Monday, October 31, 2011

A fun tradition

For the sake of all those who are children, who have small children, or who will some day have children, I hope the Halloween tradition lives on. Adults have corrupted most of what is good and fun about Halloween, but as far as kids are concerned, it's a highly anticipated event that is full of innocent fun.

Today we ended the work day a little early and brought in all the employees' kids, giving them a head start on their trick-or-treating endeavors. It's been a while since I was part of the trick-or-treating tradition, so it was a lot of fun to watch the eager kids in their adorable costumes politely say (at the admonition of their parents) please and thank-you and then shyly move on to the next cubicle. I think I may have had more fun watching the parents though; even if they weren't as adorable, they still had that glimmer of excitement in their eyes, only it was magnified by the unsuppressed pride in having the cutest kids in the entire building.

All the little families left with broad smiles, some of the kids already spinning in circles in an attempt to control this new feeling of sugar high. Tonight will be a night they will all remember, an unusually warm Halloween spent romping the streets with their families, friends, and bags of candy.

That's the kind of tradition that builds memories that stick with you forever. I may not be much into Halloween now, but I can't wait to do the Halloween thing again with small children who are positively bursting with excitement.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Compartmentalizing the best things in life

It has begun yet again: the traditional joyous plunge into holiday-making by some, followed by the gripes of holiday compartmentalizers by others.

The people of this world can be divided into three different groups (at least, prior to the launch of the end-of-year holidays): (1) the Scrooges/Grinches, (2) those who shut their eyes and crash into innocent bystanders when the Christmas hoopla goes up before Halloween and who shove their fingers in their ears when they hear even a hint of jingle bells before Thanksgiving, and (3) those who listen to Christmas music whenever they want, regardless of unwritten societal rules.

I belong in the third category. Christmas music is one of the awesome things of life, and only one month of listening to it is not enough time to make me so sick of it I can't even think about it without gagging from January to September.

The category 2 people, however, are starting to get on my nerves. Families look forward to vacations months in advance regardless of events that take place before then, businesses plan for future events simultaneously, students take on humongous workloads of school/social life/work at the same time, and sports seasons overlap each other--so why is it a crime to be excited for Christmas before Halloween is over? Who decided that we have to spend exactly a month on Halloween, exactly a month on Thanksgiving, and exactly a month on Christmas? To whoever did, I ask: WHERE'S THE FUN IN THAT?

*Acknowledges that there is some logic to this scheme for those who spend significant amounts of time, effort, and money making the seasons joyous for their children. On that note, however, my mom is listening to Christmas music already.*

Refusing to participate in Christmas festivities before Thanksgiving makes about as much sense as refusing to talk about anything that doesn't involve fabric, dresses, and flowers when you're planning a wedding. Or ignoring your three other children while you master how to manage one child.

So listen to this, category 2ers: there is no need to compartmentalize the awesome things in life. It is possible to enjoy each holiday in its own element without being deaf and blind to the other holidays. Sometimes life is full of extra awesomeness: get over it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

On having a life

Last night, I went visiting teaching. As much as I would like it to go away, visiting teaching always manages to be part of my life because in every ward I've been in I a) get partnered with the Relief Society president, b) the Relief Society president is assigned as my visiting teacher, or c) I get called as a visiting teaching supervisor. Every stinkin' ward. Without fail.

Yesterday's visit was enlightening on many levels. The other two girls spent an hour gabbing about dating, random trips they take every few months or so for no reason, the TV shows they watch, the different cultures they've experienced, and the plethora of people they have come across in their many adventures, and I just sat there and thought, "Wow. I have no life." It's normal for me to sit and say nothing while conversations are going on around me, but this time it was because I had no similar experiences to draw from, not because I wasn't assertive enough to raise my voice and say something.

That hour opened up that window in my brain that has been getting smaller and smaller since Jr. high, the one that tells me that if I want to have a life, I need to spend my weekends having awesome adventures so that I'll have legitimate stories to tell others on Monday. These girls were taking advantage of their freedom from family and the poverty of student life to truly go out into the world and experience it. It made my little goals to enjoy the little things in life look feeble and pathetic.

Before I started to slide into the self-pity corner of my brain, though (which has also been getting smaller since Jr. high), I remembered that I am most definitely not a social butterfly and I certainly wouldn't enjoy plopping myself two states away just so I could get to know the people there. I don't like going to parties unless my sisters are there to entertain me, and most of my hobbies are of the solitary, introspective type.

