Monday, December 31, 2012

Aviator Glasses on My Face, Tambourine on My Head, and Confidence in My Heart

I've been thinking a lot about how I've changed over the past year. So far, I've come up with little to share, but I did dig up this beauty while cleaning. 

In eleventh grade, Ms. Sanderson, my favorite English teacher, assigned us to describe ourselves using this Mastercard ad. Hopefully it's big enough for you to catch the detail. I'm surprised at how little things have changed since then.

Friday, December 28, 2012

This Cookie Dough Cake Is An Event

Perhaps you'll remember how I made Super a 108 Oreo Cake to celebrate his successful completion of midterms?

I knew I needed to top myself for finals, so I made what Brother Joseph said is "not really a cake, but an event." It combines all of my favorite things: cookies, cookie dough, chocolate chips, and good frosting. If you're wondering where the no-egg cookie dough goes, it constitutes the filling between the cake layers. And yes, it's as lovely as you'd hope it could be.

If you'd like to make your own, check out the tutorial from Tip Junkie. Her buttercream frosting recipe with the cake has become my new favorite. It's far superior to any other I've tried. Beyond that though, here are a few suggested changes to the tutorial though.

1) The cookie recipe she gives is not my fave. You could easily substitute whatever cookie recipe you love most, which I recommend. We did however use walnuts in the cookies, which were graciously grown and donated by Super's cousin. Super contributed to his own cake by cracking walnuts with his bare hands. Here he is modeling his red hands. The pictures don't really show the new texture of his palms, so you'll have to just trust me that this cake resulted in battle wounds.

2) I often skip out on the mini chips, but they really do work best in the cookie dough. Big chips tend to make my teeth hurt. So if you're like me—cheap with over-sugared teeth—spring for the minis.

3) This cake tastes much better once when given a few days to sit. So plan ahead and let the flavors percolate to perfection.

Flinging chips on the cake. YES.
This cake took at least 8 hours to make, but I think it was worth it. It probably wouldn't have taken as much time if it weren't for the fact that Super's house is too cold for butter to soften. I doubt you'll have this problem though.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

A Quote Preserved

About this time last year, I was hanging out with this young, fashionable, and lovely lady named Bekah:

Not sure what's happening here.

About this time this year, some people thought the world would have ended. I never bought into that scene, but I've been collecting some good jokes about it in my head.

Bekah's wins first prize, for its overall awesomeness and editor appeal:

"Apoc-ellipsis, the dot dot dots of the universe."

Runners up? "Get busy or die Mayan." And the advertising gimmick of the local personal injury lawyers: "Were the Mayans right? Get your will today! No payments until after Dec. 21!" The logic of this claim baffles me.

Also, you can see one of Bekah's photographs of F. Scott Fitzgerald's house in my Stowaway article here.

Monday, December 24, 2012

"One More Sleep 'Til Christmas": Branches, Hard-won Wreaths, and Words to Warm Your Heart By

I've been wanting to share some of our holiday pictures. There was mucho decorating going on this year, compared to the meager decorating of years past. I'm proud of my effort, which was largely multiplied by the efforts of Super's roommates.

Our Christmas branch, as Brother Joseph calls it, was saved from the dumpster just a few days before everyone left town for break. You'll notice the rocks and clamp at the bottom of the tree. This lovely setup was engineered custom for our tree. It's holding up marvelously. Isn't he so cute? I find it really funny how Charlie Brown's Christmas makes it okay to have a sparse looking tree. Just call it a Charlie Brown tree, and you can get away with anything.

My family's tree is pleasantly plump. No Charlie Brown for us. We do however have a strand of green, red, and white lights that is ancient. It plays the first ten seconds of every Christmas carol known to man, and I love it (including its repeating carols that chirp out) more than any other decoration.

I ventured out at the opening of Trader Joe's in Salt Lake. Sadly, I found nothing I was that excited about except this lovely, lovely wreath. It was well worth all the elbowing and crowding going on in the place.

May you all have a very warm and bright Christmas. I'll send you my well wishes with one of my favorite scriptures from Peter that doubles as my own testimony of Christ:

"For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received from God the Father honour and glory, when there came such a voice to him from the excellent glory, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts."
-2 Peter 1:16-19

No Christmas is complete without all or at least some of this; the words are there for singing because you know you want to.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Spanish Fork Christmas: Just as Good as I Remember

The month is rapidly dwindling down to January (though it feels slightly less rapid after that Mayan thingy). There are still so many great Christmas things we'd like to do!

Luckily, we got this one great one in: the Spanish Fork Festival of Lights! My family and I went to this when I was young. Of the twenty or so years the festival has been going, I attended within the first five or so. I worried I'd be disappointed with the display as an adult, especially since I thought the lights at Thanksgiving Point were lame.

