Monday, August 29, 2011

The Bright Side

I went white water rafting in West Virginia this past weekend and left my husband at home to face the hurricane alone.  I invited him to join me on the river, but he said that he would be less stressed being at home in case anything went wrong than being away and wondering if our apartment was still standing and not flooded.  So I went, and he stayed.  Hurricane Irene only lightly grazed the DC area before slamming New York City, having bounced off of the North Carolinian shore and mostly going around us.  Heavy rains and some wind downed several trees, knocking out the electricity  for just under 24 hours (Pepco responded shockingly well, very out-of-character for them).  Our only damage was to our fence, caused by our neighbor's tree being uprooted.  Luckily it fell away from our apartment building and not toward it.  I am glad that we are renting, so fixing the fence is not our responsibility...

Here's a picture of the damage, including two green plastic lawn chairs and a table that managed to stay upright during the whole storm:

On the bright side (literally), we have more sunshine pouring in through our living room window now that that tree is gone!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I don't really have anything to say but wow.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I Have "Alternative" Views

I am a synesthete.

At least, I think I am.  Only recently have I become aware of this possibility, and it has intrigued me since.  According to Richard Cytowic, author of  "Synesthesia: A Union of the Senses", Synesthesia is an "involuntary joining in which the real information of one sense is accompanied by a perception in another sense."

In other words, the experience of one sense is inherently connected to the experience of another.

For instance, a synesthete might see numbers or letters as inherently coloured - not that he associates numbers or letters with specific colours, but he sees them as coloured.  A black '2' on a piece of paper might look red to a synesthete.  Or he may hear a note, or an instrument, or another sound, and see a colour.  Actually see it in front of him.  People with synesthesia are said to have a higher incidence of perfect pitch.  In my research, colour seems to be the sense (the term is used loosely here - colour is not one of the 5 senses, but the word 'sense' in synesthesia research seems to be more closely related to one of the subsets of the 5 senses, more easily understood as the word 'sensation') that appears most frequently in relation to the other senses.  Location in space is another very commonly experienced sense.  Days of the week, months of year, times of the day, etc. may have colours to some synesthetes, but they can also be located in specific places in space.  For instance, April may be 2 feet in front of and 6 inches to the left of a synesthete.  Always.  Part of the definition of synesthesia is that it is both consistent and involuntary.

Other possible examples of synesthesia
- The taste of a lemon may be blue, or shaped like a square. 
- The sensation of pain may sound like a trombone
- Seeing a circle may elicit the taste of hot chocolate in one's mouth
- The number '4' may have a friendly personality
- Friday may be 2 inches to the left of one's ear, while Wednesday is 3 feet straight ahead

For me, the days of the week are either even or odd, and male or female (usually the even days are female and the odd days are male, but not in every case.  Monday, for instance, is both even and male.).  They also look like this:
Some synesthetes report being surprised at discovering that not everyone else experiences the world the way they do, while others say they have felt their whole lives as if they harbored a secret which, if revealed, would invite ridicule and cause others to shun them.  While I was made fun of once at a summer camp for referring to a month as "him", I assumed the girl was just being really mean (a lot of kids were to me in those days). Though I never mentioned such things again, I had no sense of being ashamed - I fell into the former group.  

It was only recently that I realized that Monday wasn't ACTUALLY even, and Saturday wasn't ACTUALLY odd.  That it was just me - not everyone else experienced them as I do.  I look at a traditional calendar, with the weekdays in a straight line from left to right, and as I'm looking at it I still see the week in front of me as a circle (not a perfect circle, though - the weekend, across the bottom, is flat).  Like a ferris wheel - Wednesday is not the middle of the week, but the top.  But I see both views of the week - the line and the circle - in front of me at the same time, as if they are layered, just as a synesthete might look at a '2' printed in black ink and see both the black ink and a red '2' simultaneously.  The information is being processed in my brain in 2 ways at once - that's the only way I can think to explain what I experience.

