26 December 2012

Alternative Programming

Obviously, I am about a month behind with this post, but then, I'm about a month behind in life generally. My Christmas card list is now my Martin Luther King, Jr. Day card list. That, however, is beside the point. The point actually being that I disagree with pretty much all of People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive 2012 issue. 

I have a long history with People Magazine's annual Sexiest Man Alive issue. My mom and I would laugh over it, it always came out just in time for the trip home at Thanksgiving, it was the perfect length to take up that hour and ten minutes it took to fly from Utah to Washington, and it was extra handy when my college roommates and I were building The Shrine to David Duchovny and subsequent iterations of the Man Wall. However, the tide has been changing.

Perhaps it is that I am getting older, perhaps I'm getting more cynical, or perhaps less tolerant of the opinions of others. Who knows. However, I do know that People Magazine declaring Channing Tatum the Sexiest Man Alive is the last straw. I didn't complain when they chose Ryan Reynolds, because he is funny and plays his smarminess to great effectiveness. I know that People Magazine needs to appeal to a multitude of tastes. I understand that there are intricate calculations involving sales volume, a foundation of popularity, who needs to be promoting what, etc. However, when Colin "Mr. Darcy" Firth, is relegated to a thumbnail photo in a one-page section about men going grey under a title referring to one of the most unpalatable fiction series in recent history, I have to say something. I cannot stand by silently while scads of my TV boyfriends, long running members of the Fantasy Boyfriend League, are left out in the cold for an ever growing number generic boy-bandesque beefcakes.

So, as an alternative, here, in no particular order, are 13 gentleman who, in the world according to Scully, should have a shot at the cover of 2013's People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive.

03 October 2012

Either I Am Becoming More Of An Anglophile Or My Attention Span Is Shrinking

My addiction to television is well documented on this blog (here, here, and here, for instance). I have been busy, so lots of shows I used to watch obsessively have fallen to the wayside (or the Netflix queue in anticipation of the next bout of death flu). It would seem that I am unable to dedicate my life to 22-24 episodes a year. The shows I stick with are either comedies that only take 20-24 minutes to watch, which I can do while painting my toenails or folding laundry, etc. or dramas that have a handful of episodes followed by a small hiatus and then another handful of episodes. This is a very British sort of airing schedule and I like it. It requires less of me and less of my time. Also, there is less time to become annoyed with plot lines or characters I don't like. It isn't that I'm not still addicted to television, I just watch it differently. I find I like starting at the beginning of shows that are in their last season now. It makes it easier to watch the rest, knowing there is an end date. Perhaps I have commitment issues, perhaps I have been burned too many times by shows sticking around long past their expiration date. It could just be my attention span for anything is shortened, due to not having enough time to go around. Whatever it is, the list of shows I watch religiously is much, much shorter than it used to be. 

01 October 2012

For The Record

I would give up all the perfect comforters in the universe if it meant that my loved ones didn't have to suffer. 

My poor little niece Bug, who already endured an open heart surgery last year (and a small surgical procedure a few months before that), had some massive migraines after her heart surgery. They went away shortly thereafter, but not before her doctor scheduled a MRI to be on the safe side. The MRI found what is called a Chiari Malformation I. Basically it means her skull is too small for her brain and that her brain is being squeezed through the foramen at the bottom of her skull. It wasn't putting any pressure on her spine, so they just scheduled an MRI in a year to keep an eye on it. 

The second MRI was Friday and the results came in today. It is now putting pressure on her spine and causing some other issues. So, another MRI is scheduled in a year and in the meantime her parents have to be on the lookout for any symptoms (dizziness, motor-function issues, headaches, etc) in case it gets worse before the next check-up. This all means that there are higher-than-average odds that Bug will need to have brain surgery in the next year.


