Month: February 2012

FHE for 1

So, it has always been my greatest desire to be obedient to the prophet of my church.  One of the things that he has asked every Latter-day Saint to do is to hold family home evening.  This has always been a bit of a problem as I do not have a traditional family.  Its just me! (at least for the moment, with no foreseeable change in the future).

This gap in my gospel living has become particularly important recently as I have made the transition from the young single adult ward to a family ward.  In a singles ward they have activities on Monday night (the traditional home evening night) with a lesson and family-type activity.  While I may certainly still attend these activities eventually I have to make the transition to my new lifestyle. After all, I’m not going to be 40 and still going to YSA FHE activities!

So, today I was thinking about this problem and came across an old article in the Ensign entitled Family Home Evening for One by Judyth Barton.  It gave me a whole new idea- I should have family home evening for myself.  I’m a family of one, so why not!  I can certainly use the inspiration in my life and I have learned that any obedience is always a source of blessings- even if it is just the knowledge to get through tough times.  I KNOW it will bless my life.

Plus, it will help me to be ready if Mr Sunshine ever does come.  It will be easy for me to convert a family home evening for one into more.

I have decided to create a new blog that will just be for my lessons and thoughts for FHE.  This blog is designed for members of my faith and really isn’t a forum for debate on what I believe.  I don’t think that is very productive anyway but this blog will remain my main source of discussion and continue to cover a variety of topics.

http://fhefor1.wordpress.com/ is just for my  FHE lessons, progress and experiences.  I’ve already made my first entry.  I hope you enjoy reading my thoughts.  I decided for the moment to focus on the talks from conference for my lessons.

I hope that my friends will include me in their family home evenings and that they will come to be a part of mine. Anyone is certainly welcome to join with me!

No to Weight Loss Surgery

I have a little time so I wanted to post about a topic I’ve had to consider over the last two years.   Recently I had another doctor suggest gastric bypass surgery as a solution to my weight loss (I’ve had 4 doctors suggest it in the last 3 years).  This is a personal decision that everyone must make for themselves but let me explain why I chose to do things the old fashioned way:

1. My goal in starting this journey was not to be skinny.  I did this because I felt GOOD about myself, not the other way around.  It was to become active, and I have done that.  I wanted to be able to do more- to go surfing, to try rock climbing, to swim  a mile, and I’ve done all 3!

If you have not worked out the mental and emotional sides of weight loss/weight gain a dramatic weight loss via surgery will not permanently solve those problems.

2. You have all of these strange restrictions after getting the surgery like not mixing fluids with food. Plus you can only eat 3/4-1 cup of food at each meal.  (In truth the surgery just forces you to drastically restrict your calorie intake). Many who have the surgery develop nutrient deficiencies and have to take shots and supplements.

3. Because your fluids are limited exercise can be difficult and painful. (They recommend taking an hour to drink 8 ounces of water!).

4. Surgery always has risks (My former roommate had gastric bypass and as a result got addicted to lortab and is now deceased, so that should be reason enough for me to be cautious.).

5. You cannot take any anti-inflamatories because of risk of bleeding and ulcers. With  my fibromyalgia this would be a terrible problem. (even though I try to avoid any drugs sometimes the pain is too great)

6. Many people have to get multiple surgeries.

7. The stomach organs are very sensitive to infection, irritation and problem.  (Gastric bypass is the only surgery I am aware of that purposefully hampers a human organ from fully functioning. This can’ t help but cause some trauma to the human body).

8. My situation is not serious enough to require it.  For example, my A1C is a doing well at 5.3.  Most people who qualify for gastric bypass have much higher A1Cs and have as a goal getting below 6.  I seem to be able to control my diabetes symptoms on my own. I have also lost 53 lbs in the last 3 years and expect more progress to come.

9.  I want my victory to be my own, not at the hands of a surgeon’s scalpel.  If it takes me 10 years to reach my ideal weight it will be worth it. I will be able to tell my nieces that they can overcome any challenge on their own (with support from family and friends of course)

10. Hashimoto’s disease (thyroid disease), and other violent gastrointestinal diseases can result from gastric bypass. With autoimmune and irritable bowel problems running in my family I feel it is best to tread lightly in this area of the body.

11. I basically think it is forced anorexia.  Sorry but that’s how I feel.  In fact, there are cases of women developing eating disorders after the surgery.   They even have a name for it Acute Psychotic Disorder After Gastric Bypass Surgery. Eating right is a constant battle but its a battle worth engaging in. The way I am doing it I am learning how to eat for my specific body all the time, not to recover from a surgery.

12.  I hate surgeries and don’t respond well to anesthesia.

13.  Its very expensive.  From what I’ve read costing between $10,000 to $30,000, which I don’t have and if I did I would use it to get more training time, travel time, and go to that open water swim camp in Coasta Rica, or I’d love to do all the open waters swims in Hawaii. (I’ve got lots of dreams!).

