Saturday, September 27, 2008

Best Meeting Ever!

I just got home from the General Relief Society Broadcast tonight, and let me tell you, I'm on top of the world! It was an incredibly powerful meeting and I feel like, yes, there's a lot to be done - a lot that I need to change, but I can do it, with some divine help. I can be a force for good in this world. 

Highlights (I know they won't even do justice to the whole meeting):

From Julie B. Beck (General Relief Society President):
  • The Relief Society is a formal part of the Restoration, and as such it has been divinely made and instituted.
  • The purpose of the Relief Society is to organize, teach, and inspire God's daughters to prepare them for the blessings of eternal life.
  • It is the responsibility of all women to: 1) Increase in faith and personal righteousness, 2) Strengthen families and homes, and 3) Serve the Lord and His children. That's what it's all about.
  • Remember that the Lord will pour out His Spirit upon us as we seek Him and to do His will. Revelation is the key to accomplishing our above-mentioned responsibilities.
  • There is power in the organization of the Relief Society and we are engaged in preparing for the Lord's coming. He expects us to increase our offering.
From Silvia H. Allred
  • The Lord has always asked His people to build temples that He may be among them. 
  • We build temples so ordinances may be performed for the living and for the dead.
  • Those ordinances are our credentials for admission into God's presence. We are to become a covenant people.
  • Temples are a source of spiritual strength and a place to receive revelation. 
  • We must be found in the Lord's temples.
From Barbara Thompson
  • The Relief Society is evidence of God's love for His daughters.
  • We are to love each other and love the Lord. Be committed to service.
  • Service magnifies and sanctifies us - most often the help needed is in our own homes, neighborhoods, and communities.
  • We are to lift and bless others
  • We are to teach one another the gospel of Jesus Christ - declare the truth with boldness.
  • Live so our lives witness our love for God and Christ.
From President Deiter F. Uchtdorf (Second Counselor of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints):
  • Women have the incredible capacity to teach, inspire, and encourage.
  • Do not undervalue your capabilities and contributions
  • We live in a world of change, challenges, and checklists, but do not be discouraged by the negativity and sorrow that occur in life. These are not insignificant concerns, however, neither should they be all-consuming.
  • In order to find joy in this life we need two things:
  • We need to be creative - to effect change and make this world beautiful. (He used the word "cultivate" which inspires all kinds of wonderful imagery)
  • We need to be compassionate - to succor the weak and lift those who may be weary. (The Lord's disciples have always been identified by their compassion and service)
  • "Those who bring sunshine to the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves"
  • Happiness is our heritage as daughters of God - we can be a great power for good.
Like I said, amazing meeting. The words here don't even capture the feelings that penetrated my heart. I know some specific areas where I can improve. On the whole though, I know I'm on the right track. I love General Conference! I can't wait for next weekend! 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just some of the things I love about Fall

As Monday marked the Autumnal Equinox, I took a moment to reflect on why I love Fall and the month of October in general. It's just a happy time for me. Always. So, gentle reader, please humor me as I share my musings here.

  • It's the sunset of the year, when the air turns to gold and the leaves turn to flame. I love the symbolism of death that commences with Fall. 
  • I love crunching said, flame-colored leaves. And pressing them in books. But mostly crunching them.
  • Gingerbread
  • Any kind of homemade bread
  • The way I crave books like The Witch of Blackbird Pond and Mary Shelley's Frankenstein
  • New pencils
  • BYU Football
  • Pumpkins
  • Sweaters and jackets
  • Mittens
  • Boots
  • The smell of woodsmoke on crisp air
  • Crisp air in general
  • I love the way the vibrant colors contrast with the ever-darkening sky. I love the heavy clouds that usually start to come this time of year. Not so much in my current locale, but definitely in my previous Utah home.
  • The smell of fallen leaves
  • General Conference
  • By that same token, I love how this time of year always seems to be a time of reflection for me. Reflection on the last year of my life, on my current situation, my weaknesses and my strengths that used to be weaknesses. On the friends that I've gained. On my standing with God. Lots to reflect on. Maybe it's that preparation for renewal - the death of the old self. I tend to make more resolutions at this time of year than I ever do in January. 
  • The smell of baked goods. They just smell better in the Fall. You can't argue that.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Surprising Insight

As a speech pathologist, I work with many individuals who have suffered some kind of trauma to the brain, be it a stroke, a head injury, anoxia, encephalitis, or anything else that might injure the brain. I see people who struggle with cognitive deficits daily. 

