This is Christmas

I'm hiding out in my room until my family figures out I'm awake. It is hard to believe Christmas is already here. Wasn't December 1st just yesterday? This has been one of the busiest Decembers in recent memory and I'm glad I can be home for Christmas. I have been inundated with so much TV and chocolate I feel like I've already been home for a week. There's something dangerous about coming home - there's actually food to be found in the kitchen. Plus there seems to be candy everywhere. It is hard to stay "in control" here. Luckily the weather's been good so maybe I'll force myself to go running next week. (Haha fat chance.)

One of my sisters is out of state for Christmas with her husband's family and I overheard my other two sisters taunting her on the phone a few minutes ago. It was pretty funny. She has been dubbed "the traitor" which I think fits just fine. While we will miss her (or at least pretend to miss her), we will just have to get on with our day.

Uh oh, I can hear my family plotting to "wake me up." I think it's time to wrap this up. I just wanted to say "Merry Christmas" to everyone and I hope you have a really nice day!


It's the Final Countdown!

Last night I was watching one of my favorite shows ("The Sing Off") and after being eliminated one of the groups sang "This is the Final Countdown," as their swan song. I was surprised when I recognized it. I didn't even know the song had a name - I just always called it "Gob's song." (Gob Bluth is a very dysfunctional character on "Arrested Development," another one of my favorite shows.) While it was fun to sit back and watch TV last night, I am now less than 24 hours away from taking the dreaded, the terrible GMAT. The strangest thing is that I don't feel dread or terror (though I've definitely felt it during the past two and a half months of studying.) I've reached that point where I'm ready to get it over with. I have to trust that all of this preparation (and money! oh, the money) will pay off. While I should be hunkering down for another solid night of studying, I will instead be going to the company Christmas party. It looks like I'm going to pull a Gob and fly by the seat of my pants and make some MAGIC happen tomorrow. I'll definitely use his tactic of playing inspiring music (dun du dun-duh! dun dun du-du-duh!), though I think I'll skip dancing around with a knife in my teeth. This one's for you, Gob. Tomorrow I'm going to pull off the greatest illusion ever (i.e., convincing the GMAT that I'm smart)! For now, I've got hair to curl and sequins to don!


From XYZ to ABC

If I had it my way, Plan A would work every time. Things would always pan out the first time round just the way I imagined them. There would be no need for constant readjusting and maneuvering. Perfect timing would clip along just as I predicted and I could sit back and coast on autopilot just enjoying the ride. Unfortunately for me there must be some value in constantly moving on to new plans because I have learned that Plan A rarely works out. Sometimes Plan J turns into the most appealing option, and one can never rule out the merit of scribbling down a Plan Q, R, and S just in case. If you’ve been down this road more than once perhaps you have concluded that simultaneously pursuing multiple plans is the best way to go. I would guess that multitaskers are prone to this strategy. I’m a multitasker at heart and I try to consider all of my options all of the time. A few months ago I decided to try a new plan and last week I had to lay it to rest. The year is rapidly winding down and I feel like I am about to abandon Plans X, Y, and Z and start over again with A, B, and C. At this point I feel like the weeks, months and years are flying by and the only way to cope with the rush is to “go back to the drawing board” and come up with something fantastic.


Starting over sucks. All of the same questions come back (“What am I doing?” “What should I do instead?” and on and on). Sometimes I catch myself staring in the mirror waiting for the answers to jump out. Instead I am left searching for answers in the depths of my own irises. Besides a splash of four different colors, there isn’t much there. The search for a deeper perspective always renders the same thing – a narrowed reflection of someone very far from deciding who she is. Maybe my eye color is indicative of the problem. I’m split between varied interests that pull me in very different directions. At the core is brown – my preferred way of seeing the world and working my way through it: creatively, artistically, and humorously. Just outside of the brown area is a fine yellow ring that seeks to bridge imagination with practicality. The next layer, green, is the part of me that knows I have to make money somehow, so away with this dreamland stuff. On the very outside is a curious blue rim. It isn’t the crystal clear blue that some people are blessed with. Instead it’s a hazy, “How do I get there?” blue. It is the blue of quickly fading twilight. What I wouldn’t give for high noon blue instead.

