Archive | August 2011

The things that make us different make us the same.

Yesterday was remarkable.

The fact that yesterday was so amazing leaves me with an interesting conundrum–I’ve been trying all day to organize my thoughts and feelings about what I experiences in a way that feels not preachy and interesting. The problem with these life-changing revelations is that they tend to apply only to the life of the person who experienced it.

So, yesterday, my local NPR station broadcast an extraordinary interview with a man who is both openly gay, and a faithful member–and employee of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You can hear it here. This interview led me to Wilcox’s pet project–beyond the film discussed in the interview–The Empathy First Initiative. The EFI Facebook page had this video of a TEDtalk linked to it.

First off–why had no one told me about TED? It’s amazing.

Second, I realize I just linked an hour and twenty minutes of media that, while I found utterly fascinating and life changing, others may not.  What follows is what I found apropos, if you don’t want to watch and listen to those links.  Or, even if you do.

So, here’s how I understood all of this. In Randall Wilcox’s discussion on what it means to be a gay Mormon, he talked about embracing his whole self. When he accepted who and what he was, he became more spiritual–contrary to what Orthodox Mormons tend to believe about homosexuality, and what it means to be gay.

The other thing Wilcox discusses beautifully is empathy.  Rather than looking at a person as an object–oh, he’s gay, or she’s a democrat, or their poor–he encourages us to look beyond, to see the person who has thoughts and feelings and ideas. To not dismiss someone as an abomination or a bigot, for instance, but to try to understand their thought process and the life-experiences that led them to those conclusions.

Brene Brown’s talk is on similar lines, in that she discusses empathy as well. But what stood out to me in her talk was the notion that when we numb the negative in our lives–the pain, the depression, the vulnerabilities–we numb everything. I think I’d subconsciously come to the same conclusion, at least in regards to my depression.  When I started to open up about the fact that I am depressed, and stopped pretending that everything was fine, I started to feel better.

Brown also talks about vulnerabilities–we are all vulnerable. Everybody has something that makes them vulnerable, but it’s the people who embrace their vulnerabilities who thrive, who can love and be loved, while those who try to hide their vulnerabilities struggle, blame others, and spend their lives searching for meaning.

This makes perfect sense, and it’s something that I’ve begun to put into practice.  I’ve been dredging up those deep, dark places within my soul and mind, examining everything and–and I think this is the important bit–not reburying those imperfections that make me vulnerable. I’ve realized that all the self-destructive things that I do are because I feel vulnerable, and I’m trying to either hide the vulnerability, or the shame that comes from being vulnerable.

But, by embracing who I am, the dark scary parts and all, I can become a better person, one who has the capacity to love herself, and by extension, others. I feel like I’m taking the first steps on an important journey.

Now, I do understand that this is all shiny and new, and in a couple of months, the shine will probably have worn off–this post is as much a reminder to me as anything. By getting the words down, it cements the way I’m thinking or feeling. I also know that it might be too much to ask that these few words might help someone else. And you know what? I’m okay with that. Right now, me becoming a better person is all I can ask for.

Temple Square

I’m in the midst of a two-week break between semesters.  Besides waiting less-than patiently for my summer semester grades to be posted (I’m really only worried about my Math class, I’m pretty sure that I didn’t get lower than a “B” in any of the other classes), I’ve been trying to find things to do to keep from being bored–how in the world did I manage two and a half months as a kid?

Anyway, given my sudden influx of all sorts of time, I’ve had a craving to get my watercolors out. The problem is, I’ve let my sketching taper off, and I didn’t have a clear inspiration for a painting.

To that end, I went to Temple Square in Salt Lake City yesterday. And, because I can’t visit Salt Lake without bugging Sis, I dragged her, G and E along with me.

It’s been a while since I’ve been to Temple Square–and I have to say, going on a Tuesday afternoon in the summer is a much more pleasant than going at Christmas Time. I’m a cold weather kind of gal, but I’ll take 90’s and no crowds to 20’s and loaded with tourists.

The original idea was to do some sketching there, but I threw my camera in my purse as an afterthought.  Which, had I been thinking, I would have just taken the camera–there was no way that I could have expected a 5-year-old and a 18 month old to wait patiently while I sketched. It was hard enough getting them to wait patiently while I took pictures.

