Sunday, January 29, 2012

Happy birthday, son

Today would have been Peter's seventh birthday. Mostly it's gotten easier with time, but his birthday is still as hard as it was the first year.

Happy birthday, baby.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

To every season

I had this idea when I was younger that a time would happen when I would know who I was. That there would come a day when all the pieces of my personality would some how mesh into a solid pattern, like carbon atoms achieving the perfect matrix of a diamond.

My whole life, there have been all these different parts of me that I could never successfully coordinate. There's the scholar part of my personality, and the geek part; there's the nine year old girl who is obsessed with owls and hedgehogs and gnomes; the tailored classic country clubber and the crunchy earth mother; the planner, the list-maker, the organizer; the dreamer with a stack of books and a garden swing; the maker who tries different crafts and hobbies every three months or so; the mother; the lover; the naturalist seeking simplicity lives cheek by jowl with the girl who lusts after expensive leather purses and sparkling stones.

For so long this felt like I was unfinished. Trying to reconcile the contradictory parts of my personality into one finished piece of art - trying to cross "grow up' off of my life's to-do list - has never felt within my grasp.

Last night, I was looking at a picture that reminded me of the images you see through a kaleidoscope. One of the great things about kaleidoscopes is that the image is never fixed. You can always give it another turn and see what happens. Sure, diamonds are pretty and sparkly and reflect the light, but they are always the same. Kaleidoscopes are much more fun. You are always creating new beautiful arrangements. Diamonds all have flaws, fixed within them, that are permanent. Kaleidoscopes don't have that problem. All the inclusions are a part of the beauty. What takes center stage in one scene will fade into the background with another twist of the viewer, and then merge together with another image to form something greater than the sum of the parts in a third image.

I think life is more like a kaleidoscope than a diamond.There isn't one right configuration for all of my elements. They mix together and create different patterns for my life at different times. For someone who gets bored easily, that's a benefit and not a drawback. My life has been pretty stable for the last few years. I've seen certain parts of my life take a dominant position, and some have faded so far into the background that I have almost forgotten them. I've turned my kaleidoscope, and I have a feeling I'll keep turning it for the next year or two trying to find a new pattern I want to look at for the next phase of my life. But I'll always remember that when I want to, I can turn it again, and a new pattern will emerge.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Seven for Saturday: January 21, 2012

1. Seeing the look of happiness on GeekBoy's face while he was opening his birthday presents.
2. Cooper randomly telling me that hippos don't fit in backpacks.
3. A student told me I would fit right in on The Big Bang Theory. Best compliment from a student ever.
4. The 100th episode of The Big Bang Theory. I laughed until I was on the verge of tears. As someone who has played more games of Catan than I can count, those conversations were dead. on.
5. We had a breaker flip in the middle of the night. We found this out by Cooper coming into our bedroom and asking to sleep with us. Our new bed is big enough that he can fit in the bed without disturbing my sleep. Sleepy cuddles are awesome.
6. Needing a treat and knowing there were no treats in the house. And then remembering about my emergency chocolate drawer that GeekBoy stocks for me. Such a great feeling to open it up and have a choice of treats.
7. GeekBoy got me a bird house for the yard. One step closer to getting our yard certified as wildlife habitat.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Things to do with Cooper

I have all these ideas running around in my head about the things I want to do with Cooper when I get to stay home with him.

1. Make big soft pretzels.
2. Plant a play yard with sunflower walls and a teepee covered in some sort of vine.
3. Grow a small garden that he gets to decide what is in it.
4. Do yoga together.
5. Do little "chef" classes - he loves to help in the kitchen.
6. Read together every day, just for fun.
7. Test out every playground in the city.
8. Feed the geese our failures from number five.
9. Make suet pine cones with pine cones we gather ourselves.
10. Blow the biggest bubble ever.
11. Sidewalk chalk art contests.
12. Weekly library trips.
13. Learn the names of the stars in the sky.
14. Take walks under every full moon.
15. Hopscotch.
16. Go to the zoo a lot.
17. Visiting daddy at work for lunch.
18. Nature walks.
19. Building forts and caves in the living room.
20. Bike rides.
21. Popping popcorn on the stove.

I will not attempt to do these all at the same time, or even in the same year. But they are things I want to do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

And back to our normal programming

And, I'm back to feeling good about this whole thing. I really am excited to try and live out some values concerning sustainability and ecology that I didn't have the opportunity to do before.

