Thursday, June 30, 2011

There's seclusion, and then there's people

I have been looking forward to this week for pretty much my entire life. Well, not this week specifically, but a week like this week. You see, my one roommate is out of town, which means I have the entire apartment to myself for longer than just a few hours. And that means I can experiment with my cooking, listen to loud music, control the t.v., leave my stuff lying in the living room, and run around wild and crazy if I so desire. No one will be there to tell me what to do, to compete with my noise level, or to make me feel self-conscious when I'm singing along to my quiet music.

During those long summers I spent babysitting, I often imagined what it would be like to be on my own, to do things simply because I could, like buying a gallon of ice cream and eating it all by myself. Yep, I had big plans. From my journal, dated February 17, 2003:
You know what I decided? When I move into my own house I will always have apple juice, snacks, chips and salsa, good shampoo and conditioner, chocolate chips, and cereal. I will get it all to myself! and I must also have: a piano, a big bathtub, a waterbed, lots of good movies, and a cool deck. Oh--and lots of porclien dolls and cross stitch and cute stuff like that everywhere. It will be great!!
I am happy to report that I stayed true to most of those dreams. I don't usually have apple juice though (but now I'm going to crave it until I get some); I don't have a water bed, but I did buy an amazing queen-sized bed before moving in; my bathtub isn't really that huge, but I do have my own bathroom, which is AWESOME; and I don't have a piano yet, but some day in the distant future I will have a piano in some form or another.

So yes, it's really cool to be living the dream, but there's one thing I left out when I dreamed up this lovely scheme.

I need people in my life.

Being the shy individual that I am, I usually don't mind hanging out by myself. Honestly, my favorite way to spend a Friday night is in holed up in front of a t.v. somewhere with a small bowl of melted chocolate chips in one hand and a baby spoon in the other. I have a lot of hobbies that keep me occupied for hours and hours, no conversation required. It's a pretty good system that has mostly kept me happy throughout my life.

But however much I may (unintentionally) avoid people, I still need them in my life. The past week or so I've sat in my bubble at work for 8-9 hours and then I'll go home to an empty apartment, and the joy of being the boss of everything is dampened somewhat by the fact that I haven't talked to anyone all day.

And so the past couple of days at work, I've gotten unusually giddy when someone talks to me. I perk right up when someone says hi as they're walking by my desk, and when somebody actually stops to talk to me I feel so energized I could run a mile, or even walk up to someone and talk to them. Yesterday I went to a 10-minute meeting and I felt like Christmas had come early.

So I guess it all comes down to the "all things in moderation" motto. I probably wouldn't have been able to understand this when I was 13 and was surrounded by siblings and schoolmates, but I understand the importance of human interaction now.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

And that's how you do a parade, people

One of the reasons why I love Gilmore Girls so much is because of the crazy townies and dumb town functions. I love the cutesie little shops and the small-town drama.

Now, Elk Ridge is no Stars Hollow. In fact, Elk Ridge is probably half the size of Stars Hollow and the only things you can do here are golf and go to church.

However, once a year Elk Ridge does throw a weekend of dumb town functions. It used to be the annual 4th of July celebration, but they've since moved it to the weekend before the 4th. It kicks off with a parade on Friday evening, and ends with the carnival at the park the next day. Residents can attend the mayor's dinner or the town breakfast, or even enter a race or sports tournament of some kind.

When we were younger, we usually made a point of going to the carnival so that we could watch the cotton candy machine in motion, play some lame games, and buy lame prizes with our lame reward tokens. It was lots of fun. Tyrel has gotten lots of whoopie cushions over the years, and the rest of us have gotten a variety of sunglasses, bouncy balls, and other cheap trinkets. In fact, I still have my lucky rabbit's foot.

So we took advantage of the carnival, but we never went to the parade. Never once, in the 19 years of living in this charming town, have we (except Tyrel, of course) gone to the parade, even though it is just a block from our house. Sometimes we would watch from our yard, but there was never much to see. And my last year of delivering pizza I ended up in the tail end of the parade because someone was mean enough to order pizza and request that we deliver it to their house, which was right smack in the middle of the crowd of people.

