Thursday, November 6, 2008

Laughing Gas

I experienced laughing gas for the first time today. I made an unexpected visit to the dentist to have one of my molars crowned (apparently an old filling stopped working and my tooth chipped Tuesday night). Anyway, the dental assistant slipped the apparatus over my nose and the gas started flowing. I didn't notice anything for a few minutes, but then the dentist recommended that I breath through my nose. All it took was a few deep breaths and it was happy time!! I remember a bit of Q&A going through my head:

Q: Why am I laughing for no apparent reason?
A: I don't care!
Q: What do people say about how laughing gas makes you feel?
A: I don't care!
Q: How many brain cells am I killing off right now?
A: I don't care!

Despite the fact that my tooth was drilled on for a solid 30 minutes, I don't think I've had a more enjoyable visit to the dentist. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Trial & Reaction

This topic has been on my mind for a little while now, and since the dreaded GMAT is behind me, it’s time for me to stop neglecting my blog.

I learned some time ago that it’s not right to wish for a trial or some form of adversity to simply disappear. Honestly, that’s one of the primary reasons we’re here after all, right? One of the most effective ways we learn is through hardship – the learning process is seemingly accelerated and in the end, if we endure well, we become better and stronger. Hence why the adage “that which does not kill me only makes me stronger” (or some derivation thereof) has a lot of truth wrapped up in it.

Then what is the right path to take? How do we get through adversity in general? Simply stated, we need to turn to the Lord for help. He will not allow any trial to befall us that He doesn’t know we already have the capacity to overcome (1 Cor. 10:13). Instead of expending energy on trying to make the situation go away, the better way is to direct our efforts to find strength from the Creator of us all.

The realization I had that prompted this blog entry is that this principle applies to dating (something I try to do on occasion; you know, being 27 and single and all). In the face of “dating adversity,” I’ve found that I often try to become numb. By desensitizing myself, I am no longer required to deal with any resentful or hurtful feelings. In essence, this is the same thing as wishing that a trial would simply disappear. However, by virtue of the numbing process, I also unintentionally close myself off to the Spirit and distance myself from the Lord. Even though I may not intend to lose the guidance of the Spirit, the end result is exactly that and I eventually find myself more alone than I ought to be – and during a time when the Lord wants to help me the most. Clearly, numbness is not the best way to deal with adversity in dating, just as avoidance is not the best way to deal with adversity in general.

I’ve found that even if I do manage to close myself off in the short term, I usually end up simply dragging out the moving on process and spreading it out over a longer period of time – a kind of procrastination to having to cope. On the other hand, I’ve also found that when I keep myself from going numb, my perspective is heightened. I cope with the situation even better than when I close myself off and hide in my own emotional bomb shelter. Naturally, the best approach I can take is to ask the Lord to help me get through the hard time and learn whatever I need to learn from the given situation.

No, all of this is definitely not easy. And yes, it requires an increase of faith each time a trial comes around. But I’m encouraged in that I’ve improved in this over time and I hope that someday I will see this clearly while I’m experiencing any kind of adversity.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Mt. Baird

Yesterday I went on a hike near the Palisades Reservoir, up Little Elk Creek. I intended on summiting Mt. Baird, the highest point in the Snake River Range. I knew it was going to be a good challenge – 9 miles roundtrip with 4200 ft in elevation gain. Well, as I neared the mountain, the grade got crazy steep. I found myself using all four appendages as I scrambled up a ravine that probably had some glacier remnants just a couple weeks ago. Normally, I look at going up also as going down – I will eventually need to come back down whatever I go up – and I usually proceed conservatively. In this situation, had I remained true to my historical decision making, I would’ve stopped well short of the higher point of the mountain. Yesterday, however, I was determined to conquer Mt. Baird, so I decided I would just deal with it.

Once I reached my destination (just below the highest point of 10,025 ft – I didn’t feel like going up a vertical wall), I wondered if there was another route down a different ravine that would prove easier (a big storm had saturated the area the night before and the west side of the mountain I came up on was still very soft, so I thought trying the north side would add some great stability benefits). I was a little freaked out because I have an awkward relationship with heights. So, I said a prayer (FYI - I’m gonna get churchy in this blog). I had made a decision to try another path and asked the Lord if He would confirm that that was what I should do (D&C 9:8-9). I felt the confirmation come, so I began making my way down the north side of Mt. Baird.

