Wednesday, December 15, 2010

On Death

It's not often that you meet somebody on a Monday and by Friday they're dead. But that is what happened with Jamleck, in Kenya. I hope this post doesn't end up being a downer.

I went to Kenya to train about 30 teachers, and Jamleck was one of them. He stuck out in the crowd. The other teachers teased him because the clothes he wore made it apparent he came from a lower-income area. He also mentioned one day in training that he had "slept out" that night - in the street. In truth, all three teachers who came from a certain school seemed to be employed by the gracious headmaster for their own rehabilitation purposes. One was HIV-positive, another was a little mentally slow, and the third was Jamleck, who had a drinking problem.

He seemed like a really nice guy - he smiled all the time, had a timid expression, and I noticed that he took over mowing the lawn for the gardener for free after one of our eight-hour training sessions. I liked the guy and felt badly that he was teased so often.

He didn't show up for training on Friday. I knew he was dedicated to the training and wouldn't blow it off unless something was seriously wrong. Some laughingly said he got lost on the way to the training. Others claimed he was hungover somewhere. I told them he was probably either in the hospital or dead and we should look for him but nobody took that seriously. I brought up the same concern the next day and the following with the same result. That Monday he was found at the mortuary. He had been murdered across from the street from his residential area.

I felt so badly because there was an unoccupied room open right next to my room at the convent on Thursday night that the organization was paying for. The girl staying there had college graduation on Friday and had checked out Thursday afternoon, but I didn't think to offer the room to him until after training had ended and he'd already left. Maybe if he'd stayed there the disaster could have been avoided - nobody really knew if he'd "slept out" again on Thursday night or why he was hit.

It made me think.

First, I want to do better at defending those who are being teased in a mean-spirited way. Sometimes I just stay out of those things because I don't want to end up being teased too. I need to be more courageous. It is sad that I probably wouldn't even be feeling guilty about staying out of it if he was still alive. It's something I should always do.

Secondly, life is short and death can be totally unexpected. Everybody is going to die at some point including the people I love the most. That thought is terrifying. I just want things to continue as they are forever but that will not happen in this life, and loss will be a part of my life. Now is the time for me to tell people I love them and to show them through service. I don't want to take anyone for granted anymore.

Thirdly, I am mortal. I need more guts. My advice to everyone is the same. Why wait? Take a chance, take a risk. It doesn't matter where you travel, how much you make, what your GMAT score was, whether or not you have a PhD, how many instruments you play, or how many languages you are proficient in. What really matters is how you help and lift others and who you become.

I barely knew the man, but if somebody had told me on Thursday night that Jamleck would be dead by Friday, I would have made a special effort to talk to him and boost him up. To not let people belittle him his last day in this world.

If somebody had told me my mission companion was going to die four months after I went home, I would have written her more often. Instead of having my second email to her in four months be replied to by her sister - "she's dead." Same with Edith, Isaac, David, and other friends that I taught in South Africa.

The thing is, we are usually not forewarned about these things. Every day counts. Become who you want to become, love beyond your fullest capacity to love, tell people you care, show people you care, kick failure to do so in the face.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Email from Mommy

And you wonder where I get it? This is an email I received today, verbatim, from my mom.



BTW (which means Better To Whistle): I've finished planning my Institute lesson and I am kinda' bored.

FYI (which means Flogging Yields Intestines): if you want, [you can invite a certain male friend] over for Thanksgiving--it's your call (Not as in phone call, but as in decision to make in a decisive manner.) I decided I don't like what FYI means above, I'm changing it to mean Frozen Yams are Inefficient--as in to eat--terribly inefficient to eat. Therefore our yams will not be frozen on Thanksgiving day. (See how I tied all this together?)

Better get to bed before Ambien kicks in. (I kinda' think it has already.) Oh well, LOL, which means Longwinded Over Logical-which describes this email.

Life was never boring where I grew up.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dirty Dash

My friend Megan sent out an email about a unique 10K team race through the mud. I thought, "Cool. I like running. I like mud. Let's do it." I didn't really have the slightest inkling of what it would be like in reality. I knew I'd get muddy, but NOTHING prepared me for the spectacle that I witnessed, and indeed helped create, at the Dirty Dash.

This was more of an obstacle course up and down a mountain than a race, with mud pits to swim through, hay bails to hurdle, tubes to crawl through, 8-foot tall walls to climb, tires to jog over, fire hoses to resist, swamps to slop through, and a giant slip-and-slide. It was really more of a 6.2 mile mud-slinging party with several thousand participants.

I can normally finish a 10K in about 45-50 minutes, but this one took me over two hours. Granted, a lot of that ended up being rolling around in the mud and hurling slop at people.

I think we were the only team without costumes or at least team shirts. There were some really creative (and scary) costumes though. I never want to see a shirtless man in short spandex shorts again!

Jess, me, Brenden, Brandon, Megan

The hardest part for me was the swamp that had to be at least half a mile long. I nearly lost my good running shoes in it's depths on several occasions. Jess and I finally decided to just crawl for the last quarter mile or so. She promptly gashed her leg open on a rock and began bleeding profusely, although we couldn't tell until we stopped crawling and started running again. I was also bleeding from my forearm, but only a little. Some random guys provoked us to another mud-slinging war and we obliged. It was about at this point I started to (a) doubt my sanity, (b) wonder what strange disease I would end up with after immersing myself in this swamp with open wounds, and (c) regret wearing a shirt with sleeves. I felt about 30 pounds heavier with all the mud that was glopped all over my clothing and on my shoes.

Near the end of the race was the World's Largest Slip N' Slide. Down we went in the freezing water until it spit us out at the bottom into - you guessed it - another mud pit.

That is Jess in the foreground, Brenden behind her, and me in the back

At least 6,000 sweaty and probably bloody runners had already been in the final pit during the first wave of the race that day. I tried not to think about it.

For some reason unfathomable to my currently reasonable mind, Jess and I decided to emerge from the final pit and slide down the last little hill. It looked slimy and soft. Nope. It was full of sharp little rocks and gravel. I gashed my right side open during the last few seconds of the race. But of course, our wounds didn't deter us from taking some team pictures.

Jess, me, Brenden, Brandon, Megan

I think then is about when the misery started setting in. I tried to suppress and clean out the gash in my side without subjecting myself too much to the freezing showers. For fear of hypothermia, I decided against better judgment that the shower would have to wait for an hour or so until I got back to Provo... the water was far too cold for me to attempt to wash my hair or any other part of me, and I was already literally visibly convulsing with shivers, and according to Jess, my lips were blue. Jess hurriedly escorted me back to our vehicle and I wrapped my wet and muddy self up in a towel.

By the time I got home I was freezing, famished, still black with mud, incredibly smelly, and looked a lot like Bob Marley. Especially because by that point, my hair looked and felt like dreadlocks. Seriously, it was more a coagulated mass than individual hairs. Immediately after getting home I showered for a good half hour, washed my hair five times, discarded my clothing in an old recycling bin and washed it five times by hand before putting it in the washer, and swore I would never never NEVER EVER touch mud of any form again!!!

Feeling clean and happy, I proceeded to girl's night.

Where, ironically, I was greeted by roommates wearing mud masks. Who really wanted to give me a proper mud mask. With cucumbers to boot. I submitted.

Now I am trying to organize my team for the April Dirty Dash.

Megan, Brenden, Brandon, Jess, me

Rough Stone Rolling

I just finished reading this book yesterday. If you have read it, please please please contact me! I would love to discuss it with someone, but haven't been able to find a single person who has read it cover-to-cover yet.

My Dream Wedding Reception

I've never really caught the vision of what I wanted my wedding reception to be like... until now.

To preface this, let me explain my personal feelings toward receptions.

First off, they are suspiciously similar to funerals. (Except for me, funerals are happier since they remind me of Christmas - which may be confusing if you don't know my family background).

Secondly, what's the appeal of sitting awkwardly at fancy tables with a bunch of humans you don't know, trying to pleasantly converse about the weather, decorations, or any other commonalities you might have, with said stranger who is sharing the same uncomfortable experience?

Thirdly, you are probably having the aforementioned conversation while attempting to get the whole chocolate-covered strawberry into your mouth before the goop dribbles down your chin and onto your blouse in the most unclassy manner.

Finally, you are expected to wait in line for half an hour just to say hi for five seconds to an exhausted couple that looks like they are about ready to drop dead.

They've already been through: hours spent getting ready for the day, the ceremony, the paparazzi, the bride walking around in a dress that probably weighs more than she does, and the general stress of actually GETTING married and all the changes that entails. These people don't want to be there after all that, shaking hand after hand. They're married! Release them from their present torment!

