Month: June 2010

Patriotism: My Sacrament Meeting Talk

Today I gave a talk in church for the first time in 3 years.  I have given a lot of lessons but no talks.  The subject was on patriotism which was challenging but in a way perfect for me because of my political science background.   It has been a busy week so I prepared my talk on Wednesday and have been editing it ever since.  Fortunately I decided to over-prepare and had a long talk  because there were only 2 speakers and the first guy took maybe 3 minutes. This left me with 30 minutes! Quickly I added a few scriptures and the Lord blessed me to be able to  fill up the time!  Those who heard my talk will notice there are a few things missing- those are the items I added last minute or improved to fill time.

Despite the stress over the time I think the talk went very well.  I felt the spirit while writing and delivering it.  Some people are petrified of public speaking but not me.  I’ve been speaking in church since I was a little girl as a youth speaker, so I’m used to it.  The two things that help me the most is I try to make the talk personal or sincere and something I would be interested in hearing.  If you are just reciting a bunch of scriptures and quotes it will go in one ear and out another.  There has to be some passion behind the words!

So here is the talk on patriotism.  I hope you enjoy it and are uplifted by it.  I willl go through later in the week and put in citations for all the quotes as I got them from a number of different sources.  Enjoy!

Patriotism a talk by Rachel Wagner Delivered at the Draper Riverview 7th ward 06/27/10

When I turned 18 one of the first things I did was register to vote.  I’ve always had an interest in politics.   When I was little my sister and I would make newspapers full of movie reviws, comics and the news of the day.  I was reading one the other day and it had an update on the democratic presidential primary of 1992.  What little kid besides me follows the primaries!  My mother and I also have a weird part of our relationship where we love discussing issues and even engaging in debate.

Growing up I also knew that part of my duty as a citizen of the United States of America was to vote.  Since then I have never missed an election- regular or primary. Even on my mission I made sure I was registered for absentee ballots and that I sent them in. When I came home I enrolled in the automatic absentee program where I get ballots sent to me before any elections.  This took me about 3 minutes to register for and ever since then I have spent maybe an couple of hours in 5 years voting for the leaders of my country.

I’d like you to each think about last week.  Last Tuesday we each had the chance to vote in a primary election.  I submitted my ballot and had my voice heard on whom our next senator and county councilmen will be.   How many of you had your voice heard?

Did you know that Utah was one of the first territories to allow women’s suffrage?  The state granted it in 1870 but it was repealed by the Supreme Court.  When Utah became a state in 1895 women’s suffrage was written into the constitution.  Finally in 1920 the nineteenth amendment was passed, which prohibited state and federal agencies from gender-based restrictions on voting.  It makes me emotional to think of the thousands of women who dedicated their entire lives to giving me the right to send in that absentee ballot on Tuesday.

These freedoms were hard fought from the Colonial era onward.  I recently read a great book called Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts.  For years I’ve studied the life and thoughts of the founders and it amazed me how many women sacrificed great things to allow me to be free.

Abigail Adams is one of my heroes.  As the wife of President John Adams she made many sacrifices for her country.  To begin with she was forced to be separated from her husband for over 10 years of their marriage while he performed various tasks to help the country get started. This includes giving birth to 6 children, losing 2 of them and raising the remaining 4, including a future president, practically alone.  She also cared for the family farm, John’s business concerns, managed her household, helped with the war effort and kept up a nearly constant correspondence with her husband, sister, and a ring of male and female friends- some of them prominent figures in our nations founding.  Through this correspondence she had a profound impact on the direction of our country.  In one letter she wrote to her husband:

“I long to hear that you have declared an independency- and by the way, in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.  Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.  Remember all men would be tyrants if they could.  If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies we are determined to forment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation. “

Abigail was not extolling a mere pipe dream but she did whatever was asked of her for the cause of freedom including fighting for the education of girls and slaves:

In 1791 a free black youth came to her house asking to be taught how to write. Subsequently, she placed the boy in a local evening school, though not without objections from a neighbor. Abigail responded that he was “a Freeman as much as any of the young Men and merely because his Face is Black, is he to be denied instruction? How is he to be qualified to procure a livelihood? … I have not thought it any disgrace to myself to take him into my parlor and teach him both to read and write.”

