Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Ten Commandments

When I was first asked to teach Sunday school to the 12 and 13-year-olds last year I felt extremely unqualified since I don't have any experience teaching. But I said that I would do it and would do my best to teach the kids in my class. I've been teaching for a year now, and it's been going pretty well. The lessons go better some weeks than others and sometimes it's difficult to know what approach to take to keep the kids engaged. I never thought I'd say this, but I'm really loving it! I know I'm not the best teacher, but I DO try really hard.

Each month the lessons focus on a different topic. September's topic is Commandments, and we've been  talking about what commandments are, how we can explain them to others, how we can inspire others to keep the commandments, blessings we receive from keeping the commandments, etc. I read something as I was preparing one of my lessons that I thought was really interesting.

L. Tom Perry: One way to measure ourselves and compare us to previous generations is by one of the oldest standards known to man—the Ten Commandments. For much of the civilized world, particularly the Judeo-Christian world, the Ten Commandments have been the most accepted and enduring delineation between good and evil.

In my judgment, four of the Ten Commandments are taken as seriously today as ever. As a culture, we disdain and condemn murder, stealing, and lying and we still believe in the responsibility of children to their parents.

But as a larger society, we routinely dismiss the other six commandments: 
  • If worldly priorities are any indication, we certainly have “other gods” we put before the true God.
  • We make idols of celebrities, of lifestyles, of wealth, and yes, sometimes of graven images or objects.
  • We use the name of God in all kinds of profane ways, including our exclamations and our swearing.
  • We use the Sabbath day for our biggest games, our most serious recreation, our heaviest shopping, and virtually everything else but worship.
  • We treat sexual relations outside marriage as recreation and entertainment.
  • And coveting has become a far too common way of life.
I hadn't really ever thought about things in this way before, but it's really true; many people view six of the 10 commandments as optional rather than mandatory. I think in today's society people give God less and less thought. I know that not everyone looks at God and His commandments this way, but I think a large faction of today's society looks at the commandments as being outdated, old-fashioned or a thing of the past. Even though times are constantly changing/evolving, God still has certain expectations for His children. In my Sunday school lesson last week I used a quote and part of it said, "God does not want us to look to the world and follow its ever-changing trends. He wants us to look to Him and follow His unchanging guidance."

This is another picture I found that I thought perfectly applied to this post.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

"Great Expectations"

I recently finished listening to the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. I've always been a little intimidated when it comes to classical literature, but I've been trying to stretch myself and expose myself to different types of books, so I thought I'd give Great Expectations a try.
I listened to the unabridged version of the book, which was about 18 hours. I also read the summary and analysis for each chapter on the Spark Notes website. I know I've said it before, but I'll say it again… there's no way I could get through a classic novel and get near as much out of it without Spark Notes! The thorough summaries help keep me on track so that I can understand all of the wonderful complexities of the story.

I was grinning like a fool when I finished Great Expectations because I felt so uplifted and happy. I loved the book because there were so many great characters with amazing qualities. It was really a story of redemption and growth for the main character, Pip, who finally came full circle at the end of the book and came to realize what's truly important in life.

I've gained such an appreciation for classics, and I especially love, love, LOVE Charles Dickens! He's a master storyteller! His books are so intricate with complex plots and interesting characters. Reading classics certainly takes a lot more time/concentration, so I'm taking a little break to listen to some light, fluffy fiction before taking on my next classic.

I watched the Masterpiece Theatre production of Great Expectations that was made in 2011 after I finished reading the book. I've seen it before, but I wanted to watch it again. It made a lot more sense this time around since I was familiar with the story line and the characters. The movie is three hours, which is pretty long, but since Great Expectations is such an intricate story there was still so much of the story that had to be changed or left out altogether. I still enjoyed it.
*I know when I talk about books I use the terms "read" and "listened to" interchangeably. When I read books, I always listen to them and don't actually read them myself since I can't hold a book. I either listen to my mom read them to me, or I listen to audiobooks. I still consider listening to a book reading it, though, since I hear the entire story and get as much out of it as if I held the book and read it with my own eyes. I just thought I would explain this in case it confuses people.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Name Diversity

