Tag: life

Privacy is Overrated

So I should be eating but food is blah…so I think I will answer the question why I blog and blog so personally.

I read this quote today and it totally rang true. “I think it is part of the ancient wisdom that releasing your thoughts makes you feel lighter and at peace with yourself. It is therapy. Privacy is overrated anyway (more on this idea soon). We are social animals and we like to understand our world. I am not sure where we’ve got this thing with protecting our privacy in the first place. It doesn’t make sense unless you have something to hide. And hiding something is like holding a weight on your shoulders.

The feeling of lightness and relief that come with the knowledge that you do not have to hide anything is amazing. So much energy saved for better, constructive purposes!”

That my friends is why I blog.  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I almost never mention other people in my blog, except a passing glance or a positive profile on a birthday.  It is all about ME.   It is the one place where I can say what I want, when I want, because it is mine. It is a creation of mine and nobody else.  There is power in that.  For once the thrill of authorship is available to everyone who can type.  Its great! And as wonderful as being a team player is, sometimes it is equally empowering to just be you alone, and have your voice heard. (not only that but I’ve learned to craft, defend and fine tune my voice.  I’ve learned a ton from my blog).

My blog makes me feel like Oprah every time I write.  Like I have a forum and the 100-200 daily hits are my audience.  Just as Oprah had shows on movies, religion, music and other topics, my blog jumps around from here to there.  And honestly who doesn’t want to be Oprah?

I just want to make a difference and be understood  by the world.  I think my blog let’s me do that.  Thanks for reading friends and making comments (and please make more!).

It’s like Emerson says, “A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” I hope I do that for someone and I certainly get that from myself and others in the blogosphere. There are startling minds all over the place!

The two cousins who are closest to me in age have already passed on, so I know life is too short to hide what you are and believe.  Be bold with the world!

The great thing is the post where I have been the most brave about my weight or anxiety are the one’s that get the most hits and positive feedback.  It is amazing.  I had nearly 400 hits in 2 days on my anxiety piece because it was honest and people need to hear that they are not alone in the world.  I need to hear that.  I need to feel it from writing. Its like Emerson says ‘“Nothing can bring you peace but yourself”.  Its really true.  Blogging myself is what brings me peace.

Without my blog I’d just be a little girl who lives alone in Utah.  With it, I can touch the world. Be brave.  Make your voice heard.  We need your perspective.  I need your perspective.

Anyway, that’s my explanation of why I blog, and why I am as personal as I am on my blog.  Its the only way I know how to live.

Emerson- ““To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

Amen to that!

Ok.  Now I better find something to eat…blah.

Blogger in Training

Today I finished work a little early and started looking for photos of me at the 2002 Olympics (post to be coming on 10 year anniversary.  Still can’t find photos!).

As I was looking through my old stuff (yes, I am a pack-rat and yes, I love it!), I found a bunch of old newspapers my sister and I made, current events logs, and journals I kept.   The thing that is amazing is how little I’ve really changed.  The basic Rachel at 31 is in many ways the same at 8, 13, 15, etc.

I think the Jesuits might be right- “Give me the child of seven, and I will give you the man.”

A couple things that I noticed from looking at these journals.

First,  how much I craved being special, being recognized, being first.  For example, I HAD to have this photo taken by the crayons because it was special.  It wasn’t my Dad, the professional photographer, taking photos.  It wasn’t even the regular school shots.  It was different and fun.  The smile on my face shows a lot.

Even my reactions to the people in my life seemed to carry more meaning than they might to other children.  When Anna was just a baby we went to Disneyland and I write “I had an outrageous time in Disneyland.  I remember how Anna was always laughing when I tickled her! I also went on a lot of rides and had a lot of fun” (12-31-1991).  Isn’t it interesting that the laugh of a sister produced the same degree of glee as rides at Disneyland?

Second, express basically the same interests then as I have now. Entries like “today we went swimming for a whole hour” are common with big exclamation points. I speak about cooking and when my friend loses her brother in an accident I say ‘our family brought them food on Sunday and I made an apple pie (All by myself no help from Mom!!) with homemade flaky crust and I cut the apples…’.  See how independent and strong I was but with such a desire to serve those in need? I would still feel great about making an apple pie by myself (although I highly doubt I did so at the time!).

Third, I was always confident in my testimony of my church and in Jesus Christ.  October 21, 1990, “I love the Lord and Jesus Christ and I love it even more when you go to a place and have a great feeling and that place is the place where sins vanish.  In the stake center or a church building when you are baptized and confirmed”. At a very young age I knew that the church was true and I could always feel it, never doubted.  Once I made a decision I was done. Luckily for my parents, I made a lot of good choices!

At an older age (probably 13) I said “The thing about knowledge is once we have a testimony.  We must use it!  Missionary work is very important.  I know not everyone can be a full time missionary.  But we need  to use our knowledge to set a good example.  If a friend swears you must (underlined) tell them to stop.  Because it is better that you be embarrassed or picked on or made fun of than to make Heavenly Father sad” (quite a statement for a girl who was routinely picked on…).

Fourth, it is amazing is how knowledgeable and fascinated I was by the news of the day and I had no problem expressing my opinion on those subjects (sound like anyone you know?).  For example, after hearing one of President Clinton’s speeches I wrote:

“I’m sorry but I didn’t buy the President’s speech!  All the emphasis on working together and cutting taxes.  He sounded just like Rush Limbaugh.  If the president really plans to be better than great, but the Republican congress should not be in tears and all touched by Clinton’s speech though…The Republicans and the American’s just say to Clinton if you want to follow, follow, but you’re not leading” (Fall, 1994). What 13 year old says things like that? I love it!

Its funny I can totally see the strabimus problem in this photo. I notice it all the time now. Things are just slightly off symmetry.

