December 15, 2014

December

Ah, December. Month of gentle snow, silent nights, mounting excitement, and Scrooged.

Month in which I am historically over-overwhelmed with client work (if you count two years as an appropriate sample size, WHICH I DO.) Month in which I've given up blogging (twice, although that last time was an accident).

Month in which this here turns four years old, with time off for good behaviour.

Month in which I've been known to brag about how wonderful and sweet my family is, how cozy and content we are, and how generally fabulous my life is.

Exhibit A
 Oh, brother.

Let's overcompensate on that last one in the other direction this year: It's the month in which I'm struggling with the fact that Christmas feels a little like yet another something on a long (almost endless) to-do list of somethings that include major construction (yes, still) and a layoff with its concomitant income gymnastics.

There's been a significant amount of non-Christmas-related stress this year. In fact, I imagine that in years to come, Seth and I will look back on 2014 as The Year of Character Building. From scratch. With nail guns.

You know, it sounds like I'm all greyed out and whatnot, but truthfully I'm not. I have a pretty deep-seated "it'll be fine" streak, along with a pretty loose definition of "it" and "fine".  I'm happy, even grateful for zee painful character building. I can even - if I concentrate really, really hard - get enthusiastic about advent, excited kiddos, and Scrooged.

I just don't want to right at this exact moment. Ask me again next week.


November 26, 2014

Hero Worship

So today I talked to my hero on the phone for the first time. It was heady, heady stuff.

Let me back up, because this post already sounds breathless and uncomfortably fan-girl-ish.*

As my professional (cough) alter-ego, I lurk around a nerdy corner of Reddit and try to answer some of the questions people pose about life (money), the universe (money) and everything (also money). I try not to give quick, pat answers. I try to think about where they're coming from, have compassion and patience, and generally be helpful if I can and silent if I can't.**

Some folks are...erm...less so.

But - and here's where I'll eventually meander back to where I started - some people are more so.

There's one user in particular that gives stellar advice - and when I say "stellar", I don't just mean that the advice itself is good, although, to be frank and not at all hyperbolic, it transcends goodness. I mean that the advice she gives is not only good, but also articulate, grammatically and factually correct, often funny, sometimes nerdy, and always unpretentious.

In short: she's who I want to be when I grow up in written form.

A few months ago one of my colleagues told me who she is in real life. A few weeks ago, she retweeted something of mine on Twitter and then messaged me and then we started emailing and then - today - we talked on the phone.

Guys.

Seriously. Guys.

Some of my excitement has to do with validation, of the "we spoke and she didn't laugh at my stupidity" variety, which - again - has nothing to do with my actual stupidity and everything to do with a slowly dying lack of confidence in my actual intelligence. (It was excruciating to even write the "i" word without making a very self-deprecating joke.)

Some of my excitement has to do with the sheer joy of talking shop with someone a few years further down the road of experience than I am.

Most of my excitement , though - and this is a surprise to me too - comes from the fact that she's a she, married, with two kids, and I'm a she, too! I'm married, too! I have some number of kids too!

Listen, I have a lot of male colleagues (most of whom I've never met) that I respect, that respect me, that I work well with, and that I just flat out enjoy talking to. But women in my particular corner of the industry are scarcer on the ground.

I don't know why it matters, but it does.

All of that to say: "hero" might be a little strong, but "someone I respect, want to emulate, and want to genuinely respect me while not holding back when she notices where I might be in need of improvement" seems a little wordy.


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*NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT
**You wouldn't even recognize me, that's how mature and stuff I am.

November 20, 2014

Guys, it's the fourth snow day in a row

Monday: buses not cancelled. Driving home from Pennsylvania. Rain, and then snow for the eight and a half hours.
Let's not talk about it.

Tuesday: buses cancelled. Blowing snow, full-on winter with no "hey, it snowed" lead-in.
I foolishly wrestle the kids into their snow armour and walk out the front door because I can see the school from my front door, have been in a car or cabin with them (plus five other children that I love and five other adults that I also love) and Need to get them to school. Realize my mistake by the time I cross the road, bring them home at noon.

This, my friends, is what's waiting for you on the other side of the crosswalk. Everest for little people.

Wednesday: buses cancelled. Blue skies, warm(ish) sun.
I walk the kids to school because it's nice outside. Plus, I have work to do, Wednesday is my daycare day, and I've been looking forward to it - pining for it, even - since about eleven minutes after last Wednesday. Skies are less blue, sun is less warm(ish) on the walk home from school. One of Oscar's mitten seams isn't precisely lined up to the proper longitudinal degree, which means he moans (literally) All.The.Way.Home. It becomes a mournful duet when Lucy sees snow on her boot. Snow. On her boot.

Today: buses cancelled. Still dark outside. Snow everywhere.
I will wear pyjamas. The kids will wear pyjamas. They'll probably watch Frozen in a constant loop, because apparently that's a treat. I will work on my precious spreadsheets in another room and throw pretzels at them when they get hungry.

Tomorrow: IS A PA DAY.

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I'm having some stress. It has nothing to do with snow days, but they are the frosty icing on the frosty, frosty cake.

