Monday, November 26, 2012

Demons

I think, for the most part, that I am a good person. At least I'm not a sociopath, that I know of. And all in all, I try to do the right thing. At my work, I seek to genuinely enjoy helping people--and it's not that hard, especially if they say thank you :)

But like everyone, I have inner demons, and sometimes something will happen that will release them. I am inevitably surprised by the virulence of these demons, and am left exhausted by the battling of them.  Those of my readership who are familiar with Mormon theology will know what i'm talking about when I refer to the Natural Man. The Natural Man refers to man (or woman) who defers to his or her instincts without trying to curb them or take the "high road" in fraught situations. It can mean bowing to the impulse to nurse anger when upset; the impulse to be pettish or sullen when disappointed; the impulse to be selfish with means or with time. Et cetera.

I could go on. The Natural Man is called "the enemy to God" in the Book of Mormon. And I take that to mean, that the Natural Man inside of us is the opposite of trying to become like Christ, turning the other cheek, and all that.

I had a really real, visceral encounter with my inner demons this Thanksgiving break. I don't want to turn this post into an exposé of my deepest flaws, but some of that will inevitably out.

The nearest and dearest to me know that I am selfish--selfish with my time, principally. I require a lot of alone time in order to maintain my mental sanity. That's not a selfish thing necessarily, but I probably need less than I think I do. I have been learning to be more generous with temporal things over the years, but my time is my own, and I guard it jealously.

And speaking of jealousy, that's another demon I battle. This is a new one for me. I've never considered myself a jealous person, but I can be. (Apparently.) I am still learning how to deal with this because it does not affect me very often at all. When it does, though, it prostrates me emotionally. The worst is, I don't feel like I can talk about it with anyone, because jealousy is a stupid thing to be afflicted by as an adult. So, add guilt on top of jealousy.

Last and by no means least: Anger. Ah, this is an old "friend" of mine. I have always had a bit of a temper. And worse, I have a tendency to assume the worst when something is not going my way or someone is not acting as expected. This tendency toward suspiciousness is perhaps my most damning demon. At least I recognize it and I try to put it in its place--which is nowhere near me--when I do. ("Charity thinketh no evil...") Anger is the little voice behind Jealousy and Selfishness that fuels them, goads them on. Anger is the root. Anger is Pride.

Anger is Enmity.

And, yes, anger leads to the Dark Side.



The reasons why I was battling all of these demons this past week are intensely personal. I won't say they don't matter anymore, because they do. But the important thing is that I know what sorts of things can bring out these demons and I can try to preempt them should similar situations arise.

The fact is...I have a lot of growing up to do. Maybe in reading about some of my most perennial failures as a human being, you have thought to yourselves, "Gosh! I'm a pretty great person."

If so, you're welcome. ;) Maybe I'll write about some of my strengths next time, in order to balance this out.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Mind. Blown.

I know people throw that phrase around a lot, but I'm serious. My brain just leaked out my eyeballs. Watch this:



What kills me (besides the fact that he's FIVE) is that he has all the energy and goofiness of a little kid, but when dude launches into his song, he is GONE. I have never seen a child concentrate on anything that intently besides Nickelodeon.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

It's All Right to Cry

My Grandpa Thomas passed away yesterday morning after suffering a stroke a few days ago. It is hard when you are so far away from someone for their death to hit home, but I think the magnitude is beginning to settle in. My grandma, Betty, passed away three months ago, and we all knew that Grandpa wouldn't be long in following--though it didn't make sense. He was mostly hale, but he was becoming more frail.  At Grandma's funeral, though, he just looked so... lost. We knew he needed her.

I am glad they are back together now. But now that I have lost both my Thomas Grandparents, it is truly the end of an era. And that is heartbreaking. I know I will see them again. I know they are not gone forever. But now neither of them is here, holding down the fort on 1800 South in Orem, representing.

The lyrics from a Darius Rucker kids' song called "It's All Right to Cry" have been running through my head all evening as I've been struggling on and off with the waterworks, trying not let Travis see me cry  (because I am patently unattractive while doing so.) But I finally just let go, because--you know--it's all right to cry,


Crying gets the sad out of you
Raindrops from your eyes
They might make you feel better

That's mostly true. Crying actually just makes my head hurt. But what hurts worse than crying is trying NOT to cry. So, for now, it's all right to cry. It's all right to mourn what is past and gone. It's all right to feel. It's a form of honoring those who are gone.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Humble Pen

I don't think I am unique among writers as a chronic sufferer of writer's block. In fact, show me a writer who feels inspired about what they are writing every time they write, and I, in turn, will produce a mythical white elephant. On occasion, words really do just flow out "like endless rain into a paper cup," but most of the time--for me, at least--it is a constant struggle to render the story I see in my head into words.


Now, I am a computer person. I have been typing, NOT handwriting, school notes on a computer since my sophomore year of college. Likewise, I have written almost every word of fiction first on this...

...then this...
...then this...
...and now this:

And you know what? I like typing, I do. It's fast; it is easily editable. Quickly made, quickly undone. 


BUT--and as Pee Wee Herman would say, we all have a big BUT, so let's talk about my big BUT--I have discovered that by transferring my thoughts directly from brain to computer, I lose an important aspect in the process of Creation: Chaos.