I even had an opinion on Charles and Diana getting divorced, saying “I can see how their marriage went bad.  Charles being forced to marry.  I also think that when Charles married they were more in lust not in love.  Prince Charles should still be allowed to be King”

I just think it is amazing that a child even knew about such things and then had the gumption to venture an opinion. I even have entries where I talk about balancing the budget and cutting taxes.  In one of our newspapers I give an update on the 1991 primary presidential election and that ‘Bill Clinton is doing very well’.

In high school I wrote “When I was a little girl I thought that everyone was special and everyone liked everyone else no matter what they looked like”.  I think that was true, even about myself.  I thought that I was special and I still do… I had a great desire to make others happy.  I talk about sharing my testimony with others a lot because it was something that made me happy.

“Some think that they are too busy, or that they need Sunday to go on vacation or to fish, boat or ski.  we must all think about the opportunities we have everyday where we can influence people, and use them to benefit mankind.  We must not only attend church, we must live a life worthy of the church’s standards.  We must invite as many people as possible to activities. We shouldn’t count on the government to do everything…”

Can’t you just see the little blogger inside some of those words? I’ve hopefully polished it a bit and gotten a bit more open-minded but the core is there.  That desire to make others happy, to feel happy myself and to speak my mind is still with me.

One last quote

“What would happen if everyone made a special effort to love someone every day.  People would be friendlier and less people would turn to evil.  Too many people are trying to fit in with their friends instead of having their friends fit into their beliefs and personality.  The only people who are cool are the people who aren’t trying to be.  We need to realize that with just giving the friendship, people would have no reason to want to fit in and drug abuse and crime would drop.” (1992, school journal)

There you have it my friends…

31 Year Old Breakdown

I’m afraid I’ve got insomnia tonight so to the blog I go…

So as all my facebook friends are aware I had a mini-meltdown today. (ps.  I take facebook status’s as just that the status of my life, good, bad, happy, sad, whatever.  I know others don’t look at it that way but I chose to be this real in my social media interactions).  It has been a long week with lots of work hours, and not as much exercising as I would like.  In addition, this Sunday is my last Sunday in my ward, which makes me sad and freaks me out, but also on Monday is my 31st birthday.  How you ask could a 31st birthday be worse than a 30th?  Well, last year I had just fallen down a flight of stairs and was in great pain/drugged up on my birthday. So, this is the first functioning birthday of my 30s.

Anyway, let me tell you about my ward change first.   For those outside of the Mormon church we have several sectioned off wards (congregations) to suit certain language needs and lifestyles.  For example, there are Spanish wards to help people who speak Spanish to attend and understand church.  There is also what they call YSA Wards (Young Single Adults).   This includes any person unmarried 17-31 (can be divorced.  Usually if you have kids you are encouraged to go to a family ward because YSA wards do not have a primary for little one’s).

I have been in YSA wards since I was 17 years old and at the time the idea of turning 31 and ‘graduating’ out of the singles wards seemed impossible and yet here it is.  This April I am helping to plan our 10 year BYU College Graduation Reunion.  10 years since I finished at BYU.  It boggles the mind.   To me it is a little scary- what did I do with that time?  Did I do the right things?  Is God happy with my efforts? I believe that He is and that knowledge is very comforting.

I look back at my life and wonder in those 10 years did I do enough to help people, to serve others, to mentor children?  Sometimes I’m envious of teachers because they have written into their job professions opportunities to nurture future generations.  Working from home I have limited interactions with other people, limited chances to mentor.  I’d like to find something to volunteer for but haven’t come across the right thing for me.  I’d love to work with Big Brother’s Big Sisters but the closest one is in Salt Lake.  If anyone knows of a teen that could use a big sister send them my way.  I’d love it!

Anyway, today I started thinking about the next 10 years.  What are the 30’s?  The 20’s are so clear- college, mission, grad school, work etc.  30s are much harder to define.  What are the big accomplishments for a single girl in her 30s? Its honestly hard for me to come up with a list.  With no big things coming it is easy to ask the question- has all the big stuff happened or if it didn’t happen, should it have happened?  Is the game for big stuff over?

This left me feeling sad.  As a single LDS woman how does my life matter?  How do I contribute to the world?  What would be the lesser because I’m not here?  I do not have anyone who needs me for physical survival such as a young baby needs her mother; nor, am I a teacher who gets to influence many children and make a difference.   There are a few people that need me for emotional and other support.  My Dad told me yesterday that ‘he leans on me more than almost anyone else in his life’.  That meant a lot to me.  Its nice to feel needed.

My Dad also said ‘I know if you were gone there would be a lot of people grieving at your funeral and I think that says something’.  It is comforting to think about ways you’ve helped people and added value to their lives.  (Not that I’m dying or anything, friends.  Just an example).

This is going to sound like such a pity plea but oh well-  If any of you would mind sharing a way I have contributed to your life  it would be the best birthday present I can think of.  I would love it.

I know I can do better but I also know for sure that the Lord is happy with my life.  If I try my best he will fill these 30 years with excitement, adventure and moments that matter.

I must admit diving into this new huge mid-singles branch with nearly 600 people freaks me out.  I’m just so happy in my little ward family and I love being Sunday school teacher.  Its sad to see a change but as it is in the Lord’s hands I am sure it will be change with blessings at the end of it.  It might not be easy but it will work out.   I am so grateful that my friend Stefanie is going to join in! She is awesome and we’ve been friends since 2005. It will be so nice to have a kindred spirit to share this big new adventure with.  Hurray!

I also am no longer considered young by my church- rude! 🙂

How do you get through your 30s?  What worries you about growing older?  Do you ever fret about your legacy or lack of one? Do you worry that your life doesn’t matter like you hoped it would? I have felt all of these emotions and asked each of these questions and I am a mere work in progress at this point!

