Saturday, December 31, 2011

December?

When I was on my mission in Chile, Christmas was a difficult season for me. Not only was I thousands of miles from home, family, friends and anything familiar, but being south of the equator meant a very warm Christmas. It didn't FEEL like Christmas, so how could it BE Christmas?

I never really did get used to the topsy-turvy seasons there. Rain in June and July leading to a cold August -- it was just weird.

It's easy to rely on familiar things to help us celebrate important events. Tradition matters.

Or does it?

Since those two Christmases spent abroad, I have had passed a couple of other Christmases that definitely were not traditional. This past Christmas was one of them. For one thing, we've been having unseasonably warm weather. Then on Saturday night, Christmas Eve, we took C to the emergency room for some kidney stone pain management. We were home by 2:00 a.m. Christmas morning, only to have to turn around at about 7:30 to take her back. Linda took her while I waited at home for her mom who was already en route to our house to celebrate the day with us.

Linda and I went to church and participated in the program there with the choir in our respective callings. We came home, ate some dinner, then gathered all our stockings and Santa Claus goodies and went to the hospital to open those with C who had been admitted.

So it wasn't a very traditional day. But it doesn't matter. What matters is that Christmas happened. Not necessarily in 2011, but two thousand eleven years ago when a baby half God/half man was born into humble circumstances. That little boy brought light into the world.

I've been thinking about that light, and Christmas. We all know (and for those who don't know, it's becoming more and more widely accepted) that Jesus wasn't born in December, but in the spring. April 6, to be exact. We celebrate Christmas in December for the same reason all good holidays are celebrated when they are -- to make it easier for all those heathen/pagans to accept Christianity.

It's no accident that Christmas falls so close to the winter solstice. The seasonal significance of the winter solstice is in the reversal of the gradual lengthening of nights and shortening of days. Solstice was an important time of year for good pagans anciently. It meant that winter would be over soon. The shortest day had happened and the days would lengthen as the earth tilted closer to the sun.

The return of the light is the most prominent feature of most midwinter festivals. In Sweden on St. Lucy’s Day, young girls don white dresses and a wreath of candles and awaken their families with cakes and song. Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, is celebrated by lighting candles over a span of eight days. The Christian custom of the Advent wreath, with its four candles, one lit each of the Sundays before Christmas, is another way of re-kindling the light.

The Christmas candle, a large candle of red or some other bright color decorated with holly or other evergreens, was at one time a popular custom throughout Great Britain, Ireland and Scandinavia.

The Jews celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. It's an eight-day holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar.

Mid-winter is all about light. Or the promise of light returning to the earth. Just as ancient people passed winter by waiting for the warmth of spring, so they waited for the promise of the Savior.

So it really doesn't matter when or how you celebrate Christmas. It doesn't matter that I didn't get to open my gifts until December 28. What does matter is that that little baby boy grew to be the Savior of the world. My Savior.

Even though I'm writing a post about Christmas on the last day of 2011, my thoughts still turn towards that light. What can I do to bring a little more light, joy and kindness into the world? That's where my thoughts are as I start to usher in 2012.

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. I wish you joy, peace, happiness and light. Lots and lots of light.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Of Traditions, Family and Quilts

When I was born, my great-aunt gave me a quilt. A pink baby quilt for
the latest pink baby girl. She felt a special affinity towards me
since we shared the same birthday. Plus, what's not to love about an
awesome grand-niece?

My mom had her own set of quilting frames that my dad had custom-made
for her that fit perfectly in our very small living room. There was
almost always a quilt in some state of progress in our little house.
As a kid with an active imagination, a quilt on frames was a robbers'
hide-out, an Indian tipi, a cavalry fort, a whatever I wanted it to
be.

It was also a lesson in service and tradition. While hiding out in my
fort or tipi, my mother would have me help her push the
heavily-ladened needles through the other side and push them back up
for her. Very few of those quilts were ever for our immediate family.
They were given as wedding gifts, as baby gifts, or to someone not
fortunate enough to have warm blankets. Any one of my siblings getting
married received a quilt as a house-warming/wedding gift. As each new
grandchild was welcomed into the family, he or she received a quilt
from grandma and grandpa.

Special occasions or milestones warranted a new quilt also. I got a
quilt when I turned eight, again for my twelfth birthday, and an extra
warm one as I left for my first year of college in the frozen tundra
of south-east valley of Idaho.

Though my mom has since passed on, the tradition continues. I received
from my sisters what is perhaps one of the very coolest gifts I have
ever received. There was a lot of thought, love, time and effort put
into a quilt that my sisters all collaborated on. They found out from
my friends that I love Mary Poppins and the silhouette of the London
skyline as she floats into the Banks' children lives.

They took those ideas and ran with it, turning them into a quilt that
is, in my opinion, worthy to be entered into any contest. And take
first place.

I love it. I love the quilt, I love the design, the colors, the
thought and planning that has gone into it, the details, and above
all- the love that went into it.

I'll post a better picture when get I to it. Meanwhile, this one was
taken as I was opening the box late last night. Not a great quality
photo, but not even that can dim the beauty of this gift.




Thursday, December 1, 2011

December Promise

December has entered 2011 with with a vengeance. I don't know what anyone ever did to it, but it has made its presence felt. Southern California is experiencing hurricane-force winds that are knocking down trees, power lines, and otherwise wreaking havoc.

I'm not a fan of the wind, especially at this velocity, but I do love December! Winter, chilly nights, clear skies, Christmas, my birthday, and other happy events are associated with this month.

One of my favorite songs about December is called, coincidentally enough, "December," by Collective Soul. I have no idea what the lyrics mean, but it's an awesome sing-along/driving song.

Enjoy.



