Monday, May 26, 2014

Life Is

On this memorial day, I am thinking of my brother who died in December. He wasn't a veteran, but he fought a personal battle for a long time and chose to end his life. Our family did a “group hug” for him today, synchronizing a time to remember him and the good times we had together. As the texts from my family came through, full of words of love and warmth toward Luke and the rest of the family, I couldn’t help but mourn his choice, and the choice of about 1 million people nationwide every year. In addition to thinking of the people gone today, I am also thinking about life and how grateful I am for that gift.

Life is really hard. I understand that far better than I'd like to. I also know that when we work to remove opacity, pain and deception, we can see what else life is.

Life is an adventure. There is something so precious about a yoga practice, especially Bikram Yoga for me, where I sweat out all of my insides (or so it feels) and pushed through physical pain and challenged myself to a great degree and then they give me that cold, wet towel and I get to lye in Shavasana and revel in a world so great that it has feelings like this. And even the practice itself, even the challenge and pain and the struggle, is worthwhile and valuable. 

Life is majestic. There is an innate spiritually about a day in the mountains, whether that is skiing or hiking or something else. Skiing in particular holds a warm and fuzzy place in my heart and as I traverse the surface, weaving through trees and soaring downhill, I know there is hope in any difficult situation, I know there is always a reason worth living. When I ride the lift to the summit of Solitude and I see the enormous Wasatch mountains, in all of their splendor and glory, I know that a world as both magnificent and piercingly tranquil as this one is worth staying in. It is worth fighting for. It is worth using each and every day for good and finding joy and sweetness in it.

Life is a good. Last week, I watched a scruffy brown duck eat a huge ant, the kind where you can see two parts connected instead of one long body. To watch that little rascal with its round head and long beak stake out the ant, make its lunge, then turn back around satisfied about the little mouthful, I know that life is good. It’s interesting, it’s crazy, it’s weird, it’s scary, it’s terrible, it’s wonderful and bottom line, it’s a gift and it’s worth living. 

My heart and hugs and tissues go out to each of you that miss someone today, especially those of you who miss someone who chose to go. I do not judge or condemn those who commit suicide and never will, though I deeply mourn the choice and the loss. As the quote goes, suicide doesn't end the problems, it ends the chance for things to improve.

We love you and miss you, Luke, and I absolutely believe it would have gotten better for you.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Redheads Rock

Lately I've been noticing that many of the protagonists in the novels I read are--without any premeditation on my part--redheads. Today I checked out Bride Most Begrudging from the library because it was on my mom's book club list, and, you guessed it, the protagonist's a redhead!

I started to tell you this for no particular reason whatsoever, but then I decided that it must be the law of attraction because I've been obsessed with redheads for awhile--well since Ariel captured my heart in kindergarten--but the admiration has grown significantly as of late. So much so, that my husband and I have already called dibs on having at least one redhead when the time comes (and just for the record, the time has not come).

That's all.

Behold my dad, the reason I have a fighting chance at birthing a redhead. 

If this were Facebook, I'd say, "Loving redheads with This is What Happiness Looks Like, The Selection Series and Bride Most Begrudging."

Okay, that's not quite all. I must add that I am salivating May 6th, the release date of The One (3rd book of the Selection series). I've been more excited for May 6th than I was for Christmas and I just wanted to tell someone!

BTW, Redheads rock.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Angels Around Us

Last month, I had the privilege of visiting the Sacred Gifts art exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art with my parents and Paul. This piece, by Frans Schwartz, entitled Agony in the Garden, moved me to tears.

My family and I have been going through trials beyond what I could have ever previously comprehended and as I studied this piece, I learned and felt several lessons:

1) Because of His Atonement, including suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane for all of our sins and pains, Christ knows exactly what we are going through, exactly how we feel, exactly how devastating some of our trials have been or will be. Regardless, He still knew it would be worth coming to this earth and experiencing both the good and the bad. Christ sees the beginning and the end and knows it will be worth it.

