Monday, August 22, 2016

Summer 2016, as told in pictures

With everyone back to school, it seems like a good time to document our summer.


After our lovely winter snow shoeing adventures, I decided we needed to also spend some time in the mountains in the summer. We went on a few hikes together - not as many as I'd have liked to do, and we only officially finished a few, but it was fun going to new places in our beautiful mountains. Places we hiked: Desolation Trail, Ferguson Canyon, The Living Room, and Yellow Fork.

Random stuff

At the first of the summer, we had some really fun repairs (stove, garage door, and drier.) While it was fun to take apart our new-ish drier and replace some parts, I could have lived without it.

I spent most Thursday evenings running with two friends from young women. 

For my birthday, I signed up for a class with Brene Brown and Oprah. It's based on one of Brene Brown's books, The Gifts of Imperfection. One of the first assignments was to make "permission tags," an assignment where I gave myself permission to do things I normally wouldn't think I could do. I guess I need a lot of permission, as this was my page.


As last year's vacation was pretty lame, we decided to go back to San Diego for this year's trip. We stopped off in Las Vegas for a night. It was fun to travel with older kids - Shane and I were able to leave them in the condo and go out for the evening. We ate dinner at a restaurant in Caesars Palace right by the fountain that is inspired by the Trevi Fountain in Rome. It was a really fun time. I must have a lot of my dad in me, because I really get excited to go to Las Vegas. I like to get dressed up and roam a bit in the evening.

Me and Ben playing in the pool while we waited for our room to be ready. There is a unique feeling to a pool in the middle of the desert. It reminds me of being a kid.

Mmm. I can still taste the delicious spaghetti with meatballs I had while sitting here. It came as close as I've ever tasted to being like pasta in Italy.

We were super happy to be back in San Diego. We sat by the pool, visited the ocean, toured Old Town and ate delicious Mexican food, rented paddle boards on the bay (which may just be a little bit of heaven on earth!), ran on the beach, took a yoga class on the bay, watched the fireworks at Sea World every night from our room, and enjoyed ourselves, all while trying to keep one 11 year old who never stops moving entertained. Man, take me back there!!

I found these little signs - two on my morning runs, and one while eating dinner. I thought they accurately portrayed the past year for me.

The words below say "Poseidon Riding Hippokampus with Dolphin." Amen.

Ben tried out for a competition soccer team. We've really enjoyed watching him play soccer. He played in two tournaments and his season starts in September.

Thomas ran with the cross country team most summer mornings. He's had 3 cross country meets so far - one intersquad and two other actual meets. He's starting to like running more.

I couldn't resist getting the new Harry Potter book. Review will be forthcoming. But: I cried at least once.

Not pictured: 4th of July swim party at my sister's house, hanging pictures at my mom's house, Bee's game with Shane's work, Thomas going to youth conference, paddle boarding on vacation, reading SDBBE books, niece's and nephew's baby showers, Ben and Kaleb bonding at the trampoline place, mother-in-law's neck surgery, and more that I'm sure that I've forgotten.

How was your summer?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Book review: The Nest

My library system (which I love dearly and for so many reasons!) has a “Lucky Day” program that can help you score a new, popular title that would normally require a months-long hold wait and go home with it that day. I’ve gotten a couple of books this way, but the 7 day limit with no holds or renewals sort of cramps my style – I generally won’t have enough time to finish. (I really enjoyed the 2 or three essays I finished from last Lucky book – Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats, which I read on a very hectic day in June. I didn’t come close to finishing the book, but they provided just the respite I needed for a day that I may eventually blog about. Maybe I should check out more essay collections?

During last week’s epic pre-birthday library visit, I found an available copy of The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. It had been on my hold list forever and so I was a bit excited to take it home. From the first page, I was hooked. It tells the story of four siblings, Leo, Jack, Beatrice, and Melody who are all eagerly awaiting a sizable inheritance (the “Nest”) that will finally be theirs in just a few months. When Leo, the oldest brother, has a terrible accident that decimates the Nest, the other siblings freak out. They had all made financial choices that would have been erased once they inherited, but all that is now in jeopardy.

