Monday, December 31, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Year

Today, I was tempted to write about regrets.  But I'm not going to.

Instead, here's a quote by C.S. Lewis:

"The most intense joy lies not in the having, but in the desiring."

There are many threads that weave us together as members of this great human family.  One is our ability to dream.  Like climbing a great mountain, we feel each dream waiting for us at the next summit.  So we embark, all the while knowing that destination will only lead us to the beginning of another climb.  But that is our divinity.

Lasting joy cannot live on a plateau.  To desire that which is out of reach is our great hope for eternity.

And what of satisfaction?  What about disappointment?  They visit.  And they go.  But the thread remains strong, and along with it, our most intense joy.

So dream on.  And bring on 2013.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sweet Potato Pie

The following is an excerpt from a journal I kept while serving as an LDS missionary in Texas.  It contains, among other things, my first encounter with Sweet Potato Pie.  Please keep in mind this was written by a kid who was very young and very white... thank you.

"While knocking doors and meeting folks on California St, we walked up a ramp to a dark screen door.  We knocked and were greeted by a cheerful African-American woman who, to my surprise, seemed to recognize us.  She invited us in the house, turned off the Price Is Right, and left us in the living room with her much older and very withered husband.  I soon realized the man was blind.

He introduced himself as Reverend Smith, of Big Lake's Bethlehem Baptist Church.  His tone was cautious, yet defiant.  He challenged our motives as missionaries, and quizzed us about the gospel of Christ.  I'll admit to feeling a little perplexed, having just been invited into the home and then interrogated all in the space of a few minutes, but after our sincere answers, he accepted us as servants of the Lord and ordered his wife to plate us up some leftover "soul food."  We were even given our own piece of sweet potato pie.  Completely awed by the kindness and generosity, my companion Elder Wilcox voiced a desire to help with the daily cleaning of their church.

"Can we do that?" I thought. "Wouldn't our time be better spent cleaning OUR church?"  But trusting my new companion, I went with him, Reverend Smith, and the good Rev's wife to their chapel next door.  We spent the next 30 minutes or so vacuuming up and down the pews.  Kind words and thanks were exchanged, and I witnessed the first change of attitude in Big Lake.  My own."

Reverend Smith passed away not long after that.  I felt so grateful we had met him.  Our meeting was brief, but I felt a true connection to him and his congregation.  We cleaned their church, and he gave us his sweet potato pie.

In honor of building bridges and changing attitudes, here's a recipe for Sweet Potato Pie, dedicated to Revered Smith and that little town of Big Lake.  This pie is sweeter than pumpkin, but also brighter in color.  Give it a try, and give it away.  You won't regret it.

Sweet Potato Pie
(Paula Deen)


2 cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
1 cup sugar
1/2 stick melted butter
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1 cup milk
9 inch unbaked pie crust

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using an electric hand mixer, combine the potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices.  Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and continue to mix. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake for 35 to 45 minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.  (For me, an additional 20 minutes.)  Place the pie on a rack and cool to serve.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Presents: A Holiday Greeting

Presents: A Holiday Greeting
by You-Know-Who


If I didn't shout it out loud then I certainly did on the inside.

How could I not when the presents bearing my name at our annual family Christmas Eve party were just sitting under the tree waiting to be opened?  I tried desperately to distract myself, but the tree kept winking and blinking at me in mockery, as though it knew what was sitting beneath its branches.  Thank goodness my choreographed holiday piece had been performed earlier in the evening, or all that waiting could have turned ugly.

It was only because opening presents made me feel special.  In fact, my whole demeanor was surprisingly non materialistic.  I didn't understand how much the presents cost, but I did know every one of them reminded me that I was remembered.  And that, I suppose, is what always made the wait worthwhile.


If I don't shout it out loud then I certainly do on the inside.

Whether I'm focusing on what I didn't do in an audition, or replaying what I just said to a Target cashier, somehow snapping myself back into the present always saves me from drowning in my own thoughts.

But why would I need to bring myself back to where I already am?  Is it somehow more comfortable to dwell on the past than live in the present?  Maybe so.  The past has already happened, which can make it easier to focus on, less daunting even.  But the gift of the present is that it IS a present, which means I'll never know what's in store until I open it.


I rarely shout it out loud, but I certainly do on the inside.

When I long to connect with that which is greater than myself, I raise my eyes or bow my head and desire nothing more than Presence.  A reminder of who I am and where I come from, it's a Presence whose love is infinite, gratitude eternal, and peace divine.  It's why my family's tree was twinkiling in the first place, and how I can continually unwrap each new moment I'm given.

It's a Presence that's the best Present any Present can give.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Jeffrey Scott Parsons

Friday, November 30, 2012

What I Wanna Do For a Living

I remember being at the tender age of... nine?  Let's say nine.  The world was my proverbial oyster.  It was so full of possibilities.  Which is why I guess I spent so much time in front of the Nintendo.