2) There is comfort beyond our view when we need it. We are not alone. Perhaps these angels might even be our family members that have passed on. 

3) Christ suffered an unimaginable, incomprehensible amount for us, because He loves us. He didn't have to perform the Atonement, but He wanted to, so that we can return to His presence after this life. Because of this amazing gift he has given us, we should value and appreciate life so much, every day of it, for life is a gift from the all-mighty and all-wonderful Jesus Christ and not appreciating it makes His gift in vain.

You can see the piece enlarged here. 

Also, please send prayers and good energy our way. We are praying for miracles and the manifestation of truth. We know God is on our side and Christ is our advocate and we have faith in receiving divine help. Your collective faith and prayers are so valuable and appreciated.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Power of Music

I've been wanting to write about my experience singing in a church choir in June. I've been INSANELY busy but finally some Sunday reading this morning in The Hidden Messges in Water prompted me to take a few minutes to do so.

I'm not a choir person. At least, I never have been before. I used to play the sax from the 5-7 grades and was actually quite good, but I quit because I was too embarrassed to take my big instrument on the bus everyday. That is one of the two life regrets that I have, quitting something so awesome, especially because my decision was motivated by insecurity.

I want to get on the top of the world and tell every teenager not to care what others think. If only I knew then what I know now. If only I knew then that no one even noticed my instrument nor were even thinking about it. Generally, people just don't really care what I do. Or what you do. They care what they do. So do what you love!

Anyway, since I was in band, I never got into choir. Nor was I interested in doing so. I love music and have always loved listening to music, singing music in the car and attending concerts, but not choir. In high school, I went through a punk rock and rock phase where I would go to those types of concerts at least twice a month. My friends and I--clad in metal bracelets and combat boots thinking we looked so hard-core but really we looked pretty poserific--would sneak backstage and meet the bands after every concert.  I tried crowd surfing. I could sing every word to all of those bands, some of them the poppy punk and others heavier with harsh lyrics and messages. Those years were a lot of fun and I have some great memories. Yet, I was pretty unhappy back then. I attribute that to several factors, and that is a post for another day, but partially it was some of the music I was listening to.

During my teenage years, I was hurting and I tried to distract from the pain through a variety of tactics, music being one. The more painful and hard the music was, the better it seemed to feel on the inside sometimes. For a minute. For a song. But ultimately, those harsh lyrics and beats weighed on me. They got into my mind and my heart and brought me down even more. They weren't healthy. I understand that now.

I still appreciate some rock and punk rock and many other genres of music, but I'm a lot more selective. I understand what those lyrics and beats can do to people, how much they can influence they have on how we think, feel and what choices we make.

Mararu Emoto's book The Hidden Messages in Water supports this belief about music that I've been forming for some time, a concept I've been taught at church my whole life but didn't let myself believe because I was in denial. Emoto took photos of the crystals formed from water after it was exposed to several contrasting messages such as love, hate, teamwork and music. The water crystals formed from exposure to Chopin's Etude in E major, Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake and Vivaldi's Four Seasons are some of the most beautiful in the book. They are masterpieces.

The ones resulting from being exposed to Chopin are magnificent little gold droplets and and look like jewels you could scatter around. The one formed from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake is a rainbow--it's absolutely incredible, the most unique in the book. The four from Vivaldi's Four Seasons are all intricate and unique, even representative of the respective season.

Then there are some photos of the crystals formed from water exposed to heavy metal. It isn't really a crystal, but a huge ugly, dark circle. It looks like a deep infection in someone's skin if you put it under a microscope. Nasty. Similar to the experiment when exposing water to someone saying the negative phrase, "You Fool." Ugly, sick looking. I was so touched by these photos and the understanding that the music we listen to has a deeply impressive effect on our souls and our minds and the way we feel.

A perfect personal example is going back to the choir I mentioned early. I volunteered to sing in this choir because my roommate said it was the most beautiful music and brought her to tears. I was intrigued and went to the first rehearsal the following Sunday.

