Friday, January 31, 2014

Goodbye for Now, Grandma

Grandma in her stylin' shades and rose carved coral necklace.
I went to our ward talent show tonight.  I performed a bluegrass number with a bunch of friends.  I came home and had pizza with my roommies.  They went to the hot tub, and now I'm alone in my apartment.

Today was a Friday.  It was a lot like many other Fridays I've lived.  Except today my grandma died.  

I'm not even sure what I'm feeling.  Listening to Bon Iver is good for times like that, when you want to listen to silence.  
My grandma, or Gaga as we used to call her when we were little (yes, before Lady Gaga made it cool;) played a large role in my life, probably larger than most Grandmas.  I said goodbye to her just a few days ago for the last time in this life.

She was almost 70 when I was born.  She came to Tennessee to see me.  She would tell me about when I was born.  The nurse didn't know she was my grandma, and she wouldn't let her see me!  But she was my grandma alright, no one could doubt that in years to come.

We moved to Salt Lake to live with her when I was about 4.  I remember being a little shy of her and asking my mom why we were coming here and she told me that Grandma was lonely.  I remember walking down the hall of our little house and looking at the paintings on display like a museum, painted by her sister. I remember seeing the gold thread in the curtains and wondering how it was made into thread.  

She explained it to me.  She explained a lot of things to me.  Grandma and I were thick as thieves.  We had our own little world that nobody else really got.  Most of that world happened in the early morning.  She would wake me up early to garden.  She was a wonderful gardener.  She could cultivate and prune anything.  I took it for granted that everyone's gardens were just as beautiful and successful.:)  

She taught me how to put my thumb over the hose to get a good spray.  Sometimes she would make "rainbows" for me to run under when the sun came up over the mountains.  She taught me how to fertilize, keep away aphids, and prune roses.  I don't have any pictures of those mornings.  It wasn't for anyone.  It was just for us.

She was the president of the Salt Lake Garden Club.  She had awards for beautiful and innovative arrangements she created.  There's a tree in a park downtown that has a plaque with her name on it.  When my Dad was little, he tied a knot in one of the saplings there, thinking someone would undo his prank.  Instead, you can still see that tree, now much bigger than him, with a beautiful, twisted knot right in the middle of the trunk:)

Grandma would tell me the names of the plants and flowers we saw when we went for walks.  She would explain nature and science to me.  She fed my curiosity for the way things work. She never got tired of answering and asking questions. When she was first out of school, she was a lab technician, in a time when women didn't work, let alone in the field of science.  I think she is the one who first introduced me to my love of science.  She had an encyclopedia collection (before Google:)  If I had a question about something and she didn't know, she'd have me pick out the right encyclopedia and bring it over to her bed and we'd look it up.  I loved those encyclopedias, probably a little outdated even then, with their black and white pictures and explanations of the world and the way things worked. 

She would play word games and "I Spy" with me and, at the time, two other sisters.  We'd lie in her bed.  It would smell like summer.  I would always pick something on the cuckoo clock to spy.  That clock was a little annoying, but I loved it.  She hung it crooked so it wouldn't tick and cuckoo, but if I asked, she'd straighten it up and play with the hands so it would cuckoo for the hour.  The little bird would come out and chirp.  A song would play and little dutch dancers would move around in a circle and the weights shaped like pine cones would move up and down.  

She was tender.  She would help me fill up every square of my waffle with syrup, because she knew I liked it.  She would just rest her hand on my shoulder when she stood behind me.  She would let me watch her put on her makeup and take out her curlers and let me try on her old-fashioned gloves and jewelry. 

Her two sons and their families at a reunion.  I'm in front.
About when I was in middle school, we started noticing some changes in Grandma.  By the time I hit high school, it was clear that she was having some mental health problems.  She was always healthy and very smart and loving, but she started getting very strange ideas and doing strange things.  It got stressful for our family.  She would get very paranoid and yell.  She quietly and slowly asked Leslie and I one time in the beginning, "I'm going crazy, aren't I?"  Eventually, she was diagnosed with psychosis and later dementia.  It was hard for me to understand how the grandma I loved so much was becoming my largest source of stress and worry. It got worse until about my senior year in high school she was no longer there.  She could talk, but she didn't know what she was saying.  She didn't remember who we were.  She grew helpless over the next few years and my family took more and more care of her.