You remember it: two toned gray box with the big game cartridges you'd slide in and press down.  One problem: it didn't always work.  Maybe it was worn out.  Maybe our games were dusty.  Either way, you'd press the power button and the TV screen would flash on and off, or freeze at a dull shade of gray.

Cue my childhood.  I often took the opportunity to patiently sit in front of the Nintendo and blow on everything.  Why?  Because it worked.  I had no actual proof as to how, but when I'd do it, the Nintendo would magically start working again.  I can only now surmise that there was indeed some dust in the machine or game cartridges, and that my blowing into them somehow jostled everything into submission.

I remember one night I sat down to play the original Super Mario Bros.  The game had previously been sentenced by our home's eldest Nintendo players as a hopeless case.  Still, I spent at least 30 minutes using every trick I had to get that thing to work.  I put the game under my shirt and blew air through the fabric; I blew into the game box first; I blew into game box last; I tried to sneak the game in without the Nintendo noticing.  Finally, on one serendipitous attempt, I pressed the power button, and "Voila!" it worked!

With a celebratory scream I threw my arms into the air.  I darted up the stairs from our basement, ran to my Mom in the living room and impulsively blurted out, "I WANT TO FIX THINGS FOR A LIVING!!"

I'm pretty sure my Mom had no idea what I was talking about.  I had no idea what I was talking about!  But I did know I had just experienced the kind of feeling I wanted to have every day for the rest of my life.  Did I actually want to fix Nintendo games for a living?  Yeah right-  But I did want that feeling again.  That rush of accomplishment.  The payoff of not giving up.  It was unlike anything I had ever felt.  Which is why, as an adult, I try to remember that night as often as possible.

Do we continue make room for that kind of joy in our lives?  Not just in finding the right tasks or careers to inspire it, but also in allowing ourselves to feel it regardless of the accomplishment.  If joy can manifest itself to a child in something as silly as a Nintendo game, then certainly anything we set our minds to can have the same effect: taking the kids to soccer, washing the car, telling someone "I love you."  Or are we simply too grown up to go there?  I hope not.  Our joy isn't in another castle.  It's already here, just waiting to be played.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cranberry Chocolate Pie

Earlier this month I stopped at the mailboxes on my way into my apartment complex and found, in addition to a stack of junk mail waiting for me, an open box laying on the ground.  Upon further inspection I saw it was filled with large bags of cranberries and carried a sign that simply said, "Happy Holidays."

Some very generous neighbor of mine had set out this box of cranberries for all the residents in our complex to enjoy without any desire to reveal his or her identity.  Nice, right?  It was inspiring.

In hopes of passing along this act of generosity, I decided to make a Cranberry Chocolate Pie and send it with my love to a Thanksgiving dinner I wasn't able to attend.  According to those who were in attendance, the pie was rich and yummy and a nice alternative to the more traditional Pumpkin pies.  Here is the recipe: a combination of many, plus a little touch of my own.

Cranberry Chocolate Pie


9" pie crust
1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon (heaping) flour
1 egg white
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Prepare and roll out pie crust into 9" pie pan.  Pour cranberries onto crust to form a thick, even layer.  In a medium bowl, sift together 2/3 cup of sugar and flour.  In a separate bowl, beat egg white until stiff peaks form, and fold into flour mixture.  Slowly add cream until combined.  Cover cranberries with remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, and sprinkle chocolate chips evenly.  Pour mixture on top.  Bake for 10 minutes, then lower temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 40 minutes.  Let pie cool before serving.

There is something very sweet about baking, and I'm not just talking about the sugar.  I'm talking about the sharing.  Everyone may get a sweet tooth now and then, but generosity and gratitude are far more addictive ingredients.  They inspire similar behavior in others.  They move us to pay it forward.  It's what makes this time of year so very rich.

May our holidays this year be filled with gratitude, generosity, and a little sugar on the side.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

October is synonymous with many things: Sweaters, Halloween, National Sarcastic Awareness Month...  But possibly the thing I most look forward to when October 1 comes around is the beginning of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookie Season.

It's not that I can't make these cookies at other times of the year.  I can absolutely do that.  I can also listen to Christmas music in April and eat snow cones in January, but some things just don't seem right.

So, dear friends, in lieu of a pie recipe this month, I'm posting my version of Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies.  They are the perfect blend of sweet and spice and everything nice, and make it nearly impossible to have a bad holiday season.  Enjoy!