My problem is going to be going about this in a sensible manner instead of a "do ALL the things NOW" kind of way. I tend to either being going 100mph or completely stopped. I need to work on a middle ground.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Weird head space

So. I think I have transitioned from the, "Yay, so many choices! The possibilities are endless!" option to, "Oh my word, there are so many choices. The possibilities are...endless."

If you haven't figured out by the title of my blog, I am a very goal oriented person. I like plans. I like knowing what the next step is. I like crossing things off of my to do list. I have been known to write things on my to do list after I did them, just so I could cross them off.

I love a feeling of accomplishment. I like other people being able to see what I accomplished. I like being able to say "Done." and look about and see what I have finished.

I have known what the next step of my life was going to be since...junior high? Graduate, college, marriage, advanced degrees, kids. All of these were planned for and accomplished. And though there were some detours and scenic routes, all of these things happened.

And now I don't know what it is I am supposed to be accomplishing next.

It's unsettling.

I have a question: Is it okay to be - and I'm going to get slammed for using this word - just a mom? I don't mean that being a mom is easy because I am under no illusions there. And I don't think being a mom is of less importance than any other thing women do. Caring for another human being has to be the pinnacle of human experience. But is it okay to just mother. And not mother while being an A-list blogger/raising heirloom tomatoes in a multinational organization to preserve seed diversity/spinning yarn from the fleece of the pygmy goats that I rescued from experimenters (fleece? fur? hair? What do goats have?)/developing a plan for international peace/sewing my own clothes/founding a multimillion dollar empire dedicated to...something?

There is sooo much pride embodied in this question: Am I allowed to just be mom for a while? I have above-average intelligence and a good work ethic. Combine that with being told "Unto whom much is given, much is required" on a fairly regular basis all my life, and I feel like I have to be extraordinary or I'm failing. I was voted "Most Likely to Conquer the World" by my senior class. The guy who was voted the same died in an accident a year after we graduated. I kind of feel like I need to conquer the world for him as well. And for his parents.

I feel like it's okay for me to quit my job because now I am going to home school Cooper and that is noble and virtuous and provides a reason for me to be at home. It isn't enough, in my own mind at least, to say I am going to be a stay at home mom, and my kid is going to go to public school, and I am going to have several hours of the day to myself with little to no responsibility to anyone other than my own soul and conception of the good.

I need to accomplish something.

I just don't know what yet.

And yes, I know parenting is an accomplishment and the most important work I can do is parenting well and it is never done blahblahblah crunchy platitudecakes. I know all that stuff. In my head. It just doesn't seem like truth to my heart.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Seven for Saturday - January 14, 2012

1. Getting to use the phrase, "Whatcha gonna do, fire me?" at work. There are some benefits to resigning.

2. Going an entire week without burning anything in the microwave at work - did I mention burning popcorn and then almost setting off the smoke alarm at work the next day last week? A week later the microwave still smells like smoke. Apparently, they are serious about the "add water to line" part when you make fancy cup o noodles. Note to self - figure out if there is a way to remove smoke smell from microwaves. I'm pretty sure that some combination of baking soda and vinegar would do it.

3. We have a pupusa wagon in town! The only El Salvadorean restaurant in town was short lived and went out of business about two years ago. But we had pupusas for dinner tonight and they were sooooo good.

4. Reading a new book to Cooper and watching him be mesmerized by the story. If you have a child in your family mesmerized by trucks, you should get a copy of Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site. It is wonderful.

5. GeekBoy restocked my emergency chocolate drawer without prompting. He also stocked it with multiple types of chocolate so I can match the emergency with the appropriate treat.

6. I ordered some frames for the art work GeekBoy bought me for Christmas. They showed up this week heavily bubble wrapped. So Cooper and I have been having bubble wrap dance parties this week.

7. GeekBoy made the best oatmeal raisin chocolate chip cookies Sunday night. They were delicious, and he made them because I wasn't feeling well and asked him to make me cookies and he didn't even complain at all.

Life plans

I resigned my job. Again. My chair refused to accept the letter the first time and told me to take more time to think about it. So yesterday, I resigned my job again. The job I worked for a decade to get. The job that pays significant amounts of money. The job that I love (most of the parts most of the time.) And I feel so relieved. It's like I suddenly have all these opportunities that I can take advantage of, and all these choices that I can make.

