Saturday, June 30, 2012

Balancing Act

Recently I've had an epiphany. Wait! Where are you going? Fine...

Well for those of you left (Hi Mom!), I've had an epiphany. Truly, it's still somewhat forming... even epiphanizing... as I'm typing this so I apologize if the epiphany turns to rambling and your Google Reader becomes understandingly one blog down. Now that we have an understanding, I'll get on with it.

I've suddenly become consumed. Generally. You all recall the two years when I was going through a Master's program and the only thing I blogged about was how I was in a Master's program and how the old "this is your brain on drugs" ads featuring an egg crackling in a frying pan took on new meaning for me in a, "this is your brain on finals week" sort of way. Getting my Master's was one of the hardest most satisfying things I've ever done. Would I do it again? Sure. Well... Wait! Clarification: if the memory of the horror of academia beyond undergraduate degrees was clear at the beginning of the Master's degree rather than in retrospect would I do it again? Hell no! But I did it and it's done and somehow... I'm still talking about it. And the memory must not be too traumatic if I can see a Ph.d in my future. In my future future future. Fuuuuuuuutuuuuuure-uh! The point is, during those two years, I learned the intricacies of the words "fatigued, exhausted, freak-out, inexplicable weeping" and ultimately "pride." I also learned there were limits, boundaries, and that if I could just push through, work hard, and consume mass amounts of Diet Coke, all would be well.

My friends, life is a balancing act. Am I right? I thought I'd learned that fairly well during my Master's program. Hell, people learn that lesson their whole lives! If it's not balancing school and work and life then it's balancing kids and work and life or work and goals and life or just laundry and friends and work and life. The point is, there must needs be a balance. Once one of these things or two of these things takes over the others, once it ravenously consumes the others, the balance is off and therefore, life is off. One begins to experience great discord. One begins to couple mass amounts of Diet Coke with Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets and large fry. Mmmm... Wendy's Spicy Chicken Nuggets and large fry.

Granted, there are times when things must be more focused upon to keep the others in balance; to maintain the status quo. Work is a very good example of this. Sometimes, you must work harder and longer and perhaps not sleep as well or not eat as well because there are things to do! Stuff that must be done! But even these things will round out and life can once again become balanced; or at least, not so grossly unbalanced you start to wonder if it's all worth it. I mean really really worth it. I think that's the ultimate trick, recognizing when there's been unbalance for too long and rounding something out to bring harmony to your life again. All strings humming at their perfect pitch to create the symphony of our lives. It's a lifetime task... one we must always be working towards yet, accepting that it is in fact a life long process and letting things go once in awhile.  Everyone's threshold is different. I think because I was raised in a small town, my threshold is a little lower than others. I like to take my time. I don't have a stroke if I have a free couple of hours once, twice, or three times a week. In fact, I've found that "city folk" seem to always be here and there and up and down and back and forth and late late late because their schedules are so full full full... brimming and important and I must do these things to be happy and I must double fill every second of my life for my life to be worth living AND! GASP! It used to make me feel inherently lazy... but then I remembered I'm inherently a country girl and country folk take everything a little slower despite being some of the hardest working people I know. I'm reminded of this every time I go home and start having withdrawals from "tasks"... home stamps the city out of me. It's a good thing. It's the tourtise stamping some of the intensity out of the hare.

I digress.

Lately, I've felt my life in all its aspects has become chaotically unbalanced. Physically, emotionally, spiritually, and mentally, there is disorder. It took me almost a week of inexplicable nausea, headaches, body aches, and yes even anxiety and depression to recognize that the circle I had drawn around myself had been disrupted. My internal Feng Shui had experienced a hurricane. This... was NOT.. .good. And I had let this go to such an extent that I had made myself physically ill. Flashback to my opening thoughts on getting a Master's degree. During that time, though it was busy and difficult and perhaps the work and school part was incredibly outweighing the "fun" and "social" part, I still found ways to create balance in my life. I designated two days a week where I wouldn't touch homework (finals week naturally excluded - you gots to do what you gots to do); I increased my spiritual capacity by praying more, reading more, and making time to serve in the very small ways I could. I took vacations between semesters. I went to a movie once in awhile. I found ways to insert balance outlets into my life... and though I still had a headache sometimes and had unwittingly perfected my Zombie stumble out of sheer fatigue (which I now refer to as the silver lining of this story), I was doing alright. I had safe zones. Places where the school stress couldn't go. Places where I left those parts of my life that were difficult for awhile, and surrounded myself with things that were peaceful. Unbalance in one aspect makes all those other aspects of our lives incredibly more valuable. This was a lesson I relearned over the passed couple of months that culminated over the last week in a toilet bowl (too much?).