It's often heart-wrenching to watch them struggle to make sense of their new existence. Many are aware of the changes that have happened to them, but there are those who are unaware. For those, I see the grief that can consume their family. Granted, it's not always bleak. They are in therapy to learn compensatory strategies to help them function independently again. I see many progress and return home with some support from their loving families. 

That said, the other day I was working with a gentleman who was very confused and seemed, to me, unaware of his deficits. He had a difficult time even paying attention to a simple task for more than a few moments at time. Toward the end of our session, when I could tell he was tired from all the mental exercise, he turned to me and with surprising perception said, "My brain feels clunky today."

"What do you mean?," I ask. I want to see where he's going with this. 

"Well," he said, "it's like waking up in the morning and somebody's set all the clocks wrong, and you can't get them back. You're not sure if you even want to because you're tired. And trying to set them back makes you more tired. It's all very confusing."

He then assured me that he wanted to keep trying. I was amazed that he had such insight into his condition. Having never had a brain injury, but seeing it often, I'd say his description is spot-on. I'm glad I get to help set some clocks back. We're making more progress every day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

An Evening in Pictures

Summer's End

One thing that completes a summer for me is watching some kind of show from the lawn of some spacious amphitheater. I don't know why, but that just seems quintessentially summer-y to me. It's right up there with chlorine, barbeques, fireworks, rainstorms, late nights, and crickets. Yeah, I love a good amphitheater. 

This weekend, I had the privilege of traveling to San Diego with my husband and sister-in-law. It was one last hurrah before Brent had to start back to school. We stayed with my wonderful cousins and, though it was a short trip, it served it's purpose: primarily, to get us out of Bakersfield and into some fresher air. 

So, we drove down Friday and stayed up way too late talking and laughing with my cousins. Oh, and there was some singing. Yea, we had a karaoke moment. There usually is with Daniel.

Saturday morning we slept in way too late, ate delicious bagels for breakfast/brunch, and then Scott was good enough to take us to the beach for a much needed splash. I know that there is a deep-rooted place in my heart for the beach that I'm sure I inherited from my mother. 
My mother would have loved to join us on that trip to the beach. Unfortunately, there weren't many waves that day. Sure, there were little breakers, but they were puny. Scott would have taken us surfing if they had been bigger. It was an uneventful jaunt to the beach, but I think I speak for all there when I attest that it was much-needed.

That night we went to the Maroon 5/Counting Crows concert. The only problem was that someone in the Counting Crows was ill . . . so it turned out to be just a Maroon 5 concert. They put on an incredible show. It was a fun, relaxing evening. Good music, good company. I just wish the cousins could have come - too bad they all had prior engagements.

Since it ended so early, we decided to head back to Bakersfield that night right after the concert. That way we'd be sure to make it back to Bakersfield before Church. Brent and I are both teachers now and we didn't want to risk not making it in time. I think we'll definitely schedule more time in for our next trip to San Diego. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Lost in Translation

For work, I often work with my patients to help them be oriented to their surroundings. Sometimes we wonder if I'm oriented though. This particular day, I was working with Mr. A, a hard of hearing, rather aged gentleman who couldn't decide whether he spoke English or Spanish as he was fluent in both. I've been studying and learning Spanish and making some gains. Or so I thought. (Pardon the incorrect typing of Spanish characters, but I can't figure out how to fix it at the moment. Suffice it to say that I know this is dreadfully wrong at the moment!)

Me: "Senor, what city are we in?"

Mr. A (very hard of hearing): "?Que?"

Me (louder): "What city are you in? Where are we?"

Mr. A: "?Que?"

Me: "?Que cuidad estamos?"

Mr. A: "Why do I have to be careful?" (unfortunately, his voice was so gravely and his accent so thick that I had no idea what he said, I just knew that he didn't say "Bakersfield").

Me: "?Que cuidad estamos?" (I'm practically yelling by this point)

Enter Becka, my friend and fellow speech pathologist in the next office over. Becka walks in and says, "He's asking you why he needs to be careful. You're saying 'cuidad' not 'ciudad.' You want to say 'ciudad.'" At which point she then explained to the poor gentleman what I was doing wrong and they had a good laugh. He turned out to be not as confused as I thought.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hey look, I'm a quarter of a century

The night before my birthday, we went out for Italian. I don't always like to go out for Italian food because I feel like I can make just as good for less than what they'll charge me. Of course, I'm always pleased to find exceptions to this rule (like that delicious little place in San Francisco that we found), but exceptions are few and far between. In those cases, I'm just happy to be out enjoying the company of whoever I'm with. This was an enjoying Brent's company night, but we did get a live accordion out of the evening. It was a fun night. 