But this year, we went to the parade and I was quite excited about it. I wish I had taken pictures so that I could paint the picture more vividly, but I guess you'll just have to do with my bullet-point list of descriptions. So, some of my favorite parts about this awesome parade:
  • The parade was all of 5 blocks long and took a mere 20 minutes at most.
  • There were no parking headaches because there were not enough people to cause parking headaches. Most of us either walked or, those who came from like a quarter of a mile away, drove and parked in someone's driveway or, um, yard.
  • There were no annoying "you can't park or sit here" signs. We all just stood where we pleased. In fact, me, Kimberly, and my mom stood in the middle of the road (not the parade road) and nobody thought anything of it.
  • I had almost forgotten that parades mean candy. Nobody in Elk Ridge has sued anybody for hitting their precious child in the head with a tootsie roll, so the parade participants were allowed to throw out candy without getting arrested. And it wasn't all lame parade candy—the parade was so short that they didn't have to worry about merchandise melting and stuff, so they were throwing out legitimate prizes like toys, cold water, popsicles, and, wait for it . . . chocolate. It was pretty awesome.
  • The adorable little boy next to us had a grocery bag strapped to his chest.
  • We actually had a drumline with like 6 people in it! I tell you, the Elk Ridge parade is entering the ranks of actual parade-hood.
  • The firetruck didn't deafen us all. And, the guy driving it stopped half way through so that his grandkids could pile in and ride the last couple of blocks with him.
  • There are no requirements to be in this parade. In fact, to a lot of people I think it's just a way to show off how cute their kids (or grandkids) are. One of my favorite "floats" was a makeshift train, lead by Brother Shelley, in which 7 or 8 grandkids each had their own little "car." Half the people decided to join at the last minute because their kids had a sudden desire to walk down Park Drive in front of a few spectators.
  • The Miss Payson royalty didn't get a real float—they had to stand in somebody's boat. And one of the girls was wearing a t-shirt under her dress.
  • Then there were the traditional people driving around in their golf carts, bikes, and, in Tyrel's case, go-carts.
  • And when it was all done, we walked back to our house with a bunch of neighbor kids who were still happy and not stricken by heatstroke or boredom or something.
And that's how you do a parade people—short, sweet, and intimate. No police monitoring, no shutting down the town for a half a day, no reserving seats. Just show up 5 minutes before with a couple hundred people and say hi to the people you haven't seen for a few years. Everybody wins.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Long summer days

I am not usually a fan of 80+ temperatures, but I have to admit I've enjoyed the heat of the past few days. It's been oddly refreshing to walk out into the legitimately hot world and not have to ignore the cool breeze or go through another pointless debate with myself regarding whether the balmy 60-weather required a jacket or not. Instead, I can enjoy the sun rays heating every particle of my body and bask in the dry hot air.

And, may I also add that I am quite glad the great internal "to turn on the AC or to open windows" dialogue will no longer cause me to (literally) lose sleep at night. Because that was quite maddening.

I never thought I would get all poetic about hot temperatures, but I guess the unusually long and wet spring got to my head a little.

Or perhaps it is just my love for changing seasons. I don't think I could be happy in a place that had the same weather all year round, even if it was nice weather. Maybe I'm just a glutton for punishment or something, because I like to suffer for my rewards. Suffering through the winter-spring battle is always a struggle, but it makes the arrival of summer all the more wonderful. With summer comes pleasant evening walks, sprinklers, family reunions and vacations, water activities, and long, lazy days. And this year we'll have the added benefit of seeing green stuff in July, assuming we aren't all swept away in a flood. (Though as bad as that would be, I would love to go fishing on state street like they did during the great floods of 20 years ago, but, unfortunately, Salt Lake seems to be more prepared this time.)

Soon the heat will become obnoxious enough to drive us into our cool houses, but for now I am enjoying summer for all the glories that it contains. All I need now is to play a good softball game in an emptying ballpark, wafting with the smells of greasy hamburgers, as the sun sets. That is the perfect picture of summer.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ode to grandmas

My mom is going to be a grandma soon (twice!) and it's gotten me thinking a lot about grandmas and the special role they play in a kid's life. Both of my grandmas have passed on, but both fulfilled their roles in their own unique ways that continue to live on today.

My Grandma Rushton died when I was 10, and she was battling cancer for most of my memory of her, so I never got to know the woman with the fiery personality who raised 7 boys (and 1 girl; well, 2, actually . . .), who played mercilessly at cards, and who could cook and sew better than anyone around. I often feel cheated that I never got to have an adult conversation with her or ask her to make my wedding dress for me, or even know what it was like to be around her when she wasn't putting on a brave face.

As short as her time was with her grandkids, she made the most of it. She made everything . . . magical--there is no other word for it. From Superbowl parties to Easter egg hunts to Labor Day festivities, we could always count on something happening at Grandma Rushton's house, even for the kids who didn't want to listen to boring adult talk. Those parties were special simply because she was there.

Christmas was the best, though. She went all out with the decorations; a simple Christmas tree and one string of lights around the house wasn't enough for her--she bedecked her house in enough lights that people made her house a regular stop when they were cruising around town looking at Christmas lights, and her house was full of cool decorations, my favorite of which was the little village under the Christmas tree, complete with a small train riding on tracks around the tree. We celebrated every Christmas Eve with the Carter/Rushton cousins. Grandma would spend all year Christmas shopping and making gifts by her own hand so that all of her grandkids could get their own individualized presents. The anticipation for present time was almost unbearably painful for us kids, and in turn the parents because the kids were running around like energizer bunnies for hours on end, but finally, just as it was starting to get dark, we would gather in a huge circle in the living room and start the present process. And I don't know about the rest of my siblings/cousins, but I was never disappointed. The presents I got from her are still some of my most prized possessions.