I keep flashing back to that scene in You've Got Mail, where Meg Ryan's character is talking about writing a children's book, and that this is something she never would have done if she kept the store. I know a lot of people got irritated with this movie because she falls in love with the guy who put her out of business, but it seems to me that sometimes, our lives are planned so far ahead that we sometimes outgrow the plan and don't change it. Life changes us as we go along, and being willing to embrace the change and give up the plan of the person you used to be and create a new plan for the person you are now is an important ability. I am not willing to buy in to the sunk cost fallacy.

I am not the person I was a decade ago. But every experience I have had in the last decade has lead me to be the person I am now. And frankly, I like the person I am now. I can't regret a single decision I've made because they all taught me something and shaped who I am. And who I am is awesome. I've done what I needed to do at the University. I have learned important things about me. I'm coming to realize that I get bored easily, and once I have mastered something, I feel a need to move on to something new. I'm not content with just being good at something. I have new things to learn and do and create.

The resignation was prompted by my fibromyalgia getting so bad that I literally couldn't do my job and maintain any level of meaningful health, but I am thinking that this is actually a blessing in disguise. So I am going to go from working full-time or more with a substantial income to being a stay at home mother and homeschooling Cooper and dealing with a budget.

And I couldn't be more excited about any of it.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I am ashamed to admit that I have never read a book by Charles Dickens, other than A Christmas Carol. If you were to pick only one Charles Dickens book to read, which one would you recommend?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


I know trends are cyclical, and taste is individual, and the people who can't wait for the owl to go the way of the dodo are probably disgusted with my love of all things hootie. And hedgehoggie. And gnomes and mushrooms. Okay.

But seriously, I do not get the hipster fascination with mustaches, the mommy-blogger need to make all food look like a rainbow (seriously, I look at those pictures and the only thing I can think of is the amount of artificial food coloring you are pumping into your kid) and the fashion trend of patterned tights. I have yet to see a pair that didn't make the wearer look like she had some sort of weird skin disease on her legs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


I developed a simulation for class today and it went really well. One student told me that it was the best class she had even been in.

A student told me that a comment I made two and a half years ago completely changed her life and she is now a much better person.

I have to remind myself that while quitting is hard, not quitting will be harder.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Seven for Saturday - Jan 7, 2012

In my quest to find joy in the small things, and maybe spread a little joy, I'm going to try and do a list of seven things that made me happy in the previous week. Knowing I have to make a list should help me pay more attention to the good moments in my life.

1. A friend told me that I'm one of the lucky ones who has the coloring to pull off a wide range of hair colors. This was in response to me dyeing my hair a very dark brown. This is one more thing I can add to my list of things I love about my body.
2. The TV show My Boys.It's not great television, and the baseball metaphor can be a little overplayed - hahaha, get it? - but it's cute and fun and relaxing. Sometimes you just want to be entertained. This fills that spot.
3. I got an email from a student who is now in graduate school thanking me for all the things I taught her, and how much it has helped her in her program.
4. I have started using the "Absofrickinglutely" rule for deciding which things I want to be involved in.
5. GeekBoy found a Christmas present that he forgot to give me, the Firefly Les Femmes prints by amazing artist Megan Lara.
6. I have been listening to the new album by Florence and the Machine, Ceremonials. Her voice is almost primal. Total love.
7. Whole grain toast with almond butter and honey. Mmmmmm.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Cooper, I Choose You

I would like to announce that I have knocked two things off of my list. I have a new mattress on the way. Also, I did something completely unexpected, though it was not spontaneous.

I quit my job.

I love my job. No, seriously. I love it. I've worked hard to get where I am. I love my coworkers. I love my students. I love being around these people and the conversations and the energy and feeling like I am making a difference in the world.

The part I don't like is spending every day on painkillers because my job uses up every ounce of energy I have and then draws on my reserves. Weekends for the last semester have been spent sleeping to regain energy. Every night after work involved me slumping into a chair, taking pain medication with my dinner, and having no ability to interact meaningfully with my husband or son. I was on painkillers almost every day for the last six weeks of the semester.

Over Christmas break, I actually got to sleep. I got to rest. I got to relax. I stopped being on painkillers. I laughed all the way down to my soul. I played with my son. I had fantastic sex with my husband. I remembered the person I used to be before I was on pain meds every day.

On one of the last days of break, as GeekBoy and I had a lovely lunch together, he asked me, "Do you really want to go back?" And I started to cry. Because as much as I love the people and the students and teaching, I dreaded going back to the zombie I am during the semester.