Apart from making the couple feel exhausted and anxious, and the guests feel superfluous and awkward, I just don't see what this ritual does to help humanity.

To be fair, there are some positives.

1. Knowing your friends are supporting you on your wedding day. (I guess I'd rather just have them come to the ceremony).

2. Loot. ie: Presents. (I'd rather just take the money NOT spent on the venue, decorations, and food and buy my own loot).

3. The parents get to celebrate and the siblings get to meet the spouse's family. This is the most valid and irrefutable argument in favor of receptions that I can think of. And this alone will probably cause me to have a reception when the time comes.

Which is why I have now planned out my dream reception to make the experience more positive.

My Dream Wedding Reception!!!

My colors will be red and white.

For refreshments, I will have cookies and orange juice.

My family won't have to pay for it, because my entire reception will be sponsored by the Red Cross.

No presents please, my honorable guests, just relax and lie down on this comfortable recliner. We're going to surprise you with a blood drive!!!

Yeah! Now THAT is a constructive use of time!

Disclaimer: I really don't hate wedding receptions as much as this post indicates. I have also, on occasion, enjoyed them. Especially if it looks like the couple is also enjoying it. I would be more than happy to come to your reception when the time comes for you to get married. :-) Oh, and I'm not really going to have a blood drive, so you can come to my reception without fear, too.

My Health Age

My 29-year old friend posted on her GChat status that her health age was 23 years. So I went and took the Health Age test.

According to my health, I am 10.4 years old.

And my life expectancy is 95.7 years.

Looks like I have plenty of time to improve myself before I die. Whew! Now to go eat some doughnuts while skydiving. ;-)

Link to Test

A Lil' Sunshine

So, I kind of wanted to add this because I've never tried posting a video to a blog before and I wanted to see if it would work. But I also kind of wanted to post it because I love these girls. That's Megan on the left, roommate Emily next to her, old roommate Brittany next to her, and of course, I'm far right with the guitar. We were serenading a boy from the neighborhood who purchased our serenade at a charity auction. We are wearing togas because of the previous serenade, which I shall not be posting. ;-)


A Little Brag Time

Last month I worked really hard on developing an idea after an RFP from a private corporation was posted. Then I spent about three weeks writing a meticulous grant proposal, which was submitted through one of the four nonprofit organizations I work for. My co-worker presented the idea to the board and they agreed to go for it. After figuring out the scope and everything that would be needed for the first three years of the project, I did some preliminary budgeting and made an ask for $2 million over a period of three years (which is a LOT in general, but especially for a two-employee organization). That was kind of ridiculous, knowing that the most I've ever been granted from a proposal I've written in the past is $2,000. But, reach for the stars and you might hit the moon, right?

The email response from the company said it was the most well-written proposal, had the best programming ideas, and "blew [them] away!" I was so happy!

Today I got the news that we're definitely getting $300,000 the first year (more than the $250,000 I requested for the first year). If things go well after the first year, more will likely come!

I don't know if the board would appreciate me going public with the idea yet, so I won't. But I am so excited! I love it when a feeling of accomplishment comes into my life. Especially at a time when I don't have a full-time job and I work primarily from home (which sometimes makes me feel like a slob, even though I AM working).

Thank you private sector! Work that CSR! I'll never make a snide remark toward MBAs again! ;-)

Friday, October 8, 2010

President Packer's Talk, Homosexuality, and Judging

President Packer's Talk

I am a little surprised with how up-in-arms some people are against President Packer's conference talk. I am also surprised with how many people are using it as an excuse to pass judgment on homosexual church members who are not acting on their feelings.

I can see how, taking one or two lines out of context, it might be misunderstood. Allow me to offer my opinion on the matter. Once again, I could be wrong, but here's what I think.

I'll give the quotes followed by commentary (emphasis added).

QUOTE: "We teach a standard of moral CONDUCT that will protect us from Satan’s MANY substitutes or counterfeits for marriage. We must understand that any persuasion to ENTER INTO ANY relationship that is not in harmony with the principles of the gospel must be wrong. From the Book of Mormon we learn that “wickedness never was happiness." Some suppose that they were PRESET and cannot OVERCOME what they feel are INBORN TEMPTATIONS toward the impure and unnatural. Not so! Remember, God is our Heavenly Father."

COMMENTARY: A lot of people seem to be applying this statement exclusively to homosexuality, assuming that he is saying "if you just prayed hard enough, your sexual orientation will be changed." This is a huge assumption from the statement given, and taken that way, I see how it could be offensive toward a person with homosexual inclinations who is not acting on their feelings. I don't think any heterosexual should use this as 'ammo' anymore than they should say, 'well if you just had enough faith your cancer would be taken away because God has the power to do so.'

President Packer gave this quote right after speaking extensively on pornography. An 'inborn temptation toward the impure and unnatural' could include many things, including a desire to view pornography. Can this temptation which people feel to be inborn because they are so addicted and drawn to it be overcome? Yes, by refusing to VIEW pornography. This quote could apply to many MANY things. Examples of substitutes and counterfeits for marriage: pornography, prostitution, pedophiles, abusive relationships, incest, ENGAGING in extramarital relationships (even though the attraction is there), and ENGAGING in homosexual relationships.

He uses action words: "conduct," "enter into" (instead of "be tempted by").

I also believe that when he said we could 'overcome the inborn temptations', he was talking about conquering the temptation by not indulging in the counterfeits, rather than talking about having the temptation be completely taken away. I understand that other opinions on this quote may vary, but nobody can say for sure what was meant except the one who actually said it.

Here's a quote from Elder Scott's talk that confirms that God won't always just take away trials because we ask: "With even your strongest faith, God will not always reward you immediately according to your desires. Rather, God will respond with what in His eternal plan is best for you, when it will yield the greatest advantage. Be thankful that sometimes God lets you struggle for a long time before that answer comes. That causes your faith to increase and your character to grow." So let's not pass judgment on anybody else and let's also not think that an apostle was saying God will just remove temptations if we just had more faith. Let's look at the big picture.

QUOTE: Paul promised that “God . . . will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will WITH THE TEMPTATION also make a way to escape, that YE MAY BE ABLE TO BEAR IT." You can, if you will, break the HABITS and conquer an ADDICTION and come away from that which is not worthy of any member of the Church. As Alma cautioned, we must “watch and pray continually.”

COMMENTARY: Clearly, President Packer is talking about actions here, not temptations. He doesn't promise anything in this statement about temptations being taken away if we just pray hard enough. This whole paragraph would be completely moot if what he was saying earlier was that God will just take temptations away.

QUOTE: "Every soul confined in a prison of SIN, GUILT, or PERVERSION has a key to the gate. The key is labeled “repentance.” If you know how to use this key, the adversary cannot hold you. The twin principles of repentance and forgiveness exceed in strength the awesome power of the tempter. If you are bound by a HABIT or an ADDICTION that is unworthy, you must stop CONDUCT that is harmful. Angels will coach you, and priesthood leaders will guide you through those difficult times."

COMMENTARY: Once again, he seems to be referring to actions. Not temptations. While entertaining unclean thoughts is wrong - "we don't have to invite them to tea" - being tempted at times is just part of life. If we were never tempted, the principle of agency would be useless because we'd never have to choose.

QUOTE: Once you have decided to remain clean, you are asserting your God-given agency.

COMMENTARY: Once again, actions. If God took away all our temptations whenever we asked, He'd be taking away our ability to learn and grow through choices.



One of the greatest commandments is to "Love One Another." Of course we should love homosexuals just like we should love anybody else. I've known some people who refuse to be friends with or do business with homosexuals. At risk of being too harsh, I find this to be self-righteous and ludicrous. We shouldn't judge anybody no matter what their sexual orientation, and we should treat all people - by virtue of the fact that they are sons and daughters of God and fellow human beings - with mutual respect, friendliness, and kindness. Would you shun a heterosexual who has pushed boundaries on physical intimacy outside of marriage? Or shun someone who has told a lie or been dishonest in a business transaction? In short, if we shun everyone who ever displeased the Lord through any behavior of theirs, we'd be shunning everyone (including ourselves).

Why should we treat un-practicing homosexuals any differently than heterosexuals? It's like treating someone differently just because they are blonde instead of brunette. (Didn't want to open up a can of worms on blonde jokes here either). Would it be too bold of me to say that we should even treat practicing homosexuals with kindness and respect, that we can be friends with them, that we can learn and laugh with them and allow them to learn and laugh with us? Let's bear in mind that one of the two greatest commandments is to "love one another".

