Saturday, December 31, 2011

I'm alive and the world shines for me today

It's official. My first semester of my second Master's degree consumed my life. I got through it - two As, one B (surprisingly not in the class I thought I'd get a B in) and no important balls dropped. I may not have blogged or folded laundry in weeks, but I turned everything in on time and feel rather good about everything I wrote, presented or was tested on. I'm even so intrigued by the research I started that I hope to continue it in my next set of classes. Fortunately, I have until January 24th before that happens. Freedom is sweet.

I do intend to finish my personal history from November and post-date the entries accordingly, because it's my blog and I can do things like that. I intend to finish a number of non-school books. I intend to go dancing more. And I intend to only take two classes a semester from now on, because three was just a little too much.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

We sing the songs that remind us of the better times

What do you remember as the best times you had as a family?

Answering this could take all day. I love my family and we have LOADS of good times, and still have more to come. Road trips, games, moves, random craziness.

Two instances stand out to me though.

The first - mealtimes. Even when I'm home now as an adult - mealtimes are important family times, especially dinner. They are scheduled for times when the most people can attend and you are expected to be there if you can. If anything's more important than a weeknight dinner, it's a Sunday dinner. Breakfasts were often rushed, discussing events of the upcoming day or fighting over who got the pink bowl or cup (seriously, the pink one was the cool one). But dinners - dinners were where we had good talks. And silly talks. And talks that dissolved us all into uncontrollable laughter (you know it's good when Mom can't even stop). And dinners that kept us at the table for long after the food cooled off just because were enjoying each other's company. The food was always good, but it was the company that made it the best.
I spy two aunts, two uncles, two grandparents, one cousin, one mom,  and one cousin's kid. 

The second - anytime my whole family is in the temple is a best time. It is simply the most wonderful place for us to be together. 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Said he was a cowboy when he was young

Do you remember your great-grandparents? What do you know about them?

Only my mom's mom's parents and dad's mom's mom were living when I was born. I met all of them - I definitely remember meeting Grandma and Grandpa Law and there is a picture of me with Gammie. Grandma and Grandpa Law died between when I was 18 months and 3 or 4 years old, I believe. I remember going over to Grandma's once and that she was sitting on the couch in the living room. I have vague memories of one of their funerals and being lifted over the casket to give them a kiss. Gammie died shortly after we visited her when I was about 9 months old.

I honestly don't know a lot about any of my great grandparents. I'll share what I can think of and then beg my grandparents and parents (who read this here blog) to either comment with more stories or email them to me. 

Paternal Great-grandparents 

Dad's Paternal Grandparents

I know nothing about Dad's paternal grandmother, except that he must have had one. His paternal grandfather, however, was one of the youngest of 17 children! These people weren't even Mormon! That side of the family is from Iowa - we even have a street named after our family in Des Moines. My grandpa was Edwin H., Junior, so great-grandpa must have been Edwin H., Senior.

Dad's Maternal Grandparents 

Dad's named for his maternal grandfather as Dad's first and middle names are his grandpa's middle and last names, respectively. His maternal grandmother is Gammie. They're from California. 

Maternal Great-grandparents

Mom's Paternal Grandparents 

Jesso Milo and Ella lived in Southern Utah. I don't remember what Grandpa did for work, but the town that family calls home is definitely a cowboy town. If I didn't miss anyone in the mental list I just made, they had 8 kids - 2 girls, 6 boys.

Mom's Maternal Grandparents 

Vernon and Winona lived in Northern Utah - Cache Valley. Grandma quilted and knitted. They had 7 children - a boy who died in infancy and six girls. They both wore glasses. One of Mom's favorite pictures from her wedding is one of her with Grandpa in front of the temple.

Wow. I clearly have some work to do and people to learn/remember more about!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

You're my bad habit, baby

Do you have/have you had any bad habits?

Well now. This is a loaded question. This is my blog and I want to paint myself in the best light possible but I'll still try to answer this question honestly. 

I procrastinate. I yell things at stupid drivers. I don't always wash my face at night which means I go to bed with makeup on. I pop my knuckles. This may be gross but sometimes I chew on the inside of my mouth. When I was a kid this was blamed on a mild peanut allergy. I don't do it in nearly as often as I used to but I do have a scar on the inside of my mouth from one time when I chewed too hard. I don't even know the last time I made my bed. There are three empty toilet paper rolls in my bathroom because apparently I am too lazy to take them with me when I walk the 15 feet to my kitchen and the recycling bin. I don't mop my floors nearly as often as I should. Sometimes I bite my nails. In the past I have been known to hit snooze about 58,000 times before I finally get out of bed. I generally don't keep my house is clean as I would like to.

Your turn!

Hey look - I wrote about bad habits in 2007!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

If you drink, don't drive, do the Watermelon Crawl!

