Saturday, December 31, 2011

In which this year is finally over.

Dear 2011,
You have been my most intense year yet. You've brought me some of my happiest times and greatest adventures. You have been a year of romance, of friendship, of hiking, of random dance parties with roommates.  You started with me slaving away at the piano preparing for my sophomore recital, which I somehow managed to prepare for and perform. You brought me new friends and reminded me how much I love my major, even when I feel insecure about it. You took me to Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Germany. I learned how to survive in airports by myself, how to deal with homesickness, and how much I miss my family when they're far from me.

You haven't been the kindest year. You took my brother and my best friend from me, replacing them with letters and weekly emails. You gave me scary and exhilarating questions about my future, which started full of excitement and optimism, led to confusion and doubt, and eventually ended in heartbreak. But even then, 2011, you gave me a family who love me, friends who don't mind when I cry in front of them, and classes and work to drown myself in. You've given me exciting new jobs and volunteering activities, and the best grades I've had in a long time.

2011, you've given me more pain than I ever thought I could handle. You brought me low enough to finally seek help. You gave me a diagnosis, and the beginnings of treatment. And somehow, you've brought me hope that things will get better.

Yes, my friend, it's been a good year. I plan to look back on you and smile at the thought of gelato, Doener kebaps, mountains, waterfalls, and castles. But 2011, right now the most honest thing I can say about you is that I'm glad you're finally leaving. We've made some good memories, but I'm ready to be done with you. You've really overstayed your welcome by a few months, and I'm ready for a new start. I doubt 2012 will be any easier, but it will be different and new, and hopefully, even better than you.

Thanks for the ride,

Karissa

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In which I love Elder Holland.

"Second, we must change anything we can change that may be part of the problem. In short we must repent, perhaps the most hopeful and encouraging word in the Christian vocabulary. We thank our Father in Heaven we are allowed to change, we thank Jesus we can change, and ultimately we do so only with Their divine assistance. Certainly not everything we struggle with is a result of our actions. Often it is the result of the actions of others or just the mortal events of life. But anything wecan change we should change, and we must forgive the rest. In this way our access to the Savior’s Atonement becomes as unimpeded as we, with our imperfections, can make it. He will take it from there."


"Broken Things to Mend," April 2006.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

In which I am content to begin with doubts.

Sir Francis Bacon:

""Another error hath proceeded from too great a reverence, and a kind of adoration of the mind and understanding of man; by means whereof, men have withdrawn themselves too much from the contemplation of nature, and the observations of experience, and have tumbled up and down in their own reason an conceits.

"Men have entered into a desire of learning and knowledge...sometimes upon a natural curiosity and inquisitive appetite; sometimes to entertain their minds with variety and delight; sometimes for ornament and reputation; and sometimes to enable them to victory of wit and contradiction; and most times for lucre and profession; and seldom sincerely to give a true account of their gift of reason, to the benefit and use of men: as if there were sought in knowledge a couch whereupon to rest a searching or restless spirit...But this is that which will indeed dignify and exalt knowledge, if contemplation and action may be more nearly and straitly conjoined and united together."

"If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts; but if he will be content to begin with doubts, he shall end in certainties."

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

In which depression really sucks, you guys.

You know how sometimes when you cry, your makeup smears, and then some of that makeup gets trapped behind your contacts and then it stings really really bad but you don't want to take your contacts out because you like being able to see and your glasses are broken?

Yeah, that's why crying is a poor choice.

In other news, the semester is almost over. So, ya know, that's good.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

In which a shameless plug is made

So, this semester I'm participating in the Artsbridge Scholar program at my university, where I get to work in an elementary classroom helping to integrate music into their curriculum. I'm going to be going to a 4th grade class once a week to teach music, and I am incredibly excited. As part of the program, I'm required to document my experiences in a blog. If you're interested in seeing what I'm up to, you can check it out here: http://karissateachingadventure.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

In which I am excited.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is my favorite. 

Also, I visited the dump today, which I had never done before.

And yesterday, I decided that fourth grade is my favorite grade to teach, which is ironic, considering it was my least favorite grade to be in.

Also, today will be the first time I've ever listened to more than one Sufjan Stevens song in a row. And I can't decide how I feel about him. I think we're going with, "Bizarre, but in a way that kinda really appeals to me." But I'm not sure. Maybe I just like it because people have been telling me for years how much I would like Sufjan Stevens.

That is all.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

In which ward conference is more entertaining than usual.

Our poor stake president. Just trying to get all us singletons married off. Never even saw it comin'.

"Girls should be the passive ones. Don't argue with me!" he glared at those who giggled. "Boys need to be more aggressive."

"Have you ever seen a flower chasing a bee?" he continued, "No! Flowers just stand there, and look pretty and smell sssoooo gooooood."

And then a raised hand, "President, you do know that any bee you see outside the hive is female, right? The male bees stay inside the hive and pretty much do nothing."

Made. My. Day.

EDIT: I should admit that I took a little artistic license on this one. What he actually said was that all bees are girls. Which isn't true. So I changed it, because it's my blog and I can do that.

In which I edit

Sometimes I go back and read my old posts, and change around the words and phrases I don't like.

Because I can't do it in real life, so it's nice to be able to do it somewhere.


In fact, I just did it with this post. One full paragraph, GONE. Just because I can.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

In which I put in my two cents on "The Great Hipster Debate"

Hipsters, the twenty-first century enigma.


Everyone has seen them.

Everyone can recognize them.

But when asked what exactly a hipster is, we all find it problematic to describe them without incriminating ourselves.

We mock them. We revile them. We make blogs about them. And we protest vehemently if anybody accuses us of being them (except for those of us who wish we were cool enough to be hipsters...but that's an issue for another post)

The main beef people seem to have with hipsters is that they are disingenuous. They listen to obscure music to sound sophisticated (but not music so obscure that nobody will be impressed by the band names). They eat organic food, wear TOMS shoes and recycle in order to appear socially aware.

