Month: April 2009

Feeling better

I just wanted to let you all know I am not cranky today. Things were great today. It was a nice, simple day. I worked hard and then had a fun girls night out with my friends. We went to a Mary Kay demo at University Mall and it was a lot more fun than I was anticipating. It’s always nice when you get a group of girlfriends together and they gel well.
More than anything I felt an energy that I didn’t feel yesterday. Thanks to all my friends and family who support me on the off days.
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All Worn Out

Do you ever have one of those days when you could fit the descriptions in a Zoloft ad? I had such a day today.  Now don’t get worked up- I am fine.  It is all because I worked hard Saturday and Sunday, so Monday I feel exhausted and a little irritable. It is days like these that I am glad I live alone- although my poor sister Anna had to listen to me vent for about 10 minutes this evening. (Thanks Anna).  There were little things that irked me today but really I don’t even have a good reason for feeling irritable. I just do.   As my family knows there are three things that make me cranky- hunger, fatigue, and pushy/bossy people.

I hate it when people try to tell me what to do- especially when my idea is perfectly valid.   It was one of the greatest challenges of my mission to be told what to do all the time.  On a mission you are told when to eat, what to eat, how to dress, what to say, everything…Plus, you are told most of this by 19 year old boys and I was a college graduate on the mission.  I have always had a prideful streak in me and although I have tempered it a lot in the last few years every once in a while it flares up.  I like to try things out for myself.  I hate being told how to live my life, plan an activity, lead a group or pretty much anything else.  Does that drive any of you crazy?  Probably not!

I did get to have some fun today.  First of all I  enjoyed the hot tub at one of the houses. That helped me relax a lot. In fact, I may have relaxed too much! I reread one of my favorite books Mama’s Bank Account by Kathryn Forbes. I read all 147 pages in one hot tub sitting. After I got out I realized I had been in there for 2 hours! This was probably a stupid thing for me to do but it did relax me after a very stressful weekend. I needed lots of water and lotion after that!

There is something about working Saturday and Sunday that is grueling. On Saturday I cleaned one of the houses, purchased food for an event, cooked the food so I wouldn’t have to cook much on Sunday, and then went home and crashed. Then Sunday I went to church and up to the event where I did more cooking, serving, and cleaning. Again, it was all great- just exhausting. So, as a result today I felt tired and a crabby. I found myself getting annoyed by people I should have ignored, situations I would usually ignore, and other silly things like how messy my apartment is.  I even felt frustrated at 24 and the Tony Almaeda plot (how can they make him undead, evil, good and then evil again in one season! It’s too much!).  I had to stop watching Glenn Beck because I was getting too fired up.  Oh well, don’t we all have those days…. Please tell me we all have those days!

Well, excuse the above rant.  I suppose we are all entitled to one every now and then.  Don’t get me wrong- I love my life.  I love my job.  It’s just one of those days.  So, I am off to bed and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

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Book Club

So today I went to my book club and had a fantastic experience.  We were reading the Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison.  I tried to describe this book in my Goodreads account, and I was at a lost for words.  It is an odd book.  In a way it was ideal for book club because there is tons to talk about.  I don’t know if the author was even completely sure what everything meant while he was writing it. The best I can say is  it’s about a young black man in the 50s who is eager to make a difference in the world. Unfortunately he is thwarted by both the white and black community.  He becomes the invisible man because he realizes that hiding underground is the only way to be himself. Ellison said The Waste Land by T.S. Elliott was his inspiration.  While I am no expert on it, I can see how Waste Land with all its complex layers and diverse interpretations influenced Invisible Man.  I can also see how the philosophies of the late 1940’s and 50’s from Heidegger, Levinas, Kierkegaard and Nietzche affected his writings.   These thinkers believed that mankind started life pure and then slowly their minds are altered by society to justify negative behavior towards other human beings.  Some say this is inevitable (as Ellison seems to think) and others feel man can break free and be an independent spirit (Ellison also seems to believe this…).  I will have to do an entire entry one day about these great thinkers.  I find them fascinating.