Who is your favorite singer?

Now? I seriously couldn't tell you. What and who I like to listen to changes all the time. But here's a sampling of who is on that list:

Brian Stokes Mitchell
Norbert Leo Butz
Matt Nathanson
My dad
My uncle
Nathan Pacheco
Tori Amos
Mary Fahl
Audra McDonald

As a kid? Tracy Byrd

Tracy Byrd is a country singer from my same town in Texas - Beaumont. We actually lived in the same apartment complex when my family moved there and he was an up and coming local singer, just starting to make it nationwide. I think we heard him for the first time at a March of Dimes WalkAmerica event.

One day, when I was probably nine or ten, my best friend Chantal and I had been tasked with throwing out some old magazines and a tree that had died. We got the magazines into the dumpster just fine, but as two little girls, we were having some trouble with the tree, since it was about the same height as we were. As we were pondering what to do, we spotted a man walking his dogs in the courtyard and decided to ask him for help. He agreed, as long as we'd watch his dogs.

While he was gone, I mentioned that he looked like Tracy Byrd. Chantal insisted that I ask when he got back. So I did.

Me: You look a lot like Tracy Byrd.

Tracy Byrd: That's because I am.

*fangirl SQUEE!*

We ran home and told everyone who would listen. Sisterpants insists that she was there. I honestly don't remember that, but it's possible.

When I was 12 or so, my mom and I went to his concert at the Beaumont Civic Center. The ticket was $15 and I'm pretty sure I had to earn that money myself. It was a great concert!

When I was 18, I was working lunch at Durango Grill in Orem, Utah, and, for some reason, recounting the story of the tree and Tracy Byrd to my coworker.

Coworker: You know he's playing in Kamas tonight, right?

Me: WHAT!?!?

And then I called my mother immediately. We canceled whatever plans we had that night and she dug out my old concert tee from his Watermelon Crawl concert tour (incidentally, not the one we saw, but it was cheaper than the current one when I was 12). Mom picked me up after my shift and we drove up to Kamas.

If possible, this concert was even better. There was a much smaller crowd (it was Kamas and past his heyday, after all), so I got to be right up next to the stage. (Mom was a little farther back, in a lawn chair.) He actually noticed my Watermelon Crawl tee and, from stage, asked me where I got it.

Me: Beaumont, Texas!

Tracy Byrd: What are you doing up here!?

Me: Dad's job moved us.

*fangirl SQUEE!!*

A little later, he was actually signing things, on stage, that people were handing him - beer cozies, napkins, tickets, whatever. I had nothing on me like that, so I became that girl that took off her shirt and handed it to the handsome country singer to sign.

*fangirl SQUEE!!*

Don't worry, I had a tank top on underneath.

It was one of the best nights of my life.

To this day, I still love him. I turned on my Tracy Byrd playlist to write this post, and, in one format or another, I think I own everything (or almost everything) he's ever produced.

This is one of his two biggest hits:


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Clean up, Clean up, everybody, everywhere

 Was there a chore you really hated doing as a child?

My parents would probably say "all of them". That was probably true at times. Eventually, however, I discovered how much I hate sweeping and mopping. I would clean toilets a thousand times over floors. This, for some reason, is still true. Vacuuming? No problem, so it wasn't all floors. I just don't like sweeping and mopping. It's gross and I never feel like it's clean enough.

At some point, we kids all figured out chores we preferred and I often traded vacuuming with someone else so they would sweep and mop. I've joked on Twitter before that I would trade with someone there who was complaining about doing a chore I didn't mind. I guess I wasn't really joking, because I totally would.

I really hope I marry someone who doesn't mind sweeping and mopping.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Heavenly Father's children kneel down to pray

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Primary is the organization for the children of the church, ages 18 months through 11. Today's memories come from my own time in Primary.

