Saturday, November 12, 2016

I hate writing titles, but that is an irrelevant title

This blog has taken a very real turn from the world of physics to the world of Aileen's Head and all the issues that reside therein. The anxious woman in me wants to apologize and is very self conscious about this, but this is what is a blog really for, right? Writing to deal with personal life? I mean, there are food blogs and other specific blogs but in the end a blog is kind of about the author. And when the author's life takes a nosedive, sometimes writing is what helps them climb back up to elevation.

I have a lot more physics major friends on social media now that I've entered my junior year. This is really intimidating, actually. Social anxiety. I write like a boss but when it comes to the spoken word, nothing ever comes out in a way that really expressed what is going on behind my face. When I speak, it is often incredibly awkward, which in turn makes me sound like an incredibly awkward person. Don't get me wrong, I am definitely awkward. Just not as awkward as I know I sound. So when it comes out that I secretly blog about physics and faith and especially at this moment the mental illness and the stress of adulthood I feel so very embarrassed. I like being behind a screen. I'm currently wearing leggings, wool socks, and one of my husband's sweaters while home alone with my cat. It's great. But once I'm in front of another person, boy do things change.

I just had to get that all out. Honesty is great, right? Please don't ask me about this in our classes, potential physics major readers, I am too anxious for that junk.

My junior year thus far could be described with plenty of choice adjectives, but I'm a good little Mormon girl who can hardly bring herself to say "damnation" when reading the scriptures. Even typing that was a struggle. We moved, we went broke because of moving (security deposits and pet deposits when our old place still has our money and Ben works retail killed, though temporarily, our savings accounts pretty quick), I drown in homework and housework and now I try to get any grading in that I can to get our bills paid and our savings growing.

The worst aspect is that I got off Effexor XR. I needed to; I was 100% exhausted all the time and it made me tense up so badly that even trips to the college of massage therapy for discount massages couldn't keep it down. I had to sleep about 10 hours a night, then I was addled with tension headaches all day. But at least the anxiety was gone. I felt I was ready to get off of any anxiety medication. It definitely felt like a prompting. I never expected my anxiety to come back full-force, let alone worse than before.

I could tell myself a thousand times that it's okay to not be okay, or that people take heart medication or insulin every day and that taking antidepressants is just the same, but it sure as heck doesn't feel like it. I could chug a gallon of chamomile tea and light candles and tell myself I am wonderful anxiety and all but that doesn't change for a second that I would give anything to feel actual, unprovoked, un-medicated happiness. I don't want to spend my life taking pills to feel and function normally. I don't want to compare side effects and worry about tapering and figuring out what combination of chemicals kills the chemical issues in my brain. I don't want to worry if I can have children with what I'm on. I want to be a happy person. But I don't know how to make that happen anymore.

Life is crazy. It hurts. You find someone you want to spend your life with and then everything gets so dang complicated. I guess I am just grateful that in this insane world, I have a knowledge, though often somewhat shaky, that I have a Savior. Someday I will have a resurrected body and I will be happy without having to take a single pill or supplement. I'll be able to feel what it is like to not be weighed down with the tightness in my chest and the tension in my neck and the pit in my stomach. It will be so incredible to feel that. But in the meantime, I guess I have some things to sort out.

I hope this post actually went somewhere. I can't really be sure. I feel pretty terrible right now. I just hope someone reads this and says, "Wow, I guess I'm really not alone in this". Whoever you are, I feel you, but we've got this. There are people who love and support us, like my incredible patient and loving husband, Ben. Just have to plug in the gratitude for him; it is November, after all, and I am such a handful. But he loves me, brain chemistry and all, and I am so lucky to know that he will always be here for me for the rest of time and eternity. It's okay to not be okay, because someday, we will be, but we will be so appreciative of it because of where we have been.
"But when the world tries to break your back with its weight,
get a stronger spine.
Too long treating your heart like a bullet to be loaded
into a gun; it’s time to wear all this loneliness
like a bulletproof vest instead."
-Meggie Royer, rock bottom does not exist

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Schrodinger's recovery

It's Saturday evening. We ran errands in Idaho Falls earlier before Ben left for work. I was going to do homework, but the neck pain was setting in and I was burnt out and my husband was leaving me to the house alone for 9 hours and I didn't want other company but I didn't want to be alone. I sit down to do homework but keep distracting myself with everything else the world has to offer. My neck hurts and has zero respect for the ibuprofen I downed. I eat some chocolate. I get another paragraph read and take the notes. I give myself a well-deserved break. I massage the tendons in my neck but my hand quickly wears out. I check to see if the chicken is done cooking yet in the crockpot. It isn't. I sit down. I do some more homework. I check every social media account I have on my phone. I watch cute cat videos for a while because I'm excited for the cats we are adopting. I try to solve one of the problems from the reading. It seems too hard. My neck hurts. I run myself a really hot bath and put in some Bath and Body Works soap for bubbles. I light my "be peaceful" candle with lavender and eucalyptus. I make some chamomile tea with plenty of honey inside. I put on my sad indie rock/pop Pandora station and gradually get into the bath because it's scalding. I lean my head back so I can soak the rock-hard muscles in my neck. My heart is at probably 130 bpm from the water temperature; I checked it against a Sousa march in my head. I wait. It's hard to stay in there but eventually my eyes get heavier and I relax. My neck doesn't hurt anymore. After a while, I down my now-warm tea that tastes mostly like honey and I put the lid on the candle jar and get out. The chicken is done. My neck starts to hurt again. Ben is due for his lunch break soon. I hope dinner tastes okay. My neck hurts just as bad as it did before after only 5 minutes. I start some rice. I sit down. I might start some homework but it also might not be enough time before Ben comes home, so I might not. We teach Gospel Doctrine in church tomorrow and I haven't even printed out my copy of the lesson. I haven't begun the complicated computational problem for my classical mechanics homework that was assigned a week ago. Wow, my neck hurts.