I get in these ruts where I'm not quite sure what happens next. I know the overall arc of the story, but in the meantime a lot of little things have to happen, and a lot of minute details have to flesh out these happenings. People have to live in houses. (What kind?) Occasionally, they have to eat food. (Where? When? What?) They speak a certain way. (How?) They want things. They hate things. They love things... (What, what, what things?) It is in all of this minutiae that I begin to lose interest in a story, and the dreaded Block sets in. Last week, after a couple weeks of not working on a story I had previously been REALLY excited about, I recognized the warning signs of Block: that feeling of "I have this great story, and I have the plot all mapped out, but I would gladly pay someone to just fill in all of the stupid little details so I could get to the important plot points. And I don't want to sit and braindump into the manuscript on my computer because it will just CLUTTER IT UP..."


And that's when it hit me. I have a pretty impressive collection of mostly empty notebooks that have been given to me or I have bought thinking I will take them with me wherever I go and record all my observations. I don't do this. Ever. So these notebooks just pile up, gathering dust and waiting around to be useful. Last week as I pondered what to do about not wanting to clutter up my MS with notes, I picked up one of these notebooks--a simple, blue, spiral-bound affair--and simply began free-writing, not worrying about form, language, structure, narrative, penmanship, etc....  Just freewriting. Letting my pen echo the images in my brain. No editing. No pressure. Just...creation. 


It was so. so. liberating! I discovered that I do not suffer writer's block for lack of material: the details wrote themselves almost before I could even process them. No, I suffer from fear of mediocrity. I want to put my thoughts into something perfect, or nearly so, right from their inception in my brain to the MS on my computer. Truthfully, it is a bit like trying to put a puzzle together by pulling only one piece out of the bag at a time and trying to guess where it goes. To do so is to skip that crucial, chaotic moment where you dump ALL of the pieces onto the table, sift through them, see what they are, and THEN begin to bring some order to them. You have to see them all first. 


In a writerly sense, this sometimes requires closing my computer, and pulling out pen and paper and just letting things spin as they will.


--Paul Simon

Monday, October 15, 2012

A Night on the Town

...Or, In Which a Potentially Bad Idea Turns into a Really Good One

So, we live in Vegas, right? Blah blah blah, The Strip, yadda yadda. "The Strip," for those who may not precisely know, is a relatively short stretch of Las Vegas Blvd that houses some of the world's most expensive hotels (certainly some of its most ridiculous) as well as providing a venue for the world's most obnoxious tourists. I'm not kidding. It's a playground for otherwise sane people to come and be total a**h****s for a weekend. It should come as no surprise, then, that we do not make our way over to Le Strip very often, preferring to stay in our nice, quiet suburbs. In fact, even to cross over it to get to the other side is a royal nightmare.

Here's a joke for you: Why did the chicken cross The Strip? He didn't. He knew better than to try. He either took 215 around the south end or 515 around the north. He certainly didn't try to cross at Flamingo Road because he didn't want to get stuck between Caesar's Palace and the Bellagio waiting for a hundred clueless pedestrians to stop crossing against traffic.

I digress.

It had been a few months since we'd been to the Strip. The last two times, respectively, were trips to the Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay on the extreme south end--which in terms of the Strip barely amounts to dipping one's toes. But this time we really set out to do some exploring deep into the heart of darkness. For those of you throwing up your hands, asking, "Why?! Why sell out? Why go at all?" Let me tell you what happens when you live in a tourist town: People come to visit. People want to see what the place is famous for. People want the insider's scoop on where to go and when, what to eat, how much to spend, what to see, etc. It may not be important for some, but for me, it is important to be able to answer these questions. Also, it can be fun to go on recon missions, which is essentially what our night out on the town was. Friday night's destination was the MGM Grand* and M&Ms World.

Once inside, we began to look for somewhere to eat. Eating on the Strip is tricky, especially if you're poor. (We're poor.) There are plenty of delicious places to eat, but they almost uniformly charge through the nose. So we thought we'd look out for something mid-price or hit up one of the many food courts. Minutes later, we stumbled upon this neapolitan pizza place that looked good. It was a little pricy, but not exorbitant, and we were really hungry. After we both got our pizzas and got to the cashier, the guy informed us that our pizzas--and drinks, if we wanted them--were on the house. Whaaaaa....?

After gathering our jaws off the floor, we took our free $30 meal and began eating in exhilarated silence. I couldn't take it anymore, though. I had to know why it was free. In fact, I couldn't believe how many people were getting free food! When I asked, they told me they hadn't officially opened as a restaurant and were training their employees. Mystery solved. But what an incredible case of being in the right place at the right time! The pizza was good, too! Needless to say, Project Pie (for thus it was called) has earned another visit from the Mumfords, and we will happily pay for our meal next time. When we have the money. Ahem.


M&Ms World is a landmark on the Strip. It is four stories of wall-to-wall M&M merchandise, which is fun if you're a tourist, I guess, and are dying to spend your money on kitsch. We were quite charmed, though. It was fun to look around and see all the clever ways M&Ms tries to inject its product into everyday American life. My favorite things were the M&M-shaped beach towels. Oh yeah. I totally want one of those. What we DID end up spending money on was a 1 1/2 pound $20 bag of mixed M's from this Wall O' Deliciousness.


Oh, I'm sorry. Let's try that again. 


THIS Wall O' Deliciousness! ^^

My dad is just a little bit crazy about M&Ms. I think he would have died and gone to Chocolate Heaven if he had been there. Totally worth it. And the best part is, it's 100% kid-friendly, which is a bonafide rarity on the Strip. Riding the high of our success with dinner and the heady rush of a frivolous $20 spent on candy, we even stepped in to watch their little 10-minute 3D movie, which was annoying in all the ways that 3D stuff is annoying, and totally charming at the same time. It was a delight to be surrounded by children and families.

All in all, we had us a grand ol' time. We also went to Coke world. Didn't get anything there. But we want to go back when friends are in town and get the $7 sample tray of sodas from all over the world. We're learning about our town, people! 50%, if not 100%, of people who come to visit us already know more about what to do here in Vegas. But we are learning!

