Monday, November 24, 2014

The More the Storm, The More the Strength

I was going through some material yesterday morning while preparing for the lesson I teach for church on Sundays (insert judgements regarding my severe habit of procrastination here.) And I stumbled upon this wonderful gem by a poet named Douglas Malloch:

    The tree that never had to fight
    For sun and sky and air and light,
    But stood out in the open plain
    And always got its share of rain,
    Never became a forest king
    But lived and died a scrubby thing.

    Good timber does not grow with ease:
    The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
    The further sky, the greater length;
    The more the storm, the more the strength.
    By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
    In trees and men good timbers grow.

And that's when she started to cry, this tree that doesn't want to fight anymore for sun and sky and air and light. This tree that doesn't want the cold or storm or wind or snow. This tree that would rather have the perfect measure of glorious sun and just the right sprinkling of refreshing rain. This tree that thinks she would be perfectly happy to be weak and dependent and doesn't see why it is so important to be strong and brave. This tree that sometimes just wants to give up because she is fairly certain she is not equipped to withstand the constant thrashing of the heavy winds that life throws her way. This tree that more often than not does not believe she is equal to the tasks in front of her.

Because someone believes she is. Someone knows just what this tree needs to grow strong and unyielding. And to nurture and teach and protect the little trees that are now growing in the protection of her shade, but will someday face the elements on their own.

This certainly does not mean that this tree won't continue to whine and complain from time to time and beg for reprieve from the storm. Because she probably will.

But she will summon up the energy and the courage to face another day, cloudy or clear. Because, in the end, someone much wiser and with much more faith in her than she has in herself knows that she can one day rule the forest. And who is she to argue with that?

Thursday, November 20, 2014


I don't know how many of you have taken a statistics class before. If you haven't yet and you can possibly avoid it in the future, do so. Turn around and run my friend. Run far, far away. Trust me. Math was never my favorite subject in high school. However, as I took college classes, I gained a new apprecation for the mathematic arts. You see each teacher has their own level of pickiness about anything written. It becomes a bit of a guessing game as to how each individual professor would like your writing to be. (And I am fairly certain some are just jealous when you write better than they do. Yes, I am talking to you Religion Professor at University of Phoenix.) Then after you turn in your first paper and get a feel for what they are looking for you can adjust and adapt and hopefully do well enough to pass the class. (And by pass the class I mean get an A. Of course. #insaneperfectionist.)

With math, though, there is normally one right answer and all the other answers are wrong. 2 + 2 = 4. It doesn't matter how you write it. It needs no citation other than (Common Sense). Either x = 7 or x = 32 (We won't get into the instances where x is undefined...I don't buy into all that garbage) it doesn't equal "I don't like your writing style" or "Your thesis is unclear." There's no rubric, no incomplete sentence structure, and (best of all) no formatting. In a word: objective. And one objective class in a sea of subjective classes, well, that is what is known as a life boat.

Or so I thought when I signed up for Stats 1040. Because I am a fool. You have never met a more made up and subjective math in your life as statistics. It's not really even math. Sure, there's a number thrown in here or there, but that doesn't mean it's math. I mean, a calendar has numbers on it. That does not make it math. (Although, it may be more math than statistics is.) I won't go into too much detail so as not to lose you completely, but I will tell you that the calculator itself is harder to master than any machine since the Bowflex. It should require it's very own class called, How to Use an Incredibly Complicated Calculator That Has Words On It Instead of Just Numbers for Morons & Old People.

I know there are people out there who, doubtlessly, statistics makes sense to. I believe they are called statisticians. But I can think of nothing worse than working with stats for a living. Or for any time longer than a semester. I would rather do people's taxes. Wearing socks with sandals. True story.

Well, one fun part of stats class is probability theories. They maketh no sense to me. I know they are great for people who want to calculate their odds of winning 13 out of 46 games of roulette while playing only the number 7, but I am happy enough to know that my odds of winning anything ever are the same as my odds of my workout routine ever making me look like Jessica Biel in a bikini. One in a hugely astronomical number. Like 1 in 1,000,000 to the 7,548th power. That's all I really need to know. Not how many times I am going to draw a yellow ball out of a box with 3 other colors of balls, with or without replacement. Because if I need a yellow ball that bad, I'll just look in the box.