Last semester, Cooper got used to being with me for five minutes a day. I couldn't play with him, because if he touched me too hard, it would hurt so bad I couldn't keep from crying out in pain. And then he prayed to ask Heavenly Father to make me better so I could play with him.

When your child prays for something, how can you not do everything in your power to answer his prayers?

And so today, I quit. Academic hiring takes forever, and I don't feel like I can leave the university or the department in the lurch, so my plan is for me to finish out this semester as scheduled, to drop to 75% contract next semester, and then to stop working.

This was the hardest decision I have ever had to make in my life. I feel like I am letting down my department, my university, my students, especially the female ones as I am the only female permanent faculty member in the department, womankind in general, and myself. If only I was stronger/better/faster/more righteous/more something, I would have been able to do everything.

But I can't.

I can't be the mother I want to be or the wife I want to be and keep all the balls in the air. I taught one class today. I advised one student today. I planned one activity today. And I'm tired. And I hurt.

I needed to make a decision, and through a lot of prayer and crying and priesthood blessings, Geekboy and I have made the decision that I am going to be a stay-at-home mom for the next little while. Cooper is going to get a mommy he can play with. And everything is going to be okay.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Getting my life together

So, I suppose it's time for me to start having an adult life. No, not like that you weirdos.  It is time for me to get my act together and stuff. Probably should stop using stuff as a descriptive word if I want this adult thing to stick.

First thing I have done in order to get my life together: I threw away all my makeup I bought during the Bush Administration. Ew. Just think about all the nasty germies and other microbes that are crawling around in there, especially if you ever use your fingers as an applicator.

Then, I threw away all my mascara and started over with new ones. Docs say you shouldn't use any makeup that touches your eye for more than six months. That means I need to sharpen all my eye pencils anyway. It's nice to take a moment when you're not frantically trying to get dressed to put a fresh point on the eye pencils. They work so much better that way.

You should do this, too. Go, I'll wait. If you don't have any mascara, you should buy some. Just some nice brownish-black, a tinted moisturizing sunscreen and a neutral lip gloss and you'll feel like a whole new person.

And if you're a boy, well...go throw away all your underwear and buy new ones. Probably socks, too.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Impersonating an adult

I turn 36 this month. That's like...old. Like middle age old. My 16 year old self would think I am ancient. People tell me I don't look that old. Good genes and moisturizing sunscreen on my face every day since I was 16. I also stay out of the sun as much as possible because I burn super easily. I once got a sunburn walking across a parking lot in Arizona in the summer.

Okay, back to the old. I know I'm not really old when it comes down to it. But I'm a full time resident of adult land. I am paying a bank to stay in my house rather than a landlord. I have a career. I'm married and have children and a pet that wasn't won at a fair. All these strike me as characteristics of adulthood. If I was a bird, and a birdwatcher was trying to classify me, all these are things what would indicate that I am a full-fledged (hahahahaaa) member of the species adultus humanus.

And yet. I have Playmobil goats on my desk. The required good Mormon Christus statue sits next to a sculpture of a meditating elephant.  One of my favorite Christmas presents this year is a miniature spirograph. I like to color. I wear funky socks under my work pants. I shot my husband with a squirt bottle this morning.

These are not things that I think of when I think of an adult. But I'm not sure why. Whoever said that being an adult meant being boring? Who says I can't wear polka dot socks as I lecture about Plato? Nobody. Or at least nobody that I feel like listening to.

Somebody I do like listening to said “In all of living have much of fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured.” Gordon B. Hinckley, “Stand True and Faithful,” Ensign, May 1996, 91. I am going to enjoy life as an adult. Maybe that means by some standards I will not be an "adult." If that is the case, then I am going to just impersonate an adult. That way, I don't really have to be one, I can just act like it when needed.

So this is my plan for the year - to impersonate an adult.

What does an adult look like in my mind?

An adult takes care of herself.
An adult cares for those people and objects in her stewardship.
An adult knows her limits, and her horizons, and does not confuse the two.
An adult has at least as many laugh lines as wrinkles.
An adult finds joy in small things.
An adult knows that all sadness passes.
An adult has a place for all things, and all things (usually) are in their place.
An adult is more tortoise than hare.
An adult has a roadmap for the future, but also takes scenic detours.
An adult has passions, rather than fads.

So this is my journey this year. To become an adult on my terms, rather than someone else's. I'll be blogging some of the things I do to make this happen, so if you want to be an adult on my terms, you can. I really encourage you to come up with your own, though. It is much more satisfying.
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