*Had I known Madonna was performing at MGM that night, I would not perhaps have chosen to park there, but all's well that ends well; we did score a spot.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hair 2.0

Got my hair cut back in July and just recently had it trimmed. Here's the latest.


I probably will have to stop blondifying it after this time. It's just too expensive. But I am loving short hair. Here's one where I look a little happier.

Ok, self-portraits are awkward on so many levels. I'm done.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Turn

Sunday afternoon, there came a soft knock at our door. I looked out the peephole and saw a stranger waiting patiently on our owl doormat with an orange paper plate of cookies. I opened the door, smiling expectantly. We didn't know each other. But she knew of me. She had my name and address on a piece of paper.

I apologized for taking so long to get to the door. We talked for a minute. She asked me if we had any family in Nevada. I shook my head. Neither did she. We commiserated. My smile was genuine. My cheerfulness real.

She didn't know that five minutes ago--two minutes ago, actually--I had been curled up on the bed, sobbing into my husband's shoulder. That it had taken me a minute or two to compose myself before opening the door.

She didn't know of the depression that I have felt with the onset of fall--the fall that hasn't come yet. The days shorten, yet there remains the monotonous luster and still-hot weather of summer. All I long for is crisp air, the smell of apples and rotting leaves. More than that, familiar voices and faces. How could she know any of this? She didn't.

Yet, there she was on my porch with an offering of cookies and friendship and the promise of another visit. It was a small thing, but after I closed the the door, I was overwhelmed--I was speechless--which is appropriate when one has been attended to so manifestly and palpably by their God.

And, let me be clear that these sorts of things never rarely happen to me. I guess it was my turn.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Learning to be Gracefully Poor

T and I are in that stage of life that I always hear older, well-off people talk about. They lean back in their chairs, stare dreamily into space as if into the Past and reminisce about the days of eating dinner out of a can, putting babies to bed in dresser drawers and making ends meet in creative ways.

Yeah. We're there. It's lucky we don't have a kid because that kid would likely be sleeping in a laundry basket.

Seriously though. I have seen this stage in our lives on the horizon for some time now--since we got married, in fact. I halfway expected it to hit RIGHT when we got married but, surprisingly, it didn't. And while we did not go out and spend thriftlessly, there was a thriftless element to our lives--a certain license we gave ourselves for impulse buying and occasional sprees--that we absolutely cannot afford now. We probably couldn't afford it then. Now, we know better.

My first impulse, as we settle into a long stretch of relative poverty, is to rage. Rage! And to fret. I did not grow up in a "rich" household. I didn't always get what I wanted, when I wanted it. But when I became a young adult and got my first real job and opened my own bank account, suddenly... I had this new-found freedom to spend. There were people around me (notably, parents) to pick up the slack, if needed. I got used to that.

Now, I'm having to un-learn that, because that is generally not how real adulthood works. I am grateful that my parents helped me transition into this stage of my life, but now that I'm here, it's hard.

T and I have had to learn discipline: to not go the easy route on everything; not alleviate boredom by spending; not eat out because it's convenient; not drop money on something that will give us instant gratification... but maybe, learning to wait a little bit in order to get that something for less. (Or even for free!) We haven't always been comfortably cool in our home this summer; we haven't been able to see and go to many of the places we want to see or go to in this endlessly interesting and expensive town.

But it's okay.

As we are now settling into a routine of careful, careful spending, I find that I'm beginning to wear this stage of our lives as a badge of honor. I'm proud of nights spent in, playing cards. Of meals prepared in our own kitchen. Of books checked out from the library instead of bought.

I find that I'm starting to not miss spending. It feels good to stretch out what little we have in our bank account and to make it last.  I dream of traveling and wearing the clothes I want, and all that, yes. But thank heaven I am learning not to take any of that for granted. Hopefully, this is something we can pass on to our children, who will likely grow up in a home where they will want for nothing. Just as we both did.

In the meantime, the key is learning how to be poor, but gracefully. Cutting back where we can while maintaining Generosity. Saying in our hearts, "I would give, if I could. And I will give what I can." Also, to be grateful is key. We don't have a lot of discretionary spending money right now, but we are not poor in the direst sense. We live in a nice apartment in a safe neighborhood. We have nice furniture. We don't go hungry. We have what we need. Indeed, we are so far from poor, it's almost laughable to say that we are. Much of what we have is due in large part to the generosity of others.

So here's to generosity. Here's to being rich in the ways that matter. Here's to paying it forward and backward and every direction we can.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Workout Diaries: Day 210 (more or less)

Travis and I took a little hiatus from working out when we first moved to Nevada. Moving in and getting settled required all of our attention. So by the time we were settled and had found a gym to go to, it had been a little while and we both needed to work our way back up to snuff.

As many of you may recall, my primary goal for working out (ironically) is to GAIN weight by gaining muscle and increasing appetite. Let me report on that. Net weight gain=0. Net weight loss=0 (so that, at least, is good.) Net appetite increase=0. I went to the doctor this week and when I mentioned I'm having a difficult time getting up to a healthy weight, they decided to test me for hyperthyroidism. Again. I was tested last year and it was negative. Now, don't get me wrong. It's good to have a healthy thyroid. I don't take that for granted. I know too many people who don't. But... sometimes, I just wish there was some medical diagnosis once and for all for what I'm going through. It doesn't seem right that I don't change anything about my lifestyle, and suddenly (well, not suddenly, but steadily) I drop over ten pounds. Ten pounds, I might add, that I do NOT have to spare. And when I DO change my lifestyle it only slows the weight loss instead of reversing it. ??? I can't just "eat more." It doesn't work that way. I physically cannot.

