Saturday, January 31, 2009

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A friend of mine, and former co-worker, called me last night to inform me of a position opening up at her school. It's as a kindergarten teacher in a private, year-round setting. Basically it is exactly what I do now, only the kids are a year older, the pay is a little better, the hours are way better, and the co-workers have a better reputation.
Take it, Nancy, Take it! Jump on the opportunity!!!
It is a pretty high compliment to receive a phone call like that. Not only does it indicate that people want to work with me (a thing I have not been feeling lately) but it indicates that someone who really knows my style thinks that I am good a what I do (another thing that I have not been feeling lately.)
So what are you waiting for? Why aren't you using this post to tell us that you have a new job?
I considered it. And then I had a sudden thought. If I really wanted it, then why did I have to take the time to consider it? Clearly it is a better situation than the one I am in now. So why the excuse "let me think about it" instead of "yes, yes, yes!"? So I pictured myself at this new opportunity. I pictured the kids and the classes and the lessons and the good times with co-workers and the better hours and I realized something. I realized something great and terrible and earth shattering and frightening and humbling and soul-rending and ....
I don't want to be a teacher when I grow up.
And here I am, a grown up, and a teacher.
It's not just that I resent cutting things out and sounding out words and training meetings about creative ways to arrange your furniture and teaching morals instead of structure and arithmatic and coming home at the end of the day covered in blue glitter. I do resent those things. But even more than that, I resent the entire education system. I resent the parents that do so little for their children, they force public and private school teachers to teach social skills instead of academics. And since we spend all of our time trying to teach their child that yelling, whining, and slaps across the face are not effective forms of communication, we have to rely on the parents to teach the kid how to write his name. It's all I can do, at the end of the day, to stop myself from speaking my mind. I make myself look incredibly busy so that I don't actually say to a parent "If you and your spouse communicate with each other the way you have taught your child to communicate with the world around him, then I recomend either a marriage counselor or a divorce lawyer, before it affects this child any more than it already has."

And yet, the day I actually speak up, it could do more good for the kid than my attempting to counterract his parent's behavior already does. If only I could speak up and keep my job.

But it's not even limited to the education system that has me hesitating. Teaching is exhausting. I've worked the desk job. I spent days reconciling accounts in the millions of dollars and searching for the single missing penny. My eyes have hurt at the end of the day from staring at the computer screen, my brain has been so wearied of running numbers that the numbers continue to dance and mock me in my dreams. But those things weere nothing compared to the utter exhaustion at the end of a day of teaching. It is physical exhaustion, with aching feet and whiplash from constantly scanning the area for stray children and getting up and down off the floor and running and chasing and rescuing and dragging. It is mental exhaustion, from trying to come up with answers to ridiculous questions like "why do otters swim" to trying to figure out what 5 books to fit with the theme "solar system" for next weeks lesson plans. All without the aid of internet (can't access it while there are kids in the classroom, parents don't approve) or decent resources (like teachers or schools can afford any of the books out there that are published by other underpaid teachers hoping to earn an extra buck). Most of all, it is emotionally exhausting. Anyone who has ever been on stage might understand this. As a teacher you are playing a role, for 8 hours, pretending to be someone that is pretty close to yourself, but closed off to the parts of yourself that might be the slightest bit selfish. You maintain a character for 8 hours that is always happy, always ready to listen, always interested in the most minute details, always offering the most positive spin on a situation, always vigilant of everyone else's feelings and above all else, always always always has that cheerful edge to her voice. You know how exhausting it is to wait for the kid with the stutter to finally tell you that they have a teddy bear at home? Now imagine that it's friday afternoon, you've listened to it for 39 hours this week, and he has to tell you the exact same phrase for the nine hundred and fortysecond time, and you had better listen and respond, or he will grab your face and start over again. Now do it with a smile. Go on. Most of us get bored when our friends try to tell us a story they've told us once before. Now imagine that the story has no plot and no punch line and no bearing on your life whatsoever, and listen to it 83 times with a smile on your face. Even the cutest kids are only cute the first 42 times.

It doesn't matter how much you pay a teacher, they are always underpaid. And by the time the weekend rolls around all you really want to do is talk about yourself for a few hours and maybe make a few mildly inappropriate jokes and then have a grown up conversation that has absolutely nothing to do with children. It could be about taxes or movies or religion or politics, it doesn't matter, as long as no one is asking you which private school they should dump their child at next year. And yet, it could be about taxes or movies or religion or politics and you would find that the teacher in you has an opinion about it that will be expressed, and you will be the one that brings the conversation back to kids because in fact they are your passion and you really do care which private school they end up at next year.
And you are underpaid but you go back and teach anyways, because you are good at it and because "it is its own reward". Whatever that means.
Wait, I'm confused. If you want to teach, then teach.
No! I don't want to teach! It's exhausting to care that much.
Then don't teach. Do something else.
Teaching is the only profession I really know I am good at.
Well, learn a new skill, take a few risks. You have no responsibilities but yourself. Surely as one of the lucky you can afford to go back to school and do something new.
It's not that easy. I'm a teacher, I can't just throw money at school hoping to find out what I really want to do, and I don't know what else I can do. Or might want to do. Or even try.
Well, what did you want to do as a kid?
As a kid, I wanted to do 3 things when I grew up.
I wanted to go to BYU.
I wanted to be a missionary.
I wanted to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.
Still to come, but that's not a job. Weren't there any jobs you wanted?
Yes. I wanted to be a teacher.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some things you might not know.

I was a synchronized swimmer. That's right. And I am sort of proud of that. But how often does that come up in day to day conversation? Especially in my circles of friends, where if we do discuss sports, it's merely a passing reference to a college football game. It's not like I can say "Hey! So speaking of college football, the only organized sports I have ever participated in were baton twirling and synchronized swimming."

Yeah, that will stop a conversation dead in its track. Besides, the baton twirling was as a 7 year old (my team was called the Bonnie Blue Bells) and I'm not sure that it counts. But the synchronized swimming, I was on the team at Northview Junior High, and I would have continued with it had we not moved to a town that not only lacked a synchronized swimming team, it lacked a pool entirely. The routines I performed included (among others) something to the theme of Top Gun (it was very big in 1988) and Wipeout and for the grand finale, we turned off the lights in the aquatic center and did "Candle on the Water" with candles. Lit candles, that we had to keep lit. You know the song, don't pretend that you don't. It was the "romantic" song that the lady on Pete's Dragon sang as she maintained the lighthouse for her lost at sea boyfriend.

I was in a lot of dance as a kid. There was tap and ballet as well. We did the classic "Good Ship Lollipop" routine (shuffle step, shuffle hop, flap flap flap flap) and we did a ballet number to the song "Maybe" from Annie. It was only natural that I continue my dance experience with cheerleading camp (including a routine to "Ghostbusters"- I ain't afraid of no ghost) and with it then came the ribbon dancing (Hey, it's an olympic sport that is just never shown on American TV because the Chinese dominate it.) And you might not know it, but dance comes in handy in synchronized swimming as well since every routine must begin with a "deck portion" before the swimmers come up with a creative way to enter the water. If only we could incorporate ribbons and batons.

So yes, folks, I do have rhythm. Enough so that when I decided to start doing theatre again, a few years back, I nailed the dance section of the audition, and I enjoyed seeing the utter shock on the directors face when I did it. They were not expecting that. I am by no means skilled enough to put it on a resume, but teach me a routine and I can remember it and keep up with the team and even tteach it to newcomers. I even know what a "pas de bouree" is. Do you know what a "pas de bouree" is?

Unfortunately there are a lot of useful things that we don't get to put on our resumes. Things that we really might want to share with people, or at least that might come in handy in a job interview. Even for the most serious jobs, we might benefit from putting a few of the seemingly useless skills and experiences we aquire through the years. If nothing else, they serve to introduce you to the boss as a real human being. Not to mention, I have worked in corporate America, and I know that there are alot of "team building" activities and "synergy driven" gimmicks which require such unusual skills. Let's face it, some of those stimulus package funds are probably going to be shuffled to HR, where a well meaning corporate positivity coordinator is going to use them to provide their under-employed and generally blase employees with a contest for remembering the customer service points. And every supervisor is going to hope and pray that somewhere in their pool of underpaid operations specialists they have hired at least one individual who knows how to do a "pas de bouree". Or who can turn a Backstreet Boys song into a cusomer service jingle. I got employee of the month for that one.

