Saturday, September 29, 2012

Embracing the Mediocrity

...Some days, you just gotta.

I mean, we all set standards for ourselves.  (Yours probably include a degree of cleanliness I never reach.  But hey, my girls have a hot breakfast almost every day.  So that's something.  Right?)

But no matter what those standards are, some days you just have to let go of them, and, as my roommate used to say, "embrace the suckiness."  It took me a long time to be willing to let go of my standards for a day.  Especially because my struggles, while significant to me, would have been nothing to somebody else.  They'd never understand what my holdup was.

Doesn't matter.  It's real to me.  So it's real.  And when I can't give the day my best, I should accept what I can give it, be grateful for that, and move along cheerfully.  I think the worst thing I can do is berate myself to the point where I'm falling short of my usual self and being what our family calls "a big grumpster" to boot.

So that's what I'm going to do today.  Peace out.  Here's hoping for a better tomorrow.

If you google "Grumpster" you can find this guy.  Isn't he perfect?  And also a little scary.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

I Like Provo.

So, Scott, as you know, is a transportation engineer.  And he's been working on the I-15 Core project, but the thing is, it's almost done.  Finis.  No more engineers needed.  So things are going to be changing in the very near future.  We have a few watched pots we're trying to get to boil/choose between, and when everything is done-and-done, we'll fill you in.  A long-distance move seems highly likely.  In the mean time, I have something to say:
I like Provo.

Now, I know what assumptions everyone makes about Provo, and not all of them are wrong.  But not all of them are right, either.  In most ways, residential (non-student) Provo is pretty much akin to any of the other bedroom communities between here and Ogden.

But it's better.  It has plenty of authentic food joints that thrive with the RMs anxious for a taste from their other home.  BYU has the MOA, tons of music programs, (I missed seeing Mandy Patinkin due to my brothers' wedding.  Is it normal to still be crying about that?) a wonderful genealogy library, Education Week, some really cool special exhibits, and a great dose of nostalgic charm dating back to 2002/2003, when Scott and I spent the year studying each other far more than anything else.

And here's the stuff I like that's really, really pivotal to me that nobody else cares about: it's really easy to get raw milk.  There's two separate but well-staffed health food stores nearby.  There's Sprouts, which has great produce, very affordably priced, with a great organic selection, too.  I have Jeff, my "egg man" who sells me pastured eggs for $3/dozen and doesn't balk when I tell him I want seven dozen.  The Farmer's Market is just across the street from our house, and it's my favorite thing to do on a Saturday morning.  I have a great source for grass-fed beef and even organ meats.  Dr. Christopher's herb shop is just in the next town, and it's one of the few places to get bulk herbs for a decent price without going online and having to pay shipping.  I can even buy a gallon of my extra-virgin, cold-pressed organic coconut oil at a local store instead of paying an extra $15 to get it shipped here.

And I know my reasons are mine and mine alone -- after all, who else cares if they can buy their astragalus or raspberry leaf for a good price? -- but it really drives me nuts these days to hear people act like Provo's only identity is as a community with a problem.  Of course, it's absolutely true that when you get a lot of people who have the same religious background, that's going to skew things.  And distort things.  But that's worth working through, worth helping people understand.  It's an opportunity to be a missionary not necessarily to spread and sound the gospel, but to at least share a few gospel ideas they may not be fully understanding.  

It's not perfect.  I know.  Maybe that's why I'm comfortable here: I do get the vibe that most people are busy trying.  Imperfectly trying, with each of us failing in our own unique ways, but all trying together.  And we all have a common goal that unites us -- a very elevated, divine goal... one I can always support my neighbors in.*

I am gonna miss it here.
The end.

*This whole essay has had the undertones of "Everybody in Provo is Mormon!"  Totally not true.  Totally didn't have time to properly address that.  Lots of people are, and it is definitely perceived as being that way, so I just kind of went with it.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

That Time I Ate The Object Lesson

So, I don't have many friends who are girls.  It takes work, that whole social thing, and sometimes I'm just lazy.  And there was this girl in my old ward... she was older than me, and single, and so so so cool -- in a geeky way that made her all the cooler.  I didn't really know her, I'd just listened to her make a comment here or there in church.  And the comments were spunky, insightful, independent, and quirky.  I liked her.  I wanted her to be my friend.  But the only way you know how awkward I can be is if you've witnessed it.  Which, if you're reading this blog, you probably have.