Wednesday, November 30, 2011

30 Days Hath September, April, June and ... Ah Dang.

November, November. I thought we were done. I broke up with you yesterday, all dramatic-like, on the interwebs, and you snuck back for one more day. I bid you farewell too soon.

Let's get back together. For one more day, at least.

November is a month for gratitude. And while I have mentioned a few things I am grateful for throughout the month, I will take this last day and mention 30 somethings (one for each day of the month) I am grateful for.
1. My health. I don't always feel great, but I am in pretty decent health, all things considered. I hate even saying it, because many people very close to me don't enjoy such great health, so it makes me feel a little guilty, actually, to be grateful for something that other people don't enjoy in large quantities. I like to think I can use that health to help other people who may not be so fortunate.
2. The perspective that the gospel brings into my life.
3. The gospel. Yes, I'm Mormon. And Christian. Those two things are NOT mutually exclusive.
4. A living prophet.
5. The scriptures.
6. Chocolate. Especially yummy dark chocolate.
7. Vitamins. I don't always do a great job of eating what's probably a proper amount of fruits/veggies in a day, so I'm grateful that there's a way to supplement what I lack on my own.
8. The atonement. I don't always do a great job of being perfect in a day, so I'm grateful that there's a way to supplement what I lack on my own.
9. Being stripped down to the minimum. This year has been a year of incredible change which has in turn led to incredible growth.
10. Being able to play sports. I love being part of a team.
11. Having an annual pass to Disneyland.
12. Computers.
13. Having an analytical mind.
14. A sense of humor. It may not be the same as yours, but it cracks ME up, and that matters.
15. Friends. I have some really awesome ones.
16. Modern technology.
17. Penicillin, and all things related to modern medicine.
18. My bed. I love my bed.
19. My cats. I love my cats. I do NOT generally love my cats on my bed, though.
20. Having a job.
21. Not being crazy. No, that's not subjective.
22. Having a car.
23. Health insurance.
24. My awesome family.
25. Talented people. I appreciate it when people prepare .... something .... a play, a musical, artwork, whatever -- so that other people can appreciate it. I'm a good appreciator.
26. Having talents of my own.
27. My iPhone.
28. Water.
29. Music.
30. Laughter.
31. Having a good home to come home to.

Take THAT, November.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Dear November

The first time I heard about NaNoWriMo was several years ago when it made sense to me to spend a month writing the next great American novel because my job really did afford me that type of time to spend a few hours per day writing.

As society has trended more towards cyber-space, transiting from a month writing a novel to a month posting publicly for all to read (isn't it interesting how this digital/cyber world deludes us into thinking we're each interesting enough to deserve our own forum?) a blog entry a day makes perfect sense.

Sadly, my job doesn't really afford the luxury of devoting time each day to let those creative juices flow in a satisfactory manner - for me the writer or you, the gentle reader.

However, I have had fun attempting the goal of writing each day. And even if I wasn't perfect in the attempt, I at least made the attempt. It has been satisfying knowing that my sisters have been reading. I appreciate keeping in touch and getting encouraging notes from them as I prepared for the turkey trot.

As November ends and December dawns, I can't promise I will write each day. I think that's actually beneficial for anyone tenacious enough to have roughed this month out with me. But I can and will promise to do this more often and not just wait for something meaningful to say.

Farewell November.

Dear December,

Hello!

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Goal and a Maybe

Now that the craziness of Thanksgiving is behind me, I am already thinking a little bit about next year.

I loved doing the 10k. I didn't really love every moment of it -- there were some that I downright hated and I wondered if I could even finish it at all (I'm looking at you, stupid ankle/calf pain!), but the little triumphs far outweigh any of the temporary discomfort. Knowing I can do it means I can do it again, and do it even better.

So here's my official goal statement: I plan to run the 10k in next year's Turkey Trot, and my goal for next year is to run at a 6 mph pace. Well, a bit faster than that, actually. I'd like to finish in one hour, which means shaving almost eight minutes off my total time.

Okay, done. I'm committed now. Committed to trying to achieve that goal, at least. I have a year to prepare.

Here's the maybe. I was doing a decompression of our respective 10k experiences tonight after spin class with a few of my students who had also run it. Two of them participated in their first half marathon recently and were using this 10k as a training run for their next half in April. They seem to think that I would have enough time to prepare for it. They were impressed with my finishing time last Thursday and seem to think it's the next logical step for me to take. (They're easily 15 years younger than I am, and finished 10 minutes ahead of my finishing time. Their idea of encouragement is, "We saw people of all ages and fitness levels in the other half we did; you can do it!")

So that's the maybe. They said the the longest training run they did was 11 miles. I could do that. I would think I could get up to 10 with enough effort. So I'm in the thinking stages of making this goal. I'll definitely start my making my distance runs (Saturdays) six miles, instead of shooting for five and only making it four and a half. That's a start.

Here's another maybe, that sounds much more achievable for where I am right now. One of the other girls in my class mentioned a 10k mountain run coming up. I can do that. It would be tough, sure, but how much fun does that sound! I told her to keep me updated on those details.

Right now I'm someone who runs, which I'm totally fine with. I love the sense of accomplishment that comes from dragging myself out of bed and going running in the morning. Even that simple act is important to me. But maybe I'm changing from someone who runs into a runner.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A Dare

The other day at work, my coworker walked into our shared cube with some colorful packages. I could tell it was some type of candy, but nothing I'd ever seen before. I picked one up to look at it, and Jeff immediately said, "If you open it, you have to eat the whole thing."

I was feeling adventurous, and even after reading the whole package, including the fine print - in both Spanish and English- decided against my better judgment to give it a try. It was called spagettini, i think, or something equally unappetizing. It looked like little candy spaghetti strands, so i get where theybwere going with the name. The highlights promised a watermelon/tamarind combo. There was a sprinkling of sugar on each strand, which I guessed to be sour sugar. I don't like spur candy, and the mere thought makes my lips pucker and mouth water.