Occasionally, I think about all of these things and it depresses me for a day or two. I feel helpless and scared and out of control of my body. It isn't a chronic depression, by any means. I don't curl up in a ball and cry. But it is awfully hard to get out of bed, and I feel like I'm moving through jelly all day long. (Of course, part of that moving-through-jelly feeling may be a result of soreness from the previous day's workout.)

But then, when I look at myself in the mirror, I don't see the reflection of someone who is starving to death. My cheekbones aren't poking through my face (although, I found some pictures of me from eight  years ago, and my! what chubby cheeks I had!); my collarbone doesn't look like it's going to tear out through my skin; my thighs touch when I'm seated. I actually have pretty impressive musculature now in my back and arms. I look...actually...really good! And I mostly feel good, if I'm eating healthily--and i DONT step on the damn scale!

So maybe that's what I need to do: NOT step on the scale, NOT measure my overall health by an instrument that only tells me one thing about myself.

I AM MORE THAN WHAT I WEIGH.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

And This is Why I Will Never Publish

< writing process >

I'm gonna write. Where's my computer? 

[ten minutes, and a snack, later]

Ok. Gonna write. 

First, I gotta check my email. [Strongbad voice] "Email! Email!" I could have some important message, like maybe someone, somewhere, did... something really cool... Nope. Not even an automated message from the library.

That was disappointing.

Facebook! I haven't been on Facebook for like...five whole hours! My newsfeed's gonna be like...THREE FEET LONG! I may even have a NOTIFICATION! Maybe someone responded to that thing I posted... [ten twenty minutes later.] Wow... surprisingly little happened in five hours. What a shock. {sarcasm}

Well, okay. Back to my draft. I really don't have any other "pressing" web-related business.

Oh, wait! BLOGS! Yippee! I have at least twenty blogs I read, and I haven't checked them all day! Ooo, I love spying on other people's lives... [twenty minutes later] Ok...90% of these people haven't posted anything in over 3 months. One person posted one thing that was kind of long and I spent the entire time clicking the various links because I'm desperate to find ANYTHING INTERESTING ON THE INTERNET.

Close tabs. Open gmail. Again. Open Drive. Open draft. Stare blankly. Level of creativity status: Underwhelming, having been all sucked away by the mind-numbing distraction of voyeurism.

Wait! I can blog about this! That's writing, isn't it? It's being creative AND wasting time at the SAME TIME.  *mind blown*

Also, I forgot to check Twitter and Reddit...



< /writing process>

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Island in the Sky

Believe it or not, the adjustment to living in Las Vegas has been a little difficult for me. I feel confident that this is where we're supposed to be, but I am continually exposed to a lot of what makes Vegas cheap and sad. Which sucks.

I know. I have only been here for two months, so who am I to criticize. But it is hard living in a place that builds its economy and its personality ("What happens in Vegas" and so forth) on vice. It is hard moving from a place where my personal philosophy was frequently reaffirmed to a place where most people find that philosophy quaint, at best, and in some cases downright ridiculous.

It is hard being LA's weekend mistress.

Anyway, to the point: Since we've been here, we've kept hearing about this mythical "Mt Charleston," a supposed "real" mountain in the vicinity of Vegas. Haha, I thought. I grew up in real mountains, and what I see around Vegas are dry craggy hills, at best. "But there's a ski resort on this mountain!" So what. I'll believe it when I see it.

Today, we had our last day off before Travis starts school again, and we decided to check out this Mountain of Charleston. So northward we went. Up past the strip, northward, westward, and out of town completely. Then we turned left, went several thousand feet straight up a gentle incline.




And suddenly yucca trees gave way to pines. The temperature dropped steadily. The air was fresh and comfortingly thin. The ground was almost--dare I say it?--green! We arrived at the base of a long loop trail (which we only did about 3/4 mile of, being unprepared) and just stared and stared and stared. It was like...a REAL MOUNTAIN.
One of the signs described it as an "Island in the Sky." An ecosystem so isolated and so unlike the surrounding Mojave Desert, that there are species of plants here found nowhere else on earth.

And the best part is, for the first time, I thought--I really thought--I could love living here. I mean, not just in a "it feels like we're on vacation here" way. But in a visceral way.


Guys, this place is totally LEGIT.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Storycrafting

I'm starting to get back into writing, now that I've got time. Now that I've graduated and I don't have school breathing down my neck. I have at least two manuscripts in the works right now, and it is time to get back to at least one of them.

One thing I've discovered over the past several years is that writing takes time. Duh. But I mean, it really, really takes time. Much of that time is spent not actually typing, but just thinking. Mentally planning. I can't just sit down and start blipping something out and expect it to be great. I have to plan my characters. I have to get to know them in my head, and then on paper in a kind of character summary. Then I know what they would do in any given circumstances. And only then can I begin to write their story.

I'm writing the story of a girl who goes through a spiritual journey. I feel like I can tell her story with some degree of authenticity, because it is, to a certain extent, my own. It is easier when I can infuse experiences from my own life into my storytelling. Yet, I don't know if it is any more difficult when a character and I have little in common. Another of my characters is a sociopath--and I don't think I'm much of a sociopath. This person is angelic on the exterior, and yet sadistic in ways I could never imagine myself to be. It is an interesting exercise designing the motives for a man such as he.

