Laughing

This weekend I had an interesting experience.  I was talking on the phone with one of my friends, Julia Graves, and we started telling funny stories about college friends and roommates we’ve both had.  It was one of those fun, chatty, girlie Sunday night phone calls. As I have mentioned before Julia was a favorite companion of mine on my mission and we have kept in touch ever since.  In fact, I am going to make a visit to Las Vegas soon to see her.  I wish she lived in Utah.  If she did, I would hang out with her all of the time!

Anyway, the two of us were chatting and laughing.  I particularly told the story of my klutzy college roommate named Jennifer.  To put it midly this girl was a mess.  She walked in a continuous cloud and was always bumping into things and couldn’t walk into her room without endangering her life!  The first day we met as roommates she decided to move her mattress and somehow ended up knocking the light cover off of the cieling sending shattered glass everywhere.  Unfortunately a piece of glass cut her forehead causing her to bleed rather profusely.  To our shock, after just meeting, she came in blood down her face, and said “I got hurt”.  My other roommate Heather and I naturally began to freak out and we may have even taken her to the emergency room. I don’t remember. It may sound odd to laugh over something like this but it was so typical of Jennifer that it became funny.  The ironic thing is that she was also a germaphobe and was constantly complaining about the cleanliness of the apartment and that it was too stuffy.  There were many nights when I went to bed freezing because she insisted on having the window open to squelch the stuffiness.

When you combined the klutziness and the germaphobic tendencies you can imagine our shock when at the end of Fall Semester Jennifer announced she was going to Guatemala for Winter term.  A friend of hers was going with BYU so Jennifer decided to go; however, the BYU group was full.  Did this stop her- no?  She planned the entire trip by herself and was venturing to Guatemala alone.  She couldn’t imagine why her parents weren’t supportive of this plan?  Imagine that?  When she left Heather and I kept expecting to hear news of an american tourist falling into a volcano in Guatamala.  I mean the girl couldn’t walk to her bedroom without bleeding- let alone a third world country!

So on Sunday Julia and I were laughing over these types of stories.  It was a pleasant conversation that I enjoyed but didn’t think much more of until the next day when I got an email from Julia.  She wrote that her life had been stressful lately and that she needed a good laugh.  Talking with me was exactly what she needed.  Now I am not trying to put myself on a pedestal or anything, but the experience reminded me of an important lesson.  Sometimes the most important gifts are found in the small moments of time and tender care. Sure Christmas presents are great, holidays are fun but the seamingly insignificant conversations, smiles and meals can have surprising impact on those we care about.  I can think of many instances when I have been stressed and a phone call, visiting teaching message, or talk in church lifted my spirits.  Sometimes even the memories of a happy time are enough to lift away the loneliness of my life.

My parents have always been good examples of appreciating small moments.  My dad used to say to me in college when I was stressed out over a test- “Are you enjoying the journey?”.  My mother was always available for an evening chat (still is over the phone) on her bed at night, or a conversation while she made dinner.  She is also a good example of doing her best- not just getting by- instead of just doing costumes for the school play, for instance, she researches the time period and adds time appropriate details. This is typical of the way my mother magnifies the moments she has and makes a difference in her family and to her friends.

I want to do more to recognize the minutes and seconds of joy in my life- to laugh with friends, develop talents and express gratitude.  Luckily the Lord amplifies whatever effort I can make by directing me (most of the time unaware) to the places and people I can help, and that can help me. Life is good!

One sad note, one happy

You can see in this photo all of the ink stains.
You can see in this photo all of the ink stains.
My sad face at losing my skirt!
My sad face at losing my skirt!

