Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Christmas Time is (Basically) Hereeeee."

My parents have heard me say countless times, "No one loves Christmas more than I do." It's true. For me, the Christmas season starts on November 1st. Thanksgiving and Christmas are squished together into one, happy, delightful season. I know most of the words to every classic Christmas song. Mom and I practice a new Christmas duet. I drive around outdoor shopping complexes just to see their Christmas lights. Each year, I'm more and more convinced that our Christmas tree will be featured in Good Housekeeping (it never is). And I'm practically nonstop happy because everyone seems happier, more compassionate, more generous, and more hopeful.

I think Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen bring in the Christmas spirit beautifully. 
But really, Christmas is so wonderful because my family is wonderful. When my siblings and I were kids, we picked out a tree on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The tree smelled amazing. We fought over who would sit in the trunk to guard the tree that was shoved in the back. We always decorated the tree together, too. Mom and Dad have a tradition to buy a new ornament whenever they travel somewhere new, so we don't have any of the ornament sets that you buy at the store. When Brigham helped us with the tree, he always put the ornaments with pictures of him in the front of the tree, while ornaments with pictures of everyone else were placed in the back.

When Kylie and I were little, we would prop up the tree skirt with chopsticks to make a stable for our  play nativity figures. We would always hide the baby Jesus in the tree and see who could find it the fastest (sorry, Jesus).

Mom made sugar cookies each year, and we used cookie cutters and icing to decorate them. On Christmas Eve, we always read the nativity story in Luke. We dressed up as each person in the story, and we used a stuffed animal as Jesus (sorry again, Jesus). I was always Mary... with a bowl cut. Afterwards, we were allowed to open one present, which was usually a family game or PJs. And then we would pile into the car and look at the best Christmas lights in rich neighborhoods.

We all believed in Santa, but I can't remember when we stopped. Kristin, Kylie, and I used to share a room together. I remember on one Christmas Eve, we couldn't sleep because we were so excited for morning. Kristin suddenly bolted upright and exclaimed, "Bekki, do you hear that? Do you hear reindeer hooves on the roof?" On Christmas morning, we always wondered why Santa had the same wrapping paper as we did. Mom said, "Oh, he's so busy. He left the presents for me to wrap." Sometimes, we left cookies for Santa, and I even left a letter. I was so excited to read a note from Santa in the morning, but I saw that it was in my dad's handwriting. My dad said that Santa had a hand deformity, and he dictated a message for him to write. And I believed him. (I don't blame you if you're thinking that I wasn't a very bright child).

Mom and Dad tried their best to give us a special Christmas. We always waited on the stairs together, and Brigham got away with inching down the stairs the most. We could always expect to find clementines and colored pencils in our stockings. Whenever we watch the home videos, Mom and Dad always smile at how excited we got about coloring books, Boxcar Children books, and plastic grocery carts (my favorite present ever).

It's a little sad how different things are now. Everyone is gone. Kylie has a family in Georgia, Kristin has a family in Arizona, Brigham is serving a mission, and I'm....well...obviously I haven't moved on. I decorated the tree and the house by myself, I look at Christmas lights by myself, and I listen to  Christmas music by myself. On Christmas day, it will just be me, Mom, and Dad.  I have so many perfect memories of Christmas that it makes me wish that we were all kids again. And then I think, "Man... I need to get a move on with my life!" I'm trying. Seriously.

But one day, this is the Christmas that I want to give to my little ones, and I'm grateful that my mom and dad did everything to make it special for us. I'm even okay with the fact that Dad severely handicapped Santa.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Love, a Mental Defective

I consider myself to be pretty even-tempered. Sure, little things bother me, and I sometimes dwell on things more than I should, but I am rarely angry. But when I get angry....
Image result for angry explosion gif

On Monday, following the horrific shooting in Texas, Mr. Trump issued a statement saying, "I think mental health is your problem here." This is the part where I got angry. Actually, angry is an understatement. I exploded. Even though I stay away from political mudslingings (because, really, what good are they?), I must offer my two-cents. I haven't been able to stop thinking about this.

It's true that Devin Patrick Kelley was mentally ill, but Mr. Trump criminalized the entire mentally ill population. Maybe I'm jumping the gun here, but for the man who occupies the highest office, his words make a difference, and he needs to be more thoughtful. As soon as he made the careless remark, I saw several Facebook posts and opinion editorials that jumped on the bandwagon and alienated people who suffer from mental illnesses (although it made me feel better that most of these posts were poorly written). 

