Month: April 2010

Big Bang Theory

After several thoughtful posts in a row I just want to spread the word about one of my favorite shows on television.  This year I have cut my tv viewing by about 2/3rds including only watching 2 scripted shows- the Big Bang Theory and How I Met Your Mother.  I was into Glee but I realized I only like the music not the stories. The Big Bang Theory is about a group of theoretical physicists that perform their research at a university similar to Cal Tech.  The four main characters are Leonard (cute nerd), Sheldon (crazy brilliant nerd), Howard (uberconfident nerd who lives with his mother- only one with a masters degree), and Rajesh (an astrophysicist from India who can’t talk to women unless he is drunk). This band of nerd misfits is accompanied by their “normal” neighbor Penny who longs to become an actress but works at the Cheesecake Factory as a waitress.

The best thing about the Big Bang Theory is the writing.  Anyone who is or has spent time with a nerd will relate to the way these guys interact and behave.  Even if you have merely been to college you will relate to this show.  Let’s put it this way- it is the only show on network television that has a physicist on staff to collaborate on all of the scientific dialogue! In the opening episode Sheldon has a formula on a board that is evidently a real “joke” on some actual equation.   That said- you don’t have to be a science geek or even a nerd to enjoy the show.  You need only to like funny, well written dialogue with characters that are selfish and exasperating yet still endearing.  It also doesn’t really make fun of nerds.  In some ways it actually glories in its “nerdvanna”.  If you haven’t seen it check it out Monday nights CBS at 8:30 (at least that’s mountain time).  Here are some of my favorite clips:

 

 

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Exercising My Life

As many of you know in recent months I have started a new fitness challenge with the goal to lose 100 lbs by my 30th birthday.  This is a bold goal but like they said shooting for the moon you at least will hit a few stars.  I have already lost 13 lbs in just over 2 months (really I started full force after returning from California).

It can be hard to understand how difficult the process of losing weight is if you have never experienced it.  When you have to lose a significant amount of  weight it is overwhelming.  I could lose 150 lbs and still be considered on the higher end of normal weight. Even more than the daunting numbers is that, it is like fighting your inner-voice because basically everything it is saying  is wrong.  It tells me I should slow down, eat more, go to fast food or not exercise today.  It rebels against my attempts to save my life (which is what I am doing!).   It says “Rachel, why are you putting me through such pain when you could be happy doing….”.  Fighting this voice is the hardest thing I will ever do in my life.  When I drive down the street I  hear the voice say “stop in there” or “get a little of that.  It’s not that bad…”.  You never realize how many places there are to eat out until you are ignoring that voice!  (there are 9 places just in the strip mall outside my apartment!). In the past I have always given into the voice but now I am determined to shut it out and turn to Heavenly Father instead.  It reminds me of my favorite scripture Mosiah 3:19:

“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.”

My natural man (or woman) is my enemy.  It is making me tired, sore and frustrated.  It invents lame excuses and brings on discouragement. I have tried so many times to lose the weight but somehow this time feels different.  I know I can do it.  I am willing to do whatever it takes even if it means missing work hours because I am too exhausted to function adequately.  (Thankfully I have the full support of my father/boss in this endeavor).   I have conquered every other obstacle in my life and I have done it as a plus size woman.  I am proud of my accomplishments and I do not feel that my weight is some kind of disgrace.  Being a bigger girl does not mean that life ends and that you spend each day on the coach eating potato chips. I travel, swim, sing, work hard, am involved in church and other activities etc.   There is much greatness to be achieved at any weight.

