Random Thoughts

Who’s in the mood for a Random Thoughts post? Here’s what’s been on my mind lately.

– I’m still working on a little Alt Summit report for you, so watch for that in a bit. Something that always surprises me after the conference: I imagine I’m going to get a break afterwards. A few days of calm to recharge and reset. But it has never happened. Life just keeps going, you know? After the event, I arrive home to a big full house, which means laundry and scout campouts and someone has a tick and someone else needs cough drops and don’t forget to pay for the AP tests and all the Design Mom deadlines I missed over the last month are still waiting for me, long overdue. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m the owner/CEO of Altitude Summit — a popular conference for creative entrepreneurs and social media folks.)

This is not a complaint. I love my life. This was the 14th conference in 9 years. I suppose I’m just surprised that I’m still surprised all these years later that life keeps going despite my personal calendar. : )

– My second oldest child, Maude, turned 19 on Sunday. I have a 19 year old and a 20 year old. That is unbelievable to me.

Maude LOVES college. She loves picking classes, she loves that the teachers and students take learning seriously, she loves making new friends, she loves showing off the city to newcomers.

Last night, she got news that she was accepted to a Study Abroad program in Paris for this fall. She worked hard on her application and essay and we’re super proud of her. We’re not totally sure about our own fall plans, but are still hoping to spend the fall in France, so if Maude is in Paris, that would be amazing.

One funny thing about the Study Abroad program: It’s less expensive than attending Berkeley, because room and board is so pricey in the Bay Area.

– Speaking of Paris and France, this morning, Olive and Maude flew there for a 10-day trip. Their friend Nola went with them too. Sixteen-year-old Olive planned the whole thing. She started months ago. She found bargain plane tickets, made arrangements to stay with friends during some of the trip, and at an Airbnb for the last few days. She babysat a ton for friends and neighbors, and worked at the Color Factory on weekends, and saved her pennies. She figured out an itinerary. She made a budget. She planned every detail.

I’ve taken my kids to the airport many times at this point, and I’m always emotional about it. But today, there were less tears and more joy. What an adventure they’re going to have! They looked so good standing in line at security — confident and happy and independent and stylish. How many sister trips like this will they get to have in their lifetime? I hope it’s so dang good.

– Ralph is still on a mission in Colombia. He is starting his last 6 months (of two years). We expect he’ll return at the end of August or early September. We think he’ll get home too late to enroll in fall semester (which starts here in mid-August), so if our fall in France works out, we’re hoping he’ll be able to join us.

He still loves being on a mission. His Spanish is awesome, and he’s had lots of leadership opportunities. Right now he has a position called AP (which stands for Assistant to the Mission President), and it means he flies all over the mission, and gets to know every area. Ralph isn’t the most conventional missionary, so apparently, the other missionaries were a bit scandalized that he was asked to be AP. Hah!

– Another Mormon update: Mormons are organized into Stakes and Wards. A Stake might cover a whole city (I’m in the Oakland Stake), and within the Stake, there might be 9 or 10 different Wards, which is the Mormon word for congregation (I’m in the Oakland First Ward). Anyway, every 6 months, there is a Stake-wide meeting instead of a normal Sunday meeting with the Ward. Sunday was Stake Conference, and the new Church President showed up. A total surprise!

We tend to skip Stake Conference — it always seems like the perfect day to visit a museum — but happened to attend because we had some friends who were going to speak. I’m glad we showed up.

Sunday evening, we attended a lecture on Mormon Millennials by Jana Riess. The lecture was based on data from a countrywide survey of Mormons and no-longer-Mormons. The survey responses were organized by generation and it was super interesting to see in charts how things have changed and are changing in the church.

– I think it’s time for new phones at the Blair house. Ben Blair and I have had an iPhone 6 for years now and they’ve always been fine. But suddenly it’s like they hit a wall. It seems like overnight they’ve become super slow and won’t keep a charge.

I confess I’m feeling intimidated about shopping for a new phone. There have been a ton of updates since we last bought them and I’m not sure what the best fit will be. Are you an iPhone user? What version do you have these days? Do you have an oversize version?Do we need to jump to iPhoneX? Or will an 8 be just fine? 

– Room & Board did a fun Q&A with me about our Family Room redo. I still love the new room so much. It truly went from my least favorite room to my most favorite room. We spend so much time there now!

