Monday, April 30, 2012

Weekend Before Finals

Today we have been studying for Matt's math final for over six hours. And by we, I mean that Matt was cramming his little brain out, and I was right next to him for half of it so that I wouldn't have to keep getting up only to come back the next second to answer a question.

I am posting pictures of last weekend to remind myself of a time when I wasn't about to drown my brain in Moose Tracks ice cream on account of a math class that I'm not even taking.

Last weekend, our friends Kayla and Sam came up for Kayla's and my closing seminar thing for student teaching. Even though we basically just sat around and ate a lot and watched Big Bang Theory for hours and hours on end, we still had a pretty fun time.

Side note: I think those are the best kind of friends--the friends that you're so comfortable with that you don't even have to feel guilty that you're not doing something spectacular. You all can just be. (Not that I would have minded doing something more spectacular, but we were all a little exhausted from the dreaded end-of-semester syndrome).

I also had a bit of fun helping Kayla and Sam in their wedding preparations for their Big Day in June--and boy, lemme tell you: it's WAY better planning a wedding when it's not your own. Not that I'm actually helping to plan it, really--but it sure made me glad that I only had to plan one wedding for myself, and that's it. Forever.

Thank goodness.

Anyway, here's to Matt passing his math final tonight, eh? I'm sure ready for some celebrating around here already...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Calling

I've rarely had a calling come as a complete surprise--before, my life was mostly controlled in 8-month segments by the semesters, and I could usually count on a church calling that had something to do with music or teaching (because that's what I would tell my singles-ward bishops that I liked to do most).

That all changed, however, when I got married. Soon after moving into the ward where we are currently stationed, I unexpectedly got called as the Relief Society secretary, which I have loved--it's allowed me to form priceless friendships and to really get to know most of the women in the ward.

But we can only live in our comfort zones for so long.

I've known for a few weeks now what my new calling would be, but today it was made official: I am now the new Young Women's president for my ward.

"Inadequate" and "inexperienced" doesn't even begin to describe how I feel. I was feeling especially  nervous before church started today, as I knew today would be the day it all became official.

But then, as so often happens, I came across just the thing I needed; in this case, it was something I'd written in my mission journals near the beginning of my mission experience. The entry went like this:

"[In one of our meetings, we] talked about how baby eagles learn to fly by being pushed out of the nest by their mother. Thus, like eagles learning how to fly, sometimes we need to be pushed out of our own  nests (our “comfort zones”) in order to fly. Or, as Peter when he walked on the water, we need someone to push us out of the boat—and someone to walk to. This idea was reiterated in an MTC talk from 2006 by Jeffrey R. Holland that we listened to. In it, he recited this:
               “Come to the edge,” He said.
               “No, I’ll fall.”
               “Come to the edge,” He said.
               “No! I’ll fall.”
               “Come to the edge,” He said.
               And I came to the edge.
               And He pushed me.
               And I flew.

"I know I must be willing to go to the edge of discipleship—to the edge of my fears and my inadequacies and my limits—in order to be able to fly with Christ. And I must be willing to put all my faith on the line and come to the edge, so I can learn how to fly. . . I know it will be so hard for me. But I know that with the Lord, I am capable of all things. I know that He can help me overcome my fear. I only need to have more faith.

"Today I feel as though I have much to work on, but it’s a motivation for me to work harder and more effectively. . . I feel as though I’ll never be where I want to be, but I guess if I use it right, that realization will keep driving me forward."

These next several months will prove to be difficult and character-pushing, but I know they will definitely be life-changing and rewarding. I just hope that I can be the kind of leader for these young women that my leaders growing up were for me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Here's What's Cooking...Cheesy Chicken Chowder

Some friends are in town staying with us, I'm all finished with student teaching, and I have a long, open weekend (and future) ahead of me.

I'm sure looking forward to it :)

So to kick off this lovely (slightly chilly) weekend, here's a delicious, easy recipe for hot chicken chowder that will warm your soul right up.

Cheesy Chicken Chowder (from Taste of Home's Grandma's Favorites)

3 cups chicken broth
2 cups diced peeled potatoes
1 cup diced carrots
1 cup diced celery (we made it without and it still tasted great)
1/2 cup diced onion
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup butter
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese
2 cups diced cooked chicken

In a 4-qt. saucepan, bring chicken broth to a boil. Reduce heat; add potatoes, carrots, celery, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan; add flour and mix well. Gradually stir in milk; cook over low heat until slightly thickened. Stir in cheese and cook until melted; add to broth along with chicken. Cook and stir over low heat until heated through.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thoughts on Change

I've been thinking a lot about change recently, mostly because it's being thrust upon me from all directions. Even the audiobook I was listening to this morning--Quiet--was talking about change, and how most introverts, since they don't often seek out too much stimulation, are not big fans of change.

I don't mind change too much (unless it's something tragic, of course)--in fact, I often seek change out (hence all my Change It Up Challenges). But there is always the blend of anxiety and anticipation as a new change comes upon us--whether it be a new job, an end of a familiar stage of life, or the beginning of a new goal. I happen to be dealing with all three (or at least, I very shortly will be). Between April 21st and May 7th, I will have:

*Run my first marathon (marking the end of formal training)
*Finished student teaching (this one happens tomorrow---yikes!)
*Received a brand-new calling
*Graduated from college
*Celebrated my one-year anniversary, and
*(Hopefully) Found a new job (and begun my life as a "real, working adult" at last)

It's a lot to swallow, and it's all a bit daunting, to say the least. Exciting, but daunting.

I came across this quote today on this site and liked its optimistic take on change:

Each transition is an opportunity to look at who you are -- and where you're headed.

