Monday, May 23, 2011

Let's be kids again!

Paul has been sick for weeks with really bad chest congestion, and I have been really busy with writing and compiling. Neither of us has had very much opportunity to get out and do something for fun. We decided to go find something to do this evening. Paul had found out about an old-fashioned park in a little town not too far from here. The little Kansas towns are like little individual universes on the prairie. You really never know what you'll find if you go exploring. The playground was awesome! It had real working teeter totters. (We had a great time teeter-tottering, and the wood held out weight just fine!) The merry-go-round was fun too!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Poignant Experiences

I have spent a lot of time this year typing up the writing of my family members. My uncle Edd's poems and my great grandmother's poems were the first projects I took on. Now I am typing up the life histories of my Madsen ancestors. It's interesting how people's writing reveals their insights, how you can get some sense of what a person believes and thinks and feels just by reading something that they have written.

I am surprised by how much I like this kind of work. It's sometimes a very poignant experience, like slipping through the threads of someone else's life. I get a sweet little taste of the essence of who my ancestors really were. I should say who they are because I know that they are still around.

My sense that my ancestors still live is not entirely grounded in abstract belief or an intellectual understanding of religious doctrine. I know that my ancestors live because I feel them. As I type up their stories, I feel them reaching out to me, embracing me, grateful that I am aware of them. They want to be known.

It's amazing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

How would you like a tracking device in your breast?

I have to research random stuff for my work, and this week, I have been learning about breast implants. I was just reading through some general information, and I came across a very casual reference to a certain company embedding microchips into their breast implants. Apparently, the chips contain the patient's medical history and can also be tracked.

And my thought is... Why ON EARTH would you want a microchip that could track you implanted into your breast!? What could you possibly believe to be the advantage of having a tracking device literally implanted into you? Has the world become a freaky sci-fi reality in which people actually don't care about their privacy in the slightest bit? It's one thing to post almost everything you do on Facebook—it's another to have all of your actions trackable by... of all people... your breast implant company....! Is it just me, or is this totally wild?

And why are the breast implant people tracking their consumers, anyway? Are they keeping track of the best vacation spots for people with implants? I don't see how anything you do besides buy their implants is any of their business.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Has it been two years or just one day?

Two days ago, I got on Facebook for the first time in several months. I really don't use it almost at all, but I just had a feeling like I should get on. So I did, and I was so happy to see that I had a message from a friend I haven't seen or talked to in almost two years. We fell out of contact when I moved to Georgia and she went on her mission to Oklahoma. I sent her an email with my new phone number and she called the next day.

The awesome thing about it was that talking to her felt like no time at all had passed. It was as if just yesterday we were hanging out and now we were just picking up the same conversation where it had left off. That was a wonderful feeling.

This friend and I met at Snow College several years ago, and we wrote a story together way back then. Talking to each other reminded us of that story, and we decided to start over with it again. We have been zipping messages back and forth between us since then, reminding each other of the names of the characters and the particulars of what we want to do with the new version of the story. It has been really fun.

It is so much fun to talk to someone about fiction. This friend is also going into a college writing program like me, and she said to me. "You know, Jess. I have been practical for years... and now I just want to live my dream." It's nice, so nice, to have a friend that understands my own desire to do what I love with my life.

Meanwhile, I am working on web page content about breast implantation and I continue typing up the life stories of my ancestors. It is a pretty good life that I have.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

How do you avoid becoming stressed out?

My health is really important to me, and I devote a lot of attention to planning and preparing meals and exercising every day. (I threw in a picture of a healthy meal that I made. It was made from cabbage, green beans, turnip, shrimp, basalmic vinegar, olive oil, and a little rice.) I test my blood sugar often in the attempt to keep it under control. After about three months of intense focus on my health, I have learned a few things, especially about stress.

Stress seems to be the all-out murderer of good health. By testing my blood sugar so often, I have seen dramatic evidence to support this theory. My blood sugars rise insanely whenever I find myself in a stressful situation, even if it is as simple as having a disagreement with my husband. And I mean disagreement, not even a fight.

