Wednesday, March 30, 2011

LaConner, Washington

Roberta and I visited LaConner on recommendation from her brother, Chris. It was about 45 minutes away from where they lived, and to get there we took a little detour before getting on the right road - which allowed us to look at some really neat houses. Once we were on the right road, though, it was really amazing to see all the cute gingerbread farmhouses and tulip fields. Most the flowers weren't quite in bloom, but the lush green of what will be beautiful tulips (my favorite flower...or one of) in the next few weeks was exciting.

We passed one field that was covered in white geese.

LaConner is a quaint little seaside town with a ton of little shops. Roberta and I walked around and checked out the different boutiques, snapping pictures along the way. I think our favorite shop was the antique lighting store - who knew looking at all the different lighting fixtures would be so awesome? We also played a little with Edgar, the English Sheepdog puppy who was out of sorts because he had just had his first bath.

We stopped by the LaConner grocery store, where they said it was built in 1985, but their refrigerated section was being powered by something from the fifties.

We tried our hand at the lotto.

And we won!

We decided that it was time for dinner, so we headed to the LaConner Brewery. On the way back, Roberta was telling me about one of her many lovers who is particularly dirty and definitely wants her body. It was unfortunate timing, as an Orthodox Jewish man and his son passed us. I'm sure they thought Roberta was a complete whore - when in fact, she is as straight-laced as the rest of us. (Or should I say, as chastity-belted?) We thought it was fairly hilarious, though.

The restaurant wasn't necessarily something to rave about, but the quesadillas that Roberta ordered most certainly were. Pepper jack cheese is always delightful, but these quesadillas also had squash, cilantro, shredded carrots and chipotle sauce. They were fantastic!

We headed back home after dinner. Of course, we crossed the bridge and headed towards the unknown for a while, but once we got turned back around in the right direction, we stopped and saw the old log cabin (that was creepy, and open...).

It was an absolutely beautiful day the whole time we were at LaConner and we both had a really great time.

I didn't spend much time in Seattle, because I had a plane to catch. But Roberta and I checked out the Pike Street Market and had lunch at Cutters. Roberta was convinced that the waiter was totally "checking me out" and "flirting with me." I am convinced that she still had traces of her pain pills in her, clearly affecting her judgment. She thought he was holding back because he thought she was my mother. We get that a lot, and have just decided not to correct the assumption. But with Jacob, she suggested that I tell him that she was my Madam, instead of my mother. That way, he would know that I was available. I did no such thing - but I did laugh ridiculously hard. He was dangerously cute though, with his Texan accent and great-looking beard. The view in the restaurant was amazing, as it looked right over the water.

Over all, I am absolutely in love with Washington, and the Seattle area in particular. It had been years and years since I've been in the state, and I really want to go back soon! I owe Roberta a HUGE thank you for letting me tag along and taking to me to all the really fun, cool and beautiful places we got to see and I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Keystone of Testimony

I have been thinking about this particular post for well over a month now, and it will still be nowhere close to where I wanted it to be before I posted... but here it is, in its raw and imperfect form, just as I am. Just as we all are.

I have been discouraged by friends and family over the years that have been active members of the church and then made the choice to leave the church. Of course, I acknowledge that it is their decision and that they dictate their own choices - and while I may respect their ability to choose, it does not mean that I particularly respect the choice they've made.

I have an easier time with those that have left the church because they made a mistake and feel that they can't live up to the standards that the church asks you to maintain. In a world where drinking, smoking and casual sex is common place; where pornography runs rampant; where the family has been redefined from it's original design - it stands to reason that many will fall running through the gauntlet of society expectations. So I have friends and family members that have taken up drinking and smoking and sleep around and have their morning coffees and don't come to church. I have an easier time with them because: they still believe the church is true. They don't question the validity. They don't look for inaccuracies or ways to disprove the very thing they have been taught since they were young. No, they aren't living the standards. In fact, they are living quite contrary to some of the basic principles of the church. But there is still, even slight as it may be, the basic structure of the testimony they possessed long ago and they can't seem to deny it.

But then there are others, who I just... don't understand. I can't fathom their thought process and how they came to the spiritual (or lack of spiritual) place that they now stand. And yet, I have gotten glimpses into how they reached that point.

It is a testimony-building experience to have questions about the gospel. In fact, that is how a testimony is generally gained. No one has a perfect understanding, and since we believe in personal revelation, it seems (and is) the right thing to do to study for the answer and then take it to the Lord in prayer and receive an answer. I am not well-practiced in this process, but I know it does work. BUT having questions and then NOT praying, NOT studying the scriptures and NOT going to the temple is not the way to get an answer. You may get an answer, but I can tell you, that it isn't going to be a correct one because it won't be based on the spirit. I know that receiving answers requires traits like humility and an openness to receive an answer. It also requires patience and some faith as you do the thing which you are asking about. You don't gain a testimony of tithing without paying it.

A testimony is a very personal thing. We are taught that you can't live on borrowed light. You can't keep going forward thinking that because your parents believe something, you should too. Eventually it catches up with you and you have to figure things out for yourself.

One of the reasons that doesn't work, is because you can't base your testimony off an imperfect person. I received an email from one such person that said the following:
Through study and prayer we have come to the conclusion (in our minds) that Joseph Smith is not who the church presents him to be. And as many Prophets and Apostles have stated, this Church starts and ends with Joseph Smith. Either he is the greatest man who ever lived next to Jesus Christ or this work is a fraud. We have studied his life, his history, his words, and his records, Church documents, etc...
This is not true.

"If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God..." Not your friends. Not some BYU professor. And not Joseph Smith. Ask God. "...and it shall be given him." (James 1:5)

Joseph Smith was a man. As such, he was imperfect. Full of fault. Of course the church that he helped to restore would revere him! Despite all his follies, he still brought forth the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ. He still translated the Book of Mormon. He brought back the priesthood keys, the saving ordinances, built a temple where endowments can be received and families can be sealed together for eternity! I don't care that he looked for secret treasure, or even if he believed in magic... or that he was sealed to thirty different women (I don't know the specific number and I have my own beliefs on that particular thing anyway) or whatever the accusations are against him! It. Should. Not. Matter. Why would - why should - we focus on the bad, when there is so much good? We aren't going to dwell on the mistakes that Joseph Smith, or other leaders of the church, make because what would the point be? We shouldn't dwell on the mistakes that we make, either. That is what repentance and the grace of God is for.