The months of the year are also odd or even, male or female (and some of them even have ages), and have specific locations in space.  In addition, they are coloured, and are the only things I see that way.

Some synesthetes can use their unique perceptions as gifts, working creatively with them to produce beautiful and interesting art, or to memorize things more quickly and effectively, or to hone their musical talents (oh how I wish I had perfect pitch!).  I don't think that just because August is a 25-year-old male I will get any further in the world than if he were just a month on the calendar, but it's interesting to know.

Even if it's just me.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

when ailments quarrel

I've been pretty sick of late.  Headaches and nausea have been the order of the day, which leaves me with little desire to speak loudly  - when I speak at all.  My husband's allergies are clogging up his ears, though, and the combination of my recent quietness and his new deafness is rather unfortunate.  It leads to conversations like this:

ME: [An off-hand comment that's not really important]
ME (not wanting to repeat myself, because it's wasn't all that important the first time I said it): Never mind.
SCOTT: No, what did you say?
SCOTT: Alright, fine.

Or this:

ME: Can you hand me that pen over there?
SCOTT: [Doesn't hear or respond]
ME: Scott! Can I have the pen!
ME (feeling like an obnoxious and demanding wife): The pen!  I want it!
SCOTT: The what?
ME (picking my nauseated self up off the couch): Never mind. I'll get myself.

As you can see this is very frustrating.  For both of us.  I have to say everything loudly or repeat it, and my low energy level makes that rather unappealing.  Poor Scott not only has to FEEL his clogged ears (which I imagine are uncomfortable), he can't hear anything.  At least I only have trouble being heard when I talk to him - Scott has trouble hearing EVERYTHING at all times.

I wonder which is gonna give first - his allergies or my nausea?  Perhaps neither, and they will be two immortals locked in an epic battle until Judgment Day and trumpets sound.

I sure hope not.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Going green (and orange, and yellow, and red...)

Can it be called a "diet" if foods are not cut out of my daily victuals, but added in? If so, then I am on one. It was Scott's idea. It's more effective this way - every time I come up with a plan to change our eating habits for the better, he's not motivated and it doesn't last. But this time, not only did he approach me, we've set it up as a cooperative goal so we BOTH have to accomplish it to win. So far it seems to be working.

We are to eat a minimum amount of fruits and vegetables and drink a minimum amount of water each day. My water requirement is less than his, as is my body size. The benefits to this new plan are multiple and as follows:

1) Clearly, fruits and veggies are good for us. They provide essential vitamins and minerals and reduce the risk of many diseases, including some types of cancer, heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, etc.

2) Fruits and veggies are pretty filling for the low number of calories they contain. This means that if we eat more from those categories, we will not be hungry enough to snack on potato chips all day long or eat only other, high-calorie foods instead. Scott also says that often he will think that he's hungry, but actually he's thirsty - so if he drank more water he would eat less excess food by misreading his body's signals. And of course if he always has a bottle of water with him, he won't feel the need to carry a soda instead.

3) Eating fruits and veggies begets eating fruits and veggies. I often try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, but we don't eat them fast enough. So then half of them get thrown out, and next time I'm at the store I don't buy them. A few weeks later I'll try again, but the same thing happens (the main exception here is bananas - we eat a lot of those). I've had more luck with strawberry yogurt than fresh strawberries. And then, since there are no fresh fruits and veggies in the house, clearly we don't eat them. And the vicious cycle continues. But since we HAVE TO eat them now, we DO - and then I buy more and then we have them in the house (and they're not wilted or moldy) and we eat them. And the gentle cycle continues.

I've never had a problem eating fruits and vegetables because I dislike them - (except PEAS and TOMATOES - gross gross gross) - I just don't usually think about eating them. It doesn't really occur to me. The same holds true with water - I don't drink soda or Kool-Aid in place of it, but I don't drink many liquids period. I do like to buy orange or cranberry juice and I'll drink those, but besides that (and hot chocolate on winter mornings) I don't consume liquids. I never think about it. I rarely feel thirsty, and when I do a small swallow of a refreshing liquid will usually slake my thirst.

