12.31.2008

Yet another obsession



I just finished the first season, and w-o-w am I impressed. Absolutely loved it. I am considering an upcoming purchase, because I have to give the season back and I just want to watch it again. However, I read a few episode descriptions for the second/third seasons, and I'm a little wary of pressing onward. You know how TV shows get weird in their old age (look at Smallville, for heaven's sake!) and the episodes later on sound a little...weird. I know I won't know until I see them, but the first season was just so perfect, I don't really want to taint it! I know, I'm weird. I'll prolly end up watching every episode there ever was, but for this moment in time, I'm just savoring the glorious experience that was Season 1.

12.20.2008

Plight of the Caroler

A short blog about Apartment Christmas:

Basically, my college friends and I have our annual "Apartment Christmas", which started when we all lived together and has continued now even though we don't any more. We don't really have "traditions", so much that the thing is a tradition in and of itself. Sometimes we do Secret Santa (especially our more broke years), sometimes we do White Elephant. This year we did a $5 gift card white elephant. The idea was to get a $5 gift card from somewhere totally random. We ended up with some craft stores, movie theatre--I ended up with a card to Chevron. It was amusing.

During the course of the evening, we went Christmas caroling around my friends' apartment complex. And I do have to say, we sounded pretty good. There are some decent voices amongst this particular group. However, in the entire complex, no one came out to hear us sing. In point of fact, there were several instances when we heard people locking their doors when we came by. !!! What does that say about our world? Keep out the crazy carolers! I mean, of course we sang for our own enjoyment, but it was so sad that no one came out even to smile and wish us a Merry Christmas! It was madly depressing. So we went back to Ellen and Justin's to open presents, to make ourselves feel better and regain the Christmas spirit.

Oh, I also have a few things to say about Amazon wish lists, but this particular discussion will be truncated for sake of time. You see, I find Amazon wish lists to be immensely convenient. No guessing! No worries about disappointing the receiver! They can show you exactly what they want for Christmas. However. You almost always lose the personal touch. And what's more, there are no surprises! I mean honestly, it's such a difficult situation. On the one hand, you want to give them something that you know they want. But on the other, you want to give them something heartfelt, maybe with inside jokes, or something handmade and soul-invested. I don't know, it's a catch-22. Maybe I'm too sensitive, but I worry a little about disappointing the recipients of my gifts. Hopefully all the gifts will blur together to make for general-overall contentment.

At any rate, yay for Christmas! And yay for driving home in the snow?

12.16.2008

Christmas delights


I don't have to wait for Easter!!!

12.14.2008

Only one more Sunday before Christmas!

Sundays are seriously becoming my favorite day of the week, which I could never have predicted at any point of my life up until now.

Church today was exciting. Firstly, we're singing/playing Christmas hymns in church, which I love. I just love Christmas, but singing Christmas hymns is definitely one of my favorite parts. I'm going caroling next week at Apartment Christmas, and I'm super excited.

I taught Gospel Doctrine today in Sunday School. It's so nervewracking. I've been nervous all week, but I'll tell you, I started trembling twenty minutes before Sacrament Meeting was over, and didn't stop trembling until halfway through Relief Society. All things considered, I think an angel taught my lesson, because it well so well and I certainly couldn't have done so well. Somehow I made a baby's first steps into a metaphor of the pride cycle on the spot. It worked out pretty well. :)

Actually, I just got back from a second Sacrament Meeting. There's a retirement home in my neighborhood that has a branch in our stake, and the wards rotate preparing their meetings, with the priesthood in charge of blessing and passing the sacrament, and the R.S. in charge of the music. So today I volunteered to play the piano for the meeting. It was cool. I haven't played the piano in a church meeting for a year now, since my last ward in Cedar City, and I realized that I miss it. I love playing the piano, its one of the talents that I am most thankful for because it brings so much joy into my life.

Oh, and a very good number of people signed up for the roadshow! I'm excited to start working on it. My current motto is Simplicity. I think keeping thing simple will save my sanity.

Life is good! Love and Christmasness to you all!

12.11.2008

One of my few professed culinary skills



I make a mean raspberry pie.

My company Christmas party is tomorrow. Entirely besides the dinner there's a dessert contest, and my coworker Cindy basically threatened me with my life if I didn't enter, so here is my beautiful (if unoriginal) masterpiece for the competition and consumption. Isn't it pretty?

12.09.2008

Being Mormon...for real!

After my graduation, life toned down a lot. I will tell you that working a full time job is a lot easier in many ways than going to school. No homework, for one thing. And the schedule's a lot more consistent. There are other reasons. But beyond that, I don't stage manage, and I don't belong to any clubs, and my work isn't competing with those other things any more.

The exception to this rule is becoming my church involvement.

Throughout my life, I've been a relatively active member of my church. I go to church every Sunday, and I've always gone to the occasional ward activity that sparked my interest. But that was usually it. I was never a very good visiting teacher, and I can count on my fingers the number of times I've been visit-taught in my life. I thought I was doing fine.

But in my new ward (new being since August...) I'm finally finding out what being "active" can really mean. I was talking to my best friend about it the other night, and there is a marked difference. "Church" is no longer a Sunday thing...it's kind of like belonging to a really big, personal, all-inclusive and pro-active club that has an infinite number of faces and aspects.

For instance, there is Family Home Evening.

In singles' wards I've been in before, FHE has been broken down into smaller units of 10 people or so, with a "Mom and Dad" called to plan and execute the activities each week. This system certainly has its merits, and its possible that my ward will soon or eventually adopt the system. However, for the past few months, our FHE has not been broken down. Each week, every member of the ward is invited to come to the church--its always the same time and place, which is REALLY nice--to participate in a wide range of varying activites. There have been sports, games, serious religious talks and discussions, outings like bowling and visiting Temple Square, and any number of things. I've found this ward to be a lot more creative than others I've attended. With the whole ward invited to attend, I've met a lot more people than I would have by just attending church. Also...it's fun. :)

Also, as mentioned there are Visiting Teaching and Home Teaching. Now, I'm only on the receiving end of the latter, as I am of the female type (in case you hadn't heard). However, I'm gaining a newfound appreciation for visiting teaching. Basically, I have a partner (who is phenomenal, by the way, and I'm enjoying our growing friendship enormously) and we are assigned a handful of girls in our ward (3 at the moment). Once a month, we go visit these young ladies, to see how they're doing, if there's anything they need that we can do or arrange for them, and to offer them a brief spiritual message. I still have yet to be visited by my own such teachers, however I am finding that I enjoy going out and doing the visiting. It has helped me connect with other girls in the ward, and it helps me expand my own spirituality. That sounds vague, I know. But basically...I'm learning to love near-strangers simply by virtue of visiting them and sharing with them this gospel that I love so much. It's a pretty powerful high, actually.

There is also Ward Prayer. Now, I haven't been a frequent attender of this activity in my current ward, but I think I'll be changing that. Sunday night, the ward members are invited back to the church for a very brief gathering. There is a spotlight of one of the newer members (and my ward ALWAYS has new members), a hymn, a spiritual thought, and then everyone kneels down and prays together. And then there are treats and socializing afterward.

Ooh, and on Sundays themselves, there is Ward Choir. My attendance is often irregular, but man, there just isn't anything quite like singing in a choir, especially singing really beautiful arrangements of religious songs that you've known your whole life. I freaking love choir.

Then there are Ward Activities. These are similar to FHE, but on a grander scale. Recent editions have included a Halloween dance, a Thanksgiving dinner, going to the bowling alley (though that one didn't turn out so well), and this weekend we're going ice skating at the 7 Peaks arena.

Also there are temple trips. My ward is starting to get better about making baptisms a part of the ward trips, and though I haven't been with them, I still try to go on my own regularly. Makes a crazy difference in my life, I can't even tell you.

And of course you can't forget the Calling. Some people fear it, some people resent it, some people avoid it like the plague. Others tolerate and endure. Some find fulfillment, others actual joy in their calling. Some just go about it like its nothing out of the ordinary. Most of my callings have been music-oriented, whether playing the piano for some meeting or other, music coordinator, chorister, etc. Now, I am...{drumroll please!} a Gospel Doctrine teacher. Yes, you may wince in sympathy here, laugh, or whatever best pleases you. I've only taught once so far (#2 coming up this Sunday). It's definitely a challenge, but I think it helps me expand my own thinking and studying skills. So, I guess I'm in the endure/fulfillment category. Hopefully enjoyment will come.

And now, the real summation of my blog--this weekend I was asked to head up my ward's portion of the Stake Roadshow. I've been to one roadshow in my life, many years ago, and I don't have strong memories of it, besides it being cheesy and almost painful, thespian that I am. However. I heard that there was going to be a roadshow a few weeks (months?) ago, and I'll admit that it perked my interest. However, with things like this, me knowing myself as I do, I know that I have to be in charge, or not involved at all. Events of which I have an inkling of what I'm doing drive me crazy to watch someone else fumbling through with no idead of what they're doing. So yes, while I will enlist the help and support of as many people as possible, I'm glad that I've been actually put in charge. Committees have the tendancy to drive me up the wall. As a friend of mine said, "None of us is as dumb as all of us."

So at any rate, I'm in charge of the roadshow. It has to be 15 minutes long, the setting is in front of a garage (although it may be inside a garage or beside a garage, the packet isn't entirely clear), and our ward's theme is Service. Oh, and it's in just over a month. The other wards have been prepping for a couple of months now. Yeah...funsies!

