Friday, December 18, 2015

Bekki's School Bible.

Once upon a time, in the faraway land of PA, I was an adorable kindergartener...wearing a matching pink frock...with a despicable haircut.

BEHOLD!

I look the cutest—my outfit is the best.
I think after 16 years of school, I've learned a few things about how the system works.  I have this really weird thing about me—I really really like school.  I like the organization, I like learning, and I like having something to do.  Also, I think school is my #1 talent... or maybe even a gift of the spirit. I'm just good at school.  In high school and college, my courses never really posed a problem for me. I always knew that if I performed my best, I would succeed, and everything would be okay.  

I came to realize my... weirdness... after teaching at Snow College and BYU.  Some of my students truly struggled, which is okay.  School is meant to be challenging! When they met with me during conferences, some of them expressed frustration because they failed a math test, or they had to withdraw from a course because they were not passing.  They came to me for advice and comfort.  And how did I respond?

I lied.

I told them that everyone experiences a bum class.  To make them feel better, I told them that I've failed tests before and that I've even retaken a biology course.  But that's not true.  I've never had that problem for several reasons—my family is hugely supportive and has always pushed me to the next level, I am a perfectionist to a fault (Google OCPD), and I have this irrational belief that if I fail a class, I will go to hell.  Obviously, this is not exactly healthy, but it has gotten me here!

Last week, one of my cute students asked me, "Bekki...how did you do it? You're 21, and you're in grad school.  Do you have a school bible or something?"  Well, here it is... my school bible.

1.  Thou shalt not procrastinate the day of thy studying / homework / writing.

Students hear this all the time.  At the beginning of the semester, many of my students made a goal to avoid procrastination, but that didn't happen.  Even my classmates who are brilliant and talented procrastinate.  

I don't think I procrastinate... not because I'm better than others or because I'm smarter than others.  I don't procrastinate because I cannot procrastinate.  I just can't do it.  Even as I entertain thoughts of procrastination, my brain threatens to shut down.  I cannot work while feeling excessively stressed.  My body goes into panic attack mode, and I curl up into ball and roll around the room.  This semester, I had to start some projects last minute... not because I was procrastinating, but because I was investing so much time working on everything else.  Can you imagine my panic if I had actually procrastinated??? There would be much weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth. 

I start my major projects and assignments early.  My paper topics evolve during this time, and I allow plenty of time for brainstorming.  By the time I sit down to write a paper, my thoughts and ideas are fairly organized and developed, and I still have plenty of time for revisions.  In the last week of the semester, a lot of my friends were stressed and discussing how they hadn't even started their papers yet.  When they asked me about how my papers were going, I lied again.  I said, "I don't even know what I'm going to write about," to make them feel better.  Man, I think this blog post is only suggesting that I'm a liar.  

2.  Glory be unto thy professors --> Peace and good will towards students.

Each semester, I always try to establish a good relationship with my professors.  I make it a goal to meet with my professors at least twice throughout the semester.  I mostly approach them with questions about my papers.  Often, our conversations take different directions.  I can usually find out when my teachers like to talk about... their kids, M*A*S*H, the Manti pageant, or artificial intelligence.  When you visit your professors, you are demonstrating that you value their insights and authority.  

Additionally, I occasionally thank my professors for their class as I leave the room.  Don't thank them every single class period... that just gets annoying.  And having taught for a while now, I know how difficult it can be to put together a lesson or a list of discussion points for class.  Teachers should know that their efforts are recognized!

3.  When delivering a presentation, thou shalt eat, drink, and be merry.

This commandment is more manipulative, I think.  Every time I give a presentation for a class, I always bring food—brownies, cookies, bread, whatever! Here's why...

When my classmates partake of my offerings, they feel more of an obligation to listen to what I have prepared.  I get really annoyed when people do not offer their best attention during presentations.  Additionally, if... for some reason... my presentation goes terribly wrong, people won't remember.  People will only remember the yummies that I shared and the goodness of my heart for sharing.  And maybe, just maybe, (but not likely), my professors will be more forgiving of errors as they grade.  

4.  Watch Netflix and pray, that ye enter not into depression.

I cannot study, or read, or write for hours on end.  My brain needs a break—it needs some love! I always schedule breaks throughout my day, so I can give my brain a rest.  I don't really recommend watching Netflix daily, but you can do other things, too.  I suggest going for a run, shopping at the grocery store, visiting family, taking a nap, or going for a drive in town.  

I have found that these breaks are actually extremely helpful, as I am writing or preparing to write a paper.  Sometimes, I will see something random that makes me think of an idea that's brimming with potential for my paper.  For example, my nephew Theo and his parents came to visit UT.  Theo's diaper was getting changed, and it was smelly.  When I saw the diaper, I thought of my paper about Charlotte Perkins Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper" and how the narrator, at first, detests the color of the paper and finds the smell repellant.  I thought that maybe the wallpaper reminded her of soiled diapers and the burden she feels in caring for husband and child within the domestic sphere.  

Kind of a weird connection, right? Definitely... but I never would have found it if I did not take a break from studying and watch my sister change Theo's diaper.  (You might take a different break.)

5.  Write in the fleshy tablets of your heart.

Technology really is fantastic, isn't it? It's a life-saver in my classroom.  Whenever I incorporate an interesting graphic, a music clip, or a YouTube video for my students, they are so much more engaged in discussions.  

But I am still a believer in writing... handwritten notes with pens, pencils, and even crayons.  When possible, I always try to handwrite my notes during discussions or lectures.  I find that when I am forced to listen carefully to a lot of information, it is much more beneficial to my learning when I synthesize the information and record the most important points. I always remember the information because it really is inscribed in the fleshy tablets of my heart! When I use my macbook, I pretty much type my professors' words verbatim.  Everything truly goes in one ear and out the other.  

