Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The best way to spread Christmas cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!

So, it's Christmas time. It's usually one of my favorite times of the year! This year though, I have been hard pressed to find my Christmas Spirit. I don't know where it went! And I hate when I can't find it - it totally ruins everything. Sure, life has been a little hectic and/or stressful, but that doesn't usually stop me. But I had come to terms with it. I quit trying. All of my favorite holiday movies are packed up in boxes somewhere, so I can't watch them. It's has not been particularly cold this year, so it doesn't feel or smell like Christmas. There aren't as many lights out this year, and when we went to Stone Mountain to see the lights there (like I have done MANY years in the past) it all of the sudden costs an extra $20 bucks to walk around the village! Bah-humbug! I'm to cheap for that! So, these are a few of the reasons why I haven't found my Christmas cheer.

Until last night.

I was going about it all wrong. I was focusing on me, and that's not what Christmas is all about. I went and delivered some packages to some friends. I love giving people gifts, and putting the thought and effort into picking out that perfect thing that they will really love or use. Some years I'm better at it than others, but it doesn't matter, I love trying! I love being around family and getting to see people who I haven't seen in a while, and hearing stories and sharing memories of those who aren't with us anymore. I love feeling the love and joy Christmas brings out in people. So, as I was driving home from delivering those packages and doing some late night shopping at Kohl's (thank goodness they were open until midnight!) a song came on the radio. It was a song that I loved as a kid and used to sing with my mom and brother all of the time. It's called "Do You Hear What I Hear." I wasn't really paying much attention, because I was so exhausted, but all of the sudden I started listening as this verse started playing:

Said the Shepard boy to the mighty king
Do you know what I know
In your palace wall mighty king
Do you know what I know
A child, a child
Shivers in the cold
Let us bring him silver and gold
Let us bring him silver and gold

This is when I got goosebumps. Then, the last verse played:

Said the king to the people everywhere
Listen to what I say
Pray for peace people everywhere
Listen to what I say
The child, the child
Sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light
He will bring us goodness and light

And that might be when I started to tear up (I will neither confirm or deny that I actually started crying...) The realization that I had been so selfish and almost Scrooge-like hit me - hard. I had forgotten why Christmas is so beautiful, and how I have been given the best gift of all - the Savior in my life. And this is the time of year we get to celebrate Him, His wonderful life, and the people who had the faith to allow this wonderful miracle to come to pass! I had it all wrong. I'm not perfect - I let all the things in my life pile up and block out what really matters most - Jesus Christ.

I'm so grateful for this time of year, and the reminders we have all around us about what the holiday season is really about. They are there, we just have to look for them. I'm excited to celebrate with my mom's family later on today. I don't get to see them often enough, but it's always a blast when we get together! I know we will have a gift exchange, but we will also talk about the story of Christmas, and sing Christmas songs that allow us to focus on the Lord. I'm so grateful for that, and for what the Christmas Spirit really is all about.

I will leave you with a quote from the article The Best Christmas Ever, where President Thomas S. Monson, of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, says (and quotes):

President David O. McKay (1873–1970) declared: “True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.”

Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ.”


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Catching Up

I keep checking the blog to see if Ashley has posted something, but I realized today that she won't be able to post anything for a while, so it falls to me. You see, we moved Ashley out of her condo on Saturday and she's now staying at her mom's house, which has some type of internet deal I've never heard of where only one person can be on the internet at a time and they have to login or some such nonsense, so she can't use her laptop to get on the internet. At work it's board meeting week which means she's busy all day (plus she has to stay late Wednesday and Thursday, conveniently allowing her to skip out on being my date to my work holiday party). So, yeah, if I want to read something new on this blog, I have to write it.

But, don't worry, I'll spare you from my self-indulgent writing and instead just post some pictures from the last few months. Those always seem to be popular.

