Oct 25, 2015

Refiner's Fire.

UGH, I am being refined. When you say that something has been refined that means it has been through a process to bring it to a point where it is free from impurities. Why do things need to be refined? Did you know that after something is refined it is supposedly better than it was before?

I was reading about refining today and I learned about how impossible it would be to develop a universal boiler or engine capable of running on all crude oils. So to meet user requirements crude oil has to be separated, converted, and treated in a process called refining. There is lots of refining going on all around us. Sugar is refined. Salt is refined. Food oil is refined. Metals are refined. Petroleum oil is refined. I wonder if sugar wants to be refined? I wonder if it likes the process? I imagine it knows it has to go through it so it just submits willingly. Silly sugar.

What do you think about the idea that as humans we are all being refined? Remember the children of Israel in the Bible? They were definitely refined while they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years learning things about themselves. As humans enduring is what our refining process is. No actual melting. No actual heat. Although sometimes I feel like that is actually happening. But honestly it is just plain, old fashioned, enduring. Just embrace it. It is teaching us patience. It is increasing our perspective. It is making our little hard hearts soft. It even strengthens our conviction. I hear those are all good things....we want them :)

I hate to admit that I need refining and that it is good for me but I can not deny it, it is all true. Every time I come through something hard I notice that I am a teeny tiny bit better than I was before. My edges feel a little bit smoother. I feel a little bit calmer. I understand a little bit better. It is a slow process. Just in case you are jealous that I am always moving forward I have to tell you in all honesty I have been known to go backwards. Sometimes I feel refined, feel like I have learned, and feel a bit of a thrill about it. But then the situation comes up again, I make the same mistake again, and realize with a large amount of despair that I am not as refined as I thought I was and oh, hey I just did that mistake thing.... again. A most frustrating feeling to behave the way you shouldn't.

You would think by the time you were 46 years old that refining might be close to being over but that is not the case for me. Hard things are still happening. Hard things I have no control over. People making choices that affect me but that I have no control over are all around me. Hard things that I just have to endure and remind myself that I have to have faith that it will all work out the way it is supposed to. Submitting.....yeah, that is what it is called....good times.

Oct 21, 2015

Monkey Traps.

So on Thursday of this week I get to teach a lesson and as I have been studying for this lesson I have happened to learn about monkey traps. Is it weird that I have never heard of monkey traps before? It is a shame because this juicy little piece of information probably could have been used at some moments in the past 46 year of my life. But before we lament together about that let me first tell you all about monkey traps.

So in Africa and apparently other countries as well, they have a very effective way to trap monkeys. They take a coconut, lop off the top of the coconut, and take all the coconut meat out. They leave a hole in the top of the coconut that is just large enough for the monkey to stick his paw inside. They anchor the coconut to the ground and put some peanuts inside of the hole. Apparently monkeys will smell the peanuts, come to the trap,and put their paws down inside to get the nuts. Then they try to get them out. But with their little paws clenched around the peanuts they can not remove their paws from the hole because it is too small for all of that to come out. The monkeys will not let go of the peanuts...to literally save their lives and thus they are caught when the natives return.

Seems silly, right? All they have to do is let go. I read somewhere in the midst of all my googling on this topic something that really got me thinking, "the monkey is caught by its rigid values not the trap."The trap works because the monkey is so focused on getting the food inside. The silly monkey does not understand that the price of trying to get the food will be his freedom.

It seems so obvious to us...just let go of the food Mr. Monkey, run away, and find some other food. But supposedly we humans think better than monkeys and we "get it". But do we? The more I researched and the more questions I asked the more disconcerting it all got. Pretty soon I could painfully see places in my life where I had had my hand in the top of the coconut clutching some short sighted thing that I was sure I could not leave or live without. Ever been guilty of short term thinking? Ever been paralyzed by making decisions? Oh and the worst question is, "have you ever struggled to acknowledge that a decision you made was bad?" I fear I could probably write the book on monkey traps.

Why are things that matter the most always at the mercy of things that matter the least?

So right now as you are merrily reading this I am currently aware of not one but two monkey traps I am caught in. Did learning this fabulous lesson help me to let go, run as fast as I can and focus on things that matter the most??....Um no....not yet. But do not worry I always come around :)

Oct 19, 2015


So when I was little....well I am still little....I guess we should say when I was young, I loved to listen to the soundtrack from My Fair Lady, over, and over, and over again. I sort of like the fact that years later there is still a couple songs from that soundtrack that often play in my mind. One of them is a song from the beginning of the show where Eliza Doolitle, who is in the middle of a very poor, must work hard everyday for nothing, life, is singing about all she wants. And she sings"

"All I want is a room somewhere. Far away from the cold night air. With one enormous chair. Oh, wouldn't it be loverly? Lots of chocolate for me to eat. Lots of coal making lots of heat.Warm face. Warm hands. Warm feet. Oh wouldn't it be loverly?"

Yeah, that word loverly....is it not perfect?