The very best part of it though was the little salsa packet that came with it. I asked Jeff if I had to use that also and of course the answer was in the affirmative.

I doused the nasty little strands with the nastier salsa and grabbed a bunch of the worm-like things with my first two fingers and thumb and shoveled them all in my pie-hole. There were cries of alarm from the watching crowd (yes, four people constitutes a crowd. I wanted witnesses that I was embarking on this most disgusting adventure), and I chewed.

The salsa was truly the mist disgusting part of it all, but at least it dulled the sour effect.

I won't keep giving you the bite-by-bite details, because it all went the same. Bite, chew, make twisted-sour-mouth face, swallow, repeat.

Suffice it to say, I do not reccommend this "treat," regardless o how adventurous your awash-buckling heart may be.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Momentous Day

This is a day I should be expressing gratitude. And I am extremely grateful for an infinite amount of things and the depth of blessings in my life. But this is not the time that I'm going to enumerate those things.

Today I would like to talk about turkey. Specifically, a turkey trot. I've not kept it a secret that I have not had the opportunity to train as much as I would have liked to. I mean, "practice." I did get a run in on Saturday -- about 4 1/2 miles, and an shorter three mile one in on Tuesday. And....that's been it for the past couple of weeks. I was encouraged after Saturday's run, telling myself that if I can do four and a half miles, it's only another mile and a half (or so) to do the 10k.

I won't bore you with too many details (or maybe I will. But if I do, it isn't intentional!), but here are some highlights:
  • Being able to line up in the 9:00 - 10:00 minute/mile group (knowing I wouldn't be able to maintain that pace, but willing to give it a shot)
  • Running the first mile in under 10 minutes
  • The woman who sang the national anthem did a beautiful job. It was phenomenal how quickly the mass of people fell silent. That was a beautiful moment.
  • I'm grateful for all the people who volunteer their time to hand out water, cheer the participants on and organize events like this.
  • I got goose bumps when I crossed the start line. Silly, huh? It's only my third organized race I've run in, and it's getting a bit more exciting.
  • I got goose bumps later on when a group of volunteers/spectators cheered for a group of runners. I was part of that group that people were cheering for! Another nice moment.
  • The woman and man who were pushing their grandma in a wheelchair. All three were wearing racing bibs. I clapped and cheered for them.
  • I loved seeing people who aren't particularly fit being willing to participate and keep trying when it couldn't have been easy for them.
  • The woman who I ran near for the last mile and a half who was wearing a pilgrim kerchief/cap and white pilgrimy collar thingy. Very appropriate.
  • The woman wearing bright yellow who I was running near for miles 4 - 5. I stopped running to take a walking break (one of many) at about mile 5, and she passed me saying, "Don't give up! You're almost there! You're doing great!" with a huge smile on her face. I kept her in sight until I crossed the finish line. The bright yellow was a nice target to fixate on, letting me know exactly how much further I had to go before finishing.
  • Finishing.
  • Finishing ahead of my goal. I figured if I could do a 10:30 - 11:00 mile, I'd be able to finish within 70 minutes. I did it in 1:07:58, with an average mile pace of 10:58. Not great, but not bad either.
(Race results by age group/division here. And overall results here. I'm bib # 460.)

I'll do better next year. This year, I'm thrilled I did it at all. And finished. Did I mention finishing?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Castle

From the back of Pasadena's City Hall grounds, across the street is an Anglican Episcopalian church. At first glance, it looks not unlike a castle. While C spent some extra time at City Hall, I went castle exploring.

It was beautiful. I would love to see the stained glass windows from the inside of the window. The outside of them were beautiful -- and that's looking at it inside-out!

The most glorious thing about the church grounds was that there was some sort of luncheon event going on at the same time. No, I didn't party-crash.

But I did go use the facilities to restore my personal comfort.

Enough of those personal details. Here are some more photos from Saturday.

















Early Start

I am starting off my Thanksgiving weekend by seeing the new Muppets movie. Sure, I had to go into work early so I could leave "early" (all "normal" full- employees got ti leave at lunchtime), but leave "early" I did!

This will be the most time away from work besides a weekend that I've had since I had a root canal in October.

I prefer thanksgiving to root canals.

Could vs Should

What would your life be like if you replaced the picture in your head of "Should be" with "Could Be."?

What would you do?

With whom would you do it?

What would you change today, right now?

What COULD you be doing now instead of SHOULD be?

Who would you become?

(From wherethehellismatt.com): Matt is a 35-year-old deadbeat from Connecticut who used to think that all he ever wanted to do in life was make and play videogames. Matt achieved this goal pretty early and enjoyed it for a while, but eventually realized there might be other stuff he was missing out on. In February of 2003, he quit his job in Brisbane, Australia and used the money he'd saved to wander around Asia until it ran out.

A few months into his trip, a travel buddy gave Matt an idea. They were standing around taking pictures in Hanoi, and his friend said "Hey, why don't you stand over there and do that dance. I'll record it." He was referring to a particular dance Matt does. It's actually the only dance Matt does. He does it badly. Anyway, this turned out to be a very good idea.

Watch the video and as my friend Bronwyn says, "Smile with me." Not only did I smile with Bronwyn, but I got a little teary-eyed too. Enjoy.



What are you doing with your life? Is it what you want? It may not be what you expected, but is it what you want? Is it what you COULD be doing?

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Time Travel and Ham

I've been thinking about my missed blogging day. I haven't been dwelling on it or anything, but I did receive an email about it that got me thinking.

Reader question: How did you go back in time and take pictures yesterday since today it rained?

Fair question, and an astute one also!

