Friday, June 22, 2012

Letting the girl in me shine

Ever since I was a little girl, I have put a lot of energy into repressing my girlie side. I scorned dresses and shoes. I refused to wear makeup that didn't look like it could naturally be there. I avoided necklaces, fingernail polish, and perfume. I mocked frills. I was baffled by accessories like decorative belts and matching purses.

Whenever the girl in me tried to make herself known, my overbearing tom-boy persona shunned her. It's frivolous to own anything that has no practical function, my tom-boy self always said whenever I was sidetracked by something pretty. My tom-boy self was always there to nag me whenever I was tempted to embrace my girlie side, and over time I began to equate girliness with silliness, frivolousness, and vanity, all things I did not want associated with me. I didn't want to become anything remotely close to what Barbie would approve of.

Things changed a little when I started a career. I had more time for primping and more money for things which only purpose was to be decorative. Slowly, the girl in me began to have more of a say in the "frivolous" decisions I made.

At my sister party a few weeks ago, I was drawn to a flippy skirt loaded with polka-dots. I have a strange obsession with polka-dots, so I bought the skirt, and everyone commented on how "me" it looked.

That Sunday I wore it to church, but the effect of the outfit was spoiled a bit by my comfortable, functional shoes. I found myself thinking, I wish I had some sexy shoes to complete this outfit. Never in my life had such a thought crossed my mind, but the thought lingered.

So today I stopped at a shoe store after work. And I found the perfect pair of shoes: Black. Manageable heels. Strappy things. As an added bonus, they were actually comfortable and I didn't feel like a flamingo walking in them, so I bought them.

As I was trying them on at home, another abominable thought crossed my mind: my feet would look really cute with painted toenails. Then I remembered the Mary Poppins spotlight bag I was given in Relief Society a year ago, which contained a fingernail kit, complete with bright red fingernail polish.

So I painted my virgin toenails a bright, sexy red while listening to Disney princess songs. I used the toe-separator things and felt like the evil lady from The Chipmunk Adventure.

And I liked the finished product. I really liked it.

Did I need another pair of Sunday shoes? No. Did I need to paint my toenails to enhance the effect of my shoes? Certainly not. But for once I felt proud to let the girlie side of me shine rather than shun her in embarrassment like I've always done.

The tom-boy will always be the dominant side of my personality, but I'm slowly coming to realize that it's okay to embrace being a girl, even if it means fingernail polish and high heels.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Church ball

I've always felt that summer isn't summer without softball, which is one of the many reasons I joined my ward's co-ed softball team this year. I figured it would be an easy way to reconnect with my athletic past and get to know some new people.

I've learned two things from my co-ed softball experience so far.

#1: You can't make up for eight years in one day.

The last time I was on a softball team was during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This means that it's been eight years since I've played softball, other than the times I forced my siblings to play catch with me. Those years were loaded with choir, school, and work, so my dreams of stunning the world with my athletic prowess was put on hold for a time.

So I knew I'd be a little rusty, but I was fairly certain that once I got some real dirt on my glove I would show everyone what it really means to play ball like a girl.

But for some reason, the macho skills I had spent 10 years developing didn't come back to me when I returned to the baseball diamond. Every ball I hit went straight to an infielder's mitt. My fielding was mediocre at best. As grounders unexpectedly bounced over my shoulder and as I failed to hit perfectly pitched balls, I would ask myself, "I used to be good at this, right?"

And the sad thing is, I'm not sure I ever was that good--I just thought I was. This is seriously damaging to an ego that thrives on being just as capable as the boys at doing boy things.

#2: Church ball is competitive.

I erroneously assumed that since this was church ball, everyone was here to play for fun, not to win.

I'm not sure why I thought that. Sports, even if they are sponsored by devout Christians, are by very nature competitive.

My team went into our Tuesday game undefeated. The high council speaker had praised our skills at church on Sunday, and the Union Unicorns were stoked for the match-up against the Murray YSA ward, who were also undefeated.

The game was intense. I never thought I would use that term to describe church ball, but there it is. Every other call was disputed (usually by the other team, might I add). Dorky baseball phrases were used as coded instructions. Base coaches took their jobs seriously. By the end of the game, the only thing keeping players civil was the thought of sweet revenge every time the other team scored.

Each team got its dose of sweet revenge, but in the end it came down to the classic Hollywood situation: up to bat, two outs, bases loaded, down by one point. And instead of hitting the ball over the fence and sending us all home, our batter struck out and made the Murray ward annoyingly happy.

It's one thing to say "It's just a game"; it's another thing entirely to shake off a loss that was so close to being a blockbuster win.

One word: Grrrrrrrr.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sandy is revisiting all the Pixar movies in preparation for the upcoming movie, Brave. I read the post on Toy Story earlier today and I came to a somewhat disturbing realization. Even more disturbing is that this realization came in the form of a math equation:

Andy + a bit of Sid = Sandy. I am a Sandy.