Actually, I'm pretty excited about it. It's been too long since I've done anything dramatic, so being given free license to take charge of the project makes me immensely satisfied with life. I'm sure that once I've dived headfirst into the madness I'll be a little...um...shall we say irrascible? But there can be no denying the enthusiasm that even this mockery of theatre brings to my soul.

In all, I think my church is the bomb. (Bet you haven't heard THAT phrase for awhile! Hee hee). Oh, and I think you all should go, cuz it's rockin'. :)

12.07.2008

Lights at Temple Square



If it's at all feasible for you to go see the Christmas lights at Temple Square, take an evening and go. They're beautiful, and it's a wonderful way to celebrate the season.

Merry Christmas!

12.02.2008

A wave of gratitude

Now, as you should know as a reader of this blog if you do not already, I have a two-and-a-half-almost-three-year-old son, whom I placed for adoption a few days after he was born. Unlike my own adoption, Ian's has been almost completely open. To this day, I exchange emails and photos with his family on a fairly regular basis, and communication has been very open. This summer while they were in Utah for a family wedding, we were also able to meet for lunch, and I saw my son for the first time in two years, which was AMAZING, no lie there. And this evening I at last received the photos from the occasion.

I just can't even express my gratitude. If ever I were to be a proponent for something, for just one thing in the entire world (besides the gospel of Jesus Christ) it would be adoption, and open ones at that. The blessings that have entered my life because of that one choice are too numerous to name. To any dear friends or complete strangers who might have this as a consideration for their own, may I recommend it to you with all my heart. Adoption blesses lives, for children, birthparents and adoptive parents alike.

I have moved on with my life since that time, there is no doubt. And this is one of the true blessings for me--that I have been able to move on and live my life. My son is living an amazing, astounding life, even at this young age, and it is a life that I in no way could have given him. And I have been able to live my life, to continue to grow and progress, hopefully to a point where I may someday find a companion who will love me forever and be a loving, stable parent to our children. That is the blessing for both our houses--entirely besides the blessing of the adoptive parents receiving a child. Everyone wins, and everyone can be happy. These are the wonders of adoption.

I love my son. I have not forgotten him, just as I have not forgotten my own birthparents, who loved me enough to give me to a better life. I am so incredibly happy that my son is a growing, happy, healthy little boy, and that he has such wonderful people to love him. Because that's what adoption is really about--it's just expanding the circle of love, and growing a bigger family for that small, special life. And as they say, all you need is love. :)

11.29.2008

75k!!!!

After hitting 50k on my NaNoWriMo novel over a week ago, I adjusted my personal goal to hit 75,000 words before the end of November. Well, I have 24 hours and 47 minutes left to go, and I just hit 75k. Think I can hit 80k by tomorrow night? We'll have to see!

And actually, the most impressive thing to me is the fact that I'm nowhere CLOSE to finishing my novel. I doubt I'm even halfway through the plotline yet, though we'll have to see on that one. This means that this will undoubtedly be the longest novel I've ever written, seeing as how my present record is about 90,000 words in total, and I'm almost there with so much left to go. I'm actually quite excited, I feel it's a sign of growth.

Hopefully I can take some more time starting next week to work on revisions on my science fiction novel, which I hope to start sending to editors and agents starting in the new year. I think once the pressure of NaNo is off, I will feel a little less guilty about spending quality time with my other project(s), though I'd really like to finish this novel by the end of the year. If I can write 75,000 words in a month, is it impossible to hope I can finish the book in another month? I think not!

So in summary, I love writing, I love books, and I love Harrison Ford. (I know that was random, but I'm currently wrapping up the fourth Harrison Ford movie I've watched today. My marathon helped me write 5,000 words today! So huzzah for Harrison Ford! :D And to all a good night.

Welcome once again

This is pretty much as close as I'll get to having a Christmas blog. You know, I don't really feel that red and green go together, but in light of the holidays, I will put up with the clashing for a few weeks in order to feel festive.

Also, yes those are snow BEARS, my best friend and I made them last year, in the high school field across from our house in Cedar-town, and it was about an hour before some high school punks came along and destroyed them. I suppose we should have known better. But they wouldn't have fared better in our front yard, and our back yard was far too confining for the spirit of freedom and infinite possibility aspired to by our snow bears.

I suppose that now (or perhaps in two days when it's actually December) it is actually considered appropriate by the majority of people to play Christmas music. I'm fairly certain that none will be found at my workplace, considering how my coworker Cindy feels about anything besides rock and metal. So perhaps I will have to suffice at home. Which means I need more Christmas music!

I do have to admit that I enjoy the Christmas season. I enjoy the new activities, I enjoy the briskness in the air, and I love snow. I love giving presents (if not so much the trying to figure out what to give people). I also really love Christmas decor--I love Christmas trees especially! I can't wait to put ours up, and I'm pretty stoked to put up a little one on my desk at work.

So, in all, have a wonderful Christmas season, and have some pie. Pie makes the world a better place.

11.26.2008

A Time of Thanks

I have been inspired by Jen to compose a List of Gratitude, and though her list this year is much more profound, I also enjoyed last year's list, which was much more all-encompassing, and is in fact the inspiration for my own list this year.

The following few items are things that Jen would call "Goes Without Saying":

My Parents. Pretty much, what would I do without them? Well, I would be homeless and starve to death, but beyond that, my family provide an emotional shelter as well as the physical, and I rely on them probably more than is good for me. But I love them, and I am especially happy this year to be spending Thanksgiving with them.

My Brother. Going along with the family theme and yet entirely separate, I am thankful for my brother Kyle, who is currently serving an LDS mission in Virginia (D.C. South Mission). I am grateful for his example, and for his willingness to serve God and bring others to Him.

My birthfather and family. I just can't even express how grateful I am for my Pops, Jenny, and my sisters. They complement my life, they make me laugh, and they just expand the circle of love. Seriously. Adoption is the best thing ever. And speaking of...

The Jacksons. Yep. Adoption rocks.

My cousin Hollie and her kids. These are my closest family besides the immediates, and I love them immensely. <3 to Benjabuddy and Elainabug!

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am exceptionally grateful for my knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement. You know, I have this one friend, non-member, who also somehow makes me have to stand up for my beliefs. And I'm grateful for that--I'm grateful that my testimony is so tested, that I can reaffirm, for myself, that I truly do believe in this church, in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and in my eternal Heavenly Father. I am grateful that I have a base from which the root of my being can be established, a rock upon which I have built my foundation, but also that I have this amazing support structure to hold me up when the winds blow.

My Friends. I seriously no kidding have the sweetest friends ever. No joke. I couldn't even list them all if I tried. And they're amazing. So supportive, so loving, always willing to chat and get together or say hi. I simply couldn't live without them.

Books. Writing them and reading them. It's sort of my ultimate hobby/new career move


To complement these most essential things, here are some of the more superfluous things for which I am grateful:

-My new car, Roxanne, who is EXACTLY what I wanted in a car.
-The ability to make a killer raspberry pie.
-My singles ward.
-Being a Gospel Doctrine teacher
-The Ensign
-Movies.
-The West Wing and House, M.D.
-Being able to play the piano.
-Music: at this particular time most particularly U2, Coldplay, Aerosmith, AC/DC, Nightwish, Epica, Within Temptation, Evanescence, and many, many others.
-My job. Much as I am bored by the day-in day-out routine, I am grateful for my income and for the general entertainment provided by my coworkers.
-PGSA. I keep my hopes up by remembering that if I so choose, I can quit my job in June and flee back to Pennsylvania for the summer.
-College.
-The Democratic Party and Barack Obama.
-My Blackberry.
-Frederick Warrick III (ie my iPod.)
-and Leopold, my beloved MacBook.
-Going to the temple every Wednesday.
-ADVERSITY.
-Flip flops.
-Costco.
-My electric griddle.
-The China Bowl and Cafe Rio.
-Blogging!
-Facebook.
-NaNoWriMo.
-My ten-minute commute to work every day. I get to see the Mt. Timpanogos Temple every day as I drive, and I get some precious time to contemplate whatever needs contemplation that day.
-GoogleChat, which is how I talk to my friends when I'm at work, and thereby keep from going insane.
-Chicken salad. You know, the stuff with chicken, grapes, cashews, and occasionally celery or green peppers or whatever.
-Wikipedia.
-Road trips.
-Skiing with my dad.
-My whiteboard. It's seriously the coolest creative space of all time.
-Dr. Pepper.
-Rock Band.
-Roommates. I wish I had some.
-Playing games.
-Long, hot showers. I seriously do some of my most creative brainstorming in the shower, and I'm not even kidding.
-GAS PRICES DROPPING!!!!
-Paid days off.
-Going to New York next summer!
-That my parents got to go to Hawaii to celebrate their anniversary. They deserved it.
-Baby Martin.
-Going on dates.
-Good theatre.
-Randomly deciding to go to Ogden for the weekend...and being able to go five minutes later.
-Sweaters. And sweatshirts.
-Holidays spent with family!
-Late night drives through town.
-The capacity to help other people.
-Netflix.
-Public libraries.
-Fresh notebooks.
-The National Parks. Being able to visit them.
-Bookstores.
-Trident gum.
-Sushi.
-Chapstick and hand lotion.
-Education in general, and teachers. I've had an awful lot of good teachers in my life.
-The gift of patience.
-The ability to learn from past mistakes and experiences, and to grow.
-The infinite power of hope.


