Apr 28, 2019

Today Mike and I have been married for fourteen years.

I've spent the last year or so noticing, with some humor, the many ways that Mike and I differ. It seems I often have a very high tolerance for the very things he has a low tolerance for and vice versa.

Some might say these many things make us incompatible, but I like to think it's just the opposite. By having different strengths and weakness, contrasting points of view, and a wide array of interests, we make up for what the other lacks, and consequently, we are becoming something that is truly whole.

Some of those things are big, some are small, and some are just plain silly and don't matter in the slightest. Here's a little sampling:

Microwave popcorn: I feel like I've nailed the time on microwave popcorn if I have just a few burnt kernels but no old maids. Mike would prefer the opposite.

Softened butter: Mike has the art of softening a stick of butter down to a science--seven seconds on this side, five seconds on that side, etc. That takes entirely too long for me. I would rather it was a little (or even a lot) melted rather than spend all that time babying it.

Leftovers in the microwave: Similar to the butter example, Mike carefully warms up leftovers, stirring or rotating them frequently so that everything is evenly heated. I almost always eat food that has a mixture of hot and cold spots in it. It's not a big deal.

Parking spaces: I would rather find a wide open parking space and have to hike two miles in than back into a tight parallel parking spot. Mike doesn't even realize this is something to be anxious about and does it with one hand, in the dark, with a line of cars stacked up behind him.

Temperature: I cry with the first cold front of the fall; Mike cries with the first warm spell of spring. I park myself in front of my space heater; he does the same with his portable fan. (There is maybe even a slight chance we have done this at the same time before, on opposite sides of the bed.) On the rare golden days where we are both comfortable, we know that must be the temperature in heaven.

Dishes: We don't own a dishwasher and have never owned one during our fourteen years of marriage (technically, we had one for three months when we house-sat for someone the summer after we got married, but I think that doesn't really count). Neither one of us minds washing the dishes, but Mike doesn't like washing utensils, and I don't like washing pots and pans, so we often save those things for the other person.

Fizzy drinks: Neither of us are big soda drinkers, but Mike loves carbonation. As such, his go to drink is a can of sparkling water (his favorite brand is Bubly). There are times when I want one too, but I can only drink about fifteen percent of it before the carbonation gets to me. So now, anytime Mike cracks one open, he pours about an inch of it into my cup and downs the rest in ten seconds while I spend the next five minutes slowly sipping mine. It works out great.

Plastic grocery bags: Every time Mike goes to the grocery store, he saves every single plastic grocery bag. Even if the holder is already stuffed and the bags are spilling over the sides into our pantry, he still tries to add a few more. To balance this out, I often have to throw away a couple of handfuls just to hold the stockpile at bay. (Lest you think this has anything to do with Mike's concern for the environment, and my lack thereof, think again. In general, I pay more attention to environmental issues and concerns than Mike does.)

Meal Planning: My version of this consists of sitting down at the beginning of the week, planning out what we want to eat, rotating through meals we like, while adding in a couple new recipes for the sake of variety. Mike's version looks more like running to the grocery store, wandering the aisles looking for something that is on sale, and then bringing everything home and throwing it all together in a culinary masterpiece.

Damp clothes: I do not pull the clothes out of the dryer until they are dry. I do not like folding damp clothes at all. Mike, on the other hand, would rather just get through the laundry. Of course I'm always grateful for his help, but inevitably, if he's switching out the laundry, there are bound to be baskets of damp jeans.

Test scores: When Mike and I were in college, we approached studying for tests very differently. I was aiming for 100 percent. Always. He was sad if he ever got anything above a 94 because it meant he had studied too hard.

Shopping with kids: I say, "Now that you're home, I'm going to run to the store so that I don't have to bring the kids." He says, "Hey guys, I'm home! Who wants to run to the store with me?"

Going out for breakfast: I love going out for breakfast. It feels super indulgent and special to me. In contrast, Mike feels like paying for breakfast is a waste of money. Our marriage became a lot happier when I realized I should stop taking Mike out for breakfast on his birthdays, and he realized he should start taking me out for breakfast on mine.

Observations: I tend to pay attention to names and faces, Mike to landmarks and directions--a fact that was very obvious this past week while we were on a little anniversary trip to New York City.

If anything, the past fourteen years have taught us that some differences are assets, others can be worked through, and most don't matter. But I'm so grateful I get to figure it all out with someone who knows me so well and loves me in spite of everything.

Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Apr 12, 2019

Before my book club decided to read this book, I'd never even heard of Rachel Hollis. (Since she has 1.3 million followers on Instagram, maybe that means I've been living under a rock; it wouldn't be the first time.)

