12.04.2012

From Edinburgh




I enjoy this band muchly. They are called We Were Promised Jetpacks. Below is their vid for the song "Keeping Warm".
It's always hard to place exactly what I like about a band. Often I will hear other band syles or influences blended within, but in this case I'm pleased to say it sounds entirely unique to me.  And pretty.


11.26.2012

The Cool Thing About Autism


I have a child with High Functioning Autism. He won't laugh if he doesn't think something is funny, even if everyone else is laughing. There are times I explain things to him so he doesn't feel left out or confused, but he will not pretend. That's the cool thing about Autism. Although social norms the rest of us mostly pick up without training or therapies do not come natural to him, he is completely genuine. I enjoy it and find that refreshing.

Since understanding more about what he is learning to do with his Speech Pathologist, I have come to watch social interactions more closely. Often people will engage in conversation and a lot of acting is going on. I do it and I see other people do it. We are so concerned with other peoples' feelings we often pretend to care or be interested in what other says when, in fact, if we are completely honest with ourselves, it might be a terribly boring conversation. But! Because many of us have naturally developed empathy, the people we socialize with in our lives play the same game of pretending and acting. The more I care about a person, the greater genuine interest I may have in what they say. There are also times we are just being a good friend. Do my friends really care about my new vase? Probably not. But they care about me, so they may play along.

Take a week to consider the conversations you participate in. Tally up your own rating scale of how interesting they are. You may find a different ending, but you may also begin to notice a lot of the social ego stroking we do for the sake of kindness.

My son is basically taking social acting lessons. He is learning to play games where to learns to take turns responding and initiating conversations about various topics. He would prefer to only discuss things he is interested in and ignore any other topic another brings up, even with people he cares deeply about. It's the way he is wired. The way he operates actually makes more sense and is true to his own nature. He isn't trying to be rude when he doesn't ask you questions about your vacation. He just truly isn't curious about it and doesn't have a sense of wonder about a trip someone else took that has no relation to him. He is, however, learning because that's how we make friends and keep them. That's how our social world spins and he does want to be part of it. Often you will hear him respond with 'okay' after you say something to him. He learned this in speech as a way to acknowledge to the speaker that he heard them. He used to say nothing. He is working on expanding 'okay' to a comment or question in addition to eye contact.

He is working hard and implementing a lot of learned skills I take for granted and never stop to think about. I am amazed at how far he has come in the past few years. He has become so much more a part of the family's world instead of his own. A lot of that is because of the therapy he receives in addition to our family knowledge gained and understanding of how his mind operates.

11.05.2012

Kindness



I listened to a lesson about kindness on Sunday. The past several weeks I have been lacking in the kindness overflow I am pretty natural at offering most I come into contact with. At times, it feels like a blessing and a curse to enjoy compassion and kindness so much. Over the years I felt uplifted for caring so much about many people, perfect strangers in some instances. Their burdens added to my own with equal level of concern is too heavy and has caused me to pull back and block out to some degree. I have to train myself to not overly care because it brings on anxiety for me.

I believe this is the first year in my life I have decided it's okay for me to not be overly concerned for every single person I meet. I used to want to fix any and every problem I could, be it offering kind words or taking action to mend someone else's conflict. I used to think it was my duty to welcome every single new person that moved into my neighborhood or ward and bring them cookies and check on them often to make sure they were doing okay. Feeling happy and included. The thing is not all of this effort and emotion is necessarily appreciated. It also took away from the focus of my daily responsibilities within my own life, family, and close friends. It was too much.

This was not covered in the lesson. Caring too much. I suppose it's not a common issue. I do appreciate the self-reflection brought on by the topic and certainly find it always joyful to do and say kind things to others. Some people need it more than others do. It's usually clear to see those that have an abundance in that department. That's always a nice thing to identify- prioritizing kindness when you only have so much to give. Inspiration helps guide this.

I love giving strangers or new friends genuine compliments and acts of service. I find them the most caught off guard, more appreciative, and least likely to feel the obligatory need to reciprocate. I love that most about kindness, the act without expecting anything back. It is one of the best feelings.

It's like tossing stars into the sky.