So in the spirit of touching up my resume, here are a few things that I can't include, but I would like to:

  • Synchronized Swimming- My candle was still lit at the end of that number.
  • Pets-My dad is allergic to house cats, so we had a bird and some fish, and for a very brief time we cared for a baby African Lion on loan from the Great Cats zoo- it was dying and the keeper who was a friend of my dad's was caring for the rest of the litter. He let us have it to try to help save it. I held it, and I petted it. But it died.
  • I would love to volunteer at the company blood drive. I will hand out cookies and juice to the faint, but I can't give blood. If you read the fine print, it says that anyone who lived in Western Europe for more than 6 months between 1996 and 2000 was exposed to un-regulated beef and mad cow disease. So I'm keeping a close eye on that.
  • I am fascinated by the Krebs cycle. I don't remember a whole lot of Microbiology, and I am lousy at chemistry, but I could recite the mitochondrial process to you and talk for hours about the miracle of starting with 3 molecules of Adenosine Tri-Phosphate and ending up with 17.
  • I am incapable of wearing fingernail polish. I smudge it and then pick at it and eventually peel it all off. Maybe it's a sensory issue, because I can't even stand the feeling of wearing the clear stuff.
  • I own tap shoes, jazz shoes, character shoes, organ shoes, and ballet slippers. No toe shoes though, I never quite got that far. If you would like a demonstration of a routine fitted to any of these shoes, please let me know before the interview and I will come prepared with the shoes and appropriate clothing. (no unitards, I promise)
  • I can still play my high school fight song on the flute. I can also play the high school fight songs for every school in the Northern Minnesota Section. Most high schools don't vary from a select 8 tunes, so I can probably play your high school fight song on the flute. Would you like to hear it? You'll have to sing it for me so I know which one...
  • I am in fact ticklish in one spot. It's not hard to find or weird in any way, but only two friends have ever dared approach me in that manner, and they have me under their power when they choose to use it against me. They are good friends, they won't tell you where it is. Now that I know it can be discovered and used against me, I have much more self-control.

Don't you see how much more fun a resume could be if we filled them with the things that really matter? It really is just like the Little Prince taught me:

Grown-ups like numbers. When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters. They never ask: "What does his voice sound like?" "What games does he like best?" "Does he collect butterflies?". They ask: "How old is he?" "How many brothers does he have?" "How much does he weigh?" "How much money does his father make?" Only then do they think they know him If you tell grown-ups, "I saw a beautiful red brick house, with geraniums at the windows and doves on the roof...," they won't be able to imagine such a house. You have to tell them, "I saw a house worth a hundred thousand francs." Then they exclaim, "What a pretty house!"

~Antoine de Saint Exupery, The Little Prince

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Do you remember?

Hey, wanna hear my all-time favorite quote from a book?
"If you take a book with you on a journey, odd thing happens: The book begins collecting your memories. And forever after you have only to open that book to be back where you first read it. It will all come into your mind with the very first words: the sights you saw in that place, what it smelled like, the ice cream you ate while you were reading it...yes, books are like flypaper--memories cling to the printed page better than anything else." — Cornelia Funke (Inkheart)

Inkheart is pretty much exactly my kind of literature. Yes, it's a fantasy novel, and I do enjoy some fantasy (although definitely not all fantasy, since much of it is badly written, in fact the only fantasy I actually enjoy is Tolkien, Rowling, and now Funke) but more than it being fantasy, it is written for a younger audience (12-16) and it is really really really well written. I mean really. Well, look at the quote. It is, in fact so well written, that the author actually succeeded in writing a book about the significance of books, about characters that are so well written they actually come to life, and about a family that loves literature so much they actually lose themselves in it. (And may I insert my plug here, there is no way the movie could have captured the brilliance of the writing, so just read the book.)

But this post is not about book recommendations. It's about memories which cling to things. Memories do cling to books, they also cling to smells and music and even certain pains.

An example: This evening as I was driving home from work I hit the scan button on my car radio and heard the intro to the song "All That She Wants is Another Baby". It didn't matter how quickly the radio kept scanning past the song, I was already taken back. Suddenly my mind was in the passenger seat of the Milne's van, driving up to youth conference in Winnepeg. Jenny was insisting that we listen to her new cassette, and so for two and a half hours we listened to Ace of Base. Do you remember that album? No doubt the song is already running through your mind. I am pretty sure the entire album only had 4 songs on it, two of them sounding identical to two others, making one mass of 90's Euro Techno beat and whining female vocals about... what were those songs about? Doesn't matter, my mind had already moved on. That was the conference during which the family with whom Jenny and I were staying locked us out the night of the dance because we weren't in by 9 pm. We stood outside their door knocking and ringing for 45 minutes, in February in Manitoba. Do you know what it's like in February in Manitoba? The next morning we had to go to the testimony meeting they always hold for the youth after such a conference, and everyone was crying and talking about how they were suddenly going to start being nice to their parents and stop smoking pot. I used to always wonder what was wrong with me in those meetings. And then we were on our way back south, to balmy Northern Minnesota, and Jenny started to put her Ace of Base cassette back in, but I played the "Sunday Spiritual" card, and our youth leader mediated by choosing the country music station. Never have I been so relieved to listen to country music.

The other day I made myself some blueberry muffins. I splurged on a mix, the kind with the can of real blueberries seperate from the mix powder. As soon as I opened up the can I was back at my apartment at Univeristy of Minnesota. I forgot how I practically lived off of blueberry muffins when I was there. Not because I couldn't make anything else, and on my scholarship and stipend I could certainly afford to eat more than muffins. But I didn't want to. For the first time in my life I could eat blueberry muffins without having to share them with anyone. It's the small luxuries that I love about my selfish lifestyle.

Today another memory has been flooding back into my mind. You see, I have lousy knees. It's not just that I can't run, or that occasionally they swell up, its that when I try to run they actually give out (even when I was at my skinniest, they just sort of fold underneath me), and when they do swell up, the swelling travels all the way to my ankles, and I can barely even walk. Like today. And with the pain comes memories or where I was and what I was doing when I felt the pain previously. There was a day on my mission that the pain was pretty intense and my companion and I were running for a train to zone conference, and I pushed my running pretty hard in order to make that train, and I paid for it for the next 3 days. Or there was the time that it acted up the day of a concert, while I was at BYU. And I mistakenly went to the Health Center, and they told me I was going to die of a blood clot, so I went to the hospital and they told me it was a cyst, and it would go away. I made it to the concert that night, but as one of the "Amazon Women of the back row" (that's right, I'm one of the tall girls) I was still in enough pain that I fell off the steps. Yup. I'm one of those as well. And then, most vivid of all, was the time my knee rebelled against me while my sister's ex-step-father-in-law was in town. (That's right, do the math on that) He was a Chiropractor. I mean was as in his lisence was revoked at some point for a number of reasons, including just being weird. But he insisted that he could help my knee, because after all the knee is a joint, and so is your back. Or at least, it all has something to do with bones and cartilage and ligaments, right? And so I laid down and he poked and prodded at my knee, and his determination was that I needed (kneeded?) an aura adjustment. That's right. My knee problems were related to other stresses in my life and all he had to do was adjust my aura. He rubbed his hands together karate kid style, and then carefully hovered them over my knee, sending his healthy aura build up into my unhealthy knee aura, the whole time speaking in a calming voice, asking me to think about the things in my life that were causing me stress, and telling me to "slowly spell the words out in your mind" Well. I can tell you exactly what was causing me stress at that moment in my life. I just didn't know if he spelled his name with a "C" or a "K". He finished adjusting my aura, and I raved about how much better I already felt, lest he feel the need to adjust anything else. It is quite possibble that my knee problems are realted to other stresses in my life. After all, the concert was towards the nd of the semester and I was prepping for finals, and the zone conference was the one when we had to tell the mission president what the elders were really doing with their time. I could even pinpoint a few stresses in my life now that might manifest themselves as knee pain. But I highly doubt that the cure is to be found in aura adjustments. I'm just saying.

So now I am wondering what other memories could be drudged up from pains and scents and songs. What about the memories I want, the important memories? Is there a trigger that would help me remember college algebra? I used to be really good at that, now I can't remember how to multiply sqare roots. Is there some key that will remind me where I put that last box of clothes when I moved three years ago? Most of all, I need to know which scent or scar or song will remind me what is was like to spend a minute without a care in the world. Where my biggest concern was finding enough dandelions to play "flower fairies" and hoping that there would still be a swing free at recess. Do you remember? Can you help me remember?

Monday, January 26, 2009


Sometimes, you just have to indulge yourself. OK, some of us give in to indulgences more than others. Some of those indulgences may not be so healthy (Cold Stone, Cafe Rio, Watching 'Scrubs' for 8 hours solid while eating Cold Stone and Cafe Rio). Other indulgences are a little more healthy, albeit, not entirely recommended (Driving for 6 hours in order to calm down, blogging about frustrating work situations, tickling your little sister until you both soil yourselves a little from laughing that hard). And some indulgences are necessities, designed entirely to curb other potentially destructive habits and offer sanity, peace of mind, zen, or whatever you want to call it. (I might consider the day of 'Scrubs' to fit in this category also, but that is another story.) An example of one of my indulgences that is entirely healthy is perhaps the fact that I cut my hair when I am feeling particularly unsettled about life. I purposefully let it grow long the rest of my days, in preparation for that moment when I just can take it anymore, call up a hairstylist, and give them permission to "use their most tasteful discretion and lose at least 4 inches". I generally include in that a new hair color, sometimes extreme, and at least one new item of clothing. It's not a big spending thing, its spending that I have needed to do, I just put it off until I need it emotionally as well as fashionably. But these days come once every year or two. (In college they came during finals weeks.) I have another indulgence which is healthy and affects my life every day. I indulge in order to curb other obsessive tendancies I may have. Sure I stil have to compulsively fold every blanket in sight, and you should see me when there are crumbs on a table or countertop. But my need for sorting and organizing my thoughts is so intense and distracting that I would be incapable of human interaction without my journal indulgence. That's right, I said journal.

