2016 Theme: Home

I got some good news the other day. After several months of mild anxiety I have found a new place to live. It’s a little condo in Chandler, very close to the school where I began teaching in August. It’s a sweet little place in an area that I think will be good for me, and though I will eventually have a roommate, it is the first place time in a long time I’ve had on my own. And most importantly I have decided it will be my home.
With 2015 being the year of connection, I met a lot of new people. Which was great, but most times that initial conversation includes some version of the question, “Where’s home?” For a long time this questions has induced complicated emotions for me. It’ a question without a simple answer and one that reminds me of several of the pressing issues in my life, primarily my issues with impermanence.
I am writing this from my mother’s house. I have inarguably spent more time in this space than than in any other in the world. This is the home to which my parents brought me from the hospital. It is the home from which I returned after my first and last days of school, and from mission service.
Growing up, the kids who moved homes seemed exotic. I wondered what would be like to be the new kid. Sometimes I envied their opportunity to start fresh with new friends and teachers—to not be surrounded at age sixteen by all the same people who knew me at age four. But even then the idea of leaving behind the physical space of my home filled me with nostalgia. I knew and know every corner of this house. I’ve sat on its roof and dug into the earth around it. I’ve seen the bones inside the walls and the concrete of its foundations. It has been a distinct character in the story of my life with an arch all its own. Instead of remaining fixed the place of my memories, it has transformed again and again to suit the needs of my extended family. The rooms have been repurposed, the carpets changed, and since I moved out at age seventeen, the house has been home to more than a dozen of my kin-folk with as many as four generations at a time living under the roof my dad put on it. But through it all, it has been home: the place to which I return.
For many years after I left I felt disloyal whenever I referred to any other place I was living as “home.” What temporary dwelling could compare with the home of my youth? None. I’ve had 15 mailing addresses in 14 years. A few lasted as long as 18 months, but many were less than 12. And some, like my mission home and the PO Box in Italy were more like tethers securing me while I wandered. And as the years have passed, though I have always been welcomed back home, this home has released some of it’s hold on me. I have found that I am increasingly able to define home on my own terms. Just as my mother has refurbished her home again and again while maintaining its basic structure, so have I redefined myself to fit changes in location and personal development while still remaining at my core the same person.
Yet, as I have moved further and further away from home both physically and emotionally, I’ve never been sure what exactly what I’m moving toward. I’d always intended to define the specifics of my home with an as yet as unknown husband. In the years around my mission I kept a list of ideas (have General Conference camp outs), to dos (plant a garden), and even specific items (collected works of Dr. Seuss) that would ensure that I would be the cheerful mistress of a happy, productive, and peaceful home with a husband and children of my own. While I wasn’t aiming to win any mother of the year awards, I figured that with a little preparation I could do as well or better than the average Mother in Zion.
Here you see my miscalculation. Instead of focusing on building a home for myself (even a portable one that mostly fits in my car—as it has had to do) I bought my favorite children’s books and Disney film and set my sights on my future prospects rather than living in the hear and now. I’ve spent years trying to become the kind of person I would want to marry, which while it has certainly done me no harm. This focus, however, has had the side effect of making me less present in my life than I might have been. I want to change that. I want to make a home for me.

Home is a process of self-definition.
In an ice-breaker game I love, participants take turns stepping into the circle and completing the phrase “Where I’m from…” in order to learn more about each other. If I step in to the circle and offer “Where I’m from there are lots of big family dinners” and you remember how your mom’s best friend’s kids would come to supper on Sundays, you could choose join me in the circle, then you and I would change places and someone else would step in and make the next statement about where they are from. We’ve identified each other as being from a place where families eat together—and we know who isn’t from that kind of place. Everyone seems to love this game. The key, as I explain to participants, is self-definition. Though I say “lots” and “big family” and “dinners” you have to decide how that applies to your life. How many is big? How frequent is lots? What time is dinner? No one can define your home but you.
So, what is home to me? Where am I from and where do I want to live? How, based on my experiences and desires, should I define and then create home? What do I want for my home? What will I welcome? On what will I shut the doors? Here are some of the things I know I want my home to be:

From my childhood: I am able to sing loud and play dress up, or make silly faces and wear ugly pajamas. When friends come over invite them to stay for dinner—even if it’s not fancy. It might get loud because there is a lot of coming and going. Relatives may show up unannounced. Cereal is eaten before 10AM and ice cream is eaten after 6PM. There is a fruit bowl. Things can be messy, but not dirty. Clean up as you go. Christmas lights don’t go up until the day after Thanksgiving. Pans can live on the stove so you are ready to cook. We don’t say “shut up” and we don’t use harsh language. Family stories get told. And cleaning is much more fun with music playing. Books are the best decorations. Take what you want, but eat what you take.

From my time with roommates: Keep the Tupperware in order. Clean the toilet regularly. Paper towels are money down the drain. Dance parties are a go. Movie nights are much better with friends and extra butter on the popcorn. It’s better to do the dishes yourself than to be annoyed about them. Introduce yourself to the neighbors with homemade cookies. Don’t leave a mess in the living room. It’s worth the effort to put up Christmas décor, but be sure to take it down before February. Use the nice dishes now as they will likely get broken later. Have potted plants and keep the porch tidy. Always use a hair catch in the shower drain. Separate the rubbish and take it out before it stinks. Recycle. Cooking at home is better than eating out. Don’t lose the mail key. Eat real food, not too much, mostly vegetables.

Things moving forward: Learn how to compost. Spend more time in my home with the people I like. Make a space and a time for writing. Build a place of community with the people I like, doing the things that I like. Exercise. Play. Dance. Sing. Kiss. Don’t worry about measuring up to anyone else if you are enjoying doing what you are doing. Big dreams don’t have to take up a lot of space. Buy less. Make more.
While some of these things may seem piddling, life has taught me not to underestimate the importance of these small details. It is on these delicate balances that larger happiness rests. These details and freedoms breed feelings of peace, acceptance, and settlement.

On settling
Among the last words my mission president said to me were “never, never settle.” He was talking about making a choice on a husband. Boy, did I take it to heart. I do not regret not marrying any one I have met thus far, but perhaps there has been an element of fear wrapped up in my choice not to fall in love. Perhaps I have been prideful in my expectations. My best friend’s husband once said of me, “She’d fall in love if she ever stayed in once place long enough.” I think there may be some truth in that. In the last year I went on LOTS of dates. It’s been fun. I’ve discovered that there are men out there who genuinely like me for who I am. It stuns me a little every time I discover that. For one reason and another, it didn’t work out with any of those guys. One cause behind my singlehood is my constant view of my life being in flux. I am always half expecting to move in a year. Even as I sign lease documents on this new place I am questioning the decision. I love my job, but I still don’t know if I am supposed to stay in Arizona. Should I move back here to California and be closer to my mother? Is there a place where I am supposed to be? Is Mr. Right waiting in Salt Lake? Does anyone ever really feel settled or is everyone just pretending like they are sure they are in the right place?
I wonder if this is the curse of my generation. Being raised in the 80s and 90s I was taught to dream big and expect a wonderful life. But graduating and starting my career in the 2000s showed me that hard work and a degree are not the magical keys to prosperity and happiness they were purported to be. As it turns out, I have to make my own happiness, and it better not depend on having a Barbie Dream House.
Settling in might be connected to another new popular mantra, leaning in. (A book I will admit to admiring without reading.) One of my take-aways from it’s premise is to focus on what you can do here and now. Don’t start thinking about how maternity leave will impact your life until you are actually planning to have a baby. Don’t make judgements about a long term relationship after a first date. Don’t worry about what is going to happen next. Enjoy the moment as it is presented to you. Be present for the present. Be home.

