Monday, November 28, 2016

Hobby Update: I Still Feel Like Dancing

I have some things to report! Remember how I compared myself to Napoleon Dynamite, dancing in my room alone, only to later perform it in front of all my peers? Well, it literally happened! Two girls, Rachel and Violet, invited me to do Napoleon's dance with them at the branch talent show a couple weeks ago. We practiced for about a week, then got our groove on at the Institute! I'm very happy I did it... and I'm even more grateful that I didn't do it alone!

We used this tutorial, if you're interested in learning it yourself. =)

Also, I've decided to keep dancing as my hobby a little while longer. I want to continue progressing beyond where I am, and I'm not tired of this hobby yet! I recently purchased a break-dancing class and a hip hop dancing class, and I'm going to get started on those. You may make fun of me for purchasing classes and spending money on these sorts of things, but I've found that classes help me more than  anything else. It's a combination of making the sacrifice financially, having the material organized and presented to me sequentially, and also the option of receiving feedback. Since that's what works for me, that's what I'll do. We've got Spare Oom clear enough that I have room to dance in it, thanks to my kind roommates. I think I've got all the resources I need. Now I just gotta do it! And maybe find some friends who want to do it with me as well. Anyone?

I'm looking forward to expanding my dance reportoire (not a hard thing to do, as I know next to nothing). So far, it has felt pretty liberating!

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Right Where I Belong

I have to write this down so I don't forget. Today I was getting down on myself a little, not feeling "enough". I was trying to remind myself of God's promised blessings, and trying to have faith that everything will work out exactly as it should, but my fear of messing everything all up was pretty strong.

My roommate Carrie took time to talk me through all of it while rubbing my back. She asked me questions, and she followed the Spirit to let me know exactly what I needed to hear. I won't go into all the details of what she said, but she let me know they both feel strongly that being here with me is exactly where they are supposed to be at this time. Because Heavenly Father loves me and knows I need them as friends.

My faith was strengthened that God does have a plan for us. That He uproots your plans in order for you to help others, and uproots other people's plans in order for them to help you. Sometimes He moves mountains, and sometimes He moves people away from their mountain home to help you when you are very much in need of what they have to offer. He cares about each of us - you - me - individually, and will guide us along His path, and even provide the fellow travelers we need at each stage of the journey. When we travel with Him, we can't mess up our life's path beyond His ability to fix it.

It is one of my favorite feelings in life, when the Spirit confirms that at this moment, I'm right where I belong.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

September Hobby Report

So, September didn't go as planned, hobby-wise. My original plan was to do GarageBand. I have an online course for it and everything. But it was for the computer version, and I only have the iPad version, so it didn't quite match up. And admittedly, when I'm done with work at the end of the day, I don't necessarily have the desire to do GarageBand stuff. Yet.

The good news is that a few other aspects of life got some more attention. I got up at 6:30am and exercised almost every single week day this month! Hooray for having a roommate who exercises with me; we hold each other accountable. I don't always work out at full capacity, but for me the goal right now is consistency. And that is going very well. =)

Another thing I've accomplished is finishing the Self Compassion class. And it was awesome. The thing that blew my mind the most was that our Self Critic is always trying to protect us - it just does it in a very misguided way. But it's not evil. So we can thank it for trying to protect us, then show it a better way. It's odd, because the self-critic and the self-compassionate self often have the same goals for us, but go about it in a completely different way.

For example, losing weight. My self-critic wants me to lose weight because it knows how much I value social connection, and it thinks that being over a certain weight will hurt my ability or make me unworthy to connect with others. My self-compassionate self wants me to lose weight in order to be happier and healthier, with the ability to do awesome and energetic things without getting tired. It does know that being a little thinner will also help me feel more comfortable socially, whether it should or not. But it motivates me by telling me it loves me and that these changes should be made in order for my greater future happiness. The self-critic tells me to make changes out of fear that I'll be unworthy of connection if I don't. Completely different angles.

Anyway, on a not-purposely-related note, I think I've chosen my October hobby, which will be dancing! I'm inspired by one of my clients who loves to do hip-hop dancing and shows me some great moves each week. Also, I just feel like it would be healthy both physically and emotionally to get my groove on. I may start by practicing alone at home, but maybe I'll be able to use my new skills in the real world. =) I know I'm thoroughly white and awkward at dancing, but perhaps I'll get up to Napoleon status.

