Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Aftermath

We had a nice Christmas- the kind full of family, fun, and food. 
Ever since my parents left and we moved we haven't exactly had traditional or typical Christmases. This year was no exception. That always makes holidays kind of weird when you don't keep to your traditions. New house, new people, new activities. There's not a lot of sentimental value left, you know? Christmas morning is not all that exciting when there aren't little Santa-believers anxious to open presents.
It gave me a lot of time to think and reflect on the importance of holidays and holy days. I think I really would prefer it if we really did treat our two actual holy days as real holy days. Commercialism keeps Easter and Christmas alive, for which I am grateful. But I could live without all of the commercialism, right down to gift-giving, caroling, etc. I would much prefer a real, true, actual holy celebration, even if it only lasted 1-2 days.  Other cultures and religions truly celebrate "holy days," with the emphasis on the holy rituals. But somehow, at least in the States and most Western countries, our most holy of days have become commercial enterprises.  I really would like a true "holy day" to respect and honor, if only to rededicate myself to my religion more.
I think my feelings are all compounded by my age, not having my own family or children, and not necessarily looking forward to my extended family's activities. I feel like I am still living in someone else's world, waiting for my chance to do things my way. I could live without all of it. If it were all up to me I wouldn't toss aside the gift-giving traditions of the holiday, or stop spending time with family. But I would prefer to spend at least some of the day in service, or at church, really doing something to honor the meaning of the day, and spend less time icing and eating cookies that aren't that good.
I find myself looking for meaning and substance, and not finding enough of it.  All the forced gift-giving just isn't who I am. I'd rather give a meaningful and needed gift, rather than all the little trinkets and doo-dads to so many acquaintances.
Don't get me wrong. I have had a lovely and enjoyable holiday. I'm grateful for the gifts I've received and the time I've spent with family. But I can't help but wonder if I will ever get the chance to celebrate holidays and holy days in my own special way?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Buy the Book(s)!

Just a little reminder!
There is still time (if you order it by Wednesday, noon Eastern time) to gift a signed copy of "You Heard It Here First!" It's $7.99 plus shipping! And we can skip the formalities of using Amazon or CreateSpace and just use paypal for you to order it straight from me, so that we can make sure it happens on time! 

Get the e-book on Barnes and Noble (Nook) or Amazon (Kindle) for $3.99. To get a signed paperback, just send me an email (or leave a comment below).

And did you know you can "gift" e-books as well? It's true! You order and pay for it on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, and the recipient gets an email letting them know you gave it to them. You can even arrange to have the email sent on Christmas, or any other specific day! Not a bad deal!
Get the first serialized section of the sequel to "You Heard It Here First" on Barnes and Noble (Nook) or Amazon (Kindle) for $1.99

And don't forget my novella, "The Agency!" It's just $1.99 on Amazon exclusively.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Stance on Pants

I have had one long and interesting day (and it is far from over). I learned a lot about humanity today, in both good and bad ways.

I wrote an article that ran as the cover story on Meridian Magazine today. The title is, "Pants in Church: A Feminist Movement." In a very, very small nutshell, essentially there is a movement of LDS feminist women to wear pants to church this Sunday as a symbolic gesture/demand for more gender equality within the church. My response in the article is simple, I avoid all discussions of gender equality, and only discuss the appropriateness of using a meeting devoted to renewing covenants with God as a place to make a personal, political stand. (Again, in short, I am against that.)

If you read the article closely, I actually do not disagree with anyone who wants more gender equality. While I fall very short of backing all of their cries of inequality (actually, I think they are flat out loony on some of their "issues"), there are a few I completely agree with (equal treatment of the YM/YW programs and budgets!).

But pants in church (on Sundays when they aren't a "stick it to the man" political stance), I have no problem with nice dress pants in church. I have searched for guidance on what constitutes “Sunday dress,” and have only found Elder Holland’s remarks above. It is probable that dresses and skirts being defined as “Sunday dress” is just a handed-down, and outdated tradition. Personally, I would love to be able to wear nice pants to church. Pants can be more modest (both in the covering and simplistic sense) than most dresses. Buying a dress that covers the appropriate amount of skin can be cost prohibitive at times, whereas pants rarely are. And I, for one, am tired of having to wear a coat to keep warm in a frigid chapel.