They dress in thrift store clothes to look original and unique, but really just end up looking like everyone else who shops at thrift stores.

They liked Arcade Fire before they won a Grammy.


(As a brief side note, will everyone please take some time to search "Hipster Disney" in Google Images? I promise you, you will laugh.)

Interestingly enough, I've noticed a similar insincerity in the anti-hipster movement. People complain about all these hipsters trying to be so cool, but just looking like posers. They complain about all these kids running around in skinny jeans and listening to vinyl. You know what that sounds like to me? That sounds like someone having an issue with the mainstream culture!  That sounds dangerously like...hipsterism! Judging someone for listening to Band of Horses and Fleet Foxes is really only one step away from judging someone for listening to Nickelback. That's right, friends. By hating on the hipsters, you have unconsciously become what you most hate. Good work.

Here's what I ask: can we just...stop?

If you like Belle and Sebastian, listen to Belle and Sebastian.

If you care about recycling, recycle.

If you'd rather ride your bike than drive, by all means, hop on that ten-speed.

And if you genuinely love vintage clothing, hit up that thrift store and shop to your heart's content.

And if someone calls you a hipster, don't worry about. It should only sting if you only listen to indie music to sound edgy, or if you shop at the organic store simply because that's where your friends shop.

And you know what else?

If Nickelback is your cup of tea, blast it.

If you can't get behind the vegan movement, eat you a juicy steak.

If you think skinny jeans look idiotic, good news, you don't have to wear them!

It's okay to like mainstream things. It's okay to like obscure things. Just....like what you like. Do what makes you happy. Don't stress about labels. And...please try not to label other people. It hurts, and doesn't do much good for you either.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to go listen to Iron and Wine while wearing a sweater and chunky-framed glasses.

Monday, November 14, 2011

In which I state a clear preference.

Since I'm going to teach elementary school one day, (well, actually tomorrow, if you count guest-teaching in somebody else's classroom as "teaching elementary school,") I think it's important I take a stand on a very divisive, and yet important, issue.

Markers versus Crayons.

I thought about listing the relative merits of each, but really all the marker has going for it is a lack of controversy about the pronunciation of its name. (Everybody, crayon is pronounced CRAY-ON. Not "cran." Not "crown." Not "crenn." Ok?) So I'll just list all the reasons why crayons are the superior coloring implement:

With crayons, you don't get ink all over your hands and then leave inky smudges all over your previously-pristine visual aids.

Crayons never run out of ink.

Kids can't vandalize each other's faces with crayons.

Crayons give you a much more brilliant color than markers, typically.

There is so much tactile satisfaction to be had from coloring with a crayon. Something about the extra pressure needed and the rub of the wax on the paper just feels right.

You can make rubbings with crayons.

You can shape crayons into race cars (and other things too!)

Crayons smell like joy.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

In which I iterate a list of things that irk me

The phrase: "Attitude of Gratitude." I don't know why, but it makes me cringe. Every. Single. Time.

The Washington Post Social Reader Facebook app. I refuse to download the app because I don't want the entire Facebook community to know that I'm reading about "Beyonce's Incredible, Unique, Miraculous Pregnancy." This means, however, that I get to see all the tantalizing headlines from articles my friends are reading, without being able to read them myself. It's...maddening.

Spotify. For similar reasons.

Too-long eyelash extensions. Girls, having baby tarantulas attached to your eyelids is not attractive.

The dating scene. I would like to either be completely single and romance-less, or have a boyfriend who loves and adores me. None of this going on dates with boys who I don't actually like that much. None of these mini-crushes on menfolk who won't ever reciprocate. As Patrick Henry once said, give me true love or give me asexuality. Or, wait...that was...liberty...death...never mind.

Well, I think that's enough for today. That was wonderfully therapeutic. As always, thanks for listening, Internet friends.

In which I add my drop.

Friends, let me tell you a story.

Three years ago, a friend of mine started a club. The purpose of this club was to raise awareness about human trafficking, and to make what difference we could in ending modern-day slavery. I was passionately involved in this club, and the following year, was an officer in it. I believed in the cause, I loved the people in the club, I felt like the little we were doing mattered. I had a grand vision of myself graduating college, swooping into third-world countries, and saving them from their poverty and despair. This vision expanded beyond slavery; in my fantasy world, I was going to solve world hunger, end poverty, and give everyone an education.

And then...something changed.

Maybe it was fighting with my then-boyfriend about whether or not I had a "Savior complex."

Maybe it was the remorse I felt after I stood up my roommate for a temple trip in order to chat up the visiting founder of a non-profit organization I was particularly interested in.

Maybe it was looking into the research done on certain types of NGOs, and realizing that oftentimes, they did more harm then good.

Whatever it was, in the middle of a letter-writing session at Free the Slaves Club, it finally all caught up with me in a rush of futility

I started making excuses not to come to meetings.

I stopped advertising the club to everyone I met.

I told the other officers I was too busy to be an officer anymore.

And then I disappeared from the club.

Since then, I've focused my service efforts closer to home. I've mentored local children and volunteered in elementary schools. I've tried to be a better sister, a better roommate, a better friend. I've tried to make the most of my church callings. I've realized that I can do more good for those in my immediate vicinity than for those on the other side of the world. I haven't been perfect, but I'd like to think that I've made a difference.

And all this time...I've kind of been ignoring what I can do on a more global scale. I tend to get overwhelmed when I think about all the many, many things that are wrong in this planet. Knowing that any tiny effort I can make will have an almost negligible affect has discouraged me in the past, and has kept me from doing the little I could.

But tonight...somehow I ended up back on my old club's blog. And I found a link to chainstorereaction.com. At first I rolled my eyes, thinking, "Oh yeah, writing letters to corporations, that's real effective." But then I saw the quote from Margaret Mead on their consumer page, reading, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." And I thought of the story of Naaman from the Bible, who would have done "some great thing" had the prophet counseled him to, but who was reluctant to go through the simple act of washing seven times in the river. And so I followed the link, and signed my name to some form letters to companies like Speedo, Lunchables, and Pizza Hut.

