Thursday, December 29, 2011

Man Versus Coke Bottle


 *Yesterday was a bad day for me and food. I got up early (which I NEVER do) had a protein shake (because I wasn't REALLY hungry yet) and proceeded to spend the next four hours at work engaged in relentless physical labor.

"Poo! Poo!" you say. "What kind of hard labor could you possibly be doing in a library?"

Well, I pulled over 2,300 books off their shelves, in groups of three, and replaced them. And I'll tell you what: no bid deal doing that with a couple hundred books, but by the end of approximately the 2,000th book, my lower arms and hands were shaking a little bit. In the spirit of making a long story short, I'll just say that I spent more calories than I was inputting. I got home, promptly informed everyone that they could not expect a coherent conversation with me until I had fed my brain, and stuffed my face. (Travis has coined a phrase for this state of mind: "Grungry.")

I have a small stomach and a fast metabolism. It's a curse. And don't throw any of that, "But you're so skinny!" crap at me. I could write volumes about how difficult this aspect of my life is. But I will forbear for now. Anyway...I starved, and then I ate. And I thought that was that.

But no.

Later that day, I found myself sitting in a movie theater, about to watch the hotness that is Tom Cruise in the eagerly-awaited fourth installment of Mission: Impossible, but (for reasons I will not go into) I had not had time to eat dinner. "Erin, Erin, Erin..." you tsk tsk, "You just don't take care of yourself."

Shut up. It was out of my control.

It was a poor substitute for real food, but I happened to have smuggled a bottle of coke into the theater. My blood sugar level was plummeting (once again) to starvation levels, and a headache seemed imminent...so, I thought, if I could only get into that coke...those measly 150 calories just might help...

What Travis and I failed to reckon with, however, was the stubbornness of the Mexican bottle cap. It would not be twisted off; it would not be keyed off; a belt buckle proved utterly useless; SHEER FORCE OF WILL had no effect whatsoever. That sucker was not coming off! At last, I leaned over to Travis--though it pained me to do so--and told him it was no use. As if he didn't know.

It's silly now, but I thought I would cry.

I didn't. And eventually I got home and ate something. But I guess, in closing, I will just say (as if it weren't obvious to anyone reading) that Mexican Coke bottle caps are real sons of b------, and they have messed with me for the last time.

*By the time I'm posting this, this will not have happened "yesterday." However, the trauma, I have no doubt, will live on and on.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Another BBC mini-series (for all you anglophiles out there)

A coworker recently recommended I watch this:






I was skeptical at first. Not sure why... I love a good BBC drama. I even enjoy Dickens when adapted to the small-screen. (Little Dorrit, which I would never actually pick up to read, was phenomenal.) But I was completely bewitched by Downton Abbey. Firstly, I was surprised to learn that it is an original story and not an adaptation from a book. Secondly, it is set in Edwardian England just prior to WWI--a time that seems too often overlooked in literature. It is an England just emerging from the nearly century-long shroud of Victorianism, on the cusp of modernity and world war. Downton--a traditional great house and a vestige of a class-system on its way out the door--struggles to maintain its relevancy in a modern world. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the story is that it is told from the perspectives of both the upstairs aristocracy and the downstairs serving class. Everyone is watching everybody else. Some waiting to take advantage. Others, to help. Characters you love to hate become characters you learn to love. Others remain completely despicable. Here's a teaser...



Also, I should warn you. It is slated for a second season, which means season one ends without any resolution whatsoever. It was completely infuriating to get to end of disc three and come to this realization. Other than that, this was perfect escapist television.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gave, and Hath Taken Away

Two years ago on a Sunday just like today, I made a promise to myself that today was the last time I was going to hang out with Travis. I had finally admitted to myself how much I liked him. And knowing that (in spite of our friendship) those feelings were not reciprocated, it was time to move on. For my own sake. "This is the LAST time," I said to my self, as I drove over to his apartment.

Earlier that day in church, a clipboard had been passed around so that people who were able could go up to visit a girl in our ward who was suffering from leukemia. I had visited Rachel once while she was at the hospital here in Provo. But by now her cancer was so serious she was up at the Huntsman institute an hour away in Salt Lake. I usually let that clipboard pass me by when it came around, but that day I decided it was time to visit Rachel again. That day, I happened to be sitting between the two boys I had alternately had crushes on all semester. I had stopped crushing on the one, and determined to stop crushing on the other, but for whatever reason, I turned to them and asked if either of them wanted to come up and visit Rachel with me on the coming Friday. Travis said he would.

I secretly rejoiced. And worried.

What happened later that Sunday when I went over to his apartment is a story for another day. It was an important day, and one that began a chain of events that culminated in our marriage.

But I am thinking, today, of a specific milestone we passed as we moved toward that culmination. Before Travis picked me up that Friday we went to visit Rachel, I told myself that I was not going to treat tonight like a date. I was not going to expect to do anything afterward. Tonight was for Rachel. I was going to just be friendly and natural with Travis--which wasn't hard.

Rachel's room at the Huntsman was one that commanded a view of the entire Salt Lake Valley. It was beautiful. She greeted us with such warmth, I immediately felt at ease--which can be difficult when visiting a sick person you don't know very well. Rachel always had a gift for putting people at ease, and one that only became stronger as she became weaker. I was pleased to see her in such high spirits. But shocked when, later, as she struggled to stand up, she appeared to have almost no physical strength left.

It was hard not to be aware of Travis either. I could see the way he was looking at me that night when he thought I wasn't looking. It was different. It was...interested. I tried to ignore it, but naturally I could not.

After about an hour, we left so Rachel could get some rest. It was clear that she was not doing well, in spite of her cheerfulness. Still, her optimism was contagious, and we left the hospital buoyed by the hope that she would pull through this. The rest of the evening essentially became a date. And a very enjoyable one at that.

Three weeks later, after Travis and I had begun dating in earnest and were in the first throes of young romance, we both received the sobering text message that on December 23, 2009--two days before Christmas--Rachel Bush had passed away in surgery. Her body just couldn't do it anymore.