So, I wanted to make a quick post to let you all know that I am feeling quite a bit better. Rest over the last few days really helped.  Thanks for all the encouragement.  I hope my sister Megan improves as well. Now for the bad news…I was tired and threw a load into the wash and today realized there was a pen in my pocket.  Now there is ink dried onto the dryer and splotched onto an entire load of clothes including most of my underclothes. I also destroyed a skirt I had just bought from Lands End. 😦

Any of you domestic divas have any suggestions? My mom said something strong like paint thinner can get the stain off the dryer but I am scared of an explosion or passing out from the fumes (remember I live alone so passing out would be a bad thing). She also said dry cleaner formula called Thoro might help with the stains.  I would appreciate any suggestions.  Thanks in advance.

October isn’t nice

My friends I am writing to you as a sickie from sickville.   I’ve got a cough, sore throat, mild fever and am congested. Yuck! It’s actually kind of depressing because I was just sick before I went to Indiana and now to be sick again… It makes me feel like some kind of hypochondriac but I really am sick.

Now the reason I have been sick twice in one month- that I am not sure but I think part of it has to do with the change in seasons and another part is a sort of a recovery after my trip.  When I was little I used to always get sick at the beginning of Fall or Winter- it’s like my body’s way of rebelling against the cold.  Also, I tend to get sick after being on airplanes and after a particularly stressful time.  Don’t get me wrong my trip to Indiana and Michigan was amazing but it did leave me emotionally drained and exhausted.

It may also be that I never quite got over my last illness and the germs have regrouped and attacked once again.  I have always had a weak immune system (my whole family has).  If there is something going around it seems I always get it.  It’s only a matter of time.

The ironic thing is that I am actually trying to be healthy.  Since August I have eaten only a handful of sweets and am trying to exercise more.  My sister and I are doing monthly challenges for fitness and health. I believe from reading her blog that she is sick as well.  Something is not right! You are supposed to be healthier when you are trying to be healthy! Maybe this is another way my body is rebelling.  Stupid body!

In the meantime, I am resting up and trying to heal.  Anyone who wants to come nurse me back to health is welcome! I could certainly use the company.  I am kidding but I do need to fight this silly illness because I have 2 warm team events coming up- one on Saturday and on Monday.  I will be at the Cornbelly’s maze at Thanksgiving Point both days and the last thing I want is to be coughing and congested. In addition, next week is a very busy week with lots going on including my chocolate 101 cooking class (how fun does that sound), my book club at my house and of course there is Halloween on Friday (rapidly becoming one of my favorite adult holidays not just child holidays). I am dressing up this year as a Japanese princess (I would say geisha but that has negative connotations- so Japanese princess it is.)

At least being sick gives me a chance to catch up on my reading.  I always love that. Take care friends and please excuse this somewhat whiny post. My apologies.  Hope you are all well and happy.

Visiting Indiana

It is now Thursday October 16th and I have been home since Sunday from my business/mission trip that I took last week.  I meant to update my blog much sooner about the recent goings on but it has been go-go-go ever since I got back.  I often say that I need 2 or 3 days off after traveling in order to recover.  Sadly it was not the case. I don’t know how my father is able to function with all of his travel.  It’s exhausting!

That said- I had a great trip.  The first part of it was in Michigan where I was trained on how to set up our warmer booth at various events.  I learned more about the types of warmers we carry, and the history of the product-along with the type of salesmanship that works at warm team events. On the whole, it was a good trip and my first business trip was a success! I still can’t believe I am old enough to go on a business trip.  How did this happen?

Once I was finished with work on Thursday, I drove to my first area on the mission-Angola Indiana.  To drive into a location that formed so much of my character was a weird sensation.  It was on one hand underwhelming to see through common eyes and on the other completely overwhelming because of the memories that came pouring with each street, store and site. The whole time I was in Indiana I felt like I was in a museum of my life. All these artifacts that would mean nothing to others made me well over in tears. It’s an odd and overwhelming experience to try and go back in the past.