I know that even though these changes are sometimes stressful and/or scary, they mean I'm heading in the right direction:

They mean I'm healthy and strong and working to take care of my body.
They mean I'm diligent and persistent in completing goals.
They mean that I'm willing to learn new things.
They mean that I'm eager to serve the Lord.
They mean that I'm growing closer to my husband.
They mean that I'm embarking on a career I'll love.

And I'd say that's a whole lot to be grateful for.

Bring it on, Mr. Change.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All, Post-Marathon Edition

*Besides the bragging rights (and the fact that it's been on my life's to-do list for over a decade), one of the main reasons I was most excited to run a marathon was for the shirt. No, I'm serious---I have always wanted me a nice, spandex running shirt that I knew I had earned in some way. The shirts from this year's marathon did not disappoint--for some reason, they even kind of reminded me of The Hunger Games. Pretty nifty, eh?

*Do you like how I made my marathon shirt school-appropriate? Since I'm supposed to dress professional and all (and since I promised my students I would come in wearing my marathon shirt yesterday), I thought I would dress it up a bit. I personally thought the look was a keeper. But then again, I think that maxi skirts are code for not having to shave and shoes should not be required anywhere, so who am I to say?

*During the marathon, there was this one sign that someone was holding up near Mile 23 that said, "Toenails are for Sissies." Matt read it aloud to me as we went plodding along, and I tried to smile, but I thought I was going to die so I didn't say much. Anyway, it turns out that I'm pretty sure I did, in fact, lose a toenail or two during the marathon. I mean, I've been too scared to take off my nail polish and check it out (for fear of the dreaded black toenail), but I'm pretty sure I had to have killed my big toenail because it sure hurts like you-know-where.

*I actually got a black toenail during marathon training, too. Gross, huh? At first I thought I was the only one in the world with such a disgusting mishap, but it turns out that it's pretty common. Phew. Maybe I'm more normal than I thought.

*I haven't been as sore as I thought I would be from the Big Race--I mean, my first 18-miler wiped me out for about 2 weeks, so I expected that 26.2 miles would  lie me down flat and run me over. But surprisingly, I'm actually feeling pretty great. My calves are a little tight when I go downstairs, but I'm almost feeling back to normal. In fact, I would totally go out and run today if it wasn't for the fact that I have about 70 papers to grade before tomorrow. Yuck.

*Student teaching ends this week, and I just keep telling myself I only need to survive this week and I'll be fine. The problem is, I decided to make this major writing assignment due on my last day of student teaching, which pretty much guarantees that I'll still be at the school next Monday at the same time as usual, taking late work and grading papers. It's my own fault, really: I'm a bit of a masochist.

*I was going to tell you my new calling today, but I still haven't been called yet. So you'll just have to wait until next week.

*I thought I would totally be freaking out about the fact that I have no idea what I'm doing on the job front for either the summer or the next two years, but I've been feeling surprisingly calm about the whole thing (probably because I haven't been working this whole semester and we've still managed to survive). I just figure that something has to come up eventually, so I haven't started worrying. Yet.

*Last weekend, we went out to eat 3 nights in a row. This hasn't happened to me since right before my mission, when my dating life all of a sudden decided to just take off. Note to future marathon runners: Texas Roadhouse is an excellent dinner for the night before a marathon :). Many thanks to my in-laws for taking us there, and to my own mother for treating us to Leatherby's sundaes after the race!

*I really need to go grocery shopping. You want to know what finally made me absolutely sure that we have "no food in the house?" The fact that we were out of cheese. I'm surprised we're still alive right now to tell about it.

*Summer tuition for Matt is due tomorrow, and I'd almost rather run another full marathon tomorrow than pay $1900 for two classes...

*I had a sickening thought hit me last night around 9 PM: all of mine and Matt's favorite television shows to watch are quickly coming to their season's end. What on earth will we DO?! I mean, Matt has already read 5 books in the last week and a half and I've read almost two...This must mean it's time to take up a  new hobby. Or a new television show. Any suggestions?

*Do I REALLY have to look over all these essays by tomorrow? Boo, boo, and boo.

*Peace out. Here's hoping that your Tuesday is not nearly as paper-loaded as mine.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Salt Lake Marathon, 2012

I don't even know where to start with this post because so much has happened and I have so many emotions going around my insides about our first marathon experience (and possibly only full marathon experience, lol) that I'm afraid I'll leave something out. But you've got to start somewhere, so here goes:

I'll start out by saying this: it was an amazingly tough, but amazingly incredible experience.

Some quick info to get you debriefed:

Even though we hadn't officially planned this, Matt and I ended up running the entire marathon by each other's side, and we finished the marathon with our hands clasped together, high above our heads.
We finished in 4:34:49, which quite honestly, is WAY faster than I expected myself to finish. We averaged between a 10- and 11-minute mile, and we never once stopped to walk (unless, of course, you count the 10 feet or so we walked at the last 4 or 5 aid stations so that more water would get into our mouths rather than down the front of our shirts). Even more surprising for me was that I ended up finishing in the top one-third of women my own age group, which I thought was pretty awesome.
But now let's get into the details.
Matt and I made amazing pace for the first 20 miles--we were averaging 10-minute miles or just under, and we were staying a pretty good distance ahead of the guy who the pace runner for the 4:30 group. It was encouraging when we started consistently passing people about halfway through, by keeping up our steady and consistent pace (rather than at the beginning, when we were getting passed all over the place).

There were aid stations every two miles or so where we could pick up water and Gatorade and goo, and that combined with all the runners around us and all the cheering helped to get us off to a solid start (the awesome families who were randomly handing out otter pops and orange slices also helped). So all in all, we felt amazing during the first half--better than I've ever felt before, actually.

