Friday, September 10, 2010

A few... interesting... items from my life recently.

Hm. I don't make it online as often as I would like for leisure purposes these days. I have been swamped with homework and reading and I have not been able to do much else since school started. Sheesh.

But here are a few items of news from the past few weeks:

1. We were given an excessive number of tomatoes by our neighbors and ward members, so last week we made a fantastic salsa. (It really was quite delicious!)

2. We have been meeting with a school gaming group on Thursdays. Last night, I won a Ticket to Ride game with a score of 262! And that was a five player game. Those familiar with the game will understand the greatness of the victory.

3. My little nephew Caleb was born just two or three days after we came back from California. He was born so fast that his face was black with bruises when he came out. He is doing very well from what we hear.

4. We got some episodes of the original series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles from Netflix and have been watching them. They are so funny! When I was little, I pretty much worshiped the Ninja Turtles, so it is really fun to see what the show is like as an adult. It's a lot better than I expected it to be.

5. After almost a full month, I actually did laundry on Wednesday... It cost almost twenty dollars and used up almost a full jar of my mom's homemade laundry detergent! It was nice this morning to have clothes to choose from for a change rather than having to wear the one odd thing that I happened to have left...

As fascinating as all this is... I have got to go. Just think, if I had made each one of these items its own post... you could have been even MORE bored than you already are. :)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

The library is a nice place to live.

I wish that there were private apartments within the library here on campus. I bet the rent would be quite reasonable, even if the accommodations were a bit... academic. It would be convenient to actually move into the library, since that is where I am going to have to be every day all semester long. I am already eating, drinking, and sleeping my research. What could I have been thinking, signing up for four English classes and a history writing class?

You would think that if I would be allowed to choose my own topics for my research, I would be intelligent enough to pick topics that would be reasonably easy to research.

Ha, ha.

I am simply too passionate, too interested in the quirky, and too whimsically-minded to research regular, solid, uninteresting topics. If I am going to spend hundreds of hours studying and writing about something, I want it to be freakin' cool. Otherwise I will bored and hate my [English, writing concentration] life.

So... I am writing about food. I want to see how the American diet changed in the last century, why it changed, and what those changes mean about our society. For another class, I am coming up with a feasible solution to the problem of starvation in countries that have taken loans from the World Bank. (I think countries need to pull out of world economics and first feed themselves; I theorize that only through self-sufficiency will the starvation problem be solved.) I'm sure my solutions will be earth-shattering and all that, but it's hard to find sources for basic research. And this is not even mentioning literature research for my other classes...!

Maybe I should keep blankets, pillows and copious amounts of snack foods in the car just in case a corner of the library opens up for habitation. Then I can just move in permanently and save myself the trouble and driving back and forth from home. It would be so much easier that way.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Are the differences so different?

This last weekend on Saturday, I ended up in a car with a woman from church who I don't really like. We had a pioneer-centered primary activity at someone's farm, and I had to catch a ride to get out to the farm. The drive was an hour or so, and I regretted riding with the woman. She may be well-respected at the church, but she has never been kind to me.

Sometimes I tell myself that I need to get over my dislike for people. Sometimes people may seem like they're not very nice, but when you get to know them you see something else. With that in mind, I tried making conversation with this woman. I started by asking her a few questions about her life but found that she didn't seem to want to talk about herself. So I decided to tell her a little about my life in the hopes that we could find some common ground.

She wanted to know why I wasn't "working," so I started to talk about it. I said that when I was babysitting during the summer, Paul really hated it. He hated going days without seeing me, I said, and so maybe it was--

At this point, the woman cut me off to say sharply that my husband was just going to have to "suck it up" and get used to the idea that life isn't fair and he couldn't have every little thing he wanted. It was so harsh, so judgemental, that I just stopped talking. I couldn't believe it. The woman hadn't given me time to explain any of the circumstances, such as the fact that the family I was babysitting for moved away, or the fact that I get sick frequently and have an incredibly hard time holding down a regular job. (Forget the fact that I was babysitting from morning to night so that I went four days at a time without spending a minute with my husband. Don't mention Paul's new job which had full time hours for a while.) All of the factors loom so huge in my mind, factors that explain why I am attempting to write for a living, and how this is the best course that I can take for my own life right now. She didn't give me a chance to explain about the writing at all.

I was thinking as I endured the last several minutes in the car that everyone's family is different. Everyone's circumstances are unique. And everyone's marriage is its own entity. Perhaps some people don't mind at all if they don't get to see their spouse for weeks at a time. Maybe time together isn't as important to others as it is to us. Maybe this woman's life has gone so differently than mine that she cannot even understand where I am right now.

But I tend to think that it is possible for people to relate to each other, even if one has six kids and the other is without children and going to school. Do factors such as age and family situation really matter when it comes down to it? I think every opportunity that we have to spend time with other people is a chance to show kindness, a chance to exercise charity. I don't ever want to be the person who treats someone the way that this woman treated me. I want to be the one who listens and cares and doesn't judge.

I may never know the factors that led that person to be where she is.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I want to be like Captain Moroni.

Ah, it's Friday and my classes are over for the first week. I would be sighing a long sigh of relief... but it is just the first week and the entire rest of the semester is to follow. Make that a very long sigh that encompasses my resignation that I have a lot of work ahead of me.

For my various classes, I have already been doing a lot of reading this week. Perhaps it is coincidental, but most of the reading I have had to do has dealt with similar themes so that it feels like it is all intentionally connected. I actually forget which class I am reading for as I go along and have go remind myself.

