Month: December 2008

2008 in Review

2008 has been a great year.  I have learned so much and had so many amazing experiences.  It has been a year of healing and growth, and I am imeasurably stronger as a result.  It all started last December with my taking the big leap of faith and quiting my job at JWA.  I knew I needed  a change and that the Lord wanted me to be doing something else, so I left everything in His hands.  Not knowing where life was taking me I entered the job hunt- interviewing for nearly 40 companies over 6 months.   There were so many jobs that I thought for sure I would get and then I wouldn’t.  The Lord definitely made me wait and show my faith before helping everything to work out.

To celebrate the end of 2007 Camille, Sarah, Aly and I got a room in the SLC Marriott.  It was so fun!
To celebrate the end of 2007 Camille, Sarah, Aly and I got a room in the SLC Marriott. It was so fun!

In the meantime, I had some great experiences such as hanging out with Julia Graves for a week in January (it was so fun, we visited almost all of our comps and mission presidents.  A blast). I wish I could find a picture of our time together but I can’t.  Maybe Julia has some that I can get.   At the end of January I visited my sister Megan for a week at Stanford.  It was a lot of fun to be a part of their amazing family for a week. Their girls are the cutest things in the world.

I also had tons of fun with my roommates Megan and Camille.  In addition, I was a full time student until the end of March taking 2 classes for most of that time period so I could finish quickly.  In May I gratefully graduated! I am now a masters of business- yeah!

Jodi and I at graduation
Jodi and I at graduation

Before graduating I experienced another highlight of the year.  In April Megan, Sarah, Hiedi, Camille and myself all went to Hawaii again.  It was a magical trip.  I was there for 2 solid weeks and was the best. I could be there forever.  I love it so much.  I love everything about it except the plane flight over!  This time we did everything- of course the beach everyday, went to the PCC twice, Pearl Harbor, and even saw the lei’s being made in Chinatown. I am planning a return trip in 2009.  I just love it so much!

Here we are enjoying snorkeling at Hanama Bay.  Amazing.(L to R) Megan, Camille, Hiedi, Me, and Sarah
Here we are enjoying snorkeling at Hanama Bay. Amazing.(L to R) Megan, Camille, Hiedi, Me, and Sarah

Once we got home from Hawaii and graduation came things jumped into high gear.  In May my dad approached me with an idea to start a vacation rental business with these rentals that he had in the Suncrest community of Draper.  I didn’t know if it was for me but I wasn’t getting anything else, so I figured- why not?  In the end, I decided to start my own business Catalyst Events and Marketing with the crux of the business being the marketing and upkeep of the vacation rentals.  For all intensive purposes I am a property manager where I handle the online marketing, the reservations process, maintenance, check in’s and check out’s etc.  I didnt’ know what to expect going into it but have enjoyed it.  Sometimes it can be stressful when we are getting a home ready for occupancy but every job has moments like that.  On a whole I love it and I have especially enjoyed working with my Dad and Uncle Jim.  I think we have all grown closer from the experience.  I think most of all I enjoy the autonomy of the job. I have a lot of control over my schedule and I do a variety of things.  It’s a job that uses all of my skillsets- my website design, marketing, salesmanship, organization and even my manual labor skills on occasion.

In addition to the vacation rentals I have also been working for GPG (Grabber Performance Group) as the leader of the West Warm Team.  We go to events around Utah and give out free hand warmers and promote the product.  I hope to be doing more of these types of events as the Winter months come up.

Finally, I am trying to add some events to my job but this takes time.  It may be several years before I get that part of my business up and running.  In the meantime, I am doing what I can every couple of months to build up my portfolio.  If anyone is willing to take a chance on me, I will work for cheap!

Most of the summer I was involved with getting this company up and running (and getting all of the houses ready!).   We didn’t know what to expect with the rentals but we have been almost fully booked since we opened in June.  We have had over 50 groups with amazing variety and sizes!  Check out our website for photos of al of the homes including our new house- The Sammy.www.jbjane.com.

The view from my apartment
The view from my apartment

During the summer I also made the change of moving into my new apartment.  It was a hard step for me because I loved my roommates, Megan and Camille, and I was nervous about living alone for the first time.  My apartment has only one bedroom but it is perfect for me.  It has been a lot of fun putting up  my artwork and photos.  I really have made it my home and hope that I don’t have to move for some time.  I just love it.  I have missed living with someone in certain ways but on other ways I have loved living alone.  I am lucky that I have a great and loyal group of girlfriends that never allow me to feel that lonely.  It was just the right time for me to get my own place.

