Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A brief hello and recap; or, one last post for 2013.

Yes, this is me blogging on New Year's Eve, because I've been spending the day taking care of all those little fiddly tasks that just never quite get done because I don't want them to carry over into the new year, and that includes blogging.

I'm still pretty ashamed that I haven't blogged at all since February. It's not been a bad year, all things considered, once we finally dug ourselves out of the black hole of recurring sickness in which we were all mired when last you saw us. (It lasted until mid-March-ish, if I'm remembering correctly, but felt a whole lot longer.) I'm going to use that as the basic excuse for not blogging, because it kind of burned up my energy for the first half of the year.

But a lot of really awesome things did happen this year. Like we got a second car. Finally. Yes. The angels sang. And it's *gasp* reliable. More heavenly choruses. We call it Zippy, because cars that accelerate are kind of a new thing in our experience.

Also, my next-to-littlest sister got married to a really awesome, totally geeky guy (she gave him SLC ComiCon tickets for Christmas and I think they go to midnight showings of every superhero movie ever. With matching t-shirts. It's pretty awesome). The Little Guy likes to refer to him as Uncle Monkey, for reasons best known to himself, but A thinks it's hilarious, so it works.

My next-younger sister and her family came out to Utah to visit for a month this summer, which was great. Lots of partying and shoe shopping for bridesmaid shoes and such. They all got to be here for the wedding in the summer, so that meant extra nieces running around in floofy dresses twice the size of the girls themselves. (Also, an extra, and extra-fun, nephew running around.)

In addition to being a super geek and lots of fun, A also happens to be from California, so they had a reception there a couple of weeks after the wedding. Which meant that the rest of the family (minus next-younger sis and fam, who had to return home back east) went to California, too.

And since we happened to be Right There Anyway, we also went to Disneyland. Yes. My parents, my youngest sister, my brother and his wife and three kids, plus Shallow Man, the Little Guy and myself all went to Disneyland together and it was so much fun. We hadn't been since our honeymoon. It's a lot different with kids in tow, but still great. We took turns watching the kids so the others could go on Big People rides, and we all were impressed by the new Cars Land, which is brilliant. They got all the details just right, including the fact that every third blink of the traffic light is actually slower. Watching the Little Guy and his cousins' faces just LIGHT UP when they met Lightning McQueen and Mater and found themselves actually in Radiator Springs… well, it was worth any other hassle. I'm really glad we got to take him while he's still in the grip of Cars mania.

While we were in California, the Little Guy ate a hamburger. This probably doesn't mean anything to the rest of you, but it was a big enough deal that it made it onto this extremely abbreviated list of the year's highlights.

The Little Guy has been going to a special preschool to help him with some of his speech delays and he just loves it. The best part is that he gets to ride the school bus there. You will have to imagine the level of glee and wriggling that erupts when he sees the bus coming around the corner and he starts yelling "SCHOOL BUS!!!" because no mere words of mine can do it justice. He's actually been getting a bit annoyed with me during the holiday break because he's pretty sure that I am keeping him away from the magical school bus of hope and wonder ON PURPOSE.

The Little Guy managed to get a stomach bug on Christmas Eve so Christmas was…different. We still got all the festivities done but it was a verrrry late night. I expect it will be another couple of decades before we get to sleep in until 9:45 a.m. on Christmas again.

Shallow Man still loves his job, the getting of which is still the highlight of 2012 (which is never going to get a year-in-review post. It was just too hard in too many ways to want to relive it. I decided this probably sometime in March this year, which is another reason I hadn't blogged). It's amazing the difference it's made to have him working someplace that is so good for/to him.

Shallow Man also decided to go and catch pneumonia again this last week (probably just walking pneumonia, but STILL; you'd think he'd have had enough sickness earlier this year) so we're quarantined at home for New Year's Eve and it's actually been really nice. Not least because it gives me the excuse to get in my pajamas by, oh, seven.

Which is kind of what I've been doing every day since October anyway, because I'm pregnant again. Yeah, I can barely believe it myself, but we're very excited. I'm due the end of June (a couple of weeks after my sis-in-law; we're excited to be due so close together and are hoping for "cousin twins"—please note we are only having one baby each, though) and just hit second trimester so I'm hoping that I'll start feeling less sick and getting more energy back. While I haven't been as sick this time around as I was with the Little Guy, I've still lost weight during the first trimester. Mostly I have just had no energy (which was part of why Christmas Eve was such a late night, because I hadn't had the energy to wrap presents before then, and why there have been as many fiddly bits to take care of today). Which also explains the lack of blogging for the last couple of months, and why I didn't even attempt NaBloPoMo this year. (I did try NaNo and kept up for, like, two and a half days. Which is pretty impressive, given the circumstances.) We should find out what gender the baby is in mid-February.