But not so my dears. No lameness here! The Festival was perfectly thrilling and festive. Go while there's still some semblance of snow!

Here's the info. Happy light-loving!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Tribute to Jane Austen

Yesterday, Jane Austen—dearly beloved by many—had a birthday (shout hooray!). I wish I could fully describe all of my feelings about Jane Austen in words, but I'd rather tickle your senses with videos, pictures, and at least one story over the next month or so.

First, a video: Jane Austen Fight Club. My birthday gift to you and Jane. If we didn't have Jane Austen, we'd never have this video, and that would be a true loss to society.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Yogiting: the act of using your editing books as a yoga block.

This, folks, is a true story. I was desperately trying to do this free yoga video without the proper equipment. I had to resort to sitting on my Chicago Manual of Style and my Webster's Usage Dictionary.

That's a real yoga block.

These are not. That is also not a real person.
Figures flex like normal people not like yoga people.

I don't know if this is qualified to go on the "you know you're an editor if" list. Anyone else done this or anything stranger with a style manual?

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Saturday to-do list

1. Lay in bed. Check.
2. Clean. Check.
3. Attempt to save the world by perfecting blueberry muffins. Check.
4. Get back in bed. Check.

My day is done.

Want to try saving the world via muffin too? Here is the number one secret: get a muffin top pan. Give into the fact that the top of the muffin is the best part, and grab one of these pans. I got my mom two for Christmas last year, and then I took one back from her this year. I'm so good at math; it's remarkable.

I just used the WinCo blueberry muffin mix; added random amounts of lemon juice, nutmeg, and vanilla; and then made a little crumble by microwaving a few tablespoons each of butter, quick oats, and brown sugar. You can't really have too much crumble on here though.

Have I perfected the muffin? Not at all. But man, that was easy and pleasing.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Explore, dream, discover with Stowaway magazine

Last winter semester, I worked editing Stowaway magazine with a whole staff of awesome people. I think our issue turned out splendidly. This really is a great travel magazine for those who want a view of the world without the price or experience of tourism. The articles have lots of tips on how to really dig into the sands, the foods, and the thrill of a place.

You can find my articles on pages fifteen and twenty-three and my editing everywhere. I'm also a big fan of the articles on cooking with quinoa, kayaking the Bahamas, finding your roots, and working on organic farms—all great traveling ideas, except the quinoa; it's just tasty.

There's lots more where that came from. Other issues available at

Monday, December 3, 2012

A quote preserved

As a follow-up to my last post on editing, I give you the following profound words from Super. Please fill in your own theme music.

"Every day I'm proof-er-reading!"

Saturday, December 1, 2012

You know you're an editor if

You know you're an editor if

1. you're already aware there shouldn't be a colon after if in the sentence above
2. you've already found an error or two in this post that Chicago wouldn't sanction
3. you didn't find all the errors and went straight to Chicago 6.121 to double-check
4. you see more possibilities in these cake pans than the average baker
This woman is an editor. She has schwa earrings.
5. you don't believe any of that crap about split infinitives or beginning a sentence with but
6. you wanted to cry joyfully when you first learned about old-style numbers
7. you could actually find a need for ten of these magnets
8. you support the return of the interrobang (well, not all editors do; but they should)
9. this video by College Humor speaks right to your soul

Also, you're an editor if you want there to be a number ten on this list. But alas, I have left you hanging like a dangling modifier.

On a related note, I hate it when there are typos and other errors on my blog. Should you find one, feel free to point it out to me. I'll be sad at my original failure. But I will correct it, and the world will stand greatly improved.

If you'd like a grammar question answered, ask away! I will write a post just for you.

There are so many other things that could go on this list. What would you add?

Monday, November 26, 2012

108 for Jake

***Pardon the delay. Midterms ended weeks ago. How embarrassing!***
This semester, my filmmaker has turned into a economic-theory-wielding scholar as well. Three mid-level economics classes means a nightmare of a midterm week in any country's currency. But he handled it with grace and fortitude. He even walked out happy, albeit hungry, from the test that took him (and most of his classmates) four and a half hours.

To celebrate, I took nearly 108 oreos, crunched some into a chocolate cake, whipped another third into a no-bake cheesecake, rolled the rest into truffles, and coated the whole sha-bang in chocolate ganache (a fine ending to any party in your mouth, I believe).

When I first saw the recipe for this cake, I thought no one should ever make it. But then I found myself searching for an event that would justify such a cake. Luckily, Super's midterm marathon was just that.

Once grades came back, we found out he definitely deserved this cake too. All A grades, including the top score in his entire class.