2015: Connection

Life is hard alone. Unbearable even. I have felt the pangs of The Lonelies a time or two in my life.

They are real, and they are awful, but I have recently been privileged with some up-close looks at how much worse they can be when compounded with poverty, addiction, disability, grief or regret. Often these are root causes of loneliness—not just correlated symptoms. To varying degrees they are for me. Is loneliness possible without having experienced companionship? Does poverty feel povertous without an awareness of lack? Connection is both the problem and the solution.

One of my challenges/privileges in 2014 was to teach LDS Seminary at a local high school every morning at 6:30. My 30 or so students and I studied the first half of the prophet Joseph Smith’s revelations, LDS scripture known as The Doctrine and Covenants. Joseph’s life was concerned with connection. Joseph’s first prayer, the catalyst of his extraordinary life began with a simple question. As a 14 year-old boy, Joseph had a simple question: What church should he join? Which community of faith should he align himself with?

prayer

He spent the rest of his life building a church—a physical and spiritual gathering place with temples, cities, wards, and stakes, ordinances, and theology centered on connecting God to his children and His children to one another. Joseph wanted to build Zion—a place where all were one in heart. A community brought together by the consecration of all things to the building up of God’s kingdom. The saints were to share all that they had with one another in order to create a holy society with “no poor among them” (Moses 7:18) where all were “pure in heart” (D&C 97:21).

What a beautiful goal.

Zionplat2

Joseph’s blueprint for the city of Zion.

I have been blessed again and again by the social structure of the church. I have been welcomed in wards around the world as a visitor, even when I don’t speak the local language, the atmosphere and organization makes me feel at home. When moving into a new area I know that in my new ward I will meet new friends with whom I share a basic worldview and general life experience. Wherever I go I have what Joseph liked to refer to as ”immediate connections.’ They are imidiate not only in physical and emotional proximity, but also in speed. The church gives me ‘fast’ friends. What a blessing. This almost instant and deep level of connection is the benefit of church membership that my friends outside the church have most frequently remarked on with envy.

This powerful connection is what I try to tap into as a leader in my ward. I want all my church-mates to share this feeling of security and friendship. I see too many who feel alone. I want to reach out to them, and also give them courage to reach out to one another. By reaching out, sharing both weakness and strength they and I can find joy and peace together.

Joseph’s scripture also uses ‘connection’ to locate our human relationship to Deity. Man has the power to act in God’s name because “the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.” (D&C121:36) One of those principles is that we are able to access the power of God only insomuch as we are acting in behalf of others. We cannot call down blessings or cursings (I don’t recommend cursing to anyone, btw) upon ourselves. A priesthood holder cannot lay hands on himself. A person cannot baptize herself unto salvation. We need one another. Our salvation depends on our willingness to place ourselves in the literal hands of one of God’s servants here on earth. That is the power of connection—the power of salvation.

What does this mean for me?

Strangely, in the year of being unselfie I thought primarily of reaching out to others in order to bless my own life. I believe I did so intentionally, but as I have served in my calling I have seen just how impossible that mindset is to maintain. As Relief Society President, as I had when I was a missionary, I learned in .5 seconds that any thought of blessing myself through reaching out to others is swept away. (It is sooo much like being a missionary, it’s a little scary.) I had a similar mindset as a missionary initially. “Wow! I’m so awesome. I’m so great for doing this!” I challenge anyone to come up with a faster way to earn a painful slap of inadequacy upside the head from the Lord than that train of thought. My illusions of noble service were just that. The real blessings that result from service basically never come in the forms that I most enjoy (read: applause, recognition, flattery). Nor should they. They come as I am quietly reminded by the Spirit that the Lord is pleased with my service; that I am close to him as an instrument in his hands in efforts to bring to pass much righteousness. That is the greatest feeling in the world. Through service I am connected to Him and to those I serve. I become Zion.

2015 promises to be another year of change and transition. I will complete my thesis project, titled Generations Connect. I will finish graduate school. I will look for and I hope start a new full time job. I may or may not move to a new state. But staying or going, there are bound to be new connections made and continued distance between myself and those I love. How will I connect more fully?

Goals:

Phone-A-Friend: I’ve inherited my parents’s genetic dislike for talking on the phone, but I also value the conversations I have with my dear friends far away when I make the effort. Facebook makes it really easy to feel like I’m still in touch with you, even when we haven’t talked in years. I am committing to having a substantial conversation with a good friend on phone or Skype once every month. There! I just made a list 15 names long of people I would love to spend more than 10 minutes catching up with this year. So look out old friends! I’m coming for you.

Be Bold: Ask those two guys out. Enough said.

Soul-Fit: Strengthen my mind and body connection by feeding and taking care of both of them better. This requires taking time to exercise and listening to my body about what it really wants to eat and not eat. I believe that these elements are inseparably connected, so I want them working on the same team for the same purpose.

Professional Connections: I will make myself more visible in professional circles and seek out the connections that are available near and far. This will include submitting my plays for professional development and getting involved with local theatre companies.

Knitting: making connections one stitch at a time. I’m enjoying this.

Go me! There is more that could be said, but I am now anxious to get to work. Wish me well.

A year of failing to live un-selfie-ly.

2014 is at an end. I still have some odds and ends to wrap up despite it being the last day of the year, but on the whole, it’s over. Over the last month, my mind has done its job at reminding me that I need to do this. This is that thing that I do at the end of the year. I sit here at this computer and I write about what has happened, and what I want to have happen. I’ve done this four times now. It’s officially a thing. I don’t have many things like this. I am generally anti-things-like-this. But having a yearly theme has been really good for helping me maintain a focus when I am otherwise a little lost at sea, which is easy to be during the lonely holiday months.

If my tone seems a little off my usual game it may be a result of this being one of the longest, most growingupy years of my life. (Rivaled perhaps by the hellslog that was 2010. Oy.) It might also be a result of spending the last three days blowing my nose every 30 seconds, or being woken by a phone call assuring me that I am facing a few more months of paperwork nightmares from an incident, though almost expired from memory, has suddenly roared back to life like a brain-hungry zombie. In any case, on this new year’s eve, I feel less able to bask in my own bemusement than ever.

What happened this year? I enjoyed excellent health-except for that time I had emergency surgery. I earned more money than I have in a few years-except I had to pay a lot of medical bills. I enjoyed a fair amount of career and academic success-except that I also received a lot of rejection and didn’t achieve the accolades I aimed for. What “honors” were bestowed on me seemed to entail more complications than applause, but I wasn’t seeking applause. So it was fine. I wrestled with some short bouts of jealousy and loneliness, not because of any specific person or circumstance, so much as a persistent feeling of inadequacy, incompletion, or failure of potential. On the whole I feel like I “got by.” And getting by fails to impress me, especially when it’s my life that’s going by. This may be the saddest but more accurate description of  why I’ve always dreaded adulthood. Yet here I am, undeniably, A Fairly Capable Adult. (A title as appealing as warm, flat Pepsi. Gross.)

All this is not to say that I am not joyful. I am still able to laughing at my failings and the failings of those around me, and the state of the world generally.  I do. Very often. Only now, perhaps, I feel more guilty about it, feel that I might do more about it. There is no pleasure in sarcasm or ignorance left for me.

