Monday, December 5, 2011

Redirect to my new blog.

Hey everyone!

Because of certain difficulties having to do with my Google account, I've decided to abandon this blog and start a new one under a different account. My new blog is Jessi's Continuing Chronicles at this address:

Please visit and become a follower! Thanks, and I'm sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Life is an endlessly fascinating story.

Here's something I've been thinking about. In two of my classes, my professors recently said essentially the same thing. It was something like this:

"A story is only interesting when something goes wrong."

They were talking about how no one wants to read a story in which life is perfect. You quickly get bored and lose the desire to keep reading because if nothing is going wrong, it feels like nothing is happening. Of course, a lot might actually be happening (people going to work, children playing, the wind stirring up leaves) and yet it is all boring unless it involves problems. That's because you start to care about characters as soon as they face trials. "Oh, no! Is he going to get away from those thugs!? I must keep reading, or I just won't know if he survives this....!"

It's kind of funny because people don't like their own lives to be like the stories that they enjoy reading. As soon as problems appear in their lives, they say, "Oh, no! How am I going to get out of this?" And they immediately become unhappy, wishing constantly for their trials to be gone.

But isn't it all the things that go wrong that actually make our lives interesting? If nothing were to ever go wrong, we wouldn't have to make difficult choices. We wouldn't have to struggle, and consequently, we would never grow or develop. Life wouldn't be a journey as much as a stagnation. And we would actually be bored, just as bored as if we were reading a story in which nothing was happening. (Inside of our souls, nothing would be happening.)

So, I have this theory. I think that we can learn to see life as an endlessly fascinating story in which we have endless opportunities to grow. Our trials keep us from getting bored and they keep us progressing. I am going to try to stop being miserable when things don't work out the way I want them to. I am going to try to relax and enjoy my own good story.

Friday, August 26, 2011

What I learn when I walk.

Last night I went for a walk in the cool of the evening. I love taking walks almost every day. It's amazing what a powerful tool that such a simple action can be. I often seem to leave my apartment in a cloud of worries. All of the problems and trials that I have to deal with are trying to force their way to the front of my mind and the effect is a little like a whirlpool. I think about it all and feel confused and overwhelmed.

As I'm walking, I feel my body become stronger, and the most amazing thing happens. My thoughts begin to slow down and suddenly I am able to organize them. I can put them into perspective and begin thinking about them separately. Solutions start presenting themselves, and I am relieved to start figuring out what to do. Of course, some problems don't really have solutions, but I am able to quietly tuck them away and stop dwelling on the things I can't change. I feel wiser and more capable and my life feels more manageable.

This is what happened last night, and I started thinking about the importance of taking care of our bodies. When we take care of our bodies, as the Lord has asked us to do, we are all more receptive to the Spirit of God and the peace that the Spirit brings. The older I get, the more I see that the commandments that the Lord has given us really are for our good. When we keep them, we can be at peace in all kinds of circumstances.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Bring in the new semester with chicken burritos!!!!

Tonight I got Paul to make some chicken burritos, and they were SO good! He fried up an onion and a green bell pepper with cilantro, canned green chiles, and chicken cut up in little chunks. In a separate bowl, he partially crushed some pinto beans so that they could be easily wrapped in with the meat and vegetables. Then he wrapped it all in three huge tortillas. (Oh, and he put rice in his own, but I didn't need the extra carbs on mine.) It was delicious! It's nice to have a husband who cooks, and cooks very well and willingly.

We are both three days into our new semester. It's a little stressful at first, but I think it will get better as we go along.

Paul has to do a research project in the next several weeks and he is also working on his thesis project this semester. For the small research project, he is sending out surveys to find out about people's experiences with personality discrimination in job interviews. He supposes that certain personality traits make you more likely to be favored in a job interview, regardless of how qualified you are for the job. I think it will be interesting to see if the research supports his assumptions. I'm really proud of him!