I can hear your questions now. "How can you qualify something like journaling as an indulgence?"

I'm sure that there are many out there that don't even take the time to do it. You know, write down thoughts, events for the day, significant moments, whatever. There are those who have such embarassing experiences re-reading past journals (from, say, around their junior high years) that they refuse to play part in creating more drivel. There are even people who make it their new years resolution, to write regularly, and they would be jealous of the collection I have amassed. But to them, I say that I am jealous of the freedom in their lives. To be able to function without writing, to be able to make decisions without the analyses, oh how gloriously empty and light my purse would be were I not saddled with the three books.

That's right. I said "Three." As in uno, dos , TRES. Ichi, Ni, SAN. Un, deux, TROIS. Don't you believe me? Take a look:

The Pink one is full of lists. Dated. To do lists, grocery lists, bills and financial plan lists, budgets, thank you notes to write, people to call, letters to send, things to pack, clothing to wash, gas mileage, potential quilts for wedding gifts, lists. Lists tell you alot about a person. They tell me a lot about my frame of mind on the day I wrote the list. They record things that might not make it into another journal. And I think that someday my sisters' grandchildren will be fascinated to see the list of things I considered giving them for their birthday or Christmas is 2009. Maybe they won't be, but if they are, it is all written down in the pink book I got from the dollar aisle at Target last fall.

The purple one is for the day to day events, the mindless little details about how my time is spent. One entry says simply "So frustrated with work today" Today it says "I am going to work cheerfully today. Will it help? Also. Laundry. And blueberry muffins." Sometimes Iuse it to record a single phrase or realization for the day, a lesson learned that I can't elaborate on yet. For example, one day I wrote "It is not a betrayal of frendship or trust to love someone, even if you are loving them more than they want you to. It only becomes betrayal if you allow your love to create expectations, no matter if you love them more or less than they want you to." See how descriptive of my day that one phrase was! The journal was a gift from someone that was concerned it would be too girly for me. Brit, you have no idea how much I use things like this. Plus, it is full of quotes and random ideas that are sometimes frighteningly timely. I was flipping through on my lunch break today, and I found this quote: "One is not only to endure - but to endure well and gracefully those things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon us" -Neal A. Maxwell. See what I mean? Timely. It is much easier to write in your journal every day if you know you only have to write a phrase or two.

Finally, Journal number three, the one with the adorable buttons and chocolate brown theme, is for my actual thoughts. This is more than the single phrase or two that pop into my mind and guide my day. This is the book in which I record what I learned from following that philosophy for a day, or a week, or however long it takes to learn something from it. This is the book that you are under no circumstances allowed to read. Not that it contains scandalous or mean or embarassing information. It contains my thoughts that are still being processed. It contains all of the unresolved lessons, all of the chastisement I have yet to process, all of the changes I am making in me. And it will not be complete until I am. I am not hiding my imperfections out of pride (I don't think) but I am hiding my failures and frustrations from those that they would hurt, until a moment of resolution comes, and that process is complete. You know how the learning process can actually be offensive until you put a summary on it? It's like in music, where you absolutely must have dischord in order to experience a resolution. Music is no fun if the harmonies constantly agree and the suspensions never suspend. At the same time, if you present only the moments of dischord or irresolution when sharing, you will leave a bad taste in everyone's mouth. But when you know that resolution is coming, the dischord has a purpose and the suspesion becomes delicious. That's the brown journal. It's the suspension. I promise you can read it after I die. Hopefully by then a few of these issues will be resolved. But I warn you, it will take a very very very long time.
You see why I need three? I have to sort things! Lists do not belong with deep thoughts! But they are both so important! And so I use three books. Good luck to any posterity that want to sort throught the mess.

Finally, lest you think that I am an unprepared sort of person, I have to admit to another indulgence. This one may be less healthy. But it comes with the journaling thing. I love to buy journals. Especially if I see one that jumps out at me. Every store I go in, I visit the journal section and browse a little. I choose one that I love and carry it around the store while I debate whether or not I should get it. Usually I do. I mean, what if they suddenly stop making fun journals? And my thoughts are so much better when they are written in a nice looking book.

Like one of these:
Yes, these are just a few of the blank journals I have stored up, awaiting their turn to hold my lists, my days, and my thoughts. But can you blame me? I am rarely able to resist anything with an Eiffel Tower on it. All any marketing person has to do is make something say "Paris" and they earn my money. I used to try to make them uniform, size and binding, even colors. But then I realized, the book I choose to write in is as much an expression of what my life is like as what I write in it. It's like the background of a photo. Do you ever carefully examine the background before you crop something? Sometimes, the most significant details are a little out of focus, or just peeking out from behind the subject matter.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Things that I am good at.

Do you ever have a day when you just need to be good at something? We spend so much of our lives learning and improving and trying to convince ourselves that correction is a blessing and "pursuing excellence" and with all of that comes a constant sense of inferiority. We set improvement as a goal and then we can never attain an end to the goal because no matter how good you get at something, improvement is always possible. Why can't we ever stop and allow ourselves a moment of saying "I am good at something"? It's not like I am not going to continue to pursue excellence. I am just going to stop guilting myself into thinking that life holds less joy because I have not become a better basket weaver. The world doesn't always need a basket weaver. Add to that the expectations of ourselves and those around us, which are most often completely unreasonable, and all they serve to do is diminish our own offering. Who am I to decide that giving of myself is not good enough, simply because myself is not improved yet?

Does this make any sense? I guess what I am trying to say is that it is easy to pervert a culture of constant self-improvement into a culture of shame and guilt. Complacency is bad, but self-loathing is worse. So here I am, having a hard time getting myself functioning for the day, and I have decided to give myself permission to be good at a few things. And I am going to try something new. I have not been tagged, but I want to start this as a tagging sort of chain. I know alot of people that need to allow themselves to be good at something. So I am tagging you. Brittany, Jessica, Stefany, Melissa, Jesse, Leona, Lucie, Carolanne, Emma, Talena, Susan, Chelsea, and Ally, and anyone else who reads and feels like they need to be good at a few things. I don't care if you post it on your blog (although it would be a fun read) or if you write it in one of your fabulous journals, or if you write it on the back of a piece of junk mail and promptly throw it away. Just write down ten things you are good at.

Here is a list of ten things I can do, and do fairly well. I keep them in the back of my brain at most times and when there are lousy moments, I comfort myself by knowing I am good at something. And when a day has been particularly lousy, I came home and do one or two of them.

1. Cooking. I can take a kitchen with a few random igredients and create a meal. It's a skill I learned in college. I don't think I've used a recipe to create a meal in at least ten years, but I love to browse cookbooks, look at a random set of ingredients and assemble a 3 course meal. Or at least a well rounded meal. If all else fails, I can throw together crepes in under 5 minutes and fill them with either sweet or savory, and it's the most comforting food in the world.

2. Along with cooking, I can bake. I can bake cakes and cookies and desserts to suit any taste. I prefer chocolate, but if you don't you should try any one of my pumpkin or apple or orange variations on a spice cake. And if you do like chocolate, let me introduce you to any number of my personally designed cookies, cookie bars, or pastries. Again, I don't follow recipes, but I can walk you through the process if you give me a call and list the ingredients in your kitchen.

3. Singing. I can't play piano well enough to help a ward choir, but I can sing. I am better as a voice in a choir than as a soloist, but I am very best when I am practicing. I loathe when people in church tell me what a nice job I did in choir, because I know that in most ward choirs, my voice sticks ot like a sore thumb. But at the same time, if nobody says anything, I wonder what I did wrong. How hypocritical is that? I always like it best when my sisters are aound, and people can't tell the difference between us, so they tell my sisters what a nice job they did, and my sisters are forced to accept the compliment graciously, then relay it to me. Don't know why I get so much pleasure out of that.

4. Reading and processing information. Don't think this is a strange thing. I have learned in my years of teaching that not everyone can process the things that they read. Some people are better when they hear it, some are better when they experience it, I am good at drawing the information out of a text. It's why I love poetry, there are so many layers of meaning and philosophies and lessons expressed where spoken word and lecture can never attain. I wish more people could understand the lessons in great poetry. I am one of those weirdos that has no problem with Isaiah and savors Old Testament imagery.

5. Teaching. I should break this down a little. There are teachers that are good at managing a classroom because they are charismatic and popular. That is not me. I won't even attempt the "entertainment" aspect of teaching. Just ask any of my seminary kids from last year. I don't do the gimmicks and the games very well. But I can take the information that I draw from my reading and I can discern which is pertinant to my class, be they 4 yrs old or 19, and I can convey it to a group. I understand that not all information is best conveyed through lecture,but I can ask good questions and I can lead people to the answers. And as far as my current job is concerned, I do have control over the room, they are learning, and they are the best behaved children this center has ever seen. They are polite and respectful to each other, as much as 4-yr olds can be.

6. As far as the entertaining thing goes, no I can't come up with the charisma or popularity to put into my teaching, but if you give me a story to read or a role to play, I can nail it. I would rather be a supporting role on stage, since they usually get stronger character moments (let's face it, the leading lady just has to be pretty and skinny enough to make you believe that the hero would fall in love with her) but the supporting characters get to scream and weep and go into hysterics and die, they get the comedic moments and the heart-breaking moments and the moments that are much more realistic than gazing lovingly into their true love's eyes as the chorus sings the finale.

