Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Call

On Wednesday, May 9, 2012, I received a letter in the mail.  It was in a large, white envelope that was about a 1/4" thick.  Though its long-anticipated arrival was met with much excitement, it also brought with it a certain amount of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty.  I was not fortunate to relieve my apprehension by opening it right away.  Instead I had to wait several long, torturous hours before the time to reveal its contents had arrived.  But those waiting hours were nothing compared to the time it had taken to prepare for this letter’s arrival in the first place.  That story begins over two and a half years ago, and in order to fully appreciate the contents of the letter I received this week, I want to share that story with you.

In October 2009 I received a letter from my friend, Megan Richards, who at the time was serving a mission in Romania.  She was only one of several of my close friends serving missions at the time, so my mind was often turned to the possibility of going on a mission.  But having turned 22 months before, I was nearly old enough to have already gone and come home from a mission, and therefore I felt that perhaps the time for my mission service had passed me by.  Having shared these thoughts with Megan in a previous correspondence, she responded to me in her typical beautiful, inspired way.  She recounted to me the story of Esther in the Old Testament, and the counsel from her father, Mordecai, in Esther 4:14.

“For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father’s house shall be destroyed:  and who knoweth whether thou art called to the kingdom for such a time as this?”

I felt such an affirmation from the Spirit that this scripture was applicable to me – “who knoweth whether [I was] called to the kingdom for such a time as this?”  I may have felt old for leaving on a mission, but who was I to question the Lord’s timing?
Shortly thereafter, we sang Hymn #270, “I’ll Go Where You Want Me to Go,” as one of the congregational hymns in sacrament meeting, and I absolutely came to pieces.  It seemed that every word of that hymn was calling out specifically to me. 

It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me.
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.

Perhaps today there are loving words
Which Jesus would have me speak;
There may be now in the paths of sin
Some wand’rer whom I should seek.
O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide,
Tho dark and rugged the way,
My voice shall echo the message sweet:
I’ll say what you want me to say.

There’s surely somewhere a lowly place
In earth’s harvest fields so wide
Where I may labor through life’s short day
For Jesus, the Crucified.
So trusting my all to thy tender care,
And knowing thou lovest me,
I’ll do thy will with a heart sincere:
I’ll be what you want me to be.

I’ll go where you want me to go, dear Lord,
Over mountain or plain or sea;
I’ll say what you want me to say, dear Lord;
I’ll be what you want me to be

The Spirit was not so much whispering as it was shouting in my mind and my heart, “Go on a mission.  Go on a mission!  GO ON A MISSION!!!”

Around this same time, I recorded in my journal a collection of “Things to Think About.”  I included the scripture in Esther, some select phrases from Hymn #270, and other passages of scripture and verses of hymns, including 2 Timothy 1:7; D&C 4; Hymn #169, “As Now We Take the Sacrament;” Hymn #97, “Lead, Kindly Light;” James 1:5; D&C 31; Acts 6:4; Romans 1:16-17; and D&C 88:81.  By this point, I knew that the answer to the question of whether or not I should serve a mission was a resounding, “Yes!”  However, it was a question I was simply terrified to ask the Lord in prayer.  I was so afraid of putting my life on hold, so resistant to change, so nervous about where I might go, and already starting to mourn those things which I would have to leave behind or miss out on while I was away.

It took a couple of months, but by December 2009/January 2010 I had finally come around to admitting to myself and accepting from the Lord that this was the path that I should take.  I met with my then-bishop, Eric Rasmussen, and after a preliminary interview he sent me to the Missionary Online Recommendation System to begin my paperwork and to the patriarch to receive my patriarchal blessing (something I had been putting off for years because I was afraid of being disappointed).

I visited the patriarch, Kenneth Godfrey, on January 31, 2010, and in my interview with him I mentioned that I was preparing mission papers.  He gave me a beautiful blessing, which spoke in detail about my missionary experience and the blessings I would receive as a missionary.  I felt buoyed up and even more excited about my mission plans after receiving my blessing.

Only a few short weeks later, Bishop Rasmussen was released from his calling much sooner than I had anticipated, and Bishop Al Burns was called in his place.  At first, I was simply devastated.  I already had a good relationship with Bishop Rasmussen and I hardly knew Bishop Burns at all.  But in his address to the congregation in sacrament meeting the day he was sustained, Bishop Burns shared an experience about how he had been arrested in the midst of a ward youth activity at Bear Lake for having too many people in his boat.  As I had recently been arrested myself for forgetting/neglecting to pay a traffic ticket (If you don’t know this whole story, ask me and I’ll tell you about it sometime.), I felt an immediate kinship with Bishop Burns.  I had confirmation from the Spirit that he was called by God, that he would be a good bishop for me, and that everything would be okay with regard to my mission paperwork.

