Wednesday, May 30, 2018

I Turned Old.

I celebrated my birthday last week. I turned 24 on the 24th, which is apparently called a "golden birthday." It was a good day, and I appreciate the kindness of my friends and family. Thank you for your messages/phone calls/company!

Truthfully, turning 24 felt weird. I left early-twenties and officially entered mid-twenties. Now, I feel like an adult. Now, I feel like I can reminisce about the "old days." Now, I feel obligated to understand things like taxes or car insurance. I sent my friend this message:

The great thing about my birthday is that it always falls before Memorial Day weekend. Ephraim hosts the Scandinavian Festival on Friday and Saturday. Tons of food vendors line up on the street, and craft booths sell stuff that end up in a yard sale. There's also a parade, a car show, live music, pioneer tours, and athletic events. With the exception of the tours, I'm not sure what any of the events have to do with Ephraim's Scandinavian heritage. But it's still fun, and we think it's great.

On Saturday morning, I ran Ephraim's half marathon. Overall, I think it went well, even though I foolishly broke in a new pair of running shoes the day of the race. My old ones were garbage, and I have no idea how I ran in them. I like to describe my running pace as slow and steady. I thought, Cool. It will be like "The Tortoise and the Hare," and I'll be the tortoise who wins the race. Actually, slow and steady is just slow. It doesn't win the race. It crosses the finish line, but technically it loses. The hares in the race who flaunted their stuff didn't tire, they didn't take wrong turns, and they didn't take mid-race naps. They won. I hate to evoke the little league "everyone's a winner" mentality, but I FELT LIKE A WINNER. I was proud of myself, and it was exciting to cross a finish line where the other runners were already gorging on aebleskivers and cheesesteaks.

The race was hard. I ran 11.33 miles the week before, and that run felt fantastic. I almost died during the half marathon. It was hot. Even though we started at 6:15am, the sun felt smoldering (but I got an excellent tan). For much of the race, I ran along fields of crops with the sprinkler systems turned on. Some of the sprinklers rotated, and as I approached one, I prayed to Heavenly Father that one would splash me in the face. I missed the rotation of the sprinkler, and I seriously cried.

During the last stake conference, one of the stake counselors turned running into a delightful metaphor. He talked about how we're all striving to "run the race that's set before us" and how the finish line is like attaining celestial glory. I thought about his metaphor while I was running, and I kept on thinking, Right now, I think I'd rather lay down and die. 

But you want to know the best part of the race? It was my dad. A week before the race, Dad and I drove the half marathon route, and he wrote down instructions on an index card because I'm always nervous about getting lost. On the day of the race, Dad occasionally drove around in the mini-van to make sure that I wasn't dead in the gutter. He stopped to give me more gatorade, more ibuprofen, and more encouragement. One time, he yelled out, You're not last! There's a handful of people behind you who are lost or who are quitters! And that's GREAT!" He made me smile, and I'm smiling just thinking about him on race day. I sincerely hope that seeing Jesus at the Second Coming is as glorious as seeing Dad's mini-van half a mile down the road.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

April 2018.

Ephraim is a beautiful place to be during spring and summer. Each time I drive home, the green grass looks startling against the mountains, and farmers' crops are starting to flourish. And during these spring months, I want to adopt every baby calf and lamb and try to avoid the thought that they could grace my dinner plate. Just last week, my mom and I were stuck in the most delightful traffic jam:

Since the weather is nice, we spend a lot more time in the backyard too. I'm more fond of our chickens, even though I still think they look disgusting. I've even named them, but I'm thinking that it's foolish to get attached. A few have died within the year, including Brigham's favorite, Goldie. Don't worry, we're not terrible at taking care of chickens. They're just old, and they seem to miraculously produce more eggs whenever Dad entertains the idea of slaughtering them and buying new chicks. Lately, our dog Ellie has been grazing with them, probably because chickens are the only species with whom she doesn't feel threatened. She has the IQ of a rock.