Remember this was over 50 years before the Civil War.  Its such a cliché but Abigail Adams truly was a woman ahead of her times.

Of his family’s sacrifice John Adams said:

“Posterity, you will never know how much it cost the present generation to preserve your freedom. I hope you will make good use of it. If you do not, I shall repent in heaven that ever I took half the pains to preserve it.”

Do we make good use of it?  Has an interest in the future of our country turned into a hobby?  I get so tired of people saying “I’m not interested in politics” in the same way one might say “I’m not interested in basket weaving.”  Are you interested in freedom?

Abraham Lincoln once said:

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

Noah Webster added:

If a republican government fails to secure public prosperity and happiness, it must be because the citizens neglect the divine commands, and elect bad men to make and administer the laws.”

Despite the frequent scandals, I still believe the men and women we have elected are honorable.  I may not agree with them, but I still think they are good people.  However, if we do not participate in our democracy this will not always be the case.

President Lincoln said:

“We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity. We have grown in numbers, wealth, and power, as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.

“It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the Offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.” (“A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America,”

If they had need to do it then, oh how we need it now.  I fear we have become “intoxicated with success” as a nation and just as a drunkard forgets all, we forget our duty to God, country and family.

For example, frequently I will speak with teachers that are frustrated by federal policy such as No Child Left Behind.  When I ask them if they voted in the last several presidential elections they say no.  How do they not see the link between personal responsibility and the policies that affect their very careers?

2 Ne 28:21 gives us a warning against lapsing into laziness:

And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.

So what is the solution?  What can we do to keep us from slipping both as a country and as individuals.  There are many answers but the two that ring the loudest for me are

  1. First, Enhance personal righteousness.  Do all you can to purify your life.  With the world getting more wicked by the day, the time for passive faith and righteousness is over.

If there is something in your life that you could or need to change- do it.  Stop the rationalizing, stop the excuses.  Too often I think we seek to have one foot in zion and one in the world.  While we have to live in both, we cannot successfully have our heart in both.

Remember the Lord said in Revelations:Rev. 3: 16

16 So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.

George Albert Smith said:

“There is a division line well defined that separates the Lord’s territory from Lucifer’s. If we live on the Lord’s side of the line Lucifer cannot come there to influence us, but if we cross the line into his territory we are in his power. By keeping the commandments of the Lord we are safe on His side of the line, but if we disobey His teachings we voluntarily cross into the zone of temptation and invite the destruction that is ever present there. Knowing this, how anxious we should always be to live on the Lord’s side of the line.”

I love President Hinckley’s simple council to a group at BYU:

“I speak to you this morning not only about a little more effort, a little more self-discipline, a little more consecrated effort in the direction of excellence in your studies. I speak of it also in terms of your lives. This is the great day of preparation for each of you. It is the time of beginning for something that will go on for as long as you live. I plead with you: Don’t be a scrub! Rise to the high ground of excellence. You can do it. You may not be a genius. You may be lacking in some skills. But you can do better than you are now doing.”

Find one thing that you can do better and then seek to improve for one day and then another and then a week.  We can all increase our righteous living and if we do so, not just us but our entire country will benefit.

  1. The second way to fight off Satan’s seductive call is to find a way to contribute.

Everyone has something they are meant to do in this life.  It may be as simple as raising a family, working hard and voting but simple can be a grand thing if it is what we are meant to do.

President Joseph F. Smith reminded us that

“to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all man-kind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman.”

