Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mowing with Thunder

Like most normal college students, I find myself working random, unwanted jobs in addition to my full-time job so that I can upgrade from Top Ramen to Pasta-A-Roni come fall semester. Also, these other jobs often provide the excitement and intellectual stimulation often lacking at my tool job...for example, one odd job I've taken up is mowing all my brother's lawns for him while he is surfing the Net and watching t.v. all day at my dad's house in Missouri. Now, by "all his lawns," I mean 3 patches of grass that take me all of about an hour and forty-five minutes each week to cut up (two hours if I feel like meandering extra carefully around the gladiolas and daisies). For an extra 37 dollars a week, I'll do whatever I have to.

To allow myself a slight tangent, I think that grass lawns must be about the stupidest idea since the month of January. I mean, whoever thought of planting a bunch of poky green(ish) needles that require constant watering, fertilizing, and cutting all in the name of a place to recreate just seems downright contradictory--like saying that since A equals B, A must also equal 7, even though there is no third equation to prove that theory. I think the people who do the Astroturf are onto something---a non-allergenic green carpet to suit all of your croquet and tea party needs. But I digress.

Two days a week, I don the same grubby red shorts and grass-stained "I Heart DC" shirt and slip on some flip-flops (to the dismay of my mother, who claims I'll cut off my feet, to which I reply, "The only way I'll cut off my feet is if I suddenly have a monstrous seizure, and if I'm going around having monstrous seizures, I think we've got a much bigger problem than a few missing toes on our hands"). At the beginning of the summer, being a rookie at this whole business, that's all the protection it took. But, as my long ponytail kept getting snagged by dying flower bushes and low-hanging tree branches, I bought a cute army-style hat so that all the crap from the flaking vegetation got on that and not stuck in my getting-almost-too-long hair. Later I added sunglasses to try and conceal my identity so I wouldn't have to nod at the neighbors every time I pushed the mower their way--I could plead anonymity. Almost, anyway.

I actually started doing lawns for my brother two summers ago, and with all the expertise I've gained in the journey, I knew to dread the end-of-July/beginning-of-August stretch, because it could only mean one thing: ripe fruit. More particularly, ripe apricots. Hundreds of them. On the ground. Now, if I was a more thorough sort of mower, I probably would stoop down, stretch my aging back, and scoop up the little buggers to throw away before starting in on the task at hand. Or at the very least eat them, or throw them in the neighbor's zinnia bed. Not me. I just mow right over it all, creating one fantastically sticky, gloopy, orange mess that somehow ends up all over my shins. To justify my laziness, I argue that I'm just helping to fertilize the lawn, since that's one of the responsibilites of having a lawn (as mentioned earlier). But the whole process does become a bit annoying when my feet start sticking for dangerously long periods of time to my sandals, which makes me wonder if I might have a rage-induced seizure that would cut off my toes and spew my foot guts everywhere, just as my mom predicted. It would probably serve me right.

Next to apricots, probably the biggest thorn in my side is sprinkler heads. And rosebushes (ha ha, forgive the pun). My stepdad spent all of his 4th of July holiday digging around one of the sprinklers that I'd probably damaged in the first place, and even spray-painted it bright yellow so I would know its exact location on the face of the grass-map. Well, not even 3 weeks later, I'm pushing my mower along as merrily as you please, thinking about smoothies and tropical birds and rat poison (like any normal person often does), when all of a sudden, I hear the sickening clunk of the mower blade hitting metal. Or more accurately, slicing metal. Yep, I had broken it again. If I was a swearing sort of person, I would have sworn. Instead, I settled for a few well chosen insults hurled at myself and the mower and the neighbors and the birds as I salvaged the little pieces of metal and carried them into the house, where I placed them on a top of a nice little note explaining why I was apparently color-blind. Lately I've just taken to taking a wide berth around the things, even if it does make for odd-looking squiggles in my mowing designs.

And then there's the matter of Thunder. Thunder is the name I've appropriately given to my neighbor's rambunctious, overexcited dog, who goes ballistic at the sight of my red mower. The first summer I started mowing, Thunder scared the grass right off of me--he would throw himself madly against the chain-link face with a crazy look in his bloodshot eyes as he barked so furiously that he started foaming at the corners. By the time I'd made a couple of passes, he would start digging (yes, digging) to try and get under the fence and at the mower (which I've affectionately named Bo because it sounded masculine but not too tough-guy. My mower's got a soft spot for daylilies). Since then, Thunder has put on a bit of weight and started graying a bit around the haunches, which means no more throwing himself at things. But the dog still has it in him to bark as loud as a rock concert every time I start pushing the mower in his general direction. Which brings me to why I named him Thunder----it's because I can't help but hum a little AC/DC under my breath every time the battle of decibels starts up again: uh a uh ah ah THUNDER uh a uh ah drives him crazy. But Thunder's easy to please---the second I turn the mower the slightest decimeter away from him to head the other direction, he'll trot off, all smiles and foam.

