Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween in the good old days

So I am sitting here, bored, waiting for Kimberly to wake up and for Shannan to satisfy her hermit needs so that we can have an uproariously fun party. I keep glancing out the window, hoping to see the first of the trick-or-treaters, but no luck yet.

But then again, the huge bowl of chocolate in our piano room may end up being consumed by Carters and Searles only, because I doubt we'll get a whole lot of trick-or-treaters this year because no one knows how to have fun anymore. For some reason, parents won't allow their kids to knock on strangers' doors for candy, and besides, it's raining. That's enough to make any mother want to put her foot down. But I mostly blame the invention of the trunk-or-treat. What a great way to spoil the fun of a child's Halloween—giving the children candy that they didn't have to trudge through the freezing, wet streets for in a costume overloaded with extra padding for warmth. Sheesh—these days kids don't even have to work for their candy.

And it gets even worse than that. I used to think that Halloween was a kid's holiday, just like Valentine's Day, but I have been proven wrong again and again. Now adults are expected to dress up for work and school and for ridiculous parties. Apparently, most adults spend a good portion of the month of October planning up creative Halloween costumes and they actually enjoy themselves. I am totally fine with others making a fool out of themselves on Halloween—it's actually quite entertaining for me—but the minute they try to get me involved with their "fun," that's when I run away to my parents house and watch a "scary" movie. A much better way to spend Halloween. And every now and then we get give candy to the cute little families that knock on our door.

In the good, old days, my dad would take us trick-or-treating while my mom would get a much-needed break. (But that was only on the off chance that my dad didn't have to deliver pizza to hundreds of hungry zombies, witches, ghosts, and zebras.) My mom would make us wear coats over our costumes. We would go through as much of the neighborhood as we could without dropping dead. And at some point, we would stop at the Lee's house down the road and drink delicious hot cider while conversing with the neighbors. Then, when dad couldn't make us get out of the warm van anymore, we would come home and Mom would feed us something warm, and then we would go visit the grandparents.

That's what Halloween is supposed to be like—not crazy costume parties and lame trunk-or-treating. It makes me sad to think that my kids will probably never experience the kind of Halloween I enjoyed as a kid.

Wow. Now the thunder is rolling and the leaves are scurrying for . . . cover. And the hail is coming down murderously. Yep, I'll be surprised if I see any trick-or-treaters tonight. The good thing, however, is that Kimberly and Shannan have now emerged. Time for some awesome sister bonding.

And kudos to anyone who is adventurous enough to venture out in this weather. They will be my new favorite people.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The battle between fall and winter rages on

I woke up to a strange sight this morning: there was snow on the ground, but there were also brightly colored leaves on the trees. Huge black clouds were trying to overtake the horizon, but blue patches of sky were still shining through. The last stage of the fall–winter war is upon us.

So while I am going to miss seeing this familiar sight . . .

. . . I am looking forward to see this again.

All I can say now is this: Battle on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Journal writing and learning from the past

I spend a lot of time with my journals. I write in my current one about once a week, and I am in the process of typing up my journals, something I try to do a little bit of each day. I am currently on Journal #9, which spans my 8th-9th grade years. It was with this journal that I made the goal to write every single day of the year, and I almost delivered on that promise. I only missed 15 days during the year 2002. Which means that I have had to type up way too many entries about an emotional teenage girl who just couldn't quite fit in with any of the "cool" crowds and who worried about not having enough money to buy new school clothes.

I got my first journal from my Grandma Rushton the day I was baptized, and I've been a bit obsessed with journal writing ever since. Maybe I am just incredibly self-centered and feel that it is my duty to tell the world what happened during every stage of my life. However, there is more to it than that. :)

