A Few of the Strange People I Met on Wednesday

I got a job a few weeks ago, working at a day center with Autistic adults. We pick up our clients at their homes, drive them to the day center, and often take them on “field trips” to the community: bowling, trampoline jumping, and such. I’ve heard it’s supposed to be a challenging job, working with people with special needs. Since my only sibling has Downs and Autism, I kind of feel like I’m just being paid to go bowling with friends. Life is good.

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So on Wednesday, we went to Wheeler Farm in Salt Lake. It’s basically a working farm exhibit for small children. Imagine the greatest two-year-old birthday party you’ve ever seen. Ducks. Chickens. Sheep. Horses. Geese that look and sound like they belong in Jurassic Park. (I spent a lot of the time carefully staying between the geese and my clients, just in case. The geese didn’t seem to be aggressive, though.)

And also, there’s a working blacksmith. As in, some guy named Mike with a ponytail and a short biker beard is just chilling there, waiting for groups of toddlers to come watch him get some iron red-hot and make a chain with it.

Mike: “What kind of things can you make with metal?

Kids: “Um, bikes! And nails!”

Mike: “Right! So let me get this hot, and when it gets hot, it’ll get soft, and then I can bend it!” (Bang, bang.) “Now, what does this look like?”

Kids: “A hook!”

Mike: “Yeah! Like, a fishing hook? Or maybe Captain Hook’s hook? Or maybe a metal candy cane? Or a runner on a sled?”

Mike was like a kindergarten teacher, I tell you. The man would be the greatest grandpa in the world. We watched Mike freak out some kids by letting them touch the cooled metal, and he looked like he was just happy to be a celebrity to a one-year-old.

Then Mike looked over at my client, who is nonverbal (doesn’t talk). The client was signing, joking about killing Mike, cutting him up, and cooking him with salt. He would be delicious, he signed. I told him that was gross, and the appropriate response was to say “thank you.” As I encouraged my client to thank the kindly kindergarten blacksmith, Mike looked over, saw my client signing, and signed, “no” at him, telling him he couldn’t eat people. Then he started signing to him, asking if he was going to kill the farm chickens and eat them with salt as well. My client was tickled pink. I was stunned. This blacksmith was bending every stereotype I had in my mind. A signing children’s blacksmith. I wanted to ask if he did birthday parties, but then I thought it would be weird if I asked a complete stranger to come and… smith… for my unborn children’s life events.

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I was even more stunned when, in the afternoon, Ethan and I saw three horses, saddled and packed and dusty, just chilling outside the bar on Center Street in Provo. There was a cowboy outside, tending his horses in the marigolds.

And then we drove to Salt Lake, where three Mormon missionaries (including my brother-in-law) were putting on a rock concert to raise awareness that Mormons have talent and good taste in music. An outreach to the awesome young crowd, I believe. And they were actually pretty awesome.

What a weird, weird, weird Wednesday. ♥

 

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Slug Bug!

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If you saw this picture – and didn’t just punch your neighbor with a vengeance – you would not survive long in my household. As far as I’ve discovered, most American children grew up with some form of “punch-the-next-kid-as-hard-as-you-can” game, especially involving the Volkswagen. The rules when I was little were that you just punched somebody and shouted, “Slug Bug!” I’ve heard variations where a kid was punched until he/she guessed the color correctly (nigh impossible if the car looks like a soccer ball), and got to punch back if the puncher didn’t stop in time.

Ethan and I just shout the color and punch each other (lightly) when one goes by. There are a remarkable number of slug bugs in Provo (and a remarkable amount of them are periwinkle). If we get the color wrong when we punch, we get punched back. Usually, the sight of a slug bug just incites panic and screaming, as we both race to be the first to strike. Ethan’s dad drives a Volkswagen, and he didn’t mention a word about it until we visited his house one day. He wanted to be able to make a sneak attack.

