Novels and Noodles

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My mom, my working mother, my corporate powerhouse mother, spent a lot of money and spent even more hours on my childhood hobbies. She frequented the sweaty YMCA while I “played volleyball,” and massacred basketball. She sat through one too many poorly rehearsed renditions of Easy Note “Just Breath” in poorly executed piano recitals. My mom carted me to singing groups and dropped me off at school extra early so I could learn Spanish and practice the Oboe. If I wanted to be well rounded, well, darnit, she was going to see to it that I was.

But the key part of the above sentence is:

“If I wanted to be.” 

100.

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I feel like I’m Isaac Mendez learning to paint the future without heroine. What’s that? You mean you haven’t been watching “Heroes” reruns on Netflix because you have a real job and you go to real school and have a real life? …Me too.

Just not right now.

Let me explain what I meant by the simile. One of my major roadblocks to becoming a “real” writer/blogger is that, before this summer, I could only write when I had “Writer Fingers.”When my “muse” of sorts with me. And lots of times, my writer fingers would come and go during the ebbs and flows and tidal waves of homework. Most days I didn’t have writer fingers, but when I did, I could usually tap out a blog.

I’m not sure if I will look back at this summer and think that I was incredibly accomplished. I feel like I cooked a lot. And I baked a lot. And I kept the apartment clean(ish). I read lots of books, and I got some unit planning done. I beat my first video game (Harry Potter Lego Wii Years 1-4).

Sadly, it doesn’t look like I will finish my novel (But not because I haven’t been diligently writing! But through the act of writing, I learned that there’s A LOT more plot/themes left that I had originally designed, and the book will be better for it).

I may still plan the best high school curriculum the world has ever seen, but right now, not knowing my students is a little crippling to this effort. Also, I’m just such a noob.

Also, I did not cure cancer (to be fair, I wasn’t trying).  And I didn’t start that blog with my friend Kristi, which I am still sad about, but know that it was my fault.

But I did conquer my crutchy belief that I could only write when my muse was with me. This summer, I’ve forced myself to just write. My novel. Lots more blogs than I usually do. And with the friends I’ve made, I’ve been grateful.

…But at least this summer I feel like I’ve accomplished something. I’ve made friends!

*This post has been edited because it appears that I have committed a blogger faux pas. Hahahaha. To be honest I’m amused by the rules that I’m woefully ignorant to.

PS: A sincere, sincere thanks to those of you who have donated to or shared the Aurora Shooting campaign. We are so close to our goal. I feel so grateful for you all.

I will not implode today…

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My parents placed bets on how long it would take me to implode out here–jobless and routineless– in Chicago. Annoyingly enough, they understand that I am happiest when I am stressing myself out by scheduling every minute of my day. I only expect my fellow red-types to understand, but “down time” (unless penciled in) is damaging to my core. It feels like time wasted, time fettered, precious time squandered and irretrievable. After two weeks of scheduled (glorious, much needed) vacation, I must admit, I am ready to get back to the routine.
My real problem here is that there is no routine, and that I am extrinsically motivated, but trying to pretend that I am intrinsically motivated. I love listing out my goals, all noble and impressive, and I certainly pretend to myself that I can accomplish all 437 of them in a month. But unless there is a tangible reward at the end of the yellow-brick road to self-perfection, I realize now that I usually don’t follow through.

Things that Actually Motivate Me:

Pay Checks

Deadlines
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GPA

Words of Affirmation
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Awards, Accolades, Resume Builders


Applause
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Comments on my Blog

Good Tasting Food as a result of my efforts in the kitchen.

Improved relationships with friends and family

Pretty Things that Serve a Purpose

I realize that what I like about these things is that they are immediate, or at least, foreseeable. I think this all ties back to my severe lack of patience. I can’t patiently wait for accolades; I need them to come like clockwork. I feel so shallow about this! The joy in the journey is lost somehow.

Jeremy is the exact opposite of me, and it’s frustrating and admirable. The kid can spend hours, days, years LEARNING a new and important skill just because. His self worth has nothing to do with his GPA or his paycheck. I love that about him, but I am realizing that I am not this way. I wish I were this way.

So while the summer is young, I realize that I am at a crossroad. I can either perpetuate my extrinsic needs by imposing deadlines, checkpoints, and rewards for my summer goals OR I can attempt to reinvent—find joy in the journey rather than the accomplishment. Oh boy, that sounds so hard.

… Maybe I should get a trophy if I reach that point. 

PS: Stay tuned, I think this blog is about to see some exciting changes. 

The Renaissance Women and The Impossible Expectation.

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Hey, you. Your cupcakes are stressing me out. Your domestic achievement stands before me like an obtainable beacon of perfection. Your cupcake says to me:
“Hey! Look! I’m a Mormon domestic and I make beautiful things on the first try. Every cupcake I make is better than any cupcake you could make, because I used tweezers to individually place each sprinkle. And don’t worry, it’s a gluten-free cupcake, but I still managed to make it taste amazing. Come! Come one, Come all! And realize that when you partake of this particular batch of joy, you are also imbibing an extra dose of self-consciousness, because deep-down, you know that you’ll never create something so singularly perfect as this.”
Probably, in all honesty, what your cupcake meant to say was:
 “Oh my gosh, I made a pretty thing for once in my life, or I happened to have exactly four pretty cupcakes in a batch of twenty, and so I am going to prove to the world that I have somewhat awesome potential by editing this photo and posting it on facebook//blog/instagram/pinterst so that hopefully someone will stroke my self-confidence—because, well, to be perfectly honest, this is an area of my life where I am not used to accomplishing much.”
Friends, I would know. Because I am guilty of posting the following picture on facebook//blog/instagram/pinterest:


I spent several minutes assembling this adorable box you see, and then selecting which were my best cupcakes to publicize. I’m part of the phenomenon—I AM THIS PHENOMENON—the phenomenon that only celebrates my successes publicly, keeping (or attempting to keep) my failures a private secret. Why am I so keen to put my best face forward online all the time? 