14. I’ve gotten everything I want out of the program I’m currently doing.  Even if the weight loss is slow and can be frustrating, would I not have most of those frustrations in a different way post-surgery?  I like my life.  I’m active and happy and think I look cute in clothes so I don’t feel a need.

15. The surgical starvation only works for about 6-9 months and then you are back to maintaining on your own.  Not worth it for me. Sorry!

16.  You can die from the surgery, and not always right away.  I was just reading about a lady who died 3 years later from complications.

17.  Gastric bypass does not change your brain.  You still crave all the same things, you just can’t eat them.  Sure once you can eat more you might hold fast for a while but how long will your brain and body cave?  I prefer to work with the brain first and focus on changing the cravings.  That’s why I did the sugar fast and will probably do it again.

18.  I’m happy with who I am and the health trajectory that I am on.  (Ok.  I might have repeated that one twice but it is true. I’m healthy, all my vitals are normal.  I’m not a diabetic risk anymore.  There is no reason for great alarm or drastic measures.

Like I said, everyone has to make their own decision and this is mine.  I chose to not have gastric bypass and try my best to keep up an active lifestyle instead.  I believe this is the choice God wants me to make for me.  Every person must address their health in his or her own way.  This is just my conclusion.  No gastric bypass surgery for me.I’d take sore muscles and a low GI diet any day of the week.

Good luck as you make your choices.

There's a smile on my face!

Relaxing Sunday Music

D and C 25:12

For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me, and it shall be answered with a blessing upon their heads.

1 Chr. 16:9

Sing unto him, sing psalms unto him, talk ye of all his wondrous works.

Well, I now have 1 pm church which gives me time to listen to music, read my scriptures (and the lessons.  Hurray!) and be ready for church services.  I love it!

This will be my first Sunday in the newly formed family ward. I hope they keep the spiritual focus of the last ward.  I know I’d only gone to it for 2 weeks but I was really impressed.  I am sure it will be great.  Haven’t had a bad one yet!

I am so grateful for my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I’m so grateful for my relationship with God.  He has helped me through some lonely hours of late.

There are several ways that Jesus lets me feel His presence.  Sometimes it is through prayer, scripture study, moments of clarity, friends, words of the prophets, service, but sometimes it is through good music.

Even yesterday at the swim meet when big blaring dance music was playing over the loud speaker, I turned to my Sunday playlist and felt immediately relaxed.

I have a mixed CD entitled ‘Sunday music’ that I’ve listened to about 200 times lately. Not all of these songs are outwardly religious and most of them are not sung by Mormon artists but they strike a relaxing chord within my heart.

I thought I might share this playlists with you for your lonely days.

What music inspires you, makes you feel God’s presence?

Awake- Josh Groban

Ashokan Farewell- Jay Ungar and Molly Mason

If this doesn’t move you there is something wrong with you-

The Painted Veil Soundtrack

Gabriel’s Oboe- From The Mission Soundtrack

Hallelujah Chorus- Handel’s Messiah

Queen of the Night Aria- Natalie Dessay

Un Bel Di vedremo from Madame Butterfly

Better Than I- Dallyn Vail Bayles (my former voice teacher)

Bring Him Home- Jordan Bluth

Prayer- Hayley Westenra

El-Shadai- Amy Grant

Oh Happy Days- Edwin Hawkins Singers

Leave a Light On- Matt Maher

I Can Only Imagine- MercyMe

Wild Child- Enya

Ave Maria- Hayley Westerna

Pastoral Symphony- Handel’s Messiah

Consider the Lilies- Mormon Tabernacle Choir

O Divine Redeemer- Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Amazing Grace- Hayley Westerna

Battle Hymn of the Republic- Mormon Tabernacle Choir

QUAC

Its been a few months since our last Masters meet but finally the QUAC meet arrived today. This is a meet sponsored by the QUAC swim group (Queer Utah Aquatic Club).  And I will just start by saying I have no issues going to a meet sponsored by a gay group. I think it is important to focus on the things we have in common rather than our differences.  How can a dialogue begin if we never converse on an equal playing field?

So, that’s that.  The meet was a lot of fun.  Thanks to everyone who helped prepare for the meet, scheduling the pool, administrators, volunteers and getting great goodie bags!  I appreciate all the effort that went in.

Unfortunately I was on a bad stretch with my fibromyalgia.  Three days of bad pain. (I had another reminder this week that enduring the pain is better for me than going the drug route. Its just too easy to fall prey to addiction and dependence).

I was nervous I wouldn’t be able to swim at all.  However, I am not a quitter so I swam my best and had a great time.  (btw, thank you to Doterra essential oils for getting me through the pain! I’m a preferred member if any of you want any oils.  They are the best for pain.).

The first race was supposed to be the 50 free but I missed the announcement and didn’t get to swim. 😦 .  The whole meet went by very quickly.  They started way late but once it got going it really clipped along.

