Newness for a New Year

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Distractions from Grading

For those of you who know my teaching habits, or if you have ever had a stack of papers to grade, you know how easy it is to be distracted. Do you ever have moments when you are taken back to a memory that brings you pure happiness? This is my distraction for the evening.

Tonight, I was browsing through my pictures and I found these four. The first is of the stunning countryside in Southern France, at the Abbey I stayed at. It was like Brigadoon, rising out of the lush green hills.
The second comes from a touring day in Southern France. The Abbey provided a sack lunch that day, that consisted of a tomato, a hard boiled egg, some cheese, and an entire baguette (to share of course). Well, that isn't easy to pack around. So, in true European fashion, I attached it to my bag and kept touring. It worked well and no one seemed to mind that the bread had been strapped to my bag all morning (another distinctly European experience--bread without bags--incredibly unsanitary and yet no one cares).
And the last is a statue I came to love. I would walk there every morning and evening to study and relax. It stood at the top of the middle road at the Abbey. It is lovely.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

An interesting fact

I distinctly remember in 1985 when President Kimball passed away. He was the first prophet I had ever known of, and I remember watching his funeral. I guess he has always had a tender spot in my heart. Well, I was reading about him just now and discovered he had Bell's Palsy twice, not to mention a score of other sicknesses and illnesses. I am lucky to have only had it once, but I feel an even closer bond to him now. I guess it is always such, that when you can empathize with someone, you love him or her even more.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Apparently, I am an under-age faculty member

I just got back from getting some free fudge from the bookstore. They gave out coupons to full-time faculty and employees for the Christmas season--a free half pound of fudge. Well, I thought I was going to get through the whole thing without being questioned about my status, and I almost did. But right at the end, I was carded. She took down my ID number.

I shouldn't be surprised. It happens every time I go to check out a book or a video from the library. They tell me I can only use the video in the library and then I have to tell them, "I'm faculty." I am to the point that I just give them my card and tell them up front. The best is on the first day of class when I know my students wonder why I am going to the front. Or it is also good when someone walks into class to talk to the teacher and has to ask if I am the teacher.

You know that if I were 40 and looked a little more like the professor then I wouldn't have a problem. Not that I am complaining. I would much rather them think me a student than an older professor. It is just that I have never been "carded" so much in my life.

The End is in Sight

Good Friday to you all. I just found out that we will finally be able to move back into our place by the end of December. I am thrilled by that news. Thank you to all who have housed us and our stuff these past months.

Also, the last day of class was yesterday. The end of the semester is almost here! It seems that I am never quite able to really think about Christmas until after school is out. But, I know that this year will be one of the best ever--I truly have so much to be thankful for, and I know it is because of our Savior, whose birth we celebrate.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

A Beautiful Thought for a Lovely Day

I was thinking today about one of my favorite quotes. I hope you enjoy it as well. It is long, but it is wonderful.

Go placidly amid the noise and haste and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and ignorant; they too have their story. Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself. Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time. Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism. Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is perennial as the grass. Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you to sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness. Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace with your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be careful. Strive to be happy.

-found in Old Saint Paul’s Cathedral, Baltimore, dated 1692

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The World Without Us

I am starting to gather books for my Christmas break reading. I hope to share my reviews when I read them, but if you are looking for some books, consider The World Without Us by journalist Alan Weisman. I have been wanting to read it for a while, but will finally do so over the break. It poses an interesting scenario: if humans stopped existing today, what would happen to the planet? What would nature do? Intriguing concept, I think.

I listened to an Radio West discussion with Alan Weisman tonight. It was very interesting and piqued my interest even more. Check it out.

Also, on the book's website there are some multimedia features that show what the world would look like without us. I think this is an interesting concept. I will let you know what I think.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Snow Storm and Salt Lake City

Friday night, Amelia and I attended Savior of the World, at the Conference Center. A friend called and said he had some extra tickets, so Amelia took him up on them. Well, I must say I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did. I knew it must be great since it is almost always sold out, but I was deeply impressed by it.

