Thursday, January 30, 2014

In Good Times and in Bad

My first car was Cosette.  Well, technically she wasn't mine; my parents let my brother and me drive her when we were in high school.  She was so classy I thought she needed a fancy French name.  Because I love musicals, Cosette was an obvious choice.  She was a manual Nissan Sentra, red, and the textbook definition of a student car.  I felt pretty slick driving a stick shift.  And I was pulled over for the first time in Cosette on the way to Dos Pueblos High School.  

In 2003, I acquired Marguerite, a 1997 red Ford Taurus (our family has a thing for red cars) with 30,000 miles on her.  She was my grandfather's car.  Due to declining health, he could no longer drive. Continuing the tradition of French names from musicals, I named her Marguerite from The Scarlet Pimpernel.   My grandfather, a farmer and a cowboy, passed away in 2006.  In honor of Grandad's car, I put one of his bolo ties on the rear-view mirror when I got home from my mission.  It has remained there the past six years.

One time when I was home from college for the summer, I backed in to a thick, cement pole at the Santa Barbara institute and injured Marguerite's hind side. Later, at BYU, I accidentally rear-ended a young dad when we were both turning right, bending the front license plate and scraping the paint.  These are just a couple of the stripes of courage Marguerite earned.  Because I considered her my college car, I never bothered to get the damage fixed.  This gave her character.  No '97 red Ford Taurus was quite like mine.

Marguerite and I went on many adventures together.  Dana and I took her to California on my first big road trip (definitely a rite of passage).  On another occasion, Christina and I were driving in Marguerite from Provo to Palm Springs for a little vacation.  We got to Murray before we realized I had gotten on the freeway going north instead of south.  She has held many Sonic Blasts in her middle consul that folds out between the driver seat and the passenger seat.

One evening, I sat in Marguerite talking for hours to a boy I was falling for.  I was taken by surprise when I looked out her window and saw the night turning to day.  I knew at that moment he was someone special to me.  Marguerite and I went from a duo to a trio for many blissful car rides.  And then it was just us again.

Marguerite has seen my most private tears.  For some reason, when I'm alone in my car, that's when I am the most in tune with my heart's desires, sorrows, and joys.  She has heard my most fervent prayers.  She has endured my loudest singing.  She has been loyal, strong, and true.  She has seen the real me more than anyone. 

Now, 10 years and 100,000 miles since Marguerite and I took our first drive together, it is time for her to retire.

Is it possible to feel sentimental about a car?

Monday, January 20, 2014

Birthday Girls

I am so lucky to live 45 minutes away from my sisters, who I love dearly.  This is a treasured time when we all live in the same state! The last time that happened was 22 years ago.  And with all the changes life brings, who knows how long we will get this opportunity.  (If only Joe's family and my parents were here, too! That would make it perfect.)  Tina and Anna both celebrate birthdays in January, so we decided to spend some quality girl + Scotty + sometimes Jer time together in honor of their special days.
Visiting Tina has ALWAYS been fun, but this little guy makes coming to her house like going to Disneyland!
My mission trainer, Pri, made Scotty a dinosaur and gave it to me in Brazil.  Isn't that sweet? I delivered it this weekend.
Anna dressed Scotty.  This was his first time in his tennis shoes!
Christina knows one of my favorite activities is "dump 'em or keep 'em", so we went through her entire wardrobe and weeded out all the clothes that had "seen their day."  It was so fun.  We both readily admit that I throw things out too much and she is a bit of a pack rat.  Together, we make a good team.  We both, however, firmly believe in Kate Sonne's philosophy that if you buy something, you have to get rid of something. So doesn't that mean if you get rid of something, you get to buy something? Ha ha, just kidding :-).  But there were some basic cardigans and black flats that were worn out and needed to be replaced, so we all went shopping.    I didn't realize what a great bargain shopper my sister is! She doesn't buy any clothing item over $10 and shoes have to be under about $15.  And she always looks like a million bucks! I need to take a page from her book.
After the super glue incident in Brasil, I needed a new purse and found this beauty at TJ Maxx.  Nine West, $25.  I also managed to find some black heels I couldn't live without and a wallet to go inside above pictured purse.  Ross, also Nine West, $14.
Birthday dinner was at Teppenyaki, which has turned in to somewhat of a tradition. To Anna's right is Courtney, her dear friend from home and now her roommate at BYU!
Look at that darling girl on the left! I couldn't stop ooing and ahhing over her new hair cut. Still getting used to the fact that she is an adult- 19 years old now! And by the way, Tina crocheted the slouch hat I'm wearing.
After first gently tossing some shrimp in our mouths, this guy literally chucked shrimp at our faces as hard as he could.  Not my favorite waiter. 

