Christmas in Newport.

A week ago, as we sat in her parent’s living room, a friend asked me if I or other Californians refer to that state as “Cali.” I think I said something that was still offensive but not as much, something like, “If someone refers to the state as ‘Cali,’ you know they aren’t actually a Californian,” but with a degrading term thrown in somewhere.

“What about ‘Welcome to the O.C., b—?’” she asked, referencing the pilot for the smash early 21st century teen drama “The O.C.” (In her goodness, she edited the actual profane b-word to a pronunciation of its first letter.)

“We only say that to be ironic,” I answered. Secretly, I’d hoped for several years that an opportunity to use the phrase would present itself, but as of yet, I’ve yet to properly welcome anyone to Orange County.


What made me think of that conversation was the freeway transition from the 405 south to the 55 south on the way to my uncle’s house in Newport Beach. This would be the first Christmas Eve I’d ever celebrated anywhere besides Grandma’s house (the only exception being the Christmas I was in Canada as a missionary,) and I was looking forward to telling people I’d spend Christmas in Orange County. I sat in the front passenger seat of our rented sedan, a Nissan (“We used to shoot them down,” my grandpa commented when he heard what the make of our rental car was.) Dad drove, and Mom sat in the back with Kris. It was 4:40 in the afternoon, about an hour before sunset, and the sky’s light was beginning to turn golden. The lanes were mostly empty, exposing large patches of gray concrete which looked a bit orange from the sunlight.

And while I couldn’t see from my seat, I’m sure my mother imagined the car—the maroon 2010 Nissan AltimaI—as shining gloriously in the glow. She’d made me wash the car by hand earlier that morning. “We don’t want to embarrass your uncle by parking our car in his neighborhood, at least not more than we usually do.”

“But people are actually paid to wash these cars when we take it back,” I replied. “I have to do this manual labor, someone else’s job, so that our car looks nice while it’s parked in a neighborhood?”

“Matt,” my mom sighed, “I want it washed.”


Christmas in Newport Beach seems to mean a lot more for Californians than from anyone out of state, at least that I’ve met. Because of The O.C., most people under 23 know about Newport Beach and where it is, but no one is ever excited when I tell them where I spend my holidays. I think it’s because we’re so territorial in southern California; I don’t know about the northern half, but I’m assume they’re the same way. The key is the bumper stickers. I haven’t seen stickers that say “Rhode Island Native” or “East Alabama Mom,” but I’ve been able to recognize Californians in my cross country travels by the stickers in their back windows: “Nor-Cal” written in gothic font across the entire back windshield of a pickup truck, or “SoCal” proudly displayed across the tailgate. For a while, it was in to advertise the specific city you were from in those little white, round stickers on your back window’s lower corner. “LKWD” meant that the owners of the car were from Lakewood, and “DNY” signified Downey. At the time, I thought it was some secret gang thing (as asserted in the chain e-mails from that paranoid white lady in the ward,) but now I think it’s just a territorial thing. Californians tend to be proud of their home city or state. “Where I’m from is better than where you’re from,” we think.

These territorial standards are what we, Californians, use to affirm ourselves and feed our egos. My father told me that once, as a missionary in Germany, he explained to his Utahan companion that since the US is the most economically and politically powerful country in the world, California is the most economically and politically powerful state in the country, and Los Angeles is the most politically and economically powerful city in the state, Los Angeles was the center of the world. It wasn’t very popular at the time, and it isn’t any more popular when I explain it to people. But for some reason I feel this need to repeat the explanation. It never gets more than a chuckle.

And so, as a Californian, I validate myself from my territory. I once asked my dad if it was fair to assess an area’s population based on that area’s advertising and what cars the locals drive and what kinds of houses they live in. The idea behind the advertising is that marketing campaigns are aimed at specific demographics, and based on the advertising in an area, one can tell what kind of demographic inhabits that area. A company wouldn’t advertise an unnecessary service—we’ll say, breast augmentation, to pick a completely random example—in a neighborhood where the occupants relied on government aid to keep their kids fed. And the quality of a neighborhood’s housing compared with the vehicles lining the streets could, in theory, tell one what economic bracket its inhabitants belonged to. This works even if the inhabitants are “faking it.” For example, my north Downey neighborhood in LA county features new Acuras and Chevys parked in front of modest suburban houses; there are many more cars in front of each house than there should be for single family dwellings. The new cars say that image is more important than sound financial decisions. The modest, overcrowded houses confirm this. If the occupants were truly part of the wealthy classes, they wouldn’t be sharing a home with two other families. Thus, by my neighborhood’s cars, I come to the conclusion that the people are concerned with image, but not really doing that well. They’re superficial, and what else would they be? It’s LA.

When answering my question of whether it was fair to assess an area by its indicators, my father said yes, “It’s obviously okay.”

Those indicators—advertising, housing assessment, vehicle demographics, etc.—are the indicators I’d  used to assess Draper, Utah. When explaining how I think that Draper is like the city of the Beverly Hillbillies, a city of tacky people who suddenly have money and spend it in ways they think rich people should with often hilarious results, my friend Alison cut me off and said that I don’t even know what Draper’s really like and I’m basing my opinion on a single person I know. In the interest of full disclosure, I really don’t like Draper. I’ve driven through it a heck of a lot; I’ve seen plenty of its neighborhoods where the homes look like failed Disney Imagineers decided to go into home design, and I’ve seen the generally low quality of driving on Draper streets where people consistently cut across right turn only lanes at the last minute so they can go straight. But Alison was right, and I don’t really know the people of that city. I know a person, and I am moderately familiar with her values, but I don’t know the individual residents.

And so I’m left thinking, Who is right? Generalizations and archetypes are what I’ve used my entire life to understand the world. The conclusions I draw make sense to me. But Alison was right in her rebuttal—individuals are often very different than the stereotypes. I don’t drive a BMW or have a father who is a business owner or wear Abercombie & Fitch apparel, but I’m a white kid from LA. Why do I see myself as the individual exception in a homogeneous population?

It might just be that it’s because I don’t drive a BMW; I never had a car until I was almost 23. The catalyst was being told by a girlfriend as we broke up that the most unattractive thing about me was my lack of a vehicle. Two weeks later, I borrowed $1500 from my sister and purchased a 1995 Ford Taurus with a dent in its side. The car has been good to me, needing some work but not too much, but it is a symbol of my true economic class. I don’t have the money to even fake it and purchase a new car I can’t really afford. When I drive my car home, it isn’t just the Idaho license plates that make it stand out in the neighborhood.