Other great things have happened this month, including connecting more with old friends, new friends, roommates, and family. I've made some courageous choices in the face of terrifying vulnerability. I've also had my heart softened a bit, and am feeling spiritually renewed. I feel I've become a happier person each month this year. I know most people seem to be looking at 2016 like a horrible nightmare, but for me, it has been a healing, exciting, and comforting year. I'm loving it.

To sum up, September was a great month, in which I've grown quite a lot (in self-kindness, discipline, and courage), and I'm excited for what the future holds!

Friday, August 19, 2016

Hobby of the Month: Self-Compassion

I recently realized I hadn't posted about my Hobby of the Month in a while! With the excitement of my new roommates (Carrie and Christian) moving in, and then my vacation with my mom and brother, and then trying to get motivation for work back after the vacation... I have not been focusing as diligently on hobbies. I've just been enjoying my evenings, with some of the best friends I didn't know I had! I've been friends with Carrie and Christian for a while, but living with them has gone far more smoothly and joyfully than I would have ever expected! We enjoy spending the evenings together, the three of us. I guess you could say that one of my hobbies of the month has been watching Avatar: The Last Airbender (the animated TV series, of course - not the movie). We haven't quite finished it, but we're close. And now I'm in love with a bunch of animated characters.

BUT that's not what I intended to write this post about!

My official hobby of the month is Self-Compassion. I'm applying the research of Kristen Neff and Brene Brown. They put together an online class that I've been taking, and I've actually benefitted from it a lot. I've had a few short term therapists, and my most recent one (a couple years ago) highly recommended that I read Kristen Neff's work on self compassion, so I'm doing that now. I've enjoyed it and learned from it so far (I'm about halfway through). So far, my practice consists of kind touch and kind words. My friend Stephanie used to hug herself while exclaiming something kind, and I'm doing a similar thing. Sometimes I put a hand on my own shoulder, pretend I'm speaking to a close friend, and say what I would say to them if they were in my situation. Then I accept those words that I just spoke to myself; I accept the kindness.

It sounds really simple, and maybe more than a little odd. But it is helping me think of myself as my own friend - and that is an amazing and comforting feeling! I feel safe with myself, and it is quite a relief. I am making an effort to not belittle myself, criticize myself, or hurt myself at all.

But what about progression, you ask? (Because that was the question I asked!) How can you improve if you don't recognize your own mistakes? What about accountability?

And to that I now respond "How would you help a friend, a child, or a client improve?" Would you belittle them, criticize them, or threaten them into improving? And if you did...would it even work? Problems can be addressed, truth can be told, people can be held accountable - all without hate, anger, rudeness, or shame. We can be truthful, and also "show an increase of love afterwards, lest [we] esteem [ourselves] to be [our own] enemy."

As Thomas S. Monson has taught, "Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved." And I'm learning what that feels like to apply it to myself.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Awesome Roommates

Best roommate award to Carrie, who made me Peach Mint Strawberry (PMS) tea to get me through my PMS day. =)

I'm seriously blessed!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Biking to Banjo

So, my July hobby has had some identity issues. I started out the month with the intention of having biking as my hobby. I secured a helmet from my brother-in-law, and a bike pump from my neighbors (they had an extra) and set off to conquer the world! ...Except for that my front tire won't stay full, even right after pumping it up. =(

Then I had some roommates move in! And with those roommates came many instruments. As such, my hobby for the second half of the month is the banjo!

Here are two videos of my first attempts, mostly so I can look back later and see how I've progressed. Don't mind my pajamas and bed hair - I just got up. =P

Thursday, July 14, 2016


I listened to a podcast that got me thinking (Hidden Brain, episode "WOOP, There It Is"). You think about your Wish, the best possible Outcome, the Obstacles within yourself that are blocking you, and create a Plan for when those obstacles arise. There's more to it, but that's the general overview. I love learning about goals and how to make effective ones, so this was really interesting to me! 