I have thought about Rachel at this time of year for these last two years. I think about that Friday night at the Huntsman. I think about how melancholy, and how inexplicable it is that, at the same time two young people were discovering love and beginning the adventure of life together, she was at the end of hers. She was dying. I am not asking God by way of this blogpost, "Why? How could you do that?" I am simply ruminating on the beauties and perplexities of life. And death. And how they are intertwined. How I know the way things happen has nothing to do with how fair God is or isn't. "The Lord gave and the Lord hath taken away," wrote Job. And yet...Blessed be the name of the Lord.

It is hard not to feel sad that while Travis and I were being given, Rachel was being taken away. Taken away from her family, her school, her dreams for the future... But my--and her--belief in God's plan for us assures me that all was not taken away. That at this very moment, she is probably being blessed and given in ways unfathomable to my understanding.

So I don't really have good way to wrap up this post. It is mostly just memories and thoughts. So I'll just say Merry Christmas to all! and hopefully, there will be another post before the big day.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Case Against Snobbery, Revisited: Thoughts about Twilight

I know.

*groan*

More air-time given to possibly the world's most over-hyped teen paranormal romance saga.

But hear me out. I was giving the Twilight series some serious thought last night as I put away the dishes. I will begin by saying I have read all four books, so I can speak with some authority. I have also spent my fair share of time in this life unapologetically bashing them. I mean really ripping them to shreds. I'm not going to go into all the reasons why I think it is poor literature. They don't matter. They have been hashed and re-hashed, and there is no more hashing to be had.

But what bewildered me last night, as I sat pondering (unaccountably) on Twilight, was how much it spoke to certain people. The fact is, there are people who genuinely love Twilight! The question I should have thought at that point was, "Why?" But I didn't. My first thought was, "It's because they have no taste in literature--or life in general." I had noticed that the same kind of girl, no matter the age, goes gaga over Bella and Edward, and--up until last night--had written them all off as people I could never relate to on a truly meaningful level. These seemed to be girls who had almost never voluntarily picked up a book in their lives, seemed to have limited worldviews on just about every issue, and--given the chance--would probably ask me why on earth anyone would ever want to become a librarian?

Then my hypocrisy-dar (that's like radar...anyway...you get the picture) went off as it usually does when I'm being totally disingenuous.
-Fact: I kind of enjoyed at least two out of four books in the Twilight series. Unfortunately, the last one sucked so bad it sucked anything that could have been considered decent out of the other three. (Except New Moon. New Moon is a province of suckage all it's own.)
-Fact: I know, and love, several people who genuinely enjoyed Twilight. And yeah, I can relate to them on a meaningful level.
-Fact: Not all of my tastes have always been so "exalted." I loved Goosebumps; I read Animorphs; I love The Game of Thrones... I enjoy popular fiction! I do! It's usually popular for a reason! And if you're going to be any kind of a good librarian, you have to know what people like to read. You can't just read essays all day long and expect to be in touch.
-Fact: You can't make generalizations about entire groups of people (especially a group as large as ardent followers of Twilight) and come off as anything other than a huge a**-hole.

Furthermore, if you think about it, it's actually kind sexist to deride a work of popular fiction simply because it has mass appeal to women. Oh. So, because it speaks to issues that resonate with women, it's automatically inferior? It's like people who bag on Sarah Palin for being an attractive woman.* I can't buy into any of that with a clear conscience.

So anyway...once again, I've devoted way too much time to something that deserves pretty much NONE of my time. But I guess the point I'm trying to wend my way toward is that if you're gonna hate Twilight, hate it for the right reasons. I care about the story about as much as I care for chopped liver. But I have seen the light in terms of judging those who truly enjoy it. And now, instead of arrogantly saying, "I know why they like it," I'll just humbly and genuinely wonder, "why?" And I'm sure each lover of Twilight has their own unique reason.

*I dislike Sarah Palin as much as the next educated person. But I try not to criticize her for being woman.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What they're learnin' me to do in grad school

I made this web tutorial for my User Instruction class. Wrote the script, taught myself how to use the software ('cause, believe it or not, that is something they do NOT teach you in grad school) edited the video, music, and voice... it was fun. Regardless of what I think of the actual class, at least I squeezed a marketable skill out of it. Like juice from a lemon. (Anyway...)

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Empathizing with Mrs. Bennet


K. So in order for this post to make any kind of sense, I'd have to tell a really long story that I don't really want to divulge to the internet. The SparksNotes version is that there has been a lot of tension in a certain sphere of my life. It started before I became part of that sphere, but it still continues. It doesn't matter why. The reasons are WAY too complicated to try to explain, and no one person is responsible. ANYWAY. The point is, there's tension. And like it or not, I'm in the middle of it now. Most of the time, this tension just kind of bubbles threateningly below the surface, but every now and then it erupts into a geyser--yes, an Old Faithful--of angry words and hurt feelings. Yesterday was one of those geysers. Only this one was like Excelsior Geyser. I became so enraged at one point that I actually became physically ill. Now to be fair, I think I was already on the verge of getting sick. But suddenly, I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, I felt like I was imploding physically and emotionally. All I wanted to do was curl up and into myself until I disappeared.

Having just rewatched not one but TWO versions of Pride and Prejudice, my first thought was, "Oh my gosh. It's actually possible! I've become psychosomatically ill." My Lydia had figuratively run off with the rapacious Mr. Wickham, and Mr. Bennet was going to challenge him to a duel and be killed, and...and...and all I could think to do was hole myself up in my room for the next few days. It's all I wanted to do, anyway.


I still feel like crap. But the worst is over. And I think--I hope, anyway--that yesterday was a turning point.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Is it Because I’m White? (Whatever THAT means.)



Serious post ahead.

