Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Sorting Hat

Upon arrival at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, first-year students are sorted into one of the four Hogwarts houses (Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin) by way of the Sorting Hat.  As you may recall, Harry Potter is faced with the prospect of being assigned to Slytherin House when the Sorting Hat is placed on his head.  Having heard about the evil witches and wizards that Slytherin seems to produce, Harry tells the Sorting Hat that any house will do as long as he is not placed in Slytherin.  As a result, he is sorted into Gryffindor House.  When Harry Potter meets Tom Riddle (He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named in his much younger, school-boy form), he notices that he and Tom, a Slytherin, have a few things in common.  Unnerved, he voices his concerns to Dumbledore.

    "So I should be in Slytherin," Harry said, looking desperately into Dumbledore's face.  "The Sorting Hat could see Slytherin's power in me, and it --"
    "Put you in Gryffindor," said Dumbledore calmly.  "Listen to me, Harry.  You happen to have many qualities Salazar Slytherin prized in his hand-picked students.  His own very rare gift, Parseltongue - resourcefulness - determination - a certain disregard for the rules," he added, his mustache quivering again. "Yet the Sorting Hat placed you in Gryffindor.  You know why that was.  Think."
    "It only put me in Gryffindor," said Harry in a defeated voice, "because I asked not to go in Slytherin..."
    "Exactly," said Dumbledore, beaming once more. "Which makes you very different from Tom Riddle.  It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

I recently created a Pottermore account (yes, we've already established that I'm a nerd), and my own Sorting Ceremony was something of a choice for me.  Before you are sorted into a house on Pottermore, you have to answer a series of multiple choice questions.  Because I've been in something of an intellectual mood lately, I had this strange desire to be in Ravenclaw.  After I finished answering the questions, I was overjoyed to find that I had been placed in Ravenclaw House, as you can see in the picture below. (I removed all usernames from this picture to avoid receiving friend requests from people I don't know.)
Having been placed in the house known for its "wit and learning," I attended my first Potions lesson, fully expecting to blow Professor Snape out of the water with my mad brewing skills.  However, I am ashamed to report that, after several attempts to combine snake fangs, porcupine quills, and horned slugs, I have yet to figure out how to wave my wand and complete the potion for the Cure for Boils.  How could I be held up by one of the easiest potions in the books?  I'm never going to fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming an Auror if I can't even pass my introductory Potions class!

Like Harry, I began to question the Sorting Hat's placement.  Perhaps I was meant to be in Hufflepuff "where they are just and loyal."  But then I remembered our wise Headmaster's words to Harry, that it is our choices that determine who we are.  Even though I might not have the chops to be a full-fledged Ravenclaw just yet, I still chose to be one and that's got to count for something, right?

(I hope you let out a few chuckles while reading this because it was basically a joke...basically.)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Yes, I'm A Nerd

"It is not enough just to live, just to survive.  It is incumbent on each of us to equip ourselves to do something worthwhile in society -- to acquire more and more light, so that our personal light can help illuminate a darkened world.  And this is made possible through learning, through educating ourselves, through progressing and growing in both mind and spirit." - Gordon B. Hinckley

I have been reading in Gordon B. Hinckley's book, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes.  Before I began reading the book, I glanced at the Table of Contents and, for some reason, I was surprised to find "learning" among the 10 virtues listed.  I've always known that getting an education was important but I guess I had never really considered it a virtue.  After finishing the chapter, however, I was struck with how necessary it is for each of us to obtain an education, to stretch our minds and use our knowledge and experience to progress and help others to grow as well.

Along with this little epiphany came the realization that I really don't know all that much.  I always did fairly well in school but I think I would be pushing the line into dishonesty if I said I remembered half of what I was taught.  Heck, I'd be lucky if I remembered a third of it.  And because I was so focused on my History, English, and Music classes throughout my college career, I never took the time to enjoy any elective classes that covered other subjects I was interested in.

I graduated from BYU about eight months ago with a Bachelor's Degree in History and Minors in English and Music.  It may sound crazy but I really miss school!  I miss the routine, the busy schedule, and, surprisingly, the constant presence of people around me.  But most of all, I miss the flow of information and the training that was provided to help me make my way in the world.  I miss the feeling of doing something productive.  In short, I miss learning.

