Tag: growing up

The Most Memorable Year of My Life 2001

I was watching dancing with the stars and the theme for tonight was ‘the most memorable year of your life’.  It made me think about my life.  What is the most memorable year in my life?  It’s very tough to answer, but 2 years came to mind first: 2001 and 2007.

Now this isn’t the best years that would be different because both 2001 and 2007 were rough.  I’ve talked a lot about 2007 on this blog so let me tell you a little bit about 2001. It was quite the ride.

2001-

When 2001 started I was flying high.

new york

I had just finished a dream trip with my Grandma and my dear cousin Lisa to New York City.  We had enjoyed the Rockettes, museums and lots of Broadway shows.  We were scolded by my Grandma for ordering too much pizza and we told her we’d eat it later but it smelled so we put it outside and the maids took it.  Knowing she would ask about it we spent the night coming up with outlandish stories about what happened to the pizza and laughing.  I saw my first New York at Christmas and saw the Rockefeller tree and the lights.  It was magic.

I would never have been prepared for what would happen.

Here I am in 2001 with my roommate:

2001

I made sure I signed up for 30 course hours a year while going to school, usually more and I had taken a lighter load in the fall so winter term I was taking 18 credits! They were also junior level rigorous courses. It was challenging but I pushed on through until the end of March.

Then I got the call and found out my beloved Grandpa had passed away.  It still makes me cry to write it.  In many ways it was a good thing but I still miss him so much.  He’s my hero and I would visit him every Sunday and he would tell me how beautiful I looked.  It meant a lot to me. And then he was gone and there isn’t a day 13 years later that I don’t wish I could talk to him and wonder what he’s thinking about my life. I hope he’s happy with me.

Nevin 1992Then just 2 weeks later, my Dad gave me a call and he was crying.  “Rachel” he said haltingly into the phone “Lisa passed away”.  I was stunned.  The bright spirit I’d been joking with over pizza months before and wizzing around New York was gone.

lisaI can’t remember when it occurred during the week but I had a few days before the flight to California for the funeral. I was devastated and felt guilty spending any time on my 18 credits of classes but finals were coming up and I knew Lisa and Grandpa would want me to study. But my head was hanging low, just getting through the day.

At this same time there was a girl named Emily who was in my ward that I had met, and had met my sister in Nauvoo study abroad.  She was an acquaintance but I knew she had been missing from church for a month or so.

2001-5
Emily, my sister Megan and me 2001

As I walked up to campus the weight of my problems heavy on my shoulders Emily saw me and she stopped and said ‘are you ok?’. I’ll never forget that.

It will doubt be no surprise if you are a frequent blog reader to hear I immediately burst into tears and told her my sad story (I’m a bit of an open book…).  I would learn she was grieving from her own deep loss of her father which is why she had been gone for so many weeks. (what a great example of looking to help others when you are the one hurting the most).

We talked and she helped me pack for the funeral.  I quickly learned she was not living with kind people and so out of the blue I said

“I know.  Why don’t you come live with Megan and me?”

I called Megan and she was like “Ok.  Why not” probably a little caught off guard but she then added “Why don’t we ask Julia?”  Julia is our cousin and Lisa’s sister who had come home from her mission to the funeral.  Julia agreed and after the funeral I found an apartment for the 4 of us and it was all settled.

2001-3
Julia, me, Megan, Emily

When I got home from the funeral I prayed Heavenly Father would help me with finals.  That I would find a way to not suffer from the weeks of absences both emotional and physical. I tried my best and you know what I got my best grades of all of college.  All As and Bs despite all that happened and taking the most credits.  Miracles do happen.

2001-4That year Julia met her Matthew and I would start my senior year.I remember staying inside a lot and just spending time the 4 of us.  It was a time of healing and love.

In June 2001 I retook Poli Sci 201 because I had gotten a lazy C as a sophmore because the teacher bored me but for some reason I knew I needed to be a TA for that class.  I was lucky to have Dr.  Matthew Holland as my teacher in his first class of students as a BYU Professor.

20141016_230644

20090306__holland_0306p1_200At the end of the course I called him for about 2 weeks leaving messages, begging to be his TA.  Finally he answered and said “so I hear you want to be one of my TA’s”.  My best buddy Raelene was also a TA and we had such a wonderful experience . He had such faith in me and never changed a grade I gave.  That did so much for my confidence.

This is Raelene and I in 2009 but we basically look the same…

113_0608In September my family received another shock with the passing of my cousin Riley.  He had made mistakes and had challenges with addiction so we weren’t super close but it was still very tragic.

rileyAnd then the whole world had tragedy with 9-11.  I’ll never forget driving up to campus and seeing everyone on their phones (which at the time seemed strange).  The whole aura was nervous, sad and unsure.

9-11I’ll never forget later that day President Bateman gave a speech and said:

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Brothers and sisters, that is our message this morning. Fortunately this is only the second act of a three-act play. Even when death comes to those we love, we know what lies ahead. We know they are fine. It is those of us who are left behind who are sad. We know we will see them again, and we know we will be with them. When death comes to someone who has the peace of the Holy Ghost inside, it can be sweet, not bitter.

