Tuesday, June 19, 2012

You've got a friend

"I awoke this morning with devout thanksgiving for my friends, the old and new."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lately I've been thinking about the friendships I enjoy.  I'm not only talking about the ones with the people who go to the same parties as me or people who "like" my Facebook statuses.  No, I want to discuss the true, deep-down friends who really know how to prod you on to be a better person or who support you in your falls from grace.  The ones who talk you off the road to Crazytown (population: me) and are genuinely interested in your success.

I have MANY of these friends.

You know the ones.  Friends I can text about whatever current drama I'm blowing out of proportion and who will text me right back and ask if I'm ok and what they can do to help.  People who go see ridiculously cheesy Zac Efron movies to lift my spirits and satisfy my sweet tooth for eye candy.  The ones who listen to you complain the joys of selling a condo or the stupidity of study coordinators at work.  The friends I don't have to pose for, don't have to get dressed up for, don't have to spend money to impress, and don't have to worry that they are judging me (or if they are, that they'll tell me straight to my face).  Buddies to go on road trips with or to talk until 2:00 in the morning.  Friends who tell you things that might be painful to hear, but they swallow their fear and do so anyway because they love you and want you to be the best you possible.

And all of this has gotten me pondering...I hope I give as much as I get.  When a friend needs a metaphorical shoulder to cry on (or an actual shoulder...), I want to be there, cheering them up or just lending a listening ear.  If one of my good friends has exciting news, I want to be the first to send them texts with a million exclamation points or take them out for celebrations galore.  So often we look at what we can GET instead of what we can GIVE, and as cliche as it sounds, you really do reap what you sow.  So, I'm on a mission to be that friend.

But there are some things you should know:

I struggle with small bouts of anxiety in my life, so making friends hasn't always been my strong suit.  I would tell myself that it's better to have a few really good friends than lots of acquaintances.  I still think there's something to that, but it doesn't mean I should shut myself off to new friendship experiences.  Believe it or not, I've come a long way in mellowing and deepening and becoming comfortable with myself and my relationships with others.  I have found that if I stick to my true, genuine self, the friendships I make are golden.  No posturing...full acceptance of an imperfect package.  Let's face it...that's what we all are.  And if I can help shoulder the burden on your back, and you do the same for me, we're both better for it.

For a long time, I thought if I wasn't the person filling the gaps, that I was the cause of an inadequate friendship.  I would give and give and give until it hurt, and then feel empty because my generosity wasn't being reciprocated.  Have you ever felt like that?  Like you're trying so desperately to get someone to appreciate you that you step outside of who you really are and go way above and beyond...only to fall flat on your face?  I'm not talking about a romantic relationship here.  What I mean is giving up who you are to impress someone--anyone--who isn't willing to meet you halfway.  No one needs the wear and tear of the friend who drains...and we've all had them.  Each should feel like friend time leaves their "bucket" feeling refreshed, or at the very least, not bone dry.  Sometimes there can be a painful parting of ways, but standing up for yourself is a great policy in my book. Don't let someone take advantage of you, hoping one day they will return the favor. Get out of an unbalanced friendship if it's making you more stressed than it's worth over the long-run.

Here's one thing I've figured out in life: it is so much less exhausting and heart-wrenching to just be you and accept what and who comes your way organically than to fight and try to swim upstream against nature.  And I'm sure I'll keep re-learning that lesson as life goes on.  True friends will be symbiotic, giving and taking at an equitable rate, and the rest will fall by the wayside in the natural course of things.  I guess I feel like I'm old enough now that I'm mostly comfortable with the Annie I've become, and if someone doesn't like that or appreciate me, why would I waste my time trying to convince them otherwise?  It's not like they have a job opening for friends and I've filled out the application and turned in the resume and they're turning me down.  I don't have to like everyone and everyone doesn't have to like me.  And hey, that's ok!

So here's to my friends who like me for my quirks--or in spite of them.  To the ones who will defend me in my madness and soothe me in my sadness.  For the people I've been friends with for twenty years or those I've only known a month, young or old, you are building blocks in my life.  I don't think I can fully express how grateful I am for friends who are usually in the right places for me at the times when I need them most.