Sure enough, this alternate route was much more manageable. However, about 300 yards or so down the mountain (just when I was expecting to put all the steep stuff behind me), I discovered that the entire side of the mountain I had chosen just dropped off, with no other viable route visible. So, I traversed across to try to find another way and wound up putting myself in a precarious situation – there was no other way down, and going back across to retrace my route up would’ve been ludicrous. So, I had to go straight up. Somehow, the next 100 yards of the climb were easily the most difficult of the afternoon. But it was during this stretch that I learned the most (actually, many of these lessons were simply reminders, but I’m sure you get my drift):

  • Fear is not faith; I had asked the Lord to help me get off the mountain safely, and I knew that that would happen. I had to do my part, though, and overcome my fear of heights so that I was able to remain focused on what I needed to do.
  • Prayer is real, and it works – anytime and anywhere (Alma 34:17-27). Because I prayed to and relied on the Lord, I received the peace that I needed. I also received direction, particularly the reminder that I needed to take care of myself with food and drink so that my body would function properly.
  • As I looked for one hold after another, I thought of two principles: cling to the Rock (Christ) and have a firm foundation. In one instance, I used what looked like a solid rock for a foothold, only to have it give out under me. Thankfully, I had both hands on a larger rock up above and was able to hoist myself up. Holding to a firm rock on the side of Mt. Baird was a very vivid reminder of the eternal principle of relying on Christ.
  • In some situations you need to focus on just one step at a time, but in other situations it’s critical to see the big picture. I made life more “interesting” for myself on several occasions yesterday because I neglected to balance out those two principles.
    I truly feared for my life during a couple brief moments. At one particularly stressful time, the calm assurance came over me that my days are numbered and that my work on this earth isn’t done, so all would be well (D&C 122:9; Alma 14:13). I can’t describe how important it was to have that on my mind.
  • Sometimes the path gets harder before it gets easier. Once I reached my destination (the first time) and sat down to eat lunch, I thought that I had completed the most arduous part of my day. Yeah, I was way off. But even though I didn’t think I could do anything more difficult, I did. And because I experienced more trying circumstances, I received more schooling.
  • Lastly, I learned that sometimes the Lord employs unconventional teaching methods. I know that I was directed to go down the side of the mountain that ultimately proved to be a 90 minute detour (I wound up where I ate lunch and then went back down the west side of the mountain). Why the detour? It was only during that phase of my expedition that most of these principles came to me.


Looking back on it, I’m grateful for what I went through yesterday. I believe we all need significant, powerful experiences on occasion that will stay with us over time. I’m glad the Lord saw fit to send me on a detour.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Perspective

The company I work for has its own fitness facility (it’s absolutely fabulous, by the way), and I try to frequent it a couple times a week. You know, just enough to try to keep my girlish figure and all. Anyway, as I was leaving the gym today (yes, I am beginning and finishing a blog in one day for the first time to date), I noticed that a friend of mine who was chatting it up with someone else outside glanced at what I was carrying: my work shoulder bag, my sports duffel, and a hanger. Wait, what was that last one? Something that aircraft are typically stored in? Of course not silly, it was merely a clothes hanger (not hangar with an “a”). On this hanger were the slacks and long-sleeved shirt I wore to work today. Well, I was not surprised that my hanger (for clothes, as stipulated above) attracted a bit of attention. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anyone else employ the same practice of actually hanging up clothes when one gets changed to work out and leave the gym with those clothes still on the hanger. I suppose that this practice defines me quite well. As I walked across the parking lot to my car, a few more thoughts danced through my mind.


You see, I instantly see the cause and effect of not using a hanger: if I try to fit my clothes into my duffle bag, they will wrinkle quicker and I will have to wash and – here comes the really tough part – iron them sooner. Since wearing clothes that are wrinkled to a moderate degree is simply not an option, I assume that if an article of clothing gets wrinkled or gets dirty, it results in more work for me. That connection comes easily to my mind, so I do whatever I can to minimize the amount of unnecessary manual labor that occupies my time.


