I hope you all know where you are supposed to go to vote (mine changed this year). If not, see the website in this fun little ad.


Goop Newsletter

So I was telling you a little while ago about how Gwyneth Paltrow has this new website and an associated newsletter that as far as I can tell goes out once a week. Well, I was reading one such newsletter recently and found it interesting/really disappointing.

Here is the basic rundown:

Paltrow begins by stating a general interest in various religious traditions and tells us that periodically she will be asking a religious type question to several different religious leaders. Here is the first question:

I have a friend who sees the world in a pessimistic light. This person is highly suspicious of people and situations, and sees, as well as experiences negativity at most turns. Why is this and what does it mean? What can be done to help someone of this nature?

And here is the response by the only Christian in the group:

A: I am not so sure it’s a question of nature, but of nurture – or lack thereof. We live in a world where fear and cynicism are running sky high, where traditional institutions of faith and culture are breaking down, and where our dislocation from nature and the natural rhythms of life leave our souls a little pent up and crazy. Suspicion and pessimism are pretty good defenses against a world gone mad. But the great spiritual teachings of the ages have suggested a radically counter-intuitive response. When this same question came up in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s great novel The Brothers Karamazov, the wise elder Fr. Zossima said in response, “Go help someone. Reach out to a brother or sister in need. Feed the hungry, heal the sick – (or at least, take on your small share of the task) – and then, only then, will you come to know that the world is trustworthy and God is real.” His point is tough, but true: First the eye of the heart must open, and only then will one see confirmation in the external world. As long as suspicion and pessimism are being projected, suspicion and pessimism are what the cosmos will confirm.

So how to break the vicious cycle? Fr. Zossima’s advice is still as true today as it was in his time: look for a chance to serve. Volunteer in a shelter, a food pantry, a nursing home: it will soften your heart. Spend time in nature, in a playground with young children; sing!; read love poetry; hang out with the "good, the true and the beautiful," however they speak to you. The problem is that we are starving – all of us, really – for the energy of beauty and goodness so long absent from our contemporary cultural experience. But we have to start making these energies ourselves – from within ourselves. That is not only an individual task; it is our collective human task and our planet will thank us for it.

I found this answer, as well as all the other answers that can be found here, interesting and even true, BUT I was so disappointed that the one individual of the group professing to be a minister of Jesus Christ fails to point toward Jesus Christ as the answer--and really who better to talk about when discussing the need for service in our lives than the best example of service we have ever known?

Here are a few brief sketches of some of the thoughts I've had on this topic over the weekend:

1. First, let's not beat around the bush here: Pessimism is an attitude and attitude is a choice. You will be miserable as long as you want to be miserable. Breaking the habit of pessimism may be difficult but it is your choice to make.

2. If you are weighed down by things you have done in your past (let's call this sin) that causes you to feel negatively about yourself, your situation, and the people and things around you then the answer is to come unto Christ. By seeking forgiveness through repentance the Atonement of Jesus Christ can wash you clean and remove those things that are weighing you down.

3. If you are weighed down by things done to you that causes you to feel negatively then the answer is to come unto Christ. Jesus Christ endured all that he might know best how to succor you in all things. No one knows better the pain and anguish that you have endured and no one is better equipped to heal you--and he will as you come unto him: seek him through scriptures and prayer and he will lead you in the way that you should go.

4. What you need is faith. Here are some of the things that I know by faith: In the most basic terms, I know that there is a Plan of Happiness and that through this plan it is intended that I would come to Earth to be tried and tested, yes, but also to be happy here. And after I have finished my work here on Earth it is intended that I return to live with my Heavenly Father--how cool and amazing is that? Of course this will not be easy, but through the Atonement of Jesus Christ it is possible. In addition to the Plan of Happiness, I know that there is a specific plan for me and that plan is meant to make me a better person and to bring joy into my life. I know that through, and only through, the Atonement of Jesus Christ I can repent and be healed and that peace and joy will come into my life. I know that despite the evil and wickedness evident all around me that if I endure all will work out for my good. I know this to be true in more immediate ways--I have come through difficult times and am a better and stronger person for it--and in ways that are not currently manifest. I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. I know that God speaks to a prophet on earth today who guides the Church of Jesus Christ and that because of this it will never fail. I know that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ live. I know that they know me individually and that they love me. And because I know these things my soul feels to rejoice.

5. The service principle is a good and sound principle. In serving others you forget yourself. In serving others you let the light of Christ into your life and can't help but feel lighter and happier.

6. Give thanks. Despite all the bad in the world today there is an immense amount of good: the trees, the flowers, hot chocolate, a sunset, good family and friends, a child's laugh, a hug, beautiful art, etc., etc., etc.

So there are just a few of my thoughts. They may not be as eloquently stated as the professors of religion that Paltrow approached but I believe they hit the mark much closer.

If Paltrow's religious ideas aren't very interesting to you try her recipes here. They all look very, very yummy.


