Vegas and Exhaustion

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

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

Here are some pictures from my trip:

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

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

Lilies, Roses and Friends for Christmas

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

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

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

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

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

Quick Quote- and Still Sick

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

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

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

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

Qualities of a True Friend

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

Quote 1- Unselfishness and Devotion

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

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

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

Quote 2- Loyalty

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

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

Quote 3- Good Humor and Inspiration.

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you all have a wonderful thanksgiving with family and friends.  To celebrate the day here are some things I am thankful for:

1. My family- every last one of them.

2. My sisters- I know they are my family but I don’t know what I would do without my sisters.

3. My adorable nieces

4. A job I actually enjoy- the Lord has been very good to me in that regard this year.

5. My apartment- I love it!

6. My testimony of Jesus Christ and the LDS church

7. Hawaii- I’m going back next summer- wahoo!

8. Amazing friends- my friends helped me through a hard year in 2007 and have helped me regroup in 2008.  I am grateful for their love, support and patience.  I couldn’t have made it alone.

9. Books- my escape.  I love book clubs too!

10.  Travel-including the travel I am doing next month 2008 has been a good year for travel with 4 trips to Cali, Easter in Colorado, 1 Vegas trip next month, an Indiana trip, and of course Hawaii!

11.  Live theater and concerts- this year I saw Jack Johnson and tons of live theater.  Some highlights were Annie Get Your Gun at Hale West Valley and Aidia at Hale Orem.

12. Television- Yes I know I am evil.  I like TV especially How I Met Your Mother, Dancing with the Stars, the Simpsons, Amazing Race, American Idol, the Office, Project Runway, the Big Bang Theory,  and more…

13. Good movies- the best that I saw this year were probably Walle and Mamma Mia (still haven’t seen the Dark Knight!).

14. Creative classes- I have thoroughly enjoyed my cake decorating and cooking classes.  Some day I would like to add some art classes to the mix.

15. Graduation- I loved going to school, but I am also grateful to have finished my MBA this year.

16. Telephones- I am particularly grateful to my mother and sister who I talk to most days. They have cheered up many a lonely evening.

17. Yummy meals that just hit the spot!

18. Lunches with friends.

19. NPR- it keeps me company most of the day.

20. Music- I can’t imagine heaven without music.  I LOVE my Ipod.  It is never far from me. Some new artists I discovered this year are Priscilla Ahn, a Fine Frenzy (thank you Anna), Susan Cagle, Brandi Carlile, Ingrid Michaelson, Sara Bareilles, Colbie Calliet, Madeline Peyroux, Amy Obenski, Missy Higgins and of course David Archuleta!

21. Facebook- I have reconnected with a lot of friends this year through facebook.  I am actually quite grateful for it.

22. My voice lessons. I would give up a meal a day before I’d give up my lessons.  Thank you to my patient and wonderful teacher Amanda.  She’s the best. I am working right now for a recital on Dec 19th!

23. My mission- it still inspires me each day to do and be better- not because of me but because of the way the Lord used me.  He did it once, He can do it again.

24. Health- I have been nursing a cold for a week now and am so grateful for good health when I have it.

25. Finally, I am grateful for my blog and the outlet it gives me.  Thanks to all of you who read my ramblings and give me positive feedback!

So, that’s my list.  I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving.  Thank you for all you do for me.  God bless you.

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Cakes and Christmas Trees

This is mainly a quick picture post.  I wanted to share with all of you my Christmas tree that I just finished decorating and my first 2 cakes that I decorated in my cake decorating class.  I am greatly proud of both.

The Tree

The tree is what I call “a memory tree”.  Most of the ornaments symbolize moments in my life including gradutations, states I’ve lived in, vacations I have taken, BYU and my mission.  I also have photos of my family in black and white with silver frames- fitting with the silver and blue theme to the tree ( I had pops of other colors).  I wanted it to look professional yet personal at the same time.  I love it!!! I set it up early this year because my sister Megan is coming into town next week and I wanted her to enjoy it.  Plus, I am going to be gone for a lot of December including for Christmas.  This way I at least get to appreciate it for a while.

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The Cakes

The cake decorating class has been going well.  I have one week left after Thanksgiving and then will be on to class II.  Unfortunately I don’t think I will be able to take the 2nd class until February.  I am going to be gone too much in December and January. I will have to keep practicing over the holidays. (The funny thing is that I am not that much of a cake eater.)