And as of a week ago, I know that because I didn’t have the cash to fix my car’s engine mounts until I took out another loan last month, the transmission is broken and due to go out anytime. It’s a $4500 repair, one which neither I nor my parents can afford. I feel like my car has terminal cancer and that I’m just helplessly waiting, watching it hack and sputter and cough and wondering if each day will be its last. When my mother found out, she apologized that she wasn’t able to buy me a better car. “I didn’t imagine that we’d end up like this,” she said.

“It’s not a huge deal. Something will work out. It’s just a car,” I replied, trying to reassure both her and myself. But the pressure is there, in the back of my soul, constantly reminding me that I can’t afford for my car to break down, and I don’t know what will happen if it does, and how will I pay for the Brit Lit tour if my mom can’t find a job and Dad might not be teaching next semester due to budget cuts?

My dad said that what I am is kind of caught in the middle of two worlds—a family whose income was under the poverty line for most of my youth but whose lifestyle has been middle class, leaving us entrenched in debt. Like my dad once explained to me, I grew up hating the rich for oppressing me and the poor for being tacky.

And so I continue to pretend, to pretend like my family is going to Newport Beach because we’ve earned it.  Spending Christmas Eve in Newport Beach becomes a status symbol. I can use it to cover up the financial insecurities haunting me and pretend like I have a right to make assessments like, “Newport isn’t a tacky place like Draper is.”


As I ride in the passenger seat, my dad takes the Jamboree road exit, and our maroon, rented Nissan pulls up to a stop light next to an old lady in a Mercedes. In Draper, I think, a person might say, “Oh, yeah, I guess I’ll just drive to the store IN MY NEW CAR;” there, the money screams at you in such a tacky way. In Newport, I say to myself, the money doesn’t care that you exist, and a person would say, “Who are you? Here are my keys. Do I return for valet here?”


Power Failure

The internet was getting boring as it usually does when I am at work. For the umpfteen time I went to NFL.com and facebook to see if anything new posted. Around 7:45pm, the lights went out.

When I looked up to see out the front doors of the store, expecting the other shops to be out of power again, all I saw was black and a few headlights from cars. I later found out that not only was the entire city out, but three counties as well.

Immediately I cursed under my breath because I couldn’t close the store. I packed up my things and headed to the other store by the Arctic Circle to see if they were able to close in time.

I then drove home to change. I wanted to do something fun, after the initial annoyance, it was kind of exciting having the power out. I chatted with Ivor, Natalie, SarahJo, and Olivia, and then left. I went to Stephanie’s apartment to see how she was doing.

We decided that the best thing to do was to skip town and go to IF for some food. I called Brit, Aly, Deborah, and Ivor to see if they wanted to join us. Brit didn’t answer. Aly was going to a final. Deborah already left to IF with a friend. And Ivor didn’t answer.

We jumped into my car to stop by my apartment to grab my wallet. On the way we saw Brit leaving her house to go to her final as well. We ended up waiting for her and some of her roommates to join us for IF restaurant fun.

By 9:45pm, Whit, Aly, Brit, Stephanie, and I were on our way to IF. Kasey and Jeremy were in their car and planned to meet us there. We decided on TGIFriday’s because the Jack Daniel’s Flat Iron steak is just that good.

On our way home, around 11:40pm, I was feeling pretty good. The night didn’t turn into another evening of watching LOST. As I drove, an image of my sister, Gina, entered my mind. She was still in Rexburg. I felt myself sink into my seat.

I didn’t think about calling her, or texting her, or stopping by her apartment to check if she was ok. On many occasions throughout the night I had conversations about how awesome SarahJo’s hometeachers were for calling to see if she was alright; and we made jokes about how my hometeachers never called me. And then there I was, driving home from Idaho Falls with a group of friends I love hanging out with, and I didn’t even think to ask my sister. My sister.

What kind of brother am I to forget about her?

I told my mom this morning about it on a phone call. She asked me if I called her since Thursday night when the power went out. I hadn’t. She said it made her sad.

So I called Gina today to offer to help with anything. She simply said, “No thanks. Most of the packing is done, but thanks for the offer.”

This morning I promised myself to be a better brother. I never hesitate to help anyone when they call for a favor, but I forgot about my sister when the power went out.


Blog Hog

Okay, I know that two posts in a row make me a blog hog, (a term I just came up with myself, and I'm pretty proud of it.) but I just wrote an email to Sis. Morgan, and I wrote something that surprised me. I guess this is like a small, strange thank-you note for being who you are. Anyway, this is what I sent to her:

Alright, so the semester before I started working for you, I was really lonely. I felt really unsure about school, about church, about my roommates--I wasn't really jazzed about anything. It was a really stupid part of my life. I just kind of stopped caring because I figured no one really cared about me--part of the reason I had such poor grades, remember? Like I said, stupid part of my life. If I were to try to describe how I felt during all that stuff, the word I'd use would be "absent."

Then I started working at the WC, and life started to be better, but not just better: great. I finally felt like someone cared about me in Idaho. Not just a wimpy, "oh-hey-how-are-you" type of caring; it was the full on "why?" type of caring. "Why is your day good?" "Why is you day bad?" "Why didn't get enough sleep?" Everyone at the Writing Center--all my brothers and sisters there--truly cared about me. It was such a strange feeling to me, and, quite honestly, an answer to some prayers I hadn't said yet.

I needed a job, and the Center gave me that. I needed a safe haven, and I got that. But, most importantly, I needed to see someone care about me, and what I got was a family.

Like I said, a very strange thank you, but I just felt like it was something I needed to share with everyone.


My Overnight Sunset

Since I started working overnight shifts, I’ve become part of a different world. Everything is inverted and foreign. Sunsets have turned into sunrises and sunrises into sunsets. Sleep comes solely in fits and spurts of two or three hours, and lunch time is at two in the morning. The workers from both Taco Bell and Aiberto’s 24 Hour Mexican know my name and that I’ll only get mild sauce if I’ve gotten more than five hours of sleep the day before. I spend more time talking to myself or to books than I spend talking to real people.

I work on the inventory team stocking shelves, setting up displays, making sure the store is clean—making sure everything is in good shape. There are four others who work with me, but we hardly ever see each other—I shelve my cart; they shelve theirs. The only time we meet is for breaks: twice for ten minutes and once for an hour every eight-hour shift. On our breaks, we talk about paper cuts, chapped lips and dried-out hands, and sleep—always sleep.

To us, sleep is an obsession—sleep is an addiction. Going to bed at 7am, waking up at 10am, back to sleep at 3pm, and then up again at 8pm is considered a normal sleep pattern. Playlists on my iPod are named “for when I’m sleepy,” “for when I’m really sleepy,” and one called “I just drank a Rockstar.” Each hour I’m awake is another hour wish I was sleeping. My body craves sleeps; each bone, each muscle, each joint screams sleep. I must have it; I want it; I need it.