I could actually travel back in time to create a post and date-stamp it with the day I missed. Well, I couldn't do the actual time travel, but I could create the post and pretend I didn't miss a day.

But I did. So I won't.

I was going to write something about some of my favorite theories of time travel, or some books and/or movies that don't do too terrible of a job portraying time travel in a way that offends basic logic (mine). I found an entry on Wikipedia that goes into way more detail than I have energy to think about, so that kind of killed any desire to go into too many details on a subject I obviously know nothing about, other than my own instincts of how the rules of time travel should work, if such a thing were possible. (I actually kind of don't believe in linear time, at least, not in any eternal sense. Time is terribly mortal and constricting, and I don't believe that we will continue to define it in the eternities as we do now. Otherwise "eternity" would cease to have meaning if we try to bind it by our own puny, human definition of time.)

ANYway - I'm glad I took pictures on Saturday of the fall foliage. Because on Sunday it rained! If we had waited a day to take those pictures, the leaves would have been all matted together, brown and nasty, as opposed to the beautiful scenes we were able to see on Saturday.

Speaking of time travel -- if I could, I would travel back in time to Saturday night to correct a mistake I made.

We celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday with friends and family. Everyone contributed to the meal. C made a delicious ham, Linda made two batches of mashed potatoes (creamy and extra creamy), there was frog-eyed salad, green salad, rolls, sweet potato risotto, a corn/broccoli casserole, and three kinds of pie. Mmmmm, pie.

We ate our fill, and sent leftovers home with everyone. Beth was thrilled to get the ham bone, planning on making a ham and lentil soup.

BUT -- Beth left without the ham bone. Luckily, we were meeting up at a play that night, so I made sure to grab the care package out of our fridge. I thought the baggie with the ham bone didn't make it in the bag, so I quickly grabbed what I thought was the baggie containing the ham bone.

What I didn't know was that the bone was already in the care package for Beth. What I put in there as a bonus was all the ham that had been set aside for US.

Sadly, that fact was not made manifest until Sunday afternoon. All day Sunday, C was looking forward to a delicious leftover lunch. She was practically salivating over the thought of having some of that delicious ham.

Which I had given away. Oops.

Sometimes all you can do, since time travel isn't an option, is try to put things right. Sure it was Sunday, but I think I definitely heard that pig oinking in the mire. I procured another ham (though not as delicious as the first one), and all was forgiven.

Who needs HG Wells?

Monday, November 21, 2011

City Hall

On Saturday, C and I went to Pasadena's City Hall grounds and took some pictures. I'd never been there in person before, but realized when we got there that I had seen it before in any amount of TV shows and movies as an establishing shot for Anytown's City Hall.

The entrance was impressive, but the fun really started as we started exploring the grounds. It was fun to take some nice wide angle shots of the whole building, but I had the most fun finding little unique angles and close-ups of different walls and other objects.

Enjoy!



















Sunday, November 20, 2011

NaBloPoMo: 1 Laura: 19

For those of you keeping score at home, I didn't get around to posting yesterday. I will try to make up for it today by posting some pictures of some beautiful fall scenery. It rained today, so yesterday was the perfect day to get some pictures of the foliage and beautiful colors before everything turned all mushy yellow-brown in the gutter.

We also went to Pasadena and had a great time taking pictures of the beautiful city hall building and grounds. I'll do a separate post for those.

Meanwhile, enjoy these pictures.





Friday, November 18, 2011

Day of Thanks

Since it's ten o'clock at night and I have hardly any energy left to put myself to bed let alone blog, I'm going to end this vet long work-week with some things I am grateful for. Tomorrow is my Thanksgiving, as my local family will be out of town next week. A few of is are getting together tomorrow for a pre-Thanksgiving celebration.

I grateful for (in no particular orde):
Good friends
Awesome family
Funny, quirky cats
Technology
A job
Health
The church and gospel and scriptures
Who I am
Who I'm becoming
Cushy bathroom rug by the toilet
Being out of debt
Burbank
Jeans
Tennis shoes
Being able to finally go to bed after a very long day!



Thursday, November 17, 2011

I Never Met a Shuffle I Didn't Like

I just got home from tap dance class. To say it didn't go great would be very true. To say I made my teacher's day would also be very true.

A couple of things about me -- I'm a great sight-reader on the piano. I know just enough to be dangerous, and since when you're sight-reading, there's not enough "time" to get all the notes right the first time around, I do a pretty decent job of making it sound like it's supposed to without actually doing what it IS.

I'm very good at applying the same principle to tap dancing. This certainly isn't the recommended method, and definitely not what my teacher teaches, encourages or wants out of her students. Unfortunately, it's what she gets from me. When I don't get something or get it right the first few times with exactly the steps it's supposed to be, I can do a pretty good job of faking it and making it sound the way it's supposed to. It's like sight-reading for my feet.

I also seem to have a mental block against flaps. Or to use the tap dance vernacular, fuh-lap. Shuffles (lifting the foot) appeal more to the natural athlete in me, because it means that I get to shift my weight to the other foot. A flap means I have to keep that foot there. I struggle with that concept.

The good news is that I totally made my teacher's week. I'm not even exaggerating a little bit. Those are her words, not mine. There I was, happily (and more than a little bit clumsily) shuffling and (fake-)fah-lapping across the floor, making all the right noises, when Miss R just about collapsed laughing. She said I "look like that commercial where the guy is dancing all stiff-armed but it's not really dancing at all because he doesn't know what he's doing!" Ha. Ha.

Another girl in the class immediately got the reference and general hilarity ensued. For those two at least. To be told I really didn't know what I was doing was unnecessarily pointing out the obvious. Truth be told, it would take more that to offend me these days. I was actually quite pleased that I made her laugh that hard, even if was accidental.

