Thursday, August 7, 2014

MIGHT be moving

So I'm trying out WordPress...So far it seems okay, still getting used to it.  But I thought I might let you know (in case anyone still reads) that I'm considering permanently moving over there.  So if you don't see any posts here - check there.  I'll let you know if I ever actually make the commitment.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Close your little eyeballs*

January = 4

February = 1

March = 1

April = 7

May = 5

June =  5 

July = 2

Total = 25

I'm a little behind with the reading...Goodreads tells me I'm 4 books behind.  Eek.  Better get on it.  I think one problem is the starting and stopping of books.  There have been several I have started and stopped.  Some because of inappropriate material I don't feel like finishing.  Others because I could care less about the characters by page 60 and I think I should care by page 60.  Anyway - no excuses.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik
At work we started a little book club (I have explained about White Oprah? If not - I'll need to get on that).  This was the first book we decided to read.  I had trouble getting in to it at first, way too many characters right off the bat.  In the end I had a list of characters, spouses and their occupations...just to try and keep them straight.  The book is about a book club (appropriate for our first book). The chapters alternate between the characters depending on if it's their month to host the book club.  I think I finally figured out that two characters are in first person, while the others are in third.  Sometimes we knew what was going on in someone else's mind but not consistently, so that drove me crazy.  One character is always writing letters to her dead mom...I could have done without those letters.  The whole book has that Forest Gump feel (cause that's a thing, The Forest Gump Feel).  It covers decades in the lives of these women and they keep the book club going the whole time (but we don't witness every single month thank goodness).  Overall I actually liked the book despite my misgivings at the beginning.  It did drive me a little crazy how we would jump years ahead of the last chapter and somehow I was expected to keep their children straight in my head and care about what happens to them when they are twenty (and their mom was just pregnant with them like five chapters ago).  But what can you do when you want to cover the 60's-90's?  It was a good read and a nice break from my end of the world YA I've been sucked into lately.

Quiet by Susan Cain
I first got interested in reading this book after seeing a Ted Talk with Susan Cain and how she talked about being an introvert in a society that promoted extroversion.  Being an introvert myself (I know - shocker) I was interested in reading more of her ideas.  There were mixed reviews about this book, some people saying she's not really an introvert and others saying she doesn't know what she is talking about.  But she provided interesting statistics and research about her topics within the book and being an introvert who is accused of being an extrovert at times - I can tell you there is a spectrum.  She states in the beginning of the book that not everything will apply to the reader.  I think it would be a good read for any introvert and for people who may be parents of an introvert.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Let go, you're wrecking my flight pattern!*

I had the opportunity to go to Youth Conference in Palmyra, New York about a week and a half ago.  The whole trip cost me a whopping $25 - $20 of which I got back during the bus rides for food.   How could I say ‘no’ to such an opportunity?  Of course, the idea of being on a bus with that many teenagers was a little daunting. 

I had to get up at 5 a.m. to be at the church by 6:15.  Chewy was a doll and woke up with me and helped to make sure I had everything I needed. 

We were on the buses and on our way at 7 a.m.  Luckily the buses had televisions, so we put on a movie and most of the kids must have passed out because it was quiet!  Our fearless leader, Sizzle, passed out too.

Trying to get comfortable on the bus.
We were making excellent time and got to our lunch location an hour early (meaning we got there at 10:30).  It wasn’t hard to be hungry for lunch considering how long I’d been up.  I got to see agency in action as teens chose to spend their money on frozen yogurt rather than something a little more substantial.  It was also funny to see all the teens trying to sit near the walls as they charged their phones – I was right there with them…but I was a leader, I needed my phone.  My cousin, Sam, was at conference too.  We snuck over to Old Navy to do a little shopping.  Then we got back on the buses. 

