Sunday, February 27, 2011

WIOSI Challenge Item #4

I'm feeling a little down tonight, so this post might not be as detailed as it could be. This last piece I wore for the WIOSI Challenge got mixed reviews even in person--some people (strangers, actually) gave me some nice compliments on it, but other people (who I know better) said that it wasn't their favorite. The piece is this crochet-like dark brown top from Old Navy. I used to wear it all the time (rotating the colors I wore underneath), but after putting on a few extra pounds on the mish, I haven't had the heart to put it on. I was excited to have this pair of skinny Aeropostale jeans back, though--I accidentally left them in Bountiful and had to go an entire month without them.

So, the big question: Wear It or Share It?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Change It Up Challenge #3 - Food Log

I have learned from sad experience that diets do not work for me. Well, actually they do...for the week or so that I can handle being on them. Then I counter all the good effects it might have had the next week when I go the opposite direction and stuff my face with all the sugar in sight. Once I stayed on a strict diet for almost four whole weeks and lost about 11 pounds. Problem was that the diet made me so cranky that I gained back about 7 within a week or two. So diets and I, due to our history, just aren't on the best of terms.

But something had to be done. My doctor told me I needed to shed ten pounds all the way back in August, and I've only permanently shed about 4 (thank you Biggest Loser Competion!). So, instead of trying the usual diet-for-a-week then binge-for-the-next-two (or five), I decided to try a different tactic: writing down everything I eat. I tried this all the way back in high school, when I was trying to improve my dancing ability for musical. It seemed to work pretty well, too. But that was also, of course, before I bought all my own food and made all of my own meals. And before I lived with roommates who like to make cookies and brownies every other day.

So I started the food log this week. At first, I didn't count any calories or try to modify my diet at all--I figured the sheer fact that I had to write down every bite that went through my lips might encourage me to allow fewer things through them. And it worked, kinda. Instead of eating the 10 pieces of chocolate offered to me during my first class, I only ate one or two. And I refrained from eating ice cream at least three times throughout the week. So I felt pretty good about things, until I actually COUNTED the calories that I'd eaten two of the days. Both days had a pretty high calorie count, despite my lowered chocolate intake. And I realized that I literally eat cheese at almost every meal. So I've got some things I probably could work on.

On the bright side, I was pleasantly surprised at how many fruits and vegetables I ate---all three days I got at least the recommended 5 servings, and some days I even got up to 9. Plus, I definitely was pretty good on the calcium intake (although I've always been pretty good at that).

Change It Up #3, Successful? Yes. It prevented me from eating as much as I did the week before and made me more aware of what I was putting in my system. Will I stick with it? I don't know. I think I could do it for the next little while, but I'm not sure I'd want to make it a permanent habit. A better idea would just be to use the information from it to make overall diet changes that I could actually stick with. So we'll see how long I can keep it up.

Monday, February 21, 2011

WIOSI Challenge, Item #3

The Wear It Or Share It Challenge might be doing the opposite of what I thought it would--instead of making me want to get rid of some of my stuff (finally), it's reminding me of why I fell in love with or bought certain items in the first place. Take this lace shirt, for instance. This was actually a hand-me-down from an old roommate, and I used to wear it all the time. But then I served a mission, and could no longer wear it with a tank top, like I used to. I'm aware that lace is pretty hot right now as far as trends go, and I finally got an undershirt that I think works all right with this top. Off-white never has been my best color, but I think I pull it off in this shirt better than in most.

But what do you all think? Do I Wear It or Share It??

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Book #5 - Fires in the Bathroom

Title: Fires in the Bathroom
Author: Kathleen Cushman
Pages: 190

It's a good thing I can count books I read for school, because I'm a bit behind on my 50-Book Challenge (but not too much--if I managed to pop out 3 more books by the end of this month, I'd be about right on track. But that is not looking too likely at the mo...).

Fires in the Bathroom is a collection of bits of advice given to high school teachers from a group of high school students collectively known as What Kids Can Do, Inc. The goal of this advice project was to give high school students (esp. minority students) a voice in the public education system. The students were paid for their time and responded to questions ranging from "How can a teacher most effectively teach difficult material?" to "Must teachers like students?" The students' responses were honest, at times humorous, but overall thought-provoking; when I first got this book to read, I figured that students would just say that teachers should never give homework and make school as easy and painless as possible, but the students actually didn't say hardly anything along those lines. On the contrary, most recognized the value that school could hold for them and wanted the best education possible from well-trained, caring instructors.