Do you understand why you young people hold the power of peace for the world in your hands? The world depends on you.

Many of you have just returned from missions; many of you will go next year. The world’s peace is on your shoulders because you have the only message that gives hope for eternal peace

Here’s the whole talk if you want to listen to it:

I took his admonition seriously.  I was finishing up school and after the year I had it was all to clear ‘this is the second act in a three-act play’.  I knew I would be responsible for making the world better.  For bringing peace in my own little circle, and I’ve striven to do that.  Even with anxiety, depression, frustration and disappointment I have tried my best to never forget the Lord and His goodness, to share His peace.

Because it is on our shoulders in 2001 and 2014.  I’m certainly glad not all my years are 2001’s (my family couldn’t take it!) but it made me the person I am today.  It was a refining time and a time for decisions on the type of person I was going to be.

And it certainly was memorable…

2001-2
Here I am with my friend Joni as she sets off for her mission.

 

Life Itself: A Movie Review

“We all are born with a certain package. We are who we are: where we were born, who we were born as, how we were raised. We’re kind of stuck inside that person, and the purpose of civilization and growth is to be able to reach out and empathize a little bit with other people. And for me, the movies are like a machine that generates empathy. It lets you understand a little bit more about different hopes, aspirations, dreams and fears. It helps us to identify with the people who are sharing this journey with us.”

Roger Ebert

I bet if the great film critic Roger Ebert and I met we would have about 2 things in common.  We disagreed on religion, morality, philosophy and definitely politics.  Why then do I admire him so much? I love Roger because of the way he got me to think. My parents are big on thinking and not just doing, but they don’t watch movies or television.

Let’s face it- being a kid in the post Star Wars world, means movies are a huge part of most of our lives.  So, when Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert were teaching me how to think about  movies, they were kind of teaching me how to think about life.  It was a building block to add on to what my parents demonstrated at home.

From 1975 to Siskel’s death in 1998 Gene and Roger reviewed movies on their PBS and then syndicated show under various titles, the longest being At the Movies.  They of course were famous for their thumbs up and thumbs down and their constant on air debates over the movies. Here’s one of their best

I have never seen Full Metal Jacket but I still find the review fascinating (and entertaining). In fact, I probably didn’t see 90% of the movies reviewed on Siskel and Ebert and yet I still loved watching the show.

Anyway, with that preface a new movie has come out about the life of Roger Ebert who died in 2013 after a long and painful battle with cancer. It is amazing to think one of the most verbose men in media became someone who could no longer speak. For the last 5 years of his life he communicated through a keyboard and laptop.  His blogging and twitter posts became his new voice and he taught many of us how to use the medium to enrich the world not simply criticize.

The film Life Itself is directed by Steve James of Hoop Dreams fame and it is a lovely film about a man that lived a unique, fascinating life.  He started filming as he was going into a final surgery several years before his death.  They are unflinching (at one point insistently so by Roger) in showing the damage which had been done to Roger’s face and neck.  Even his famous Esquire magazine shoot did not really show what had happened to his face.

They show him writing and then go through his life starting as a young journalism student who insisted on a page edit on his local paper the day Kennedy was shot.  Then it moves on to his first job at the Chicago Sun Times, his alcoholism, his Pulitzer prize winning writing, his time on the show, relationship with Gene Siskel, his marriage and then his illness and last chapter.

I learned a lot about Roger Ebert from the movie but it also reminded me of all of the lessons I’d learned from Roger over the years.  He taught me about movies but also subtely how to live.   Roger and Gene were a reminder to all of us that to share your opinion is not something to be fearful of and to avoid but it is a gift of knowledge and discussion to the world.  Through sharing we hopefully become better people.  I suspect Siskel and Ebert did that for a lot of people.  They made us better by sharing their perspective.

Life Itself is a loving piece but not a complete lovefest.  It makes it clear Siskel and Ebert really did not care for each other for most of their careers.  Roger was also an egotist and a perfectionist to a fault, but we all have our flaws don’t we?

I love learning about people’s lives and how they became who they are.  If you enjoy those types of documentaries than you will like Life Itself- even if you disagreed with Roger Ebert most of the time.  He had quite the life.

Getting back to the quote from above.  Roger Ebert says the movies create ‘shared empathy’.  I propose they do such a thing because he and Gene Siskel taught us to see that empathy.  To look beyond the moment and think about the art whether it was a blockbuster, a silly comedy or a war movie:

Siskel and Ebert showed all of us how to watch the movies.

I’m grateful.  Thumbs up!

Overall Grade A              Content Grade C   (There are a few photos briefly shown of naked women, and a few swears but not too bad)

roger ebert

This is perhaps their best reviews because they both hated it so much.  Love it.

 

 

A Working from Home Legacy

Feel like you are at war in the office? I have!  Be like me and work from home.

Just a joke below…

dilbert work from home 1 dilbert work from home 2 dilbert work from home 3 dilbert work from homeGrowing up I basically had 2 stay at home parents.  My Mother was and is a homemaker (my family is 35, 33, 30, 23, 17, 14 so my Mom has always been an active mother of a variety of ages).  She is also someone who made running her home a career.  Her hobbies usually involved bettering family or home in some way.  Countless dresses she sewed for us until her tailoring skills were good enough to make costume after costume for my sisters plays.  She did a Midsummer’s Nights Dream set in the 20s I believe and the gowns and suits were stunning.

