Monday, January 28, 2008


There are very few things as profoundly beautiful as a flag at half-mast. The combination of mournful remembrance and celebratory honor are deeply moving to me. It captures my feelings perfectly.

Today, I was touched to see all the flags downtown at half-mast in memory of LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley. I have little confidence my words would be anything other than trite and piddling; those flags say all I could say and more.

In memory of the kindness, guidance, leadership, service and life of President Hinckley:

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The sky is sparkling.

At about 5:30 this morning, I was standing out in the 9 degree temperature, admiring the weather.

I watched the dancing and tumbling of the falling snow -- so light that you almost wouldn't notice without the parking lot light, which made the miniature snow crystals sparkle against the dark all around. It was like diamond dust sprinkled from the sky -- frozen humidity. And I thought to myself: "I love the world in the quiet of the morning before all the commotion rises with the sun." That thought was followed immediately by, "It's freezing. I'm getting back in my car."


I'm not an expert on addiction, but it seems to me like the first days are crucial to success. My name is E, and I've been off:

Common sense -- 24 hours

Diet Coke -- 72 hours

Item 3 -- nearing one week

Sleep -- Two weeks
(This is not entirely accurate, since I have slept some during the last two weeks, but it FEELS like I've given it up, so I'm counting it. After some consideration, I think this may be, in all actuality, a healthy addiction and I should re-institute it. Perhaps this has a causal relationship with Item 1.)

Swearing -- 4 months
(Disclaimer: My first unconscious use of a swear word happened over Labor Day 2007, in front of my family. During the month of September, this personally unattractive behavior continued a few times around some [supportive] co-workers... I can't explain, except I guess people wear off on you. I have been swear-free since October 2007.)

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Radiohead Follow-up

For my friends that asked for some other Radiohead tracks, here a few of my favorites. (And probably indicative of my current mood.) I think I listened to "Reckoner" almost a million times in a row after I first heard it. Really. A million. (Melbs: Give it a second.) And "Let Down" is probably among my favorite songs ever. So, take my paltry (to the avid Radiohead fans) list for what you will:

Let me know what you think.

Monday, January 14, 2008

"Let me guess...

You streaked it?" says my boss when I walk into work today. He says that he never notices when people do things to their hair, but he's usually pretty astute when I do something different. In less than two years, I've gone from:

To this:

To this (although you can't see much more than the color here):

And this is what my hair looks like today:

I guess I get bored easily. My boss is usually more accurate than he was today. Curling is quite a bit different than coloring, although I suppose it may bring out the blond highlights a little more.

The other day a woman at work said to me, "You always have such a different look, I have to double-check your name tag to make sure it's you."

Most days, I feel like I look basically the same. My hair is down and straight, and more often than not, I wear my glasses. (Maybe 60/40; my contacts are old and get dry. Although, in 3 of these 4 pictures, I'm not wearing glasses...)

I guess I'm just used to looking at myself, cause that's not the first time I've heard that, but I didn't think it was so drastic from day-to-day. I'm trying to decide if that's a good thing, because I can get away with things, or if it's really hurting my career and I need to be more consistent.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I saw this quote on the blog of one of my role-models. I know I already posted a novel today, but this is another subject that's been on my mind for quite a while; I just wanted to share. Thanks, Kate!

"I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don't set goals in our life and learn how to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can live to a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life."

~M. Russell Ballard

Faith and Works

I've had an ongoing dialogue with a few friends lately about the importance of faith and "works," and how they correlate. So, if you're willing to read this lengthy epistle, I'd be interested in your thoughts.

I think there is a tendency, sometimes, for members of the LDS Church to think that works are the most important thing; some may say we tend to think that the concept of "works" is the only important thing when talking about salvation -- certainly that we emphasize it too much. In my opinion, our attitude concerning works is the biggest differentiating factor between what I like to call "LDS" and "Mormon." Meaning: there is a difference between the doctrine and the culture it sometimes creates.

I think it was Joseph Fielding McConkie that said something like, "If you asked a Mormon if 'Christ saves' in a Southern accent, they'd probably say 'no.'" This is, of course, ridiculous. Not that I believe it wouldn't happen, but that, as a group of people, we can become so focused on works and on being "different" that we miss the opportunities to recognize truth around us. Faith in Jesus Christ is the foundation of our religion; the most basic principle. The only way for us to gain salvation. That is essential to the rest of the discussion.

That said, our works are incontrovertibly connected to our faith. And that is (I would argue) the only reason they are important. Certainly the primary reason. The old adage that "You act what you believe" is true. Which is why I know some people who are better members of Christ's church than am I, even if they're not LDS. They get what it means to be good people better than I do, and I'm grateful to be able to learn from them. And they all show it in varying ways. There's no checklist. But it's obvious through their actions. They demonstrate dedication to Christ's teachings and a desire to become more like him. And, even in cases when these people aren't religious, they do it because they love other people and good and right -- which is, after all, what Christ taught.

And although there is no checklist -- something Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught (there are very few things on the "must do" list, but a lot of things on the "nice to do") -- Elder Maxwell also taught, "If we lack faith, it shows up in interesting ways. You and I see it expressed as a failure to pay full tithing, failure to wear the holy temple garments, refusal to work more meekly at making a marriage more successful or a family happier, the resentment of personal trials, trying to serve the Lord without offending the devil (we have quite a few Church members who are trying to do just that!), failing to sustain the Brethren, neglecting prayer, neglecting the Holy Scriptures, neglecting neighbors, neglecting sacrament meetings, neglecting temple attendance." (Lord, Increase our Faith) I don't know which list these are on ("must do" or "nice to do"), but I think it's interesting that he talks about how faith is demonstrated in actions -- to ourselves, to others, and, I think, to the Lord. Meaning, these "works" are important.