While full of all sorts of good points, I found that often the students' advice conflicted with each other. It seemed that the students wanted their teachers to walk perfectly the line between being authoritative and a friend, being challenging but not too demanding, being engaging but not "trying too hard." I found that in some ways, the book only worsened my biggest fears about becoming a teacher; one thing I've always worried about is being able to reach each student, and this book only seemed to make the task appear ever more daunting. However, I did find a lot of the suggestions useful, and I think I'll keep this book to read again when I actually am in the thick of teaching on a high school level. In addition to advice, the book contains sample questionnaires, checklists for teachers, and reflective worksheets to give to students (and to fill out as teachers).

Good quote: "You really affect kids when you just do your job day in and day out, do it well--and everything doesn't have to be about bonding with the kids and changing their lives. That's artificial. The bond will develop on its own if you just do your job well. With a variety of personalities among teachers, a kid is guaranteed to connect with someone." -Vance, age 18

My Rating: 3.5 Stars

Friday, February 18, 2011

Change It Up #2 - Time

A few weeks ago while volunteering one Sunday at a rehabilitation center, I made a list of "Things I Would Do If I Had More Time." The environment around me that day really made me open my eyes and realize that there were so many things I loved to do but that I never did because I just got so busy in other things (mainly school and work). One of the items on the list of things I would do was, "Read Time magazine every morning over breakfast." Back in August, I got a killer deal on Time magazine (a year's worth of issues for only $2!), thinking that it would be one way of helping me stay up on the goings-on in the world. Considering we have no t.v., this was my feeble attempt at "staying up with the times" and broadening my intellectual horizons. What actually ended up happening was that each week, the Time magazine would come to the house in Bountiful, where it would then be transported up to Logan, where it would then sit on one of our coffee tables in teetering stacks, just waiting for someone to take pity on it and read a line or two.

But this week for my Change It Up Challenge, I made the firm resolve to make time for Time. Unfortunately, the most recent issues have all but disappeared (probably due to one of my roommates' cleaning rampages), so I was forced to read some of the articles from way back in September and October (heaven forbid). The first day I tried the experiment, I learned some fascinating facts about how the prenatal environment shapes later development, and the second and third days I tried it I found out about some pretty awesome things that were invented in 2010 (like a robot that stores top-secret information that is programmed to tell lies and deceive those who would try and tap into it). I loved how it gave me new things to think about and helped me make new connections to things I previously knew. However, I was only able to actually do the challenge three days out of five, because my body just did not want to get up any earlier on Tuesdays and Thursdays (I already wake up at 6 a.m.).

So, was CIU #2 successful? Kinda. Idealistically, it would be wonderful if I could implement it every day, but that just isn't realistic sometimes. I will, however, be trying to do it far more often than I was before.

(and as a side note, I now consider Yoga a must-do for my sanity!)

Thursday, February 17, 2011

WIOSI Challenge, Item #2

WIOSI Article #2: Long-Sleeve Pink Tee
I am not a pink person. Maybe it stems back to the fact that I spent my younger years playing tomboy and dirtying up t-shirts and that I spent my first year of college makeup-less the majority of days. Perhaps it's because I've been told that pink is just "not my color." Whatever the reason, I find that if I ever buy pink shirts, I rarely wear them. This shirt in particular I have not worn in literally years. It's a pretty basic long-sleeve tee from Old Navy--nothing too special in the fit, but a really bright, eye-catching color.
So the big question is: Wear It or Share It?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Wear It or Share It Challenge!!

For the beginning of 2011, I only set 4 "Big Picture" goals--read the entire New Testament with all the footnotes, do the 50 Book Challenge, get my cholesterol down to healthy range (ha!), and purge my closet. You see, what started happening was this: once I stopped growing, I had a harder and harder time getting rid of things, because I always would reason that during some elusive future occasion, I would need such-and-such article of clothing, and that if I threw it away now, I would be hating on myself when that elusive day finally came around. Long story short: I have an overcrowded closet, an overcrowded dresser, and shoes all over the place. So I have come up with a challenge for myself--the Wear It or Share It challenge. I'm giving myself one month to wear all those pieces that I haven't pulled out in years for whatever reason. I'll post pictures here on facebook, and you can all weigh in on whether it's worth keeping or if I should "share" it (with my pals at the DI).

So, up for your consideration is Piece #1: The black and white polka-dot collared shirt. I don't usually wear it too often because it's a little shorter than I like and one of the buttons frequently comes undone (hence the belt).
Wear It or Share It??

Monday, February 14, 2011

Photo Walk - Second Dam

Due to the beautiful weather, Matt and I finally fit in another photo walk. Although Logan is usually frigid land of ice, snow, and sniffly noses, Sunday surprised us with temperatures in the mid-50s and a sunny breeze.