– The kids and I started watching Queer Eye yesterday. Have you seen the new reboot on Netflix? I don’t know what the deal is, but we watched the first two episodes and I cried during both of them. The new Fab Five are nailing it — charming, kind, positive, and full of love. You can read a review of the new series in the Atlantic.

That’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. – More random thoughts.

76 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. I had the same reaction to the new Queer Eye. The guys’ compassion and positivity seems so genuine and is totally engaging. I have cried in every episode so far!

    1. YES! It’s so happy and endearing. I love the new group of guys and the men getting make overs are also charming.

      When will they have a Queer Eye with 5 women? It’s time!

    2. I’ve binge watched the whole first season and loved it!! I had never seen the show before, and I’m in love with these Fabulous Five,they are so adorable!! My favorite episode was the first one, I couldn’t stop crying!

        1. Just watched the first 2 episodes of QE and cried too! I haven’t seen the original so wasn’t sure what to expect but I was blown away at how confident the two guys were and how talented the Fab 5 are. Heartwarming, inspiring, and a little cheeky!

  2. I have an iphone 6 myself and just this though “maybe I should shop finally for a new phone”. Not sure what I’ll get. They are all so expensive these days! I remember getting the iPhone 3GS or something way back when upgrading for like $100.

    1. They really are pricey! I’m considering Apple’s replacement plan, where you basically lease a phone and get a new one each year. Applecare is built in. That might make the most sense for me.

  3. Oh I love when unconventional people are called to leadership positions! Go Ralph! What a great thing for all the shocked missionaries. Yes!!!

  4. One of my favorite teen memories is when my parents let me at 18 take my 16 year old sister to nyc alone for a long weekend. My parents always let us do things alone and it really helped foster a sense of self and confidence. Now that I’m a mom I can’t fathom having the bravery to let my daughter ride her bike around the block let alone go on a trip alone but I know I need to. Kudos to you for letting the girls plan and go on an adventure. I always admire your parenting.

    1. Agree, Bets! Gabby, pat yourself on the back, woman! You are nailing this parenting thing. It’s inspiring.

    2. The idea of my kids exploring New York makes me smile. We lived there for so long (8 years) and 3 of them were born there, and they basically have no memories of it. I’d love to move there for the summer and just run around like crazy.

      Emily, thank you for the kind words.

  5. I don’t know what an unconventional missionary is so I’d love for you to expand on that. What is Ralph like and what makes him different? What do they normally look for in one to become an AP? What are the benefits of an unconventional missionary becoming an AP? If the others were scandalized does that mean that they responded negatively to Ralph when he became AP? Were they negative towards him the whole time for being different? I’m not mormon so this fascinates me!

    1. I honestly don’t really know since I’m not there and only get glimpses of life on his mission through his emails. But I do know (and commented below — sorry for the repetition) that a typical AP is an A-Type person. Picture Mitt Romney as a 19 year old. And Ralph just doesn’t fit that mold.

      I don’t think people responded negatively to Ralph, because Ralph has figured out how to get along with pretty much anyone. They just maybe didn’t take him seriously, so the leadership assignment surprised them.

      And of course this is just a guess.

    1. Yes. Speaking as a lifelong, many-generations back Mormon, when a family member leaves the faith it’s also like they’ve left our tribe. Other families may deal with it differently, but I know in ours it feels like a rejection and impacts family relationships in a hard way.

    2. I’ll add my experience as a practicing Mormon whose sister and her family recently decided to no longer practice. It IS sad and disorienting because our beliefs and traditions are deeply-held; it has rocked our worlds.

      That said, there is no ostracizing or judgement (as far as I’m aware) from my family or their former church friends. I hope there is mutual respect, but of course am aware that that is often not the case when a person leaves a religion or shared culture. It’s tough.

      1. I am a return missionary and I feel strongly in my testimony at times. Then other times, I wonder about my testimony and if religion is just a man-made thing. I married a non-member that is not religious and I am sure he has spurred some of my thoughts. I have pondered leaving my beliefs…but it is SO ingrained in me. It is my culture and I do glean a lot from the friendships and the knowledge of others. I cannot escape the fact that studying the religious teachings pushes me to be a better person. I believe ultimately that it is worth it for me to have that in my life. However, I now have two children and one is similar to his father. I wonder if he will leave the church. It hurts me to think of it, but then I completely get it too. My brother is not a practicing member. And it would great if he was, but we don’t judge him. I think it would come as more of a shock to my family if I left the church after having been so involved. Mormonism is more than a religion…it is a culture, as Gabrielle has made mention to before in other posts.