28 September 2012

There Is A Parable In Here Somewhere

A year ago, I can't remember if it is for my birthday or Christmas, I asked for a new down-alternative comforter for my bed. The one I had was one I bought on the cheap that wasn't quite big enough for my bed and had become compressed and un-fluffy over the years. My dad gave me the money for one but I couldn't find one that I liked. They were all either the wrong size or too expensive or too cheap, too heavy or too light for me to justify buying. I was the Goldilocks of Bed, Bath, and Beyond. So I just made do with what I had and set the money aside. Or, rather, spent it on groceries and assumed I would be in a position to buy a comforter when I found one. 

Yesterday, I went to Marshall's looking for a belt for a dress I have that is cute-but-plain and requires creative accessorizing due to a large collar. I did not find a belt. What I did find, was a Calvin Klein down-alternative comforter that was exactly what I was looking for for only $60.00. It was the perfect size, the perfect fill, big and fluffy, and on clearance. Practically perfect in every way. And since it was so inexpensive, I splurged on two new, deluxe pillows. I had a divine night of sleep last night.

The thing is, last fall and winter I was mildly discouraged by the lack of affordable comforters. I gave up, moved on, made do. I decided I wasn't going to spend my money on something that wasn't perfect or settle for something that was less than I wanted, even if what I wanted -- a fantastic, hypo-allergenic queen-size comforter for less than $100 -- seemed non-existent. It was something I wanted but something for which I had stopped looking. I kind of even forgot about the whole endeavor until yesterday while browsing Marshall's home decor section and a little voice said "Maybe you should see if they have a comforter."

Last night, as I was wrestling this perfect new comforter into my duvet, I was overwhelmed by how blessed and cared for I am. This minor want, frankly unnecessary and unimportant in the grand scheme of things, was filled. Not when I wanted it to be, not when I thought it should be, but when it needed to be. If this sort of thoughtfulness and care is apparent in the small details of my daily life, I need to stop worrying so much about the major things.

23 September 2012

Faith and Optimism

The posts on this blog are absolutely no reflection of the amount of times I think "I should blog about that." Rather, it is a reflection of how busy I am, since the only times I have to sit and write are times when it seems like a much better idea to be sleeping. Every time I finish a project, I think I will have so much time to do other things. I thought this fall would be a breeze compared to the summer of long property management hours, teaching summer school, moving out of my apartment, and family events. Apparently nature DOES abhor a vacuum, because my days continue to be filled with Things That Must Be Done. So, the following is a talk I was asked to give two weeks ago. People have asked for copies, so I figured there might be something worth sharing. 
I was asked to speak on faith and optimism today. I feel that I both needed to prepare this talk and that I have been preparing for this talk for quite some time. To be utterly clear, I feel I should describe exactly what I mean when I use the words ‘faith’ and ‘optimism’. First, faith. Faith is a principle of the Gospel. It is the belief in things that are not seen, but are true. It is a principle of action, not a passive feeling. True faith is centered in and founded on Jesus Christ. It is in Him, our Savior and Redeemer, that we have hope. 

Second, optimism. Optimism is the conscious choice to look forward with hope. Or, as the Monty Python boys say, to look on the bright side of life. Optimism does NOT mean that one denies that there is a not-so-bright side of life, but rather that one acknowledges it, but chooses not to dwell in it or on it. Optimism is a choice. In a 1992 First Presidency Message, President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote 
“Of course there are times of sorrow. Of course there are hours of concern and anxiety. We all worry. But the Lord has told us to lift our hearts and rejoice. I see so many people . . . who seem never to see the sunshine, but who constantly walk with storms under cloudy skies. Cultivate an attitude of happiness. Cultivate a spirit of optimism.”
Looking on the bright side, looking forward with hope that things will work out, that problems will be overcome, and that sorrows will be turned into joy is a choice. 

The Lord himself has commanded us to look forward with hope. In Doctrine & Covenants 68:6 He commanded the Saints of the Restoration “Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you;” At the Last Supper, He prepared His Apostles for what was to come, saying “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” In both these, the Lord acknowledges that His followers are in rough waters of tribulation, however, He states that they should be cheerful or optimistic despite their circumstances. 

