Saturday, September 20, 2014

The Calm After the Storm

 
Some may have heard the adage "the calm before the storm," but what about the calm after the storm? One of my earlier posts discussed my recent stormy moment. It wasn't monstrous like some of the storms I have faced, but a storm nonetheless.

I have lately been reminded of a subject spoken of by one of my favorite religion professors, Michael Wilcox, who discusses the parable of the 4th watch. I remember the first time I heard this, and how much I felt like I had reached the 3rd watch a lot in my life, waiting, hoping, trying to have faith that things would be all right. I was happy when Brother Wilcox came out with a recording of one of my favorite talks The Fourth Watch: Receiving Divine Help When Your Prayers Seem Unanswered.

In the product description of his audio book, it says, "The wind was fierce, and the disciples of Jesus had long rowed against it before the Lord finally came to them, walking on the water in the fourth watch of the night-somewhere between 3:00 and 6:00 A.M. When our trials go on indefinitely, we should not assume that God does not hear our prayers, or that He does not care, or that we are unworthy. Perhaps we have not yet reached the "fourth watch." This comforting message increases our faith and patience, offers profound hope and solace, and explains how the Lord often works with us."

I was in the middle of the 3rd watch last time you heard from me. Pleading, praying,and doing what I could to live the way I needed to live to be a good Christian, I was often tired and exhausted. Giving up was not an option, but I felt I was doing what I needed to and that life was as good as it was going to get. Oh, how weak that thought was/is.

Over and over again, I have needed to learn that an unseen, insurmountable, happiness comes during the 4th watch. It has never failed me...and yet I doubt it every time. I forget that while the 4th watch moment may not last as long as I would like, it always comes...and I am always happier than I could ever imagine. 

I think I discussed this already, but it seems that my moments of 'happy' don't last as long as the moments of unhappy. I find this phenomenon everywhere, in movies, in the scriptures, everywhere. It has been a lifelong goal to find happiness in the journey, even if that journey is in the 2nd or 3rd watch - to find my happy during those times too.

The past several months, I felt I was doing a pretty good job. It wasn't until the beginning of this month that I can say I am truly happy...I reached the 4th watch....and you know what, it feels good. 

Is it worth it to hang on and find those little moments of happy, yes. Is it important to be obedient to a Father in Heaven who loves me and believe that it is through Jesus Christ that I can be truly happy, yes. Does it feel good to go from hope to knowledge, yes! Am I perfect at understanding this all the time, even through the little trials, no. But I am striving to be.

Happy feels so good. 

One Last Thought by Jeffrey R. Holland in the talk An High Priest of Good Things to Come:

"...it is not without a recognition of life’s tempests but fully and directly because of them that I testify of God’s love and the Savior’s power to calm the storm. Always remember in that biblical story that He was out there on the water also, that He faced the worst of it right along with the newest and youngest and most fearful. Only one who has fought against those ominous waves is justified in telling us—as well as the sea—to “be still.” 8 Only one who has taken the full brunt of such adversity could ever be justified in telling us in such times to “be of good cheer.” 9 Such counsel is not a jaunty pep talk about the power of positive thinking, though positive thinking is much needed in the world. No, Christ knows better than all others that the trials of life can be very deep and we are not shallow people if we struggle with them. But even as the Lord avoids sugary rhetoric, He rebukes faithlessness and He deplores pessimism. He expects us to believe!"

*Painting 1, Christ Walking on Water, by Julius von Klever
**Painting 2, They Hear My Voice, by Jeff Smith

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Simple Thought

This struck me today.

Simple Thought, by Barbara Bush

"At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a child, a friend, or a parent."

Monday, August 4, 2014

Online Quizzes: Yes, I Love Them

Upon letting everyone on Facebook know that I was designated Jean Grey from X-men based on an online quiz, I had a friend post "I don't, and recommend no one else ever take these "quizzes". They are all really attempts by "big data" to get you to divulge more personal information than you otherwise would. They make billions, and all you get for it is "knowing" which X-Woman "you are most like" (in " because its not like they put a lot of thought into it....that would cost more money and reduce their profits). Quit giving them this stuff for free..."

I appreciate his sentiment, but you know, I really like the quizzes....when they are done well. 