He documented the cake making with these photos. Credit for my genie pants goes to Jenny and her Jerusalem trip; credit for my fantastic Fictionist shirt goes to Fictionist and to James.

Want to make your own 108 oreo cake? Here it is.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Snape + Science = The Ladies

This video has definitely affected my levels of happiness and my speech patterns in a positive way. It's raw, it's uncut, it's Snape doing science.

I give it to you as a post-black Friday gift. You're welcome.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


The fantastic people I used to work with made this lovely video about Sounds to Astound, the acoustics  outreach club at BYU. They put on an awesome and free show with fire, science, and a crowd of cute kids (usually). I've really enjoyed going. It's a great way to teach your kids about sound, fill up your family night with love, or decide if your date is science-savvy enough to marry.

So, check out the video, and make your free reservation for November 26 or 30 here.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Where I Was Left

It was the last final before Christmas. That semester was one of those that I really didn't think I'd make it through. In three months, I'd been through a brief mysterious illness brought on by the terror of committing myself to a country called India. I had changed my mind and experienced every degree of soul-rocking doubt. When I sat down to take my last test, I believe I was signed up to go to India, but for the number of times I changed my mind, it could have easily been the other way around. Either way, I felt dark as the lead I began putting down one bubble at a time. Three hours later, I hit the last bubble, answered the question, and read these words from a gracious humanities teacher who loved art for everything it says:

"I leave you now in the best place I can: Auguste Rodin, the Hand of God."

Taking this birthday of Rodin's, I would like to also place you in that merciful state of contemplating this sculpture: the Hand of God.

Auguste Rodin, The Hand of God

Photo: kaitlin.marie

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Smattering of Storm Stories

There are many bright stories coming out of this recent storm. Truth be told I've read very few, which is why these three odd ones stick out to me. I know none of them really capture what people have been going through, so don't think me insensitive. They've just been tossing around in my head nonetheless.

These two are my favorites, in terms of imagery and dedication.

From Juli Olson, of Long Island, New York: "We all went outside and began working, some of us bailing in the driveway and some of us building a dam of branches with leaves across the driveway. (Who decided that having a driveway that goes down to a basement garage was a good idea in this neighborhood anyway?) Brittyn was the force behind the dam and it was working, keeping the flow from pooling in our driveway, but it didn't take long for us to realize this was a different scenario from last year's Irene. I have a clear image by the eerie light of the full moon somehow reflecting under the clouds of Brittyn up to her waist in water in the middle of the street as the water was rising." More here.

From the Times: "As hurricane-driven waters surged into New York University research buildings in Kips Bay, on the East Side of Manhattan, investigators in New York and around the world jumped on the phone to offer assistance — executing a reverse Noah’s ark operation, to rescue lab animals and other assets from a flooding vessel." More here. I also love the last line of this one.

And the one that made me sad (mind you, I've read few): the loss of the boardwalk where I took this picture.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Why I still live in a decaying apartment building

My lovely roommates eat white chocolate popcorn with me.

They also say great things.

"Ah! I stubbed my toe. . . . It's okay; I've got like nine others."

Case. And. Point.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Why is everyone writing about expectations?

Well, because they influence us so frequently. I was surprised that in all my blog reading this evening at least three separate bloggers were writing on expectations.

This one was by far the best, having this tough quote, "Expectations are what cause sorrow."

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

BYU Bucket List

Though I walked in April, this week is the last week I will spend working on BYU campus. Classes for me were done in June and now my job as an editor for one of the colleges is wrapping up. In order to not get too depressed about this life change, I'm trying to do all the lovely things I still need to do to make my BYU list complete. Here's a sampling.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

A timely triumph

Over the past few days, I've been feeling stressed about a to-do list that won't fit around all the fun time I've planned with friends. Here's what I did about it.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Press Forward, Saints

The Madonna of the Praire
by William H.D. Koerner

Recently, someone I love told me that I am a pioneer woman. I think this may be the greatest compliment I have ever received, and I'm liking that this disclosure happened right around the time of Utah's Pioneer Day holiday. It has given me lots of time to reflect on just what this means.

We often talk about how our modern struggles are just as hard as those of our pioneer ancestors, except they look really different. What is the same? Read more.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Superhero love

There are so many superhero movies these days, and I'm tempted to say that I'm sick of them. I'm not actually though. I'm still enjoying them along with the rest of the world.

Here's something I am sick of though: the idea that to save the world we must do something big,something flashy, something newsworthy, something death-defying. Let me explain why.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Am I cut out for this motherhood thing?

My friends all seem to be having babies lately. So, in my latest post for Women's Services, I wrote a little bit about how nurturing fits into those of us who feel less like nuturers.