When you hear a name you usually identify it with a certain gender. I read an interesting article a few days ago about names and how they've evolved over the past century. Names that were once 100% male have flip-flopped and are now 100% female. Here's a list of names that were mentioned in the article:
  • Addison: Of all children named Addison in 1880, 100% of them were male. In 2012 98% of children with that name were female.
  • Lindsay/Lindsey: 100% male in 1880. 100% female in 2012.
  • Whitney: 100% male in 1884. 99% female in 2012.
  • Beverly: 100% male in 1880. 100% female in 2012.
  • Ashley: 100% male in 1880. 100% female in 2012.
  • Kelsey:  100% male in 1891. 100% female in 2012.
  • Lauren: 100% male in 1884. 100% female in 2012.
  • Meredith: 100% male in 1883. 100% female in 2012.
  • Darcy: 100% male in 1915. 94% female in 2012.
  • Hilary: 100% male in 1882. 100% female in 2012.
  • Emery: 100% male in 1880. It was 50-50 male/female in 1996 and is now 80% female.
  • Sandy: 100% male in 1880. By the 1950's it was 50-50 male/female. 91% female in 2012.
  • Quinn: 86% female in 2012. The switch for this mostly boy name happened quickly. The  website conducting the survey believes the female character on the TV show Glee is responsible for accelerating the change. 
  • Michele: 100% male in 1905. Surprisingly, this name was only 86% female last year, meaning 14% of the Michele's are male.
I was familiar with the fact that most of the names on the list started out as male names, but a few of them surprised me, like Beverly, Hilary, Meredith and Michele. It just seems so odd to think about a little boy being called most of these names!

Here's some other names that have shifted from male to female, or have become gender-neutral:
  • Haley/Hailey 
  • Jordan 
  • Taylor 
  • Cameron/Kamryn 
  • Morgan 
  • Avery
  • Kim 
  • Aubrey
  • Kelly
  • Elliott
Another trend I've noticed in names is that lots of old names have made a resurgence and have become "new" again. Here's some of the ones I came up with off the top of my head that apply:
  • Caleb/Kaleb
  • Eli/Elijah
  • Henry
  • Isaac
  • Stella 
  • Charlotte 
  • Grace 
  • Claire 
  • Cora 
  • Hannah
  • Eleanor
  • Sadie
  • Scarlett
  • Emma
  • Olivia
  • Lucy
I think it's interesting how names come in and out of fashion. Who knows, maybe names like Dorothy, Mabel or Alice for girls and Frederick, Norman or Walter for boys are just on the horizon. 

Another name trend growing in popularity these days is using last names as first names, like Parker, Kennedy, Mackenzie, Sloane, Emerson, Bailey, etc. There are really a lot of popular names these days that are quite strange and unusual. I guess my taste in names is just too traditional for me to be able to really like/appreciate different, non-traditional names. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Rain, Rain, Go Away

I know this post is a little late, but that's what happens when you get busy! There's been terrible flooding in northern Colorado this month. I heard a report on the news that said that some places in Colorado received as much rain in just a few days as they usually get in an entire year. It would be really hard to describe the sheer magnitude of the flooding in words, so I'll let pictures do the talking...
I'm just amazed at the power of water. There is so much force behind it and it can do major damage. Just look at how the water broke up the roads and moved concrete:
Disasters are horrible and something you would never want to go through, but it often times brings out the best in people. I love how friends, neighbors and even perfect strangers band together to help each other out. It also shows you what's really important in life (something that's easy to overlook in the hustle and bustle that our busy lives bring).
Many people were trapped and needed to be rescued, so several Blackhawk helicopters were dispatched to assist in the recovery. A few people died in the floods (the death toll was six when I heard it) which is sad, of course, but at the same time it could've been much, much worse, so that's something to be grateful for.
When the waters recede that's when the real work begins! Can you imagine all of the mud that would be all over everything?! And everything that got wet would have to be torn up, ripped out and thrown away. Whenever I see the destruction that follows natural disasters, I always wonder where do you begin when it comes to cleaning up, and what do they do with all the trash/debris?

Clean up always goes better when you have people by your side to help share the burden, right?! I love this first picture, because it looks like these people are making the best of their situation by taking a moment to laugh. 

Friday, September 20, 2013

Brotherly Love

I heard another story on Good Morning America this morning that I knew I had to share on my blog. It's a beautifully heartbreaking story that leaves you not knowing whether to feel happy or sad.

Karen Suffern is a single mother to 8-year-old twins, Ryan and Amber. Karen works part-time and struggles to pay the family's bills. Last weekend she asked her kids to write an early letter to Santa. Her son, Ryan, wrote his letter right away. When Karen took a look at the letter she felt saddened and touched. She shared the letter on Facebook with a few family members and close friends, who then shared it with other people. It went viral in no time.
Here's part of the letter: "Dear Santa … I wanted a remot contor [remote control] car and helieopter but I don't want that any mor. Kid at school are still picking on Amber and it's not fair because she doesnt do anything to them…,"  Ryan went on to say, "I prayed that they will stop but god is bisy and needs your help." 