That’s not a good description but as close as I can get.  It’s a pretty pessimistic book but also interesting.  Clearly such a book provided lots of discussion on characters, themes, metaphors, writing style, politics then and now, imagery and more.  The thing I love about the book club is that all opinions are respected and everyone is allowed to talk. We also have a wide variety of backgrounds and interests, which make discussion even more enriching.  For instance, today I brought up my knowledge of philosophy and we talked about Plato and his invisible man (the Ring of Gyges story) along with other philosophers and how their ideas relate to the book.  Politics, religion, poetry, community spirit, and plot were all enlightening topics.  I am grateful to be a part of something where my opinion is respected and taken seriously.

Aside from being educational,  the book club is also a lot of fun.  I find it exciting to interact with women outside my close circle of friends.  I have the best girlfriends, but I also like to branch out every now and then.  It is good for me. I think it expands my understanding of the world and makes me a better person.  I found the book club through Craigslist, and I must say I felt bold at the first meeting.  It was a little scary to go to a meeting where I knew no one.  I had no idea if I would fit-in or have a good time?  It was a risk, but I’m glad I took it.  I am going to miss the May meeting because I will be in Hawaii ( I know poor me!), and I really will miss it.  Of course, with the waves and beach I won’t be missing it for long!  Still, it will be great when June returns, and I can once again attend my book club.

I know it is hard to go out and meet new people- to expose yourself to unfamiliar settings and positions.  Despite this risk, I challenge you to try it.  Naturally be safe but look at meetup.com or craigslist and find a group that seems interesting.  Join a knitting guild, a book club, a political campaign, the PTA, scrapbooking group, sports team, church group or volunteer organization- whatever gets you excited and meeting new people.   I am confident it will make your life better as it has mine.

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Also… the other great thing about meeting new people is that it is a lot of fun at little expense.  Just the cost in gas and refreshments when it is my turn.

I laughed so Hard…

So, I was listening to good old Car Talk today on NPR and they had an encore episode.  In it they read a letter from MIT and then the response.  They are MIT grads, and I don’t know if it was made up by a caller or if it is a legitimate letter.  Regardless, it made me laugh so hard I just about died. There are so many pompous, showy things in today’s society and the response points this out in all its glaring details! Here goes!  Have a good laugh on me!

Mr. John T. Mongan
123 Main Street
Smalltown, California 94123-4567

Dear John:

You’ve got the grades. You’ve certainly got the PSAT scores. And now you’ve got a letter from MIT. Maybe you’re surprised. Most students would be.

But you’re not most students. And that’s exactly why I urge you to consider carefully one of the most selective universities in America.

The level of potential reflected in your performance is a powerful indicator that you might well be an excellent candidate for MIT. It certainly got my attention!

Engineering’s not for you? No problem. It may surprise you to learn we offer more than 40 major fields of study, from architecture to brain and cognitive sciences, from economics (perhaps the best program in the country) to writing.

What? Of course, you don’t want to be bored. Who does? Life here *is* tough *and* demanding, but it’s also *fun*. MIT students are imaginative and creative – inside and outside the classroom.

You’re interested in athletics? Great! MIT has more varsity teams – 39 – than almost any other university, and a tremendous intramural program so everybody can participate.

You think we’re too expensive? Don’t be too sure. We’ve got surprises for you there, too.

Why not send the enclosed Information Request to find out more about this unique institution? Why not do it right now?

Sincerely,

Michael C. Benhke
Director of Admissions

P.S. If you’d like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled brochure, “Insight,” just check the appropriate box on the form.

May 5, 1994

Michael C. Behnke
MIT Director of Admissions
Office of Admissions, Room 3-108
Cambridge MA 02139-4307

Dear Michael:

You’ve got the reputation. You’ve certainly got the pomposity. And now you’ve got a letter from John Mongan. Maybe you’re surprised. Most universities would be.

But you’re not most universities. And that’s exactly why I urge you to carefully consider one of the most selective students in America, so selective that he will choose only *one* of the thousands of accredited universities in the country.

The level of pomposity and lack of tact reflected in your letter is a powerful indicator that your august institution might well be a possibility for John Mongan’s future education. It certainly got my attention!

Don’t want Bio-Chem students? No problem. It may surprise you to learn that my interests cover over 400 fields of study, from semantics to limnology, from object-oriented programming (perhaps one of the youngest professionals in the country) to classical piano.