I also actually feel that I am beautiful just the way I am.  I really do. I have been heavy since I was 8 years old and from an young age I was blessed with the gift of self-acceptance and a happy heart.  Sure I had my moments of self-doubt (particularly when it comes to interacting with boys) but deep down inside I always knew I was beautiful.  I learned early on that Heavenly Father loved me no matter what I looked like.  I gained that testimony and it has carried me through many challenges to be the dynamic person I am today.  As I have said on this blog many times I love my life and wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Why change you may ask?  It is precisely because I love my life that I must change.  I want to live a long life.  I want to be healthy and try my best to avoid heart disease, strokes, diabetes etc.  Even more than that, I want to live a full life.  I am tired of being limited by my weight.  I want to be able to take surfing lessons when I go to Hawaii.  I want to be up for pick up basketball games when everyone plays or to have the energy to ride a bike with my dad (or just ride a bike period).  I want to go to Disneyland and not be wiped out for a week  from walking around.  In short, I want to improve upon the greatness of my life- make it richer and at least easier (eventually!)

Already this has been such a struggle and I know it will continue to be so for many years (that’s right years).  Thank you in advance for any positive feedback given for my baby steps and for listening to me moan and groan on occasion.  In return I will make a commitment to post photos and updates of my journey on this blog and to do something athletic with all of you someday!

To having energy, to living a full life.  Don’t you’all let me stop!

Pretty Words and Letter Writing

Pretty Words
Poets make pets of pretty, docile words:
I love smooth words, like gold-enamelled fish
Which circle slowly with a silken swish,
And tender ones, like downy-feathered birds:
Words shy and dappled, deep-eyed deer in herds,
Come to my hand, and playful if I wish,
Or purring softly at a silver dish,
Blue Persian kittens fed on cream and curds.

I love bright words, words up and singing early;
Words that are luminous in the dark, and sing;
Warm lazy words, white cattle under trees;
I love words opalescent, cool, and pearly,
Like midsummer moths, and honied words like bees,
Gilded and sticky, with a little sting.
Elinor Wylie

Like the poet I love pretty words whether they be docile, smooth, tender, bright, lazy or gilded.  I have always been fascinated by the ability of a word to convey a million different emotions.  Shakespeare is the master at this.  In 6 short words you understand the delicate state of Hamlet’s soul (“to be or not to be?”) and in just 3 we grasp the mad desperation of Lady Macbeth (“Out damn spot!”).

The New Testament is also remarkably succinct without the long speeches you might expect from someone as grand as Jesus Christ.  In fact, the most marvelous act that has ever occurred was glorified in only 3 words “He is risen.”

Another great example is the Gettysburg address.  In such a tumultuous time it is amazing that Lincoln took only 278 words to usher in a “new birth of freedom”.  Martin Luther King also gathered millions with his simple call “I have a dream…”

I’ve often wished that I had a real, genuine pen pal whom I could write long gushy letters to.  I just finished a book about the women of the American Revolution called Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts. One of the things that amazed me was all of the letters these women wrote- sometimes to men and women that they would never or rarely meet.  It is remarkable how much we learn  about the daily goings on and the various opinions of the female correspondents.  I was constantly caught off guard with how modern and ambitious these 18th century women felt and behaved.

Some might argue that letters have been adequately replaced by email, blogging, facebook, twitter etc.   While these conveniences have their place and appeal they are not as thoughtful or thought-provoking merely because they are so easily produced.  A letter took real effort.  An email- not so much.  Nowadays kids don’t even spell entire words out when writing to each other- let alone actually putting together a real letter with powerful ideas from the heart.

For years I have started my diary entries as “Dear Friend” and then I write as if I was filling in a dear friend on the thoughts of my heart and the goings-on of my life.  While sorely missing the response, at least this allows me to format my ideas in the ways of old- something I find valuable in many ways.

Next time you have family home evening or a free moment sit down and write a traditional letter.  You can mail it or not but it will probably surprise you how interesting your life and thoughts are  These lettter’s do not have to be profound or sad, you may be fascinated by how witty you can be.  Give it a try!

If you want to read a great little book about a glorious correspondence check out The Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright.

It is a small book but one of my top 10 favorites (and it is recently back in print!).  It is the real life correspondence of Wright and Silko- 2 poets who only met briefly but exchanged letters for years.  I have like 3 copies if anybody wants to borrow.