And you know what? Maybe it won't make a difference at all. But maybe one of those companies will get enough of those letters that they'll change some of their business practices. And maybe that change in business practice will  hurt one slaveowner. And maybe that will bless the lives of just a few people. And if it doesn't, I invested all of five minutes into it.

I'm still not sure if I'm ready to dive back into the international development world. I think right now the primary way I can make a difference is to concentrate my efforts on becoming a better teacher, so that I can enrich the lives of my future students. And my boyfriend was right...I did have a savior complex. I've worked hard at overcoming it these past couple of years, and I'm afraid that reentering that environment would bring it back. I want to help, but I want it to be for the right reasons, not simply to satisfy my pride. Nonetheless, I think when opportunities like this come, opportunities to make some kind of difference in global problems I truly care about, I can't feel justified passing them up.

If you've gotten to the end of this post..thank you. And can I make a request? Will you check out chainstorereaction.com? If you don't agree with what they're doing, then feel free to close the tab and don't think about it again. But if you, like me, think that corporations could use a reminder to keep their labor slave-free, go ahead and fill out a few of their form letters. And will you also go check out BYU Free the Slaves blog? The people there are passionate, committed young people who are doing their best to make a difference, and they could use your support.

Not one of us is going to save the world today. And I highly doubt any of us will be the next Mother Theresa. But I'm slowly...slowly realizing that that isn't the point at all. We can each only do a little, tiny, infinitesimally small amount of total good in the world. But when all those tiny little drops of good combine, we can flood the world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Copied from the Vienna Journal, Episode 2

Stephansdom Cathedral, 25 June 2011

Gothic cathedrals don't make me feel small. Or rather, they do, but they make me feel as if being small isn't a bad thing at all. I follow the lines of the arches and vaults and my soul expands to fill the entire space, joining with hundreds of other expanded souls, reaching, spilling upward to Heaven, to Our Lord.

I do not feel small because I do not feel any size at all. I feel my being melt and merge into a Holiness full of souls, where each soul is unique and precious, and all are filled with the light and love of Christ.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Copied from the Vienna Journal, Episode 1

I scribbled this down while awestruck in the Rembrandt room of the Kunsthistorisches museum in Vienna

I think art, in its best form, is a way we share ourselves with each other. A way of saying, "This is how I see the world, please let me show you." All truly honest painting, writing, musical composition, tries to do that.

And I think that sharing of souls, of perspectives, is so important.

"Here is what I think is moving, touching, beautiful, sacred, frightening. Please share it with me."

And the sharing is never perfect. Everyone interprets each artistic conversation according to his or her own experience. But I think the communication is often more clear, more perfect than with verbal language.

And I think it's wonderful that I can sit in front of these paintings, and maybe feel for a moment how Rembrandt felt about his son, or understand how he envisioned the Apostle Paul, or what the lines on his mother's face meant to him.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In which I smile my way through several tests and papers

You know you're in the right major when simply doing your homework for hours relieves your anxiety, loneliness, and worry more than any of your leisure-time activities do. I've been in a bit of a funk all week, and though I felt better while I was playing with my Callie, hiking with Warren, watching Rifftrax movies with Cindy and Josh, and singing in my choir concert, it was a distractional relief, gone as soon as the distraction ended. But spending hours and hours today and yesterday reading up on child development, studying classical concerto forms, analyzing a Mozart piece, and writing a paper about social competence in 4 year-olds has brought a lasting, permanent mood change. It's like the difference between...I don't know, a pain-killer and an antibiotic? I think the fact that I'm doing something productive, challenging, and enjoyable (to me) has some kind of magic to it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

In which I feel like a deprived monkey

So, one time there was this psychologist named Harry Harlow. He liked to study monkeys. In one of these studies, some baby monkeys were separated from their mothers, and had two choices of fake "mothers": one made of wire with a bottle attached, and one made of cloth with no food source. The baby monkeys would use the wire mother when they were hungry, but then would instantly jump back over to the cloth mother to cuddle with it. Harlow's conclusion? Attachment is based more on contact and comfort than mere physical needs.

Today I feel like one of those monkeys...except that I don't have a cloth monkey to cuddle with. My basic needs are being met, I have friends and people to talk to, everything is going right...
But I am definitely not meeting my hugs-per-day quota. And some days...that is really hard to take.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

In which I have many options, none of them viable

So I'm at this point in my life where beginning to date someone would probably be a stupid move on a lot of levels. And I know this. But I think the part of me that generates romantic feelings, my "twitterpater", if you will, gets bored without a subject. However, so as not to compromise my emotional security by thrusting me into a relationship, my twitterpater has fixated itself on completely unobtainable (and sometimes non-existent) guys. Don't believe me? For your viewing pleasure, a list of some of the men I've fallen for in the last week of my life:
Simon from Firefly
The boy I had a mad crush on in 10th grade (or rather, his Facebook persona. I don't think I've actually seen the boy himself since he got back from his mission)
The fellow who used to come to the Cannon Center every day back when I cashiered there (or rather, his blog.)
The Piemaker from Pushing Daisies
A Humanities student who I tutor
Konstantin Levin from Anna Karenina (seriously, I would marry him in a heartbeat if he were real),
A writer for an anonymous Internet forum.
And various and sundry real human beings who are unattainable due to various circumstances.

I am a fan of this. People to daydream about, but with absolutely no commitment or risk? Sounds like a win-win to me! (For now, at least).



Monday, October 17, 2011

In which I feel like I should post something

Guys...I'm TIRED.

I feel like I wake up so early and then I run around and do lots of things and then I go to bed far too late.

And a lot of the times I'm sick of it, and wish the weekends were longer and that I could relax.