SO! THAT, said, what I have done this weekend to restore my Zen? To center my chi. To water my blooming flower (er... what? skip).

I made lists of goals! You: "Of course she did..." Me: "Of course I did!" These lists and goals are lengthy and probably about as interesting to someone else as hours of home video vacation footage driving across the country in a mini-van... so I will just let you in on how I've attempted to balance ma'self this week.

FIRST, I got a massage. RIGHT!??! And I think I will GET a massage at least once a month to counteract the bodily manifestations of living a necessary life by the sweat of my brow! Nothing like a good rubbing to cure what ails ya.

I then bought some flowers; because flowers are beautiful. And beautiful things bring my soul into alignment. Who knew yellow flowers could have such influence. Here I am sniffing flowers... and let me tell you that was NOT an easy picture to take! Holding flowers and getting camera angles and trying to look so serene. Geez! This is why I don't even attempt to take pictures most of the time... the other half of the time is pure laziness. See: country bumpkin.

I also went to Barnes and Noble (because theres IS no NobleS!) and got me a Fresh Food Fast Healthy eating something or other cookbook. I'm of the mind that you are what you eat. No really, I feel that if you eat a balanced diet and exercise, all those other things in your life will probably be a little happier too. Like flowers. I'm pretty sure because I biked this morning that those flowers were much more yellow than they would've been had I not. Go ahead and try it. I'll be waiting here to say I told you so... with those same crazy eyes you see in the picture below.


I read novels. I've found no better way to relieve my angsty mind then by leaving my own adventure and following someone else's for awhile. It's my true escape. It was also the hardest picture to take of the entire lot but I wanted to capture the transcendent reader entering the lives of John Steinkbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. You see it there in my eyes, don't you? The grappling. I also wanted to say "Hi. I'm Andrea and I'm reading the Grapes of Wrath voluntarily because that's how very smart and bookish I am." A picture is worth a thousand humble pies.

Also, here is a picture of my feet. Because apparently all serious bloggers take hundreds and hundreds of pictures of their feet. I don't even pretend to understand this.


Jesus. :) OR, making sure my spiritual alignment is my first priority. It is my belief that if Christ is the center of our life, everything else falls into place... everything else balances out.

Tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month and in my religion (that would be da Mo'mons), we have what's called Fast Sunday on this particular Sunday. This means that we fast for 24 hours (usually Sat-Sunday) to more spiritually align ourselves with Christ, to prayerfully approach the Almighty for the needy and sick, to become more in tune with the revelatory power that is the Holy Ghost to help give direction to our lives, and any other supplications the coupling of fasting and prayer can bring one closer to God. I've never been good at fasting... and generally forget about this important monthly ritual. But this Sunday, I have not forgotten and henceforth, I will do my best to always remember. That's the face you see in this picture... my "you better remember!" face.

I plan on taking a Yoga class and maybe I really will make that massage once a month and I'll always love to read, and exercise and buy flowers, but truly, TRULY, I know deep down that if I want to find peace and balance in my life, it all starts and ends with my Spirit. It all starts and ends with Jesus Christ. And that is the most consistent, age-old epiphany we can ever have - that I've ever had - over and over again. What's truly beautiful, is He's willing to remind us over and over and over again... because he loves us. If that doesn't help you find peace, nothing will.

John 14:27:  "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

We're all a bunch of masochists anyway

I feel Pinterest is it's own sort of subversive passive aggressive evil. On the surface it's this amazingly addictive application with such "fantastically creative ideas/recipes/motivational posters featuring svelte models and toned bodies/ beautiful clothing/hair/makeup/glorious homes and vacations" when really, it's a repository for us to remember all the things we can't do, can't afford, and don't look like. And by we I mean me... because I don't see why it's fair I drag you into my disdain. But do ya feel me? Eh?


