Month: November 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving with family and friends.  To celebrate the day here are some things I am thankful for:

1. My family- every last one of them.

2. My sisters- I know they are my family but I don’t know what I would do without my sisters.

3. My adorable nieces

4. A job I actually enjoy- the Lord has been very good to me in that regard this year.

5. My apartment- I love it!

6. My testimony of Jesus Christ and the LDS church

7. Hawaii- I’m going back next summer- wahoo!

8. Amazing friends- my friends helped me through a hard year in 2007 and have helped me regroup in 2008.  I am grateful for their love, support and patience.  I couldn’t have made it alone.

9. Books- my escape.  I love book clubs too!

10.  Travel-including the travel I am doing next month 2008 has been a good year for travel with 4 trips to Cali, Easter in Colorado, 1 Vegas trip next month, an Indiana trip, and of course Hawaii!

11.  Live theater and concerts- this year I saw Jack Johnson and tons of live theater.  Some highlights were Annie Get Your Gun at Hale West Valley and Aidia at Hale Orem.

12. Television- Yes I know I am evil.  I like TV especially How I Met Your Mother, Dancing with the Stars, the Simpsons, Amazing Race, American Idol, the Office, Project Runway, the Big Bang Theory,  and more…

13. Good movies- the best that I saw this year were probably Walle and Mamma Mia (still haven’t seen the Dark Knight!).

14. Creative classes- I have thoroughly enjoyed my cake decorating and cooking classes.  Some day I would like to add some art classes to the mix.

15. Graduation- I loved going to school, but I am also grateful to have finished my MBA this year.

16. Telephones- I am particularly grateful to my mother and sister who I talk to most days. They have cheered up many a lonely evening.

17. Yummy meals that just hit the spot!

18. Lunches with friends.

19. NPR- it keeps me company most of the day.

20. Music- I can’t imagine heaven without music.  I LOVE my Ipod.  It is never far from me. Some new artists I discovered this year are Priscilla Ahn, a Fine Frenzy (thank you Anna), Susan Cagle, Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Colbie Calliet, Madeline Peyroux, Amy Obenski, Missy Higgins and of course David Archuleta!

21. Facebook- I have reconnected with a lot of friends this year through facebook.  I am actually quite grateful for it.

22. My voice lessons. I would give up a meal a day before I’d give up my lessons.  Thank you to my patient and wonderful teacher Amanda.  She’s the best. I am working right now for a recital on Dec 19th!

23. My mission- it still inspires me each day to do and be better- not because of me but because of the way the Lord used me.  He did it once, He can do it again.

24. Health- I have been nursing a cold for a week now and am so grateful for good health when I have it.

25. Finally, I am grateful for my blog and the outlet it gives me.  Thanks to all of you who read my ramblings and give me positive feedback!

So, that’s my list.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.  Thank you for all you do for me.  God bless you.

turkey

Cakes and Christmas Trees

This is mainly a quick picture post.  I wanted to share with all of you my Christmas tree that I just finished decorating and my first 2 cakes that I decorated in my cake decorating class.  I am greatly proud of both.

The Tree

The tree is what I call “a memory tree”.  Most of the ornaments symbolize moments in my life including gradutations, states I’ve lived in, vacations I have taken, BYU and my mission.  I also have photos of my family in black and white with silver frames- fitting with the silver and blue theme to the tree ( I had pops of other colors).  I wanted it to look professional yet personal at the same time.  I love it!!! I set it up early this year because my sister Megan is coming into town next week and I wanted her to enjoy it.  Plus, I am going to be gone for a lot of December including for Christmas.  This way I at least get to appreciate it for a while.

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The Cakes

The cake decorating class has been going well.  I have one week left after Thanksgiving and then will be on to class II.  Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to take the 2nd class until February.  I am going to be gone too much in December and January. I will have to keep practicing over the holidays. (The funny thing is that I am not that much of a cake eater.)

The first cake says just that Rachel’s First Cake.  It uses star borders and my first rose.  Not too shabby. The second one is a cupcake clown I made with a large star tip creating a figurine.  Pretty cute hah!

