Paths We Take

paths-web

Along with the entire world I sat listening to the words of President Elect Barack Obama with some amazement on Tuesday night.  As I mentioned in my last post, I did not vote for him and there are many policy choices of his that I disagree with; however, I think it would be hard for even the most hardened cynic to not be impressed with the scope of Obama’s victory.  He not only defied conventions as a black man running for president but he is the son of a single mother, from Hawaii.  Somehow he pulled his way through Columbia and Harvard Law School and then instead of picking the career of a pricey Harvard lawyer he worked as a community organizer and then a state senator, a senator and now the president.  It is an impressive journey.  I pray that he will be a successful president and that his policies will help our country solve its many complex problems.  We will see.

Thinking about Obama’s path to the white house has started me thinking about my path to where I’m at in life.  I found out today that my best friend from high school Meredith Goodenough (now Tolley) has just had her 4th child! It’s amazing how at one point her and I were at the same point, on the same basic track.  I remember having conversations with her about wanting to go to college, marriage, and then have children.  She told me rather emphatically that she was not going to get married until her master’s degree was completed. On the other side, everyone assumed that with me going to BYU I would quickly get married and have babies.  It’s interesting how life turns out.  Here I am the one with the masters degree and she’s the one with a hard earned bachelor’s and 4 kids! When I think back to the last 10 years I don’t see a lot of missed opportunities where my life could have turned out differently but I am sure some existed.  It’s like those old Choose Your Own Adventure books (do they still make those?).  One choice and you are coronated as king and queen- another you fall down a volcano to a firery death! Hopefully none of my choices had such dire outcomes but it is interesting to contemplate.  For instance, I wonder what my life would be like if I had given in to pressure and gotten into substance problems in high school.  I have a feeling that my personality would have a hard time fighting such a problem- although I am very independent so you never know.  I wonder if there was ever anybody in my peer group or in my wards that I could have dated or at least been friends with but I missed out on the opportunity? On the other hand, I am sure there are friends that I would not have met if I had taken other paths or not been as bold when meeting new people.

The truth is that while such thoughts are interesting they are not very productive.  We are what we are and I believe what I am is pretty darn good.  I love my current life and aside from not meeting Mr.  Sunshine yet I do feel completely satisified with where I am at socially, mentally, spiritually. I know there is much need for improvement- particularly spiritually but I still feel a sense of contentment and peace with my life. I also believe that my Heavenly Father guides my choices and that if I listen to His promptings I will be where I need to be, when I need to be there, helping who I need to help.  In truth, my life is not like the Choose Your Own Adventure because I have a guide telling me which choices will lead to the coronation and which end in the volcano.  This guidance is real- even in the small things.  For instance, the other day I was yearning for a bookclub.  In desparation I decided to check craigslist to see if there were any advertised.  To my luck, one was just starting, so I joined and have been to a couple sessions (even hosted one in my apartment!).  It was a simple choice but already it has helped me make some good friends that I never would have met in any other way.  There are so many other examples I could list of experiences I have had because I took a risk, made a daring choice or had the guts to meet someone new.  I only hope that I will continue to be bold and make the kind of choices my Heavenly Father wants me to make. Then I can look back at life and not have any regrets.  I look back on my mission and college with no regrets, and I hope I can do the same for my entire life- knowing I have made good choices and repented for the bad ones.  This is what I want in life.

As the poet says:

Growing old
is a privilege denied
to many…

Never leave behind regrets

Do any of you have thoughts on your path in life? How you got to where you are? Here’s a Dilbert I thought was funny concerning 2 different lifestyle choices! Enjoy!

dilbert_2

Vote

Hi friends,

This is a quick note of encouragement for everyone to get out there and vote on Tuesday.  I have already voted by absentee and even though I was not crazy about either candidate I finally made a determination.  As much as I respect Barack Obama (and will be actually kind of excited if he wins) I decided to vote for John McCain for one basic reason- he is more likely to appoint judges that I agree with and support. In particular I feel that abortion is a very important issue.  I am pro-life and would be happy if Roe v Wade was overturned.  I believe it was founded on faulty notions of the freedom of women.  The pro-choice team would have you believe that abortions were somehow liberating.  On my mission I met several woman who had abortions years before and the memory was continually haunting them.  Where was the supposed independence from the burden of a baby that these women were supposed to achieve?  The pro-choice movement would have you believe that abortion is a matter of female choice and that to violate such freedom is wrong.  What about the freedom of the baby? What about the right to life?

Anyway, I know this is a very touchy issue and I don’t want to ostracize people from my blog.  I merely wanted to explain my reason for voting for John McCain.  I decided that McCain is more likely to select Supreme Court and other judges that are pro-life.  I know it may be a mistake to vote on one issue but I felt so divided on every other issue- some going for McCain, others to Obama, that finally my choice came to abortion and that was the tipping point.