It just reminds me that because I work and because I must work out and because I then eat/sleep/repeat that I'm too tired to glue millions of tiny sparkles to Mason Jars or bake and intricately decorate 200 butterfly themed cupcakes or exercise for another three hours or truly write that award winning novel so I can afford to buy that beautiful brass bedframe and comforter from Anthropology that will naturally look fabulous in my rustic two story, woodland cottage in Southern France where I take pictures of children with red balloons tied around their wrists and blonde curls peaking out of their caps.

It just seems its own special sort of torture, doesn't it? I've also been feeling rather sick for three days so perhaps that has something to do with it too. 

Carry on.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Remember that time I went to New York?

Yay me too. And you'd think that I'd be more timely in posting about it; but I'm clearly NOT! I apologize to the wider world for my lack in post-your-vacation-timeliness. I know you've all be wondering what else I did in NYC. Wondering like we wonder if the Dark Knight Rises will deliver as much as the Dark Knight did... wondering like a man wonders if it's really worth spending $50 on a blind date because his Bishop described her as a "sweet spirit"... wondering like you wonder if you rip the tag off a mattress if you'll truly go to Federal prison...

Just trying to give you some context. Anyway...

Well here's some pictures so you can wonder about one LESS thing. Oh... also in case you STARTED wondering if E and I don't look a little matchy match in these pictures, it's because we do look very matchy matchy in these pictures. We dressed the same... and we knew it before stepping into public and didn't change. Take that common sense! What followed was ceremonious accosting of street vendors and tourist traps as well as eye rolls and "psh's" from locals. All in a days work "HEY! We are TOURISTS from the WEST! So bright! So matchy! So great!"

These here pictures is that thar Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently we walked over it "back-ways" since we started in Manhattan and walked to Brooklyn. Never the less, I didn't mind walking backwards sometimes to mentally capture the view. If you think about it, it's almost metaphorical somehow. Almost...

Below you will find several pictures of my travel buddy E, and me with an Eastern Slovak fellow whose name means Hope, caravanning around Central Park in a "tuk-tuk" lady (if you'll pardon the Thai expression). It may seem like he made up his name-meaning because how the hell would we know any different, except for the fact he was hesitant to tell us what his name meant in English since "eets A gurls vame he-ar." Yes, Hope, yes it is.  But it's okay, we won't judge... you pretty pretty Princess, you.  

This here was only a small part of our Central Park tour. Because Slovak Hope took approximately 623 pictures of us in Central Park, we started to get a little creative with our posing towards the end. Here you see the matching travelers looking up at an ornate ceiling in awe. 

And here you see some of NYC's finest wild life... a turtle. In fact, I would go so far as to say this fella will one day a be a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle as he is already boasting a healthy green glow. You go, turtle.... you go.

Here you see us being very unoriginal but still hip. "Imagine all the peep-all... in peeeheee...eeeeese.."

The below two pictures I call "All I need in life" section... books to be my religion... I mean books and religion. 

Speaking of weird religions.. here's a REALLY great story that nicely rounded out Day 2 in NYC. Oh yes, we did all this in Day 2... mostly. 


After leaving Central Park we had a few hours to kill before meeting up with some friends and going to eat somewhere fabulous I clearly do not know the name of now because that would've been useful for anyone else out there who wants to go to NYC and eat good food. Listen, just eating anywhere in NYC is eating good food. You don't need ME to tell you where to go... just go and you'll wonder how you've lived so long eating the crap we have back in Utah. I also picked up on snobbery whilst in NYC, dahling. OH! I WILL tell you however, you SHOULD find the Waffle Cart lingering around Central Park and get yourself a couple of freakishly good Belgian Waffles. I got two and was not ashamed. Easily the most deliciously delectable dynamics of damn fine dining I've ever experienced. Diggity do.

Where was I...