In my old job I felt unhappy, unfulfilled and depressed.  This was confusing for me because I was not doing anything bad or unrighteous.  It was a long lesson to learn but eventually I knew that I was not living the life I was meant to live.  For whatever reason, the Lord wanted me to have my current job of running my own business.  I know that with more assurity than anything else in my life.

I KNOW I AM NOW LIVING THE LIFE I WAS MEANT TO LIVE!

As a final example I would like to tell you about another colonial woman who contributed in amazing ways.  Her name is Eliza Pinckney.  When Eliza was 16 her father was called away on state business and she was left to manage the 3 family plantations totaling over 3,000 acres of rice.   Unsatisfied with this enormous contribution she decided that the colony of South Carolina needed to be a leader in agriculture.  After doing several experiments she came up with the idea of cultivating and planting indigo seeds.

After 4 years of trying and many failed attempts Eliza proved that indigo could grow in South Carolina.   She then used her first crop to create seeds for other planters, leading to many others harvesting indigo.  By 1745 (only 5 years after being given the responsibility of the farm) Indigo became second only to rice as “South Carolina’s cash crop and contributed greatly to the wealth of the colony.  Before the Revolutionary War, indigo accounted for more than 1/3 of the value of exports from the colony”.

Eliza went on to marry, raise a family, and remain active in politics throughout her life.  Her son Charles even became a signer of the constitution.  She was so well loved by the nation that George Washington was a pallbearer at her funeral.

Now we are all not going to be able to single-handedly change American exports like Eliza. The point is Eliza found how God wanted her to contribute and so can you.  The Lord wants us to be happy and in my life I have learned that the only way to be happy is to be living a life in-line with God’s will.

Just as He guides this great nation, Our Savior Jesus Christ will guide our lives.  There is a catch- we have to do our part, we have to stand up for our freedom, we have to vote, we have to sacrifice, and we have to live righteously.

I know that as you strive to follow Him he will engulf you in His great love.  He loves this country, He loves all of you and He loves ME.  Turn to him, be happy and live a great life. Close.

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A Stupid Fear

Today I would just like to expose a fear of mine that is kind of involved with my current weight loss program.  My hope is that through expressing myself I will be able to deal with this fear and move on.  So here goes…

Relationships have always been a mystery to me.  Sometimes the whole “love” concept feels a little like Santa Claus- like one day I will wake up and realize romance is a big myth grown ups like to tell.  It’s hard because I have never been in love or anything close to it.  In fact, it is almost impossible for me to imagine anyone being in love with me.  I say that with a very healthy self-confidence.  I know I’m beautiful and accomplished, but I still can’t imagine anyone falling in love with me (Doesn’t everyone have a few things they are insecure about? This is one of mine).  Maybe romance is something you can’t imagine until it happens.

Part of what makes this tough is I am admittedly naive when it comes to men.  Aside from my father and brothers I’ve had limited interaction with men.  My friends have always been girls- even as a child or teenager.  My crushes have also been few and far between.  I’m not sure why but it seems I don’t meet men I’m attracted to very often.  Don’t get the wrong idea- I’m attracted to men but I don’t crush often. Even the Hollywood guys that other girls swoon over I rarely find that good looking.

Anyway, I am happy with my life.  I love being single and independent, but I think everyone would like to fall in love at least once in his or her lifetime.  So, here’s my fear- what if I lose all the weight and then meet someone.  No matter what happens there will always be the potential for me to look the way I am now.  How do I know that the future person will be ok with the current me? Does that make sense?  In some ways I wish I could meet someone right now.  If someone could fall in love with the plus size me it would take a worry away.  If it happens after I lose the weight I will probably  be a little anxious about my looks. What if I have a baby and end up looking just like I look now will that be a problem for the guy?  I know things like that are more important to guys but it could happen.  There will always be the potential for me to be a big girl and he has to be ok with that. Basically my fear is if I lose weight, meet someone and then gain the weight back will he not love me anymore?

