Thursday, December 31, 2015

Red Plastic Cups

A late Merry Christmas and a right-on-time Happy New Year to you!

Christmas was fun. Family, food, the playing of games. The reading of the Christmas story. The opening of gifts.

Husband and I told each other that we weren't going to get gifts for each other. So Husband justified the little gifts he gave me because he gave me one before Christmas and one after. I, of course, had not even planned that far, so he got nothing. See what he has to put up with?

The pre-Christmas gift he gave me was a sleeping mask. He'd given me one several months ago, but the elastic band caused the mask to squish my eyeballs a bit, and you know how annoying squished eyeballs are. This new mask has little cups so I can blink my eyes even when it's on. No squished eyeballs!

Then, yesterday, another package showed up addressed to me. Curious, I tore it open and found 12 red plastic drinking cups--the kind you get in a restaurant. I started laughing with delight and gave him a big hug and a kiss.

Here are the red cups ready for guests--Sophia and Elannah are having friends over for New Year's Eve.

See, when my parents were over, we were reminiscing about old times, and I animatedly reminded them about how, when we lived in Idaho, they used to take me and my next younger brother and one of my sisters (who was then a baby) to a place called Keystone Pizza. It was a great little pizza parlor. I loved it so much. You got to eat pizza while watching old silent black-and-white movies of the hilariously slapstick Keystone Cops. And just as great: root beer in red plastic cups. It's one of my favorite childhood memories.

Red plastic drinking cups have forever been a reminder to me of that excited, delicious feeling of those occasional visits to Keystone Pizza. It might even be why pizza is my favorite food. Husband overheard that conversation, and like he frequently does, remembered it and decided to surprise me with something small but special. Thus, the box with the plastic cups that showed up a couple days after Christmas.

Happy New Year! 2016 is gonna be exciting!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Lucky Mom

This is me with Elannah. Elannah has taken to snapping photos of me on the sly while pretending she's taking a selfie, and then Snapchatting them to Sophia (along with some sassy comment) while I demand that she quit it because I'm always caught making some sort of weird face or smooshing out my double chin. This is the first time (and probably the last) she actually let me pose with her. She just loves catching me unawares.

We were going to go into The Big City this evening to look at the lights on Temple Square, but Elannah had a ballroom dance team party she really wanted to go to. We decided to postpone the trip to see the lights until tomorrow evening when we'll all be home.

The boys were disappointed about not going, so Elannah, Joseph, Little Gary and I did some stuff around town, instead. First, the library, where everyone found some books they were excited about. Then the pet store, which is the next best thing to walking around the zoo (and warmer, too!). After we inspected all the animals and petted the massive tortoise that wanders freely around the establishment, we bought some bones for Marmite the Dog (who was as excited about getting them as we all hoped he would be). Finally, a stop by a fast food restaurant with a massive indoor playground. That's where Elannah snapped the above shot.

Isn't she pretty? Believe it or not, she just lopped six inches off the bottom of her hair. It was so long and thick she couldn't even put it into a bun for practices and performances, so she figured she had to cut it enough to be manageable but keep it long enough to easily pull it back. And those eyes! All the kids have Husband's amazing blue eye color. Mine are blue-green, but theirs are all pure blue. I love it.

This girl...she makes me laugh.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

People Say She Reminds Them of Audrey Hepburn

The rounds of Christmas performances are now over, school is out for two weeks, and the kids are anticipating many mornings of sleeping in and becoming bored enough to wish they were back in school (almost).

Today is also Sophia's 17th birthday.

After the high school's choir/orchestra/band concert last week, I happened to be standing next to Sophia's Show Choir director. After telling him what a great job he has done with the choir, I introduced myself as Sophia's mother.

"Oh, Sophia! She's a wonderful addition to the choir," he said, "but I can never tell what she's thinking."

"She's inscrutable," I agreed. "She has quite the poker face."

We laughed. I wondered why I used the word "inscrutable" in casual conversation.

But it's true. You can hardly ever tell what Sophia is thinking. She keeps her feelings hidden behind a neutral facade, and she's not a talker, even if she isn't necessarily shy. Maybe it's no wonder that she loves drama, dance, and music, places where she can safely express deep emotions without making herself vulnerable. When she's on stage, she lights up.

Sometimes she gets animated at home. This usually happens when large numbers of family members have turned up for dinner, and we all get to talking and laughing together. She's very comfortable with my parents and siblings because we lived with them for years--from the time she was three months old until she was 10. We all have a very similar sense of humor, so when we all start to joke around in our dry, sarcastic way, she joins in freely. And then she's hilarious.

You also wouldn't expect that she's an accomplished practical joker. In fact, she's such a great practical joker precisely because no one expects it of her. Now that Elannah is also in high school and in drama with Sophia, they cook up plenty of harmless but funny plots together, all of which keep us in stitches as they report on them.

