Sunday, July 24, 2016

Believe in Miracles

When I was 16 years old, I was following my dad to drop off a car at the mechanic. Along the way, my tire blew out. I didn’t have a cell phone, I didn’t know how to change a tire, and I didn’t know what to do. So I sat on the side of the road for an hour hoping that dad would eventually figure out where I was and find me. It was slightly traumatizing for me, and one of my biggest fears is breaking down on the freeway.

I have been feeling a bit on the edge of my limits lately. I occasionally have flair ups of intense pain in my neck and jaw, and I’m going on 3 weeks of the worst flair up I’ve ever had. Nothing that I do seems to make a difference, and it’s consumed most of my energy just to make it through the day. The combination of this plus the end of my internship has put me in bit of an emotional whirlwind.

So when my car made a huge THUNK on the freeway this morning, complete with the check engine light and the smell of something burning, I felt like I couldn’t handle it. One of the hardest parts of living far away from family and close friends is that I feel like I don’t have anyone I can call when I’m in trouble. My family and friends I have invested in – we’ve helped each other, and I’ve invested so I feel like it’s ok if I ask for help. I hate inconveniencing people. And in Texas, the closest person I have who I feel like I can call is 4.5 hours away.

However, I have AAA just for such occasions. I happened to break down where two freeways split, so not on the side of the road, but in between 5 lanes of high speed traffic. I was too nervous to even get out of my car. Tears were rolling down my face before I was even connected to the right dispatcher.

Imagine my surprise when a jeep pulled up behind me and out popped a girl from my church. She didn’t know it was me – she had driven past me on her way to church, thought about stopping but said to herself that she didn’t know anything about cars, but the feeling to turn around and go back came harder and stronger, so she did. And she sat with me for 90 minutes in her brand new car with traffic swirling around (12 cars almost hit us, including a semi), waiting for the tow truck to finally show up. And she happens to live and work in the same places I do, so she’s giving me a ride to work tomorrow.

Without her help, I would have been scared and nervous. I would have been on the side of the freeway for 90 minutes in 100 degree weather without air conditioning. I wouldn’t have had a way to make it to church, or a way to work in the morning. In essence, she turned an extremely traumatic experience into a tender reminder that the Lord is aware of me, that He knows what’s going on, and He answers my prayers, even the ones I haven’t offered yet.

I’m so grateful for technology and air conditioning. For mechanics and tow trucks. For a loving Heavenly Father who takes care of me. And for amazing people who listen to random promptings that save the emotional well-being of others. 

Sunday, July 3, 2016

30 Before 30: Crazy Enough to Live a Little

Denis Waitley said, "It is not in the pursuit of happiness that we find fulfillment, it is in the happiness of pursuit." I'm one of those people who finds great joy in crossing things off my list of things to do, and in experiencing new things. My 30 Before 30 list was all about pushing myself to do things I wouldn't otherwise do, or things I have put off. I didn't get through them all, but I'll give you the justification below and you can judge my efforts for yourself. :)


Do Work in 30 Temples - The goal that took the most amount of time, and was probably the most well-known due to my constant posting about it. I have such a special place in my heart for the temple. It is the place I feel most myself, the place that I feel closest to my mom, and the one place on earth I always feel peace. As special as the temples are, the people who made treks with me to them are more so. You know who you are - thank you for being a part of my journey.

Read 30 New Books - Anyone who knows me probably would call this a cheat goal, since I read constantly anyway. I wrote an entire blog post about reading - it is my escape and my refuge from life. Many thanks to the two book clubs that pushed me to read things I wouldn't have otherwise!

Learn Archery - I'm an all out geek. I love Lord of the Rings, Hunger Games and superheros, so this one was flat out amazing fun. Planning on continuing to improve this one.

Random, Inconvenient Act of Service - So often, I find excuses to only do "planned" service, rather than helping the people around me. This isn't the kind of thing that I would write about, because it's very personal, but making this goal gave me the fortitude to do something that was very difficult for someone who really did need help.

