Monday, September 17, 2012

still rocking and still rolling

Aloha, internets! Know what I like about us?  That we can all just act natural when I blog like twice a year.  Hope things are going great!  A sampling of the latest around here:
  • Ich bin swamped.  I've bitten off a tad more than I can chew in terms of my current time commitments and now I'm just riding the wave. BAHAHA.  I have a pretty cool full-time gig, and the last month or so has been the very busiest time of year, as in, my head almost exploded several times, and for reasons I still don't understand myself, I agreed to teach an additional class a couple evenings a week for the next month or so, which I enjoy but may have been a poor choice considering my good husband just went back to school and our busy little girls are a blast but like I said, busy, and oh yeah, I have a full-time job.  Come on, gurrbonzo, you gotta start taking stuff OFF the plate rather than piling it on, sister.  Working on it.  
  •  It's always helpful/interesting/surprising to realize whoooooops, I'm overbooked, and the current pace?  It's not sustainable.  Sooooo, just in the midst of trying to anticipate and prevent a meltdown before it arises.  So that's where I am, life strategic planning.  Visualize success in the anticipate and prevent meltdown stage!
  • Additionally, remember how I'm YW president (aka the chick over the teen girls at church)?  The other leaders and I took turns being out of town for giant chunks of the summer, so imagine my delight when everyone got back into town and we had a marathon meeting where we figured out all of our fall plans and delegated tasks accordingly and as a little group got all of our church-ducks in a church-row.  This was right in time for my busy work season so I figured, YESSSSSSS!, assignments are made, bases are covered, expectations are clear, all systems go.  Then imagine my laughter when I got word that they'd "identified new callings" for ALL the other women working with me and I'd need to suggest an entirely new line-up (except me) in about 48 hours.  Bahaha.  The old line-up was awesome and the new line-up will also be awesome.  Just laugh with me for a moment about how our giant meeting that brought me much relief became immediately obsolete.   
  • We had a big stake RS meeting the other day and I didn't realize it was coming up quite so soon and that I was supposed to speak at it.  Bahaha.  I'm running on empty/stretched a little thin/whatever other phrase can imply that I'm about at capacity, so I had to laugh when I realized this was coming up but figured hey, I can go with the flow.  Welp turns out some folks from the press were there and recorded the whole thing as part of a special about Mormons in our great state.  BAHAHAHA.  There were a bunch of other speakers too so I'm sure it was no big deal; it just FELT like a big deal because....I NEED A NAP!
  • Which is why I fell asleep at 7:30 PM on Saturday.  Totally recommend that.
  • Did I mention I saw President Obama speak a week or two ago?  Because I did!  If you're wondering if it's worth standing 5-6 hours outside in the rain to see the current President of the United States, the answer is yes.
  • Also, did you know we're expecting a little boy?  Because yes, yes we are, and we're thrilled, but I'm also terrified of how we'll function with three children.  "But gurrbonzo," you say, "We have 4/5/6 children, and it's a breeze!"  Well, dear reader, I salute you, but I'm not you, and I'm so, so, excited, but periodically I also realize that I don't know what on earth we'll do with more kids than adults!  What about when they gang up on me?  What if I need to pick everyone up?  That's it, no more outings.  Also, growing a baby makes me sleepy.  Also, THREE kids is a lot of kids!!!  I am the youngest of two so this is rather unfamiliar territory.  We alternate between giddy excitement (about 80% of the time) and freak-freak-freaking out (10% of the time) and a calm zone out (10%).  But, overall, hurray!  
That's the latest around here!  You good?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Unsolicited YW advice: Part 1

Sooooo, I have a lot of unsolicited advice to give about YW (meaning teen girls at church), and if there's one things blogs are for, it's spouting unsolicited advice!  Am I right or am I right?
I've been in YW non-stop since we moved to the great Midwest and while our crowd may be different from yours (we have less than a dozen YW and don't split up by age group or have advisors), I have a sneaky feeling YW everywhere have a lot in common.  And it always bums me out when I hear from friends who aren't having great experiences serving in is such an awesome opportunity to work with such a great age group, and I love the crap out of our little crowd so much that I really want other people to love it like I do.  This topic has popped up a lot lately with my real-life friends and e-friends and such, and surprise, surprise, I have a bunch to say.

So, let me climb aboard my e-soapbox and share a few grouchy tidbits...

Gurrbonzo's Grouchy Bits of Advice for YW Leaders: Part 1

(1) It's not about you!  My own experience in YW was really, really lame.  We moved to a new ward when I was 9th gradeish and there were like forty girls my age, I felt like I had nothing in common with any of them, I felt grouchy and misunderstood, square peg in a round hole, whatever you want to say about it.  Guess what?  My YW now aren't me.  They aren't a 2012 version of me, either.  And my favorite rants or topics or teen baggage AREN'T THEIR PROBLEM.  So resist the urge to teach and preach what your former self would have needed/wanted and instead, look around and see if you can figure out what these actual girls are interested in or in need of.  They aren't us; they're them.

