Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Taking chances, diverging roads, and the Monomyth

Celine Dion, Robert Frost, and Joseph Campbell. Those are the three people that keep coming to my mind and making me think about things. It might seem like an odd assortment of individuals, but they all have one thing in common—they have been encouraging me to be brave and do hard things and all that stuff.

 I’m gonna start with Celine Dion and explain her role in all of this “encouragement.” When I was in high school, one of my best friends was Maggie Brown. We were bonded by our love of Anne Shirley, musicals, alias, and many other things. We also played on the tennis team together and had quite a few classes together. We giggled about boys together and all that good stuff. Our love of Alias inspired us to learn Morse code so we could pass secret messages in class. Let me just tell you, passing codes in Morse code is not that time efficient, but you feel super legit doing it. One of those “many other things,” that we shared a love for was actually a person. And that person is Celine Dion. We were big fans and we got to go see Celine’s show in Vegas (just a fun little fact that on our road trip to Vegas, we actually watched Alias in the car). Everything about the trip was awesome, and Celine is just such an inspiration. She is always there when you need her—be it for a dance party, a long car ride, a bad break-up… This week she has been there for me with this reminder…



It's a weird music video, but you get the idea. Hopefully. “What do you say to taking chances? What do you say to jumping off the edge?” These past few weeks… or past few months.. this past year… let’s go with that! This year was one of those years where I had to answer the question: “What do I say to taking chances?” Am I going to stay in my comfort zone or am I going to try new things? Am I going to push myself? Or am I going to stick with the status quo? One of my esteemed friends asked me that recently, and I thought it was a very apt description of my current situation. Am I going to stick with what I have known? Am I going to stay in Provo? Or am I going to Boston? Or elsewhere?
As I almost broke down crying in Smith’s market the other day, I realized that as much as I might want to stay here—stay home—that isn’t going to help me grow as much. And yes, my almost breaking down in embarrassing sobs near the apple cider was a real thing. The apple cider had nothing to do with it, though it is a very nostalgia-inducing drink. I kept it together, but only until I got home. And when I got home, I listened to this song and cried...




I’m not dramatic at all. My mother would tell you that too. “Tara? Oh no, Tara is not dramatic in the slightest.” We shall pretend that it adds to my charm… or something… or that it makes life more exciting? Just pretend with me, here!

Anyway, as I was making my decision, I started into the whole “Why the heck did I even apply for this in the first place?!” I tried to blame my mom for letting me, but that didn’t go over very well because in her version of the story, “She tried to talk me out of it.” Or something like that. She seems to think I’m slightly stubborn and strong-willed. I’m not sure where she gets that idea from! That is all beside the point, however, because for some reason I did decide to apply and sometimes I have to remind myself why I applied in the first place.

When I first heard about Teach for America, I was a college freshman and I already knew that I was going to go into English teaching.  I was (and probably still am) an idealist and believed all of that “be the change you wish to see in the world” stuff. I believed that education changes lives and that literacy improves quality of life. I believed the words of Anne Frank as she said, “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!” Anne Frank knew there was something great within each of us, but so many youth in the world today lack that same understanding and knowledge of their potential. Every student has that “piece of goodness,” but they do not always see it. Or worse, others do not see it in them. As Goethe says, “The way you see people is the way you treat them, and the way you treat them is what they become.” I still believe those things and Teach for America is all about helping students across the nation recognize that they are awesome by giving them the best education possible. I believed all that, and I still do.

But, realistically, kids everywhere need to hear the good news that they are awesome. Not just in the “ghettos” and low-income communities of our country. They also need to hear that in Provo and I’ve sure been doing my best to try and help my students push themselves and try new things and all that good stuff, so I was trying to find reasons to stay. 

Which brings me to my Robert Frost segment… I feel like Robert Frost is one of those poets that everybody loves. I bet there is a very alarming statistic for how many times some of his poetry has been recited at, like, high school graduations and stuff. The pessimist in me is all “Yeah! Nothing gold can stay! You are totally right!” But then the rest of me is just like “But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep.” So when I’m in the midst of all these decisions and stuff, I hear Robert Frost’s voice (or some other guy reading his poems, cuz I can’t claim to actually know what Robert’s voice is like..) being like, “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…” And yeah, we all know, you took the road less traveled and that has made all the difference. Well, bully for you, Robert Frost. Bully for you. We are all just soooo happy for you (please note the sarcasm).

As I was looking at my two roads, I was thinking about the “less traveled road” option and I started thinking about what the point of taking the road less traveled would be, or rather, could potentially be. It seems silly to take a road just because it is "less traveled." You have to have a reason! 

So I started thinking about this whole idea more and sure, Frost wrote of these two roads, diverging in a wood. But, he never told us what to do if both roads were an adventure. He never said what to do if both led to the fulfillment of different hopes and dreams--different end games. Everybody has a different role and a different responsibility in life and the roads we take lead us to fulfill that destiny. Or make our destiny. However you choose to look at it. Maybe there will always be two roads that diverge, but maybe the person we become could be the same, no matter the road. Frost spoke of the importance of which road we take. I’m no expert, but I can’t help but feel that instead of talking about the paths and choices, instead there should be talk about the reason for choosing a path. The reason for choosing a path is far more important than the actual path. Making that kind of a choice requires an understanding of self and when we understand ourselves, we don’t need some path to make the difference for us, because we can be the ones to make a difference. And the reason we choose a path will make all the difference. Or maybe Robert was totally right and I just am overthinking. Which I never do. Ever. Just ask my mom.