So my Mom has always worked from home.  If there was  part of home life she wanted to master it.  Her gardens are always the best in the neighborhood, especially in our home in Utah there were flowers that wondered all around the front and back yard with a large patch of lily of the valley that I will never forget.

I could go on and on about my Mom but suffice it to say where some women see housekeeping as a necessary evil, my Mom see’s it as her calling and what she wasn’t good at, she became good at.

Then there is my Dad.  My Dad has been an entrepreneur for his career. He is perhaps the only person on the planet that could go to law school, not finish 2 papers, and then 25 years later find out he had actually graduated.  That’s just the kind of person he is.  He pursues something 100%, gleans all the good he can out of it and then moves on to the next idea or spot he is needed with no regrets.

In my life he has been in paid employment as a photographer, framing store owner, computer program designer/manager, ESL computer lab installer, board member, various roles at JWA, Grabber, Impact, Grabber Construction, Kobayashi and Poler to name a few.

Probably the most influential time of my life was when he founded a company called Linguatronics.  He had spent the years in the late 80s, early 90s working on a program to help Japanese people learn English.  That’s what brought our family from Utah to Maryland.  Being in the DC area meant we were close to so many other metropolitan cities and he could promote his new product, as well as other products.

Eventually this morphed into installing computer labs in colleges to help with ESL and other language courses (Linguatronics).  There was a software that helped teachers to communicate with students while learning.  They could take over the students screen, talk to them and help them in other ways.  I’m not sure how many labs were installed but by the time we moved to California in 1998 (7 years) he had exhausted his leads and was needed to help with the family businesses.  Things transitioned and changed once again.

But I was basically grown up by then so my greatest memories are the Linguatronics era.  My Dad had co-opted the dining room into his office.  This meant the french doors of the dining room had glass and we could see in and watch him work.  I remember him being constantly frustrated when we would take his office supplies- particularly his scissors.

‘Where did you girls put my scissors?” he would ask in exasperation.  We had no idea.

When we moved to Maryland I started middle school and my sister Anna was a year old, so we had 1, 9,11 and 13 year old.  My Dad has always had different sleep needs than most people so we didn’t see him a lot when it was late and we were home from activities or in the morning (now he is a great early riser but not back then).  I think back to looking through the glass and always being able to see my Dad.  What a blessing that was.  He was working 70+ hours a week to make that business work and they had a small toddler to deal with (although Anna was the dream sleeper.  She will moan and groan about sleeping in the laundry room but I think that noise made her sleep like a rock to this day!).

When my Mother got pregnant she had to go on full bedrest meaning my father would become Mom and Dad for the entire pregnancy.  My roommate just asked me if my Mom got up for church or other small things and the answer is no.  I remember one time when my brothers mice turned out to be pregnant and he woke everyone up in the middle of the night that she got up.  She was up for my sister Megan’s baptism and to go to the doctor but I don’t recall any other times.

When I was 15 my mother got pregnant again and so my freshman year was spent, family-wise, on survival mode.  I was probably not as helpful as I should have been because I found the whole situation to be incredibly stressful and worrying.

If I felt that way imagine how my Dad must have felt.  Here he has 4 children including a 5 year old in kindergarten, 3 teenagers at different spiritual and emotional levels and working 70+ hours as a self-employed businessman.  The amount of pressure must have been enormous.  (And he was young men’s president during this whole time!)

I remember as soon as we found out my Mom was expecting we would transition to paper plates and all of the kids would be assigned days to cook and chores.  My Dad at one point had a complicated chart he called ‘The New Order’ which was just overcomplicated and a little crazy to actually work for a while.  Then he tried a ‘New Order 2’ which was less effective… 😉

My Dad also was determined to not let the massive garden my parents had worked on go to pot with my Mother on bedrest.  One day he saw a farm stand and was convinced it would be a great idea for his kids to sell tomatoes on the side of the road.  Remind you- I was 15 and somewhat surly.  There was no way I was going to be selling tomatoes to all my friends unless we were starving.

My father was undeterred and proceeded to plant 36 tomato plants. From what I read 1 tomato plant can produce as many as 25 tomatoes so we had nearly 1000 tomatoes at the end of the summer! And of course, we never did the tomato stand, but we did learn how to can tomatoes from Sister Saunders at the ward, and my sister Megan sat Anna in the red wagon loaded with tomatoes and went door-to-door giving them to our neighbors.

I wasn’t going to share that story but I think it displays well how intimately my father has always been involved in our family.  This is not the aloof businessman that some of my friends had.  I can’t think of a single time in my life when my mother said ‘wait till your father comes home’ because he already was home.  And despite being insanely busy we never felt like my father was busy.  In fact, if you had asked us at the time we would have said he did very little (shows how much kids know!)

He has always had the ability to merge life and work and friends and anything else in his life pretty seamlessly.  Just today he was writing an email, helping someone at the house and hear about my upcoming date on the phone.

