Archive | October 2010

The Shape of Panic

Seal of the Internal Revenue Service

Seal of the Internal Revenue Service, Image via Wikipedia

What? Two posts in one day?  Cori, are you feeling okay?

Ahem.

Upon giving myself a few extra minutes to get to the bus stop, I stopped and checked my mail.  This has become a regular thing since starting school.   I think I must be confusing the hell out of the mail-lady.

Anyway, upon sorting through the flyers, advertisements, postcards from local politicians who don’t realize that sending me that stuff makes me less likely to vote for them,  and bills (seriously, what’s with all the bills?  I paid for electricity like a month ago) I found this:

 

Do. Not. Want. Also: I'm really bad at opening envelopes.

 

Cue the hasty exit of any sense of calmness and rationality.

As I was waiting for the bus, I left the mail in the mailbox, with the plan of picking it up on the way back from school.  And, for some reason, (crazy, huh) I couldn’t stop thinking about this letter from the IRS.

Why were they sending me a letter?  It’s not a check, it’s a letter.  What do they want?  This could be really bad.  But, if it was really bad, it would have been a certified letter, or someone would have come and knocked on my door in person, right?  That’s what happens on TV and in the movies, right?  They just sent me a check for $37.  Do they want their $37 back?  I already spent it.  Okay, so it wouldn’t be hard to find another $37… and so on and so forth.

Finally (I missed the bus I wanted to get on, but that’s okay because it was running early, so I wasn’t late for class or anything)  I went back to the mailbox and pulled out the letter.  I figured if I was going to be freaking out, I might as well see if there was something worth freaking out over.  It could be nothing after all.  Never mind that even when it’s nothing, in my head, it’s never nothing.

Upon opening the envelope, I discovered this:

So, instead of including a note in envelope with the check for $37, they sent me another piece of mail, telling me that they sent me a check for $37.  Bureaucracy, folks.

Deconstructing the bad day

Last week was one of the worst of my life.  Since then, I’ve been thinking about what makes a bad day, or a bad week for that matter.  Is it that the events of said day are truly horrible, or is it that we focus on the horrible, but ignore the good?

I’m inclined to believe that it’s the former.   Something happens to put us in a bad mood, and consciously or subconsciously, we focus on the things that will reinforce our bad mood–we notice the jerk who cuts us off in traffic, but not the person who lets us in.  We gripe about forgetting our umbrella, but don’t notice how wonderful the rain is.

Sunday, things turned around for me.  I made it to church–I’m claiming all three meetings, but that might be stretching it–I had what amounted to a therapy session during Sunday School.

I’ve been trying to focus more on the positive in my life, and let the stress go–something that’s nigh-on impossible for me.  I know that it’s foolish to worry about things that I can’t control.

For now, all I can do is focus on my schooling, and know that whatever happens, happens.  I’m trying not to stress, but that can always lead to stressing because I’m stressed out, which just turns into this whole big mess…

Life and more

Oakland California Temple Grounds

Image by B Evershed via Flickr

It’s currently 6:51 am.  My alarm clock is going to go off in ten minutes, but I woke up an hour ago, and was unable to get back to sleep.

I started my intermediate algebra class this week, and am feeling overwhelmed.  Math–well, I understand why people like math.  I’m not one of them.  I could be, but I tend to be careless with things like negative signs and distinguishing the difference between, say 34 and 43, then get frustrated when the problems I’m working on don’t turn out.

Because it’s a second block class, we have to move at double-time, which, at the moment is more than a little overwhelming.  I got back from class at about seven last night, walked the dogs, had some dinner, then worked on my math homework for three hours.  How did you spend your Friday evening?

I know that the feeling of drowning in a sea of integers is, like when I started school at the beginning of the semester, stemming from me being in a rut for so long, and not dealing with change well–as well as having to re-learn how to think in math again for the first time in more than ten years.  I think I’m getting the hang of things, though.

Maybe.  I’m behind on my homework, and it could be that when I get to the stuff that we talked about yesterday, I’ll be just as lost as I was on the first day.

It’s been a momentous week–one that feels like it’s lasted much longer than seven days, and I’m trying to think of the best way to segue without turning into a travel log (is such a thing possible if I only travel between my house and campus?)

Tuesday, upon checking the mail, I found a check from the federal reserve.   Upon opening it, I discovered it was for…wait for it… $37.

Yay?