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies


1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 can pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
12 oz bag semi sweet chocolate chips


Heat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line cookie sheet with parchment or tin foil.  Using a mixer, beat butter until creamy, then add sugars a little at a time.  Follow that by beating in eggs one at a time, and then the extract and pumpkin.  In another bowl, whisk together flour, soda, salt, and spices.  (**I always use "heaping" amounts of each spice.  It makes a difference!)  Slowly add the dry mixture to wet, beating with mixer until it forms a sticky, creamy dough.  Then, fold in the chocolate chips.  (**I believe Ghiradelli semi sweet chips are unsurpassed.)

Scoop big tablespoons of dough onto the cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 15 minutes.  The peaks should be brown, but the cookie still soft.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- October 2012

Twas on an ordinary evening last month that I realized I'd officially had it.  Despite my best efforts to be both a well informed voter and media obsessed American, I had reached my quota of antagonizing status updates, propaganda filled trips to my mailbox, and snarky news networks trying to convince me they're the "most respected" on television.  What had tipped the scale, however, was all the fighting.

Why did the country seem so angry?  I didn't want to be angry.  I don't like angry.  Angry doesn't feel good to me.  Sometimes I need to get angry, if only to realize that I don't want to be, but this was different.  It was like we had become content in an anger that wasn't just a general frustration with life or ourselves.  It was with an opponent.  We had become angry with "them."

For some reason, whether it be for entertainment, or capitalism, or simple validation, we had decided to get really mad at people that didn't agree with us.  It's nothing new.  History is only been made with a little resistance from someone or something.  But why, after Civil War, and Civil Rights, and 9/11 are we still under the belief that polarizing those that doesn't agree with us makes for a stronger society?  News flash: It doesn't!  The only thing that works time after time after time is coming together.

Which is why for this month's "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week," I teamed up with to help moderate their first ever Roundtable event.

The Roundtable was organized to provide a safe atmosphere for people of all beliefs, backgrounds, and cultures to come together and talk constructively about their hopes for the world and how we might work together to make them happen.

It was an amazing experience.  I made lasting bonds with some great people.  I learned a lot.  I got to share a lot.  It was edifying for everyone who participated.  And I'm not going to do it justice by typing about it here, so please visit this link to the website's official page about the 2012 Roundtable:

Now if this month you're looking for you own "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week," might I highly suggest you try hosting your own Roundtable event-- especially as we approach the holiday season where there are (hopefully) many opportunities to see those we care about most.  Take a moment to really see them.  Use your voice.  Don't settle for an old summary of what you've done and what you're doing, but speak in a way that allows them to see you just as you see them.

I believe these connections are what make us strong.  It's what builds a nation.  It's what makes history.  And it's also what makes for a really great time.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Ultimate Halloween Movie Guide

When my parents built our house in the late 70s, they decided to go for a "classic" looking kitchen to ensure that it would never go out of style. Unfortunately, their definition of "classic" at the time was yellow and orange. That being said, I loved our kitchen.  Its color palette, complete with yellow formica and orange vinyl flooring, made Halloween one of our family's most harmoniously decorated holidays.

We were often serenaded at breakfast during the month of October by a "spooky" Disney CD compilation that included "Heffalumps and Woozles" and the lesser known Mickey Mouse quandary, "Which Witch is Which?"  And every arrival or departure through the kitchen door was met by the motion sensitive cackle of "Haaappy Haloweeeeeen!"  In short, All Hallows Eve was a big deal at my house.

So to continue the tradition, I've created my very own "kitchen."  That is, I've combined my love for Halloween and movies into one, big blog post I'm calling my "Ultimate Halloween Movie Guide."  A warning, this guide will not be considered "ultimate" if you're into extremely gory movies that often include torture.  That, my friends, was NOT allowed in the kitchen.

Best Halloween Movie EVER.

Hocus Pocus (1993)

I think this movie is kind of a no brainer.  Takes place on Halloween?  Check.  Spells and Black Magic?  Check.  Bette Midler leading a choreographed musical number?  Check.  What is there not to love!?  This is a movie that you can enjoy with the whole family and quote randomly throughout the rest of the year, much to the giddy enjoyment of all of your musical theatre friends.  Some of my personal favorites include, "For your information he's a LITTLE LEAGUER," and, "Boo-ooooooook!"

Really Good Films that Just Happen to be Scary

Psycho (1960)

This is not just one of the scariest movies of all time, but actually a really wonderful film.  Without question, it's one of the greats.  It contains one of the best opening sequences ever, one of the best movie scores ever, and that disturbingly charming Anthony Perkins.  I guess what's truly terrifying is he seems like the kind of person you'd take home to meet your mom, until that is, you realize she'd actually be meeting your mother-in-law.

