Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

As the remaining time of my 2.5 week Christmas vacation steadily dwindles, it's got me looking back. 

It's been such an up-and-down couple of weeks, holy cow. I've been homesick for Idaho most of the time, where I have my own apartment, lots of wonderful friend, and plenty to do. While there have been several wonderful moments -- the moments that are the reason I come home -- there have also been many long moments of frustration and questions that just can't be answered. 

But, I decided, isn't that the point? We don't love our families because they are perpetually awesome, and we don't stop loving them because they, like us, are still figuring out this whole agency thing. God loves us because we are His, not because we deserve it. He knows our potential, so we need to believe in the potential of others and not limit the love we give because of our mortal understanding. 

Someday I'm going to have a family of my own. Things won't always be good, but has to be oka. And it will be my job to make it okay -- okay that Jennie fights with David, and Andrew thinks family scripture study is stupid, and my husband would rather watch the Super Bowl than hang out with the kids on Sunday. In spite of it all, we will still be a family that loves each other and is working toward eternity.

Just like my family now.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Thicker than Water: A Short Story

For my creative writing class, we're required to meet with our professor 3 times during the semester so that we can receive one-on-one critique on a work of fiction we've written this semester. I met with Brother Harrell today, and I swear, I floated home. He said he really, really enjoyed it, that it was just plain well-written. He was so delighted to hear that it was the 5th draft of the story, because he could TELL I'd put the work into it. His only criticism was that the conclusion was too open-ended, but then as we sat and talked about it, the less he felt like it deserved the criticism. (I added more to it anyway; the expanded version is included below.) He said my writing was "beyond my peers". It was so good to hear that yes, I am good at this, yes, my work does pay off. When he ran out of things to say (which was pretty early on in the appointment!) he started asking me about my plans for the future -- "Are you a creative writing emphasis? Good." "Have you thought about publication? No? Good. It's good to have humility. Publish in the school's literary journal before you graduate, and then in one or two other tiny journals in the next ten years and you'll be doing really well." It was so awesome. 

So without futher ado, here's my magnum opus of Fall semester 2008, a literary-genre short story entitled Thicker than Water.


Her mother’s room smelled like stale cigarette smoke, cats, and dirty clothes. The aroma surrounded Katie in an uncomfortably intimate way, like the arm of a stranger around her shoulders.

“So…this is it.” Katie shifted the position of the box tucked under her arm. The amount of stuff crammed into her mother’s room – under tables, on dressers, piled high on shelves – was incredible. “I guess I’ll start gathering up some things for her then.”

Aunt Jess watched Katie attempt to marshal her fortitude. “Are you sure you’ll be all right here by yourself for a little while?”

“Oh, yeah, of course. I’ll be fine. You go bring her some dinner and I’ll head off to the hospital to meet you as soon as I’m done.”

“Well…if you’re sure. But call me if you need anything, okay sweetie? And – thank you.” Aunt Jess gave Katie a quick hug before she walked back through the tiny front room, spoke for a moment to Cameron’s roommates, and was gone. Katie smiled vaguely at the hug – she’d only opened contact with her aunt in the last four months, but she already felt closer to Jess than she’d felt to her mother for years. That was why she offered to gather things for her mother’s hospital room – to give Aunt Jess a little less to do, and so she wouldn’t have to see her mother, not yet.

Katie reluctantly turned her attention back to the disarray. All of the floor space was taken except for a shuffling path from the door to the bed, which Katie dropped onto. She had no idea where to start. For now, Katie was on her own in an oppressive tangle of puzzles, quilting squares, boxes of who knew what, and glass unicorn figurines.

Katie waded carefully across to the other side of the room and picked up one of those unicorn figurines. It was heavier than she expected. The figure was reared up on its hind legs, front hooves waving in the air. There was something vaguely familiar about it, and as she held it, bittersweet memories began to edge heavily into her mind. She put down the glass unicorn and turned away from it, and from the memories. It had been hers as a child.

Katie stared around the room, wondering again where she should start. She leaned over the side of the bed and extracted a shoe box from the wreckage. In it were a mostly-empty pack of cigarettes and prescription bottles of Lithobid and Symbyax. Holding her mother’s bipolar medication was startling and surreal; it was a tangible symbol of her mother’s mental illness, something that had always been so vague to Katie. Underneath laid a pile of letters, many of them still in their envelopes. Katie pulled one from the box and turned it over. Her own name, in childish scrawl, stared back at her.

She kept my letters.

She slowly pulled the letter out of the envelope and unfolded it with trembling fingers. Dear Mommy, said the letter, dated the year she was ten, I miss you! Daddy says you live near Grandma now that you don’t live with us. Is that fun? Do you play tea party with her like you do with me? I want you to be here to put braids in my hair. Daddy says he needs more practice with ponytails before he does braids. School is good. Miss Shell my teacher is reading my class a story about a mouse who talks and fights with swords. I don’t know what the book is called but the mouse’s name is Martin. I like it a lot. Do you have kitties at your house? I miss you Mommy! I love you. Love, Katie

Katie dug into the box and pulled out another letter at random. Cameron, she had written the year she was sixteen, I haven’t heard from you in months, again, and I don’t know why. You’re supposed to be my mom, and I’m hurt that you won’t even take the time to write me. What do you want from me? That was the year she had given up on her mother.

For the next five years, she made no attempt to contact her mother. Her family moved across the country, she fell in and out of love, she went away to college. Katie didn’t tell her mother any of it. She moved on, learning to forgive her mother, but mostly just to forget. For years, Katie had dreamed she and her mother could be best friends, sharing the same quirky sense of humor and the creative, girly side she only roughly remembered. It had been the great emotional success of her life to finally give up on that dream and accept that her mother’s illness left her with nothing to give to her daughter.

Then, Aunt Jess had found her profile on MySpace. She sent Katie a tentative, hopeful note, asking to initiate a relationship with her grown-up niece. Katie tried to make her reply as encouraging as possible – Jess sounded so nice, and so sad about never making herself a part of Katie’s life – but Katie left no question about how she felt about her mother.

Feel free to update my mother on how I’m doing, Katie remembered writing, but I do not want messages from her relayed to me. I would be happy and eager to hear that she is doing well, etc, but I'm not ready to talk to her just yet. I don't mean that in a mean way, just that I don't want to get my hopes up only to get hurt – again. As a child, I was so hurt by her leaving, by how she’d write pages and pages of letters, and then nothing for months or sometimes years at a time, and then try to step back into my life after all of the hurt she caused. I realize now that that was just part of her cycling through mania and depression, but I can’t do that again.

And yet, just months later, she was here on summer break, visiting Aunt Jess and about to reconnect with her mother.

She pulled her cell phone from her back pocket and hastily punched in the first speed-dial number. Katie sat through two long rings before her father’s voice came on the line.

“Hello?”

“Hi Daddy…how are you?”

“I’m all right.”  The sounds of the football game in the background quieted as Katie heard him turn down the TV. “How are you?”

She sighed. “I don’t know.”

“Yeah?”

“I’m…frustrated. Confused.” Katie imagined him there, sitting in his big recliner in the living room of the house where she grew up. His voice crackled slightly over the phone, and re-realizing that he was a thousand miles away hurt enough to make Katie’s eyes prickle with tears. “Dad, why am I even here?”

He slowly exhaled. “Because you thought it was the right thing to do?”

 “But I haven’t seen my mother in more than ten years. I haven’t written to her in five. It’s like I’m some kind of glutton for punishment.” Katie swallowed hard, and held the phone a little tighter. “There are so many memories here, Dad.” Or, Katie thought, things that should have been memories, if her mother could have stayed. “I know she left us for a good reason,” she continued. “But part of me is still that little girl who doesn’t even know what manic-depression is. All the little-girl part of me knows is that my mommy left.”

“I know, princess. It’s not fair. But think about the part of you that isn’t a little girl any more. It’s not fun being the adult, but now that you’ve accepted she can’t take care of you, you need to remember – you’re the one who decided to be there.”

Katie sighed. “I know. But what else was I supposed to do, though, you know?”

“Yeah…it’s like that country song. ‘Blood is thicker than water’.”

“But ‘love is thicker than blood’.” Katie shook her head. “I’ve loved Jenny like a mom from day one. I don’t need another mom.” Because Katie and Dad were friends, in addition to father and daughter, Katie knew what he would say next. She also knew that deep-down, she couldn’t disagree.

“Jenny is the best step-mom you could ask for, I know. But no matter what, Cameron is still your mother.”

***

When she finished filling the box with pictures and knickknacks and magazines, things to make the hospital room more homey, Katie finally talked herself into driving to the hospital. The smell there was like her mother too, from long ago when she worked nights at Sharp Memorial and would let Katie wear her nurse’s cap. Katie stepped into the elevator and pushed the button for the eighth floor. She leaned back against the elevator wall and tried to smile at the other woman there, holding a bunch of get-well balloons.

