Thursday, July 30, 2009

Random Photo: Joseph.

Take a look at our neighbor when I lived in KlaipÄ—da, Lithuania. This was his daily attire. Unless it was really hot, then he wouldn't be wearing anything except his drawers. (Only they weren't really drawers... more like a Speedo. Afterall, we were in Europe.)

We called him Joseph. Any wild guesses why?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Random Photo: Passport Wheel.

I saw this in the lobby of the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin. I just thought it was so cool; I couldn't pass up the photo opportunity.

Photo a la moi.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Hallelujah, I have a tongue!

How often do you think about your tongue? I mean really... does it really ever cross your mind what an incredible invention it is? Sure, you taste with it and isn't that why we all eat, because it tastes good? Well, today I was thinking about how grateful I am for my tongue because I had some dental work done on Tuesday and it's still pretty painful on the right side of my mouth when I chew. So naturally, I have been chewing everything on the left side of my mouth. I'm able to do this because, yes you guessed it, my tongue keeps everything away from the painful side of my mouth. Now, if my tongue weren't there, that food would be able to freely move about my mouth causing me severe pain. So yes, I've been thinking of my tongue, and singing its praises. Hallelujah!

Photo found here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Grand Staircase - Escalante.

Well, my weekend was wonderful. (That sentence has four out of five words that begin with the letter W.) May I just say that southern Utah landscapes can be beautiful?! Many times, I gazed out over (or stood below) magnificent red rock formations, pointing my camera in their direction, only t0 realize, as Brian pointed out, you just can't seem to capture the majesty of these views in a camera lens. The colors aren't as brilliant, the 360 degree view just doesn't fit. But I did my best. And thanks to Brian, who took a couple of these pictures).

We took lots of pictures along the way. Thanks to Mom for letting me borrow her camera! I really need to get a new one! My mom had also asked me if I would take some photos for her to use in her marketing materials for work, so I was looking for good shots of red rocks and sky with no people. So, I took nearly 300. I'm not sure how I'm going to choose which photos to share with you.

So here is the weekend in a nutshell:

Who: 6 of us... eclaires ('tis I), M, Brian, Dennis, Sarah, and Andrew.
What: road trip in a mighty Nissan Quest
Where: to Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument
When: departed Friday, 10 July at 230pm; returned home Sunday, 12 July at 4pm
Why: see previous post

We began our trip by turning back twice to get things we forgot. :) That seemed to become somewhat of a theme for our trip. But, who cares, right? We were on vacation! Once you're on vacation, it doesn't really matter where you go or how long it takes to get there. Plus turning back for your camera is MUST. Right D & S?

We stopped once for gas along the way. Though the sign said, "Please stay off the animals," Andrew and I couldn't resist. Actually, I'm not touching it at all. Andrew, on the other hand... such a rebel.

We started noticing a lot of smoke and realized that there was a controlled burn happening closeby. The sun peeking through the smoke was really quite beautiful.

Now, one might ask, "Why southern Utah?" Well, this is why:

Upon arrival at our friend's home in Escalante, we were greeted by the neighborhood steer and his posse. Okay, so "greeted" may not be the right word, but they kept running toward us. Isn't that what friends do when they meet? But then they ran away. We're not sure if they were upset we were there or if they were just curious. Either way, we certainly got them excited.

Dayna was gone for the weekend (on vacation up in our neck of the woods), but she kindly let us have free reign of her digs. Four bedrooms, two bathrooms. Perfect place for the six of us to spend the weekend! Friday night, after we arrived, we played a game of Settlers of Catan, talked, and then fell asleep.

Saturday morning we got up and ready for our hike to Calf Creek Falls. We saw some beautiful views along the way. The entrance to the trail is about 20 minutes from where we were staying.

We were ready to go!

Can't you tell?

The trail was beautiful.

The hike is about six miles roundtrip. Unfortunately, we didn't get started until about 10:30am, so it was a little hot.

Who could resist this photo opportunity?!

Going around the bend, about halfway there, we saw this beautiful view!

This monster mouth is trying to tell us... "just a few more minutes, and you're there!"

And there they are. Aren't the falls beautiful. No, not me... the falls!

Absolutely magnificent! The temperature right there was about 15 degrees cooler than it had been on the trail. The mist flying off the falls was so refreshing. I stood in the water for quite some time, even though the water was freezing, almost numbing. I wanted to indulge in this cool reward for having made it there! I decided dipping my feet was enough and that I might get total body and brain freeze if I put my bathing suit on and jumped in.

We ate lunch at the foot of the falls, and relaxed for about an hour before we headed back. This delicious trail mix was a hit! (Thank you Farmer's Market for providing the ingredients!)

Dennis and Andrew made it back to the start of the trail first, but came back with water for Sarah and me, after M had run ahead to tell them we (read: I) were (was) suffering from heat exhaustion. My water supply had gotten way ahead of me on the trail (Brian was carrying my backpack) and I had none. Sarah had about a 1/4 of a bottle left that she shared with me. (Note to self: start hike at 7am next time. No more hiking after 10am in the summer, for me.)