Elements of a Story in Our Lives

For my birthday my sister Megan got me A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  I am about 50 pages into it and loving this book. It is a bit hard to describe but basically Miller is a writer who begins to feel that his life is boring that it is unworthy of a memoir (even though he had just published a memoir and was blocked on writing his newest one).  While feeling frustrated and blocked he gets an offer to write a screenplay and in his meeting with the other writers they mention that his character will need to be changed to make a better story.  This makes him wonder even more about what his life is all about and how much of a hand God has in the development of his story.

I am still reading but there was one part that I just had to share.  Donald goes to an intense story-writing conference where he hears 36 hours of lecture and is still confused about what makes a great story.  When packing up his bags he mentions his frustrations to his buddy who responds:

“A Story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”, he said with remarkable assurance.

I looked at the definition for a second wondering at how simple it really was.  He was right.  A character who wants something  and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.

“That’s it!,”  I said to him.  “That’s the essence of a story”

Realizing this truth he has a fascinating interaction with a friend of his.  This friend has a daughter who is starting to experiment in drugs and is dating a guy “who smelled like smoke and only answered questions with single words ”  (I love that description!).  After repeated grounding attempts nothing seemed to be working.  On a whim Donald tells his friend that his daughter is “living a terrible story”.

“What do you mean?” he asked

“I don’t know exactly, but she’s just not living a very good story.  She’s caught up in a bad one”

After that the two friends talked for a long time about living the right stories.  A couple of months later he ran into this friend and asked about the daughter.  ‘”She’s better” he said to me smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story”.    Basically the friend went online and looked for something different, better to be involved in- something that might catch his daughters eye.  In the search he found an organization that builds orphanages around the world.  He then called the organization and signed up for the service.

“So I went home and called a family meeting…I told them about this village and about the orphanage and all these terrible things  that could happen if these kids don’t get an orphanage.  Then I told them I agreed to build it”

My wife sat there looking at me like I’d lost my mind.  And my daughter, her eyes were as big as melons and she wasn’t happy.

He then goes on to explain that after getting over the initial shock the entire family became excited including his daughter.  She even wanted to use her website and blog to promote and fund raise for the orphanage.

“That’s incredible” I said   “You know what else, man?” “She broke up with her boyfriend last week.  She had his picture on her dresser and took it down and told me he said she was too fat. Can you believe that?  What a jerk.”

“But that is done now,” he said, shaking his head. ” No girl who plays the role of hero dates a guy who uses her.  She knows who she is.  She just forgot for a little while”

I have a quote on my wall that says “If at some point in your life you are not where you want to be it has no bearing on the future. You can always reinvent yourself”.  I don’t know who said that first but I think this is a very interesting idea.  Just like the girl in the story or the prodigal son from scripture, we can come to ourselves and think upon our ways; thereby, creating a new story, a better story, or certainly a more dynamic story.  Even if it is not a redemptive change, knowing that change is possible is so wonderful.  For example, if I am able to lose weight that would change my story- it may or may not make it substantially better but the chances are it will make it a longer story.  Another example that comes to my mind is the new story which was created when I quit my job at JWA.   I felt 100% authentic to what God wanted to me to do and what was consequently right for me.  As Donald says “And once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a choice.  Not living a better story would be like deciding to die, deciding to walk around numb until you die and its not natural to want to die.”  This is the best summary of how I feel now compared to how I felt in my old job.  I just wasn’t living the story I was meant to live- it wasn’t a bad story, just not the one for me.  I am so glad I had the guts to leap into the unknown and try something new.

On my mission I saw many people who started to tell a different story.  They experienced conversion and fairly quickly his or her life became a life with a “Mormon” story thrown into the mix.  I’d be curious to hear of moments in your life where a change in your story had a dramatic affect or a smaller but memorable one.


