Friday, August 28, 2009

:::SFLC Forever:::

As the new school year begins at the old alma mater, I feel duty bound to share some advise with BYU students new and old based on my own time as a cougar. Learn from my mistakes, chickens.

1. Don't waste your time being bitter. You won't win any awards or gain any friends.

2. Be thankful for who you are and what you have, but don't be afraid to improve yourself.

3. Realize that you're jealous of most of the people that you make fun of. Figure out why.

4. The gospel always comes first, even before all the edifying things you will encounter in art and literature and philosophy. Everything of beauty points to the gospel, but they do not replace it.

5. If you really hate BYU, if you think the atmosphere is crazy oppressive, if you honestly think Utah is lame, then leave. You aren't gracing anyone with your presence.

Sarcasm doesn't make you cool or intelligent or better than anyone else.

Oh, young ones, enjoy it while it lasts.
It is the best of times.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

:::Snapshots -- Thursday, August 27, 2009:::

1. I left work early today because I was feeling really fatigued. I took a cab home -- which I'm always game for -- and got a little sad as I drove past all the museums and realized how much I missed the hospitable weather of fall and spring. Pretty soon I'll be able to move about comfortably again. See ya later summer, you won't be missed.

2. When I was talking to my mom tonight I heard my dad break out into laughter in the background. Apparently he was watching football bloopers. I always like hearing him laugh that way.

3. I've started reading the Book of Mormon again, and I'm highlighting every instance when someone directly asks the Lord for help in a prayer, how the Lord answers back, and what the outcome is. I'm using a new paperback version, so the pages are free of previous marks. This will be exciting and should give me some good examples and guidance.

4. Why haven't there been many pictures on the blog lately? To be honest, I'm not loving the new camera. I guess that in the few years between when I bought my first camera and when I bought this one, Canon decided to be cute and switch up some of the functionality of the A series. I feel like I have less control now than I did before, and the way the buttons work annoys me.

5, Yeah, ate the whole thing.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

:::Made My Day in 5 Seconds:::

Here is a story about a real act of service.

My blogging friend Jill came up with a brilliant way to assign not just chores to her kids, but also to teach them some life skills, give them an awareness of what it means to take care of and run a home, and have them participate in enriching activities. She simply took some popsicle sticks and wrote a chore or task on each one, then threw them in a bag. Her kids each draw one stick every morning during the summer and have to complete whatever is listed on that stick. Examples? Learn to make a treat, write a letter to a grandparent, read for half and hour, clean baseboards, go for a walk, plan and make dinner, etc.

Really, this is such a brilliant idea. It's simple, it switches things up a bit, and it works.

Here's a quote from Jill's blog about a recent experience her kids had with the sticks --

Whitney had some serious, morning grumpiness about her Popsicle stick job yesterday. She got "clean a bathroom" while Landon got "learn to make a treat" so she thought that was unfair. I don't know what fair has to do with anything, and am sure she wouldn't have had an issue with it had it gone the other way.
(Here are two links to read more about Popsicle sticks year one, and this summer's sticks in Return of the Popsicle Sticks.)

That is why I love this idea so much. Life isn't fair, but we can have balance. We all have to learn how to do things that we don't want to learn how to do, and we all certainly have to do things on a regular basis that we absolutely dislike. Some days you get 'clean a bathroom,' and some days you get 'make a treat.' There are a lot of good days, and there are also many days when you just have to deal with bothersome but necessary life *stuff*.

I thought this was such a brilliant idea that on one of Jill's post I jokingly commented that I wished someone would make Popsicle sticks for my life. Well, could you possibly guess what arrived in the mail shortly thereafter?!

MY OWN SET OF POPSICLE STICKS!!! Courtesy of a very thoughtful and caring and wonderful lady who I have never even met in person. Now that is just awesome. Jill has kids, a husband, and a house to take care of, plus church and sports and friends and all her blogging friends to keep tabs on, but she still took the time to do a seemingly simple act of service for me. If I was my own mother I would be crying right now because someone took the time to do something so nice for my daughter.

I could not believe it when I saw what she had sent me. When I opened the package I actually did a dorky air punch, then hugged the sticks to my chest and bounced around in a circle. This is easily and by far one of the best gifts I have received in my lifetime.

I have not been good about documenting my stick jobs, but now that I have a camera again I'm going to share every task with you. Tonight I came home nearly comatose and really needed a pick-me-up, so I pulled a stick out of the bundle.