My brother, Carter, built this bottle launcher to have some fun with his kids. It's pretty ingenious. Pressurized air is put into the system (see the air compressor hose connected to the right side) and obviously something wants to give. The bottle is held in place by little plastic nubs (see detail below) that are locked into place above the rim of the bottle by a piece of piping that can be yanked down. When you pull on the string, it pulls down the piping holding the plastic tabs, all that pressurized air finally has a place to go, and the bottle shoots into the air.

Detail of the plastic nubs and the bit of pipe that holds them in place.

Carter thought more weight would help it launch higher, so we added this boot. It didn't help.

I only post this picture because sadly, this is the last picture that I have of my brother's beautiful purebred boxer, Hazel. She died of cancer this past weekend. It's hard to tell in this picture, but she's got some pretty sizable lumps in her throat, part of what killed her. She wasn't in pain, though.

We went bowling a few weeks ago. I don't know if you've ever seen Ashley bowl, but her form is... interesting. I want to say awful, but she doesn't do so badly, really. I kept trying to capture the weirdest part, which is that she kicks her left leg out in front of her and to the left. You can see her arm way up in the air, though, and I think the leg kicking is to counterbalance the crazy release she does.

I know, you've seen a million pictures like this. Everyone takes them - they always seem impressive when you take it, but then later you're like, wow, that's a boring picture. Still, I'm always amazed at how it can look like another planet above the clouds. This was on my way to Chicago for a presentation that I was really nervous about. I actually hand wrote seven pages of presentation notes on the flight. Most writing I've done with a pen since college.

I love these two trees in front of my house. I changed the color in iPhoto to make the picture look more like the color looked in person, but I overdid it a bit. You can see that with a lot of the leaves yet to fall there's already a pretty thick carpet of them on the lawn. A few weeks later, when I still hadn't mowed or raked the lawn, my Dad (quite tactfully, actually) asked if I'd mind if he came over and cleaned up the leaves for me. He said he had a whole leaf-gathering operation running and wouldn't mind doing it. I accepted.

Ashley made a delicious apple crisp when we were at the cabin. So Martha Stewart! Except Ashley's a lot sexier.

This was on the mantel at the cabin. Kind of creepy, because it was always staring at you.


This was just after lugging three pretty heavy sections of an entertainment cabinet up a steep hill into Ashley's mom's house. All those boxes are Ashley's stuff. I'd say about 1/12th of it.

That's it for now. Maybe I'll do another one of these in a month or two. Blogger is a total pain to add pictures too, though. Hmmm... Maybe I'll let Ashley do the next one.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Life Goes On

On occasion I get a little nostalgic. I remember when I was 12 starting to cry as I laid in bed thinking back to the good times I'd had with my brother and sister when I was 8. Maybe I should say overly nostalgic. This excess nostalgia reared its head again today when I went to AAA to book the honeymoon for Ashley and myself.

I actually went to the AAA office for the first time yesterday. The office itself has a bit of a "days gone by" feel to it - it's staffed primarily by older women, brochures and posters cover most surfaces, and little wooden signs hang from the ceiling above various open air sections: "Insurance", "Auto", and "Travel Agency". I was going to the "Travel Agency". When my name was called I went and sat down at the desk of an agent named Suzanne. Like most of the employees, she was a woman who looked to be in her 50s. She was very friendly; an impression that I think was aided by the tinge of red coloring the end of her nose, most likely due to the unusually cold day. I told her where I was looking to go (the U.S. Virgin Islands), how long (5 nights) and my hoped-for budget. She, however, didn't look hopeful. But she was going to give it her best. She started typing quickly on her computer while also calling (using her speed dial) other travel agencies - the ones that actually made the reservations, it seemed. I waited patiently while she called several, intermittently shaking her head and asking, "What about an earlier flight? What if we add a layover? How about the garden view room instead of the ocean view?"

After a few calls she gave me the lowest price she could find. A few hundred more than I wanted, and the flight had a layover in Charlotte. I told her to hold it for me; I had to discuss it with my fiance.