After finishing our shift one morning, the other co-workers and I walked out of the store and into the parking lot. Everything was cold, pallid, and grey-tinted. Fog hugged the ground, hiding our cars. The moon had fallen to the horizon and was now just a fat, orange ball, which seemed to be hung over from the night before. In one hand, I held my keys; in the other was half a sandwich that I had decided would make a good breakfast.

We all said our obligatory have-a-nice-weekends and see-you-Mondays, then each turned and walked to our cars. I started my car and turned on the heater, trying to melt the frost of my windshield. I pumped my hands open and closed and clapped them together to try to warm them. Cupped over my mouth, I blew hot air into them. It was a kind of cold that makes your bones ache.

A few minutes later a gloved hand knocked on my window. I rolled down my window to see Derek standing there with a balaclava over most of his face.

“I thought you might want to see this,” he said. He took a few steps back and let me open my door. I stepped out and felt the air fill my lungs. The cold made it feel like I was inhaling daggers.

“See what?” I said, taking a bite of my sandwich. He motioned behind me, a gloved finger pointing just over my shoulder.

Puzzled, I turned and looked behind me.

“Just watch,” he said.

The sky, which was lifeless and dismal a few minutes before, was now more of an early grey—like something was awaking within it. The grey slowly turned the color of a robin’s egg and then to a pale, but still vibrant orange. Soon, the sun breached the horizon and climbed up the sky, cascading light across everything around me. It was beautiful.

I leaned against my car, folding my arms across my chest. I let out a small laugh as if to say, oh right—that. I could feel the sun’s warmth as it burned through the fog.

“You know,” I said. “I miss this. I really do.”

With our cars still running, Derek and I leaned back and watched the world around us come to life. The birds started to fly from one light post to another, searching the parking lot for discarded fast food. Car lights on Lancaster drive were blurry as people drove to their jobs. The sun rose higher and higher in the sky, becoming bright enough I had to squint to look at it.

“Until Monday,” Derek said, turning to his car and shutting the door. He drove off leaving me alone in the parking lot.

Despite trying to function of limited sleep, I felt strangely awake. Each and every joint ached and throbbed, but I felt awake—I felt alive. Everything about the world around me was something new, something I’ve never met before.

I felt the fog with my fingertips and realized that it was slippery. Birds chirped and sang, and I knew it sounded beautiful because it gave me goosebumps the same way that good poems gave me goosebumps. Colors were almost too saturated: the only thing I think about the grass was that it was “really green. I mean, really really green,” and the sky was “blue, but a really nice blue.” And, for some reason, this all made sense.

I took another deep breath, holding it in and letting the cold air burn in my lungs. Another deep breath, letting it burn again. I smiled, knowing that this was the way life was supposed to be—knowing that life wasn’t meant to simply be lived, it was meant to be experienced.

I drove home that morning feeling a little closer to Thoreau and Emerson and appreciating the new world I was a part of.


You Hate My Guts? I Don't Care.

I found this quote today and I keep pondering it and smiling. It's a professional and tasteful way of telling society where to put it.

Teaching has been hard because I'm a people person. I like people to like me, so having some flagrantly hate me has been shocking. Horrible. Discouraging. Someday I will care only for how God sees me. Until then, every day provides ample opportunity for me to practice.

"I don't care if people hate my guts; I assume most of them do. The important question is whether they are in a position to do anything about it."
--William S. Borroughs (American Writer)


Hey, Attention rich medical students and pre-law people. I'm selling my house. I dropped price from $287,000 to 250,000, and I'm throwing in a moose. Any takers?

Six words? Julie, the Abode House is Over.

Julie, the literal Abode House is over. It was a duplex, with a gross, germ-ridden microwave, several bedrooms, a tiny living room with 12 couches around a TV loaded with vid. games. It's where Skyler moved in with Chan, Ivor, Eric, Dan, Oliver, and Nate. Almost all inhabitants worked or hung out at the W.C. and were uniquely . . . weird. When they moved (left, graduated, etc.), they buried a time capsule in the backyard. Ivor's father took pictures. The Abode House now lives on only in their close friendships, so when Skyler is waxing nostalgic he refers to it in his posts (and leaves the rest of us out). Sigh.
Now, back to the six words--only let's move it up a notch into imagistic Haiku. (5,7,5) Working with Haiku makes new brain waves. (Or, stick to six words, if you're brain is tired but still needs contact with us.)

The last yellow leaf--
I'm not ready for winter.
River chunks with ice.

Six words? Ivor is getting old. Happy Birthday!


What You've All Been Waiting For...


I know, I can feel just how excited you are. Before I get to them, I would like to thank everyone who made this all possible. Blah, blah, blah--some other filler stuff. More filler stuff. (Tears start here.) An awkward cry-laugh-sigh.

Anyway, thanks for indulging me. Here they are:

26. All roads lead to the Abode House.

27. The shortest distance between two points is the Abode House.


Vacuum my Brain and Leave it Alone

It would be relieving if I could just suck out the negative things I see and hear each day and let my mind simply sit there, relaxed. Especially today that ability would make me feel weightless. During my prep. period this morning, I was "initiated" (as my veteran teachers call it). I call it being chewed out over the phone by an irate parent who sees her child as golden when in actuality he cannot tell the truth.

I've met jerks, but this person goes way beyond the "jerk" category. The only word that adequately portrays her is inappropriate, but said perfectly by my mentor teacher. "She's just a B*&%$. Don't think another thing of it." Wish it were that easy.

I'm getting good at dealing with groaning, moaning, negativity, and discipline issues from students. It's completely different, though, when my teaching--thing I spend more time on than cooking real food or getting enough sleep or seeing my husband--is scrutinized and attacked by someone who has no idea and no desire to learn the accurate picture. It's harder to slurp that out of my head and move on. Here's my attempt to do so.

Writing is effective at slurping it out usually, though sometimes it just makes the hurt and anger more concrete. Julie, EmPo, Sister Morgan, Meghan, and any other members of the WC family who are/were teachers--is it sincerely worth it? S.M., I see now why you went back to school to teach college. I'm thinking of doing the same thing. Not because of the teenagers, though. They're surprisingly sweet. I hate the lack of initiative, the lack of responsibility, and the parents who can see no wrong in their sweet "babies."


Six Word Story Contest

I would like to resurrect the six word story contest. For those not familiar, refer to this post. Same rules apply. And to spice it up, I'll throw in a prize for the winner, since it is a contest. You have until...hmmm...Christmas? New Years? to write your stories, then we'll vote. All in favor write a six word story.


The Lonely Morning

It was 5:30 in the morning, I remember. I think I must have rolled over when I heard the heater clanking to life. It let out a soft sigh of feeble hot air into my icy room. My sister slept in the bed next to me. Her steady breathing told me that she was still wrapped up in deep dreams.

