Friday, October 16, 2015

An afternoon dialouge between me and my brain

Me: *2:30 pm. Feels stressed, pauses studying to consult with Brain.*
Hey Brain, today is October 16th, which means finals are less than 2 months away.

Brain: Wow! Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I will fixate on this piece of information and not let it out of my sight again until they are over.

Me: Haha thank you so much for your diligence, but that's really not what I'm asking-- just letting you know so you can help me plan accordingly.

Brain: Finals are less than 2 months away.

Me: Right. So, how can we work with this?

Brain: Finals are less than 2 months away. Plus, while we're at it, you don't know what you're doing with your life.

Me: That is very true and also not helpful right now.

Brain: You are late getting your resume out. And you are critically behind on your substantial writing. Also it looks like outlining is not going well for you, yeah?

Me: I KNOW I KNOW can you please come up with something I can accomplish?

Brain: Mmmm... last week you didn't eat any sugar? That's something.

Me: Yes! It was actually more complicated than expected, but I slept wonderfully-- I could do that again.

Brain: Awesome. Speaking of the future, you could end up unhappily married. Or die alone. Or have a good spouse but because you married at age 40, all of your children have severe mental handicaps and you will spend the rest of your life as a caretaker, which you better not dread or else that means you hate handicapped people. There are just so many things that could happen, really.

Me: FSDKOEWOE$@()#5FDOLFWEP% FINE FORGET I SAID ANYTHING I'LL JUST OUTLINE SOME MORE.

Brain:
Finals are less than 2 months away.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Once Upon a Blood Moon

Once upon a blood moon, a friend and I (after a fair amount of driving and one hike up the wrong mountain) laid on the slope beside a church parking lot near the Provo temple.

Testing out Insta's new Drunk filter. 5 stars!

I gently mutilated the soft grass between my fingernails and felt the hour crystallize into a time capsule as we speculated on how our lives would look by the next blood moon. (18 years, 2033, 43 years old.) It felt as though the Lord opened the shutters on my future and, til the stroke of midnight, I was allowed to peer through the window of possibilities ahead. Lying on the side of the road, I felt like I knew exactly what I wanted, and what He wanted, and that I was going to be really happy. I drove home that night feeling like I better understood: God is interminably, intensely good.

As of Blood Moon 2015, I like my life very much.

Turns out, all the rumors are true and the second year of law school is immensely superior to the first. I've recently experienced the intoxicating sense of empowerment that comes from owning one's own tools, as well as the unique sense of humility that comes when one is compelled to go buy a plunger on a Sunday. (Clogged kitchen sink, but no one at Smiths knew that.) I've accepted that part of me will never outgrow categorizing humans into two types of people--those who text with winky-face emojis and those who do not. I've thrown myself wholeheartedly into cultivating my Religious Christmas playlist, as one does now that Constitution Day has passed.

It strikes me as unfair that "settling" generally carries a negative connotation, that settling into seems a bit intertwined with settling for. Settled, I believe, is one of the nicest things a body can feel--secure and content and deeply connected.

Harvest moons come to settle us in for the literal and proverbial changing of seasons; they demonstrate "the wonders of His love" (the Sufjan version, if we're being specific.) My life feels full of the important things, and I am left with a deep and delighted wonder for mountains in fall and good relationships and Temple Thursdays. Still, still, still.

Monday, September 7, 2015

2015 Summer Highlight Reel

MS
Main squeeze is home
Have yet to stop squeezing.


Hair fits in ponytail nub for first time in 2.5 years
Intended to sew Swiss cross quilt for Annual Craft but resorted to copycat rooster watercolor instead.


Launch pod and Judgment circle
You don't have to be lonely, at farmersonly.com.


Sleeping in living room= forced to watch action movies every night before bed
(Was also forbidden to heckle for plot holes. My family is the meanest.)


G&G 50th Anniversary Bash
Rick's real smooth at parties.


KY
Speaking of Dad, accidentally left him at home in rush to find BYU50 box
As Mom says Re: Where did all the leftovers go, "Gotta be quick."


Falling stars and fireballs
Siblings who camp out to watch meteor showers together, are awakened by 5am sprinklers together.


Watched Parent Trap and cried pretty hard when Jessie realizes it's Annie and not Hal
First Annual Harmony Branch Young Women Book of Mormon Read-a-thon Sleepover.


AK
0 mosquito bites
7 cups of hot chocolate.


Graffiti straight from heaven
One time a wolf ran in front of our car and we burst into rapturous applause.


Selfie stick turned out to be excellent call
O beautiful for spacious skies. 

