Thursday, August 28, 2008

New Kids On the Block

Over the past three days, college freshman have been more numerous around campus than bobble-head Obama supporters at the Democratic National Convention. This increase of freshman has led me to believe that one of two things must be true: EFY has extended the age limits on their summer youth programs to include college freshman or a brand new school year is about to start. The gut-grinding, mind-malfunctioning, money-spending complex I’m developing leads me to believe in the latter.

I’m serious when I say that I like seeing freshman around campus. How else can I get so much joy from knowing that the same beehive girl I hometaught as an eighteen year old will be joining me in my astronomy class? The feeling of maturity that I’m experiencing is almost overwhelming!

Truth is, I’m enjoying the chance I have to watch the freshman as they explore the great campus of BYU. Observing them has caused me to think about my own freshman experiences and the lessons I learned from them.

When I was a freshman, I learned the importance of my family. Being away from them taught me how much I truly depended on them for... everything. I cherished the phone calls, the weekends I went home, and even the occasional letter in the mail. I was blessed to still have my sister, Jill, in Provo. I remember walking three blocks to her house with a homemade cheesecake in my hands, taking each step with great care as if my gift to her was something sacred. It was a little token of my appreciation to her for the dozen papers she proof-read and her simple decision to stay nearby.

I learned the truth behind the idea that if you don’t put God first, in the end, it will make no difference who (or what) you put first instead. I learned this from a girl, the source of too many of my freshman lessons. The Homecoming dance was coming around and the girl I had my eye on was asked out so early in the year that she may as well have been predestined to go with him in the pre-mortal life. I sloughed it off as if it was nothing and asked a good friend of mine if she would go with me. With a seriousness almost uncommon in a freshman, especially in a cheerleader, she politely denied my invitation on the grounds that she didn’t want to be my second choice. I stayed home the night of the dance. If a college freshman has a difficult time accepting second place, how then, must the God of the universe feel when we place Him and His first commandment behind on our lists of wants, wishes and desires?

I began to learn my freshman year how large the world really was. It didn’t take me long to realize that Centerville really wasn’t the center of anything more than my childhood memories. The world was a big place, and I had only begun to realize my part in it. Walking around on an unknown campus made me feel infinitely small, and the headphones in my ears that guided my tour of the library didn’t help any. I learned that my new campus, like any new experience, was not any different than any good pair of hand-me-down jeans. It must gradually be grown into until it fits so well that you can’t believe it first belonged to someone else. It had become yours.

And to you, naive little freshman, good luck and a thousand good wishes your way. That is, of course, if any freshman happens upon this little blog of mine. I assume it will go unnoticed, lacking the ability to compete with the several class disclosures that you have already begun to memorize. My freshman friends, consider this blog, advice, and memories, my hand-me-down to you.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words, and a Whole Load of Wedding Presents

I began to understand how important wedding pictures were when I started receiving more announcements than credit card applications. I soon realized, however, that both my friends and my potential creditors were both after the same thing, my money. The only difference being that my friends wanted it in the form of Target gift cards. Despite all this, I am proud to report a near perfect credit score.

While I could go on about the money sharks about me, I will not because one day (hopefully) you will get a announcement from me, and hopefully I too will earn that highly coveted spot on your fridge between sister Sally’s out-dated sixth grade picture and the Christmas card from a long lost (and never again found) friend from your wild college days.

What is more significant, even eternally significant, is the engagement photo itself. To those getting married, today, tomorrow, or several years from now, THIS IS LIFE OR DEATH! The picture needs to say what you would like to say if you had no heart or sensitivities. It should say something like, “neener-neener,” or “I told you so,” but in a Sunday-conversation type of way. Having my refrigerator clothed with such engagement photos, I am qualified to give the following advice.

Throughout your engagement, you have most likely learned the importance of your hands. Whether it be high-fiving with your hands, holding hands, or giving your hand in marriage (in that order only), hands are very significant. In the wedding picture, please don’t use your hands to choke, strangle, or harm in any way your significant other. That’s what we call “mixed signals.”

The background of your picture can be a good way to distract people from a poor haircut, a bad side, or even just an unnatural smile so choose your background wisely. You may not know this now, but what you stand in front of is an image of who you are as a couple. If you choose to stand in front of a rustic cabin, people will say, “hey, these people have Little House on the Prairie values.” Likewise, standing in front of your dad’s half-restored Ford Taurus may not send the kind of signals you’re going for.

For those of you who may be indecisive, especially when it comes to deciding which picture to choose for your engagement photo, may I make one suggestion? Instead of having one picture, try having one big picture that you mostly like surrounded by fifteen other pictures you kinda-sorta like. That way, you don’t have to make a decision! You could even change outfits if you’d like!

Hopefully that will get you lovebirds started. I would spend more time giving away my helpful advice but I need to work on photoshopping myself into a picture in front of the Indy 500 Speedway. Hey does anyone know where to find a good picture of Miley Cyrus?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Country Roads That Took Me Home

Every once in awhile, life offers a small dirt road to drive down apart from the four-lane highway you’re used to. The road doesn’t come often, but if you look closely, it’s always there when it matters, and if you’re careful, you’ll learn lessons that are fundamental to life. That’s what happened to me this weekend when I took the opportunity to go with some of my friends to Emmett, Idaho. A small city outside of Boise, Emmett is so unknown and obscure to the outside world that it might as well be protected by lock and key.

Despite the title of my blog, Emmett is not my home in the traditional sense of the word. It is not the place where I grew up, where my family lives, or even a place where I have visited before. In fact, before this weekend, Emmett was a place that existed to me only in the stories of my dear friends. Nevertheless, in Emmett I learned, or relearned, important lessons that I had once been taught in my real home. These are a few things that I learned.

Sometimes when we’re going through life, the road curves, our wheels skid off the track, and tragedy results. When the dust settles and the wounds begin to heal, we can get back on track and move on with our life. Lately, it was difficult to imagine being on the wrong side of the bell curve, the bottom of my target grade, or even a little off-track in my dating life. Sometimes I forget how good my life really is.

Doing something new is not nearly as scary after you do it. I've been learning that lesson for the past four years of my life and I still haven't mastered it. The height of the bridge is not as intimidating looking up as it is looking down. That idea can help us do things that are difficult, things that we would do on our own if we could find a way to be our very best self. President Heber J. Grant often taught, “That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the things itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.” These words never become quite clear until after they have been followed.

When wishing on a star, what comes first, the wish or the star? For me it was the star. As I laid on my back listening to Elvis Presley scare away the deer from eating Grandma Hallam’s corn, I counted the shooting stars as they passed by. I counted only one in the first half-hour, and it took me nearly that long afterwards to make a wish. Then I began to think of the wishes I had for my life. The stars began to appear frequently, four or five every few minutes. I soon ran out of wishes and I thought about how sad it is to run out of wishes when the night will never run out of stars.

Just like any great weekend, it came to a close too soon. The same road that took me to Emmett finally took me back to the four-lane highway I’m used to. But these little lessons will continue to stir my mind as long as I need them. Then, I will carefully look for another bending, dirt road to take me where I need to go.