Tuesday, December 1, 2015

'Tis the Season

I felt like sharing some good things that have been on my mind, because hey, who doesn't like things that are nice?

This is from an article by D. Todd Christofferson:

"Some years ago I heard a radio interview featuring Bishop Desmond Tutu, the Anglican archbishop in South Africa. He had just published a book with daughter about the reconciliation that had taken place in South Africa following apartheid. Basically, the book's message is that there is good in all people.

During the interview the host asked a perceptive, inspired question of Bishop Tutu: "Have you found that your relationship to God has changed as you've grown older?"

Bishop Tutu paused and then said, "Yes. I am learning to shut up more in the presence of God."

He recalled that when he prayed in his earlier years, he did so with a list of requests and solicitudes. He would approach heaven with what he called "a kind of shopping list." But now, he said, "I think [I am] trying to grow in just being there. Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter, you are just there in front of the fire, and you don't have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you."

I think that is a lovely metaphor-- just sit with the Lord and let Him warm you like a fire in winter. You don't have to be perfect or the greatest person who ever graced the earth or the best of anything to be with Him."

And, here's a little story that's been on my mind recently-

This past summer, during a rather difficult time on one of our trips, I needed a place to be alone and found some solace in a quiet corner of our hotel.

After a while, an older man showed up. It was clear he also liked this spot, and he was planning to have some study there. He approached, we made small talk about what a good find the spot was, and I mentioned I was about to leave anyway. As I walked towards the elevator, he asked, "Are you alright?'

Cue insta-tears. "Well, not really."

He invited me to sit back down, and said if I felt like sharing, he would listen. I explained a few details, and mostly sat there crying while he patted my hand. He then said, "You know, I'm not really a good Christian, or even a good man, but maybe I can pray for you?"

I nodded, and he offered this prayer: "Dear God, I'm sorry I'm not a good Christian. However, Caitlan here is having a hard time, and it's confusing because things seem bad but we know that you're good. Help us to understand. Thank you Lord, Amen."

We talked for a few minutes more, and then I returned to my hotel room.

It was a fairly simple experience, but I don't think this man realized how many prayers he answered for me that day. More than just the situation at hand, it was nice to feel that I was remembered and noticed. It was also impressive to me that he didn't need to feel like "a good Christian" to be kind to me or even pray aloud for me. It was just a simple, authentic gesture of kindness, and it was his best idea at the time. To be honest, it spoke volumes about the kind of good person he really was, and the experience helped me immensely.

So, here's to spreading some love, and Merry Christmas. And here's to you, old man in the hotel, I hope your life is treating you well.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

All the Good Feels

I didn't used to be huge into pinterest, but then I discovered I could type in things like "white linens" or "peaceful scenery" or "organized homes", and an array of the most beautiful things would appear. You can judge me for feeling calmed by a picture of perfectly folded white sheets, or you can look at it and let the fresh crispness make you feel better about everything. Snowy sunrises never hurt either.

See? It's nice.
My other favorite, and probably more legitimate than folded laundry (though it is so nice) is reading Mary Oliver poems. Like honey for the soul.

“Why I Wake Early 

Hello, sun in my face.

Hello, you who made the morning

and spread it over the fields

and into the faces of the tulips

and the nodding morning glories,

and into the windows of, even, the

miserable and the crotchety – 

best preacher that ever was,

dear star, that just happens

to be where you are in the universe

to keep us from ever-darkness,

to ease us with warm touching,

to hold us in the great hands of light –

good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day

in happiness, in kindness.”

― Mary Oliver

Thursday, November 5, 2015

On Being Pregnant

Right as I finished typing the title, I reached for a pillow and my lower back cracked in a way I didn't know was possible... seems like a good way to start this post.

I love that we are having a baby. I love that she will be my little baby, and I am really excited to meet her. A lot of people say they get a mild sense for their baby's personality while they're pregnant. Not me. Besides knowing she likes to kick and has a heartbeat, I must be missing out on that mother's intuition. I can't even guess what she'll be like. I was also sure she was a boy for the first 5 months of her existence, so... looks like I'll be getting to know this girl the old fashioned way of spending time together. But, I love imagining holding her and seeing her smile or playing games with her. I cannot wait! Also, Nate and I look enough alike, we've decided it's only genetically possible for her to be cute. That's good news.