The keystone of testimony should not be Joseph Smith, or any other man that has led this wonderful church. That would be complete folly, and will most certainly set you up to find fault with something you have believed - nay, KNOWN - to be true.

Ezra Taft Benson said in 1986,
...the Book of Mormon is the keystone of testimony. Just as the arch crumbles if the keystone is removed, so does all the Church stand or fall with the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. The enemies of the Church understand this clearly. This is why they go to such great lengths to try to disprove the Book of Mormon, for if it can be discredited, the Prophet Joseph Smith goes with it. So does our claim to priesthood keys, and revelation, and the restored Church. But in like manner, if the Book of Mormon be true—and millions have now testified that they have the witness of the Spirit that it is indeed true—then one must accept the claims of the Restoration and all that accompanies it.
The church's validity does not crumble with Joseph Smith. I know he was a prophet called of God, but he still made mistakes. Thomas S. Monson, the current prophet of the church, probably makes just as many. And every prophet and leader, whether it be bishop, stake president or general authority, has his own prejudices, life experiences and imperfections that may dictate the things that he says or does. It does not make the church untrue. All it does is prove the absolute necessity for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which we all have access to.

I make mistakes. I have made some serious mistakes in my life. But I do not question the testimony that I have had since before I was baptized at the age of eight. Life is hard, and sometimes it down right sucks. It seems that we are bombarded with thing after thing of pain and toil and in the end, we step in crap just to make it worse. People live with years of cancer. They have children that go wayward for 40 years. Money comes and goes.

None of it changes the fact that God is there listening to us. He leads us with a prophet that he raised up to guide us.

And I know all this, because I know the Book of Mormon is true.

Elder Uchtdorf said,
Have you ever noticed that people can usually find whatever they are looking for? Look hard enough, and you can discover both good and bad in almost anyone and anything. People have done the same with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its beginning.  
The scriptures: the Book of Mormon, the Bible and the words of modern day prophets (do you know how blessed we are to have prophets on the earth!?) are where you find answers. Don't go seeking elsewhere. If you have questions about the church, turn to the Book of Mormon. Seek your answers there. And then, turn to the promise given in Moroni 10.

3Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how amerciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and bponder it in your chearts.
4And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would aask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not btrue; and if ye shall ask with a csincere heart, with dreal intent, having efaith in Christ, he will fmanifest the gtruthof it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
5And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may aknow the btruth of all things.
6And whatsoever thing is good is just and true; wherefore, nothing that is good denieth the Christ, but acknowledgeth that he is.
7And ye may aknow that he is, by the power of the Holy Ghost; wherefore I would exhort you that ye deny not the power of God; for he worketh by power, baccording to the faith of the children of men, the same today and tomorrow, and forever. 
Sometimes I think it seems easier to give up living the gospel, so we can focus on living the rest of our lives. I think this is the greatest mistake we can ever make. I can't imagining making life harder than it has to be by giving up the one constant in my life.

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said,

“Don’t you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead.”
Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven. But for those who embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ,they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Experience - Thanks, Twitter!

Today's Mail: "Finding a boyfriend is a lot like finding a job; No one wants you unless you have experience."
If this is true, then I'm screwed.
(and NOT literally)

Thanks, Twitter.

A Three-Day Drive to Washington

The trip from Provo, Utah to Mukilteo, Washinton is approximately 14.5 hours. Or at least, that is what Google maps tells us...

The trip for Roberta and me consisted of about two hotel stays, a walking tour and a little bit of snow that was much more nerve wracking to one of us - though the other was certainly relieved to be out of it, too.

I left work around 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, thinking that we'd get an early start on the road. When I met up with Roberta at the storage unit, she had successfully emptied about half its contents into the driveway, and was deciding what she would take in the trailer. I think I blinked at her. The trailer!? Didn't she know that I've never - NEVER - towed anything on a car/truck before? Of course she didn't. And I wasn't about to tell her that. She left to get the Uhaul (trapping me behind the storage unit gates because I didn't know the password on how to get out!) and I sat back and entertained myself with reading and phone calls and walks around the units.

A few hours later, and after several bonks on the head (Roberta) and much aggrevated noises (Roberta) with some nervous laughter and giggling (Shelli) we had the trailer packed with more stuff than we anticipated. Roberta started the driving and we made it to Draper before we decided to stop for food. Then we drove to Salt Lake to drop off my car. And THEN we made a valiant effort and made it all the way to Tremonton, UT before we stopped at the Hampton Inn for the night.

We made sure that we were up for breakfast by 9:30 a.m., headed down and made delicious waffles and then went back up to the room and took a nap. After showering and getting ourselves ready, we were off (at around 1:30 p.m.) and we alternated between driving. The drive through Idaho is the same drive I've made over and over again to visit my Uncle in Boise, and it was long... I couldn't believe how long it took us just to get to Burley!

We did really well until we hit the mountain passes at around 9:30 p.m. or so, we hit the point where the rain turned into snow, and the road lanes turned invisible. Why don't states make sure the paint on their roads is visible? It's nerve-wracking enough driving through a mini-blizzard, but when I can't see the lanes and the edge of the road, it is much more scary! Plus, I was pulling a trailer, which could overtake my car at any point - especially on the 6% down grade... And once Roberta woke up, it was all over. I don't know if it was the weather or my driving (couldn't have been my driving... I'm a great driver) but she decided that we needed to pull over at the next town. I managed to make it another 40 miles before actually pulling over but eventually we did - even though we had made it through the mountain pass, and the snow was again rain. I wanted to keep going because I didn't want to take much more time, but I was also secretly glad that we stopped. As much as I could have pushed through, I was just as tired of driving as Roberta was and my contacts were going buggy. Plus, I really needed to use the facilities. I could have pushed further if it weren't for that last part. We went shopping at WalMart for bathing suits we never used and got a room at the Oxford Suites in Pendleton, OR.