“Visiting someone?” the woman asked.

“My mother.”

She made a sympathetic face. “That’s so hard.”

“In more ways than you can imagine,” Katie sighed. She glanced at the bright balloons in the woman’s hand. “Are you visiting someone too?”

“My daughter had surgery yesterday. I’d bring one of those big obnoxious singing cards, but she’d never forgive me for it.” The woman grinned.

Katie laughed, and watched the elevator doors open. “This is my floor. Nice talking to you.”

“You too. Best to your mom.”

“My mother,” Katie corrected automatically as she slowly walked through the elevator doors. 

My mother, Katie repeated to herself, moving toward the bleak, graying door of the hospital room where Aunt Jess and her mother were waiting. Daddy’s voice replayed in her head – I know it's not fun being the adult. But remember, princess – you're the one who decided to be there.

Katie took the last heavy, hesitant steps toward room 845, the room with Cameron Hendershot printed in sterile letters on a form posted outside. She was here out of obligation to a deeply-rooted idea that what was easy and what was kind weren’t always the same thing.

She is my mother, at least, if not my friend.

Katie knocked softly on the door.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Preference

Okay, I'll be honest. It was the best date I've been on so far.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Fragile

I've recently become aware of the fragility of this beautifully chaotic life that I lead. 

There are days, like today, when I completely crash and burn. Days that reach an internal intensity, and then snap! something brittle in me is broken. I sleep for 2 hours when I only plan to sleep for a half. I skip class. I listen to very specific music in an effort to bring a little peace into my soul. With no attention span and no motivation, I sit and think about the things I want to do, or I just don't think much at all.

A little voice in my head mumbles panicked phrases like family history of manic-depression and the like. Even now though, I know that's silly. I've seen mania and depression -- it's rather more polarized than this. No, I'm just a college co-ed who is stressed out and doesn't spend enough time seeking God. Someone who gets fed up and hasn't quite figured out how to deal with it.

I've had many, many moments recently that have left me deeply in love with this life, though. Moments when I look up, out of my window, and see the face of God, everpresent and all around me. Moments of grateful, secret prayers for the simplicity of it: I am encircled eternally in His love. 

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Awww

I am such a sucker for literary romances. Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning? So sweet. John Stuart Mill and his wife, Harriet Taylor? Wow. My textbook says that "Mill claimed that she deserved equal credit for his works, calling them 'joint productions' of their intellectual life together." And he was enough of a father to the children from Harriet's first marriage that Helen, Harriet's daughter, was his companion after her mother died. Wow.

Let's just say while a dynamic like this isn't required in my marriage, it sure would be fun.

I think I really like Victorian British poetry in general. Prose is pretty hard to slog through simply because they had a different way of speaking then, but the poetry is *beautiful*.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

happy birthday to me

This is my kind of birthday.

It all started at midnight when all of my neighbors started showing up to wish me happy birthday. I finally went to bed at about 12:30, and sometime between then and when I got up at 6:45, my roommates (esp Natalie, 'cause she's really good at it) decorated my apartment!

And Chelsea got me presents! And bought IBC root beer!

And then the roommates all chipped in and got me flowers!

And Ann made me a cake!

And I have like 12bizillion notifications on facebook!

And my little brother sent me a text message!

And everyone at work was really nice!

It's been wonderful. :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

River of Names

I've just finished some emotionally intense reading -- all the more emotionally intense because the story is like the author's reflection. Not quite her life, but then it is.

She's lesbian, poor Southern, sexually abused, so many things that I'm simply not. But I read her and I'm astonished and gut-wrenched and left emotionally gasping. And a part of me says, I want to write like her.

I asked my Creative Writing professor recently if it was possible to write too much from one source of inspiration, namely from one's own experiences. He said no, of course not, but I didn't believe him. But after reading Dorothy Allison's River of Names, it's easier to believe that who I am, who I really AM, without shame and without contempt, can make a compelling story.

Now, I do not come from the kind of families that Allison writes about...no incest, no gory death, nothing like the twisted emotional framework on which her stories rest. My stories don't go to the depths of horror because I've separated myself so much from the terrible things in my life that I can't separate myself from the stories. I have no desire to relive those things, to imagine the things I can't remember, to fill in the details of what I know. I don't want to know just how much those things affected who I am. I just can't write that story, not yet. But maybe someday when, as Allison says, I have a "boring, uncomplicated life [and can] write emotionally intense complicated stories," it will come out.

But I need my life to be boring in that particular aspect, to have closure on my family, the violence, the emotional abuse, the mental illness, the neglect and abandonment and drug abuse, and let it all make sense instead of just being out of sight and out of mind. That's why so much of me hopes and promises to work for a much different kind of family -- so I can make up for the family that I don't have. I think it would make a wonderful Mormon story...I suspect that's the audience that would understand my horror best.

Someday I'll be able to take my own pain out of it, and let the reader decide for themselves how they're going to deal with it. I had to figure it out; why shouldn't they?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing

I've come to a sad conclusion. I have too many friends.

For a lot of people, that statement is simply impossible to imagine. For someone who would much rather have very few, very close relationships, the prospect of having ties to about 20 people in about 4 different groups is profoundly daunting.

I can already see things that this would teach me, ways that this situation will expand who I am. But my comfort zone has already undergone some major readjustments lately!

Mehhh. Someone tell life to leave me alone.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

There and Back Again: Postscript

"Oh my gosh!! you posted a blog!!! I just wanted to tell you that it was really beautifully put. I totally agree with you 100%. You are absolutely freakin' awesome, and I'm glad I've been lucky to have gotten to find out about it. :) That was a beautiful verse, and very interesting."

"You're so sweet to me. Thank you for being such a fabulous friend. I CAN'T WAIT TO SEE YOU! When you and Chelsea get here we are going to party it up. Oh gosh I am so excited."

I'm kind of relieved too, honestly. I've been hanging out with four of my roommates, and some boys. They've been wonderful about keeping me from being desperately lonely and bored, and really the girls can be SUCH fun to hang out with. But I'm so tired of boys! So much so that I don't even want to talk about why I'm tired of them, but it'll be so welcome to have all of my wonderful people back, and to just try my DARNDEST not to care about anyone but the people who actually know and love me and see who I am. I don't want to just "have fun". It's not enough. But I didn't know what else to do this summer, you know? And now it's almost gone and I feel like I've spent another summer doing nothing -- nothing except getting spiritually sandpapered.

But what else was I supposed to do?? I chose to burn my time and emotional energy like it was cheap. Because it was -- I didn't have anything better to do. And now I'm coming out of that, dying to make something that actually matters again. I'm ready for real life again. Parts of it may stink, but that will be okay. It's real. Not shallow or meaningless. Real and full of pain that means something, and joy that means even more.

I guess it's all part of the Lord's plan. If I come out of this with nothing but the resolution to *never* settle for anything other than the absolute best, to seek joy and not fun, to love myself wholeheartedly even when it seems like no one else will, then maybe that'll be enough. The Lord will make sure I get what I need to out of it.

Part of me wonders when I'll quit only getting what I need and get what I want too. I guess that's what I get for asking the Lord to shape my desires into His plans for me, rather than the other way around.

I guess we'll just have to wait and see, and trust the Lord to do what He needs to do to make me His.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

There and Back Again

It's been a long time since I sat down to write a blog post. I've been reading over old posts and thinking things like wow, that is so true and Oh my word, I'm a completely different person now and Gosh, I can't believe that bothered me so much at the time.

And even, Why on earth is this bothering me so much now?

I don't really have an answer to that.

Sometimes when you change and it's a blooming outward, and you sail along like puffs on dandelion. Other times when you change it's root growth instead, becoming more stable and solid, and drinking deeply. Even from the storm that surrounds you. I've become more "myself" this year, more grounded on the fact that I am OK, just being me.

What is getting me lately is that sometimes, other people don't make the effort to find out how awesome I am. (That is me being really hypocritical, because of course I don't go around finding out how awesome other people are.) I know that I am pretty, and fun, and smart, and it would be nice to know that all of that is plain to everyone else. But I don't think it is.

Does buried treasure want to be hard to find?
Or does it wait, shining and lonely
For a stubborn thief to come
80 paces to the left,
wary of the booby traps,
and dig deep
To find the gem whose price is far above rubies?

I just wrote that, but in the process I did a web search to make sure I was quoting Proverbs 31 correctly. Interestingly enough, I found someone else's blog post. She said that she always thought the scripture should say diamonds instead of rubies, but then she did some research and found out that rubies are actually even more precious than diamonds -- more rare, and one of truly excellent quality will sell for even three times more than a diamond of the same quality. Then, she found a definition of "virtuous", and her paraphrase is what caught my eye:

"Good,righteous, pure, kind, benevolent, generous, strong thru wisdom, grace and fear of God, conforming to what is right and just…….seldom sought."