I discourage my students from using their laptops in class.  I try to enforce a no-tech policy, but I'm not as strict about computers as I should be.  But you want to know something interesting??? My kids who hand-wrote their notes scored As and high Bs.  My kids who typed out notes and probably got distracted on the internet didn't do so hot in class.  Coincidence??? I think not.  

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For those who might be struggling in school, study this school bible carefully and deliberately.  In addition to the actual Bible and The Book of Mormon, make this your daily bread, too.  




Sunday, November 22, 2015

Project Red Sink: THE BIG REVEAL!!!

Do you remember, back in July, when I posted the pictures of the condo my family bought? The house required a lot of work, but I said that it would be nothing like a Property Brothers renovation.  Well... that probably still is the case, but it definitely felt like one!!!

Now, it is with great pride, pleasure, happiness, and excitement that I present to you the final remodeling pictures.  It's not perfect, but this cozy abode has certainly come a LOOONG way from where it was! As a refresher, check out the "before" pictures.

The Bathroom:

I absolutely adore this bathroom.  Before, the walls boasted an offensive shade of paint, and the floors looked like the faux wood paneling on old station wagons.  Now, there are new floor tiles, the walls have a fresh shade of light blue paint, and the shower... oh the shower.  It's white, and shiny, and clean, and gorgeous.  AND this is the warmest room in the house, so it's easier to get ready for school and work.

There's actually another bathroom in the master bedroom — my room.  I actually don't use it because there is no heater vent.  Additionally, there is a huge skylight in the ceiling, so you can imagine how cold it gets in that little room.  Icicles hang from the faucets, and liquid shampoo is now a block. Obviously, I'm exaggerating, but it's TOO cold in there!

In the beginning of the school year, both of the bathrooms were being completely gutted at the same time.  That meant... I had no shower or toilet.  So, I became quite familiar with the clean bathrooms in Provo and Orem.  The Chevron across the street has a surprisingly clean bathroom, and the toilet seat liners are remarkably thick.  That brought much comfort to me.  After about a week of toilet hopping, the bathrooms were finally finished, and I thanked God vigorously.

The Bedrooms:

This condo has three bedrooms.  Mine is the first, the one with the blue polka-dot bedspread.  A lot of people have really classy bedding.  My bedding is so juvenile and so perfect for little children.  Thus, it is perfect for me.  The other two pictures are the guest bedroom.  It's the biggest bedroom in the house, and whenever my parents have errands or meetings up north, they occupy this room.  The third bedroom is not shone here.  It's currently a storage room!

These bedrooms took a while to finish.  First, we painted the rooms using a paint called "Cotton Sheets."  The paint really is pretty.  It's more of a creamy, off-white.  The pictures don't do justice because of the lighting.  The carpet is new, too.  Before, there was some laminate and a wretched bluish-purple carpet.  That's right... bluish-purple.

The Hallway & Entryway:


The Kitchen: 


The kitchen and the living room are my favorite parts of the house.  The kitchen was certainly the biggest transformation.  All of the cabinets were painted white, and they got new hardware.  There is so much storage space, which is fantastic.  And the counters were crafted by angels.  Forever, we debated on the material for the countertops.  We looked at laminate seriously, but they were very expensive, so why not splurge and go for the real deal? The countertops are granite, and they are gorgeous.  That blasted, disgusting, red, cast-iron sink is history, and it was replaced with a stainless steel sink.  The gas stovetop is new, too.  I feel like a dummy trying to make it work... I just hear clicks five billion times and turn the knob like crazy before I see the flame erupt.  Master kitchen for an incompetent chef, right?

The Living Room:
That sad little tree.  I love it so much.



I spend most of my time in the living room.  This room was fun to decorate.  If you can't tell already, I love pops of color.  I'm not really a fan of the whole neutral decor style because all I see are different variations of brown.  My favorite colors are navy blue and golden yellow, so I planned accordingly.  All of the walls were painted, but I especially love the wall with the pictures.  I was worried about the shiplap.  I was afraid they looked dated, but now, they serve as a focal point for the room.  The built-ins with my tiny t.v. are really convenient, too.

Oh, and you might be thinking, "Psshh. Those books are just for show." Not so, my friends! I read them all in a matter of weeks, and I'm running out of space for them.
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So there you have it.  This is my house.  And I love it SO much.  You might also be thinking, "Psshh. It will never stay that clean."  Super duper not so, my friends! One of the glories of living alone is that I can keep it clean.  And cleanliness is godliness.  So in this aspect, I think I'm pretty godly.  Some of my friends have suggested, "You should have a house-warming party!" I smile, and I appreciate the thought, but any type of party requires people in my house.  And food on the floor and rug.  And crumbs and spills on the counters.  And objects that are misplaced.  Yes, I'm a Scrooge, but I'm a clean one.

For the final huzzah, I considered it important to share my post-renovation portrait, modeled after the Property Brothers.  In their professional photographs, they always look so candidly robust and chipper.  Mine is more of a joke... and embarrassingly staged with an empty coffee mug, but I secretly adore it.


Love, Bekki

Saturday, November 7, 2015

It's Okay to Have Questions.

Some week it has been, huh? Social media has certainly exploded, especially with the Church's recent statement regarding policies for same-sex families.  The past couple of days have made me very sad and disappointed, but not for the reason you might suspect.