You know, people have always told me that a full marathon really is two separate races: the first 20 miles and then the last 6.2 (otherwise known as the race of the body and the race of the mind).
I understand exactly what they mean now.
I felt AMAZING during the first 18 miles (almost 20 miles, really). My body hurt way less than I'm used to on such long runs, and I didn't get a single sideache. Even though the weather was way warmer than what we're used to (it was almost 80 degrees when we finished), I overall did pretty well for the first five-sixths of the race, thanks to the aid stations. Those aid stations were like a vacation after training, considering that we would sometimes run 12 miles in training with nothing to drink.

But then we hit mile 20.

At first, I wondered if it was just a mental thing--that maybe I was just thinking it was harder because everyone told me to expect it to be.

But by mile 21, I started to see white spots in front of my eyes, and my body started breaking out into cold sweats, and I felt like I was going to pass out. It got so bad that my eyelids started closing on their own accord, almost like I was going to fall asleep right there in the middle of the race.

Obviously I've never passed out before, since I'm pretty sure those are all probably signs that I'm about to lose consciousness right then and there.

But then I turned to Matt and mumbled, "Ineedencouragement."

He had to ask me to repeat it two more times before he understood that I needed a quick pep talk, and stat.

He started telling me that he couldn't finish the race without me, that I had done all the training I needed to make it until the end, and that I was strong, capable, and totally able to "do this thing."

Then my favorite encouragement:

"This is the last time we're ever going to do this. We just need to make it through this one time and then we can die at the finish line."

I also started praying, and between that and the constant help from Matt, I was able to pull out of it by mile 23 or so.

Then Matt's knee did something weird and I heard the unmistakable cry of pain escape his mouth.

It was my turn to do the encouraging.

Finally, by the last 2 miles, we both just kept repeating to each other,

We've got this.

No pain 'til Mile 26.

I need you until the end.

The sweetest part for me was when we both were so exhausted from the heat and the endurance of the run, Matt told me, "This is just like a metaphor for our life: there will be periods of relative ease and enjoyment, and there will be difficult times when we're not sure we can make it through. But no matter what, we will press on together, side by side. We're in this thing together, forever and ever."

I could have grabbed him and kissed him right there, but we still had about 2.2 miles left.

The most excruciating part of the whole marathon (besides my major wall at miles 21-22) was the mile or so we had to run uphill at the very end, up State Street. It just seemed so eternally long and steep and hard, and people were stopping and walking all around us. I don't know how we did it, but we finally managed to round the corner and hear the blessed words of a cop who was supervising the race say, "You've only got 4 blocks left, and it's all downhill from here."

At that point we could see the finish line, and we knew we could make it. We imagined our families waiting at the end to congratulate us, and we wanted to look strong for them. But most of all, we wanted to finish what we'd started, and we wanted to finish well.

So the last 0.2 miles, Matt looked at me and said, "Tell me when you're ready." I must have said something coherent that meant "Let's go" because before I knew it, we were sprinting with all we had left until the finish. I was starting to lag behind Matt, and he in all his goodness grabbed my hand and pulled me along beside him. We ran across the line with our hands clasped together high above our heads, and we were able to manage exuberant smiles as we were handed our medals for finishing.

Part of our families and our friends Kayla and Sam were waiting for us at the sidelines, excitedly congratulating us and taking pictures.Then I told everyone I had to sit down in the shade, and fast. And I proceeded to continue praying that I wouldn't pass out as I flopped down on the grass and guzzled all the liquids that kept getting passed to me.

When I had some time to regroup, there were hugs and pictures all around, and Matt and I enjoyed recounting the marathon and all that we'd been through.

At the end though, I was absolutely certain of three things:

1: I could not have gotten the time I did (or even maybe finished the marathon) without Matt by my side. Although we hadn't planned to do it that way, we both just knew that's how we wanted (and needed) to do it about halfway through. It was an amazing experience to run the duration of the race together, and I wouldn't have had it any other way. These months of training and then this marathon have really bonded us together even more.

2: The support of our families and of random strangers made a HUGE difference. Sometimes when I was really struggling, a group of strangers would cheer us on, and I would recover enough strength to press forward. Matt's parents also saw us twice along the route and cheered us on, which really helped us, too. And I'm pretty sure I would have passed out for sure had my mom not handed me an apple at the finish line and made sure I was getting enough liquid (and had kind strangers not set up their own little "aid stations" for the runners along the way--bless those people forever and ever!). The amazing support of our families (and all the people back home cheering us on who couldn't be there) reminded us that we are loved and supported in all our endeavors, which is something I hope I never take for granted.

3: Prayer absolutely works. I could feel the prayers of family members and friends the entire duration of the marathon, and also the power of the personal prayers that we had offered up for weeks in preparation for this race. We didn't pray that the race wouldn't be hard--we just prayed that we would be strengthened through it (and that our bowels would be able to hold out until the end). All of our prayers were answered, and then some. I was so happy that we ended the race feeling triumphant and knowing that we'd done the very best that we could have. We were walking high all day (figuratively, of course--literally, we were actually walking quite crippled-like).

So what's next now that it's over?

Well, truth be told, it will be a long, LONG time before I ever do another full marathon.


I'm pretty sure I'll be signing up for the Top of Utah half-marathon later this year.

I think I'll have to start calling myself a runner...

Friday, April 20, 2012

Big Day Jitters

Although this was a poster created about the Boston Marathon earlier this week, this is exactly how I feel knowing that it's supposed to be warm weather tomorrow.

What a way to kick off my first marathon, huh?

Oh, and last night, I had my first tossing-and-turning, dreaming-all-night-about-waking-up-late-for-the-marathon episode. I won't be sleeping a wink tonight.