I’m somewhat known for being a bit of a clean freak or for being particular about things in general. I’m a detail-oriented person and I don’t mind simply doing what needs to be done, so I guess it works out pretty well; my world has a fair amount of order. Well, here’s the kicker, and it has to do with dating and relationships and such, so I just know you’ll have an opinion on it. I was told by a girl I once dated that she just couldn’t handle the pressure of me expecting her to be as clean or as planned out or as particular as I am. I was pretty frustrated by this initially, then frustration gave way to sadness. I realized she had made the assumption that I would expect her to be like me. Well, I sure hope I’m smarter than that. If anything, I need a little chaos and spontaneity in my life to balance me out. And hey, I’m well aware that if someone is messy or disorganized now, they will probably be messy and disorganized in five years or ten years. I’m also aware that it’s not right for me to expect certain changes of people, and I believe these types of traits and characteristics fall into that category.


The thought I had that really spurned this blog though was this: depending on one’s perspective, one can see a perfectionist guy as someone who will always expect the same from you and thereby cast a shadow, or as someone who will help you be better. In a relationship, you work as a team (on varying levels depending on where the relationship is, of course) and I fail to see how having someone on your team who isn’t afraid to just do things that need to be done (like cleaning) or who enjoys eating more than top ramen and cereal is a drawback to their value as a team member, even if perfectionism is inherent in his persona. It all comes down to perspective.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Dating role reversal

A friend asked me to share my thoughts on girls asking guys out on dates, so here it goes.

While the traditional dating mindset dictates that a girl asking a guy out is unordinary, I think that (like most things) it is what you make of it. You know, the glass half empty/half full concept. The girl doing the asking could be viewed negatively, as if she’s desperate for a date. Or the girl could be viewed admirably as someone who is brave enough to think and act outside the box. I think a common mistake is to wrinkle up one’s nose and instantly dismiss the notion without looking at the particulars of a given situation.

That said, I have a few thoughts (guidelines if you will) on how this practice might be approached. To the girls who may consider using this tactic:

You should only go out once (as the direct result of you asking); let the guy take things from there. If you take it any further than one date, then you could be setting a poor precedent on which any foundation would be built upon (unless you have an overwhelming desire to wear the pants in the relationship and you think the dude you’re crushing on is cool with that. . .). Also, you can’t expect a second date merely because you asked the guy out. That’s a mild form of quid pro quo, and certainly is not a healthy dating principle.

To me, the role reversal is most appropriate after you shut a guy down – whether intentionally (but later have a change of heart) or unintentionally – this may be the only way to ever know if dating will ever work for you two. Once rejected, most guys will likely not consider asking you out again. Going out on a limb sucks to begin with, and having that limb chopped while you’re out there is even worse, so if the guy feels like he’s been served up a plate of rejection then he likely has a bad association with whomever played the part of server. It’s typically easier to move on to the next girl who hasn’t shut him down. So, if you don’t want the opportunity to pass you by, take initiative and throw him a bone! You may not even need to ask him out; just more attention and some flirting will often be enough. It does depend on how big the serving of rejection was though, so keep that in mind (from the guy’s perspective, the best you can).

Those are my thoughts. If you have anything to add or any follow-up questions, feel free to leave a comment!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top Ten Albums

While I listen to a wide variety of music when it comes to single tracks, my love for alternative rock shows when the discussion revolves around whole albums. These albums are all so incredibly solid all the way through; I had a really tough time deciding on the order. If you enjoy alternative and don’t own these albums, I recommend you buy them all!

1. New Found Glory – Coming Home
2. Jimmy Eat World – Chase This Light
3. Evans Blue – The Pursuit Begins When This Portrayal of Life Ends
4. Saosin – Saosin
5. Evanescence – Fallen
6. The Killers – Sam’s Town
7. The All-American Rejects – Move Along
8. Evans Blue – The Melody and the Energetic Nature of Volume
9. Sum 41 – Chuck
10. Linkin Park – Meteora

Honorable Mention
Incubus – Morning View
Pinback – Summer in Abaddon
Brand New – Deja Entendu
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory
Teddybears – Soft Machine

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Cliques

For the record, yes, that is the correct spelling of what sounds like “clicks.” It’s a French word (big surprise) with its origins in the early 1700’s. Hooray for useless information!

