Some Old Time Religion

A young man referred to this song during his talk today in church. It’s one of my favorite old gospel tunes.

The young man’s talk was about gratitude, and throughout his remarks he expressed sincere thanks and appreciation for many blessings in his life. He demonstrated a positive attitude, and he inspired me to be more grateful more often.

The Eva Cassidy recording of this song is one of my favorites because she brings out a lot of the inherent emotion in the song. Like she truly can’t help singing about the Lord in her life. That’s an admirable condition to have, involuntary proclamations of gratitude.

Thankfulness seems such a conscious state of mind or being, but I imagine many of us develop an awareness of behaviors that become second nature. Can someone be grateful and not know it?

I haven’t blogged in a month. It’s time to catch up on a few things.

  • Vacation
  • Hikes
  • Hanging out with friends
  • Paula Deen
  • DOMA, possibly
  • Games
  • Weather
  • Art of conversation
  • Movie/Song/Book reviews

This week I have to prepare a Relief Society lesson to give next Sunday. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies. I have been thinking about the lesson the whole month, so it’s a matter of organizing my thoughts and hopefully teaching a few things my fellow sisters need to hear.

This Seems Interesting

A few weeks ago I was doing some research for my freelance blogging gig and I came upon a non-profit organization called 10×10 whose mission intrigued me. Here’s a draft of what I wrote about the NPO:

The Influence of 10×10: Educate Girls, Change the World

In August 2012, Forbes magazine published an article about the five most powerful women in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) careers. The author of the article is Holly Gordon, the executive director and executive producer of the social campaign, 10X10: Educate Girls, Change the World. Her organization and website set an example for others who want to increase social awareness for educating women throughout the world.

About 10X10

According to the website, 10X10 is a social movement that uses many social media channels. It is also a feature film called “Girl Rising” that encourages using “the power of storytelling and the leverage of strategic partnerships to deliver a single message: educating girls in developing nations will change the world.”

10X10’s mission statement is ambitious, but not impossible. It instills hope and inspires action. Holly Gordon firmly believes that “educated girls dramatically improve the well-being of their families, their communities, and their countries.” These girls develop into women who can powerfully impact their societies by helping to change conditions that lead to terrorism and by reducing:

  • poverty
  • child mortality
  • population growth
  • HIV infection rates
  • corruption

Film Influence

Award winning directors and other creative have collaborated to produce “Girl Rising.” 10X10 works with progressive non-profit organizations, celebrities, political leaders, corporations and concerned citizens “to build a global movement to demand equal opportunity for girls.”

Academy Award nominee Richard Robbins directs the film, whichtells the stories of 9 extraordinary girls from 9 countries, written by 9 celebrated writers.” Nine actresses narrate the film: Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett, Selena Gomez, Freida Pinto, Meryl Streep, Kerry Washington, Chloe Moretz, Priyanka Chopra and Alicia Keys.

You can watch the full trailer and check for local screenings at the 10X10 website. For additional information you can also visit the film’s website.

Web Influence

Through strong and wide-reaching website hosting, people around the world can access 10X10’s message. Large corporations realize the power of their contribution and are talking about their own influence to further 10X10’s cause. Rural and obscure villages can even use the website to increase their awareness of the potential of their girls.

The organization has a goal of one billion impressions and a million actions from people around the world. This kind of virality will encourage policy changes in various countries worldwide. 10×10 strives to work with policy leaders to impact global institutions and hopefully sway world governments to implement and enforce laws and policies “that ensure every girl has an equal opportunity to fulfill her full potential.”

10×10 works with organizations with a proven reputation for educating girls. In a professional symbiosis, 10X10 and the organizations promote each other. The institutions tell each other’s stories and help to encourage donations for programs “that help girls get into and stay in school.”

In addition to promoting the film, the website has educational videos, a link for making donations, and a blog with regular updates. Readers can also spread the news of 10X10 by email subscribing to updates and by linking to the website on their favorite social media channels.

With rapid and widespread dissemination of 10X10’s goals, Holly Gordon’s vision of educating girls worldwide will come true. If more people become involved and believe that educating girls can change the world, more people will take action. The girls will believe in themselves, take positive action in their communities, and the world will become a better place.