And then I reflect on how much time today I spent making music (4 hours today, peeps. And half of that I got class credit for). And how much of that time I was listening to music. And how much of that time was spent having fun with my family, or chatting with my awesome work friends. And working with a children's choir. And talking to one of my best friends for the first time in 2 years (and realizing that friendship is a pretty durable thing, even when time stretches it). In all honesty, it was a wonderful day.

So yes, as I crawl into bed tonight, the thought of waking up again in 6 hours sounds dreadful. And yes, I wish I had more free time in which to write, to read, to run, to hike...

But still, though tomorrow will be as exhausting as today, it holds promise: learning about music, teaching, children, and life from a master teacher. Singing at the BYU Devotional. Cleaning buildings, sharing stories, and laughing a lot with my custodial pals. Studying facsimiles of Bach manuscripts. Celebrating a dear friend's upcoming marriage.

So yes, my life makes me very, very tired.

But I'm certainly not tired of my life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

In which I decide to be the coolest parent ever

I'm currently sitting in the main gallery of the Harris Fine Arts Center, doing my homework. There's a beautiful student art exhibit going on right now, entitled, "Transformed by Light". Right now, there's a man (one of my professors actually), exploring the exhibit with his kids (who look like they range in age from 3 to about 7). Typically, the terms "art exhibit" and "kid-friendly" don't seem to mesh well. Kids don't have the attention span, sophistication, patience, depth, etc. etc. to understand art, right?
But he's walking with them from painting to painting, saying things like, "Whoa, check out the line on this guy's arm, isn't that cool?" and "Why do you think the artist decided to paint him like that?" And then one kid sprints across the gallery to another painting, saying, "Dad, Dad, this one's really cool!"
These little guys understand art. It speaks to them. They may not know all the compositional terms or have context for all the cultural references, but gosh darn it, they feel something. They look at this artwork and are genuinely excited and engaged. I don't think these kids are the exception. I think children are capable of enjoying a lot more than we think. As a future teacher and (hopefully) a future parent, I feel passionately about this. I intend to teach my students and my children about art, music, and beauty, not by sitting them down and lecturing at them, but by giving them opportunities to engage with the arts, to be touched and to express themselves.

Because that place where you've forgotten the real world, that place where you're moving and swaying to the music without noticing, the moment where you feel like the painting has swallowed you up inside its world, where the sculpture is about to spring to life....

That is where beauty happens.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In which I miss the pond's other side.

Things Austria does better
Ice cream (Zanoni and Zanoni's, baby....)
Chocolate
Bread (I would seriously kill for a loaf of Wienersopft right now)
Kebabs!!!! (Ok, this isn't really something Europe does better. This is something Europe has that America doesn't. I think we need to get more Turkish immigrants here so that we can have kebabs...I miss me a good Doener).
Cows (Austrian bovines are some of the most beautiful cows you will ever see).
Green frolicking hills
Architecture (even the dizzying rococco architecture that made me want to vomit is more beautiful than anything I've seen here)
Museums
Street performers. (Honestly, listening to street performers was possibly the best part of my entire trip to Europe. I should post some of the videos I took..)
Mountains

Things America/Utah does better
Pizza
Mac and Cheese
Milk
Cereal
Having Karissa's friends and family be there
Slot canyons

That is all for today.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

streamofconsciousnessstreamingandstreamingandconscious

What makes me "me"?
If someone were to ask, "Who are you?" how would I respond?
Some answers: A musician, a teacher, a student, a friend, a wordsmith, a pianist, a runner, an adventurer, a daughter, a sister, a human.

Sometimes I worry that I'm not "me" enough.

Or that I let some me's crowd out others.

The student's been crowding out the pianist and the runner lately. I must do what I can to bring them back, without letting my grades slip.

The friend died for a day or two last night, but was coaxed back into life by loving hands.

The wordsmith feels neglected, the musician longs for more....
and

the human...
is still trying to figure out what this all means and where this is going and whether anyone out there can understand and who am i anyways?

I am an adventurer. I am a musician. I am a friend. I am a human.



As a side note:
Today I decided that I need to climb more trees, splash in more puddles, and jump in more leaves.

I also discovered that well-used words are intoxicating.

I wish I knew how to wield these words more beautifully.


Monday, September 12, 2011

In which I create an alternate reality in my MIND!!!

I have just decided that I cannot accept the way this afternoon is going.
I am writing a paper I don't care about, eating a peanut butter sandwich where the bread is dry and crumbly, AND I have a knot in my back.
So, using only the power of my imagination, I have created a solution.
In just two minutes from now, the most attractive man on earth is going to walk through the doors of the HFAC, stand beside me and say, "Karissa, you are the raddest chick in creation, and to commemorate this fact, I have brought you a footlong sweet onion chicken teriyaki from Subway. Also, your favorite shake from the Creamery! I have also brought along my sidekick who is an expert in child development research methods, and he's going to write the rest of your paper for you!" He will then give me a neck and shoulder massage. The chicken teryiaki will be delicious. My paper will get an A. Life will be grand.

Like I said...in two minutes....wait for it....wait for it.....




Nothin'. Geedangit. Oh well, I've almost finished this nasty dry PB and J, so I wouldn't have room for a chicken teriyaki anyways....


**Update: a few minutes after I wrote this, my very kind Form and Analysis T.A. came up and asked me if I needed any extra help in the class (I do...), and then my beautiful friend Emily provided me with some lovely conversational distraction. So...not quite a neck massage and a Subway, but it'll do for today.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Some reasons for happiness today.

I'm wearing a happy yellow Threadless shirt, cargo shorts, and no shoes.
My feet are happy and bare.
The end of my homework is in sight.
I just took some delicious bites of a Milka bar (how I missed European chocolate...)
I don't have to go to work today!
I had Honey Bunches of Oats for breakfast today (that, in and of itself is reason for rejoicing).
I had Mac and Cheese for lunch (Can you see the importance of food in my life?)
I'm listening to my little sister and her friends make a movie about pirates. It's hilarious.
I watched SOOOO much Kid History today.
I'm starting to recognize the joyful new opportunities that come from painful life changes.
I get to have a girls night with my favorite apartment of friends tonight.
I got to sightread Beethoven for a while today...for homework!

