Monday, July 23, 2012

Musical Moment: "For Good"

Today's Musical Moment is from an extremely popular musical - "For Good" from Wicked.

I chose this cliche song for MM today because I am reaching the end of an adventure. I have less than a week left here in Oxford. It has been a journey, a challenge, a blast, and a blessing. I have learned so much about myself and my abilities here. Actually, my testimony has grown so much. I haven't been able to go to sacrament meeting for several weeks, and I am the only LDS kid here, but I have felt such a profound and obvious presence of the Spirit. I have felt the love of my Father in Heaven. I've been strengthened in my testimony of prophets and apostles as proclaimers of the word of God. It's amazing.

....Buuut, I'm ready to go back to church.

Not only has just the general experience caused me to think of this song, but individual people here at ASA have entered my life, and I hope they remain in it for years to come. I have had so many fun times, deep conversations, insightful experiences, and giggles. I love so many people here, and I will miss them as we return to our various homelands all over the world.

Thank you.

"For Good"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The Sister Question

Those of you who know me well know that I have brothers, and no sisters. I am the only female child of my parents. I am also the oldest, so I got to hope each time one of the boys was born that I might FINALLY get a sister. Ehh... I love my brothers, and I wouldn't trade them for girls.

Still, I have sisters. How, you may ask? Friends, Young Women, and little ones. I have to say that it is an honor to be able to interact with these beautiful girls.

I can't say that I know exactly what it's like to have biological sisters - I don't. But, these girls give me purpose. I have to set an example of what a young lady is - graceful, classy, motivated, kindhearted, do-ers. This means that I have to work. I have to develop myself into what I know those girls can be. It is a challenge for me.

I learn what I can from the older girls. I watch them (and idolize them, actually). The way that they behave impacts me SO MUCH. I want to like the things they like, and act the way they act. I'll admit it - there are times when I change what I'm doing because of them. This is what little sisters do. I don't know if these older girls will ever know how much I look up to them.

It is interesting to be a girl in this world. It is hard being placed under constant pressure to be "hot" and "sexy," or "strong" and "independent," or "refined" and "flawless." Basically, to be perfect. This pressure from the World is a lot.

The Sisterhood is consistently under attack. It doesn't only make us insecure about ourselves, but it makes us competitive with one another. This should push us in the opposite direction. We should be hanging on even tighter to each other. We should gather to stand in opposition to the World's ideals. This gathering is happening. I've seen it occur over and over again. Every time a girl walks into a room, smiling and confident, dressed appropriately for the situation. Every time I see a girl sitting by herself be greeted by a group of friends. Every time a young woman decides to dedicate herself to her education for self-betterment and the ability to serve others and educate her children. Every time a girl decides to work towards what "real woman" is: kind, virtuous, educated,  confident, classy, willing to love and serve, with "deep beauty" reflected on her face. (Check out "A Beauty Secret from a Boy" to learn what "deep beauty" is.) As we help one another become this kind of person, the Sisterhood is strengthened.

There is nothing so fulfilling as hearing a young woman you love and admire say "You're like a sister to me." Thank you for letting me be a small part of your life. Thank you for giving me the great honor of having you in my life. Thank you for your remarkable example. I love you!

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Guy's Guide to Dating (GDD: Part 3)

Ok gents. I hope you didn't think you were getting out of this one. You may not want to hear this, but dating begins with you. YOU are responsible for making sure girls have an opportunity to let good dating happen.

"Young men generally take the initiative in asking for and planning dates." - For the Strength of Youth (2012 edition)

That's what it says, brother. You have a charge. It's scary, I know. I've asked guys out before. I feel your... not pain. Insecurity is a better word for it. Think about it this way: you think it's scary asking out your friend to play laser tag for an evening? Imagine how intimidating it will be when you ask the most amazing, beautiful girl in the world, who you love with all your heart and would do ANYTHING for, to be your wife for time and all eternity. Even though you know she'll say yes, it's scary. Better get some practice in putting yourself out there and doing things right. Even the girl you propose to will have to be asked out on a date BY YOU at some point. (Logically, right?)