If you have the opportunity to go, then go. It is sold out this year, but plan on going next year. The acting was great, but more importantly, the way they presented the message was so powerful. It was a wonderful opening to the Christmas season for me. The snow also helped; it was enchanting. I don't think I will ever forget how stunning the temple spires where as the snow fell. The flakes were huge and there was just enough softness to them to be welcoming. Amelia and I had a great time running and sliding all the way to the car.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Small Things

Well, here is blog about small but good things. Sometimes the small things mean so much more than big things.

Small Thing #1
As most of you know, I drive a VW Jetta circa 1991. In the past two weeks, I replaced the windshield, had safety and emissions done, and got new tires. Well, during the safety and emissions testing, the driver's side door handle broke off. Luckily, he advised me to get it fixed. Blessed man. So, I ordered the door handle online that night.

Yesterday, I took my car in for what sounded like some congestion under the hood. Turns out I have a bad water pump. I also have a slight coolant leak and an oil drip. Well, Frank is nice enough to fix the later two under the labor of the first. But, here comes the good part. I wasn't expecting to have my handle in for another few days, but Amelia had been home to Centerville yesterday. As we were coming out of the temple last night she mentions that she has a box for me. I was thrilled. It indeed was my door handle, and now Frank can also fix my door. (By the way, Frank is such a great name for a mechanic.) This will be very convenient since I currently have to open the back door and pop open the front. That small thing made me so happy. Sometimes all we need is a little goodness to keep us wading through the not-so-goodness.

Small Thing #2

This little drawing made me laugh. My friend Amy Morris sent me to a blog that had this joke. Amy has the amazing ability of finding the coolest blogs out there. Thanks Amy.

For those of you who don't know, the Grover Family has this often-criticized fetish for orange circus peanuts. We grew up eating them, and we still love them. Most of the in-laws and other friends love to tease us about our unusual taste for them. But don't worry, we are passing the tradition on to the little ones. I had to laugh at myself and all the Grovers when I saw this--

So the small orange goodness that I love despite any criticism and the small laugh-at-yourself moment you take for liking something that seems to resemble packing peanuts makes for a wonderful Friday.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Revisiting an Old Favorite

For those of you who don't know, I used to have the biggest crush on Andrew McCarthy and I love him in the 80s classic Pretty in Pink. If you haven't seen it--see it, this weekend! But, one of the signature songs from that movie is "If You Leave" by OMD. Well, the point of this post is not to rave about my old crush, but to say that a group known as Nada Surf has done a great remake of the OMD classic. Check it out after you watch Pretty in Pink.

Rambles on a Monday

I am sitting in my office at 4:32 p.m., staring out at Y Mountain. Snow clings to the slopes and to the ledges magnificently. It is currently saturated in sunlight, which is inviting and yet brimming with the chill of December. I can’t help but think about all the daily wonders we are given to enjoy. I hope to offer something about one of those wonders, something that has been on my mind lately. I believe I have spent a great deal of my life trying to capture in words what love means. That love has been directed toward different people and for different reasons, while also being directed at me. Some aspects of love include familial love, romantic love, friendly love, and of course, Godly love.

Although I do not profess the skills or knowledge to capture all that love is and how it exists, I hope I can get a least a portion right. And in the larger scheme of things, I believe that love interacts with us all so differently throughout our lives. It changes and grows as we do.

But, for December 3, 2007, I believe the essence of love is joy.

My thoughts begin at romantic love. How do you know you romantically love someone? I have always wondered this. I doubted that I could ever really love someone to a depth that ensued marriage. I couldn’t imagine knowing you could love someone that much, especially since I have dappled in love many times but never really given myself to it. But, I don’t think it is as complicated as knowing and proving. I have learned that it comes as naturally as all the things that resonate with my soul. I could never tell you when I started to love literature, or how I know I love the beauty of an autumn day. There are certain parts of us that love without knowing why, and yet we know as certainly as we know when it is cold outside, that we love. You might not be able to know exactly when it happened or how that person became such a living part of your being, but it did, and he or she did.

And maybe you don’t realize how deep that love is until they leave you for a short time or for a long time. You feel their absence as part of your own soul is absent. When you can feel such longing for someone in your life, then perhaps you begin to realize the magnitude of love you hold for them.

