Sunday, July 19, 2009

And That's The Way It Was...

CBS News honored legendary anchorman, Walter Cronkite, this evening with a primetime special. Several things occurred to me while watching the dedication he had to his country and the journalistic integrity that is sometimes lacking in news outlets across the board today. I'll first get out of the way how unfortunate it is that this will likely be the most attention his passing receives from any media outlet considering that the network he devoted 20 years to only managed to scrape together an hour long cliff note mish-mash of his contributions and influence. While incredibly moving, it was far too abridged. Whereas there are STILL regular trash and glory sessions dedicated to the king of pop.

I know there are only a few dissenters of my own opinions who stop by here. But I extend encouragement to those who have, rather sadly, expressed their shame, distaste and sometimes downright dislike for their native America to watch "That's The Way It Was: Remembering Walter Cronkite". We all choose to see the things we want to see in any news offered from any source. Our youthful nation has seen its fair share of mistakes with many more currently under way and many more still to come. Cronkite, however, had a way of bringing everyone together like not even the Presidents of the time could and certainly no one presently can. He earned our trust and respect.

The tribute collected his most memorable moments from devastating assassinations, to the equally highly emotional moon landing, to the live on-air phone call he took while the audience waited for him to relay that Lyndon Johnson had died. Various anchors spoke of their admiration of him and celebrity friends also shared beautiful memories of their personal time spent with him. Some who aren't necessarily my favorite on a personal level, but are brilliant actors, George Clooney and Robin Williams, spoke clearly from their hearts. It was touching to hear one of the members of The Grateful Dead still maintain surprise after all these years that Cronkite really enjoyed their music.

The only sour taste left in my mouth aside from the brevity of the salutation was President Obama's very prepared statement. Yeah yeah, you all already know I don't care for the man, but he makes it so easy to cringe every time his face appears or his mouth opens. Of course, to be a little bit fair, President Bush had the same effect of tv cringeworthiness, minus me wanting to roll my eyes, throw up, then smack him upside the head like Obama stirs up in me. Even President Clinton, who I happen to be somewhat partial to, did exactly as all others interviewed did: he spoke genuinely and from his heart. The king of the teleprompter once again delivered an uninspired, anesthetized statement which left me completely flat. Let's just say that the words themselves were not at fault.

All in all, I welled up with pride and gratitude and ultimately many tears for Walter Cronkite's unique authenticity in keeping the people of this great nation supplied with news they could trust.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Get ready for a shocker (or three)!

I partook of the sacrament today for the first time in a dozen years and I have to tell you, my day has been an absolute whirlwind of delights and surprises. The last time I went to church with any amount of regularity was when I was 17 years old. At that time I think that any sacrament meetings held at the beginning of church services were a rarity. It has apparently become much more commonplace and I was rather unsure of how I would react to this change, having (in practically a previous life) become so accustomed to a certain schedule and way of doing things. I always liked the idea that families came back together at the end of the day's service to worship as a collective family and congregation. I downright disliked the idea that our ward was among those that had made the switch. Today I was given the opportunity to finally take those steps to experience this and confront many of my predispositions about the course of these last 12 years firsthand.

This opportunity came about through a domino of cues that have fallen over the last week since my 29th birthday. With about 90% jocularity and insincerity, I have been teasing/threatening Dave that if I am not pregnant by August 24th there would be hell to pay. August 24th being the conception date that would keep me in my twenties to bear our first child. I'm not baby crazy by any stretch of the imagination, but am in those beginning stages of finding that life for the two of us has really thus far been just a preamble to much greater things and I believe parenthood to be part of that. Almost simultaneously in this last week, three significant incidents occurred to set our future progress in motion: 

1. Dave was given clearance to begin a new job that not only has career potential, but that will certainly open doors to many more opportunities. He should also be able to maintain his school schedule through to graduation next year.

2. Our dear friends and neighbors who also happen to be our bishop and his wife took us to lunch and made a request of us to return to regular church service to help them fulfill a need in the ward. Teaching Primary. What's more. . .I happily accepted. 

3. Oh, it keeps getting better. Exactly one week after this seemingly highly significant birthday marking the final year of the dreadful twenties (so overrated), I attended my first full church block in these dozen years, took the sacrament and went one step further and joined the ward choir. 