In this last dispensation, big things are happening.  For me, these things are complex, and I think about them intensely.  I truly wrestle with the Lord to try and understand why things are the way they are and why things happen the way they do.  Perhaps, this is merely indicative of a mere 21-year-old's budding testimony.  Or maybe, it proves that I truly have the mind of an English major who questions everything, even a description of a rock in some book.

My point is this — it's okay to have questions, and I am positively certain that I'm not the only one who has questions.  And yet, I am so disappointed to find members of the Church flaunting the news as if it's a victory conquest.  I see things like, "We're finally setting people in their place!" or "Amen to the Church whipping out the big guns!"

I saw these comments, and the tears rolled down my face.  Maybe some will think that I just don't have a testimony, but I think that we are estranging those who have questions.  We are isolating those who are struggling with doubt. When people see the hasty responses of members on Facebook, they feel alone, and they do not feel safe to talk to us.  And isn't that heart-breaking?

I can't help but think that Heavenly Father cries with those who are heart-broken and struggling to accept the Church's statement.  He, more than anybody, knows what is right, but He also knows that it's hard, and our Church leaders know this, too.  So for us... I don't think it's our job or privilege to parade around and declare that we are right.  Instead, I think our leaders and, more importantly, God expects us to reach out lovingly to people who are struggling.  They are our brothers and sisters, so why are we treating them otherwise?

When people have questions, we help them.  We listen to them.  We love them.  We encourage them to ask God in faith.  And when we encounter people who have doubts, and their hearts are hardened, we help them.  We listen to them.  We love them.  We encourage them to ask God in faith.  Regardless of where we are in our testimonies, our faith, and our progression before the Lord, we love each other, and we leave the judging to our Savior.  People need to feel safe to talk to us, which means we need to be extremely careful about what we post on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other sites.

And so, to my friends who assuredly have stronger testimonies than I, please be loving.  Be careful about what you say.  And if somebody approaches you with a question, say a prayer that the Spirit will guide your words and your heart.

And to my friends with questions, please know that it's safe to come to me.  I will not even pretend to know the answers, but my ears work just fine, and I know how to listen.  I'm learning, and wrestling, and growing, and praying... right alongside you!

Love, Bekki

 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

October Joy.

I think joy is a powerful word that is used carelessly.  For example, there is nothing joyful about an Almond Joy.  Coconut is gross.  This past month has been busy, challenging, but joyful, which is what I will write about! I used to think that my blog was just for me, but now, I'm realizing that my blog reaches a lot more people than I thought.  I want my writing to make you laugh, to make you ponder, to make you hopeful, and to help you see that life is beautiful.

~ I've been going home a lot over the weekends.  I love being with my family, and they make my transition to Provo-strange-people-life easier.  When I first moved to Ephraim, I didn't really like it.  I thought it was too small, and I felt uncomfortable when random people talked to me.  But now, I love it.  Whenever I go home, I detach myself from the craziness of school and work.  I can drive and only worry about one traffic light in town.  I can talk to neighbors and friends who make me feel so grown-up.  I can play with my dogs who hunt the mice in the garden.  I can buy wilted scallions at the grocery store.  Going home brings me joy.

Pumpkins!!! 

I love this photo.  When my family was driving to the pumpkin farm, we saw this rainbow.  This picture pretty much articulates my life philosophy — sometimes, life is stormy, and dark, and grim.  But there is always hope! And there are always small evidences of God's love for us.



~ When my family is happy, I feel joy.  A couple weeks ago, I received this glorious text message from my dad:


 God bless America, indeed! I like the truck, too.  It's white, it's not too bulky, and my dad looks so much more rugged when he drives this truck instead of the minivan.  But... my dad could drive a barbie jeep and still be a manly man.  For years and years and years, my dad has always talked about a truck and a tractor.  Whenever we were in parking lots, he would drift towards a dark blue tacoma.  I've made it a goal in my life to give my dad one of these dream items.  Now that he has the truck, that leaves me with a tractor!  So.... does anybody have a tractor I can have for $100?

~ I'm understanding more and more that we experience opposition so that we can better comprehend joy.  In the middle of the month, I switched medications because I've been experiencing some unfortunate side effects.  I'm pretty sure I have the bladder of a 90-year-old woman — my kidneys are now probably the size of kidney beans, and my liver could look like a deflated balloon.  It can be really dangerous to switch psychiatric medications, especially mood-stabilizing ones (cue the montage of my life, just one year ago!).  This experience was not as severe, but still difficult.  I felt pretty bad for weeks and was a weepy mess.  I cried in the bathrooms at school, so people probably thought I was passing a stone or something.  After weeks of hell, I went back on the original drug. And now, I feel soooo much better, and feeling better than I did before makes me joyful.

This experience has taught me many things.  First, water-proof mascara is an absolute God-send.  Second, sometimes I keep on fooling myself into thinking that I'm the master of control, and "I've got this whole emotional disorder thing down!"  I imagine Heavenly Father lovingly smiles when I think this, and He humbles me with every challenging experience.  I handle my trials just about as gracefully as a paraplegic gymnast, but I'm learning, and I'm still my awkward-weird-goofy-beautiful self.  And third, I am so lucky to have the greatest family ever.  My dad called me all the time to talk, and he just listened to me blubber incoherently.  And then, my mom would send me the sweetest text messages, reminding me that I'm awesome.  I am constantly reminded of how blessed I am to have my family.  Heavenly Father probably gladly handed me off to my parents when He couldn't handle me any longer.  I hope I bring as much joy to my parents like they do for me!

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No need to tell me that life is hard.  I feel like I have the statement branded on my soul.  Sometimes, I wake up in the morning feeling hopeless — I don't want to go to school or work, I don't want to see people, and I don't want to leave my bed.  But I've made it a goal for myself to see gentle works of grace — evidences that God's love is real, and it can be found in everything... even the air we breathe.  So try looking for those works of grace.  It's really made a difference for me.