I wasn’t going to write about this.
I work in a public library where our patrons are very ethnically and racially diverse. It’s actually kind of awesome, living in a society that seems so homogeneous in race, religion, culture, etc, to meet and talk to so many different kinds of people.
But I have had at least two or three experiences in the last two years that have left a really bitter taste in my mouth. I’ll share with you the most recent:
Kid comes up to the desk. (He’s white. Not that it matters.) He needs to do some homework and wants to get set up on the research computers behind the desk. I type in his info and turn around to see which computers are available. They are both occupied.
“I’m sorry,” I say, “It seems that they are both occ—“
“Right here!” calls the guy at one of the computers. “He’s with me.”
“Oh, okay! Let’s get you set up.”
I walk over and as I’m typing in the password, the guy already sitting there says, “Is it because I’m not white?” (He wasn’t white. Not that it matters.)
“I’m sorry?” I say, not because I didn’t hear him the first time, but because I literally have NO idea why the color of his skin has anything to do with anything that’s going on. My hackles are already going up, though. The only thing I can think of is that he thinks I’m surprised that he, a non-white individual (whatever that means), is here at the library with a white kid? So what? Stranger things have happened.
“Is it because I’m not white?” He repeats clearly.
Clamping down on my rising anger, I respond, “No…I just thought this computer was already in use.” Not trusting myself to say anything else, I walk away. Livid.
Several times, I almost turned around and asked him why he would jump to that conclusion about me. Why? WHY.
What is it about me that leads certain people to automatically assume that I am racist? I’m trying not to be defensive here because, you know, nothing screams “You are what you say you aren’t!” like being defensive. But the fact is, I find the assumption that I am racist—presumably because I’m “white”—among the most offensive things anyone could say to me.
I’ve cooled down about the whole thing now, and I’m glad I didn’t confront the guy. What would it have proven? I only wish I could have been more warm towards him later. But, understandably, I could not. I have a hot temper and react really poorly to being misjudged. Sigh.  Things to work on…
Have any of you ever found yourselves in a situation like this? How did/would you handle it? How can you keep cool in the moment and be kind to the very people who would make you a monster?

Monday, October 3, 2011

A Self-Education

Three years ago I interviewed at the BYU library for a position in the Humanities Reference department. I was currently working at Book Repair. And while I was quite good at paper-mending, recasing, strip binding (not as exciting as it sounds) and myriad other esoteric repairs, book repair was not what I wanted to do with my life. (If book conservation is what you want to do with your life, it is very cool. My sister does it.) So I applied for the reference position, had a really good interview, waited for kind of a long while to hear back...never did. So I called them. "Ohhh.." the assistant said when I called, "Well, we actually gave the position to someone else. Because he speaks German."

Oh!

"But!" she replied, in conciliatory tones, "Another librarian saw your resume, saw that you are a Portuguese speaker, and is interested in hiring you."

Hm! Okay.

So that's how I got that job. About a month ago, I interviewed for another position (than the one I currently have) at OPL, had a perfectly adequate interview, and then played the waiting game once more.

(As an aside, I think it is healthy for everyone to be turned down for a job at least once or twice in their lifetime. It's humbling. And it helps keep everything in perspective. Anyway, moving on.)

You probably gathered that I did not get this job either. "We found someone who has experience in video and editing," they said. Well that made perfect sense, since my only video experience consisted of recording something on my digital camera and uploading it to iMovie for minimal editing. I didn't feel bad in the least.

I did, however, realize that I have a lot to learn, and that I can develop certain marketable skills all on my own. Like HTML and web design. I have a GINORMOUS book about HTML and CSS sitting on my bookshelf gathering dust. I've built a web site, sure. But it's extremely rudimentary. I can do the basics in Excel and InDesign--but my skills are not exactly "mad." I could make a video, but I had never really sat down and done any finishing on it.

I say "could" because all of this is, in fact, just a really long introduction to the fact that I, Erin Mumford, have created and posted my very first YouTube video. I googled how to rip DVDs, downloaded the software, did all the editing, formatted it for YouTube, and--unlike the Little Red Hen of lore--am perfectly disposed to share it with you now. I am only a little bit embarrassed how much time this took and how much homework did not get done as a result. Also...I am perfectly aware that this particularly work of "art" will never appear on any resume.

WARNING: It's a fan video. (If you don't know what that is, you soon will. They constitute a worldwide pandemic on YouTube.) And yes, I created it ironically. Here it is:

Monday, September 12, 2011

Things I Know at 26



- This is how I look to most people most of the time.
- I have a long face, stern eyes and a crooked mouth. *shrug*
- I know so much more than I did five years, two years, one year ago.
- And I am beginning to understand the immensity of how little I know.
- Age is a mostly arbitrary number.
- I am glad I married older.*
- Adults are petty and stupid and set in their ways.
- Don't believe everything your elders tell you.
- Don't believe everything you read on the internet.
- Don't believe anything involving superlatives (best, surest, safest, blah. blah. blah.)
- Don't you dare do something simply because it is "done."
- Question religion. Think deep and hard about it, and often. Take a stand, but humbly.
- Question everything. But disregard everything at your peril.
- Own your opinions unequivocally.
- Be passionate! But not pugnacious.
- Be kind. 
- Kiss a lot.**
- Avoid cliches.
- Weigh others' opinions before dismissing them out of hand.
- Do things because they are right, not because it will please someone, but because you reap what you sow.
- Don't worry about recognition.
- Don't concern yourself with accolades, with the opinions of others.
- Think about yourself as little as possible.
- But do try to dress well. It will help reduce self-consciousness.
- If you find a pair of pants you like, don't look at the price tag, and buy two pair.
- Avoid feeling angry. It's contagious in all the worse ways.***
- Empathize instead.
- Eat well. Not for your figure, but for your immune system, your stamina and your overall health.
- Have plenty of snacks in the cupboard.
- I am not going to go to Hell for watching movies of a certain rating, or saying things like "damn" every now and then, or drinking a caffeinated beverage every once in a while. I'm not. Sorry to disappoint.
- I am not going to be condemned for my imperfections.
- BUT don't use your imperfections as an excuse.
- Everyone hates their job at least a little bit. Don't be disappointed when you aren't completely satisfied with your own.
- Don't pay for TV.
- Don't watch TV. Not in real time, at least.
- Commercials are Satan's own spawn.
- Read. Read as if because your life depends on it.
- Read the news. Don't watch it. ****
- Practice. It isn't too late to learn a new skill. 
- Create. Do it because it's good for your brain.
- Worry about money only as much as necessary and, generally, as little as you can afford. *****
- Write often and without regard to quality. There is always revision...
- Go out of your way for your friends.
- Don't judge your friends.
- Don't judge your family. But learn from them--mistakes and all.
- Laugh at yourself.
- Respect yourself.
- So you can love yourself.
- So you can love others.
- Just...you know...love.

