Sunday, June 29, 2008


I have a lot on my mind right now, some pleasant, some not so pleasant. To say I'm stressed is an understatement, though I am not overwhelmed just yet. I seem to be managing the new calling and grad school OK, though I definitely need to do a better job of prioritizing my time and getting the things done that actually need to be done first before I do the extras (like blogging!).

Still no word on the status of the house other than the status quo. As far as I know the payment was made for June, but I'm not sure how much longer those payments will be made. Once they stop it is only a matter of time before the foreclosure sets in, though it is anyone's guess when the foreclosure will actually happen and when we will actually lose the house. Somehow this is going to work out; how I do not know. It is frustrating not knowing what's going to happen and kind of existing in limbo here. I'd feel better about things if school wasn't hanging over my head right now and looming ahead of me like a long tunnel with no end. I know, no sooner will I begin then it will be over, but right now the end seems so far off. That said, I'm amazed how fast these three weeks have gone by already. Having a four-day week helps though, a LOT. If I've learned anything from this experience (which is by no means over), it's knowing what to say and what not to say to people enduring or facing something like this. I've gotten a lot of "advice" over the past month-and-a-half from people that know about the situation and I can say this: sympathy and just offering to be there for support are the best routes. Advice of what to do "when [we] lose the house" or "everything will be OK" doesn't do much for helping me to feel good about what's going on or do anything to improve the situation. On top of that, it's all coming from people who currently enjoy stability and security in their income and residence. It's easy to tell someone to "not worry" about something when you don't have to worry about or have never had to worry about it yourself. It's also easy to give advice on what to do knowing that you would never have to follow that advice yourself and wouldn't want to either.

The next person that tells me to get a job is going to get an earful from me, seriously. Let me reiterate the situation concerning a job one more time: even if I did hold a job right now, it would only be part-time and would not allow financial independence, so I'd be living at home anyway. Since graduate school is a new experience for me, I figure I might as well focus my energies there. I'm not even doing the Kirtland show I've done the last three summers (opens this week...good luck guys!) so that I can focus on grad school and save money on gas. Once the fall semester starts in August, even a part-time job will be out of the question because of the demands of school. Few people seem to realize that the program I am doing is not a typical grad school program of 2-3 years. This is an intense one-year program which demands full attention. During both the fall and spring semesters, I will not only be going to classes, but I will also be student teaching at a school to be announced. So basically, it will be like I have a full-time job with no pay or benefits but all the accompanying stress. The issue here is NOT that I want to live here rent free so I can be dependent on my dad for as long as possible. The issue is that I have to be dependent for one more year so I can finish school and get a decent, steady job so I CAN become financially independent. I get the feeling, particularly from my own extended family, that people think I'm just milking the system here. And as I've said before, people telling me to get a job doesn't help me find a decent job any quicker, nor does it address the root of the problem, which is that I can't get a decent job yet, no matter how much I want it. And yes, I have held jobs and lived on my own before, so it's hardly a case of "not wanting to grow up".

I guess, in the end, my advice to someone like me is to hang in there and do what you feel is necessary and right. I certainly understand that most people giving me "advice" are doing so for my benefit; they want me to succeed and they're trying to help. In other words, the efforts are well-intended, but lack full perspective. Also, some things have been said without regard to how they can and are being received. I guess it's a good thing I'm so laid back, otherwise I could be really offended right now! It's common to hear the phrase that the world is "black and white" or "shades of gray" in terms of our choices and what is right and wrong. I am here to tell you both are wrong: the world is in living color. In physics, when light is absent we only see black and when light is low we only see "shades of gray"; no colors. The same applies spiritually. When we have the full spectrum of light, we can see all the colors clearly; we can see when something is wrong and when something is right and when "exceptions" are appropriate. In addition to that, there are many "hidden" colors we can't see like infared and ultraviolet light. When we have the proper equipment we can see those, so having the "proper equipment" is like having a full perspective as well. I've also figured that colored light can stand for a single perspective; like in physics, something that is red will look vastly different in blue light or yellow light than it will in white light or red right. Sometimes we let our own perspectives and prejudices alter views of reality and refuse to see other perspectives. Again, without the full spectrum (white light) we can't see all the colors or see them they way they should be seen.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

New flags, old callings, and oh yeah, GRAD SCHOOL!

So I've made it through the first two weeks of graduate school and all I can say is "WHEW!" So far it's been about what I expected; not completely overwhelming, but not a breeze by any means. I've been blessed to have a good "cohort", a group of 11 other students who are all in the same classes as me for the summer, that is very easy and enjoyable to work with. What's also cool for me is that I have two other fellow Roosevelt grads, one of whom grew up right next door! My professors have been great as well not only in fostering worthwhile conversations, but really getting us to think critically about the material and what we think about it and why. Because I took my required education classes at BYU-Idaho while I was still a Music Education major, a lot of what we are covering in my two classes and a weekly seminar are things that aren't completely new. My first class is Psychological Foundations of Education and my second class is Principles of Secondary Teaching. The weekly seminar class gives us all training on how to properly write a scholarly article in the APA 5th edition style. At BYU-Idaho as an undergrad I took an Educational Psychology class and a Foundations of Education class among others, so going through these classes is just a higher level and much more in depth.

