Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Small Screen

I have never been much of a TV watcher. Besides the occasional episode of Law and Order, Bill O'Reilly's daily analysis of current events, and a smattering of HGTV shows, I didn't really spend too many hours in front of the small screen. I never wanted to be one of those people who is practically a slave to the TV shows they are addicted to, having to rearrange their lives just so they can be in their living room at 8:00 PM every Sunday night to watch the next episode of their favorite sitcom.

However, this year my heart has softened considerably toward that form of entertainment called "The TV Show." The first contributor to my change of heart was Netflix. I watched Psych episodes, then I watched all of Arrested Development, and quickly moved on to Robin Hood. After I finished Robin Hood, I realized that I was hooked to "The TV Show." I needed entertainment that stretched over multiple episodes, the kind of drama that makes you wish for more but also makes you flustered with anticipation to know the ending.

The void was soon filled with two new TV shows: Once Upon a Time and Downton Abbey.

For the first time, I am watching TV shows as they unfold. I'm happy to report that I'm not completely addicted. I still don't want to have to rearrange my life just to watch the episodes exactly when they air and, luckily, I can watch the episodes on the ABC and PBS websites according to my own time table. But my heart has most definitely been reconciled to the small screen and I'm not ashamed to say it :)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Over the River and Through the Woods

The Christmas season was something of an adventure this year for the following reasons:

