Sunday, July 31, 2011

Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends.

In my p. blessing, I'm told that I will find true and good friends with whom to associate. Thus far, this has certainly been true. It might be easy to give myself the credit for picking such awesome friends, but I know this is not the case. See, I've got this bad habit of kinda sitting back and letting people come to me. For whatever reason, I don't often do a lot of seeking myself. Yet somehow, all the best people have fallen into my lap. I think the Lord must've felt so strongly that I would need good friends throughout my life, and perhaps decided to cut me some slack on this one and just hand them to me. Whatever the case, I am very blessed.

Take my friend Stephanie, for example.

In all seriousness, Steph is one of the most extraordinary people you will ever meet. She's got one of those larger-than-life personalities that just brims with enthusiasm for life and love for people. I swear the woman has more passion in her little toe than I have in my body. What's best about her though, in my opinion, is her ability to hone in on whatever is good and beautiful in a person. And it could be any kind of person. Present her with a long-haired unwashed heathen druggie and she will find a way to love them, to honestly think they are awesome. It's really quite uncanny. Lucky for me, I ended up making her acquaintance about 3.5 years ago, and she went right to work at finding something loveable in me. I've been blessed by her love and example ever since.

Take my friend, Kathryn (aka Paul).

My little Paul is currently serving a mission in Spokane, WA. I miss her and her zany ways. I could not have possibly had a better freshman roommate than this one. Tell me, what freshman girl would sit in my room with me every night, interspersing bouts of personal homework study with thought-provoking discussions on interreligious understanding and neo-feminism? On multiple occasions? What are the chances I would have gotten a roommate who shared my same appreciation for tragic foreign films and straight-up honey butter? What I love best about Paul is that she brings out the maybe not-so-inner nerd in me, and that our conversations are never dull. She has a way of consistently elevating casual drivel to deep discussions of the soul, no matter the time or place. Zany, deep, a kindred spirit in things both meaningful and mundane; I just love that Paul.

Take my friend, Jody (Jojo).

Look at this face and tell me you wouldn't look forward to work every day, too. Jojo is one of the sunniest people I have ever met. She finds pretty much everything delightful, and I find that delightful. My favorite thing about Jojo, though, is her extreme thoughtfulness. For instance, just a few minutes ago she bought me a bag of cheetos from the vending machine, for no reason at all! She is always sewing pillows and tutus for the neighborhood children, and just generally spreading good cheer wherever she goes. Also she is the most maternal person I have ever seen, rivaling, yes, even my own mother. In short, she's just the coolest. My life is definitely brighter for her place in it.

And Collette.

This girl is so brilliant it's not even funny, not even at all. Reading her blog posts is like staring into truth, custom-made for my comprehension! What I love best about her, besides the fact that she listens to new age music, is a budgeting and meal-planning diva, and doesn't seem to care a whit what people think of her, is the way she understands and helps others understand the gospel. What I initially admired about her was the way she probed into deeper layers of doctrine, you know, the stuff that usually falls through the cracks in sunday school. What I admire most about her now is the way she manages to do all that, and still tie it all back in the end to the simple truths of the gospel. Collette is my personal guru, and I love it.

And Audrey.

As shown here, Audge and myself share a certain undeniable kinship. The first time I ever really got to know her, I remember feeling distinctly that I was talking to a (hotter, more athletic) version of myself. This was confirmed later when I heard her say one night that all she wanted to do was "eat the night away." I knew then that I had stumbled onto something good. To this day, she is one of my very favorite people. Awesomely chill, non-judgmental, hilarious, gorgeous, has a way of making people feel instantly at ease around her. I frankly wish I was her. But until that transformation happens, I love being her friend.


Whatever other status he has been, there's no getting around what an exceptional friend JJ has been to me, in the truest sense of the word. To be with someone who truly knows every ugly and vile thing about you, and to love you anyway - is this not the raddest dynamic two people can aspire to? I believe some souls come into this world a little purer in spirit than the rest of us, and JJ is one of those good souls. He sees people not only for who they are, but also for who they can become. I only hope that I can yet learn to see and love my fellow man the way he does.

Oh, Carol.