2014’s ‘Unselfie’ theme turned out differently than I expected. I still took a lot of selfies, a lot of solo jogs and drives. I ate at restaurants and went to movies alone. Lucky woman that I am, I even did fair amount of solo wandering around Europe. There were still a lot of nights when I chose to stay in rather than to go out. I’m still an introvert.  The focus of the year was never to become otherwise, just to push myself into more vulnerable situations. I did… I think I did… I tried, I really did.

There were times, especially in the first half of the year when I felt I had simply chosen the wrong theme. 2014 could have been the year of Story. My Unselfie drive lead me to something slightly unexpected. I ended up doing a lot of listening. There were hours, days, and weeks where I felt obsessed with absorbing stories. All kinds of stories: in person, on TV and radio, in the news, in books. Sad, happy, mysterious, angry, peaceful, trivial. All the Whos When Whats and Wheres that make You different from Me. I began looking at stories, fictional, fact, and in-between, like a puzzle.

See, if I could just hear enough stories I would be able to piece the whole world together, make some kind of order out of all the chaotic differences that seemed to divide our communities, country, and nations this year. I want to understand the world, and each story makes up a small part of that world. If I could just hear them all I would understand the big picture. I want to arrange them just so and make them make sense.

As it turns out, stories don’t work that way. Stories are in a constant state of flux. We can hardly know what word is going to come at the end of each of our sentences, let alone how our “story” will end? (That last thought made that last sentence incredibly challenging to type, PS.) I can never really get at the heart of your story. Because always, You are over THERE and I am way over HERE. The words YOU use to tell YOUR story enter MY ears, MY brain, and MY soul flavores YOU with MY life experience. I know who I think you are. I can never really know you, and who you think you are. But stories are our only chance.

Maybe this thought explains why I became so concerned about the telling of my own story and the stories that make me ME. I spent what must amount to entire days of hours alone at my desk researching and typing away at articles, databases, and translations. I traveled thousands of miles and spent thousands of dollars to visit the houses where both my grandmother’s spent their childhoods—one in Los Angeles and the other in Amsterdam. I interviewed family members across four generations. I cross-examined myself. I wrote and read and wrote and read and wondered why exactly did it matter so much to me? Why did knowing where I came from seem so important to who I am now and where I am going? If you want to watch part of what all this study resulted in you can, here:

My YouTube Channel

All these efforts It all felt VERY Selfie, self-serving. But even in the midst, there were lessons in unselfieness. When I was struck down, on the busiest day of my semester, with a sudden illness that forced me to literally call for help there were so many ready to come to my rescue. And when I opened my heart a little to one particularly excellent man, I was rewarded with confidences, kindness, and goodness out of all measure. I traveled and communicated with strangers on trains, planes and buses who were helpful and kind because most humans simply are, even if you don’t speak a work of Polish. What blessings! Vulnerability is power, indeed.

All that was before September. As a refresher, my 2014 goals were to:

1) Do more inviting—to share my time and space with others.

2)  Giving more of what I can—financially, emotionally, in all ways.

3)  Expend more of my energy doing things that matter.

Let me share a short cut to accomplishing all these goals in just the last quarter of a year for anyone wanting to give it a go:  Get called as Relief Society President in a long established, low-income ward.

Done.

In a week, done.

Since October I have been a witness to and a participant in the selfless care of hundreds of my brothers and sisters. In a few short months I have prepared meals for families welcoming home a new baby, and for those saying goodbye to a grandmother. I have seen unfathomable generosity from those who I thought had little to share, and grateful acceptance of assistance from those who took no pleasure in asking for help. The trials I see my sisters facing each day, emotional, physical, financial, spiritual—they break my heart. They are meant to break it. There is grace on all sides. Grace for all. Grace in abundance.

Certainly grace for me, as an inexperienced by very willing woman who can’t really make a casserole or jello-salad to save her life. I am learning more about Unselfie than I ever wanted to. I was right, it is hard. Be careful what you wish for.

So on December 31, 2014, I conclude a year of trying, and failing, to live unselfiely with the determination to not give up, but instead to try a new approach: Connection.

More on that tomorrow. Maybe there will be pictures. Sorry.

The Hollywood Pantheon! (re:2008)

Today on my usual Facebook troll I found something excellent: a ready-made blog post! But because it is  I wrote it about 6 years ago it needs a little context. If you are a long time reader, you know I love Hollywood Pop. You may also have guess that I love nerdy stuff like Greek Mythology. “Surprise!” said nobody.

This post shows what I think is some pretty in-depth thinking a devotion to this little corner of my heart. So, nerds like me, here’s something to snack on for the evening. I think the list holds up shockingly well. But I look forward to your up to date nominations. I think it’s fair to say that Zeus is untenable in 2014.

waynes-world_o_GIFSoup.com_

gifs weren’t even a thing in 2008!

It was at least 4 years ago (now a decade) that my very good friend Alex J and I were carrying on our usual Hollywood Goss convo when an idea crept upon us…inspired? Faux-Divine? You be the judge.
Likely, we were reminding ourselves how silly we were to care so much about these popular idols, it was nearly worship…and how could you worship beings with such glaring ugly personality flaws? No one had done that since…the Greeks.
(Bing!)
We began matching up our current hot Hollywood celebs with what we knew of the Greek pantheon, which thanks to our extensive nerdiness was of no small sum.
The list has been a constant work in progress, it changes from Oscar season to season, but there are a few rules that have been established for the nomination process:
1. They must be living. A complete list of the All Time Hollywood gods would be a HIGHLY controversial subject for all true tabliodtiers. I’m pretty sure it would end in a slap fight. Also, it is unkind to speak ill of the dead, and this list…well, it isn’t exactly kind.
2. A-Listers only. The A-list is also a controversial subject. For our purposes this is clearly defined as a person who has:
a. Been Academy Awarded/Golden Globed, or at least Nominated in the last 5 years.
b. Stared in a movie that has made more than $50 million in its opening weekend within the last 2 years.
(This is what we shall call the popular vote vs. the Electoral College approach.) This also means that ‘Old Greats’ and ‘Super Hotties’ are not always eligible. For example: Katherine Zeta Jones is, in my opinion, the most beautiful woman in Hollywood, and my choice for Hera (Having won Best Supporting Actress for Chicago in 2003, and also as she is married to another icon) but hasn’t made anything big enough to qualify her lately…somebody get on that please.
3. Actors only. Yes, I agree, Scorsese and Spielberg are probably the actual thunderbolt-throwing-kill-you-with-the-wink-of-their-eye Zeus’ of Hollywood, but we limit ourselves to the front of the camera faces.

The Pantheon:
The Greek Pantheon has also been defined as the following 13 major deities:
Listed alphabetically by their Greek name (Roman equivalents are listed as appropriate)

Aphrodite (Venus): Goddess of love, beauty and procreation. Alongside Zeus and Hera, she was also the leader of the gods of marriage, wife of Hephaestus, lover of Ares.
ajoleeCurrent Hollywood Equivalent (CHE): Angelina Jolie—A-list qualifications: GG nominated for A Mighty Heart, also, special consideration for being a UN Peace Officer. In her duel, yet unconflicted, roles as Sex Kitten and world peace advocate Ms. Jolie has proven her powers of procreation by mothering (if not birthing) 6 children. Without researching I’m almost willing to wager that she and that guy—what was his name again?—are up there for largest Hollywood brood. Though, unlike Aphrodite, Angelina is probably fundamentally against things like starting the Trojan war, we think her good looks having emerged from John Voight is as mysterious any sea foam. One more thing to think about: Hephaestus/Billy Bob.