I found this quote by President Hinckley that gave me a lot of comfort (as he always did.  I miss President Hinckley sometimes). President Hinckley said  it best when asked about his legacy:

“I don’t know and I don’t care! That’s not my concern. I’m not trying to build some legacy of some kind. I’m just trying to move the work forward the best way I know how. And as I believe the Lord would have it move forward. And let the future take care of itself.” 🙂

I hope I can follow his counsel and keep moving forward with whatever the Lord puts in my path.  I am positive that will lead to peace and a recognition as a good and faithful servant  in the hereafter.

Interview Part 2

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my next entry in this trilogy of interviews, so I won’t keep you any longer.  Here goes…

Marriage/Courtship-

What do you think makes a good marriage partner?  I think it is just that, a partnership.  There shouldn’t be a sense of domination in any way.  Nor should one spouse feel overly defined by roles or responsibilities but the entire marriage should be a joint responsibility.

Too many people lump the decision of having kids and getting married together.   The two should be separate choices.  You should ask the question do I want to be with this person if we don’t have any kids at all?  Then you can say as a separate question will he be a good father?  That said, I really can’t imagine anyone that I would want to marry that wouldn’t also have the qualities of a good father but I think the 2 questions should be separate.

To me a good test of a relationship is will the person sit through something they don’t care for just because you are in it.  I’m not saying they have to love it but is your participation enough to count them in.  This is true for both people in the relationship.  He better get used to sitting through a swim meet and cheering and I can go fishing or do whatever outdoorsy thing he loves.  The other person’s happiness should make you happy most of the time (we all have our moments).

Another test- does the person make things fun that would normally be a drag.  For instance, I’ve always said I want to go dancing with my boyfriend.  I hate dancing, so if I can have a good time doing that we have genuine chemistry.  Maybe that’s silly but there you go.

Finally, the best couples I know have an intellectual chemistry which is tough to define.  Do you find the person you are with interesting? Not that they have to be interested in the same things per say but do they approach problems with a similar vigor, are you fascinated by the world?  Do you listen to each other in a complimentary way?  I could never be with someone who thought I was dumb or vice versa.

Why do you think so many marriages fail?  Actually in my life not many do.  Amazingly enough at 30 not one of my friends that I have seen get married has gotten divorced.  I have met friends after they were divorced but never seen the entire process from someone in my peer group.  Even in the Mormon church it seems highly unlikely that there wouldn’t be 1 couple.  None of my cousins or siblings have gotten divorced. Perhaps that will happen in this decade but so far so good.

I think when marriages do fail it is usually because of selfishness.  People begin to feel that their needs are more important than their spouse, and a partnership becomes 2 separate entities coexisting.  Every situation is different and some times people just aren’t compatible but I think usually there is some kind of selfishness involved.

How can you comment on marriage as a single woman who has never had a relationship?  Well, it doesn’t take getting shot to know it is not a pleasant experience.  Some things you can extrapolate as an observer of life and human nature.   I’m sure I will learn a lot when it is my turn but a girl can’t spend 3 decades and not develop any of her own ideas on the topic, so there!

I also have relationships that while not romantic have taught me something about how they work.

Family-

What is your ideal family?  I have no ideal.  I have never been a dreamer in that regard.   I’ve only had one time in my life (BYU) where an expectation lived up to lead up.  Most of the time it is best to take things as they come and be grateful for what you’ve got.

Will you be happy unmarried, without kids?  Yes. It has never been a big dream of mine to get married or have kids.  There are lots of reasons why but all I’ve wanted since I was a toddler (literally) is to be on my own, making my own life choices.  If the situation comes I will be happy and grateful but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being happy if it doesn’t.

If you did have kids how would you want to raise them?  What is important to you in parenting?  I believe that kids should be in the world but not of the world.  So, yes expose them to movies, literature, friends, education, but do it in a way that maintains their innocence as long as possible and allows them to have true fun.  I don’t think kids should be manipulated to be mini-parents.  They should be guided and counseled but also feel free to express their own views and ideas.  I want my kids to know that I like being with them and that they matter to me and to God.

I do love the homeschooling movement and feel if done well it can give your children the best opportunity to flourish.  You can communicate with your child in a way that no teacher can (as wonderful as they may be).  The argument against homeschool is always a social one but I feel this is silly because public school can be just as much of a social nightmare.  Any education requires monitoring by a parent and an active voice that makes actual learning the priority, not the grade received.

I love that with homeschool a parent takes ownership of how and what is taught to her child. She takes ownership of her child’s peer group, social activities and moral teaching.  Not that they don’t have those things, as some might claim, but they are guided by a parent.  There may be some who want to offer their children up to the alter of community good but not me.   It may seem odd for a single girl to have an opinion on homeschool but I think you will find there isn’t much I don’t have an opinion on!

(I will add that clearly homeschool doesn’t work for every situation.  I’m just saying that it would be my first choice if given the chance).

What did your parents teach you about parenting/life?  My mother continually teaches me to nurture others.  She is a very selfless person.  In fact, she even gave up her freedom of movement when restricted to bedrest for most of her 6 pregnancies.   This was a very difficult time for our family but she taught me that sacrifices are the most golden family moments.  Its like on my mission- the moments where I had given my all, were the one’s where I became a true missionary.  The moments in a family where you give all is when you are a true family.

My Dad teaches me each day to find joy in the journey.  I get stressed out with the details of life.  I put loads of unneeded pressure on myself and always have.  He has always been someone who can see a way out of stress and is a true optimist. He also has a zest for life that I admire and hope to emulate.

Friendship-

What do you think is a true friend? In the quest to save the family sometimes I feel we could focus more on friendshiping in the church.  Especially in the single-world friends have been a huge support for me.  As wonderful as my family is when I think of the trials of my life I can also see a friend who was there to see me through.

I’ve also had so many laughs with friends over the years.  A true friend loves and deserves love back.  A true friend sacrifices time to be with you.  A true friend has chemistry that just works.  A true friend listens when you need to vent and gives you frank counsel when required.  A true friend you could see every day and yet go years and still have that connection.  A true friend should not be work in the traditional sense.  It should be a happy work. (Its actually hard to describe a true friend, but you know it when you see it!).