I worked on my list as I sat downstairs waiting for my Thai food delivery, and it totally cheered me up. Isn't nice to have someone tell you what to do once in a while?

Three Disney movies? A feature length film about dinosaurs? I guess movies are more about dreaming and wishing and relaxing to me, and not about being intellectually stimulated! Hmm, maybe I can sneak something impressive in at #20...

This just goes to show you that some of the most crucial service we will give to people may have nothing to do with natural disasters, poverty, illness, or other tragedies. Jill's gift has made me realize that the Lord isn't joking or speaking lightly when He commands us to use our personal gifts to help others. This was Jill's idea, so only Jill could have sent me this gift. Look at how happy it made me.

What service opportunities do I miss because I'm only looking for the big ones, or the ones that are easy to spot? Likewise, what can I do beyond the generic opportunities to serve? Almost anyone can take a meal to someone, but what can I, Rebekah, do for someone that only I can do well?

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you Jill! I haven't been this jazzed up about something in a long time.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

:::It's a Jungle Out There:::

This is why I don't leave my house during the summer. Do you see that?!! 78.4 degrees.

'But, that's nice and cool, Rebekah.'


87% humidity!!! What the heck, people!

Some of the downstairs windows are fogged up, not because it's nice and chilly and refreshing outside, but because it's like a steamy, hot, wet blanket out there.

And it's only 11:14 am!

Oh, and I forgot to mention that those blasted bugs are out! They hang out in the trees and make this rolling, vibrating, buzzing sound.

It really is a jungle out here.

:::Hurricane Bill:::

We are in the beginning of hurricane season here in the Atlantic Basin, and I'm as excited as ever. I love all types of severe weather that aren't related to heat or humidity. Give me your blizzards, your hailstorms, your downpours, your raging winds any day. I love watching the earth and the atmosphere step up and show off its power. Of course, I realize that weather can cause severe damage and deaths. I never wish for that. I just love the proportions -- the sublime nature -- of a good show.

This weekend Mr. Bill is making his way up the seaboard, currently about 600 miles off the coast of North Carolina. The great thing about living in DC is that we rarely get the full brunt of any of these big storms, just the fun side effects like ear splitting thunder and blinding white lightening that flashes in rapid pulses across the sky. I love to count how many miles away the storm is between thunder crashes and lightening, one-thousand, two, one-thousand, three, actually works, it really does. The rain never comes until these sky theatrics are over, that is something I've learned over time. You still have time to run for cover while the sky is rocking and rolling. But after that, the faucet is turned on full blast and streets flood within seconds.

I remember my first summer here I was waiting on a street a few blocks away from here to pick up a Zipcar. A storm fell on the city, and the thunder was so painfully sharp and deep and LOUD that I had to plug my ears. There is so much concrete and brick and stone here that the sounds are amplified a million times over. This thunder is BIG. You can't be heard over it. It literally resonates in your rib cage.

After a few minutes of thunder and lightening and hovering under a pine tree for meager shelter, the rain came tumbling down. I watched the street completely flood within 3 minutes. It was one of the most amazing phenomenons I've ever witnessed. Needless to say that I was completely soaked through and through, and when I finally got into the car I could hardly drive because the windshield wipers couldn't keep up with the downpour.

And then, as quickly as it began, it was over. The water washed away and the storm clouds moved on. Within a half and hour the sky was blue and clear. Sciz-o, for certain, but I love it.

During the summer I sleep with my window open at night to let the cool air in. Early this morning at 4:20 am I was jarred out of my sleep by the sounds of warfare in the sky. I laid (lay?) there in complete awe until I had to shut the window because my ears started to ache. Just imagine having both ears pressed up against shooting rifles. It's so cool to hear nature make sounds that big and broad.

When the lightening came, I finally got out of bed and grabbed my camera. My window was shut by this point, and the best of the thunder had passed, though you can still hear some rumblings over the sound of my fan. You have to see this lightening though. When it's really going good it's like someone is holding a strobe light outside of your window.

This time the rain that followed was very tame and, par for the course, lasted only for a few minutes.

