Friday, October 31, 2014

Sacrifice: NaNoMo Looms

Alma 34:10 - "For it is expedient that there should be a great and last sacrifice; yea, not a sacrifice of man, neither of beast, neither of any manner of fowl; for it shall not be a human sacrifice; but it must be an infinite and eternal sacrifice."

Tomorrow marks the advent of November and the beginning and hiatus of several other things.

Ever since I've heard about it, I've wanted to participate in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge designed to encourage would-be writers to get out there and write 50,000 words in a single month. The challenge spans the month of November, and this year, I'm determined to rise up.

As it is, I'm planning on putting two of my three current personal writing projects on hold. If you're worried, don't be! This blog was not chosen to be temporarily axed. So, strap in and enjoy the continuing updates throughout the next month as I probably describe in all-too-vivid detail about the frustrations involved in undertaking such a massive endeavor and likely compare my various experiences to tithing or something. I DON'T KNOW.

Anyway, I closed the first half of Jackalope a few days ago and sent it off to my test readers. I plan on wrapping up the last six pages of my goal in my journal today. I think giving both a break will prove beneficial in the long run, as I will be able to come back with a fresh perspective and more readily be able to see the mistakes I've been making.

From left to right: The working title page for the fourth volume of my journal, the last three paragraphs of what I've written in my novel, and my current set of notes for my NaNoMo entry.
As it was, though, leaving those projects kind of hurt. I've put so much time and effort into them, giving of my mind and soul to take these concepts and ideas and slap 'em on paper for the world to, hopefully, eventually see. It was similar to (yet still fell somewhat short of) saying good-bye to your family before heading off for a semester at college,

In the same way, though, there comes a time in everyone's life wherein we have to make a sacrifice for a greater cause. I think of my mission and the two years I gave serving the Lord and His people. I've seen parents give up dreams for more realistic goals, I've seen good people sacrifice fame or wealth for moral high grounds, I know Christ gave up so much to take upon himself everything no one else wanted.

So, no. I'm not comparing my 'putting my one novel on hold so I can work on my other novel' to the Savior's sacrifice. However, even an act that simple got me thinking about it. No matter what we lose in this life, no matter what we gain, the Lord has already made it up for us. So, in the end, if it brings us closer to Him, I know it's worth the sacrifice.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

RA Thriller Dance-Off: VIDEO (with Added Commentary)

D&C 136:28 - "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving."

Well, here we have it! The end of a saga, a conclusion to the past week of posts and a lot of work on this dance crew's part. I'm not sure if this is what was in mind when the above verse was written, but either way, enjoy!

Gettin' ready, gettin', gettin' ready. We absolutely trashed that restroom. We felt marginally sorry for the maintenance crew the next morning.

I do my own stunts and my own make-up. Unfortunately, I still have fake blood residue all over me. Some very concnerned individuals came up to me after I showered last night and asked me what I'd done to get such nasty rug burn on my legs.

The crew in all its post-zombie horror. Good job, guys! Mad props to our costume specialist, music editor, break dancer, and choreographer. MVPs all around!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Success: Chopsticks

Mark 2:22 - "And no man putteth new wine into old bottles: else the new wine doth burst the bottles, and the wine is spilled, and the bottles will be marred: but new wine must be put into new bottles."

It's probably been four years since I've used chopsticks, if not longer. My distant memories include about five minutes of frustrated struggling before I finally rage quit and swore to use traditional utensils for the rest of my life.

Well, today, after RA class, we fearless coworkers trooped in to the cafeteria and discovered the place was offering chopsticks alongside their Chinese dish of the day. I was immediately excited, thrilled to challenge myself in some new shape or form. Even though I remembered my vow, I figured chopsticks were more traditional than forks and knives and spoons, anyway, so I grabbed a couple pairs and set to work.

Yes. You CAN eat a burger with chopsticks.
At first, my hand was literally in pain as my fingers fumbled and twisted and dropped the sticks all over the place. However, as time went on, I found the process becoming that much easier. Soon, I was chopsticking like a champ, shoveling even tomato sauce into my mouth without looking down, much like I usually accomplish with forks and spoons or even hands. After I finished my second slice of cheesecake using naught but the two wooden rods, previously encouraged by my fellows, they erupted into cheers.

The last bite. Notice the many empty dishes I demolished in order to achieve my goal.
I was proud of the accomplishment, though not unduly so, mainly because I'd made my day just a little more interesting by pushing myself in ways I don't usually. Sure, I could have eaten my food with a boring old fork and knife, but this way, I created an experience for myself I'll never forget. After all, I'm half tempted now just to mass-order a box of chopsticks and eat with them until I have to relearn how to use a fork and spoon again, because then I'll get to see eating as a brand new experience all over again every six months or so!

So, my challenge today is, take something you've done a million times, and do it in a different way. Brush your teeth upside down. Wear your pants backward. Speak every fourth word in Pig Latin. Give it a try, and tell me what you think! Life isn't meant to be monotonous. Give every moment a new perspective, and your life will be that much more bright.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Don't Hide your Christmas light: Ward Talent Show (with Added Commentary)

Luke 21:2 - "And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites."

Yesterday was a day of talents.

On Sunday night, right after ward prayer, two of my fellow wardies came up to me and asked me if I could help them for their talent in the show the ward was holding on Monday night. Their talent was a comedy routine, in which they wanted to apply my make-up. I shrugged. "Sure," I said. "Why not?"

I already had an improv Ukulele routine all lined up as well, so I had a busy night ahead of me. I sharpened my mind for the event by trying to tweak my novel at its halfway point so I can put it on hold before National Novel Writing Month rolls around this Saturday. Then, grabbing my Uke, I headed out.