The next morning I took the time to look at airfare and room rates online. I discovered I could get a pretty cheap direct flight if we went from Monday to Saturday instead of Sunday to Friday. Then I checked the hotel's rates and saw that room and and airfare added up to hundreds less than the lowest quote from Suzanne. However, the AAA package deal came with cancellation insurance, and none of what I found did. So I went back to the AAA.

I told Suzanne what I'd found, but said that I'd be willing to still go with a AAA package if it wasn't too much more because I thought it would be worth it for the cancellation insurance. I suggested she get some quotes on Monday to Saturday to see if that would help, since it made a difference in the airfare I found. She started calling around, much as she had yesterday, while also looking up flights on her computer. After a few minutes of keyboard clicking and screen peering, she looked up from the monitor with a doubtful expression. "Are you sure it was a round trip you were looking at? Because I'm just not seeing anything below $700 on any airline." I assured her it was round trip. "To St. Thomas?" Yes, to St. Thomas, I said.

I glanced at her screen. The computer itself looked relatively modern, but the program it was running looked ancient. Green text on black backgrounds, hardly any graphical interface to speak of - most likely a holdover from the 80s, back when the idea of an interconnected global database of flights seemed incredible and gave travel agencies real value. She made a few more calls, ending the last one with, "Well, I don't know what to do. I'm going to just, uh, talk to him." She knew it was fruitless. So did I; I'd guessed as much ten minutes earlier. Not only could she not find anything to bring the price down, she wasn't even able to book the hotel for the Monday to Saturday time because it had to be through one of these other agencies and they couldn't book that Saturday (evidently agencies are allotted blocks of time to book and they can't book outside of their block).

With that, I expressed my gratitude for her help as sincerely as possible and left. I headed straight to my house and within fifteen minutes I had booked the flights and the room.

On the way back to the office I wondered whether I should call Suzanne (she gave me her card in case the cheap airfare I'd found wasn't there anymore - or if it turned out to be a one-way price) to let her know I was able to book everything and thank her again for her help. I thought it might be awkward, though, to come so close to pointing out what I felt had become very apparent: her job was completely unnecessary. She'd been defeated by a home computer and an internet connection. Her old travel-agent only program that supposedly tapped into reduced rates from all the major airlines, her network of contacts at various agencies, her years of experience; all rendered inefficient, redundant, and pointless by the internet revolution.

It made me sad. Really, it made me nostalgic for a time I had never even experienced - one where overly cheerful travel agents were needed, one where engaged couples waited in hushed anticipation to hear whether the agent could "work some magic" and get them the within-budget honeymoon they were hoping for, one where all that clicking and peering was mysterious and exciting.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

CNN Headlines

My home page is set to On a surprisingly frequent basis, CNN makes... interesting headline choices. Allow me to demonstrate:

I read the article for this one and I remember it not being as insane as the headline would suggest.

Well now we're right back where we started.

Look at number 1. No wonder people think we dig up bodies to do baptisms for the dead. (which, in case you don't know, we don't - it's baptism by proxy.)

Hopefully they revisit this in twenty years: "Commemorative Tree Now Tall, Lush"

The More You Know...

This really should be a live developing story. Follow-up: "Mars Lander's Arm Now Extended"

If you do this, it will help you some sunny day. Take your time, dont live too fast. Troubles will come and they will pass...

I was watching the CMA's (no comment....I can't help what I enjoy watching!) last night and James Otto came on to preform. I had never heard of him before, so when he came out and started singing...I was shocked!! I couldn't take him seriously!!! He looks like a perfect hybrid of Jack Black and Travis Tritt!!!!! I mean, I am talking down to the crazy big Jack Black eyes. When ever he belted a note....I just had to snicker!! I couldn't dwell on anything other than that...I didn't really like him all that much, sad to say. But he definitely entertained me, because I kept on laughing. Wow....he was also sorta creepy. Sorry Mr. Otto!!

In other news...Carrie Underwood is one of the most beautiful women out there. She looked fantastic all night, and shes got that cute personality to go with those fantastic looks. Love her!!!

