Category: events

Thoughts on Earthquakes and Mission Phone Call Changes

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So I had a crazy experience this morning! I was working on various projects because I can’t sleep well these days and all of the sudden my bed was moving back and forth like it was on a vibrator setting. I thought perhaps on the slats had fallen out and needed to be replaced or something like that. I then looked around and realized it was an earthquake!!! The first was 3.2 and the second 3.8, which might not sound like much to you earthquake pros but it certainly jolted me out of bed!

I have never experienced anything like that before. It was so surreal and strange to feel my house rumbling around. It certainly hurt any chances I had at a normal nice evening of sleep because I got so excited by it. Evidently the epicenter was in Bluffdale, which is just a few minutes from where I live in Draper. Fortunately it was a small earthquake and no damage was reported but it sure got my attention.

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In other totally random news my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, announced a change in mission rules which will allow missionaries to call, text their families on a weekly basis. This may seem like a small thing for non-members of the church but for those of us who served a mission it is huge!

Previous to today missionaries were allowed 2 phone calls a year- one on Christmas and one on Mothers Day.  As an obedient missionary I used to dread the calls because it was a lot of pressure to talk to everyone and keep the phone call to an approved amount of time. One Christmas my companion Sister Hathaway didn’t even make her call it was so stressful.

That said, I think weekly contact with my family, particularly my parents, would have done me a world of good. One of the hardest parts of serving my mission was how lonely I constantly felt. This may seem crazy given I was constantly with my companions 24/7 but sometimes it’s tough to communicate with a companion and they struggled to understand my point of view. The only place I had to vent to was in my journals and monthly letters to my mission president. (You can’t talk to the members about your struggles because you are there to support them not the other way around).

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Being lonely also exacerbated any issues I had with my companion and just made the whole situation more difficult. Plus, I was always exhausted all the time (not an exaggeration). If I could have had a moment to talk to my Mom and Dad to get some encouragement it would have helped me a lot.

I can’t help but wonder what my mission presidents are thinking about this. Particularly my first mission president hated the bi-annual phone calls as he felt they were very distracting for the young men who often got to talk to their girlfriends they left behind. I remember he had the elders call the next day to check and see if we had stayed within our allotted time for calls and gave a firm talking to us if we were over. It was pretty intense!

The change makes a lot of sense when you consider most elders are now 18 years old. Dropping all contact with family is quite the ask at that age, and I’m thrilled they are changing this rule. I think for most missionaries it will be a net positive for their mental health, happiness and ability to serve.

What do you guys think about either of these topics? Have you been in an earthquake, even a small earthquake? What do you think of these missionary changes? Let me know in the comments section Thanks!

Almost 40…

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So this week I turned 38. That means I’m almost 40. Wow! At least I’m not actually 40 but it’s coming! I can feel it!

I am not one to moan and groan about my age but it does kind of shock me that almost 40 has come so fast. Where did the time go? 2018 marked 20 years since I finished high school. That makes sense because that feels like another millennia ago. But other stuff like the end of my mission in 2005 seems like it just happened. Even something like moving into my home has somehow ballooned into 6 years! Mind blown.

Luckily I can’t feel to badly about turning 38 because I’ve had such an amazing year. Currently I am busy covering the Sundance Film Festival and you can find my reviews on rottentomatoes.com! My podcasts/channels are both doing well and I’m super proud of them and things are going well with my job. So life is great. I am very blessed.

So I’m not really sad about turning almost 40 but it is a little sobering. I certainly thought I would be married and have a family at this point but it just hasn’t been in the cards for me. (If you know anyone who might be interested please let me know 😉 ). It makes me a little sad to think about that but there’s nothing I can do about it so oh well.

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The other day I was thinking about the people in my life who didn’t get to be almost 40 (my cousins Lisa, Riley, Raquel RIP). A family and spouse may not happen (I’m aware it could happen but it might not) but think about the many experiences I do get to have which they did not? It reminds me to be grateful for the gift of life and another year on this planet. Even in the bad times I am growing and changing into the person God wants me to be. He is behind all the lessons of my life, and I’m confident He has something special in store for the almost 40 version of me.

If January is any test 2019 is shaping up to be a very memorable year and I’m ready for it! I’m a little overwhelmed and wish I had more time but I’m as ready as I can be. Fortunately, I have tons of support both in real life and online for which I am truly grateful.

So to almost 40: Bring it on!

