Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Creating (Loudly)

I started this belly-aching post, all about how I just don't feel like doing what I should do (i.e., embracing my nemesis, Early Morning, and overcoming my recent hatred of working out). And then I realized that it was really getting me nowhere, and that you all must be mighty tired of hearing me complain for the last few days....weeks? I hope not weeks. Anyway, I had to change the direction of the post, and I'm struggling to change the direction of my thoughts and inject some motivation into my lazy self. So I thought, instead, that I would write about this beautiful book I've been reading, as the contents of said book have been banging around my head for a few days.

Let me read you the back cover:
Silences [by Tillie Olsen] draws on the lives, letters, diaries, and testimonies of many writers, and on the author's own life, to examine the needs and work of creation, and those circumstances that obstruct or silence it. Circumstances--which include one's sex, economic class, color, and the times and generation into which one is born--crucially determine whether creative capacity is used and developed, or impaired and lost.

I'm only a few pages in, and already there are several quotes I could transcribe here. But the message is one I can sympathize with. There are plenty of creative things I enjoy. There are just a couple of creative things that I passionately love to do.

Of course, there's photography. I realize I haven't actually written much about why I love photography. Part of why I don't write about is simple insecurity. At the back of my mind is the nagging question, "What if someone reads this and says, 'How can she claim to love it so? She's not very good at it.'" I know, I know--my imagination is mean to me. But I'm going to be brave and say: I like to notice the secret stuff. I like catching things that aren't so obvious. I like photography because I like to look for beautiful things. I like to preserve things that are significant to me. And I love the look on someone's face when they realize, "Oh! That's how you see me? That's me?" I like helping someone see their own beauty. Now that I say it, it almost sounds shallow, and I'm halfway regretting writing about it. (And that's what makes me silent in this particular area....what if someone says I'm not that good? What if I'm just stuck in a rut and doing the same thing over and over and don't really have something interesting to contribute?) There's probably more to it, but my introspective powers fail me at the moment. Moving on.....

Once upon a time, I played the cello. I started when I was 11, and stopped when Phill and I were married (seven years of playing), because we couldn't afford my phenomenal teacher, we were moving, and I was tired and wanted a break. I haven't had lessons since, and I've only taken the beautiful thing out of its case a handful of times in the seven years we've been married. I tell myself it's okay, that I have three small children, that this isn't the season for it. But quietly and painfully I wonder if I've turned my back on a gift, even when my memories of it are at once frustrated and joyful. Do you know what it's like to try and make a beautiful sound from something somewhat unwilling? Something that has the capacity to replicate a cat's shriek, but also the ability to sound like the most beautiful voice you've heard? I still remember the disappointment when my technique suffered or my mind was too tired or my hands needed better muscle memory. I remember sometimes wanting to throw that beautiful cello across the room, feeling that I just shouldn't touch it because our cooperation was faulty. It is a tumultuous relationship, my cello and I. Because while I remember those frustrations clearly, and still feel shamefully inadequate the few times I chance to take it out of its case, another part of me remembers the moments when something good would happen--technique, my ear, my fingers, my mind, my emotions--when all would work in harmony to create a perfect sound and eventually a finished, polished piece. I wonder how I could dare to pretend that I'm not ridiculously, hopelessly, inevitably in love with the art of making music. And I wonder how it is that everyone who knows me doesn't necessarily know about this aspect of me. How could I neglect something that was once such an essential part of me? The guilt can make me sick, if I let it. And in my fear of touching the cello again and hearing my awful, seven-years-off technique ringing through tortured notes, I am paralyzed. I hate the disappointment; I don't know if lessons/necessary practicing will get me back to where I was. Isn't it vicious? So a part of me misses that. But the bigger part won't let me touch it again. (The paralysis of perfectionism again. Wait a while, it makes a re-appearance.)

And now, my third, perhaps most precious, passion. The scariest one, because it's the one at which I most want to succeed. I love to write. I love to write something well, and read it, and feel the glow of having done my best. I love when I write something that makes people think, feel, talk, dream. I want to publish a book, and I have hopes that it will be loved by those who love me most. I want to say something good, say something different, say something that makes life a little sweeter. And yet, I'm silent.

Not one chapter.

Not a single page of a story that has a possibility of continuing.

