Thursday, July 29, 2010

Thoughts of a soon-to-be college graduate

I have often heard my mom say that the older you get, the less you know. As I have gotten older, I have found that to be more and more true—especially now. It seems ironic to feel utterly unknowledgeable when I am a few weeks away from getting my college diploma—my very own BA—but that feeling just keeps getting stronger and stronger.

When I took my ASL 202 final, I was ecstatic. It's a great feeling to finish something big that you started. But when that feeling wore off about a week later, I started to feel like my life was now meaningless. With no school and no marriage prospects, I felt like there was nothing to work toward, nothing to look forward to. It was about then that my mind opened up a little bit and I started to realize just how much I have left to learn. My education doesn't end here; in fact, it is just beginning.

Education isn't all about reading, writing, and studying. It isn't all about showing up to class and working on group projects. I have written hundreds of papers and read hundreds of thousands of pages during my 4 years at BYU (and I have wasted hours of precious time working on stupid group projects), but the things I have learned have only introduced me to even more things to learn.

I always thought that I would be sad when I officially finished my degree. I knew I would miss the classroom settings and even the excitement of reading some new text and then writing about it. I worried that I wouldn't be as happy in an environment where I wouldn't be constantly trying to remember certain facts and important ideas. But those experiences can be had anywhere, at any time. We can still learn important (and unimportant) things wherever we go. I may think I know a lot about British and American lit, but I haven't learned it all. I never will be able to learn it all. And then there's all of the stuff I didn't study in college. Like math. And the lessons of life that I somehow managed to ignore while I was writing and editing papers. Life is a never-ending school experience, so I'm never really going to have to say good-bye to formal education.

So while I may feel like my brain has enlarged simply so it can make fun of the tiny amount of knowledge I have, it's very comforting to know that there is still something to work toward, something that will never end. I'll be so busy trying to take on a whole new life that I won't have time to miss college. I'll always look back on these days with fondness, and I'll be forever grateful for the person that I am because of my college experience, but the future has even more in store for me. And at the moment, I'm going to revel in the excitement of that prospect rather than the terror and confusion of it.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cinderella, Cinderella

I have been watching a lot of Cinderella movies lately. When I get home from work, it's usually just me, my mom, and my little sister at home, and my mom and I usually have no energy to do much of anything—hence the chick flicks. I think it's safe to say that Cinderella is the ultimate chick flick—what girl doesn't want here very own Prince Charming? (Although I must say that I am more of a Beauty and the Beast type girl myself—I would rather melt a man's heart than to get a man that is already perfect.)

It is hard to say which Cinderella version is my favorite. There are, after all, so many to choose from.

Ever After. This movie has some of the best movie quotes of all time—many of them are Princess Bride worthy. My favorite is, "First I am arrogant, and now I have no pride; however do I manage that?" But "I shall go down in history as the man who opened the door!" is also quite awesome. I also think they did a really good job in catching the time period—what is is, the 16th century? And of course, I feel immensely smart whenever Danielle quotes Utopia because that is one of the few things I actually enjoyed reading in English 291. In addition to the classic quotes, this movie also has several classic funny parts. My favorite would have to be the sobbing French? girl. I watch this movie fairly regularly and it would probably win the top spot in my Cinderella list if it weren't for two things: the prince is a jerk and I don't like Drew Barrymore. I have mostly gotten past the prince-is-a-jerk thing, but Drew Barrymore will forever bug me.

Ella Enchanted. Ella Enchanted is one of my most favorite books in the world, and the movie is nothing like it. It is probably the most poorly made movie-based-on-a-book I have ever seen. However, because the movie is so different from the book, I am pretty much able to forget that it is based on a wonderfully crafted story and enjoy it for completely unoriginal movie that it is. I don't understand why I keep watching this movie. At times it is embarrassingly stupid, the "special effects" suck, and the sets just look fake. But I keep watching it anyway. I think the fact that it is a Cinderella parody is the only reason why I like it—there is no other logical reason.

The animated one. I haven't actually seen this one for a really long time. From what I remember, the prince is a very minor character, Cinderella and the prince can sing to each other without opening their mouths, the cat is always running into things and deforming its nose, the dog looks like Pluto, and the mice like to eat some sort of food that look like kernels of corn. But, it is still beloved because it is one of the classic Disney movies that I grew up with.

