For months I have felt prompted to get back on here and keep up with my posting, and I have put it off, or written elsewhere (namely facebook and my journal) but all the while still pondering the use and intention of this blog. Walking into Nikki Mantyla’s writing class where this all began was such a great blessing because it gave me the chance to spend each day pondering, studying, and putting into my own words the testimony that I had gained and was continuing to gain. I have missed it. I have thought many, many times about writing my experiences here without logging in. It feels so good to be back.
Since my last post much has happened. I got engaged. We (Kyle and I) planned a wedding. I got laid off from my job of nine years. We bought a house. We were sealed in the Salt Lake temple. We went on a crazy honeymoon — which stories I can’t wait to share here. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years. Major home renovations. A calling to teach the high-school age kids in our ward. So very much.
Today we had ward conference that was filled with great messages. In Sunday school, the Stake Sunday school president shared a talk from President Eyring that reminded me again how much I need to be writing things down here, so here I am. I will start by sharing the talk. It’s a great one.
I could go on and on about how I wasn’t being true to who I was deep-down, and how it was hard for me to make the choice, but how easy it became once I was following what was truly in my heart, and on and on. But rather, I would like to let the eloquent words of Brian Wilson speak for me…
Pretty much my favorite thing ever. ❤ The first time I picked this up a few months ago was purely out of nostalgic curiosity. I didn’t expect that I would want to keep listening. This is currently my favorite album. I am filled with the spirit each time I listen, and I learn something wonderful and new along with it. I highly recommend. PS, props to the SLCO library system for hooking this up!
Back in November I was contacted out of the blue by a gal asking me to write a piece about national Lung Cancer Awareness month (which was in November). Because I am a yoga teacher and I have a blog that is dedicated to living a healthy lifestyle, she thought it would be a great idea for my blog. I couldn’t agree more!
I obviously failed to publish my post during November, but I think this post is even more relevant for me and my neighbors as we are now in the “thick” of inversion season (pun intended).
First, let me tell you about the woman who reached out to me. Her name is Heather Von St. James. She was diagnosed with mesothelioma at the age of 36. “What is mesothelioma?” you might ask? Take the time to watch the video below and hear Heather’s story. I knew nothing about the disease before hearing her story. Heather is my same age which certainly hit home. Her story reminds me why it is so important to take care of our bodies in any and every way that we are capable. In Heather’s case, prevention would have been challenging as she was exposed to asbestos as a child, however, there is much that we can do on a daily basis to help keep ourselves healthy.
Now to the reason this is especially relevant for me and my fellow Salt Lake Valley inhabitants now. You see, the Salt Lake Valley is a place where it can be difficult — if not flat out impossible — to avoid air pollution due to the dreaded inversion we have during the winter months. I will refer to the City of Salt Lake web site for the scientific explanation:
“When normal atmospheric conditions (cool air above, warm air below) become inverted, a dense layer of cold air is trapped under a layer of warm air. The warm layer acts much like a lid, trapping pollutants in the cold air near the valley floor. The Wasatch Front valleys and their surrounding mountains act like a bowl, keeping this cold air in the valleys. The snow-covered valley floors reflect rather than absorb the heat from the sun, preventing the normal vertical mixing of warm and cold air. Fog exacerbates the problem, facilitating chemical reactions that create even more particles and higher pollutant concentrations. The longer the inversion lasts, the higher the levels of pollution trapped under it. The warm inversion air layer is usually displaced by a strong storm system which restores air quality to healthy levels.” (1)
According to an article in USA Today, when inversion levels are at their peak, “Utah’s pollution index is off the charts with readings routinely exceeding a scale that tops out at 70 micrograms a cubic meter. The EPA sets a standard for clean air at no more than 35 micrograms.” (2)
As you can imagine, this can be a time of distress for residents living in “the bowl.” According to John Horel, a professor in the University of Utah’s department of atmospheric sciences, during the span of December 2013–January 2014, “pollution levels exceeded the standard set for fine particles for a total of 30 days.” My asthmatic friends can attest to the onset of breathing trouble that occurs. If you are lucky, you are only effected by a gravelly voice, mildly-sore throats, and having to tolerate the stinky air. If you are asthmatic or already have trouble breathing, the inversion can mean months of irritation until it subsides, one friend of mine wakes to labored breathing so harsh she has to resort to hot steam baths in the middle of the night on a regular basis.
