Month: August 2009

Visiting Bryce, Cedar City and the Classic Famiy Road Trip

05 Take Me Home Country Road

As I have mentioned many times on this blog that the last summer has been crazy for me.  I have gone from having one job, to thinking I had no job, to having 4 jobs!  In the next few weeks things should down as we have 3 of the vacation rentals converted into long term rentals.  I am glowingly proud of my work with these rentals. I think it is amazing I found 3  long-term tenants in under 2 months without a real estate license.  All I did was use Craigslist and KSL classifieds!  It has also been shocking at the level of  interest in a 6 bedroom furnished rental.  We are easily getting 3-4 calls a day on the house.  If I had my license I would go around Suncrest and call all the homes for rent or for sale and offer to manage their property.  I certainly have experience to brag about! I finally had to mark the homes  as sold on the old ads because I felt bad at disappointing people.  In addition, the two families moving into our homes in Draper are very nice.  They are great people- the best.

With all this work, (I have only begun to describe everything- it has been 7 days a week, long hours!) I was eagerly awaiting our family trip down to Southern Utah.  I think I could have been happy going just about anywhere but it was a particular treat to go to Cedar City and attend 3 plays at the Utah Shakespearean Festival.  It is a Tony Award winning festival with a traditional outdoor theater, renaissance food and a green show with entertainment before the plays.  It is one of my favorite things in Utah. In fact, attending the festival is one of the first theater experiecnes I remember.  When you are from a big family there isn’t a ton of alone time with parents.  This made it particularly special when my dad took me at 8 years old to see Taming of the Shrew, Blithe Spirit, Merchant of Venice, and Volpone.  I am not sure why it was just me but it was a great memory.  I still have the old programs.  Since that first trip I have been 5 or 6 times and just love it!

Before arriving at the festival things were a bit bumpy.  The original plan was to take the Greyhound down to Cedar and meet up with my family who would be arriving from California (they had to make the trip anyways because Anna was coming out to BYU).  Tuesday night (the night before their expected departure) Madeline got very sick.  We were even afraid she might have the swine flu but it was a different  infection (still not fun but better than the alternative).  At first we thought the entire trip would be off, but after a restful day  and antibiotics she was able to travel comfortably in the car.

This delay meant I arrived on the Greyhound (which despite all the horror stories was quite pleasant and affordable) and saw the first play by myself.  It worked out great because the hotel had  a shuttle, and I had food ordered to my room.  It was nice to have one day of vacation all to myself.  That night I saw Henry V, which was excellent.  It was probably  just as well that the kids couldn’t make it because it was a pretty serious and war-torn play.  I don’t know if they would have liked it.

On Friday the rest of my family arrived and we saw 2 plays- Comedy of Errors and As You Like It.  The former was our favorite.  It was funny and in an air conditioned auditorium.  (As much as I love the quaintness of the outdoor theater, it was brutally hot and muggy).  I have heard the festival is loosing funding and the shows aren’t able to get the professional actors they used to get.  I saw a little of this in As You Like It.  You think with all this stimulus money programs like the festival could get a little stimulus.  It is after all a tourist attraction to the city and generates income while being an artistic gem.  Oh well, that’s a topic for another post (btw, I have been selected to write  a guest post for the blog  Still working on it but if you have any ideas let me know).


After the festival we set off to see Bryce National Park and Capitol Reef National Park for 2 days.   Even with the car sickness, it was  beautiful-red rock formations bursting of more than just red.  Purple, orange, yellow, black, white and more.  We even saw some petroglyphs and laughed about an ancient pictionary game gone array.  Can’t you just picture someone carving in the stone and their wife saying “that’s supposed to be a warrior?”.

It was a lot of driving and we did grow weary of it after a while, but it was still a nice trip overall.  The one hick-up we had was on Sunday my dad decided to take a dirt road to show us some of his favorite camping sites.  Naturally I asked “why are we taking this road, when we can take the regular road”.  My dad responded “Because it is beautiful and it is a smooth road”.  I still can’t believe that a grown man was debating with me about taking a dirt road vs a regular road.  To me it makes as much sense as selecting a horse and carriage over a car!