Don't even get me started on how much I like Taylor Swift! She's also freaking darling.

Anyways, the CMA's are a refreshing awards show to watch because they have so many great performances. I love all kinds of music, and country is no exception! I might not listen to it every day (or maybe I do!) but they sure do have some talented musicians and song writers! Plus, fall is the perfect time to listen appreciate it...well, for me it is!

Next time I will rant about the awesome death metal show I watch. Don't worry - I cover all my bases.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

We should get jerseys cause, we make a good team. But yours would look better than mine, cause you're outta my league....

I have felt the need to blog for a while now, but I have had trouble figuring out what to say. Here goes nothing! I feel like I have just been so busy with work, church stuff and the wedding planning (which is going pretty well, overall.) There are a few things I am REALLY grateful for that I have going on in my life though...

The first would be that I am able to work out again. I don't want to get into the drama that explains why I couldn't, but it all of it happened because of vasculitis. But I have been off my medication now since July and it hasn't flared back up. Getting off the medication meant that I was allowed to start working out again. I had to start slowly at first, but now I am able to do whatever I want and I have had no signs of the vasculitis coming back! And let me tell you how good it feels to be able to work out until I feel like I'm going to die. It's one of the best feelings in the world, and I am so glad that I am able to do it again. As big of a pain as it can be, I hope I always remember how grateful I am that I have the ability to work out and what an amazing feeling of accomplishment it is to work so hard at something. Plus, it's a great stress reliever. It might sound cheesy, but....oh well.

The second thing is also cheesy...but I'm a big fan of music and being involved in different music groups/ensembles is a pretty fun thing for me to do. It always has been. So, in our ward the bishops wife has a full set of handbells, so we are able to have a handbell choir. This is the third time in my life that I have had the opportunity to play in one. I first did in high school at the Catholic Church I went to, and since I hadn't really seen one before then, I figured I wouldn't see another one after that. Then in college, when I lived in Chattanooga, I had the opportunity to play at a few different churches up there too! Now, as luck would have it, I get to do it again. I realized at practice last week how much I appreciate playing in an ensemble. I really miss it. I have been saying for years I need to find a community band to play in...and I think that will be something I really try to do next year. I miss playing my flute. For now, I will just enjoy ringing my bells. And who knows...maybe one day I will get a chance to ring them again.

I have a huge urge to do something crafty....I can't wait to figure out what it is I want to do!

I'm rambling...I know....not shocking.

On a totally random note - I'm watching P.S. I love You. I read the book a few years ago and totally loved it, but I forgot that I laughed and cried all the way through it. Well, the movie isn't that much easier to get through it! I'm such a girl sometimes. Anyways, it's nice to have reminders in life that make you sit back and realize how blessed you are and how grateful you are for the people in your life. This was one of those moments for me. I know when it comes to the people in my life....I'm one freaking lucky girl.

Oh, and here is a sample of some engagement picture Heather took for us. She did a great job!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bouquet of clumsy words, a simple melody, This world's an ugly place, but your so beautiful to me.

So, I got tagged. Thanks Loverbunny!

I'm supposed to tell you 6 quirks I have...hmmmm.....
  • I'm obsessed with the words llama and flarp at the moment. I use them in everday converstaions whether they are appropriate or not.

  • I enjoy naming things...animal, vegetable, mineral...or inanimate object. It's fun, and helps to provide a strong sense of ownership!

  • I get REALLY angry at supid drivers. Sometimes it's a problem. They just need to quit being stupid and we won't have a problem. Yes - It's just that easy.

  • I'm apparently freakishly stubborn and competitive at times. This was not something I realized about myself, but luckily I have wonderful people in my life who remind me of that.

  • I have a great appreciateion for freshly shaved legs. It's a wonderful thing.

  • I love shoes. A lot. Not nice fancy/designer shoes (I'm sure I would if I could afford it...or if I could walk in them) But I love comfy cute sneakers/tennis shoes. Oh, and also flip flops. I wear them year round.