While waiting for a baby is exciting, being pregnant is not. Here is a list of the things I daydream about when I'm not thinking about our little girl:

1. Some day my back won't randomly crack 50 times a day.

2. I won't have constant heartburn that ranges from mild to incinerator in my esophagus.

3. I will be able to lay on my stomach.

4. I will be able to sit up using my ab muscles!

5. Waddling will no longer be the easier than walking.

6. People won't stare at my stomach for uninterrupted, long amounts of time.

7. I also won't get free treats from bakeries... hm... that has been nice, actually.

8. I will be able to see my feet, eventually.

9. I may start sleeping less than 12 hours a night/day.

10. I won't have a living thing inside me. Don't get me wrong, again, I love that it's a baby. But when it's 3am and your heartburn (even though dinner was a solid 7 hours ago) kicks in and then your stomach starts doing its own set of jumping jacks, let's just say I didn't know motion sickness was possible while laying down in your bed, but it is. Not to mention that I usually have to go to the bathroom as well.

Here's to 3 more months!

Friday, October 9, 2015

Just Be Nice

I saw a Facebook thread where a woman commented that no amount of traveling or reading could every compensate for her cultural and mental blind spots. Whatever she did to educate herself, she would always have the option of going home to her middle class, white, American life, and would thus never truly understand what much of the world faces.

This week I read To Kill a Mockingbird, transcribed interviews for a friend researching the LGBT community within the LDS church, and received the heartbreaking news of a dear friend's miscarriage.

And so... I cried. I cried because I was sad for all of the injustice and unfairness in the world, and I cried because I am sad for my sisters and my friends who have lost their babies. Let me make this clear though- I did not cry because I am pregnant and I hope that doesn't happen to me. I did not cry because I am straight and white and I see these situations through the lens of "I wish other people had it as good as I do, I'm so lucky." I cried because I am sad. Racism is sad. Being part of community whose underlying message to you is often, "We hope you change!" is sad. Losing a child is extremely sad.

And then I felt stupid for feeling depressed. Memories of what were probably innocent comments ran through my mind. "Oh yes, so difficult for you to be straight, Caitlan," "Your white ways won't cut it here, Princess." "I don't want to hear about you being pregnant, we all know it's going just fine for you." "Wow, it must be so hard to marry someone successful," and a slew of other comments that re-frame any sadness I had as a sort of superiority masquerading as pity. "It's not like that!" I wanted to shout, "I'm sad because I'm a person!"

However, while those comments are isolating and hurtful, I can easily think of times when I have made similar comments to people, not thinking of what it feels like to hear them. I think somehow I've justified them as, "They know I'm joking, they know I'm happy for them." or, if I am bitter towards them, "What should my comment matter? They have what we both wanted."

My own hypocrisy was made clear when three new leaders were appointed to general authority in my church. I groaned as it was more of the same- 3 successful white men from Utah. AGAIN. "This doesn't help," I thought, as I remembered the dozens of experiences I had a missionary, promising that it really was a worldwide church meant for everyone, even if I or the leadership didn't show it.

As soon as I breathed out, "Oh brother," I remembered all the sadness I had been feeling lately because I felt like no one thought I was capable of empathy. Because all my thoughts and experiences were somehow negated by my privilege. As if I had nothing worthwhile to contribute because of my sheltered ignorance.

These men didn't ask for their positions. Yes, I do wish it was someone from outside the US. I wish it was someone homosexual or female, to be totally honest. But, I also know how it feels to be put in leadership and have those you thought would be supportive end up turning on you. Who knows what perspectives they may have? Or, they may be perfectly aware of their blind spots, and they're not going to pretend they don't have them. Maybe they hate themselves for their ignorance just as much as you do, or maybe they go against their stereotypes. What I'm saying is these men still deserve to be supported. Prejudice is still prejudice when it's applied to a rich white male.

I don't know what the main message I'm getting at is, because I do know there's a lot I don't understand and never will. People have rolled their eyes at me my whole life, and I can't say it's never warranted. I've also read and seen enough to know that sometimes, the rich white male is not so innocent. But, I do think it's important to remember that for the most part, people are doing their best, and not every stroke of good fortune is meant as an attack or used as an excuse to look down on others.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

France and Baby: This week in pictures

Bonjour from Grenoble!

Oh the desserts. They will be the [happy] death of me. Here we have panna cotta with raspberry sauce and an assortment of gelatos- pear, lemon, and passionfruit. The pear was so good!