1960s Rogers and Hammerstein version. I could go on all day about this movie—I don't quite know where to start. I'm pretty sure there was no budget for this movie. The actors volunteered their time and the props were donated by kindergartners. (Who else would sincerely believe that trees are made out of colored paper?) And unfortunately, all of the men forgot their pants. The only one who gets to wear pants is the king—and he's wearing a dress. The prince is forced to don a shirt made out of shiny trash-bag material, and the commoners just have to stick with the tights and a non-shiny shirt. Most unfortunate. The acting and musical abilities are also severely lacking. The more I hear Cinderella sing the more I want her to shut up, and all of the prince's lines are hilariously badly delivered. My favorite lines are "I am DYING of thirst" and "I am fatigued"—the first one is wildly exaggerated and the second is matter-of-factly boring. However, the prince does have a rather lovely singing voice as long as you don't watch him too much. However, I absolutely love the music. Too bad no one can do it justice in this movie, except perhaps the prince. So if this movie is horribly acted and utterly embarrassing in every form, why do I keep watching it? Three reasons: (1) as mentioned before, I love the music, (2) it is insanely fun to make fun of, and (3) I grew up with this movie. There was a time when I thought Cinderella had a beautiful voice, when I thought her dress was the most gorgeous thing I had ever seen, and the pantless men didn't bother me. Tiffany and I would take turns singing the girl part in "Ten Minutes Ago" and would sing along with the entire movie, lost in the magic of the music. Now watching this movie leaves much to be desired.

1990s Rogers and Hammerstein version. When I first discovered that the 1960s version was ridiculous, I was delighted to find that there was a more modern version available. However, it's not a whole lot better. I just can't get over the family tree—the mom is black, the dad is white, and the son is Chinese. I'm no biologist, but I'm pretty sure that's not how it works. The singing is SO much better, but the movie is just so weirdly made that I often find myself wishing for the old version while I'm watching it. Maybe some day someone will do that movie justice.

The Slipper and the Rose. I am glad to say that my current experience with this movie doesn't interfere with my childhood memories of it. Yes, some of the choreography is a bit stupid, but watching a bunch of old men dance on a table still makes me giggle. And yes, the prince isn't as amazing of a gymnast during his "What a Comforting Thing to Know" song as I once thought he was, but he is fun to watch all the same. I could listen to Richard Chamberlain sing all day, Gemma Craven is the perfect Cinderella—beautiful, sweet, and innocent—and the storyline makes more sense than most Cinderella plots. The movie is definitely a bit dated, but I will continue to watch it because it is just . . . good.

So which is my favorite Cinderella movie? I think it would be a tie between Ever After and The Slipper and the Rose. The Slipper and the Rose has the nostalgic element, and that counts for a lot. The music is wonderful and the actors can act (for the most part). Although I'm still not sure where the "rose" from the title comes from. I always thought I would understand that when I got older, but I'm still a bit confused by that. Hmm. Ever After is a good, modern fairy tale. The story has a believable plot and it tugs at my emotions more than any other Cinderella movie. It might be a tad above The Slipper and the Rose because I'm not always in the mood of watching a long musical.

I wonder if my Cinderella opinions will change at all after I'm married. All of these perfect romance movies might be distorting my vision a bit. But a girl can dream, can't she?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

If only every weekend had 2 Saturdays

Even though I don't have to spend all of my Saturdays "catching up on homework" anymore, they never seem to last long enough. It's hard enough surviving an entire work week knowing that you'll only got one day of freedom at the end of it. I am always torn between filling my Saturday with wonderful nothingness or amazing productivity. I usually ere on the side of nothingness because I am too worn out to do anything really productive.

But when you get a 3-day weekend, there is no dilemma—you can have a day of nothingness AND a day of productivity. At the end of the first Saturday, you don't have to dread Sunday (because that means Monday is right around the corner) because the next day is Saturday again and you get another chance to do all that you want to do!

Whoever decided that a typical work week should consist of 40 hours over a 5-day period, anyway? Why can't we just knock off another work day? And then maybe 100 years from now they can add Thursday to the weekend. Before we know it, the "weekend" could be 5 days and the normal week could be 2 days. Then we can add a hundred or so holidays to the calendar so that we only have to work like 40 days a year. Brilliant plan.