Self care or procrastination? I don't even know anymore. Bubble baths and tea are great, but they aren't what get me through the day. Medication and meditation make the days bearable. My neck tension is so bad that I usually take painkillers at about 3 PM when I feel the pain coming on. I sleep 9-10 hours and have the hardest time getting out of bed, but once I do, I'm okay. Most days I stay okay and focused. Some days I'm not. I agreed to medication because it was going to be a temporary fix. I was going to recover from my anxiety and get off the medication and use my newfound skills to maneuver through life, now only needing 8 hours of sleep again and having happiness and calmness and everything I lacked. It's been a few months now and I'm wondering when the recovery is supposed to start.

I guess maybe it's more like Schrodinger's cat. Recovery is possible, but having to learn to cope because you're never going to fully "recover" is also possible. Which will it be for you? Who knows, you're in the thick of it now, and the box is still closed. Hopefully you'll figure out how to open that box so you can know for sure. Right now, I don't know if recovery is really what is going to happen. I never thought it was genetic or chemical. I thought it was just some rough situations and some bad wiring when I was growing up that I just needed to overcome. But as I struggle through the chronic pain and drowsiness and as I try to be good to my husband and balance everything, I've realized that maybe it isn't about overcoming. That isn't necessarily a bad thing by any means. But it's important to recognize that not everything will be overcome here on this Earth.

I guess it all just makes me grateful that I know that because Jesus Christ came here to this earth and lived His life in submission to the will of the Father, that because He suffered all of my pains in that garden, and because He was crucified and three days later was resurrected in a perfect body, I'm not alone and someday I will be with Him in my own perfect body. My brain won't do this stuff. I'll have more joy than I can even realize because of all that I endured here. And I'll be there with my family. With my husband, with our eventual kids, and with my parents and my siblings. How great that will be. No anxiety, just so much joy because of the anxiety. It's hard to be grateful now, but I know I'll be grateful then for getting through it all.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Broken vessels

This May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, so I guess it's only fitting that I scheduled an appointment to start getting counselling again.

I've been open with my mental health struggles, but usually only after they've passed. Why is that? I think it's because of a few reasons. First, stigma. I don't want to be seen as attention-grabbing. It's a shame that I fear that so much while writing this. It feels more clear that that isn't my purpose when I'm not currently struggling. Second, it's hard enough to realise that you are having a mental health problem. When I had too much dairy, I notice. I know why it happens. I know it isn't my personality or who I am. It's the fact that my body doesn't produce the needed lactase. When my carpal tunnel bugs me, I don't blame myself. I blame my dang wrists and the repetitive writing and typing involved in everyday life as a student and a TA. But when I'm anxious, I blame myself for lashing out at Ben for dumb things. I feel sorry for him in his decision to marry me. I don't realize that it's a chemical imbalance due to a need of a break and a slower pace and some self care until I remember that I am an anxious and depressed person. I feel things deeply in my nature. It's okay. I'm sensitive. I just need to take care of myself.

I came to terms with the fact that I needed to see a therapist again a couple weeks into this semester. Last semester was horrific. That's all I'll say about that. Then I went from that, packing all my stuff and taking finals early and leaving town and not sleeping the whole drive and getting married and having a reception and leaving home and camping in Arizona and camping in Utah and coming to Rexburg and moving in with this man and starting school and starting work and I haven't breathed in almost a year. The morning after my wedding, Ben and I had breakfast and watched some Netflix and we were just hanging out taking it easy when the most utter, deep, unbearable depression came over me. I started sobbing. I literally felt as though I didn't want to carry the burden of my mortal body any longer. I had never been so far gone that I actually would have preferred to not be alive. Ben is a sweetheart though; he understood it wasn't him or anything and he held me tight until it eventually passed. 

But since that moment, I haven't been the same. I've fought my temper and I've cried basically every day. I've been incapable of sitting down and being productive if Ben isn't there to make me feel obligated to actually do things. I feel like I'm not succeeding in school, work, or being a wife, but rather that I'm scraping by at all of them. I blamed it all on myself, too. I didn't realise what it was. I couldn't see that it was anxiety and depression because I was living it. It crept on me without the realisation that it would be there to stay. 

I wanted to write this because I feel it is important to tell those that don't know what mental illness is like that it is so hard to comprehend. It's hard to understand when you haven't lived it. It's difficult to see it when you are living it. The world needs more love. Those that struggle need all the love and cookies and friendship that you can offer them. 

I also wanted to write this so that if someone who reads this is wondering if it's their fault they can understand that it isn't. I want people to know that mental health is just like physical health. Treatment is never embarrassing. It is necessary and it is so helpful to take care of yourself and love yourself.

I put on Elder Holland's talk "Like a Broken Vessel" the other night, when Ben and I were getting ready for scripture studying and going to bed. His words in general conference back in 2013 were incredible, but I didn't yet understand their depth. Elder Holland is such a passionate speaker so he always strikes a chord in my heart. I've included some highlights from that talk, but I highly recommend listening to the whole thing, which is the link that follows.