Halfway there! She's almost up to a pound now. Funny thing about this little lady- she only kicks if there's something against my stomach. Perhaps she feels strongly about personal space? Also, French people aren't very discreet about wondering if I'm pregnant or just fat... this usually manifests itself in confused and slightly disgusted, and lengthy, stares. Oh well.  

 We are surrounded by mountains! The next few are just some snapshots from the walk to Nate's school.

.Ok so this is mostly the bridge, but check out that mountain in the background!

So beautiful!

Friday night we took a little trip in these glass "bubbles" to the bastille in Grenoble.

The shadow of our bubbles before we went over the river.

The trip was a little scary, but it led to a great view!

Saturday, August 15, 2015

All Because One Ginger Wanted a PhD #vivelafrance

We are moving to France! We leave in about 3 weeks, and we'll be there for about 4-5 years.


It is crazy. While I am really excited, I am also terrified. When we made the decision a few months ago (see future choices flow chart below), it sounded so romantic to live in France. We'll be in Grenoble, which is about 3 hours from Switzerland and 3 hours from Italy. I daydreamed about how neat it would be to be immersed in another culture (not to mention eat their food..) and basically just experience more of what life has to offer. See the Alps, visit Chateaus on the weekend..  you know, normal life.

However, in the months that followed, it has been more about documents and travel arrangements than searching out the best baguettes. Then there was that whole "Let's have a baby" to make it even cooler. (I just keep reminding myself that women have been giving birth since the dawn of time, so it can't be that bad... right? Don't answer that.) So, needless to say, it's been a bit hectic, but we are getting there.

So, here are some fun details:

Nate will be getting his PhD in Business Marketing. Aka homework and research for life. He is specifically interested in cognitive behavior- ie what makes an advertisement appealing and why, what are the factors in consumer behavior, etc.

His program will be in English. If Nate wanted to, he could go through the program and never learn any French. However, life will be in French for me, so I'll be digging up those notes from high school pretty soon.

Once he finishes, Nate plans to go into academia. We don't have a university in mind where we'd like to go, and a lot of opportunities can present themselves in 4 years, so we'll see. He's also interested in entrepreneurship and consulting. It is an open road.

Ginger Baby will not be a French citizen. In fact, I don't know what Ginger Baby will be. I guess we'll get something sorted when we come back to the US. In any event, French citizenship is not just granted because you were born there. You have to be born and then stay until 18. You have to mean it.

*Side note on Ginger Baby- we find out the sex on 9/4. Stay tuned!

As for what I'll be doing, I am in the process of growing a human. I'll stay home with the baby for the first few months, and then we'll just see what kind of balance evolves. I'm certified to teach English as a second language, and so I may tutor for a bit on the side while Ginger Baby is little. Once the baby is older, I may start teaching classes as well. It will be interesting to see what works. Another option is pursuing a Masters, but again, how things go with Ginger Baby will be the largest determinant in what I do. Career wise, my main goal is to become a Social Studies teacher. Life wise, my main goal is to be a good wife and mother. I feel strongly about both, so here's to creating that timeline and finding the balance.

Our visits to the US will be minimal, if at all. An international flight with a toddler is a situation where no one wins, for starters. However, visitors are totally welcome! I can't guarantee a place to stay, but AirBnB has some great deals nearby!

Speaking of, we'll be living in an AirBnB place for our first week or so there. Despite our best efforts to secure an apartment before arriving, being on another continent is just too far away to make arrangements. So, it should be fun. And by that I mean that I hope it's fun.

So, here we go! Vive la France!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

All Because Two Gingers Fell In Love

We are having a ginger baby! Well, at least we're pretty sure he or she will be a ginger. But, we are positive he or she will be a baby. We've had one ultrasound (which honestly looked more like an alien... or, as affectionately called by my Minecraft playing friends, the zombie creeper baby) and last week, we heard the heartbeat. So far, everything points to human!

Pregnancy is basically zero fun. While my mind and heart are excited for the baby, my body is having a sort of mutiny. So, so it goes. Three months down, six or seven to go. I've made it so far, and I feel entitled to all sorts of awards. Also, while I've always disagreed with gender inequality, pregnancy fuels my feminism even further. How could anyone say a woman is weak when she is literally sick for 9 months straight, and then expels a human with her own body?! ... More on that later. Back to the baby.

The baby is due late January/early February. I read an article somewhere about having a "due month" instead of a due date, and that seems to make more sense to me. Sometime in winter, there will be a little ginger.

Fun fact- the baby is currently the size of a lime, and we'll find out the gender in roughly a month.