So then I swam the 500m’s.  This is 20 lengths or 10 laps.   Thanks to Goody for being my lap counter.  Unfortunately I had forgotten my inhaler and I think that slowed my results. It was hard fought and just slightly under my best time coming in at 12 min 25 seconds.   With all the emotional and physical stress I’ve been under lately I was very happy with that score.

I got out of the water and felt like I was going to pass out.  I had a splitting headache and felt spent.  I wondered if I could make it through the 50 fly.  However, after a little rest and some nuts I swam the 50 fly and took 1 second off my last time!  Wahoo!

My friends all did great as well.  It was so fun to cheer them on and hear them cheering me on.  Utah swimmers are the best!

Now I am resting, putting hot and cold on my muscles and hoping I am not too sore for church tomorrow.  I should be fine but we will see. The thing that amazes me is this weekend is like a 3 day event for the QUAC members.  A bunch of them are going skiing tomorrow.  There is no way I could go skiing.  I’ll be lucky if I can walk! 🙂

There is nothing like being in that water racing.  Its like everything zooms up on you and all you can see is water.  It is the most therapeutic thing I’ve ever done.  I just love it!  I’m not sure when the next meet is but I’m looking forward to it.

Thanks again to all who worked to make the day happen and for everyone that cheered me on.

Here are some more photos of the day.

Love this photo.
My friends Kate and Tracey. Most weeks we meet and swim. Love them!
Kate and I at the meet.

Blogger in Training

Today I finished work a little early and started looking for photos of me at the 2002 Olympics (post to be coming on 10 year anniversary.  Still can’t find photos!).

As I was looking through my old stuff (yes, I am a pack-rat and yes, I love it!), I found a bunch of old newspapers my sister and I made, current events logs, and journals I kept.   The thing that is amazing is how little I’ve really changed.  The basic Rachel at 31 is in many ways the same at 8, 13, 15, etc.

I think the Jesuits might be right- “Give me the child of seven, and I will give you the man.”

A couple things that I noticed from looking at these journals.

First,  how much I craved being special, being recognized, being first.  For example, I HAD to have this photo taken by the crayons because it was special.  It wasn’t my Dad, the professional photographer, taking photos.  It wasn’t even the regular school shots.  It was different and fun.  The smile on my face shows a lot.

Even my reactions to the people in my life seemed to carry more meaning than they might to other children.  When Anna was just a baby we went to Disneyland and I write “I had an outrageous time in Disneyland.  I remember how Anna was always laughing when I tickled her! I also went on a lot of rides and had a lot of fun” (12-31-1991).  Isn’t it interesting that the laugh of a sister produced the same degree of glee as rides at Disneyland?

Second, express basically the same interests then as I have now. Entries like “today we went swimming for a whole hour” are common with big exclamation points. I speak about cooking and when my friend loses her brother in an accident I say ‘our family brought them food on Sunday and I made an apple pie (All by myself no help from Mom!!) with homemade flaky crust and I cut the apples…’.  See how independent and strong I was but with such a desire to serve those in need? I would still feel great about making an apple pie by myself (although I highly doubt I did so at the time!).

Third, I was always confident in my testimony of my church and in Jesus Christ.  October 21, 1990, “I love the Lord and Jesus Christ and I love it even more when you go to a place and have a great feeling and that place is the place where sins vanish.  In the stake center or a church building when you are baptized and confirmed”. At a very young age I knew that the church was true and I could always feel it, never doubted.  Once I made a decision I was done. Luckily for my parents, I made a lot of good choices!

At an older age (probably 13) I said “The thing about knowledge is once we have a testimony.  We must use it!  Missionary work is very important.  I know not everyone can be a full time missionary.  But we need  to use our knowledge to set a good example.  If a friend swears you must (underlined) tell them to stop.  Because it is better that you be embarrassed or picked on or made fun of than to make Heavenly Father sad” (quite a statement for a girl who was routinely picked on…).

Fourth, it is amazing is how knowledgeable and fascinated I was by the news of the day and I had no problem expressing my opinion on those subjects (sound like anyone you know?).  For example, after hearing one of President Clinton’s speeches I wrote:

“I’m sorry but I didn’t buy the President’s speech!  All the emphasis on working together and cutting taxes.  He sounded just like Rush Limbaugh.  If the president really plans to be better than great, but the Republican congress should not be in tears and all touched by Clinton’s speech though…The Republicans and the American’s just say to Clinton if you want to follow, follow, but you’re not leading” (Fall, 1994). What 13 year old says things like that? I love it!

Its funny I can totally see the strabimus problem in this photo. I notice it all the time now. Things are just slightly off symmetry.