It is not our place to condemn or judge anybody, and Mormons are certainly not trying to take homosexuals rights away. Everybody is free to choose and act for themselves. But that doesn't mean that just because a person chooses a particular course of action, God approves of it. He doesn't bend His laws for men or for popular opinion.

My personal belief (though others may hate me for saying so) is that the prophets do speak for God when they say that to engage in homosexual behavior is not condoned of God - if God has revealed it, who am I to argue with Him? I don't have answers for why people have feelings that feel very natural and are very powerful if God isn't going to let them realize those feelings. But I do see a few parallels - like the heterosexual forbidden to act on their natural urges improperly (before marriage, or with a person who is not their spouse, or disrespectfully or inappropriately even with their spouse). Those things are just as wrong. There are also many heterosexuals in the church who will never have the opportunity to marry, and who will remain celibate their entire lives.

We all have to learn restraint and discipline in life in one way or another, whether that is managing anger, not overeating, not exploiting or taking advantage of others to get what we want, or not being dishonest in financial dealings. Some areas are easy for an individual, while other areas may be tougher. But we all should try to direct our behavior to align with what God would have us do in any particular circumstance.

Obviously, I don't have all the answers, but to summarize, we should (1) be kind to everyone and not judge, (2) pray and search the words of God through His prophets so that we can individually direct our course through life to try our best to live the way God wants us each to live, and (3) exercise restraint in any aspect of our life that would make God unhappy.


At risk of being misunderstood, let me say this: I do believe that there are certain actions/behaviors/habits that are right or wrong, and behaviors can absolutely be judged as such. That is why we have laws and consequences (both civilly and spiritually). Moral relativism IS a danger. When I talk about not judging, I am not talking about behaviors. I am specifically talking about not belittling someone's trial by judging - 'if this person had more faith, they'd be cured of their depression, cancer, homosexual feelings, etc.' Just because a person's trial may be different from mine doesn't mean they are somehow less worthy than me. Was Job less worthy or did everybody wrongly judge him as such because of all the trials he was going through?

God won't always take away desires or temptations or trials from us. Actions, on the other hand, are always in OUR control because God won't control our agency - actions do include dwelling on thoughts. The former (desires, temptations, trials) shouldn't be judged; the latter (actions) can be judged as right or wrong.

As a friend of mine stated, "I suspect that God is most concerned about his children who are currently struggling with homosexual feelings. They are the ones who are emotionally, physically, daily wrapped up in the topic we are discussing so insensitively."

If Christ were in the room, would we be busy telling someone else how their weaknesses and temptations are wrong? I believe that Christ would wrap His arms around and show love to all at that moment. If He's perfect and can show love to everybody, why shouldn't I strive to do the same in my daily life?

To quote my friend again, "If we hate the sin, love the sinner, then we should express love. 'Your damnable behavior is tainting everything that matters to me' is a terrible way to start a conversation whose overarching theme is 'I love you. Let’s work through this.'"

I think we would all do well to examine how these things apply to ourselves before trying to figure out how they apply to the next person. Let's check our own actions and thoughts. Let's critically examine the media we take into our lives, to make sure that we ourselves are not being hypocritical. It doesn't mean we can't take a stand against behaviors, or that we should justify them, but let's be a little more loving.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Dating Faux Pas

I graduated with my masters two and a half years ago. Apparently, I look like I just graduated from High School.

Yesterday I was asked out by a freshman in college.

It all happened when I scheduled and manned a booth at the BYU Career Fair to try to recruit more volunteers for the Suicide Prevention Hotline. There were about 12 interested students, one of whom I remember being a freshman and not having served a mission yet. I collected all the potential volunteer's email addresses and sent them an email about the training schedule.

The freshman volunteer responded with an email asking if I'd like to go on a date with him sometime soon. Unfortunately, there is no non-awkward way of telling a freshman boy who asks you out that you're 27 years old. So, fully expecting him to be embarrassed, or to have a good laugh with his roommates over asking out an 'old' girl, I wrote:

"Not to make things awkward, but I should probably let you know that I'm older than I look - I'm 27. Just in case that changes anything for you."

I was pretty surprised at his response:

"I should probably let you know that I am younger than I look – I’m 18. Anyways, yes, I’d like to do a date... age difference never occurred to me as a reason not to."

Well, I was expecting to throw him for a loop, but he certainly succeeding in turning the tables!!!

No, I will not introduce you to my non-brother, Max.

Poor BYU football. They are not doing so hot this year. Wasn't so bad back in the day when my brother was QB...

But then again, I never had a brother that was QB and I never even had a brother named Max.

Unfortunately for me, he DOES have a sister named Sarah Hall, and at times people would try to get to him through me by adding me as a friend on Facebook.

The saddest was last year when I moved into a new BYU ward the SAME week that Sarah Hall (the real sister) moved into the same ward. Of course everybody had heard that Max's sister Sarah Hall was coming and they were all pretty excited about it.

So I became instantly immensely popular (and then instantly immensely unpopular as if I had wittingly deceived people by not introducing myself as 'Sarah Hall not Max's sister' my first week in the ward). Apparently, I was the only one not in on the rumor that Max's sister Sarah Hall was moving in.

But I suppose it is flattering, that as a 5'2" less-than-100-pound gal, people would think I'm cool enough and tough enough to be related to a strong and handsome famous QB.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Dear Ward Choir

I think about you all the time. I love all you people that take time out of your schedule to be there so we can help bring the Spirit to the ward through music.

Actually, I even had a dream about you last night. Except it was more like a nightmare.

Tomorrow we are singing "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" in church.

Following is last night's dream:

When I arrived at church, the opening hymn was "My Shepherd Will Supply My Need." I thought, really? Who chooses the opening song so that it is the same as the one the choir will be singing in the middle of the meeting?

When I got up there to direct it, it wasn't my choir at all, but the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Except there were NO men in the choir. Furthermore, while half the sheet music copies were the correct lyrics (ie: My shepherd will supply my need, Jehovah is his name), half of the sheet music copies had been changed (ie: My need will be supplied by my shepherd. His name is Jehovah). Therefore, the words were completely muddled throughout.

I had also forgotten to specify who would be playing the flute part in this dream. I had just said, "And if anybody wants to play the flute part on Sunday, go ahead and bring your flute." Therefore, 75% of this all-female choir pulled out flutes of all varieties, including bass flutes, and played the flute part.

The result: A huge all-women choir with half the singers singing the wrong words and about 50 flute players overpowering the voices. Awful awful awful!!!

The funny thing is that this dream recognized all my fears: no men showing up, people not being able to understand the words, and the flute accompaniment being too loud.

Do you think I am taking my calling too seriously???

And for those that just googled "ward choir" and "calling" hoping to find some advice on music and not just some bizarre dream, I will list what we've done so far for your benefit.

"Amazing Grace" Arr. Craig Courtney
"Come Thou Fount" Arr. Craig Courtney
"I Feel My Savior's Love" Arr. K. Newell Dayley
"He Sent His Son" Arr. Barlow Bradford
"My Shepherd Will Supply My Need" Mack Wilberg
"A Child's Prayer" Janice Kapp Perry
"Hymns of Love Medley"
"Abide With Me" Arr. Sally DeFord
"Beautiful Savior" Arr. Sally DeFord
"As I Search the Holy Scriptures" Arr. Larry R. Beebe
"Angels We Have Heard on High" Arr. John Carter
"Still Still Still" Arr. Norman Luboff
"O Holy Night" Arr. Peter Stone
"What Child Is This?" Arr. Robert P. Manookin
"Do You Hear What I Hear?" Arr. Harry Simeone
"Carol of the Bells" Arr. Peter J. Wilhousky
"The Lord is My Light" Arr. James C. Kasen
"Consider the Lilies" Roger Hoffman, Arr. A. Laurence Lyon
"I Know that My Redeemer Lives" Arr. Lynn S. Lund
"Did You See Him in the Garden?" Shawn M. Stringham, Lynn S. Lund
"Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs" Joseph M. Martin

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What I learned from a stuffed penguin

My sister, brother-in-law, and her kids are out visiting before they move to D.C. I got to hang out with my niece a little bit the other day. I found a picture of my sister and brought it to my niece, asking "Who is this?"

"I don't know," she said.

"It's your mommy when she was little," I said.

"Oooooh, mommy!" she smiled. Then immediately: "Oh look, a penguin!" Her eye had caught a stuffed penguin about her size. She turned around and enveloped it in a bear hug. Then, "I yuv (love) this penguin."

Wouldn't it be great if we were all like that? I love my mom, and I love the next thing that catches my eye, too. "Oh look! A stranger walking down the street. I love that stranger."

