to Maurice Jarre, one of the greatest composers of the twentieth-century, if not of all time. Jarre composed scores for film classics Lawrence of Arabia, Dead Poets Society, School Ties,
Ghost and our family favorite Doctor Zhivago.

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I can't wait until we get some clear days and I can camp again. I miss my glaciers!

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Just another reminder...

that nothing in life is free.
As many know, one of the perks of my current deployment, is I am offered a rotation every 35-45 days. My firm pays for airfare to Washington, because according to my records, that is my home. For this rotation I decided to stay at the Marriott Courtyard in Dunn Loring, adjacent to the condo I lived in my last year of graduate school.
The rooms are lovely but the mattress is so hard! I think I slept two-hours last night. It's fine, I'm not complaining. I rarely rest well in hotels.
This morning, when I finally willed myself to the lobby for complimentary breakfast, I have to admit, I was having difficulty seeing and thinking. This is the result of caffeine deficiency in my veins. Steph, Rae, Kate, just about everyone whose been around me in the A.M. is familiar with this phenomenon.
Anyway, I'm perusing the breakfast bar thinking life is good when I'm greeted by this perky hostess who invites me to have a seat. Life is getting better. The Universe is compensating me for enduring a horrible night and not complaining about it.
I sit down to a bagel, yogurt, Diet Coke and omelet, thinking, "This is the best darn breakfast bar I've ever had! I'm staying here again, no doubt about it," until perky hostess brings me the bill for $13.50. Yep. That's right! Are you shaking your heads in disbelief because that is exactly what I did.
I have never stayed at a hotel that didn't offer complimentary breakfast! But according to perky hostess this Marriott does not. Naturally, perky hostess pissed Amber off and got a concise lecture on the importance of communication and was informed this guest (that's me) would not be taking advantage of their "CONTINENTAL not COMPLIMENTARY" breakfast tomorrow morning.
So, let this be a warning to all you considering staying at the MARRIOTT COURTYARD in DUNN Loring, VA. If you are interested in a COMPLIMENTARY breakfast sans the perky hostess, this is not the hotel for you.

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"I, too, know the love of a tacitern man."

I made Amber a solemn promise to blog more this month. As it turns out, I don't have much to blog. I do, however, want to bear my testimony to all of you that co-habitation with a flavor of romance without any true commitment is a bad, bad idea.

I've registered to take a huge test in just under two months. I've got 6 text books to go through and know pretty damn well before I take it. On the up side, I know some of the information already.

Next weekend I'm going to see Freezeout Lake for my March Trip. Then, the weekend after, I head to a conference in Boise, Idaho which may have to count for April. Unless, of course, I decide to start camping early.

All this to avoid eating the fourth box of Thin Mints. Damn those Girl Scouts.

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Double O.M.A.

It's almost, if not, an exact copy of the ring Walter gives Annie at a Tiffany jewelry counter in the film classic Sleepless in Seattle. It has Classic Amber written all over it. I am positive it would look perfect on my hand and when I accrue an extra 4k it will be mine!

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The Bean Trees and Other Things

My Mother was a voracious reader. She loved it. In the morning we would begin our day by reading the local paper and end the day usually with a book in our hand.
As children she would read to us. She had this amazing ability to read a story while subtly adding her own commentary, just loud enough for us to hear. We would erupt in a fit of giggles and she would smile her mischievous grin before continuing. The books never changed but the way she told the story was anything but consistent. It was the anticipation, trying to guess how she would alter the characters or their dialogue, that I found most enjoyable.
Our love for reading never diminished. Even during our teens, when Josh and I were both busy juggling school, church and extra curricular activities, we were always reading something. I loved Victoria Holt while Joshie's favorite was Robert Jordan.
My Mother was always teasing me about my literary choices. She hated historical romances and couldn't understand why I didn't appreciate murder mysteries or medical mysteries more. I think Tony Hillerman was the first author I read that my Mom enjoyed. I remember how wonderful it was to discuss the characters, plot development and conclusion with her after I completed each book.
Although I still haven't read Robin Cook or Patricia Cornwell, as time progressed I did read other books she recommended and vice versa.
Our summers in Atlanta were spent by the pool reading, while our bodies baked in the sun. When we got too hot, we would lay aside our books and walk the shallow-end of the pool updating each other on our progress.
In the evenings we would walk the track and then peruse the library stacks for a new read. My Mother always used the local library. She rarely bought books and often nagged me about spending money on books that I could easily checkout from a library.
I have spent a lot of time reading since completing my graduate program and moving to Mississippi. Last night, as I often do on the weekends, I went to Barnes & Noble to find a new distraction. I recently finished my last Carol Goodman novel and wanted something a little different. I have been tempted to read books I remember my Mother enjoying before, but somehow felt it was too painful. However, passing a copy of Barbara Kingslover's The Bean Tree, a book my Mother loved, I thought, "Why not? Why not read a book my Mother liked?" So that is what I am reading now and so far, I like it. I'm not sure I completely relate to Taylor, the story's main character, but I like the idea of being an independent woman, who leaves everything familiar to her to find herself. In some ways I feel that is what I am doing here; finding myself and hopefully, when it's all said and done, I will find someone I like.