While I was touring the mission I listened to a radio program about blogging and the woman being interviewed said that in her blog she “tries to only tell my story”.  In other words, don’t bring in the life stories of others so that you can protect their privacy.  I understand what she was saying but the task seems impossible.  How can I write an authentic portrayal of my life without including the stories of those who touch me? I only hope every mention of others in my blog is complimentary if not glowing with praise. I will certainly remove anything if asked.

With that understanding let me tell a little about the people I saw in Indiana.  Starting with Angola, I stayed with Sister Bork (still hard for me to call her Jackie.  It’s how I was raised).  She was a great host, and I enjoyed reconnecting with her.  I hope that my visit provided some comfort and companionship (even if for only 2 nights) during a tough time in her life.  She is a great lady who saved me from starving on many occasions on my mission.   We used to specifically tract around her house because we knew we could count on her for a cup of cocoa or a meal if we didn’t have a dinner.  There was one night I particularly remember where we had tracted all day in the snow.  It was hard work, and we were starving.  We stopped at the Borks, and we must have looked like quite the site!  Sister Bork was making breakfast for dinner and we wolfed everything down.  I think I ate 4 or 5 fried eggs, toast, hashbrowns, and more!

This is the first house I lived in on my mission.  It is such a shack! How did I live there for 6 months!
This is the first house I lived in on my mission. It is such a shack! How did I live there for 6 months!

You see, that is the type of small memory that flooded my mind around every corner in Indiana.  It was emotional and amazing. It’s hard to describe in words.

In Angola I also had the treat of seeing others from the branch, getting an update on everyone and particularly seeing my friend Sarah Garner who was my rock on the mission.  She has a sweetness and sincerity that I admire.  I just wish she could understand how great she is. If you are reading this Sarah- it is true!

Finally, I got the privilege of seeing a family I taught in Angola named the Aronens. Since they had changed their emails, I had not kept in touch the way I would have liked.  It was so great to see them and again it brought back every memory of each discussion.  It meant a lot to me that they still had the photo of Sister Servito and I with their girls on their living room wall.  I know they have many struggles but it warms my heart to know they are thinking of me along the way.  It was good to hear they are active and doing great.  Their girls are so big. I can hardly believe it.  Regina is in 6th grade!  Wow! They are a family that I feel I was meant to find and teach the gospel to.  That is a great feeling to know and it’s something I carry with me when I am struggling.  One of the ways I know that the Lord loves me is because he let me help the Aronen’s find the gospel.

This is Regina and Brianna
This is Regina and Brianna
Melody Aronen
Melody Aronen

Moving on to Indianapolis (which by the way- I thought I might remember how to get around places, and I didn’t recognize one building! Not one street! Good thing I rented  a GPS unit.  Saved my life!).  I arrived on Saturday morning and was greeted by Sister Leonard whose home I lived in during my 6 months in Indy. It turns out I was lucky to see her, as she has been out of town for the last 2 months, and is going out of town again in a couple of weeks.  It was great to reconnect and reminisce.  So much has changed in her life and in the life of the ward since I left.  There is a whole new stake, and I hardly recognized anyone at church.

At Sister Leonards I went down into the sister’s basement apartment and again was flooded by memories.  I thought of Sister Graves sleeping on a bed on the floor as happy as can be.  I thought of Sister Livingston doing sit-ups while reading the scriptures and eating an apple (she’s got a gift for multitasking).  I thought of Sister Hathaway struggling over her lessons each day.  More than that, however, I thought of the time on my knees I had spent in that little apartment.  The times I had poured my heart out to the Lord trying to have the energy to work hard and love the people- trying to get the answers for investigators and then thanking the Lord when they would come.  I also couldn’t help but remember the struggles- the sore feet, the canceled appointments, the squabbles with companions.  All of those memories are part of the story of my mission and they are special, even sacred.

Our little basement apartment at Sister Leonards house
Our little basement apartment at Sister Leonards house
Sister Leonard and I.  She helped me and so many sisters feel loved and at home on the mission.
Sister Leonard and I. She helped me and so many sisters feel loved and at home on the mission.