I met with Bishop Burns a couple weeks later and we discussed my mission plans.  There were a few things slowing my progress, including not having insurance to help cover the costs of the necessary medical and dental exams, having a significant (but not insurmountable) amount of debt to repay, and on top of those things, not receiving sufficient hours at work in order to get ahead or begin to save.  Despite being out of school for a year and being available for full-time employment, I was not very successful at finding anything I was interested in or that didn’t conflict with other priorities I had in my life.  I never made appointments with my doctor or my dentist or made any arrangements for quickened repayment of my debts.

Over that next year, I let my mission papers become neglected.  I began to make different plans for my future.  In the spring of 2011, I enrolled for my last year of school at Utah State.  I kept my same job and worked no more or less than before.  I hoped that I would graduate and find a fantastic job or a fantastic husband and finally get on with my life.  I didn’t ever say I wasn’t going on a mission, but I just figured I probably wouldn’t.  There were just so many barriers I would have to overcome.

In the fall of 2011, I began my final year at Utah State.  At what would be seven years after my high school graduation, I could look on my upcoming college graduation with nothing but relief.  I was so tired of school and so tired of part-time work and so tired of not having a real life.  I didn’t think too much about what I would do once I was done, but I certainly knew it had to be different and better than what I was doing now.  However, as that fall semester began to draw to a close, it was with panic and dread that I realized that I would soon have to make some major life decisions.

I tried to ignore it the best I could, but I really couldn’t stop thinking about my patriarchal blessing, and how it spoke so specifically on serving a mission.  I tried telling myself that I’d been there before and hadn’t gotten anywhere, that this time around it was definitely too late, that I really didn’t want to put off my life and a career and marriage and children any longer.  I wanted to make my own decision.  I wanted to carve my own path and I didn’t want anyone, not even the Lord, telling me what to do.  (I know, I know.  I can be very stubborn and ridiculous.)

I knew that following the path the Lord wanted me to take would be difficult.  It would mean some major sacrifices – the one I hated the most was all the time that I would lose.  As a 24-year-old unmarried Latter-Day Saint woman from Utah, I already felt a little like an outcast and somewhat of a failure for not having a husband and a gaggle of children as so many of my friends my age (and younger) already did.  Going on a mission would mean choosing to put that off even longer.  I worried that it would only serve to make certain my fate as a lonely old maid.  I would become the scary old lady on the corner who never married and who had nobody but her garden gnomes to keep her company.  This is a thought which still haunts and terrifies me.

Additionally, it would mean leaving everything I know behind.  It would mean walking away from my family, my friends, my job, my television shows, my wardrobe, my cooking blogs, my singing and dancing and acting, and into the absolute unknown.  It would mean having to talk to complete strangers about a difficult subject all day, every day in an unfamiliar place, maybe even in an unfamiliar language.  It would mean 18 whole months of getting up every morning at 6:30 AM.  It would mean missing weddings, school musicals, babies being born, birthdays, and Christmases.  I wasn’t ready.  I didn’t want it.  I yearned for the familiar, the comfortable, and the sane.

But in the end, it didn’t really feel like it was my decision to make.  It was the Lord’s will for me and at some point I came to accept it, even if I didn’t embrace it right away.  I couldn’t bring myself to say it aloud, even to myself, for the longest time.  I knew if I said it I would have to go through with it and I was so remarkably afraid.  Finally, one day, in desperation, I prayed to know if it was really the right thing to do.  I said that I would go if it was the Lord’s will that I do so.  But I already knew the answer.  It had been trying to force itself into my mind and heart for weeks, maybe even months.  I had to serve a mission.  Now was the time for which I had been prepared to serve.

Despite my spiritual confirmation, I was frustrated and even a little bit angry and resentful at the Lord’s timing.  I mean, I’m almost 25 years old, for heaven’s sake!  Who waits until they are 25 to serve a mission?  Even after I had decided that I would go, at first it felt almost like a chore.  I felt abandoned and neglected.  It seemed almost like the fact that I had not gone sooner was due to ignorance of me on the Lord’s part, rather than careful love and planning.  But I looked back on the time that had passed since I first started my mission papers, and I realized what I would have missed if I had gone two years ago as I originally intended.  I would have been gone when my family experienced the death of my father.  I would have missed my little sister’s high school graduation.  I would not have had the wonderful blessing of reconnecting with a long-lost old friend.  I would not yet have graduated from Utah State University or from Institute.  I would not have formed some of the wonderful friendships I have found in my ward, at school, and at work.  I would not have had the opportunity to fulfill the callings I have been given at church.

