Jan 19, 2011

On the one hand...

We're here in our new city. On the one hand, it's really cold and icy and snowy and freezing.

On the other hand, I'm learning to drive on ice. And something in my viking genetics perks up, I think, in the face of this cold. I feel like I'm energized, full of icy water, ready to take off down a ski slope and feel the melting and the spray of powder under me.

On the one hand, My shoulder muscle is strained from lifting so many heavy things, so many times in the course of a few short days.

On the other hand, the house looks really nice and we're keeping most of the boxes in storage so we won't have to pack much again when we move in a few months.

On the one hand, it's a tiny little place. Not many places to go, if you want to get away from it all.

On the other hand, nature is right here, right within walking distance, with acres of pastures, riverbottom, and forest if you want to get away from it all.

On the one hand, my kids have been completely insane these last few days and I haven't had any opportunity to escape them until tonight.

On the other hand, we've grown a bit closer as a family.

On the one hand, the internet we're using right now is illegally borrowed and slooooow.

On the other hand, I haven't had much screen time at all lately. Today, I have talked to my kids more, and practiced the piano for a good solid half-hour.

On the one hand, we missed MLK day.
ON the other, my mother's facebook status, and the picture she posted of my daughters, made me realize, in a way I never did before, how my family is a sort of fulfillment of that prophecy of Dr. King's.

On the one hand, I don't know anyone.
On the other hand, I've met a bunch of friendly people already, and it's a fresh start with no baggage.

On the one hand, I miss everybody back home.
ON the other hand, I've felt an outpouring of love from everyone, and I know now what I mean to them, and I'm glad to know.

Jan 12, 2011

Patricia's Field Notes on Wilderness Interface Zone

I have really enjoyed reading the series currently up on Wilderness Interface Zone. It's not finished yet--I'm excited for the next installment.

If you like nature writing, you will love this series, and the blog as a whole.

Jan 10, 2011

Tatiana's Twelve Tips For Making Friends

The discussion that my title links to, (well... a particular comment from it), has caused me a great deal of rumination over the past several months. This hit me hard, when I read it. And I'll be utilizing it, probably reading it, memorizing it over these next few months.

I don't make friends easily, and reading this list, I realized why: it's hard work. And I don't ever do it... I expect friends to come to me, without any effort on my part. I realized, after reading Tatiana's Twelve Tips, that this is a ridiculous expectation. As with anything else in life, good only comes after hard work. So... I thought I'd post this for myself, but also for anyone else who is struggling or ever has struggled making friends. So, without further ado:

Tatiana's Twelve Tips For Making Friends

1. Don’t let the fact that you’re alone stop you from doing anything you’d like to do. Go to restaurants, movies, concerts, art museums, whatever you find interesting and fun. This may take courage at first, but gather your courage to do it a few times, and you’ll soon find it easy and natural. You actually meet a lot more new people when you’re alone than in a group, because you’re so open to others when you don’t have companions who claim your whole attention.

2. Enjoy yourself. Whether you’re alone or with others, be interested in your surroundings and open to new impressions and experiences. Think of life as an exciting holiday or adventure, and be willing to engage with it.

3. Be interested in people. Lose your fear of strangers and learn to see everyone as a potential friend. Notice things about them. Imagine what it’s like to be them right now, what they might be thinking and feeling.

4. Try to look nice when you’re out in the world. It’s not that you must be beautiful to make friends, but groom yourself enough not to look scary. The Charles Manson look isn’t conducive to meeting people.

5. Don’t limit yourself. Don’t think only people of a certain age, whose clothes are a particular style and whose hair looks right, are potential friends. Look at kids, old people, people of all ethnicities and cultures and in every profession and walk of life, as potential friends. After all, even if you’re more interested in people your age, kids have elder siblings and babysitters, old people have dear nephews and grandchildren, etc. All people are connected. And all people are interesting and worthy in their own right, too. If you’re a shy person, could it be that it’s really you who are snubbing everyone else’s overtures?

When people are in high school, they usually separate into groups like nerds, freaks, preps, stoners, band geeks, partiers, etc., and don’t often make friends from other groups. In college, most people abandon those categories and realize that there are interesting cool wonderful people under all classifications. The people who are the least like you are the ones from whom you have the most to learn. Be a xenophile. There are whole worlds of interest out there of which you may be unaware.

For instance, the forestry majors had awesome impromptu bluegrass concerts around the fire outside at their parties. (Forestry majors don’t go inside unless they have to.) The astronomy majors have cool star parties once a week, and you get to look through all their awesome huge telescopes. The socialites often have a lot of wit and interesting humor. They value sparkliness a lot. Stoners are often very sweet and placid people. They’re lotus eaters, and often have very gentle spirits. (I don’t recommend you share their recreational substances, though. Just say no thanks and/or pass it along. =)) People from other countries are fascinating for their totally different cultures and worldviews. Definitely cultivate their friendship!