UT
Ran loveliest race in wilderness ft. Native American pictographs
Tyler could not identify favorite song on 1989 album, so we sang them all on drive home. Throat deeply sore.


I miss all of the magic
The past couple months were made for nostalgia.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Some Thoughts on Being Single (and Mormon)

I've decided I've had this conversation enough with enough friends recently that it might as well deserve a spot on this blog. And I've decided I can write about this while I'm still single (and Mormon), without the graciousness of hindsight that comes when we talk about the things we experienced before. This is my life now, and I'm going to write about it now.

 
Single + Mormon: it's only as uncomfortable as you make it

In less than a month, I'll turn 25 years old, which is the age I always assumed I'd get married. And I very well may; a lot can happen in a year. But it could also very well not happen, and I've been thinking about that lately as well.

I'm not saying being single at 25 is the same as being single at 29, just as being single at 25 is not the same as being single at 21. But I don't think 29-year-olds have cornered the market on loneliness either, so I feel like I can write with some authority on this topic.

In a lot of ways, I like being single at 25 much better than I did at 21. Back then, I often got the impression that people assumed my life hadn't started yet, and that it would begin the day I got married. Now, four years later, I don't feel so patronized-- either because a) people are more generous to recognize my unwed life contains value and purpose, b) I care less what people think, or c) I have unconsciously changed the type of people I surround myself with. Maybe a little of all of the above.

In any case, here are some things that, as a single woman, I've come to believe about marriage:

1.) I do not wish I had gotten married earlier in my life. I would not trade the experiences I've had--eating disorder and recovery, a summer in DC, missionary service, law school, or the friendships I developed as a result-- for the hypothetical experiences I would have had if I'd married some nice boy at 21.

Of course, I'm not saying marriage deprives anyone of valuable life experiences. Marriage expands your life opportunities--if you marry the right kind of person. But I do not think I would have chosen especially well, or someone particularly feminist, when I was a sophomore or junior in college. I didn't know myself well enough; I just wasn't there yet. If I had gotten married, I would have chosen a nice, clean-cut BYU boy with a ten-year plan and right now I'd be putting him through grad school instead of me getting to go. I used to be terrified that a few years after getting married, my world would consist of nothing but Disney Junior, babbled conversations, and mommy politics. That fear still lurks down there, a little bit. But it's okay, because at this point the guys who want that aren't into me anymore (I think), and vice versa. Law school really is a lovely crucible, in that way.

Presently, I feel like I've really warmed up to the idea of marriage-- but I know I won't marry someone unless he 'gets' me and wants me, specifically. Helps nurture my interests, and encourages my dumb pipe dreams. I won't marry someone who expects me to melt into a convenient wife-hole he's carved into his life; I'll marry someone who wants to build something, together, with me.
 
2.) I am very confident that one day I will get married. I carry this confidence because statistically, I just do not find it probable that out of all the people I know, I will be the exception who dies alone. Plus, I really like who I am as a person. I can appreciate good music and good books, I have the face of an adorable chipmunk, and I think I'm too funny to waste a lifetime's worth of bon mots on a cat. I think it's going to happen for me, and I don't think it's going to take ten years, either. But even if it does, I hope I will play the best hand I can with the cards I've been dealt.

3.) Marriage does not mean: you have it figured out. Marriage is not an indicator of maturity, nor will it make you any smarter or wiser than you were before. Marriage doesn't mean you graduated to adulthood, or are any more of a woman or man than you were before. Marriage doesn't mean you are inherently more selfless, or better with money, or happier, or more emotionally stable. It just means... well, that you're married. But marriage relationships vary so widely, and I have seen enough different types to know marriage is not a guarantee of happiness.
 
4.) Marriage does mean:
you got very lucky and found someone who you want to spend the rest of your life with. Marriage means you get to play life as a team sport--which is, I believe, how it is supposed to be played--and you get to take care of someone else who is taking care of you. When you get married, it will be because you are in a relationship that is stable, and warm, and abundant. Marriage means you get to have someone to make big life decisions with, and you can stay in and watch Planet Earth every Saturday night if you want. Marriage is (or at least, can and should be) a really happy change that comes to many, if not most, people who want it.

5.) If I got married, it wouldn't change anything about who I am. There are a lot of different ways to read that, so indulge me a long explanation.

The past seven years of my life have been spent mainly in Utah, and mostly without family nearby. Any holes from feeling isolated or disconnected I have filled with a lot of solid friends and religious observance. Once, on a hot desert evening in June when I felt unbearably lonely, I went to the temple. I stayed in the Celestial room for what must have been a long time, because it was the last group of the day and almost everyone had left. I sat on the white couch and looked up at the painting of Jesus, which seemed particularly accessible to me that night.