The most difficult thing about writing for me, at this point, is tone. I'm not sure who my audience is, yet. I'm writing a story that I ultimately would like to have published commercially, and for that, you need a definite audience. I don't know if what I'm writing will be more interesting for adults or teens--or both. But for now, I'll write it and see what comes out and decide all that later.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Out of the Frying Pan into the Fire

I don't know what I thought I would escape by leaving Utah. I think if I tried to explain it, I would just come off sounding like a jerk. And I also see the irony of this statement in reference to a previous post I wrote in defense of many things Utah. I still stand by that post.

But I will say, that in the move to Nevada--and, consequently, on my quest to redefine myself--maybe I thought to escape the culture of politely pretending to be perfect. I know no one, anywhere (with probably a very few exceptions) actually thinks they're perfect. It just seemed like everyone was trying really hard to be really good, and it made me uncomfortable sometimes, because I knew how really flawed I was. How really not into some things I was. How many doubts and questions and struggles I had with things that everyone around me took for granted--or at least seemed to. And I was mortally afraid of being judged for not trying hard enough to pretend that everything was all right. In some ways, it has been a relief to just...leave.

Now, that being said, let me share with you an observation of behavior here in Las Vegas: pervasive rudeness. Not everyone all the time. In fact, almost everywhere we go we meet genuinely cheerful people. But there also does seem to be a lot more out-and-out incivility. And feeling the dampening effect of this incivility on my spirits has caused me to reflect on the one thing I mentioned above that I thought was "wrong" with Utah. It made me realize that, though the hypocrisy of someone pretending that everything is all right bothers me, it doesn't bother me near as much as someone who doesn't even bother with the veneer of civility. It made me realize that it is not my problem if someone judges me for not being perfect.

That being polite, being nice (I know people hate that word) is totally, and wrongfully, underrated.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

What Is Wrong With this Picture?

Take a look at this:

This rolled around Facebook last week and created quite a stir. Mostly of approval. I didn't think much of it at the time, except to feel a vague sense of unease. I didn't "Like" it, and I certainly didn't share it. But I didn't stop and address my unease either. I just moved on.

Today, I read this invective about this very meme, and it made me sit down and seriously think through my unease, and I find that my opinions have become...stronger. First, let's start with some hard, scientific truth--because, behind every fallacious argument rests a grain (however small) of truth.

Truth: Most men are hardwired to frequently think about sex. Visual cues are very strong for men, and seeing a woman display some skin MAY (not WILL) inspire a man to think sexy thoughts. That is scientific truth. If this is all this meme had said, it wouldn't have been controversial at all, and probably wouldn't have gone viral. But I suspect, by the charged wording, that sensationalism was its author's intent.

And this really gets to the heart of what I think is wrong here. Not the old, tired debate about whose responsibility it is to "keep mens' minds clean," but the question, Why are we still talking about this issue in these terms? Why are we still resorting to droll witticisms? And why, Oh WHY, do people still gobble up this kind of pharasaical nonsense as if it were gospel Truth?

First, the word "immodest." Modesty is a judgment based on subjective cultural values. In many Muslim countries what I wear every day is heresy. In Las Vegas, what I wear every day probably looks like way too much clothing to almost everyone else. What the author* doubtless meant by modesty here was the Mormon standard of modesty: no sleeveless, no booty shorts, no plunging necklines, etc. For those who don't know, this standard of modesty has its basis not solely on the caprice of Mormon culture, but because of certain commitments many Mormons choose to make in LDS temples. I personally have made these commitments, but as far as I'm concerned, they are between me and my God; I choose to conform to this standard of dress without reference to you, my neighbor or any other stranger. And I certainly don't expect everyone else to share my beliefs. What the author of this meme has effectively done, however, is to impose his or her standard of modesty on the world at large, regardless of the World-at-Large's sharing in the author's beliefs. This attitude really bothers me, because I feel, if fostered in Mormon communities, it will achieve nothing but to antagonize and to separate Mormons from their neighbors along totally superficial lines.

And even if it is only aimed at Mormon girls, what on earth does the author hope to achieve but to be divisive within the Mormon community?

The use of "immodest" bothers me, but not as much as the response to this meme. It was "liked" and "liked" and "liked" again! Some people were even avowing to use it in their next Young Women's (LDS youth group) lesson! WHAT? The only thing this is going to teach teenage girls is that men who appreciate women's bodies for the beauty that they are are not "real" and are ALL PIGS, and that it's okay to judge other girls' dress. I know teenagers love these simple little sayings, but that doesn't mean we need to be feeding them to them. That doesn't mean we need to be fostering self-righteousness. 

Whoever authored this is doubtless congratulating him or herself on a job well-done. They got lots of virtual slaps on the back from people. If you were one of those people who "liked" it or "shared" it, it's fine. Obviously, it doesn't make you a bad person. I do challenge you, however, to think hard before jumping onto this kind of bandwagon again. 

So basically, what bothers me the most about this meme is that it exists at all. Its very existence, and the praise it garnered, is, to me, an indication of an attitude that I wish were totally absent among the LDS community.

*I am actually not sure if this meme started in the LDS community, which necessarily makes some of my points moot. It may not have. Regardless, it became very popular among Mormons.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

In which Australia's second favorite marsupial saves the day

It is time for an update. And I definitely feel more compulsion to write now that almost no one I know or care about (besides Travis) is involved in my daily life. So here goes...

We moved to Las Vegas on Friday, June 22. It was about 105 degrees and cloudless, and it only took about three minutes of moving sundry heavy items up 16 stairs to realize I was in trouble. My heart was racing and I could feel my face turning a bright, tomatoey shade. So I chugged ghastly amounts of water and came up with an ingenious plan of staying cool:

Did you know that kangaroos living in the Outback lick their arms and let it evaporate in order to stay cool? I'm sad to say, this little factoid gave me the idea. No, I did not lick my own arms, though the temptation was real. (Mmm...salty!) Every five minutes, though, I would splash cold water on my face, neck and arms, and by the time I made it back down the stairs to keep moving stuff, I was totally dry--but cool! Let me just say that it TOTALLY worked, and I have Australia's second favorite marsupial (after the koala) to thank for the idea. Hey. Don't bag it till you try it.