To cheer myself up, I checked out this funny article from Runner's World about the Top 10 Funniest Signs of Encouragement seen at the Boston Marathon.

Someone want to make a funny sign like one of those and wave it at me, say, around Mile 20?

You're a gem.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Book #7: Close to Famous

Title: Close to Famous
Author: Joan Bauer
# of Pages: 250
Genre: Young Adult (Realistic Fiction)

Before last weekend, I couldn't tell you the last time that I sat down and read a book from start to finish without stopping. But such was the case with Close to Famous--I hadn't intended to sit down and read the whole thing in one go, but I just got sucked in and the print was so much larger than in Great Expectations that I just couldn't help myself. Funny thing was, Matt did the exact same thing at the same time, except with Hatchet. And that was our date night on Friday.

I first discovered Joan Bauer off of a list of award-winning young adult novels; her book, Hope Was Here, won multiple awards, and for good reason. Her trademark (which I love) is that she chooses a strong protagonist (usually female) that is completely obsessed with something. In one book, it was waitressing, in another, it was selling shoes. And then she shows how the protagonist (though young) ends up making a big difference in the community with his/her passion. They're fun reads. So when I found out that she had come out with a new novel (Close to Famous), I couldn't resist, even though the book was intended for an even younger audience than what she usually writes to.

Close to Famous tells the story of Foster, a 12-year-old girl who is obsessed with baking and who has a significant reading disability. Her and her mom have just moved into a brand new town in the middle of nowhere to escape her mom's abusive ex-boyfriend, an Elvis-impersonator who you hate from the beginning. The new town is not without problems of its own, however; businesses have been struggling since the new prison was built right next door and even the beloved community church is in danger of being sold and torn down to build a taco chain restaurant. Foster is determined to make the best of the situation though, and she begins to sell her baked goods to a store down the street and starts to work for a famous actress who has retired and escaped to the small town. Foster's life starts to take turns she didn't expect when she unexpectedly finds a reading tutor and when her beloved t.v. chef hero, Sonny, gets into a serious motorcycle accident. Through these and other happenings, Foster learns to plant her feet and stop running away from her problems, as well as to make the best of any situation.

Although written for a younger target audience, I enjoyed reading about Foster's dream of becoming the first t.v. teen chef and how she would "practice" for her t.v. audience while baking in their small trailer home. The story was a bit more simplistic than I usually go for, but it felt like a nice slice of pie after the meat-and-potatoes of Great Expectations. I would recommend any of Bauer's books if you're looking to get inspired and get passionate to find your own niche in the world, whether it's growing giant pumpkins or baking the finest cupcakes. (These books are also great for young readers, too, because they're positive, relatable, and free of the junk that is so often found in much of today's fiction).

My Rating: 4 out of 5

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*I attempted to go on a photo walk all by myself on Sunday right before church--I was determined to get a picture of some of the magnolia blooms that are all over the place right now. And you know what? They're everywhere right now until you go looking for one that wouldn't be totally creepy for you to go shoot. Long story short, I was only able to get about four pictures that I even kinda liked. Guess that's what I get for going without Matt...

*Remember a couple weeks ago, when I said I was all proud of myself for going into Old Navy and walking out without having made a single purchase? Well, the $50 for $15 deal was just too good and started eating away at my I ended up going online and getting it there. Mwa ha ha!

*Sad truth: my Old Navy package supposedly was delivered to me yesterday, but I still haven't gotten it. I swear, someone will be feeling my wrath if it doesn't turn up pronto...and I mean pronto...

*Today was the longest day of teaching ever, and then I finally figured out why: it's because I actually worked nonstop through my three entire prep periods. Crazy what that will do to you.

*So I've had a student ask me every single morning for a week now when he can transfer out of my class and when he can get his "real" teacher back. Honest little buggers. Gotta love 'em.

*News flash: I actually got my run done BEFORE doing this blog post. You should be very proud.

*There hasn't been a new episode of "Once Upon a Time" for two weeks straight now. I think I might die from deprivation. Or from the cleaning that I tend to do when there's nothing to watch. Remember what happened last week?

*I'm getting a new church calling. Too bad you'll have to wait until next week to hear what it is.

*I'm listening to the audiobook of Quiet, this brilliant new nonfiction book about the power introverts have had in shaping the world. Considering that for most of my life, I've been a closet introvert, I have found this book absolutely fascinating, not to mention soul-gratifying. I mean, for years I've felt guilty for some of my less-social preferences, but now I finally feel validated. I've loved listening to the book so much that I'll probably end up buying it, just so I can re-read some of my favorite passages. I'm such a nerd.

*After taking a week off from donating plasma, I was back at it again yesterday. Is it sad that it felt a bit like coming home?

*I just had an insane urge to go and eat some of the sea salt caramel ice cream in our freezer, but I'm trying to really watch my diet this week, what with the marathon being Saturday and all. So now comes the real game: how long can Torrie last against sea salt caramel ice cream calling her name?

*I have just over a week of student teaching left, and I'm done forever. Now that's weird.

*Still no luck with my job search. I have heard, though, that there might be a position opening up at the alternative high school, and I think I might go for it. I figure it can't be any harder than teaching middle schoolers, right?

*Matt has to take some classes over the summer, and I almost died when I saw the cost: $1800 for just two classes. That is how much my entire first semester at college cost, and I took 21 credits. What gives?

*So I keep reading all this stuff on Facebook about an earthquake, or a pseudo-earthquake or something. Huh?? Someone should enlighten me.

*Anyway, I'm feeling some rare motivation to clean right now, so I figure I'd best go take advantage of it before it passes.

What has been happening in your life on this sunny Tuesday?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Marathon Training, Week Fifteen

Well, here we are, folks--we are officially into marathon week. Can I get a "YIKES!" from the crowd?