Being in that little apartment made me want to be a better person.  On my mission I was such a visible servant of the Lord.  Every day I had a clear purpose. I know we have that each day as normal members but it isn’t quite the same.  Nevertheless, I want to do better, be better, live with more of an attitude of service. I want to make sure I am where the Lord needs me, when He needs me.

One last comment- I think it is easy to feel that our little lives don’t make much of a difference in the world. I sometimes wonder if I should be braver, more bold.  In Indiana I realized that I do make a difference- that I do matter.  There was one experience in Indianapolis when my companions and I felt prompted to visit a lady who had been having marital problems.  To be more blunt she was being abused.  At the time, we debated about whether visiting a member was the best use of our time (the elder’s had been riding us about not spending time with members) but we felt prompted to go and see her.  When we got to her house her husband had been arrested and  taken away.  This was a big step for her, and we helped her through the night until we had to leave.  I have thought about that moment and wondered what ever happened to the woman.  Well, on Sunday I got to see her, and she told me something that made me cry- no weep.  She said that when she is sad or lonely she thinks of that moment and knows that the Lord loves her.  When I heard that I was beyond words.  It amazes me to know that my attempt to serve helps someone years later to feel of the Lord’s love.

I am so grateful that we listened and am grateful to the Lord for letting me know that my service as a missionary mattered. I cry now just thinking of it. It was like a giant hug from my Heavenly Father. I am so comforted by the knowledge that what I do each day is important to the Lord- more than that- what I do is guided by the Lord.  What a humbling thought that is.  That moment was worth the whole trip, and I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for giving it to me.

In closing, visiting my mission was a wonderful experience.  My mission was a wonderful experience. Life is a wonderful experience.  I just hope that I can be the type of person I was as a missionary- living a life guided by the Lord, full of His grace and goodness.  It will not be easy,my mission wasn’t easy, but as the cliche goes- it was and is worth it.

The woman we helped and her daughter.
The woman we helped and her daughter.
The speedway track.  I did the full tour this time
The speedway track. I did the full tour this time
Winner Winner!
Winner Winner!
The finish line.  Tradition is to kiss the bricks after you win.
The finish line. Tradition is to kiss the bricks after you win.

Conference

For those of you that are LDS we have all enjoyed our semi-annual general conference, the final session ending this afternoon.  Despite being sick I took notes and learned much.  Each general authority that spoke did so with authority and comfort.  It’s like hearing advice from an old friend that loves you.  At least that’s how I felt.  A couple of talks that particularly stuck out to me were Elder’s Holland, Hales, Wirthlin, and Uchtdorf and of course President Monson.  It is Elder Hales’ message that I would like to mention in this blog. He spoke about defending criticisms of our faith both as a church and as individual followers.  Instead of responding to criticism in defensive ways, he taught us to follow Christ’s example and love those that hate us:

“When we respond to our accusers as the Savior did, we not only become more Christ-like, we invite others to feel his love and follow him as well,” Elder Hales said.

Elder Hales even said that sometimes these criticisms can be helpful by their attracting attention to the church, which then often leads to teaching moments.

I thought this was a beautiful message, and one that I want to exemplify more fully.  I have always been very independent and don’t like to be criticized or told what I should be doing in my life.  While I don’t think we should be doormats for people, there is a way to be bold without being defensive.  Elder Hales said that the spirit would dictate which response is appropriate.  Just as the savior responded in a different way to Nicodemus than he did to the moneychangers in the temple, we will know what is the best response for the different people in our lives.

I actually don’t have many in my life who directly criticize my church membership but often I hear hurtful things through the media and my initial response is to be defensive.  This is something I would like to work on.

I believe Elder Hales’ message also applies to criticism and feedback in general.  Even in my work, I have always had a hard time with criticism and although I think I have grown over the years, it still is something I can improve upon.