Apollo: God of music, prophecy and healing, the most beautiful of the gods, he was the leader of both the gods of music and gods of prophecy.
Best-Christian-Bale-MoviesCHE: Christian Bale—A-list qualifications: By this time in a fortnight I can all but guarantee that Dark Night will qualify for the $50mil popular vote, seeing as Batman Begins hit a hot $48 mil, without the benefit of including a highly anticipated posthumous performance. Now, I don’t know if Mr. Bale can play a lyre, but I do know (Thank you Newsies) that he can sing, and that in a good suit, be it leather or Versace, he may be the most beautiful man on face of this earth. I also think that his penchant for selecting brilliant independent and blockbuster films makes him something of a prophet.

Ares (Mars): The great Olympian god of war and conflict. He was the leader of the gods of war.
1250530894_brad_pitt_290x402CHE: Brad Pitt— A-list qualifications: GG nominated 2007 for Babel. Aside from being full time lover of our current Aphrodite, Brad has a ridiculous amount of hotness, and seemingly eternal youthful beauty (Benjamin Button preview anyone?). Somehow this man has maintained a steamy level of hottness since 1987 when he appeared on Dallas. Can you really believe he is 45? Need any further convincing, let’s go with a photo comparison, see below.
Survey says: YES.

Artemis (Diana): Goddess of hunting, wild animals, and (strangely) both virginity, and childbirth. She was also known for bringing sudden death to disrespectful men and women with her arrows. Alongside her brother Apollo, she was a leader of the gods of music, presiding over maiden song and dance.
Keira-Knightley-HD-WallpaperCHE: Kira Knightly—A-list qualifications: Nominated Best Actress 2006 for Pride and Prejudice. 1. Girl can handle a bow and arrow. 2. She is young and maiden like, if not exactly virginal.

(I’m mean, choosing Jenifer Lawrence ((JLaw4Eva!)) is so obvious now. Like toats obvs. Is there even another choice?)

Athena (Minerva): Goddess of war, fortifications and the defense of towns, and of good counsel and heroic endeavor. She was also a patron goddess of craftsmen, presiding over the arts of weaving, pottery, carpentry and the manufacture of oil.
catblaCHE: Kate Blanchette—A-list qualifications: A TOP contender with $100 Mil opening for Indy 4, FOUR AA Noms (2 in the same year, and 1 win) within 4 years. Give. Me. A. Break. Perhaps the smartest, scariest, revered woman in Hollywood today. I would be willing to name a city after her.

Demeter (Ceres): Goddess of agriculture, fertility, the ‘Bringer of Seasons.’
Kate-Winslet-4CHE: Kate Winslet—A-list qualifications: Though shafted for the win she received duplicate AA and GG Noms in 2005 (Eternal Sunshine…) and 2007 (Little Children), also she is the first actress to ever receive 4 Oscar nods before age 30. Though young, she is motherly (two tikes of her own), seasoned, and unquestionably talented. Also, she has a lovely singing voice.

Dionysus (Liber, Bachus): god of wine, viticulture, and wild vegetation. Known for erratic behavior, his cult worship led to the rise of Greek theatre.
tom-cruiseCHE: Tom Cruise—A-list qualifications: Barley hanging on with GG nom 2004 for The Last Samurai. (Doesn’t that movie seem a LOT longer ago?) Though M:I:III did take in a close $47Mil in its opening weekend. Mr. Cruise defiantly has the crazy side of this god down. Also the cult worship. Evidence: Japan declared October 10th 2006 Tom Cruise Day. What.

Hades (Pluto): God of the underworld, Hades is the enemy of all life, gods, and men, sometimes he was worshiped as the god of money.
20130428-johnny-depp3-rapplerCHE: Johnny Depp.—A-list qualifications: 3 AA nominations in the last 4 years. Ello! Aside from dwelling in that underworld that is France, Mr. Depp is the obvious choice having made a name for himself by playing the antihero, and for some reason the more grungy and reclusive he gets the more we love him. I’m also pretty sure that Mr. Depp would appreciate a three headed dog more than the average Hollywood icon.

Hephaestus (Vulcan): the craftsman’s god presiding over metalworking, building, sculpture, and artistry. Also, he was considered the ugliest of the gods.
rdjCHE: Robert Downy Jr.—A-list qualifications: Nearly 100 Mill grossed opening weekend for Iron Man. Perhaps a fleeting favorite. 2 years ago no one would have put the words Downy Jr and Action Star in the same sentence, or even Hottie, very readily. But there he is in sever scruffy hotness as a high tech, terrorist fighting, Chris Martin money running, blacksmith of sorts. We are also excited about a promising looking blackface comedy (when did that even become possible?) Tropic Thunder coming out soon.

Hera (Juno): The Queen of the gods, and wife of Zeus. Hera was the goddess of women, and the leader of the gods of marriage. She was also a goddess of the sky and stars.
nkidCHE: Nicole Kidman—A-list qualifications: GG nominated 2005 Birth. We all believe she’s got the jealous wife part down. Her skin is perfect enough to be carved from marble, though we are pretty sure she and husband Keith Urban are not siblings in any way, shape, or form. Her A-list contenderness may not last long as she seems to be getting her Mommy on, you go Queen Nicole.

Hermes (Mercury): He was the herald/messenger of Zeus, and the god of herds and flocks, travel, trade, merchants, and thievery. He is the youngest of the gods.
shia_labeouf300CHE: Shia Lebouf—A list qualifications: $100 Mil opening for Indy 4. A rising star is ever we spotted one. If this kid/hottie can continue to avoid the pitfalls that plague every young generation of Hollywood he could go all the way. With or without wings on his hat this guy is flying high.

(Needs to be replaced! I’m thinking one of the Chris’s Hemsworth, Pine, or Evans. Which Chris do you love best?)

Poseidon (Neptune): The god of the sea, rivers, lakes and other sources of fresh-water, and the god of horses and chariots. Although he still attends all the councils and feasts of the heavenly gods, he had his residence in the sea rather than heaven.
gcCHE: George Clooney—A-list qualifications: 4 AA/GG noms and 2 wins since 2006, including a win for writing Good Night and Good Luck. Although our favorite Uncle George hasn’t faired so well at the box office in the last year we can guarantee we haven’t seen the last of this Olympian. Also, the ex-pat dwelling, pond hoping parallels should be more than clear.

Da-Da-DA-DAAA! The answer you’ve been waiting for:
Zeus (Jupiter): The great king of the gods, ruler of Olympus and the heavens, and leader of the Twelve. He was the god of the sky, weather, kings, fate, law and order. The man who can do anything he wants, equally loved and feared by all.
Will-Smith-1Current Hollywood Equivalent: Will Smith—I see you shaking your head, but shut your mouth and think about this for a second. A-List Qaulifications: I Am Legend $77Mil opening weekend, AA and GG Noms 2007 Pursuit of Happiness. Our Over Lord of Hollywood can boast a trifecta of qualifications in the popular and peer elected categories. Perhaps it has been his utterly charming transformation from Fresh Prince to Defender of the Universe, Legit Rapper, and soon to be down-and-out Super Hero that makes us think, ‘if I could have one buddy in Hollywood…’ There is a deft mixture of Jimmy Stewart sincerity crossed with uhhh, some one with amazing arms. Looking at Mr. Smith’s creds we are pretty sure he can actually do anything. Oh, and there is his uncanny resemblance to a certain current political figure who is likely to soon be the most powerful man in the world. Bio Pic in 15 years? We’ll be there.