So, we are going down this dirt road and all of the sudden I hear a hissing noise- almost like a rattle snake but it keeps going.


My  dad  stops the car  and yes, you guessed it- we had a flat tire in the middle of nowhere.  To make matters worse we had borrowed the car from a friend and didn’t know where the jack was or any other items.   We also had tons of stuff in the car, which we had to remove in order to the get the jack.  It was one of the more complicated spares I have ever been a part of changing, but in fairly quick time my dad had it figured out and changed.  Unfortunately as we were getting back in the car dad checked out the other tires and noticed a bubble in the another one.  Clearly we only have one spare tire.  I can’t over-state that we were in the middle of nowhere on a dirt road.  It was the kind of place where you would expect to see a flying saucer!



We only had one car pass us on the dirt road as we changed the tire and they didn’t even stop to see if we are ok.  Can you believe that? Rude!  My dad kept saying we could camp out overnight but we had no tents or pillows.  I am sure all of you can just see me camping out in the middle of nowhere waiting to be rescued.  Naturally I prayed extra hard we would get out alive and without having to camp out.  Thankfully we did just that, finally ending up in Price, UT.

There is a canyon going from Price to Spanish Fork and we were so nervous about the bubble in the tire that we decided to stay the night.  It was just too risky going on a narrow highway without a shoulder on a bad tire.  We ended up at the Price Holiday Inn in a double suite.  The room was nice and we even got to swim before the night was over. Big O Tires was open at 8 am Monday morning, so we had  the tires fixed early and got on our way early.  As much as I enjoyed the trip, I was definitely grateful to be back home, safe and not stuck on a dirt road in Southern Utah. I certainly will not need to take the scenic route again for a while!


My family has been in town the rest of the week helping get Anna checked into college at my Alma matter Brigham Young University.  It was so great getting her settled into her apartment.  Today was the last day before my parents left and it was quite the goodbye.  It brought back so many memories of my first year at BYU.  It was a happy time in my life.  I was so excited and ready to be out on my own. I am almost envious of Anna and all the great experiences she is going to have.


So, this has been a long, rambling travelogue.  My apologies, but it was an eventful couple of weeks.  Now I am back to work on sales tax, vacation rentals, real estate school, and Grabber events.  Busy, busy, busy, but happy.

Successful Renting!

Hurray! Yeah!  Super great! I have a simple post today.  One that doesn’t take too many words.  It is merely an exclamation of gratitude for a little success come my way.

I know I am a successful woman just for being me and living a good life but sometimes it feels good to have real concrete business success.  Today I had some!  As I mentioned in earlier posts I have been working hard lately on a variety of projects including managing 4 vacation rentals, finding long-term rentals for 2 of the homes, receiving training for sales tax work with Grabber, scheduling Grabber events, finding tenants for client with 25 properties, and trying to keep the maintenance and yard work up on the four properties.  Now I have not been alone in these various projects, but in the end the responsibility has been mine.  I have been working every day- even Saturday and Sunday.

It is because I have been working hard that today feels especially great.  It looks like I have found a long-term tenant for two of the homes! The second one has been tentatively reserved, and My dad will be making the contract and finalizing the deal in the next few days.  In addition, we had lowered the price from $2100 to $1950 but seeing the competition this tenant offered the rate of $2100! In this economy to be getting more for anything in real estate is pretty amazing!  This rate does not include utilities which are worked out with my dad.

Both families who are signing long-term contracts with us are fantastic.  They have kids, have good references and experience renting.  I think they will love the neighborhood and be happy in their new homes.  It’s funny because with 7 of my family members living up there (my uncle Jon and Aunt Carol, my uncle Tom and Aunt Jodi, my cousin Anne and her husband, and my Uncle Jim) they will probably hear more about me than I them.  I will certainly be aware quickly if any problem behaviors develop with the tenants.  (I have heard every landlord horror story over the last few weeks).

There is always the potential for problems, but I don’t anticipate any.  I am confident in the character and values of our tenants, and I think  I am doing a good thing finding them a house.  I wish I had houses for everyone who needed them.  I have given tours to at least 1o people in recent weeks and they all seemed very interested. In fact, I had 2 scheduled for tomorrow if things hadn’t come through. Someday I will hopefully be in a position as a property manager to find houses for all of them!