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A crazy week and comments on literature

This last week has been nuts!  I am still tired and sore from the effects.  To start with, we had a bunch of crazies at the houses.  Up until this point we have had great experiences at the houses.  With 50 groups I suppose it was a given that it couldn’t last forever.  This was a group of art salesman that go from city to city putting on art sales.  They had stayed in our homes in July without any problems, but not this time. They were nuts, getting drunk, partying and more.  They even set fireworks off and the police came.  Two of the idiots tried to climb a neighbors fence when they were all drunk.  I told them it was a good thing they didn’t get shot at.  I said “This is republican country.  People have guns.  You can’t go jumping fences!”.  I felt like telling them “This is not the real world house. You can’t do whatever you want at any time.”.  Instead, I just told them that “this is not spring break Miami.  This is small town Utah.”.  What a nightmare.  It took me almost 2 days to fully clean up after this group.  Plus, we had to go door-to-door to all the neighbors apologizing for the bad behavior of the group. Needless to say we are going to be changing our policiies to prevent such problems again. I certainly don’t want to go through such an experience again.

You would think after such a week I would get a break during the weekend but no. For starters on Saturday I worked at the Fat Flake Festival in Salt Lake.  We have a warm team booth where we give away free warmers.  It was a very successful festival where we gave away thousands of warmers.  Plus, we got to hear some interesting bands and meet interesting people (never in my life have I seen so many granola types.  It was like 5,000 versions of my brother and sister in-law walking around!).  It was a fun evening but very exhausting.  Just being on my feet all evening in the cold takes energy away.  I don’t want to sound complaining because I am certainly thankful for the work but working on Saturday is difficult.  There is something about Saturday that refreshes the spirit and gets me ready for worship on Sunday.  Whenever I have to work on Saturday sitting through church is somewhat brutal.

Then Sunday ended up being nuts because I had my grandpa Wagner and grandma Richards over to my house for dinner.  It’s kind of a long story but my grandma got lost getting here and my grandpa got sick and had to leave early.  Thank goodness for my Uncle Jim for helping me take my grandpa home and guide my grandma over to my apartment.  Eventually we were able to have a nice dinner.  I tell you it is the last time I have 2 old people over to dinner!

Needless to say, I left the week exhausted and rested most of yesterday but am still tired today.  What’s hard is I am determined to exercise today even if I am tired.  It’s just hard to be motivated when I am so tired.  Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, to help me relax I have been catching up on my reading. I am almost finished with the Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It is a good book- perhaps a great book.  I don’t know if any of you have read it but it has entirely surprised me.  It is one of the only books I have read where I literally have no idea what the plot will do, where it will go.  Even now I don’t know how it will end.  I hope to finish it by the end of today. Then I need to get reading several other books for my book clubs.  Next Tuesday I have book club for Rebecca and I have to start it today or tomorrow to get it done!

Back to the Book Thief- it is a great book for plot, characters and descriptive language; However, I have one major reservation.  It is being marketed as a young adult book and I feel this is totally inappropriate for teenagers or children.  It has a lot of swearing in it- some in German, some in English.  I am actually kind of disturbed that it is being marketed to children.  In addition to the language the tone of the book is very dark (after all, it is narrated by Death and set in Nazi Germany) and there are a lot of vivid descriptions of death, war and evil.  I know there are limits to how much we can shelter children, but I don’t feel that a child needs to deal with these things in a book.  At the very least, I do not see any benefit to the story that is gained by the swearing.  Maybe some of you that are parents feel differently but don’t you think we can shelter our children from such things for a little while? Is that wrong? How do you know what will teach and inform children and what will scar them? After all, you don’t want your children to be naive and overly-simple. Still, a book like this I would not read to my children or teenagers.  It is an adults book. The thing that is most annoying is that I don’t think I would have any problems with the book if I didn’t have it in my head that it is advertised for young adults and children.  It just bothers me.

I will let you know if I like the ending…

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Exercise is hard!