So last week was my last full week of marathon training. It felt rather weird, actually, because you're supposed to taper down significantly the week before a race, and so I just felt kinda lazy. I mean, I only ran 11 miles on Saturday. Of course, for anyone who isn't training for a marathon, 11 miles is a stellar distance to run. But considering that I'm supposed to be running 26.2 miles in just a few short days, I felt a little paranoid that this tapering-down business wasn't really the way to go.

But who am I to go against hundreds of studies and years of research and the all-knowing Runner's World?

So taper down I did. I actually skipped out on one of my runs completely, although it was by necessity, not choice. I'm hoping that that one skipped day won't ruin all the progress I've made in the last four months.

See? I'm already starting to think irrationally, and I'm not even on Mile 23 of the marathon yet.

That can't be a good sign.

As if you couldn't tell, I'm a little nervous about the Big Race coming up this Saturday. Although the nightmares haven't started setting in yet, I guarantee that I won't be sleeping for about 3 nights straight right before. I'm already paranoid that I'll sleep past my alarm, or that we will somehow not be able to get our packets...

I'm paranoid that I'll eat the wrong thing before and have to take a massive bathroom break six miles in...

I'm paranoid that I'll randomly pull a muscle ten miles in and have to stop...

But most of all, I'm paranoid that I'll get to Mile 20 and that I'll just hit a massive wall of resistance and that I won't be able to push through my mental block and that I'll finish the race enormously disappointed in myself.


Glad I got that off my chest.

Pray for me, will you? Pray that my digestive system will keep everything in?

Thanks. I sure appreciate it.

High Point: I won't lie, only having to run 11 miles felt like a huge break (even if it did make me feel a little guilty at the same time).

Low Point: Although various training programs have warned that "tapering down" will make the runs seem harder (not easier), it still was a hard pill to swallow--I just felt like I'd lost all the ability I'd gained over the past four months. I sure hope those people writing these training plans know what they're talking about...

# of Miles Run: 15

Time Per Mile: I don't even know. I totally spaced timing it. I really am losing my mind!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Reborn Again & Again

While typing up my mission journals, I occasionally come across thoughts that hit me with as much weight now as they did when I first wrote them.

This morning I came across this paragraph that I feel I could as easily have written today as I could have back when I was six weeks into my mission:

Sometimes I feel as though the real purpose of life is to be born and reborn again and again. I feel as though the Lord waits just long enough for me to feel comfortable being who I am, and then he opens my eyes a little further and allows me to see that I’ve been living in ignorance. I’ve grown to love these times when I feel my vision being expanded and the door to my heart being opened a little farther. These past six weeks it’s been happening little by little, and today I felt as though I became a new person. Yet at the same time, it all felt strangely familiar—as if my awakenings were to myself and who I really am.

I have a lot of changes happening in my life--there will be several happening in the next three weeks. Although at times the change seems too much to take on, I know that in the end, it's all part of the experience of being born and reborn again and again.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Book Fair Bounty

Remember how I talked in my Tell-All post this week about the Scholastic Book Fair on campus that Matt and I look forward to all year long? 

Well folks, this is why.

We got all these books (all brand-new), for under $100.

Sure, we might not be able to go out on a date night now for the next two months.

But with all these beauties, who needs to go out to the movies?

Book #6: Great Expectations

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
# of Pages: 521
Genre: Classic

I never thought this day would come. I mean, I always HOPED it would come, of course, but it was kind of like how I felt about running a marathon--maybe it would happen someday. Well, apparently this year is the year of "somedays" because I not only am running my marathon (next week, no less!), but this is also the year that I finished Great Expectations.

Now, you might rightfully be wondering what all the fuss is about. Here's the truth of the matter: I have tried, very unsuccessfully, to read this novel a good 5 or 6 times. I even got about two-thirds of the way through it once when I was a senior in high school before I threw the book across the room in anguish and gave up (Just kidding. About the throwing-the-book part anyway). Ever since, I've always claimed that I just wasn't meant to be a Dickens fan. Of course, when I finished reading A Christmas Carol last year, I had to take that excuse back. And now that I've finished Great Expectations I've got to say that I might have to start leaning in the exact opposite direction. A small miracle, to say the least.

Great Expectations tells the story of Pip, a young orphan who is brought up by his beast of his sister and who expects to live out his days in poverty--until, that is, the day that he meets Ms. Havisham (who is possibly the creepiest character ever known to the book world). Ms. Havisham is an eccentric, rich woman whose groom-to-be left her just before their wedding was to start. After her heartbreak, she stopped all the clocks in her house at exactly the moment he left her and refused to change out of her wedding dress for the next 50 or so years (you never quite know how old she is). She also left the entire bridal feast on the table in one of the rooms (including the cake), where they slowly molded and then grew into a sort of petrified mess in her dark, oppressive house. Anyway, she has adopted a breathtakingly beautiful young girl named Estela and one day decides that Estela needs a playmate. So she invites Pip over and tells them to play. What really happens is that Pip falls madly in love with Estela, who has been trained and brought up by Ms. Havisham to break men's hearts everywhere. Pip starts to hate himself and his station in life because he believes his poverty is the only thing keeping him from the one he loves.

One day, Pip receives the notice that he has a mysterious benefactor who is going to provide all the necessary funds for him to become a gentleman. From that point on, Pip sets about trying to learn everything necessary so he can realize his greatest hope: to marry the beautiful Estela at last.