I don’t think there are many people who find 2 tenants for large properties before they even get their real estate license! I plan on taking my real estate classes starting in September, and  I will be able to start my new career as a property manager boasting success others can not match.  Plus, I will have the other work to stabilize my economics as I get things going.

The future looks bright and exciting! I know I will have to keep working hard, but a little success feels good.  With the crazy summer I have had- I need a little success.  The funny thing is I am not making any additional money with this sale, but I don’t really care.   It just makes me happy because I know what the success will do for me later on. The potential is great and thrilling!

In the meantime, I intend to work hard and put my faith in God.  I know any success is truly His and not mine. Hopefully days of success like this will keep coming! For now, I intend to let the little I have soak in.


Madeline is 10- A Decade Come and Gone


My baby sister Madeline turns 10 today. I can’t believe an entire decade has gone by since she has been a part of our family.  I know it is such a cliche- but really where does the time go?  I remember the day she was born.  I had the unusual circumstance of leaving for college with my mother pregnant.  It was a stressful time for our family as we had just moved to California from Maryland (I know all the way across the country!), my mom had 2 other young children and she had basically full bed rest for the entire pregnancy.  To add to the pressure both myself and my sister Megan went out to BYU at the same time.  This was a surprise for my parents as Meg was only 16 at the time.  ( I was delighted with Megan going to school.  It was like my best friend taking that big step with me).   My parents tried their best to handle everything with grace and cheerfulness but it was hard.  My mom used to call our dorm room and try her best to sound happy but it always came across as pathetic and sad.  It was a very exciting but conflicting time for both of us.

At the end of our Summer term we traveled home for a two-week time period.  I don’t remember when the original due date was but my mom was scheduled to be induced at the beginning of our trip.  It was on a Friday and we debated because it was the superstitious day of Friday the 13th; however, in the end we wanted to spend as much time with the new baby as possible.  Plus, my mom was ready.  Into the hospital she went and later that afternoon she had the baby (my mom always had fast deliveries).  She was a beautiful baby with light blond hair and a button nose. Madeline didn’t have the bleach blond Anna had but was definitely fair.  For the next two weeks we helped my mother as much as we could and took care of the baby.  From the beginning Madeline had spunk and curiosity for life.  I thoroughly expect her to do great, dynamic, exciting things- she has the personality for it.  She always has.

Some may find it odd to have a sibling that I have never lived with for more than a week or two.  How can we be close? Well, I have been fortunate enough to always travel home for visits at every major holiday.  My family has also made it a priority to travel to Utah as much as possible.  I have often heard the younger kids grumble about “another visit to Utah…”  What they didn’t realize is these trips were essential to the unity of our family.  As all of my siblings grow, I know I will continue to see our relationships grow and our friendships deepen.  I am a very communicative person and as cute as little kids are I almost enjoy the more talkative pre-teen and teenager ages more.   I look forward to many more birthday’s with Madeline!

Aside from memories of her original birthday, I have also been contemplating the last decade.  10 years.  It has been 10 years since that big day for our family.  What have I done in that 10 years?  I started to list the accomplishments and if I am allowed to say, it’s not to shabby of a list:

Since 1999 I have:

Started and graduated with my bachelor’s degree from BYU in Political Science emphasizing in political philosophy.   In 2001-2002 I was able to be a teaching assistant for Matt Holland and David Bohn- one of the great honors of my life.

Completed an MBA

Had 5 different jobs (that’s just counting what I do now as one job!)

Lived in 14 different apartments.

Had 29 roommates/companions (that is only counting my sister once who I lived with 3 times)

Served a 20 month mission for the LDS (Mormon) church.

Took at least 4 years of voice lessons (8 recitals)

It’s hard to know exactly but I figure I have been to California at least 40 times in 10 years.

Plus, I have been to Japan, Mexico twice (that’s 2 cruises), Hawaii 3 times, New York City 3 times, Indiana once (aside from the mission), Las Vegas 3 times, Disneyland once, Jackson Hole and more.