So the purpose of the new "diet" is twofold: 1) To eat healthier by actively adding fruits and vegetables to our meals AND thereby decreasing the desire (and room in our bellies) for less healthy foods, and 2) To MAKE HABITS out of eating fruits and veggies and drinking water.

Wish us luck!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Give the laurels a rest

I understand that they have good intentions. And I don't think they realize what it sounds like to the person on the other end of the comment. But when I hear "Congratulations!" after I've received a new calling in church, I cringe.

Yesterday I was sustained as the new 1st counselor in the Stake YW Presidency. I heard several offers of congratulations from various members of the ward (and then the stake, when I went to the youth fireside that night). Coming from a select few, it didn't seem to bother me. But out of the mouths of most, it made my insides entangle themselves.

Obviously, there are many worse responses people could have had. "I'm starting to doubt the inspiration of the stake president!" is one example, and of course I'm glad that no one ever said that (to me, anyway). But applauding me is certainly not the best response either.


Why am I being congratulated? What did I do to earn it?? How do they know I even want the calling??? And how am I supposed to respond????

"Thanks so much! I've been trying to get the stake president to notice me for months, and I guess all my sacrifices really paid off!"

"Hey, thanks! I've worked hard to get here, and now I can run things the way I want to."

"I'd like to thank my mom, my dad, and all my fans...*sniff*...I couldn't have done it without you."

It's not like when I graduated from college, when I had worked hard towards my goal and it was finally realized. Or when I got a promotion at work, or got lucky enough to find the right man to be my husband, or a slew of other positive life experiences that merit applause. I mean sure, I'm worthy to receive a calling, so maybe what they're really saying is "Great job on not being a sinner!"...but being congratulated on my righteousness makes me a little uncomfortable.

But maybe it's just me.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Oh hey, Girl Baby Sweetheart...

Sometimes, when I drive Scott to school (or myself to work) in the morning, and I switch on the radio, "War of the Roses" is on. It's a bit on The Kane Show that investigates whether or not a man is cheating, on behalf of the suspicious girlfriend or wife. One of them (Kane, Sarah, or Samy) calls up the man, pretending to be from a local flower delivery company, and offers a free bouquet (under the guise of a "sample", to convince the person to use the local startup over the big companies in the future). The flowers can be delivered to anyone "special" in the person's life, with a personalized message. The suspicious wife or girlfriend is on the other line listening, and the man usually gives himself away by having the flowers sent to the mistress with a message along the lines of "Thanks for all the good times, Pookie." Sometimes, the radio station will call the mistress and she will inevitably ask for the flowers to be sent to the man. Both are bad news, as the suspicious female now has pretty good proof that there has been something unsavory going on and can act upon it.

I never turn the radio on at home to listen to it, but I admit that I am pleased when it happens to be on when I'm driving in the morning. There is something very satisfactory about a cheater getting caught and the innocent partner realizing she deserves better than him.

This morning's War of the Roses was one of the best that I've heard.

Abigail had many reasons to think that her boyfriend, Dylan, was cheating. For instance, he had 5 cell phones, one of which had a "sex bucket list" on it, and he never called her by her first name, using pet names instead. So Kane called him and offered him the flowers. Dylan had apparently listened to the show before, and caught on immediately. He called Kane on his trick, and said "I'm not telling you anything. I didn't do anything." After a big back-and-forth about WHAT he may or may not have done, Kane finally asked WHO Dylan thought had put them up to this.

"It's my girl probably, man."

"Yeah, it probably is. What's your girl's name?"

"Look man, it's my baby, man. It's my sweetheart. You know, we've fought a little bit recently..."

"Okay, but what's your sweetheart's NAME?"