It’s not like I can do much about this fear except deal with it.  It certainly is not going to stop me from getting in shape.  Love is not something that can be planned or organized on my timeline.  It is up to God and my mystery man out there.  We will just have to wait and see what happens, and I will have to conquer my anxieties and fears.

Writing Class

One of my chief enjoyments of this blog has been the weekly opportunity it gives me to hone my writing skills.  I still have a long way to go but I’ve seen a lot of improvement over the last two years of blogging (crazy that it has been going on that long!).  Naturally I also worked on my writing during my years of schooling writing papers and other presentations.  As I’ve mentioned previously on this blog, writing and reading have not always been easy for me.  Growing up I was late at both skills and felt behind until college where something clicked inside my brain and writing/reading became a joy.  I have been a journal writer from a young age (which helped prepare me for blogging) and it is amazing to look at the difference between writing at 17 years old and 19.  It feels like 10 years difference not 2.

The one area I have never worked much on is fiction.  I took a poetry class in college but nothing in creative writing or fiction.   This is surprising because I’ve often day-dreamed about writing the next great American novel.  So many of the characters I loved growing up were writers (Joe March, Anne Shirley etc) and it always seemed like something exciting and fulfilling.

As I have also mentioned I am not traveling much this summer- just a reunion and a trip to CA to visit Megan.  I am doing this to save money so if it feels right I can make a down payment on a condo next year.  (I am missing Hawaii so much!  I will definitely go next year.  Maybe even for my 30th birthday- anyone want to come along?  It’s January 23rd).  Anyway, with more time this summer I thought it would be fun to take a creative writing class.  It is through the UVU Continuing Education department and only cost $60 for a 6 week course.  This Tuesday we had week 3 lessons on plot, subplots and more.  Our teacher is named Sharon Jarvis- a local LDS author that has published 8 books.

I’ve learned a lot through the course and am glad I registered; however, the greatest benefit is it has gotten me writing.  Tuesday I read the introduction to my book to the class and got a lot of positive feedback.  Driving up to the reunion I read the first 2 chapters to my mom, Madi and Grandpa and they really liked it too.  This has been encouraging to say the least.  The book I am writing is a chick-lit type book that is loosely based on my experiences quitting my old job.  I have switched things around and added a romance but the core person is basically me.  Right now I’ve even given the character my name.  I just can’ t think of a better name.

I am writing for fun and  am not going to publish my book; Nevertheless,  I am greatly enjoying writing it.  Once I have more completed I will post it and get feedback.

By the way, my sister Megan has already finished a young adult book she is currently editing and a picture book for kids.  I admire her devotion to daily writing despite her busy life with 3 little girls.  You can read about her writing at http://megwrites.typepad.com/blog/.  Check it out.

I always wanted to be a writer like Jo March in Little Women

Cousins

Tomorrow I am going to the Wagner Family Reunion.  We have these reunions every 2 years and I always look forward to seeing my extended family.  We also have reunions with the Richard families that are equally enjoyable.   This year we are going to the Ponderosa  lodge at Zion National Park.  I am very excited to relax by the pool, read lots of books and spend time with  my family.

One of the best things that my parents did while raising us is to make sure we developed relationships with our extended family- cousins, aunts, uncles etc.  This was particularly difficult because my family lived in Maryland while everyone else lived in either California or Utah.  When other families took vacations to beaches and theme parks, my parents focused on trips to California and Utah.  It was important to them that we had a relationship with our grandparents and cousins.

On the Wagner side it was particularly nice because there are 8 of us girls within a 10 year age gap.  Everyone else has gotten married and started families but for a while we were all going through the same experiences together.  It was fun to talk about college, dating and other issues at the family reunions.  My cousin Lisa and I were very close before she passed away.  I was lucky to spend a lot of time with her including a trip to New York with my Grandmother that I will never forget.