Oxford Suites are fun. They are all western-themed with cowboy and Indian pictures on the walls. They gave us a discount because they were booked and only had smoking rooms available. Smoking rooms stink. And every time I thought I was used to it, I would take a breath and get a headache all over again. I don't think I ever really got used to the smell, but I did manage to get well-rested enough to be up for breakfast at 9:30 a.m. My favorite part of Oxford Suites is the breakfast. They have a kitchen where they make you awesome potatoes and eggs to order. I got a cheese omelet and Texan-style potatoes and sausage, and it was delicious.

Roberta laid down for a nap, and I watched a movie while we waited for our 2:00 p.m. reservation for the walking tour of the Underground of Pendleton. We decided the night before that we were not actually in a hurry to get to Washington, and we wanted to see some of the history of the area. Plus, they were advertising a tour of a real bordello, opium room and speakeasy! The hotel did call us and asked if we were going to "vacate the premisis" soon... so we got on that and headed towards the tour.

Outside the store on Emigrant Street, a man and his girlfriend (/sister/both?) sat on the bench and told us that he had lost his truck the night before. Apparently drinking was involved, and probably Indians that knew he had beer in the back of his truck? He was convinced that if he reported the truck as stolen, he would be calling the police on himself - and he certainly did not want to do that. We wished him luck and went on our way. The walking tour was probably not as good as it could have been, but it was certainly easy and gave me some ideas for a book I have been writing so that was really cool. Roberta and I took pictures and then we hopped back on the freeway and made the rest of our drive. I was actually really glad that we decided to stop - it's always fun to have a little spontaneous adventure, and I don't know that any of my family or friends would have been willing to go on a random walking tour in a random city.

The western part of Oregon is really cool. It wasn't at all like I imagined. I've never been to Oregon, so I was really excited to actually visit it! Driving through it was more like what I imagined Scotland or Ireland to be like - really green and rainy and hilly. There were really no trees to be seen - the few that existed on the drive we passed through the dark and snow the night before.

We made it out of Oregon before we realized that we didn't have enough gas to get to the next town in Washington to fill up, so we had to turn around after crossing the state line and head back into Oregon. This worked out for us because of course, in Oregon they pump your gas for you. It's against the law to pump your own gas. So we figured we might as well have them stand in the cold rain, and fill-'er-up.

Once we were back on the road, it was for good and it was so fun to drive past the signs for Spokane (where I lived when I was two years old - and of course don't actually have any memories of living there) and Yakima. Yakima is the last city in Washington that I had been to and it's been about 12 or 13 years since then because my grandparents moved from there to Utah some time after that. I have really good memories of the places my grandparents lived in Washington and so it was really fun to relive some of those while I was driving through.

We made it to Mukilteo at about 10:00 p.m. on Saturday night, tired but happy.

I really, really love Washington. The whole state is absolutely beautiful (based on the observations I've made in the few places I've been). I'm sad that I don't get more time to visit and explore - but my ticket is purchased and I'm to fly back to Utah tomorrow evening.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Homeless Leap-Frog

Today, one of our construction managers stopped by for a meeting and on his way out, he noticed a row of full garbage bags and a suitcase just sitting on the sidewalk. He called me over to take a looks saying, "Look what your boyfriend brought you."

The apparent owner of the stuff seemed to be walking down the block across the street, and when he saw Chris checking out his stuff, he took off running. We were puzzled by all the belongings left on the wet sidewalk, but assumed that he had been kicked out of his residence.

Of course, Chris makes a big deal out of things, so pretty soon, several of the guys were lined up at the top of the stairs asking questions and getting answers like, "Shelli's boyfriend just brought all his stuff because he's moving in with her. Honest. He told me when I asked what he was doing... He just kept mentioning 'Shelli'."

Apparently I'm to have a new roommate?

Even now, he is still bringings items to add to the pile. Steven wondered if he was playing a game of "Homeless Leap-Frog." Which, is in fact exactly what he is doing.

The stranger is probably a meth-addict, who recently was evicted from his residence, and currently does not have money to rent a storage unit or find another place to live. Chris went and found him down the block, called me and let me listen to the whole conversation. He's literally carrying his stuff, bag by bag, block to block until he reaches a storage unit that is a mile or so from here. He hopes by the time he gets it all there, he'll have enough for one-month storage rental.

I really hope that the guy is OK, but I am definitely glad that he's not really about to be my new roommate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

I Promise, You're Still Engaged

This post was going to be a lesson. A lesson to all those people out in the world (read: "the bubble", oh, Provo...) who have this idea of what the definition of "engagement" really is. A definition that I disagree with, and that, frankly, I find stupid.

But as I was doing research for my article (read: I looked it up on Wikipedia) I noticed a small wrench in my argument, and so this has turned in to a full-fledged rant.

You have been warned.

See, for those of you who are not Mormons, you may not understand the process of Mormon courtship. It moves at such lightning speeds and therefore is hard to observe, so I honestly don't blame you for not knowing the details. Of course, by worldly standards, I'm just as baffled by non-Mormon courtships...but that is another topic for another time.

From what I understand of non-Mormon relationships, there may be some talk of "eventual" marriage, but the actual proposal is not usually anticipated or known. Non-Mormons get to have a little more surprise when it comes to their proposals, because they never know when to expect it. A couple may pledge their love and devotion to one another, but that doesn't always mean lifetime commitment, and so the proposal can be presented in the heat of a moment, after months of planning or through some elaborate concocted idea that the other has no idea about.

Mormons follow a little different pattern. There doesn't need to be snooping around in underwear drawers and such for a ring if a girl wonders if the guy is planning on proposing. She might sit and wonder and hope... but she doesn't want to rush him into it, or...whatever. Because, after two months of dating (or less), the two will sit down and have a serious talk about marriage - it might not start out seriously, but if the other sounds remotely interested, it could turn serious pretty quickly - and then the couple will each turn to prayer and see if they get a confirmation from Heavenly Father as to if the person is the right person.* If they do feel that their marriage is sanctioned by God, then the wedding plans start. Interviews are scheduled with the bishop, the stake president; the stake center is reserved...