I have my own thoughts regarding the shooting, and I feel so sad for the families of the victims, but I will never pretend to grasp the magnitude of the issue, nor will I suggest short-sighted ways to "fix" mass shootings. However, I will always do my best to defend the mental health community that has been marginalized for far too long. And people wonder why the fight to reduce the stigma continues?

On the bright side, Mr. Trump's statement was an impetus, a good kick in the pants. It made me want to become a mental health counselor even more, so I can try to correct such misconceptions. And I know I can do it. Last month, my parents and I drove to Pocatello, Idaho for an interview with the graduate coordinator of the Mental Health Counseling program. That meeting felt good. It felt like a step forward. I have a few schools that I'm considering, but wherever I go, I want to make a difference by counseling individuals and educating communities about the reality of mental illness. And forgive me for sounding presumptuous, but I know I will be good at it. 

And now that Mr. Trump's tweets will be twice as long due to Twitter's new 280-character limit, the issue is twice as urgent. So, Mr. Trump... from one mental defective to another, watch it. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Summer Synopsis.

Summer has been good. Here's what happened:

What I Watched:
Summer is not complete without some healthy binge-watching, although I'm not sure the word "healthy" can ever be applied to that term. 
  • The West Wing - an old favorite. The complete series is on Netflix!
  • Hogan's Heroes - what I've been watching with my dad recently.
  • Shenandoah - Dad's favorite movie, but I wanted to hit Jimmy Stewart with a 2x4.
  • The Magnificent Seven - Steve McQueen is McDreamy. 
  • Casablanca - flawless in every possible way. 
  • Wonder Woman - delightful and seriously hokey.
What I Read/Listened To:
I've read my fair share of garbage, so I'm only putting the books that I absolutely loved, loved, loved... except maybe Sense and Sensibility. I feel like that's a rite of passage novel that you have to read. I also wanted to hit Marianne Dashwood with a 2x4,
  • The House of a Thousand Candles, Meredith Nicholson
  • The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • Far from the Madding Crowd, Thomas Hardy
  • The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
  • Persuasion, Jane Austen
  • The Age of Innocence, Edith Wharton
  • The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte (read this every summer!)
The Hoods' Music Playlist:
Every time we go on vacation, I try to compile music playlists that will appease everyone. I think the one unifying similarity between all of these artists is that they sported terrible hairstyles. Whenever I drive back to Provo, I laugh whenever people see me singing in my car. They probably think I'm singing to whatever junk is on the radio. I'm actually singing a duet with Karen Carpenter.
  • Styx
  • Carpenters
  • The Beach Boys
  • James Taylor
  • Stray Cats
  • ABBA
  • The Monkees
  • Elton John
  • Fleetwood Mac
Where I Went:
The family vacationed in San Luis Obispo, and it was delightful. We visited all of our favorite places, and we got to spend time with grandkids/nephews. Theo and Alex loved playing together. They squealed, chased each other, and threw rocks off the deck. My grandpa, who is ever so concerned about my health, encouraged me to quit my job and take up gardening or floral arranging. My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary, which is pretty fantastic. They went to a fancy steakhouse together, but I know that they were secretly yearning for my presence. 
Morro Bay—isn't this perfect?

On the Home Front:
Traveling is fun, but spending the summer in Ephraim is pretty wonderful, too. It's much cooler than Provo—stripping to just my garments is never necessary. My dad uses an oil drum that's been sawed in half as a fire pit. We make fires and eat s'mores. I don't really care for golden brown marshmallows. I prefer to consume polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons that cause cancer. In other words, I like my marshmallows charred... completely black. I swear ash flies off my s'more before I take a bite. 

Ephraim has become a kind of retreat. As I've said many times before, our friends and neighbors are perfect. The natural landscape of the area is beautiful. At night, I love looking at the stars from the patio. We're so removed from civilization (seriously) that you can see millions of stars and swirls in the sky. Our backyard is perfect, too. My dad's garden is like an oasis, and he always plants my favorite flowers along the back fence... sunflowers!