I was given this topic last Sunday, shortly before I was to teach a Primary lesson about the Nephites at the time the signs of Christ’s birth were given. As I taught the lesson, I was struck with the faith and optimism of those faithful Nephites and Lamanites who watched for the sign of the day and the night and the day without darkness in spite of those unbelievers who had promised to kill them should the sign not be given. What kind of faith and optimism must it take to stand outside watching the sun set while those who would take your life stand nearby? And how strengthening to that faith when the skies stayed light as the sun set? 

I also thought of the people of Alma. After their conversion, they were forced to flee the armies of wicked King Noah and find a new place to live. After a short time, they were conquered by the Lamanites and enslaved. Despite their situation they had faith that the Lord was mindful of them. Their faith and optimism was rewarded, not with immediate freedom, but with a lightening of their burdens and an easing of their bondage. Their freedom came later, also by miraculous means, but their faith did not waiver, nor did their optimism. 

Esther standing at the king’s door, Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego at the door of the fiery furnace, Daniel at the mouth of the lion’s den, Martha and Mary at the tomb of their brother Lazarus, all show an example of faith and optimism in the face of sorrows, tribulations, and adversity. The scriptures are full of examples of individuals or groups of people confronting impossible, tragic, or terrifying situations with faith and optimism 

So, the big question is: How do we develop the faith and optimism like the Nephites, the people of Alma, like Martha and Mary, Esther and Ruth? First, we must understand exactly in whom and in what we have faith. We have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, in His Atonement, and in the love, mercy, and goodness of our gracious Heavenly Father. We have faith that through the Atonement of Jesus Christ we can be saved, that we can have eternal life. We have faith that our loving Heavenly Father has a plan for our lives and that that plan will bring far greater joy and rejoicing than any plan we could create for our lives. Our faith does not include the expectation that life should be easy, but rather that the difficult moments, days, weeks, months, and years can be swallowed up in the joy of the Gospel. We can receive comfort in the moment and look forward to the joys of eternity. Isaiah 51:3 promises 
“For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.
We are not alone in our struggles. Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not alone in the fiery furnace and Daniel was not alone in the lion’s den, we have the promise of the Holy Ghost as a comforter to bring us peace, guidance, and inspiration in difficult times. We have the promise of consolation and compensation. In his October 2008 conference address, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin spoke on the principle of compensation, stating: 
“The Lord compensates the faithful for every loss. That which is taken away from those who love the Lord will be added unto them in His own way. While it may not come at the time we desire, the faithful will know that every tear today will eventually be returned a hundredfold with tears of rejoicing and gratitude. . . . Because Heavenly Father is merciful, a principle of compensation prevails.”
President Thomas S. Monson gave a talk in the April 2009 General Conference entitled “Be of Good Cheer.” In the talk he told stories of those who had been examples of faith and finding joy in the gospel in the face of debilitating trials. The individual stories are heartbreaking and I can’t even think of them without tearing up, so I won’t tell them. However, President Monson concluded his message, saying: 
“I testify to you that our promised blessings are beyond measure. Though the storm clouds may gather, though the rains may pour down upon us, our knowledge of the gospel and our love of our Heavenly Father and of our Savior will comfort and sustain us and bring joy to our hearts as we walk uprightly and keep the commandments. There will be nothing in this world that can defeat us.”
We have the Lord on our side. We can face whatever life has in store for us with the knowledge that He will be with us. 

So, how do we put this into practice? Nearly a year ago, while I was sitting in sacrament meeting listening to a very lovely talk, I was constantly distracted by thoughts about finding joy and maintaining faith in Jesus Christ during difficult times. This was not the topic on which the speaker was speaking, but the thoughts were so concrete, so organized, and so forceful that I finally realized that it probably wasn’t just my mind wandering and I should probably write it down. So I did. And until I was asked to give this talk, I haven’t really shared or revisited what I wrote. However, these are practical, everyday things that I have learned we can do to shore up our faith and find joy in spite of adversity. 

First, admit and acknowledge to yourself, to others, and to the Lord that the trial, adversity, or situation is difficult. It is no good to your mental health, no use to others, and a significant detriment to your relationship with your Savior and your Heavenly Father to go about pretending that everything is perfectly fine. Being optimistic does not mean, as Elder Wirthlin pointed out “that we suppress discouragement or deny the reality of pain . . .” or “smother unpleasant truths beneath a cloak of pretended happiness.” To truly exercise faith we need to be honest about the difficulty of our struggles without wallowing in them. 