We still try to continue the traditions Grandma Rushton started, but for many years the magic was gone, even though kids for years were still getting presents for Christmas that she had bought and stashed away before she died. Her spirit still lives on though, and sometimes I swear that she's there when we're having our annual Christmas party.

My Grandma Jackson was very different from my Grandma Rushton. She raised a family of giggling girls rather than a band of rough-necked boys; she was short, overweight, and always wore mumus; and she was submissive rather than sassy. In my eyes, she was the picture of grandmotherhood.

She passed away the day before my 22nd birthday, so I have 2 decades of memories to cherish. There were always 2 expectations when entering Grandma's house: gummy bears would be distributed, and Popsicles/ice cream would be waiting for us in the freezer outside. She faithfully gave each of her unmarried grandkids 2 dollars every year for their birthday (sometimes she was off by about 6 months or so, but she always got around to it), she was the woman we ran to when we had emergency sewing projects, and she taught me and Kimberly how to make the world's best fudge. And, of course, she spent a lot of her time giggling. Even during the last years of her life, she was still able to find things to smile about.

She dedicated her life to being super mom/grandma, and I think the relationship she had with her girls has had a direct influence on the relationship I've had with my mom and sisters.

So while I no longer have a grandma to visit on Sundays, people that important can't leave without leaving something behind. So here's to the next generation of grandmas, what I hope will be many, many years of baby quilts, barbecues, Christmases, family reunions, and giggles. For the next several months, though, I hope Grandma Rushton and Grandma Jackson enjoy playing with the 2 newest additions to our family, because we're sure eager for them to get here.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There's something in the air

There's been quite a symphony going on at work for the past couple of weeks, one that involves tissues, synchronized sniffing, and sneezes of various shapes and sizes.

If there was any doubt in anyone's mind that spring/summer was here, a few minutes with the ChartLogic Sneezing Symphony should remove it.

Okay, so it's not really that bad--the sneezes and sniffing are more like accented notes on top of the underlying hum of the circulation vents, phone conversations, and typing and clicking. And every now and then a sneeze five doors down the hall will cue a sneeze from one of the sales reps across the room. And then somebody would start it all up again by pulling a tissue out of their rapidly emptying tissue box.

No matter how you look at it, winter has finally settled into hibernation mode and won't disturb us until at least September. Which means that the crazy spring weather we've been having is beginning to bloom with sunshine, flowers, and grass, and the allergy-stricken individuals are beginning to wonder why they were looking forward to summer.

It's a predicament many people find themselves in every year: the trade-off between winter depression and summer allergies. At the moment, though, even though my eyes, throat, and nose itch, my ears are a bit clogged, and sneezes keep sneaking up on me, I would still take this pleasant weather over the cold and dreary world that threatened to stay forever. Nothing in this world comes without a price, not even the air we breathe.

At least I know I won't be the only one suffering from the side effects of good weather. Having someone to suffer along with you always makes things better, especially if you can make a musical out of it. :)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Year in review

Tomorrow marks a year since I started this blog. It's been a pretty fun year for me in the blogosphere. So fun, in fact, that I decided to take things one step further and make a printed version of this blog. After all, everyone knows that I don't like reading off of a screen, so it only makes sense to compile this blog into a physical book format.

This is one of the few InDesign projects I've worked on in which I was able to clearly visualize what I wanted and then go and do it. I've hit very few roadblocks along the way, and if I've neglected this blog a little bit, I've had a great time designing my book in the interim. The book-making process is tons of fun, especially when you are your own boss.

As I was compiling/editing entries, in the back of my mind I was trying to determine a theme in the topics of my blog posts. Some topics were easy to classify--the weather, Harry Potter, work--but some were just plain random and couldn't really be put in a category with anything other than itself. I remember quite distinctly talking about my blog during various job interviews. The interviewee would say, "Tell me about your blog" and I would tell them that I used it to write about whatever I felt like writing about. They would look slightly annoyed and ask, "Can you be a little more specific?" to which I would reply, "I write about whatever I'm thinking about, like nature, school, work, books, dentists, clothes . . ." until they realized that I meant what I said--I write about whatever I feel like writing about. I have no ulterior motives other than to entertain myself.

So, I think I succeeded on my goal for this blog. However, if I had to pinpoint an overall theme (though it still doesn't apply to everything I talked about), it would probably be change. When I first started this blog, I wondered if it would become obsolete after a year after covering all the holidays, season changes, and such. But if there's one thing I've learned in the last year, it's that life is an ongoing mystery waiting to be discovered. So, rest assured that this blog won't become inactive. :)

A few random facts about my first year in the blogosphere:

  • I published 101 posts.