And I may not have gotten a lot of other stuff done, but I did read a whole lot of books. I don't have the grand total available at this exact moment, but I'm pretty sure I passed last year's total of 61.

And that's pretty much it for this year for the moment. I'll probably add a bullet-point list of other highlights later, but for the moment the main point is to actually get one last blog post up for the year. I hope to be better in 2014; fortunately I've set the bar pretty low for myself with a grand total of 6 posts in 2013. (Sorry again.) Gooooooo, me!

Here's hoping you all had good years as well, and that 2014 will be totally awesome for everyone involved. 
Love and kisses, Zaphod Ellie.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

Life around here.

I still need to do the 2012 in review post, but every time I start thinking about what all happened in 2012 I just want to crawl under a rock with my snuggly blanket and not come out until I've drunk enough hot chocolate to replace my entire blood supply. Long year. Crazy year. Exhausting year. So reviewing it keeps getting put off.

Of course, putting off things is not that difficult to do these days.

As I have previously mentioned, I got suddenly and severely hit with The Stick of Sickness (is that a thing? I know there's an Ugly Stick, which I'm moderately sure I've managed to avoid entangling myself with, so a sickness stick seems logical, so.... yeah. I'm calling it. It's a thing now) on the evening of January 12, and since that time the shadow of illness has pretty much not left our house for more than 24 hours at a time.

Lemme 'splain. Or maybe I'll just go down the roster.

The Cats. Actually, they've been fine for the most part, other than that one time Tobey vomited at the top of the stairs. But, you know, that's to be expected every now and then from cats. Hairballs, etc. So never mind the cats. They don't count.

The Little Guy. He decided to be an overachiever and took as his New Year's resolution "Get sick early and get sick often." He was battling a nasty cold over the New Year's holiday which meant we celebrated midnight alone in our living room in our pajamas with Back to the Future and a bottle of Martinelli's. (Southern New Year with the family was, fortunately, able to proceed as planned the next day, although the Little Guy took a loooooooong nap afterwards.) Since that time, he has run through two more bouts of the sniffles, an ear infection, an impressive case of full-body dry skin and eczema, food poisoning, and, for the last few days, some really extensive diaper blowouts. (Come on, I'm a mom; you know poop is going to show up on the blog at some point.)

Me. The nasty cold on Jan. 12th lingered and lasted and basically kept me in bed miserable, exhausted, unable to move, and ultimately weeping in pain over the headache and tension that finally clued us into the fact that we were not dealing, as thought, with a nasty cold, but with a super-nasty sinus infection. In addition to that loveliness, I have also had food poisoning, something fever-y and ache-y and flu-like, horrible cramps, mild nausea, and straight-up must-lie-down-now exhaustion.

Shallow Man. He decided to go with quality over quantity and has only really had two (although an argument can be made for three) illnesses. But those were actual flu and then a lung infection, so. He also was dealing with major nausea and stomach illness, but that was due to some of the meds he was on, so may not count as an actual full illness for accounting purposes.

So here's the timeline:

Jan. 12: I go do my unanticipatedly hipster thing in Salt Lake, getting home around 4:30. By 6:00 I am sniffling (assume it's just from standing in the cold waiting for the train). By 8:00 am definitely sick and fully miserable and know I'm not going to make it to church in the morning.

Jan. 12-13: The Little Guy wakes up in the middle of the night with a bad dream (we think). Takes much effort and about an hour to get him back to sleep. He is awake again at 4:00 and comes into the bed with us for comfort and snuggling but is still crying and upset and not sleeping for more than a few minutes' doze and pretty obviously not well.

Jan. 13: None of us make it to church. I am still quite sick and need to just rest in bed all day. Sadly, this is not to be, as we end up having to head over to the Instacare to figure out what is wrong with the Little Guy. (Eczema flaring up very badly plus bonus ear infection!)

Jan. 14-17: I'm basically a lump in bed all week. No energy, lots of cold-type misery.

Jan. 18: Wake up with a searing pain all over the right side of my face (tooth pain included) from sinus pressure. Feel like my face is going to melt off. Ask, for the first time I can remember, for Shallow Man to stay home from work and take care of Little Guy because I cannot handle it. End up going to doctor and discover it is a sinus infection. Get magical antibiotics that start helping me feel human-ish by later that evening.

Jan. 19: Feeling enough better that I am able to go on our long-planned date to celebrate the anniversary of our engagement. Probably overdo it because am wilting again by the time we get home.

Jan. 20: Relapse in the morning. Make it to Relief Society to teach my lesson (probably should have found a substitute but not thinking clearly enough to do something that smart) then come home and basically crash for a few hours. Wake up feeling some better.

Jan. 21: For the first time wake up feeling like an actual person, which is good, because have hard-won tickets to see Austenland that evening with my mom and sisters. Go to movie. Meet Shannon Hale. Life is beautiful and lovely.