I was indeed the most beautiful spiritual music I'd ever heard and it brought me to tears too.

It was more than a choir, but a full orchestra with a narrator and soloists whose voices pierced the soul. The work is called the Lamb of God by Rob Gardner. Here is a link to the oratorio performed by the Spire Orchestra. It was such a privilege to be apart of that. I love words but could never quite succeed in explaining the experience I had singing about my Savior and His love for us and our imperfections and need for Him. Wow. It still makes me emotional remembering that experience. We got to sing this absolute masterpiece in the Latter-Day Saint (Mormon) Conference Center in Salt Lake City, with hundreds of people in the audience. People said we sounded like angels. One of my agnostic friends even said he enjoyed it more than his favorite broadway play.

Here's a preview video of some of the highlights in the collection. Oh I love this! You can also look it up on Spotify to hear the entire songs, Rob Gardner Spire Chorus Lamb of God.

Here are some of the lyrics from one of my favorite songs in the collection: "Here is Hope"

He who healed our sorrows
Here was bruised and broken
He whose love no end knows
Here was forsake, left all alone
Hope did not die here
But here was given
Here is hope
Here is all compassion
He who was rejected
He knows well my longing
He so long expected
Carried our burdens
Bore every sorrow
Here is hope
And ours is the victory

Those are the types of lyrics and messages I want to internalize. To make my life the masterpiece that it has the potential to continue being, I know I must align all areas of life with my goal, which is to invite goodness, love, success and service. Music is a powerful influence and I will forever remember the crystals forming as I continue to make decisions about what music I will listen to.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bikes are Vehicles Too

Attention all motorists: bicycles are vehicles. If one is stopped at a red light going straight on a one-lane road, there is a car in the left-hand turning lane and you are trying to turn right, please take a deep breath and wait for the light to turn green. And then please don't get mad at me when I pick up my bike and get out of your way so that you can squeeze by me to turn right because I can tell you are about to trounce me. Would you ask a car to move over that was waiting to go straight?

Also, just wanted to announce that I've officially become a real girl. What does that mean? It means I finally ventured to The Quilted Bear, dragging my feet, but desperate to find the PERFECT draw-knobs for my dresser. The draw knob desire was the first step to my becoming a real girl and The Quilted Bear stop was the second. Then I truly entered the real-girl world when I thoroughly enjoyed myself and had to stop looking at anything besides the drawer pulls for fear of going out-of-control on my budget. Then I borrowed an electric sawer and painted my soon-to-be-drawer-pull-adorned dresser, so I was a real girl and a tough cookie all in one shot. Don't judge if you see me haughtily brushing the saw-dust off my shoulder. :)

Friday, March 16, 2012

Grace and Intellect

Yesterday I fell off a stage while presenting for work.  That’s really sufficiently hilarious, but if you’d like to continue reading, here’s the story:

I was at a charter high school presenting to about 300 students and faculty on this make-shift stage in the auditorium. I was up there doing my thing and they turned the lights off to better see the Keynote presentation. To better see the Keynote means to worse see anything else and it was DARK in there. I was playing a video and there were some teens who were trying to get a better view since the north side of the auditorium wrapped away from the screen a bit, so one minute I was stepping back to try to give them a better view and the next I was sliding in a heap to the ground. Apparently there were a few feet in between the stage and wall and that’s what I fell backwards into. The first thing I thought was, "I just fell off the stage." Then, "What do you do now? What does one do after falling off a stage?!"