I thought this was a smart, funny, thoughtful book. The sibling interaction was very interesting to me; I saw parts of myself and my own 3 siblings in each of them. I was particularly interested in the youngest, Melody, who’s a bit of an anxious control freak. Her frenetic overthinking and planning and worrying – well, I can’t imagine why that would seem familiar to me. Near the end, she has this moment as she turns 40 and she realizes that what used to work just doesn’t anymore, and she has to start letting go of things held too firmly, of control over her husband and twin daughters, of perceptions of her relationships with her siblings, and her definition of what it means to be a successful parent. I really loved Melody on the entire novel, and I was cheering her on with her new direction and realization of her place in the world and her family as the novel ended.

I don’t know that this book is for everyone. But the writing was great, the subject matter was refreshing, and, best of all, the length was perfect, since I finished it in the allotted 7 days, and so I might not even incur fines for it. Lucky day indeed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Hallelujah - I'm 41!

I'm 41. Good riddance to 40.

The past year - gah, I've been a mess. I may still be, but just being past the year in which I was 40 is a giant relief. 

In the late evening last night, I went to the library. After an enjoyable 20 minutes of texting with Amy in library-desperation of finding a book, I walked out into a beautiful sunset. I sat on a bench and took a picture and I realized: it's over. I don't have to be 40 anymore. The sky and the birds and the trees and the twilight all over made me so happy and relieved. 

There haven't been many moments of sheer joy. There have been way too many filled with other emotions (that just writing about feels me with dread.) I know that an age really doesn't matter, but the 365 days that began on July 4, 2015 were all tied in to the idea of turning 40 and feeling betrayed by my body and my mind and everything about myself that I thought I knew. 

I went to bed feeling happy. I woke up feeling happy. My birthday has been really great and it all seems so simple and unexpected. I wish I could have felt on my 40th birthday what I feel today. But I was a different person then and I guess I needed to go through this past year to know what it can be like.

At 41 -

I'm more willing be authentic.

I'm more willing to say my feelings.

I'm able to understand my feelings.

I'm able to control my reactions. Maybe not perfectly every time, but I'm much less reactionary.

I'm less willing to believe everything I think.

I'm trying hard not to spend so much time in my head.

I realize that not making a choice is making a choice, so I'd rather just decide and move on.

I'm trying to not worry about what others think.

I've been thinking about the Harry Potter quote from Deathly Hallows, when Harry is asks Dumbledore "Is this real, or is it just happening in my head?" And how Dumbledore says, "Well of course it's happening in your head, but that doesn't make it any less real." (I'm paraphrasing!) It's sort of been playing out daily for me in two ways: real things seem less so, and my thoughts seem immeasurably real and giant (and, honestly: frightening!) But I'm ready to believe more in the things I can taste and see and smell and feel and that are real and stop living in the imagined future and reimagined past.

41. I'm only 1 day into it, but I'm so happy it's here.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

I'd rather....

- spend the day at the beach than the zoo.

- lie to you if I think the truth will hurt you.

- change the subject or focus if I don't agree with what you are saying than have to debate my point.

- drink a Coke than a Pepsi.

- stifle a creative endeavor if I think it's not going to be perfect or as good as the ideal in my head, or as good as someone else could do it.

- have a conversation about what is really happening in your life than make small talk about the weather or what I ate for lunch.

- know your what favorite book is than your favorite shoe designer.

- apologize to you than hear you apologize to me.

- go to the library than the bookstore (but I still really like the bookstore.)

- buy lunch than make one.

- sit by myself in church.

 - read a novel than a memoir.

- wear flip flops. Always.

- wear a cute skirt than a pair of work pants.

- not tell you how I really feel, because I don't feel like my point of view will stand up in the light of yours.

- have a cat than a dog.

- hike uphill than down.

- be warm than cold.

- wear a full-zip jacket to a quarter zip or hoodie.

- have thumb holes.

- drive myself so that I can use the fastest route.

- help you than ask you to help me.

- not worry anymore what others are thinking about me.

- have the knowledge I've gained over the past year. But it would have been nice to have learned it in an easier way.