Other good-ens:  The Sixth Sense, Carrie, Silence of the Lambs

Not-So-Scary Greats

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

This 25 minute TV special is basically responsible for teaching me Halloween traditions that had been phased out by the time I came along.  These included such classics as "bobbing for apples," "putting a sheet over your head and calling yourself a ghost," and of course, how to pronounce the word "pumpkin."  (Linus says "pumpkin," not "pumpken" like most people in Northern Utah.)  Thank you, Charles Schultz.

Other greats: The Ghost & Mr Chicken, The Addams Family & Addams Family Values, Casper, The Witches, Death Becomes HerClue

Give You Nightmare Fare

Poltergeist (1982)

This is the scariest movie to ever be rated PG!  I mean, how did that even happen?!?  There are so many iconic moments from this film, I don't even know where to begin, but I do have to say that JoBeth Williams is fantastic in it, and her performance is one of the reasons why the movie still holds up so well.  It also has a really interesting and tragically ironic backstory that's totally worth investigating, so read up, and then watch it again for a truly entertaining evening.

Other bed wetters: The ShiningThe ExorcistThe RingInsidious

Monster Movies

Young Frankenstein (1974)

OK, so maybe this one belongs with the "Not-So-Scary Greats," but it's about Frankenstein, and it's a Frankenstein that performs "Putting on the Ritz."  For guys like me that are more interested in watching Madaline Kahn than a Chainsaw Massacre-er, this is the true Halloween monster movie.

Other Monsters worth watching: Jaws, Arachniphobia, Tremors, and of course, Troll 2

Terrifying Performances

Kathy Bates in Misery (1990)

This performance won Kathy Bates an Oscar, but I'm sure it also made the entire audience present for her acceptance speech worry what she was going to do with the statue.  Poor James Caan...  There's nothing crazier than a lady who just doesn't know how crazy she is.

Other Nutballs: Angela Lansbury in The Manchurian Candidate, Robert Mitchum in Night of the Hunter, Bette Davis in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, and Glenn Close in everything she's done

Tim Burton Movies

Frankenweenie (2012)

As far as I'm concerned, no Halloween movie list would be complete without Tim Burton.  He has done more for the good people who shop at Hot Topic than anyone.  Where would the fun of Halloween be without all of his strange worlds that he so masterfully creates?  And this year he has a new one to add to the list.  Frankenweenie.  I'm excited to see it, and I hope that after I see it, I'll still think it belongs on the list.

Other Burton films:  Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd, Beetlejuice, Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride, and so on...

So there's my list.  Scream isn't on there, neither is Halloween I, II, or XI.  I left off Nightmare on Elm Street, and every version of Friday the 13th.  While I'm sure they'd all be at the top of someone else's list, that's just not how we did things at the Parsons house.  We were a little more "Spooktacular" than "Spooky," and I'm happy for it.  I like when Halloween makes me smile, or at least makes me laugh at myself for being scared.  If not, then what's the point?  There's always got to be a little "treat" to go with every "trick."

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Make or Break a Habit Week

You know those moments in life when you wake up and think, "Well, now what?"

That was me seven days ago.  It was me six days ago.  In fact, I'm still kinda asking the question.  But the reason I decided to dedicate Things I'm Gonna Do This Week to making good habits and breaking bad ones was because of that of question.  I was tired of imagining my world spinning out of control without any scientific justification.  So in my desire to figure out what's next for me, I concentrated on the little stuff, and then paid attention to what bubbled up.  I also forced myself to journal about it.

(deep breath)

Here's what happened:

I'm slightly regretting the choice of blogging that I feel my world is spinning out of control.  With a statement like that, you run the risk of everyone that loves you feeling like you don't know they love you.  I also don't want this week to look like a fishing trip designed to catch a six-pound Sympathy Card.  But enough of my insecurities…

I'm journaling this week because I have long-term goals and not many short-term ones.  I don't know what's next.  Nothing new there, I guess…  Show business is a constant trust fall exercise.  This is different, though.  I'm very busy, but feel like I'm at a stand still, and I think that's what's making the Earth seem like it's turning so fast.

Ugh.  Even as I write that, I can hear my head giving itself advise that doesn't make me feel any better.  That's probably how I ended up on the couch this morning watching crime shows on TNT.  Knowing you should do something and not feeling any motivation to do it is a perfect recipe for cable surfing.

OK, so short term goals.  Wash my car, get a haircut, go to the bank, grocery shop, walk the dog, do laundry, wash dishes, exercise…

A rerun of the Oprah show is on.  "When people show you who they are, believe them."  Maya Angelou.  Oh wow.  I almost wrote Maya Rudolph.  HAHA!  Not the same person.

It's Wednesday, and I accomplished all my goals yesterday!  I'm going to allow myself to celebrate it for a few minutes, and then move on.  I don't want the efficiency of my life to be dependent upon a checklist.  

