Thursday, April 28, 2011

The center of the universe

How many teenagers does it take to screw in a light bulb?

Just one--and it revolves around them.

Sometimes, I'll admit, I get caught up in my own universe. It's one of the benefits/downsides of being single--everything about my life is centered on what I want and what I'm doing. At least, I like to blame my self-centeredness on being single.

But sometimes, things start to fall in place enough to make me think the world really does revolve around me. For example, a few days before I made the move to the Salt Lake area, I read in the news that the Church was redoing all of the YSA wards in the state, combining singles regardless of their situation in life. This happened right as I was moving not just out of my parents' house but out of the county, and as I was a little bit worried about being too old for a typical student ward but not really wanting to be a part of an odds-and-ends singles ward--the YSAs who are living at home, the YSAs who are well past marriageable age (you know, like 31 or something), or the YSAs who are fresh out of high school and excited at the prospect of going to church with the big kids.

How convenient that that dilemma was solved for me.

Going back a little bit, on the day I got that enormous Christmas present (a.k.a., no more job hunting), I had no idea that I would actually love my job, that I would have a boss that leads exactly the way I want to follow (very laid back about life in general, snarky, and believes in delegating and then leaving you alone), that I would like everyone I interacted with even though many of them had U logos on their clothing, and that I would have unique opportunities for personal growth every day. All I wanted was something to pay the bills and give me something to do--I didn't think I would get the entire package.

How convenient that things worked out so well for me.

It isn't just recently that I've felt this way, however. Even as a child, I was aware of my center-of-the-worldness.

When I was little, I was convinced that I was my Grandpa Jackson's favorite granddaughter. He would sneak me gummy bears when my parents wouldn't fall for my crying tantrums, he took me to the farm and then retold the experience every chance he got (I talked more during that precious hour than I have the rest of my life combined), and his face always seemed to light up whenever I came over to visit.

I felt the same way about my Grandma Rushton, too. After all, she did give me a sweatshirt that said, "I'm Grandma's Favorite Angie."

As I grew older, I was disappointed to discover that my cousins felt the same way about their grandparents. Grandma Rushton was a champion at buying (and making) perfectly individualized gifts, Grandma Jackson was always loaded with gummy bears and fun crafts, while Grandpa Jackson and his hard chest gave bone-crushing hugs to all who crossed his path. My grandparents saw the individuality of each grandchild, and loved each of us for who we were. Thus, we all felt like we were a little more important than everyone else. And who doesn't like to be more important than somebody else?

So forgive me for thinking that the world revolves around me; all evidence seems to point toward that fact.

However, just as I wasn't the only "favorite" grandchild, the world can revolve around more than just me. In fact, it can and does revolve around each individual. There's no way that I would feel so sure about the path I'm on if someone hadn't help me pave the road, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels that way.

No matter what happens, I'll always be the center of someone's universe, someone who has the power to make things right in my life. And this person doesn't just care about me--he has a universe to base around all of us. And oddly enough, knowing that I am the center of someone's universe makes it a lot easier to make someone else's universe better.

There's a wise and loving Creator out there, that's for sure.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Soundtrack of my life

Every now and then, I have days when I want to blog but can't think of anything to write about; I can't write if I have no thoughts floating around in my head. Those days are very sad.

Sometimes though, a simple outline is enough to get my brain waves flowing so that I'm not so starved for entertainment. So I'm going to present you with another one of those iPod list things--you know, read the question, hit shuffle on your iPod, and the lucky song displayed is your answer. It's going to be epic.

Ahem. I now present you with . . . The Soundtrack of My Life.

Opening credits: I Love You This Much, by Jimmy Wayne. Oh great. It looks like I'm going to have an Alma-the-Younger type experience here.

Waking up: Jesus Take the Wheel, by Carrie Underwood. What did I tell you? Actually, I think I would be well served if I woke up with this philosophy in mind every day.

Average day: I Believe in Christ, by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. I take back my first comment--I am actually an incredibly spiritual person who has all her priorities straight. So far the only thing I've thought about all day is Jesus.

First date: Please Forgive Me, by Bryan Adams. This is obviously referring to my absolute perfection--it's got to be hard on any guy to be in the presence of a perfect girl; thus my humble desire to ask for forgiveness.

Falling in love (apparently this is the chick flick version of my life): Greased Lightning, from Grease. After dropping me off, my date is so enraptured that he makes up a song about his favorite car to distract himself. His friends join in on the endeavor and soon the whole neighborhood knows the song.