But even not knowing a thing about her, I made assumptions about the book. And those assumptions made me less than excited about reading it.

And now comes the part where I say, "But I was wrong! This book changed my life!"

Except . . .

I was right.

The book was basically exactly what I thought it was going to be. The general gist? Be true to yourself. Pursue your passion. Achieve your dreams. You've got this, girl.

I am not above reading motivational self-help books. In fact, there are times when it's a genre I quite enjoy. But in this case, there were a couple of overarching things that I just couldn't get past.

First, Rachel Hollis came across as a bit full of herself. I don't know how many times she mentioned her self-made company, wide recognition, and devoted tribe, but it was more than enough for me. Also, there was something about the way she touted her many years of experience and wisdom that just rubbed me the wrong way. For example, she wrote about being named by Inc. Magazine as one of the top thirty entrepreneurs under the age of thirty. This initiated a slew of speaking engagements at various colleges, and she said that every time, she would get some variation of the same question (my snide comments and observations are in the [ ]): "'Hi, Rachel,' they'd always begin (because apparently we call adults by their first names now like we're a bunch of hippies! [last time I checked, college students were also adults]). 'Can you tell us the secret of your success? Like, what's the one thing that truly gives you an advantage over others?' First of all, God bless our youth [that are, at most, ten years younger than she is]. God bless these wee infants who believe that a lifetime [29 years] of hustling and working and sweating and stressing and building, building, building a company could be summarized with one single answer."

Do you see what I'm talking about? If she was named one of the top entrepreneurs under the age of thirty, then that means that the very oldest she could be was twenty-nine, right? And here she is, talking about a lifetime of hard work like she's eighty or something! Granted, she has worked really hard and accomplished as much or more than some people do in an entire lifetime, but still, it was presumptuous of her to act like she had all of the answers at the ripe old age of twenty-nine.

Second, our dreams did not match up. Like, at all. Of course it's not her fault that I don't want to be an entrepreneur or run my own company or give advice to millions of people or plan large-scale events. And she's quick to say that your dreams don't have to be the same as her dreams--you just need to identify what your dreams are and then go for them. The funny thing is, you might think we have some things in common since she is also a Type A/Upholder personality, a wife, a mom, and religious--just like me. But even within those categories, we're actually really, extremely different. So yeah, it just wasn't the greatest fit for me. Not her fault.

I will say that in Rachel's defense (I'm thirty-four, so does that make me enough of an adult to call her by her first name?), I read a paper copy of the first two-thirds of the book and then switched to the audio (which Rachel reads herself) for the last third. And I liked it much better. Somehow, hearing her interpretation of the words made them sound more genuine and authentic. Given the fact that she does do a lot of public speaking, I guess this makes sense--maybe this book is a little like poetry: it makes more sense when it is read aloud.

Also, for all of my cynicism, I was actually incredibly impressed with her own vulnerability and the way she opened up and shared some very personal stories, some of which did not always put her in the best light. She has gone through some extremely difficult and challenging and heart wrenching things, and I respect her for being honest and open in the hopes that by so doing, she will help others through their own hard things.

The book wasn't all for naught. Besides finding some of her stories really captivating and interesting, I also had a couple of takeaways.

The first was when she was talking about goals and developing habits. She said, "It's much easier to add a habit than to take one away." Even though I kind of pride myself on being able to make and achieve goals, when she said that, a little light bulb clicked on for me. Suddenly I could see why I was having a hard time eating more healthily. It sounds a little bit stupid when I write it out, but I was trying to cut the junk food out of my life without filling it in with nutritious foods. I was trying to break a habit of bad eating instead of creating a new habit of healthy eating.

The second thing I really loved was when she quoted Tony Robbins, who said, "If you're going to blame your hard times for all the things that are wrong in your life, you better also blame them for the good stuff, too." Without getting into the details because I think that's Rachel's story to tell, she shared the traumatic experience of losing her brother and then acknowledging that some positive things came out of that horrible event. This was a little bit mind-blowing to me. While I definitely believe that God can turn all experiences for our good, I've always been hesitant to acknowledge that good because it feels wrong to be at all grateful for something bad. But this insight gave me a new perspective.

I feel a little like a jerk for criticizing certain aspects of this book, but I always try to give as honest of a review as possible. And the truth is, I wasn't in love with this one. (And thankfully, I know Rachel won't be reading this review because "my opinion isn't any of her business anyway.")

I have a feeling this might be somewhat of a polarizing book. What did you think of it?