I took about ten minutes to meditate and pray last night.  (Can't believe I'm posting this kind of stuff… Breathe, Jeff.  It's just a few days.)  I've started implementing a "technique" to my prayers that has seemed to make them mean more to me.  When I'm asking for blessings or giving gratitude, I picture what I'm saying and surround it with light.  It makes Prayer feel more powerful.  It's incorporating the non-physical: my imagination, my faith, my hope.  Definitely a new habit I want to keep. 

Other habits I'm trying out today: a new workout routine.  Bad habit I'm trying to leave behind: not eating because I don't want to spend money.

Thursday = My legs are sore!

More importantly, though, I've found not only a new habit I want to make, but a full on REVOLUTION I want to begin!  I'm single handedly going to revive Audience Etiquette.  From here on out I vow to be the best audience member in the world, thereby setting an example that hopefully others will follow.  It consists of three very important pledges:

#1- I will enter the theatre 100% willing to go on the journey that has been prepared for me to take.  

#2- I will applaud after every musical number because I am NOT watching television in my pajama bottoms.

#3- If I stay after the production to say hello to the actors, I will initiate conversation with them, realizing that they have been working for the past 2+ hours and shouldn't be expected to keep entertaining me.

Sounds simple, right?  Apparently it's not!  I was in an audience tonight, and I'm positive we are currently experiencing a very scary dip in audience etiquette.  Our attention spans are shot, we arrive to the theatre already grumpy and judgmental, and there's this pervasive attitude (particularly among theatre performers) that actors should be more excited to see us after a show than the other way around.  Not true!  Give them a compliment, people!  It will not kill you, I promise.  In fact, the pious restraint of your self-righteousness could possibly be a character building exercise.

In other news, I need to stop "scripting scenes" with people before they happen.  Talk about character building…

I remember talking to a good friend of mine a couple years ago and asking her if she thought it's possible to be taken advantage of if you know that you are.  My assertion was it isn't possible because your awareness allows for your choice.  It's only when choice is taken away that you become a victim of such behavior. 

Now that I think back on it, though, I'm reminded of the famous proverb, "Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me."  Perhaps it isn't so beneficial to spend time justifying someone else's actions, as it is to discern what kind of person you are for going along with them in the first place.

So…it's Friday, and I'm angry, and I don't like it. 

But the good news is I'm just angry at myself.  That means I can just tell myself to "go to hell," which then makes myself come back with, "No! I don't want to cuz then I'll have to be there with YOU!"  And then I retort back, "Then why don't you just stop being mad at me!"  And then I say, "Good idea. I'm sorry, Jeff."  And then I say, "No, I'm the one who's sorry, Jeff."  And then we kiss and make up.

Anyway, bad habit: Being too hard on myself.

Good habit: Stretching.  My hamstrings are way too tight.  Maybe I can meditate tonight in a wide second and kill two birds with one stone.  Poor birds…

I hold my breath.

It's always been a downfall of mine.  Artistically, physically, socially… sometimes I just forget to breathe.  I've never passed out.  It never goes that far, but it does keep me from being at my best.  Like tonight, I had to sing into a sound system that was kind of wretched, so I started holding my breath, not knowing how loud I should be.  The good Lord gave you lungs, dang it, use them!!

Today's Saturday, and I'm taking a look at my world.  It feels like the old one.  Not biblically, of course, more like the old one from two weeks ago.  Less spinning, familiar...  That worries me.  It should feel like a new one, shouldn't it?

Either way, I guess I'm grateful for a reprieve.

I relapsed.  

I returned to my bad habit from Thursday.  BOO!  I was in the middle of a conversation and had a thought to share, but was immediately interrupted by my own brain "scripting" what the other person might say in response, and so on and so on until finally the person with whom I was having a conversation asked what all the silence was about.  ugh–

In better news, though, I was reminded of something very important tonight.  Conversations aren't about right or wrong.  Relationships aren't about right or wrong.  Life really isn't about right or wrong. 

I mean, does anybody really ever get into a situation and think, "You know, I want to make the wrong decision here."  Even if they do, it's because they think for whatever reason that the "wrong" decision is more "right" than the "right" one.  So why do we put so much stock in that way of thinking?

Say you convince someone that they're wrong.  So what?  What do you get out of it?  The possibility of the other person feeling bad?  The knowledge that you're right?  Do these things actually make life more fulfilling?

Conversations are about sharing.  Relationships are about sharing.  Life is about sharing!   And regardless of how any of those things turn out, isn't it amazing to know you participated?  The joy is found in the selflessness of your participation.  It's so much more satisfying than walking away thinking, "At least I was right." 

So to review, here's a summary of the good and bad habits I discovered this week:

Bad Habits
  • Not Eating
  • Scripting Life
  • Being too Hard on Myself
  • Holding My Breath
  • Relapsing on Any of the Above

Good Habits:
  • Short Term Goals
  • Prayer & Meditation
  • Exercise
  • Audience Ettiquette
  • Stretching
  • Sharing

I'm happy with this list.  It looks like a good start for me.  There's power to be found here, and that's exactly what I need.  

