08 May 2017

Sit

I was trying to read. I had a vague idea of what I was looking for, but hadn't marked definitively the selections I needed, and I only had a few minutes before the service started. The woman behind me was doing the sporadic chatter where she'd trail off and I'd start reading again, and as soon as I got on a roll, she would say something else to me.

Mental note: Don't arrive early for church ever again.

I started to smile and nod while still searching for the quotes I wanted to use in my lesson during the second hour, sort of glancing over my shoulder so she'd think I was paying attention to her. I didn't want to appear unkind.

Another woman, one I knew fairly well, marched in through the back door with her granddaughter in tow. The girl was 5, maybe 6. Self-assured but still volatile in the ways children usually are. The grandmother pointed out the pew off to one side that she intended to sit in, and the young girl let out a whine, indicating instead that she wanted to sit in the center section. The announcements had already begun, so the grandmother started to argue silently with her progeny.

The reading could no longer hold my attention as I stared (rather awkwardly) right at the pair. After some hand-waving and quiet back-and-forth, the grandmother was exasperated. I expected she would wave the white flag, but instead she seized the girl by her arm, just above the wrist. She began to drag the child who no longer cared that church was going on around her and let out an ear-piercing scream. The girl went limp, obviously hoping her grandmother would give up and let go, but the woman was determined to sit in the pew immediately in front of me. She pushed the girl ahead of her, finally letting go when she could sit. The girl, feigning devastation, flung herself to the ground and continued to cry through a prayer.

Turning back to my book, I had to go back to the beginning. I wasn't sure what I had read and what I hadn't. I tried not to think about the still-crying child on the floor just in front of my feet.

The grandmother eventually tired of the sobs. She picked up the girl off the floor and walked her out the door from whence they came.

19 January 2017

12.02.2016

The sights and the sounds that night were overwhelming. It was finally December and it seemed to me that the whole world was out to celebrate the holiday month. Every lobby had a pianist and a tree to the ceiling, and every other room swelled with the usual Christmas hits. It all hung in the air so thickly that every breath I drew was filled with season's greetings.

As the night got darker and colder, the tourists were no worse for the wear--nearly everyone was carrying one of those disposable coffee cups, which were undoubtedly loaded up with hot chocolate and whipped cream (this is Salt Lake City after all). The six of us weaved through the crowds, stopping occasionally to take a picture or point at something, and despite the fat slices of pizza in all of our bellies, those disposable cups started to look more and more appealing. We moved away from the brightly lit Temple Square, across the street to the lush decor and warmth of the City Creek mall. The conversation was as light as the shops around us and I was happy to be wandering through the city with our old friends.

We walked with purpose now, only stopping anytime the younger member of our little group noticed the fish in the creek the mall was named for, eventually landing in a booth with four hot chocolates, four tired adults, one excited three year old, and a happy baby. I don't remember the conversation topics, but I remember the warm hot chocolate sliding down my throat and the pleasant feelings running through my head. We laughed and talked and sighed and lamented the short length of our time together.

As we walked back to the parking lot, a small Batman took my hand and held it tight. The shops and lights passed in a bright yellow blur and I was elated even as the young hero yanked me in different directions. Somehow we were suddenly at the cars and Batman easily scaled the seats before sitting down and helping me buckle him securely into place. As we all said our goodbyes, my tiny hero placed his hands on either side of my face and started pulling on me. I was a little confused up until he planted a firm, slightly slobbery, three-year-old's kiss on my upper lip and waved at me, beaming, as I walked away.

07 October 2016

Day 15: Camping

Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoirs.

Camping is one of those things that is more of an aspiration than a reality to me.

I've been camping of course. Six Girls Camps through my teen years, a trek that included camping, sleeping outside on the trampoline...

I once camped (yes, for real) in the Tetons with friends. I didn't realize how cold it would be. A friend and I shared a sleeping bag, and since we were all too broke to own tents, the 10 of us that had gone on the trip slept in a long row, hoping to get body heat on our side. It was very cold, even in mid-August. It was almost unfathomably hot during the day, but we cooled off in the glacial streams that ran across our hiking path. That was a fun trip. I'll always be grateful for the outdoorsy friends I made at BYU - Idaho and the fun we had.