I would not have been prepared in Institue by Brother Dymock, who taught me to love scripture study and whose class helped me to develop a regular habit of scripture study for the first time in my life; by Brother Hunsaker, who taught the New Testament with so much love and faith in Jesus Christ you couldn’t help but grow closer to the Him every single day; by Brother Evanson, who used his experience as a former mission president to teach Mission Prep with practicality, straightforwardness, and honesty about what is required to be a missionary, and what missionary work is really like; or by Brother Winward, whose Marriage Prep class was one of the most inspiring and doctrinally sound classes I have ever taken, and which made me more excited about the temple than I have ever been.

The timing seems bad to me in many ways.  But only the Lord can see the end from the beginning.  Only the Lord really knows what is best for me.  I know I will continue learning this lesson every day of my life, but looking back over the past two and a half years has helped my testimony of this (often difficult) truth to grow.

So I made an appointment to meet with Bishop Burns, and on January 25, 2012, we met and talked about finally completing my mission papers.  There were still some obstacles – I was still uninsured and though it had been reduced by almost half, I still had some debts to pay off.  But Bishop Burns offered to help cover my medical expenses and to help me repay my debts because he, too, knew that it really was time for me to go.  But that wasn’t all.  He was given a forceful impression that this was something I should do on my own – at least, without the involvement of my family and friends.  He didn’t want my family to worry about the finances and he didn’t want me to feel any pressure or even “friendly encouragement” from anyone else to rush through the process of completing my paperwork.  He knew that I needed the opportunity to sort through these things for myself.  To move at my own pace and to take the time I needed to evaluate things emotionally.

At first it was difficult.  It was often very lonely.  And I can’t even tell you how many times I felt trapped in a lie when I was forced to be vague about my post-graduation plans.  But I was also grateful for the solitude.  There were many, many panic attacks in my car or in my room late at night.  There were days when I worried that opening my mouth at all would result in the truth of my future just spilling out, entirely unbidden by me.

I developed a few confidants – of course my doctor and my dentist (who both also happen to be in my ward) both knew, as I visited them in February in the course of completing mission paperwork.  My voice teacher, Laurie Hart, got it out of me early on in the process and she was a tremendous help and support.  My lessons each week were often my only opportunity to talk about my progress, and to express my anxiety and excitement.  It was truly a blessing.  And my dear friend, Annie Ferrin, was included in my list of co-conspirators shortly before I submitted my paperwork, because she asked me about a mission and did not believe me when I tried to lie.  Beyond those few people, and anyone in the ward or stake leadership who needed to know in order to help complete the process, absolutely nobody in my life knew I was submitting mission papers.  Not my mother, not my sister or brothers, not my grandparents, and none of my best friends.

After four months (give or take two years or so) of getting my papers in order, I met with President Wallis, my Stake President, on April 22, 2012, and after a great interview my papers were finally submitted!  Before letting me go, he said, “Are you sure you want to do this?” and I was pleased to say, “Yes!”  It was a long journey and a difficult one, but somewhere between January and April, my hesitation and resentment grew into excitement and anticipation.  Now all I had to do was wait, wait, wait for the call to come.

President Wallis said it would take up to three Wednesdays for my call to arrive.  Everyone I knew who had recently received calls said they were turning around in about 10 days.  So you can imagine my disappointment when, 10 days after submitting my papers, having still not told my family or any of my closest friends of my plans, my call failed to arrive.  I did not know that I could survive another week.  I was finishing school the next day, and though I had graduation to look forward to, I was not going to be nearly busy enough to distract myself for so much longer!

Graduation day came, and then there were only a few more days to wait.  I attended my graduation ceremonies and still had not revealed my plans to my friends or family.  I meant to wait until my call actually came (I think because it had been a secret so long, I wasn’t really sure they would believe me if I didn’t have it in my hand as proof), but my graduation celebrations were too heavy with the weight of the future to put it off any longer.  After five months of solitude in my decision, I told my family that I was expecting a mission call to arrive on Wednesday.