Oh, and I should mention that we had a lot of fun with my cousin Charsty and her two little girls last weekend. We were both really sad to have them go Monday morning. Now it's just the two of us again, although that works really well because we like each other so much. :)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

There and Back Again; a Robbins Tale.

So, we've just gotten back from a trip... and it was quite a trip with many valuable experiences, a lot of stress, and a lot of fun.

One month ago, we left Kansas and drove to Colorado. We met my parents in the southwestern part of the state in a town called Ouray. On the way there, our car started acting up, and when we reached Ouray, it gave out entirely. (Pay attention, and you MIGHT start to notice a pattern.) While the car was in the shop over the weekend, we went gallavanting all over some of the highest mountains in the country with my mom, dad, and my brother Ryan. I would post some pictures, but I just feel that pictures are so inadequate to show what a place really looks like. You really just have to go there to see what it's like.

We stayed in two different campgrounds and went swimming in a huge hot springs pool twice. Mom and Dad also treated us at a John Wayne restaurant, where a scene from one of his movies was shot. We got to see a lot of beautiful and historic sights in the area.

Monday rolled around, and we were able to get our car fixed while we saw a few more gorgeous places. (A powerful waterfall in a canyon, for one.) Once we had our car back, we decided to go on to California as planned, even though we had significantly less money than we had planned to have at that point. Paul's parents promised to lend us a little money if we needed it, so we drove through the state of Arizona and saw some more incredibly beautiful places.

We had decided to try some highways rather than sticking to the freeways, and the results of this decision were mixed. The scenery was amazing in the Sedona area (seriously, rivaling any beautiful place I've been in my life), but the roads curved and climbed through hilly areas so that the speed limit often got down to 25 or even 15 mph. It doesn't take a mathematician to calculate that it takes a lot longer to get somewhere going 20 than it does going 85.... So the day we spent in Arizona was quite a long one.

It was late when we finally got to Whittier, California, and we slept for half of the next day before we began properly socializing with Paul's family. In California, we went to the beach twice, and we also went swimming at a mountain resort called Oak Glen, where Paul's family frequently stayed when they were kids. We got to hang out with all of Paul's siblings and their families. And we went to the temple, too, which we have needed to do for a long time.

I love, love, love little babies, and I was so happy to have time with all four of my nephews and my niece that live in that state. (I look forward to Thanksgiving, when I can go to Vernal and visit my other nephew Ryan, too.) All babies are different, and their personalities are strikingly individual. They are all so cute! If I lived close by, I would happily be the date night babysitter for all of them as often as their parents wanted to go out. I'm really not that scared of diapers, either.

We spent the last few days of our trip in Phelan, which is in the high desert about an hour and a half from Whittier. As soon as we arrived, our car was having problems, and (you guessed it) it gave out on the morning that we were going to leave to come home. Paul's brother Craig and his wife Jenny were kind enough to let us stay another few days, since we couldn't leave anyway. Another of Paul's brothers, Jonathan, was in Phelan for another reason, but he put everything aside and spent many hours working on our car so we wouldn't have to pay for a mechanic again. He, with help from Paul, Craig, and Mark, (another brother, who had come up to Phelan when he heard about our troubles) took out the broken part and then installed a new one. It was really quite a sacrifice for him, and we were really touched by how much everyone wanted to help us.

Staying longer wasn't all bad because it meant that I got to have yet more time with two of my nephews, who I simply adore and could not possibly get enough time with. I got to know Jenny quite a bit better, too, which was good. She's a really funny person.

After the car was fixed, we were finally able to head home. My mom helped us out by getting a hotel room for us in Gallup, New Mexico. This time, our drive across the state of Arizona was shorter because we went all the way across on I 40. The state is gorgeous, even from the freeway, and so is New Mexico. I LOVE New Mexico, and I wonder why I never hear people talk about it. It's simply a gorgeous state, if you're a desert-lover like me. I loved driving across it and up into the edge of Oklahoma.

We were only in Oklahoma for a short span before we passed back into our state, Kansas. I had a lot of fun seeing amazing places and spending time with loved ones on the trip, but it sure felt good to come back into our town and get into our own bed.

