Thoughts: The Kind of Pain That Opens Your Heart

Monday, October 8, 2012

On Wednesday, October 3rd, I sat down with my husband and in-laws to watch the Presidential Debate between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. I oscillated between being totally engaged and slightly tuned-out, but rather than turn it off or leave to do something more interesting, I stuck around, and I did this out of obligation. I still haven't decided which of these two candidates (or which of the third party candidates, for that matter) I'll be voting for a month from now. So it seemed important to watch. I thought it might help me choose.

But, as is almost always true with me and things of a political nature, the debate just caused discomfort in my sensitive little soul. It caused frustration, cynicism, and a lack of confidence in the political process. Being distracted was probably just a coping mechanism to shut out the overall weirdness of the debate. Simply put, I was in pain -- a mild pain, but a pain nonetheless, and it was the sort of pain that shut me down. It was the sort of pain that made me smaller.

The next morning, I learned of the death of a child I never knew. She was the daughter (and still is the daughter) of Jill Thomas, a woman I've encountered a few times in her work as a photographer. Little Penny was less than two years old, and her death was completely unexpected.

As a gift to the grieving family, fellow photographer Jonathan Canlas offered to document the day of Penny's funeral. His pictures were compiled in a beautiful slideshow. Judging from the pictures, it was a day of family togetherness and community support. And of course, it was a day of mourning.

I want to encourage you to watch this video, but I also want to alert you to the fact that if you do, the tears will be plentiful.

So I watched this video on the morning of October 4th, and I openly wept. There was no restraining it. There was no being calm. I just bawled, sitting in bed, still in my pajamas. And I kept thinking about the video all day, weirdly wanting to watch it again. Aesthetically, it's beautiful, and the music is just my kind of music, but that wasn't why I wanted to watch it again.

The thing is: the kind of pain this video inspired in me was such a welcome change from the pain inspired by the debates from the night before. The pain from the debates, or from a thousand news stories that report on alarming trends or large-scale injustice, is the kind of pain that shuts me down, makes me smaller, and closes my heart.

The pain from Penny's funeral -- a more intimate, personal pain -- is the kind of pain that opens my heart. And that kind of pain was a welcome change. It wouldn't even appear on the same chart as the pain that exists for Penny's family and friends, because mine is a pain that can be turned off with a pause button, and their's is a pain that they live with. I honestly feel grateful that I got to appreciate a portion of that pain in a way that opened my heart back up.


On a related note, the emotions I felt while watching Penny's video reminded me of how I felt for a few weeks about a year ago, at the similarly premature death of another person I didn't know, Briana Blackwelder. An odd series of meaningful coincidences led me to learn of Briana's work as a midwife, and her death felt strangely immediate in my life. Anyway, thinking of Penny has made me think of Briana again, and though I can't embed the video here (it's hosted on Vimeo instead of YouTube), I'd love for you to watch this little tribute to her.

A Lifetime of Favorite Songs: "Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My quest with this series is to look back over my life and remember all the songs that would have been my favorite at any point along the way. It's a tall order, and I'll probably fall short, but we'll listen to some good tunes in the attempt. 

This song reminds me of the best concert I've ever been to. The night before finals week started (December, 2006), a group of girls in Southern Utah drove to a tiny venue in Salt Lake City to watch Imogen Heap play a lit-up piano. It was hot and stuffy in that club. Imogen was somehow a crazy hippie and a proper English lady, simultaneously. And of course, she threw her voice around with technology in songs like this one.

Plans: My Future Haircuts

Monday, August 6, 2012

A brief hair history:

My hair is blond and naturally curly/wavy. Over the course of a year or so when I was a teenager, I dyed it reddish-brown, then brown-brown, then blond again. This took a big toll in terms of drying out my hair and making it less lustrous (and lustrous is the name of the hair game, folks). To remedy the sad hair problem, I first cut my hair a little, then a lot to get rid of the most damaged stuff. It continued to grow in blonde and curly. A few years passed, at which point I dyed it bright red (in a fit of self-determination), then maroon-ish red, then dark brown. That's where things stand right now.

As naturally-light hair grows on a head of hair that's been significantly colored, the light roots next to the darkened portion can have the effect of making it look like the person is balding. This makes it all the more obnoxious to have to color and re-color every 4-6 weeks, at least in my experience; stretching out the time between dye jobs isn't as carefree as it might be if I had naturally dark hair that I'd chosen to lighten.

So, I can keep dying my hair really frequently, but that gets expensive and time-consuming and against my nature. I could also have my hair lightened so that the whole shebang was light blond, but that would essentially wreck my already very dry and intrinsically-fragile hair. For now, I've decided to embrace the kookiness of skunk hair, letting my blond roots grow in without doing anything about it.

And I'm doing this because I have a game plan. It involves a carefully crafted set of haircuts that I'll employ over the coming years. I need to start out with a few solid inches of blond, so that when I get the first haircut on the list (and it's drastic!), I will essentially be starting fresh with the hair God gave me.

Step One will look something like this (in terms of cut, not color -- the whole idea is to stay natural with my color and texture):

Aaahhh, crazypants! The basic jist is having really short, practically buzzed, hair on the sides and back of the head, with a remaining poof of hair on the top. I hope I'll love it, because in my imagination, I love it a lot. It's risky, it's gutsy, and it could look really terrible. But I'll keep my fingers crossed that it won't.