I think it's funny how easy this post was for me to write, when usually I really struggle to put something together and give words to my thoughts. I just really like weather. Growing up in Southern California I was always so annoyed by our tame weather. One of my favorite memories happened when El Nino passed through and we all thought we were going to die. I was sick during the worst week of it, and I remember laying on the couch near the tv and watching nothing but weather reports all day long. By the time I went back to school I was a weather guru. During PE my friends kept coming up to me and asking me questions about the storm and I would tell them all about storm cells and pressure zones. Seriously, I have two good memories from high school, and that is one of them.

Continuous coverage here and here. It looks like Bill is going to stay out to sea and cause most of his problems further north and into Halifax and Nova Scotia, but you never know. Landfall! Landfall! Landfall! Cross your fingers.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

:::Whaddya Know, Joe?:::

I think a helicopter that's meant to pick up the Vice President just flew past my bedroom window. No biggie. He's supposed to travel to Chicago today, so that's my best guess. I was just checking my email and all the sudden my windows started rattling.

See ya later, Joe!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

:::Day 30 -- Resting:::

Letter D A Y 3 0

Be Strong in the Lord
Elder M. Russell Ballard, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

"One of the ways Satan lessens your effectiveness and weakens your spiritual strength is by encouraging you to spend large blocks of your time doing things that matter very little. I speak of such things as sitting for hours on end watching television or videos, playing video games night in and night out, surfing the Internet, or devoting huge blocks of time to sports, games, or other recreational activities.

Don’t misunderstand me. These activities are not wrong in and of themselves (unless, of course, you are watching salacious programs or seeking out pornographic images on the Internet). Games, sports, recreational activities, and even television can be relaxing and rejuvenating, especially in times when you are under stress or heavily scheduled. You need activities that help you to unwind and rest your minds. It is healthy to go onto the soccer field or the basketball court and participate in vigorous physical activity.

But I speak of letting things get out of balance. It is not watching television, but watching television hour after hour, night after night. Does not that qualify as idling away your time? What will you say to the Lord when He asks what you have done with the precious gift of life and time? Surely you will not feel comfortable telling Him that you were able to pass the 100,000-point level in a challenging video game.

One devastating effect of idling away our time is that it deflects us from focusing on the things that matter most. Too many people are willing to sit back and let life just happen to them. It takes time to develop the attributes that will help you to be a well-balanced person."

Saturday, August 15, 2009

:::Day 29 -- Life in 12 Mega Pixels:::

letter D A Y Miniature Pool Ball 2 number 9

My new camera finally came today. Yee haw! I'm most excited about the upgrade from 5 to 12 mega pixels. Can you see a difference? I think I can see a difference. I'm hoping I can see a difference. Granted, I only took about 5 pictures, so I'll have to take more photos tomorrow.

I did not buy an SLR. First and foremost, I didn't want to pay for it. Second, at this point I don't have an interest in learning how to use a serious piece of technical equipment. Third, I can't cart a big camera around town with me every day. I'd look like a tool. People on the metro would mock me. Coworkers would laugh. Children would throw rocks. Fourth, I didn't want to pay for it.

12 mega pixels. One for every year since I was born, times 2, plus 3. That's got to be significant.

Friday, August 14, 2009

:::Day 28 -- Free Your Mind:::

aa gold blue mosaic tile Y number 2 Eight on Yellow

Thank you so much for your feedback on yesterday's post. Here's some of the very helpful advise that people gave me.

In a phone call last night, the mother sounding board encouraged me to write down all the things that I think are my goals, then examine them and be honest about which ones I actually had a strong desire to accomplish, and which ones I thought I was merely duty bound to accomplish.

In a comment, Jill mentioned that perhaps I was struggling to meet my goals because they weren't goals at all, but wishes. That really resonated with me, and reminded me of one of my favorite sayings: 'If wishes and buts were candy and nuts, we'd all have a merry Christmas.' Wishes are easy come, easy go, but goals take planning, hard work, and a strong footing in reality.

Joie offered some good thoughts about being motivated and staying the course in a realistic way by taking into account the natural ebb and flow of emotions. I have to admit that I tend to frontload my efforts to change or accomplish things with a heavy onslaught of emotions and expectations, and a flurry of spastic activity.

And Michelle's comment let me know that I'm not alone, so I'm certainly not defective in any way. Though I still haven't turned that calendar page!

All of these comments were along the same train of thought, a thought that I can't say would have sunk into my brain on its one.