That would be cool.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Years in Prison

I'm on a roll today! So, a little known fact about me is that I spent two years in prison. It was called Urbandale High School.

Teachers doubled as guards. When they were not teaching, they stood in front of door exits to make sure nobody left the cafeteria during lunch, or their classrooms at any other time of day. Everybody crammed body-to-body into the school entrance during blizzards because we were not allowed in the hallways until the morning bell rang, five minutes before our first class started. The result was pushing and shoving to get out of the cold.

We were not allowed to carry any type of food or drink (even water) around with us. We could only leave the classroom one at a time with a big hot pink pass around our necks if we needed to use the restroom or get a drink. My German teacher thought it was dumb and that we were all dehydrating, so she gave us extra points to sneak water bottles to school in our backpacks.

When we had bomb threats, we were not allowed to leave the building. Some kids had their parents write notes in on those days, saying they had some kind of appointment or other so that their kids would be allowed to leave. We'd all (even the teachers) look up at the clock as the time of the declared detonation approached, and breath a sigh of relief when nothing happened.

It was the administration we had to worry about more than the students. During my two years there, our Drug Abuse Resistance Education officer was arrested for dealing drugs (and worse) and our principal was fired for embezzling.

When I moved to City High my junior year, I was floored that they let us eat lunch outside on the grass. We could even leave campus for lunch if we wanted to. People roamed freely in the halls when they had open hours (there were no such thing as open hours at UHS Prison). In short, I felt like there was trust and freedom. Because there was trust, most people behaved themselves as if they were deserving of it.

Somniloquists and Somnambulists

They run rampant in my family.

Case #1: My little brother walked down the stairs. My mom went to give him a hug goodnight. He looked at her as if she were about to plunge a knife through his heart and ran up the stairs as fast as he could. My mom and I exchanged befuddled glances. Two minutes later he saunters down the stairs, cool as a cucumber. We watched him get a glass out of the cupboard, fill it up with water from the kitchen sink, about face, and turn the cup upside down, watching all the contents splash onto the floor. He then hurled the empty glass into the garbage can. He then proceeded to take off his shorts. He threw them in the garbage can and sauntered back upstairs, pantless.

Case #2: I woke up late one night, sensing a scuffle in the hallway and hearing my mom plead, "No! No!" over and over. I ran into the hall to see what was wrong. I found her wrestling with my other little brother in the laundry room. Apparently, while in his sleep, he has mistaken the laundry room for the bathroom. He was fighting with her because he really had to go, and she was fighting against him for obvious reasons.

And then there is me. I walked. I talked. There are all kinds of stories my parents can tell you. I think I have outgrown the walking, but sadly, I have no control over what I say in my sleep.

I think the best story I ever heard is from a former roommate. She was on a family reunion campout and they had canoed that day. Her uncle stood up on his sleeping bag which was right in the middle of all the other sleeping relatives. He started making rowing motions with his arms. Then he dropped the 'oar' and yelled, "We're sinking! We're going to have to jump!" His wife yelled, "No! We are not sinking! We don't have to jump!" But he didn't hear. He bent his knees, sprang up into the air, and bellyflopped right onto his wife. Nobody got hurt. ;-)

Back from Mexico!

I've been working part-time as the expedition coordinator for A Child's Hope Foundation since February. I just returned from my second trip to Mexico. There were over 30 volunteers this time around and I was a little worried about logistics and planning as well as how well the participants would mesh.

Everything was perfect. We had four meeting locations and everyone was where they were supposed to be when they were supposed to be there. There were more than 10 teenagers in the group and they were all nice and non-exclusive. The three older singles as well as the older married people got along really well too.

We were able to finish building the cinder block wall around Buena Vida orphanage, finish plastering and painting a building at Buena Vida, and landscape and paint a mural at Door of Faith. I was the concrete crew head again.

We made a $300 donation to Casa de Paz as well as playing with and doing crafts with the kids in the evening. I got my fingernails done by one of the orphans. I'm sure it's been more than 10 years since they've been painted. The Buena Vida kids are my favorites. Faviola is my girl. She recognized me from last time and wouldn't leave my side whenever I worked there. She helped me fill the holes in the wall we built with plaster, and then made me a concrete heart out of the extra material.

We had a great time rocking out in our two 15-passenger vans as well. My boss, Kent, is an awesome driver-dancer.

One of the volunteers there was a friend from elementary school that I hadn't seen for six years. It was really fun to chill with him and reminisce. He's probably the person I've known the longest but still stay in touch with of all my friends. He is about 6'6" and does a mean MJ Thriller dance.

My only worry was Tagalong, the stray dog that adopted us. He followed us around all day, even while we were mixing concrete, landscaping, plastering, and painting. He stood guard outside our door all night and was there when we woke up in the morning. The last night and morning he was nowhere to be found, which was very unusual. I am still worried about him.

Everyone is excited to come back, so I think it was a success!

I am planning one for LDS singles over 25 for 2011, either spring break or summer.

Monday, August 2, 2010

July 4th

So I took a little trip to visit my parents on July 4th.

I went to the front yard around 10pm and found my mom and dad sitting together on the sidewalk, very close to each other with his right arm crossed behind her and a stray cat wandering from one side to the other. My mom and dad were taking turns petting it while they looked over Utah Lake to see the fireworks.

It was precious. I just have to admit that I have the best family ever.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Reflections and Blessings

At institute last week, we talked about blogging and how being open can help others. I usually don't get too personal on this blog (or in general), but I'm going to give it a little test.

My mission was really hard. I'm not talking about South Africa mission in general. I'm talking about my particular circumstances. Sometimes when I hear others say it was the best two years of their life, I get really jealous. As far as I am concerned, it was the hardest, most isolating, and damaging year and a half of mine. I was severely abused. After a particular incident, I went about three weeks without speaking more than probably five sentences (unless I was teaching) because every other time I opened my mouth I would immediately start to cry (and I was never a crier before - and am not now, either). Because of the things that happened to me while there, I was in terrible shape physically, emotionally, and even spiritually. I retreated into this invisible, practically impenetrable shell and there I stayed. There were times when I thought I would never be able to be the same carefree, fun-loving person again. But I stuck it out until the end, though sometimes I wonder if I should have.

I felt completely stripped of self-worth. I wouldn't hug anyone apart from my immediate family for months after I first came home (thanks for breaking my bubble, Brittany) and was overly leery and skeptical of people in general. I used to believe that people were generally good and if they did anything bad it was just a simple mistake. After mission and to this day, people have to prove they are good over a long period of time before I trust them.

I was bitter about it for several years, but I've had some recent breakthroughs.

A. God won't control the agency of others. People are free to treat others how they choose. When someone is taken advantage of or abused, it is not that God is trying to punish them. It's not God's fault, and it is also not the fault of the abused. God can and does use others to bless our lives, but He never uses others to hurt us. Samuel the Lamanite was obediently doing God's work, yet God didn't interfere with the Nephites' agency when they tried to kill him with stones and arrows. That was the Nephite's choice.

B. Death is part of life. And, as I was teaching the people but not always applying the concept, it is not the end. Sometimes it is hard to feel that, and easy to shout "unfair!" But it is the truth.

C. Forgiveness heals. Without forgiveness, the load will only get heavier the further we carry it with us. Forgiveness is the only way to drop it and leave it behind as we continue on our path. As I have forgiven, I've felt peace within myself.

D. I am a lot stronger now than I would otherwise be.

I feel that, miraculously, I have been made whole over the almost five years since I've been back in the states. I don't struggle with any type of clinical depression, anxiety, or other mental condition. I'm physically in very good shape and very healthy. I suppose that sometimes we have to go through hell before we can be refined. Maybe there was no other way for me to get to where I am today.

There have been a few other experiences that I have had recently that have helped me as well.

When serving in South Africa, my companion and I started teaching a beautiful Afrikaner family. They were all baptized. Natalie, who was 15 at the time, is now engaged and getting married in the temple.

Just last week, I was thinking about a particular woman that I love named Jenny Motsomi that Sister Carvalho and I started teaching in Botswana toward the end of my mission. Sister Carvolho was transferred and I got a new companion, and then I was transferred to a new area in Botswana. The companion I was leaving said she would no longer teach anyone I started teaching, especially Jenny. I made a detailed page for Jenny in the area book, hoping someone down the road would find her. Just last week, I sent out some messages to a bunch of missionaries who served around the same time period as me, asking if anyone knew how to get a hold of her.

My current roommate also served in my same mission, a year and a half after me (in Botswana because all sisters had been permanently evacuated from South Africa by then). I was driving in the car with her just a few days after sending out the messages, when she suddenly and randomly turned to me and asked, "Did you teach a woman named Jenny in Botswana?"