Just my blog--which is good, because I'm writing, but not so good, because I'm hiding; hiding and silent. I'm too afraid to write and mess up. I told Phill last night on the phone that I'm afraid to write something I love and have it received badly. He reminded me that I have no control over others' reactions, and that I ought to write just because I love to write. (He's right. Write.) I read something--shoot, where was it? that said if you want to write, then write with all your knowledge and love, and write as if you are writing to the people who love you best. I suppose that at this moment, all I'm lacking is a certain direction for this "book" I have floating around in my head somewhere--an embryo of a book. I can't claim that I don't write more because of my kids. That's just not true, because as I've written this post, which I think is cohesive and understandable, I have had to get up no less than seven times to either tear my children apart or change a diaper or hug. I can work around interruptions. I just like to tell myself I can't, because then my procrastination is justified.

This book is amazing; it makes me contemplative and it makes me burn with a desire to write and make music and take photos and all sorts of other things that I tend to push down when I'm feeling fearful.

Maybe since I've written this post, I can't deny that I feel this way? And won't be so silent anymore?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

HERE'S what they were talking about.....

While I was very vocally complaining (May through September) about the 115-degree summer, kind friends here kept saying, "Oh, you'll love being here when it's winter. You'll love it here." So I waited. And waited. And be happy about the weather here. (Trust me, I love everything else very much.)

Today, it happened!! I was joyfully shocked to find that the sun was shining out of a bright blue sky, and no goosebumps raised on my arms when I dropped Reed off to school.

Then I got home, and it was still warm. (Sometimes I think it's warm and then I'm tricked because it's NOT.)

It was 63 degrees. (Just SAYING it is like a blanket on your shoulders or the sun rising at 5:30a.m. instead of almost 8:00a.m.......) I knew it was a good time to tackle one of the huge jobs I've been purposefully procrastinating since.....well, since May. When we moved in. I cleaned out the garage. The finished product wasn't as incredible as the end picture in my mind, but I cleared about five feet of space, which means that when Phill comes home, he will easily pull the car into the garage, without having to maneuver around the bookshelf and stroller and three bins and two bags, etc., that didn't belong in the garage in the first place. And there are no marshmallows on the garage floor, and no more secret spiderwebs in children's playing blocks. YAY!

And in my busy goings-on, I had barely any time to think of how much I wish Phill was home and not in his car on the way to San Antonio (barely). And I took the babies to the library. And I took the crap to D.I. (And I watched a guy donate a toilet, while I loudly guffawed in my car, probably the perfect picture of Crazy to any onlookers.) And I vacuumed.

It was a good day.

Thank you, 63 degrees in January.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


Last night we had something of a milestone reached in the form of Reed taking a shower.

That's right. He just stood there and laughed crazy-happy while the water poured down. And Jaxon decided it looked fun, and still thought it was fun when he got a turn!

What's happening? They're growing way too quickly! I HATED showers until I was 15. (That is to say--I took baths whenever I could and hated showers unless a bath was impossible.) Actually, sometimes I still hate showers. (Because I love baths that much.)

Anyway, tonight, I decided to put Savvy in the shower, too. She sat on her tiny hiney and quietly enjoyed the steam and the spatter of water nearby, but was furious when I stood her in the actual stream. (Go figure. She's only 19 months--the crazy-happy laughter will take some time, I suppose.)

It cut our bedtime routine in half. And made it easier. And the kids were cleaner.

They're just (sigh)

Speaking of growing. Phill leaves for the second half of BNCOC (Army training that Phill has to complete to have a chance of being promoted) starting tomorrow.

He'll be gone for six weeks.

I've been pondering ways that I can grow during this little while, as opposed to regressing and turning into a cranky hermit. (As I seem to do when he's gone.) I'm making myself a list of tips, because I become lazy and overwhelmed and forgetful when he's gone, instead of doing the things that I know will make his absence less difficult. (Mostly.)

Take the kids somewhere each day or at least every other day. The park. The post office. The library. The grocery store. On a walk. To a friend's. Anywhere! Just not at home all day every day, while they beg to "do something" or "go somewhere". This isn't good for any of us.

Ask for help when it's really necessary, but just buck up and do it when I can. *I have a hard time with this one. I am either too afraid to ask for help, even when it's really necessary, or I cease to function under the incorrect and uber-dependent assumption that I can't do anything without Phill.

Do something good for myself each day. This usually falls under reading my scriptures and working out, but I need to work in Girls Night In or Go Take Photos more often. I get so destructively detail-oriented ("Reed, please put your shoes in the drawer facing the other way," I've heard myself say....) when I don't take some good old down time, or even just the pre-requisite scriptures/workout/shower/makeup routine.