I also believe that saying such a love is merely romantic love is problematic. For the type of love that is soul-love means so much more than shallow descriptions of romance and wooing. Perhaps when you truly love another then you begin to understand charitable love. It suffers long, is kind, and envies not. It forgives. It is not puffed up, seeketh not its own, and is not easily provoked. It thinketh no evil and rejoiceth in truth. And of course, it produces hope in all things while enduring all things.

And you can’t measure that kind of love; it just consumes you. Ironically, to try and explain it with words would lessen the extent to which you could love, for it would be reduced to the descriptions and configurations of a language that could never match the glories of what we feel.

When you know you love someone and you know you are loved, I hope you never take it for granted. It is such a beautiful and rare gift. For all we love and for all our interests, realizing that you love someone should be the most precious part of your soul. To give yourself, imperfect and struggling, to someone else who is also imperfect and struggling, takes a lot of courage. It isn’t always easy to allow yourself to love. Sometimes there is pain involved, and other times it seems to take so much energy. But, it is always worth it. Our capacity to love one person stretches our hearts to allow others in as well. This whole world and our own souls rely on love. Not only do we need to feel love, we also need to love others.

Whomever you love, take a moment today to tell him or her about it. It doesn’t have to be eloquent or long--just sincere. Not only will the recipient enjoy it, but you will also feel more love for that person. Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to express love; it is the most lovely joy we can feel.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

For all you who think you have a great vocabulary

This is a great website that will test your vocab skills and help people throughout the world at the same time. What could be better? But be careful, this is addicting.
Check out

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

NPR and the Word of Wisdom

Okay, so NPR didn't exactly report on the Word of Wisdom, but it did talk about good health. I found an interesting article about how occasional fasting is actually good for you. Imagine that!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Being Thankful

I was in Macey's grocery store last night, and I couldn't help but feel excited for this time of year. People were buying turkey, pumpkin, spices, and egg nog. There was a sense of excitement as people were getting ready to spend time with family and to relax a little. I can hardly believe this week is Thanksgiving, but I am excited nonetheless.

I couldn't let this week pass without expressing how thankful I am for so much that has happened to me this past year. I never expected that 2007 would bring such joy and pain. I also realize there is still much to experience in 2007, so I withhold the right to add when needed.

I am most thankful for my knowledge and faith in God. Even when everything seems to be crumbling, His love is stable and ever-flowing to those who seek Him. His grace is truly sufficient.

I am also deeply grateful for my family and friends. I could never have made it through this year without you. I have relied on your strength and your support through all my challenges, and I have loved sharing my joys with you as well.

I am thankful that 2007 has taught me a lot about love. I have felt more love in my life this year than I ever have. I have also learned that real love doesn't end when you stop seeing someone, or someone moves to a different state, or you fall out of contact with someone. It continues on and even grows stronger at times.

I am thankful for experiencing the kind of love that exhibits itself in deep and solid relationships. Elder Maxwell said, "All of us should strive, therefore, to have some friendships that are deep and solid--so solid, for instance, that if they were interrupted, the unfinished conversation could be resumed months later almost in mid-sentence, just as if we had never been apart." I have renewed many such friendships this year, and I have worked to build new relationships that will be as deep and solid.

I am thankful I had the opportunity to see so many of the beauties of the earth. I traveled quite a bit this year, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to stand before the Nike of Samothrace in the Louvre, but I am also thankful for discovering beauty in Utah by climbing to the top of Angel's Landing in Zion National Park. I believe that you can travel the world for beauty, but not at the expense of discovering beauty in your everyday life.

I am thankful for beauty. Not only in the outward displays of such, but also in the expressions of the soul. I am thankful for the times in our lives when we can wrap ourselves in the beauty of life and of learning. We experience joy, pain, more joy, and probably more pain. But, in the end we become better people. Our capacity to love and to give expands and we begin to become useful to God and his purposes. I am also thankful for forgiveness and the ability to change.

I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Just a picture, but what a picture

This is Lake of the Woods. It comes from the Camp Loll alumni website.
You can also check out the blog.

