An Announcement (Drumroll Please)

The Name’s MAT. GMAT.

Okay everybody, gather ’round. I have an announcement to make. That’s right, you guessed it! I have a boyfriend. His name is GMAT (MAT for short). He and I are going to be a very committed couple for the next several weeks. In fact, the date of our first DTR is already set. (For those of you who are unsure about this term and why I’m using so many acronyms all of a sudden, I can tell you that DTR stands for “Define the Relationship.” It is a mandatory checkpoint for all insecure couples that usually happens sporadically. MAT and I have decided to plan out our entire relationship so we have a leg up on the “cute couple” competition. I’m predicting it will gain us major sympathy points in case I stress out and lose my mind.) We are going to take it swift and steady for the next eight weeks and then the big “test date” is going to be November 24th. We agreed it’s best to wait until then to decide if we’re going anywhere together for Thanksgiving. It’s always a little awkward (and misleading) if you bring someone home to meet the parents too early in the relationship – especially if it’s a holiday. Anyway we decided to be inseparable every Tuesday and Thursday night, and since I’m not too crazy about hanging out with him on Friday or Saturday nights, we compromised and decided on Saturday mornings instead. I really hope it works out, especially since I’m working within a strict time limit. (I mean, does he really expect me to know everything about him in eight weeks??)

I wasn’t going to mention this next part but he doesn’t read my blog so I don’t think he’ll ever find out. It’s just that something’s been bugging me … I thought it was kind of odd that I had to pay money upfront for this whole “relationship” thing. I mean, don’t couples normally spend money on each other a little at a time? And doesn’t the guy usually pay more than the girl? Well, I guess I can just consider this a quirky social experiment because I’m doing all of the spending. However, he promised that if the test/DTR thing goes well then there could be “tremendous payoff.” Gosh, it sounds like my whole future revolves around him. All I can say is it had better be worth the hundreds of dollars I’ve already paid. He even mentioned that we might have to have a second “test date” in January. He said that a lot of people who have pursued him have majorly choked during the first DTR. I have no idea how that could happen but based on the 10 pound dating manual I received today (pictured above), I guess I can see how some people get really nervous.

I know what you’re thinking – I’m crazy for starting to date someone right before the holiday season. However, I have to say that I’m kind of excited about it. I already have my dating life planned out for the next 3-4 months. After all, it is the Fall of Focus. “Grab the bull by the horns” is totally in season. Honestly the worst-case scenario would be that I miserably bomb on November 24th, MAT and I end things and I just keep going on with my life. Isn’t that what happens after all breakups? People survive, right? I mean, I have heard of people’s hearts practically imploding but actually that was something I read in a Twilight book so it might not be true. I guess I’m more concerned about being out a few hundred bucks. You can take issue with my choice of timing just as long as you don’t say anything about my choice to pursue MAT.

Some may say, “Amber, why are doing this? You have everything you need. You don’t need to go through all of this trouble.” To that I would reply, “I’m too comfortable with my current situation and I feel like it is time to put myself out there.” Yes, even if it means “buying” a boyfriend. Okay, now I feel I've said too much so on that awkward note - wish me luck! Er, uh, I mean…wish US luck! This is definitely going to be a team effort.


Okay, okay, enough of the shenanigans. For real, if you have tips on how to ace the GMAT (General Management Aptitude Test = prerequisite for applying to MBA programs), then send them my way. I really want to do well and I feel like if it is meant to be then it will work out. If not, something else will. For now I just want to focus on Plan A. Plan B’s can be a real pain in the you-know-what.