JCW's.  Looooooove their ice-cream!
It was too short. That's all there is to it. Way too short. Can someone please have another birthday?! Why does Salt Lake to Provo feel so far away?

Let it Go

I've had these thoughts milling around in my head for a month.  My former student from Dixon, Lucy, inspired me to finally articulate the things I've been discovering about myself and about life. Thanks, Lucy :-).

It starts with the movie Frozen.  Don't all good things start with the movie Frozen?  Over Christmas break, the girls in my family went to see this movie. And I was captivated.  I know everyone loves it, but I REALLY loved it. I finally realized it was because I felt a kinship with one of the main characters, Elsa. 

Elsa is a good person with a sincere heart.  She tries to use her talents for good, but makes mistakes, as all people do.  Often, however, the mistakes she makes affect others deeply.  She cannot tolerate hurting other people. As a result, she withdraws.  She becomes increasingly isolated until finally, she builds icy walls around herself and is content to live that way forever.  The song "Let it Go," in particular, really tugged at my heartstrings.  In this song, she realizes that she is tired of being embarrassed about who she is.  For any of you unfamiliar with the text, here it is:

"Let It Go"

The snow glows white on the mountain tonight
Not a footprint to be seen
A kingdom of isolation,
And it looks like I’m the Queen

The wind is howling like this swirling storm inside
Couldn’t keep it in, heaven knows I tried

Don’t let them in, don’t let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don’t feel, don’t let them know
Well, now they know

Let it go, let it go
Can’t hold it back anymore
Let it go, let it go
Turn away and slam the door

I don’t care
What they’re going to say
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me
I’m free

Let it go, let it go
I am one with the wind and sky
Let it go, let it go
You’ll never see me cry

Here I stand
And here I'll stay
Let the storm rage on

My power flurries through the air into the ground
My soul is spiraling in frozen fractals all around
And one thought crystallizes like an icy blast
I’m never going back,
The past is in the past

Let it go, let it go
And I'll rise like the break of dawn
Let it go, let it go
That perfect girl is gone

Here I stand
In the light of day
Let the storm rage on,
The cold never bothered me anyway

So now for the part about how this relates to me.  It started five and a half years ago.  I was fresh off my mission and I knew how my life was supposed to go.  Because of the year and a half I spent serving the Lord, I was going to meet a nearly perfect man, get married in the temple and start a big, beautiful family.  And it looked like everything was going according to plan.  I met the guy, got engaged, sent the invitations, had two bridal showers, and was ready to start my family.  Four weeks before the wedding day, everything came crashing down.  My perfect plan for my future was obliterated.  And what followed were months and months of pain, embarrassment and guilt for all the people who were affected by my choice to get married.  I felt guilty for the money my parents spent, the non-refundable airline tickets my friends bought, the beautiful showers thrown for me with such love and care, for not recognizing that the relationship wasn't going to work, etc., etc.  That's when I first began to withdraw.

As I started my career as a school teacher at Dixon Middle School, I fell in love with teaching.  But I learned a very hard lesson.  I couldn't be a perfect teacher. It wasn't possible.  Sometimes, I lost it with my students.  I made some big mistakes.  I had a lot of failures. I shed a lot of tears.  Sometimes, the mistakes I made hurt some of my students.  This, to me, was unbearable.  What I failed to recognize equally were the triumphs and the lives I affected for the better.  Because there were lives that I touched.  But I could never see that for what it was.  I was insistent upon focusing on what I didn't do right.

Eventually, all I wanted to do was hide. I got off Facebook for 2 and a half years.  Originally I thought it was because I was sick of comparing myself to others.  That was definitely part of it.  But in Brazil, I finally figured out the heart of the issue: I wanted everyone to forget me.  I figured if people couldn't remember who I was, they wouldn't remember my mistakes.  I could no longer hurt them.  I couldn't be embarrassed by my inadequacies anymore.  No one could laugh at me or look at my life and feel sorry for me.