Too bad no one ever listens to me.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Sunshine and Summertime

It came as a shock to me the other day when I realized that summer is more than halfway over. In a little over a month, the rest of the world will be going back to school, and before we know it snow will be falling from the sky. This is usually about the time that I start to accept that there is no way I am going to accomplish all of my many summer plans, but I also spend a lot of time thinking about past summers and what made them so great. As much as I may complain about the heat, there is just no denying that summer has a bit of magic to it. The memories I have of summer are a testament to that.

1. Popcycles and milkshakes. There is nothing better than eating a popcycle or rewarding yourself to a milkshake from Wildflower Grill on a hot summer day. I remember Grandpa Jackson used to bring home humongous popcycles (the orange and red kind) when I was really little—I swear they were half as tall as I was. And then there were the many times at Domino's that Wes bought the CSRs shakes after surviving a busy rush (or a horribly boring one).

2. Tomatoes, corn, and watermelon. My vision of a perfect summer day usually involves eating food from our own garden. My grandparents always had a garden, and my family even had one for a few years. From the time I was little, I always loved home-grown tomatoes. (Store-bought tomatoes don't count. That's like eating Little Caeser's pizza instead of Brick Oven pizza.) I vividly remember one summer afternoon (I was probably about 4) when we were visiting my Grandma and Grandpa Rushton. The adults went inside to visit, but I soon found myself out in the tomato patch—I don't think I ever even went inside. Grandma had to track me down among all of her tomatoes to give me a hug good-bye. I must have eaten hundreds of cherry tomatoes that day; they were just so delightful I could not help myself. Corn on the cob was also a delightful treat. I remember being so proud the first time we ate corn grown from our very own garden. And of course, eating watermelon outside on the deck so that we can spit the seeds out on to the grass is still a highlight of my summer. Thanks to my 2 teasing grandpas, to this day I am still afraid to swallow watermelon seeds because then a watermelon might either grow in my stomach or out my head.

3. Bikes, roller skates, and wagons. I don't know what I would have done for entertainment as a kid if Elk Ridge wasn't all hills. I spent hours with the Enriquezes riding bikes and roller skating at the church parking lot. The climatic moment was always riding down the hill to my house, though. We did the same thing with our wagon. Even after one of the wheels got all crooked after being run over, we still raced up to the top of the hill by the Bushman's house and then raced down as fast as we could, bouncing (and laughing) like crazy. It is a very good thing that we get virtually no traffic on Cortez Drive. It is also good that Elk Ridge is such a safe haven—me and Kimberly especially liked to "run away" with our wagon full of dolls, Barbies, a loaf of bread, and some raisons. But even after our adventures out in the world, coming home was always a good feeling.

4. Lagoon and swimming. Almost every summer of my life I have been to Lagoon at least once, and we usually tried to spend a day at the pool, too. I was always so excited about those trips. I think I can still say that I have been on every ride at Lagoon, although "the green one" scarred me for life. I don't think it's there anymore.

5. Summer nights. Summer nights are the best nights of the year. Those hours just before sunset are always the best hours to sit on the porch, go for a walk, play outside, or play softball. Sleeping on the trampoline was always a fun adventure—playing night games, listening to the bugs, and falling asleep under the stars.

6. Summer rain. I have always loved the rain, especially when it is warm enough for me to be outside in it. We never used umbrellas for their real purpose; we used them to pretend to be old people and to make our own rain puddles. It was quite funny for me the first time it rained while I was at BYU and people actually pulled out their umbrellas and used them. I didn't realize that people actually used them seriously. I loved jumping on the trampoline as the rain fell from the sky and the trampoline got heavier and heavier. And I'll never forget the time that it started to hail, and within seconds we saw Tyrel pedaling furiously down Magellan Lane with no shoes on, screaming bloody murder.