About a month ago, I was driving the Sister missionaries to an appointment when I passed a yellow Volkswagen. Without thinking, I shouted, “Yellooooow!!!!” and lashed out at the knee of the sister next to me. And then suddenly I felt ashamed. I just punched a missionary, I thought to myself. That was both childish and irreverent. What kind of person am I?

My concerns were abated a few minutes later, when we passed a Volkswagen dealership and the Sisters unleashed a volley of violence and laughter. Oh, good. Nobody ever really grows up. ♦

 

Resolved:

I have a hard time with New Year’s resolutions. I just feel like New Year’s is the perfect time for people to make hollow promises, lie to themselves, spend money on gym memberships, and then go on with their normal lives – after about a week of improved behavior, of course. So they’re not totally ineffective: I would say that New Year’s Day is beneficial for about a week of good, committed action.

So the first problem is the short attention span. After about a week, I see something shiny and forget all about the resolution. Another problem I have is that my resolutions aren’t very good. I would resolve to lose 20 pounds, but let’s face it – like that’s going to happen. So instead, I resolve to go running every morning. And then the next day I remember, “Oh, yeah. It’s winter. I hate being cold.” And there goes my motivation. Sometimes I try to learn from my mistakes, but that leads to over-specific resolutions like “I resolve not to lock myself in my own school locker” or “I resolve not to be punched in the face on Christmas Eve.” (My brother really did not want to put his seat belt on.) Or else my resolutions are just silly. One year I resolved to make a ridiculous flavor of pie every month. Another year, I resolved to learn to like foods like mushrooms, olives, and pickles. (Strangely, the silly resolutions are the easiest for me to keep: I now love mushrooms, olives, and pickles; and I make a pretty awesome grapefruit pie.)

Even the serious ones go a little haywire. Last year, I made a bunch of resolutions just as I came home from my  mission. And the problem is, full-time missionaries have completely different lifestyles from… everybody else. So I had resolutions like, “Never watch TV or movies alone. TV should be a social thing.” Yes, I still think that holds true. But if I’m sick, or if I’m depressed, or if I have an incurable hankering to watch a Pink Panther movie and nobody else is around – you get the picture. It’s a silly resolution. And once I’ve scrapped one resolution, it gets easier to scrap the rest.

So this year, I’m keeping things simple, fun, and relevant. I’ve decided not to make New Year’s resolutions. I’m making New Week’s resolutions. That way, I’ll have a grand total of at least 52 resolutions, all of which will be easy to complete. I will make smaller steps toward self-betterment, and I won’t be overwhelmed along the way. And besides, this keeps things flexible. Some weeks are the sort when you can take on the world, and some weeks are the sort when you might be able to take out the trash. Whatever.

I still haven’t decided what my first week’s resolution will be, but I am open to suggestions. 

Chillin’ with Ken Burns

Unexpected result of mission life:

I no longer have any ability to “chill.” Can’t do it.

Please allow me to illustrate:

I came home from New Jersey and discovered myself in a world of comfort: free room and board, no responsibilities, a few friends, and not a care in the world. No church calling. No job. No pressing need for income. And a family who had missed me enough that they wanted nothing more than to spoil me rotten.

I found a job within three weeks, because I couldn’t stand the extra time.

My job is far from stressful. I love my coworkers, I love the students, and I’m rather competent at everything I need to do, so the work isn’t hard. Also, I’m usually home by 3:30pm. Also, I get Fridays off, so I have a three-day weekend. Also, I get a free massage every week. Nice!

The free time was killing me. I signed up for an online history course forthwith, met with my history counselor at BYU, got my fall and winter semesters planned out toward graduation, and budgeted out the remainder of the summer to ensure I would be able to pay tuition.

The history course isn’t really that hard. It’s a simple American history course required for most majors, and the assignments and reading aren’t that difficult…. So I decided to finish it twice as fast and sign up for another history course – which I’ll be starting next week.