Yes...life is good.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

In which I turn one year older and wiser too.

Today I am 21 years of age. It doesn't feel like that big of a change, because I've been telling people I'm 21 the entire time I've been here (I have this tendency to lie about my age sometimes...). But nonetheless, I am now a real adult. I have a history of being out of town on my birthday: 2 while I was at girl's camp, one in Yellowstone with Jessie, and now one in Vienna. It started with a package from my mother (which I forgot to take pictures of...oops), full of American granola bars (a staple of my life) and a cake mix that I shall make later today. I spent my morning learning about Klimt, Schiele, Mahler and Schonberg (PS did you know that Leonard Bernstein had like, the same life story but in reverse? Mahler was born in Europe, conducted the Vienna Phil, and then crossed the pond to conduct the New York Phil. Bernstein was born in America, conducted the New York Phil, and then conducted the Vienna Phil. Oh also they both were Jewish. So it's fitting that Bernstein kind of brought Mahler's music out of obscurity.)
I've always had mixed feelings about birthdays: I hate being the center of attention, and so I feel strange having a day all about me. But I've learned from experience that if I don't tell people about my birthday, it'll come out a few days later, and then instead of one day of birthday, I get a week of "Why didn't you tell us you had your birthday?" So I think I'm growing to actually like having a birthday and just appreciate the outpourings of love I recieve from friends and loved ones. Like the many sweet emails I got from parents and siblings today, or the Kinder Bueno (best candy bar ever. I'm serious) that my sweet friend Rachel gave me. 

I am relieved, however, that I didn't get any presents today, outside of the package from my parents. I love getting Christmas presents, but birthday presents sometimes feel weird to me because I'm the only one getting presents. Also, I will never put my birthday on facebook. I hate getting all the wall posts from people I barely know. I much prefer happy birthday's from people who actually love me.

Anyone have any good birthday stories? Worst present ever? Most awkward birthday adventure? I'd love to hear!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

In which I cross a pond.

So, you may not have known this, but I recently made the move from little old Utah to Vienna, Austria, to study German and Humanities for the summer. And I feel like I'm supposed to be documenting that somehow.
But documenting my life...that's never been the purpose of this blog.
I thought about making this into a travel blog, updating about every week with what I've been up to.
But I'm already writing travelogue-esque emails on a pretty frequent basis to my parents and to my boyfriend, and keeping a detailed journal. I don't really feel like writing out all my adventures in yet another medium. I'll hopefully be putting a big load of pictures on the book of faces pretty soon, for those who truly need to live vicariously through me.
So this blog will stay what it's always been. A place for me to share my thoughts and feelings when I feel like it, hopefully to the enjoyment and edification of those who read. (There will however, probably be more pictures from here on out.)

Somehow I expected that coming to Europe would have some magical effect on my emotional state, that I would  just feel happy and magical and adventurous all the time, because I'm in Europe. Not just Europe, I'm in Vienna, for goodness sakes. The historical center of art and music and architecture and all that is good and beautiful in the world. I should be running around in a haze of joy and wonder all the time.
In the past few weeks I've made an important discovery. I've discovered that I'm still just as responsible for my emotional state here in Europe as I was back home. And the emotional issues that plagued me back in Provo are still mine to tote around here in Austria. I thought I could leave them behind by crossing the Atlantic, but they somehow managed to sneak into my luggage, or hide in my pocket, or maybe just grow wings and follow me here.
I actually felt a lot of guilt over this discovery at first. "I'm in Vienna", I thought. "Aren't I supposed to feel all happy and magical all the time? Am I less of a person if I can manage to be sad in Vienna?"
But here's the thing: my issues may have followed me here. But my control over those issues followed me here too. I still can choose to be happy and optimistic. I will still be sad or anxious or PMS-y some days, but I can  choose to ride it out optimistically and do what I can to pull myself out of the lurch, rather than wallowing in my depression.
I just became fully cognizant of this discovery about 10 minutes ago, so I can't say I've perfectly implemented it yet. And I probably won't implement it perfectly. I'm sure I'll do plenty of wallowing in the next couple of months. But I know that I don't have to, and I'm going to do my darndest not to. After all, even though Vienna isn't magical enough to cure longstanding depression and moodiness, it is pretty darn special. Special enough that I want to enjoy it as much as possible and revel in the opportunity I have to be somewhere so wonderful.  Take a look:






Yes, I think that is all worth some emotional effort.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

In which the mess is everyone else's fault.

My apartment tends to exist in a constant state of messiness.

Every time I try to figure out why the domicile can't stay out of pig-sty zone for more than a day at a time, I can only come up with one answer. It's not "my" apartment after all. It's "ours".

There are, in fact, six of us currently living in my tiny little flat. Six college-aged girls: three in school, two with boyfriends, all with jobs. We're all far too busy to clean up anyone's messes but our own. And whenever anything is messy, it is definitely anyone's mess but my own.

Crumbs all over the counter? Well, I'm always careful when I eat, so they couldn't possibly be mine. Let the perpetrator wipe them up
Dishes in the sink? Why can't those silly roommates of mine take the time to wash their cereal bowls?
Trash needs to be taken out? I can't believe they'd let it overflow like that!

Notice a pattern? Nothing is ever, ever my fault. And I have a feeling everyone else in my apartment thinks the same way. If I dirty something, I usually clean it up (though I have a pile of dishes in the sink that would say otherwise...) but if I didn't dirty, I'm not going to touch it. Not my problem.

