Sunday, August 25, 2013

Bus Ride

     All through high school I worked very hard to get a scholarship. My patriarchal blessing promised that if I was diligent and did everything that I could, that I would be able to get one. I really wanted to graduate college, so I tried everything. I kept my grades up, I applied for hundreds of scholarships, I wrote essays, I got recommendation letters, I joined clubs, I participated in service projects, and I did a lot of volunteer work. When I graduated college I had one scholarship offer. It was $1000 dollars for the University of Utah. That was not what I was expecting.
     However, I decided that if that was where my scholarship was at, then that was where I would go. I applied, got in quickly, and went to the summer orientation. It was there that I realized that $1000 dollars might possibly cover my books for the year. I was going to need a lot more money.
    I then got a second job at the University of Utah bookstore. This would enable me to pay at least half of my tuition and get free books. I was financially terrified but felt that I had done everything that I could to get ready to face and pay for college. Later, I think it was the same week that I got my job, I got a letter from Ronald McDonald House Charities. RMHC was one of the many organizations that I had applied for a scholarship from. Ready for yet another rejection, I opened it up and found out that they wanted to pay my tuition in full, set me up with a dorm, and pay for a years worth of food. I was floored. Having accepted that my $1000 dollars was the fulfillment of the promise from my blessing I had given up hoping for more financial support outside of myself.
   I called RMHC and accepted the scholarship and found out that they had a dorm room up at the U reserved for the winner. Very quickly, I had to change my college plans. I kept my bookstore job (since I would be living up there anyway), I quit my other job, and I prepared to move to Salt Lake.
   The day I actually moved up to the U was very exciting. I met my room mate, got a tour, etc. After school started, I realized that I lived in the "party dorm". No one ever slept, half the people there were drunk, it was always loud, and the porch right outside my window seemed to be the place to smoke hookah (preferably at four in A. M.). My room mate was great and I really liked one of the other girls we shared the bathroom with but the other girl was so foreign to me that I did not know how to react to her. She was frequently intoxicated (I knew by what I found in the bathroom every morning), she brought boys into her room and into the bathroom (again, bathroom evidence), she didn't care about school, and she had no respect for any of the rest of us.
   Now, I want to interject here and say that I was very sheltered and naive when I was 18. Just because her beliefs and standards were not mine did not make her a bad person. What I never could get over was how she treated the rest of us. She kept us up all the time, she let her friends into our room, stuff was stolen, I cleaned her puke off the bathroom floor more than once (and that was not even the worst thing I cleaned up), and more than one of us walked in on her with her boyfriends. No matter what you believe, that kind of behavior isn't okay.
   Anyway, my college life quickly became mostly unbearable. I missed Nick, I sort of hated my major, and I never got to leave the U (school, work, eat, sleep, all there). I kept trying to come up with a plan that would allow me to keep my scholarship but change my living arrangements. I could not think of anything, I felt trapped. So I prayed. I begged my Heavenly Father to help me find some sort of outlet.I didn't care what it was I just needed something in my life to change.
Picture of me that I drew that year.

    The next day, I got off work a little bit later than usual causing me to just miss the shuttle back to the dorms. I was tired and frustrated and generally in a bad mood. I waited sullenly for 15 minutes until the next bus got there. When I got on, I saw a girl who was in one of my classes with an empty chair next to her. She recognized me and waved me over. We got to talking and realized that we both lived in the dorms. I told her which dorm I lived in expecting some pity but to my surprise she was jealous. She wanted to live in the party dorm and was mad that she was stuck in the dorm that wasn't coed. I quickly realized that she lived right next door to the only female friend I had made at Institute. She told me that she had been looking for someone to trade dorms with for a while and asked if I would be willing to switch her. I had not even know that was an option and was more than happy to oblige. The final day to trade was the next week and we were able to make arrangements and meet the deadline.
   My new dorm was much better. Not ideal, but it was exactly the outlet that I needed to get me through the year. The next year, RMHC renewed my scholarship without the dorm and food offer. I lived at home and commuted to school for the remainder of my degree (I changed majors after year 1).
    As for my patriarchal scholarship promise, it went much further than I ever expected. Every single year, in one way or another, I was given enough scholarship money to pay for my books, my tuition, and summer semester. I worked hard to get the scholarships but there is no way that the various sources and almost exact amounts I needed (within dollars) were random. My Heavenly Father took care of me and went above and beyond his promises.
   I sometimes think that I learned more in that year of college than I did in any of the other years. Not academically of course but spiritually, socially, and emotionally. I learned a lot about myself and about how I reacted and what my limits were. I learned about other people and cultures. And I learned to trust my Savior. His love and concern for me were manifested over and over throughout that year. The bus trade was just one of millions of prayers answered.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Candy!