 Dad and Sue helped us move for the next three or so hours, and we all took turns resting in order to avoid heat exhaustion. After getting everything in the house, two things were determined: Summer really is a horrid time to move to Nevada. But all that said (and DONE) it was actually time to get some food.

The next day, we were able to take a VIP tour of the Hoover Dam that Sue had arranged for us. She knows the guy who runs the dam (yes. she knows the guy WHO RUNS HOOVER DAM) so we got to explore some places where almost no tourists get to go. Awesome doesn't do it justice. Neither does a photo, but here you go anyway.








It was another hot day.

In fact...let's just get something out of the way here, while we're at it. Fact: It is hot here. There hasn't been a day yet that hasn't soared well above 100 degrees. There are actually some clouds today, which constitutes a minor miracle. But the heat is still seering, and from everything I've been told, will continue to be so for the next few months. So, until further notice, just assume it is hot, and if it isn't, I'll be sure to let you know unless, of course, I first die of the surprise.

Well, that's it for now. There is more to tell--big news, even--but my patience for reporting all things quotidian is remarkable slight. So, for my benefit--and for the readers--I'll keep my updates short.

One last note, though. My parents in law, for my upcoming birthday and graduation, gifted me a Nook a couple weeks ago, and It and I have been inseparable ever since. I had been debating the purchase of an e-reader for some time now and had recently come to the decision to get one. Imagine my delight when, with very little effort on my part, my desire was fulfilled! I have now read all of Peter Pan as well as Pride and Prejudice (alliterations not intended) and my love for my Nook is now very real. It goes with me wherever I take my bag and sleeps on my pillow at night. In fact, i am now in the process of petitioning Harry Reid to draft a law that would allow polyandry in the state of Nevada so that my Nook and I might solemnize our love before a justice of the peace.

Travis doesn't mind. He's used to competing with my love of literature.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Dandelion


 I wish it didn't hurt so much

to pull out my roots.

Like I'm a dandelion (Have you ever tried to pull out a dandelion?)

with a taproot so deep you can

never find the bottom. Eventually, you just have to

SNAP!

that root.

And leave it in the ground.

And hurt.

Where that taproot broke.

Until the little cottony seeds I let fly

find soil,

put down a root or two, and

grow back somewhere else.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

A Deep, Mid-afternoon Thought about Art

I'm sitting in my dad's easy-chair, slowly falling asleep at 3 in the afternoon and I'm having this amazing epiphany about visual art.

Many people make the argument that neither this...
Nor this...
...is art. Some people even go as far as to say that this abomination... 

[Thomas Kinkade was here. I removed the photo so I won't get sued.]

...is the only REAL kind of art.

This argument, as far as I am concerned, is as fallacious as claiming that the only REAL kind of communication is that which is verbal. This is, of course, ridiculous. Most communication is non-verbal. Some say 70%, others 90... Regardless of the actual percentage, what experts and (even marginally intelligent people) all seem to agree on is that some large percentage of our communication is done without the employ of phonemes, words, sentences, paragraphs, and really long, boring speeches.

My sudden thought, as I nod off at 3 in the afternoon, is that non-objective art (such as the Mondrian and the Pollock pictured above) is like non-verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is the communication of emotion, of feeling, of the sometimes deeper meaning behind words. (The Kinkade, using this same metaphor, is so "verbal" it makes my eyeballs sting.) John Singer Sargent, in this gem...


...is communicating the placidity of the lighting of Chinese lanterns by two little girls on a midsummer's eve. He does this by actually PAINTING said girls. Likewise, this painting...

[another painting was here, but I removed it so as not to get sued. And because I didn't have the artist's permission.]

...though lacking anything truly representational*, besides little swirlies, communicates the same placidity to me in textures and colors.

 Non-representational representation. Non-verbal communication. Is either less valid than their more representational/verbal counterparts?

"But what do Jackson Pollock's crazy drips of paint even MEAN?" You may ask. I don't know. Does it matter? Art, like any communication, is a two-way process anyway; meaning is created by both the artist and the viewer. And since, in some cases, it is impossible to know the artist's intended meaning, the only thing left to do is decide for ourselves what art means. To me, Jackson Pollock's work looks like it was done, if not angrily, at least passionately. I picture him standing over an enormous canvas furiously flinging each brushful of paint. "But, he could have been totally calm while painting" It doesn't matter, because what I see is Passion.

This Deep Thought was important to me because I have heretofore been largely unmoved by modern, non-objective art. I didn't really consider the point of it. But now I want to see it all. I want to see, and attempt to understand, the artists' "non-verbal" communication. Is Mondrian communicating Boredom? Conformity? Simplicity? If so, he is doing a first-rate job.

I do not consider words to be the only valid form of communication. So, why would I limit my understanding of art to only that which is representational?

Now, back to my nap.


*I use "representational" here to indicate visual art that portrays recognizable objects.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Limbo

Sorry it has been so long. I have resisted posting anything for the last little while, not because there isn't anything to say, but because my emotions have been so up and down, there hasn't been anything worthwhile to say. I have started many a blog post bent on self-revelation and the egocentric ravings of a frightened girl in transition. I can't post any of that. Ultimately, it doesn't mean anything in. All the insecurities I feel about leaving the place of my birth--perhaps forever--my friends, my job... The insecurity is real, but it doesn't matter in the long term. A new place will come to feel like home. I will meet new friends--not to replace existing friends, but to add to them. I will get a new job, and I will probably love it.