Step Two:

Short all over. It'll grow in a bit, staying at a pretty uniform length throughout.

Step Three:

I want to get more dimension into a still very-short haircut, with pieces that are longer and shorter, especially pieces in the front that can sort of function as bangs if I style them that way.

Step Four:

Time for a short, asymmetrical bob cut. Very messy looking. Because I'm kind of messy.

And then ...

In time, it will grow to the length it is now -- and beyond! Which is great. I enjoy having my hair both long and short, especially when it's healthy and out-of-control curly. Blond Sara is making a comeback, y'all. With a very organized haircut plan, apparently. =)

Wishes: I Want A Yellow Tablecloth

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thrift stores play a huge role in my life.

There's a small Goodwill location just a few doors down from my workplace, and I visit it often. But I've observed that it's a little overpriced as far as thrift stores are concerned. A few days ago, there was this bright yellow tablecloth for $10, and I thought about getting it, but it seemed like sort of a frivolous purchase.  A bright yellow tablecloth? Yeah, not a necessity. I also knew, thanks to Goodwill's regular discount schedule, that because this item had a blue tag, it would be 50% off in two days. I told myself that if it was still around at that point, I'd buy it.

And as sometimes happens, the thought of this thrift store find set up camp in my brain. Suddenly, the one thing that would make my house (umm, apartment) feel like a home was a bright yellow tablecloth. How had I not seen this before?! It was so obvious! I was sure that the tablecloth needed to be mine.

I went back for the much-desired item yesterday. And of course, as you may have guessed, it was gone.

But there are other options.

Vintage Bright Yellow Tablecloth, $25

Vintage Swedish Tablecloth, $35

Yellow Lace Tablecloth, $30

But the whole idea was to avoid spending even $10, soooo ... these probably will not work.

I could just make my own, a la this:

... with this tutorial.

Or, more likely, I'll just add "bright yellow tablecloth" to my ongoing list of stuff to look for every time I'm in a thrift store. (Already on the list: "mug tree" and "You've Got Mail DVD.")

A Lifetime of Favorite Songs: "Safe In The Arms of Love" by Martina McBride

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

My quest with this series is to look back over my life and remember all the songs that would have been my favorite at any point along the way. It's a tall order, and I'll probably fall short, but we'll listen to some good tunes in the attempt.

My mom had the cassette tape for Martina McBride's 1995 album, Wild Angels. I loved that tape. It was an actual hobby of mine to sneak into my mom's room, start the tape, and listen to it all the way through while laying like a starfish on my parents' queen bed. This song is like ear candy to me, and it inspired my earliest memories of believing I'd fall in love someday.

Quotations: from "Eating: A Manifesto" by Krista

Friday, July 27, 2012

(This post at Rookie was so daggone good that I couldn't help quoting a huge chunk of it. You can read the entire original piece here. It does have saucy language, so be aware of that.)


Girls and women of the world, could we stop apologizing for wanting and eating food? Because this is one of the most ridiculous things that we do collectively as lady-people ... Could we stop feeling “guilty” for wanting an effing brownie? Or a plate of fries? Could we stop actively seeking permission from our friends to go ahead and “be bad” and order the cheesecake? Could we all just go ahead and order whatever it is that we feel like eating, instead of saying, “Oh, I feel like a pig, you guys are just getting salads”?

Because—now I know this will come as a shock—WOMEN EAT. We get hungry. We get hungry for pizzas and Double Stuf Oreos and nachos and ice cream and giant French-toast breakfasts, and you know what? WE DON’T NEED TO FEEL BAD ABOUT THAT.

Here I am making a vast and sweeping gender stereotype, but do you ever, ever hear dudes say “I just want a little bite” or “This is so bad, you guys, but I totally ate a whole pint of Ben & Jerry’s last night”? No! Because it’s OK for men to eat! Men get hongray! Men need frozen dinners called “Hungry-Man”! Men need Manwich! Boys are allowed to grow into men, but “attractive” women in our culture are expected to stay at pretty much an eternal pre-adolescent weight. ...

You see it everywhere—every café, every restaurant, every kitchen across the country. Women bargaining with waiters and their friends about whether or not they should get a side salad or fries with their entrée. Women making demeaning jokes to one another about their desire for food, like “once on the lips, forever on the hips” and “Well, it’s midnight, so technically your body doesn’t know whether it’s today or tomorrow, so the calories zero themselves out, hahaha” and women bonding with one another over their shared guilt! You’re being bad and getting the chocolate cake? Ooh, now that you’re doing it, let’s both be really bad, and I’ll order the key lime pie and we won’t tell a soul, will we? It’s just us girls!

Why are we apologizing for wanting food? What the hell? BODIES NEED FOOD. WE DIE WITHOUT IT. And food tastes good! And we’re programmed to crave it! Sure, some food is healthier than other food, but what is up with punishing ourselves for wanting pickle chips? Why is it acceptable—nay! encouraged!—in our culture for women to feel guilty and publicly “admit” our guilt for wanting to eat a cookie? Why are we rationalizing our “bad behavior”—you know, our EATING—with statements like “I’ve been really good lately” or “I’m gonna need to walk this off later”? ...