Game time. I started my Uke act by telling the slightly dramatized story of how I first learned I was quite excellent at composing impromptu folk songs. The story was played for laughs, and as such, garnered them. Then, I asked the crowd to give me an animal, an item, and a place. I didn't want to waste time for a consensus, and so selected those that had the most enthusiasm behind them: an aardvark, a pizza, and Wisconsin.

I was foolish enough to forget to ask anyone to record my performance or snap pictures for me, so here's a nearly-accurate close-up shot of what I looked like while playing.
The resulting song, plucked directly from my muse, detailed the adventures of an aardvark looking for a warm place to hide in before the onset of a Wisconsin winter. He first tries a bear's den and nearly gets eaten, then tries a mall before nearly getting beat to death by an umbrella (the assailant was a mother concerned about rabies), and finally finds a seedy pizza joint dumpster. Finding the thrown-out pizza to be just the right kind of warmth, the aardvark nestles down before getting eaten by a hobo, who mistakes the aardvark for a topping.

It was a hoot! And some people didn't really believe that I'd come up with it on the spot. Oh, well.

Then, the make-up tutorial. Another gentleman from the ward had also been enlisted to be a test subject. I called him 'Brittney,' and he called me 'Helga,' and, in our best air-headed 'girl' voices, gave running commentary on what was happening to our faces. The two girls stuck their arms through ours to give the appearance that we were applying the stuff ourselves, and off we went, yelling at each other, inviting our audience to subscribe to our YouTube channel 'kittycattcattcattpacatt' for more make-up tutorials, and making sure everyone knew they could 'almost' be as fabulous as us if only they followed our instructions to stab yourself repeatedly in the eye with a mascara wand. All in all, it was hilarious, and we managed to keep the audience going for a good five minutes.

The cast and crew of 'kittycattcattcattpacatt.'
I didn't even wipe my make-up off before it was time for more of the Thriller dance-practice. Our routine is really fly, and our practices have shown our competency. We're absolutely 100% convinced we're going to take home the gold, and we're just excited to be doing what we do.

As I walked home, still looking like a diva gone nuts, I contemplated what kind of light I'd shown that day. I consider my musical abilities to be more of a hobby than anything else. My improvisational skills could definitely be improved. Dancing is not my forte. And yet, in every instance, I was willing to go all out, doing things I'm not super confident in. And that was enough.

So, perhaps my brightest light, the talent I was most confident in, wasn't shone yesterday. That's fine! My little Christmas lights, burning away as hard as they could, still brought joy to those around me, and enabled me to glorify my Father in heaven just a little bit more.

What talents--or lack thereof--do you feel you hesitate to bring to the table? Throw 'em right out there next to the turkey!

I wrote a commentary about this post on August 27, 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jumpin' the Slump Week

Moroni 6:5 - "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls."

We hit a serious slump week over here at the campus. Midterms, classes, relationships, projects, professors, TAs, long lines in the cafeteria, gnomes, and everything else that commonly causes stress among college students really took a hammer to everyone's skulls. I was completely surprised by the apparently abrupt decline in morale.

However, as I felt prompted to mention during the Sunday School class I subbed for yesterday, I pointed out just how blessed we all are to have the gospel in our lives. That sentiment, driven into my mind without warning, stuck with me. There are so many people in similar or worse situations than ourselves, but, without the guidance of the Savior, they lack the full heavenly support we take for granted every day. Even in our trials, we are blessed. And it is our job to help those around us find that happiness through our good light.

As it was, going out home teaching in that night became more personal for me than usual. I wasn't just fulfilling a priesthood responsibility; I was trying to lighten any burdens I could. Ironically, yet expectedly, my efforts actually eased the burdens I'd been feeling myself. And though my success was questionable, I still felt as though I'd done my best. That is enough.

The second most attractive home teaching companionship in the ward. My companion would have won, but I lowered our average considerably.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

BOOM Saturday

A Time to Prepare, by Ian S. Ardern - "Time is never for sale; time is a commodity that cannot, try as you may, be bought at any store for any price. Yet when time is wisely used, its value is immeasurable. On any given day we are all allocated, without cost, the same number of minutes and hours to use, and we soon learn, as the familiar hymn so carefully teaches, “Time flies on wings of lightning; we cannot call it back” (“Improve the Shining Moments,” Hymns,no. 226). What time we have we must use wisely. President Brigham Young said, “We are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage, and he will require of us a strict account of [its] disposition” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young [1997], 286)."

My old FHE group wanted to know if I could join them on Saturday for a short reunion.

"POSSIBLY," I typed. "Saturday is currently an eldritch maze of horrors."

And it was.

BOOM. D&D with my homies in the morning. Single-handedly take out a bunch of werewolves whilst riding upon my unicorn. Contemplate the utter geekiness of my hobbies and reassure myself my overactive imagination is not a sign of outright insanity.

BOOM. Volunteer to help out another RA with their program later in the day. Acknowledge that I'm totally going to be cutting it close in making it back from my other errands on time.

BOOM. Haircut time. Drive to a place and use my starving student card to get a sweet discount. Talk with the Hispanic lady cutting my hair about her husband for half an hour. They're doing really well!

BOOM. Time to pick up my suit. Drive to the tailor and inspect her work. Make her day by telling her she did a really awesome job and that I know exactly where I'm coming the next time I need my suit repaired. Remember that I haven't needed any repairs on my suit since I first bought it over three years ago. Refrain from telling the tailor as such.

BOOM. Come home earlier than expected. Find out the company I bought a sketchpad program from finally sent me my keys. Sketch out some concept art for my novel (if it reaches the web fiction format).

