Category: life lessons

Isolation, Family and Spirituality

As we all know the world has been put on lockdown and we are all waiting for COVID19 to take its toll and finish its course across this country (to a reasonable degree at least). Just when I think it couldn’t get any worse it does until I want to hide away in a little ball in my room. In many ways I feel like Elsa in Frozen but without a sister knocking on my door trying to play with me. It’s been such a surreal time!

While this time of quarantine has been very difficult there have been some surprises. First, I have been cooking way more. For a single person I think I was pretty well prepared and have a robust pantry (and fortunately had just gotten my toilet paper order from amazon the week before this all started!). While I have made 2 or 3 trips to the grocery I’ve kept it to a minimum and have rarely left my house. This has left me to cook almost all of my meals. I honestly didn’t realize how much I was eating out, so it has been very rewarding.

Secondly, my family has grown closer from all of this. My family is a combination of people who love each other but are all very different. Everything from our ages, distances apart, to our life choices make it challenging to develop a close bond. However, when all this started someone began an email chain and we’ve kept it up and all updated how we are feeling and dealing with this situation. This may sound like a small thing but it’s been big for me. I feel closer to my family than I have in a long time and for that I am truly grateful.

Finally, this time of isolation has actually proven to be a time of spiritual growth. While I have definitely had my lonely times (thanks for helping me deal facebook friends!), I’ve also had more time with the scriptures and my thoughts with God. In order to help my friends who are without church I started doing a Sunday Devotional series over on my youtube channel where I share a talk on a nondenominational topic and then discuss the subject with a friend of mine (Caroline and twice Chris from Durbania). I’m very proud of the series and even if it doesn’t help others (which I hope it does) I have been very edified by it. It reminds me of my days as a Sunday School teacher, which was a very rewarding time in my life.

So far we have talked about kindness, courage and hope. Next week is on forgiveness. I would love your thoughts on topics or anything else that might help the series. I hope you find it as comforting as it has been for me to prepare.

Fortunately, I tested negative for COVID19 so I feel a calm I had been missing for some time. It has been a tough time but I am so grateful for my job with Kobayashi and everybody involved with both of my podcasts. I am extremely blessed beyond measure. I hope that you have found ways to be edified during this difficult time. Please share your stories and what you have done to survive (maybe even thrive) during this time of isolation. God bless you all

ps. If anyone reading has the ability to support my efforts as a freelancer/podcaster I’d sure be grateful. Every little bit helps https://www.patreon.com/hallmarkies

Memories of My Grandma

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Today I am writing to you from a hotel room in Folsom, California. I am here to bid goodbye to and remember my dear Grandma Judy Wagner. There are few people on this planet that I love more than my Grandma and as one might expect my emotions at the moment are quite tender and overflowing, but I thought I might take a second to explain why I loved her so much.

It’s interesting because we all have those people in our lives who are complicated to love. That are difficult, demanding, frustrating, even cruel but they are a part of our lives so we learn to love them. This was not the case with my Grandma. I can’t remember a time where I didn’t adore her. Sure we had a few mild tiffs but they were always resolved by mealtime and quickly forgotten. She was just so darn lovable.

There are a lot of reasons I loved my Grandma but one of the biggest is that she got a lot of joy out of life and out of introducing her loved ones to what she loved. It’s always been strange to me that she enjoyed morose books like Ethan Frome because whether it was a new place for muffins or a Broadway show her love of what she loved was contagious. When I was 9 or 10 she took me to see Phantom of the Opera in San Francisco, and we both sat mouth agape when the chandelier came crashing towards the audience. It was a magical moment!

When I was 10 I saw Home Alone with her and it is my earliest memory of laughing uproariously at a film. I will always be sad that I never got to go to Hawaii with her because we both shared a love of the ocean and those beautiful islands. I remember many times her coming to visit us in Maryland and since it was the old days when calling long distance was expensive I enjoyed writing her letters for many years as a child.

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My Grandma loved Christmas, Easter, the Rockettes, yummy platters of simple food, theme parties, New York City, Hawaii, tap dancing, Gone with the Wind, cozy detective novels, and getting her hair and nails done each week.

One of the last real conversations I had with her before her heart troubles made communication more challenging I had sent her a cheesy bracelet for Christmas with the saying ‘God couldn’t be everywhere so he gave us Grandmothers’. After she received it she called to thank me, and we chatted for an hour so. We talked about the family, my various activities, and we both said our I love yous. I remember the conversation because I had to step out of a church activity to take her call. Boy am I glad I did! Life is funny like that. It gives you moments of connection that are so easy to miss! I’m going to try and grab them from now on.