Bridging the Gap

What I want more than anything is to find a way to permanently meld creativity and practicality. We’ve all heard the expression “starving artist.” While I admire those brave enough to abandon corporate jobs and pursue artistic careers, I can’t imagine I’ll ever do it. I prioritize the stability and assurance of a steady job but sometimes all that structure can create a stifling scaffold around the creative part of my mind. My fate may have been determined years ago – I was too wound up in junior college to ever take a drawing, painting or creative writing class even though I was dying to. (Since I had to take remedial math credits along with transfer requirements for three different universities, there was simply no time to fit in three elective credits during any of my semesters.) I’m happy with the work I completed and I’m proud of the degree I earned but sometimes I look back at college missed and wish I had just taken it a little slower. I know there’s no use in looking back. My life has rapidly moved on (have I already been out of school for 3 years?!) and bigger and better things have come along. I’m just trying to figure out if good things are happening by coincidence or if I’m actually doing something right.

Here We Go

In the end, the only choice is to go back to the beginning. I don’t have to start over from scratch, I just have to take into account all of the stuff I’ve learned and keep trucking along. While it stinks to let go of X, Y, and Z, I know that it’s the right thing to do. A, B, and C aren’t going to guarantee success but I can be happy with progress. I’m exhausted from another year of trying to figure out my life and I welcome prospect of a restful holiday break. For now I just hope the wheels stop turning long enough to give me a good night’s sleep. At least my dreams allow me to bridge the gap – I can drift off to whatever unpredictable scenario my mind has in store while getting something practical done at the same time. Now if I could just find a way to be paid to sleep…


All About Dad

Today is a really special day for my family – it was my dad’s very last day of work! In honor of his amazing accomplishment I wanted to write all about my dad tonight. However, he has so many great dimensions I knew I would have a hard time touching on all of them. I have enlisted the help of some friends and family to help you understand just how great he is. First, I need to cover a little history.

This week I had the opportunity to study up on my dad’s work history. I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know. His first job was picking prunes as a little boy. He continued working in the fields and orchards through junior high. As a young adult he had his share of restaurant, retail and gardening jobs. He even had a run as a glass blower! Apparently he had a bad accident during that stint and he still has a scar on his arm. He also served in the Marines Reserve Corps and has the tattoo to prove it. (Although he’ll quickly say the tattoo was a huge mistake, I must admit I was always fascinated by it.) I’m sure I’m getting the timeline muddled but he also worked in a lab at Stanford, earned his Administration of Justice AA and became a Sherriff’s deputy. In 1976 he joined the Santa Rosa Police Department as a Police Field Technician but after three years the constantly ringing phones at the front desk of the police office drove him to a pilot program for a new position: Field Evidence Support Technician.

He was one of two people chosen for the program and after going through police academy (again!) they proved the position was viable and more technicians were viable. In his words, “We sacrificed because we wanted the program to be successful. We worked under poor conditions. We didn’t wear a uniform. We wore slacks, a white or blue shirt and a tie and were not issued portable radios. We drove a blue or white Ford Fairmont with a small 10” diameter City seal on the front doors and a small yellow amber light in the rear window. When we finally were told to start taking collision reports and we showed up at the scene, people thought we were insurance agents. By that time we were wearing a navy blue sport coat as part of our non-uniform. Administration did not want us to look anything like a Police Officer. I had to buy my own rain jacket.”

All of their hard work paid off and over the next several years the position evolved. If you had seen my dad at work today you would have most likely mistaken him for a cop. The technicians are now issued uniforms, radios, and patrol units with light bars. I had no idea my dad had helped build the position from the ground up. He has stuck with it for 34 years (count ’em – 34 years!!!) and today he retired as the oldest and longest-serving SRPD employee. He’s amazing!

Honestly, however, that’s just the half of it. In the 27 years that I’ve been alive, my dad has been a wonderful person. I just wish I could have been around when he was a little kid. As the third of four boys, he had two older brothers picking on him. His little brother, Jim, told me a funny experience about how it was to be the youngest of the bunch:

First of all, I am totally jealous. Now I will be the only brother still working!

I will never forget the time when I was about nine years old and Louie and I were in a real fight. Louie got my arm behind my back and was twisting it up hard. He said, I'm going to break your arm!" It really hurt. I yelled back to him, "Go ahead, break it, but just wait until Pop gets home." It really scared him and he released it immediately. I felt really smart. I now knew how to control him from hurting me!

On the good side, he was always nice to our mother. I could never understand how he could always be kind and thoughtful towards her.