So what did I do to remedy this situation?  First, I wrote down my learning goals:
  • Learn how to sew.
  • Learn everything there is to know about the Revolutionary War.  (As a History Major, I emphasized American history but the Revolutionary War was my primary focus.  However, I am far from being an expert and I'd like to change that.) 
  • Learn more about astronomy and how the universe works.  (Astronomy has always been fascinating to me.)
  • Learn more about physiology and how the body works.  (I really like science just not science classes.)
  • Learn a foreign language.  (I took six years of Spanish before college but I don't remember much of it.)
  • Learn more about statistics.  (I LOVED my Stats class!  It was so interesting!)
  • Learn more about the classic novels and expand your vocabulary.  (I never want there to be a moment in my life where I'm not in the middle of some novel.)
  • Learn how to be more proficient in mathematics.  (I did well in my math classes until I took Calculus in college.  I hit a wall in that class.  My goal is to push past that wall.)
  • Learn to be more self-reliant.  (I want to be able to manage my finances, research insurance companies, know when something is a rip-off, etc.)
  • Learn to use more computer programs and master the ones I already know.  (After years and years of having to use computers, I can still be pretty computer illiterate at times.)
After I wrote my goals down, I wanted to put my plans into action.  I went to the Provo City Library today and checked out a College Algebra book, a book on Pre-Calculus, and two astronomy books. My roommate, Faith, was flabbergasted when she saw me on the couch this afternoon doing math problems...for fun!  She told me I could do her Physics homework for her but I thought that might be taking this "learning thing" a little bit too far. ;)

So yes, I think I can officially classify myself as a nerd...but you know what?  I DON'T CARE!  I feel better about myself despite my nerd-status.  Maybe, just maybe, my "personal light can help illuminate a darkened world." 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

If I Had Money...

I have many friends who are off to exciting and exotic places in the coming year. Everywhere I go, people seem to be talking about the amazing experiences they have had on their vacations in the past or the ones they plan to have in the near future. I wouldn't say that I am envious but I definitely wish I was in a position to travel the world and see just what all of the fuss is about.

That isn't to say that I haven't traveled at all in my life. I've been to a few places. I'll put them in categories for you so that you can decide whether they count or not.
  • Places I have lived: California, Utah
  • States I've supposedly been to but can't remember at all because I was too young at the time: Washington, Virginia, Washington D.C. (not an actual state but you catch my drift)
  • States I've driven through for a substantial amount of time but never really stopped in: Arizona (but only that little northwestern corner of Arizona on the way to Las Vegas), Oregon (I was 1 when we drove through Oregon, though, so I don't remember it at all)
  • States where I've had lay-overs at the airport: Colorado, Texas, Florida
  • States I've stopped in/actually visited: Nevada (my roommate Julie was married in the Las Vegas LDS Temple so I stayed in a hotel just off the strip for a couple days), Idaho (we dropped off my sister Brittany at BYU-Idaho), Montana (we stayed in a hotel in West Yellowstone), Wyoming (as part of our Yellowstone trip), Tennessee (we had a family reunion at my grandparents' house when I was 11; I also went there again a couple of years ago with my sister to visit my grandparents for Thanksgiving), Kentucky (during the family reunion in Tennessee, we took a day trip up to Kentucky to go through Mammoth Caves), Alabama (during the same family reunion, we went down to Alabama to the NASA Space Museum)
  • Places I've been to outside the continental U.S: Aruba (We had a family reunion on this desert island (off the coast of Venezuela) when I was 4. My aunt and uncle and their two children lived there at the time. I don't remember very much but you'd probably be surprised about how much I do remember: Baby Beach (Aruba has great beaches), my brother accidentally cutting up his legs on the rocks at the beach and him screaming afterward when my dad tried to clean him up in salt water, my brother getting stabbed by a cactus needle while reaching for cactus fruit, a gecko falling into the pool at the hotel we were staying at, singing "In the jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion sleeps..." with my cousins as we drove down the dusty streets in a very unstable van, playing poker with my cousins (we Christensens start early), seeing a very big wasp nest (I don't remember where we were when I saw that). So that's Aruba the way I remember it.), Puerto Rico (We stopped in Puerto Rico for a night on our way to Aruba. All I remember was that I had to share a bed with my brother, which was not at all a fun experience, and that there were bananas in the trees outside our window.)
That's my travel experience and, now that I see it all out in front of me, it looks pretty pathetic,

So my travel goals are:
  • to stop and see some kind of landmark in each of the 50 states at some point in my life (especially the ones along the east coast)
  • to go to Europe (I basically want to go to all of the countries there)
  • to see Machu Picchu
  • to see and walk along the Great Wall of China
  • to see the Australian outback
  • to see the native animals of Africa in their natural habitat (from a safe distance, though. I will not be getting out of the car if there is a lion hanging around)
We'll see how many of these actually come to fruition.

Monday, April 9, 2012


It's a tradition in many households to boil eggs over the weekend of Easter and dye them. This was never really a tradition in my home growing up, at least not that I remember. We would participate in our ward Easter egg hunt the Saturday before and then have a nice dinner and some treats on Easter Sunday, but decorating eggs was never really part of the festivities.

So this year was the first year I decorated Easter eggs.My first egg was the one in the back of the carton. You can't see it very well but it has a flower on it.

A few people from our ward happened to stop by and joined us for a few minutes.

Ignore my weird face in the picture above and focus on the egg. I was quite proud of this one. It came out with a slightly marbled look which I thought was pretty cool.

After decorating the eggs, I can understand why this was never a tradition in our home. It was fun to make the eggs look nice but hard-boiled eggs don't keep forever. Just a few hours after we finished decorating, the colorful shells were cracked and the hard-boiled eggs became deviled eggs.

