Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An essay on Chocolate

I have been scanning the internet for ways to properly articulate the relationship I have with chocolate, and I realized that there isn't one. Here is a brief piece that I submitted in a writing community to explain that chocolate should never be categorized as "candy"

There is a big difference between candy and chocolate; the only commonality is their sugar content. Candy – the billion dollar industry – is meant for children. Brightly packaged, customized for every holiday, and sold alongside beloved cartoon characters -- candy is designed to delight the inner five year old. It is sweet, sour, gooey, crunchy, and colorful all in one temporary bite. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ll steal a peanut butter cup from a child’s Halloween stash without hesitation, but I don’t BUY candy. I didn’t buy candy until I became a teacher anyways, when I realized that the promise of a sugary reward was highly motivational for teenagers. I have seen some of the best group work produced just to earn one Jolley Rancher. When I upped the ante to HiChews? Amazing results.
Candy is bribery. It is sent in the middle of teacher appreciation week, it is set in front of me in training meetings, it is in a wicker basket on the counter of the local printer’s shop. Suddenly the tables turn as I recognize the motivation factor to be better and better, and I know that I have been caught. If someone gives me candy, it means that they want something from me.

There is candy, and then there is chocolate. Hold the sweet tarts, give me the good stuff.

“If chocolate could sing, it would sound like Josh Groban.”

I could mention other clich├ęs to describe the unique relationship between a woman and her chocolate, but you need look no further than a Cathy cartoon. A stressed out woman wearing a bathrobe and exclamation points above her head with the unspoken caption: Hand over the chocolate and nobody gets hurt.

No one gives me chocolate, I buy it. To me, chocolate is therapy. As a smooth piece of it melts away on my tongue, so do my problems. I contemplate nothing of what needs to be done, instead I push pause on it all until there is nothing left to dissolve in my mouth. When I’ve had a day full of students asking for extra credit or a living room full of my husband’s shoes, I choose to ignore it all. Just for five more minutes. I open my chocolate in secret, pulling it out of my secret hiding place, usually in my desk under the post it notes or away from my family behind some girly-smelling lotion. Chocolate is my trusted confidant, it is not meant to make me accept a new protocol or coerce me into any more favors than I already do for other people. Any over packaging of is pointless; bright colors do not belong nor do they entice the seeker. After a day of unknowns gone unexpectedly awry, this is my moment knowing exactly what is going to happen next. I open my soul, not to a therapist, but to myself as I open the small foil package -- I have great hours and bill very reasonably.

This escapism requires a very specific kind of chocolate; I prefer mine pure -- chocolate isn't some cheap thrill mixed with coconut or any other nut.  I don’t like the intensely dark model that is rising in popularity; I like my chocolate like I like my superhero movies, dark enough to be interesting but not so dark that I need extra time to recover. A good sampling will have a clean break when bitten into, or a satisfying SNAP when divided. Chocolate is complex, there is more to it than that one sweet note of its sugary cousin; it is bitter and sweet and salty and smooth all at the same time. The flavors should not conflict, no, they should build on one another to create an altogether poetic experience in your mouth as the overall impression of roasted cocoa beans remains on your tongue long after the bite is over. The taste that lasts far longer than the fleeting initial contact is not the sweetness, but a pleasant flowery bitterness reminding me it is okay to take a break.  All of this describes one perfect moment, when the world can take a back seat. There is a difference between candy and chocolate.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015


My husband and I are together all of the time. As newlyweds of only 7 months, we still find that spending time together is preferable to spending time apart outside of the workday. It is all very lovely and quite precious. Thank you.

A large quantity of that time spent together is spent driving in the new truck we bought the month that we were married. It has all of the blue tooth capabilities that an iPhone-loving man could want and my husband quite enjoys his time playing DJ while cruising up and down I-15. The problem lies with in his  music choice, or should I say lack thereof.

He has one music playlist on his phone with about 250 songs that he repeats over and over. And over. My only salvation is that the songs are on shuffle mode. His music choices are BAD per say, they just parallel the musical decisions our parents made as teenagers. The most predominant artist is the 1960's classic Beatles. Did you know that all of the Beatles' songs sound exactly the same?! After 7 months of the song "Hard Day's Night" you'd daydream of a car accident to end the music too.

Now sometimes, if I'm really lucky, my husband will choose to listen to Pandora instead of the old faithful playlist. Then, I get treated to "Michael Jackson" radio that has been tailored to my husband's baby-boomer-generational tastes. More Beatles. The occasional Journey song, and of course every single obscure Michael Jackson anthem that my husband inexplicably knows all of the words to. When listening to Pandora, I get excited about the commercials for the sake of variety in the truck ride to Sandy.