I love looking back through the pictures and remembering the days of working under tall pines. I don't as if you can really describe those days to anyone who never experienced them. You went to work in the most beautiful place on earth, and you made some of the best friends you will ever have. You never made much money, but you made wonderful memories and good character.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Pleasure of Portland

Although I spent last week in Portland, I technically spent very little time in the city. I actually spent my time in Hillsboro with the Allred family. We also went to the coast on Saturday. I will let the pictures tell the story.

I flew in Thursday night. But Friday morning we went to the library for story time. After it was over we walked around the park outside the library.

Salli was holding Megan, and Sadie couldn't get enough of the ducks.

We then spent the rest of Thursday lounging about. We watched Anne of Avonlea, which Sadie loved. She even called Captain Harris the spooky man, which I have always thought he was. We even watched the Osmond clan on Oprah. It was actually very interesting to watch. There is so much I have never known about the Osmonds. Here are the girls, just hanging out.

It was about this time that Sadie discovered my bag, with all the treasures inside. She took everything out of my wallet and played with all the money and cards. One of the privileges of being the friend is that I can let kids play with my cell phone and wallet when parents can't, especially since I was only there for a short amount of time. Here are some pictures of Sadie enjoying the contents of my bag. She loved my reading glasses, lip gloss, and sunglasses. I guess I have good taste.

The next day we headed out the coast. We first went to the Tillamook Cheese Factory.

Where we saw the cheese factory in action. I was amazed at the process.

Who knew cheese production could be so fascinating. I kept wondering what it would be like to work in a cheese factory. Salli said it might be a good job for Richard because he loves cheese so much. But, I always wonder if you would soon tire of it if you had to work with it daily.

Although in Utah we usually only see Tillamook cheese, they also produce ice-cream, yogurt, butter, and fudge. We couldn't pass up an opportunity for ice-cream, fudge, and of course cheese. I bought fresh cheese curds to bring home to the family. They were the squeakiest curds I've ever had--and the most delicious.
After the factory, we headed to the coast. We went to Cape Meares and Oceanside Beach. I was taken back by the beauty. I first saw the Pacific Ocean when I was 17 and on an art history trip to San Francisco. I later returned to spend two summers on Catalina Island off the coast of L.A. I loved all of those adventures and I have a fond love for the Pacific, but what I beheld in Oregon was breathtaking.

I have always known that Oregon is known as a green state. But, I realized that it truly is so much more than their wonderful environmental awareness. I have never seen so many hues and textures of green.

I love that green seemed to attach itself to everything. It didn't matter what or where, even the air seemed to be rich with green. It had rained a little, so all the vibrancy of the smells were at full force and intoxicating.

And more of the splendor ...

We also saw a slug, some great toadstools (at least some woman told us they were toadstools), and a light house.

And then we actually went down on the beach. Where the beauty kept intensifying.

Sadie loved playing in the sand. We kept telling her to look up and see the larger view, but she was enjoying the sand and rocks right in front of her face. She enjoyed them for what they were on her terms, not on what we saw as beauty. She found her own bit of beauty that afternoon. She never grew tired of gathering sand and chasing me with it. We played and laughed all afternoon. She reminded me that sometimes we just need to enjoy what is right in front of us without worrying so much about trying to take everything in at once. So often we can only see what is right before us, but we must learn to enjoy it for what it is.

The water was cold, but not so cold that I didn't let it wash over my feet. The tide was low, so there was so much beach to explore. I never tire of watching the water interact with the beach. I love to watch it come with such force and then reside with ease. Perhaps this is how life is, it often comes at us with so much force, but we have to wait for the release. And of course, the whole undulating process smooths everything it touches. The pebbles are so smooth, but they have undergone the push and pull so much.

I couldn't help but feel renewed and refreshed as I walked the beach, especially since I got to walk it with Salli. Sipping beauty while conversing with dear friends can help ward off all kinds of sorrow. I was glad we opted for the coast as opposed to the city. I am sure I will go back some day when I can explore the urban landscape of Portland. But I found what I went for. I feel most myself when I am immersed in the larger beauty of the earth. It reminds me that patience and faith are required to create such glories.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Portland and Perspective

Let me just preview this entry with this picture. I was in Portland last week and I took this at the coast. I believe that anything in this world is possible when such beauty as this exists.

