Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Great Service Dilemma

I'm having the second round of vertigo that I've had in a few months. I've never had this problem before, but it's both uncomfortable and inconvenient, as you can probably imagine. When the world is spinning like a top even when you're lying down or sitting as still as possible, it isn't pleasant.

It also makes you so nauseated you puke a lot. Before I took some Dramamine for motion sickness on Monday, I wasn't keeping anything down.

Things are a bit better now, thankfully. I'm pretty sure I'll live. Almost 100% sure. :)

In other news, I got a phone call today from an older lady I know. She's a nice lady, and our family and others have given her and her daughter a lot of help getting settled in their new house. She's called several times to ask for rides or to get a little help unpacking and lifting something or other, and I haven't had a problem with that. She's always very grateful for the help.

I have been extremely careful in the last couple years about setting boundaries for myself when it comes to service. That is based on past experience. For me, it's very easy to extend my help so much and so far that I end up actually hurting the person I'm trying to help while feeling a great deal of personal resentment in the process. That's no good for either of us. Better to know where my boundaries are so that I can actually provide some quality assistance without "serving" another person right into dependency. I think that's much healthier, don't you?

Today, I missed a call from this lady, and I caught her voicemail a little later. She was asking for someone to go and clean her kitchen. She's recently had shoulder surgery, and if she were living alone, I could completely understand needing help in keeping things tidy in the kitchen. But she's not alone. She has some other able-bodied people living with her. She explained, however, that one of them wasn't feeling well and that the other of them was in court.

My immediate reaction was, "And why is this my problem to fix?"

While a messy kitchen is certainly inconvenient and problematic when it comes to fixing meals, the fact that there are able-bodied members of the household available would seem to negate the need to ask for outside assistance. Temporary unavailability on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part, does it? I have to battle with my children just about every day when it comes to loading the dishwasher, wiping down counters, and keeping things at least clean enough that we can move freely around the house. If I or they don't feel well or have other things scheduled, it never occurs to me to ask someone else to come in and take care of it because it's bothering me. It's my problem, I have the means to solve it, and it will get solved eventually.

That was my first reaction.

My second reaction was to chide myself with, "Now, don't be selfish! She's asking for help, and we are on this earth to serve each other."

And yet I saw the results of such knee-jerk service on my part spread before me: I respond to this call, though I, myself, also feel quite unwell, and she is gracious and grateful. I am pleased that I could do some good, and that makes me happy. Yet there is another call in a few days because of the same problem or another little problem, and who will fix it immediately when no one else in her household has the time or inclination? ME! I grit my teeth, remind myself to be generous with my service, and respond to every call. Eventually, I hate her and her lazy family and she is so dependent upon me that she becomes demanding and resentful when I don't jump at her command.

Think that's extreme? I beg to differ. It's happened before because I didn't know when it was all right to say no.

So I'm saying no today. This is where it starts, and from this point I must make the boundary clear. When it comes to people I know are potential vampires (people who could end up sucking your life away in serving their personal needs and wants), even if you are very nice people, I will not do for you what you or someone you live with can do for yourselves, even if you are momentarily inconvenienced by it not getting done. I will certainly try to assist you in things you cannot do and that need to be done, even if it is occasionally inconvenient to me. But I will not put my family or my needs permanently at the end of the list in order to serve you. In that way, we can both keep our dignity and still be friends.

Sound fair? That's how it's gotta be.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

A Couple New Musical Obsessions

I get a little obsessed sometimes when I find an artist whose work absolutely stuns me. I have a hard time getting any writing work done, which is one bad side effect of being transported to musical nirvana. It's probably also yet another way my brain demands rest and relaxation because I don't let myself read fiction anymore.

Recently, we had a young man serving his mission here who has the voice of an angel. He sang for us once while visiting our home, and then he sang in our Sacrament Meeting last Sunday before getting transferred to another area this last week. He gave us a CD his mother had put together of some of his best pieces, and my girls listen to it over and over.

Here's a little video of Elder Vizzini from South Africa singing "Skyfall."

Here's another recent obsession. This guy is amazing. I've spent a lot of time not writing a travel guide to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) today because I've been exploring his YouTube channel.

Here's one of my favorite offerings from Chase Holfelder.

Monday, August 15, 2016

And Something Sweet, PLZ!