Two of my siblings have gotten married and I now have 4 nieces and one step-nephew.

I tried to count but I have lived in 15 wards and had 21 callings at church.  Most of my callings have involved activities or enrichment.  I have served as  a teacher once and this was my favorite calling besides my mission.

Assuming we talked for only an hour a week, taking out 2 years for my mission, I figure I have talked to my mom on the phone for over 400 hours.  In fact, it’s probably double that.  I have similar statistics for both Anna and Megan.   I am so grateful for the time they take to make our relationships strong.

There have been some sad, tough times, but  I am proud of the woman I have become.  Some especially hard times were in 2001 when my grandfather and 2 cousins died, 9/11 happened, and other family crisis erupted in one year.  2007 was also a difficult year where I dealt with depression, anxiety and even a panic attack.  My mission also had many struggles accompanying its triumphs.

I have started a blog, gotten on facebook, and watched far too many hours of movies, dvds and cable (reality tv has become a particular addiction)

I now have 20 cookbooks and have sampled hundreds of recipes while throwing tons of parties- some more successful than others.  I like to think I am a pretty great entertainer at this point, and I hope I have made a few people happy through my efforts.  My personal favorite is the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook and the follow up Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten.  Delicious!

I have been in 5 book clubs and read countless books. Some of my favorites are Red China Blues by Jan Wong, Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright, Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters, Harry Potter books, Jane Austen books, Elizabeth Gaskell books etc…

In the last 4 years I have become a lover of audiobooks, podcasts and radio programs including Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life and Radio West.  Little things like reading a great book or listening to an interesting program are what make my life great.

My favorite perks of the last 10 years- high speed wireless internet, my ipod, and my DVR (like TIVO). I am still fantasizing about getting a Kindle someday…

Finally, I have had the best friends a girl could ask for.  Particularly when I think of the friends who have persisted over this decade, I feel so lucky.  There are too many to begin naming them.  Suffice it to say, I have had very few moments where I am lonely for a shoulder to cry on or a companion to share a laugh with.

Life is good, and I have much to be grateful for. I have a great life.

Clearly there are some life goals I have not met including losing a significant amount of weight, having a committed relationship, getting married, having kids (girl named Lili, boy named Christian but who’s planning!), getting a down payment and purchasing a home, going back to Europe,catering at least one wedding, earning a PHD, and writing a book. These are all things I hope to be able to list as accomplishments when I write my post at Madeline’s 20th birthday!  They are somewhat lofty goals but as the poet says “every dream proceeds the goal and the dream lies hidden in your soul”.   We will see how life happens.  I have certainly learned a lot in the last decade and can only hope that the next 10 years are twice as fruitful as the previous.  Thanks in advance for your support and help along the way.  It will be a great adventure!

(I hope this post doesn’t sound like eulogy.  I was simply feeling thoughtful about my life. )


Tonight my mood while writing this post can be summed up in one word- comfort.  Why is that you might ask? Well, there are a number of reasons.  First, I am watching one of my all-time favorite movies, You’ve Got Mail.  My regular readers will not be surprised by this- as it is the one of only two movies I have written entire posts on (See Open to Change).   It’s interesting because I wrote the post in May of last year when my life was going through many changes.  Now my life is once again changing and wouldn’t you know I turn to the same movie to provide escapism and comfort.  I know it is predictable and somewhat obvious, but I don’t care.  It makes me laugh, has lots to say about modern-day work,  captures my love of books and New York City,  and realizes  my fantasy of a romantic pen pal.  Plus, its themes of modernity and change are ones I continue to come back to again and again.  I will not bore you by re-posting my favorite quotes from the movie.  You can look at my original post for that.  Suffice it to say, it is a comfort movie in a time of change.  Do any of you have movies you watch repeatedly?  One of these days I am going to do a posting on my favorite movies.  I have started one several times but it is difficult to pare it down to a manageable list.

