Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Random Thoughts on This, the Last Day of July

  1. I'm frustrated with NBC right now.  They posted the results of the women's gymnastics team finals early this afternoon, before airing it online or on TV.  I get that the time zone thing is confusing and hard to work around, but geez.  Did they really have to do that?  They did it with swimming, too.  So frustrated . . .

  2. Who doesn't love the new look of men's gymnastics-wear?  They're like a leotard/shorts, but not!

  3. While we're talking about gymnastics uniforms, let's talk about the Romanians.  They always have great leotards.

  4. I want to live near mountains someday.  Not the Smokies, but the Rockies.

  5. I'm tired of soft indie rock.  It can hardly be called rock, anyway.  As such, I'm extremely into The Black Keys at the moment and mentally abuse myself every time I think about how I could've seen them this year when they came to Austin, but I didn't because I'm an idiot.  Just listen to this piece of fine work:

Thing I'm thankful for: my mom.  I miss her right now.

Monday, July 30, 2012

I Coulda Been a Contender

Olympic time is happy time.  It's also a time of serious reflection.  For example, after a discussion with my family on Saturday night, I thought about which events are my favorite to watch during the Summer Olympics.  Here they are, in order:
  1. Women's gymnastics
  2. Swimming
  3. Track
Except.  During the last few Summer Olympic games, I've found myself watching more swimming than anything.  Part of that's due to the way gymnastics has changed over the years, and part of it's due to an increase in self-awareness.

Here's the thing:  I know I should've been a swimmer.  I can feel it in my bones.  Before I explain to you how I know I'm right, I will give you three mini-posts about how I fell in love with water.
  1. Chicago, 2004
    The Chicago River had me at hello.  From the moment my friend Margret and I stepped onto the ferryboat for an architectural tour of the city, I was hooked.  I had been to THE American city of New York half a dozen times, but it paled in comparison to the beauty of this magical Midwestern city so elegantly built around the river.
  2. New York City, 2005
    My sister moved to New York City in 2003, and I wanted to follow her there.  As soon as I graduated, I applied to as many editing jobs as I could, and out of about 50 applications, one went through to the interview phase.  It was with Cambridge University Press.  What started as a three-day weekend trip to visit my sister turned into a two-week stay, I think.  I didn't get the job, of course, but here is what I remember:  Near the end of the two weeks, my sister took me to a party on Roosevelt Island.  My heart must've jumped a little at the sight of water so close.  I realized I was tired of the concrete jungle and wanted to see some indication of movement and life other than busy people and yellow taxicabs.
  3. Austin, 2011
    First it was kayaking, then it was rowing.  Being on the lake changed my mind about this place.  It wasn't until I spent time at Towne Lake that I began to let go of my fears and like the city I moved to.
How didn't I recognize my affinity to water until so late in life?  My parents took me to the city pool every summer, and I've been to various beaches plenty of times . . .  I think it's because I was never taught to swim properly.  I love being in and near water, but I don't trust my ability to swim.  I never learned correct breathing technique, and I'm convinced that proper technique is the difference between mediocre swimmers and amazing swimmers.  Sure, one could say that about nearly anything in life, but running, for example -- that's pretty basic.  There's no huge learning curve there.

Well, today I learned* that I definitely should've had swimming lessons, and here's why:  Big and tall people make great swimmers and rowers.  Short and thin people make great runners and cyclists.  It's no wonder I dislike running so much and longingly watch swimmers during the Olympics and think, "I want to do that.  I should be able to do that."  Both my genes and love of fresh water indicate aptitude.**  Perhaps I'll sign up for swimming lessons before the year is through.

*Read Bigger is Better, Except When It's Not.  It's all about how body type strongly predicts success in a sport.
**Yet another reason to start swimming: How Many Calories Do Olympic Athletes Need?

Thing I'm thankful for: lunch breaks

I Miss My Family

Driving back to Austin today was sad.  I fought back some serious tears along I-35 and felt a deep melancholy in my soul as I drove into my apartment complex.  I hate saying goodbye to my family, especially my nieces and nephews.  Feeling their little arms around my neck and hearing them say "I love you" is one of my favorite things in the whole world.

There are two things that helped me not to cry:
  1. Unpacking my suitcase.
    I find unpacking to be so satisfying.  I always finish it before the day is done, and somehow, it makes me feel better.  I guess cleaning and organizing, in general, helps me feel better.  I should do that more.
  2. Watching "Anne of Green Gables."
    Lexi and I watched the first part when she was here.  I watched the second part tonight.  "Anne" always reminds me of home.