Webster’s defines clique as “a narrow circle of persons associated by common interests or for the accomplishment of a common purpose; -- generally used in a bad sense.” I think of a clique as any group of friends that hangs out with the same three or five or whatever number of people. The pattern is consistent and little effort is made to include others.

Cliques, despite the bad connotation that Webster’s cites, do provide some legitimate benefits. It’s great to have good friends. It’s also great to have people to do things with. A clique can provide both of these. Having a tight group provides some sense of security; most of us prefer the company of others in favor of solitude and having a tight group often fosters a dynamic of an unspoken rule that you just plan to hang out. Comfort level is also an important consideration. The more one is familiar with another, the easier it becomes to enjoy oneself. A clique can provide a venue where one’s comfort level can be increased and, therefore, a better time can be had.

To go along with why Webster’s states that the term clique is often used negatively, I have some criticisms about cliques. Clique is often synonymous with exclusive, and exclusivity builds walls between people. Also, since cliques allow its members to have a heightened sense of comfort, inside jokes are much more common. Generally, inside jokes are a lot of fun and can strengthen relationships between those who are “in the know.” However, whenever an inside joke is referenced around a person or an entire group that isn’t familiar with the joke, it also builds walls. Inside jokes, when unwisely used, are still fun for those involved, but make everyone else feel uncomfortable or left out. They ultimately have exclusivity written all over them.

I have heard about and been involved with discussions about cliques in the past. As a general rule, change is very difficult and is not desired by most people in this world. Most people prefer to stay in their comfort zone. Not surprisingly, someone who is in a clique prefers to stay in the clique. When this topic comes up in some kind of discussion, whoever is in a clique usually tries to justify why they shouldn’t do anything about their situation. The most common rationalization I’ve heard is that the person and/or the person’s clique invites others to participate; there is some effort made to befriend others or invite others to outings. Such an effort is largely futile. Even when an invitation is extended sincerely, many times the person being invited will not go purely because they don’t think they’ll be comfortable. A wall has been erected around the clique and most people have a hard time getting past that obstacle. Inversely, some people decide not to attend an event because they themselves are in a clique. Perhaps other clique members are out of town, so the comfort level of whomever remains is also out of town.

There is one other point I’d like to bring up, and this item is what keeps me from getting cliquey: the negative impact a clique can have on someone’s spiritual well-being. Suppose that Johnny hasn’t been to church in some time. He’s a nice guy, works hard, but just hasn’t made church a priority in his life. Over time, his parents’ urging for him to go back and the fond memories he had of church when he was younger instill in him the desire to go to attend meetings one Sunday. He hasn’t committed to going back to church every week, but if he has a good experience this Sunday he will certainly consider doing so. Well, Johnny goes to the church meetings, but he doesn’t feel comfortable introducing himself to people, so he keeps to himself.

What could happen next? Other people who are in attendance could introduce themselves to Johnny, sit by him, and get to know him. Or, nothing. The members of the congregation could easily not even notice that Johnny is in the meeting, no one shakes Johnny’s hand or says hi, and Johnny will likely not return. It’s my experience that the latter happens more often than not, and that the number one reason why others don’t seek out those who are new is because they are occupied chatting with the same people they hung out with the day before, often fellow clique goers. If you think that you can’t possibly know who is new and who isn’t, it could be that you are in a clique and haven’t made a solid effort to get to know others through various activities on an ongoing basis.

I’ve identified some of the pros and cons of cliques and interactions that resemble cliques. I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone; I’m merely seeking to broaden your perspective. It’s a constant struggle for me personally not to fall into the comfortable pattern of being in a clique, but when I think of Johnny, I think not of this fictitious character, but rather all the friends I have who have been a Johnny at some point in time. I hope you will join with me not in searching for excuses why not to include and fellowship others, but rather in searching for ways to make others feel welcome.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My quirks