Another experience in the summer was the family reunion in July.  The Wagner family does a family reunion every other year and this year we did a short cruise to Ensenada and Catalina Island. It was my first cruise and it was a lot of fun. We also got to go Disneyland with Isabel and Lucy.  Plus, I got to see my bestest friend Raelene Bradley in Southern California.   I always love spending time with family and long-time friends.

Here I am at Ensenada
Here I am at Ensenada
Isabel and Tigger
Isabel and Tigger
Raelene and I at Newport Beach with her little boy (and her husband Jordan taking the photo)
Raelene and I at Newport Beach with her little boy (and her husband Jordan taking the photo)

In September I started at a new ward in Draper and that was an interesting experience.  It is harder to make friends without roommates but I am doing the best I can and trying to be friendly.  Luckily it is  nice ward and I have high hopes for the upcoming year.   I have been out of town a lot so it has been hard to make friends there yet.  It always takes time. In September I also took a trip to Cali and “babysat” my siblings while my parents went to Utah.  It was a lot of fun.

In October I was asked to come to Michigan for training on the warm team at GPG.  This gave me the amazing opportunity to visit my mission again for the first time in 3 years.  It was awesome, if a bit surreal. My mission always feels like a dream- like another lifetime- so going back felt a bit like going back into a dream.  Everything was the same but different at the same time.  It warmed my heart to see old friends and to know that I did make a difference with the hard work I put into the great Hoosier state

The finish line at the brickyard. My old stomping grounds!
The finish line at the brickyard. My old stomping grounds!

After Indiana I threw myself into work and loved it more than I can say. With my job and my apartment it seems that I have come full circle in my life.  I still have room to grow but I feel I am the person I want to be, that I am living the life I am meant to live- that Heavenly Father is happy with my choices.  I am making a difference in the world in my own little way.  It feels good.

With October came Halloween and our traditional party.  This year I dressed up as a geisha- wig and all. We had a good time and it was nice to see Camille for the holiday.

My Halloween costume
My Halloween costume

With all of the travel and work November came quickly and I got to see Megan, Seth and my adorable nieces for Thanksgiving.  Even though we had a lot of illness it was still great to see them and spend time together.  I am so excited for Anna to come out here to school next year. I miss having my sisters nearby.

The cute nieces.  I love them!
The cute nieces. I love them! My brother's little girl is also super cute!

December came quickly and I enjoyed setting up my tree and making my apartment festive.  Thanks to all who came to my party.  It was a lot of fun.  We were busy working getting our 4th house opened for tenants on December 23rd.   The work was exacerbated by all of the snow.  There were moments when I didn’t think I would be able to finish it all but somehow we did! Now we have 4 beautiful homes to rent out and make people’s stay unforgetable.  We help people make memories.

As I mentioned a couple of posts ago I ended 2008 with some travel.  December 14-18th I visited Julia Graves in Vegas.  We had a fun trip even with the snow! Yes, snow in Vegas.  They haven’t had snow there in like 30 years!  Go figure that it would come for my stay. It was great spending time with Julia, with the highlight going to see Mamma Mia at the Mandalay Bay casino.  So great!

Mamma Mia was amazing!
Mamma Mia was amazing!

Finally, I am sitting at my parent’s home in California. It is always nice to take a break from the world and enjoy  my family.  They are such a support to me, and I am grateful for all they do for me.  I am truly blessed.

When I think back on 2008, I see a year of growth and strength.  I started it unsure and confused about my role in the world.  For a while I had no job, no apartment, and no relationship (still working on that last one!).   Thanks to the support of family and friends I have gained a career that I love, finished my education and found an apartment that feels like home.  It was been quite the journey!  Along the way, my testimony has grown and become much stronger.  I know that Heavenly Father has an active role in my life (at least he does if I let him).  My existence is important and while He might test my faith from time-to-time He never forgets about me.  My life matters and if I have faith in Him, I can do amazing things.

I know that the Lord loves me.  I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for me.  He is there for me in my lonely, confused hours.  He never forgets, never abandones, never leaves without answers.  His plan is real, His church is true and I know that while my life may not be perfect, it is guided by His light each day.  I am so grateful for that knowledge and for  a year where that testimony has become solid as it never was before.  It was a year never to be forgotten.  Thank you all for being a part of it.  God bless and have a great 2009!