I came home and looked up the commercial, and any offense I may have felt is completely wiped away, because I can see why she thought I looked like this. In retrospect, I actually felt a bit like this.

Enjoy.

If I were in a commercial as a dancer who's not really dancing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

When Forever Equals Ones and Zeroes

Computers and all the languages they speak all use two little things and nothing else: ones and zeroes. Even though it looks like I'm typing in English and you will read this (presumably also in English) on a pretty formatted page with a nice background photo and border, it will have all been done behind the scenes by a bunch of little ones and zeroes. 111001101011101000111 means something. Not to me, but to a computer it does. For all I know, I just solved world hunger by typing in a few digits. (That's not true, but you get the idea.)

One of the job-related hats that I wear these days is working in a customer support department for a major player in the entertainment industry. We get all sorts of inquiries, complaints, and petitions for help. There are plenty self-entitled people out there, many of whom are not only rude, but act like petulant, spoiled children with language that would make a sailor blush.

Foul-mouthed naval personnel aside, one of the requests I received was from someone who wanted to change her user name on her account. Her explanation was that she is now a business professional, and back when she chose this particular user name for her account she didn't know any better. She said that when she Googles herself, that user name comes up next to her real name on this particular account.

I gave her instructions on how to change her account name and thought we were done.

Today I got a response from her that even though she had taken the necessary steps to delete/rename her account, it still shows up on Google next to her.

I Googled her too and sho'nuff! She wasn't kidding! Right next to her name (unusual enough to ensure that I had the right person) was the inappropriate nickname about five entries down in Google.

Without beating anymore dead horses, the lesson is obvious. Even though we interact with computers through a monitor and keyboard, all those little ones and zeroes don't care. They'll be around forever. The interwebs is here to stay. And so is every single inappropriate nickname you've ever given yourself.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Night Sky

My favorite color is not found in any crayon box, nor does it have a name other than "Laura Blue." at least thats what my friends call it. It's the color of the eastern sky before the western sky is completely dark, but just after sunset.

One of my favorite assignments at girls' camp was getting to lead the star certification activities. I loves talking about the constellations, their origins and the mythology behind them; identifying the north star and likening it to our own internal compass; and then thinking about the eternal expanses ofthe heavens, and how they were all created just for us. It's all pretty dang azong, really.

Living in the city limits my ability to do much star gazing. City lights notwithstanding, I really enjoy the winter nighttime sky. The air is cold and crisp, and there is something about it that makes the stars seem closer and more clear than just a regular summer evening.

No matter the season, the stars and the sky never cease to amaze me.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Book Review: "Storm Front"

I read a lot.

Rather, I like to read. I used to read a lot. That was when I had a life and time. (See every other post this month about how crazy/busy/tired I am.) Time to read is at a premium for me right now.

If my life weren't, well, my life right now, then writing about a book that I've recently read would not be that big of a deal, and I would probably have an entry a week about a book I've recently read.

But since my life is, well, my life right now, reading and actually finishing a book is actually a big whoop-dee-doo deal.

I found out about this book when I was looking for some TV series to stream via Netflix on my iPad. The series was called "The Dresden Files," and was short-lived (12 episodes/half season). I can understand why -- I think it was made before all the current frenzy about vampires and supernatural things in general. It's about a wizard who earns a living as a private investigator, working with the local police department to solve other-worldly crimes.

After watching a couple of episodes, I looked on Amazon to see if there were any books about, since I generally like quirky, unusual things.

The first book in the Dresden Files series is called "Storm Front." The series is written by Jim Butcher.

I enjoyed the book, but I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it as much if I hadn't watched the TV series. It's a bit more graphic and explicit than the TV show is, which makes sense. But what I did enjoy more about the book was that in only one book (which would have been the equivalent of one episode) there was much more character development and overall exposition than in several episodes.

And while I liked the book, there are people I would recommend it to, and people I wouldn't, based on the topic matter (supernatural) and explictness (if depicted on-screen as portrayed in the book, it would probably be rated R).

Next on my list? Ellen DeGeneres's new book, "Seriously, I'm Kidding." I already own it; just need to find the time to read it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Just Like Old Times

I worked early morning shifts both Friday and Saturday and have another one tomorrow. I have to get up by 4:30 to be there on time, just like when I taught early-morning seminary lo those many years ago. Only now my roommate is the seminary teacher, so bathroom/shower time will be at a premium. I don't know how much longer these crazy work hours will keep going, but I don't think I can keep up this crazy schedule and pace for much longer. I logged 52 hours on my time card last week.

One bright spot is that I asked for and got a raise, which goes into effect tomorrow.

The bad news is that I'm always so tied that all I can blog about is being tired, and that's got to be getting tiring. I promise I'll try for a better entry tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I'm doing this one on my phone as I head off to bed, or it never would have gotten done.

Oh November, why must you be so very busy for me?

Saturday, November 12, 2011

If a Tree Falls in the Forest and No One's There to Hear It

....Or if a blogger is exhausted but it's NaNoBloPo, and she's firmly committed to the insanity of posting every day, but there's nothing to really write about, and she's still really exhausted, but she really REALLY wants to post, even if it is 10:00 at night with no back-up posts ready to go, but she really has a firm desire to post because skipping it would make it NaNoBloPo-Almost, but she goes to bed instead and just THINKS about posting but then a post magically shows up that (not) coincidentally happens to be about nothing -- did the post really post?

That's so meta.

Friday, November 11, 2011

This Week...So Far

I fear I am not going to make my goals this week of running (practicing!) as often as I should. I should have run yesterday morning, but decided to use the extra hour for some much-needed sleep instead. Work ended up being crazy/busy beyond belief. I worked almost 11 hours straight without a break. Lunch was eaten standing up and walking around -- helping and training the newbies. I'm not even sure what it was that I did eat. Oh, and that was at around 4:00 in the afternoon -- making it about eight hours from the time I had eaten breakfast.