I will fill in the full entry soon, with many more pictures and much more pontification.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Glory of Fall

I went to Centerville yesterday to vote, since I always forget to change my registration info before November 6. My Mom and I went in the afternoon, so there wasn't much of a line. When my Dad went later he said he had to wait a bit, which is good. It is good to know that people will stand in line to exercise that power.

I then spent the remainder of the afternoon and early evening raking leaves with my Mom. I forget how delightful it is to subject yourself to that process: the raking, scooping, bagging, and then more raking, scooping, bagging. The day was chill, although I soon was warm enough to just enjoy being outside. There is something in the fall air that resonates so deeply with me. It quickly seeps into the inner regions of my soul and lingers there with freshness and vigor.

I am off to Portland tomorrow. I have always wanted to visit that city, and I am finally doing it. SalliJune and her husband Richard live there with their two daughters Sadie and Megan. I think that such a trip in the middle of the semester will be a nice break. My students and I have started to feel the lull that is the middle of the semester. But, things are starting to really gear up in my classes. It is time to talk about the final papers and to simply endure.

Next week I'll make sure to post pictures from Portland, so stay tuned.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Tribute to Nana

Yesterday I got a phone call that my mom and sister were taking my nana to the ER. I don't think you could ever really know what emotional response to expect in such a situation. Nana has been having some having health problems now for a while and so the call didn't fully surprise me. I was aware that for the past few days she had been having bowel difficulties. I told Emily I would meet her at LDS after I finished teaching. I canceled my office hour and left Provo, picking Amelia up on the way. Emily met us outside the ER and we decided that Amelia should go in with Mom and Nana (only two people could be in the room). Emily and I took her kids back to Centerville and waited. Nana came home a few hours later, very much confused as to why her stomach was hurting and bewildered by her state. Her dementia steadily worsens, and her body is slowly shutting down. In February 2007 she was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and all the complications that come with it. Yesterday, as I waited for news, I couldn't help but reflect on the frailty of her life, of all our lives. All to often we save our tributes and our praise for the crowds of people gathered at gravesides instead of celebrating the lives of those we love while we can bask in their influence.

For Nana

When she was diagnosed with heart failure in February I wrote about the experience. I believe it sets the tone for this post.

My grandma was admitted to the hospital two nights ago. She was short of breath and the doctors decided to admit her to run a slew of tests. It is funny when something like that happens in your life. I was taken off guard. I was in the middle of grading a huge stack of papers, which seemed so insignificant after the call from my mom. After a day of tests they diagnosed my Nana with congestive heart failure. I would think that they could think of a better name for it than heart failure. It feels so ominous, but that is exactly what it is. They pumped her with medications and relieved some of the pressure around her heart, then she was allowed to go home. We all went home yesterday to spend the day with her and to help my mom. I was sitting on the couch with her as she fumbled with her memories from the past few days. Although she has been struggling to hold onto memories for a while, her time in the hospital seemed to increase the lapse of reality and time in her mind. Over the course of 15 minutes she retold what had happened to her about 5 times, right after each other. She would finish, pause, and then begin again. In some ways it was an improvement because earlier she had forgotten that she had even been to the hospital, but the repetition worried me. Up until that point, I had only been emotional once, earlier in the day on my way back from class when reality collided with my expectations. My sister was updating me on Nana's condition and how they were talking about drawing up legal orders in case the worst happened.

In a short walk down the long corridor in the JFSB I realized that my Nana, who has always been so close to me, could soon be far, far away. Those same emotions pounded down onto my spirit as I sat with her on the couch. It was sad. Here is this woman who helped me carve out my own identity for so many years, and her own identity was slipping through her fingers like liquid. The woman I adored as a child is hidden away in the past, a mere shade of who she was. But, in that same moment, I realized that the presence of other people in our lives helps us to remember who we are. I can remind her of who she was, which re-establishes who she is. It made me want to make sure people know who I am and what I am thinking so that when my own memories start to slip away, they can be found somewhere else, on solid ground
That has been many months ago, and Nana has fought her way through pain and discomfort. She has severe arthritis, which makes walking very painful. Even though she is a very different woman now than before her dementia, she continues to make us laugh. She is a comedian at heart, and she loves to laugh and laugh.