Now, we have to pay our families back all the money we owe them... but at least we were taken care-of when we really needed it, and now life can go back to normal. My cousin Charsty is visiting us tonight and all of tomorrow. She is bringing her two wonderful little girls, and I am so excited to have time with all of them! After Charsty leaves on Monday morning, Paul and I will go to school to start yet another semester.

That's the end of this travel log.

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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Lots of highly exciting, interesting, and completely worthwhile news about my life. :)

Aren't you super intrigued by this picture of Paul? Well, if you want to know what it's all about, you'll just have to keep on reading and find out. Before I explain the picture, I have to make an exciting announcement! We have finally, finally, FINALLY gotten Internet at our apartment!!!!!!!!! That means that I can actually post on my blog sometimes. That means that there no longer have to be months in between my postings! I think everyone we know should travel out to Kansas and have a huge party with us. We can get my dad to make jambalaya and we'll have fireworks and Mississippi mud cake. (Well, everyone but me can have the cake... I'll have some Diet Code Red Mountain Dew.) Paul will make sure to provide a massive salad, also-- and all of it will be in celebration of our home Internet access! Now that I think about it, I actually have all kinds of news because my life has been changing constantly these last few months. Let's see... I have stopped eating refined sugar, have finally started to get my apartment organized, and I have also recently embarked on two huge literary projects that involve typing up poetry and compiling. My uncle Edd chose me long ago to be the person to help him put his poems together. When I was thirteen and put my first finished novel into his hands, he gave me a long look and decided that I was probably the right person for the job. Ever since then, we've talked about it a lot and now it is finally happening. He's a wonderful poet, and I also just love him like a best friend. Seriously, I love talking to him, and it's great to have an excuse to call him all the time and talk to him frequently. It's a good project for me. At the same time, I have started re-typing the poetry of my great grandmother, Olen Bodily. In the 80s, my mom and aunt Lydia and Grandma Vadrus, and probably a lot of other family members, typed up books of her poetry and distributed them to all of Grandma Bodily's descendants. Even before I was aware of the existence of these books, I started to feel close to Grandma Bodily for no reason at all a few months ago. I thought about her frequently and then I learned about her poetry. I decided to re-type it all and make a new awesome book for everyone, including all of the new descendants that have been born since the 80s. I am really excited to make an artistic beautiful book of her work. Typing up Grandma Bodily's poems has brought me closer to her, and I have sometimes felt her presence with me. This is crazy because I have no memory of her from my own life. Yet, at certain times, I have been quite certain that she was right there with me. She is a wonderful person who loves us all so much, and I have learned a little about the connection between our world and the spirit world from typing up her poems. Now, to explain the pictures... :) We went on a trip over spring break a few weeks ago, and it was SO MUCH FUN! We threw caution to the wind and headed south into Oklahoma and then northern Texas. We stayed in Amarillo and then headed further south and west into New Mexico. The goal was Carlsbad Caverns National Park. I will have to write another post soon about the trip, but I thought I would wet your appetite with just a few pictures. The one at the top is of Paul within the huge cave at the national park. We didn't get many good pictures because caves just don't have great lighting, but I was proud of that one. Below, we have a picture of a huge cow--because we saw literally thousands of cows on the trip. And of course, we had to stay at Roswell and go to the alien museum. Below is a picture of an alien model from the museum. Many more exciting alien pictures (and other pictures from gorgeous northern New Mexico and eastern Colorado) are to follow in my next post. Yes, they are real... aliens, I mean. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Too many action spy shows...!!!!!!!

I had this crazy scary dream last night about one of my cousins trying to kill me. It was funny because the dream didn't sound at all scary when I tried to tell Paul about it, but it was quite terrifying. I haven't even seen that cousin in years, and I always liked him. (He was nice to me when I was little, anyway.) My cousin first stole my possessions (a wallet, I believe and some other things that I can't remember) and then told me he would kill me. When I tried to run, he broke down a door chasing me and was going to hit me with a big hard-backed book when I woke up...

