Monday, April 20, 2015

Read the Old Testament: Check

It took about five years, but I can finally check off "read the entire Old Testament" off my bucket list.

Given the length of time it took to complete it, this goal clearly wasn't a top priority. (I can only think of one other book that took me longer to read—Little Women. I started it in junior high, picked it up sporadically throughout high school, and then finally started over and gave the book one last try after graduating from college. Incidentally, it is now one of my favorite books. Timing is everything, my friends.)

One of my favorite classes at BYU—possibly the favorite—was the Bible as Literature. We studied the bible from historical and literary perspectives, something you don't get to do much in your typical LDS Sunday School class. To make things even more interesting, Dr. Eliason didn't assign a specific edition for the entire class; instead, he asked us to pick out a couple different versions and base our study on those. (This made read-aloud sessions more fun—it's fascinating how much the translations differ from each other.)

I went a little beyond the minimum book requirement (my checking account wasn't happy about it). But this English major couldn't resist the "prompting" to just buy one more . . .
And just like that, instead of the dry, hard-to-understand text I had previously associated with the bible, I had a book of stories akin to Aesop's Fables or Hans Christian Anderson's fairy tales (although some of the stories are definitely more Grimm.) During that semester, I discovered so many new stories and understood some of my old favorites in deeper, more satisfying ways. Who knew you could learn so much from the line "and Eglon was a very fat man"? Who in this modern era wouldn't enjoy a story about a young woman who pounded a tent peg through her captor's head rather than wait for rescue?

The bible is full of stories like that, and unfortunately we couldn't cover all of them in four short months. Never fear, I told myself, you can read the entire thing on your own time.

Which is what I did, although it wasn't quite the experience I was expecting. Turns out it helps to have a bible expert at your side to provide context. And some of it is about as interesting as an inventory list. Not to mention the stuff that is just plain incomprehensible. (Think Isaiah is hard? Then you haven't tried Ezekiel.)

But you know the phrase "You only get out what you put in"? That is essential to Old Testament scripture study. You can't peruse through it like you would a picture book and wait for knowledge to pop out at you with lots of pretty colors. Those inventory lists, family trees, and detailed laws may not be fun reading, but if you start to think about why they're there, you might learn something anyway. If you're paying attention, you'll find that many of the men and women have personalities—they're real people, not one-dimensional stick figures who exist solely to teach lessons. And most importantly, stories about talking donkeys and whales that swallow humans and large bodies of water that are split in half still have so much relevance to the boring, troubling, and confusing things we deal with every day.

I am by no means an Old Testament expert yet, and I plan to dive back into the book many more times to dig out more treasures.

But for now, on to the New Testament!

Monday, April 13, 2015

When you're playing hooky

When you've procured for yourself a burn-out recovery day, you have to do it upright.

An excellent start to any day begins at the temple. It's especially satisfying to do the Lord's work when you're supposed to be in a cubicle somewhere.

After a quick lunch, grab a book and read outside. It's a beautiful day out.

Next, let's hit the matinee showing of the latest must-see movie.

But first, buy a treat with your spare change. That's what it's for.

And if you're lucky, you'll get an entire theater to yourself.

When the movie's over, you'll be ready to move around a bit—so why not explore some new walking trails in the luscious spring sunshine and see what you can find?

And be sure to take more pictures of flowers. Because it's fun.

When you get home, this would be the optimal time to start preparing for a fabulous dinner. But chances are you don't have any food to cook, so plan on enjoying leftovers again later.

Oh my, look at the time. The work day is just ending.

The rest of the evening is yours to do with as you wish. If you've followed these instructions, you should be sufficiently recharged by bedtime.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday: The stupid Beauty and the Beast and the paper-tree Cinderella

One time I was on a date, telling this guy about my favorite restaurant. He listened with a smile, and then said, "Are you sure the food is that good, or do you love it just because it's nostalgic?"

The thought had never occurred to me, and I was actually a little offended that he would suggest such a thing. But, he had a point. Part of the charm of the place is the memories and the photo wallpaper that includes several of my relatives.