In fact, I have worn "pants" in church many times. Here's the proof-

That's me in the middle in the light green dress/culottes. My BYU roommates and I (and one roommate's mother) had just returned from church in this picture. I loved this little romper/dress/jumper/culottes outfit.  It was cute, comfy, and no, it was not a skirt. It was shorts at the bottom. As you can see, I wore it with tights and dress shoes. It was a very dressy outfit. My roommates also loved that outfit. I have pictures of at least 3 of them wearing it!
I'll even bet that a few of them wore the "pants" to church a time or two.

Here's the thing about that outfit. It was classy. It was dressy. And it was most certainly "Sunday Best." (And it was stolen about 5 years later by a drycleaner in Texas.)

I will not join the ranks of the “All Enlisted” cause this Sunday. I cannot in good faith support anyone that wishes to bring a spirit of contention to sacrament meeting. But I just might start to wear nice dress pants at some time in the future. My mind has been opened to the realization that traditions are not always commandments. I keep the commandments, not traditions. 

If and when I do begin to wear pants on Sunday, it will have nothing to do with gender equality or inequality. It will be because what I chose to wear will be my “Sunday best,” modest in simplicity, cover my skin, be comfortable and yet respectful, and I will do so knowing that my mind will not be on my clothing, or whether or not there is a seam between my legs, but on the covenants I will renew.

My little article on Meridian has just passed 1,000 "likes," and over 100 comments. I'm not used to such feedback and response! It's a bit overwhelming! I am the secret squirrel moderator of the comments on Meridian, but few people know that. I chose to be out of the house and away from my computer for most of the day, just so I wouldn't be able to moderate the comments. Why? Because I was worried there would be a comment war, and I didn't want to spend my whole day moderating it. If people can't see the other comments yet, they can't fight with them. (You can only imagine my surprise when I came home to find over 100 comments waiting!)
But I did have access to Facebook. I was at the hair salon (a disaster story for a different day) and kept checking the comments my own Facebook page was getting. And boy did I ever get a lot! Every five minutes I would log in and find another 5-10 alerts on FB. The stylist asked me what was going on. I explained in general terms that I had written an article that had sparked a lot of responses. She asked about the topic. I was worried that a non-Mormon wouldn't get it. After all, in most other churches this isn't an issue. But I explained it to her in detail.
Her response stunned me. She began to quote scripture- Old and New Testament- without blinking an eye. She is active in her own faith and as it turns out, quite adamant about women dressing like "ladies." Did I mention she had a tattoo on her wrist, a trendy, funky hairstyle, and works in a very new age salon, and she's probably not yet 40 years old? On the outside, she didn't look to be a kindred, conservative spirit. On the inside, well, she taught me a few things. We talked about gender equality and religion and the priesthood- from the perspectives of both of our religions. In her words, "Same does not mean equal. Two different things can be equal. Two identical things are just identical, it does not make the equal." She asked me quite a few questions about why women feel they have to be the "same" as men in order to feel "equal." The truth is, I couldn't answer most of her questions, because I was on her side. I don't have a problem with feeling "unequal" to the men around me at church. Men have their duties, women have theirs. (I do have some questions about why husbands are responsible for tithing even if the woman earns it. But I highly suspect the answer will come down to nothing more salacious than that is the way the computer program is set up, and has nothing to do with gospel doctrine.)
Back to the pants-
I have worn pants to church many times (beyond my little BYU outfit). I wore them in Haiti, and I wore them as an on-duty firefighter.  And I think I may have once worn a really fancy, flowy pair of pink pants too. (I miss those awesome pants.) It does not matter if you are in pants or a skirt, if what you believe you are wearing is the appropriate clothing to enter the Lord's building and renew your covenants.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

I hate the world today

Things wrong with the world today-

1. North Korea setting off a test rocket

2. A shooter rampage in Oregon killing 2-3 people shopping for Christmas

3. "Jedi" has actually made it onto a list of official religions (this is also on the awesome list of things happening in the world today)

4. Everything happening behind closed doors regarding the fiscal cliff

Got anything else to add to the list?