Second, in order to avoid wallowing in our trials or the self-pity they may engender, we need to pray to our Heavenly Father. We need to pray for consolation and hope. Ask for the strength needed to make it through the trial. Sometimes that means praying for the strength to get out of bed, the strength to answer one more phone call, the strength to read the same picture book for the 600th time, or the strength to make a new friend. But most of all we need to pray for the strength to look forward with hope. We also need to pray to be able to maintain an eternal perspective. We need to pray to be reminded that this life is but a moment, that, as the Lord told Joseph Smith in Doctrine & Covenants section 121:7 that “thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a moment.;” and in 122:7 that “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 

Third, we need to forget ourselves and get to work. Do what it is that you can to improve a situation then turn it over to the Lord. Once you have done all you can for yourself, look around you and start serving others. Isaiah 58:10 states: “And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday;” When we serve others we forget our problems, our burdens are lightened, and the guidance and enlightenment of the Holy Ghost more widely and deeply felt. 

Fourth, Be grateful. It is easy in the midst of trial to focus so intently on the difficulty and what is lacking that we forget how truly blessed we are. We need to be grateful for the gospel, for our knowledge of and access to the Atonement, and for all the Lord has given us. Just as it is easy to continue listing the hardships and deficiencies in life once you get started, it is equally easy to continue listing all the blessings and beauties of life once you get started. A grateful heart is a light and unburdened heart.
 I’m sure we all have or shortly will have reasons to put these things into practice in our lives. But, we can look forward in faith, with optimism, that everything is going to work out. As President Monson said in his 2009 conference talk “My beloved brothers and sisters, fear not. Be of good cheer. The future is as bright as your faith.”
Talks referenced: President Gordon B. Hinckley, "If Thou Art Faithful"; Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Come What May and Love It"; President Thomas S. Monson, "Be of Good Cheer"

22 July 2012

Introducing Version 2.0

My brother and sister-in-law recently had a baby boy who, for the purposes of this blog, I have christened Mime 2.0 because a) my brother Mime is a computer guru and 2) this little boy looks very much like Mime did when he was a baby. Long and thin, but with an extra couple of pounds to keep people from referring to him as E.T. I was able to spend yesterday with the family and while I generally prefer children once they are about 6 months old and out of the 'lump' phase, I think Mime 2.0 is quite adorable. And I always love having another child to spoil whilst campaigning for the 'Favorite Aunt' title.

What you can't see is that his mother put on a onesie I bought him
that says "My Auntie Rocks." I start my campaigning early!

11 June 2012

Baby Bee is 2!

Hopefully, it doesn't age me to say things like "it seems just like yesterday that. . ." because I've been saying plenty of stuff like that lately. Case in point, Baby Bee is 2 as of today. Which is crazy. I have no idea where the last two years of my life have gone. Other than student teaching and a soul-sucking property management job. So maybe I'd just rather pretend I have no idea where the years have gone, rather than feel that, as far as the property management job is concerned, I have been squandering my time.

Anyway, Saturday was the family celebration since today I am again squandering my time at a soul-sucking job. My dad and stepmom came over and we had a lovely time with Baby Bee (who I really can't call 'Baby' anymore, as she is officially a toddler AND will be moved to being the middle child in July when a little boy arrives). We went to Build-A-Bear in the mall and I had to buy she and Bug's bears shoes, because no one should be shoeless, even teddy bears. Also, while the store itself was very organized and flowed well, it was still way overstimulating for me. Baby Bee and Bug kind of got glassy eyed when trying to pick out clothes. Thank heavens for Disney Princess dresses or we would have been there for hours.

After a quick trip to the candy store and a stop for throwing pennies in the mall fountain, it was nap time. Which did not happen, so we had lunch and birthday cake instead. And then Baby Bee, Mrs. Mime, my stepmom, and I all took naps while my dad entertained Bug with a play dough kit he and my stepmom had brought her.