10.22.2012

Interview


I was briefly part of a 3 piece band several years ago. I took a real interview from a successful band and answered the questions myself below. Just because.

You formed the band right after what had to be the worst week ever for you. Why did you start a band?
I wasn’t having a bad week, actually. But I was a bored housewife. It was always on my bucket list to learn the drums, so I took lessons. I found myself needing accountability and a reason to learn songs. Learning to keep time with other musicians seemed like an important thing to learn as a drummer. Essentially, I joined a band; not started one. The idea scared and excited me, so I tried it.


So where did you find your band?
Craig’s List East Bay: musicians wanted. I had already auditioned for one band and met some nice guys that were ready to record, so I was obviously too new for them. Then I met up with Nigel and Jason at a rehearsal studio in Oakland. Thankfully, no one murdered me so that worked out in my favor. They invited me back and we worked on cover songs every week on Thursdays 7-10pm.

How did you get him to change his mind?
Um. Hrmm.I have no idea what you are talking about.

What made you pick up instruments? How old were you?
It was a dream of mine. I had been reading a book about how to live your dreams. It is called Live What You Love: Notes From an Unusual Life by Bob and Melinda Blanchard.  I knew I would eventually have another child in the coming year or two, so it was my small window of time to learn something new for a little while. It seemed like the right season in my life for it and happened to know someone who was a drummer in a band that played often in NYC. He was willing to teach me once a week.  I believe I was 28 or 29.

What band would you dread being compared to?
I guess to answer this I should think of a band I would never want to emulate and that would be The Spin Doctors. Or any sort of heavy metal.

What do you love most about LA?
Oh, I don’t love LA. However, I did love Nor*Cal. One could go in any direction any time of year and see something amazing. Outdoor life is a year-round lifestyle. I often joked while living there that if you didn't beleive in God spend some time in the east bay around spring.

What was the worst show you ever played?
We never played live. But there was a rehearsal where we played a song by The Cure and I totally missed my cue into the song and Nigel and Jason just kept repeating their chords over and over looking at me in a really confusing way. Once I pulled out of my daydream and realized it we all laughed. Some other times I dropped a stick in the middle of a song. So, that was lame.

What is the weirdest thing you ever saw at a show?
Me. I went to a Nine Inch Nails show in my 30’s and I was so out of place! I was the only one not wearing black from head to toe. I had on a hot pink skate T-shirt.

They probably weren't listening to the lyrics only the violins.
I don’t recall violins at the concert.

If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?
Place myself in it.

I heard you used to work at Filter Magazine. Is that true?
No. I never worked there.

Do you have any musical guilty pleasures?
Yes. I sort of have a crush on some hip hop songs that I have heard at the gym. It’s nothing I could listen to on a regular basis, but am starting to get the songs stuck in my head and crave them.

If you could meet someone dead or alive who would it be?
John Candy.

Why?
He’s a hilarious actor. I am pretty sure we be good friends. We could make each other laugh. AND I love food, so we would be really good friends. Eating and laughing together. I often wonder if I get to meet him in heaven and hang out.

Finally what is your favorite breakfast?
I am so glad you asked! A hearty biscuits and gravy rocks my world. Eggs Benedict is also tops.

10.20.2012

appreciation

Oakland, California temple

This weekend I spent a small amount of time helping a photographer organize and download photos of a stake youth activity for church. I sat back and watched live (in addition to viewing photos) of the grand events executed beautifully. I saw over 300 youth having a blast! I saw them interacting with one another in games and laughing and smiling. It could have been a stadium of kids in the year 1950, that's how wholesome the engagement of fun was. Of course, the computer / card reader on the table in front of me reminded me it was 2012. The same collection of youth leaders gave talks or cheered on the teenagers that carried them through girl's camp in the summer. Everywhere I looked were adults contributing their time and talents for the sake of these kids. No rewards would be given to them, no paycheck, little to no recognition whatsoever.

I thought of how sweetly I would have enjoyed such activities in my own youth and wondered if these kids had any idea how very lucky they each are. For the many hours of work and hearts of love that make such things happen and if they have any clue how different it could be without. I then thought of my own children and how I hope I get to be part of this when it's their time to be a teen. I secretly wished for such inspired and devoted leaders to support them while being hopeful for a little part behind the scenes or in the midst of it all helping it all happen.

