Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Inheritance




I have my dad's eyes.  They are a dark mix of green and gray and blue and tend to change color depending on my mood or what I'm wearing.  Growing up, I didn't like my eyes--I would sometimes comment that they were the color of the bottom of an algae-infested pond.  I like them now; I like that they are different, that they aren't your typical brown or blue.  I'm the only one of my siblings who got them.  Shortly before my grandma's death, I remember looking into her eyes and seeing my own.  My grandma passed them to my dad who passed them to me.

Who I am is largely made up of traits from my dad.  We are cut from the same mold, he and I.  I think it would scare him sometimes when he looked at me and saw so many of his own strengths and weaknesses.  Looking back, I can see how he tried to protect me and prevent me from making his mistakes.  I think he still does.

We had a few rocky years where it felt like the house just wasn't big enough for both of us, but even then, I remember times where we talked for hours, just him and me.  Sometimes I felt like we actually got along best when there was no one else around.  Mostly he talked, and I listened.  I've always loved listening to my dad--he somehow blends stories and wisdom and anecdotes and advice into one seamless narrative.  He's not really a talker by nature, but if you can get him going, it's worth listening to.   I respect my dad's advice and opinions more than almost anyone else's.  Maybe I'm naive, but I still think he knows everything.  

Dad grew up in a tiny town and learned at an early age the value of hard work as he went out with his dad, my cowboy grandpa, to tend cows and mend fences and who knows what else.  I love this early part of his life and the way it shaped him into the man he is now.  I remember the times he let me "help" with his projects: as a little girl, I brought him tall glasses of ice water as he dug out a deep, deep fruit cellar by hand for my grandparents.  I sat with him on the plywood for hours in our "attic" while he installed a staircase ladder.  I "helped" chase calves into the chute to be branded and vaccinated.  

When I went to Portland, OR for a year and a half to serve a mission for my church, my contact with my family was limited to letters, emails, and two phone calls per year.  Every week, I got a long, newsy email from my mom, a letter from Grandma that came every Wednesday like clockwork, and more often than not, a handful of letters from my dad.  I remember checking the mail once and finding three letters from Dad that had all arrived on the same day.  Each letter was handwritten, concise, and usually contained something random (a dollar bill, a cartoon, one of his famous doodles, a pamphlet from a place he'd gone...).  He wrote about his death hikes, his thoughts, his experiences, the people he knew.  Reading those letters was like meeting my dad for the first time, seeing the world through his eyes.  Sometimes I would share pieces of them with my companions, and they began to look forward to his letters almost as much as I did.

My dad isn't a letter writer by nature, but he wrote to me prolifically, with almost a sense of urgency, because he somehow knew that I needed him.  Maybe he needed me, too.  I felt like every letter built an ever-widening bridge of understanding and trust between us.  

And once again, I find myself living over a thousand miles from home and family.  Dad doesn't write me letters anymore, but sometimes I can catch him on the phone, and we talk for a couple hours.  

He would rather eat rocks than talk on the phone, but he talks to me.

I think he knows I still need him.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just a Comma?





Let's eat Grandpa!
Let's eat, Grandpa!
Correct punctuation saves lives.

 {From here, shared with me by Katie}

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Check it Out

I guest posted over at Segullah today.  


(Props to you if you remember the original essay this post was based on.)


The Segullah blog always has well-written and thought-provoking content--I'm honored to have the chance to contribute.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Twilight and Little Mermaid Complex

A pale young man fills the top left of the poster, standing over a brown-haired young woman on the right, with the word "twilight" on the lower right.


Disney's The Little Mermaid came out in theatres when I was 6, and I thought it was the most amazing movie ever. While I waited for what felt like eons for it to be released on video, I insisted my parents rent a cheap, depressing, anime movie (also called The Little Mermaid) over and over again. Sure, it wasn't the same (or close), but it killed my craving just a little bit (those of you who read The Tales of Beedle the Bard to get a weak Harry Potter fix know what I'm talking about). You can picture my joy when the real thing finally came out on video and I could watch it frame by frame, over and over again, to my heart's content.

Imagine my surprise when I found out, years later, that my mom really doesn't like The Little Mermaid. I had always known of her distaste for Bambi--something about absentee dads and sexism and honoring bad role models--but seriously, who could dislike red haired, mellifluous Ariel? Or Sebastian, Flounder and Scuttle, the best sidekicks a girl could ask for? Or the dreamy Prince Eric with his luscious dark hair and light blue eyes?