Merry Christmas

I promise I will write more tomorrow, but I just wanted to say quick- Merry Christmas! I hope you all have a great holiday season and that you are safe and blessed. Thank you for your friendship and support. More to come…

Vegas and Exhaustion

I promise I will post longer once I get on break but I wanted to make a quick entry about my trip to Vegas to see my good friend Julia Graves (formerly Sister Graves of Indiana fame).  The weather tried its best to ruin the trip, but it did not prevail (it even snowed for the first time in like 30 years!).  We didn’t do anything to exciting- christmas shopping, crafts, watching movies etc- but it was a welcome break from the craziness of work, which I will go into in a bit.  The highlight of the trip as far as touristing events was going to Mamma Mia at the Mandalay Bay Resort.  It was snowing the night of the show but Julia did some intrepid Vegas driving and we made it.  I loved the movie and the stage version did not disapoint.  The movie is pretty much a frame for frame depiction of the stage show.  I think there is only one song missing in the movie.  It was a lot of fun.  Anytime I can go to a broadway show it is a highlight of the year for me, whether it be in New York or not (hopefully I can get to NYC soon but for now Vegas will have to do).

Some other fun stuff that we did included going to her 24 hour fitness for a jacuzzi soak, going to the Forgotten Carols with the composer Michael McClane performing and finally watching the Dark Knight (which I must be crazy but I really didn’t care for- too violent for my taste.  Spent most of the movie with my eyes closed. I guess I am just a wimp that way).  Anyway, it was a fun trip and I enjoyed everything we did and all the time reminiscing and talking about life lessons.  Julia- you owe me now! I hope to see you in Utah soon!

Here are some pictures from my trip:

Mamma Mia was amazing!
Mamma Mia was amazing!
At the Forgotten Carols on Monday.
At the Forgotten Carols on Monday.
Jacuzing Away.  It was very relaxing!
Jacuzing Away. It was very relaxing!
Yummy In and Out Never Disapoints
Yummy In and Out Never Disapoints
Julia getting all crafty with the glass balls we decorated
Julia getting all crafty with the glass balls we decorated

It was a fun trip but boy was I knocked back into reality quick.  For starters I spent 2 and 1/2 hours on my plane coming home from Vegas waiting for it to be deiced and I am afraid that was fortuitous of things to come.  We have been working at a madkneck pace to get everything done for our new fourth vacation rental ready for occupants on Tuesday.  It has been a ton of moving, lifting, cleaning, assembling, shopping and driving.   I will be so relieved when Tuesday has come and gone and it will feel so good to have everything finished.  At this point there still feels like so much that needs to be done.  It is kind of overwhelming. I wish I could be calm and relaxed like my coworker and uncle Jim Richards.  He hasn’t come unglued once (or at least he does it in private!).  It was super nice of him to pick up the slack for me while I was in Vegas and while I am going to California for Christmas.  I am so grateful I have someone reliable to depend on and work with each day.  It is such a blessing.  I don’t mean to sound melodramatic but my whole body hurts.  You can really tell that I need to get in better shape because I probably shouldn’t be in this sore from working on my feet 2 days straight and lifting, cleaning and other activities; nevertheless, I am that tired and sore.  At least it will feel darn good to have it finished and to know we did a job well done.  I am greatly looking forward to that moment.  I will update after Christmas in California!  Merry Christmas everyone!

Lilies, Roses and Friends for Christmas

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I know that is a lot of photos but I wanted to make a quick post about my Christmas Open House I threw yesterday. It turned out to be both a lot of fun and a good opportunity for me to hone my skills in event planning and floral design.  It was a delicious buffet and the company was great.  Thank you to all who came.  It was interesting because I had friends from all different parts of my life there.  It was like a little picture of my life through friends.

I  intend to do these type of events every so often so I can take photos and eventually create an event planning website along with publicity and promotions.  (Afterall, if no one will hire me for events, I have to hire myself!).  The flowers from last night were lilies with rose hips and roses with berries.  On the buffet I had a variety of truffles, cookies, fruit, dip, sweet puffs, popcorn, and breads.  It was yummy. If any of you need an event planner for a family event or one for the company you work for give me a call.  I promise I will not let you down! In the meantime I will keep plugging away.  I certainly have enough to keep me busy.  I am finally over my cold (99.5% better).  I have also been working hard on getting the properties ready for Christmas travel including getting a new house- called “the Sammy”- ready for occupants on 12/23/08.  This includes cleaning, furniture assembly, and buying everything needed to furnish and set up a house.  It all adds up and takes time. I will post pictures when the house is finished.   In addition to working on the properties I am trying to pursue new leads for the warm team and working on that.  Plus, I am constantly trying to get my event planning business started including my constantly in the works website.