And then after I did those two things, I cried.  :/

Thing I'm thankful for: swimming in San Antonio

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I Am a Psychologist's Daughter

I remember taking a test when I was 4 years old.  My dad gave me a piece of 8 1/2 x 11" yellow paper with questions on both sides.  I can only recall one of them:  "Draw a circle, like this."  Next to the words was an example image of a circle.  I drew it as roundly as I could, and after I closed the curve, I thought, "I'm going to add some dots and turn this circle into a cookie."  And so I did.  I don't know what my dad thought of my drawing, since I didn't tell him about my cookie idea, but looking back, I think two things:  1) I really should open a bakery, and 2) It behooves psychologists to have lots of kids; they can use them as test subjects for years.

Perhaps Tolstoy's most famous line is the opening of Anna Karenina:  "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."  I'm going to respectfully disagree with Tolstoy on this point.  To me, families have particular activities they do that give them happy identities.  There are sports families, musical families, performance families, science and engineering families, funny families, etc.  My family is a talkative family.  We talk and talk and talk.  A lot.  (That should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me well, but actually, I'm one of the least talkative ones of the bunch, if you can believe it.)

The thing we talk about the most?  Psychology.  This is where my dad's profession comes into play.  His job didn't stop at the office.  It didn't stop at giving my siblings and me development tests.  It made it's way into nearly every family discussion.  Even now, I find myself in the middle of conversations in which at least a few of us are analyzing my parents' relationship or another siblings' self-awareness.  Sure, this family reunion is proving to be full of fun activities, such as swimming and talent shows, but it's also full of the thing that makes me feel most at home: conversation.  I don't think everyone in my family appreciates that (as conversation can quickly morph into argument, if you're not careful), but I love it.  It feels familiar and smart and interesting.  I feel sorry for families who don't have hours-long conversations with each other.

Thing I'm thankful for: Aqua Sphere swimming goggles!

Friday, July 20, 2012


A friend recently said she was tired of hearing about the Holocaust.  She didn't mean to be hurtful; she explained that she wanted to see attention given to other atrocities that are happening in the world right now.  I think I understand her point, but I don't think the Holocaust needs to be de-emphasized in order to highlight the horrors of today.

Stories of the Holocaust inspire altruism.  If nothing else, they do that.  All around me -- especially in grad school -- people talk in terms of utilitarianism.  My economist friends see the world as a place of decisions based on maximizing pleasure and minimizing pain.  Others approach life with objectivism -- establishing independence and making decisions based on individualism.

Consider this scene, though, from "The Pianist:"

After Szpilman plays the piano, the German captain asks to see where he has been hiding.  Instead of killing Szpilman, he keeps his secret.  He gives him food and the coat off his back.

There are other well-documented stories of people risking their lives to save a Jew during the Holocaust.  Why?  Why would they do that?  The only answer I can come up with is that they are not motivated by self-interest.  They are motivated by duty and love.  Altruism is not only possible, it's possible in the worst of circumstances.

If there are similar stories people can share from current problems in the world, then so be it!  But if those aren't being told, I will read the memoirs and watch movies about the Holocaust with wonder and awe.  I will focus on those stories to remind me that I'm not in this world for myself alone.  I'm in it to help others, no matter what happens to me.

Thing I'm thankful for: food

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

2012: The Year of the Thief

I just got some bad news.  On Saturday, I accidentally left some pretty important things in a friend's car.  Her car was broken into last night, and my stuff was stolen.  It wasn't terribly expensive stuff, but it was extremely meaningful.*

It reminded me of the break-in earlier this year.  And this was the thought that went through my mind:  "When will this year not stink?"  I recognize that I have much to be grateful for in life, but negative thoughts keep cropping up lately.  And nightmares!  Oh, the nightmares and restless sleep.  Those things have been problems, too, lately.  I can't seem to figure out what is wrong . . .  I know I can do better -- be better.  I'm not perfect, and even if I was, I'm not entitled to more than the average person.  But something incredible better be around the corner because this has been the worst year since I was 27!

*In fact, it was temple clothing.  In LDS temples, we wear only white.  (My temple dress was a plain, but pretty white dress.)  From LDS.org:
In the temple there are private dressing rooms where you change out of your Sunday clothing and put on white clothing. This change of clothing serves as a reminder that you are temporarily leaving the world behind and entering a holy place. White clothing symbolizes purity, and the fact that all are dressed alike in the temple creates a sense of unity and equality.

Thing I'm thankful for: my peppy new fingernail polish aaaaand . . . my health

Monday, July 16, 2012


I remember a lot of things from my childhood, but the thing I remember better than anything else is dinnertime.  My parents had six kids in nine years, so the table was fairly crowded by the time I came along.  We always sat in the same spots, too.  Always.  Clockwise from dad: Cami, Summer, Lexi, Mom, me, Blake, Brooks.  I'll never know why my parents put me next to Blake, even if I was also next to mom.  That was probably the worst parenting decision in history.  (He teased a lot, and I screamed a lot.)