So how do people like me make sure they "have a life" and live life to the fullest? Smell the roses and watch the leaves change? Drink a Dr. Pepper? Find a way to change my personality so that it suddenly becomes possible to go to social activities without having to bribe myself with a brownie or a new shirt to make myself go? (Which rarely works, by the way.)

Despite my musings to the contrary, though, I'm having a hard time making myself feel guilty about the way I've spent my life. Yes, I've probably spent too many Friday nights at home, and I really should step outside of my comfort zone more than I do, but I've been pretty happy, even though many would call my life boring (including myself at times . . .).

However, I think it's possible to live life to the fullest without climbing Mt. Everest or being the Dating Queen of the century. I'm pretty sure that those of us who see playing cards or cross-stitching as the ultimate sources of entertainment still have a shot at having a life. If life makes you happy, then you're seizing the day.

I'm pretty excited that I've figured this out. Otherwise, I would have to change who I am in order to satisfy my desire to have a life. And that wouldn't be fun for anybody.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The difference between Provo and Salt Lake YSA wards

I'll admit, I was relieved to find that the church is just as true in Salt Lake as it is in Provo, even though the 50-mile dividing line between the two cultures is pretty strong.

However, my first time in a non-Happy Valley YSA ward has portrayed some notable differences from a typical Utah County YSA ward. For example:
  • Obviously, there's this school in Salt Lake that a lot of people are loyal to. . . . However, my entire bishopric graduated from BYU, so when BYU lost to Utah, there was pain at the pulpit that day rather than gloating. As it should be.
  • Those of us up north actually get to meet in a real church, rather than a classroom on campus. No sacrament meeting in the testing center for us.
  • The very first speaker at our adult session of stake conference last week had a full-blown Mohawk. There is no way a BYU bishop/stake president would have allowed that to happen, but in Salt Lake it isn't really cause for concern. (He gave a very good talk, by the way. And his closing line was classic: "I'm trying to get into law school, I play guitar in a band, and I love to ski; I'm a Mormon.")
  • Stake/regional conferences often take place in the Conference Center downtown. As much as I like the Marriott Center, the Conference Center is way cooler. Yesterday I sat in like the 8th row of the bottom section and could actually see the speakers, the chairs are way more comfortable, and I'm pretty sure Elder Bednar looked at me directly when he was waving good-bye to the congregation at large.
  • At BYU, all we ever talked about was dating, marriage, and marriage. My SLC ward still has its obligatory relationships class, but our theme from the start has centered on missionary work. It is refreshing to be relieved of the marriage pressure thing, but I'm no better at the missionary work thing, so, frankly, I can't decide which one is more annoying.
  • This may be because I always lived south of campus, but the average age was much younger in Provo than it is in SLC. At 24, I would have been considered ancient and way past marriageable age in Provo, but in Salt Lake I am one of many in the mid-to-late twenties. I can't express enough how nice that is.
  • A lot of famous (Mormon) people live in the Salt Lake area. Utah County gets its fair share of Mormon celebrities, but most of them call the Salt Lake area home. My ward specifically has already hosted firesides for Thurl Bailey, Elizabeth Smart, an ex-Oakland Raiders football player that I can't remember the name of, and many other big names.
  • Utah County still only has one operating temple; Salt Lake County has got at least five.
  • Facial hair and "extravagant" fashion styles aren't frowned upon in Salt Lake.
Despite the subtle differences though, all the important things are still the same, including the nuances that make singles wards different from any other congregation in the world.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The importance of being entertained

Sometimes I feel like the world is forcing me to think about something, because everywhere I go there are "signs." This week I've felt like Steve from Full House when DJ goes to Disneyland without him and he starts seeing her everywhere, including in his cheese toast. (Does anyone else remember that episode, or did I just make it up?)

This week, I've been seeing the same recurring theme in my Jr. high journal, on Facebook, in 2 Nephi, and in blog comments by David Farland. I figure that if my younger self, the internet, and the scriptures all make note of something, then it must be true.

You're probably wondering what I've been thinking about now, eh? And you probably want me to connect the dots for you too, eh? Too bad; I'm having too much fun being vague.

Dot one
Last night I was typing up one of my old journals, and I hit a section in the summer between my 9th- and 10th-grade years. My family and I had taken a mini vacation to St. George to go to my dad's half-brother's wedding (of course, I didn't know that this guy existed until I found out we were going to his wedding, but it was usually occasions like this that enlightened me about the confusing reaches of my dad's family).