And yet, in a lot of couples' minds - the girls being the most guilty - they aren't engaged.

Sorry. My definition reads something like this:

ENGAGED [en-geyjd] : adjective pledged to be married. 

Their definition reads something more along the lines of: Engaged [en-geyjd] the moment she has the ring on her finger.

(Incidentally, the wrench that was thrown in my argument may also work as their definition, it went along the lines of "engagement: the period between a proposal and marriage." Which, I suppose is true, however, since we skip the actual proposal part before we decide on what the answer will be... I feel that you become engaged BEFORE the Mormon proposal.)

I've known girls who have their dress being altered, final say on the invites with the correct date printed on them, who, because she does not have the ring, she refused to say that she is engaged. I get that when the decision is made before an official proposal has taken place, it gets a little confusing. But I sort of don't get the big proposal, anyway,  when you are LDS, because you've already decided that you are going to be spending eternity with each other. What's the point of the big gesture, when there isn't the thrill and the surprise in it? ... Ok, I can't back up that argument. I am a romantic, and I love the idea of a guy taking the time and ingenuity to plan some great way to tell his affianced that he is utterly and desperately in love with her. It doesn't hurt to hear that over and over again, after all. But still, there is a practicality (I know, shocking, right) that still wants to gloss over the fact at how wonderful it is to hear it and to see it, when it's basically already been spoken for in your intent to be married from the first. Also, let's be honest. The point of the proposal is to shower grand speeches and masterful affections, but it also to present a ring.

What about those that don't have money for a ring just yet? After all, there are so many young couples getting married around these parts that I don't know how they managed to afford all the diamonds* I've heard of one girl being given a fake ring, because her fiance (not that she called him that) couldn't afford a ring... why not save the "proposal" for when you can actually get the ring?

If there is no ring, and no surprise.... why do you need the proposal since you're are already engaged? Or, since I basically answered my own question above, WHY don't they just wait until they have saved up for the ring? Especially if they intend for an actual ring eventually.

Ok. Rant finished, I think. For now. I've just seen so many people deny that they were engaged, even though they had every intention of getting married... and it is just silly to me. Please see my definition if the details of this rant have lost you somewhere.

*Also, I need to clear up the fact that I'm not against this process. I think Heavenly Father plays a very important, indeed, dire, role in a decision this monumental. When Mormons marry in the temple, it is for eternity. So a question that has eternal consequences should not be made in a moment of passion or because you've been together for five years or whatever. It very much should be presented to the Lord as an option, and He will then support and create a stronger relationship.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

My Dream Job

My title does not correctly portray the subject matter of this post. This is not about the job that I wish or long for. It is not the job that I think I would do smashing work, and really exceed.

It is about the employment that I have had in several dreams over the course of a few months. In the dream, I work at a private school for underprivileged and rebellious children. Largely, I am in charge of paper work. I file (which I hate) and assist some of the administrators. The office that I work in looks like a library or something and is the actual "administration building", which is located at the top of a very long, steep hill amongst a large gravel parking lot. There is a road, that leads to the rest of the world up by the admin building.

The children - and the school, for that matter - are located by passing through a giant chain-link fence gate, which is to be patrolled. Access is restricted to almost everybody, and it is to keep the children safe from would-be molesters. Once passed the gate, you walk or drive down the long, steep hill and you reach an odd shaped building, painted with things associated with childhood. It is made out of brick and block that in my dream I know the name of from my days of working in an architectural setting - but in real life, I have no idea if my subconscious is really that smart - actually, the building looks like an old Soviet building that has been disguised, rather poorly.

My bosses don't communicate. There are two main ones, and they generally seem dissatisfied with my work. Although I am still online talking to Meghan and Kati (as I do in real life), I get all of my work done efficiently and to the best of my ability. It still is not enough. It doesn't matter how many letters I type, reports I create or papers I file, I feel as though I am on the verge of being fired.

For several dreams, now, I have gone to my boss - one or the other - and asked what they would like me to do. Why are they so unhappy with what I am contributing?

Each time, they admit that they are unhappy, and that they want me to be more involved with the children. They want me to be the teacher's aide I was hired to be. They talk about how the one time I taught, I did a very good job. That my attitude towards the children is exactly what they want to see. But I do not make an effort to be involved with the children, and I squirrel away in my office all day.

I tell them that I do not have teaching experience, but that I am happily ready to accept any lesson material and that they should just name the day that I would be teaching, and I will be ready. This is unacceptable. They want me to just know things. I try to explain, without sounding like I'm complaining, that the admin building is so far away, that there is no way for me to participate at the school and continue with my admin duties if I am to be away from one or the other. Then the bosses blow a breath of resentment, and I trudge back up to my office, knowing that they are going to fire me soon.

It is so frustrating, because in the dream, all I want to do is be down with the kids. Apparently, I have had one successful trial run and have been rather successful. But I keep pleading for advanced warning, or for them to move my office and it all seems unacceptable. I'm supposed to figure out a solution, to which I have none.

This nap's dream from today, I had just gone through the gate with several other people, and they left the gate open. I went back to close it just as another car pulled up with a bald man that had BIG buggy eyes and was wearing a security uniform. I asked him if the gate was meant to be closed and he said, "If the bill has been paid," and then laughed and sped off.

I thought it was very strange, and then I realized that I recognized the face as being one hostile, sex-offender. I started running after him and the boys who were locked behind chain-link fences, the ones who were there for being in trouble, started pointing the direction the man drove and heckling him.

But then I woke up. I wonder if I shall have this dream again, and if I will ever get to the point where my bosses are pleased with me.

A Hotsy-Totsy Night

Colin and I attended the Murder Mystery Dinner that his boss-lady puts on every year for their department. We went back to 1928 Chicago, where the politicians and police enforcement were almost more crooked than the big shot crooks who ran the place.

Colin was the district attorney S. Treighton Harrow, who took bribes from everybody and was trying to bump off the leader of the mafia. He hired me, Anna Maria Carlotta Sassine - or as my friends called me, "Torchy" - to actually do the job because I played a night-club singer / button man (hired killer).