  • Tuesday was my most popular blogging day with 26 posts, while Sunday was my least popular day, with only 4 posts.

  • The book form of this blog will be over 200 pages (8x10) long. Which means it's going to cost a lot to "publish" it.

  • My favorite post, off the top of my head, would have to be "Dentist appointments and car repair shops."

  • I think I used the phrase "Harry Potter" more than any other phrase. 107 times, to be exact (that's about once per post). So, if I haven't convinced all of my readers to give Harry Potter a chance, I have failed as a human being.

I intended to make this list longer, but it's like 15 minutes past my dinner time and I'm too hungry to think straight. The only problem is that Danielle is cooking tonight, which means I've got to wait at least another hour to eat. I am definitely not a fan of eating dinner at 8:00. Maybe she's trying to kill me off.

But until then, adios, and happy anniversary! Or, something like that. :)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Guilty confession

I'm afraid I have a confession to make, and it's probably going to make me look like a bit of a hypocrite.

For years, well, my whole life, really, I never understood runners. I would mock those who got up at five in the morning to run around in the dark, crick my eyebrow at those who talked about the high of running, and scoff at those who thought running was fun.

The trouble is, I'm starting to sympathize with those people. In fact, I think I'm becoming one of them.

This crazy change started a few weeks ago when I started up a workout schedule again. I was settled into my new routine, and I suddenly found myself with way too much time on my hands--and it was making me antsy. So I decided to factor exercise into my life again.

My apartment complex has a workout room, not to mention the great outdoors outside my apartment complex, but I'm too chicken to take advantage of either of them. For me, exercising is a very personal thing, something that I don't want to share with anyone unless it's a conversation piece. I don't want people watching me as I struggle to push myself at something I am not inherently good at. I run for me, and me alone, so that means no one else can participate, even from the sidelines.

So, I've taken to running around my apartment. And yes, I know how pathetic that just sounded. But, it gets the job done. I have enough room to allow me to work up a good sweat, change my face to a lovely shade of puce, and experience some of that good pain that says your body is getting stronger.

When I've established exercise goals in the past, it has always been for physical reasons--to get into shape, to stay healthy, etc. However, once I graduated from college, I started working out for additional reasons that were mainly psychological. It gave me a sense of movement and made me feel like I was doing something with my life.

Now that I'm in goodish shape, I have seen many un-planned-for benefits of running. It feels so good to come home after a long day at the office and run off the frustrations and sedentaryness that have built up during the day. There's also the sense that you are outrunning your problems: when I thought I was going to have to deal with a $2000 car repair, I jogged for a half hour, and while that worry was still there, the hopelessness and despair was gone; as I've been dealing with personal issues, a good bout of exercise is enough to boost my spirits and to help me rise above my emotions. I've actually felt that high that runners are always talking about. I don't think I ever felt it before, because I was too preoccupied with the pain my body was going through to realize that my body was ecstatic about the extra nourishment I was giving it.

It's also helped fill a void that I've been feeling pretty strongly lately--the void left by my lack of piano. This is the first time in my life I haven't had access to a piano. Even when I was living in Provo, I always had the option of running downstairs to the basement, walking up to campus and pounding on one of the hundreds of pianos spread across the classrooms at BYU, or I could even make a quick trip to my parents' house if the need became intense enough. I don't have any of those options anymore (except the running to my parents' house thing, but that requires more planning and time; it's not something I can just decide to do on a whim). The piano has always been a wonderful, wonderful tool that helped me work through my sadness, frustrations, fears--every emotion known to man (or, well, woman)--and after pounding out some good Jon Schmidt stuff for an hour or so, I would feel better. Not having that in my life has been far more difficult than I ever anticipated it being, but running soothes me in a somewhat similar way and makes the separation more doable.

And I've learned a few eye-opening things, too. Like the value of shoes, for instance. When I first started jogging in my room (I can't let my roommate stop me from getting my exercise, now can I? And I can get a good 6-7 paces in before I have to turn around) I did it barefoot, but soon the carpet started hurting my toes a little, so I put socks on. Then, I noticed that my calf muscles were sore all the time and finally made the connection that perhaps athletes wear shoes for a reason. I've always thought that shoes were designed primarily to protect you from the elements. Apparently, they do a lot more than that, though; they protect your legs from physical exertion. Who would have thought.

So it's taken me a long time to get to this point, but I get the whole running euphoria now. I'm not going to be running any marathons any time soon, probably ever, but I've never been so grateful for my own two legs before. And a body that allows me to get a little physical. Maybe some day I'll be able to work up the nerve to go out and enjoy some of God's beautiful creations while I'm rejuvenating myself, but--baby steps. Don't wanna overdo it, man.