Although my dad is a very mild-mannered and wise man, I’m sure he was a hellion growing up! I’m glad Jim survived because now I get to enjoy all three of my uncles. I have a theory as to why he was always so nice to Grandma: perhaps part of him knew he’d end up with a family of all girls! Yes, it is true – until 9 years ago my dad was absolutely surrounded by my mom, my three sisters and me. (Luckily in 2001 I got a fantastic brother-in-law.) He could almost always find refuge in the garage with his power tools, but even better he was a great friend to my sister’s friends and they other young men in the ward. I like to say that I had at least 10 older brothers growing up. The best part about them was they seldom picked on me and almost always honed in on my mom. They liked to find her when she was out on a walk and dump a bucket of water on her or saran-wrap her to a telephone pole. They made life interesting and my family loved them. They gave my dad many nicknames and even nicknamed our old station wagon (“The Beast”) and his hair (“The Helmet”) In their words:

The Law... So many good times and memories. None of us ever said thank you much. I guess we figure it was just implied but you did a lot for helping all of us grow into good men. You kept your house open to us, let us beat up on your wife, were easy to confide in, and most importantly a good example of a righteous man to a bunch of rowdy and impressionable young men. Memories of growing up fade with time but I will never forget the good times all of us had backpacking the sierras. As a young men leader now I realize how much work it is do such things. So thanks dude. Have a great retirement. Enjoy getting old and senile. And when the amnesia starts kicking in, I'm gonna come by and remind you how I lent you that AR-15 and the Ruger mark III and would like them back now.

- Ben

Lou has always been and will always be one of the boys. On camping & backpacking trips, he was never just one of the Dads chaperoning some foolish (and dangerous at times!) teenagers, he was the adult that respected us enough to let us make some trouble (which he knew we would get into either way). The first backpacking trip I went on with him, Ben, Sam and Travis N. is a perfect example. There we were hiking through Desolation Wilderness… I was a knife-obsessed teenager holding my machete in my teeth and constantly playing with my throwing knife collection. 'The Law' basically just made sure we weren’t throwing them at each other and looked the other way. Sure he was there when we had to go search for Travis on one of his walkabouts, and he was there any time that we might be getting a little bit out of line but often he was just with us having fun and was never afraid to let us have fun. I think there’s always a point growing up where leaders/elders can get on your nerves in some way or another but I can’t think of a single time that any of us ever felt that way about Lou. The camaraderie he developed with us made him just another “Bro” in our circle. Loucifer is THE man!


I remember taking trips with Lou to Mammoth Mt and Sea Otter for biking...I put up with his snoring and he listened to me talking in my he probably knows all my secrets and dreams, but that's ok he's a trustworthy man! On these trips, I could always count on him to bring a good steak that I could nibble on (he ate one every night camping). Maybe it was steaks that slowed him down on the bike...maybe it was the bike itself...who knows why he never broke any speed records on the bike, it was just fun being around him! Lou is the only guy with no little kids that can drive a minivan and look good doing it - you da man Lou! No matter the setting or occasion I just love being around Lou - I will eat a steak, shoot a gun, ride a bike or talk in my sleep with you anytime! Congratulations on finishing a long and successful career! Love you lots!


Lou is a great example for me and the guys. He's an almost silent leader. He has a way of lending me the same confidence that he carries. It's hard to explain but those that know him know what I mean. His home has raised a lot of youth, most of whom were not his own as far as blood is concerned. But that never seemed to matter. I've fallen asleep on Lou and Ginger's couch more than a handful of times only to wake up in a silent pitch dark house under a warm blanket......and feel right at home. He confirmed my wife a member of the church. Was a witness at my wedding and has been a man that I would be proud to emulate.


I think it is safe to say that my dad was a father to not just three daughters, but many sons. Whenever his boys were gone on a mission or moved out of state, my family turned to the elders serving in the ward to fill the void. My dad spent countless hours mountain biking with the elders on their P-Day (Preparation Day) and tuning up bikes in his garage. My mom was able to hem their pants and together they made our house Elder Central. It was a great place to grow up and their love of the missionaries definitely fueled my desire to serve. But enough about me! This is about my dad! One former Elder wrote:

Lou is an awesome man. I would have to say that he was my father when I needed one. He has always been the strong steady quiet example that I very much admire. I think that it is really great that he represented the Santa Rosa Police Force.

I remember visiting Santa Rosa a few years after my mission and I was able to visit with him for a while. We were able to go out into the garage and have some guy time. He was working on the cabinets that went into the master bathroom. I remember him always being quite the craftsman. I am really excited that he will have the opportunity to now work on things he enjoys.