And that is where Joseph Campbell enters the scene.  In all of this overthinking, I thought about these two options. And thought about them. And pondered. And prayed. All through the process, I knew it was one of those things that I had to figure out on my own. At least six different times I made the choice and told myself that I was going to Boston. I was determined and knew that it was the most logical of the options (I mean, a masters at Boston University and fulfilling my East Coast dreams?!). But each time I settled upon this choice, I just felt awful and it just didn't stick. Usually when I make the right choice and move forward, the other options sort of fade away and I don't think about them again. This time, however, the other option kept coming back to my mind, making me uncertain. I didn't feel right about Boston, but I didn't feel right about staying. By this point, I was getting a little frustrated. So then I started thinking about other options. Because making a choice between two options isn’t hard enough, I just figured I would throw another one into the mix. I’m smart like that (again, note the sarcasm).  

Now, in order to tell this properly, I feel like I need to go back in time a little bit. Rewind, if you will… .A few months before I was in major decision-making mode, I had this wild idea, a crazy notion, and thought about applying for a masters program at Oxford. As I was thinking about doing that, I had this “hallows” and “horcruxes” moment where I realized that I was wanting to chase hallows, but I really needed to stick with the horcruxes. If you don’t get the reference, do humanity a favor, go to your local library, and get yoself a copy of Harry Potter. STAT. And ASAP. I didn’t apply for Oxford and I wasn’t really sure why I didn’t feel it was right, but I didn’t. Then I went through this month that I like to call October (other people may or may not call it that too), and, to be perfectly honest, it was a crazy month for me. And crazy in the “I have no idea what I’m doing with my life” sort of way. Also the busy kind of crazy. I don’t like using the “r” word, but the “r” word probably applies. It was a little rough. I was trying to figure a few things out and though I knew that Heavenly Father was very aware of my situation, I was not getting too many hints.

 So consider that just a little flashback, and now we are back to the part where I was considering a third option. I was in my classroom pondering these potential “third options” and then I checked my email. In my inbox there was an email from a BYU guy that I had never heard of. Usually I skip over these emails, but this one I actually looked at. In the email it said something like “You meet some of the basic requirements for these scholarships and programs, you should think about applying.” The first one on the list was this Cambridge program. I felt a thrill in my heart and thought, “Hmm… this is a stretch, but it could maybe be my third option. Can’t hurt to try.” Maybe not those exact words, but that idea. My application was due like the next week and everything sort of just fell into place. I felt good about applying and just went for it. One particular evening, I was having a really hard time writing and so I went for my usual "writer’s block walk" and had a little heart-to-heart with Heavenly Father and begged for help. When I got back to my apartment, I started over and wrote something ten million times better than I originally had. Miracles are real!

About a week after that, I got this really frightening email inviting me to an interview. With Cambridge people. Over Skype. Frightening in the sense that the email was beautifully worded and the phrasing was impeccable and so proper-- I vacillated for over ten minutes as to whether I should end with “sincerely” or “respectfully” or some other farewell! Talk about pressure!

  I was pretty pumped about just getting an interview, and I prepared as much as I possibly could. My getting ready routine was probably a little ridiculous, but I felt pretty prepared going in—or, as well as one could be prepared for something that they totally aren’t prepared for. I’ll just be honest in saying that the two ladies that interviewed me were super intimidating. One was this stoic, firm Russian lady who speak English with a hint of an accent. The other lady was a little younger and a little more chipper—British. They both gave nothing away. I got the British lady to smile a few times and felt pretty accomplished. Then she asked me about Posthumanism and I felt a little less awesome about making her smile….

 The interview ended and it was intense. For reals. They told me they would be in contact soon. Fast forward a few days (no, literally, just a few days). I was driving home from some family thing and I had this moment where it just hit me that I really wanted to go to Cambridge. I really wanted to study literature, especially ridiculous, impractical literature. That is my favorite kind. I had always told myself that if I ever went to grad school at a “big school,” I would study something totally crazy. Studying literature at Cambridge would be a dream come true. I wanted it real bad. I have only ever felt that intense longing on one other occasion—and that was a few days before I opened up my mission call. 

 I went to bed with a prayer in my heart and I woke up to an email from Cambridge—I had been accepted. Dreams do come true. And miracles happen. (Adding to the miracles of the situation, I actually found out that you can't even apply to both Oxford and Cambridge in the same year. The whole not applying to Oxford thing made a little more sense when I found that out!) 

