Thursday, November 29, 2012

Open Letter to Men, No. 1

Dear Men,

Let's get down to brass tacks.  You wanna be happy.  The best chance you have at being happy is to make the woman in your life happy.  So I'm going to help you out.  I'm going to tell you what you can do to make women happy.  It might take three posts; it might take 10.  I'll do it, though, and if you follow my guidelines, I promise your life will be better for it.

I'll just get to it, then.  Here's the first one:

Be curious.  Ask us what we think.

Women (and I'll wager men do as well) want to be heard and understood.  We want you to wonder about what we're thinking, what we do during the day, and what our ambitions are.  We ask you questions because we really want to understand you, but sometimes we need prompting, too.  Ask questions like these:
  • What was the best part of your day?
  • What's a new thing you'd really like to try this year?
  • What's your favorite movie or book?  Why?
  • What were you like as a kid?
  • Why do you like your job?  What is one of the projects you're working on right now?
  • What would your dream house look like?
  • What do you think about [any particular topic you've been mulling over lately]?  I think [this way], but what do you think?
  • I'm have [this problem], and I think I might do [this] to solve it.  Do you think that's a good idea?
  • Do you think this shirt matches this tie?
See?  Simple.  Just ask more questions.  Ask us the same questions we ask you, if you need some help getting started.  (Or get some ideas from this list of questions.)  Soon the conversation will be flowing, and your crush or girlfriend or wife will feel validated and respected and loved.

Good luck,

Music of the Night

Enough time has passed since the Institute Choir performance for me to be completely honest about one of the songs we sang: Phantom of the Opera's "Music of the Night."  That song is so weird, and I feel a bit icky every time I sing it.  Just look at these lyrics:
Nighttime sharpens, heightens each sensation
Darkness stirs and wakes imagination
Silently the senses abandon their defenses

Slowly, gently night unfurls its splendor
Grasp it, sense it, tremulous and tender
Turn your face away from the garish light of day
Turn your thoughts away from cold unfeeling light
And listen to the music of the night

Close your eyes and surrender to your darkest dreams
Purge your thoughts of the life you knew before
Close your eyes, let your spirit start to soar
And you'll live as you've never lived before

Softly, deftly, music shall caress you
Hear it, feel it secretly possess you
Open up your mind, let your fantasies unwind
In this darkness that you know you cannot fight
The darkness of the music of the night

Let your mind start a journey to a strange new world
Leave all thoughts of the life you knew before
Let your soul take you where you long to be
Only then can you belong to me

Floating, falling, sweet intoxication
Touch me, trust me, savor each sensation
Let the dream begin, let your darker side give in
To the power of the music that I write
The power of the music of the night

You alone can make my song take flight
Help me make the music of the night

I mean, really?  I don't think "music of the night" should have such negative connotations, and quite frankly, I don't like to sing about other people's music.

That is all.

Thing I'm thankful for: friends with blogs

Thoughts on November 29, 2012

  • I love my new sneakers.  They make me feel like a superhero.

  • Masks are pretty cool.  I tried a bunch on today (for an upcoming party), and it was awesome.  And as with many things in life, expensive equals better.  The pricier masks felt good on my face.  Also, glitter gets everywhere when you wear masks.

  • I have a knack for knowing when a man is married just by watching him for a few seconds.  I also have a knack for knowing when a single guy is ready for marriage.  I call this ability “mandar.”

  • I'm tired of clothes that don't cover women's bodies.  Just when sleeves started coming into style again, hemlines got shorter.  What is it with showing so much skin?  The whole "less is more" idea does not apply to women's clothing.  A woman in tailored clothing that accentuates all the right curves without exposing too much skin is much more attractive than a woman who bares lots of cleavage and upper thigh.  I daresay men would agree.

  • I make pretty darn good sugar cookies.  When I open a bakery, people will think three dollars is too much to pay for a pretty sugar cookie.  What they won't know is that three dollars for those cookies is a steal.  An absolute steal.

  • For some reason, the holidays are more fun this year.  I love visiting with friends and chit-chatting the night away.

  • My A&W shirt reads, "Whatever FLOATS your boat."  I chuckle every time I wear it.

  • Balsamic vinegar from Whole Foods is delicious.  I'm buying some tomorrow, if I have time.

  • Lifting weights feels good.  I hadn't done it in a while, and it was wonderful.  I love lifting weights.