The Secret Life of Bees

I would recommend two things when seeing this movie:

1. Don't wear mascara.

2. Bring tissue.

I loved it. It has been several years since I read the book but I think it may be time to revisit it.


Best Cider Ever

I would like to recommend the South Ridge Farms apple cider to you. Best I've had. If you are in the Santaquin, Utah area you must stop by--maybe even if you aren't in the area.


How Cool Is This?

Paul's Polaroids from Josh Stanley on Vimeo.

(click on the Paul's Polaroids link to see a slightly larger version)


I've Been Very Bad Today

I've done what everyone says you should absolutely not do: I've purchased a dress that I can't fit into right now but I'm pretty sure that if I lost a bit of weight would be absolutely to die for. Plus it was only $15--for a j. crew dress.

Where did I get such a good deal? At the j. crew warehouse sale going on today and tomorrow at Thanksgiving Point. Read more about it here.

Love This Song

I wish I could find a youtube link with a better video but I am loving the song.


Pastel on Board

I so love this painting (or pastel on board) that was featured with other works of art in this month's Ensign. I wonder if I could get it as a print at the Church's Museum of Art?
I’ll Never Forsake; pastel on board

After a mob killed her husband and 10-year-old son and wounded her 7-year-old son on October 30, 1838, at Haun’s Mill, Missouri, Amanda Smith prayed aloud in a cornfield. She said, “It was the temple of the Lord to me at that moment. I prayed aloud and most fervently.

“When I emerged from the corn a voice spoke to me. It was a voice as plain as I ever heard one. It was no silent, strong impression of the spirit, but a voice, repeating a verse of the Saints’ hymn: ‘… That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!’

“From that moment I had no more fear. I felt that nothing could hurt me” (in Church History in the Fulness of Times, 2nd ed. [Church Educational System manual, 2003], 204).


So Yesterday I gave you a video that I couldn't decide if laughter or crying was the best response. In this one I laughed so hard that I cried.


Cry or Laugh?

Name That Party

I was recently reading through my state's Voter Information Pamphlet in an attempt to educate myself on the issues and individuals I will be voting for or against in just a few weeks. In the process of this I've come up with a brand new game for us to play: Name that Party. The rules are simple. Simply read through the following paragraph submitted by an individual running for office in my state and then guess his/her political party.

"As a Journalist, (BS Broadcast Journalism) a Teacher (MS International Relations) and a ******** with conservative values, I believe in fiscal discipline and a strong military. I oppose abortion, and believe that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. We must stop illegal immigration at the border and protect American jobs. Combating global arming and moving America towards greater energy independence is vital. America must win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring our troops home. I firmly support the right of Americans to bear arms. Together we can bring responsible government and moral leadership to ****.


Did you guess it? He is a Democrat. More specifically, he is Bennion L. Spencer. Only in Utah and perhaps Idaho would you find such a description for a Democrat. Sadly, this will probably be yet another candidate I vote for who will not win---can't vote for the Republican (even if I wanted to) who believes "global warming is a farce" even if he did kick a game winning field goal for BYU in a Holiday Bowl (still wondering how that kick qualifies him for office but apparently it does).


Pretty, Pretty Eye Candy

I am in love with Gwyneth Paltrow's Kitchen:

And pretty much the rest of her house which can been seen here.

Also, did you know that she has her own website? It isn't quite up and running yet but the preview looks fabulous (and so classy). Visit it here.

Are You Rude?

Here is a little survey given on a recent Oprah show that I found quite interesting and enlightening.

1. Are you chronically late?

2. Have you ever typed an e-mail while talking on the phone?

3. Have you ever interrupted a face-to-face conversation to take a non-urgent cell phone call?

4. Have you gone through a supermarket 10-item express lane with more than 10 items?

5. While among friends or co-workers, have you yawned without covering your mouth?

6. Have you ever texted or talked on a cell phone in a movie theater?

7. Have you let your dog relieve himself on your neighbor's lawn?

8. Have you ever cut in front of someone in line?

9. Have you ever stolen someone's parking spot?

10. Have you ever let your child kick the back of the seat in front of him and not apologized to his victim?

11. Have you ever not RSVP'd to an event by the date requested?

12. Have you ever gossiped?

13. Have you ever taken someone else's food or drink from the office refrigerator?

And I don't want to hear any excuses why you, and you alone, are exempt from having to follow these basic rules of courtesy. If you do it, you are rude. That said I have a few areas to work on and I am working on them.
One area that I am proud to say I have never had a rudeness problem is with cell phones. Those of you that know me know that I HATE cell phones. I didn't even get my first cell phone until 2005. I hate them because so many people use them in a rude manner. They speak loudly on them because they somehow think we really do want to hear their conversation about how horrible someone else is; they leave them on to go off in movie theaters, plays, classrooms; they answer them when with me and carry on long, unimportant conversations (I can't stand this! If you want to spend time with me that is great. If you would rather talk to someone else on your cell phone then just let me know and I will leave. Please don't assume that my life is so pitiful that I have nothing better to do than to sit for ten minutes waiting for you to get off your phone. Instead you could try out these tactics: "I can't talk right now can I call you back late?" or simply don't answer.--yes I feel strongly about this); they talk or text while driving thereby endangering the lives of hundreds of other people on the road with them; and really I could go on and on.