BOOM. Get totally distracted and show up to the program late. Realize my wardrobe was improper for the event and book it back to my room to change before booking it back over to my station way over on the side of campus I rarely go to. Get lost trying to find the right building.

BOOM: Realize I totally burned one of my other RAs, with whom I was supposed to help pick out costumes for our Thriller dance practice. Apologize profusely. Smack forehead several times.

BOOM: Blog furiously while freshmen come, find me at my station, and take my hints and secrets that lead them to the next step in their Amazing Race. Celebrate a job well done with donuts and pizza.

BOOM. Work on journal and novel. Resist urge to blow it off and play ultimate Frisbee. Get frustrated with novel because there isn't enough time to reach the goal I set for the day. Find a good stopping point and shrug it off.

BOOM. Fight my email service so I can help another RA with her Halloween costume. Finally print out her name tag. Color printers are the bomb!

BOOM. Head to the Helaman Halls dance. Eat half a pie all by myself. Everyone asks why I'm not wearing a costume, and I tell them I'm a Zygon. No one ever gets the joke. Join another RA in putting on his costume.

BOOM. Receive a call. Am I going to the FHE reunion? I forgot about that. Well, I have something at ten, and I ... It starts at nine? Fine. Let's go.

BOOM. Pick up friend and friend's friend and drive up to Orem. Reunite with FHE family while eating IHOP. Order an appetizer so I can quickly leave before everyone else. Appetizer is served along with everyone else's order, and I end up being the last one eating. Enjoy the company, but quickly bounce.

BOOM. Arrive half an hour late to our Thriller dance practice. Discover that we're starting an hour late because the dance at the Cannon Center stole our space.

BOOM. Read my scriptures until 11.

BOOM. The dance needs to be packed up. Assist in any way possible, putting up chairs, rolling out chairs, carrying ladders, and providing comic relief in the form of using said ladders as battering rams.

BOOM. Despite the fact that I wasn't present throughout the dance, and that I'm not wearing a 'proper' costume (a Zygon is a perfectly reasonable costume, thank you very much), am invited to join in a massive RA picture.

BOOM. Thriller dance practice. Find I'm not doing as bad a job as I thought I might have been. We all get kicked out at midnight.

BOOM. Read comics for a while before finally crashing into bed. The end.

I'm not sure how many of you wanted a play-by-play of my Saturday, but I hope the quotation explains it all (and I hope you read it, too). I found great joy in yesterday, and I'm sure you see why.

So, how was your day?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Determination: The Woodpecker (with Added Commentary)

Jeremiah 50:6 - "... they have gone from mountain to hill, they have forgotten their resting place."

Coming out of the plasma center yesterday, I saw a peculiar sight.

I snapped this low-quality picture seconds before it flew away.

A bird, bearing mannerisms akin to a woodpecker, was furious pecking at the concrete wall, creating that rat-a-tat-tat sound with which we are all familiar. I was amused by the sight. What are you doing, woody? I thought. That's a building, not a tree. You aren't accomplishing anything. Woody seemed to hear me, because he flew away shortly thereafter.

Something about that pecker inspired me, though. With a determination unparalleled, he had pursued his goal, furiously pecking away until he could peck no more. I didn't see his subsequent flight as a failure, but rather, a beginning.

Neither you nor myself are ever guaranteed success in anything we try. Indeed, perfection is required for heaven, and yet we will be judged on how hard we try. If I heard someone tried and failed to climb Mount Everest, I would worry less that they didn't make it to the top and be super excited that they were able to prepare themselves for that level at all. Failure is much more than completing an objective. Failure is never striving in the first place.

And so, inspired by my concrete-pecker friend, I auditioned for something yesterday. It was only a small-scale online radio play, but it was something I was hesitant to tackle. And so I did. And even if I don't get the part, I at least tried the climb.

What mountain are you scared to tackle?

I wrote a commentary about this post on August 20, 2015. Click here to read!

Friday, October 24, 2014

My Car Ride (poem)

Mosiah 4:27 - "... it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize ..."

I speed down the endless road
a thousand miles or more
shifting gears, changing lanes
yet the end is so unsure

What's the point in driving
if the road just never stops?
All I can true expect
is my gas to dry, my wheel to pop

I could get side-swiped by a truck
I could get trapped in muddy muck
My car could flip, and I'd be stuck
I'm dependent upon naught but luck

It seems as though six percent of
my success is in control
The other ninety one and three
Depends on those who also roll

And yet, I don't quit
such thoughts I do forget
And if my 'wisdom' throws a fit
I throw in five and gun it

The mountains I do conquer
The rivers I do cross
The valleys I do navigate
My worries then are tossed

The race is with myself
and not the other drivers
If my failure rests on them
My fault I am a survivor

So everything beyond my grasp
throws everything at me
But I keep my two and ten o'clock
and know when I'm close to beat

So I choose to make things easy
and seek to unwind and ravel
I turn off onto an unworn path
that which has been less-traveled

I admire the sights and the scenery
the trees, the birds, the sun
Then I pull back onto my freeway
Determined I will not be outdone

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Let your Light So Shine: Dance-Off Challenge Continues (with Added Commentary)

Doctrine & Covenants 136:18 - "If thou art merry, praise the Lord with singing, with music, with dancing, and with a prayer of praise and thanksgiving."

So, I'm not very good at dancing. Nor am I good at choreography. You may ask why I was one of the three primary choreographers for our Thriller dance in our RA group. I wondered, too, especially since my blocking turned our stage into some kind of space robot.

If you don't see it, go watch some Star Trek for an hour or something.