I don't know what's up with my crazy violent dreams. Maybe it's the latent result of watching several seasons of 24, and maybe it's because Paul and I have recently been watching Chuck. All the running around and shooting and fist fights might be catching up with me. My favorite dreams of that sort are the ones that turn me into a karate-chopping action hero. Sometimes I just flat knock out all the bad guys!

Random, I know. But I needed to write something... :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Preparing to Meet God.

I'm feeling deeply introspective right this moment. I have been reading Alma Chapter 34 for several days now, (I just keep finding more and more brilliant amazing doctrine in each verse so that I cannot quite move on to the next chapter.) and I had a powerful memory come back to me this morning. Verse 32 reads

For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

I remembered the first time that I read those words in my personal scripture reading. I was probably ten or eleven years old because that was around the time when I started reading the Book of Mormon for the first time. I was a good reader and could fly right through all the stories with fairly decent comprehension of what was going on. I got to this part in which Alma and Amulek are teaching the crazy Zoramites, and suddenly I came to this verse.

It hit me hard and left a mark. It was like a light turned on in my mind. I thought, "Hm. So that's what life is about." I thought about it for a long time and repeated the words over and over in my mind. I was forever changed by those words.

If I was going to meet God some day, I thought, I needed to be ready. I would have to talk to him about everything I had done in my life and all the things that I had worked for. I wanted my life to be devoted to preparing for that meeting. It put everything else into perspective and nurtured in me a powerful desire to do everything that God would ask me to do. When I met him after my life, I wanted the meeting to be a good one, a happy one. I didn't want to have regrets or to feel bad about my life.

I don't pretend that I've done everything right up to this point, but I can say honestly that I have devoted my life ever since then to that preparation. I feel like my testimony of the gospel really started that day, and I still look forward to my meeting with God. I know it will be happy as long as I keep pressing forward.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Let's love our bodies.

Isn't it strange that I used to want to have a body so badly? Before I was born (and I can't remember it, of course) I was so excited at the prospect of having a body that I cheered and clapped for joy. I wanted the chance to go to earth and have my test there, to show Heavenly Father that I loved him and would obey him. I understood that I really needed a body to do that. I doubt that I cared very much what kind of body it was; I just wanted to receive that great gift.

It's funny how easy it is to buy into pop culture. I can read my scriptures one day and have absolute faith in the Plan of Salvation, and the next day I am frustrated and angry and totally hating my body. Sometimes I have wished that I didn't even have one because I felt like my body was a prison (like when I was the hugest girl in my BYU ward, bigger than all the fully pregnant girls and yet not able to get pregnant myself). When I buy into pop culture standards of body image, I am disregarding my body's place in the Plan. My body has a very important place, of course. Sometimes I forget what an amazing gift it really is.

Think about it! We have been given these miraculous bodies as gifts from our father. How must it make him feel when we complain about them? When we compare ourselves to others, we are effectively saying, "Heavenly Father, this body you gave me isn't good enough! I hate it and I'm not grateful for the gift. Why couldn't you have given me something else?"

It sounds pretty bad when I put it like that, doesn't it? Unfortunately, that is the way that so many of us feel about our bodies. If we can get away from those feelings and remember the joy we felt back when we first found out that we were finally going to get our bodies, we can begin to feel gratitude.

We can thank the Lord for giving us bodies and we can think of our bodies as precious and worth-taking-care-of. We can forget about cultural standards of physical beauty and focus instead on nourishing ourselves and showing gratitude to our God. That is so much better than allowing ourselves to get wrapped up in shame and superficial attempts to force our bodies to look a certain way.

So, really, let's love our bodies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Zoo, a theater, Ethiopian food, and strengthened faith.

So we went to another zoo last weekend, this one in Kansas City. Of all the ones we have been to in different parts of the country, this one is the lamest so far. It may be better at other times of the year when the entire half of the zoo called "Africa" isn't closed. We managed to have fun anyway. The lovely little otter in the picture above was entertaining himself by rolling over and over in the snow. He was so cute!