We have a running grocery list on a white board by the fridge. I love that the kids occasionally add their personalities to it. Sometimes it's drawings, sometimes it's additions to the grocery list such as this:

There's nothing like Mondays for a new start.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Beautifully Lazy Sundays

There are plenty of Sundays when family comes over or we go to my parents' house. Those are the crazy busy Sundays full of family and cooking and scrambling to make sure all the utensils are washed (and finding which kid has hoarded all the spoons in her room) and everyone is talking and giggling with everyone else and the world feels perfect. I love those days. But I also love the Sundays when, after all the church meetings and duties are finished (including the extra ones), it's just us. Things are quiet, the kids are just a little bit bored, and there is no worrying about work--nothing to do but take a nap or study the scriptures or plan a lesson.

On those evenings, we usually end up gathering in the living room while waiting for dinner to finish cooking. Maybe there's a board game going. Someone is playing the piano. The girls have their heads together and are laughing hysterically with each other.

When there's a natural lull, Husband often suggests we watch a classic movie. While this used to be a suggestion that was met with groans from the younger generation, they're now calling out requests: Some Like It Hot! Gentlemen Prefer Blondes! Anything with Carey Grant in it! Oliver! My Fair Lady!

Because of the festive feeling of it all, I'm inspired to make some sort of dessert. After I get suggestions and decide which one I'm going to make, the movie is turned on, and I watch it while whipping up a recipe. Then I snuggle up next to Husband on the couch and we hold hands.

The luxurious quality of endless time on Sunday afternoons and evenings sparks creativity such as this sarcastic rearrangement of pins on my sweet, innocent tomato pin cushion (Sophia's mischief):

Or snacking mindlessly on these ginger coconut candies we always buy from the Asian market when we're in The Big City:

Or we finish up the night with family movies and I see how much all my children have changed in just a few short years.

These are precious days.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Funniest Video Ever Recorded

This may possibly be the funniest video ever recorded.

Personally, I laughed so hard I nearly vomited.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Sian Is Home!

Sian arrived safely after a very long trip from Ukraine via Paris. Our family stood in the small International Terminal at the airport, waiting anxiously for her to get through Customs and come out the doors. Only one other family was there waiting for a returned missionary, and from the sign they were holding, we knew he was coming from Russia.

We waited and waited. Airline personnel (flight attendants and pilots) would occasionally walk through the doors, see our signs, and assure us that "they're coming!" Even after the returning elder and his family left, people would come through and say, "She's coming! I saw her in there!"

Only in Utah.

Sophia had created two signs. One was a welcome. The other said "We Missed You!" in big letters. Underneath, in smaller letters, she wrote, "Kinda." Our family's brand of subtle, understated dry humor.

When Sian came through the door, I couldn't help myself: I was right there hugging her and shedding a few tears. You'd expect that, me being her mother and all.

From left to right: Gabrielle, Little Gary, me, Husband, my brother Aaron, Sophia, Sian, and Elannah. You can see the top of my mother's head behind Sophia, and Joseph must have been hiding somewhere off-camera. My dad's health prevented him coming to the airport.

Sian's been home for over a week now, and she's slowly adjusting to the time change (nine hours' difference), the altitude, the dry heat, and the lack of a structured schedule. When I got home from my mission, one of the first things I did was go to the library and catch up on all the news I missed. I enjoyed going places alone for the first time in 18 months, and I reveled in the lack of a structured schedule. Sian has been stressing a little. She's not terribly interested in music or movies she's missed. She likes going with me whenever I run errands, has been eager to go out with our local missionaries, and hates being alone in her room way down in the basement, even if it's nice and cool down there. She's also been sorting out her next steps of getting a job and preparing to go back to BYU. I did have the advantage of knowing exactly what I was going to do after I got home (get married to Husband!), so I can understand her feeling a bit at odds and ends.

Also, she still has to occasionally stop and remember the English word for some things. She'll start muttering to herself in Russian to define the concept she wants to convey and then furrow her brow while she furiously tries to remember her mother tongue.

Gabrielle drove up and stayed the night on Sian's trundle bed Saturday, so on Sunday, we had all of our kids in the van on the way to church. It's been a very long time since that happened. I think I may have mentioned it several times on the way to church while my kids rolled their eyes. What? So I'm happy to have all my kids in one place! Is that so wrong??

Monday, July 11, 2016

Major Milestones and a Bulgogi Recipe

Today is the lull between two major milestones. Yesterday was Joseph's 12th birthday, and tomorrow, my daughter, Sian, who has been in Ukraine for the last 18 months serving a mission, comes home.

On Saturday last week, I was stressing about getting Sian's bedroom ready for her. Elannah had painted three of the walls a lovely periwinkle blue but ran out of steam before she managed to clean and paint the final wall. Plus, she had taken off to an amusement park with her friends for the day. I was really excited because I had finally finished all my work assignments and had a few days' break before getting more, so now I had time to sort out the room and no reason to have to sit in front of my computer all day.

