Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A Sideways Jog in the Journey

Sometimes you go on journeys you don't expect to end. And then, one day, they do.

I just got laid off from my amazing job.

The company is a startup, and though things are going pretty well, revenue was down enough and would be down enough for the foreseeable future that the CEO and the president had to figure out where to cut the budget to keep going. A day or so ago, after much discussion and debate between the two of them, they decided to cut the entire Content team (all two of us) and focus more on the SEO angle of marketing. I got an email from the president yesterday afternoon wondering if I had a moment to talk on the phone. Though there had been no foreshadowings or warnings, I kind of knew what he was going to say before he said it.

So, as of Wednesday (tomorrow), I am unemployed. Or, as a writer, I can just state that I'm back to being a self-employed freelancer.

I have no bitterness or anger. These were all lovely people to work with, and I have learned so much during my nine months with this agency. I am, however, a little concerned about our financial situation, as this will effectively cut our income in half. But we've been there before, so we can manage it again. It's just a good thing I learned of this before we bought another car!

The Lord knew our situation when I miraculously got this job, and He still knows our needs and situation now. I feel a great deal of comfort and peace, even if it is mixed with some anxiety about what I should do next and how I should go about it. I remind myself to be still and know that God is fully aware, and that dwelling in worry and anxiety might make it hard to hear the promptings of the Spirit.

As Husband said to me after he had taken a while last night to digest the news, "Well, it sure was fun while it lasted, wasn't it?"

Yes, it was. And I'm grateful for the blessing this job has been.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Sticks and Rocks

You know what they say about men: they grow up and their toys just get more expensive. Or something like that, anyway.

Husband is no exception. He still likes to play with rocks and sticks, but now his rocks and sticks have become far more sophisticated and costly.

Husband has a thing for rocks and minerals. He also has a thing for carved wooden flutes and Irish penny whistles. Yesterday bought about a serendipitous culmination of these two hobbies when we got to visit the Mountain Man Rendezvous and Gem and Mineral Show going on in the same spot in our fair city.

We were drawn to a flute maker's tent pretty quickly. The flute maker, a young-looking mountain man in his 60s with a long white beard, a straw hat with a rattlesnake skin as a band, and bundles of his flutes hanging around his neck, was demonstrating to a group of fifth graders on a field trip some of his musical talents using a singing bowl, a Native American drum, and two small flutes that he played at the same time. We were as mesmerized as the kids.

When the kids left, Husband started asking about the flutes, which were stacked on stands throughout the interior of his tent. Eric (for this was the flute maker's name), talked about the different woods he's used in each of his creations. He played several of them to demonstrate the different tonal qualities the individual woods produce. Husband was enchanted with one made out of cocobolo, but he eventually settled on one made of kingwood, which has a rich but clear sound all the way up to the top registers.

Top to bottom: the Eric Hash E-flat kingwood flute, a High Spirits G flute, and a carbon fiber Irish whistle. Also featured: Lincoln, the cat, who decided it was time for a cuddle with me only because his favorite human, Gabrielle, was at work.

Husband has been playing flutes and the penny whistle for a while now. In the evenings when he gets home from work, the house is often filled with the trill of an Irish jig or a soulful and plaintive Native American tune.

We also visited the gem and mineral booths, with their enchanting displays of rough rocks, polished spheres and other shapes, and jewelry. It was here that Husband found a small piece of ammolite, one of the rarest gemstones in the world (you can see it leaning against the purple amethyst's stand). The vendor and his friends had found a small deposit of the stuff in Utah, which makes it even more rare, since most ammolite comes from Alberta, Cananda. The price was incredibly good, so Husband now has a new rock to add to his growing collection.

Here you can see some of Husband's rocks and gems. I'll detail them more thoroughly in a future post.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Here's to Always Being in Over Your Head!

Please tell me I'm not the only one who is constantly winging it. I'm referring mostly to my job here, but I'm mostly winging it everywhere else, too. I'd be more worried except that I have noticed all of my co-workers are mostly winging it, as well. Also, all the moms I know.

If everything in life were rock solid routine, wouldn't that be utterly boring? Winging it may be overwhelming, but at least it's interesting.

Can I get a fist pump of solidarity? Maybe an amen?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Braving the Embarrassment and Mortification of a Family Outing

What's a fun answer to the inevitable, "Are we doing anything fun today?" question?

Why, go to IKEA, of course!

Husband and I decided a while ago that we have plenty of stuff. We don't need more stuff. Therefore, buying stuff for birthdays and Christmas presents just creates a situation where the kids use the stuff for a little while and then forget about it. The stuff then becomes so much clutter.

