Jan 31, 2016

Choosing Which Doughnut.

"A conclusion or resolution reached after consideration."

"A choice made between alternative courses of action in a situation of uncertainty."

"A choice that you make about something after thinking about several possibilities."

I feel like if someone told me I HAD to give a name to the past 5 years of my life it would definitely be decisions. Ugh...that sounds so boring. How could I jazz up 5 years of hard decisions? How about the "Get to know yourself years?" How about the "Figure it out years?" How about, "Days of our Lives"? Oh wait, I know, "Choosing a doughnut." Have you ever been there in the doughnut store choosing your doughnuts and thought about that poor person who works there? Every day, all day they stand there behind the counter with a box and a little tissue in their hand waiting for people to make up their minds about which doughnut they want. I ask them so many questions. I change my mind....no wait I want the maple. I wonder if one of the questions when they interview is "How do you feel about people who can not make decisions?" Do they make you feel annoyed? :) It is such a little decision and yet we all falter when filling a box of doughnuts.

I am in the doughnut shop right now. Standing there. There is a long case of all the choices. There is whether to try to date or not, there is where to live, there is what to be when I grow up. Everything looks good. Do I want my life with cream in the middle? Do I want my life covered with maple? I tend to prefer the cake doughnuts, is that what kind of life I want? And sprinkles are definitely given who would not want some sprinkles in their life?

The sad part, well it could be the funny part, is that decision years are not over by any stretch of the imagination ...oh no, we are just getting going. I have always been amazing at sleeping. (yes, sleeping does have to do with decision making, bear with me :) I ALWAYS sleep through the night. I can sleep anywhere....floor,couch, chair, Amtrack train....anything. I am a morning person and a night person. I do not need much sleep. oh and wait there is more, I can fall back asleep easily. Brag, brag, brag,...Jennifer is a sleep Ninja. I honestly have always felt so sad and bewildered when people tell me about their insomnia woes. But this new round of decisions are doing their best to keep me up and teach me about not sleeping.

Maybe if I tell you about some of my decisions I will understand them better. You see I really do not have anyone who has the time needed to listen to me and help me so it really is just blog and me....which is never good....for you. So bear with me. I will see if I can narrow it down to the top three decisions Jennifer is facing...I mean I would not want to have you not getting any sleep either. But trust me the magnitude of it all is daunting sometimes....okay, maybe more than sometimes.

#1. What to be when I grow up.

I am trying to take this one slow and easy. I am in school. Moving towards a degree. I need to make a decision before May because that is when I need to apply for a program. I am trying to inform myself of all my options. Every week I go online and I look at the list of online degrees available to me at BYUI. I look at how long it will take me to get them. I look at how much money I will make when I am done. I look at what classes I would have to take. I try to imagine myself doing various jobs. I try to notice what I gravitate towards. The problem is I am not very realistic and they all sound enormously fun. Ooohhh look at this one, oh wait look at that one :)

But at this particular moment I really want to be a high school teacher. BYU Idaho offers a Bachelors Degree called Applied Management and if I got this degree I could teach business classes but I would also have all I needed to have other options just in case high school, as a teacher, is not for me.There is a lengthy list of other options you can pursue with this degree and they all sound exciting, things like; Accounting, Business Administration, Office Supervision and Management, Financial Management Services, telling everyone else what to do, and ruling the world (just making the list more interesting). There is a list of about 11 options of what I could be when I grow up with this degree and I like that there are options. I am at the age where I can not spend years figuring things out. I have to make a good decision the first time and I figure getting stuck in history is probably not smart....although I deeply long to teach history.

#2.Where to live.

Yeah, I am probably worrying about this prematurely but in my mind I have three options; Washington, Oregon, and Alaska. Yes, now you know I have a very serious thing about Alaska. I have lived long enough to know that you never end up where you think you will so I am trying not to set my mind on something but I do have a ridiculous vision in my head of a small, older, yet impeccable house on a little bit of land with lots of character and a view. A place to garden. Rooms to paint how ever I want. A fireplace. I really do not want much. It is weird to realize that the world really is all mine. I just have to be brave, have an open mind, and listen carefully to know where I need to be.

#3. To be on a dating website or not.