1.    What teachers do you remember?
        The Ards, an older married couple, were my teachers the year I turned 8 and was baptized. As each child in the class was baptized, they gave them a basic CTR ring (CTR = Choose The Right). They made each of us feel so special and shared the love they had for Jesus Christ. 
2.    What were your classes called?
        Each class, divided by age, had some sort of name. For example, I remember the 11-year-olds were called Blazers (the boys) and Merrie Miss (the girls). I think the 9-year-olds were called Valiants? Either way, those names were changed when I was about ten. The younger kids were all CTRs and the older ones were all Valiants, like CTR-6 for the 6-year-olds.
3.    Recall a lesson.
        I honestly don't recall any specific lessons. I do remember enjoying Primary a lot, whether it was in the individual classes or in the group Sharing and Singing Times.
4.    Tell about giving a talk.
        My parents have a book on their shelves called Talks for Tots. I remember preparing at least one talk by referring to that book. I'm sure one of my parents would help me actually deliver the talk by whispering in my ear when I was younger, but I'm also sure that as I got older I insisted on doing it by myself, whether reading it or memorizing it. Probably memorizing.
5.    What were some of the activities that you did?
       I remember paper bag puppets. I remember at least a few children's parades. The Activity Days program, the young girl's equivalent to Cub Scouts, started when I was of that age (9-11), and I remember really enjoying those and filling out my little activity charts.
6.    What ward were you in?
        I don't know which ward I was in while we lived in Murray, Utah, but from age 6 on, we were in the Beaumont 1st Ward.
7.    Tell about your Daddy/child dates or some special primary activities.
        While usually not part of official Primary activities, Daddy-Daughter dates were very important. Daddy made it a goal to take each of his children out for something special, just the two of them, at least once a month. One date, we walked to the Black-Eyed Pea restaurant down the street from our apartment. It was around the time of my birthday, so he had the staff sing to me and I got a brownie for dessert. One couple saw the waiters singing to me and gave me 50 cents as they wished me a happy birthday and walked out after their meal.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Loyal, strong and true!

How do you feel about college football?

(Okay, that's not on the list I've been getting questions from.)

I've known the Brigham Young University fight song for as long as I can remember. When we kids were involved in sports, the family would change the words to be appropriate to our team name (e.g. And cheer our Heartbreakers and Amanda too). My parents met at BYU and I remember even in Texas going to friends' houses to watch BYU football games. Now that we're in Utah, the parents have season tickets and I had some with my freshman year boyfriend in fall 2002. Obviously, we're big BYU football fans at our house. So much so that when I was at Stadium of Fire for the Fourth of July in 2006 wrestling with the decision to move to DC, I got a little verklempt because if I moved, when would I ever be back in LaVell Edwards Stadium?

Apparently, the answer was 5 years and 4 months, because tonight I got to use my dad's ticket and go cheer my Cougars with my mom!

We beat the University of Idaho Vandals 42-7! It was so cold, but so great to be there!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone while Mom drives us home

Saturday, November 12, 2011

I do, cherish you

Sometimes creating family and personal history is more important than writing about it. Today is one of those days.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone at the end of a very wonderful day

Friday, November 11, 2011

It's like 10,000 spoons when all you need is a knife

Sometimes, you have a groom's cake, but no forks.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone post-wedding reception

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Brothers and sisters and sisters and brothers

What were your siblings like back then, and how did you get along with them? 

As you know, I have two siblings - a brother and a sister. Growing up, we were in a pretty typical sibling relationship - loving each other, playing together, driving each other absolutely batty. 

Brotherface was a stereotypical middle child male - he did all the boy things - frying ants with magnifying glasses, playing sports, being gross. He managed to get into more than his fair share of trouble too, trying to get attention and be his own person instead of following in his goody two shoes older sister's footsteps.

Sisterpants, on the other hand, idolized me. Her favorite color was whatever my favorite color was. She always had to be around my friends and me and tag along with everything I did. Of course, this annoyed me to no end, but I couldn't stop her.

We were all pretty crazy, imaginative kids. Of course there were times we didn't get along, but I don't ever remember hating my siblings for any substantial amount of time. I certainly hope they feel the same way. I really couldn't ask for a better of pair of siblings.

This is a rather general summary, I realize, but I'd rather spend the rest of my evening helping Brotherface and Almost-Mrs. Brotherface assemble centerpieces!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Do you have a house on a hill and a bed for three?

What subject in school was always the easiest for you?

I don't remember any specifically easy classes. I was in Challenge/Pegasus/Honors/AP classes for all my core subjects, which certainly weren't easy. Electives could often have termed easy only in that we weren't challenged in the same way. My Video Production class would have been much harder if we weren't just reading out of a simple textbook and creating very short films. Had we been require to create works worth of Sundance, it would have been a different class altogether.

That said, I want to say that my easiest class was math. Stop laughing, Mom. I took all the way through AP Calculus AB, which is definitely not an easy class. In fact, I transferred out of BC for AB because BC was going too fast for me. However, the thing about math is that once I got it, it made sense. It was logical, objective, and I was really good at it. I actually got a 5 (the highest grade possible) on that AP test.

That's not to say I really enjoyed math and I obviously don't work as a mathematician or anything, but I was consistently good at it, which is more than I can say about the rest of my classes. (I was good, but maybe not as consistently.) Even now, I sometimes wish my homework was as easy as a set of math problems. There's something satisfying about logic problems with one right answer and one right way to get there.

Just don't expect me to remember how to do Calculus right away now. At least give me a few days to review.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone while waiting for my flight to board

You're having my baby

Where were you born and when?