We had deep dish, Chicago-style pizza and cheesecake for dinner and over all, a very good time. The people who writes these things are extremely witty and fairly "pun-ny". Not to mention, everyone that works with Colin seems to be a joker in his own right - because they were all really hilarious to sit and figure this out.

It was really fun to dress up in fancy rags for the night. And while this is probably really silly, I realized earlier this week that my eyebrows were much too thick for what was in fashion during the 20s. So Matti and I went to the mall on Friday and had our eyebrows threaded. They are a lot thinner now than I'm used to, but I really liked the end result. Not only were they perfect for tonight, but they are shaped and very clean looking for as long as I can maintain them and keep them this way. Matti did my make-up, and did SUCH a fantastic job.

Afterward, Colin and I went and took a few pictures. Which I put in a collage at the beginning of the post.

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

The Wanting

There are some things in life that no matter how badly you want it, you just aren't going to get it.

I feel like that list grows everyday. And the more I want it - no matter what it is - the more it hurts to know that I won't ever get it.

Well, I don't know if "hurts" is the right word. I guess it just depends on which thing I'm talking about. There are some things that you can still hold out hope for. Because life spins and turns in interesting ways sometimes, and there is no way to know for sure that you aren't going to get something until the day you die and you realize that you never did get that chance.

This is too vague.

For example. I want a tattoo. I never thought I did. When I was younger, I despised tattoos and thought they were disgusting and unnecessary. The thought of being an old woman and tatted up did not appeal to me. It still does not appeal to me. But that does not stop me from wanting one. Just one. I've heard that it is addictive, and I can see how it might be - but I just want ONE. A little flock of birds right behind my ear. Wouldn't that be awesome? Eh... Those of you who aren't in to tattoos wouldn't think it was awesome. But I have definitely changed my tune with regards to tattoos. I still don't think it is very classy to be so tatted up you can't look professional. I hate tramp stamps and ugly cartoon characters. I think pin-ups and other dirty tattoos are gross. Tribal tattoos are overdone. I like the innovative, creative ones that are real pieces of art. They'll still look ridiculous when the people are old. But... that's the beauty of the one I want - it can be covered by just wearing my hair down! Brilliant.

Of course, all the wanting in the world is never going to get me into a tattoo parlor. Because, in the end, I am sticking to my guns about what I was asked to do. Treat my body with respect and as a temple, and going with the advice of the church to stay away from gratuitous piercings (I would love to have my ears double pierced and another one up the side of my ear...) and tattoos. In the end, I know I have not lost anything and I do believe that blessings come from obedience. It doesn't keep me from wanting, though.

I want - really, really want a husband and a family. Of course I do! It isn't a secret and it isn't uncommon. At the age of 25, I was certain that I would have a couple of kids by now, but fine. I don't. But that doesn't keep me from wanting it. Now, this want is hugely different from wanting a tattoo. First, it is sanctioned by the Church. :) Second, there's no way to know whether or not it will happen. Whenever you talk to someone getting married, they always say, "I had just given up on the idea [dating, boys, marriage, etc.] entirely..." There's always the hope that tomorrow will bring the man of your dreams, or that the guy that you just met last night, might propose in three months (that's right, this is Utah...we move fast here)... or six months or a year. You don't know. That friend you met two years ago, could turn into a romantic interest at the drop of a hat. You don't know! There's no way to know. And I think that killing the hope that it will happen is practically impossible. Because even if you think you've lost all hope and you are ready to buy your cat and picked out her name - Emily Dickinson! (Or pet pigs, in my case: Elinor and Finnick) - you usually can scrounge up just enough hope the next time your stomach flip-flops because he smiles at you.

And then there's traveling. Which, the more I think about it and try to make it happen, the more I realize that it is more like the tattoo than the husband. It seems as though it is going to be impossible to get me out of this country. Sure, I can find enough money to go to New York. Or to go home, every once in a while. But as far as going to Scotland, or Italy or even Mexico... I just...don't see how I will ever make it. I have my passport. I even have a place to stay if every I could make it to Scotland! But I don't think I'll ever have the money. I'll get a little chunk (maybe $300) and all of a sudden my car will need new brakes, I get bronchitis or SOMETHING happens and I have to transfer the measly amount back into my checking account. When you're living paycheck to paycheck, traveling to a foreign country is impossible. And I don't care what all you master budgeters think, if you are living paycheck to paycheck, there's nothing left to put away into savings. And yeah, maybe, I could put put $20 away, and get myself to Scotland in the year 2030. But it is just disheartening. I wish I could just give up the whole idea of traveling. There are people out there that have no interest in seeing the world. They have no interest in leaving their home state! (I don't get it. But sometimes I wish I could be like them.) It'd certainly be a much simpler life. And yet, every time I get that $300 in my savings account, I think that I might be well on my way to getting a stamp on my passport and that little bit of hope flares up.

But sometimes that hope is more devastating than recognizing the truth.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Dating Roles

It is generally acknowledged that men are usually the ones that are meant to ask women out on dates. They are supposed to do the chasing, and they are supposed to be "in charge" - especially in regards to dating.

However, it is also 2011. And as forward-thinking, equality-based libertarians, we also accept that there is nothing wrong with a woman asking a man out on a date.

Sort of...

I have nothing against women that ask men on dates. It doesn't have to be a specifically set aside event (e.g. Sadie Hawkins dance, etc.) for it to be acceptable. I think that women that are willing to put themselves out there and stand against the possibility of direct rejection are to be admired...somewhat.

Ok. The truth is, at least, in theory I don't have anything against it.

I DO have something against women that are particularly predatory. I think that women that ask men out on dates all the time have generally made men more lazy when it comes to dating than they already are. I think a lot of girls make fools out of themselves because they haven't mastered the art of asking guys out or are like their male counterparts, and don't understand subtle - or even, not-so-subtle - hints that that particular guy is not interested.

I've been on the asking end before and I don't like it. I much prefer to have the guy do the asking. There are certain roles to be played, and when I am doing the asking, I get really confused. Perhaps I'm the only one, but being a big supporter of traditional gender roles, I have a hard time knowing what I am doing when I've initiated the date.