Paint - I've always loved art, and always loved to paint, but once I got it in my head that I wasn't good at it, I stopped. I actually ended up doing three different painting classes, and while I think we can still solidly state that I'm not good at it, it was a great experience!

Hike Mount Timpanogos - It's a long experience, including hiking up and down the same mountain a couple of times in the dark, and it didn't go as we planned, but my goodness it was a good story.

Fire a Gun - Loved it, loved it, loved it. Who knew how much fun that was going to be???

Disney World - Walt Disney said, "Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever." I love all things Disney, but Disneyland is too convenient, so I had to make the goal to make it all the way to Florida. Lovely week, but I think I still prefer the California version.

New York - Yes, it was everything I dreamed it would be. Broadway, 9/11 Museum, the Met, Max Brenner's . . . perfection.

Top 10 Movies on AFI's 100 Greatest Movie's List - I didn't love all of these, but I thought it was fascinating which movies shaped the history of movies. It was an offer I couldn't refuse. (See what I did there?)

30 New Recipes - I really do love cooking, but I have absolutely no confidence in it. Some of the recipes were spectacular, some were edible, and some were thrown away, but it had the desired effect - I've become much better at just looking stuff up and giving it a try!

Wax Museum - I know, I know. Really strange goal. But I got it in my head because I knew I would never go to a place like that, and if I'm honest, it kind of terrifies me. Face my fears and all that.

Interview Dad - One of my most treasured possessions is a recorded interview of mom. If I could become half of who my parent's are, I will have been successful in life. So I interviewed dad about life, family, the gospel, and everything. It is, without a doubt, my favorite on this list.

30 New Restaurants - I'm a creature of habit, so I tend to go to the same places over and over. Much like the recipes, I found some amazing ones, and some that I won't be going back to, but it was really fun.

Drive a Race Car - Red Ferrari. Amazing. Felt really silly getting back into my Honda. #lifegoals

Go to Hawaii - I believe the picture speaks for itself.

CPR Certification - This will sound unintentially sad, but the night before I was supposed to do my CPR certification in High School, mom passed away so I didn't make it. Ever since then, I felt like I should follow through so I have a basic knowledge of how to handle emergencies.

Learn to Tie a Tie - Courtesy of one of the guys I dated while I was working on this list, I learned several knots. Don't know that I could recreate them without a YouTube refresh, but I've got a good start.

Order Room Service - Mac and Cheese on my balcony. Lovely.

Get a New Job - When I wrote the list, I was unhappy in my position at work, and sometimes it's hard to move jobs just because it's comfortable. I think I can feel confident that I've crushed this one.

Ride a Segway - Several years ago I was walking about a mile from my car to an event I was going to, and someone on the side of the road was renting Segways. I wanted to use it just to get to the event and back to my car (they weren't too keen on it) but ever since I've wanted to try one out! Super, super fun. Only (almost) died twice.


30 Races, Olympic Triathlon, Full Marathon - These three goals were well underway until I hurt my knee. I haven't completely given up on running, but it most likely will require a very risky surgery, and I haven't decided if it's worth the risk yet. Stay tuned.

30 Songs on the Guitar - I haven't touched my guitar in a year. My goal is to get started on this one once I get back to Arizona and see where I can go with it.

30 Arabic Phrases - No excuse on this one. I just need to buckle down and make the flash cards for myself.

Take a Dance Class - I kept searching and searching for a tap dancing class for adults and I could never find one. I'm still determined to make this one happen, and Kelley has promised to take a modern dance class with me once I graduate.

Write a News Article - Does this blog count? No? Dang.

Drive in Movie - I had this one all planned out for 2 weekends ago. I went online to buy tickets and then I noticed that it was an "Idle Free Zone." As in, car off. As in, no air conditioning. So yeah, that one is going to wait until fall.

