AHHH a vacation

So my many friends I am vacationing in good old California. The story is a great one. On Tuesday I was feeling a little depressed because I wanted to see my new niece. I just wanted to be there. I was telling this to my dad and he surprised me by saying- “Well, why don’t you drive home with me and the boy scouts?.” The reason I was surprised by this suggestion was he had been opposed to such a plan weeks before because it meant my being absent from the vacation rentals for over a week. In the end I was able to turn the properties over to my uncle Jim (thank you Jim!) and after a long drive I am now in Palo Alto visiting with my niece. She’s so cute! All 3 of these girls are so adorable- each with their own distinctive and charming personalities. Isabel is in the era where she wants to hear stories over and over again. Yesterday I read her 3 stories from Brambley Hedge and I did all of the voices for the little mice and we enjoyed our time together.

Lucy is charming and has the funniest voice. It’s gravely and low in a way I have never heard in a little girl. She has a great smile, which combined with the voice can’t help but make you smile. Than there is the new little one Nelle that is sweetness personified. I read the other day that they studied the effects of babies on young mothers and that the endorphins released from holding a newborn are some of the same that come from exercising or other happy activities. (of course, they might also come from all of the work that goes into them but still- who could be uncheered by a newborn!). Here is the article if anyone wants to read it: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nation/5874711.html.

Tonight I am going back to spend the weekend with my younger siblings (Wagner generation 2 as I like to call them). It should be fun and I am particularly looking forward to lots of swimming- ahhh! Then tomorrow we might go and see Mamma Mia (which by the way I say poo poo to the bad reviews. I am seeing it anyway. One of the reviews said if you like chick flicks and show tunes you will like it- boy that doesn’t sound like me does it!). I am very excited about it. There are like 400 movies I want to see right now but Mamma Mia is the one I am most eagerly anticipating. I will let you know what I think.

Next week we are going on a Wagner family cruise to Catalina Island and Ensnada. I have never been there before and I am looking forward to 3 days of swimming, laying out in the sun, reading and spending time with family. (I know my life sounds so hard right now hah!). After the cruise I am spending one day in Disneyland with the fam and then am meeting up with my favorite college chum Raelene for a day at the beach (where I will finally get to see her baby! Yeah!).

So, in conclusion life is good. Life is great on vacation….

Happy 4th

Happy 4th to all of my friends! I love you all and I love the freedoms I have in this country. Today I am trying to remember the words of Dr. Martin Luther King- let us move on in these powerful days and make America what it ought to be!

“Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation.”

Music Galore

As I plugged in my IPOD today and put it on shuffle I thought about the variety of music that I like and how each type had touched my life. My mom and dad used to sit in bafflement over the power music had over me. I would spend way too much time figuring out the perfect song/CD to do silly things such as clean my room. They also didn’t understand why I felt so offended at the idea of anyone (particularly them) not liking my music. Neither of them understood how much of my heart went into the selection of my music. I have always felt that music had a special power to connect me to moments- to express my inside when my words failed miserably. As I’ve grown up I have learned to accept that music is an organic experience and can not be transferred to another person no matter how we might wish it could be. My parents will never understand my music and nothing can make them. It’s just doesn’t move them the way it does me- and that’s the way it is. In this spirit it may seem futile for me to share with you my favorite bands/musicians. I am well aware that each of these groups may not suit your tastes; however, perhaps in my sharing them you will understand a little more of my heart- what moves me, makes me laugh, and motivates me to keep going.

You will notice that many of these are groups from the 90’s. Sorry I can’t help it. That’s when I experienced my most formative musical period. These are in no particular order.

1. REM- Their Automatic for the People album is still one of my favorites. It is one of those great CDs that I can play start to finish. It was actually the first tape (yes cassette tape) that I remember purchasing on my own. I love Everybody Hurts, Man on the Moon, Sidewinder Sleeps, Try Not to Breath, and more. Other albums feature It’s the End of the World As We Know It, What’s the Frequency Kenneth, Losing my Religion, Stand, the Great Beyond and At My Most Beautiful. They are wonderful songs I could listen to again and again.

2. The Cranberries- 2 albums are essentials in my music collection No Need to Argue and Everybody Else is Doing it so Why Can’t We? Songs like Dreams, 21, No Need to Argue, Zombie, Pretty, Dreaming My Dreams and Linger are hauntingly beautiful and bold. Dolores O’Riordan is the only woman who could make yodeling cool.