Highs and Lows of Christmas Movies 2018

The new year is here and I am taking down my Christmas décor. It has been quite the season with me covering every new Christmas movie in 2018 whether on television or feature film. All together I watched 85 new films over Christmas:

Here are some of my takeaways from the season:

Highs-

    1. Whimsy for the Win- whether on Hallmark, Lifetime or Netflix, movies with a little bit of magic and whimsy won me over. I really enjoyed Shoe Addict’s Christmas where Candace Cameron Bure learns the risks she could have taken in her life from the amazing Jean Smart and how she should take more leaps of faith in the future.
      Christmas Perfection on Lifetime was in deed perfection with its story of a girl who gets to live her perfect Irish Christmas over and over again including having her friends and family act just the way she wishes they would. Naturally, it isn’t too long before she realizes the perfect Christmas isn’t so perfect after all. It was funny, sweet and had something to say. Other whimsy that worked for me A Very Nutty Christmas, Christmas Chronicles, A Christmas Switch, The Truth About Christmas and believe it or not Santa Jaws.
    2. Ensembles are the Best- most of my favorite movies of 2018 Christmas were less 2 people romances and more ensemble pieces about an entire town or family celebrating Christmas. I loved Road to Christmas with its funny script and likable performances, Christmas Pen Pals was amazing telling multiple love stories all through the medium of writing love letters, Last Vermont Christmas told the story of a family and I related to it strongly (they even have a cooking competition which my siblings did and the 3 sisters could have been me and my sisters).
      Christmas on Holly Lane was a bit more grim and realistic but its strong cast and multiple storylines made me wish it was a pilot to a series not just a movie. The When Calls the Heart: The Greatest Christmas Blessing was a return to form after a rough season 5 and one of the best episodes the series has done.
      Hometown Holiday did a good job telling multiple love stories, had a snow room and a really well executed near kiss (no more O Holy Night in these movies! It’s a really hard song!). I also loved Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa which told multiple stories of a town. Some were silly fun and a few like the lead and his rocky relationship with his Dad were surprisingly touching. Finally, Anna and the Apocalypse combined zombies, musicals and Christmas with a strong ensemble to create a delightful feature film.
    3. Hit the Formula Well- some movies this season worked for me almost in spite of themselves. The charismatic actors and bubbly touches won me over to admittedly tired premises. The Christmas Contract had a fresh non-Winter setting and 2 leads bubbling with chemistry in the fake fiancé Christmas trope. A Majestic Christmas didn’t villainize either character for working hard, had great chemistry and a dancing scene that I loved. Christmas Bells are Ringing made me actually like a Hallmark wedding and Christmas Joy was just bonkers enough to be fun.
      A Godwink Christmas and Once Upon a Christmas Miracle were both based on true stories and were very sweet with excellent casts. It’s Christmas Eve actually went a little meta with the script commenting on romcom clichés and it worked for me. I also enjoyed Every Day is Christmas‘s take on A Christmas Carol with the focus being on the Scrooge character not being obsessed with money, but failing to overcome her grief at the loss of her parents being a clever take.
      No Sleep Til Christmas took a wacky concept of insomniacs ‘sleeping’ together and worked it into a classic romcom mold and it was charming. Mr 365 is a fun one if you like something a little bit steamier and Country Christmas Album did the fading singers making an album together story well. I also liked Christmas at Grand Valley, Mingle All the Way, The Princess Switch, Christmas Lost and Found and Small Town Christmas mostly because of the cast and some swoonworthy moments (I loved the date in Grand Valley!).