This book had some serious twists and turns in it that I didn't expect, and they were not unwelcome ones; I always love it when an author can surprise me without angering me. I spent much of the book disliking Pip for his pettiness, but at the same time pitying him. I hated Estela, yet was fascinated by her. And I loved Ms. Havisham from the beginning for her delicious creepiness. Once you get past the bulky language, Great Expectations becomes at once a tale of suspense and romance, and a story with well-rounded, unique characters that you will not soon forget. My only beef was that the edition I have included both the usual, printed ending (which is the only one included in most editions) and the original ending that Dickens apparently changed just before the book went to press. Seeing as though the two endings are the EXACT opposite of each other, I hated not knowing how the story was really "supposed" to end. It was the only time in 500+ pages that the author ever poked his nose into my thoughts, and if you've been following my book reviews, you know that's my biggest pet peeve. So if you're going to read this, get a book that just has the new ending--it's a much happier one anyway.

I was so pleased overall with the book though that it just made me eager to get back to reading off of my classics list again--I have been trying since my senior year of high school to read this list of "100 Classics for College-Bound Youth." Of course, I find it sad that I'll be graduating from college in 3 weeks and have yet to read all of them, but oh well. Better late than never, I suppose.

Anyway, if you have the stamina to tackle the language of old classics, this is definitely one that's worth your time. And even if you don't think you have the stamina, I would still recommend that you give it a try. It's a story that will stay with you for a long, long time.

My Rating: 5 Stars

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

That Place Between Sleep and Awake

My nephew Adam would have been eight years old today. I am so grateful for the knowledge that I can see him again and that he is never far from me. Soon after his passing, my dad gave us all his beautiful calligraphy version of the quote, "You know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you still remember dreaming? That's where I'll always love you. That's where I'll be waiting."

I'm still waiting until the glorious day when I get to see you again, Adam. Happy birthday, little man.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All

*I didn't buy any Easter candy, and I'm actually kinda sad about it. I am pondering over the marvel of the fact that I have not eaten a single Cadbury egg in over a year. What is wrong with me?! I wonder if there would still be some if I went to the store today? And maybe discounted? Please?

*Matt and I went and saw the Hunger Games movie (finally) over the weekend. Aside from the distracting nature of the shaky filming (which I hated), I actually was rather impressed with it. Although I must say, Gale came off as much more winning in the movie than in the book. Not that I didn't like him in the book, but he was a real charmer in the movie. And Peeta wasn't as cute as I thought he'd be (although it helped when he tousled up his hair a bit). I especially liked the part in the movie where Matt gasped and jumped about a foot out of his chair and I laughed.

*After watching the movie, Matt and I decided that we actually might like the second and third movies more than we liked the second and third books (which wouldn't be that hard, to be frank). It's not often that I say that.

*Yesterday I took the most amazing little bike ride up to First Dam, and I wished SOOO much when I got up to it that I'd brought my camera with me---there were hundreds of seagulls just covering the water, and then a lone bagpiper playing at the far edge of the lake. It was a beautiful sight, and one that I'm not sure I could ever capture again. Guess I should know the photographer's first rule: always, always, ALWAYS have a camera on hand (not that I'm much of a photographer, but oh well).

*When I got back from my bike ride, I was trying to rev up my motivation to somehow tackle the dishes that had accumulated over the weekend thanks to my spring break laziness. I finally decided a simple bribe would work best: I would put on two songs that I just love (Sara Bareilles and Jon McLaughlin's "Summer is Over" and another random one I don't remember) and just do the dishes for the duration of those two songs. Then I would treat myself to a game of Spider Solitaire. Then I would repeat as often as necessary. This tactic actually worked pretty great, until...

*I got in a fight with a breaking dish and lost. The funny thing was, literally seconds before this all went down, I had struck onto quite an epiphany: I had realized, as the sun was streaming through our kitchen window and as I was thinking of the beautiful scene I had just seen on my bike ride, that everything in my life was "enough" for me--I was happy enough, I was productive enough, we were rich enough, I was skinny enough, we were growing enough. And then, just as I was rejoicing in the beautiful simplicity of that thought, my favorite little Giada casserole dish slipped out of my hands and shattered, cutting my hands up like crazy. Apparently, I hadn't been in-pain-enough.

*On an unrelated note, I learned a very important lesson recently: it is very hard to bind your own dominant hand with gauze and tape when you are bleeding profusely all over the counter. Just saying.

*I don't know if it is a cold or some wicked allergies, but my nose has been like a broken faucet lately. Not cool.

*Matt and I both decided to treat ourselves to homemade milkshakes last night after our difficult night (my cut hand and broken favorite dish and his not doing as well as he'd hoped on his math test). Another interesting revelation: ice cream fixes all.
*The half-price warehouse Scholastic Book Fair is going on RIGHT THIS SECOND on campus. Guess who is going to go check it out tonight? Bwa ha ha...Too bad we don't have $200 to blow on it like we did last year...*tear*

*I finished Great Expectations last night. I had to stay up 'til almost midnight though to do it, Shhh!! Review to follow soon.

*In case you haven't gotten enough Tell-All on this Tuesday, check out my Teaching Tell-All here.

*Okay, I've put off my run long enough. What's been happening on your Tuesday?

Monday, April 9, 2012

Marathon Training, Week Fourteen

I found out something interesting about myself as a runner this last week--usually, I am the kind of person who likes to know everything there is to know about a subject, or at least as much as is feasibly possible, within a very short amount of time. I usually find that being well-informed about something makes me more confident about it.

Apparently this does not extend to running.

I got a couple free issues of Runner's World in the mail this last weekend, which I have just devoured. I love reading about other crazies who understand what it's like to run a 10-miler in pouring rain or who know what to eat before a run so you don't feel like puking. However, while I've loved reading all about it, I have found that with each read article, my sense of anxiety about the marathon has steadily and significantly grown.