In my history writing class, I have been reading about how the institution of American slavery came about and how the original Virginia colony had an 80% death rate because they refused to plant crops for food, thinking only of the potential profits that they could earn from planting tobacco instead. They starved to death for this folly, but those who survived just kept on doing it. I also have been reading about the KKK, which is not particularly light-hearted reading. Couple these readings with my British literature reading about the dawn of industrialism and the wide-spread exploitation of unemployed men and starving workers and five-year-old children working in coal mines. My intro to fiction class had a long discussion about the Victorian era and the ridiculously oppression under women had to live. (They were basically property that was allowed to have no voice, no opinions, no activities outside of the home, and certainly no desires or pleasures. They were, it can be argued, basically the slaves of the men in their lives.)

I am reading about all of these things thinking, "Oh, my gosh. Has anyone in history actually not abused and exploited other people? Are there actually good things to learn from the past or is it all a big blur of endless ugliness and evil?"

When I learn about the past and all the terrible things that people have done to each other, I do tend to feel that way. Even the Book of Mormon talks about the "natural" state of people in these kinds of terms. Without the light of Jesus Christ, people are nasty and horrible beings. They think about their own needs, their own wants, their own well-being. We have the entire history of world as an example of what people will do to protect their own interests. It's so sad!

But I take comfort in the stories of the Book of Mormon. As I have been reading this time around, I have been intensively touched by the stories of good people in the midst of evil. There's a reason we know the names of Alma, Amulek, Ammon, Captain Moroni, and the brothers Nephi and Lehi. They are remembered because they were so righteous and obedient to God that they were able to make a serious difference in the lives of others. Their devotion to the Lord was a powerful, palpable force, and they were able to change lives and hearts with the Spirit they carried with them. They lived through terrible times in which people oppressed and abused each other, and yet-- their lives are wonderful examples of how we can be.

I am so grateful that I have the restored gospel to give me this hope. The bright perspective that it gives me helps me to find peace. I just hope that the reading isn't this depressing all semester long.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Living in Transition

I have now been to all of my classes, and I am excited and slightly overwhelmed at the semester that lies ahead. I'm taking four English classes and a history writing class. The thing that intimidates me most at this point is the sheer amount of reading that I will have to do. Teachers seem to think that their students have nothing else to do but read for endless amounts of time, and this does worry me just a little bit.

But, hey. I have always first and foremost been good at reading. It was my highest score on the ACT and the one thing I always felt competent doing. It really isn't so bad to read a lot-- it just takes a lot of time. Already, Paul is not liking all the time I have to spend reading, but he will get used to it. I'm sure I will get jealous of the time he will spend at work and doing his assistantship.

Oh, yeah! Paul got an assistantship, and it is really wonderful. He gets to help teach introductory psychology classes. That's good because it is what he wants to eventually do for his career. It will be much easier for him to get a teaching job after he graduates if he already has solid experience. I am so proud of him!

As hard as it is to spend more time apart, it is good for us to work toward the future. Jobs and hard classes suck up time, but they are important. Just think, I tell myself, someday we will be out of school and just living! Someday we will have good-paying jobs and probably even less time to be together.... It's peculiar to be in school because it feels like we live in transition. We are not quite anywhere at the moment, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, look forward to more specifics about my classes and such as the days go on.... If that sort of thing interests you, of course.

Monday, August 23, 2010

A summer full of children.

I have about ten minutes right now before I have to go to my next class, so I thought I would hurry and post something. It has been so long since I did so that I cannot even remember when that was...!


I have all kinds of excuses such as a long busy mostly internet-access-free summer, etc. But the truth is that I simply did not post. I didn't get onto my blog even when I had the chance, so... sorry to those of you who are actually interested in what I have to say. I never actually run out of things to say, but I do find myself in a bit of dilemma from time to time. On those rare occassions when I did have internet access and time to do things, I always had things to do that were just a little bit important such as filling out my FAFSA and looking for ways to make money. So the blog suffered for all of my busy-ness.

But, as you might have been able to tell, I am back in school again and now I should have no problems getting online to post pretty much every weekday. Yay! I am taking a lot of classes, which likely means that I will have to be on the computer a lot anyway. Between papers and research and online busy work, I will have to have breaks, and that is when you will get to read all the fascinating and endlessly interesting things that go through my head. My experiences fly past me and I try to grab at them and hold onto them before they fade away into dim and static memory. I have a need to communicate that experience to someone else-- you know, readers like you people. :)

I spent my summer mostly with children. I got a job babysitting two boys, ages two and three years old. They were difficult at first, but major bonding ensued and I love them like my own. I spent my Sundays at church with the primary children because that is my new calling-- to be second counciler in the primary presidency. My sharing times were really fun! The kids are so cute and so eager to learn anything and everything.

A month ago, Paul and I went out to Vernal to spend a week with my parents. That was fun, too! We went camping and I loved to have time with everyone. My little nephew Ryan is such a talker. He is two and I just loved getting time with him. After we left Utah, we drove down to California to attend some events in Paul's family. Again, I had fun with the children. My nephews are Cyrus (2), Nathaniel (9 months), and Bejamin (3 months).

On the way down there, our car broke down. We were stranded for three weeks before we managed to buy another and come home to Kansas. In that time, we got to go the beach and be treated at great restaurants by Paul's brothers and it was fun!

Anyway, I have to get to class now. That's basically the update.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Church of the Cross

On Sunday, Paul and I went for a drive. We had heard from my aunt Ann that there was a historical church that some of my Burghardt ancestors had helped to build when they settled the plains here in Kansas. Almost purely by chance, we actually found it. It's called the Church of the Cross, and it is one of the most beautiful and amazing things I've ever seen! Sadly, it was really dark within the open cathedral. This is the only good picture I got of that magnificent ceiling. Sadly, the camera couldn't capture how big the room was.

Here's a picture from outside. You can see the impressive stonework and that mural behind me.

Here is some wonderful woodwork. You can tell that the people really worshiped God in the making of this place! This is one of the many tall stain glass windows. They all told a story, most of them from Bible. There were also some stories of Saints in the windows.
Sadly, I forgot to flip these next two pictures... Sorry! These are some little windows that tell the story of the pioneers who built the church. They crossed the sea in ships and then the land in covered wagons.