1. My Trip on AmTrak
I decided to ride the train from Salt Lake City, UT to Martinez, CA this year so I could get home to the Bay Area with a cheaper ticket than the airplane fare would have been. The train was supposed to depart from Salt Lake at 11:30 PM. It would be a 17-hour train ride. Despite this, I tried to go into the ordeal with a positive attitude. That attitude soon changed, however, as I began preparing for my trip. Several annoying truths were reinforced as I began what I thought would be a simple trip to San Francisco.
  • Truth #1: Government-run programs rarely run in an efficient or timely manner. The night before I was to leave, I got a call at midnight saying that my train was delayed by about two hours. I was encouraged to call AmTrak customer service throughout the day to see if the train would come earlier or if there would be even more of a delay. So I went to a wedding reception, got dropped off at my sister's house, and called AmTrak again to see when the train would be coming in. This time they said it would be three hours late. I called them again around 10:45 PM and the customer service representative said the train had made up some time and would be there two and a half hours late. I called them again around 11:20 and this time they said the train was only going to be an hour and half late; in other words, I had to be at the train station very soon or I would miss the train. My poor sister Brigitte dragged herself out the door to take me to the train station. Needless to say, I made it on time but just barely.
  • Truth #2: I can't sleep very well on moving vehicles or while sitting up. The train left the station around 1:30 in the morning. As soon as people got on the train they started taking out their pillows and falling asleep. I didn't get a window seat since I got there a little bit late so I had nothing to lean my pillow against. I tried and tried to sleep but it just wasn't happening. The person next to me smelled funny, I was worried about my luggage getting lost, and I couldn't find my chapstick to relieve the uncomfortable dryness of my lips. I think I got a total of 45 minutes of sleep before the sun began to rise over Nevada. That's when I gave up trying.
  • Truth #3: Nevada is not the prettiest state in the world. Sorry to any Nevadans who may be reading this but it is my opinion that Nevada is the armpit of America. It even says so on a billboard in Battle Mountain so I'm obviously not the only one who thinks this. Nevada is only pretty around sunrise, sunset, and in the spring. I was so happy when we reached the California border and turned our backs (our caboose, if you will :) on that desolate place. (The picture below is of California. It was nice to see trees again.)
  • Truth #4: People are not as interested in history as I am. When we reached the California border, a tour guide from a museum in Sacramento came over the intercom periodically and pointed out historical sights. I thought this was kind of cool but apparently I was the only one. As the tour guide was explaining that we had just passed the place where gold was first discovered in California, the girl behind me started groaning and the guy across from me rolled his eyes. Come on guys! This is great stuff!
  • Truth #5: I am a complete idiot sometimes...well, most of the time. My Mom told me to bring water on the train. Did I remember to bring some? Nope. And I was scared to leave my seat in search of the dining car for fear that I wouldn't be able to find my way back. I didn't have a single drop of liquid on that trip. Yes, I know that was dumb.
  • Truth #6: When you have a cyst on your tailbone, a 17-hour train ride isn't too comfortable. That's the main reason Dad found me a cheaper flight back to Utah. It hurt to sit there for so long...Yeah, that's all I'll say about that.
2. My Nieces and Nephews
I have the most adorable nieces and nephews. I had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time with a few of them over the break and it was very enlightening to say the least.
  • Truth #1: Kids are hilarious. Sydney was more excited to see the cows at the park than to go on the swings. Mariah can pull out lines from the movie Tangled and use them in everyday conversation. Bruce likes to pull up other kids' shirts and look at their belly-buttons. Sophie's leg twitches if you rub her shoulder the right way. Logan waves "Hi!" and "Bye!" to everyone he sees. Jace makes funny faces when he's filling up his diaper. When Rhyan looks into your eyes, it feels like she's peering into your soul. Jack loves being thrown roughly onto the couch. When you smile or make a funny noise, Erica's face lights up into the longest-lasting smiles I've ever seen.
  • Truth #2: Parenting is hard work but it's worth it. My nieces and nephews are so cute but they have their moments of anger, frustration, and resistance just like the rest of us. But it has been great for me to see how much they have learned and grown over the years so I can only imagine how rewarding it is for their parents to see that. (Here are some pictures of all my nieces and nephews. I have nine of them now!)
3. Fun Christmas Activities
We did several of the same things we usually do at Christmas time, like Dad's annual emotional reading of The Gift of the Magi on Christmas Eve, but we also did some new things.
  • On Christmas Eve, we went over to my Grandmother's house for dinner. My Mom wanted to have beef fondue because her family would do that when she was younger. We each had our own plate of raw chunks of beef. We'd put the beef on the end of a skewer and let it cook in the oil that filled the fondue pots. It was sooooo good!
  • Instead of going to my home ward on Christmas day for church, we went to Oakland to meet with the Cambodian Branch. My parents have been called as service missionaries there. My Mom was in charge of finding the musical numbers for their Christmas program so, of course, Lisa and I sang some Christmas songs in Sacrament Meeting. It was a neat experience to celebrate the Savior's birth there at the Interstake Center and on the temple grounds.
Christmas was different but still really fabulous this year. It was a great way to end the year and to begin another.

New Year's Resolutions
  • run consistently
  • learn how to cook a wider variety of meals
  • study for the GRE/find opportunities for further education
  • read the classics (the good ones)
  • write a book
  • take more pictures
  • learn how to sew
Happy New Year!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

You Are More Than What You Have Become

In a BYU Devotional a few months ago, President Monson quoted the movie The Lion King. In his talk he told us what Mufasa told Simba: "You are more than what you have become...Remember who you are." Like Simba, I think we sometimes forget that we are children of a King. When we forget who we are and where we come from, we also forget where we are going and what we came here to do. We allow the world to cloud our vision, obstructing our view of our divine qualities and potential.

I recently had the privilege of attending the baby blessing of my newest nephew, Jace. I've come to love baby blessings because they remind me of the potential we all have to conquer the world and achieve greatness. But the purpose of life is not merely to overcome the world so that we can live with God again. The purpose is that we BECOME like God. When Simba first looked in the water, he just saw his own reflection. But when he looked deeper, he saw the image of his father replace his reflection. So it is with us. When we look in the mirror at our own reflections at the end of each day, do we just want to see the same person that stared at us that morning or do we want to see more of the Father in our countenances?

Watch this clip from the movie and you'll see just how many parallels there are to the gospel.

Thanks, Disney :)