Isn't this perfect, too? We live here!
What I'm Doing Now:
1 - I am preparing to teach three sections of WRTG 150 at Brigham Young University. I've been hired! I am so excited for the semester to start, but I am nervous to teach 60 students. We had an adjunct training meeting today, and I feel ready to go. I consider this my first real big girl job. I have an office, a copy code, a mailbox, a hole puncher, and a fake plant. It feels amazing

Upgrading all of my lesson material and plans!
My office! And this might be my first ever selfie.
2 - I am still working through my prerequisites. My social work class is nearly done, but I'm at a standstill because my criminal background check for volunteering at a certain agency has yet to be cleared, which seems sketchy. As far as I know, the only crime that I've committed is that I've never seen Star Wars. But I'm willing to live with this blemish on my record. 

3 - In the beginning of this week, I got a glimpse of the freshman orientation at Snow College. It was really fun to meet new students who are eager and terrified to start a new chapter of their life. I also enjoyed being my dad's shadow as he helped with various aspects of the orientation. I watched him give a little lecture, and it made me so so so proud that he's my dad. 

4 - Sometimes I feel like I dream in poetry, but my life is prose. I have massive expectations about how I think my life should pan out—career options will seem clearer, classes will go smoother, dates will be more successful, and I'll handle stressful situations more gracefully. And then, I find myself sorely disappointed when things don't go according to plan.

But today, I made a humbling discovery. Five years ago today, I had my very first day of school at Arizona State University. Five years ago, I walked through a massive campus feeling like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. But it was the best decision of my life. And now, five years later, I have a bachelors degree, a masters degree, and an excellent job at a fine institution (I hope I don't sound really pretentious). I am glad that my life didn't precisely follow my blueprint, and I am glad for the unexpected twists and turns that have gotten me here. So when I quit thinking like a fool, I see that my life is the dream!

Monday, July 17, 2017

Top Things (Summer Edition).

It's been a while. Let's play catch up.

1. Kylie had a baby boy named Oliver. He's cute and squishy. I think his nose is my favorite part of him. I'm always flattered when my sister says I have the magic touch with him. 

2. Last Tuesday, Brigham re-left(?) for his mission in Arcadia, CA. I'm so happy and excited for him. I secretly hope that when he finishes, we can celebrate in... I don't know... Disneyland. 

3. Mom and I went to Vegas in June. We bought tickets to see The Phantom of the Opera in February, and it was delightful. The music gives me the chills, and I'm convinced that my heart isn't made of stone because I always cry at the end. Our trip included everything but the strip—Barnes and Noble, Starbucks, Premium Outlets, Raising Cane's, and a remarkably clean China Town. 

4. I finished the stupid statistics class in record time—45 days! I'll brazenly scream to the world that I got an A- because I stressed more about this class than my entire academic career. And I'm convinced that I gained 10 pounds while studying and completing assignments. I had a system; every time the class annoyed me, I ate an M&M. I ate a lot

5. I went to the eye doctor, which seems lame, right? NOT SO. My doctor said that my eyes were exceptionally healthy, and I felt like a star. Quite different from my other doctor visits in which we acknowledge that my brain circuits and neurotransmitters are permanently fried, but everything else seems peachy. 

6. Kristin, Jon, and Theo came to visit us in Ephraim. This picture captures their personalities beautifully. Theo loved the fireworks on the 4th and our neighbor's exciting (wink) display, too.   

7. I'm trying to be more domestic. Mom is going to teach me how to sew a blanket, which might be a terrible idea since I couldn't even sew the practice paper in 6th grade. I'm also baking. I'm pretty proud of my peasant bread recipe, even though it tastes like air. I tried my hand at Philly soft pretzels, which was embarrassing. My batch looked like it emerged from a thigh master. 

8. Today, construction workers are at my house installing new windows. And thank heavens for that. The old windows are not energy efficient, and they invite the entire insect kingdom to reside in my home. And when I wake up to find a spider on my bed, I get so freaked out that I just cry. 

9. Ever since I graduated from school, I've had a bit more time to read my books... not scaffold narratives or modernist fragments or disabled feminist theory. I actually pick books from my bookshelf. AND I READ THEM. This has made me exceptionally happy, and I even celebrated by upgrading my Kindle on Prime Day. 

10. So where does this leave me now? I'm happy, despite the fact that I have a major existential crisis/breakdown each day at approximately 9:00 pm. I'm still working on prerequisites for my new program, but I'm filled with so much uncertainty about a brand new discipline. I hate feeling uncertain about my future, even more than I hate the spiders coming through my window. And my preparation for my application has been frustrating. I'm trying to get volunteer experience under the supervision of an MSW, but I'm finding that people don't respond EVER to letters, emails, texts, phone calls, personal visits, and cutesy post-it notes shoved under office doors. But I'll keep trying, and pesting, and praying that everything won't amount to a huge mistake. 