Here's to "Make or Break a Habit Week."  May it continue for the next 28 days and beyond.  That way, it won't just be a list, it will be a life.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Things I'm Gonna Do This Week- September 2012

Lately I've been feeling like the world is spinning out of control.

It's not.

Despite my best attempts to convince myself otherwise, the laws of physics haven't been broken.  The time continuum is completely in tact, and the "spinning" that I've been so sure has everything to do with the Earth, has, in fact, much more to do with my own personal psychosis.

In short, I've decided to diagnose myself with "Drama Induced Vertigo." (DIV for short...)

Now, I'm aware that Drama Induced Vertigo sounds like just another hazardous bi-product of Actors, like Headshots and Self-Pitied Facebook Statuses, but I believe it's a good thing for everyone.  DIV is life's way of telling us it's time to take a week and figure things out.  Time to break a few habits, and make some new ones.

In what's left of this month, I'm dedicating September's "Things I'm Gonna Do This Week" to getting back on my axis.  I'm actually really excited about this...

Experts say it takes 21 days to form a new habit and/or leave a bad one in the dust.  Well, I'm going to do it in a third of that time!!

OK, not really, but I'm going to start.  AND I'm going to keep a journal about what happens every day that I will post here next week.  Not something I usually do, but I feel it's my responsibility... for sufferers of DIV everywhere!

Tune in next week and see the results of "Make or Break a Habit Week."  And in the meantime, try not to get too dizzy.

View the results of Make or Break a Habit Week

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Key Lime Pie

My first experience with Key Lime Pie was the happiest time of my life...or was it just at the happiest place on Earth?

I remember I was in Epcot Center at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, eating a big lunch with my family that, now looking back on it, probably cost more than my entrance pass.  After finishing that meal and declaring I couldn't possibly eat one more bite, my mom graciously suggested I get some Key Lime Pie for dessert.  And though I wasn't quite sure if I'd get it down, I once again fell victim to my weakness of saying "no" to free food.

Now I don't know if it was because some pixie dust had found its way into this particular piece of pie, or because we were in Florida, home of Key West and key limes, but when I took my first bite, I was in heaven!  I had never tasted anything so light and delicious.  It was like I was eating nothing at all, and yet my taste buds were singing the "Hallelujah Chorus."

From then on, I was hooked.  Apparently everyone else was too because it seemed like my grandma started bringing her own Key Lime Pies to a lot more Sunday Dinners.  They were never quite like that first one, but they were the next best thing.  In fact, her Key Lime Pie recipe became the new standard.  If it wasn't Disney's, then it better be Grandma North's.

Bemini Key Lime Pie

1 can (14 oz) sweetened condensed milk
1 pkg (8 oz) cream cheese softened
1/2 to 3/4 c key lime juice
1/2 t vanilla
1 9" graham cracker pie crust
Whipped cream for topping

Place milk, cream cheese and lim juice in blender or food processor.  Process on low speed until smooth.  Add vanilla. Pour into graham cracker crust.  Chill in frig until set 3-4 hours. Top with whipped cream.

When I recently got a hold of Grandma's recipe, I was surprised by its title, "Bemini Key Lime Pie."  I decided to figure out what it means and where the recipe originally came from.  As it turns out, "Bemini" is not a word.  The Bimini Islands, however, are located in the Bahamas and are famous guessed it: Key Lime Pie.

Despite the unfortunate typo, I have not changed the way I feel about this family tradition.  In fact, I've decided to keep "Bemini" as a hallmark of the recipe's origins.  You see, I'm afraid there's much more Bemini in this Key Lime Pie than Bimini.  Sweetened condensed milk, cream cheese, and a graham cracker crust are not exactly the most exotic ingredients, but what it lacks in native authenticity is made up in just plain deliciousness.

This pie, unlike it's Epcot predecessor, does not feel like you're eating nothing.  It's creamy like a cheesecake and tangy like a key lime.  It's also cold and refreshing, and most importantly, doesn't require you to use the oven on a hot day.

So give Grandma's Bemini Key Lime Pie a try.  It may just turn out to be the family vacation you've been missing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Not-So-Guilty Mormon Pleasures

If you had asked me a week ago whether I thought I'd ever learn something new about my religion from the Huffington Post, I'd have told you to go bathe in the Jordan River a couple times.  And yet, that's exactly what happened to me the other day when I read the LDS Church had announced that drinking caffeinated soft drinks was not against it's health code known as "the Word of Wisdom."