My favorite camping trip was 100% indoors. It was a New Years Eve 4 or 5 years ago and Casey and I set up our tent in the front room. I don't know what it is about setting tents up inside that fascinates me, but I've always loved raising a tent inside. We slept on our air mattress and drank Martinelli's at midnight. The pictures were blurry but the memories are clear.

Most recently I had a forced camping night this summer. Casey and I were driving home from Chicago and hit a deer in the middle of South Dakota. It didn't do much damage--a couple of dents--but it freaked us both out enough that we stopped at the very next rest stop and slept in the back of my car with the windows cracked enough to let in fresh air, but not so much that we'd freeze.

I'll always remember nights trying to sleep out on the trampoline with fondness. It had all the fun of camping without any of the setup, and all we had to do was gaze at the stars. There are few things more comforting when you wake up in the middle of the night than looking up and seeing an infinity of stars.

22 September 2016

Day 14: School Lunch

More of the thing.

I don't really remember much about school lunches when I was in elementary school. I was a bit of an outcast, and at my first middle school, students were allowed to volunteer in the lunch room for cheaper lunch. maybe that was it, I don't remember for sure. I do remember that it meant I got to choose my cookie. I would always pick my cookie before lunch started to make sure I got the gooiest looking one in the pile.

At my second middle school there was no such program, so I was forced to find people to sit with. Eventually I made friends, armed with a folder bursting with Pokémon trading cards.

At my first high school I spent most lunches in Mr. Ritter's room. He let the Astronomy Club "meet" there every day during lunch. I don't know what made it so magical to eat my lunch in a chemistry classroom, but it could have had something to do with the boy I had a crush on throughout my freshman, sophmore, and junior years.

Senior year we moved across the country, and I encountered my first indoor cafeteria. I never knew such a thing existed (that and lockers). At some point during the year, some friends and I figured out that the bakery at Jewel Osco would write anything you asked them to write on a cake. Thus, Cake Fridays were born. We'd all take turns in the group buying a cake on Thursday night with something ridiculous written on it. Then usually the cake would stay in my locker during the morning classes. My locker was in a corner that for whatever reason stayed cold year round, so it became the unofficial fridge. Whoever was in charge of the cake was also in charge of grabbing a huge fistful of forks at the beginning of lunch, and we'd each grab a fork and dig in.

Once we brought a pie instead for a group member's birthday. I remember standing at the window where they sold soft serve ice cream and begging them to fill a cup with vanilla soft serve, because who eats cherry pie without ice cream? They relented, but not without resistance.

Nothing beats Cake Fridays. Or at least nothing beats inside jokes written on pastries.

21 September 2016

Day 13: Hair

Another 8-Minute Memoir writing challenge from Ann Dee Ellis

My hair and I have a long history. As a girl I would go back and forth on bangs, length, and other aspects of my hair as I tried to get it exactly how I wanted it. I remember sitting on the floor of my second grade classroom cross-legged. I dropped my head back and moved it back and forth, feeling the hair run along my back through my t-shirt. I could feel the ends tickling the exposed skin between my shirt and shorts. I've always loved how long hair feels.

My most important hair moment didn't come until I was 18 and in college. I hadn't done anything different with my hair in years. It had always been a matter of cutting it to about my shoulders (usually a couple of inches longer) and growing it out until the split ends got so bad I couldn't take it. As I sat in my dorm room bunk bed, thinking about hair, I realized I couldn't remember the last time it had been shorter than my shoulders. I started wondering what that might look like. Eventually I moved to the mirror and started playing with it--folding it up under to get an idea of what I'd look like with short hair. Folding hair doesn't ever give you a great idea of what it would really look like though. I looked around my room and the kitchen quietly (it was around 2 am at this point) until I found a pair of sharp scissors.

Scissors in hand, I stared at myself in the mirror again, this time wondering if I should do this. If it looked horrible, I couldn't do anythign about it for hours. I'd have to sleep on bad hair, maybe pull it back for my morning classes, then I'd have to walk to the closest beauty school for a cheap fix.

