Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Finish Strong

Virtus Tentamine Gaudet:

Strength Rejoices in the Challenge

It's ten o'clock, and I have just a little while to finish one of my papers that is due tomorrow before I drop into my bed from sheer exhaustion. My schedule for the week is beyond crazy--it's ridiculous. I'm running into social and health problems, and family issues.

Strength rejoices in the challenge, and I say, "Bring it on."

I'm ready to finish this semester running... or, if not running, crawling at a very fast pace.


Monday, December 8, 2008

Mission... Possible

Nightfall, and the tiny, snow locked, sleepy town was silent except for here, inside the rustic vacation home to which I had trekked in order to fulfill a mission.

My mission.

Laundry. This collegiate gal’s attire needed some serious Snuggles action, so I sojourned through the mountains in search of a washer and dryer. Luckily, my cousin had come to keep me company on my quest and his mission, if he chose to accept it (or not) was to keep the fires in the house stocked with wood. After a few hours, my mission was almost complete, and both machines were rumbling and tumbling in the basement while we chilled in the living room. Unfortunately that wasn’t the only rumbling going on, as Derick’s and my stomachs were beginning to drown out the movie—not that we really wanted to see A Little Princess anyway.

Derick is ten days younger than me (and oh, how he hates it) and he, with two other of our younger cousins and I are an unstoppable, inescapably awesome team. We play together, we work together, and we form risky mission plans and daring acts of secret espionage together. When we were about twelve, we began planning for the Ultimate Mission: post-high school. We had provisions for college, dorms, budgets, rules, and missions (but not marriage. Introducing someone NEW to our foursome? Impossible). Together, we could best any obstacle, grapple with any hindrance!

So, Derick and I should have been able to deal with this barrier to our movie night, no problem! Though we hadn’t originally intended to watch all six library-rented movies at once—our unexpected movie marathon felt more like being chased by a crocodile along the Boston route rather than actually planning on running the 26.2 miles— as usual, we were flexible, and had accepted the challenge two movies in (“You wanna just watch all of ‘em tonight?” “Yeah… why not?”). Now, to deal with the one thing threatening the mission: hunger.

“Dia,” Derick intoned. “I believe,” he continued as if making some great declaration, “the food within your household needs to be located and devoured... NOW.”

I paused the movie and we raced to the kitchen for popcorn.

We sat side-by-side on the counter (to save bare feet from frosty linoleum) and, as custom dictated, poked, flicked water at, and hit each other to fill the terribly dull two minutes, thirty seconds before the main event, popcorn wars.
We discussed the merits and fallacies of the warnings of burning, scalding, suffocation, blindness, electrocution, etc., that were plastered in small print all over the popcorn bag, and then moved on to debate the litigious nature of the world. Derick and I are deep thinkers.

DING! Derick hopped down from his perch and punched the “open” button. I sought to prove my side of the debate by placing my hand over the opening of the popcorn bag.

“SEE? It’s NOT burning me—ow!” The smell of singed flesh and the sound of Derick’s mockery joined the more pleasant fumes of perfect popcorn in the air as I sulkily stuck my hand under cool water in the sink. Derick’s next comment, though, more than trumped the silliness of my action. He popped open the bag and inhaled deeply:

“Ah! Oh, baby, we make some good popcorn.”

Silence—an odd occurrence when Derick and I were together. The soft whistling of the winter wind around the old, creaking house, the crackling of the fire in the adjoining room and the rumblings of the washer in the basement only threw the silence in the kitchen into starker contrast. Derick’s eyes shifted from the popcorn sideways, then up to the ceiling, and back.

He tried to remedy the situation gracefully:


And failed.

“Derick,” I queried slowly, “Did you just call me … baby?”

The bag of popcorn hit the ceiling at about the same time we hit the floor. Kernels rained from heaven as we lay on the linoleum, laughing too hard to breathe.

Derick wheezed, “I meant for that to be TWO sentences! TWO! ‘Oh baby, PERIOD.’ Then, as a COMPLETELY separate thought, ‘Dia, we make some good popcorn!’”

I couldn’t stop laughing long enough to reply.