Okay, so it was significantly less than what I was expecting, but obviously, I made a mistake on my taxes or else I would have gotten them back in May or June.  Which also explains why my grant got hung up on the “how much did you pay in taxes last year” question…

At any rate , while I was disappointed in the amount, thirty-seven dollars is thirty-seven dollars, and, upon combining that money with the money I’d been saving for weeks, if not months, gave me enough to buy a nook–which I absolutely love.  And I love that I only had to pull three dollars and change out of my bank account to purchase it.   The books to go on the nook on the other hand–

No, that’s not really fair.  While I have purchased books, most of the ones I’ve downloaded came either from the library or public domain, and thus were free.   I’m limiting the amount of money I can spend on books each month, and am going to have to force myself to stick to my very small limit–I could easily go way overboard when I can buy books from anywhere with just a few clicks.

On a more serious note…

Back in May, one of my uncles was in a serious car accident.  While undergoing surgery to repair the damage, it was discovered that he had terminal cancer.

He recovered from his injuries, and began treatment for the cancer.  For a while, he seemed to be doing quite well, but last week, he went downhill, and quickly.  Last Sunday, he enrolled in hospice care, and Thursday, he passed away.

How do I put this?  I’m sad to have lost George, but at the same time, I’m glad he’s not suffering anymore.  There’s a scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants: (Section 43: 45-48)

Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die, and more especially for those that have not hope of a glorious resurrection.

And it shall come to pass that those that die in me shall not taste of death, for it shall be sweet unto them; And they that die not in me, wo unto them, for their death is bitter.

And again, it shall come to pass that he that hath faith in me to be healed, and is not appointed unto death, shall be healed.
I hope to be able to go to the funeral, but I also need to be realistic about the struggles I’m having in school–I don’t think I can afford to miss a class.
Things seem to go in cycles–a couple of weeks ago, I had one of those weeks when everything went my way, this week, it seems that everything is going wrong.  I guess the best I can do is muddle through, and know it’ll get better, eventually.  Right?

Update

So, I’m not dead.  I feel dead, but I’m not dead.

I’ve been hit hard by a stomach bug with a terrible sense of timing.  I start my math class tomorrow, and I’m just praying that I’ll feel good enough to make it to school tomorrow.  And, you know, not have to sit by the door.   I’m to the point now where I’m hungry, but am afraid to eat.

The worst part is I can’t really complain about a night spent in the bathroom, because Mom had a trip to the emergency room yesterday.   She’s okay, they got things taken care of, and she was able to make the two-hour trip back to her house after all was said and done.

So…I’m still here.

I don’t have smart dogs.

So, a few months back, I re-arranged my bedroom.  Before that time, the dog crate was at the foot of my bed, and I had taught the dogs that they could jump from the floor to the top of the crate, then from the crate to the bed, thus, saving me from having to completely wake up in the middle of the night when Lulu goes investigating, then comes back and wants to get back in the bed, but is too lazy/thinks she can’t get all the way up herself.

Lately, Lu has been waking me up in the middle of the night.  A lot.  So I decided that however awkward and weird it looks, I needed to put the crate somewhere where the dogs could use it to get on the bed.

Funny thing,  when you don’t ask a dog to do something for five months, they forget how to do it.

So, all day, we’ve been working on re-learning how to use the crate to get on the bed.  Like the first time around, Max got it in one go.  Lulu…  not so much…

And just when I was congratulating Max on his cleverness, he started growling at the video of himself.

It’s a good thing they’re cute.

Free Range Reading

let your kids read to you

Image by woodleywonderworks via Flickr

Last week was National Banned Book Week, when the American Library Association basically celebrates the books that people have tried (with varying degrees of success) to get banned from either local or school libraries. The whole idea is, in a nutshell, to poke fun of those who try to ban books, especially classics, and to promote literature and reading in general.

In the back of my mind, I’ve been trying to connect the idea of Banned Book Week to the Free-range kids movement, to the consternation of my conscious self. The ideas aren’t so dissimilar, but I couldn’t quite figure out what my brain was trying to tell me.

Of course, last week was a horrible, stressful time. I think I’ve got it figured out now.

So, here’s the thing; I’m a reader. I’ve been a reader ever since I was four years old. I consider myself lucky—my parent’s are both readers, and Mom was a school teacher growing up. There were always books in the house, and there was nothing quite as exciting as a trip to the bookmobile or the library, or when we took the Scholastic catalogs home.

Mom told me a story the other day; she ran into a woman who taught the first dance classes that Sis and I took, more than twenty years ago, now. She remembered Mom had two daughters, and asked about us, even if she couldn’t remember our names, she knew that one of us (Sis) could dance, and the other one (me) always had her nose in a book. Talking to my elementary school teachers, this was my defining characteristic. I loved (and still do) to read.