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My Grandma loved pomp and ceremony. She loved attending graduations, weddings and celebrating the accomplishments of her family. I am sure more than one of us grandkids have gone through the processional of graduation more because we knew how much Grandma would love it than it was our true desire to so. I think she was just really proud of us and loved being a part of our lives. We loved her right back for it.

When my Grandma first had her heart problems my sister lived nearby. I remember calling her and saying ‘make sure to let me know if I need to fly home because Grandma and I have an extra special bond’ and Megan saying  ‘you’re like the 10th cousin who has called saying that today’ and it was the truth. Everyone felt like they were the most special of all grandkids and the most loved. That’s such a gift. I hope I can love people in that way.

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One of my happiest memories with my Grandma occurred in December 2000. My cousin Lisa and I developed a scheme where we would promise to go to see the Rockettes if my Grandma would go with us to New York. Of course in reality we loved the Rockettes so it was a win-win situation. The 3 of us spent 4 or 5 days in New York City eating pizza, going to shows (Beauty and the Beast, The Music Man and the Rockettes Spectacular) and enjoying Christmas in New York City. Little did we know that Lisa would pass away the next April. Now they are both gone, and I’m so grateful for that sacred time we had together.

Other memories…I remember her calling to cheer me up when I was depressed at work each Wednesday at lunch. I remember swimming at her very unique pool that had a huge shallow end. I remember hearing of her trips and the yummy things they had and looking through her stamp collection (or her collection of Mickeys, Santas, watches etc). I always loved the way her home smelled like a new car and the way you could run through the hallways with glee (to the point once I ran my hand through her stained glass window and had to go to the hospital). I remember going to a family reunion with her brother’s family and how much that meant to her (we had whole lobsters!).

I remember when she was babysitting us, and we brought home a nest of quail a neighbor had ‘given’ us. I remember watching Christmas Vacation and her laughing so hard she could barely breathe when the aunt offers the pledge of allegiance as grace or when the squirrel comes out of the tree. I remember watching Gone with the Wind with her and looking at her beautiful Scarlet O’hara inspired doll collection.

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When I was 8 or 9 she got me my first doll but only did so after I swore I would take care of it. I was a messy kid (and messy adult), and she didn’t believe I was ready for such a special doll. After that, it was most prized, and I’m proud I still have it to this day, box and all! When my little cousin destroyed one of my dolls she had given me I was furious not because of my heirloom but because it was a betrayal of a promise I had made to my Grandma. A betrayal not of my own doing! How dare she!

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be like my Grandma. She was simply the best, and I will miss her dearly. I hope she is enjoying catching up with Lisa up in the Spirit World and that she knows how much I love her.

As for me down here on Earth I will cry a lot today and recommit myself to be more like her. Thanks Grandma for all the memories. I love you!

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!

Today I Bought Dandelion Crayons

Last week if you had asked me what a dandelion crayon was I might have looked at you like you were nuts. Yet today I bought two 24 packs of Crayola crayons for dandelion crayons. Why this sudden attachment? Well, Crayola announced a few days ago they are discontinuing the dandelion crayon. This actually makes a lot of sense for them since they already have yellow, apricot, white and red orange, which would all work for coloring dandelions. I mean how often do you really need a mustard yellow crayon? So, why did this news make me a little sad and send me out to buy crayon boxes? I’m honestly not exactly sure.

I think part of it is a resistance to change. Sometimes it feels like everything is changing all around me. Of course, we have important stuff happening in politics but then stupid stuff like Batman killing in movies and Superman getting murdered. Why does everything have to change? I just saw Beauty and the Beast remade and changed and a million other remakes are coming. Now they are taking away the dandelion crayon.

I suppose there was a side of me that wanted to hold on to something that is still the way it was when I was little. The 24 pack had dandelion crayons when I was drawing as a little girl and now it wouldn’t. When I was 8 or 9 there was a special photograph you could have taken by these big giant crayons. I wanted my picture by them so badly! There I am smiling and happy and what am I next to? Why it’s a dandelion crayon.

In a few weeks that will be gone. I’m getting more towards 40 every day but I suppose sometimes I miss that smiling girl who didn’t have to worry about all these hard things. I just wanted to get my photo taken by a dandelion crayon.

So yes today I bought dandelion crayons and some coloring books. I plan on coloring to my little hearts content and using as much dandelion as I can.

15 Years since BYU

It seems hard for me to believe but the next few weeks marks a milestone in my life. It will be 15 years since I graduated with my bachelors degree from Brigham Young University (BYU)! It really seems impossible that 15 years has come and gone.

One of the things I envy about those who have kids is they have more concrete evidence of their growth as people. This person didn’t exist and now they do. I have no such evidence. In many ways I feel the same as I did back in 2002 getting my degree. For all intensive purposes how different is my life? I work every day, go to church on Sunday and develop my hobbies just like I did back then.

