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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.

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Nature

I am a country girl at heart. I grew up in a town of less than 4,000 people. We moved there when I was eight, prior to that, we lived in a community with about 200 people–and that’s where I consider home.

Moving from the country to suburbia, where I now live, has brought some advantages–it’s nice to be able to go grocery shopping without worrying about the stores closing at 9, for instance.  However, while I love not having to worry about yard maintainance, I am keenly aware that the area surrounding my condo is far more black top than grass and flowers.

But, at the end of my parking lot lies a dirt road that’s been sealed off from vehicular traffic.  Crossing over that chain is like stepping into a different world. Rather than the oceans of asphalt, you have this:

I like to take the dogs back here, but I’d kinda forgotten about it.  See, it’s only good for dog walking during the spring–in the winter, it’s too wet and slick, and during the summer and fall all that pretty green grass dries up and distributes foxtails in little dogs coats, paws and in one terrifying instance, eyes.

But for now, it’s green enough that it’s a pleasure to walk through. I’m slightly amazed at how much it’s changed since the last time I had been back there.  For instance, apparently, a civilization of tiny plastic people rose and fell, leaving behind only ruins to prove of their exsistance:


One thing about living in Utah, if you’re not right in Salt Lake City, it’s not uncommon to find bits of rurality right in the middle of town.

Besides horses, I have bees, chickens, goats and cows for neighbors.

This year, in an effort to avoid walking a whole-gasp-tenth-wheeze-of a mile-gasp to find nature, I decided to see if I could bring nature to me.  A cheap hummingbird feeder later…

This is Herbert, and he is king.  There is at least one more hummingbird that visits me on a regular basis, but only if Herbert isn’t around. I’ve seen Bogey a couple of times today, but he’s too skittish to hang around when he sees me pulling out my camera. I can understand that, he might be nervous about pictures of him feeding here getting back to Herbert.

Herbert and Bogey are both male black-chinned hummingbirds, by the way. Herbert is back-lit in that picture, and most of the times that I’ve seen him, so it’s taken me a ridiculously long amount of time to figure that out.

It’s true that being out in nature–even just being outside is good for the psyche, good for the soul. It’s easy to forget that–at least it is for me.   So, get out and explore. Even if you go to a park or field or wooded area you think you know, you might be surprised what you find.

When Mormons attack.

One of my neighbors is a LOLcat.

Shocking, I know, but how else would you explain the note left on my door today?

We’ve got the cutesy handwriting and the purposeful misspellings (unless the author of this note honestly can’t spell “please”, “night” or “thanks”, in which case, she has bigger problems than a barking Lulu). The random swearing and the passive-aggressive nature has me confused, though. These weren’t qualities that I normally attributed to LOLcats.

If we were to look at option number two, I’d almost think that this was a Mormon schoolgirl who knows she’s not going to get in trouble for swearing at a stranger if she remains anonymous.  I think she failed to take into account the fact that the random swearing and the misspelled words make me much less likely to take this seriously than if she had taken a respectful tone.

So, to my neighbor who doesn’t have the courage to face me herself:

I’m sorry about Lulu. I’ve been working on keeping her quiet for the past three years. It has gotten much better, I promise, although I do acknowledge that we have a long way to go yet.

I would like to keep her inside all day, but there are times when I can’t be home to take her for a walk before she needs to relieve herself.  This is the reason I have the dog door onto my balcony, so she can go outside, in the little yard I had built for her, and not on my carpet.

Again, I apologize for her noisy behavior. We are working on it. I wish you had told me who you are so I can explain this to you in person, and not on my obscure blog that you probably aren’t going to read.

One Week

My calendar tells me that it’s been less than a week since I went back to school.  That can’t be right.

Last week was insane, to say the least.  Every day was filled with some sort of stress, mostly of my own creation, but others…well, for instance, Wednesday morning, I was awakened when my sister called me to tell me she didn’t need surgery.

I hadn’t known that she might have needed surgery–so, okay…

After realizing I needed a change in attitude, and after trying very hard to change said attitude, things have gotten much easier. I’m getting back into the swing of student life, and, have found out a few little things that make my life much easier–like I don’t need a parking permit to park on campus on Saturdays–which is nice, because my Saturday class starts at 8am, but the buses don’t start running until 8:30.