*An arguable point. In Mormondom, marriage at the ripe age of (nearly) 25 is on the shady side of average.
** Should've learned this a lot sooner.
***Screaming impotently at other drivers does not make them regret cutting me off.
****If Fox News is "fair and balanced" then my Aunt Sally is a three-toed, yodeling monkey's uncle.
*****No pun intended.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Power of a Good Teacher

I was going through my old blog posts today and found this one from over two years ago. I'm not sure why I didn't post it. Maybe I was going to go back and revise it. I ended up forgetting about it. Anyway, I think it's worth posting now, so here it is.

May 20, 2009

Yesterday, I woke up and found myself no longer in Spain, unemployed, with a mountain of laundry to do. After going to an early-morning workshop regarding the paid internship I've been approved for (yay!) I went back home, calmly gathered together all of my dirty clothes--which was ALL of my clothes, basically--and drove the five minutes to the parents' to wash them. it was the one thing of importance left on my agenda to do for the day. That's what happens when you don't have a job, I guess. I got my laundry going, played piano for a while, read, and then, decided to do something I hadn't done in three years: visit Mr. Carpenter.

Mountain View High School is fifteen minutes drive away from home, in good traffic conditions. I chose to go the neighborhood route--which was a bad idea, since every school zone in Orem was flashing and I saw at least three cops and two cars get pulled over. It was a war zone. But, twenty minutes later, I pulled up to the long, white building, parked in Visitor Parking (unnecessary at that time of day) walked past several groups of loud teens who, to my college-conditioned eyes, appeared so young and foreign, and entered the building. I was aware that, six years after the fact, I easily passed for one of them. Only, not nearly as trendy.

I climbed the stairs and entered the social studies hallway. Carpenter's room was the second on the right. it wasn't the same one as when I was there, but when i went in, I saw at a glance that it was arranged exactly the same way. Nothing changed. Carp wasn't there at the moment, so I just stood looking around until he came in. When he walked in, I smiled, held out my hand and said, "Do you remember me?" Of course he did. It didn't take him a second to remember my name.

We talked about everything. We talked about school and history and life in general. In the three years since I'd set foot in the school, I'd gone and come back from Brazil, finished a college degree, and, in short, seen a little bit more of the world. In the three years since I'd been there, his kids had gotten older, his vision had probably gotten worse (though I didn't ask him) and his curriculum was basically the same. "Nothing changes here," I said. "I change, but this," I said, indicating the classroom and the school, "has all stayed the same." Carpenter nodded and said, "Well, the teachers get older and crankier." Somehow, I can't imagine Carpenter ever getting cranky. Older maybe. Never cranky.

I left Mountain View reminded, once again, why Carpenter, of all the teachers and professors I've had, was the most important one. Over the course of my mission, I read and re-read a discourse on 1 Corinthians 13 written by a man who was not of my faith...yet still of my faith. Part of developing the Christlike attribute of Charity, this man says, is--interestingly enough--to believe in people. Nothing influences people more than our belief in them. Mr. Carpenter is in a unique position where he is able to influence a lot of young people for good. I'm glad I got to be one of them.

Has any teacher influenced you for the better?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Anniversary cake

It's 10:53 p.m. and I can barely keep my eyes open, so this should be interesting. It's our anniversary today! Numero uno. Yesterday we pulled the top layer of our wedding cake out of cryogenic freeze, and about an hour ago we cut through year-old fondant into a surprisingly...hmm...fresh cake. I'm serious. It actually tasted like it was baked yesterday.

I should explain that I never in my wildest dreams imagined myself EVER observing that tradition. I've imagined myself doing crazier things than that (skydiving, bellybutton piercings, childbirth) but never that. The decision to have a cake in the first place was really last minute, so the decision to preserve it for future posterity was equally last minute, and done in response to Travis and I having each had a total of one bite of the bottom layer (courteously fed to each other at the reception. not so courteously tonight, heh) and our mothers having had NO cake whatsoever.

We weren't even going to wait a whole year, but then, well, time has a way of getting away from you, and before you know it, it's been a year, and it's just about time to pull that sucker out and dust it off. Hey. That cake was expensive--and surprisingly delicious. And thanks to Mom, it was frozen in just the right way to make it thaw right back into bakery fresh readiness. You'd freeze it too if you only got one bite. Or you wouldn't.

Basically, I wish I would feel less embarrassed about having just eaten a year-old cake, but I don't. Moving on.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Power of Vulnerability

The secret to a happy and full life: to let yourself be seen--utterly, inside and out. This is worth the 20 min. it takes to watch.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Laika in Space

You've probably heard of the little dog that got sent up into space by the Russians. I just learned some pretty interesting things about her in this graphic novel by Nick Abadzis.


First of all, her real name was Kudryavka. "Little Curly," for her curly, samoyed-esque tail. Second of all, they sent her up there to die.

What they teach you in elementary school is that the Russians sent the first two satellites up into space and that the second one constituted the first "manned" orbit, with Laika on board. Yay! A dog in space! What kid doesn't get a kick out of that?

What they don't teach you is that after the successful launch of Sputnik--the first object launched into space--Kruschev ordered his space engineers to have a second, manned satellite ready to go one month later in time for the 40th anniversary of the Revolution. One month, folks. One. Because of the time crunch, the engineers did not have time to create a rocket that could bring anyone home safely from space. Only launch them out forever. All for propaganda's sake.