I was born on May 25, 1984 at 10:16 AM Mountain Daylight Time in Provo, Utah, at the Utah Valley Regional Medical Center. My mom had just finished her Masters the month before, and Dad would graduate with his Bachelor's in August. I was definitely a BYU baby and their first.

Clearly, I don't remember anything about that experience, which is probably for the best. I do know that the umbilical cord was wrapped around my neck, but I seem to have survived that okay. I actually learned that one day when I overheard my mom talking to another mom about it at baseball game of my brother's, which was a strange place to learn such a thing.

I also know I was born with jaundice. This being the day before those cool light contraptions, my parents were instructed to get me in the sunlight each day. At one point, my dad put me in the back runnerboard of the car and then left me there a little longer than he intended. I seem to have survived that too.

I was a pretty adorable baby, really. Check back here later and I'll try to post a picture to show you!

Monday, November 7, 2011

I like to look for rainbows, whenever there is rain

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

This is the story of my baptism:

a.    How old were you?

I was baptized a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when I was 8 years old.

b.    Where were your baptized?

I was baptized in the font at the chapel of my ward in Beaumont, Texas.

c.    Who baptized you?

My father baptized me.

d.    Who confirmed you?

My grandfather - my mother's father - confirmed me a member and gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost during the regular church services the next day, Sunday.

e.    How did you feel about becoming a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?

I was so excited! I had been preparing, reading a book about baptism and church membership and completing the accompanying workbook with my parents, as well as doing the usual things like attending my church meetings and classes and reading scriptures with my family. In fact, I was so excited that I was bouncing on my toes a little in the font.

f.     Who attended your baptism?

I remember my immediate family was there - parents and siblings. My maternal grandparents came all the way from Washington state to attend. As a birthday and baptism gift, they presented with my very first set of scriptures and a case. I'm sure my Primary teachers and other church friends came. My best friend, whose birthday is 18 days before mine, was baptized the same day, so her family was there too. Another boy our age was baptized with us too.

It was a wonderful day. My mother braided my hair sideways ending in a bun on the left side. I wore the same dress she'd been baptized in. She'd also made my confirmation dress - a lovely white dress with three pink roses on the waist in the back. 

I remember feeling so happy that day. I knew I'd made a good choice, and I still know.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

We are family!

Where does your last name come from?

My last name is Pilmer. It's a rather rare last name that comes from the Tweedside district of southern Scotland. There is evidence that it was once spelled Pillmuir and muir means moor in Scottish.

You may have figured out from my post yesterday that my maternal family name is Palmer. It does get a little confusing sometimes.

I love having a rare last name. It's surprising how often people can't seem to pronounce it (it's phonetic, I assure you), but you get used to it after awhile. I fully intend to keep it as a middle name when the time comes for a new last name.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone from bed because I was almost asleep before remembering I hadn't posted yet

Saturday, November 5, 2011

And I won't tell 'em your name

Were you named for anyone?

I was named for my great-aunt Ella Amanda Palmer. She was my mother's father's eldest sister.

Aunt Amanda was born in 1920 in southern Utah and grew up to serve an LDS mission, work various jobs (I think she even worked in a library for a while), and be one of the greatest examples of charity and service I've ever known. She never married or had children, but that's alright.

As the oldest child, my mom could have named me anything, but one day she felt that she should name me Amanda, before she even knew I was a girl, and that was the end of that. Sometimes I kind of wish my full name were Ella Amanda, but it's not and that's actually okay. I'm still honored to be Amanda at all.

While she was alive, she was called Aunt Amanda and I was Little Amanda. We had a special bond, and I'm so glad I got to know her before she died in 2000. In fact, because of our bond, I was asked to write her obituary and deliver her eulogy. It may have been a strange task for a 16-year-old, but it was the least I could do to honor her.

I'm not an Aunt Amanda yet, but I anticipate I will be one day. I just hope that I live up to the name!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone because it's late and I'm too tired to turn on my compy

Friday, November 4, 2011

Had I Known How To Save a Life

Has anyone ever saved your life? Describe.

Not in the traditional sense. None of my accidents, falls, illnesses, etc., have been truly life threatening. Maybe if you count my parents stopping the bleeding and diligently taking me to the doctor when I split my head open the first time. And the second time. We didn't have insurance the third time, but I survived anyway.

You could probably count the doctor who performed my reconstructive foot surgeries when I was thirteen. I would have lived without them, but not nearly had the same quality of life.

There's Krista, who introduced herself to me the first day of school at my new junior high in Utah, having recognized me from being in her ward (congregation) the Sunday before. I didn't know a soul but, thanks to Krista, went out with a whole new, fantastic group of friends to see The Truman Show at Movies 8 that Friday, and I'm still, more or less, in touch with these same friends today.