I was more interested in the gardens than the architecture, but still:

It’s something of a requisite shot.

At the Conference Center. Not happy that his Mom and Aunt were telling him to stay out of the water.

In the lobby of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building. Originally known as Hotel Utah, it was built in 1911. Love the Art Nouveau styling.

Now, onto the gardens:

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

There were lots of gorgeous hostas, which, I think will work well for watercolor painting.

Hostas, or any plant with gorgeous greenery, really, make me think of an allegory once told me. I was taking a religion class, and my instructor was talking about having bought her first house, and putting in a garden. Her mother had suggested only plants that produced flowers or fruits, and getting rid of everything else. The point was we should fill our lives with productive things. In my literal-minded view of the world, I stopped listening to the lesson, and instead thought about all the beautiful, useful plants my instructor would miss out on if she took this advice. Like hostas. I came to the conclusion that it was a bad allegory.

And yes, hostas are technically a flowering plant, but you plant them for the beautiful leaves, not the rather lackluster flowers.

Black-eyed Susan. I’ve got this sketched and stretching, as soon as it’s dry, I’m going to try painting it.

I have no idea what this beauty is. The pink and purple flowers came from the same stalk as the orange and yellow flowers. The leaves look like mint, but it doesn't smell like mint.

Petunias are flowers that I've had to learn to like--but they are so cheerful, and they like the hot weather.

Just a couple of random lilies. I love how everywhere that could grow a flower is growing a flower. G didn't believe that there weren't any fish in the water in the background.

I wasn't the only person taking pictures of flowers--and if I had been thinking like a photographer and not a painter, I would have taken pictures of people taking pictures of flowers. I'm pretty sure I was the only person taking pictures of tree bark, though.

So, I’ve got plenty of inspiration, and for a handful of change for a parking meter, I had a fun outing with my sister and nephews. I think when you live close to monuments like Temple Square, it’s easy to take them for granted.

At least, I realized on the way home that I probably should have just gone to the public garden by my house for inspiration.

In other news, I’ve opened up an Etsy shop. You can find it here. Right now, I just have dog toys for sale, but hopefully, I’ll be able to expand into more artistic territories.  I’ve even already made a sale–a feat made less impressive considering the buyer is my cousin and one of my product testers. (Thanks, Sarah!) Anyway, check it out.

Writing Creatively

Medieval illustration of a Christian scribe wr...
Image via Wikipedia

So, first of all, I’d like to fully acknowledge the irony that I’ve been neglecting my blog because of all the work that has been required from my creative writing class.

The good news is, I’ve learned a lot about myself as a writer.  For instance, I’ve discovered that I like to write creative non-fiction, which should be good news if I continue with this blogging thing.  I’ve also discovered that I have a hard time with plot, especially when it comes to endings. Which is probably why I struggle with fiction. And probably the most important thing, I’ve discovered that when I’m hashing out an idea in my head, I need to sit down with a notebook and paper.  The computer is great for the actual writing process, but, let’s face it, it’s a giant box of distraction.  If I can find a quiet corner, and organize my thoughts before I sit down to the computer, my writing will be, well, written. And I’m not going to be distracted by Wikipedia or TVtropes or my favorite blogs.

So, anyway, I’ve put a few of my stories from this class in the “Stories” tab.  But here they are in link form, for your convince.

Scout

The assignment for this story was to write in someone else’s voice. I was thinking of Mom when I wrote it; it’s her story after all.  I don’t know how well I succeeded in separating my voice from hers. And yes, Mom, I know I didn’t get all of the details right. It was for a creative writing class. I was writing creatively.

Pet Store

This assignment was to write about what my character does for a living. This exact incident never happened, but I was influenced by my time working at PetSmart.

Catch and Release

This was simply an assignment to write a piece of fiction. The first line was one chosen from a list–and I have to say, it kinda feels like I shoehorned the story to fit.

Also, I don’t know anything about fishing. But, my narrator doesn’t, either, so I suppose it all works out.

Hmm, that doesn’t seem like a lot for the amount of work I’ve done for my class, but, at the same time, it’s not everything. There’s stuff I’ve written that I absolutely hate and am not sharing with anyone I don’t have to. Also, there are stories that I’m working on revising for my final project that will go up, well, after the final.  But for now, just know that I haven’t forgotten about you!

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