Go figure.

One of my roommates is getting ready for a mission, and she's going to be wonderful at it. She was just now -- literally just now -- saying that she once really worried about being in the MTC, being able to make all of those connections with the scriptures. "I'm just not good at that!" she said. "But the thing is that every scripture I've read in preparation for Preach My Gospel says 'have the Spirit with you and the Lord will do the rest.' And I can do that! I may stink at the technical stuff, but I can sure be obedient!"

I love roommates, especially ones that are in tune with the Spirit and say exactly what I need them to, while having no idea that they did it.

In much the same way, I can really stink at the technical aspect of showing people just how awesome I am. But I can feel the Spirit, and seek to keep it in my life, guiding my heart. And anything that pulls me away from that simply isn't worth it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I'm amazed by how different my life is when I'm at home and when I'm at school. Here I have a job I love, I am surrounded by my peers, and I'm really independent. At home, I have a job that pays more, Cindy is a 20-30 minute car ride away instead of a several-hour plane ride away, and I get to spend time with my family.

The difference I've noticed most lately, however, is the way in which I deal with my problems. They're not really big problems, not when I stop to think about it. I miss my best friend. I have no idea how the Lord will make His plans for me happen. I'm swamped by school. Things like that.

But it's times when those problems seem so big that drive me back to the Lord. I'm glad for these times, the ones that force me to take a step back and ask for God's will instead of my own. It's then that I'm astonished by how deeply He knows me, personally. That He sends a thunderstorm in high desert Idaho to remind me that I am loved. These are the times when I can only be grateful for the dull ache in my heart -- grateful that I have things that I love so much that it hurts when they're gone. Grateful to have experienced them at all, and that there are bound to be even better things around the next bend.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

another update in the life of Sara

There isn't much to tell today...just two things really. One, we have 6 girls in our apartment now, with Cindy here visiting and our last roommate, Kaitlyn, here for 2nd block. Kaitlyn is a brand-new freshman. In fact, she just graduated high school on Saturday! She seems really sweet, although a little bewildered to be dumped into the thick of things. I think it'll be fun.

And then there's the reason I decided to write this e-mail...

Every Monday night 2 girls' apartments and a guys' apartment meet together and have a little spiritual thought and play a game and have treats, and it's really fun. There are also two people chosen -- a guy and a girl -- to lead our little family-away-from-home. The guy group leader is really cute and seems nice, and his name is Clint.

Now, a little bit of backstory, which you may or may not already know: I was going to take a business class, but I dropped it early on in the semester. In order to still be a full-time students, I had to replace the credits that I'd dropped. So I signed up for a Dating, Courtship and Engagement class, which has actually proved to be really interesting. And then...it got more interesting.

My current assignment, for a grade, is to ask someone on a date.

It was actually really funny. I got the assignment today, you know, Monday. So I told everyone all about my assignment (my tone was filled with exasperation, I assure you!) and told them I was going to ask Clint. So we went to Family Home Evening and played fun games and such, but I could never manage to get Clint by himself!!!!! I was frustrated and going to have a hernia. But, fortunately, my roommates talked me into calling him over from the balcony and telling him that as my Family Home Evening "dad", I felt like it was an OK thing to ask him to help me with my homework.

So! I have a date with a really cute boy on Tuesday at 7! Not tomorrow, but next week. We're going to make pizza and play games and maybe go to the park if it's sunny and all that jazz. Honestly he gave me a little bit of a funny look when I asked him, but we'll see how it goes. And after all, I ROCK!!! Because I asked a cute boy out on a date!!! :)

Now, because I have a slightly-odd assignment, I am giving YOU a slightly odd assignment. I need get-to-know-you questions! I would really love to make this a really fun and "I want to be your friend" kind of date, but I have a hard time with this kind of thing. If you were a cute boy, what could I do to make you really comfortable? PLEASE HELP!

And with that, I am off to get ready for bed. Love to ya! :)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

update #2

Hello again! I *loved* getting all the replies that I did to my last little update...it's wonderful to hear that things are going well for all of you. So thank you for writing back to me, and please, continue to do so! :)

I think I'm going to do things a little differently this time and go in reverse chronological order. Maybe it's because I spend 4 hours of very weekday looking at resumes, maybe it's because I'm tired, but whatever the case, that just seems like the easiest thing.

This Sunday and the Sunday before I've practiced with the church choir. We sound great and it's fun to realize that, even though I sang alto for a choir class the past two semesters, I can still get to that high F with a little warm up! We're doing a song with a rather high soprano part, but I think once we all get the hang of it, it'll be really pretty. I was also asked to direct the music for the women's meeting every Sunday. It's a very low-stress kind of calling, plus I get some more practice with my 3/4s and 4/4s and such! I just really enjoy singing; my roommates humor me when I walk around the apartment singing whatever happens to be in my head, I listen to music (turned up loud) while I do homework, I love to take car trips with the stereo going and everyone singing along. It's just a good thing.

Speaking of car trips though, yesterday SO fun -- and it explains why I'm tired today, and slightly sunburnt. I did put on sunscreen, by the way, I just missed a spot or two. About an hour north of Rexburg, within the Targee National Forest, is Mesa Falls. Natalie and Chelsea and I drove up there yesterday, and none of us had been there before so we didn't know what to expect.There's a picture attached -- it was so beautiful. The funny thing is that there's enough snow up there over the winter -- like 8 feet! -- that even at the end of May, with 80 degree weather, there was a ton of snow! Every time we got too hot, we'd start a snowball fight, in our shorts and t-shirts. It was great -- there's a picture of me in the snow attached too. The waterfall itself was splendid. The smell of misty wet air, plus pine, plus the sound of waterfall...ahhh. The only thing that would have made it better would be if Cindy Lynn had been there with us. But fortunately she'll be here THIS WEEK, and I'll get to hang out with my best friend for three weeks STRAIGHT. It's going to be wonderful.

This week my supervisor, Barbara, came in to observe me at work. I've been working on my own (without Rachel, my trainer) since 9th, but Friday was the first time that Barbara has seen me in action. And she said I did great! "I'm saying kind of nit-picky things, but you did so great that they're really the only things I have to tell you! You have a handle on it that some new mentors don't ever get their first semester, but you've totally got it already." I was so glad to know that she thought I was doing a good job! I really love my job. There are certainly days when I wish I could sleep for another hour or two, or some appointments that are like pulling teeth to get people to understand, but overall I'm really fortunate. I'm basically teaching life skills to people...the things I teach them could help them to get the jobs they really want, to support their families. That's so cool.

Classes are going well, too. I had a presentation in Spanish and got way more anxious about it than I should have. I had to speak totally in Spanish, but since I was aloud to notes it was completely fine. Plus the class was really good about participating and answering questions. I was the very first person in class to present, because I wanted to get it over with, and my professor, Brother Widdison, said I really set a high standard for the rest of the class. I'm satisfied with the effort I put in. Oh, and get this -- no one was really aware of this before, but Brother Widdison said recently that the readings get progressively harder as the semester goes along. So I'm REALLY glad I got my presentation over and done with! Spanish class is a lot of work to begin with; why would I want to translate, understand, and then present a particularly hard story? Oh -- and then I also gave a presentation in my Dating, Engagement and Courtship class. To those of you who helped me with that, THANK YOU! It went really well and was very relaxed because we had a "panel of experts" -- people who had written papers and conducted interviews on the toped -- so it wasn't like it was just me. I think the class (including yours truly) got a lot out of the experience.

Let's see, I also went on a date recently. My roommate Caitie has a boyfriend, Doug, and they set me up with one of Doug's former roommates. It actually ended up being a triple date because one of Doug's current roommates and his fiancee were there too. We had dinner at Doug's apartment (it was soo yummy) and then the plan was that we'd all go to a movie afterwards. However, my date, Anselmo, had to go to work, and I had homework to do anyway, so we were just going to part ways after dinner. I thought that everyone else could just drop me off at home at the way to the movie -- but then Anselmo offered to drive me home! He was very much a gentleman, opening the car door for me, walking me up to the door of my apartment. If it hadn't been for the fact that there were 6 people at dinner, the conversation would have dragged. But, in the car and walking me to my apartment, Anselmo and I chatted and it was great fun. Chelsea, my roommate, was so funny -- she was in her room when she heard us come in, so she decided to "get a drink" and see what my date looked like! He was very very cute, by the way, Brazilian at that. But since there wasn't any big **chemistry** or anything, I'm neither surprised nor disappointed that I haven't heard from him since our date. All in all it was just a good experience ...there really ARE nice guys around here! ...And for the record, there are some cute guys in my classes, and at church, but no one that I know very well. But I'll be sure to keep you posted.

And I think that's it! As you can see, life is going really well -- busy, but excellent. And it'll be just about PERFECT when Cindy gets here for her visit! I'll be able to tell you all about that in my next letter. In the meantime, however, please fill me in on how your life is going. I look forward to hearing from you!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

an update to...everyone I know!