But the thing is, it becomes my problem. Because I still have to live in the apartment. So what does me more good, to live in the dirt and mess, silently fuming at my roommates  or to take a few minutes and wipe down the counter, wash the dishes, or take out the trash? By only taking ownership of my mess, only my mess gets cleaned up. But if I claim ownership of the apartment (it's now both "our" apartment and "my" apartment), then everyone's mess is also my mess, and I'm responsible to clean it up.

On the other hand, I can't afford to take complete ownership of the mess. I work two jobs, I have a boyfriend to hang out with, and I'm trying to get ready to leave for Europe next week. With the amount of clutter and messiness this apartment generates, I could easily spend hours a day cleaning up. It's simply not feasible for me to be the only one taking complete ownership. However, if everybody in the apartment took full and complete ownership, saw every mess as our mess instead of their mess, and acted accordingly? Well, we'd have a pretty clean apartment, wouldn't we?

Now for the reflective part: does this apply elsewhere? I'd say...yeah, why not? I think all friendships, relationships, and marriages could benefit from this complete-responsibility approach. Otherwise, the relationship feels too much like a balancing act, each member carefully keeping tally to make sure everybody's putting in the same amount of effort. How about...international relations? Each nation takes care of its own messes, and then helps out other countries as much as possible. Sometimes though, one nation (like perhaps...the U.S.) has far more resources and/or inclination to clean up other nation's messes, and becomes that one roommate who's always home doing all the dishes. Which works great, until that roommate starts to get angry that she's doing everyone else's dishes all the time. Or until she starts neglecting cleaning her room in favor of making the living room presentable for everyone. And we haven't even touched the issue of fostering personal responsibility. Does cleaning up after others actually hurt them by crippling their ability to take care of themselves?

The conclusion I keep coming to is that this only works when every party takes complete ownership of the situation, whether it's an apartment, a marriage, or a planet. Some will necessarily put in more resources or time than others, simply because they have more to give. But when everyone has total ownership, there's no score-keeping, no grumbling, and no holding back. The mess isn't everyone else's. It's everybody's.

Which reminds me, my room is messy. Off to clean more...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In which I go to a movie by myself

I had never seen Casablanca before. And well, to say I'd heard it was good would be grossly understating the matter. More like, oh, one of the greatest movies ever made? So when I heard it was playing on campus today, I went. Even though I had important things to do. Even though I couldn't find anyone to go with me.

And...I'm still not sure what to say about it. I was enthralled the whole time. I fell in love with Rick. The ending was immensely satisfying.  But I'll be honest, Ilsa really, really bothered me. "Do the thinking for both of us, Rick!" Really? Really though?

I think the part that really bugged me about Ilsa was how much I related to her (minus the whole marital infidelity thing). I know what it's like to get so lost in your emotions that you can't think straight. To want to stop trying to figure things out and just collapse into tears while others fix your problems for you. And I've definitely been guilty of that on multiple occasions. But I'm really, really trying to overcome that and take responsibility for my own issues. So while I empathized with Ilsa, most of me wanted to give her a good slap and say, "Buck up, girl. Everyone has problems. Don't try to say you don't know what's right, because you do know. Now stop being a baby, stop trying to let everyone else think for you, and be an adult."

I guess the fact that I relate to and understand this character so strongly is probably evidence of the power of this film. And I will again admit that I have developed a big-time crush on Humphrey Bogart (you don't mind, do you, Mike?)

Ah, Humphrey...I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Letter

To the Ants I Killed Yesterday,

I was only doing my job. You have to understand that up front. I have to keep that bathroom clean for the students who use it, and a small colony of insects living underneath the urinals is not traditionally the sign of a hygienic bathroom. I'll admit, I'm still not sure why it was so important I got rid of you. Your kind doesn't traditionally carry diseases, and none of you were stealing any food or really, doing anyone any harm as far as I could see. You're all black ants, so probably not the biting type. But, like the dirt in the corners and the soap scum on the counters, you look dirty, and are unwelcome in a modern, clean restroom.

And so I sprayed your corner with poison.

Did it hurt? Did you scream? Did you die instantly or did you suffer and struggle first? Did some of you run frantically, looking for loved ones, hoping they'd survived?

Do ants love? Do they have families? Were the stragglers all alone and desolate, having lost their friends?

Or is your colony all one consciousness, with the queen still safely inside the walls, having only suffered the loss of a few mindless appendages?

In other words, was this a tragedy that befell a community, or an injury inflicted on a single organism?

I do not apologize to you. Given the choice, I would repeat my action. But still, I hope desperately that there isn't a giant somewhere who will someday say over my shattered planet,

"I was only doing my job....I have to keep this galaxy clean for the gods that use it, and a small cluster of humans orbiting a star is not traditionally the sign of a hygienic solar system."

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In which impatience reigns.

I feel as if I'm stagnating. No learning, no progress, no new-ness. I clamber out of bed, clean dorms, eat lunch with Michael, accompany for a few voice lessons, and then clean toilets. Day in and day out.

I'm so ready to leave for Vienna. For new countries, new languages, new foods, new people. I'll miss my roommates, my family, and of course my Michael. But beyond that? Not much. I'd be gone today if I could be.

It all feels like...drudgery. Like I've lost that talent I had for seeing the beautiful in everything. For finding new ways to progress and grow. Where did it go? How do I get it back?

Because, like it or not, I have two more weeks here in Provo. And so I'd better make the most of them. How though?
Go running in this beautiful weather (I think I will do that as soon as I finish typing.)
Read all I can about Vienna so I can be even more excited.
Smile more. Reach out a little more to my coworkers and ward members.
Play the guitar a lot.
Read my scriptures more deeply, consistently.
Spend more time with friends I love. This one is difficult, seeing as I only have two weeks, I want to spend time with my family and Michael before I leave, and I have a lot of busywork things to do before I leave...We'll figure it out.
Go swimming, now that it's finally warm enough!
Visit someone in my ward at some point. Just drop in on them. This is completely terrifying, but I want to learn how. I don't like feeling trapped in my apartment, and I like the idea of just going and saying hi to people.
Pray for help in seeing the beauty of my life, here, in Provo, and seeing the wonderful qualities of the people around me.
And then, after a long, (hopefully happy) two weeks...hop a plane for Vienna and explore me some Europe!