I have narrowed my journal-writing obsession to 5 main reasons:
  • I have a hard time letting things go. It isn't until I have written something down that I can put it aside and move on with my life.
  • The writer in me refuses to be silenced. I need to write: for me, writing is almost like breathing. It's a part of who I am and I love doing it.
  • It is crucial to the decision-making process. I'm not one to shout out to the entire world everything that is going on in my life. In fact, I am pretty secretive about a lot of things. Writing in my journal is how I work through things and make decisions. It's a pretty good system, I think.
  • It helps me sleep. I have never been a good sleeper. Don't get me wrong--I love sleeping--but falling asleep and staying asleep has always been very difficult for me. However, writing helps me sleep. I do most of my intense thinking at night (which doesn't help) and I have found that writing something down before I go to bed does wonders in clearing my mind. And since I started a blog I have been sleeping so much better. True, having a consistent sleeping schedule helps, but if my mind is racing there is no way I will fall asleep, regardless of how tired I am. Writing is one of the best soothers of the mind that I've been able to find.
  • For my posterity. General authorities are always telling us to write things down and I took that advice to heart when I was young. Now I feel duty-bound at times to keep my journal current. I think it's fascinating to read other people's journals, and maybe some day one of my grandchildren will feel the same way. Half the time I am writing to them rather than myself.
So aside from journal writing actually being fun and fulfilling, I have also received many blessings from this practice. Even before I started typing my journals, I always kept an old journal by my bedside so that I could read it whenever I was having difficulty sleeping or something. And it has always been fascinating to me to watch myself struggle through something and then come out victorious. I vividly remember certain experiences that I didn't think would ever end, but I got through them and am stronger today because of it. It baffles me sometimes the things that threw me when I was a teenager or a child, but it is a reminder to me that I have grown and overcome some barriers, even if I still have many more to overcome.

It also entertains me to see how little I have changed in certain areas, too. I always had a bit of an attitude, and my sense of humor can be traced back to my childhood days. It's just nice to know that no matter how much you change, the person you started out being will always be inside you somewhere.

Many times I will read entries in which I was struggling with something similar to what I am dealing with today. It's almost like having my own set of personal scriptures--I can look to the past to find answers about my future. I don't usually find any profound answers other than that I made it though it then, so I can certainly do it now.

And, of course, I love reading about the funny stories, memorable vacations, and growing experiences. I have always been a little bit afraid I would forget everything. That fear is alleviated, however, because I have written things down, whether they are important or not. I will always have my past with me even if I forget the finer points. This is why if there is ever a fire and I can only save a few things, I will go for my journals first.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hope for a chaotic world

I have been reading Man's Search for Meaning and have found it quite an interesting read so far. And it kind of makes me feel like I'm doing homework again, so that's a double bonus.

One of the things that interested me most so far is the author's observation of man's inward ability to hope, to believe that things will be better in the future no matter how bad the present is. I have been thinking about this a lot over the past week and think it is quite true. I have been doing a bit of "searching for meaning" myself, and through it all I have had this vision of a future where everything will work out, where things will be better than they are now. It is that more than anything that has given me the strength I need to simply enjoy life as I know it.

Then I started thinking about the world we live in, particularly in America. As Larry the Cable Guy says, "They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq; why don't we give them ours? We're not using it anymore." All around us, marriage and family are being attacked. It seems like no one has a moral center anymore—life is all about pleasure and greed. When you look at the world this way, it is hard to believe that any of us could hope for a better future—surely it is going to get worse, not better.

And then I went to my brother's Court of Honor. I have never been to one before and it ended up being a much more emotional experience than I thought it would be. For once I was glad to have only one brother, so that Tyrel could enjoy accomplishments like this without having to compete with any brothers. The limelight was all on him. I was incredibly touched by the love his leaders showed him and that Brother Hansen and Tanner were there to witness it all. Tyrel may have lost his best friend when he was 9, but Tyler's family has still witnessed most of Tyrel's life-changing moments.

Anyway, there is a point to this rambling. . . . As I watched Tyrel recite the oath, I couldn't help but rejoice inwardly that the world has such a being. Temptations of sin have no power over him—he is only capable of good. This greatness is seen in individuals all around the church, and, thankfully, outside the church as well. Boys and girls are still being taught values and morals and they will go on to teach their children and their neighbors those same principles.