Well! Here I am, back at school! Last week was all getting ready, getting used to things, etc., so this week it was just Life of a Student in full force. I love it though, I've gotta say. Yes, I'm insanely busy, but I feel so productive and things have this fascinating habit of always moving, requiring adaptation and focus.

For example, I am working while I am in school. This is the first time I've done this, because I was so terrified that it was going to go on my "Worst Ideas Ever" list. In past semesters I have been quickly overwhelmed, so I thought adding in 4 hours of work Monday through Friday would put me on the edge of a nervous breakdown. It's been quite the opposite, however. Being so busy has really helped me to stay focused on what I need to do as far as assignments and deadlines and all that goes, but also just my personal needs: "Have I had enough social time?" "Did I take 15 minutes to meditate today?" "Which is more important right this second -- cleaning my room or chilling in front of the TV?" It's a helpful and interesting way to study me, while I study English. -grin-

And, of course, it doesn't hurt that my job is just really interesting. I work in the Career Preparation department on campus as a CP Mentor. I'm still in training, so I mostly just observe for now. Within the next week or two, however, I'll be spending more and more of my time teaching resume-writing principles, conducting practice interviews, and reviewing cover letters. I never knew there were so many things that go into impressing a prospective employer -- among my first thoughts was "How on earth did *I* get hired?!?" -- but when you do it right, it really makes a difference. Rachel, the girl who is training me, is so nice and sometimes we sit and just chat between appointments. I asked her today if she thought it would be OK if I started heading our appointments (still under her supervision though) since observing was really getting boring. She said yes, so next week I'll jump in to talking the students through their resumes and asking them intimidating interview questions. Bwahaha.

Since I work from 8:15am to noon, I zip home and eat lunch, only to walk out the door again to go to classes. I'm enjoying all of my classes so far... but do you ever suspect that you're the annoying kid who always has something to say, but never really says anything important?? I feel like that a little in my Grammar class, because my professor is so funny and silly, and I sit at the front of the room, so I find myself making a lot of smart-aleck comments. I mean, I contribute in other ways as well, of course. Like asking questions -- I've never done sentence diagramming before in my LIFE, but fortunately I'm picking it up pretty well. Mostly. (Pop quiz! What's a subjective complement? ...Eh, don't worry, I'm not sure I know either.)

I'm taking my last Spanish class -- it's required as part of my generals, but it's a Hispanic literature class. I was so intimidated by this class. I love literature, but surely expecting me to read, write, and analytically converse *in another language* is a little over the top! Much like work, however, it hasn't been nearly as big of a deal as I thought it would be. We sing hymns in Spanish, and answer questions on our reading assignments for homework, and talk about basic plot and character and setting. "Lencho es un hombre de mucha fe" is much easier than say, the symbolism of the lemonade that the old woman gave the architect. In Spanish. :-P

I was taking a business class, but after a week of trying to figure out the simulation (like SimCity, but SimBusiness, basically,) and not feeling like class time was at all productive, and spending 3 hours every night doing homework, I decided I just didn't CARE enough about it to put in that much work! So I dropped the class and, after much hunting, and some groveling too, found a different class that fit into the same slot on my schedule. Get this though -- I'm taking Family Studies 200: Dating, Courtship, and Engagement. How's that for ridiculous??? ONLY an LDS school would have a class like that!!! ...All "silly Mormons!" comments aside, though, I think I'm going to enjoy it. It's a definite study of what love is, how and why people date, how we have to focus on who WE are rather than anyone else, and what God has to do with this equation in general. We're reading some very wise doctrinal stuff to this effect.

I'm also taking a World Religions class. It wasn't the religion class I wanted to take this semester, but it fit too well to pass up, so I took it anyway. And I'm so glad I did! I'm so intrigued by other cultures, and really, religion is a HUGE part of any culture -- even ours, as much as we Americans try to deny it sometimes. Plus there's is a lot to be gained from seeking out the good and true in other religions. I think that God works with truth in whatever form it comes. Oh -- and my professor is teaching us meditation. It's not as Eastern and cheesy as it sounds. Here's a metaphor for you -- think about the sky. It can have big fat storm clouds, or clouds that seem to race by, or, ideally, fluffy, floaty clouds. The clouds are your thoughts, and the blue sky behind them is your mind. The point of meditation is to calm your storm- or racing-cloud thoughts so that you can just watch them float by. By letting go, focusing on your breathing, and relaxing, I've found it's actually way more productive for problem-solving because you're inviting God to be a part of it. So cool.

And that brings me to my favorite -- Creative Writing. Honestly, I came home from this class and told everyone, "I fell in love today." Needless to say, this created much more excitement and raised eyebrows than I was planning! They were all a little disappointed that it was a class and not a boy. But really, it's a FABULOUS class. We're analyzing poems and literature and such, but from a writer's perspective, and our textbooks are funny (I didn't know that was possible!) and being in a room with THAT many writers all together was like coming home. Nirvana, I swear. (and I am actually allowed to reference nirvana now -- we talked about it in my World Religion class!)

You know what else is pretty great? Getting the cream of the crop when it comes to roommates. Chelsea is from last semester, and Cindy and I loved and adored her and decided we'd keep her. Then there's Natalie, who is Cindy's uncle's wife's sister, and who I just love already. She's a girl after my own heart -- silly bordering on just a little crazy, and low-key too. Then there's Caitie, who doesn't spend a lot of time at home -- she's got those "popular" girl vibes, but is really sweet. And....-sigh-....there's the OTHER love of my life (other than my class I mean)...Cindy. Cindy won't be at school with me for another couple of weeks. It just KILLS to not have your best friend around, in the one setting you actually HAVE had her around nonstop, much to your delight. But, like we keep telling each other, it's only a couple of weeks and we talk on the phone every day. Somehow we'll manage...maybe. Hopefully. -sniffle sniff sniffle-

Anyway....I don't think there's much more to tell right now! This is like a MILE long, but if you're reading this you've stuck with me, and I much appreciate it. Don't feel obligated to reply at similar length, but please, do reply! I want to hear how you are doing and make sure you know I think you're pretty great. :) (...Oh, and if you think anyone else would like to hear from me, please feel free to forward this to them!)

I don't know how often these updates will come out -- that will just depend on homework and life in general -- but I look forward to writing you again at some point with another moment in the life of Sara!

Take care, and much love to ya.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

heartsore

As my family and I sat around the table, having just finished reading Mormon 3, I had everyone flip back to the 7th, 8th, and 9th verses.

"I think it's interesting," I said, "that even though people are wicked, they can still succeed. On the other hand, we see all the time that even though people are righteous, things are still hard. I think it goes to show that God doesn't always work in a way that makes sense to us mortals. The bad guys won't always be punished and the good guys won't always get the easy road. Not temporally anyway."

I have been having a mysteriously hard time lately. To the point that I am getting off of a certain medication to see if it's getting my hormones off-kilter. I need some time to relax and recenter, but if I don't keep busy, then all the whiny, stupid, pessimistic bits of my brain start talking Really Loudly. (Kind of like when people are saying mean things about you, but not to you, but they talk loudly because they want you to hear anyway.) The inside of my head hasn't been the usual comfy, sunshiny place I've come to know and love, to say the least.

I've prayed about this, and sought guidance and comfort in the scriptures. Previously I've gotten messages like, "Sweetie. Keep doing what you're doing, and when something needs to change, I'll let you know." But continuing to what I'm doing hasn't really fixed anything.

This brings me back to the aforementioned scripture, and, in turn, an Elder Maxwell quote, about how sometimes enjoyment just needs to be deferred. People who do good things aren't always going to have a good time. Just because I'm paying my tithing and reading my scriptures and working and trying to be there for my friends doesn't mean that everything will always be great. In short, just because I'm doing my best doesn't mean that Heavenly Father will give me what I want when I want it.

Just because Heavenly Father doesn't bless me in specific ways does not mean I have to be afraid that He doesn't love me. On the contrary...maybe right now He's showing me what I really do want most of all: peace. A steady, strong relationship with Him. Faith. I know He loves me, and it's not like He's trying to be mean. There's something here to be learned, a way to grow.

I leave for school on Friday and I'm sure that to some degree, things will change. Classes will be nice, as will having more people on hand to spend time with. But the change I want most is for all of this to make sense...for me to find peace and joy in the Lord once again.

"Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed. " D&C 123:17

So in the meantime all I can think of to do is to keep trying and keep praying, and keep loving the Lord the best I can.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

1 Corinthians 2:14 reads, "But the natural man receiveth not the things of the spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know then, because they are spiritually discerned."

The message of the day: I am a dumb mortal. It's okay if I don't get it. It's also okay if I don't like it. I'm so glad God is not a dumb mortal. Instead He is an infinitely intelligent, perfectly loving, absolutely individual God who uses all of His goodness and power (wow ALL OF IT?) to help ME, the aforementioned dumb mortal.