Record Dad Reading Dr. Suess - I tribute my love of reading to my dad and my oldest brother, both of whom read outloud to me, and could be found reading constantly. Anytime I read Dr. Suess, I hear it in dad's voice and I wanted to capture that. To be honest, I had ample opportunity to complete this one, but the more I thought about it, I couldn't make this one work in execution. I wanted it to be classy, not cheesy, and I couldn't figure it out. Might still happen - I'll have to see.

And there it is. It's been wonderful and hard and fun and fulfilling. Not sure what the next set of crazy goals will be for me, but I wanted to list a couple of things that I've done in addition to this list. Moved 2 states, went to grad school, changed jobs twice, went to South Africa, and did 30 shots of Diet Coke on my actual birthday. It's a good life!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

It Didn't Go As Planned, and That's OK.

I have always been fascinated by the stars and the cosmos. When I was young, they taught us the 9 planets within our solar system (RIP Pluto), and for a VERY long time, I would thank God every single time I prayed for the planets, by name, in order. It might be one of the things I am most famous for among my immediate family. Catherine came to Houston this weekend and we went to the Johnson Space Center where we saw the Space Shuttle and dozens of other artifacts that have actually been in space. It was so cool! One of my favorite parts was a timeline they had set up of every single launch and what significant improvements came as a result. They had a quote hanging on the wall, “Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Interesting implications for my own life and the way I see those around me.

I also attended a pool party over the weekend. It was slightly different from the pool parties we had in Utah, where it was debatable whether or not it was going to be hot enough to actually get in the water, and if we did get in the water, we would get out and immediately start shivering until we had dried off. In Texas it turns out, you have to keep dunking yourself in the pool to not get heat exhaustion, especially if you’re the unfortunate soul at the grill. This is yet more evidence in support of my theory that Texas is inhumanely hot and humid in the summer. I don’t have a ton of empirical evidence, but I believe the “show and tell” portion is sufficient.

So . . . I turn 30 this week. I’ve honestly been preparing myself for this birthday since I turned 27 and felt like I had officially hit my “late-20’s.” One of my co-workers was trying to convince me to join the gym she goes to because “they give really great discounts to people under 30.” In preparation, I’ve managed to complete a few last minute 30 Before 30 goals (a different post on those coming later this week). This birthday just feels big for so many reasons. One of them . . . well, because I’m turning 30. And I suppose any decade birthday feels significant. It's also partly because I was 15 when mom passed away, so sometime between my birthday and April 16 of next year, mom will have been gone for half of my life. And mostly because this is not at all how I envisioned my life at 30.

Let me be completely clear: I LOVE my life. I’m extremely grateful for the opportunities and blessings I have, and I recognize fully that they have come in abundance. I know that most of them have come undeserved. I also know that its human nature to feel dissatisfied and to be looking for the next thing to come, no matter what state our lives are in. Things just haven’t happened the way that I always planned they would.

As I've reflected back on my last 30 years, the overwhelming impression I've had is this: thank GOODNESS my life hasn’t gone according to my plans! I would have made a royal mess of things if they had gone my way. Granted, there are days that I wish it would have, but I have been overwhelmed and amazed at what life has given me instead. So, as cheesy as this is, in honor of my first 30 years on earth, here are 30 things that I’m grateful for today.

Anyone reading this. Yoga pants. Ice machines. Musical theater. Headphones. Mountains. Stars. Diet Coke. Hiking shoes. GPS. Books. Curiosity. Music. Macaroni and cheese. Indoor plumbing. Cell phones. Air conditioning. Pianos. Excedrin. Crock pots. Education. 10-keys. Excel. Fingernail polish. 401K’s. Inspiration. Cameras. My friends. My family. The gospel of Jesus Christ. Here's to my next 30 years!!

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Adventures of An Intern - Weeks 1-3

I thought was nervous packing up my car and driving to Arizona, but I confess it was nothing CLOSE to the anxiety I felt about coming to Texas. I very carefully planned to arrive in Houston the day before work started, because I couldn't handle the thought of hanging around staring at the walls. Going through huge changes in my life essentially makes me question every decision I've ever made, and long for normalcy. Luckily, my first weekend of work was also our family reunion in Nauvoo.