With being ahead of schedule it was looking like we’d get to the college at 4:30 instead of 5:30.  But then one of the buses lost use of its breaks and we pulled over into a parking lot while they called a mechanic.  There was a mass exodus to the nearest grocery store for a bio break, then back on the buses.   This is when we realized that OUR bus had lost AC.  The kids were allowed to leave the bus and hang out by an abandoned building (where they proceeded to seek outlets for their phones…)

Our leaders discussing the options while the mechanic works on one bus.

I spent the next few hours learning how to yell at the kids.  Seriously.  Sizzle would yell for them to get out of the road and then I would start yelling too...mostly echoing what she was saying.  A few times I yelled on my own.  They didn't look when they crossed "the street".  "The street" may have been a parking lot, but there were cars on it and this one kid walked right out in front of one.  He didn't get hit and he didn't even notice.  I was yelling at him, "Hey, blue shirt! Get out of the road!" but he didn't hear me.  He just walked like nothing could possibly harm him.  That was annoying to me, that the kids didn't look both ways.  Sizzle at one point said, "Sometimes you want to let Darwinism take its course, but we have to keep them safe."  That was the best line of the day.

Eventually, the people on the bus without brakes were divided and split up into all open seats on the other three buses.  This left about 17 people or so without a bus, but a replacement bus was on its way.  We got on our bus and headed to a mechanic for the AC.  We got that fixed, had to reroute because of something about a bridge, and FINALLY got to the college at 8:45.  The dance that was schedule to start at 8 was pushed back to 9:15 and the we would have dinner in the gym.  The girls (and me) went to our rooms (I had my own with my own bathroom - but the room had a "The Shining" feel to it and the bathroom made me think of "Psycho".  Then I did my leader-y duties and made sure everyone headed to the gym for the dance.    I got pizza and then found a spot to keep out of sight for the next few hours.  I always skipped dances as a teen, and I couldn't bring myself to dance at one now.  It didn't help that I was exhausted.  

The dance ended about 11:15, we had a little devotional and then headed back to the dorms.  I finally got in bed close to 1 a.m.  ....I don't know how I made it that long, but it was truly a blessing from heaven showered down on me.  It was about 1 a.m. though that some of the girls decided to run between rooms which resulted the sound of elephants running down the hallway and slamming doors.  I vowed in my sleep deprived rage that I would sit outside their rooms the next night and just yell as the doors opened.  If I'm not going to sleep I might as well yell at someone while I don't sleep.

The next day was packed full of history sites.  Our first visit was to the Sacred Grove.  We got to go early morning when it was still cool.  It was a lot bigger than I remembered.  Everyone split up so that each person could find time to themselves.  I passed many teenagers with their scriptures opened, or praying.  It was kind of refreshing from the day before.  I found my own spot and wrote in my journal (which I haven't done in too long).  

When our time was up, we rounded up the kids for lunch.  We went to a park, where we met up with all the other buses and waited for lunch.  Subway sandwiches...Dear Subway, don't be so stingy with the meat.

They let the female leaders get food first.  I grabbed a turkey sandwich and walked away.  I picked off the three fat slices of tomatoes and looked down at my "turkey" sandwich.  Are you  kidding me?  I was not happy about this. Plus - the bread was not so good.

We also got to visit the printing press and learn about all the time, money and work that went in to making the first 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon.  Then we went to the Hill Cumorah and hiked to the top.

This is the view from the top, looking down on where we would be in a few hours for the Hill Cumorah Pageant.   
The view from the bottom
Then we went back to the Sacred Grove to see the Smith Family home.  And to do what teenagers do best....take selfies.

Then a kind stranger offered to take a good one for us.

Then we drove back to the Hill Cumorah to wait for the pageant.  We got food vouchers here for chicken dinners, but we were able to use them for up to $10 worth of food.  I got a burger instead.  There is no English translation for how good it tasted, it was Delicious-e-o-so 

The girls sharing a Sprite...but my favorite part of this photo is the photobomb in the back.  They were pretty tickled when I told them I could see them.

I also got to see Amber!  She drove from Michigan with some friends to see the pageant and I don't think it was much of a coincidence that it was the same night I was there.