I stretched my legs to the edges of my bed and quickly retracted into a ball when my feet reached the cold corners of my sheets. I pushed my back up against my warm pillows and listened to the early morning sounds of my house.

The bathroom sink down the hall was running, and someone in my parents’ room was pulling and closing the wardrobe doors—the wood grating on hinges. After a few minutes, their door creaked open, and I heard my mom’s hand slide on the banister and her feet softly treading down the stairs to the kitchen.

The bathroom sink continued to run.

Distantly I heard the sounds of a simple breakfast being made. I rolled over to face the wall and my pillows. I ran my hand against my flannel sheets and listened to the blender whining and the chink of dishes. Down the hall, the sink turned off, and the door to my parents’ room thudded open again, but this time I heard the heavy fall of my dad’s feet on the stairs.

I wasn’t tired anymore, but I didn’t want to get out of bed. I just listened to my parents’ nonverbal morning routine.

A chair grated against the tile, and I heard a plate clank on the table. Faintly, I could hear utensils scraping and then the chair grate again.

I sat up and twisted my back this way and that, feeling my backbone realign itself with a quiet series of pops. Below me, the garage door yawned open and swished close behind my dad. His truck growled to life and made my floor and bed vibrate. It groaned out of the garage, and my room blazed as his headlights glared on my ceiling. He backed out of the driveway; weird shadows whirled across my walls. Then it grew dim again. I listened to his truck rumble out of the neighborhood.

I flopped back down into my pillows. Aside from the sigh and clank of the heater, the house was silent. Then I heard my mom’s quite gait ascend the stairs again. I waited for her bedroom door to open and for her to disappear behind it, but she paused, her hand probably resting on the doorknob, when she turned around and padded quietly to my bedroom door. The door glided a crack open, and orange light streamed into my room. I closed my eyes and evened my breath out, pretending to be asleep.

Behind my eyelids, I could picture her, silent and dark, standing in my doorway and silhouetted by the hall light.

I breathed deliberately—in—and out—in—and out.

She left the halo of light to tip-toe across my floor. I felt the bed sink from the pressure of her body. Still I breathed—in—and out. Her hand stroked the covers above my curled up form, and then I felt her lean toward me. Her rough fingers picked a strand of hair away from my face and tucked it behind my ear.

I breathed on.

A quiet pause, and then she whispered my name so soft that I could have mistaken it for the sighing heater. She sat still for an eternity there on the edge of my bed while an internal struggle pulled me back and forth.

Wake up . . . Wake up. Stop pretending.

I can’t . . . I couldn’t.

Finally, the bed eased back as she stood up and retreated. She closed the door, cutting the warm light out.

My room grew dark and silent.

I stayed in bed, drifting in and out of sleep for the next few hours. When I awoke, I went about my day as if nothing were different. I left the house to visit a friend, leaving my mom behind in a chair reading a book. I shut the door with her wishing me a good day to my back.

All these years I wonder what she wanted to tell me that morning; what she needed to tell me.

But, I pretended I was asleep.


Provo WC Party--Round 2

The next Provo WC Party will be on November 14th at 1pm at my place, 454 South 300 East in Provo. Everyone is welcome to come. I'm thinking I'll make soup and breadsticks/rolls for this one. Chris is bringing some "flippin' tasty desserts." (If that doesn't persuade you to come, I don't know what will.)

Hope to see you there.

PS if anyone needs somewhere to go for Thanksgiving, feel free to come on down to Provo. My cousin is hosting this year, and she happens to live right above me. Ladies can stay in my apartment, and I'll find accommodations for any men.


Cough Drops and Dad

We had Stake Conference this weekend, and for a split second during last night’s meeting, I felt like I was back in the Acequia II ward sitting next to my dad.

I smelled a cherry Halls cough drop. That’s what Dad smells like nearly every Sunday at church. It always happens the same way. First Dad clears his throat—a very distinct throat clearing that always reminds me that I need to clear my throat, too. Then he readjusts his positioning, shifting his weight so he can reach into his suit coat and pull out a cherry Halls cough drop. Sometimes he puts the wrapper in my mom’s hand, and then mom looks up at him and gives him a funny look, one that I interpret as “I love you, you funny man.”

But I haven’t been home for a while. So I haven’t smelled that cherry cough drop, until last night in Stake Conference. I never knew how much I liked the smell until last night.


I once was blind, but now I see

I remember one seminar where Sis. Morgan was either running late for seminar or was busy with something else (most likely tweaking a PowerPoint post), so she had Kaitlin go outside with a trash bag and collect a bunch of the leaves that had fallen on the ground outside and bring them into seminar. Each one of us had to pull one out of the bag and spend at least 15 minutes describing that one little leaf. At first we were all probably thinking "You're kidding me, right? It's a leaf. The end. What else is there to say?" But as we all looked closer and really looked and saw what was in front of us, words began to flow. I remember detailing the little scar on the front, the glossy front and rough back, the way the veins moved across the body of the leaf, all stemming from one large vein that ran down the middle. I remember trying to find the words to describe the formation of little brown specks and the shape of the leaf itself down to its tiny teethlike edges. Then, when we were all done, we each read some of what we had written. It was amazing to see that each leaf was very unique even if at first glance they all seemed so alike.

The sad part about that day is that that was one of the few times I had really taken the time to stop and look at the minute details while in college. I remember that leaf more than I do some people's faces or even the hallways or the buildings around me.

The happy part is that now I have a child. And that child helps me see more than I have seen in a long time. I finally see all of the flourescent lighting hanging above me in Wal-Mart; I see the trail of little black ants across the sidewalk; I see the water dripping out of a drain pipe after a storm; I see the joy in my child's face as she feels the flour between her fingers and hands as she plays in the bowl of it that will be used to make our bread; And finally, I see the leaves in our yard and wonder at the beauty of all the fall colors, and I remember that day in seminar when my little Hazel picks up a leaf and stares at everything that it took me years to see--the spots, the veins, the scars. That is when I feel a little closer to heaven and so thankful for a little child who can help me see.


Breakfast with Peter Pan

Today, I made my breakfast into a face. With my fork, I cut both my eggs into eyes. A piece of bacon was broken in half for the eyebrows, and three more strips were lined up into a smile. When I sat back to admire, I realized that my breakfast face needed teeth. I split the three bacon strips in half and then arranged them into top and bottom lips, filling in the teeth with my toast that had been torn into squares.

For almost twenty minutes, I had an internal conversation with my breakfast as I ate him. It was only small talk at first—topics like what his name was, where he was from, if he had any family, and, if he did, how they were doing. Then I moved into matters that were more serious: universal healthcare, North Korea, loss of language due to technology, and the pace of our society.