So when I look at the world through this light, I have every reason to hope that things will get better. Of course, things will have to get worse before they get better, but there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. We're not going to kill each other off until there are no humans left. We're not going to become so immoral that we become mere animals. There are still good parents in this world, good people who follow the examples of their parents. Better yet, God has given us tools—scriptures, living prophets, modern revelation—so that we won't fail like so many Nephite generations did. So I'm not worried too much about the future. The world is still crumbling away, but there is a bright hope that things will be better in the future.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Harry Potter Withdrawals

  • The sudden and brutal ending to what was a delightful romp with Harry and his friends
  • Reaching the end of the Harry Potter series after being solely devoted to them for weeks
  • Watching others bask in the joy of the Harry Potter series
  • Feelings of guilt and betrayal when considering what book to read next
  • A sense of loss and confusion
  • A painful, constricting feeling in your chest
  • A feeling that a beloved friend has left you
  • Reoccurring dreams that involve Voldemort or Draco Malfoy chasing you
  • The inability to stop envisioning particular scenes throughout the series
  • An intense sadness whenever you think of all those who died in the fight against Voldemort
  • A firm belief that Harry and his friends are still living out there in our world—we just can't see them
  • Discuss your feelings with another devoted fan; it is always best to let others know that you are suffering so that they can help you
  • Better yet, convert someone else to the series so that you can live vicariously through them
  • Write about the things you have learned or felt
  • Make up your own Harry Potter-themed game (I have a trivia and a scattergories game to my credit)
  • Play a Harry Potter-themed game that has already been made (my family has Harry Potter Clue and SceneIt, as well as a Quidditch card game that is lying around somewhere)
  • Read the "auxiliary" Harry Potter books: The Tales of Beedle the Bard, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Quidditch Through the Ages to help you wean yourself away from Harry Potter's world
  • Find a new book to read. Don't worry—Harry won't feel like you betrayed him
  • Be active! Play outside, make something, or go somewhere
  • Time. Even if you have tried all of the above, only time can heal such gaping holes in your life

In case you haven't noticed, I finished the 7th Harry Potter book yesterday. I am a champion survivor of Harry Potter Withdrawals, but that doesn't mean that it isn't hard to let the books go when I finish them, even several read-throughs later. Particularly the 7th one—that is surely the most awesome book in the universe.

I try to pace myself when I read the books. I can't do anything nonstop anyway because I start feeling guilty about all of the other things I am neglecting. So this time 'round, I did most of my Harry Potter reading at night so that I could be free from the burden of guilt, allowing me to fully immerse myself in this wonderful world.

It is really easy to pace yourself when you know exactly where all of the intense parts are. I was able to plan the reading of the intense last pages of each book so that I could read them in the privacy of my own bedroom after everyone else had settled down for the night. This system worked very well until I got to the 7th book.

Usually by the time I get to the 6th book, I am ready to put Harry Potter aside and move on with my life. But, I have to see it to the end and I dive into the 7th book. As of the present time, the 7th book is the only book in the series that still makes my heart race and my foot tap in anticipation. And I failed at the whole pacing myself thing. I read the last 400 pages of the book in one day because I simply could not put it down; there was so much awesome stuff going on. I did take a few breaks—I watched the entire football game, and when I was a page and a half away from Fred dying, I put my bookmark in and went up to finish watching Iron Man 2 with my family. I just wasn't ready to say goodbye to Fred yet.

After I finished the 7th book for the first time, I started the whole series over again because the shock of being Harry Potter-less probably would have killed me at that point. So from that point on, I've always paid close attention to Fred and what makes him different from George. Many people say that they are the same person, but I strongly disagree. Fred is a lot meaner than George—particularly to Ron and other unfortunate younglings—but he also has a loving, compassionate heart. Underneath all of that fire and mischief, Fred was always the leader of the two twins, always the first to follow the right path, even though it was hard. George was always a split second behind Fred, but Fred was always the leader. Because of his undying loyalty to the good things of the world, he didn't think about the things he would have to sacrifice; he knew those things didn't matter. Life got pretty hard for him toward the end, but he was able to laugh with George through it all. And it was Fred who forgave Percy first. Needless to say, I love Fred a whole lot, and it was really hard to say goodbye to him this time.

Anyway . . . I've been thinking about which books are may favorite and have come up with the following order:
  1. Book 7
  2. Book 3
  3. Book 4
  4. Book 5
  5. Book 1
  6. Book 2
  7. Book 6
I'm still debating between whether the 2nd or 6th book should take the last spot, but I think the 6th one wins by a tiny hair. I have read books 6 and 7 five times, book 5 about six times, book 4 seven–eight times, books 2 and 3 eight–ten times, and book 1 about eight times. Reading the books this time wasn't as much of an adventure; it was more like being reunited with old friends. Except for the 7th book—that book had my heart racing almost as much as it did the first time.