There's Cristina, who found out I was interested in theatre and invited me to join her at the SCERA Youth Theater after school program. Getting involved in that group opened up many doors, and I wouldn't have known about it if she didn't tell me.

There's Andrew, who suggested I talk to Myrna about getting a job in the music library. So I did, and I'm sure you figured out the rest.

There's Cheeky Monkey, who sent me the posting for the job I still have today that got me out of a bad spiral I was in while living in Utah and brought me to DC, where countless things and opportunities and people have blessed my life.

There's A$, who set me up with a more efficient workout plan I have yet to falter on. And Cabeza and Theater Greek and Eilonwy and Fran and my family and everyone else who has supported me on this particular journey. Being healthy now will certainly save my life later.

I could go on. No, one has ever saved my life in the CPR/rescue breathing sense, but there are definitely many people who have helped direct it towards a more fulfilling and rewarding path and improve the quality of my life which has undoubtedly saved my life in some way.

John Donne said "No man is an island." I certainly believe that, and I'm so thankful for the wonderful people who are part of my life and let me be part of theirs in return!
Clearly, three people on a hammock didn't work out so well.

P.S. I'm CPR/AED certified - so if I needed to save a life, I could!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Bad boys, bad boys, whatcha gonna do?

Have you ever been the victim of a crime? What happened?

I did a Theatre Study Abroad in London, UK, during spring term 2004. That's 19-year-old me, overlooking the city from St. Paul's Cathedral. I'd been in the country all of a week and a half when my messenger bag was stolen from under my seat at a play at the the National Theatre. I hadn't wrapped the strap around my leg and the Standing Room Only section was immediately behind my seat. I was just asking to get robbed, really.

Of course, I was devastated. My bag contained my personal journal, theatre journal, camera, camera journal, someone else's copy of Peter Pan, wallet, and other ephemera. I went to the police, submitted a report, and figured that was the end of all of those things. I went about canceling my card, replacing what I could, and getting back to having a great time in this phenomenal city. One friend mailed me a new camera, I found a cute wallet with butterflies on Portabello Road, and my parents withdrew money from my account and placed it in that of a friend who was in London with me via his parents, so I wasn't borrowing money from anyone, just getting it differently. My new debit card came via another friend who visited me in London for my birthday on his way to Finland. My parents knew him, and it was safer than mailing a card internationally.

It was an inconvenience, to be sure, but it really didn't damper my spirits after a day or so. I committed to watching my things better, mourned the loss of my journals, and carried on.

The big surprise was that my bag was found not very long after the theft, by some trashcan behind a building, if I recall correctly. The really big surprise was that my journals were still there! Of course the thieves had taken the wallet, book, and other stuff I didn't care about the same way, but I had my journals and that's all I cared about!

Despite all this, London is still my favorite city in all the world (thus far), and I'd go back in a heartbeat. I've just learned to keep a closer eye on my things!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Who are you? Who? Who?

I can't believe that when I woke up this morning, it was November. Actually, it was November when I went to bed too, but that's not the point.

The point is that it's time, once again, for NaBloPoMo!

Now you may be saying: Amanda, you've barely posted twice a month or so for the last few months. And what about school? Don't you have finals coming up? How do expect to be able to write EVERYDAY for the next 30 days?

Trust me, I'm saying the same thing. Truthfully? I don't honestly know. But it's tradition, and I'm going to give it my all!

The theme Eilonwy and I have decided on this month is personal history. We have several prompts lined up, which should give me some direction even in the midst of potential brain frying. I'll answer those starting tomorrow.

In the meantime, here's my Halloween costume from this year!

I dressed as Marilyn Monroe for a party with the theme of celebrities who died too soon. For Halloween proper, I went to class dressed as a Goth, pulling out the black clothes, black lipstick, and purple wig. I even wore a black fishnet shirt under my cap sleeves. Good times all around!

So, my fellow blogging addicts, who else is in for NaBloPoMo 2011?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone while walking to school and somehow managing not to trip or run into a tree.

Friday, October 28, 2011

And Wondering What Dress To Wear Now

OR Why Clothing Size Doesn't Really Matter

Today, I bought two super cute dresses - one a size 8, another a 10. After I tried them on, I put my size 13 pants and XL blouse back on.

If you hadn't read that just now, you wouldn't have known at all that I was wearing or trying on 4 differently sized things. All you would know (if you could see me, that is) is that I was wearing clothes that fit well, or even a little loosely if you were looking at the pants, and flatter my new, slimmer figure.

Clothing size is rather arbitrary. It depends on where you're shopping, the fabric, the cut, the style, and so on. Men have it relatively easy, since it's much more about measurements (neck circumference, shoulder width, waist size, inseam). Women come in a wider variety of shapes and sizes and so does their clothing.