Then they build the church and planted grains and sunflowers!
Paul was so excited and he thought it was so amazing that my ancestors had lived and worked there. He said, "They really loved God! You can tell!" And I was so happy to think that I have come from good people who worked hard to show God that they were faithful.
I wonder sometimes if our ancestors are aware of us. Do they see the things we do? Do they walk with us, even when we feel that we're alone? If they do, I want to live a good life so that I bring joy to them!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Some macabre tornado thoughts.

Last night when we were attempting to go to sleep, the winds came howling and shook our apartment rather frighteningly. The bed was shaking hard, and I was imagining the house blowing apart. Paul said we would just hold onto each other and our combined weight would keep us from blowing away or being carried up into a tornado. I laughed. If the wind was blowing intensely enough to break apart our house, I kind of doubt that we could possibly be heavy enough to not be blown away too.

That led me to imagine us getting carried up into a tornado. I could just see myself still wrapped in my bed sheet sailing high up off the ground in the middle of a tornado. I have heard of people surviving such things, but I doubt that most actually do. Likely we would be shredded to pieces by the high-velocity debris in the vortex. Supposedly blades of grass can act like razor blades if they're moving fast enough...

Try not to use your imagination.

I'm happy to report that the apartment did not break apart. We are alive and well and have not experienced a tornado just yet.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Musings on the subject of love.

As evidenced by my previous post, I have been thinking much about love. It's an interesting thing to consider. And this is the vein of my thoughts on the subject:

We first have to be loved to understand what love is. We learn love from our parents and our families and the love we feel from them makes us feel important and special and happy. But if we stop right there, we really miss the point of love. The next step must be to learn to love others. We love our mother, our father, our brothers and sisters and grandparents. Eventually as we grow, we love our friends and cousins and teachers. But if we stop at that point, we still don't fully comprehend what love is. (At that point, it is still pretty selfish, because it's easy to love people who already love you.)

Christ taught the unthinkable idea of loving even the people that hate you. He said to love those who hurt you and persecute you. He said that you should forgive every time someone hurts you and keep loving them no matter what they do. You should treat everyone how you would want them to treat you. So we see that love isn't something to be hoarded with a select few people. It really is for everyone of every land and even for people who really don't seem to deserve it.

I think that as we progress through our lives, we must grow in our love. It starts when we are only babies but it can continue through our whole lives. There are always opportunities to love others, to show compassion and kindness, to exercise patience, to listen and to forgive. It's not some pipe dream or fantasy for a better world-- it's a reality that actual human beings can learn as they grow and progress through life.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Little children teach us about love.

Did I ever mention that Paul and I have been called to be nursery leaders at church? The kids are almost all barely eighteen months old, and they are not yet sure about this nursery business. Last week was really good and the kids were cooperative and had fun, but yesterday was a different story. There were five kids and four of them had meltdowns and eventually had to be taken to their parents. The end of church found us with just one little girl. She was walking around giggling and smiling and having a grand old time without us having to give her much attention at all. I was really grateful for that little girl!

Teaching nursery these last few weeks has been interesting. I am surprised at how much these babies actually do listen, even though I don't think they comprehend much of what I'm trying to teach them just yet. I have a natural sense for teaching, and I can tell when people understand what I'm trying to say to them. (This can be quite gratifying in certain settings when I see people's understanding open, but quite sad in other settings when I just can't seem to reach a person no matter what I say.) I have been fascinated by which things the nursery children are able to understand.

They understand the names of things such as families, scriptures, and food. They have a symbolic understanding. When I show them a picture of a family, they know that the mommy, daddy, brothers and sisters of the picture represent their own families. Mostly, I have seen how well they understand love. When I say that Jesus loves them, they know what that means. It's not at all hard for them to believe that they are loved and that they can love.

It shows how love is central to our makeup as human beings. It's the first thing we understand and the first thing we can give to others. Ultimately, it's the most important thing we can give to everyone and the ability to love others is possibly the greatest power that we have.

We can learn a lot from little children, even if it means putting up with a lot of meltdowns in between.

Friday, April 30, 2010

I can't summarize happiness.

About a week ago, we went for a drive when we were taking a break from our writing. We found a "highway" with this pretty wooded area alongside. We decided to try to take pictures of the two of us. These first ones were just us holding the camera out to the side and trying to look natural. Some of them turned out kind of fun.

See Paul's FHSU shirt? He really likes that shirt and insists on wearing it at least once a week. (He usually has two or three favorite shirts that get worn ten times more than all the rest. He's silly like that.)

The picture below is the one picture that actually worked out when we tried to use the timer function on the camera. We had several hilarious blurry ones, ridiculously off-to-the-side ones, and the sun going down kind of destroyed the lighting. (I'm starting to think full-body shots of me are pretty funny. I look like someone took a regular person and squished them down into a stump!)
We were exploring Hays and found this little place that had a bunch of plaques for Hays and her "Sister Cities" around the world. Here is the Hays one. Unfortunately, I don't know exactly what a "sister city" is, or I would explain.
We're doing very well right now, and experiencing real happiness. I don't know how to summarize a happy life. Sure, we're worried about millions of bills just like everyone else, but we're just having fun and loving being here and being together. We're both spending hours every day writing. Paul's working on papers for school and I'm working hard on my book and some articles here and there. The writing life suits us very well, and I prefer it a thousand times more than having a conventional job. I'm so glad to have found a lifestyle that works so well for the person that I am!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Music brings memories.

So I finally found the camera (in my backpack, ironically) but after copying pictures to my computer, I managed to lose the memory card. I'm sure it will pop up again as things usually do, but sadly... the blog will still have to go without pictures until I find it again.