Jan. 22: Probably overdid it a bit the day before; much napping during the day; better by the evening.

Jan. 23-25: Slowly getting back to normal but now the Little Guy has the sniffles.

Jan. 26: We're all actually pretty much okay today. Use the day to go car shopping in Salt Lake and have dinner with my brother and sister-in-law and their kids. Purchase a car and get home very late after finishing a few repairs on our other car.

Jan. 27: Alarms fail to go off and we wake up half an hour before church is scheduled to end. Two hours after that, Shallow Man is in bed with the flu.

Jan. 28: Just after midnight I wake up vomiting. Have just gotten back to bed when Little Guy wakes up at 1:00 in a puddle of vomit. Shallow Man's flu symptoms not including vomit, he stays up with the Little Guy and a bucket while I do my own thing for the rest of the night. Most likely food poisoning. Little Guy is better by about 10:00 a.m. but I continue with vomiting, aches, chills and mild fever for rest of day. Shallow Man definitely still has flu.

Jan. 29: I'm still mildly sick but improving. Shallow Man getting worse.

Jan. 30-31: Shallow Man still has flu but gradually improving. I discover I'm definitely not pregnant this month and am relegated to bed with a hot rice pack and mild nausea. Major grumbling.

Feb. 1: Shallow Man goes back to the office. I'm still not comfortable but we're all able to go to SLC for a family birthday party.

Feb. 2: I mostly just want to stay in bed but we end up going to the dinosaur museum because Shallow Man can't stand being cooped up in the house another day after being stuck there for almost all of the previous week. We're even feeling adventurous enough to go see Warm Bodies that evening (side note: Yes. I highly recommend you see this movie) but by the end of the evening it becomes apparent that Shallow Man has over-exerted himself too quickly and is relapsing. In point of fact, his lungs are hurting a little bit. Not enough to be scary, but still. Little Guy has the sniffles. Again.

Feb. 3: We miss church yet again because, yet again, we are going to the Instacare, where it is determined that Shallow Man's hurting-more-than-last-night lungs are infected. Yep. Get prescriptions and put him back to bed. Get the home teachers to come over and give him a blessing. He basically can't go up the stairs without getting winded, so we watch a bunch of Downton Abbey.

Feb. 4: More of the same, except now the Little Guy wakes up in a pile of ... well, major diaper blowout. I was finally able to register the car we purchased a week and two days earlier.

Feb. 5: The day begins when I wake up to the sound of the Little Guy's bedroom door opening. This sound is shortly followed by the arrival of said little guy in our bedroom. He has finally learned how to climb out of his crib. Ah, crap. (Not literally this time.) Shallow Man has been having major nausea and gas, probably as a side effect from his meds, so we go to see our regular nurse practictioner. She gives a few more prescriptions. We head home to have some lunch and put the Little Guy down for his nap (a slightly more involved process now that he's no longer a captive audience) and I'm getting ready to take a much-needed nap before heading out to pick up the extra prescriptions when Shallow Man tells me that he needs to go to the ER (both the Instacare doc and our NP had said if things get really bad, head to the ER) because his chest pain from breathing (probably impacted by the side-effect gas) is so severe that he can't lay down, move, etc. So I frantically call around to find someone who can watch the Little Guy until my mom can get here from Salt Lake to take over, and then we head to the ER. I have never seen Shallow Man so sick in my entire life; he can barely make it from the car to the door and at points is just this side of delusional with the pain. They run a bunch of tests on him but can't find anything obviously wrong (gall bladder is fine, EKG is fine, no pneumonia, etc.) except for the fact that he is experiencing severe nausea and pain, so they give him Zofran and morphine and a few other things. These are able to help him relax enough to rest. We get home just before 7 and he goes to bed for the rest of the night. I pick up prescriptions and get dinner for me and my wonderful mom, who's been taking care of the Little Guy during this adventure. I manage to get to bed just before 11, which is pretty early for me.

Feb. 6-7: The next morning is night and day difference with Shallow Man. Getting a night's sleep has made all the difference. He's still got some tightness in the lungs, but it's getting better, and he's still having the side-effect stomach sickness, but it's also improved. He can't do much without getting tired because being that sick really wipes you out, but he's definitely recovering. Last night I succumbed to what I'm going to assume is some kind of PTSD exhaustion and was in bed by nine with a headache and barely able to move my limbs from exhaustion, but this morning was back to normal. Shallow Man improving and Little Guy is still climbing out of his crib, which makes naptime, well, interesting. But we manage.

All I can say is, this had better have used up our quota of sickness for the year. We're not quite done with it yet, but the end is visible now, at least. *knocks on all sorts of wood*

So if you are sick AT ALL, please, please, please stay the heck away from me and my family. It's not that we don't love you. But if you get us sick again it will be. Plus, I'd really like to get to church on Sunday.