The above picture shows Nana next to some beautiful pink flowers. Her favorite color is pink, and she loves flowers. I can never walk past pink petunias and dusty miller without thinking of her. She loves that combination, as long as her plastic pink flamingos and
row of plastic ducks are near by. She has always loved working in the yard, although now she can just sit outside and enjoy the yards of others. Perhaps she is so taken to the outdoors because of her childhood on farms.

She was born Lora Florence Cook on May 28, 1922 in Kentucky. She was the oldest girl. When she was but 14 years old, her mother died, leaving her the mistress of the house. Great-Grandpa Cook worked as a farm hand and moved the family to Illinois. It was here that Nana met Byron Lewis, who is my mother's father. Nana and Byron never married, and she left that part of Illinois when my Mom was little. A few years later Nana met with the missionaries and joined the Church, which changed the destiny of us all so drastically.

Nana and my Mom moved to Utah after a time and settled here.
Nana always lived close to our family, and she was almost a daily part of our lives. Her apartment was on the route to the elementary school, so we would often stop on our way to and from school. It was always a treat to go to her house because she made the most amazing food. She was working in the Ogden Temple at that time, as the dessert chef. Nana loves pizza, and we would usually get that to eat. Although she had the habit of drinking orange juice with her pizza. I continue to love pizza to this day, but never with a side of OJ.

She would also take us "to town" meaning to Ogden. She couldn't drive so we would take the bus. We would usually go to the Temple first, so she could show us off, and then we would go over to the mall. We would eat lunch at The Pizza Cutter, shop a bit, and then head home.
As she got older she couldn't take care of herself all that well, so she moved in with our family. It has been about 10 years now.

She is a wonderful grandma who always takes care of us. She loves the grandkids and will sit and hold them as long as they let her.

She is always good for a laugh. Here she is opening a present, which of course is pink. I don't remember her favorite color being pink when I was younger, but it is most assuredly pink now. If it is pink she loves it. I guess the pink petunias and flamingos should have been my indicator.

Here is another shot of her with Ethan. They love to play with her cane, and she loves to let them.

She is a dedicated grandma who will do anything for her family. She has taught me so much about self-sacrifice and pure grit. She has worked her entire life, and now she can enjoy the company of those she loves.

She dedicated her life to the Church and to her family. I always think of her when I reflect on my own full-time mission because she served in L.A. She set a great example for me.

She loves snickers candy bars, Oreo cookies, Little Caesar's pizza, and KFC. She spends a lot of time with word searches, and she loves to read.

I am thankful for her presence in my life. She has always been there for us when we needed her, and she has given us an exemplary life to follow. Although her body is slowly slipping away, her spirit continues to leave its impression upon the lives of so many.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and Happiness

Items of note for Wednesday, Oct. 31:

1. Happy Halloween. I didn't dress up, but I did wear a peachy-orange shirt! That is about all I can offer for days I teach. I do plan on eating chili and eating candy tonight. Mark is coming down and we are going to watch semi-scary movies with Amelia and Erin. (Semi-scary means not really scary at all, but intense. Think Charade.) Erin wants to watch Watcher in the Woods, but I have never been a fan of that movie. It's too creepy for me!

2. I won my first eBay bid today on a clothing item. We will see how it all comes out. I opened a PayPal account and finally feel as though I have entered the world of eBay. I have frequently ordered books of, which is affiliated with eBay, but I have never placed a bid on eBay. I guess I matured a bit in Internet terms.

3. Six years ago today I received my mission call. My hometown is of the variety that calls the family early in the morning to let them know about the big white envelope from Salt Lake City. My parents got the call and went and got it for me. They came and woke me up with the white envelope in their hands. We had expected to open it later in the day when the family was going to come over. But, my family couldn't wait once the envelope arrived.