So they sent a dog. The best tempered dog they had. A dog unfailingly sweet after the most grueling training sessions. They re-named her "Laika" for the launch, because the name was more fierce. Laika, "barker." They put her in a special doggy space suit, strapped her into a tiny capsule and blasted her into space.

It was all over world news! "The Soviets still ahead in the space race! Laika in space! 'Muttnik!'" The official report was that she lived for four or five days in orbit and then was humanely put down and that great strides in research were made.

Actually...she died five hours into the flight, from stress and heat exhaustion. Just like that. A tiny life, gone. And the worst part is, it was kind of in vain. "The more time passes," said Oleg Georgivitch Galenko in 1998, "the more I'm sorry about it. We did not learn enough from the mission to justify the death of the dog."

It totally made me cry, in case you were wondering. Check it out, if you can, though. It isn't all tears and sadness.


Doesn't this just look like the nose of a pooch you'd wanna pet?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Looking Death in the Face

My sweet, fragile Grandpa Rasmussen passed away on Monday. He was 95.

While at work on Saturday afternoon, I received an email from my mom about the recent decline of my grandpa's health. He had been steadily declining for years--forgetting little things, like where he put the keys, to forgetting the names of grandchildren he didn't see regularly, to forgetting his own children whom he saw daily.

Grandpa never changed though. He grew disoriented, and by the end of his life, a brief Sunday visit to my parents' house next door to his was a trip to a stranger's house. But he was always the same, gentle, gracious man he always was. He never lashed out in his confusion, never shied away from the "strangers" he saw all around him. He lovingly looked for my Grandma, whom he almost always remembered til the end. (On the rare occasions where he couldn't quite remember who she was, I'm told he would sometimes propose to her. :) That's the kind of man he was.)

Mom's email on saturday was just to let us know that Grandpa had gone to sleep a few days ago and was still restlessly sleeping. In other words... Grandpa was dying. It was time to gather round and say our goodbyes.

Later that evening, Travis and I went to see him. Grandpa was in his own room in a hospital bed, swaddled in many blankets, with a little white night cap to keep him warm. Unconscious, gaunt, and breathing laboredly, he didn't look peaceful; he looked like he was struggling--struggling to be free, perhaps. I was a little frightened by what I saw. After my mom and grandma left Trav and I alone to whisper our goodbyes, I began to cry into my husband's shoulder. "Death is horrifying," I whispered. And, to me, in that moment, it was. The man I'd known and loved my whole life, his quick wit and sharp intellect, his gentle humility, was reduced to this struggling shell of a body. The women I loved, Mom and Grandma, and all who did their nightly vigils with Grandma--women who knew this man far better than even I--had to tend this dying body, knowing that soon he would be gone. How was it to be borne?

"No!" Travis whispered back. "Death isn't horrifying." And as I remained many minutes more, and became more accustomed to Grandpa's, at first, alarming new visage, I realized Travis was right. This was as important of a journey as Grandpa's life. It marked a change, and not an easy one to accept, but a natural and a good one.

A picture of his mother, who died when he was twelve, hung on the wall next to his bed. It was one of those old-timey photos that, as it hung in my grandparents' guest room for years, I had often found humorous and even a little frightening. People always looked so solemn back then. But as I stared at that old familiar photo, I had the thought that in a few short days--or hours, I didn't know how long--he'd be reunited with his mother, a woman he hadn't seen in nearly 84 years.

There was nothing horrifying about that. In fact, I was filled with such joy at the thought that it makes me cry a little bit even now to think about it. Yes. Joy. It's a little bit stronger than mere happiness.

I feel like I experience the quotidien details of my life with blinders on. I believe that my existence began before I was born, and I believe that it will not end with my death. But I take this for granted every single day. I go throughout my routine and feel, however subconsciously, as if this--this--is all there is. As if my job, my schooling, my routine, my husband here and now are the most important things. In the religion I practice though, we often talk about having an "eternal perspective," or remembering the long-term reasons for doing things; remembering to choose to focus on things that will be of eternal importance to us--such as Family over Money, for example. Often, things such as reading Scripture help me refocus and remember the eternal perspective. But it's so so so easy to forget again.

My Grandfather Ellis's death has forced me to stare into Eternity, such as I believe it to be, and really come to terms with it. I hope and I have faith that he is happily reunited with his mother, his stepmother, his father and countless other members of his family. That idea feels right to me; that idea is consistent with my belief that familial relationships do not end after a brief and ephemeral coexistence on earth. No! NO! We go on. We'll be together again. If not? I don't care. I'll still believe it, because that belief alone I know will inform my choices and help me make the most of my life here and now.

This is my first experience with Death. It is sad--and for one moment, one brief moment, I felt the shock and despair of loss. That was horrifying. I still mourn for the separation from my Gramps. But there's no despair now. Only peace. I've looked Death in the face now and, as my mother said, "I'm not afraid of it anymore."

I'm not afraid of it anymore either.


Ellis Theo Rasmussen. Sept 21, 1915--Jun 6, 2011

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Maybe we've been playing too much Fruit Ninja on the iPad

I lie in bed and begin the nightly process of silencing my conscious brain. I was not gifted with the ability to sleep on command.

My dear, sweet Travis, on the other hand, is. In general, the instant his head touches the pillow, he's on his way out.

Many moons ago (like...maybe a year) I discovered that when Travis falls asleep, he doesn't go all the way under all at once, but remains for a while in a kind of limbo where he is both dreaming and able to respond to me if I talk to him. When we were dating--and sleepiness signaled the time for me to go home--it was a skill that served him well when he used to try to disguise the fact that he was falling asleep.

It was no use, though. Trav's entrance into the limbo-like state is always accompanied by lots of little twitches.