For example, in a Q&A section of the magazine, a reader asked if he should try out a small race (like an easy 5K) before attempting a bigger one (like a 10K or a half-marathon). The expert responded that the reader should definitely try out a smaller race before even thinking about biting off more than they can chew with a longer race. As my heart rate began to climb just thinking about how backwards I apparently have started out, I tried to use my super-human powers of reasoning to talk myself out of my anxiety:

"My body has handled the training just great, thankyouverymuch."

"I have more discipline and/or willpower than the average human being."

And my favorite,

"Go big or go home."

And even though these little mind tricks sometimes work for short spurts of time, I find that the anxiety has a tendency of creeping back up on me when I'm feeling weak.

Like when I'm asleep.

But in the end, I figure that what's done is done and that if I end up collapsing somewhere on the marathon because I didn't attempt to tackle a smaller race first, then so be it--'all these things shall give [me] experience and be for [my] good,' right?

But anxiety-inducing research aside, last week's training was actually pretty awesome. I finally ran a 15-miler pretty close to my goal pace of 10 minutes/mile (including water stops, which meant that some miles needed to be faster). And the best part? The fact that I wasn't sore pretty much at all after it. Isn't that amazing? I certainly thought so. Of course, I've been down with a cold for the past 24 hours or so, so I'm feeling especially grateful that my legs don't hurt like my head does...

High Point: I think I made that obvious enough above.

Low Point: The anxiety that's really starting to settle in. And almost every short run. Why is it that my short runs have now become SOOO much harder than my long runs?

Avg. Time Per Mile: Still between 10 and 11 minutes, on long runs

# of Miles Run: 25

Easter 2012

Easter at our place was a quiet affair this year--we celebrated by having creamed eggs and toast for brunch (family favorite recipe!), enjoying the messages and music of Christ's resurrection and Atonement at church, and then came home to a perfect pot roast dinner.

Even though Matt wasn't too big on the idea of going all out and decorating eggs or anything, we both enjoyed the quiet holiday spent at home together, as well as the extra reminder to reflect on the blessings that come through the restored gospel of Jesus Christ.

Happy Easter!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Baby Animal Days Date

Matt and I have been trying to switch up our date plans a little bit from the usual dinner-and-movie combo, so when we heard that Baby Animal Days was happening right now, we just knew we had to go.
Besides, both of us have seriously been feeling the lack of pet stores around here (sometimes you just need to pet a baby puppy, okay?), so this event was just all sorts of necessary.

And these babies did not disappoint--we had ourselves a perfect day of sun-strolling, animal-petting, manure-smelling, and people-watching.

For those of you who have never been, you're missing out.

For those of you have, you know where it's at. The fun, that is.

The baby cow kept licking us with its long, rough tongue. It was kind of weird and adorable at the same time. Look closely in the picture to see the tongue creeping out under Matt's hand.

We waited forever in line to see the baby bear cubs, but they wouldn't let us hold one. Guess what my new life goal is now after running a marathon? You guessed it--holding a baby bear cub.

And what's a trip to Baby Animal Days without some juicy, overpriced hot dogs?

The entire day I'd been waiting for two things: to see the baby chicks and to hold one of the adorable black-and-white goat babies. We knew our day was complete when both dreams were fulfilled.

A perfect day.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Here's What's Cooking...Golden Honey Pan Rolls

I've been on the lookout for the perfect roll recipe and while I haven't quite found it, I sure have had fun trying. I think that Matt secretly hopes that I'll never quite find it so that we can keep trying out all sorts of yummy new recipes. One of the latest I've tried that I was impressed with was this recipe for honey-glazed pan rolls. These were perfect as a side dish to our pasta entree, and they were delicious the next morning for breakfast with a glass of cold milk. Happy baking!

Golden Honey Pan Rolls (from Taste of Home's Prize-Winning Recipes 2011)

1 cup warm milk (70-80 degrees)
1 egg
1 egg yolk (don't make the mistake of throwing away the egg white, like I did, as you'll need it later)
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons honey
1-1/2 tsp salt
3-1/2 cups bread flour (I used normal flour, and they still turned out great)
2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1/3 c sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon honey
1 egg white
Additional honey, optional (you'd better believe I used this!)

In bread machine pan, place the first eight ingredients in order suggested by manufacturer. Select dough setting (check dough after 5 minutes of mixing; add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water or flour if needed).

When cycle is completed, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface. Punch down; cover and let rest for 10 minutes. Divide into 24 pieces; shape each into a ball. Place 12 balls each in two greased 8-in. square baking pans (obviously I improvised a bit on the pan when I made them). Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 30 minutes.

For glaze, combine the sugar, butter, honey, and egg whites; drizzle over dough (Note: make sure to not let the rolls rise too long. My first batch I let rise too long, and the egg white mixture just slipped right off). Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Brush with additional honey, if desired.

Yield: 2 dozen

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Goal Check-Point

Thanks to this friend and his post, I have felt the necessary kick-in-the-pants sensation that I needed to check in with myself on my New Year's Resolutions.

Now, if you'd like, you can check out my original New Year's Resolutions post here, just to refresh yourself on what I was setting myself up for. Or you can just keep reading and you'll probably be able to catch most of my drift.

So on we go.

Goal #1: Run a marathon. Well, in case y'all are reading this blog for the first time, I'm doing quite splendidly with this not-so-little goal. In fact, you can read all about the progress I've made over the last four months here. The marathon's in just over two weeks, so this one should soon be knocked out of the way before you can say "dry heave."

Goal #2: Read double of what I did last year, which translates to 38 books. Although I'm not quite as on-track with this goal as I'd like to be, I'm also not nearly so far off-track as I could be (like last year). I am now finishing up my 6th book, which translates roughly to about 2 books a month. Considering that I should be averaging slightly more than 3 books a month, I'm obviously still lacking, but I'm still feeling pretty good with where I'm at. Check out my book reviews for that here.