7. Softball. My first memories of softball are when my dad and his brothers played. I used to think my dad was a professional baseball player (but then, I also thought that he played for the NBA). I guess I was too busy playing with my cousins to really know what was going on. I did, however, see the epic fight that my dad ended up in the middle of and the time that Clint ran into the fence and knocked over the garbage can. And I'll never forget Grandpa Rushton's umbrella hat and Grandma Rushton's look of happiness every time we gathered to watch her boys play. I played softball for 11 years. I always looked forward to February-March so that we could register. I looked forward to May so that I could find out what team I was on and when my first practice would be. 5:00 games were never really that fun, but I loved the 7:00 and 8:30 games. I tried out every position on the field except for catcher (I didn't play a whole lot of short stop either) and it was my dream to just make it to tournaments. And a few times I did. Hillman Field was my home during the summer for many years and I loved it there. We saw members of Dad's family there all the time—it was like having a 2-month-long family reunion. We saw Lore's family there a lot, too. The year when the 5 of us—me, Kimberly, Jessica, Vikki, and Melissa—were on the same team was a really fun year. We had always wanted to be on a team together, and we finally got to see it happen. I loved it when my dad would teach me techniques and rules, I loved getting treats at the end of each game, and I simply loved playing the game. I wish those years could have lasted longer.

8. Fireworks. My family always tried to blow something up for the 4th of July (or at least watch others do it). They usually didn't let us do fireworks in Elk Ridge, but I remember the excitement of many years when we would impatiently wait for it to get dark so that Dad would drive us around town, trying to find the best spot to watch the fireworks. It's always fun to have a parent along for the ride who is almost as excited as the kids. The best year was probably when we burned a hole in Grandma Rushton's trampoline with the parachute firework. Or the year that we set off the spinney one on Grandpa Jackson's telephone pole. I used to think that "up-in-the-air" fireworks were illegal in Utah because of the Mormons. The dry climate never occurred to me as a logical reason to ban fireworks.

9. Barbecues. As my extended family has gotten older and more spread out, we haven't gotten together as much as we used to, but we still manage it a few times a year, at least with my dad's side of the family. I love the smell of food being barbecued. Even if it's hot dogs. I love the visiting that takes place after the food. I love watching the new generation of cousins play. It's almost as fun as actually being the little one that everyone is watching. It is usually when I am surrounded by family on a gorgeous summer night that I am struck by how good life is.

10. Mountains. I may not be much of a hiker now, but I have many memories of hiking, camping, and just playing in the mountains or the creek. Even devoid of showers and soap, being outside in the elements can be a bit of paradise. It is during the summertime when it is easiest to marvel at God's creations. Unless it's too hot for you to think. And there's no denying that playing cards, roasting marshmallows, exploring, and playing with the campfire is a lot of fun. Being outside is always an adventure.

It worries me what kids nowadays are doing with their summers. As my dad was saying the other day, the only thing he needed to keep him entertained as a kid was a stick. I think the most expensive toy I ever had was a bike. While I do miss my computer games—especially Arcade Mania and Tetris—sometimes, those are not what I think of when I reflect back on my childhood summers. The things I remember are real, and most importantly, they will not grow old with time. My parents did the same things with us that their parents did with them. I plan to do the same things with my kids. I don't think mankind will ever tire of spending time with family and playing outside. Our toys may get bigger and more expensive, but at the root of our summers will still be down-to-earth fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Decisions, decisions

I think it's warped that in our society, we will make most of our most important decisions while we are young adults. What do I know about life? How am I supposed to be smart enough to choose where to go to school, who to marry, where to start a career, and where to live, all before I turn 25? How am I supposed to know when I am ready to make deeper, more spiritual commitments in my life? There are just so many unknowns up in the air right now, and while that can be exciting, it is mostly just frustrating.

But I guess there is some sense to it. We need to learn early to rely on God. When we are children, we rely on our parents, but once high school graduation hits, that relationship isn't as protective as it used to be. Suddenly, God is a much bigger part of the picture because while we may feel ready to conquer the world, we really have no idea what we are doing. There are so many decisions we have to make that no one else can make for us, but at least God knows everything—he can help us out a bit. The hard part is trusting that he will help us out, maybe even point the way every now and then.