3. Jewel- I know that she has a cheesy side, but I can’t deny the effect her albums have had on me. Pieces of You came out when I was a freshman in high school and while my friends were all into Oasis I couldn’t get enough of Jewel. Foolish Games, Who will Save Your Soul, You Were Meant for Me are amazing. I also listened her album Spirit over and over again and it is still one of my favorites with songs like Hands, Little Bird, Down So Long and Life Uncommon. It is no small chance that one of the first songs I learned while taking voice lessons was Foolish Games. It’s perfect.

4. Kenny Chesney- I am not going to try and argue that Kenny is an original performer; nevertheless he was my introduction to country music and his songs make me smile every time. He hasn’t put out a bad album yet. He is also important because Anna and I went to one of his outdoor concerts in 2005 and the memory is one of my favorites of the last few years. I love You Save Me, There Goes my Life, Don’t Blink, No Shoes No Shirt No Problems, Summertime, Big Star, Live Those Songs, You Had Me at Hello, Tin Man, and Good Stuff. He’s also the cutest man in a cowboy hat for my money.

5. Fleetwood Mac- Can you top Stevie Nicks? Not for me. Silver Springs, Landslide, Rhianon, Everywhere, Dreams and Go Your Own Way are all great songs. Her voice is raspy but deep and the lyrics are beautiful and fun. I have liked Fleetwood Mac since I was in Middle School. I bought their Greatest Hits right when I purchased the REM tape, so it was one my firsts. I still like it at 27 and that says something!

6. Jack Johnson- Can we all be grateful that Jack took a break from surfing to take a crack at music. What a talent! He just keeps putting out one great album after another. Even his soundtrack for Curious George had great songs. Perhaps it is my love of Hawaii that enhances my appreciation for Jack Johnson, but I could listen to his music all day. Flake, Good People, Sitting Waiting Wishing, Dreams by Dreams, Upside Down, Supposed to Be and If I had Eyes are some of my favorites. I can’t wait to see him live in August!!

7. Michael Buble- My mom has always groaned at Megan and my pleasure at what she calls lounge music. Michael Buble has taken that to a new level for me. He is the only person I have seen live twice and each time he amazed me. Entertaining is the word. He is funny, engaging and of course talented. He sings with a massive band and yet is still the star of the show- now that takes charisma. Not only is he great at singing classics like World on a String, Feeling Good, and Try a little Tenderness but he is a great songwriter penning one of my favorite recent songs Home along with Everything, Lost, and That’s Life. It also doesn’t hurt that he isn’t too hard on the eyes and that voice…

8. Josh Groban- Another performer that I have always liked but gained a whole new infatuation for after seeing him live. It’s a long story but through some luck Camille and I got bumped to the 5th row. He even touched my fingers! I know I sound like a gaping teen, but I can’t help it. It was that cool! I wondered before seeing him if his voice would carry in a large stadium. It certainly did. What a talent! On key, singing in Italian half the time, and completely mesmerizing. Where do I start on his songs- all amazing. My favorites are Awake, So She Dances, February Song, The Prayer, Weeping, To Where You Are, and You Raise Me Up. I just hope that David Foster decides to do a Buble/Groban tour- that would be awesome!

9. Joni Mitchell- There have been so many copy cats of Joni that she doesn’t seem as original as she deserves to be. I joke with my teacher that I love bitter woman songs. Joni definitely fits this category. I don’t know why I love these songs, but they hit an emotion in me and in so doing I feel more understood by the world- more able to move on. Both Sides Now, River, California and of course Blue are pure and peacefully melancholy. If I could sing like anyone it would probably be her. I just love her voice and the simple beauty of one woman singing at a piano or a guitar with no airs or pretense for the crowd!

10. Norah Jones- Rarely do I hear a song on the radio and think- “I love that song, I have to pick it up”. Norah Jones’ Don’t Know Why was one of those songs. Her Come Away album is perfect. Every song could be listened to many times and is great for relaxed settings-even work. She has such a beautiful voice and her arrangements are smart and simple. You can picture her sitting at a piano singing her favorite songs- and then oops they got recorded. I have appreciated all of her albums but Come Away is the best.