 To tie Joseph Campbell into this crazy tale, he wrote about the monomyth, or hero’s journey, and in this journey, there are these seventeen different stages for the hero to accomplish their task or challenge or quest. Or whatever. I’m no hero, but I do think that everybody is the hero of their own life… so by those standards, I am the hero of my own life. I was thinking about this hero’s journey and I realized that I went through some of those stages to get where I am now. But I also realized that I have a few more stages still. I’m not going to bore you with the parallels and details—but I’m just telling you now, the applicability of the hero’s journey is a real thing. You should try applying it to your own life sometime and I think you will be surprised at how heroic you actually are. If you ever want to talk about the hero's journey, just give me a call. I love talking about it. It's fascinating to me. For realsies. (For more information on the hero's journey, you can try this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monomyth)

 Anyway,  I’m to this point now where I still have those diverging roads, and I still have my good intentions and dreams and all the stuff in between. Whether I end up in Cambridge, Massachusetts or Cambridge, England or Provo, Utah, I'm not sure. But, I have Celine singing to me, reminding me to “take chances.” I have Frost to encourage me to “take the road less traveled”—while I still maintain that it is important to analyze intentions and the reasons for taking a certain road. I have Joseph Campbell to remind me that I am a hero in my own life and being in the belly of the whale and receiving supernatural aid are all part of the journey (along with all those other steps). Whatever adventure I choose, whatever thresholds I cross or do not cross, at the end of my story, I just still want to be the hero that never gave up on the quest.


Cue Don Quixote singing this...
         

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Life is the messy bits! #yesididjustquoteachickflick

I have a lot of things floating around in my mind these days and I have been having a really hard time putting them all together into a nice, cohesive, coherent something. Everything is a little messy these days. And that reminds of a line from a super cheesy, yet awesome, movie that I kind of love. This young dude that looks a lot like Rolfe (you had better be able to name that musical!) is basically like “It’s nice being able to skip over the messy bits in life” and then the old, sage-of-a-grandmother is like “Life if the messy bits.” Can I get an amen?! Life is the messy bits. Thank you clichéd chick flick for that little nugget of wisdom.Nugget is kind of an awful word. I just decided that I don't like it. 

To help me with getting my brain around some of the mess that is my life at present… (I just wanted to pause for a second and give everyone a chance to reflect on their own messy lives for a moment) I have compiled a list of some of the events and happenings that have made me ponder and reflect. I was reminded by the Old Testament this week that seven is supposed to be a "perfect" number and JK Rowling decided it was the most magically powerful number... so, of course, my list is to seven. 

     1.     I am going to be “that person” for a second, or more accurately “that returned missionary,” and use “that phrase” that used to make me cringe so much. On my mission (and yeah, I used to get so sick of hearing people say that and I wanted to be like “We get it, you served a mission. Get over it.” Ah, how little I understood then!) I taught this awesome individual and she is basically like my soul sister. Her name is Giuditta but I call her Giudi. When I first met Giudi I could just see her goodness and her desire to serve and love everyone and I just loved her. Seeing her fully embrace her membership in the church will always be one of the biggest blessings of my life. Giudi is now on a mission in England and she is just so cheery and this week she sent me a talk. This talk was exactly what I needed to hear and it was funny because in my email to her I didn’t really tell her too much, but she picked up on exactly what I needed to hear. And I was just so struck by how great missionaries are and how great she is. It also just made me think about how Heavenly Father always gives us people in our lives that we can help and that, in turn, help us. We are all just this big team and this big family. And Heavenly Father just gave to us all of these wonderful people and it just made me really grateful for all the people in my life. Which is ironic, because the talk she sent me was President Uchtdorf’s about gratitude and about being grateful not for our circumstances, but being grateful in our circumstances. Excuse me while I go break into “For Good” from Wicked. Maybe I will even paint my face green for the occasion.
Which brings me to….

2.   Painting my face green would not even be unusual these days because I am pretty sure I have had to dress up more in the past month than I have in the last five years of my life. I will try to include some pictures in the post, but we all know how the whole technology thing works out for me sometimes… let’s just say though that there have been footie pajamas involved, sequined 80’s jackets, crazy socks, football jerseys, star wars attire, mythologicalish stuff (and yep, you caught me. I just made that word up), twinner outfits, tropical stuff, and for the grand finale, Hogwarts goodness. Probably the best part was hearing the vice principal come over the loud speaker and say in his deep, serious tone “Faculty and staff, please excuse the interruption…” and at this point I’m thinking there is some surprise meeting or something… then I hear “will all of the teachers wearing footie pajamas please come to the diamond.” Probably the best announcement I have ever heard. We had some fun sliding down the halls and racing in our footie pajamas. I love the people I work with.

And on a related note…

3.    I also love my students. Sometimes they frustrate me and sometimes I wish they could work on their “being quiet skills” a little bit, but when I think of them individually I just think they are amusing and entertaining. Except when I want them to turn in their homework and stuff. Then I’m more like “What the heck!” But that is beside the point. And most of the time I just feel like this …

 
A clown. I often feel just like a clown at the front of the classroom –I’m juggling, while riding a unicycle. I have face paint and a big red nose and I’m just trying to keep them entertained while they learn. Which reminds me of this meme that I saw the other day…
(http://spanishplans.org/chistes/teacher-memes/ has some other funny teaching memes!)

Seriously though. I’m like panting, out of breath at the front because I just sang/danced/tapped my way through a chapter of Tom Sawyer trying to make it engaging and some kid is in the back chatting with a friend or raises their hand and asks to use the hall pass… Just part of the job!