I'm feeling burnt-out. I think I need a vacation, but I'm not the kind of person who will put a chip in my bank account for a vacation. So I'll wait until my parents go on vacation, and I'll just happen to tag along with them. 

Love, Bekki 

Friday, May 19, 2017

The Pseudo-Statistician's Lament.

During my last week of school, I distinctly remember telling my friends, "I cannot wait to take a break from school work." And yet here I am... taking Principles of Statistics (or How to Hate Life in 38 Lessons) through BYU Independent Study. This class is one of three prerequisites that I need to take for a new program.

I approached the class with immediate dread, which was only perpetuated when the introduction in the textbook read, "In statistics, the gain will be worth the pain." The PAIN??? Couldn't the editors just leave it at, "You will gain so much!" Of course, that would be lying.

I'm convinced that this class is impossible for English majors. The quizzes and exams are comprised of multiple choice and true/false questions. I analyze the questions extremely carefully and keep a list of poorly worded questions, so I can include them in course evaluations for my teachers' benefit. I'll quickly ascend to the top of my professors' favorite student list. On one particular occasion, I got a practice quiz question wrong, but I took a screenshot of the textbook that proves that I am, in fact, RIGHT. I would include these pictures, but there's no need to secure my reputation as a snot.

I also get really defensive when I'm working through my course. I talk to myself, even when I'm in the offices all alone. When the practice quiz practically taunted me and said, "You are incorrect," I bellowed in a most un-ladylike fashion, "LIKE HELL I AM!" And then I quickly repented because I remembered that I was on the Lord's campus. Oh, and one time, I got an 80% on a quiz. That was particularly soul-crushing. I haven't gotten an 80% on a test since the seventh grade.

Some of the concepts are difficult to wrap my head around. My brain is not wired for exactness and finite answers. After all, my degree has prepared me in interpretation and artful BS-ing. Anyway, I draw special diagrams to help me figure stuff out. Behold:

Note the outliers. Fassbender breaks the scale.

I've come across a term called "Discrete RVs." Of course, the last thing I think of is a random variable whose set of values is finite. Nope, I picture this:

There are only 27 lessons left for me to complete. ONLY 27 long, agonizing lessons. And I feel perfectly wretched for complaining so much. I tell my students on the first day of class that I detest complaining and that if they get a B or C, it's not the end of the world. But I will heretofore alter my first day lecture by excluding all math classes from such rules.

By the end of this class, I fully expect to look like this:

Another outlier for the "ATTRACTIVE SCALE," yes?
Love—the Ever Pessimistic, Pseudo-Statistician,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Top 3.

1 - For my early American print culture class, we went on a field trip. We visited Reid Moon where he showed us his incredible book collection. He's a collector but not the self-declared-I-think-I'm-impressively-literary-book-collector. Moon collects rare books, particularly LDS books, documents, and letters. For instance, I believe he has seven first editions of the Book of Mormon. While listening to his stories and looking at his books, I felt like my heart would burst from my chest. I touched the books that belonged to Marie Antoinette, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and even Adolf Hitler. Here are just some of my favorites:
  • The original manuscript of Section 11(?) from the Doctrine & Covenants
  • King James's copy of the King James Bible
  • Joseph Smith's vest pocket copy of the Book of Mormon
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin signed by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Common Sense, published by Robert Bell (the first publisher)
  • Shakespeare Folio, 4th edition
  • And though I cannot stand the movies, I held the One Ring to rule them all used during filming
With all of the books and other treasures in the room, I felt like I was breathing the very air of my literary heroes. I got home and called my parents to tell them about my experience. And I still talk about it with them. People get high on drugs; I get high on really old books that smell like antiquity, feature brittle and yellow pages, and are signed by dead people. 

2 - This same class (an amazing class) went to a chocolate shop to workshop our papers. Our class is really small, so we have the luxury of going anywhere for class. And miraculously, we're still productive, even with amazing food and the best chocolate. This little store is called Taste, and since our class meeting, I have been back to the shop too many times. It's gotten so bad that all of the employees know my name, they know what I study, they know what I order, and they know how I like my table set up. The chocolate is so rich and amazing, but I get tons of work done in this shop because they have no wifi! Thus, I am forced to grade batches of assignments, and I draft fairly quickly. So if I one day leave this shop looking like a small, French pastry cart, at least some good scholarship comes out of it. But I flatter myself by thinking that if I type on my computer faster, I will actually burn all of the calories that I consume. 