Sigh. It is just so hard to move on with life after you finish something so good. I'm a little worried about how I'll handle the next week without Harry Potter, actually. Harry Potter has been my escape from my meaningless life for almost a month and it kept me from disappearing under a cloud of depression a couple of times. Now I'm going to have to adjust without it.

But God managed to teach me a couple of things along the way, so I think I'll be fine. :) And, as always, I can't help but marvel at the incredible world God has given us in addition to J.K. Rowling's fantasy world. I may wish that I could journey off to Hogwarts with my very own magic wand and trunkful of spellbooks, but I would take my life with the gospel over that fantasy life any day. It's always comforting to know that even though you're leaving a spectacular fantasy life behind, your real life—confusing and hard as it may be—is always worth returning to because it is . . . better.

So now that you all know just how big of a freak I am, I think I am going to be brave and try to go to bed without my Harry Potter bedtime story. Wish me luck.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why I love being home alone

It's a gorgeous rainy day and Tyrel is at work. Shannan will be home in a half hour or so, but I have had another lovely day all to myself. You'd think that I'd go crazy cooped up in the house all the time, but when I am all alone with a house full of toys, normal rules no longer apply.

When I am home alone, I can do whatever the heck I want—which usually means that I do what I usually do, just a bit louder and more out in the open. I can watch whatever movie my heart desires, I can bang on the piano for as long as I want as loud as I want (I'm not sure how the neighbors feel about that, but they haven't complained yet), I can read without being disturbed, I can turn on some music and sing full out without feeling stupid, and I can eat chocolate without having to share any—that is, if I dispose of the evidence after I'm done. And when it's raining or snowing outside, I can put my pj bottoms and socks on and cuddle up by a window. Being home alone is awesome.

A lot of parents worry when they leave their teenagers home alone, but my parents never had to worry too much, because we Carters are very unimaginative with the ways we spend our solitary time. Being left home alone while the rest of the family goes out to the movies is most certainly not a punishment; it is something that is sought after. It's no wonder we're all shy—we just like our alone time too much. Even during my teen years, I never even thought of throwing a party or inviting boys over. All I cared about was that rare peace and solitude.

Leaving KIDS home alone is another matter completely, however. My parents are still finding out the kinds of things we did while they were gone, the most extravagant of those being jumping off the roof onto the trampoline and pouring mop water all over the kitchen floor so we could slide around the kitchen. And it wasn't just the younger children that caused all the mischief; I'll admit that I was usually at the head of the mischievous activity. I guess I liked being the boss more than I was willing to admit even to myself.

It all comes down to freedom; when you are all alone, there is no one to laugh at you for wanting to watch a chick flick for the 40th time, no one there to contradict your views, no one there to compete with over the piano, tv, or bathroom. And no one there to tell on you if you do something you don't want anyone to know about. :) And I'm not talking about when you did something you weren't supposed to do—I'm talking about the things you do for innocent fun that no one else would understand.

So here I am, sitting in the dark, with nothing but the hum of the fridge to keep me company. I'll be the first to say that I get a little bit too much pleasure out of this.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Humans and creation

This week, I finished 2 major cross-stitching projects that I started about 10 years ago. Anyone who has ever cross-stitched before should know that most projects take months, if not years, to complete. Needless to say, finishing 2 of these projects in one week makes me feel quite excited and proud that I did it. I gave up on both projects several times because they had so many mistakes: my First Vision one wasn't what I expected it to be (the software that converted Greg Olsen's First Vision painting to a cross-stitch pattern was far from perfect) and my horse/water one was just so complex that it always took me a half hour to figure out where to start and required intense concentration from then on out.

But conference weekend gave me the spark I needed to finish both patterns. I have been doing a lot of sitting this week, putting large amounts of strain on my back, because I was driven to finish these two long-unfinished projects. In truth, I never thought I would finish them. But I did. And it was a great feeling.