Oh, did I forget to mention? We're moving to Las Vegas in less than a month. Yes, you read correctly. Nevada. In June, which, while not quite as infernally hot as July, I think we can all agree that the difference between 105 and 110 degrees is irrelevant. It's all hot.

In the meantime, we have had to move out of our lovely apartment and into my parents' basement until we make the big move. I'm not going to be disingenuous and talk about how hard it is, blah blah blah... because I love it. I love it, because we are eating well, we are living with less (almost all of our earthly possessions are packed into a storage unit), and we are spending valuable time with family. I also love it because it is temporary.

I have also been writing more. I'm writing a novel that has been in progress since I started with one scene over ten years ago. It's hard not to think I will forever remain amonst the ranks of The Unpublished. But when I let the odds get me down I just remember that J.K. Rowling wrote the beginning of Harry Potter on a napkin in a coffee shop. Besides, my end-goal is not fame and fortune--though that would be nice--but to write a complete, cohesive story.

In other news, I received my first job rejection the other day via post-card. It said I was not selected to interview for the position I applied for. Oh well. At least I know that they received the application in the first place. Plus, the box next to "You did not meet the minimum qualifications" on the postcard was not checked, so I know that I can get a similar job. It was probably very competitive and they didn't want to interview someone from out of state. But I'm moving to Nevada, people! ISN'T IT ENOUGH THAT I WILL BE LIVING IN YOUR GODFORSAKEN STATE IN LESS THAN A MONTH? Le sigh. I just finished filling out another application and will be mailing that in today. So we press on.


Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Astor Piazzolla

It's time to introduce you to one of my favorite artists. Astor Piazzolla was born in Argentina in 1921, and was a composer in the musical style of "Nuevo Tango." Basically he took traditional tango and incorporated classical and jazz styles into it. (You know I'm getting all of this from Wikipedia, right?!) All I care about is how absolutely, deliciously seductive this music is! Don't believe me? Here, let me just embed this little video for you...

There. Now, light a candle, close your eyes and let your laptop sing you a forlorn love song.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Workout Diary: Day 30

I've been going to the gym three times a week for almost exactly a month now, and it's time for a progress report. I don't hate cardio anymore (tho I do hate running, and probably always will). I can curl thirty pounds (up from 25) without any help from Travis. Every part of me is getting stronger, harder. I'm pretty much the only one who can see it yet, but I can definitely feel it.

My appetite, not just for food in general but for HEALTHY food, has increased markedly. Today, I actually made myself a sandwich. When was the last time I did that? Probably a year ago. But today, I made myself a sandwich on healthy bread with healthy ingredients, plenty of avocado, and I scarfed that sucker. Yes, I did. And I didn't even workout today! Have I gained any weight? ...Not exactly. But I definitely haven't lost any, which is what I was afraid of in the first place.

I love resistance training. I never thought I would find a form of exercise that I so look forward to doing, even on my days off--like today, where I am still so tired I actually had to take a nap. (horrors.) I'm excited to move to a place that is warm even during the winter months. I think this will help me stay motivated to keep going.

I love the idea that I--little, "fragile" me--can be strong. Can be toned. Can have this lovely, muscular body. Skinny doesn't cut it for me. I find "skinny" totally unsatisfying. It's not enough. Do I want to be slender? Well, yes. But more important to me is to look, and feel, strong. This (mostly) isn't for vanity's sake. It's because--as I mentioned--I hit bottom and the only way to go was up. Well, I'm at that euphoric stage of Up where my progress is made in leaps and bounds. Yes, I know I will plateau at some point. Though, seriously, I don't think that or Hell or high water, or really anything could stop me now. World, look out!

Monday, March 12, 2012

From East of Eden...

...So I don't forget, because this book was thick and contained a lot of truth. This was one of the truthier bits, I thought.

"In uncertainty I am certain that underneath their topmost layers of frailty men want to be good and want to be loved. Indeed, most of their vices are attempted short cuts to love. When a man comes to die, no matter what his talents and influence and genius, if he dies unloved his life must be a failure to him and his dying a cold horror. It seems to me that if you or I must choose between two courses of thought or action, we should remember our dying and try so to live that our death brings no pleasure to the world.

We have only one story. All novels, all poetry, are built on the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil. And it occurs to me that evil must constantly respawn, while good, while virtue, is immortal. Vice has always a new fresh young face, while virtue is venerable as nothing else in this world."


Timshel.

"Thou mayest."

You have a choice.


--John Steinbeck


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Workout Diary: Day One

I am the only girl in the gym in baggy pants. The ONLY one. I feel disoriented by the jungle of machinery I have no clue how to work. I'm like the fat kid who's come to the gym for the first time, and he's super out of shape and huffing and puffing on the elliptical after only a few minutes. Only, I'm not the fat kid. I'm the skinny kid with bad posture. I'm drowning in my clothes. And I don't know what the hell I'm doing.
---
I am underweight. Let's just put that right out there. I know it. Don't point it out. Don't tell me to eat more. Stop wrapping your fingers around my freakishly thin wrists. No, I'm not anorexic. I'm not bulemic. I'm simply underweight the way many people are overweight. This may sound strange to you, but I struggle gaining weight probably as much as some people struggle losing it. I know it's different, because the mass media glorifies skinny girls and tiny arms and thin legs. I understand that. But I am here to tell you that I struggle too, and it's hard, and sometimes it really sucks.