Keep in mind that any kind of intense emotion, good or bad, makes me cry. I've been looking forward to this family reunion since we started planning it a year and a half ago, and especially with all the changes lately, I couldn't wait to be with my favorite people. In spite of a very rough start, including a canceled flight (and the guy in front of me was missing his own wedding because of it so . . . I really didn't have a good story), flying into a completely different city and paying $800 for a rental car, it was a perfect weekend. I've included a bunch of my favorite pictures, but it's a safe bet that at any given time during the weekend, I was crying. These people that make up my family . . . I could never say enough good about them.

I cried embarrassingly as I drove away to another week of work. I'm really enjoying my project so far - it's the perfect combination of analytics and process improvement, although it's still taking some time to get my feet underneath me. My team is fantastic and really kind. It's been an interesting experience working in a company as big as Chevron, and with an intern program that's really well defined. Lots of fun lunch and learns and great networking.

Catherine got my name for Christmas, so a week ago I got my gift - a weekend in San Antonio!! It was absolutely amazing. She had written out an itinerary for every day, with a few options on how we could change things. We ate amazing food (including one meal VERY high up in the air), walked through beautiful areas of the city and parks, and even knocked another item off my 30 Before 30 list. It was so much fun to spend the weekend with Catherine - she is such an incredible woman, and such a great example to me.

Overall, my first few weeks here have been very challenging, both emotionally and intellectually. This internship is going to be very challenging, but I'm grateful for another growth opportunity to learn and be a big girl. :) More to come on future adventures!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

If You Can't Say Something Nice, Don't Say Nothing At All

My mother was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known. One day my oldest sister came home and told her how the kids at school had teased her and said mean things. She expected my mom to tell her how sorry she was, and talk about how mean and wicked those children had been. Instead, my mom responded, “Oh sweetie, now you know what that feels like. I hope you never treat anyone that way.”

I have a general rule in my life that I’m not allowed to read the comments on any article or blog post online, because inevitably I end up feeling ill at how angry and mean people can be. While I tell myself over and over again NOT to click on things, I sometimes don’t listen to my inner warnings and end up regretting it. A popular singer recently released a music video that desecrated several things that I consider sacred. I should not have read the interview he gave after it came out, because it made me angry, and then incredibly sad. Sad mostly because I felt his logic was flawed: he said he did it to try and protest some things he doesn’t agree with, but history has shown over and over again that hatred never solves anything. It never brings about change. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that." While I don’t deny his right to disagree, to be angry, and to make his opinion known, hatred only breeds more hatred.

I have an overly simplistic view on life, but I believe that aside from making the best choices I possibly can in my own life, the only thing I have to do is love people. We don’t make it easy. We are difficult creatures. (To the person who was going 60 mph and then sped up to 95 when we finally made it to a passing lane . . . grr.) However, it is always worth it! We will never regret being too kind. Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.”

The fact of the matter is, we will never have the full story on someone’s life, and therefore we should never pass judgment on the way they are acting. It is so much easier to respond with anger, with irritation, with sarcasm. It takes an incredible amount of discipline and character to respond with kindness, but I believe so many of the problems we are currently facing as a society would be solved if we would do as JM Barrie counseled, and, “Always be a little kinder than necessary.”

Sunday, January 31, 2016

We Read To Know We're Not Alone

Every once in a while, I get the crazy notion that I want to write a book. Then, of course, I get an assignment to write a 20-page paper and I come to my senses rather quickly. This passing fancy stems not from a love of writing, but because I love reading so much.