What? Of course you don’t want egotistical jerks. Who does? I *am* self-indulgent *and* over confident, but I’m also amusing. John Mongan is funny and amusing – whether you’re laughing with him or at him.

You’re interested in athletes? Great! John Mongan has played more sports – 47 – than almost any other student, including oddball favorites such as Orienteering.

You think I can pay for your school? Don’t be too sure. I’ve got surprises for you there, too.

Why not send a guaranteed admission and full scholarship to increase your chance of being selected by John Mongan? Why not do it right now?

Sincerely,
John Mongan

P.S. If you’d like a copy of a fun-filled, fact-filled brochure, “John Mongan: What a Guy!” just ask.

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Tea Party

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My friends, you are reading the blog of a right-wing extremist. At least that is what the media would have you believe.  On April 15th I proudly attended a tea party held in Provo, Utah.  Along with 700-1,000 concerned citizens I gathered in the cold snowy weather to protest for the first time in my life.  As I have mentioned many times on this blog- I am not a die-hard Republican.  In fact, I have realized lately that I lean more Libertarian than any other party; however, I do not define myself by a party.  I define myself by my core values of faith, charity, integrity, hard work, and liberty.  I have a deep patriotic vein within me, and I feel the United States of America is a sacred land.  I believe it was founded by men inspired by God as a sanctuary for freedom.

What does freedom mean?  I don’t know what it means to you, and I could go on a mini-rampage about the various theories, but I will spare you.  I can tell you what freedom means to me.

One of my favorite books is called Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs or Linda Brent.  In this stirring narrative Harriet Jacobs tells her story of fighting for freedom.  Even as a little girl Harriet Jacobs refuses to concede the idea she is a slave- that she is property.  Despite terrible trials she keeps the pursuit of freedom as an unending goal.  Eventually she ends up hiding from her owner in a garret under her grandmother’s porch for 7 years- watching her children grow up, unable to mother them or help in any way.  Why does she do it?  Because she believes that freedom is worth the price.  Of course, such a price should not be required of anyone, but it proves the point that freedom is a precious gift from God- worthy of sacrifice.

Harriet Jacobs wanted the chance to pursue happiness- to create her own life.  That is what she and many others fought for.  One of most famous phrases from the Declaration of Independence is:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

To me this phrase means that we are born equal and with the same potential for greatness- the same potential to pursue happiness.  This is something Harriet legally did not have but she created it anyway.  The triumph of her character would not be stifled.  Just imagine what she could have done without the grasp of slavery trying to throw her down. Amazing. In many ways our current President, Barrack Obama, is proof that the potential for greatness is available for any American.  He is the son of single mother who grew up in Hawaii.  Of course, he is also the first African American president.  Nothing stopped him from becoming a success.

So, back to my extremist activities.  I believe this country is great.  I want to keep it great.  I want to be able to pursue happiness- to be free to own a business, raise a family, or live singly and happy.  It is my opinion that the current over-spending in Washington is removing some of that ability from  my life.  They want to burden me with debt, regulation and my neighbors mortgage- something I resent as I have sacrificed to be debt-free. I feel strongly that 12.8 trillion dollars in debt (caused by both parties!) is drowning our country’s future.  My sweet nieces will not be able to pursue happiness the way I have and certainly not the way the founders intended.

We have become a country that has twisted the Constitutional idea of equal creation with equal outcomes.  Perhaps part of this is a result of the unequal beginnings groups such as African Americans, women, and other minorities clearly had.  For years they had an unequal opportunity to succeed; therefore, the outcome was inherently unfair.  Government intervention in such a situation is appropriate and fair.  Today’s situation is mostly different (and where it isn’t intervention is still appropriate).  For the most part, equal opportunities exist for all but naturally so do unequal outcomes.  This is part of life in a free society. The government has decided to step in and create equal outcomes, which is not only costly but it strips freedom from citizens under the guise of equality. Because we are unwilling to see people (and yes big corporations) fail we are piling on more debt each second.  We forget that part of freedom is the potential for unhappiness too.