Evidence that I don't always forget my camera for big events:

Baby Bee looking at her burning candles with delight - could we have another pyro in the family?

Blowing out the candles. 

Bug laughing at Grandpa being silly.

Playing with play dough, shortly before both Baby Bee and I crashed for a quick nap.

07 June 2012

Uggos, Crazies, and Bailers

I was watching the season finale of 30 Rock recently and Liz Lemon's boyfriend of the season, Criss (James Marsden, in the one role in which I don't find him completely annoying), said something that made me laugh and then made me think. He was explaining to Liz why he was stressed about their relationship, saying: 
“You know what kind of women in their 40s have never been married, Liz? Uggos, crazies, and bailers. You’re not an uggo. And you’re haha crazy, not oh boy crazy, which means you bail!”
While I'm not in my 40s (although you could argue that the pressure on an LDS woman who is single and in her 30s is roughly equivalent to an non-LDS woman in her 40s), the comment stuck with me. I'm aware enough to know I'm not a complete uggo, middle school pictures to the contrary, and I like to flatter myself that I am endearingly and amusingly crazy, not scary crazy. That leaves one choice: bailer. Once I started to think about it, it didn't see so far off the mark.

A brief and non-scientific analysis of my behavior would show that I am the first to leave any situation. If I'm in a conversation, 99% of the time, I'm the one to end it. In an sort of communication situation, I'm so worried about making a fool of myself, I get out early before I can embarrass myself. You can imagine how the stakes rise if I'm actually in a situation involving a guy in whom I might be interested. A ticking timer starts in my head the minute one of those conversations start. I can only imagine what kind of signal it sends to the guy I'm talking with (gentleman readers, if you exist, please chime in).

Additionally, if several of these conversations, with their abrupt endings, occur and nothing comes of it, I assume there is no interest. I bail on the possibility of something, which inevitably becomes self-fulfilling prophecy. And since I assume they are not interested, you can imagine how much shorter the conversations become and how much sooner I'm ready to pull the plug. Which does nothing to change the situation.

So, how do I change my behavior? That internal timer is so habitual I don't realize what is happening until the situation is over, til I sit back and realize I've done it again. Suggestions?

02 June 2012

Five Years

I didn't want to get out of bed today. There are multiple reasons for this; I'm still not feeling 100% after having a death flu that turned into an ear infection. It is rainy and gray. I didn't want to go to work. Underlying all of this, however, is that it is the fifth anniversary of pretty much the worst day of my life.

Five years is a long time. The world has changed, there are lots of things that have no reference to my mother. I've cycled through a whole new wardrobe. I had to give away the suit I wore at her funeral because it was too big. She would be thrilled at how little of my wardrobe is still black. There's a whole crop of television addictions and fantasy boyfriends I never had a chance to tell her about. My life plans are radically altered. But there are some things that don't change. Hearing a James Taylor, Carole King, or Billy Joel song still makes me melancholy. I feel homesick when I see rose bushes. While it happens far less frequently now, I still reflexively think of calling her whenever really good or really bad things happen.

And that is the rub. All the things she hasn't been and won't be a part of is the hardest bit. The good things in life, the happy moments or great opportunities are always a little bittersweet because she isn't here to share them. The bad things, the sad moments, the unfortunate blind sides in life are all a little worse because she is no longer just a phone call away.

I remember shortly after my mother died, my aunt telling me "Welcome to the Dead Mom's Club. It sucks." And it does. That is really all there is to say about it when you lose your best friend and confidant. You make do, and you move forward. You try to refrain from wallowing, because she would be irate if she thought you missing life because of her. But it's never the same.