**

That day in 1998 when I prayed on my knees to know if I should join this religion, it was my future children I was thinking of. It was of great concern to me that the one-day family I would have would be raised the way God wanted me to. When I knew it was right, when I knew it was correct, and when I knew from the core of myself- that very place where my heart beats and my soul rests- I would lead my family in the way of The Mormon Gospel, I had no idea how many amazing experiences would accompany that decision. Not just for me, but for my whole family.

In the past decade plus I have watched kind people teach my children on Sundays and bring us meals on a hard week. I have seen the testimonies of Christ's love blossom in my children from another's shared story or simple songs learned in the nursery program about building houses upon rocks. I have been woven into every single Mormon community I have lived in regardless of what my personality is like and regardless of my personal interests (or flaws). I have been given so many opportunities to help other people by bringing them food on a hard week, teaching their children, and participate in behind-the-scenes or up-front efforts to organize activities for hundreds of people/ kids simply for the purpose of helping them strengthen their relationships with and through Christ.

I am always amazed and sincerely humbled at each and every single event to see the dozens upon dozens of parents who show up to lead an activity or event in support of the group of children (or teens or adults). Often we don't know the hours that went into planning the activity, the stress associated with it, the number of phone calls made, time it took to collect and prepare the food, dishes in the sink sitting that mothers skipped to turn their attention (for a time) to The Lord's work.

Taking a moment to watch it in action sprouts love blossoms in my bones.

9.11.2012

and we'll drive to Madagascar

Dear Mike,
We stopped at Wal*Mart today after we got Zane from his chest practice. Evan had birthday money he was excited to spend. After deliberating over the perfect remote control truck, he finally made his decision. We lost Zane about 72 times between the toy section and the check-out lane, as usual. Sylvia cried for a ring pop once we got in line, as usual. Evan was a solid 5 star kid waiting patiently to pay for his toy, like usual. Waiting in line always increases my joyful anxiety, but this time it doubled as a woman rolled up behind us in her motorized sit-in shopping cart. What are those called, anyway? It's a cross between a shopping cart and a golf cart: shopfart? I feel a new Urban Dictionary entry coming on......

She was kind and luckily as she inched closed and closer to us no one's toes were in the wrong spot. I finalized payment and wished in my heart I could help her unload her groceries. She struggled to reach many items from the sitting position beyond arm's length. I glanced at the kids and realized they were being good. All three of them were calm and staying by the cart and no one was crying or screaming or punching; very unusual. After collecting my reciept, I leaned over to the boys and whispered for them to please come help this woman unload her groceries.

They paused for a moment, then Evan led the way. I asked her if we could help and she graciously accepted. I stepped back as I softly instructed the boys. They each approached her cart at different sides and selected one item at a time. I marveled at how incredibly gentle they handled her groceries and carefully placed them just so onto the belt. I have never seen them behave so reverently and soft with anything in my life. I felt my eyes begin to fill with tears of happiness at seeing their willing service, but mostly for the inspiration I know I felt suggesting my boys step in to help someone.

I immediately thought of you and wished there was a way to teleport this feeling while I had the opportunity to teach out kids something of great importance to us. If I could send you this feeling, it would look like a glittery ball of magnificent light and would make you smile so very much as it hovered over your desk. It was such a peaceful moment I hope for it to remain through the night.

Well.......no such luck. It turns out the remote control truck Evan chose keeps falling apart, as usual. Anger is overcoming him and dinner is cooking and Sylvia is crying and Zane is trying to handcuff each of us with his toy handcuffs. Fortunately for us they are plastic, so it's easy to pull them off. And! He still hasn't found the real ones we have hidden under our matress.

I must tend to the children now, but want to let you know that I thought of you again as I pushed the shopping cart to the car. I thought of how grateful I am to be able to have a moment like this with our children. I thought of how hard you work for our family so I can be here teaching them and guiding them. While I often wish I was the one with the career and you were the one leading anger management sessions with Evan, potty training Sylvia, and becoming the family expert on Autism, I have to say I got the better end of the deal today.

p.s. I spent more than I should have. Just like usual.