(2)  On a related note, be the grown up.  We aren't their peers.  That's a weird feeling because when you chat with teens, it comes back fast.  I remember so vividly so much about being that age.  Once a few years ago, an 8th grade YW was chatting with me at an activity and out of nowhere snapped my bra.  Seriously.  I almost died.  I was tempted to laugh but then I realized that can't happen.  So I just said, "Sweetie, I'm a grown up.  Totally inappropriate. Never do that again."  And then we started talking about something else.  She was a little startled but it hasn't happened again and now we have a great relationship.

It's a tough balance, and I don't mean they should salute you and curtsy or that you need to be super distant, but you're the adult and they are teens. Even if you're not that much older than they are, keep in mind you aren't peers.

(3) Stop talking about clothes.  Just stop.  I don't want to hear any more from either side of the modesty debate.  I am totally over that conversation and for teen girls to get the message that looks aren't everything, we've gotta talk about stuff that's more interesting and important.  If, say, what the kid is wearing at an activity is TOTALLY out of control, take her aside and privately say something like, "Throw a shirt on that covers up a little more.  I'll run you home and you can get one, then let's grab a slurpee and we'll be back in time for the closing prayer."  Don't make it any more than it is.  

(4) Get off their cases.  Peers, parents, media, church, everyone has so much to say about what teen girls should or shouldn't wear, what they should or shouldn't do, what they should or shouldn't say.  What they need more than anything is our love and our trust and our examples.  My job isn't to nag; they have the whole planet for that.  My job is to show them what a happy, healthy woman is like and to high five and hug as needed.  They are aching for our love and for our examples.  Show them how it's done.

(5) Go to their stuff.  I know this is hard depending on schedules, etc., but it's my favorite.  For example, a few of our YW are in jazz band and we go to their awesome performances all the time.  My kids love it, and I know the YW and their friends, and they are (most of the time) excited to see me, and it's good and fun and normal.

I got a mean farmer tan from the last JV soccer game I went to, but it was totally worth it. My kids played on the playground and my dear YW was thrilled to see us.  I didn't bombard her or even talk to her after because she was booked, but I waved and my four-year-old shouted, "Go Lucy!" and I think that's enough.  If anyone in YW had given a teensy shit about what I was up to at that age, I think it would have meant a lot to me.  (Wait, it's not about me...d'oh...still, most of the time they love it.)

(6) Let them do stuff.  For example, we had a whole lesson on how to give a lesson (I'll post it if you want to check it out), and then we've started having YW teach once a month.  This won't work for every group but for ours, it has ROCKED.  They can count it for Personal Progress and it is honestly beautiful to see.  The first few months were a little rocky (e.g., we had a few ten minute lessons...bahahaha) but the last year or so, everyone's really gotten into it. The YW make especially great comments when one of them is leading the discussion, and it seems to provide decent experience so they are braver the next time they have to do something, and they're more supportive when an adult is teaching bc they know what's it like to be on that end.

Last year, we were talking as a ward about what talks from General Conference we should use for lessons, and everyone was excited about Elder Cook's "LDS Women Are Incredible!" talk.  Now, say what you will about the talk, but I had to chime in:  if LDS women are incredible, how about...wait for it...a talk by an LDS woman?  Annnnd we used Sylvia Allred's RS talk for the lesson.  If something's important, stop talking about how important it is and just let the importance shine.  See what I'm saying? We've gotta stop telling them they're awesome and start giving them opportunities to be awesome, whether through teaching or service or whatever.

(7) Let them botch it once in a while.  That's the logical extension of letting them do stuff.  They need the chance to fail.  That's scary for adults like me that like to do everything themselves, but it's like teaching your kid to make her bed. Yeah, it's easier for us to just make the bed, but getting the bed made isn't the point; teaching them to make the bed is the point.

Last year, I asked a girl to do a musical number for our Night of Excellence.  She said yes, we reminded her a few times, and that day she laughed about how she hadn't prepared anything.  I was tempted to take her off the program but then I caught myself and realized you know, she committed to do it, let's see what happens.  She traipsed through a painful version of a song and it was awful and awkward and I'd bet a lot of money she won't be unprepared again. (Won't work for everyone but for her personality it was a great lesson.)  Let them fail.   Otherwise, they grow up thinking someone else will fix everything, and I've got some bad news: someone else won't.  Bahahahaha.

(8) Don't go to every activity.  You'll lose your mind and it's not fair to your family.  Let your counselors or whoever go to stuff (or if you're an advisor or counselor, let the YW president know when you want to swap dates).  It took me a year or two to figure it out, but everyone doesn't have to go to everything.  We make sure two adults are at a Wednesday activity and then call it good, and split it up so that one person doesn't have to go too many times in a row.  I spent all of Sunday on YW stuff (morning meeting, evening fireside) so you know what that means?  I'm not going on Wednesday, and I feel great about it.