***********************************************************************

Hi. I’m in Delaware.

No. I’m not. I’m back here in 2014. So what do you think? I think I’m starting grad classes again this week and won’t have time for this much loved project until May.
But still, I’d love to hear your input. In keeping with the rules listed at the top, who qualifies for the current Hollywood Pantheon? Who is in and who is out?

olympian gods1

Mormon Woman, Part 1: The Ten Year Plan vs. The Little Wound

The definition of a young single adult in the LDS church is simple. An unmarried person between the ages of 18 and 31. I first joined a YSA ward in September of 2001, a couple months shy of my 18th birthday.

Cuz I’m super sneaky like that.

I will turn 31 in about 8 months.

I have been a YSA member of the church on three continents, in four countries, and held callings in a dozen YSA wards up and down the Mormon corridor. 

Jello Belt

Jello Belt

This makes me as close to expert in the field of Mormon young single adulthood as anyone ever can be, so let me tell you a little about it, with the preface that I do not pretend to represent anyone else’s feeling or the intentions of the church that I love so dearly.

When I left the only home ward I had ever known, to start school at BYU-Idaho, I began a phase of life that believed would be a short but vital blip on my journey to real adulthood. The 10 year plan I had laid out for myself at age 15 looked like this:

BYU

Mission

Marriage

Degree

Motherhood

This was the traditional path, the plain road. The course my mother and three sisters were all in various states of accomplishing. To my mind marriage and parenthood were the two states of being that defined a true adult. That was the plan, the expectation, and desire that I had chosen with the encouragement of my family and the fabulous army of Young Women’s program leaders, Sunday School and Seminary teachers, and priesthood leaders who had loved and guided me so tenderly all my life. I loved this plan. I was SOO EXCITED ABOUT IT!

GO B2 ward! B2 4Eva!

GO B2 ward! B2 4Eva!

 

During my late teens and early twenties, along with acing my way through college as a theatre major, I consciously prepared myself for life as a wife and mother. I bought excellent children’s books and movies. I made a notebook of activities I would do with my kids someday. I read about marriage and relationships. I carefully noted the examples of fantastic wives and mothers who I met. I chose a career path that I thought would be conducive to school hours or part time work. I tried, and I think pretty successfully, to “become the kind of person you want to marry,” as all the wise people had told me.

And yet, despite my efforts, there were no men for me. I had guy friends during high school and college. I had a lot of crushes. I even asked a few of them out here and there, but there was never a second date. I didn’t blame the guys. I knew I was not the prettiest girl. And I frequently reminded myself that those great guy’s I was crushing on had every right to take their pick from the sea of beautiful, intelligent, spiritual women I found myself surrounded by. Though it cut a little every time, I didn’t resent the many times a guy in my ward would befriend me only to quickly reveal their interest in my roommate. After all, my roommate was (usually) pretty awesome.

third-wheel-01

However, there is a little wound that develops one church meeting, game night, linger-longer, and ward family night at time. Every time, you pin hopes to your heart and tell yourself, THIS IS THE DAY. TODAY I WILL MEET THE MAN I’M GOING TO MARRY, and then you return home alone, not having had a real conversation with anyone at the party, and you unpin your hope again along with your earrings, and every time it leaves a little scar.

It becomes a small but constant ache. And you have to fight to keep the infection of bitterness from growing in it. From time to time, that pain put me on my knees, tears streaming, wondering what more I could have done. Didn’t I deserve this righteous desire? Did I need to repent? Had I missed something? Why didn’t anyone teach me how to flirt?!?

thegardenofenid.tumblr.com

thegardenofenid.tumblr.com

Unfortunately, the easy balm of comfort for this pain is commiserating with other singles about what is wrong with YSA culture and the church, or what Peter, who was such a great guy!, could possibly see in Molly!

That was wrong of me, but it usually felt good.

I’ve been blessed with a healthy ability to fight off physical and spiritual infections, and those hours of lonely struggle have made me stronger. I’ve had a solid relationship with my Father in Heaven throughout my 20s. This relationship was aided by my experience as a missionary and by my temple covenants.

In her excellent article this UVU student says “sometimes I feel like I should try harder, to be a good Mormon girl and focus solely on getting married. That sounds exhausting. I think I’ll conquer the world in the meantime.” Like her, I’ve always found taking on the world to be much easier than wrestling with my relationship issues in Zion.

Unlike her experience, no one—not my family, another YSA, or a priesthood leader—has ever made me feel uncomfortable for being an endowed single woman in the church. Like her, I had a strong desire to receive my endowment at an early age. I saw my 18-20 year old girl and guy pals going to the temple to be sealed or serve missions and I knew I wanted that too! And I wanted it now! What could be wrong in that desire? I was also struggling with my own grief over my father’s death and wanted to feel more connected to him and the rest of my endowed family by attending the temple. The very Sunday I made up my mind to speak to my bishop about preparing for the temple was the Sunday he read a letter from the first presidency announcing the ‘raising of the bar’ for missionaries and that no one should be endowed until their mid 20’s unless marriage or mission was imminent. That was ‘a hard saying’ for me, but the spirit comforted me that I could still prepare for the blessings of the endowment on my own. I studied carefully for the temple as I also prepared to serve a mission. When I at last received my mission call, I was more excited to enter the temple than I was to enter the MTC.

Me and Elder Huntsman

Me and Elder Huntsman

I was able to participate in all the temple ordinances multiple times before leaving for the mission field. This was a huge boon to my testimony and my work as a missionary. My love for the temple has remained constant through my life. I have been able to talk confidently with many brides and missionaries who are understandably nervous about the unknowns of the temple ceremonies, garments, and the promises they are making. I have also born witness of the peace and blessings of the temple to those outside my faith. The temple covenants have been an enormous blessing for my life during the struggles of my 20s. I LOVE the temple. I have many single girlfriends who have struggled for years with their own desires, or their priesthood leader’s pushiness or resistance to make the choice about when to enter the temple. In my opinion, it is a choice that the church should allow every young person over 18 to make on their own with the Lord’s guidance.

I needed the strength of the temple and the promises given to me there most especially during the crisis that hit me when I was 26. My first real relationship was a trial of my faith for many reasons, but the climactic moment came when, 13 days before our wedding, the man I had chosen to spend eternity with revealed to me that he was not able to be married in the temple. Our wonderful YSA Stake president, perhaps the most Christ-like man I have ever met, told us plainly that he would marry us outside the temple without hesitation. But I hesitated. I knew cancelling our temple wedding would raise a few eyebrows in my family and community, but that was not my real hesitation. More importantly, I knew immediately that getting married to this man I loved so very much would not help him. His struggle and the very unfortunate treatment that so many good men of the church receive is a topic for another time, perhaps. In any case, he had healing to do that had nothing to do with me. So though I stayed with him for more than a year hoping to be a helper in his healing, eventually the Lord helped me find the courage to give up on what had become my fondest hope and begin to move on. THAT SUCKED. ALOT.

This is an Alot.

This Alot Sucked

And it left me feeling bold and a bit unsteady.