Then last week I received an invitation on facebook to reserve tickets for a possible screening in Provo. I knew it wasn’t a coincidence, as I have wanted to see the film for a few weeks now. In order make the screening happen, at least  100 people have to make reservations. As of this writing, only 14 have reserved tickets.

If you’re in the Provo/Orem area and want to see a film about important global issues, make reservations now. Seriously, you have about 8 hours. It’s for a good cause.

ETA: The Orem screening fell through. We now have 5 days to make the Salt Lake City Screening happen. Do it.

Assessment

Earlier this week I finished Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird. The author offers useful advice about the writing process, and I especially like what she has to say about paying attention and workshopping. The book has brought me to ask myself not only how I should write, but what I should be writing.

Lamott says that “there is ecstasy in paying attention…. Anyone who wants to can be surprised by the beauty of pain of the natural world, of the human mind and heart, and can try to capture just that – the details, the nuance, what is.” Annie Dillard’s writing demonstrates this kind of surprise and delight. I have been reading and rereading Dillard’s nonfiction since I was 16, and if someone decided to destroy all the poems in the world, I would still find solace and joy in Annie Dillard. I appreciate the intuition that goes beyond reason, all meanings manifest in a single word. What Hopkins did with inscape in his poetry, Dillard does in her prose. I don’t know if I could ever write like Dillard, but she always reminds me how much I like writing, because I really like paying attention.

Lamott also describes the value of getting people to read your stuff and providing honest, constructive feedback. I always get nervous whenever I have asked friends and reliable readers to critique my writing, but it’s ultimately beneficial to get another perspective. (I’m actually waiting on some feedback right now.) And people’s comments often emphasize that being a good writer also means being a good reader, and I need to revise my work with that in mind.

I’ve had the opportunity to give feedback on several projects friends have been working on. I can’t help feeling that these readings are little nudges to get back on the horse. A friend asked me to look over her blog post, six solid and enjoyable pages of funny anecdotes and observations of a roadtrip. For the past three years, I’ve been looking over a friend’s phases of a book he’s working on, at least 80,000 words. And I recently read the 30-page outline for another friend’s really fun-sounding book. I can’t get over how brilliant these friends are. They do so many incredible things with words, and I always feel self-conscious in my comments on their work. I always feel humbled that they would ask me to read their writing.

Whenever Reilly and I walk by the YA section of a bookstore, Reilly tells me that we could easily write a book better than most of those on the shelves. So what about my own writing? Writers use SO MANY different sources. Do I write about my limited, but really cool travels? Do I try to fictionalize intense personal experiences? Do I draw from mythology or a specific point in a culture’s history? Do I try to show up 98% of the YA writers in the world? I haven’t been participating in NaNoWriMo, but should I do it at least once? The short and not very definitive answer to these questions is: Yes. At least it has been affirmed that:

I have a pretty good sense of how to arrange words into sentences sometimes
I can write a blog/online journal post
I can write an outline for a novel/memoir

It’s time to saddle up.

Dear Blog

It’s not you, it’s me.

I’m doing a lot of things I didn’t think I’d do. That first line, for instance. Why do people say that? But I’m not breaking up with you, blog, though I don’t know if an explanation for my neglect is what you’re looking for. It’s been an interesting semester, and I wonder if I had the same discipline in years past maintaining this blog during this semester, . . .  I don’t know. Something had to give. A lot of things did.

Other people have come into my life, blog. When I make friends, that doesn’t seem to distract me from blogging, but this instance — this individual —  seems to be an exception. And that’s because I spend a lot of time with this person, time I could have been spending on blogging.

Don’t get me wrong: I still love to blog, blog. But there’s more out in the world to love. But you probably mean that I can always blog about the things I love, and I can understand your point.

Consider what I’ve blogged about: Everyday, mundane, natural. My complaints, depression; idiot boys, crazy and wonderful friends and school things.

I’m beginning to understand, blog.

I should be keeping better track of this time of my life.

One semester left, and it’s going to be crazy.