That has been a great example to me as I have chosen to work from home for my career.  I guess that was very natural given the example of my Dad.  I would never have thought it but 3 years in corporate America was enough to convince me the dreams of my youth were really nightmares.  I think of working in a cubicle and having some horrible boss and I feel ill. I wonder if my Dad felt that way too?

He has an office now but it is very close to my folks home and it is next door to the kids school (now they are all in high school or beyond).

My Dad used to take us on business trips (Boston, New York, even Europe) and we had great experiences on a small budget.  I went to see The King and I with my Dad and went to the Statue of Liberty and Plymouth Rock.  I also took my first and only trip to Germany, Czech Republic and a little bit of France when I was 14.

But the work trip I remember most was in Maryland.  I had helped him at a school in Montgomery County (next county over) and he asked me if I wanted to drive home.  Being a kid with unmatched confidence I said sure.  I am not a great driver even now and then-yikes! The belt loop is a massive freeway in DC with about 6 lanes (I’m guessing!).  I was terrified and I remember weaving in and out of traffic and at one point my Dad said ‘keep your hands on the wheel…’.  It was pretty funny.

Another story I wasn’t planning on telling.  Basically my Dad has a way of working without making his children feel like he is burdened or worried.  I have worked with him since 2005 on an almost daily basis and have rarely seen him come unglued or ‘stress out’.  I’ve done plenty of it but he is just a strong guy and a true multi-tasker.

I guess I’ve been thinking about my Dad these last few weeks as I’ve had a career change.  I remember all the one’s he had and looking through that glass door his eyes focused on the computer, and nearly always on a phone call with someone who inevitably became a friend, and we would see at dinner eventually.

My Dad is the type of person who went to Czech Republic and invited a total stranger to come live with us, and when that didn’t pan out said his cousin could come.  He’s just a great guy that believes in people and I think that makes him a great man of business even if every enterprise has not been ‘successful’ it was to him.

People ask me how I can work from home.  Don’t I get distracted?  Well, sometimes I can but I saw my Dad do it every day of my life and he had much more to distract him, but the distraction was and is his happiness. That’s his light and the work is just trappings for helping people.  So, yes I get distracted on occasion, but I know how to use that energy to get my work done and be my best self.

They say that those who telecommute actually get more work  done than their corporate counterparts and that is probably because we are always working.  You can be called or emailed at anytime, which can be a drag but again I have the example of my Dad to help me come close to balancing it all out.

I wasn’t even planning on talking about my Dad that much in this post but he is such a great example to me on how to work, and how to work from home.  He is an example to anyone on how to keep a balanced life.  He’s certainly had his tough periods but in general he is a happy, hopeful person.  When I get in my funks it is almost always because I become obsessed with one part of my life over another.

Luckily I have my Dad to tap me on the shoulder and help me figure it all out.  I really do love him and my Mom.

What lessons about work have you learned from your parents or mentors?  How has that helped you in your career?  Or perhaps you learned what not to do?

mom and dad

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3 Sisters and 2 Brothers

crazy family

I look at this blog as a form of ministry.  As a chance to share my story with the world and hopefully help people going through their own struggles and appreciating our victories together.  As such, I have tried very hard to talk about my life and let other people tell their own stories however they see fit.  I very rarely speak of friends or family except in the most flattering way and even then it is unusual.

Today I want to depart slightly from that philosophy as my sister Anna is moving out of Utah tomorrow and then will end up in Japan for 1-2 years as a teacher.  She’s been here studying for 5 years and I will really miss her.

So let me tell you a little bit about my family.  My parents are still together after 36 years of marriage. They are kind of a ying-yang, balancing each other well. My Dad is energetic, passionate and full of ideas.  My Mom is calming, nurturing and peaceful.

They were young and excited to start a family and my brother and I were born quickly.  He is 35 and I’m 33.  Then my sister Megan came 3 years later but she was a month early and my Mom had complications.

But the dream of a big family never went away and 8 years later they announced my sister Anna was coming. This was a challenge because my Mom had full bedrest and my Dad was working a lot in Japan at the time.  We all worked together and a baby came.

My parents wanted to have more kids but then it took 5 years for another baby to come.  I was 15 when this happened and Sammy was born the beginning of my sophomore year in high school.  Once again my Mom had to go on bedrest and I internalized a lot of fear and worry about her situation.  Whether it was bedrest, recovery or caring for an infant, a new baby kind of monopolized my homelife in high school.

Then we moved to California and the winter before I went away to college my Mom announced she was pregnant again.  At the time I was young, selfish and very upset.  I was acutely aware of how hard this was going to be and I worried it would pull me away from  my dream of BYU.  In a way I was right because I felt really guilty at abandoning my Mother at such a hard time.

In August we came home and my Mom had the baby and I went back to school.  My sister Madeline and I have never lived together as siblings.  The longest time was probably after I returned from my mission in 2005 and lived with  my folks for about 3 weeks.

So that is the dynamic of my family.  It was unique to have 3 teenagers and 3 babies.  It taught me a lot.  It forced me to be selfless when I really didn’t want to be and it hopefully gave me some real-life experience if I ever have to be a parent (or co-parent).