Yes, please break out your teeny-tiny violins and make sympathetic noises for me. It was a long day.

Fast food for breakfast, lunch and dinner, no running in the morning, no time at night, and my body is already starting to feel those effects.

Today I'm working 6 - 3 -- same for Saturday -- so that means no an early morning runs on those days.

So....two less days this week to practice. Aaaannnnd, there's not much I can do about that. Two and a half more weeks until Thanksgiving, and I'm still planning on doing that 10k.

I have received great words of encouragement from my sisters about being able to complete the Turkey Trot, and I'm sure I will. I do wish I could get some more practice runs in this week, but will be okay with the fact that it won't happen until next week.

The cool thing about goals is that you always have more opportunities to reach them. My mom always used to say, "That's par for the course," meaning "Well, that's just typical of this situation." When I started golfing, I learned that "par" really equals the near-perfection for that hole on the course. Hardly anyone ever gets par, and even rarely gets better than par for the course. I'm not gonna birdie, get par, or probably even get a bogey for my planned amount of practice runs this week. And that? is okay. There's always next week.

Run on.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Happy Birthday, Linda!

Y'all, I am bone tired. I could have an entire entry about how exhausting today has been, but I shouldn't make today be about me.

Some "mommy bloggers" have made a thing out of writing a sweet entry about their children on the child's birthday -- the qualities they like about that child, what makes that child unique, etc.

I am not a mommy blogger -- quotation marks or no. I'm not really a blogger. Just a person with a blog.

But I have people in my life I love. And those people have birthdays. Yay!

Today is one of my best friend's birthday. So I am going be like a parent -- put my personal discomfort and desire to just go straight to bed aside, and write an entry about one of the most important people in my life.

I met Linda about 13 years ago. She came into my life at a pivotal point, and as often happens, was placed into my life at a perfect time when I needed that particular person, even if I didn't recognize it at the time.

Linda is gifted and talented. She has an amazing singing voice, and with no formal vocal training at all, can sing just about anything. She isn't snobby about it either -- she loves music so much that one of her greatest joys is to have people sing or participate with her, regardless of how much talent they have. She never lets anyone feel inferior to her for being less talented.

Linda has a desire to talk to everyone. No, really. EVERYone. Her philosophy is that since we all knew each other, or were at least were acquainted with each other in the pre-existence, that it's our responsibility to talk to those people here and get reacquainted with them. She takes that charge seriously. She can find something in common with everyone and puts everyone at ease.

Linda's smile is infectious, and her eyes are a brilliant blue. She is physically a beautiful person, and she is just as beautiful from the inside out.

There are many other qualities I could list here, but she'll have other birthdays, and I'll be less tired, and have plenty more opportunity to tell y'all why she's such a fantastic person.

Until next year (for this topic, at least). Happy forty-mmmph birthday, Linda! Thanks for being such an important part of my life.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Day 9

Day nine of this 30-day blogging challenge. 9:09 at night and I don't have anything awesome, earth-shattering, or even awesome to share. It's been a long day -- up at 5:30 to take C to surgery (shoulder repair); rush home to get her settled before job interview; rush home from that to get ready to teach class tonight.

Whew!

I remember hearing a story about my dad, probably told to me by my dad, about a football game he was watching when he was a young man. The running back on the team he was rooting for had the ball and was running down the field towards the goal line. He made the touchdown, and as the crowd cheered, my dad realized that in his excitement, he had been running parallel to the player in the bleachers. He stopped, embarrassed, as he realized what he had done. The moral of that story was, for him, that he needed to control his emotions and hopes and not be so expressive.

As an impressionable child, you can see how a story like that might have affected me. So while it's true that I mentioned that I had a job interview today, I'm going to stop running down the sideline with the running back and not give any details here about how it went or how hopeful I am (stop running!) and just say -- fingers crossed.

Meanwhile, happy Wednesday. It's been a good, long day. Or a long, good day. You choose.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Sister One

I mentioned before that there is a significant age spread between me and my siblings.

My oldest sister is probably the one I know the least, but it doesn't mean I love her less. There are many things about her I admire. Foremost of those qualities is her courage at dealing with the challenges that life has brought her.

I think that people often say, "I don't know how so-and-so does it," as a bit of a throw-away statement to indicate that they're grateful that they don't have the same challenges. I say that about my sister and I truly do mean I don't know how she does it. (I also wouldn't want her challenges, but that goes without saying.)

My sister served a mission in Brazil back when it wasn't cool for women to serve missions. She loved those people and still enjoys speaking Portuguese when she can.

She's a talented artist. One year she painted a water color of a Christmas tree with presents under it in the foreground. Behind the tree was a picture on the wall of the Nativity scene. The foreground, though prominent, was obviously not the focus of the painting. It was simple and beautiful and still evokes feelings of a peaceful, meaningful Christmas whenever I see it.

She loves fantasy stories and novels, especially JRR Tolkien books. Two of her children are named after "magical" characters. Again, she was a woman ahead of her time.

She has an independent spirit. She's a hard worker. She is a wonderful mother and grandmother and loves her family deeply. Life has not been kind to her and she has been dealt more than anyone's fair share of health issues. Through trials of not being able to be with her family and failing health, she never loses hope, and for that I admire her. She never gives up, never stops fighting, and never stops believing that something better is coming.

I may not know her very well, but I admire her and have much to learn from her.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Scrum Wars

It used to be that at work when a big project was getting ready to start, a conference room would be taken over and become designated as the "war room" for that project.