The main problem here is that I’m just not used to having any free time at all. On the mission, free time was a bad sign. It meant that I hadn’t planned the day out well enough the night before. And if I did get free time, it meant I needed to find something productive to do. Every day, from 6am to 10pm, was a total sprint to change the world! … And now, I get up in the morning and change a few pages of a Swedish Massage syllabus. And then maybe file some papers. Make some phone calls. Organize courses, if I’m feeling ambitious. Clean the office. Book appointments. And after work, I have that dreaded horror to fill… free time! So I fill my free time as quickly as I can, and with the most productive activities I can find.

The extra time I had in the evenings? Oh, look! Let’s go to a ward activity!

The extra time I had in the mornings? Get up early and study.

The extra time at night? Go to bed early. I don’t want to have to find something to do.

Want to watch a movie? Great! Ken Burns’ The Civil War! It’s fun and educational! And it doubles for the history course!

…And when I get free time anyway, I spend it writing blog posts about why I can’t stand free time.

 

…Does anybody have a hobby for me? Ω

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

Being as it is Mother’s Day, I thought to write a smallish tribute to my mother. Here’s the type of person my mom is:

  • My mom is the type of person who bakes 600 cookies for one party, just in case.
  • She is the type of person who makes her daughter practice the piano. Every day. For 14 years.
  • She is the type of person who spills Grape Nuts so spectacularly that they land in both her hair and her shoes. Twice in one week.
  • She finds her children lying on the floor in the kitchen, sick and dehydrated and shivering, and spends the next 12 hours nursing them back to health without complaint.
  • She does not like hiking Pavant Butte.
  • She is the type of mom who thinks to herself, “If I were a small child, what would I want in my room?” And then she goes to the hardware store, buys a can of chalkboard spray paint, and covers a whole wall in chalkboard. Then she buys about a hundred colors of chalk, and says, “Knock yourself out, kid!”
  • She writes the best missionary letters out there – because they are funny, spiritual, and draw from her own mission experiences. She understands what a missionary (like me) wants to read, and what a missionary (like me) would simply roll her eyes at. She knows what kind of a spiritual boost is best, and when it’s needed.
  • She laughs hysterically over stupid things, just because I find them funny.
  • She enlists the help of anybody nearby to reach the top shelves in the supermarket. Even if it’s me, 2 inches taller than she is. And for some inexplicable reason, she always wants the straws on the TOP shelf, near the very back.
  • She has incredible patience for the repairing of windows, toilets, washing machines, and various other breakable objects.
  • She holds ice cream parties for the young women, and buys donuts just to show up at the neighbors’ house to perform a taste test. And when the winning donut is her least favorite, she loses quite gracefully.
  • She tolerates my mockery remarkably well, and still persists in feeding, clothing, and housing me.

In case you haven’t figured it out already, I think she’s pretty awesome.  ◊

A Job Update

I’ve been working at Renaissance Massage for about 2 weeks. So far, it’s been a very good job – I work more hours than I’d expected, make decent money, and I get a free massage every week! My boss(es) seem to think I’m surprisingly good at whatever they ask me to do – which varies, depending on need and capricious whim. And as an added bonus, I get to really confuse massage students by throwing sarcastic comments around and telling them to avoid eating pandas (at all costs!)

My first free massage was last week, and it was a rare experience in pain. It felt good, except for the knots in my back. Unfortunately, it would seem that there are few un-knots in my back. As Courtney worked on me, it felt like she was rolling about 2 dozen marbles along my shoulder-blades. Except these marbles were under my skin. Strange. How did they get there?

Sounds like a dangerous new fad. “Marble plugs.” Eww.

Today’s pain, however, was an experience in “let’s try to scare the returned missionary!” After several crude conversations, the students in the lobby suddenly realized they might have actually shocked me. (They’re used to me just shaking my head and muttering about pandas, apparently.) It got real quiet in the lobby for a couple minutes, and suddenly conversation became much more tame. Seems I’m less fun when I ignore people. Hopefully, I can elicit this reaction quicker in the future. Or maybe I should just get a buzzer, like on game shows. “EEHH! Wrong answer!”