"If you got married right now, it would change nothing about your relationship with Jesus Christ," the thought came as if from a good friend unwilling to coddle. Whaaaa. That immediately registered as true.

And then I really felt it: Jesus Christ does not see me as single. Even if that's how everyone else sees me, and even if that's how I occasionally see myself. He does not see me in terms of married or single, and if I got married the next morning it wouldn't have changed the way He feels about me.

When you get married, (or leave on a mission, or go through the temple, or do anything else that registers as a big deal in Mormonism), you don't automatically gain 500 Righteous Points for taking An Important Step. You're still the same person. And the Lord cares about you, as a person, so He doesn't see you as lacking when your path is different from everybody else's path. In the words of a priesthood blessing I received last October, Your experiences and trials and triumphs are your own, and they are valid, and they are seen.

The thing is, I know the Lord cares about me because He helps me out pretty frequently with little things that don't matter at all long term, but matter to me at the time. So if He cares about my micro happiness, there's no way He is indifferent to my macro, long-term happiness. If there's a train I need to catch, I feel like Heavenly Father loves me enough to not let me miss it. It's too important; my happiness is too important to Him. So one day, I'll get married--and it won't be the start of my life, because my life has already begun--but it will be a really happy new chapter in my life with a person who I plan to keep as a constant throughout the rest of it. 

And until then, I'll have just as much access to that divine love and concern. So this fall I'm going to move into a cute condo with a friend who makes good conversation. I'm going to hang up the map of the U.S. I painted on barn wood. I'm going to eat dinner off dishes that no friend of my parents gifted to me for free. And that's okay. Because if I got married, it wouldn't change anything.

To me, being a child of God means that married or single, kids or no kids, we are already connected to Heavenly Parents and the rest of humanity as part of an eternal family. And the more I tap into that identity, the more I feel like everything is going to work out.
 . . . . .

(P.S. If you are like me: a couple months ago I happened upon a stranger's blog and read this, which I liked, and this, which I loved. Food for thought.)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A small, nice thing.

Yesterday afternoon, fifteen minutes before my train was supposed to come, it was raining. Like a real downpour, like the kind of wind and mega-M&M-sized droplets one rarely experiences west of the Mississippi. My supervisor generously drove me the couple blocks to the Trax station, and as I stood waiting at the crosswalk, I mused over how much I like Salt Lake City in the summer when it's dark and brooding and wet. A few claps of thunder applauded my conclusions like a good omen from home.

What brought me back was the sudden absence of rain on my head. I turned to my left and found myself face to face with a man maybe a few years older than my dad, who had quietly stepped up beside me to share his umbrella.

"Didn't want you to have to get wet," he shrugged and smiled. We chatted about his job for a minute, when a coworker of his joined us at the corner with an incredulous look.
"Hey Mike," Gary said cheerfully.
"Oh, hey man." Mike was smiling the genial this is all in good fun, but actually everything I'm saying is true smile. "What is this guy doing?" he laughed to me with a nod. "He's sure not this friendly at the office!"
Then the light finally changed and Gary and I bumbled across the street to the platform.

The thing is, I think Mike was probably right. Some people are more kind at work, and some people are more kind at home, and I think it takes a real gem of character to be very kind all the time. I'd like to become that person, eventually. Yet in the meantime, I like the idea that all of us are very kind to someone, or in some circumstances. We all have people to whom we are good. The fact that Gary was a grump at work did not lessen my gratitude, because he got half his torso soaked in order to provide shelter to me, my laptop, and my favorite booties.

Really, this is a very small story. Strangers are nice all the time; I try to be nice to strangers. But it was fun to feel glad that I get to live in a world with Garys in it. And that giant rainstorms bring out the best in us.



Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Guest Post: Hermana Seen-son returns!

Instead of catching up on the past six months, I thought I'd give a play-by-play of last weekend and call it even.

Thursday, 9:37 pm: A mass text asks if I would be interested in visiting the mission. Luckily, the only cool weekend plan I had was getting my car washed, so I start throwing clothes out of my laundry hamper and into an overnight bag.

Friday, 4:10 pm: I finish my first summer internship, and do not regret almost missing the early train because I stopped to take this triumphant selfie. The Utah Courts have a weird social media policy that you can't post where you're working at, but I'm not an intern anymore sooo...

6:00 pm: We head south on the 1-15 and call people to find a place to stay.