All in all, though, most of you know I am a severe advocate of letting your light so shine (aw, gee, what a surprise, it wasn't like the title spoiled the topic for you or anything), and I believe this even when you're not sure if what you're doing is really, you know, your color of Christmas lights (Too soon?).

So, sure, I didn't really know what I was doing. But I was helping in the way I could, and even though my winged zombie idea was totes shot down (WARNING: Link leads to video containing a SPOILER [The ending to Doctor Faustus] and potentially disturbing imagery if you don't like stage demons dragging an actor down to stage Hell. Don't make deals with the devil, kids. But it shows my wing idea!), I managed to not feel like a total deadweight to the party.

In that sense, as I experimented with a potentially new talent, I let the light so shine because, though I am certainly not the best choreographer or dancer, I was able to develop that part of me.

The real professionals are on either side of me. I'm just the terrible artist!
Be sure to try something new today! I dare ya!

I wrote a commentary about this post on August 13, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Finding Unity: Dance-Off Challenge (with Added Commentary)

Romans 8:35 - "Who shall separate us from the love of God? ..."

I learned a lot during my experiences with my fellow RAs yesterday. The first experience happened during our class, in which we talked about diversity, specifically everyone's race, ethnicity (they're different, apparently. Whodathunkit?), and culture. The second experience happened after our staff meeting, during which the RAs from my building collaborated with the RAs from another building in preparation for a dance-off coming up next week.

Throughout the day, I kept coming back to the fact that we are all different. I think of people like the Mythbusters, who are very different individuals, yet act well together as a team. I think of people from bands like the Beatles, who performed so well together, yet eventually fell apart.

There are many separate reasons why these two groups found unity or a lack thereof, but the main point is, if we are not careful, friendships, marriages, and other dear relationships, no matter how strong they may appear, have the chance to crack under enough  pressure. Hearing about diversity in class, I recognized the most important thing we can maintain under that selfsame pressure is a genuine love for those around us.

Sure, we may not know everyone, or even really love them in the same way we would a family member or friend, but seeing as how we are all children of our Heavenly Father, we--and by we, I mean everyone--deserve proper respect and kindness.

I feel as though a lot of damaged relationships begin with one of the participants dwelling on how different they are from the other (or others, as it may be). The more we focus on what sets us apart, the easier it  is for the spirit of contention to find one of those cracks and wiggle in. However, I firmly believe that no matter what relationship we're in, we can find the strength to hold it together by channeling the same love we feel from our Savior toward whoever it is we're currently around.

I mentioned the RA dance-off because we had about eight or nine individuals in that room. Each of us were wielding ideas and concepts and questions and jokes willy-nilly, left and right, and inside out, and it would have been very easy for any of us to rage  against the dying of the light when our ideas were tossed or merged with another. However, that didn't happen. We all stayed strong, and our enthusiasm remained high even after we decided to break and reconvene today, because of the love and respect we all had for each other. The important thing here is, then, that we're going to smash this dance-off into the ground. Look out, competition!

Who are some of your favorite 'odd couples?' Who was your least favorite break up?

I wrote a commentary about this post on August 6, 2015. Click here to read!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

FHE: Recycle Maze

I'm going to get up on a soapbox a little bit today.

This is NOT my soapbox, though I did stand on those boxes yesterday.
I swear by FHE. I had a wonderful Family Home Evening yesterday, organized by our fearless 'FHE dad.' After the spiritual thought, we visited a 'recycle maze,' made completely out of, well, you guess it, recycling. It was actually pretty innovative, and effectively got me scrambled up and down and left and right. The sad thing was, very few people actually joined our 'family.'

What is family home evening? It's an opportunity for families to come together and do something that helps them have fun, build relationships of trust and love, create memories to cherish, and, most importantly, grow stronger spiritually. True, it's different in a college setting, where your family is a bunch of peers you barely know, but, regardless, all those qualities I listed are still possible given any sort of FHE environs.

Along with regular scripture study, church attendance, and prayer, prophets have strongly urged use to participate in Family Home Evening. "They have promised that our dedication to this program will help protect [us] against the evils of our time and will bring us abundant joy now and throughout the eternities."

So, if you don't have plans for an FHE this week, make one happen! It doesn't have to even be on Monday (the traditional day for such a thing). And, in return, I can promise you those same blessings I've listed above, because I've seen them happen in my own personal life.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Balanced (Part 2)

Ephesians 3:14 - "For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ"

 Much better!

Yesterday was an antithesis to the previous day. I...

  • Woke up early for a meeting that never happened 
  • Used the extra time to finish my journal and blog post 
  • Enjoyed a very spiritually uplifting church block 
  • Organized and ran an effective floor meeting 
  • Found myself with my entire daily 'To Do' list more or less completed 
  • Decided to begin tackling digitizing the notes I took during moments of inspiration throughout my mission 
  • Went to ward choir and prayer, and
  • Played board games with my friends until midnight.

All in all, it was a very productive day, and I closed out with an extreme satisfaction as to what I accomplished.

Yes, yesterday was full and busy, and it even bled into today. This morning was chock full of important tasks I've been hoping to accomplish, but my reverie last night and my determination to be productive this morning meant I tipped over too far in one direction again. I got a very minimal amount of sleep, and though I was upbeat and full of energy this very morning, now that I've reached the afternoon, I'm hitting a wall. Argh!

Ah, well, so it goes. Like I said yesterday, the Lord wants me and you to find a balance, and we'll probably spend our whole lives doing so. The most important thing is, whether we're being too busy or too idle, if we put the Lord first, always, then we'll turn out right. He'll nudge us in the right direction. So, whether you feel like the Me of Saturday--bland, lazy, and drained--the Me of Sunday--energized, vitalized, and ready to rumble--or the Me of Today--somewhere in the middle--a few minutes on your knees will help you know where to reach.