I tried the dating website for an entire year. I met about 6 different guys. Some were dating lots of girls at a time and could not focus on one. Some neglected to mention they were married still. Some were so very bitter and resentful that they obviously needed to heal from their previous relationship before they could start one with me. Some stayed in my life for many months and we had great times and then without warning or explanation they disappeared. A different, strange, sad story for each situation. I just decided I could not play for awhile. It is not an easy world...single and 47. I have to be vigilant because it is very easy to feel alone, and a little bit sad, and I fight that often. How do you meet people when you live in a town of 9,000 in Oregon? I think I have decided that I need to embrace the possibility that I will be in that cute little house with a view, and a garden all by myself. It is a weird thought. Maybe I was meant to be a cat lady. It seems most people meet someone because they are friends with someone who knows someone and hooks them up. So do I just go on Facebook and beg all my friends to think of all the single people they know and send them my way? Um yeah probably not.

Decisions are what our days are made up of. We really have to make them. I think it is a very cruel trick that even if you decide not to decide you are deciding. I have finally realized a few things, that you all probably already knew;

Decisions take work, time, and lots of effort if you want to make the best one you can. I guess you can just make them without thinking but trust me I know this never works out well I have done it way too much. Now I try to do everything I can to inform myself of all my options so that I can notice if one direction seems clearer than another. It took me a long time to realize the best decisions are made when you are informed of all the options.

Decisions can be changed. I used to agonize over where to plant my bulbs, shrubs, and perennials in my yard thinking I needed to find the most perfect spot the first time and then one day I had a serious AH HA moment when I realized if I did not like where I had planted it, if it ended up shading something else, or being to big, or not looking good with the things I planted it next to I could dig it up and move it....duh. My decisions are the same. I should not be afraid to make one for fear that I will be stuck. You are never stuck. Trust me, I know this without a doubt. Sometimes it is hard to fix it, or get out of it but you can do it if you have the courage.

I have decided to give myself 24 hours when I make a bad decision to dwell on it, fret about it, feel embarrassed about it and then I let it go. I wish I made good decisions all the time but honestly between you and me most of mine are not so good and I can tend to torture myself about those so thus the strictly enforced time limit :)

Of course, as with everything else there is a balance you have to decide which decisions to agonize over and which decisions are ones that are okay to make quickly. I imagine the person in the doughnut store would deeply appreciate someone who knows what they want and realizes that if they get something they do not want they can give it to someone else and buy another one :)

Jan 30, 2016

Are You Prepared?

What do you know about preparing? If you are preparing you are putting things or yourself in readiness. You are planning for and making ready for something expected or thought possible. I have been thinking a lot about this word this week and what I need to be making ready for things that may be expected or thought possible. What brought this thinking on? Well for my religion class that I am taking online this week we covered some of my favorite chapters in The Book of Mormon, the war chapters in Alma. There are so many treasures in chapters 43-63, so many great stories, and so much symbolism. But I need to focus today on just one thing, preparing. 

Captain Moroni is a most amazing man and he needs to get the Nephites ready for battle, so they are preparing. The first thing that catches my attention is that while they are preparing by arming themselves with swords, cimeters, and all sorts of weapons of war and making sure they all have breastplates, arm shields, helmets, and thick clothing the leader of their enemies is approaching things a little bit differently. His name is Zerahemna and he is working to preserve his troops hatred towards the enemy. He is just stirring them up. This is how he is preparing. So it is inciting versus preparing.

The first time these armies meet this is how it is described in Alma 43:20, "Now the army of Zerahemna was not prepared with any such thing; their cimeter, their bows and their arrows, their stones and their slings; and they were naked save it were a skin which was girded about their loins; yea all were naked." And then in the next verse it says,"They were not armed with breastplates, nor shields-therefore they were exceedingly afraid of the armies of the Nephites becasue of their armor." Even though their army was so much greater than the Nephites they were afraid. Isn't it interesting how if you are not prepared for something you become afraid? 

I think about going to war with nothing on but a loincloth and I cringe when I think about being exposed to the heavy blows of the opposing army with nothing to protect me. And then I think about my daily life and the battle I am daily, hourly, minutely(yes, it's a word :) fighting. Who am I fighting? Satan, bless his heart. He does not want me to be happy. He does not want me to be in control. He is real and he wants me to not get back to live with my Heavenly Father again. That would make him so happy. Am I prepared to defend myself against him? Do I have a helmet, a breastplate, a shield? Or am I protected by nothing but a loincloth against mighty Satan?

