Aunthood

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There’s a baby photo on my phone’s home screen that wasn’t there a week ago. On Tuesday, August 1st, my brother and his wife became parents for the first time, and I became an aunt. For the first time in my adult life there’s a baby in my family–a new little human we’re responsible for.

I got to spend the weekend cooing over his sleeping form and holding him until my arms ached. It’s amazing how a baby can be a catalyst to make you rethink everything. What you’re eating, what you’re talking about, what you spend your time on, and what you prioritize.

Now this sweet little boy is the first thing I see every time I check the time. He is the backdrop to the breaking news alerts and new messages that pop up. He has flooded my photo library with pictures of every facial expression he has made in his short life.

It’s amazing what a child’s presence can have. Somehow the context of a newborn helps me see the world in a new light, one that is precious and full of so much hope.

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Growing Pains

I used to be so brave. It didn’t seem brave to make big life decisions and move forward with so much optimism and hope, but looking back at those moments now, they seem so bold and big. When do we loose that fearlessness and how can I get mine back?

I’m moving. After three years in this lovely little home, I’m saying goodbye. I remember getting offered the job on Friday and driving up to Salt Lake the next day to look for a place to live. Moving up with literally no friends and no furniture besides a bookshelf didn’t seem that crazy at the time. Me and my books in an empty apartment, listening to audio books while I cooked in the kitchen and sleeping in a sleeping bag on the ground. It was hard, but I was sure it was going to get less hard and I had no doubts that this was a good choice.

This time around, I’m so full of anxiety. So full of wounded vulnerability and fear. Will I like the next place, will my roommates like me, will I have friends, will I feel safe and happy?

Maybe that’s the key to this puzzle. The last three years have been really hard on me. I feel bad for saying that because I’ve been so blessed. I’ve met a lot of fabulous people, I’ve gotten to learn from leadership opportunities in the community, I’ve done most of a Master’s degree, and I’ve grown so much at work. I wouldn’t take any of those things back, but still… it all left me pretty tired and pretty broken.

Do you ever feel like you’re in a rut that you can’t get out of? You make progress. You find joy where you are. But it’s just not the same as before and you desperately want to get out? That’s where I’ve been for a while.

Although a move can’t solve my problems, I’m hopeful. I have hope that it will bring new experiences and a new start. That maybe it can be the catalyst for change and eventually peace I’ve been grasping at for the last couple of years.

Choosing the Right Co-pilots

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On Friday, one of my dearest friends got married. The wedding was in Twin Falls, ID and so I filled up my car with incredibly talented, mutual friends to road trip up for the event. It was wonderful and we were all filled to the brim with love and friendship and joy. Then we loaded the car up on Saturday for the drive home. On the way, we hit some ice and slid off the road.

To put all your fears to rest, we were incredibly blessed. No one was injured, we didn’t even get whiplash, and there was minimal damage to my car. By all intents and purposes, it wasn’t a major life event, just a delay on the way home. But the experience has made me reflect a lot.

As my tires lost traction and we began to fishtail, I will never forget the response I got from everyone in the car. The women in the back were calm and focused. And my co-pilot gently reassured me and coached me through what I should be doing. “You’re doing good. [pause] Try to straighten it out. [pause] Keep pumping the brake.”

There wasn’t any panic in her voice, although she probably was anxious. There wasn’t any judgement or criticism, just reassurance and reminders. And in that moment, that was exactly what I needed to navigate a difficult situation I’d never been in before.

As soon as the car came to a stop in the snowbank, their first response was to make sure everyone was okay, that I was okay. We all took a minute to collect our thoughts, and then they threw their shoes on and got out to push the car and see if we could get it out of the ditch. (Unfortunately I had no traction on my back tires and was going to need a tow.) Long story short, these two incredible men pulled over around the same time and towed us out with one of their trucks. I was so humbled and grateful for their help and will always be impressed with how much they took the parable of The Good Samaritan to heart.

Because of their help and what I believe were some major blessings from God (seriously, thank you to the mothers and fathers who said their prayers this week!), we drove home and went about our lives with barely a delay. But even beyond that help and all the blessings, I think I would be a lot more shaken up had I gone through the same experience with another group of people.

When someone says they’re choosing a partner or a co-pilot, I think we automatically jump to choosing a significant other, and there are certainly connections between what I learned on Saturday and choosing a spouse, but if I stopped there I would be missing out on a much wider set of implications. Co-pilots are roommates, co-workers, friends, business partners, counselors, mentors, family members, and so many others.

It became all so clear to me in those slow-motion seconds on I-84 that who we associate with and experience our difficult moments with matters. It impacts the journey and it impacts the outcomes. Someone else at the wheel would likely need a completely different reaction from his/her passengers, and so, in a way, this life is a quest to find people who complement you and whom you complement. And when you find your people, don’t let them go. Foster those relationships and support them however you can, because when you have your “Jesus Take the Wheel” moments, in whatever form they may come, those are the people you want in your life.

A Year of Change

A year ago, I came to work every day as an intern and sat in Intern Alley with Marinda and Kristen as we chatted about life and clicked away at our keyboards.

A year ago, I lived with two stressed out roommates who were applying to graduate school.

A year ago, I was feeling the overwhelming pressure to figure out a real job and was sending in applications every day, but still not exactly sure what I was looking for.

A year ago, I went home to Vegas for Christmas with a brother who had just gotten back from Ukraine and the prospects of a new sister-in-law.

A year ago, everything was on the brink of change, and you know what happened this year? The change came. When I look back at the last 12 months and think about where I was, it frankly makes me stop in my tracks. But at the same time, it was so natural that it’s difficult to imagine being back where I was a year ago.