At any rate, trying to learn all of this crap has got me to thinking about percentages and probabilities. So I "calculated" (meaning totally made up) some numbers about things I actually run into in my real life. Just for fun.

#1. The Odds of Getting a Decent Cart at WalMart = 2.74%
To calculate this, I went to WalMart. A lot. Because I live in a small town. That has nothing but WalMart. Each time I went, I used a shopping cart. Because even if I am alone and only need one thing, I hate to carry around my very heavy purse. And because it can be used as a weapon in the event that there is only one bottle of Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer on the shelf. Plus, if you are pushing a shopping cart and looking like you are very much on a mission, less people stop to talk to you. (Did I mention I live in a small town?) So, I did some very complicated formulas and found that less than 3% of the time do I end up with a shopping cart that doesn't squeal. Or have a loose wheel. Or veer to the right. Or smell like cat vomit.

#2. The Odds of My Children Going to Bed By 9 PM = 0%
This is based on the fact that no matter how early or how often I tell my children to go to bed....No. Matter. What. They never go to bed on time. Ever.

#3. The Odds of My Husband Falling Asleep Before the End of a Movie = 98.7%
It's really 99% but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and added in a little room for sampling error. I think in 14 years of marriage, he has completely stayed awake for about 11 out of 845 movies that we have watched together. And that's giving him credit for ones where he fell asleep in the middle and woke up sometime before the end. I'm talking X-Men and Gladiator and Fast & the Furious here, folks. No romantic comedies. No Nicholas Sparks drivel. I don't know if I 'm not good company or if it is just because there aren't enough University of Utah football players in the movies we watch. Maybe it's a combination of the two. But 9 times out of 10 once the snacks are is he.

#4. The Odds That When I Buy a Box of Cereal For Myself There Will Actually Be Some Left When I Want to Eat Some = 0.14%
I have probably bought about 25 boxes of cereal for myself in 19 years. I have eaten about 1/3 of one of those boxes, combined. I am not so foolish as to think that just because I buy something for myself, I will actually get to partake of said something. Those hopes were dashed the moment my children were mobile enough to accesss the pantry. Or the fridge. Or the very back of my nightstand drawer underneath a map of Bryce Canyon. Every now and then, though, I get this feeling like if I buy my kids 12 lb bags of Fruity Pebbles and Captain Crunch With Crunchberries, they will leave my one poor tiny box of Vanilla Almond Special K alone. Silly mommy, Trix are for kids. And so is everything else. Everything.

#5. The Odds of Me Going to the Bathroom Without Someone Coming In To Ask Me Something = 3%
Kids. Husband. Doesn't matter. The kids are so tenacious, they'll just go grab a butter knife and unlock the door on those occasions when I bother to close & lock it. It's just their little way of once again letting me know that my time is not my own. That 3%? Those are the times that I am home by myself.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

It's Not a Tunnel. It's a Cave.

I've had some moments over the past few months where I take deep breaths and think, "I can do this. I can totally do this!" Then, there are the (increasingly more frequent) moments where I think, "Um, actually no. No I cannot." I have had quite a few of the latter moments lately. Moments where the enormous undertaking that is full-time school and work, and the thought of supporting my family, and the disgustingness that is my house, and the rarity that is a home cooked meal or a full-night's sleep just build up to this crescendo of immensity and insanity that threatens to swallow me whole.

It happened again today as I registered for next semester's 14 credits worth of classes. And made the HUGE mistake of actually reading the syllabus for each of the classes. Silly, silly me (or "Fool of a Took!" as Gandalf would say.) I haven't even made it through this semester yet. Although I am dangerously close to barely surviving it. Emphasis on barely. And I'm already stressing out about next semster?? Why yes. Yes I am. And then the thoughts come. The dark, dark thoughts:

What if I can't do it? What if I can't even pass these classes? What if I picked the wrong major? What if I don't have time to get a master's degree? What if my family can't live for 4 more years on Top Ramen and love? What if I can't even get into graduate school? What if I can and I spend all of this time abandoning my children and home to get my degree and I can't even get a job? What if it turns out that nobody wants to hire a 45 year old school counselor?? (Even if she is ridiculously young looking.) I start to think about how much my kids need me and what was I even thinking going back to school. And then I think about the fact that my husband is leaving in 3 weeks to live in Salt Lake for 2-4 months (to get some training for his low-vision that he desperately needs.) And who will make my (totally disgusting) protein shake every morning and wake up our middle-schooler at 6:30 when I can't possibly pull myself out of bed? Who will wash my picky 4-year-old's laundry 3 times a week so he always has a selection of Shaun White pants to choose from every day? And it's going to snow while he's gone. And not that I am not capable, but I absolutely hate shoveling snow. ( I pretty much hate everything else about snow, too, but that's a story for another time.) Not to mention checking the mail. I don't check the mail. I don't even know which mail box is ours.