I love you guys! See you tomorrow!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Balancing Temporal and Spiritual things

Ecclesiastes 5:12 - "The sleep of a labouring man is sweet ..."

Yesterday was one of those days.

I accomplished exactly four things yesterday, back-to-back-to-back-to-back, and then my day was unceremoniously over. I woke up and joined the group for D&D, went back to my room and napped, woke up and studied for/took an exam, and then showed up for my desk shift at work. Throughout, I never showered or even really got ready for the day. 

I actually had wanted to accomplish more, but after my nap stretched from two hours to four, I had to give up some things to focus on my exam. At first, I was inclined to curse my body's hunger for sleep and bemoan the extra hours I'd lost. After a while, though, I decided that, if I really needed sleep badly enough to turn off my alarm without me ever remembering it, then it was probably good things turned out the way they did. 

My main point is, what with all the busyness and rushing around and work I have to do all the time, it's easy to feel guilty for a little bit of idleness. However, the Lord knows what's better for me than I know myself, and so is wise in where he allows my victory to lie. In many ways, just as reading scriptures and praying is important to your well-being, so are other, more temporal things, like sleep and eating healthy and exercising. The Lord certainly doesn't want us to forego our physical well-being in favor of spiritual things, or vice versa. He wants us to find a balance and then stick with it. I've met people in both categories who forego the other, and neither are as happy as the Lord intends for us to be.

So, my challenge to you is, take a nap! Don't feel guilty about it, either. Trust me, after I woke up, I felt a whole lot more prepared to tackle that exam and professionally kill moments, as is in my job description.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

There's Always A Reason

1 Nephi 4:6 - "And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do."

My best bro was going on a date tonight, and, as part of the fun, decided to take her to his ward's bonfire after they saw a movie in the theatre. He wanted me to try and double with him, but after that didn't work out, he suggested I just join them for the bonfire.

I wasn't sure exactly why he wanted me to become a third wheel during his date, but because he's my bro, I knew he had noble reasons, though I assumed my primary role was to use my natural charm and goofiness to diffuse any potential tension or awkwardity (awkwardness? awkwardology?) that may have risen between them between the movie and picking me up. Thankfully for them, after they picked me up and drove me up to the canyon, they were still hitting it off fine, so the role I had envisioned for myself proved useless.

So there I was, sitting up in the mountains with a group of people I didn't know talking about things I didn't care about with faces I couldn't really see in the darkness. My first inclination was to conclude that my time would have been far better spent back at the dorms, where an exam and creative projects waited.

No! I thought. I have my smart phone! I pulled up QuickOffice and began to type up a new chapter of my novel. The mood and atmosphere of the campsite aided my description of one of my characters' paganistic religions, making the final product that much more real for me. When my fingers froze to the point of minimal usage, I decided to silently slip away from the group into the darkness, rubbing my digits in my armpits, to give myself some time to think.

The sky was clear, and the stars were out, giving me a clear view of the cosmos stretching above me. As I craned my neck upward, I felt so compelled to offer up a prayer, and so did, speaking with my Father for some time before silently drawing back to the edge of the fire. None had noticed my absence.

As we three piled back into the car, I pointed out that I'd accomplished my primary purpose--being there for my bro--as well as a secondary and tertiary purpose I hadn't been aware of before making the journey. The conclusion I made is that, no matter where we are, no matter where I'm going, the Lord knows where he needs us. When I'm in a situation I'm not super thrilled about, I need to make an effort to try and see the hidden reasons why I'm there. And when I do that, then my life will be that much more full.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Seeing as the Lord sees

1 Samuel 16:7 -  "... But the Lord looketh on the heart."

As part of RA class yesterday, we were asked to group up in trios to roleplay disruptive roommates. Two of us played the roommates while the third was the RA, and we were given three different scenarios to consider so each of us could be the RA at least once.

Just like a zone meeting, we probably do roleplays once a class period, and I've apparently gained a reputation for portraying extreme caricatures of the residents I am so assigned. Therefore, I decided that, for at least today, I was going to give my fellow RAs some slack and try to play the residents as realistically as possible.

Even so, while I was the RA, my 'residents' still had problems resolving their concerns in a civil manner.

Of course, despite our bombastic caricatures and the fact we were supposed be practicing resolving the problems as RAs for residents who have gotten so deep in conflict that neither feel they're going to be able to work it out, we didn't do a great job, well, practicing. After we'd acted like the irrational residents we were supposed to be, before the RA really had much time to actually solve the conflict, the two 'residents' would calm down, consider the presented arguments, and resolve the problem themselves. No RA intervention was really necessary. After each roleplay, we three would look at each other for a moment. "Well," one of us would say. "Problem solved, I guess." Then we'd move on to the next scenario.

Beyond the humor of the situation, the experience helped me recognize how easy it is to build misperceptions of people. Each scenario involved a lack of communication between individuals. Had Resident A simply asked Resident B to stop borrowing DVDs without asking for permission, the irate fury Resident A felt could have been easily avoided, offering peace to his mind and the chance to build a friendship. We RAs, as 'residents,' recognized this pretty readily, which is probably why we didn't really need the roleplaying RA in the first place. The love and concern we had for our fellow was greater than our desire to think of 
them in anything but a positive light. 

How many times do I assume the worst of someone? More often then I'd like to admit. I wish I could view more of my own irrationality from the outside like I could with those scenarios. As it is, I can always be more careful with my words, more understanding of the people around me, and, above all, seek to assume the best of their intentions. And, of course, I challenge you to do the same!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sandwich Analogy: Pushing through the Bread

1 Nephi 8:24 - "And it came to pass that I beheld others pressing forward ... and they did press through the mist of darkness ..."