As her mother, I can read her very well. I see the little facial movements that indicate happiness or sadness. I know that she is a deep thinker and incredibly loyal to her friends. I know that she likes it when I stroke her back while we're sitting and watching television.

This last week, I was asked at the last minute to provide a couple musical acts for the ward (congregation) Christmas party. Well, you can't exactly coordinate lots of schedules when you only have a few days to prepare, so Sophia got tapped to sing a solo, which she sportingly did even after only a couple hours' preparation and while she was worried about losing her voice after a full week of concerts, caroling, and play practices. Here she is singing "Winter Wonderland" at the party. She was nervous, but she did it anyway.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Woman to Woman: Knock It Off!

As you know, I do contract work for the company that recently laid me off as a full-time worker. (Yeah, they're getting a great deal, but even if it's humbling and pays way less than before, I can still work from home, which is necessary for those times--like today--when a kid has an asthma issue and I need to be here. It's a blessing.)

Anyway, the point is that I know the people with whom I have contact and who ask me to do specific work and give me the information to complete it. One of them is the developer/project manager, who is a young, bright, seriously talented woman. When my former manager and I worked there, we were the three women in the entire agency. Now she's the only woman working with all those guys.

One thing about this woman (let's call her Shelly) is that her communication style is very masculine. I noticed that right away. It was in stark contrast to the way my manager and I tended to communicate, which is very feminine. I won't launch into a diatribe about how women are taught to communicate from childhood except to say that we are not supposed to be overly direct or make blatant demands or tell someone they are dead wrong. We tend to apologize a lot or play down our needs in various ways. I'm often totally guilty of communicating that way.

Shelly, on the other hand, says what she thinks. She asks direct questions and explains what she needs in order to do her job. She is not angry or arrogant or stuck-up. She is just very competent and direct. She never apologizes for existing. I liked how she communicated, even when I felt that her blunt manner could open the door for miscommunication. Because she had trained me in several technical programs over the months I worked there, I knew that she is also very patient and would never intentionally offend or belittle anyone. 

So, yesterday, one of the account managers (a man) asked me via email for some clarification on something I had done for a client. I explained, but I still didn't make it incredibly clear. Shelly, who was part of the conversation, asked me another clarifying question, and I realized where I had failed to clearly explain myself. I fixed it, and then I jokingly said something to the effect of 'Whoops! I switched topics on you and expected you to ready my mind. But, hey, I'm a girl that way.'

As soon as I sent it, I cringed. Where did that come from? And why in the world would I make that sort of reply to Shelly, of all people? I've joked about stereotypical girl stuff with another of my friends, but no one can see you being sarcastic in an email.

Sure enough, Shelly immediately wrote me a private response calling me out and telling me to knock it off, but she did it in the kindest of terms. Here it is:

Just as a personal note from women to women. 

Women are just as intelligent as men. We are not scattered, stupid, illogical, or anything else. I know you're joking. All women do it sometimes (including myself), cause it's silly and an easy way for us to write off little things. But it does us no good. If you talk that way (even jokingly) about yourself, people believe it. You're better than that. 

I don't want this to come off condescending, or anything like that. I don't want you to feel bad, awkward or stupid. I just don't want to see women continue to play themselves down when they have so much to offer. It's this attitude that keeps others believing the same things about us. Things that are not true yet hold us back from truly competing at a higher level. 

Anyway, I hesitate to even send this because I don't want you to take offense, but I'd like to send it so you are aware you're doing it (sometimes we don't recognize these random things we say). I'd want someone to tell me if I was playing myself down in little ways. So maybe you care, maybe you don't. But I do think you're better than writing your intelligence off. 

I hope you have a good day :) Thanks for all you do. 
I wrote back and told her I was not offended and that I considered it a compliment that she would call me out. The reminder will stick with me. For some reason, I had a little cry, and I think it was because she cared enough to tell me not to belittle myself.

So, ladies, Shelly's right. Knock it off. We're smart, we can say what we need to say without having to beat around the bush or apologize for existing. We can be direct while still being considerate. We can explain what we need in clear terms.

It's okay.

We're worth it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

The Spindler's Whiplash

My sister-in-law started a blog wherein she posts candid pictures with short captions of things that happen in her day. It's a great blog because it's interesting and gives me a peek into her and my brother's lives with their beautiful children.

You, dear reader, must suffer through this blog. But, to quote the immortal Popeye, "I yam what I yam." My kids get suspicious when I keep taking photos of them, and I am in no hurry to post photos of myself, so, instead, you get long blocks of text about things that are going on inside my head. Lucky you!

(Mmmm. Yams sound really good right now, actually. Dinner?)