I think I will stop there (because my list is getting ridiculously long) though I'm fairly certain I could go on forever. I honestly feel that I have an infinite number of things to be thankful for.

Mostly, I am grateful to live in a place where I can worship God and Jesus Christ in freedom, and be able to enjoy those freedoms with my beloved family and friends. I simply can't deny that life is good, and thus I intend to enjoy it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Infinite possibility

Today I got involved in a rather lengthy debate with my friend Michael. First it was about changing tables, but we won't even go there. (Except to say that men obviously just don't understand the value of changing tables.) We then began discussing what Michael calls 'ubiquitous computing' which implies, in his words, "that computers are universal and inside everything. Stoplights, cellphones, everything. Soon they'll be in our sunglasses." The discussion led to journalism and then to books, and my shared fear that books and print media in general will eventually become obsolete.

We continued to discuss the future of the printed book, and how dynamic books of digital paper may be the eventual replacement. A person would own a handful of digital books which would hold the same physical feel as books now, with their then digital, varied contents. Digital paper is already in the making, and Michael believes it is a near-future possibility.

According to our theory, books would then become something of a collector's item. Rich people might have bookshelves and libraries, or others would possess them out of the mild obsession of a collector. Handmade books might make a return at this point as an art form and novelty. Something like how people now collect records, but the mainstream society uses CDs and MP3. Although, books would still maintain functionality and a certain practical value, as opposed to owning them for the sake of possession, as in the case of records. They would simply not be part of the mainstream society.

Our conversation concluded as follows, and this is what I most wanted to share:

Michael: So only rich people and enthusiasts would buy them, but they would still be bought and loved.
How many things can that be said of when we talk about the ridiculously distant future?
I think that says a lot about how deeply books are ingrained in the heart of society.


Valerie: According to the views of you and me, at any rate.


Michael: But didn't you know Valerie? We're the ones who get to decide the future.


And this, my friends, is the pure and simple truth. We are the ones who get to decide the future. It is our actions here and now that decide what is important for the next generation, and affect the ones after that. This is our time, and I intend the make the most of it.

That's all. Have a great Thanksgiving! Eat some turkey, give some thanks, and think a few profound thoughts when you have a spare moment.

11.24.2008

Human foosball

Imagine this: twenty single adults with very little mass athleticism or associated skills, attached to each other by fifteen-foot lengths of pvc pipe, trying with all their might to kick, punch, whack or headbutt a soccer ball between two pairs of trash cans on either end of a church gym.

Oh yes. That was my ward family home evening.

It was preluded by some Christmas hymns (can you believe it's that time already???), and a lovely spiritual thought that I can't even begin to remember. And then there was a sporting and HIGHLY amusing game, which came down to the wire. I swear, we were at 9-9 for half an hour, the competition was so fierce. That, and we kept kicking the ball really HIGH, and our ref determined that it actually had to pass BETWEEN the garbage cans, height wise as well as width. What I found really cool was that everybody had their moment to shine--almost everybody scored a goal, and everybody definitely had a few good moves going on. Some were better than others, of course, but it was actually the foibles and the outright cheating that was the most fun.

As point of fact--if you can score with the PIPE rather than your FOOT, why not?! For that matter, there was one goal scored by headbutt alone, how cool is that?

And to wrap it all up, we had pumpkin pie. I do so love pumpkin pie. I love pie in general. Beats cake any day of the week. I love Thanksgiving time, simply for the overabundance of pies. Really, what more can a girl ask?

11.20.2008

Healthy terror: a possible career move

On Tuesday night I went to a 'write-in' (a less productive variant of a write-a-thon) hosted by the local chapter of NaNoWriMo. I will admit that a big part of the draw was the attendance of local celebrity author Brandon Sanderson, author of Elantris and the Mistborn trilogy. He spoke for about an hour and a half, about writing and publishing and the like. It was informative to a certain degree, and far more entertaining and honest than similar talks/discussions I've attended previously. In particular, Brandon shed light on the possibility of authorship as a career. Before in my mind, it's always been a hobby at which you can make no money whatsoever, or a one-in-a-thousand chance of making it big and making the big bucks. All luck, and not a realistic career path. But B.Sanderson shed light on the actual numbers: selling a book every 1-2 years, a person can, in fact, make a decent living as a writer. And that's just if a book does moderately well--selling 10,000 copies. More than that, and you're making a more-than-modest living.

This makes me come to a full-brakes-stop, with whiplash and everything. This is real. Writing as a career, a possibility. One that I had wished for, but never truly considered as something practical.

I looked around the room several times that evening, and later when the writing started. Most of the people there aren't people I would consider as having potential for real success in this field. That may be exceptionally judgmental of me, I'll admit, as I was basing this judgment almost entirely upon social interaction and discussion of their work, not actual text, which is the important thing in this field. But I looked around, and I wondered if I was any better than anyone in the room, let alone the world, if I could possibly possess some skill or idea that would surpass what all these others might have to offer.

I doubt it. After all, ideas are cheap. Skill is a little harder to come by, but there are plenty of people in the world who can write better than I can, who can stick to an idea and concept better than I can, who are more creative and original than I am. No doubt.

However, maybe I will have something that they won't? The right idea, at the right time and seen by the right eyes in the right place?

Basically, this means that for the first time in over four years (and another five before that!) I'm going to start submitting manuscripts to publishers and agents. I have to tell you that this is about the most terrifying thing in my existence. Every time I freak out (which is almost every time I think about it), I just have to repeat to myself, "What's the worst they can do? Send me a rejection letter--again and again." Sounds bad, but in all reality, that letter is better than no letter at all, because it means that somebody besides me has looked at my words. That is definitely better than nothing.

If I seem a little wild around the eyes when you see me, this may be why. Or it might be some other part of my insanity. With me, you never know.

11.17.2008

The Plague

I just despise being ill. It's such a waste of time! A colossal, monumental waste of time. Sure, I enjoy the sympathy. I enjoy being babied a little by those around me, particularly when I can plead successfully with my mother to get Chinese. Oh yes, these are the perks. And just about the extent of them, because my friends, being sick is just about the most miserable thing on the face of the planet. I have spent the last three days feeling like my head is going to explode at any moment, and sometimes it does in the form of violent sneezes, while the rest of the time I'm so stuffed up I can't hardly breathe. Sleeping is a joke--I spent half my time trying to breathe, and the other half failing to breathe, and the entire time being completely uncomfortable and generally miserable. And this is just a common cold! I've never really had any terrible illnesses, but thank you ma'am, this is well enough for me! Guh!

11.12.2008

"Don't judge a book by it's movie"

It's official. I've decided not to see the Twilight movie.

I know. Stay with me.

I love the book. You can either gasp and enthusiastically agree, or you can begin listing your criticisms. Whatever. I'm not a freak about it like a lot of people, but I have my own kind of enthusiasm (which most often results in me re-reading them a gazillion times.) For these reasons, I have decided not to see the movie.

First of all, I just don't think it will live up to expectations. You KNOW that it won't be the same as what you see in your head. The only person's vision it will even come close to realizing is the director's. Everybody else is screwed.

I don't want to change the vision I have in my head. I like it. I like my own impressions, my own memories of the times I've read it, the images I have created for myself. I don't need a visual substitute. I want to keep my own Twilight.

This is not even beginning to start on what I think of the actor choices, the acting choices, the directorial and sfx choices, or even the quality of the production company. You can rest assured that I have those opinions, but they are the least of why I'm not going.

Maybe I'll see it when it comes out on dvd. It will have less of a lasting impression then, especially if I watch it with the lights on and while I'm distracted. But that also depends on what people think of it--whether I decide at that point whether its even worth watching at all.

To those of you who are going, I wish you the best. I hope that you enjoy it, and that it only increases your enjoyment of the books. Because, as a writer myself, I can only hope that these books-turned-movies increase a love of books in the first place.

11.11.2008

Catharsis

Today has really sucked at work. We lost a HUGE account yesterday, and it was in big part me and my coworker's fault, and we got not only a critical email from the CEO, but also had to go in and have a meeting with him about what we can change and do better in the future. In addition, it's been declared a Stupid People Day. We have one every couple of weeks, when it seems that all of the most concentratedly stupid people decide they all need to call in on the same day and make us miserable.

And so today I find myself drinking Dr. Shasta (which is in no way an acceptable replacement for Dr. Pepper, but is provided by the company for my consumption, so I can't really complain), and listening to my new cathartic treatment: a dose of symphonicky metal with female and other interesting vocalists. ie Nightwish (which happens to be a favorite of my pops), Within Temptation, Evanescence, and even a little bit of DragonForce (the song I really like of theirs being, of course, "Through the Fire and Flames". All the others sound the same.) God bless Pandora!

I'm also trying to work on my novel, but one of my protagonists is putting me through hell, and I don't know what to do with him. So if anybody has any random thoughts concerning my tremulous plotline, I would certainly appreciate them. You wouldn't believe from what I can pull my muse!

11.08.2008

Today, a writer.

For those of you who haven't heard of NaNoWriMo, basically several hundred thousand people across the world get together every November and try to write a novel--or rather, 50,000 words--from 12:01am November 1st until 11:59pm November 30th. For most people, 50k is a challenging but achievable goal over the course of thirty days, and though much silliness often abounds, there is nevertheless a supportive community who very seriously aim for this goal.

In light of this project, and also in light of my own aspiring-author-community struggling to find time to write, this morning I sponsored a write-a-thon for my immediate friends.