4.   Another part of the job, though, is that I kind of get to do whatever I want and I love having that freedom to teach in the way that I want to. I had a lot of fun these past few weeks trying to get my students to think outside the box and to start connecting the stories that they read to the world around them. We looked at art, songs, TV shows and movies and tried to relate them all back to Tom Sawyer and I love seeing the brilliant things some of my students come up with.  When they actually try to be, they are quite clever! Here were some of the highlights for me:

I got to use one of my favorite paintings “Psyche outside of the palace of Cupid”
Image result for psyche outside the palace of cupid
as we used tried to analyze art and talk about themes. It was pretty fun to see how once they got thinking, students could actually come up with some good insights into art and what themes were being portrayed- connecting it all back to Tom Sawyer, of course! I remember the first time I saw this painting (it is hanging in the National Gallery), I was just blown away by it. There was just something about the colors and the mood and the scene that just really struck me and when I realized that it was the story of Psyche and Cupid, I loved it even more. I wish I could put to words what I feel when I look at this, but I won’t succeed. To me this painting captures everything that is beautiful and tragic about relationships and love. This painting to me is longing, hope, passion, and everything in between and I loved being able to use it in class. Even if my students maybe didn’t quite appreciate it as much as I do… They all had a hard time getting over the fact that the girl in the painting is a girl. Then, inevitably, somebody would make the comment of “She is one really muscle-y girl” or something like that. They were OK with this one, but you should have heard them talking about “The Mona Lisa!” Let’s just say that they are not fans! At least for the most part.

I also got to use one of my favorite poems, “The Lady of Shalott.” Which always reminds me of this moment from my life…
video



And apart from that, we listened to Billy Joel, Michael Jackson, Bonnie Tyler… among many, many other classic artists. Many of my students didn’t know who Neil Diamond is. After I wept a little about that, I enlightened them. And, of course, all of the music and art and such was to help in the pursuit of knowledge! The best part about English is that you can literally make anything connect. By the end of the year my students will be downright geniuses when it comes to connecting songs on the radio to the books we are reading. At least that is the goal. As I like to think of it, “Critical thinking” at its finest.

5.    I found out this week that I am going to be teaching “Secondary Humanities” if I accept the Teach for America job. That means middle school/high school English and history. If you are sitting there thinking about how perfect that is, you are absolutely correct in thinking that- it is basically the perfect combination. What I am going to do, I am not sure. But I still have like… a whole week and a half to decide. No pressure!

6.   On a completely unrelated topic, I went grocery shopping for my mom the other day and on her list she legitimately wrote “2 lbs hamburger- said w/a pink panther accent.” That made me laugh. My mom is funny. The below clip is for those of you who didn't get the reference. 



 7.    On an even more unrelated topic… I saw this guy the other day and his mode of transportation brought a smile to my face. Especially since I have recently been playing “MASH” with my Wolf pack kids and this gave me a great new idea for the “mode of transportation” category. When I was in middle school, it was all about the “couch on wheels." All of you former Mash-ers out there, you totally know what I'm talking about. Even if you pretend you don't. I'm not going to lie, normally I might have a slight case of road rage with such people. The road is for people in cars! But, on this particular day it was just fitting. It was just one of those days. 

Yeah, so if any of you have actually made it this far... you have learned wayyy more about my life in the past little bit than you probably ever wanted to. But you are the one who kept reading, so you have nobody to blame but yourself! Just sayin! And the point of these random... well, points, is that life is the messy bits. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason to what is happening in our lives. Sometimes there are things we can't control. Actually, I would say that often there are things we can't control. And that is okay. Sometimes random things stand out to us and we dress up like other people and carry around wands. And that is okay. 

     When I think about the messiness that is life, I always think of this message from President Hinckley...

      "Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed. The fact is most putts don't drop. Most beef is tough. Most children grow up to be just people. Most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration. Most jobs are often more dull than otherwise... Life is like an old-time rail journey- delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride." 

      Just as Giuditta reminded me this week, it is all about gratitude. And faith. Faith that our Heavenly Father is always there to guide us and that he won't ever leave us alone to deal with the mess. I love how Paolo Coelho describes Heavenly Father's care for us. In The Alchemist, the type of divinity says, "I always appear in one form or another. Sometimes I appear in the form of a solution, or a good idea. At other times, at a crucial moment, I make it easier for things to happen. There are other things I do, too, but most of the time people don't realize I've done them." 
      
      The great thing about having Heavenly Father's help in our decision-making is also beautifully described by Coelho: "When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision." 

     When I think about my life five years ago, I certainly didn't picture myself dressing up like Professor Trelawney, setting a fog machine and strobe light in my classroom, reading scary stories and trying to frighten my students on Halloween. That is just one of the many things that I didn't picture for myself. But, Heavenly Father has a big picture for me and I am trying to trust in that as I wade through some of the messy bits!! 

       Because life is the messy bits and everything will always be OK for those that love God. 








Friday, October 3, 2014

Bulletin Boards and Dreams

Yeah… so I haven’t blogged in… a bit…
There is probably a reason for that, but I am not going to delve too deeply into that particular subject. It would maybe just get a little messy and end up with me being lazy or bad at planning or something like that. Which is why I’m not delving.

Anway… Today I had this awful realization that it was a new month. That normally might not be such bad news, but as a teacher it just means one thing—new monthly bulletin board. Seems like a small thing, right? Wrong-o. I’m telling you, staple removers are a lot more difficult than you might think! Especially when you have these little edges of the board that you have to work around. It is seriously a skill. And I have not developed that particular skill yet.

