Sunday, January 25, 2015

Blind Faith

I'm tired of the phrase "blind faith." Lots of non-religious people use it to offend those who are religious, and it's used so frequently, that even religious people now speak of faith as though there are two forms: just the regular old "faith" and "blind faith." I've heard many Latter-day Saints who are quick to explain that they have more than just "blind faith"—that they are not following the prophets and apostles blindly and that they are thoughtful in who and what they follow. They are immediately defensive in the way they talk about faith. I think that should stop. For a few reasons:

1) Assuming that there is such a thing as "blind faith" and then distancing yourself from that kind of faith perpetuates the idea that whenever we speak of faith, we have to determine who is smart and faithful and who is ignorant and faithful. It perpetuates the idea that there are people of faith in God who are not as smart, not as thoughtful, and are therefore lesser people. The idea is that "we follow God and His prophets because we have thought about it, and we are smart, but they are simple and ignorant, and that kind of faith is bad or worthy of attack.

2) How is the faith of a person who is not smart ever worthy of attack? Some people are smart, and some people are not. Some people can explain why they have faith in God, and some people can't. Big deal. Who cares?

3) When you get right down to it, faith is trust. Let's pull out the dictionary . . . says it's "strong belief or trust in someone." Wikipedia says it's "confidence or trust in a being, object, living organism, deity, view, or in the doctrines or teachings of a religion." We have all—every one of us—put our trust in something in this world. I have put my trust in surveyors and travelers and have faith that there are lands across the sea, even though I've never been to them. I also have faith that my dentist knows what he's doing when he fixes my teeth. I have faith that the leaders of my country are generally trying to do what's best. And yet. I don't feel the need to constantly explain myself to others about such things. I don't have to say, "Oh, I have faith in democracy. But it's not a blind faith. I think democracies are good because of x, y, and z." I also don't expect everyone else to explain their faiths to me, nor do I think that if they can't, they must be dumb.

Let's stop using the term "blind faith," okay? It's derogatory and belittling. If someone says they are a person of faith, let them have it. Assume that they have that faith for good reason.

Thing I'm thankful for: April L.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Another Good Love Song

Remember A Good Love Song? The rules still apply: Listen to it with the volume turned way up.

Special thanks to my brother Blake for bringing it to my attention.

Thing I'm thankful for: good sleep

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Hang Ten, Dudes

There's a teeny-tiny surfing museum in a teeny-tiny lighthouse on the shore of Natural Bridges State Beach, and it's where I learned two really interesting things.

First, I learned that a "tail slide" is a surfing term that means to throw the board onto the top edge of the wave, pushing the tail out and sliding across. It's a skateboard trick that surfers picked up sometime in the 80s, I guess. I think it's so cool that skateboarding and surfing are such close sports. Like twins. They just get tips and tricks from each other all the time, and for some reason, it's completely fascinating to me. What can I say? I'm a true interdisciplinarian.

Check out this rad tail slide:

Second, I learned that "hanging ten" isn't just an empty term that beach bums and skaters use. Like "tail slide," it's a surfing maneuver in which the surfer positions the board in a such a way that the back of it is covered by the wave, and the surfer is free to walk to the front of the board and hang all ten toes over the nose of the board. The surfer sometimes only hangs one foot's toes over the nose, and in that case, he says he's "hanging five." Usually, "hanging" can only be done on a heavy longboard.

Here's hanging ten:

Now, all I knew before my trip to Santa Cruz this weekend was that people say "Hang ten" when they are in a chill mood or want you, the hearer, to relax. So I'm guessing that surfers hang ten when they are just kickin' it on their boards? When they have struggled to catch a wave and are now easily riding it out? Do any of you surfers out there know?

Whatever the reason, I think I'm going to start using "Hang ten" in my everyday parlance. Maybe I'll incorporate "Be excellent to each other" in there, too. :)

Thing I'm thankful for: California sunsets

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

What Kind of Californian Are You?

One of these days, I'm gonna create the world's first BuzzFeed quiz on which California city best matches people because here's what: I'm learning the distinctions already! Every city, of course, has its own nuanced way that people live, but I'm finding that in California, those distinctions are stark. They seem that way right now, at least. (I'll have to revisit this post in 6 months to see if I still think this way.)