- drink a rootbeer freeze than a milkshake.

- be authentic to myself.

- spend time making memories with my loved ones.

- be there for you than let you be there for me.

- cook dinner rather than do the dishes.

- eat pancakes or waffles than eat french toast.

- run than walk.

What would you rather?

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Brené Brown: an author review, of sorts.

I've always been a huge believer in a book finding you at just the right time. Usually for me, said book is fiction, with a character whose struggles mirror my own in some way, or a setting that feels so familiar it's like being home. I'm not much into non-fiction; I've enjoyed a few (Terry Tempest William's Refuge and John Krakauer's Into Thin Air come to mind, both read with my book group), but usually about a third of way through non-fiction books, especially when they deal with self-help, I tune out and lose interest.

Enter Brené Brown. I first heard about her when a friend posted her TED talk on shame and vulnerability on Facebook. Listening to that talk was so enlightening - I can still remember the little explosions going off in my brain as I identified with her wise words on shame. I always remembered how that TED talk made me feel, but I didn't take it any further.

Then a few weeks ago I had a thought in the shower (because doesn't all wisdom flow from the time you spend in the shower? I saw a meme that said a fraction of our time in the shower is spent cleaning ourselves, and the majority is spent evaluating our life. So true!) about my tendency to ruminate. Since my anxiety blew up last summer, a lot of my rumination time is spent either suppressing or magnifying my heightened emotions about driving to work. I vacillate between the two on almost a minute by minute basis on the days I go to work. Or, if it's not the drive to work, it's my feelings about a person or a situation that makes me feel vulnerable in some way. I realized that if I'm going to live with anxiety, I need to find a way to let it be in my life but not the focus of my life. And to start that journey, I need to learn to get out of my head.

One of the suggested books about rumination and worry was by Brené Brown. I can't tell you which one, because my search resulted in my reserving several of her books and audio books at the library. I started reading the first one that came available as a hold - I Thought It Was Just Me (But It Isn't). (I also picked up Rising Strong, but old habits required me to read ITIWJM, because it was written earlier, and I wouldn't want to "spoil" the series by reading the last book first!) After the Introduction, I realized that it would never do to just read the library copy - I wanted to write all over the book immediately. By page 44, I was sending pics of favorite passages to Amy, and on page 76 (which I read while on a flight to Spokane for Bloomsday - a moment I think I will remember my whole life), I had a revelation about my life and how I use shame and vulnerability against myself that forever changed me. Making a mental note to buy the book as soon as I got the chance, I got out the journal I'd brought along with me on the plane and started writing. I saw the shame that has hampered my adult life with such a clarity and the source that started its terrible trajectory in such a clear-eyed way that I knew I'd never be able to go back. I'm different, altered, changed - whatever synonym a thesaurus can come up with - I'm that.

Shame has been my go-to place for so long that I cannot remember a time when it hasn't been my companion. I don't know what happened or didn't happen to make that be my reality. Brown's distinction of how guilt and shame are different - guilt is the feeling that something you have done is bad, shame is the feeling that what you are is bad - was especially helpful, because I've never wanted to call what I feel shame - I've always blamed it on guilt. But my interior landscape has always told me that I'm fundamentally bad. And as a result, I've spent my whole life trying unsuccessfully to argue with that landscape. (Putting that sentence out there makes me feel so vulnerable - I want to delete it. But allowing myself to be vulnerable and not sell the image that "I'm perfect!" is what will help me to start to alter my landscape, which I want to do with all of my heart and soul.)

I now have my own marked up copy of ITIWJM. I just finished it this morning. I've also been reading in tandem a library copy of The Gifts of Imperfection (another one I need to buy - I might as well start my own library of Brown's books.) Reading them together helped to explain and clarify questions I had about ITIWJM - many of the ideas carry over into The Gifts, reinforcing some of the harder concepts for me to apply.