I began to weigh my options more seriously. I started grad school, where I met a world of interesting people with ideas that have challenged me and forced me to take stock of what I really believe. This has not been a test of faith so much as a thinking through of ideas. I have read, and thought, and written a great deal in my quest to refine what one professor has called my Values, Attitudes, and Beliefs. I have felt healthfully stretched. My faith is in the process of being pruned and is springing up in new buds. I’ve also seen the church I love beginning to shift in very exciting ways.

So it was that after much internal debate, and an unexpected invitation that I decided go on my first date with a non-LDS guy. Now, Mom, don’t freak out, it’s not going to go anywhere with him for various reasons, but I spent the whole time pondering if pursing a relationship outside the church could be right for me. This was a good, genuine, humble, and kind man. It gave me pause. If I found a man who loved me and was supportive of my faith and desire to raise children within the teachings of the church, could I form a life with him? Is it time to start looking beyond my church to find some one to share my life with? My fears would be two fold.

One: That as the solo spiritual force in the home, I would fall short of providing my children a strong foundation of faith.

Two: That I would live in false hope that one day my husband would join the church, rather than being able to accept him for who he is and isn’t. I feel like that would be a kind of wedge that could drive a marriage apart quickly.

And yet, I have seen many powerful examples of Mormon men and women with non-member spouses who raise children to love the church. It may be a hard row to hoe, but so is being alone all your life, or never having children at all. The Lord grows his church in unexpected ways, often making do with the tools he has available. And my tool shed is looking a more than a little ill supplied. Does the Lord want to me explore some new horizons? 

My intentions and dreams have not changed in since I was 26, or 14, or… 3. I want a temple marriage and happy children. I love my work. I am passionate about my studies, but what I know will fulfill me spiritually throughout my life is building a family of my own. And here’s the thing, if I am ruling out marrying outside the church, I am cutting myself down to a pool of what I would guess is about one million eligible men in the WHOLE world—and of that million I have a really high standard for the man I will marry. Beyond being worthy of the temple and being willing to marry me,  I need to find someone who I can trust implicitly. I’m not expecting perfection from him, but if I am going to make the promises that temple marriage requires I make to my husband, then I need to find a man who understands and loves God even more than I do, and who I can actually imagine myself enjoying hanging out with FOREVER. And EVER. And EVER.

sandlot

AND EVER.

I’ve still never met a man that I loved that much. And if I never do in this life, then I need to…just be ok with that?

No children?

No husband?

It is a fact that every year the pool of options gets a smaller, and a lot of the time it feels plum dried up. My 10 year plan has failed. The revised five year plan I made at 26? That has failed too. And the one year plan that I made 18 months ago, yeah, that didn’t happen either. Maybe it’s time to stop making those plans.

It can be hard not to remind myself that at my age my mother was expecting me, her fifth and final child. It is hard not to look at some of the leadership of the church and want to tell them, “I DID IT ALL and IT DIDN’T WORK!” It can be very frustrating to go to another YSA activity and feel like I will never be recognized as an adult in this church. It is hard not to punch someone in the face when they use the term ‘graduating’ to describe getting married and leaving the YSA ward. Does that mean I am flunking out?

It is hard when I feel that I am failing at the one thing that has always mattered most to me.

But I am comforted by a thought that I will explore in the next post:

Maybe there is no such thing as a traditional Mormon woman.

And, it could be worse:

This family is a lie

 

2014 Theme: UnSelfie

2014 Theme: UnSelfie

I don’t know if you heard, but the 2013 word of the year according to the OED is “Selfie.” This refers to a photo taken, generally with a phone, of oneself, by oneself, to be used on social media generally dedicated to oneself. Other people may occasionally appear in the selfie, but there is only so much room in the reach of one’s arm.

Me Time:

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I became well acquainted with the selfie during my trip to Barcelona a couple of years ago. At the end of my work in Italy I had some time to kill, so I grabbed a 10€ flight to Spain, a hostel booking, and walked the city for 3 days. It was beautiful, romantic, and lonely. I loved it. It was the kind of trip that only an introvert could really enjoy. While there, I met several kind international solo travelers to share paella lunches and rooftop chats with, but generally I spent my days wandering through ancient walls and gorgeous architecture. I tried to capture some of it will my camera, and tried to show myself with in it, but again, I was limited by my arm span. It’s very true that selfies can come across looking vain and conceited, but I don’t think selfies are bad or wrong. Mostly, I think they are lonely.

I think it was coming home from Europe and losing the luxury of six months of excuses for being alone—i.e. I don’t know anyone, I don’t speak the language, can’t talk must eat pizza—that I began to ponder the selfieness of my life. Being a single adult is an inherently selfish existence.  It’s not the really nasty selfishness that people in my age group and situation are often accused of—rather it is selfiness. The by-product of independent living.

Allow me to elaborate. I do things that my married friends, particular my parent friends, can only dream of. I can sleep soundly all night. No one needs me to get up to feed or help them. This is a luxury that I know many of my mommy friends can only vaguely remember. I can eat what I like, when I like. No one reminds me to go grocery shopping instead of eating another spicy bean and cheese burrito. And no one puts their sticky finger in my food because ‘Mommy’s tastes better.’ And when I do go to the store, no one gives me the stink eye when I put the Double Stuff Oreos in my cart. I can go where I want. Would I like to get in my car and drive to Ohio today? Maybe…no, but you just try and stop me. I could be in Nebraska before any one even noticed. I spend my money how I want. I bought a new car this year. I had barely a half hour conversation about what I should or shouldn’t buy with my brother about this choice. My time is my own. If I want to binge watch 2 seasons of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on Netflix instead of writing a paper—what are you going to do about it? You didn’t even know that happened, Sucka!

Over the last few years, one of my personal mantras has become something of a joke among my circle of friends. They have all heard my say, and generally in the face of sensible advice, “I do what I want!” But that doesn’t mean there are no consequences. Thank goodness for a sensible upbringing and strong ethical compass, and limited financial means, without which my life would be a ruin.  As it is, the main consequence is loneliness.

My loneliness is the quiet kind. In fact most of the time it makes me smile. I go for a solo morning run and find a breathtaking sunrise. I smile at God’s gift just for me. I drift off to sleep in the quiet coziness of my room. I hug myself, and smile. I go to the store and buy one perfectly ripe persimmon as a treat. I smile and thank myself. It’s a comfortable kind of alone.

But other times I kneel alone in the silence of my room and cry out to a God who doesn’t seem to hear, and I am alone. Sometimes I walk alone through the grocery store making funny faces at other people’s kids, wishing I had one of my own. Someone who I could buy a perfect persimmon for. When I crashed my car (necessitating the buying of a new one) I sat in shock on the side of the freeway unsure who to call first. Who could help me? Who needed to know? It made me sad, so I just called the insurance company and cried to them. That’s the quiet kind of loneliness I live with.

It is an invulnerability. If you have time you should listen to this Ted Talk.

It is beautiful. It discusses the power of connection, shame, and vulnerability. In an effort to deconstruct the human need for connection this researcher did hundreds of interviews and found that happiest people “fully embraced vulnerability. They didn’t talk about vulnerability being comfortable, nor did they talk about it being excruciating…They just talked about it being necessary. They talked about the willingness to say “I love you” first, the willingness to do something where there are no guarantees…their willingness to invest in a relationship that may or may not workout. They thought this was fundamental.”

TERRIFYING.