Before today, I always considered myself an Andy: someone who cherished her toys. My toys were my friends, and I was three-quarters convinced that they came to life whenever I left my bedroom. In fact, sometimes I would wait outside the door with my ear pressed against the doorknob in hopes that I would catch them talking to each other before they reverted back to their plastic states. I played with Barbies past elementary school; Kimberly and I reluctantly passed on our precious Barbies to Shannan with the solemn instructions to brush Teresa's hair often, to not call Pocahontas "Poke" to her face, to keep Ted away from the beans, and to make sure Mike and Ken didn't lose their legs too often.

But today I saw the truth: even as an innocent little kid, I had a bit of Sid in me. While I took care of my own toys, I frequently tormented Shannan's toys when Shannan wouldn't obey her Great and Noble Babysitter. I stole her dog, Fred, strategically placed him in a clear glass of water, and put him in the freezer so that several hours later, when my dad opened the freezer, in the spotlight was a stuffed dog stuck in a glass of ice, his "circulation" cut off my the ring of ice around his neck. I threw her toys on the roof where she couldn't reach them. I even pretended to take a bite out of Ned's ear at the dinner table. Her reaction was to flail her arms, scream "Noooooooo!" and topple off the piano bench she was sitting on.

Kimberly and I also enjoyed playing bad guys, and 97.4 percent of the time I was the boss and she was my servant. We stuffed our stuffed animals into grocery bags and hung them from the prison bars (a.k.a. monkey bars) outside, we threw Barbies off the roof with parachutes that clearly didn't work, and one day we decided to bury a bunch of our Happy Meal toys in the sandbox--Mom digs up a new one every few years.

One more shameful confession: if I had ever had a rocket like Sid's, I would have at least considered strapping Jed to it so he could fly to the sky and burst into smithereens.

But Sid can't have been that bad of a kid--we all know that he secretly wanted to ride the pony, and he didn't turn into a serial killer later in life. His just enjoyed tormenting his little sister, which is what little sisters are for, right?

Despite my dark past, I still consider myself more Andy than Sid. Why? Because I cried at the end of Toy Story 3, not because Andy went off to college, but because he left his toys behind.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The lost days of summer

I can't help but harbor a slight bitterness toward the younglings who are wild and free for the summer. As I go to work, the kids are still lying in bed. As I freeze to death in my cubicle, the kids are outside jumping on the trampoline, running through the sprinklers, and playing catch. And as I'm starting to settle down for the night, worn out from a long day of work and obligations, I hear the kids squealing with delight as they run around outside, ecstatic to be out past their normal school-day hours.

For the kids, summer means freedom: freedom from school and homework, freedom from jackets and shoes, freedom from schedules and rules. Even the air smells more free because the sharp bite of spring wind is replaced with the lazy breeze of summer.

For the adults, summer is much the same as the rest of the seasons. It may, in fact, be the worst season of all because the youthful days of summer are no longer ours to claim. If feels so wrong to step into a windowless office building when the world has blessed you with a warm, sunny day. It's such a waste to spend so much of this time of year inside, worrying about other things, when there is grass to smell, birds to listen to, and clouds to look at. It's a shame to read about health IT off a computer monitor inside when I could be reading a young adult novel outside on a hammock.

Of course, there are still lunch breaks, evenings, Saturdays, and holidays/vacations, but the youthful days of summer are gone forever. Never again will I be so free. And that's a bummer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Live your passion every day

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I do the things I do. Why do I wake up in the mornings? Why do I go to work? Why do I cook meals, go on walks, and read my scriptures?

The answer to each of these questions is fairly simple: because I have to. I have to get out of bed every day so I can go to work, which enables me to pay my bills. I have to eat, exercise, and study my scriptures because my body needs it to survive and thrive.

The most important whys, however, lie in how you spend your time doing things that aren't necessary to your survival, things like going to choir practice, playing softball, or attending a book club meeting.

About a month ago, my family went to visit my grandpa, who is on hospice care. On the surface, he seemed like the same sweet old man I always remembered. But I had to wonder how I would react if I were the one lying there, waiting for death to come. Would I spend my waking hours regretting all the things I didn't do, or would I rejoice in the life I had lived?

I am certain that when I find myself at Death's doors, I won't be reflecting on the things I had to do, like prepare meals and pay the bills. Rather, I'll be reflecting on the the passions I pursued and the people I loved. I don't think I'll regret the hours I spent writing and playing the piano, or the years I spent building relationships, because I didn't do these things because I had to: I did them because they were what made life rich, even if I spent a majority of my time doing what had to be done.

The nice thing about doing the things that really matter is that even if the moments are small and fleeting, they are powerful, and they tend to stick with you. You don't have to dedicate your life to doing only the things that will make you smile when you reach the end of life's road. Simply pursuing your passions every day, even if it's just for a few minutes, is enough.