So, I fatefully opened the envelope and read my call. I skipped ahead a little, I couldn't help it, and read Bulgaria. I was completely surprised. I had studied French in college for three years and could read, write, and speak fairly well. I thought for sure I would go French speaking. But, as per usual, God knows so much more than I do about what is good for me. With all the hind sight bias I now have, I couldn't have chosen a better fit for me. The people of Bulgaria and my fellow missionaries were exactly what I needed. I worked hard to love the people, and I do. One of the things that makes God's foreknowledge so great is that we can't see the resplendent good that will be the eventual outcome, but He can. I had no idea how my life would be changed because I accepted that call.

I never had a mission scripture, my ward didn't do anything like that. But, I seemed to frequently gravitate towards Matt. 28:20 which reads, " ... and , lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." I always figured that if God could be with me in Bulgaria, then he could be with me anywhere. I have been reflecting on that verse this week. If I could tell someone a part of what I learned in Bulgaria and after it would be that God really is with us always. I think we could all acknowledge that we are involved in situations that have no certain outcome; we have no idea how it will all conclude or how that will affect us for the rest of our lives. On one hand it is exciting to know that to some extent the daily doings of our lives really can have lasting results, but it is also terrifying that there is such a potential for pain or joy that is conditional on what we do today. It is hard to work through such periods, especially when you wonder when it will end. I guess there is some comfort to know that there will always be times of uncertainty. But the greater comfort is that God wants our happiness more than we do and in the end we will be happy, really happy. I can with confidence look back at my mission and see how although there were incredibly hard, painful days, I experienced happiness.

As I work through my own expectations of happiness, my thoughts today end on the following: we often want happiness on our terms, although we often shortchange ourselves in terms of the happiness we could experience if we would but submit ourselves to the process that brings God's happiness.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reasons I love Primary

Yesterday, I went to Thomas and Erin's ward to help Erin in primary. She needed someone to pretend to be an investigator for Sharing Time. The full-time missionaries were there and I was supposed to ask questions such as "Who Am I?" and then the primary children would pick a primary song that would help answer my questions. It was great. I haven't been in primary for a while, but here are a few experiences that might embody the essence of primary.

1. A ward was getting out as I was waiting out in the hall for Erin. There was a couple who walked by, who had just finished their primary class down the hall. The woman looked at her husband and said, "I'm done being a Mormon today."

2. There were three children running back and forth in the hall, they were giggling and chasing each other. It seemed as though they were at the end of their 3-hour block. One adult stopped them and said, "No running in the church." They promptly stopped until he was gone, then started again.

3. Once in Sharing Time (junior primary): the missionaries were talking about the first vision. They help up a picture of it and asked what it was called. They said, "This the first what? It starts with a V." A very well-behaved sunbeam on the front row raised his hand and with a serious, thoughtful voice asked "virgin?," with a serious face. He didn't know he was getting his stories mixed up! The adults and missionaries did a great job not laughing out loud.

4. Sharing Time (senior primary): There will always be the few children who seem to have an answer for everything and they somehow seem to pronounce it with such power and volume. One girl repeatedly asked the Primary President who she loved the most out of the primary. She then sat on the front row and bobbed her head up and down for a seemingly endless few minutes. But, the jostling of her brain did not effect her ability to speak.

5. Perhaps I saved the best for last, but I couldn't help but smile as I walked away yesterday because I got a popcorn ball. I haven't had a popcorn ball in years. It was orange for Halloween, of course. It wasn't as tasty as I remembered, but I still ate the whole thing. I couldn't help but enjoy eating it in honor of all the popcorn balls I ate as a member of primary.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Have you ever had a jacket, or a skirt, or whatever other article of clothing that fits this bill, that needed to be dry-cleaned, but you just kept putting it off. I usually think of it right when I go to put something on that hasn't been dry cleaned in a while. I then find something else to wear and forget again until the next time I try to wear it. Well yesterday I discovered that one of the perks of my house fire is that I got to dry clean everything I own (everything that is dry clean only of course). Two weeks ago, I took in all my clothing and all of Amelia's clothing to be cleaned. When we went in the girl looked at us and said, "I'm going to get my manager." I guess they don't usually have orders that large. When I mean large, I mean they had to roll all our clothes out in a large bin. All in all the total wasn't as bad as it could have been, especially since we took it to BYU's facility (which has a much better rate for students and employees). And out of 61 items, they all came back on the first try--nothing was lost or misplaced. But, the next time you look at your bill, just think it could have been $190 instead of $20-30. Then again, I can now enjoy a completely clean, pressed, and relatively smoke-free dry-clean-only wardrobe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