Staples might not be my thing, but if I do say so myself, I did do a pretty decent job at sweet-talking some of the after-school custodial staff into helping me find an X-acto knife! I just threw in a few, “I’m so sorry to be such an inconvenience” whilst batting my eyelashes and it worked out pretty well. The knife certainly did help, but there were still some tough decorative decisions to be made like, “Should I go with the witch picture or Frankenstein?” or “How many bats should I place?”

After getting the bulletin board all ready to go, I looked around the room and noticed tha the desks needed straightening, the floor had some spots etc. So I basically just ended up cleaning my classroom.

Now, I might be pretty good with the custodial staff, but I still haven’t mastered the whole “making friends with birds and other woodland creatures who then help me with my cleaning projects” thing. So I basically just had some good, quality thinking time. These days I feel like most of my thinking is centered on “How can I teach this effectively” or “How can I teach this so my students won’t hate it.” But I guess maybe I was a little planned out and instead I just was thinking about my life. Cue the Gaston voice saying, “Soon she’ll be getting ideas… and thinking!”

Maybe the fact that I was decorating bulletin boards made me contemplate my life and previous life decisions that brought me to this point… just kidding… mostly…

Let’s be real, the whole “bulletin board” thing was definitely not something I feel like I was adequately prepared for with that college education... Yeah, so I was all contemplating my life and some life decisions I have to make and stuff and, as usually happens when I’m thinking about things in life, a song from a musical came to mind.

Not just any musical, but Wicked. Glinda is engaged to Fiyero and is in the Wizard’s little club and everything is going super well (at least on paper) and she sings, “That’s why I couldn’t be happier. No, I couldn’t be happier. Though it is, I admit, the tiniest bit, unlike I anticipated… ‘Cause getting your dreams, it’s strange but it seems a little, well, complicated…”

As I sat there thinking about my life, I couldn’t help but think that there was something true about her words.

When I was a freshman I first encountered the Teach for America program and I was very intrigued by the whole thing. There was something about their mission and their goals that resonated with me and I wanted to be a part of that change they were seeking, or “being that change I wish to see in the world,” Gandhi style.

After my mission it was still an idea, or a dream, or something I couldn’t just let go of, so I gave it a shot. The interviewing process was an interesting one, because I still felt completely aligned with their goals, but at the same time I recognized that I could accomplish the same thing wherever I taught. I realized that I didn’t necessarily need their organization to fight for opportunities for every student. But I was still compelled by the TFA group.

When I found out I not only got accepted, but that I got placed in Boston, I felt like that was too perfect. I already loved England so much, of course I would love New England!! I could just picture myself having a Boston tea party with my students as we read “Johnny Tremain” and other such stuff.  #historyandenglisharemylovesinlife #dontforgetshakespeare

And let’s be real- they have cobblestone streets. Need I say more?

But then, as I think of the magic of Boston, I also think of the magic of Sunday afternoons at home. The magic of weddings and birthday parties and baby blessings and family events—those do get harder with the distance.

I think of the magic of the job I have now. The magic of great colleagues—colleagues who are my friends and mentors. I think of the life that my students bring and the thrill when so-and-so turns in a beautiful essay or such-and-such-person makes a brilliant comment in class. Can I just walk away from all of that?

Glinda was right (formerly Galinda, of course). Things get a little complicated sometimes!

But luckily, there are other musicals to shed a little light on the subject. And this one is even based on the Bible, so it is, like, even more legit. In the opening of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the narrator (pronounced with British accent- my students have quickly learned that I insist on saying that word with the accent every time) sings, “Some folks dream of the wonders they’ll do before their time on this planet is through, some folks don’t have anything planned. They hide their hopes and their heads in the sand…We all dream a lot. Some are lucky, some are not. But if you think it, want it, dream it, then it’s real…”

And then, you know, she goes on to tell the story of Joseph. Joseph has got to be one of the most awesome people in the Old Testament (I would dare even say bible, but I don’t want to start any controversies). I still love Joshua. But Joseph is great too. Both favorites.

Joseph is the prime example of someone with complicated dreams! Get it? Get it? Cuz he, like, had dreams that were prophetic and stuff?! Moving on…

So, Joseph literally had complicated dreams, but more importantly, he knew what he was about. He had this vision of his end goal and what he was supposed to become and he went for it. And things did not seem to be going his way at all. But that didn’t stop him. He just kept the faith and kept at it. He took all those lemons and had some lemonade, and probably some nice lemon meringue pie as well. He wasn’t too worried, even when he was singing “Close every door to me” he followed that up with “Children of Israel are never alone.. .for I know I shall find my own peace of mind…”

He had this positivity and this faith that helped him make every dream come true, even when it wasn’t looking very likely.

Recently I have been a little tempted to think about the fact that dreams can sometimes be a little complicated. But, I am also going to try to remember that the complications are what help us actually achieve the end goal we want. Sometimes I get so caught up in the details, the jobs, the short-term, that I lose sight of the fact that in the long-term, my goal is more about who I am than what I am.

Butcher, baker, candlestick maker. It makes no difference. My dreams aren’t about positions or places, but rather, about the person I want to become. The positions and places are just steps in the process of becoming. Even sometimes a misplaced step, maybe even on a cobblestone road, could help me more in the process of becoming than a solid step on a well-known city road would…. That remains to be seen…

But, for now, I’m just going to keep dreaming my dreams. I’m not going to worry too much about those complications. After all, “Any dream will do” and “I couldn’t be happier” because dreams come true and “with God nothing shall be impossible.”