I want women to allow themselves to want food. I want women to be hungry and ask for what they want to eat without apologizing. I want women to stop looking for permission from others before they eat something that is not a carrot or spinach. I want my friends to get the chili fries if they want the chili fries, and not say something like, “It all goes straight to my ____” (hips, thighs, butt, etc.). I want to see a girl sink her teeth into a huge cheeseburger and fries and not cut the burger in half to save some for later. I want my mother to allow herself more than one small square of dark chocolate per day. I want women to take pleasure in food, without punishing ourselves for wanting it.

Hear me, womenfolk: I want all of us, everywhere, to stop apologizing, stop rationalizing our behavior, and just eat the damn brownie already.

Images: Lily in Idaho Falls

Thursday, July 26, 2012

A Lifetime of Favorite Songs: "Never Is A Promise" by Fiona Apple

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

My quest with this series is to look back over my life and remember all the songs that would have been my favorite at any point along the way. It's a tall order, and I'll probably fall short, but we'll listen to some good tunes in the attempt.

This is a current favorite, from Fiona Apple's first album, Tidal. I picked up the CD at Value Village, and whenever I put it on, I can't help but listen to this one on repeat. Fiona, you always bring out the drama in me. And that's a good thing.

Possessions: My Left-Hand Rings

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

How 'bout that hand of mine, eh? That is one strange angle

Anyhoo, this is my left hand, featuring three rings that I wear often.

Ring Finger: Wedding Ring

Craig gave me this ring when we got engaged in May of 2008, and I have loved it nonstop. My wedding ring is something I contemplated for a lot of years (roughly since the age of seven), and my mind changed somewhat in terms of how I wanted it to look. Small Sara loved all things Native American, so naturally, I wanted a turquoise wedding ring. I eventually moved on to wanting a diamond, thought it HAD. TO. HADTO. be a princess-cut solitaire stone on a thin, white-gold band. At some point in high school, I became enamored with the idea of having a sapphire wedding ring instead, and that's where my preference remained. As Craig and I planned our wedding and our future together, we talked about how both of our wedding rings would look, and Craig used those conversations to design my ring. Having a sapphire has definitely been a hot topic through the years, with plenty of strangers ooh'ing and ahh'ing over what an original thinker my husband must be to have come up with a ring like that. Yeah, he did good.

Middle Finger: Austin TX Ring

I picked up this ring at the Buffalo Exchange in Austin, Texas. It's sterling silver with little turquoise beads (pretty sure they're just synthetic beads and not the real thing).

Index Finger: Feather Ring

This ring also came by way of Buffalo Exchange, though this one was in my home store in Seattle. It features an oval turquoise stone, a little red coral, and a silver feather detail. This is one I'll definitely have forever (unless I pass it down to some lucky daughter, granddaughter, or niece).

Lists: My Desert Island Movies

Monday, July 23, 2012

I don't know if I'll ever be shipped off to a desert island, and if I am, I don't know that my captors will be so generous as to provide five movies of my choice.

But if it ever happens, I'm ready with this list.

1. "You've Got Mail"

I love this movie for sentimental reasons, for bouquets of sharpened pencils and caviar garnishes. For Meg Ryan's floppy hair and the Zabar's cash-only line. Nora Ephron, who directed and co-wrote "You've Got Mail," recently passed away, and in tribute, many bloggers I follow have written little posts to share their love for this film and others that Ephron wrote ("When Harry Met Sally," "Sleepless in Seattle," for example). Their words made me extra homesick for Joe Fox and Kathleen Kelly and friends, and I have been (unsuccessfully) looking for the DVD at thrift stores ever since. The search continues.

2. "The Land Before Time"

In the wise words of Little Foot's mother, "Some things, you see with your eyes. Others, you see with your heart." Cue music, and cue Sara crying. I've watched "The Land Before Time" since before I could walk or talk, and it is an everlasting metaphor for life that I've turned to repeatedly. Between Diana Ross singing "If We Hold On Together" and the motley crew of young dinosaurs finally arriving in The Great Valley, awash with sunlight and green food and their adoring families ... ahh, I'm a goner. This movie teaches me things every time I watch it, and usually, it's the same lessons over and over.

3. "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

This is the kind of movie that's just mainstream enough to be cliche, but also artsy and offbeat enough to be respected. It features Jim Carrey as mild-mannered Joel and Kate Winslet as manic-pixie-dream-girl Clementine (although, as she says brilliantly in the movie, she's not a concept; she's just a [messed]-up girl looking for her own peace of mind). They are lovers, and also strangers, and also bitter exes who intentionally erase all memories of their past involvement. This movie makes me question the whole idea of regrets, of wishing I'd never met a person, and reminds me that love is messy sometimes. It also really makes me want to go to Montauk.

4. "Hot Rod"

This one's just for fun. Nothing cheers me up and gets me sillier than watching Andy Samberg in the awkward teenage character of stunt-boy Rod Kimble. He has a hormone disorder. He has a dad who's super-dead. He has a crush on the girl next door (and the girl next door has a douchey boyfriend). Favorite moment:

This movie is in the category of STUPID BUT FUNNY. As in, "This scene/character/line/idea is stupid ... but is it also funny?" And there's no accounting for exactly why I'm on board, why this movie delights me so, but there you have it. I want to take it with me so I can laugh on the desert island, and also so I can memorize every line and quote it top-to-bottom (life goal).