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Variety is a virtue. Or patience is. I can't keep my cousins straight.

Tonight I was hanging out at my brothers house talking about something our Mother did when my sister called in response to a Facebook post our other sister authored when my Grandma appeared on call waiting to listen to my niece make new noises. And I didn't think it was odd because most days are like that for me.

My family isn't really all that sane. We're not really all that 'same' either. As I get closer to the end of my education I'm faced with the strong possibility that I'll have to leave my beloved Montana and work elsewhere for a time. Had you asked me when I was 14 I would have slit my wrists at the idea of having this much family this close. At 31, however, it's difficult to imagine my life without the daily interaction.

So if you're 14 and you're thinking 'What a sicko.' I say until you, "Just you wait, kiddo."

P'Birds and Cupcakes

My first Sunday as the CTR-8 Primary instructor started off with hugs, my reward for bringing cupcakes, and a discussion on the steps of the repentance process. My objective as the CTR-8 teacher is to prepare the students for baptism. I am sure there are plenty of people in the ward more qualified than myself, but I am so excited about this opportunity to be apart of their lives at such an important time for them; a time, I hope they will never forget.

There are four boys and four girls in my class. Beginning with the back row from left to right, there is Landon, Ian, Blake and Samuel, who also goes by Sam or Sammy.

On the front row, seated from left to right are, Samantha, who we are calling Sam or Sammy now, McKayla, Samantha, and Emely.

While we were discussing making wrong choices and the consequences of doing such, Samuel raised his hand and informed me that Blake was not a nice boy. I was quick to defend Blake whose head was hanging down in shame.
"I am sure that's not true," I said. "Blake seems like a really nice boy."

"Well, he's not," Samuel argued. "I've been to his house and he kicked me in the P'bird!"
Startled I managed, "The femur?" hoping I had misunderstood Samuel.

"No! The P'bird," Samuel repeated while pointing to the zipper on his pants.

"Oh!" I said, followed by something lame about how discussing P'birds or other private parts in Primary was not cool. The conversation did not end there.
McKayla's hand shoots up as she blurts out, "My brother talks about nasty stuff like that all the time, but I don't talk about that stuff."
"That's good," I encourage her good behavior." Then out of curiosity I ask, "how old is your brother?"
"He's six."
If things are this good on the first day I can't wait for what's next.

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Oh, Mardi Gras. How I miss thee.

Amber and I had the best time together at Mardi Gras. I can't begin to tell you how fun. We're totally going back next year! We spent most of the time in Mobile, Alabama at their celebrations. Which were AMAZING! The first night, however, was spent in Ocean Springs. What a cute city! I loved Amber's condo and I can't believe that I don't go there EVERY DAY to visit her.

We did spend one day at Bellingrath Gardens which was preceded by the best donuts second only to Spudnuts in Richland, Washington. The gardens were awesome. I think anyone who goes to Biloxi to visit her should take a gander. Here are some shots from our time there.

The parades were, by far, my favorite part of things. They're so much fun! I had no idea one could get so worked up over beads--but you can. Amber and I ended up going to several though not nearly as many as we will in 2010. Our pile of booty looked like this when we were done...

We also had oysters together--and yum!