They were, needless to say, absolutely stunned by this news.  I think my mother’s jaw literally hit the table at the restaurant.  My sister was crying.  My grandparents were ecstatic.  My brother was stoically proud.  One of my best friends and my near-constant companion, AnnMarie, just kept exclaiming that she couldn’t believe that I hadn’t even told her!  And then they had to learn to keep it a secret too.  I wanted to wait until I had my call and I could tell people where I was going.  And I wanted to be able to tell people myself – I didn’t want it going viral all over Facebook and blogs and Twitter and the neighborhood gossip mill before I had a chance to tell my own story.  They were resistant at first, but they agreed to keep it a secret just a little bit longer.

So on Wednesday, May 9, the long-anticipated day finally arrived.  After a not-so-much-fun trip to the dentist for a root canal, I sat in my room waiting for the post to come.  Every car that drove up or down my street called me to the window, searching for the mail truck.  Finally, at about 2:00 PM, the post arrived!  My call was here!

Unfortunately, that did not mean that the waiting was over.  Shannon and Eric were stuck in traffic on their way back from Tooele.  Mom was at work, Austin at school.  Colin was standing by to Skype in from Hawaii.  For four whole hours my call sat in my bedroom, just taunting me.

During this time, my mind continued, as it had been doing for the entire previous week, bouncing around all over the globe.  Japan.  Missouri.  England.  Germany.  Washington.  Some remote tropical island I’ve never even heard of.  I didn’t want to speculate.  I didn’t want to set myself up for disappointment.  But how can you not wonder?  What language would I speak?  What would the climate be like?  What about the culture?  The food?  The time zone?

The family gathered, at last, at around 6:00 PM for the grand opening.  I was apprehensive, but excited.  I had returned missionaries from France, Switzerland, Korea, and Canada in the room.  I felt pressure to follow in their footsteps, while at the same time I wanted something of my own.  I wanted to go somewhere distant and exotic, while simultaneously longing for the familiarity of home.  My sister was sure it would be stateside.  I wasn’t sure I’d get to learn a language.  My grandpa said I could only choose between Paris and Montreal.  With trepidation and anticipation, I finally opened that letter.

This is what it said:

Dear Sister Burgess:

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  You are assigned to labor in the Chile Concepción Mission.  It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 18 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, September 12, 2012.  You will prepare to teach the gospel in the Spanish language. . . .

Chile Concepción!  Oh my goodness.  I never, ever would have thought that I would go there!  I know nothing about Chile.  I took Spanish in high school but never progressed very far.  And only four months to prepare!  Oh my goodness.  I have no doubt that these next four months, and the 18 after it, are going to be filled with some of the most difficult and harrowing days I have ever lived through.  However, I also know (because it was promised to me in my call letter and my patriarchal blessing) that my mission will be one of the greatest experiences of my life, and that if I strive to keep the commandments and serve the Lord prayerfully and faithfully, I will be blessed with success, happiness, and peace.

This has been a long journey for me.  And it’s certainly not over yet!  But I want to leave you with my testimony that this gospel is true.  I know it!  Joseph Smith is a true prophet.  He saw our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, that morning in the grove of trees; he translated the Book of Mormon, which is a true testament of Jesus Christ and His prophets and disciples on the American continent; and he restored the fullness of the gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth.  President Monson is the true and living prophet today.  We must heed his warnings and follow his counsel, for he is an instrument in the hands of the Lord in these latter days.  Heavenly Father loves us and knows us – He loves me and knows me!  We are His children and He wants us to return to Him and to receive all that He has.  He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, to the earth to be a teacher and a perfect example and to perform the Atonement.  This magnificent gift allows us to repent and be forgiven of our sins, so that we might grow each day to become more like our Savior and older brother, Jesus Christ, and that we might return to live with our Father in Heaven and receive everlasting life!  I pray that I may strive to be more like Him as I prepare and serve as a missionary in Chile.  I pray that as I share my testimony, the Lord will soften the hearts of the people I meet; that they may be prepared to accept the gospel and to find everlasting joy and peace through Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness for His children.  I know these things are true, and I say them in the name of Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  Amen.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Jordies: Highlights from the 2011 Awards

It's January again.  A time for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future.  This past year for me was . . . well . . . it was a year and I lived through it.  There were some good times and some bad times and probably many things I would do differently if I could.  But as I looked back on 2011, instead of the typical "year-in-review" or "New Year's Resolutions" that one might expect, I found myself hosting an awards show of sorts in my mind of some of the most awesome things that I experienced this year.  And so I decided to share the winners of these most prestigious and highly sought-after Jordie awards with all of you.  To the winners - congratulations!  You made my year a little more awesome!  If you aren't mentioned, it's probably because I forgot about your contributions of awesomeness and I'll try to catch you next year.