It is my belief in freedom that pushed me to attend my first government protest- coined  a “tea party” by the organizers.  The tea party refers to the Boston Tea Party of the Revolutionary War, where angry citizens dumped tea in the Boston harbor because of the unfair tax Britain was imposing.  This was a violent act perpetrated by men who were angry at having their freedom to chose taken.  They were angry at being forced to pay for programs and a government they didn’t want or believe in. They felt their voice was marginalized and ignored.

In this modern movement the protesters ALSO FEEL MARGINALIZED AND IGNORED BY BOTH PARTIES.  Instead of doing something violent, however, these men and women including myself peacefully gathered.  I was proud to be there.  I was proud to be waving my sign, and I will never forget the moment of connection I felt with my country.  It was a great moment.

On a lighter note, it was also a lot of fun. I brought my sign and a couple of boxes of warmers and made friends with the crowd.  I even got a few hugs!  My friend Bethany Maddox and her family were there and we cheered together.  It was interesting that even in Republican Provo, UT there were democrats in the audience waving signs.  This is about anti-spending, not anti-Obama, or anti-Democrat.  It is about pursuing happiness which according to some very wise men is my “unalienable right”.  These were not weirdos or extremist as the media would have you believe.  It was men and women who want small government, want less taxes and believe both parties have let them down.  This is how I feel and I will do whatever I can to continue in this cause- even if it means running for local office down the road.  It is like they said at my rally as they announced “This is the end” someone said “No, this is the beginning”.  That is how I feel, so I guess this extremist is going to keep on being extreme until I see a difference.  I am going to do my part that’s for sure.

Jason Chaffetz (who I just love) spoke at my event and here is some  video I took of what he said.  (sorry you can’t see him and the camera is shaky but you will get the idea).

Here is Jason again.  I agree with what he is saying.  He is the kind of representative I believe in.

The tea party was wonderful!! I encourage all to take part in anyway you can.

Giving Blood

So, today I gave blood on behalf of Edward Cullen! Let me explain…

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I have set a goal to perform one day of community service a month.  Luckily I found out that my apartment complex has a day of service a month as well.  This month they decided to do a blood drive.  As part of the promotion every donor had to pick a Twilight hero to donate their blood in behalf of.  As creepy as donating blood to a vampire might be it was actually kind of funny.  They even had the movie playing in the donation center.  Everyone knows I am not the most die-hard Twilight fan but I liked the first and second books and it was a creative idea for a blood drive.  I also thought the movie was campy and fun.

The actual giving blood part was a different story.  My veins are always tough to find. When I was 17 I had my appendix taken out and at the hospital the nurses tried and tried to insert my IV.  Eventually once the expert phlebotomist failed they had to insert the IV through my finger!  It is always tough and to be honest that is why I don’t give blood much.  In fact, I haven’t done it for years.  So today I walked over to the clubhouse and gave blood.  It was painful and it took both arms and 3 attempts to get things going but I did it.  It hurt and I am battered and bruised as a result.  I look like a drug user with pricks all over my arm!

Like I said, it hurt and was a sacrifice, but I feel it was worth it.  Hopefully my hard earned blood will go to help someone who really needs it. I challenge all of you that are able, to go out and do it!

Here is a website about the Twilight promotion. http://www.freewebs.com/twilights-bite/

Here are some interesting statistics about donating blood in the United States (some of them are a little obvious like there is no substitute for human blood- really!). I found them from the New Jersey/New York Red Cross website:

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BLOOD STATISTICS

Usage:

–4.5 million Americans benefit from life-saving blood transfusions each year.

–40,000 pints are transfused each day in the United States.

–New York Blood Center alone requires over 2,000 volunteer blood donations each day to meet the transfusion needs of patients in close to 200 New York and New Jersey hospitals.

–1 out of every 3 people will require a life-saving transfusion sometime during their lifetime.

–Someone in this country needs a life-saving transfusion every 3 seconds.

–Transfusion recipients include cancer patients, accident, burn and trauma victims, newborn babies, transplant patients, mothers delivering babies, surgery patients, chronically transfused patients suffering from sickle cell disease or thalassemia, etc.

–Each donation of blood can help save 3 lives following component (red cell, platelet, plasma) separation.

–Much of today’s sophisticated medical care ( transplants, heart surgeries, etc.) rely on blood transfusions.