Well, I might be able to get some pictures off of my computer to put onto the blog at school tomorrow, but I never remember to do things like in the morning. I always get up as late as possible and have to run and scramble to get out the door. I have been known to forget all kinds of important things like my wallet, my cell phone, my notebook, my pen, and just about anything else that I might need. I don't know how I can be expected to remember to get pictures from my computer to take to school!

It has been fun these last few days to listen to a bunch of my old music. Before our old computer died, most of the music that we listened to was either downloaded from the internet (OC Remix) or copied from cds from the library and from my mom. We lost hundreds of songs when the computer died, including just about everything that we had been listening to.

So recently, I took all of our cds and copied most of them onto our new computer. It was SO FUN to listen to music that I have not listened to for years. It's so funny, because every song reminds of things from certain time periods of my life. The Remember the Titans soundtrack reminds me of my friend Ruth and the good ol' days of junior high school. Blessid Union of Souls makes me remember riding with my brother James in his blue truck before his mission. I have music that is distinctly high school to me and much more that reminds me of Southern Virginia University and Snow College where I went to school when I was single.

It's funny because some songs make me feel the excitement of being in love for the first time and others the sadness of being rejected. Most songs make me think of my friends and I remember us laughing and singing together. It's almost like each song comes with a private folder of memories and emotions and I can't seem to separate each song from all the things it makes me feel.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

How do you create real female characters?

So I'm working on my latest book, and I have decided to focus more on some of my female characters. I think it's unfair and stupid that most stories are about men, and that most of the women in books and movies are one dimensional and are only there to be love interests to the men. I've seen so many movies which have only one female character. And that one female is usually extremely beautiful, over-sexualized, and completely lacking in anything like a real personality.

Come on! Real women are beautiful (in individual ways), but there's much more to than us than our faces and our bodies. We have personalities too!

It's funny, though, because I find it difficult to break outside of the stereotypes in spite of my strong convictions. I KNOW that we women are interesting and have depth. Sometimes we're mean and sometimes we're nice. Every woman is an individual with unique preferences, habits, and ideas. It should not be so hard for me.

The two characters that I'm developing right now come across as so shallow and frivolous, and that's not my intention at all! I want them to be normal nineteen-year-old girls who try to look good, (with a sense of style in their clothes and jewelry, etc.) who are crushing on boys, but who also work hard at their jobs and who react to things in characteristic ways. Despite my best efforts to create depth, these girls just seem so FLUFFY!

How do I write female characters that are real, deep, and still stylish and beautiful?

Later on in my book, I'm putting in a girl who's a bit more like me- quiet, geeky, and none too concerned with physical appearance. Maybe a girl like that will be easier to create.

Friday, April 16, 2010

It's officially not fun being a grown-up!

So yesterday was an exciting day....! (The word exciting usually has a positive connotation, so maybe I should say that it was eventful instead.) I had to do one of those lovely adult-type things: taxes.

But before that, I finally got to see an eye doctor and get a trial pair of contacts! That's good, because it means that sight has returned to my eyes after a week of perpetual blurriness. The entire last week, I was constantly getting a headache from trying to read things and figure out what I was looking at. And Paul wasn't happy to have to drive me everywhere since driving was completely out of the question for me.

As soon as my vision was restored, I could see how nasty the bathroom was becoming, and so I pulled out the Comet and got to work. I'm happy to report that the bathroom is almost ridiculously clean right now! And before I attempted the taxes, I was in quite a happy mood. I got out all of my music books and sang for two hours in the middle of the day. It didn't really feel like wasting time because singing makes me so happy.

But happiness passes so quickly! Having done the taxes the last two years without a hitch, I was thinking it would only take a few minutes, some basic arithmetic, and I would be done. I didn't realize that being self-employed takes the process to a whole new nightmarish level. There are forms, forms, forms and more forms. There are things I was supposed to keep track of that I didn't know I was supposed to keep track. I was wading through endless paperwork and calculations and kicking myself for not keeping better records.

I suspect that I may have made a mistake somewhere, but I couldn't figure out where. I finally just decided that if I did my best, at least the taxes would be in on time.

So, yeah. It's officially not fun being a grown-up.....

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I've gone blind....!

So I would love to post some pictures, but our camera is lost. Yes, the memory card is inside it, preventing me from being able to retrieve pictures from it.


I'm also having difficulty typing because my glasses are broken, and I have to lean awfully close to the computer screen just to read the words. Yesterday I spent a long time trying to type an article without being able to see the words as I was going along. It's not the most efficient way to get things done.

Last week on Thursday, I realized that my glasses were breaking. I could see that they were breaking where the bridge connected to the right side of the frame. When they actually broke on Saturday night, they broke not on the bridge but over on the part that holds the lens. On Sunday, some people from our ward tried to fix them, but they were broken in such a way as to make them impossible to repair.

Unfortunately, I have no other glasses or contacts and I was unable to get in to see an eye doctor until Thursday of this week. It has been a long few days. You never realize how much you depend on your glasses and contacts until you don't have any. There are so many basic things you just can't do without being able to see.

I keep getting a headache because I still have to do things like go to school and write articles. I hope that tomorrow when I go to the eye doctor I can get a trial pair of contacts so that I don't have to wait another week or two for a pair of glasses.

Isn't life fun?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My sister Sheridan and her sacrifice for me.

Today is March 31, and that's the day my little sister Sheridan was born. She died at the age of six months, but had she lived she would be sixteen years old today! It's so strange to imagine what she might be like. It seems awfully sad that she should have been robbed of life at so young an age.

I was eight when she died, and I have long thought that the experiences I had then forever changed me so that my life would never be the same again. Certainly, I knew sadness, but I also learned to feel the Spirit of the Lord and a deep sense of peace. A firm foundation was laid upon which I could build my faith of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

When I was growing up, my dad didn't go to church. He occasionally went for a few weeks at a time, but he was basically inactive. He wouldn't support my mom in trying to teach us the gospel. He wouldn't participate in family home evenings or pray with the family most of the time. My parents had not married in the temple, and I admit that I had a certain feeling of misery whenever I heard people talking about the temple at church. I thought, "Sure, the temple is great for people who are actually sealed together. But that's not my family."