And the Jordie goes to (in whatever order they happened to pop into my head as I was writing this):

For "Best Movie That I Have Been Meaning to See Forever and Finally Got Around to Watching and then Immediately Purchased from Amazon Because it was That Awesome":  Lars and the Real Girl

For "Best New Recipe Discovery Which Led to the Discovery of a New Favorite Cooking Blog and Many Other New Favorite Recipes" (Courtesy of Gentri Fairbourn and  Fresh Fruit Bruschetta with Orange-Honey Cream

For "Best New Favorite Television Series That Stephanie was Right About and I Should Have Started Watching Sooner":  Bones

For "Best Phone Application that I Use More Times a Day than I Care to Admit":  IMDB for Android

For "Best Place I Went on Vacation in 2011 (And it Still Would Have Been the Best Even if it Weren't the Only Place I Went on Vacation in 2011)":  The Knight Residence - Kirkland, WA

For "Best New/Old Friend Whom I Didn't Keep in Touch with for Too Many Years But with Whom I Am Now Happily Reacquainted and Just Beginning to Realize How Truly Awesome She Is":  AnnMarie Saunders

For "Best People to Spend an Afternoon Baking Mint Brownies or Soft Ginger Cookies and Goofing Off With":  Emily, Owen, Ava, and Isaac Huff

For "Best Self-Arranged, Produced, Performed, Sound-Engineered, Designed, and Distributed Premiere Christmas 'Album' that I Found Buried in a Pile of Old Cassette Tapes and Listened To for the First Time in Many Years":  Treuse (Featuring Kimberly Roderick Maycock, Sarah Passey Roberts, and Myself)

For "Best New Favorite Musician Thanks to Old Navy Playlists, Alisa Larsen, and an Episode of Bones":  Adele

For "Best Thing to Do on a Monday Night at 9, Hands Down":  Castle Parties

For "Best Way to Organize A Closet So You Know Which Colors You 'Need' to Buy More Of":  ROY G. BIV, with Many Thanks to Old Navy

For "Best Kind of Friend Who Will Accommodate My Crazy Schedule and Agree to Meet Me in My Car in the Parking Lot of Old Navy on My Lunch Break Just to Have a Chance to See Each Other for a Few Minutes Before She Leaves Town":  Ashley Champlin Stott

For "Best and Most Awesome Family Members Who Don't Think Going To Harry Potter Midnight Movie Premieres (or the Many Hours Sewing Costumes, Re-Reading/Listening To All Seven Books, Making HP-Themed Movie Treats, and Waiting in Line on the Very Hard Floor of the Movie Theater) Is At All Weird or Insane and Who Participate With (Almost) As Much Excitement as Me":  Grandpa, Grandma, Mom, Shannon, and Austin

For "Best New Family Tradition Developed in 2011":  Sunday Night Family Dinners, "Amazing Race" Screenings, and Games with Davinn, Tanell, and Jakob Donnell

For "Best Nintendo Accomplishments that I Achieved Pretty Much All By Myself":  Completing both the SNES and Wii Versions of "Donkey Kong Country"

For "Best Neighbors Who So Kindly Let Me Borrow Their DVDs of All Seven Seasons of The West Wing Over the Summer So I Didn't Have to Wait for Netflix to Send the Discs One-at-a-Time Because I Had Become Instantly Addicted":  The Hansons

For "Best Book I Re-Read For About the Millionth (Okay, More Like Fifth or Sixth, But I'm Sure I'll Get Close to a Million Someday) Time":  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

For "Best Across-the-Street-From-My-Driveway Neighbor Who Cares Enough About Me and My Safety to Buy a Side-View Mirror to Replace the Broken One on My Car and Offer to Help Me Fix It":  Scott "Dad" Cannon

For "Best People to Throw a Bachelorette Party For/With":  Yeon Mi Kim Hicken, Alisa Larsen, Megan Richards, Mariska Romney, and Melissa Cannon Hislop

For "Best People Who Always Receive Me With the Warmest Kind of Welcome Even When I Just Drop In On Them Unexpectedly":  Shelby, Annie, Skyler, Aria, and Xander Ferrin