I want to be like Heavenly Father when I grow up!


Today has been a wonderful, wonderful day: I make myself laugh. I get to watch Conference with my family. I had a fabulous conversation with my favorite person in the world. I went to a great movie. I caught up with a friend. I hung out with my mom and sister. I ate clouds. (Oh yes... have you ever had yoplait whips??) I came home to my two favorite kinds of e-mails: an Interesting Conversation opener, and a newsy, loving update full of concern and questions.

God is so generous and giving...He gives me these kinds of days to slow down, take a deep breath, remember my child, life is good.

Life IS good. I am so deeply blessed.

Thank you, Father, for this day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Rest

My to-do list has a lot of things on it, some little things, some Important things, just a bunch of stuff that needs to be taken care of. So now that I've come home from church and eaten something, I've gotten out my list.

Frankly I'm exhausted just looking at it. After about 4 minutes, I put it aside and put my head on the table -- "I need to just rest."

But the thing is, after being so busy lately, I'm having a hard time figuring out how. Life has combined today to make for windy, somewhat dreary soul-weather: too blown about to have much attention span, and not very cheerful either. How does one write a "recipe for happy" if one knows something needs done and can't quite find the oomph to go do it?

This will take some more thought.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Lent Pt. -- er -- 2.5?

I realized something, and the more I think about it, the more I agree with myself. While this makes for a really funny internal dialogue, ("I think that blah blah blah." "Wow! I totally agree with that. In my opinion, blah blah blah." "Hey, didn't I just say that?") my point still stands.

In observing Lent this year, I think God taught me something without me having any idea that He was teaching me it while it was happening: Without exception, everything about life has parts of it that are really, really hard.

It sounds cynical when I say it, but it really does have great value, especially because my real point is this--

So what?

I can still love life and love my Savior to an unfathomable degree no matter what. Everything in life has some level of drudgery and unpleasantness, but if I know that to begin with, I can avoid unrealistic expectations that will keep me from appreciating the good and joy that is in all things as well.

By always waiting for the perfectly wonderful thing around the bend, I not only neglect the good that I have now (thereby seeing only the annoying, difficult parts) but I also set myself up to be disappointed when I find the "perfectly wonderful thing" inevitably has some painful things about it. If I can reshape those expectations, though, I can be better prepared to find the good, deal with the bad, and seek God in both aspects, now and in the future.

In a nutshell, through Lent 08, God showed me that life is just plain difficult.

...But only parts of it. Mostly, if I can learn to look for it, it is blessed and beautiful.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Lent Pt. 2

I've been trying to write another post for days now. I wanted to write something about Lent, what I've learned about myself and my Savior, how it's helped me. I haven't really had any truly Brilliant flashes of Writerly Insight, but, oh well! Here it goes anyway!


My little brother said something to me in the car the other day that made me pause: "Yeah -- I'm glad to be single. I can talk to lots of girls and it's not a big deal because I don't have to stick with just one." Yeah, I thought -- why try to narrow it down so quickly? And then I started mentally. Shouldn't I take my own advice?


I think in a lot of ways we mortals narrow things down too quickly, thinking we know the only way things will work. But by doing so, we push aside inspiration that might come from walking in the dark, not lighting our own sparks.


In the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter, I've been trying to live "moment-to-moment", taking joy in each day and not looking beyond the mark at the things I don't yet have. It's been a challenge, and still is, but I think that one of the most important things I've seen is that each day is out of my hands. That all I am given is this one moment, and even as I work to make it the best, I need to work to let it go and let Christ step in.

In a lot of ways I am still walking in the dark, still looking more at all of the things ahead than I probably should. However I think I can see a little better that everything has its hard parts, no matter what, and so it is our responsibility as God's children to see Him in all things.

So here's to learning to do that, one moment at a time.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Poetry

these days
when the quiet mind is least appreciated
with its whispered questions,
echoes their only answer

I, for once, turn to physical reality
peanut butter
blueberry tea
the perfect pants
(and shirt)
laughter on the phone
bright tissue boxes
the murmer of the radio

I, the thinking girl,
often alone with her thoughts and
rather liking it that way, usually,
Reaches toward these little joys
Forgetting, a little, what the questions were at all

Turning Inward

I was asked today about a gospel principle I find difficult to implement, and why it's a struggle.

My first thought was, "Gosh, but there's so many!"

Patience and humility have been big ones lately, though. I am trying to gratefully acknowledge my dependence on the Lord as I wait for His timing and His blessings. I think lately He is teaching me that I am completely dependent on Him ... that my joy has nothing to do with me and everything to do with Him ... that there are times when I can do my part and still struggle to find peace ... that when the peace does come, I need to be grateful for His tender mercies.

If life was nothing but easy, or fun, I'd never learn anything. I know that. But it's easy to forget the easy and fun parts (or perhaps worse, think about them too much) when I'm solidly fixed in the middle of a season of learning. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I will miss this, sitting at work passing the time between phone calls, going home to my family and all the things I don't have to figure out how to pay for. And then I realize I will miss it, and am exhausted just at the thought of going to school full-time, and working part-time, and still being expected to carry my burdens on my own, to doggedly keep seeking the Lord even when His hand is not obvious to my lonesome, fearful, mortal eyes.

But I like to believe there's some kind of middle ground there...that I can live, moment-to-moment, enjoying all of the love that surrounds me, bravely facing the difficulties before me, and knowing that I will be blessed in the future. I can't see the bigger picture with these mortal eyes, and while I could imagine it, the possibilities are so endless and varied that I don't find it very useful to do so. I keep walking, trusting -- hoping -- that if I'm getting off on the wrong path, He'll let me know, and that if He's not saying that, it means that I'm headed toward something too beautiful to imagine. I wish I could step less hesitantly, but God knows me. He understands. So I leave it to the Lord to show me what I need to see, here, now, and I try to accept that sometimes the Lord simply leads us through darkness, as we turn inward to Him for our light.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

To commemorate my 51st post

DUMB PUN ALERT! DUMB PUN ALERT!

"bridle all your passions" ... "BRIDAL all your passions"

HOW FITTING!

hahahahahahahahahahahahahaha

Bucket List

1. Fall in love. Really in love, not "I'm lonely" love, or "I'm bored" love. I want "you are my best friend" love, "we are a team no matter what" love. I want to admire someone deeply as a person, to know I am so blessed to get to spend my time now and forever with them. Anything else just wouldn't be enough.

2. Travel. Gosh, just EVERYWHERE, especially Europe and Central / South America and all over the US though those are by no means the only places. I want to see the things I've only read about, only seen pictures of. I want to see God; the world is so BIG and too many of us experience very little of it. I want to love it all.

3. Learn. I am so blessed to be pursuing my college degree right now, but I by no means plan for that to be the end of it. I want to continue to take classes...pottery, fencing, automotive, lots of things. I want to be certified as a massage therapist, and certified for first aid, and maybe to be a lifeguard, too! And of course, I want to learn more about how I, personally, can be a better, more connected child of God.

4. Write. Working on this latest story has gotten me so fired to write, as much as I can. I think it's interesting that the more I love writing for the simple creative act, the more I think about publishing someday. Not even because I want to necessarily share my writing, but just that, I guess, our babies -- all of them -- are meant to go out into the world at some point and stand on their own. So I want to write books and love myself and God a little more because of it.

5. Be beautiful. Now, I want to point out that this actually overlaps with the other ones. I don't just mean "be a size 2 and have amazing skin and hair and the perfect manicure all the time and perfect teeth and lasik surgery." That's looking "beautiful" -- notice the quotes, by the way. I want to BE beautiful, and to me, that's kind of the opposite. I want to be satisfied with who I am as God created me, with the humility to change and the courage to stand firm. I want to be happy with how my life has turned out, where I'm heading, and what I'm doing in the meantime to prepare for that. I want a beautiful life, full of love and adventure (even on just a small scale) and learning and God, and I want that beauty to come out in who I am.

And that, friends, is my bucket list as of today. I expect my dreams and aspirations to expand, to become more detailed, to change. We'll just have to see.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Metaphors

I have this unexplained weakness for metaphors (especially kinda odd ones, apparently.) Maybe it's akin to my weakness for stupid puns; I'm not sure. Nonetheless, I am quite fond of both and although I know I'm going to disappoint you by not listing off all the dumb jokes I've made lately, I do have two metaphors to share, one probably kinda odd, the other not. I came up with them last night and they were so helpful to my soul-weather that I thought I'd share.