I know that through counseling and the other things that my body and mind need to overcome this challenge, I will make it through this again. I did it before, and it will work out this time too. I also know that the only way I can make it through and become stronger by it is by understanding the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He has endured my pains and my weaknesses and my sins and sorrows. He is always here for me and understands better than anyone else. It is through His healing that I will be able to experience the greatest joy.

Great places to get some great gear to help raise awareness and get people support:

Some facts and how to help
Another talk about this
Talk to people you love and ask them how they are doing. Actually invest in their answer. Look for ways to serve. Sit and think about people in your life and who needs help and whatever name pops into your head, help them. New moms? Show them some love and give them a hand.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

It's okay to not know things

Last semester, in my Principles of Physics II class, I asked a question. I was one of 4 women in that class of 35-40 people. It was the last week of school, and we had just taken a test and were reviewing it in preparation for the final. The exam had been on optics. There was a question about a dual-lens system and in the problem I had found the following: to focus on an object farther away, you had to bring the lenses closer. Well, as the daughter of someone who had minored in photography and the sister of another who had majored in it, my experience through my whole life was that to focus on something farther away, you make the lens longer. The thing is, cameras are more complicated, and I knew that, but it had definitely caused an inner conflict when I was in the testing center. Therefore, desiring to understand exactly what the difference was, I raised my hand to ask my professor to explain.

He called on me. I phrased my question based on the information I had provided. I never expected the result: immediately upon wording my question, before the professor started to speak, there was a chorus of probably 20 men behind me starting to yell the answer at me. I was shocked. "What is this word-vomit going on?" I remember asking in disbelief. I'd never had this happen in a classroom. I'd never heard anyone ask a question and get that kind of response. Eventually everyone became quiet so my professor could tell me what I wanted to know, which was basically just that camera lenses have more going on (so really didn't quite answer my question but rather confirm my hypothesis), and class moved on.

I still don't know what happened. Women in my classes don't often ask questions -- if they do at all. I've been trying for a long time to teach myself to ask questions in class. It's almost always men, and yet, through my entire education, when a man has asked a question in one of my classes, my previous experience has never occurred.

Which leads me to my current field of study: it's okay to not know things. I know, it sounds ridiculous, but after 12 years of public education where it felt like I constantly had to prove that I was smart and where I felt as though asking a question would show everyone that I don't know things and that therefore "smartness" no longer applies to me, I'm trying hard to teach myself that it's okay to not know things. That's why we go to school. That's why we take classes. We are supposed to push past the wall of what we know to expand ourselves.

I'm a TA for my Physics I professor. It's hard work, answering questions from students that look no different than I do. I'm not old and wise and experienced, and sometimes, I don't know what answer to give them. I have to remind myself that it's better to show weakness and ask my professor to help because I don't know things than to act like I know things and tell them all sorts of wrong stuff. I have to remember that my professor knows I'm just a student and that he's the nicest professor I've ever had and that he probably appreciates that I'm humble enough to turn to him for help. It sure does take a lot of humility, though.

So I guess all I'm trying to say here is that asking questions is hard. Teaching yourself that it's okay to not know things is difficult. But I'm a physics major; not knowing things is basically the prerequisite for this. It's okay to have questions. That's why we have professors. That's why we have a Heavenly Father who is willing to listen, who will never judge us, and who will always love to give us answers. Our life is one giant learning experience. When we ask questions, we figure out where to go and we learn so many cool things. It's okay to not know things; it's the perfect place to start.

Also, I found some hilarious stock images in my first attempt to find a good photo for this post. Enjoy.
no caption needed

me after that one time with the camera question

"how is the top part staying up when I'm only holding up the dot"

modern physics got me like
gurl....... up top.

Friday, April 22, 2016

for all eternity

Two weeks ago, on April 8th of the year 2016, I married my best friend, Ben Godfrey, in the house of the Lord in Sacramento, California.
Getting married happened really fast when one considers how much time is spent preparing to get married. But I had so many thoughts and feelings that I felt impressed to share with those of you who may read this, for whatever reason you may pull from it.

I got about 2.5 hours of sleep Wednesday night. We drove from Rexburg to Auburn, leaving at about 6 and losing an hour due to poor navigating (we backtracked from Pocatello about 3/4 of the way to Idaho Falls). I drove home to sleep in my own bed for an hour before zombie-driving to Auburn to get our marriage license barely on time. I got my nails done, hung out with my parents, ate yummy food, had a lovely "bachelorette party" with my sister and cousin who are 8-ish years older than me and my cousin's 8-year-old daughter, consisting of Cheesecake Factory and buying a bra (WOOOO!! It actually was fun, I think, I was really really really tired). Then I crashed at home one last time before the big day.

I woke up that morning pretty chill. I was still exhausted, but life just seemed weird but pretty acceptable. As the morning progressed I got some nervousness in me. I wrote in my journal about how stressed and worried and emotional I felt about the fact that I had given so much of the life I'd known and loved in the previous 7 months and I was about to give up the rest that I had. There's a musical number from Fiddler on the Roof to describe some of what I was feeling. Man, I knew I loved Ben, and it wasn't that I was feeling cold feet, I was just really overwhelmed and felt incredibly small and young and naive and crazy for doing what I was doing that day. And I was exhausted! I ate some Jamba Juice oatmeal while I got my hair done, and then went on to makeup, all with a smile on my face because it was what I needed to do. I sure felt beautiful, and again, I did not doubt what I was doing, but it was not as blissful as I had expected it to be.