Nevertheless, I will always look back at my time at BYU as the happiest time of my life. It was a time of great growth, soul searching and closeness to God that I will never forget. My mission was also an extreme learning experience but that was more polishing. The real grunt work happened at BYU.

After growing up with little church support it was so important to be surrounded by people with shared values. I remember when we said a prayer before my science class and I started to cry. Where else could you say a prayer before a science class? What a liberating and beautiful thing!

Most people probably have grand ideas of what they want to do coming out of college. Not me. I just wanted to finish and have a great life. I’ve never been much of a dreamer in that way. I remember my friend Raelene had this long list of the house she wanted and the other bucket list things she wanted to do in life. That was never me. I was just thrilled to have achieved my dream of going to BYU. I didn’t need anything more.

Since then I have served a mission and had a number of jobs including working as an accounting clerk for nearly 10 years. Now I work from home in marketing and I think that might surprise my former self as I was a very social person back then. Now that social life is mostly fulfilled by means like twitter and facebook. It’s hard to imagine I once didn’t have those tools and survived quite well. I believe 2002 was the first year I ever got a cell phone if that puts things in perspective.

If I could give my young self advice I’d say to be patient and that being single aint that bad. I’d say quit that horrible job in 2005 instead of hanging on until 2007 and being miserable. Don’t be afraid to take risks and make sure you are making memories instead of gliding through life. And I’d say ‘you just lost Grandpa and yep you still miss him all these years later’.

It’s funny because I really don’t use my degree much aside from basic writing, editing and reading skills. However, I am certainly grateful I had my college experience and can look back with nostalgia at such a happy time in my life. I am grateful for all I learned and the person it helped me to become.

I can’t believe it has been 15 years! How is that possible?

Well, all I have o say is GO COUGARS!!

The Small Yet Big of Modern Life

small yet big lifeBy most reasonable standards I lead a small life.  As Nora Ephron said ‘valuable but small.  And sometimes I wonder do I do it because I like it or because I haven’t been brave?’  That question kind of hangs over me and when I’m feeling up to it I ponder its implications.

How is my life small?  Well, I’m single.  I don’t date a lot or hang out with lots of friends.  I used to but most of that has passed on to infrequent yet prized get-togethers with individuals.  Swim season is a bit different because that tends to be a group activity and I do have book club.  Still, there is something about having a marriage partner and children that stretches a person outside the circle of a single influence.

My life is also small because I have chosen to work from home and I am not currently going to school. I have had people tell me I should get a regular corporate job because I’d have a better chance of meeting someone than in my current situation.  You might as well tell me to sign up for a stint in prison because I could meet someone there.  My happiness is just too valuable to sacrifice for the small chance of widening my circle of friends/dates.

Nowhere do I feel smaller than at church.  I am part of a family-based faith.  People are friendly, even bending over backwards to include us single saints, but the difference is always there.  They are living a huge part of the gospel that I am not.  In that sense, it is a smaller life than they get to lead.

But wait…

If my life is small how come I will post a video in a few minutes and it will get viewed by friends (yes friends) in London, UAE, Germany, Florida, DC, California etc? Same is true with my blog posts.  This very post should have between 150-500 views this week alone.

I’ve been having terrible headaches lately and have received advice from people all over the world.  Isn’t that such a weird thing?

So under a certain lens my life is very big. I’ve gotten to the point on my youtube channel (over 800 subs!)  and movie blog that I post most days.  Not only is it a blast going to the movies (and other reviews) but it satisfies such a creative longing I didn’t even know I had.  Every day I write, film, edit, promote, design material for all of my content (and also for work of course).  The creative energy is really quite remarkable.

Then of course you have all the social media that helps us connect with friends and make new friends.  I am soooo grateful for this service in my life.  I can’t tell you how many days I’ve started tweeting or following a post on facebook and it has brightened my day.  Of course, there are the trolls and rude people but isn’t that the case in any group experience in real life or online?  I think so!

At this point I have been blogging for 8 years (you longtimers- can you believe it?).  I’ve been on facebook for 9. I’ve had times where I wonder- do I have anything left to say?  But then an idea will come and my fingers will fly!

So, my life is very small and big at the same time. Perhaps this is just modern life for everyone?

Do you feel that way about your life at times?  How do you deal with moments of loneliness that we all experience from time to time?

Continuing on with the Nora Ephron quote:

“So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around? I don’t really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void.

So good night, dear void…”

Core Memories

inside out8I just watched Inside Out again tonight.  That’s the first time I’ve seen the same movie twice in one week since Perks of Being a Wallflower in 2012.  That movie I saw 3 times in a week because I kept bringing friends I loved it so much.  In Inside Out there are memories that are a certain color depending on the type of memory it is.  There are thousands of memories but the most important are called core memories.  These key memories are the foundations of the ‘islands of personality’ because each memory started Riley on a path to that personality trait.  It’s seriously so brilliant!