A Little of This and That in March

Apr 5, 2019

I was a fan of March. There was still a fair amount of snow, but the weather cooperated when it mattered (and we can always use more snow . . . or so I'm told). We enjoyed time together as a family and made some good memories, such as . . . 

Celebrating . . . a shiny new nine-year-old. We kicked off the month with Maxwell's birthday. Every year, I am always so grateful that he ended up being born ten days late, which put his birthday in March instead of February. March just sounds like spring. Max was pretty easy to please for this birthday because he just wanted the last three Hazardous Tales books so that he would have the complete series. He received a few other things as well (including tickets to a Vocal Point concert--see below). He invited a couple of friends to go bowling that night (which was infinitely less stressful than planning a huge friend party). And we had my parents over for a dragonfly cake a couple of days later.

Growing . . . out of their clothes. All of my boys suddenly seem to be wearing pants that are too short for them. I feel like this happens every spring. And I always want to hold out just a couple more months so that they can just switch to shorts for the summer before we go up to the next size in the fall.

Cheering . . . on my brother, Christian, at his church basketball game. It was quite entertaining. Christian has endless energy and darts around the court popping up in front of opposing players to block and distract them. I think you'd have to watch it to really get the full impact. I should probably mention that my brother is developmentally delayed but he is extremely loyal and committed, and his teammates are so supportive and kind to him. And my kids were all convinced that Christian was the most valuable member on the team. The opposing team didn't have any subs, so Christian literally wore them out, and his team ended up winning (their first and only win this season!).

Debating . . . when to have our neighborhood pie party. We usually try to hold it as close to March 14th (Pi Day) as possible. So when the week of Pi Day rolled around, we looked at the forecast. We could see a storm on Wednesday, but Saturday looked beautiful. We decided to take a gamble and plan it. We started telling our neighbors, Mike requested Friday off of work, and we cancelled other weekend plans. And then, we woke up on Wednesday morning to snow. This wasn't exactly a surprise, but what we weren't expecting was for it to snow all day long and accumulate several inches on the ground. We figured Saturday would be nice, as predicted, but would there still be snow on the ground? We moved forward with the preparations, and as late as Friday afternoon, I was still thinking we might have made a mistake because that snow just refused to melt! But then, the sun came out, the temperature inched up a few more degrees, and the snow magically disappeared. And that was a good thing because by that point, we had crossed the point of no return.

Baking . . . and eating ALL the pies! Our fifth annual Pie Day was a huge success. Mike baked 44 pies, which included eleven different kinds: cherry, pumpkin, pecan, caramel apple, strawberry, pumpkin custard, coconut creme, key lime, lemon sour cream, Reese's peanut butter, and chocolate. He began his pie-baking marathon on Thursday night and finished 36 hours later on Saturday morning. It was intense. We had more than 180 family, friends, and neighbors drop by for a piece. The weather was sunny and gorgeous. It felt like everyone was coming out of hibernation and we were finally welcoming spring!

Competing . . . in state Future Problem Solvers (FPS). One afternoon, Aaron came home from school with a packet of papers explaining that his FPS group had moved onto the state level of competition and that he and his team members would need to get together to create a skit they could perform at the award ceremony later in the month. I . . . had no idea what any of this was about. Luckily, one of the other moms had already had several children compete in FPS, and so she gathered the group together and helped them plan their skit. Over the course of the week, they got together four times, both to write the script, make the props, and rehearse. As part of the skit, they had to present both a problem and demonstrate a solution. They did a parody on High School Musical. There were sixteen groups competing, and many of the skits were difficult to hear and understand, but Aaron's group spoke loudly and with great diction, and the whole performance was quite polished. His group ended up winning first place in the skit competition (and the two other groups from his class won second and third). It was a pretty fun evening, and on the way home, Aaron told me, "I was ELATED when we won!" (And now I know what Future Problem Solvers is in case any of my other kids do it in future years.)

Watching . . . High School Musical. When Aaron's FPS group decided to base their skit around High School Musical, I asked Aaron if he had ever even seen the movie. He hadn't. So we had to do an emergency viewing pronto. Meanwhile, Aaron and Maxwell's classes were going on a field trip to a nearby junior high to see their production of High School Musical 2. So Maxwell also had to do an emergency viewing so that he would know the basic story before seeing the sequel (and he had to do it on another evening since he wasn't home when Aaron watched it). And then, after they saw the play, they all wanted to see the actual movie of High School Musical 2. Max has also asked to listen to the music several times. Mike and I were also going to see the junior high production because our niece happened to be in the ensemble. But she ended up getting sick on the night we were going to go, so we skipped out because by that point I was feeling a little sick of High School Musical. It was so bizarre how so much of our everyday lives revolved around this story for the month of March. I never could have predicted it.