19 May 2012

Things I Am Currently Obsessed With

I've been Debbie Downer on this blog a lot lately. Possibly because I'm one lost hour of sleep away from a nervous breakdown on most days. BUT I do have things (besides sleep) that keep me from that nervous breakdown which I thought I would tell everyone about. Because I can. And because it is abnormally slow at work today (knock on wood) and there isn't much I have to be doing right now. So, here are my random, yet happy-making, current obsessions.
  • Ray LaMontagne - I love this man's voice. If you haven't heard him (which, hello, I'm always late to the music party, so you probably know him) I suggest you leave this page now and go listen to him on your choice of music providers. I find his voice extremely soothing; his is the go-to albums after a long day at work. Which means I listen to him pretty much every day. Songs I recommend: "Trouble," "Shelter," "Hold You in My Arms," "Hannah," "All the Wild Horses," "Let it Be Me," "You Are the Best Thing," and "Achin' All the Time." Just to start off with.
  • Essie nail polish - I love the range of colors Essie has, specifically in the blue-green and red-orange spectrums. Also, the names are fun and the bottles are compact and aesthetically pleasing. The best part, however, is that the polish is thin and spreads really easily. It is not gloopy at all. Sure, it means an extra coat, but because it is thin and non-gloopy, it dries quickly. With a base coat and a top coat, my home-done pedicures last at least a week without touch-ups. A few touch-ups stretches that to two or three weeks. Which is fantastic, since I don't have time these days for doing weekly pedicures.
  • Old Navy's plaid or gingham camp shirts - I apologize for sounding like a massive advertisement, however, I tried one of these on last week, loved it but put it back because I couldn't justify buying a shirt. Then I obsessed about it for a day or two and went back and bought one (the white with small red/blue/purple plaid). I received many compliments on it, plus it was just so comfortable. It was cut perfectly, with just a little nip at the waist to provide shape, but not too much so I felt like I should be wearing a corset with it. The bonus was I thought it was only a 3/4 length sleeve that had been rolled up, but it is long sleeve, which means it will be perfect for layering in the winter. So I went back and bought three more in different colors.
  • Mystery novels set in Britain in the past - These are my brain-break books. When I need to check out, I will happily escape to the rarified (yet oddly dangerous) estates, manor houses, and small villages of England of the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s. Agatha Christie is obviously a fave, however, I also recommend the Lord Peter Whimsey series by Dorothy L. Sayers and the Flavia De Luce series by Alan Bradley. I recently found a new series, the Honourable Daisy Dalrymple series by Carola Dunn. I read the first book Thursday night and enjoyed it. Imagine Agatha Christie's Miss Marple as a young 25 year-old impoverished aristocrat (complete with tragic tale of a brother AND a true love killed in WWI) working as a society writer traveling amongst characters culled from P.G. Wodehouse and Dorothy L. Sayers novels. It makes me wish I were British and could say things like "topping," "spiffing," "old thing," and "cheerio."
  • Beets, edamame, and chickpeas in salads - I'm semi-successfully trying to improve my eating habits, specifically eating more vegetables and less non-vegetables, especially meat. If I had the means I would spend every lunch hour eating from the salad bar at a local grocery, because they offer fantastic things like beets, edamame, and chickpeas that make a salad tasty make dressings unnecessary. I've had to use frozen and/or canned versions of them to make my own, as it is far, far cheaper. Plus, it adds some heft to the salad. Add some crushed walnuts or sunflower seeds and you have got yourself a delicious and filling salad.
  • Costume jewelry, specifically huge cocktail rings - For some reason I enjoy wearing a massive ring. It gives me a sense of power for some reason. Try it - they are just fun, plus they are a trend right now so you can find them for under $10 in most clothing stores.
  • Doctor Who t-shirts from teefury.com - Teefury offers t-shirts loaded with pop culture-y goodness with a large helping of geek. The catch of the website is you only have 24 hours to order, then they print and ship. I've missed some fun ones, which are saved as bittersweet reminders in the gallery, but I also have a growing collection that I rarely have the opportunity to wear. But who can turn down a $10 t-shirt?
  • Finding surprises for my nieces and soon-to-be-born nephew - I love being able to spoil them and since their birthdays (and births) are all happening in the next few months, I get to spoil them rotten! Also, how can I resist buying superhero onesies when I find them at Old Navy? Start the geekifying young!
  • Adding the color orange to my wardrobe - After years (possibly decades? Am I really that old?) of dying my hair a dark auburn, I let it go back to something resembling my natural color. I think. It has been a while. Anyway, now that my hair is not auburn, I have found I can actually wear colors in the red-orange/orange/coral family. Which is fabulous. I love the color, especially paired with turquoise or green-blue. I have been adding quite a bit of it to my wardrobe recently. Dresses, shirts, tanks, anything really. I'm now on the hunt for orange shoes because I want to recreate this look Obviously also in the hunt for a similar dress, but that really has nothing to do with anything.
  • Tall, skinny, British men who act - This isn't necessarily a new obsession (see: Tenant, David and  Grant, Cary) but I've found some new ones to obsess over. Also, it isn't necessarily the fact they are actors that is part of the obsession, but they are the only tall, skinny British men to whom I am exposed, seeing as how I still haven't found a way to move to England. The latest additions to this sub-genre of the Fantasy Boyfriend League are Benedict Cumberbatch (who has, perhaps, the best English name ever!) and Tom Hiddleston. Benedict Cumberbatch is best known for being Sherlock Holmes in the BBC series. Also, he has a dreamy voice. IF you don't believe me, listen to this. Mr. Cumberbatch will next be heard as the voice of Smaug in The Hobbit in December and the villain in Star Trek next summer. Tom Hiddleston is best known for his role as Loki in last year's Thor and the record-breaking blockbuster that is The Avengers. He also played F. Scott Fitzgerald in Midnight in Paris (which you need to see if you haven't already - the movie is genius.) Mr. Hiddleston is currently working on adaptations of Henry IV (parts 1 and 2) and Henry V, which should be on British TV for the build up to 450th anniversary of Shakespeare's birth in 2014. Hopefully it will cross the pond shortly thereafter. He will also be part of Thor 2, which was announced recently. I can understand that if you are not attracted by men who are slightly (or more-than-slightly) unhinged and your only exposure to him is as Loki, you might not get my new obsession with Mr. Hiddleston. To which I say, do a Google image search of recent photo shoots and photo calls for The Avengers. You can thank me later.