Like Brené Brown says in the book, reading just one book on shame isn't going to solve my issues with shame and vulnerability. But I'm better armed to change my landscape because of the following:

  • I have knowledge of what to call the emotions I feel that cause me to want to control situations.
  • I can be better prepared for the situations that lead me to anguish over others' feelings about me.
  • I can better process and maybe understand the feelings that start debates in my head that tell me without mincing any words just how terrible I am and why. Maybe I can even head off these thoughts before they start.
  • I can identify what my shame triggers are and which screens I use internally and externally to throw others off of the scent of my vulnerability.
  • I can be more helpful to others when they are showing me their vulnerability. My go-to mode in these situation is to try to head off their pain and tell them that what they are saying isn't true because I don't want them to experience pain. A favorite quote - "can we be with her in her shame? Or do we feel the need to make it better or redirect the conversation? If we are willing to be open and present, we are willing to practice compassion." And also, "Compassion is not a relationship between the healer and the wounded. It's a relationship between equals." (that last quote is quoted in the book -  it was said by Pema Chödrön, an American Buddhist nun. Love, love that quote and I want to strive to use it in my life.)

If you see or talk to me in real life and I start spouting off these newfound truths, forgive me. Or maybe you can sit with me in my vulnerability and then let me sit with you. Or maybe I won't remember what I've learned and I'll try to fix you - forgive me again. If I get angry and go off on you about things that happened in the past or situations that I make me vulnerable because they show me an part of myself that I don't like - forgive me, I'm trying to change my old patters of shame screens and identities that I want to avoid. If you catch me quiet and scatter-brained because I've gotten stuck in my head again, forgive me and ask me what I'm feeling shameful about and then let me be vulnerable with you. If you respond in a way that doesn't address my vulnerability, I'll try (maybe unsuccessfully) to forgive you and realize that you are doing your best. If I give you a copy of a book to read or send you quotes I like - forgive me; just know I love you and want to share something that felt authentic in me and I sent it to you in the chance that it will feel authentic to you.

I'm planning to finish The Gifts of Imperfection and move on to Rising Strong.

Have you read any of these books? Is it just me? Do I sound completely crazy-pants? I'd love to have your comments.<3 br="">

Monday, February 29, 2016

Leap day snapshot

Because I am a huge copycat, I'm totally copying this post from Amy. And since Leap Day 2016 was a fabulous day (so far!) I'm excited to make a snapshot of today as well as highlight a few of the Leap Days in the past.

Leap Day 1988: I would have been at gymnastics. I was in 7th grade, and that was a terrible year for friends. I was just making friends with a girl named Amber, whose birthday party was the first week in March. Amy was competing in a meet in Sandy, and I missed the Friday night meet for the party. I had a cold and I was not planning on staying the night for the sleepover, but then decided to at the last minute. I can remember my sister Suzette taking me to Party City in Springville so I could pick out Amber's present since my mom was with Amy at the meet.

Leap Day 1992: I was a junior in high school. After a terrible fall, things were a bit better with my friends. I'm pretty sure I smoked my first cigarette in February 1992. What a lovely thing to remember. I was dating a guy from Pleasant Grove that I had met at the Palace Dance club in Provo, Utah. In March, I would dump him and start dating a guy named Daron from West Jordan.

Leap Day 1996: I was at school at Virginia Tech. On Leap Day, I did a performance with my dance group and another dance group at the school named Ujima. I danced in a piece that had been choreographed by a girl with scoliosis so there were no bends in the upper part of the spine, which I thought was really cool.

Leap Day 2000: I had just moved in to my first house the month before. I was working at my same job, and we were on the fourth floor of Eagle Gate in downtown Salt Lake. I sat in an arrangement that we called the Quad and I had three coworkers who sat within feet of me and heard every word I said.

Leap Day 2004: I was training for a marathon that I would do in April. Thomas was 2.5. We had just bought our Nissan Xterra (which we just sold last summer.) Shane and I carpooled to work every day together. I was waiting for the marathon to come so that I could get pregnant with Ben. I read the Time Traveler's Wife for the first time.

Leap Day 2008: Thomas was 6.5, Ben was 3. I still lived across the street from my friend Shelly, and we spent every weekend with our BFFs the Bells. I would have been working at year-end processing at work, just like I've done every February. My dad was still living at home, and I went down a few Thursdays a month to spend the afternoon with him. It was the first year I did SDBBE and I was reading How to Be Good, my friend Isabel's book.