Odd one first, since I know you're dying to hear it -- but it does take a little background information. I've been in a terrible funk for oh, a week, maybe two? This was particularly discouraging (and a little scary, to tell you the truth) considering I'd been on such a high spiritual level for a week or two before that. It was like all at once I got really tired of putting as much work as I needed to into being happy, and was really thrown-off by that. To get around it, I've tried to keep busy -- not terribly hard when you work full-time, write, and hang out with your family. But it was the moments that ordinarily would be spent in quiet gratitude to the Lord that I spent being, well, pretty miserable, for no real reason that I could put my finger on. Fortunately, I have no "big trials" in my life right now, just little things that keep me on my toes. So why on earth was I such a wreck?

I see now that perhaps my 100% effort changed, for whatever reason, and I was left needing the Lord more than I expected, or was prepared to do. In all of my questing to be happy and grateful and especially humble, I think that things got a little misplaced. Two pages through my journal last night, I decided that I've been saying

I will gratefully acknowledge my complete dependence on Thee,

rather than

I will gratefully acknowledge my complete dependence on Thee.

Ironic, isn't it? In all of my struggle and work, I lost track of the fact that I'm struggling and working to let go. Of my heart, my happiness, my day-to-day doings, and let God take them into His infinitely more capable hands, because obviously I don't even have the power to create my own happiness. Instead of being mad at Him for not letting me to it myself, there are times when I really do need to just let Him do it for me.

It's like trying to open a pickle jar. (Isn't that an awesome metaphor??) I try and try and try but sometimes I just need Dad to do it -- although more often than not, he has me hold the jar while he turns the lid. So you needn't be surprised when I tell you that last night, I prayed "Heavenly Father, please help me to hold the jar, and let You open it, instead of trying to do it all on my own." I think He knows what I meant, don't you?

Okay, time for the less kooky metaphor. Anyone who reads my blog probably reads Cindy's, and therefore you've read this post. So if what I say here sounds a bit familiar, good, because I was thinking of her post too.

It rained again last night, a wonderful, long, heavy North-Carolina-in-spring rain. A couple of weeks ago I wrote in my journal about how we could get a hurricane, traumatic but essentially fixing the drought all at once. Or, we could get one tiny drizzle after another, agonizing but fixing the drought eventually -- but that it didn't matter, because God would provide either way. Well, considering the series of good, heavy rains we've gotten recently, I think it's safe to say that God provides rain in exactly the right way and time, and it's better than we ever expect.

That one I'll let you guys "liken unto ourselves" on your own.






....Okay, so it's not a pun, but I couldn't resist.

Q: What's the difference between a bad golfer and a bad skydiver?
A: A bad golfer says, "Whack! Dang." A bad skydiver says, "Dang! Whack."

Go ahead! Go on! Crack up! You know you want to laugh! It's dang funny!

It's going to be a good day today. I can tell.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Editing

It breaks my heart when I work so hard on writing something and then it just doesn't work.

I worked on an e-mail at work for maybe 20 minutes, making sure it was clear and complete and not totally boring because, hey, there was a story to tell. And it was a beautiful little e-mail! The unfortuntate thing is that in a workplace environment, if it's longer than 2 sentences and from anyone under the level of president, no one really cares. I could just see it -- the annoyed expressions, the impatient skimming. It may be art, but if no one wants to read it, it doesn't really fill its purpose. I scrapped the whole thing and started over. Short, to the point, no fluff. Welcome to the business world, I guess. Sigh.

What's disgusting is that I work that hard, and in much the same way, with anything I write, including this post. Write it out, edit it as I go, go back and read it, change this, rearrange that, read it again, fix some more things. I want it to be perfect, but as a friend of mine likes to say about scrapbooking, "perfect is pretty but finished is BEAUTIFUL!"

That's why I'm letting myself write things that I don't yet like on Cindy's story. It's not nearly as satisfying as having something beautiful that I think will make it to the final draft, but it does mean the story is out there, the structure is established. It can always be polished later. (And oh, believe me, it will be.)

I can't help but think there's a larger metaphor at work here...that sometimes we have to get out there, make whatever effort we can manage in this moment, and let God ("the author and finisher of our faith") do the editing. Perfect is impossible, but finished truly is beautiful, if we have the patience and humility to gratefully accept His refining. When my heart is breaking because I've worked for so long on something and it just isn't working, sometimes I need to start over. Short, to the point, no fluff: God comes first. Then I can fill my purpose, and find effective ways to both feel and communicate His love.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Short Guide to Happy (on a bad day)

Yesterday, in a moment of deep dissatisfaction and some sadness, I decided it would be an interesting thing to try and make a list of things that DO in fact make me happy, especially because I wasn't at the moment.

A short guide to happy
1. Choose to be happy
2. Stay busy being useful
3. Cry when you need to, smile as often as you can
4. Do things to change for the better

So today, I started with #1 and a heartfelt prayer, expecting for this simply to be a "hard season," when happiness would just have to be deferred.

And yet here, now, in this moment, I am delighted by life. I love to talk to my dad, my sister comes to sit on my bed just because, my brother and I understand each other quite well and work as a team, I am connected to my mom in a way I am learning to really appreciate, Cindy loves me even though working full-time has rendered my life quite uneventful, I have a job in which I can be useful (that's #2 on the list!), Mahon doesn't mind reading my story, I'm WRITING and it's completely eating my brain.

As for #3 and #4, I have had not NEARLY such a hard time finding things to smile about this evening, and because I am seeking them out, I know that I can change things (especially myself, through Christ) for the better. I am once again trying to live moment-to-moment, grateful to God for all that He is and all that He gives. And, as I added at the end of the same journal entry as my list, "If it's not working out, it's because the Lord has something better in mind."

There aren't even words to express how personally our God loves us. He just is that way, and today I can see that. And I am amazed.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

not a serious post like I planned

I could really go for some sour gummy worms about now, but for now, starburst jelly beans will just have to suffice.

Those of you who know what that means -- feel free to giggle.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Stalking...sorta

I've spent a significant amount of time this afternoon exercising that little button on my toolbar that says "Next Blog."

It's AMAZING. Lots of blogs are pretty boring, pretty typical. Families, a few businesses (a few Mormons), that kind of thing. Others are neat cultural studies (http://www.mamlakty.com/) or make me drool with envy to see where other people travel. I'm amazed at the variety of languages you can find, Chinese and Arabic and Italian and Greek and Russian. There's also some slightly bizarre artwork out there, but a TON of stunning photography.

Why am I so fascinated by this?

Why are we, as humans, so fascinated by other humans?

Hmmm.....

Monday, March 3, 2008

Second new post today...

I wish there was a way to force happiness with sheer willpower.

I firmly believe that one can make an active choice to be joyful -- I'm living proof of this, after all. But I also think that it goes through cycles, like everything else. Sometimes, all it takes is making a conscious effort to steer away from apathy. Other times it takes your sister, a night drive, rock-out music, perfect spring weather, shopping, candy, a little patience, and being able to quit thinking about it for a while. Or something else entirely.

During one of the other times when I was in the low part of the cycle, with a similar problem (really, different facets of the same problem,) I decided that yes, it was going to be painful. But that didn't have to be the only thing I got out of it. I realized that God was offering me a situation in which I could learn to be one, more independent from other people, and two, more dependent on Him.

I think I'm there again.

In a recent conversation about parenting, I was told that one of the most important things you can teach your child is how to self-comfort. Babies want to be held and fed and all of that, and that's important, but sometimes it's better if they can say, cuddle up with their blanket. This carries on into adulthood -- warm baths, a fluffy book, a long drive. We learn all the time how to be independent of other people when we need to fill our emotional needs.

Well, I feel a little like a baby who wants mommy to hold them, and no one is coming. However, I am a functioning, healthy, God-loving and faith-filled adult; therefore, I am going to try to seek other ways to be comforted and be strong without relying on anyone but my Savior, and myself. I don't have to wait for anyone else to come and fill my needs.

When I got home tonight, I knew I did not -- almost could not -- stay in my house, in my room. So I didn't. True, I invited my sister along, but this was different to me because I wasn't relying on her to fill my needs -- I wasn't saying "mommy, fix it, I need held" -- I just wanted to know if she wanted to rock out and go shopping too. Which she did.

I think I sometimes forget just how capable I am of solving my own problems (with the aid of the Lord.) It's easy to think, "I've always relied on you and now I can't so now I'm going to wither up and die." Not so, Miss Sara. Things change, but I have the power to take the situation in my own hands and make the best of it. That doesn't mean making it a different situation -- but it does mean making something different of myself so that I fit the situation better. I guess if I've prayed often lately that the Lord will help me be changeable, adaptable, humble, and grateful, I shouldn't complain too much. I think being able to change, through the love of God, is the power of the Atonement.

And anything that helps me to understand that a little better is automatically worthwhile.

more sleep and some time later...

So I was thinking. And I think I've been doing something wrong.

I don't think I'm adequately acknowledging the Lord's hand in my life.

Given quite a few of my last posts, this sounds a little crazy. I spend a great deal of time and energy saying "Wow, this is wonderful! Thank you, God! You're so nice to me!"