Most of us don’t have a vacation home in Fiji that we can retreat to when the air gets bad, so what can we do to reduce our risk of exposure to the inversion, and to air-borne cancer-causing substances?
1. Reduce your output
Have you ever been walking through the parking lot and noticed that someone has left their car running, only to find that there is someone sitting in the car while it idles. If you are like me, it takes all you have not to walk over, open their door, and turn the car off for them. If you are not like me, maybe you might be someone who does this. Please, I beg you to turn off your car if you are sitting in a parking lot!
According to an article in USA Today, “Vehicle emissions account for over half of the pollutants.” Right away, that should give us all incentive to drive a little less. Utah doctors have gone so far as to ask that public transit be made free during winter months just to get people off the road.
Doctors also advise that it is best to simply stay inside, avoiding any outdoor exercise or activities while there is the smoggy soup covering the valley. Salt Lake City pediatrician Ellie Brownstein said. “It’s essentially like smoking. Instead of breathing clean air, you’re breathing particles that make it harder for your lungs to function and get oxygen.” (2)
The Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance states that, “though smoking is more commonly associated with traditional lung carcinomas. Smoking tends to enhance risk even further in those who were also exposed to asbestos.” (3) This leads me to believe that exposure to inversion could also enhance your risk were you to be exposed to asbestos.
The Utah Air Quality web site has many more great suggestions for reducing your output as well.
2. Get involved
There are many volunteer opportunities out there to help spread awareness about lung cancer, inversion, etc. Last year, I participated in the Utah Clear the Air Challenge in which you logged all the miles you managed not to drive during a single month. But this is something that you could do all year long.
Here are a few other sites to help you get started:
3. Get checked
If you think you might have been exposed to asbestos in your lifetime, or if you are experiencing symptoms, it would be wise to be checked as “There is a great deal of latency associated with mesothelioma between exposure to asbestos and the onset of symptoms.”
(1) “Winter Inversions: What Are They and What We Can All Do To Help.” Winter Inversions: What Are They and What We Can All Do To Help. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
(2) Press, Paul. “Sickening Fog Settles over Salt Lake City Area.” USA Today. Gannett, 23 Jan. 2013. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
(3) “Mesothelioma Causes.” – Asbestos Exposure and Mesothelioma. Web. 12 Jan. 2015.
Well, it’s a new year, which means it’s time to ponder the places you’ve been and the choices you’ve made over the last twelve months of your life, and to decide which way to go from here. This article from NPR titled “What Heroin Addiciton Tells Us About Changing Bad Habits” makes for some very interesting reading/listening in the context of the New Year. It got me thinking about how important it is to change our scenery once in a while, whether we are just having a bad day, or if we are going through extremely painful change. If I am ever feeling trapped or anxious or frustrated, something as simple as a walk outside can clear my head tremendously. The trick is having the presence of mind to get up and take a walk.
When I was down in the dumps after my divorce, one of the hardest things for me was waking up each day in my bed, a mattress on the floor of my mother’s basement, and would writhe with disbelief about where I was, and where I thought I should be. The two simply did not match up. Finally, one day after speaking with my life coach and good friend Jamie, it occurred to me that I had been considering my “room” as something temporary. I was so frustrated all the time that I didn’t have my own space, my own kitchen, my own apartment, and all the other things a girl my age is expected to have at this point in life.
Then it occurred to me that I did still have possession of some things that I did still hold dear. While I was sad to have lost so many other things, I did still have old photos, albums, artwork, and various other little things that held sweet memories. I also had my family, and my sanity, (two things that are very closely-related). I decided that instead of just sleeping in this room on this mattress with all of my things “temporarily” strewn and placed about, I would take ownership of the space, and create a sense of stability and permanence.