The rest of the weekend proved as eventful as that first night. We narrowly escaped from an ancient, frightening tome which, we’re positive, was possessed by Voldemort (no worries, we burned it AND stabbed it with a basilisk fang). He introduced me to the Slurpee (where had those BEEN all my life?!) and aided me in my epic struggle with about fifty belligerent, evil potatoes which REFUSED to mash nicely for Thanksgiving.
I thought joining our cousins for Thanksgiving would be the sweetest part of the week, but the most singular experience was the next day, on Black Friday as we three girls of the foursome of cousins were given the mission to pick Derick up from his all-night shift at the Gap. We took him to his physical and dental appointments—to obtain signatures for his mission papers.

Part of our united plan for the future has always included the idea that the kid cousins would eventually grow up and serve missions. With Derick’s and my birthdays so close together and girls leaving at 21 instead of 19, we always knew that if I decided to serve a mission, we would just miss each other coming and going—and not see one another for about three and a half years. It was a fact that had always been no big deal.

Today, today, today, I was slowly, gradually but increasingly realizing that I’d been wrong. The memories of the previous weekend and countless, wonderful others filled my mind and burned behind my eyes as unshed tears as I drove our carload of cousins from mission to mission. At the last destination, as he grinned and exited the car with a, “Don’t blow my cover!” I leaned over the center consul into another cousin’s shoulder and…well, I just lay there. I wish I could tell you that the refining tears came and healed, or that I received comfort from heavenly messengers, or that Derick came back for his wallet and made me feel better, but that didn’t happen. I just realized the true mission of that weekend.

Realized that my coconspirator, my confidant, my cousin would be leaving in a few months or less, and that I had been given these last few free days to enjoy with him as a truly tender mercy. Realized that he would be filling a lifelong dream, and that to be anything but excited for him would be selfish. Realized that before we met again, this kind, crazy, hilarious boy would grow into the sweet, caring man I can see glimpses of today, and that I would miss him more than I would ever, could ever admit.

By the time Derick got back in the car, I was back to normal. I had to be.

“What’d they find? Did the tapeworm spawn again? How much longer do you have?”

He punched me in the arm.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Ice Beauty

Mom sent these to remind me of what I'm missing. Last year's ice storm in OK.

On the anniversary of the Oklahoma Ice Storm:

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

I Don't Make Food in "Small"

I volunteered to bring the potatoes.

Grandma said that only the Atkinson family, the Chandlers, the grandparents and me would be at Thanksgiving this year, so "We won't need as much food as usual, I think."

Apparently I wasn't listening.

Potatoes were a three-day affair. I bought spuds, sour cream, garlic, milk and butter Tuesday night. I did, admittedly, already have all of these things at home, but... better too much, than too little, right? Wednesday was a torturous day filled with scrubbing. I like to make mashed potatoes with the skins on (WHY?! WHYYYY?) so I scoured the living daylights out of about fifteen pounds of potatoes for several eternities.

Next came the boiling. I HAD realized that I didn't own a pot--more like, a pot does not EXIST-- that would hold so many potatoes, but I had not foreseen that EVERY POT IN THE HOUSE would not hold that many potatoes.

I put in several hours of boiling, dumping and tasting (raw potato... not my favorite), then stabbing (the POTATOES, you guys!), reboiling, redumping, retasting... and sitting-on-the kitchen-floor-crying.

My cousin came over after work.

"What happened, silly?" he asked the tear-and-potato stained loony person.
"I'm making potatoes... for all of Ireland," I replied.

Well, all's well that ends well, and those potatoes DID end up crazy delicious. AND I've discovered the root cause of all of my insanity: genetics. When I walked in to the Thanksgiving feast with two huge bowls of potatoes, my aunts started cracking up.

"You ARE your mother!"

Apparently she doesn't make small, either...

A Huge Amount of Delicious Mashed Potatoes

"Several" potatoes
about 1/2 cup milk
1 cup of butter or 1/4 c for every 5 lbs of potatoes
garlic-- powdered or smashed-- to taste
8 ounces sour cream
salt to taste

Scrub potatoes. Dice and drop into boiling water. Let potatoes boil until they are soft when poked with a fork--no shorter, and no longer! Drain and mash. Add warm milk, butter, sour cream, garlic, salt, and whatever else your heart desires. Be prepared to never want to eat another potato, ever again, if you did the boiling step wrong.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Just Around the River Bend



When I was six years old, I had a sweater. It was pink, about three sizes too big for me, and was emblazoned with a huge profile of my favorite princess—Pocahontas.
All of my thoughts and hopes centered around this free-spirited, passionate Indian princess. My stuffed animals were all named “Meeko” or “Flik” alternately, and every rock became a 50-foot diving board.