Let me walk you through a scenario. The bold text is your scenario, and everything else is my commentary.

-You realize that you've got nothing to do next Friday. You talk to one of your guys, and decide that you want to do something different than just "chilling," playing video games and your guitars. You come up with the idea to ask two young ladies you know to a picnic.

                        First of all, good choice. You can hang out with the guys anytime, but this is the initiative we were talking about before. You'll need it outside of high school dating, at places like work and college, so it's good to develop it - it is a talent! Plus, girls find it really attractive.
                       Also, you chose a picnic. It's cheap, fun, and no pressure. You don't have to worry about rides, and you know you'll have an opportunity to just talk.

- It is now Monday, and you are seeing Alison that day. When you see her a little off to the side, and not right in front of all her friends, you look her in the eye, smile and say "Hey, Alison. I was wondering if you were free Friday evening for a picnic. Jeff and I were thinking of getting a double together, and I'd love it if you would go with me."

                       Thank you for not asking in front of everyone! That makes it awkward, either because it looks like you're trying to show off, or if she isn't free, it's uncomfortable for her to decline and arrange another time with you. It doesn't have to be all secretive either, because... That's weird.

                      When you actually spoke, you gave her just what she needs to know. You told her the date (Friday), approximate time (evening), activity (picnic), that you were doubling, and that it was in fact a date! You smiled, made her feel special. Way to be.

- She accepts, and you have a date! You tell her "Great! I'm looking for to it. I'll see you at 5:30 at the park? Do you need a ride?"

                     Always check. Make sure she's clear right then the timing of everything, and that she'll have a way to get there. If your mom needs to drive both of you, that's fine. NO SHAME.

- It's now Thursday, and you have to make sure everything is going to happen. You check the weather to be sure it's not going to rain. You run with Jeff to the grocery store to get sandwich makings (and maybe some junk food). You gather the soccer ball and a blanket. You've got this. You are an ace.

                    That's pretty much it. By making sure everything is in place beforehand, you're guaranteeing that you will be able to relax and have fun on your date. You ARE an ace.

- Your date starts, and you are having a blast. You are talking to Alison, who is actually really different when you talk just to her without a huge group of people. You've already learned that she loves Kit Kats and hates Milky Ways, that she wants to be a doctor, and really wants to go to Africa on safari. She's really cute when she laughs and brushes her hair out of her eyes back behind her ear. You also learned that she can kick your butt in soccer. (No one else needs to know that.) Jeff and his date are a lot of fun too. The four of you are having a lot of fun. You haven't checked your phone, and you have just been talking to the people around you.

                  There is so much going right. A+. You are talking to the people present, and not to anyone on your phone or the "textline." You are doing things according to plan, but left it flexible enough to do what you felt like. You are paying the most attention to your date, and not to Jeff, or worse, Jeff's date. (DON'T EVER HIT ON SOMEONE ELSE'S DATE.) You are just having fun. That is what dating is.

- When it's time to leave, you give her a hug, and say "Thanks so much for going out with me, Alison. I had an awesome time. It was a lot of fun. Maybe next time, we should go to the baseball game! I'll see you around. Thanks again!"

Yes, you THANK HER. The girl didn't have to go out with you. You read that right - You hug her. Don't try to force anything more on her. You went on one group date - don't make things weird. If later on, you've gone on a few more dates with her, you can go for a kiss, but remember: Dating is not to get a girlfriend.

A note on the physical stuff: I know you know that guys and girls are different. They place different meaning on physical affection. I hate to break this to you, but girls vary as well. To one girl, holding hands may be a way of saying "I like you and I'm having fun with you," while to another it may mean "I love you, and this is a sign of commitment." A kiss may be "Thank you for an awesome time, and I really like spending time with you," while to someone else it means "I want to be with you forever." Just be wary about what kind of message you want to send. Some girls want to save their first kiss for over the alter, and some girls throw their lips around, looking for someone to kiss. (Stay away from those girls... Nothing but trouble.)

Well guys, I'm almost done with you. I want to give one little speech before you hit that red X on the upper righthand corner.