Obviously, the most important thing to celebrate on Easter is the life and resurrection of Jesus Christ, our Savior. I am grateful for his sacrifice for us and I am especially grateful for the knowledge that He overcame death and, as a result of this resurrection, so can we.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sleep Deprivation

A horrible habit has been forming in my life as of late. I wake up at about 4:00 every morning. Before you think I'm crazy for doing so, let me assure you that this action is not at all voluntary. If you are one of the unlucky people in this world that suffers from allergies, you probably know exactly what I mean.

Mornings are the worst. By the end of the day, you feel like you might have finally gotten over the symptoms. But instead of sleeping peacefully, you wake up at 4:00 in the morning with your nose running like crazy, your eyes watering, and your throat itching. I have yet to figure out whether allergies or the common cold is worse. With a cold, you wish that all of the congestion would just come out. With allergies, you wish that it would all just stay in.

I've also been having a lot of really strange dreams lately. They are the type of dreams that keep you asleep for a few hours and then make you jolt awake at 3:30 in the morning unable to go back to sleep. For example: I had a dream the other night that Hitler had taken over America. (I have been reading novels about World War II lately so this isn't completely out of the blue.) My mom and I were sitting in some kind of an auditorium listening to Hitler give a speech about world domination when we suddenly heard a loud voice speaking over the intercom. Hitler stopped speaking and listened as the president of Mexico said, "You Americans have underestimated us for the past few centuries and we are not going to take it any longer. Mexican troops have entered your city and resistance is futile. You will all be taken prisoner." We looked out the windows to see Mexican troops and tanks coming up the street. The doors of the auditorium burst open. Mom and I were handcuffed and marched out into the streets with everyone else. We walked through bombed out neighborhoods to reach the harbor where a ship waited to take us far away. I looked to the left to talk to Mom but she was no longer standing beside me. I searched frantically with my eyes but could not see her anywhere and...I woke up just before we boarded the ship. Needless to say, it's difficult to fall back to sleep after you wake up from a dream like that.

With the combination of allergy symptoms and weird dreams, I've been rather sleep-deprived lately. I walk around like a zombie sometimes. My eyes are only partly open, my feet drag against the floor, and I mumble words (even more than usual). Please forgive me if I don't seem totally coherent the next time I see you. Hopefully this explains why.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Books Fall Open, You Fall In

My sister recently started a book club called...uh...Sisters' Book Club. It's official. We have our own private Facebook page and everything. I was secretly overjoyed when Shelley suggested we start this little reading group. I've been out of college for seven months and, even though I have a minor in English, it has been well over a year since I took an English class. You may think I'm a complete nerd for saying this but I have really missed reading novels and writing analytical papers about them. (Wow, that's an idea I never thought I would admit to.)

The day after the book club's Facebook page was up and running, I headed to the Provo City Library at Academy Square. The library is just down the street from where I live and I decided it was high time to take advantage of its proximity. I got two library cards, one which resides in my wallet and the other which hangs with my keys on my lanyard. I immediately set out to find the book of the month, Divergent by Veronica Roth. When I checked the library database, however, I found that every copy of the book had been checked out and that there were 87 people on the waiting list. I became number 88 on that list, knowing full well that I would not be able to check the book out and read it before the April 30th deadline. Despite my disappointment, I walked about the library in search of other reading material. I ended up checking out two books that I saw randomly as I paced up and down the aisles: Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell and Rumors of War by Dean Hughes.As I walked out of the library, books in hand, my nerdy-ness took over. My summer prospects appeared so much brighter because I had a seemingly endless supply of books at my disposal. When I got home, I went straight to my computer and got on the Provo City Library website. I logged in with my card and pin numbers and found that I could request books from the library at home. What happened next was kind of a blur. All I know is my passion for reading overcame all reason and I was requesting books left and right. By the end of my two-minute session at the computer, I had requested five more books.

This wasn't really an issue until all of the copies of the books I had requested started flooding back into the library at the same time. To make a short story even shorter, I started receiving emails just about everyday saying that my books were in and ready for pick-up. My "hold" would expire if I did not pick the books up within four days of receiving the email. I did not want to deal with getting back on the waiting list for each of the books so I went and checked each of them out. And now...I have five books checked out from the library, all of which are fairly lengthy...and I have a weird complex about renewing books. I need to have each of these books read by April 24th.

I've spent most of the last couple of days reading and I am happy to report that I have finished Cranford and am almost done with Rumors of War. Both have been excellent reads. I'm so happy to have books to read again and a deadline to finish them by so that I actually get them done! I'm looking forward to reading the other three books I have checked out: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak, The Orchid House by Lucinda Riley, and The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne. I have also requested the Cranford DVDs but I'm still waiting on those.
I guess I'll just have to get Divergent from Brigitte whenever she's done reading it. I love reading! I'm so glad I fell into the trap of requesting too many books from the library, if there is such a thing as requesting too many.