Tonight I made another list type layout in Scrapbook Factory Deluxe, then jotted down all of my supposed goals. After looking them over, I see so many of the causes for my frustrations with myself and my life. So many of them are just plain ridiculous, while others have good foundations, but I've warped them into unrealistic expectations. Here's a smattering of some of the lighter items that made it onto my list --
  • Teach the nursery children everything about the gospel. No really, everything.
  • Scrapbook/document every instance of my life in an artistic and impressive way
  • Be a granola mom
  • Master French living (uh, what?!)
  • Improve/build homemaking skills (Right now I'm not living in a traditional home where I'm able to really delve into this kind of stuff, so why am I beating myself up about it?)
  • Make my own clothes
  • Become a stridently aggressive female executive
  • Live in New York (I. hate. New. York. Why am I doing this to myself?!)

So many things to scratch off outright. So much free space to create in my brain.

And now, I have to rush off to bed since the 10 p.m. rule is one of those goals that I actually do care about.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

:::Day 27 -- Friday?:::

letter D A letter Y 2 number 7

Almost, almost, almost...

I'm struggling to organize and efficiently manage my life right now. I'm just finding it difficult to put everything in its place and process the regular demands of life that are coming my way. To add to that, I don't feel fully engaged in the things that I'm doing, and I feel completely passive towards the goals I would like to accomplish. Each day I watch bad habits or those frustrating sins of omission pile on top of each other and pin me down. Heaven help me. Have you ever been able to break a cycle?

My goals for this weekend are:

1. Fold laundry
2. Do more laundry?
3. Turn calendar page to August and fill out commitments
4. Budget, with real figures, into October
5. Finish work area cleanup
6. Restart meaningful scripture study

I wish I would buzz ahead to next year. Then at least the same-old-same-old would look somewhat new to me!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

:::Day 26 -- Scrapbook Factory Deluxe:::

{Spell with Flickr is taking way too long to load}

Yesterday I snagged a copy of Scrapbook Factory Deluxe 4.0 at Staples for only $10 with a rebate. I've wanted this program for a long, long time because my blogging friend Jill used to use it to make all kinds of cute things.

So far I've had a great time testing the different features the program offers. It's very easy to use and almost foolproof. Even though most of the templates and graphics are completely heinous, there are a few that I thought were actually quite cute, and it'll always be helpful for making my own projects from scratch.

After fiddling with the program this evening, I made this Summer School page to document all of the things that I've learned, as well as all of the progress that I've made towards my goals this summer. Below is a link to a PDF version that you can print out and use to create your own Summer School list. I love that I can create PDFs with this software to share what I make with others. I love freebies!

Kingsthings Typewriter

I think I'm going to cut off the white edges and mount the page onto kraft colored cardstock (I printed the page itself onto regular 110 lb. cardstock that I got from Staples. Nothing fancy there). For my text I think I'll type up a list or a few shorts sentences, then cut each sentence out and paste it onto the page. I'll post some pictures of the finished product when I'm done.

I can tell that this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship. Scrapbook Factory Deluxe, I've got big plans for you and I.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

:::Day 25 -- Christmas Plans?:::

letter D letter A Y 2 5

I don't have anything specific to write about tonight, just some tame thoughts here and there.

Are you already thinking about Christmas? I know I am. Like a lot of people, I hope to make many of the gifts I give this year, though more than likely I'll buy things for Poph, Buddy, and Molly. It seems that if you can't sew, there aren't many handmade gifts that you can feasibly make for children that they'll actually be excited about. Last year Elizabeth got them fingertip flashlights and magnifying glasses and they l-o-v-e-d them. I don't even remember what I got them. Yeesh.


I'm sorry, I thought I had more thoughts than that. I've now been staring at the screen for more than a half an hour. I guess that's as good as it's going to get tonight!

ETA: I just realized that today is the Day 25 and I wrote about Christmas. Ha!

Monday, August 10, 2009

:::Day 24 -- Back to Whole and Happy and On My Way:::

D a letter Y park 2 4

I am not happy.

I am not happy because I hate to exercise. I hate it. For the past three weeks I've been exercising regularly and it has not made me feel better, more uplifted, more productive, or more awesome. It has made me tired, stressed, sore, and majorly worn out on an emotional and physical level. It has disrupted my sleep patterns. It has made me feel like I can't cope with anything else in my life because exercising has taken over my life.

The only benefit that I can see from this stupid experiment is that I can somewhat defend myself when the negative voice in my head starts calling me a lazy fatty.