The time came, eventually when my parents grew concerned with my reading—but not so much what I was reading, but how much I was reading. I’d spend recesses in the library with a novel rather than going out and running around and interacting with other people. I never had a book taken away from me because it wasn’t “age appropriate” or contained foul language or violence or sex or any of the other excuses that people use when they’re complaining about books. That’s not to say my parents had no influence over what I read, but it was more in the vein of putting good books in my hands, rather than taking bad books out.

Now, here’s the thing. Even though I never had anyone tell me what was appropriate to read, I figured it out on my own. I’d read enough that I could tell what was good and what was bad.   For instance, I remember, when I was in middle school, I briefly developed an obsession with a series of cheesy romance novels set against various historic backgrounds. They all followed the same basic plot of a love triangle—terribly romantic when you’re 12, until you realize you can tell who the heroine is going to end up with by the illustrations on the front cover.I remember taking books back to the library unfinished because I knew I shouldn’t be reading them. My parents taught me right from wrong—and then let me act according to what I’d been taught. Insanity, I know.

I don’t know how old I was when I read books like “Fahrenheit 451”, or “To Kill a Mockingbird”, or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” for the first time—but I know for all three books I was younger than the intended audience. Crazy thing—jumping into these worlds that explore difficult and painful topics didn’t scar me for life, instead, they helped me understand these difficult topics, and why I should care about them. To put it another way—reading books like “To Kill a Mockingbird” and “Huck Finn” taught me more about why racism is wrong than—well, pretty much anything else until the day my sister adopted an African-American child. What would I have missed out on if my parents or teachers had freaked out because I was reading a book that used the “n” word repeatedly?

The whole idea behind the Free-range kids movement is that kids grow up eventually. And, in order to be responsible, capable adults, kids need to learn to do things, figure things out, and think for themselves. When kids are coddled, or prevented from any sort of failure, or told how or what to think, how can they manage to become well-rounded adults? We learn from experience, and just like denying kids the experience of making friends and interacting with strangers and failing will inevitably lead to stunted adults, so too, I think, by denying kids the opportunity to decide for themselves the difference between a good book and a bad book only leads kids to stop reading.

Conference, Pt 1

LDS General Conference Crowd Photography

Image by JeremyHall via Flickr

Well, it’s the first weekend of October, which, for Latter-day Saints around the world means only one thing:  It’s time for General Conference!

Conference happens twice a year; the first weekend in April and the first weekend in October.  For the general membership, it’s divided into four session, two on Saturday, and two on Sunday, with each session lasting 2 hours.  With a two hour break between sessions.  There’s also the General Priesthood session for the men and youths, with a session for the Young Women in April, and a session for the Relief Society (adult women) in October, usually a week or two before the big weekend.

I wonder if I could shove the word “session” in the last paragraph one more time…

I made a point to pay special attention to this conference, partly because with April’s conference falling on the same weekend as Easter, I didn’t receive as much instruction as was given, and partly because I’m taking a teachings of the living prophets Institute class.

I consider myself blessed, or lucky, or both to have been able to watch the entirety of conference this year–it starts at 10, and I have my Art History classes Saturday Mornings from 8-10:30.  But, luck or providence or a professor who graduated from BYU not to long ago and constantly talks about her time there, let us out an hour early.  She even mentioned that she wouldn’t be able to watch conference because she has another class.

And I have to say, it’s a little surreal to go and hear the words of the Lord after spending an hour and a half studying sculpture from a time when, apparently, nobody wore pants.

So, my impressions of conference:  I’m not going to copy my notes, because if you really want to know what was said, you can go find out for yourself.

I was fully expecting to miss the first talk, so I’m especially grateful to have heard the words of Jeffery R. Holland.  He talked about how each of us is loved individually by our Heavenly Father, and how we are important in the church as individuals.  He talked about service and sacrifice, and specifically mentioned the strength and faith of the women of the church.  If that was the only talk I heard this weekend, it would have been enough.

I should probably mention that topics are not assigned, each speaker is only given a time.  Even within the scope of the Gospel, it’s interesting to see what themes come out.

Today, there seemed to be three:  Faith, family and prophets.  There were two mentions of a devotional given by Ezra Taft Benson in 1980, called “14 Fundamentals in Following the Prophet“.  We were told repeatedly that our actions today can affect generations.

This afternoon Elder Neal L. Anderson talked about faith–another talk that seemed to be aimed specifically at me.  He specifically mentioned a trial of faith that I’ve been wrestling with lately.  He talked about how, when our faith is tried, we have a greater opportunity to learn of God’s will, if we turn to Him with our questions and concerns.

Today was an excellent day, and I can’t wait to see what tomorrow holds.

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