He refused to say. He obviously has multiple women and didn't know which one was on the other line. Dylan adamantly claimed innocence and said he wasn't going to tell Kane anything, but the truth was clear. He finally said, "I'm hanging up the phone now. Sweetheart, baby just call me back and we can talk about this privately."

Kane told Abigail that she could be pretty positive now that Dylan had been cheating on her, and asked if she wanted to call him back. Instead, Sarah (the girl on the Kane Show) called, to see how he would respond.

"Uh, hello?"

"Hey, Dylan."


Wrong answer.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

It's a goal, not a resolution

I'm not really a New Year's Resolution person. I find it too stressful; the formality and ceremony of it causes me to put pressure on myself. Of all my flaws, how do I pick just one to work on for this year? Of all the good habits I want to form, which will be the most beneficial? What if I pick the wrong one? Okay, I don't HAVE to pick just one. But the thought of trying to change too many things at once overwhelms me, so I go back to picking the top goal or two and not being able to decide. Every year I run myself in circles with this logic, like a dog chasing its tail, and the stress and frantic energy builds up until I threaten to self-destruct - so then I stop. And I once again settle on setting no goals.

I find it much easier to wait until some other trigger prompts me to set goals. I never have to wait long, because it happens all the time. I read an article about quinoa, for instance, so I go on a health kick and eat quinoa for breakfast every day for a week. Or I deposit some checks into the bank, and their pamphlet by the door about budgeting makes me think that it's something I should do better - so I go home, create a fancy spreadsheet with pivot tables and coloured headings and say I'm going to enter every receipt and elaborately break down every dollar that we spend (which has never lasted more than 3 months). OR I see a sign in Spanish and decide to recommit myself to learning the language (which happened a couple days ago, by the way - this one I REALLY want to do, partly because Scott speaks it, but this is the seventh try since we got married 4.5 years ago and I can't stick with it! I haven't figured out why yet. Maybe I need more structure than trying to study it on my own???) My personality is such that I jump from obsession to obsession, getting REALLY excited about something and wanting to do nothing else for a couple of weeks until I get tired of it and find something else to occupy my time. I've learned to be careful about not spending lots of money on a new "hobby" until I'm sure that it's going to last (which it never does!). This style isn't necessarily bad; I may not have ever become an expert at anything, but I know a little about A LOT of things. And I suppose that has merits of its own.

I've gotten off track here; the point of this post was to talk about a goal I'm setting now, not as a New Year's Resolution but just a goal. No NYR pressure, so no getting overwhelmed - it just so happens that I'm starting it in January, and it will take until the end of the year! I have a textbook from BYU about the New Testament, called The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles. For my scripture study this year, I'm going to work my way through the whole book. There are 56 chapters, which equals about a chapter a week. I probably won't post much about it here, unless something really inspires me, but I wanted to put it out there for others to know about so I would feel accountable. Feel free to ask me from time to time how it's going, to keep me on track!

Monday, January 03, 2011


Besides the craziness of a new schedule, losing half of my nursery children to Primary, and several people still being on vacation (meaning we're 'short-staffed'), there is another reason I dislike the first Sunday of January.

Hymn #215.

It's called "Ring Out, Wild Bells", and is the go-to New Year's hymn every year. And I hate it. One of the best (and when I say "best" I actually mean "worst") lines is: "The old year is dying, let him die. The old year is dying, let him die." How depressing is that? Although I love singing hymns, there are a few pretty bad songs in the book. But #215 takes the cake as my least favourite. Easy.

At least I won't have to sing it again for 364 days. Not that I'm counting or anything.

Friday, December 31, 2010

St. Clairs - THOSE friends

Unlike Audrey, who designates people she knows as "positive acquaintances" until they earn another title (for better or for worse), I have many people I consider friends. I tend to befriend people right off the bat. (Whether or not the same people would consider me a friend is a different question altogether.) There are varying levels of friendship, of course, but the generic term "friend" is a title fairly easily acquired from me.