You know, Breakfast Face, my stepsister texts all the time, and she has awful grammar. Coincidence?

My breakfast said nothing.

I think it’s really dumbing down my generation. I never thought I would see texting lingo in a college paper, but then I started working at the Writing Center.

Still nothing.

It really opened my eyes to how bad things have gotten. It’s not just grammar anymore—it’s basic punctuation and even spelling too. I mean, that should be easy, right?

The only thing that my breakfast face told me was that I was immature.

I sat there staring at my eggs, and the only thing I could think was that Breakfast Face was right—I am immature.

Within the past week, I’ve stayed in my pajamas all day twice, eaten cereal for all three meals once, and watched at least three hours of old Tranformers, Thundercats, and Captain Planet cartoons on Youtube, including one titled “Optimus Prime saves McDonalds.” Four days ago, when I went to my mom’s for Hawaiian Haystacks, and I was the only one who made small screams when I drowned my rice with sauce. Even though I work at a bookstore, I’ve still read more cartoon strips then real literature. Yesterday, I rearrange my dad’s living room, so it would be easier to play video games.

All this mounts up to the fact that I’m immature. But I’ve always known that, and it’s never been a problem. I’ve always been a little more childish than most, and it’s never really bothered me until two days ago. That’s when I realized I’ll be turning twenty-one in two months. And twenty-one doesn’t feel old, but it feels like maybe it’s time for me to start growing up.

I would say that with all the negativity going on, a person needs to be a little childish to get by, but then I remember that last semester, I had a coloring book and crayons in my backpack all the time. I would say it helps me relax and unwind , but then I realize that I’ve done a sock puppet show for a major college presentation. I would say all this and more, but, really, I know I’m just scared of growing up.


You can all breathe a sigh of relief. I just got back from the doctor's office. I have to have some tissue removed, but it's benign.

Of course I will continue with my yearly exams and monthly self exams, but for now I am in the clear. I also have to start having mammograms when I'm 30 instead of 40 as a precautionary measure.

Thank you for your prayers and kind words on my behalf. I appreciate all of you.


Across the Universe

It can be terrifying that life is constant change and loss. In fact, besides the church being true, loss is the one constant I can count on. When I lost my twin sister to suicide, I had never been alone before. I lost my best friend and my identity in one quick minute, which left me wandering around bumping into doors and falling into holes as life took a surprise detour. Next, Losing Jason’s father smashed my future plans like crystal glass against rocks. Years later, in Provo, 1986, my dreams and identity splintered again when my husband, Randy, lay down behind a car exhaust because “his heart hurt too much.” Four years later, just after Jason left on his mission, Jim came along and volunteered to help build Beau’s Pinewood Derby car. For the first time in decades, I felt “safe,” a particulaly important feeling for women. But,I became ill with an auto-immune disease, and after many years of my up and down health, he crumpled under a strong desire to just be happy, and he left us. He just walked away. Then I lost Megan to addictions and watched her die--not just once but over and over--in front of me. After that loss, I actually disappeared, melted down, and became dust and ashes. And my identity? What’s that?

But, Sara is right. Illness is the last betrayal. I always picked up the pieces of a crushed life and walked on. There was no alternative—though this last crash has taken me years to put Humpty Dumpty together again. But being ill was worse than losing people I loved, or the abandonment and rejection, because it left me too vulnerable—-without strength to reach down and grab handfuls of courage that we all have in us but seldom know about until we desperately need it. For a couple of years as I lay in bed and memorized the ceiling—-unable to even read my beloved books—I watched my family fall apart from behind helpless eyes. Not only did I see a good husband collapse under the pressure of caring for a spouse whom he expected to be strong and walk by his side, I also watched children in great pain because they had no mother. I was useless flesh that needed to be fed and taken care of by others, and sometimes they’d forget. I remember one morning—-as the family rushed along without me—-eight-year-old Beau slowly walking into the bedroom, trying to balance a bowl of Cheerios he’d filled too full of milk. “Aren’t you hungry, Mom?” I pushed my tongue way back into my throat and vowed to love him forever. What do we do when we can’t be who and what we want to be? When our futures float away and our present moments are dense with dread? Well . . . Dear Prudence, we are not our illnesses or our losses unless we choose to be. We’re something awfully fine, even related to gods, no matter what happens during the minutes of our days.
This is what faith is all about. Faith is this huge gift; it’s our armor, our safe and golden magic wand, but unlike those fake Halloween props, it really honestly truly WORKS. It brings the eternities back into focus even when our eyes are blurred and hearts are numb. It softens every black cruelty. But I have learned that it goes away when we don’t use it or exercise it, sort of like leg muscles that atrophy when we’ve been laid up in bed too long. I believe in God. I know He’s alive and real. My life has become an often failed, but constant search for him, filled with a longing to get closer to Him and to understand Him better, because He is my true home. I have felt peace and light and love there. AND IT’S freedom all blended in with safety. When my faith is high and active, I walk the earth like a giant woman, taking huge strides, happy to plant sunflower seeds, coloring the sky bright blue even when it’s black with clouds. I feel alive and well and the world is a fine place even when I break and die a little more every hour. But, fear keeps me from faith. It blackens everything it touches and suffocates me. I am more afraid of my own fear than I am of Satan because it drains away light. I don’t want to give it room in my head or attach it to my identity because I am more than my fear, losses, or illnesses. As trite as it sounds, I am the child of a God, walking (sometimes crawling) home, and it’s a whole lot easier to do when I keep my faith fed and operating. “Across the Universe; nothing’s going change my world.”
Illness is very difficult, Sara Lee, but don't identify with it. You're above it, and you'll be OK even if you're ill for a long time.


Nobody doesn't like Sara Lee

I hate to be a blog-hog, since this makes three posts in a row that are mine, but I figure those of you who weren’t at the WC party this weekend might want to know what I shared with those in attendance. I’ve been keeping it a secret for a while, but I’m ready to share it with you.

Even for those at the party, I’m not usually such a blubbering, trembling mess, so I’ll give you some of the details I failed to mention there.

We each shared something we fear and something we love. My fear is breast cancer.

To give you some background, my paternal grandmother has breast cancer, and my maternal grandmother died of ovarian cancer, making me a likely candidate for both cancers. I started hormone therapy when I was 15 (my OB/GYN changed my regimen recently, which I don’t appreciate because it messes with my moods, my appetite, and my sleeping patterns). Because I’ve been on artificial hormones for the past seven years, I have what they call fibrocystic breasts.

Most of the cysts are small and harmless. Recently a few of them aren’t so small, which also means they’re not quite so harmless (and they hurt like the dickens). I also have been experiencing some skin changes in that area, which does not bode well for me.