Read the full post here.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

If you feel alone, please consider this:

Loneliness has often been a battle in my life. I need people. A lot. I need people who care about me to check in with me, to share with me, and to sit with me. Sometimes, I need someone there all the time, which while it is a real need, can sometimes be an impossible demand for the people I love to meet. I have many good people in my life who give a lot of their time to me. I'm really grateful for them. Still, I have days and moments when I am very alone, despite all they can do for me. Check out my post on the BYU Women's Services blog about how I handle these moments.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Healing marriages

No other truth is more deeply sunk into my soul than this one: "If our bodies are sick we seek to heal them. We do not give up. The same should be true of our marriages."-Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Thursday, June 28, 2012

For the summer, for the summer

Yesterday, I spent the lunch hour on my favorite bench in all of BYU (it has taken me five years to choose one) listening to a live performance by the Lovecapades, which was happening across campus.

It was a moment that felt like summer. My mac and cheese tasted gross, but my feet were warm on the pavement, the breeze moved the branches of my shade tree about, and my skirt fluttered. The moment only got better when the Lovecapades began playing a cover of this old, old song from my childhood. It's a silly one (actually, it's downright ridiculous), but it's one that brings back summers long since gone and pays tribute to the 80s and 90s.


Summer Girls by Lyte Funky Ones on Grooveshark

The Lovecapades also favored us with a cover of "Read My Mind" by the Killers, a song which is truly great in all seasons of weather and life. Take a listen to this to cleanse your palette.

To hear some real Lovecapades and download their album, check out this link.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My Debt to Spongebob and SG-1

Between the hours of 1:30 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. this past week, I've seen ships destroyed, a wrongly accused man, alien abductions, a drug that makes you hate your neighbor, an army of brave men slaughtered, one good-looking psychiatrist, and the joyous return of that same psychiatrist—only as his usual anthropologist self, but with amnesia.

No, these have not been my early morning hour dreams. Rather, I've been watching the television show Stargate SG-1 with my brother, Shawn. On Sunday, we sent him off to become a marine.

Read more here.

Shawn's the one who looks most like a marine

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

When I see WinCo ads...

I worry and worry about how to cook for my children someday. I'm terrified I won't be able to keep making meal after meal after meal forever. I've done it before for my parents and siblings before, but still it scares me.

Moreover, I'm really afraid of being able to pay for meal after meal after meal. Today though, I saw the ad for WinCo this week. I took one look . . .  Read more

Friday, June 8, 2012

Film montages are seriously happy things

I worked on this video for my class on genre film. It's loosely a screwball comedy, with references to Smoke Signals (a movie I love and highly recommend), I Love Lucy, and a few others.

Now, I am no film maker as this video shows. But I'm pretty proud of this montage and the outtakes at the end for just being happy material. I also love this song we used. It's by the Aquabats. Kara's uncle (she's pictured to the left in the stripes) is actually in the Aquabats. How's that for awesome? Enjoy.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Truth is beauty

When I first moved into my apartment, I noticed this quote on the mirror: "Beauty is not in the face. Beauty is a light in the heart." And after I read it for the first time, I thought, that's a stupid quote. It says nice sentimental things, but it gives me little reason to believe, no way to conform to the statement, and no motivation to think it's true.

A year later, I still haven't taken down the quote though, flat sounding as it is. Read more...

Monday, June 4, 2012

For want of rain

To the north of me, a beautiful storm is brewing over that portion of the valley. I wish it would blow in my way, drench my parking lot till the low spots are puddles, and pour and pour until everything is washed and new again.

That would be nice. That could cleanse things again. And I could stop waiting out on my porch for such things.

The storm never came, so I instead made the greatest decision I've made in a while: I moved the couch to the balcony of my apartment building. Though I sometimes feel I'm somehow invading the privacy of my neighbors by bringing myself so permanently into the open, they're outdoorsy people too, so I'm sure they'll be okay with it.

It's awkward for me too, this being so exposed to the world, but since this couch isn't exactly a scrumping couch—as the great Marcie Glad would call it (scrumping actually refers to a whole host of activities, including menial tasks such as walking along at a slow pace and more intense tasks such as punching someone with all the force of your soul. It's a versatile word, really.)—I think spending my time reading and writing out here will be good exposure for my soul.

My friend came to help me move the couch. When he asked if there was anything else he could do, I told him that since we've been struggling with similar things as of late, he could come and talk to me more, since it makes me feel less alone and crazy. His response cheered me greatly: "You're not alone. There are at least 3 of us crazy people out there in the world." Bless your heart, good sir, bless your heart.