So, today Husband got stuck on the side of the road on his way to work. Actually, he was lucky in that it wasn't literally on the side of the road that the van stopped moving in a forward direction; he was able to make it to a gas station, at least, so he was out of traffic. That meant that I was able to buy a package of gum and some water bottles from the convenience store when I finally arrived to switch cars with him and wait for the tow truck while Husband continued his delayed journey to work.

The tow truck was late, of course. Because I had run out the door to drop the boys at school before heading into the outskirts of The Big City to rescue Husband, I didn't think to bring anything to read, so I sat and chewed my gum and delved into the magical world of my imagination for over an hour.

(You could have used your phone to entertain yourself, you idiot.)

I really only use my phone to text my children, put stuff on my calendar, and play solitaire, and I didn't feel like playing solitaire. But look! I did find these pics I took recently:

One of our neighbors gave me a big bag of homegrown jalapeño peppers. I used some of them in a salsa, but I did it without using gloves. Yeah, I see you nodding! You know what happened! I know better and I still de-seeded jalapeños gloveless! Not only did my hands feel like they were spontaneously combusting for a couple days, but I also managed to touch the area around one of my eyes after I thought I'd washed the pepper oil off, and that produced a lovely burning sensation, as well. So, in this picture, I wanted to document that I am sometimes smarter than I look. I was making cream cheese-stuffed jalapeños. (Note my Cutco French Chef knife on the cutting board. I love that knife so much I would marry it. I'm not even kidding.)

A couple weeks ago, our town got five inches of snow all at once. When I say "our town," I really mean that snow only fell within the city limits. There wasn't even a snowflake a half mile out (we're in some special little section of land between the mountains and the Great Salt Lake where clouds stop to cry all their tears before moving on, weak and limp, to other places). Everyone's cars were sliding around and getting stuck all over the roads. Anyway, it had been a couple days since that snow, and no one had yet made tracks in the field when I went to take our dog, Marmite, and his buddies, Millie and Bonnie (my in-laws' dogs), on a walk. The little dogs (Marmite and Millie) enjoyed it for about five minutes--bounding around like tiny kangaroos--after which they got really tired and I had to break a trail for them by shuffling through the snow in my boots. The dogs had a great time, but I was exhausted and sweaty by the time we got back home.

Elannah took a selfie with Marmite. Oh, wook at the cute widdle puppy all snuggled up wif his favorite human!

(That was way more information than anyone wanted about those pictures, you know.)

So, I entertained myself mentally until Tyler, the tow truck guy, showed up and hoisted the van onto the towing bed. I hopped into the front seat of the tow truck for the 30 minute drive back home, which disconcerted Tyler a bit, I could tell. He admitted he had been out late the night before and his boss had had to call him and wake him up. "But I wasn't out partying!" he assured me. I told him he probably felt better this morning for not having been partying late into the night. He agreed.

Then we struck up a lively conversation. I asked him stuff about himself, and that got things rolling. Where would he live if money were no object? Montana. Bozeman, specifically, because the people are so nice. Is tow truck driving his main job or is he a mechanic, too? Nope, he's just a tow truck driver, but it keeps him busy all day. Where did he grow up? Riverton, Utah, but he's lived in Wyoming and Montana, too. Etcetera. And, just before we got to my house, he told me he'd spent a summer working on Antelope Island repairing the old pioneer structures out there. They were originally made of mud and stones and were falling apart. He said he and his team had to scour the nearby land for rocks and then mix them with mud and a bit of concrete to rebuild the structures.

"Oh, man!" I said. "I should have been picking your brain about that from the beginning!" I told him of my interest in building according to the landscape, and he was pleased with my barrage of questions. I would have asked more about it, but by that time I was guiding him to my house and it was too late to delve deeper into that fascinating bit of his life experience.

He put the van back in my driveway, and I shook his hand, thanked him for the tow and the conversation, and offered him one of the bottles of water I'd bought at the convenience store, which he accepted. I don't know if you tip a tow truck driver, but I didn't have any cash on me, so the point was moot. Then I went into the house and he drove off.

(People are going to think you've got a crush on the tow truck guy based on the fact that you are repeating all this stuff about him.)

Please. I'm old enough to be his mother, though I should have complimented him on his very neat and trim beard. I was just really excited to get out of the house and meet another human being to whom I am not related. And sitting in the van waiting for him to show up was a lot of fun, too, because I didn't have anything else to do but think. I got a lot of good, solid thinking done. It was very satisfying.

(This makes you sound like the most boring person on the planet.)

I yam what I yam.

Breaking News! 
Husband has just finished putting in a new alternator on the van. He just started it up, and it's running as smooth as you could wish. I can hear it through the window. Husband often fixes the vehicles, and he's learned a lot of basic mechanics skills over the years. Rowr!

Also, Husband suggested the random title when I told him I was trying to come up with something. There you go.