I don't really know who to if you read this, consider yourself tagged!

Oh, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Facebook Tips

If you're like me, you have several hundred friends on Facebook. Although you may technically know everyone you're friends with, a good portion of those "friends" may be people you have near-zero interest in. Or, said more politely, a small group of those friends you have a very high interest in. And yet the Facebook news feed indiscriminately delivers updates on all of them. It doesn't have to be this way! Using friend lists you can filter the news feed content to show stories from only those friends you are truly interested in.

To start, go to your friends page. In the left column you have the option to create a new friend list. Go ahead and create one and add some of your close friends to the list. Once your done, go back to the main "Home" page. In the tabs above the news feed you have an arrow on the far right. If you click it, you'll see that you can filter your stories by your friend lists. Select a friend list and the news feed refreshes to only show stories by or about them. You can actually edit your friend list right on the news feed page by clicking "Edit" in the dropdown menu you get when you click the arrow.

You can do some nice organizing with friend lists. I have two systems, one is to create various "Tiers" of friends. Tier 1 friends I talk with on a regular basis. Tier 2 friends I do not talk to regularly, but could call at anytime without feeling uncomfortable, and so on. In addition to the "Tier" system I have friends lists based on time periods of my life (college, mission, etc.).

I also further refine the news feed by clicking the "Options for News Feed" link at the very bottom of the feed. This allows you to change what type of stories show up, as opposed to our earlier efforts to control whose stories show up. You can actually request more stories for some people and less for others here, but I find the filtering by friend lists technique to be more flexible.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

From the Lead Contributor

Although you see my name in the URL for this blog, I don't really consider myself on equal footing with Ashley in regards to it. She has chosen everything about it, and so I see my role as more of a contributor. But, I do plan on occasionally writing something.

This will be my fifth attempt at a blog. In case you're curious, I also have (last updated 1/7/08), (last updated 9/15/06), my 1up blog (only two posts, one of which is titled "First Post"), and (set up specifically for my E3 visit this year, but on the second day I realized that there wasn't really a point. Also, I succumbed to the "First Post" temptation again).

So I have some failures in this space. However, I do not consider my blog dead - I've got about 10 posts in draft form saved on my computer. I'm just really bad about finishing them, because I like to have high quality writing with some research behind it. And I'm lazy.

I don't expect these personality characteristics to change, and therefore anticipate infrequent posts to this blog. When I do post, however, I'm likely to touch on one of the following subjects: video games, grammar (for example, should video game be one word or two?), movie reviews, philosophy, logic, Apple, cell phones, and technology in general. I may, during a weak moment, talk about my ever-deepening love for Ashley Williams. Luckily for you I don't have too many weak moments.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

No please don't complicate, our time is short and this is our fate - I'm yours...

Yay for fall fun! Last weekend we went to the Georga National Fair with our favorite Smiths. It was a bit hot that day, but overall it was lots of fun. They had all kinds of contest winners and contestants on display, including science fair projects. The quilts were my favorite part. It made me want to really start learning how to quilt. I guess I should start with learning to sew...

They also had all kinds of animal shows, including rabbits (and a lot of them were freaking huge), horses and cows...

He loves his mama!!

Fun times!

The little trooper - he was pooped!!

I wonder why Benihana is concentrating so hard....

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Looking upwards I strain my eyes & try to tell the difference between shooting stars and satellites...

So, even though Jacob and I aren't getting married until January, I wanted to play around with Blogger so I went ahead and created a blog for us. I have had 5 great years with LiveJournal, and I am not giving it up, but I am ready to move on to new and different blogging adventures. So far, I am loving this! I hope it lasts :)

I'm so excited for Fall!! We have so many fun fall things to do this year, I can't wait! Hopefully I will start to use my camera more so I can document these things...I'm so terrible about that...We shall see how I do!

Also, I love music. So in keeping with the tradition of my other blog, I will continue to use song lyrics for my titles. Let me know if you figure out any of the songs!