One cool thing I noticed in Elder Hales’ talk is that he mentioned using blogs to spread the gospel!  That made me feel good!  In that vein, let me state to all of you that I do have a testimony of the Mormon church and its current prophet President Thomas Monson.  I feel such a tremendous spirit when I hear him speak.  I also have a testimony of the Book of Mormon and know that it is a true book.  I know this because I have prayed about it and the spirit has confirmed to me that it is true.  I love reading that book. It is my sincerest desire to serve my Savior and Lord Jesus Christ in any way I can including trying my best each day to be obedient to His teachings.  I also have a strong testimony in eternal temple ordinances and am grateful that the pain of grief can be assuaged by the knowledge of eternal covenants and families. I thank each of you for your love and support and know that much of this testimony can be attributed to the righteous influences each of you have showered in my life and heart.  God bless. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

The Theater, The Theater

“All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts” William Shakespeare in As You Like It

In this blog I have written about music, film, and books but have yet to add my thoughts on my favorite medium- live theater.  I have loved attending shows my whole life.  I am not sure how it got started but the earliest memory of the theater that  I have is when my dad took me to the Utah Shakespeare festival.  I believe I was 9 because it was before Anna was born (that’s brave to take a 9 year old to Shakespeare).  We saw Taming of the Shrew and a couple other plays and I enjoyed it so much that I saved the programs.  The first musical I recall going to was when my dance teacher in 5th grade played Anybody’s in a local production of West Side Story.  We went to see it and I remember crying along with Maria and loving the experience.  I also remember going to see Phantom of the Opera with my grandmother around the same time and that was like nothing I had ever experienced.  Amazing!

When I got to high school I embraced more theater by appearing in 5 school productions (A christmas medley, The Wiz, Up the Down Staircase, Bye Bye Birdie, Scenes from Shakespeare plays).  Each production boosted my confidence and made me feel alive.  I have often said that they should have recovering addicts participate in the theater. That may sound strange but it is so rewarding working together and then when the final applause comes it is one of the best highs I have ever known.  Of all of the productions I was in my favorite was The Wiz.  It’s fun music, lively sets and great cast made it memorable.

My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz
My favorite show that I have participated in- The Wiz

In addition to appearing in live plays I also took a huge step in high school.  In 9th grade I made my first trip to New York City, and I’ve been hooked ever since.  There are so many things I love about New York that I will have to do an entry solely devoted to the city.  However, the most incredible part of the Big Apple is Broadway! The first show I saw there was Les Miserables and it was beyond words.  I saw it again a couple of years ago and was reminded of how moving the story is and how beautiful the music.  When I went to see Les Mis I had seen the PBS concert many times and knew the soundtrack almost by heart and yet it did not disappoint. If anything it exceeded my expectations. In fact, it got me hooked on Broadway.  Since that first visit I have been 5 more times seeing the King and I, Music Man, Beauty and the Beast, the Rockettes, Light in the Piazza, Drowsy Chaperon, Lion King, Hairspray, 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee, Les Mis (again) and Wicked.  There is no doubt but that I have been abundantly blessed.

Each time I see a live show I feel excited.  It’s hard to explain but even the comedies move me.  I love everything about a Broadway musical.  I love the songs, the voices, the melodies, the stories, the acting.  It’s magic!

One of the things I actually like about living in Utah is the great local live theater.  In Maryland there was one local theater in our town.  Aside from that you had to go to DC or Baltimore and there was no guarantee that it would be family friendly and it was expensive.  In Utah you get all 3- family friendly, inexpensive and high quality.  There have been productions I have seen at Hale Center Theater (Orem and West Valley) that are Broadway level quality.  I saw the Secret Garden there last year and it was fabulous.  The little girl playing Mary was outstanding.