So yesterday, I found myself walking down a touristy beach street in Oregon for the second time this week. I already had my souvenir as did Nick and Candace. We were basically window shopping with the intent to buy nothing while we waited for Ben to find whatever it was that he was looking for. That being said touristy beaches have all kinds of treat places. These Oregon beaches seem to specialize in salt water taffy and Tillamook ice cream. My intent to buy nothing turned into an intent to buy something delicious. I spotted a little treat shop that I wanted to peruse and began to approach when from behind me Candace said in a too loud, high pitched, voice "Candy!"
   Inside the candy shop the bored looking clerk bounced out of his chair and stared intently at us through the door. It was kind of a scary stare haloed by his blond fro. At that point, we all decided that we no longer wanted to go in. We casually stepped into the next store where Candace informed us that she did not even mean to say "candy" out loud. Lesson learned.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

You Can Choose


    I would be willing to bet that I am not the only LDS female who has ever wondered whether or not she should go on a mission. It is a difficult spot to be in, maybe less so now that the mission age has been changed, but when I was turning 21 it was a hard choice. On the one hand, I was halfway through my bachelors degree, I had several jobs, and Nick was less than a year away from coming home (not that I was waiting ahem...). On the other hand, I wanted to serve, I wanted the opportunity to travel, and I had always kind of thought I would go on a mission. If I could have gone when Nick left I would have, but as it was, I had a choice to make.
     I prayed a lot and I started listening for guidance in talks and meetings. I applied the question of whether to go or not to almost everything I did. And the answer I kept getting was: whatever you want to do is fine. 
    That was hard for me. I fear making bad choices and to know the choice was mine was frightening. I weighed my options, I made pros and cons lists, and I came to the conclusion that I really wanted to serve but that I would rather not go on mission (for various reasons). In my prayers, I discussed this decision with my Father and asked him if it was an acceptable choice. In the two weeks following, quite a few things happened. In one of my college classes, I was assigned the task of three hours of service a week. In my singles ward, I was called to the Relief Society Presidency. And, I was given three extra people to visit teach.
   Very quickly, I went from having a lot of free time to having a lot of my time filled with serving opportunities. As I continued to pray about my decision I had a very strong impression that all of the opportunities I had been given were my answer. I really felt that if I wanted to go on a mission that that would be fine but that I didn't NEED to go on a mission to be able to serve. With that reassurance under my belt I was able to serve in my ward and the schools nearby happily. I was also able and brave enough to find other serving opportunities in my community and elsewhere. I was able to go to Thailand, finish college, and marry Nick all of which came with very different but VALID opportunities to serve.

    I sometimes wonder how my life would be different if I had gone on a mission instead (since I always felt like that was an acceptable choice). My guess is that I would have a different set of equally amazing memories. I still want to serve a mission someday, but for right now I am right where I should be.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

π

     My junior year, in early April, I got the kissing disease, mononucleosis, without having kissed anyone. Rip off right? It took quite a while for the various doctors to pin point what I had because a lot of the symptoms seemed like the flu. One day, however, after a dizzying episode in church someone wised up and did a blood test. It was nice to know that I wasn't imagining being being sick but I started to panic when the Doctor told me the remedy was sleep. I didn't have time for sleep. I was in the middle of several college courses, and precalculus. I had lots of homework and finals were fast approaching.
     I was scared to death to stop and sleep in the middle of all of this. I was determined to get some kind of scholarship and I feared that my grades would slip if I stopped to rest. But I NEEDED the rest. I remember that my mom had to go talk to a lot of my teachers and explain the situation because I was so out of it. I woke up some time after she had been to the school and my mom explained that all of my teachers were willing to work with me to accomplish the grades that I wanted. Their cooperation ranged from less work, to extended deadlines, to alternate assignments. This was all great but I was scared to death of math. Now, I have always been fairly good at school, however, math is not necessarily my strong suite. I was worried that even with extended deadlines I would fail because math was not a subject that I could teach myself. Enter Franklynn.
    I met Franklynn in seventh grade when he said some less than nice things to me. I suppose I wasn't nice to him either but I guess we were/are over that. Academically we had always been similar and so had always been in a lot of the same classes; it wasn't any different that year. I think he was in all of the classes I had that merited worry. I also think that he was the answer to my prayers.
   Before I finish the Franklynn part, I want to explain how my days went. When I woke up in the morning I would decide how I felt. If I wasn't feeling okay I just went back to sleep. If I was, I went to school, stayed until I got tired and/or dizzy, then took my magic hall pass down to the office and checked myself out. Either way, a large majority of each day consisted of sleeping.
   Luckily for me, Franklynn showed up at my house after school every day like clockwork. He brought me everything that I missed in my important classes, then he taught me precalculus.