So, I am writing this blog to squeeze out a little encouragement from all of you.  As I have mentioned before my sister and I are doing some fitness/health challenges to help us be healthy.  It has been a lot of fun and a good way to keep me motivated. The thing that helps me the most is being able to think about someone else.  This is nice because I often feel that dieting is such an inward experience and I hate that. I hate thinking so much about me and the way I look. It’s good in a way but I am doing better focusing on helping Megan reach her goals and I think the same is true for her.

exercise

I am also doing a fitness challenge with my friend Camille. We are trying to see who can exercise more before we get together over Thanksgiving.  This week I have been doing pretty good- 80 minutes of total exercise so far but I need to do even better.  It’s just hard at first because your muscles hurt and your body revolts from such activity. I am going to try and work in yoga and other types of activities to help make sure my muscles are well stretched and ready to go.  Still, it is hard work.  There is no getting around that.  I was wondering if any of you have found ways to exercise or motivate yourself to exercise that I might use?  I have always loved to swim but it is not the most practical of exercises for year-round activities.  I sometimes do the workouts on fittv and those are pretty good.  Plus, my apartment complex has a gym with weights and equipment.  I really wish I had a buddy I could exercise with and perhaps I will meet someone in my ward who might be interested. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions/encouragement you could all give me.  Thanks in advance.

Speaking of my ward…I just got called as Enrichment leader (for those who don’t know enrichment is an activity organization in our church for women that sponsors book clubs, craft nights, cooking groups etc).  I may try to start a walking group since I have the leadership power to do so. We’ll see. If any of you have good ideas for that also I would appreciate it. Thanks and let’s get some more comments on my blog!

Wow! That’s impressive!

I had a funny experience last week which I must share with all of you.  As you all know I have recently moved into a new singles ward in Draper.  As with all of my wards, everyone has been friendly and I anticipate being very happy there.  To help make newbies like me more comfortable the ward has a nice tradition called the “New Member Dinner” (not the most original title but there you go).  This dinner is held every other month or so and all of the new members get together and have a chance to meet the ward leadership including the bishop and relief society president.  Such a dinner is a pleasant way of welcoming new people that I recommend for other wards- particularly if you have high turnover.

For the meal at this dinner we had a chili buffet with salad and yummy breadsticks.  Naturally as we all got in line we started introducing ourselves and chatting- “Oh, you live in the Adagio.” “Me too”.  “You are a teacher”, “You go to school”, “Where in California are you from?” etc.  Amidst this banter a young girl asked me:

“So, where do you go to school?”- A question that always makes me feel good.  I fail to mention to her that I graduated from BYU in 2002, which is probably when she was 12!

“I just finished my MBA in May” I reply without giving much thought.

Next thing I know in a loud voice she says:

“Wow! That is amazing! Very impressive!”.  I meekly said a modest “thank you” and went about getting my chili.

As we were leaving the line, she says without a hint of irony:

“What’s an MBA?”

Now, I don’t know if they had been coached to be super excited about all of us and she was just trying to play along or if she’s just quick to emote, but I find it hilarious that she would be so enthusiastic about something she knows nothing about.  For all she knows I competed my Mind Bending Accreditation, or my Muscle Building Association membership or Meth Busters Army training (I thought for some time on MBA associations- I have a list!).

The more I think about it, the more I wonder what life would be like if we all reacted like this girl to things we knew nothing about.  For instance, what if a person said an unusual statement like  “I play the balalaika every Friday night” and we immediately said “Wow!  That’s amazing!  Very impressive!” without even knowing what the instrument is, how it sounds, or how much work goes into that.  (By the way, the balalaika is a string instrument played in Russia with one of the largest tonal ranges of its kind of instrument). Or what if someone stated something very ordinary such as “I will set the table” and in response we got “wow! That’s impressive!” Life would certainly be more interesting. It seems like the premise for a bad Bill Murray movie (I get the screenplay rights Hollywood!).

Perhaps we can learn a little from this girl and be a bit more excited about the life’s of others. After all if it is something they are bragging about it is probably worthy of praise (not that I was bragging about my MBA but I am proud of it).  So, try it out this week.  You just may make someone’s day, or everyone will think you have gone nuts.  Either way it will keep life interesting!