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Books, books, and movies and books

I consider myself to be somewhat well-read and an avid reader. I'm also a huge fan of music, Broadway, and all things show tunes. And I am absolutely a huge movie fan.
So how it is I have never read The Hobbit or Les Miserables, nor seen any production of either story, is a bit of a mystery.
But with both famed works of literature coming to the silver screen this month, I've decided it is time to read both books. After all, I can't allow myself to be one of those people who saw the film and never read the book- especially such famed books!
I downloaded both books to my Nook over the weekend. That's roughly 1,000 pages of reading to do over the next 2-3 weeks. (because obviously I have to see both films within a week of their debut. to do otherwise would be sacrilege!) Considering I'm also neck deep into a new obsession with Doctor Who, that's a pretty tall order! (I only have 2 seasons left on Netflix, you can't expect me to stop now!)
Not to mention I want to read Joni Hilton's latest new self-published novels as well!
How exactly I am going to do that much reading, TV watching, movie watching, and do my job, apply for jobs, and clean the house before my parents arrive, you ask? Yeah, I have no idea.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Fish Amok (oh how I miss Cambodia)

Last year when I was living out my wildest dreams volunteering in Cambodia I was introduced to a dish I had never heard of before. It is called Fish Amok. One of the other volunteers tried it first, and one by one converted us all over to it. We even made a special trip to one of the most expensive restaurants in town to try it because we heard it was best there.

It's hard to describe the taste. It's almost like a curry dish, and yet, not. But if you like curry Thai dishes, you will definitely like Fish Amok. It isn't a spicy dish, or at least nothing that will make your eyes water. But it is very flavorful. Just like many authentic Indian or Thai dishes (or even Chinese), it is a thick soupy or pasty meal, with meat in it, served over rice. Or in my case, I just took my plate of rice and dumped it in the coconut. That  shallow wooden spoon thing took way too long to scoop it up and pour it into my rice. I have no idea how impolite  was to do it, but I didn't care. My way meant getting to eat up every last drop of the amok.

Normally fish amok is steamed (and even served!) in a coconut shell or banana leaf package, but making it in a regular steamer works as well.

* 1 lb (400 g) meaty fish or firm tofu
* 1/2 cup coconut cream
* 2 cups coconut milk
* 1 tbsp fish sauce to taste

* 2 red chilies
* 2 cloves garlic
* 2 tbsp galangal, cut small (a root in the ginger family)
* 3 tbsp lemon grass stalk
* zest of ¼ kaffir lime
* 1 tsp salt
* 1 tbsp kapi (or any shrimp paste)

* 3 tbsp kaffir lime leaves, sliced thinly
* 3 cayenne peppers or red capsicum

Make the kroeung by pounding the ingredients in a mortar and pestle, working from driest ingredient to wettest. Slice the fish thinly (or tofu into blocks) and set aside. Slice the kaffir lime leaves and cayenne peppers thinly.

Stir the kroeung into 1 cup of coconut milk, and when it has dissolved, add the fish sauce to taste and sliced fish. Then add the remaining coconut milk and mix well.

Place fish mixture in a small bowl. Steam for about 20 minutes or until the coconut milk is solid, but still moist. Before serving top each bowl with a little coconut cream and garnish with kaffir leaf and cayenne peppers.

Serve with steamed rice.

I haven't tried making this myself yet, but I intend to attempt it today. My guess is that any white fish will do- tilapia, whitefish, etc. Something not too salty or fishy tasting. Maybe even cod will work. The types of fish available in Cambodia were very different from what you can get in the States. I ate shark regularly there, but tilapia was expensive and rare. (Completely the opposite of the States!)