A series of numbers
A series of bills
Measured by wrinkles
Marked by thrills

A series of smiles
The accumulation of piles
The changing of styles
and passing of miles

Numbers around a face
Numbers in a box
Make us run the race
Make us bolt the locks

Who can outrun time?
It follows where you go
You can't ignore its chime
It defines what we know

I once knew someone
Free of its hold
But that same someone
Was a departed soul

It measures our success
and keeps us on a roll
Without it we're a mess
Completely uncontrolled

Trains pass tracks
and never collide
Time curls our backs
and controls the dancer's stride

I couldn't outrun Time
It followed where I went
Desertion was a crime
and away I was sent

If you try to escape
Tell me how it goes
I'll meet you on the side
Of the departed souls


Fall of Focus

Yesterday I got to do one of my favorite things – I had my teeth cleaned at the dentist’s office. I enjoy cleanings not only because I get to brag about my awesome sister who is a dental hygienist, but also because my teeth feel so different afterward. It is kind of the same feeling I had when I got my braces off in high school – I am acutely aware of each tooth’s unique shape and texture. For several hours I have no desire to eat or drink anything that could affect their squeaky cleanliness. Inevitably, I end up eating something sugar-coated and that professional-grade toothpaste taste is gone. It’s a shame, really, because after a few days I revert to eating chewy candy and all kinds of other tooth-unfriendly items that dentists would surely frown upon. Today at work I mindlessly consumed a bag of M&Ms. They are not my favorite candy by any means, but I was still sad when my supply ran low. I started eating them one at a time, and the experience was completely different. Sure, it would still be considered an assault on my teeth, gums and pancreas, but forcing myself to slow down and crunch each candy shell one at a time gave me a lot more appreciation for the melt-in-your-mouth-not-in-your-hands candy sensation. It made me focus on what I was doing and really consider the chemical content and artificial dyes I was consuming. It also made my mind wander to the not-so-distant past.

I worked as a summer camp counselor for many years and a couple of times we were able to take the kids to the Jelly Belly Factory in northern California on field trips. The kids loved the factory tour (even though we were required to wear funny paper hats) and most of all, the free samples. The little bags had a flavor mixing guide on the back that helped the kids form new combinations – though I’m not sure how appropriate a “banana-strawberry daiquiri” is for children. Regardless, there was a suggestion printed on each bag that the Jelly Bellies should be consumed only 1, 2 or 3 at a time to guarantee maximum enjoyment. I could see the manufacturer’s point but still there was no stopping the kids from emptying the entire bag into their mouths the second they got out of the factory. Sometimes I’d have flashbacks of Violet Beauregarde being blown up into a giant blueberry or Veruca Salt singing “I Want it Now” on “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Kids are adorable and loveable but by golly, if you give them candy they will consume it faster than an Oompa Loompa can say, “Doompadee doo.”

Although I have gotten a lot better, I have to admit that my most favorite foods still impose similar gorging risks. When I was in high school my family would eat pizza every Monday night. The pizza was usually from Round Table Pizza, a chain that luckily doesn’t exist in the town where I live now. I could easily eat 3 or 4 slices of large, thick crust pizza along with a cup or two of root beer. (That may not sound like a lot to you but believe me, I am a pizza fiend.) One time the Round Table Pizza box came with tips for being able to eat more pizza. One of the tips was, “Eat so fast that you’re brain doesn’t register you’re full.” Great idea! With that in mind I was able to completely ignore my stomach even though it would yell, “I’m full, I’m full!” My other solution was to stop drinking soda during dinner so precious space wouldn’t be taken up by carbonation. Dinner became a small eating competition instead of a chance for me to focus on my body’s needs and prevent my intake of excess helpings. The pizza was a way of coping with a tough day, just as today’s M&Ms were a way of passing time. It has taken me years to get a grip when it comes to pizza (it’s still one of my top three favorite foods) and while I may slip every once in a while, being hundreds of miles away from the nearest Round Table Pizza definitely has been an advantage.