And that, friends, is why I haven't blogged or worked or really anything-other-than-Downton-Abbey'd for the last almost-month. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Oh, man.

This had me laughing so hard that I started crying so hard that the Little Guy noticed and came over to give me a hug and say "Awwwwww." (Which, in Little Guy speak, is "There, there. It okay.") 


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Well that was unexpected.

Even though I ended the day sick in bed with a horrible, sudden-onset cold, Saturday started out pretty good.

I rode the train into Salt Lake and then walked over to Trolley Square to pick up my Locals-Only tickets to the Sundance Film Festival. I also scored a couple of Best of Fest tickets. I had a roasted turkey and brie sandwich from Whole Foods, which I ate as I walked around, wearing a hat, scarf and fingerless gloves and listening to Mumford and Sons on my iPhone. I thought about stopping in at Trader Joe's but didn't have time before I had to catch my train home.

And then I read that paragraph and thought, dear saints, when did I turn into a hipster?

Fortunately for my sake, my shoes were neither vegan nor Chucks and I was not wearing my glasses. Fortunately for the sake of everyone else, I was also not wearing skinny jeans. Also, the hat and gloves were from Old Navy, and the Sundance tickets are for Austenland and not some depressing documentary about the environment or some failed indie music group, so I'm probably okay for now.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Make the call.

I don't know how to write this post. It's been bumping around in my mind for days. I've been staring at my computer for much longer than I care to admit, and still I got nothin'.

I like to know, when I start a post, roughly where it's going to end. I like to tie things together, round them off, make them smooth and pretty and full circle. And this one, like Mr. Darling's tie, will not tie. But I need to write it out in order to start sorting it out, so here goes.

I first met Bee in high school in the "smart kid" classes. I think that's the only way our spheres would have intersected because Bee was popular and well-known and I was, well, not. I was painfully unconfident about myself and my likeability and so tended to keep a low-ish profile and watch rather than participate in a lot of social things.

But here's the thing. Besides being popular, Bee was just nice. But that word doesn't catch the magnificence of her personality. "Nice" when written out looks dull and flat and smacks of faint praise. Bee was radiant. Incandescent. Luminescent. She walked into a room and the sunshine of her personality and basic human decency exploded like a supernova. She was always nice, but not cloying. I can't think of a more genuine human being.

She was valedictorian and as odd as it might sound, my most distinct memory of her aside from the thousand times she would smile at someone in the hallways or laugh or make other people laugh was her speech at graduation. She talked about Robert Frost, because it was graduation and someone has to. (I guess as the English nerd I was the next-most-likely candidate to invoke Frost but the fact that I spoke at graduation at all was a fluke. See: low profile. I wrote a speech about video games purely as a joke—possibly on a bet of some sort—and somehow ended up on the program. But I digress.)

It was a good speech, with just the right sincerity-to-cliches ratio, and Bee did a good job giving it. Even with all the other times I've run across that poem in my later years as an English major nerd, I still think of her each time I hear it.

Bee was alive, lively, living, full of energy and love and life, and made that road less traveled look mighty amazing indeed.

So when I heard last April that she had been in a biking accident and hit her head, causing spinal damage that left her a paraplegic, I couldn't put the pieces together. She was so energetic and bubbling. She was a wife and mother to two beautiful children. She was a triathlete, for goodness' sake. The idea of her confined to a wheelchair didn't fit; the two elements were not compatible. How could such a vibrant woman be contained in any way like that?

Of course she struggled, but her optimism and determination showed through. You could say she had grit. She was bound and determined that she would walk again, and every time I saw her post about another bit of progress ("I moved my toe today" made me nearly giddy with excitement) I gave thanks to God for the blessings He was giving to my friend.

And then in November she announced that she and her husband had met with a doctor who does stem cell surgery for spinal cord injuries, which had great potential to help heal the injuries and help patients walk again. Bee was an excellent candidate: relatively new injury, in good health and physical shape before the accident, young, etc. They were going to try it. They felt very positive about it and as though they were being led in this direction. They just had to raise the money because insurance wouldn't cover it. Lots of fundraisers went up and lots of people donated, a testament to the light of Bee's personality and influence. The surgery was scheduled for early February.

Last Thursday I kept thinking about Bee all day, thinking that I needed to contact her to see what she and her family needed and what I could do to help. But the Little Guy was getting over a major illness, I was trying to fend it off, the laundry had been stacking up and a million other big and little things were on my to-do list and so I didn't get a chance to do it on Thursday.

And then on Friday morning she was gone.

I saw it on Facebook Friday afternoon and felt like I'd been turned to ice. It wasn't true because it couldn't be true. If the idea of Bee in a wheelchair was incompatible, the idea of no Bee at all was impossible. I know I keep saying it, but Bee WAS alive. Vibrant. Vivid. Lively. Full of life. I just can't think of better words to describe her. It just did not, and still does not, compute that this can possibly be a world where she is gone.

We weren't super close. To be honest, my less-than-confident self wouldn't have been willing to swear that she would have remembered who I was without prompting before we became Facebook friends. But her presence and life had been a light to me several times in my life when she didn't know it, and now the world felt dimmer.

Bee, I am so sorry that I didn't call on Thursday. I'm sorry I didn't take two minutes before I went to bed to write you an email. I am so sorry that I didn't let you know I was thinking of you or tell you how much I admired your example in my life.

When we meet up in the next life, the first thing I'm going to do is take a walk with you and apologize and tell you what you by now probably already know. But since I plan (God willing) on going on living for quite some time yet, that next meeting seems impossibly far away. I know I'll regret not contacting you last Thursday for the rest of my life.

So I guess all I can do for now to make it up to you is that next time I keep thinking about someone, I'll let them know. I'll pay the visit, write the note, send the email, whatever.

Next time, Bee, I'll make the call.

My love and prayers go out to Bee's family and friends, especially her husband and two children.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

And that, friends, is how we fly across the country.

(Title reference can be found here.) 

This is actually my 250th blog post, so it seems fitting that I'm finally getting around to telling this story.  I'll be writing up my year in review post soon, but in order for it to make any sense, I need to tell you this story first.

So early last year my husband was working for a company which we'll call Calypso. Calypso is owned by a mega company, which we'll call Command. One day in early February, Shallow Man was sitting at his desk when his boss, his boss's boss, and his boss's boss's former boss (if you got that one, you're good) all walked into his office and closed the door. 

Shallow Man said he lost about ten years off of his life. 

But their offer to have him leave Calypso didn't come in the form of a firing or a layoff, but a transfer to another company owned by Command. A big wig of this company—let's call it Extant—was Shallow Man's boss's boss's former boss, and had gotten to know Shallow Man during his stint at Calypso. He explained that Extant's last attorney (they'd had three when they acquired the company and had whittled the team down) had just given notice and would Shallow Man like the job? 

The catch: Extant was based in Florida. 

Now, those of you who have been around for awhile know both where I'm going with this and that Shallow Man grew up in Florida. For the past several years every time it started snowing in Utah he would grumble about "the enemy from above" and start looking for Florida jobs. 

He'd also, at this point, been looking for a better job than Calypso for a little over a year. He'd had lots of interviews, several callbacks, and no offers, which meant that he was more than a little frustrated and discouraged. The chance to move back to his home state while getting away from Calypso AND getting a pay raise (the driving reason for his wish to defect from Calypso in the first place) was very appealing.

My heart knew, about three seconds after Shallow Man called me to tell me the news, that we needed to go. My head took more convincing because I happen to love Utah, having been born and raised here. Mountains, snow, family, etc.—in the Florida vs. Utah battle, only one state had these features. Unfortunately, and trumpingly (is that a word? It is now), the one thing that did NOT seem to exist in Utah was a better job for Shallow Man. 

I didn't WANT to go. But I knew that we should. No, that we NEEDED to. 

So we packed up (amid a lot of adventures, like Shallow Man flying out two weeks early to start work and find us a place to live, while I did most of the packing and spent a night in the hospital with the Little Guy due to an unexpected RSV case eight days before we were supposed to fly out) and moved to Florida. 

* * * 

At which point those of you still hanging around this blog didn't hear from me for five and a half months. 

This had to do with several factors, like the fact that moving and blogging don't really dovetail very well, both requiring at least 90% of your attention and time (I'm an English major, but I still know enough math to tell you that I don't have 180% of my time to give); writer's block; depression; starting a new work project that kept me pretty busy; and the fact that I was, essentially, a single mom at the time. 

See, the reason Extant's last lawyer had quit was that it was just too much work. He was overwhelmed, constantly at work, and missing time with his young family, and also not really getting paid enough to give up the rest of his life just for a job (and I should mention here that, as a mega company, Command doesn't value the time and talents of most of its employees as highly or lucratively as it probably should). 

And Shallow Man walked into the same situation (although for significantly less money, as he later found out, but that's getting a bit ahead of ourselves). He was the only lawyer for a company of hundreds of employees. He was working long hours from the get-go. He got sick at the beginning of April and had to take a half-day off and just that small break put him so far behind that he had to work 12-plus-hour days for the next week and still wasn't catching up. (There went our plans to hit up Disney World for our anniversary in May.) We lived 12 minutes away from his office but he still spent more time away from home than when he was making the over-an-hour-long-each-way commute to Calypso while we were living in Salt Lake. Even with the overall raise in salary, if you worked it out to an hourly rate he'd taken a major pay cut. They kept saying they'd be getting another lawyer in soon to help with the load, but never really started moving on it. 

With all this, I was essentially a single mom, and mostly carless to boot. We only had one vehicle, and when we first got to Florida I'd drop Shallow Man off in the morning and pick him up around dinner, and have the use of the car for the rest of the day. Once the length of his workdays increased, though, he needed to take the car because he'd be getting home late enough in the evenings that the Little Guy had been asleep for a few hours, and sometimes I had already gone to bed, too, and he didn't want to wake us up to come get him at 11:00, 11:30 or (a few times) midnight. 

Which is not to say that Florida was all bad. On the weekends we'd go out and explore. We got a membership to the Tampa Zoo (best zoo in the nation, seriously). We'd hit up the beach (although the first time we tried to go over to Clearwater beach was, unbeknownst to us, the middle of spring break. Forty-five minutes into the twenty-minute drive but less than a quarter of the way there, we gave up and came home, still fighting traffic. The round trip took about four hours; longest beach trip ever with no actual beach involved). We'd eat pizza from the Mellow Mushroom. Life on the weekends was really not bad at all. 

Too bad we had to get through the weeks to get to them, and that on some Saturdays Shallow Man was still just trying to recover from the previous week. 

It was getting to be too much, and fast. By early May, Shallow Man had also discovered that the previous attorney, working under the same conditions, had been getting more than $60,000 more a year than they'd offered Scott. He didn't think he was worth quite that much since he didn't have as much experience as the previous attorney had, but he did go in to talk to his boss about getting a raise to cover the [many] extra hours he was working and the lack of any kind of support staff or backup. 

His boss didn't even say he'd think about it. He just said no. (Okay, he did say that they liked Shallow Man and would take care of him in the future, but that didn't do much to ease the blow.) Pretty much what Shallow Man heard is "Nah, we'd prefer you to work yourself to death for cheap first. Then we'll see about taking care of you." Demoralizing to say the least. 

* * * 

All of which sets the stage for May 7th. 

A couple of weeks earlier, the people renting our little town house in Provo had let us know that they would not be renewing their lease when it expired at the end of June. Around noon on May 7th, Shallow Man sent me an email on his lunch break going over what we would need to do to find new tenants, and we said we'd start discussing it that evening. 

And then at about 4:15 p.m., Shallow Man called me. 

"Um," he said. Pause. "So." Pause. "Uh…." Longer pause; he was clearly slightly in shock and trying to figure out what to say. As per our usual routine, I told him to spit it out. 

"I just got an email from a headhunter/recruiter. She says she'd like to talk to me about a new employment opportunity." 

"Really? Just out of the blue like that? What kind of position?" 

Longest pause yet. "It's in Salt Lake." 

* * *

I think I inhaled all the air in the zip code, but couldn't say a thing. 

"Should I call her?" Shallow Man asked after a minute. Another employee at Extant had recently been fired when the higher-ups found out the employee was looking for another job, and Shallow Man was already paranoid that the axe would drop at any minute, just because the Command folks could be capricious like that.

I pondered this for a minute. "It couldn't hurt to get more information. See what she has to say. You don't have to apply if it doesn't sound good." But really, I thought to myself, could it be much worse than what you're going through here?

One more pause. "Okay. I'll talk to her. Can't hurt."

* * *

Let's just say the pitch was more than intriguing. It sounded wonderful. Even taking into account the perspective we were coming from, it seemed to be right up Shallow Man's alley. A Fortune 500 company (let's call it, say, Versal). A small legal outpost in a low-cost center. A brilliant and experienced team leader and mentor. Ground floor opportunities. Also, did I mention it was in Salt Lake?

And—do you believe in signs?—the starting salary was exactly the amount that Shallow Man had requested for a raise, and had been turned down by Extant.

There was a lot more behind-the-scenes drama that went into the final decision, which, frankly, I don't want to relive. Let's just say that former-Calypso-current-Extant-guy-who-brought-Shallow-Man-over didn't really decide to go with "gracious" or "supportive" as his adjectives of choice. But in the end, we made our decision, Shallow Man gave his notice, and I started repacking all the boxes.

And that, friends, is how we ended up on an airplane back to Utah exactly three months and five days after I moved to Florida.

* * *

Things worked out well. We ended up in a hotel for a couple of weeks while our tenants' lease ended—another major bright spot in the proceedings had been the moment we realized that we wouldn't have to try and find new renters—and then moved back into our little Provo townhome on July 5th. (Yeah, the day after the fourth of July. There was some fist-shaking when I realized that our nice Cabela's lounge chairs were going to still be on some truck where I couldn't get at them for fireworks time, but we lived.) Versal paid for the move, which was great.

We had packed up the truck in Florida in what amounted to a monsoon, and we unloaded the truck in Provo in nearly the same weather, only less hot and humid. The state had been going through a drought and a rash of crazy wildfires, so I like to take credit for causing the rainstorm that solved some of those problems.

It's been wonderful to be back in our little green house, as I call it, and to be back in our old neighborhood with old friends.