 Of course these few sentences are only part of the song but this is the part that will be stuck in my head for ever and ever. I can not tell you how many times something will be going on in one of the days of my little old life and my mind will randomly bring up the words to this song. It does not even have to be a cold day...just one of "those"days. I am constantly refining the picture this song brings into my mind, more that I care to admit :) I feel like this moment, the room, the chair, and of course the chocolate are all out there somewhere, waiting for me. I have no doubt I will recognize them when I meet them.

The chair must have arms. It must have enough room for me to tuck one leg under the other leg  comfortably. It can't be to stiff of a chair, just a little bit sink-y. You know, like the three little bears story....a "just right" chair. Not too high or to low of a back. Armrests that you can slink down, rest your head on, and fall asleep on while you lay on your back slinging your legs over the opposite armrest.  An ottoman is a definite must for when you need to stretch out that leg that you folded underneath because it is threatening to fall asleep. I think the chair in that picture right over there is pretty darn close to what I envision.

The "far away from the cold night air" words make me supremely happy. I love cold night air. In my cold night air I imagine snow.....preferably the big storm variety of snow. My favorite blanket will be with me in my chair....my favorite blanket happens to be my oldest song Zach's blanket that he left in the states with me when he went to Europe. It is flannel. It is plaid. It is the perfect weight. I wonder when he will want this blanket back?

There simply must be a fire. Not coal as indicated in the song, that is so 1800's, just wood fire for me. It will be dark and gray outside. The house will surely be all picked up. While I sit in my chair I will be able to hear those comforting, rewarding, dinner is over and cleaned up dish washer sounds coming from the kitchen.

The song does not mention the table next to the chair but I am pretty sure there is one. What would I put the chocolate on ?:) Actually, you all know there are books on that table and a lamp. I need low, mood lighting in my, "re-creation of My Fair Lady song lyrics" moment....it's just the way I roll. Right now I am re-reading The Light Between Oceans so that will be there. I have a stack of magazines about things to do in Oregon that I got from the Visit Oregon Booth in the Portland airport way back in August that I have not had the chance to carefully read I would be so happy if those were on the table also. On a whim I purchased a Calvin and Hobbes book from a second hand bookstore and I have not had a chance to read that either. So add it to the pile. And last but not least, because a girl can never have too much reading material, my copy of The Princess Bride by William Goldman. Yes, it's a book. Yes, the book is better than the movie.

The chocolate? Yeah, holiday shaped Reeses.,,,you know, like pumpkins, Christmas trees, hearts. They are made differently than the normal Reeses and have a most perfect proportion of chocolate and peanut butter in them. Also the chocolate is smoother than normal Reeses peanut butter cups chocolate. But we all know any chocolate would do.

Wouldn't it all be loverly? Is it too much to add a view to my song? Oh and a best friend that "gets" me and wants to talk about what I am reading? Oh and steak for dinner later? :) And a hike planned for the next day? Yeah, I just ruined the song :)

Oct 18, 2015

Life Is Like A Sushi Belt?

Sometimes I wonder to myself about things I am very sure I don't like,

 "When did I decide I do not like this?"

And I try to remember the moment. It seems to me if you do not like something you should have a strong memory of that, "do not like moment" to back up your, "do not like declaration." We all know it sounds much more valid when someone declares their hatred for something and then when asked why they can give you a long detailed story about how they KNOW they hate it because they tried it in Alaska, in November of 1999, when they were wearing the bracelet from Uncle George, and it snowed a foot, a day they will never forget.

This is the thought process that went through my mind last Saturday night when I was up in Washington and an old friend from high school texted me to see if I liked sushi and if I wanted to meet at a sushi restaurant. I was proud of myself for telling my friend the truth that I did not like sushi. Usually my need to not not have confrontations, combined with my need to not be high maintenance keep me from admitting things like that. (Yeah, feel free to comment on that little gem of unhealthiness in the comment section :) I really wanted to hang out so I said I was coming and I would be happy to give it a try.

As I have grown up I have become much braver at trying new foods, as a kid I was definitely described as a picky eater. As I was driving to the restaurant I realized that if I really thought about it I could not even remember if I had ever eaten sushi and I felt a little sheepish about declaring I hated it when I could not find that moment that should be embedded in my mind of the trying and hating process. I do have strong memories of sitting across from friends in restaurants while they were eating sushi and feeling sick just watching it but that clearly could not count.

I got to the restaurant first so I sat in my car checking out the scene. The first thing I noticed was that the neon sign outside the restaurant had the words belt and sushi on it. I had no idea why. I was pretty sure belt was not a Japanese word so it seemed unlikely that it could be the families last name. Maybe there was a mountain named belt in Japan? Maybe I needed to be wearing a belt? Can you tell how much experience I have had with sushi?

Of course, as soon as I entered the restaurant it was apparent why the word belt was in the neon lights outside. I had never seen anything like it. A conveyor belt was snaking around the seating arrangement and on this belt were different color plates with various kinds of sushi, watermelon, pineapple, desserts, spring rolls, and dumplings on them. Some had clear lids covering the items on the plate and others were just open. All the plates were casually riding on this squeaky, gold colored conveyor belt like it was the most normal thing in the world. I was bursting with questions. WHY? WHY? and some more WHY? 