Twinner to my heart, lover to my soul, potential life partner if men don't work out for me. I've always known that I was lucky to have her, but the more I live, the more I realize just how rare our situation is, and how very very blessed I am. Friendship with Carol is as easy as breathing. She gets me. She, as well, knows every vile thing about me, yet still thinks I'm awesome. No one can make me laugh like her. She surprises me everyday with tidbits of wisdom far beyond both our years. Amid all the changes, the uprootings and surprises and goods and bads, she is constant. It is a rare thing to have a friend like this, I am finding, and I don't know how I managed to be one of the privileged few. But when you find a friend like this - one whose presence is comforting to you even if all you do is walk together in silence (literally AND metaphorically!) - well, eventually you stop asking questions. Instead you start pouring out thanks, you begin striving to be worthy of your associates. I am still working on that one.

"Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival. "

Aren't my friends the greatest?

Saturday, July 23, 2011

What's been goin' on

It's time to purge my camera of the various events I've remembered to document this summer.

Starting with, car-cleaning date with Carol! Brendan and Paula sure were grateful.

The best finds from our newly cleaned out cars: a card Carol gave me once that says something like, "Hey there, expectant mother", a super emo poem Carol wrote when she like 10 that ends with "and now I go to my watery grave", and a picture of Carol's mom graduating from college.

Carol and I also recently participated in the Pleasant Grove Strawberry Days Pie-Eating Contest. On the margin there you can see that I threw down some trash talk, which I instantly felt guilty about and tried to cross out without anyone noticing. No dice. Turns out it was justified though, almost, cause Carol won!

She got a shirt that said "Stick it in your pie hole." I was so proud of her that day, and only a little resentful that it wasn't me who won.

Every year Salt Lake City has a huge Arts Festival with vendors from all around the country. We knew if we went that there was a pretty good chance we would see unwashed crazies in their natural habitat. We were not disappointed. There was some pretty cool art, too.

Some entity known as Blazing Needles covered this car completely in knitting!

How cool would it be to have all these stone faces in your yard?!

I don't know if you can tell, but they really did look like photographs in person. This exhibit won best-of-show.

Carol really enjoys the fat-people art, and I must say it does have a certain endearing quality.

This man's sock was not strictly part of the festival. Or was it?

The guy who did these grapes paints all his stuff using his own blood. Pretty trippy.

Ok, so then there was this exhibit with blank pieces of wood that everyone got to paint, to be hung up on a wall as a collective mural.

When we realized they were handing out little cards with specific patterns we were supposed to be painting, and not just willy-nilly whatever we felt like doing with our brushes, we got up quietly and left with haste.

Moving on, here's me and Jdub at the Ft. Rucker 4th of July Bash! We ate gator-on-a-stick, and while I'm not going to say it tasted like chicken, it frankly did. Only a little chewier.

No your eyes do not deceive you, that is Gary Sinise and the Lt. Dan Band! They rocked! And of course Gary Sinise plays a mean bass, cause that guy is way rad.

So this is unfortunately the best picture I was able to take of Jdub sitting in a TH-67 helicopter, which they had out on display during the bash. But this is proof he flies them. Look how natural he looks sitting in that seat! You can see it better if you pivot your monitor screen back and forth.

Here's a picture of a guy climbing a tree to get a better view of The Decemberists at the twilight concert series in Salt Lake.

Can't really blame him, cause this is the best picture I was able to get of the indie-folk band myself. They were pretty cool though.

We kinda thought the dude on the far left of the picture with his hand in his mouth looked like Inigo Montoya.

Tried to watch the sunset from Capitol Hill, but unfortunately were a little too late so the pictures are less than impressive. But the building was impressive, I thought.

Finally, look what Bob found when he recently opened this can of "pineapple tidbits."

I think it looks like moldy brains, he thinks it looks like a baby alien stuffed into a can. Either way... not cool, Del Monte. Not cool.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Love Is Not Blind-- It Is Bound

Special thanks goes to my friend Steph for recommending this talk to me. As soon as I heard the title I knew I would love it, and I did. I'm going to curb the desire to hash out the majority of my thoughts on the subject, as they are still in progress. But I will say that my own progression in relation to the gospel has followed a similar trajectory to the one outlined in this talk, so I appreciated seeing it addressed by elder Hafen, especially with such astute insight.