It’s a well-known story in my family—some unknown villain crushed my hopes and dreams by letting my little, oblivious six-year old self know that I could never be Pocahontas because I was so incredibly white.

…Which is true. However, I have noticed (noticed, not imagined… I hope) some awesome similarities between this graceful, wise, beautifully brown princess and short, white, rather awkward me.

I’m pretty mellow most of the time, but when really aroused, I can definitely speak my mind about subjects I am passionate about—and Pocahontas does not let anyone make decisions for her. When she is told by her father that she must marry Kocoum, she really considers the subject, makes a decision, and sticks to it! Despite this independence, however, she is still closely tied to family and her culture. She, like me, has ideas and theories from which she will not back down. This reminds me of myself because of my LDS-ness. When I lived in Oklahoma, my beliefs were challenged almost every day. I had to have the courage and delicacy to stand up for my beliefs without completely offending the perpetrators.

I am more consumed with “what’s around the river bend” than in the “handsome sturdy husband who’ll build handsome sturdy walls.” I also care much more about personality and, especially, humor than about appearances in men—like Pocahontas, who shunned the INCREDIBLY ATTRACTIVE (but too serious) Kocoum without a second thought. Boys have to try pretty hard to get past my disinterested outside “layer,” but if they can make me laugh… it’s golden.

Pocahontas shows wisdom beyond her years in her lessons to John Smith about accepting others, her forgiveness to the white men, her father, and her friend Nakoma and in her kindness to and acceptance of these strangers in her land. That sentence was ridiculous. I think I also show some of this quiet maturity—comes from being the oldest child, maybe. Despite all her romantic tree-hugger tendencies, Pocahontas is also practical. When she breaks a rule, she figures out the repercussions and plans accordingly—you won’t see her making rash choices because “I just can’t take it anymore” or “All is lost!” or “No one CARES.” She stays behind instead of going with John Smith to England, representing her attachment to family and her mature spirit. I am not a romantic (as hard as it is to say that…) and I would have, I think, made the same decision.

I love the outdoors. My favorite vacations involve hiking, swimming, rafting, boating, skiing… you name it! Being in nature brings me so much happiness and peace. I love finding places where no one else has been before, sights that no one else has seen. Nature is unique because it is constantly changing. I love the gift God has given me in the ever-changing, beautiful landscapes of Earth—and so does Pocahontas. The acts of greed and villainy that pollute the beautiful, untamed land that once was just tear her heart out, and, as my incessant recycling habits and “save the trees” tendencies will blatantly show, I also feel very strongly about keeping wildlife wild and beautiful.

Though I may not ever perfect a 300-foot swan dive, have the perfect serenity or grace of a Native American princess, or achieve a perfect, chocolate complexion and waves of raven-black hair, I believe I am becoming more and more like my childhood heroine every day as I learn to trust myself and my instincts, to stand up for what I believe, to find joy in the little things and in the nature around me and to always look for the adventure!!


Sunday, November 30, 2008



I am so grateful for my cousins, especially Derick Gines. He's 10 days younger than me, but he's always been my example. He is so kind and righteous--no matter what! He comes over to keep me company while I'm all alone in the vacation house, and I don't know what I'm going to do when he goes on his mission in a couple months.

I'm thankful for Slurpees. I've never had one before, and the aforementioned cousin introduced them to me last Tuesday. Cherry and pina colada never tasted so delectable! I am thankful to be able to act, sometimes, like a child again.

I am grateful for truth. I've been working on a scripture chain about "the word" of God and its implications: scripture, prophets' teachings, Jesus Christ, truth and light, and the power thereof. So many in our world do not believe that absolute truth exists. I am thankful that I can know that something is true- without a doubt, without one discrepancy or condition.

However, I am most thankful, I think, for gluten-free banana cream pie. Yum!