But while I'm still convinced that the best Mexican food in the world is served at La Casita in Springville, Utah (one of the biggest disappointments of my adult life was discovering that not all Mexican food is that delicious), I can acknowledge several things that continue to be the best thing in the world only because of the love I had for them in my childhood. 

Two movies in particular. My family affectionately calls them "the stupid Beauty and the Beast" and "the paper-tree Cinderella." 

Since every fairy tale retelling is unique, allow me to give a brief synopsis of each.

Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (1965)

Cindrella lives in a cottage far, far away with her stepmother who never looks at people when she talks and her two 40-year-old stepsisters. They live in a cruel land; the men are forced to wear tights and the women must wear cones on their heads when they go out. The prince, the son of the King and Queen of Hearts, has just gotten home from slaying dragons and saving princesses, but has not yet managed to fall in love. So the king announces a ball, and all twenty of the lovely maidens in the land show up. All sound is sucked out of the ballroom when Cinderella arrives, and you know the prince is falling more and more in love because his smile gets so big it's in danger of breaking his head. But Cinderella must leave at midnight, and they are tragically separated. But, don't despair; they can still sing duets telepathically. Alas, that isn't enough for the prince—especially since his parents keep trying to join in—and he sets out to find the girl whose name he never bothered to learn. Cinderella's stepsisters are the last to be tortured via forced glass-slipper-trying-on, and just as the prince is about to leave, Cinderella's fairy godmother reminds her the prince is always dying of thirst. So she gives him some cool water from the well, he sees his princess through the dirty cheeks and Halloween-colored wardrobe, and they live happily ever after.

Beauty and the Beast (1987)

Beauty lives with her father and four helpless siblings who are in their thirties. Disaster strikes, and they have to leave their mansion and move into a cute little cottage and do chores. It's the end of the world. UNTIL . . . The father's clerk announces that one of their lost ships has been found. The father is delighted, and plans to leave at once to go claim his ship. Everyone but Beauty demands their father to bring home gifts, but Beauty simply asks for a rose. The ship has been sold to someone else by the time the father arrives after "two weeks' journey later," and then the father somehow ends up in a creepy castle in the middle of a desert. The castle is full of fog and causes him to sing conversations with himself. But he has a grand old time, and he sets off the next morning to go home to his children—but not before cutting a rose from a garden. Suddenly, a beast with an upset stomach runs down 17 flights of spiral staircases and confronts him, a little dizzy. In payment for the rose he stole, the father must come back in two days and offer up either himself or one of his daughters for life. Beauty, feeling guilty about her silly request, volunteers to go, and her father, seeking the Father of the Year Award, tells her he'll accompany her on the journey. Beauty has a lovely time at the castle, dancing with statues, talking to pictures, and gazing sternly at the metal owl in the library. And every night, the beast asks her to marry him, and she answers daintily, "No, Beast." Meanwhile, every night in her dreams, she meets a prince that looks exactly like Beast and he is always sad because he failed his acting class. Eventually, Beauty asks if she can go home to visit her family, but her visit isn't all she thought it would be because they've all learned how to dress and feed themselves in her absence. So she goes back to the beast because he's the only one that needs her, and POOF. He explodes into fireworks, Dream Prince appears, and they live happily ever after after the most awkward kiss ever.

Sorry, I guess those weren't very brief. If you only knew how many gems I left out . . .

Ahem. Back to my point. Over the years, my eyes have been opened to the atrocious acting and terrible sets. But as I'm cringing at performances the actors are probably too ashamed to put on their résumés (especially since most of them are actually quite good in other movies), I'm also remembering dancing in the driveway under the stars singing "A Lovely Night," imagining myself in Cinderella's fur-trimmed dress while I sing "10 Minutes Ago" with a handsome prince, and dreaming of living in a magic castle with a dream prince. I notice the cone-shaped trees and off-key singing, but I'm too busy reveling in the return of childhood innocence to really be bothered by them. 

So every few years, I pull out one of these movies, ready to grin stupidly for 90 minutes and come up with more clever ways to mock them with my sisters. They're terrible movies by any set of standards, but I love them so.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Spring awakens

I love living in a world with seasons. Those perfect-weather-all-year-round places take away one of the simplest pleasures in life: watching the many personalities of nature.