Give me a couple of days and I'll be over it.

November 10, 2014

That post she wrote/is writing/might not write about church

 There are a million reasons why I don't want to write a post about why we don't go to church.

1. I'm a card-carrying member of the Ironic Generation and sincerity is hard.

2. It feels like I'm apologizing for not going to church, even though it's something I don't think bears apologizing for, or - worse - that I'm protesting too much, which must mean that I feel guilty, even though it's something I don't think bears feeling guilty about, or...you get the picture.

3. It's church. And twined up in with my reasons for not going are a whole bunch of things that are true about my relationship with Jesus Christ, which means:

               i)   more sincerity, GAH!
               ii)  sub-points (let's be honest, these are kind of awesome)
               iii) writing about things that are almost exclusively internally experienced, like that's easy
               iv) giving you reasons to reflect back on what you know about me and be surprised

4. A lot of the reasons I don't want to go to church sound a lot like reasons I think church is bad, or that I'm somehow smarter or better or more spiritually honest than all those people  that show up week in and week out, which makes it hard to write the truth about why I don't want to go without making it sound like the truth about why no-one should go, which I'm pretty sure isn't the truth.

5. See point 4.

6. It's a pretty big topic, which might be a pretty big understatement.

7. It's not possible that some of you will read this, think back to what you know of me, and snort "if that lady is a believer, I don't want to be one", it's impossible that some of you won't. For that I apologize. Apologies everywhere.

8. Writing this is so much easier than actually saying it to people, which feels like an enormous cop-out.

There are also a million reasons* why I want to write a post about why we don't go to church

1. I like explaining myself, and my penchant for navel-gazing in public is only surpassed by my penchant for (choose one: reading, eating, avoiding people I kind of recognize in the grocery store because I'm too embarrassed that I don't remember their name to say hello, and maybe they don't recognize me anyway, and then I'll have to remember why I recognize them, and maybe I don't really recognize them, but how likely is that, since this is the town I grew up in and it's only ever had 11,000 people in it?)

2. I've had the same conversation with three different people in one week - ONE WEEK - and feel like it's kind of a theme.

3. Writing it out will (maybe, but let's not hold our breaths) make me organize my thoughts.

4. I'm afraid that most of my Reasons For Not Going to Church are intellectual objections that have very little to do with Going to Church and very much to do with I Don't Want to Go, and I'm hoping those of you still reading will call bullshit on me, should bullshit ever appear. (<= look, there's some!)

---

Deep breaths, people:

I believe that Jesus Christ is God, that he really lived, he really was perfect, he really died, and that God really brought him back to life, that this sequence of events is what make it possible for broken people in a broken world to be reconciled to the kind of life God meant for them to have before they decided to break themselves, and that the kind of life that God means for us to have is right. Inexpressibly right, consistent with his revealed character, and just...right.

I don't believe that "going to church" in the way we've come to understand the term is a biblically-mandated activity. I believe that spending ourselves in knowing, caring for, and supporting people - all of them, every single one - is The Activity. I'm not very good at it.

I believe that knowing other people who believe and are satisfied with everything that Jesus Christ promises to be in us, and maturing with them (which means actually knowing them, having real relationships with them, and being vulnerable to them through ups and downs) is precious, and these relationships with these people is what Church (as in - the body of believers, the body of Christ, etc.) really means.

Incidentally (<= not incidentally at all), I believe that ^^this^^ is The Important Bit, and everything else that makes people divide themselves up into denominations is window dressing.

I believe that church organizations and structures are logical because anytime a bunch of human beings get together in groups they have to fight the tendency to argue over stupid things, so organizing those stupid things in advance (like: "where are we going to meet?" "what time, again?" "will there be food?" "do we all talk, or just one person?" etc.) makes it easier to focus on the important things...but that it also makes it easier to focus on the stupid things and get them confused with the important things.

I believe that it's easier to know other believers by attending church services with them, because that's where theyre statistically likely to show up, and it's easy to assume that because they walk through the door they're willing to talk about Jesus, but it's also easier to simply attend beside them without actually building a relationship with them - rather like that developmental stage where toddlers play beside each other but not with each other.

I believe attending church services makes it harder to actually know, have real relationships with, and be vulnerable to people who do not believe in the same things that I do. Those people tend not to show up very often, funnily enough, which means I have to have my eyes open for them ALL THE TIME. Of course, I could do that in addition to attending services, so this one's kind of bullshit.

I believe that the minutiae of modern church, the logistics that go into making a Sunday morning happen (what do we do with the kids? we need people to clean the building, who pays for the electricity?) take a lot of energy that fools me into thinking that I'm Getting Involved, while taking up time and resources that could be devoted to getting to know, having real relationships with, and being vulnerable (and of service) to people who don't believe the same things that I do.

I believe that the power of God is such that he can reveal the truth about himself to anyone, anywhere, and anytime, which - again - makes me question what the value of church really is.

I believe that singing about Jesus in a group of people is my favourite activity ever, and am suspicious that it's the real reason I even want to attend church services.

I'm uncomfortably aware that the hubris of walking into a church and asking if the members, leadership, and organization as a whole meet my criteria for worthiness is obvious. Glaringly, excruciatingly so.