Whether it is the minutest M&M or Jelly Belly residue that dulls the corners of my freshly scraped teeth, or the most enticing slice of pizza that makes my mind go into a fog, the result is the same: my focus is blurred. I can no longer appreciate the clean surfaces or useful hunger cues that remind me to carefully choose what I eat. Of course, eating isn’t everything. There is a whole slew of issues that need to be honed in on, and they vary greatly among each of us. My issues in the next three months include friends who will be soon be moving away and keeping in touch with those who have moved or become engaged or were recently married. While I am trying to help people through their own transitions I also need to take care of the changes in my life. The weather is turning and the slightest changes could go unnoticed if it weren’t for each first few trees on the mountainside that have turned red. They call my attention just like the cracking M&M shells. “Look at me, pay attention. Things are changing. It’s time to get in gear.” While summer always has been and most likely will always be my favorite season, I need to let go of the haze brought on by long days at the pool and late summer nights. The crisp air refuses to be ignored and causes each follicle in my scalp to prickle in response. Part of me wishes that I could whisk through the next six months so it can already be spring again, but the better part of me knows that I have to make each day count.

On Friday night I was lamenting the end of summer. Romy, Lola and I were driving to a comedy show on campus that was sure to both lift our spirits and remind us that school was back in full swing. Romy brought up the fact that the “Summer of No Expectations” was over and we needed a new theme for the fall. I was at a loss and threw out some ideas that were mediocre at best and cynical at worst. Then Lola struck the nail on the head. “How about the ‘Fall of Focus?’” I immediately knew that was it. Romy is focusing on another airtight semester, Lola is focusing on networking and getting a job in time for graduation, and I’m focusing on… well… it’s kind of a secret. (I’ve told some of you but I’m not ready to announce it to the world and I won’t be for a few more weeks, if ever.) Lola elaborated that we not only need to focus on our own goals, but we need to focus on the people around us and be happy for each one of them. That includes strangers with crying babies in the movie theaters (“Isn’t it great that they have a baby?”), couples on sidewalks (“Isn’t it great that they have each other?”) and every other imaginable thing that we don’t yet have but fully intend to get one day. Right now we can’t focus on what we lack. Instead we have to think uplifting thoughts and remain focused on all the work it will take to get to where we want to go.

Somehow my empty M&Ms bag snuck into my purse and made it home with me. I was hoping I had missed a stray morsel of joy but it seems like my luck has run out. Instead I get to take a careful look at the dreaded nutrition label on the back. It actually doesn’t seem too bad (not nearly as chemical as I imagined it’d be) although there’s no telling what goes into the creation of Blue 1 Lake, Red 40 Lake, Yellow 6, Yellow 5, Red 40, Blue 1, Blue 2 Lake, Yellow 6 Lake, Yellow 5 Lake and Blue 2. What I do know is that the individual M&M colors are vibrant and beautiful in their own right – crisp as leaves on fall trees. It is tempting to garble and mangle them by the handful, letting my mouth dissolve each creation with an appetite bred of boredom, turning them into a muddy mess. We can do the same thing with individual hours, days and weeks. We want to mindlessly mash them all together until they pass through us and it is once again our favorite time of year – the easiest season to bear. The challenge during this “Fall of Focus” is to let each segment of the season take on its own life and personality. Let it shout at you, “I’m full of possibility! Pay attention! It’s time to get in gear!”

Although fall inevitably leads to winter, the transition doesn’t have to be cold and solitary. There is warmth in friendship and family. Leaves will fall, decompose and blow away as dust, but somehow they manage to grow back. Change may be the only constant but in the interim we can enjoy the unique elements that combine to create each color, each moment, each memory. In the end maybe, just maybe, summer will come back to us faster than we think.


Here’s to Thursday

Thursday. You’re such a great day. You hold all of the weekend’s secrets. You hint at what could be yet you never reveal exactly what is around the corner. You provide a full 24 hours of “Almost Friday” which is practically as good as Friday itself. You are the very portrait of anticipation – almost there, but not quite yet. You are the sprint before the leap over the last hurdle. Once you come I know that only 8 short hours at work hold me back from 55 hours of freedom at home, at play or away on my own. Everyone loves Friday but by the time it arrives, the countdown has already begun. I will the Friday workday into nothingness and then I’m free, free, free – but I can’t help but hear the count - 53, 52, 51… Quick! Do something fun! 48, 47, 46 … Come on! I need a fix! 26, 25, 24 … One day? I need more! 5, 4, 3 … Did the weekend fly by or is it just me? 2, 1, 0 … NO, anything but Monday! I need a hero!