5. "Like Crazy"

My number five spot was a wild card and a tough decision, because when it comes to desert island movies, you're not just picking movies you happen to like a lot; you have to consider what role these movies will be playing in your long-term, lonely existence on this island. I wanted to include movies that inspired different essential emotions within me, and "Like Crazy" ... well, it brings on the romantic-sads. And sometimes, the romantic-sads are good to have.

As a concept, "Like Crazy" is a really interesting film because it was made from a fifty-page outline (written by the director) that the actors then used to improvise actual scenes and dialogue. It feels realer than real, probably because these lines were coming from the gut rather than the page. I both hated and loved seeing the two lead characters fall for one another, then deal with the unbearable distance between California and London, then be together, then be apart, then be together, then be apart, then figure out what the years of separation have done to them. I'm really glad this movie only came out last year and didn't exist at any point when I was going through a breakup, because it's entirely possible I would have watched it repeatedly, stayed in my bedroom, and eventually died in a puddle of romantic-sads. This movie is a very tough one to get over.

(If you want to see the trailers for these movies, go here. I've made a handy little list.)

Mother Mother

Sunday, May 13, 2012

All I've ever tried to do is honor what is familiar in me.*

Mothers' Day is one of the many days each year when I reflect on something special, this one thing in particular that is familiar in me. It's something I learned when I was a child and started caring about in a new dimension as a 22-year-old lady.

I'll cut the mystery on this something special: I believe that I am a child of Heavenly Parents, that my spiritual genealogy is simple and magnificent and common to every other person this planet has met. I believe that I have a Heavenly Father. I believe that I have a Heavenly Mother. I have spoken with and thought about my Heavenly Father every day that I can remember in my entire life. The relationship I have with my Heavenly Mother has been so small in comparison (and it is always in comparison), so short in its span, and that smallness truly breaks my heart. But I am trying to make Her every bit as central in my life as He is.

I wonder if I'll ever be able to do that -- make those relationships equal in some fashion -- because I became devoted to my Heavenly Father as a twelve-year-old kid with braces and such a water-clear sense of the world, and now I'm twenty-five, and the way my grown-up self connects with divinity is by necessity different from the way my child self did. I suppose that's all right. Maybe Heavenly Father is the childhood sweetheart that I'll know forever and ever, and maybe Heavenly Mother is the deep and challenging partner of my mature years. Maybe those loves have equal weight, even if they take different shapes.

So this belief in my heavenly beginnings, my Heavenly Parents, is something so dear and familiar in me. It's such a Mormon part of me. I'm comforted to find that I still cry at this facet of my testimony. It still makes me emotional. For all the ways I've deconstructed and reconstructed and analyzed and compartmentalized and reprioritized my religious knowledge, the thought of my Heavenly Parents is real to me and worthy of tears. This is still how I form my understanding of divinity. I honor them as a set. I love them individually.

And on this Mothers' Day, I'm thinking of my own mom. The one who brushed and curled and braided my hair. The one who sends me texts with funny emoticons. The one I've seen crumpled in sadness and laughing in the sunshine.

I wonder if my Heavenly Mother is like this. I wonder if She tended to my needs and my nitpicky desires while I was still in spiritual infancy (or am I still in that infancy?). I wonder if She sends me messages in Her own way. I wonder at Her experience of the terrible grandness this universe holds. I wonder how She manages to feel so much.

And on this Mothers' Day, I'm thinking of the mom I want to be. A mom who judges rightly when to cuddle her toddler and when to let that same child explore with minimal supervision. A mom who tells her teenage kids about the first time she fell in love. A mom who tends scrapes and slivers with a tender hand.

I wonder how this will train me for my next progression. I wonder if I will know the godly skill of holding on and letting go. I wonder what wisdom I will most want to transmit. I wonder if I will be able to heal the ones I love in a manner most befitting their independence.

I wonder about Her and I believe in Her. I honor Her as someone familiar in Me.

*I can't claim credit for that sentence, one that I find totally brilliant. It's just something I heard a few years ago in a podcast interview with Ashley Sanders. [PS I love her and I love that interview. I'll try to expand on why in my next post.] But anyway, even if I didn't make it up, those words are true and they just stir something in me.

Events: My First Hot Yoga Class

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The first thing I can tell you about yesterday is that I saw other naked adult women for the first time. So that happened.

Blame it on the fact that I've never had a gym membership or been a fashion model. It seems like changing rooms/backstage dressing areas provide ample opportunities to see other folks in the buff, and since those aren't places I've ever been, yesterday represented a first. I purchased a Groupon deal (a few months back) that would allow me ten 90-minute sessions of hot yoga, and with my blessed day off from work, I ventured forth to see how my body would like it and if I would, in fact, DIE as a result of excessive sweating and excessive stretching. Walking into the changing room pre-class, I was met with about five women in various states of undress, recovering from the class they'd just finished. I registered their nudity in my head -- "Oh, they are naked" -- and proceeded without concern. Being a self-analytic, self-reflective person means constantly evaluating your emotions and reactions, deciding if you like them and if they make sense. I was pleased to note that I didn't feel weird at all. I could notice these women without staring, and noticing their breasts or the tattoos on their bums didn't feel any different than noticing someone's nail polish. Next thought: when I'm done with my class, will I be naked in front of strangers too? Will I do that? Will I feel comfortable enough? Should I aspire to be that comfortable? Et cetera. Self-analyzing is a chore sometimes.