One of the things I have struggled with in the last few years is maintaining an active social life.  It used to be so easy for me to gather people together.  Now it seems so difficult.  Even to have lunch with a friend can take weeks of planning.  I wish I had one friend I could call on a Friday night with nothing to do and do something.  That almost never happens.  People are just too busy.  Even getting people to come to book club or other activity can be so hard.  I’ve noticed I have more success with dinner parties or when hosting something for my swim group.  Not sure why but I’m trying to figure it out.  I love to entertain and would love to plan cute get-togethers.  After the year I’ve had I kind of got out of the habit. The Christmas Swimfest gave me a ton of confidence and I already have a Valentines Swimfest in the works.

It just sometimes feels that while friends are so important to me, they are less important for people with families.  There are exceptions which I am very grateful for and I understand the predominance family should take.  That said, it can still be hard and lonely to feel that everyone else has moved on to the next step and you are still in college-mode.  As much as I loved college nobody wants to be at the same spot forever.

Work/Adult Life-

What is the hardest thing to do as an adult?  Finding balance. It always seems that one part of my life is taking over whether it health, work, family struggles, exercising whatever.  Achieving balance is the goal of a lifetime.

In what ways has adulthood disappointed you?  This is such a good question for me because I wanted to be an adult so badly.  I would say the greatest disappointment is the mundanity of life.   I don’t know what exactly I expected but so much of life is routines and doing the same thing over and over again.  Even in the most glamorous jobs there is a fair amount of tedium. Its just part of adult life.

I also wish I had taken more advantage of time off as a young college student to explore or go places.  I think because my parents traveled I assumed I would be able to do that later, and I have been very blessed in that regard, but its hard!  Its hard to find the time, get off work, get ready, catch up when you get home etc.  Its something I should have enjoyed more when I had the chance.

I was also in a rush to finish everything.  I set a goal and I want to get it done now. This is why weight loss has been so tough for me because it is not something that can be done right in a few months.  It takes years, a lifetime really.  I don’t like things that take a lifetime!  Again, I should enjoy the journey more.

If you could have your dream job what would it be?  I think it would be cool to work in a political campaign.  I also love public speaking and think I might take a stab at politics some day. I feel I would be a good advocate for causes I believe in but I am sure the whole process would drive me crazy (again the waiting and the tedium are my struggles!).  Also, I think it would be great to teach college, especially at BYU.  I have pondered a PHD before but there are so few positions in the liberal arts that it does not seem like a good choice.  Still, it would be my dream job.

Are you disappointed to not be doing your dream job?  Yes but I’ve learned that how I work is much more important to me than what I am actually doing.  Working from home and being my own boss is worth any sacrifice- even working in accounting all day!  I get chills and feel nauseated at the thought of going back to ‘cubicle Hell’ as I call it.

My only regret in working alone is I don’t have the chance to mentor people.  I benefited greatly from mentors in my youth and I hope to someday have that chance as an adult.  I’ve enjoyed teaching in my ward the last 2 years and feel I have been a mentor to some of the younger girls (and I feel I mentor my younger siblings) but I’d like to find someone that I can really guide and mentor.

What is your greatest flaw?  Definitely holding grudges.  I grew up seeing the world in terms of bullies and victims.  That’s how I survived.  I learned that people who abuse do it again and I kept them in that spot forever.  There are still people from my life that I struggle with anger and resentment towards.  I know it only hurts me but it is tough.  I get better each year at forgiving and hopefully by the end I will be something like my Grandpa Richards who loved unconditionally.  That is my goal to be like him because he was so much like Jesus.  My relationship with Christ helps polish me each day and that includes grudges, resentments, fears and everything else.

Do you wish you were skinny?  I’d be lying if I said No. As I mentioned in my last post judgement has always been tough for me to absorb and unfortunately being fat carries tons of judgement.  I still feel great resentment at anyone who places a label on me because of my weight.  It would be nice to not deal with these judgements. However, I suppose society would just find something else to judge and I’d have to deal with it.  I do appreciate the strength my journey has given me and being heavy forced me to rely on God for praise because in a few moments that was the only place I could get it.  And maybe I do a little bit of good correcting prejudice and speaking out.  If that was the case, it’d all be worth it.

Well, that’s a lot.  Probably more than any of you care to read but it does me a great deal of good to say it.   The next entry will be on my views on the political and social issues of the day.  Should be pretty fun!   (I have had an interest in politics since I was in grade school and voted in every election since I turned 18.  It is very important to me).

Same Old, Same Old

Oscar Wilde said “Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.”  Do you think that is true?

I used to think I was an exciting and adventurous person. As a child I could see myself traipsing off to Paris, Rome and the tropics (I evidently also saw an unending bank account!) and trying new and daring things like scuba diving, mountain climbing and cliff jumping (scuba diving is still a goal of mine).  I also thought I would be living in New York, DC or possibly abroad….

While I think there is value in new experiences, I have learned as an adult that I am the near-opposite of the vision for myself I had as a child.  I hate surprises, am completely unspontaneous and will always take the sure thing over an unknown.  Perhaps this is a safe way to live life but if it is what gives you happiness can that be bad?

Rather than being safe I look at it as knowing what I like and being confident in those choices.  For example,  I have read North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell at least 3 times a year for the last 4 years and I probably will continue reading it over again for the rest of my life.  I love the experience of reading that book and have yet to find a replacement that is as satisfactory. (I was just talking to a girl who said she has never reread a book in her life.  I wouldn’t read much if that was my philosophy!)