  -Side note: Franklynn is rather brilliant when it comes to math. I had almost every math class with him between seventh grade and graduation. It seems to me, that he slept through every lecture only to wake up when it was over and finish his math homework before the bell rang.-
   
  Anyway, while I had mono, my mattress was downstairs. This made it so that when Franklynn came over after school he could pull out the giant whiteboard in my basement and try to teach me how to do precalc. Sometimes he would write on the board and I would take notes like normal class. Sometimes he would walk me through my homework. Sometimes he would wring his hands in exasperation when I didn't get what he was talking about. And sometimes, he would bring his play station over and play with my brothers until I woke up. He was really quite resourceful considering what a comatose student I was. Once, I woke up and he was talking to Candace, my eight year old sister. (She often brought a small chalk board down when Franklynn was teaching me math.) Franklynn had drawn the pi symbol on the board and was explaining to Candace that it meant 3.14. Candace was nodding at him with a thoughtful look on her face.

   This continued for almost two months while I recovered. At the end of the year, I passed all of my finals and managed to get straight A's in my difficult classes. I take very little credit for this. If it hadn't been for Franklynn's willingness to help me get through math, my teachers willingness to give me the benefit of the doubt, and my mothers willingness to make sure that I got better and had the things that I needed, I don't think the year would have ended so well.
   I don't know that Franklynn would appreciate knowing that he was an answer to my prayers but he was. Not only did he save my butt in math, which ultimately helped me get scholarships, but, he was a great source of comfort and friendship. A lot of people were a little scared of me while I was sick. It was so reassuring as a teenager to have someone I wasn't related to, care about me enough to be there regardless of what was wrong with me. 
    I have been thinking about that experience lately and have decided that I want to learn to be that source of comfort to those around me. I don't know how to do it yet, but, I think it is a worthy goal.
 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Boy Next Door

   Alright, so he wasn't actually next door. In fact, I didn't even know he existed until I was sitting in seventh grade band class listening to my new friend tell me how hot the boy in the black hoodie was. He was cute but a little short for my taste. My friend, on the other hand, knew what she wanted and went for it. Being the supportive friend that I was, a rolled my eyes while she pursued him. We ended up spending a lot of time hanging around his locker. Her flirtatiously, me impatiently.

    Luckily, I made a new friend who had a locker by the band room. This made it so that my friend could flirt and I could make it to class on time (yes, I was that kid). Black hoodie's name turned out to be Nick. He was a little bit troubled and kind of moody, which fit this particular friend's, taste perfectly, but not mine. I found myself annoyed with them more often than anything. I was very aware of the fact that we were 12 and that dating was pointless. People were scared to speak to each other when they were "dating". Anyway, I remember my friend telling me that Nick's birthday was coming up and she was going to ask him out on that day. She didn't.
     I don't remember what happened. I do remember she seemed mad. I'm almost positive that either Nick said something that offended her or she was in love with someone new. Either could have been entirely possible that year. . .
   Anyway, they stayed friends and we spent a lot of time at those lockers. I got used to Nick and he became more of a friend than an acquaintance (not a particularly good friend, mind you). At some point during middle school, I started using his locker instead. Yes, I was still in band. Then at some other, undefinable, point I realized I liked him.
     I was furious. I was mad at myself for liking someone like him (troubled, obnoxious, rebellious, etc.). I walked a very straight line and his swerving was not in any plan I had. In fact, no boys were in any plan I had. I was too little and I knew it.
     My solution: ignore it. I did not tell anyone. Not for years. I watched him and maybe secretly hoped but that was all. I remember friends asking me if I liked anyone or who I liked. My answer was always "no one", with my teeth gritted in frustration. I couldn't admit it. I was far to mad at myself for my heart having made such an erroneous judgement without the consent of my brain.
     Middle school turned in to high school. Boom, I was 16 and actually old enough to date. Unfortunately, Nick, whom I still secretly loved, had taken a turn for the worse. His friends were disreputable, he was falling away from the church, and he was a little bit scary. There was just something dark about him. And, I was not about to wait around for him to shape up. I figured it was about time that he got out of my head anyway. Maybe, I thought, I would be less upset at him all the time if I didn't love him so much.
    So, I went on a date, with some guy I barley knew. That was stupid of me, the date was awful. Nothing like having a stranger stick his tongue in your mouth on your first real date. I remember thinking, that if that was what dating/kissing was, I didn't want any part of it. So I stopped trying to date. I didn't flirt with anyone, I didn't try to get asked out, and I was fine. I have never been the helpless type, I have never needed a man to feel validated, but it was sad knowing that there was no hope. Until that summer, anyway.
    I dragged my feet to youth conference at some ranch (I always had a hard time with over night church activities) and found some friends to hang out with. -I should mention that Nick was in my stake.- I ran into him, like I knew I would, and tried vainly to resist the charm he didn't have. We ended up spending a lot of awkward time together that day. It culminated with me basically tricking him into asking me out and a movie during which, he shared his Swedish Fish (which was a big deal).
    Our date (summer before junior yea) went alright but it was nothing spectacular. We returned to our usual slightly awkward, rather rocky friendship.
   I won't bore you with the stalker like tendencies I had concerning Nick during high school, (I still loved him) except to say that I had them. Nothing scary, but I definitely went out of my way to run into him. I was even brave enough to ask him to a girls choice dance in high school. He said yes but then cancelled on me (surgery). Thank you Franklynn. At that point I was really going to be done. But I just couldn't. I did stop trying but I didn't give up.
    Nick and I have discussed this several times since high school and it is a little bit unclear when things happened. Nick liked me, he asked me out all by himself, he decided to change. I don't know what order they happened in, but they happened.
    Near the start of our senior year Nick held my hand. You would think that would have made my dreams come true but it mostly freaked me out. He started hanging out with me and my friends. He came to play frisbee on Saturdays. He walked me to class he hugged me in the halls. I suppose we were sort of dating. I didn't permit any public affection, in fact, I hardly permitted any affection at all. He scared me. I didn't want to get involved with someone like him. Then he started changing.
    He calmed down, he went to church willingly, he started talking about a mission, he became aware of his grades, he tried to be involved, he left his scary friends, he went out of his way to be considerate, and he waited for me to warm up to him.
   We sort of dated for about six months before I let him kiss me (we were 18).
We were dating when we finished high school,
we dated through the first year of college,
we wrote while he was on his mission (I did not wait for him),