For "Best Way to Sabotage Any Homework Plans I Had for the Last Two Weeks of Fall Semester":  Discovering "How I Met Your Mother" on Netflix

For "Best Ward Full of the Best People Whose Love and Service I am So Extremely Grateful For Every Single Day":  Foothill 1st Ward, Logan Utah East Stake

For "Best Reason to Get Up an Hour Earlier on Thursday Mornings":  Voice Lessons with the Incomparable Laurie Hart

For "Best Sister Who Gave Me Rides To and From School Sometimes and Often Accompanied Me on Trips to the Grocery Even Though She Usually Didn't Want To": Shannon Dora Burgess

For "Best Little Brother Who Listened to His Sister Despite His Initial Instincts and Made Me Very Proud By Trying Out for and Getting a Lead in His High School Musical and Totally Rocking It as Sir Harry in Once Upon A Mattress":  Austin Draper Burgess

For "Best Big-Little Brother Who Was the Only Person to Honor My Birthday Wish for a Pony":  Colin David Burgess

For "Best Mom in the Whole Wide World (Even Though Sometimes She Steals My Clothes)":  Danielle Wright Burgess

For "Best People I Know Whom I Love So Much and Without Whom my Life Would Be in Shambles":  All of You!  Thank you for sharing your support, friendship, time, talents, helpful tips, interests, listening ears, mornings, afternoons, evenings, late nights, living rooms, kitchens, guest rooms (or in the case of Eloise, your own bedroom), televisions, recipes, children, and most especially your love with me this past year.  You have been with me through some of the best and worst of times and I appreciate it more than I could ever say.  Thank you so very, very much.  I LOVE YOU!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Making Changes

Today I spent way too much time on the computer.  For Christmas I got a new phone which has a data plan and so I basically stopped getting on the computer to check my email or Facebook or anything else, and as a result I have not been reading any of my friends' blogs on a regular basis (because it's too darn annoying to read a blog in that tiny script on my cell phone browser).  It has also been a completely indecent amount of time since I have updated my own blog - this one, right here.  So when I found myself at home alone with a headache and "nothing else" to do tonight, catching up on blogs is what I did.  I read up on everybody's lives, ooh'd and aah'd at the pictures of vacations and babies and amazingly delicious meals, and then decided it was time to make some changes to my own neglected blog.  So I got a new background (thanks to and chose a new font and everything.  Now I just have to decide if I like it.

About the background:  I love the color palette, and the flowers, but I am not a particular fan of dragonflies  (That's right, you don't need to panic that you have been remiss by neglecting to give me gifts of dragonfly paraphernalia for the past 24 years.), so I am a little torn about the dragonfly on my page.  I mean, it's cute and everything, but I'm just not so into bugs.  What I really wanted as my background was something pretty and feminine like this, but mostly featuring an incredibly beautiful tree.  But apparently I am the only person on earth who likes trees that much, because I have yet to find a blog background that fits that description.  (Okay, that statement was hyperbolic, because I have not looked everywhere, nor have I exhausted every option for finding the perfect tree background for my blog.  However, since I am not exactly capable of writing my own code, nor do I have the inclination to pay someone else to do it for me, I have decided to settle today for what I was able find pre-made and for free.)

About the font:  I really like this font, and though I realize that it is hard to read, I chose it anyway because all the other fonts that looked good with this background (and weren't boring and stupid) were even harder to read.  So sorry.  If it's a real issue for you let me know and maybe I will address it.

About this post:  I am sorry that it is lame and boring.  I know you don't care about my background choice so much.  It's just that I want my blog to really be "me" and I am still trying to figure out how to do that with every aspect of it, not just with the writing.  Therefore, until such time as I am able to properly represent myself with my blog background and font and the like, please suppress any urges you might have to use the dragonfly on this page as an indication of what I would like for my next birthday present.

About this blog:  I am planning some awesome updates for the "near" future.  I promise I am not as lame as this post makes me out to be and that you will have something worthwhile to read on here before too long.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Epitaph for a Tree

Oh tree, you are dead.  You were such a good tree.  I loved you very much.  When my friend Mary gave you to me for my 21st birthday I was ecstatic.  You were such a bright and hopeful little tree; you made me smile even on dark days.  You sat on my counter and tried every day to be the best tree you could be.  Sometimes I would forget to water you, but still you would persevere in your efforts to be my favorite little tree.