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Paths We Take

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Along with the entire world I sat listening to the words of President Elect Barack Obama with some amazement on Tuesday night.  As I mentioned in my last post, I did not vote for him and there are many policy choices of his that I disagree with; however, I think it would be hard for even the most hardened cynic to not be impressed with the scope of Obama’s victory.  He not only defied conventions as a black man running for president but he is the son of a single mother, from Hawaii.  Somehow he pulled his way through Columbia and Harvard Law School and then instead of picking the career of a pricey Harvard lawyer he worked as a community organizer and then a state senator, a senator and now the president.  It is an impressive journey.  I pray that he will be a successful president and that his policies will help our country solve its many complex problems.  We will see.

Thinking about Obama’s path to the white house has started me thinking about my path to where I’m at in life.  I found out today that my best friend from high school Meredith Goodenough (now Tolley) has just had her 4th child! It’s amazing how at one point her and I were at the same point, on the same basic track.  I remember having conversations with her about wanting to go to college, marriage, and then have children.  She told me rather emphatically that she was not going to get married until her master’s degree was completed. On the other side, everyone assumed that with me going to BYU I would quickly get married and have babies.  It’s interesting how life turns out.  Here I am the one with the masters degree and she’s the one with a hard earned bachelor’s and 4 kids! When I think back to the last 10 years I don’t see a lot of missed opportunities where my life could have turned out differently but I am sure some existed.  It’s like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books (do they still make those?).  One choice and you are coronated as king and queen- another you fall down a volcano to a firery death! Hopefully none of my choices had such dire outcomes but it is interesting to contemplate.  For instance, I wonder what my life would be like if I had given in to pressure and gotten into substance problems in high school.  I have a feeling that my personality would have a hard time fighting such a problem- although I am very independent so you never know.  I wonder if there was ever anybody in my peer group or in my wards that I could have dated or at least been friends with but I missed out on the opportunity? On the other hand, I am sure there are friends that I would not have met if I had taken other paths or not been as bold when meeting new people.

The truth is that while such thoughts are interesting they are not very productive.  We are what we are and I believe what I am is pretty darn good.  I love my current life and aside from not meeting Mr.  Sunshine yet I do feel completely satisified with where I am at socially, mentally, spiritually. I know there is much need for improvement- particularly spiritually but I still feel a sense of contentment and peace with my life. I also believe that my Heavenly Father guides my choices and that if I listen to His promptings I will be where I need to be, when I need to be there, helping who I need to help.  In truth, my life is not like the Choose Your Own Adventure because I have a guide telling me which choices will lead to the coronation and which end in the volcano.  This guidance is real- even in the small things.  For instance, the other day I was yearning for a bookclub.  In desparation I decided to check craigslist to see if there were any advertised.  To my luck, one was just starting, so I joined and have been to a couple sessions (even hosted one in my apartment!).  It was a simple choice but already it has helped me make some good friends that I never would have met in any other way.  There are so many other examples I could list of experiences I have had because I took a risk, made a daring choice or had the guts to meet someone new.  I only hope that I will continue to be bold and make the kind of choices my Heavenly Father wants me to make. Then I can look back at life and not have any regrets.  I look back on my mission and college with no regrets, and I hope I can do the same for my entire life- knowing I have made good choices and repented for the bad ones.  This is what I want in life.

As the poet says:

Growing old
is a privilege denied
to many…

Never leave behind regrets

Do any of you have thoughts on your path in life? How you got to where you are? Here’s a Dilbert I thought was funny concerning 2 different lifestyle choices! Enjoy!

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Vote

Hi friends,

This is a quick note of encouragement for everyone to get out there and vote on Tuesday.  I have already voted by absentee and even though I was not crazy about either candidate I finally made a determination.  As much as I respect Barack Obama (and will be actually kind of excited if he wins) I decided to vote for John McCain for one basic reason- he is more likely to appoint judges that I agree with and support. In particular I feel that abortion is a very important issue.  I am pro-life and would be happy if Roe v Wade was overturned.  I believe it was founded on faulty notions of the freedom of women.  The pro-choice team would have you believe that abortions were somehow liberating.  On my mission I met several woman who had abortions years before and the memory was continually haunting them.  Where was the supposed independence from the burden of a baby that these women were supposed to achieve?  The pro-choice movement would have you believe that abortion is a matter of female choice and that to violate such freedom is wrong.  What about the freedom of the baby? What about the right to life?