Last thing, I promise.  I told my mom and dad a story about something that happened to me on Halloween.  It's another Bekki-shut-your-dang-mouth story that doesn't particularly bring me joy, but maybe you'll get a good kick out of it!

On Friday, I was walking to the graduate instructor offices when I saw a man with an elaborate cane and a limp.  He was wearing a tweed coat, a graphic tee, baggy jeans, and sneakers.  Excellent Dr. House costume, right? I try to complement people as often as I can, so I said to him, "You have the best Dr. House costume I have ever seen."  But instead of a smile, I saw a frown that was so sinister that even Clint Eastwood would be jealous.  Obviously, the man was not wearing a costume, and his limp was a real limp from a real injury from a real accident.

The moral of the story? I will never compliment people ever again.

Love, Bekki


Monday, October 19, 2015

Sometimes, I'm Stupid.

I'm flawed, and I'm aware of that.  I'm so cynical, it's a disease.  I rely excessively on humor when I feel uncomfortable.  I'm prideful and insecure... at the same time.  I overthink everything.  I also have stupid moments that are so beyond stupid, it's unfathomable.  

Flashback to when I was a darling four-year-old with a tragic haircut...

My family lived in a cute, white house on 9th avenue, next to Ursinus College.  This was back in Pennsylvania.  My dad walked to campus through "the woods," our large overgrown backyard with a bumpy path to school.  One day, I walked to campus alone with a pencil and a sketchpad I received for my birthday.  I wanted to sketch some of the sculptures on campus.  Seems like a lofty goal for a little kid, right? Well, I was like an unearthly imp, and I probably thought that I was channeling the inner spirit of Michelangelo.  Ursinus has weird sculptures.  I mean weird (look them up.)  I'm talking big-chested-metal-statues-with-triangles-for-heads weird.

Hmm...I guess triangle head is pregnant, too.

I marched to the Myrin library to sketch a statue of what looked like two mating noodles.  I don't know — I guess the piece spoke to my soul.  As I was sketching, a rather corpulent woman sat next to me and started a conversation.  She was really nice.  She invited me to her place for some cookies.

Now hold your horses before you immediately assume that my blessed parents neglected to teach me about stranger danger.  I'm sure they did... but they never warned me about strangers with cookies. 

Obviously, I mean... understandably, logically really... I was intrigued and readily agreed to follow this nice lady.  So was it really a stupid moment for an unsuspecting child?  To me... no.  But to my parents, absolutely.  To make a long story short, the campus policeman (Gary?) was watching and called my dad in a tizzy. I was rescued from this woman before she could sweep me away.  Apparently, she was a very bad lady and even kicked out the back window of the police car when she was arrested.  In trauma theory, some people try to bury disturbing memories deep into their subconscious.  Well, all I remember is a nice, large lady and the promise of cookies, so I emerged from this experience unscarred.

Flash-forward to Friday, October 16, 2015... when I was a tragically beautiful 21-year-old.

Just kidding.  After teaching on Friday, I stopped by Deseret Industries to make a donation.  There is a little drive-through where some hefty men help with your donations.  I left my car unlocked because I was only 2 feet away from the vehicle, and there were people working everywhere.  When I got back in my car, there was a middle-aged woman.  In my car.  Sitting in the passenger seat.  With a brown paper bag.  I think my heart rate skyrocketed as I thought, "This is it.  And God... please make note that my last action in life was donating to the needy."

This lady was wearing a Little Caesar's uniform, and she asked for a ride to work.  The store was about a block away, but she looked tired, disheveled, and her words were slurred as if she had a disability.  I was so hesitant, but Elder Holland's majestic face floated in my mind as I considered, "Aren't We ALL Beggars?"  But then I thought... "Okay, Elder Holland.  But what if your counsel gets me killed? What if we encounter beggars who magically appear in our car and carry suspicious brown paper bags?"

The smart thing to do would be to get out of my car and summon a DI worker.  What did I do? I said I would give this woman a ride, and I started driving out of the lot.  (Oh, when I told my sister this, she just about peed.)  While I was in the car, the woman started shuffling with her brown bag, and I panicked.  All driving rules were abandoned as I stared at her and the bag.  What I thought would be a gun, or a knife, or steel wire, or a wrench, or a taser, or a hand grenade.... was just Vitamin Water and a granola bar.  And then I felt guilty for my judgments and assumptions.

Just before I dropped this woman off, she asked me if I could explain to her boss why we were approximately 4 1/2 minutes late.  She seemed scared, so I chatted with the manager and left.

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So... was this another stupid moment in my life? Or can I think of this experience as confirmation that God will laminate my name in His Book of Remembrance? I'm not sure, but I need to be more careful — after all, I think I'm the only grad student with a shadow of a brain.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

You'll See Me Tomorrow.

September is National Suicide Prevention Month, and yet I chose to write this post on one of the last days of the month.  Why? — because the conversation is never over.  Because suicide claims the life of a hurting soul every 13 minutes.  Because exactly one year ago, I stared at the ground from the rooftop of a building, thinking that the end of my despair was one step away.

I am honored to support To Write Love on Her Arm's campaign: #tomorrow15.  There is always a reason to live for tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.  We need to help each other (and ourselves!) find the hope and joy that lives in the future, that lives in today.  And I want you to know why you'll see me tomorrow.

You'll see me tomorrow...