For me repetition does not diminish a good experience.   The things I like I could do again and again.  I honestly think I could eat a jamba juice every day of my life and never tire of it, or spaghetti, or subs.  I love Hawaii and really feel no desire to vacation anywhere else.  I think about going somewhere new and while that sounds exciting my heart keeps tugging me back to Hawaii.  Its what I know I will love and just like Gaskell or jamba juice there is some comfort in a sure thing.

I have always loved to swim and whether it be boating, open water, ocean or pool, I love being in the water.  I could swim every day for the rest of my life and never tire of it.  Sometimes I wonder if I should take up other sports just to keep challenging myself but there isn’t anything else I feel a desire to do.  All I want to do is swim! (In fact, every other athletic activity is somewhat repellent to me including things everyone loves like hiking or dancing).

With movies and television you can see this personality trait. I’ve seen Bringing up Baby, Breakfast at Tiffany’s and You’ve Got Mail untold numbers of times and I still love all 3 and could watch them again right now without any reduction in viewing enjoyment.  The other day I watched the new season of the Simpsons and it is still making me laugh after 22 years. Same basic gags but if they work, they work.

Other examples are in music.  I’ve had a playlist I made a year or so ago that is my go-to.  It has all of my favorite songs and I put it on recycle and listen to it again and again.  The other day I was driving with my sister and she said “Can we listen to something other than the playlist that you have on all the time”.  Sometimes I forget that not everyone enjoys repetition the way I do!

In the first area of my mission there was a sandwich shop we would frequent and every time we went I got a reuben sandwich.  Finally my companion in frustration said “try something different why don’t you!”.  So I did and you know what- it wasn’t as good as the reuben and I left the store wishing I had gotten the sure thing.

What do you think of this trait? Some might say “I’m in a rut” but I see it as being self-aware and cognizant of what makes me happy. Besides, isn’t there a point in life where you stop trying to figure out what you love and just love the things you have? But on the other side I sometimes worry that I don’t push myself and end up as a boring person, which is not what I want.

A few years ago my friend Camille did a post of things we may not know about her and despite knowing her for years and living with her for 2 as a roommate, there were several things on the list that I didn’t know.  I tried to come up with such a list and it was an epic failure.  I couldn’t think of anything about myself that my friends didn’t know.  Not one thing! I am the lamest person to play truth or dare with because I really have nothing interesting to tell! Being so predictable and open seems like a bad thing?

My friend Raelene has this bucket list of all these things she wants to do in life- the places she wants to go, experiences to have, possessions/homes she’d like to gain.  I have never been this type of dreamer.  I am content with what I’ve got and honestly feel no desire to have much more.  If it happens that’s great but I could live in my apartment, by myself, with an occasional trip to Hawaii and be perfectly content for the rest of my life.

Most girls I know hate being single and daydream of a different life.  I really don’t.  I like my life. Its a sure thing and in some ways getting married would be super scary (although if the experience happens that would be great but adapting to a whole new life would be hard). If it happens that’s great but if it doesn’t I’m fine too.

Thoughts? Do you think consistency is good or bad thing? Should I feel compelled to ‘break out of my shell’ or am I fine just the way I am? What do you think about your life and being ‘in a rut’?

Boasting?

I hope I don't come across this way!

So recently I had an interesting experience.  In meeting a new person I began to share events from my life.  These experiences came naturally in the course of conversation.  For instance, he mentioned sushi so I spoke about the time I went to a sushi restaurant in Japan.  He asked about my work, I told him about my grandparents and our family company.

As we had extremely pleasant back-and-forth he made a joke about how I should use “daddy’s credit card”.  Suddenly I realized that my sharing had been taken as boasting which was not my intent.  I told him that I have been financially independent since I was 18 and have never had access to “daddy’s credit card”.

School and my mission are really the only major expenses that I have been given help with by my family (which btw I am very grateful for and recognize was a unique blessing many don’t have). For years I have been responsible for my own rent, food, utilities, vacations etc.  I actually pride myself on my independence and self-reliance, which is why the comment felt a little rude and has stuck in my mind these many weeks.

I don’t want to make this seem like a bigger deal then it was because I still had a good time and it blew over.  No problem.   That said- I couldn’t help but ask the question:  How do you talk about your life and share what you’ve experienced without seeming cocky or conceited? I don’t like to over-monitor what I say, I want to be natural, but I also don’t want to ostracize people or give the wrong impression. Its a tricky balance?

Make no mistake- I have had many blessings in my life but I have not gotten a complete free pass- I am not a materialistic diva.  Anyone who knows me knows I work very hard and have even been described as a “workaholic”.  I know there are people who work harder than me with far less rewards but I do try to put out my best effort.

Doesn’t everyone have blessings in their life which if construed a certain way could seem privileged, exclusive or special? Are you just not supposed to talk about such things for fear of sounding conceited? All that would cause is a whole bunch of complaining in conversations and personally I prefer to error on the side of boasting.  I mean other people gush about their husbands, kids or new homes and I’m fine with that even though I have none of those things.  I see it as them sharing the most important things in their life with me not as boasting?

Especially when it comes to my fitness goals things become tricky.  Exercise takes a huge amount of my energy and effort.  No one can deny me that! Because it is so difficult and time consuming, I talk about it a lot and I can see how all that talk could be seen as bragging.   Believe me when I say I still have a ton of work to do- about 100 lbs worth of work left to lose- but I am proud of what I have accomplished so far.

This process has been the hardest thing I have ever done, and I have relied on my friends/family/trainers/blogosphere to buoy me up.  I am sure at times they grow weary of the constant lifting, but I am SO GRATEFUL for it.  It also is partly because of my frequent belly aching that I am particularly effusive when sharing my successes.   I see it as everyone’s success. I really do.

In the end, I can’t control the way people filter what I say; however, just know this- I am humbled and grateful for every blessing in my life.  If I ever come across as conceited or boastful please forgive me.  I promise it is not my intent.  If I was going to boast of anything it would be my amazing family and friends who love me unconditionally- fat or skinny, employed or not, complaining or jubilant,  they find a way to love me.