Food Storage and Taxes

Here is my food storage organized by type- milk, tomatoes, meat and beans, and fruits and vegetables

With my saving and gathering together my funds I found a way to pay my return without borrowing a dime! A miracle!

One of the principles that the Mormon church teaches is called self reliance and part of living that principle is having food set aside for a rainy day.  These days that rain often comes in the form of financial difficulties.  For me it is a heavier than expected tax bill.  When you are self-employed you have to pay an added self-employment tax on top of the normal income taxes that everyone else pays (you think they would encourage entrepreneurship, not punish it!).  This can easily be over 40% of your income taken out in taxes.  This year I thought I had made a bigger dent with my estimated payments and then was shocked with a high bill last Friday.  Now I have 2 weeks to scramble together all of my savings, call in money owed to me and work my but off logging hours.  I think with concerted effort I will squeak by and make the bill.  Now I know I should have planned better and been saving more but one thing I am glad of is that I have slowly been acquiring a little food storage for myself over the last year.  This consists of canned vegetables, fruit, milk, pasta, meat etc.  I also have a freezer full of various proteins and vegetables.   My new goal is to try and spend no extra money until April 15th.  I will be eating my food storage and forgoing all extra expenses such as going to movies or the theater.

I am certainly not asking for sympathy on this front.  I know many people who have lived off their food storage for a year or more.  It is definitely going to be a challenge as I am used to cooking with fresh food and trying new recipes.  I also love eating out but I’ve been trying to cut down on that so this is a nice excuse to eliminate it entirely. If any of you have good food storage recipes that you wouldn’t mind sharing that would be great.  Today I made pork tacos using salsa and some pork I had in the freezer.  It wasn’t quite as good without any cheese or normal fresh condiments but oh well.  If I can make it to the 15th and have the money for this payment it will all be worth it.  Then my goal after that will definitely be to continue saving so this type of crisis doesn’t happen again.

Regardless, I don’t think I will be traveling any time soon.  As sad as that makes me it is a reality and it is certainly better than going into debt (something I have managed to not do.  I am completely debt free at 29 and intend to remain so!).  I will sorely miss my Hawaii this year but alas that is the situation. (I know- poor me.  I don’t get to go to Hawaii for the 4th time in 4 years but it does make a me a little sad. I love it so much.  The thought of the lovely island chain often helps me get through the bad, stressful days.)

One website that has been helpful in preparing my food storage is http://www.providentliving.org/.  There are lots of companies you can buy food storage from, but I just made small purchases at Costco, All-a-Dollar, Walmart and Macys (a low-cost Utah based grocery chain).   I also focused on buying food that I enjoy such as pasta, sauce, canned chicken, fruit etc.  On the other hand, I did not buy spam or spinach because I don’t like either.  Its funny because most single people do not have food storage but last year I felt a prompting to get a little saved.  Now I am so glad I did!  I am always amazed at the little ways Heavenly Father takes care of and guides me.

Seriously send me those food storage recipes!  Thanks.

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Happy Easter! Christ is Risen

I don’t have long to write this Easter morning, but I have been contemplating my relationship with Jesus Christ lately.  It amazes me how His sacrifice could be both intimate and infinite.  While every single person who ever lived is saved from sin and despair, I have also been saved.  His grace and power coupled by divine love and empathy gives me the strength to live my life with purpose and obedience.   What a comfort it is to know that because He conquered death and was resurrected on the third day- we all can live again with our loved ones.  In my limited experience with such things the knowledge of eternal life and resurrection was truly a balm of Gilead.  It is my greatest desire to follow Him and be a worthy disciple.  I love Him and know that His church has been restored. He truly did die for my sins and sorrows- as He did for yours.  I have gained this knowledge through personal prayer, scripture study and the promptings of the Holy Ghost to my heart.  I hope you all have a wonderful Easter morning and that you try to find ways to be more like Jesus Christ every day.  Build up your testimony and then strengthen others. This is the way you will be Happy in life!  God bless.