Me and Gaga
And today she passed.  She got what she's been asking for for the last five years over and over, "I want to go home."  And now she is:)  She'll be watching over us, I know that for sure.  She'll be our guardian angel. 
I know I don't remember everything exactly the way it was.  I know I was little when I got to see the real her.  I can't wait until the time comes that I get to see her again.  What will we talk about?  I don't know.  Maybe I'll ask her if she can help me thread a needle or teach me a new knot.  Maybe we'll talk about photosynthesis, or turgor pressure.  We might talk about optical nerves, or I'll ask her to play the left hand of my piano music.  We might cook something.  Although, this time one of us will have a little more expertise;)  I loved my grandma to death.  She was a quiet woman, with an inner world that was fascinating, but not everyone got to see it.  Full of dawn and dew, pine sap and creativity.  Maybe I'm just a little like her.:) Maybe that's why I love her so much.  
Grandma with Uncle Sam

I love you grandma.  Until we meet again:)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Braces Week 9

Getting tired of braces posts yet?  Me either! ;)

Week one

Week 9
Week 7

Week 6
Week 7.  Three weeks until my next scheduled appointment.  Interesting things are happening...for instance, my right front tooth is now longer than my left.  It looks like they're going to get pulled a little more even by the braces, but it still looks like it might just be a little longer.  Weird, they were pretty straight across on the bottom when they overlapped.  The gap's getting bigger, you can see my bottom teeth through it!  Can't wait to get it taken care of, that will feel good!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

He Doesn't Care About Efficiency.

I went to my house in Salt Lake last night.  I was doing some laundry...and the washing machine broke mid cycle.  This was especially annoying to me because I happened to be washing my pillows.  So I hauled the soaking, soapy load to the bathtub and finished them Salvadoran style: by hand.  But my weak squeezing of the pillows was NO comparison to two high speed spin cycles, and they were still excessively soggy by the time I moved them to the dryer.

I ran them for 3 dry cycles and the last one finished while I slept.  I was really happy that they were getting dry, I'd had my doubts:)  Then in the morning, a quite mysterious thing happened.
I opened the dryer, and one of my pillows was *gasp* gone.  I don't know where it went.  I don't know why the pillow thief chose to take one pillow (the Calvin Klein one of course,) and leave the other.  I don't know who did it between the hours of midnight and eight.  And I don't know why.  I do know that I now need to go pillow shopping.  And that I wasted a LOT of time, energy and effort last night.

I HATE waste.  It makes me sick.  So much of life is wasteful.  And it somehow seems like the poorer and more stressed you are, the less you can afford efficiency.  When I was asking my dad if he knew anything about the pillow heist, I found myself explaining it to him in my anger by sarcastically yelling saying,

"I LOVE things that FRUSTRATE me because they give me a chance to ...grow."

The Lord is pretty forgiving.  And merciful.  And comforting.  I've found if you give him a gram of effort, he'll take away your anger and fear and replace them with peace and understanding.  Of course, it took a while for all my anger to fade, but by the end of that sentence, I could already feel myself calming down and realizing sarcasm wasn't necessary, because what I was saying was actually true.  (Well, maybe not the love part, but) frustrating things help us grow.  It can make me feel guilty when I don't do things the most efficient way.  Because I hate waste.  It makes me feel like an unwise steward, non-thrifty, and stupid. But despite our efforts, life is rarely efficient.

But something dawned on me today.  The Lord doesn't care about efficiency.  He doesn't care about convenience.  He's in the business of changing hearts, how can he?:)  Patience and efficiency are pretty opposite.  Patience and convenience are pretty opposite.  I know the scriptures tell us over and over to be patient, but I don't recall being told to do things the most efficient way.  Is it efficient to talk to a child?  Is it efficient to give a drug addict time and chances?  No.  It's not efficient, and it's not convenient.  But Christ doesn't much value those things.  Those are things our natural man values, because they allow us to make more of our time.  Patience allows God to make more of us.  Patience helps us allow those around us to make more of themselves.

Update: There's also always a silver lining.  My new pillows are super comfy!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Braces Week 6

First Day

Week 6

Week 5

Yay!  First adjustment.  I got a new wire and an appointment for 4 weeks from today. He said to call if my gap gets wider than a penny.  Yeah....I would definitely let him know;)

Your Gaze Hits the Side of My Face

It's been on my mind lately.  A feminist theory called the "male gaze."  I don't like that saying it that way, because I'm not a feminist, and it's a completely inappropriate name.  One cannot assign the act of objectifying to an entire sex.  Isn't assigning bad qualities to a whole sex what feminism is so against?