To Thunder, to the rosebushes that have probably permanently scarred my forearms, to the sprinklers lying in wait to screw up my blade, I say this: Bo will be back. And he'll do the exact same thing he's done for the past three summers---mow straight little lines all around you. So take that.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Poetry Sunday

Down in Orem, while reading the book Freedom Writers to the students, I came across the poem below, which I loved so much that I copied it down into my journal that night despite the lateness of the hour and the tiredness of my body. I wanted to put it up here when I got a good picture of a lightning storm, but little did I know how hard that would be...because not only does Utah not usually get lightning storms, but also, when storms actually come, it is almost impossible to actually catch the lightning. Or at least with my camera, it is. So after standing out on our porch for about 20 minutes around 1:00 in the morning trying to get a good shot of the lightning, I gave up and came inside. But, little did I know that I actually HAD gotten some good shots of the storm, even if they weren't of what I wanted.

Because I didn't get a good one of the lightning, the pictures don't quite go with all the poem's images, but...that's okay. My blog, my decision.

By Vincent Guilliano

Let him wish his life
For the sorrows of a stone
Never knowing the first thread
Of these
Never knowing the pain of ice
As its crystals slowly grow
Needles pressing in on the heart

To live forever
And never feel a thing
To wait a million lifetimes
Only to erode and become sand
Wish not for the stone
But for the fire
Last only moments
But change everything

Oh to be lightning
To exist for less than a moment
Yet in that moment
To expose the world to every open eye
Oh to be thunder
To clap and ring
To rumble into memories
Minds and spines

To chill the soul and shake the very ground
Pounding even the sand
Into smaller pieces
Or the mountain
Brooding, extinct
Yet gathering for one fatal moment
The power to blow the top clean off the world
Oh to last the blink of an eye and leave nothing
But nothing unmoved behind you.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Playing Hooky

Just like for the 4th, the festivities surrounding Pioneer Day this year seemed to stretch out over several days. Every year, Bountiful throws a big Handcart Days carnival down at the park by the rec center, which is run entirely by volunteers. In junior high , I volunteered every year to work in the cotton candy booth and had a blast having my arm hairs get sugar-sticky and eating all the "mistakes" we made. So when Scott asked me if I could go as a volunteer for their ward, I figured it'd be fun. I roped Matt into doing it, too, since he had this whole week off of work. We both showed up at the park promptly at 11, but the cotton candy booth was already were all the food booths. Apparently, our stake this year had been assigned to supply, sanitation, and management. What that translated into was us basically having nothing to do and wandering around taking the temperatures of various food products (even though the people in the booths were doing it themselves) and emptying out the hand-washing buckets every time they got a few inches of water at the bottom. After two hours, we both got the same mischievous look in our eye and decided to play hooky, since we didn't appear to be needed at all. Somehow in our plans to sneak away, I mentioned that I had this totally random craving for this place called Leatherby's that Kayla and I used to go to almost every week as kids until it moved. They serve homemade old-fashioned ice cream with thick hand-whipped cream and about the best fries you'll ever eat in your life. Well, I remembered that last I heard, there was a location somewhere in Salt Lake, so we texted the all-knowing Google and found the location downtown.

While we were sharing a large caramael sundae and basket of fries, I told him how Kayla and I used to treat each other to Leatherby's almost every week when we were younger; when Kayla got a weekly allowance, she'd take me, and then when I started cleaning for my grandma (and her allowance stopped), I took her. Ah, the wonderful simplicity of childhood, when we never cared about being even or getting paid back...there was just the joy of ice cream and fries and two best friends, giggling over hot fudge and French vanilla. After eating, we drove to the Gateway and literally ran into the theater to make the 2:20 showing of Dark Knight, which I basically just couldn't wait any longer to see (and which Matt didn't mind seeing again). Talk about a summer blockbuster! It was dark, it was action-packed, it was suspensful, it was clench-your-teech and grip-your-seat intense...I didn't even notice that the movie was almost 3 hours long, it was so good. The plot had me a little lost at first (it didn't help that we missed the first couple of minutes), but as the story went on, I got sucked right in to Batman's dilemma of "being the hero or waiting long enough to become the villain" and into the Joker's creepy way of looking at the world. I thought Heath Ledger was seriously incredible in this movie; he was probably the darkest, creepiest, scariest villain I've ever seen played on the big screen. Of course, I'm not a huge fan of superhero movies, so it's not like I've seen a ton of villains, but...I was sufficiently freaked out. It was awesome.

