Weekend Update 4.0

I've had a fun two weeks with lots of special Christmasy thing and good times with friends and family.

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family." Mother Teresa

I spend a lot of my down time on my bed in this position. This day was especially lovely because there was softly falling snow outside. It was one of those days where you are so thankful it's Saturday because you don't want to go anywhere. But I did get up and tried out my smoking man. It's a pretty entertaining German invention. Just put in a little pellet, light, and he smokes. That night I spent time with ward members, including the amazing Shannon. 
My mom hosts a big Christmas party every year. Santa comes even though this is his busy season - that's how big this party is. My family is the funnest and these are the photos to prove it. 
This past week the SLC airport was a winter wonderland and Milla was stuck in the area for the night. Christmas miracle! So we talked, watched Doctor Who, and that was about what we had time for. 
Splurged this year for the fancy Nutcracker at the Capitol Theater. Mom and I ate at Siegfried's (what's more Christmasy than German food?) before we enjoyed the gorgeous ballet. Who wants to see Sleeping Beauty with me in February?
Ended a great weekend here, which was probably the Christmasiest of all.
photo from here


How to Use Social Media and Keep Your Friends

The end of the year is the ideal time to simplify your life. I do it by unfriending and unfollowing people who make my social media life insufferable. Like the Sword of Griffindor, I only take on that which makes me stronger. To avoid my purge I urge all people everyone to have some good will towards, well, everyone and use social media appropriately.

This is probably the most ill-used platform and so I begin here. Check out this link from the HuffPost first (it's pretty exhaustive and totally on) before I add my two cents (which actually is worth much more when you consider the value of the relationships you will save by adhering to my guidelines and the aforementioned link). Use the following "rules," if you will, to give me and those like me less to judge about you.  
  1. Facebook is not a storage facility, y'all. It is inappropriate and annoying to post recipes ever or memes ad nauseam. You are crowding my feed with minutia that I and, I dare say, you will never look at or refer to.  This is not the place.
  2. If your feed shows the same viral video from lots of your friends, you probably don't need to repost it. It's filling up their feed too and now y'all are filling up mine. Thanks zero, and that's no thanks. If you must post a video find a video no one has seen and post that - then you'll actually be adding to my life. 
  3. No political messages. Just stop. 
  4. If you want people to enjoy your presence on Facebook act like a oft-followed celebrity. These celebrities post with purpose. Their content is usually generally informative or entertaining. They don't post inside jokes, tell long stories, talk about super private things, fish for sympathy, or talk about anything negative. 
  5. Brevity is your friend. If I have to click "see more" you should have blogged about it. If you made three or more "." the post is way, way too long.
  6. You don't have to post all the photos because I'm astute and I get it with just a few. Don't post photos everyday unless you can't write and that's the only way you can communicate.  
  7. If you just want one person to see something, post it to their page. Don't post it to your page and tag them. Or better yet, email them. 
  8. When you are having a private moment like, say you're in labor, feel free to enjoy that moment and not post at all. 
Now some, not all, of these rules can be violated on other social media. I shall explain below how you can violate #1 via Pinterest, #5 via blogging, and #6 via Instagram. 

Twitter is for people who just like to whip out short statements. I have a hidden Twitter account where I keep all my snarky comments that I can't say in real life because people will hear me. I do follow quite a few people and my favorites are entertaining, and the funnier the better. The ones I unfollow are the ones who violate Facebook rules #4 and #6. I also unfollow anyone who just tweets links, has too many photos (because they require an extra click to see the photo), or is boring. 

Instagram is awesome if you want to post photos every day. I really enjoy some of my Insta friends who post photos of their lives several times a day. The only caution with Instagram is that if you are posting multiple photos from the same event use a collage - otherwise you clog my feed and I will drop you. And probably talk about you behind your online back. 

Also don't post photos about wishing you were somewhere from you past, like a vacation. To me this is just a way for you to post more about the vacation or brag about it way after the fact. It's like Reuben Studdard trying to get famous again and basically says, "Yeah, I got nothing today." 

Pinterest is a way to visually bookmark pages on the internet but most people use it to accumulate current content, which is totally fine. In fact, if you need to accumulate (and I have that need too) this is the way I would prefer you do it and this is how we can have a win-win on Facebook rule #1. Pin all the recipes you can see. Pin all the adorable quotes you can see. Pin all the "red georgette blouses" you can see - but know I'll unfollow that board because you obviously have a project going that no one but you cares about. But that's what this site is for and I understand that. 

When you have something to say, say it with a blog. This is where people who love you (3-5% of your Facebook friends) can gather and look over your life and hear all your wonderful ideas and look at all those baby pictures (again, nobody was ever hurt by a collage). 

I hope that we can all love each other just a little more at this holiday season by remembering that everything has a place and everything should be in it's place. I love you more already. 