I even had an opinion on Charles and Diana getting divorced, saying “I can see how their marriage went bad.  Charles being forced to marry.  I also think that when Charles married they were more in lust not in love.  Prince Charles should still be allowed to be King”

I just think it is amazing that a child even knew about such things and then had the gumption to venture an opinion. I even have entries where I talk about balancing the budget and cutting taxes.  In one of our newspapers I give an update on the 1991 primary presidential election and that ‘Bill Clinton is doing very well’.

In high school I wrote “When I was a little girl I thought that everyone was special and everyone liked everyone else no matter what they looked like”.  I think that was true, even about myself.  I thought that I was special and I still do… I had a great desire to make others happy.  I talk about sharing my testimony with others a lot because it was something that made me happy.

“Some think that they are too busy, or that they need Sunday to go on vacation or to fish, boat or ski.  we must all think about the opportunities we have everyday where we can influence people, and use them to benefit mankind.  We must not only attend church, we must live a life worthy of the church’s standards.  We must invite as many people as possible to activities. We shouldn’t count on the government to do everything…”

Can’t you just see the little blogger inside some of those words? I’ve hopefully polished it a bit and gotten a bit more open-minded but the core is there.  That desire to make others happy, to feel happy myself and to speak my mind is still with me.

One last quote

“What would happen if everyone made a special effort to love someone every day.  People would be friendlier and less people would turn to evil.  Too many people are trying to fit in with their friends instead of having their friends fit into their beliefs and personality.  The only people who are cool are the people who aren’t trying to be.  We need to realize that with just giving the friendship, people would have no reason to want to fit in and drug abuse and crime would drop.” (1992, school journal)

There you have it my friends…

Whitney Houston and Music Today

I have never been a huge Whitney Houston fan but it was hard to grow up when I did and not be influenced by her powerful vocals. I think there was a side of all of us that hoped she would make it through her demons but as so many others she just couldn’t pull herself out of addiction and its awful vices.  Honestly I was surprised the pang of sadness I felt when I heard the news.

On my mission I volunteered for an AA/NA chapter and was totally blown away by both the organization and the power of addiction.  If my Mormon faith has given me anything, at the very least it has steered me away from those behaviors that often start innocently but become oh so hard in some to give up.

I also learned to be deeply sympathetic towards those who battle with addiction.  These drugs change the addicts brain and it becomes a disease.  Whether it is initially self-inflicted is not an excuse for their behavior or for unsympathetic and unkind thoughts.

My favorite Whitney Houston song is I Have Nothing.  I’ve had in on my playlist for years!  The entire Bodyguard soundtrack was played so much for a while that it was hard to not tire of eventually.  Do you think we get the same burn out on songs that we used to?  There are so many more options to listen to that why listen to a song you are sick of?

Even if Whitney isn’t your favorite, I don’t know how you can deny that she was a powerhouse of a singer.  The length of her notes, the clarity, pitch and pure sound are just superb. In most of her songs she carries key changes without missing a beat and the range is amazing.

I Will Always Love You is basically the Somewhere Over the Rainbow of the 90s. (and props given to Dolly Parton for writing such a memorable song)

Its hard to think of anyone who we can compare to Whitney’s overall appeal.  In fact, the more I think about it, her death is emblematic of the change in the music/movie industry since the 90s.  When I was in high school a teen had 2 choices for new music- the radio or MTV.  (or perhaps the soundtrack to a movie like the Bodyguard or Reality Bites).

Now there are so many outlets to investigate new talent including itunes, youtube, amazon.com, television sponsorship, advertising, satellite radio, pandora, spotify etc.   Mostly I’d say this is a good thing, allowing a wider range of vocalists to be heard and find a niche audience.

Still, the change does demonstrate how in many ways our society is becoming more insular and divided.  In the 90s everyone I know liked Nirvana, Whitney Houston, Jewel, Lauryn Hill, Tim McGraw etc.  If you had nothing in common with a person, odds are you liked whatever popular tunes were being pumped out of the radio.  I don’t think you could say that any more?

The only performer I can think of that is universally enjoyed is Adele. With two amazing albums she has transcended genres creating dance, contemporary and pop hits.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like Adele.

It is also hard to think of a singer like Whitney who is a recognizable acting presence.  Is the era of the all-around diva entertainer no more (and having a reality show does not count, even if it is basically acting)?

The only person I can think of is Jennifer Hudson.  As an oscar and grammy winner she commands attention on both formats but even she doesn’t have the star power of a Whitney Houston. (Maybe now that she’s skinny she will be but that’s for another blog).

As I mentioned in my post about Ingrid Michaelson, artists are forced to sell their music to advertisers, TV shows, and a myriad of other product placements.  The days of the girl singing in the bar or small venue, hoping to be found have been traded for an  american idol appearance,  or youtube following.  Mostly I think this is a good thing but like I said it lacks a certain degree of unity in music that has always existed.

It also forces music to be more image-conscience than ever before.  I wonder if a Bob Dylan or Aretha Franklin could make it today? Would people be drawn to watch a youtube video of these unusual stars by their appearance?  I’m not sure?