The cysts make me an even more likely candidate for breast cancer, but I’m especially wary of the skin changes, because those symptoms match a less common form of breast cancer called inflammatory breast cancer (IBC). Only 25 to 50 percent of those diagnosed with IBC live past the first five years.

I fear death, but that is only a small part of my fear.

I’m even more scared of what it would mean to live through this. The pain, the weakness, the vulnerability. I’m scared to lose the things I have: from my mobility and strength to my friendships and relationships.

Which brings me to what I love: I love real people who are real and honest with each other, which is also why it was important to me to come to Rexburg this weekend. I find myself clinging to the things I’m scared I’ll lose.

I’m also scared of what it means for my future. When my OB/GYN first told me that IBC was a possibility, I asked myself what that would mean for me. What kind of choices would I make? I told myself that I wouldn’t drop out of school, that I would stick to my April graduation deadline. But in the past couple of weeks as a (relatively) healthy person, I almost buckled under the stress. I wonder if I’m as strong as I pretend to be, and I don’t want to find out that I’m not.

I’m scared for my future children. I want to be able to feed my babies (sorry if that grosses any of you out). I don’t want my little girls to have to experience the same problems and fears I’ve had to face. I want to live to have children.

In “Cinderella Man,” Russell Crowe/James Braddock tells his wife why he wants to box during the Great Depression. He says, “at least I can see who’s hitting me.” I don’t think I really understood that until now, because I’m fighting against something that is somewhat intangible to me. If I have IBC, it means that something within my own body has betrayed me, and I don’t even have a battle plan to get rid of it. Because at this point, there’s nothing I can do. My OB/GYN is monitoring any changes, but for now I have to wait, and the waiting intensifies my fear.

PS—would anyone be interested in another Provo WC party? Maybe in November or December? We can eat food, share the depths of our souls, and have a great time. If you’re in like flynn, comment or shoot me an email (sararachels@gmail.com).



Pictures from Provo

Bridal Veil Falls

A tribute to those who couldn't come to the party

These are life size statues. That's how much I care about you. If these pictures make them seem smaller, it must be a trick of the light. weird.

This is Anonymous. He/she is holding a gun as if to say, "Don't come any closer--you might find out who I am."

The others wanted to try some voo doo on these statues, but don't worry. I wouldn't let them.

Anona and her daughter Sammy (Samantha)
Jaime Sorensen and fiance Mike

 candids from here on out...


These are also on Facebook, if you'd rather look there.


short vent

Grades are my golden god.

I hate that I care. I hate that I base my faith in myself on numbers which should mean little. It’s a heavy weight and a narcotic, and I am addicted. I can last a while “not caring.” But I go back every time.


Letter from Skyler

I like this e-mail. He's right; I'm posting it. Ta Dah . . .
Sis. Morgan,
Hey there. I just wanted to say hi and check how everything was going. I miss Rexburg. It's a little lonely here, but I'm pretty sure this is where I need to be. I actually listened to some of your advice, and I prayed about about where I should be. Ever since then, I just feel right about coming back in January. I like the fact that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing.
How's the WC? Have you had the first party yet? My mom and I might visit at the end of this month. If you haven't had the party yet--and you can wait that long--I'd love to be able to go. If not, I totally understand. How are the new people? No one you want to kill... hopefully? I miss it a lot.
You know, I had a weird thought yesterday. One of my best friends left for his mission today, and, as I was saying goodbye's and all that, I realized I had known him for almost ten years. I realized how many memories he and I had shared, and how close we had grown together. It's like we are family. It was a weird, almost unsettling, realization. And I say unsettling when, really, I mean surprising. The reason why I'm telling you all this is because, for some strange reason, I think of the WC as a part of my family too. I think it's pretty obvious how close we are, but I think we forget that sometimes when we have rough spots--like with Matt last semester. I mean, if we actually looked at it like a family (which we should because that's what it is), then we would have realized that with sixteen kids (sometimes seventeen, for the times you're included) who spend an unnatural amount of time together, there are going to be some problems. That's just logic; we're not the Brady Bunch, or the Partridge Family, or even the Osmond's. We're us--and we make it work.

Take care and all that. Don't spend too much time stressing over little things--that's very unzen-like.



air in taiwan

The air this morning smells like incense. Outside... inside... everywhere.
I got up a little earlier than usual this morning (yes, 8am is now earlier than usual. We don't go to bed until 1 or 2 since we work until 9pm or so) to go practice capoiera with my roomate at the university track and field. When I got back I was feeling feisty, so I took on some sit-ups. It was only then that I realized how out of shape I had become. I think I will be sore tomorrow. After that I snuck into our still dark room and turned off the alarm so I could crawl into bed and play the part myself. I got in right behind Adam and told him about my self-appointed role, to which he responded by swinging his hand back over his head, gently pushing down on the top of my head and saying, "snooze." It didn't work.
We got ready and ate, for the first time in a while, a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios. Few things compare. I sent Adam off to work at about 10:20 and climbed the stairs designed for size 5 feet to do some laundry. Our laundry "room" is really more of a laundry balcony on the third floor. It sits outside, three floors up, and overlooks the tile courtyard and vacant lot behind our building.
As I was loading the darks, I could hear the chanting of a bai-bai calling faithful sinners to come seek the favor of the gods. There was a steady drum, something like a heavy cymbal or light gong, and a single voice amplified by either great acoustics or a microphone. The voice sung its prayer in the same note for about 10 silables, wavered, and then made the same sound again. They all blended together with the air and the traffic and the dryer in the way sounds blend together when you just wake up in the morning.
I couldn't help drifting downstairs and outside to go see how close I could get. I walked outside and around the block toward the entrance of the monestary. I went through the gate just a few steps and sat down on a curb on the edge of the courtyard and listened. I didn't see anyone except for a grandfather in slacks and a windbreaker being followed by a little boy who couldn't have been more than three. The latter was wearing a white sweater with teddy bear ears on top, and blue crocs. The grandfather walked down the steps from the temple, bowed to the altar, and then continued across the courtyard. The little boy made his way down the steps, brought his little hands together in front of him, bowed to the altar, then turned and bowed to the temple. Three, tops.
I sat and watched them for a while. The front of the temple is big and open with a shrine inside. There's a small table in front of the entrance where the figure of a red-faced god sits, and to whom offerings of yellow spirit money or baked goods are made. The sound was loud enough to fill up the air, but so serene that it was easy to notice a white-winged moth wobble through the breeze to make its way to one of the well-kept gardens on either side of the entrance.
The grandpa noticed me so I nodded where I sat. He smiled broadly. This was probably just due to the sight of a white person listening to bai-bai. A local friend told me that they have the idea here that all white people are Christian.) and then nodded deeply in return. Taiwan was a part of Japan a long time ago, so I wonder if that's where all the nodding and bowing comes from. Well, I stood up and excused myself. I knew even though my back was turned that Grandpa was watching me go, so I turned and bowed a little one more time. He did the same.