So here is where it all came together.  I alluded to this experience a few times while on my trip.  Before I left for Brazil, Georgia told me she wanted a unique cake topper from the U.S. to put on her wedding cake.  When I was going to get married, my mom found a beautiful statue that we bought to go on top of my cake.  I thought it would be really special if I gave it to Georgia to use on her wedding day and then brought it back with me to someday use on my wedding day.  I took a picture of it and sent it to Georgia.  I anxiously awaited her response.  I got other emails from her, but never anything about the cake topper.  I immediately got embarrassed.  Rather than asking her why she hadn't responded, I decided definitively that she hated it.  I determined she was trying to figure out how to tell me nicely that it wasn't what she had in mind.  Terrified of being embarrassed, I decided to save her the trouble.  I looked up a website with a bunch of other cake toppers and sent it to her so she could pick one and not have to say anything about the one I sent. She responded very quickly, thrilled at the choices I sent.  She told me which one she liked the most and I ordered it and had it sent to her house.

Fast forward to a few days before the wedding.  Georgia, Marina, and I were in the kitchen talking about cake toppers.  The one I ordered still hadn't come and I was getting worried.  Georgia started describing a cake topper she had fallen in love with but was way too expensive for her to buy (a lot of things in Brazil are much more expensive than they are in the U.S.).  The description sounded very familiar.  I finally stopped her and said, "You mean like the picture I sent you of my cake topper?"  She looked at me, confused, and said, "What picture?" I grabbed my phone and pulled up the sent email with the attachment.  When she saw the topper, she said, "This is exactly what I was looking for."  It turns out she had never gotten the email.  Out of the many emails we exchanged back and forth, that one got lost.  We spent the next several minutes being devastated by the miscommunication.  We even tried to figure out how we could get it to Brazil by the wedding.  But it was truly too late.  What agony!

If only I said to her, "Hey, did you ever get that email with the topper I sent?" Instead, I tried to prevent embarrassment for both of us (me for being so foolish as to think she would like my topper and her for having to tell me she hated it).  As a result, I hurt us both even more. And, by the way, the second choice cake topper I ordered never made it to Brazil.  I have no idea where it is.   I am so grateful that email never sent and the cake topper never arrived.  Because that small experience has truly changed my life.

Elsa (from Frozen) thought that by withdrawing herself from everyone, she was doing the world a service.  What she couldn't see was how much her little sister needed her.  Similarly, I thought people were better off not remembering all the (what I considered to be) havoc I caused.  What I failed to recognize was how valuable the relationships I severed were to me.  When I made the choice to reactivate my Facebook account, I immediately started reconnecting with people from my mission, my co-workers and students from Dixon, and other friends and family members.  It felt so good.

By building so many walls around me over the past several years, I cut myself off from so much joy.  And it turns out I wasn't making everyone's lives better like I thought.  I was only making mine worse. What I have to offer my family, my co-workers, my students, and my friends is worth more than my human frailties.  Turns out I can make mistakes and people will still want me in their lives.

So, finally, after so many years, I let it go.  I let go of the guilt for my mistakes. I let go of the embarrassment for past errors.  I am working on being happy just being me, faults and all.  I have my relationships back.  And I feel free.  I feel more like myself than I have in a long time.

So here I stand, and here I'll stay.  The cold never bothered me anyway ;-). 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Family...isn't it about time?

The Lanzetta/Houston clan had two photo shoots over the holidays- this is from the first one with Shana's fam in San Diego!


Footloose and fancy free!

Holiday naps are the best!

We know how to have a good time.
The original rat pack...
Snuggles with the nephew...


...and the niece!
Ella's post Christmas shopping trip

This girl knows exactly what she likes. Lots of leggings, animals, and pink!

I love these two cuties so much!

This is how Aunty Katie gets Ella to smile during family pics.
Works like a charm. Every time.
We went rogue and took some pictures of our own after the family photo shoot.

Uh oh...

I've always wanted to be a dancer...

...but I should probably leave it to the professionals.

I just don't really have an explanation.

Ella was SO proud of her avocados! Papa helped her pick them!
Those brown eyes are irresistible!