I confess that I am malicious enough to have made a game out of talking to Travis while he is in Limbo. Like I said, he's responsive. So sometimes, when I feel him begin to twitch, I roll over with an evil glint in my eye (not that anyone could see it, but, trust me--it's there) and whisper quietly in his ear, "What are you doing?" and he'll whisper back, "I'm trying out for the Olympics," or, "I'm running away from the cops," or, "I'm waiting for my kid to be born--don't freak out." (Personal favorite.)

Now that we're married, and I'm usually trying to fall asleep alongside my husband, I don't whisper, "What are you doing?" nearly as often as I used to. But every now and then, when Trav twitches so hard I worry he's had a seizure, I ask him.

So, I'm lying in bed, beginning the nightly process of silencing my conscious brain, when Trav--having been horizontal a total of one minute--twitches violently.

I can't resist. "What are you doing?" I ask.

"Mm!" he whimpers, as if dragging himself just enough awake to mutter a response.

*long pause*

"... Fighting a ninja apple."

(New favorite.)

Monday, April 18, 2011

It's My Blog, and I Can Vent if I Want To

In general, I don't consider myself a complainer. Anyone who's around me long enough (cough cough Travis) will get an earful every now and then. But, in general, complaining is not really my style, mostly because...hmm... WHAT GOOD DOES IT DO ANYONE?

This is my blog, however, and as I disclaimed in the title, I am entitled to a little complaining. Ironically, my complaint concerns complainers.

*phone rings
*
me: Orem Library, Media.

Lady: Yes, hi. We're trying to watch a DVD that we checked out and we can't get it out of the case. Is there some special trick?

me: Yeaaah... there's a red security hub that's keeping the disc in place. That's something you have to get taken off at the library.

Lady: Why don't the self check-outs have a sign or something that tells you need to get it taken off??

[me thinking: Oh no. Not another one.]

me: Well, there is actually a sign that pops up on the screen warning you about the hubs...

Lady: No. No there wasn't.

[me thinking: Oh there isn't, is there? You know that for sure? Would you stake your life on it? I've only worked here since they implemented the self checkouts, but I don't know a thing. I only know the ins and outs of this place. But don't take my word for it. Since you're so sure, you must be right!]

me: ... So, unfortunately, the only way to get that sucker off is to bring it back in and have us take it off for you. I'm really sorry. It's annoying.

Lady: Yeah, well, that's just great with gas prices at $4 a gallon.

me: Yeah, I'm really sorry.

Lady: Ok then. Bye.

*facepalm*

I understand this lady's complaint, and I sympathize. It's annoying. It really is. And I've been in her place before. But the fact is, complaining to me about the price of gas (or rice in China, or whatever it may be), and being just a little bit proud and unreasonable, is not going to change the fact that she has to come back in and get the hub off. (Fact!) It's only going to make the whole process that much more annoying.

So here are the morals of my little diatribe here:

1. Stuff is annoying. Complaining about it doesn't help anybody, least of all the person you are complaining to.

2. Sometimes, you may swear up and down that you're right about something. But sometimes the fact is, you're wrong. Be humble enough to acknowledge at least the possibility.

3. Don't be a jerk to the people who aren't responsible.

Check that... just don't be a jerk.

[--End]

Friday, April 15, 2011

A short post about guitar

I love being musical.

I took something called a Multiple Intelligences test for one of my classes today, and one of my highest ranking "intelligences" (or, how I make sense of the world) was Musical Intelligence.


Music just makes sense to me. Music totally moves me. So if I ever post music on my blog it's because it really meant something to me. I have long ago abandoned the notion that the same music that moves me will be just as wonderful to someone else, but sometimes I like to share a little something.

I've been a piano player for a long time, and this hard-earned skill comes naturally now. I look at a chord and the muscle memory in my hands knows exactly what to do without my thinking about it. My hand knows what shape it needs to make in order to play a fifth or a fourth, or a ninth. It's so effortless now that it's easy to forget the long road to mastery.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I started picking up guitar a little over a year ago. There is nothing like picking up a new, and totally different, instrument to remind one of one's humble musical origins. For what feels like the longest time, my hands have been at an utter loss what to do unless my conscious brain gives them direct orders. And there's the callouses, too. You cannot play guitar well unless you lose a little sensation in the tips of your fingers. Not too much, but enough to resist the urge to scream in pain every time you play.

Well, time has passed, and slowly but surely, I am acquiring mastery by degrees. I have mastered individual chords--meaning, I can play them without thinking about them or looking at my hands (for the most part). I can strum using just the right amount of pressure. I can finger pick simple tunes. And yeah, I can pick out other tunes by ear--laboriously, but I can do it.

Mastery takes so much practice. Sometimes, after a while, you just have to put the instrument away for a while and let things "marinade." Let new neurons form. And then, magically, when you come back to it, you've improved. Suddenly, you can play that riff from Stairway to Heaven with a little more ease and strength. Suddenly, your finger is strong enough to hammer on that note instead of picking it. Suddenly, before you know it, 24, 25 years old does not seem too old to pick up a new instrument.

Did you know that Martha Graham, one of the most famous dancers in all of history, did not take a single dance lesson until she was 22? That, my friends, is quite ancient by dancers' standards.

So anyway, to conclude this "short" post, I will post a video of the song I am currently working on. Things are going really well. I expect I will have mastered this song before too long. At least before I'm dead. Here's to hoping. And practicing.

"Autumn Leaves" by Eva Cassidy

Friday, March 11, 2011

Castle

If you don't watch this show, begin now. Travis and I heard about it and started watching it from season one about two weeks ago, and we have since burned through two and a half seasons. Yes, it's that good. And it has this guy in it, come on:

That's right! That's Captain Mal from Firefly. And Captain Hammer from Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog. Nathan Fillion for the win!

But now you're asking yourself, "Why should I care about Nathan Fillion? Or Firefly or any of that mumbo jumbo? I'll tell you why. Here are the top five reasons why you should get yourself hooked on Castle.

