Random Thoughts

I woke up this morning with all sorts of things I wanted to talk with you about, and realized that maybe it’s because I haven’t done a Random Thoughts post in awhile. Here’s what’s on my mind right at the moment.

– I didn’t realize that the last couple of weeks had worn me out so much until I hit the pillow last night, and then slept as if I’d just run a marathon. It’s been a big, emotional, jam-packed chunk of time. It feels a little funny because it’s all positive — prepping for Ralph’s return, his arrival, lots of concentrated family time, June’s baptism, hosting a house full of friends and family — but it still takes a lot out of you, you know?

And it was interesting to see my to-do list this morning. It has a completely different focus than the last few weeks — no hosting-related, or house-focused tasks at all. It’s a reminder that there are some key projects I’ve set aside, and need to pay attention to. It feels good to open my laptop and have a regular work day.

– Ralph’s gave his mission report at church yesterday, and it was excellent. There are at least a dozen tidbits I could share, but I’m going to choose one that I think was highly relatable to pretty much everyone in the audience. Near the beginning of the talk he recounted what it was like to be at the airport two years ago, alone, leaving Oakland, and how he sat down at the gate, and out of habit, reached in his pocket to pull out his phone. But there was no phone. And there wasn’t going to be a phone for two years. And how it just hit him. Like: What in the world have I gotten myself into?

– After Ralph’s report, the congregation gathered at the Baptistry, and Ralph baptized June. Betty and Oscar gave talks. Olive conducted the music. The Grandmas gave the opening and closing prayers. It was super sweet, and very short — over the years we’ve learned to keep our baptism programs to about 30 mins. We felt so loved and supported by family and friends who came for the report or the baptism or both.

– Yesterday afternoon we hosted an Open House. I’m not very good at planning for that sort of thing — trying to guess how many people will come, and how to feed them. It’s an art, I swear. Of course, my awesome family jumped in and helped. Jordan brought a huge box of adorable paper goods — in the colors of the Colombian Flag (naturally). My sisters-in-law, Traci and Megan, went right to the kitchen to help things run smoothly so I could use my time to talk with guests. My mom tackled the dishes. The guests brought potluck goodies to add to the feast. The dad of one of June’s friends from school took over water duty (refilling the dispenser with water and ice) without being asked — he just saw a need and jumped in.

Every time I looked around the room, I felt a rush of gratitude for all the good people in our lives.

– In Ralph’s talk yesterday, he recounted a memory of arriving in Colombia and hearing the experienced missionaries chatting with the taxi driver and being totally confident and comfortable in Spanish, and how he wanted to get right to the confident, expert stage immediately. And then realizing there is no short cut; if you want to get to the expert stage, you have to do the work.

That feeling resonated with me so much. I’ve felt the same way many times in my life, and find I still feel it today when I embark on a new project. I’ve been working on my hand lettering, and wanting to skip the work and get right to expert stage. Can you relate?

– Maude’s apartment hunt has been an adventure. She ended up finding a place where she’s renting the living room. Apparently it’s a common thing to do near campus, since property around here is so expensive. The landlord or tenants will put up temporary dividers in the living room to create another (mostly private) bedroom — which means the only common space in the apartment is the kitchen. So we’ve been exploring options for dividers. Freestanding accordion-fold? Curtains? Bookshelves? Something else entirely?

Maude isn’t sure she’s going to dig the living room option, so she’s keeping the commitment short term, and checking out other apartment options as well. It’s been fun for me to see her figure things out, make comprises, and tackle adulting.

– I’ve been talking about DNA tests for ages, but my siblings and mother have only recently actually started getting tested. My sister got her results back and reported that we are:

33.8% Ashkenazi Jewish
31.5% British & Irish
8.9% French & German
3.2% Scandiavian
1.0% Iberian
0.7% Eastern European
11.6 % Broadly Northwestern European
3.3% Broadly Southern European
5.9% Broadly European

And overall, 100% European.

When my brother gets his test back, we’ll know more. My mom’s side is the British & Irish side. And I feel like I know a bit about them because lots of genealogy has been done. My dad’s side is the Jewish side, but I know almost nothing about them and would love to learn more.

– I have so much energy about Alt Summit right now. I think about it all the time. I would work on it 15 hours a day if I could. I have so many ideas for the conference I want to bring to life! Are you coming?

– I’ve had an accidental social media break. I haven’t posted to Instagram, or spent time on Facebook, or checked into Twitter for the last week or so. And I’ve barely taken any photos for the whole last week. The photo above? That’s basically the only photo I took yesterday. And it was a BIG day. 

I didn’t intend to stop snapping and stop posting. I didn’t really notice I had taken a break until I flipped through my photos and realized there weren’t any. I suppose I find it difficult to both document the moment, and experience the moment at the same time. On some days I can manage it pretty well, but other times it feels like too much to pull out my phone.