Weekend Update 3.0

The weekend began in my mind on Thursday with the Carrie Underwood attempt at the Sound of Music. I had some lovely people over who gave silly comments throughout, criticized enough, and enjoyed. Then we purged with highlights from the one true version. 

These three adorable kiddos made the perfect cupcake, gingersnap, and sugar plum, respectively, I've ever seen in their Nutcracker ballet. 

Followed by a mocktail party

I spent the afternoon with the bestie, talking and playing Just Dance. Our goal: make sure the winner of each dance was one of us. Mission completed.

Sometimes it's fun just to sing Christmas songs... especially if you can say things like "Sing it Memphis style" or "Can you do it like Judy Garland?" or "Do it like you're really British" which are all things I said to Miss J and she did.


Dear Little Ones

My church stake is a totally different demographic than my church ward. My ward is mostly made up of peers who are usually in careers, like me. My stake, on the other hand, is a lot of kiddos just out of high school and living with their parents prior to taking off to parts unknown. Last night was stake conference, meaning I have to sit in a room with those children. I have unchristian feelings of disdain and superiority toward them sometimes - we'll analyze that another day - and yesterday I gave them an imaginary lecture. Here's what I said.

Dear Little Ones

I have some things to share with you that I wish I'd realized earlier in life. I know you won't take this advice because probably someone shared it with me and I ignored it (and to some extent might still be ignoring it - Oscar Wilde said " I always pass on good advice. It's the only sensible thing to do with it."). Life is indeed understood backwards. But should there be some insightful ones among you, this might be helpful. You might just have to trust me on this one.

  • Trust your instincts. If something isn't jiving or seems "off" then stay away from that thing, dump that thing, move away from that thing. Give it a minute and you'll be justified. 
  • Take some just-for-fun classes in college, but not too many. You'll never get another chance to learn neat things like you will in college, but you also can't stay there forever. 
  • If free therapy is available, go. It'll never be free again. And don't tell me you don't need it. We all need it.
  • Do study abroad. Travel will never be so cheap again. And then go ahead and pay for it even after graduation. You need to get out, man. 
  • When you are in the late teens and early twenties, you'll live in some holes. I think that's important for character development - in fact, should probably make sure you do live in some holes. But at some point (maybe around graduation) stop living in a hole. 
  • Expect life plans to change. And be okay with it. And be okay with others' plans changing too. Life is so much better if you go with it instead of crying "Foul!" when things go in another direction. 
  • Figure out how to accept people. People aren't like your bedroom that you need to clean up. People are more like nature - it just is how it is and there is beauty and good in every landscape.
  • At the same time don't be good friends with everyone (always be friendly and interested). Not everyone is a good idea for you (or even safe). But be friends with people that are heading someplace, who have ideas and ambition, because then you will too.  
  • Figure out how to accept yourself. You are you and there is no changing that so either you can be mad that you aren't someone else, or you can just own it. Watch more indie flicks because they will show you that normal-looking people and rather mundane plot lines (aka your life) can be interesting, meaningful, and important. 
  • You get to choose what you think and what you do. Just because someone said it doesn't mean you have to believe it or do anything about it. It's just something someone said. At the end of the day you are accountable for what you do so do what you think will work out best for your life in the end. 
  • It's really ok not to have boyfriend.girlfriend so much. And maybe even a really good idea. In the words of the fictionalized version of Maria von Trapp: "Just wait a year or two."

Second Advent

Story of Christmas - an infographic
Click to learn more about the story of Christmas.


Weekend Update 2.0

Thanksgiving! and Christmas!
Our family likes to start Thanksgiving with a Turkey Trot. How cute are we! And friends too! Followed by the beginning of the feast with monkey bread, eggs, and clementines. And then the Thanksgiving meal at Mom's. Basically, we eat like we're on a cruise ship. We met up with more family to watch Frozen, which was totes adorbs.

Look who's back! We got to go on a run - my first in... months! - and then Catching Fire, finally. And I loved it!

I set up my Christmas tree and started my chocolate advent calendar. Yum. And my Ballet West Nutcracker tix came in the mail!


Weekend Update

The lovely Erin does weekend updates on her blog and I've enjoyed them so much that I've decided to flatter her by imitation.

I'll actually start with last weekend because it was noteworthy.

Technically it was Thursday, but Erin and I attended the Selena Gomez concert. I had very low expectations and going into it regretted buying the tickets. However, the concert was fun, entertaining, and well-done. I would totally go again and recommend it to others, even if they aren't Selena Gomez fans. 

I've wanted to chop my hair off for a while and last weekend I got the courage/necessary impulsivity. Here are the before, during, and after photo.