    3. Good question, Mimi. I’m one of 8 siblings and I’m currently the only one who is a practicing Mormon. About 6 years ago all 8 of us were practicing, and I was one of the “least Mormony” among my siblings — meaning I’m not hesitant to be vocally critical of the church, and don’t make the church my first priority. These days, I’m still in the same place, but now all my siblings have shifted away from the church, so now I’m the most Mormon-y. It didn’t happen all at once; it happened over years.

      This hasn’t changed my relationships with my siblings at all, and I haven’t found it stressful or difficult. Obviously, they know what the Mormon church has to offer and if it’s not working for them, then I totally get that. It’s not going to work for everybody. But I know it was a hard shock for my Mom when they stopped practicing Mormonism.

  6. I don’t know if you’re on the Missionary Mommas Facebook group, but I learned you can ask your bishop/ward clerk for their release date, which they have in the system from the get go. My daughter just left the MTC, but I know (pending health issues/decision to come home early/extend) her exact return date right now, which I love as a mom. Exciting to be on the countdown!

    1. Um, not Mormon here (obviously) but this just sounds so weird. If the date is planned ahead like that, why wouldn’t everybody involved know it from the get-go? OK, great, so you’re saying if you’re in on the secret handshake you can ask and find out, but why in the world wouldn’t it be made known to all concerned by default? – I mean, other than for cultish mind-control reasons, that is? That just sounds incredibly controlling and manipulative!

      1. I think the only reason some don’t know the date is because it can vary within a small window of time for logistics sake.

    2. Good to know on release date info. I imagine now that so much is online it’s easier to communicate this stuff.

      Anna, my guess on why there’s not a focus on the end date is that stuff changes so fast. Missionary life doesn’t work out for everybody so some people come home earlier than expected. And there are people that have sudden health issues that come up and need to head back home as well. I know one missionary that was in Colombia with Ralph went home a couple weeks earlier than originally planned in order to attend a funeral of his grandfather.

      We go into it knowing it’s essentially a 2 year commitment — so since Ralph left to Colombia on September 13th, I can assume he’ll come home around then too. Honestly, I haven’t thought about his coming home date until recently — because I didn’t know if he’d want to stay the whole time anyway.

      Answer aside, what’s with the aggression in your comment? Do you talk about all religions this way, or just Mormonism?

    1. I just got a new battery for my iPhone 6, and it’s like it has new lease on life! The discounted battery replacement program lasts through 2018, and can also be done by an Apple approved service provider.

    2. So I went into the Apple store to get this new battery for my iPhone 6 per the whole slow battery thing..my phone also randomly shuts off (with high-full charge and quite sporadically) and can take a few minutes to turn back on. They ran the battery diagnostic and found I actually have a great battery. They said they’ve had good luck having users reset to factory settings and also being on the latest update. After backing everything to the cloud, we did both those things and now my phone is quick and zippy. I would try that first! Good luck :) Also, I’ve heard the 8 is awesome and has a stellar camera!

    3. I had the same issues with my iPhone 6 and upgraded to an 8. The battery thing made me very angry at Apple, but I just couldn’t switch to another platform. There was an awesome Portrait setting for the camera that they demoed in the 7 so I thought I would be getting that in the 8. Turns out it is now only available in the 8 Plus or the X.

    4. So helpful, C. Based on your awesome advice, we visited the Apple Store. Ben’s phone battery can be replaced, but my phone had some water damage (that I didn’t know about), so they won’t replace it. So it looks like I’m still going to need to replace it.

      At the end of the day, that’s fine with me. I use it for work so much that it’s good to have a better camera. You know?

      1. The 7 Plus has a fancy camera/Portrait mode, too!

        I had the 7 Plus for that reason, but it was just. so. big. My husband surprised me with the X (which I was not wanting, because of $$$ and I too am still a little angry at Apple), but holy crap – the x is amazing!

  7. You are the mother I want to be. I find it so inspiring that your kids are so resourceful and that you encourage this trait in all of them in their own unique way.

  8. Pamela Balabuszko-Reay

    Loads of comments in my mind about your Random Thoughts this time. But I only have time for one. QUEER EYE. Tears and more tears. The love and encouragement and care is so needed in our world right now. Love it.