My balcony, pre-couch

If it were raining, I'd use this:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Mood music for miracles

Today I rediscovered the album Beautiful Letdown by Switchfoot. Despite all their popularity, Switchfoot is at heart, a Christian rock group. I love this album for those moments when that shines through.

It's particularly true in the last song on the album, "Twenty-four." I thought it might be good mood music to accompany my last post on miracles.

"I want to see miracles, see the world change, wrestle the angel for more than a name."-Switchfoot

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Miracle of friendship

Sometimes the definitions of words escape me, or vice versa. Recently though, it came to my attention that what I've been seeking and asking for is a "miracle."

A miracle in the sense that I'm asking for a change of heart—in myself and others. I'm asking for a deep outpouring of love and forgiveness and wholeness. In someways, it is both daunting and comforting to be asking for a miracle. Daunting because it's a big change and miracles don't happen every day. Comforting because I know miracles are exactly what God deals in.

On Friday, a miracle happened, not the one I'd been requesting but one in the same vein. An old friend from study abroad Kris sent me an email with some writing she'd done recently. Her piece was prompted by another friend in our group Christine who'd just happened to send her something she'd been writing.

When I call these people "friends" I mean it of course, but it is fair to say that we are not all very close these days. Our lives have gone off in different directions, and even to begin with, we weren't all evenly close to one another. There were gaps, not subgroups, just gaps—people you knew but had yet to really connect with. We did pretty well overall though.

 But when I read Kris's essay, I knew something wonderful had taken place in my heart. So I wrote back. Not a reply but a response from my heart about all her concerns and thoughts that in the writing exposed my own concerns and thoughts. The words made us friends in a deeper way.

Now, we're playing a sort of written Telephone game with everyone in our group. We are each writing a piece prompted by the one we received from a friend. The idea is making me so happy. I love seeing connections happen between two people, however unlikely they may be.

Those are my kinds of miracles, and really, they're the kinds I've always been seeking and treasuring in my life. I believe they are possible between any two people, born at that moment when someone finally says, "Me too."

It's a moment I live for, and one that I'm willing to keep living for always. My God is a God who brings people together and heals all the differences between them. 

In other good news, my oatmeal today tasted awesome. It's good to taste awesomeness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

When depression hides your smile

You can read about my favorite movie moment, depression, and anxiety in my latest post for BYU Women's Services.

Here's the link.

And the corresponding background video. You should watch this, but don't forget to read my post afterwards.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Feeling feelings

 It usually happens around 3 and again at 10. That's when my faith wears out a bit, and I start doubting myself and everything else in existence. I get worried about what is up and what is down and who is who in my life.

These feelings are a part of who I am, and sometimes I have to acknowledge them a bit to understand why they are there, why they've always been there. They are very real to me. Despite that, they are not the controlling factor of everything. My friend gave me this great quote a while ago from an article by Terry Warner called "What We Are."

"One of our most dominant almost unexamined fictions is that we are not responsible for our emotions."

It is good to remember that the Spirit is not the same as emotion. Often extreme emotions can mask the Spirit. This is certainly the case with fear, anxiety, panic, and even excitement.

I'd like to share this great TED talk with you, in which Brene Brown talks about vulnerability as the heart of the connections we enjoy in life and shame as that which destroys those connections. She also gives a great definition of courage that I like very much. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

On missing the BYU devotional

Tuesday, I did not watch the devotional. In my time at BYU, I have missed very, very few devotionals, because I believe they are a great place for feeling the Spirit, for being changed by their content, or showing appreciation of what BYU is and does for us.

But I realized that my religion is not going to devotionals. My religion is worshiping God, loving Him, and seeking His Spirit. While going to devotional can be a part of achieving those ends, it is not the only way. Today, I had to accept that while I believe in going to devotional, it's okay to not go when the Spirit and my spirit calls for something else.

I'm way too good at moralizing the amoral: making my salvation dependent on what grade I got, how many books I read, or how few church meetings I missed. I think God is teaching me to be more flexible. He's okay with a lot more than I'm okay with. But I'd like to follow His ways, not mine.

"It is good to belong to our Father in Heaven’s true Church and to keep all of His commandments and fulfill all of our duties. But if this is to qualify as 'best,' it should be done with love and without arrogance. We should, as we sing in a great hymn, 'crown [our] good with brotherhood,'  showing love and concern for all whom our lives affect."

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

Blurring the lines: an essay on art and science

I once worked on the BYU Honors Program magazine, Insight. This last semester, I wrote for it instead of editing. Here's my reflection essay from the most recent issue. Use the reader below to open it. Use the slider to zoom in and drag the image around to read it.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Ellis in more spaces

Great news! This summer I'll be writing for the BYU Women's Services blog as an internship. You can look forward to my posts every Tuesday—which is the best day of the week already practically. Who knew Tuesdays could get even better?