So we're sitting next to each other in Relief Society for the first time, kinda chatting a bit through the opening exercises and a bit into the lesson.  It's going well.  She likes me!  Okay, she might like me.  I should be clever.  And also insightful.  This is my moment.

And in the middle of my moment, she hands me this open tin.  It's about the size of her palm, and it's got things that look like beautiful, translucent little rocks in it.

Now, if I'd been paying attention to the lesson, I'd have known that this was a visual aid, to help us really get into the lesson I'd been ignoring.  My job was to look politely, and pass it along.

But I just thought it was some fancy mint she was sharing  just with me, because we're new best pals, and as soon as someone offers you a mint, you also instinctively worry, "I must have the breath of a gorilla" so I took a few and popped them in my mouth.


Um, these are rocks.  Not mints.  I spit them out and I'm laughing.  Laughing hard.  Quietly, but my whole body is shaking and I'm taking these sharp breaths that are a dead giveaway.  It is not an appropriate kind of laughter, even if it is quiet.  And it's probably going to get very loud, very soon.

I have sticky yellow stuff in my hands, I'm shaking violently and practically hyperventilating, and this poor really cool sister has to take me out into the hall so I don't cause a scene.

"What IS that stuff you gave me?" I ask.
"Weren't you listening?"
(No, I was busy thinking about how you liked that thing that I'd said...)
"It had gold, myrrh, and ...I think you ate the frankincense."


And amazingly, she stayed my friend.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Because I am A Closet Foodie

The very, very best meal I've ever eaten was at Tuscany in Salt Like.  The pasta made me re-think life on earth.  Seriously, if food can be that amazing, (and yet it usually isn't), what else can be knocked out of this world in a way I haven't even yet fathomed?  Pasta has far greater power than I'd ever believed -- and I'm sure it's not the only thing that I've underestimated.

If you're a local, you must must must do it.  For lunch, so you can still afford to pay rent.  Now, I know everybody thinks La Caille is todiefor, and technically, I've never eaten there.  But I have my reasons -- and we'll leave it at that.

But go.  Scott and I shared an appetizer, each had a salad and an entree for about $50.  That was a year ago, and now it's going on the "Utah Bucket List" we may or may not be creating.  (More on that later.)  The ambiance is transportative (It's a real word.  Sorta.) and you will leave determined to plan a trip to Italy.  Because if food in Utah can be this divine, imagine how good it's gonna be over there.

Really, we don't eat out very often.  (And you can see why.) Besides, Scott makes such a killer cheesecake, I'm left feeling a little let down even when we go to Cheesecake factory.  And one of his best cheesecakes to date is this one:

Scott made it for my last birthday and I still haven't recovered.  And he even made it with real Godiva chocolate.  It is every bit the wonder-cake that it looks like.  The bad news is, Buster: I have another birthday coming next year.  And now you've set a presidence.

Technically, it's more of a problem for me than it is for him.  I haven't even figured out the art of a simple homemade cake.  (Okay, even box cakes present their problems!)  ...And meanwhile, my spouse pulls out a culinary wonder ready for the harshest food critic.  I hate it when my husband's a better wife than I am.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Time I spent needlessly bitter (but beautifully blessed) in Provo

Of the ten years Scott and I have been dating/married, we've spent all but 15 months residing in Provo, Utah.  This is not what we had planned.

Scott getting his undergrad took a while.  I think he worked at least 20 hours every single semester, and sometimes had an internship on top of that.  And he pushed through to get three minors.  Then there was grad school... which came with its own set of challenges, ninety percent of which were a professor who, at times, would hold Scott's thesis in his hands for an entire semester before giving it one set of revisions.  (This professor considered a master's thesis to need at least a dozen revisions.)  So that took longer than it needed to.

Then we spent about a year looking for a job.  And when he got one, it was right on the I-15 Core project!  He'd commute all of 20 minutes from home for the first year, and about 10 for the second.  These past two years on the project have been dreamy.  But there were some pretty dark days getting there.  And that's kinda what I wanted to talk about.

In that time, I've been the "goodbye committee" for countless friends.  I've waved off friends to California, New Mexico, the east coast, Oregon, Texas, Hawaii, and countless other places.  Even when many of these friends were temporarily moving back in with their parents, I was still jealous.