But then Sheridan came along and everything changed. She was born early and sick. She had heart defects and other problems that kept her in the hospital for much of her life. She had a powerful, determined spirit. Her life was almost continual suffering and my parents realized that she was probably not going to live for very long. This had a powerful effect on all of us, but on my dad most of all.

Dad and Sheridan had a unique connection. She couldn't see very well and yet she always knew when he came in the room. She turned her head and became excited, and everyone knew that she loved him deeply. He was so sad to see her suffer, and he could not bear the thought of her dying and being separated from him for all eternity. He started to change his life. He became active in the Church and making whatever other changes he needed to make.

He believed in the LDS doctrine of eternal families, and suddenly he realized that it was worth the to effort to achieve. All of us turned our thoughts to the temple, and we decided to go as a family so that we could be sealed with our sweet little baby.

And we were in, August of 1994. In October of that same year, Sheridan died.

We believe that all of us lived with God before this life and that we come to earth because we want to. Every primary child knows this, and so I wondered why my sister would want to come to earth to live such a short life of great suffering and then die. It was her choice to do so. I realized that she came because she loved us. Plain and simple, she loved my family, my dad most of all, and she wanted us to have the blessings of the temple. She was willing to do whatever it would take to help us to change our lives. The act of coming to our family in the conditions in which she came gave us the opportunity to turn to God.

I was reading yesterday in Alma chapter 7 of the Book of Mormon. It talks about the life and suffering of Jesus Christ. It says that Christ wanted to have a mortal life so that he would know how to take care of us-- he would know from his own experience. I believe that he knew, just like my sister, that he was going to have a hard life. He knew that he would suffer tremendously, and he loved us so much that the sacrifice of his own life seemed worthwhile to him.

Probably one of the greatest gifts that my sister gave to me was this understanding- that a person could give their life for others. Sheridan said to herself, "This is going to be hard, but just think of how they will all grow because of me. They will be sealed in the temple for eternity and live righteously for the rest of their lives if I do this. My suffering doesn't matter very much to me."

And so she's like the Savior who looks at each us with boundless love and says, "My suffering for you was worthwhile because of the person I know you can become."

Monday, March 29, 2010

How badly do I want it?

I have been trying to download a picture onto this post, but I guess it is just not going to work right now. Oh, well! My picture-hungry readers will have to settle for a little text for once. :)

Paul and I went to a walking park area yesterday to get a little exercise. It's a little loop near the hospital, and I think it's for the patients. It was a nice little place with a lot of trees and I think it will be quite cool and shady in the summer.

As we were walking, Paul and I kept getting passed by this skinny little woman who was running around and around the path at quite an impressive pace. She was so fit, and I said, "I would like to a small healthy person."

Paul gave me a skeptical look and said, "You don't want it very badly."

I felt slightly hurt by this response, but I started thinking about it as we were walking. His implication was that I don't put forth the effort that would be required. I don't, say, go running every day, and I certainly don't turn away from delicious unhealthy foods. Although I generally control my blood sugar, I don't make a huge effort to lose weight or improve my health.

Hm. I realize that I may never be a small person, but I know that I can do more for my health. I have decided to put a greater focus on health than I have in the past. I don't really have a right to complain about health problems if I don't take care of my health, now do I?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Grow baby, grow.

So we've started a garden inside. I bought soil, seeds, and Styrofoam cups. They all sprouted more than a week sooner than their packages said they would. When I tried to do this in Utah, most of my seeds never sprouted and those that did died within three or four days. I am already having much more success this time than I did before.

Soon I will have to transfer them all to a bigger deeper container or they will rub out of space and start to die. Maybe I was a bit optimistic. I sprinkled many seeds freely rather than placing them a reasonable distance apart. They will have to be transplanted sooner than I expected.

Here are some of my beet sprouts that have started to die already! I really think I just put way too many seeds into the cup. But this is what I figure. Even if all of my sprouts die, they will leave nutrients in the soil that will make it more suitable for my next planting.
We don't actually have a garden spot, but we do have a tiny cement area on which I plan to put several buckets of soil. This will be an ideal setup anyway because it will give us the option to bring some of the plants inside if a frost comes along. Some plants do just fine with a frost, but others will be killed.
Paul and I have been talking about self-sufficiency and being prepared for anything that life could throw at us. We want to grow as much food as we can in our little bucket garden, and we want to learn to preserve vegetables that we don't use quickly. Of course it's a lot of work, but I've been told that this is the part of the country where everything grows easily. Supposedly, you put seeds in the ground and they will just do their thing. Too bad it's not that easy in Utah.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Silly times at the Denver Zoo.

So last week was our spring break. We stayed home and lounged for half of the week, and then on Thursday, we took a trip to Denver. We originally hoped to see my family that weekend. I invited my parents to come there (It's about the halfway point between Hays and Vernal.) but a beloved old friend from my mom's ward passed away and her funeral was on Saturday.

Since my family wasn't able to come, we made plans to do our own thing in Denver with just the two of us. Paul wanted to go to as many restaurants as possible, since he's obsessed with food. We both wanted to go to the temple, and the zoo.

These are some of the pictures we took at the Denver Zoo. It was pretty fun, and we some unique things. Obviously, we were very silly, too.

They had a lot of displays of skulls or paw sizes. This is a lion skull with my hand for comparison. Imagine having those teeth sink into your flesh...!

I'm kind of proud of this action shot. I can't remember which species of penguin these are, but they are the kind that frequent the western shores of South America. They're beautiful swimmers.
This turtle rose right to the surface when Paul stepped up. It lifted it's head and looked at him so seriously. He said, "Hi." I loved it.