Because I want to be brave and stay.  I still get scared sometimes, but I know that's okay.
Because of my family, especially my mom and dad, Kristin, Kylie, and Brigham.
Because Theo Huckleberry needs his cool aunt, and so will baby #2 who will join our family soon.
Because of my silly dogs, Lucy and Ellie — the cutest, happiest trouble-makers alive.
Because of the friends who have touched me, as well as the friends that I have touched.
Because of the little kiddoes in my neighborhood who hug me, love me, and talk to me.
Because of my job — the opportunity to teach students what I love, to teach them what has brought me so much comfort and healing.
Because I am in graduate school — heck, I've gotten this far, and I'm not turning back!
Because of BBQ. And s'mores. And lemonade. And songs. And dusk. And stars.
Because of love, and I have yet to find the perfect kiss with the perfect guy for me.
Because Harry Potter is just beckoning for me to read the series again. And again. And again.
Because of banana-grams and the day when I will finally reign champion against my mom.
Because of M*A*S*H with my family, the Hogan's Heroes theme song, and Jeopardy.
Because of the millions of books that I haven't read, and the boxes of books I need to read again.
Because God is preparing me for something special, something so wonderful, and I don't know what it is.
Because of the places I have been and the places I have yet to go.
Because some day, I will be a mom, and I will be the most important person to a child.
Because of vintage bicycles.  And the new book smell.  And singing in the shower.  And a clean car.
Because one time, a homeless man said, "Life's goooood, yo." And even though he was high, I suspect he was right.
Because my house is almost renovated.  It's almost everything I planned it out to be.
Because I still cry at night, and I still feel sad.  But I know I will feel a little better when the morning sun peeks out from the blinds of my window.
Because there is so much more I want to learn, so much that I haven't learned, and probably, so much that I will never learn.
Because of sky-diving.  It's on my bucket-list, and I prefer falling with a parachute.
Because of summer evening walks.  And fresh eggs.  And those stupid chickens.  And sunflowers.
Because hope is everywhere.  It's in the air you breathe, the sunsets you watch, and the stirring of the wind.
Because I am a writer, and when are stories ever finished?
Because the "goods" and "greats" on a seminar paper feel like a congressional medal of honor.
Because someone is always hurting.  And I understand hurting.  I can help that someone.
Because I've been there, one year ago, on that tall building.  And I am never ever going back.
Because I have a story to tell, and I have a person, at least one person to reach.
Because I want people to ask me about my story.  I want people to ask about my scars.
Because my soul has been stretched so unbelievably far that it would make a rubber band envious.
Because I want to be here.  My friends and family want me to be here.  Heavenly Father wants me to be here.  And life wants me to be here.
Because I think I love being here.

So I'm here. 

Love, Bekki



Sunday, September 20, 2015

BYU's Secret Code.

BYU boasts a code, and I'm not talking about the Honor Code.  BYU has a secret code that's actually not-so-secret for seasoned zoobies.

I am not seasoned, nor am I a zoobie.  I don't even know what "zoobie" means.  Thus, I violate this secret code every time I step foot on campus.  I've gotten looks, and whispers, and stares, and even a "whatta jerk!" So please, my dear cougars.  Be patient with me.  I'm trying to understand your strange culture.  I'm trying my best to fit in.  I feel like the Hiccup among experienced dragon-slayers.

Secret #1:  Smile.  Even when you're not happy, smile.  Smile at people you don't know.  Smile at people you don't like.  I thought that I was a pretty "smiley" person, but compared to the rays of sunshine on campus, I probably look like this:


I don't smile enough, I guess.  Also, I believe my eyebrows are permanently scrunched together from reading and analyzing so many different texts.  This makes me look angry, even though I'm not.
Aside from smiling, everybody on campus starts a conversation with you, even if you're sitting on the toilet in the ladies bathroom.  (Oh, and I was not exaggerating on that last one — it happened to me last Thursday.)

Secret #2: People on campus never, EVER wear sweatpants or pajamas.  And, MORE IMPORTANTLY, it is wrong to ever assume that pants that might look like pajamas are pajamas.  A girl in my program was wearing bright plaid bottoms that looked so movable and baggy.  I told her that I liked her pajamas and that they looked very comfortable.  She stared and me and said, "You mean you like my pants?" She left the room promptly.  I guess the part of my brain that's supposed to register fashionable pants is broken.

Secret #3: When people on the quad hand you flyers, you take them.  All of them.  Every single one.  I did not.  A girl was handing out flyers while I was speaking on the phone.  I shook my head, I smiled, I whispered "no thanks," and continued walking.  That's when I heard this, "Rude!! Whatta jerk." I got so mad that I wanted to march right up to her and slap her in the face with those tree-killing flyers that people throw in the trashcans anyway.

Secret #4: Call the BYU buildings by their secret nicknames, not their actual names.  I once asked my peers for directions to the Spencer W. Kimball Tower.  They stared at me quizzically.  Apparently, this building is called the SWKT, pronounced "ticket" but with SW.  Does ASU have any secret building names?

Secret #5: When BYU secures two "Hail Mary" football games in a row, it is a testament to God's love for His school, as well as the talent and skill of football players and ol' Bronco.  I said it was merely luck in my class, and my students gasped as if I failed them.

Secret #6: Excessive PDA is not excessive at all, really.  This one... I just don't get.  I like seeing couples on campus, especially when they're holding hands or studying together on the green grass.  I think it's cute and charming.  I get really really uncomfortable when I see couples kissing a lot or when they put their hands in each other's back pockets and feel around.  When I see such couples, I feel like I am the only one staring aghast while everybody else zooms on their merry way.