My “cup runneth over” with blessings.

The truth is I could do nothing, including finding happiness or achieving any goals, without my testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Atonement.  I have the unbelievable gift of knowing who I am and how much I matter to God- this is a gift without price.  Like Peter I say my trial and relationship with God is

“more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ”

I feel like the Book of Mormon prophet Ammon when he said:

I do not boast in my own strength, nor in my own wisdom; but behold, my joy is full, yea, my heart is brim with joy, and I will rejoice in my God.  Yea, I know that I am nothing; as to my strength I am weak; therefore I will not boast of myself but I will boast of my God, for in His strength I CAN DO ALL THINGS!”

Memories

To flee from memory
Had we the Wings
Many would fly
Inured to slower things
Birds with surprise
Would scan the cowering Van
Of men escaping
From the mind of man

Emily Dickinson

Memory is a strange thing and there are times I wish I could flee from mine.  Isn’t it odd how most of us  remember the painful moments with stunning clarity while the joyous times go by in a blur? Why is that?

In the excellent movie After Life (1998 Japanese film) the recently departed are required to choose one memory to be recreated and filmed for them to take on to the next stage.  After viewing the films the participant vanishes to an unknown fate.  The movie does a great job presenting different types of people who struggle to come up with a memory.  What is most important? What is the happiest memory in life? Some chose Disneyland or their weddings but others refuse to choose and feel their life is not worthwhile- not one memory.  If you have not seen After Life rent it on Netflix.  I promise you will get used to the subtitles.  It is well worth the effort.

The great Thornton Wilder play, Our Town, has a similar plot.  The lead character Emily must pick a memory to go back and view before moving on.  She tries to pick an inoxuious day- her 12th birthday but in reliving it she understands that no moment in life is without meaning and value.  In fact, it is the routine and ordinary that are often the most important.  As I mentioned in a previous post there is a filming of a Broadway version of Our Town staring Paul Newman that is worth checking out.

I bring this topic up only because lately I have found myself drifting to memories, some of them painful.  As much as I’d like to focus on the family vacations, hugs goodnight and nearly constant reading aloud, some of the memories that are the most vivid are the taunts, teases and frustrations.

There are two memories in particular that I can’t seem to erase from my mind (not that I want to).  The first one happened in the 5th grade (so around 10?).  As the chubbiest girl in school, I was repeatedly teased and called a ‘fat dog’ by my classmates.  One  day I was drinking from an outdoor water fountain and was trying to ignore the taunts.  Eventually one kid decided it would be funny to push me into the water and shove my dress above my head so my underwear showed to the world.  I remember this moment so well I could tell you the dress I was wearing.  It was nautical with little flags.  I’m a 30 year old woman and yet I still remember with pain the taunts of stupid 10-year-old punk kids.  Why?

The other memory which stands out I am almost hesitant to bring up.  My parents did such a great job with me that this was a rare misstep.   Around the same time of the teasing my parents sat me down for a talk.  I remember it as if it was yesterday.  We were on our deck in Salt Lake and they told me I needed to go on a diet and that ‘I weighed as much as some grown men’.  Then they gave me a tuna fish sandwich on pumpernickel bread with baby carrots.  It was the first time in my life  I was told I was fat by someone I loved and I think a bubble of childhood was burst.  I remember feeling confused and puzzled at how I had let this problem occur and what I was to do about it?  In the 20 years since, there has always been a part of me which has accepted my weight as my fault- as my great flaw, the one thing I couldn’t figure out or conquer.  How could a little girl be expected to overcome such a problem?

Of course, now I know that I likely suffered from insulin resistance problems back then.  In fact, with the early puberty, weight gain,  and fatigue, the diagnosis is obvious.  However, I did not know this information then- nor did my parents.  To their credit they did take me out of school almost immediately after they found out about the teasing and put me in Reid School– a decision which changed the way I learned and boosted my self-confidence at a critical junction (and made me a passionate supporter of alternative schooling for my entire life)

In addition, my parents have been unfailingly supportive of me, no matter my size.  The funny thing is I can only think of two other time’s growing up when they mentioned diets or losing weight again.  No parent is perfect and no child is ideal.  They did not know I had an insulin resistance problem and considering it took me the last 14 months to figure it out I do not hold it against them. I wish we had decided to get healthy as a family, instead of singling me out, but I know they did the best they could.  I always knew they loved me.  Like the Dickinson poem says I wish I could flee away from the memory.  I wish I didn’t have it and certainly that it wouldn’t be so vivid.

Perhaps, however, I would not be where I am today without such memories?  Who is to say?  I don’t know, but I think part of this life-changing process is coming to terms with how I arrived here- the good times and the bad.

Swimming is Fun!

Today I had a great experience.  My friend Aimee Talley and I worked at the houses weeding for a few hours.   I HATE weeding but today doing it with a friend it wasn’t so bad.  We had a good time talking about a variety of issues and just getting in some girl talk.  After the weeding we went to my gym and I gave Aimee a tour!  It was a lot of fun to show someone my stomping grounds and have company for my work out.  By the way- if anyone wants to come with me to the gym I would love it, so far Aimee is the first one to take me up on the offer!