The first cake says just that Rachel’s First Cake.  It uses star borders and my first rose.  Not too shabby. The second one is a cupcake clown I made with a large star tip creating a figurine.  Pretty cute hah!

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A crazy week and comments on literature

This last week has been nuts!  I am still tired and sore from the effects.  To start with, we had a bunch of crazies at the houses.  Up until this point we have had great experiences at the houses.  With 50 groups I suppose it was a given that it couldn’t last forever.  This was a group of art salesman that go from city to city putting on art sales.  They had stayed in our homes in July without any problems, but not this time. They were nuts, getting drunk, partying and more.  They even set fireworks off and the police came.  Two of the idiots tried to climb a neighbors fence when they were all drunk.  I told them it was a good thing they didn’t get shot at.  I said “This is republican country.  People have guns.  You can’t go jumping fences!”.  I felt like telling them “This is not the real world house. You can’t do whatever you want at any time.”.  Instead, I just told them that “this is not spring break Miami.  This is small town Utah.”.  What a nightmare.  It took me almost 2 days to fully clean up after this group.  Plus, we had to go door-to-door to all the neighbors apologizing for the bad behavior of the group. Needless to say we are going to be changing our policiies to prevent such problems again. I certainly don’t want to go through such an experience again.

You would think after such a week I would get a break during the weekend but no. For starters on Saturday I worked at the Fat Flake Festival in Salt Lake.  We have a warm team booth where we give away free warmers.  It was a very successful festival where we gave away thousands of warmers.  Plus, we got to hear some interesting bands and meet interesting people (never in my life have I seen so many granola types.  It was like 5,000 versions of my brother and sister in-law walking around!).  It was a fun evening but very exhausting.  Just being on my feet all evening in the cold takes energy away.  I don’t want to sound complaining because I am certainly thankful for the work but working on Saturday is difficult.  There is something about Saturday that refreshes the spirit and gets me ready for worship on Sunday.  Whenever I have to work on Saturday sitting through church is somewhat brutal.

Then Sunday ended up being nuts because I had my grandpa Wagner and grandma Richards over to my house for dinner.  It’s kind of a long story but my grandma got lost getting here and my grandpa got sick and had to leave early.  Thank goodness for my Uncle Jim for helping me take my grandpa home and guide my grandma over to my apartment.  Eventually we were able to have a nice dinner.  I tell you it is the last time I have 2 old people over to dinner!

Needless to say, I left the week exhausted and rested most of yesterday but am still tired today.  What’s hard is I am determined to exercise today even if I am tired.  It’s just hard to be motivated when I am so tired.  Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, to help me relax I have been catching up on my reading. I am almost finished with the Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  It is a good book- perhaps a great book.  I don’t know if any of you have read it but it has entirely surprised me.  It is one of the only books I have read where I literally have no idea what the plot will do, where it will go.  Even now I don’t know how it will end.  I hope to finish it by the end of today. Then I need to get reading several other books for my book clubs.  Next Tuesday I have book club for Rebecca and I have to start it today or tomorrow to get it done!

Back to the Book Thief- it is a great book for plot, characters and descriptive language; However, I have one major reservation.  It is being marketed as a young adult book and I feel this is totally inappropriate for teenagers or children.  It has a lot of swearing in it- some in German, some in English.  I am actually kind of disturbed that it is being marketed to children.  In addition to the language the tone of the book is very dark (after all, it is narrated by Death and set in Nazi Germany) and there are a lot of vivid descriptions of death, war and evil.  I know there are limits to how much we can shelter children, but I don’t feel that a child needs to deal with these things in a book.  At the very least, I do not see any benefit to the story that is gained by the swearing.  Maybe some of you that are parents feel differently but don’t you think we can shelter our children from such things for a little while? Is that wrong? How do you know what will teach and inform children and what will scar them? After all, you don’t want your children to be naive and overly-simple. Still, a book like this I would not read to my children or teenagers.  It is an adults book. The thing that is most annoying is that I don’t think I would have any problems with the book if I didn’t have it in my head that it is advertised for young adults and children.  It just bothers me.

I will let you know if I like the ending…

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