By the time Monday comes I’m already looking for you, Thursday, my old friend. The one who promises never-ending fun and relief from this unstoppable clock. Days come and go and before I know it you’re back again. We plan and scheme and do everything we can to force the maximum amount of fun into each coming day, but I think we’ve been looking at it all wrong. No matter how many plans are set by midnight, we can never plan the moments that take me by surprise and open my eyes to the possibilities every minute brings. Oh, Thursday, don’t take this the wrong way. You know I still love you. We will always be the best of friends. Here’s to Thursday – my partner in crime, the night I stay up too late, the day I try to find a date. I’ll always be looking for you although I don’t know why. You come back every time. Here’s to Thursday – the most loyal friend on the planet. Dreamer of dreams, forerunner of Fridays, overture of adventures, my most favorite day of all.

Nothing is determined. Nothing is out of reach. Nothing is for certain. Nothing has been breached. Promises are intact. Best laid plans are made. No need to retract. Nothing I would trade.


Choose Your Own Adventure!

The following text is from a talk I gave in church on February 17, 2008.


“It has been said that the gate of history turns on small hinges, and so do people’s lives.”

Author's note from "Choose Your Own Adventure #3: Space and Beyond":


This book is different from other books.

You and YOU ALONE are in charge of what happens in this story.

There are dangers, choices, adventures and consequences. YOU must use all of your numerous talents and much of your enormous intelligence. The wrong decision could end in disaster –even death. But, don’t despair. At anytime, YOU can go back and make another choice, alter the path of your story, and change its result.

First you must choose the planet of your birth. The choice YOU make will determine a major part of your future. Try to choose wisely. As they say in another galaxy not far from this one, Gleeb Fogo!

Good luck!

Many of us have read a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book sometime in our lives. At the turn of a page you can become a hero or a victim, forever forgotten in the pages of history. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been killed by one of these books. The thrill is in the adventure, and as the book promises, you can turn back at any time and change your course.

Likewise, our lives are full of decisions we have to make everyday. This is an especially important time of our lives for we are at a crossroads. President Monson has said time and time again that, “Decisions determine destiny,” (Elder Thomas S. Monson, New Era, November 1979). I know exactly what he is talking about. I feel like right now I am at the center of a bicycle wheel, and I have a choice between all the different spokes that surround me, and any choice I make will lead off on an ultimately unknown path. It is difficult to know what to do. It would be much harder if I didn’t have the gospel.

Speaking in the April 2004 Priesthood Session, President James E. Faust said, “In this life we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. Making perfect choices all of the time is not possible. It just doesn’t happen. But it is possible to make good choices we can live with and grow from,” (Choices, Ensign, May 2004).

President Faust outlined five types of choices we make in our lives. (I don’t think he meant it to be an inclusive list.) They are as follows,

1. Some choices present good opportunities no matter which road we take

2. Some of our important choices have a time line

3. Some people find it hard to make a decision

4. Some choices have greater consequences than others

5. Some choices for fulfillment and happiness should be made only once

President Monson said that the three most important choices we make in life are, “What will be my faith? Whom shall I marry? What will be my life’s work?” (Decisions Determine Destiny, New Era, November 1979). I think that third one is where most of us are at right now.