I don't remember anything about the wedding (which makes sense, because according to my records we arrived too late to witness anything of consequence), but I do remember the hotel. It was probably the worst hotel room we ever had to cramp all 7 of us into; the room was kind of yucky, the hot tub was full of bugs, dirt, and leaves (I am pleased to note that I possessed the same common sense then that I do now when I stated that I didn't care about the hot tub, because who would want to boil away when it was over 100 degrees outside, anyway?), and the place just wasn't well managed.

Rather than dwell on our unfortunate circumstances, though, we elected to make the best of things, and we spent a lot of time outside in the pool laughing and playing stupid games. When we were forced to go inside, we made light of the situation, and possibly my favorite part of the day was fighting over mirror space and hair-doing appliances with my mom and sisters as we tried to beautify ourselves for the wedding that we missed most of.

Dot two
Also last night, I was reading in 2 Nephi when Nephi is lamenting that his posterity would go astray because of their wickedness. All the Book of Mormon prophets had to deal with (I assume) knowing that ultimately, their posterity would end up killing each other off because their wickedness was so out of control, and I can't imagine that was easy for any of them to deal with.

This has nothing to do with the point I am leading up to, but does anyone else ever get tired of reading Nephi's diatribes? He reminds me of a kid I went to high school with who was a bit self-righteous and overly favored by his father. The more I read about Nephi, the more I connect with Laman and Lemuel; if I had a little brother who was always right and faithful and who was always trying to make me a better person when I just wanted to sulk in my wicked ways a bit longer, I would definitely get annoyed and possibly lash out violently at times. Not to mention the guilt I feel whenever Nephi mourns over his own wickedness because, honestly, if he's a wretched man, what does that make me?

Moving on . . .

Dot three
Here's what I saw on Facebook this morning:

Dot four
And finally, the words of published author, talking about frivolous stories:
"There are those who would tell you that such stories are a waste of time. I'm going to argue very strongly that simply entertaining people can be a worthy endeavor, a profoundly moral deed, because it enables your audience to engage in emotional exercises that people need in order to remain emotionally healthy."
So, how did you do in connecting the dots that I have so masterfully laid out for you? Here's what I've concluded.

Sometimes it's hard to go through the motions of life because it feels like your efforts are worthless: the kids will just fight the entire vacation, your posterity will scorn the blessings you worked so hard to attain for them, and the passion you are pursuing at the moment really doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things.

To all that I say, so what? True, we were sent to Earth to prove something, but that doesn't mean we have to take life so seriously all the time.

And you all thought I was just trying to entertain myself as I tried to get through another Friday at work.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Psychology, personality, and . . . something else that starts with a P

Sometimes I think it would be fascinating to study psychology. I've always been interested in certain facets of what makes us all human--who isn't?--but my academic instruction in that area has left me with more knowledge about crazy psychology teachers than the subject they thought they were teaching. My high school psychology teacher sniffed a few too many markers, and my college psychology professor spent all of his time conducting pointless mind games on us, the willing victims who walked unwittingly into his classroom. It really is a shame that even the most fascinating of subjects can be rendered dull by the skill of the speaker, er, teacher.

But despite my lack of sane instruction on how the mind works and all that jazz (or perhaps because of it), over the past few weeks I've been pondering certain motivations that shape a person's personality.

Allow me to use a real-life example to demonstrate my point.

There's this episode in Gilmore Girls where Lorelai's mother agrees with her 100 percent. For those unfortunate enough to not have yet discovered the delights of this show, just know that Emily Gilmore never agrees with her daughter on anything. At least not 100 percent. So, naturally, Lorelai freaks out and spends the rest of the episode reevaluating every decision she has ever made in her life, from how to style her hair to whether or not she likes pop tarts. For her, the motivating factor behind most of her decisions depends largely upon whether her mother would approve of her decisions. Would Emily approve of eating a cold pastry out of a box for breakfast (or lunch or dinner)? Of course not; that's why pop tarts are Lorelai's favorite food. Would Emily approve of of high-speed internet? Of course she would; that's why Lorelai and Rory make do with a slow, dial-up connection.

*To experience the true Gilmore Girls feel of the previous paragraph, read it really fast without taking a breath.*

I had a similar thought-altering experience a few weeks ago when I was sitting at work, off on one of my tangents. I was wondering yet again why anyone would voluntarily wear a dress and heels all day without being required to do so. I certainly would never in a million years do such a thing.