I served french toast (and later quesadillas), and we had a massive brainstorming/writing session, though admittedly there was more of the former than of the latter. Mostly, it was just the idea of getting together to write that I personally enjoyed, even though I didn't actually get much done. We talked about ideas, about books, and about physics and mathematical theories, about the nature of matter and energy and void. We discussed different systems of magic, and different writing approaches.

There is a certain amount of excitement associated with writing. It's very like creating. It's art, and there is nothing else quite like it for me. It's a wonderful and beautiful thing, and it makes me exceptionally happy.

11.05.2008

An Indulgence

Normally I try to avoid using this blog to "rant", though I'm not sure how often I succeed, and I certainly try to avoid just simple complaining. I don't enjoy reading complainer-blogs, and I doubt you do either. And yet, tonight I beg you to indulge me in a rant-like question.

Why are boys oblivious? And why at such inconvenient times?

I haven't been frustrated like this in a long time--probably because I haven't really liked a guy for a long time. Which isn't to say I really like a guy now, merely to say that these old feelings are resurfacing, and I find them as equally frustrating as I did the last time I experienced them.

I mean, a girl likes a guy, she flirts with him pretty obviously, and yet...no response! What's a girl to do? He's not interested--not that he's unfriendly, quite the opposite! too much friendship and not enough of a little something else. Something more special.

Why? Why are women thus so plagued?

Thank you. Rant completed.

11.04.2008

Election Day

I really wanted to vote this morning before work, but then I didn't get up as early as I had wanted to, and I feared--rightfully--the lines at the polling place. Our head programmer was over an hour late to work today because of the voting lines, so it turns out a good thing that I waited. However, I think next time around I will make a greater effort to get up and vote early.

And so, at 5:00pm I made my way to my polling place over at the junior high, where I was admitted promptly, quickly tapped my way through the ballot, printed, ejected, got my puny "I Voted!" sticker, and left. It was all rather anticlimactic, I'll admit.

I've been idly discussing with my cousin the high hopes of turning Utah into a blue--or at least battleground--state, and the idea holds a great appeal. I'd like to live somewhere where people don't scorn me for saying that my vote--or theirs!--matters. A place where the vote isn't taken for granted, but where there is real question and the outcome of every persons vote DOES matter.

Today at work, out of boredom more than anything, I ended up discussing Prop 8 with my coworker. This has become a national debate, the results affecting far more than just California citizens. Cindy and I could come to no conclusion. I still don't know how I feel about it. On the one hand, I have many gay and lesbian friends, and a big part of me supports their desire to marry and have the same legal status as hetero couples. On the other hand, I have my religious beliefs that state a marriage is between a man and a woman. I wish that it didn't have to become a legal issue, and could remain a religious battle. In my mind, what right--what honest, legal right--does a government have to define, limit or impune upon the rite of marriage? Is it not strictly a religious observance in the first place? And yet, due to differing and contending belief systems, it has become an unfortunate and violent legal battle, and an exhaustive one at that.

At any rate, I just wanted to say that I am proud to have voted today, proud to have supported my candidates in this tight race--if not in Utah, then at least across the face of this ridiculous nation.

11.03.2008

New Stupid Human Trick

Tonight at my sister's birthday dinner, I learned how to balance a spoon on my nose. It is stupid human tricks like this that remind me of the wonderfully ridiculous side of human nature.

Love you, Pops!

10.30.2008

Need some really good epic fantasy?

Read Brandon Sanderson's "Mistborn" trilogy. I just finished the third book, and W-O-W is it something else! I will admit, I wasn't much impressed with the second book, and that was after a spectacular opening novel, so I was a little leery coming into the third book. But this is killer, folks. It took me a little longer than is my norm to get through, but I still felt the pace and energy, with some really astounding plot twists. This, my friends, is quality stuff. (and no little bit intimidating to try writing myself the next morning!!)

An A+ recommendation.

10.27.2008

It feels...good.

I bought my little Honda CR-V. I suppose I shall post pics here as soon as I have them. She is spunky, she's red, and she's a stickshift. A car with personality. I believe that I shall name her Roxanne.

10.25.2008

Adulthood strikes again!!! (I apologize for rambling to follow)

I may just be buying a new car. Ah!
It's a Honda CR-V, 2004, red, AND it's a stickshift. :)

So, I've been wanting to buy a new car for several months now, but I've waited, making sure it was really something I wanted, and to save up some money so I could put a good chunk down. Originally, I had an eye on small pickups--Toyota Tacoma, especially, the smaller ones--mostly because I wanted to sit up higher. (Right now, I'm in a '94 Geo Prizm, which is about as low to the ground as you can get.) I want a bigger car, something I can sit up higher in.

I was drawn to the pickups because I thought they would get better gas mileage than the bigger SUVs, etc. However, upon doing the research, it turns out that pickups are quite the gas guzzlers. Many SUVs, particularly the smaller ones, actually get better gas mileage, as good as many sedans. And so I was drawn to the SUVs.

And actually, these turned out to be more of what I wanted anyway--they're big enough that I can haul my stuff in (and I tend to do a lot of hauling of my stuff) and yet I can still haul my peeps, too, which I can't do in a little pickup truck. However, I immediately knew that if I was going for an SUV, I would want a smaller one--pretty much as small as they come.

Let me explain: I don't really like big cars. My parents have had a minivan my entire life, and I HATE minivans. They're ugly, first off, and they just feel huge when you drive them. They're awkward to drive, to park, to u-turn, et cetera and so forth. I find that suburbans and large SUVs feel much the same, and that is not at all what I wanted.

And so it all came down to the test drive. I felt like a smaller SUV was what I wanted, but I needed to do some test driving to make sure. After consulting the web and the Consumer Reports, I narrowed down, basically to two vehicles, the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. I was willing to look at others, but those were the two I had my eye on. Also, I had decided that I wanted a 2004, or possibly 05. I like the body style better. The younger versions, in both vehicles, tended to look more like extended hatchbacks, which is a look I don't much like. Besides which, the 2004s were starting to get more toward my price range. :)

The first car I drove today was a 2004 Honda CR-V, and I loved it immediately. It just felt right--I liked the size of it, I liked how it drove, I liked the feel of it--except that it was an automatic. TANGENT TIME!

I love driving manual transmission. I love my stickshift. My car now is a stick, and I love it. I learned to drive in that car, and if I can help it, I'll never have an automatic. This spurred my desire to get a slightly older vehicle--the Toyota stopped making standards after 2005, and the Honda, I believe, after 2006, which is lame. All of the cars I drove today except the one was an automatic, and I won't like that this particular vehicle draws me because it's a standard. Anyway--onward.

After the first one, I drove a Toyota Camry, and didn't much like it. Entirely besides the fact that I'm ready for something different, the Camry just felt boxy. I'm really too short for that car.

We looked at a couple more places, didn't really see anything interesting, so we then drove down to the Brent Brown Toyota dealership on University Parkway. There, I drove a 2007 Toyota RAV4. It was a nice vehicle, quite similar to the CRV, but it felt a little bigger (just a hair), and I didn't quite like the feel of it as much as the CRV. They were very minor differences, really. But that was the only one they had on the lot, and there's no way I could have afforded the '07.

TANGENT TIME AGAIN. Car salesman always focus on the payments and the financing, overlooking the sticker price. They want you to drive away today, and they're willing to do anything to get the payment you can afford. I say this all with great sarcasm--I'm at a point where I don't really care what the monthly payment is, I fully intend to pay the car off as quickly as possible, which means I want to know the ACTUAL COST of the vehicle. It drove me nuts to be constantly asked what kind of payment I wanted to make. I don't care! I just want to get a good deal on the car!

Anyhow, so after that, we decided to drive to the Honda dealership up the street. And there, sitting in the parking lot, was a little red, 2004 CR-V. AND it was a stickshift. The test drive was lovely, it just felt so good to have a stickshift. I don't know why it makes such a difference to me, but it really does. It became one of my major qualifiers for my vehicle purchase.

And then the games began. We went in to just take a look at the financing. Right. The first salesmen we worked with just wasn't being very flexible. He was holding at 13,995, which was a pretty steep price for this vehicle, which has some scratches and cosmetic defects, as well as 70,000 miles. The first CR-V we'd tested was at 13,500 with only 58,000 miles. But this first guy just wasn't budging on that, he kept going on about the certification/warranty on the car, blah blah blah, and we were pretty much ready to walk out. My personal limit walking in was 12 grand--I wasn't willing to pay anything more than that, because I felt like that was what I could afford.

This morning when we were leaving, I had privately wished to myself that I could have my Uncle Frank there when it came down to this part--he's a car salesman and knows his shit, as opposed to my parents and I. I mean, we tried to play the game, but we just don't have it in us. But of all the kismet things to happen, he was down for the BYU football game, and was five minutes down the street. I asked him to come by, and he did to take a look at the car.

That was when things got interesting. We all trooped back outside to look at the car. Uncle Frank was very leery of the cosmetic damage. We knew from the CarFax that the car had been in an accident, but there weren't any details about the damage or any repairs done. He pointed out all of the flaws, of which he made a great fuss, and got on the phone with "his guy" to find out the auction price of the vehicle, blah blah blah.

At this point, we were joined by the business manager of the dealership. He and Uncle Frank started debating about the actual worth of the car, about the depths of the damage, blahdeblahdeblah. My Aunt Debbie was trying to be supportive, while my parents continued in the conversation with Uncle Frank and the business manager, who obviously wasn't going to give us the car for 9,500, which is what Uncle Frank decided was the highest we should pay.