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Now, don't get me wrong.  This is certainly not an attack against BYU.  I love this school, and I am having an incredible experience.  I have met so many good people who care about their schooling, their work, and their peers.  There is a sense of camaraderie in the graduate instructor offices that I have never experienced at ASU.  My WRTG 150 students are incredible — smart, hard-working, kind, and honest.  Everything is going right... except for the fact that I don't understand BYU's secret code.  There are probably several other secrets that I have yet to discover, so until then... I'll just be unconsciously offending people.  Because that's what I do.

(Did you know that tunnel-singing is a thing?!)

Monday, August 31, 2015

When Your Heart Feels Heavy.

Elder Richard G. Scott hit the nail on the head when he said this, "We live in trying times.  I need not list all of the sources of evil in the world.  It is not necessary to describe all of the possible challenges and heartaches that are a part of mortality.  Each of us is intimately aware of our own struggles with temptation, pain, and sadness."

This post is simple — I want to share some of my favorite, and perhaps lesser known, scriptures that have comforted me.  If your heart is heavy... if you feel an irrepressible gloom pervading your soul, I hope these "packages of light" will give you an added measure of peace.

1. Isaiah 26:3-4 
"Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.  Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord JEHOVAH is everlasting strength." 

"Everlasting strength" — now that is a beautiful promise.  It reminds me of grace.  Grace doesn't suddenly kick into action after you have given your best.  It's like an engine.  It is constantly running to give you that everlasting strength and love from God — every day, every hour, every minute.

2.  Psalm 30:5
"For his anger endureth but a moment; in his favour is life: weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."

I'm a crier.  I'm especially a crier at night when I reflect upon the day and seem only to notice my failures, my disappointments, and my pain.  But joy does come in the morning... if not tomorrow morning, then the next morning, or the next, or the next.  Sometimes, we have to look for joy.

3.  Psalm 56:9
"When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know: for God is for me.

That truth, that "God is for me," ought to be branded into our souls.  No matter what trials we face, no matter what mistakes we make, no matter how much the world changes, Heavenly Father loves us and watches over us.  He is our Father, and we are His beloved children. And "If God be for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31)



4.  Psalm 4:1
"Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness: thou hast enlarged me when I was in distress; have mercy upon me, and hear my prayer."

There are times when we plead with Heavenly Father to hear our prayers.  He hears them, but what happens when our petitions seem unanswered?  We have to recognize that in these moments, He is enlarging our souls to be stronger.  He is shaping our backs, so we can better bear our burdens.

5.  Psalm 18:36
"Thou has enlarged my steps under me, that my feet did not slip."

There's that word "enlarged" again.  We all have mountains to climb and treacherous paths to walk.  However hard these journeys are, Heavenly Father will not intervene by removing the mountains or smoothing the paths.  Instead, He will enlarge our feet.  In other words, we will be able to proceed with new strength and understanding.  Heavenly Father shapes us and not the nature of our trials.

6.  Romans 4:18
"Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be."

This scripture refers to Abraham, and I love the first part of the scripture.  Sometimes, it seems as if life is flushing hope down the toilet.  Do we believe in hope even when it seems like there is no hope? Because of Christ's Atonement, there is ALWAYS hope.  The challenge is always believing that.

7.  Romans 5:3-5
"And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also; knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

When I think about my experiences with a mental disorder, I don't think I was patient.  Nope, not at all.  It's hard to be patient when you hurt so much.  But I know that I have more experience, and I can give hope to others who are struggling.  If only we can always remember that our trials refine us! They truly shape us into people who are stronger, wiser, more compassionate, and more beautiful.

8.  James 4:3
"Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss..."

When I was in the midst of despair and anguish, my prayers sounded like this, "Make it stop. Make it stop. Please, please, please... make it stop." Will Heavenly Father ever deprive us of the learning, the experience, and the growth that comes from trials? Nope.  Do you have the courage to say, "Father, please bless me with the faith to accept whatever outcome Thou hast planned for me"? Do you have the faith to say, "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done"?

9.  Romans 8:18
"For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us."

I often get frustrated because I think my brain is broken.  I sometimes wonder if the suffering that I have endured and that others have endured was/is all worth it.  But the glory we shall receive if we endure patiently will be wonderful, beautiful, and breathtaking.  We will understand why things happened the way they did.  We will see how God was with us every step of the way.  And it will be glorious.

It's okay if your heart feels heavy — it really is, and it happens to everybody.  Luckily, we have so many resources at hand to bring us comfort, peace, and hope.  God speaks to us through the scriptures.  It's about time we bask in his loving words!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Here's My Story. This is Me.

My blog is mainly for me.  I feel good when I write.  I reflect when I write.  I see my own growth when I write.  That being said, I'm okay that this is a low-traffic blog.  This post, however, is for me, and you, and the community of strong and courageous individuals who suffer with mental or emotional disorders.

Jonathan Gottschall said, "If you want a message to burrow into a human mind, work it into a story." Well... here I am, and this is my story. 

Four years ago, my best friend said, "I wonder what it's like to have your brain. Do you ever get tired of it?"  To answer briefly, and bluntly, and emphatically, YES!!! Anxiety, depression, fits of hysteria and irrationality? I've felt it.  It started early, too.

In fifth grade, our class was learning about fractions.  After the first lesson, I felt like the numbers and fractions committed every deplorable assault upon my brain.  I sat in the corner of the classroom, and then I sobbed and shook, almost convulsively.  My teacher, a gentle man, probably broke every rule in the book.  He kneeled in front of me and held me firmly so that my classmates could not see my panic attack. 

During my fourth year of Girls Camp, I had a panic attack at midnight.  I thought I was dying.  I screamed, and shook, and cried, and scared my poor friends out of their wits.  They probably thought a bear was gnawing on my arm.  In the morning, before my parents took me home, I lied to my friends about what happened.  I told them that I was feeling sick.  I wanted to spare myself from shame and embarrassment. 