And now, I think I will go outside. I'm getting cabin fever in this little apartment o'mine.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

In which I share a couch with Darth Vader

Blond and cherubic, with a hint of mischief glinting in his eyes, he sat on the couch, surrounded by cheerios, crayons, and a gray, winged mask.
"Hello!" I smile at him, and he grins back.
"Is this a Tron mask?" I ask. He frowns, and I quickly correct myself. "Thor, I mean."
He beams and nods.
"What's your name?" I ask eagerly.
He glances around furtively and then whispers, "Dawf Vadew."
"Darth Vader? Wow!" I cry, honored to be in the presence of such a famed figure.
An exasperated sigh. "Brady..." says the woman across the room, "Darth Vader is the bad guy, remember? Why don't we want to be like Darth Vader?"
His brow furrows, "Dawf Vadew is bad because...because he cutted of Wuke Skywalkew's awm."
"That's right." She sighs again, "He keeps calling me Emperor Palpatine. Every time I ask him to do something he answers with, 'Yes, Master'".  Her James Earl Jones impression is impeccable.
Darth Vader (Brady?) grins at me, as his mom gathers him up to leave. 
I can't stop smiling.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In which I share a string of possibly unconnected thoughts.

It's raining outside. Everything is misty, and the mountains are wrapped in heavy white clouds. It makes me homesick for this place:
(Can you be homesick for a place that was never your home?) 

I think I'm long overdue for some Oregon beach-camping. Hopefully I can make it happen...next summer.


In other news, yesterday was Norwegian Independence Day. Which doesn't mean much to me, except that I got to enjoy some good food and good company. I am officially in love with this:
Oh, and this:

That is all. 



Saturday, May 7, 2011

In which I run

I used to map my runs, to keep track of mileage and speed. Lately though, I've run lazily, without a watch, without keeping track of my distance. Just exploring, running where it looks interesting, and coming back home where I'm done.
Tonight was a beautiful evening for a run. The spring sun sifted through the glowing leaves, couples walked hand in hand, children laughed, gnats bit me.
I saw windows with cartoon characters glued in them,
                            And windows with butterflies painted on.
I saw an old man smoking, a wrinkly hippy riding his bike, and children playing with broken toy cars outside a crumbling apartment complex.
I saw a man and a woman playing frisbee. The catch? She was pushing a stroller, running with it to catch the frisbee while the tiny girl inside laughed and laughed.
I smelled barbeque, grass, and my own sweat.
I saw a boy playing his banjo on the front porch, but lacked the nerve to cross the street and ask to listen.
I saw a front porch full of firewood.
I heard so many kinds of birds, singing, chattering, laughing to each other.
I felt my legs pumping strong, my blood coursing, my hair loose with the wind through it.
I sat on a broken red bench on a corner and watched a wrinkled old man water his lawn, two children chase each other in the front yard, a big man walking his tiny dog.
I lingered for a long time outside a garage, listening to a local band throbbing out chords and melodies.

I wandered through my town, my home, observed, explored and felt a part of it all.
                            At peace.
                                                   Alive.

Glorious.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

In which I missed a milestone

Guys. Guys. I just realized something. That last post I wrote was my 100st post to be published on this blog! (We're not counting the ones that never made it onto the wall. And yes, that is 100st not 100th.) So, yeah. Celebration. Happy, happy, happy...

Okay, let's be honest, my heart's not really in it anymore. I think about blogging a lot, but in the end I haven't done much of it because I don't have much to say. I don't feel that same desperation to get all my thoughts and ideas onto the Internet posthaste. That's not to say that I've stopped thinking about interesting things, or that I'm not clever or awesome anymore (insert winking face), it's just that I don't feel alone anymore. Remember last summer, when I wrote ALL THE TIME? I didn't really have anyone to reach out to, anyone I felt safe talking to. So flinging my thoughts into cyberspace, hoping that someone would read, understand, and respond, was the best I can do.

But now...if I have thoughts that need to be shared, I have trusted listeners in close proximity. My roommates make great sounding boards, and unlike the Internet, they actually respond to my thoughts. And, even better, I have the most wonderful boyfriend on earth, who will listen to me spout off my random thoughts and feelings, even when I don't make sense or when I inexplicably start to cry. So when something is on my mind, I talk to him about it, or my roommates, or my family...and by the time I get to my blog, I've already thought it all through and don't feel a need to write about it.

I guess what it comes down to is that I'm not really sure what the purpose of my blog is anymore. Originally it was to fulfill a class assignment. After that it was to express my thoughts, and connect to...something. Sometimes it has been to improve my writing by telling stories. I guess I could write to inspire and help people, but I don't want my blog to get moralistic and didactic. I could write to chronicle my daily life so everyone knows what's going on in my world...but I don't think anyone really CARES what kind of cereal I ate this morning.

And so, dear readers, I will continue to write when it suits me, because I love to write. Maybe I will write when I have words that need to get out of me NOW, or when I have a fantastic story, or an epiphany I think you would like. And maybe I will figure out the purpose of this little bloggy-blog. In the meantime, don't miss me too much if I don't blog for a while. I only blog when it's fun, and right now...it isn't. C'est la vie.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

We'd up and fly, if we had wings for flying.

I've heard a lot about about Mumford and Sons...but never listened to them. I've been planning on it, but haven't gotten around to it. Today, I just realized that they covered "Not in Nottingham."  Halfway into the song, they are already my new favorite band.

Friday, March 25, 2011

In which I pine.