Both he and your mom were there for me during some pretty dark hours while I was serving in the Piner Creek Ward and I will forever be grateful for that. Lou is the Man!


My dad has also been a very dedicated and service-oriented neighbor and true friend. Two of our favorite neighbors live a couple of streets away, and said this about Dad:

Lou (we all call him the "Rock") will NEVER divulge a secret. My wife had planned a surprise party, and he asked me to go mountain biking. We always go to Lepe's after. He told me that we needed to go home, that we would be barbequing with the wives. I told him that we still needed to eat at least one or two tacos. He said, “No, we need to go home they are waiting.” Not a breath of anything. We drove to his house, and I was going to drop off Lou and his bike, he said, “No, let’s do it later.” We walked into my house and the place was packed. (Lou always paid to get into Annadel by the way.)

If you EVER need help, he will always be there to help. He is the best neighbor anyone could ask for. I never hear Lou talk bad about anyone. He just walks away. He loves to be with his family, that is his biggest joy (and shooting of course). Any time you spend with Lou will only increase your love of others. Retirement couldn't come to a more deserving and nicer guy!


One thing I have always admired Lou for, is his journal keeping. He can go back to when he was called to a specific calling and tell you his feelings about it. He can go back to each of his daughters' births and re live the moment. He has dutifully and lovingly recorded events in his life to share with others or privately contemplate. I have always loved Lou. Congratulations on this great milestone - time to write this experience in your journal!


I have to agree with Janet – Dad’s journal habit is a great example! It is so fun when he pulls out journal entries and reads them to us on special days. For years I felt bad for not keeping a journal and I have to say that he is a big reason I write this blog. He has always been so willing to share his thoughts and memories with my family and that is why I want to record and share my own.

My dad and his brothers exemplify wonderful qualities of protectiveness, empathy and compassion that guardians and counselors possess. They are always willing to help anyone in the family. It is little surprise that my uncle Dave also worked in law enforcement:

Wow, he's finally retiring! I never even thought about how long he has been working at the same job and I was shocked to read that it's been 35 years. That job must have meant an awful lot to him to last that long and I'm proud of his accomplishment. I'm confident that the SRPD will miss his expertise, especially his CSI work. Knowing my brother, he has put everything into his work and done as complete a job as anybody could do.

His family, his church, his woodwork, and now his target shooting...everybody knows that he puts his heart and soul into everything he does. Why would it be different with his chosen profession? He will miss his work, whether he realizes it or not, but his family, church and friends will share even more of his time now.

Enough of that, how long is his 'to do' list?? How long will it take to build my kitchen island, brother??


Heaven knows that my dad will continue to attack his miles-long To Do list. I think it’s a trait that runs in our family. I want to thank my dad for his tireless work ethic, enduring loyalty and the wonderful example he has been to all of us lucky to know him. He has a thousand hobbies (as you may guess shooting is his #1 hobby right now) and he will definitely stay busy the next 30+ years. I hope today is a wonderful day for my dad and full of congratulations. I love him!

Last but not least are some thoughts from his oldest brother:

As the oldest of four boys, I was supposed to be the one to sample the world and pass on my wisdom and discoveries to my younger siblings. Not sure where that idea came from, but as it turned out, that all happened in reverse. I certainly did go forth sampling the world's menu, but missed the precious stuff. Lou dedicated himself to whatever he did from the beginning, whether it was Cub Scouts or homework as a kid, pushing physical limits as a Marine, fine-tuning woodworking skills, studying to be the best Field Tech with S.R.P.D. he could be, or punching out the bulls-eye on the rifle range. What he did in-between is what makes him stand out from so many men, myself included. He found love as a young man and knew that was it for him. He began to lay the foundation for supporting that love and the family that followed. It became his life’s work. Patiently pushing himself to build his career and home, sacrificing leisure time in doing that, Lou showed me what I had missed all my life...commitment. His retirement is not going to put a dent in that. I've got a feeling that his home will continue to have improvements and his church will also benefit from his extra time. If I could do it all over again, I'd want Lou to be my Big Brother, and do it his way. Thanks for teaching me lessons the world couldn't Lou.