I’m afraid far too often singers like Kei$ha (even her name is image conscious) get picked up for outlandish appearances and not for their voice.  Lady GaGa, who can actually sing, chooses to flaunt about in ridiculous costumes just to have her voice heard.  A good voice is not enough without the additional visual factor.

How do you discover new music?  I’m wondering if purchasing cds will go the way of the one hour photo booth (or perhaps it already has).  I never get photos developed unless I’m going to frame them.  I rarely purchase cds.  Even mp3s seem a little silly when you can download albums on spotify for free and listen to an ad every now and then.

What bands/singers from the 90s did you like? Jewel, REM and Dixie Chicks were particular favorites of mine.

Lastly, to those suffering from addiction there is hope.  Please contact your AA/NA chapter.  They have the resources to help you.  It will be a long road but sobriety is possible.  Please don’t rob the world of the talents you can give.  We need you and your gifts.

I Fought Satan

“I often laugh at Satan, and there is nothing that makes him so angry as when I attack him to his face, and tell him that through God I am more than a match for him”  Martin Luther.

I promise this will be my last religious post for a little while.  I’m afraid I’ve had that subject on my mind of late.  The title of this post refers to an experience from my mission.  One of my companions struggled to learn the missionary lessons and remember when it was her time to share with investigators.  To mitigate this problem I developed lessons using large art posters produced by the church.  When she saw her picture she knew it was time to speak.

To get more practice we gave the lesson to members as a family home evening presentation.  At the time there was a great family called the Bolin’s that had an energetic son named Wilhamayus (not sure if I spelled that right).  He was so excited about the gospel and loved watching church movies and reading the scriptures.

One day we decided to practice our lesson for Wilhamayus and his family and they were excited as usual.  When we got to the Joseph Smith picture he looked at it and said without missing a beat- ‘That’s Joseph Smith.  He fought Satan”.

What he was referring to was the feeling the Prophet Joseph got before having what we refer to as the First Vision.  He talks about being overcome by an evil spirit, of an actual being trying to prevent him from conversing with God.  We believe Joseph persevered, clinging to God, eventually seeing God the Father and Jesus Christ.

I was thinking about Wilhamayus’ statement “He fought Satan” this week.  Because of some personal challenges, particularly the constant struggle of my health, I’ve been feeling a little blue.  At one moment I felt almost overcome by a sense of worthlessness, hopelessness, and despair.  My world felt out of control and there is nothing I hate more than that.  I felt angry, upset and frustrated.

Trying to find relief I opened my scriptures and read Joseph’s story.  Then I had an ‘ah ha’ moment. I realized Satan is trying to get me down.  He knows I have power to make a difference in the world, and he doesn’t want that.  He wants me to be unhappy and even angry.  He wants to thwart my legacy and leave me bitter and resentful.  He wants me to focus on what I don’t have, instead of my many blessings.

Closing my scriptures I realized “I fought Satan”.  I fought Satan that day when I turned to my scriptures and I fight him every time I decide to follow Christ. Everyday that I make a good choice, a choice to be happy, to serve others, to obey God’s laws, I fight Satan.  We all do.  Every good choice we make is a victory in the war against Satan and his minions.

I had thought about my own weakness and the power of Satan many times but never quite in this way.  That he knows my frailty and will try to use it against me to help his cause.  He knows when I feel blue it is more difficult for me to serve God and feel the Holy Spirit.  He knows this and monopolizes it.

Since that moment of clarity I’ve had passing thoughts of sadness and loneliness but each time I said to myself ‘Satan, you aren’t going to win. No, not this time.  Get out of my head’.  As I’ve prayed and relied on God, I have felt my Heavenly Father’s presence stronger than ever.

Will I have bad days, sad days? Of course, and perhaps a certain degree of self-recognition is healthy (we don’t want to hold everything inside or be a doormat); however, it is a spot if left unchecked that Satan can use to reduce my happiness and my effectiveness in spreading God’s word.  I know that now and I’m on the watch for it!

It’s like CS Lewis said “there is no neutral ground in the universe; every square inch, every split second, is claimed by God and counter-claimed by Satan”

One more C.S. Lewis quote “The long, dull, monotonous years of middle-aged prosperity or middle-aged adversity are excellent campaigning weather for the devil.”  So true!

Remember that you can be a warrior for Christ and this will not only make the world a better place but immeasurably increase your personal happiness.

I know this is true!

PS.  Whoever sent me the valentines flowers- thanks! It made my day!

My Life in a Graphic/Surgery Choice

So, I’ve been feeling an itch to travel lately.  Let off some steam.  I’ve been thinking about maybe a trip to the beach once my surgery has healed.  Yes, I’ve decided to give the strabismus one more try.  March 14th is the date. I’m not sure how I’m going to get through this one.  Since there has to be someone to take me to the doctors to get the suture adjusted I need someone who can be with me for at least half the day.  Hmmm….This is where being single is a challenge!