22 April 2012

Gratitude and Eternity

I will be the first to admit that I resemble Veruca Salt in far more ways that I would like. I often forget to be grateful. I focus on what I don't have and not what I do have. I often get so focused on not having the job I want now that I forget how blessed I am to be employed at all, and to be able to mostly support myself on the wages from that job. I also have the opportunity to occasionally substitute at a middle school, which is great. But I focus on what I don't have that I want.

Lately, I've had trouble of a different sort. I've started not to be able to celebrate others' successes. I see people moving forward in their lives through a myriad of ways like career advancement, marriage, having children, buying houses, etc. and it is getting increasingly difficult to wish them well in their happiness. Some of it is the envy that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke of in his talk in General Conference this month. Some of it is simply feeling left behind. It has been fifteen years since I graduated from high school, ten since I graduated from BYU. I've watched successive generations of friends move on with their lives that I still haven't. They have careers, families, foundations. I'm still working dead-end jobs that have nothing to do with my degrees, single, and nomadic as ever. I've learned that my friends' successes, while amazing for them, mean a separation for me. Our friendships don't end, but they move on, move forward, move away, move into demanding spheres of responsibility that have less room for me. Our lives simply don't overlap as much. And while their moving forward brings them into contact with a widening social circle, mine seems to shrink and require me to go out and work to build new friendships. None of this is bad, but it is difficult and somewhat lonely. I'm not an extremely social person by nature, so I find the work it takes to build new relationships rather exhausting and not a little unfair.