"Your gaze hits the side of my face" by Barbara Kruger

So, let's just call it an objectifying gaze.  I love the piece above.  It so accurately portrays the feeling of receiving an objectifying gaze.  The "woman" here, is in fact, an object made of stone.  Not a real human.  Her cheeks are very shadowy, as if she's blushing, obviously uncomfortable.  Her chin is pulling inward, another universal sign of discomfort.  Her eyes are looking up, but her head is pointing down, showing discomfort; turning inward and trying to protect the vulnerable parts (neck, heart) of herself.  The words on the side are black and white, square, typed, evenly spaced, totally non-dynamic.  To read it, it should sound monotone and robotic; non-punctuated and void of emotion.  And the word "hits." It implies abuse, force.  It's not something interactive.  It's controlling and taking agency.  I like that the woman's eyes are still up.  She hasn't given up.  It's just she cannot endure the force of the gaze without some manifestations of how it affects her.  

There are a lot of arguments against the "male gaze" theory, but no one can deny that objectifying gazes exist.  One part of the theory I find particularly interesting is that people can "male gaze" at themselves; that is, view themselves not from their own perspective, but the perspective of a critical, objectifying person.  In this way, women give up their unique perspective and further buy into the idea that women are objects.

The movie Penelope, is a wonderful film exploring a lot of social theories, stigmas and interactions (it even passes the Bechdel test).  It's a story of personal growth and coming to full health.  It's about a young woman who has been told she is unacceptable because of the way she looks.  This idea has been reinforced over and over.  Eventually, she discovers against all odds that this idea is a lie.  She becomes accepted and starts building a life for herself.  The way she looks changes, and some people try again to tell her subtly and not-so-subtly that the way she looks makes her unacceptable or of lesser value.  This time she does not believe the lie for a minute and echo's one of the film's themes, "I'm still me."

Two parts in this film perfectly illustrate the objectifying gaze. To clarify, it's primarily her own learned self-objectifying gaze that she feels.  The things her Mom and her suitors have told her color her perception of herself.  This is made evident when it shows Penelope thinking over and over of the suitors that ran from her because they thought she was unacceptable. (35:54)  Penelope however, is not unacceptable.  She's smart, funny, polite, caring, and unique.  When she's being herself, she's adorable.  When she becomes a victim though, she gets paralyzed.

At 22:45, Penelope and Max are gazing at each other through a 2-way mirror.  Penelope meets his gaze momentarily, but then becomes self-conscious, or self-objectifying.  She can't meet his gaze anymore, gets ashamed and tries to hide her face.  The thing is, he can't even see her.  So it's not Max's gaze, it's her own self-objectifying gaze that she can't tolerate.  This is not her genuine gaze.  It's not how she inherently views herself.  It's how she views herself through the eyes of critical and objectifying people. 
It's true that it's not Max's fault.  That's a common argument from people who do objectify.  It's not their fault how their gaze is being perceived.  In this example, it's true that regardless of what Max's gaze meant, Penelope's reaction is not his fault.  But is that true of Penelope's mom and suitors?  No.  They are at fault to some degree.  They either made her feel inadequate by explicitly saying so or implicitly giving her social cues.  People who think you can't tell when someone looks at you critically usually don't understand social cues, and therefore do not think they exist.  In reality, social cues are given and interpreted, and they teach you how to think and feel.  If you don't want to internalize a message someone is sending, it takes a lot of cognitive power and external support.

At 32:10 Max sees Penelope for the first time.  He reacts, but his gaze is not objectifying.  Penelope, is again feeling the pressure of her self-objectifying gaze.  She displays a lot of the same body language as the woman in the piece by Kruger.  She is obviously uncomfortable, breathing rapidly head down chin pulled in, face tilted and expression very asymmetrical (symptomatic of a forced expression.  Natural expressions are symmetrical, which is why we like symmetrical faces, it shows proper socio-emotional adjustment.)  Max starts to move toward Penelope.  He doesn't want to objectify her, he wants to understand and know her for who she is.  The important part is that as he moves closer and starts to reach out to touch her, she does not panic.  Rather, she starts to relax.  Why?  He has a different kind of gaze.  Not judgmental, critical or objectifying.  It's a curious gaze, ready to learn and even accept and appreciate.  It's her gaze, the way she thinks she's worthy of being seen.  She starts to have a little trust in him that he won't objectify her.  Because as soon as he objectifies her, she's powerless before him.  As soon as she objectifies herself, she's powerless before herself.  It takes away her agency, her ability to choose how to act.  She becomes paralyzed.  The gaze "hits" the side of her face.  She becomes a helpless victim.  