I did just come off of a little break in the form of going to Payson to be in the temple with my cousin, who received her endowment. So at the moment I'm not necessarily hungry for an escape. I'm tanked up and ready to go, so to speak. I'm just being mindful of the way things tend to go, which is why I'm making myself a list.

Feel free to add on your own advice!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Reed Says:

Almost reverently, after I spelled out a sentence at his request: "I just want to learn everything--don't you, Mom?"

Then, full of confidence, says to Jaxon: "Jaxon. After we die, we get to make our own planets."

Sunday, January 11, 2009


Slowly but surely, the holiday weight is sloughing off. It's grumbling in the process (and so am I), but that pesky padding is thinning out. (Ah....thank you, Treadmill.)

It's a hate-love relationship with my treadmill right now. I really, really, really hate to start working out, and I'm not usually enthusiastic until the last ten minutes or so (because I'm about to be done), but good heavens don't I love the feeling of having worked out.

I did get in four workouts last week--my default goal. And I'm proud of myself, don't get me wrong. But I'm still not doing that other thing too consistently.....

you know.

That other thing.




.........eugh. I hate it. I hate, hate, hate it. Lara, I feel your pain; we are nocturnally-minded sisters or something.

First, it's the dead silence of the house. My alarm pierces the deep, joyous, solid satisfaction of my sleep; it demands attention. Then if I'm being good, I roll onto my back--because I WON'T fall asleep on my back unless I've currently given birth and am nursing and exhausted beyond normalcy--and I try to open my eyes, hearing nothing but the comfortable (STILL SLEEPING) breathing of Phill next to me, the weird mutterings of our on-the-outs computer in the livingroom (it groans, I'm telling you), and the pressing silence of a still-sleeping household. Shouldn't I still be sleeping, too? (that's where the self-pity really kicks in and I maybe cry a little bit with my eyes still closed)

But if I don't wake up when the time is ripe, here's what happens: Reed comes into my room, pats my face, and says sweetly (and a little bit nervously, as the poor boy has discovered my alternate personality in the mornings), "Mama, we're awake. And Savvy is too. And I would like some cereal."

Which doesn't make me feel like I'm doing very well at this Doing My Best thing. (And oh, how that Doing My Best thing matters with regard to motherhood. Are you as worn out as I am?)

When I dress down the problem, dress it down to bare bones, it comes to this: It hurts. Waking up early (for me) hurts. But too bad. I need to do it anyway.

There's the issue. I need to do it. I don't HAVE to. But I NEED to. Why is it so much easier to do what I have to do, rather than make the difficult choices day in and day out?

No one's forcing me out of bed. If I beg sadly enough, Phill will kindly cover me with the blanket and say, "It's okay. Go back to sleep." And my kids aren't physically dragging me out of the bed. But I need to get out of bed early, because if I don't, my children wander, aimless, oddly-dressed and probably hungry.

So, my (already-mentioned) confession: I am terrible at getting out of bed before my children practically drag me out of bed. And I'm going to do better, as in 7:30.

I really can't wait for it to be lighter outside in the mornings.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Food Math

Six huge pieces of cheesecake over two days = five pounds

No, Camilla, I can't eat that much cheesecake with impunity. :)

Back to the treadmill after my long, languishing break.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Goal reached!!.....Motivation lost

Remember when I had that goal of working out regularly (4 days a week at least for 25 minutes at least) for three months straight? Remember how I was super pumped-up and how a while back I mentioned that I'd lost a little bit of extra poundage through the whole process?



*raucous shouts of triumph*

*dancing with glee*

Anyway. Enough celebrating. The point of the three months was to make a habit. I did make a habit of working out. The waking-up-early part wasn't as easy to keep, especially given the three weeks that Phill was at BNCOC and the kids were in the bed with me (mysteriously) at 6:00 each morning....and I wasn't about to ruin that with a loud treadmill!

The point is: Even though I met my goal and even dropped about ten pounds in the process (surprise!), I didn't keep the early-waking habit so well, and I took a break after my three months was up.

Don't get me wrong. I felt that a break was deserved and even advisable. But due to some events out of my control (being up in Provo for a couple of weeks off and on) and some events I could have controlled (just getting out the stupid jump-rope or going to Gold's while I was in Provo), I, how should I say, fell off the wagon? I exercised a paltry four times in two weeks. And ate shamelessly, the way I believe one should eat during the I'm paying for it. And I've adopted a late-night schedule that isn't helpful at all.