This polar bear was the biggest attraction at the zoo, and he was really entertaining. He swam back flips over and over again. It is amazing to see how well polar bears can swim.
This was his paw. He would propel himself off of the glass, and we took a lot of pictures trying to get a picture of it. Here is one with Paul's hand and another with my head-- to show the size of the paw. It is impressive how huge it was.
Some more pictures... A red panda, Paul and a monkey...

While we were in the city, we also went to see a movie at an awesome fancy theater and we ate at an Ethiopian restaurant and two sushi restaurants. (We had to get sushi since Paul believes that he simply cannot survive without eating sushi as often as possible.) The Ethiopian food was very meaty, very messy since you eat without utensils, and quite delicious.
We also went to the Independence, Missouri LDS Church Visitors Center. We spent about five hours going through exhibits, watching videos, talking to the missionaries, and having our faith strengthened. We both felt the spirit of missionary work flare up inside of us. It is wonderful how a true testimony demands to be shared. The Spirit also brings such hope and peace. I felt this calm settle down into my soul, and I was grateful that we splurged on a little trip.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is -40 degrees cold enough for you?

Although the weather is supposed to be a germane topic that you should never talk about unless you have nothing else to say... I want to talk to about the weather. Here it has been brutal! Paul and I recently experienced our first ice storm. Had the camera been able to do its job, I would have gotten pictures of the thousands of individual blades of grass covered in a thick French-fry-looking layer of ice. The ground, the trees, the cars were all covered with a layer of shiny clear ice. Walking around outside was more akin to ice skating.

That was exciting.

More recently just this week, the temperature dropped really low and the wind was howling so cold. With the wind chill, the temperature outside was -40 degrees! I got up to go to my morning class, and I seriously considered staying home that day. I went anyway, but only about half the students did. Turns out that every other college and university in the state was closed that day, but the president of our school refused to close FHSU.

The cold weather really makes you aware of your mortality. Stay out in that too long and you die. Hands down, you die. It's crazy how fast you lose the feeling in your hands. Suddenly you just can't grab things, and you can't even move your fingers! I'm so glad that my parents gave me a good coat for Christmas so that I didn't have to be too cold.

I am happy to report that the sun was out this morning when I came to school and that the temperature was above zero! Looks like it's going to be a beautiful day.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What Abinadi Knew

I have been reading about the prophet Abinadi in the Book of Mormon. I started reading the book three weeks ago and have read up to this point in the book of Mosiah. Reading so fast has offered special insights to me, and I have had certain understandings come to me that I never had before. It's amazing how much there is to learn in the scriptures. You can read every day for your whole life and never, never stop finding more.

Anyway, I got to Abinadi's story. I am so in awe of his bravery. He went charging into a hostile situation, seemingly aware of the fact that it would likely end badly for him. He knew that the king, Noah, would not want to hear the Lord's words. He was probably terrified of what would happen when he opened his mouth-- and yet he did it anyway!

Abinadi was bold. He demanded to be heard, and he would not stop talking until he had said all that God had sent him to say. He did so even though he was thrown in prison, threatened, and eventually burned to death.

Why did he do it?

I know why, and it was because of what he knew. He knew that God lived, he knew that Jesus Christ was his redeemer who would be born someday. He knew with absolute certainty that God has a plan for his children, and that everyone needs the opportunity to know that plan.

When you know those things, when you really know them, it changes you and gives you bravery. When you know those things, you are willing to do anything for the Lord. You are willing to defend truth and teach boldly, and no situation is too scary or hostile. When you know, you want to show the Lord by doing everything he asks you to do. Everything.

I have felt my love for Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ grow as I have read these past weeks, and in turn I have become more aware of their love for me and for everyone. It is incredible how much they love us.

For anyone who doesn't know Abinadi's story, I have posted a link below to an article about him. It's a little academic, but it's a comprehensive version.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Something bigger than me.

I have eight minutes right now before my advanced composition class starts... and I have decided that I need to get blog posts in whenever I can. I want my blog to be representative of my actual life-- with the flavor of my life. Lives have flavors, you know. They don't all taste the same.