In my last semester of college, I felt intensely depressed, and I experienced hypomanic episodes where all rationality was tossed out the window with a bag of cats.  Call it bipolar II, a mood disorder, whatever.  The bottom line is that those episodes were scary — I felt destructive, and alone, and scared.  I often drove in my car in an attempt to clear my mind, but I sincerely wished that a reckless driver would kill me.  I spent hours upon hours in bed.  It hurt to move.  I counted to three to coax my limbs into moving out of bed.  I showed up to church and school with scars on my arms.  People asked, "Whoa! What happened?"  My responses got more and more creative. "Oh, you know I hate cats!" or "I'm terrible at long-boarding!" or "I've taken up juggling with knives!" or "The Wolverine came trick-or-treating this year!"  What would people really say if I told them that I went kamikaze-style on my arms with a shard of glass?

That last experience was quite recent, and it seemed like such a terribly long ordeal. While it still deeply frightens me, it has opened my eyes to a world where friends, family, and acquaintances don't quite understand mental health.  I'm not angry with them.  Their reactions are understandable.  My story is one of those stories that make people feel uncomfortable.  People might have already quit their browser and Googled adorable puppy pictures. If I've made you uncomfortable, I'm sorry.... but I'm also not sorry. 

Here's why.  Lousy mental health is real and everywhere.  I'll bet you have a family member or a friend who struggles mentally or emotionally — they just hide it.   And their instinct to hide their struggles makes sense to me.  Some people's responses to these afflictions can be foolish, ignorant, and offensive.  A friend emailed me recently, and her message saddened me.  She struggles with depression, and when she opened up to a friend, he replied, "Just be happy.  You're sad because you want to be sad, and you need to snap out of this dramatic behavior."

What's hard is that some wounding comments come from loved ones, people who are well meaning but fail to see the harm in their words.  "Just pray a little harder!" or "It could be worse...at least you're not like [think of a poor child in Africa who is starving]!" or "You're probably just PMS-ing!" or "Life is hard.  Tough it out like the rest of us!" or "Get out! Be happy! Go for a walk!" or "Be grateful you don't have a real illness."  That last one is a particular favorite of mine.

And the list goes on.

So here is my invitation to you.  I didn't write this post to garner sympathy.  That's just not me.  I've kept this post saved as a draft for months because I felt too ashamed to disclose my problems, I feared the reception that I would receive, and I didn't want to ruin the image of a girl who people say shines and spreads joy.  Now, I've grown, and I am including my story because I'll bet that some of you had no idea that I dealt and continue to deal with this.  If you think I'm being too presumptuous, then fine.  But just know this: I have a mood disorder, I am anxious, I feel depressed, but I can still radiate, shine, and spread joy.  I'm still Bekki.  But now, I'm the Bekki that would be really interesting to talk to if you were stuck in a broken elevator with me for an hour.

There are others like me, who appear happy, but they live in the shadows.  The world has become, in a way, inhospitable to them because they don't know where to turn for comfort.  I ask you to be kind, be sensitive, and be a listener.  Words are so powerful.  They can heal or hurt, so think about what you say.  If you don't know how to respond when someone seeks your help, that's okay.  All you need to say is, "I don't understand what you're feeling, but it must be so hard.  I love you.  I am here for you.  I am praying for you."  

It's time for change.  I believe it with all my heart.  I want to improve the attitudes of people everywhere towards individuals with mental or emotional problems.  I want to reduce the stigma.  I want to encourage others to be open about their mental health problems ­— don't be ashamed, my friends!  I know that is a hard request.  I'm living proof! But it's like what Jeffrey R. Holland said in Like a Broken Vessel.  Show no shame in acknowledging your problems.  It's no different than admitting that you have high blood pressure, or diabetes, or a funny looking mole on your rear.  Yes... while our stories vary, they are personal, and personal stories make people squirm.  But this is something we need to be open about, to spread understanding, compassion, and love. 


I'm passionate about this.  I want people to see my passion, understand my passion, and hopefully, accept my passion.  I feel slightly embarrassed in this request, but if you could share this post with someone you love, someone who might need this, do so thoughtfully, appropriately, and lovingly! Mental and emotional turmoil is real — it's time that people START NOW to accept it, understand it, and feel comfortable to talk about it.  It only took me over a decade, but here I am, and this is me.

Love, Bekki 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Taking it SLO.

NO... I did not spell "slow" wrong.

I spent about 9 days in California.  That's right — that Golden State with beautiful weather, breathtaking sites, expensive estates, and no money.  (Think twice before you complain about paying property taxes, friends.)

Our main destinations were Cupertino, San Jose, and my favorite, San Luis Obispo (SLO).  We visited, what I call, the Asian family — grandparents, cousins, second cousins, and others.  I dined with distant relatives that I don't even know and quickly realized that they are quick to speak their minds.  I am convinced that I am not Asian because my relatives look super Asian, and...well, I don't.

Perhaps most exciting was seeing my little nephew, Theo.  (His parents are great, too).  It is thrilling and almost sad to see him grow up so fast.  That chubster is a little boy now, and holy stars, he can squawk.  He's smart and knows what pleases his audience.  His parents can no longer eat ice-cream in peace, as he's realized that Heavenly Father has sanctioned ice-cream as celestial, delicious, and holy food.  He is the cutest thing that has ever graced this planet, and I am most proud to be his (cool) aunt.