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Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Bend in the Tunnel

In the past 10 days I have applied to approximately 30 jobs, had 1 in-person interview, and 1 phone interview (different jobs), launched a new book, and had a few magazine publication rejections. I know no more about my future today than I did 11 days ago. I often wonder if there really is a light at the end of the tunnel? Or should I just stop searching for it, sit down, set up camp here, and learn to be happy at this familiar bend in the tunnel? Is there a point in pushing on?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

This Just In - $1.99

Haley McAdams has found the love of her life in Camden Morrison. She's landed her dream job and fame and fortune are hers for the taking. Her life reads like the perfect modern-day fairy tale. She's never been happier. 
But just as the starbursts and fairy dust begin to settle, the fireworks and explosions begin. Cam's career is on the line, and worse, Haley is starting to realize they may not want the same things from their relationship. Her best friend Jessica is about to lose everything, and Haley doesn't know how to help her.
Just when she thinks she has it all figured out, she finds herself back in the spotlight as scandals, pirates, and a kidnapping turn her life upside down. 
Is her life a fairy tale or a complete nightmare?

Each installment of the serial will be about 50-60 pages. Overall, the paperback book will be roughly 300 pages (which are 6x9, Verdana 9 pt, in case you are curious). The paperback won't be printed until the serials have all been published. I expect installments will come out every 3-4 weeks, and will cost $1.99 each.

This Just In! Part One- on Kindle
This Just In! Part One- on Nook 

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

I've tried so very hard.

That old familiar, annoying, and frustrating, feeling of depression is creeping back into my life. 
I've been trying for so long and working so hard to move on with my life. Trying so very hard...
But these HUGE things that I want to change and improve in my world I only have so much control over. 
I've applied to over 140 jobs. ONE HUNDRED FORTY!!!
I've looked at a dozen places to live. 
I've networked. 
I've worked hard. 
I've published.
I've waited. And waited.
I've tried. 
I've tried so very hard. 
So very very hard. 
But I can't make these things happen. I can't make someone see me in the pile of resumes. 
It's not unlike that feeling of being "too" single. 
Of wanting to be dating, wanting to be married, wanting to be in love. 
But no matter how hard you try and how much you want it, you just never find The One. 
Or s/he never falls in love with you. 
You just want to move on, and have that life, but you can't control it. You can't make it happen. 
It's also not unlike writing a book and self-publishing, and wondering why no one buys or reads it. 
I tried. 
I tried hard. 
I've tried so very hard. 
Is this ever going to end?  
I've been patient for 3 years. 
I've tried so very hard for 3 years. 
How much more? 
I just can't take it much more.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Wait for it, wait for it...


One word, three simple syllables. 

Today I am bracing for it. 


The day I am expecting it. 


Tomorrow, Monday, I have multiple opportunities for rejection. 
A less pragmatic person, or an overly optimistic person, might say that tomorrow I have multiple opportunities for success. 
But I'm a little more pragmatic than that. I know I have multiple chances for success, but realistically, all of these opportunities will not pan out. And that is just fine with me. I don't need to win in every area. I'm okay with that. But it sure would be nice to have at least one win tomorrow. 
Ways I could win or lose tomorrow--
I find out if I am a finalist in a national contest (of all the things I may lose out, I'm okay losing this one. It has little to do with my personal merits and skills. If I'm going to lose, I'd rather lose at a lottery, and not because my efforts were not good enough.)
My second novel*, "This Just In," the sequel to "You Heard It Here First," goes up for sale! There's nothing quite like putting your heart and soul into something and then sitting back to see if anyone likes it or buys it.
I've interviewed for a few jobs and I'm sitting by the phone, hoping it will ring!
And I've written multiple articles over the past week and submitted them for publication in various places. I'm crossing my fingers some of them will get accepted. 
There's no telling if I will hear back for certain on any  of these opportunities tomorrow (except the contest, that one is set in stone). I'm not sure if that makes it better or worse not knowing. So if you see me walking around in a clown suit, pulling my hair out by the handful, be kind, and give me a Dr Pepper and point me in the direction of home. I'm about to go crazy with all of the uncertainty.

*I'll tell you a little secret. This Just In! Part One is actually already up on Kindle for 99 cents. But I haven't received the artwork yet. As soon as I get the cover image posted to Kindle the price will go up to $1.99. So if you hurry, and you don't care if you have a pretty picture on your Kindle, you can buy it now.

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