Andrew got to us first. We watered up and then rounded the bend to find Dennis like this:

I thought he looked like "the thinker", but he said, "More like the sweat-er." Yeah, it was a hot, but beautiful hike!

The sky is just so big out in the middle of nowhere. I think that's one reason I like going to small towns. You know how I love the sky, especially when it's full of beautiful clouds. Whoever first said, "It's such a beautiful day; not a cloud in sight," had a screw loose, in my opinion.

After coming home, showering, and relaxing for a bit, we drove to Boulder. (No, not Boulder, Colorado -- that's where Andrew thought we were going until we actually arrived in the Escalante/Boulder area.) Boulder, Utah: Home to Hell's Backbone Grill, where the food is heavenly.
"At Hell's Backbone Grill we serve food and drink that reflect our deep commitment to sustainability and intention to be of benefit in the world. Our ingredients are simple and honest: sustainably grown vegetables, herbs and flowers from the restaurant's own no-harm organic farm and on-site gardens, and Boulder-raised grass fed and finished local lamb and beef. We keep bees for honey and pollination and lovingly tend over 50 heritage-breed laying hens who provide the eggs for the breakfast plates."

They have beautiful grounds and we had about fifteen minutes to kill before our reservation, so we took pictures, of course!

And M relaxed a bit from the long day of hiking.

Then he rolled over and posed. :) Haha. Actually, I don't think he even knew I was taking this picture; he's always smiling like that.

Our 90210 pose:

Jen Castle and Blake Spalding, the owners and chefs operate their restaurant following Buddhist principles. At the entrance to the restaurant, they have hung Tibetan prayer flags.

We had a great evening, following a great day of hiking. This was the beautiful scene as we headed back "home" to Escalante. Sunsets make me think of home. After all, home is "out west, where the sun goes down."

Sunday morning, we went to Sacrament Meeting at a ward in Boulder and then continued on our way toward home. We drove the Scenic Byway 12. Absolutely amazing views!

A wonderful trip, with wonderful friends. I'm so glad I went.

All photos a la moi

with the exception of:

three or four courtesy of Brian,

one courtesy of Andrew,

and one courtesy of Dennis.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Do you "clip" coupons? Well, if you don't, you should... especially right now on! They currently have coupons for up to $1 off ANY gallon of milk, ANY brand of yogurt, and ANY two-pound block of cheese! I've never seen generic coupons like this for dairy products, so take advantage now! You can print the coupon from the same computer twice.

CLICK HERE to go directly to their website.

Oh, and Escalante pictures are on their way!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Explore. Dream. Discover.

"Twenty years from now
you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do
than by the ones you did.
So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour.
Catch the trade winds in your sails.
Explore. Dream. Discover."
- Mark Twain

And so I'm going.

In good company.



To see views like this.

And hopefully to get a little peace of mind and soothing of the soul.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.” - Henry Miller

Escalante sign photo found here.

Red rock wave photo found here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Stress, Anxiety, Depression, their Triggers, and Faith.

Lately, I've been feeling overly stressed, overwhelmed, anxiety ridden, and depressed. A myriad of reasons have found their place on the list of recent whys, but I won't take the time to name them all. Last evening, I spent a good deal of time talking with a couple of very good friends about my life (and theirs), depression (mine and theirs), its triggers (which are different for all of us), and the road to a healthier outlook.

I think if I had to pinpoint my triggers today, I'd list: spiritual starvation and worrying too much about myself.

Spiritual starvation can be summed up as this: a lack of communion with God; a lack of nourishing my soul with things spiritual; not making God a welcome presence in my daily life.

Worrying too much about myself encompasses: how I compare to others, financial concerns, uncertainty of the future and my place in it, weight gain/self image concerns, etc.

Interestingly, when these feelings of stress/anxiety/depression intensify within me I tend to do things that only make it worse. For example, I'll stay home instead of going out with friends, and then I feel lonely and alone. I won't call back friends because I just don't feel like I have anything happy or great to talk about, so I lose the opportunity to interact with those who love me and can help to raise my spirits. Or I'll feel the need to eat some (fill in the blank) ... candy, Taco Bell empanada, McDonald's fries, ice cream, whatever. Temporarily, it seems like this might do the trick to make me feel better. But almost always, I simultaneously have this opposing thought. "I really just want to be x pounds thinner because I would feel happier about myself and life." It's an awful, unhealthy cycle, really. I know that poor eating habits will cause me to gain weight, which will then in turn cause me to feel more depressed and not want to be seen in public, which will then make me feel like I have no friends and cause me not to get out and work out. I'm intellectually aware of the contradiction in thoughts and actions, here.