Because everyone else is doing it. And it’s stressing us all out.
Men: You might actually be exempt from this particular societal observation. Hence, this blog is not catered to you. But ladies, I’m not just talking about cupcakes here. Cupcakes are a metaphor for (insert whatever you feel self-conscious about here).
For me, I didn’t reallyfeel the sting of inadequacy until I got married—and not because Jeremy made me feel this way. I couldn’t pinpoint it, but whenever I overcooked the eggs or pulled the laundry out of the machine too late, I’d feel a tremendous amount of pressure. Whenever I came home and the hallway smelled good because my neighbors had cooked something awesome, I allowed that to be something awesome that I had not done. Husband and I call it “Wifeyness,” this pressure that I put on myself to be The Perfect Homemaker. The pictures on facebook of other’s successes started to infect me…. I felt inadequate, so I posted a couple of pictures of my own cupcakes. Let someone else feel inadequate for the evening, I think I thought subconsciously.
The fickle thing about indulging in self-consciousness is that it bleeds into areas where you previously felt confident. As women, I really do believe that we are asked to “Do It All” these days. The demands on the modern LDS women are intense:
  • ·      Our religion asks us to be a nurturer. There are a ton of sub-responsibilities in this category.
  • ·      Our religion’s culture asks us to be a homemaker, and I suggest that you that there is a difference between nurturer and homemaker.
  • ·      Society says we need to be working women, severe, pencil-skirt wearing, ambitious feminists.
  • ·      Society suggests that we need to be friendly, affable, social party-goers, because there is something wrong with introverted women that prefer good books to good booze.
  • ·      We are made fun of by men for being “overly-emotional,” and Heaven forbid, we have tempers.
  • ·      The University asks us to be high-achieving, good-grade obtainers.
  • ·      The Media suggests we need to be sexy, yet also guarders of virtue.
  • ·      The world makes us feel like we should be skinny at all times, in all places, in all bikinis. 

What a silly expectation. WHAT SILLY EXPECTATIONS.
And we are expected to do this in heels, yet. No wonder the “Claire” from Modern Family, and “Debra” from Everybody Loves Raymond stereotypes exist. A tremendous amount of pressure is placed on women these days. And so once we internalize these things, if we are not one, or two, or all of these things, we are bad at being a woman, or a bad woman. Too often we confuse this: In the woman’s mind, Bad (Homemaker, Feminist, Skinny Person, Super Model, Etc) = Bad Person.
I need you to understand something: I desperately want to be a pencil-skirt wearing domestic, a hard-hitting career woman by day, mommy-dearest (not the crazy type) by night. I want to be a sexy protector of virtue that is a writer, seamstress, photo-shopping professional mother. I want to be a healthy eating, fitness guru who can actually keep my house clean! 

I WANT TO BE THE RENAISSANCE WOMAN.
But here’s the important part: Even without the tug-of-war of influences, I think I would want to do this just for me. These influences, when I allow them to, just help to give me a complex about it—because I am not there yet. And neither are you. And that’s ok.
These are not “new” ideas. As women, we “know” in our heads that we are doing this to ourselves, that we are allowing our understanding of our personal divine natures to be corrupted by the published accomplishments of others. I suppose the difference here is that this blog seeks to publish it all:The epic achievements as well as the epic failures. Because life is a process, and the process deserves to be celebrated just as much as the mastery. Successes and Failures, it’s all part of being a woman. In fact, a healthy combination of the two probably makes us really fantastic women.

So, You! You out there, the amorphous, talented, beautiful, smart, hard-working, domestic-goddess in development, this blog is for you. Because, you, like us, like everyone else, aren’t “there yet,” wherever “there” is for you. If you’re not there yet, that is ok.  We aren’t there yet either.  

*This blog post is the premise to an upcoming blog I hope to co-author soon. Stay tuned.

Starting Over Number 1

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        It has recently come alarmingly to my attention that I should have written in my blog more during 2010. Unbeknownst to me, a special someone was collecting my blog posts, gathering them up, and binding them in a special little book, so that I could feel the joy of being published. And I petered out in September. Not to diminish the extreme treasure this little book is to me, or to diminish the extreme treasure the giver of the book is to me—but it feels incomplete—just like all the other projects and goals that I was so excited about at the beginning of 2010.
        But let me explain something. I love new beginnings. I love a clean slate. I love the first of the month. I love blank notebooks that are ready to be filled with a gigantor list of all the things I want to do that day/week/month/year/instant. I love birthdays and holidays, because all of these times are “Starting Over” times for me—times that I can recommit to stop biting my fingernails (which have been growing strong since my birthday in early December, in case you were wondering), or to start working out, or to write in my blog more often.
            Yet, seeing as every day is not a “starting over point,” and seeing that I stopped “starting over” with my blog in September–this leads my to my newest New Years Resolution:  No more “starting over” landmarks. 
Every day is the first day. 
Tackle your goals as if it’s the first day of the year, and this is the year you finally decided to start using dental floss.  
Fill your notebooks with scribbles, and letters, and pictures, and thinkings so that at the end of the year, your book is full.

You lived your life. At least that’s what I’ll tell myself by the end of 2011. 
            I’m back, blogger friends, and it feels so nice. Happy Starting Over Day #1. See you on Starting Over Day # 2.