Love you!

Liz

9.10.2012

More! about Chest!

When I was nursing Sylvia as a baby,  Zane was oblivious. I could have been feeding the baby milk out of a bottle sitting inside of a lion's mouth and he wouldn't have noticed. Evan, however, was used to being by my side and has always been one full of nonstop questions. Much like Macaulay Culkin in the movie Uncle Buck where he asks John Candy 38 questions in a row. That's Evan. He had to learn at a young age that the woman's chest is a private area that needed covering. Even at times when it was in charge of feeding a baby. I knew from his questions and facial expressions little of what I said made any sense and he continued to find the whole area and feeding a baby situation a totally amazing mystery. Often he would try to climb under the blanket and get a closer look or peek down my shirt to figure things out (as if I wouldn't notice).

Years later he still has in-depth questions about The Chest Area, why it can't be touched, how it feeds babies, and why it's a private on a girl, but not a boy. I have a strong suspicion he will turn out to be a chest man. He will either end up being a plastic surgeon or work in the fruits and vegetable section of the grocery store; specializing in cantelopes.

**

For weeks we have been talking as a family about Zane learning chess. Evan listens patiently as we ask Zane questions about his class and moves. Finally at dinner one night Evan sets down his fork and in an exasperated voice says, "Why does Zane have to learn about the chest!? Aren't we not supposed to talk about privates?!'

**

Today Mike finally got a call back from The Chess Coach. Between the two of us we are still uncertain as to what country he is from, but we'll figure it out one way or another. Apparently there was a great loss in translation (as in the words coming out of his mouth, not as in the words changing once in my ear). He is making headway with his English and for this I am impressed! It turns out our prideful hope and assumption our son had found a skill and strength in the game of chess was spot on. He invited Zane to participate in a weekend tournament and suggested more complex skills for him to work on at home.

Apparently 'he is not practicing correctly' was his way of trying to tell me 'your kid is doing great- let's teach him more complicated things'. Yeah. Kind of two different messages. He must have spent the week looking up more accurate wording while he waited to call my husband back and this is where we have landed as of today. Who knows what news will come next week, it could end up being a bipolar chess experience with all these emotional ups and downs. In the end, the good news is there is no secret unknown way for him to learn that we had been waiting on the edge of our seats to hear about.

He is on the right track. Yay Team Fuller!

9.07.2012

check. mate. arrrrgh.

I always said I would teach my kids to skateboard no matter what. Before I became a mother I thought that was important. In conversation people would humor me and ask 'what if they don't like it?' I would scoff at the notion, but always reply with 'oh if they want to do something else, oh say CHESS hahaha, I will be supportive. But I am sure they will love to skate.'

Well, none of them are interested in skateboarding. And naturally, my oldest has joined The Chess Club. 472 club options available in the past 3 years and this is what he gets excited about.

Who knew I could
a) get married
b) get freaky
c)  have a kid with part of my genes
and d) produce someone who actually 'gets' chess and enjoys it?! This will always fascinate me.

Cool! Let's do this!

I have put it on Mike's shoulders to learn and champion this hobby. Each week he reads and practices chess strategy so he can fil our son with as much chess guidance as possible. They have weekly games where strategy and etiquette are executed. It's rather adorable if you ask me.

**

A week into the club I got a phone call on a night when The Witching Hour was in full effect and the person on the other line was asking for Aziz Ooch in a thick accent. I ran through the names of each family member in my mind and none of them sounded like the words that came in through the receiver. I asked him to repeat again who he was looking for and the same sounds came out. I assumed he was a telemarketer calling from another country. I kindly replied with 'no thank you' and hung up the phone.  5 minutes later my delayed experience from living in New York and translating foreign accents kicked in and I realized the man on the phone was saying "I am Zane's chess coach". We sat down to dinner and I hoped he would call back. Surely he was just calling to tell us what we already know, anyway: that our son is a gifted chess player.