The, for the day of my birthday, my wonderful husband took me to see the Sequoias. They are giants of trees. I have never seen anything like them in my life. It was a wonderful day!

This picture is evidence that there are clouds in California. I had forgotten such a thing could be!
This just made me giggle. Actually, it still makes me giggle. I am wondering if perhaps it was once used as a stand to sell burgers or something. Too random. 
I may have an inferior camera (and I long for the day that I have a real one and learn how to use it properly), but in the meantime I am pleasantly surprised by what my little Kodak can produce. Maybe there was just really good lighting . . .

We still wonder what could cause a knot that big in a tree that big. Look at how strong my husband is!

Meet General Sherman. This is the biggest tree on earth. It's not necessarily the tallest tree or the tree with the biggest circumference, but it has the most mass of any tree on earth (1,487 cubic meters or 52,510 cubic feet). I was in awe to see something so large. Last year it's largest branch fell off. The largest branch was as wide in diameter as my husband is tall (that would make it 6'8"). Incredible! 
I can never properly take these "hold-the-camera-arm's-length-away-and-hope-you-get-everyone-in-the-frame" shots. Good thing I have Brent. One day, I'll have to subject you to my failures. They're pretty funny. 
"You all look like little ants from up here!" We really are infinitesimal in comparison.

One thing that really struck me was how much lichen there was on all the trees except for the sequoias. It looked like a veritable sea of green if you were standing on the north side of all those pines. And yet, nothing seemed to grow on the sequoias. I'm figuring it has something to do with the bark of the sequoias . . . the park ranger I asked was rather condescending and didn't give me a clear answer.
Impressive wingspan!

Yes, this is three trees growing together to form one giant base. I wish I could be around when they finally truly fused.

The General Sherman from afar. Here you can see the whole tree. You know it's old because the top is forked. I guess sequoias grow to a point like other conifers, but when they start aging they stop growing tall and just add to their girth (not unlike some people I know). Then their tops fork. 

After enjoying spending time among the giants, we played in one of the rivers leading into Three Rivers. It was a refreshing end to the day. This is the lovely view from the valley. Thanks Brent, for a happy birthday!

"I don't know . . . what do you want to do?"

When Brent and I moved into our current ward, we met Quin and Natalie Smith as they were moving out. We were glad that we met them that day because they have become some of our favorite people in Bakersfield, definitely one of our favorite doubling couples. It seems there's always some excitement to be found with the Smiths around (often involving automobiles *See "A hitch in our git-along"). These pictures are from Greek Fest hosted by the Greek Orthodox Church here in Bakersfield. Really good food!

Alas, I don't have pictures from the real excitement that night. Prior to our entrance to the Fest, we saw a man get hit by a car. Well, actually Brent was the only one tall enough to see the whole thing, but we sure heard it and Quin and Brent rushed to the scene. The man wasn't knocked unconscious, but he definitely had a large lump on the back of his skull and probably a broken pelvis. It was something I never thought I'd witness in my life, nor do I ever want to again. 

The Smiths are so cool that they even wear Converse.
The Smiths really like sushi. Brent also really likes sushi, so Jenn is trying to acclimate her palate to such epicurean tastes . . . we'll see how she does. She has the feeling that more sushi nights are in her future. 

*A note about my Brent: Brent really likes chopsticks. Usually they are used for what they were intended, namely eating Asian food. He never uses a fork if chopsticks are an option. Occasionally though, they are put to less conventional but far more entertaining pursuits. Case in point:

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Yes, we really did get married

So, judging from the many requests for pictures, I'm sure many of you doubt the fact that I did get married this summer. On June 14, 2008, I became the wife of Brent Aaron Hill. Here are a few pictures from the festivities (in no certain order). I'm working on getting more (thanks for sharing, Marc!). 

Yes, he's really that tall. Our siblings felt very clever. (I still haven't figured out why they made me topless in the picture though . . .)

At the temple

This is one of John's better pictures. He's very photogenic.
It was a beautiful day and these few pictures don't do it justice. I promise, I'll share more as soon as I have more to share. In the meantime, I'm happy. Brent's happy. And we're enjoying learning together and establishing our little family. Thanks for all the love and support!