And you know how celebrities are always wearing clothes that fit them perfectly? It's not because they have magically perfect bodies and all the money and time in the world to find the clothing that fits their perfect bodies. It's because they have everything tailored. Everything. They buy clothing that fits and flatters in their widest area, then have the rest tailored.

So don't worry if you're a size 4 or a 14 or a 24. Wear what fits and matches your personal style and you'll look amazing!

Here are some numbers that actually matter:

8 months and 1 week - how long I've gone without missing a workout
$22 - how much I spent on 2 new (to me) dresses
3 - how many more full pushups I can do compared to Cabeza, who is a boy
13 - days until I get to see my family
100 - lbs. of my own body weight I can pull-up 6 times in a row (I'm working up to my full body weight)
5 - seconds I can hold a frog stand, last I checked

Now, who wants to go swing dancing? I have the PERFECT new dress. . .

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Fall is here, hear the yell, back to school, ring the bell

You may have noticed that I've been awfully quiet around here. Even my regular Sunday posts haven't been so regular. There is a perfectly good reason for that - I'm back in school, pursuing a Masters of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in [Insert Working Title Here] at George Mason University.

Essentially, I'm studying Musicology. And yes, that means I'm studying the study of music. I'm about a month in to this degree, and I'm absolutely loving it!

It came as a bit of a surprise. Way back in January, I started feeling like I needed to explore other options regarding either my career or education. Eventually, it basically came down to going back to school for a teaching certificate or going back for a music degree. There were even two or three variations of either of those options, and I consulted several people about the direction I should go.

Finally, I decided on the MAIS degree program at Mason. With the help of the graduate director in the school of music, we could create a program of study that was most in line with my career goals - to be an academic music librarian. I'll take classes like music history and ethnomusicology and skip all the performance based classes of an official music degree, which means I'll get done a LOT faster.

It felt like the perfect option. I applied. And I waited. And waited some more. And almost waited so long that I'd all but forgotten the very real possibility I'd be in school again this fall.

Then, on a Saturday two weeks before fall semester started, I got an acceptance letter! Over the next two weeks, I had to figure out which classes I was taking, arrange financial aid, quit my part-time job, rearrange my full-time schedule, buy books, and so on. It was a bit maddening. Of course, when classes started, I had this totally new, rather overwhelming new schedule to get used to. Yes, I know how to be in school, but I had to remind myself of those skills. Additionally, I actually attend classes in person this time, unlike my last degree which was entirely online.

I feel nothing short of crazy. Full-time job. 9 credit hours. Gym. Church. And everything in between! (You know, like a social life?)

I'm making it work, and it's slowly becoming more manageable as I get into my groove. I really do love my classes and it's kind of fun getting to know another college campus. Of course, I'm already looking forward to being done, but at least I know I'll enjoy it along the way.

I hope I'll find snippets of time for blogging here and there. I have plenty to talk about with this new chapter in my life, but not so much plenty of time to do anything but live it. In the meantime, don't miss me too much! 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The morning breaks, the shadows flee

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

It's once again time for the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I've really enjoyed the sessions so far, so I'm excited for today's meetings as well. You are invited to join us, hear what we're about, and, hopefully, be spiritually uplifted. You can watch online by following this link.

This is what I wrote about General Conference in April. This time, all I have to add is my favorite quote thus far, from yesterday's talk by Elder C. B. Cook -

"Look up. Step up. Cheer up. God wants you to be happy."

I fully believe that!

Happy Sunday to you!

Monday, September 19, 2011

I belong to the church

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

I have a nifty new button on my blog. Look the right - see the flowery, yellow button that reads "I'm a Mormon"? Click it and learn more about me!

Monday, September 12, 2011

We Are All Enlisted

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

I was a senior in high school on September 11th, 2001. I've told my story here before. Today, I want to share with you what the prophet of our Church has said about those events in a guest article he wrote for The Washington Post this week.

9/11 destruction allowed us to spiritually rebuild

Never forget.

Monday, August 29, 2011

I would be my brother's keeper

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

As we have a lay ministry and it falls upon no one in our local congregations to serve the church and its members full-time, how do we care for each other and monitor one another's needs, especially in the event of things like hurricanes and earthquakes?

The answer is within the service of the Priesthood and its auxiliaries, including the Relief Society. Priesthood holders are called to home teach families and Relief Society sisters visit teach other sisters. Home and visiting teachers essentially have the same responsibilities - to teach and strengthen other members and form relationships of trust so that the families and individuals can call upon them in times of need. Those needs are reported to the Priesthood and Relief Society, who, in turn, report them to the bishop.

We each are called to be the eyes and ears of the bishop regarding the welfare of those he has a stewardship for, and, as necessary, his hands. My own home and visiting teachers have helped me with things as simple as extra prayers that I may get through trials or hanging a mirror on a door. In turn, I hope I've helped those I visit teach. It's just another way in which our church is connected individually and collectively, locally and globally. We truly care for each other.