With a friend there I had someone who could take some photos of me at the pool.  I have been meaning to take some for the blog but was embarrassed to ask a stranger.  (I wanted to prove to everyone that I was really was working out- 5 times this week!).  For the past 16 days I’ve spent time nearly every day doing a weight routine my trainer gave me using free weights.  After that I do a different type of cardio- my favorite being swimming. Ever since I was a child I have loved swimming. I love the coolness and fresh feel of the water and the freedom I feel gliding with each stroke .  It has always been the only athletic activity I enjoy.  In fact, everything else is a chore.  I honestly hate all other kinds of exercise.  In high school I joined the swim team  where I wasn’t a star but was competitive- especially in the butterfly!  I was one of the only girls that had the upper body strength to the do the butterfly well.  What’s funny is that for 3 years I competed on the Middletown High School swim team and had a great experience, but I never won a single race, or even came close.  I am a naturally competitive, prideful person, so it is funny that this didn’t bother me.  I guess I just loved swimming too much to notice!  My last year in Maryland I even completed my lifeguard certification, which was quite an achievement given my weight at the time.  I vividly remember taking the test (you had to tread in water with a 10 pound brick for 10 minutes!) and then standing by the side of the pool exhausted waiting for Coach Cowperthwaite (her real name) to see if I’d passed.  Eventually she nodded and said “you did it!”.  “Really?”  “Holy Cow!”  I replied in disbelief.  Looking back it is still an amazing accomplishment.  I don’t see how I did it when at the time I weighed at least 220 lbs.  I think I simply loved to swim that much! Amazing!

One of the great things (basically the best thing!) about my new gym is the lap pool.  The water is the perfect temperature and it feels so good to do lap after lap.  I would honestly swim every day but my trainer recommends I alternate different cardios to work out various muscles.  Sometimes I will reward myself after a treadmill or bike work out (I particularly hate the treadmill) with a lap swim- not a bad reward!  Anyway, here are some photos of me at the gym.  I think you can see how happy I am especially in the water.

Here I go on swimming laps! I usually do 20 laps in about 30 minutes. Not bad!
Isn't that a happy face! I love this photo.

these are the great robes they have at the gym!

By the way, anyone thinking of entering my healthy recipe contest please get me your entries by this Friday September 17th.  Remember it can be any type of recipe as long as it is healthy and delicious.  I really will give a prize and post the winning entry on this blog.  Please send away!  (Thanks to those who have already submitted!).

Elements of a Story in Our Lives

For my birthday my sister Megan got me A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller.  I am about 50 pages into it and loving this book. It is a bit hard to describe but basically Miller is a writer who begins to feel that his life is boring that it is unworthy of a memoir (even though he had just published a memoir and was blocked on writing his newest one).  While feeling frustrated and blocked he gets an offer to write a screenplay and in his meeting with the other writers they mention that his character will need to be changed to make a better story.  This makes him wonder even more about what his life is all about and how much of a hand God has in the development of his story.

I am still reading but there was one part that I just had to share.  Donald goes to an intense story-writing conference where he hears 36 hours of lecture and is still confused about what makes a great story.  When packing up his bags he mentions his frustrations to his buddy who responds:

“A Story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”, he said with remarkable assurance.

I looked at the definition for a second wondering at how simple it really was.  He was right.  A character who wants something  and overcomes conflict to get it is the basic structure of a good story.

“That’s it!,”  I said to him.  “That’s the essence of a story”

Realizing this truth he has a fascinating interaction with a friend of his.  This friend has a daughter who is starting to experiment in drugs and is dating a guy “who smelled like smoke and only answered questions with single words ”  (I love that description!).  After repeated grounding attempts nothing seemed to be working.  On a whim Donald tells his friend that his daughter is “living a terrible story”.

“What do you mean?” he asked

“I don’t know exactly, but she’s just not living a very good story.  She’s caught up in a bad one”

After that the two friends talked for a long time about living the right stories.  A couple of months later he ran into this friend and asked about the daughter.  ‘”She’s better” he said to me smiling. And when I asked why, he told me his family was living a better story”.    Basically the friend went online and looked for something different, better to be involved in- something that might catch his daughters eye.  In the search he found an organization that builds orphanages around the world.  He then called the organization and signed up for the service.

“So I went home and called a family meeting…I told them about this village and about the orphanage and all these terrible things  that could happen if these kids don’t get an orphanage.  Then I told them I agreed to build it”

My wife sat there looking at me like I’d lost my mind.  And my daughter, her eyes were as big as melons and she wasn’t happy.

He then goes on to explain that after getting over the initial shock the entire family became excited including his daughter.  She even wanted to use her website and blog to promote and fund raise for the orphanage.

“That’s incredible” I said   “You know what else, man?” “She broke up with her boyfriend last week.  She had his picture on her dresser and took it down and told me he said she was too fat. Can you believe that?  What a jerk.”

“But that is done now,” he said, shaking his head. ” No girl who plays the role of hero dates a guy who uses her.  She knows who she is.  She just forgot for a little while”

I have a quote on my wall that says “If at some point in your life you are not where you want to be it has no bearing on the future. You can always reinvent yourself”.  I don’t know who said that first but I think this is a very interesting idea.  Just like the girl in the story or the prodigal son from scripture, we can come to ourselves and think upon our ways; thereby, creating a new story, a better story, or certainly a more dynamic story.  Even if it is not a redemptive change, knowing that change is possible is so wonderful.  For example, if I am able to lose weight that would change my story- it may or may not make it substantially better but the chances are it will make it a longer story.  Another example that comes to my mind is the new story which was created when I quit my job at JWA.   I felt 100% authentic to what God wanted to me to do and what was consequently right for me.  As Donald says “And once you know what it takes to live a better story, you don’t have a choice.  Not living a better story would be like deciding to die, deciding to walk around numb until you die and its not natural to want to die.”  This is the best summary of how I feel now compared to how I felt in my old job.  I just wasn’t living the story I was meant to live- it wasn’t a bad story, just not the one for me.  I am so glad I had the guts to leap into the unknown and try something new.

On my mission I saw many people who started to tell a different story.  They experienced conversion and fairly quickly his or her life became a life with a “Mormon” story thrown into the mix.  I’d be curious to hear of moments in your life where a change in your story had a dramatic affect or a smaller but memorable one.