So we young adults may feel like we are blundering through every decision we make, but even with our lack of knowledge and understanding about the world, there is a purpose for all the confusion: God wants to be a part of our lives. Maybe some day I'll be granted a tiny bit of his knowledge, but until then, I guess I had better be content riding a bike with the training wheels still attached. At least I know that they'll keep me from falling.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The magic of a new series

I have always loved books. I love the way they smell, I love the way they feel, and I love the excitement of discovering new worlds. Every summer I have the same dilemma—what nonsense should I fill my head with this year? I don't want any of the nonfiction stuff or the classics—I want something diverting and fun. I spend hours staring at our bookshelves, weighing the pros and cons of all of the unread books. (Although I usually ignore my dad's Star Trek bookcase unless I'm really desperate.) And I almost always end up by the bookshelf that contains Harry Potter and all of our Mormon fiction books. Every summer I have the same debate without myself—has it been long enough since I last read Harry Potter? I try to not read the books two years in a row, but that is awfully hard sometimes. Especially when you don't have anything else to read and the person next to you is giggling at their Harry Potter book.

But yesterday I was in the sampler section of the library, and I found The Runelords by David Farland. I was recommended these books by a friend years ago, but I have never had the chance to get my hands on one. Until yesterday. To my delight, I learned that there are at least 8 books in the series, which means I won't have to struggle finding a book to read for a while. I was distracted for the rest of the day at work because I just wanted to go home, put on my pajamas, and delve into a new, unexplored world.

For me, starting a new series is a lot like going on a long-anticipated vacation. I have no idea what I am going to encounter, but I know that I will create good memories along the way. Stand-alone novels are wonderful too, but they are missing . . . something. They aren't as magical because you don't spend as much time with the characters, watching them learn and grow, becoming acquainted with their world. One of the reasons why Harry Potter will always be so special to me is because I grew up with Harry Potter. I read the first book when I was about 12, and I read the last one when I was 19. I was with Harry every step of the way, chronicling facts of his life and memorizing favorite scenes. Along with the rest of the world, I would eagerly anticipate the release of the next novel after years of speculating about who would be the next Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, who would die, and how the series would end. It was a truly magical experience, and I am sad it's over.

But experiencing the magic of a good series isn't a once-in-a-lifetime type of experience. In fact, it can be revisited as long as you keep finding new series to read. Even if the books aren't that good, you are still taking part in a world that an author passionately created. That was one of the main reason why I was able to stick out the Wheel of Time series—I was a part of Rand's, Egwene's, Mat's, and Perrin's lives and I wanted to stay with them to the end. And being able to brag that I have made it through 10+ really long books can be a magical experience too.

You know the magic is working when you look forward to your evenings alone with your books. Whether you are joining forces with Harry Potter, Jim Hawkins, Nathan Steed, Rand al'Thor, or Frodo Baggins, you will remember those late nights of reading by lamplight. You will remember the tears and the laughter. You still may not know how to pronounce some of the names, but you will remember the characters. You know the magic is working when you feel a void inside of you when you finish a series and are unsure about how to recommence normal life.

Every series is a new adventure. Each book is a fun ride if you just let the magic overtake you.

I Will Always Return (Spirit)

So, I was bored at work (big shocker there), and I was wasting time on Facebook. I came across a post Melissa had made and decided to do one of my own. It's one of those answer-questions-with-your-iPod things. I get a real kick out of these things.

That's How You Know It's Love (Deana Carter). Apparently I'm okay with whatever someone just asked me.

The World Will Know (Newsies). Wa ha—it's a secret until I see fit to let the world know.

Send Me a Song (Celtic Women). Actually, any guy who sends me a song won't have to do much else to woo me.

I Promise You (Backstreet Boys). Um, not really sure what that means.

The Ride of the Rohirrim (The Return of the King). Yes! I'm going to save the world with Eomer!

Bad Day (Daniel Powter). That sucks.

Africa (Toto). That's random.

Spiderman Theme (Vocal Point). Well, that song is stuck in my head a lot.

9. WHAT IS 2+2?
Have I Told You Lately that I Love You (Roger Whittaker). Way to avoid answering the question.

Some People Change (Kenny Chesney). This could either be really good or really bad.

She's Everything (Brad Paisley). Um, that's just wrong . . .

Callin' Baton Rogue (Garth Brooks). I don't think I know this song. Apparently my life story is a mystery to me.

Strangers Like Me (Tarzan). Awesome. Goes along well with #2.

Diamond Dolls (The Chipmunk Adventure). Apparently this guy is really rich and good-looking.