This was probably the funniest thing that happened. We spent 45 minutes or so watching these two male gorillas in their enclosure. They must have thought Paul was another gorilla, maybe because he was wearing a black shirt and has those broad shoulders. The gorillas were highly agitated, displaying for him and running up to slam the glass where ever he was sitting. I tried to get several shots of their behavior, but this was the only really good one that I got. I'm glad that this glass is gorilla-proof.

Here's a pretty little arctic fox.

This tiger is separated from the people a huge gulf, probably at least thirty feet deep and thirty feet wide. I'm assuming that's because tiger's are good jumpers, and the people must be kept safe.

There was an aquarium section at this zoo, but it was hard to get good pictures. These are anemones. There were a lot of clown fish in there too, just like Nemo.

You can see that I'm completely fearless when it comes to the predators. I went right into the lion's den and put my arm around him. We're tight. :)

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Beauty of the Earth!

So, this is a little stream/river (I'm not sure which, actually) that cuts across the FHSU campus and winds out through this little park. A few days ago, we had a very warm day, and so we headed to the park for some sun and exercise. We took this really exaggerated pictures crossing the stream just for fun. I thought these stepping stones were really cool.

Some random pictures of us by the water...

I'm happy to report that green has started to appear in the fields around here. Little shoots of green grass are pushing out between all the dead yellow stuff. The world is slowly coming to life, and I just love Kansas! It's beautiful and I want to see spring here in full bloom!
I have thought much about the blessings of my life. I have been given so much, and I want to give to others in helpful and meaningful ways. I have realized that my own blessings are not really for me; they're for everyone else in my life. I have endless opportunity to show love, kindness, and charity for others. I've been thinking about how worthless a life would be that blessed no one else. Selfishness and self-centered thoughts are completely pointless. Nothing comes from thinking about myself only. But much can come from thinking of others and spreading the joy I have felt.
Just look at the beautiful earth! It is God's, of course, but he made it for us. We can wander in gorgeous woodlands and climb mountains and picnic in the desert- all because the earth has been given to us. I want to be like my god and give beauty to others just because I can!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Fuzzy little babies.

So yesterday, we went to the farm of some of friends from the ward (the Hyatt's). It is so wonderful to have friends! They have a bunch of farm animals and they recently had a goat give birth to these two little babies. They're so cute! I'm putting goats into my novel, and so I wanted to spend some time with the goats. Basically yesterday I was introduced to some of the ways of goats, but in the future I will spend more time just watching them run around and play with each other. They're so fun! I saw these kids only a week ago, and they have grown significantly in that time.

I would write more, but I must get to Spanish class.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The wind, the sun, and gray grass.

Winter here is all gray-yellow. I took this picture when I was out for a walk, and I was surprised by how colorless it turned out! I have always liked the way that winter grass looks, and I remember trying to explain it to my friend in Virginia. In the south eastern climate, the grass never quite looks like this, and it was hard for her to imagine. (There, the grass stays green, although it is a paler more dead-looking green in the winter.)

I've learned that people around here (at least the students) don't spend time in the outdoors. They don't hike or picnic. The very concept of picnicking is strange to them. How bizarre is that? It seems like in Utah people live to be outside, whether it is climbing mountains or exploring the desert or swimming in the reservoirs or even simple gardening and yard care. Most people picnic at least a couple times in a year, even if it is just at the closest park.
But I suppose there are two factors to consider here: the wind and the sun. The flat land of Kansas offers little protection from either. So if your face is not being blown off, you are going to get roasted by the sun... but that's what sunscreen and hoodies are for!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Nourished with great soup.

As you might have guess from these pictures, we made a soup on the weekend. It was one of our best soups ever! It included some bell peppers, tomatoes, kale, Brussels sprouts, yellow onion, red potato, criminy mushrooms, leek, celery, and green onion. Oh, and I forgot to mention fresh basil. I'm starting to get a feel for the different spices and I'm becoming a huge fan of sage.
We're trying to make our health a high priority now, and making delicious healthy food helps a lot. I'm learning to be grateful for my body and to love it. For many years, I would not have thought it was possible to love my body. But, you know, it's the only one I have. It serves me well enough when I nourish it and take care of it properly.
And Paul helps me a lot. One day I was meeting him at the library and he saw me walking toward him. He smiled at me and said, "I love the shape of you." For some reason, I just need him to tell me that, to tell me that I look good to him. Really, that's all it takes to make me start believing that I need to be grateful for the body that I have. It is pretty lame that society tells us to hate our bodies. What good could that possibly do us?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Life from life in cold Kansas.

So I went for a walk and decided to take some pictures of my miserable wind-swept state. It's funny because my face doesn't even look red in the pictures... I guarantee it was! I swear, I don't even LOOK cold...!

Notice the conspicuous absence of mountains in the background. I am starting to get used to that, although I sometimes look around expecting to see mountains on the horizon. The thing you start to notice is the sky itself. It's so big here, and sometimes you can just stand and get swallowed up in it's immensity. It really is incredibly beautiful.

On a different note, in my biology class, we have finally gotten to genetics. It's my favorite biological stuff, and I just love learning about it. In a weird way, it's like I AM my parents, in part, and I am also my grandparents and great grandparents... and on and on. It's because life has to come from life, and so my life is literally a branch off of my parent's lives. And it makes me wonder about my ancestors (some who lived near here in Kansas, incidentally) and if they are aware of me. Their lives go on, through me. What would they think of me?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Why is it hard to change?