I took the GRE on November 22, and my math and verbal raw scores were very close. Either I’m equally deficient or equally genius in those categories.

About 20 pages of stuff are due this week. I don’t really feel like writing for any of my classes.  It is the last week of class, and as I type this, I’m finally feeling some anxiety about finishing the semester well. Strongly. Without failing.

Classes this semester were terrific and fun. I learned so much, and I wish I cared enough about grades to let the work reflect just how much I enjoyed classes. When I went. Which was most of the time. I’d rather just sit and absorb, but for some reason someone decided that writing papers as an English major would be a good evaluation of academic progress. Which: fine.

I could continue writing about my classes and friends, or I could try being one of those annoying blogs that goes on and on about a boyfriend. What a great guy he is. I could document about all the PDA we avoid, except when he walks me to my door at night, and then it’s really short, accompanied by a whispered but confident expression of deep and mutual emotion.

If I kept it up the whole semester, it would have started out as a weekly report of weekly incidents, but then it would have progressed to a weekly or daily recounting of daily events. Hours spent together, every. Single. Day. Conversation about family and books and movies and music. And life. Initial nervousness turning into pure comfortability leading to talks about a future together and togethering together.

It’s really none of the world’s business, this guy. All the world needs to know is that he’s incredible and caring and thoughtful, and he lets me be goofy, and I let him make me happy. But that’s obvious even outside of the context of our dating. It’s not like I need a rooftop tour to shout about it or announce that he’s coming to Florida to meet my family at Christmastime.

It’s serious, blog. You deserved to know.

And I am trying to tell you.

I Am Wearing A Snuggie

I am also about to watch another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Sometimes I’m weird.

On Wednesday, I had a work bowling party. Nine of us came to the BYU Games Center, and I only knew one other person. We divided ourselves into two lanes, and I ended up going third out of the five people on the right lane.

So, at first, whenever it wasn’t my turn, I talked to the one person I knew, but as the game progressed, I loosened up a little and started at least commenting on other people’s games.

Also, I’m really good at being excited for people. I will cheer for you and cheer for you, and I will feel bad for you if I know that you really wanted that strike, or if the gutter was particularly merciless.

Anyway, all that outwardness didn’t stop me from winning. By 50 points over the 2nd-place person. Of course I wasn’t boasty (of course?), and I especially don’t like attention from people I don’t know, so I made sure to deflect attention and accept compliments and the quickly shoot compliments back. The outwardness didn’t help the awkwardness.

It’s sometimes really hard for me to accept compliments, but I do practice at saying “thank you” and actually feeling grateful.

Then later on in the week I admitted to someone that I can be anal retentive.

I spent most of this morning packing up my room before going on a bike ride with some friends. When we got back, I popped some popcorn and we relaxed a bit before moving my stuff to my new place. We laughed a lot about some things, and I laughed until I cried about a thing that I can’t talk about here just in case somebody’s somebody happens to come upon this blog. It’s just hilarious to me.

So, we packed up my friends’ van and moved a lot of things over to the new place.

Then we returned to the old place and saw that I left my NYC subway map on the wall. I removed the pushpins and took down the map and began folding it while my friends were telling a story or texting their family or something. When they finished, I asked them, “Do you know what makes me so happy?” And, they let me answer: “When I can fold a map, and it isn’t wonky and it can lie perfectly smooth when it’s nicely folded.” And they were like, “Uh, sure.”

Then we went out for sushi, because my friends are the best for helping me move, plus one of my friends received a text coupon for a buy-one-roll-get-one-free deal, so we had to take advantage of it. The food was great, and I might have eaten too much, because the rice in my stomach is staging a coup. Too crowded. Overpopulated. Not equal benefits for everyone.

After dinner, we stopped by the new place again to drop off a few other things. We looked at my bed, which was on cinder blocks so that I could store things beneath it. The bed isn’t pushed up against the wall, but a few inches from it, and I expressed a small fear that the bed might not be stable enough. I shook the bed, and the cinder blocks rocked a little. A friend asked if I was going to rock the bed like that, and I said that I wasn’t going to tell her. Personal stuff, you know?