The simple act of re-arranging room and hanging my art and deciding on a place for all of my things changed my whole demeanor. I finally gave in to the reality of where I was. I began to enjoy being in the space, and I began to transform. I have a few very close friends who are going through some tough times right now, a few of which have to do with addiction, and it is my prayer that they will recognize how healing it can be to change the place that you are in order to enable yourself to move forward and start over, which is precisely what we all have to do each day. Sometimes in very little, unnoticeable ways, sometimes in very large, undeniable ways. These changes can help you to forget your troubles.
People are always telling me, “I can’t imagine you being angry.” That is unless they are the few who have had the rare and unfortunate opportunity to be on the receiving end. Then they might say, “Don’t make her angry!” You know the saying, “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned?” Well it applies to this woman too.
When I get angry—I mean truly angry—a side of me comes out that doesn’t feel like me.I begin to shake uncontrollably, which frankly really frightens me. I start to think, “I’m shaking! What is going on?!” Once fear is brought into the equation, my rational brain completely de-rails and I begin to fight for control of myself and the situation. My voice gets louder and louder, and at times I even have the impulse to place physical harm on someone. Again, this scares me. Before I know it, hurtful words are tossed like daggers at the person on the receiving end. In the end, my heart just aches. It’s as if I have given the adversary unhindered reign of my body, mind and spirit.
In Third Nephi we read, “He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil” (3 Ne. 11:29). Thus, giving in to contention and anger is actually yielding to Satan’s influence by surrendering our self-control. It’s no wonder that Jesus taught us to “love one another” for many, many reasons, not the least of which is that it prevents Satan’s influence from sneaking in and taking control.
I recently had a confrontation with someone I love dearly. This unfortunate person on the receiving-end of my anger said to me, “Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does.” This hit hard because I knew I had failed at something I truly hope to overcome. My heart was broken. I wept because of how disappointed I was with myself and my behavior.
BYU Magazine wrote a great article titled “Subduing the Spirit of Contention” which discusses ways to deal with anger. The article talks about the fact that Heavenly Father “has a body, parts, and passions and [he] has learned to govern them perfectly.” I love the fact that we are here on this earth to try and do precisely that, and that none of us are perfect, but we can continually work on ourselves and rely on the Lord for help.
After the latest large bout I had with my anger, I pleaded with my Heavenly Father to help me to control it next time those same buttons are pushed. I know that He has helped me with so many other short-comings, and I know that He will help me with this one. I testify that if you go to the Lord with a sincere heart and real intent, he will help you with whatever it is that you are struggling with, whether it be an addiction, a bad habit, a big decision in your life, or a tendency to go haywire when your buttons are pushed. I will leave this quote from the BYU Magazine article summing up the power that we all have access to, “By feasting upon the Lord’s word, earnestly praying, and doing our all to control our emotions, we can surrender to the authority of Jesus Christ instead of giving in to our anger impulses.”
I do not think that my beliefs make me a better person, but I do believe we all can become better people through the true desires of our hearts, and with faith in the Atonement of Jesus Christ. I pray that we may all work to overcome the spirit of contention in our hearts, in our minds and in our homes.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Duncan, Steven F. “Subduing the Spirit of Contention.” BYU Magazine 1 Jan. 1985. Print.
Last week the bishop asked me to give a talk on tithing in sacrament meeting. It was finals week, so this felt like a daunting task on top of everything else. However, I have gotten in the habit of writing my testimony on this blog so I used it to write my talk. Here it is!
Next to the desk in the office I work in, I have a bulletin board with inspirational quotes etc. and on it I have a quote that reads:
“Be fearless in building up the kingdom of Zion”
I look at it often and consider what I can do to help with the work. As members of this church, we have many opportunities to help build up the kingdom, and there are times when helping can seem challenging. and there are times when paying tithing can certainly fall into that category of things which seem difficult, but as President Lorenzo Snow so eloquently put it,
Tithing is not a difficult law . . . if a man receives ten dollars, his tithing is one dollar, if he receives one hundred, his tithing is ten . . it is very easy to comprehend.”