Oh yes... weird religions. Leaving Slovak Hope at Central Park (more potential metaphors... or band names), we made the decision to trek up and take a gander at the NYC LDS Temple. En route, we decided to quench our thirst a la Powerade at a sidewalk stand. It had been a long day and I was somewhat staring into oblivion on this  random street corner, a very vacant expression on my face which I'm sure was extremely becoming, beverage in hand, when I started to check out a fine looking gentleman walking in my direction. Being a woman who likes men, I like to take time to check out fine looking gentleman if they're about. I noted his navy blazer, his killer jeans and square toed leather shoes. As he got closer, I also noticed his confident swagger, longish rogue hair, aviator sunglasses, slightly deviated septum, my increasing desire of how much I'd like to see him run fast like in the movies, wondering why I hadn't seen Mission Impossible 4 again, and SWEET BABY SURI! I'm checking out TOM CRUISE!

And BOY was I. Mm HM!

I think I made some sort of gurgle gasp noise as he passed not 2 feet by me... a nice companion to vacant stares... so close I could SMELL him... and oh it was a good smell... before I could gather myself enough to paw at E's arm and say "Dude! Dude! Tom Cruise! Tom Cruise!" as he swaggered his way towards the Time Warner building. All gloriously mega-Star Ethan Hawk, Jet Fighter pilot, Australian Immigrant, "you-had-me-at-hello", of him. Twas one of the greater celebrity spottings of my life. And let me tell you, I've had some pretty decent celebrity spottings (cough, Matt Damon, cough, Brad Pitt, cough, Gary Oldman). In fact, there are a total of TWO things in my life I have pretty decent luck with. Very useful things too:

1. Uncanningly good vacation weather luck
2. Celebrity spotting luck - or at least above average. I mean have YOU seen Tom Cruise cough Brad Pitt, cough, Matt Damon, cough Gary Oldman cough and many many others? I thought not. Well I have! Vacant stare... gurgle gasp. Maybe one day I'll make a list.

At any rate, that was DAY 2 in NYC and I felt a good celebrity spotting rounded everything out nicely. NYC in general was a lot of tourist things and that's just how I wanted it. I mean, I couldn't very well go running around like a tourist and NOT do tourist things. If there's one thing I like more than being true to myself, it's fulfilling abject stereotypes.

Stay tuned! Day 3 is gonna knock yer socks off! Much like Tom Cruise  knocked the socks off Oprah!

BAM! No socks.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

What would make you stay? Well, an act of God mainly

So after announcing my Peace Corps intentions, there were many an encouraging accolade deposited into my various Inbox's, Facebook posts, and other various forms of communicado devices. Those variations of "You go girl!" and "Rock it like a rockstar" really strengthened my resolve to serve and increased my appreciation for all the good people I'm surrounded with. Thank you for supporting my dreams! Even if they are a little...impractical.

That said, I have had one or two (or lots) of people subsequently ask... "So, is there anything that would make you not go?"

The translation of this question is "What if you find someone to marry?"

And of course the answer would be "Well then I'd marry them... der."

But truly folks, save your "well anything could happens" for someone else because I AM going and I don't see it as very likely that after 28 years.... 12 of which I've been dating eligible... and a ridiculous amount of uncanny bad dating luck later... that THIS year will be the year I find some Atticus Finch/Agent Mulder/Indiana Jones/Elder Oaks combination that keeps me from volunteering in the Pacific Islands for 27 months. Yes, that's the combination it would take. So... if you know anyone... ;) But truly, if that happened it would be because God wanted it to... and also prove that he has a sense of humor because really? You wait until THIS year when I'm doing THIS amazing thing to throw a man-wrench in the system? Psh.


Chris Hemsworth divorcing (sad), converting to Mormonism, and finding me as his one true love and proposing before June 2013; I can positively say if THAT happened, then sure, I'd probably consider sticking around. 

"Anything" could happen... but it would have to start happening, like, yesterday. 

(P.S. I will be posting the rest of NYC and DC soon as well as some very deep thoughts I've had about Chick Flicks and the X-Files... good stuff a-comin)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Called to serve...

Several years ago I was riding in a car with a boy who, though I didn't know it at the time, would break my heart into so many pieces I wondered if it could ever be truly whole again. Of course now in retrospect, I am more than whole than I ever have been and thank my stars it ended up just how it did. Yet another indicator of many in my life that God knows a lot more about me and what I really need than I do. I like having Him in my corner.