**

When he wins the other children every week at chess we feel so proud. Mike and I do high fives any chance we can. We chest bump as we pass one another in the kitchen. We are awesome for having a smart son with smart parents! We comment often to one another how amazing we are. Signing him up, teaching him, helping him, getting him there, giving him books about it, playing chess games on the phone together.....

Just as we were at our peak of pride, the phone rang with The Chess Coach on the other line. This time he used different words and spoke more slowly. I remained silent when he spoke of a time he called before. I was sure he would be calling to offer glowing reviews of our son's chess prowess. I was positive he would be calling to tell me that our son has a natural talent for this game and maybe a more advanced class would be necessary. I sat down on the couch with a knowing smile, waiting for outstanding news about how great our son was at chess and asking us for tips on how other childrens' parents could help prepare them the way have our son. We would be told we are model parents of a brilliant son we have been raising so well.

Only, that's not what actually happened. Somewhere in the twist of reality I heard the suggestion that he should practice a lot. Oh, and that he is practicing wrong. I think my vision went fuzzy and the next thing I knew I was browning meat over the stove for dinner while frantically trying to get ahold of Mike as if our bank account had been hacked.

How could this be?! How could this happen?! Not us! Not our son!!!!!

Alas, The Chess Coach is impossible to get ahold of for questions. Emails have not been returned and we are puzzled. We are stumped and, albeit humorously, humbled. I suppose his first call might have been a good one to take.

8.28.2012

Taking the Manhattan Out of the Mormon

After a long day working for a bank in Downtown Manhattan, attending a baby shower in Brooklyn, and then riding the F train home it occured to me that was the 6th baby shower I attended in 7 months. That's a lot of baby shower presents! I imagined my own baby shower one day and hoped I would have a decent attending crowd so we could be gifted as well. I suppose you could say I began to think my gifts were an investment of our money into something that would, later, offer a return. Such is not the proper idea to have when gifting someone (this I now know). Some years later I would move and few, if any, would even know of our turn at celebrating a baby coming into our lives. I (selfishly) thought of all the money we had spent in that ward for so many years gifting babies we would never know.

It wasn't until I had my own baby shower that I was able to learn a valuable lesson. Not about money, but about people. And service. I am not sure what it's like outside of the Mormon culture, but within the Mormon culture when a baby is joining a family it is joining The Ward Family. It has been my experience in three different states and various cities that you pull together and celebrate. Not because you want the same celebration back. Not because you want or expect anything back from that family (it's not an investment). It's just what you do.

Service to one another is just like that. It's not an investment. So many of the people I have given of my time or assistance to are not the same people that will be necessarily able to give it back if I have a need. That makes it challenging, at times, to accept help. You want to be able to pay them back equally, even if you are not in a place to be able to. Because that's the way the world wants you to operate, but charity isn't like the world. Charity is Christ-like.

I think of it like those revolving doors at the entrance of all those sky scrapers in The City. The people who can give of service at a given time are the ones spinning through the door. Some people seem to be able to give a lot (in the door for a while) as others are in and out of the door for brief spots of time. The idea is for all of us to take as many turns jumping into the spinning door whenever we can. And to be okay with yourself if you are not at a place to give much- your time will come later when someone else is in a similar or harder spot.

As a mother of young kids, I have come to realize the importance of checking my 'giving' reserves. I am learning to stop before I offer and pause before I accept the call for a need of another. I take a mental inventory of the urgency of the need, the status of my family and personal needs and determine the level of stress that may or may not be placed upon me and/ or my family. I owe it to my family to not always be the 'yes' person. I got very ill once because I was the 'yes' person at a time in my life once when my family (and personal) needs were not being fully met. I was running on empty- unaware of it at the time- and still giving of myself when I, in fact, needed support. It's an important balance to strike, but not easy to get right.

8.25.2012

not of donkeys

I heard about it from a friend who lost a lot of weight and looked great. After signing up for an obstacle race I knew I needed to get serious about training for it. I took my friend's advice and met with a personal trainer. While I could not justify the high cost of regular sessions, I did sign up for a slightly less expensive option: Group Personal Training. It didn't change my life, but it did slightly change the shape of my rear!