One of the women I work with brought in a classic movie (VHS of course). I took a break today and watched the whole thing. I was only going to watch the first bit, but got carried away. If you haven't watched this in a while, you should. I laughed at how close this is to the reality TV shows that involve dancing, only in all the 80s glory. The whole soundtrack is full of great songs--and you can't help but be glad that Sarah Jessica Parker finally found out about hair serum to control her ultra frizzy hair.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm Thinking of You, Thinking of Me

The other day I was talking with my friend about the moments in life when someone or some event randomly rushes into my thoughts. At such moments I can almost feel the intensity of the moment or person. I guess I was thinking about it because I have such experiences regularly. I will be walking somewhere or talking to someone and I will be caught away in nostalgia of times long gone. I asked my friend whether she ever thinks about the people who may recall her in their everyday memory. I figure that if there are people and places that come to me then I must appear in some thoughts somewhere. I like that idea, not because I am vain enough to believe that people need to think about me, but because it means that we all continue to revel in the goodness of what has been. Sure there are some not-so-pleasant memories, but I believe I reflect more often on the memories that bring that distinct smile to face: a subtle smile that no one else can understand and is often hard to explain.

I am writing about this because I just ran into an ex-boyfriend of mine. I guess you can't help but feel nostalgic as you become drenched in such memories that accompany past love. He told me that he was walking to the theater last week with his brother and he walked past the restaurant we ate at on our first date. We had walked to that same restaurant, and he couldn't help but think of that evening so many years ago. I laughed because I think of it every time I pass it. We both paused and absorbed the memory, sharing it equally between us in the coolness of this fall day. We reminisced about the good old days and how long it feels since they were fresh to us.

I was glad that I live on in his memory because he always will in mine. I somehow enjoy the knowledge that we carry bits of others with us. I believe it was Tennyson who said we are a part of all we have met. As Jaron and I parted ways, it was sweet and comforting to realize that our souls will always return to such moments ... moments when we can with time and distance look back and smile at where we have been and how that has made us who we are.

The Fire ... Continued

Here are some more pics from the aftermath of the fire.

This is the cooler with the front melted away.

This is the wall of the laundry room. Notice the oxyclean was safe inside the cabinet.

This shows how the erratic the fire was. This toliet paper was right above the dryer. Two shelves up, the vacuum was completely melted, but the TP was fine.

Here is another example. This was in the kitchen. I like to think of it like a good roasted marshmallow: nice and brown on the outside, perfect on the inside.

We spent almost an entire Saturday at the laundromat.

It was quite a feat to wash everything we owned: clothes, coats, blankets, towells, everything. It felt a little like the good old days of doing laundry at Boy Scout Camp when we did laundry for 50 boys. Only this was much better overall. But, by the end, we started to feel the weight of being homeless and smelly.

Although we still had some laughs.

And we laughed at Thomas.

And the moral of the story is,

1. Don't leave your dryer on when you aren't home--even if you think nothing will happen.
2. Clean behind your dryer every six months (the fire chief told me that).
3. Buy Charmin TP because it won't burn!
4. Buy an Apple. It was in the midst of all the smoke and it is still working great! It was black on top, but they even managed to clean it off.
5. Buy a Strand Bag when you go to NYC. Yes, this is the only bag I have that doesn't smell like smoke because I had it with me when I left the house. But, it has been my lifesaver as I have hauled all my stuff around. I love it; it is a wonderful bag. And it was only $8.

I would also like to say thank you to all the people who have helped us and who have let us stay with them or keep our stuff at their place even though it smells. You know people love you when you smell and they don't mind!