This month has been busy but exciting. I supposed you could say that I'm officially an ISU Bengal. Benny the Bengal is not the most threatening mascot, but then again, neither is Cosmo. I registered for Fall 2018 classes, and I am so thrilled to be back in school. I also applied for housing contracts, and I will be moving to Pocatello in August. It's been great living in Utah, but I'm ready for a change. My parents are probably ready, too.

While trying to work out my schedule for ISU, I finished teaching another semester of classes at BYU. These students were great, but I was feeling a little burnt out by the beginning of April. My students informed me that I actually had ratings on I was delighted to find that I only had one terrible review from a kid who didn't even spell my name right. And I'm delighted to say that I know exactly who wrote that review, and I'm not a bit sorry that he hated my class. I actually started teaching for spring semester yesterday. I wrote my students a kind email explaining how this class is not for the faint-hearted since it moves twice as fast as a typical semester. And then, I was dismayed to find that a handful of kids dropped my class after the email was sent. Oops! But I'm really excited about this new crew. The first day went great, and they actually laughed at my jokes. This, of course, is terrible for my ego, and I flatter myself into thinking that I might be funny. But seriously...nobody ever laughs at my jokes on the first day of class. God must have been feeling particularly generous that day.

I finally finished some preliminary revisions of my thesis (I'm about a year late), and I thought it was decent enough to send to a scholarly journal. I expect that I'll receive a response within the next eight weeks, and, of course, there's always the possibility that the chief editor will tell me that my draft is absolute garbage. Which might be true. But regardless of her decision, I'm proud of my work and how much I learned during the revision process.

The last week of April was good... nearly perfect, in fact. Snow College held graduation, and the commencement speaker was Sister Sharon Eubank, a woman that I unashamedly idolize. I had the pleasure of spending an evening with her. Actually, I SAT NEXT TO her, and I ATE WITH her, and I TALKED TO her.... AND I HUGGED HER. That woman is breathtakingly articulate, wise, compassionate, and validating. As she spoke to other guests, she gave them her undivided attention and made them feel like they mattered. I would like to say that I was cool as a cucumber, but I couldn't stop fidgeting, and I kept on babbling about my aspirations and how we would enter through the gates of celestial glory, hand-in-hand. The last part might be an exaggeration, but we had a lovely chat, and she made me want to be a better person. Thanks for hooking me up, Marci!

The next evening, we drove to Salt Lake City to see the Utah Symphony perform Shostakovich. We blew a tire and drove on a spare, but luckily, we arrived at our destination unscathed. The conductor of the symphony is Thierry Fischer, and he's excellent. He's so animated as he conducts the symphony, in a way that I don't think is excessive or distracting. I talked him up so much only to find that my mom didn't care for him—"What meter is he conducting?" But we loved the performance, especially the piano concertos. I had goosebumps, and I'm pretty sure my jaw was on the ground the whole time.

On the last day of April, I went on a mini road trip with my dad. He had to go to Bryce Valley HS and Escalante HS to try and recruit juniors and seniors to attend Snow College. Whether or not his team's efforts were successful remains to be said, but at least our drive was beautiful. We drove by Grand Staircase National Monument, as well as Capitol Reef National Park. We stopped at some scenic views and saw petroglyphs on some of the rock formations. I've always liked going on drives with my dad, and sometimes I fear that I talk his head off, but at least I play the music and podcasts that he likes.

Can you spot the petroglyphs?

Earlier, I mentioned that my last week in April was nearly perfect. I feel like I cannot adequately finish a blog post before mentioning an embarrassing moment. Currently, I help with the music in Primary, and I made a ball that's covered in different, silly ways for the kids to practice their songs. 

On one side of the ball, I wrote "plug your nose" and thought that drawing a picture of a nose wouldn't be too difficult a task. I was wrong. I ended up drawing a cross between a piece of broccoli and a phallic symbol. I was so mortified and tried to mask the obscenity by including including a mustache and some eyeballs. But now, it just looks like broccoli/phallic symbol with a mustache and eyeballs. In an environment that's full innocence and purity, I'm discovering that I'm more of a corrupting influence. I can NEVER say, "Suffer the little children to come unto me," because I drew a penis ball for singing time.