Love scene: Eight Days a Week, by the Beatles. After warming up his vocal chords in his garage, my guy comes to my window and professes that he can't stop thinking about me, so much so that he forgets how many days of the week there are.

Fight scene: Into the West, by Annie Lennox. Apparently, this guy is willing to die for me. Or, at least he tries to convince me that dying wouldn't be so bad if it became necessary.

Breaking up: Behold the Wounds in Jesus' Hands, by Jon Schmidt. I then explain to the boy that he doesn't need to die for me--somebody else already did. Duh.

Getting back together: Stealing Cinderella, by Chuck Wicks. That's enough for him, and he immediately takes off to my parents' house to ask my dad if he can have my hand.

Secret love: Call on Me, by Chicago. Then, out of the blue, someone calls the guy while he's talking to my dad. It's his ex-girlfriend. Dun, dun, dun . . .

Life's okay: Chim Chim Cher-ree, from Mary Poppins. Then he feels guilty and starts sweeping the rooftops of Elk Ridge as penance.

Mental breakdown: The Best of Me, by Bryan Adams. My dad then gives the guy permission to take ownership of my hand, and for the first time he starts thinking that he is more awesome than I am for accomplishing such a feat. That's a mental breakdown if I ever saw one.

Driving: More than That, by Backstreet Boys. The drive back to Salt Lake takes forever, but he is willing to do More than That to have my hand.

Learning a Lesson: Theme from Jurassic Park, by John Williams. Meanwhile, I am back at my apartment, and I discover that there are other forms of music out there that are pretty awesome.

Deep Thought: I Do, by Jon Schmidt. Because of this revelation, I realize that I can indeed marry someone who has more diverse music tastes than I do.

Flashback: Si Do Mhaimeo I, by Celtic Women. As the guy approaches my apartment, he starts thinking about his mission and whatever the heck the language was he spoke there.

Partying: If She Only Knew, by 98 Degrees. By now, I have said yes to the proposal and am celebrating throughout the land, but I'm feeling guilty because I haven't told my sisters yet.

Happy Dance: When You're in Love, from 7 Brides for 7 Brothers. I do a happy dance because when you're in love, people are more understanding of your stupidity.

Regretting: My Front Porch Looking In, by Lonestar. Apparently I wish I was married and had a couple kids already.

Long night alone: Hymn of Nature, by Jon Schmidt. Of course, I am too wound up from the events of the day to sleep, so I turn on my most boring Jon Schmidt stuff to try to trick my body into falling asleep.

Death scene: To Make You Feel My Love, by Garth Brooks. I suddenly realize that the old me has died--I no longer think I am the perfect being I once thought I was because I would do anything to convince this guy that I like him.

Closing credits: When You Love Someone, by Bryan Adams. When you love someone, naturally, you get married. That's how all chick flicks end.

So there you have it: the soundtrack of my life. Everything seems to have worked out quite splendidly (it helps that my shuffle seemed to catch on to the rules of this game and only gave my chick-flick related songs after a while).

Sadly, though, I'm still lacking original thought. I can't believe this mindless exercise didn't work . . .

Friday, April 22, 2011

When all else fails, give up and try again next week

Ever had one of those weeks when you just can't seem to concentrate, be an approachable human being, or even come close to attaining those great goals you have for yourself? This was definitely one of those weeks for me. For some reason, I just could not be productive this week at work, and for someone who likes to stay busy, non-productiveness is pretty miserable. And that didn't have a very positive effect on my mood or social behavior.

So I have decided to just give up. I know a lost cause when I see one. My weekend is starting right now. I'll try again next week.

Instead, I am going to forget about the realities of life until 6:30 Monday morning and "simply remember my favorite things, and then I won't feel so bad."