Ps- I am so pumped up for Conference!!!  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ramblings of a... person... studying people...

Sometimes during a “normal” day you find yourself in really amusing moments. Moments that are just good. Usually they are just small, little things, but they put a smile on your face. They also might not be that amusing to other people. But to you they are. Like when I found myself with some fellow missionaries from my mission…
We are all humanities majors (or rather, we all have majors in the humanities), and we were havin’ a laugh (said with british accent) about how with our chosen majors, oftentimes we hear the question, “What are you going to do with that?!” This question makes us feel good. Real good. We decided that our professors all know we face that question (probably because they faced it long before we did…), and so they often will remind us the first day of class (and throughout the courses we take) the ever-important why of studying something in the humanities. Though often they will remind us that in the humanities, it isn’t about the money, it is about much, much more. And actually, I must admit, that as an English teaching major, I don’t usually face the worst of the critics who want to know what the heck we think we are going to do when we “grow up.” I do, however, face the worst of the “not in it for the money” jokes. Not the point.

As our little mission-buddy group, we tried to come up with some clever ways of responding to that favorite question of ours and as we talked, we felt very validated as we all decided we were studying about what it means to be human. Who can say that is unimportant?! Probably people could. But for the sake of this current blogging stuff that is happening, we are going to all just pretend that we really believe that studying the humanities is really important and helps us in life. And some of us (maybe just me) actually believe that. Some of us might just pretend. It’s fine. I’m over it.

But anyway… I was reading for a class and I stumbled upon a really interesting quote that made me think about humans. When I write “humans” like that (like I just did a few words ago..), it makes it seem like I’m distancing myself, but I’m not. I’m human too. Proud of it. And proud to be an American. But that is not the point either. So….this quote I came across made me think about something that I have been thinking about lately. Curious yet? Annoyed? Probably annoyed.

Anyway. The quote: “The reason I am obsessed by young girls is that they are individuals who exist but also do not yet exist. They are afraid, and they’re strong and weak at the same time. They confront life violently. They are weak because they do not know who they are going to become.”

Once you get over the initial shock over somebody admitting they are “obsessed” with little girls… it’s not what it seems! Promise. This particular scholar did some analyses on fairy tales and movies and such that center on little girls as the main characters. Not as creepy as it sounds. Once we get over that, we can focus on the rest, particularly the ending. I really liked how her quote ended. “They are weak because they do not know who they are going to become.”

That weakness isn’t because they don’t know what or when or how or why they are going to become. But they don’t know who they are going to become. As I think about that phrase, I can’t help but hear Mufasa’s voice in my head saying “You have forgotten who you are, and so you have forgotten me…”
In my opinion (in my humble opinion. That expression always makes me chuckle, because usually when people use that, they aren’t actually being humble about it and I remember when I saw this list of ways to abbreviate in texts and there was IMHO and I personally thought they might want to rethink using that particular abbrevs cuz they were quite possibly sending the wrong message)… well, actually, on second thought, I don’t want to state my opinion because in this particular instance, I really only have my own experience as evidence.  So, I guess it would be like stating an opinion of my own life, which hardly seems necessary. What I really want to say is this: In my life, I have often let the “other questions” the whats, hows, whys, and whens be governing factors and driving principles, instead of letting the WHO become that focus. Maybe other people do that too. Maybe just me.

But I feel like this semester I am learning how to finally let the other questions go (as important as they can be at times and as much as they might influence the who), and I’m trying to focus more on that who. I don’t know what I want to be or when I’m going to be it, or even how I’m going to get there. But I do know who I want to be. And because I know that, it seems like less-of-a-big-deal that I don’t know all the answers to the other questions. Right? Of course, right! (Name that play!) Okay, well I might not know all of the details of exactly how to become that who and who that who really is… I might not know all the specifics. But I know the direction I want to go. And besides, I don’t think we are necessarily meant to have all the answers.
Just like Lewis Carroll wrote, “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle.” A puzzle worth completing, no? But we only complete it one piece at a time and we can’t cheat and look at the box (I am still a firm believer in the “no box looking” rule, but lately my mother has gotten all pansy in her puzzling skills and she totally looks at the box. What is up with that?!), though sometimes we start to see patterns and stuff that help us get the right pieces.


So just like the lady who is obsessed with little girls noted, power comes in remembering the who of our life. And just like I have declared in wayyyy toooo mannnnyyyy of my other posts, being an English major really is the best because we get to study what it means to be human. In an aesthetically pleasing way. At least most of the time;) 

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

No Radio Star here!