Okay, to those of you who may have stopped breathing through reading all of that, please exhale, inhale and repeat! My hopes of one day returning to church as a wallflower (which I always kept on that back burner of my mind), were dashed away in one fell swoop by not only dropping right back into the swing of things, but with a calling to help keep me there. Yes, I always kept the idea in my mind of going back and have been veeeerrry slowly approaching this turning point for the last few years. I could never see the way to actually make this change in my life though. I can liken the thought process to when I was a smoker. Once I made that change and had become a smoker I never thought there could be any way to change back. I could not see a way. The same has been true of my pew time. The path, for me, did not appear to be simple or clear. 

It's not just as simple as merely showing up. That wallflower concept? Not exactly feasible in the LDS church. Active participation is what makes any church, well, church. There have to be people giving to those showing up to receive whatever they came seeking. Having left the church as a youth, such responsibilities were never something I ever contemplated as being part of my religious life even back then thinking of my future. I am kind of self-absorbed though, which explains a lot. 

Getting back to the course of this past week having potentially weighty consequences, I do not believe it was any coincidence that Primary was the slot allotted for me. With our means to expand our family growing ever closer to plausibility, I have to accept the downright fact that I am positively akward around children. I speak to 4-year-olds like they're 40. Most things designed and manufactured for the entertainment and attraction of children make me want to keep a gallon of gasoline and a good sturdy match closeby. May Miley Cirus take a long walk off a very short pier (except that it would likely just be her replacement pushing her off). However, I absolutely adored my own childhood and would like to think that I could rediscover those endless joys that the imagination a young mind brings to this life. Not to mention the other downright fact that I practically need missionary discussions at this point to remember the details behind what my heart has always told me to be true and will be able to learn right along with the children having their first experience with this knowledge. So, could this calling be a little bit of a crash course preparation for the future? Don't anybody hold your breath again (remember: inhale, exhale, repeat), but you never can tell exactly how things will unfold.

Now, as for choir practice today. . .that's a whole other post all together. It was. Um. Interesting. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

That ol' disposable income question

While the idea of "disposable income" is scarcely a reality for the general populous of any nation, I don't mind occasionally indulging in deciding what decadence I would surround myself with were that concept one of my own realities. I actually reigned it in to a top 5 and even kept that list to well under a million bucks for the whole lot. I like to keep my fantasies somewhere within the realm of possibility, afterall. I couldn't begin, however, to put these items in any order of priority, so they are pretty much random in that sense. Here we go.

I absolutely adore my walnut George Steck upright piano. I'd gladly bid it a fond farewell, however, for a late 19th or early 20th century Steinway concert or parlor grand in pyramid mahogany, rosewood or burr walnut, preferably with boxwood inlaid bandings.

Trading this...
(this is actually a Winter piano, but it looks almost exactly like mine)

For this...
(1920 Pyramid Mahogany Steinway with boxwood inlay)

or this...
(1877 Serpentine Rosewood Steinway - this one's just a measly $160K)

(Rosewood detail on another Steinway. *drool*)
or this...
(Burr Walnut Steinway at just 39,000 pounds, what's the conversion rate at these days?)
Okay, I don't know if you're prepared for this. I certainly wasn't. It's been dubbed:
"The Ferrari of Pianos"
The one, the only, Pyramid Mahogany Fazioli concert grand:
(anyone got a quarter Mil lying around?)
The sounding board (the most crucial piece of any instrument) in each of these two-years-to-build-one masterpieces is made from red spruce from the Italian Alps. It's the same wood from the forest that was used to make Stradivarius violins. *mega drool*

Steinway would probably still win out with me though.


A digital back for my Hasselblad. So, taking this fantabulous medium-format film setup that I already miraculously possess:

And adding this teensy little thirty thousand dollar accessory to the back to make it a medium-format digital camera producing 39 megapixel pics of perfection:


Adding pretty much a whole other house in front of the one I've already got so we can have a garage and a little more breathing room. Something along these lines:


One of my favorite things to do is drive. One of my other favorite things to do is absorb the wondrous beauty and fascinating history of this great country. Thus:

It would have to be big enough for comfort, but small enough to park and drive easily. 20 feet seems just about right. Plus, with the whole disposable income idea I wouldn't feel so terrible buying new and instantly losing value hand over fist just by driving it off the lot.


A month...or two...or six in Japan with Dave eating every crazy thing in sight! Starting with these:

Wait, those are bluefin tuna. Not allowed to eat those. Here we go, yellowfin tuna. I'd eat lots and lots and lots of these guys all sashimi style:

Mmmm, sashimi...
Munch a Hello Kitty bento box...
Wash it down with Salad flavored water...
Um, sure, why not...