The dark thoughts are real. And they are like a big, hairy, slobbering monster sitting on my chest and making it almost impossible to breathe. Except to hyperventilate. Apparently I can still do that just fine. It is at these dark moments that I think maybe that illusive light at the end of the tunnel gets a little bit hard to see because it is not actually a tunnel. It's a cave. There is no light because there is no end. This so called "light" that everyone talks about, maybe it doesn't exist. I am walking endlessly on and on to try to get to the other side of this tunnel only to find myself finally reaching the back of a deep, dark cave. And it sounds horribly depressing, but it might very well be true. And what if it is? What if my life never gets easy? What if there is not a point where I can sit back and say, "Wow! I can't believe I got through that." Because when this is all over, chances are that something else will take its place. And what if that's just life? What if it is?

Not everything about a cave is bad, right? I mean, there're bats and creepy stuff like that, but sometimes there are also breathtaking stalactites and stalagmites. And doesn't a cave also offer protection from wind and rain and the elements? So maybe it isn't a tunnel. Maybe there is no light at the end.

But, hey, I can do cave. And I have a feeling I'm not alone in here.

Monday, November 3, 2014

What You Didn't Know About the Bossy Turtle

Have you ever seen the behind-the-scenes of a model shoot? It is a feature they sometimes have in magazines to show you that things aren't always as perfect as they look. They usually show the model in hours of hair & make-up, the time and effort that goes into just the right lighting and backdrop and fans to create just the right windblown look. Sometimes they will even show you the back of the dress all done up with a million tucks and pins to make it look just right from the front. These features (I'm assuming) are meant to make us feel better. See, it took effort to create that perfect moment!! Um, whatever. The point is that the stars always look fan-freaking-tastic. And I don't know about you, but until I have a staff of a million people making sure I look like that for photographs, knowing that that's what Angelina Jolie has doesn't really make me feel all that much better.

Well, since I have already taken you through the oh so exciting contents of my purse. I thought it might be fun to let you in on the very unflattering behind-the-scenes of a Halloween 2014 picture.

This is the Halloween picture of which I speak:

No. Not A Halloween picture. THE Halloween picture. Meaning pretty much the only Halloween picture we got this year. You see, sometimes I have this need to overachieve. Sometimes I also have this idea that things will be more fun than they actually are. This looks like a super fun idea, right? Family costumes. Ninja Turtles. What wouldn't be fun about that?? What you maybe can't tell from this picture is this: 
  • Rafael is crying. And hates her mother.
  • Michelangelo just finished crying. 
  • Donatello's teeth are clenched so tight it's a wonder her jaw still works. 
  • Leonardo didn't agree with the "muscle" placement on his shirt. 
  • Rafael had me re-paint her weapon because Michelangelo had scraped off a little of the silver paint.
  • Then Leonardo was jealous because Rafael's weapon was shinier than his. So I repainted his too. 
  • Michelangelo wouldn't let me tie his shell on with brown ribbon like the rest of us. And cried and cried until we used red ribbon.
  • Donatello accidentally ordered her leggings in Medium. And didn't bother to try them on until Halloween.Which would be fine except that Medium in China apparently means, "HA HA HA! You big fat American. Why don't you stop eating?? Anything. Ever."
  • Michelangelo had to be physically restrained to get those orange ties on him.
  • Rafael couldn't see out of her mask. (And yet somehow was still crying that the sun was in her eyes.) 
  • And...there may or may not have been some profanities thrown around right before, during, and after this picture was taken. Possibly by the purple turtle.
  • Also, the purple turtle was so busy freaking out on her little herd of turtles that she totally spaced submitting a major assignment for one of her classes. Ironically, Art class. Way to go, Donatello.

I guess the important thing is that we look awesome, right? And maybe Donatello learned a lesson about themed family costumes. And just letting her kids enjoy the holiday. 

Or maybe not. Ideas for next year?