You know those moments when you have a significant “first” and it could potentially be a pretty cool thing, but for you it usually just ends up being uncomfortable/embarrassing/awkward/all of the above? Yeah, so had one of those today… in my (just guess which class I’m going to talk about!) fairy tale seminar, we had the opportunity to go and do a little “radio show” together. It was for BYU’s program, the Appleseed. Sounds cool, right? We were going to talk about “defining moments.” And obviously a lot of defining moments of my life, I don’t really feel the necessity nay desire to share with random people on the radio… this made it even more difficult to find the right moment to share. I’m not really good at the serious/sweet/sentimental moments but I’m also not one of those like “funny people” that can share a story about a shoelace and be funny. I had to think hard about what moment was the right mix of clever, slightly inspiring, not too personal, but not too sappy. Finally, the right moment came to mind… a moment that I couldn’t believe I had almost forgotten because it was truly a ridiculous moment of my life. But the part that made it not-so-cool and not-so-great, is that I was the only person who wrote mine down… because apparently I’m that student. The guy at the radio place even was like, “So I can’t help but notice you wrote yours down… why?” I told him it was because I was worried that if I didn’t have some notes I would be too worried about A) reliving my karaoke days with the mic so dangerously close and B)waxing loquacious because I am an English major and we love our words..
And I feel a little guilty right now that I’m using this time to write a blog post… because I have a lot of “actual” writing to do. “Academic” writing or something like that. A lot of times when I have big writing assignments due (like every week), I find myself wanting to engage in various activities like blogging (or sometimes I read things for class because I tell myself they will help “stimulate” my brain… never works…). I always thought these were like “avoidance tactics” but this semester I have actually discovered that some people consider such writing not just avoidance, but as a legitimate writing strategy. All those years of guilt-blogging ended because suddenly, research has justified my blogging. Sometimes in order to write, you gotta clear the mind a little bit, get rid of distractions and sort out those cluttered boxes of the mind. And sometimes blogging just helps me do that. I write this to appease my guilty conscience… but I also believe it is mostly true. Which is slightly more positive than being mostly dead… I have also made some bold moves this week and removed myself from the dark and cold confines of the library and have taken to hunchbacking-it-up (and yes I did just make that a verb) in the nice weather on the top of the JFSB. Also a convenient location if the writing goes horribly… I won’t elaborate on that one, but if you catch the twisted humor, points to you. Perhaps your heart is as black as mine…
Enjoy it or don’t, but this is the moment I shared on the radio!
When I heard we were going to be talking about defining moments, I immediately went to dictionary.com, the fount of all wisdom and knowledge. Yeah, so I’m that kind of a person. You know, the kind that gets assigned some topic and then immediately looks up the definition. I speak for the other people like me in saying that I think we do it in the hopes that something we read about a word or phrase we have long-known will suddenly help our brain come up with lots of different and really awesome things to say. Usually, it does not happen like that, but as I looked up “defining moments” I did actually like what I read and being the type of person that looks things up in the dictionary, I’m also the type to share what I learned, which is the following, a defining moment is “a point in which the essential nature or character of a person is revealed or identified or an occurrence that typifies or determines all related events that follow.” 
I like the part that mentioned these moments often “reveal” who we already are. And as I think about all of that, I find myself remembering this funeral I went to when I was younger. It was the funeral of my mom’s second cousin, or second uncle or something like that. My fake uncle, perhaps. She promised we were related, but I wasn’t so sure, considering our contact with “Uncle ron” had been very minimal. Lack of depth in our relationship, however, did not hinder my mother in begging me to please go with her to this funeral. And as the ever-dutiful daughter, I went. And it is a good thing I did. Because partway through the services, Uncle Ronnie’s friend got up, guitar in hand, and sang a tearful version of “Wind beneath my wings.” In that moment I realized that there are two kinds of people in this world: those that sing “Wind beneath my wings” ά la Bette Midler in tough moments and those that don’t.
Fast forward a few more years and I was a junior in high school. Uncle Ronnie was long gone, and I found myself running for student body president. I was wearing a blue cowboy hat and dressed in as much orange and blue as you could possibly imagine (those were, of course, our school colors) and I was participating in an unusual form of torture called “the elections assembly.” This is a form of humiliation designed by the current student government to publicly haze the potentials for the future student government to see how far they are willing to go to win the election. After participating in a number of really inspirational skits and things, I listened as the current president announced to the entire school that the other candidate for president and I would then be given a few minutes for an impromptu speech. With my cowboy hat and all, I found out quickly that of those two types of people, I was the kind that sang ‘wind beneath my wings” little or no resemblance to Bette Midler in tough situations. I sometimes wonder if the current president has since had such a personal and public rendition of that song…
Just as dictionary.com says, these defining moments are those that “reveal the essential character of a person” and I had just revealed myself as the type of person that First) maybe has no shame and second) will do just about anything, no matter how ridiculous, to help me reach my dreams. Despite my awful singing voice, and that embarrassing display, I won the election and then had many more such opportunities to display my shamelessness. I will always be very closet proud that I helped capes come back that year. Don’t worry, the cape was a spirit cape. I think of this moment and the words of Sinbad, and that would be Sinbad the comedian, not the legendary sailor, “there’s no one defining moment that kills you or makes you.” And I look forward to a lot more shenanigans and absurd moments in my life, with or without a cowboy hat, as I try to dream big and reach for the stars….


And then I sat down so that (like I said before) I wouldn’t be tempted to start singing “Wind beneath my wings” in a very dramatic manner… Also, just a sidenote for those who didn’t know me in high school, I feel it only fair to clarify that I really did wear a cape, but it was TOTALLY COOL. If you don’t believe me, I have pictures to prove it. Though I probably shouldn’t admit that either… 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Tis the Season... for LOVE POETRY!!!

Darcy: I thought that poetry was the food of love.
Elizabeth: Of a fine stout love, it may. But if it is only a vague inclination I’m convinced one poor sonnet will kill it stone dead.