Still, I consider dinnertime the most important of my life.  It was there that I learned how to be curious and have conversations.  I learned how to think critically and share my opinions and be straightforward.  I learned that it's not really good form to cry and run to my room when someone says something I don't like.  I learned that great food brings people together, and some of the best moments are sitting around a table and talking.  Sometimes those "moments" last for hours.

On Sunday, my whole family will be together for the first time in nine years.  We'll have two tables and 23 people.  How long will we sit and talk and eat this time around?

Thing I'm thankful for: the circle of life?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

What Kind of Parent Are You?

According to MSN Living's What is your Parenting Personality quiz, I am a Free-Range Parent:
You’re the parent who always seems to have a little extra time—including time to listen. You believe it’s better to under-schedule than to over-schedule your kids, and that having time to just be, play and savor the moment beats most classes and organized activities when it comes to sparking creativity and teaching kids how to live well and enjoy life. You keep your kids safe, but you also encourage them to explore and take risks, and you don’t consider dirty clothes or skinned knees a crisis.
Obviously, I don't have any kids, but I like to think that when I do, I'll be a good parent.  That quiz figured me out pretty well, too.  If there's one thing I believe with regard to parenting, it's unstructured play time.  Check it out: 21st-Century Education and Parental Expectations.

Thing I'm thankful for: fun quizzes online?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

I'll have the . . .

. . . Peanut Chicken?

I like peanuts and peanut sauce, so that's what I ordered last night when I went to dinner with some friends.  It was good, but not nearly as tasty as "Drunken Noodles" or "Java Special."  As I dug into the piles of food everyone shared, I found myself thinking about how I always play it safe when ordering food.  I let other people get the adventurous stuff, and even though I consistently like my food, I also don't consistently love my food.

It's not a contest.  It's not about who can order the best dish, but . . . isn't it?  People usually give adventurous eaters and foodies gastronomical high-fives, and I'll be the first to admit that I'm jealous.  The baker in me knows what good dessert should look and taste like, but when it comes to entrees, I'm at a loss.  I don't always know what spices go with what, and I'm often unsure about which food combinations are the best.

It doesn't matter, really, but once -- just once -- I want to have the best plate at the table.

(Apparently I am really concerned with this.  I wrote a similar post earlier this year.  See Bon Vivant.)

Thing I'm thankful for: being done with summer school

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Be Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

During testimony meeting today, a tall, dark, and handsome guy bore his testimony.  He sounded a bit southern, and sure enough, he said he was from Lafayette, Louisiana.  (He pronounced Lafayette like this: "luh-FAY-it," and I felt like I was home for a minute.)  He explained that he was not a Mormon and that today was his first time at church.  I was extremely impressed by this guy because on the outside, he certainly played the Mormon part: crisp, blue button-up; nice tie; and clean-shaven face.  He was fairly well-spoken, too, for it being his first time talking in front of such a large and unfamiliar group.  Even people who have grown up in the Church are visibly nervous when they speak before the entire congregation -- not this guy.  He even said "In the name of Jesus Christ" at the end of his testimony.

The meat of what he said, though, was the best part.  He spoke about how he was a recovering drug addict who had been sober for nearly a year.  He said that during his addiction, he witnessed the work of the Lord in his life many times, but didn't pay attention because he was selfish.  He made choices solely on his own and with only himself in mind.  Then I guess about a year ago, he began to make decisions a different way.  He started to consider what God would have him do.  And -- here's what really impressed me -- he let himself "be comfortable being uncomfortable."

Comfortable being uncomfortable.  What a concept!  I think that is much of what life is all about.  I believe as Mormons do -- that the natural man is an enemy to God:
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.  (Book of Mormon, Mosiah chapter 3, verse 19)
We are on this earth to be better than when we started, and that's uncomfortable.  It's uncomfortable to be patient when we want something right now.  It's uncomfortable to extend a hand of love to someone we dislike.  And it's uncomfortable to live a set of commandments that -- although we believe -- are peculiar to others.

You don't have to be religious for this concept to mean something.  It extends to secular matters as well.  Learning new things and acquiring new skills are probably things that most people would say are valuable.  They're also uncomfortable.  Being back in school, for example, is not easy.  It's uncomfortable.  So is working.  So is being an informed citizen.  Would I rather watch movies all day?  Kayak on the lake or work on my tan?  Sure.  But that's not what life is for.  It's for being better than I was a month ago, a year ago, ten years ago.

If you believe in utilitarianism and objectivism, you might say people are motivated by self-interest.  You might say the ultimate goal of individuals and society is to maximize pleasure and minimize pain.  I don't buy that.  I say life is about change, and change is uncomfortable.  We are here to be comfortable being uncomfortable.

Thing I'm thankful for: testimony meeting!  I wish it could last for three hours!

A Song for Your Sunday

If I could play one song on the guitar, I think it'd be this one.  It's so special.

It's "Little Martha" by The Allman Brothers.

Thing I'm thankful for: thousands and thousands of do-overs and chances to get things right