Thing I'm thankful for: my mom

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

NYC Thanksgiving

NYC Thanksgiving

I'm not posting these photos to make you think I'm cool.  (Besides, would anybody ever think I was cool?  Probably not.)  I'm posting them because this here blog is a journal of sorts -- one of three, actually.  I'm also posting them because they'll give you ideas about the fun things you can do in New York around the holidays.  I'll even put them in list form:
  • Watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade
    I already went over this in my Happy Thanksgiving! post.
  • Ice skate at Rockefeller Center
    Apparently it's fun to skate in Central Park, too, but I've never tried it.  Both places are bound to be extremely busy, but it's still worth it.  Especially when you go against the grain and skate in the middle of the rink.  Forget that circle stuff over and over again; just try doing tricks in the middle.  People will think you're pretty good.
  • Serve in the Manhattan Temple
    You know, if you're Mormon.
  • Eat lots of good food
    Adam and Lexia treated me to Nobu, which is incredibly yummy Japanese dishes that also include typical South American ingredients.  Two days later, I'm still thinking about miso.  I am going to make it someday.
  • Play as many games of Settlers of Catan as possible
    This was a good week for me.  I won three out of four games!  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Thing I'm thankful for: my new sneakers.  I love them, I love them, I love them.

Monday, November 26, 2012


Remember how it's rill hard for me to find shoes that fit my feet?  Well, thanks to New York City (where apparently you can find anything your heart desires), shoe-buying has never been easier.  You know how you can go to a shoe store and try shoes on?  Yeah -- I don't typically experience that luxury; I have to order shoes online and hope they fit.  BUT!  This random sneaker store near Rockefeller Center (a.k.a., Super Runners Shop) had shoes in my size!  My size!*  In multiple styles, too!

Here's what I picked up:

Be jealous!  Ha!

*They also had shoes in a 12 and a half, and I discovered that I feel pretty good in a 12 and a half.  So that's . . . good news.  :/

Thing I'm thankful for: shoes that fit, of course!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year's Thanksgiving blog post is brought to you from New York City and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade!  Here are some of my favorite balloons!

Here are my two favorite little people.  I love them more than I can say.  What a treat to spend the holiday with them.  (Although I'm really tired of them being short.  They kept wanting to get on my back so they could see better.  Gosh!)

If you ever go to New York City for Thanksgiving, let me give you some tips about the Macy's parade:
  • Go to the American Museum of Natural History anytime during the day on Thanksgiving Eve to watch the balloons being blown up.
  • On Thanksgiving Day, get to the parade early!  Be at Macy's by 8:30 a.m. at the latest!
  • If you know you'll be late and you can't get a great spot, bring something for the kiddos to stand on (e.g., grocery crates, step-stools, etc.)
  • Wear comfortable shoes.
  • Make sure you eat a good breakfast.
Okay -- that's it, I think.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Thing I'm thankful for: lots of things and people, but right now, I'm especially thankful for my friends in Austin.  Miss you guys.  :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


The very first time I learned I was going on a trip that required me to pack a suitcase, I was so excited.  So excited, in fact, that I began packing immediately.

Boy, times have changed.  I hate packing.  Haaate it.  I'd rather do nearly anything before packing.  That's why it's past midnight, and I still haven't even started.  I don't intend to, either.  I intend on wasting another 100 minutes watching a movie on Netflix.  (Okay, maybe this time, I'll at least have it on in the background.)

What is my problem???

I wish packing went like this:

Thing I'm thankful for: the chance to go on a trip

Helping Hands

A friend of a friend created and posted these videos of Mormons helping Hurricane Sandy victims in the Rockaways.  I re-post them here not to show how wonderful Mormons are, but to show how wonderful humans are.  They give me the same feelings I had when I watched the video I posted in Alternative Plans.

Hurricane Sandy Helping Hands from Joshua Brown on Vimeo.

Helping Hands Bonus Interviews from Joshua Brown on Vimeo.

Thing I'm thankful for: balmy Texas weather

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Ineffable, No. 2

In the last 6 days, I've written three long blog posts.  Three long posts that are actually drafts at the moment and might never see the light of day.  I haven't published them because they don't quite capture what I'm feeling.  As a writer, I want to use words to describe what's going on in my head and in my heart, but also as a writer, I have to concede that sometimes words are not enough.  Sometimes music is.  Sometimes a hug or a handhold is.  Sometimes a piece of pie is.  Today, though . . .  Today, only art will do.

So here is what I would write, if I could:

Mark Demsteader, Emma

Thing I'm thankful for: cancelled meetings!