That is, until we did the "first look" pictures with my dad and with Ben. Once Ben was there, the nerves mostly faded, and it was more like "OH MY GOSH WE ARE GONNA BE LATE FOR OUR SEALING EVEN THOUGH WE WERE LITERALLY JUST RUNNING AHEAD OF SCHEDULE BEFORE THIS". I changed out of my wedding dress, and Ben and I rode backseat in the minivan up to the temple. I power-walked as best I could in my 6" gold glittery heels into the temple and to that front desk and as soon as I was there in that dedicated building everything fell into place.

I was privileged to wear my mom's wedding dress for the temple sealing. When I got to the bride's room, the lovely temple worker assigned to help me out was fawning over me, telling me how beautiful I was as I'm sure they love to do for every little bride. They brought me and Ben into the celestial room while we waited for our family that was there to attend the sealing came in. As soon as I walked into that room, I was astounded. This was the most gorgeous, beautiful, incredible room I'd ever seen. The way the late-afternoon light filtered in through the one window and into the crystals of the chandelier, the red of the wood on the furniture, everything was so incredible and so perfect. It was then that I felt the peace that I had been waiting for. The spirit came so strongly to me, and though my head was beginning to hurt and I really kind of wanted a nap, I knew I was exactly where I needed to be. I knew without a doubt that Heavenly Father was so proud of me and Ben for living our lives the way we did so He could bring us together. I cried. It was great.

I won't say much about the sealing because it is so sacred but it was an incredible feeling to see that room full of people I loved and grew up with. At the same time, my heart yearned for the faces I knew were missing and I really, truly, wished could be there. These are the sacrifices you have to make to be sealed in the temple. You know it is what you need, you know it is perfect, and yet it is so hard to love people so much and not be able to see them there in that room with you. My mother, a convert, was a perfect example because I know it was such a difficult sacrifice for her to make. Though it may have been difficult in this respect, I wouldn't have had my wedding anywhere else. It was seriously perfect. I cried. Mom cried. Nancy cried. Other people cried. It was great.

EDIT: I forgot to mention something! When the sealing was over and I came back into the bride's room to change into my wedding dress, there was a woman there who had a family member taking out their endowments. Or was she taking out hers? The details are confusing to me. Regardless, she and her husband moved in next door out here in Rexburg. I tried (unsucessfuly) to help her get her mattress up the stairs and they invited me in for dinner when my key didn't work in my apartment door while Ben was at work. Small world! So crazy.

Anyway, to sum up the rest of the evening, we took pictures and I kept sinking backwards into the moist ground outside the temple because of my dang shoes. My head hurt, and I felt ill. The second photographer gave me a granola bar. We had a really awesome ring ceremony planned but we just shared how much we loved each other and how grateful we were to be sealed in the temple. Dinner followed, and I couldn't breathe in my dress, so I ended up the most casual person there. We left early. I was grateful that I had planned the reception for the next day.

Brief note: "the reception was excellent" (insert a wink at you, Dad, Mom, and Ben). Sorry, inside joke. But it seriously was. So many lovely people showed up, a couple were sorely missed, but the cake was delicious, Trey was the "master of fade-outs" until the laptop died (saving Ben and me from 2.5 more minutes of our awkward slow-dance), band nerds came, SO MUCH HELP FROM FAMILY that I cannot thank them for enough, and just so much perfectness in one night. I couldn't have asked for a better reception.

Unfortunately, a day into our honeymoon, depression hit. I had gone so fast for the last 7 months, my life had gone through so much change, and now I was married to someone that I've known for 1.5 years and still think of as a stranger. That's right, I don't even know who Ben really is. I mean, I have some ideas, but I've known him for such a short blip in an eternal scheme of things. The point is, I think, to choose your love, love your choice, and spend the rest of your lives getting closer and closer to figuring out who the other person is. We have an eternity to do so, and I'm glad, cause this will take a while. 

I love Ben so much. Getting married was wild and a roller-coaster ride and it's only just barely started. He's my best friend, my companion, and I wouldn't have anyone else. Ever. I'm so grateful that my life led me his way, and that he never could get rid of me. He's such an incredible, sweet, loving person and I'm eternally grateful for April 8th, 2016, when we were sealed for time and all eternity in the house of the Lord.

My awesome sister took my wedding photos. She's seriously awesome.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

feed my lamb(da)s

Hi everyone! I'm dying. School is so hard. I turn twenty on Tuesday. I get married two weeks from tomorrow. Magnetism. Second order linear nonhomogeneous differential equations. Ack. I'll get through this. Send chocolate. Come to my wedding reception*. Give me hugs.

Anyway, we are well into optics in my Principles of Physics II class. We've talked about wavelengths and frequencies and the speed of light (also talked about that in E&M) and everything under the sun that doesn't require vector calculus, linear algebra, or differential equations.

If you've ever wondered how microwave ovens don't radiate you and how the grid on the window works, but you wondered it too passively to actually open a new tab and google it, I understand you completely. We talked about how this works in my class either this week or last week (it's all one long awful week to me at this point), and it seems crazy: the wavelength of the microwaves in your microwave oven that are used to heat your food have a wavelength that is way larger than the holes in the metal screen. Doesn't matter how big the amplitude is; if they are long enough, they are going to be really bad at getting through those holes.

Another cool hypothesis, from that book I stole from my Institute director back home, connected here: God communicates with us via light, but it's light of EM wavelengths that we haven't yet discovered.

So, the point I'm getting to here is this: each of us is a metal screen. Each of us is a uniquely made one. Different wavelengths of light penetrate through us in different ways.