We made our way up to Second Dam (which Matt had never seen) to take these pictures which hint at Spring. While there, a bald guy in a black leather jacket offered to take our picture...then proceeded to do a mini "photo session" with us. Some of them actually turned out pretty darn cute, if I do say so myself!

I think a lot of these turned out beautifully, un-photoshopped and all. And we always seem to get some ducks in them, for some reason...

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jewelry Love

Speaking of things I love, I went shopping for some new jewelry yesterday (so I would stop stealing Kayla's just about every day), and I found this awesome blue and white chunky necklace at Vanity. The first one I bought was actually faulty (it had been made without a clasp, so I couldn't even fit it over my head), but the girl who rung me up replaced it for me and gave me even more of a discount on it. Can't get much better than that--cute jewelry AND a great deal!!

Valentine's Date

(Warning: This is a Somewhat Cheesy, Mushy Post)

Matt and I celebrated Valentine's Day a little bit early, seeing as I have to work tomorrow night. It worked out perfectly, actually, even though we didn't formally plan it together. I had gotten us tickets to The Music Man for Saturday night as an early Valentine's Day gift, and while I was up in my apartment studying, Matt came up and surprised me from behind with roses and chocolate. It was a delicious surprise :)

Then we made homemade barbecue chicken pizza and ate cookies and drank root beer and then headed off to the show with my pockets full of Doves to enjoy during intermission. We love seeing shows together, so it was a lot of fun to walk hand-in-hand down Main Street to the Ellen Eccles Theater, where we enjoyed a fabulous production (very well-casted) of one of my favorite musicals ever. The music was just incredible (we especially loved the barbershop quartet), and Matt and I went around singing Lyda Rose the rest of the night. It was probably the best Valentine's Day I've ever had--I love being engaged :)

Even though I was lucky enough to enjoy a romantic Valentine's Day surprise, I think that more than anything the holiday just gives me a chance to reflect on the blessing of love in my life. I've always been blessed to be surrounded by people that love me, and who I love and appreciate as well--two loving and nurturing parents, two supportive stepparents, 5 awesome siblings (along with their families), my best friends who have been there for me for years (some of them my whole life---love you, Kayla!), awesome roommates, and of course, a fiancee that I couldn't be more in love with. For a long time, I despaired of ever finding someone who I felt was just right for me--I wasn't sure I could ever really "fall in love," at least like I saw it happening to other people. And though I 've loved lots of people, I've never felt anything like I do now for Matt: he's everything I've ever wanted and truly is my perfect eternal companion. I just can't wait for the day when I know he can be my valentine forever! Happy Valentine's Day, honey!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Writing Prompt - Dancing

I decided I need to start writing again. I think I stopped for awhile because I got too anxious about it--too judgmental, too worried about how it would come off, too worried about what I would dredge up. But I miss it. So here goes the first of what I hope will be a weekly (or possibly daily) tradition.

Writing Prompt: Respond to the following clip of a poem by Lisa Phoenix.

is too important
to leave
to the young -

may our
old women

Sixth grade, Valentine's Day. My mom bought me the purple velvet dress I wanted, we put fake violets in my hair. I snuck some mascara from the pink and green tube lying in the top drawer of my parents' bathroom. My dance card trembles in my hand, and I swallow hard as I look around--at least I only have a few blank spaces, mostly on fast dances. The boys are almost all shorter than me, their eyes at an awkward chest-level. I'm only excited about one of the dances, really. The parents snap pictures from the back, hiding behind the pink punch bowls and frosted heart cookies. I'm glad I invited my mom: she would be able to capture my moment forever. She had received careful instructions from me to do so. I hoped she wouldn't come too close though--I didn't want it to seem too obvious, like I had planned the whole thing out. For weeks, maybe months. The time has come--he claps his hand on my shoulder, wraps his cookie-crumb fingers around my waist. I put both my hands (shaking) on his shoulders. Step back, left, forward, right. We somehow get into a game with another couple where my partner tries to play mash-me-into-his-best-friend-and-his-partner. I laugh, but he's ruining my plans. He's ruining my idea of the one perfect dance. The song ends, and he has only looked at me twice. I drop my hands, mumble a thank you. He runs off to go eat another red cupcake. I go home and take out the violets, laying them amid clips and barrettes chewed-up elastics. My dress had stained my white tights purple.