I was completely floored, and wondered why I hadn't thought to ask her. I was disappointed when I found out it wasn't Jenny Motsomi, but a Jenny with a different last name, that she'd taught and baptized. Then I looked through her photo album. Same Jenny! Someone had found the record I'd left in the area book and started teaching her again. She'd gotten married to the man she had been living with and had gotten baptized! My roommate had seen both her marriage and her baptism. She told me about it and showed me pictures.

It is so comforting for me to see, even years down the road, how the big picture comes together. The sadness and after-effects of those traumatic years are nearly gone for me. Just hearing the stories about Natalie and Jenny this week have made me realize that it was worth it, and that the joy that is being and will continue to be created from that year and a half will overshadow the hard times in the long run.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Goal Update

I have been trying to implement what I discovered and blogged about in my Divine Discontent post. It has not been easy. In fact, I have experienced profound loneliness this past week and a half. I've still interacted with many others each evening, but I cut it down a lot. Not being social is really hard for me.

Week number one: Apart from institute and FHE, the only big group activity I went to was a tri-ward outdoor movie night in the park. However, I took precautions before heading to movie night and invited some friends from a ward I was in a few years back. The purpose of this was to avoid professional mingling with my current ward, and to rekindle deeper friendships from the past.

I also opted out of two parties in order to spend more one-on-one time with people. I hung out with a girl from the ward while we explored Photoshop, went four-wheeling with a good guy friend, went to Cocoa Bean with three girls from the ward I have never had more than a 'hey how you doing' conversation with before, and reserved all of Saturday afternoon and night for my mother. Turns out it was a good thing because I ended up on pain killers and laying on ice due to whiplash all Saturday.

The best was Friday night. I opted out of the "Black and White Bash" to go to see the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing. Not only was the choir amazing (I gave four standing ovations-which I'm usually pretty stingy with), but I was able to spend time with my old roommate Brittany and my good friend Josh. We delved into more meaningful and serious conversations on the drive to Salt Lake. It was good.

Week Number Two:
Sunday I caved. I held choir practice in the morning, then went to church, then I went to ward prayer. That was good. But it didn't stop there. After ward prayer, I went to a birthday party with lots and lots of people, then the game night. I'm ashamed. I wasn't the last one to leave game night this time, though.

Last night I spent some time with three people in the ward I have never done anything with outside of the ward before.

Tonight I refused an invitation to go country dancing in a big group (which I am usually the instigator of). I went to dinner with my current roommates and then watched Hairspray with them. The three of us talked for at least an hour after it was finished. Then I stayed up with one of them talking until right now (3:30am).

The fact that I still participated in all these activities may not sound like a roaring accomplishment when considering that my goal is to be less social. I'm obviously not giving up social activities entirely. I still plan plenty of events because I feel like I have a knack for it, and it helps everybody get to know everybody else and have a good time, especially people who may have a harder time getting to know new people.

But for me right now, I think I need to learn to be more comfortable with one-on-ones, deeper friendships, and letting my real self out. I am also trying to force myself to be happy with periods of being alone. It's hard. But I think it will be good.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Secret to Happiness

I say this in jest, but there is an element of truth to it. I am going to write a book called The REAL Secret. It will sell millions of copies and this is what it will say inside:

Empty Inbox = Happy Life

Simple and easy to comprehend. Harder to implement. Actually, I have not had an empty inbox in a very long time, as I have work emails from three different companies forwarding to my personal email. But today I am down to 32 messages (and all of them are read, wohoo!!!). I like it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Adventure Race for Africa

On the right is my partner and old roommie, Veronica.

On Saturday, some friends and I competed in the Adventure Race for Africa. The event was a 1-mile canoe, 12-mile bike, and 3-mile run along with various other challenges in between (making school kits for kids in Africa, obstacle course through a playground, hauling buckets of water while reading statistics on water-related diseases in developing countries, etc). This is done in teams of 2-3 people and everyone on the team must do all three legs. It was a fundraiser for Inside Out Learning, an awesome nonprofit that I will be traveling to Kenya with in October.

I must admit I have never done worse in a race in my entire life, and I have done a lot of races. But, I have also never had as much fun doing a race in my entire life! It was my first time doing a team race, so my old roommate and I competed together.

We began on the bike leg (each team has a choice of where they want to start and the legs can be done in any order). My partner kept looking around and saying things like, "Ah... a beautiful day for a bike ride" and "I feel like we're on a leisurely bike through the park" to which I would turn my head and shout back, "yes, it is nice, but we are COMPETING in a RACE here!!!" In all fairness, she warned me that races don't motivate her before we signed up together.

There was some misunderstanding and the volunteers on the bike leg didn't know the point at which we were supposed to turn around and go back to start the canoe or run, so we kept biking... and biking... and biking. All the teams who did the bike leg first ended up getting an extra 10-20 minutes on their time.

The biking wasn't even the worst of it. The canoe leg sealed our doom and any hopes of placing were scattered to the winds. We had a bit of a fiasco getting into the canoe, and we had different ideas about which way we were supposed to head down the river (the volunteers weren't particularly clear on this point either). My partner was right.

We finally got situated and started heading down the river the right way, but steering was a major issue and my partner was in the back. She'd only canoed twice in her life. So we'd thump against one river bank, extract ourselves from the trees, and head straight for the opposite bank where we would crash into the trees again. We probably went three miles in the canoe instead of one because of how much we were zigzagging.

We nearly capsized on several occasions because whenever we were getting close to branches she'd lie down in the canoe in a funny sideways position and the canoe would tip and start rocking like crazy! We traded places so that I was steering - I didn't do any better and she felt justified. When I accidentally steered us straight into a tree and we nearly capsized, she accidentally dropped her oar into the river. I thought, "we don't have time for this!" I offered to jump in and swim back to it, but my partner said it wasn't necessary and we should just turn around and get it. It took us a good five minutes to maneuver around, pick it up, turn again, and get back on course. This is the point where I determined we were no longer competition to anybody. The result was the two of us singing "Just Around the Riverbend" from Pocahontas and Toto's "Africa" at the top of our lungs and having the time of our lives while we paddled. Our abs hurt by the end of this leg because we were laughing SO hard. I would never give up that experience for all the first-place wins in the world. Thanks for making it awesome, Ved. :-)

Nothing to report on the run. We ran the whole time at a swift pace but were already so far behind that we didn't see anybody else on the trail. We had a nice chat with the volunteers at the Gatorade station and made some friends, then ran back the last mile and a half and sprinted through the finish with our heads held high.

If I'm still in Utah, I'm definitely going to do it next year. It was hilarious and awesome once I let go of the element of competition. Maybe I should do that in my half marathons and marathons instead of being all intense. Hmmm...

Winter 2009, Late in Coming

I just realized I never posted any winter fun on this blog, so I copied what I posted on my family blog.

Last winter was fun with downhill skiing, XC Skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, climbing to the top of Y-Mountain, sledding etc. with really great friends.

Here are some pictures.

Stewart Falls.

It was a good workout because the snow was fresh, and several feet high.

Pretty, huh?

The skiing dudes.

I took that somewhere between the Y and the top.

Chilling at the top.

At the Y at 5:30am.

We saw a snowbow in the sky!!!

Me and Nate at the very top of Y Mountain.

Scott, while we were snowboarding.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Depressed Idealist

Let's be honest. Sometimes it is hard being an idealist.

Positives: Idealists are visionaries and usually fairly creative. We're persistent, energetic, and confident when it comes to projects we're excited about. We're good at mobilizing people (however annoying it may be to them) to bring about change. We can identify problems and come up with solutions while working on multiple projects simultaneously. We are always searching for personal growth. We want to change injustices at the root of the problem and do things that have never been done before until the problems are gone.

Negatives: The solutions don't always work. Sometimes we make things worse. We can encourage dependency without even being aware of it. It is easy to turn our aspirations for social good into a personal quest for glory. And the big reality check: We CAN'T singlehandedly fix all the problems in the world no matter how hard we try.

Here is where the depression comes in. Being an idealist comes with a certain degree of perfectionism, as well as an overwhelming sense of responsibility. With the responsibility aspect, at least for me, guilt is a major player in my life. I get emotionally involved with other people's/community's/nation's problems until I feel completely powerless to stop it - and to some degree responsible for not doing more to alleviate it. What if the solution I am working towards doesn't work perfectly (and it NEVER does - if there was a perfect solution we'd all be working on it, right?) What if I just see the problem over and over, see people dying of malaria and AIDS, and hear about people being raped, etc. What if nearly every organization I have been involved with ends up going into 'glory' mode or 'survival' mode, and I spend all my time building up an image instead of creating change? What if it is a waste of time and isn't really helping anyone? Do we give up? Is it better to not to think about these things and live our happy little lives, or think about them and not take action and be apathetic and too overwhelmed to try, or take action and not see the results we hope for and be disillusioned.