Although every girl should be treated with respect, not every girl deserves the young man that you are now and have the potential to be. Remember that. You are an amazing person, who is trying his best to be someone good. You have talents, you have LOADS of potential. You don't get the self-esteem speech as much as girls do, and I think that's terrible. You are working now to be someone who can hold a job, support a family, AND have fun. You may not be thinking about it all the time, but if you sat and thought hard for a little while, you'd realize you have some goals and dreams that you want to achieve. Not every girl will be able to help you get there. I know I say "it's just high school," and "dating is about fun and friendships," but seriously. Do you think that some of these girls will help you be the MAN that you want and can be? They are distractions. They do not deserve you. They will hold you back. Have fun, be chill, but be careful. The people you surround yourself with now will impact who you will become. Besides, your future wife is out there. You are going to think that she is the most amazing person ever (because she is!), and are you going to want to tell her about your manslut ways in high school? Of course not. Basically it comes down to don't be a jerk. Ask girls out. Have fun. Learn a lot. Put yourself out there. Be rejected a few times - it's normal and healthy. It sucks, but it's okay. Make some girls you know smile. Be the kind of man that you want to be.

Think about it.

Questions/Comments? Comment below or send me a message - I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Girl's Guide to Dating (GDD: Part 2)

Back to the dating series! (I'm starting with the girls, but guys, you may want to read this too.) I know I say that proper dating begins when a young man takes initiative and asks a girl out, but, ladies, there has been some not-so-great dating going on on our part too. I'm going to break things down and give you just a few guidelines to help you out.

1. Accepting and Declining.
So, a boy asked you out. How do you feel? Excited? Flattered? Anxious? Repulsed? Confused? Maybe you feel a mixture of these emotions. That's okay. It may be very new to you. It can be intimidating. You may not have been expecting it at all! You have approximately 4.3 seconds to come up with your answer. (I just made up that number.) What do you say?!

Say yes. Unless you have a valid reason to decline, (which we will discuss below) you should pretty much always say yes. Ask him then what the plan is - what day, if he's driving or you're meeting somewhere, what the activity is (so you know how to dress), who else may be there, etc.

To accept, say something along the lines of "Thanks so much for asking, Tom! I'd love to! What is the plan?"

Invalid reasons for declining:
- You don't like him "like that."
- He's "just a friend."
- He's too awkward.
- You don't want to date him.
- You think he's joking.
- You don't want to be in a "relationship."
             If you don't know why these are invalid reasons, please refer to "The Great Dating Dilemma - Part 1"

Reasons why you may decline:
- You have prior plans.
- You're grounded.
                   If either of these are the case, say "Thank you so much for asking, Tom, but I can't go out that day. Is there another time that you'd like to go out?" and continue to arrange other plans. If you say "I'm busy," guys will assume that you don't want to go out and NEVER ASK YOU AGAIN. Seriously.

- You already have a date. (In the case of dances and such.)
                 Again, thank him for his invitation. Apologize that you can't go with him, and ask him if he'd like to go out some other time. He may not get his prom photos with you, but you can still have fun together another day.

- Going on a date with him would make you feel unsafe.
                I'm serious about this one. If a boy makes you worry about your physical or spiritual well being, just decline. Thank him for his invitation, and tell him you cannot go. Do not make up an excuse about being out of town or something. Just say you can't go that evening or that your parents don't want you going to that party or concert. i.e. "Thanks for thinking of me, Jeff, and I'm flattered, but I can't go to that concert - it's past my curfew."

- He's your best friend's ex-boyfriend. (This one I think is a valid reason. Don't break the Sister Code.)
               If he asks you out, give him a look. That's all you need to do. If you choose to accept, go for it. High school shouldn't be super intense anyway. These things are always more complicated than they should be.

- Your parents do not want you to be out with him.
               Go ahead and blame it on your parents. Thank him, of course, but say that your parents don't want you going. It's not your fault, and there is nothing wrong with letting him know that.

- He is actually repulsive. (i.e. Doesn't shower or do laundry, coughs all over you, eats like a pig, and doesn't brush his teeth.)
               I'm reasonable.