Here's the link to my first post!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Two recipes I want to eat all the time

First, make the gnocchi from this, (not the sauce part).

And then make this pesto.

I crave this combination all the time. The gnocchi is even better if you fry it in just a bit of butter after boiling, but it's actually not necessary. 

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

My own case of perfectionism

President Samuelson, the president of BYU, stood up and said these words:
"I am grateful to add my welcome and greeting to you at the beginning of an exciting fall semester. This is a wonderful time of year. We hope you have had a productive, if not restful, summer and a welcome change of pace to help prepare for the challenging and exciting work of the weeks ahead. You are not yet too far behind in your course work, and the prospects for this fall are bright. This has the promise of a terrific year. It will be an even better year for each of us personally if we can avoid making unnecessary or foolish personal mistakes. You may believe I am talking only about slothfulness or Honor Code violations. Equally concerning to me is the rather common problem of perfectionism."

As he said them, I was believing I was in for just that: a talk about how I should do more and be better. And I couldn't listen to that because I was already sick in bed, laid up because my worry and stress had ground down my spirit so much that my body caved to the perfectionist in me.

My heart rejoiced though as he said what he was really going to talk about was the very ill that was making me throw up: perfectionism.

It's such an attractive trap to think you need to be everything, all of the time. It's understandable that we think that way, but we mustn't.

"We may not be happy with our deficiencies, but we also should not be incapacitated by them," President Samuelson says. I know what that feels like, and I'm learning what it feels like to overcome it.

"We teach the importance of self-reliance and self-sufficiency. I believe if you look carefully at what, for example, I myself and others have said and written, you can find ample evidence that we endorse these notions. There are times, however, when these cardinal strengths can become handicapping sins. Just as a young mother or father reaches out a hand of encouragement and support for a young baby who is beginning to think about walking, so our Savior and His Father do the same for us as we begin to think about risking a quest to get on the road to eventual perfection. Remember, while we mortals may tease each other on occasion, it is not in the personality or approach of our Redeemer. That is, He never pulls back his hand when it is extended. True, you and I, like Peter walking on the Sea of Galilee, might lose faith and withdraw ourselves, but God never does and never will withdraw the hand and support offered. But, and this is really a significant qualification, because of the necessity of agency and choice, we must be the one to grasp, figuratively or literally, the extended hand."
My dear friend Kent says that we have to ask God what areas we should be improving in, rather than beating ourselves up about the millions of good things we should be doing. He always promises that when we ask that, God will tell us.

Though I've believed that for a long time, I've struggled to make that transition from trying to do everything to really listening for what Heavenly Father would have me do. For me, it comes when I stop and ponder on the lessons He's been slipping in here and there. Now that I know what He'd have me work on, everything else becomes more manageable as it falls in its proper place.

There was this one time when I had a job making survey phone calls

I promise you this will be much less painful.

You'll see to your right that I've put in a little poll for you lovely readers you. I'm curious about what kinds of posts you enjoy the most on here.

You see, my head is full of so much but so is my planner, meaning I don't get to write as much as I'd like to. Sometimes in the time constraints, the things I'd like to write about the most get lost for the time I spend writing about shorter things.

I'm getting a feel for what I like, but what kinds of posts do you like the most? You can vote up there, but I'd also like to know more specifically what posts you've loved and what ones you've hated. You can tell me about those kinds of things in the comments section of this post.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

On a love of pop culture

There are things I love that I'm tired of trying to justify my love for—namely, Boy Meets World, Stargate, and the Backstreet Boys.

Ironically, I'm usually the first to hate something simply because it's popular and everyone else likes it. Deep down though, I believe that there are great pieces of art buried in the mainstream flow that surface occasionally. Good art need not be mysterious. It need only be genuine and purposeful. As the great Dean Duncan says: You can't judge something for not being something it's not trying to be.

In a more verbose, yet elegant way, this scholar says:

"The analysis of Sunday newspapers and crime stories and romances is . . . familiar, but, when you have come yourself from their apparent public, when you recognise in yourself the ties that still bind, you cannot be satisfied with the older formula: enlightened minority, degraded mass. You know how bad most 'popular culture' is, but you know also that the irruption of the 'swinish multitude', which Burke had prophesied would trample down light and learning, is the coming to relative power and relative justice of your own people, whom you could not if you tried desert."

-Raymond Williams

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

How to clear a bar with Brandon Flowers

It was recently brought to my attention that my great-grandfather once cleared a bar.