Not only did I start graduate school June 9, but I also got a new calling at church the day before. I am now the Executive Secretary to the bishopric in the ward. The bishopric consists of the Bishop and his two counselors who are the leaders of our ward (congregation), so I am their coordinator and scheduler for interviews and the like. And no, none of those positions, as is the case for anything at the church, are paid...all volunteer or "lay ministry." As cool as my new laptop is, I'm REALLY glad I have it now because it works perfectly to keep notes on for my classes AND for church-related things since I can use it in tablet mode as if it were a regular paper-and-pen notebook. It makes being organized much easier (with the help of Microsoft OneNote). I had thought I would be able to keep my calling in Primary as a teacher, but instead I am returning to my full-time role as pianist and am being released from being a teacher, so that has to be one of my shortest callings ever. I was just starting to get into it lasted less than two months! I am excited to be going back to full-time pianist though. It was my favorite calling and I was still doing it part-time for senior primary. So, in getting a totally NEW calling, I get my old one back too! In addition to Executive Secretary (which also involves meetings before and after church on Sunday) and being Primary pianist, I am still the unofficial choir director, the ward singles representative (which really doesn't require much of anything), and a home teacher.

My next item is one for fun...I bought two new flags for my ever-growing collection. I don't know how many flags I actually have since I have them in different sizes, but I have a good amount now. I have always enjoyed studying flags and flying them too. My two newest ones are both firsts for me in that they are historical flags rather than current flags of a particular country or state. I bought a 3'x5' Bennington flag and the classic Betsy Ross flag, both of which have their roots in the American Revolution. The Bennington flag is the flag best known for having 13 seven-pointed stars around the number "76" in the blue field and the red and white stripes are the opposite of the typical Amercian flag (white stripes are on top and bottom). The other is the classic Betsy Ross flag, which looks just like a modern U.S. flag except that it has only 13 stars arranged in a circle. I bought them mainly for the upcoming 4th of July as they are the two of the most identified flags of the Revolution, the Betsy Ross flag in particular. I found it interesting that there is question whether or not Betsy Ross even sewed the first American flag and if the Bennington flag was even flown at the Battle of Bennington in 1777, but even if neither are true, they are still respectively known by those names. In any case, mostly to try and get the fold lines and wrinkles out, I have been flying my two recent additions on my two poles on the front porch. The new flagpoles I got last year make it easy to switch the flags and adjust for any size, so I am able to fly more of my flags, though I have only been flying the current American flag and the Ohio flag since I got those poles last summer.

Speaking of history, that's another one of my great interests, not only general history, but LDS (Mormon) history and local history as well. Last Wednesday I went to a cub scout activity for the ward at Plum Creek Park in Kent. Right near the park is an old aqueduct from the Pennsylvania & Ohio Canal, built in the late 1830's where the canal crossed Plum Creek just south of the Cuyahoga River. Today the structure is still there, though it no longer carries the canal, but two sets of railroad tracks. I had been wanting to find this aqueduct for some time to get a picture, but wasn't quite sure where it was, so I just followed the creek itself and found it. It wasn't hard to find, but it was VERY hard to get close enough to for a decent picture. I felt like a trailblazer from the frontier days trying to make my way through heavy overgrowth and brush just to get to a good viewing distance. I finally got there and realized the best picture would come from standing in the middle of the creek, so I did my best to stand on some rocks (the creek is only a few inches deep), but inevitably I still got my shoes and feet wet. Oh least I got a good picture! There aren't much in the way of physical structures left of the old P&O canal, but two of the very best examples are right in Kent: that aqueduct and the old Kent dam downtown which is attached to an old canal lock. Since about 2004, the river is now channeled through the old lock to bypass the historic dam. I have special interest in the P&O canal because part of it ran through what is now my back yard. You can still clearly see the edges of the canal bed!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama Gets the Democratic Nod

It's no secret that I'm interested in politics, so I have been keeping up with the presidential race, the Democratic nomination process in particular. Not only has it been historic because a woman and a person of mixed race (no, sorry, Obama is NOT "black" or "African-American;" he has many other races as part of his family history too) being the two front-runners, but also how long it has gone on. I can't recall a recent primary election cycle that went on as long as this one did with no decision until now. Granted, I haven't exactly been paying attention as much or for that long, but's been awhile since we have seen a primary race this close. Usually, by "Super Tuesday" or soon after, the race is over.