Later, I went and watched fireworks with Matt and Callin, and then we were joined later by Matt's cousin Brian and somehow the four of us ended up at my house watching a chick flick (they all wanted to watch it--it took little to no persuasion on my part). So it was just me and three guys watching Win a Date With Tad Hamilton. Pretty awesome, is what I think. Chick flicks are so much funnier when watched with a group of guys.

For the actual holiday, I didn't do much--watched So You Think You Can Dance (twice), gave Callin a quick piano lesson, played Risk with Kayla, Callin, Matt, and Fish, and then later watched The Office and ate lots of orange-vanilla ice cream up at Callin's brother's apartment. A pretty great week, I'd have to say. I should play hooky more often.

John Mayer Concert!!!

At the beginning of the summer, I got a very excited text from Mary that said something like, "JOHN MAYER July 21st @ Usana 31 bucks! WE HAVE TO GO!!!" I'm not a big concert goer; in fact, I can probably count the number of "real" concerts I've been to on about two fingers. But I am a huge fan of John Mayer, so I thought, "Why not?" Plus, I thought I'd see what this whole concert scene was all about so I would have good stories when I got older. Or something like that.

After an uneventful day at work and an hour-long drive in rush-hour traffic, we got to Usana Amphitheater, which is , surprisingly (or maybe not so much so), kind of out in the middle of nowhere. Maybe that's so there's no one around to be disturbed by the ear-throbbing noise. Probably, anyway.

So needless to say, we were all VERY excited...The thing I always forget about concerts is that you have to sit through a couple hours of opening acts before you actually get to hear who you came to hear. Maybe it was because John Mayer is so wildly popular that he had not just one, but two opening acts. Both were good; the second performer was Colbie Caillat (who's pictured below), who I actually kinda liked before I came to this, and I don't remember the first guy's name. Some hippie-reggae-Jack-Johnson-type who was tolerable enough.

We got a little restless between performers (and even during them), and I made the mistake of letting Mary have free reign over my camera. Thus, I now have about 60 pictures of me and her making weird faces (and of some of her friends who also came with us).

Funny fact: when you blow your lips (so they make that funny buzzing sound that makes your nose itch if you do it too much), your pictures will turn out pretty rad.

The whole gang (or at least the ones I actually talked to) is pictured below. All of these people are pretty much Mary's friends from high school, who I only really knew from the stories she told about them. I happened to have Uno cards in my purse from when I was helping Hannah move, so we played that to pass the time (when we weren't taking pictures). Such a mindless game, really. It reminded me of the times I'd sleep over at Mara's and we'd play for hours (using her gigantic teddy bear as our playing surface)--we'd start out with about 25 cards apiece, and then play the rule where you have to draw until you can play...those games would literally last all night. Good times.

And then there he was---the man himself! Although I always hope for the artist to be even better live, there's always this fear that they'll sing flat or that it will sound completely computerized (and I'll wonder if they're singing at all)...but holy cow, John Mayer sure didn't disappoint. He was INCREDIBLE live---switching up the melodies, playing these killer guitar solos, telling us some of the most random jokes was like the second he came onstage, the place was just full of this pulsating energy; everyone got on their feet (and stayed on their feet) and danced and sang along the whole time. Lyrics that had never stood out to me before all of a sudden seemed to be infused with this power and I just felt like I should go take over the world or something (or at least go home and play guitar for hours and hours and hours). It was awesome. And the best part about it was that it just made me want to listen to his stuff more---that's how good he was. I loved every second. And he did this KILLER cover of Tom Petty's "Free-Falling" that I tried to get on video, but my memory card filled up too fast. I might post the 10-second clip of it anyway.

We tried to get a picture of the two of us and John (in the background), but it never seemed to work. That's okay though---the picture turned out cute anyway, I thought.