But few and far between are THOSE friends, the ones at the very top of the friendship ladder. They have climbed there slowly but surely, and worked to earn the spot. I would do anything for those friends, because I know they would do the same for me. But it's not a matter of simple give-and-take economics; I don't do a favor for them because I expect one in return, I do it because I care. And they do it because they care. The symbolism of the symbiotic relationship is what keeps it going - it's what "I would do anything for you" MEANS, not what it actually is that's important. No one keeps score, or runs up a tab, or sends a bill. I give, and they give. And it all works out.

There are many reasons that the St. Clairs are those kind of friends, and I find it difficult to put them into words. Just as it seems impossible to explain why I love my mother, or my father, or my husband - the relationships are too complex, and intricate, and defy any kind of description that would make sense to anyone else - my mind screams "trite" when I say I'm going to describe why the St. Clairs are so important to me (and my husband). But they are moving in less than a week, so I'm going to try.

I wish I could say that when I first met the St. Clairs I just knew we would become fast friends. But that wasn't the case. Our first contact was on a Saturday, while Scott and I (and others) helped them unload the truck they had just driven from Utah. Needless to say, there wasn't much conversation that day besides where to put the boxes and furniture. A lot of people move into and out of our church congregation (especially from Utah), and I didn't take particular notice of another young couple from out west.

But Jeff soon became my husband's assistant in the youth group, and as we started to get to know the St. Clairs we began to like them. Our interests align nicely; Scott and Jeff can talk about math and science and statistics and football, and Jenete and I love the arts. Jenete does opera and plays the cello and I do theatre and play the guitar, but there is a lot of overlap. Other, little, reasons we should become friends began to become apparent; for instance, Scott's parents now teach at, and his uncle is the president of, the university Jeff had just graduated from. Jeff is a Star Wars fanatic and Scott's and my favourite game just happens to be Epic Duels. We own a lot of the same movies. Being members of the same church means that we obviously share belief systems. AND we find each other funny.

There is rarely a conversation that Scott and I have with the St. Clairs that doesn't involve a whole lot of laughing. We love to joke around, and we joke around about the same things and in the same way. (And okay, so perhaps there is some amount of light teasing and laughing AT one another going on. But it's all in good fun.) We've certainly had serious conversations with the St. Clairs as well; not all of our shared experiences have been light-hearted or happy. But barring any crisis or time of tragedy, we can always make each other laugh and hanging out with the St. Clairs turns an okay day into a great day (unless Jenete and I lose at Pinochle and get upset (we always play girls vs. boys), which happens on occasion and is a whole different story altogether!).

About a year ago, the St. Clairs moved into our apartment building, a couple floors above us. I did have some fears that being so close would cause us to get tired of each other, but I needn't have worried. This was put to the test immediately after they moved in; as Scott and Jeff were returning the moving truck, it began to snow...and Snowmageddon hit. With nothing to do but stay inside and hope we didn't lose power, we spent an awful lot of time with the St. Clairs over the following few days. We shared food, heat, and played the Wii. The same thing happened a couple months later when Snowpocalypse arrived, and school was canceled for a week. By that time, we had added Pinochle to our repertoire of activities, and played every evening while we waited to hear whether we would be returning to school the next day or not. It felt perfectly natural to spend every day with them, and there are few people in this world I would rather have been snowed in with.

Over the summer we BBQed with them every few days, and though it's too cold (and gets dark too early) to grill outside, we still see the St. Clairs multiple times a week - church, youth activities, grocery shopping and other errands (just me and Jenete, not all 4 of us), Pinochle, etc. They know that they are welcome to drop by any time of the day or night (if necessary) or any time of the day for no reason at all. Once they move the frequency of visits will dramatically decrease, but the enjoyment of our time spent together will not.

I know this post has began to turn into a novel, and I could write pages and pages more, but then this might never be posted so I'll wrap it up here. But I want the St. Clairs to know that Scott and I cherish their friendship and will miss them a lot! Thanks for everything.