First Day of School

My first day teaching 10th grade is tomorrow. Sister Morgan, every time I look at my bulletin board, you'll give me strength. Thanks. You probably have no idea how grateful so many people are for you and your influence. I pray often for gratitude that I had the Writing Center cocoon in my life. Miss you.


Provo Party

The polls are in: Saturday, September 26 is the day (sorry Leanna). 12 noon is the time. Bridal Veil Falls Park in Provo Canyon is the place.

I'll provide hot dogs/buns, marshmallows, paper plates/cups/napkins, and plastic utensils.

It's up to you to bring the rest: condiments, chips, side-dishes, beverages, whatever you want to bring.


WC Party--Provo style

I'd like to plan Writing Center reunion for those of us who live in the Provo area (spouses and children invited, of course).

I think it would be fun to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over a campfire in the canyon.

The date I have in mind is September 12 starting around 4 or 5ish so those with children aren't out too late.

All in favor? Leave a comment or email me (sararachels@gmail.com). 

Note: If I have your email address and you live in/around Provo, you should already have this message.

If you don't live in Provo, take a road trip. We'd love to see you.


Too Alone?

Lately, I enjoy my own company more than I enjoy other peoples’. I like being on my own.

Less than a week ago, I moved into my own apartment. For the first time, I don’t have roommates. And I like that.

I’m pretty self-sufficient. I take care of my car with little help from others (I don’t mind paying someone to change my oil once in a while). I manage my own finances. I pay my own bills. I have my own tools, and I repair my own stuff (like the bookshelf I put together yesterday). I don’t ask for help, and often reject it when it’s offered (I’m not saying that’s a good thing).

I have a secure future. In one more year, I’ll have my MA, and in another five have my Ph.D.

But this is the part that bothers me. President Ezra Taft Benson once cautioned the single sisters of the church to “not to become so independent and self-reliant that you decide marriage isn’t worth it and you can do just as well on your own.”

I haven’t decided that marriage “isn’t worth it,” but in the same address, Pres. Benson says “Place yourselves in a position to meet worthy men.” I used to love singles’ activities, but now even ward prayer seems tedious. And then I start to wonder if I can do just as well on my own. And that’s where I have a problem.

Because I start thinking about what life on my own would be like. And usually, I like the thought. Because of things like toilet seats. Every time I see a toilet seat up and the contents not flushed, I think Man, it would be nice not to have to deal with this. I don’t want to be a naggy, picky female, but I also don’t want the toilet seat left up. I know it’s not a big deal, but it bothers me every time. And if always lived alone, it wouldn't have to bother me anymore.

But I’m torn, because I also believe in the doctrine of family and of motherhood. I want to be a mother, and that’s more important than toilet seats. I often get so caught up in the trivial, that I forget the rest. I think that’s part of why I have trouble with relationships.

Chan said that when you are in a relationship, you don’t leave people alone. You don’t just walk away. But here’s the thing: I do. I walk away every time, especially when it gets hard. Back when Chan wasn’t sure whether or not he was going to work for the English department, he asked my opinion. And ya know what? I avoided the question. Did it matter? Probably not. Chan can make his own decisions, but I think it shows something about me: that I’m scared, that I still don’t trust people, even when I thought I had leaped over that hurdle. But here’s what I’ve learned: there are more hurdles. Some of them are the same, but I have to jump every time they come around, not just the first time.

Sis. Morgan wrote on the blog that she didn’t know anyone who had too many friends. This is true, but sometimes I wonder if unconsciously I think, I have enough, and I stop investing the time it takes to make new ones. I mean real, lasting, honest ones. Not just the friends you talk to in the hallway waiting for Sunday School to start. Because the real ones take work and vulnerability and trust. But it’s easier to dwell on toilet seats and just walk away.


Writing Center Alumni

This is post number 400 of the blog.

I thought I would share that little tidbit with you all.

I've been looking for housing for a while. There are places I liked, places I didn't like, but nothing has really felt right--certainly nothing like the Abode House, Chandler, Dan, Nathan, Eric, Oliver, and Skyler--until today.

I drove to the Rentmaster office late in the afternoon to apply for an apartment. Walking in a large man smiled at me, taking pleasure in noting that he was standing this time instead of sitting like the last time I was in the office. He asked for my name.
"Ivor Lee."
"You work at the Writing Center," a lady said from the back.
"Yeah. I did. How did you know?"
"I used to work there too. I'm friends with Sharon Morgan on Facebook, and I see your crazy pictures all the time."

Small world? I guess so.

The paperwork was supposed to take 24-48 hours to process for credit approval and all that business. Five minutes after I walked out of the office,two minutes after I passed the golf course I got a call from the same lady.

"You've been approved."
"Wow, that was fast."
"Yeah, I know. But since you know Sister Morgan, I figured you were probably a good person. We Writing Center people have to watch out for one another."


Spider Webs and Sticks

I walked along the edge of the hospital. The thickness of the bushes along the side made them impenetrable. The thin threads of the spider wove up and down the “No Parking” signs that press up against the bushes. As I passed them, all I could think was that I wished I had a stick to break them all down. All those good for nothing webs. Beautiful as they may be, I wish I could wrap my stick around each and every thread and break it until it was nothing. And then I would throw the stick into the bushes. I would throw it so far away I would never even have to look at the stick that had the threads on it. I don’t care how long it took the spider to create it. I don’t care if it is their source of food. I wanted nothing more than to destroy each and every one along the walk.

Insects fly unsuspectingly into their incandescent quilting, only to be held fast. Though they may struggle, fight, and tug against that which they initially thought would be so appealing, it is too late. They are trapped.

It’s not fair for those stupid insects. They didn’t know. They thought it would be safe. No one ever told them it would be like this. No one ever said that the spider web, while looking beautiful on the outside, is really a veritable trap for their inevitable doom.

And so I wanted to break them all down. Because I wish someone would do that for me. I wish someone would break it all down and save me from things that no one ever warned me about.


Suggestions needed

It's August again. And you know what that means: school starts in two weeks. I went to my new classroom last week and set everything up. Last year I had the smallest classroom in the school. This year, I have the biggest. I'll be teaching Broadcasting/Journalism and Honors (and Regular) Modern Lit this year, so I get the largest classroom with all the expensive equipment. All I have to do now is learn how to use all the expensive equipment.