As we drove home, I fell asleep listening to Mary and her friend Amber harmonize to all these artists who are now quickly becoming new favorites: Matt Wertz, Jonny Lang, Sara Bareilles, Ernie Halter...all amazing. Yay for good music, esp. because it's about the only thing that keeps me sane at this job...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Good Luck Jeralyn!

I thought I'd finally gotten done with this whole goodbye thing, but alas! It looks like I'll probably be doing it for the rest of my life. The latest missionary to be joining the field is my very own old roomie Jeralyn--she got called to the Michigan Lansing mission and leaves on Wednesday for the MTC. We will miss her greatly---we had lots of crazy good times up at school together. She tried to make us all promise that we wouldn't be married or anything when she got back, so we could room together again, but we'll see what happens. Life has a funny way of messing up all the plans you make for yourself, so none of agreed to that particular plan...

This last week, to celebrate both Liz's 21st birthday and Jeralyn's preparations to leave for the MTC, we decided to do one last roommate dinner together. And where else could we go but Winger's? That place has seriously held so many memories for me over the years, and esp. for all of us roommates over the past couple. We had a great time catching up with everyone; Jeralyn's been so busy that none of us have hardly seen her this summer and Liz is usually with Taylor, so we don't see much of her either, so it was fun having a little girls' night out.

Jeralyn gave her farewell talk last Sunday on faith, and even though she was really nervous and spoke so fast she about cut half the time off her talk, she still did a great job. Funny fact: almost every single one of our guy friends also had to speak on Sunday (all with the high councilmen, all on the same topic), so we all had a LOT of conversations about faith this week as a group of friends, because everyone was trying to hit it from a different angle. If I had wanted to, I could have gone to 6 hours of church on Sunday and just heard talks on faith. But I decided to just go to the singles ward (where Taylor was the one speaking) and then to Jeralyn's. The thing that stuck out to me most out of all the talks was learning to show our faith through prayers that included action on our part, not just requests for blessings. I like being action-oriented, and so I thought it was a great reminder to me to ask Heavenly Father to help me become even more productive in all aspects of my life. And I also know that by showing my faith by following through with action on my part, my faith will be increased and I will be further blessed in my efforts. Pretty cool how much we are blessed beyond anything we could ever deserve.

Below are some group shots from yesterday. In the one below, we were all ready and cute and smiling, but then we realized Jeralyn was nowhere to be found...

So we made sure to catch her in the next ones. Our old roommate Amanda and neighbor Abby from up at school came to hear her talk, as well as our two roommates Ashley and Nicole and our old home teacher Chance (but they all had to leave right after, so they're not in this picture).

I love this picture of all of us old roommates...I'm going to miss living with all these ladies next year. It will be weird not having them around to squawk back at me when I come home or talk until 2 in the morning while eating cheese and crackers or throw wild dance parties in the mornings/afternoons/evenings. My life seems to be slipping by so quickly now that I've learned how to enjoy it to the fullest extent I can; before it seemed I was always living for the future, always looking forward and never enjoying the present. But the past year and a half or so, I've really learned how to just enjoy each day as the blessing it is. It's pretty astounding how big of a difference it's made.

I love this picture of Jeralyn (below). She looked so radiant, and you could tell she was so so excited to go out and serve the people of Michigan. She will make a fantastic missionary with her cheerful attitude and her ability to make anything fun, as well as her love of the scriptures and her love of people. I'm so proud of her.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Poetry Sunday

Despite the heat lately, I think these last few weeks have been delicious in a way only summer can be. I wish I could just capture the feeling and bottle it up and take it out in January when I start longing for the long, dusky days full of flowers and friends and family...

I've taken up reading a poem every night before bed from an anthology I got a long time ago called Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times. I've dabbled in it every now and then, but I've actually never sat down and read everything in it. So I decided it was high time to start, and I have not been disappointed. The poem below is just one of the many new favorites I've acquired from it:

By Denise Levertov
The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.
A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily
moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold
my hand open for him to go.
Each minute the last minute.

Las Vegas trip with Upward Bound

It seems I've fallen a bit behind in my updates, considering that this trip was almost two weeks ago (from the 8th to the 10th). I blame the whole keratoconus diagnosis thing, which I got just after getting home. But the Las Vegas trip was such fun that I still wanted to put up a little thing here on it.

Every summer after the academic portion, Upward Bound does a fun little trip for all the kids so that they can go tour college campuses and get motivated to continue on with their education after high school. Every year they choose a different location, and apparently this year we got kinda lucky, considering that last year they only went to Salt Lake. Everyone goes on the trip except for the seniors who have just graduated (who went to D.C. this year).