I love all of my siblings and as the younger one’s get older I am less the step-Mom and more the sister which is nice.  Madeline and I have turned out to have the most in common as far as religion, energy and personalities.  Sammy has proven to be a great listener and have a calming spirit about him.  He is a great person to talk to when you have a problem because he is very empathetic and encouraging. As a little boy he would get so emotionally involved in your worries it was very touching and he still has that.

Anna and I have a lot of similar tastes in music, theater, movies etc, which has been fun.  I’ve enjoyed having her close by and will miss my event buddy.  Anna has a bright, cheerful countenance and I will miss that too. Sigh…

My sister Megan and I were the best of friends growing up.  She is a great mother and very nurturing and kind.  She also has been a great influence in reading and writing.  Growing up I was not a great reader and she always had her nose in a book.  She is currently trying to achieve her dream of writing a novel and has made strides with an agent.

My brother Ben and I are the most different.  I guess it is a classic oldest and next kid dynamic.  I thought left, he thought right.  That has been an interesting tool to have in my life.  To see that someone so fundamentally different can still make good choices and lead a good life has been helpful.

Life in any family can be both a joy and challenge. I know I still feel radically different than my siblings but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  It forced me to be happy with my own life choices and to not lean on anyone else.  We could support each other, and love one another but that didn’t mean we needed to be the same.

One time when I was in high school I yelled out to my family ‘I’m the normal one.  You are the weird one’s and yet in my family I’m the weird one’.  That was a ridiculous thing to say but it was kind of true.  Megan, Ben and my Mom were more homebodies and happy with a few good friends.  I was an active social butterfly.

Neither way is right or wrong but I think I learned to lean a lot on my friends who seemed to process things the way I did.  Because of this, I have always been a very friend-reliant person to this day.  I guess that’s why loyalty and friendship is the most important topic to me.

So that’s my family.  They’ve all taught me something different and I’m glad they are all a part of my life.  What about all of you?  What have you learned from your siblings?  What is the age dynamic in your family and how has that affected you?

Sadly minus Meg and Ben but still a mighty fine family photo
Sadly minus Meg and Ben but still a mighty fine family photo

family2

Writing

writing

Growing up my sister was the writer of the family.  I was the opinionated one.  She used to have these little notebooks where she would write poems and other witty observations about the world.  I was the commenter.  I would tell my thoughts to whomever and whoever would listen. This got me into trouble on more than one occasion.

Even with my friends I would talk about my opinions about my family, church, and feminism.  I remember when I was a little girl being disgusted at a wedding when they introduced the couple as ‘Mr and Mrs John Doe’.  I immediately thought ‘hey why doesn’t she get a name?’   I was talking about this experience with a friend and she was surprised at how a young girl would even notice such thing but I did.

Megan and I used to make little newspapers where we would write comics, movie reviews and of course the news of the day.  One of the editions I saved has a pretty good critique on the democratic primary of 92 and Bill Clinton’s performance.  What 11 year old kid watches the debates and can gather her thoughts into a concise argument for fun?

I also have a persuasive essay I wrote around that time about how my mother is so ‘overly-cautious’ and ‘won’t let me do anything.  Even go to the mall alone’.  I actually turned that in for a grade.  I found it and gave it to my Mom for Mother’s Day a few years ago.  I hope I got a good grade!

I found some journals I did for a civics class in middle school where I railed on President Clinton and the welfare system and how people should be taught work skills as well as be fed/clothed.

It continued on to my high school years where I was involved mainly in drama and swimming but I still found ways to express myself.  Mainly in debates with my mother.  I read much of the feminist mantra when I was that age and my mother caring for an infant seemed far too backward.  I’m glad she was patient enough to challenge my newly forming brain and help me develop more nuanced ideas.  It actually became a part of our relationship I cherish most.  We can talk and debate and challenge each other and leave with a smile.  I miss it if we go too long without a deep thoughtful discussion on the issues of the day (I’ve pretty much come around to her way of thinking in the end!)

Then I started college and what do you think drew me in immediately?  It was politics, particularly political theory, because theory can be discussed and pondered forever.  There is no right answer to what freedom means or justice.  You can talk about such things until you are blue in the face and believe me during those years I tried.

I also took fabulous classes including ‘theories on human freedom’ and the ‘political economy of women’.  Both of them taught me the importance of words on people’s lives and how I must always find the heart in my writing.  Whether it is advocating for the Lost Boys of Sudan or Speaking out against domestic violence, words should matter and effect the reader or they are just words.

Then there was the mission.  I didn’t have a lot of time to write on the mission, but when I did, it was my salvation . I found a mission to be a very difficult and lonely experience.  I lived off of letters from home and writing back.  I have always collected stationary and I used up most of mine on the mission

“Life is like a great human chain.  The point of the human chain is so no one gets lost.  Everyone has someone in his or her life to hold on to  and everyone has someone else holding on to them”

It’s not the most profound statement ever written but the point is I was writing and giving opinions even when on a mission.

The the journey of writing continued into grad school.  I wrote papers about everything from HR needs and Economic policies.   Writing for some reason felt easy for me in grad school.  It’s like all the jumbled up stuff I wanted to explode out in high school had gotten out and it was a great time for writing, even if it was business writing!