I'm hoping to retire after this year, so I want to make this year count. I plan to set up a blog for each of my classes. This is where all of your ideas would be really helpful. If you were using a blog for your classroom, how would you do it? I plan to assign something to the blog every Friday, and then the students have until the following Friday to post and comment on another post. My problem is knowing what to assign. I've though of having a short story for them to read and then respond to or maybe write their own original piece using that same style. Maybe I could leave a thought/quotation that they should respond to. Please help.

Also, what are your favorite short stories/novels for a high school level? Basically, since there are so few English classes offered, my modern lit curriculum doesn't have to be me teaching lit from the modernist period. As long as the students can relate to it, I can teach it. Neat, I know.

Thanks in advance for your help.


Falling in Love Is Like Being Converted

Jana owned three Chihuahuas. She dreamed of breeding dogs and training them to compete. Elder Johns and I would go to her house every other day to sit and teach her from the Book of Mormon. Elder Kent and I continued to visit her frequently to teach her to pray. After three months of invitations we convinced her to come to church with her family.

I was transferred shortly after. More than a year later I was transferred back to Sedro-Woolley.

Elder Leonard and I knocked on her door the day we arrived from the transfer conference. Every day we had an appointment with Jana we’d try to think of ways to convince her to come to church, to feel the Spirit, to read the scriptures. No matter what we did, she never converted.

Only once she confided in us. On an exchange, she told Elder Hatch and me that although she struggled to understand what the words meant or the meaning of what she read, she knew it was true. When she sat down by herself, and read, and prayed, she knew. Nothing we did convinced her it was true, but she knew because she thought about it by herself with no influence from us.

I think it is the same with love.

I cannot convince a girl to love me. I can plan. I can think it out. I can put thoughts into action. I can say the right things at the right time. I can do everything I think is perfect so that there is no way she can ignore how I feel about her. In the end, I cannot convince her to love me.

I learned over the past year the importance of communication in a relationship. It involves talking and (even more than that) listening. I have just recently become aware of the importance of personal reflection.

Do I think of her when I am alone? When I think of her, do I smile? Does she have her quirks? Do those imperfections make her imperfect or perfect? Do I look up to her? Do I want to help her become better? Do I hope she is thinking of me?

Love is hope. Whether intentional or unintentional, love is not manipulation, in any connotation.


Dandelion Wine

Skyler, you're lucky I don't delete this post. It's funny and interesting, but never and I mean never post "to lighten the mood of the blog.” If you sweep enough stuff under the table, you can’t eat at that table after awhile. This blog is a place where anyone can discuss anything (thus I'm letting your post stand), where we are NOT afraid to say the truth or hear it.
Matt's fine. We're all fine. In fact, Matt is more than fine and probably even eager to hear whatever anyone has to say. Talking is GOOD, healthy, and one of the best things about the Center (see Eric & Jami's comments). Geez, if people around me get any LIGHTER, they'll float away like dust motes--and seem just as insignificant as dust. We don't brush things off here like flies when what has happened affected many people. We deal with what happens--whether it's light stuff or heavy is not even a consideration. It's Nada, zero, absolutely unimportant.
But, I'm curious. Did this make you uncomfortable? Instead of clearing the air like it did for some, did it make you squirm a little? If so, why? And don't fire back defensively. Think about it. Why? In fact, I'm going to ask "why" of everyone who read and fidgeted and wanted to take out the little band-aids and stick them all over the blog. Don't you understand that says more about you than what is going on here?
Are you worried that Matt is taking more flack?
Matt, are YOU worried, hurting, embarrassed that we're talking about you, to you, with you? I'm going on the line here and say for Matt that he's strong enough to actually be interested in this stuff, since it's part of his growth, though I don't know that for sure and would invite him to respond.
Geez, I don't think we're dandelion fuzz here that blows away with every negative breeze. At least I don't think I've hired anyone like that--ever! Fun posts are fun and interesting, but not when they’re meant to distract or take away from a good discussion. What’s the matter with you? We talk and talk and talk until everyone feels heard, and then the changes happen. And people can breathe, and it feels good. I promise.
Man, in fact you really hit a big pet peeve of mine. Can you tell? Consider the swear words (instead of pink, flowered band-aids) that I'm mentally spewing all over this page. After hours of lectures, etc, I thought everyone out there knew that I don't believe there is any such thing as a negative mood that "needs lightened." There are dark moods, or fun moods, or heavy moods, hysterical moods, painful moods, laughing moods, but none of them are negative or positive-- THEY JUST ARE; dang it. Thank heavens. When we're dead, lying in our coffins, devoid of any kind of feeling, filled with numbing embalming liquid, then you can "lighten the mood" for us. Until then, let what happens happen. Crap happens. It just happens. And as long as it's sincere and honest, let it happen. Walk through it; don't delicately step around it, holding your nose in the air like a prima donna as if it doesn't happen. You want to ignore the crap in your own life, fine; there's plenty of it to ignore, but we're not doing that avoidance stuff here. NOTHING between people that we want to blow away like dandelion fuzz actually blows away. It stays in front of us, sometimes choking our guts out, until we look at it, and then, we look AGAIN--until it makes sense or irons out into peace. Geez, way to really push my buttons today. I'm very thankful for Matt, Aly, and Chan because their honesty feels clean and fresh and alive--even if some would say it's a little heavy. WHO CARES ABOUT THAT? Again, it's Nada. Not the point.

The Abode House

So, maybe to lighten the mood of the blog, I've decided to share with everyone the 25 mottos of the Abode House. They are, in no particular order, as follows:

1. The Abode House: Making mottos since before you were born.
2. Strictly business.
3. Let's build some pain bombs.
4. What have you done for the Abode House today?
5. I live in the Abode House--I do what I want.
6.The Abode House motto is to make mottos.
7. I'm hungry; it's time to cook.
8. I went to Abode House to live deliberately...NOT!
9. I want to read with you.
10. If you have a lot, neglect something.
11. Voids suck.
12. Bustin' makes me feel good.
13. Never, ever, under any circumstances, spontaneously combust.
14. Carpe ( fill in the blank )!
15. My Abode House is magic. (To be sung to the tune of With Arms Wide Open by Creed)
16. Power Fist!
17. Bring the rain!
18. It's an Abode thing; you wouldn't understand.
19. I've got important man stuff to do.
20. Go tell it on a mountian.
21. The more the bubbles, the sweeter the memory.
22. Shorthand is for sissies.
23. Every form of combustion known to man.
24. Make bold statements.
25. Roll out of bed classy.

In the spring of 2009, five men learned to live by, care for, and learn from these 25 simple mottos. These men gleaned important and invaluable life lesson from the mottos, and now I challenge you, followers of the WC blog, to do the same. Consider them, and they will consider you.