After Lisa passed away I ended up rooming with her sister, my cousin Julia.  We ended up living in an apartment with my great friend Emily Alvillar (now Whitman) and my sister Megan.  It was one of the defining moments of my life.  I’ve written about it before but at a time when we were all grieving, finding each other was truly a miracle.  During that time Julia also met and married her husband and that was a fun experience to be a part of.

Since college I have not had the daily contact with my cousins but I still enjoy hearing about their experiences and families.  This makes catching up on all I’ve missed over the last two years one of the best things about the reunion. Plus, I have been craving a day off.  The last month I have been working 60-70 hour work weeks trying to get tenants in the short and long-term houses, keep up with house maintenance and working on Grabber accounting 30 hours a week!  It has been exhausting.  I feel wrung out and tired.  I can’t wait to relax by the pool and soak in some sun!  If there is bad weather I think I will cry.

It will be great seeing my cousins and I am going to work on my photography, so I should have photos to post after the reunion.  In the meantime enjoy your week and weekend!  I will post next week.

Pizza Craving

So yesterday I had an interesting experience.  Ever since I started dieting I have been craving 2 things- steak and pizza.  I’m not even that big of a steak person but its jut sounded so delicious. I think it is the iron and protein that looks so tempting.  One of my favorite things is steak cooked with butter, A1 sauce and blue cheese.  Yum!  It’s funny because my mother can’t cook steak (or other red meat) to save her life but somehow I gained a taste for it on my mission.  I know that steak can be healthy in small doses but I just don’t know if I can control myself.  Plus, it is so expensive.

I’ve always loved pizza- especially New York style in a brick oven.  I love traditional toppings such as ricotta, pepperoni and fresh mozzarella.   I did find a great whole wheat pizza dough recipe but it is pretty labor-intensive.  It isn’t the kind of recipe I can make in an hour or so.  Anyway, I just love pizza. It is the perfect combination of flavors.  Italian is my favorite kind of food and pizza and spaghetti are my favorite items.

After months of craving I gave in yesterday and bought a frozen pizza and ate the whole thing.  (Don’t worry. It wasn’t fast food.  I’m still going strong on that goal!).  This frozen pizza is the one moment of weakness I’ve had since I started at the beginning of March and you know what I learned from the experience.  First of all it wasn’t as good as I remembered it and Second, I had heart burn for like 2 days and felt terrible. I guess my body is really beginning to change and eventually it will crave different things.  I am hopeful that when I try fast food at the end of the summer I will have a similar experience where it won’t taste as good anymore.

As I feel these cravings in the future I will definitely look back on this experience and remember that what sounds good doesn’t always taste good.  Still lost another 2 lbs this week! That’s 25 total!

Love Hate Relationship with Technology

Yesterday I had a few friends over for book club.  As we chatted over Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns the topic of technology was introduced.  In the novel the spirited grandfather named Rucker resists technology coming to his life and the town of Cold Sassy.  He does so because he knows it will change everything (which it in fact does- even changing the name of the town).  He also resists it because it takes away some of his power, prestige and control.  Here’s a man who is wise and weary being trained in technology by his young grandson. Eventually Rucker gives in and embraces technology to impress his new, spirited bride.

Love Technology-

In a certain way I can relate to this dilemma.  There is no doubt my life is better because of technology.  Even just a few years ago I could not have managed both my jobs from my home office like I do today.  I LOVE my job and am so grateful I can- receive calls about the properties at anytime, do team view chats with colleagues, have conference calls over the internet, email documents quickly etc.   The internet also makes it easy to advertise our rental properties.  About 80% of our referrals come from a website called www.vrbo.com– a site which charges only $250 a year for an ad (small potatoes when it comes to advertising budgets!).  I don’t even know how we would get the word out about vacation rentals before the internet.  I guess through the newspaper?