Most of all, though, it's been wonderful to see the change in Shallow Man. Going from the mental strain of feeling physically ill and cringing away from going to work in the morning (think me at my job right before law school) and being overworked, underappreciated, and having no mentor or real colleagues, to basically stepping into his perfect job. Versal appreciates him, recognizes his worth, and makes it known. They support him and give him good assignments. They help him learn what he needs to know rather than just saying, "Eh, you'll figure it out." They provide actual training. He has a mentor. He's learning a specialized practice area. He's getting a good paycheck. And, best of all, even with the commute back and forth (about an hour each way), he's still home waaaaaaay earlier than he ever was with either Extant or Calypso. It's a rare day that he's not home before 6:30, and he's so much happier when he does come home.

In short: best job ever.

The interesting thing is that Versal had been looking for someone for his new position since October of last year, seven months before we moved to Florida. I wondered at one point, why couldn't they have called him up earlier? You know, so we could have avoided the two cross-country moves in three months (I so do not recommend trying this under anything resembling normal circumstances). But it turns out that the clinching factor for them, what made them really decide they want him and what got him this job, was the work he'd done in Florida. The fact that Command liked him well enough to move him across country from Calypso to Extant made Versal want him—you know, when it rains, it pours.

Which explains the prompting I had felt immediately about going to Florida. I see the hand of the Lord so clearly in the proceedings as a whole, and in a lot of little details that I'm not going to be sharing in this public forum, that it would be foolish to deny it. We're exactly where we need to be, and we couldn't have gotten here any other way. In order to stay in Utah, we had to leave. In order to get his dream job, Shallow Man had to have his worst job first.

Like I've said before and elsewhere, you need the dark first before you can appreciate the light.

So. That's the story of how we flew across the country and moved to Provo.

Crazy? Yes.

Exhausting? Absolutely.

Miracle? Yeah, I'd say so.

And if that much packing and that many cross-country moves don't entitle me to some slack for my blogging laxity, I really don't know what does. Oh, wait. Yes, I do: Flying cross-country twice with two cats and a toddler. Boom.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Thoughts that really aren't about pants.

Most of you probably know by now that I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or in other words, I'm a Mormon. Up front, I'd like to say that this post is veering away from the tone of most of my posts and is going to be overtly religious in nature. If that's not your cup of tea, that's okay. You can read it or skip it as you wish.

I wore a skirt to church today, for a variety of personal reasons, including but not limited to the fact that for me, my Sunday best is a dress; I don’t have any suitable dress pants at the moment; and I was teaching the lesson in Relief Society and didn’t want my wardrobe choices potentially distracting people from what I was trying to say. Because this has been a weird week, and part of that weirdness was the reason why I was teaching the lesson, and the reason I was teaching that lesson was because there was something important the Spirit was pushing and prompting and strongly encouraging me to say. 

A bit of background: On Wednesday evening, the sister in charge of lessons called to let me know that we would be combining with the other Relief Society (yes, there are two in our ward) for the next few weeks because of people being out of town, and they’d worked out that the other teacher would teach this week. I had actually been looking forward to this lesson (George Albert Smith Lesson #21: The Power of Kindness which is a great lesson; I highly encourage you to read it if you haven't already), so I was a bit disappointed, but also a bit relieved because my husband was going to be substituting in Sunday School so that meant only one of us had to work on a lesson. 

However, by Thursday afternoon that feeling of disappointment had changed from a small nudge to the full on, whapped-with-a-bat, pit-of-stomach feeling that you get right when you know you need to stand up and bear your testimony but have no idea what you’re going to say. So I emailed the sister and told her that I was feeling like I should ask if maybe I could still teach this week. By the time I got her reply later that evening saying yes that would be fine, I was hoping she’d say no because I’d figured out what I was supposed to be saying and was kind of terrified to say it. 

But after a whole lot of prayer and study and pondering, I got up in Relief Society today and, shaking like a leaf, gave most of the lesson I had prepared before Wednesday night. However, the ending had changed. Here, because I’m feeling that push again, is the portion of the lesson that I prepared after Thursday afternoon, after I had prayed mightily and long. 

* * *

Many of you may have heard, in the last couple of weeks, about an event called “Wear Pants to Church Day.” It was started by a group of Mormon women who, for various reasons, felt hurt or marginalized by what they felt was inequality in the church between men and women in non-Priesthood related roles and situations. They proposed wearing pants to church in order to show support for each other and possibly bring a bit of awareness to the issue that so many were feeling left out and alone. 

Now, for various personal reasons, I do not consider myself to be a feminist. However, I have several good friends who identify as both Mormon and feminist, so I have heard some of their feelings on this subject before, and have some understanding of their perspective. Therefore it was with some degree of interest that I started following news of this event. 