A few chapters later in chapter 48 of Alma we find more descriptions of how Moroni is preparing to defend his people against the relentless, angry, fierce Lamanites. Starting in verse 7 we find that he starts by preparing the minds of the people to be faithful unto the Lord. Then we read that he has been erecting forts, throwing up banks of earth round about to enclose his armies, building walls of stone to encircle them about, all round about the land. And then he finds the weakest places in the kingdom and he puts the greatest numbers of men in those spots. I sit here and I think about my weakest spots in my life the areas I struggle with. We all have them. What do we do with them? Just leave them? Maybe a little loincloth to protect them? Or are we fortifying them? Are we strengthening them? Our weaknesses must become our strengths. We need to be prepared because Satan knows what is hard for us. He knows if we struggle with telling the truth, going to church, being nice to other people, forgiving others, bad habits that control us, and SO much more. It all makes him so happy when we fail at being better. In a very passive, subtle way, so we do not see it coming he keeps at these weaknesses until we throw up our hands in despair thinking we can never get control of ourselves. Not realizing how happy it would make us to have some self control.

So while Moroni is diligently, consistently and faithfully preparing what is the leader of the Lamanites doing? He is very busy hardening hearts, blinding minds, and stirring his armies up to anger. He is obtaining power by fraud and deceit. And what happens? Well in Chapter 49 it describes it perfectly, "the leaders of the Lamanites had supposed because of their greatness of their numbers that they should be privileged to come upon them as they had hitherto done" But to their "uttermost astonishment" they were prepared for them in a manner which had never been known." Wow, wouldn't I love it if I could surprise my enemy, Satan, that way? If I could just be steadily, diligently, consistently building walls, throwing up banks of earth, works of timber, towers on top of the banks of earth so that stones and arrows can not hit me. All protected. It would take a lot of work for me to be prepared. Satan is relentless, he never gives up, he is mad at me because I have a body and he does not.

In Alma chapter 50 verse 1 it says that Moroni did not stop making preparations for war. Mind you he had been winning in a most fabulous way. He could have let his guard down. He could have chilled out for awhile but no he did not chill, he did not let down his guard he kept on preparing. That preparing thing is never over. The wars in Alma went on and on and on. I love the scripture in Alma 62:41. This is a very sobering scripture so be ready for it...it says,"For behold, because of the exceedingly great length of the war between the Lamanites and the Nephites many had become hardened, because of the exceedingly great length of the war; and many were softened because of their afflictions, insomuch that they did humble themselves before God, even in the depth of humility." So as you are endlessly preparing to protect yourself against the enemy and going to battle everyday, facing trials and afflictions are the battles hardening you and making you bitter and resentful or are the battles softening you and humbling you and teaching you? Ugh, so much to do so little time and so much diligence required. 

Onward Christian soldiers, 
marching as to war, 
with the cross of Jesus going on before, 
Christ, the royal master
 leads against the foe;
 Forward into battle
 see his banners go.

Jan 10, 2016

Sledding On Mount Hood.

I wonder when the first time was that I went sledding? I think it happened too early in my life for me to have a memory of a particular moment. I do remember inner tubes being a huge part of our playing when we were kids. We always had some around and used them to play with whether there was snow or not. I remember throwing up in the car, on the windy, narrow roads on the way up Mt. Baker, on our way to go tubing/sledding. And I have a very distinct memory of me, as a teenager, standing in my bedroom in our house in Snohomish trying to get my jeans over the top of another pair of pants as I was getting ready to go out sledding :)

I have always loved snow. No matter how much snow has already fallen a new batch of snow always thrills me. Even at 47 I can not wait to be the first one to walk in it. It just feels so magical to walk around in it and see how it has covered things and how pretty everything looks with snow on it. For loving snow as much as I do is it weird that I do not know how to do any winter sports like skiing, snow shoeing, snow boarding, or skeleton? :) I long to learn how to ski but need to find someone patient enough to teach me. I also think owning some snow shoes would be pretty fun.

I remember getting my many little Baird kids into their snow gear when we lived in Lawrence, Kansas and all of us walking a few blocks over from our house to a small home town hardware store. I was on a most important mission....my kids needed to know about sledding. I think there was only one sled left in the store. This sled was red. It had a little built in spot for your bum and a good place for your feet to rest. I loved that it had a rope attached that I could use to pull kiddos. As soon as we left the hardware store I loaded the youngest kid in the sled and we went walking down the street in search of a hill. I was desperate and could not wait to show my kids the awesomeness of sledding so the hill I had to settle on was not very long and ended right into the chain link fence that went around the back of  the elementary school in our neighborhood but we tried it anyway. I wanted my kids to experience the thrill of sledding, yes even if a chain link fence was involved :)

That sled we bought that day stayed with us about 15 years, clear until we left Massachusetts about a year and a half ago. It was a very tough sled and many a person sat on it. My children have been known to fight about this sled. I am not sure what the science is behind what makes a sled good or bad but that sled was a good, easy to get on and off of, fast sled. In all the divorce happenings in my life I am not sure where the little red sled ended up and feel a little sad about that. My Tatiana and Natalie were just talking the other day about what a perfect sled it was and how much they miss it.