I wish I could tell that 12-year-old girl that there would be other dances, magical dances--swaying in the moonlight, salsa in a nightclub. But this is her first, and it is all she knows.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Book #4 - Honey, Baby, Sweetheart

Title: Honey, Baby, Sweetheart
Author: Deb Caletti
Finished: 2/10/11
Pages: 308

I knew that after the heaviness of Love in the Time of Cholera, I needed something fluffy--"candy reading," I call it. A pleasure book. Of course, even despite all that, I normally would never go for a YA book that had a cover like this; it just screams "adolescent angst" and brings up nightmarish thoughts of Twilight. But I'm a sucker for book lists, and as the shiny medal on the front cover indicates, this book was a National Book Award Finalist. So I bought it with some leftover Christmas money and cracked it open hours after finishing Cholera.

Honey, Baby, Sweetheart tells the story of 16-year-old Ruby McQueen, who has been dubbed as The Quiet One all her life--responsible, honest, and family-oriented. The story follows her as she embarks on her most adventurous summer yet--and all because she is suddenly thrown into the path of the dangerous, "bad boy" Travis Becker, one of the town's richest and most mysterious teenagers. He has a motorcycle and a streak for danger, and Ruby starts to get sucked in more than she can handle. After Travis goes one step too far, Ruby's mother tries to get her away from his influence by bringing her to the "Casserole Queens' Book Club." Soon, Ruby hardly has time to worry about her own love life when she discovers that one of the members of the book club is involved in a decades-old passionate love story that is the subject of the book club's latest read and gets involved in the group's elaborate plan to get the two lovers reunited again.

Things I liked about this book: 1) It was funny--I laughed out loud on numerous occasions. 2) It was fluffy, and required little to no brainpower. 3) It was easy to read, with a quick-moving plot. 4) I was the first one in the apartment to read it, so I didn't have people whispering details about the plot in the corner...(ahem *cough* Hunger Games!)

Things I didn't like: 1) The fact that there was little to no character development when it came to Travis Becker, who was one of the most important characters of the book. Caletti just leaned heavily on the bad boy stereotype and didn't bother giving him any personality whatsoever. I thought he'd eventually reveal some quirk or even some human emotion beyond lust and/or whatever it is that "bad boys" feel, but I was grossly disappointed. 2) The formulaic plot--shy girl meets bad boy, then goes on a road trip to find herself. I think I've heard that one 89 bazillion times. 3) The fact that no one else in the apartment had read it, so I can't talk about it without feeling a guilt rush.

But it was entertaining, and it gave me that little smile that only comes from reading a happy ending (even if it is a slightly predictable happy ending). Line I liked from one of the final pages: "This is what I know: We are all a volume on the shelf of the Nine Mile Falls Library, a story unto ourselves, never possibly described with one word or even very accurately with thousands. A person is never as quiet or unrestrained as they seem, or as bad or as good, as vulnerable or as strong, as sweet or as feisty; we are thickly-layered, page lying upon page, behind simple covers. And love--it is not the book itself, but the binding. It can rip us apart or hold us together" (301). Ironic, though, that Caletti used more opposites and personality traits in this one page than in the entire rest of the book put together.

My Rating: 3 Stars.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Change It Up - Yoga

My first change-it-up challenge was easy: two weeks ago, I joined USU's Fun Fit Forever Club, which basically just grants me access to all sorts of different exercise classes offered throughout the week. As anyone that knows me well has heard, yoga and I have not had the healthiest relationship in the past--I always complained about how every time I tried it before (which translated to like, two times, neither of which was a "real" class), it had given me a massive headache afterward. I argued that it was probably because my body is so used to being tense all the time, so it just couldn't handle relaxing that much. But that was many years ago in my "young lass" days, and I figured it couldn't be much worse than the Step class I tried last week. So I decided to give it a shot. I packed my exercise clothes into my red backpack along with my Classroom Management textbook and 5-subject binder and set off for campus on this frigid morning. Little did I know that for half of the walk, my backpack was coming slowly more and more unzipped from the heavy load, until my bra and tank top were spilling out into full sight. Nice.

I walked into the class a couple minutes late (since I had to come straight from my Ethnic Lit class and change my clothes before starting), where I saw a mix of about 15 men and women sitting Indian-style on different-colored mats, facing the large mirrors and skinny blonde instructor up front. As I fumbled a blue mat out of the bin in the corner, I heard the instructor say, "Today we'll be focusing on acceptance--acceptance of yourself, acceptance of the state that you are in, acceptance of your body and its limitations and its strengths. Just breathe and accept it all." Just what I needed--an acceptance pep talk, esp. now that I'm trying to prepare myself to fit into a tiny wedding dress in 3 months. I tried to get involved as much as possible by getting myself into an "accepting mindset," but I found that I kept sneaking peeks around to see if we were supposed to be doing anything beyond breathing (which we weren't. We were supposed to close our eyes and "get in tune" with our bodies for the first 5 minutes). I wondered if everyone else just knew what they were doing, because I was the only one opening my eyes every two seconds. Or maybe I'm just that high-strung. Then, almost without warning, I heard (I kid you not) the perfectly in-sync chant of a single "Ohm" ripple throughout the room, like a church bell struck a single time. I shivered in spite of myself. I felt the power of the Ohm!!!