Well, now it appears it is, as Hillary Clinton is about to formally end her campaign even though she is really pushing to be the VP running mate for Obama. A lot of people think the two of them together would be "unstoppable," but I have a hard time seeing them running together. One of the reasons they have had so many disagreements is because they view things in totally different ways. In choosing a running mate, one usually picks someone who agrees with them more and shares common viewpoints, not someone who just engaged in a lengthy battle with them which involved heavy criticism of their ideas and plans. I also personally don't think if they ran together that they would win in any landslide either. Too many Americans regard both Obama and Clinton as too extreme, so McCain, who comes off as more of a moderate than an all-out conservative, will appeal more to them in my opinion. My experience has found that most Americans are fairly moderate in their political views. They want their basic needs met and things to function around them (roads, electricity, water, transportation), but they also want their own freedom with as little governmental interference as possible and of course, as little taxation as possible. Of course that's not everyone, but that's my observation of most people in my readings and travels.

As for my own vote, at this point I would vote for McCain, not because I think he is the best person for the job, but because I think he is better qualified than Obama. Neither have the experience I'd like to see (being in the Senate is not the same as being in the executive branch), but McCain has been in Washington longer so he has more experience working with Congress and a better idea of "how things work" in Washington. Still, I consider McCain the lesser of two evils. Obama's comments have not impressed me and all his talk about change is filled with the same old political rhetoric I have heard at every election about how everything is the other party's fault, yada yada yada. I've never been a big fan of McCain in the Senate, but I've been an even lesser fan of Obama since he started becoming well-known. The people one associates with tells a lot about how that person really is and all the controversy surrounding his religious associates tells me a lot. On top of that, I was never thrilled with his comments about diplomacy or foreign policy either. Yes, we should certainly try to talk and use diplomatic means whenever possible, but evetually you need to take a stand if they don't work. In addition, in order for diplomacy to work both sides and their constituents must value it. In other words, there are instances where diplomacy won't work, in particular with those we have identified as terrorists. Many, if not most, are not interested in discussions...they are interested in winning their war against the West. That war won't end until we either accept their way of life as our own (convert) or we are eliminated. And their war did not start recently...these people come from a culture that still considers the Crusades a recent event (the Crusades came in waves from 1095-1272). It would be similar to Americans still holding resentment to the British for the Revolutionary War or the War of 1812...And those were a LOT more recent than the last Crusade! Yes, I do realize that there have been other negative interactions between the West and the Middle East, but all have been tainted by that lingering mistrust from the Crusades. It's a cultural element that won't disappear overnight or easily. But anyway, that's a whole different blog!

There are many issues I have with both candidates, but in the end I and everyone else needs to remember that the President is not a dictator; he has limits in what he can and cannot do and what he can and cannot control. No matter what you think of President Bush and how he has extended executive powers, he is nowhere NEAR as powerful in this country as a true dictator would be. So, to sum it up, a president won't be able to sweep in and solve all our problems, no matter how charismatic he is, nor can he be the blame of all our problems or successes. We need to choose a candidate who we think will be able to address (and solve) as many of the issues facing our country as possible in ways we think are acceptable.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I love technology!

One of the great things about graduating is getting presents. In my case it meant getting some much-needed money to get some things I either wanted or needed in some little way. My two major purchases have come in the technology department, though I have gotten some other things as well. The first thing I got was an iPod Touch, something I have wanted for a long time. I've wanted an iPod for some time, out once the iPod Touch came out, I knew that was what I wanted. I'm a total sucker for technology and I have a real fondness for touchscreen. The iPod Touch hasn't let me down at all. Not only is it super cool but its also more than just a music player. I had intended to do the blog post from my iPod since it can surf the web, but I discovered its limits are on a site like this. While I can view and even edit parts of my blog and even check e-mail, I can't write a post because the little keyboard won't show up. All I was able to do on the iPod was put the title in. I was able to log in just fine and even edit the non-post parts of the blog just not the blog itself. I'd say the iPod Touch's Internet feature (it picks up a WI-FI signal) is much more for the convenience of being able to check websites that you just need do read rather than ones that are like this where you need to type a lot. I certainly wouldn't replace a computer with it.

Enter my other new acquisition... my new laptop, the HP Pavilion tx2000z. It is a tablet PC, so it is a lot more flexible than a typical laptop and is also somewhat smaller and more portable. On top of that, it has touchscreen technology which makes me like it even more! In honor of the topic, not only am I using the new laptop to make this post, I am using it in tablet mode by using the writing feature. Instead of typing, I am using an electronic pen and writing like I would on a piece of paper. The computer then "converts" my writing into the typed words. It's not a perfect system, but so far works pretty well. Sometimes it reads what I wrote as a different word but it's still pretty accurate and easy to correct. I could get used to this, though I still think typing is a bit easier. The computer was other features too like Bluetooth and a fingerprint reader as well as a built in webcam and mic. So far I really really like it and I look forward it using it in my classes once grad school starts this coming Monday!