Turkey Day is ticking away. It has been a wonderful (emphasis on the full) day. I don’t want to miss the perfect opportunity to write down (well, type up) what I’m grateful for. Here it goes:


I would be nothing, nowhere, and no one without my friends and family. This wonderful group of people includes plenty of complete strangers out there who have shown me random acts of kindness. I owe everything I am to my parents, sisters, brother-in-law, best friends, close friends, distant friends, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, cousins, coworkers and classmates who have shaped my life. While I am always sad when I grow apart from a dear friend, I am very grateful that life is continually filled with new faces. Even though I want to hold onto everyone forever I know that we have to keep trudging down diverging paths.

I am thankful for teachers who have shown me the way and helped me since my earliest memories in pre-school. They cheered me on for every small victory and helped me through anything worth mentioning in my life until I was 23. Even though that is the age I graduated college and my formal education ended, I will always look to teachers as beacons of light scattered along a sometimes dark and discouraging path.

(Disclaimer: The rest of this list is in no particular order)


I am very grateful for clean water that makes modern hygiene and cooking possible. On my mission I lived in places where untreated tap water posed a potential threat to my health but by some miracle I was able to stay healthy. More than anything I am grateful for fantastic food from vibrant cultures although I will tell you I’ll never turn down a bowl of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Also, if I ever meet the person who invented Hawaiian pizza, I think I’ll kiss them right on the mouth.


Aaaaahhhh, sleep! Sleep wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if I weren’t surrounded by lovely layers of fluffiness entombing me in an 8-hour cocoon of hibernation heaven. Even though alarm clocks have a bad rap, I definitely rely on mine to get me up in the afternoon (wait, I mean morning). It is much better than worrying about sleeping in. (I consider “sleeping in” having to hit to Snooze button more than six times.)


Glory, Glory, Hallelujah! Cars? Airplanes? Ships? Trains? Come on people, we live in the best world ever! I LOVE flying and oh my gosh if I didn’t have a car I think I’d just bury my head in the sand. I know there are a ton of other awesome ways to get around (bicycle, tricycle, skateboard, boogie board) but I just don’t think I’d be that motivated to try them out on a daily basis. I’m going to tack “wheelchairs” and “prosthetic limbs” on this list too. I think it is absolutely amazing how much mobility these apparatuses provide to people who may otherwise be rendered immobile. Thank goodness for scientists who dedicate their lives to perfecting the science of all of these vehicles of transportation.

I just realized I left out a biggie: buses. While the efforts of their developers and operators are laudable, I only give buses an honorable mention. There is nothing worse than being bus sick!

FIFTH: MODERN TECHNOLOGY (including Spell Check and dishwashers)

Think of everything that is technological but doesn’t carry people to and fro and you have my fifth hero: modern technology. Thank you to all of the GENIUSES who invented and perfected printing presses, light bulbs, telephones, radios, audio recorders, cameras, computers and the most bodaciously awesome INTERNET. I love it all. Of course, my daily life wouldn’t be complete without kitchen appliances, flushing toilets, and my remote control.


I am grateful for vaccines, antibiotics, pain killers, local anesthetic and DENTISTRY. Thank you thank you thank you dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants everywhere who have done your homework and approach potentially terrified patients with confidence and hard-earned knowledge. Same thing goes for orthodontists, oral surgeons and their patient staff. I always loved my dentist growing up and that healthy relationship helped me through five years of orthodontic work that began with an oral surgery when I was 11 and ended with my wisdom teeth extraction when I was 16.

The bulk of my medical experience lies with the “teeth” doctors but I know I will be in great hands when more complex medical issues come my way. My hometown family doctor is a wonderful example of a nurturing family practician who has seen my family through decades of check-ups, sore throats and sniffles. Thanks to him I am confident that I will be in good hands with the physicians I will encounter during the rest of my life.


Although I am often overwhelmed by the amount of things I can choose to do in my downtime, I am very grateful for all of the writers, actors, musicians and artists who come together to create uplifting, inspiring, and eye-opening media. It would be a dream come true to join their ranks. I love television, movies, theater, music, books and art. My life would be very boring without them.


They say that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I guess that means each of us gets to pick how we evaluate beauty. I wish modern society didn’t constantly bludgeon us with an idealized vision of feminine and masculine beauty. We should be able to evaluate beauty on our own terms and not buy in to the lies and illusions that surround us. I am grateful for people who know they are beautiful and refuse to let anyone make them think otherwise. I am grateful for full-figured girls and women who defy society’s standard of stickliness (yes I just made up that word) and walk proud for all to see. People who are brave enough to turn a blind eye to the Barbie/Ken image are my heroes. I need to be more like them.