Regardless of my vote it looks like Obama is going to win the election.  If he does, it will be a marvelous day for our country.  It is hard to believe that as late as 1965 Jim Crow laws were officially banned by the Civil Rights Act.  Now 43 years later we will probably have an African American as a president.  It’s very exciting.  I have read Barack Obama’s books and feel he is a good man who will do his best as president.  I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think he will attempt to develop a political discourse in this country that we haven’t had with Bush.  I look forward to that.  I also agree with him on the war and am glad he supports charter schools.  Health care and taxes I am more with McCain.  They were honestly about equal in my mind except for the abortion discussion.

I would like to make one more statement about the election.  All of my friends in California- please go out and vote for proposition 8.  I wish I was in California just so I could vote for it.  I am a great supporter of equal treatment for all including all of us that favor traditional marriage.  Tolerance does not mean adopting other’s moral codes- it means learning to acknowledge those differences and treating people with kindness. This is true for both sides of the debate. I support proposition 8 because I believe that marriage between a man and a woman is sacred, special, important to society and it is fundamental to the health of children.  I completely support giving domestic partnerships rights but not at the cost of harming traditional marriage.  That’s just the way I feel.

My brother in law wrote an essay on proposition 8 that I feel is quite brilliant; however, it is kind of long for the blog.  Here is one section:

“While much could be said about whether same-sex unions should or should not be granted civil marriage, the core of this issue is really about the right of private individuals to make a distinction between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. If Proposition 8 fails, this right will, at the very least, be restricted.

Though distinguish and discriminate seem similar, they represent two very different ideas. Discrimination refers to a separation made solely on the basis of a category or class without regard to individual merit. This type of distinction rightfully has no protection under the law. On the other hand, we all regularly make and rely on merit-based distinctions. These are value judgments we make based on, for example, the actions of two competing individuals in order to decide between them. Individuals do have the right to make this type of distinction between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. Such a distinction can be understood as follows. Every individual involved in a same-sex union, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, or any other classification is engaging in homosexual activity. To many, engaging in homosexual activity is morally wrong. Based on the believed lack of value in these actions, a distinction is drawn between same-sex unions and traditional marriage. Note that this valuation is solely about the actions committed and the types of unions formed, not about any individual who engages in such actions or forms such unions. This is a clear departure from the oft-drawn analogy of interracial marriage. In the case of interracial marriage there is no way to make such a distinction that does not rely on an underlying valuation about the classes of individuals who commit such acts, which is discrimination.

Obviously and understandably, many people oppose this distinction. Nevertheless, our country is built on the freedom of individuals and groups to make exactly such declarations. In fact, a distinction between traditional marriage and same-sex unions has been publicly endorsed by both main presidential candidates and their running mates. Though their opinions on Prop. 8 differ, all four political candidates have stated that they define marriage as the union between a man and a woman. Vice-presidential candidate Joe Biden has also stated in reference to gay marriage that “Barack Obama nor I support redefining, from a civil side, what constitutes marriage. We do not support that.”

Given that some people make this distinction while others do not, what should be the government’s role? The answer is essentially none. To the extent that homosexual activities are committed by consenting adults the United States Supreme Court has rightfully determined that the government has no place to question their legality. In the same vein, even though some feel that same-sex unions are immoral, there is no room for the government to make that distinction. This is why the formation of civil unions and similar institutions to protect the rights of individuals in same-sex unions should, for the most part, be applauded. But the government should also not prevent anyone from making that distinction. By granting same-sex unions access to the traditional institution of marriage there are clear signs that this is exactly what the government is doing.”

I may add more to this tomorrow, but I wanted to do my part before the election day on Tuesday.  Hopefully nobody will be offended by my stating positions.  They are just that my positions and shouldn’t bother anyone.  I also promise that my blog will be mostly free of politics after this. Call it a rare exception. Go out and vote!  I have never missed an election (even on my mission) since I turned 18.  Don’t miss out on your chance to make a difference.

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

To all my great friends- Happy Halloween!  I loved Halloween as a kid (of course, what non-Jehovah witness kid doesnt?).  However, I went through a period where it didn’t seem like a grown up holiday.  My last roommates took care of that impression.  Thank goodness for that.  Now I get dressed up every year and we have a fun party (this year it is more of a scaled back affair but my costume is going to be AMAZING!).  I will post pictures tomorrow but I wanted to at least post my totally amazing pumpkin.  It is pretty much the best jackolantern ever. Have a great haunted night all you ghoulish friends of mine…

My Halloween costume
My Halloween costume

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.