Not untrue. And perfect set-up for a great zing on Elizabeth's part. Or a "zing-back," if you will (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you should probs go watch Pride&Prej). I don’t think I have ever had this exact experience as described by Elizabeth, what with the “vague inclination” and the guy writing lousy poetry. But one time there was this guy who would write little “sweet nothings” on tennis balls and put them in my backpack because he knew I played tennis… I figure that is similar to the whole “bad poetry” thing… it had the same negative outcome, but like I said.. he didn’t even have “vague inclination” going for him… 
So anyway, back to the Darcy and Elizabeth dialogue... this week I encountered some really awesome “love poetry” in one of my classes and it was too good to not share. I was chuckling wholeheartedly, even guffawing, at these. And I will also include some that were actually just sweet. Or, at least, I thought they were sweet. I would also just like to say that the professor that wrote/shared these poems is probably one of the best people to ever walk the face of this earth. I am a huge fan and I am also grateful that he is letting me share some of his work.  He likes to write poetry for a genre called “Bad” where you write awful poems that are awful because they shamelessly abuse the normal poetic rules and styles etc. As opposed to “bad” poetry where you are just trying to be good and fail miserably. Both can be entertaining. He is also very good at writing clerihews. And lots of other things. Just for the record. 

(and if you slowly get bored with the poems, at least just skip down to the bottom, cuz my favorite poem is at the end! and since i know you guys all care about my favorite poem....) 


The first one is a special genre called “Zombie Haiku”

REGRET
When you gave me your
heart, valentine, you should have
known I was hungry

Tell me that isn’t some quality valentines poetry?!!!



Now, this next one is more akin to the “tennis-balls-in-backpack” scenario:

SARAN WRAP
       Fifth grade.
       School lunch.
I was PB&J on whole
                          Wheat
You were Twinkies and Velveeta
                          Cheese.
When I wasn’t looking you stole my heart with
                           ease.
All I wanted to do was
                            Eat,
But you filched my love without even a
                            Please.
Turned out you, you were a pernicious
                            cheat,
Just like cellophane on a blustery day.




For all the guys of the world…

ENTICER
A married man who begs his friend,
A bachelor, to wed and end
    His lonesome, sorry state,
Is like a bather in the sea,
Goose-pimpled, blue from neck to knee,
     Who cries, “The water’s great!”




Just some lovin' goodness here…

AMOR-A
How can the heart be an organ?
It’s got no keyboard.
No foot pedals.
No music stand.
It can’t play a hymn or a jazzy tune.
But, my dear, my heart has rhythm,
and it beats for you.


I’ll admit, this one is a little sketch, but I thought it was just sketch enough to be entertaining. And it is Stephen Crane. It remind me of Miss Havisham in a way, and she has long been a hero of mine… “BROKEN!” (Name that classic Dickens novel!!)

THE HEART
In the desert
I saw a creature, naked, bestial,
Who, squatting upon the ground,
Held his heart in his hands,
And ate of it.

I said, “Is it good, friend?”
“It is bitter –bitter,” he answered;
“But I like it
Because it is bitter,
And because it is my heart.”



And on that note… I figure it is probably about time for some “nice” poems, eh?

I thought this was really sweet.

ME FIRST
Knowing that a thousand years
are but a day in God’s reckoning,
can you blame me, Love,
for selfishly hoping to go first?
That way, I’ll endure only
seconds,
not years,
without you.

  

Or how about this classic from Emily Dickinson.

Heart, We Will Forget Him
Heart, we will forget him,
You and I, tonight!
You must forget the warmth he gave,
I will forget the light.

When you have done pray tell me,
Then I, my thoughts will dim.
Haste! ‘lest while you’re lagging
I may remember him!


This last one has long been a favorite. I’m not usually a big fan of metaphysical poetry, but John Donne wrote this for his wife, Anne. If I remember correctly, he was travelling and would be away for some time…. and he uses a drafting compass as a comparison for their love.

Like this…   


A VALEDICTION FORBIDDING MOURNING.
(okay, I know it looks long.. but it is worth it!! promise!!!) 

AS virtuous men pass mildly away,
   And whisper to their souls to go,
Whilst some of their sad friends do say,
    “Now his breath goes,” and some say,
“No.”

So let us melt, and make no
Noise,
      No tear-floods, nor sigh-tempests move;
“Twere profanation of our joys
      To tell the laity our love.

Moving of th’earth brings harms and fears;
    Men reckon what it did, and meant
But trepidation of the spheres,
     Though greater far, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers’ love
    ----Whose soul is sense----cannot admit
Of absence, ‘cause it doth
remove
     The thing which elemented it.

But we by a love so much refined,
     That ourselves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
      Care less, eyes, lips and hands to
miss.

Our two souls therefore, which are one,
       Though I must go, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
       Like gold to aery thinness beat.

If they be two, they are two
So
      As stiff twin compasses are two;
Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show
     To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the centre sit,
    Yet, when the other far doth
roam,
It leans, and hearkens after it,
      And grows erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to me, who must,
      Like th’ other foot, obliquely run;
Thy firmness makes my circle
just,
      And makes me end where I begun.


   And let's just end with this little treasure... 

Love is patient 
Love is kind... 
Love, is slowly losing your mind! 

Happy Valentine's DAY!!!