My life was pretty easy up until I turned 21. I had an easy time choosing a major and a university to transfer to. Then it was time to decide whether or not to serve a mission. After months of studying it out, I decided to put off my senior year and serve. This made my parents pretty nervous but I was able to come back to school and graduate the next year. During my senior year I had to decide whether or not to apply to graduate school. Then I had to decide which program to apply for. After a lot of stressful weeks of indecision, I made my choice and completed three applications. It was easy to choose between the acceptances I’d received and then I put it out of my mind for four months. That summer I had a change of heart. I had a choice between moving back to California to continue school but go into debt, or stay in Utah and get a job. Two days before I was supposed to move back to California, I made my choice. I stayed here. I found a job and I thought everything was set. Then I had trouble at work and decided it was best to leave as soon as I found another job. I have been searching for a job for four weeks. The first three weeks of the search were very disheartening, even demoralizing. Last Friday I found out I didn’t get a job I really had my hopes up for. I emailed my mom because I was too upset to call her. The next day I spoke to her and she told me the night before had been Ward Temple Night. She’d gone alone because my dad had been out late the night before that working on a murder case. She had a lot of second thoughts as to whether or not she wanted to go. She decided to go through with it and had a great feeling of peace when she was at the temple. But it wasn’t just the normal feeling she was used to – she had the impression that things were going to work out for me very soon. When she told me she put my name on the prayer roll, it broke my heart and healed it at the same time.

It is difficult for me to fathom the powers of heaven being called upon by servants of the Lord in his holy temple for someone like me. Someone who doesn’t have any ailment or tragedy to mourn. Someone who’s basically normal. My struggle had seemed so small to me in the weeks before and I felt very alone. It took me a week to tell my parents about my job search because I didn’t want to worry them. Yesterday I found a quote that reads, “Trouble is part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough,” (Dinah Shore). It is true. We have to share our burdens and offer others chances to serve us. If we are fortunate enough to be free of such trials, we need to look for opportunities to serve. President Monson admonishes us to make three choices, “Fill your minds with truth, fill your hearts with love, and fill your lives with service,” (Choose Ye This Day, Ensign, November 2004).

My mom’s faith gave me hope to try harder and be more optimistic this week. This week I had two really great interviews. Yesterday I was offered one job and on Tuesday I’ll receive another offer. My deadline for the decision is Tuesday. Now I get to torture myself with the decision, but I have tools to help me. (No one else can make the decision for me – “The volition of [man] is free; this is a law of their existence, and the Lord cannot violate his own law; were he to do that, he would cease to be God,” Brigham Young quoted by Howard W. Hunter, Ensign, November 1989.) I found several pieces of counsel while preparing this talk. I assume that most of you are dealing with choosing a major as opposed to choosing between jobs right now. One repeated counsel I found in the brethrens’ messages was to have a plan and make priorities. Don’t be like Alice in Wonderland (Alice: “Which path should I follow?” Cheshire Cat: “That depends on where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”), not knowing where you want to go.

When Robert D. Hales served as the Presiding Bishop (1988) he said, “There are three important elements that will allow us to make good decisions:

1) First, we must have an eternal plan with objectives that we are committed to achieve.

2) Second, we need to study and pray on a daily basis about our decisions for feelings for spiritual guidance, courage and commitment.

3) Third, we need to examine our motives each time we make a decision.”

I think the most important to us right now is being aware of our true motives. Elder Hales elaborated, “We make poor and irrational decisions if our decision is motivated by greediness: greed for monetary gain; greed for the results in a conflict of interest; desire for power, titles and recognition of men. … Likewise, we make poor and irrational decisions if we are motivated by fear: fear of man, fear of not being popular, fear of failure, fear of public opinion,” (Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life, Ensign, November 1988).

Follow President Monson’s advice, “I urge you not to take counsel of your fears. I hope you will not say, ‘I’m not smart enough to study chemical engineering; hence, I’ll study something less strenuous.’ ‘I can’t apply myself sufficiently well to study this difficult subject or in this comprehensive field; hence, I’ll choose the easier way.’ I plead with you to choose the hard way and tax your talents. Our Heavenly Father will make you equal to your tasks. If one should stumble, if one should take a course and get less than the ‘A’ grade desired, I hope such a one will not let it become a discouraging thing to him. I hope that he will rise and try again,”(Decisions Determine Destiny, New Era, November 1979).

