Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sweet Emotion

Last month Glen and I were indulging in one of our rare, slightly-philosophical discussions. This in and of itself is noteworthy because usually we stick to shallow topics, such as the merits of a tv show starring Richard Armitage, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, and Sean Bean. (you had me at richard armitage.) But that's not the point here.

Hello, dear.

It was inspired by a woman in our ward who we don't know terribly well, but who is without a doubt one of the sweetest people we've ever met. And not in a sugary, sickeningly-syrupy way. The kind of sweet that is soft-spoken, selfless, and ultimately sincere. The kind that you want to emulate. The kind that your default description of this woman is "sweet".

She is also not the tallest of women. She is willowy and petite. I've definitely seen shorter people, but she's small.

Contrast that with me. No, I'm not the tallest of women, but I'm up there in the height department. And I've also got meat on my bones (and not just because i've had a baby and can be too lazy about exercise, although that does help). And I'm pretty sure that "sweet" is not a default adjective used by others to describe me.

I'm the girl who had to be bribed by her (soft-spoken) 4th-grade teacher to be quieter in class with Ghirardelli chocolates. I'm the girl who was so obnoxiously enthusiastic about welcoming younger students into choir that I actually scared them before they got to know me and realized I was capable of behaving like a normal-ish human being (sorry again, cheech!). I'm the girl who was sometimes nicknamed "Megaphone", for crying out loud! I've always been loud and a bit brash, and I've generally been an attention-seeker. (yay, drama! both on-stage and off.)

And I was wondering out loud and this was our discussion . . . is my height and body shape a factor in my personality? Is her height a factor in hers?

The final decision I've come to is that maybe it is, and maybe it isn't. I talked about this to my pal Melissa, who came up with a couple of tall people she knows who she definitely would first describe as sweet. She also reminded me of the concept of the "gentle giant", and I immediately thought of my old pal Mike, who fit that description to a T. He was a big, football-playing, motorcycle-loving guy with one of the most tender hearts I knew, the kind of heart that was soft enough that he cried while singing "How Great Thou Art". (one of my first memories of him.)

So thus we see, there are tall, big people who are sweet, and tall, big people who are not. If I really thought about the shorter people I know, I'm sure I could find similar variability. And maybe our sizes do influence our personalities, but they definitely aren't the deciding factor.

I'm not saying that one personality is better than the other. As Melissa reminded me, if we were all alike, this world would be pretty boring. And I'm not even saying I'm incapable of sweetness. I can be thoughtful, I can be a good listener, and I can even do things for others that can be described as sweet. The point is not to use another person's personality to degrade my own, but acknowledge their strengths and be inspired to improve myself. You never know -- maybe someone's seen the differences between themselves and me and wanted to follow my example in something. That's crazy to think, because of course I know all my flaws and am quick to say that nobody should strive to be at all like me. But maybe, juuuuuust maybe, it's possible.

So as I see these sweet people in my life, I'm going to try a little better to be more like them. To reach out without a thought toward myself. To lend a listening ear. To help someone willingly. To be sincerely interested in their lives. I may still be big and loud, but I can do that much. And I don't need to be bribed with Ghirardelli chocolate to do it, either.

Although chocolate is always welcome.



"If you don't know how to pronounce a word, say it loud!" -William Strunk, Jr.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

But You Gotta Have Friends

I am grateful for tender mercies. They happen every day, probably, but I am often too blind to notice them. And then the Lord, in His kindness, occasionally whacks me over the head with one.

Let's back up to 2002. It's fall of my freshman year at BYU, and I'm adjusting to life in a dinky dorm room with Kim, learning that college classes are, in fact, harder than high school classes, enduring meals at the Cannon Center, and experiencing extremely dry skin (courtesy of Utah). I'm also making friends. One such friend is Carol. There's a nice, tight-knit group of friends forming around me, of which she is an integral part. She is, no joke, possibly the kindest person on the planet. I'm so glad she's willing to be friends with a crazy loudmouth like me.

 An impromptu hat night on our floor
(i'm on the far left, carol's in the middle of the top row crouching)

As time goes on and college continues, Carol remains one of my closest friends; in practically all instances, she is my confidant. She is there for me when I have hard times; she is there for me during good times, too. We go to Stan's, a diner a couple blocks away from our apartment complex, for delicious milkshakes, fries, and good chatting. She keeps me cheerful. We sing snippets of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat together. At a time when I feel rejected by some, she never abandons me.

Of course, life gets busy and we don't see each other as often as years pass. Other friends and the occasional romantic interest come and go. Every once in a while, though, we meet at Stan's. Somehow that tradition stays afloat while we're both in Provo.