I've been thinking a lot about the Creation lately, probably because we talk about it a lot in my temple prep class, and I just got through Moses and Abraham and just started Genesis—all of which outline the Creation story. I've thought a lot about why we would need to have 3 records (actually, more like 4; if I remember correctly, there's another one in the Bible somewhere . . .) of the creation of the world as we know it.

I've also been thinking a lot about how to fill my large amounts of time, and I have found that when I am creating something, even if it is as unimportant as a picture display of horses running through water or a delicious batch of breadsticks, I feel like I am accomplishing something worthwhile. My life doesn't seem as meaningless; I have a goal in mind, and the accomplishment of that goal makes me happy and proud of my accomplishments.

And I know that I am not the only one who finds pleasure and satisfaction out of creation. Tyrel has been almost as bored as I have the past month or so, and about a week ago, he started building an elaborate K-nex contraption that circles the entire living room. He knows that it will only be a matter of time before mom can't take it anymore and he has to take it down, but the joy of building something of his own design and then testing it out is enough to keep him at it.

In short, we are all creators. That is something we get from our Father in Heaven. He created this world for us, and I'm sure he got an immense sense of satisfaction when he stopped on that 7th day and rested. He probably couldn't wait for us to get down here so that we could start trying out his creations. And because God takes pleasure in creation, so do we. It is in our very nature.

So even if what we are creating is not something that will bless generations, the very act of creation is much more important than the final project. By building, sewing, cooking, writing, teaching, raising children, by doing thousands of other things, we come closer to God. He has given us a small amount of his power and it is only natural that when we sit back to rest after finishing a long project, we cannot help but think, "And I saw that it was good."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

General conference weekend! Woo hoo!!!

Like many of you out there, I absolutely love conference weekend. It's pretty much like Christmas, only we get it twice a year rather than just once. For starters, I get to spend an entire weekend in my pajamas with my hair braided, I have an excuse to cross-stitch and/or crochet for hours on end, we get tons of superb food, no church meetings on Sunday, and lots of quality family time. Then add the spiritual feast that is spread out over 2 days and things just can't get a whole lot better than that.

I've always found it quite fascinating to hear from other people what they thought the theme of conference was and what their favorite talks were. A lot of the time, people express similar themes and favorite talks, but there are also a surprising number of different themes and favorite talks. It just goes to show that conference speaks to all of us individually and in our own special ways.

So, some of my favorite conference moments:
  • Elder Holland's reminiscing from before the dawn of time and his words of thanks to his mother.
  • "But what does that have to do with flying an airplane?" Possibly the most awesome thing that has ever been said in conference.
  • The family choir. That is one of the most precious things I have ever seen.
  • As usual, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was amazing, but I thought "We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet" and "Come Let Us Rejoice" were particularly powerful.
  • President Eyring's talk on trusting the Lord.
  • Elder Oaks' clarifying points on personal and general revelation.
If I had actually taken notes like I had planned, that list would be a lot longer. Maybe next conference . . . And some day, I am going to dress up like a guy so that I can go to the priesthood session so I can hear the MTC choir. I think they should sing at the Relief Society broadcast; I am quite sure that would boost attendance.

As for the theme? It was a bit harder than usual for me to put my finger on it this time, but I think it would have to be centered on not following the ways of the world and simplifying our lives, particularly by weeding out certain technologies. President Eyring's talk really struck home to me. Being the independent person that I am, I sometimes forget that God is in charge of all things and that he will make sure everything is okay—that is not entirely up to me.

It is somewhat scary how often we keep hearing the pornography, immorality, and drug talks, but this conference I was particularly struck by how lovingly the Bretheren addressed us when they touched on these topics. They weren't rebuking us, but rather encouraging us to change, filled with love and hope. While I don't have any of those issues in my life, I know that these problems are growing alarmingly fast in the church, but the Bretheren will not give up on these people because they know that through the power of the Atonement, miracles will happen. Their genuine love and concern for each of us was more action-inspiring than any rebuke ever could have been (unless, of course, it was delivered by Jeffery R. Holland; his talks are always awesome).

So the presents are opened and the house is a mess; now it is time to clean up and use our presents the best way we know how, praying that they will last us until next general conference.