I was privileged to speak the Sunday before last during Sacrament meeting. The other two speakers were to of the women with me in the Relief Society presidency. Ben pointed out to me that each of us presented our talks in different ways, but we all spoke well: the first speaker, he said, was soft-spoken, gentle, really sweet, and full of love; I was matter-of-fact and laid it out like it is, gave scriptures to back all of my points, and elaborated on them; and the last speaker was "more feisty"! He cracks me up. Anyway, each of us is a largely different person, and we come together to present our talks or work as members of a presidency to strengthen the kingdom of God on Earth and "feed [His] lambs".

Most Sacrament meetings, one might feel the spirit the speakers bring, but one speaker in particular might resonate with us deeply. One might sit through General Conference and feel the spirit testify that these are the Lord's anointed and the words they speak are good, but one or two speakers will seem to speak to them personally. One might feel the Spirit bear witness of truth in a way completely different from another. Some wavelengths just might not get through our metal screen, but others will, and that's totally fine.

I testify that God knows how we understand the world and how we need to hear things. He knows who we are and He has for millennia and He will never try to speak to us in ways we just don't get. Sometimes, we don't quite seem to hear anything for a while. That's okay. He is still there, and when the time is right, we will feel the spirit and understand things again. The light will always come. This is my promise in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

I'm really tired and I couldn't find a decent picture for this post

*Do you need the details on my wedding reception? SHOOT ME A TEXT! Or email. Or anything. I would love to see you there as long as I know you and you aren't some weird internet stranger! But if you are some weird internet stranger, hi! Thanks for reading my blog! Feel free to message me anytime as well! But also understand why I can't invite you to my wedding reception. Safety issues. All that jazz. But I'm glad you're here anyway!

Friday, March 11, 2016

the confidence proportionality constant

The time spent in a physics or math class is directly proportional to the decrease in confidence levels.
The level of physics or math class (100, 200, 300, 400) is also directly proportional to this.
For example:

This is a 200 level class, physics 220. You should see the steepness of the curve for math 316.

Given the steepness of that curve, my confidence levels in my usage of the term "directly proportional" is at about 17%. I haven't slept enough in weeks, so don't judge me.

But seriously. I have found that the more a person is educated, the more they realize they don't know a single darn thing at all. I had this conversation with Ben the other day. He never lets me go far without telling me that I'm intelligent, which is much needed when you spend hours upon hours in classes realizing how little you understand at all. Magnets? How do they work? I'd go ask my professors for help, but what do I ask? I don't even know what I don't know. I might go tell them that anyway, and see if they can offer anything to me. They're all so kind here. Except that one jerk I had for a foundations class semester. What a buttmunch. But I digress.

I'm getting married in 4 weeks, so that's grand. Can't wait. I'm giving a talk on Sunday. Kinda feel the same way about both: a little excited, kinda nervous, no idea how to make either of them really work. But my confidence level in my marriage is already 200%. It's an attempt to make up for the -4700% confidence I have in my classes at the moment, but it's something.

See, having confidence in a marriage is an absolute must. There are laws that govern a successful relationship, I've found. Basic ones permeate through all relationships: be faithful, respond to your partner according to their love languages, choose your love and love your choice. More specific ones are tuned to the two partners; some people have trust issues or damages from other people that require amending the basic love laws. I think the most important law governing relationships is to eliminate the word "divorce" from the dictionary.

I'm not talking about abusive relationships or anything like that. There are times where someone is seriously damaged by their spouse and there are times when it is necessary to end things.

My confidence level is so high because I've spent a year and a half getting to know Ben. We spent time broken up and we know now that life apart like that is life not worth living. My "long" engagement (Rexburg eye-roll) has taught me about marriage on its own. For example, one law that governs most relationships is "never go to bed angry" (or early, if you have preggo-brain when writing me marriage advice). For Ben and I, mostly for myself, I have to go to bed angry sometimes. I get so worked up over silly things and I just need to go to bed, wake up, and wonder what the big deal even was. I'm grateful that I got to figure that out while I still had to sleep in my own bed in my own apartment, personal time away from my honey to wake up and realize I'm a dork.

Anyway, I kinda just started writing and a blog post about marriage came forth. It's a bit of a hot topic for me at the moment, so I'm sorry. This probably isn't very well organized, but I'm an exhausted lazy busy student so I'm kind of sorry it's a hot mess but not really at the same time because this is some silly blog thing that I just kinda word spit on kind of but not really bi-weekly and I am sorry for this tacky run-on sentence. Tl;dr I'm as sorry as a Canadian.

Kinda hoping my confidence level will go back up a little before finals, but not gonna count on it. Send cookies and massages.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

quit telling me it's because I'm smart

I appreciate that you would compliment me. I understand why you'd say I'm smart. "Genius" is something all physics majors are; at least, when they're women.

I have one particular memory from when I was about 4, and it's probably my earliest. I went with my mom to Franklin Elementary, where she volunteered for my brother's second-grade class once a week or so. I don't remember how we got there, but we were in a supply room, and a teacher or someone had me reading words aloud from a cardboard book. I was so smart; I was pronouncing every word correctly. Then we came to a particular word that I was entirely unfamiliar with: "sofa". I can see the illustrated couch ("couch" was what they were always called in my home, hence the unfamiliarity) and the word in large lower-case letters printed at the bottom. I tried my best to sound it out, and I don't remember how I said it, but I got it wrong.

This was the first of many times in the years to follow, most of which I remember, in which I was at risk of being found out. I was putting my "smart badge" in jeopardy. I could never let anyone know that I was capable of mistakes, because then, I wouldn't be smart anymore, and smart was really all I had.