Staying in Provo meant being stuck, meant not moving on.  And I hated that.  I really, really did.  I whined a lot, and I moped even more.  My thinking was pessimistic, painful, and I was just not much fun to be with.

I can't say when it was (probably waaaay later than it should have been), but one day, I woke up and I realized how selfish I'd been.  Most of my friends were living, day in, day out, in their parents' homes.  They were looking for jobs, too.  They were struggling, too.  But I had my own home, and there wasn't a doubt in my mind it had been a generous, sweet mercy from the God who loves me.

Wait.  I can say when it was.  I looked at pictures of these starving children in Somolia.  Pictures like that have always had a profound impact on me, and I thought about what it would be like to be a mother, terrified of how to feed your children their next meal, and praying and pleading for the drought to end.  God loved them just as much as he loved me, but I had blessings their minds could not even conceive of.   I thought about what they'd say if they knew about my fridge with the water dispenser in it.  About my tub.  And the sprinkling system for my lawn.  I realized my problems were ridiculous.  Spoiled.  Self-centered and prideful.  Children were literally dying in their parents' arms, and I was whining because I thought we'd worked so hard we deserved everything in an instant.
I think I remember reading that this baby was over two years old and only 13 lbs. 

I had everything I needed, and then some. 

And while that didn't make everything change during that year of underemployment, it made things much better.  God truly does love me, and throughout that year he provided multiple profound, simple acts of grace that left me in no doubt of his watchfulness.  And I'd rather be in poor circumstances, whatever they may be, and yet in his care, than have all the money and wealth in the world but devoid of his attentions.

Does that make any sense?  What do you do, when you're struggling to get through those really hard times?  Although I'm not worried about Scott's future employment, there could be a few dark days ahead with challenges of a different kind, and I'd like some fresh ideas.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Reality is optional

Sometimes, I'd rather remember things the way I wish they were than the way they really happened.

  • That time when Betsy found some really old nasty bacon behind the trash can, and I had no idea till after she'd eaten it and she came into my bedroom, beaming and proudly announcing, "That was the last piece of bacon!"
  • The time I invited our neighbors over to dinner right before they moved and everything tasted so bad, even I didn't want to eat it.  So I ate the only good part and they had to fend for themselves.
  • The way I hated dress socks so I used to wear athletic socks to work... with black pants and heels.  Every day.
  • That time I wasn't paying attention to the lesson and thought the visual aid in Relief Society was a box of mints... so I totally ate one.  (It wasn't even food.  I spit it out and started laughing so hard I was hyperventilating.)
  • How, as a kid, I used to proudly announce that I lived in a mortuary as a baby... and I'm pretty sure it freaked lots of kids out... some of whom could have been my friend had I not been so busy enjoying their odd looks that I started giving details about said residence.
  • My hair in 8th grade.  Perhaps no one's is that great in 8th grade, but, ah, few pictures remain to prove my point.  I think this was an act of mercy on my parents' part.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

On my crunchiness and ineptitude -- and my strengths!

I always thought it would be fun to be  outside of Utah for the election.  And not so much because a Utah vote for a republican president is somewhat inconsequential at best -- although true -- but more because I wanted to be a part of the conversation, a voice saying "Hey.  Mormons aren't all crazy.  Look at ...uh..." and I would finish that sentence with someone I didn't know very well in my new ward.

Because (it goes without saying) I really couldn't finish that statement with "me."

And while the things that make me, me, (I never know how to write that) are often tied into my personal religious philosophies, and I feel come from a very Mormon place in my heart, most of them are total humbug to everyone else, members especially.

Sometimes I wonder which came first: my ideas being different from mainstream, and then me just eventually getting comfortable with it, or me just being a person who has to live outside the norm, and eventually finding these ideas as my way of making a "hey-wait-I'm-totally-an-individual" statement.

Although, I guess, if you're going for accuracy, the way things really unfolded for me indicates it had way more to do with personal revelation I chose to accept in order to get pregnant.  And that light lead to further requests for light, which lead to further deviations from standard American culture.  And on it has gone.

This isn't to say I'm a zealot.  For lots of reasons.  Those who never touch table sugar, whose children have never had store-bought bread, who have raw diets and are vegan to the core -- I admire them.  But I'm not one of them.  And I have my reasons -- but that's for another day.