"Why don't we," I suggested in exasperation, "DO things instead of buy stuff. Why don't we use the money and create memories rather than add more items to our bulging house?"

Husband agreed. The thing is, he really is good at figuring out the perfect present for each person; it's just that kids' desires are so ephemeral, and what they want today, they won't be interested in tomorrow. But he's also good at planning outings.

I suggested this radical idea to the children, and, surprisingly, they warmed to the idea. Even the boys. Even cutting down on Christmas gifts in favor of going places and creating memories.

But because we sometimes need stuff (such as more inexpensive drinking glasses to replace the broken ones and a half-width Lack table to put on top of my desk to create a standing desk so I don't have to sit so much in front of my computer and die young from heart disease), we can sometimes combine the getting of needed stuff with a fun outing.

So on Saturday, we packed Sophia, Elannah, Joseph, and Little Gary into the car (Gabrielle was at work, and Sian, of course, is not even in the country) and made it a family outing.

Our first stop was Main Street in Lehi, where we grabbed lunch at a cute little restaurant called Porter's Place. It's dedicated to Porter Rockwell, a colorful character in early LDS history. The restaurant is decorated to look like a slice of pioneer times, with old-fashioned wallpaper, boarded walls, and dim lighting. The menus are real leather, and the menu items are imaginatively titled to reference prophets and apostles. We were all having fun--all of us, that is, except the two teenage girls.

Now, having been a teenage girl myself, I understand how embarrassing your family can be. I have distinct memories of going to McDonald's with my large family and wanting to crawl under the table and hide when my dad and siblings all started deliberately squeaking their straws in the plastic drink cup lids. Of course, they continued to squeak their straws just because I was so mortified by it. This is what it means to be family.

On Saturday, Sophia and Elannah were united in their embarrassment and mortification. I mean, Elannah is always in a constant state of embarrassment whenever we go anywhere, and even when I am the only other person with her. She particularly hates it when I start cooing at random babies.

"Mom! That baby isn't even yours!" she says, hiding her face in her hands. "You're so embarrassing!"

At the restaurant, the boys wanted to explore a small balcony in the room where we were seated. Because no other patrons were in the room (or even visible), Husband and I allowed them to go up and have a look. The boys also peeked out into the main part of the restaurant to inspect some of the decorations and pictures that are scattered all over. They refrained from running or shouting or acting like hooligans, much to our parental gratification.

Sophia and Elannah, however, longed for a quick and painless death to remove them from the embarrassment of their brothers. Seriously, they moaned about it the entire time we were there! It's enough to make a mother want to deliberately do something extremely embarrassing just to send them into further paroxysms of mortification.

Sadly, there were no babies in the near vicinity. And our drinking glasses did not come with lids or straws.

We managed to choke down lunch through our embarrassment and humiliation (I had a delicious buffalo burger, which shocked Elannah exceedingly because the buffalo is their high school mascot, but I told her I wasn't going to eat horse meat instead just because their rival school has a stallion mascot. Besides, horse wasn't even on the menu! "Beef, Mom, beef! You could have a normal beef hamburger just like everyone else!" she countered uselessly. Her father also had a buffalo burger, even bigger than mine. He also thoroughly enjoyed it.)

After lunch, we braved the construction bottleneck through Point of the Mountain and headed north to IKEA, where we shopped until our legs ached and our embarrassment levels were maxed out. Everyone was tired and slightly cross as we crowded back into the car a couple hours later for the long drive home.

Still, on the way home, each child shouted out, "Thank you, Mom and Dad!," which we took to mean that our outing had been an overall success. That's very heartening. I figure the girls will live through the embarrassment of their family and enjoy many fun trips and outings to come. I did, after all.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Of Agony and Redemption

My personal trainer is a very nice young lady even when she's trying to kill me. We meet up once a week for a torture session (that I pay for!), and she instructs me to do various things with my body that leave me agonizingly sore for days after. Fortunately, her nefarious plots on my life have so far been unsuccessful, and I might even be building some muscle.

This last appointment, she had me doing all kinds of leg work. To distract myself from the full-length reflection of the chunky middle-aged woman unattractively lunging about and dripping sweat off the end of her nose, I struck up a conversation about pain. In particular, the pain of childbirth.

Lindsey, my personal trainer, is young, extremely cute, very fit, and newly married. She's so excited because she and her husband are closing on their first house in a week or so. We've discussed gardening and being addicted to HGTV shows, and I told her about the book Compost Everything, which I bought a few weeks ago and read in one night.