When I was in 1st grade, I was in a special group of 3-4 kids that were pulled aside to read chapter books during class. In 3rd grade, I was first to win the "math wizard" by doing all my times tables and other 3rd grade math functions (it's been a while and a couple of math classes since then so it's hard to remember what was involved). I was the district 4th grade spelling bee champion. In 6th grade, I fought to be in the advanced math group. I missed being in the gifted kids program and was furiously jealous of the real smart kids who got to build robots. In 8th grade, I was in the special geometry class. I entered high school in algebra II. I took AP calculus and got a 5 on the BC exam. I was in AP  physics and AP chemistry and I lived my whole academic life in fear of being found out and being average and losing the name "smart".

Being told over and over and over and over that I was smart ruined me. I couldn't ask a question in class because it would show that I didn't know something. I couldn't answer a question in class because if I got it wrong I would be discovered. I had to endure recovery from anxiety once I hit college. I wasn't just smart, I was a girl. I had to represent my whole gender and prove that we belong in STEM classes just as much as any guy.

Since college and since I came up to Rexburg, I've been pulling at the threads of this tapestry woven tight over 18 years. I've been trying to convince myself to get rid of what psychologists call a fixed mindset and I have tried to ask more questions and get more help. I'm not a physics major because I'm smart. Maybe I am smart, but that's completely irrelevant. What matters is that I'm passionate and I'm determined and I don't give up and I keep working hard.

All of this was brought to my attention when I attended a Women in Physics meeting for us BYU-I female physicists. Two or three of the women in charge had gone to a conference in Oregon for women in physics. They talked about the implicit bias we have when it comes to men, women, and the subjects we study, and they shared a clip from one of the conference's speakers. She had shared a story about a woman who had just started working at a particle accelerator and was one of three women employed: herself, a computer scientist, and a secretary. She was stopped in the hallway by a man early in her time there. He said hello, pointed out that she must have been one of the new women employed, things like that. Then he asked her this: "So, are you a secretary, or are you a genius?"

Those are my options as a woman when it comes to science. I'm either a secretary or a genius. If I'm a scientist, I'd darn well better be a great one. I'd better win some Nobel prizes and get PhDs from MIT. There is no place for me as an okay physicist. I can't just be pretty decent. I'm either a secretary, or I'm a genius.

Also, I don't think I could ever be a good secretary. Hard job. But notice how nobody thinks of it that way. It's woman's work, and it's easier than working a particle accelerator... right?

Is your daughter smart? Don't tell her. Praise her for how hard she works, how well she does her homework, how determined she is to succeed, how much she loves other people, how good of a friend she is, how she's always asking questions and trying to learn, and anything else that has to do with what really matters. Don't confine her to the smart box; she will spend her life afraid that someone will kick her out as soon as she messes up. Tell her she can be anything and do anything if she's willing to work hard for it.

And when I argue with you when you tell me I'm smart, don't take it personally. It has less to do with your choice of words and way more to do with trying to fix what I see when I look in the mirror.

5th grade autobiography report/presentation on Sally Ride during my astronaut phase.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

flat tires and faith

I missed my normally-attempted bi-Thursday post this week. Unfortunately, it's been one of those weeks that has kicked my butt. I took two exams today and stared at code for 3 hours. I'm honestly really tired right now writing this. So this one really has little to do with anything more than popping my tire. Enjoy!

Last Thursday, Ben and I headed out toward California. I was beyond ready to escape Rexburg for a weekend. I get claustrophobic here in Idaho, to be quite honest. I have talked previously about my battle with my mental health and because of my anxious tendencies the long, dark, bitter-cold winter has been tough. Take your vitamin D, folks. You're sadder than you think. Therefore, I was ready for the sun, and thankfully the 70-degree weather stuck around for me while we were there.

Ben and I came into California at about 1 AM, 2 AM our time. I had a terrible cold and had drugged myself for most of the ride and had been taking naps while Ben drove, but we all know how useless car-sleep really is. We had tried to stop in Reno so he could use the restroom, but both places we stopped had some weird creepy dudes and I didn't want him to leave me in the car alone. So we had just barely crossed the California border when I saw a sign for a gas station and suggested we stop there. We were getting ready to exit in about a quarter mile when it suddenly felt that we hit some rough pavement. It took a few concerned but exhausted seconds to realise the front tire on the driver's side had popped.

Tender mercy #1: we were right at the exit we had already planned on taking, so we were able to pull off and deal with the situation safely away from freeway traffic.

We threw all the stuff in the trunk onto the back seat (where I had carefully made sure nothing was squashing the precious cargo, my wedding dress in its bag) and dug out the spare tire. It was dark, and the lug nuts were on snug, and the car jack was hard to crank up high enough, but my handsome strapping soon-to-be husband got the old tire off and the spare on with little issue.

We drove nice and slow for a few miles before Ben broke the news that he was officially like a bike: two tired (to drive). I got to spend the next 2 hours fighting off my own sleep and going 40 miles per hour down the mountain. It takes a huge amount of effort to not exceed 40 miles per hour on I-80 West coming down the Sierras. We finally got to Auburn at about 3 AM, and my mom and Ben's dad could finally go to bed knowing we were safe.

The next morning, we see how amazing it really was that we got home: all of my tires were flat (explaining the tire popping; Rexburg is at a significantly higher altitude and lower temperature) and the spare was REALLY FLAT. Like, really flat. Really really really flat.

Tender mercy #2: the spare lasted me all the way down the mountain in the lonely, cold, dark, exhausted driving atmosphere I had to deal with.