I will be forever grateful for the influence of the gospel of Jesus Christ in my life. I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am. Countless people have shown me Christ-like love yet it never ceases to amaze me when I see new examples of it throughout my meager existence. The world is chock full of horrible and sad things. I am so grateful for the hope that Christ brings and the mission he completed for us during his life, death, and resurrection. I know that Christ lives and He will return to this earth one day. It is our choice whether we will be grateful or fearful, thankful or dreadful. I choose to look forward to that day and although I am far from perfect I know we all have the same opportunity to make things right and be glad of heart.


Today my heart is full and I have many people to thank. There are far too many people to name and far too many names to remember. Please know that you make a difference in someone’s life on a daily basis. While a smile may soon be forgotten, harsh words are hard to erase. As we head into the Christmas season do the best you can to uplift those around you. It is better if our kind interactions lift one another up in a cloudy haze of unremarkable pleasantries than if our cutting quarrels bring each other crashing down to a cold hard earth.



“Just keep up. You have to keep up,” was all I could say to myself last week. The week ended in a flurry of activity, both social and academic, that kept me busier than I prefer to be. Since I like being busy you can imagine what it would take to push me to my limit. The week’s pace continued through the weekend which was also nonstop. The breaks during which I could catch a breath never seemed long enough. In the few moments where all was still, the quiet only brought to mind more tasks at hand, including some things I had forgotten to do the previous week. The weekend wasn’t as much of a break as it was a compound fracture. Things were out of hand, stress protruded from me like shards of bone, and Monday was racing nearer.

Monday was what I refer to as a collapse day. I was singlehandedly trying to hold up the sky and plug every leak that each storm cloud threatened to pour out. Nothing bad happened that day, but I can’t remember much good about it either. I dismissed it as another Monday devoid of remarkable events. Then Tuesday came – more pressure, more intensity, more urgency. I will not have chaos in my life so I countered with control. However, very little was under my control. “Just keep up. You have to keep up,” echoed through my mind. At one point I froze in the middle of my tasks, in need of a deep breath, and attempted to methodically collect my thoughts which had scattered to and fro like marbles on a granite floor.

Here I was, little ole me, trying to hold the whole world together. The challenge was the same as always – keep it together. Anticipate trouble and fix it before anyone notices. Somehow, routine tasks had gotten out of hand. I thought back and wondered if this was a gradual process (like a frog slowly being boiled alive in a pot of water) or a temporary problem (like a quick rainstorm which would soon clear out until next season). For the time being I am convinced it is the former. A few years ago it felt like the pace of my life was picking up in a predictable, linear fashion. Sure, time seemed to be going faster but I was able to rely on a steady stream of past experiences to get me through new obstacles. Recently, the pace seems to have taken on an exponential growth rate. I am wondering what will happen if the line eventually shoots off the charts.

If I had spoken to you as Tuesday trounced all over me, I would have told you I was living in a Tetris game. Tetris starts off at a level we all know and love – Level One. Everything makes sense in Level One, but soon we are ready for a challenge and it’s time to advance. Early on, moving to the next level seems like a great reward. “Yeah, I’m ready for this!” As the game’s speed increases and impossible combinations of shapes are dropped into your ever more disorderly world you think to yourself, “What exactly did I sign up for?” Even more questionable is your desire to keep moving forward. Whether you like it or not you improve in the game and are pushed forward. (Forward is good, right? Well, that may be debatable.) As you reach higher levels and push yourself to keep up with the frantic pace and falling shapes, the quickened cadence becomes the new standard by which to measure your success. What once seemed chaotic now seems normal, and you brace yourself for more.

At times, failure falls upon even the most adept Tetris player. I was never a great Tetris player and if I were to pick up the game today I would probably be sent back to Level One more times that I’d prefer to admit. Even so, Level One is a great place. Unpredictable challenges can quickly be sorted into level piles of successfully completed work. However, Level One can’t last forever.

One thing Tetris doesn’t teach you is how to cope with a level that outmatches your skill set. The only way to progress in Tetris is by earning your way there. Life is constantly throwing things at me and saying, “Can you handle that? No? Deal with it anyway!” I continually ask myself, “How on earth did I get here?” and, “Am I qualified for this?” And there’s always the question, “Do I really want to progress to something harder or should I pay a nostalgic visit to Level One instead?” Since life doesn’t come equipped with a “pause” button (only a costly mimic called “denial”), I have a tendency to hold my arms up to the sky and keep anything else from dropping down on me. As the rate and pressure intensify, it doesn’t take long to realize this “break” is going to break me. Sometimes my tibia snaps, other times my fibula. My knees and ankles squeak and creak, but I still hold up the sky. Just as I think my plan is working, I reach the breaking point and everything collapses, including the crumpled bones in my legs.