7. Sewing. I can make quilts, I can make costumes, and I can make real clothes. In fact, the last several items of real clothes I have made were my own designs. That's right, I started with a pattern and then I altered it to be my own design. Not unlike my cooking. I am still improving on the sewing thing, I am by no means a designer. But give me a fabric that I love and I can turn it into something fit to wear to work, to church, or on stage. As far as my quilting goes, again, not perfect, but I have pretty good taste, and sitting in front of a sewing machine is soothing. I am not limited to machines, though. My needle work isn't shabby either. I won't win any contests, but I am good enough to find peace doing it.

8. Writing. It's only since I have started the blog that I have started to admit to it publicly, but my journals have always been therapeutic, and I have always known that enjoying something is an indication of some skill. I am terrible at actually sending letters to people, partly because I obsess over word choice, and partly because once they are out of my hands, I can't re-read and revise. But this whole internet thing is really good for me. I can send something off and still have a copy and I can even go back in and edit what I have sent until it expresses what I want to say. There are very few people to whom I actually send something before it has been revised a few times, but I am gradually learning to let go.

9. Dry humor, wit, or cynicism. I am pretty funny. I have to have good material to work with, but I can poke fun at just about any situation. Especially if it is a situation in which I have some experience. Music and theatre and children are my most frequent sources for autobiographical comic monologues. But I have been known to draw on other sources as well. Church culture and Minnesota-cisms are what I currently enjoy. I can do a few accents in order to enhance the experience. One of the voices in my head is "Funny Guy" who takes note of situations and narrates for me when I just need to laugh. You've met Funny Guy a few times on this blog. I like Funny Guy. One of my frustrations with work is that when I let Funny Guy speak up, they either look at me like I am completely serious or completely crazy. Whatever. It's not my fault that Funny Guy is smarter than them.

10. Seeing good in people. I am very good at giving people the benefit of the doubt. I am more often convinced that everyone else is right and I am wrong, which may not always be the best thing for me, but I would rather believe the best in the people around me, since I can not change them, only myself. This is actually a conscious choice I have made. You can try to offend me and you can try to accuse me and you can try to push me away, but if I have decided that you will be my friend, then I will continue to love you and accept your choices. I won't follow you around and cling. But as soon as you need, I will still love you and pray for you and listen to you. I am not talking about the benefit of the doubt in brains or beauty or talent. Those things are not what measure a person. I honestly believe that we are all doing the very best we can with the tools we've got. I do not think that there are than many people on the planet that are only out for themselves. And I simply cannot allow myself to approach any relationship with that attitude. I take very seriously the phrase "For with what judgement ye judge, ye shall be judged", and I know that any offenses I have caused will require much more love and forgiveness than I can offer, so I see no point in judging someone else harshly. Friendship is only the most valuable thing I have in this life, there is no reason to waste it with pettiness. The love of mankind is growing cold and dim, and each of us has a responsibility to combat that in our own relationships. It is a daily battle. I probably spend more energy on it than on anything else. It's not always an easy choice to make, but I won't ever refuse an offer of friendship. Even if it comes from someone that has aready hurt or refused me. I don't take loving people lightly. And I don't take love that is offered lightly either. It's the best gift any of us has to give.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Please oh please oh please

Can't I just stay in bed and not go to work today?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Work: An Explanation

I am still employed. Nothing happened today to encourage me out the door. At least, nothing out of the ordinary happened today. But just so you have some background on my previous post, I would like to give you a little run down of a few of my interactions at work. Please, feel free to laugh. I recognize the comedy in the situations I describe to you. I am not laughing yet, simply beacuse I am in the middle of it. But I guarantee that once I find a new job I will have a hearty laugh at the ridiculous-ness of the situation. I will snicker at the idea that grown women can act this way. I will even guffaw at the memory of the images being burned into my mind right now. But I will only begin to chuckle and chortle once the images are a memory.

As I sit typing this blog post, two very fascinating things are happening. The first is one that I shall describe to you in as much detail as I can stomach. My co-workers have decided to have a "Biggest Loser" weight loss challenge. I have never watched the show, but from what I gather from the commercials, it is about publicly humiliating overweight people into losing weight at an unhealthy pace. They are shamed into a "healthier" lifestyle by being forced to wear spandex on national television and fight with their loved ones about their eating habits in front of millions of viewers. If these are accurate descriptions, then my co-workers have indeed hit the proverbial nail on the head. During their lunch hour each day, they push the furniture in our lobby out of the way and turn on an excercise tape associated with the show. They run off and change into their spandex and track pants and tank tops and sports bras and begin bouncing around for their forty five minute boob-tube inspired fitness challenge. I should note here that our lobby is in fact a true lobby. It is at the entrance to the center. It is the receiving area for tours of potential clients and parents with children and corporate visits and liscensing and, well the list goes on. The fact that they refer to it as the "multi-purpose room" does not lessen the publicity of its location. I wondered when they began this process if they wouldn't be deterred by the potential for exposure that they were inflicting upon themselves. Several times now I have seen people come through the lobby only to have to step around the weights and bodies strewn about. THey have not been deterred in the least. On my own lunch break I have to dodge various limbs, flailing about during the aerobic portion of their tape, just to get out the door. Skinny or not (most of them are not) I do not have any desire to be knocked in the face by arms or legs while I am trying to escape. Add to my irritation that they are doing this during our lunch breaks, or in other words, naptime for the kids. Every classroom is just off from the lobby. They are bouncing around and hollerin at each other over the generic excercise beat while I am trying to convince 20 kindergarteners to sleep. Not helpful. Not professional. Not classy. Not respectful, to themselves or to the people around them. I could go on.

But while I am sitting here typing, another thing happened. I just recieved an email from corporate. It is the announcement that we once again made Fortune 500's list of the top 100 companies to work for. I don't entirely disagree, since the center I worked for in Minnesota was one of the two best jobs I have ever had in my life. But in this case, I was reading the email announcement just as my boss, the center director, flopped past my doorway, laughing that loud laugh that you generally only hear in bars, and yelling into my roomful of sleeping children, that I had better join them today on my break or I would be the fattest person there. Fattest maybe, trashiest, not even close. It took every ounce or restraint to not push the reply button and send off a chain of profanities and opinions that would not only make most preschool teachers blush, they would have taken care of my desire to walk out.

Please do not think I am being nit-picky about this whole thing. Remember how these are the same people that were worried about me cleaning the chairs? It was a while back, but I posted about how I had to stop cleaning chairs because it was unprofessional to be seen doing menial tasks when children were present. Can we talk about professionalism now? Or how about the time that my class was quietly walking out the door to recess when Boss decided to stop them and teach them "the sprinkler", "the lawn mower" and "the shopping cart". They got noisy, the teachers from the baby room came out and shushed us, I asked boss to stop disrupting my class, and she laughed at me and said "Like you had any classroom control". Let's talk about professionalism now. Let's talk about openly mocking your employee in front of 20 pre-schoolers. Let's talk about how she hasn't spent enough time in my classroom to know just how much control I have. Let alone the fact that she assumed I hadn't already taught them those dances. What kind of a slacker do you take me for? Not only can I singlehandedly manage a room of 75 kindergarteners, I can teach them a broadway number while I do it. You think these 20 kids can't groove? Spend 3 minutes in my class and watch them perform any one of the 4 musical numbers I have taught them, along with reading writing and 'rithmatic.

The thing is, just a few days ago I was coming back from my lunch break about 10 minutes early, when I was greeted at the door by 3 Admin staff. Director, Assistant Director, and Lead Teacher. As soon as they caught sight of me, Boss said "There she is, It took you long enough. You didn't clock in or out. So we have been waiting for you." I informed her that since the computer wasn't working, I had followed policy and written my in and out times on the time sheet next to the computer. "No you didn't, I checked there and entered everyone who came in while the computer was down"
I reached over to the desk, handed her the sheet and walked back to the break room.

At first I thought perhaps I was wrong about the chairs. And then I wondered if I was being too sensitive about the "class disruption" incident. I kept telling myself "maybe they are joking or making an effort to be my friend" in regards to the ridiculous aerobic efforts. "Maybe," I think to myself, "they are just that clueless about the way their behavior affects the people around them."

But then Monday happened. Yes, Monday when the rest of the nation had a day off and I was supposed to be in California. Monday when they required me to be present for a training meeting in which we would take care of "important housekeeping issues" for 8 hours. Monday, they wasted my entire day. They decided to spend the first two hours of the day reading an agenda for the rest of the day. Next we split into groups to work in our classrooms. My group is the lead team and each member of my group was assigned to assist a different group, except for me. My assignement was to move furniture so the carpet cleaners could come. Which I did. It took me 25 minutes, and I still had an hour and a half to fill. Eventually, it became time for us to meet up again, this time to renew our CPR certification. Mine was just renewed in November, so I didn't have to take the course. I just had to re-test. Which took me 10 minutes. The final training of the day included a lecture on not going into overtime, because there simply was not enough room in the budget for it. (please note, by now all 20 of the staff were going into overtime.) And finally, we had to fill out a survey on our job satisfaction. Here is a little advice for all you bosses out there: Do not hand your employees a "satisfaction" survey after you have run them through 8 hours of useless training on a national holiday. That was when I snapped. That was when I finally clued in to the fact that I am not the clueless here.