Anyway, I ended up saying that I didn’t want to push the bed against the wall yet because I needed to make the bed, that I really like making beds, that once I make the bed and get all the hospital corners right then I’ll push the bed against the wall and it will be safer. I said that I make my bed every day, that sometimes I’ll completely strip my bed just so that I can make the whole thing over. I said that it is soothing and that it helps me clear my mind.

The same thing goes for most housework.

I can’t believe I’ve dedicated 700 words to how weird I am. Maybe I should scratch that and include the last eight years of blogging. Which is even harder to believe. Maybe not as hard if you’re not me, but maybe you should be grateful that isn’t the case.

Whatever. It’s time for Buffy.

Negligence Compensated

Not really. But I feel so remiss when I don’t update as much as I used to. Blame darn school.

I’m just going to paste a few excerpts from responses to prompts from one of my classes. I like the class a lot.

This is part of a response to a prompt about literacy, but shucks, it’s truer than true with my writing.

I suppose that whatever I try to write makes them vacillate between realities, either jarringly or gently, opening their eyes to more possibilities, or at least reminding them that once they internalize the ideas these words represent, they’ll always have access to them.

After reading this fairy tale, I wrote:

If I were a nonconformist fairy tale author in the nineteenth century, I would enjoy poking fun at the social expectations of the day. I’d create a king who demands a daughter from his wife-queen, with an open disclaimer and subtext about actually wanting a son, so as not to put undue pressure on his wife-queen, which essentially effects said pressure. And just to spite and/or please her husband-king, I’d make the queen bear a lovely and beautiful daughter.

Oh, the dear infant’s christening! How much more can a sister-witch feel jilted than by her brother not inviting her to the grand christening? First of all, she’s a witch, which immediately casts her in her brother-king’s shadow, and second of all, she’s a witch, and everybody knows not to slight his own sister, especially if she’s a witch. It might be within the Divine Right of Kings to make mistakes without the same kind of accountability as punishable society, but being a sister-witch to the king also makes her a sister-witch-princess – Princess Makemnoit, to be exact – and somehow she turns the christening into a cursing! Interesting caveat.

So, the heir to the throne is not only a daughter, but also weighs nothing. And, she laughs too much. Not suitable at all for anyone who will need to find a husband-king and to rule with gravity (horrible pun intended).

And, she finds no satisfaction on dry land, but she discovers that she can think more deeply in the water. She realizes she has substance when she swims. The light-princess meets a prince who helps her with these self-realizations, and the possibility of marrying and becoming a happy merman-mermaid couple is not so far-fetched. After all, what were his chances of meeting a weightless light-princess with a chronic laugh?

Love is the cure for such an ailment (of course it is), and when the prince offers his life to save the light-princess, she struggles to return the favor. She does save him, and she is glad to have him and finally cries, at least a lake’s worth of tears, the materialization of all her emotions culminating to a proper sobbing, causing it to rain, relieving the drought, ensuring that the lake never recedes to a dangerous level again.

Happily ever after, of course. I would be trying too hard as a nonconformist author of fairy tales in the nineteenth century if it were a different ending. But the happiness here is relative to gravity, and the prince and princess live without fear of curses upon their children that render them as electrons, without matter. In the end, everyone matters.

Un Plan

So, I know about who’s in Australia, some people in Utah, and a lot of people along the East Coast. I don’t know about anybody anywhere else. Western Europe, Russia, East and Central Asia; the one blip in South America; and who’s the little guy swimming in the middle of the South Pacific? He’s probably browsing the internet while holding an umbrella-adorned beverage and wearing board shorts (and nothing else) and sitting under a palm tree as the waves crash upon the shore. Lucky. According to the information, he’s from Wallis and Futuna.

I imagine whoever’s in Russia is doing the exact opposite. Is that even still Russia? Yep, I checked. Parka, boots, slow internet; tundra, timberline; vodka.

This weekend is going to be busy with school stuff. The university should just make this whole next week part of Thanksgiving break. I’ve overheard a lot of conversations about people leaving tonight to fly/drive home to spend time with their families. I vote throwaway days, since there’s no class on Wednesday anyway.