I'm disillusioned, but still an idealist and I don't think that is going to change. Maybe we just have to come to terms with the fact that our best is good enough, and that even if we don't make a change on the scale we've hoped for, at least we will have touched someone's life in some capacity, and that matters.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Divine Discontent

I have been feeling it recently, but I didn't realize what it was. I thought I was just getting bored. Ready for a new place or a new scene. Filling my time with talent development and social fun to compensate for my lack of pressing responsibilities and spare time, while I frolic through single life in my happy field of dandelions.

My friends at work helped me figure it out. I feel divine discontent. It's not itching for adventure, or a serious dating relationship, or moving to a new state, or getting a new job. It means I need to get out of my dandelion field and plant myself a rose garden.

I'm someone who runs around to every activity and every party... anything social and I am there. It was great in college. In the past few years, it's felt like a race that I've finished, but instead of moving to and training for the next event, I just keep running past the finish line, hoping I will find a satisfying stopping point. Recently it's like running on an invisible treadmill. Marking time. Spinning wheels. In short, I am going everywhere but I am not getting anywhere.

Example: I went to a game night this weekend. I go nearly every week. The same people are there. We play the same games. It's fun, but I never get to know any of them better or feel like a better person for having repeated the same experience another time. I go out of habit, or to be "social," regardless of if it is helping me grow as a person.

I have a new goal. DON'T go to that party. DON'T hang out with anybody and everybody, my hundreds of "social buddies." Step it up. Invite one or two people over for dinner and really talk to them instead. There's a season for everything, and while being a social butterfly was fun for a while, it's time to push myself and find some real, deep, meaningful relationships beyond the social buddy scene. I think it's going to hurt - meaningful relationships always do at one point or another (high investment=high risk). But no pain, no gain.

This may mean sacrificing some of my social buddies simply because there isn't enough time to maintain a slew of buddies while having several intimate friends who I will do anything for whenever they need it. But social buddies are a dime a dozen. They can do without me and I without them. I am going to start focusing on building up meaningful relationships, which I have only had with my immediate family, some past roommates, and past boyfriends. To have this with people I am not related to, living with, or dating will take more of a concentrated effort, but I'm up to the challenge. I think it is what God wants me to do. If successful, it will be the first step to a new season of life, and prepare me better for what lies ahead.

I will back up my theory with excerpts from a talk by Elder Maxwell, who inspired me in this new goal. He talks about stepping stones and how we need to be able to move on to the next stepping stone and let go of the one we are on.

"(Some) stepping-stones remain unused because... we are not yet willing to confront what we yet lack (see Mark 10:21)."

"Granted, the stepping-stones take us into new territory which we may be very reluctant to explore. Hence, the successful users of the stepping-stones are powerful motivators for the rest of us. We usually pay more attention to those we quietly admire."

"No need to ask, 'Lord, is it I?' (Matt. 26:22). Rather, let us inquire about our individual stumbling blocks, “Lord, is it this?” We may have known the answer for a long time and may need resolve more than His response."

"The greatest happiness in God’s generous plan is finally reserved for those who are willing to stretch and to pay the costs of journeying to His regal realm."

Bye bye parties!!! So long, college scene. It was fun. I will miss you. But not for too long.

And PS - I am also moving off my "nice" stepping stone. I am not going to let myself be taken advantage of by people out of a sense of duty or obligation. It's enabling and it's not helping them. I am stepping onto the stone of open communication and feedback when necessary! And if what I say is reasonable but is not respected, I will have the guts to remove myself from the situation, guilt-free.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Motivational DNA

For some reason, subjects such as psychology and organizational behavior fascinate me. I am forever administering personality tests like Myers-Briggs, Color Code, and Five Love Languages to any family or friends that are willing participants.

I don't think the tests are perfect. For one thing, they are based off perceptions of self and certain moods of the day and therefore may not be rooted in reality. I had a teacher who was certain she was "Red" (desiring power and ambition) when I perceived her as "Blue" (emotionally driven and caring of others).

These tests put people in personality boxes when the the person may not be strongly leaning toward that particular attribute (for example I am 50/50 on Thinking vs. Feeling in Myer-Briggs).

Still, I find these tests extremely helpful when considering relationship dynamics. When I understand another person's value system and what motivates or de-motivates them, and they understand mine, the probability that we will perceive each other as "uptight," "directionless," or "judgmental" drastically decreases. I learn how to interact with and understand how another personality type needs to communicate, be validated, or receive love.

I still find INTJ's fascinating, yet very frustrating. :-)

Here's a link to Myers-Briggs. Let me know what you are or if you want me to guess what you are. :-)

I was categorized as ENFJ which is fairly accurate, but not perfect since I have a lot of T in me as well. You can see a description here or here or here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

I Didn't Mess With Texas

But I kind of wish I would have. I was accepted to Teach For America and assigned to High School Science (which I think, apart from elementary school music, would be the most fun thing to teach).

I didn't go due to a variety of circumstances (sick grandma, parents not being for it, two weeks to quit my jobs and get moved down there).

Now my other nonprofits are low on funding (and since I am the only employee of both), two days ago I was cut to 10 hours per week. I really like this other job, by the way.

I feel a little confused about what I am supposed to be doing with my life right now. I've been in Provo for nine years. I feel like I either need to get married or move back to Africa (or both). :-)

But maybe I just feel this way because I'm sick again and have lost a lot of my usual oomph.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Another Awesome Dream

Last night I had a dream that I went to work as an intern at a Sea World type place in Hawaii. Probably because that is what my friend JJ is currently doing.

I remember that I was assigned to the Killer Whale section. The only real recollection I have is holding on to the side of the whale's tail with one arm and flying parallel a few feet above the water's surface for minutes at a time.

I also remember that I was working with a bunch of middle-aged men at the park and that they were all constantly eating and teased me because I didn't eat much. I also remember that the guy assigned to the penguins was bitter -- "My life is all just quack quack quack all the time."

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Too Much Leverage

I was chilling in some foreign country with my French friend Edith. There were about seven of us from different countries sharing a hotel room. The countries weren't getting along so well and things were pretty tense. In this hotel room, we shared a bathroom. All seven of us had different colors of lufas hanging in the shower. As a sign of good will, we decided to throw our multicolored lufas out the window and we'd all use hotel bar soap to show that we are all the same and no color lufa is superior to any other color of lufa.

We were at the top of a very tall skyscraper, and it was in some European type area where there were different levels of roofs. After we threw our lufas, I noticed that some traitor had gotten into my suitcase and thrown a few of my shirts out the window as well as their lufa. My shirts landed a few roofs over. There were some people having a picnic on that roof, but they wouldn't throw it back to my because I was speaking English.

Edith and I decided to retrieve the shirts ourselves. We jumped onto the first roof. It was a skyscraper made of bamboo. We went straight through the roof and down into an empty classroom. Then we went straight through the classroom floor. I remember thinking, "I wonder how much this is going to cost to repair" and "where are the kids going to go to school now" and "My mom is going to kill me" as I was falling.

Down down down we fell until we went through the skyroof of a van. In this van was a mother and three kids. The mother was happy because they were on their way to "do corruption" and they could use some Americans as translators and bait (should the police arrive). The kids were normal but the mom was crazy.

We went to some bar with a bunch of people playing pool. The mom made us hold the bag, which contained five stolen crowns of past royalty with precious stones in them. She had us deliver the crowns to the people in the room (all women). They were all happy and started dancing around while wearing them. Then Edith and I collected the payment. She thought that if the police came, since we were holding the payment, we'd be the only ones arrested. While I was holding the cash from the stolen goods, the mom was so happy that she came and linked arms with me and we started chatting. I tried to find things in common so that we'd be friends so she wouldn't kill us. I found out we had both been folk dancers.

The only way into and out of the van was a special key. Somehow, Edith snagged the key from the mom and tossed it to one of the children without the mom finding out. While we were collecting the cash, the kids snuck off and got into the van. They they drove the van into the bar with the side door open. Edith jumped in. I thought I should probably jump in, but I felt bad betraying the mom now that I knew we were both folk dancers. Edith grabbed me and pulled me in.

We drove until our passage was blocked by a train. We had to sit and wait for it to pass. Meanwhile, the mom and all the women at the bar were catching up with us. The train suddenly stops, and Sophie from Leverage jumps out of one of the boxcars, helps me, Edith, and the kids in, and then we were on our way to our escape via the train.