Amber is overweight, has ADHD and a few mood disorders and has been bullied a lot. Karen said that Amber recently said, "Yeah, they [school kids] pick on me… I just feel like I want to die so that they'll leave me alone." I can only imagine how Karen felt hearing those words come out of her eight-year-old daughter's mouth.

Yesterday Good Morning America host Josh Elliott sat down with the Suffern family to interview them. Amber told Josh how kids at school pick on her, but she doesn't know why. "They said I'm fat. I'm stupid. I'm ugly. And I'm hideous." she told Josh. Ryan said he wishes kids would bother him instead of his sister. "You don't have to do that," Amber said. "Yes I do," Ryan said. It was so sweet to see Ryan and Amber interact with each other. You could just tell how much they love each other, and how much Ryan looks out for Amber. 
In his letter Ryan also wrote, "Is it against the rules to give a gift early?" Ryan asked Santa "Can you ask Big Time Rush to come to Amber's birthday party? It will make her so happy." (FYI, Big Time Rush is Amber's favorite band. I just thought I'd mention that since I'd never heard of them, and maybe you haven't either.) Here's a picture of Big Time Rush––they look like your typical teenybopper boy band:
Amber got the surprise of her young life after Josh finished interviewing her. He told her that he was pretty sure that Santa had gotten Ryan's letter. Out came Big Time Rush! They spent time talking with Amber (and Ryan and Karen) and of course sang some songs to her.
Karen later said, "Today and yesterday Amber didn't wake up begging me to let her stay home, so I guess that's a good sign."  I hope things DO get better for Amber because the thought of any child getting bullied breaks my heart.

Thursday, September 19, 2013


The word integrity is defined as "the quality of being honest and fair" or in other words, choosing to do the right thing even when no one's around to know the difference.

Last Saturday Glen James did something that showed that he's a man with personal integrity. Glen found a backpack full o' money at a mall in Boston. How much money was inside? $2400 in cash and $39,500 in travelers checks! What did Glen do with the money? He turned it in… all of it. (Glen is homeless, which makes what he did even more praiseworthy, in my opinion, because it's not like he couldn't have used that money.)
A few days ago Police Commissioner Edward F. Davis awarded Glen a plaque for his honesty. The commissioner said, "His actions were really a remarkable tribute to him and his honesty."
Glen's fans weren't satisfied with kind words and a plaque, though. When Ethan Whittington (one of Glen's fans) heard about his story he decided to launch an online campaign to raise funds for Glen. "Let's all chip in and help this man change his life," Whittington wrote on the fundraising site. "Every little bit helps. Let's be reassured that there is still hope and humanity in our great nation." Thousand of generous people have donated money to Glen's fundraiser, just to thank him for doing the right thing. The donations have surpassed $100,000, and the total is still climbing.

Returning the money was an easy decision for Glen. He said, "Even if I were desperate for money, I would not have kept even a penny of the money I found. I am extremely religious – God has always very well looked after me."

I've had a similar experience to Glen (only on a much smaller scale). Before my accident I worked at a movie theater as an assistant manager. One busy Friday evening I was helping the ushers clean up an auditorium to get it ready for the next showing. I was picking up trash when I found a wallet under one of the seats. I put in my pocket and took it to the office when I was finished. I looked inside hoping to find a drivers license or some other form of identification so I could call the wallet's owner. I was surprised to find that the wallet was full of cash. (I don't remember how much it was, but it was something like $300 or $400.) I called the owner and left a message on his answering machine that I had found his wallet.

I was the manager scheduled to open the next morning, so I was the first one to arrive at the theater. When I stepped out of the manager's office into the lobby I saw a man pacing the sidewalk in front of the theater and I figured that that had to be the wallet's owner. (I could just tell from the nervous/worried way he was pacing.) I let him in, and sure enough, it was the man coming to collect his wallet. When I returned it to him he opened it to see if the money were still there. I could see the relief wash over him. I don't know anything about the man's circumstances, but I imagined a scenario where the man might've just cashed his paycheck (since Fridays are often payday), and he was feeling absolutely sick with worry wondering how he'd make ends meet for his family if the money were truly gone, or something like that. Times are tough and that's a lot of money to lose!

The man offered me some money, I think it was $20, and I refused to take it and told him that I was just "doing my job." Reuniting the man with his money felt so good and was all the compensation I needed. I was just grateful that I was the one to find the wallet, and not some random patron who may or may not have turned the wallet in, or who may have turned it in a little lighter. 
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