As word of this event spread, even being picked up by several news outlets, the emotional response it triggered was staggering. Although some people respectfully responded with why they would not be participating (whether or not they agreed with the feelings of the originators), the vast majority of the comments were negative. They ranged from “I think this is a silly thing to protest,” or “This is ridiculous” to “Obviously you just don’t understand the Gospel and need to examine your testimony.” Most of the comments were so full of anger and vitriol that I don’t want to repeat them, and over and over variations of this idea were repeated: “If you’re so unhappy, you should just leave the Church and go someplace else.” And many times I also saw people who were not members of the Church say that because of the mean and hurtful and almost violent reactions that members of the Church were having against those who were interested in this event, these non-members would never investigate the Church. 

The whole situation left me deeply saddened, and as I pondered the whole thing I thought to myself that I was glad that I didn’t feel the internal conflict these originators felt, and grateful that I had never felt unequal or marginalized in the Church. Except then a voice whispered in my ear, “But you have felt unequal or marginalized before.” 

Not in regards to men-versus-women; I have had a strong personal witness of the importance and divinity of women as being equal to men, even though our earthly callings and burdens are different. But I have experienced the sting and the grief of feeling marginalized and left on the fringes of the church. 

It took my husband and I six and a half years to have our son, during which time I also had two miscarriages. There was a period of a few years when I would go to church and feel the Spirit in Sacrament meeting and in Sunday School, but by the time I got out of Relief Society I was in a deep depression. Every single lesson seemed to be about how amazing and wonderful and awesome it was to be a mom and have children and teach children and everyone had children or was pregnant except me. I started to feel as though I couldn’t fully participate in Church because I wasn’t a mother and therefore somehow wasn’t good enough. I remember one Sunday I came home and sobbed into my husband's shoulder that if I was supposed to keep going to church I needed a calling in Primary where I wouldn’t have to hear or give lessons on how great it was to have kids. The Lord hears prayers because two days later I was given a calling in Primary. 

I did eventually receive my witness of my individual worth and divinity apart from the role of motherhood, and later I was also blessed with my son. But before all that happened, it was a very dark time in my life, and I struggled mightily, not necessarily with my belief in the Gospel, but with my desire to participate in Church. However, I do remember specific instances where a seemingly random act of kindness saved my sanity and lifted my heart. I can’t list every person who acted as an angel in my life, but these sisters and many others offered kindness to me without even thinking about it, whether they knew of my trials or not, and gave me strength to keep going. 

I thought of these experiences and wondered if I could have stayed in the church, even believing as strongly in the doctrines of the Gospel as I do, if the general attitude towards infertility were as violently cruel as it had been to these women who felt left out, marginalized and on the fringes of the Church. What if our response to people who are single was to challenge their righteousness or their testimony? What if we told people who struggled with certain aspects of the Gospel, like the Word of Wisdom, fasting, or faith—or even something as simple as being called to teach Nursery—that if they were unhappy or struggling they should just leave the Church? 

Christ in His infinite love and kindness invited ALL to come unto Him. He forgave the woman taken in adultery, He taught the sinners and publicans, and He performed miracles for believers and non-believers alike. He has commanded us to be one, and if we are not one, he says, “ye are not mine.” (see D&C 38:27)

I believe that in order to be one, we need to be kind. We need to be aware of those who are struggling or who feel marginalized for whatever the reason may be. When we find that people are struggling, we should not react in such a way that makes them fear to speak up or ask questions or get support. We should not minimize or dismiss their struggles, but try to understand and help them. 

In Mark chapter nine, a father brings his son to Jesus to be healed of an evil spirit. Jesus said to him, “'If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.' And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help thou my unbelief.'” 

Christ knows that we all struggle with unbelief in the midst of our strong belief. As he healed the child of the man who struggled, He offers healing to all of us for our weaknesses and infirmities. However, He often enlists us to be his hands in helping to heal others. 

Struggles, doubts, or “unbelief” can take many forms: being single or infertile in what often seems to be a Church of large families; having trouble with the Word of Wisdom in what seems like a Church full of non-smokers who have never so much as looked at any drink stronger than Sprite; feeling like one’s nickname should be “O thou of little faith” in what feels like a Church full of people who can walk on water; or, perhaps, feeling like a second-class female citizen in what seems like a Church full of men. Not everyone feels these same struggles or moments of unbelief, and I would venture to say that many of these struggles, if not all, are based on a limited and incomplete perspective. But just because we don’t feel a particular brand of unbelief doesn’t mean that we should belittle or tear down those who do. We should treat them all with kindness, and not be so quick to point out the mote in the eyes of others; we should lovingly entreat them to stay with open arms rather than encouraging them to leave. 

It is my prayer that we will be able to be more mindful of those who are struggling so that we may reach out hands of love and kindness in the name of Christ, that we may communicate more openly with each other, that we may become one as we come to Christ and say together, “Lord, we believe; help thou our unbelief.”