As long as I am healthy I do not mind being busy.  In fact, I have recently been called a “workaholic” and it is kind of true.   I think this is why I have to schedule in fun time including classes, time with friends and travel.  This helps me maintain my sanity.  In addition, I get to work at something I actually enjoy (nothing worse than being a workaholic at a job you hate- I know!). In addition, I work with my dad and uncle who are great and very patient.  I also maintain sanity through reading, writing (including this blog), and cooking, watching TV (yes, I know.  I am the TV fan in my family).  However, most of all I love being with the people I love and talking about practically anything.  It’s the best.

Next Sunday I am going to Vegas for 4 days.  This will be a nice break from my crazy, workaholic life.  I am going to stay with my very good friend Julia Graves.  I am super excited.  We were going to go to New York but with this economy it just got to expensive.  Vegas was our 2nd choice.  We can do much of what we wanted to do in New York there and since Julia is from Vegas the lodging is free!  We are going to see Mamma Mia which I am very excited for and just have fun being together.  Julia came to visit me last January and it was such a happy trip.  I am glad to finally be able to return the favor! I will also get to see my aunt and uncle while I am there and of course there is always the city and lights.   No gambling though for me.  With my luck it wouldn’t be a good idea anyway.

Well, this turned into a longer update than I imagined.  I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas time.  Know that I love you and am grateful for your friendship.  God bless!

Quick Quote- and Still Sick

So, I am still sick.  I pretty much have had a cold for the last 2 months.  I am so tired of it!  For me life has to still go on despite not feeling perfect, so I am trying to find a good balance of health and work.  This is particularly difficult during the holidays because I have more scheduled than I normally do.  For instance, this week I volunteered for Festival of Trees on Wednesday and Thursday, plus I have work, 2 lunch dates with girlfriends, the Messiah Sing-In and I am practicing my recital piece tomorrow (We will see if I perform in the recital. Hopefully I will have a voice on the 19th!).  In addition, on the 14th I am going to Vegas to visit my friend Julia.  I just have to get better- completely better! I went to the doctors on Monday and started to cry.  Needless to say the doctor didn’t have much sympathy for me and diagnosed me with the same lame virus. Oh well, at least he did not misdiagnose.

Please excuse the complaining of the previous paragraph.  I am still trying to have a good time and be happy, it’s just hard when you don’t feel great.  Since I have been sick (and its been a thin time for TV) I have been reading up a storm and wanted to share a quote I found in the book I am currently reading called One of Ours by Willa Cather.  It is very good so far.  It is about a boy named Claude who grows up in a home that doesn’t communicate and is very poor.  In describing Claude, Willa Cather says:

“He is not so much afraid of loneliness as he is of accepting cheap substitutes; of making excuses to himself for a teacher who flatters him, of admiring a girl merely because she is accessible.  He has a dread of easy compromises, and he is terribly afraid of being fooled”

Isn’t that a good quote?  It sums up a certain side of myself.  I fear more the temptation to settle for mediocrity than the larger fall from grace.  That’s all for today.  I just wanted to share that thought and complain a little bit about being sick!  Thanks for putting up with me!

Qualities of a True Friend

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be a friend.  On the surface it seems the definition should be simple but on further pondering it is complicated. A dear friend and I were talking the other day about friends she had that seemed to expect certain things out of friendship.  They had expectations that I feel are unrealistic and a little selfish.  So, that begs the question- what do I expect out of a friend?  What are my requirements? The most important characteristics for me are loyalty, unselfishness and an uplifting countenance. There are 3 quotes that I would like to use to elaborate my point:

Quote 1- Unselfishness and Devotion

The first is from what may be my favorite book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs or Linda Brent.  It is an amazing narrative about a woman who never gives in to being a slave and faces huge challenges as a result. Finally she is able to smuggle herself and her children to the North and while there she meets a kind lady named Mrs. Bruce.  Eventually Mrs. Bruce purchases Harriet’s freedom (a necessity that still irritates the relentlessly headstrong Harriet). Of Mrs. Bruce Harriet writes “Friend! It is a common word, often lightly used. Like other good and beautiful things, it may be tarnished by careless handling; but when I speak of Mrs. Bruce as my friend the word is sacred”.

While perhaps none of us are quite as indebted to our friends as Harriet is to Mrs. Bruce, can we still call our friendships sacred or are they common and easily tossed aside? I know I have many flaws as a woman but I do feel one of my strengths is that I am a good friend.  I seem to invest more in friendships than others.  There are many friendships that I consider sacred.