So if I have any resolutions at all this year, it would be to strengthen my resolve in the first place, revive my motivation, and return to my focus on those big matters: getting out of bed at a decent time, reading my scriptures, and knocking that stupid workout out of the way before I can procrastinate it all day!! I refuse to go further than this in my goal-making resolution-enthused headiness that is an integral part of January. I know myself. I know my love of list-making, my tendency to be a sucker for a grand idea. I know that in the past, my downfall was always too many areas of improvement with very specific goals in each. Needless to say, I soared for two days, then plummeted, depressed that I hadn't measured up.

So instead, I'm making an effort to return to what was working before everything was temporarily upside-down. It worked before! It'll work again! And if I can keep those important things at the top of my priorities, everything else falls into place....sparing me the drama of a 12-point list with 4 subtitles per point, The Grand Idea, the Everything Now mistake. Line upon line....a little here, a little there.

So....speaking of resolve? Remember the cheesecake I made? My very first one? You'll be happy to know that it was insanely delicious. Or sad to hear that, if you can envision me polishing off three (okay, four, that last one was HUGE) slices today. And yesterday. Today while I savored the last third-and-fourth piece, I was thinking how great it was that I was doing myself a favor and finishing all the cheesecake, because then I would stop eating it. (Yes, that warped reasoning worked. It always works with a mouthful of cheesecake.) I also decided that I wasn't going to shame myself....because that cheesecake was good, and I made it to eat it! So.....hah! (This is not working. Confessing to all of you and pretending I'm unaffected by it....I'm still quietly flabbergasted at myself! Just play along.)

I haven't been eating only junk, though, rest assured. I made these delicious rolls, and I have learned that I love to make and eat soup. After the broccoli cheese soup, I couldn't help myself. Last night was My Kitchen Cafe's Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice Soup (fantastic), and tonight was a recipe from a pasta cookbook I got 50% off at Barnes & Noble. Oh, it was soooooo good!! Here's the recipe (almost verbatim):
White Bean Soup
from Pasta: 40 Wonderful Classic Pasta Recipes
Serves 4

Beans feature widely in Tuscan cuisine. This smooth, comforting soup, in which beans are simmered for 2 hours, is very simple to make. Garlic and parsley, stirred in just before serving, complement the flavor, and a drizzle of olive oil adds the final touch.

¾ C dried cannelini beans, soaked in cold water to cover overnight (I actually used canned already-soaked beans instead)
1 ½ quarts chicken or vegetable stock
4 oz dried coralline, conchigliette piccote, or other soup pasta (and I just used elbow macaroni; the picture looks like elbow noodles, but ribbed, and lightly curly….the name of which pasta I assume is one of those tongue-twisters listed)
6 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 Tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
fresh crusty bread, to serve

-Drain the soaked beans and place them in a large, heavy-bottom pan. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Partially cover the pan, reduce the heat, and let simmer for 2 hours, or until tender. (OR just use canned cannelini beans and skip this step entirely.)

-Transfer about half the beans and a little of the stock to a food processor or blender and process to a smooth puree. Return the puree to the pan and stir well to mix. Return the soup to a boil.

-Add the pasta to the soup, return to a boil, and cook for 10 minutes, or until tender.

-Meanwhile, heat 4 Tbsp of the olive oil in a small pan. Add the garlic and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes, or until golden. Stir the garlic into the soup and add the parsley. Season to taste with salt and pepper and ladle into warmed soup bowls. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve immediately with crusty bread.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Soupy weather and cheesiness

The snow that surprised us all here in St.George is long since melted and it was a reasonable 44 degrees today, but I'm still cold! It's the kind of weather that makes me crave soup, so I tried my hand tonight at this broccoli cheese soup from My Kitchen Cafe. It was marvelous, and very easy!

Tonight I'm going to make cheesecake for my very first time (this one, actually). I accidentally bought blackberries instead of I'm not sure what will go over the top--maybe if I like the taste of the blackberries it will be a delicious blackberry cheesecake. Or maybe not. In any case, wish me luck!

Oh, and notice how I am decidedly not posting in a New Year's fashion today? Going against the grain just for the sake of doing so.....but I'm sure a resolve-heavy post will follow soon enough, because really I'm just like the rest of you! :)