Leap Day 2012: We were living in our current house for almost 2 years. Thomas was 10.5 and Ben was 7. Shane was working at a company down the street - he would change to his current job in 2 months. I was at my job, and we were still in our old building while most of the company was in our current location. Mel and John still lived in Utah, and my dad had been dead for 6 months. I was reading The Dive from Clausen's Pier for SDBBE.

Right now in 2016, we are:

  • We are loving snowshoeing. I'm sort of obsessed with it, actually. We've gone twice in two weeks. This week was our longest one yet. There is only one section of the trails at Solitude resort that we haven't gone on, which makes me feel a bit excited and proud. 
  • Ben just finished indoor soccer. It was an adventure. He had a lot of fun playing with one of his besties, Weston, and the rest of his team. They were sort of ragtag, but that makes even more fond of them for some reason. 
  • Thomas is plugging away at ninth grade. He went to his first region church dance about a week ago. He had so much fun, which made me so happy. I remember going to dances at his age and having the time of my life. He loves to play his Xbox, and spends a lot of Friday and Saturday nights on it with his friends in the basement. I'm pretty proud of the kid he is becoming.
  • Shane is finding himself a little nostalgic for doing household improvements. After spending two years with more than enough projects to do in the basement, it's weird for him to come home on Friday night and not have hours worth of work ahead of him. He's going to build a door for the utility room downstairs (we are jumping on the barn door bandwagon!) so he's got an opportunity to pull out his tool belt soon.
  • I'm trying to figure out this whole being 40 thing. I realized last month that I have choices. I might not be able to control what happens, but I can control how I react to things. I want to take more opportunities to do things I am interested in. Embrace and act are my two words for the year. I'm rereading Time Traveler's Wife and Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.
Today I: went to work. Had a lovely Gandolfo's turkey avocado sandwich at my desk. Ran on the trail wearing my favorite running tights and new running shirt. Almost finished a project I've been working on for over a month. Picked Ben up from school for the first time since the first of February when he went off track. Did a  five minute workout on Youtube. Left my phone at work. Made chicken bowls for dinner and ate a Rice Krispy treat for dessert.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Happy making: wool socks edition

Lest it sound like my whole life is doom and gloom, I want to put it out there that there are things making me happy these days. I need to complain about anxiety every now and then, and I want to document things I notice so that I am armed for the future, but it isn’t the whole story lately.
So what things have made me happy lately? Let me count the ways.

Wool socks. Oh my gosh, I forgot this when I first posted this. How could I forget though? I went hiking in October with my sweet mother-in-law and she brought me a new pair of wool socks. I looked forward to wearing those socks every week, and so on the day after Christmas, I bought a four pack of the very best socks in the world: Merino wool socks from Costco. I have worn fluffy, warm, beautiful wool socks all winter since. And, I just bought another 4 pack last Friday. I'm sort of a sock slut. But I have no shame in that. No, none at all.

Running. Can I just tell you (again!) how much I love winter running? I am going to. I love the cold air. I love getting warm and sweaty at the same time as my face is delightfully cool. I love running fast in the winter. I even love my treadmill these days. I’ve been doing some different kinds of workouts thanks to the inspiration of taking an Orange Theory fitness class last month. At Orange Theory, they hook up you with a heart rate monitor for the entire workout, which consist of 23 minutes of cardio and 23 minutes of strength. All you have to do is follow the workout plan as set forth by the instructor while trying to keep your heartrate monitor color in the orange or red sections. These are the anaerobic thresholds that, once reached, can help burn calories after the workout has ended. I discovered in the class just how much I love working in the green section – the one right before orange & red. Why? Because I’m not out of breath as much in the green. After the class, I decided I could get myself in the orange by doing pick-ups of 1 or 2 minutes at a faster pace during my runs. I feel like it’s helping. I’m also getting back to doing some high intensity interval training on run days and cross train days. I haven’t done much strength training in the past few months, and I’m can tell that I need it.

Running clothes. I count this in a completely different category than running! I got a running skirt and long running tights for Christmas that make me so happy. Shane also gave me an awesome running jacket that I never would have bought for myself but absolutely love. It is perfect for an outdoor run and keeps me so warm I barely notice the wind and cold. Plus it has a cozy soft inner lining that is bright pink. I love running in pink.

Eating Lindor balls. Shane brought home a giant gift bag of assorted Lindor balls right before Christmas. How had I not discovered their particular brand of deliciousness??!! My faves are the light and dark blue, red, and black. I’ve since bought 2 more bags, and Shane also scared up another partial bag from work that have fed my addiction nicely.

Sewing. As one of my ways of coping with anxiety, I started sewing at night. I had started a Christmas tree skirt 2 Christmases ago that had tons of hand stitching. I spent many nights sewing on that and finished it right before I decorated. I then decided to make table runners as gifts. These were fun projects that forced me to finish the items I was working on, thus helping me get better at quilting and binding. I even tried my hand at free-form quilting, something I had never done before but now adore. In the midst of it, I found an awesome sewing machine that I ended up getting for Christmas. Sewing is so fun now, and I feel like I can do things I couldn’t do with my old machine. I have a few other projects in the works, which is exciting.

I have made three of these as gifts...we'll see if I ever finish the one I  started for myself.

Christmas tree skirt

Finishing our basement. Back before I went to Italy, Shane started working on finishing our basement. It took 2 loooonng years to finish. We used electricians, plumbers, and heating and air professionals early on to finish those jobs, but the rest was done by Shane. After spending all spring and summer sheet rocking, we saved up and had pros do the mudding and taping in the fall (I will forever be grateful for them! They did such a great job at helping our walls look good.) We also had a guy do the tile in the shower and bathroom floor. The boys helped us paint, which was pretty fun. We just got carpet 2 weeks ago. We finished it with all the same paint, doors, and trim so that it matches the upstairs. It’s so exciting to have it all done.

Reading. I’ve finished a couple of books lately, and started a few that I may or may not finish but still enjoyed. My favorites were The All Girls Filling Station’s Last Reunion by Fannie Flagg and The Lake House by Kate Morton. My least favorite was The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood…I didn’t finish it, but I may, eventually. I’m reading The Library at Mount Char currently.

My family. We’ve had some really fun times at home lately, watching The Office reruns (because Thomas, at 14, decided he wanted to watch the series again now that he “gets more of the jokes.” Teenagers. I just cringe!) and our TV watching staple Modern Family. Shane and I had a really fun and casual anniversary dinner together (we were both filthy, having worked in the basement all day cleaning and then went to a late soccer game for Ben – seriously, the game started at 5:40 in the evening. The opportunity to go out sort of just evolved out of a very nice offer of Ben’s friend’s parents who were also at the game.) Shane and I had some very important conversations and started to understand a few things about ourselves and about each other that can help make things smoother. I’ve enjoyed watching Ben’s soccer team get clobbered each week by the club teams he’s playing during indoor soccer. We are like the ragtag team from the wrong side of the tracks with our cotton t-shirts and mismatched shorts, but the kids are learning a lot and getting better thanks to playing teams that have played for years together in indoor and outdoor soccer.  

Meeting someone again that I haven’t seen in over 25 years. It was something I had dreamed and hoped for and am so very grateful happened.

Knick knacks from my mom’s house. While helping her pack, I brought home a few items that have made me so happy. I got a painting that my grandpa painted. I also got a milk glass bowl that was my mom’s moms, and a pitcher with cups that was my dad’s moms. I didn’t bring home a lot of stuff, but what I did get, I really love and am trying to incorporate into my house instead of just shoving them into a cabinet somewhere to never see the light of day. I also brought home a giant secretary that I still have sitting in my garage. The thing is massive, almost 7 feet tall. I want to put it in my basement, but I don’t know if it can fit and haven’t convinced anyone to pick it up and attempt to take it down the stairs. (If any of you local readers have a moving-company hookup that would do a house call and tell me if it will fit or not, I might just love you forever.)

So what is making you happy lately? I want to know.