Anyway, it should be fun to reap the rewards of being in a family ward after surgery.  Should be some yummy Relief Society meals (JK!).  I just hope it works this time.  I’m not goona lie.  I’m a little scared.  Going into it the second time is part relieving and part terrifying. I know some parts were easier than expected and some parts were harder.  I wish I could just get it done tomorrow instead of waiting until March, 14. Wish me luck! Keep me in your prayers for this and many other reasons.

Anyone want to plan a trip to the beach? Say Spring break or Memorial Day? Just the thought of the ocean is bringing me peace.  I love it so much!

Social Singles

Does that look like 3 antisocial girls to you? They are all 3 single.

I normally don’t post entire articles but I liked this one so much I decided to do it.  It reinforces what I’ve tried to say on this blog and on facebook.  As someone who lives alone I can feel defensive about the assumptions and stereotypes that go along with my lifestyle.  This idea of the old maid with a collection of cats just isn’t a reality any more.  I’m not sure if it was ever a reality.

I liked 2 points in particular.  First,  when he says “There is much research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones”. On one hand this seems like an obvious point but you’d be surprised how often I have to reassure people that living alone does not mean I am a social hermit.  In fact, I believe it forces me to try twice as hard for companionship since I don’t have it with me in my home.

Second,  I liked when he said, “New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.”.

I have  found this to be the case in my life.  While the internet can definitely be a time suck, on the whole, it has been a tremendous blessing in my life.  It has allowed me to keep in touch with friends from high school, college and my mission, and most importantly to receive support from them on a daily basis.  My trip to Maryland in September would never have happened without Facebook and my blog.  There is no way I would have kept in touch with all those people.

Plus, I’ve received so much support from people located all over the country as I’ve battled to lose weight, diabetes, PCOS and fibromyalgia diagnosis and all the other chaos in my life.  All in all the internet has been an overwhelmingly positive social tool in my life.  My circle of friends and support is way larger  than it ever would be otherwise.  I don’t know how I would have gotten through the last 2 years without it.  Seriously.

My blog has also given me a voice in the world.  It is a chance to communicate my feelings and learn how to write those feelings in a coherent way.  If I die tomorrow there will be a record of my life for all to see.  A record of my thoughts, wishes, opinions and struggles.  There is something beautiful about that.  I hope that it is a way I can make a difference, maybe inspire a few people or give them a laugh.  Such a difference might have been more difficult for singles in the past.  I am SO grateful to have a voice and a platform to speak.  Thanks!

Single ladies on the single cruise I went to in 2009
A group of us girls going out for Camille's birthday. I think this was in 2010?

One’s a Crowd

By ERIC KLINENBERG

MORE people live alone now than at any other time in history. In prosperous American cities — Atlanta, Denver, Seattle, San Francisco and Minneapolis — 40 percent or more of all households contain a single occupant. In Manhattan and in Washington, nearly one in two households are occupied by a single person.

By international standards, these numbers are surprising — surprisingly low. In Paris, the city of lovers, more than half of all households contain single people, and in socialist Stockholm, the rate tops 60 percent.

The decision to live alone is common in diverse cultures whenever it is economically feasible. Although Americans pride themselves on their self-reliance and culture of individualism, Germany, France and Britain have a greater proportion of one-person households than the United States, as does Japan. Three of the nations with the fastest-growing populations of single people — China, India and Brazil — are also among those with the fastest growing economies.

The mere thought of living alone once sparked anxiety, dread and visions of loneliness. But those images are dated. Now the most privileged people on earth use their resources to separate from one another, to buy privacy and personal space.

Living alone comports with modern values. It promotes freedom, personal control and self-realization — all prized aspects of contemporary life.

It is less feared, too, for the crucial reason that living alone no longer suggests an isolated or less-social life. After interviewing more than 300 singletons (my term for people who live alone) during nearly a decade of research, I’ve concluded that living alone seems to encourage more, not less, social interaction.

Paradoxically, our species, so long defined by groups and by the nuclear family, has been able to embark on this experiment in solo living because global societies have become so interdependent. Dynamic markets, flourishing cities and open communications systems make modern autonomy more appealing; they give us the capacity to live alone but to engage with others when and how we want to and on our own terms.

In fact, living alone can make it easier to be social, because single people have more free time, absent family obligations, to engage in social activities.

Compared with their married counterparts, single people are more likely to spend time with friends and neighbors, go to restaurants and attend art classes and lectures. There is much research suggesting that single people get out more — and not only the younger ones. Erin Cornwell, a sociologist at Cornell, analyzed results from the General Social Survey (which draws on a nationally representative sample of the United States population) from 2000 to 2008 and found that single people 35 and older were more likely than those who lived with a spouse or a romantic partner to spend a social evening with neighbors or friends. In 2008, her husband, Benjamin Cornwell (also a sociologist at Cornell), was lead author of “The Social Connectedness of Older Adults,” a paper in the American Sociological Review that showed that single seniors had the same number of friends and core discussion partners as their married peers and were more likely to socialize with friends and neighbors.