· I arrange the silverware in the dishwasher by type so that when I unload it I don’t have to sort anything out.
· I use coasters religiously. Even on my computer desk.
· I pay attention to the care instructions on clothing.
· I iron my collared shirts.
· I fold all my laundry.
· I plan. Profusely.
· I’m something of an efficiency freak. I think of the world in terms of bottlenecks way more than is healthy. Props if you know what a bottleneck is.
· If you ever wish to die, just do something to my car. Anything. I dare you.
· I know what a crockpot is, I own a fairly nice one, and I use it pretty much every week.
· I own and use regularly three types of shoe polish, three shoe brushes, two pairs of shoe trees, a shine cloth, and a shoe horn.
· I can’t stand it when the serving spoon gets dropped into what it’s serving.
· I’m a single man, yet I cook. You may think that top ramen is in my repertoire, but alas, I have not eaten top ramen in over a decade. Dishes I’ve made include: Moroccan chicken tagine, coconut chicken curry, gnocchi (from scratch) and three cheese chicken noodle. If that’s not a stereotype buster, I don’t know what is.
· I can’t stand the taste of tap water. Interestingly enough, I’ve been the proud owner of several Brita pitcher filters over the years.
· I really appreciate it when drivers make legal turns. You know, the kind where one turns into the near lane, and doesn’t instantly make a beeline for the far most lane possible.
· My name is Matt, and I’m a cleanaholic.

I’m sure I have other quirks that escaped me when compiling this list. Feel free to add to this list on the comments page. :)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The friendship dilemma

I consider myself an observant person by nature. I pay attention to details and I have a decent enough memory, and because of these traits I’ve witnessed a very clear pattern over the years: there are substantial barriers for single people of the opposite sex to simply become friends. As a guy, naturally I view this subject with most of my attention focused on what I’ve seen girls do that prevent friendships from forming. However, please don’t infer from my comments below that I think that all girls are bad and all boys are great. That’s just ludicrous, and hopefully I don’t portray myself to be that narrow-minded.

My perception is that the number one reason why many girls miss out on some good opportunities to develop friendships is simply because they are so worried that a guy will ask them out. To many girls, most in fact, I must say the following: don’t flatter yourself honey. Pretentious is a pretty strong word, but it’s fairly applicable here, especially when a friendly hi is viewed as flirting, or a casual conversation interpreted as an interest in going out. Please come down from your figurative castle in the sky and play with the rest of us. Being normal might come as a tragic realization, but that’s the shoe that fits most of us. Prince Charming probably will not gallop up to your castle tower, his golden locks flowing in the warm summer breeze, and sweep you off your feet onto his white stallion. I hate to be the one to break the news to you, but that’s pretty much how it is.

Anyway, back to what prevents people from becoming friends, this whole scared-to-death-of-being-asked-out-like-it’s-the-plague thing. So what if the guy asks you on a date? It’s not the end of the world, is it? It’s not like you asked him. Isn’t a date just a date? It doesn’t mean you’re exclusive, it doesn’t mean you like him, it just means that you have a heart and are willing to get to know the guy in a dating situation. Not a big deal.

If your concern is that you’re worried about being seen with the guy, then you probably have some other issues to work on as well. Honestly, anyone whose opinion matters will recognize that you are on a date because you were asked, not because you hand-picked the fella. In my opinion, if you’re not interested in a second date but one is requested, well, be open and honest. Also know that a lot of guys are quite daft, especially when they have their eyes set on a specific chica, so don’t rely too much on subtle hints – most of the male race is oblivious to subtlety. My hunch says that being open and honest is the hard part (and is often inevitable), the part that girls everywhere seek to avoid. Hence why the friendly hi or the casual conversation can be twisted into something it’s not – some girls are so worried about the potential of having to be open and honest (remember, the hard part) that complete avoidance is the road most traveled.

Another barrier I’ve noticed is the reluctance of some girls to spend less time with their family and more time with their friends and acquaintances. To be offensively blunt: cut the cord! Any guy who is worth his salt values independence in a girl. It’s quite a turn off to think that a girl who is super clingy to her family will likely be super clingy to her husband. No thank you. Please don’t think I’m an advocate of shunning one’s family – no way! For most guys, it’s extremely important for a girl to be family-oriented. I am a strong proponent of balance. It’s just that I’ve seen so many instances where the balance is tilted toward the family so much that other aspects of life are non-existent and opportunities are lost.