And that, my friends, is what happens when you watch two seasons of Leverage in a two-week period. (This was my dream last night, just in case you were still wondering). I don't think I have ever in my life had a lufa be part of my dream, though.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mom on Ambien

Here are some excerpts from the hour-long conversation Zach and I just had with mom after returning to Utah from California today (she's in Ohio).

Mom: Do you think dad will remember it is my birthday tomorrow?
Zach: Yes, he will remember.
Mom: Are you sure?
Me: Yes, he will remember.
Mom: Are you guys still driving?
Zach: No, we are at home watching Leverage.
Mom: Why didn't you tell me?
Me: He did. Half an hour ago. You need to go to sleep. Go to bed.
Mom: Well, what are YOU going to do?
Me: We are going to finish watching Leverage. Now count backwards from ten slowly.

Mom: 10.... 9...... 8........... 7.................

Me: Okay, goodnight.

(Long pause. No response.)

Zach: Goodnight.

(Longer pause. Still no response.)

Me and Zach: Bye.

We hung up my phone. About 15 seconds later we hear a *Ring ring* from Zach's phone.

Mom: Hey, why did you hang up on me?
Zach: We said we love you and goodnight. Twice.
Mom: Are you guys still driving?
Me: No, we are home, remember.

Me: Because it is your birthday, we are going to sing Happy Birthday to you!
(Zach and I sing happy birthday as loudly and obnoxiously as possible. Our exuberant performance is followed by... silence).
Zach: Did you hear that?
Mom: No.

Mom: Are you guys playing baseball?

Sunday, April 18, 2010


My birthday was exactly two weeks ago. I turned 27. It seemed like a good age to me, until:

Incident #1 - On a first date driving to the activity.

Boy: So you're in school?
Me: No.
Boy: Did you go to college?
Me: Yep. Graduated.
Boy: Seriously? How long ago?
Me: Two years ago.

(Pause. Boy looks confused.)

Me (for the sake of full disclosure): With a masters.
Boy: NO WAY!!! How old are you??? 24?
Me: Older.
Boy: 25?
Me: Older.
Boy: 26?!?
Me: Older.
Boy: 27?!?!?!
Me: Ding ding!
Boy: Oh well. (Look of resignation). At least you didn't say 30. I would have taken you home right now.

Incident #2 - At a party.

Boy: How old do you think I am?
Me: I don't know. Maybe 27?
Boy: What?!?! I can't believe you said that. Was it the forehead wrinkles? 27? I'm not old and creepy!

(Insert about one additional minute of "I can't believe you thought I was the ridiculous age of 27" rant).

Me: Well, how old do you think I am?
Boy: You went on a mission, so I guess... 22?
Me: 27.
Boy (turning pale): Oh...

Incident #3 - At the temple.

Temple Worker: Where's your husband, honey?
Me: Actually... I'm not married.
Temple Worker: Well, you couldn't have served a mission.
Me: Actually... I did.
Temple Worker: How long have you been home?
Me: A little over four years.


Temple Worker: You look like you're 14.

And just to illustrate the point, here is me on my 27th.

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Disaster. I was sometimes called by that name growing up, and things didn't change once I hit college and beyond. I have a gift for attracting minor catastrophes.


-I had to wear an eye patch in fifth grade because a girl was playing with a stick and accidentally swung it into my eye.

-During my Junior year of high school, I was on a trip with 400 plus other people. Every single one of us were swimming in the ocean, and I was the only one stung by a Portuguese Man-of-War.

-During my Sophomore year at BYU, within the course of two days, I twisted my ankle while playing frisbee, was bitten by a poisonous spider and my arm swelled up to twice it's normal size, and was hit by a car who ran a red light while I was driving to a Greyhound bus station. The car was totaled. I still took the Greyhound to California to visit my grandpa, who I had only met a few times before. I arrived with a huge arm, black nose, and limp.

-Also sophomore year at BYU: My appendix burst while on a date, then the doctor tripped over the bed and fell on it after the operation.

-Junior year at BYU: I broke my finger while poking my brother.

-During my mission in Botswana, I was hit by a semi who ran a red light.

-Last summer in Havasupai, a rock fell on my toe, breaking it. The first doctor diagnosed it as gout.

-I was bitten by a crazy monkey in Ghana last summer. TWO hamburgers of mine were also stolen by monkeys in Botswana (no one else in the group of 12 experienced attempted burger robberies... and I was sitting at the table with my hamburger six inches away me!!!) Someone also let a monkey in my truck without telling me while I was away. It called someone on my cell phone.

-I currently cannot straighten my arm due to a fall while skiing.

My doctor in Iowa used to laugh every time she saw me at the office.

Embarrassing Moment of the Day

I received this text from my friend Adam in Connecticut tonight at 11:30pm.

"Sarah, I think you accidentally hit your phone because it called me during priesthood session tonight and when I didn't pick it up it went to voicemail. The really hilarious part is that you left a 20 minute long message..."

And this is what I was doing during Priesthood session.

1. Visiting my friend Julie.

2. Driving to Saratoga Springs for 40 minutes singing depressing love songs at the top of my lungs the ENTIRE way there.

Like this: (Cue high volume and emotion): "I've seen your flag on the MAAAR-ble ARCH but LOVE IS NOT A VICTORY MARCH, it's a COOOOLD and it's a BRO-OO-OO-KEN Hallelujah!!!" No joke.

Well, at least by the end of texting back and forth we were laughing and planning a roadtrip together. He said he'd bring Disney and I can bring the country.

And now... An April Fool's Day Message from Germany

On April first, I received a phone call from an unknown number. Here is how it went:

Ring ring!

Me: Hello?

Josh: Hi, this is Josh...


Me: Josh who?

Josh: Josh!

Me: Josh Hall? Brother Josh? Elder? You're not supposed to be calling me, you're on a mission and April Fool's Day is not a holiday you can call your family on and..."

Josh: Stop! Listen. I'm running out of money and I'm lost in Germany. Your number was the only one I could remember, just give me the home phone number!

Me: Okay (gave phone number)

Josh: Bye.

Five minutes later...

Ring ring!

Josh: They don't accept unsolicited calls! Give me dad's number.

Me: But aren't you supposed to be in Ukraine?

Josh: Stop! Just give me the number.

Me: But you don't speak any German!

Josh: The number! Now!

Me: (Gave number)


I then realized I didn't know if I had given him my dad's work or office number. So I called the number I hadn't given him and it was my dad's cell phone. Here's how it went.

Ring ring.

Me: Dad! Listen carefully. Josh is lost in Germany and he is about to call you on your work phone. If you get a call, PICK UP THE PHONE!

Dad: Hahaha.

Me: What?

Dad: April Fool's!

Me: No! I'm serious!!!

I tried for the next seven or so minutes trying to persuade him that I was not joking.

In his defense, I play a joke on them every year. He said he would be "certain to pick up the call from Zach" (thinking I had concocted a plan with my other brother to PRETEND to be Josh lost in Germany).

He had his first doubt when our call was interrupted by a call with no local i.d. on it. He hung up with me, and it was Josh. Stranded, alone, at a train station, not speaking a word of German, calling from a pay phone, losing money by the second, with very little money left. He had no phone numbers on him to call the Mission President or the Elders and didn't know where he was located even if he could reach them. He had just arrived that day to have a surgery, and then go back to Ukraine.

What happened is that he was accidentally left on a train in Germany. The two elders he was with and who are supposed to be watching out for him got off the train, thinking Josh was behind them, without realizing Josh was teaching a Russian speaking man on the train! By the time the two elders realized Josh wasn't with them the train had left the station.

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Message from Ukraine

I received this email from my brother in Ukraine last month:

Don't let these moody males get you down,
Just make a smile from your frown.
When you find the one that floats your boat,
Build a bridge, not a moat.
Oh how I wish you're doing well,
My, oh my, that would be swell.

Isn't he great? It's sound advice, I think. :-)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Skies of Blue and Clouds of White

I really love life. Spring is here. I am happy to be warm. I'm glad to have my vitamin D back. I want to go play some guitar and have a sing-along barefoot in the park. Ahhh...

This is a good time to list things I love about life. So here some of them are.