Then track these down and buy up a whole mess of 'em (wtf? Does anyone know if Flight of the Conchords ever did any questionable endorsements for Doritos?):

Okay, to be fair, the crack sandwiches aren't actually Japanese. Sorry.

I'd probably be far too embarassed to actually be seen in public slurping down one of these ice cream cones (yes, ME, actually embarassed by someting naughty - thus posting a link rather than the picture itself right on my blog), but I would definitely have a great time witnessing all the crazy "adult novelty" culture Japan has to offer. I'll spare you THOSE pictures I found online. Yikes!

So, there you have it. My top 5 high dollar indulgences that I think are actually all pretty achievable in my life.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Fare thee well, Olowahu. May you rest in pieces.

My Olowahu Tevas - the most comfortable shoes on the planet - have finally been laid to rest.

The straps had begun to come loose, but I just tied them back onto the straps that still held. That hole finally wore through the woefully thin soles on a trip to Disneyland where these valiant shoes were put through their paces by hauling my butt over miles and miles of that concrete, theme park jungle. You can even make out the exact shape of every inch of my feet these sandals lovingly cradled.


We had some great times together and I was very sad to see their passing.
Fortunately, this wonderful creation of Teva's can still be found through the wonderful world wide web. Another Hallelujah moment to rival my discovery of caffeine free Diet Coke:

The Teva Olowahu Sandal in
Little Bay Gold

These are some VERY happy feet.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Half-Caf. Not just for coffee anymore.

Only about a year or two ago I found myself not merely addicted to caffeine, but consuming copious amounts of it. My average day would go something like this:

In the neighborhood of 7-9 a.m. drinking approximately 4 cups of coffee (yes, that's 28 oz. of straight black joe) from one of these bad boys:

By the lunch hour I had a hankering for something sweet and chilly so I'd pick up one of these:

Or one of these:

Or one of these:

Which would make me feel like this...

...for all of about a millisecond.

Then, by the time I would get off work back in those 9-5 days, I would need another one of those 16 oz. heart stoppers pictured above for the ride home. Heaven forbid that I would ever have been caught stuck in traffic without one!

I finally realized that all I was doing was keeping the headaches at bay by ingesting some VERY questionable substances (except for the coffee, which I still think is a nectar from the gods). Quitting smoking gave me the tools to know how to kick an all-consuming addiction, which caffeine had become for me. I started by cutting out those mega-caffeinated drinks cold turkey but not limiting myself to any of those ordinary, merely highly caffeinated drinks such as Mountain Dew and good ol' Coca-Cola. Finally, even those were too much for my minor surge of health conscienciousness. I bit the bullet and have only been drinking diet for months and months now. I used to HATE diet anything. All I could taste was the aspartame (another questionable substance, I might add). Now, I can't stand the taste of high fructose corn syrup and much prefer the taste of diet anything. Yes, this coming from a girl who used to eat sugar by the spoonful. No, not just as a kid. We're talking only a few years ago.

Two miraculous things then happened simultaneously just this year. First, my darling husband accidentally broke my french press. For those of you who don't know what that is, it's that 4 person coffee brewer in that first picture at the top that I used to treat like a Big Gulp. He was absolutely frantic because he knew how much I relied on that damn thing. I reassured him that it was actually a good thing and that it would help me to take that next step to cut back even more. Then, at almost the exact same time, I discovered the wondrous wonder that is Caffeine Free Diet Coke. I will take any amount of raucous finger pointing, laughing and ridicule for saying that I like it, but by gum, I actually LOVE the stuff! Strange, but it actually DOES taste different than regular Diet Coke. It rests in a lovely place of sweetness right in between Classic and Diet Coke. Having been addicted to Coca-Cola since the tender age of 6 I have a very sensitive palate to the brand. However, there was still that nasty little caffeine monkey on my back.

With the ever rising popularity of my new favorite beverage, Caffeine Free Diet Greatness is now available in the fountains of most of the places I generally eat. Carl's Jr., Cafe Rio, even the convenience stores all have anywhere from 3 to 5 different kinds of Coke available. Costco, you'd better be next! This means that average consumers like me can now create their very own half-caf Diet Coke!!! For you non-coffee drinkers out there, I'm sure you were still able to deduce that it is a term for a cup of coffee with half regular and half decaf. Half-Caf!

At the fountains I now take something glorious...

mix it with something astonishingly resplendent...


Sometimes it's the little things. In this case, a very little thing.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Ethics. A four letter word? Of course not.