I believe that I can grapple with all of this, come to a satisfactory answer, and go to church honestly. I believe that I could never have grappled with it and still go to church honestly. What I don't know is if I can grapple with all of it, never come to a satisfactory answer, and go to church honestly.

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*Look, ladies, I never said I was good at math.

November 6, 2014

Turns Out I'm From 1953

I scoffed at the "reading in the bath" trope.

"Scoff, scoff," I would scoff scoffingly, "that's just a cliché that Avon used in 1953 to sell bubble bath."

I would point to the description of this image, which - I scoff you not - is MOTHER'S DAY-BUBBLEBATH.jpg, and which I nicked from a page called "Mother's Day Gift Ideas" and call my case closed:

You can't see the book, but it's there. I stand by my image choice.

And pictures like this


Make me want to throw that radio into the water and scoff maniacally.

My, how the tables have turned. (See also: the scoffer becomes the scoffee)

I've become someone who looks forward to her bath at the end of the day.

Her bath with a book. Her scorchingly hot bath with bubbles and orange-smelly stuff and a cold cloth for her forehead and an even colder gin & tonic for her hand and a book in her other hand and sometimes even a (cotton candy scented) candle.

Feels like this:


Looks like this:


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P.S. I didn't wear a girdle, didn't blow dry my hair, didn't have a coffee, didn't buy new clothes, and still managed to pass my exam last week. Will wonders never cease?

October 29, 2014

I have an exam today which is why I've been ignoring you and thinking about REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS instead

Like so:

Hooray! Exams! I get to (completely) fill in little circles! I get to line up my calculator and pencils! Somebody's going to grade me!

---

Oh shit. Somebody's going to grade me. On something I've been doing in a professional capacity for almost a decade. What if - as I suspect - I'm just a giant fraud who knows nothing, and my results come back and everyone finds out and it turns out they knew it all along?

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I should probably wear a girdle.

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And blow dry my hair.

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I know most of this stuff. I use at least seventy percent of it on a weekly basis. Focus on the stuff I  know and the rest will sort itself out.

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WHICH IS WHY I'M GOING TO FAIL AND IT WILL BE IRONIC.

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Do I have time to buy a new shirt?

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Speaking of time, the exam time is listed in 24-hour time. I HAVE PREVIOUSLY DEMONSTRATED MY INABILITY TO GET 12-HOUR TIME RIGHT. This seems unfair.

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Smarten up, chump. My body looks like this, therefore this is what my body should look like, remember? Girdles don't make me smarter.

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But they make me feel smarter.

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I wish we could have coffee in the exam, then I could look all confident and trendy holding my really tall coffee cup, and everyone will know how smart and cool I am.

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Are tall coffee cups even cool anymore? Were they ever?

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I get to miss the After-School, Before Dinner Hour of Horror, and write an exam today! EVERYTHING'S COMING UP SANDI!

October 20, 2014

Pictures of Me and Rene Descartes in a Bathroom Mirror

Over on the Facebook some time ago (about seven months in dog years, according to my calculations, because veterinary math), I wrote this:




It was sincere. I really did have a photo shoot - new professional portraity type things of myself are needed because:

A) I'm a professional now, apparently, and

B) This picture is very uncomfortable to look at. I think it's the teeth. And the soul-burning stare. And the teeth.

Look away or I will burn you.
Blergh.

So, dutifully feminine, I angst-ed over it. In the mirror.


See? Angst. I'm rounder than I used to be, therefore girdle:


See how excited I am by girdles? Also, what's behind me in the mirror? A Chinese dragon puppet? A haunted muppet? I honestly have no idea. And there's water on my shirt. Probably sweat from putting on the damned girdle.

After this, I Did Stuff to my hair and changed my clothes, like so:

My theory on selfies is that if I look sheepish, they're not vain.
I see no appreciable difference beyond "hey, wasn't she wearing a grey shirt before?"

Which is why I've adopted a brand new Body Philosphy. I cribbed it from my pal René Descartes: My body looks like this, therefore this is what my body should look like.

I'm all done with the irritating idea that bodies are supposed to look only one way - smooth in all the right places, or - failing that - at least sucked in if anyone can see me. It's stupid. I've honestly caught myself thinking that people will think I'm a bad mother if my stomach leaks over the top of my pants and bulges when I pick up my kids from school.

The horror.

Now, you and I both know that I'm still going to carry around an image of the perfect me in my treacherous brain, but I have a cunning plan: I'm going to catch myself. Every time I mentally photoshop the girl in the mirror, every time I tug my shirt down, every time I'm self-conscious about the way my pants fit or what my hair looks like, I'm just going to stop, possibly after a stern (inner) lecture complete with an (outer) over-the-glasses-glare.

I'm still going to keep wearing makeup (most days) and plucking my eyebrows, because this isn't Bastille Day, so settle down. I'm not uncomfortable with the opposing ideas of dressing my body up while loving it just the way it is.

Should I be?

I'm going to practice un-sucking-in my stomach while I wait for your insight.

(Also, I made myself a mug. And a compact mirror. And possibly a button.)