During my first job at The Summit Group Communications, I was asked to take a Predictive Index test, very similar to the Myers Briggs Type Test. It was amazing to read the results as they very clearly described some of my traits, how I reacted in certain situations, etc. I have always enjoyed taking them just to see their accuracy.

Today I took one, and I really liked the result. The quiz was, what classic novel would you be. This was my result."Empathetic and Family Oriented, E. B. White's CHARLOTTE'S WEB does a lovely job of describing your homey life. Kind and understanding, your are the epitome of empathy, and have a true gift for confiding in others. You tend to be an optimist, or try to be anyway, but have had your fair share of grievances. You are a rare individual in your ability to recognize that no one would be able to appreciate the good times, without having first experienced the bad."

I wasn't sure what direction I want to take this post. I even re-wrote it several times. I had statements like:
  • Quizzes do not define me
  • Even having taken Myers Briggs back in the day, the results would be different now
  • I like knowing what Disney character I would be
  • I find joy in knowing who I am, even if it means that I took a predictive test in order to discover something about me that I didn't know
  • I like learning about myself, particularly about how my strengths and weaknesses work so that I can improve my weaknesses
In the end, I decided not to elaborate on any of those points mentioned above, and just wanted to say...thank you quizzes. Even though you are gathering data from me, I liked this novel quiz....a lot. Even if you are getting billions from your research - good for you for being smart enough to come up with a brilliant way to make money. 

Friday, June 6, 2014

Questions About Happiness

I wanted to ask you some questions about happiness, as related to an earlier post:


  1. How do you feel/find joy in your journey?
  2. Is finding joy in the journey something you have to work at - one that you have to concentrate on everyday? If so, what techniques do you employ?
  3. What do you do to empower your faith?
  4. Do you feel that searching for happiness is counterproductive? Why or why not?


I would love to hear from you.

Book Review: I Need More Time to Read!

It got to the point that I would rather read a book than have a conversation with my sweetheart. My dishes piled in the sink (which is actually my worst pet peeve), important documents and such laid on the kitchen table for days with no regard (bills, what are those?), and my back hurt from all the positions I tried in order to get comfortable so I could read for hours on end. Yes, I love reading. And no, I haven't discovered how I can get the most out of reading unless I lock myself in my room and read for hours on end. 

Once I discover the secret, I will tell you. Unless you have already figure it out. Have you?

Here is my book review for the past two months:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green - 5*
I love this book. It opened my mind to what someone who has cancer might feel. I was pleased with the character development, humor, and realness of the story. I pondered the author's note and have to admit, it put a bad taste in my mouth. I thought, just let me believe what I want to believe. I questioned whether or not the statement was intended to stop fan mail inquiring about the realness of the characters...so, I guess I can understand that. It was also apparent that this notion, or bias, made it into the story. I feel that while real and valid, it came across as pompous.

Otherwise, I enjoyed his character's pros about life and what it means to feel fulfilled, what each person thinks their value is to society, and how a teenager might react to deep rooted beliefs when 'doomed' from the beginning. I have no doubt I would have challenged my belief system knowing I was born to die a potentially early death.


Going Vintage by Lindsey Leavitt - 3.5*
It was fun to be a teenager again when I read this book. I loved the premise of a teenager doing away with technology in response to her boyfriend who cheated on her with an online girl, and as a way to heal. The story line was clever and witty. I really got into the book, seeing that one of my dreams is to be a consignment/antique dealer. I would love to own a store! In that way, I loved it. The characters were well developed. Sometimes I was lost from chapter to chapter, and I had to make some assumptions in order to make the story feel more smooth. However, I have found this phenomenon (jumping) in Young Adult fiction, so it may be a common denominator in this genre. Perhaps due to our ADHD society??

The Titan's Curse (book 3 of the Percy Jackson series) by Rick Riordan - 3.5*
I love the Percy Jackson series. I have started looking up the different Gods and Goddesses to understand their powers and dominion. It would be nice if the book had an index of these different characters and their roles. As mentioned before, I have a hard time with how adults present a young person's behavior and reactions. Sometimes I felt that Percy was portrayed more like a 6 year old rather than a 14-16 year old. But, I only know how I was at that age, not how boys are - so I can't say. I loved the story line, but felt that the development of the story was shortened because of the timeline of events (days). 