Generally, I'm a pretty healthy eater. I love healthy foods and really cling to the feeling I get when I have a well-balanced diet. But there are times when I just feel like I have to eat everything! Those times usually come when I feel like other aspects of my life are out of my control. So what do I do? I choose to eat because I have control over that. (Or so I lead myself to believe.) And almost to "stick it to 'em" (whoever 'em is), I eat just as much as I want, saying to myself, "See you ARE in control." How ironic, because it's sort of out of control. Sometimes it's candy. Other times it's just larger portions of the "good" food I eat. Either way, I'm sabotaging myself and my goal to eat better and lose weight.

I think what it comes down to for me isn't so much managing my eating habits, but managing the other aspects of my life that feel out of my control. Recognizing my triggers for depression. By recognizing them, I am at least somewhat more equipped to battle them and overcome them, hopefully more quickly than the time before.

Interestingly, I almost always recognize the depression coming on and my reaction to it, but feel the need to wallow in it for a bit. That may seem masochistic, to knowingly allow myself to feel bad for a period of time before I decide to do something about it. But sometimes I have the need to really FEEL all the emotions that pass through me.

Also, there are times that I, cognitively, know what I ought to do to help myself through to a brighter side, but I just can't make myself do it for whatever reason. It's rather bizarre, actually because it's like sometimes I'm observing myself from a standpoint outside of myself. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and, know that everything will be alright, but I just can't get myself to just let go and go toward that light yet. Eventually, I do. Sometimes it just takes a bit. The other bizarre part about it, which makes me feel a little crazy, is that often I am capable of living a normal "happy" life, seemingly masking the feelings of sadness I'm experiencing at the moment. Sometimes, I feel that "faking it until I make it" actually helps me to get through it. Interesting.

So last night, my talk with my friends really helped me to talk through and think about my latest feelings of sadness. I'm grateful for friends who love me, who have it in their nature to talk about things until they understand them better, who understand "processing", and who just "get it."

I'm also grateful for communion with God. Believing that he truly is my Father in heaven, I believe that he wants what is best for me and will guide me through life allowing for experiences that will all ultimately benefit me, by refining me and making me a stronger person. I believe he's all-powerful. Having faith in Him gets me through. The Apostle Paul taught in Hebrews 11:1, that "faith is the substance assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." Faith is a principle of action and power. Whenever we work toward a worthy goal, we exercise faith. We show our hope for something that we cannot yet see.

Life is hard sometimes, but I believe that "all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7)

Photo a la moi (Berlin, March 2009)

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Forgiveness is a Gift.

About three weeks ago now, I spoke in Church in Sacrament Meeting. Given the topic of forgiveness, I, of course, read up in the Scriptures and recent General Conference talks, but also checked out a DVD from Netflix called The Power of Forgiveness.

After reading and studying the topic, I came to the conclusion that forgiveness is gift, a powerful healing cycle involving OFFERING forgiveness, SEEKING forgiveness, and RECEIVING it. We can more easily offer forgiveness when we have felt the love and compassion accompanying the forgiveness of our trespasses, which we've sought.

Offering forgiveness is difficult for many of us. Sometimes, it can seem absolutely impossible. It can also seem "wrong" to forgive someone who has done something so heinous. The concept that all people have human worth, individual worth, that they come from divine heritage, can help us to separate the offense from the person. Forgiveness does not condone one's behavior, but alleviates the stress and heartache from your shoulders. Being angry with someone only, ultimately hurts you. In fact, The Power of Forgiveness presented recent clinical research showing a link between forgiveness and lower blood pressure and other health benefits. Forgiveness brings with it powerful healing physically, mentally, and spiritually.

“This is not to say forgiveness is easy. When someone has hurt us or those we care about, that pain can almost be overwhelming. It can feel as if the pain or the injustice is the most important thing in the world and that we have no choice but to seek vengeance. But Christ, the Prince of Peace, teaches us a better way. It can be very difficult to forgive someone the harm they've done us, but when we do, we open ourselves up to a better future. No longer does someone else's wrongdoing control our course. When we forgive others, it frees us to choose how we will live our own lives. Forgiveness means that problems of the past no longer dictate our destinies, and we can focus on the future with God's love in our hearts.” (Elder David E. Sorenson, April 2003 LDS General Conference)

I fully believe that forgiveness is a divine attribute and is attainable through faith in Jesus Christ and God, our Father in Heaven. Forgiveness is not something you do once and then you're done. You must do it every day. It is not something that is manufactured, but we can create the conditions under which it can come, through our faith, through the Atonement of Christ, through a continued relationship with our Father in Heaven, and being blessed with the pure love of Christ. Such faith in Christ and our Father in Heaven will help us to sustain the worst of humanity, look beyond ourselves, forgive and be healed.

While visiting the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin, I came across this letter posted in one of their display cases, and was deeply moved:

Filling our minds and hearts with charity, compassion, and the love of God will aid us beyond measure. As renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh said, "Compassion is the antidote of anger." And I think the world could use a little less anger. Forgiveness heals. and allows us to focus on all that is good in the world.

Photos of church and letter a la moi (March 2009).