(“My counsel to returning missionaries and to each young person is that you should study and prepare for your life’s work in a field that you enjoy, because you are going to spend a good share of your life in that field. I believe it should be a field that will challenge your intellect and a field that will make maximum utilization of your talents and capabilities; and finally, I think it should be a field that will provide you sufficient remuneration to provide adequately for a companion and children.”) (Monson, 1979)

He also said, “At times many of us let that enemy of achievement – even that culprit ‘self-defeat’ – dwarf our aspirations, smother our dreams, cloud our vision and impair our lives. The enemy’s voice whispers in our ears, ‘You can’t do it.’ ‘You’re too young.’ ‘You’re too old.’ ‘You’re nobody.’ This is when we remember that we are created in the image of God. Reflection on this truth provides a profound sense of strength and power,” (Choose Ye This Day, Ensign, November 2004).

In the end, “The greatest battle of life is fought within the silent chambers of your own soul,” (President David O. McKay quoted by President Monson Choose Ye This Day, Ensign, November 2004). We may go to others for advice, but as someone once said, “We only make a dupe of the friend whose advice we ask, for we never tell him all; and it is usually what we have left unsaid that decides our conduct,” (Diane de Poitiers). President Monson taught that we need to each have our own “Sacred Grove.” God is the only person who knows all the sides of our story. We need to seek a peaceful refuge where we can commune with him and study out our choices and the consequences of our decisions in our minds.

Sometimes anxiety clouds our judgment. Arthur Somers Roche said, “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained.” Worry and distress are tools Satan uses to distract us from the most important things in life. When Jesus visited Mary and Martha, “Martha was cumbered about much serving.” When she complained that her sister was not helping her, Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Compare to D&C 66:10)

Don’t worry about being perfect. Leave that to the Savior. We are meant to learn things the hard way and deal with frustration and shortcomings. We even make wrong choices.

The introduction to “Choose Your Own Adventure: Tattoo of Death” reads:


Do not read this book straight through from beginning to end. These pages contain many different adventures you may have when you are lured into the Red Flowers, a dangerous gang dealing in the trade of human lives. These thugs are modern-day slavers, and their blackmail is pressuring you and your family to help them with their deadly scheme.

From time to time as you read along, you will be asked to make a choice. The adventures you have are the results of your choices. You are responsible because you choose. After you make a decision, follow the instructions to find out what happens to you next.

From the waterfronts of Los Angeles to the exotic world of Kyoto, Japan, it will be difficult to escape the gang’s grasp. Think carefully before you act. The Red Flowers play for keeps and have ways to make those who cross them regret it. You may outwit the gang and bring their evil business crashing down –or you may find yourself turned into shark food, another innocent victim of the Red Flowers’ ruthless ways.

Good Luck!

While in “Choose Your Own Adventure” your fate seems to be up to you, it is actually depends on the creative whim of an author you’ll never meet. Our Father in Heaven is a just god and has placed our destiny in our own hands, no matter how much Satan tries to convince us nothing is in our control.

Speaking of wrong choices, Howard W. Hunter said, “Given the freedom to choose, we may, in fact, make wrong choices, bad choices, hurtful choices. And sometimes we do just that, but that is where the mission and mercy of Jesus Christ comes into full force and glory. He has taken upon himself the burden of all the world’s risk. He has provided a mediating atonement for the wrong choices we make. He is our advocate with the Father and has paid, in advance, for the faults and foolishness we often see in the exercise of our freedom. We must accept his gift, repent of those mistakes, and follow his commandments in order to take full advantage of this redemption. The offer is always there; the way is always open. We can always, even in our darkest hour and most disastrous errors, look to the Son of God and live,” (The Golden Thread of Choice, Ensign, November 1989).

While the only true risk while reading a "Choose Your Own Adventure" book is sustaining a paper cut, we must always remember that our real-life choices can quickly steer us in the path of mortal and spiritual and danger. The only real way to flip the page and start again is by appealing to our intercessor, Jesus Christ. I know that as we study the scriptures and follow promptings from on high we will be led in the path of wisdom and righteousness. Just as there are many wrong paths there are also many correct paths. We just have to choose which one is best for us. That we may all be able to do this is my prayer in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.