– Did I tell you we shot our What to Wear to School photos? We actually shot them right before the first day of school. I just looked at the calendar today and realized that was an entire month ago! And I still haven’t processed the photos. It’s been that kind of a month. I can hardly believe how fast time is flying.

I know it’s only September, and not really time to reflect on 2018 yet. But I found myself looking back at the year and being surprised. This year has brought unexpected challenges. I feel like I started the year with a solid plan, and reasonable expectations and goals, but it seems like I keep having to change directions in big ways. For example, I really thought we would be moving to France this fall — a least for a few months — but we’ve had to set aside those plans while Ben’s startup is in fund-raising mode. Another example: at the beginning of the year, I had no idea I was going to take on an ambitious expansion of Alt Summit. And it’s really changed how I need to structure my work time.

Even the podcast! I felt like I was a few tasks away from launching, and then had to pause the whole process. Getting over a project pause can be tricky. There’s inertia that you have to overcome. You have to be re-trained, get re-familiar with the task list. It’s not quite like starting over, but it’s not totally different either.

I’m trying to roll with the changes, but I admit, it’s only with limited success. : )

– Mostly, I’m thinking about how grateful I am to have all my kids together — at least for a bit. I know it won’t last. Maude’s already off to her new apartment, and as Ralph makes plans, it won’t surprise me if they take him far from home. So I’ve just tried to be aware of how lucky I am to have a window where we’ve all been together.

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

P.S. — More random thoughts.

21 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. I’m a photographer and I can’t document the moment AND be in the moment at the same time. Major holidays get very little camera love from me, and I have to make a concerted effort to snap pics of my daughter’s birthday every year (usually after I frost the cake because… pride). I have no regrets regarding living in the moment, however. Perhaps we’ll cherish that one hastily-snapped iPhone pic far more than the others because it bears the weight of some wonderful memories.

  2. Your thoughts on Ralph’s reflections about having to “do the work” to become an expert resonated with me. My 6th grader (our oldest) has started playing the alto saxophone this year. Yesterday, he practiced for over an hour in our guest room with the door closed and his younger brother started complaining about the noise. Having played the saxophone myself for 5 years, I thought he sounded great considering he’s only been playing for a few weeks. And I know he was trying to minimize the noise by playing in a separate room from the rest of us. After suggesting to my younger son that he go outside or to the other side of the house, I also explained that we all have to start as beginners when we try new things. There’s no way around that. No one picks up an instrument and sounds amazing right away. We are all going to sound not-so-great for a while as we figure things out. And it would be good to extend his brother some grace as he tries to gain this new skill.

    I can totally understand Ralph’s impatience, don’t get me wrong, I’ve definitely felt that way myself! But as my kids get older and try more new things on their own, I also think about this idea a lot.

    Also, I always love your Random Thoughts posts. Thanks for being so generous and sharing about your life.

  3. Ralph wanting to be confident without realizing that’s earned. I love that. Reminds me of something similar I was talking to a friend about. “Nothing lasting is easy or fast”. I keep thinking of ways it applies.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  4. Back in the day, my Dad-the-photographer took any and all photos. After starting a family, I expected my husband to be on camera duty–which he had no way of knowing–and was surprised he didn’t know his role. : )

    It’s one more task to be delegated to a relative or friend. Ask a couple of people. They won’t have your eye, but you’ll get a few shots you’ll like.

    1. I always ask my sister-in-law to take pictures at our family events (baptisms, birthday parties) where I need to be “in the moment”. She loves to take photos at holidays and doesn’t mind at all. I can just enjoy it, and ensure we have a couple good snaps. Sounds like you have a wonderfully supportive family.

  5. Just wanted to chime in and add my thanks for these posts. It’s inspiring and refreshing to get a glimpse into your thoughts. Big hugs.

  6. I’m so happy for you and your family – having everyone under the same roof must be so wonderful.

    We are having a similar busy season of life right now. My husband wrote and we are self-publishing a children’s book, titled “Make America Grape Again.” It tells the story of a misguided orange who almost ruins the whole fruit salad. 🍎🍓🍏🍉🥝🍊🍒🍋. It’s been a labor of love and since we are donating a portion of the proceeds to charity, we are really hoping word of the book spreads. Selling a book is a whole new venture for us (my husband is a teacher and I’m a lawyer!) so it’s a learning experience. Add to that two full-time jobs, a 1 year old just switching day care and a 5 year old just starting kindergarten, and looking for a new house, and it’s been a wild month. It’s all wonderful, but we could use a good night’s sleep!