A few words for the dudes out there. Guys, please think before you act. Think about whether you really should be pursuing a certain girl – is she out of your league? You can determine this by asking yourself a few additional questions: how does this particular girl rank amongst other girls on the traits you look for? How do you feel you rank amongst other guys on the traits you feel you bring to the table? If there’s a discrepancy there, don’t be too optimistic about how things will pan out. You may want to just move on. If you’re still not sure, ask a friend. Or ask ten friends. Doing so could easily save you time and spare you from potential rejection, but it will also help the girls out there to feel more comfortable around our half of the human race.

I haven’t brought up the good things that I’ve seen, so I’ll end with a positive comment. Props to all the girls who are consistently friendly without being overly concerned about if a guy just wants to be friends or if he wants to try the dating thing. I would like to personally thank you. I’ve met a lot of people myself and have seen this un-friendship pattern enough that I truly do appreciate genuine friendliness. When I notice that a girl is handling a tough situation with a good level of maturity, I have more respect for her. Your efforts do not go unnoticed.
As far as take-away’s are concerned, the single biggest point I’d like to emphasize is this: friendly vibes do not necessarily equal dating vibes. If more people would put aside their worries and fears about what MAY happen, then we would all have a better time.

Monday, April 21, 2008

This Mormon boy's alcohol

I know people who turn to alcohol when life gets rough. Okay, not too many, I do live in Idaho Falls and I associate mostly with members of the LDS Church. Anyway, the idea is to drink away one’s problems, or so I hear. I think that’s the most clich├ęd example. Some people use cigarettes and others turn to shopping, eating, cleaning, et cetera to distract themselves from reality.

I discovered a long time ago that music is my alcohol.

I’m passionate about music. Listening to music that is. I don’t have any musical talent whatsoever, so I contribute by partaking. I’m sure that my interest in music is partly due to growing up in Seattle, where a lot of attention is placed on new and original music. I remember when Nirvana first got big in Seattle, then the world. I really get into certain songs – some for their great music and instrumentation, others for their witty or thoughtful lyrics, and others still for their lyrics that relate so well to my own situation. It’s therapeutic for me.

You can only imagine how much I enjoy my iPod. It was easily the best material item my parents ever gave me for Christmas. I’ve been with my black 80GB video classic for over a year now and I use it several hours every day. I recently had a hard wire installed in my car to replace the slightly static-prone FM transmitter I had been using. Then just a few days ago I purchased the black Bose Sounddock Portable. Now I can listen to music while I’m getting ready in the morning, something I haven’t done for quite a long time.

I believe there’s an adage that says something about how great ideas can come while one is in the shower. I appreciate that idea; it’s rung true in my life more times than I can count. I think it boils down to this: as a society, we are so busy and go-go-go all the time that we often neglect the time we should all take to just think, to ponder (and a routine, thoughtless occurence such as taking a shower allows for a form of pondering to take place). I am so very guilty of this.

Having recognized this, then why on earth would I even consider hindering any kind of flow of ideas by listening to music? Firstly, I simply enjoy listening to music. It is what it is. Secondly, well, sometimes I think about things too much. You know, replay them over and over and over again. Who am I kidding, sometimes is an understatement. At times it can be a type of slow, self-inflicted torture. I don’t know about you, but I’m not down with torture. It’s not exactly one my favorite pastimes. So, music comes to the rescue. I can numb the pain of whatever is either tugging at my heart strings or just won’t get out of my head. I can alleviate the torture. Whew.

But it’s all just a band-aid: music serves only as a form of procrastination. The problem is still there, at the back of my mind even. Yes, I can hear you utter “duh.” If you know me at all, you know that I’m a pretty confrontational person; I like to work through things, often tackling them head-on. So why would I follow this pattern of delaying the inevitable, if only in my own mind? What I have found is that another adage, “time heals all wounds,” has a lot of truth to it. In changing the timing of when I actually cope with whatever is on my mind, time lapses and more often than not the situation is easier to deal with. Maybe I find strength from some other source, like a friend or a family member or something I read.

Lately I’ve been thinking more about the amount of numbing I’ve tried to infuse in my life, especially since my Bose acquisition. I’ve resolved that I don’t want to take the easy way out all the time. The last thing I want to do is create a dependence of any kind that could keep me from learning a valuable lesson or two. While music is a reliable form of therapy for me (not to mention a hobby), I don’t want to ignore the principles of learning and coping. I suppose I’ll just keep working toward the seemingly unachievable goal of balance in this.