Letting people in is not really that hard for me. When I love someone, I love fully. What is VERY hard for me is reaching out. Falling in love.

Working in theatre I spent many years being annoyed at the easy way everyone around me said “I love you” all the time. They said it to me, to each other, to their fellow workers. Didn’t they know that those were magic words? Powerful. Not to be used lightly. But eventually I realized something even more powerful: They meant it. Most of the people I worked with or met in the theatre were genuinely loving. They loved with their whole hearts. They loved easily and truly, if not always deeply. It was me who needed to change, not them.

I say I love you a lot more now. That doesn’t mean that I love the girl I sewed costumes with in the same way I love my beautiful mother, but I do still love her. So why not tell her! No one was every damaged by being told they were loved. Now, let me take this up a notch. There are people in the world who need friends. (Me. I need friends.) There are people in the world who are looking for deep and romantic love. (Me. I am looking for deep and romantic love.) To help these people I need to believe fully that I have something to offer and then I need to be willing to share it. I need to open myself to being hurt. I need to take off my layers of numbness and selfieness and expose my heart to the painful light of love.

Ouch. This is going to suck.

This is my theme for 2014. I have been thinking about it since late October, but I have been putting off saying it out loud much, because I know it is going to be the hardest yet. Over coming fear in 2012 was fun. Creating in 2013 was extremely gratifying. Being selfless in 2014 makes me want to hide my head in the sand and never speak again.   

Things I am going to be unselfie about:

  1. Invite others to join me. Bike rides, road trips, movies, binge watching TLC shows, grocery runs. I want to share my life. So I need to invite you to share it with me. This. Is. So. Hard. Because a lot my friends are also single adults and they have their own selfieness going on. So I am going to need to toughen up and get used to people saying no, but it won’t hurt them to have me ask.
  2. Giving away more. Of course, my first thought is, “not that I have much to give.” But that’s absolutely not true. I have more than enough. I want to give more of my time, more of my money, and more of my things to those in need. I have a very strong tendency toward greed about things that make me happy. Time to actively fight that. So yes, I’m going to say the words that are sometimes the hardest for me: “Please, share this cookie with me.”
  3. Free myself from the things that I hide behind: Irony, cleverness, food, media, and generally being in “the thick of thin things.”

I love this quote:

“We become so caught up in the busyness of our lives. Were we to step back, however, and take a good look at what we’re doing, we may find that we have immersed ourselves in the “thick of thin things.” In other words, too often we spend most of our time taking care of the things which do not really matter much at all in the grand scheme of things, neglecting those more important causes.”  –Thomas Monson

 

Here is something I learned from The Year of Creation. Creating doesn’t happen alone. It is inseparable from collaboration. Last year was partly about trying to walk the Road Less Traveled, and you know what, it was really lonely. Not bad, but quiet, and reflective, and HARD. (This is really a whole other post.) I tried to create on my own, and I found that whatever I did alone had pretty limited value. When I shared what I was creating with others, the work blossomed. Their love and my love came together to create something bigger than the both of us. How cool is that?!

So this is why unselfifying my life is scary and hard.

Image

It requires participation from others. Ugh.  

So to start this off right, come on in. Give your advice on how to unselfie my life. Give me courage, I need it.

Warning Signs of a Flashflood/My Life in Ruins

Let me tell you a story. Once upon a time, Miranda…

No. Let me go back further.

When I was a kid I loved watching nature shows, particularly with my dad. TV was kind of our thing. Maybe it was just his thing and I joined in. But we loved National Geographic Specials, Unsolved Mysteries, and Rescue 911—hosted by one William Shatner.

(Really, FoMoCo, really?)

Somewhere along the way in our viewing I must have seen something about the dangers of mountain flashfloods. No doubt it recounted the carefree day of adventure gone horribly array when a distant mountain storm sent a raging river of death spewing down a debris-jammed canyon. The reenactment probably included a neon windbreaker (cuz this is 94’) used as a tourniquet, fruitless cries for help, a distant group of picnickers suddenly called to action, a life-flight helicopter, and a charming follow-up showing the now wiser dummy and his dog playing the front yard. If memory serves, Rescue 911 usually ended with a helpful list of how to not be the idiot who ends up on the show next week.

This episode may have recommended:

1. Never hike alone.

2. Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back.

3. Always dress appropriately for the weather.

And the warning signs for Flashfloods:

1. Thunderstroms—even in distant places connected to your hike.

2. A drop in water level, indicating an upstream blockage of debris building up to kill you.

And How to know if you are in a Flashflood:

1. Muddy, debris-filled water

2. Quickly rising water level

3. Roaring sound of oncoming watery demise

Other than ‘get to higher ground,’ and ‘don’t die ‘ I don’t really remember tips on what to do if you are caught in a flashflood.

This sums up what I knew about Flashfloods back in August of 2011. But I’d fallen in love with a new hike, and love has a tendency to cloud the best of judgment. (Foreshadowing analogy!)

See, about a month before, a couple of my friends and I had done a brilliant 10 mile decent from Cedar Breaks down to Cedar Canyon. It was a gorgeous day. We laughed, and talked, and took pictures, and scrambled in and out of the water in the slot canyon. I peed outside for the first time, and we ended the day with good pizza. What could be better!

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A couple weeks after that, I took a couple of different friends on the bottom leg of the hike. Starting at the base of the canyon we hiked up as far as we liked, even taking a different fork and finding a pretty little waterfall before turning around and ending where we began. Another great day! I was pretty much a pro at this hike now.

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The next weekend I wanted another go, but knew everyone else was busy. “Tosh”, says I, “I will have a transcendental day! I will go into the woods alone and walk deliberately.” For there was yet another fork in the canyon that I wanted to check out. If my calculations were correct it would hook up to another hike that I’d been meaning to try for a few years. This second hike was really beautiful and more popular than the first. I thought I would be able to find a sneaky shortcut from one to the other. And walking with authority into places I’m not technically allowed has served me pretty well at libraries, museums, and theatres, so, I justified, ‘why not with Mother Nature? After all “blind confidence is the better part of valor” Shakespeare said’ never. (Discretion, he said. “Discretion is the better part of valor.” And, ps, Falstaff was a drunken coward. Don’t quote him.)

Allow me to narrate the events of the day in my best Shatner voice:

Miranda woke up that fateful morning and checked the forecast: 30% chance of thunder storms building through the afternoon. “Great! I’ll strap on my hiking sandals and be home before 2.” She said to No One. So, after telling No One of her plans, she jumped into her flimsy tee-shirt, favorite hiking capris, and silver sedan not equipped with four-wheel drive.

By 10AM Miranda was parking her car at the base of the hike she thought she knew well. She left her cell phone in the car, having told No One, not a soul, her plans for the day. “It’ll just be a quick jaunt, Nobody. You know how I like alone time in nature. And I don’t have reception here anyway, so stop looking at me that way.” She said to her reflection in the car window.

Beginning her loosely planned 3-5 mile hike, Miranda began to notice a few important things. “My, those big puffy thunder clouds drifting down from the mountain I’m hiking toward sure are pretty. I probably didn’t need to bother with sunscreen today!” she thought brightly. “And it’s strange how the banks of the creek look damp, but the water is flowing at least a foot below the water line. Huh. It’s almost like the water level has dropped pretty quickly. I wonder if that’s what it would look like before a flashflood in this canyon?” But despite these big ears and big teeth, this Red Riding Hood, just kept skipping toward her imminent doom.