If you are uncomfortable being alone with him, but want to be kind and accept, ask him then who you will be doubling with. That brings up the subject without being rude or pushy. i.e. "Thanks for asking me out, Tom! I'm excited! Who are we doubling with? I have a friend who I know could get a date."

2. Preparing.
Make sure you know what the plan is. Nothing is worse that getting somewhere and realizing that you are dressed totally inappropriately for the activity. Also, your parents will be more comfortable letting you go if you say, "Tom and I are going to the park for a picnic. I'll let you know if anything changes," than if you say, "I'm going out with Tom. See you later tonight!" Besides, if you know the plan, you will have less awkwardness milling around than if you didn't have an activity planned.

3. The Date.
 Once you're there, remember: you are on a date with this young man. It is your job to keep your full attention on him. Do not text your friends, do not check out other guys, do not act like you wish you were anywhere but there. If it's a double or a group, do not spend the whole night chatting with your girlfriends. They didn't ask you out. He did. Have fun! Don't worry too much about what he's doing, or what he meant by that remark - most of the time, he meant exactly what he said. Just relax. He's your friend already. Take this as an opportunity to get to know him better. Is he different in a one-on-one conversation than he is when he's part of the crew "hanging out?" Does he have a dream or hobby that surprises you? Probably. Just talk. I can't say this enough: HAVE FUN. That's what dating is for.

Paying: If he asked you out, expect him to pay. If you asked him out, be prepared to pay, but accept if he offers. Allow him to be the gentleman he has the potential to be.
4. Afterwards.
Once he drops you off, or you turn to leave, give him a hug and thank him once again for asking you and giving you an excellent evening. If it's awkward and the rest of your group is there, thank him in person, but also send a text or a message saying once again how much fun you had. The next time you see him, act totally normal. PLEASE don't be one of those girls who think that everything is going to change because you went on a date with this boy. Just be chill. Don't be offended if he doesn't ask you out again right way. It's nothing personal. He just, like you, wants to get to know all sorts of people.

Ok. So, what if you like him?

First, accept politely as stated above.

Secondly, get home, go to your room, shut the door, and have a little jam session. Just jump around and be excited. HE ASKED YOU OUT! There is absolutely nothing wrong with celebrating.

Third, keep in mind the reality of the situation: you are young, he is young. You don't need seriousness right now. The goals are friendship and fun times.

If you have a boy who you like, and he likes you as well, then you are a lucky one, aren't you? Don't feel like you can only go on first dates. You can go on more than one, two, three dates with the same person without being in a "relationship." You could hold hands and be cute without "long-term commitment." I may sound like a terrible person, but this is realistic. Do not try to pull a boy into a "relationship" right now. It makes things messy. Take this time to learn the basics of dating so you don't screw things up when you start looking into marriage. Most young women, as wonderful as they are, don't know how to say yes or no to a date, let alone know how to handle the ups and downs of a "relationship." Just make sure that you are on the same page as your "Tom".

Dating is complicated, with many variables. It would be impossible for me to cover every scenario or situation that could occur. I hope that you ladies find this helpful (and maybe some of you guys find it insightful). Dating is complicated, yes, but it is also wonderful. It is so much fun! Spending time with a good friend is and should be fantastic.

Think about it.

Questions or comments? Please send me a message or comment below! I'd love to hear your opinion.

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Great Dating Dilemma - Part 1

Rejection. Tears. Drama. Ruined friendships. Anger. Cold shoulders. Whispers. Gossip. Insecurity. Vulnerability. Awkwardness.

These are all risks that come with high school dating. Let me tell you - they suck. Not just for you, but for the person you were dealing with, your friends and their friends (which are normally the same people), and family members on both sides.

BUT DON'T WORRY. There are precautions you can take to avoid these issues. Don't let these scare you into not dating. That is something that is occurring more and more often in our culture now. People come up with the best excuses not to date. How many times have you heard these lines?

"Well, I would ask her out, but I can't drive yet."
"He's nice enough, but he's my FRIEND! I could never date him!"
"She's not ready for commitment."
"I'm not ready for commitment."
"She would expect so much from me! There's no way I can live up to her ideals of the 'perfect boyfriend.'"
"Well, I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, so, I said no."
"He won't ask me out!"
"He's shorter than me. It would never work."
"He's too... bland. I can't be with someone who can't like that."
"I don't like her."
"I could never be more than friends. Why lead him on?"
"I don't have any money."