It's just so fantastic to have time with Boo doing the fun things we enjoy. But next year is going to be even better. I'm pretty sure we're going to rent and RV and just stay right in Mobile. We'll see. But reserve your seat now!!

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I have been reminded, can mean many things. It can be delivered and received in various ways too. I love news! When I returned from my mission I did not feel comfortable watching anything on television but the news.
One of the first questions my friends or family members, often ask during our conversations is "So, Amber, what's new?" or "Got any news to share?" My answer is usually the same, "Not really," or "Nothing new here," to be followed by a return of the initial question "What's new with you?"
This weekend it seems everyone has news to share. A friend called Friday night to update me about the good news in her life. I always enjoy talking to this friend and I was happy to hear things were going well for her.
Saturday I treated the Elders to dinner. Over dinner one of the Elders shared the news that he was in love with a girl and wanted to marry her after he completed his mission in December. After listening to the story of how he met and barely knew the object of his desire, I received the news with frustration. How could men be so stupid? How can anyone truly love someone they do not really know?
This morning during Sacrament meeting Ben turned to me and said, "I have something to tell you." Trying to be the model of support I responded, "What is it you would like to tell me?"
Although I suspected he was dating someone, perhaps a local he met at the gym or some club, instead he shared, "I think I'm in love." Needless to say, I was shocked. In my stupor all I could think to say was, "Oh?!"
Ben, who I previously considered a rational being, relates to me that he thinks he's in love with a girl, I refer to her as a girl because she is not old enough to be anything other than just that, saw him one-year ago in the testing center at BYU. (Do I hear groans? I think I hear groaning but hold on, it gets better.) This girl notices his name written on his Blue Book and decides, one year later, to look him up on Facebook because she just can't get him out of her mind. In typical BYU fashion, this girl has a missionary who returns in May and is also named Ben.
I am not sure what reaction Ben was expecting from me as he related this story but I am afraid I failed to deliver the one he desired. When he asked for my opinion all I could say was, "I think it sounds disturbing," and to me it does. How could he be so nonchalant about something so serious? How could he throw around a concept, like love, ascribing it to an individual he has never even met?
The same thing happened to me last year the day after Valentine's Day. I went to lunch with a man who I had been spending time with and I cared about. Over lunch he told me he could no longer see me because he felt prompted to pursue a woman, with five children, who attended his parents' ward in Utah who he'd met before but whose name he did not know.
Since that incident I have met several men who have pursued and even married women they barely knew. Which leads me to another conversation I had today with a former friend.
Tom, who Joy and Kelli had the pleasure of meeting, was someone I hung out with once or twice. We also sat together in church. We were not dating but to be honest, I had hoped we would eventually. He was 34 at the time and I thought it was fortunate we were close in age and had a few things, besides our religious beliefs, in common. Everything, from my perspective, was going well. I evacuated for Gustav last August (I was away for five days, I think). By the time I returned Tom had met and decided to marry a nineteen-year old Seabee who had just transferred to Biloxi from North Carolina. Call me blind or clueless but I couldn't believe it. I was stunned. How could someone meet, court and marry someone within the space of a few weeks? My friend called to tell me, "the happy news," Tom's wife is pregnant. Am I happy for them? Absolutely. I want everyone I care about to be happy, even if their decided route to happiness means I am unhappy for a little while.
I know there's a reason why I have been single this long; why I'm unable to meet someone that approaches love and relationships the way I do. However, I do not understand why I am meeting so many men, during a time in my life when I am not feeling very patient, who are complete idiots when it comes to relationships. I do not wish to sound critical, and please forgive me if I do, but HELLS BELLS, is this really how marriage happens? A man just sees you and decides on the spot you are or are not "the one?!!!" Please tell me the process of meeting and falling in love, for a man, involves more logic than this. Please, tell me the man I will eventually marry, will not decide in one glance, without investing the time it will require to really know me, that I am "the one." I do not believe I could ever devote my life to someone if that is what a man's love is based upon.
Normally, the decisions and actions of others, especially casual acquaintances, do not matter so much to me, but thinking about this tonight, I can not help but wonder and in doing so, feeling a little discouraged about the possibility of having a relationship with a man that is... real and based on something more than an initial feeling or attraction.
Does anyone have any thoughts or advice to offer?

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