There was too much too fast. I felt this way about The Magician's Nephew by CS Lewis. I think if the development and speed were more tied together, I would have liked it more. The book was also a little predictable - key words and phrases to introduce the plot turns and twists were a little too noticeable, but perhaps this was done for the real demographic of the book series.

Out to Canaan (book 4 in the Mitford series) by Jan Karon - 5*
I thoroughly enjoy this series. I like how in the past several books, I have escaped into this wonderful little town, and have become my own character in the book. The characters have come to life for me. I find myself wishing the best for them, rooting them on during turbulent moments, wishing and praying that there were more people like Tim Kavanaugh, who only sees the good in people (even in his nemesis..on occasion).

The Last Great Dance on Earth by Sandra Gulland - 5*
Fantastic series. In the end, I was sad for our dear Josephine. The period dramatizations led me to explore this era even more - I ended up learning more about Marie Antoinette. While it may have been fiction, I appreciated the referenced dates and timeline. The character of Josephine throughout the entire series remained fluid and within controlled dimensions - in fact, all Gulland's characters were well characterized and never stepped out of their individual spheres.

Recently my friend posed the question of what books she should read. I copied down the responses to her query and have included them in this blog post. In addition, the BBC often has great recommendations on books, although I personally exercise a screening test based on the book description. Here is that list. My apologies if some things are spelled wrong:

1. Seabiscuit - Hildebrandt
2. Unbroken – Hildebrandt
3. Monkey Wrench Gang – Edward Abbey
4. Wrenched: The Legacy of the Monkey Wrench Gang
5. The Other Typist: Suzanne Rindell
6. Orphan Master’s Son: Adam Johnson
7. The Alladin factor: Jack Canfield and Mark Hansen
8. Thorn birds: Colleen McCullough 
9. Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell
10. Art of Racing in the Rain: Garth Stein 
11. Glass Castle: A Memoir 
12. These is my Words: Nancy Turner 
13. The shoe makers wife: Adriana Trigiani
14. The rent collector: Camron Wright
15. The historian: Elizabeth Kostova
16. The crocodile on the sandbank: Elizabeth Peters
17. Bartimaues series: Jonathan Stroud
18. Tasha Alexander's series
a. The Counterfeit Heiress
b. Behind the Shattered Glass
c. Death in the Floating City
d. And only to Deceive
19. The Name of the Wind: Patrick Rothfuss
20. Mistborn: Brandon Sanderson
21. Wheel of Time series: Robert Jordan
22. Blackmoore: Julianne Donaldson
23. Mortal instruments series: Cassandra Clare
a. City of Heavenly Fire
b. City of Bones
c. City of Lost Souls
24. Fabric of the World: Lee Hardy
25. Memoirs of an imagery friend: Matthew Dicks

27. Storyteller: Jodi Picouit



Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Bound Decisions Lead to Happiness, Right?

“The great source of both the misery and disorders of human life, seems to arise from over-rating the difference between one permanent situation and another. Avarice over-rates the difference between poverty and riches: ambition, that between a private and a public station: vain-glory, that between obscurity and extensive reputation. The person under the influence of any of those extravagant passions, is not only miserable in his actual situation, but is often disposed to disturb the peace of society, in order to arrive at that which he so foolishly admires. The slightest observation, however, might satisfy him, that, in all the ordinary situations of human life, a well-disposed mind may be equally calm, equally cheerful, and equally contented. 

Some of those situations may, no doubt, deserve to be preferred to others: but none of them can deserve to be pursued with that passionate ardour which drives us to violate the rules either of prudence or of justice; or to corrupt the future tranquility of our minds, either by shame from the remembrance of our own folly, or by remorse from the horror of our own injustice.” - Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments

I listened to this interesting TED talk from Dan Gilbert, the author of Stumbling on Happiness, this book I read a while back. When I read the book, I wasn't on a quest to find happiness (might I remind my readers, searching for happiness is almost counterproductive). At the time, reading this book was an assignment. As such, I skimmed through the pages, and didn't have any major takeaways, because I wasn't engaged. Then I 'stumbled' (pun intended) on this TED talk.

The quote above is heavy, at best. I still have a hard time understanding everything. However, I like how Dan Gilbert explains in his theory of happiness that YES, there are some ideas that are better than others when it comes to the "happiness" outcome. In addition, because there are some decisions that are better than others, I should have preferences on how to make decisions that in turn influence happier outcomes. 