While this no doubt brought a sigh of relief to my brother in law and his eternal companion, Mountain Dew, I'd be lying if I said my reaction was anything more than a chuckle.

In fact, the whole "announcement" seemed to be geared more towards the media than the actual members of the church.  You see, contrary to popular belief, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn't tyrannically dictate the lives of its members.  On the contrary, it warns against being "commanded in all things."  In short, we tend to hear more about the teachings of Jesus Christ on Sundays than the dos and don'ts of Diet Coke.

Still, there are plenty of members out there who, by looking at the exclusions of coffee and tea in The Word of Wisdom, came to the conclusion that caffeinated soft drinks should be avoided as well.  And with all the publicity and speculation the church has received lately due to a certain presidential candidate, all it takes is one overzealous lady to piously proclaim to the national media that not a drop of Coke has touched her lips, and suddenly the organization responsible for 22 million dollars of humanitarian aid last year has to make a statement concerning soda pop.

Now personally, I tend to avoid soda, particularly the caffeinated kind.  While they're meant to be delicious, they're also meant to be addictive.  They're also one of the few things you can consume that has absolutely NO nutritional value.  Like less than a Twinkie!  I'm also very cheap, though, so by ordering water at restaurants, I automatically save three bucks off my bill.

What I absolutely don't do, however, is avoid soda because I think God will love me more, and the sooner we can accept that a majority of Mormons feel the same, the sooner we can get back to the teachings of Christ and humanitarian aid.

That being said, I would like to indulge myself for a bit, and say that due to the recent "Mormon Soda Liberation," there is one thing out there that I will now be able to consume without a guilty conscience:

Coca Cola Slurpees!!

When I was serving as an LDS missionary in Texas, a bunch of us went to 7-11 after a leadership meeting to get Slurpees.  (Classy, I know.)  Standing in front of the famous machine with my cup in hand, I began to dispense my traditional mixture of Coca Cola, followed by Cherry, followed by Coca Cola, and so on...

A fellow missionary, who I will anonymously refer to as Elder Poo-poo-head, saw what I was doing, and disappointingly whispered to me, "Elder Parsons. Come on, man."

I was very surprised by his reaction and asked if there was a problem.  He told me that I wasn't setting a very good example by getting the Coca Cola Slurpee because it had caffeine in it.  This was news to me!  I thought they were just "flavored" with Coke.  At that point it was too late not to pay for it, so I did.  And though I shouldn't have, I spent the rest of the day feeling completely guilt-ridden because of my dumb little Slurpee.

Well, I would like to take this very non Christ-like opportunity to tell Elder Poo-poo-head that he can now officially take my Slurpee and shove it so far down his throat that he gets a brain freeze that lasts as long as I felt guilty about enjoying this simple little treat every once in a while.

And now that I've got that out of my system, I'll see you all at church…and maybe 7-11…but not on the same day.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

When to Ask "Why?"

A parent and child are in a living room covered with Lego bricks and miniature hair brushes.  The parent tries desperately to strap some shoes onto the child's flexed feet while the following conversation unfolds:

Adult: We need to put your shoes on.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because we're going to the store.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because we need to get food.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because we have to make dinner.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because we have to eat.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because God made us that way.
Child: Why?
Adult: Because he's God.
Child: Why?

Sound familiar?  If it does, then most likely you've been around a child at that magical age when he or she discovers "why" and subsequently creates an existential crisis for every adult within earshot.

"Why" is easily one of the most powerful words we have.  When we use it in the form of a question, not only are we more likely to win Jeopardy but also to make some of the greatest discoveries in history: from science and medicine, to art and spirituality, and everything in between.

But "why" can also be distracting. Asking it too much can lead us around in circles, forever returning us to a starting point without the satisfaction of crossing a finish line.

Which is why I believe this three-letter word is one that only gets more complicated as we get older.  What starts out as a gateway to empowerment when we're little can grow to feel more like a waste of time as we gain both knowledge and experience.  It becomes easy to start wondering, "When is 'why?' worth asking?"

As a teenager, my little community was rocked pretty hard when a close friend of mine was killed from injuries in a car accident.  I remember the Sunday following his death, I was sitting in a church meeting with other teenage guys sharing thoughts about why his life had been cut so short.  With the most faithful of intentions, we talked about him being "called to another purpose" and proposed it was "just his time."

At that point, our ecclesiastical leader spoke up and bluntly stated that maybe the reason he died was because he didn't wear a seatbelt.  I was initially a little offended by the harshness of his words.  Where was the comfort to be found in that?  All these years later, though, I think I understand what he was saying.

Sometimes we ask "Why?" in our lives, not to find an answer, but more specifically to find an answer that makes us feel better.  And sometimes when looking too hard for it, we miss the opportunity to learn a lesson (The power of choice, for example, when you choose not to wear a seatbelt).