Love, Bekki

Monday, April 9, 2018

Be Brave.

I've had my eye on the Bravelets company for a while now. With every purchase you make, 10% of net profits are donated to a cause of your choice. When I saw that there was a sale, I bought two bracelets and chose the National Alliance on Mental Illness as my cause. NAMI is an amazing organization that's committed to helping people who are affected by mental illness. Not only does it advocate for public policy that will strengthen mental health, but it also offers educational classes that help teachers, families, and individuals understand mental illness.

This small purchase has made me wonder what it means for someone with a mental illness to be brave. But this eludes an easy answer; I mean, being mentally ill can mean a million different things, just as being brave can mean a million different things.

I've noticed that the conversation about mental illness can be unproductive. I hear about people who successfully eliminate medication from their routines... or who meditate daily to help them gain more control... or who embrace essential oils to calm themselves. Those methods are great. But they're not great for everyone, which is why I worry when people endorse their way to treat mental illness as the way. Mental illness is not like a Hallmark movie—it's unpredictable, and it's different for everyone.

Being brave with a mental illness is being responsible. It's understanding that your treatment plan should be personalized. It's being willing to invest time and effort to figure out that plan. It's respecting your strengths and your breaking points. It's asking for help and being able to filter good from bad advice. It's owning it. And that's hard... good hell, that's hard.

A couple of years ago, I had a student who experienced a crushing bout of depression. At first, she tried to balance school and her mental health simultaneously, but the crisis was too much. I remember when she approached me after class to tell me that she was obtaining a medical waiver for all of her classes, so she could devote all of her time to her health. She kept apologizing, but I told her that her decision was incredibly brave, and I admired how she was taking responsibility for her academic career by first taking responsibility for her health. I don't see a lot of students do that. I'm afraid many believe that mental illness is somehow an illegitimate condition... that maybe they would feel less embarrassed to ask me for help if they had been impaled with a lance.

I make these observations, but I don't pretend to be an expert about this. I can count my bad days based on the number of cereal boxes I go through in a month. But I have a plan. I consume Lithium pills like they're tic-tacs (I sound like an addict, I know). Last week, I needed a refill and two girls saw my pill bottle (I'll be honest—the bottle looks like the cylinder container that banks use for pneumatic tubes.) I heard one of the girls whisper, "Now that's what I call dependency." I smirked and resisted the urge to punch her. I remember thinking, You best hope I don't hunt you down if I ever go off these meds. But after I simmered down, I realized that I am dependent on these meds, but that's nothing to be ashamed about, especially when they help me feel my best (and help me avoid punching stupid girls).

In addition to taking my tic-tac pills, I call my parents and talk to them whenever I need help. I respect my need for solitude. I keep a weekly log of my moods and note when and why I don't feel my best. I find that a little healthy self-deprecation helps me stay positive. This plan works for me, but it won't work for others. The point is that I try to be responsible about my illness, even though it's taken me years to figure something out. But the journey is so worth it. And this process has helped me learn that my mental illness defines who I am, but only in the best ways.

Being brave is hard, especially when mental illness gets such a bad rap. I've spent the last few years researching late 19th-century perceptions of mental illness, and it's remarkable how those century-old, ridiculous misconceptions have permeated modern-day conversation. It's never shameful to put mental health first, and anyone who says or makes us feel otherwise is a piece of... turd.

I also told that former student that she was one of the bravest girls I had ever met, and I meant every word.

Monday, April 2, 2018

M*A*S*H Got Me Into Grad School.

It's true. The TV series got me into NNU, a pretty university in Nampa, Idaho. Admission committees must be so tired of reading "it's my dream to be a counselor - here are my qualifications" essays. I try to tell a story that discusses my educational and professional experiences without sounding like a laundry list or a Miss America bio. So I wrote about M*A*S*H. Specifically, I wrote about Sidney Freeman, the smart, witty, and refreshingly authentic psychiatrist who has the respect of everyone in the unit (minus Frank). Sidney made a deep impression when I first saw the show, and I wanted to emulate his ability to help the wounded, all while showing that he was compassionate and human.