  • Musicals that always pop into your head at the most convenient of times.
  • Melted chocolate chips.
  • Gilmore Girls
  • Sisters.
  • The way the world smells after a rain storm.
  • The Carter Family Quote Board.
  • Going to bed on a Friday night completely exhausted and knowing that you can sleep as long as you want.
  • The time Jacob Bahr sat on a chair in AP Music and broke it in half.
  • All the awkward silences that follow Tyrel's interjections.
  • The time Kimberly was narrating Lost, which was playing in slow motion.
  • Memories.
  • Steak, cheese, and 2% milk.
  • Blogging.
  • Finishing something you started.
  • Starting something new.
  • Decorating my first non-college apartment.
  • The 20+ playlists on my iPod that correspond with my many moods and preferences.
  • Old pictures.
  • My awesome family.
  • Emails from real people.
  • Tangled.
  • The word "snarky."
  • The liberating feeling of a new haircut.
  • Starting a new book.
  • Putting my heart and soul into a Jon Schmidt piece.
  • Long drives.
  • The opening chord of "Everything I Do, I Do It For You."
  • Homegrown tomatoes.
  • Walking around with no shoes on.
  • Small-world occurrences.
  • Harry Potter! I can't believe it took me so long to think of this one.
  • My bed.
  • The moment when the light pops on in your head.
  • The colors of fall.
  • Chick flicks.
  • Long, hot showers.
  • Funny dreams.
  • Moments that catch you by surprise.
  • Machine-gun laughter.
  • RMs.
  • John Stockton and Jimmer Fredette.
  • Good ranch.
  • Tuesday, April 19, 2011

    It's true! Money does not equal happiness

    I was really curious to see what this whole having-extra-money-to-spare thing was going to do to me. After several months of collecting more income than a single girl needs, I have come to the same conclusion that I have held all along: money doesn't necessarily equal happiness.

    Maybe I should rephrase that: instant gratification does not equal genuine happiness.

    I grew up in a home without a lot of money. Despite growing up in a well-to-do neighborhood, we never had all the fancy toys that the neighbor kids had. What I considered a luxury my peers considered a necessity.

    And I'm not going to say it wasn't hard--because it was. I had my days when I wished we would buy real-brand foods and that we could keep up with my constantly elongating body that required a new wardrobe every few years. I wanted to have what everyone else had, but that wasn't possible. Money would have solved a lot of problems for my entire family.

    When I first started working soon after I turned 16, I loved earning money from a source outside of my parents. Most of the money I made went to car or school expenses--I had very little left over for personal toys. That's the way it was all through high school and on through college. I always had just enough to pay the bare minimum, enough to keep my head above the water.

    All that changed a few months ago when I suddenly found myself with a steady income and no tuition costs hanging over my head (minus that annoying student loan I resorted to in order to preserve my sanity during my senior year). I had more money than I knew what to do with, and I'll admit--I went a little crazy.

    I bought an amazing queen-sized bed (suddenly, my quality of sleep has gotten a lot better), I extensively updated my wardrobe, I moved into an apartment that isn't made out of cardboard, I bought a few toys I definitely don't need, and I've been a lot more loose about spending money on food and personal supplies.

    And you know what? Despite having the funds to buy everything I could have dreamed of as a college student (you know, like enough clothes to go a month without doing laundry, and a steak every now and then), there is always something else to buy. Always something else that I want that I don't have. And with the funds to buy them, it's really hard to control myself. There's human nature for you.

    I am not saying that money is evil--not even close. Being able to handle all of my expenses is a huge burden off my shoulders. In fact, sometimes I still feel like I'll float away because I don't quite know how to function without that burden.

    But having to do without taught me creativity. The most fun I ever had Christmas shopping was the year I bought 8 presents for under $45, or the years my mom helped me make a present for one of my siblings. I made great friends during my years in BYU's ghetto apartments and we found ways to entertain ourselves with no money whatsoever, whether it was a snowball fight in the parking lot or rearranging the furniture in a non-constructive way. As a kid, I spent hours pretending and making up games outside--racing down the hill by my house on the wagon with the twisted wheel, discovering new worlds in the mountains behind the park, and making cool stuff out of yarn, cardboard, and scraps of material. In fact, most of the time the money thing wasn't even an issue. My basic needs were being met and I had my family and the gospel. That was all I needed.

    I wish everyone had the opportunity to really work for what they have and to learn to do without. Those two things have defined my personality in many ways, and has helped me refine the art of finding joy in the journey.

    Since I got my first post-college job, I haven't noticed a huge increase in happiness. Yes, things are pretty awesome because I am finally living a life I have prepared for for a lot of years, but it's not like there was a magic formula hidden in my salary that automatically produced happiness.

    So, I am happy to say that my old methods of happiness still stand: gospel, family, work, gratitude, creativity. I knew I was right.

    Wednesday, April 13, 2011

    Golf: I don't get it

    I am pretty tolerant when it comes to sports. I even enjoy them, most of the time, and my tom-boyishness prompts me to (attempt to) be knowledgeable about sports.

    But try as I might, I just don't get the whole golf thing.

    Last weekend was one of several weekends throughout the year during which an incurable boredom gloom settles over the entire Carter household. Well, not the entire household; my dad is deeply content as he sits in his chair for a million hours straight.