  7. I always ask my sister-in-law to take pictures at our family events (baptisms, birthday parties) where I need to be “in the moment”. She loves to take photos at holidays and doesn’t mind at all. I can just enjoy it, and ensure we have a couple good snaps. Sounds like you have a wonderfully supportive family.

  8. I love this: “Getting over a project pause can be tricky. There’s inertia that you have to overcome. You have to be re-trained, get re-familiar with the task list. It’s not quite like starting over, but it’s not totally different either.”

    I’ve never been able to put my finger on why it’s so hard to get back to something I’ve started and not quite finished (especially when most times there is just a tiny bit more to do) – but you’ve pegged it for me – once you’ve put it down, it’s hard to jump back in. I love the term “project-pause” – it’s like you’ve “named the beast” for me and now that I can identify it – I can tackle it! Thanks – fun post – so happy for you and your family!

  9. I’m back home after two years abroad, and for the time being my entire family is in one place. My sister is probably moving to Ireland in the next couple of months, and while we argue a lot more when we’re together a lot of the time, we’ve enjoyed doing some things as a family as well. Friday night was one of those moments where we had a great time together and it was bittersweet knowing there won’t be many more moments with all of us together soon. We made homemade mulled pear cider using pears from our yard, pearsauce (like applesauce), peach shortcake, and a yummy dinner together. It was exhausting work, but also so special (and delicious!).

  10. Dear, Precious Gabby,
    How can I thank you for your gracious and loving welcoming of me Sunday Morning Sept 9). I had thought we could stay over at a motel in Reno and be all dressed, rested and beautiful for Ralph’s homecoming. Instead we arrived at your home early Sunday morning, exhausted and looking like tramps! You were completely gracious and welcoming—-The trip to Oakland came on top of my Groberg Sibling Alaskan Cruise and I had two suitcases full of dirty clothes! You took the suitcases and did my laundry, arranged for my shower and rest along with everything else you needed to do. You did it all with grace and ease. The mission report, baptism and lovely gathering of family and friends at your home were truly glorious highlights of my entire life. Grateful for some of life’s most precious and beautiful blessings. Julia G Blair—grandma, mother-in-law

    1. This is the best! (Seriously brought terms to my eyes. ) We should all be so blessed to have a mother-in-law who truly sees and appreciates our family work and contributions in this way.

  11. As an actual European these types of DNA tests seem so weird to me. Take Germany for example, a big country in the middle of Europe, with moving borders and tons of migration throughout history – can there really be a German-French genetical “heritage” that can be clearly distinguished from Eastern European DNA? I’m not a DNA Researcher but I highly doubt it.

  12. I completely relate to the difficulty between capturing a moment and being in it. It’s why I often don’t seem to have photos when we get together with family. I want to prioritize being there, not documenting it. However, when I was with my family this summer, I made a point to get some photos of everyone because I always end up lamenting that I don’t have any. It’s a double-edged sword.

    With school events, I long ago gave up hopes of documenting anything. I feel a certain sadness when I see parents intently videoing the event rather than actually watching it.

  13. Re Maude’s Apartment – I did the same thing in my 20s. My new roommate turned into a life-long friend. SO my dad created an excellent screen. He used three louvered closet doors and hinged them together accordion style – hinges on opposite sides. Can you picture a closet with two folding doors and then adding a third to make a zig-zag? I had two of these folding screens and they have stood the test of time :) We “Verathaned” them. I don’t have my dad anymore – but I do have these screens :) I used them in all my adult homes in different ways – they are 35 years old.

  14. Me husband took a dna test – every family conversation I’ve heard in the last 20+ years involved a great grandma who was half Cherokee and his report showed no Native American. So crazy! Someone lied or didn’t know or assumed or something. But no one is talking about it!! I want to discuss it! So crazy fascinating!

  15. Please be careful using a living room as a bedroom. Depending on the layout, the room might not have an emergency exit window or the same smoke alarm protection a bedroom is required to have. It’s most likely not allowed by the local jurisdiction.

  16. I also lived in a dining room alcove, off the living room in a college apartment. I used two 36” wide x 18” deep metal bookcases/shelving units (Metro, from the Container Store) to block off my area. I hung old velvet curtains on the outside of the shelves for privacy and to block the light from the kitchen. The heavy shelves, filled with clothes, books and other items felt like a substantial barrier, and the velvet blocked most light and sound. There was about 18” between the top shelf and ceiling, so not completely private, but not an issue either. In my situation, there were sliding doors to a balcony off the dining room, so I still had plenty of light and air- if there are no windows in her area, the velvet might be too heavy.

    Oddly, I think it worked because I wasn’t great friends with my roommates. They were very nice women, but we were in different programs/majors and had our own friends, so I feel like boundaries were more defined and respected. It was harder living with close friends who would borrow clothes and food without explicitly asking.

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