This is where my Veruca Salt-ness directly confronts my faith. Do I believe in the blessings of eternal life? Most definitely. I'm grateful for it everyday. I'm grateful for it every time I think of my mother, every time I wish I could her on the phone, every time I think of my grandparents and aunts and uncles who are no longer with us. I'm grateful when I think of my brother, when I see my niece's disappearing scar from open heart surgery, when I think of my nephew who will be joining our family this summer. That is not in question. Rather, do I have the faith to endure if all the blessings I want in my life don't come until eternity? I was reading in Isaiah today during the Sacrament and came across this verse in chapter 51:
 For the Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.
These words are full of comfort to those in midst of figurative and literal waste places, wildernesses, and deserts. They are to inspire hope. As I pondered them, my Veruca Salt-ness came raging back, asking if I was prepared to wander in those waste places, wildernesses or deserts if the blessings I want don't come til eternity. I want to say yes. I want to conquer my inner Veruca. I want to be grateful for everything in my life, not just focused on what I don't have. Yet there are days when I can't help but envision a future of watching my friends and loved ones move forward and, often, away while I am consigned to watch like a starving Dickensian orphan peering through a window at a Christmas feast. And that just seems impossibly hard. 

08 April 2012

I No Longer Feel Like Hibernating All Day, Every Day.

Spring has sprung, sort of, in Bellingham. The sun actually shone for 3 whole days in a row, which feels like nirvana after never-ending months of rain and unseasonable cold. That is one excuse for not blogging, as nothing was happening AT ALL, because I was either grudgingly at work or curled up under a blanket. Although I had lots of pertinent half-thoughts and suppositions that could have been turned into a thoughtful blog if I had taken any time to write them down. My second excuse is that I've been busy. I've been juggling working at the property management company and substitute teaching, sometimes both in one day, and by the time those days are over, I am brain dead or punch drunk, neither of which are particularly useful for blogging.

The state of non-blogging would continue if it weren't for a promise I made to myself (and requests by supportive people in my life) to post some pictures. See, a little over a year ago I was facing the prospect of having buy new clothes in a larger size, which is the worst possible reason ever to have to go shopping. Also, people were posting pictures and tagging me on Facebook and I hated every single one and only my pride at not being vain (yeah, I know it makes little sense, but stick with me) kept me from untagging myself in them. The pièce de résistance of this unholy collection was this:

This is not a flattering picture. I think if Angelina Jolie were slouched like that it would not be a flattering picture for her, and she has the same girth as a young birch tree. However, it wasn't the only picture taken from the summer of 2010 that told me there was a problem. Here I am at my brother's graduation from UW that same year:

Something had to be done. It didn't happen until I finished my student teaching and felt I actually had time and energy to do something. So, March 2011, I joined Weight Watchers. And miraculously, I stuck with it. The first 30lbs dropped off in five months, but I decided I wasn't going to celebrate it in any public way or write about it until I had dropped 40lbs. Which took the next seven-and-a-half months. But, yesterday, I finally managed to lose 40lbs. Here is me today, in my new Easter dress (which is actually coral, not pink, despite what it may look like in the picture, lest you think I've lost my mind and embraced pink as a thing).

I still have a ways to go, but I feel like I've accomplished something. I'm happier and healthier and, oddly, less concerned with how I look and what people think of me. The most unexpected part is how much more spiritually healthy I feel. I hear those horrible voices in my head that question my worth a lot less. Not because I am a smaller size, but because I have accomplished something through hard work, because I'm taking care of and loving my body, not hating it. 

As I sat in church today, listening to and pondering Easter messages and teaching my eight and nine year-olds in Primary about the resurrection of Jesus Christ, it struck me how integral our physical bodies are to our spiritual well-being. As a woman who spent the better part of the last 20 years both obsessed with fashion magazines and struggling with weight issues, I became increasingly disassociated from my body. It was something I didn't want to deal with or think about but spent quite a bit of mental and emotional energy doing both. The mindset I was stuck in kept me from moving forward and weighed me down. As I've become physically lighter, I've also become mentally, emotionally, and spiritually lighter. As I shed pounds, I also started to shed other unhealthy things in my life that had no relation to my weight. And isn't that what Easter is about; the opportunity to shed the unhealthy, the bad, the sinful, the dark, the sorrowful, and the failings and frailties of human nature and through the Atonement of Jesus Christ become better than we were and be perfected in Him. It is the opportunity to become lighter and lighter until we are filled with light. I hope we all take the opportunity to shed something that is dragging us down and to move forward lighter and brighter than we were before.