I even became a pretty good editor at this point.  Who knew!

Then I graduated and quit my job.  All of the sudden there was a void in my life and what was I going to fill it with?  What I had always filled it with- opinions and writing.  That birthed this blog.  I am excessively proud of it and it fills me with joy when people can feel my honesty and they feel they know the real me.  Because they do.  It is how I have always written and spoke and it has served me well for many years.

It means a lot to me to write.  But also to write to say something, to comment on the world.  I want someone to read my entries and say ‘I’ve had that same situation in my life’ and then we can bond and share and grow together.  The world really is small when you can write and opine.

I’m so grateful for the many people, particularly in the last few weeks, who have told me that they relate to my writing and that it speaks to them.  That means a lot because my writing is my heart.  There is no writer veil.  It is just me.

So my sister invents characters and creates worlds.  I see the world around me, comment and create words.  Both great.  Both needed.

I’m grateful to be a writer

(in my own little way)

I must write it all out, at any cost. Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.
Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/a/annemorrow115409.html#2iaWUd1yyJyQ2Lgk.99

“I must write it all out, at any cost.

Writing is thinking.

It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.”

Anne Marrow Lindbergh

If my writing can help someone else live better than this blog may be the greatest thing I do.  I’m proud of it.  Proud of each post whether silly or profound, and I intend to make it my legacy because it is me in full on technicolor.

So writing and commenting.  That’s my way. Particularly in the last few weeks I seem to be phrasing issues in a way that people really respond to.  This makes me very happy and I’m excited for the future as we learn and grow together.  I’m excited for more writing!

Going to be interesting to see how that meshes with nanowrimo coming up.  Anyone out there want to be my writing buddy?

HEAR ME ROAR

Pudding Cups and Childhood Food Envy

Today I’m not feeling great.  Congestion, cough, sore throat. I suppose the best thing about my job is I work from home and can schlep around in my PJs if I want but it is also hard to really take a day off when I’m sick; however, I don’t mind because it keeps my mind occupied.    I swear like 4 people I know have this cold.  Sigh…

Anyway, I went to get some soup from Zuppa’s.  I love the Yucatan Chicken Tortilla soup.  Its flavorful and comforting.

yucatantortillaI also decided to get one of my favorite foods when I’m sick- a pudding cup.  Pudding cup you ask?  Well when I was little I always wanted cute little lunches with things like pudding cups but my family couldn’t afford them (plus, they aren’t exactly good for you).  I usually ended up getting hot lunch which was much cheaper. I think at the time my hot lunch cost 1.50.  I am sure it is much more now.  I could also get breakfast at school for a similar cost (or I ate breakfast at my seminary teacher’s house.  He made the most delicious sour dough biscuits and bread with a starter that went back generations).

My Mom has never been a big breakfast person, and usually had toast until she became gluten intolerant (now she can have gluten free bread but I don’t think she has toast as often as she used to).   However, her food allergies didn’t happen until I was nearly graduated from college so we had a lot of pasta, salads and sandwiches.  One friend I had said we had spaghetti every time she came to my house and she was my friend for about 7 years.  Perhaps this is why I’m so fond of the stuff today?  I love a good plate of spaghetti.

Interesting enough we almost never had the food my Mom grew up on- roasts, jello, canned goods and casseroles.  My Mom did make one yummy mexican tortilla style casserole but it was rare.  I don’t ever remember her using canned soups in anything.  When I went on my mission to Indiana all of these foods were very common and I had to get used to their high salt content.  I also don’t remember ever having wonder bread, plain yellow mustard, grape jelly, tv dinners or bologna.  Margarine was rarely used.

It was also a special treat to have cereal.  It was too expensive for a large family.  My siblings and I could go through a box of cereal in one morning sometimes and so you can imagine my feeling when I went to BYU and they had an entire wall of cereal!  It was very exciting!  My Mom also loves deli meat over the packaged slimy variety.  She would buy that on occasion and I still love it!

I don’t want you to get the impression that we were poor.  Far from it, but when you have a big family there are things that are harder to buy than others.

I also have a softspot for lunchables because they really are ridiculous.  Paying $4 for cute little crackers, ham and cheese, but then they are cute little crackers with ham and cheese.  Every once in a while I’ll buy one just to feel some sense of power in this world of chaos. 🙂pudding cups

But the ultimate coup de gras of treats I envied in my friends lunchboxes was pudding cups.  Tapioca, vanilla and especially chocolate.  I loved them and I still think they are tasty.  They are just so cute in their little cups.   So, if there is anything great about being an adult it is that I can buy pudding cups whenever I want without getting permission from anyone.  It’s the good life!

Can you relate to this?  Are there any foods you couldn’t have or afford as a kid that you love as an adult?  Any guilty pleasures? Please share in the comments section.  pudding cup

32 vs 17

So tomorrow I go back to my home in Utah, get back to work and training for my swims in my free time.  Aside from a little stomach ache today, I’ve had a great time and it was a nice break from my everyday life.

I don’t know how detailed I can get without shaming people but I learned a lesson this week I felt was worth sharing with all of you.

