mother snatching moments with a book when she can.  I'd heard of many of the people in the book before:  Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Annie Sullivan.  Some were less familiar.  These are not biographies of the women - they are stories of a single experience, told by a true story teller.

I started with a story of a slave woman who in 1781 served in the house where the Massachusetts constitution was written.  Upon hearing the words "all men are born free and equal" in the constitution, she walked to a lawyer and demanded her freedom.  Amazingly, the lawyer represented her, and she did win her freedom, and was immediately hired by the lawyer who had been so impressed with the intelligence of Elizabeth Freeman.

Amelia Bloomer had a fascinating story about standing up for women's rights by renouncing the corset.  (Have you heard of bloomers?) Elizabeth Cady Stanton, though disowned by her father, wrote a document calling for women to have the vote.  Sojourner Truth, like Elizabeth Freeman, appeared in court to have her free-born son returned to her from slavery, though her life was in danger.  Jane Addams was the originator of social work in America.  The list goes on...

I am not impressed by these women because of what they did - I am impressed because of what they stood for.  I am impressed by their integrity and courage.  I wonder, what do I stand for today?  How can someone follow their example when the battles have already been won?  (Side note:  the purpose of this review is NOT to start a debate about the current status of women.  Suffice it to say that I am content with our current position.)  But, there are things that are wrong in the world.  There are people being hurt by laws and social customs that teach them to do things that will never make them happy.  I am inspired by these women's stories to stand a little taller in defending a woman's right to raise a family, to fight against pornography, violence, and other things that ruin families and lives.  I am inspired to be more vocal and less passive.  I can say and do things that are not popular, but are right.  I can be a light.

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