An odd thing has happened, too.  All of a sudden, when I have stuff to do, I’m aware of the time when I don’t have anything to do.  My days now have a purpose, but once that purpose is fulfilled, or before it is time to start that purpose, I’ve become bored and restless.

Maybe that means that I’m ready to start looking for a job again.

I’m still anxious when I’m on campus.  I had dismissed the notion of getting Lulu certified as a service dog so she could come to school with me, but today, as my Isaiah class filled out, I began to revisit the idea.

I hate to think that I’ve fallen so far from the person I was, but I have.  I know I need to be around people, as annoying as they are, to be healthy and happy.

It doesn’t make the transition from being a hermit any easier, though.

Rice Crispies and Turtles

Yesterday, I had a cacophony of bad smells descend on my house–and so, in order to escape, I loaded my two gassy dogs into the car, and drove to my sister’s house.

You know, the one with the 9-month-old who thinks he needs to exclusively eat grown-up food, and thus has very…interesting diapers.

They had been to the aquarium before I got there–I was slightly disappointed, because the aquarium had become the home of a sea turtle since the last time I’d been there.

I really did try to find a text version of that, but… oh well.

Anyway, I was so jealous, I went to the aquarium today, mostly to avoid washing all my clothes that had adsorbed all the bad smells from yesterday–that’s what Fabreeze is for, right?

And I have to say, I don’t think the weights are quite doing their job…

The red is a reflection from something outside the tank.

Anyway, before I went up to Salt Lake yesterday, I felt like I needed to bribe the B-I-L into letting me continue to come to his house, so I did my part to add to the weird smell in my house, by doing some experimenting in the kitchen–and had a resounding success, if I do say so myself.

So…I don’t really measure any of these ingredients, so they’re approximations.   That’s what I love about this recipe–you don’t need to be exact to get amazing results.

The best rice-crispy treats ever

okay, I’m not good at titles.

  • 1 c peanut butter
  • 3/4 c honey
  • 1 Tsp vanilla
  • 1 Tsp cinnamon
  • 5 c crisp rice cereal
  • 1 c trail mix (I bought a mix that had peanuts, almonds, raisins and m&m’s in bulk, and that’s what I used)
  • 3/4 c dried cherries
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips

In a large bowl, combine cereal, trail mix, cherries and chocolate chips.  Set aside.

In a heavy sauce pan, combine peanut butter, honey, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Heat over medium heat until everything has melted and blended together.  Carefully pour it into the bowl with the cereal mixture.   Mix well.

Pour mixture into a greased 9×9 pan, and press down firmly.  If desired, drizzle with melted chocolate.


Simple, right?  And they are so rich and decadent.  I love the combination of the dried fruit and chocolate–and I generally dislike mixing fruit and chocolate.

So, enjoy.  And go and check out the turtle at the aquarium.  But bring a child, because it was surprisingly boring without being able to talk to all the kids about the fish.

Arachnophobes, beware.

Blame it on my father.

I recently freaked out quite a few of my Facebook friends by admitting that I find certain spiders cute–mostly jumping spiders.

I understand the aversion that most people have to spiders–they look alien, there eating habits are not to be observed by the squeamish, and, some of them bite, with painful and possibly deadly results.

Growing up in the middle of nowhere, nature was an effective classroom for Sis and me.  My dad would find spiders and snakes and lizards and show them to us, and teach us about them.  I’ve never seen Dad willingly kill a spider, he’ll catch them–bare handed, mind you, and gently take them outside.

Frankly, I’d rather have spiders in my home than insects.

Overcoming fear is always a good thing, right?  I’d suggest to any readers I might not have yet scared off to learn what the venomous spiders in your area look like, then start exploring the world of miniature.

And remember, spiders, in general, aren’t interested in attacking humans.  We are much too big to eat, so any bites or attacks come because the spider feels threatened.

Okay, the preview function has shown that I have rambled enough that any pictures now posted won’t show up when people open up “The Storyteller Chronicles”, so here are some of my favorite local spiders.