We are also able to mobilize quickly to help neighbors not of our faith in times of disaster. The church is involved in humanitarian aid throughout the world. The membership of the church is encouraged to donate funds or material or participate in any way we can. Of course, as Christians, we are also encouraged to serve and help our neighbors in times of daily needs as well.

I hope that I always take the time to help and serve as I observe the needs of others. I know that I have not always done so, but I know that I can do better and resolve to do so.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

That's great, it starts with an earthquake, birds and snakes, an aeroplane

In case you live you under a rock and didn't know, there was an earthquake with an epicenter about 85 miles southwest of DC. And if you do live under a rock, I hope it didn't move too much today, because I imagine that might hurt a bit. Official details from the United States Geological Survey can be found here.

Much like the last earthquake I experienced, it was pretty awesome for a geology geek like me, once I got over the shock of it all and knew that everyone was okay, of course.

I was eating lunch at my desk when I felt a bit of shaking. With construction across the street and trucks rolling by, it took an extra second for me to realize just what was happening. The shaking was intensifying, so I recalled my training from drills as a kid in Utah and went directly to my office door and stood in the frame until everything stopped moving. Nothing fell, though my rolling compact shelves rolled a little bit.

Once the earth settled down, I checked on my building mates who were experiencing various degrees of astonishment or total freak out. Then Twitter exploded. So did Facebook. I posted my own first reactions and watched others roll in while I finished eating.

One friend, who currently lives in New York City, commented on my Facebook status and asked if I'd be willing to talk to a reporter in Utah about my experience. I said yes, then a chain of emails from this friend to her roommate to her brother, the reporter, and soon I was on a phone interview with the brother, an anchor for 570 KNRS in Salt Lake City.


During this afternoon's 2 PM MST top of the hour news update, I tuned in via the webs to hear my 10 seconds of fame. I've heard myself on the radio before, but it's weird every time. Weird and cool. I was able to get a copy of the broadcast to save forever and ever.

Nothing too crazy has happened the rest of the day. I did come home to find one casualty - my BYU football Pez dispenser took a dive off my bookshelf. The bottles of hair product on my bathroom floor may or may not have been there already.

Definitely one of the stranger days I've experienced.

Friday, August 19, 2011

You can't take the sky from me

NPR published a list of the top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy books.  It was based on 60,000 votes from NPR users. 

How many have you read?

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

17 out of 100 isn't . . . terrible.  I'm sad that the Redwall series by Brian Jacques didn't even make the list, and I'm not sure that sci-fi and fantasy, while very closely related, should even be on one list. Oh well.

Your turn!

Here's Theater Geek's list.

Monday, August 15, 2011

I'm trying to be like Jesus

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

I once discussed that Mormons are indeed Christians in that our worship, preaching, and rejoicings are Christ-centered. But how exactly do we do that?

By living a Christ-like life, developing the attributes He espoused, and becoming like Him. My favorite summary of this lifestyle is found in the 13th Article of Faith:

 13 aWe believe in being bhonest, true, cchastedbenevolent, virtuous, and in doing egood to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we fhope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able togendure all things. If there is anything hvirtuousilovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.

There's also a really good discussion about it in the Preach My Gospel manual.

In short, to be like Christ, we must strive to have faith, hope, charity and love, virtue, knowledge, patience, humility, diligence, and obedience. Our meetings, services, and relationships focus on these things with the hope that we may one day be even a diligent fraction of the kind of person Jesus Christ was. We hear that "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery", but as it suggests perfection and matching them, I'd prefer to use "emulation" in our devotion to be like the Savior to truly worship Him.

I know I have a long way to go, but, to my benefit, not only do I have great example to live up to, I believe that He is also my greatest cheerleader in encouraging me in the process. With Him, I can truly do anything.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Song That Goes Like This

In April, my dear friend, Eric, and I sang for a regional Young Single Adult talent show and received rave reviews! And now, finally, I can share it with you! You'll have to forgive the terrible church lighting and imagine the looks of adoration/frustration on our faces.

Eric and Amanda, accompaniment by Jenny - The Song That Goes Likes This from Spamalot

And now Eric is getting ready to serve in Haiti for the rest of the month, followed by a 1,200 mile bike ride from DC to Miami to raise funds for the group he's serving with - Sustain Haiti. You can follow and support him on Twitter, Facebook, or his blog. Check him out!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Reverently, Quietly

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

Recently, we discussed the role of the President of the Church and his calling to receive revelation for the church and world as a whole. While that is definitely a blessing in our lives, we also believe that we are blessed with receiving personal revelation, direct from Heavenly Father, through the gift of the Holy Ghost. Here's my post about that from January.