I have been very slowly but steadily losing weight over the past six months. I've been tracking the loss and doing what I can to compensate for it: trying to eat more, healthier, fattier, proteinier foods. I drink whole milk. I eat avocados. I carry a tin of nuts around with me to snack on, and I choke down Luna bars when I can stand them. Still, my eating habits could be better. I could snack less on empty stuff. I could eat more vegetables. Less sugar. More whole grains. There is room for improvement here.

Most discouragingly, I've tried to start exercising regularly over the past six months, but it seems like every time I try to get into a routine, I get sick. Then I lose ground. And it is SO hard to start at zero again and again and again. Travis has invited me to come to the gym with him periodically, and I always have some excuse. Usually it's legitimate: I don't have enough energy; I have a headache; I haven't eaten well enough. So, he goes and I end up at home, sedentary.

Travis invited me to go to the gym again today. I tried to put him off with the usual excuses--and I truly wasn't feeling all that great. But I stop myself halfway through and, with tears dangerously close to the surface, say, "Honey, I just feel like I'm wasting away! I don't know what to do." Part of the reason I find it hard to exercise is that it is hard for me to get enough caloric intake each day because I can only eat so much at a time (and seriously. I do NOT have time to each six little meals a day.) "You just have to work through it," he said. It's hard at first.
 ---
I go run on the elliptical for twenty minutes so that he and his buddies can do their heavy lifting without me hanging around, hands awkwardly in baggy pants pockets.

I hate cardio. I hate the idea of all those precious calories being wasted on running. I know that's probably the wrong way to think about it, but I cannot afford to lose more weight. I CANNOT LOSE MORE WEIGHT. But the elliptical feels okay, so I keep it up till my thighs burn.

After that, Travis helps me curl 25 pounds. That is about five pounds more than I am comfortable with, but I am able to do it. My impotent arms shake but I manage to squeak out three sets. Then I use ten pounds in each hand to work shoulders. Then triceps with one of those rope-pull things. I give myself a break in between each set. When I feel my muscles stop recovering, I know the workout is over for me. That moment comes pathetically soon.

I am a dancer. WAS a dancer. I used to be in peak physical condition. How diminished I have become. My goal is to tone my body back to what is could be, and has been: strong. But I need a lot of support. I need a lot of optimism, because right now I am scared and weak and small.

I am so thankful I have Travis to help me do this.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

One is Silver and the Other Gold

Today, I was thinking about the first time I met Travis, and how it is really easy to take people for granted. I'm not going to tell the story here because I don't have the energy. And, in some ways, it's a memory that I'd like to keep to myself and mull over whenever I need to remember what I learned from it.Suffice it to say, on that day I never imagined that in a year, two years, from then, he would be my best friend, my closest confidant, that thing in my life that never failed when everything else fails.

No. I'm not talking about Charity. :)

This isn't supposed to be a mushy post. All I'm saying is I'm sure glad I gave him a chance. It makes me want to look at other people differently. Every person is potentially a gold mine just waiting to be discovered. Even old friends--they're waiting to be discovered, and perhaps re-discovered. Maybe they have things to offer that I've never seen before. I know the reverse is true.

I don't have a lot of energy these days to try to tap into the potential of strangers, let alone friends. I'm tired and overbooked and, frankly, just wishing i could just fall asleep quickly and stay that way for a long time. I'm not depressed. Just...thin. Like butter scraped over too much bread (my favorite Tolkien metaphor, by the way.)

I guess what I'm trying to say is, if you are a new friend, be patient with me. If you are an old friend, I'm still here.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Buffalo and Niagara Weekend

I accompanied Travis on a trip out to Buffalo, NY this weekend as he interviewed with a prospective grad school. I have mixed feelings about the trip--mostly a result of fatigue and a very human unwillingness to face change. So instead of writing about my feelings, I will post some of the highlights in pictures. Travis's parents were kind of enough to join us for a day or two of sightseeing in Niagara Falls, which is very close to Buffalo. We stayed on the Canadian side which affords a  much better view. The pictures are somewhat out of order, but I'm definitely too lazy to fix it right now.


It was a snowy, blustery day.

Here, we are in the gift shop where Travis is sporting the latest in fashion. (Yes, that is what you think it is.)
American Falls as seen from the Canadian side.
Edge of Horseshoe Falls.

So...the little package deal we bought included a visit to a butterfly house that is part of a botanical garden. I think all of us were totally enchanted.




This butterfly was my favorite because...well...just look at what happens when it opens its wings.

My favorite butterfly perched on my finger! (I also held a tarantula for the first time, but I didn't get photographic evidence.)
The blizzard had cleared up by the time we left the butterflies.
Rainbow over Horseshoe Falls, which kicks up ridiculous amounts of mist.
Niagara Falls, Ontario skyline
Looks like the Strip.
Viewing the Falls from behind...


Man. If I had to come back as any animal, I'd come back as THESE butterflies. No predators, endless amounts of nectar and rotting fruit to eat, and hundreds of human admirers every day, ALL DAY.  That, my friends, is the life.
So, I started this post last night. But as of this morning, we know that SUNY Buffalo is definitely an option for us. Travis received his acceptance in an email. Since this is the only interview he's done yet, until further notice, we are going to Buffalo. We still don't know if we will definitely be relocating to upstate New York, but it is a pretty great feeling to know that we do have a future SOMEWHERE. Buffalo is also a highly ranked school, so if it is any bellweather for future acceptances elsewhere, the future is looking pretty bright. I've also had all day to mull over whether or not I'd be okay living in Buffalo and facing the prospect of living so far away from our entire support system, and I've decided that I could do it.

Plus... the butterflies, guys. The butterflies! We'd only live like 45 minutes away from them.

hoop-de-do