Rob’s New Office!

Last November Rob called me with some great news. Someone at work had moved, leaving an office open and available for the taking. Rob jumped on the chance and started working in it right away, staking his claim before clearing it with anyone. After a couple of days of camping out in it he got approval and now he has four walls and a closing door. How exciting!

One of the first things that popped in my head when I heard the news was, “Ooh, can we decorate it?!”

Rob initially didn’t think decorating was necessary even though he is working in that box all day, every day. He should feel good and comfortable and confident, right? And how could you possibly feel those things when you’re trapped somewhere that looks like this?

I mean, it’s not Aleppo or anything so I suppose it could be worse…but it could also be a whole lot better.

Ideas swirled. Initially I was thinking of a midcentury engineering office look (slide rules, perpetual desktop calendar, wire basket full of rolled-up plans) as ode to Rob’s grandfather. Max Williams was a water engineer back in the heyday when engineers ruled the world and every mother wanted her son to grow up to be one. He travelled the world getting pipes and damns up and running in places that had never before had them (Iran, Indonesia, etc.). Grandpa Williams inspired Rob to become an engineer himself so Rob keeps grandpa’s name plate, engineering stamps, and his vintage survey level on display as an ode to his legacy.

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Anyway, as much as Rob loves his grandfather he wasn’t feeling the midcentury vibe. It just isn’t him enough and that’s fair. My next idea was one that he got excited about. SPACE! Since Rob’s a space and sci-fi nut (with a dash of fantasy) we decided to head that route.

Now, only a few of the offices in his building are “decorated” and the ones that are simply have one wall painted and that’s about it. We pushed the envelope and painted two walls. Rob chose the daring color. Since these pics were taken on two different phones on different days, the paint color doesn’t match. In person the color is more mid-dark blue with a hint of gray. Also, the furniture isn’t so glaringly orange. Dumb phone camera pics that are hard to edit properly…

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The lamp was left in the office from its last inhabitant and Rob decided he really like its warm, homey glow so it stayed. We both loved the modern, spacey look of his new clock. The globe was mine when I was a kid and works perfectly here. I helped him arrange the stuff on his bookshelf, including the vintage brass train/boat lights and a concrete core and a basalt core among other random things. He keeps drumstick pencils on his desk. Someone shamefully swapped his large tree for a small plant on the floor by the window.

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To add his personality into the decor, I suggested we scatter memorabilia from his favorite movies around the place. He’s got:

  • Sirius Black wand
  • R2D2 mug
  • Interstellar poster
  • Quote from Gimli (Lord of the Rings)
  • Star Trek Engineering insignia magnet

He rounded out the casual, “not-too-decorated” wall decor with two of his favorite space pictures. The eclipse as seen from his camp location in Idaho and The Hubble Ultra-Deep Fields photo. The image shows almost 3,000 galaxies in a region 5-10 billion light-years away from us…all in the equivalent area of looking through a straw at one spot in our night sky. Absolutely blows the mind to think about it. He loves that. He says it reminds him that “I’m not the center of the universe.”

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Oh! I almost forgot about his fourth wall. There is a white board on it and Rob insisted on hanging a large map of the Mullerthal area we hiked in Luxembourg (even though it doesn’t match the “theme”. I conceded haha).

When it was all finished, he realized how much better it will be to work in his new “space”.  People walk by and give complements and when they enter they always notice something fun to talk about. It’s a warm, comfortable, inviting office that can be a haven from stressful working situations. Congrats on the new orifice (oops, typo…) office, babe!

A Drowning Duckling Dies: How We Deal with Sadness

One beautiful summer evening our family walked around a park full of trees, flowers, and a pond. In the pond lived some fish, turtles, and ducks. The children love prancing around the perimeter of the fenced-in pond, interacting with the little creatures as much as humans can.

Rob and I wandered off and left the kids to play. I returned a short time later and all three children ran up to me, frantic and full of feelings. They told me of tragedy, taken place right before their innocent eyes.

One of the little baby ducklings was missing patches of down (probably the result of bullying, the kids concluded). This little guy had caught their eye and they’d been keeping a close watch on him all evening. Suddenly, the duckling found himself too far from the shore and unable to catch his footing on the rocks. Stuck in deep water, he tried, helplessly, to swim. Still new to this sport and being further impeded by his missing built-in flotation device, his bitty head slowly dipped lower and lower into the water.

With big eyes and the inability to save the duckling through the fence, Nate, Madeleine, and Caroline looked on in helpless horror as the dear little duckling drowned to death.

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Now, a few different morals to this story could be had here, but I’m not here to talk about morals. Instead, I want to focus on the dissimilarities in emotional response encountered by each member of my family. For an event that was experienced together, it’s interesting how they individually coped with it.

Once the retelling of the event took place and the initial shock wore off, each child was left with the horrible (yet completely natural in nature) scene stuck in their brains. I found myself empathetic to their plight and immediately initialized my comforting-mom mode.