Penelope eventually frees herself.  She frees herself from toxic people in her life until she has freed herself of their objectifying gaze that she has so internalized.  When she no longer has a self-objectifying gaze, it's much harder for people's opinions to affect her. What's the take home message?  I don't know. Maybe just to consider how you think about yourself and others.  And what if we lived in a world where we all looked the same, would your thoughts change?  NOT a world where we were all the same. A world where we still had different qualities and quirks, intelligence and humor.  Just a world where our appearances weren't the part of us most susceptible to judgement.  Kind of like how Penelope covers her face with a scarf.  She takes away her viewers' ability to judge her appearance.  And she starts to learn that she is very worthy of acceptance.

(Hopefully the link is still available, if not, just go watch the movie, the whole thing's great!)

Friday, January 17, 2014

H&M Snowflake Sweater

So I was on my lunch break trying to figure out the nuances of my new phone's camera.  It was pretty exciting.  

Love this cute sweater from H&M! Also, wearing it with a soft, loose tee underneath makes it the most comfortable thing in the world. 
Confession: its' from the men's section.  They were way cuter than the women's sweaters.  And I like them to be oversized. I realized the placement of that chair behind me kind of made me look like a middle school hipster with my skinny jeans around my knees. Oops...

Oops, only half my body. And closed eyes.

And then I stepped back into the light-- big mistake.

I think most of these problems were caused by the fact I was using this as my tripod...

Also, with my favorite riding boots.  What would I do without these in the winter?!?!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Come Over Here and Gimme Some Suga!

Happy New Year and all that, I've made some resolutions.  They're very flexible this year, and so far they've been great at guiding me.  One is to do something every day to improve myself (physically, spiritually, financially... just in some way something out of the ordinary).  The other is to consciously serve someone (go out of my way to do something selfless for someone) every day.  It's really made me examine my life, and it's been great so far:)

On the same track as resolutions... since I got braces, I've been a little more conscious about how much sugar I eat. I have always been a sweets kinda girl, not so much a potato chips, or even soda, thank goodness. I just love treats! I've been aware that I should be more public health:) and stop eating so much sugar, because it's not healthy for me, but despite previous attempts, I've never really cut back.  My weight's never been an issue, and it's hard to motivate myself just by "knowing" it's healthier.  I thought I'd be better about it now having braces, but I really haven't been.  The last few days though, I've been testing my willpower.  When I reach for a sugary treat, I've stopped myself a few times.  When ever I think to myself, "This is the last one..." I stop and don't eat it.  It's been really exciting!  To actually see that I can exercise my willpower and make improvements.  I mean, it's only been a few days, and I know I'll never get to the point when I no longer eat sugar, but it's already boosted my feelings of self-efficacy.


I think one reason it's been easier for me to decrease my sugar intake is getting a gym pass because I've been working out a lot more lately.  I studied public health, and my area of interest is everything to do with weight, eating, body dismorphia, society's stigmatism, etc.  

People sometimes ask me, which is more important, eating healthy or working out?  The answer isn't what they want to hear, but it's really "Both."  They are two wings of the health airplane.  Neither is sufficient.  Together, neither has do work as hard.  

But.  If we're talking about weight and it's strictly math, then I'll tell you: diet is more important.  I say this because it's far, far easier to control calorie intake than to work out.  Eat one chocolate chip cookie, it takes 20 seconds.  But it takes about 30 minutes on the treadmill to burn those calories off.  Wow, right?  Daily caloric intake can vary by literally thousands of calories, but we can (sustainably) only change how many calories we use up by a few hundred by working out.

But human beings aren't that mathematical.  We don't eat for math.  We eat for emotion, pleasure, society. And working out helps control the appetite.  Some say they're hungrier when they work out.  True.  BUT they have fewer cravings.  Because while hunger, or the physiological need to eat is increased, appetite, or the psychological desire to eat is decreased.  So you might eat more at meals, but you won't be binging or eating as many treats. And your higher muscle mass will burn more calories.

Exercise bathes the brain in healthy and happy neurotransmitters.  That is why exercise is always encouraged for people dealing with psychological issues.  When you get that stimulation, you need it less from other sources.

So, maybe a better way of saying it is that intake is more important than output when it comes to weight. However, intake is best managed by a) proper intake habits and balances b) working out. So, yeah, both are essential, their's just no getting around it:)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I celebrate myself; I sing myself

Walt Whitman wrote the title of today's blog post for me.  Walt is a good friend like that.