I Want to Be the One (Lonestar). Of course, everyone would want to be my parent.

Real Love (John Michael Montgomery). Uh, no. A little bit too tacky.

Blood Ritual (Pirates of the Caribbean). That's it, I'm never going to die.

What a Comforting Thing to Know (Slipper and the Rose). Maybe it's making up poetry about dead kings.

Runnin' Away With My Heart (Lonestar). No one can catch me.

You Found Me (Kelly Clarkson). How touching.

In Another's Eyes (Trisha Yearwood). I don't know what to say about this one.

From This Moment On (Shania Twain). Now that REALLY sucks. But, it's also kind of true.

Walk in the Woods (Jon Schmidt). I probably would regret that if I got attacked by some creepy guy.

Loving You (Elvis Presley). That makes sense. Usually the only people that can make me laugh are the ones I love the most.

Once in Awhile (Billy Dean). Well, I do cry once in a while . . .

When You Believe (Prince of Egypt). So true. Dang it.

Beautiful Disaster (Kelly Clarkson). Um, yep.

Amazed (Lonestar). Apparently, someone is amazed by me.

Softly (Lonestar). This shuffle doesn't work very well.

Voice of Truth (Casting Crowns). Are you trying to tell me something?

I Will Always Return (Spirit). I do love this song.

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Amazing Carter/Rushton Race

Playing a game with competitive people doesn't have to be exasperating and frustrating; it can actually be pretty fun. Proof of that was seen when 55 members of Julie and Welby Rushton's family decided to play a little game—the Amazing Race.

We were split into 10–15 teams—Gary and Bob tried their hardest to keep families split up, and they did a pretty good job. I have never been particularly close to my Carter/Rushton cousins or aunts and uncles, but I have always loved spending time with my dad's family. For that reason I was glad that the teams were divided the way they were. It not only forced family bonding, but it also added a new level of competition to the race. Everyone wanted to beat the members of their own family more than anything else.

After Bob, Gayla, Gary, and Paula were to their respective stations, Dad set us loose. He was bombarded by team leaders—the brothers, the sister, and their spouses—all of whom were pushing and shoving to be the first to get their clue. Then a long line of cars shot down the street and began making its way through the suddenly dangerous town of Payson, Utah.

Everyone was in on the game. Even the small children who didn't really know what was going on were excited. Brooke—at least I think it was Brooke—kept calling everyone losers and then giggling away. Brad was convinced that we won the game every time we ran back to the car after doing some ridiculous stunt like mummifying ourselves in toilet paper. That stunt greatly contributed to the "not breaking any traffic laws" because most of the drivers hadn't recovered from their dizziness when they hurtled back onto the road. Too bad Gary didn't get to see his brilliant plan in motion.

We spent the next hour or so zooming past each other on the road and doing whatever we could to slow other groups down when their stations overlapped with ours. No one questioned putting pantyhose on their head if it meant beating their spouses or siblings back to Bob's house. No one had a problem with fishing for a lamp shade and then putting it on their head if it meant having bragging rights for the rest of eternity. These were sacrifices we were all willing to make.

In the end, it was Rod's group that won. (And Kenny's group—even though he wasn't driving he had to make sure everyone knew that he played a part in winning.) The cars trailed back over the next half hour, along with the complaints and excuses for not winning the race: the roads were different than they were 20 years ago, the old man in front of us was going 20 MPH the entire time, our route was strategically inconvenient, the clues were confusing (about half of the groups ended up going to the wrong ballpark), I got stuck with all of the little kids, or—this was probably the most popular excuse—I was actually following traffic laws the entire time. But we all know that no one really did follow the traffic rules the entire time. Rod summed it up pretty well when he said, "When I went to Payson High School, the speed limit was 55." That's probably why he won.

Amidst all of the playful banter, I think I detected a strong desire for a rematch. And I am sure that will lead to another rematch because none of us will want to stop until we have our fair share of winning. Which is never going to happen, by the way, because even if all of us could satiate our desire to win in a normal lifetime, we would never get to that point; eventually the competition would get so hot that innocent bystanders would end up in the hospital and various family members would have to be bailed out of jail.