At the requested interest of a few folks I am going to spend a little bit of time going into a subject I spent the better part of two years studying and discussing at length with teachers and classmates. That is, ethical concerns associated with photograph manipulation. I'd like to begin with making two things very clear. First, and most importantly, this is my blog and is merely an editorial outlet for me. With that knowledge you can safely roll your eyes and even tell me to bugger off after reading anything I post without much concern. Second, I have a very solid personal definition of ethics that I am going to explain prior to applying this value to the notion of photographic manipulation.

To be a tad technical, which I occasionally indulge in being, I would say that ethics is a branch of philosophy that specifically deals with people and the way we treat one another. More specifically, addressing the "rightness" or "wrongness" of our actions and even further (and most importantly if you ask me) the implications of both motives behind, and results of those actions. 

If you're reading this here, you likely have already read some of my wall posts back and forth on Facebook that get into my personal feelings on this subject matter. Here is a recap of what I wrote to my first cousin, Drew: 

Ah, yes, you've touched on a lot of the primary points. Essentially, the issue comes down to audience and intent towards that audience as you got into a bit. People have been splicing negatives since photography's inception to doop the public into believing the manipulation. We simply have far better tools to achieve the same effect nowadays. The bottom line, however, is that the manipulation represents a lie. Now, is this lie dangerous or harmless? Again, intent AND representation are key. If a news outlet alters the actual event occurring in the photo in any way it becomes dangerous, unethical and even criminal. If other adjustments are made, however, such as lighting differences post-shutter snap that you also mentioned, these would not fall into the same category. For instance, a journalistic photograph viewed on my computer screen through brightly lit pixels is going to look far different from one I see in newsprint and even further changed if color information is discarded.

It seems though that many family photographs are being altered at an increasing rate these days and to what effect and purpose? Is this a dangerous practice or harmless? Intent, intent, intent. Countless women - and men - have utilized the wonders of the liquefy tool to tuck in some of those curves. All the magazines do it to the typically already beautiful rich and famous so why not the layperson? You won't see a single image posted by me of myself that shows you the acne I constantly battle with on a daily basis. But these are mere issues of personal vanity. They are lies still the same. How many young people have eating disorders as a result of those types of manipulations? Altering events, however, is what concerns me the most. Since legality is not an issue with the picture the question of ethics comes to the forefront of my mind. Yes, it is a photo for personal use, but it is also a form of posterity.

I agree with you that if the intent (there's that word again) is merely to show the effect of time then it MIGHT make sense to remove the faces of those whose changes aren't relevant to us any longer. A notation is still absolutely appropriate in my mind. Names need not even be mentioned. On the other hand, if the image is intended to show our history at a single moment in time, which, knowing Lorine seems to me to be the most likely reason (but who knows), then I feel a deep ethical problem with any alteration that would remove or add anyone. I've emotionally cut Ron from my life, I don't feel any need to physically do it through these means. We are physically connected through our DNA anyway so I will never NOT be a part of him, whether I like it or not. My emotions are mine to dictate, not his.

Here's where things really become interesting, and scary. We have this wondrous new tool in our little universe called, Facebook. People we forgot even existed begin popping out of the woodwork wanting to be our friend and then the question comes to your mind: Do I really want to add this person as a friend? Do I care what they're doing now, decades later? Will they be offended if I reject them? None of these are terribly important questions, but to those of you who may indiscriminately add everyone who asks you as friends you may eventually end up facing a photo dilemma. Sometimes, however, it happens within your own families. 

Do you remember that one night back in college 14 years ago when you got so drunk with your buddies that you snuck into the girls' dorms and started knocking on doors begging for underwears (and yes, that's the word you used, "underwears") and actually managed to score a few pairs before finally being escorted out by a pissed-off security officer? Well, your "friend" sure as hell remembers and has the photo documentation to prove it! Oh, and guess what? He just put it up on his Facebook and tagged you so your grandma, who is also your friend can now see your embarrassing, albeit fun, exploits of yesteryear. Yes, that's really you wearing the hot pink lacy number over your sweat pants. Flexing your arms really put the finishing touches on nicely. Very sexy.

I've just spent some time with Facebook's Terms of Use, since the changing of it made such a news fuss last week. Anyone who has been tagged in a photograph is able to un-tag themselves from any image which results in a complete disassociation with your own Facebook page. Grandma may never look at you the same way again though if she caught a glimpse first. Facebook, however, does not engage in any practice to force a user to take down any content that doesn't break the law. So, basically, this means that any picture of you out in cyberspace is perfectly able to reside there with or without your permission so long as nobody's making a buck off it (that's a REALLY slimmed down explanation). Oh, and as long as your giblets aren't showing. 