So far, here is what I've observed:
  • San Francisco -- young, hip, and single people
  • East Palo Alto -- young, hip, and single people and gangs
  • Mountain View, Palo Alto, and Menlo Park -- workaholics
  • Berkeley -- hippies and foodies and people with strict eating habits
  • San Jose -- families and the working class
  • Los Gatos -- the filthy rich
  • Santa Cruz -- surfers, skateboarders, and hippies
  • Anywhere outside of the Bay Area, but minus Southern California -- normal people
If you're wondering, I fit in Santa Cruz. I guess I'm kind of a hippie at heart. I don't wear much makeup, I like a chill vibe, and I don't put on airs, as they say. I have no hidden agendas; I basically just want to take a walk in the afternoon sun, listen to the waves, and maybe get some ice cream at a local creamery.

And that's exactly what I did today. I spent my entire afternoon in Santa Cruz, running a while and stopping a while to watch surfers catch some waves. I loved every minute of it.

Natural Bridges State Beach

A natural bridge!

Close up!

Smooth, weather-worn rocks.

I guess this is one of the benefits of living near the beach. You can write messages to people in the sand. (Note to self: Write a message in the sand to someone.)

Surfer dudes. (See all of those dots in the water? Those are surfer dudes!)

Thing I'm thankful for: running into friends.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Some Thoughts

Today something interesting happened.

I overheard a conversation about religion that struck me as slightly offensive. Actually, that may be too strong a word . . . It was definitely somewhere between disrespectful and offensive, though. The details don't matter so much, except that I felt like the general message of the conversation was that religion is meant for people who can't, or don't want to, think for themselves. That religious people are generally just living life according to the dictates of someone else, rather than making smart decisions on their own.

I've heard these kinds of things my whole life. People have been telling me my whole life -- in as nice a way as possible, mind you -- that I'm an idiot for following a religion, and an organized one at that. It's nothing new. But rather than defend my position, I'd rather move on to the interesting thing that happened, and it is this: The interesting thing is that I realized there are two ways to look at life. One way is to see the world as inhabited by idiots. That everyone around you is stupid or at least extremely lazy. They don't make good decisions when left to their own devices, and if they don't believe the same way you do, it must be because they're simply not as smart. This means that when you meet someone, you automatically expect them to prove themselves to you. Everyone is an idiot until proven otherwise.

The other way is to see the world as inhabited by capable beings who try their hardest to make good decisions every day. That everyone around you is generally as smart as they can be, and they make the best decisions they can when left to their own devices. If they don't believe the same way you do, it must be because they have different reasons and different priorities. This means that when you meet someone, you automatically expect them to be at least as smart as you. Everyone is smart until proven otherwise.

I fall into the second approach. There are millions of people who believe and live differently than me, but I certainly don't think it's because they can't think for themselves or because I am vastly smarter than they are. Sure, I'm probably smarter than some, but I'm also much less smart than others. I'd just like the same kind of respect, especially from people who are as smarter or smarter.

Thing I'm thankful for: rice pudding (Good on ya, Google!)

Thursday, January 15, 2015


I guess when I was reading The Pearl or The Grapes of Wrath or East of Eden, I never quite internalized the obvious fact that John Steinbeck was from California—just east of Monterey Bay. As soon as I drove into the Central Valley, though, I felt like I had been there before, and I suppose I sort of had been, through Steinbeck's writing.

I want to read all of his books now and re-read the ones I've already studied. I'm starting with Cannery Row, and after just one chapter, I'm hooked. This writing is a work of art:

When you collect marine animals there are certain flat worms so delicate that they are almost impossible to capture whole, for they break and tatter under the touch. You must let them ooze and crawl of their own will onto a knife blade and then lift them gently into your bottle of sea water. And perhaps that might be the way to write this book—to open the page and to let the stories crawl in by themselves. (6–7)

It's gonna be a good book-reading week.

Thing I'm thankful for: dark hot chocolate

*Steinbeck, John. Cannery Row. London: Penguin, 1994. Print.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Point Reyes National Seashore, or My First Time Backpacking!