As I've said before, I eat with a lunch group every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We're a curious cast of three core members and a rotating roster of guest stars that add flavor to our unaired TV show of sorts.

We were missing one of the core cast members yesterday, but one of my fellow RAs joined us as the guest star, and we had an awesome conversation about life, the universe, and everything. As we were sitting there, chowing down, my fellow RA mentioned how, when he eats sandwiches from certain fast food establishments, he always just gets bread in the first bite. The sentence rattled around in my mind for a few seconds.

BAM! Blog post idea! Snapped a picture and mentally drafted something together.

This is actually a good post to follow yesterday's, as they're similar, but not completely identical.

Sometimes, when I first make a decision and start on a pathway of my choosing, I feel like I'm biting into a sandwich and just getting bread. I don't immediately reap the fruit of the reason why I started on the pathway--the meat of the matter--and so get discouraged.

However, just because things don't turn out the way I expect immediately doesn't mean I'm taking the wrong path. It would be stupid to stop eating a sandwich just because I didn't get what I expected in the first bite. As we exercise just a little more patience, just one more bite, eventually, we just might find what we're looking for. Of course, sometimes, you just find tomatoes, and then you realize you picked up the wrong sandwich somewhere.

Any other sandwich-based analogies I've left unturned? Comment below!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


Acts 9:5 - "And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks."

I'm in a stage of my life where I have a lot of decisions to make. I'm sure most of you are, too. It seems like you never really leave that 'stage' of your life until you're getting embalmed, which actually sounds like it would be pretty relaxing if you were at all aware throughout the experience. I guess the point I'm making with that strange declaration is that decisions bring stress. Seems fair, I guess?

Anyway, tangential rambling aside, I've been trying to make some major decisions over the past little while and have felt a little worried about the consequences of any and all of the potential choices. I was talking with younger sis on the phone yesterday about everything I was considering, and she felt prompted to remind me of the advice I'd given her some time ago, which I based off this video. (Click the link to watch!)

I didn't know how to take a picture of a phone conversation with my camera phone, so I took a picture of the desk I was sitting with my camera phone while I was talking on it. #FWP

Younger sis told me I needed to remember that I may very well make some wrong choices, but that's Ok! Maybe the Lord just wants me to head down a few wrong paths so that way I can know for sure when I finally choose the right path. I was very appreciative of the reminder, and decided to make more decisions with confidence, ever relying on the Spirit for guidance, but going forth with faith, not worrying too much about if what I choose will take me down the wrong path for a time. If I am worthy, if I am faithful, if I am trusting in the Lord, as many of my leaders have assured me in the past, I'll be nudged in the right direction.

And the same goes for you! So get out there and trust!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

True Charity Prose: Pumpin' Plasma (with Added Commentary)

Moroni 7:6 - "... for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing."

I like going on dates!

I have a laughably small budget for dates.

Thankfully, I've been able to able to supplement my dating budget with money I've earned from selling stuff on eBay and all that, but even that extra source won't be enough to last me through the hard times of winter. So, I decided to join the mad craze sweeping Provo, travel to a certain clinic with two of my friends, and donate my life blood. For money!

Honestly, the entire thing seemed and still seems sketch to me. So many people freely and willingly give blood every year, and there I was, getting paper for squeezing plasma out of my veins to assist lab coats in making some sort of crazy medicine that helps people with some disease somewhere. A lot of the jargon went over my head, but in all the material I was required to read and watch beforehand, people kept smiling, sticking their thumbs up, and say, "You're helping out! You're saving lives! You're making a difference!"

I felt like such a cheat walking out of that place with cash in hand. The Pure Love of Christ it wasn't.

How noble and self-sacrificing can I really be for doing something I'm getting compensation for? Despite the repeated assurances I was probably the most charitable person in the world, I couldn't honestly say I was doing it for the afflicted. No, I was doing it for dates. I would have felt better about the whole experience if someone, at some point, had looked me in the eye and said, "We're paying you to give your plasma. You are gaining no points in heaven for this." Yes! I would have been no relieved! But no, playing everything off like it was a charity made me feel guilty.

My guilt was also relieved by said cash in hand.

In the end, I think my point is that I can certainly do a better job more actively seeking for ways to be charitable, even moreso than throwing in a few extra dollars into tithing or offerings. The plus side to donating plasma is, at least I'm going to have a semi-weekly reminder of ways I can improve my charity, because I'm never going to forget my first experience going there.

What are some of your triggers that remind you to be charitable? Comment in the section below!

I wrote a commentary about this post on July 30, 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Miracles (poem) [with Added Commentary]

Mormon 9:21 - "Behold, I say unto you that whoso believeth in Christ, doubting nothing, whatsoever he shall ask the Father in the name of Christ it shall be granted him; and this promise is unto all, even unto the ends of the earth."