    Yes, you guessed correctly: I'm talking about golf marathon weekends. The Master's tournament just happens to be one of my dad's favorite golf tournaments, and he faithfully watches all 14,000 hours of it every year while the rest of us walk around with glazed-over eyes.

    I'm not accusing my dad of anything beyond suffering from the same illusion that most of the male population suffers from: that golf is fun, even if you don't have to swing a club or walk to the next hole.

    However, I am still trying to understand this fascination with this brand of ball watching, chasing, and throwing. I have come to the conclusion that it must be one (or more) of several things:

    • The bizarre fashion choices.

    • The exciting commentary: "Tiger is squaring up . . . Oh, he doesn't look happy--it must be because he is a cheatah . . . Let's wait for the ball to land . . . And he misses another birdie. . ." (I think it's the commentators' monotone voices that cast the first soporific spell on those of us not suffering from mental delusions.)

    • The dramatic music played before and after commercial breaks.

    • The slightly gay-looking athletes. You know, perfectly styled hair, matching pink outfits . . .

    • Watching the crowd scamper for cover whenever a ball comes their way.

    • Listening to the crowd's dramatic intake of breath while the small white ball teeters on the edge of a cliff, hill, or hole.

    • Riding in a golf cart and calling it "exercise."

    • Skipping out on work to enjoy the beautiful surroundings (actually, that one I understand).

    • Age is no limit. Even 4-year-olds and grandpas can swing a club.

    Hmm, I must be really dim. I'm still not getting it. I guess I'll just have to accept the fact that golf really is for Gentlemen Only, Ladies Forbidden.

    Monday, April 11, 2011

    The wonderful distraction of blogging

    I think I know what to say the next time someone asks me what my dream job would be: blogging.

    Not just writing a blog or two or twelve, but reading and interacting with other blogs as well. It doesn't even really matter what the blog is about--books, food, sports, movies, healthcare, music, lava lamps, or trampolines--for some reason, the world of blogging is just fascinating to me.

    There are many social media sites out there, but I'll admit that blogs are the most distracting for me. I like to broaden my understanding about the world and impress myself with my much knowledge. While some bloggers have a large audience and must follow certain protocols, many bloggers blog for personal reasons with no plans to impress (unless they're posting pictures of their kids, of course). It is through blogs that individuals can really make their writing voice shine, and I just can't get enough of it.

    Not to mention the fact that I am more addicted to writing than I perhaps ever have been.

    My Grandma Rushton gave me my first journal when I was eight years old, and since then it has been weirdly cool to me to ink out my own adventures on a coarse piece of paper. And then it became a religious habit to write every day whether I had anything interesting to say or not; I'm pretty sure I wrote one of the longest, most thorough records of the life of a teenage girl. (That is, if you count boys, school, boys, emotional breakdowns, and boys as thorough.)

    Journaling wasn't my only outlet, however. Until I entered high school, I had several "trashy Mormon novels" (as Mr. Dahlquist would call them) in the works, many of which involved softball, my stuffed animals, and 'N Sync. I'll be the first to say they weren't very good--the stories were mostly what I imagined my life to be like in a perfect world; they didn't really involve much plot or originality.

    By about high school, I had kind of given up on the notion of being a writer when I grew up. In my mind, a "writer" constituted someone who wrote chapter books, and I clearly didn't have the imagination to write a publishable novel.

    It wasn't until I started my own blog that I really began to discover my passion for writing again. I enjoyed writing papers (minus the research part) for my college classes, but it wasn't what I would call thrilling. It didn't cause my heart to race with excitement when I was trying to fall asleep at night. I enjoyed it for the thinking and brain stretching it required, but that was about it.

    When I started my blog, however, I finally combined the "funness" of writing a novel with the stimulating brain stretching I had come accustomed to in college, and found a marvelously entertaining pasttime. This was more fun than writing in my journal, and not nearly as frustrating as trying to force the creativity necessary to create whole new worlds. I could write about the world as I saw it, using my own voice and style.

    I read somewhere that Brandon Sanderson writes for like 12 hours a day. At first, that seemed inspiringly crazy to me. I could not imagine spending that much time doing anything, no matter how much you liked it. But he insisted that he loved it; his career was also his favorite hobby, so the time he spent writing never felt like work to him.

    I wasn't able to understand that until recently. I have always been a bit wary of pursuing a career with something I was passionate about. That is one of the main reasons I decided not to pursue music in college. I was afraid that I would get sick of playing the piano, that it would become work rather than play.