But I'm not here to talk about all that...

I'm here to tell you that as I was riding in the car with this boy, it was Halloween or near Halloween, and it was somewhat a pseudo-date-hang-stupid-thing going to this party and that party together.Clearly very promising foundation to build upon. Oh the red flags we spot in retrospect. As we were playing the “get to know you” game, I don’t recall what question he asked me nor the vein of the conversation. I do remember however, that I mentioned how I had been looking into the Peace Corps and was considering applying to serve as a volunteer. His response to that, to this wee barely 22 year old starry eyed girl who wanted so much to impress this, silly boy, was laughter, mockery, and patronization: “HA! Peace Corps is for bitter old  ugly chicks who can’t get married. It’s for tree-huggin hippies and pot heads.”  He proceeded to make fun of anyone who would choose such a path because it was clearly based on bitterness, loneliness, and boredom.  The thought that people would choose to join such a worldwide service organization for experience, perspective, and the vast opportunity to do something outside of yourself was inconceivable to him – particularly why a woman would want to do such a thing (ya know, instead of have babies... cause you can't do both). And any woman who wanted to participate, well, that wasn’t a woman for him. To think I could've figured out that he was not someone I wanted to be with in those first 2 hours of interaction instead of wasting 24 months trying to prove to this person I was worth it. I guess we all have one of those.

But I'm not here to talk about that either...

Entering the Peace Corps didn’t stick that year. I had college, I had other plans, I had growing up to do and I can’t say it wasn’t because of this naive boy’s ill-informed opinion and narrow perspective (who, by the way, is now around 33, still single, living in perpetual man-childishness and to my knowledge, has yet to kiss a girl… soooo… I win). I can’t say it was. All I can say is, 6 years removed from that car ride that I can still as clearly in my mind as the night it happened, the timing is more right now then it was then for a lot of reasons. It’s more right now than it was 3 years ago when I almost submitted my application again after getting laid off from my first teaching job. But... didn't. Why? I don't know. Because. Because it wasn't the right reasons... the right time... and I wasn't the right person yet.

However, all that shifted because as you know, I submitted my application to be a Peace Corps volunteer  and the reasons are my reasons and, I believe, God's reasons and all the reasons I know a lot more now why it's time to press forward in more profound ways then it was 3 or 6 years ago. What’s more, none of those reasons for joining or previously not joining have anything to do with being single and angry and bored; and that's a good feeling. Contrary to popular local culture, my life does not revolve around my marital status. Rather, I want my world to revolve around nothing to do with me at all. I want my gravitational pull to be towards other people  – and that’s why…

 I will be serving the good people of the
Pacific Islands for 27 months starting June 2013. 

I guess the best thing I've gotten out of this experience so far is the stark realization I'm not that barely turned 22 year old riding in a red Jetta with a boy who doesn't know what he is missing. I win again.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The White Wizard... approaches

Naw, it's not the white wizard. It's actually two events I signed up for like a FOOL that approaches. When signing up for such things months and months in advance, the feeling of ease that comes from seeing all those ample unfilled squares of my calendar in between this day that is "today" and "that day I have to do the Triathlon" or "that day I have to run 13.1 miles" is, it turns out, short lived.

Because time marches forth. The pressure mounts. And suddenly, out of NOWHERE, June is here and Lord, love a duck! June is the month right before JULY which is the month right before AUGUST! What have I been DOING!?!? Well, I can tell you what I've NOT been doing.. and that's training as much as I probably should be.

Particularly for the swimming portion of the Triathlon. I'm going to drowned. Drowned real good... real fast. Though at least my life will end where it surreptitiously began... in ye old Huntington Utah. There's some comfort in that.

Then of course, there's that pesky half marathon in August. Not dreading that as deeply since I was suckered into running almost 9 miles a couple of weekends ago so what's another 4.1? Child's play.

Thus - with said events looming, I've constructed the following schedule. Admire the color codes! The efficiency! The hope! The ambition!

I'm very good at making plans and organizing... but could probably work on follow through. I guess now's a good a time as any to start working on that too!