Finger lickin' good

My kitchen is currently a disaster area.  A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen, right?  It just means I've been hard at work, creating culinary delights to share...or pig out on by myself.  This is evidenced by last night when I opened the fridge to find something to satiate the hunger and discovered four green bell peppers, waiting to be put to work before they shriveled up into a moldy mess.  And whaddayaknow, the stuffed peppers I ended up with were delicious

I may have heated my house to 20987345 degrees on top of the outside temperature already pushing 100, but that's what A/C is for.

I've been watching a lot of Food Network Star lately, where 15 contestants come to compete for their own show on the Food Network.  The tasks the producers put these poor schmucks up against are brutal.  Making food seem "fashionable" (working at NYC Fashion Week)?  Uh...no thanks.  I wouldn't even know where to begin!  And the time limits seem insane...I can barely cook dinner for myself in less than two hours. 

And how do they keep coming up with new and interesting things to make for the judges?  If I were on that show, first I'd pee my pants trying to present anything, and then it would be some insanely easy dish like macaroni and cheese.  But it'd be fancy because at the last minute I'd remember that I'm supposed to be impressing someone...so I'd throw in some goat cheese or something.  If I made it past any sort of challenge on the show, I'd probably be a crying mess.  Long story short, I will not be submitting an application anytime soon.

I wanted to make Muddy Buddies over the weekend, but I couldn't.  And I'll tell you why: really old, expired peanut butter in my cupboard.  Don't worry, I keep Chex, chocolate chips, AND powdered sugar on hand, but apparently I don't eat PB enough to keep it stocked.  This should not come as a shock to anyone who knows me...remember how I can't even stand the smell of straight peanut butter?  And everyone thinks it's weird that I hate it vehemently on its own but love it religiously when paired with sugar or chocolate.  Well, guess what...I also hate maple syrup and basically any kind of squash.  My odd tastes are probably what's holding me back from my true calling as a chef...

Maybe one day when I'm independently wealthy I'll go to culinary school in France and put my skills to the test...

Sunday, June 17, 2012

My dad could beat up your dad...

Today is Father's Day, and I want to be clear the my dad is awesome.  Last year, I wrote a lovely tribute to mothers, so this year, I feel it's only right to tell the other side of my amazing parentage.  This is a little gushy...but my quiet, hilarious dad deserves a little recognition.  No pictures because my dad hates them, and this is for him. :)

My dad instilled in me from a young age the love of rock music.  Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys, The Beatles...the list could continue for a page and a half.  I have a playlist called "Old School" where I put all of the songs that remind me of road trips or Sunday nights with Dad, playing Who Sang That Song? for hours at a time.  Even today in our conversations, he'll always pop in lyrics from songs and then pull out his phone and find the track from some obscure artist from the 70s.

One of my favorite sides of my dad is when he gets going about the good ol' days working at Lagoon.  He spent a lot of time in the Rides Department back in the 70s, and hearing him reminisce about his friends, his bosses, the actual rides...it is a riot once you get him going.  Ask him about the time one of the rides broke off its gears and rolled down the Midway.  Or when he had to steal a cup of ice from a food stand to hold a girl's finger that had been ripped off. 

Listening to his storytelling will make anyone bust a gut, even if the story is somber.  Back when he was on his mission in France, his appendix burst and he nearly died in a tiny hospital in the middle of nowhere with a greenie companion and nothing to eat for 11 days.  The way he retells his insane experience gets people rolling in the aisles, but he nearly died.  I'm going to go out on a limb and say that he probably had a lot more life to live and a bunch of people to help, so he was spared.  My absolute favorite part of the whole appendix story is when he had been painted with iodine and left naked...and the Bishop and his kids had come to visit him.  In his state of delirium, my dad pulled off the bedsheet covering him and said, "Look, they painted me orange!"

Dad always has a sense of adventure, no matter how much of a hermit he tells you he is.  How could you not be adventurous to set out on the road with seven kids to journey all across the country and back again?  I have been to the majority of this great country's states, and that's because of my dad.  I've seen Europe from a front row view because my dad was willing to be our chauffeur and haul us around.  Give him some fudge and control of the radio, and he's set.