When I was about 17 I had an experience that stuck with me.  I had always felt bad about my weight and felt like it was something I couldn’t fix that I wanted to fix.  I was at a family reunion that summer when someone said something cruel about my eating ice cream and I threw the ice cream away and stormed out in tears.

My brother, who I was not normally close with, got very angry, stood up for me and stormed out of the restaurant, walking the rest of the way home.  My parents, uncle and cousins were also very supportive and the incident blew over with probably nobody remembering it but maybe my brother and me (although he claims to remember nothing from his childhood).

Well, that’s always stayed with me and on Friday night I was with the same person eating ice cream again and he/she made another comment about my weight and at first I s laughed it off but then I got mad.  This time instead of storming out I stood up for myself and said

‘You know what…..I know you would be happier if I was skinny but you will just have to deal with it’ and then I left the table and cried outside. I’d say an improvement in 15 years wouldn’t you?  I was pretty upset and frustrated that nothing seemed to have changed over such a long period of time, that nothing I had done in the intervening years had made a dent or changed that person’s attitude towards me.  I was still the same girl eating ice cream, feeling bad about myself.

For a second I felt 17 again…How could a situation mirror itself so closely after all that time?

Or was it?  This time it was not my brother, Dad or cousins standing up for me.  It was me, and yes I felt the tears of 15 years of frustration and pain, but I had said something that made an impact.  In fact, the next day I had flowers and a letter of apology from the person.  Forgiveness was granted and yet none of that would have happened if I had kept my mouth shut and smiled through the ridicule or if I had made an unsightly scene.  I certainly had not received an apology at 17.

Maybe all of us had learned something in the last 15 years after all? Hurray for humanity and a victory for underdogs out there.

Redemption and a high five to the 17 year old me!

Then
Then
Now
Now

Kids Have it Good

So I hated being a kid.  I don’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be more grown up, more mature.  While I could never go back to being told what to do and how to do it all the time (wasn’t good at that when I was a kid), there are some perks that I wouldn’t mind having.  (It’d be like the movie Big but in reverse, go back to being a kid.  Script in there!)

I was thinking about this today when I was trying to decide what to eat and nothing looked good.  I seem to shop all the time but never have much to eat or that I feel like eating.  (I know, a first world problem but there you go).   As I was staring into the fridge I couldn’t help but think ‘I wish my Mother was here to make me dinner…’.  My Mom is an excellent cook and I definitely didn’t appreciate the gift of having a delicious meal placed before me every night growing up.  What a treat that was!

This memory of my Mom’s cooking started me on the thought track listed below:

Reasons Kids Have it Made:

1. Food of Some Kind Provided to them (in most situations) 3 meals a day

2. They don’t have to do meal planning, shopping list making, or have spices for whatever is made (I am always short something when I cook)

3. They could read all day and it be considered a good thing

4. They have activities like piano lessons and art classes paid for and encouraged.

5. They have time to take piano lessons and art classes

6. They can act like fools and it is seen as charming, not idiotic

7.  They don’t have to worry about dating, relationships or your biological clock running out!

8. They have someone who plans birthday parties for them and Santa still brings them presents.

9. They get driven everywhere and are completely oblivious of road rage, distracted driving and trying to navigate through town

10. When they do chores around the house they get an allowance. Those end when you become an adult! 😉

11. Their only job is to learn and get along with people.  (That I am most envious of!)

12. They should be able to eat without freaking out over carbs, fat grams, sodium, sugar and dieting

13. They have more to look forward to than to look back on

14. They have someone to make them soup and go to the pharmacy when they are sick

15. They have someone to help them on projects or doing most anything.

16.  They can have imaginary friends and talk to themselves and everyone thinks it’s charming not psychotic

17.  They have leaders, teachers, parents and others who are all thinking of how they can challenge/entertain them

18.  They don’t have to work and worry about money

19. They don’t have to worry about politics, current events or anything they can’t control

20.  They still have energy at the end of the day!

So there you go.  Enjoy it kids while you can!  Goodness knows I should have!  (I guess when it comes down to it kids are lucky because they still, or should, have a Mother at home)

What would you add to the list?

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Feminism and the Workforce

I am writing this using my touch typing because honestly I can’t see much.  My eyes are puffy and sore.  I’m not sure if this is normal.  I will call the doctor in the morning to find out.  I know a week to 10 days of recovery is not uncommon.

I just finished reading The Undomestic Goddess by Sophie Kinsella for the 6th or 7th time.  It is not an award winning book plot-wise but I think it is funny and when I’m sick or feeling down I reach for Kinsella’s writing every time.  I listened to it on audibook and lately I’ve had a lot of time with my audio books 🙂

So, the main story behind this book is a woman named Samantha is just about to be made partner in a prestigious corporate law firm in London.  To get to this point she regularly logs 60+ hours and never has time for social gatherings or even time to think for herself. She doesn’t know how to toast a bagel, iron a shirt or replace the bag in her vacuum. The only time she gives to herself is an occasional viewing of the Waltons for comfort.

Then through a massive mistake Samantha panics, flees to the country and ends up working as a housekeeper in a big lofty house. It is admittedly ridiculous but if you can get behind all of that fluffy plot and think about the questions Kinsella is asking, it is a thought provoking book.