Finally, the business manager turned back to me--which was the smartest move he made--and asked me what I wanted, seeing as I was the one buying the car. Uncle Frank pulled me aside just as he was leaving and told me not to buy the car, while my Aunt Debbie told me to do what I wanted. Thanks for the support! (and I mean that with absolute sincerity. Without them, I couldn't have gotten the deal I did!)

The BM started rambling off about not being able to give us the car for 9,500, or 10,500 (which was my mother's original offer) because he had to make SOME profit off the car, but that he wished he could meet us somewhere in the middle, because he wanted to earn my business (he used that phrase a lot). At some point, he mentioned 11,500 as more of a middle ground, and at that point I finally jumped back in and asked if 11,500 was something he could do. He told me he'd go find out, and we all trooped back inside.

My poor father kept wanting to get us out of there so the car salesman wouldn't suck us in, but we just kept getting sucked back in! They're very good.

He eventually came back and told me he could in fact give me the car for 11,500. At that point, he had me--we were under my self-set budget of 12,000! But I still hadn't been approved for financing, I hadn't checked on what my insurance would be, blah blah blah. He then offered to let me take the car home for the weekend, to see how I felt about it. Hmm! I asked what I needed to do, and he had to go back to the office for approval. So we hung out for awhile.

THEN he came back and said he didn't get approval for that, BUT! if I would buy the car today, he could give it to me for 11,000! Had to think about it for awhile. I had already decided that I didn't want to buy the car today--I really wanted at least a day or two to think on it, besides checking on the financing and stuff. It was tempting, I'll admit, but I at last told him firmly that I wanted to wait until Monday. He guaranteed me the 11,500 til Monday.

And out we were! I'm still hoping I can get the car for 11,000 on Monday, but I'm still okay with 11,500 if that's what it ends up being. Whew!

Just for kicks, we went and drove a couple more cars, including a Subaru Forester (which was lame and felt like a station wagon), but the longer I considered it, the better and more confident I felt about the car. My Uncle Frank will certainly scorn me, but I'm okay with that. I feel like it's a good car, one that will last me a long time. I like the feel of it, I like sitting up higher, and I like having a bigger car--but one that still gets decent gas mileage (20/26). Also, it's red, the color I wanted, and it's a stickshift. AND we got them down $3000 from the original price! I have my uncle to thank for that one--if he hadn't been there telling me not to buy the car, they never would have budged!

I feel like I'm in a stable place in life. I have a solid down payment, and hopefully I can get at least a thousand out of my current car to put down as well. I feel confident that I can make the monthly payments, and I plan to put down quite a bit more, as well. If I can make the payments according to my plan, I will have the car paid off by the end of next summer, hopefully even earlier than that. I also feel like it will be really good to have this on my credit. It will help me to buy a home at some point in the future, and that is very important.

It's just weird to be doing adult things like buying my own car! But I just feel so good about it. I love the car, I feel like I'm getting a good deal, and I just feel so responsible and mature (as ridiculous as that sounds to say!) It feels so good to do this for myself. My parents helped me, they advised me, but I am doing this for myself. I have picked what I wanted, and I am buying it for myself. And oh goody, I get to pay the increased insurance and gas as well! Adulthood strikes again!!! :D

10.23.2008

A certain familiar aspect of my life, restated

I was reading the blog of Brandon Sanderson, LDS author of some of my new favorite books. He recently wrote a blog about his life as an unpublished author--the period in which he was writing before his first book was published. He describes the descent of his writing as he tried to write for the market, as he tried to write what editors were telling him people wanted to read, and how it made his writing worse. He wrote a full dozen novels before one was published. He also writes about a point at which he firmly decided that he wanted to write novels for a living, and his determination to do whatever it took to do it. Further on, he writes about his decision to go to a Master's program for creative writing, to surround himself with a community of aspiring writers. And then he writes about his first success--one of the very first novels he had written.

I guess it got me thinking, which I tend to do too much of anyway. Right now, I'm still planning to go back to school, at least part time, and I'm planning to study social work. I see this as a viable option, because it is a career I think I could invest in--if not passionately, then at least enjoyably. It's something I think I could find satisfaction in doing.

However, I've never given up on my desire to be a novelist. This one thing has never wavered--I have been a writer since I was a child, and I have never stopped for any real length of time. Sometimes I am embarrassed to admit this, and often I try to hide my work from those around me who take note of it. After all, novel-writing is hardly a lucrative business. And besides, there are thousands of people who claim to be writers, who either never finish a single full-length work, or whose writing is childish and unimaginative. I have known many such people, and these are what cause my embarrassment when professionals around me take note of the inordiante amount of time I spend with a notebook or a Word file open.

I fully recognize the flaws in my own writing. I am not a published novelist (though I do have some claim with a few short stories) and there is good reason for it. I recognize that I have potential that I have not yet reached.

I also recognize that I want to be a professional novelist.

Here is my issue with this declaration: only the very very lucky and the exceptionally talented writers ever get published. It's an enormous market, awash with mediocre manuscripts from aspiring artists who want to make the big bucks. And, as affirmed to me by Mr. Sanderson, one cannot write for the market. This was the biggest problem with my most recently completed project--I was trying, honestly attempting to write the next Harry Potter saga. And it failed, miserably. It's terribly childish. And I realized--even if I could not express it so eloquently as Mr. Sanderson--that I can't write FOR something, that I can't make myself write something that I don't have in me. Certainly, I finished the novel. It's a goodly length, with a handful of noteworthy ideas. But it is poorly written and even more poorly plotted. It's boring. As I have been told time and again by writers and writing instructors, I must write for myself first. If a writer does not enjoy writing something, why would a reader enjoy reading it?

And so I move forward with my life. I have escaped the dry, monotonous spell that my muse left me in for a number of weeks. I am adjusting to real life. I am becoming accustomed to the day-in day-out nature of a full time job. And in the midst of this mediocrity, I write. The words spill from my fingertips as they often have, until I cannot believe how many pages have been filled that day, and then again the next. And perhaps they are not the prettiest words, and perhaps it is not the most interesting plot, but the next one will be better, as this one shall be better than the last. And perhaps one day, it all shall be worth it. That, my friends, is what we call hope.

10.20.2008

My first Dr. Pepper in about six weeks...

And the combination of caffeine and a strange, inexplicable exhaustion has me a little loopy. Blogging it is!

I stole this off Jen's blog, and while she didn't tag me, I'm filling it out anyway!

Four random things I like about my best friend:
-She gives the best hugs in the whole wide world.
-She always has good advice, and is always willing to share it.
-We can talk about anything, and more importantly, she is a great listener. We could just talk forever, about pretty much everything in the world.
-She's always willing to go along with the crazy, last-minute schemes we come up with!

Four jobs I've had:
-I worked at a KOA Kampground as a concierge--everything from taking reservations, driving the golf cart, to scooping ice cream and making sandwiches.
-I spent two summers (so far!) at the Pennsylvania Governor's School for the Arts as an assistant stage manager. I stage managed or was deck crew head for daily or twice-daily music concerts, dance concerts, creative writing recitals, theatre productions, interdepartmental shows, and helped with visual arts gallery showings, as well as teaching a stage management seminar, and a variety of other odd jobs. Best job in the whole world.
-A summer before either of those I spent as a shopper for an online grocery-order service. I spent my time in the aisles of a grocery store picking up other peoples' food and stuff. That was when I learned how to pick good produce!
-And though I've never actually had a paid job doing it, I'm also a registered phlebotomist aka vampire. I actually find it quite engaging, if my internship was any indication.

Four books I've read more than once:
-The Belgariad by David Eddings
-The Twilight saga
-Elantris and Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
-and Harry Potter, of course.
I guess really that was about 25 books, but you know, that's my life.

Four movies I've watched more than once:
-Superman (as in, all of them, including Superman Returns.)
-Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.
-Iron Man.
-Pirates of the Caribbean (all three of them)

Four tv shows I watch:
-The West Wing
-House, MD
-Smallville
-Lost (haven't watched for a long time!!)

People who email me regularly:
-Barack Obama. :)
-My Russian pen-pal Lena.
-UVU (campus announcements)
Yeah, that's about it. Where's the love?

Four of my favorite foods:
-Mint chocolate chip ice cream.
-Funeral potatoes.
-Strawberries.
-Cheese quesadillas.

Four places I'd like to visit:
-New York City (going in June!)
-Boston
-London
-and I'd love to go back to D.C.

Four things I'm looking forward to in the upcoming year:
-Watching Barack Obama be elected for President.
-Going back to school
-Going to NYC and PA next summer.
-And I would love to have a relationship sometime in the upcoming year. That'd be swell.

Eagle Eye review, includes spoilers

I went to see "Eagle Eye" on Saturday with Melissa. As we entered the theater and sat down, we realized that neither of us really had any idea what the movie was about, except that it had Shia LaBeouf in it. I rather enjoyed the lack of expectations for the movie.

It took me about half the movie to really get into it. Jerry Shaw's backstory was vaguely interesting, but it lacked emotion through his brother's funeral and the confrontation with his father. Once the interaction began with the FBI and Air Force, there was a definite Matrix-feel. It was relatively surreal, where it felt like they were going for something more realistic. Until the woman on the phone was revealed to be a computer, I simply couldn't believe in the things that were happening.

Once that reveal occured, I was able to go along with the plot a little easier. However, it never really gained the reality I think the makers were hoping for. There was just too much. Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed all the things that ARIA was able to manipulate, I enjoyed the various things that were under her control, I simply didn't believe it in a realistic sense. It was science fiction.