It was good to be able to spend some time with her.  Of course, she told me I had mom voice and when I got upset that a random teen I didn't know dropped something and didn't pick it up...I realized she was right.

After the pageant, we rounded up the kids once more and headed back to the dorms.  Sizzle and I walked around to all the rooms and told the girls that lights out was at midnight and there was absolutely no reason for them to come out of their rooms.  Well, Sizzle told them, I stood behind her and tried to give them "The Donbro" which is a look that scares Chewy when he's out of line.  There were no slamming doors that night.

The next day we packed up and headed to our last stop, the Peter Whitmer farm where we had a testimony meeting, tours of the original farmhouse and LUNCH! Which sadly, was more Subway.  The testimony was great, mostly because I had been wondering how much the kids got out of the trip.  It was reassuring.  At one point, Sizzle leaned over and said, "You know, you worry about them and then you have experiences like this and you think, 'maybe they'll be ok'."  To which I said, "yes, they'll still get hit by a car but spiritually they're doing ok."  I'm so witty.

Then it was time for lunch and I got to spend some time with Sammy.

I have absolutely no idea who that girl is behind me.
That's something we didn't really have when I went to youth conference as a teen - we didn't have intentional photo bombers....and selfies were as popular.  They existed.  Also - I didn't have a cell phone or a digital camera, or an iPod.  It was 35mm film, portable CD player and a bunch of AA batteries for me!

On the bus ride home we found that our bus no longer had AC.  At one point we stopped and put as many of the kids on to buses with bearable conditions.  That left about 13 or so kids and 6 leaders to ride out to at least dinner in the heat.  But I'll tell you what - I got my first nap.

We stopped for dinner, where I ate with Sam.  I went to the bathroom and came back to this on my phone.

She got the Stake President's wife to take selfies with her on my phone!  At the dinner break they were going to get volunteers from the other buses to take our places.  But all the kids on the bus didn't want to switch, some kids from other buses wanted to join us (!) and the leaders were pretty happy where we were.  Plenty of space, quiet, it was great.  As a Stake leader, they made Sizzle go on to a another bus and switched her out with some other leaders.  She put me in charge of the movies and as the only female leader on the bus I became the only one who yelled at the kids.  Luckily Sizzle trained me well in the short amount of time we had.  

As the one in charge of the movies, I picked The Incredibles.
Sam (who had joined our bus) liked it.

I yelled at the kids to sit down on multiple occasions, but my favorite was when one of my Mia Maids was standing and I yelled her name, nothing else and she sat down quicker than anything I've ever seen.

Overall, I really enjoyed Youth Conference.  I'm grateful I had the chance to spend more time with my girls and get to know them better.  I feel closer to them now (some of them have even randomly texted me just to say they love me).  And, this past Sunday I told them to be quiet and one of them complimented me on how well I did that.  I'm a little surprised how quickly I've gone from not feeling like I know what I am doing to being comfortable and speaking up more...and acting like a leader.  Anyway - it was fun.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Just bee yourself*

I am getting ready to pack up for Youth Conference (Palmyra, NY again after 17 years) and I decided to make some granola bars for the trip.

I got this recipe from Pinterest and Chewy and I love it (I've tried a different granola bar recipe that was not a win in our household).

I have slightly modified it because melting white chocolate chips and drizzling them did not work.  No matter how I melted them, they clumped together and refused to drizzle.

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup honey (or brown rice syrup or light corn syrup)
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 1/2 cups quick cooking oats
3/4 (plus up to 4 tablespoons) whole wheat pastry flour
     (or all-purpose - next time I want to try almond flour)
1 square vanilla almond bark

Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper.  Set aside. - NOTE I did not have parchment paper and the first time I used wax paper - no bueno.  The second and third time I didn't use any.  I sprayed the pan with Pam Baking (with flour) and it was just fine.