But then I started thinking about why I strongly dislike wearing church clothes, buying (and wearing) shoes, painting my fingernails, and accessorizing myself with necklaces, belts, and purses. Ever since the day my Aunt Deona told me that boys like girls with pretty nails, I have fed the tomboy within me and done everything I could to repress my more feminine side. Something as simple as trying to impress the boys with my manliness rather than my femininity has been the motivating factor behind a lot of my decisions, and not just the ones that have to do with fashion choices.

But do I really hate skirts and purses, or do I just feel like I have to hate them because a true tomboy would hate them? Do I really enjoy sports, or am I just trying to convince the guys that I can relate to them on their (sort of) level? Do I refuse to carry around lipstick and hairspray everywhere because it's impractical or because I don't want to be caught with such embarrassing items? Do I make these decisions because I want to, or because I feel like I have to?

So many decisions, so many different ways they could have gone.

Now I remember why I didn't try harder to find a decent psychology professor. This stuff gives me a headache.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Crazy, happy, freezing-cold Mormons

A normally quiet section of Payson found itself overflowing with crazy Mormons early Saturday morning. All decked out in Sunday best, thousands of Saints thronged the sidewalks of southwest Payson, undeterred by the freezing rain. They were all headed to the same place: a huge, muddy field that was lined with chairs.

October 8, 2011, marks the date that the ground was broken for the Payson Utah Temple. For thousands of members in the surrounding areas, witnessing such a historic and long-awaited event was enough to get them out of their warm beds on a cold, Saturday morning to sit outside in the rain.

I was one of the crazy lucky ones who got to witness the ceremony live rather than in a stake center nearby. (There are unusual benefits to having your dad as the bishop and always being the odd man out; when there's one extra ticket that no one wants, I am the ideal recipient.) I woke up earlier Saturday morning than I had all week, bundled up the best I could, and set out with my parents to watch Elder Oaks dig up some dirt.

Okay, we went for more than just that. We went because we wanted the honor of being able to say that we were there.

It was definitely a unique experience, that's for sure. As we approached the mass of lined-up chairs, we noticed that each chair was housing a mini lake in its seat. (Luckily, we were smart enough to bring towels to sit on and blankets to bundle up in, but we watched a lot of people trying to dry off their soaking chairs with gloves, hats, and dripping-wet towels.) Nearly everyone was holding an umbrella, which created a massive, leaky roof over the entire congregation that managed to keep some of the heat from escaping.

Once situated, we took a look at our program and realized that there were five speakers lined up for the ceremony, and we seriously started to doubt our sanity in braving the elements.

Once the meeting officially began, most of the umbrellas went down, even though it was still drizzling a bit. However, we came to watch this ceremony no matter what the costs, so if it meant we had to get our hair a bit wet so we could actually see the speakers, then so be it. A lot of people, including Elder Oaks, said that they were grateful that the rain stopped falling when the ceremony started, but from where I was sitting, the rain was still falling. Not enough to really cause any discomfort, but enough to add insult to injury.

Fortunately, the talks were short.

The announcement of new temples is a lot of people's favorite part of conference; even if temples are being built in places you've never heard of or will never visit in your lifetime, it's still exciting to know that someone, somewhere will get the wonderful blessings of temples.

I doubt very many people cared that much when they heard that Utah was getting yet another temple, one that was a half hour away from the Provo Temple and about an hour away from the Manti Temple. Many members still have to travel for hours (if not more) to get to a temple, while we here in Utah can go to a different temple every week and feel obligated to get married in a different temple than our siblings got married in.

However, members throughout Utah County rejoiced. We have been dreaming of a temple in this valley for generations, not because we didn't have access to one previously, but because it is getting harder and harder for Provo to keep up with demand. I love the Provo Temple, but sometimes it is hard to feel peace when you're being rushed through the baptistery or when you're stuffed in a hot room that is completely full of people.

Even more, who doesn't want to have a temple in their own home town? As previously mentioned, so many Saints would give anything to have a temple nearby, and here we are, blessed enough to have one being built in our backyard because enough members worked for long enough to make it happen.

One of the things I love most about the church is that we are all part of the same big family, no matter where you come from. I know that members will feel that in the Payson Temple, just like they do wherever the spirit resides, but there's something special about knowing that a temple was built for you personally, that your friends and family helped make the temple a reality. At the groundbreaking, I saw a lot of familiar faces: my high school choir director lead the choir and congregation; my stake president was one of the first to grab a shovel and dig up some dirt; and even Elder Oaks was a true native because he went to the same elementary school (Peteetneet Academy) that my dad went to back when the dinosaurs roamed the earth.