The thing is, I am neglecting to say, "Wow, this is really kind of miserable! Thank you, God! You love me more than you love my comfort and happiness!"

I can't just expect God to drop a solution into my lap when I strike on something that is truly difficult and makes me cry myself to sleep now and then. People deal with situations like that all the time, so it's not like I'm some kind of exception to this. What I need to do is acknowledge even the challenge as a way the Lord is made manifest in my life, and ride it out: humbly and gratefully, no matter how battered I'll become before the end.

And no matter how lonely and stressed I may feel sometimes, I need to seek joy with greater faith in my Savior, knowing that in the end, things will work out for the absolute best. 'Cause they will.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

this is what happens when a good night's sleep devolves into a "nap"

I've come to the conclusion that sometimes, in order to be as happy as possible, you have to sit down for a minute and think,

"Man. This bites."

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- this is probably the happiest I have ever been in my life. I have been up to my neck in this quest to find deeper joy, greater happiness, more constant connection with God, and I can say, with deep gratitude, that YES, it is possible.

But it's also BLASTED HARD.

And God knows that. He knows that I am mortal, that no matter how hard I try to depend on Him, I will still need to mourn my own mortality. I am worn out and frustrated and probably just a bit angry that this whole being happy thing is so much work. But Heavenly Father understands that there is grief that comes with this earthly experience, and that my sin or even just my earthly limitations in general cause much of that grief.

I submit that it's healthy to mourn a bit. God trusts me to use the grief and broken-hearted-ness to be nearer to Him still. So that's what I'm going to try to do, with all of the humility and gratitude that I can muster. Which I suspect will be a lot more after I actually get some sleep.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

let your clarity define you

I was asked today, "Has there been a defining moment in your personal history, some event that was pivotal and perhaps life-altering?" I've been thinking about this off and on all day, while I was at work, while I drove home, while I wrote to my missionary friends, while I hung out with my family.

And in all that time, the most definitive thing I could come up with today was this: I think that every moment is defining.

I am young, just twenty, and I've passed very few of the big mile-markers in life. I've been baptized, and graduated high school, and that's about it. But I find that it's the tiny, moment-to-moment things in my life that make up who I am and what defines me. It's the fact that I'm working my tail off trying to save money for school, that I adore the Christian radio station, that I love to be with my friends, that my family is so precious to me. It's the fact that rather than going to bed like I should, I'm sitting here, at my desk, writing, and being grateful to God for this inclination that is so much of who I am.

It's the moments I spend breathing, finding just existing a deeply joyous thing, that define me. It's the moments of clarity that are so beautifully often. It's the moments I am overwhelmed by the goodness of God.

So no, I can't put my finger on a single moment that has been particularly defining for me. I try to do that every moment, all along.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I wanted licorice today anyway :-)

In the land of Sara, February 14th is usually just another day. This year, however, I found reason to celebrate.

Today, I am my own valentine.

Some people would find this sad and kind of pathetic, but I find it deeply refreshing. I am, after all, questing to love all of me and every aspect of my life -- moment to moment. Today has been a day of consciously loving me; I haven't gone looking for reasons to love myself, or done anything special, but I've found that love isn't always an action (or reaction). It's a choice, and today I have chosen, for no reason, and with no outward manifestation, to love myself.

Is this the kind of love God has for us, His children? There are reasons that we are loveable, certainly, and He indisputably displays His love in all things. But isn't it just that He loves us, simply because we are?

It's been a special experience to display even a fragment of that kind of love for myself today -- love that does not seek novelty, only constancy, even as it sees all of the flaws. It has made me more grateful than ever before for my Heavenly Father, because He loves me with this kind of love always, not just today. I hope in the future I can continue to develop a more Christ-like love for myself, and furthermore, for others. It is in no way my place to decide that there is a "reason" -- or not -- to love one of God's precious children. And yes, it is appropriate (and important!) to display this love to others, because we mortals are prone to need reminders. (God set up the rainbow covenant, after all.) But I believe truly Christ-like love is constant...to paraphrase a statement I recently read, people who desperately need love -- don't we all? -- do not feel more loved when there is one special day set aside, and the entire rest of the time they are ignored, or ostracized. To elicit change, it must be constant and pure.

That is perfect, moment-to-moment, Christ-like love (as opposed to the chocolate and flowers and cards that so many of us have exchanged today) and that is the kind of unquestioning, by-choice love to which I aspire.

Happy Valentine's day, all.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Little Things, Big Lessons

In all her amazingness, Cindy has made me a new, cheery, lovely layout. Isn't she fabulous??

I have to pause for a second today and recognize God in the little things. He keeps me humble, and He keeps me cheerful.

Humble first, 'cause it's funny: There's a really good-looking guy in my office. No, I don't know a THING about him, his name, whether or not he's married, whether or not he's the devil incarnate, nothing. But he sure is attractive, and he's sitting on the floor outside of one of the cubes, chatting with one of the other engineers. And I have to walk by him to go to the break room / kitchen for a drink for Mom and I. And girls, you'll know what I mean when I say that, in a way that you (mostly) can't help, you're very conscious of walking by an attractive person.

Well on the way back to my desk, I realized I had a neon post-it note sticking to my shoe. Yup. Keeping me humble.

Now for the cheerful part. At work, we've been single-handedly chopping down the Amazon. It's tedious work, digging through files and not finding what you're looking for. For hours on end. But just when I'm sure I'm going to go crazy and make a copy of my squished-up face for the auditors instead of the #*$^% invoice they want, I find something. Like the Alamo receipt that we've been trying to hunt down for a week. It's an instant cheerfulizer, and has very little to do with me, except that I keep trying.

I think it's the Lord trying to teach me a bigger lesson. Sometimes things don't happen the way I plan, and it's uncomfortable -- but it does serve to humble me a little more, and keep me asking for the Lord's help and presence in my life. And sometimes, a flash of insight comes, a momentary sparkle, and I get to smile and think, "Maybe it actually is worth all of the digging I've been doing. Maybe it's not completely fruitless."

Maybe the Lord really does love me. Well, OBVIOUSLY He does, and I see that every day, but here's another attempt to see it moment to moment. Because at this moment, and the next moment, and the one after that, His purposes in my life are still being fulfilled, and even if I feel like a goof or just plain worn down, it is all to His grand purposes for me.

I think I like that idea.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Alphabet of Gratitude

A-Autumn. Omigosh it's beautiful. I am grateful deep in my soul for the amazingness of crisp air and changing leaves, and wanting to do nothing but be outside and stare at the brilliant manifestations of God's love.

B-Books. I don't read them nearly as often as I once did, but there are few things more satisfying than curling up with a many-paged friend and getting caught up in the story.

C-My best friend. I can't even say enough about her, not if I wrote pages and pages. She is so joyful and so wise, and always ready to share that with me.

D-My sister. She's brilliant and beautiful and she teaches me to be both more honest and more sensitive to others.

E-Eating. OK, so I have a confession. I am a girl in my twenties, with a family history of being overweight, and in fact was once so myself. Therefore, I tend to waver between paranoia and apathy, and so more often than not, I tend to find the whole concept of eating really, really annoying. I shouldn't, though. There's never been a time in my life that I haven't had enough; eating doesn't make me, you know, writhe in pain; and hey, having the perfect sandwich is a really, really good feeling. So here's to counter-culture: down with anorexia!

F-Family. My parents are wonderful, and try so hard to give me what I need in order to be successful. They've always believed that I can do anything I want to do, and that means so very much to me!

G-God. 100%. That He exists, that He knows I exist, that He loves me as His child and wants the very best for me. That He created so much beauty and goodness for me to experience, and even hard things for me to learn from.

H-Happiness, large and small. The happiness that comes from a perfect morning, the funny and heartwarming sound of my brother singing to himself with headphones on, dreams about snowflakes. And then there's the happiness of having a best friend, the kind of wonderful person who will be my best friend for my whole life; the happiness of knowing God loves me and will bless me in the perfect way at the perfect time, and will help me to grow into the person I want to be. It's a wonderful thing.

I-Internet. So I realize I'm probably more dependent on it than I should be, but considering I am not a big phone person, and none of my friends live down the street (or, for many of them, in the same 1000 mile radius) I am just so grateful to have the means to connect to them, even if it's not in person.

J- My little brother. I think he makes me younger and older at the same time...young to laugh with him, and old to love him each and every moment.

K- Kindergarten. Yep, that magical place where you fingerpaint and learn everything you'll ever need to know about life, the universe, and everything. You can't tell me that if everyone took a nap after cookies every afternoon, the world would not be a better place.

L-Laughter. Life is so dull and empty without it! I really enjoy making people laugh, too.

M-Money. I know, ugh. But really -- I don't know how, but I always seem to have just enough, even when I don't think I will.