I had wanted to keep it secret longer, but increasing winks and sideways glances from the Nosy Nelly's at church leave me no choice. The word is out- a ginger baby is on its way. :)

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Finding Friends through Memoirs

One of the things I love about reading, especially in first person narratives, is feeling like I know the author. It's like making a new friend. I read their experiences and go through it with them, and I get to see things from their perspective. It's no secret that reading expands your world view- I'm just saying I really like it. (Maybe especially since I took a one year hiatus from reading after graduating college. It just wasn't fun anymore)

A rather powerful book I read recently was It Was Me All Along. The author takes her reader on her journey through a food addiction and the emotions that spurred it. It is organic and vulnerable, and at times shockingly easy to relate to. As someone who has been both the fat kid and the skinny kid and channeled my emotions into both, I essentially appreciated that the struggle is real. Food issues or not, I recommend it to anyone because we all experience suffering in one form or another.

The other book I'm reading is Bringing Up Bebe. As a short anecdote, Nate saw the receipt for this come through our Amazon account and thought it was a passive pregnancy announcement (the full title is Bringing Up Bebe: One American Mother Discovers the Wisdom of French Parenting). I reassured him of two things- I am not pregnant, and, if I was, I would not leave his finding out to a notification from an online vendor. Some things you just have to stand by.

Anyway, I love this book. In a very practical sense, she discusses how to teach an infant early on to sleep through the night, eat their vegetables, and be polite. (Maybe I still need to learn those things?) She also offers a commentary on American habits and social needs in contrast to the French. It sounds like we all need to be a little more French, to be honest. In a relative sense, they live calm lives with set boundaries, and maintain a strong sense of self even after having children. I don't have children, but when I do, I think I'll try out some of the French ideologies! But, kids or not, I recommend it to anyone because it taught me a lot about leadership and communication in general.

So, those are my new friends. Read away. :)

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

2014: Personal Bests and How To's

I've been trying to decide how to best commemorate 2014- it was, after all, quite the year. A week later than everyone else, I finally decided on a list of the best things I figured out. Here goes.

#1 Personal Best: This spot belongs to none other than the perfect husband, Nate Parkin. Marrying him was easily the best thing I figured out. Our one year anniversary is in a few weeks, so look forward to a post all about that, but let's just say I basically won the lottery. He is the best.

#2 How To: This year I began my process of successfully navigating happy hours with friends/coworkers. I branched out from my usual virgin Pina Colada and can now add virgin Mojitos and Margaritas to the list! My goal is to someday order a drink without explaining to the waiter, "Well you see I don't drink and I never have, but could you just tell me if any of these can be made without alcohol? Yes, thank you- make sure it's virgin!"

#3 How To: I should receive some sort of certification for this, but here's a how to for taking a spouse or significant other/family member to the ER and/or ICU:
  • Bring snacks. You will be there forever, you will get hungry, and there's just no good way to say, "Excuse me nurse, I know my husband has a serious medical condition right now and is practically unconscious because of the pain and/or medicine, but is there any way you could grab me a granola bar? I've been here since 3am and it's now past noon..."
  • Bring a book. Similar to above- you are going to be there forever, and your person may not always be conscious or even in the same room.
  • Wear comfortable clothes, and bring some face wash and deodorant. It could be a while before you feel comfortable going anywhere, and it's nice to know you at least smell ok.
  • Emotionally prepare yourself. Call me a terrible person, but it turns out it is extremely normal and common to become frustrated (and even a little resentful) when a significant other needs intensive medical care. I can't explain it, but for some reason I was often tempted to act like a 3 year old and be mad that Nate was getting all the attention, that he had so many needs, and I was sleeping on stiff cot. Luckily a trusted source had warned me of this, and I coped a little better.
  • Be nice to the nurses. This will result in extra blankets, applesauce, and the use of their exclusive fridge.
#4 Personal Best: I found some fantastic recipes this year. I will only list the ones I've made 10+ times, and trust me- they are keepers!

#5 How To: Since the demise of my car Legolas and since working downtown, I've become quite acquainted with riding the bus. My best tips are to use Google Maps in conjunction with the app OneBusAway, and you are sure to at least know where the bus should have been. Patience is another good thing to have. Also don't talk to anyone, depending on what part of town the bus goes through.

#6 Personal Best: I had and have a lot of religious questions, but this will always be one of my best verses: Believe in God ; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom , and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend. 

Thanks 2014- it was a refining year and the start of an entirely new life. Here's to more!