One example is my friend Emily Allivilar Whitman.  I strongly believe the Lord wanted us to be friends.  I went through a period during my 2nd year at BYU that was very difficult.  In one year I lost 2 cousins and a grandfather, plus 9/11 and the anthrax scare happened. My grandfather and beloved cousin Lisa died within weeks of each other. Emily was an acquaintance from my ward that my sister had met the previous year in a Navoo BYU summer program.  I did not know her very well but noticed she had been gone for a couple of weeks from the ward.  Little did I know that she had also been through an even more personal tragedy in her family.  Anyway, right before I left for my cousins funeral I went up to campus to go to class.  I was heavy with sadness.  On the south side of the Wilkinson center I noticed Emily and greeted her with a forlorn expression.  Despite her greater cause for grief she stopped me and said “Are you Ok?”.  Now, we did not know each other well at this point but for some reason everything just poured out. Then she told me about her loss and we grieved together.  We even skipped classes and talked the afternoon away.  She helped me pack to go to California for the funeral and I found out that her evil roommates were being very mean to her.  Spur of the moment I said “Well, why do you live with us (meaning Megan and I)?” She agreed and then my cousin Julia (who had lost her sister Lisa) also moved in with us.  So we had 4 girls in an apartment for a year who had all lost loved ones within a years time.  It is one of the miracles of my life. We spent a great deal of time just hanging out as roommates- hanging out and healing.  The Lord knew we needed that time. This is why Emily’s friendship is sacred to me. Even though I do not see her frequently, or even speak on the phone much, I know we were supposed to be friends at that crucial time.  I feel that way about many of my friends.  Their friendship is sacred to me.

Quote 2- Loyalty

My second quote is from another book that I love called the Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright.  It is a sweet book about 2 poets who create a deep friendship through correspondence (they only meet twice). In her last letter Leslie tells Jim that “knowing and loving someone has no end, and that we are together always”.  She goes on to say “Anyway, I treasure the words you write- your name most of all. But no matter if written words are seldom because we know, Jim, we know”. Do you have friends who’s name is a treasure to you? I do. I can think of a number of people that if I lost their friendship I would grieve heavily.  These are not necessarily people I see often. For example, my best friend from college, Raelene Kochel Bradley, and I have a deep friendship.  She is probably the friend that I have the most in common with as far as interests and personality go (I mean we were both female political philosophy majors- go figure!).  I treasure her friendship even if it is in snippets while she lives in California.  I know that she is the type of friend that if I got cancer or some horrible thing happened to me, she’d be the first one on the plane to help me- and vice-versa.

There are many other friends who’s names I treasure including my roommates of two years- Camille and Megan- and my best friend from high school Meredith Goodenough Tolley. Sarah Creer is also a treasured friend.  My friend Miriam Harmer is another treasured friend from college and post-college years. I have many great friends from my mission including Julia Graves and Melissa Noyes who I treasure each day. I cannot overstate their importance in my life. There are too many to list them all.  I am thankful for all of them.  Please do not be offended if I did not list your name.

Quote 3- Good Humor and Inspiration.

My last quote is the famous scripture in the Bible, John 15:13.  It says “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”. Now we rightly interpret this scripture as the Saviors love for each of us that He would lay down His life for us.  However, there is a broader explanation as well.  Do we give our life (our time, our talents, our substance) to our friends? I hope someone could say this of me.  There are people I know that seem to expect friends to give, give, give.  If they do not see this giving they are offended or feel the relationship isn’t worth preserving.  To me, this is unrealistic (I would have no friends if I felt this way) and selfish.  I have always looked at friendships as 90% giving and then enjoy the 10% I get in return (I do have to get at least a little in return!).  Again, I know I have my flaws but I do think if I were to go now they could say at my funeral that I gave my life for my friends.  I value them more than I can say.

So, this was a super long entry but let me just add that naturally my greatest friends are my family members. I am very grateful for all the time they have spent not only being my relative but becoming my friend as well.  My mother, sisters Megan and Anna, are probably my 3 greatest friends in life.  I also have a deep friendship with many cousins, aunts, uncles and my grandparents on both sides.

My friends have always been very different- running the gammit of personalities and interest.  The one common factor in them all is they make me laugh and they inspire me to do better.  There are so many examples of friends lifting me up in this way.  Just the other day, I chatted with an hour with my friend Julia Graves.  We had a great conversation and I felt uplifted and cheerful.  It’s moments like these that I thank my Heavenly Father for great friends. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

And thank you to all of you for being my friends and for loving me despite my many flaws.  God bless!