"The fundamental teachings of the restored gospel are potent, clear and unambiguous; but it is possible, on occasion, to encounter some ambiguity even in studying the scriptures... Even though God has given us correct principles by which we are to govern ourselves, it is not always easy to apply them to particular situations in our lives. "

No it is not easy, but it is, perhaps, the substance of what this earth life is all about. I would like to assert that it is through this uncertainty, and our continual efforts to apply the gospel to sometimes ambiguous situations, that we accomplish the majority of our growth. To always be striving, reaching, seeking to bridge the gap between what is and what should be - I think this is maybe a good thing to be. Not forever of course, but maybe just for now, while we transition our tastes from less milk to more meat.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Stuff you already know

I forgot to say in my last post, many thanks to everyone who contributed food advice to my desperate cause. You all had a lot of great suggestions, and I still intend to try out most of them. I will keep you updated on my progress. For instance, this morning I ate a banana and a pear. I'm feeling hopeful.

Quickie today, but one that I feel is very important-

A while ago I'd been thinking a lot about the interactions we have with other people, particularly the ones in which we strive to give comfort/advice. Observing my own interactions, as well as those between other people, I noticed a tendency first and foremost to try to soothe the immediate discomforts of others. Obviously this is a noble goal, and no one ought to be blamed for it. But, it seems to me that we often do this kind of soothing at the expense of the soothee's personal growth, which oftentimes requires not validation, but reprimanding. For instance: say a friend comes to you wanting to vent some frustration over a confrontation earlier that day in the supermarket. You listen actively, inserting the proper nods and facial expressions which indicate that you are understanding and sympathizing. Because you want to help this person, you most likely end up validating their frustration, agreeing that so-and-so was wrong to behave this way, and you were right to say this thing and feel this way.

But what if it's a lie?

What if, when you take a step back and look at the situation from an objective point of view, your friend appears to have been the one in the wrong? What if your friend is actually being unreasonable, or a whiny baby? What do you say then, when this person, in all trust, chose you to confide in?

It's hard to say, man. I'm not saying it's right every time to reprimand. There is a time and place for that, and sometimes it's not the time and place. And sometimes you are not the person who should do it. But, I do think it is important to evaluate all these factors before we jump in automatically and seek to patch the wound, to give them what they want instead of what they need. Sometimes the wound is necessary. Sometimes the person needs not to have their feelings confirmed, but to be jolted with a new perspective.

It's like my wise friend Collette once said: "This life is about changing." Indeed it is. How are any of us going to change for the better if our friends keep enabling our flaws, hmm?

I've been thinking about this a lot with regard to the company I keep, as well. I don't think I'm alone in admitting that some of my closest friends are people who happen to be a lot like me. Over time, perhaps not consciously, I have wittled away those who are different from me, who do not share my opinions and whose habits I can make no sense of. I am left with a bunch of quasi-me's. It's terrible egoistic, really. And what is it doing for me? Am I changing all that much when I'm with these people? Or am I rooting myself deeper into the stubborn beliefs and behaviors that we all share? I think we know the answer to this one.

Of course, it's more difficult to make friends with people who are different. We naturally gravitate toward those who we can relate to, and these are the friendships that develop and run most effortlessly. On the other hand, I've seen quite a lot of marriages composed of opposites which appeared to be all the more exciting and wonderful for their differences. So you tell me.

I thought this was going to be a quickie.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Series of Unfortunate Events That, Mercifully, Led to Tommy Gunn

WARNING: THIS POST IS FOREVER LONG AND WHINY (but there's a hopeful ending, I promise)

Sunday, June 26, 8pm: I am skyping my Jdub (think less evangelical proselyter, more snuggly aviator) when up comes the idea to have me fly out to AL to see Jdub in action. Sounds like a swell plan, no? I hop on the priceline. I plug in the dates. I enter the card information...wait, what? Card information? Wait, I just bought a flight? Ok, I just bought a flight. See you in a few, Jdub.

10pm: Oh, so the ticket I inadvertently just bought happens to be taking place during the worst times possible, like for instance, spanning the four-day period of my first test in Psychological Testing? And it leaves at 7:20am on a weekday? And all my close-enough-to-ask-for-a-ride-to-the-airport friends are out of town? Class dropped, shuttle service booked.

10:15pm: Oh, and the flight I accidentally bought doesn't even go to where Jdub resides, but instead to Atlanta, GA which is four hours away from where he is, which he is unable to reach for another 24 hours after I arrive, due to his strict flying school and flying schedule? Oh, and there are no buses going that route that day? Uh-huh, ok.

10:30pm: Oh, and I can't rent a car to drive there myself because I'm under 25 and they charge exhorbitant fees for that, not to mention they require a credit card which I don't possess, not to mention the base fare for renting a car is actually a million dollars? Uh-huh, yes, ok, going to bed now.