Maybe you have heard the adage that despite our circumstances we can be happy. What I understood from the talk is that my personal commitment to decisions makes me a direct "influencer" of my personal happiness and outcome. Gilbert points out that decisions that are bound bring about happier outcomes by nature. 

For example, my personal ambition or anything else I pursue that lacks boundaries could mean that I will do whatever want/need in order to get to the next level. In other words, if I have personal drive and ambition without personal rules, I am more likely to hurt others and even myself. Without a personal commitment to common sense or moral judgement, I could still get what I want, but my happiness factor would be lower than if I had certain personal rules in place.

What do you think? Do you think that you are prone to be more happy when you have personal rules in place?

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Being On Time: Important to Happiness


I was reading one of my favorite blogs The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin who wrote a post about how to change the habit of chronically being late. I agreed with the steps she gave readers to help them change the habit.

I ended up posting a comment about how I felt about the importance and value of time, specifically if I am going to meet up with someone.

Here is what I shared:

"I am chronically way ahead of schedule. I grew up in a household that always arrived to things at least 10 minutes ahead of schedule. There were always some advantages to our 'promptness'. For example, we always got the pick of the good seats at movie theaters, we always avoided the rush at the restaurants, we always made our flights. 

The disadvantage is how others view their promptness. When I was first living on my own, and would show up to everything early, I would end up waiting and then (because I live in an area where people are chronically late) would end up waiting even double the time because they would be late. This was very frustrating to me, and I ended up creating a story in my mind that someone did not value my time enough to show up when they said they would. I have since struggled with the concept of the value of someone's time. 

The way I dealt with this at first was the three strike rule - if someone didn't show up on time, or around the time of our appointment, and they did it three times, I wouldn't schedule anymore appointments with that person. I ended up losing a lot of valuable relationships because of this rule. I have learned that there are people who do not value the importance of 'being on time' as a priority the way I do. Being on time for me means, spending more time with someone I care about. But maybe being on time for them means doing everything in their power to get there, even if it means being 10 minutes late, and still having an enjoyable time. 

I have since remedied my three strike out rule and have come to learn that A. I still like being on time - it makes me happy to know the lay of the land, but have had to learn to just be, instead of getting frustrated, B. Adjusting my expectation that just because someone else is late, doesn't mean that meaningful things can't happen, or that they care less for/about me, and C. Understanding that there will be things that get in the way of someone not being able to be on time...and being considerate of how they prepare to make appointments."

Like I said in the post, I have been fighting this almost my entire adult life. I recall a specific period of time where the last thoughts mentioned above dawned on me. My friend asked me to meet at her house at 10:00 p.m. so we could go out on the town. I arrived 5 minutes early, only to wait an additional 45 minutes for her to get ready. Before I left my home, I had a million things I needed to get done. But, I put them on hold because I needed to make my appointment. That was more important to me than running some last minute errands. You can imagine my consternation when I arrived only to realize I could have finished my errands instead of being prompt. Needless to say, I tried to put the anger behind me and have a good time, but found I had a chip on my shoulder from that evening's events.

When my friend asked me to do something else, I remember being clear about the time table, "Your time, or my time." I said it as a joke at first, but the conversation took a more serious turn as she responded defensively. She knew she had issues being on time, and others around me know that about her. Being a new friend of her, I had to learn it the hard way. At the end of this experience, we didn't speak with one another for a while. I realized I valued her too much as a friend to lose her, so I had to change my ways, and accept that I shouldn't be so pointed when trying to address time management issues. I eased up and realized that she would be late to every event we planned, and ended up taking a book so I would have something to do while I waited.

In addition to what I said in the post on Gretchen's page, I remember having a conversation with a friend who caught me in my moment of 'waiting and getting angry' because my friend was late, asked me why I was so frustrated. After explaining my situation and my thoughts around being prompt, he told me that I should just start showing up around the time that my chronically late friend would so I wouldn't be so frustrated. He said semi-jokingly that I was the one at fault because I could have scheduled in all this other time to do something else instead of wasting my time waiting, and maybe I should consider changing my behavior.

You know, I find great comfort knowing that other bloggers/comments/posts said something similar to mine. I appreciated all their comments, even after I posted something that was quite similar to what others were also thinking...oops.