It touches on one of my favorite topics- work.  Why we work, how we work, what motivates us to work, how does money, power, control figure into work?  What do we lose in work? What sacrifices are worth making for work and which one’s aren’t? How do we find that elusive balance between work and life?  These are all questions that fascinate me.

Kinsella’s book made me think about work and feminism in a new way and has left me pondering…

My entire life I was taught in school that pre-feminist women were disenfranchised (which they were) and unhappy mainly because of their unequal share and positions in the workforce.  Men had the power and money at work; therefore, they had the eventual satisfaction and happiness. By confining themselves to the home in unpaid labor, the traditional woman, could not contribute all she could to the world; thereby leaving her unhappy and unfulfilled.

I remember reading Betty Friedan:

“Each suburban wife struggles with it alone. As she made the beds, shopped for groceries, matched slipcover material, ate peanut butter sandwiches with her children, chauffeured Cub Scouts and Brownies, lay beside her husband at night- she was afraid to ask even of herself the silent question– ‘Is this all?”

I wonder if Mrs.  Friedan would have the honesty to ask this same question of a lopsided career woman like Samantha in the novel who works, works, works?   Couldn’t you make a similar list full of the daily deadening tasks of the career woman and ask the same questions at the end? I wonder what she’d think of such a problem?

In some ways the modern career woman asks the Is this all? question even more frequently than her predecessors because they attempt to do all in the work-world and at home. One commenter on this very blog said of her life:

“I feel…I don’t know…a societal pressure of sorts to make mothering a priority. As a working mom, I feel as though I have two full time jobs (and neither gets done to its full need). No one is pressuring my husband, or men in general to find a better balance between work and home”

This highly stretched living ends up leaving a lot of women feeling that they do many things but don’t do them particularly well.  I think every woman has moments where she feels mediocre because she’s pushed too far, too fast, with limited time.

When I was young (high school or college aged) I readily assumed my greatest accomplishment in life would be from my work. Nobody ever said ‘you will get your greatest satisfaction from your hobbies or from serving in the community’.  Think about it- what do we ask children about their future lives?  It’s what do they want to be someday, what do they want to do for their job.

People at church said I’d get the most fulfillment from my family but this was largely ignored as passe sentiment by the young me.  Also family is not a controllable outcome; therefore, depending on it for your contribution to the world can be a risky enterprise.  Work is at least more in our control.

In the book, Samantha finds, to her surprise,  that not working actually gives her the most joy and fulfillment- taking weekends off and having a life are what make her truly happy whether her work be in the domestic or corporate sphere.  This seems to defy everything I was taught as a young girl?  Fulfillment from the weekends? Those are just for play?

For both men and women, the world is telling us to focus on work, work, work but our hearts are almost always telling us  life, life, life.  Easier said than done.  Whether your a teacher, nurse or accountant, work has become such an overwhelming part of most modern woman’s lives.  For someone like me this is especially true as I work from home.  I think this leaves most women feeling unsatisfied with a huge part of their lives. Just the opposite of what the feminists told me.

I think feminism added another layer to the work myth by saying that great female accomplishments in the workforce would make our entire society better.  So now its not working for your own happiness but your entire sex and even all mankind. If we have a normal but necessary job it can feel like such a let down- like you haven’t done that one thing you were called on to do in this life, when you may have, just not at your paid employment.

I work hard but it is way down the list of my greatest accomplishments.  I get satisfaction from everything else in my life and that motivates me to work, not the other way around.

Maybe some women have these great empowering jobs but nobody I know.  Most work to provide sustenance and to allow them to pursue their true passions in the rest of their lives.  Maybe men already knew this for hundreds of years but they’ve had more time to evolve mechanisms to cope with the demands of work?

I’m just throwing this out there, but maybe feminism missed the mark when they focused so much on work as an equalizing force? Maybe our problem wasn’t working in the home verses working in the office but just a general lack of self-worth and recognition?  I guess we have more options now which is certainly a good thing but it also can leave women floating in a sea of undecided and unmet aspirations.

Why is it any less ennobling to dedicate one’s life to something we might not get paid for?  Does getting paid somehow eliminate the ‘Is this all’? For instance, why does having my life work be this blog seem somehow lower than what the feminist theology espoused? It has all the elements of an empowering voice, freedom of expression, and ability to influence others that the housewife role supposedly denied women.  Why does the fact it is unpaid make it any less important for a life?

I don’t think it does and I think the scores of workaholic, frazzled, stressed out women out there would agree with me.  Could it not be the saddest moment of all when you get to the top of the career world and still find yourself wondering what it was all for? I speak only in hypothetical here as I am clearly not at the top of any field or career.

It makes me glad I was taught a bigger answer to that question ‘Is it all?’, an eternal answer. My faith gives my life meaning when the world would see little value. What a great comfort that is.

That said, I still deal with deflated feelings about the workforce and my participation in it.  Anyone else struggle with this? Finding our own way to contribute can be very difficult? Do you struggle in finding value in what you do contribute, or are you left asking Is this all?

Ok. Now I will try to get to sleep and rest my poor eyes.  Got to get back to work in the morning…