We all met down at UVU Tuesday morning around 9 and loaded the bus, which took us down to Southern Utah to tour Snow College and SUU. At Snow, they made us T/Cs actually run the tour, which was weird, considering that none of us had ever gone to that school. But I was paired up with Jana, who is graduating with her degree in drama, so we had a bit of fun playing tour guide (and making up some interesting facts along the way). At SUU, we decided we were too tired to attempt to go around on the tour with the kids, so all of us on the staff stayed behind and watched t.v. in the lounge with all the sweaty football players who had just gotten out of practice (gross).

After the tour, we all went down to check out the green show at the Shakespearean Festival. I was hoping we could actually catch a show, but there wasn't enough time, since we still had a bit of a drive ahead of us to the hotel. The Festival was fun though; I'd never been before. I thought the whole thing would be a lot bigger than it was. But it was cute in kind of a quaint way (wow, I don't think I've ever used the word "quaint" seriously): costumed merchants were going around with their baskets of "lollies" or other medieval treats calling out their ware in loud, accented voices. A few of the girls and I stopped in front of a Dutch woman who was hand-curling thin strips of brass into little ornaments. Apparently she's one of the only ones in the whole world that still do it, because it was a completely lost art when she started to look into it. Since I collect Christmas ornaments from all the places I go, I bought my favorite one from the little tree she had with all her different ornaments.

Throughout the whole performance, my girls and I were trying to decide if the violinist was actually playing or not...I'm pretty convinced he wasn't. Pity.

It's scary, but I could almost pass for a medieval man in this picture. Very sketchy.

I didn't consciously start doing this, but ever since I started traveling, I've noticed that there are seriously some very strange signs in the world. So I started taking pictures of some of them, and even in good ol' Cedar City, I wasn't disappointed. I got a good little laugh out of the sign above--I wondered at the incident that must have provoked it :)

We spent the second day in Las Vegas touring UNLV, which was an uncomfortable 115 degrees on its campus. Using the heat as our excuse, the staff again stayed behind and went to the bookstore. Ah, I love being one of the ones in authority--you can get away with almost anything. We actually just spent all our time in the bookstore, feeding our geeky instincts. And I even read a few chapters here and there out of this book about the higher education system in America. Pretty interesting, actually. Plus, I discovered a new book I think I want to read---it's about this guy who decided he was going to read fhe entire encyclopedia from A-Z, and from what I could tell, it looked pretty funny.
Before we headed to the bookstore, we just had to get a picture or two with the little statue-man on campus. Tough stuff, that little statue.

The picture below is of all of us female T/Cs (none of the male T/Cs could come, actually, so it was pretty much just us holding down the fort and attempting to enforce the rules).
After the tour, we all went shopping at the huge outlet mall in Las Vegas, which houses some of the top brands in the fashion industry. While I was attempting (unsuccessfully) to look for some new jeans in the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet, this lady right next to me all of a sudden just went completely rigid and went crashing backwards, smacking her head full-force on the bottom of one of the display boxes. I couldn't believe it; it wasn't like a normal faint or anything, because she'd gone completely stiff (it reminded me of how, as kids, we'd play that "Timber" game, where you'd make your body as straight as you could, like a tree, and fall backwards onto a couch). Plus, her eyes were open, even though she was unconscious. It was one of the weirdest, freakiest things I'd ever seen. I thought she'd just up and died right there. I made a frantic little call for help, and started waving my arms so the salespeople would know where to go. The lady came to after about 30 seconds, and stood up all shaky. She had to have had a concussion, because she hit that display so hard, but when she heard they were going to call 911, she just kept saying, "No, No!" and ran out. It was the weirdest thing ever. I felt way nauseous after (I've never been good with seeing other people's injuries), so I escaped out into the heat to try and get the image of this board-stiff woman with wide-open eyes out of my head. I still feel creepy even now just writing about it.