Whenever we visit SLO, we go to the beaches.  Morro Bay is about 10 minutes away, and it's a favorite spot.  The salt water taffy tastes like magic salt water taffy, and the beach, while brisk and windy, is beautiful and open.  Morro Bay is most famous for its rock.  If you think you read wrong, you didn't.  I did indeed write "rock" — a big rock in the middle of the beach with a whole bunch of seagull poop on top.  It's pretty and more majestic than it sounds.  Trust me!

Then there's Cambria.  My family has gone to this beach ever since I was a little girl.  There is this particularly rocky area where, if the tide is right, the water will crash onto the rocks and splash everybody.  That morning was cool and foggy, and there was no splashing, but I loved the views!


It would have been funny if that bird pooped on him.




I can't describe the details of the whole trip.  That would take ages.  I can, however, summarize with some highlights.

1.  Obviously, seeing my Gung-Gung and Nai-Nai was wonderful.  They're funny, generous, and unique.  My Gung-Gung advised me to quit grad school as my health was paramount, and he remarked that the recent typhoon that struck Taiwan contributes to its greenness and beauty.  His logic is beautiful.

2.  The Madonna Inn is so gaudy, it's mesmerizing.  Their black forest cake is even more mesmerizing.  It's the BEST cake I have ever had IN MY LIFE.  Food porn? This is it.
3.  Downtown San Luis is so much fun.  There are plenty of shops, live music, and quirky little spots that you won't even believe are real.  Bubblegum Alley, for instance.  Imagine years upon years of saliva-filled gum stuck on a smelly wall.  Disgusting? Absolutely.  Pretty cool? Darn right.  But hey, you take one, you leave one. (Just kidding.)

4.  My grandparents' house is home to the relics of my mom's past.  I found her senior pictures, her childhood pictures, and one family picture where she looks (sorry, Mom) smoking.  My oldest sister's baby pictures are organized neatly in a large photo album in the house.  I found my baby pictures in a dusty and bug-infested box in the garage.  Feeling the love.

5.  Evening walks were pleasant, and the weather was perfect.  The neighbors' flowers were blooming and beautiful, so I borrowed some flowers and assembled a bouquet.  I just didn't give the flowers back.

6.  I liked spending time with my family.  12 hours in a minivan with them got a little...challenging, but I am glad that I could feel so close to them before I start a new chapter in my life.

Perfect vacation.  That being said, I am thrilled to sleep in my own bed, shower in my own shower, drink my own delicious tap water, and use my own toilet.  (Some of those rest stop toilets? I might have contracted AIDS.)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Project Red Sink — Part One.

You know the crazy, AMAZING, inspiring home renovation jobs you see on Flip or Flop, Fixer Upper, or Property Brothers?  Well... this home renovation will NOT be like those.

My family bought a cute condominium in Provo where I will be living for the next couple of years while I go to school.  The house has all the bells and whistles... a wood-burning stove, skylights, spacious bedrooms, and a massive island in the kitchen.

This house, however, does require a bit of some love and renovation, but we are doing a basic and simple job.  After the house was settled, my mom and I did some deep cleaning.  From the perspective of a legitimately OCD individual... I died and wanted to wear one of those bio-hazard safety suits.  Grease, and dirt, and dust, and bugs were everywhere.  Here are some before pictures:

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There's a reason why this reno job is called Project Red Sink.  Behold!!!  This crimson wonder certainly has character, but it's awkward, inefficient, and it's basically a cast-iron beast.  It's also a really strange custom size.  Since we are replacing the sink, we have to replace the countertops, too.


This is the rest of the kitchen.  It has great cabinet space and countertop space.  We are stripping the gloss of the cabinetry and painting them white.  We like things light — it will make the kitchen look so much bigger! We are also replacing the hardware... probably with some chrome fixtures.  The old hardware was terrible.  It was sticky, and it looked like squiggly worms.  As for the countertops, we are stuck.  We are trying to find a countertop that is durable, affordable, and classy.  Obviously, stone would be a dream, but we are trying to be realistic here.

 
Across from the kitchen is my favorite space... the living room! The beautiful skylight lets in so much natural light, and it gives such an open feel to the room.  And I love that wood-burning stove.  It gives the space character, and it's functional!!! The floor is laminate, but it's in good shape, and it will be convenient for moving furniture in and out of the condo.  The side wall has some funky wood paneling going on.  This could serve as an interesting focal point for the room, but it's got some pretty big, gaping holes that make it look like somebody shot several bullets into the wall.  This room has fantastic potential, though!  Oh, and that weird light fixture from the 80s? It has got to go.


In the rest of the house, there are three bedrooms and two bathrooms.  The bedrooms are in good shape, but the bathrooms need some work.  There is a possible water leak in the master bathroom that needs to be checked out, but the main bathroom is a piece of work.  The pictures speak for themselves.


There is more wood paneling in this bathroom.  And yes, the bathtub is a shocking shade of blue.  I'm not sure what we'll do with that, but I know we'll switch out the glass door with a regular curtain rod. The glass door is difficult to clean and maintain, and the element of privacy is still absent.  I get paranoid about those things.  I can appreciate the former owner's attempt to give the bathroom some beachy charm.  That sailboat trim just brings you to the ocean, right?  AND, this is my absolute favorite part of the bathroom...


I'm tempted to keep this gem... it's hilarious.  Somebody really wanted a window, so a window was painted and applied as a sticker to the wall.  And as the cherry on top, it's consistent with the beachy theme.  So... what do you think? Keep it or strip it?

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Overall, the house is in good shape, and the renovations are merely cosmetic.  We are getting new carpets and painting the entire house.  I am so excited to move in and feel like a big girl again.  So stay updated with this project.  I have a feeling that the final pictures are going to be flipping good.