Thursday, February 16, 2012



I never made promises lightly
and there have been some that I've broken,
but I swear in the days still left
we'll walk in fields of gold.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Homework Dreams

So I'm sitting here at my desk "writing my paper" that's due tomorrow in my Rhetoric and the Poetics class. Moments ago, as per usual, my eyes started to droop and my head began to bob and before long I was slumped over asleep in my chair with my chin resting uncomfortably on my chest. As I dozed I dreamed that Kristine Hansen, one of my professors from last semester, walked up to me, shook me by the shoulder, and in her very caring, motherly way told me to go off to bed.

Grateful for her understanding I looked up at her and nodded sleepily. Kristine then took off the small hat she was wearing (about the size and shape of a tuna fish can) and set it on my head. Once her hat was on my head, she reached into her pocket and asked if I'd like for her to play me a tune on her magic harmonica. Delighted at her offer, I agreed to her playing me a song before I went off to bed.

Tragically before the harmonica had even reached her lips, I slipped in my chair and awoke with a start. I don't think I've been so disappointed to wake up in years. Heartbroken that I didn't actually get to hear Kristine play her magic harmonica, I've decided that at some point before I graduate from BYU I want to reenact this dream with a stranger. I want to find someone sleeping in a public place, shake him/her awake, and while they're struggling to come to grips with what's going on, place my tuna can-sized hat on top of his/her head and offer to play my magic harmonica. Without waiting for a response I will play a lively little ditty and be on my way.

I feel like that kind of service is best proffered to someone only half-aware of what's going on around them.

Now I just need a harmonica.

A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success

Today in the carrels I sat down with Paige and Aimee and I asked them if they wanted to hear a secret. Naturally they did. Now usually when I tell people that I'm going to tell them a secret, the secret is that I'm wearing gray socks with brown pants and shoes, or that I haven't showered today, or that I just realized that my zipper was down and that it had probably been down since I left the house. Not real secrets, but interesting tidbits about my life all the same. The secret that I wanted to share with Paige and Aimee was not this kind of secret.

The secret that I shared with Paige and Aimee was one that I've been thinking a lot about the past couple of days. I've decided that I'm now going to share that secret with any and all who stumble upon my blog. So here it is: I feel like a phony. (As I play the word "phony" over and over again in my head I keep thinking of the word "phoneme" and how glad I am that I don't study linguistics.) But really, sometimes I just feel like a phony - like I don't belong here. Here being in graduate school and in front of a classroom. I sit in my classes and listen to my peers make brilliant comments and engage in intelligent conversation and I feel like I'm way out of my depth. I hear other teachers talking about their classes and what they're doing and how they feel like failures when they don't get their students' papers back to them within a week and I'm self-conscious of how long I've had my students papers. (Two weeks tomorrow) I occasionally hear older, wiser students talking about all the conferences they've been to and how they don't understand why some students don't go to conferences, and as I think about how I've never been to a conference I sink lower in my seat hoping they won't look over at me and ask me how many conferences I've been to. These seem to be the road markers of success, and if they are I seem to be on the highway of mediocrity.

Last night this feeling was really harshing my mellow so I went to Smiths with Jordan and bought grapefruit juice and ginger ale. When we got home I mixed them up and drank myself to sleep. This morning I felt much better until I went to class and heard my peers talk about the papers they're planning to write. Again I felt the wind go out of my sails.

Right after class I went to devotional thinking it would cheer me up. And I'm sure it would have done just that if I hadn't fallen asleep during the opening musical number and stayed that way until everyone around me said "amen" at the end of the closing prayer. That was when I went back to the carrels and shared my "secret" with Paige and Aimee.

Naturally, being good friends, they told me that everyone felt that way and that I shouldn't worry about it too much. I believed them of course and we went on to watch Michael Jackson's "Smooth Criminal" music video, but there lingered a dissatisfaction with where I was and what was going on. This has continued to cast a cloud over an otherwise lovely day. Round about 10:30 as I was sitting at my desk preparing my lesson for tomorrow morning I decided that I needed to go drive down to the basketball court by the tracks and shoot around until I felt better. I was there shooting, running around chasing my misses and generally wearing myself out for a solid 45 minutes when I sat down and leaned my sweaty back against the cool cinder block wall of the building next to the court.