  9. Traci Barr Segal

    My husband and I just upgraded to the 8. Easy peasy, it’s just like the 6. Yesterday, a friend was over and complained about her new X. It doesn’t have the familiar button on the bottom of the screen, instead one uses a swiping motion. She just can’t get used to it and traded it in last night for the 8. It also felt bulky and heavy. 📱📲😀

  10. Loved all of these, Gabby! I hope I can raise my kids to be so confident and competent. What an awesome European adventure! And I’d love to hear more about Ralph’s unconventional ways. I think we need a lot more of that! And I have an iPhone 8 and am loving it. 😘

    1. iPhone 8 is getting a lot of love in the comments. Good to know.

      On Ralph’s unconventional ways, I’m not totally sure, but I know his emails home don’t read like typical mormon missionary letters. An example. The Mission President sent me and Ben and our Stake President a little email talking about how awesome Ralph is on the mission, and the Stake President was totally surprised. I mean the Stake Pres. loves Ralph, but based on Ralph’s letters — which are often quirky cultural observations — he had the impression Ralph wasn’t doing much work. Ralph can give the impression he’s not taking things seriously when he’s totally taking things seriously.

  11. I enjoyed this post so much. Especially the thoughts on church. I was just thinking…Ralph must be done with his mission soon. It seems like yesterday that you were sending him off. Isn’t that strange that to others it goes by fast, but to the family that is missing their children, two years seems like forever?

    I am so impressed by your girls. They are so independent. I traveled to France when I graduated from high school. All my friends went to beach week (I didn’t drink, so what was the point?). My family had two exchange students the summer before from France, so I visited them for two weeks. It was exciting to go on a trip all by myself. At that time though, (1997) I didn’t have a phone to connect so easily with family and friends. I just had to trust they would make it to the airport to pick me up! Fortunately it all worked out!

    I am curious about how Ralph is an unconventional missionary…please share more. I love learning about your family’s religious dynamics. I feel very spiritually similar to you in many ways. I also served a mission, so I would love to hear about his experience.

    Thanks for sharing your random thoughts!

    1. Cell phones, skype and social media truly make a huge difference when thinking about traveling teens. What a huge blessing they are. (The teens and the technology.)

      On Ralph being unconventional, I’m not totally sure. I think APs tend to be type A sorts. (Imagine a 19 year old Mitt Romney.) And Ralph has never really fit that bill.

  12. Oh my gosh! Besides all the other fun things, you just reminded me to pay for the AP tests this week! EEEP!!

  13. Tamara K Lang

    My baby girl is studying in Florence this semester, and it’s also cheaper than a semester at Hofstra. It’s been a great life experience for her so far (including getting her phone stolen, ugh) and she loves it, but we are both also counting down the days until she’s home again.

  14. I am continually impressed by how you support your teenagers to go on adventures! I don’t think my parents would have let me travel abroad alone (or with my sister) at 16, though once we started college that changed and they’ve been nothing but supportive of my siblings and I travelling and going on adventures.

  15. Is Maude by any chance attending American University of Paris at her study abroad semester? If yes, that’s my Alma Mater! Loved my university years in Paris.

  16. My 14 year old daughter insisted I’m not allowed to watch any episodes of Queer Eye without her, we’ve loved it and cried in several episodes! I switched from the 6 to 8+ phone lately and I thought I would hate the larger size, but I wanted the new camera and LOVE it (and can’t imagine going back to the smaller screen now.) And last random bit, we have a rather spontaneous trip to Paris next month and I’ll be solo most days with my six kids (hubby working) and I thought of your family! It helped me feel brave. I went through your old posts for shopping ideas, too, to remind me of what I wanted to stock up on this time in France – thank you for those, and for this post, and for your openness in sharing your thoughts and ideas. <3

    1. I really appreciate the kind words, Heidi. I love that the posts made you feel brave. Makes me super happy. Have so much fun in Paris. Eat all the baguettes!

  17. The France trip sounds wonderful, as does the semester in France for Maude. I’d like my daughter to study abroad when she goes to college. It’s a real regret of mine that I never did that.

    Speaking of trips, I’m in the early stages of planning a Christmas trip to Hawaii for this year. My husband and I are both turning 50 this year so this will be our 50th in the 50th celebration. ;) Our daughter will be in her senior year of high school so it will also likely be our last big trip when she’s at home. It’s our first (and probably only) visit to Hawaii. I’m thinking of doing the Big Island since it seems like it offers a lot of what we’re interested in. So exciting but so expensive!

    1. A trip to Hawaii sounds like the perfect way to celebrate the big five oh. Awesome! If you haven’t already bought plane tix, I swear I saw Alaska was just running a sale to Hawaii.