I want my life back. I chose my life, free time, 8 hours of sleep, creative projects, work productivity, calm evenings, functioning knees, and my positive attitude over exercise. I'm not sorry about this right now.

I am willing to work harder on my eating, as in working hard to do the work that is really going to hurt (as in, touch my carbs and DIE!). This I can do without feeling like I need to beat my brains out. Changing my eating habits will not by any means be easy, but I don't hate the thought of it. In fact, it's something that I've wanted to do my entire life, but I've just never felt that I was strong enough to break free from my dependency on food.

I want to be a healthier eater who makes wise food choices and knows what full feels like. I want to have the strength to say 'no', 'no, more,' 'no thank you,' 'no, I packed my lunch,' 'no dessert tonight,' 'i'm full,' 'i'm about to be full,' 'let's add more vegetables,' 'let's make this without meat,' 'let's make something with less sugar,' 'I don't need pasta and bread,' 'we don't need food to celebrate,' and more and more and more, to infinity and beyond.

I dream about a version of me (weight be darned) who is in control of what she puts into her body. This person makes educated decisions about food and not only controls how much she eats, but also pays heed to the quality and the value of what she eats. She isn't afraid of food or eating, in fact, she embraces both. This is the me I long to be, that I'm am willing (Geronimo!) to work towards. I love visiting with this version of me. She is a woman in control, with real struggles, with real trials, but with real will power. She is strong and balanced and tells me good things about myself, even in my current almost-anything-goes state.

I have no idea if she likes to exercise. Quite frankly, it's never come up.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

:::Day 23 -- The Drama of All Ages:::

letter D A The letter Y Another carved 2 grave stone 3

"The course of our mortal life, from birth to death, conforms to eternal law and follows a plan described in the revelations as The Great Plan of Happiness. The one idea, the one truth I would inject into your minds is this: There are three parts to the plan. You are in the second or the middle part, the one in which you will be tested by temptation, by trials, perhaps by tragedy. Understand that, and you will be better able to make sense of life and to resist the disease of doubt and despair and depression...

The plan of redemption, with its three divisions, might be likened to a grand three-act play. Act I is entitled 'Premortal Life.' The scriptures describe it as our First Estate. Act II, from birth to the time of resurrection, the 'Second Estate.' And Act III, 'Life After Death or Eternal Life.'

In mortality, we are like one who enters a theater just as the curtain goes up on the second act. We have missed Act I. The production has many plots and sub-plots that interweave, making it difficult to figure out who relates to whom and what relates to what, who are the heroes and who are the villains. It is further complicated because you are not just a spectator; you are a member of the cast, on stage, in the middle of it all!

...Until you have a broad perspective of the eternal nature of this great drama, you won’t make much sense out of the inequities in life. Some are born with so little and others with so much, some in poverty, with handicaps, with pain, with suffering, premature death even of innocent children. There are the brutal, unforgiving forces of nature and the brutality of man to man. We’ve seen a lot of that recently."

Do not suppose that God willfully causes that, which for His own purposes, He permits. When you know the plan and purpose of it all, even these things will manifest a loving Father in Heaven."

-- President Boyd K. Packer, "The Play and the Plan"

Saturday, August 8, 2009

:::Day 22 -- So Many Jokes About Narnia:::

D A Y::SLC Two 2

I worked hard for the money today. So hard for--eh, you know the rest.

I'm on another purging kick again. Did you know that throwing things away is one of my favorite things to do? Sometimes when I'm feeling down or frustrated or stressed out I'll set myself a little challenge to throw enough stuff away to fill a certain amount of trash bags. This weekend my goal is 2 large black trash bags, and I'm well on my way.

The funny thing is that even though I live my life in one medium sized room, I can always fill up trash bags with things that I just don't need anymore, or that I never needed in the first place. It's amazing how much I've gotten rid of since I moved out here, but then again, I'm always acquiring things as well, especially craft supplies. It's particularly hard for me to throw away craft items because I just never know if I may very well need that random little item at some point. Has that ever happened to you? I've tossed things out before in the spirit of decluttering, only to come across the perfect project for that item a few weeks later. That's frustrating, for sure.

Another funny thing is that my room does not look cluttered, but somehow there are always things that I can get rid of. How does that happen? The backs of my drawers must open into Narnia.

Narnia, you say?

Now that is funny.