Anyway, I know this is a very touchy issue and I don’t want to ostracize people from my blog.  I merely wanted to explain my reason for voting for John McCain.  I decided that McCain is more likely to select Supreme Court and other judges that are pro-life.  I know it may be a mistake to vote on one issue but I felt so divided on every other issue- some going for McCain, others to Obama, that finally my choice came to abortion and that was the tipping point.

Regardless of my vote it looks like Obama is going to win the election.  If he does, it will be a marvelous day for our country.  It is hard to believe that as late as 1965 Jim Crow laws were officially banned by the Civil Rights Act.  Now 43 years later we will probably have an African American as a president.  It’s very exciting.  I have read Barack Obama’s books and feel he is a good man who will do his best as president.  I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he will attempt to develop a political discourse in this country that we haven’t had with Bush.  I look forward to that.  I also agree with him on the war and am glad he supports charter schools.  Health care and taxes I am more with McCain.  They were honestly about equal in my mind except for the abortion discussion.

I would like to make one more statement about the election.  All of my friends in California- please go out and vote for proposition 8.  I wish I was in California just so I could vote for it.  I am a great supporter of equal treatment for all including all of us that favor traditional marriage.  Tolerance does not mean adopting other’s moral codes- it means learning to acknowledge those differences and treating people with kindness. This is true for both sides of the debate. I support proposition 8 because I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is sacred, special, important to society and it is fundamental to the health of children.  I completely support giving domestic partnerships rights but not at the cost of harming traditional marriage.  That’s just the way I feel.

My brother in law wrote an essay on proposition 8 that I feel is quite brilliant; however, it is kind of long for the blog.  Here is one section:

“While much could be said about whether same-sex unions should or should not be granted civil marriage, the core of this issue is really about the right of private individuals to make a distinction between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. If Proposition 8 fails, this right will, at the very least, be restricted.

Though distinguish and discriminate seem similar, they represent two very different ideas. Discrimination refers to a separation made solely on the basis of a category or class without regard to individual merit. This type of distinction rightfully has no protection under the law. On the other hand, we all regularly make and rely on merit-based distinctions. These are value judgments we make based on, for example, the actions of two competing individuals in order to decide between them. Individuals do have the right to make this type of distinction between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. Such a distinction can be understood as follows. Every individual involved in a same-sex union, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other classification is engaging in homosexual activity. To many, engaging in homosexual activity is morally wrong. Based on the believed lack of value in these actions, a distinction is drawn between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. Note that this valuation is solely about the actions committed and the types of unions formed, not about any individual who engages in such actions or forms such unions. This is a clear departure from the oft-drawn analogy of interracial marriage. In the case of interracial marriage there is no way to make such a distinction that does not rely on an underlying valuation about the classes of individuals who commit such acts, which is discrimination.

Obviously and understandably, many people oppose this distinction. Nevertheless, our country is built on the freedom of individuals and groups to make exactly such declarations. In fact, a distinction between traditional marriage and same-sex unions has been publicly endorsed by both main presidential candidates and their running mates. Though their opinions on Prop. 8 differ, all four political candidates have stated that they define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden has also stated in reference to gay marriage that “Barack Obama nor I support redefining, from a civil side, what constitutes marriage. We do not support that.”

Given that some people make this distinction while others do not, what should be the government’s role? The answer is essentially none. To the extent that homosexual activities are committed by consenting adults the United States Supreme Court has rightfully determined that the government has no place to question their legality. In the same vein, even though some feel that same-sex unions are immoral, there is no room for the government to make that distinction. This is why the formation of civil unions and similar institutions to protect the rights of individuals in same-sex unions should, for the most part, be applauded. But the government should also not prevent anyone from making that distinction. By granting same-sex unions access to the traditional institution of marriage there are clear signs that this is exactly what the government is doing.”

I may add more to this tomorrow, but I wanted to do my part before the election day on Tuesday.  Hopefully nobody will be offended by my stating positions.  They are just that my positions and shouldn’t bother anyone.  I also promise that my blog will be mostly free of politics after this. Call it a rare exception. Go out and vote!  I have never missed an election (even on my mission) since I turned 18.  Don’t miss out on your chance to make a difference.