Monday, November 05, 2012

Fostering Autonomy

I think a lot about decisions -- how people make them, what factors influence them, and how they learn the ability to reason in the first place.  That last one is particularly interesting to me, especially in regard to parenting.  How, I wonder, do parents teach their children to be autonomous?

So I look at my own parents because let's face it: my siblings and I are nothing if not autonomous.  Sure, I get indecisive sometimes, but I usually know my own mind.  My brother Brooks definitely does, too, and it's wonderful.  He is such a powerful speaker, and I think it's because he knows himself well and he knows how to make decisions.

But back to my parents . . .  I think at the heart of making decisions is having a strong sense of identity, and my parents knew how to foster a strong sense of identity and consequently, autonomy.  They let us make decisions about all kinds of things when we were young.  They let us cut and dye our hair any way we wanted; they let us paint our rooms bright purple or green or any other color we had in mind; and they let us choose our own Halloween costumes.  They didn't help us with homework or school projects (nor did I really want them to; their "help" once got me a 54 on a math assignment), and if we were about to fail at something, they usually let us fail (again with the 54 in math).

Sometimes I wish they had been more involved in my decisions, especially when I was getting ready to go to college, but all in all, I think that in letting us decide how we spent our free time or how we personalized our bedrooms, for example, they let us create the people we wanted to become.  I know plenty of people who don't know themselves or who aren't confident in the identities they've formed, and they are constantly paralyzed by indecision.

I'm so glad to have the parents I do.  They are not perfect and I don't idealize them as such, but they did some things really well.  Fostering autonomy was one of them.

Thanks, mom and dad.  You're both pretty great.

Thing I'm thankful for: altocumulus clouds.  They really are the best.

No Man Is an Island, or Rely on Everyone Else to Make You Happy

I went to a conference this weekend and attended a class about relationships.  All in all, it was good; the instructor offered lots of great tips on how to be a better friend or date.  One thing she said, though, bothered me.  It bothered me because I vehemently disagree with it.  The offending sentence was this:  "Don't rely on anyone else to make you happy."

It's a common phrase, and it's especially given as advice to single people, such as myself.  I get it -- the basic idea is that people should cultivate an attitude of happiness despite their situations in life.  They should be happy in and of themselves and not depend on another person to make them feel complete.

Seems harmless enough, right?  WRONG!  I mean, what's the point in being independently happy?  Why are we on this earth, if not to create meaningful relationships with each other during bad times and good times?  Bad times are easier when you have someone to lean on, and good times are better when you have someone to share them with.  John Donne said it this way:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

So there you have it:  No man is an island.  Donne said it forever ago, and since "forever ago" carries a lot of weight, I'm taking him at his word.

"But, Sara," you say, "I want you to wow me with your incredible analytical skills.  What else about this happiness deal?"

Okay.  So here's the thing:  The same people who say things like, "Don't rely on anyone else to make you happy," are usually the same ones who say, "Turn to Christ during your struggles and lonely times."  Uhm, what?  Christ is another person.  So that line of thinking doesn't really make sense.  But let's say it's a given.  Let's turn the advice into something like this:  "Don't rely on anyone else but the Savior to make you happy."  I still disagree.  In fact, I think he would, too.  He wants us to need other people.  Here are two commandments (and I'm speaking from a Mormon perspective here) that lead me to believe he wants us to need others:
  1. We are commanded to "mourn with those that mourn" and "comfort those that stand in need of comfort."  (Mosiah 18:8-10)
  2. We are commanded to marry and have children; we are taught that we will find joy in being part of families.

Needing people -- being "involved in mankind," as John Donne puts it -- is true in both general and romantic relationships.  Our happiness isn't only slightly affected by others; it's largely affected by others.  The effect is so great that God gave us at least two commandments that include other people.  Or perhaps the effect is so great because God gave us those commandments.  Either way, it's clear that humans are a social species, and our relationships with each other affect our feelings and our exaltation.

I think as soon as people start to admit that we all rely on lots of other people to make us happy, we will be better people ourselves.  In other words, if we realize that happiness is in large part a social quality, then we will begin to try to make others happy.  We will be involved in mankind.  We will (hopefully) work a little harder at finding someone to love and being someone to love.  We will start to follow other relationship rules that my conference instructor outlined in her class: give more without high expectations; listen with empathy; and avoid criticism, gossip, and judgment.

We're all in this life together, and we all depend on each other for lots and lots of things.  Why shouldn't happiness be one of them?  I, for one, think it should.  I want to need others and be needed.  So to the world I say, "Rely on EVERYONE else to make you happy!"

Thing I'm thankful for: Peter Pan collars