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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Exercise is hard!

So, I am writing this blog to squeeze out a little encouragement from all of you.  As I have mentioned before my sister and I are doing some fitness/health challenges to help us be healthy.  It has been a lot of fun and a good way to keep me motivated. The thing that helps me the most is being able to think about someone else.  This is nice because I often feel that dieting is such an inward experience and I hate that. I hate thinking so much about me and the way I look. It’s good in a way but I am doing better focusing on helping Megan reach her goals and I think the same is true for her.

exercise

I am also doing a fitness challenge with my friend Camille. We are trying to see who can exercise more before we get together over Thanksgiving.  This week I have been doing pretty good- 80 minutes of total exercise so far but I need to do even better.  It’s just hard at first because your muscles hurt and your body revolts from such activity. I am going to try and work in yoga and other types of activities to help make sure my muscles are well stretched and ready to go.  Still, it is hard work.  There is no getting around that.  I was wondering if any of you have found ways to exercise or motivate yourself to exercise that I might use?  I have always loved to swim but it is not the most practical of exercises for year-round activities.  I sometimes do the workouts on fittv and those are pretty good.  Plus, my apartment complex has a gym with weights and equipment.  I really wish I had a buddy I could exercise with and perhaps I will meet someone in my ward who might be interested. I would greatly appreciate any suggestions/encouragement you could all give me.  Thanks in advance.

Speaking of my ward…I just got called as Enrichment leader (for those who don’t know enrichment is an activity organization in our church for women that sponsors book clubs, craft nights, cooking groups etc).  I may try to start a walking group since I have the leadership power to do so. We’ll see. If any of you have good ideas for that also I would appreciate it. Thanks and let’s get some more comments on my blog!

Wow! That’s impressive!

I had a funny experience last week which I must share with all of you.  As you all know I have recently moved into a new singles ward in Draper.  As with all of my wards, everyone has been friendly and I anticipate being very happy there.  To help make newbies like me more comfortable the ward has a nice tradition called the “New Member Dinner” (not the most original title but there you go).  This dinner is held every other month or so and all of the new members get together and have a chance to meet the ward leadership including the bishop and relief society president.  Such a dinner is a pleasant way of welcoming new people that I recommend for other wards- particularly if you have high turnover.

For the meal at this dinner we had a chili buffet with salad and yummy breadsticks.  Naturally as we all got in line we started introducing ourselves and chatting- “Oh, you live in the Adagio.” “Me too”.  “You are a teacher”, “You go to school”, “Where in California are you from?” etc.  Amidst this banter a young girl asked me:

“So, where do you go to school?”- A question that always makes me feel good.  I fail to mention to her that I graduated from BYU in 2002, which is probably when she was 12!

“I just finished my MBA in May” I reply without giving much thought.

Next thing I know in a loud voice she says:

“Wow! That is amazing! Very impressive!”.  I meekly said a modest “thank you” and went about getting my chili.

As we were leaving the line, she says without a hint of irony:

“What’s an MBA?”

Now, I don’t know if they had been coached to be super excited about all of us and she was just trying to play along or if she’s just quick to emote, but I find it hilarious that she would be so enthusiastic about something she knows nothing about.  For all she knows I competed my Mind Bending Accreditation, or my Muscle Building Association membership or Meth Busters Army training (I thought for some time on MBA associations- I have a list!).

The more I think about it, the more I wonder what life would be like if we all reacted like this girl to things we knew nothing about.  For instance, what if a person said an unusual statement like  “I play the balalaika every Friday night” and we immediately said “Wow!  That’s amazing!  Very impressive!” without even knowing what the instrument is, how it sounds, or how much work goes into that.  (By the way, the balalaika is a string instrument played in Russia with one of the largest tonal ranges of its kind of instrument). Or what if someone stated something very ordinary such as “I will set the table” and in response we got “wow! That’s impressive!” Life would certainly be more interesting. It seems like the premise for a bad Bill Murray movie (I get the screenplay rights Hollywood!).

Perhaps we can learn a little from this girl and be a bit more excited about the life’s of others. After all if it is something they are bragging about it is probably worthy of praise (not that I was bragging about my MBA but I am proud of it).  So, try it out this week.  You just may make someone’s day, or everyone will think you have gone nuts.  Either way it will keep life interesting!

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