Dad jokes that he doesn't get out much, and we all know that isn't true. One of his favorite things to do in the summer is go camping, and this year will be one of his best. He got a new trailer last year, and he has been like a giddy school child waiting to use it. He taught me how to roll a tent or a sleeping bag correctly, how to gut a fish, and how to start a fire (still struggle with that one...). And he lets me use all of his fancy camping gear whenever I want to head for the hills. We joke around that he has one of everything and two of most. 

One year when I was living at home and going to college, I didn't have class until 11:00 most days.  This is when my dad and I bonded over M*A*S*H, which ran re-runs in syndication at 9:00 and 9:30.  Dad was working from home a lot of mornings, so we would put the tv on while I finished up readings for class and enjoy the antics of Hawkeye and the gang.

My dad has been my champion when it comes to my own dating life.  He's never been the overprotective father with a shotgun, waiting for his daughter to get home, but he has a quiet sense of defense when it comes to his girls.  When my engagement went to pieces, he drove down to Provo that night and took me out to dinner, just him and me, and told me some of his own heartache from before he married my mom.  I'm getting a little weepy-eyed now just thinking about how special that evening was to me, not for the fact that we ate Italian food or that he stocked my freezer with ice cream, but that I, his middle daughter, meant enough for him to come take care of me at one of my most vulnerable times.  Today, Dad will still lend a listening ear when I don't understand men or if I'm overanalyzing a guy situation way too much.  And even if he is old, he's still got great advice.

Speaking of ice cream, it's my dad's favorite.  When I asked this year what he wanted for Father's Day dinner, that was his answer: ICE CREAM.  He has a pitch for the "ice cream diet" where, if you eat enough ice cream, your body temperature will lower so much that it will burn calories to keep warm.  Don't think I haven't tried to implement this diet...thanks, Pa.  But don't make it pink for my father...he doesn't eat pink food.  You'd think with six girls, he would have gotten used to a lot of pink, but none of us even likes the color that much.

When people ask what my dad does for a living, I'm not sure what to tell them.  I always end up saying, "Something with computers...and networks..."  But in reality, my dad is a computer genius.  To explain to the rest of us how all of these little computer bits fit together, he will draw diagrams, show us old mother boards, and walk us through all of the inner workings.  If something isn't working, he'll find parts from a bunch of other dead computers and make what we've termed a "Franken-computer."  And it works!

He can also make cars work.  If I have car trouble, I know I can just call my dad...and then my car will magically begin working.  Obviously it's because the car knows it will be beaten into submission by my father.  For example, when I was 20 or 21, my car broke down as I was driving back down to college after a weekend with the family.  I realize that when any car breaks down, it's disconcerting, so it wasn't a surprise that my dad was feeling put out to have to take care of the car madness.  He brought down the trailer and miraculously got the car running long enough to get it up on the trailer.  Once it was up there, the sides of the trailer made it impossible to open the door for him to get out.  I shouldn't have been giggling inside then OR now, but just thinking about him climbing out the driver's side window brings back kind of a hilarious memory of that stressful moment.

When I was 14, my dad got called as a bishop of a brand-new ward.  Talk about insanity.  But he pulled it off like a champion, and I got to share my dad with the ward.  He was one of the sweetest examples of hard work and service dedicated to people and to the Lord.  He's always been like that, though...people need help with yardwork?  He's there with his favorite tractor.  When I needed money for my last year of college, my dad was very generous and understanding.  His family is the most important thing in his life, and this is evidenced by basically everything he does.  No one would ever question his loyalty to his siblings, his mother, his wife, his children or grandkids.  I'm not saying he's perfect, but you have to love a man who plays Three Billy Goats Gruff with his kids, buys cute toys for his grandkids, and mows the lawn every week for use with his great big, happy family.

I may have gotten my out-of-control eyebrows or my bad knees from him, but he also helped hone my dry wit and gave me a fair bit of his intelligence.  My dad deserves the ultimate thanks and gratitude for his amazingness.  Props to my Pops!