And then maybe an ejector seat. Yes. I like it.

All Dressed Up…

Drumroll, please…

I got a new job! I’m working at Renaissance School of Therapeutic Massage! And, lest any of you have any ideas about wrangling a free massage from my nimble fingers… I’m just answering phones. But I’m pretty darn good at it!

One of the perks of my new job is that I don’t work on Fridays. So Thursday night has just become my new Friday night. Woo hoo for the long weekend!

So, last night, I had plans to go on splits with the Sister Missionaries in Woods Cross. I was pretty excited, and a little nervous; I’m not used to being a member tag-along. Hope I don’t take over the whole lesson!

Alas, it was not to be. I was supposed to go out with them from 6-9. When I showed up at 6, they said they’d tried to call, but I didn’t have a cell phone. They couldn’t go out till 7.  So I turned around to go home for dinner.

On the way home, I saw France Cassamajor walking home. France is one of my greatest friends from Jersey, and she moved to Bountiful a while ago. So, as I drove down the road screaming her name, I realized the windows were up and I made a semi-legal U-turn to catch up with her again, this time with windows down. A brief reunion followed, but let’s face it – it’s February, and it’s cold. Our excited screamings were short-lived.

I showed up at the Sisters’ house again at 7. As I sat outside in the car, the cell phone rang. (Smarter this time – brought my dad’s.) Turns out, one of the Sisters was throwing up, and it just wasn’t going to be a good day to go out. So I left them some Sprite and soda crackers (from the Apple store down the way,) and then made my way home, twice rejected by the servants of the Lord.

Not to be deterred, my father and I decided to make something of our Thursday night nonetheless! We determined to do something that would surely gain us esteem and recognition in the world – we headed to Wal-Mart!

Our mission was to get me a cell phone (and, by extension, a life.) As we entered the mini T-mobile shop in the front, we realized this may not be the most fruitful place to look; there were a few phones to look at, and a surly, plug-eared teenage boy with a Wal-Mart shirt who sat decidedly ignoring us in favor of both his own phone and his laptop. After about 10 minutes, he looked up with a clueless look to ask, “Can I help you two with anything?”

“Why yes,” we said, stating the blatantly obvious, “we’re looking for two new phones and a new phone plan.” The boy heaved himself up reluctantly, muttered a few words about how the phones we wanted were only available on plans we wouldn’t want, and dismissed us. I doubt he makes much money on commissions.

As we walked dejectedly out of Wal-Mart sans cell phone, we saw a beacon of blue neon hope in the distance – a real T-mobile shop across the street! We were saved! Steve was much more helpful than Plugs, and within only minutes we had a pretty good idea of which plan was best, which phones we wanted, and how to buy them from Wal-Mart for cheap-as-free prices so Steve could set them up with the network we wanted. Life was good.

Our budget wasn’t, though. It’s the end of the week – we’ll buy them after payday.

So we came home, still sans cell phones, and all out of ideas. (When even Wal-Mart doesn’t make you cool on a Thursday-Friday night, what else is there?)

As we sat boredly in the front room, Dad raised a wearied foot and offered, “You could give me a pedicure.” I know an opportunity when I hear it. I ran to get my nail polish, and in record time, I was sitting on the sofa as Dad laughed, screamed, and cried hysterically as I made a vain effort to clean his nails and push back his cuticles. Throw a punch at this man, and he’ll dislocate your elbow. Tickle his toes a little, and he melts on a puddle on the floor. Oh, but it was funny!

And so, our Thursday night was spent in creating a bright pinkish hue on my father’s feet. Not exactly what we planned – and not exactly what every young single woman would think of a successful weekend – but I feel fulfilled. ◊