The hour progressed through a series of breathing exercises, a whole bunch of downward dogs (where you stick your butt up in a "V" formation for about a million minutes to build your core strength, which I apparently don't have), and some pretzel-like positions that I didn't even know existed. The great part about yoga is, though, that there is minimal to no sweating involved, which makes you feel like you're not even working out. And I was surprisingly more capable than I thought I'd be during the exercises; sure, my legs shook like crazy during a couple of the long strength poses and I had a hard time walking for a couple minutes after the class, but overall, I felt like the hour had been successful. Sure, maybe I didn't come to the "acceptance" stage in my mind as deeply as I should have, and maybe I don't feel like my life has been drastically "put into alignment with the Eternal forces," like my instructor said at the beginning. But you know what? It did make me feel significantly more relaxed and took an edge off of the constant buzzing in my brain. And the best part? I didn't even get a headache.

Change It Up Challenge--Successful? YES - I will be making this yoga class a regular part of my exercise routine, even if it means having to chime out an "Ohm" or two.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The "Change It Up" Challenge!

St Francis and the Sow
By Galway Kinnell

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don't flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing:
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them;
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

I've always loved this poem by Kinnell, because it reminds me that sometimes all we need is a fresh perspective so that we can be "retaught our loveliness." Although in many ways, I feel like I've adjusted pretty well since getting back from my mission six months ago, I still feel like a part of me got lost somewhere on the plane ride between El Salvador and Utah--like the warm, familiar part of me just dropped out the belly of the plane and plopped down somewhere in the deserts of Arizona. So I came to a conclusion today while sitting in a mind-numbingly boring class at Logan High School while putting in my clinical hours--I need to get out of my mind rut.

I've heard that having change mixed into our lives every now and then is a positive, healthy thing--change stimulates new connections, helps us take on different perspectives, and makes us appreciate the little things that we take for granted. Therefore, I have given myself a challenge: to try something new every single week. It can be something simple, like eating a new fruit or studying my scriptures a different way. Or it could be more drastic, like taking up a new hobby or joining a new club. So there's my challenge to myself. And since measured and reported results tends to accelerate growth and progress, I'll be blogging about my journey every week. So stay tuned!!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Book #3 - Love in the Time of Cholera

Book: Love in the Time of Cholera
Author: Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Finished: 2/6/11

Marquez's Love in the Time of Cholera is the story of Florentino Ariza, a poetic, solemn young man bedazzled by the charms and beauty of the well-connected Fermina Daza. After months in their youth of exchanging hundreds of love letters back and forth, Fermina rejects Florentino after the proposal of the wealthy Dr. Urbino; once engaged, she cuts off all ties with the devastated young Florentino. But Florentino does not give up so easily--he vowed to love her forever, and forever he will; he continues to reserve his heart for her and her alone, despite having 622 "affairs" while he is waiting for the moment when he will be able to confess his undying love to her once again...fifty-one years, nine months, and four days after the fact.

Interesting-sounding enough, eh? Except for the bulk of the book is caught up in the explanation of a hundred or so of the so-called "affairs," which often made for uncomfortable reading at best, boring at worst. Although the language of Marquez is unparalleled by few other modern authors, the beautiful imagery was not enough to save what, for me, was a flimsy plot--Fermina Daza seems to offer little beyond grace, beauty, and youthful caprices, and Florentino's odd ideas of love (like having an affair with a 14-yr.-old distant relative while in his 70s) make for two characters that I didn't care much for. Due to the dragging plot and the unlovable characters, this book took me six months to sludge through (an unprecedented feat contrary to my usual quick-read habits). I know it's a bad sign when I keep saying things like, "I can't wait until I'm done with this so I can read something I'll actually enjoy reading."

The one saving grace for the book was in the stunning, detailed descriptions and thought-provoking rare gems scattered throughout, such as this favorite quote: "He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves." And how!

My Rating: 2 Stars

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Photo Walk - WB Pond

A few weeks back while back at home in Bountiful, Matt and I took advantage of some of the late-January sun to go pay a visit to West Bountiful Pond, which I had never seen. We liked the spot so much that we're planning on taking some of our engagement photos here in a few weeks. Most of the photos below are Matt's, but I got a couple good shots in here and there :)

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