In a large mixing bowl combine the butter, syrup, brown sugar and granulated sugar.  Heat on high in the microwave for 1 minute.  Remove and stir and repeat cooking on high for another minute.  Remove from the microwave and stir again.  Cook for one more minute (for a total of 3) but watch the mixture closely as it may boil and bubble over if not watched. 

Add the vanilla, cinnamon, cream of tartar, and salt.  Stir until combined.  Add the oats folding until incorporated.  Add the flour in three portions taking care to mix well after each addition.  If the mixture is still very wet and sticky, add more flour one tablespoon at a time. 

Press the mixture into the prepared pan and refrigerate for an hour to set.  

Remove from the  pan.  Melt the almost bark on low heat, then spread over the granola bars.  Cut into desired size.  

A word on the granola bars.  I actually didn't fall in love with them at first bite...or second or third.  Chewy wouldn't even eat any because they didn't look all that good.  But the second time I made them, they looked and tasted better and I practically had to hide them from Chewy

Thursday, July 3, 2014

It’s like Mel Gibson said, ‘to thy own self be true*

Congrats to Tami and Isaac - they both received 10 blog bucks for guessing blog post titles!

Someone once told me I was a story teller.  Given the context of the conversation (a break up) I saw it as a bad thing.  For about two months after that conversation I watched myself to see if I took the long way to say things.   I tried to economize my conversations to just have the bare essentials (I failed at this by the way).  I continued to catch myself doing this from time to time several months afterwards. 

It’s not the first time I have done something like that.  When I was younger someone told me I had a contagious laugh, which I took to mean my laugh was so ridiculous others could not help but laugh at it (rather than with it). 

How often do we try to change ourselves because of something someone said?  I’m ashamed of how many times I have thought I wasn’t good enough because someone alluded I wasn’t enough for them.  Not just romantic relationships, but friendships too.  I didn’t meet someone’s expectations so that was that.

I guess I thought that in my late twenties I would have figured things out.  I wouldn’t have been affected the way I was by this person’s remarks.  But I was.  Even when we proclaim not to care what people think of us, we still care to some degree.  We care enough to proclaim we don’t care, which is in itself…caring. 

I suppose because I work with the youth now, my mind focuses on how to help them turn out better than me.  I want them to avoid the mistakes I made.  How do you instill in someone that they are good enough?  That just because some boy told you some other girl is prettier than you doesn’t mean that’s necessarily true.  He may find her more attractive, but that doesn’t preclude another guy from finding you the most attractive girl he knows.

We are not cookie cutters versions of some standard.  In a sense I think we understand this, about ourselves at least.  My guy friends would always ask me general questions about girls, and I would tell them that each girl is different.  One girl may be wooed by red roses and chocolates while another is wooed by quick wit, or athleticism, or dance moves, or extroverts, or geeky guys with thick rimmed glasses.  How could I generalize answers with so many different people out there?

Yet – when someone we are interested in says, “I don’t like girls with long hair.” We cut our hair (disclaimer – I have never done this particular thing).  When XBF (ex-boyfriend) told me I was a storyteller and he wasn’t, I tried to stop being a storyteller.  I tried to stop being myself -which, up until that time, none of my friends and family had complained about.  If anything, they liked my storytelling. And there were guys who liked that about me, but I was intent on being right for this guy. 

I feel like when I dated, I changed myself to fit what I thought they wanted and I changed the guys in my mind too.  I think I only dated one guy where I didn’t assume marriage was the end goal – and therefore I did all I could to ensure I didn’t screw it up.  How stupid of me, but at the time, I thought that was how things worked.  Really – at the time I didn’t realize I was doing it.  We’re talking something as trivial as paper towel use – I dated a guy who said he couldn’t marry someone who used too many paper towels…..ridiculous people, but guess who paid attention to how many she used? This girl.