1. The premise: The setting is New York City. A serial killer begins to kill people by imitating the murder scenes in the novels of NY Times Bestseller Richard Castle. In order to get into the mind of the killer, NYPD hires Castle as a consultant. After they solve that first case, the Mayor convinces the NYPD to allow Castle to remain with them as a kind of pseudo-detective in order to gather research for his next series. His inspiration? Det. Kate Beckett, who is not only lovely to look at, but very good at her job.

2. Nathan Fillion. Charming, handsome, deadly accurate sense of comedic timing. He makes the show. Think Shawn Spencer from Psych, or Lorelei Gilmore.

3. Writing. It's clever. There is witty banter. There are even genuinely tender moments. (I caught Trav with a tear in his eye once.) It's not the BEST writing in the world, but I'll tell you what. If you can find me the BEST written show in the world, I'll stop watching this show and watch that one instead. Also, unlike some of these other murder mystery shows, it doesn't take the whole forensics thing to unrealistic lengths. There is no magnifying reflective surfaces and enhancing images and all that stupid crap in order to get a clear shot of the murderer. No. The emphasis in this show is really more about Castle and Beckett.

4. Chemistry. The X-Files, Bones, Psych... These shows are all the same. They always have a man and a woman who just. can't. quite. seem. to get.................... together! The formula is the same in Castle. But Castle and Beckett have such amazing chemistry, it's a delight to watch. And hey, if the formula works...

5. It's only like halfway through it's third season, so if you start now you won't be too far behind when you finally realize that you should have been doing yourself the favor of watching it all along!

I'm done. I know I have sounded suspiciously like an infomercial. But I've said my piece and counted to three, and now I'm going to go see Rango with my husband.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Scared of Motherhood

The answer to your first question is, No. I'm not.

But I am a little wary of the eventuality. Yesterday I took Hugh to the Bean Museum on BYU campus for the afternoon. For those of you unfamiliar with the Monte L. Bean Museum, it is a place filled with stuffed (taxidermized) animals and fascination for small children. I should know. I was once a small child fascinated by the Bean Museum. It still holds a sense of nostalgia for me. The faint but definite smell of formaldehyde brings me way back. Shasta, the liger, the 12-foot Kodiak bear, the display of African animals with an enormous elephant as its centerpiece... Memory Lane.

How cool is that for a kid to be able to see these animals up close! Except that they're, hmm, dead. But no matter.

After we dropped Ellis off at school, I decided to take Hugh to the Bean Museum to kill part of the three hours I had alone with him.

Predictably (or not, because I certainly didn't predict it) at 3 in the afternoon the place was crawling with other pre-schoolers. Seriously. Way more kids than adults. I was suddenly immersed in a culture I had nothing to do with--and want nothing to do with for a while yet: the Mommy culture.

Now. I'm not denigrating the Mommy culture. In my mind, "the Mommy culture" is how we raise our children in a way that is best for them: we do things that will interest them, and not necessarily us (like take them to boring kid movies or the same museums over and over again) because they love it and it's good for them, etc. The "Mommy culture" is about living for your children. That's not a bad thing. I'm just not ready to do that yet.

But in half an instant, as I walked into that museum with my little three-year-old nephew clutching my hand, I became one of them. It was a weird glimpse into the life of women whose lives (currently) revolve around pregnancy and/or small, high-energy human beings. It was interesting watching these women summon up, from somewhere, the energy to be animated with their children. To be excited about frankly unexciting things. Like fur. To patiently ignore the little pettinesses of children.

I imagined myself being sized up by these women. What kind of "mother" did I appear to be to them? I didn't really care what their assessments were since I am not Hugh's mother, but I did find myself consciously trying to emulate more interest in little Hugh's childlike interests. I got excited with him when he pressed buttons that lit up displays; I played schoolbus with him in one of the little alcoves; and I watched 30 minutes of a nature documentary about a jaguar. (Actually, that was pretty interesting.)

Yeah, I'm scared of motherhood. I don't want to organize play dates with other moms' kids. I don't want to change diapers or sing the alphabet ad nauseum or allow my life to be consumed in the service of my children.

I speak of motherhood as if it were trial to be endured, a hardship. But I know it will be different when I have my own children, and I can slowly ease my way into the Mommy culture rather than be dropped headlong into it. Those of you who are mothers will perhaps look at me, or back at your past selves, and think, "I remember feeling like that, but so much has changed."

I expect my outlook to change. And I welcome it! But for now... I'm still scared of motherhood.

(Don't judge.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A random, disconnected update

Because I'm too lazy to compose anything nice,

1. School. It's going well. I've been doing a lot of soul-searching lately about whether or not I really want to be a librarian. There's a lot of crazy people in this world and most of them seem to want to congregate in libraries. Sometimes I'm too tired to deal with them. But then I have days like today, where I helped numerous Orem High School procrastinators get started on a book report project that is due tomorrow, and I had a really good time. I learned how to do my job better and i helped some cool kids in the mean time. I still don't know if I want to focus my studies on working in public or academic libraries. I'm leaning towards Academic, because i can go into Public anytime i want. The jury is still out.

2. Sandi. My mother-in-law. She came to visit for a few days and stayed at our place on our newly acquired (but certainly not new) hide-a-bed couch. I like hosting people, especially gracious guests who engage us in good conversation, buy us food and otherwise shower us with love. ("Shower thee people you love with love...") Travis and I often comment about what a blessing it is to get along with one's in-laws. I was genuinely sad to see her go.

3. Starcraft. Because it is late and I am writing this in a train-of-thought fashion (and Travis is playing SC the next desk over) I will just briefly mention that I am quite good at this game. I don't know if I should be proud or just sad. We'll go with proud.

4. Health. I contracted a disease over the weekend. you may have heard of it. It's called the Common Cold. It attacked my immune system with great vigor over the course of about four days, and then today, suddenly, it all but vanished. Good riddance. I am a bad sick person because I am so seldom ill. I get whiny and listless, and i don't eat very well. But this one knocked me out of commission for at least two of the four days, including Valentine's day. It wasn't a big deal. But it would have been nice NOT to have been sick on Valentine's day for the second year in a row.