When Rob arrived at the scene, the children frantically retold the happenings once again. Caught off guard and unprepared to respond appropriately, Rob laughed. I chided him with “the look” and he composed himself, then offered due comfort. Once the children’s trauma was acknowledged by both parents, each of their true distinctive emotions became evident and began to show and seep.

Each child reacted to the same trauma in starkly unique ways. Nate became suddenly quiet. He was solemn. He worked hard to hide his tears, even after Rob and I assured him it was okay to cry. After some minutes of allowing himself to feel really sad, he was able to come back up for breath and refocus on moving forward.

Madeleine, through brute force, instantaneously allowed her spunkiness and goofiness to override any of her sorrow. She didn’t want to feel anything unpleasant so she ignored the fact that something bad even happened. She became hyper, silly, and tried so hard to get everyone else on board. She wanted to move on, pretending nothing was wrong. Even though her brother and sister were feeling deeply, she wouldn’t allow herself that opportunity.

Little Caroline openly bawled, unconsolably, for 30 solid minutes. No amount of hugs or listening ears or words of comfort had any effect. The terrifying image replayed itself over and over again in her head and she kept saying, “I just like the word death…I don’t actually like death in real life!”

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Don’t you find it fascinating how each child responded to the same event? Of course people cope with hardships differently, but to see these three contrasting emotional responses by three different children at the same time was an eye-opening glimpse into their hearts.

Nate needed reassurance that it was okay for him to not be a “brave” big boy, and that feeling sad isn’t something shameful. Madeleine, in addition to learning how to allow herself to feel a completely natural response, also needed to understand that others may have different emotional needs to be acknowledged instead of ignored. Caroline needed to feel the full extent of her grief and given enough time (and patience on our part) to do it.

As the father and mother of these sweet souls, Rob and I are working harder than ever to not only listen to them, but to feel with them. We are working harder than ever to not only be in their proximity, but to truly connect them to us through honesty and a sense of emotional safety.

Rob and I both used to believe that this type of parenting would raise weak personalities. However, we are slowly learning that the opposite is true. We are now beginning to see the differences between coddling and comforting, cajoling and communicating. We are now beginning to understand that the intentional act of consistently offering a feeling of emotional safety and emotional acceptance are, indeed, at the core of confidence.

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I’m really sorry that an innocent little creature had to perish and that our children had to witness it, but I’m also grateful for the glimpse it gave us into who our children really are and what they each really need. It is an understanding that we will need to tap into throughout many future occasions, I’m sure.

For the last 6 months, Rob and I have been working so hard at becoming emotionally whole human beings.  We have a long way to go, but these little moments of clarity are the fruits of our labors and the motivation that keeps us moving forward together.

The Copywriting on the Wall

Almost a year ago I started looking for a job. I wanted to keep my resume from getting stagnant and I had the intent of saving my paychecks exclusively for travel. Shortly thereafter I became an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) copywriter.

I was hired by an SEO company to write webpages for one of their clients, a nationwide company with hundreds of branches, each with their own webpage.

Each page had to be unique, which was quite a challenge at times.

Over the course of 10 months, I wrote:

  • 325 search engine optimized pages
  • Each page was 250+ words 
  • About topics ranging from color printing to trade show materials to postcards and others
  • 53 different pages about manual and booklet printing. Seriously. Can you imagine?? 

There were many days when I didn’t know how I would be able to write any more of these pages! However, the thought of vacation kept me going.

Now I’m still writing a few webpages but I’m focusing a little more on writing 500+ word blog posts for various companies. I’m considered a freelancer so I work with whomever wants to hire me to write content for their webpages.

I do 6-10 hours of work a week at home on my own schedule. Because of the low hours, I don’t get paid a ton but it has gotten us two vacations so far (which was my goal). However, as much as I like vacations, there’s something even more important that this work has given me. It has stretched my brain and expanded my skills. It’s given me something “professional” to do as I’ve missed working the last 5 years. I’ve enjoyed it a lot.

It’s the perfect job for me right now and I’m very grateful to have it.

Rob’s Thesis

I’ve had a few people ask to read my thesis so I thought I would just post it here in case you are one of those people.  The title is…

“Comparison of nonlinear and equivalent-linear site response analysis for soft-soil sites along the Wasatch Front and site-specific response predictions for the Legacy Parkway.” 

I’m not including the 14 MB of data in the appendix but if any of you happen to be interested in that data please let me know and I’ll send you a link to it.  Download the text here.

This is Not a Kit

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This is a picture of my dad building a new ship model, The Mayflower. He does it all by hand and it’ll take him a year from this point to finish. Wow! What dedication and talent! For those who don’t know, this is his second large-scale model. The first was the 9 ft long Enoch Train on display in the Museum of Church History and Art. Because of his interest in this sort of thing, he and my mom started a ship modeling magazine called “Seaways: Ships and Scale” many years ago and they still run the business. It is the premier ship modeling magazine in the United States. Pretty cool stuff.