But until the Amazing Carter/Rushton Race is banned from the universe for the better good of mankind, I'm pretty sure we'll create some pretty legendary stories. I can just see all the uncles 50 years from now—all of them completely bald and unable to walk—telling their grandchildren, "When I was your age, I nearly killed your great-uncle when I towed his car into the swimming pool down town."

You gotta love family reunions.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

No matter where you go, Elk Ridge is the best place to live

I have always been a small-town girl. For me, going to BYU was going to the "big city." My first week of college was stressful mostly because of all of the big buildings, the many traffic lights (Payson only has like 9; Elk Ridge has like 9 stop signs, but no lights), and too many people. I was used to walking down the halls of the high school or the streets of my neighborhood knowing that most of the people at least recognized me. That was not the case when I first started college. I was invisible. Invisible in a big, scary city.

But it is hard to experience college life when you are living a half hour away with your family. So I moved out my sophomore year—I had great roommates, a great ward, I loved my classes—it was what I always thought college should be. But I missed seeing the stars at night. I missed having a yard. I missed Elk Ridge water and having access to a piano all the time. However, despite all the things I was leaving behind, I knew that Provo was where I needed to be because it was an environment that allowed me to grow and develop my independence; I needed my independence more than I needed good water and grass. After moving home for the summer at the completion of my junior year, I vowed that I would never move back home again—I just wasn't happy in an environment when I was another one of the kids rather than an equal.

However, I ended up moving home this summer anyway, and this time I will probably be home for more than just the summer. A combination of intense senioritis, roommates, and just plain being sick of life in BYU-Provo led me to think that even living under my parents' roof again wouldn't be so bad. And I was right, mostly because my parents started treating me more like and adult and I tried harder to act like one. Happy at home again, I was able to enjoy all that Elk Ridge has to offer: the people that wave at you on the street whether they know you or not; the nights out on the porch watching the sun set, reading a good book, or talking; the quiet, peaceful setting; and being surrounded by good people that you grew up with or that helped raise you.

The only way that Elk Ridge could be better would be if it were smaller and more remote. Oddly enough, while we were on our way to Bryce Canyon, we passed a gate that said Elk Ridge across the top. My dad immediately turned around and parked the car next to the gate. We all got out and took our picture, and then we did a little bit of exploring. All of the "houses" in this little area looked like summer cabins. All of them were big and beautiful, and were surrounded by land—not buildings. They were completely cut off from civilization, alone in a beautiful setting. We all wished that we could just stay there for the rest of the summer. However, keeping everyone fed would have been a problem. The nearest grocery store was hours away, and for a family that goes through 12 gallons of milk a week, that would get old fast. Going to a movie or even seeing a town required even more driving. So while this Elk Ridge certainly wouldn't be a permanent place of residence, it would certainly be heaven for a few weeks or months.

It's nice to know that there are Elk Ridges wherever you go. I don't have to resign myself to the fact that I may have to raise a family in a place where there are no stars, no magical snow, and no stunning summer sunsets. I don't have to settle down in a place that is full of pollution, cars, and Walmarts. Because, at least in Utah, all you have to do is drive a little bit out of the way—and you will find your Elk Ridge.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

It's amazing what God can do with some rocks and bunch of dirt

My family did something a bit different this year for the 4th of July and went down to St. George and visited some of the national parks. Throughout the course of the trip, we saw Zion's, Bryce Canyon, Dixie, and I think a little bit of Capitol Reef. Despite my Utah bearings, this was my first time visiting any of those parks. My family's idea of a fun vacation has always involved amusement parks, not hiking, which is why I have been to Lagoon about 30 times. I had a couple of bad experiences with hikes during girl's camp, and I just haven't been a fan of hiking since then. (Young Women leaders are professional manipulators—they tell you a hike will only be a couple of laid-back miles, but they always end up being 8-mile strenuous hikes.)

But this year we just wanted to get away for a little while, so we decided it was time to see some of the national parks. (Actually, all of our other options sort of fell through, so seeing the national parks was about our only option.) And we didn't even do a whole lot of hiking. In fact, I wore flip flops the entire trip. It was sweet.

But I soon realized that national parks are not just for hiking—they are for seeing. As I looked at the majestic red, rocky mountains, I was filled with a sense of wonder that I usually only feel when I'm looking at one of God's unfathomable creations, like the stars. Give God some water and some dirt, and he can create something that people all over the world will come to see.