I miss my blog.
That's really all I have to say. Or rather, all I should say.
I'm writing a research paper. But my brain keeps jamming up.
I keep having all these awesome ideas for blog posts and no time to write them in.
And I just really miss my blog.
I like to think my blog (and my readership?) misses me too.
And so, I hope to write again. Something actually interesting and clever and long and funny.
In the meantime, here is a comic for you, about our two favorite Romantic pianists!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

In which I may have conquered a fear.

A friend once asked me what I feared most. The conversation had consisted of answers along the lines of spiders, snakes, rapists, the like. My response: "Being wrong." I was terrified that I was going to die, and find out that everything I ever believed in was wrong.  That I would wake up, look around and realize, "Hey, this is hell, not heaven!"
But today, I realized...I could handle that.
Well, not the being in hell part. That would suck. Just the being wrong part.
That if I died and was having a good old heart-to-heart with God, or St. Peter, or my great-great grandmother-- whoever shows you the ropes and answers your questions after you die-- and was told, "You know, your beliefs were great and all, but the Baptists were actually a lot closer to the truth" I'd be a little confused, but I could take it.
That if I learned that the Trinitarian conception of the Godhead was a lot closer than the Mormon one, or that the prophets have made mistakes and said things that weren't true, or that Elijah (or was it Elisha?) really did sic she-bears on children (or that he didn't)....I would get disoriented, but then move forward and be okay with it, as long as I still knew that the following were true:
There is a God.
We are His children.
He loves us.
He knows best how our greatest good will be achieved and is constantly working for that good.
We have free will.

Because, you see, I feel that these are the things that I know. Because I have seen God answer my prayers. I have felt His love. I am constantly reminded of the ways in which He guides my lives and others' lives.
And because I know this to be true, not much else matters except that I trust God and follow His guidance in my life.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

In which the bloggy-blog gets a makeover.

Hey friends. Let me tell you a story.
Once upon a time, I was thinking about starting a blog (actually, I had to for a class) and I was trying to think of a URL for it. Around the same time, I watched a documentary on the life of an LDS concert pianist named Reid Nibley (Yes, Hugh's brother). When Reid was asked what advice he had for young piano students, all he said was, "Practice beautifully."  That little phrase changed my perspective. Previously I had practiced mechanically, trying to memorize songs, perfect technique, all that jazz. But how much more enjoyable, how much more wonderful can practicing be, if every second that I'm at the piano, I am striving for beauty, for emotional connection with music, for purity in sound and feeling?
And outside of music, what if we lived every second like it mattered, not like it was a practice for something later?
I decided to take Nibley's "Practice Beautifully" one step further, and use the phrase "Live Beautifully" for my URL.  Unfortunately, this phrase was already taken, so I had to throw a diminutive of my name in there, creating "livebeautifullyriss.blogspot.com".
This URL has been with me a long time, and I'm a bit attached to it. On the other hand, it's always bothered me a bit. The private meaning of the phrase, the awkward way "Riss" is thrown in there...it's just bothersome, really. So today, I said goodbye to that URL.  The new one goes with the theme of all my titles, and still keeps the "aliveness" idea. I think it's just easier to remember and less unwieldy.
So here is what I ask of you, dear readers. I'm a bit worried that no one can find my blog now that the URL is different. I'm not sure if blogger will still list it in my followers' windows. So, can you do me a favor and comment if you can see this post? I'd sure 'prishiate it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

In which I plug my nose, get a big glass of water, and swallow.

You know it's a bad sign when:
1) Your mother gets you an herbal supplement to help "regulate your cycle"
2) She warns you beforehand to take it with something that has a really strong taste to mask the pill's taste.
3) The active ingredient is called "Chaste Berry" (What does that even mean...?)
4) The pills are poop-colored.
5) You open the pill bottle a foot away from your face and still almost gag from the smell.

Oh, the things I do for hormonal balance.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In which I really should be doing my homework.

You know what I realized about people today?

Everyone is right in some ways.
And everyone is wrong in some ways.

But everyone is right and wrong in different ways from each other.

Which makes it really easy for one person to say, "Look, I'm right and you're wrong!"

And for the other person to say, "Um, no, I'm right and you're wrong!"

And for both statements to be true. Because both of them are right. And both of them are wrong.

I think that's the cause of most conflicts. Global, national, political, cultural, personal, familial.

Everyone's right. And everyone's wrong.

So if we could all just cooperate enough to put all our rightnesses together, and then help each other get rid of our wrongnesses....

Wishful thinking, I suppose.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

In which my mind is blown

Guys! Guys. GUYS!!!

I just realized something amazing.

Listen to this. Now listen to this.



Yeah, I know, weird, right??


It's highly possible I will be telling everyone I know about this for a few days.

And even more highly possible that they'll look at me and say, "You never realized they were the same? Wow...."

I'm still really excited about it though.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

In which I summarize my year:

2010 has been a year of firsts...which always makes for an adventure.

First time writing a check (I'm such a grownup!)
First time holding a job while taking classes (and first job not at a swimming pool)
First time getting a flower for Valentine's Day (Thank you, random Cannon Center customers).
First time applying to the Music Education program
First time getting accepted into the Music Education program
First relationship lasting longer than 2 weeks
First kiss
First real breakup
First time getting rejected for a job I applied for
First half-marathon
First time living at home since coming to college
First time attending a non-BYU singles ward
First time being ward organist
First time visiting Washington D.C.
First time going on a date with a co-worker
First time singing with BYU Women's Chorus
First time failing a test
First time getting a B minus in a class (and being deliriously happy with it)
First time introducing a significant other to extended family
First time having someone to kiss at New Year's.

Who knows what firsts 2011 brings. Here are some I'm hoping for:
First triathlon (or first long relay race...Ragnar, anybody?)
First time reading my scriptures at a consistent time every day (2 am doesn't count as a consistent time)
First time cooking food not out of a box on a regular basis
First (and hopefully last) solo recital at BYU
First time visiting Europe

And we'll see what else...bring it on, 2011.