Despite what I've led you to believe so far, the main focus of my class was not sitting in this locker room and ruminating on the female form. No, I came to get my yoga on. Yoga is a now-and-then thing for me, something I enjoy but have never made into a serious practice. This particular form of yoga, hot yoga, is different from anything I've done, and the difference is summed up in that word: hot. HOT. In explaining the heat to Craig, I mis-estimated that the room was 90 degrees. No no, it was 105 degrees (just checked the website), and with 40% humidity. I wish I could capitalize letters to put the emphasis on that. It was sweltering. Just sitting in that room took it out of me. And then I had to stand like a very flexible flamingo in said heat, trying to maintain balance against forces that would have me faint and fall.

And oh, the sweat. I have never in my life sweat so much, not even close. My skin was positively slimy from head to toe, as if I'd been slathered in olive oil, and little streams of sweat were coming off the ends of my hair. My fancy new yoga pants looked like they'd been dipped top-first in a bucket of water before I put them on.

The only difficult thing was not collapsing, which might sound like a joke, but I mean that sincerely. I thought that the HOT YOGA thing would be tough because of the yoga, but it was actually tough because of the hot. I didn't find the poses that difficult, nor was I intimidated by the stamina it took to hold them. But I had to rest on my back about five or six times, trying to recover from the lightheaded, I'm-gonna-puke feeling brought on by the temperature.

In all this, I noticed little things about my body. The edges of my lips would tingle during each rest. When I lie down, my right foot rolls out and opens up more than my left, like my left foot is repelled by the ground while my right foot is like, "Meh, whatever." There's a tendon in my right foot that gets really tight, as do my shoulders. My arms are very long.

The thing that's remained on my mind since yesterday's class is a quote that was posted throughout the studio, an old proverb.

Be humble, for you are made of dung. Be noble, for you are made of stars.

And for those of you who wondered, this body, made of dung and stars, did indeed go naked in the dressing room when she changed from yoga gear into a t-shirt and jeans.

Thoughts: Considering Clothes & Their Consequences

Thursday, May 3, 2012

(It's been a while since I posted 'round these parts, and while I was away, GoogleBlogger went and changed the whole setup on me. Let's hope my skills as a native English speaker get me through this rough patch.)

What is it about some interests and hobbies that makes them seem noble, while others seem shallow? Why do some strike you as legit and others come off as immature? I'm honestly asking here. Because the thing is that my most enduring interest is becoming more and more clear by the day, and I have mixed feelings about it.

See, I love clothes.

(Side note: I forgot for a moment that this used to be my daily style blog and that you probably already knew that about me. I thought I was revealing something sort of surprising. But I am not. Carry on.)

It all goes back to the 5th and 6th Grades. Pretty sure of it. I had an aunt at the time named Jennifer. (Yes, "at the time," because she is no longer my aunt. She was married to my uncle, but that changed.) Jennifer would occasionally stop by our house and drop off trash bags of clothes she no longer wanted, clothes my mom and I might be interested in making our own. She was fancy and hip. She shopped in Las Vegas, acquiring cooler things than my mom and I found at Wal-Mart and sometimes JCPenney's. Those bags contained possibilities of pretty, promises of popularity. Jeans with leather labels -- mmmmm. I loved Jennifer's hand-me-downs. They gave me that special "Girl, you are movin' up in the world" feeling.

This affection for certain articles of clothing continued on through my years of middle school, high school, and college, but between my introduction to style blogs and my current job as a clothing buyer, it has sprouted roots and grown thick branches. (Yes, this love is a tree, or at least a solid bush.) I derive actual happiness -- a real kind, temporary but sincere and innocent -- from putting on a precious dress or a solid pair of boots. I revel in scarves. And it's not about acquiring things that cost a lot of money -- certainly not. I took stock of my wardrobe tonight, and 63% of it is secondhand. This collection, all in all, was pretty cheap. It's not about money or status, and I'm confident it's not about getting the boys and girls to think I'm pretty. It's just that I lovelovelove wearing beautiful things that help me feel beautiful alongside them.

But am I a superficial nincompoop for feeling so wrapped up in clothing? Am I small-minded? Does this make me a bad feminist? A bad Christian? A bad wife? A bad friend? A bad person? I ask myself these questions. I try to answer "NO" without reservation. Loving music isn't shallow. Loving fine cuisine isn't small-minded. Loving calligraphy or nautical history or birdwatching isn't an indication of poor moral fiber. So why this ambivalence when it comes to the clothes thing? Why does this interest carry a stigma? I'm accepting theories for consideration.

All I know is that yesterday I wore a green skirt with blue roses on it, a skirt that cost me eleven dollars, and when I stood at the bus stop and saw the way that skirt moved in the May breeze, I delighted in it.

Dreams: The Wrong Husbands

Monday, January 16, 2012

In the past week, I've had two dreams in which I was married to someone other than Craig, even though I knew I was supposed to be married to Craig. In the first one, I was married to a sexually-aggressive Indian man (Indian as in "from India"), and in the second one, I was married to a gay man, although he didn't tell me he was gay until after we were married. I literally said, "You know, I really wish you'd told me that before we got married."