5. Kids. I babysit Amanda and Curtis's kids every monday for about six hours. I've done it three times now and it is a learning experience each time. Babysitting has never been my thing, but I am learning a lot about myself and the kids, and discovering that--as with most things worth doing--Love is the secret to doing it well.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll write a book review next. Or a political treatise. Or a diatribe. Whatever strikes my fancy. Cheers.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Villette

I made it one of my goals this year to update my blog at least once a week even if the most interesting things I have to say regard movies I've watched or books I'm reading. It's been over a week now, so I'm due.

I'm reading a book called Villette by Charlotte Bronte (of Jane Eyre fame.) As some of you may know, JE is my all-time favorite book, which is interesting considering my short attention span for the classics. Sacrilegious to most bibliophiles is my distaste for Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and a handful of other overly verbose Victorian authors. But I absolutely love JE for reasons listed in an earlier blog post. I grew up watching Timothy Dalton smolder on screen as the formidable Mr. Rochester; I grew up watching, horrified, while Bertha Mason threw herself, screaming, from the battlements of Thornfield Hall as it burned to ground. Heady stuff.

Admittedly, I was probably able to get through the book all the way the first time only because it was required reading in Mr. Baldwin's sophomore English class. But it has remained my favorite ever since.

I have shied away from reading any other Charlotte Bronte novels mostly for one reason: the fear of disappointment. I feel as if JE is the pinnacle, or the summum bonum, of the Bronte sisters' work (having read Wuthering Heights and numerous synopses for other Bronte books.) Many of them all seem to run along the same themes: Loneliness, Discovery, Friendship, Love, Passion, Loss, Redemption. (And governesses. Lots of governesses.) All good themes. (Even the governessing.) But in my mind, I cannot fathom another book executing these themes as well as...you know what.

Well, the point I'm winding around to is that I have finally gotten up the nerve, or the motivation, to read my second Charlotte Bronte novel. This is a big step for me, especially considering that my best friend--a Dickens lover, mind you, and a voracious reader of all books Classic--soundly condemned Villette as "boring." Eek. But then there is my sister, who applauded Villette as romantic, well-written, etc.

I have a confession to make, however, that neither my best friend nor my sister tipped the scales in my decision to read or not to read. George Eliot did. Quoth Ms. Eliot on the back of the copy I'm reading, "I am only just returned to a sense of the real world about me, for I have been reading Villette, a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre."

!!!

That was it. An endorsement from another famous Victorian authoress singing the praises of a book "still more wonderful" than my favorite book? Why yes, I will read that book. That, and statement by the Oxford University Press on the back that Villette was similar to JE, but more honest, more autobiographical, and less...gothic--that all appealed to me.

I am currently 68 pages into my book. Not much has happened. (Then again neither did anything in the first 90 pages of Les Miserables, which I read all of, and loved.) I will keep you posted on whether or not I a) finish Villette and b) like it.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

@011

And by @011, I mean 2011. Typo.

2010. A year of mostly mediocre movies (with a few exceptions) and books. And music. With a few exceptions. At work, we were asked to submit our top five picks of items that came out in 2010 in the above categories. Honestly, the albums and books and movies that popped into my head were mostly from 2009. 2010 just didn't stimulate me that much in the pop culture realm.

But pop culture isn't really what stands out in my mind about this last year anyway. I could make a list of all the things I did for the first time--places I've traveled, experiences I've had, etc.--but it would be a fairly short list. And everything on that list can be comprised into one overarching new thing that I did/learned/became in 2010. "Meh-widge." I don't blog a lot about the particulars of our marriage, but suffice it to say that I feel continually blessed to have a best friend at my side, all the time. I feel very strongly that Trav and I are headed in the right direction.

Trav and I have made some goals for this year. Resolutions, if you will. One of them is to spend less money. Done and DONE. No one is going to the Middle East this year; we aren't planning a Hawaiian getaway; and the Wedding--that most expensive of creatures--is over and done with. By simply living frugally but comfortably, we will meet this goal with little effort at all. (The best kind of goal ;)

Another joint goal is to get in shape. As a surprise, I got Travis a set of adjustable-weight dumbbells that he can use to workout with at home.

It was a gamble. The weights were expensive, and they were not on his Want list. Furthermore, I couldn't bring them out to Maryland, as each would require it's own suitcase to stay under the weight limit, which means Christmas morning was going to be a little anti-climactic.

And that's hard, even for a twenty-five year old.

But I went ahead and purchased them, feeling that it would pay off in the end. We had individually made efforts, on and off, to exercise all last year, but had never followed through with any regularity. I hoped that the convenience of being able to work out at home would solve that problem. But like I said, it was a gamble. Maaaaaybe we would... Maaaaaaybe we wouldn't.

Having presented Travis with a proxy 1 lb. dumbbell on Christmas morning (and a url to a picture of his real present waiting for him back in Utah), we eventually came home to the real thing. The dumbbells lay untouched for the first few days as we unpacked and got back into our regular routines. But I waited... hoping for the best but preparing myself to offer to take them back. They were rather expensive after all.

A few days later, as I sat curled up on the couch with a book, Travis pulled up a kitchen chair and began playing around with the weights. And by playing, I mean curling, 30 lbs. in each hand. Trav is a naturally muscular man. I had bought the weights that were 50 lbs. each, but expandable to up to 90 lbs. Good thing. Two days later, the same thing. And two days after that, another workout session in our front room.

And as easy as that, we have a routine. I even join him now. I can curl--wait for it--ten pound in each hand. Pathetic, I know, but I've never done any weight training before. We've added some lunges and leg exercises into the mix as well. The best part about it all is that there is no gym membership required, which means we can go as long or as short, as frequently or as not, as we want, and just feel good about the fact that we're doing anything at all! It's fun to be able to do this together.

By the way. He surprised me with these awesome boots. I wear them practically every day. Life is so good.

hoop-de-do