6. If you’re very shy, one thing you can do is make friends with someone who makes friends easily, and you’ll likely find other friends among their many friends and acquaintances.

7. Be helpful. If you see someone struggling with something, be willing to offer your help. Don’t be pushy, of course, but be willing offhand to assist people if they seem to need it. “You look lost, can I help you find something?” “Let me help you pick those up,” (if someone drops something.) Hold the door for someone who has their arms full. (Here in the south we hold the door for everyone who comes behind us, but I know that’s not the custom in other parts of the country.)

8. Smile. (In an offhand way.) If you take too much sudden interest in a stranger, you’ll put them off, but if you seem friendly, but not particularly eager, you’ll put them at their ease. The smile you want is one in which you smile with your mouth, but not so much your eyes. The eyes should show benign friendliness only.

9. Ask questions or comment offhand about things of immediate mutual interest. If you’re waiting for your plane you might ask someone if they’ve heard if it will be late. If you are at a concert ask who is the opening band. If you are in line you can ask how long the person in front of you has been there, how fast the line is moving. If you can make a funny remark about something happening in the vicinity, that’s even better. You can’t launch instantly into talking about things that matter. You have to talk about inconsequentia first. Anything that’s minor, and of immediate passing interest will do. There’s a reason why the weather is such a perennial topic of conversation.

10. Be friendly to all who serve you. Appreciate the people who wait on you at restaurants, check you out at stores, and so on. Particularly when you’re traveling, they can be very kind and helpful.

11. It’s not about you. Don’t ever be offended, or hurt, or put upon in any way, if a person ever snubs your friendliness. They are a stranger. They don’t know you. Whatever their reaction, it most likely has a lot more to do with how they’re feeling today, and what they have going on in their life, than it does anything at all about you. Be blase about rejection. After all, with strangers, you have no expectation that they’re good people, or kind, or polite. They could be afraid of strangers, or too busy, or in a bad mood. They could be anything at all. Accept that and don’t be worried or put off by it, but respond according to how they act. I’ve found that almost everyone is decent, kind and good.

12. Don’t get discouraged. It takes a lot of tries to get one hit. Don’t expect instant complete success. Cultivate friendliness as an attitude, an overall approach to people, and you’ll begin to make more and more friends. It’s a snowball thing. Give it time and be persistent. With practice and consistent effort, you’ll eventually get results.

I just want to add that I’m a painfully shy person by nature. Because of my job, traveling a lot, and other things that have happened in my life, (mother’s insistence, for one) I just happened to learn this skill. Anyone can learn it. Like anything, you try and then screw up sometimes, and then you try some more, and get better at it. The most important thing, rule zero, I guess it should be, is just to have courage to try and keep trying until you figure it out.

The most important concept of all is “To Have a Friend, Be a Friend”. Look out for people whom you can help in any way. Be willing to pitch in and help. Reach out to those who seem discouraged or disheartened. Think of friendship being about what you can do for others, and approach it that way. Think of it not as something you have, but rather as something you do. Write thank you notes to people who’ve contributed to things. Remember people’s birthdays in little appropriate ways. Offer to help them in whatever way you think could be useful. Offer to babysit, pick up something at the store, give someone a ride, bring them a meal, etc. Find needs and fill them.

Shared work makes a great bond between people. Pitch in and help with whatever work needs to be done, and you’ll feel a connection grow with whomever you work beside. Shared food is another bond, so bring treats! Shared laughter is great, as well. Be funny as often as you can, and cultivate a humorous outlook. Laugh at other people’s jokes. Encourage silliness, and don’t take yourself too seriously.

So I realize now that if I make an effort, I can make friends anywhere. Even in Relief Society!

Jan 2, 2011

Moving and Growing Pains

I can't pretend that I'm not completely heartbroken about moving.

I have been careful with my feelings this time we went up to Rexburg, this time Skywalker applied for a job. I feel like this is a blessing Heavenly Father is giving us, and that complaining about it is somewhat like my kids complaining when I give them snack and it's not what they wanted that morning. Only bigger. Of course.

I don't know what I'm writing. Anyway... suffice it to say things feel confused, and stressful. Anxiety at an all-time high right now.

I feel heartbroken, saying goodbye to friends. The Bounouses have been my friends, my good friends, during a lot of difficult times, and they stuck by me when anybody else would have shipped me off to the funny farm or stopped returning my phone calls.

I will be very sad to say goodbye to my voice teacher, Dr. Bounous (also friend, and stand-in priesthood help on occasion). Dude, can I just say how much I love this man. I love him, love him, love him and will miss him, miss him, miss him.

I will miss Debbie Bounous as well. She is another kind of friend to me--the one who is motherly and sisterly and whom I can vent ridiculous things to that I wouldn't really talk to most people about. And she has been a stand in mother to my daughter when I was too fractured emotionally or my schedule got crazy.