I also completed my education mainly via the internet.   I received my MBA from University of Phoenix using their FlexNet program which is 1/3rd ground, 2/3rd internet.  This convenience allowed me to squeeze my education into any gap of time.  I could turn in papers, or watch lectures at 3am.  I received my degree while working thus eliminating some of the debt incurred using traditional methods of education.  Working while going to school also allowed me to apply the concepts from class in a “real world” setting.  This was often more valuable than anything taught by a professor or included in a textbook.

I love technology because of the ability it gives me to communicate with loved ones at low cost.  My sister is in England and I miss her greatly.  However, thanks to Skype I talk to her through a video-chat for free as long as I want!  This would have been $100’s just a decade ago.  Through blogs and facebook I can also see photos, read updates and keep at least a passing acquaintance with friends that are far away.  In my fantasy everyone would be living close to me, and I could drop in unannounced for visits, chatting merrily together…..But in the meantime I enjoy the little online tidbits I get from gone but not forgotten friends.  With my recent fitness goals I have also used the internet to help keep track of my training, share my journey  and receive support from everyone- even total strangers!

There are so many other ways technology benefits my life.  I could go on about my favorite gadgets (DVR and IPOD being at the top) but I won’t bore you.

Hate Technology-

Despite all these advantages sometimes I hate technology.  I feel like it has made people cold, non-familial and rude.  Gone are the days when you were expected to visit and talk with people you didn’t like.  In previous societies people needed each other more for survival.  One of my favorite things about old books like Jane Austen’s novels is that the characters always had something nice to say.  Even if she hates the woman she is talking  with, the Austen hero would be forced to ask “How is your mother’s health?” or “Is your family well?” etc.  Now even  with people we like, we screen calls, fail to respond to texts, and ignore emails.  I think I would die of shock if someone actually RSVP’d to one of my parties.  Most of the time it is a text a half hour after saying they can’t come- if that. I have friends and colleagues that have become almost impossible to reach over the phone.  It is all texting all the time.  I am sorry but sometimes I actually want to talk to a human being!

Part of the problem is our lives have become more complicated.  I recently got a new computer and have been amazed at the difficult process of installing, loading programs and getting it ready.  My laptop is only 2 years old but it seems archaic compared to the new desktop.  I’m no expert, but I don’t think things changed as quickly in Austen’s time.  Life was simple consisting of work, family, marriage, daily sustenance and socializing.  Technology can feel a like an insatiable appetite ever looking for the next great life-saving meal (or in this case gadget).

I  check my emails many times a day and am constantly updating facebook, twitter, my blog etc.  I am also always working and even though I love my job it can be a bit invasive.  They say that responding to an inquiry within 2 hours gives you an 80% higher chance of booking the reservation.  Knowing this, it makes it hard to turn my phone off or not check my email because I feel guilty about the leads I’m missing.  My greatest blessing of flexible work can at times become a curse.  Sometimes I just turn it all off anyway and enjoy life, but I don’t do it half as much as I should.

I won’t even get started on the woes of dating and technology.  Too many men my age are addicted to World of Warcraft, Everquest, and Command and Conquer.  I have been in conversation with boys (inviting them to a party or something) when they actually will forget I am in the room they are so entrenched with their game.  The real world is staring at them in the face, talking with them, and they would prefer the virtual world.  It makes me crazy!  That’s just one example of technology messing up dating.  It’s too easy to be a hermit, or even just lazy.  People used to feel more of a drive to find the “third place” in their lives- a place where they could interact with the community, make friends and maybe find love.  Now the “third place” is the internet, which is lame if you ask me.

It’s always interesting to see around Christmas time my friends and I usually go on more dates.  This is because many guys are encouraged to bring dates to company parties.  When given a reason they date, but if left to their own devices it  becomes more rare.  In previous generations there were more reasons to date- to find a companion. If only for survival, a spouse was essential.  I don’t know if that makes sense!  Let’s just say it takes a lot to get a guy to ask a girl out now-days.

Anyway, I will continue my love-hate relationship with technology because its not going anywhere!  How do you’all feel about it?

I think this clip expresses my feelings well: