Thursday, August 28, 2008

truth be told

among many other things in which i believe, i believe in telling the truth. now, telling the truth is not always one of my favorite things, but neither is the pythagorean theorum or going to church for three hours a week, and i believe in those things, too. i had to tell the truth-- the real, until-then-hidden truth-- just the other night, and it gave me one bad dream and a 12-hour panic attack. but i believe in being honest about what you think and what you feel and so i did it even though, for a few seconds, i would rather have died. or at least had a brief but life-threatening illness that let me off the hook.

and you know what?

when i was done telling the truth i felt so calm. and relieved. and happy. and i also felt really, really, really brave. i didn't put it in an e-mail. i didn't shove it to the back of my head. i didn't hint around. i said it. out loud. and there was a lot of power for me in that experience, whether or not the anticipation took five years off my life.

and that sort of powerful experience is why i have sort of a problem with the anonymous blogosphere. i started thinking about this back in may, at the rocky mountain retreat, during a panel discussion about mormon feminism on the internet.

now, i recognize that not everyone is as in love with honesty as i am, and that i have been lucky to grow up and exist in environments where it was safe for me to tell the truth. for many of the women on this panel, and at the retreat, the internet had become that environment; a place to find kindred spirits and share thoughts and feelings without fear of repercussions or judgements.

i can certainly see the value in that kind of space. we all need and deserve a place to be open and communicate as ourselves. but i also think hiding behind the mask of anonymity is just that: hiding. and it ends up shortchanging us in the end.

for starters, people say all kinds of invaluable and unkind things when no one knows who they are. (i guess i should clarify that my love affair with honesty does not include the kind that unnecessarily or maliciously hurts people's feelings.) it's plenty easy to be snarky, judgmental or just plain wrong when no one can call you out because they don't know who "you" are. it's sort of like leaving steaming poo on someone's doorstep, ringing the bell and running away (gross). i just don't like it. anonymity can also absolve us of the need to back up what we say. i can rant and rave all i want with no foundation or proof if no one can find me to demand that foundation or proof.

(editor's note: i realize that we are dealing in generalities here, and i hope you do, too. there are, obviously, exceptions to every rule, and some anonymous honesty is worthwhile and valuable. in general, though, i think it just gives us an excuse to be jerks, an excuse we are all too happy to accept whenever we can.)

more importantly, though, i think relying on anonymity to communicate important and hard truths cheats us out of the power of the experience that truth-telling can be. i do agree with the author of this article that your identity is not as important as your message. but, your identity makes your message that much stronger. we grow, we learn, we perfect as we do hard things. and when i am looking for advice, consolation, celebration of a shared experience, i am not looking for anonymous. i am looking for you.

most importantly, i really believe that if we are to see the change that truth promises, we have to be willing and able to put ourselves squarely behind that truth. we have to say it. out loud. with our names and everything else attached. it's all fine and good to vent feelings and frustrations behind the mask, but if i ever want those feelings and frustrations to be resolved, some day i am going to have to woman-up and deal with them in the real world. i am going to have to tell someone what i, not anonymous, thinks and feels. i am going to have to tell the truth.

easy? no. but, for the strength and power i believe the truth gives us, a nightmare and 12 hours of anxiety, even a little embarrassment, vulnerability or judgment, is a small price to pay.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

frances cake, take eight: the bon voyage! edition

this is marcey.

marcey is sassy and fun and sarcastic, all of which are some of my favorite traits in a person. she also wants to be the next martha stewart (sans a criminal record, i am sure), which might be annoying to someone domestically-challenged as i am, but she's not annoying about it, so it's no problem. it also means that she will bring amazing lemon tarts with real whipped cream on their own fancy cake platter to your dessert party. so there's that.

our first cake date was foiled by a dental emergency+wedding invitation emergency and i had been kind of slow about rescheduling, until she texted the other day and said she had accepted a job in seattle! and is moving next week! now it was a frances cake emergency! it was now or never, so we went with now. this was also a particularly significant frances cake outing because it was the first in my new, expansive, easy-to-use, totally-the-bomb kitchen.

marcey found this great recipe for rainbow cupcakes. these kinds of recipes are my favorite, because the finished product makes it look like you did something really hard and technical and creative and amazing, when all you really did was whip up a white cake mix, divide the batter into different bowls and add some food coloring.

my secret is safe with you, right?

though i guess you could say scooping the layers into the cupcake tins, one by one, was sort of difficult.

they baked up beautifully and colorfully,

and in the meantime we talked about lame men who can't commit, tv shows we should be watching (i am still on a quest to become addicted to "gossip girl." anyone with me?), joe biden, marcey's new job and why sometimes being a mormon outside of utah is better. briana also worked hard on her speculum sterilization pouches. (she's a midwife so she's allowed.)

marcey was only sort of terrified when she saw a bunch of speculums out on the ironing board in the dining room. i am no fan of those things, don't get me wrong, but i am used to seeing them around by now.

back to the baking, the final product was both delightful and delicious, outside and in. i ate two. (my secret is safe with you, right?)

and then, marcey was off. not forever, of course, thanks to the magic of blogging and facebook and text messages, but it won't be the same as a face-to-face over cake. good luck, marcey! we'll miss you something awful.

Monday, August 25, 2008


a few days ago briana and i went to a workshop about time management. we were late. so that should give you a pretty good idea of how good i am at managing my time.


i wasn't sure what to expect, but i thought it might be something along the lines of: don't overschedule yourself, don't agree to things you know you can't do, get enough sleep, take "me time," wear a watch, buy a planner, "be your word" and maybe some other stuff that i couldn't even think of because i am such a bad time manager to begin with.

instead, the presenter (excuse me, life coach) took us through this really cool exercise of identifying our core values. if you know your core values, she said, you instantly become a better time manager, because the only things that are worth doing are things that line up with the values that are most important to you. if something doesn't line up with your guiding values, you can just dismiss it out of hand (though exceptions can and should be made for vampire romance novels).

so, first we all wrote down an example of someone, someone we know or someone we don't, who stood up for their values even when it was inconvenient and unpopular. martin luther king, jr., the suffragettes and my mom were some examples. (my example was the time when my mom was approached by some people to select a family to receive a secret santa christmas, and then the people didn't want to help the family she chose because the people felt like that family had brought their misfortune on themselves. i don't mean to judge, but those people were really, really lame. my mom, who is not lame, did christmas for this family herself.)

then we all wrote down what a value or a value system is to us. something that guides you? something that is imposed on you by family, or a religion? a responsibility? a privilege? something for you or something for other people? something static or dynamic? something that affects every part of your life or just some parts? something that you follow all the time or just when you want to? how you define it influences how you follow it, so defining it is pretty important. we talk about "values" a lot, and it was nice to put my own meaning on it, something i could get my head around and make some sense of. for inquiring minds, i define my value system as something that helps me accomplish the things that matter most to me, but also something that focuses me outward, towards helping other people.

next we flipped our little worksheets over. there was an enormous list of values on the other side. the presenter (life coach) told us to go through and circle every single one that stuck out to us. there were all kinds of things to circle: endeavor, be amused, educate, uplift, originality, assemble, imagination, set standards, adept, tenderness, part of a community, energize, move forward, in touch with, to experience, and the list goes on. there were also lots of things i didn't want to circle: risk, danger, govern, rule, preeminence, prevail, score, energy flow, sensations, attractiveness, religious. (no one panic. i did circle relate with God, honoring, devoting and holy, which i think are all better than just plain religious anyway.)

from there, we narrowed our long list of circles down to ten: influence, set standards, serve, improve, be connected, family, part of community, learn and accomplish were mine.

then it got hard. we had to narrow our ten down to three. from those ten things, which were the absolutely, indisputably most important things that i couldn't live without? i finally settled on: learn, improve and be connected.

and i feel pretty good about it.

ultimately, i feel like those things encompass all the other values i circled originally. i can be connected to my family, my community, God. i can improve myself and the situation of others by serving, honoring, being accepting. i can learn by experiencing, using my imagination, embracing the unknown.

i also learned that sometimes the end is not as important as the means. accomplish, for example, was one of my ten values, and i think it's pretty important. a lot of the work i have done in my life has been to accomplish something: finishing college, a mission, meeting a deadline, crossing off goals. i like to accomplish. but the things required to accomplish are, ultimately, more important to me than the accomplishing itself. i didn't know that before.

all in all, a most enlightening and well spent evening, and i highly recommend trying it. there is something really empowering about knowing what is most important to you, knowing why you act the way you do and make the choices you make. it certainly has the potential to remove the need to justify every decision we make, which can only be a good thing if you ask me.

the only trouble?

"none of these really include an addiction to vampire romance," i whispered to briana.

"that's why you need to add this one," she said.

and then she circled, "be hedonistic."

what a friend.

p.s. this and other empowerment sessions are free to you if you become a member of the ywca. (i know you wanna!) for more information, go here.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

i believe in a thing called love

if it can happen for tortoises, it can happen for me. right?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

frances cake(plates)

one of my more recent friend crushes is emily, with whom i have been trying to schedule a frances cake date for what seems like ages. we seem to suffer from the same (spacey in my case) over-scheduling malady (nice to know there are others like you, no?) so we scheduled a bunch of cake dates that didn't work out and then she went on this cleanse with no sugar or dairy or, basically, food, and frances cake just does not work without those things. it seemed doomed.

but then, she invited me over to make cake plates! if there is a better substitute for making actual cake, i don't know what it is.

making cake plates is possibly the easiest craft in this history of craftiness (besides, i guess, buying crafts and pretending you made them). so simple, in fact, that even i could not mess it up. too badly.

first, you buy a plate. we all made some great finds at d.i., which is where i was faced with the first moral dilemma of the project. to break up a set of four plates by only buying one, or not? i did. judge me if you will.

next you find a base. bases can be anything with a bottom wider than the top, including candlesticks, vases or cups turned upside down. the only trick, i learned the hard way, is to make sure the side of the base you are attaching to the plate (i'll tell you how to do that in just a minute. patience!) is perfectly flat. one of my bases had a not-perfectly-flat edge and it never adhered properly. the good news was, there were lots of extra bases. the better news was, my replacement base was even cuter than the original.

so, once you have a plate and a (flat) base, you take some epoxy, spread it on the top of the base, stick the top of the base on the bottom of the plate and, well, actually, you're done! don't believe me? check out some photos of our crafty night here.

yep. that's it. my kind of craft, for sure. and maybe it should be yours, too. pretty much impossible to screw up (well, i guess you could glue yourself to something, but none of us did, so it seems like a small risk), and all you're out is $2 in thrift store dishes. in fact, these guys are so cheap and easy to make, we decided it would be cool to take people cakes and cookies and other treats on our little creations and then leave them the plates, you know, as a little gift. be super nice and maybe, just maybe, you'll get one soon.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

perfect end to a perfect day (cliffhanger resolved)

the trouble with a cliffhanger ending, i have learned, is that it does put a lot of pressure on the next post. i mean, with all that anticipation i feel like i should be announcing that i met jake gyllenhaal in a gas station in vernal and now we're engaged, or something equally magnificent. but really the perfect end to our perfect day was that, on our way home, we stumbled upon the most perfect small town parade in duschene.

disappointed? well, it was no jake gyllenhaal, but it was still pretty much the best thing ever. it was everything you might expect from a small town parade, including a high school band, pretty girls on pretty horses and children who probably can't even walk driving four-wheel vehicles.

there was also candy! so much candy! just flying through the air. we did pretty well, but not as well as the kids next to us. there were pretty aggressive, and if you check out their stash, i think you'll agree that it paid off.

but, did the fun end there? of course not! we learned from the people standing next to us that it wasn't just a parade. there was a fair! a real life, small town fair. which is my favorite kind. it was cousin bucky's first fair, so i think you can imagine how excited he was.

after i completely mortified myself dancing along to the music of some completely lame and untalented band, we settled down to a delicious dinner of fair food, one of my favorite kinds of food, and luckily one of heidi's, too. even heather broke her no-wheat, no-sugar, no-dairy rule (you kind of have to with fair food) and joined us.

we started with dutch over potatoes...

... then a red dog, which was really just an oddly-colored hot dog (don't ask, don't tell, right?)...

and finished it off with funnel cake, the ultimate in small town fair indulgence.

so, not jake gyllenhaal down on one knee (maybe if i keep typing it, it will come true), but not a bad perfect ending, wouldn't you say?

Monday, August 11, 2008

rolling on the river

a few years ago (i think it was two, but i can't be sure), in an attempt to make myself a more interesting and well-rounded person, i made a goal to tackle a bunch of things i had been putting off because of fear or insecurity, and dubbed the project "the year of frances." during that year i took a pottery class and a bread-making class, i got up on water skis for the first time, i took a trip to argentina by myself, i fell in love, i rode my first century, i switched jobs and accomplished a host of other impressive tasks.

i had such a good time becoming a better person that the concept of "the year of frances" has lived on. (i toyed with the idea of dubbing "the life of frances," but my parents thought that might be a little selfish and exclusionary.) this summer, which i think i might retroactively dub "the summer of adventure," has been particularly full of "year of frances"-style firsts, and this weekend saw another one. are you ready? can you guess?

here's a hint.

that's right! my first white water rafting trip!

heather found us a great day trip along the split mountain gorge section of the green river, starting in dinosaur national monument. all the work (including making a delicious lunch!) was handled by capable and affable river guides, and we were just along for the most delightful ride. also along for the fun was cousin bucky, relative to emdawg's finger-friend, ollie. cousin bucky is sure to be our companion on many adventures to come.

we headed down to vernal on friday night and the original plan involved camping, but the weather looked like this:

so we lucked out and "camped" on my cousin natalie's couches instead. which is my favorite kind of camping (the kind with a bathroom) so that worked out well. plus we got to watch the opening ceremonies of the olympics. that is not what this post is about, but they were ah-mazing.

we arrived at adrift adventures bright and early, were assured we would not die on the river (though we did have to sign a sort of scary release) and were fitted for life jackets and helmets. apparently, a life jacket fits best when it constricts all ability to breathe. also, life jackets and helmets are hot.

on our way to the put-in (that's the lingo for where you, well, put the boats into the water. i know. duh. but i wanted to sound in-the-know) we stopped in the monument for a quick hike up to some petroglyphs. i learned a few interesting facts that i can't remember now.

the interesting petroglyph facts don't really matter though (do they?) because the main event was the wild, untamed river! ok, actually, it wasn't that dramatic. but it was perfect for a first-timer like me. there were some pretty gnarly rapids where we got to use phrases like, "thread the needle" and shout "let's run it!" but there was also plenty of mellow water where we could jump out and swim, and enjoy the truly breathtaking scenery. we even pulled over to check out a bat-cave, though, luckily, the creatures kept to themselves.

we enjoyed delicious taco salad for lunch, while cousin bucky worked on his tan.

and we also made friends with our raft partners, an unbelievably nice family from upstate new york. the son, ben, has been living in colorado for the summer, working at a wildlife refuge, and his parents, jen and pete, had come out to visit him. they asked us all about ourselves and utah and told us all about their lives, and everyone laughed at all my jokes, which was a big plus.

our river guide, ian, was just as darling a river guide as anyone could ever hope for. his family actually used to own adrift adventures and he has been working as a river guide every summer since he was 16. when he's not guiding he studies geology in hawaii. i know, i know. let's all take a moment to feel sorry for him and his perfect life.

thanks to ian's skilled guiding, we arrived safe and whole at the end of the run. the day flew by and i was actually sad to see it come to an end.

cousin bucky was a little sad, too, what with all the attention he was getting from the ladies.

but the perfect day was far from over. stay tuned...

(that was my first cliff-hanger ending. how did i do?)

Friday, August 8, 2008

fedex frances: a flashback (and a lot of alliteration, too)

my dear and old friend, dr. siak (not his real name, but this one is a lot cooler, no?), just got engaged (that seems to be happening a lot lately), which is wonderful news for him and even better news for his betrothed, because we are all pretty sure the good doctor is going to be a tiger in the sack.

it is also wonderful news because it gives me an excuse to blog about one of my favorite life experiences, commonly referred to as "that one time i delivered packages for a day."

dr. siak, you see, brings happiness and love into the lives of others (at least the others in cottonwood heights) by delivering packages for fedex, which is all fine and good until you wake up one morning puking your guts out and can't do your route. that's when you call me and, since i only work a half-day on fridays (and this happened to be a friday), i offer to come meet you at your house (with some gatorade and saltines) and ride along with you, running the packages to the door while you slump over the wheel and try not to hurl.

seems like a pretty good plan, right? except that when i got to his house, it was pretty clear dr. siak was way too sick even to drive. he barfed in the bushes three times in the space of ten minutes. i felt so bad for him. it was also completely disgusting. anyway, siak's dad was there, too, and he came up with an alternate plan: papa siak and i would do the route ourselves! just the two of us! just the two of us who had only met once before, who knew nothing about each other and who were now about to spend ten-and-a-half hours together in a delivery van.

how could i say no?

now, let me paint the scene for you. papa and i were just in normal "street clothes," him in your usual dad-style khaki shorts and a polo, and i think i was wearing camo shorts and birkenstoks. no fancy fedex hats or shirts for us. oh, and did i mention that dr. siak's delivery van was in the shop that day so he had rented a penske van? you know, the yellow kind that people use to move? so, imagine a yellow penske van pulling up to your house, and a spry, khaki-clad grandpa springing out and running up to your doorstep, announcing he has a delivery from fedex. yeah. i think you can see what we were up against.

the first little while was a little rough. even with really detailed directions, we had close to no idea where we were going, and neither of us are super great with finding our way around unfamiliar territory. i did get to use my spanish a lot though, trying to figure out where in the hell we were and what way we should be headed. and let's not forget that papa siak and i were complete strangers, chilling in a delivery van together. it started out a little awkward, to say the least.

but, once we got the hang of the route, and each other, it wasn't so bad after all. we talked about military spending and women's roles and budgeting and family dynamics and we mastered the little package scanner and dr. siak called every hour or so to see how we were doing.

siak: how's it going, france?
(heave, heave)
me: good. don't worry about us.
siak: what are you and my dad talking about?
me: feminism.
siak: frances, please don't talk about that crap with my dad.
(heave, heave)
siak: i gotta go.

at some point in the conversation, it came out that papa siak, who is remarkably fit, teaches weight-lifting aerobic classes. a few minutes later, we drove past a gold's gym. and that's when this happened:

papa: oh! i am teaching a class at that gold's gym tomorrow morning.
me: how nice.
papa: have you ever gone to a gold's gym before?
me: no. i don't really work out in gyms.
papa: why not?
me: well, um, well, the thing is, well, it's just that i am sort of self-conscious about my body and i just, well, um, well, i just don't really like to work out in front of other people.
papa: frances.
papa: you have a very nice body.
papa: and i can say that. because i am a professional.

i don't think it is difficult to understand why this is one of my favorite conversations of all time.

the rest of the day was more of the same: we ate snacks, drank water (for papa) and diet coke (for me), got lost, got found, guessed house numbers, brought joy, coded packages, told funny stories and in general had a delightful time. until it was past 10 at night and we were still not all that close to being done. we hadn't started until one in the afternoon, you see. plus we were slow.

despite my pretty excessive whining and rapidly decreasing energy/ability to be pleasant, we decided to forge ahead and deliver every last package. although when papa rang a bell and a man answered the door in his pajamas, we decided maybe it would be better to just leave the packages on the doorstep from then on.

by 11:30p.m. or so, we were on the road home. i was exhausted, but also filled with that sense of awesomeness that comes from having worked really hard on behalf of someone else. papa siak was somehow still full of happy (annoying) energy. as we pulled off the freeway, he turned to me with a big smile on his face and said, "well, frances, i think it is safe to say that you and i are... intimate."

and so, to dr. and the soon-to-be mrs. siak: congratulations! may you be happy and intimate as well. just not with your dad.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

so long, farewell...

in a sad but ultimately inevitable development, susan and jessica have left/are leaving us for grad school in california/a grown-up job in the district, which puts a big hole in my social calendar, not to mention my little heart. (too cheesy? get over it.)

the only silver lining is that their departure provided an opportunity for a good-bye dinner, which dave suggested should involve bad 80s prom attire secured from that bastion of thrift shopping, the d.i. i am not going to lie. i thought this was a weird idea and i wasn't that into it at first. i mean, at very first it sounds sort of funny (adults going in public in ugly clothes! how hilarious and deliciously unconcerned with social conventions!) but then when you are sitting on your couch getting ready to leave, it suddenly seems less appealing. that is until you finally break down and put on this over-sized piece of fashion heaven, after which you decide there is nothing you want to do more than wear it to the oasis cafe.

(i am not sure this picture does absolute justice. the skirt is sort of furry and has sparkles, and i practically had to walk sideways through doors to avoid disturbing the sleeves.)

everyone else was similarly, and delightfully attired, though i feel like mastermind dave got off a little easy with his suit coat, tie and cut-offs combo (though he did change his order so as not to order the same thing as me, because he knows it makes me insane when two people at the table order the same thing, and even though there is no good reason for that particular neuroses, he is nice enough to go along with it. so i guess i can't be too mean about his lame outfit).

so, dinner was delicious and the funny clothes were funny, but the best part was celebrating susan and jessica, who have been such welcome additions to my life over the past year.

susan is kind and unflappable and it was truly a joy to live with her, especially when she joined me in "battlestar galactica" fanaticism. we also watched episodes of bad dance competition reality shows online ("dance war carry-ann vs. bruno" anyone?) and made a quiche with entirely local ingredients and also skipped work to watch "step up 2: the streets" in the movie theater. one time i verbalized a craving for sour patch kids (best.candy.ever) and the next day when i came home from work, a bag of them was waiting on my pillow. also, one time when ck said, "susan, can i use your bananas?" susan said, "sure! go bananas!" and that sort of encapsulates everything i love about her.

jessica (who we inherited from dana, who we inherited from the gods of interconnectedness) is that kind of friend you didn't realize you missed having until you have one. (stay with me.) she has an extraordinary ability to put everyone else's self-interest before her own, even when everyone else is annoying and less-than-deserving. she makes great vegan chili, loves sports and bad tv unabashedly (as should we all) and also opened up a lot of life-changing adventure to me this year, most notably the epic subway hike.

and so, dear friends, adieu. though hopefully not for long. because my new teal dress is pretty awesome, but not as awesome as you.