11. The Beatles- It would be hard to not put the Beatles on such a list. They have so many great songs- songs that you can dance to, songs that are slow and melodic and songs that are poetic-telling you a story. How different are She Loves Me, 8 Days a Week, Something, Eleanor Rigby and Let it Be? It doesn’t seem like it could be the same band. I am jealous of anyone who ever got to go to a concert live.

12. Judy Garland- I feel sorry for Judy Garland. She had so little choice in her life. She listened dutifully to her mother and doctors and ended up drug addicted and unhappy. I admire that despite everything she kept singing- trying to find something over the rainbow. When I was younger I appreciated Judy as a kind of Disney singer but her songs have a bittersweet meaning to me that I find very moving. Only those that have studied voice understand the difficulty of her arrangements and the purity of her voice. If I could sing like anybody she would be at the top of my list. Incredible.

Wow! That was hard There are so many more I want to include Rascal Flatts, Counting Crows, Maroon 5, Barbra Streisand, Alison Krauss, Nickel Creek, Dixie Chicks, Billy Joel, Barenaked Ladies, Fiona Apple, Alanis Morissette, Harry Connick Jr., Adam Pascal, Natalie Merchant, Annie Lenox, Elliot Yamin, James Taylor, John Mayer, Alicia Keyes, KT Tunstall, Billie Holiday, Bonnie Raitt, Johnie Cash, Reba, U2, They Might Be Giants, ColdPlay, Beach Boys and more. I am so blessed to have music in my life and hope that I never stop appreciating it and developing my own talents. I can’t imagine heaven without music and I don’t think it will be all hymns up there either! Take care friends and share with me your favorites.

Success and Sweat Glands

Zig Zagler the motivational speaker said “success is dependent upon the glands – sweat glands.” I have experienced this type of success this week. As many of you know I have been working hard with my dad to get our vacation rentals ready for the first renters. It was a lot of work and I mean the physically grueling work of lifting, moving, cleaning and organizing (and even shopping can get exhausting).

I wish I could adequately paint a picture of all we have accomplished. Let me just say that on May 31st the current renters came for a tour of the properties. At that time one was mostly finished but the other needed a lot of work. For starters, the basement hadn’t even had sheet rock installed. After their tour I could tell the renters were skeptical that we could get it done on time (and to be honest I was a bit skeptical myself). Since that day we have put in many 10-14 hour days and with the help of a great team we managed to pull it off in a spectacular way. You really wouldn’t believe the transformation if you saw it. Our work included not only the construction but the furnishing, design and organization of the entire house. We had to purchase and clean everything from furniture to plates/pots and pans/TV’s etc. I even learned a lot about home decoration adding plants, flowers and photography to each room. Everything is luxurious and beautiful. The renters couldn’t believe all we had done. It is like a different house. Here are some pictures.

In addition to all the physical work of late there has also been the mental work of marketing the properties and handling new reservations (we are booked for most of July and already getting August!). We had to create a contract, get the contracts out, organize a reservation system, run deposits, set up VRBO.com accounts and more.

With all of this craziness it’s been hard to squeeze in any social time. I hope that in the next few weeks I can do better at that. I miss my friends! I think whenever you start something new (a new job, new move etc) you have to figure out what mixture of work/friends/church etc works for your life and schedule. It takes time.

Anyway, I feel this is a fractured post but I wanted to share with you’all the sense of accomplishment I feel at having gotten renters in the properties. It was a lot of work and sweat but like Zig says that’s what makes success. It certainly feels good to be proud of my work and and to do something I really enjoy (even when it is hard I still like it). I guess Heavenly Father knew what he was doing when he had me quit my job and job hunt for months with no success. He was leading me to these experiences and this growth. I am so grateful for that. Grateful, proud and happy! Here is a picture of how I feel- a self portrait you might say (except I don’t have such large earrings!).

Snow in June

So, it is snowing in June. I find this amazing and ironic on many levels. First of all one of the reasons I didn’t move to Grand Rapids Michigan last Fall was due to the terrible winters they have. (I also wasn’t super excited about moving to a small town. Now I have moved to Draper- a small town) and on June 11th it is snowing in Draper. Luckily I have a spot where I can be secluded from the snow. In fact, the big windows in the rentals I am staying at make the bad weather look rather magical. You do feel as if you are in the center of a snow globe that has been shaken. Billy Collins (who I believe is the current poet laureate) captured this feeling of fish bowl weather in one of my favorite poems:

Billy Collins- Neither Snow
When all of a sudden the city air filled with snow,
the distinguishable flakes
blowing sideways,
looked like krill
fleeing the maw of an advancing whale.