I realized that at least for me and my current stage, the obstacle is that I'm afraid to ask. Afraid to ask people to form a bluegrass group with me. Afraid to ask the guy that I'm attracted to on a date. Afraid to invite people to do things that I want to do. All because I'm assuming that no one will want to do these things, and I don't want to look dumb asking. 

So my plan is to ask anyway, and keep my mind open to the possibility they might be excited, maybe even as excited as I am. And if they say no, I won't be worse off. I'll just be in the same place I am now - without the bluegrass band, without the date with the specific person I like, without the specific social gathering I want - but a little braver. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Keepin' It Real

Lest you think I'm always happy and optimistic, some nights I'm too sunburnt, sad, bitter, and discouraged to fall asleep. 

There's a balance in life, and even though I like to focus on the positive side, the negative side does exist. 

Now comes the challenge of choosing Hope, in the midst of discouragement. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

One of the Most Wonderful Times of the Year

I made it through my second/final week of swimming lessons, and it was great! Swimming is hard work. Cycling between thoughts of chest down, hips up, small kicks, stretch arms forward, on my side, getting my left arm out of the water (I had the tendency to drag it), hooking the water, and of course breathing at the right time without getting my mouth full of water... It's a lot to coordinate!

But here's the promised good news! Last Thursday, I swam a whole lap (50 meters) without stopping! Then, after resting (and a few unsuccessful attempts), I did it two more times! In addition, I did a successful flip-turn this week, and also dived. =)

I'm kind of sad that my lessons are over (though I might sign up for more lessons later in the summer), but happy about my trip home to Utah this week. I'll be home for six days to attend a family reunion, and spend time with family and friends. It will be great!

June has historically been a happy month for me each year in recent history (except maybe last year), and I'm happy that June this year has lived up to it's predecessors, so far. Though I haven't been at Logan's SummerFest, I've spent nights in the woods surrounded by fireflies. Though I haven't been on the back of a motorcycle, I've paddled 12 miles down a creek, seeing more trees than probably exist in the whole state of Utah, surrounded by friends who didn't even think twice about jumping from their canoes to help us when ours capsized. Twice. Instead of learning to run races, as I did in 2011, I've been learning to swim. And instead of painting apartments, I've been using music to help children and adults reach their goals. Instead of mini-road trips to Idaho, I've taken mini-road trips to Kentucky. All in all, I am quite happy. Even despite days like Father's Day, which happen to be surprisingly lonely when you live alone.

June, and Life, aren't perfect (and neither is my freestyle swimming!), but it doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

June Hobby: Swimming

I chose swimming as my June hobby! I signed up for adult group lessons, and I'm now halfway through, having finished the first of two weeks. On the first day, they put me into the smaller, more advanced group, which boosted my ego. 

Until they then introduced the freestyle stroke. Freestyle made my ego free-fall! I've been trying to figure out why it is so hard, and I've got some ideas:

-I do not like having my face down in the water
-I think too hard about which side I'm supposed to breathe on, and when. 
-When I do breathe, I get water in my mouth, and then I panic. 
-I'm doing something new, and it's something with my body, so I get super self-conscious. 
-As I exert myself, I find myself needing even more oxygen, but can't seem to get enough in my short breaths to the side. 

Today I stayed after my lesson and practiced for over an hour. I learned that keeping my eyes open (I have goggles) helps decrease the panic. Everything else is not easy to fix, I just need to keep practicing. 

On the bright side, I am REALLY good at the backstroke (at least in comparison!). 

My happy news: I bought a new swimsuit today. I finally got one that ties behind my neck, which I've wanted for a long time. No more gym shorts and running shirts when I swim! I'm going to learn to be comfortable in my own skin!

I do have to say: swimming is exhausting, and I think I'm starting to lose weight faster as well, which is a nice side effect! =D

I'm liking this more than running. I like being outside, and I like the challenge of learning something new. 

Currently, my record is 25 meters freestyle without having to stop. I hope I can report back next week with either 50 or 100 meters! Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Sushi Made Me Cool

So, I didn't focus on sushi as consistently in May as I had hoped. However, my goal kind of morphed into all cooking. And then sewing kind of started entering in, too. I started working on one hobby, and several others just kind of started emerging from me! Which was cool.