I interviewed at NNU a few weeks ago. The interviews went well, the other candidates said that I was scary, and I discovered that the library has a Starbucks. But the faculty member who interviewed me said that the committee was blown away by my essay, and reading my piece prompted a trip-down-memory-lane conversation about M*A*S*H.

I was accepted to NNU... and then I declined their invitation. The campus and faculty seemed great, but their website failed to mention that this was a three-year program with classes every night and on Saturdays. When I learned about this at the interview, I felt crushed because I loved Boise so much but didn't want to commit to a program that was intended for working professionals.

So I chose Idaho State, which also means that I chose Pocatello—the armpit of Idaho, the claustrophobic town with rundown buildings where Marty McFly could make an appearance at any time. At least the nearby town, Chubbuck, has Starbucks and Panera. Even though I'm not thrilled about the town, I am excited for my new program, and I'm excited for a change in my life.

March was an incredibly busy but delightful month for the Hood family. At the beginning of the month, Kylie, Alex, and Ollie came to visit from Georgia. In Mom's eagerness to feed and nourish her grandchildren, she went to get some groceries and brought home this haul:
And notice the recipient of the goodies is quite happy.

A couple weeks later, the Burgoyne family joined us. Theo and Alex enjoyed play/fighting with each other while the rest of us played with Vivi and made ridiculous noises and faces to make her smile. Spending time with Vivi meant constantly holding her, taking her on walks in the nice weather, and sitting on patio with her. I swear... if I were to approach my mom with a severed arm, she wouldn't notice if Vivi was charming her with a sweet, gummy smile. 

We all celebrated Kylie's 27th birthday.

The kids decorated Easter eggs.

We played AND WON the weird, HQ game. We won a grand total of $7, but judging by our reactions that day, you would have thought that we won the lottery. 

The kids went on walks, played with the neighbors, ran in the backyard, saw farm animals, and went on wheelbarrow rides. 

We got 4 new chicks, and I'm in love with the gray one. It's a shame they get so ugly. 

I got an Instant Pot, and I'm in love with it. I've always had my eye on the handy appliance, but I feel like it got a lot of unfortunate attention. At first, the Instant Pot made me think of those "authentic" and "candid" blogs where women wearing copious amounts of hair product and make-up take a thousand pictures of their culinary creations and tell 10,000 word narratives about their Nana who fed a hoard of orphans with a home-cooked meal. Just get to the damn recipe. 

So to keep it brief, I'll just tell you that the Instant Pot is worth the hype, and it's an incredible time-saver. And I'll only show you a single picture of my favorite creation, a classic cheesecake, and I'll spare you the long story of how my great-great-grandparents smuggled the recipe into the US while escaping a tyrannical regime... because that never happened. 

And finally, General Conference weekend was wonderful. I'm guilty of falling asleep through conference on several occasions. Sometimes, my eyes are open, but my brain is half dead. Needless to say, I'm grateful that the talks are available soon. The new changes excite me, but I'm happiest that we are going to involve the Young Women more in the functions of the ward. We want these girls to feel valued and appreciated, but our actions speak otherwise when we don't give them consistent opportunities to grow, learn, and serve. It already bothers me how we don't make a bigger deal out of the Personal Progress program. The PP program is a massive undertaking, and it's a significant achievement when these girls finish all of the requirements of value projects. I know the YW can get the job done, and I can't wait for them to have more chances to shine. 

I told my dad that my favorite part of conference was the solemn assembly—specifically, when we sustained President Nelson. I consider Thomas S. Monson one of the prophets of my childhood, so although I knew that he would be reunited with his sweet wife, his passing deeply saddened me. But my heart swelled when I raised my hand to sustain Pres. Nelson, and I knew that the prophetic mantle had been passed to him. I have a weird relationship with the Spirit, and it's difficult for me to discern whether or not I'm receiving a prompting or if my brain is just hyperactive... or a combination of both? But I've noticed that, since I was a YW, I receive consistent confirmations that we're led by a prophet, seer, and revelator. So despite the questions that I constantly ask about the Gospel and my frustrations when I cannot understand eternal principles while stuck in mortality, this confirmation about Pres. Nelson means everything to me, and it makes me feel safe. 

Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Prayer That Has Tina Turner's Approval.

For being the shortest month, February lasts the longest. But look what happened!

1. The highlight of the month was going to Arizona to visit Kristin, Jon, Theo, and Vivi. The weather was beautiful, and I missed seeing cactus, brown, and dirt. Vivi was blessed on Sunday, and Kristin gave the Relief Society lesson. I was secretly miffed, but not surprised, that Kristin's lesson was fantastic. Both of my sisters are good at everything. Theo was adorable, of course, and he liked dropping building blocks down my shirt. AND LOOK AT THESE PICTURES.


2. Valentine's Day was lovely—I crashed my parents' evening and ate their food. I tried to make it better by bringing my dad a chocolate muffin and buying flowers for my mom. But they needed a break (from me)...which is why they're on a cruise to Mexico. Right now. And I'm a little jealous, but I'm 23-years-old, and that's probably far too old to be crashing parents' vacations.

3. This month, I peed my pants during running. Twice. And as I write this, the thought occurs to me that this isn't suitable material for a public blog. But I kind of want to see if it's a shared problem to make myself feel better. When I suddenly think about the bathroom during a run, I can't stop thinking about it. I'm just glad that the compression shorts under my leggings effectively mask my shame. But there is a charming retirement community in Provo. Every time I go running on a Thursday morning, the same old man is walking his dog. He sees me and always yells, "Look at you!" It's hilarious, and then I run a little faster with my head held a little higher.

4. Happy Chinese New Year! I was particularly excited about the new year because it's the year of the dog, which is me. Dogs are supposed to be loyal, intelligent, hard-working, and responsible. They also have terrible communication skills, which might be true since I just described my bodily functions while exercising. But yesterday, I learned that Donald Trump was also born in the year of the dog, which snuffed out my soul. I told my sister, and she said that I was disowned from the family.

5. I'm discovering that bread is really hard to make, but I've been practicing. And failing. Remember when I charred the outside of my bread, but the inside was raw after 2.5 hours in the oven? My poor roommate, my parents, and the family chickens have had to taste my creations. But today's attempt was successful, as documented by this text message exchange.

6. I got accepted into Idaho State's Masters of Clinical Mental Health Counseling program, which is exciting. I had a meeting with the faculty in early February, and I felt flattered when they said that I should consider the PhD program. But when I left Pocatello, I felt lousy, like I can't see myself living here lousy. And that frustrated me because I had gone to the interview thinking this was the school for me. The back-up plan for my back-up plan exploded. (I'm on back-up plan #7 now. I counted).

When I got home, I felt low-key depressed and laid in bed. I prayed/complained/cried at the same time. This thing happens where when I pray/cry, I fall asleep. That happened, and I dreamed that Tina Turner performed "Better Be Good to Me" as a special music number in Church. And then, I distinctly remember waking up and finishing my prayer, Be good to me, Heavenly Father. Be good to me, which might have been profane.

But He has been good to me as I have considered other choices, and great ones too, for my life. I'm learning to feel okay with forks in the road. A professor at school reminded me about the sting and the blessing of agency—the idea that there isn't one choice that's obviously better than another.

I am learning that God can make many paths work and that He trusts me to make my own decisions. Making a successful decision is so much sweeter after taking the plunge, learning from mistakes, and developing step-by-step. And... someone should remind me of this if NNU rejects my application, which would officially exhaust my LAST back-up plan.

Love, Bekki

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Behold, Thou Art Little.

I've always loved the scripture where Lehi tells his son, Joseph, "Behold thou art little; wherefore hearken unto the words of thy brother." It's tender—Lehi knows his son is still growing, still learning and will need help.

I relish feeling grown-up, like I've got everything figured out. But I had several "thou art little" moments in a matter of hours. And let me tell you, I felt extremely little, and those moments didn't feel tender.