Cleared a bar. That's the common way of saying he knocked out everyone (which means at least more than three men to upwards of thirty) in a room by himself with his brute strength.

I didn't get any more details on it from his son, my grandfather. I just know that it happened.

Sometimes that seems like a completely foreign world. In my world right now, there are no bars, and even if I went into one, I wouldn't want to set down my root beer long enough to punch anyone. And even if I did set it down, I wouldn't know who to punch. And even if I did know who to punch, I wouldn't know how to punch them. And furthermore, if I did punch them, they wouldn't know what hit them because my fist would have no impact.

Sad story for my strength.

Still, somewhere in my blood courses the potential to clear a bar. I may not know how to swing, but I am the type that would go down swinging if the cause was right.

Somewhere in me is the strength to wipe out a small army for a good cause. Somewhere in me lies the power to bring down a house of villains and ruffians if needs be.

This also means that somewhere in me sleeps the strength to raise a house, to bless nations, to uphold those who hang down, and generally move mountains.

I've been thinking about this in conjunction with this great video from Brandon Flowers. What hit me are these words, "Tell the devil he can go back where he came from. His fiery arrows drew their beat in vain. And when the hardest part is over, we'll be here. Our dreams will break the boundaries of our fears." Check it out. To learn more about Brandon Flowers, I suggest you watch the second video at the bottom.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Words from Ashley Mae on believing

I just ran across the most lovely post from a wonderful lady named Ashley, who I've only met once. I've mostly come to admire her through stories like this one.

I'm sure you'll admire her too. I'll invite you to read it by clicking on this link here. Then you can finish reading my thoughts here, which are less profound than hers.

Did you read it? Good. Now, I'll say a few mediocre things.

I too have never really liked stories about people praying and finding things they lost. I hated them because prayer never worked that way for me. Then one day, Heavenly Father taught me a powerful experience about why it wasn't working. It was because every time I lost something, I said a prayer like this: "I know I was stupid for losing it. I know you have many other things to do, and I should have just kept track of it." I put all this guilt on myself and didn't really believe God loved me enough to help me find things that are important to me.

When I did realize that, He answered. He answered immediately, with just the kind of dramatic finding that I heard about in other people's stories. He was just waiting for me to ask in faith.

My favorite quote from Ashley's post is this: "I can't quite pinpoint what it is, but lately I've been more of a skeptic than a believer.  I've carried around the weight of unanswered questions.  I've felt the burrowing burden of question in my own beliefs.  I do feel the process is important, and even healthy, but I also am learning that there is a time to stop and simply believe, because sometimes that is the thing that saves us, that brings us back to who we are supposed to be."

I've been searching for a lot of answers lately. I've been finding them, and this process has been beautiful. But I'm discovering that there are still some key things I do not know. In thinking of one in particular, I thought I had to know that to believe it. But that's backward. It's okay to believe in things that I do not yet have a knowledge of. God will help me find it. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The day graduation happened to me

According to all ceremonial purposes, I have graduated. I've done the whole walking thing, and after one more class, I've have a real diploma to cover up the "example" one they put in my cover.

I've had some really rough and dark days in the five years I've been at BYU. I've had some really incredible days too. Looking back, it seems that every moment has been a little bit of both. Of all the let downs and breakdowns, I'll be honest in saying that there have been some times over the past two days of graduation that could actually rank pretty high in the list of most harrowing and emotionally trying moments at BYU.

That being said, here are some of the brightest spots and tender mercies:
  • Discovering that the Graham Canyon ice cream at the creamery now has amazingly tasty streaks of graham crackers in it.
  • Aneka and I talking about how degrees are still not going to cut it for what we want in life.
  • The little red haired girl at the creamery who thinks her dad is weird for not liking dipping sauces and who confirmed to Aneka and me and that yes, we'd rather be moms. She gave me the most excited and sincere congratulations I heard all day—except for Brit's surprised, "You graduated!" and the excited but deep and reverent congratulations of my family.
  • The little girl's mother who doesn't think her husband is weird and has a cool purse hook and who keeps track of the little girl who probably has more energy and love than anyone ever. I'd like to be like her.
  • The graduate whose cap said, "Daughter #12" on the top. I have no idea what her parents have done and sacrificed to bring twelve daughters (and who knows how many sons) through college. I want to know though so I can do the same.
  • The flowers my mom gave me, which were in my favorite color scheme ever—dusty blues, pale yellows, and toned down primrose—with the perfectly hued spider mum and the biggest rose I've ever held.
  • My brother saying "I love you" before I said it to him.
  • Finally making it to Bombay House and having my family actually like it.
  • Seeing my mom's smile after the ceremony.
  • My dad being really excited to receive my stole/sash thingy for his garage.
  • My family attentively listening to and genuinely laughing at the story I shared.
  • Drinking my first Calypso lemonade with my brother in the 7-11 lot.
  • Having my grandpa with us at our two family outings.
  • The moment when commencement didn't last for two hours.
  • Three lovely convocation talks.
  • Seeing Sarah Smith, Sara D., Alysa, Megan J., Talia, Christine G., Lori, John Bennion, Kent, Tom, and the man who looks like Ron Weasley in completely unexpected places. These were the kinds of divine meetings only the highest of powers could have orchestrated for me.
  • Shaking hands with the man who looks just like Ron Weasley. He wasn't super thrilled to be meeting me, but he should have been. 
  • Jenny and I both getting a balloon in the hole above the pendulum in the ESC. This long standing tradition for physics graduates is a tough challenge. We both rocked it—together.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