So maybe "Why?" is only worth asking when we're ready for an answer and not just a hug.  It's worth asking when it won't distract us as much as not asking.

Living by faith doesn't mean we're entitled to an answer simply because we trust it exists; it means we trust it exists despite not knowing it yet.  Only then can we truly be prepared to learn a lesson.  Otherwise, we'll find ourselves searching for the "why's" of our past more than the "what's" of our present.  And in the face of that much distraction, there's only one thing to ask...

Yep. You got it. J

Friday, August 31, 2012

Beat the Heat Week

We've reached the end of summer!  …or the beginning of Indian Summer…  Either way, it's that special time of year when you don't need to turn on the hot water because the cold water somehow never gets cold.  I'm not quite sure why that is, but I think it has something to do with how flippin hot it's been!

Seeing that this new heat wave might not just be a "wave," but the new "norm" for our lives, and that we actually might be somewhat responsible for it, I decided to spend this last week trying to stay cool in other ways besides cranking up the air conditioning and creating even more greenhouse gases. 

So here, in no particular order, are a few of my theories and experiences (both efficient and not) that formed what I'm calling "Beat the Heat Week."


Washing your car is a great way to escape the summer heat.  Not because you naturally cool down while sudsing your sedan, but because it's basically law that when you wash your car, it will almost always rain afterwards. 

It happened to me last week!  And as counter productive as it sounds, I assure you the little bit of heat relief is totally worth the fact that your dirty black car is right back where it started.


Unless you're living in 90% humidity, the best way to avoid the heat is still by finding some shade.  I spent an afternoon sitting under a tree in a park, for example.  Also, don't be afraid to cover up when you're in the sun.  Protecting your body by shading yourself is a great way to stay comfortable.

Which brings up a question I had last week… Whatever happened to umbrellas?  I'm talking old fashioned, Hello Dolly! umbrellas and parasols?  It seems like a good idea.  You are literally carrying around your shade with you!  

I think we need to bring them back.  The next time I'm driving down Santa Monica Blvd, I want to see the sidewalks decorated with people carrying around their shade.  Who knows, they might just become the new old "must have" accessory.


I made homemade popsicles last week using molds I found at the grocery store and different flavored coconut waters.  I thought it would be a great idea for a mid day treat that was still hydrating and healthy.  They turned out pretty good.  (Take a look at the double decker one I made by freezing the juices in increments.)  Just keep in mind that when you eat something that's frozen, your taste buds get a little numb and insensitive, which is probably why "real" popsicles have so much sugar in them.


When you're attempting to erase your carbon footprint by NOT blasting the air conditioner on a hot, summer afternoon, there's something very important you can remember. "Just because you're not blasting your air conditioner doesn't mean someone else isn't blasting theirs."

In other words, there is no reason to go to the movies at night in the summer.  Theatres are always nice and chilly and ready to charge you less for a matinee, so take advantage of it!  (I must admit, it was a little difficult to find a movie I wanted to see, but I made it happen…)  The same goes for all kinds of shopping and eating.  Get out of the house, and enjoy one of the perks of capitalism: communal air conditioning!


Did you know there are certain areas on your body called "pulse points?"  They are places where your blood runs closest to the skin, thereby making it simple to take your pulse.

The five main pulse point areas are:
  • Carotid- side of the neck
  • Radial- the wrist
  • Femoral- near the groin
  • Pedal- on the foot
  • Brachial- at the inside of the elbow or under the shoulder

Cooling these areas is an effective way to give your overheated body a quick cool down.  Try keeping some "accessories" in the freezer to cool down your neck and wrists.  Freeze a bottle of water and set it in your lap while you're sitting on the couch.  And my personal favorite, if you're feeling depleted, soak your feet in some cold water.  These will all give immediate relief by cooling the blood that's circulating throughout your body.


 OK, so this one isn't necessarily a way to cool down, but it sure is good moral support.  Indoor plants do a lot of things for us.  They create oxygen, making it easier to breathe, and they bring life into a room, which help us to feel a little less stale when stuck at work.

NASA recently released a list of air purifying plants that not only do all of the above, but also literally purify the air of toxins.  If you are feeling miserable at work during the summer heat, take a look at bringing in some of these natural wonders.  10 Fabulous Houseplants

What I find really hopeful about "beating the heat" is that we're all in it together.  Weather is no respecter of persons.  If it's 100 degrees outside, then it's 100 degrees outside for everyone.

This is especially important when temperatures start to make our blood boil.  Everyone is in the same boat.  We all feel sticky and uncomfortable, and there's no reason to yell at each other.

On the contrary, these are the moments we should take a look at our neighbors or fellow pedestrians and smile, recognizing that with our shiny foreheads and shirts with pit stains, we're all "beating the heat" together.