Saturday, 3:00 am: We arrive tired and grateful at a member family's home where they have an air mattress and blankets all set up in their living room. Seriously, who lets a bunch of girls crash at their house in the middle of the night?? The. NICEST.


9:45 am: Hermano makes us delicious pancakes for breakfast and we head down to Santa Monica beach. We knew the forecast was less than ideal when we saw all the west coasters bundled up in hoodies-- but it was still warm enough to lay on the sand, listen to the ocean and read my book, which is all one really needs on a vacation.

Lindas preciosas <333

The In-N-Out I consumed after that day at the beach might make my top 10 meals I've ever eaten. I inhaled it so fast, Instagram never had a chance.

8:45 pm: We show up to the Reseda ward Father's Day activity, after most people have gone home and everyone is cleaning up. I am beyond delighted to see the families who are still there. And completely surprised to see one part member family who we had worked with during the months I spent in that area. I hadn't thought about them much; I would never have assumed I'd see them. But there they were, hanging around with the ward leaders and the missionaries after everyone else had left. By the time I approach, I'm too choked up to get a decent "Hi" out-- and instead of letting me play it cool and get it together, the hermano bear hugs me like, "Ohh there, cry, sweetheart. Cry, cry," and I sob into his shoulder like a child. "Truly, Hermana, thank you. I feel that you care. I feel your heart." Ahhhhhhhh missions. They keep you soft.


Sunday, 8:35 am: We arrive back at the Spanish stake center, where four wards meet, and where I feel like I have spent so many hours of my life. Everyone sees everyone and I get to hear the gospel in Spanish, which is still sweetly familiar after being home for a year.


After church we visit President and Sister Hall for a lovely chat. I'm so glad we got to see them before they're released in a couple weeks. I'm also very pleased they're moving to Saint George, because it seems close enough for me to be able to harass them as life coaches even more frequently.


Then we eat a delicious taco lun-che with some members from the ward.


Marta is the grandma who was baptized my last week in Reseda. To use a missionary cliché, she really was golden. I feel so lucky to have her as part of my life, and to have had the opportunity to spend time teaching her. AND she went through the temple last Saturday!!! If this was a normal post by Lauren, she would put up one tasteful picture and let it go. But lest we forget, this is a guest post by yo, Hermana Seen-son, who does not care about brevity and will unapologetically post every picture of Marta Alvarado there is on my phone.

But first things first, let's just take a second to appreciate how tiny and perfect she is: I am 5'4" and slouching.


Thanks to Shalee Mulliner's shenanigans, I HAVE A PICTURE OF A LATINA SMILING!!! OBSERVE!!

 1. Standard Latina photo-op
 2. A tiny smidge!
 3. We've got teeth, people!
 4. Confused but still happy
 5. LOOK AT THAT SMILE THAT WILL NOW LIVE FOREVER ON THE INTERNET
 7. One more, just because <3

4:40 pm: We head back to the stake center for a baptism (aka the real reason we made this trip in the first place.) I didn't know the couple getting baptized but I liked letting kids crawl all over us during the talks. Also got to see and not hug two more of my favorite elders. It's hard to express how normal and comfortable they felt taking pictures with me.


5:56 pm: I gracefully change into sweatpants under my skirt in the church parking lot. We say a prayer--this time in Spanish--and hit the road.

Although more than 24 hours of our trip consisted of driving in the car, I have to say it wasn't bad at all. To stay awake during the night I made us play Kiss Kill Marry about elders from the mission, which was a great hit because everyone always had a ready answer for who they would choose to kill. We tried to move on to famous people after that, but one girl was unfamiliar with pop culture so I started throwing out U.S. presidents and historical figures instead. (I concede that round was a miss.)

It was also brought to my attention that these three former hermanas, all more righteous than I, do not hate Las Vegas. This surprised me, because I have held a personal vendetta against the city for years. 'Why?' you ask, 'because it is a self-proclaimed den of sin?' No, omg I would never judge, although now that you mention it I guess it IS straight-up Satan's Lair and based on the billboards I can safely assume no woman has ever been respected here. No, the truly damning thing about Vegas is that it is tacky. The monstrous fake castles, the neon casino lights, the fake Statue of Liberty-- it's like entering a Chuck-E-Cheese nightmare.

And again, the billboards. As we drove by "Thunder Down Under" for the second time on our way back to Utah, I realized that probably no man has ever been respected in Vegas, either.