Whenever I travel, I make a point to say a prayer before we go. It's something my dad always did, and I'm sure it's something most religious people do. But we were dumb kids who didn't realize we should check the tire pressure (Ben even thought about it and forgot) and we just wanted to get out to California so we could see our parents and I could have my bridal shower. Even in our sillyness, Heavenly Father answered our prayers that (a) if something did happen to us, we'd be able to deal with it and (b) our spare would last us all the way home and no other tires would bust.

We are all dumb kids just trying to get by. After my weekend of sickness and then giving Ben the death cold, I slept 4.5 hours Sunday night and drove the whole way home on Monday, in the car for 12 hours. This week, I've had to fight to catch up and recover from forgetting an entire project and understand linear algebra (?????) and prepare for my midterm exams and take care of Ben and it just about killed me. Thankfully, in ways I recognized but mostly ways I didn't until I thought about it later, I was carried through this week by the wonderful power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

Everything I have felt and experienced was already felt and experienced by a perfect Savior. Every trial, every stomachache from stress and worry, every sleepless night, every unintentional class-time nap, every struggle, and every disappointment has been felt an incredible amount of times over by this perfect brother and friend. There are so many times when He carries me through the things I know I can't handle. I wrote a post about trials recently, and I feel it is again relevant that sometimes we are most definitely given more than we can handle. Sometimes our tires pop at 1 AM after we've been sick and driving for hours and hours already. That's why the Atonement is so relevant. That's the reason Christ suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane. He heals our sins, and he takes upon us our issues, and someday, He will gather all of us and heal us from all of our infirmities, just as He did when He visited His people in the Americas (3 Nephi 17). I look forward to that day when I will see Him. I do not expect that I will be able to do anything other than fall at His feet and wash them with my tears. I will thank Him for every tire miracle and every sleepless night and every sacrifice I had to make knowing that He had sacrificed it all, "that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities".

BEHOLD. I drove on this for 80-90 miles. 

Thursday, January 28, 2016

a universe of divine order

I have been reflecting on what to make this post about for a couple of days. Elder and Sister Bednar came on Tuesday to speak to us at devotional and a "date night" for married students (and engaged!). It was an incredible, faith-affirming experience for me. The Spirit testified that God calls prophets and apostles today just as He always had. I figured I would write about what Elder Bednar taught us (me), and I will, just in a different way than I anticipated about 45 minutes ago.

My day today ended with Old Testament. Unlike Tuesdays, when I have to run to get a good devotional seat, I was free to stick around. I knew it was time to ask my professor a question that had been on my mind for a couple of months.

I'll preface this by saying that my Old Testament professor is Ron Anderson, the same guy I grew to love in Biblical Hebrew last semester. I loved that difficult class, but couldn't continue with the second course because my degree needed to take over, and it so has. But I wasn't about to skip the second half of Old Testament, and I wasn't about to miss having him as a professor. So I took my very basic skills at it and joined the front row of his Old Testament class.

A month or so ago, something interesting, a difference, about the temple was pointed out to me. I tried to figure out why that one little thing was different, but I just couldn't. No ideas or hypotheses came to mind. I wished I were back home at the LDS Institute of Religion, because there is a teacher there (who studied also studied Hebrew) that I had plagued with so many of my troubles and questions before and I knew he'd be able to answer it. Then, I realized it: why not ask his old classmate, Brother Anderson? So I stuck around after class until the room calmed down enough for me to ask my question.

He answered it in a way that showed me entirely why this difference existed in one single "aha!" moment. Though I can't blog any details about the sacred temple teachings, I will say that the reason the difference existed was directly related to the topic that I heard Elder Bednar speak about 2 days ago. Because I had learned about repetition and revelation from an apostle of the Lord, I was finally ready to receive the full and complete answer to my question, and I was prompted by the Spirit to do so. My question was answered, and because of my faithfulness, Brother Anderson was inspired by that same Spirit to proceed to teach me even more about the temple and the gospel and to tell me words of comfort that I needed to hear. I felt the Spirit testify in my heart of the beauty and divinity and completeness of it.

Or, it was all just a happy coincidence.

Supposedly, the universe exists because of a coincidence. The human race got lucky and this planet had the exact perfect ecosystem and chemicals and water, that weird substance, and all these other crazy complicated high-detail things and the human species evolved to become sentient and powerful and religious and weird and unique above all other things on this earth. So complicated, in fact, that they write run-on sentences and a term to describe that type of sentence and a way to publicly share these sentences and facts. I could go on. Statistics are not in favor of the human race, and yet we exist.

I'm not trying to say that, in 6 24-hour periods, the Earth was made and everything thereon. I'm not trying to say that evolution doesn't happen. I'm simply saying that I don't believe in coincidences.

Someday, I will have this knowledge of physics and the universe that I carry on beyond the grave. I'll get to see how the Earth was made and how it fits into the laws I learned and how to change some of those human theories to be pure and correct. It will be incredible because I will see the infinite care that a God put into the place for His children to inhabit and grow to become like Him. What a day that will be!

For now, I'll keep learning, trusting, and enjoying the divine order in my life. I have no time to do all that I do, and yet it gets done and I have all of Sunday to devote to my calling and my spiritual well-being. Small miracles happen every day, and I testify to you all that they are never coincidences.

As a temple sealer said to me and my family, "There are no coincidences, only choreography".

Sunday, January 17, 2016

God's modulus

The power of prayer is real, and sometimes, it can seem like a real test of the human ability.