“It is a law revealed specially for our protection and safety, as well as for our advancement in the path of righteousness and holiness; a law by which the land on which we dwell might become sanctified; a law by which Zion might be built up and established never more to be thrown down or removed out of her place by wicked and ungodly men.
We have temples, and we receive blessings pertaining to them, even the highest ordinances ever administered to man on the earth, by reason of our obedience to this law. (1)
The Bible indicates that God’s people followed the law of tithing anciently; through modern prophets, God restored this law once again to bless His children. God created the world we live in and everything in it, including us. There is no way that we could possibly repay him. We are forever indebted to him and all he asks of us is ten percent of our.
In Elder Bednar’s conference talk on tithing “The Windows of Heaven” he describes how,
These sacred funds are used in a rapidly growing church to spiritually bless individuals and families by constructing and maintaining temples and houses of worship, supporting missionary work, translating and publishing scriptures, fostering family history research, funding schools and religious education, and accomplishing many other Church purposes as directed by the Lord’s ordained servants. (2)
I love that as members of this church we have the opportunity to help support and sustain our leaders, our ward-members, our missionaries, the youth of this church, and others around the world. I enjoy having the right and the responsibility to contribute to help maintain and develop all of the wonderful buildings that we have which allow us to worship, to have activities and meetings, blessing others of God’s children with the opportunity to learn of Him and grow in the gospel.
When I signed up for my first Institute class down at the SLCC campus, I was told that I could have a free parking pass. I love that my tithing funds go to help encourage young people to learn of our Heavenly Father, even by making it more convenient to come and attend the classes.
Developing Faith in Heavenly Father
Paying tithing helps us to develop faith in our Heavenly Father. When I started my journey back to the church, I had a whole myriad of difficult things to overcome, and some were a great challenge for me, but paying a full tithing was immediately a great blessing to me. It brought me great joy to have something that I was able to do without hesitation, with a thankful heart, it was a very tangible way for me to exercise my faith in the Lord.
Every time we pay our tithing we can have that same feeling of gratitude for having something temporal we can do to show our gratitude to our Heavenly Father.
Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve said,
the primary purpose of this law is to help us develop and test our faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Tithing helps us overcome our desires for the things of this world and willingly make sacrifices for others.”
By sacrificing to the lord what we may think we need or want for ourselves, we learn to rely on Him. Our faith in Him makes it possible to keep temple covenants and receive eternal temple blessings . . . . (3)
In Malachai 3:10 we read:
Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. (4)
In the 1900 General Conference of the LDS Church, Joseph F. Smith shared a memory of his mother:
“My mother was a widow, with a large family to provide for. One spring when we opened our potato pits she had her boys get a load of the best potatoes, and she took them to the tithing office; potatoes were scarce that season. I was a little boy at the time, and drove the team. When we drove up to the steps of the tithing office, ready to unload the potatoes, one of the clerks came out and said to my mother, ‘Widow Smith, it’s a shame that you should have to pay tithing.’ … He chided my mother for paying her tithing, called her anything but wise or prudent; and said there were others who were strong and able to work that were supported from the tithing office. My mother turned upon him and said: ‘William, you ought to be ashamed of yourself. Would you deny me a blessing? If I did not pay my tithing, I should expect the Lord to withhold His blessings from me. I pay my tithing, not only because it is a law of God, but because I expect a blessing by doing it. By keeping this and other laws, I expect to prosper and to be able to provide for my family'” (5)
During my preparation for this talk I have been given an opportunity to reflect on the blessings that I have received as a result of being a full tithing payer. I did a lot of Google searches to find inspiring stories from others, and then began to realize that I had many examples of my own.
In the fall I decided to go back to school. At the time, I was working a full time as a program manager and part time as a yoga instructor. I was teaching at my home studio in Sugarhouse, and at a new studio which recently opened up in West Jordan. (In case you didn’t know, the yoga that I teach takes place in a room with 110 degree heat and 40% humidity, so simply teaching a class can be physically exhausting.)