It’s interesting because I know people that feel the theater is a rare luxury.  For me, I would give up a lot before giving up my chance to see great productions (or even mediocre ones.  I love it all!).  I used to have a little theater group that got season tickets to the shows at Hale and it was always fun.  Unfortunately, the other members of my group decided to give it up for financial reasons 😦  Hopefully I can form a new group and if any of you are interested call me. It adds so much to my life that I try to go as often as possible.

I suppose I must close this entry by saying my favorites.  It’s hard to say but when push comes to shove my favorite musical is probably still Les Mis.  It’s the only one I’ve seen on Broadway twice and still loved.  It’s just so moving.  I also loved Wicked and the Drowsy Chaperon is my favorite comedy.  Other favorites are My Fair Lady, Hairspray, Thoroughly Modern Millie, Fiddler on the Roof, Little Woman, and West Side Story.  I love Sound of Music but actually more as a film than play (its a rare exception and Julie Andrews! Amazing).  As far as plays go my favorite is Death of a  Salesman for its penetrating character development.  I also love the Christmas Carol every holiday season and any Shakespeare.

My love for musical theater has also introduced me to great talent on the stage.  Some of the many voices that amaze me even on the soundtracks are Julie Andrews, Judy Garland, Barbra Streisand, Sherie Renee Scott, Pattie Lupone, Bernadette Peters, Laura Benanti, Sutton Foster (who I saw in Chaperon- amazing), Beth Leavel (who I also saw in Chaperon), Brian Stokes Mitchell, Adam Pascal, Raul Esparza, Kristen Chenoweth, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Idina Menzel, Laura Bell Bundy, Heather Headley, Kellie O’hara (who I saw in Light in the Piazza- amazing), Victoria Clark (who I saw in Light in the Piazza) , Audra McDowell, Anna Gasteyer (who I saw in Wicked- incredible) and more.  They are such talent.  I highly recommend checking out their CDs at the library or on ITunes and enriching your life by their truly marvelous music.

If you get a chance go see live theater.  It may be expensive but look at it as a chance to support the arts in your community and it may teach you something, make you laugh or cause you to ponder.

And remember when it comes to the theater…

“Why then, can one desire too much of a good thing?”

William Shakespeare As You Like It.

The best show ever
The best show ever

A little sick

So friends, I realized today one of the downsides to living by yourself.  Dash it all there is nobody there to get you medicine when your tummy aches.  It’s odd that something like that would make me feel lonely but I can’t pretend that it didn’t.  Now I wasn’t seriously ill or anything just a bit of a sour stomach and yet I had to drag myself out of bed (and to be quite honest away from the TV- lots of premieres tonight) and go to Harmons to buy stomach meds (a little embarrassing- the kind of shopping where you have to add a few items that you don’t really need just so it isn’t clear to everyone in line what ails you.  At least my cashier didn’t have to check prices on anything.  That is the worst! Then it is like sharing with the whole store.  Hey, Rachel’s buying….You can’t be too careful.  After all it’s a small neighborhood.  I might see these people again!).

So, I am sure you did not start reading my blog to hear about my exciting trip to the store.  I mention it only to say that with all my tough single talk there are moments when I wish I had someone there to, in this case, by me meds and tell me that everything is going to be fine in the morning.  When I was visiting my sister last week my niece asked me “Rachel, why don’t you have a husband?”.  I told her simply that “I haven’t fallen in love yet and you can’t have a husband until you fall in love.”.  (Unless you marry for money but why scar the child with that notion!).  Anyway, I really believe what I told Isabel and until I feel that way I guess I will just have to live with buying my own medicine and using my prayers to tell me that everything will be Okay in the morning- and thank goodness it usually is.

Short entry today friends.  Afterall, I’m not feeling well! By the way, any of you Indiana folks I am coming for a visit!  I am working in Grand Rapids for Oct 6+7 and will be in Indiana 8-10th. I will try to contact everyone I can to get together but I’ve lost a lot of phone numbers.  Rachel.

At least I don't look like a smurf
At least I dont feel like a smurf