  18. You are allowed to complain about features of a life that you love, Gabby! They are not mutually exclusive. You are doing a lot of challenging things; you don’t have to like being tired, nor should any reader begrudge you for honestly saying so.

    1. Borrowing the wisdom from this statement for myself! Just had a hearty complaining session about the treadmill of life – a very blessed and loved life – and was feeling terribly guilty. Thank you for this reminder!

    2. Thank you for this comment! It’s so true and a good reminder. I was a stay-at-home-mom when my kids were growing up (they’re 19 and 20 now, and now I work from home), and certain people couldn’t believe I ever had a complaint about it. I loved being home with my kids, and I don’t like to complain too much, but doesn’t EVERYONE get to complain about their job/life sometimes? I mean, nobody is a saint! :)

  19. I loved reading Jana Riess’s post about your stake conference with Pres. Nelson showing up– it made me wonder how much of our church leaders’ personalities I’d assumed wrongly about. :) It sounded like a great meeting. Your daughters’ Paris trip sounds awesome– how great for them! And I too needed the reminder about paying for APs! Eek, this school year will be over before I know it.

  20. I adore the new Queer Eye! I never binge watch shows, but that one I watched all day long a few weeks ago. I still get a happy feeling remembering that day! And wish I could go back and watch them all again…Maybe I just will. It’s so positive and kind and they had SO many wonderful conversations and transformations. Just what our world needs.

  21. My random thoughts…I have the 6 still and it is Sloooowwwww because of the battery too. I’m going to buy the $29 battery at the store to hang onto it awhile. I upgraded my daughter to the 8 a few months ago…she LOVES it! Works similar to the 6/7. Her bestie got the new X, hates it and has also gone back to an 8.

    And can we talk Queer Eye??? Holy moly I’m old enough to have been around to watch the original fab 5, which I loved back then. And I love it even MORE now and yes I’m that mom that cry through it too:)

    Also, I have been fascinated by the Mormon religion for some time now and love to read mommy blogs which 99% percent of them seem to be Mormon. I like to read about their very normal lives and all seem to be very/extremely faithful in their religion OR they have been conflicted – question their faith and have made the painful decision to drop out. I don’t understand it as my own faith will never waver or change (just your normal good ol’ midwestern Lutheran here). But it seems there are a lot of women of late who are leaving it behind. So fascinating.

    Anyway, happy Wednesday, the weekend is ALMOST here!!!

    1. It’s true! There are a proliferation of female Mormon bloggers. They’re all fabulous and supportive and each different in their own way. Anyone else notice?

    2. Just found out I can’t get my battery replaced because apparently I have water damage and didn’t even know it. : (

      And I hear you on noticing that people are leaving their faith behind. I’ve definitely seen it among people I know in real life. I’ve read a bit about this and it’s happening across all religions. It’s super interesting.

  22. In January, I upgraded from a 6 to a 7. (I was having issues beyond those that could be fixed with a new battery.) After some research online and in the Apple Store, my husband and I figured out that the things Apple added to the 7 to make it an 8 weren’t features that mattered to me, so we decided to save the money. I’ve been happy with the 7 so far!

  23. Diana Naldoza

    A little off topic…I’m taking my 14 yr old granddaughter and 12 yr old grandson to Paris for a week this summer.
    I know exactly what to do, where to go with my grandaughter but I’m worried about finding interesting, fun things to do in Paris with my grandson. Any advice, hints?

  24. First off, I love your blog- a wonderful mix of family, political and current events as well as a focus on womens issues with a touch of decorating and travel as well! I was raised Catholic but am now a-religious and I wonder if you might devote a post to the reasons Mormons feel the need to proselytize? Have aways wondered why Christians or other religions feel the ned to impose their belief on others, and mormens are so intersting in that aspect in that they hav the 3 year committment for men (and I think for some women but am not sure). I mean no disrepect, just truely wonder why a Mormen would wnat someone in China, South Korea, or India (with historically such different beliefs) to think the sam as they do?? :)

    1. I’m sure you’re right that the topic deserves a whole post. I don’t think it’s about wanting people to “think the same.” It’s based in scripture — basically a command from Jesus to go teach people in his name.

  25. When Maude and Olive return, might they be willing to do a guest post on sightseeing recommendations in France through teenage eyes? I work with teenagers, and am also hoping to take a couple of young relatives to Europe when they get to their early teens, and I would love to read such a post.

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