I've never walked on water
nor watched anyone the same
I've never brought back the dead
nor seen to whom to blame

I've never moved a mountain,
nor even watched one tremble
And what I have broken
I cannot reassemble

I've never turned five loaves of
bread to fifty or more
But the stories I cherish the most
Are from those days of yore

Even despite the miracles
I won't or have never seen
There is no doubt, in heart or mind,
that I still believe

The common phrase is simple
"Faith is just believing"
But the suggested ease
Can be slightly deceiving

My belief is mine, while
Yours is up to you
But I'm not to say building that
is as easy as one two

Your journey is your own
I am no guide, I cannot say
How you will grow your faith
Each and every day

But I am here to witness
That miracles I know

A seed grows
A river flows
A calf lows
A wind blows
A cock crows
A face glows
And we go

I wrote a commentary about this post on July 23, 2015. Click here to read.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Balancing Family and Light (with Added Commentary)

"Perhaps the most universal regret dying patients expressed was that they wished they had spent more time with the people they love." - Dieter F. Uchtdorf

I feel like, in some ways, I'm a total extrovert, and in other ways, I'm the exact opposite. I mean, come on, writers are natural introverts, holing themselves up in their writing rooms to work by themselves with no interruptions for hours on end. At the same time, I have a very blue personality, so I love being around people and getting to know them. I joke with people that I operate on two batteries. When I'm working by myself, it's because I've drained my 'people' battery and need to recharge. When I'm actively engaged in hanging out with family and friends, it's because I've drained my 'solitude' battery and need to recharge.

In that way, my time management is a bit of a struggle. I recognize that spending time and creating memories with my family, both physically and spiritually, is the most noble endeavor I can undertake. The memories I can build in those encounters will be far greater than anything I can bang out on a keyboard. At the same time, I want to be able to glorify the Father in heaven by using my talents to bring others closer to Him.

But that's the challenge everyone faces. I've seen homes torn apart from too much neglect, and I've seen homes torn apart from not enough neglect. A balance is required, but it can be achieved. It is possible.

Today's Sunday, the Sabbath day. I challenge everyone who reads this post to take an hour or so and ponder to yourself ways you've recognized how you're trying to come closer to Heavenly Father. Oftentimes, I think we focus too much on our own shortcomings, today, think of where you're finding success. You deserve it!

I wrote a commentary about this post on July 16, 2015. Click here to read!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Meet the Mormons Review

Job 29:19 - "My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch."

I went on a double date yesterday and had a great time!

The preliminary activity was to go and watch the new blockbuster Meet the Mormons, which I actually really enjoyed, despite my general dislike of the director's choice to juxtapose the actor at the very beginning of the film alongside focus stories about real people with real concerns and life stories. Oh, and I wished they'd thrown a bit more third-world in there. Just saying.

Beyond that, the movie did exactly what it wanted to do, even beyond my expectations. For Mormon movie-goers, it was a great way to see other Mormons in a variety of circumstances most likely both similar and unlike the viewers' experience, helping them view their own lifestyles in a completely different light. For non-Mormon movie-goers, not only can they see we Mormons live normal, fulfilling lives like normal, motivated people, they can learn just a little bit about our basic beliefs, particularly the Christian values we love and cherish. As it is, I recommend everyone to watch it, and then take their friends to watch it and then take their friends' friends to watch it and then take their friends' friends grandparents to watch it, too! No, wait; I issue an official challenge!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Seeking Enlightenment: The Quest (with Added Commentary)

Romans 15:2 - "Let every one of us please his neighbor for his good to edification."

As is my usual game, I decided, on the spur of the moment, to go for a walk last night.

I ended up meeting and walking one with one of my residents between the two freshmen dorm complexes. After we parted ways, however, I felt like I wasn't done yet. What, I thought to myself as I headed west through Helaman, can I do to make this memorable?

All of a sudden, I had it.

I started going through each and every single one of the dormitories, stopping at the front desks and asking the RAs behind them to enlighten me. I actually picked up a couple of friends along the way, so the three of us would swarm the desks, seeking help on our quest.

"What one piece of general advice would you give anyone who asked on the topic of life, the universe, and everything?" I would say.

"What problem are you having?" the RA would ask. "So I can give more specific advice."

"I got 99 problems, but I solved them all." I said. "So now I just need some generalities."

These are the answers we quest-seekers received:

Humor is better than wisdom.
Don't take chemistry.
Always be teachable and willing to learn.
Always read the footnotes.
Just smile.
Always go on as many adventures as possible.
Find out who you are and what your identity is.
All you need is love.
Never stick your head in a mailbox.
You can sleep when you're dead.
Think, don't smoke.

It was a great experience because I not only was able to strengthen my friendships with my friends, but also actually receive some surprisingly deep thoughts to ponder, along with the ... uh ... others. 

So, my challenge today is to do the same! Maybe not ask for general advice, but ask others what they think about something. Try to understand their viewpoint. See what you can learn from them. And I promise you, even if the advice itself doesn't stick, the experience will.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Getting Nudged: Capture the Flag (with Added Commentary)

Alma 7:19 - "For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness ..."

I seem to talk about work a lot. Who knew that would be such an integral part of my life?

So, every week, one of the halls over here at Helaman put together an activity we call 'After Hours,' which can be anything from playing video games to holding a yoga night. The purpose of the event is to foster inter-hall relations among all the residents across the complex, and, of course, have lots of fun.

This past week was my crew's turn to organize and run one of these activities, and so we decided we were going to hold a massive capture the flag game. The seven of us thinkjousted the rules, nitpicking and nitpicking until we came up with what we thought was the perfect rule-set.

Of course, then we had to procure the supplies, seek out cones to mark the no-man's land, find suitable towels to act as flags, tweak the rules just a bit more, distribute glow sticks to the various teams, ensure the after-activity ice cream actually made it to the central building, and make sure everyone involved understood everything that was going down.

And then, with much pomp and splendor, everything began. The team captains, looped on a conference call on my phone, shouted for the teams to move, and the games began. For nearly an hour the teams battled, recruiting reinforcements as residents previously unaware of the event saw the goings-on and were drafted into the various teams via distributing glowsticks of the proper colors. People crossed over enemy lines and made their assaults, running and fleeing toward and away from where the flags had been deposited. Friendly insults and screams of defeat filled the air.

And then, it was all over.

Nobody had brought a single flag back to their respawn point.