Winter lasted exactly two weeks this year (which included Christmas, so at least we had that going for us), but the extra hour of daylight combined with the sudden surge of colors still exudes the sense of freedom that comes every spring.

Most of Utah's winter looked like this:

But while some people enjoyed the freakish warmth (I was not one of them), "winter" still wasn't spring because color sightings like these were nowhere to be found. Not outside, anyway.

And then the blossoms bloomed.

So. Many. Blossoms. Just looking at them makes me feel like I should be sneezing.

And if dehydrated plants can bloom, then you can be sure you'll find other springisms.

Like kites stuck in trees.

And the reemergence of the flip-flop tan line.

It took some time, but I can happily acknowledge spring now. Even in severe drought conditions, Utah is a beautiful place to live.

Monday, March 16, 2015

5 reasons March Madness is like a disease

  1. It's highly contagious.
  2. It negatively impacts workplace productivity for weeks.
  3. Vital signs regularly surpass doctor-recommended levels.
  4. Its existence impacts nearly every decision you make.
  5. You enjoy milking this affliction for all it's worth, but a part of you longs for the steady normalcy of April.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

That sleep thing again

There are good reasons to miss out on sleep, and there are bad reasons.

Bad reason:
You're at a dinner group, and because a couple of people don't show up with their food assignments, the meal is sorely lacking. But you know there's dessert—a beautiful-looking chocolate bunt cake, topped with fresh strawberries, whipped cream, and ice cream. Someone calls it the "Diet Coke Cake," so a red flag goes off in the back of your mind: danger—possible caffeine consumption detected. Take precautionary  measures. But you silence the warning because—chocolate.

Hours later, you're so wired your eyes don't even want to close. You're so wired the thought of an all-nighter sounds like great fun—until you finally crash at 3:00 a.m.

Bad reason:
You're grinding your teeth away in your sleep, so your dentist finally succeeds in scaring you into wearing a mouth guard at night. Things could be worse, but that lump of plastic takes time to get used to.

Good reason:
You stay up late to bask in two hours of pure BYU basketball entertainment, culminating in 6 first-half Chase Fischer 3's and Kyle Collinsworth's 6th triple-double of the season. (It took some guy named Shaq three years to get that many triple-doubles in college.) Sleep is elusive when you're having this much fun riding the tourney train.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Pictures included

I've always liked words. We all know this. But I also like pictures, more than I like videos. I love the ability they have to capture moments and personalities. I love the way they freeze time and trigger memories. Photography is a hobby I've been wanting to add to my repertoire for quite some time.

So when I got my profit sharing check a few weeks ago, I finally had a good excuse to go out and buy an entry-level professional camera (it's a Sony a6000 Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera, in case you were wondering). I've been so excited about this expensive new toy that it's affected my sleep—not in a good way, of course.

I didn't get to dedicate any time to figuring out how to work my new camera until Friday, when it was dark and cold. So my test subjects were extremely limited.

My fuzzy socks were the perfect model to use as I acquainted myself with all the settings.

 And I know you've all been dying to see what's in my Harry Potter corner.

It's a thing to take pictures of your food, isn't it?

I'm quite proud of this shelf. I put it up myself—without a drill gun. My hands hurt for days after that.

The next day I took my camera to visit my family, because there are many, many more picture-taking possibilities there.

I started with some artistic shots.

Then it was time to document the natural goings-on of a typical Saturday.

Tyrel was the perfect person to test out the sports/movement setting on.

And the newest addition to our family was photogenic no matter what I did with the camera.

My favorite setting, though, is the one that waits for the person to smile before it automatically snaps a picture. I think my family was getting a little tired of their amateur photographer relative, so I tested this setting more extensively on myself, since I don't have a good camera-ready smile. Turns out I felt almost as silly waiting for the camera to catch me smiling than I do waiting for the stupid person to take the picture already.

But, it was a good way to pass the time while I waited for church to start, especially since it was Fast Sunday and I didn't have food to distract me. Brownie points if you can guess what I'm doing in these pictures.

Don't worry—I'm not going to force you to look at every picture I take. But, there will be a lot more pictures included with the words from this point forward.