SURVEYS, some by market research companies that study behavior for clients developing products and services, also indicate that married people with children are more likely than single people to hunker down at home. Those in large suburban homes often splinter into private rooms to be alone. The image of a modern family in a room together, each plugged into a separate reality, be it a smartphone, computer, video game or TV show has become a cultural cliché.

New communications technologies make living alone a social experience, so being home alone does not feel involuntary or like solitary confinement. The person alone at home can digitally navigate through a world of people, information and ideas. Internet use does not seem to cut people off from real friendships and connections.

The Pew Internet Personal Networks and Community Survey — a nationally representative survey of 2,512 American adults conducted in 2008 that was the first to examine how the Internet and cellphones affect our core social networks — shows that Web use can lead to more social life, rather than to less. “Social Isolation and New Technology,” written by the Rutgers University communications scholar Keith Hampton, reveals that heavy users are more likely than others to have large and diverse social networks; more likely to visit parks, cafes and restaurants; and more likely to meet diverse people with different perspectives and beliefs.

Today five million people in the United States between ages 18 and 34 live alone, 10 times more than in 1950. But the largest number of single people are middle-aged; 15 million people between ages 35 and 64 live alone. Those who decide to live alone following a breakup or a divorce could choose to move in with roommates or family. But many of those I interviewed said they chose to live alone because they had found there was nothing worse than living with the wrong person.

In my interviews, older single people expressed a clear preference for living alone, which allowed them to retain their feelings of independence and integrity, and a clear aversion to moving in with friends or family or into a nursing home.

According to research by the Rutgers sociologist Deborah Carr, at 18 months after the death of a spouse, only one in four elderly men and one in six elderly women say they are interested in remarrying; one in three men and one in seven women are interested in dating someday; and only one in four men and one in 11 women are interested in dating immediately.

Most older widows, widowers and divorced people remake their lives as single people. A century ago, nearly 70 percent of elderly American widows lived with a child; today — thanks to Social Security, private pensions and wealth generated in the market — just 20 percent do. According to the U.C.L.A. economist Kathleen McGarry: “When they have more income and they have a choice of how to live, they choose to live alone. They buy their independence.”

Some unhealthy old people do become dangerously isolated, as I learned when I researched my book about the hundreds of people who died alone in the 1995 Chicago heat wave, and they deserve more attention and support than we give them today. But the rise of aging alone is also a social achievement. The sustained health, wealth and vitality that so many people over age 65 enjoy allow them to maintain domestic independence far longer than previous generations did. What’s new today is that the great majority of older widows, widowers and divorced people prefer living alone to their other options, and they’re willing to spend more on housing and domestic help for the privilege. Some pundits predicted that rates of living alone would plummet because of the challenged economy: young people would move into their parents’ basements; middle-aged adults would put off divorce or separation for financial reasons; the elderly would move in with their children rather than hold on to places of their own.

Thus far, however, there’s little evidence that this has happened. True, more young adults have moved in with their parents because they cannot find good jobs; but the proportion of those between 20 and 29 who live alone went down only slightly, from 11.97 percent in 2007 to 10.94 percent in 2011. In the general population, living alone has become more common — in absolute and proportional terms. The latest census report estimates that more than 32 million Americans live alone today, up from 27.2 million in 2000 and 31 million in 2010.

All signs suggest that living alone will become even more common in the future, at every stage of adulthood and in every place where people can afford a place of their own.

Eric Klinenberg is a professor of sociology at New York University and the author of “Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone.”

A Note on Party Planning and Making Friends

So I had originally put this post with my  Valentines Swimfest post but it was getting too long so I separated the 2.   They kind of go together.

Anyone who knows me, knows I love party-planning, entertaining and being with my friends.  Ever since I was little I have loved gathering people together and coming up with fun activities.  I love meeting new people, hearing their story and making friends (maybe because I’ve never really had a boyfriend friends are more important than ever in my life).

What’s the key to making friends? I’ve recently figured out a key piece in the puzzle.  It is being willing to share your heart with another person.  People sense a a guarded heart.  You just have to unabashedly share yourself with others and they will be drawn to that honesty.

Any real friendship requires great risk but even a fun friendship requires some sharing and vulnerability to be a success. That’s what I believe at least. I am SO grateful to all of my friends.  Thank you!  I hope I give half as much to you, as you give to me.

Friendship is hard work but remember when we were little and worked so hard to get into the right group or make a new friend?  Why do we expect it to be any easier as adults? (Well, hopefully it is a little bit easier but sometimes I wonder!).  Friendship takes work.  It ALWAYS risks REJECTION but it is worth it if the friend is worth having!  If someone is critical or resists your friendship you may want to ask the question- why do you want to be their friend in the first place?