I am telling you all of this because I can't complain to the DJ/Driver. We drive to Sandy, because that is where my parents live and he is driving through to traffic to get to know them better.While I do crave for the top 40's or the occasional NPR story when we are in the car together, I wouldn't trade my dominant DJ for anything. He is stubborn, set in his ways, and only 26 years old. Lord help me when he is 76. I can't wait.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My best

Inspired by Brian Regan's "My Best"  (A recommended read)

I decided to think of some of my finest moments.

<  (me thinking of said moments at my desk)

My best (and most expensive) nap.
My new husband is a die-hard sports nut. I mean EVERY single time we go to the mall, we have to make a stop in every sports store. Whether it be a FANZZ or a Sports Authority, we make our way there at some point. Every night his twitter ritual is the same, checking sports scores and injuries before they hit the front page of ESPN. I know what I married. It could be worse.

My biggest mistake was convincing this nut of mine that I too was a huge sports fan during our courtship. Don’t get me wrong, I claim the Jazz and the BYU teams as my own, but FANZZ doesn’t get me all tingly. Neither does seeing LeBron James up close and personal. But alas, that was our chance.

At a charity auction a few months ago, we ‘won’ some row three seats for a Jazz game. They were going to play the Cavs. We would be so close to LeBron that we would be able to identify individual sweat beads. “Babe! This is going to be better than HD!” I was told.  After heated bidding, we won the tickets. 165 a pop. Not together. Each.
Naturally, this game was on a school night. 9 pm on a weeknight is not when a first year teacher is normally at his or her best. My husband and I were there, on the third row, so close to LeBron that I could have heckled him and made it count during a free throw shot. Instead, I wasted my opportunity by dozing through the 2nd quarter on my husband’s shoulder. He didn’t notice until half time when he saw me yawning profusely.

My best lost in translation moment.
As a missionary in the wilds of Brazil, I came to expect moments of confusion frequently. I would mostly just smile and nod when I didn’t understand what someone had just said. I once accidentally agreed to sew a dress for someone on my P-day (when I don’t know how to thread a machine), and told somebody else that I used to be a bus driver. These moments of looking like a ditzy blonde were so frequent that my companions became very deft at changing the subject.

In English there is a word for my problems: Homonym. When words sound the same, but have a different meaning. In Portuguese, oil, garlic, and eye all have very similar sounding names and things got tricky a few times. The worst moments came when I confused homonyms in English and THEN translated in 90 degree, 90 percent humidity weather into Portuguese. One particular day, a sweet sister served us a delicious meal full of local favorites including but not limited to a boiled beet salad. I told her that her BAT salad was out of this world. No, no, not the baseball bat; the flying, echolocation expert that lives in the night. My companion didn’t even know how to fix that one.

My best performance
In fourth grade, my teacher decided that we were ALL gifted and talented. Of course, we all believed her and were eager to show off exactly how talented we were. A talent show was scheduled, and we were all to share some kind of talent. Even though it was 15 years ago, I remember some oddly specific details about this wonderful event. I recall the girl who played the Jurassic Park theme song on her clarinet, squeaking her way through the visions of Kauai water falls. I also can also still see the awkward baton twirling routine. I don’t care who you are, batons are not that cool.

For my talent, I came up short. I didn’t want to sing, I would rather have died than danced, and I had no advanced instrumental abilities. I told my teacher that I was not going to perform, because I certainly wasn’t talented. After some patient brainstorming, she convinced me to memorize and recite a poem. I could do that. In hindsight, I’ll bet she was envisioning some Robert Frost or even some Shel Silverstein, but I gave her the most dramatic poem she’d ever heard about a bologna sandwich. I put in all of the exasperation and drama that I could into my performance of “Jim’s lunch box” and I knew that it was gifted and talented worthy. To this day, I still have the whole poem memorized. I pull it out at parties and when things get boring before the bell rings.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Back To Brazil

To spare you the expense of having to read a travel log, I will leave it up to you to read the title of the blog today.  Suffice it to say, I had the amazing opportunity to visit some of the people that I learned to love so much while serving a mission in Brazil.

As I reflect on the moments I had while teaching, praying, and working for Amanda to understand more about the gospel, I know that it was all made worth it in the moment that I saw her be sealed to her sweetheart for time and all eternity in the Recife Temple. For the first time, I understood what it meant to sacrifice for someone that you love. All of the hard work I was blessed to be able to partake of while in Teresina is a lot to comprehend. 18 months away from my family and loved ones in the hot sun while speaking a foreign language was not always easy. In fact, it was most often very hard. Very, very hard. But this week as I saw the happiness that comes with comprehending eternity, I knew that I would do it all again to give someone a moment to be closer to God in His holy house.

Amanda's Baptism - 11/3/12
Amanda's Sealing Day - 11/26/13
In reality, I didn't do much when teaching Amanda about the gospel. I was in the right place at the right time as a servant of the Lord. What she did for me this week was much more significant. She gave me a part of my mission back. She once again made me treasure the sacrifices that have made me so blindingly happy for the past few years of my life. I would spend 18 months of my life in 105 degree weather while having dozens of people turn me down for another moment of pure joy like this one.
Thank you Amanda.