It is in that sense our works, while still not saving us, "qualify" us for Christ's gifts. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland frequently comments that this dispensation is going to be asked to do something that none other in history has been asked: present Christ's church to him -- "When Christ comes, He must recognize us quickly; he must recognize us easily as truly being His disciples." Qualification may not be so much a matter of what we do, but what we are. Although, as I said earlier, they really can't be divided. Elder Maxwell (can you tell he's a favorite?) lists all those same actions that, when not done, demonstrate a lack of faith as actions of discipleship in his October 1992 conference talk. (If you have time, I highly, highly encourage you to read it.)

On to an even stickier part of this subject: motivation. A lot of people struggle with the idea that some members do things just because someone told them to, or they want a reward. They believe that all works should be done solely because we love God. I agree; that is the best reason. However, I know there have been times in my life when that is much easier to do than others. But, I believe in the human ability to be drawn to, and evaluate, that which is good. That is why I'm grateful He tells me about rewards to teach me and help develop my love for Him. I hope one day to be able to say that everything I do is because I understand and love the Lord so well. But, I'm not there yet. (Which is why Elder Maxwell's list is a bit intimidating to me. But that's another subject.)

By following good teachings, broad or specific, rewards are a natural by-product of our actions, but that doesn't have to mean the reward is our motivation. Although, regardless of the motivation, the outcome is the same: If I, say, decide to make an effort to pray every day, I'm going to end up with a better relationship with God -- and more acuity toward what he would like me to do because of that relationship. That, in turn, confirms to me that He's a real being, with a real influence in my life. Which allows me to do things because I've developed more love for Him.

Other's motivations, if they are less sincere than mine in some instances, should never prevent me from seeking to become more pure, more kind, more giving, more forgiving, more... more. I should understand that those people are just like me; we're all trying to figure out different things. And we're, hopefully, all desiring to become more loving and more sincere.

However, it's easier said than done. It's natural to worry about what others are doing -- we all do. But, problems arise depending on our motivation. Just as there are varying levels of motivation for actions, there are good and bad ways to worry about other people. And the scriptures are rife with examples of people that worry about others in good ways. Paul was worried about actions that were preventing members from coming closer to Christ; his love was apparent through his teachings, which did indeed involve teaching some works. But, of course his higher motivation was to help people love Christ. This kind of motivation often results in a whole lot of praying, service, and humility.

When we worry about what others are doing to compare ourselves or put them down, we're in a dangerous spot indeed. I believe this one of the primary reasons that people can see "Mormons" in a poor light. Regrettably, I think there have been times when I've been an example of this kind of motivation. I think it's the motivation that most of us need to work against, but comes most naturally.

I've been focusing a lot on the works part -- perhaps demonstrating the tendency of members to rely on them too much. Which is why I love another Elder Maxwell quote, "Though we rightly speak of 'faith and works,' faith by itself is constant work! It is a work to be done and a process best pursued while being not only 'anxiously engaged' but also engaged with 'fear and trembling.' Otherwise we may lose our concentration on Christ." (Lord, Increase our Faith)

So, I'm going to persist in my efforts to do good works. And in my efforts to do this with the sincerest motivation -- to "be" rather than "do." I realize no matter how much I do this, I will not save myself. I will not be able to perfect myself. I will not be able to prepare myself to return to heaven. My concentration must be in Christ for any of this to matter at all. So, even though I can't do it myself, I sure want to qualify -- I want Christ to know I love him, internally and externally. And I don't know what's wrong with that.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Food Diary

Dear Diary-

Today I ate:

1 M&M Kudos Bar
1 piece Dove Chocolate Dark
10 French Fries
1 snack size bag of Gardetto's Original Recipe Snack Mix

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Let's go to a ... MOVE, E!

After a quick glance at the movie trailer page (and I do mean quick) these are the movies I'm excited to see in the next little bit. Some, I hope, will actually be good, some I think will be mildly interesting, and one (I'm sure you can guess) is entirely guilty-pleasure-I-know-it-won't-be-a-masterpiece-but-I'm-going-anyway. In no particular order:

The Dark Knight
The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything
The Bucket List
Vantage Point
The Great Debaters
Get Smart
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Thursday, January 3, 2008

And while I'm on the subject of music...

I would like to say that I also love John Mayer's newest song: "Say." I loved it the first instant I heard it. (Sure, the chorus is a bit repetitive, but it's just good.)

I've been impressed, again, lately by the power of music to bring us together. I think it was Beethoven who said, "Great music begins and ends with silence." I like to think that's because of the power music has to take us somewhere else, to feel something beyond ourselves. And even if we're all going to different places within ourselves, that silence comes when we all, as a group, come back from our transcendental, ethereal experiences. And all of us provide that experience for each other -- as musicians playing together or as a receptive audience. I guess you can tell that I've been missing playing with an orchestra or singing in a choir.

It's just amazing that we are all so different, but in those moments, we all take our varying talents and viewpoints and make something beautiful. I wish I had that gift in me to a far greater extent. But, today, I will just be grateful for the artists who create these experiences for me.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

At least sheep are wooly and cozy

I have to say: I am a Radiohead fan. And I wasn't always. And it took a little time before I realized how much I like them. Many have followed my friend's passionate love for them like sheep (I guess myself included), and there's good reason. (Oh, so many reasons.) Take a minute, spend some time with this video, and if you still don't see it, we need to talk.

*Updated: In happy news for you, Radiohead recently (as in today) made their iTunes debut with "In Rainbows," the album they released last October. Yea for Radiohead on iTunes! This is a surprising step for them.