Goal #3: Go to the temple every month. Matt and I were doing so good with this one until last month. We're planning on going twice this month to make up for it, but it's been hard with our work schedules being so opposite. I might just have to complete this month's on my own time.

Goal #4: Have people over to dinner every other month. I've fudged a little bit on this one and have counted inviting people over for dessert, but other than that, we are on perfect track with this goal. It's been fun to invite some of our new neighbors over and get to know them better. I would take pictures of the whole thing, but I feel kind of weird asking people who I just met to pose for a bunch of pictures for my blog. You know?

Goal #5: Finish typing up my mission journals. This one was put on hold for a long time, but I have recently taken it up again. Although it will be a stretch to finish typing up all 3 of them (I think there are 3...), I'm going to plan on making this a part of my weekly Sunday ritual.

Goal #6: Do the NaNoWriMo Challenge. Considering this doesn't technically happen on a national level until November, I figure I've still got awhile. I might do it before November (just to be a rebel), but I've definitely got to knock out this marathon before I can concentrate so much on anything else.

Well, that wasn't so bad. I'm actually doing much better than I thought I was.

Go me!

How are you doing on your New Year's Resolutions?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday Tell-All, Spring Break Edition

*This picture perfectly sums up my idea of what spring break should look like: a little sugar, a little health, and a little brainwork. And of course, the whole lovely scene took place in our sunny kitchen in the quiet of late afternoon. Perfect!

*Just to clarify, I didn't get the university's spring break this year--I got the middle school's. Hence the reason why I'm in the middle of mine right now when Matt's was a month ago. But still: a whole week blissfully free from major responsibility (minus applying for jobs). Hurrah!

*Most of my "brainwork" for the week was frontloaded, as I spent most of the day yesterday trying to knock several things off of my monstrous to-do list. Before making a delicious German pancake monstrosity for dinner, I was able to apply to the second out of three school districts, visit a friend, go to the bank, go to the grocery store, do my couponing, actually make my to-do list, and catch up on some Conference. Not to mention do the dishes, watch Once Upon a Time, and play multiple games of Spider Solitaire. I get tired just thinking about it.

*I am *kinda* proud of myself for something, although I think I would have been proud of myself either way. So I have $25 in Rewards cards to Old Navy, and I have a $10 off of $50 coupon. Therefore, I could have gone to Old Navy and gotten $50 worth of stuff for $15, which I planned to do. So I skip out the door this afternoon while Matt was moaning over his math homework, and y'all should be amazed: I actually didn't buy anything--I came home with empty hands. Now, considering that I am a walking advertisement for Old Navy on any given day, this is really quite a feat. But I guess I shouldn't be too proud of myself because if I had actually found enough things that I liked for that much, I totally would have done it. But alas--since Old Navy has redone their look, I have found that not as many of their styles scream out my name and tell me to buy them. Oh well. It's probably for the best.

*If I'm a little wordy, it's because I just woke up from a 45-minute nap, in which I was dreaming about Great Expectations and trying to impersonate Dickens. Just so you know.

*Thank goodness for the undo button--I somehow just deleted everything, but then I got it back. I bet you were all as worried as I was.

*Matt and I keep hoping that he'll got off work early enough one of these nights so that we can catch The Hunger Games movie before the weekend crowd sets in. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like tonight will be the night. Have you seen it? What did you think?

*We were able to borrow a pump so that we could finally get Matt's bike pumped up and ready to go, and I was able to ride it just briefly today. It was AMAZING--wind in my hair, sun at my back, the mail key in my hand... I've really got to get me my own little road bike one of these years.

*There's this huge book warehouse that just opened up by our house that has hundreds and hundreds of used books for $1 apiece. Methinks that that will be my playground tomorrow.

*My stepdad insisted on buying us the really amazing (really expensive) extra-sharp Tillamook cheese on our Costco run last Saturday (along with several other things). There should be mountains named after that cheese.

*One downside about spring break is that I don't get the pleasure of being entertained by my students every day; I really didn't realize how much of the humor in my life is derived from being around them. Is it sad that I miss them?

*Well, I'd best go discover what it is we'll be having for dinner. I got me some stew meat, beef broth, and various vegetable-like odds and ends, so we shall see.

Hope you have a wonderful, almost-Easter week!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Mission Reunion

One thing I'd always looked forward to after getting home from my mission was going to mission reunions. Since my mission president is from Guatemala, however, that hadn't exactly happened.
Until now.

On Saturday afternoon, my mission president was put in as a General Authority in our church. Pretty sweet, eh? Anyway, because of this, my mission president and his whole family came up to the States, and so we returned missionaries had the amazing opportunity of having a huge mision reunion on Friday night.

 Here's a picture of everyone who was able to make it to the reunion (above)

 It was so much fun to finally be able to introduce Matt to these two amazing people who have had
such an influence on my life: my mission president and his wife. To translate from Spanish, my mission president's wife told me later that she was "enchanted" by Matt and his eveready smile and that he was just as handsome as could be. I couldn't have put it better myself :)

Here's a picture of me and my "hija" (missionary that I trained). Out of all of my companions, she's probably the one I'm the closest with. It's always so much fun to catch up with her.

The fun didn't stop there, though. On Saturday, while all the men were off at priesthood session, we mission sisters all got together over at Leatherby's (only the best ice cream place in the world!) to partake in the creamy ice cream decadence and catch up on girl stuff.

Way. Too. Much. Fun.

I relish these opportunities to once again rub shoulders with people who have made such a vast difference in my life. I love them all!

Hope you all had a lovely General Conference weekend!
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