I am going to address each of these statements. This is the first in a mini-series I'm doing on dating. One of my friends told me to wait until I left for England to start this one; just to be sure nothing gets awkward after I open my soul and share my dating philosophy. It is frustrating to watch this generation (MY generation) screw up dating. Come on, guys. Think it through. I have a very different idea of what "dating" means than popular culture does. I am going to break it down for you.

A date is made up of 1 or more couples spending time together to get to know one another better and to have fun at a pre-determined time. Simple. No one said anything about "relationships" or "commitment" or "pressure." That makes dating unnecessarily complicated. If a boy and a girl go into an evening both knowing this purpose, they can spend less time trying to analyze each others' moves and motives, and more time actually having fun.

Now on to the excuses...

1. "Well, I would ask her out, but I can't drive yet."

Guess what? You don't need to drive. Sure, it may be more impressive if you can, and you will have more freedom to change plans. Still, there is NO shame WHATSOEVER in having your mom or older sibling drive you to a date. It is not an issue to meet your date wherever you're going. You asked her out, didn't you? My bet would be that she'll be too excited to notice that you're not driving. Especially in places where a graduated license system is in place; she will understand that the laws make it impossible for you to drive her right now.

2. "He's nice enough, but he's my FRIEND! I could never date him!"

This one bugs me a lot. He's your friend? Oh that's nice... Maybe that's why he wants to spend time with you! Ladies, no one is asking you to continually, or steady, date a young man who asks you out. If he had the guts to ask you out, he obviously thinks you're pretty cool, and he just wants to spend time with you without the rest of the gang. Maybe he does like you. MAKE HIS WORLD. You don't have to go out with him over and over again, or hold his hand, or kiss him, or be his girlfriend. But, if he's nice, and he's your friend - go out with him. Unless he is absolutely terrible, he should at least get one date. Just be smart.

3. "She's not ready for commitment"/"I'm not ready for commitment."

These statements are both correct. No teenager is ready for the type of commitment that is required for the "relationships" we aspire to have. Why should that keep us from dating? Remember the definition of a date above- nothing involving commitment (except showing up on time). If you only will date people in high school that you think will lead to long and happy relationships, you are not going to date much. Why isolate yourself from learning what you want and don't want in the person you end up with? It brings you one step closer to finding that person with whom you will live happily ever after. In the meantime, make friends and have fun. High school is about learning who the heck you are, and the qualities you want in a long term companion can only be discovered once you know your strengths and weaknesses.
 "Commitment" is so over used in high school dating.

4. "She would expect so much from me! There's no way I can live up to her ideals of the 'perfect boyfriend.'"

Read number 3 once more. Take a breath. This one is lame. Have you talked with this young lady to know what she wants from dating right now?  Maybe you've heard her talk to her girlfriends about all the sweet things she wants a guy to do for her. That doesn't mean she expects it to be you. I mean, I tell my girlfriends about how my life is going to be once I inherit a million dollars and marry Richard Armitage. How likely is that? (Next to impossible.) But, that doesn't mean I expect the boy I go out with a few times in high school to be a Hollywood hunk or a period drama god. I expect him to be a teenage boy - who will mess up sometimes, but just be a good friend.

5. "Well, I couldn't tell if he was joking or not, so, I said no."

If you can't tell - ALWAYS SAY YES. That'll teach him not to joke like that again. Besides, he now has a date with you! Lucky chap.  If you can't tell if he's joking, he's probably only half-joking. Asking someone out can be scary, even if they're your friend and you know they'll say yes. It. Is. Terrifying. Using the "Haha... I was just joking" line is a way to defend their pride and hide insecurity. Just assume he's asking you out.

You might be surprised, gentlemen, how often I hear this one, especially with prom. Now you know what I told the girls... Don't actually joke about this, or you'll end up with a date you weren't expecting.

6. "He won't ask me out!"