It's the second day of the chocolate fast, and I am doing okay. Yesterday we were at Wal-mart and I was looking longingly at the doughnuts in the bakery area. I was thinking, "There are some with white frosting, and some with maple frosting, and some with strawberry frosting... as long as I don't get any chocolate ones..." But then I figured that replacing chocolate with doughnuts would actually be worse for my health than just sticking with chocolate. (Because doughnuts are packed with ridiculous amounts of refined sugar and baked with refined flour, and topped with sugary sticky frosting...!) So I had to refrain from buying a replacement form of sugar.

I've been victorious in one battle so far!

It's not easy to change. I'm trying to improve my life in other ways too. I have this job writing articles, but I've barely made any money doing it. I mean, I've had all kinds of valid excuses for not getting much done, but it's time to start succeeding! I have a hard time working consistently day after day, and this is what I'm trying to teach myself to do. It's funny how hard it is for me to simply get to work each day. But if I can go without chocolate and say no to doughnuts, I'm sure that I can sit down and write for two or three hours tonight.

Will power is my friend.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day 1 of the chocolate fast.

Okay, so I don't have the pictures yet because I slept in late today and didn't bring my jump drive to school with me. The internet connection is so weak at my house that I can't upload pictures to Blogger there even though I can write posts.

Anyway, I'm going on a chocolate fast. Why? I was inspired by House. We have been getting episodes of House from Netflix. It's about this amazing doctor (named House) who has an addiction to pain medication. Okay, so House is also a jerk who treats everyone like crap, but he's so good at diagnosing diseases that he's invaluable to his hospital. In the episodes we've been watching, House is getting into trouble with the law because of his addiction, and he always insists that it's because he's in pain. (He has a dead muscle in his leg.) The thing is, he really seems to need the medicine for more than just the pain. He needs it emotionally.

So Paul and I were talking about the Word of Wisdom that many LDS people follow. Basically we don't drink alcohol, coffee, or tea. We don't smoke cigarettes, and I think we're also generally not supposed to get addicted to drugs of any kind. Our leaders tell us that addictions of any kind make us slaves.

And so I figured, you know, there is something I need emotionally that I don't necessarily need physically. In fact, chocolate isn't great for a diabetic, in any case. I love it, I eat it all the time, and I want to determine if it is an addiction.

So I'm going on a chocolate fast! I'm going to see if I can go an entire week without touching a piece of chocolate. Seriously, I want it to be something I can enjoy every now and then, not something I must have every day.

We'll see how this goes.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

It's all about the scarf.

I cannot handle the wind here in Kansas! I mean, it is so cold it practically freezes your face off the second you step out the door. If you're one of those people who likes to have nice hair, don't even bother coming into this state. Your perfect hair will be ruined before you can pull up the hood of your coat.

(It's nice to finally have an excuse, though, for my *ahem* "naturally flowing" hair. In the past, I always had to admit that I was simply too lazy to do it.)

This is the first time in my life, with the possible exception of ice fishing trips, that I have ever voluntarily worn a scarf. Now I find my scarf as essential as my shoes! I wouldn't dream of going out without it. I swear, this cold wind could kill me!

Anyway, I figure it's time to start blogging every day now that I finally got myself a working computer of my own. (Yay for $300 Netbooks!) I intend to start posting pictures with most of my posts as well to keep it interesting. I figure, "Hey, I've got a camera, people like pictures... I can bribe them to come to my blog!"

Hope it works. :)

Monday, February 8, 2010

I have GOT to get my own computer!!!!!!!!

We went outside to go to school this morning and it appeared that our car was covered in droplets of water. They looked like nice little droplets you could just rub off with your hand... but it was an illusion! The droplets were all frozen solid and they wouldn't come off with the windshield wipers. Fortunately, a few minutes of the car's heat melted them so that they could be scraped off.

I've heard the locals talk about ice storms, and I hear that they're much worse. Supposedly, ice will cover your car completely so that you can't even open the doors, and it's so thick that you can't chip it off with an ice scraper...!

But for today, we made it to school just fine. I have just a few minutes before my first class right now to update my blog.

I don't post very much on this blog because I'm trying desperately to hold onto my article writing job. With our computer not working, we have checked out school computers several times to work on. But even when I have one of the school computers, I still can't count on them to actually work. Most of the time the internet won't work at our house, so I can't write my articles from fresh research, and even when I complete several of them, I usually have to wait until the internet works before I can send them. On those rare occasions when I actually have internet access, I usually only just have time to pull up some research for my articles. A Facebook posting is a rarity.

So I've been thinking that it's utterly ridiculous for me to be an independently contracted writer if I don't have a working computer of my own-- and I mean MY OWN. Even the necessity of sharing with Paul chafes me because he seems to do nothing anymore but write papers for his classes. And that's a really stupid competition, him needing the computer for his grad school work and me needing it for my job. How can one of us say, "Mine's More Important!!!!"

Anyway, I'm getting my own computer ASAP. I just don't know what kind to get. I go online (in brief lapses between research, mind you) and look at different beefed-up laptops. It's all mumbo jumbo to me, though. I have no clue about operating systems, memory, WLAN, or almost anything else associated with computers. Somebody help me please!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Cyrus, Ryan, and poor little Nathaniel.

A few days ago, we were at Walmart picking up necessities and Paul decided that it was time for us to get some pets. I think he has been missing our pseudo-pet lizard Ferdinand that we, of course, left behind in Georgia. (He loved to bask in our window sill on warm afternoons, but he was technically a wild animal.)

So we invested in a fish bowl, gravel, some fake water plants, and three tiny goldfish. Because they were so little and so cute, I said we had to name them after our three nephews: Cyrus, Ryan, and Nathaniel.

For two days they swam around happily and then Nathaniel suddenly died! It was sad. He was floating limply near the surface when we came home from school.

Ryan and Cyrus are still happily darting around their bowl, and I really hope that neither of them dies any time soon. We can't get another fish until mid-summer when our next nephew will be born. His name will be Benjamin, and when he's born we'll get another fish to name after him, I think. It just seems wrong to name another fish Nathaniel. He was only part of the family for a short time, but it's not like he can be replaced...!