I found that all to be fascinating, but also not at all surprising. It's actually sort of old news in the world of a photographer. I had a professor whose favorite mantra to encourage us with was to always shoot first, ask forgiveness later. For the record, we only had a few near-arrests during my course of study, but no one ever did any time. I even came very close to an altercation once in a public cemetery in Baltimore whose groundskeeper that lived on the property didn't want me photographing the entry gates with his home in the background. In a court of law, in that situation, my rights would exceed his. My lens was not, after all, deliberately poking between the curtains to see what's inside. That's why the paparazzi, as nasty as they are, get away with as much as they do. In public there is very little legal recourse against photography (in America anyway). So, keep away from peoples' windows and, obviously, don't go around taking pictures of other peoples' kids you don't know, creepy guy.

This is a fun essay with excellent examples of some of the finest, and freakiest photo manips throughout the existence of the technology. Many you likely know about, but some may surprise you: 

Essentially, right and wrong when it comes to photography manipulation all boils down to your intentions for your audience. Along these lines, you are not responsible for your audience's reaction. You are, however, responsible for your motivations behind sharing an original or an altered photo. There is no way of getting around the fact that an alteration of a photograph from the original (ie. removing or adding people) is a falsification. That doesn't automatically make it ethically wrong. Just false, which is fine. Again, what is the intent or purpose of the image? Never forget to ask yourself that. Another favorite mantra of the same professor. 

It's not written here, but Drew pointed out the idea of making a notation of the alterations. And here is where my ethics on the matter can clearly define a "right" or a "wrong" decision. Who here likes being lied to? No hands? No kidding. A manipulation of a photograph is not a wrong or a bad thing to do. Not at all (don't forget about the intent, I can't stress this enough). Sometimes we try to do the manipulation before the shutter can even capture something. For instance, I made a deliberate effort to point Ron out to the photographers at our wedding to do everything they could to keep him out of their shots. I think he managed to sneak into one and I don't think either Dave or I were even in it. Let's just say that it's not up on my wall, but the image does still exist intact and original. 

Also, as I mentioned above regarding my own manips, I don't mind walking around every day with a zit be-speckled face completely makeup free. I honestly don't. But once it has been captured for the ages, I'd rather look back at the images of this time in my life and be able to just look at my face without the distraction of all those little annoyances that caused me so much pain. Yes, I do get the irony here. I am telling a lie to everyone who ever looks at those pictures of me that I had control over - but you know it's a lie. Ethical dilemma solved. There is no wool over your eyes, just a prettier picture of me. If only the magazines were that honest, eh? I could keep going on and on with this topic - two years builds up a LOT of conversations about it - but I'll leave you guys to mull over your own thoughts on how you feel about it. 

The most honest liar you are ever likely to encounter, Liz

p.s. Just for fun and a little personal humiliation, here are my completely unaltered shots sent in to Proactiv in 2007 (Note: I'm not very good at forming new habits, thus the continued existence of my little facial bacterial army. The uni-brow? Oh yeah, baby, that's all me too!):

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Oh, Sweet Josephine! I need to lighten things up around here!

I am still absolutely out of breath and I have a stabbing pain right under my lower-most rib on my left side - from laughing to near hysterics! Yes, it's almost 5:30 in the morning, but I don't usually go to bed much earlier than this so I don't think I can chalk it up to punch-drunketieness. I figure that since I'm in such a good mood at the moment that I can feel pretty comfortable making up a few words. Oh, and, by the way, YouTube has the potential to become the suckiest bunch of sucks that ever sucked (It's basically a deal with record companies that would either charge or eliminate-all-together any videos that play songs they own the rights to and that's only, what, 80% of YouTube? It doesn't look like it's going to happen - yet - but I'll be ready if/when it does!), so I may be spending a lot more time with Vimeo in the future. But this post is all about good ol' fashioned, homegrown entertainment! May I now present to you for your viewing pleasure, the funniest thing I've witnessed in a great long time:

Thursday, February 5, 2009

America: Citadel of Liberty at Risk (please read on past this arduous title, it's as much about you and me as it is America)