For the friend whose chemistry final didn't go so well

On Wednesday, I took the last testing center-esque (I actually took it in the JSB) multiple choice test I will ever take in my life.

Honestly, I love multiple choice tests because I love reasoning through them and being able to figure out the logic even when I don't always know the material as well as I might. It hadn't really occurred to me until now that there would be a time in my life when multiple choice tests would stop. I may never take one again. And excepting maybe the odd driving test, no one will ever evaluate me or my knowledge with a flurry of bubbles and graphite. Ever.

This was made all the more keenly true by the subject matter: marriage prep. I couldn't study more than the bare minimum because it was too overwhelming to evaluate myself on all the characteristics I need to develop to be a better disciple of Christ.

(In case you didn't know, discipleship=marriage prep. Not convinced? Well, Elder Holland says, "Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart. How should I love thee? As He does, for that way 'never faileth.'")

I filled in my answers on the scantron with the same great diligence that I have taken all of my BYU tests with. Yet every question asked me what I knew, but no one questioned me on what I believed or what I did or what I have become. I kept thinking of the humanities tests I've taken, which all seemed concerned about whether I knew it was Nietzsche who said God is dead, but never worried about whether I believed him or not.   

This test was no more a measure of me than our junior high years are of our potential as people. In some ways, it did capture my attitudes, but mostly, it tested me on what attitudes match up with vocab words.

I am learning to believe the things I learned in that class, but I am slow at becoming that disciple I would be. Semesters end and grades come out, but we change, learn, and grow on a less standardized schedule.

Though I haven't perfected the discipleship material, I am happy to say that I have learned in this class and that I've put in a significant effort into it, well beyond that I've done for other classes. Still, I want to be more.

It's comforting to know that when I've hit my ceiling, God makes up for the rest of it. It is He who truly makes me a disciple. I know this because of my other class.

In my ELANG 410 grades, there are 6 red scores. These mark the days when I hit my absolute limit and could do no more. Yet these don't even include the number of times when I turned things in weeks after they were due. Before this semester, I was telling someone I'd basically "failed" my class. Sternly, they asked me if I'd ever just not done an assignment actually in my life. It was humbling to answer, "no." I didn't really know what it was like to be able to do no more and have to just quit.

I do now. It's a hard thing, since it goes against so much of what I work for. But it's a beautiful thing sometimes too. I say beautiful because it teaches us that God really doesn't love us based on anything to do with our schooling. Our worth is not based on what the world looks at. I've heard that and said that before, but now I believe it.

There are no more multiple choice tests in my future. But the testing of my discipleship is never over.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Apostolic thoughts on discernment I'd like to share

For the longest time, I've sought the Spirit to know if I was doing the wrong thing, and I've focused on the gift of discernment as a way to see hidden evil in things and people.

I just found this awesome talk by Elder Bednar. He confirms that yes, discerning evil so it can be avoided is an important part of this gift. But he also shares this quote from President Stephen L Richards: 
“First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them."
Elder Bednar then goes on to say:
"First, as we “read under the surface,” discernment helps us detect hidden error and evil in others.
Second, and more important, it helps us detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves. Thus the spiritual gift of discernment is not exclusively about discerning other people and situations, but, as President Cannon taught, it is also about discerning things as they really are within us.
Third, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others.
And fourth, it helps us find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us. Oh, what a blessing and a source of protection and direction is the spiritual gift of discernment!"
I find that so lovely and enlightening. I had not previously known what he lastly says: "Discernment is so much more than recognizing right from wrong. It helps us distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, the important from the unimportant, and the necessary from that which is merely nice."

Isn't that just marvelous? We don't seek the gift of discernment so that we can avoid people; we seek the gift of discernment so we can bless others and ourselves. God will warn us when necessary, but He will also expand our view to better match His own.  

Read the talk for yourself here. 

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