I probably stared in the mirror for 10 minutes. It felt like much longer. I eventually realized that I'd be standing there until I did something, so without further ado, I grabbed the scissors and closed my eyes. In hindsight, I shouldn't have done that.

When I opened my eyes, I was pleasantly surprised to find my snip didn't look horrible. I kept cutting chunks of hair off, eventually remembering that stylists always washed hair first. I got it wet and kept going. By 4 I was done.

Again, I stared myself down in the mirror, wondering what my roommates would say in the morning. I cleaned the bathroom, picking up pieces of hair, and slept.

19 September 2016

Day 12: Decisions

Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir.

I hate decision-making. One of the nice things about having such a busy life is that most of my decisions are pre-made based on the time available to me. Some decisions are easy and a lot are hard, but at least most of them are obvious.

Thing is, when you have infertility, every decision feels amplified. The decisions I've had to make in a doctors office last minute are not small decisions. Like when I was doing my first IVF. We had decided to transfer one embryo in advance, then when I was sitting on the chair wearing nothing but thick socks and a hospital gown, they told me the options were a. 30% chance or less of pregnancy but a safer one if it works or b. more like a 50-60%+ chance of pregnancy with increased risk. It's never just about choosing one embryos or two. There is a lot of weight that goes into that decision.

After 45 minutes debating, Casey and I chose two do two.

It didn't work anyway.

Getting married was another hard decision. I knew I wanted to get married, I just didn't know for sure if Casey was the right one. When we got engaged, I was still only 4 months out from a near-engagement to a manipulative man who might have destroyed my soul. I didn't recognize that for too long. I didn't think Casey was the same, but it was still hard to say, "Yes, this is what I want", when I wasn't actually sure of what I wanted.

It didn't take me very long to realize that Casey was exactly who I wanted (and needed) to marry. I've never regretted that choice.

So many of the big decisions in my life have felt big. Everything winds up feeling overly exaggerated in some way or another, and each decision is less which ice cream to buy and more what risk are you willing to take that will influence potentially the rest of your life?

Day 11: Losing Things

Another post for the Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir writing challenge.

I don't usually lose things. Physical things at least. I'm pretty good at holding onto them. Occasionally I'll have to look for my keys because I can't remember which purse I dropped them into the night before, but for the most part, I can keep track of the physical world.

There are others things I lose though.

I lose patience. With myself, my husband, my friends, and my family. They've all felt the brunt of it at some point or another, I'm sure. I often lose patience with strangers who ask stupid questions. I lose patience with my students who think the classroom is their personal open mic night.

I lose myself. I'll disappear in thought for long stretches--usually only a few minutes, but sometimes hours.

I lose a story line. If a novel doesn't suck me in the way I want it to, I'll forget what was happening. I reread the same chapter in The Two Towers so many times I eventually just got embarrassed and set the book aside. For those wondering, it was in the middle of the battle at Helm's Deep. It was too complicated for me to follow. Or maybe too boring. Either way, I never finished that book.

I lose money. When we were living in Rexburg, I was giving plasma twice a week to help us live more comfortably. I walked home one day after putting the $30 I'd made that day at the plasma center into my pocket. When I went to pull it out that night and add it to our cash monies, I couldn't find it anywhere. I'm still not sure if I didn't actually get the bills into the inside of my pocket or if they wriggled their way out on the walk home. Either way, I hope whoever found it was excited and did something useful with it.

Very rarely, I lose my temper. I'm usually fairly relaxed and cool-headed, but every now and again something will happen that makes me see red and feel like I've completely lost control. It doesn't happen often, but when it does I usually spend more time trying to recoup the good faith I've lost than my own senses.

14 September 2016

Day 10: Messes

The continuing saga of 8-Minute Memoirs for Ann Dee Ellis writing challenge.

I don't like messes. I never have. I do enjoy creating them, but they all need to get cleaned eventually.

You wouldn't know this walking through my apartment. There are stacks of books on chairs, open boxes filled with things that don't fit on shelves, and toys overflowing atop my dresser.