The second comforting aspect of tonight is the food I made.  I happened to have the ingredients to make one of my family’s favorite items- German potato salad.  If any of you haven’t enjoyed this dish, it is made with potatoes, bacon, vinegar, sugar, flour, celery seed, salt and onion.  It is one of those dishes that pulls off the delicious sweet/salty combination.  I have been trying to eat healthier in the last few weeks (lost 10 lbs in 5 weeks!) , so perhaps this choice was a bit of an indulgence but as a main course for dinner it wasn’t too bad.  We have a tradition in our family of eating a  German meal on Christmas Eve.  It sounds odd but it is delicious.  The main course is bratwurst sandwiches cooked on the griddle with rye bread, gooey swish cheese and my mom’s special sauerkraut.  Most people turn their noses up at sauerkraut but that is because they  haven’t tried my mom’s.  It is delicious.  She takes the sauerkraut, rinses it, and then boils it in fresh apple cider for hours until it is sweet/salty yummy!  It has won over even the most ardent sauerkraut haters.  As a side for the  meal we also have german potato salad.  I have tried to recreate the other aspects of the Christmas Eve meal but to no avail.  The two times I tried the sauerkraut it  didn’t turn out and the sandwiches are nothing without it.  The german potato salad I have succeeded in making, so I decided to tackle it tonight. It was delicious and comforting.


The third comforting aspect of tonight is the satisfaction of hard work.  Is there anything better or more comforting than relaxing after working really hard? Ever since I got home from Hawaii I have felt a bit like  a chicken with its head cut off- running around frantically, working hard and not knowing what was happening next.  I can now see things coming into place but it’s been a bit overwhelming.  As with any change there is the fear of the unknown, the fear of being unhappy, the fear of picking the wrong path.  It has been hard and I think I’ve done a pretty good job keeping it all together.  Maybe part of it is I’ve been so busy there hasn’t been much time for moping around the house or worrying.  There were about 2 weeks when I allowed myself to stress out about the future, but now I am excited about the opportunities that are coming.  As I mentioned in my last post I have gone from worrying whether I had one job to now having the potential for four- vacation rentals, sales tax, Grabber events, and managing other people’s vacation rentals.  I have had to put the real estate school on the back burner for August but that will start up in September, which I am excited about (my renting 2 of the Suncrest houses as long-term rentals  should be a good sign for my future as a property manager!).  This week in particular I have been working all hours on the vacation rentals, the long-term rentals, getting trained on sales tax, working on Grabber events and more. Yesterday I was up at the houses from the morning until late in the afternoon working and forgot to drink enough water or eat lunch. Eventually I had to lie down because I started feeling faint.  I also had phone calls all day- by 2 pm I had received 25 incoming calls! It was exhausting.  Today I knew I needed to take a break from it all and that is what I have done.  I had my voice lesson this morning, which is always wonderful.  Then I came home worked on my computer for the afternoon, made dinner and am watching the movie.  It feels great to just enjoy my life!

The only thing that would make today more comforting is if I wasn’t alone.  However, maybe wishing for someone to watch You’ve Got Mail and eat german potato salad with is wishing for too much! Even if a man is unrealistic, it would be the icing on the cake to have a girlfriend or two with me.  There are so many who are far away, and I miss greatly- Melissa, Raelene, Emily and Stefanie to name a few.  I can also imagine this night with my sisters- all of us laughing and eating together.  Still, they are all only a phone call away, and they all love me.  As much as I would love their company, the knowledge of their love builds me and provides comfort.   I know whatever career path or life choice I make my friends and family will support and encourage me.  One of my most frequent prayers throughout my life has been one of gratitude to my Heavenly Father for all the love He has given me.

A couple of posts ago I wrote about needing increased faith for the months ahead.  It may have sounded trite or simplistic to some, but I don’t care.  Having faith means believing in something that is not seen.  At that moment I could not see what was in store for me.  I still have many unknowns but already I have seen new opportunities open- chances that will help me be a better, more interesting person.  This is perhaps the most comforting part about tonight- that I know everything will be ok.  My life is watched over.  As long as I work hard, believe in myself and trust in God then everything will turn out for the best.  This is a hard thing to believe when life is in chaos but it’s true.

Thank you for all your support during this crazy time.  Thank you for the comfort.