N- Naps! Today this is particularly appropriate; since I'm trying my very best to not be sick this weekend, I haven't been useful for anything else but napping. Even on days when I'm not ill, power naps are things to swear by.

O- Obedience. This is something I am struggling with lately -- being more perfectly obedient -- but it is the appointed way for us to express our love to God, and to be happy! What's not to be grateful for in that?

P-Poetry. As part of a celebration of National Poetry Month, I started writing a list of 100 poems on the 21st of January -- so that I would be done with the 100 at the end of April. I haven't come up with anything stellar so far, but it's kind of a fun mental exercise, and surely I'll come up with at least one that I really like. Assuming of course that I stick with it; either way, it's great fun.

Q- Quiet. I've actually been thoroughly enjoying it all day. A well-placed silent moment is beautiful. It is action without activity, an important notion in my book. It's so important to find time to be still!

R- Radio. I could have done M for music, and maybe should have, but lately I am particularly grateful for the radio. It helps to fill in the empty spaces and to satisfy my need for gentle stimulation.

S- Sundays. It's always been a challenge for me to make this a day of rest in the way it should be, but each time I manage to, this day has been such a blessing.

T- Talking. Yeah, I may be introverted, but it's days like today and yesterday when I sound like a frog that reminds me that conversation is fun!

U- I was going to say umbrellas for this, except that I'm much more grateful for the fact that I never feel the need to use them! Precipitation is meant to be enjoyed, not hidden from! (Now you can tell I am from a state with very mild weather. Haha.)

V- Variety! (I thought of doing vanilla, and then thought of variety and started making all kinds of dumb jokes in my head about the spice of life.)

W- Water. I've drank enough of it lately to appreciate it, that's for sure. It's also beautiful, and life-giving, and just wonderful all around. (Please rain!!!!)

X- My chromosomes. That's right, I'm grateful to be a woman. Not to diss guys or anything, but there are things I am capable of, that I love, that I would never be able to do if I were an XY.

Y-You! Yes, you. You read all the way to the end of the list (unless you started from the bottom; if that's the case then I'm grateful for you because you make me laugh -- I start from the bottom sometimes too.)

Z- The zoo. As you probably read in a previous post, I have only been once, but I just love the concept. It's as close as many of us will ever be to come of God's coolest creations until the "lion lies down with the lamb." (Speaking of -- OMG CRAZY! http://www.naturescornermagazine.com/lion_lamb.html )

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Lent

"What are you giving up for Lent?"

When I started this post, I had a witty, one-word answer to that. After having talked about it some, I've rethought it a bit, and expanded it, and blurred the edges. Now my answer doesn't look like anything like it did before, and certainly can't be limited to one word, but it does look more like a clear path toward God.

This year is my first year actively celebrating Lent, but I really find the concept fascinating. Easter is frankly a dumb holiday when taken purely in the world's view, but in Christianity it should be the most highly-regarded holiday of the year. More than Christmas, even, since Jesus Christ was born on the earth with the express purpose of defeating physical and spiritual death. So why not prepare for it, and make the celebration of it a deeply spiritual, joyous thing?

In my Old Testament class last fall, we learned that in the Bible, "forty" isn't a very exact count. Forty years in the wilderness. Forty days of fasting. Forty days of rain. None of these were absolutely 40, because forty doesn't necessarily mean 4 X 10. It simply means "as long as it takes," or "enough". So I like that before Easter, there are 40 days set aside for us mortals to prepare for the commemoration of the immortality of Christ, and all men. We aren't given 40 anything to prepare to behold God's glory; we are given "forty"... we are given enough. That's a heartening thing for me, because the spiritual project I am beginning in celebration of Lent will NOT be over in 40 days. But I know that God, in His mighty power and wisdom, will give me as long as it takes.

With God's help, I want to spend the next 40 days learning. I want to learn that my life is good. I want to realize that it is exactly the way the Lord intends it to be right now. I need to be satisfied with the ways that the Lord really is blessing me now, instead of looking for more elsewhere -- looking beyond the mark, I guess. I want to learn where the Lord needs my talents right here, right now, and to put my whole heart into serving Him, in the way that He has chosen for me.

It's like Alma: "O that I were an angel ... but behold, I ... do sin in my wish." O that I were any kind of good thing other than what I am. But behold, I do sin in my wish. If I really honestly wanted to obey the Lord, I would not be pining so badly for things that are not His will.

And frankly, I have plenty to do. I was thinking about it, and a friend of mine is going through some big changes in her life, and she's finding the logistics of it very hard. It's going to change things for the next couple of years drastically, and going to shape the rest of her LIFE. Now, some things I can't help with, but others I think I can. She is one of those wonderful people who is such a strength herself that when her strength is lacking, the people around her naturally want to provide that strength -- not as an obligation, but because she is so especially easy to love. Isn't it possible the Lord needs my hand in that?

I have the utter blessing of working with the little, little kids at church, and I'm learning so much and coming to love them so much. Now I may have a new calling soon, but isn't it possible that the Lord wants me to be where I am in my life, this very place, in order to be as happy as possible? Not just happy "in the long run", either; I mean deeply joyous and gratefully and cheerfully obedient to the Lord. Obviously this applies to more than helping out in the nursery. I want to have this in all aspects of my life. So -- this is going to be my new project, my celebration of Lent, which is a celebration and preparation to receive the perfect love of God.

See why one word just wouldn't do it?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Tag!

A. The rules are posted at the beginning.
B. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
C. At the end of the post, the player then tags 5 people by posting their names; then goes to their blog and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged.


Ten Years Ago...

In February of 1998...Oh, wow, I think I know exactly what I was doing about this time 10 years ago! Moving to North Carolina! I was heartbroken. I didn't have a lot of friends as it was, and I couldn't imagine never ever being able to see them. I was still sad about that, but then I got here, and fell in love with the trees. So much so, in fact, that I remember feeling a little like I was betraying myself with the deep bewildering joy I felt, looking at all of that green. I didn't even know there were places like that, having lived in the boring desert my whole life, and knowing the whole time that it was an ugly, boring place to live. The funny thing was, it took moving back to the desert to fall in love with the sky.

Snacks I Love...

I'm not a snacky person...I'm so conscious of what I eat that I really try to make sure it's going to be nutritious and worth the calories. When I'm going to indulge though, I'm a fan of cookies, and soft chewy fruit things.

Five Things on Today's To-Do List...

1. Breathe. Just for the sheer joy of not having anything else to do right this second.
2. Smile. Just because I want to, and don't think my face has done enough of that today.
3. I should seriously clean my room. That's the very first thing to get neglected when I'm any kind of busy...and, as this list shows, it's about the 3rd or 4th thing I think of to do when I'm finally not busy!
4. I should probably eat real food for dinner at some point. Oh, snap! I think I have thawed chicken in the freezer anyway. Maybe I'll use it as an excuse to turn on the oven.
5. Decide for sure whether or not I'm going to work tomorrow. Mom is, since she has extra stuff to do, and I do need the money. I'm just not sure if I need a break more.

Things I Would Do If Suddenly Made A Billionaire...

Pay for school!!!!! Then pay for me to go to massage school. Buy a car. And a house. Get Cindy the perfect set of knives. ;-) ...Oooh! And travel. A lot. Everywhere. Mostly Europe...parts of Asia. Hawaii just for good measure.

Three Bad Habits...

1. Not managing my time well
2. Seeking joy in the wrong places
3. Dumping things on the floor instead of putting them away!

Five Places I've Lived...

1. Well, I did this list starting with 5, and it occurs to me that I've only lived in those 4 cities. So, um, heaven? ("I lived in heaven a long time ago it is truuuue....")
2. Santee, California
3. Butner, North Carolina
4. Oxford, North Carolina
5. Rexburg, Idaho

Jobs I've Had...

1. Babysitter
2. Dog sitter / house sitter
3. Office assistant
4. Sandwich artist (yes, you can laugh, just don't talk to me about it)
5. An office assistant again.

Things People Don't Know About Me...

1. OK so some people know this already, but I think I have a bizarre fascination with making calendars, especially when I have something to count down. First I'll draw one. Then I'll look at the one on my computer. Then I'll print one. Then I'll lose it or never have it when I want it so I'll consider making another.
2. I have only been to the zoo once, and because of it I have promised myself to take my kids to all kinds of neat things -- mostly because I want to go to them too!
3. Some people know this already too, but I am way more boy crazy than I think I am. Frankly, it's pathetic.
4. I regularly wake up at 3, 4, or 5 and seriously consider getting out of bed every time. And then I fall asleep again.
5. I have yet to figure out if being around naked people all day will be a serious deterrent to my goal of becoming a massage therapist.
Edit: Oh and 6, I used to HATE playing tag! I was always the fat, slow kid in elementary school who ran out of breath too quickly and couldn't catch anyone.

I Tag

No one, because the only people who will actually read this already have it on their blogs!