I never liked that terminology. It made it sound so violent and anti-project. Here was a project "team" coming together to build something supposedly to enhance people's work productivity, and it sounded more like they were gearing and arming up for battle.

The terminology trend these days is now "scrum." As in rugby. Scrum (an abbreviated form of scrummage, which is now rarely used, except as a verb), in the sports of rugby union and rugby league, is a way of restarting the game, either after an accidental infringement or (in rugby league only) when the ball has gone out of play.

If you've ever seen a rugby game, you know that a scrum is not a non-violent event. Put a group of strong, athletic men in a huddle, all eager to regain the advantage for their team, and it can result in being kicked, punched, bitten, shoved mercilessly, and generally beaten up and bloodied.

But in a technology project environment, it means this: Scrum is an incremental framework for project management often seen in agile software development, a type of software engineering.

Sounds benign enough, no. But I don't think its naming convention is an accident. Especially if you think of it as two teams playing against each other, not that everyone in the room is on the same side.

In my new job, my boss has scrum meetings. I frequently come out of those a bit worse for wear, or at least feeling I'm at a disadvantage. It doesn't feel as though we're all on the same side fighting for the ball so we can happily wend our way to the goal line. No, it feels more like being on the wrong end of the huddle against the strong, athletic men, getting a bit beaten up.

I prefer war. At least there was no punching and kicking.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Natural Beauty?

I got my hair cut on Saturday. It's pretty short -- shorter than it's been in awhile, in fact. George, the gentleman who cuts my hair, told me to be brave and not style it as much as I'm used to doing. He didn't say those words, but that's what he meant. What that comes down to is leaving it pretty straight with not as much body and product that I'm used to putting into it.

I went to a play after getting it cut where several people from church were also. They all complimented me on it and dared me to wear it like that to church the next day.

So I did. Or tried. Without George to make it perfect, I did the best I could. I only did a little bit of body in the crown (his recommendation) and left the rest of it straight and natural. I have fine hair. There's plenty of it, but it's fine. That, coupled with not a lot of body, means that it looks like I don't have a lot of it, since now the shape of my head is more skull-like without a lot of hair to shape it otherwise.

I got a few more compliments on my hair at church. (It actually is just about the same cut as I've had before, I'm just not styling it as much, so it does look very different.) I made sure to thank those people, then laughed explaining that it took a lot of control to NOT style it very much. I lamented to one woman that now you can tell how very little hair it actually looks like I have now since I'm not fluffing it up as much.

She chuckled as she reached up to her own hair (super cute, by the way), and said whatever it was (don't remember what) that bugs her about her own hairstyle.

It led us both to realize that we all spend a lot of time and effort covering up our (self-perceived) flaws and physical imperfections. We blow-dry and curl and style our hair to make it look different than it is or behaves naturally; we put on makeup to make ourselves look more "naturally" beautiful; we wear shoes to make us look taller; and the list goes on.

I pointed out that it was the ancient Egyptians who invented perfume to cover up their own body odor because they didn't bathe frequently enough.

"We are just a smelly, ugly, bald bunch of people, aren't we?" I said, laughing, to which she agreed.

And yet tomorrow I will bathe, using nice-smelling soaps and shampoos, I will put on deodorant so that I don't offend others (and myself!) with my own natural odor, and I will put on makeup to enhance my own features while trying to look natural, and I will "shape" my hair so that it falls perfectly naturally. After all, I don't want to look like I spent too much time on my appearance.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Practice Makes....Maybe Not Perfect ....Just Practicing

There are just under four weeks until Thanksgiving. For those of you keeping track at home, that means that I only have about nine more practice runs left before I try to schlub my way through a 10k.

For a long, long time, I have set a goal for myself to run three times a week. In my mind I have run three times a week, even if I have never been able to manage it. Last week I actually did it for the first in .... ever. Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday -- woot woot! I have time on the weekdays to do about 40 minutes total, so I can get about three miles and a stretch in before needing to shower and get ready for work. On Saturdays, in my mind at least, I have time for my weekly "long" run. That's supposed to be 20% more than your usual/standard run, so I guess I only need to do not quite four miles (is that math right?). But there's that part of me, that really annoying nagging part of my mind, that keeps saying, "You have to be ready to do six miles. Six miles. Six. Miles. Ten kilometers. Thanksgiving. Six miles. Thanksgiving day. Mmmmm, pie." Okay, that last part isn't annoying -- it's the other parts that keep reminding the rest of me that I've not run more than five miles, and how am I supposed to do six? On Thanksgiving day? mmmm, pie.

You can see why I have issues. Clearly I am more motivated by pie than actually completing the full 10k.

Anyway. Last week I ran three days, and this week I did too! I didn't know if I'd be able to do it. Two weeks ago Saturday, the day that is supposed to be the "distance" run, I got about two and a half miles and just...stopped. I was done. The problem was that I was not close to home. I figured I'd be okay after a break, but when I started trying to move my legs again, they felt leaden. Or at least very heavy.

That was not a good day. And I despaired being ready for a 10k.

This week, I got three runs in again! Woot! Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday again. I only did about four and a half miles today, and my time certainly is not fast, but I did it, and that's what matters. After all, four and a half miles is only a mile and a half shy of six. I'm two-thirds of the way there. Hey! More than two-thirds!

I started reading a new running book, then leant it to a friend before I could finish it, but one of the things the author encourages is that instead of thinking of these regular runs as "training" runs, to classify them as "practice" runs instead. His reasoning is that since he's teaching a form that could be different and take some time to re-train your body to do, that you should think of it as practicing instead of training.

I like that. It makes the whole "I'm gonna run a 10k on Thanksgiving day" thing less intimidating. Instead, I'm just practicing. Just like I used to practice the piano, or guitar, or go to volleyball practice. I'm practicing running.

Still on track to for Thanksgiving, then.