LOWS

There were definitely some lows in the season so let’s talk about those

    1. Grown-up in the Wrong Ways- Some of the worst of the season were films that in trying to be edgy missed the mark. The biggest offender was Life Size 2 which solution to making the original Disney Channel property grown up was talk about sex a lot. I also hated Christmas Manger who seemed to believe a faith-based message means a lot of anger, abuse and misery (watch Angela’s Christmas instead for a good faith-based film).
      A lot of people loved Every Other Holiday but I’m not one of them. I thought all of the characters were extremely selfish, and I had zero faith the renewed relationship would be a happy one at the end. Shoelaces for Christmas was tough to get through with one of the most selfish, obnoxious teenage protagonists I’ve seen in a while. I also did not like Homegrown Christmas with Lori Loughlin’s sister acting like a jerk and Victor Webster’s leading man having a grudge that was unreasonable. A Wedding for Christmas had my least favorite TV movie trope- the mean-spirited wedding planner/bridezilla, and big surprise- I did not like it!Finally Christmas Everlasting had so much good but was hurt by a quilting guild of women that had a token black friend and when she dies they replace her with her sister immediately! They were the worst!
    2. Yawn, Did I Just Watch a Movie- I mentioned movies where the formula was executed well. Sadly there were a bunch where it did not work for me. My least favorite from Hallmark was Return to Christmas Creek where the family drama was contrived and grating (as was the reconciliation) and the movie judged a perfectly reasonable Christmas as being not good enough. Let people celebrate however they want!I also thought Poinsettias for Christmas, Santa’s Boots, Christmas at the Palace, Entertaining Christmas, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding, Memories of Christmas, Christmas Around the Corner, Christmas Wonderland, Christmas with a Prince, Christmas at Honeysuckle Lane, Jingle Belle, Hope at Christmas, A Christmas in Royal Fashion, Welcome to Christmas, Christmas in Tennessee all failed to make any kind of impact on me. Either chemistry wasn’t there or the script didn’t work, and I will quickly forget they even existed.
    3. Jane Austen Failure- both of the attempts to brand films with Pride and Prejudice failed on Hallmark channel. Christmas at Pemberley Manor was the better of the two but it had almost nothing to do with Pride and Prejudice except for having the same character names. Pride Prejudice and Mistletoe was based on a separate novel, which I did not like, and the script was about 2 people planning a party, which I do not recall being an element of Pride and Prejudice LOL. Neither of these movies had anything to do with Pride and Prejudice so it was distracting to be constantly looking for those elements.
    4. Medium Movies- there were also a bunch of movies that were passable entertainment (better than the yawns) but nothing to write home about. Those include The Grinch, Holiday Calendar, My Christmas Inn, A Veteran’s Christmas (too cheesy for me but nice elements), Christmas at Graceland, Time for me to Come home for Christmas, Northern Lights of Christmas, Jingle Around the Clock (they tried so hard on this one but too much boardroom talk), Christmas on the Coast, Christmas in Love, A Gingerbread Romance, Hometown Christmas, A Twist of Christmas, A Midnight Kiss and The Christmas Pact. All of these got around 3/5 from me.

If I was going to give advice to Hallmark I’d say maybe not every movie has to be a person coming to the country and realizing her city life is awful? How about taking some risks like with Reunited at Christmas which was flawed but about a woman scared of marriage and wanting to live together with her boyfriend indefinitely. That’s a new topic for Hallmark!

I would also encourage all the studios to keep working on diversity. I appreciated Hallmark having POC leads for the first time. It perhaps wasn’t perfectly executed but it was a step in the right direction. Also I liked TVOne’s offerings especially Coins for Christmas with the delightful Essence Atkins.

Finally, there were some misses that were ambitious misses. In particular Nutcracker and the 4 Realms and A Snow White Christmas. Keep trying to think outside the box!

So there you have it. My report card of Christmas movies 2018. What were some of your favorites of this year at Christmas? I’d say it was a mixed year. A lot I enjoyed. A lot of meh but almost nothing that I absolutely hated like Engaging Father Christmas and The Perfect Christmas Present last year. Even Return to Christmas Creek was watchable. It was just its judgy tone that irritated me but it had cute moments.

From here we go on to Winterfest!

Rachel’s Holiday Update 1

 

It’s 3:20am and I should be sleeping but alas I am just not tired so I figured I might as well update my blog. I should have updated it sooner but I have been in over my head with podcasting. Today I literally watched my 50th Christmas movie, both Hallmark and other networks and amazingly enough I am still on board for more holiday films! The Hallmarkies Podcast has been doing great this year with us making the top 120 TV and Film Podcasts on Itunes and getting over 16k listens in the month of November! Wow! I am still blown away by all of that. It has been an insane amount of work but I am so proud of what we have built.

We have a new merch store for the first time which is so much fun! You can get all kinds of holiday and Hallmark inspired gear:

https://www.teepublic.com/user/hallmarkies

I’ve managed to have a little bit of fun doing other things for the holidays including setting up my traditional holiday decor. Each year I have a memory tree that is full of ornaments that symbolize different parts of my life:

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My memory ornament to symbolize this year is all about podcasting and I found this adorable headphones ornament! I was so excited!

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I also fulfilled my dream of getting a white tree (4 ft) for my office. I love it!

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I also have already kind of celebrated Christmas. My brother and 2 nieces came into town for a weekend and so they came to my house and we had a baked potato bar, exchanged gifts and had a great time!

It was a really great time to be together and celebrate Christmas. My parents are going to be gone for most of this month so I’m planning on just working on my podcasts as much as I can and do a few fun things (Thursday I am going to see Christmas Carol at Hale Theater).

The one crazy thing about the podcast is there is always more work to do. There are people to contact for interviews, movies to watch, notes to prepare, the list goes on and on. Never a dull moment! I want to be ready to reach out to sponsorships in the new year and maybe develop a patreon account but I want it to be done right and not just thrown together. I’m very excited to see what the New Year has in store for our podcast and to have survived Countdown to Christmas 2018.

Also we have 2 hour church coming in January which I am over the moon excited about! Yay!

How have you guys been? I hope the beginning of your holiday season has been going great!