Spending the last 4 years of my life at BYU, I am ashamed to say, has made me a bit . . . reluctant, I guess, to claim my Utah heritage. People come to BYU from all of these exciting places, places that don't have really long winters and places that don't have a whole lot of Mormons. We Utahan natives often get put into a bubble—a bubble of naive, boring, Molly-Mormons. I have always resented that. I wished that I had an exciting place to call home. I wished that I could claim a heritage that wasn't shared by virtually every Mormon in Utah. I wished that I had seen something more exciting than the Rocky Mountains. Maybe then people wouldn't think they had me all figured out the minute they found out I was born and raised in Utah County.

My trip down south has changed the way I feel about some things, however. First of all, Utah is gorgeous. I used to think that southern Utah was ugly, dusty, and dry—once you got past Santaquin, all you would see were dead trees, broken-down houses, and people mowing the dirt. I would hear my grandparents talk about their growing-up years in Genola and Wayne County, and I would be thinking to myself, "Well, Grandpa, I'm pretty sure your memory isn't what it once was." But now I know that I was the one that was a bit deluded.

After seeing the impressive sights of Bryce Canyon, we took the scenic route home. Every time we go on a road trip, I always have at least three things in the car with me: a book or two, my cross stitch, and my iPod (although in the olden days I had my tape player named Corder). I usually try to last as long as possible in the car without using any of my sources of entertainment. During our long drive home, I didn't have to pull out even my iPod until we were a few hours from home. For three hours, I stared out the window, amazed at the beauty around me. I watched the mountains turn from red to green, watched the scenery turn from rocks to trees, and I never got bored. There was just so much to see, even when we hit the areas that I had previously thought were just dead trees, broken-down houses, and dirt. My lack of boredom may have been in part due to my fear of heights, but that didn't stop me from appreciating the grand sights below me. I even managed to keep my eyes open while we drove on the road that had huge drop-offs (as Tyrel liked to call them) on each side of the road, although I did have to hold on to something the entire time. Thank goodness I wasn't driving.

Having seen some of God's incredible creations—the mountains of Utah—I feel a bit more cultured and a lot more proud to claim this state as my home. Utah has a lot more to offer than just a bunch of "naive" Mormons. People come from all over the world to see our rocks and dirt, and I am proud of that. Utah may not be as exciting as the coastal cities of New York and California, but it does allow us to glimpse a little bit of paradise. I don't think anyplace else can top that, no matter how interesting the culture may be.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Maybe, just maybe, this July won't roast us all

For me, July has always kind of been a miserable month. Growing up during a long drought, we rarely got any moisture after May and it was always so HOT, especially in July and August. By this time softball season would be over and we would retreat inside for a couple of months, although we would usually emerge from our houses when the sun was going down to enjoy those amazing summer nights. Because of the dry and miserable heat, we were often denied the pleasure of doing our own fireworks—one of the only good things about July. For several years, the only opportunity we had to watch fireworks was from the roof of our house when the Stadium of Fire was giving its show 20 miles away.

But this July just might be different. Today on my way to work, it actually rained—and some of those raindrops were BIG. Yesterday we got a pretty impressive rainstorm (however short it may have been), and I was very grateful that my car hadn't started that day so that I could be home during all of the excitement. Tyrel grabbed his video camera and me, Kimberly, and Shannan opened the doors and looked outside in awe. I love seeing the water flood down the roads. I love watching the rain gutters overflow. I love watching nature rage such an awesome battle. I have been severely thunder-storm deprived, and even wimpy Utah storms never cease to amaze me.

I checked the weather forecast for the next 10 days and couldn't believe what I saw—the hottest temperature for the next 10 days is supposed to be 93º. The 4th of July weekend is actually supposed to be in the 80s (too bad I'll be in St. George that weekend and will still have to endure the 100º+ temperatures).

Maybe this month I'll be able to look out the window and never have to see the heat sucking the life out of the atmosphere. Maybe I won't feel near death every time I am out in the brutal sun for more than 30 seconds. Maybe we'll actually see RAIN this July. Maybe the grass will be green and healthy rather than—dead. And maybe, just maybe, I will experience my first pleasant July ever.