2015 is already proving to be a year of firsts, the most notable of which is a backpacking trip to Point Reyes National Seashore. Point Reyes is a beautiful strip of seashore just north of the San Francisco Bay, and it's a great spot to camp because you can park your tent within view of the beach! Here, check out our campsite:

We were on a cliff, overlooking the beach. (And check out that tent in the foreground! It's brand spanking new and belongs to yours truly.) :)

It was very nearly a full moon that weekend, so we hiked in at night. It felt more like a 6-mile nature walk (or I'm in way better shape than I thought!), but there were some inclines that made me breathe a little heavier. For my first time backpacking, though, it wasn't so bad!

Let's talk about backpacking for a sec. The thought of it used to cause me a bit of anxiety. I wondered whether I'd be able to walk for so long carrying 30–40 pounds on my back. But with the right motivation (a.k.a., the edge of the beautiful earth that is California), I put my anxieties behind me and prepared as best I could. Truth be told, I was pretty excited about buying new camping gear. I got some stuff on sale a few months ago, and with Christmas and my second round of shopping, I am now the proud owner of
  • A down, 32-degree Kelty mummy bag, 2 lbs, 8 oz
  • A sleeping pad
  • The REI Passage 2 tent, 4 lbs, 14 oz. (Sweet!)
  • A Black Diamond Orbit Lantern
  • An aluminum pot
  • A spork
It's a good start. Now I just have to get a hiking pack, sleeping bag liner, hiking poles, good waterproof hiking shoes, and a backpacking stove. Not too bad. And it's kind of a game now, too. How lightweight can I get my pack? What good deals can I get out there? How can I make camping more comfortable without sacrificing space? I think I have the backpacking bug . . . I am now beginning to understand my brother-in-law Clay. :)

So back to Point Reyes. Rather than describe everything, I'll just show you the pictures. (And yes, there's a waterfall on the beach that flows right into the ocean. Look forward to that.)

Isn't the California coast beautiful? Aren't sunsets on the beach wonderful?

(You'll probably get tired looking at sunset beach shots on my blog, but watcha gonna do? It's my blog.)

Thing I'm thankful for: Clay's help with buying camping gear. He really is the coolest of them all.

Friday, January 09, 2015

The Next Great Mormon Mommy Photographer

But  really, this is a pretty awesome picture.

I call it "Paddleboards and a Sunset." Ha.

Thing I'm thankful for: veggie enchiladas

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Ineffable, No. 3

If I could describe my mood in song, it would go something like this:

John Williams, "Regaining a Son"

Thing I'm thankful for: Ashley and Ariel

Friday, January 02, 2015


I finally saw the movie "Divergent" and thought it was pretty good. Granted, I did have low expectations and I was on a plane, so I suppose I was bound to like it, but I think I would have liked it under normal circumstances, too. It was the same basic story as most popular young adult fiction novels and movies these days -- two teenagers fall in love against the backdrop of a dysfunctional society, yada, yada, yada -- but I guess I liked the casting better than I did in say, "The Hunger Games." (I'm just sorry we won't be seeing Ashley Judd in the sequel.)

Anyway, after I watched the movie, I looked up more information about it online and found several Divergent quizzes, which I of course had to take. (You can take one, too, here: Which Divergent Faction Do You Actually Belong In?) Before I tell you my results, though, I have to say that the Dauntless faction is 0% appealing to me -- from the recklessness and violence to the form-fitting black clothes. I would never, ever in a million years pick that faction as a place to call home. So when I saw my highly scientific quiz results, I knew they were spot-on: Amity. Abnegation was a close second. Erudite* was next, then Candor. My Dauntless score was abysmal.

I'm happy with my place in society.

*What is up with people pronouncing "erudite" as "er-yuh-dite?" It sounds like there's an "i" in there before the "u," and it drives me nuts. Sure, it's listed as a secondary pronunciation in Merriam-Webster, but let's get serious -- "er-uh-dite" sounds much better. Listen: How to Pronounce Erudite.

Thing I'm thankful for: REI