The thing I think I love most about Chewy is I never felt I needed to hide how weird I was, or change the way I did things.  I didn’t try to hide that I love to turn things into longer stories with lots of embellishments and near death experiences.  And I never found myself pretending he had qualities I wanted.  He had them.  Don’t get me wrong, this doesn’t mean everything went smoothly and still does – but the rough things refine us as we learn to be better people – they aren’t brought on by the realization that we aren’t who we pretended to be.

I’ve learned through him and our relationship that just because one person doesn’t like a quality about you does not entail there aren’t people who do like that quality. Chewy is the weirdest person I have ever met in my life, and I love every bit of it. 

I terrify Chewy…intentionally.  And he still loves me.  He kisses my forehead and calls me a weirdo and I’m happy.

I wish I had understood this when I was younger, when I desperately sought someone to love me.  I wish I had been seeking the person who truly completed me, someone who knew who I was and still accepted me.  Instead I wasted so much time and energy forcing things to work, trying to be what I thought others wanted me to be so I’d receive their acceptance.  It is so important to know who we are and to be ourselves, because there are countless people who love us as we are and as we may become. We will be happier if we stay true to ourselves.

Anyone else doesn’t matter. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Don't underestimate the importance of body language*

January = 4

February = 1

March = 1

April = 7

May = 5

June =  5 

Total = 23

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge

I REALLY enjoyed this book. The main character has been expected all her life to marry the Kind Lord because of a bargain her father made with so he would have children.  When she is seventeen she is made to marry the Lord through a ritual (without seeing him) and then is taken to his castle.  While she is destined to marry him, she has also been trained from a young age to kill him.

I thought it was well written and I liked the characters.  I loved how Hodge pulled in the gods of mythology and how she made me love the bad guy.I would easily recommend this to anyone.

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafia
I hate this book.  I think TheBookGeek said it best, "This is not a dystopia, it is a romance. This is not a novel, it is a collection of similes and metaphors, most of which do not make sense. I originally gave Shatter Me two stars because that's my sort of kneejerk reaction to books I don't like, but after thinking it over for a while, I can't recall anything positive about it that would justify a rating of more than one star."  

Here are some lines I found particularly worthy of the eye roll:

"I want to lick every beautiful beat of his heart." (I also gagged at the imagery here)

"Imagining the birds soaring across his skin."

I don't even remember what it was about....OH yeah - her touch kills people, but there's one person who can touch her and she desires him nonstop.  It was a real struggle to get through.  Simile after simile that didn't make sense and a main character in serious need of some self control in the hormones department.  I get it, they rage in teens, but I've never met someone so...harlequin romancy.  I concur, I can't recall anything positive about this book. 

How to Love by Katie Cotugno
This was pretty good, there was a bit of language, and it's about a girl who gets pregnant at 16 or 17 - so you know something went down.  The father of the baby has been gone for several years and one day he shows back up and the main character battles her old feelings for him.  I liked how the main character develops over time to learn "how to love" - even though a lot of the time I was like, "No, you idiot!" when all was said and done - I liked it.

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
This was a very good read.  I think I might read it again soon.  It is interesting to note that this is actually a collection of broadcast that C.S. Lewis gave over the air.  A broadcast about true Christianity and where we need to be as a society? I can't imagine that happening now a days, even though I really do think we need a reminder of how far off the path we've strayed as a society.  For the most part, I agreed with what he said and it lined up with my beliefs - there were a few things where we differ (i.e. the trinity)
Witch & Wizard by James Patterson and Gabrielle Charbonnet
Meh - not a huge James Patterson fan (especially after Maximum Ride).  I've had this book on my literal "to-read" shelf (the bookshelf I have in my room dedicated to books I've purchased or borrowed that I will some day get around to reading) for years.  Probably since it first came out.  The chapters are short so it reads quickly.  The story is about a boy and girl who find themselves arrested and accused of being a witch and a wizard.  They of course have no idea where these accusations come from and throughout the entire book I wondered myself where they came from.  If no one had ever told them they were a witch and wizard and they'd never done magic - who ratted them out?  VERY interesting story idea, I'll give them that - but I feel like too much was left out.


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