Speaking of missing, we also really miss snow. Oregon does not get very much snow where we live and it has taken some getting used to. So now that you know how I feel about sledding and snow I can tell you that when I heard about a group of people heading up to Mt. Hood to go sledding on a Saturday I was very interested and thankfully my girls were interested also. I do hate "making" people go sledding :)

The first part of making sure this trip happened was appropriate snow gear. We apparently left all our snow gear in Massachusetts when we moved so we needed all sorts of stuff to make this journey to the snow work. So I made a few trips to the thrift store, mooched some things off of my mom and begged for sleds from some friends. At one point I finally had to admit defeat and buy two pair of waterproof gloves for my girls and a pair of boots for Natalie. As we got to the mountain and I started looking around me I became painfully aware that we are not very hip snow dressers. We did not have a stitch of North Face, Columbia, Lands End, or Patagonia on our bodies. I had no waterproof gloves on and my coat was not waterproof. I even had to borrow snow pants from my brother, which were very attractive on me....just saying :) I tried not to notice how stylish and composed everyone else on the mountain looked compared to me. I stood in line for the bathroom behind three ladies who definitely shopped at REI. They were chatting about yoga class as they stood there in their stylishness. I longed to be like them but I doubt it will ever happen.

We met the people we were going sledding with in a town on the Columbia River Gorge at 9 in the morning. Which meant we left Cottage Grove at 5:15 in the morning. I do not mind driving or morning so it was all okay....don't feel sorry for us. After we met our peeps we followed each other the hour and a half up route 26, to route 35, and finally to the White River West Sno Park.

I had an idea in my mind of what the place we would be sledding at would be like and the words secluded, not many people, quiet all were there....that is what all my other snow sledding experiences have been like. I had no idea that people flocked to mountains to sled like people flock to the beaches in New England. The extremely enormous, and very full parking lot stunned me. I did not see that coming. But it turned out that the places to sled were spread out enough that you would never know that that many people were there. There were little hills for little kids. Medium sized hills for me and my teenagers. And enormous hills for brave souls. We watched those brave souls crash for quite awhile.....so entertaining:)

I am continually fascinated by the fact that some people just know how to think of everything for outings like the beach and sledding. I am not sure why I am not one of those people. These people know how to bring their comforts with them so that it is almost as if they have not left home. I do not know how to do that. I have honestly never thought about it. My brain can't do it. I mean remember I wore non waterproof gloves sledding. What is wrong with me? Some people have a gift for knowing how to accessorize their activities perfectly. I admire them.

Yesterday on Mt. Hood I saw some people pulling their coolers on a sled and thought to myself why on earth did I never think of that? Then I saw other people pulling firewood on a sled and I again wondered to myself, how did I not think of that? I saw people wearing proper snow pants, not just jeans with leggings under them. I saw people wearing proper snow boots not their rain boots. I even...gasp... saw people wearing waterproof jackets. Some of the people I came with brought big proper lunches. I had clementines, peanuts, Reeses, and crackers. Some people had snow shoes. Some people had all different kinds of sleds. Some even had the most adorable little tiny skis for their toddlers. Everyone seemed to think of literally everything. Why am I not that committed to providing for my outings?

All the, lack of accessories, aside it was so much fun sledding. We climbed up and went down, and up and went down. It was snowing in the mountains and that made it all the more perfect. I love to sled on my stomach even though it sometimes means snow down my neck and in my face. Natalie and her cousin Lindsay did not want to leave and could have stayed all day. Tatiana and I thought we were brave and climbed laboriously, halfway up a huge hill but once we got the view and assimilated the height we did not feel so brave and sat there for quite awhile pondering the consequences of our choices and got brave enough to go down once. Natalie and Lindsay went bravely down it over and over, no fear.