What is the solution for fixing sore arms and broken legs? Run. On Wednesday night I went to the track and ran for the first time in a week and a half. I involuntarily ran much faster than normal (my body must have sensed that my poor little mind has been in control for far too long) and I couldn’t slow my pace. Nothing could have felt better. I am no expert in physiology but I know I carry stress around in my body. It is very easy to talk myself out of running, (“I’m too busy!”) but choosing to run is one of the best possible uses of my time. If you feel overwhelmed the best possible thing to do is take a break. It may seem counterintuitive to take valuable time away from your tasks, but your personal well being will always outweigh your to-do list.

Today I feel a lot better about things, but not for any reasons I trust. Could it be the allure of a restful weekend? Is it the promise of getting pizza in class tonight? Or maybe is it because I am planning to take a break in a few hours and spend perfectly valuable time watching TV? Perhaps I am gleefully anticipating a few days off next week for Thanksgiving. Regardless, I can tell you that today’s outlook is very promising. I can look back on this week and say I did everything I could. Even though I can’t count on anything that may happen in a few hours or a few days, I can tell you that someone has hit the elusive “pause” button for me. While this may just be the calm before another storm, I am glad to have time to collect my thoughts and recommit to this crazy life of mine.


You'll Never Know

The things I've seen
you'll never know
The places I've been
you daren't go

This world is broken
and without warning
You'll sink into night
waiting for morning

On cold nights like this
I sit and wait
For them to find me
and clench my fate

I see shadows
and know they lurk
Dead faces in capes
smile and smirk

Sharp teeth glimmer
and cold fists clench
Black mouths open
and release their stench

They hold you tight
and drag you outside
Although you fight
Their mouths gape wide

The screeching begins
and hollows you out
This is the end
there is no doubt

They pull the life out
from everywhere inside
Nothing is safe
All hope is denied

When they leave you
you're just a shell
You've become a ghost
just this side of Hell

You'll laugh at dawn
You'll screech at noon
You'll cry at nightfall
and howl at the moon

The things I've seen
you'll never know
The places I've been
you daren't go

I've been broken
like those before me
and nothing will ever -
can ever restore me


I intended to sit down and write a happy poem tonight but unfortunately this is what came out. It probably has something to do with the sub-zero temperatures in my room (not literally), the recent passing of Halloween and and the upcoming release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It's been years since I read a Harry Potter book but I remember being very creeped out by the Dementors. I guess on nights like this I can be VERY grateful Dementors don't exist and I will never know what it is like to experience the "Dementor's kiss." The human imagination can sure conjure up some pretty awful things!


Friends Don't Let Friends Date Friends

I returned home from my mission in July 2006. Four weeks later, I moved back to P-town for my senior year of college. I had signed a contract at the same apartment complex I had lived in during my junior year (2003-2004). I wanted to return to something familiar and I was lucky enough to move in with two friends I had met during that school year. Within days of moving in we befriended two guys (Andy and Drew) who lived in the same complex. Much to our surprise, we formed a tight bond and became a solid group of five. One of my friends’ little sisters joined the group and started dating Andy. Over the next eight months we were inseparable, perhaps mostly held together by this core couple. (They had that rare luxury of meeting and immediately dating, instead of risking an existing friendship.) The six of us spent most weekends together and stayed up several nights just laughing our heads off. (That amount of time together led to a lot of inside jokes and even a few practical jokes.) We all grew close and, as was inevitable, there was a constant flux of crushes interchanging between members in the group. It seemed like every time one of us got a new roommate, a new combination of flirtations erupted.

Spring came and the couple abruptly broke up. They got back together and broke up again a few more times and the rest of us stood by trying to figure out which friendships were going to endure. The guys got a new roommate (Max) and he became one of us. Despite the ups and downs in the core relationship, we had a great spring as a group of (mostly) seven. When summer finally arrived the couple’s relationship seemed to be over for good. My two roommates moved out and suddenly we were down to a group of four – the three guys and me. I had never seen myself as the type to hang out with a bunch of guys all the time but that is definitely how I’d define the summer of 2007. It was also the summer I was graduating and preparing to move back to California for graduate school. In the midst of this upcoming transition, something interested happened. All of a sudden I realized I was about to leave college having never dated anyone. By this point Max and Drew were dating other girls in the ward and that left Andy and I with a lot of time to ourselves. I told Drew that I had a crush on Andy and he told me I should tell him. After all, I was going to be moving to California in a month and I could at least have some fun before I left. The thought of telling Andy really scared me but I considered my options. It went something like this:

Andy is one of my closest friends BUT

Is it more important to have friends or to DATE?