Speaking . . . in exclamatory sentences. No one loves an exclamation as much as Ian does, and now he has a large repertoire of phrases to choose from: "Oh, darn it!" "What the heck!" "Oh my gosh!" "Oh boy!" "Oh my goodness!" "Guess what?!" "Oh dear!" "Oh man!" There is something about hearing those words in his sweet little voice that makes them infinitely cuter.

Listening . . . to this episode from the This is the Gospel podcast. I love to hear individual stories about journeys of faith, but Dusty's story took it to another level. He joined the Church as a young man, but after a few years, he left it. And he didn't just leave but vocally opposed and criticized the Church and sought to convince others to leave as well. But then, after many years and a series of miraculous events, he came back. His story had me openly weeping, and it went straight onto my list of things to listen to if my own faith ever needs a pick-me-up. Highly, highly recommend.

Treating . . . Maxwell to a Vocal Point concert for his birthday. Mike and I took Max on a little afternoon date to see BYU's male a cappella group. It was fantastic. And Maxwell has been beatboxing ever since.

Taking . . . a spring break trip down to southern Utah. Our main objective was to visit Mike's grandma and a couple of his aunts and uncles, but we managed to squeeze in a bunch of other activities as well (see below).

Hiking . . . around Hovenweep National Monument and Arches National Park. This was the first time I'd been to Hovenweep, and I loved it. The hike took us around a bunch of ancient Puebloan ruins, and it was totally different than anything we'd ever seen before. Also, it was just really cool to think about how long these buildings have survived and imagine the people that used to live in them. Although we've been to Arches many times, we went on the hike to Landscape Arch, which we haven't done in years, and we continued the hike beyond it, which we haven't done before. And on both days, we enjoyed the most gorgeous weather and very minimal crowds (especially at Hovenweep).

Standing . . . in four states at once. I have wanted to visit Four Corners for a long time, but it always just felt so far out of the way. But this time, we made it happen. And, turns out, it really is in the middle of nowhere, and there really isn't much to do except strike a pose on the four corners spot, but we all still thought it was really cool. There was a line to take photos, and we ended up standing in line three times because I kept wanting to get different pictures but I didn't want to hog the spot for too long. So our time looked a little like: take photos, order Navajo tacos from the fry bread truck, eat lunch, take photos, walk around and look at everything being sold by the vendors, take more photos, leave.

Playing . . . with cousins. We went on our spring break trip with Mike's sister, Sonja, her husband, Rob, and their kids. It made the trip at least three times, probably more like ten times, as fun as it would have been otherwise. Steven, Andrew, Addie, and Laura are so kind and helpful and creative. I always hope their good examples will rub off on my kids, and I think they did at least a little bit on this trip because my kids had good attitudes during all of our activities, even when they got tired or hot or hungry. We'll go on a trip with them anytime (although I don't know if they feel the same . . . ).

Finding . . . out at the last possible minute that Aaron was competing at the district debate tournament in the informational speech category. Okay, I exaggerate . . . slightly. His teacher sent out an email with details about the debate tournament, and I only gave it a passing glance until I caught Aaron's name in the list of competitors. It was literally the day before the competition. And Aaron had said nary a word about it. I have no idea when he was planning to tell me. Maybe he was just going to phone me from the school the next afternoon and say, "Hey, Mom! I need a ride to Magna right now." Luckily, it all worked out. He had his speech all memorized and ready to go, so even if he left his mom in the dark, I was proud of him for being prepared. And now he's going onto state! (But at least he told me about that.) 

Rooting . . . for Aaron (silently, of course, because this was serious, academic business) at the State Geography Bee. It was nerve wracking, but he kept his cool and did great. He finished in the top third of the competitors, and, considering that he was up against sixth, seventh, and eighth graders, I'd say that's something to be proud of! As you can see, it was a very busy month for Aaron.

Starting . . . but not finishing several knitting projects. I currently have a sweater with one sleeve and most of the body, one slipper, and about a fourth of a lace cowl. The slippers and the cowl have been put on hold for the moment as I try to finish up the sweater (and start another top . . . oops). Maybe I'll have something to show off next month.

Catching . . . our first few signs of spring. They're slow in coming this year, but at the end of the month, the trees were just getting ready to unfurl. My favorite.

There's always more I could share, but I think that's a good place to end for this month. What were you up to?

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