I love this little part of my world. I affectionately refer to it as Hip Hop Nation in my mind. The main trainer plays a mix of fresh tunes I would never listen to on my own accord, however, have come to find that lyrics like 'drop that ass' and 'criminal bootie, oh my God, I could cuff it' paired with tough beats are really motivating. I try to imagine all my hard work during the circuit training will make the back door unbelievably amazing. After having three kids it's not the same eye-catching gem that lured my husband all those years ago. It once was a remarkable asset of mine. I would like to one day reclaim it.

The crowd attending the small class has changed over time. When I began it was largely filled with cougars. While they had amazingly fit bodies, I at least still had my youth! At the present time a handful of bikini models have infiltrated my coveted workout space. I most likely have an extra decade of age on them, so there's that. I am not sure if you have met a bikini model before, so in case you have not I can share some thoughts with you on what it's like to workout with them.

It sucks. Any scrap of confidence you had coming into the room is removed once they inhale the same air. I just leave mine in a little duffel bag by the door and pick it up on the way out. If you could sculpt a perfectly toned body out of a bar of soap (or beautiful wood) it would be these girls. They are works of art. I tell my husband about them. "I have never seen more perfect asses," I say.

I groan of how I hope they are admired at home. If I worked hard enough to look that amazing you better believe I would make Mike polish and buff my glorious bum after every shower. Then there would be candles and songs and chanting as I placed it on a throne at the start of each day. Our lives would revolve around my perfect derrier. If I had one.

8.22.2012

shine

During the summer we overscheduled the children, swam only a handful of times, didn't see enough cousins, didn't feel quite enough sand in our toes, and could have gone to Bahama Buck's more often. Next summer will be better! The cool thing about reflection is that there are also things that went well I would like to repeat.

I was responsible for two major activities through church during the summer. One was to plan and head up a Cub Scout Two Day Camp. This required meetings, phone calls, following-ups, more phone calls, planning, etc. It was nice to pull from my archives of experience and use executive functioning skills I don't usually need as a mommy. It was a beatiful thing to see it in motion as everyone pulled together to put on special, fun days for the boys. It rocked. Not because of me, but because of the collective lot of us.

I was also responsible for Evening Entertainment for Girls Camp. This also rocked. Additionally, it took a lot of time to plan and put things together. There were days the dishes sat in the sink because I went from one thing to the next. I missed the gym for a month. My social life pretty much went on hold while every single spare minute went towards magnifying my church callings. I did this willingly, knowing it was a brief sacrifice that would be worth it.

Each night and morning I would pray for divine guidance on how to best spend my extra time each day. I knew my priority was tending to my family needs and running a household. I am so, so, so easily distracted and struggle to manage my time well. I can easily waste valuable time on things that are not uplifting or offer me zero positive input /recharge. It was important to me that I listened and tried to be in a place to be worthy of the inspiration I sought.

Shortly after these events finalized, our family thought a major change would be happening. The job we prayed for over many years to find for Mike finally presented itself (for the second time). We attended the temple and really wanted to make sure it was ideal. We took our time and gave it more thought than we initially imagined. We asked the employer a lot of questions that needed an extra week to be answered. We moved forward with the plan to accept an offer. I held my breath hoping for the best, but reminded myself to be ready for His will.

The day before the offer letter was to arrive, everything fell apart. The company was releasing all top level employees and there would be no offer letter coming in. While this sounds like devestating news, I laughed at the remarkable timing of it all. I knew we were protected from the stress unemployment. I loved that I was busy trying to get closer to my Heavenly Father and magnify my callings at a time when this happened. It helped us see the beauty of a protected situation and a chance for us to really look at how good we have it. It's not perfect, but we are working hard to lead our little family in the right direction with all our might.

We are still able (and strive moreso since that happened) to make time for family scripture with Mike on the phone and more meaningful Family Home Evenings on Sunday nights before he flies out of town. Mike holds montly PPI's with each child now and I continue to try to focus any extra time I have on something worth while and uplifting. If I could take all my happy insides and toss them into the air, it would look like all the beautiful clouds that have been in the sky this week (minus the rain ones).

Perscpective is a wonderful gift that can come wrapped in so many different kinds of packages.
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