Stars. Constellations. Telescopes. Puffy clouds. Traveling. Pretty rocks. Southern Utah. Green trees. Weeping willows. Dreamcatchers. Feathers. Mowing the lawn. Planting flower gardens. Picking and eating strawberries. Hiking. Camping. Cats. Dogs. Elephants. Watching giraffes run. Airbourne. Live musicals. Lightning bugs. Dr. Suess. Singing in the car. Road trips. Fluting. Guitar. Bluegrass music. Good rootbeer in a frosty glass. Raspberry hot chocolate. Comfortable tennis shoes. Swiss chocolate. Fondue. Fresh fruit salads. Primary songs. Conducting a choir. Swing dancing. Folk dance rec nights. Wrestling with my brother. Funny-looking fish. Skipping. Skipping stones. Laughing. Going to the beach. Climbing to the top of a mountain. Clogging in the grocery store. City Parks. Roller Coasters. Water Parks. Wind across face while biking. Praying mantises. Lumbering manatees. Starfish. Anemones. That cool little fern that closes and opens it's leaves when you touch it (not a Venus Fly Trap). Brightly colored Gerbera Daisies. Frisbee. Sunsets. Demotivators from (hey, they can be funny sometimes). Asaba. Finding seashells on the beach. Building sand castles. Horchata. Limes. Good smelling lotions and hand soaps. Braiding a little girl's hair. Letting a little girl braid my hair. Playing hide-and-seek with little kids. Committal cuddling and hand holding. Singing hymns in a quartet. Reading good picture books. Trampolines. Pogo sticks. Hugs. Tenor voices in a choir. Getting a haircut. Campfires. S'Mores. Rope Swings. Cool bridges. Climbing trees. Laying in the sun. Sleeping in. Warm chocolate chip cookies. Farms. Amish country. Competition in speedy card games. Batik fabric. Thai curry. Indian food. Cafe Rio pork salads. Chicken Parmigiana. Banana splits. Hot fudge malts. Watching little kids blow bubbles. Hula Hoops. A friendly debate. Those wonderful old Disney movies. Taking pictures. Birthdays. Holidays. Roller hockey. Smoothies. Family.

There is more, but this is all for now! Feel free to add to the list in the comments section.

Meeting the Parents

I waited a bit to post this one for fear of being discovered, but I think I'm safe now.

I had been going out with a nice man (we'll call him Matt) at least once a week consistently for about two and a half months (he is only in town on the weekends because of his job). We had also sent texts semi-frequently when his was away. We got to the point that he told me he wasn't going to ask any other girls out, he started buying me things like crazy (including a DVD player), he complimented me sweetly, and all signs pointed toward exclusive dating, although we weren't 'official.'

He wanted to hang out one Sunday, but I had already told my mother that I would come home for dinner. Naturally, she knew about him, so I asked if I could take him along. She could never remember his name, so before he came, she wrote M-A-T-T with a black marker in big block letters across the palm of her hand.

She has a habit of being an animated story teller, so as we were around the table, she would wave her hands about while talking. "Matt" was sitting to her left, I was across from her, and my dad was on her right. Fortunately, she'd written it on her left hand, so he may not have seen it... If he did, he was being very good about ignoring it.

Yet every time she would wave her hand, flashing his name, my dad and I would peal into another bout of laughter, seeing his name so conspicuously. Then she would cross her arms and try to tell the story without using her hands. Within thirty seconds, she'd forget and be waving her arms around again.

That's my mother, in a nutshell.

PS - He never called me or asked me out again.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Right Arm... broken

Okay, it's not really broken. I just tore a ligament skiing last week Wednesday. I came around a bend of trees to see two guys cutting across the mountain from the other side. I swerved to avoid the first one, which set a direct collision course for the second one. Before either of us could move, our paths crossed and we nicked skis at high velocity.

I bounced on my outstretched right arm and sprained my elbow, then flipped onto my face. I slid face-first down the mountain for a few seconds, then rolled onto my left shoulder and neck, because flying down a sheet of ice on your face is not the most comfortable feeling in the world, although it provides for excellent cosmetic exfoliation once the scrapes stop bleeding. I finally somehow got myself oriented so my feet were pointing down the mountain, and stopped myself. My poles were at least 50 feet up the mountain at this point. I should have yelled "As you wish!" but didn't think about it at the time.

When I got to the bottom, I saw that it was two minutes until 9pm and the lifts close at 9. So I hopped back on the lift for another run. I ended up going down with my poles in the left hand and my right arm tucked against my stomach. That was not one of my brighter moments, but I am happy to report that it was free of incident.

It has been kind of fun doing everything with my left arm. I never knew I could drive, cook, and put on makeup left-handed! The only things I've really had trouble with are doing my hair and putting on a coat/long-sleeved shirt.

Oh, and I'm mad that I can't play frisbee or go biking now that the weather's warm. Grr!

And, my face is still peeling.

Nothing is Too Wonderful to be True

My roommate and I went on a date to P.F. Chang's not too long ago. Just the two of us.

Our waiter was a manager. I had a gift certificate for $20. My roommate and I each ordered our entree. He brought us an appetizer. We looked at each other, confused. "Oh, we didn't order that," I said. He said, "I know."

Then he brought me a delicious strawberry lemonade and my roommate an Italian cream soda. My roommate and I shot each other looks of disbelief. When we finished drinking them, he brought us a root beer float. By now I was pretty much incredulous. Then he brought us our entrees. About halfway through, we were both really full from the drinks, appetizer, and main course. But we kept eating.

When we were finished, he brought us a bowl of coconut ice cream (how did he know P.F. Chang's coconut ice cream is one of my favorite desserts!) He threw about 20 fortune cookies on the table and told us to mash them into the ice cream. I was in ice cream heaven. We were so full after eating that we ended up walking around the mall for about an hour just to feel normal again.

The grand total after the $20 gift certificate for both of us combined? $1.25. I left a pretty good tip, though.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Three Things I Hate

I have found myself getting more irritated than usual recently - even borderline angry. After sorting it out, I have realized there are three common threads. So here they are.

1. I hate when people select their friends on the basis of looks only. If someone doesn't like someone's personality, fine. But people that chose their friends on the basis of questions such as: "Are they as pretty as me?" or "Are they popular?" or "Are they at my 'level'?" belong in high school. I am not talking about people not wanting to hang out with me because they don't think I'm pretty enough. I'm talking about when people say things like, "I am surprised you are friends with her/him" about great people. It is so lame.

2. I hate when people act so flaky that the word "yes" means "maybe" and "maybe" means "definitely not." I don't mind people being late at all (in fact I am notorious for being late). But, when people don't show up at all after saying they would (without calling), it makes me more upset than I would like to get. Especially when rescheduling really inconveniences other people. Or if the logistics of the plan for the rest of the group has to change because of said flakiness.

3. This one is the worst. I hate it when people get possessive of my time and attention, to the point that I am constantly worried that they will explode on me if I don't evaluate how much or how little I have contacted them on a daily basis. Or when someone tells me I can't go somewhere I want to go, work on a project I want to work on, or do something I want to do because I have to focus all attention on said person. I can understand it if it is to a reasonable degree in a family relationship, roommate relationship, or dating relationship. But, the degree of commitment has to be equivalent to the degree of attention demanded. It ticks me off when I see a husband cutting a wife off from all her former connections so he can control her. Guilt trips also make me angry.

Now that I have figured out what irritates me, I have been trying to figure out what in my personality or background make it that way.

Here's what I think. As far as #1 goes, I've always been a little feisty about appearances vs. reality. I don't like it when the cover design of a business plan or color scheme of a presentation is weighted as heavily as the substance of the plan or presentation. I think I see people the same way. Plus, I guess I've never really cared too much about being 'popular.' Lastly, I just don't like seeing people being left out.

As for #2, I think I plan a lot of activities. Perhaps I am overly concerned about the details of the activities to the point of micromanaging. I have seen this in myself as I've called every person participating to make sure they have everything they need for whatever activity it is and take care of things for them that they could easily take care of themselves. I need to know exactly how many people are coming, who is driving, etc. before the activity. So when my perfectly mapped out plans change, I get more frazzled than necessary. It also nullifies a lot of the work I've done, which is frustrating.

#3 is due to the fact that I let people walk all over me too much. I've been told this by multiple people (including my bishop's wife who pulled me aside to tell me one day). This has caused me a lot of stress as I have felt unnecessary obligated to a lot of people who proceed to tear me down - maybe trying to make me feel lucky that they are my friend. I think it really stems from the fact that I try to be nice to everyone, even people that others avoid. So, manipulative and possessive people can latch onto me really easily because I don't have the heart to 'abandon' them or say 'no.'

It is comforting for me to realize that I was not naturally born into being easily irritated or angered. It is experiences that have melded me this way, and by changing my perceptions and my behavior, I hope to get to the point that I no longer find myself in these situations, or that these situations no longer bother me because I can control myself.