I spoke very candidly and openly here last November when my inner turmoil could no longer be contained. What I know to be true in my heart has never been something I could explain very well through words to anyone. It's a funny thing, faith. I've never considered myself to be an "intellectual" and have never been able to put an effective voice to my convictions. That is probably why I generally remain so private and silent when it comes to my beliefs and opinions. Sometimes I don't understand why the pull is so strong, but I would be remiss to ignore such promptings. Again, faith is a funny thing. I have always maintained the state of my soul as merely a personal endeavor that I have protected by not sharing it. I have viewed others' souls much the same way. I am beginning to realize what a mistake this has been in this all-too-short earthly existence. While I have not turned to God nearly as much as I should in recent years I know that there have been others praying on my behalf and I have been endlessly blessed regardless of where my wandering attention has been directed. Others have shared in my spirituality for years without my acknowledgement and I have been absolutely ungrateful for it. I am reminded of the Lion King quote, one of the last truly great works to come out of Disney since Walt's passing, "You are more than what you have become." I am all too aware that I have not been fulfilling God's intentions for me here. How fortunate I am that His patience is perfect. 

Life has been difficult for me personally in nearly every way possible over the last decade and it has been incredibly distracting to say the least. Each time I face a new challenge, however, I don't reach the end thinking how glad I am that it is over. I certainly do feel some sense of relief, but even more powerful than that, I feel strength from the certainty that there are more difficulties to come that have the potential to knock the socks off of whatever I've just lived through. I take a strange comfort in knowing that. 

This post serves the purpose of helping me feel as though I've shared more of myself than I am usually comfortable doing. And I do that because I feel that there is something truly good for me to share though it is rooted out of a terrifying place. I suppose that you could call me a "sheep" in the figurative sense and to an extent it would be a fair assessment though not wholly accurate. So much of my system of beliefs is so deeply ingrained as a part of me, seared into my soul, that I simply can't deny it. Does that mean that I never find myself questioning my leaders or facing fears or doubts? That is a resounding, "no". Sometimes I rely on the eloquence of minds greater than mine to help me place markers on why I feel and believe the way that I do. These minds may be those speaking with the voice of my own heart, but just as often they are those who seep that undefinable anxiety into my gut that confirms I am hearing fallacy. What disturbs my peace and shakes my core is when that foreboding feeling comes from not merely my loved ones, but those dear people who I always felt helped shaped my beliefs in the first place. That strikes a fear and devastation in me that I have never known before.

So, what do I do? Inactivity disturbs me nearly as much as what wrought the unrest. I indicated that I sometimes rely on others' voices to speak as my own because God has simply given me different gifts to work with. I was recently blessed with a pool of resources I wasn't even seeking that offered me a great number of those markers I spoke of. I can currently see no resolve for my distress, but it may not be appropriate for me to see that anyway. I am used to adversities having somewhat clear points of conclusion and am at a loss with what I now face. So, rather than futilely fighting to change anyone or having another rant as I did late last year I believe that I will best serve my suffering heart by sharing some of those resources that are a small but significant part of what further solidifies my resolve in what I believe in. 

The title of this post may not have made a great deal of sense to you up to this point, but if you have read this far I urge you to continue on with what I will next present. If nothing else and you don't agree with any of it, you will at least know yet even more about me than you did before and that can't possibly be a bad thing, can it? I have been pretty frank in everything I've said and it is absolutely true that I am heartbroken. You may not feel that I am justified in feeling that way about you, but it may be true nonetheless (depending specifically on who is reading this, you very likely know who you are). 

I was guided to this piece by one of my dearest friends; a man with whom I hold an unending amount of respect and admiration for, my bishop. I have not stepped foot into a church service of my own volition for approximately eleven years with the singular exception of a fast and testimony meeting a few years ago in the ward where I live now. Something definitive happened this week, however. I did not attend Sunday services, but I did make the choice to show up at the 10 o'clock Book of Mormon class that my bishop teaches every Tuesday morning. With my days now ending at 4 a.m. this was quite the feat. I fumbled through the pages of the book that through time and distance had, surprisingly, not become the least bit foreign to me. It wasn't exactly like riding a bike though. The material, of course, hadn't changed with time...I had. But I'm not changed from the young woman I was at seventeen the last time I voluntarily walked through those chapel doors. I am changing back into her. Time may have dulled my mind and in some cases jaded my heart, but it has not had the power to weaken my convictions. 

I will allow the document to follow to speak completely for itself because my own words would fall short of articulating any portion of its contents with proper justice. I am endlessly grateful to all of you who have attentively given me your ear and I encourage you now to give Ezra Taft Benson your undivided attention. It's about a 10-15 minute read so please, if you can, make this time available. For me, this is currently where my hopes and even my fears lie.