I have noticed that I don't sleep when I'm stressed, that I get a lot more headaches, and that I give in to eating temptations more easily. Stress makes me rationalize that bad choices are not that bad and probably won't hurt me very much. It's interesting how much more capable I am of making good choices when I am not feeling stressed.

I am still learning how to cope with life's trials so that I can avoid becoming stressed. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at it yet. I would like some feedback from my readers about this. How do you all avoid getting stressed? What do you do that helps you to de-stress when it does happen? Please leave me a comment explaining your strategies. I would really appreciate it. :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

God never leaves us alone—never, ever, for a single second!

It is amazing how the Lord will provide when you just trust him. Sometimes all you have to do is trust, and he meets your needs in wonderful and surprising ways. I think that he has been slowly prodding me to come to this understanding, to recognize the relationship between faith and miracles. He is so patient to wait around until we are ready to learn and grow. I just want to say that I love my God, and I am so grateful for his love for me.

That might all sound dramatic in the context of the story behind it, but my emotions run deep, and I can't help but let them out sometimes. Paul fondly calls me his little faucet woman because the tears just run out of me like water from a faucet. (For the record, I think crying is a very healthy thing to do, and some people need to do it more often.)

Anyway, about a month ago, I started worrying about earning money during the summer. Our bank account was low, and the shopping trips were turning into grit-your-teeth bare essential affairs. Paul was talking about traveling to visit his family in California and I was thinking that covering the rent might be a more immediate concern. I told Paul I wanted to get a job, and he reminded me that I don't handle retail jobs very well, and that is probably the only opportunity available in Hays.

I was asked to give a talk on Easter Sunday, and I was so busy with my classes that I barely prepared anything. I don't know how the talk went, honestly, but I had my Savior in my thoughts the whole week leading up to it, and that had a profound impact on me. I thought about how Jesus's life ended on the week of the Passover and how beautiful that symbolism was. The feast commemorated the time when Jehovah sent the destroying angel to kill all of the firstborn children—and then he saved all of those who were willing to be faithful to him. Jehovah proved that night that he was the master of life and death, and he would prove it again in the flesh by giving up his life and taking it again.

I thought about Christ back when he was Jehovah in the Old Testament, how he stood with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego in the flames, how he caused the sun to move back an hour, how he provided manna in the wilderness for the wandering children of Israel, how he repeatedly cared for his children and preserved them in their trials.

One day, I was thinking about all of my trials, and I suddenly remembered a time years ago when I had been taking a walk alone. I had been so depressed on that day, feeling completely alone and hopeless. And then I looked up and saw a tree with little droplets of dew all over it's winter-bare branches. The sun shone through the little droplets like a thousand spots of fire, and it was one of the most brilliantly beautiful things I had ever seen. I remember how the spirit washed over me in that moment, and I felt an absolute certainty that my God was with me, that he loved me, and that he would always be there for me.

And as soon as I remembered it, I was flooded with more memories, memories of times when my friends said exactly the thing I needed to hear, when someone randomly sent me money in the mail on the day when I desperately needed to buy something, when I somehow knew the answers on a test, when passages in books had touched my heart, when I found things that had been lost, when I drove through scary storms unscathed, when I felt the spirit testify to me over and over again that the Church was true—all of these thoughts and many more came rushing over me, and I realized that I had never, ever, for a single second, been left alone. My every need had always been met, and if I just put my trust in God, I would see that my needs always would be.

So it should not have been surprising just a few days later when two different employment opportunities came to me on the same day. A friend that I have done freelance work for in the past called and offered me a job writing website content. Later in the day, my Grandpa Madsen called and asked me to help him type and compile a huge family history book for which I would be paid by the hour. It really felt like pennies from heaven, especially because I didn't tell anyone I was looking for work. They both just came to me and acted like they were inconveniencing me by asking me to work for them.

So now I'm busy. My last final is tomorrow, and I am already neck-deep in my summer work. I am grateful that the Lord has provided me with work which I can do well and that I can enjoy. He is a great God.