Monday, June 27, 7am: You mean there's not even ONE person looking for a carpool rider from Atlanta to Dothan according to Oh, and all the people offering their couches to me via look like they just busted out of the county pedophile unit? All right. And hitchhiking is NOT a good idea, right Ma? All right then, if you say so.

7:30am-10pm: Some stress.

10:30pm: Jdub, really, you don't have to buy a whole nother expensive plane ticket just to get me from Atlanta to Dothan. Really, there must be some other way, that's such a waste of money. No seriously, I can find a way to get there, it's only four hours I've always wanted to explore the deep south by foot ok sounds good, I owe you buddy, see ya then.

Wednesday, June 29, 12pm: That's cool, airplane. That's cool that you disregard the importance of connecting flights and instead feel inclined to taxi on the runway for a hundred years so that even though I run from Terminal F to Terminal B as fast as my little legs can take me, they are already folding in the fold-up stairs when I arrive breathless at the gate. And then it turns out that that's not even my plane, they actually already left (10 minutes early, check out that efficiency!) but luckily the nice lady rebooks me for another flight. And I now have time to use the super-awesome, super-technological, self-sanitizing rotating toilet seat covers native to the O'Hare Airport (thought this narrative could use a little bright spot).

Approx. 7pm: I'm finally here, hooray! Just need to grab my bag and then this hellish adventure will be over, except why are you stopping the baggage conveyor so soon? I haven't gotten my bag yet, you see. Oh, so you don't have it, customer service? And you don't have any idea where it is, huh. Even though I checked it plane-side, right, right. So you'll let me know if it shows up but no guarantees, uh-huh, ok. Yeah sure, I won't sue, what's a tiny glitch like this when here comes Jdub, all sweaty and glowing from the skies!

9pm: Anonymous passenger returns my bag - it was an accident, they say, they look just like each other. Whatever, man. All I have to say is my netflix better still be in there.

For a few days there is peace, and there is bliss.

Monday, July 4, 6pm: Welp, I better go print my boarding passes for tomorrow...
...No boarding pass for Dothan to Atlanta, huh? Now that's odd. I could've sworn it's leaving in less than 24 hours which means I should be able to - oh, we botched the dates? Oh, this flight accidentally got booked for Wednesday instead of tomorrow? Which means I need a way to get to Atlanta to make my Atlanta flight tomorrow, yes. And cause I used the name-your-own-price feature of priceline, my Atlanta flight is absolutely non-cancellable. And people say long-distance relationships are difficult!

6:30pm: Well, I was really hoping to avoid the bus this time, but I guess I have no choice - Jdub is back to being locked into rigid flight schedules and can't spare 8 hours to drive me to Atlanta. Bus ride booked for Atlanta, leaving tonight at 2am. Jdub's friend, let's call him Hank, is recruited to take me to the station in Dothan. Good thing I love travel. Good thing Jdub has some money to burn.

11:00pm: I call Hank to confirm that we are leaving in a little over an hour for the station. Confirmed, back to bed for a few more minutes.

Tuesday, July 5, 12:45am: I call Hank again to make sure he is awake and about ready to come pick me up for our trip to the station. He is.

1:15am: Hank is MIA. I decide not to worry just yet.

1:30am: Where is Hank? You know, I really didn't want to ride that sketchy bus, anyway.

1:45am: Yep, there's no way I'm making this bus tonight.

2am: Dealing with this mess in the morning, goodnight.

9am: Hank calls apologetically, saying he fell asleep shortly after I called him last night. I tell him quite honestly that it's all good, because, have you ever actually ridden greyhound? How about in the middle of the night through the deep south?

9am-1pm: Arrangements, arrangements, money leaving Jdub's credit card, calling and apologizing to boss-doing, buying new bus ticket because the one bought last night can't be transferred, new bus ticket bought, new plane ticket bought, it's freaking hot in here cause the aircon don't work, and we're done.

And that, folks, is how I came to justify myself in plopping down on this Alabama carpet while Jdub is at school, for the purpose of resuming my weeklong Rocky obsession and finding some solace in the Italian Stallion's unimaginative yet comforting aphorisms. Soon Jdub will be home and we will study transmission oil temps till we pass out, and we will do this every day until I leave, for reals this time, next week.

You see, in all the struggle, I have finagled myself another week with my favorite person.

Everything usually does kinda work out, huh?