A quick thanks to Amazing Nature, Arachnids of Utah and Wild Utah Spiders for providing most of the pictures.

I was disappointed that I couldn’t find images of my two very favorite spiders, a yellow orb weaver that is not only beautiful, but weaves a beautiful web, and the cute little black and white jumping spider that I’ve only ever seen around my parent’s house.  Anyway, on to the pictures:

This picture, I think, single-handedly proves that spiders can be beautiful.  It’s a goldenrod crab spider, waiting inside a flower (Sis, that’s your cue to tell me what that flower is) for a tasty insect.

Goldenrod crab spiders are amazing, because they can change color.  Here’s the same type of spider in its yellow form:

I love how the red/orange stripe just pops on both spiders.

Okay, on to the jumpers.

Who doesn’t love these?  Besides having an adorable face, they are amazing to watch, and, if you are lucky enough, quite fun to play with.

There eyes fascinate me.  I think the eyes are what draw me to spiders.  The way they see the world is so different from the way we do–but very effectively, too.  If you’ve ever seen a jumping spider skitter and jump in reaction to stimuli from any direction, you understand what I mean.

This is another jumping spider, but the woman who took this picture didn’t know what kind.  It’s a juvenile, proving that even spiders have cute kids.  Here’s another view:

Those rust-colored markings are just gorgeous!

Orb weaver spiders are another showcase for mother nature’s beautiful colors.  This particular beauty was found in Riverton, Utah.  Orb weavers are responsible for the classic circular spiderwebs.  Next time you see one,  I suggest trying to find the architect.  Chances are, you won’t be disappointedOkay, so the cat-faced spider isn’t one that I would consider especially beautiful, but take a look at the markings on her abdomen.  There’s a smiley face!  How can you not love a creature that walks around with a smiley face?

This last one is a neoscona, a spotted orb weaver.  Look at the patterns on her back!  Carol Davis, who took this picture, thought it looked like a Persian rug.  If a four-legged creature had such markings, fashionable ladies throughout the centuries would be wearing the skin.

So have I convinced you not to run away screaming the next time you see a spider?  Or smash it, or flush it down the toilet?

Well, that’s okay too.  Just take another look, and be aware that there is beauty to be found even in the creepy-crawly things of life.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to go read Charlotte’s Web again.

And it’s spring, starting…NOW!

After I had gone to bed last night, but before I fell asleep, I was thinking about what I wanted to blog about today.  I had two or three good ideas–but I was too tired to jump out of bed to write something.  Of course, this morning, I couldn’t remember any of them.

The head cold is still kicking my butt, and despite what weather.com says, I think it’s starting to be taken over by spring allergies.  All I know is that it is way too early in the year for my nose to be this chapped.

Spring seems to have decided that it wants to stay, I’ve been hearing meadowlarks and red winged blackbirds in the morning, and have been watching a sparrow build its nest in one of my neighbors dryer vents.

it's hard to see, but he has a bit of grass in his beak.

I’ve been turning the heat off during the day, and opening the windows to air things out.  My downstairs neighbors already have their air conditioning running. (I wonder if I should be concerned about what they are doing, they get even less sunlight than I do, and I’m freezing to death, and they’re running their air conditioner.  I’m just glad I don’t have to pay their electric bill)

So what have I been doing this fine spring day?  Have I been out enjoying nature?  Have I been getting my patio garden ready? Have I been following the instinct that women have had since we decided that we had enough of sleeping outside and moved into caves, and been deep cleaning in preparation for the warmer months?  Yeah, not so much.

Although I did plant some johnny-jump-up pansies a few days ago.

I’ve pretty much been laying alternately in bed or on the couch, chained to a box of kleenex, and trying to convince one dog or the other to lay on my lap in such a way as to act as the perfect heating pad, and trying to overcome the fact that Oprah and I have very different tastes in literature.

This is usually my favorite time of year, when the first signs of spring appear, and the days start to get longer, but before allergies come.  This year–well, granted, it’s only been a few days, and I am sick, but not so much.

I did finally get my Christmas lights down, though.

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