So here's something that happened yesterday. I was thinking about depressing things, and I started to get really... well, depressed. I am a deeply emotional person, and sometimes my emotions rush through me so powerfully that I can barely cope. I tend to get lonely. Solitude is not always bad, but I can take it too far. So this familiar scene played out last night of me sitting on the couch staring off into space and feeling sad. I had finished all my homework and reading for the week, and there was nothing responsible to distract me.

Paul had downloaded a song for me from OCremix, which is a website where composers remix (or rewrite with their own twist) music from video games. My absolute favorite song is from Final Fantasy 6, and I am totally in love with a certain remix. I turned it on, and the emotions came howling at me. It nearly overwhelmed me.

But I had a little thought, "I should use these emotions."

So I went looking for a pencil, and I found a piece of printer paper. I put the pencil to the paper, and I let the emotions flow right from the music, into my soul, down into the pencil, and onto the paper. A drawing was born of a young girl (probably 13 or so) looking up. She is standing in a desert with a mesa in the background and a few scattered bushes. Mostly the backdrop is empty and wide, showing the vastness of the world. And the girl-- she is small compared to all that. I titled the drawing, "Something bigger than me."

When I was done, I felt better. The emotions had calmed, and I had made something beautiful. I was grateful, then, to be alone. I was grateful that I had the emotions, even the strong whirlwind. I thought if I could just use them... I could make the world more beautiful.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Creepy crawly things...

Random fact about Kansas: it has A LOT of big spiders. I took this picture last summer at the Wichita Zoo. This spider wasn't an exhibit; it was wild, just sitting on the side of a little building. The challenge of getting a good picture of a huge spider is placing something next to it that will reveal how big it actually is. (Sometimes in the past, we have used our hands, but this always seemed just a bit foolhardy.) I have seen bigger ones than this one that were brown or black. They tend to hide under stuff, but I have seen one just standing in the middle of the hallway at school, and my neighbor found one clinging to the front of her little boy's shirt.

I have yet to see any really big ones in the apartment, but I have seen dozens of little fuzzy ones all winter. When I see them, I have one of two reactions. One, I shriek and smash them before thinking twice. Or two, I watch in fascination as they spin their little webs or creep along in their spidery way. They are beautiful in a frightening, macabre sense, and I do kind of like them. That is, as long as they're not biting me or laying their eggs in my house or crawling over me when I'm trying to sleep. When they do any of those things, they MUST DIE!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Does life have a plan?

Can I just say that I'm grateful that my life has not been according to my own plan? I've been thinking about the whole journey that I've been on since I went to college freshman year. I thought I would graduate within four years and then really get started with my writing life. I would be a published author by now and I would live by my pen, like Jane Austen.

I didn't plan on marriage because... let's be honest here. I never dated, I never had boyfriends, I never even had guys seem interested in me in any way. I thought, "Who needs that anyway?" But I really did, and I'm glad that marriage came crashing through my plans. I can't imagine how I could have survived the two years that followed if I hadn't had Paul.

I got sick, very sick, and all my plans of graduating quickly disintegrated. It just wasn't possible for me to take a lot of classes and succeed when I was so ill. A lot of my hopes and dreams completely vanished as I grappled with the realities of my illness. I can't properly express what that was like, and I prefer to not think too much about it. Almost all of my life plans were gone, and that made me feel lost for a while.

But I was talking to Paul yesterday, and I realized that I'm not lost anymore. I have learned that my plans for myself were not God's plans for me. I don't know what all of his plans are, but I feel peace. I know that my life has meaning and purpose and that I can do many good things while I live. I don't need to know what will happen and I don't need to depend on plans too much-- because I'm not really the maker of the plans.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Paul's Modern Art

Trying to take a picture of your own eye... a courageous endeavor. Kudos to Paul...! I consider the pictures on this post to be Paul's idea of modern art.