Annnnd that's it for now.  What do you think?  Agree? Disagree?  Anything to add?  Part 2 coming soon.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

is there a less dated version of booyah I should be saying?

Alooooha!  No need for concern.  I know occasionally people think I die when I don't blog for, oh, months and months, but I recently realized something...I think the more cool stuff I have going on, the less I blog.  Truly.  So, instead  of wondering if I'm okay when I don't blog, you should be alarmed if I start blogging five times a week or something.  Deal?  I'm slammed in all the best ways!  In many ways, I think it's still March, because things have been in mega-high gear around here since then.  A little whirlwind is pretty healthy... 

Anyway, hope you're doing awesome, internets! Remember when I said change was afoot because I felt like I was in my groove?  Welp, I called it.  A dream job fell out of the sky (and while I shan't reveal the details to the world-wide web, if you care that much you probably already know :)). 

In my hip and fabulous single and dating days (as opposed to my hip and fabulous married and dating days...bahaha), I often complained that the glorious trifecta of hot boy seemed to be missing.  All I want, I'd pine adorably, is a fellow who likes three things:

(1) Me
(2) Fun
(3) Churchy church.

I could find dudes who liked me and church but were bllllaaaand as could be; I could find dudes who liked me and fun but not church, and I could find dudes who liked church and fun but not me.  (Spoiler alert: I eventually hit the jackpot, though some of those items have shifted in importance...just go with it.)


Similarly, I feel like with jobs, I've been wanting something that would:

(1) use my talents/brain
(2) pay reasonably well
(3) be abnormally flexible

And it seemed like there were jobs that were interesting and paid well but had zero flexibility, would be flexible and pay reasonably well but my brain would turn to mush, and that were interesting and flexible but didn't pay well.  See what I mean?  So, another paying job wasn't on the top of my to-do list (you may recall I've had a pretty sweet part-time gig for a while now that's been great) as I chased our cute kiddos around.  Annnnnd then my husband thought about going back for round 2 of grad school, and at precisely the moment I began realizing going from 1.5 incomes to .5 incomes would be tricky, BAM, a cool job with all three criteria fell out of the sky and into my lap, so we can, you know, LIVE as my hub hits the books again for another few years.

Whew!  So I've been busy navigating this new world of kids and a flexible full-time job and a half, and I dig it, and I marvel at God's generosity. 

Remember this kid?  She's four, now, and it turns out four is a blast (and we had a kickass Wordgirl party...honestly, whoever thought up Wordgirl deserves a giant smooch.  Lady Redundant Woman?  Sigh.). Remember this, when our other sweet daughter was born?  She's almost two and a half and she is such a clever sneak.  Two and four are such great, cuddly ages and they are each other's dearest friends.  Just had to mention that.

In kind of other news, and on a similar to my last post note, which was four months ago so you don't remember anyway, I had a heart-to-heart with a buddy recently about whether you feel like you're half-assing everything if you do too many things (and that's a real danger), and I am proud of myself as I slowly start to realize that as I enter a busier-than-normal season of life, I can full-ass things in smaller doses.  Make sense?  Like, I honestly do my darndest to be a good YW president.  I feel so much love and concern for our little gang and feel like I do a decent job most of the time, but guess what?  I'm not at everything.  I can't be, and that's a fact.  But when I go, I try to be all in.  Similarly, I need more help with childcare now than I used to, and that's a fact.  But when I'm with my kiddos (which is still the vast majority of the time), I try to be all in.  And at work I am learning to delegate.  This is a pain for those of us who like to be in charge of stuff because we think we'd do it better ourselves, but sometimes, delegating stuff is the biggest present to ourselves.  Am I right or am I right?  Annnnd it's only taken me almost thirty years to figure out!  Bahahaha!  Life lesson: you can avoid a lot of big fat headaches by anticipating them, sharing the responsibility, and not being a martyr.  YEAH!

Annnnnnd that's what's on my mind today.  What's new with you?

Monday, January 02, 2012

I've gotta hand it to myself...

...this was basically an awesome Christmas.  I love spending Christmas in our own house and having the kids wake up and run to their own tree and just doing our own thing.  For about two hours straight on Christmas Eve, our three-year-old walked around with a blanket over her head playing Mary (tucking a baby Jesus with a strong Cinderella resemblance into a pack-n-play with a pillow pet) while our nearly-two-year-old ran around as a renegade angel, waving a star wand and shouting "Behold!"  It was really, really sweet.  We had a big fat Christmas dinner party with a random assortment of friends (11 adults, 8 kids, 2 infants. It pretty much rocked.  I learned a lot from last year and (a) lowered my standards significantly and (b) only made the meat and rolls and invited everyone else to take care of the rest.  Totally recommend that.)  In sum, it was a perfect day full of family and friends and fun and not much stress, and for that I am grateful. 