Madeline is 10- A Decade Come and Gone

Madelien

My baby sister Madeline turns 10 today. I can’t believe an entire decade has gone by since she has been a part of our family.  I know it is such a cliche- but really where does the time go?  I remember the day she was born.  I had the unusual circumstance of leaving for college with my mother pregnant.  It was a stressful time for our family as we had just moved to California from Maryland (I know all the way across the country!), my mom had 2 other young children and she had basically full bed rest for the entire pregnancy.  To add to the pressure both myself and my sister Megan went out to BYU at the same time.  This was a surprise for my parents as Meg was only 16 at the time.  ( I was delighted with Megan going to school.  It was like my best friend taking that big step with me).   My parents tried their best to handle everything with grace and cheerfulness but it was hard.  My mom used to call our dorm room and try her best to sound happy but it always came across as pathetic and sad.  It was a very exciting but conflicting time for both of us.

At the end of our Summer term we traveled home for a two-week time period.  I don’t remember when the original due date was but my mom was scheduled to be induced at the beginning of our trip.  It was on a Friday and we debated because it was the superstitious day of Friday the 13th; however, in the end we wanted to spend as much time with the new baby as possible.  Plus, my mom was ready.  Into the hospital she went and later that afternoon she had the baby (my mom always had fast deliveries).  She was a beautiful baby with light blond hair and a button nose. Madeline didn’t have the bleach blond Anna had but was definitely fair.  For the next two weeks we helped my mother as much as we could and took care of the baby.  From the beginning Madeline had spunk and curiosity for life.  I thoroughly expect her to do great, dynamic, exciting things- she has the personality for it.  She always has.

Some may find it odd to have a sibling that I have never lived with for more than a week or two.  How can we be close? Well, I have been fortunate enough to always travel home for visits at every major holiday.  My family has also made it a priority to travel to Utah as much as possible.  I have often heard the younger kids grumble about “another visit to Utah…”  What they didn’t realize is these trips were essential to the unity of our family.  As all of my siblings grow, I know I will continue to see our relationships grow and our friendships deepen.  I am a very communicative person and as cute as little kids are I almost enjoy the more talkative pre-teen and teenager ages more.   I look forward to many more birthday’s with Madeline!

Aside from memories of her original birthday, I have also been contemplating the last decade.  10 years.  It has been 10 years since that big day for our family.  What have I done in that 10 years?  I started to list the accomplishments and if I am allowed to say, it’s not to shabby of a list:

Since 1999 I have:

Started and graduated with my bachelor’s degree from BYU in Political Science emphasizing in political philosophy.   In 2001-2002 I was able to be a teaching assistant for Matt Holland and David Bohn- one of the great honors of my life.

Completed an MBA

Had 5 different jobs (that’s just counting what I do now as one job!)

Lived in 14 different apartments.

Had 29 roommates/companions (that is only counting my sister once who I lived with 3 times)

Served a 20 month mission for the LDS (Mormon) church.

Took at least 4 years of voice lessons (8 recitals)

It’s hard to know exactly but I figure I have been to California at least 40 times in 10 years.

Plus, I have been to Japan, Mexico twice (that’s 2 cruises), Hawaii 3 times, New York City 3 times, Indiana once (aside from the mission), Las Vegas 3 times, Disneyland once, Jackson Hole and more.

Two of my siblings have gotten married and I now have 4 nieces and one step-nephew.

I tried to count but I have lived in 15 wards and had 21 callings at church.  Most of my callings have involved activities or enrichment.  I have served as  a teacher once and this was my favorite calling besides my mission.

Assuming we talked for only an hour a week, taking out 2 years for my mission, I figure I have talked to my mom on the phone for over 400 hours.  In fact, it’s probably double that.  I have similar statistics for both Anna and Megan.   I am so grateful for the time they take to make our relationships strong.

There have been some sad, tough times, but  I am proud of the woman I have become.  Some especially hard times were in 2001 when my grandfather and 2 cousins died, 9/11 happened, and other family crisis erupted in one year.  2007 was also a difficult year where I dealt with depression, anxiety and even a panic attack.  My mission also had many struggles accompanying its triumphs.

I have started a blog, gotten on facebook, and watched far too many hours of movies, dvds and cable (reality tv has become a particular addiction)

I now have 20 cookbooks and have sampled hundreds of recipes while throwing tons of parties- some more successful than others.  I like to think I am a pretty great entertainer at this point, and I hope I have made a few people happy through my efforts.  My personal favorite is the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook and the follow up Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten.  Delicious!

I have been in 5 book clubs and read countless books. Some of my favorites are Red China Blues by Jan Wong, Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright, Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters, Harry Potter books, Jane Austen books, Elizabeth Gaskell books etc…

In the last 4 years I have become a lover of audiobooks, podcasts and radio programs including Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life and Radio West.  Little things like reading a great book or listening to an interesting program are what make my life great.

My favorite perks of the last 10 years- high speed wireless internet, my ipod, and my DVR (like TIVO). I am still fantasizing about getting a Kindle someday…

Finally, I have had the best friends a girl could ask for.  Particularly when I think of the friends who have persisted over this decade, I feel so lucky.  There are too many to begin naming them.  Suffice it to say, I have had very few moments where I am lonely for a shoulder to cry on or a companion to share a laugh with.

Life is good, and I have much to be grateful for. I have a great life.

Clearly there are some life goals I have not met including losing a significant amount of weight, having a committed relationship, getting married, having kids (girl named Lili, boy named Christian but who’s planning!), getting a down payment and purchasing a home, going back to Europe,catering at least one wedding, earning a PHD, and writing a book. These are all things I hope to be able to list as accomplishments when I write my post at Madeline’s 20th birthday!  They are somewhat lofty goals but as the poet says “every dream proceeds the goal and the dream lies hidden in your soul”.   We will see how life happens.  I have certainly learned a lot in the last decade and can only hope that the next 10 years are twice as fruitful as the previous.  Thanks in advance for your support and help along the way.  It will be a great adventure!

(I hope this post doesn’t sound like eulogy.  I was simply feeling thoughtful about my life. )