I recently started reading a book around midnight in the hopes that it would exhaust my mind enough to sleep. I finished the book around 5 am, and while I was exhausted the next day, I can’t necessarily say that I regret it. It’s not the first time I’ve pulled an all-nighter reading a book, nor is it the first time that I’ve made poor choices regarding books. As a child, I remember hiding in closets and under stairs with a book and a flashlight for hours when I should have been cleaning the garage or helping in the yard.

People often say to me that they have no time for reading, and while I probably wouldn’t recommend my overnight read-a-thon approach to other people, I would take a good book over any other form of entertainment. W. Somerset Maugham said that, “The only important thing in a book is the meaning that it has for you.” I have so many books that are truly a part of my life and have shaped me as I’ve grown. They have been my companions, my friends, my escape when life seems to be too much. At any given time, I’ll be listening to an audiobook, reading a book on my Kindle app, and have at least two physical books lying around the house that I’ll pick up when I have a moment.

This is my favorite Norman Rockwell drawing – it depicts how I feel when I read a book. Inside a book is a world that I’ve never explored, and suddenly anything is possible. It’s almost like stepping inside someone else’s head for a few hours and broadening my understand to a point of view that I could never have, because I see everything through the lens of my own experience.

The book Fahrenheit 451 is a dystopian novel that depicts a society where books are illegal. While this concept is clearly horrific in and of itself for me, what was more disturbing was the process of how this society got there. When someone reads a book, they suddenly know something that someone who hasn’t read it doesn’t know. In an effort to make things “fair,” they slowly go shortening books and concepts, reducing them to soundbites on a television so that there is total knowledge equality. In our world where everyone is more concerned about being politically correct than being kind and intelligent, I feel this has frightening implications for our future.

A favorite gift.
I love learning. I love reading. I love changing and growing and becoming something more than what I was yesterday. I felt the great need to write this, partly because I’ve been reading like a mad person lately, and partly to remind myself that I love this process. School occasionally tries to convince me otherwise, but the books I’ve read are as much a part of me as my friends and family.

That’s all for tonight. Got to finish that crazy-long paper early tomorrow morning. And there’s still 15 pages before my chapter ends. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

Wise Men Still Seek Him

Wise men seek Him still.
While anyone who knows me can attest that I have a flare for the dramatic, I've never really been a fan of theatrics when it comes to sacred things. Certain aspects of things like pioneer trek reenactments can make me feel uncomfortable, simply because that's not how I feel the spirit. So when Relief Society on Sunday started off with a Christmas tree with presents on it, and the lesson was for different sisters to go up and unwrap the gifts of Christ, I confess that I rolled my eyes a bit and started reading a talk on my phone. The Relief Society president in the ward I was attending had just been released, and one of the sisters in the ward told me that it was because she's been incredibly sick for the past several years without any relief in sight. As the women started opening the "gifts" on the tree, they would call up the next sister to open the next one. When the newly-released Relief Society president went up and opened her "gift," she read, "this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people… and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.”

Needless to say, quite a few people were crying by the end. Some might call that a coincidence, that a woman suffering deeply from physical illness pulls a wrapped quote off a Christmas tree that talks about the power of Christ to heal, and to succor those with illness. But I don’t buy that. I felt chagrined that I was skeptical of this teaching method, when clearly there were people getting the support they needed from it. As always, God is aware of what’s going on, and taking care of things.

I think for me, that is a true spirit of Christmas; all that is unfair about life WILL be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. There are so many times when it seems that’s an impossible statement, when you look around at all the injustice in the world. But incredibly enough, I believe it with all that I am. It is precisely the difficulties of this life that make the light of Christ so beautiful to me. He is the light because it is through Him that we can see everything around us. “May the beautiful lights of every holiday season remind us of Him who is the source of all light.”

Looking back, it’s been a rough year. It’s been a wonderful year. A year full of miracles, loneliness, tender mercies, frustration, music, tears, long days followed by late nights, change and moments that made me laugh so hard it hurt. Throughout all of it, I feel great hope for what is to come. Because fortunately, I’m not the one in charge. Merry Christmas, all you wonderful, lovely people!