Luckily, my friend was comfortable and familiar with all this "sushi belt strangeness" and knew exactly what to do and immediately chose a plate off the belt for us to try. I needed a quick chopstick lesson before starting in. I am woefully uneducated in the Asian food department. I asked lots of questions and arranged my glass of water a few times until I knew I could not put it off any more.The moment had come. A little unassuming, harmless looking wrapped bundle of rice was patiently staring at me. I am not going to lie I was not excited about this moment. But I took a deep breath, used my chopsticks, grabbed the bundle, dipped it in soy sauce, and shoved it in my mouth. It was....awful. I have never choked something down so maturely in all my life. If I was just a year younger I would have spit it all out and declared hysterically that I was going to throw up. But thankfully that was last year. I just made a yucky face at my friend while I chewed the entire bundle in misery.

To my credit I took at least one bite of everything my friend chose off of the sushi belt. And now I have that, "when I knew I hated sushi moment" deeply embedded in my mind for when I need to refer to it again. For the record I did not want to hate sushi. I was really hoping I would love it. I know how it feels when I love something and I am so excited about sharing my love of it with someone. I wait with bated breath to see if they will declare they love it and then we will have a bonding moment. Yeah, no sushi bonding moment. But never fear I think our friendship is still intact. I am hoping that my friend did not need me to love sushi. I definitely loved the experience...learning about new things is always fun for me. Now I can have a small part in a future sushi conversation if necessary. And as always the company you are with is what it is really about.

On my drive home I could not stop musing about the wonder of that sushi belt. I smiled as I let my mind wander to thinking about what if life was like a sushi belt? What if different moments in life were laid out on colored plates with clear lids on top and they were all going around and around, clockwise on a conveyor belt? And there were certain times in life that you had to go sit in front of the conveyor belt and choose your education, your kids, your car, your house, your weight, your trials. Yeah, I know...but it was an entertaining thought. I would hope I would have enough money for the plate with the BMW on it and the plate with the vacation home on it.

Oct 8, 2015

"We Might Have Been Happy."

Laman and Lemuel are the brothers of Nephi in the Book of Mormon. The brothers that always seem to forget or not even recognize the ways they and their family have been blessed. The brothers that wrote the book on murmuring. The brothers that see actual angels and witness the power of God and yet never "get it". The brothers that see affliction so differently from Nephi and his other siblings. The chapters that I read for my religion class this week are some of my favorite chapters they are full of all sorts of nuggets of wisdom. For my class we have 20 minutes worth of video clips from various talks that relate to what we are reading. I love these little video clips, they always give me something to think about and something new to notice. 

This week one of these clips was called "Attitudes in Affliction". For a little over three minutes the speaker, Kirk Astel, talks about the differences between Laman and Lemuel, and Nephi's attitudes. He points out that chapter 17 of Nephi starts out with Nephi talking about this long 8 year journey, through the wilderness, they have just completed. Nephi gets married on this journey. His wife has children on this journey. He becomes a dad. When he describes the journey he acknowledges that they did "travel through much affliction in the wilderness". He says, "our women did bear children in the wilderness". But then he lists all their blessings from the journey. he says in verse 2 that the blessings of the Lord were great and were upon them. He has no problem recognizing how they were blessed. Here is his list of blessings he mentions:

#1, The blessings of the Lord were upon them while they did live upon raw meat in the wilderness.

#2. Their women had plenty of milk to nurse their babies so that their babies were strong.

#3. The women became strong too, even like unto the men and began to bear their journey without murmuring.

When you keep reading and you turn the page and read verse 20 then you get Laman and Lemuel's view of the 8 year journey. They did the exact same things that Nephi did. The speaker points out that just like Nephi they become fathers, they get married, they have kids. But they see the whole thing totally different. Check out what they say:

#1.We have wandered in this wilderness for these many years.

#2.Our women have toiled being big with child.

#3.They have borne children in the wilderness and suffered all things, save it were death.

#4. It would have been better that the women had dies before they left Jerusalem than to have suffered these afflictions.

But here is the clincher. In verse 21 they declare, "Behold these many years we have suffered in the wilderness, which time we might have enjoyed our posessions and the land of our inheritance; yea and we might have been happy."

What? They "might have been happy"? 

Good attitude.....bad attitude.

An attitude is "the way a person views something or tends to behave towards it, often in an evaluative way."

This really got me thinking about my attitude on my journey here in life. How I view things or behave towards them. We all gasp at the reality that Laman and Lemuel never "get it". They never change. They never even think they need to change. We can not even fathom it. We say to ourselves if all those things had happened to me I surely would have stopped murmuring and stopped having a bad attitude. We discuss it over and over, wondering out loud about "how could they?" 

Laman and Lemuel view the exact same journey so differently from Nephi. How do I view my journey that I am on with all the other people around me. How does my attitude compare? Can I see my blessings? Can I be grateful for them?

Do I declare that I "might have been happy?" I hope not. But I am human so the chances that I think this are very good. I really would rather just be happy. It sounds so simple and easy. Look at that innocent simple sentence :) Why do we always think something else would make us happier?