Before the semester started, I prayed for the opportunity to serve in the church and to help the members in my ward. With my crazy difficult class schedule, I wasn't sure what I was going to be called to do. I was called to be the first counselor of my Relief Society. 

I mean, it could have been worse. I could have been called to be president, but both Relief Societies in my student ward already had a president from last semester. Dodged that bullet. Honestly, I can't be more grateful to get to serve. I love my role as a Latter-day Saint woman. I love knowing the divine potential I have as a daughter of God. I love reading Sheri Dew books and rambling to Ben about how strongly I feel as a woman of science and faith. 

More importantly than any service I could do, I am grateful that Heavenly Father is giving me this opportunity to grow and stretch myself. I've been crazy stressed, and it's only been one week of the semester. I have more homework than I have hours in the day. I don't even have time to socialize or have fun or do anything related to the word "leisure" if I want to get all of my homework done.

I know that the Lord is aware of this. I know He knows I can hardly handle what I have already on my plate. He is aware of my every struggle and my every prayer and my every weak moment. And I know that He trusts that I can handle this calling.

In my Physics II class, we learned about fluids and elasticity. The interesting thing about solids is that they change under pressure. The main equation we learned for elasticity was Young's modulus:

F/A = Y (ΔL/L)

This looks a lot like pressure = Y (% increase in length). However, since we are talking about the elasticity of solid materials, "pressure" is referred to instead as "tensile stress" and the fractional increase in length is called "strain".

The interesting part comes in when considering how objects (steel, concrete, copper, wood) react to tensile stress.
The slope of the graph reflects how stiff the material is, like pure gold compared to titanium. From the beginning up until the yield point, the material will compress or stretch but when the tensile stress is removed it will return to its original length. Past the yield point and before the failure point, the tensile stress will permanently alter the object so that it is forever longer or shorter than it started. Finally, at the failure point, the object breaks.

This is a perfect parable. Living life in the elastic region, we are never changed. We experience stress sometimes, but it doesn't shape us or change us. Heavenly Father takes us and puts enough stress on us to shape us and make us into who He knows we can be. He will never push us past our failure point; He will never give us more than we can take with the Lord on our side. We only need trust in Him and in the Atonement (which can fix us when we break ourselves) and He will shape us into who we need to be.

I know that by putting the Lord's kingdom first this semester, He will guide my paths. He will provide a way for me to learn all that I need to when I put His will first. I have no need to fear. When my burden is more than I can bear, the Savior is there to help me carry it. All I have to do is be humble, teachable, charitable, and patient with myself, and allow the tensile stress of God to shape me into a better person.
"I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them." -1 Nephi 3:7

Thursday, January 14, 2016


So, I haven't slept a full night in 2 weeks. It's been fun. School started a week ago yesterday, and I have had schoolwork until 11 or 12 at night. I'm essentially drinking physics, differential equations, and computer programming from a fire hose. Honestly, I'm exhausted, it's a lot of stress (or is it strain?), but I am kind of enjoying it. I am learning so much right now, and with Ben working as many hours as he can, I have a homework buddy almost all the time.

Ben is seriously the best. I fell asleep on the couch the other day for a power nap while he was getting off from work. I woke up emotional, as naps often make me, and so I was pretty sad. He came over, and I just kept getting more sad. I had tons of homework (as is the norm) and I was overwhelmed with trying to understand things in my classes. I asked if he would help me a little bit with making dinner for us, and he said he wasn't sure he could because of all of his own homework. That's when the fuse blew, and I literally just started crying. Pretty hard, too. My stress release is crying, and I'm pretty sure I have blogged about that before, but yep, I hid my face and he didn't realize why until a few moments later when I was really crying. He took it like a CHAMP. He was kneeling by me on the couch and he just wrapped his arms around me and said sweet calming things while I just let it all out. Eventually I calmed down, got up, and he helped me thaw some spinach for dinner.

Anyway, enough of that. I'll write a brief message, and then I have to get on with my homework.

I'm taking Electricity & Magnetism (without too much calculus) and so the word "potential" is all over the place. It's the hardest class for me right now, and this stuff always has been, because magnets, how do they work? There are days when I do the online assignment and get half of the questions completely wrong. I'm not a natural scientist. I am fascinated by how things work, and I'm fairly decent at math, but in reality, I'm less of a thinker and more of a feeler. I would excel in a field in psychology or sociology. I love people and I love caring for them. I am a nurturer, just as my nature as a woman helps me to be. In fact, when it comes to my major, it isn't even that I want a career. The men in my classes talk about what research they want to do, where they want internships, what they hope to study in graduate school. My graduate school will be the university of motherhood, my degree in raising a family in righteousness and safety, and I will be graded on the love and kindness that I have. My degree is so that I can have something to pursue after my children are grown, or something I can pursue part-time at home. It is so I can stretch myself and teach my children why the sky is blue and why bubbles are rainbow and why their straw looks bent in water (what I lack in E&M, I make up for in waves and optics, apparently).

I work hard because I know I have the potential to become so much more. I have been promised the help of God in pursuing my education and in understanding complex theories. The great thing about science, art, literature, engineering, math, dance, and anything else is that you don't need an inherent skill. You don't need to be a natural. Sometimes, if you're like me, what you love (physics) and what you're natural at (not really sure actually but not physics) don't quite line up. You can work hard and achieve anything.

We are eternal beings in mortal bodies. We have been placed here to learn and stretch and grow. We make choices and we apply faith and we work hard and we can become anything we could ever dream of. Never be too afraid of failure to pursue the course you feel is best. Heavenly Father takes our failures and changes us, guiding us to the greatest success we can have.