For over 6 months, I've been preparing for a new masters program with two schools in the running. On a Thursday morning, I opened my email and read the first rejection letter I had ever received in my life. I wasn't accepted to BYU's MFT program. I knew my chances were slim, but I at least thought that I would make it through the preliminary round. My initial shock cascaded into a wave of panic—I can't even make it through the first round—what if Idaho State rejects me, too?

I would like to say that I handled the news like a champ. I didn't. I cried until my face looked like it had been stung by a thousand bees. I wanted to drink away my sorrows at a bar, but I had to settle with drinking about a gallon of hot chocolate at Starbucks (thank you, free refills). And I felt little.

That night, I crawled into the covers of my bed, eager for some much needed rest. And then my phone buzzed with a notification that said, "Your Delta flight to Atlanta is in 2 hours."
Image result for wide eyes gif

I had been planning a trip to Georgia to visit my sister and her family. I couldn't wait to see my nephews. But my flight was at 12:55am, and I stupidly mixed up the dates, thinking that my flight was the next day. I called a Delta representative, but she said there was nothing she could do. I wasn't surprised, but it was worth a try. Long story short, I didn't go to Georgia, I lost the money I spent on my tickets, my sister was sad, and I felt even littler. I made an atom feel jealous. 

That day was hell. But I still had people that helped me. Another mini crisis—my application for ISU was due on MLK day, and I had a recommendation fall through last minute. I asked my bishop to write me a last minute letter because I used to work in his department, and he saved the day.

My dad was another rescuer. After both crises, I called him in tears and felt like a child, the whiney kind. He was loving, of course, and he told me that everything would be okay. And he was right. I felt a little better about things, and he helped me research back-up schools, so I could send new applications. We went to see the Utah Symphony perform Stravinsky's The Firebird (one of my favorite pieces), and it was the most wonderful thing I've heard in my life. 

In lieu of going to Georgia, I went to Logan with Dad because he had a meeting at Utah State. It's a pretty town, and I enjoyed spending time with him and eating pancakes in the emptiest, creepiest Denny's known to mankind. When were in the car, I told him that I felt sheepish for handling my problems so poorly. But he said that I didn't handle them poorly and that I would have reacted much differently if I experienced these things three years ago when I was already in the pits. And from that perspective, I think he's right. 

I'm glad that I have friends and family who love and help me. They made my week tolerable. I'm glad that my dad was there for me, and I know my mom would have been too if she had been home. When I emailed Brigham and told him about what was going on, he sent me one of his favorite talks by Elder Holland, "Good Things to Come." And I felt so proud of him. He also said that being a grown-up is overrated. So... behold, I am little. I guess that's not half bad. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

2017 — Top 10

It's easy to get bogged down by the past year's events. My daily ritual of listening to the news becomes more and more depressing with all of the bad things happening in the world. And I never thought that during my lifetime, we would have a president who gazes into the sun during an eclipse. Despite all of this, I had a lovely year and am grateful for the goodness my family has experienced.

1. I graduated with a Masters in English from Brigham Young University. Writing my thesis, completing a 2-hour defense, taking fascinating classes, and associating with my best friends and colleagues made me the happiest I've ever been. This picture is proof!

The graduation bell is cheesy and delightful. 

2. Heaven blessed us with two little ones. In May, the Kimbal family welcomed Oliver—the cutest, happiest, baby with droopy eyes and a billiard ball head. Before the Kimbal family moved away, I visited Ollie and Alex almost every week and loved playing with them. In December, Vivienne was born to the Burgoyne family. I haven't had the pleasure of meeting Vivi yet, but I can't stop looking at pictures of her!

3. I've been published for the first time. Twice! The first was an article submission for a contest on the website, Mormon Insights, and to my complete surprise, it has been shared over 100 times on social media. And recently, my scholarly paper about Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring, and Jungian archetypes was published in BYU's academic journal, Criterion.