Yes. The words flashflood had actually crossed her mind, more than once during what would be the first and only mile of her hike that day. In fact, she was remembering how she had told her wise friend Josh, a native to the area, that she had been intrigued by the frequent stories of flashfloods that plagued Southern Utah canyons in the summer, and how she had never seen one. Wise Josh told her being stuck in a flashflood was not something she should add to her bucket-list, lest it be the final item. Josh was wise.

The semi-familiar trail she followed required Miranda to make frequent crossings from the north to the south banks of the creek. Temporarily out of the water as she rounded a bend, she sang aloud in celebration of the fact that she hadn’t yet run into a single other hiker. “Oh the glory of solitude!” she crowed as a few light drops of rain began to fall on her head and arms.

As she crested a small clump of boulders within view of the fork of the creek she had intended to explore, she stopped in her tracks. Dumbfounded she stared at the chocolate brown water, littered with chunks of logs as big as her hefty torso and legs, that suddenly surrounded her on three sides.

210936_10150294235748959_3005179_o (this pic is from a few hours later, when things weren’t so chocolaty)

“But, I didn’t hear any roaring warning sound…” she said stupidly. With no particular sense of panic she realized that she was in fact caught in a flashflood.

As an overly benevolent God would have it, Miranda was on the southern, hyway facing, bank of the river. On her right and up the steep canyon wall ran highway 14. Had she been on the north bank, she would have been trapped by the water until it ran its course (which would not be for many, many hours). Amazed by her unaccountable good luck at not actually being in the water when the flood began, she began to weigh her options.

Rain was now falling steadily from the puffy grey clouds that didn’t look as pretty as they had an hour before. “Well, how long do flashfloods last, eh Shatner?” Miranda asked the invisible narrator of this story. Knowing no one would be wondering where she was for many, many hours, and not feeling a sense of imminent danger, she decided to her best option would be to sit down and wait for the torrent of riling, chocolaty looking, mud to run out. Just as she had the day she got separated from her mother in Target when she was 5, Miranda would sit down on a shelf and wait to be picked up.

This became too boring after about 10 minutes, and, watching the muddy waters slowing creeping up the side of her embankment, she began to think about that ‘seek higher ground’ idea. She also began to worry about her car, so close to fully paid off, and without flood protection insurance, parked downstream, just a few yards above the creek/ugly chocolate fountain.

After briefly considering just jumping into the flood and riding it, or a passing log, the quick way back to the start of the hike, or perhaps all the way to town, Miranda decided it might be best to try and continue upstream to the mystery fork and make her way up to the point where the trail ran within view of the highway. A solid plan, but Miranda would quickly discover that her hoped for shortcut trail did not exist. She clawed and scrambled her way through the lush greenery of that untamed creek fork for what felt like hours (but was probably only 15 minutes) making next to no progress. She battled the nagging fear that at any moment this creek too could also become a dangerous deluge of notchocolate.

Returning to the embankment, Miranda reckoned it had now been about 2 hours since she had set out on this hike, and the flood showed no signs of letting up. Now thoroughly soaked with rain and rather out of ideas Miranda turned to her last resource. The granol… no. She didn’t even pack a granola bar.

She prayed.

Commercial Break: Domino pizza delivery and the Energizer bunny.

That was more than enough Shatner for one post.

But, yes. I finally did what I should have done in the first place. I knelt down and prayed.

I laughed with God at my own stupidity and pride for ignoring all the warning signs he’d given and thanked him for how well things had gone so far, really. I was just a little tired and wet. I asked him to tell me what to do next and then I sat down and waited.

And waited.

And I began to think. This kind of thinking is what I like to call personal pondering, or revelation. This time it took the form of a Gollumesque conversation with myself, where one side was being enlightened by the Spirit and the other side was a drowned rat stuck, alone, in a flashflood. It went something like this:

Wet Me: Alright, God. I’ve been sitting here for a while. But you know, I deserve this, I was an idiot. So I’ll just wait til you want to tell me what to do.

Enlightened Me: God doesn’t work like that. He doesn’t want to you sit around in the rain and a flood and catch pneumonia.

Wet: Well, yeah, but sometimes when you make your own bed you have to lay it in. Just like I did with my last relationship.

Light: Yeah, it’s almost like this whole day is an analogy for the last three years of your life.

Wet: Say what?!

Light: Well, you made a mistake, right? You got engaged even though you knew it was a bad idea. You saw all kinds of warning signs about why the relationship wasn’t going to work out. In fact, I told you “Don’t get engaged” very clearly. But you justified your choices because you were in love. Just like you did today with this hike that you love. You knew what you wanted and you thought that if you were strong enough you’d be able to change everything and get what you wanted.

Wet: Yep. I was a total idiot. Can’t believe I did that. Thanks for the reminder. This is a pretty good analogy for my life. I think I’ll sit here and cry about it again. (Cries for a while.)

Light: Hey, Dummy, stop that. You are wet enough. What are you going to do now?

Wet: Duh, I’ve been asking. You tell me. I can’t go down stream and I can’t go upstream. I’m stuck here. Somebody or something will come along and tell me eventually.

Light: Or you could just go.

Wet: Where?

Light: Well, You know where you want to end up, right?

Wet: Yes. I want to go back at my car, and preferably later I would like to go to dinner with my pal Carrie for some coconut shrimp. And then after that I want to get my life back moving. I want to get out of this town, start a new job somewhere, meet someone new, get married and start a family. That’s what I want.

Light: So get going. You’re not going to get anywhere by sitting there feeling bad about everything.

Wet: (Thinks for a while longer…) This is a pretty meta moment. It’s like my immediate circumstances have caught up to a perfect summary…

Light: Yeah, whatever, just go already.

Wet: (Gets up turns around and stares and embankment leading to highway, somewhere.) Ok. I’m gonna climb this boulder and see what I see, ok? I’m going to do it. Ok? You’re gonna have to stop me if this is the wrong choice. Cuz I’m gonna do it.

Light: (Rolls eyes and walks away.)

So I started climbing. My first attempt to get over the boulder was not the right way. I slid back down the hill, but then I tried a different way around it. I kept climbing and eventually found a sort of game trail that ran parallel to the creek. I followed that for a while, keeping an eye the chocolate fountain below me. The rain passed and the water turned a more reddish color. At last the trail ran out, and I was about to head back down toward the creek, thinking I could probably get across the water now if I needed to, when I heard the sound of cars passing on the highway about 30 feet up the steep embankment on my left.

Time to climb. Being within ear shot of civilization was a big encouragement. Holding onto roots and branches and digging my sandals (the kind that let every rock in and never out again) into the mountain side, I pulled my way out of that mess. I pulled myself up and over onto the highway, like freakin’ Indiana Jones. I was just in time to wave at a passing group of motorcyclist. I couldn’t help laughing at what I must have looked like, a dirty, damp, sweaty mess. I followed the highway back to my car, maybe a quarter mile from where I had emerged, avoiding eye contact with passing motorists. (I wonder if there were any Bigfoot sightings reported on the highway that day.)

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My car was fine. The water had risen only a few feet above normal. It could have been much, much worse. I drove back to where I had climbed onto the highway and took some pictures to show how far up I had come. It was impressive. This was the kickstart of Year Without Fear.

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A few hours later I showed off my pictures to Carrie over coconut shimp.

Six months later I was dragging myself up another steep embankment, but this time at least I was in Italy. Sweet.