Thank you once again for allowing me to share more and more of myself through this oddly fortuitous medium. If anyone is interested in reading any of the other resource materials I spoke of, please, just let me know. 

Sincerely yours, Liz Perkins

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Oh, I can see the forest in spite of the tree. Metaphor time! Get ready to wax philosophical.

I had an English teacher in high school who tried to shy her students away from using cliches in our writing because she personally hated them. She thought they were, in themselves, cliche. While I looked up to this woman a great deal, I have always thought that if you have the urge to write, WRITE! Don't allow any deterrents be they spelling or grammar concerns, or even the pet peeves of someone whose opinion mattered to you at some point in your life.

So, as usual with my writing lately, inspiration struck this morning right when I woke up - not in the middle of the night this time at least. I've had one of my best friends on the brain for the last two days because, as a gal who has always written from her heart, she had been making some statements recently online that just downright ground my gears. This virtual world allows us to have some very strangely altered relationships. I got a little pushy with her, but in our entire history together we have always been able to respectfully disagree - as we do now. That is all fine and well, but one thing she said got me started down a particular train of thought. This whole "can't see the forest in spite of the trees" business you're waiting for me to finally getting around to talking about. Those of you nut jobs crazy enough to regularly follow this blog. She didn't actually use the forest/tree phrase, but our exchange brought the old adage into my mind.

I've wondered about how that concept works and have come up with a theory for myself. What I'm talking about specifically is how people view the world, which from this point on is going to be loosely referred to as a great big forest. What we are seeing when we look up are representations. Each tree represents a person, a pet, a material possession, an event and so on. I have my own forest that is not merely a single tree and the same is true of everyone else. My body and soul are even comprised of separate trees; neither of which are in wonderful shape. My own great forest overshadows but does not block my view of the world's vast forests. It does, however, alter my perception of them.

I've said many times that I am no activist, though I do write the occasional letter to any powers that be I feel need to hear my voice when there is an err I cannot overlook. Farmington's mayor got an earful from me last week, in fact. But that's another story for another day. I don't concern myself much with the majority of the sea of arbores. It's not, as the cliche says, because of the singular tree or even my own little forest of trees in front of my face blocking my vision of the rest. It is because some of my trees are on fire, or are wilting with age or some type of deprivation, or have broken limbs. When I do take those moments to gaze upon and sometimes study those backwoods, jungles and thickets around the world...I see that mine are not the only trees in pain or danger. Sometimes I only find open glades where someone has nothing in life to keep them waking up in the morning. Even looking still further I will come across skeletal landscapes where people have once had everything and lost it all in one or a series of cataclysmic events - perhaps devised by themselves in some cases whether intentional or not. For instance, a person with a fatal drug addiction.

Here's the kicker though. While for one person, their view of a particular tree may be gaunt, to another, that same tree may be lush and full and its fruit within reach (we're not all pine trees either, by the way). We are each multifaceted that way and in our perceptions of each other.

I brought up my lack of activism above for this reason. For me personally, it would be far less responsible for me to take any time at all away from the dangers that portions of my own forest face to go chasing down some giant oak bursting into flames ten thousand miles away with a tiny little bucket of water. I'm not saying that one person can't make a difference by saying that so please, don't allow that to lead you in that direction. I can see the representation of that oak clearly through my television, radio and newspaper. What I can never see clearly, however, is who or what started the fire in the first place or why; or how that one guy who showed up was able to get his hands on such a big hose. Try to keep your minds out of the gutter with that one. It's difficult, I know. At any rate, I can only see what scant portion of the story has been chosen to be told by, once again, the powers that be. Ah, the media. Notice I made a point not to say "liberal media"? EVERYONE's guilty on both the delivery and receipt sides. Viewers, listeners, readers are all just as much to blame for swallowing what we are fed without question. It only encourages the hands that feed us to eventually start throwing banana peels in there. What? You mean they really ate that? Well heck, I've got some old coffee grounds and egg shells I've been meaning to get rid of so let's toss those in there next week and see who bites then we'll simply call them our "target audience". While all of that actually is good for compost, which is good for trees I'm still going along with the metaphor here so please keep playing along. Humor me. Before long anyway, the temptation would become too great and they'd just start tossing in items that are bad for the compost like chicken bones and cheese. Just look at the Britney Spears fiasco in recent years where all that everyone wanted was for the paps and the media to leave her alone and yet there the world was gorging on every gruesome moment of it, buying up the magazines and gluing their eyes to the train wreck. As a trained photographer I know exactly how to make you believe what I want you to believe through my imagery. So, just how far am I comfortable ethically going with that power? Far less than some. Somehow, I don't think photo-shopping a clear complexion for myself is going to wind me up in purgatory. Many others have far more to answer for.