But in both dreams, I was a little confused, because I remembered being married to Craig and I had no recollection of ever divorcing him/of him dying/etc. So I kept asking people to recap what had happened with that.

Analyze away.

Sights: Pictures of the Day-to-Day

Friday, January 13, 2012

If I had an iPhone, I'd use Instagram to save and share the pictures I took with it, but since I opted for Android, I use an analogous program that I actually like quite a bit. It's called Lightbox; this link will take you to my profile there, should you care to see it. And here are some recent pictures from my Lightbox, and therefore, some recent sights from my life.

October 26, 2011 (okay, these first few aren't exactly recent)
This was taken going over the 520 bridge between Bellevue and Seattle, which is a bridge floating right on the water of Lake Washington. It's pretty cool; it actually took my breath away the first several times I drove on it. The bridge tends to create a divide between the water, with the lake on one side being choppy and kind of fierce while the lake on the other side is very calm. Which side is which is ever-changing, and I have no idea what's causing that situation, but it's pretty cool to observe. Anyway, the state just turned the bridge into a toll road, so gone are the days of driving on it and having my breath taken away.

October 27, 2011
Taken from my seat on the 105 bus, the first of three buses that I take to get to work.

November 5, 2011
A sticker on the side of a newspaper box in Seattle. I agree with the sentiment, a lot. And I also think the woman in the drawing looks a lot like a co-worker of mine named Jolene, which is funny and fitting, since I can totally imagine her going to a rally with a sign like this.

December 16, 2011
This was the day that I cut my own bangs. They're a little shorter than this now, but I've learned how to make them look "right" and I truly love having them. I feel like I should have had bangs this whole time (meaning "my whole life").

December 25, 2011
Part of a series I call "Walter Sitting In Things or On Things." In this piece, he's sitting in a red bag that previously held my mom's Christmas present to me (which was a purple KitchenAid mixer, by the way -- score!). He really likes sitting in or on things that contain him in some way. Whatever that's about.

January 4, 2012
My rainiest day in Seattle thus far.

January 5, 2012
I strung up the lights from our Christmas tree above the bed. They make me really, really happy.

January 11, 2012
Walter getting belly-rubbed, big time.

January 11, 2012
Fun with toenail polish (those are my feet, yes), and an addition to the aforementioned series where Walter sits on things (maybe while he considers having some toenail polish fun of his own?).

January 12, 2012
And again. This time, Walter is sitting on a precarious piece of cardboard.

January 13, 2012
All of these socks are missing their partners.

January 12, 2012
I made this pizza and it would have been REALLY good if I'd chosen to use different dough or if I'd made the dough better somehow. Anyway, you should try it: any bread dough you want (homemade, store-bought, etc.), topped with havarti cheese, cheddar cheese, chunks of chicken, red and yellow peppers, spinach leaves, and garlic salt. No sauce. Add any other toppings you want and just do all of it according to your personal tastes.

January 13, 2012
I bought this beautiful vintage necklace today (part of my last purchase for two and a half months!). I conferred with my friend Amy, and we think it's made from moonstones and mother-of-pearl.

January 13, 2012
The Seattle Washington Temple (this was my first visit) and a really great sculpture that I enjoyed on the temple grounds.

Possessions: My iPod

My iPod is actually "Craig's iPod," or at least that's what it's called when I plug it into the computer to charge or sync it. In the spring or summer of 2008, just a little after we got married, I accidentally ran Craig's iPod and cell phone through the washing machine. Was this my fault because I didn't check the pockets of Craig's jeans before washing them, or was it Craig's fault because he threw those jeans on the pile of dirty clothes that I was about to wash without first emptying the pockets? You decide.

Unexpectedly, both of these items continued to work after having been through the battlefield of the laundry. The only scar was some water left behind the screen of the iPod that sort of warps the images a wee bit. Craig kept using his iPod for a while but eventually decided he'd like one with more storage capacity and less water damage. He bought himself a replacement, and in the meantime, my own iPod had gotten fried (from being left too long in a hot car -- that one was definitely my fault), so I commandeered Craig's. And now it's mine.

I use it mainly to listen to podcasts on the bus ride to work. Favorite podcasts include "This American Life," "Radiolab," "Stuff You Should Know," "Too Beautiful to Live," and "On Belief."

Confessions: I "Lost" $300/I Have Personal Issues with Money Management

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Through a series of events at the Department of Licensing, I paid $300 in car licensing fees that I shouldn't have paid. This was due mostly to ignorance and due a little bit to embarrassment over being wrong. There is a way to go about getting the money back, and I'm on that path and taking those steps.

$300, big-picture-wise, is not killer. There are bigger sums of money and bigger mistakes. And we do have the money to spare. While we are doing okay financially, it will certainly be a bummer if I'm not able to get the money back, and more importantly, this situation is highlighting to me how disengaged I am with my/our personal finances and with managing money. Money has been intimidating to me for as long as I can remember, all the way back to memories of my parents fretting about the bills and of hypothetical story problems about budgeting in my math textbooks. And because it's been so intimidating to me for so long, I've sort of adopted a hands-off approach, just spending money here and there, trying to be economical and thoughtful, but ultimately figuring that if I really want something and the price is reasonable, I should get it, and there's no need to check bank account figures or limit my spending or set up a budget or keep track of receipts. I've figured that if I'm a good person and I don't go crazy, the money I have will be enough, as if money correlates and expands with my personal righteousness.