Then ask HIM out! Some guys have no idea in their adorable minds that you want to go on a date with them! They just don't think about it. Ask him out, and have fun. NO SHAME. Some of my best dates have been when I asked my date. Then you get to plan it too! If you're really nervous, get a girlfriend to ask someone, and double. It's actually a whole lot of fun.

7. "He's shorter than me. It would never work."

Come on. Remember - no one is asking you to go steady with the guy. No one wants you to marry him. GO HAVE FUN WITH HIM. He had the guts to get past his insecurity and ask you out. Please move past your vanity and learn to see him for the person he is inside, not the way he looks to your friends.

8. "He's/She's too... bland. I can't be with someone like that."

Think about this seriously for a second. By "bland", do you mean "good?" Or "sweet?" Or "responsible?" Remember how guys always complain how girls like "bad boys", and girls whine about guys chasing "skanks?" It's true. I've been saying over and over again how high school dating should be about self-discovery and making long-lasting friendships. If this is the case, why would you shun those who would actually treat you with respect and be a good friend? They may not be that Hollywood dream guy/girl, but they are real. Think about it.

9. "I don't like her."

Maybe not now, you don't. Have you noticed how I haven't said a single thing about dating someone you have a genuine crush on? Let me explain. There is nothing wrong with liking someone, or multiple someones. It's age appropriate. This is a big reason why teenagers shouldn't attempt "long -term relationships." You may like one person one day, and another person another day. Of course, this is a general, and there are exceptions. There are teenagers who are so loyal that they struggle liking someone new after liking someone for a long time, just because it's weird not liking person one. There are also people who meet in high school who end up getting married and have long, happy, successful relationships. Those people are champs. In teenage dating, there is nothing wrong with going on dates with someone you like. Just don't try to lock things in place. Date multiple people, but don't be in a "relationship" with multiple people. Keep things light. High school is fun. Don't let "relationship" drama ruin that for you. This means that even if you don't like the person, you can go out with them for a night and have fun with a friend.

There was a study done a few years ago, and the results found that guys were more romantic than girls. This means that guys were more likely to fall in love, and do so quicker. Girls were more tentative with their hearts, but once in love, loved longer.

This means that guys, you may like a girl one day and think that you are going to marry her and be with her forever. Don't say that to her. Chances are you're going to be over her and into a new babe in a little while. It's just the way your high school brains are wired. (It's not an excuse to be a player. Be smart please.)

Girls, don't give all of you. If you are hearing "I love you"'s and "I want to be with you forever"'s from a guy, feel flattered, but don't read too much into it. His brain is ADD, and if you don't believe it, you will end up hung up on somebody that you used to know. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

*NOTE: This is really bad "relationship" advice. It is not intended for people in "committed relationships." It is good advice for teenagers looking for dating and not DATING.*

10. "I could never be more than friends. Why lead him on?"

If you've read this whole post, and are still wondering my opinion on this one, you weren't paying attention. There is no need to be "more than friends" right now. I mean, you can have friends, good friends, and good friends (if you know what I mean), but why do you need a boyfriend or girlfriend? It's a lot of work. If you don't want to lead him on, don't hold his hand or kiss him. Don't say things to him that would be interpreted as you liking him. (Not that all guys read a ton into this, but some definitely do. I'm friends with a few.) I know this is a lot to ask of high schoolers, but just be smart.

11. "I don't have any money."

Dates don't have to cost money! Make a picnic and bring a soccer ball. Go to an outdoor movie in the summer. Heart attack your friends' houses. Have a photo shoot in ridiculous outfits. Document the adventures of an invisible man. Write a song. Build a fort. Have a mud fight. Play with water guns. Watch a movie and make sassy commentary, or turn off the sound and add your own dialogue. Dating can be so fun. Just go have fun! Don't worry about drama. Drama only happens when there is a misunderstanding or lack of communication from the start.

WOW. You have finished a novel-length post. Congrats! Look out for Part 2 and Part 3, which will be "How-To" guides for girls and guys. I will get to them ASAP, because, well, this is a fun topic.

Think about it.

Comments or questions?? I would love your imput! Send me a message or comment below.