If a man asks me on a date, I assume several things: he's driving; he's paying (unless otherwise specified, and YES, I do bring my wallet just in case this assumption is wrong); he's opening the door for me; he's leading me from place to place and setting the tone (e.g. Do I order a soda or stick to water? (Usually I stick to water anyway) Are we being frugal or big spenders; Are we in a hurry or taking our time?).

When I ask a guy on a date, I assume that I am now driving, I am now paying and I'm the one leading him from place to place. I also find myself thinking that I need to be the one opening doors for him.

It's just confusing! I feel like the world has reversed its axis and all gender roles have fallen to shart. I don't like that feeling. I don't like being the one to ask guys out on dates. I would MUCH rather have a guy ask me out.

But sometimes, you actually do have an extra ticket to an event. Or your friends and all their significant others want you to join them at a dinner or party or something, and a date is required. In those cases, you can't wait for a guy to wander up wondering if you have any ideas for a date he can take you on. You have to man up and ask him out for yourself.

But I really, really don't like it.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

My Stolen Car (a dream)

I had a dream last night that my car was stolen.

If that were the only thing, this would not be a blog-worthy dream. But poor Louise, who was pulling a small trailer with everything I owned in it, was sitting outside our house in Ohio, and I went inside to tell my family something. They weren't home, so I went to the store next to our house for two minutes and when I came back Louise was gone.

I couldn't believe it, because Louise doesn't start on her own. They would have had to hot-wire her. And I even had locked her doors! I figured that because the crime just happened, the cops would be able to help. So I started to dial 911, but my phone wouldn't let me because it wasn't an "emergency", so instead, I kept dialing *699, which was supposed to be dispatch or whoever you call for a non-emergency. I don't think *699 is the correct number for that in real life...

Anyway, I kept dialing, and no one would pick up. It would go straight to voicemail, and I swear the rest of the dream I was frustrated with the fact that no one would pick up on the end of this line. And every once in a while, I would hear a "hello, how can I help you?" but then the line would go static.

I started to investigate my stolen car myself. There were witnesses who said that the people living in the white brick duplex (which doesn't actually exist on my street in real life) were the ones who had taken it, but no one knew where they took the cars they stole. They were apparently well-known car thieves. I went snooping around the house, and it was pretty unnerving. Apparently these people were hard core bad guys. But I wanted my car, so I kept looking for a clue.

Then somebody shouted, "There she goes!"

And in the corner of my eye, I see Louise pulling her trailer flying down the road and turn the corner. It was too far away to follow, and I didn't have a car anyway, but I immediately called the cops again to tell them which direction Louise was headed.

They didn't answer.

I finally found a car and I started to head in the direction I had last seen my car. It was a shady part of the neighborhood, and I was certain that I should not be there alone. I kept wishing that the cops would have been more helpful, and I called them again.

Unfortunately, my car ran out of gas and so I walked back to my house where they were creating customized lists of what their "favorites" were on the cable. Everyone wanted the Harry Potter channel, and so we started watching and my dream merged into the TV show.

Whatever movie we were watching had nothing to do with Harry Potter, despite being on that channel. Instead, it was about a family in the early 20th century. It consisted of a father, daughter and son who was gay and clearly in love with the other main character. Only, he didn't want to admit that he was gay. The daughter was feisty and supportive of her brother, but the father only cared about his son helping with the business they ran together.

I don't remember the rest of the show until the end. The costumes were very strange. One time the other guy was wearing a body stocking filled with gum balls. (What does this tell me about my subconscious? It scares me a little bit.) Finally the boys declare their love for each other. They are standing at the doorway, each in a house that are across the street from each other. They're across the street, but they are talking as though they are face to face and one is holding a flashlight to his back.

I'm back watching the TV and Brad and Amy are sitting right next to me. I close the cupboard that the TV is sitting in and tell Brad that he shouldn't probably watch the next part because I'm sure he doesn't want to see what is inevitably going to happen. He tells me that I'm being dumb, and we should just finish the movie.

The end of the movie had the two guys bear hunting and cuddling by the campfire, with another man frozen and in a glass box behind them.

I have no words. I wonder whatever happened to Louise?

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Honor Code

Honor Code Statement

We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men. . . . If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things (Thirteenth Article of Faith).
As a matter of personal commitment, faculty, administration, staff, and students of Brigham Young University, Brigham Young University—Hawaii, Brigham Young University—Idaho, and LDS Business College seek to demonstrate in daily living on and off campus those moral virtues encompassed in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and will
    Be honest Live a chaste and virtuous life Obey the law and all campus policies Use clean language Respect others Abstain from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, tea, coffee, and substance abuse Participate regularly in church services Observe the Dress and Grooming Standards Encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code
Specific policies embodied in the Honor Code include (1) the Academic Honesty Policy, (2) the Dress and Grooming Standards, (3) the Residential Living Standards, and (4) the Continuing Student Ecclesiastical Endorsement. (Refer to institutional policies for more detailed information.)
I've been reading a lot of Honor Code bashing today that has stemmed from the dismissal of a rather prominent BYU basketball player from what has likely been the most talented and successful team BYU has had in a long, long time.

The fact that the infraction of the honor code happened right before March Madness and the tournaments began, has really brought a lot of press and attention - and more, a lot of negative feelings towards BYU and their standards for living.

It blows my mind to a point where I am too frustrated to type. And because I am feeling a little guilty. I think that there are very few of us that have gone through our tenure at BYU and have walked away knowing that we lived the rules of the Honor Code 100%. I know that I was not always kicking the boys out of my apartment after midnight or turning up my nose when someone offered me the answer to my Latin homework. However, I can say that whenever I got my Ecclesiastical Endorsement (a statement you turn in once a year signed by you and your bishop or ecclesiastical leader saying that you are following the Honor Code), the questions are whether or not you are striving to live the Honor Code. Which, I think leaves a little wiggle room for mistakes - not blatantly breaking the code of conduct set forth by the code.