After shopping, we all headed back to the hotel to get ready for The Phantom of the Opera, which we'd be seeing at the Venetian. This was what everyone had been looking forward to most---everyone got all decked out in their nicest clothes and we tried not to sweat all our makeup off on the drive over. Arriving at the Venetian, we tried our best to stay together as a group, but there was so much to distract us---the high, painted ceilings, the indoor fountains, the scantily-clad waitresses strutting around the bar (people seriously WEAR stuff like that?!), the smoky was like a visual overload. Alicia (one of the other T/Cs) was telling us before we were about to go into the theater that this stage had been built specifically for this production, but even that could not prepare me for what I was about to experience--as usual, the play started off with an auction, and when the slipcover was ripped from the old chandelier, the whole theater (which had previously seemed dark and unimpressive) came to life: the chandelier lifted from the stage and joined up with three other parts to make a huge, dazzling chandelier in the middle of the high, vaulted ceiling, and then, simultaneously with the chandelier lighting up, the heavy black drapes that had been covering the sides all came up to reveal the red velvet & gold-plated seats of an "opera audience" that looked so real at first that I had to do a double take to make sure the people inside weren't real.

The show was dazzling--incredible voices, unbelievable special effects that included fireworks and flares and mist and things that rose from the floor and trapdoors and about every other thing you can imagine, gorgeous backdrops and scenery that made it seem as if we were part of a movie, and a performance from the Phantom that was so powerful it brought tears to my eyes. I sat at the edge of my seat the whole show, not wanting to miss anything. I found myself squealing and gasping in delight every few minutes at all the little surprises--like the phantom coming down from the chandelier or Raoul jumping into the lake (and going through a trapdoor) or all the lights rising up from the mist when they reached the phantom's lair or how at one point, they did a reverse-stage effect to make it seem like we were backstage watching Christine bow to an adoring audience on the other side or the double mirror or any of the other hundreds of things that made my breath catch in my throat. I loved every second of it and was sorry it couldn't have lasted all night.

Jana and me in front of one of the fountains
Jana, Alicia, and me right outside the theater. Both of them were/are drama majors, so they were REALLY excited about it all, and gave me lots of backstage insight that was kinda fun.

The girls of Apt 42 (at least the ones that could come)
I wish this picture was better---it's of the fake opera audience on the side.

After the show, the bus driver took us down the Strip so we could see what it looked like at night, and we were lucky enough to catch the tail-end of the fountains show at the Bellagio when we were caught at a red light. Unfortunately, I didn't get a picture---it was so exciting I needed both my eyes to take it all in :)

After the show, they took us all to In 'N Out Burger. Fun fact: I've refused to eat fast food ever since reading Fast Food Nation last August, but in the book, In 'N Out Burger was the one fast food place that actually got kudos from the book for their sound business practices and sanitation and stuff. So I was able to indulge myself without feeling grossed out! Hooray!

After that, we all just headed back to the hotel and then just drove back up to Orem the next day. It was a fun trip, and it was fun to see some of my girls again. I seriously feel so lucky, because this is the second all-expenses trip I've been able to take this year because of my work. I'm seriously so spoiled! Yay for good jobs that like to take me cool places :)

Friday, July 18, 2008


A lot has happened these past two weeks--it's funny how life throws you curve balls sometimes. Or tennis balls with a drop-spin on them (which I'm learning how to do right now). Anywho, last Friday I went in to the eye doctor because I've been having issues reading text that's far away. I had chalked it up to the typical Fedor-nearsightedness that has struck every single other one of my siblings (many around this age), and was even getting a little excited at the prospect of finally getting my own pair of thick-rimmed, square-frame nerd glasses.

I walked in right at 8, Dr. Lyman's first appointment of the day. He's always intimidated me a bit (not least because he banned me from seeing his son on multiple occasions), but he greeted me cordially and asked why a cute young lady such as myself was not hitched yet. I seem to be getting that question a lot lately. I tried not to roll my eyes as I responded that all my suitors' proposals just haven't been extravagant enough for me yet--I was holding out for the big one.

He took me to the back room where he pulled out the dreaded six-line chart that brings on self-doubt and low confidence faster than a stint in a swimsuit dressing room. He asked me to read the smallest line I could, and it was as if my eyes all of a sudden decided to give up; I knew somewhere inside that surely I could read better than the top line, but that seemed to be all I was seeing. I attempted the third line anyway, and after several blinks and a few stabs in the dark, I appeared to pass.

And then the "Which one is better?" lens-test, which always makes me think of the Brian Regan sketch (see for a good laugh). For about fifteen minutes, the conversation went something like this this: "Which is better--1, or 2?", "Well, they're about the same to be honest. Oh wait, maybe one was a little bit better. Yeah I think I can see the curve of that 2 a little bit better with number one. Wait, what? There's no numbers on this thing?"