As is the case with most new yoga studios, the West Jordan studio was struggling to get on its feet, and I felt a great obligation to do whatever I could to help even though I was wearing myself thin; I didn’t want to let the owner down by taking time away to focus on school. I considered quitting my full-time job to teach and go to school full-time and I had been praying for an answer from Heavenly Father to help me to know where I should be focusing my efforts.
One morning, after a particularly strenuous and challenging 5:30 A.M. class, the owner came in and without my even asking, offered to give me a break. In an instant I was given permission to walk away from something that had been a great cause of worry and tension and I knew that Heavenly Father had a hand in it. I knew that my efforts were meant to be placed elsewhere and it was such a blessing to receive an answer to this question that had been constantly on my mind.
This also meant that I would be losing a chunk of my income, but I knew that the Lord would help me to survive because I had been faithful in paying my tithing.
And the simple truth is this: I have had more than enough each month. You hear stories all the time about people deciding to pay a full tithing, even when they were struggling to make ends meet, and somehow being able to make it work. It works because the Lord opens the windows of heaven and pours the blessings out. I encourage each one of you to test your faith in the Lord by paying a full tithing. Prove Him now herewith. Be fearless in building up the Kingdom of Zion. I bear my testimony that if you do this, there will be joy in your heart, that the Lord keeps his promises and that the windows of heaven will be opened to you, you will receive great blessings both temporal and spiritual that there will not be room enough to receive them. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
“Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow Chapter 12: Tithing, a Law for Our Protection and Advancement.” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow Chapter 12: Tithing, a Law for Our Protection and Advancement. 1 Jan. 2011. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.
Bednar, David A. “The Windows of Heaven – David A. Bednar.” The Windows of Heaven – David A. Bednar. 1 Oct. 2013. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.
Hales, Robert D. “Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually – Robert D. Hales.” Becoming Provident Providers Temporally and Spiritually – Robert D. Hales. 1 Apr. 2009. Web. 13 Dec. 2014.
Malachai. 3:10. Print.
Last night we had our final for English 2010 – Intermediate Writing. (By final, I mean a party at our professor’s home.) It was nice for all of us “type-twos” to be in a social rather than classroom setting so that we could come a bit more out of our shells. Nikki and her hubby have a lovely home complete with a fresh Christmas tree. Ethan and Nikki talked about reading and writing, (Ethan and Nikki are both writing novels, in fact Ethan did his blog on story telling) and I learned that Nikki will be teaching a novel-writing class next fall. I got to see some of Gena’s handi-work with the plants she has gifted to the home we were in. Her blog PotWater is awesome if you are looking for suggestions or help with houseplants. Next I talked to fellow student Charles about his job on the disaster response team for St. Marks. Holy crap! You have got to check out what he does. My buddy Patrick and I had a bunch of laughs as per usual. (His family is in my brother’s ward and he mentioned that my brother called me a “hippie” during his testimony on Sunday. LOL. Thanks bro!) At the end of the night we were treated to a live rendition of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” by our hosts. I took some video, but I will not share it here without Nikki’s permission. 😉 It’s a little sad to think we won’t be seeing each other’s faces late into the night twice a week as we’ve gotten used to, but we still have each other’s blogs to follow. I am so grateful to have been in this class, to have learned so much, to be given an outlet and opportunity to share my story, to enjoy the stories of others, to have made the friends that I made, and to have a party in place of a final! I’m especially grateful to Nikki Mantyla for being such a fun, informative, supportive teacher. I can’t recommend her enough and can’t wait to take her novel-writing class next fall!! Cheers!
Last week while listening to Christmas music and preparing Thanksgiving dinner, it hit me that I kept feeling the spirit with some of the songs that were playing; something I haven’t felt for a very long time. I looked at my mom and said, “Is this how you always feel at Christmas?” She smiled and nodded saying, “Isn’t it wonderful?”
The sister missionaries came over last night to help us decorate the Christmas tree, and they brought with them a DVD of the church’s latest video. It made my heart swell and almost burst! I am so proud of the church for delivering such a beautiful, gentle message that perfectly fits the spirit of the season.
This video does the same thing for me, and I hope that it touches your heart too.