It sounds weird, but the wall behind the stage curved underneath the stage, so it wasn’t a square wall but a rounded one, so luckily the angle broke the 4-foot fall a bit. I was quite surprised when all of a sudden I was sliding away. The best part was that I still had the microphone in my hand. I’m not sure anyone saw me fall because it was so dark, but everyone heard it. So I say into the mike, “Yeah, I just fell of your stage.” And there was a few stifled chuckles which turned into roaring laughter after I emerged from my hole and got back on stage and gave them sincere permission to laugh. They were so sweet to try and not be rude, but I think it’s more embarrassing when people try not to laugh out of pity, so we all just laughed together. My program is called Don’t Drive Stupid so I told them, “Yeah, don’t drive stupid, don’t walk stupid, just don’t be stupid.” They laughed, I laughed and I've been laughing about it every time I think about it since. Perhaps they have been too!

High school was never so entertaining for me.

Then today I drove two hours to present at this youth leadership conference, all decked out in a green shirt and a green sweatshirt and even green chicken socks from my last marathon in Baton Rouge because it was St. Patrick’s today. At least that’s what my far-too-expensive and apparently inaccurate, “World Masterpieces” calendar from the UK told me. So when I asked the teens why I was the only one wearing green (and a ridiculous amount) this teen informed me as snottily as she could muster, “Yeah that’s tomorrow.” Seeing clearly the image of Friday the 16th marked as Saint Patty’s day on my calendar. I responded, “Oh...really?” She looked at me with that raised eyebrow and parted lips “duh” look and nodded like I had got to be the dumbest person on this planet.

Maybe next week I’ll be able to wow everyone with my grace and intellect. For now, I'm going to take an epsom salt bath and put on a red outfit. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

"Because I'm not beautiful," she said.

Tonight I began my volunteer service at the local homeless shelter and played with a new little friend. She's a five-year-old adorable Latina who wanted to play dead and fall from a dresser, while I caught her over and over. At one point, she got distracted by a book of Hello Kitty with some stickers. She said she wanted to keep the whole page of stickers but I told her we should leave some for the other kids, but that she should pick her favorite one and wear it. She picked one and stuck it on my shirt which I thought was so sweet that here she has so little and she gave me her treasure. She continued to give me stickers and I told her that she should keep some too. She shook her head and refused to keep any so I detached one and stuck it on her. She removed it and wouldn't keep it. When I asked her why not, she hesitated and wouldn't look at me and said it is because she's not pretty. I was devastated. Here this adorable five year old girl thinks she's not worthy of being adorned. A simple embellishment, in fact. I told her that she is very beautiful and insisted she should keep the stickers but she said she wouldn't because others would laugh at her because she's not pretty. For the life of me I couldn't get her to keep one, until the very end when it was time for me to leave.

I am beyond sad at a world where a beautiful five year old girl thinks she's not worthy of something nice or cute, devastated at the circumstances and environment that lead up to that mindset.  Additionally, at one point she was getting really excited having fun and when she jumped on the dresser to play dead, the cushion slid off and she stumbled off. I asked if she was okay and she got really quiet and lost all animation and wanted to stop playing. It was as if she was terrified that she was in trouble for messing up the cushion. I think she thought I would be angry at her, when all I cared about was if she had hurt herself when she fell.

I think of my niece who is about that age who has love, security, food, toys, loves high heals and dresses and who would probably never refuse a gift. Both have light and innocence and beauty, though they have very different backgrounds that have given them very different attitudes and beliefs it makes me want to take all of the little kids in the world who don't have basic needs and just kiss them all over and give them warm chocolate chip cookies and vegetables and a warm blanket and make it all okay for everyone. I can do this one small step of volunteering and loving these kids for one hour a week, but then what...what becomes of these kids? Obviously,  that can go a number of ways. There's absolutely hope for them and promise, but they need someone to help them see that. Everyone can be that someone for another, the person that encourages and loves and inspires. Every single person deserves to feel worthy to wear even the most beautiful crown, because we all come from the same place ultimately, we all have the same divine heritage, only we were all given different cards to deal with. I hope that everyone can know that their cards can be used to the best way possible, that they can be given new cards if they work hard enough. For the sweet, sensitive five year old at the homeless shelter, I pray that everyone can feel worthy of beauty and love and know that they come from a Heavenly Father who loves them, and that makes us all royalty.