Thursday, January 28, 2010


I was at home writing my articles two days ago, but I heard someone crying outside my door. Not that I'm a heartless person, but I was really trying to get my work done and I just ignored it and kept writing. The crying continued and then there were sirens and finally I stepped outside to see what was going on.

Several police officers were running around and a woman was sitting by our neighbor's door. She was crying out loud and seemed quite distraught.

After a few moments, I was able find out that our neighbor Dave was dead. This woman had found his body, and he had probably been dead for a day or two in his apartment. Eventually, I overheard a medical person speculating that the man had died of low blood sugar because of his diabetes.

Dave was a nice neighbor. He let us borrow a hammer twice and let us use his microwave to pop popcorn. On sunny days, he would sit outside his apartment and chat with us as we were coming and going from our house. We had only known him a couple of weeks, but we were starting to become friends with him.

I was disturbed by his death. Not only was it sudden and shocking, but I also couldn't help thinking about his body just a few feet away in the next apartment. What if he hadn't been found until we reported a bad smell to our landlady....!

It's crazy how easily people can die. One day you know them and the next... they're gone.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Perspective of a Year.

After my first full Wednesday (the day that's longer than the rest because it includes my biology lab) I'm feeling tired but pleased. My classes are not too difficult and I should be able to get pretty good grades this semester.

Yesterday I pulled out my journal and started to write for the first time in several months. Because I barely wrote at all last year, I spent quite a while summarizing my entire 2009, and it was an interesting thing to do. Writing about an entire year in one go gives you such a sense of perspective! It's like writing the timeline for a novel-- I know that things are going to get worse before they get better, and I know that things will actually work out when I'm in my darkest moments. When I was writing about my trials, I kept thinking, "It was bad, but then I was blessed. Hang in there!" It was an interesting exercise, and I recommend it for people who are not normally journal-writers.

Journal-writing is valuable on a daily basis because it keeps the record so immediate. But while you're right in the middle of things, sometimes your view is limited too much to recognize your own growth. You can't see clearly what you're actually experiencing.

But after a year when you can stop and look back, life looks different than it did then.

It's kind of cool.

Monday, January 18, 2010

"Because I Have Been Given Much"

As a quick note here: we met some wonderful people at church yesterday who happened to have a lot of extra furniture just sitting in storage, and we were given some today to fill up our previously empty house! We now have a couch, a table with three chairs, and a bed with box springs! Now our house is starting to look like someone actually lives here. I'm actually writing this blog at our table.

I still have to write a bunch of articles tonight and Paul has to write a paper... so I cannot spare more time for this post. It's nice to be here.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

An account of my homeless month.

So I've finally gotten back to the blog!

It's like walking away from a novel and then deciding I just have to get back to my writing again. I mean, sure, I have all sorts of good excuses for not writing for over a month (driving 3000 miles across the country, visiting Paul's family in California and my family in Utah, moving into our new apartment, and dealing with the endless bureaucratic mumbo jumbo of transferring to a new school, etc.) but the fact is that I wanted to have something to say before I started writing, and I just couldn't bring myself to sit down until I could think of something to say.

I'm sure this is one of my chief problems as a writer. It's like I want it to be fantastic whenever I put a pen to paper (metaphorically here). I want the words to be brilliant, to reflect the genius I know is in there somewhere, and really I just want to be impressive.

But let's throw "impressive" out the door right now. Really, it's ridiculous. Writing is quite simply work, especially for me now that I'm trying to establish myself as a free lancer. I'm sure I'll have something to say many times in the future, so now I'll just report about my life in whatever prose come rolling out of me.

It was nice to visit family. Our parents love us so much, and I loved being able to spend time with them. I loved seeing my rapidly-growing nephews and bonding with my sisters (encompassing Sara and all the many sister-in-laws). I've decided that having sisters is one of the best and sweetest things in life. They really are a gift from God!

It was also fun visiting friends. We got to visit our old landlord Lance in Laguna Beach. It was beautiful to stand looking at the sun set over the ocean while we caught up with him about our lives. When we were passing through St. George, my friend Melanie called and said she was in Salt Lake on her way down to Cedar City. We met in the middle in Fillmore at an Arby's and I loved, loved, loved seeing her!

We spent one day in Provo and were able to visit some of our dear friends there, the Camaras and the Heftels. All of their kids have grown impressively since August. It's exciting to see, but I'm ambivalent about the whole thing. Kids grow too fast!

Which reminds me, of course. We also had fun staying with friends on the way from Georgia to California. The Royles took care of us when we were sick and we stopped in Alabama to visit my cousin Charsty. We hadn't seen each other in years, so it was a wonderful time and I was persuaded to stay another day at her house. Paul got along great with her husband and their little girl Akira was one of the most amazing children I have had the pleasure to meet. Charsty was two weeks from having a baby and I've just been looking at pictures of little Aurora on Facebook. I guess that means the birth went well! The Galbraiths were wonderful in Missouri, although we only got to see two of their boys. In Denver we stayed with Lindsay and Nick again, and I was happy to have some time to talk with them. Then we spent one night in Sigurd, Utah with Paul's great Aunt and Uncle on their farm.

This post is long enough already, but I did want to mention a couple of highlights. In California, Paul's brother Jonathon and his wife Candice took us to see Avatar, and it became one of my favorite movies! In Vernal, my parents gave Paul a board game called Ticket to Ride and we played that game quite a bit. Mom loved it especially! We also got to go ice fishing with my mom and dad, which was awesome.

So considering that it was a "homeless" month, it was not bad at all. People are the most important things we have in life and being able to build relationships is really the great task of life, I think. Writing about all these people who I love so much makes me want to be a better friend to them all.

I'm so happy to be here in Kansas, and I feel like this is going to be a good place for us!