So, this last appointment, as I valiantly did pull-ups, squats, lunges, and planks, she admitted she'd never broken a bone or anything. Of course, I had to tell her the story about snapping the bones of my foot right across the top during the Nutcracker ballet dress rehearsal when I was 12 or 13 and how the adults told me it was just a knot and to walk it off, which I tried to do by shuffling up and down the hallway, shivering and shaking with the pain, and when it was time to go on stage to dance, I took the first step of that first balancĂ© and fell into a quivering, tearful heap and ended up with my foot in a cast and not able to perform that year (and got a lecture from the director the next year about not breaking anything, as if I was just looking for attention by snapping some bones and ligaments) .

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the conversation soon landed on the topic of childbirth. Pain, childbirth: the two are inseparable. To speak of one is to speak of the other. It is the way of mothers. But she was eager to talk about it, so what could I do? Besides, it distracted me from the way my muscles were trying to dissolve into mush during the first 30-second plank.

"Midwives," I said with a wise nod as I struggled to catch my breath. "I love midwives."

"Oh!" she exclaimed. "Did you prefer having a midwife to an OB? I'm really interested in this topic!"

"Absolutely," I said. "I had two male OBs before I got clued in to midwives. They were good guys, but they've got exactly 10 minutes to talk to you before they have to go to the next patient. They've never actually given birth. And they show up to catch the baby when you're in labor, while it's the nurses who stick with you the whole time. But midwives, they've got time. They answer your questions. They wait with you during the labor."

We stopped our conversation for a moment while Lindsey demonstrated the next activity designed to make my already strained thighs so noodly that I wasn't likely to be able to walk out of the gym without the assistance of canes.

"Midwives let you move around during labor," I panted at her a minute or two later. "OBs want you on your back with sensors strapped to your belly at all times, which is the worst way to go through labor and give birth. With the midwives, I got to use birthing balls and the tub, and I could walk around if I felt like it."

"I've heard of birthing balls," said Lindsey. "Did the tub help?"

"Best delivery ever," I assured her, waving away her helping hand as I struggled to get to my feet after collapsing into a pile. "I sat in the tub until it was time, knelt on the bed, and a couple pushes later, the baby was born."

Lindsey was obviously impressed. Her eyes had gone big as she ordered me to do another 30-second plank. I got into position on the mat and gritted my teeth, determined to hold my shaking body in a solid line until the end of the longest half-minute in the history of time.

"I want to go completely natural. No drugs," she said dreamily about 15 seconds in. I started laughing, but I held my plank position through sheer stubborness and force of will until Lindsey said, "3..2..1..You did it! Way to go!" She hopped up, ready to order me on to the next exercise, but I told her I needed a moment to actually breathe. She squatted down beside me again while I curled up helplessly on the mat--not quite in the fetal position.

"Make no mistake: labor is the worst pain you've ever felt," I gasped. "You'll want drugs. You'll want anything to stop the pain." I looked up at her through eyes bleary and stinging from the sweat that had run into them. I was too weak to reach over and grab my towel or my water. I glanced at them longingly, but Lindsey didn't catch the hint. She was inspecting the floor, thinking about what I'd said.

My tongue felt swollen in my mouth. I considered vomiting. I swallowed hard.

"You had all yours naturally?" she asked.

"Four of them," I admitted. "I had epidurals on the first and the last one.  I desperately wanted an epidural on the fifth one, but the only anesthesiologist in the hospital was already in surgery, so I was out of luck."

"Never," I continued, shaking a limp finger at her, "go into labor on the weekend."

She nodded.

"On the other hand," I continued, somehow not vomiting, "going through that pain makes holding the baby that much sweeter. You bond faster, I think. It must be all the oxytocin or something, but when you've given that final push and it's all over and they lay that sweet little baby on your chest and you're sort of half sobbing and totally exhausted, you realize the pain was worth it. It was the crucible you went through for that tiny little person, a person you'll love so fiercely that you can't believe you had all that love in you."

We were silent for a moment. I finally caught my breath and struggled up to my knees and then to my feet. The torture was over for the week. Lindsey grinned at me.

"Great job!" she said. "I'll see you next week!"

Surprisingly, I managed to shuffle all the way to the parking lot and collapse into my car. I knew I would be hurting for several days after this, and I still needed to come back and complete my cardio later in the day. But somehow, it was perfectly okay. I had survived Lindsey's malicious attempts to kill me off once again. There's a certain thrill in that.

Friday, September 11, 2015

This Explains a Lot of Strange Coincidences

I'm convinced I have a Magazine Fairy. Thank you, Magazine Fairy! The newest subscription made me laugh out loud when I got it in the mail yesterday.