Thank you to all of my friends who made this week one of the most rewarding of my life. I got to spend a marathon amount of time in the temple, at least for me. In three days, I spent more than 24 hours in one of the most sacred places we have here on earth, and I did so with some of my very best friends. Carmem, thank you querida for helping me to understand that we are all capable of greatness. I cannot thank you enough for reminding me that I too, "presta." I met these two women at a time when I was not enjoying my missionary service to the Lord as I should have been. They raised me up and helped me as I tried to help them. Once again this week, I went to show my love to them by coming from very far away to see an important moment. Yet again, my best friends lifted me up and reminded me of what I am worth.

I know that God lives and He loves us because He is kind enough to remind us of His love again and again. He loves us enough to give us good friends and family to support us in moments of doubt. He loves us enough to give us temples where we can be sealed to our beloved families forever and ever. I am thankful to He who gives us all the chance to redeem ourselves from past hurts to become better than ever before. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for giving me a reason to really smile for the first time in a while.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Love is all there is

A few years ago, I found a tidbit of wisdom that has stuck with me:
"Love is all there is. Everything else is just something you do after breakfast."
As I look around, I am so thankful for people that love me. Recently, I have found the support of my family and my friends astounding in the face of life changing plans. In losing one kind of love, I have found a thousand other kinds of love that I have in my life. If I focus on love, I learn.

1) It is important to love others, when I choose to be happy for other's successes and joys, I am happier myself. 
2) I need to love myself -- and say thank you when people tell me nice things. Learning to accept compliments has never come easy to me. but I have learned that God sends angels to me just as He sends me to be an angel to them. I have many that love me, and they help me to love myself.
3) When I remember to love God, I remember how much He loves me.

I have learned these tidbits in the midst of life that isn't what I planned, but I am so thankful that I am willing to listen a little bit more.
While listening, I heard a prophet's voice:
"Your Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there." President Thomas S. Monson

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Elder Beckstead

Today was Xane's last Sunday at home before he leaves for the Salt Lake City Mission. We are so proud of Xane!

I made him lemon bars from scratch, as requested. (This is the before picture)
3 dozen lemon bars later... look who got the last bite :)
Xane, we love you so much and we are so proud of you! Being a missionary is the best and the hardest thing  you can do. I know that nothing bad has come as a result of me serving a mission. I learned a lot about myself and my Heavenly Father. I know that He loves all of His children, and He loves me too. I am not ever perfect, but He works with me anyways. He does not need the best and the brightest, (although you are the best and the brightest) He needs the ones that are willing to try. If you can remember to keep trying, He will keeping sending miracles your way. I know that the Lord loves His broken children, and He wants to help fix them.
Xane, always remember that God loves His children. Even the ones that say 'no'. You may soften some hearts along the way, and you won't see their full conversion during your time in their lives. But, they will stay in your life and change it forever. Your mission experience will change you, and it will change the lives of people who won't recognize it immediately.
I know that the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored and that His words are on the Earth in full force.
I know that we have prophets and priesthood and forever families. Thanks for letting me be in your family :) 
Put your best self forward, knowing that Christ makes your best perfect. You can do this. I love you and I am so excited to hear about your experiences. God Speed Elder.


Thursday, April 11, 2013

February 26, 2013

Mornings are not our best family moments—although we try to break the cycle everyday anyways. 6:00 am every morning, my grandfather opens my door, pokes his head in, and yells, “Tara? It’s daylight in the Ozarks!” We then climb the stairs, sitting in our designated spots while opening up to where we left Alma yesterday.
“And it came to pass…” My uncle always starts out way too cheerful for this time of day. I have a love for the scriptures, but my enthusiasm doesn’t come out in my daily performance.  My cousins don’t keep their eyes open, they have to be woken up when their turn comes around. Korin, the 15 year-old, reads her five verses incredibly fast; she can read an entire verse in one yawn. It sounds high pitched, with little annunciation. (Now it is your turn, try to say Nephi while yawning.)  It is very impressive. I keep my eyes open, up until now, I have yet to be shaken awake to read.
This morning, Sam, the youngest, was not wearing his retainer; a fact his mother picked up on when he started reading without a lisp. Ever since Siri on his mother’s iPhone couldn’t understand him, he has been self-conscious. His mother made him go get it from his room in the middle of scripture study, while Grandpa was reading about the iniquities of the Gadianton robbers (adding in that not obeying your mother is also very iniquitous). Sam walked to his bedroom on his knees, there and back, with a sleepy/annoyed expression on his 10 year-old face. Finally returning, he crawled under the grand piano avoiding his turn to read in Helaman chapter 6.  My aunt looked at my uncle and said, “that’s your son.”
Mornings are not our best family moments, but the Lord knows we try anyways.