However, I know our lifestyle would still overwhelm some.  Yes, we hardly ever buy anything from a box or a bag.  Yes, I read the labels on everything.  And please don't get sick or I'll have you drinking tea and taking tinctures all. day. long.  (It works!)  That's okay.  Most things about the way other people live (like without seventeen loads of laundry to fold!  or whose floors are so clean vacuuming isn't just a dream! or who -- and this is beyond my comprehension -- put a few things on a to-do list and don't get distracted right after starting!) is totally overwhelming to me.

But here's what I've learned: Just because my skills are different, doesn't mean they don't exist.  And I don't do anyone any favors by dwelling on my can'ts and pretending I don't have any assets or strengths.  It serves no one.  It blesses no one.  Especially, especially, especially not my children.  How can I be so down on myself and expect them to grow up with any sort of understanding about where their own self-worth comes from?

Yeah, we don't want to be self-righteous and priggish.  And nobody likes a perpetual expert or a Prideful Polly.  (Pretend I didn't just make that up.  Pretend you hear it all the time and you read it without even blinking an eye.  Thank you.)  But I see so many of my wonderful sisters, whom I love so much, who are totally oblivious to their strengths, or who cannot look upon one of their gifts without insisting on seeing three shortcomings in the same instant.  And this is not what we want for our daughters, or our sons.  So why should God want it for us?

Nobody could say it better than Sister Hinckley.  I've really tried to let these words enter my heart, and change my heart.  To be different because of them.  It's a work in progress, but I'm surprised how much happier I am.  Heavenly Father made me just the way I am, and although there's plenty of work to do, he doesn't want me to spend all my time wishing I were someone else.  There's one other quote of hers I've loved and wanted to share here, too.

"As you create a home, don't get distracted with a lot of things that have no meaning for you or your family.  Don't dwell on your failures, but think of your successes."  She's giving me permission to thrive -- thrive now, not someday when the laundry is done or I've learned to sew.  Now.

Thank heavens.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

the lame night that should have been cool

Most nights as parents tend to be lame, in that you can't go anywhere after the kids are asleep.  And you've been somewhat beaten into submission for so long you don't really want to go anywhere or do anything, anyway.  Waaaaay too much work.

But Friday -- Friday shouldn't have been that way.  (Aside: now, don't think we go out on dates every Friday night. We're not that cool, or in our case, rich.  Because when you take me out on a date, it's not exactly to Subway, mister.)

Friday, September 14 was the ten year anniversary of the day I met my husband.  And he impressed me from the very minute I met him -- after I got over the awkwardness of being totally checked out...  Man, I do kinda miss it when I think about how long it's been since that's happened.  I mean, by a stranger.  Wait, that sounds bad.  I didn't mean it like that.

Ahem.  I knew the date was coming up all summer long.  So I wanted to plan something special, something wonderful.  Something perfect.  And since I'm usually high-maintenance, this would have to be extra high maintenance.  Maybe I would even wear mascara.

Or not, because if he said something sweet and I teared up, it would hurt like the devil.

But instead, I just totally forgot about it.  We spent Friday night enduring my least-favorite-campout-of-all-time. (Avie, for the love of all that is good, I am not taking you on another one of those until you're thirty.) And Saturday, after the girls were put to bed, Scott went out to buy ice cream, and came home with bonus roses.  Sweet.  Somehow the conversation randomly took us to the supposedly-upcoming anniversary, only to find ...we'd spent it shivering in the great outdoors and playing mattress to Avie.

So we owe ourselves a date.  A really, really good one.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Raspberry picking

My favorite thing about this too-early-to-call-it-fall time is raspberry picking.
I don't know why.  Your legs get scraped and the sun beats down and they're just so small.
But when we're done, and I finally get both girls strapped in the car, and the berries ride up front with me, and half of them are gone before we've even driven back -- maybe that's why I like it.

Last time we went, Betsy was obsessively dedicated to picking and got almost as many as me.  They even charged me for hers, because the bucket wasn't full of white berries, leaves, and assorted rocks.  This time?  She fed the tame deer who live on the other side of the fence the whole time.  Which was really sweet and endearing... until she tantrumed when it was time to leave because she knew at home, she only gets to  eat what she picks -- and of course, she only had a small cupful.

Don't judge.  I have my reasons.  I want to eat the rest myself.  And I'm sure it's teaching some awesome work-hard moral, kinda like the one with the ants and the grasshopper.

P.S. I'll take pictures next time we go and add some.  You've got to see this cute little place we go.