Seeing as it's me, I thought to myself, What can I learn from this experience? What I pulled away from it was, simply, that no matter how much preparation you put into something, sometimes, things don't turn out the way you plan or even want. I can count many times in my life when my best-laid plans were dashed when the Lord had a different path for me to take, simply because he knew what I needed best. The point is, the Lord wants us to try. He wants us to put as much effort as we can to step and stay on the path we feel is best, and when we are doing all we can, even in consulting Him, he will step in and nudge us in the way we need to go. However, even that nudge is forfeit if we aren't trying.

And, of course, to drive that illustration home, the students who came back to the central building for ice cream, hot, sweaty, and dirty, expressed just how much fun they had to me and the other members of the crew. They, more than anything else, were the shining examples of finding joy in the effort.

I wrote a commentary about this post on July 2, 2015. Click here to read!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Growing One Step at a Time

Isaiah 28:13 - "But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept ... line upon line ... here a little, and there a little..."

As most of my early readers probably remember, I have a lot of regrets surrounding my first few months back home. The crux of the issue was that I was insensitive to the emotional needs of certain individuals, which led to some heartache on at least my part.

My RA class has actually proved quite instructional about being sensitive to individual needs. After all, being a Resident Assistant is all about, you know, assisting residents with their various crises, including the emotional ones. As I've sat in class, learning the things I wish I knew months ago, I've found myself wondering why the Lord wanted me to learn these things after a time when I now feel I needed them most. Would I have appreciated the teaching prior to when I needed it? Maybe He just hoped I would be able to figure it out on my own, and then sent me the training I needed when I failed. Or is this simply an answer to a prayer all those months ago?

Either way, I sometimes feel overwhelmed by all I have to learn in this life, and find great frustration when I learn a lesson, at least in my perspective, too late or too early. In those times, I try to trust that the Lord knows what He's doing, guiding me to where I need to go. I mean, I'm sure some children wonder why their parents don't teach them how to use the remote, even while said parents are still struggling to teach them how to use the potty trainer. Even I, as one of God's 'adult' children, can't fathom why I'm taught things in the way they've so far come.

So, like the above verse says, I go forward, learning a little bit at a time, precept upon precept, line upon line, just hoping everything will be fine as I square my shoulders and do my part. And I hope you will, too. Hey, I know you will!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Finding Victory: Test-Taking Failures (with Added Commentary)

Matthew 25:16 - "Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents."

So, I'm not a good test taker.

I may have a very self-deprecating sense of humor, but while most of the insults I throw at myself are primarily tongue-in-cheek, I'm completely serious about tests. I'm just awful at them. I'm probably worse at taking tests than I am at reattaching lost limbs using spaghetti, or imploding internally at will, or moon-walking on the ceiling, or digesting oysters to turn them into pearls, or being a woman, and I'm pretty sure at least one of those things is impossible for me, anyway.

The proof I would present for this claim of mine is that, at least until yesterday, I had never gotten above a seventy-eight at the testing center here at the university I attend. If you threw out the outliers, then I had never gotten above a sixty-nine. However, the plus side to throwing out the outliers was that I'd never gotten below a forty-eight!

But yesterday changed all that. I got an A for my New Testament midterm.

I was simultaneously thrilled and frustrated. Of course I did well on a New Testament test, I grumbled to myself. I like the New Testament. I reasoned my poor test record was, in part, due to the fact that English classes don't have final exams, just papers, and that the record wouldn't be so dismal if English tests were as common as Geography tests.

But then I kicked myself.

God doesn't expect us to be perfect in everything, especially when we're not even perfect in the things we enjoy or are even good at. It's completely all right to be proud of any victory, even the ones you may feel are gift-wrapped because such things come so easily for you. But that's the thing! If you're good at something, it's because God gifted you that particular talent or ability. There is no better way to find an opportunity to give glory to God in those special moments.

So, I don't really know how many people battle the same psyche I do, but hey! Listen! I challenge you to find a victory you had today and thank God for giving you the talent and gifts and strength you needed to find that victory. And then, I challenge you to go have another victory! Get at 'em!

I wrote a commentary about this post on June 25, 2015. Click here to read!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Conference Report: 184th SemiAnnual

Watch the Broadcast

I've mentioned how wonderful it is to have a modern-day prophet to speak to us like Moses spoke to the children of Israel. Well, this past weekend, men and women like Peter, Paul, Stephen, and Philip delivered God's messages to the world via a semi-annual worldwide broadcast that lasted two days and ten hours. It was awesome! It was a blessing! I tried to chronicle my individual journey as bets as I could via pictures. Here we go:

Taking notes while watching in fold-back mode on my laptop during the Saturday morning session.
A Historical moment: The first non-English (I think) talk delivered during a General Conference.

Pulling into Salt Lake between Saturday morning and afternoon sessions.

The friend I wrote about yesterday!

Trying to catch the Saturday afternoon session above the City Creek McDonald's using their terrible Wifi.

The Salt Lake Temple from an overview at City Creek.

Another potential friend.

Crowds of Mormons gather on the lawn outside the old tabernacle to listen to the broadcast via the speaker system.

The Salt Lake Temple towering over the tabernacle.

The conference center. Taken from about halfway through Temple Square, coming from City Creek.

Listening to conference on the my smart phone radio app. Thank you, KSL.

Witnessing a small missionary reunion.

Trying to watch conference in the theaters in the North Visitor's center.

Riding the elevator up to priesthood session with my bro.

The priesthood session, as viewed from the back row.
Going out for celebratory waffles following the session.
Watching the Sunday sessions at a friend's house.

Looking over Utah Valley to reflect on the past two and a half years.