And for another series of delightful photography... and I really do mean that. :)
We were visiting a local reservoire called Webster Lake at some point last semester, and Paul took these incredibly silly pictures. What is especially humorous about them is that he took them by accident. He had some vague idea about taking a picture that would have his face as a closeup with me in the background... Well, you decide how well it worked out.

Paul also likes to draw his own comics. They usually have some kind of social commentary or religious joke. (He likes to play on scriptural language and be punny.) And as a sidenote, you may have noticed the limestone that is the backdrop of Paul's self-portraits. Kansas is pretty much made of limestone, so you see it everywhere and most of the buildings on the FHSU campus are made of it.

Is it "differ from" or "differ with?"

I have almost been in school for a week in my new classes, and already I am feeling the grind. Fortunately, I think the stress level should be lower this semester than it was last semester. If it isn't, I may just have to kill myself. (I mean kill myself in some quick and painless way, such as by placing my neck under a guillotine. Please, let me know if you know where one is...)

Seriously, though. My classes are demanding. I spent hours "scanning" a section in the Chicago Manual of Style for my Professional Editing class. It was a word usage section that quibbles with serious writing issues, such as when to use "differ from" and when to use "differ with." I am glad we're not actually expected to memorize all 39 pages. It is supposed to be the Bible of editing reference material. I've been considering editorial work as one of my possible future careers, and this class may determine whether or not I actually want to do that line of work.

(Here I should offer a disclaimer... I always try to catch errors in my blog posts, but some of them slide through. I have sometimes gone back to correct previous posts when I found errors later. Maybe after spending a semester doing hardcore editing, I will be better at editing my own writing. Until then, I'm not sure the quality is going to improve much. I will never been offended if people point out usage errors to me in the comments.)

I have some time right now, and if I can, I will post a few silly pictures. We'll see if the pictures will successfully download.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A time-devouring monster.

I know... It has been pretty much eternity since I last posted. I have a few minutes just now before my first class of this semester starts, and I thought I should write something. I don't think it is even possible to summarize my last semester. It was like a huge time-devouring monster that kept me staying up late and getting up early researching and writing and just generally working insanely. I have never been that busy or that buried in schoolwork before. Taking two writing classes and two lit classes together was maybe not the best idea I have ever had. I always had this feeling like there was something that I was not remembering to do-- and there usually was something.

The worst moment of the semester was when I walked into my fiction class and saw neat-looking papers on every one's desks... and I realized the class's major paper was due and I had not even started or thought about it for a second. (It turned out all right because the teacher could see that I was having a heart attack and gave a generous extension of almost a week!)

Some of the best moments were spent with my professors talking about my writing. They were so encouraging and honest. Their critiques helped me to do better with form and style, and their compliments helped me to believe that I really can make a career out of writing. It was the kind of professional affirmation that I really needed. I know that we were inspired to come to this school so that I could work with these teachers. And who would have thought that the perfect program for me would be in Kansas!?

But of course the semester had to end at some point, and when it did Paul and I went to Vernal to visit my family. It was so good to see everyone, and Christmas was really fun. My mom and dad were very thoughtful and gave us a lot of presents. Most notably, they gave me a coat and they gave Paul the entire Chronicles of Narnia book series on CD. My mom made us a photo book of our wedding, and she also made a Tender Mercies Journal for everyone. Those were really sweet gifts. I was like a little kid, so happy and excited to get presents. And speaking of little kids, I absolutely loved spending time with my nephew, little Ryan. He is a really wonderful boy! He was talking a lot, and he surprised everyone by remembering Paul's name without being prompted.

Paul and I decided to take a new route home, and that proved interesting. We went north to Flaming Gorge and into Wyoming. All went swimmingly until one of our tires exploded on the freeway. We were fine, but we had to change the stupid tire, and conditions proved to be hostile. It was below zero and the winds were howling at 45+ mph. That was the single longest coldest experience of my life, and I don't recommend it...

Anyway, we made it. And I am out of time. I've got to go to class now... Introduction to Literary Analysis and Theory... Hope it goes well.