A note on the relationship. The character of Rachel was obviously too old for LaBeouf's character Jerry. They tried to age him, giving him an older backstory and a scruff-edgy look. However, he simply isn't old enough yet. He has the face of a 22 year old, whereas Rachel was obviously in her late twenties, with a seven or eight year old son. And furthermore, the relationship was mostly plutonic throughout the film, with only hints of a romance. This leads into my discussion of the climax and ending.

I thoroughly enjoyed the climax of the film, when Jerry gets shot. It was perfect, the absolute pinnacle of his character and motivation. Of course he would offer himself as a sacrifice. After everything that happens, after every we learn about his brother, after everything HE learns about his brother, and all the growth he experiences through the film, it was the most wonderful emotional climax for an audience watching this character.

However.

He should have died. After watching Jerry get shot a half dozen times or so, the next image is a funeral photograph of LaBeouf in military blues with a flag. I'm thinking, "Yes! The government recognized him, his dad can be proud." The next shot after that? Jerry, standing by his father, at a service honoring his brother--AGAIN. He lived. He survived half a dozen bullets in the chest and back. I mean, unless he secretly had a bulletproof vest that we didn't see him put on, that just doesn't seem real plausible to me. The cops thought he was a terrorist at that point, so it's not like they would have rushed him to emergency care. And yet, he survives just fine, and his brother gets honored AGAIN. We get the idea that MAYBE his dad can be proud, but who knows?

And then they tie up the subplot with Rachel, as Jerry kindly remembers her son's birthday and brings him an expensive present (which he afforded HOW?) and she thanks him for not being as crappy as her ex-husband and kisses him gently on the cheek. Romantic? Maybe. Better than a full-on kiss on the lips, but still Cop-out.

I was there, man. The emotions were there when Jerry got shot, and then I was really excited with the funeral pic, exulting in a true dramatic Hollywood choice. If he had really died, I probably would have cried. I was there. But then he didn't. They spoiled it. It was such a cop-out! For a full day after seeing the movie, Melissa and I kept turning to each other randomly and saying "He should have died!" They could have tied off Rachel's story somehow else, and left Jerry at a dignified, truly honorable place. But no, now he has to go on and live up to that climax for the rest of his miserable life. Lame.

Perhaps I am simply too cynical. But I don't believe in happy endings. I believe in REAL endings, and if you really earn a happy ending, good for you. But real doesn't always mean happy, and I wish that sometimes--just sometimes--Hollywood would stick true to that. I think their movies would be more meaningful, if nothing else.

10.15.2008

Muse

Do you ever find that certain people illicit certain reactions in you?

Like, for instance, are there certain people who, no matter your relationship, always make you feel depressed? Or the opposite--are there people in your life who always make you feel excited and energetic? Or people who always put you in the mood to DO certain things. I think this is the case for most of us. For instance, being around my coworker Cindy always makes me want to listen to hard rock--and being around her son always puts Cindy in the mood to play Rock Band. :)

I have a friend named Sam, we've been friends for a long time, all through high school, and then during his mission and my college, and now into his marriage and college, and my...whatever. We're both writers, artists, with different strengths. But--especially the last few years--whenever I'm around him, I find that my creative juices flow more easily. I get ideas, and I get excited about writing them. Even just chatting with him online can do it.

There are other people like this, sometimes, people I can reach out to in my dry-spell desperation. But there's just nobody quite like Sam to set me off on a writing or creative spell.

I have decided that Sam is a muse.

10.13.2008

Here's another

I think that in the weeks leading up to the presidential election (and perhaps many, many more after that) I am simply going to have to accept and find amusement in the political bias and commentary from some of my coworkers. Some I have discussed before. And there shall be more to come.

Today, after a long-winded denouncement of Barack Obama's economic/tax plan (which I support), and after a long-winded rant about Obama's stance on abortion (which I don't), my coworker preceded to (I kid you not) denounce Barack Obama as the Anti-Christ.

Oh yes. I kid you not.

I could not ignore him any longer (which is my usual tact when he starts talking politics, while my other coworker nods and agrees with him, which is sometimes a little much for me.)

I burst out laughing.

There's simply no other way to deal with people like this.

If only it worked for angry customers on the phone.

10.11.2008

Newfound wonders of the Office Suite

Today I have a deep and abiding love and gratitude for Excel spreadsheets. I have to admit that this is the first time I have ever used Excel for such a purpose, and it is both new and different, as well as intriguing.

I now have an Excel spreadsheet outlining the plot structure for my novel.

Amazing, isn't it? The thing is, the story is told from three specific, rotating points of view, a la Elantris, and I was having trouble finding a way to keep track of the progression of that rotation. And voila--Excel.

Each of the three characters has a column, and each row represents a chapter--following downward is the progression of the novel. It's a little clumsy, and slightly less than artistic, but it gives me structure that I was sorely lacking.

But the best thing of all?
It's one in the morning, and the muse is with me strong tonight. For that, I will definitely take whatever I can get!

The benefits of sleeping in

My mother likes to laugh (rather triumphantly) and say that I have at last joined the REAL world of working stiffs who have too much to do and not enough time to do it. I, somewhat resignedly, admit this is true. Granted, I have a lot less (and somehow more) to worry about than the regular working stiff--no rent, for example, and all the things that go along with that. However, it always seems like there's never enough time or energy to get things done. Busy busy busy.

Not that many years ago, all through high school and a good portion of college, I took every opportunity available to sleep in. And we're talking sleep-til-noon sleep in, dead to the world and luxuriating in this supposed freedom. My mother would make fun of me, but I always considered it one of the great relaxation techniques.

I haven't slept in like that in weeks, if not months. Sleeping in, these days, consists of sleeping til nine, ten if I'm lucky, perhaps on Sunday mornings, because I don't have church until eleven. That is restful. Getting to sleep past six-thirty is a weekend luxury. Usually it's because I have things to get up for--friends to visit or activities to attend.

This morning, I slept in.

I woke up at six-thirty, half got up, then remembered it was Saturday, cheered and went back to sleep. I woke up again at nine, thought about getting up, rolled over and went back to sleep. I woke up again at eleven, and just laid in bed for an hour, contemplating the nature of the universe.

I won't deny that it wastes time that could be spent doing other things. I won't deny the laziness inherent in it. However, I can think of no more relaxing thing than simply lying in bed with nothing pressing to drag you out of it. Sure, there are things I'd like to get done today. But there is nothing I HAVE to get done today, and certainly there are no time restraints. My mom came down to ask if I wanted to go shopping, and I said no--not because I wouldn't like to go, and spend time with my parents, but because that would force me to get ready for the day before I'm ready to do so. Days like this have become very rare, and I like to treasure them. Nothing rushed, nothing pressing, simply enjoying life and the little things to spend it on.

10.06.2008

A longing for Academia

I've pretty much decided to go back to school, though many of the details have yet to be worked out. I'm certainly one of those people who would be a perpetual student with the opportunity, but much too realistic to actually do so. However, I have almost--practically--decided to go back to school to pursue a second Bachelor's degree. I am certainly going to take a few classes and try it out. I am definitely going to take some sociology/social work classes, and test out that field. It appeals to me greatly, and I think I could find great fulfillment in a social work career, as long as I got the right job(s). I have great hope for it.

I have a great longing for academia in my life. I love the challenge, the passion, the expansion of my thoughts and critical thinking. I am very happy with who I am (if not with what I am doing) and I can give most of the credit to my formative college years. My opinions and my thought processes have developed extensively over the past four (and counting) years, and I long for continuing education in all aspects of my life. I feel that education is the only hope for a productive and fruitful society, and I will always be a proponent of higher education, as long as I live. Not least for myself!

Can't we all get along?

I've been witnessing some unsuspected discrimination at work over the last few days.

Political discrimination.

Now, of course political debates are heated. Of course people disagree. Of course people argue when their political views differ. But I've never before witnessed discrimination based solely on political views.

Last week, one of my coworkers wanted a stamp, and the office manager wouldn't give him one because he intends to vote for Barack Obama. It was almost that simple. She had the excuse of not giving him company property for personal use, but down and simple, she wouldn't give him the stamp because of who he's voting for. I call that prejudice and discrimination.

Today, one of the programmers was RAILING against Obama, slandering his policies, and shouting for the entire office to hear that people who vote for Obama are idiots. He knows that I'm voting for Obama, as does the office manager, who just as loudly agreed with him. Again, I call that discrimination.

I find it bizarre. Of course, who you vote for matters. Of course who becomes President matters. But I don't think it should matter on a day-to-day level, so that people feel uncomfortable around each other, so that business is interfered. I've been discriminated against before, but never for this. Teased, yes. Mocked, yes. Mildly ridiculed, yes. But always in a way that I still felt proud to be a Democrat, that I still felt like I could stand up for my beliefs.

Today, I felt ashamed, belittled, and degraded. Last week, I felt the same way for my coworker who just wanted to mail a letter. This shouldn't happen. Not over this. Our political party system is flawed, but it took me 22 years to discover how much so.

10.02.2008

Monotony vs Creativity

I had some down time at work today, and I opened a new document, fully intending to write SOMEthing, I didn't care what. I wanted to write, I had a bit of time to write, and I had every intention in the world of writing. I have two or three projects open right now that I could have worked on, or I could have randomly started something entirely new. Didn't matter to me.

Nothing would come.