    Now, however, I believe that work and play can in fact be one and the same. I am one of those strange individuals who needs writing to live a happy, peaceful life. You know--one of those people who isn't always entirely in this world. Writing is how I work through my problems, how I express myself, how I manage to function like a somewhat normal human being.

    So my favorite thing about blogging is this: it is never ending. As long as the human brain continues to work, fresh ideas will continue to circulate and people will continue to write about them in interesting ways. I don't know what I would have done in a world where 10 books was a vast library. I probably would have just been really bored all the time.

    Wednesday, April 6, 2011

    No more pizza for the Carters

    In a household of busy individuals--two working parents, several grown, active children with various interests and time constraints--mealtime is often a hastily planned affair, not always resulting in a perfect home-cooked meal, hot and ready the minute Dad gets home.

    In fact, dinnertime at the Carter household often sits on one of the polar ends--chaos or nonexistence.

    But even though we have tried not to use this option, we always knew that we could just order pizza from Domino's, or ask someone to bring some food home when they got off work. And frankly, that made things a lot easier at times. It was comforting to know that we would always have pizza to fall back on.

    Domino's also offered a significant source of income for most of our family. My Dad was able to bring in much-needed income for family finances, me, Tiffany, and Tyrel were able to pay for most, if not all, of our college expenses, several cars were paid for with Domino's savings, and Kimberly and I were able to pay for most of our high school expenses (including choir tour) with Domino's money. Tip money paid for food and gas, both for the family and for those of us off on our own at BYU.

    In short, Domino's kept us alive through the years, whether it was through free food or extra cash.

    I'm kind of guessing here, but our family--me, my dad, two of my sisters, and my brother--combine to about 25 years of Domino's employment, and that's not counting all the cousins, neighbors, and friends who joined the business because we are so awesome.

    Sadly, those days have come to an end. All four of Bart's stores--Santaquin, Payson, Spanish Fork, and Springville--have closed. No more fall-back employment for us, and no more free pizza. We can't even count on the old pizza standby when we are too tired to find something to eat because the stores simply aren't there anymore. Sure, we could still order from Pizza Hut or Fat Jacks, but it would cost three times more, and we would feel like vile betrayers. And the corporate Domino's stores just aren't the same, not to mention the fact that they are far away from Elk Ridge.

    Thankfully, I think we've all gained independence outside of Domino's. My dad finally finished his degree and has a better job, Tiffany and I are both college grads with careers, Kimberly has adjusted to BYU employment, and Tyrel has switched over to the other family business--Liberty Press. Shannan is just going to have to find her own way to independence, I guess.

    I worked at Domino's for 5 years, 3 as a driver, which involved many opening and closing shifts, and lots and lots of consumption of pizza. Most of the managers I worked with can't eat pizza anymore, but I never had that difficulty. Sure, I got sick of it and had to get increasingly more creative with my pizza creations, but I could still stomach the stuff most of the time, and after I quit I found myself craving a ham-mushroom-olive-onion-extra-cheese pizza all the time. It was comforting to know that that pizza would always be there for me at a reduced--if not free--price.

    But alas, all good things must come to an end, even if the end was capsized by incompetent management. Domino's was a big part of my life for a long time, full of awesome people (and not-so-awesome people), awesome stories and rants, and easy dinner options. As much as we all may have hated it at times, I'm glad that we Carters had Domino's all these years.

    Wow. This entry wasn't supposed to be a cheesy tribute to Domino's Pizza. Maybe I'll do a rant post later on, telling some of my more colorful pizza-delivering stories. That'll be a much longer entry.

    Tuesday, April 5, 2011

    The master multitasker

    I have always been a fan of killing two birds with one stone. In fact, in my efforts to avoid work, I have often found myself doing more work the roundabout way rather than the straight and recommended way. Which happens to all slackers periodically.

    I often use my slacker tendencies to kill two good birds with one stone, meaning I will use a service project or something similar to fulfill a homework assignment or something. You know you've done that too. . . .

    But if you want to see a master (metaphorical) bird-killer at work with just one small stone, watch general conference. I guarantee that someone out there is touching the hearts of every individual who watches even one talk, assuring them that they are doing okay and inspiring them to do better.

    I'll never have that kind of power, but I'm grateful that I get to partake of it. Along with millions of other people across the globe, I felt like I received individually catered answers to my carefully constructed questions.

    That's the kind of multitasker I want on my side all of the time.