Running AND pie.

Friday, November 4, 2011

My Familly

My family is awesome. I know that statement isn't unique to just me, but seriously -- I have a pretty cool family. Granted, when I was a teenager nothing about my family was cool (if you've ever met or been a teenager, you know that can be a true statement).

We have a pretty big age spread between the oldest and me, the youngest. There's 21 years of a gap there, so I haven't always felt necessarily close to all of them. They're all baby boomers, and I'm a Gen X-er. I became an aunt for the first time when I was four. Yes, there are some generational differences between us.

As children grow older, unless the children have a particularly strong bond or live close to each other, there may not be a lot to hold them together. In my experience, parents are the common tie between siblings. Thankfully, I have a sister who is the glue of our family. As my parents' health deteriorated, she was the one who kept us all informed and helped us decide when it would be good for us to come visit. Her home was always open for us to visit, with a warm bed (or floor with bedding), food and hospitality.

(More about her later.) So when my parents died, I didn't know if there would be enough of a tie or bond for us to keep being a family -- it's easy to focus on your own family once the parental units are gone.

But guess what? My family is awesome. We still love each other. Even with our own separate lives and families, we are still inseparably connected. Which is good, because they're cool (no longer a teenager) and I love them.



Thursday, November 3, 2011

And Then What Happened?

I saw this church sign the other day and wondered....well, I wondered a lot of things. First, the sign.







Here are some of the questions I came up with:

But did he give it back?
Did the hotel charge for it?
Was it fluffy?
...and then, snapped it?

No, I don't think it's blasphemy for me to laugh at this sign. Maybe close, but definitely on this side of the line.

And yes, I do think I can speculate what that day's sermon would have been about.

But come one. That's some good stuff!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

November Goal

Last year the local YMCA sponsored its first annual Turkey Trot -- a 5k/10k run -- on Thanksgiving morning. I signed up to participate for a variety of reasons:
-- I run about 5k on my morning runs, so I figured I could do that
-- I had never entered a formal "race" before
-- I work at the local YMCA
-- I would go running on Thanksgiving morning anyway to justify the over-indulgence the day naturally brings, so why not get a t-shirt out of it?
-- It's for a good cause

I finished in about the same time I do my standard three mile run in my own neighborhood, and had fun, and still wear the free t-shirt on occasion. I started thinking back then, that it would be fun to try and do the 10k next year.

Here's next year. The Y is having its annual Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day again. I hadn't officially decided to do the 10k portion until I found myself telling an entire class of mine that I was going to run 6.something miles on Thanksgiving morning.

So...I'm committed now. And probably should be committed. I don't know how I'm going to actually do it, but I'm already registered, and Thanksgiving is four weeks away. I have managed to get up to 5 miles on two of my training runs, and figure that doing six shouldn't be that much harder. Three is definitely comfortable, but I guess the idea of this type of thing is to push yourself outside of your comfort zone, right?

My goal is to complete it under 70 minutes. Given my average speed, that shouldn't be a problem at all, if I were able to run the whole thing. I'm sure there will be plenty of walking in there as well.

But....PIE! That's my motivation. Pie.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Every Day?

Years ago someone in the world wide interwebs decided that November would be the perfect month to start writing a novel. The reasoning was that people have spare time at work due to people getting ready for the holidays and generally having more time. A website was started for people to write a little bit of their novel each day. It was a perfect idea for aspiring writers who are convinced they're the next great American novelist and just don't have time to write. It was called NaNoWrMo -- National November Writer's Month, I think is what that stood for.

So now that the everyone who can navigate Gooogle thinks they're the next great American blogger, NaNoWrMo has transformed to NaBloPoMo -- National Blogging Post Month -- the idea being that bloggers should post a post a day during November.

My November is just as crazy as October, September, July....were. And December won't calm down at all.

I am not really a blogger -- I'm one of those yahoos who can navigate Google well enough to create my own blog. But if I don't post today, November 1, then I count myself out of the running altogether.

Happy November, everyone! Between you and me I am extraordinarily glad that 2011 is almost over. I know there are two months left in 2011, and it hasn't been a total bust, but .. I'm done.

There have been highlights -- I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer, but when I say Happy November, I really do mean it! Only two months left of 2011! Woot!

Meanwhile, we'll see how long I can keep this daily blogging thing up.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My World Through My Lens

My friend hosts a monthly fun photo submission...thingy. Not a contest, really, although there are bragging rights to be had. Each month she posts eight words and the participants take photos of their interpretation of those eight words.

I enjoy doing this -- it is a good motivation for me to take out my digital SLR and unstifle my creative side.

Since work has been so busy, it's been more difficult for me to make time to do this. The deadline for June's submission was looming and I still hadn't taken one photo. I knew there was no way it was going to happen in time, so I made do with the tools and locations I had available at my disposal. I was still able to be creative.

I probably don't need to point out that I did not win any bragging rights for these photos. I made the deadline, but that's about it.

The eight words were:
Shadow
Trash
Sky
Ring
Music
Door
Action
Food

Here's my interpretation for each. What do you think?



"Trash." The women on my floor are apparently pigs. The restroom floor is littered with used paper towels they can't or won't put all the way into the bin. Slobs.




"Sky." This is my view of the "sky" for roughly nine and a half hours a day. Jealous?




"Shadow." No, it's not blurry.




"Music." This is where mine resides. I use this at work, or while I'm on my morning run, or while teaching exercise classes or while cleaning the house.




"Food." V8 and peanut M&Ms are generally on my daily menu.




"Door." No, this isn't one. That's the point. No door to my cube. My SHARED cube. I know that if I'm not careful all of you are going to want my job, aren't you!?!?



"Action." It's an action-packed movie.




"Ring." My personal favorite. Get it?