Then when we remodeled the dining room, you had to be moved away from the dust and fumes and the men in the steel-toed boots.  It was supposed to be a beneficial move for you; one that would keep you safe and healthy.  But somehow you ended up in a forgotten corner behind a stack of boxes.  You waited patiently for me to find you - to water you, care for you, and love you as I had in the past.  You waited a day, a week, two weeks, maybe more.  You waited as long as you could, little tree.  I know you didn't give up easily.  You certainly must have kept fighting until the very end because you knew how devastated I would be if you didn't make it, so you stayed alive just as long as you could.  But my ignorance and forgetfulness were much more longstanding than your ability to stay alive in an environment with no water and very little sunlight.  And so now you are gone.

I am sorry, tree.  Sorry that I ever forgot to water you.  Sorry that sometimes I would leave you sitting on the living room windowsill when it was much too cold outside for you to be there.  Sorry that you were placed in a lonely, dark corner in the den to suffer a slow and painful death.  I am sorry for all these things.  You were too good a tree for me to deserve you.  I hope to one day find another tree that will withstand my erratic watering and trimming habits with half your patience and good grace.

Goodbye, my little tree.  You will be dearly missed.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What I Learned About Myself from a Presbyterian Minister

My friend Natalie is in a bell choir (which is awesome).  On Friday they had a concert.  The bell choir itself is non-denominational, but it is sponsored by the local First Presbyterian Church and so the Pastor was acting as master of ceremonies at the concert - announcing each piece, introducing the soloists, etc.  (Just in case you didn't know what a master of ceremonies does.)  He also shared an interesting thought about M&Ms.  He was talking about how there is a bowl of M&Ms on a table outside his office that some "evil person" keeps refilling, and how he can't seem to keep himself from grabbing a handful whenever he walks by.  Then (and I wish I could remember more specifically how he tied these thoughts together, but I can't) he ended by wishing us all a good Christmas season, full of Holy M&Ms that will bring us things like love, peace, joy, and justice.  It was then that I realized that, except for justice, I get all of this from M&Ms already.  Truly.  Should I be alarmed?

P.S.  If you have not tried Pretzel M&Ms, you should.  Just saying.

P.P.S.  I hope "Pastor" is right.  I tried searching for the correct term on Google and did some reading on Wikipedia but I had a hard time finding an answer that was clear cut and I was confused.  However, I think I am correct in my understanding that "minister" is a general term for a religious leader, so I didn't misuse that, right?

UPDATE:  After a bit more reading I found that "Reverend" can also be used, and I apologize but I was not paying enough attention and so I do not know how this gentlemen prefers to be addressed. 

UPDATE:  I randomly found the program from the concert in my purse today and it turns out that this good religious leader is, in fact, a Reverend.  Please replace "Pastor" with "Reverend" in the text above.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Sock Drawer

When I was very young, I remember that besides the candy, one of the best parts of potty training were the underpants featuring Barbie or Care Bears or a similar girl-friendly animated character printed on the backside.  My toddler thought process:  "I get to wear awesome underwear?  Then yes, I would like to use the toilet, please!"  Also, my socks always, always matched my outfit.  And fancy ruffled socks on Sundays were a must.

As I progressed into my elementary-school-uglies and tween years, I began to categorically refuse to wear anything besides plain white undergarments - socks, underwear, undershirts.  Always the same brand, always white.  One summer a friend of mine wore orange polka dot underwear one day at girls' camp which, unfortunately, we could all see through her pajama pants.  (This is what happens when you make your own pajama pants for girls' camp – sometimes they are less than completely opaque and, many years later, I will still taunt you by singing the "Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Orange Polka Dot Bikinis" song.)  But I remember being kind of in awe that she would wear anything besides plain white underwear, because she seemed so "serious" to me (yes, I realize how ridiculous that sounds).  Turns out I would have been better off with the polka dots that day at camp, since my rendition of "Bootylicious" caused the rear end of my own pair of homemade pajama pants to split wide open so that everyone could really see my boring, plain white underwear.

Now I don't know if I am getting tired, or lazy, or I am trying to fight my OCD, or if (unsurprisingly to those of you who know me well) I am just trying to rebel against becoming an adult, but for the past several years, I have paid little or no attention to what colors or patterns are featured on my underclothes.  Well, unless it is to purposefully choose something wild and crazy, something reminiscent of my childhood (that I probably still like, like Princesses or Care Bears), or something that I find humorous.  But mostly I just grab a package of random socks or underwear from Wal-Mart when all of mine are worn out or have all been eaten by the dryer (or if Austin has worn a pair of my socks and therefore I can never ever touch them ever again).