Rather than simply repeating myself, here are a few other resources that may give you a little more insight as to what personal revelation is:

The Spirit of Revelation, a talk from Elder David A. Bednar during April 2011 General Conference

Eight Ways God Can Speak To You, a talk from Elder Dallin H. Oaks at BYU in 1981

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Captain Organic Vegetable Man

So, farmers markets are rad, in case you didn't know. Fresh, usually organic fruit and veg, dairy and meat I can't afford (I'll grow an extra spleen from the growth hormones at supermarkets for now, thanks), and supporting local industry. Major wins in my book.

Here's today's haul:

Green peppers
Yellow cucumbers
Summer squash
Asian jewel melon

Dinners are looking good for the next few days.

But what the heck do I do with an eggplant?

-Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, July 30, 2011

It's a holiday pardon me as I celebrate

This morning started out like any other day. I went to the gym and back home, got ready for my day, and headed into work. I'd been in my office just long enough to unpack all my food and check my email when I heard a boom and saw the power go out as a power line outside my window shook.

That's not a . . . good sign.

A couple smaller booms and flickers of electric sounds and it was clear something was up. I joined the other curious onlookers in my building on our landing to discover that a truck with an extendable rig on top had clotheslined itself on the power lines, taking down four power lines as it went.

Obviously, we were done with work for the day. Wahoo!

So, I went home and took a nap. Watched a silly chick flick while going about some online business (checking Google Reader, buying baseball tickets for next week). I've also done some dishes and made enough laundry soap to last me through March 2012.

Cheese curls? More like Fels-Naptha laundry bar soap.

And, as I write this, I still have an hour before I have to eat dinner and head to my other job. I think I'll read a book!

How's your Friday?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Soy un perdidor

Here's how that game turned out.

I lost by 156 points, but I got to play my own screenname on a triple word score on the left. As Cabeza gleefully exclaimed on my behalf, "Eponymous!"

Things are looking better in my new game against the lovely Snack, at least score wise.

Anyone want a U?

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

ABC, easy as 123

So. Words With Friends. Basically, it's Scrabble on the iPhone (except that Scrabble now has an official app). I love it. I currently have five active games, and am losing all but one of them.

Still, I play on.

Words With Friends, like many table/board/card games is as much about luck as it is about strategy. It's all well and good if you have a decent vocabulary and know a thing or two about letter placement, but if you have a rack full of vowels, there ain't nothin' you can do except swap them (and lose a turn) or play them wherever you can.

Whenever I have a rack that includes an inordinate number of a particular letter, say O, and I wish I could pawn them off to my opponent, I feel like a back-alley trenchcoat wearing salesman.

"Hey. You. Wanna buy a O? I got lotsa good Os. Good prices."

Of course, as Cabeza pointed out, they're probably just cheap, knock-off Os made in China. So, today, when he offered to his sell his vowels, I laughed and turned him down, since I had just played "lobo" to get rid of two of my three Os.

Then this happened:

And it kept happening:

And now I'm losing and still have 5 vowels.

Of course, by the time I get some consonants, we'll have tiled ourselves into a corner or something. I do win my fair share of games, but sometimes the fates are against me.

In the meantime, "Psst! You lookin' for some vowels? Got lots of good vowels here."

Monday, July 25, 2011

But with joy, wend your way

I'm a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the Mormons. Each Sunday, I discuss some things related to my faith and what I believe. Regardless of your own beliefs, I hope this gives you a chance to get to know me and my religion a little better. For previous installments, click here.

On this day in 1847, the first company of Mormon pioneers, under the direction of President Brigham Young, arrived in the Salt Lake valley to settle a land of their own, away from the persecution of many non-believers in the East.

Over at least the next 20 years, Mormons migrated to Utah from all over the world in wagons, with handcarts, on foot, and eventually by train (the transcontinental railroad was completed in Utah). Many gave up all they had and lost even more on the way to make it to the Great Salt Lake Valley, yearning for the peace the Lord had promised and with which they were eventually blessed.

Some of my own ancestors were among their numbers, leaving Nauvoo in the dead of winter or sailing from England. A few didn't make it to see their promised land, but their effort and faith were rewarded in the next life.

It's become almost cliche in the church to, when discussing these 19th-century pioneers, to recognize the other pioneers in the church - those who did something first and brave in their one way. For example, my own father is a pioneer, as he was the first, and thus far only, member of the church in his family, joining as a young man. Cliche or not, they are still examples to us all, as we all have something we must do before anyone else we know.

I am grateful for all the pioneers. My ancestors. My family. My friends. It's because of them that I know I can do hard things, like my own cross-country trek to a land I'd never seen five years ago, though I had A/C and made it in three days and slept inside each night.

May we all find our own ways to be a pioneer and emulate those who have gone before.