It always helps to go to places where people have similar interests or backgrounds.  While I have a diverse group of friends, there is usually some common bond that unites us.

Most importantly I work hard at my friendships.  I always have.  I learned from being bullied as a child to cling on to the people who love me. I have lots of flaws but I think I can confidently say, I am a good friend.  I am loyal.  I am kind.  I want my friends to be happy and if you are my friend you know me- the good, bad, and everything in between.  A few years ago I tried to think of a single thing that my friend Camille didn’t know about me.  I couldn’t think of one.  That’s just the way I love. (I can also be petty and vindictive but I’m working on that.  Not close to perfect yet!)

Planning a party is an entirely different proposition.  If this is something you want to do, here’s some ideas.

In party planning, go to as much effort as you want to go to.  Unless you are a senators wife or on a reality show most of us don’t NEED to throw parties.  It should be FUN!  If you get joy out of putting together a goodie bag, go for it (hunt around, you can find deals!). If you enjoy making a tablescape look pretty, do it.  If you value a perfectly made meal, make it. If you like making handmade invitations, make them.

Don’t expect others to enjoy things as much as you do, and don’t do it expecting certain results.  This ALWAYS leaves a person feeling disappointed.  People’s praise is never effusive, nor their gratitude gracious enough.  Entertaining is usually the most fun when it is looked at as a service you are doing to provide joy to others.

One of my dinner parties literally changed my life….

While I have certainly shed a tear at a burnt cake or craft that went wrong, it is also important to have a sense of humor.  As Ina Garten says ‘you can always order Chinese takeout and serve it on your best china’!  It’s supposed to be fun.  My first swimfest I sent out conflicting restaurant addresses so half the group went to different places.  While embarrassed it was an honest mistake and everyone laughed it off.  Most of the time I find people are just grateful that you are trying. There is nothing more annoying than going to a party where the hostess is critical of herself all the time or constantly complaining.  A little venting may be appropriate but isn’t the idea of a party an escape from reality?

Also, recognize your own limitations and then figure out solutions.  If you have kids, build your parties around them.  If you don’t have room for 15 people, plan the party somewhere else or invite 5.  If you don’t like big groups, don’t plan a party with big groups.  There is nothing saying everyone has to be a socialite.  Companionship is what matters.  Human contact is what matters.  Also, always give your guests as much time and as many reminders as possible.  Its just a fact that people are busy and will forget (and so many don’t RSVP!). It’s so easy to remind people these days that why not?

Human beings respond very well to traditions.  Whether it is book club every month or a super bowl potluck, people build relationships based on traditions and memories of love.  It gives security in a world that often feels chaotic and out of our control.  (Maybe that’s why I like planning things.  It gives me a sense of control in this insane world I live in).  My sister and I used to do a potluck the Saturday before Thanksgiving.  It was a tradition for 3 or 4 years while we were in college and it was fabulous.  We learned how to cook a turkey, our friends experimented with family recipes, and we all watched a fun BYU football game.  It didn’t last forever as people moved but it was a great tradition.

Having a strong theme usually helps (holidays make this easy).  The Swimfests have been a success so far because I have planned them at a time where most people can come and most of my friends are swimming anyway (Saturday morning).  If you are a Mom, plan a brunch when kids are napping or a playdate and everyone can bring a pie or a cookie exchange. Whatever, make it as easy as possible for people to attend and have a theme.

Recognize that your guests are your guests.  They aren’t a burden you have to deal with.  They are a blessing in your life.  If you have to make a cookie gluten free or get raspberries instead of strawberries because someone is allergic, that is OK.  We learn a lot in life from making other people happy and thinking of their needs above our own.  It is the time’s when I am always happiest, even if it is something as simple as picking out a swim cap or selecting a book my friends might like.

As I said in my Swimfest post, you will have your share of failures.  Even Ina Garten has had her entertaining failures.  You will have parties where nobody comes, where nothing turns out right.  You will wonder what’s the use?  Again, I had a party once where nobody came!  Don’t give up! Keep trying.  It is worth it.  At least it is worth it to me. (Remind me that when my next party tanks.  I’m on a high right now!)

I’ve learned to expect that with book club 2-4 people almost always come, and I look forward to seeing those girls.  It is not a failure because my expectations are appropriate.  I enjoy spending time with 2 or even 1  of my friends just as much as I do a group of 15 swimmers.  I love bonding with people, the human connection.

I LOVE this idea of a party planning workbook where you keep track of ideas, things that worked, failures. Great!

Finally, just for the record- I HATE surprises, surprise parties, whatever, and I’m not just saying that to be coy.  Please don’t ever plan me one.  Half of the fun of it for me is looking forward to the event and helping make it special.  That may sound crazy but its the way I have always been. No surprises!