My sock drawer, which once could have been an ad for Clorox bleach, is now overflowing with an abundance of different styles and colors and features all kinds of different characters and patterns including Halloween Snoopy, stripes, Belle, polka dots, sparkly Christmas, penguins, Fair Isle design, even glow-in-the-dark!  When I wear socks now, they rarely match.  As long as they are the same general shape I will wear them together.  (Unless I am working out.  Then they are white and they are matching.)  My undershirts used to be only white; now when tanks go on sale at work sometimes I buy a certain color not because I need it, but because I don’t have it yet and I feel like I should be able to find a use for it.  Then I find myself thinking, “Does this bright pink tank really go under this blue shirt?”  Well, too bad if it doesn’t because I will probably wear it anyway.  And as for underwear, the last package of underwear I bought had a nautical theme and I just thought that was hilarious.  Who knows why?  Nobody knows about it besides me.  Even my socks are so rarely seen by anyone outside my own household, I don't know why it matters or why I am blogging about it.  But in case you were wondering, I like funny underwear.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So Much to be Thankful For

I love Thanksgiving, and I really like to make it a big deal.  There are really so many great things about it.  There is the food, of course; the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the best part of which, in my opinion, is the Radio City Rockettes; you can start listening to Christmas music and no one will yell at you; you get a couple of days to hang out with your family or neighbors or close friends; there's usually an awesome movie released that weekend; and everything goes on sale in the stores so you can save money on your Christmas shopping!  But of course, what I really love most about it is the way it gives me an opportunity to really think about the things that I am grateful for.  This year I found myself giving an internal "thank you" for really small, simple things in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving.  Some were maybe even silly, but it was good for me to find something new to be thankful for every day - or several times each day.

Here are just a few of the things I found myself grateful for this Thanksgiving weekend:

  • Aunt Elaine’s Recipe Book:  Best.  Rolls.  Ever.  (And I finally learned to make them, thanks to my mom!)
  • The Internet:  Source of all the recipes we didn’t have on hand or couldn’t find or had forgotten.  This year I found probably my favorite cranberry sauce recipe to date as well as a sweet potato soufflé recipe, which I made from fresh sweet potatoes, that was a favorite at the Thanksgiving table.
  • Time-and-a-half pay, so that there is at least one very positive aspect of having to work at Old Navy on Thanksgiving Day.
  • Our DVR, which allowed me to record the parade so that I didn’t miss seeing the Rockettes even though I was at work.
  • The Hansons, our awesome neighbors and long-time friends who joined us for dinner and brought a yummy relish tray (which is one of my favorite parts of the meal) and even joined in on some Harry Potter talk!
  • Movie theaters that are open on Thanksgiving and show great movies like Tangled so that my family and I can enjoy some quality entertainment together.  (Also, Disney, because basically everything they do is just absolutely remarkable!)
  • Visits from my cousin Tanell and her husband, Davinn.  It was great to see you, even though I had to go to bed early and we didn’t get to practice our usual tradition of playing card games all night long.
  • Old Navy opening at midnight for Black Friday and scheduling me to work from 11:45  PM – 7:15 AM so that I could spend the greater part of the day visiting with . . .
  • My Dad; his wife, Kim; and my stepbrother, Connor.  They live in Nevada and I hadn’t seen them in probably a year so I was excited that they came for a visit.  My siblings and I spent the afternoon and evening with them on Friday, hanging out and catching up and bowling really low scores and having a great time.  Thanks for everything, Dad and Kim!  It was great to see you!
  • And in general, and I hope it doesn’t seem trite, I do want to express my gratitude for my family, who love me and take care of me and put up with all my crazy; for my friends who do the same, whether they are here in Logan or in Ogden or Bountiful or San Francisco or anywhere else on this beautiful Earth; for the beautiful home and neighborhood and valley and country in which I live; for my brother far away in Hawaii for being an example and a source of strength for our family, and for willingly sacrificing to serve our country (that goes for you too, Dad); for my talents and abilities and the opportunities I have to do the things that bring me joy; for my knowledge of the Gospel, the love that my Heavenly Father and the Savior have for me, eternal families, repentance and forgiveness, inspired Priesthood leaders, scriptures, and hymns.  I know that everything that I have has been given to me by my loving Father in Heaven and I am so grateful every day for all these things and so many more.  THANK YOU.