Erin is part of Junior League and they hosted a tasting for their local cookbook. In addition to trying the food featured int he cookbook, I got to be snobby with Erin and Jane. I ended up buying the cookbook from the Junior League in Chattanooga... I needed to know more about Yankee Glazed Chicken. 

Sunday Erin, Jane, and I attended the St Cecilia's Day concert at the Cathedral of the Madeline.

And moving on to this weekend!

Steph and I saw a well-done local production of In the Heights. I really love this show so I'm always thankful when it is enjoyable. Note: Steph does my hair.

The next night  I met up with these lovely chicas for the amazingly moving and important show Next to Normal. If you ever have a chance to see it, do - probably twice. And be wise like the man behind us who actually brought a box of tissues.

Saturday project was this lovely thing. I bought it online for $15 and spray painted it this lovely blue. Thanks to Heidikins for the bulb idea (ex-nay on those candle wannabes). It was installed by Bradley - who is back in town - and thank goodness he did it because I would have surely killed myself. 

All work and no play makes jack a dull boy so after our success with the chandelier we attended the JFK tribute symphony. Lovely to see Bradley as always. 



Last week I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago (along with my mom) to give a presentation at a conference. We enjoyed our four days in the city we'd visited just once before (15 years ago).
This is the Glessner House, built in 1886. The photo on the top left is actually the inner courtyard. The front door is the bottom left photo and the photo of my mom and me. The side of the house is on the top left. The architect, HH Richardson, made the outside a bit of a fortress but all the inner rooms of the house face the courtyard for sunshine purposes. Also, it's gorgeously autumn in Chicago. 
On the way to my presentation we passed this little grocery store, Aldi. Umm, y'all this is a German grocery story. It's not even set up like an American store. The merchandise is stacked. There is very little to choose from but it's all good (like "stop light" peppers in threes - why doesn't every store sell them this way?). The cashiers sit, you bag your own groceries, and even the till is different. Most important, however, was the fact that they had my German Christmas cookies (which I stocked up on) and the price was no higher than it'd be in Germany. So basically it was like Christmas
 I presented on Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in a residential treatment center. I'm sorry, are you snoring?  I presented very well on it, if I do say so myself. And to prove I can never grow up: I needed my mom to tell me it was good before I could relax. Also, she is my official photographer. 
We visited the Art Institute of Chicago and because time was limited we were able to take in just the Thorne Miniatures (so awesome and so not possible to capture in a photo) and the Impressionists. They have a wonderful collection - a whole room of Monet - and enough Degas (my fav) to satisfy me. The prized possession is La Grande Jatte, by Seraut (the painting featured in the Sondheim play Sunday in the Park with George). It was more amazing that I had supposed it would be. It's impressive to see in the real because it's pointillism, which is a trip. 
And of course Van Gogh. The paint is so thick I can't believe it was never smudged. Thrilling to see. 
We saw two plays. Northwestern did a fantastic 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and the Raven Theater did a moving Trip to Bountiful (I really thought she was going to die). 
And we had to get deep dish pizza. So very deep. I think I ate an inch of cheese. Not complaining. 
I am a social worker and a good person so we had to visit Jane Addams' Hull House, where it all started. It was not the best museum I've ever been too, but I was moved and I need to study more about Jane Addams - she was kind of G. 
Had to visit the Cubbies if I love my grandmother at all (which I do).
Shedd Aquarium is lovely and there are beluga whales so pretty much life is amazing. We also saw a dolphin show and penguins. Mom liked the fish that keep their young in their mouth and I fancied some jelly fish. Little tip, we got valetparking which enabled us to go to the "will call" line and skip the line eternal pictures at the bottom left. Get valet and you will save yourself hours in line. 


Walt Grace

Music makes me really happy. I really connect with songs lyrically and musically. My favorite artists can do both (see Fun. for example). In pondering how much I love music I asked myself what song I really, really identify with. Is there a song where I say, The artist has captured my experience?
Um, not really.
For example, I connect with Adele’s Someone Like You – it’s musically and lyrically genius in my mind. And I've felt emotional when listening to it but then it occurred to me that nothing like that has ever happened to me. Ever.
I went through all of my currents fav songs and struggled to find one where I’d say That one captures my experience.
Maybe there are lots of reasons for art. Books, for example, are a great way to learn and “experience” things that you otherwise could not. Lots of media is great for escapism. Some art is designed to get me to think of things in a new way or create awareness.
But isn't one reason for art to express what I cannot? To show me myself when I cannot? Or, at least, to show me that I’m not alone?
In the midst of this existential art crisis I remembered one song that I do relate to, like actually. It does for me what I think it should – expresses what I cannot and shows me I’m not alone for thinking and feeling so.
This song is written by John Mayer and on his brilliant album Born and Raised. The song is a story about taking big risks in the attempt to accomplish a Big Idea. 
John didn't make a music video for it but I found this one that’s pretty rad. Have a listen to Walt Grace's Submarine Test, January 1967