This year, I have a full-time job I love. Marinda isn’t my co-worker, she’s my roommate. My best friend’s in Chicago. My brother is married (along with two of my dearest friends). And I’m about to start graduate school in less than two weeks.

That sounds like a lot of change, but at the same time, a year is a long time. There are 365 days to dream things up and work on projects and go on adventures and meet new people. So yes, a lot has changed this year, but it doesn’t feel that extreme because it didn’t happen in a day. Each day I woke up and chipped away at the changes I wanted to see in my life and made a little progress toward decisions that needed to be made and eventually they transformed my life. It’s the strange and wonderful thing about life. We’re constantly changing, but we can take it one day at a time.

 

 

 

You’re Not You: A Book Review

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From: here

A few friends and I decided to read this book together after seeing the trailer for the movie. Even though there were a lot of elements I liked about this book, ultimately I traded it in at a used bookstore.

But let’s start with what I liked.

  • The author does a great job stylistically with how descriptive she is. She really focuses on the details so that you gain a level of realism that many other books lack.
  • She allows her characters to be deeply flawed. For instance, her protagonist is having an affair. I think she assumes that most of her readers won’t agree with the affair, and yet she handles it unapologetically, and even explores the “other woman’s” point of view.
  • She explores ideas of identity and fulfillment through the struggling people she portrays.
  • She spends a considerable amount of time humanizing Kate who has ALS.
  • It brings up a lot of interesting thoughts and discussion about care taking, and the right to decide how we die.

Although I appreciated all of these things, ultimately it was a very difficult book for me. I just didn’t relate to the main character. Her life was so out of control, and I didn’t feel like she did much of anything to pull it together. She was very reactionary, and I felt like it caused her a lot of pain.

I don’t really think that anyone in the book was emotionally healthy. And not everyone has to be, but it was difficult to see that they weren’t expected to make any steps towards a healthier self. Most of their decisions was motivated my selfishness and after a while, it became wearing.

Sex was, in many ways, it’s own character throughout the novel. From the protagonist’s affair, to Kate and her husbands relationship, it was a constant theme. Despite it’s prevalence in the novel, at many points it felt gratuitous, and at all points it didn’t feel like it was helping the characters grow. I often felt like it was a cheap substitute for genuine interactions and communication. (Not that sexual relations can’t be genuine and communicative. They can and should be, but these weren’t, and that was the point of my frustration.)

It’s not a book I would recommend, but if the above exploration sounds intriguing to you, be my guest.

Two Old Women: A Book Review

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From: here

This book was a recommendation of one of my co-workers Marinda. It’s a YA level book. Easy to read in an afternoon. And yet, it has a striking amount of depth. It’s the story of two old women who are part of a nomadic tribe in Northern Canada/Alaska area. In the culture, when food is scarce, it is not uncommon to leave the old and sick behind to better use the resources of the tribe.

The story is about two old women who are left behind, and decide they don’t want to die. It’s a story about survival, forgiveness, and appreciating life. It reminded me that the best way to facilitate success is to allow every member of a group to contribute. Most people have way more to offer than they even know.

This book is simple, beautiful, and well worth the read.

2015 Booklist

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Meme credit: here

For my birthday last week I did something a little unorthodox by way of gifts. You see, most of my friends are either students or breaking into their careers right now, and don’t have a ton of money to spare. And so, instead of presents, I asked all of them to think about a book recommendation for me. I don’t think I could have anticipated what a rare treat reading all their recommendations and comments would be. Part of that expereince was how wonderfully representative their recommendations were of themselves. For instance, Katelyn is a second grade teacher and had some wonderful children’s books for me, Megan has lived in Southeast Asia and shared some powerful memoirs from that region of the world. Rachel majored in Russian and gave me four beefy Russian novels (I’ll be lucky to get through one). While Jaclyn, the most genuinely positive person I know, suggested The Power of Positive Thinking.

It just illustrated for me that we are what we read. Books shape the way we think, and are often representative of what we care about. They take more energy to consume than a television show or movie. You can’t be passive about it; you have to focus on the words to read them, and turn the pages to continue. You choose with every second to keep reading. I love it, as you can probably guess just from the title of this blog. And so I wanted to share the wonderfully diverse and interesting list with all of you.

(Title- recommender)

  • The Art of Racing in the Rain- Sarah
  • Unbroken-Sarah, Jake, and Alex
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns- Susan
  • Ella Minnow Pea- Marinda
  • The Hiding Place- Marinda
  • Maximum Ride- Kristen
  • Peace Like a River- Jessie
  • Going Postal – Jessie
  • The Giver Quartet- Quincey
  • The Journey- Katelyn
  • Boy (Rhode Dahl)- Kateyln
  • Lunar Chronicles- Maryssa
  • The Power of Positive Thinking- Jaclyn
  • The Tiger’s Curse- Bethany
  • Blackmoore- Bethany
  • Survival in the Killing Fields- Megan
  • In the Land of Green Ghosts- Megan
  • Team of Rivals- Keaton
  • A Circle of Quiet- Katie
  • Crime and Punishment- Rachel
  • Anna Karenina- Rachel
  • Fathers and Children- Rachel
  • Brothers Karamazv- Rachel
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close- Rachel

A few books that are on my immediate reading list:

  • Brown Girl Dreaming
  • Two Old Women- Marinda
  • The Elegance of the Hedgehog- Sarah and Rachel
  • The Enchanted April- Katie
  • The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood
  • You’re not you
  • The Book Thief
  • Influencer- Liz and Rosie
  • Daring Greatly- I just loved her TED talk
  • The Power of Vulnerability

I probably won’t get through all of these books in 2015 since I have a full time job and a ton of other responsibilities, but I’m hoping to make a significant dent. Feel free to take advantage of this list for your own booklist, and add to it in the comments section.