I went downstairs to the basement and had a look around the crowded little room. It was overwhelming. Gabrielle had left most of her things behind when she moved out, and the bed and the dresser had been taken apart and stacked in the middle of the room so Elannah could paint. There were boxes and bags full of things everywhere. The desk, too, was covered in the detritus of Gabrielle's high school career, along with some of Sian's old things.

My  phone rang, and it was my brother, Aaron. Could he come and spend a few nights at our house? For some reason, he hasn't been able to shake this cold/congestion thing that he's been suffering from for months, and now some of his limbs are starting to swell. The doctor told him he has allergies and prescribed him a pill for it, but it's done nothing. Maybe it's something in his house, and if he sleeps better at our house, that would be a good indicator that there's something going on.

I enthusiastically told him to come right over as soon as he liked. He's so much fun to have around, and my kids adore him. Plus, though he was perfectly willing to sleep on the couch, it gave me great motivation to get Sian's room done that day so he could sleep in it for a few nights.

It took me all day, but I got it done. All of Gabrielle's old things have been boxed so she can sort through them when she comes here to stay tonight in anticipation of the whole family picking up Sian from the airport tomorrow. The final wall has been painted, the floor is scrubbed--along with the bed frame and the dresser and the desk--and the trash bags and the old carpet remnant used as an area rug have all been hauled out to the garbage cans. Sophia spent some time helping me, as well, which was a great way for us to have a little conversation about life and whatnot. By 8pm, the room was ready: sparkling clean and freshly blue.

Aaron said he had a pretty good night after the congestion finally lifted. We'll see if he continues to improve. He took off for work before I saw him this morning, so I didn't get a chance to ask him how last night went.

Yesterday, Sunday, we had my parents, grandmother, and one of my sisters over to celebrate Joseph's 12th birthday (my in-laws are currently out of town). I was sore and exhausted after getting that room finished, but I faced a long afternoon of food prep for Joseph's birthday dinner. Joseph requested his favorite food, which is bulgogi, Korean marinated beef. I didn't know if I had the budget to make enough bulgogi to serve as a main entree for 11 people, so I decided to make bibimbap. Bibimbap is a very flavorful dish. For each serving, the base is sushi rice that has been steamed and then fried so that it has a crisp coating. Small amounts of various side dishes go on top of the rice: the bulgogi, matchstick carrots cooked in a soy glaze, glazed mushrooms, green onion slaw, flavored quick-fried mung-bean sprouts, garlicky-soy spinach, wakame (seaweed), sauteed zucchini, and a fried egg. It's delicious. Here's a bibimbap recipe. (I used a different bulgogi recipe for the meat because I like it better.)

As you can imagine, it takes hours to prep and cook all the components of bibimbap, which is why it's more of a celebration dish than everyday fare. It's great for when you have tons of people to help you out in the kitchen (and the kitchen space for those people, which is not something I have, alas). It was a huge success, and Joseph loved it. That's what counts.

You could also make bulgogi and serve it with steamed or fried rice and just one of the bibimbap side dishes, which is what I usually do. I particularly love the carrots, mushrooms, and zucchini. Any of those would be an excellent single accompaniment to the meat.

Here's the bulgogi recipe that I really like. Once you have the meat sliced (you can even ask the butcher to thinly slice a roast for you to save even more time), it's mostly just letting it marinate before broiling or grilling it right before serving. If you want to spend even less money on the meat, choose chuck roast or any other tough cut on sale and tenderize it with baking soda before marinating.


4 pounds London broil (top round) roast, cut into 1/8" or 1/16" slices (to ensure that the meat will be fork-tender, lightly sprinkle both sides of the slices with baking soda, let sit for 10-15 minutes, and then rinse and pat dry before continuing)
1 large onion, skinned and cut into quarters
1 head garlic, peeled
1 cup soy sauce
1 medium green pepper, seeds removed
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red pepper
1/2 cup sesame oil

Put all the ingredients except the meat and the sesame seeds into a blender or food processor and puree.

Toast sesame seeds in a metal pan and mix them into the marinade.

Put the meat into the marinating dish and pour the marinade over it. Mix the meat and marinade with your hands so that all surfaces are completely covered. Cover dish with cling wrap and let sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours (overnight is better).

Grill marinated meat strips on BBQ or lay them on cookie sheets before broiling them in the oven. It only needs a couple minutes per side.

Chop or mince leftover bulgogi and add it to fried rice, scrambled eggs, or soup; or mix with some cornstarch before deep frying into crispy beef. Or just eat it cold for breakfast. Yum.