Jan 2, 2016

Going To A Dance

How could I not pass up the opportunity to tell you about being 47 and having to go back to the tried and true method of meeting members of the opposite sex at dances? I mean no one can make this stuff up. NO ONE :) I have found it to be a very entertaining and yet painful process. As I make small ventures into the world of single, older people the realizations come rushing in faster than I can handle. I have noticed I will take one step, learn something, retreat, assimilate information I acquired, get up my courage, and attempt it all again. So many good times :)

Anyhow, my dear single/divorced friend April and I decided about a month or so ago, that no matter what, we were not going to be found doing nothing on New Years Eve this year. It is just too depressing. So we found a Single adult dance in Portland and decided we needed to go. We figured out where our kids could be so we could go. We fussed about what to wear...we decided on dresses just in case you needed to know. We reassured each other that this was going to be fun. As I got ready on Thursday night in the bathroom with my 16 year old, who was heading out to her own dance, the irony of the situation was not lost on me. There we were, both doing our hair and make up to go to a dance....weird....and so not where I ever thought I would be at this point of my life. To be reminding her of the age old rule I have told all my girls, that you must say yes if a boy gets up the courage to ask you to dance and realizing I had to practice what I preached now....ugh :)

The drive to Portland is about two hours and that drive must be done if you want to find anyone of the opposite sex to even talk to, let alone date, not to be dramatic but Portland is our only hope. The singles in Portland always think we are crazy when they hear that we drove all the way up from Cottage Grove to hang out with them but you do what you have to do to find someone of the opposite sex to talk to.

Dances were hard when I was 14 years old let alone now, do you remember?

Trying to be kind to and yet, at the same time, avoid someone you do not want to dance with.
Making conversation.
Not being embarrassed or inhibited about your lack of dancing skills.
Worrying about your breath.
Wishing the cute boy would ask you to dance.

And now I can add to this list of things that complicate a dance:

All of us who have had at least twenty years of life experiences that cause us to be a little wary.
Being brave enough to tell a guy you are a bus driver :)
Worrying that he can feel your muffin top when you are slow dancing.

Usually when April and I go to these dances there are not many people there. We honestly never know what to expect. So when we pulled into the parking lot last night at about 9:05 pm we were both a little bit giddy and nervous to see that the parking lot was very full. It was so full that we got the second to the last parking spot. It is so weird to be standing in this gym full of adults from age 31 to late 60's and realize we all never imagined we would get a do-over at dances. We are all a little afraid of each other because we know what life is about now and what we can do to each other. All of us with all sorts of life baggage. All of us wondering if there really is a second chance out there for us? All of us wondering how old each other is? Yeah, now we have no idea how old each of us is and we have all aged differently.

I am learning that this is the obstacle for me at these dances is that besides being short, I look young. Someone at the dance last night thought I was April's little sister. I am wondering if the guys are looking at me and thinking they would rather die than rob the cradle without realizing that I am 47, have 7 children, and 2 grandchildren. I do not know how to fix this problem? Wear something crocheted? Let my hair go gray? Get some Grandma shoes?

I did get asked to dance and I did have a good time. I danced with guys that were taller than I am...duh:) And even though we are in our 40's they still can not resist the urge to make a smart comment about how short I am. I just told them I had most likely heard the short comment before but challenged them to try to come up with something new :) I danced with guys that insisted on teaching me all that they knew about dancing. There were guys that I danced with that really wanted to talk about themselves and guys that didn't.

There was that moment when some guy asked me to dance to a song that a few select people were doing a very complicated line dance to. So complicated that these people had come to the dance early to learn it. He insisted that I go out there and dance it with him. I am thinking this was maybe not the highlight of my evening....but I am thankfully grown up enough now to have been able to just laugh my way through it and not care that everyone could see the mess I was in.

It definitely brought back a lot of memories to be dancing to Journey and Depeche Mode songs again. It definitely made me smile to see cute little, older than me, couples doing the swing dance to the song YMCA....now I know it is possible. The eclectic mix of what we choose to wear now that we are grown ups definitely entertained me. The personalities that never change and are found at every dance felt comforting.

April and I made a whole bunch of new girlfriends and it was so fun to connect with them. They told us about 80's music night at a club in Portland on Friday nights. They would sadly make a face as they declared to us how long they had been single....14 years, 17 years, 12 years, 8 years. Apparently good guys are hard to find. They invited us to join their big circle of people dancing to fast songs. We were very grateful for them. They told us we both looked to young to be there, so young that they thought at first that we were sister missionaries....silly girls.

If I had to choose I would prefer getting to know people by playing games, hiking, or simply sitting and talking but dances are part of the meeting people process when you are human....no matter how old you are. On January 9th a group of the singles are taking their kids and going sledding on Mt. Hood and that is more my thing so we are going....wish me luck :)