If I look at Ariel through my mother's eyes, though, I can see why she subtly tried to discourage me from choosing Ariel as a role model.  It's been awhile since I last watched The Little Mermaid, but here is a plot summary: Ariel misses a huge, public family event, embarrassing her father, because she is out doing something dangerous.  King Triton is (rightfully) angry at his daughter's irresponsility, but Ariel throws a childish tantrum and shouts, "I'm 16 years old. I'm not a child anymore!"  She becomes obsessed with a boy who is strictly off-limits, not only because her dad doesn't approve, but also because he's a completely different species.  To be with this boy she's never met, with no regard for how her family might feel if she left them forever, she sells her soul to the devil, tries to get a boy she hardly knows to kiss her, and then, when she can't pay up on her bargain with the sea witch, her dad intervenes and saves her.  To top the whole thing off, Ariel's senselessness is rewarded when her dad basically says she was right all along; she changes species and gets married at a ridiculously young age.  And they lived happily ever after.


I remember what it was like to be a teenager; I remember the new emotions, the pervasive mentality that "no one else has ever felt this way before."  Love was new and all-encompassing, and when breakups inevitably happened it felt like the world was ending, that no one would ever love us again, that no relationship could ever possibly be as good as the one we lost.  Almost to our own surprise, though, we somehow moved on, had other loves, other relationships, and realized, when looking back, that those first relationships were clumsy at best, dysfunctional at worst, and that we were so grateful we had moved on to bigger and better things.


I know many literary snobs, like me, who are embarrassed to admit their guilty pleasure reads.  I read the Twilight series, and despite a bunch of things that drove me crazy about it, I enjoyed it--it was fluffy and fun.  The only thing I couldn't get over, in book two especially, was the complete dysfunction that is the Edward/Bella relationship.  Everything they said and did was so lacking in perspective and dripping with teen angst that I just wanted to slap some sense into them.  Here, in Kelly Clarkson's eloquent song lyrics, is a great typification of many teen relationships, Edward and Bella's included: "Being with you is so dysfunctional/I really shouldn't miss you, but I can't let you go/Cause we belong together now, yeah/Forever united here somehow, yeah/You got a piece of me/And honestly/My life would suck without you."  Touching, right?


Really, Ariel and Bella are the same character: with no thought or regard for anyone but themselves, they pursued relationships that were dysfunctional at best, self-destructive at worst with men who were bad for them.  While they aren't commonly espoused in books/media geared toward young women, here are some things I hope to teach my future daughter and offer as advice to young Bellas and Ariels everywhere:

  • There comes a point when a girl should just cut her losses and move on--there are plenty of fish (or mermen) in the sea.
  • Breaking up is hard, and it's perfectly normal to be sad about it for awhile.  But if you become a walking zombie for six months, you need to get some serious perspective and maybe a handful of Prozac.
  • If your parents have legitimate concerns about the guy you're dating, you should listen--they may be able to see things you're blind to (like that he has legs and you don't). Unless they're crazy (and sometimes even then), they really do have your best interests at heart.
  • Parents also tend to have more perspective than you do--learn from their wisdom.
  • There is no such thing as a "one and only."  I promise.
  • If you're thinking about breaking up but don't want to end the relationship because you're afraid you'll never find anything as good, stop worrying.  Ten to one you'll find something not only just as good, but even better.
  • Before you make any crazy decisions, stop and think about how they will affect those who love you.
  • Just because Ariel and Bella appeared to be "right all along" at the end of their stories, don't be fooled: real life isn't so forgiving.
  • And finally, if you fall in love with someone from a different, predatory species, you should probably reconsider your options.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

In Other News...

Jay turned the big 3-0 last week.  True story.  He's now officially in his fourth decade, and I'm officially going to avoid birthdays from now on.  I've decided I wouldn't mind just staying in my late twenties forever. 

Jay's actual birthday was the week before graduation, but we waited and celebrated with our parents.  My dad made Jay a wonderful strawberry pie, and since we only had one 24-pack of candles, I put in one for each decade.  


We went on a hike with our families in beautiful, rugged Friedrich Park.  Texas parks are mostly wild and wooded; there is no abundance of manicured lawns or playing fields like there is in Utah.  I love the parks here, though; I love the trails and the wildlife.  They help me to not miss mountains as much.



The hike was fun, but the morning was so muggy that you could have cut the air with a knife and served it up with some biscuits.  We've had a very dry spring here, and it tried to storm that weekend, but the most moisture the clouds managed to produce was a suffocating blanket of humidity.


I grew up in St. George, UT, which is a pretty hot place, but as the locals will tell you, it's a "dry heat."  That didn't mean much to me growing up--I figured hot was hot--but my first Texas summer quickly changed my mind.  Every time I ventured outside I felt like I was drowning, suffocated by the thick, heavy air.  I've grown more accustomed to it these past three summers, but I still forget every winter just how icky and sticky summer can be.  



Taking a breather: my parents, Jay's parents


In other news, it was our third anniversary on Tuesday.  It's strange; even though I've only been married for 11% of my life, it feels like much longer.  I can't imagine my life without Jay. He brings out the best in me, and I love him for it.