We even documented ourselves at Stan's here

I guess the point of this backstory is to illustrate that Carol was once of my best friends while I was in school. (believe me, i could have elaborated in more detail, but for your sakes, i refrained.) In her quiet, thoughtful way, she was a rock for me as I handled my life in my usual dramatic fashion. As life goes on, these friends come in and out of our lives, and there will be times we are in touch with them and times when we are not. Some, we may never see again. It's a little sad, but that's the way life goes. You can only hope that if those friends ever reflect on their past, they remember you in a positive light.

I don't think I live in the past, but every once in a while, I think of old friends and wonder how they're doing and have a desire to find them again. A couple weeks ago, I was thinking about Carol. And I was pretty sad that I let us fall out of touch once we graduated. I decided I would try and contact her. You'd think in this world of social media that such a task would be easy. But some people (gasp!) are not facebook! Well, I didn't let that daunt me, and I was pretty sure I found a possible avenue to contact her again, but I wasn't sure how reliable it was.

And then I went to Provo for the weekend.

Sunday came around. Glen and I decided we'd head over to our old ward for church. Knowing the nature of our ward and it being a year since we moved, we knew that the ward would look very different and there wouldn't be that many people we knew. However, there would still be hold-outs that we were looking forward to seeing. We walked into the familiar chapel, sat in a pew, and began looking around for anybody we might recognize. (of course, me being me, we were there earlier than many people.)

And there, a couple pews in front of us, sat my old friend Carol! Of all the double-takes I predicted that morning, I couldn't have predicted the one I would perform when I saw her! I immediately ditched Glen and high-tailed it over to her, where she was, naturally, just as surprised to see me coming up the pew. It ended up that she was visiting her sister, who is currently residing in my old ward. We talked for a couple of minutes, promised to exchange contact info, and then I went and surprised my other friends who I was actually expecting to see.

Sure, this could all be a huge coincidence. But I prefer to think of it as one of Heavenly Father's mercies. He knew I'd been thinking about Carol a few days before and had been looking for a way to find her. Glen and I could have easily decided to go to church a block away from where we were staying, but at the last minute, our old ward popped into our heads. Of course, there were perks to that idea (since i loved the people in that ward) and I was excited at the thought of it, but maybe the idea popped in there because God was saying, "I know who's going to be there!"

So I'm grateful for those times that He lets me know that He really is in charge and listening to us, even our unuttered prayers. I'm grateful for the chance I've had to reconnect with Carol and see where she is in her life. I'm grateful for friends, old and new.


"I have lost friends, some by death . . . others through sheer inability to cross the street." -Virginia Woolf

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Eat It

Let me tell you about something that has changed my life completely in the last month and a half. Something that has turned a specific time of day from a time of loathing and dread to a time of control and peace (well, as peaceful as you get with your toddler running between your legs).

What is this amazing thing that has made my life so much better?

Meal planning.

Oh, my gosh, why didn't I ever do this before?!??!?!!?? I can't believe how much happier I have been during dinner prep time ever since I finally sat myself down and planned dinner through the following week. I did once attempt to meal plan when I was still single, and I even wrote about it and asked for meal ideas and recipes on this very blog. However, the first week I tried, I was interrupted by an unexpected visitor that threw most of that week out the window, meal-wise, and I never tried again.

Oh, how foolish I was.

For quite some time, I had spent the hour or so preceding dinner-prep completely unprepared. I never had any idea what to make, and so I actually would let myself feel incredibly lazy and think, "I don't want to make dinner!" All because I didn't have a plan. Many days in the week Glen would come home from work to the instant query, "What do you want for dinner?" I was sick of asking, and he was sick of hearing it.

But now! Oh, but now. Now I know what's on the menu, and I have the groceries necessary for it. Now I know when to begin cooking, and I know the effort required. Amazingly, meal planning for ten minutes before grocery shopping has made me less lazy throughout the rest of the week! Because I have a plan set out, and I keep it! Now the only stress I have about making dinner is keeping Isaac out of my hair, rather than constantly wondering how I will possibly motivate myself to look through the cupboards and see what's available.

I haven't necessarily branched out or experimented with a lot of new recipes, but our variety is still good, and I have been especially proud of some efforts, like the first homemade lasagna I ever attempted. (and when i say "attempted", i mean "aced".) I don't know if we're eating healthier, but we're sure eating happier. I still stick mostly to simple stuff, but because I have laid out my dinner life, I am more willing to occasionally make something that is more time/labor-intensive (such as the lasagna . . . man, that made me feel awesome).

 No lasagna soup tonight!

Ah, meal planning. You make me so happy. I will try to never abandon you again.


"There is a coherent plan in the universe, though I don't know what it's a plan for." -Fred Hoyle