–Car accident and trauma victims may need as many as 50 or more red cell transfusions.

–Severe burn victims may need as many as 20 platelet transfusions.

–Bone marrow transplants may require platelets from over 100 donors and red cells from over 20 people.

–Blood products are perishable.
* Donated red cells last only 42 days.
* Donated platelets last only 5 days.
* Plasma can be frozen for a year.

–The need for blood never takes a holiday.

Eligibility:

–Nearly everyone between the ages of 17 and 75, weighing a minimum of 110 pounds and in good health can donate blood. Donors over age 75 who are healthy and meet all other donor requirements simply require a doctor’s written permission note to donate.

–60% of Americans are eligible to donate blood; yet on average only 5% of Americans donate blood.

–In the New York/New Jersey community, less than 2% of eligible people donate blood.

–People can safely donate blood every 8 weeks.

–People can safely donate platelets every 3 days or up to 24 times a year.

–Of New York Blood Center’s approximate 450,000 donors, 8% self identify themselves as African-American, 11% self-identify themselves as Hispanic and 5% self identify themselves as Asian. But more donations from people of color are needed so New York Blood Center can better match its community’s richly diverse population and the need for “precise match” transfusions.

How Blood Works:

–Red cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.

–Platelets act like band-aids to form clots and stop bleeding.

–Plasma is the liquid through which blood cells, proteins, enzymes, nutrients and hormones “swim”.

–White cells, also called “leukocytes”, are the body’s primary defense against infection.

–The average person has between 8 to 10 pints of blood in their body and can easily spare one for donation.

–After donating, blood volume is replaced, or regenerated, within 24 hours. Red cells need 4 to 8 weeks for complete replacement.

–There is no substitute for human blood.

Happy Easter! He shall reign forever and ever.

11 Whatever It Takes

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On this Easter Sunday I feel grateful for the many blessings in my life. Above all, I am indebted to Jesus Christ for saving my soul from sin and despair. I am an imperfect person but with Christ I can be forgiven and be made whole.  It took a God of the world, a perfect person to atone for mankind’s sin but that is exactly what Jesus did.  In agony He bled from every pore and hung on the cross, so we could be forgiven.  He felt the anguish of every sin, sorrow and moment of grief ever felt by any human ever.   It’s one of those things which is tough to explain but nevertheless  true.  I have experienced moments where I felt alone and confused- where I felt weighed down by my own sins and shortcomings.  In those moments Jesus Christ has testified to my heart that He is real, He does live, and He did die for me.

It is this knowledge that has helped me move  through difficult times to the happy life I currently lead.  I say this knowing others have faced far worse; however, my challenges were still hard for me to experience.  Part of the reason we have been sent here is to be tested and grow strong- how can we do that without some faith-testing opportunities?  Through it all, the Savior has never forgotten me.  I know that He loves me.  I know He listens to my seemingly small problems.  I know these things because I have prayed and gained confirmation for myself that they are true.  I have felt Jesus Christ’s presence as an active force in my life- purifying, comforting and forgiving me each day.

I can’t tell you what comfort it gives me when the world criticizes my life, my appearance, my faith, to know deep down inside that I am loved- and not loved by just anyone but by the God of the Universe, by Jesus Christ.  I feel privileged to have such knowledge but it is by no means limited to me. All men and women can gain a testimony of the atonement of Jesus Christ through faith, prayer and repentance.   I hope He knows I will do whatever it takes to follow Him.  I love Him and  on this Easter I say with the angels “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11)

Let’s not stand gazing into heaven- let’s get out there and make a difference.  Whether it is speaking out on faith-based issues,  finding a day a month to serve, calling an old friend, doing an extra load of dishes unasked, smiling when we want to complain, and so much more.  I believe He wants us to look at His example and then “go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).   None of us can be saved without His sacrifice and resurrection, but we can all be His helpers down here to spread His gospel.  He has asked us to “be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12).  I hope you feel His love in your life.  Your life does matter.  A high price was paid for it.  Let’s try and give back in any small way we can!  He truly shall reign forever and ever! God bless you and thank you for being my friends and reading my blog.  Happy Easter.  Love, Rachel.