The musicality of the song is fantastic with a great forward momentum and a crescendo at the end when the story everything resolves. The tune and rhythm are simple, just right for storytelling.  Lyrically, it’s brilliant with clever rhymes and a moving story*.  It’s the story that really hits home because I've felt this way about my life and my activities. I could write more in depth about all the meaning this song has more, lyrically and musically, for me but that’s probably not generally interesting and could take away from the meaning the song might have for you. The point is that I identify with the song. It relates to my life. I’m going to be on the hunt for more songs (and art in general) that really describes my experience.
What songs do you truly, madly, deeply relate to?

*Shockingly, this is a completely fictional story. John Mayer just got cooler. 


Ariel Wouldn't Have the Guts to Do What I Did

A little while after I posted this I received an email from a long-time chum, Bradley, saying that he'd like to help me out with the dreaded sea food and that he'd be in Utah in October.(You can encourage Bradley to blog more often here on his blog about food.) I was only too thrilled to have to report to some real person about this goal and last night I accomplished the goal - I purposely ate a water creature. We ate at Communal in the Provo and had dessert down the way at Gloria's Little Italy.
This is Bradley and he is eating salad.
I really ate the fish. And it was good and I ate my portion and I would do it again.

This is the salmon that I ate.

This is beet salad and delicious it was.

These are carrots, even the yellow things.

And we topped it off with gelato, which off with everything should be topped. 

Bradley was so kind to help me out with this challenge and I did indeed feel brave. Additionally, he is great company and it is always so enjoyable to spend time with him. Thanks so much, Bradley!

K and B's Wedding!

Last weekend my lovely niece Kyrst married Brog in the SLC temple.

Family occasions are sacred and serious but we find plenty of time to goof off and be odd as we are. Here is a nice selection to make everyone jealous that their families are as fun as mine. :)

With my niece Liza

Heading to do some have some Sephora time between events. We're ready for the paparazzi. 

Ryan cannot not photo bomb.

Selfie with my sister

Ty with his fiancee Janie. She's fitting in very well.

Brother-of-the-bride Matt, just being Matt



This is Salzburg, Austria at the Do-Re-Mi bridge.
This is the CN tower in Toronto. 
This is a bridge in Nashville and I'm doing yoga without getting dirty.
This is Pacifica Beach, near San Francisco, and it's out to get me.

Salzburg is my favorite city. I've been there on two separate trips and it's beautiful and happy and lets me live my Sound of Music fantasty. Toronto is a diverse and gorgeous city, especially in the fall. Nashville is music and history and Dolly Parton. And San Fran is love of great friends and the worship of great food. 

But I have to say that while I was visiting any of those places it was only just fine. I mean, I totally enjoyed myself but it wasn't as magical in the moment as it is in reflection. And I didn't realize how meaningful it was until it was over. 

So I spend a good amount of time loving the past and wishing to return to "the good times." I'm nostalgic. 

Nostalgia makes sense. If something was great the dopamine in our brains seeks to replicate that experience - see addiction, as a rather negative example. And often, we can (healthfully) replicate it. I listen to the same music over and over. And today I watched a favorite episode of Doctor Who again (Angel Bob, anyone?).  Replicating joy is the premise of the "inside joke."

But sometimes it's not so great. During some of those pleasant times I was likely thinking of other pleasant times and being inattentive of my current opportunity. Inattention via nostalgia is a great robber of happiness. For example, being upset when the meatloaf isn't like the one you had in Maine. Or setting up some vacation to be as wonderful as the last one by expecting it to be like the last one. Or by refusing to see the Great Gatsby because BL might ruin the sacredness of the book (still haven't dared). Or maybe it's just me that did all of those things.

I have to say, though, that the times when I've been open to new experiences and been "in the moment" I've been surprised and really enjoyed myself. When I was younger Les Miserables was basically the pinnacle of my cultural experience. I was able to see the play several times and each time I remember thinking, "You are here RIGHT NOW seeing the thing" and basked in the knowledge that it was a wonderful thing right now.

I like what Thoreau said in Walden. "I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately... I wanted to live deep and suck the marrow of life." Or what Aerosmith said. "I don't wanna close my eyes/ I don't wanna fall asleep/ 'Cause I'd miss you babe/ And I don't wanna miss a thing."

There is a place for nostalgia - like all those photos on Facebook. And what good is a thing if you don't remember it and thereby remember the pleasure? I have used the memories of better times to get me through worse times. However, there is also a place for mindfulness and really being aware of the happiness now. Don't be all Miss Havisham and pine for what was or what was supposed to be. Go, my people, and live deliberately and with awareness!