I had a song in my head; it's a song that's in my head quite frequently.  "Come What May," from Moulin Rouge.  It's so soft, calm, powerful and beautiful.  I must have sung it 200 hundred times, but as I was singing it softly to myself as I was checking the mail, for the first time I really did feel like I was singing it to myself:)  It felt really good.  We're supposed to love ourselves, right? These were great words of affirmation.  I think I'll sing myself love songs more often;)

Here's my interpretation of 
Come What May

Never knew I could feel like this
-being so self-accepted
Like I've never seen the sky before
-there's this amazing, freeing, untapped, 
beauty in my life that i haven't been appreciating: 
love and acceptance for myself.
Want to vanish inside your kiss
-okay, it's a metaphor
Each day I'm loving you more and more
-every day my love and acceptance for myself grows
Listen to my heart, can you hear it sing?
-I'm so happy to be myself
Telling me to give you everything
-stop withholding love
Seasons may change, winter to spring
-sometimes it's easy to love myself, other times it's hard
But I love you until the end of time
-it can't change my love for my eternal identity.

Come what may
Come what may
I will love you until my dying day
-i'm someone on whom I can depend for unconditional love and acceptance

Suddenly the world seems such a perfect place
-really, what can hurt me if i know i love myself?
Suddenly it moves with such a perfect grace
Suddenly my life doesn't seem such a waste
-my life isn't perfect, but i realize that i wouldn't love myself more if it was.
It all revolves around you
-mmm, okay, it should involve others too;)
And there's no mountain too high
No river too wide
Sing out this song and I'll be there by your side
-i'm loyal to loving myself.
Storm clouds may gather,
And stars may collide
But I love you (I love you)
Until the end of time(until the end of time)
-until the end of time:)
Like I've never seen the sky before...

Braces week 5

Day one

Week 5

Week 4
Yay!  Mr. Tooth to the right of my front teeth has finally started to straighten!  I felt like that one happened over night. Also, I got a new phone:)  So I'm still trying to figure out the pic settings. It's hard to get my teeth at the same angle...the gap is definitely bigger, but there is still overlap.  The one on top isn't sticking out as much as it used to. 

My teeth haven't been painful, but they have been very tender this week.  Especially in the back on the left side.  I think they're getting pulled down.

One unexpected thing I've started to notice that's been kinda fun- there's a certain comradery that exists among adults with braces.  I see another adult with braces and we're instant friends.  It's a brotherhood.:) Kinda fun.
Makes me wonder if that's true of other things.  Brotherhood of baldness? Comradery of crutches?  Friendship of fractures?  There's always a sliver lining:) 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Braces Week Four

I had a freak-out moment and called the ortho to check if it was okay that my teeth were still overlapping and if I needed to come have them adjusted.  She said that the first 6 weeks is slow, we're just trying to move the teeth in place, and to just relax and let the wire do its job.  Small adjustments will go faster.  She said if we move the teeth too fast, it could damage the root.  Awesome.  Then I had a dream my teeth were falling out:)

December 11, day one

Wednesday, January 8, four weeks

Three weeks
My two front teeth are nearly side by side now, the right one's just a teeny bit on top of the left still. I can feel it starting to tilt straight from the back. The left tooth beside my two front teeth seems to be moving down too.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

I Go to Gold's...

Yeah... I go to Gold's.

The basic yellow card wouldn't they gave me a platinum card (raises eyebrows impressively.)  People must think I am soo hardcore about my workouts.

It's been great so far, the only thing is on the intake form there was no option for  "get swoll..." as a reason for joining the gym.  Which, of course, is my primary reason.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy New Year!

We're weirdos:)
Happy New Year!  It was nice to spend the last part of last year and the first part of this one with great friends:)  We made waffles, played games (that ended with my losing team getting pummeled with snow...) and brought in the new year.  I even climbed on the roof to see the fireworks.  That was my first time climbing on a roof with no door.  Good thing it was steep and snowy. Yikes!

PS, I loooove this outfit for New Years:)  I got the tank at Forever21 (please, is there anywhere else one shops for sequins???) I have gold leaf-shaped dangly earrings because I think gold is classy, especially for New Year's. I topped it off with a sheer drapey blazer looking cardigan and dark skinnies.

Yay 2014! Time to make some resolutions. 

Braces Week Three

Wednesday, December 11, the day I got them on 
Thursday, January 2, three weeks
Thursday, December 26, two weeks
It's been another week.  I feel like my teeth will be gapping any day now, they're barely touching.