Throughout most of my life, I wrote everywhere and anywhere. I have written during classes, during church, in cars (riding AND driving), on planes, in the morning, afternoon, evening and the dead of night. Sure, sometimes I have a little writer's block, every writer does. But today was different. Today, there just was...nothing. I couldn't think of a single thing to write. I was absolutely dry. I didn't much care for the feeling.

I think it's my life right now, especially my job. There is nothing, and I mean nothing whatsoever challenging about my life right now. I'm having some emotional and relationship challenges, but I don't consider that challenging, but interesting. I am at a level of monotony that frightens me. I need to bring some spice back in, or I am going to go totally dry, in more ways than just my writing.

On to the next challenge. On to greater passion.

9.28.2008

My cousin's wedding

On Thursday, my parents and I flew to Louisiana for my cousin Audrey's wedding. First off, I would like to reiterate my love of driving. I would rather drive just about anywhere. The only reason I can see to fly is to save time. It's uncomfortable, it's nauseating, it's crowded and cramped and you don't get to see anything but the inside of the cabin and the back of some guy's head in front of you. Ugh. Yes, I would much rather drive.

Anyhow, we finally made it to New Orleans, where we waited in line for ages at the Hertz rental station for our "mid-sized vehicle"...a Toyota Corolla. Don't get me wrong, I love Toyotas, and hope to own one some day--a pickup truck, actually--but I in no way consider a Corolla "mid-sized."

We drove up to Baton Rouge, to the LDS Temple there, and I proceeded to sit in the waiting room for three hours while my cousin received her endowment. Unfortunately, I hadn't brought much with me for entertainment. I wrote for awhile--I'm working on a new novel about wilderness conservation--and I read the September Ensign cover to cover, and I paced for awhile, and there at the end I started reading the Book of Mormon in Spanish, next to the copy in English. I learned the coolest word: Todopoderoso. It means Almighty (as in, the Lord God Almighty.)

I met my cousin's husband (to be, at the time) for the first time that night. He's an older guy (37 to her 19), but he's aging well, and at first glance I would put him in his mid or late twenties. He has a definite Canadian accent, which is even more apparent next to her Southern version. He talks a lot, and he talks mostly about the house he's building, which I suppose could get old after the third time you heard it. But he seems like a fairly nice guy, and I decided after three days of knowing him that he wasn't a total creepoid. However, the relationship was very odd at first glance. They never touched, no hand-holding, no shoulder-hugging, no arm-brushing. And they hardly ever looked at each other. They are strangers--physically, if nothing else. I found it very odd, disconcerting.

My parents and I have stayed at my aunt and uncle's house in Thibodaux (tib-oh-doh), where we have spent time with them, my cousins, and some of our other family who came in for the wedding. On Friday, we spent the morning decorating at the church. I will admit here and now that I am a controller, a decider. I often find myself in charge of various operations I engage in, and decorating was no different, until another woman, from the ward, showed up. Talk about too many chefs in the kitchen! With my aunt, uncle, both parents, two cousins, myself and this woman, there were just too many thinking heads. Eventually I escaped to play the piano in the other room, rather than exploding at anybody. I didn't know a better way, and I wasn't about to fight with anybody just to tell them their way was dumb! However, there is a happy end of the tale to come.

Friday afternoon we went to a wedding dinner at a Chinese buffet in Baton Rouge, which was nice. They had decent sushi, a pleasant surprise. I took cameo pics while my dad acted as the wedding photographer, since the one they had planned to have fell through after the hurricane here. After dinner, we fought traffic in BR to make it to the temple just in time to change, take a few pictures, and hurry in for the wedding. I sat outside with my 10-year-old cousin Julia and we both got eaten alive by mosquitos, but got some good pictures. Afterward we all drove back to Thibodaux. My cousin and her new husband got to ride in the back of her parents' van together, and upon reaching town, they went to the hotel to be alone together for the first time ever. Yes. Ever. If I ever received the kind of supervision they got from her parents, I would strangle someone.

Saturday we bummed at the house until it was time to go to the church. The happy end to my earlier tale was how lovely the reception turned out. The decorations ended up being quite tasteful, and speaking of, the food was delicious, and there was lots of it. There was a live jazz band, which was lots of fun, although there wasn't nearly enough dancing. The bride and groom hardly danced at all. They hardly spent much time together, either, which is just one of the many oddities. Talking to my aunt later, she remarked on the oddness of her daughter, and we can only hope that she outgrows it with time.

Sunday morning we went to church with the family. Afterward, the whole family gathered to try and help my cousin repack her four ENORMOUS suitcases, which contained 90% light, summer clothing which she will certainly have no need of in her new home of northern Canada. However, she stubbornly retained this vast wardrobe, and so we sent her off with her bulging suitcases, on to a new and hopefully happy life.

Today we mostly just hung out. My father the fix-it man took care of some odd jobs for my aunt and uncle while they were at work and school. My parents and I, upon my aunt's recommendation, went out to lunch at a pleasant little Southern restaurant in town. I had a crawfish pasta in a Cajun cream sauce, which was delicious. This evening, we taught the family the Totally Insane Card Game, which I have discussed in previous posts. And of course, I am staying up this evening to make a midnight run to Wal-Mart in order to purchase Iron Man.

Overall, I can only conclude that my cousin is odd, and hope for her happiness. She is very reserved, and doesn't express her emotions openly whatsoever. It was impossible, at any point, to discern whether she was happy, but she went through with the marriage, and so now I can only hope that she can find support and happiness in Canada, and that she will grow to love her stranger-husband and his family, and her new home.

9.22.2008

Seasonal nostalgia

I feel the cool breeze in the morning, and it stirs strange memories within me. I suppose I have nostalgic memories for all the seasons, but autumn's are certainly the strongest. It makes me want to play Evanescence (I'm not sure what the connection is there), and run around Cedar City in the evenings, and carve pumpkins, and get ready for Conference, and do just about anything with my college friends. It makes me feel like I should be busy, ramping up for the new school year, in the midst of shows and homework and who knows what else. It makes me want to watch the West Wing with Gregory, and drink hot chocolate and play the piano. It excites me, until I realize I'm doing none of those things, and then it just makes me lonely. Autumn makes me wish I was back in school with my friends. I can't remember an autumn when I wasn't, and I miss them.

9.17.2008

Strange new revelation

I like Aerosmith.

My coworker, Cindy, listens to a surprisingly array of music for someone her age, all heavy rock and the like. I keep asking her the names and artists when I hear songs I like, and when a surprisingly number turned out to be Aerosmith songs, I soon after created an Aerosmith station on my Pandora.

After listening to Aerosmith, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and the like all day, I can't deny that I'm enjoying the genre. Of course, Pandora throws anything from Queen to Metallica into this mix, but still, I'm finding that my horizons are expanding. :)

Who would've thought?

9.16.2008

A little domesticity?

Of all the things that I never really pictured myself doing, one of the most surprising turnarounds would be scrapbooking.

We really have to blame my "other-mom" for this. (I have settled on "other-mom" as the title for my birthfather's wife, Jenny, as actually explaining that relationship every time I talk about her is just tedious!) A couple Christmases ago, she gave me my first set of scrapbooking supplies. I suppose it didn't help that my best friend is also a frequent scrapbooker. At any rate, for almost every Christmas, and now birthdays, my other-mom has donated new scrapbooking materials to my cause, and so it moves forward.

The thing is, I find myself enjoying scrapbooking. There's something infinitely satisfying about turning my brain off for awhile, and just mixing colors and shapes and fun pictures. I don't claim to do it well, some of my pages are definitely better than others. But it definitely gives me this odd sense of satisfaction. Besides, I get to find new pictures all the time! Just last night, I was scrapbooking pics from the Juniper Hall days, from the Red Cliffs hike that year, and several from old shows.

In this realm, I have also made the jump at last--I am moving to 12x12 pages. I've been working in 8 1/2x11 forever, I missed the 10x10 jump, but now I am conceding to the 12x12 movement. The format is more open, and you can fit a lot more photos onto a single page. In this light, I bought some big packs of new paper last weekend while staying with Melissa, though I still feel somewhat limited by my resources. I hate to get involved in the sticker revolution, because you can seirously spend a FORTUNE on those things, or really any amount of scrapbooking supplies. Already I feel like I have too much, and yet I still reach out for more that aren't there. Urg! This is when I'm reminded that hobbies are time and money consumers!!

9.15.2008

A chat with Sam today

me: Really, my ideal life? Married, with kids, a stay-at-home-writer-mom who makes a fortune from selling New York Times Bestsellers.
That would seriously be the life.

Sam: you'll find it some-day! I'm positive
soon even
:)

me: Well, we'll see, i suppose.
In the meantime, it's computers and answering phones and writing when the muse descends.

9.11.2008

Artist colonies...when is it my turn?

I can't even begin to express my cravings.

The MacDowell Colony.

If only, if only. But I think I will apply for next summer (even though they say summer's busiest and hardest to get in). In the meantime, I shall work on writing beautiful, artistic things that will get me in.

Memories fade

9.10.2008

Descent of the muse

The strangest things sometimes can be the muse.

In almost every episode of House, he has a moment in which somebody says or does something which he somehow connects to the mystery of the case he's working on, somehow delivers his brilliant--and usually bizarre--solution. I call those moments his Muse. It's often Wilson, but it can be anything.

I've been in a strange mood all morning. I've been contemplating the lack of passion in my life. I watched our old TED video, from a time when I thought I could honestly conquer the world, anything I set my mind to. It really made me want to go back to college, to have my mind stretched that way again.