For those that are confused about what is required of BYU students, I've copied the questions that the Ecclesiastical Endorsement asks the bishop:

• If LDS, is the student in full fellowship (without any informal or formal probation, disfellowship or excommunication from, or voluntary disaffiliation from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)?
• Does the student live a chaste and virtuous life, including avoidance of pornography, abstinence from sexual relations outside of marriage, and abstinence from homosexual conduct?
• Does the student live the Word of Wisdom by abstaining from alcoholic beverages, tobacco, coffee, tea, and other harmful substances? (Please notice that there is no mention of caffeine in this list!)
• If LDS, does the student demonstrate appropriate and consistent Church activity?
• Is the student honest?

As I read this list, I am completely baffled by what, exactly, those outside of BYU have a problem with. BYU is very clear about their standards for their students. They want us living a life of superior moral conduct in the way we handle ourselves, our relationships with others and within our students. BYU stresses integrity, honesty and improvement of self.

While reading the comments on, I read a few comments that praised BYU for sticking to their moral code and not trying to find a way to keep the player on the team for the tournament. Surely losing such a valuable player will cost BYU its greatest basketball season, but there are more important things in life than sports - and understanding consequences and sticking to the decision in integrity is one of them. Disappointing though it may be.

I was more disappointed in the rest of the comments though. Aside from the typical Mormon bashing that goes on whenever members or references to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are made (i.e. polygamy, racism - which played a huge part in these comments due to the fact that the player was black; the argument of whether or not we are Christians, etc.), people on this particular board were stuck on the fact that the Honor Code prohibits extramarital sex. They called this "rule" an antiquated, backwards and unrealistic expectation of college-aged students. Further comments suggested that BYU students are not able to have fun because of the lack of alcohol and sex on campus. "What do they do for fun...knit booties?" One commenter asks. BYU is criticized because the "real world doesn't work like this," and told that "most Judeo-Christian virtues don't hold in modern society." They suggested that BYU should go over their standards and adjust them to fit in with worldly standards and to "stop pretending that [sex] doesn't happen [all the time]." Our "Puritan system" is considered "a joke" amongst those who are looking in from the outside. My favorite comment is: "If all schools had an honor code, colleges wouldn't exist."

Because everyone knows that the point of college is to go get wasted, fool around with as many people as possible and get laid as often as possible...

...Not for an education.

The more I read, the more disgusted I was because I began to take it personally. I'm being judged for holding myself to a set of morals, values and conduct that are considered "antiquated." These people posting on the board insist that this basketball player should not be told what he can and cannot do, and yet, they are totally ignoring the fact that those that sign the Honor Code are holding themselves to those same standards (or should be)... not just because that is what the school is expecting of us, but because we believe in them as well.

I am so disappointed that these things that have only been openly and generally accepted in society for the past 45 years, are now thought to be inevitable. That expectations to abstain are completely ludicrous because it's "natural." That people are being mocked and ridiculed for holding themselves to a higher standard - as if there is something wrong with that!

What's wrong is the fact that the world has accepted this general decay of morals and values. That no one wants to take a stand against what is wrong and lazy and contains not an ounce of self-control. I do not think it is wrong to expect to work towards something. In a world of instant gratification, it's too bad that people really think it so strange to put off natural desires for a proper time and place. Or to abstain completely from things like drugs and alcohol, just for the sake of doing it. It doesn't have to be inevitable.

It's made me wish that I had been a better example. There are things in the Honor Code that I don't necessarily agree with (the beard clause is my biggest complaint), but as a whole, I think it is a wonderful code of conduct that only pushes you to be a better person with more discipline, self-control and integrity.

And I fail to see what is wrong with that or how that can possibly go out of style?

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Vietnamese Tacos

If you want a party for your mouth that instantly makes you want to melt, then you want to eat The Cheesecake Factory's Vietnamese Tacos. When I was first recommended the tacos, the bartender told me that a lot of people don't like the steamed bun because they think the bread is soggy.

I can't get enough of the steamed bun (unless it is hard like it was tonight! *sad face*). The first time I tried it, it just melted in my mouth! The steamed bread makes it super soft and it absorbs the juices in the meat, almost marinating it.

Steamed Asian Buns with Roasted Pork, Marinated Cucumbers, Carrots and Onion with Chiles, Cilantro and Sesame Seeds.
 Aside from the description listed in the menu (above), I have no idea how to begin to make these tacos on my own. But I have to learn! Everything is seriously delicious on its own, but when you take a bite, the flavours blend so perfectly that the taco is absolutely mouthwatering!

Besides the flavour, the Vietnamese Tacos are the perfect dish because they are served on the Small Plates portion of the menu. Which means you get three tacos for $5.95, and it is the perfect portion size! You are plenty full after polishing them off - and don't even think about trying to save one, it's impossible! - but not entirely stuffed.

I obviously do not have a career in food photography, but even with my bad photographing skills, I hope you can see how truly amazing these little babies are! The perfect blend of flavours and textures make this the most appetizing dish I have ever had.
I crave these things, and it's no wonder as soon as you've had a bite. If anyone stumbles upon a recipe, please let me know!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Choosing & Being the Right Spouse

I have had other things on my mind lately, and so I never did sit down and blog from last week's lesson for our Marriage and Family (Dating) Class.

The Bishop's Wife - who is the teacher over this class - referenced a very interesting article, that I found online. Most people know that I enjoy romances or any kind, from Disney to the paperback novels that I have hidden under my bed...