So, to sum up: Yeesh, money is hard! And my track record with it has been less-than-stellar, though not horrible, considering that I've always had enough to live on and am not nor have ever been in any debt.

One step I'm taking to resolve this or to do a little better is to go on a frivolous spending fast for a bit. Excluding a purchase that I'm making tomorrow (with store credit), I'm not going to make unnecessary purchases for two and a half months (through the end of March, to be specific). This means no new bottles of nail polish, no fast food, no fashion magazines, no books (I already have so many on the shelf that I need to read, not to mention access to the local library!), and most especially no clothes/shoes/jewelry, etc., from the store where I work. That's the toughie. I have a pretty rad discount, and we have some pretty rad things I could spend it on. But I'm trying to remember that I don't need to own all the beautiful things, that other people can have them and love them too, and that I already have beautiful things in abundance.

Kind of a strange topic to bring up, and I don't know if you care to know how I feel about and deal with money, but now you have that insight. I'm sure I come off sounding kind of weak and silly and materialistic, but I am those things to a certain extent. That's my confession.

And PS, here's the first thing I'm not buying even though I'd really like to: a beautiful vintage leather backpack on eBay (currently with a high bid of $15.50!).

Links: January 1st-8th, 2012

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Here are links to some of the online sights that have mattered most to me this week:

A woman dancing in the laundromat. She's so committed!

TED talk from Sarah Kay about spoken word poetry, including a poem called "If I Should Have A Daughter."

Natalie Imbruglia's "Torn"

"Mommy, they are just like me" -- Reflections from a mom about her young son's absolute love for Blaine and Kurt from Glee.

Speaking of Glee: I don't watch the show much anymore, but I came across a recent clip that blew me away. It's a mashup of the songs "Someone Like You" and "Rumor Has It," both by Adele.

Grist article about natural self-bias and the seven deadly sins.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt interview -- how adorable and killer-cool is he?

"What movie made you cry?"-- answered by several amazing actors.

Information on a mass New Year's Resolution to temporarily give up Facebook.

Why having teenagers who talk back can have its plus sides. (This stood out to me because I never talked back to my parents, and incidentally, I am pretty terrible at handling tense conversations with anyone in the world. Not totally sure how the two are related, but they probably are, even if it's just because they both say something about my personality.)

A post at Feminist Mormon Housewives on unions, women, and the Occupy movement.

Some (very respectful, totally faithful) reflections on the Mormon endowment ceremony, from someone who has struggled to appreciate and enjoy it. I can relate to her position, and I really benefited from her words.

Nothing too groundbreaking, but the description of these fake and funny resolutions did make me laugh aloud.

A reflection on 2011 from "Where Did U Get That?" style blogger Karen. Very sincere and interesting to watch.

"Something Else I Don't Know" from BYU professor and philosopher James Faulconer, about women's exclusion from priesthood-holding in the Mormon church.

Some thoughts from a Christian dad on how to communicate to his daughter that her value doesn't come from looks or smarts or accomplishments or morality, but from the divine.

Really touching video on the adoption and "baby wedding day" of a girl named Coco.

A Young Men's leader talks about how modesty is applied to young men, with thoughts about what that says for how it should be applied to young women. (Some really valuable comments on this post, as well.)

Captain Awkward writes a really awesome advice column, with heavy emphasis on self-respect, honest communication, and clear boundaries. I really dug this post of hers about how to handle a mom who (no joke) disowned her daughter on Christmas Day (for what it sounds like were really dumb reasons).

This post at Segullah about a spirited night an American family spent with a Maasai community.

And finally, this video has gotten a lot of viral love lately (yuck, that doesn't sound good), so you may have seen it already. But I don't care -- watch it again. This is "Somebody That I Used To Know" by Gotye and Kimber. Pretty stellar.

Quotes: This Makes Me Feel Mormon, Part 1

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Before I get to the quote, a little background: I attended a conference this past summer called the Sunstone Symposium, which is an event focused on presenting scholarly and creative work related to Mormonism. In one of the sessions I sat in on, a presenter said something along the lines of, "I consider myself a Mormon, but I have to say, I feel a lot more Mormon when I'm reading a Janice Allred essay than I do when I'm reading The Book of Mormon." That sentiment has stuck with me. I can't say I'm on exactly the same page as that presenter was; I've read The Book of Mormon as well as essays by Janice Allred, and I've had moments of feeling very Mormon while reading both of these. That said, I definitely know what this young woman was driving at. Every so often, I'll read or hear something related to Mormonism -- something online, something in an old textbook, something in the scriptures, something said by a friend -- and I'll think to myself, "Yes. Yes! That makes me feel Mormon!" My heart swells with religious pride and my spirit responds favorably.

I want to do a better job of documenting these things. Ergo, I'm working on an irregular series for the blog, called "This Makes Me Feel Mormon." Here's installment #1.


This quote comes from the comment section of a recent blog post at Mormon Mommy Blogs, asking for questions to be directed to President Julie B. Beck of the General Relief Society Presidency. The comments this post received are very interesting to me, and this one was particularly touching and poignant. I'll add in some bracketed amendments for clarity's sake.