My favorite part of the entire ceremony, though, was the dedicatory prayer. As Elder Oaks prayed for the protection of this holy place and officially dedicated the site for the work of the Lord, I felt the power of those words sink deep into my soul. I thought to myself, I am sitting in the exact place that the people I love so much will come to be closer to God, to receive the extraordinary blessings the temple offers, to seal their families together for all of eternity. Not just my spiritual brothers and sisters will be affected by this temple, but the people I know right now, in this life.

I don't know if this is customary or not, but Elder Oaks had the 12-year-old deacons come up as the last "official" group to dig up some earth. I thought this was most appropriate, because for those young boys, this will be their temple. They will probably get their endowments there, get married there if they wish. Those boys represented thousands of young people, including my youngest sister, who will experience life-changing events in the building President Monson decided we were ready to have.

So years from now, long after the temple has been completed, I'll be able to say that I was there the day construction officially begun. True, the people in the warm stake centers still had a better view than I did, but I got to sit on a wet chair under my Utah Jazz umbrella and truly experience it. And it was pretty cool.

Friday, October 7, 2011

What? Winter already? No, please . . . I need more time!

Was it really just a few days ago that I turned on the AC before I went to bed so that I wouldn't have to sleep in an oven?

Right now, just thinking of turning on the AC is enough to chill me to the bone. As if the sudden temperature drop isn't enough to do that for me. I had forgotten how cold 40 degrees really is.

Normally, the first cold stint of the year gets me all excited. There's lots of great things about wintry weather: hot chocolate, some of the best holidays of the year, pretty snow, not to mention my wardrobe doubles. It's always exciting wearing my leather jacket for the first time of the season, getting reacquainted with my sweaters, replacing my thin blankets with my heavier-duty ones, going to sleep to the sound of the heater, and smelling that cold, end-of-autumn smell in the air.

This year, however, I'm just not ready. I don't want to be able to see my breath in the air. I don't want to start scraping the ice off my car every morning. I don't want to see snow-capped mountains; I'm still marveling in the autumnal trees. I'm not ready for the drama snow brings.

Wouldn't it be nice if Mother Nature would treat us with some warm weather again, just so I can enjoy a few more weeks of warmth so I can mentally prepare myself for pre-winter excitement? Never in my 24 years of life have I been caught off-guard when winter reemerges; it just feels wrong to be complaining along with everyone else about the sudden cold and wet, and it's ruining one of my most-anticipated adventures of the year.

But wait; according to, next week is nothing but suns and temperatures in the 60s and 70s. Is Mother Nature really going to give me a second chance to enjoy the turn of the season? Oh, I hope this isn't one of her cruel tricks. If it is, you'll probably see me outside pulling a Lorelai Gilmore, attacking the snow on my car while I yell "You and I are through!" to the sunless sky.

Please, Mother Nature; give me one more chance to do this thing right.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Working at home

Sometimes, I really hate having the option of working at home. If I ever do get sick enough to call in sick (which I'm kind of looking forward to, actually, because I've never had a paid sick day before), I'll probably just end up working at home because I can work just as easily from the couch as I can from my desk. I am free to leave work early when I need to, but I'll have to resume working again at home to get my hours in.

Basically, having an easily mobile job makes it very difficult to get away from work.

However, sometimes I really love being able to work at home. Today is one of those days. My boss is at a trade show until next week, I desperately needed to catch up on some sleep, and I'm having one of those weeks where I just want to curl up in my bed with a humongous teddy bear, if you know what I mean. So, I'm taking advantage of my annoying mobile office option to have a major hermit day; I have donned my ratty old Payson Lions t-shirt and pj bottoms, no way am I putting any makeup on, my hair is pulled back into a greasy ponytail (it's long enough to do that now, even with all the retarded layers), and I'm lounging on this couch with my friend, the laptop, until my work is done. The only way anyone will hear from me today will be via email or text.

And after I'm done working, I'm going to take it easy.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Riding on the wings of testimony

There are few things in this life that are absolutely necessary. Most of the things we spend most of our time agonizing over really don't matter: that darn chemistry class; hair that won't fall flawlessly into place every day; inconsistent BYU quarterbacks; keeping up with laundry, dishes, and garbage; annoying people who don't realize that they're annoying; and finding creative ways to make ends meet.