As I sat there I continued to muse on my faults and failings and the myriad ways I should be trying to improve my life and I came to several conclusions. 1) It's true, there are a lot of things I need to work on improving. 2) I need to stop comparing myself to other people and basing what for me is success off of what they do and who they are. 3) I need to do more to put myself into situations I'm not entirely comfortable with, and I need to do so with greater frequency. This one applies to several aspects of my life both in school and outside of it. I'm very uncomfortable with vulnerability, and that fact leads me to be much more tentative, introverted, and apprehensive than is altogether requisite or healthy. 4) I really need to practice free throws more often because while I can hit a turn around jump shot from 10-15 feet with moderate regularity, I'm worse than Shaq when it comes to free throws. But mostly 1, 2 and 3. (that's right, no oxford comma. bam.)

Coming to these conclusions, and feeling a chill start to settle in my bones, I got up and went home. When I got back to my room and before I got back to planning my lesson I decided to watch a TED talk to pump myself up. I just so happened to watch this one by Alain de Botton that was just exactly what I wanted and needed to hear. So here 'tis. Even though it's 17 min long, I recommend you watch it in its entirety. It's phenomenal.

Through the basketball, the reflection and the TED talk I feel marginally better but not entirely so. I think I like it that way. Dissatisfaction can be a powerful motivator for change. Here's hoping that's the direction I'ma headed.

Monday, February 6, 2012

I Have a Family Here on Earth

Tonight after dinner as we were sitting around chatting and generally celebrating Heather's and David's birthdays, Mom started telling us about the four levels of conversation that she had recently learned about and suggested we use that as a pattern for our conversation. As she guided us from chit-chat to gossip to the exchange of ideas and finally to level four, feelings, I realized that I'm really not that great at verbally telling people, especially my family, how I feel about them. Frankly, I'm not great at verbal communication in general and tend to function much better via the written word; I guess that's why I study rhetoric and composition and love to teach writing so much. Anyway, I realized that I should probably tell my family more that I  love them. My family is pretty much the best, and yes I am willing to fight you on that one. I've written before about how awesome my parents are, and I am definitely still firmly in the camp that they are the best a boy could ask for. Tonight  I got to thinking about how great my family really is.  Having previously written a post centered on my parents (follow the link above to arrive at said post), I decided I'd focus this one more on my siblings.

My siblings are great. They are absolutely my best friends. And when I say siblings I use the term to include their spouses as well, as they have all, without fail, chosen fantastic spouses. I really look up to and am appreciative of the wonderful examples that my siblings are to me. We've had some good times together, from playing "nobody can get up the stairs" while the parents weren't home to the recent vacation we all took together this last summer to New York to times spent just sitting around chatting. I don't seem to feel super comfortable about a lot of people, but I'm always completely at ease with my siblings, and I love that. I can allow some of my more strange thoughts and ways of being to slip out and they don't think any less of me for it.

As these kinds of thoughts were generally swimming about my mind, I happened to glance up at the wall and saw the painting of my sister Emily that passed away several years before I was born. Despite never having known her personally here upon the Earth, from a young age it was instilled in me that she is still very much a part of our family and that I have another sister that I just don't know yet. In thinking about Emily in conjunction with my other thoughts about how good of friends all of my siblings and I are, I couldn't help but get really excited at the prospect of having yet another best friend that I haven't met yet.

I sat there imagining the larks we'll all have when we're all together yet again, and in doing so was overcome with an overwhelming gratitude for a knowledge of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Plan of Salvation that makes possible hope for family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave. Knowing that the friendship and camaraderie that exists between me and my siblings will continue on after death with the added benefit of Emily's company almost allows for more joy than I can contain.

God be thanked for my wonderful siblings and God be thanked for good and faithful parents that live their religion and provide us with a concrete path to follow via the sterling examples of their lives. And, perhaps most of all, God be thanked for Jesus Christ who makes it all possible.

(p.s. I realize this photo is kinda blurry. If you click on it, it gets bigger and clearer.)