Her daughter is like my daughter's sister. They are emotionally, sisters. Loli will be heartbroken to leave, and I know there will be rough times for her as she adjusts to the idea that she no longer has Jennie, to play with whenever she wants. We're going to try to set something up like an email account so they can be penpals, but my big worry is that the natural thing will happen--they will grow apart, and loli will have a hard time making new friends. She's pretty shy. She's one of those kids other kids usually like, but I'm afraid she'll struggle for a while.

Skywalker and I will miss the Lovelesses. They have been our sanity these last few years. We've had so much fun, joked and talked and played and it was really sort of like a "relationship" between couples... I don't know how else to explain it. A friendship that developed only between two units of couplehood instead of two people. I have never had that, and I don't have a lot of faith Skywalker and I will have it again, especially not on the same level as the friendship we have with these two.

Dave is hilarious. He's one of my favorite people because he's at the same time un-apologetically imperfect and proud of who he is. Confident, but also willing to admit to needing people. Courntey is one of my favorite people because she is so logical and accepting and just GOOD, like, Good Mormon girl, and yet she knows how to have fun, too. And she's not phased by, or judgmental about, my weird past or by my sometimes lack of function as a parent, right in front of her. How many people in this world are like that?

I will miss my sisters, who are so fun to be around when we do get together... our family culture takes over and we laugh a lot and have our little inside quips and things nobody else really gets. And I won't have them around to check my persecution complexes or tendency to exaggerate... I just won't be as good a person without them around.

I will miss my homeschooling group. THey are such lovely women, so down-to-earth and no-drama (most of the time.) So accepting and intelligent and just... the salt of the earth. I feel at home when I am with them. I feel like I am with people who share nearly all my values and priorities and so I don't have to defend myself at all. And those great kids. My kids will miss their kids.

I will miss my writing critique group. My newest set of friends; hilarious, fun, such a great fit. We all have different writing-related talents, and when we help each other it's so full of fun and happiness and enjoyment, it's almost like a writing support group--a place for people who sit huddled over a laptop, half-hiding the screen from the view of those who might be reading over their shoulder, but secretly have this burning desire to slap their writing all over every billboard and force feed our words to the world. I feel like these are the people who I am intellectually related to. We writers are weird folks. We are. We're sort of like carnival workers--you don't know until you're on the inside how great it can be to be a part of the community.

I will miss my mountains. I have never hiked timp, I have hiked the Y exactly two times. I have never done any camping in these mountains that have stretched over me these last 10 years. I still can't quite believe this. I can't believe I haven't found my special places in these mountains. There's been too much on my plate... I say. But I won't be making that same mistake in Rexburg. I don't want to have any more mountain regrets like the ones I'm feeling right now.

I will miss my Provo. Over the last three years I have been writing an historical fiction about Provo in its early days. I have gotten to know families, whole families with names like Wall and Bean and Baum and Cluff, Haws and Holdaway and Miller and Turner. Every time I walk past an old monument here in town, I scan the fine print for names. And almost every time, I find them, and a sense of happiness and mystery floods through me. A burning desire to get to know these people, and the town they lived in. I drive on the streets that run through the center of town and see the uneven sidewalks and think, what building's foundation lies under here. Was it Stuart's old store? The tithing house? the schoolhouse? the old Seminary Building? I look at the crossed sidewalks in pioneer park and see the crossed, dirt paths, like an X through the center square of the old town-plat map from 1880. I look at where the stream used to run by 5th west, and think of the old city run.

I look at the tabernacle with its collapsed roof and the burn-marks on the walls and what remains of my teenage-magical-thinking causes me to wonder if, somehow, I did that. I'm leaving, and it feels almost like a betrayal.

Already I'm frantically planning, scanning maps, googling like there's no tommorrow to find what I'll need in this new city of mine. I've even got the faint sketches of a plot in my mind, a story I could write about Rexburg, so that I can grow to love it faster, this time. A new writing critique group, a new voice teacher, a new novel, a new homeschooling group--all these are doable.

New friends? I don't know how doable that is. And how quick it would be likely to happen. But I can try. Not too hard--if you try too hard, people don't like you all that much. I have to be casual, do the whole "half smile and look away" thing. I have to keep all the controversial topics that seem to want to leap out of me during every conversation under control. I have to pay attention to faces and tone and make sure I don't offend everybody I meet right off the bat.

There's a James Taylor song: Shower the people you love with love. Show them the way that you feel. Things are going to work out fine if you only will...

this has always been hard for me. How do you tell someone you love them? I tell Skywalker every day, but how do you tell a friend you love them, a teacher, a group of people, without making them feel weird. Unfortunately in our society it doesn't really come all that easy.

I guess that's what a blog could be for.