If I were Queen of the Strip, I would open a nightclub called Handsome Men in Well-Tailored Suits, in which handsome men in well-tailored suits bring you slurpees and that frozen lemonade drink from Chick-fil-a, and listen to your opinions on things. "What's been on your mind, lately?" they are required by contract to ask, probably in a foreign accent.
Then when it's time for the main event, all the handsome men in well-tailored suits line up on stage and share excerpts from their favorite books, explaining why that passage is meaningful to them. Then a brief light show, the theme of which is "Tribute to Mom"-- pictures flash on screen while handsome men in well-tailored suits step forward and say nice things about their mothers. Then they sing a few songs or do some standup comedy bits to wrap things up. GO AHEAD, TELL ME THAT CLUB WOULDN'T DO WELL.

10:00 pm: We stop at In-N-Out for a second time. I regret nothing.

Monday, 6:50 am: I step out into my parking lot and have forty minutes to get ready for work. I have no clean shirts that match my dress pants, but at this point my legs are so hairy there's no socially acceptable way I can wear a skirt. Tender mercy, my friend also takes the later train that day and she wakes me up when we reach the Murray station.

I know it will take me a whole week to get back up to speed, but some things are worth it. And that trip was Some Things.
All in all, I'm just really happy that I get to live in Utah, and that summers look (and feel) like this.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Happy Christmas, Shrek!

As a naturally boring person, my idea of a perfect vacation is sitting on the couch and watching Jeopardy with my family. My dad's idea of a perfect vacation is the beach-- any beach (but extra points if there's a Costco nearby.) Despite my many attempts to convince everyone how fun it would be to stay home and eat Doritos together, my family decided to go nontraditional this year and spend a few days celebrating the birth of our Savior in the Dominican Republic. 

Our original flight was canceled, so we spent the better part of Day 1 hanging out in various airports.


Homeless, or performer in a live nativity?
If I told you the rest of us were traveling in sheep costumes, would that change your answer?


I'll spare you the photos of me in a bathing suit, but take my word that there was a good time had by all. As sisters, we developed a synchronized swimming routine in the midst of an afternoon rainstorm. I like to think the entire resort enjoyed watching this 8 times in a row, as we were the only people in the pool. We drooled over a darling British family whose two little girls went swimming in both ruffly bathing suits and long sleeved pajamas. It made me want to quit school and be a nanny.

I seriously underpacked and had to wear the same clothes all week, but what else is new? 


We revealed our true colors as poor backcountry hicks when we had no idea how to eat a fancy seven-course Christmas Eve dinner. The waiter brought out fancy plates of sea bass and we just begged him for more rolls. When he served bowls containing a small cracker and a tiny quail leg, we gleefully picked them up with our fingers and licked the bones clean, grateful for something that wasn't seafood. He returned four minutes later, aghast that we had all eaten the nibble of quail-cracker before he could pour scallop cream into the bowls. Yes, this was supposed to be a soup course and instead we ate the toppings right out of the bowl with our hands. By this point, we were crying from laughter-- but also secretly congratulating ourselves for dodging a bullet with that scallop cream. For the rest of the meal, a whole team of waiters surrounded the table to serve our food, making sure we couldn't screw it up by eating too fast. By the end, we were so full we said we wanted to leave before the dessert round. Needless to say, I don't think we impressed as Americans.

Unwritten rule of vacations: There is nothing more magical than discovering an English television channel in a foreign country-- it automatically makes whatever is on at least 4x better than it would be at home. So it makes sense that my favorite part of the whole trip was watching Shrek Forever After in the hotel one night with Tori and Megan. We quoted the three little German pigs for the rest of the week; it was not annoying at all.

Back home. This part was not long enough.
Also, Franklin the Dog-- sitting on his favorite blanket and looking especially dapper after getting a bath.


Elder Simpson New Year's Day Skype. ONLY 6 MORE MONTHS!!!


New Basement Couch-- brushing up on Shreks 1 and 2, obviously.
Lindsay and Ryan got creative with stadium seating for (RIP) Old Denim Couch.



P.S. You can assume, based on this post, that I did indeed survive finals season. Thank you for your love and support!
I won't know how I scored until the end of January, at which point you should probably check back here for a post entitled In the Depths of Despair. 

Until then, I will likely continue muddling through school and playing House with my roommates. ("Playing House" sounds domestic-- but it's what we call spending hours watching old seasons of House and seeing if you can guess from the beginning what's wrong with the patient/ how the episode will play out. So far it's been a large ego boost.)

As Rachel Lynde would say, the sun will go on rising and setting whether I fail in Civil Procedure or not. At least over the break I found a shade of red lip color that makes me feel like not a clown. Not to downplay serving a mission or law school or anything, but I have a pretty small mouth so this well may be my greatest accomplishment of 2014.
On to a new year!