I think Dr. Lyman was getting frustrated with me, since nothing seemed to be making much of a difference. Finally he pulled out a little flashlight and told me to stare at a point through the lenses, and then he did a little "ah ha" sound in his throat. But not a good ah-ha sound--a "so that's the problem" ah-ha. And then he took me to the back room and we did a topographical test on both my eyes, which both came out looking something like this (not my actual results--I swiped these off the internet):

I'm no genius, but even I could figure out just by looking at it that that probably wasn't how it was supposed to look. He then proceeded to say, "Well, I have some news today that you're not going to like." Oh boy, here we go. He went on to explain that I have an eye disease called keratoconus that makes it so my cornea bulge out into a cone (rather than being smooth like a normal eye's), which therefore distorts my vision and makes it so that glasses have little or no effect. He says that they don't know what causes it, but that it's a degenerative eye condition that will pretty much make my vision get more and more distorted as time goes by because of the thinning of my cornea. Luckily, there are good treatment options, and if worse comes to worse and my vision gets so bad I can't see much anymore, I can get a corneal transplant.

I took it all in as calmly as I could, and left the office trying not to freak out. But then I called mom and when I started explaining the situation to her and reading the handout that I was given on the disease, I started to freak out a bit. But as the day went by and I did some more research on it, most of my fears were alleviated and I started to feel really grateful that it wasn't anything worse and that it was treatable. Funny how every single day I can take something so vital to my life as I know it for granted. It's made me a lot more conscious of all the blessings that I'm given every day that I don't even think about .

I thought I'd include information about what exactly Keratoconus is (I got this from the National Keratoconus Foundation's website):

Keratoconus, often abbreviated to "KC", is a non-inflammatory eye condition in which the normally round dome-shaped cornea progressively thins causing a cone-like bulge to develop. This results in significant visual impairment. The cornea is the clear window of the eye and is responsible for refracting most of the light coming into the eye. Therefore, abnormalities of the cornea severely affect the way we see the world making simple tasks, like driving, watching TV or reading a book difficult.

In its earliest stages, keratoconus causes slight blurring and distortion of vision and increased sensitivity to glare and light. These symptoms usually first appear in the late teens and early twenties. Keratoconus may progress for 10-20 years and then slow or stabilize. Each eye may be affected differently.

Eyeglasses or soft contact lenses may be used to correct the mild nearsightedness and astigmatism caused in the early stages of keratoconus. As the disorder progresses and the cornea continues to thin and change shape, rigid gas permeable contact lenses are generally prescribed to correct vision more adequately. The contact lenses must be carefully fitted, and frequent checkups and lens changes may be needed to achieve and maintain good vision.
In severe cases, a corneal transplant may be needed due to scarring, extreme thinning or contact lens intolerance. This is a surgical procedure that replaces the keratoconus cornea with healthy donor tissue.

I have an eye appointment scheduled for next week, where I'll go in to see what I'll need in the way of contacts. Since my vision is still pretty good, soft contact lenses might be adequate to fix the problem for now. If not, I'll get fitted for the special gas permeable lenses that will help correct the distortion in my eye and help me to see better.

I feel so grateful that we caught this early, and that the medical procedures are advanced enough so that I'll be able to lead a normal life despite this disease. I'm grateful to my Heavenly Father, who with every trial blesses me with comfort and peace and countless ways to help me through it. What a marvelous blessing life is!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Freedom Celebrations

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays, not least because it seems to stretch across several days due to the fact that all the cities try to stagger out their celebrations so as not to conflict with each other. One sure fixture of the holiday is attendance at the Eaglewood celebration every 3rd of July. My mom always makes us a delicious picnic involving watermelon and chicken, and we shovel food into our mouths and play with the grandkids while we listen to the live band and wait for the fireworks.

After a few amiable arguments, we decided that we'd been going to Eaglewood for over ten years now--we've been regulars ever since the very first year that it started. This year was a bit different, though---instead of sitting up by the band as usual (and getting our eardrums pounded out by the booming speakers), we found a spot downhill of the country club in a welcoming patch of shade. Conveniently, there was also one of the golf course's sandpits about fifteen feet from us, so all the grandkids toddled on down to that and made various-sized sandpiles, which they gladly brought remnants of to the blankets.

Zoe, who has always loved me before, all of a sudden was acting like she'd never seen me before. Guess that's what I get for going away for a month and a half. To try and bribe her to me later, I took her favorite blanket (shown here) and tried to use that as a ploy for her to come to me. She wasn't falling for it.