The things we absolutely do need in this life can be summed up in one word: testimony.

I realized this a few weeks ago as I was driving home from work. I was trying to figure out why I was having such a good day; work was uneventful, I had nothing going on that night at home, and nothing exciting had happened to me for a while. A few months prior, I would have spent my time thinking about how boring my life was, how life was passing me by because I didn't have someone to share it with, and how everything was just going to be exactly the same tomorrow.

Why the change of perspective? Again, it can be summed up in one word: testimony.

Several months ago, I was living the gospel as I always had; I attended all my church meetings, read my scriptures almost every day, accepted church callings, and followed church standards. My testimony was firm, partly because I don't give in to peer pressure very easily, partly because it is something I have always had, and partly because I had given it just enough nourishment to keep it alive. I never thought I would need to "raise the bar" of my spiritual progression because I was already doing everything I was supposed to be doing.

However, the time came when I realized I did need to raise the bar, simply to ensure my own happiness and sanity. It finally became necessary to go the extra mile and do a bit more, if only because I had all this extra time that needed to be filled with good things.

So, how did I fill that time? I started out by going to the temple every week. (Thank goodness I have so many temples to choose from so I can switch temples whenever I get bored.) Later on, I decided I needed more social interaction in my life and committed to going to institute at least once a week, since it is pretty much impossible to force myself to go to FHE alone. This goal in turn drove me to actually study--not just speed-read--my scriptures.

These three small but significant changes bring me back to my drive home from work a few weeks ago. Why was I so happy? It was because my testimony, given extra nourishment over a longish period of time, was able to make up for everything that I lacked. I realized that I didn't need anything--not even family, school, or grand accomplishments--as long as I had my testimony to bring real and lasting peace and happiness.

I thought it was interesting that a lot of speakers touched on this during conference. Usually, I will find inspiration through words that I needed to hear but hadn't yet thought of, but this time I found inspiration in speakers saying exactly what I had already discovered. That was pretty cool.

But it's the words of Gordon B. Hinckley that I'd like to conclude with:
If you will live the gospel, nearly everything else will eventually take care of itself.
There's no room for fear or doubt when this is your motto.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Small-dog syndrome

There's this dog that lives across the street from my parents' house, and as far as he is concerned, he owns the entire street.

His name is Pickles. Despite being named after bottles of stink, he has a pretty high opinion of himself.

He can usually be found at his post in the neighbor's carport; safe in the shade, but in clear view of everything that happens on Cortez Drive. Every now and then he will do his inspection of the block, barking at every leaf and bug that offends him. More than once, we have approached the stop sign just down the street from our house, only to find that Pickles is sprawled out in the middle of the road as if he's trying to remind everyone that this is his road, and that he will only let us by if it pleases his fancy. If someone threatens to run him over, that is a risk he is willing to take.

Of course, every time Tyrel runs at him like a wild man, Pickles scampers, barking that terrified, high-pitched yelp. Without fail though, he will always reappear a few minutes later, safe at his post, and bark for several minutes, as if he spent his time in hiding coming up with a brilliant comeback that explains why he scampered.

Today between conference sessions, I decided to be active and move out to the porch to sit rather than continue sitting on the couch while the between-session documentaries were going on, and to my delight, Pickles was just returning from his bi-hourly inspection of the block. I decided to engage him in a staring contest to see how his ego could take it.

He didn't respond well.

The minute I stepped outside, his focus was on me. He continued to stare at me as he walked, causing him to walk sideways and his tiny legs to get tangled up in each other. He made it safely back to his house, but he stayed on the edge of the street and barked and howled like he was being severely abused. After about five minutes or so, he got so exhausted that he had to lie down. He stopped barking for a while, and he even tried to ignore me, but his gaze kept flickering back to me as if I were a huge annoyance that he just couldn't get rid of. Just to make things interesting, I flapped my arms in the air for no reason, which caused him to jump up in the air and resume his barking, highly affronted that I would have the gall to do something so unexpected without his permission.

That 15-minute staring match that involved a lot of laughing on my part and a lot of barking on the part of a tiny, ego-centric dog, finally ended when Pickles slowly backed into his corner, glaring at me (he may have even stuck his tongue out at me), letting me know that he wasn't going to go without a fight. He returned to his place with his haughty tail high in the air, and I was able to continue my peaceful observation of nature during the most beautiful time of year at my most favorite place in the world.

Pickles is never going to forgive me for this. However, two can play this game.