In the midst of my morning, I got onto the TED website and started exploring. I haven't been there for awhile, so there are plenty of new TED Talks to explore. I watched one by Clifford Stoll, I think his name was. Very entertaining. But then I stumbled upon a talk entitled "Where does creativity hide?" by novelist Amy Tan. I haven't felt the artistic stirrings so strongly in a long, long time. With the rain, some music, and TED, I have found my muse today. I'm ready for anything, and it's a great feeling.

I hope it keeps raining.

9.09.2008

Work and talk and stuff

I started my new job today. I'm working there in the afternoons this week, while I finish up at my other job, then I'll start full time next week. After my first day, I felt slightly like my brain would explode, but I have the feeling I'll get over it. The people make the job, I suppose, and I definitely like the people there. Hopefully that will make the difference. That and being able to wear whatever I want and listen to whatever music I want in the office. Speaking of which! If you haven't heard, definitely check out Pandora, by the Music Genome Project. It's basically online radio, but without commercials, and you can personalize your own stations to play the kind of music you like. It's way cool, take a look.

In addition to the insurance responsibilities I've been discussing, I'm also on the verge of taking over my own wireless payments--the last vestiges of a time when my parents paid for everything. Alas, adulthood. At any rate, I'm thinking about switching service providers. In talking to friends and coworkers, I've determined that almost nobody is entirely satisfied with their cell phone service, and I can't seem to get any straight opinions on anything. With that in mind, I'm searching out the cheapest plan that appeals to me the most for whatever arbitrary reason I happen to come up with. In that light, I'm seriously considering switching to T-Mobile, unless any major objections come up in the next bit. They're a little cheaper than everybody else, and they fit my needs perfectly. I really like the "MyFaves" plan--since I only talk to three people with any regularity, it makes sense to make those three free minutes, since they're all with different providers. Ergo and so forth. Any thoughts?

9.08.2008

Life is SO good

Just is. And don't you forget it! :)

9.06.2008

Little enjoyments

I bought a copy of "Then Sings My Soul" by the Mormon Tabernacle. I bought a copy for a friend of mine, actually, but I couldn't help by indulge myself also. Now, I'm not one of those goody-Mormons who listens to church music all the time (I shudder at the thought.) But I like some good MoTab now and then. This is a really good album, I'm really enjoying it. I still really like "Called to Serve" also, lots of good, gumption-y songs on that one. While at Deseret Book, I also saw that MoTab has a show tunes album; I almost bought it, but then resisted, as the pocketbook is not endless. Maybe I can get it off Amazon or something. Anyway, yes. MoTab rocks my socks.

PS: I'm totally buying the new Coldplay album with my birthday money--stoked! I hope it's as good as the reviews make out!

9.05.2008

New job

I have a new job. I was hired today by a network security company in American Fork, to work as a receptionist/customer service busybody. I really like the people I've met so far at the company, and we'll see about the job itself. It's full time, with those benefits I was ranting about earlier. The only downside is the necessity of quitting my present job at Walden, which I have honestly been enjoying.

Does life ever just make you grumpy? There's nothing to be done about it, so you have no choice but to accept, no matter how you feel about it? It does me, sometimes.

9.03.2008

Insurance and other meddlesome things

Insurance.

Yesterday, I wrote out a check for my year's worth of car insurance. It's gone down considerably, as my youthful speeding tickets have finally been dropped from my record. Still a chunk of money, but I stressed less about it this year than in those past.

However, another fact of life is looming in the near future, as my parents are none too slow to remind me.

My health/dental/vision/etc insurance will disappear in January, as I am no longer in school. I've had the fortune to have a cushion of many months, due to error on part of the insurance company. However, the cushioning is at an end, and come 2009, I am responsible for my own little self.

It raises an issue I'd rather avoid, but cannot. With one (or even two!) part time job(s), I get no health insurance. Right now, I'm working about 25 hours a week. I have been hoping and hoping and wrangling to get more hours, but even if I were to get the max I could possible have, I still would not get benefits, as the school cannot afford to pay them. I have been so hoping that Walden would work out despite all the issues, because I have been enjoying it so much. But it looks like I'm going to have to face reality.

I've been hoping to find a second part time job to bring in more money, but even besides the benefits issue, there are others. The most sad and important of which being that Walden is inconsistent. Much as I love the people there, they are extremely fly-by-the-seat-of-their-pants. (I hesitate to use the word flaky no matter how appropriate.) Yesterday I worked a full eight hours. Today I worked five. What is tomorrow, or the next day? How can I get another job, if I can't even guarantee when I get off every day? I'm working a "real" job to find consistency--without that desire, I'd be working in the theatre as my art-soul wishes. I thought maybe I could find balance here, but apparently not.

I love Walden School. Already, I do. But I need to be realistic. I have to be an adult, no matter how much I want to avoid it. I need to save money, and I need to take care of myself. If Walden can't commit to me, I need to go somewhere else. Sad, but true muffins.

9.02.2008

Sinking chair

I seriously have the cutest nephew in the whole world. His name is Ben, or my Benjabuddy. He just started kindergarten, and seems to be loving it. Apparently, they have a "Thinking Chair", where naughty students are sent to think about what they've done wrong. (With his lisp, I thought at first that Ben said "Sinking chair", and I was very confused!) My mom has a little stool in her kitchen, used to reach the high cabinets, but in the months since he's stayed with us rather frequently, it's also become Ben's time-out spot in our house. So tonight, after hearing about the kindy's Thinking Chair, my mom asked if her kitchen stool would make a good Thinking chair. Ben said yes, and promptly sat down into a "thinking" pose, with his head held thoughtfully in his hands. So cute!

Maybe I should get ME a thinking chair!

8.31.2008

Driving in the rain

Seriously, driving in the rain is one of the scariest and most exhilarating experiences on the planet. I love driving in general, and so to add that extra something...man. Especially with some special driving tunes. The CD Smashley made me for Christmas comes to mind... But really. I just love driving in the rain. It's just one of those things.

8.30.2008

Hope smiles

I live in Happy Valley, Utah, which basically means that I'm an old maid at 22 (next week), and that 6 months is a long time to date before marriage, let alone an engagement. It means that there are babies and pregnant women everywhere, and it means there's an LDS church on every block (almost literally). It also means that there are a LOT of happy, pleasant people around. They definitely have their quirks, but they are, generally, rather pleasant people. Speaking as an outside observer, of course. ;)

I've been waffling a lot lately, which I find to be rather unlike myself. I spent four years of college determined and knowing exactly where I was going, what I was doing, and trying to pre-determine what would happen as far into the future as possible. I considered myself one of the most foresighted people around. So waffling seems quite out of character, really, except that I've been waffling for the last eight months now, with hardly an end in sight.

Grad school, then a mission both fell by the wayside (though either could spring back up at any moment.) Going back to school has been dismissed for the time being, since I can't really figure what I would major in if I did end up going back. I like my job, but despite all my efforts, it remains a part-time position, which means it can't satisfy in the long run. I want to write, but I am unsatisfied with my work, and besides, that will always be a long shot I can never count on. I want to get married, but there's even less guarantees there, despite every encouragement from my mother. (Love you, Mom!)

Hope smiles everywhere, though. I got to talk to a friend tonight, a friend in the midst of soul-searching troubles, and a ray of hope smiled into my life. Perhaps it's just a moment that will pass as so many do, but perhaps I can touch this friend's life for the better. Perhaps God will touch, and change will follow. I can hope.

I got to see many friends tonight, some of whom I haven't seen in years. And it was like old times, only richer. I have got to be one of the luckiest women on the face of this world, to have friends like I have. True friends, friends who would be there in a moment for any cause. Tonight it was my high school friends, friends who have stood together for eight years or more now. How implausible and wonderful is that? We talked, we laughed, we played games, we (or rather, they) sang songs and played the piano. It's a kind of innocence, those friendships. We are free from the things of the world, distractions that might drag us down, or make our friendships less meaningful. I will always have these friends, and they will always stand by me and want my happiness, as I do theirs. Hope smiles.

I have hope. I have so much hope, sometimes I want to burst with it, and I just have to tell somebody everything, because hope is just too beautiful to keep to oneself. I have hope that my life WILL have meaning, despite my current troubles. I have hope for my friends who have need right now. I have hope that I will find balance. I have hope that I will be able to serve others, as they have served me.

Oh, and I have hope that Obama will win the election. Ha!

8.20.2008

In for the long haul

So, I now work at a charter school in Provo as a receptionist/secretary/mailman/firewatcher/all-around-get-'er-done person. In fact, my first day on the job, one of the teachers brought all of the first graders out to the front office to meet me. I was introduced as "Miss Valerie", the person who can help you call your mom or give you a band-aid. :)

The first two and a half days were absolute chaos--phones ringing every five minutes, parents coming in equally often needing things I didn't know where to find or even if they existed, besides the fact that the building is still under construction, so there are contractors all over and people tracking dust in from the unfinished parking lot. And this is just first through sixth grade--the middle and high schoolers don't come until next week along with the kindergarteners!

Today felt a little more normal, despite the fact that our trainer wasn't here today. My coworker Sashalai and I kept things under control with only a modicum of chaos, and were relatively productive. I was quite proud of that.

A couple of the teachers asked me today if I think I'll stick around, or if I'm going to run away like the last girl. Every time, I smile and say, "I'm in for the long haul."