Saturday, March 2, 2013

Minding the leaks

This fascinates me:

All boats leak

There's always a defect, always a slow drip, somewhere. Every plan, every organization, every venture has a glitch.
The question isn't, "is this perfect?" The question is, "will this get me there?"
Sometimes we make the mistake of ignoring the big leaks, the ones that threaten our journey.
More often, though, we're so busy fixing tiny leaks that we get distracted from the real goal, which is to go somewhere.

Go somewhere and/or love someone! And only fix the leaks that keep you (one way or another) from doing that!

(I told you.)

Sometimes ...

Deciding when to get my haircut is sometimes a drawn out affair. Sometimes it isn't.

Somtimes you'd rather not mess with bangs, and sometimes you're sick of not having any.

I got a haircut last week. My appointment cancelled on me for Tuesday night. I felt anxious to get it done, so I found someone else. Anxiety doesn’t mean we’re totally off our rocker. Sometimes, it just means we’re having a hard time following our own inspirations. 

And sometimes you get a really good cut too. =]

PS I'm done grading papers for Ashford University for at least a few weeks. I hope to post more on my blog now that I have a little more mental space.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A Treasured Escape

Here's another paper I wrote to inspire my Ashford students. It's a 'description'. I'm not overly fond of descriptions. I think I prefer narratives. My next class is a research class. I know I don't like research papers, because I almost never find when I'm looking for when I research. But I'm rambling. Enjoy!


A Treasured Escape

Soon after moving to Mesa, Arizona almost 10 years ago, our family attended a cub scout breakfast and hike at the Usery Mountain Regional Park just east of town. After a yummy breakfast we had our first opportunity to hike the Wind Cave Trail. My husband and I with our very young family made it almost half way before it became too difficult, and we very reluctantly had to turn back. I’m not sure if it was love at first site (Pun intended. It’s a great site!) for me, but I knew even in that brief visit that we would be back. Since that visit the Usery Mountain Regional Park has become a treasured escape stretching our endurance, building family memories, and bolstering our connection to the Natural world.
            Most often we have hiked this trail in the early mornings. At that time of day and climbing the western slope of Pass Mt up to the wind cave near the summit, we could spent most of our time in the glorious shade. The trail blazes straight up the mountain for just a short stretch, passing through a pedestrian gate, before beginning its myriad of switch backs up the side of the mountain. Two of them pass through a wash, some of them meander easily upwards, while others push one’s endurance to rise the full 800 feet to the cave, though it’s really not more than a hollow blown out by the wind. At the tops we scatter among the rocks at the edge of the cave for much needed rest and refreshment, enjoying the view of the desert and the various cities in the Valley of the Sun and even much of down town Phoenix.  Somewhere along the way down, the sun finally rises above the peaks and we step into the sunlight as we meander back down the switchbacks. The physical exhaustion is coupled with the exhilaration of having reached our goal as we load back up into the car for the half hour drive home from this treasured escape.
            Finding affordable and worthwhile activities to do together as a family can be a challenge. Hiking with children can be a challenge, but we also found it to be a fun opportunity to build memories together. Through the years we lived there, we named the various landmarks. The first one was Family Rock, named for its ideal family picture taking qualities. One root reminded us of a baseball mitt, even though its location in the middle of the trail made it a casualty of erosion. We also looked forward to crossing the ‘bridges’ of large boulders in the trail and the cement bench not far from the Wind Cave. When we had a dog, they joined us along the trail, and at least 3 of our children were carried in baby carriers to the summit as well. We very much treasure the memories our family has of hiking this trail together over the years we lived in Mesa.
            The trail also provided me with opportunities to connect with nature. Growing up in Phoenix I already knew many of the cactus names and some of the shrubs and trees. Hiking this trail gave me an opportunity to learn the names of more plants other than the dreaded cactus. With my family and on much needed solitary ventures, I began to study the other plants along this beloved trail. I learned to recognize Triangle bur sage and brittle bush, which were the most prevalent plants. I pointed out the palo verdes, creosotes, and jojobas to my children. In the spring I reveled in the abundant wild flowers including: flat top buckwheat, desert marigold, wild heliotrope, dainty desert hideseed, white tackstem, mustard evening primrose, owl clover, globe mallow, Mexican gold poppy, and desert hyacinth. I faced the sometimes overwhelming challenge of identifying each specimen in the books or field guides I had and came to know and love the desert more through my treasured escapes.
We moved out of the Valley of the Sun over a year ago, and I think our family will always treasure the memories of our time hiking the Wind Cave trail. Furthermore, as we return to visit family and friends, we will also look forward to visiting this beloved trail together. We will always return when we can to renew our connection to the physically challenging, family bonding, and nature connecting escape of hiking the Wind Cave Trail on Pass Mountain.

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Quest

In the spirit of TJEd's 'Inspire Not Require' and 'You, Not Them', I've written an essay for my English 121 students at Ashford University following the same criteria they do for their first assignments (draft and final). This doesn't totally follow the APA formatting because it's a blog! But it's close. They have another draft and final essay later, but they're changing the course after this class, so I simply won't be that inspiring. =/