My point? My little theory about this forest thing has two clear options though I'll concede that there may be any number of alternate possibilities. First, those who do run off with their buckets and hoses have safe and happy groves waiting around for them when they get back home. These individuals, I must note, may or may not be responsible for the flourishing state of their forest. While rare and improbable, it's a possible scenario. Second, these crusaders have altered their perceptions to the point that they do not place themselves in the position of caretaker or even just an overseer of their forest whether it be in ship shape or crumbling away. This second option could also have any number of variations to it, but I think I'm making at least a little bit of sense with that general statement. I hope. I could get into some very specific theories regarding peoples' motivations for doing the things they do, but I'm no psychologist and they'd all be hypothetical gibberish anyway. I'd rather not bore myself (or you) with that either.

My dashes of cynicism (with media in particular) only exacerbate my reluctance to join up with any cause I am not the founder of. Believe me, I do know how that sounds. I'm comfortable with that though at this stage in my life where my little forest is in such chaos. Even if it was one of the flourishing landscapes that sometimes feels like such a rarity, I would likely feel and act the same way. Do I fully understand that there are starving children, murderers, pollutants and so on in my own backyard and beyond? Of course I do. I cannot force myself to care too much about any of that though outside of my little bubble of space. Again, yes, I know how that may be perceived. At the same time, I'm not too concerned with those perceptions either as I am very comfortable in my own skin, faults and all, and the decisions I make every day. I'm the one that has to live with myself, after all and my conscience is clear.

So, basically, what I'm saying about perception is that while I can see the forest in spite of the tree, so to speak, I will continue to direct my concerns where I feel in my heart deserve or require the most attention from me as an individual. This is not a defense, mind you, I already have discussed here and elsewhere that I feel no need to defend myself for being me. It is merely a delving into something I've loosely thought about for several years and finally had enough of a spark of inspiration to dive into it at more length. Again, these damn politics being my inspiration for writing?!? That's crap!

I can't have a post without at least one picture so for the sake of keeping with tradition and also having a little bit of fun, this is how I see myself as a tree:

The weeping willow, very dramatic (in every sense of the word) and a little all over the place and very protectively covering that which really makes me tick.

But, once you're past all the exterior flash and protection, I'll show you another side that reveals far more about me. Don't go trying to get past that bark though if you know what's good for you. Even I don't like looking there. And no, that's not a nude joke. Just one last piece of the metaphor.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bitty Babies Everywhere!

'Tis the season for many new babies to come into the world. My oldest brother's family just welcomed the beautiful Samantha Skye Schott on the 9th of this month:

Then, the next brother down the line is expecting another boy the day after my birthday this May. And then even the NEXT brother down the line will bring another little girl into the family in just a few more weeks. Oh, it doesn't end there! One of my dearest, and newest friends (Hi, Meg!) only has about six weeks left before boy number 4 comes along! Finally, I just learned this morning that another absolutely dear friend of mine growing up (Hi, Liz!) is expecting another little one this August. Now, this note goes directly out to Heidi (Kait too, for that matter) whenever she makes it over to my blog again: If you get pregnant before me, given, I'll squeal with delight, but I also might pitch a fit. Oh no, not a fit?! Oh yes, a fit.

Don't get me wrong, anyone, I'm not at all baby crazy and we are not planning anything just yet or ever (don't take me too seriously on that second part). These things just always seem to come in waves and when I started doing a head count I got a tad dizzy. Of course, it may just be that I'm finally "that age". You know, the age where everyone you know has or is starting to have kids so it's inevitable that there's going to be crossover. It has just been crazy to have THREE of my sisters-in-law pregnant at the same time!

I'm pretty sure that our kids are hanging around in pre-existence, if you believe in such things, which I do...anyway, they're hanging around rolling their eyes at me and Dave just waiting for us to get our shit together. Yes, eliminating indiscriminate cursing will probably be that last thing to go. That really is the least of my concerns involved with bringing a new person into this earthly life. I won't go into my hesitations, but they are many. So, I want to send a collective congratulations out to those I've mentioned and all other expectant families out there in the world. You are more courageous than I.