"Sister Beck,

When you visited our stake this fall you stated that every [Relief Society] meeting should be a place where sisters should be able to ask the hard and uncomfortable questions. As is evidenced in this thread, many of us have hard and uncomfortable questions. Most of us do not ask these questions in our wards [and] stakes because we have learned that they are met with fear and/or chastisement before being dismissed as bitter and unfaithful. There have been some in this thread who have expressed shock and disappointment that LDS women would have the concerns expressed here. That reaction is the very reason many of us do not feel safe trying to seek answers to our concerns. My question is, how do [we] promote an environment wherein members can feel safe sharing their struggles and concerns without the fear of being labeled heretical? How can we shift from seeing those engaged in working out their concerns as looking for a way out and instead understand that most often those who ask these questions are looking for a way in? What is it in our culture that begets fear of questions in a church that was established by a boy who asked a hard and uncomfortable question? I don’t think God fears our questions. Why should we fear them from one another?"

--from commenter Sunny

Memories: The Beginning of January

Friday, January 6, 2012

Thanks to Facebook's newly-implemented timeline format, I can go back and observe almost anything I've done on Facebook according to date. So journey with me, if you will, and let's learn what Facebook says I was thinking and doing at this time of year in 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011.

January 6th, status update: "Sara Katherine Staheli is going to Festival City for the School Too Soon Festival."
("Festival City" is the nickname for Cedar City, Utah, where I attended college. I was particularly un-excited to start the new semester because it meant moving an hour away from my boyfriend and I was SO SAD that I wouldn't see him every day.)

January 7th, status update: "Sara Katherine Staheli is settled into a room with a crystal doorknob."
(I had just moved into a basement apartment in Cedar City, Utah.)

January 5th, comments between Geoffrey Insch and me:
Geoff -- "Now that you have been Hanksed you officially have the longest name of any of my facebook friends!!"
Me -- "oh, i'm so pleased! it's fun having four whole names."
(As of January 5th, I'd been married to Craig for almost two weeks.)

January 6th, status updates:
"Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks is invisible when she is running away from the scene of the crime."
"Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks is employed."
(The first update references a Fiona Apple song, which I'm sure I was listening to that day. The second update came about because I accepted a job at a phone sales/customer service company in Orem, Utah. Getting to the interview was pretty tough, due to a car stuck in the snow, a confusing bus route, and inadequate shoes for walking long distances in that weather. Maybe I should have taken all those obstacles as messages from God, because it turned out to be the worst job I've ever had! Actually, I ended up quitting about two months later.)

January 7th, status update:
"Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks is back from wedding festivities that managed to be heartwarming, raucous, and friendly all at once. Kudos to the Campbell-Stensruds for kicking things off right."
(My best friend, Chelsea, got married on this date. Her wedding was fantastic!)

January 5th, status update:
"When given a mixed bag of M&Ms, Craig will eat the peanut and I will eat the plain. So nice being married to your opposite."

January 5th, new profile picture:
taken outside of our house in Provo

January 7th, comment left in response to a friend's status about the film "Inception":

"every time i watch, something new pops up that makes me suspect that he isn't awake at the end. i think it's telling that he was using Mal's totem the whole time. the continuous spinning of the top (or lack thereof) is an indication of whether you're asleep, but the presence of the totem itself is (as Arthur explains to Ariadne) just an indication that you're not in someone else's dream. i think the presence of Mal's totem at all suggests that this was a part of her dream (or at least leaves the possibility open).

another thing that makes me suspicious is the fact that Saito and Ariadne saw the totem Dom was carrying (Saito in the basement bathroom in Africa; Ariadne in the workshop) and could have replicated it in their own dreams.

ultimately though, i think we can at least say that Dom wasn't in his OWN dream at the end, if he was dreaming at all, because the kids had aged when he saw them at the end, and they hadn't aged at all in any of his memories. i think it's most likely that he was awake at the end, but it's also possible that he was in someone else's dream."

Things I Love: Christmas Tree 2011

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The first Christmas that Craig and I were married, I insisted on some modest decorations. I bought a set of three small artificial trees and some ornaments in a blue and silver theme. That comprised our Christmas setup for 2009 and 2010, and both of those years, we were actually away from home on Christmas morning.

For 2011, our first Christmas when we'd actually be in our own place, Craig opted for a living tree, and since I was unable to find those blue and silver ornaments (seriously, where did they go?! Our apartment is not that big!), I decorated it with candy canes, a paper chain garland, and an eight-point star made from cardboard and tin foil. Craig surprised me on Christmas morning by adding lights to the tree, the one thing I really needed for Christmas to feel real.

All in all, it's a scrappy but beautiful little tree.

The night before Christmas -- plenty of presents, but no lights just yet!

The star I made. Do you like how lopsided and doofy it is? Because I do.

I took this one whilst sitting on the couch on Christmas morning. Sneaky Craig put the lights on the tree in the night. And for the sake of explanation, the TV is tuned in to "I Love the 90s" on VH1 (the whole "I Love the" series is a serious favorite of mine). Craig had me turn up the volume while he set up a surprise Skype call with my family in the other room. SNEAKY CRAIG!

And here the tree sits today. I'm planning to take it down and use the lights and star somewhere else in the house, but we'll see how the day goes.
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