My Masters Quest
Verena Beckstrand
October 29, 2012

Over fifteen years ago I began pondering what I would do after I graduated from BYU in Humanities the next summer. I felt hungry to keep learning, but in a way that I could use to serve other people. Digging around the BYU Masters of Instructional Science caught my eye and by the fall of 1996 I was enrolled in the program. Just over a year later I was a newlywed and pregnant with my first child. Despite all of my efforts, I had to abandon the program. Ten years later I applied to the Masters of Education program at GWU in Cedar City. This time I never had the money to even start. I still really want to get a Masters of Education, but I must wait until I find the right program to fit my particular needs and interests in regards to Education, for the right time because I want to make sure I have done everything I can to prepare myself to make the most of my Masters program, and I need to have enough money and time to pay for tuition and complete the course work.
I love learning. I can’t remember a time when I haven’t looked at my teachers, whether they be school teachers, church teachers, seminar teachers or what have you, with a critical eye. Furthermore, I love to look outside the ‘box’ for solutions to learning experiences. I love my 5th grade teacher who pinned a dead fly to the ceiling for my classmate, who was forever dreamily looking at the ceiling, could have something to look at. My older sister started home schooling her children when I was in my early teens, and I have never looked back. I love having my children home with me, and I love teaching them; though admittedly I also love learning about learning through them almost as much as I love watching them learn. I must wait until I find a program that will help me learn about learning without all the requirements that a ‘box’ puts on learning.
I am constantly learning about education. I have the list of books from the GWU Masters of Education classes. I have read some of them, and I want to read more. I follow several blogs about education. Seth Godin has a lot of great things to say on his blog at . I also enjoy reading The Innovative Educator blog at, and the Thomas Jefferson Education blog at among several others. While in China I thought a lot about learning a language. I wrote down my thoughts and feelings not only while learning Chinese, which I knew almost nothing of before we went there, but also while teaching English to some children there. I am also pondering and researching my own theories of learning in a book I hope to write some day. So often I wish I could already have my Masters done. Sometimes I think that all of things I’m learning about education and all of the ideas I’m working on concerning learning would be easier if I already had my Masters of Education. But even though I hate waiting to have or even start my Masters of Education, I know that I will be better prepared to make the most of the opportunity when it does come.
The most frustrating and even boring reasons I have for not working on my Masters of Education is money and time. The economy has hit us about as hard as anyone in the past few years. We simply have too many basic necessities that we aren’t meeting for me to even consider adding tuition to the list of bills to pay. I really will hate sacrificing time with my family. Still, wouldn’t I be a much better home school mom if I already had my Masters? (NOT that I think every home school mom even needs any educational training. I think WAY too far out of the box for me to believe that a requirement.) I hope that I will not have to wait until all of my kids are raised and gone before I can get my Masters degree.
So I wait. I wait and I study and I serve my children as their partner in learning in the best way I know how. I know that someday I will find the right program to fit my particular needs and interests in regards to Education. Someday I will have done everything I can to prepare myself to make the most of my Masters program, and someday I really will have enough money and time to pay for tuition and complete the course work. After all, as my BYU Professor, the late Dr. Dillon Inouye said, “What is God, if he's not an Instructional Designer?”

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Journal Entry: Sunday, October 7th

          I feel numb and exhausted. I didn’t even want to sing during the rest hymns of General Conference today. I usually love singing the rest hymns. I still think I’m in denial, however, about how I’m feeling. … Guess I’d better quit trying to understand why I’m feeling this way and just face it and work through it. “The pressure of my life [are just] weighing me down,” as Lolly on The Weed said yesterday. I like what she has to say, and I like what a friend told her, “You know that you don’t have to earn God’s love. He doesn’t determine His love for you with a tally sheet of all your good deeds.” And the outcome of hearing her friend tell her that is also relieving to me: 
“It all comes down to my personal relationship with Heavenly Father. He loves me unconditionally and I love Him. I show my love for Him through my actions. I am obedient to His commandments and I serve His children in need. I do this not because I’m worried about what other people might think. Not because I’m trying to earn His love. I do what I do because I love Him. That, in and of itself, is enough to relieve my burdens.”
I’ve thought about Unconditional Love off and on through the years. I’m not sure that Mormons do such a great job of communicating it to others, the DUTY speaks so loudly sometimes. I wonder if the world doesn’t wonder about all of our Duties as Pollyanna did:
Pollyanna sighed now—she believed she was going to hate that word—duty. "Aunt Polly, please," she called wistfully, "isn't there ANY way you can be glad about all that—duty business?"
Duty has certainly been speaking very, very loudly to me lately, and it is a powerful force for action.

But maybe Love should speak louder.


Friday, August 10, 2012

A Great question of Necessity

When does a luxury legitimately (i.e. in God's eyes) become a necessity?

When does buying clothes, electronics, or taking a trip or time and money for leisure cross this line?

How do we know when something is an extravagance or something that just gives us breathing room to keep going when life is otherwise all about holding your breath and just hanging on?

How can we possibly answer these questions for other people?


Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Timely Truth for an Overworked Worry Wart

Risk, fear and worry  
by Seth Godin Jul 24, 2012  
They're not the same.  
Risk is all around us. When we encounter potential points of failure, we're face to face with risk. And nothing courts risk more than art, the desire to do something for the first time--to make a difference.  
Fear is a natural reaction to risk. While risk is real and external, fear exists only in our imagination. Fear is the workout we give ourselves imagining what will happen if things don't work out.  
And worry? Worry is the hard work of actively (and mentally) working against the fear. Worry is our effort to imagine every possible way to avoid the outcome that is causing us fear, and failing that, to survive the thing that we fear if it comes to fruition.  
If you've persuaded yourself that risk is sufficient cause for fear, and that fear is sufficient cause for worry, you're in for some long nights and soon you'll abandon your art out of exhaustion. 
On the other hand, you can choose to see the three as completely separate phenomena, and realize that it's possible to have risk (a good thing) without debilitating fear or its best friend, obsessive worry.  
Separate first, eliminate false causation, then go ahead and do your best work. 
So timely. My worries and my fears need a permanent vacation, especially now as our family faces even more uncertainty. Hopefully this will help others as well.