It got me thinking about my own life.  What are my islands of personality?  And also what are my core memories holding up those islands?  You guys have been reading this blog for a while what would you say?  I would be genuinely curious to hear what those are in your mind.

It’s easier to think of eras of my life vs one single memory that changed everything but I am sure those moments exist….Hmm.  You know I was just thinking and in some ways Inside Out is the opposite of Up.  Up is about a man coming to grip with his memories and moving in some way with his life.  Inside Out is about creating those memories and what makes Riley into a full person ready for adventures.

I guess some of my core memories would be getting bullied at school, moving to Maryland, getting accepted into BYU, meeting my friend Emily, the death of my Grandpa and Lisa, my conversion experience when I was 14, my last day on my mission, quitting my job, my first open water race in 2011, last day of my first trip to Hawaii, my first panic attack, and another very tough moment I can’t really talk about. Those are the big ones.

As for my islands of personality, those have definitely changed over the years.  There was a time when friendship would have been the most important and now it is less so simply because I have so few that are nearby and able to see regularly 😦   There has also been times when music was a bigger part of my life than it currently is.  So at this point my islands of personality would be swimming, Mormon faith, youtube/blogging, family, loyalty.   All of that is vitally important to who I am.  I’d have more but there are only 5 in the movie so we’ll leave it at that.

What about you?  What would your core memories be?  What would your islands of personality be? Please share and go see Inside Out!

My Favorite Post

This my friends is post 999 of this blog, which obviously means my next post will be my 1000th silly thought to all of you.  That’s 7 years of writing my life.  1000 posts! Can you believe it?

I thought long and hard on what to do to commemorate such an achievement and here’s what I’ve decided  This post I am going to share with you my favorite post.  Then for the 1000th I am going to revisit the very first post I ever did called The Freedom of Joblessness.

So out of 1000 posts which one is my favorite? It’s tough.  They are all kind of my babies and I worked very hard on them. But there is one post that was very difficult for me to write.  A post where I took a real risk and probably opened myself up more than any other post (which is saying a lot!).

I didn’t know how people would respond but was overwhelmed by people who told me, mostly privately, that my story was also theirs.

It was a post called Never Fall in Love

In the post I admitted to the world that I have never fallen in love like it is some kind of disease or confession:

“I’m 33 years old. I’ve never been in love.  I’ve never been kissed.  I’ve never had a break up or a heartache.  I’ve never had anything more than a crush from time to time and I honestly do not know why.  I really don’t.”

And there it was out there for the world to see.  For a while I felt a little embarrassed but why? It’s not like I had done something foolish or wrong.  I just hadn’t fallen in love yet.

Worried I would get people trying to make me feel better I implored them to let me work this problem out to its completion.

“Now before I start this line of thought- please, don’t placate me with assurances of my finding the right person and promises in heaven and not loosing hope.  I know such things and I agree but just for a second I want to put a question I’ve asked myself many times out there for all of you-

What if a human being never falls in love?  Can you live a full life and never fall in love?”

That last question is one I am still pondering. We after all believe in eternal families as fundamental to Heavenly Father’s plan. So I don’t know if it is possible to live a full life and never fall in love.  I really don’t.

So what do you do?

“Nothing.  As far as I have been able to figure out you just wait. Yes, you can workout and go to activities, date whenever you can, but none of that is any guarantee of falling in love.  Believe me I know.

You certainly can and must always be hopeful and happy with what you can control but it will probably always be this big part of being human that you don’t completely understand”

But here’s the key that I learned from writing the post.

“I guess the only thing I can say to my fellow love-lorn is that everyone has an ache of some kind…Everyone has regrets and wishes for something they never quite experienced and never enjoyed.  That’s what the atonement is for.

After all, as far as we know, Jesus never fell in love either, so we are in pretty good company”

And then I shared a talk from Dennis E Simmons where he talks about faith and the ‘but if not’ moments of life.  Having hope yet not finding love surely qualifies as such a moment.

At the end of the post I spoke out to those who are struggling and I think it encapsulates well why this blog is powerful at least to me.

“Hang in there! I know I’m not the only person out there who has wondered about this.  Please share your stories”

Through this blog I have been able to see I am not the only person out there.  Whether it is something silly as finding another soul who loves You’ve Got Mail or The Book Thief as much as I do or someone with a history of bullying or someone who loves to swim like I do, it is all so valuable to me.

It makes me feel like my life actually matters to someone and no post shows that more than Never Fall in Love.

What is your favorite post? Have any impacted you or your life?