And so you see why I was terribly frustrated at the thought of going in to work today. It's why I have been frustrated with it every day. I have only had one other job in which the prospect of attending my shift made me cry. And that was the window factory. And frankly, I haven't had to sit alone at the lunch table since junior high. Even the window factory wasn't that bad. (Plus at the window factory, I wasn't subjected to such a lunchtime smorgasborg of visual voluptupsity.)

Just a heads up.

I am afraid that if I go in to work today and ONE MORE thing happens in regards to co-workers and boss being unbearable, I will simply walk out, regardless of the fact that I don't have another job lined up. I am, in fact so terrified of walking out and suddenly finding myself jobless in this miserable market, that I am considering calling in sick in order to prevent the possibility. But I have already been out so much that I'm pretty sure I don't have any PTO left.
The bottom line is, I am not only actively searching for a new job, I am frantically searching as if I were already unemployed. I have had fantastic jobs before, that I loved, and I loved my co-workers and we had a great working relationship. I'm pretty sure it's not just me. I enjoy work. I enjoy challenging work. I enjoy working hard. I am happy where I live and I even love the kids that I work with. They are remarkable and smart and well-behaved and it's unfortunate that they have a teacher that is so miserable in her employ. It will probably be better for them in the long run if I get out of there as fast as I can.

Maybe I can explain more later, but for now, I just had to get that off my chest. And I am late. but I couldn't force myself out the door until I told at least someone about my thought process for the morning. So here I go, clicking "publish post" in order to send it out into cyberspace: One preschool teacher, with 7 years teaching experience in all age ranges (Infant through 19 year olds) as well as accounting experience, writing skills, and a Bachelors in Music from a pretty damn good school, available for employ in any environment that will take me. I will work as much as 60 hours a week just to pay the bills, if only you will treat me with a little respect and pretend to be my friend while we are on the clock. You could continue to be my friend off the clock too, since I am pretty fun in social situations, but that would just be a nice bonus. Resume available upon request.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Of Missionaries and Blueberry Pie

I am not in California today. And I will not be in California tomorrow either. This fact makes me a little sad. And I would like to take a moment to explain why. You are going to have to excuse me for doing a little something that we Mormons tease each other about quite a bit. The next paragraph of my blog is going to start with an incredibly cliche phrase. More cliche than "It was a dark and stormy night", this phrase strikes fear in the heart of most girls at BYU, it draws a yawn from church attendees and it draws eye rolls from younger brothers and sisters and children everywhere. But it is where the story of my weekend begins, and so you must understand that I served my mission in Paris, France.

When I was on my mission...
(there now, was that so bad?)
When I was on my mission, I was in a wonderful area called Melun. It was just outside of Paris, and I was struggling a little with the people I was supposed to be working with. Missionaries are divided into districts, and districts are supposed to work like teams, supporting each other and supporting the people they are teaching and working together towards a common goal. But the district I was in functioned more like a sudden-death contest. Unfortunately, at that point in my life I was not prepared with the social skills or confidence to face such a match. And the people who were supposed to be my team were less than patient with my lack of skills and did everything in their power to prove to me that I did not measure up. I was very lonely. I was working my heart out doing something I was absolutely passionate about, but I had nobody to speak to about it. I had only recently become "Senior Companion" and with that responsibility I got the first of many calls from the mission president containing the phrase "Well, Sister Pratt, if you can't help Sister ____ to want to be there/obey the rules/get out of bed/etc, then we will just send her home." I never trained. I just got that companion that was on her last chance. It made things even more lonely. And during one particularly lonely Sunday, I went to church and saw a new face. As is a missionary's duty I wandered over to meet the new face, and struck up a conversation with a girl named Lucie. Lucie was visiting family in the ward that day. She normally belonged to another ward but had come with her aunt and uncle to help with their children (and their children were a handful!) We had a wonderful talk. She was kind and friendly and she put no pressure on me to be any less or more than I already felt that I was and it was exactly the kind of boost that I needed in order to continue filling all of the commitments I had made in order to be where I was. I had one conversation and I felt like if there was just one person who really believed I could do those things and be those things then I probably could do it. I don't even remember the details of the conversation, couldn't tell you one thing that we talked about except that when I walked away from it I didn't feel quite so lonely. Which makes all the difference in the world.

A month or two went by, and I learned a lot, and I gained a lot of confidence and I aquired some skill in dealing with 19-yr-old boys and I got transferred to another wonderful place called Torcy. And the phone call from the mission president contained some of the same phrases but didn't quite frighten me so much, because I knew that not only was I finally prepared for whatever lay ahead of me, Whatever lay ahead of me was going to be great. So I went to Torcy, and my first Sunday in church, I had barely even walked in the door when a woman who I had never seen before greeted me by saying "You are Sister Pratt? Yes, you are. I knew you would be. My daughter told me about you, and she prayed you here. She's not here this week, but she will be. I need to tell her that you made it." I asked her who her daughter was, and she explained to me that it was none other than Lucie. And I knew immediately who she was talking about and what she meant.

Without divulging too many personal details, I must tell you that great adventures came about in that amazing place called Torcy. We began spending time with Lucie and her family. I am sure that the Elders sometimes felt that I was horning in on their time with their amazing family, but the Elders couldn't really hang with Lucie the way we could (mission rules, you know) nor could they connect with Lucie's mom the way we could. And we could never have connected with Lucie's brothers quite the way the elders did. It took all of us, all of our different gifts and quirks to really come together. Let me explain with a couple of examples. Have I mentioned that much of my life has been spent as a somewhat socially deficient individual? Some of those deficiencies came about as a result of my HS years in a small town with a lot of problems. You have heard the stories. But that small town with alot of problems gave me insight that I could have never had in a socially efficient environment. I had no idea how to speak with boys. I had no idea how to joke around and have fun nor did I have any ability to be lighthearted when serious matters pressed. I'm not sure that I was even aware that in some cases, a serious matter required a lighthearted approach. At the same time, my faith had deepened to understand how to love people through some difficult times, and it had taught me that sometimes that love will lie dormant for years before it is felt or understood. I knew that you teach what you can while you can and sometimes you have to walk away while the seeds are barely even safe from the next storm.

Enter onto the scene then two elders. One is a quiet new missionary with some great perspective and patience, the other is a rowdy and rarely reverent wrestler. These two are exactly the Elders that every fiber of my being would object to. They are the "types" that my father told horror stories about and that my logic told me to fight against. But I had learned in my last area to give people chances, so I fought the logic and allowed for faith. The Elders pulled some pretty impressive stunts. There was the stealing of the chickens. There was an incident involving alot of string. There was a fairly intense food fight. They were clowns and they were insane at times, but they were drawing people in with every stunt they pulled. People wanted to be a victim of their next stunt. People understood that they offered their silliness with just as much love as the rest of us were trying to pour into our stuffiness. People were learning how to laugh at themselves and at life and by "people" I mean me. And Lucie and her family. And members of the ward and people in our classes and even people on the trains who saw jus how much fun you could really have all the while wearing a suit and a name tag. And all the while they were doing all the really important things that missionaries are supposed to do, like building trust and showing love and teaching truth. Then came the day that I got to try my hand at this thing called fun.

A birthday was coming up, and my companion had told me about an incident in which one of the crazy Elder's had a narrow miss with Methyl Blue. That's the stuff that makes your urine turn blue. She told me how she and other sisters in the mission had tried from that day on to set him up for Methyl Blue, and always had failed. And we recognized that we had opportunity. We called Lucie's mom. We explained the situation. She very kindly offered to teach us how to make blueberry pie in order to celebrate a birthday. We met, we made pie, and on the next morning she drove us to our meeting with pies in hand. All through the meeting we stared at those beautiful, glistening pies on the table. At the end of the meeting we cut into them and served them. And the elders ate the pie so eagerly that at first they did not notice that we did not partake. But the whole time, our target Elder sat chewing his pie thoughtfully. They noticed that the taste was a little off, but they did not want to hurt our feelings. Then, just as the Elders lips were turning too blue to be naturally occurring, Elder "Target" noticed that his trusted "Sisters" were not partaking of the periwinkle pastry. The wheel suddenly turned a little faster, a few things clicked (I could almost hear the clicking) and there was a roar as the table was pushed halfway across the room.

"SISTERS! YOU! YOU!" (he pointed at my companion) "You were there! AND YOU!" (He pointed at me) "YOU little...."

During this outburst the rest of the elders suddenly looked up, and upon seeing the blue lips of every Elder in the room, they each made their own deductions. One was thrilled, and promptly consumed the rest of his pie and dished up another plate. Another shook his head quietly and said "I understand it had to be all of us in order to get him." And one elder simply said "Bravo"
And I felt, perhaps for the first time in my life, that I was really a part of something. So did Lucie's mom, and Lucie (who was in on it as well), and Lucie's brothers who felt "victimized" along with the elders.

Elder "Target" never spoke of the incident again. But his companion whispered to me at church about two weeks later "I don't know about him, but it's still blue."

It wasn't about the blue though. It wasn't about the stolen chickens and the stories to send home. I couldn't sum it up in a letter home any better than missionary work could be summed up in our weekly stats. And weekly stats might be more descriptive and more effective if they included a category for such shenanigans. Number of hours contacting:30, Number of Service Hours:10, Number of discussions taught:12, Number of Baptisms: 0, Number of people that trust us a little more: 6, Number of people that laughed with us: 47, Number of Elders Peeing Blue: 6. Number of members that want to spend time with us and introduce us to their friends: 134. Improvement in myself, my confidence, social abilities and ability to trust others, priceless.

I am not talking here about a group of missionaries that slacked off in order to play games with each other, to flirt with each other or with members. We didn't miss a single contacting hour or service hour or member appointment during that process. But the quality of every one of our actions was improved because we were enjoying our work, enjoying our relationships, and enjoying our lives. It's a lesson that I am quite sure I could only have learned in that area with those individuals. It seems a trite thing to type it out, but you could interview the Elders who knew me before, during, and after and perhaps you would gain a greater perspective of the importance of the experience. I am so grateful that Lucie prayed me to her ward.

So what does that have to do with this weekend? We have all moved on since then. I for one am better for the experience, and I know that those relationships have impacted my decisions every day since then. We were never people that would travel in the same circles. If we had met up at school or even in church, we probably wouldn't have even noticed one another. But thrown together in that place and time forced us to learn from each other and care for each other. And now that our lives will not often cross again, we are left with the impact of the bond, the awareness that our lives are a little different because of each other. But what do you say to that?

Lucie had a baby recently. Her mom came out from Paris and this weekend we were all getting together to meet the new little guy and have a little reunion. I couldn't get the time off work because of all the time I have spent on hospitals and funerals lately. And I ache a little to know that the gang will be back together and I can't be there. But at the same time, I'm not sure how to talk to people who have changed me so profoundly. I suppose I could simply offer them some pie, and if they trusted me enough to eat it then I would know that the feeling was mutual.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A little more Gratitude

OK, A LOT more gratitude. It's -50 in Minnesota tonight. I love where I live. Not just for the mountains. But also, because this afternoon I stood in the sunshine In short sleeves and thought "It's kind of chilly out, guess I should throw this on" and I put on a jacket that I didn't even wear once last winter because it would have been too thin. And I put on a hat and scarf as well, but just as I was reaching for the gloves in my pocket, I thought, "hmmm, it's actually a little warm for that" so I left them in my pocket. I only left the hat and scarf on because they look cute. And now I sit in my house still in a t-shirt reading the blogs of my Minnesota friends, thinking about gratitude. I have not once this winter been paralyzed by the wind. I remember the way it cut through my non-PETA-approved-Fox-fur-lined-down-filled-knee-length coat as I stood on train platforms or outside for recess, or even as I bolted from house to car in -45 windchill at 5am just to teach a seminary class full of other people who were, like me, not only physically frozen from the cold, but emotionally as well. (Side note, How do you like that sentence? It is extremely tempting to continue it, but edit I must!) My car starts in the morning, without complaint, and I don't have to let it run for 10 mintues before putting it in gear. It defrosts as I drive, and I have only turned the heat on when driving for more than 30 miles. (Oh yeah, I got the heat fixed in my car a couple weeks ago. It happened in the midst of hospitals and funerals.) But running the car without heat did not kill me or even give me frostbite or hypothermia. Sometimes, some of the parents of my students say something like "We better zip you up, it's cold out there!" and I laugh at them. Out loud. And then I realize that 15 degrees is cold here. And I am grateful again. One parent, who grew up not far from Warroad, recently returned to visit his hometown. (Although why anyone would return to Northern MN for a funeral in December is beyond me. You could just toss the deceased out back and they would stay perfectly preserved until May, in time for the ground to thaw so you could actually bury them. Just cover them with a tarp, it'll keep the frostbite off.) Anyways, he told me after his buddy's car broke down on the highway to Crookston in -30 with windchill, and they had to thumb a ride on that forsaken road at 3am, that he used to think he would prefer -30 instead of 100+ in the winters. He changed his mind that night. And he offered me a kindly, but unncessary warning. "Don't go back, not in December or January or February. Just don't go. Its as bad as you remember. It's worse than you remember. You think you remember, but then when you feel it, you really remember, and you'll wish you hadn't. Remembered. Or felt it. Just don't go."

Don't worry. I won't.

Another Tag- Firsts

Okay, I got tagged. Apparently a few of my family members want to know the answers to these. And since the world wants to know, who am I to withold information?
Lets get the cliche ones out of the way first.

First date?
I was 19. My roomies and some other friends found out that I had never been on a date, so they set me up with "the nicest guy in the ward." And he was nice. So nice that he agreed to go out with me on a date. And we went to a dance in the Wilkinson Center, one of BYU's formals that they hold throughout the year in order to appease the Soul-Mate-Searching Masses. We went in a group with some of his and my Roommates. One roommate had a date that danced every single song, never sat down. He was like the energizer bunny, he just kept dancing. And when she finally said "I have to sit down" He said "OK" and he let her sit while he kept dancing. The other roommate had a date who didn't dance at all. Not once. And my date (who's name, I believe was "Russ") would dance precicesly 3 songs, then rest one or two, then dance three more, etc etc. The advantage of my roomie's misery was that no matter where I was, I had someone to talk to.

First dance?
WHS, homecoming my Sophmore year I borrowed what I thought was a scandalous black dress from my friend (It wasn't scandalous. It was fitted and knee length, which I thought meant tight and short. It was just the first time in my life I wore something that actually fit me.) I wore makeup too. (More scandalousness!) And Eric Hoy asked me to dance. It was quite possibly the only social success I had my entire high school career. Oh, and the song was "Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins. The follow up is that the next day at school Eric grabbed my butt as I was walking down the hallway, so I turned around and punched him in the face. Still to this day I don't know if he was mocking me or trying to flirt. With my social record in HS, it was mockery.

First hand holding?
His name was Jack. We were in a Ballroom dance class together my Sophmore Year at BYU. He wanted to take the extra mini-classes on the weekends, and he asked me to come. Suddenly, in between dance sequences, he didn't drop my hand. He kept holding and I kept letting him. It was very smooth.

First kiss?
On stage: I was 15, we were doing South Pacific. It was supposed to be a scene where I tried to kiss a sailor and the nuns came and broke us up, but one of the nuns (A certain eccentric librarian named Barb) arranged with my sailor (only the handsomest boy in the cast, named Hans, not Heppner) to be convieniently late for her cue. So I sacrificed myself for the theatre. OK, it wasn't that much of a sacrifice.
Off stage: I was 19, he was dating my roommate, after he had already dated another one of my roommates and her sister, we all teased him about stuff like that all the time. He even provided my apartment with a bushel of mistletoe at Christmastime. A bushel is alot of mistletoe. But the kiss was before that. It was on the eve of my 20th birthday. And it was only about 20 months after that that I entered the MTC and discovered that he would be my teacher for the next 10 weeks. That's right people, I kissed my MTC teacher. Or rather, he kissed me.

First time cutting someone else's hair?
Don't think I ever have. Nope, I got nothing on that one.

First night at college?
I was 16, U of MN, summer before my senior year, Sam and I walked around campus a little because Jen was busy unpacking her drug paraphenelia and Carrie was, umm, "busy" with her boyfriend. Yeah, I learned alot that summer about all sorts of biology. I learned about Microbiology (36 page paper on DNA analysis of Flax), and about Wildlife Biology (I can identify every species of bird, snake, and frog documented in Minnesota, and I know their scientific names.), and about Human Biology (Eeew).

First drinking party?
Oh this is a fantastic one. I was 14, my brother was 15, and we were running tech for "The Glass Menagerie" (Tennessee Williams, brilliant. I can still recite the opening monologue.) The final cast party was out on the lake. We went with someone who promised to stay sober, but of course they didn't, and around 2 in the morning we realized that we would have to find our own way back home. We realized this because somehow everyone else in the cast had ended up on a canoe on Lake of the Woods, quite possibly stranded on a rock several hundred yards out. Drunk people and canoes don't mix. Especially 8 drunk people on one canoe. We could hear them, and they sounded fine. Nobody was screaming for help anyways. SO we "borrowed the keys of one of the canoe-stranded inebriates and drove back home. We got in HUGE trouble for being out so late. But I think it might have been worth it when three days later, the car was still parked in our driveway and the woman that we had stolen it from finally came out of her alcohal stupor just enough to admit to my mom that she had no idea where she had misplaced her car keys. And to this I say, theater is an integral part of social development, an experience that everyone should have at least once. Also I still snicker everytime I hear the word "Ajar" as in: "The door is ajar, the door is ajar"

First experience with stuffed crust pizza?
Beth's mom worked for Pizza Hut for a while, so it must have been when I was 10 or 11. Pizza hut pizza is not a significant part of my life. Beth and her mom, on the other hand, were. as well as Papa John's Pizza. Much more significant that pizza hut.

First time driving after getting your license?
I was 21, (got my liscence when I was 19 or 20, didn't really care), my friend was the RS pres and she had to pick up ice cream for a social of some sort, but she also was having big issues with a ward member, so she lent me her car so I could run the errands for her. we drove up 900E in provo, around the bend to 2230 N to Food 4 Less, then back again. Not exciting. (Mom didn't let me drive home after I passed the test since as soon as she got in the car she could smell that the examiner who gave me my liscence had actually been quite drunk.)

First email address?

First barbie?
Still have it. I think I got it the Christmas of the red pajamas in Virginia. She's a classic. Pink swimsuit, gingham skirt, unrealistic breasts.

First name you picked out for your baby?
Suzanne. My best friend had a cabbage patch doll named Suzanne, and I thought it was beautiful. Although we did pinky swear that if either of us had twins we would name them Melody and Harmony. Hey. I was 7. It never once occured to me that I might have to think of boys names too.

Were you ever...
First pick in gym class?
I don't think I have ever even been picked in gym class. Which is a shame, because I am actually a pretty decent volleyball player.

First in your class academically?
When I was in 3rd grade and we moved to MN they didn't have a 3rd or 4th grade reading group that was at my level, so I had to go read with the 5th graders. That was the last academic success I had.

First on the scene of a crime?
I plead the 5th

First on the scene of an accident?
Yes, and one driver had severed their leg almost completely off and it was awful. *suppress, suppress suppress*

What did you do...
First day this week?
Worked, texted most of the evening, ran some errands, blah blah blah. boring grown up exxistence.

First thing this morning?
I said we would never speak of this again, but since you ask, I ran again. My mountains are filled with snow, so the hiking thing is off for a little bit. Don't worry, I will stop running when I can start hiking.

First thing this year?
Pancakes and bacon with Jim and Devin, then on the the hospital.

First thing after graduating from high school?
I believe I went back to bed, recognizing the worthlessness of the pomp and circumastance by sleeping for an entire week before starting work at the window factory for the summer.

Frantic search for a job and a place to live. Panic. Anxiety. Desperate attempt at grad school. Failure on all counts. I'm still hoping for a better "First thing I did after graduating college"

Who is the first person you will tag for this blog?
Whomever wants to play.

Who is the first person who will actually do this?
No pressure. Pikachu, I choose you!

What is the first thing you will do when you are finished with this post?
Crawl into my ever so comfy bed and become unconsious to the world.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Stolen from my sisters.

I figure since I actually wanted to know their answers to these that I would post it in case you wanted to know my answers. Plus, blogging is for talking about ourselves, right?

Where were you 3 hours ago?
At Church. RS to be specific. During which I mostly wrote in my journal and reviewed the SS lesson I had to teach. I listened to the lesson at the same time. I even made a comment or two.

Who are you in love with?
A lot of people want to know the answer to that question. I want to know the answer to that question. The problem is, I'm not sure that I could even tell you what the question means. I love a few people. Some of them with all my heart. I don't want the value of that love being qualified by whether or not it can be labeled as "romantic". The greeks put love into different categories. But I am not sure yet that my God does. Thus far in my life experience, love is love, and like faith it requires an action to sustain it and work to maintain it and passion to feel it and it doesn't matter who I am feeling it for, it is simply love.

Have you ever eaten a crayon?
I have a vague recollection of attempting to chew a purple one once, because someone told be that it would turn my breath different colors when we went outside for recess. I didn't end up eating it, because it tasted gross. And it didn't change my breath color anyways.

Is there anything pink within 10 feet of you?
One copy of Fancy Nancy sitting on the shelf just behind my left shoulder.

When is the last time you went to the mall?
The Saturday before Christmas with Ally and Orrin. We found paisley shirts and sweater vests. You can't help but have good times when there are paisley shirts and sweater vests involved.

Are you wearing socks right now?
Still in my tights from church. Cant bring myself to admit that I have nowhere else to be this evening. Soon enough I will get tired of the church clothes and change into pjs and a ridiculous pair of themed socks. Oh, and also, there is a Disney Princess Band-Aid on my heel, where my old tennis shoes suddenly began cutting into my foot.

Do you have a car worth over $2,000?
Hmmm, it looks like the current bluebook value is $3,700. Not bad actually.

When was the last time you drove out of town?Well, I drove out of the town I live in on Monday, but I didn't return until Weds morning.

Have you been to the movies in the last 5 days?
Ha! Like there is time in my life for that! I seriously considered going to the movies yesterday, but there was just too much to do.

What was the last thing you had to drink?
I am drinking a glass of milk right now. it does a body good.

What are you wearing right now?
Church clothes still. One of my favorites, a black cuordoroy skirt with a damask print on it, knee length, an black V-neck top to match, dangly earrings, a CTR ring, the previously mentioned tights, and various other unmentionables that I have every right to conceal from my readership.

Do you wash your car or let the car wash do it?
Depends on the time of year, the feelings of my heart, and the cash in my wallet.

Last food that you ate?
Right now I am eating a peanut butter sandwich and a glass of milk and some M&Ms.

Where were you last week at this time?
At Mubba's apt, awaiting the arrival of a 12 passenger van containing all of my family members who were not already sitting at Mubba's apartment with me. There were some very strange children's prgrams on TV and I was attempting to avoid learning the irritating songs by pulling up tv shows on hulu. It didn't work. Hot dog hot dog hot diggety dog.

Have you bought any clothing items in the last week?
New glasses, new socks, and a scarf. I do so love accesories.

When is the last time you ran?
Friday morning. Both as part of my job (so it was brief and in a playing manner) as well as part of my personal excercise efforts. Although to be clear, running for personal excercise only occurs in the very dark of the early morning, so that nobody is able to witness the attempts I make. And they will never be spoken of again, do you hear me? Never.

What's the last sporting event you watched?
It occurs to me that there have been some BYU football and basketball games on in the vicinity of rooms I have been in lately over the past few weeks. But I could't pin my finger on one. I don't personally have TV, so the last event I actually watched was live, a Real Soccer game back in October.

What is your favorite animal?
Huh? Does this even matter? Am I 4 years old? Who cares. No really. I can't even think of anything funny to say.

Your dream vacation?
It's all about who I am with. I would still love to see Machu Picchu, or Angkor Wat, but it's all about going with someone who wants to experience it the same way I do. Explore, learn, search for evidence of eternal truths in ancient cultures and civilizations, all without a stuffed shirt tour guide telling me what to think. I still want to spend some time visiting a third world country, since I had hoped that's where I would go on a mission. Not that I'm complaining about Paris. I love Paris. But now I have been there and I can't go back as a tourist or as a vacation. Plus, what I really want is a vacation from the pressures of our society. Which is why I think a "vacation" doing some sort of service work would be wonderful. I'm not tired of work. I'm tired of the money-grubbing and the social expectations and the performing in order to get something I don't really want like someone elses approval or a promotion or a sale. Does that make any sense at all? I want to go on a vacation in order to really work at something I actually want.

Last person's house you were in?
Grandpa's House, just off the highway in Salem. Where I will never play scrabble again. Thanks for bringing it up.

Worst injury you've ever had? Could be the time I slipped after knee surgery and spilt open the scar. Or else the tendonitis, that still plagues me to this day. What's worse? momentary blood-curdling and searing pain of tearing open a barely healed wound or the constant throbbing of joints that curls my hands into a dysfunction of twisted fingers rendering them useless to any keyboard, qwerty or Kawaii.

Have you been in love?
Didn't I already answer this? Oh yes, see "are you in love" Don't worry, I know what the cultural meaning of this question is, and honestly, I don't know. I certainly have thought I was, but age has taught me that what I felt then was nothing compared to the possibilities. And I do love some people. I should probably love more people, but the people that I do love, I am not sure that it is possible to love them more deeply. And I think I might dislike the term "in love" since the image it conjures up in my mind is being trapped in a deep well, with no escape. Alone. Yelling for help. nobody is coming. Wow. I need a therapist.

Do you miss anyone right now? Deeply. And I am still not handling it so well. Particularly not on a Sunday night.

Last play you saw?
HAHAHA! It was Clearfield City's final dress rehearsal of Little Shop of Horrors. And no show was more aptly named. The best part was seeing all my Clearfield theatre buddies. The worst part was having to face the actors and actresses after the show. How do you say nice things to what happened that night?

What are your plans for tonight?
Well, a week ago they were to drive down to Salem and fix dinner for Grandpa, then play a game of scrabble, play some flute duets and some piano and singing, then play another game of scrabble, and drive back home late at night, frantically calling around for anyone to talk to me and keep me awake while I drove. Tonight, I will probably end up watching the fireside online. Even if I am officially too old for the CES stuff, it's something to keep me from busting out the scrabble board and playing against myself.

Who is the last person you sent a Facebook message or comment?
Laura and I have been commenting on a pic I posted of her from the early 80's. She seems to think it was cruelty on my part, but I say that if you actually wore your hair like that then it should be posted everywhere...

Next trip you are going to take?
I was supposed to go to Monterrey CA for a baby blessing this coming weekend. I don't know that I will get to since my work hours have been sporadic lately. I will be very sad if I miss it. After that, to Minnesota in May and probably some fantastic road trip this summer.

Ever go to camp?
YW Camp, once, it was awful and my parents never made me go again. And I will never make my children go. It's just cruelty, it destroys lives, and I am only beinning to heal from it.

Were you an honor roll student in school?
Never. Not once. I don't think I have broken a 3.0 since the 6th grade. And even then it can't count because there were still classes graded on the "S,E,O" system.

What do you want to know about the future?
Absolutely nothing. That is far too risky of a prospect. I would rather know how I am doing for the present. Am I on the right track? Should I adjust a little? "One step enough for me"

Are you wearing any perfume or cologne?
I rub a lavendar oil into my hands during the winter in order to keep them from cracking and bleeding. Is that perhaps what you smell?

Are you due sometime this year for a doctor's visit?
Dentist sometime in the next month or so. otherwise, I don't go to the doctor unless it is absolutely necessary.

Where is your best friend?
Psh. I don't know. I'm not much for stalking.

How is your best friend?
Last I heard, having a rough week. Just like me. But we got through the respective difficulties, and now we have a new week to face. Hopefully today did both of us some good. Only time will tell.

Do you have a tan?
Actually, my feet still have a faint outline of the shoes I wore last summer. Does that count?

What are you listening to right now?
The CES broadcast, Thomas S Monson speaking. Maybe it will help.

Do you collect anything?
Fun shaped cake pans, books, wisdom, dust.

Who is the biggest gossiper you know?
Myself and my Roommate. But since we gossip to each other about people that we don't know, I'm not sure that its very exciting. Mostly just therapeutic. A chance to work it all out.

Last time you got stopped by a cop or pulled over?
Back in october, for speeding 38 in a 30. I cried. He didn't give me a ticket.

Have you ever drank your soda from a straw?
Doesn't everybody?

What does your last text message say?
"I don't have a white one" Referring to why he couldn't bring his cell phone to the temple.

Do you like hot sauce?
I can live without it.

Last time you took a shower?
Yesterday afternoon. And probably again in about an hour or so. I prefer evening showers.

Do you need to do laundry?
Define "need". There is laundry that could be done, but it won't have to be done for at least another 2 weeks. Because I hate laundry. No really. Hate it. I will iron every shirt in your closet in exchange for someone else doing my laundry. I buy new socks if I run out before I have to do laundry for anything else. I will peel potatoes for a meal to serve 35 before I will volunteer to do laundry. It's quite possible that I am not going to have children simply because a loving Deity would never force one of His children to do that much laundry when He knows how much I loathe doing laundry. I would rather clean public bathrooms. I would rather be sentenced to a lifetime in an RS presidency. I would rather live off of blood sausage and cow's tounge salad. I would not rather move back in with my parents.

What is your heritage?
Some very famous Mormons, some people who killed very famous Mormons, A couple of great Authors, a couple of serious criminals, a lot of crazy people, and a legacy of faith and stubborness.

Are you someone's best friend?
I don't care if I am the best friend, I care if I am a good friend. I can be a very good friend without competeing for the title of "best." It's ok if I am not your best friend, as long as you know that you can always call me when your day has been lousy or when you life seems to be crumbling. I will be sad if I hear that you needed to talk and you didn't think you could talk to me. I won't be sad if I hear that you needed to talk and you found someone to talk to that wasn't me. I will simply rejoice that you have great friends, and that I can be one of them.

Are you rich?
No, and I don't really want to be. It's a burden I don't think I could handle. I would rather be comfortable. I can handle living month to month, as long as I can pay my rent and buy some groceries, maybe with just enough extra for Cocoa or Italian Sodas at Barnes and Noble, and the occasional Coldstone treat.

What were you doing at 12AM last night?
Emailing Scott and facebooking. The insomnia still hasn't gone away.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy Year?

*note: I really did write this on New Years Day, from a chair in a hospital room while listening to Dad read out loud from Elder Holland's new book. It's just not getting posted until now. You understand, of course.

Am I suppoosed to acknowledge the new year somehow? Honestly, all it means to me is that I have to remember a new number on my checks. And that I have to change the big calendar at school. But New Years has never been a big deal to me. See, I don't believe in "New Year's Resolutions". I just don't find it to be a healthy way for me to make goals. And on top of that, New Years Eve is something I make less eventful on purpose. Perhaps it's my own way of rebelling against the push for conformity. I don't want to fulfill a social obligation to go to a dance. If I don't want to go to a dance the rest of the year, why would I want to start on New Year's Eve? If I don't want to get drunk the rest of the year, Why should I want to start on New Year's Eve? If I don't want to kiss someone the rest of the year, why would I want to kiss or be kissed on New Year's Eve? And I don't want to go to dances. I want to dance, but completely on my own, to the music in my brain, not obligated by social rules and expectations. And I don't want to get drunk. Well, most of the time I don't want to get drunk. But wanting to and doing it are two entirely different entities. And as for kissing someone, you don't need to know whether or not there is anyone out there that I want to kiss, or who that person happens to be. You should know that when said kiss happens, it won't be because either of us is obligated to perform a tradition. It will be because we want to. And for those of you that think the tradition is just a nice excuse to get to kiss the person you already want to kiss, I say that if he doesn't have the guts to kiss me simply because he wants to, then I probably don't want to be kissing him.

Whoa, That was a lot of opinion. The thing is, I have a hard time calling this a "New Year" when it is in fact an old year revisited. We all have our routines. They are most obnoxiously pointed out to us by the number of tv commercials that push me to set a "resolution" to lose weight, and then a month later they force me to admit that I have already ruined the resolution, and therefore ruined a perfectly good year that was "New" just a few weeks earlier. Why should I let the media tell me that the year's efforts are already ruined before January is even out the door? No thank you! I like my years just the way they are! I can set goals outside the confines of a calendar, and in so doing, I can take each year for exactly what it is. I can grow and shrink according to the season of my life, all the while sticking with the routine that is every year. Somewhere in mid-January, I will start thinking about the meaning of the new year and having regrets and anxiety about how far I have not come in my life. And somewhere towards the end of January I will finally convince myself that my job and my college degree do not define me, therefore I can't judge my success according to my lack of Master's Degree. And somewhere in February I will start the anxiety and self-loathing about the marital status thing, but by the 14th I will recognize the ridiculousness of the whole thing, call it "yet another fabricated tradition" and ignore the day entirely. Since I am not in Minnesota anymore, I won't have to start desperately pleading for some sign of spring in the end of Feb, I will simply enjoy the melt-off of the snow, enjoy watching it fall again even more, and have the comfort of knowing that soon it will be gloriously 95 degrees and I will finally be able to take off my long sleeves in order to blind the population of the entire state with my pasty arms. Don't worry, I stopped revealing my pasty-er legs years ago. I may gradually gain a healthy glow throughout the summer, due to recess time and long walks in the mountains. During the summer I will be at the heigth of happiness emotionally, and come fall I will celebrate one year of being back home. I will again take a ridiculous number of pictures of changing leaves and mountains covered in reds and yellows. By the time the first snow falls, I will be anxious to walk in it and break out my ever-so-coordinated snow accesories. Come the holidays I will be again stressed but better prepared emotionally to face them, except for one thing. I used all my best "forgotten carols" on my blog already. I guess I better get started on new ones then.

So I am not wishing you a happy new year. I am wishing you, my friends, Happy Every Year.

Her name is Nola...

Yeah, you are singing the song now aren't you?

But that's not what I am talking about. I am just letting you know that Santa is alive and well, and reading our blogs. (Just think how much easier it is for him to figure out if you have been naughty or nice. All he has to do is google your name, and he probably can see you when you're sleeping. I've always found that to be a little creepy.)

So Santa knows that I have tried my very best this last year, and this is what awaited me on Christmas morning:

She has the Xavier signature on her butt and a birth certificate and everything.

And on a slight tangent, we compared her to my nephew who is 6 months old and weighs 25 pounds. They look about the same in the cheeks. Although she is in "Premie" sized clothes and he wears 24 months-2T.

And yes, I am still a grown woman blogging about the doll I got for Christmas. You shouldn't be surprised. Christmas was wonderful. I spent a lot of time with alot of different people and felt composed and relaxed and great. It was a peaceful week in which I was able to reflect alot and understand myself a little more, in a good way, not in a scary "the-committee-in-my-head-is-yelling-at-me" sort of way. I started all sorts of posts about it and about the New Year and somehow, life fell apart a little in the middle. But I did want you to get the highlights. Maybe I will still finish my New Year's post.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

I'll miss you.

Is it tacky that I post this here? Everyone who reads this knows how much I love my Scrabble partner. I don't think it's inappropriate then, to mourn a little here and let you know that I will still be deperately seeking someone to play a few games with, particularly on Sunday evenings. If I corner you and force you into a game, please understand that I am really hard to beat. I have been playing with the best. A genius with words and turn of phrase, he kept us all giggling up through the last few hours. Only the doctors and nurses with the quickest wit understood that everything he ever said made perfect sense. You might think he was talking about cans of beans when there were none to be seen, but my dad and I know that he was referring to "can's" and "been's" that fill our lives and in the end make up the sum to those that knew us. So I'm packing up his "cans and beens" as he told me to, and I'm keeping them until I see him again.
I love you Grandpa.