I've heard it takes two years to feel at home somewhere: one year to get to know people and another to learn to love them.  I suspect that's true.  This is our third winter here in Iowa and so far, things are ideal (and not just because it hasn't snowed yet).  I haven't lived anywhere this long as an adult, and I feel like I am finally getting into my groove.

I know that means change is afoot.

Our kids are at very sweet (though sneaky) ages and are surprisingly independent; I like my calling; I like my job; I like my friends; I like my scene.  Which is remarkable because for the first little while of my existence with multiple children, I was operating at a pretty basic level, totally groove-less in a sea of babydom that's adorable in its chaos but nonetheless, chaotic.  And now our kids are getting bigger and I'm sloooowly learning to navigate this life.  Also, you know what?  I'm a kickass welcome wagon.  Honestly, my newfound friendliness is pretty hit-and-miss, but the misses are some of the best parts due to hilarity, and by hilarity I mean awkwardness level. Despite the hilarious misses, I remain largely unfazed.

Basically, it took me a few to get my footing in this new scene of mine in a new region of the country. Essentially, my takeaway from 2011 is that I learned to prioritize in smarter ways and anticipate my own needs better.  So this is my advice to old me and to the Internets and who(m)ever else about what I learned in the past year:
  1. Decide what doesn't matter and chuck it!  Be ruthless.  For example, when it comes to my kids' clothing, I want them to look reasonable and feel good, the end.  I don't see them as an extension of me and my identity's not wrapped up in it and I never want to have a conversation about brands or patterns or blahblahblah.  (Stay tuned for a forthcoming post about this principle.)  Because I don't care, I refuse to care or expend much time or energy on it, and that refusal is quite liberating.  This goes for bigger things, too, but clothes are an easy example.  Look at something.  Be honest with yourself about how much you care.  If your answer is, "I care very little," then just put it away.  You only answer to yourself, and your family if you have one, and God if you believe in one.  But you're in charge of you and what's important to you, and that is awesome.  
  2. Adjust your expectations.  This is less depressing than it sounds, but I often recommend lowering your standards significantly.  For example, when we had our first baby, I felt really uptight about her sleeping.  All anyone wanted to know was "How is she sleeping?" "Is your sleeping?"  "How was your night last night?" and every night I felt like a failure, because she wasn't sleeping great, and a barrage of well-meaning questions reduced me to tears.  And I realized that keeping score by how she slept was going to make me bummed out.  What's the solution?  STOP IT.  She's a baby!  I made peace with the fact that because we have small children, we are going to get crappy sleep.  Any sleep anybody gets for the next decade should feel like a bonus.  Voila!  I suddenly felt awesome because did we get SOME sleep? Yes!  Then, hurray!  So, do that with whatever's bumming you out. 
  3. Value your time.  I regret wasting absurd amounts of time on really dumb things that didn't matter to anyone, at all, ever.  For a simple example, briefing every case in law school?  That is dumb.  No one knows, or cares.  You need the information in that case, and you need to know the legal principle(s) contained therein, end of story.  You don't get a trophy for the briefing process or for taking three hours to do a one hour job.  So quit glorifying the process and start thinking about results.  Another example is making something homemade and complicated for a YW activity.  THAT IS STUPID.  From now on, if we need, say, cookies, I am buying them, unless there is a specific benefit to making them.  If I feel like making them, I will, because I do what I want.  But if I don't feel like making them, I will buy them and never feel bad about it.  What's more important, my afternoon or $5?  My afternoon!  Just because you have little kids doesn't mean you should spend your day on useless stuff that you don't find fulfilling.  Don't be a martyr!  If it's important to you and/or your kids, do it.  If it's not, forget it.  Delegate it or ditch it all together. 
  4. Figure out the introvert-extrovert thing and take care of yourself accordingly.  Does everyone else already know this?  Introverts expend energy when they interact with others, and need to recharge with solitude. Extroverts GAIN energy when they interact with others, and recharge from other people.  Just picture yourself after a fun party.  Are you drained?  Introvert.  Are you pumped up?  Extrovert.  This means if you're an extrovert, you need to be around people.  For me, this means making friends, and if no one is friendly, it means finding friends and making my own fun, and also getting a kickass job that allows me to gain energy from other people, and some financial independence, and avoid mushbrain, and feel like myself.  But the tricky part is figuring out how much work is just enough to keep you awesome, and how to keep it from becoming so much work that you go crazy.  Still working on that.

Anyway, it wasn't a perfect year, but it was a pretty great one, and those are a few takeaways I learned the hard way.   The end.  Got any takeaways from YOUR 2011?