This week is the 20th anniversary of cell phones and though you will probably disagree with me but I don't think we are better off for having them. Sure they are a convenience, but careful planning can usually eliminate their need. Sure they may be good to have in an emergency, but how often do we really have emergencies in which we use them (or how did we ever survive emergencies 20+ years ago?); Sure it is good to be at everyone's beck and call 24 hours 7 a days a week--wait no! no, that is not good.


Love This!

I've spotted this idea from Martha Stewart floating around on a few blogs and thought I'd share/save it here so that someday when I am feeling crafty I can attempt it.

Idea seen most recently here.
Can you believe two posts in one day? I must be on a roll.

New York Times

Celebrate with me. For the first time ever I have completed a New York Times Crossword!!!! Okay so it was a puzzle published as part of the NYT teen puzzlemaker week last month (I get a delayed publishing of the crossword from my local newspaper cause I'm not rich enough yet to subscribe the the NYT) and it has been given an easy rating but I'm still counting it as my first ever completed New York Times Crossword puzzle. See the puzzle I completed and answers here.


James Blunt

I really can't explain it but I really like James Blunt. When I was first introduced to Blunt (a few years ago in the UK) I thought his voice was just ridiculous sounding. Lately, though, I'm really liking it.


A Couple Gift Receiving Tips

I've been mad busy working on some crochet projects lately but as some of them may end up as gifts I can't show them off quite yet. In lieu of showing of those projects I made a couple of things specifically so I could show what I've been up to in this new world of crocheting that I have entered.

Project #1: a Halloween Hot Pad (front and back pictured here)

and Project #2: A Lizard

Project no. 1 came about when I wanted to learn how to tapestry crochet (or jacquard crochet) and no. 2 came about because now that I have been crocheting for 10 months I have quite the collection of yarn scraps (enough of a single yarn color to save but not enough to do a project with).

Now for a couple of gift receiving tips:

1. When someone crochets something for you, you should fall down and worship at their feet. Now some of the more modest crocheters will humbly say things like "oh it was nothing" or "it was a really easy pattern" and these things may be true but regardless of how easy, crocheting takes time--sometimes lots and lots of time. (Also you should not criticize a crocheter for her lack of or improper use of the comma) Furthermore, when I crochet things I tend to decide who I am going to make it for before I begin so not only am I spending lots and lots of time on you, but I am also thinking happy little thoughts about you while I crochet.

2. If you ever receive something that has used tapestry crochet (changing colors in your project to create a picture) you should spend twice as long worshiping at the gift givers feet because tapestry crochet is much harder than regular crochet--it requires skills like counting and being aware of what you are doing.

So there you have it. I expect lots of worshiping at my feet in the coming months.


Trying to Catch Up

I have been a bit of a recluse lately as I have been trying to get my to-read list under some sort of control. It is still about 6 books tall but it is getting better. Sadly because I keep adding books to the top of my to-read stack rather than the bottom much of what is still left to read was in my original stack several months ago. Anyway, in case you are interested here is what I have read in the last couple of weeks:

I Heard the Owl Call My Name by Margaret Craven. I loved this book (it made me cry) and highly recommend it if you are looking for a quick read with a bit heft to it (culture clashes).

A Job to Kill For by Janice Kaplan. Hated It. Got the recommend from Parade magazine only Parade magazine failed to tell me that Kaplan is/was a Parade editor--very unprofessional.

Illegal Action by Stella Rimington. Decent enough spy novel (a light read) where the main character is female (yay!) but I hated the last two chapters and that just ruined it all for me.

An Assembly Such as This by Pamela Aiden. As I have already mentioned I quite enjoyed this book.

Moving to Higher Ground by Wynton Marsalis. Loved this book on Jazz music and the things that Jazz music teach and embrace: self expression, respect for others, etc.

Jazz by Toni Morrison. Still trying to decide if I liked this one--not very accessible but well written.

The Broken Window by Jeffery Deaver. Reminded me of Dean Koontz only Koontz is much better. Not a good sign when you are sad that the author didn't kill off the main characters.

Devil Bones by Kathy Reichs. With lines like "personality of a blocked nostril" and "hair the color of apricot jam" I started off really liking Reichs' writing style. About halfway through I became annoyed with her constant cliff hangers. Over all I would try her again but I didn't love it.

The Foreign Correspondent by Alan Furst. I've just started this one but I like it so far.

If I can be this good for the next two weeks I may just gain a victory over the to-read list!