You would, however, know this walking through my classroom. During the school year, I have to spend anywhere from a third to half of my days inside my classroom, and I cannot work in a messy room. So I keep it clean. Almost obsessively so. Every morning when I unlock the door and walk in, I breathe a sigh of relief at the perfectly aligned desks, chairs perched on tables, and freshly vacuumed floors. It's not like that every morning of course, but most of the time my classroom is perfect.

When I leave at the end of the day, I move through the room, erasing the notes I've scribbled on the whiteboards and fixing the taped-up signs that have gone askew after 200 students stormed by.

Then I go home and I sit in my mess. I don't leave every mess there all the time, but my apartment is so small that some mess can't be helped. I'd need more shelving units, more cubby holes, and less stuff to get it all organized. I'm very attached to my stuff though. My Rey and Kylo Ren POP vinyls proudly look over my bed, holding their lightsabers up for the duel. The two fans that migrate through the apartment depending on where we need them stand tall, ready for action at a moment's notice. My row of dresses hanging in the closet that I never close sway back and forth as I move past.

It comforts me.

12 September 2016

Day 9: 8

More Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoirs.

Eight was a good year. I turned eight in June of 1994 and I spent the first two weeks of the month planning my birthday party and baptism. I don't remember the particulars of the party, but I remember my baptism like it was yesterday. Plenty of people came to our house from my family and from our congregation. I sang a song about rainbows and rebirth and my father and I dressed in white and met in the backyard where he dunked me into our pool the way we had practiced for weeks.

Coming out of the water I felt more beautiful and perfect than I ever had. I knew I'd done the right thing, and now I got to celebrate with my favorite things--cake and Mexican food from Las Golondrinas (a restaurant that I still visit every time I'm in Southern California).

That was when we lived in San Juan Capistrano. Behind our house was the huge park where I played soccer every summer of my young life, a sport that holds a special place in my heart despite plenty of hours spent playing with my hair or the grass as the ball rolled right by me.

We were only a few minutes from the beach, and I was old enough to go out to the pool by myself sometimes. As long as my parents knew where I was and I took one of the cordless phones out with me so they could beep it to get my attention quickly at any time. It probably wasn't as perfect as I remember, few things are, but those moments out in the pool by myself--no siblings asking questions or parents demanding my attention--were some of the most precious memories I have. I've always loved spending time with people (and growing up with four younger siblings, you get used to it), but it wasn't until those hours I spent alone in my backyard that I realized how much I also loved being by myself.

08 September 2016

Day 8: Birthdays

Ann Dee Ellis 8-Minute Memoir writings continue.

Birthdays have always been some of my favorite things. My birthday is June 17th, and every year I look forward to it. I try to do something memorable every year, but it's hard to create a memory sometimes. This year I was in Chicago and most of my memory involved crankily wandering through a northeastern neighborhood of the city looking for a decent restaurant. We did eventually find one, and they made me the most delicious mocktails.

Last year I spent my birthday at Disneyland. If I had the means and opportunity, I'd spend every birthday at Disneyland. I wrapped up the night gazing at Sleeping Beauty's castle, crying because the day was over. Who knew a 29 year old could get so emotional about leaving Disneyland?

I'll always remember my 16th birthday party. I tried to make it a big thing in my parents' giant backyard, but only about 10 people came. It wound up being just about perfect though. One friend had made me the perfect birthday card containing every geeky 16 year old's dream: an Invader Zim drawing and cash.

When I was young, maybe 6 or 7, I threw a pool party at my grandparents' house. I remember hanging from the lion's head fountains that lined their grandiose pool and opening presents that came with twin presents for my sister, whose birthday wouldn't be for 3 months, and feeling pangs of jealousy that she got to share in my glorious celebration. I never did learn to share my birthday with anyone until I got married.

Casey's birthday is a mere 8 days before mine, and our first birthdays married, we threw a birthdays party between the two days. We packed our 525 square foot apartment with pizza, rock band, and some 30 people. It was probably the best party I've been to.

The thing that never fails to surprise me every year is how normal birthdays are. It seems like birthdays should feel different somehow. Like when the minute hand on a clock hits the hour and snaps into place, I think hitting your birthday should feel like you're snapping into the next year. Instead, most years just feel like any other day.