But I wanted to report specifically on my sushi efforts. In the middle of the month I fed the missionaries in my branch. There are six: four elders and two sisters. Two of the elders were not really into sushi, but the other four missionaries enjoyed the experience. As for me, I was just happy I had pulled off a meal for seven. Me. Cooking for guests. Six of them. Big deal.

Then, yesterday, I had the sister missionaries back again, and my friend Taitum. She brought cream cheese, and I had recently bought a fresh avocado. And this time I seasoned the rice (using instructions from this site: The experience was absolutely amazing. Every bite was heaven. And it was homemade, so I could make as much as I wanted! And to make this heavenly experience even better, the three people there with me kept saying "You're so cool!" and "Ali, you're amazing!" I didn't even know how to deal with it! I'm not used to quite that much or that kind of positive reinforcement. I have felt valued in personal relationships, but it has been a while since I felt valued in a group. Anyway, having this amazing experience in my mouth and then also being surrounded by compliments... It was kinda surreal... =)

So, even though I didn't cook sushi all that frequently in the month of May, I'm still considering it a total success.

June will probably have two hobbies: swimming (my lessons start on the 6th!), and hip hop dancing (my friend Emma wants to learn with me).

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Sushi - Week 1

I said I would return and report! So here I go.

I actually made sushi yesterday! I watched a few videos, then went to the store. They didn't have sushi rice, but they had jasmine rice so I got that. I also purchased siracha mayo, imitation crab (the "string cheese crab" that Sister Cho introduced me to long ago), sesame seeds, avocados, and seaweed.

Then I cooked the rice...

Put it on the seaweed...

Put the crab, spicy mayo, sesame seeds, and chia seeds (for fun), into the middle of it.

Used the aluminum foil to roll it up...

Cut it up...

And placed it on a plate with some wasabi-ish stuff and some ginger.

It was fantastic. I enjoyed every bite. =) So now comes the fun parts, in the coming weeks, where I make several variations and get really good at it. And invite people over to share it with me.

To me, the most significant part about all this is that I CAN COOK!!! I am capable of this thing. For some reason, it is a lot easier to do, now that I am alone. 

Speaking of that, living alone is kinda weird. I simultaneously love and hate it. So I just try to focus on the reasons I love it... And find plenty of reasons to socialize, since the thing I don't like about it is the gosh-darn loneliness.  Luckily I've got a great branch at church, and opportunities for meeting people outside of church also. Life may be uncomfortable at the moment, but that's because it's a beginning of a new phase. Those are usually uncomfortable, but totally worth it. =)

Monday, April 18, 2016

Hobby Discovery

I have had the wonderful experience of living with dear friends for the last three months, and they are preparing to move back to Utah in less than two weeks. They'll be leaving me their apartment, and I will begin a new stage of life: living alone.

I have no idea whether living alone will be awesome, completely devastating, or somewhere in between.

To prepare against devastation, I'm planning to explore a bunch of hobbies. I've been surviving school, job searches, missionary work, and failed relationships for a decade, and I would like to have fun again. I have a job with a salary, in my field. It's not perfect, but it's a good place to be. So I now commit to work only 40 hours a week and make sure I do things I enjoy with some of the free time I'll create. I'll do some things with other people and some things alone. And I plan to use my blog to share what I learn.

I want it to be a mix of comfortable time with myself, and also a great way to connect with others. One way of connecting is online, so I'd love to receive comments, ideas, questions collaborations, or assistance!

I still have a while to decide what my hobby for May will be. But the current plan is Making Sushi. =)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Spiritually Dull? Ask of God

I found a quote from Howard W Hunter that described my feelings:

"Sometimes we may feel that our spiritual edge has grown dull.... We may even feel that God has left us alone in our confusion and concern."

The answer to this makes sense, and I'm going to work on it. 

"But that feeling is no more justified for the older ones among us than it is for the younger and less experienced. God knows and loves us all. We are, every one of us, his daughters and his sons, and whatever life's lessons may have brought us, the promise is still true: 'If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.'"

The answer is to pray and ask God, choosing to believe He can and will actually answer me about the things that I care about and are very relevant to me. I pray, but I think I feel dull because I may not have been believing. Here's to a sharper edge and a new excitement for life!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Hushing Fears

New scripture of the week!