Grandpa Scott always buys the kiddies glowsticks every year, and every year, the reactions are always as radiant as the ones below.

Zoe trying to show off her diva side while she is clearly confused as to why these sunglasses feel a little more strange than her little red ones...

Everyone in the Fedor family is a mooch, and clearly this is passing on to the next generation. Good for you Lily! Carry on the tradition!

In high school (and junior high too, I guess), Eaglewood was kind of the "see and be seen" event of the summer. Not that I was cool enough to really worry about that. But it was kinda nice to always see many of my friends there. This year was a bit low on the turnout though (at least as far as my friends go). Kayla was there with her family, and I was later joined by my friends Matt and Mikey for the fireworks. Some of my other friends were also there (like Fish and Dean), but they'd come on a double date, so I never saw them. It's all good though.

Who needs friends anyway when I have a family this cute?

Lily surprised me during the fireworks by running and attacking me with a hug just after they started, saying she wanted to watch them with me. At least one of the Pedersen girls wasn't scared of me...

I decided that everything is more exciting with kids around; it's like seeing the world for the first time again. Love that.

The morning after Eaglewood (the actual Fourth of July), I went rock climbing with Matt. I hadn't been since I went down in St George over spring break all the way back in March, so I was a bit out of practice. By the time we were done, my forearms were so tight that the muscles kept seizing up, and I had to massage them every ten minutes or so to try and ease the throbbing soreness. Climbing was awesome though---easily one of my favorite sports. And Matt told me about this climbing gear wholesaler where I can get my own climbing shoes for 30 bucks, which would be especially convenient, seeing as Matt and I were sharing climbing shoes the whole morning.

This rock climbing excursion had a few firsts in it for me---for example, it was the first time I ever actually fell and needed the person on belay to catch me. Every other time I've gone, I've always been so careful to the point that I never really slipped or anything. But Matt and I were doing a particularly difficult climb that required some risks, which meant falling pretty much every time I attempted it. Which brings me to my second first: not being able to finish a climb. Although I got farther up every time, the climb was simply too difficult for how tired I was. Matt said he's tried it about 20 times and hasn't been able to do it either. But he's gotten closer every time. So next time I go out with him or some of my other friends, we'll try it again. And someday, I'll get it. Guaranteed.

Since Matt and I were the only ones that went, I couldn't get any pictures of us actually climbing (seeing as we had to belay for each other every time). Maybe next time.

P.S. Check out my sweet new hat! :)

Later that night, all of my friends who didn't have plans with their families all gathered up at my house and played croquet and pool until about nine, when we headed up to Davis High in Kaysville to watch their fireworks show. It was probably the best local-type fireworks show I've ever seen; the whole thing was perfectly synchronized to music (for example, when the words "rockets' red glare" came up, red rocket flares shot up, and when the line "the bombs bursting in air" came on, the loud-boom fireworks went off). It was awesome! (like the face I'm making below)

The whole gang (below)

Some sweet fireworks pictures I got...the blue ones are a lot cooler, but for some reason, they're not showing up very well on here. Pity.

Saturday night (the 5th), Mom, Scott, Hannah, and I all headed down to Oakley for our my first pro rodeo (I think everyone else had been to one before). We were supposed to eat at the Spring Chicken Inn, but they were having 'maintenance problems' in the kitchen and couldn't even take our orders for another hour. So we tried to go to the Gateway Grille in Kamas, but the wait was really long there too, as it was at the new little railway-car cafe in Oakley. So we ended up eating at a place called the Bear River Cafe (or something like that), where we ended up waiting about 45 minutes to get our food anyway (after we had ordered), so we might as well have just stayed at the Inn and waited it out. It's all good though---the Cafe had some killer Malibu chicken.

Halfway through the rodeo (which we were a little late to, because of the dinner issue), I went up and sat by Todd's sister Jessica and caught up with her. I've always adored his family, esp. his sister (she lived by us last year up in Logan). It was fun seeing them all again, and I'm glad his mom got the tickets for us----it was awesome! I didn't know what was going on half the time, but I had fun giggling with Hannah over the weird hick-expressions we'd never heard and dancing up at the top of bleachers with Jessica. Good times.

So, a novel and a half later, that covers my July 4th weekend, pretty much. Now I'm back at work, where I just got back from Bruce taking me in the workshop and showing me the 'Rare Earth Magnets' he found (basically just really really powerful magnets). So we had some fun playing around with those and seeing how far away we could catch stuff. I seriously have the most random job ever.
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