Well, it is probably more important to date.

Is there a chance that I’m going to have guy friends after I get married? PROBABLY NOT

Well, why not get rid of some of them by trying to date them?

HEY! Sounds like a great plan!

To make a LONG story short, I told Andy I wanted to date him. Andy first said yes he’d like to date, then he said wait he’d like to think about it, then one day later he said yes he’d like to date, then nine hours later he said wait maybe not, then three days later he said, "Let’s not." It was pretty devastating because a few weeks later I found out he had “gotten back together” with my friend’s little sister. I decided to cut my losses, finish out the summer, and move back to California.

In the short month I had left I stopped paying attention to Andy and another guy started paying attention to me. I ended up ditching grad school to continue dating him. Drew, Andy and Max were all very surprised to hear I decided to stay after all. By the end of the year my new relationship was over (and so was Andy’s) and I was back to spending most Friday and Saturday evenings on their couch watching TV.

The next big change came in the fall of 2008. After knowing me for more than two years, Andy kissed me. We decided to date. I was really thrilled but the memory of our fake-out dating episode in the summer of 2007 kept coming back to haunt me. I couldn’t seem to shake my insecurities and by this point I had few friends besides these three guys. I worried that if my relationship with Andy crumbled, I would also lose Drew and Max. By now our friendships were no longer something I half-considered throwing away in the name of dating. This relationship had to work.

It didn’t.

When I sensed trouble (which happened early and often during our two-month dating stint), I would panic. Tension was always present as I tried to figure out how to shift from being friends to being a couple. There were a few moments when everything was perfect and I cling onto them even though I have no right to. One night in January Andy came over and told me, “I’m thinking I don’t want to date anymore.” He said he still wanted to be friends but I didn’t see him until Max’s wedding in March of 2009. Andy brought his new girlfriend to the reception and it was completely devastating. I recoiled and kept my distance until duty called and I had to attend Drew’s birthday dinner in June. Andy brought yet another new girlfriend (how many times would I have to see myself replaced?) and I couldn’t even look at them across the table. I just wanted everything to disappear.

2009 was proving to be quite a pill. Luckily I was able to pull myself together and act normal during the fall. I grew to really like Andy’s new girlfriend and my “old school” group celebrated my 26th birthday at my apartment along with all of the new friends I had made in the guys’ absence. Soon the snow started falling and the year began to draw to an end. One night in December Andy called me and I thought maybe he and Drew wanted to celebrate the end of finals. It would be just like old times. When I picked up the phone I could tell there was something very different in his voice. I said, “You’re engaged, aren’t you?” He said yes. I was happy. He told me a few of the details and I was proud of the work he put into ring shopping and planning the proposal. I hung up the phone. I told myself, “I’m happy for him.” Then I cried and cried.

Andy got married exactly one year after Max. I was out of the country and missed the wedding but I suppose that was a blessing in disguise because I still had trouble looking at the invitation. I needed more time. It is hard to believe that 2010 is almost over but I have been able to see the group a few times. Last Friday we were all together celebrating my birthday. We were at a comedy show and Drew proposed to his girlfriend on stage and I was once again reminded that I am the seventh wheel. Not the third, not the fifth. The seventh. I guess that’s what I get for turning 27. I sometimes wonder if I should continue clinging onto these friendships in hopes that when I get married I will be in full standing with them and get invited on all of the their “couples” outings. Then I wonder if any amount of inclusion could be worth all of the heartache and the constant reminders that they’ve moved on with their lives and I can’t seem to catch up.

As the memories of these last four years distill and float through my mind, let me leave you with some final words of advice: Friends don’t let friends date friends. Friends are precious, but most of them are temporary. If you think you can put a friendship on the line and snatch it back the second you break up with someone who had been your friend, you are mistaken. The people we love most are the ones who are capable of hurting us the most. This has been proven to me over and over again. Life is unpredictable and it rarely follows the course we have set. Instead, go with the flow. Just try to not break too many hearts in the process, especially those of your friends.