I mean... how could anyone resist?
3 - And of course, I graduated from BYU with a Masters of Arts in English. You are now hereby permitted to call me Master Bekki, or Master Hood, or even Hood Master. Just kidding. The actual convocation is not exactly my cup of tea. I consider it a formality that is interminable and inconvenient. We stood outside the Marriott Center in the freezing cold, just so I could walk on stage, shake a bunch of sweaty hands, and collect an empty diploma book. The graduation gear, for example, looked like it got tossed in a garbage truck. My gown was frayed, and wires from the hood were sticking out and stabbing my neck. It was like the poor man version of acupuncture. And the cap doesn't look great on an Asian, blockish head. 

But I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I appreciated the experience, and I actually loved one of the speeches given at my graduation. He talked about the importance of a degree in the humanities, even when everyone seems to make jokes about it. This degree opens many doors in the world. I especially loved when he said that this degree makes us a well-rounded human. I needed to hear this. At the beginning of the week, I spoke with a staff member to get more information about the Masters of Social Work program. She said, "Well, this is certainly a useful degree!" After letting that slip, she blushed and quickly apologized. I laughed it off, but it's been bothering me for a while now. When I told one of my professors about it, he cheekily said, "Well did you slap her in the face and flip her desk over?"

What she doesn't realize, however, is that studying English makes me a better person. Reading and writing makes you more compassionate, more empathetic, and more informed about the world. And I think that is what will make me a good mental health counselor. That is, if everything works out in my brain (which it never does)!

Needless to say, I am grateful for my program, for my degree, and for everything that I have learned. I loved school, and I loved my professors who cared so much about my scholarship, my life, and my future. Even though I have learned so much during this program, I don't feel two years older and wiser, too. I still feel like a dork, so I guess I'll keep shopping around for Masters degrees until I stop feeling like one. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Top 4.

My top 4 for the month, besides the defense of course.

1 - About a month ago, I purchased a 3-month membership to the Provo Rec Center. It's been fantastic, especially since I've been getting bored with running. I discovered that I love zumba classes even though I'm terrible at dancing. My lack of coordination is spectacular, and I've face planted twice. My sister and I did an aqua zumba class last Thursday, which is perfect for her pregnant-ness. I accidentally kicked her in the butt, and I stepped on her foot.

A few weeks ago, I attended a pilates class. 15 minutes in, however, I thought, "There is no way this is a pilates class." It was actually the P90X workout from hell. I couldn't leave the workout because it would be too conspicuous, so I suffered 55 minutes of agony. The other people in the session practically glistened when they sweat. I looked like I was dunked in a river. They were able to hold conversations comfortably. I sounded like a squeaky toy was lodged in my throat.

2 - Two weeks ago, I attended the Phi Kappa Phi initiation dinner with my parents. Apparently, PKP is the nation's oldest honor society and NOT a virus that crashes your hard drive when you open the "Congratulations!" email. The evening was delightful, and the highlight was the keynote speaker who made so deep an impression that I forget her name. But really, she was funny, authentic, spiritual, and intelligent. She gave practical advice that wasn't riddled in the Mormon cliches that I'm not particularly fond of. My other favorite part was when my parents swapped out poached pears for chocolate cakes from other people's place settings. Instead of the arrangement of cake, pear, cake, pear, cake... my parents made it cake, cake, cake, and dumped the pears on the other side of the table.

3 - BYU hosts an annual English Symposium every year. I presented a paper in the—wait for it—"Graduate Panel." This panel was basically for the papers whose themes didn't fit anything else in the conference. We were the residual dregs of the submission pool. Again, my mom was a sweetheart and came, but I think my presentation interested her. I presented on Igor Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" (it's that Fantasia scene where volcanoes erupt, and dinosaurs die). This paper was extremely fun to write; I loved incorporating the ballet and the score into my research, and I felt like a winner when people were not only awake but chipper during my presentation.

4 - This happened today. When your Electronic Thesis Dissertation is successfully accepted by the Graduate Studies department, you get a chocolate bar, and you ring a fancy bell. This might not seem like a big deal, BUT IT IS. This is like the cherry on top; the amen at the end of a sermon; basically a thumbs-up from Jesus. And I had the pleasure to share this sweet moment with my friend Nicole, who finished her work at the same time. The pictures tell it all.