These publications have been great starting points. Now, I'm trying to revise my thesis for publication. It's funny—when I finished the final draft of my thesis in April, I thought I produced the Magna Carta. But after setting it aside for months and returning to my work, I feel like my writing is no better than a comic strip from The Sanpete Messenger. That's the beauty of re-vision, right?

4. I cry when I'm angry, which is annoying. But few books, movies, or songs make me cry. Early in the summer, my Mom and I saw The Phantom of the Opera in Las Vegas, which always makes me cry. Yes, nothing evokes tears like a creepy, deformed man who stalks his crush and murders stagehands while singing opera.

5. For this summer's family vacation, we relaxed in San Luis Obispo, CA. All of the Hood kids were together. We enjoyed catching up, eating chocolate cake from the Madonna Inn, and sitting on the deck behind the orange trees. One afternoon, we were chatting in the living room when Alex (then 18 months) waltzed into the room with a smirk on his face. He was supposed to be napping, and we had no idea how he got out of his Pack-N-Play. When we went to the bedroom, we saw the he had stacked all of the blankets and stuffed animals against the wall, so he could climb out. Smart boy.

6. I was hired as an adjunct professor at BYU. I teach freshman writing, and I love my job. I like my office, I like my copy code, and I like my file organizer. I'm excited to start another semester next week! Last semester, a student sheepishly asked me out on a date, and I politely declined. I don't know if I should be flattered or mortified that I've become "that teacher."

7. Since this summer, I worked in a crisis nursery at a Utah family and support center. At first, I wasn't looking forward to the shifts, and I even passed out during the fingerprinting process for a background check, which was a wonderful way to demonstrate that I would care for strangers' children with the utmost attention. But I learned so much, I met a lot of kids, and I became particularly fond of a three-year-old boy who called me "Mommy." It broke my heart to leave him after my final shift.

8. This Top 10 list doesn't necessarily have to designate wonderful moments. Researching new programs and applying for schools hasn't been great, but it's been important, and it has taken up so much of my time. At the start of Fall semester, I was convinced that I was going to apply for the MSW program at BYU. After months of preparation (and completing the statistics class from hell), I attended an informational meeting where I discovered that this program wasn't the best choice for me, and my chance of admission was slim. I was mad (cue angry cry), and I'm sorry, God, for that very angry prayer/rant/tantrum that I screamed from my car in the parking lot where a guy was staring at me.

I've never liked the expression, "When God closes a door, He opens up a window." A window is too easy. It's more like, "When God closes a door, he opens up the cranny that the mouse crawls through." It's been frustratingly difficult, but I think I'm in the right direction for my future now (unless God thinks the mouse cranny is too generous and wants me to squeeze through a keyhole).

9. During Thanksgiving, we went to Glendale, AZ to visit Kristin, Jon, and Theo. I haven't been to AZ in a while. The weather was perfect, I got to visit good friends at the Tempe Institute, we visited my favorite shawarma joint, and we loved playing with Theo. We also went to a rich people part of Scottsdale where I saw the prettiest Christmas lights. Surprisingly, Christmas looks good on palm trees! People were dressed to the nines, and we were dressed to the... threes?

Dad & Theo playing. 
10. On Christmas day, we Skyped with Brigham for about an hour. He is serving in Arcadia, CA, and I'm thrilled to see that he's gaining weight. He even lifted up his shirt to display the bouncing, baby roll on his stomach. And I laughed so hard when he told us that his tie collection had expanded from 6 to 36. We are thrilled that Elder Hood appreciates variety in his wardrobe.

Even though I don't cry in books, movies, blah blah blah, I cried the most this year. Actually, I cried the most after I graduated. School gave me some permanence. And then I finished and thought, "Now what?" I feel like I've been stuck in Limbo, and Virgil hasn't gotten me out yet. One of the worst feelings in the world is to feel lost, and that's how I felt this year. But things are starting to piece together, which makes me so excited for 2018. In just a few months from now, I'll have made my decision about where I'll go to school and where I'll live. So I guess 2017 was a preparatory year. And I think it was a good one.

Happy New Year!
Love, Bekki