At least they looked that way to me
from the taxi window,
and since I happened to be sitting
that fading Sunday afternoon
in the very center of the universe,
who was in a better position
to say what looked like what,
which thing resembled some other?

Yes, it was a run of white plankton
borne down the Avenue of the Americas
in the stream of the wind,
phosphorescent against the weighty buildings.

Which made the taxi itself,
yellow and slow-moving,
a kind of undersea creature,
I thought as I wiped the fog from the glass,

and me one of its protruding eyes,
an eye on a stem
swiveling this way and that
monitoring one side of its world,
observing tons of water
tons of people
colored signs and lights
and now a wildly blowing race of snow.

Who would have ever thought to compare snow to plankton! Even more, who has the talent to make such a comparison still beautiful? Amazing! I guess that is why he is the poet laureate! Ahh! My friends the sun has just come out! In my opinion there is not much prettier than the sight of the sun on a cold day- especially up here where the mountains start to glow. With all that has been happening in my life lately it is nice to know that even the weather joins me by changing moment to moment.

As far as my life goes- I went to my new ward on Sunday. It was interesting to be back in a normal chapel after attending sacrament meeting in the seminary building for 2 years. It felt as if the ward was very small but it must have been bigger than my last one. It just felt small because of the size of the room and the fact I was alone for the first time in years. I must admit that I missed my old roommates sitting in that pew all by myself. Still, I pushed on and people were friendly and welcoming. I am sure it will be a fine ward for me through the summer.

Aside from the new ward I have finally moved into my temporary housing for the summer. It feels good to at least be temporarily situated. It is nice being close to the rental properties. It will be especially nice when tenants start arriving, so I can welcome them with ease. Yesterday we got a commitment from a couple in St. George for the middle of August. That means we now have at least one commitment in each of the next 3 months with more coming in each day! I pray every night that they will keep coming in because I would certainly prefer doing this type of work than having some lame cough out corporate job. I have mentioned this before on the blog but just like I feel protected from the snow storm outside, I also feel protected from the storms of unhappiness and despair. The Lord knows me and He does want me to be happy. If nothing else, the last year has reconfirmed this truth to me. That knowledge makes anything even snow in June bearable. Take care friends and share your favorite poems with me!

Desires of Happiness

Alma 41:5 “The one raised to ahappiness according to his desires of happiness, or good according to his desires of good; and the other to evil according to his desires of evil; for as he has desired to do evil all the day long even so shall he have his reward of evil when the night cometh.”

This morning I went to the temple, which was a welcome respite from all of the moving and adventures of my recent life. I was reading the Book of Mormon while I waited and came across the scripture above. It struck me as interesting. What exactly does it mean by being “raised to happiness according to his desires of happiness”? Clearly the righteous do not always achieve their righteous desires. For instance, someone may have a righteous desire to serve a mission, but they are not able to go for a variety of reasons. I suppose the Lord could be referring to longterm happiness but I think it is more complicated. One of the most difficult things in life is turning over our desires/our willpower to the Lord. Perhaps this scripture is saying that once we finally make that step we will be perfectly happy and to whatever degree we achieve such full devotion determines the degree of happiness we will experience.

One of my favorite parts of D&C 4 on my mission was the line “if ye have desires to serve God ye are called to the work”. This phrase makes even more sense when coupled with the scripture above. For every step that we take in His direction the Lord is not only saying that we will be happy but that He will use us to further the work. In a way it is kind of a circle because in building the kingdom we experience happiness which causes our desire to serve to grow, which will give us more opportunities to serve…

It is such an empowering thing to know that we have a say in our happiness. We are not just lifeless blobs that respond to stimuli. We can decide to follow the Lord, sacrificing our egos and desires; thereby, creating happiness both currently as we serve and in the eternities. It reminds me of a quote I have from President Kimball (I had it on my wall when I had a wall!)

“Happiness does not come by pressing a button, as does the electric light; happiness is a state of mind and comes from within. It must be earned. It cannot be purchased with money; it cannot be taken for nothing”

In my life I felt a prompting to make a variety of changes and following those promptings has given me great peace and happiness- and that’s saying something because my life is pretty chaotic.

I look forward to seeing what all of you think on this topic of happiness and the desires of life. Please share.