The article comes from a speech that was given just after I began (in theory) to date and it's called Hanging Out, Hooking Up, and Celestial Marriage by Bruce Chadwick. I particularly liked his examples from the well-known story of Cinderella, or any fairy tale really. The whole thing is worth the read, but I am including this portion, which was the part we discussed in class and what I really liked.
I have five suggestions that I want to share with you today to assist in establishing and strengthening a celestial marriage.
The first suggestion is for all Cinderellas and Prince Charmings to throw away their glass slippers. Following Satan's encouragement, contemporary society greatly emphasizes courtship, the hunt, or the conquest. The rest of the story, the most significant part of the life story, is dismissed with six words: "And they lived happily ever after."
There is a very dangerous misperception embedded in this Cinderella and glass slipper syndrome. It is the focus on finding the perfect person to marry with whom you will live happily ever after. I am convinced that the Lord's plan is to find a right one rather than the one. I admit there may be rare cases where two people covenanted in the premortal existence to find each other and marry in this life. They see each other across the Marriott Center parking lot, and it is love at first sight. Occasionally students ask if I knew my wife in the premortal existence. What can I say? Of course I did. But then I add that I knew all of my sisters in the premortal existence, and no matter who I married, she would be an acquaintance. Let me be crystal clear: this is not Church doctrine; rather, it is a flippant response to a question for which I don't have an answer. The First Presidency has affirmed that premortal covenanted marriages--glamorized by Saturday's Warrior--are rare indeed. To most of us Heavenly Father says, "There are thousands of my sons and daughters attending BYU who are worthy to enter my house and covenant to be your eternal mate. You pick one you like who is worthy, and I will give you my blessing." There are actually many whose foot will nicely fit within the glass slipper.
A second suggestion is don't wait for others to carry your glass slipper about the campus looking for a match. In other words, don't wait for your Heavenly Father to write the name of the person you are to marry on your kitchen wall or to deliver him or her to your front door. Instead, be a little more proactive and seek someone you like, someone who is worthy, and someone who inspires you to be a better person. The Spirit will guide you but won't do the courting or make the choice for you.
...this Cinderella mentality of "If I marry the right person, we will live happily ever after" fails to prepare couples for married life. When problems arise in a marriage--and they will arise--a husband or wife is tempted to think, "Oh no, I married the wrong person because I am not happy ever after." Nonsense! Good marriages are created after you get up from your knees at the altar of the temple. Strong marriages emerge out of helping each other obtain your education, struggling financially, dealing with sickness, and coping with the shock produced by the birth of your first child. Life changes and moves ahead in many unanticipated ways. Changing jobs, moving to a different city, raising teenagers, caring for an aged parent, retirement, and similar activities and events are what produce eternal marriages. Overcoming these problems as a team--helping and supporting each other along the way--are what produce a happy marriage. I loved my dear wife when we married 40 years ago this summer, but the love I felt for her then is insignificant to my love for her after these many years of trials and triumphs.
There are no written "money-back" guarantees for marital happiness. There is no antidivorce insurance. Occasionally a spouse changes in ways that make maintaining a marriage impossible. But I fear that the Cinderella complex encourages people to give up on a relationship too quickly and to start another search for the perfect spouse. The best marriage guarantee you can have is the one you sign in the presence of your bishop--and it has to be renewed once [every other] year. Using this recommend in the companionship of your husband or wife is the best antidivorce guarantee available--not just because you have entered the temple but also because of what temple worthiness represents. This guarantee requires supporting each other in Church callings, working out the payment of tithing, praying together, studying the scriptures together, and giving service together.
In rejecting the Cinderella complex, I am not suggesting that you marry just anyone. But I am suggesting that some of us may have raised the bar a little too high. There are very few perfect people in the world, and if you do get lucky and find one, he or she probably won't want to marry you anyway. But don't despair. The traits and characteristics we are looking for in a spouse will emerge out of the years of experience together. My advice is to look for the potential in a spouse and then help each other achieve your desires. In other words, good marriages are earned by experience, not found with glass slippers.
I know what a lot of people are thinking - if they made it through that whole excerpt - and I hate listening to someone tell me that I've raised the bar too high, or that I'm too picky. Being picky implies that you have pickings to pick from, or that I'm beating men away with sticks just to keep them at bay. Since the opposite is true, I really can't claim any titles of being picky or having the bar raised too high. 

I had a few other notes that now, over a week later, they are a little incoherent, and since I meant to go to bed early and I haven't yet, I don't really want to get into the whole discussion, I won't put into full thoughts.

The first regarded "THE LIST", the list that you write in Young Womens at the age of 12 or 13, when you think you know a little bit about life, and then as you start to learn more about life and men - or boys, rather - you amend and the list grows and grows. Of course, being attracted to the person and falling in love with them is a good start, but it isn't enough. The bishop's wife suggested that we have only a few things on our list:
  • A deep love of the Lord and His commandments
  • Desire to live the commandments
  • A person you can always honor and respect; one who complements your life
  • Someone who wants an eternal family
  • A person who you can give your loyalty, respect and allegiance to
Granted, I feel like she combined a few things to shrink it to so short a list, but the concept is simple. 

The next thing was about the types of relationships we should be in. We see our friends and family members fall into these relationships that we term "unhealthy" or "dysfunctional" or "dependent" and can't understand what one sees in the other. Relationships are meant to stretch us and make us become better people. They should always encourage us to give. When we love someone, we are willing to make sacrifices for them and we will continue to do so even though we aren't always getting what we want. In some cases this isn't a good thing, or a healthy thing, but we shouldn't give up. And we should recognize that sometimes we are going to be giving more than we are receiving. But again, relationships always encourage us to give. And I think the healthiest relationships are the ones where both are giving their all to each other - that way, both people are having their needs met, but not by themselves. I wrote down the quote, "What we attain too easily, we esteem too lightly." I'm sure that somewhere that is true. And I can assure everyone that any relationship I ever become involved in will not have been easily attained, and will therefore be highly appreciated.

One of the quotes that was read talked about how if you don't get married in the temple, you short-change your life. When the bishop's wife asked what we thought that meant, one of the guys raised their hand and said that when you are short-changed, you leave somewhere thinking that you have more than you actually do. After he said that, this analogy really resonated with me. If you are married anywhere but the temple, you are still going to feel great and as if you have everything you could possible desire. But eventually you are going to open your wallet and realize that something's missing. You are going to realize that anywhere but a temple marriage comes short of what you are entitled to.

The last quote sort of sheds light on my cynicism, but I'll share anyway. The bishop's wife said that feeling like "no one wants you" is a ploy by Satan. There are of course, plenty of options for all of us if we are patient and looking in the right places...or whatever. But to that I say, he(Satan)'s sure providing plenty of evidence for his case. I keep waiting for the other side's rebuttal, and haven't gotten much.

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