we skyped while I was in Thailand.
We got married in October in 2011.
 Now, I can say I married the first boy I ever liked. I can also say that he is more wonderful than I ever would have hoped for.  I don't know why I was so drawn to him for so many years but he was worth the heartache and the wait.
 
At 23, I have known my husband for almost half of my life.

This post is Nick approved :)

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Low Point

       A common phrase that I heard, throughout my teenage and early adult years, was "You could have said that more nicely." I heard it from my mother after saying something especially harsh to one of my siblings or to her. I heard it from my best friend after saying something to another friend or classmate. And I heard it at church. Maybe not directly to my face but I heard it.
       The trouble was, I did not think anything that I said was particularly mean. I preferred terms like honest and blunt. Indeed, I wore the fact that I could say what I thought with conviction, like a badge of honor. I was proud that I had strong opinions, and I was fairly certain that they were all correct.

A quick side note:
I was a little bit obsessed with the Color Code test as a teenager. After taking it I found out that I was two thirds red. I had no yellow, no white, and about a third blue. That made me a red blue. Red blues, were described in the literature somewhere as people who wanted to climb to the top but felt bad about the people they were stepping on to get there. At least I had a conscious right?

     Anyway, I was fairly sure that all of my strong opinions were correct. I stopped to think about what other people were saying sometimes, but in the end, I knew I was right. Life was sweet. It was nice to know that whatever my logical brain came up with was most likely correct. Then one day, life hit me.
     I was a freshman in college, the worst year of my life by the way, and I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to become morbidly depressed. The year was unfolding like this: I was up at the University of Utah in a major that I loved in theory but that might have been sucking my soul out in reality. I was with one of my high school friends in every single class and we were starting to hate each other (don't worry we are friends again now). I was living in the University dorms with at least 2 room mates with no regard for hygiene or propriety. I worked up at the University bookstore, which wasn't a bad thing but it did complete the cycle of doing nothing off campus. And, I was dating Nick who was living in Sandy.
photo by: Paul Richer
                                                        (Art and Architecture Building)
   
       It was so hard to find balance. I slept, ate, studied at, worked at, and breathed the U. Meanwhile I wanted to both, be with Nick as often as possible, and find my niche in college. Unfortunately, I couldn't ever figure out how to do both. What actually happened was detrimental in so many ways. I ended up staying up at school all week, barely enduring the majority of my time then going home to see Nick after my shift ended on Friday. I would spend the weekend at home, go to my family ward, and my mom would drive me home on Sunday night (usually crying because I didn't want to go back, often with Nicks arms wrapped around me). Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
     The consequences were atrocious. I started hating school, I never made friends in my building, and I became very dependent on someone who was going to be leaving as soon as he got his mission call.
    Inevitably, the day came. It was late in December. We were sitting in Nick's house with assorted family members and friends and he opened his call. Taiwan, April 15. I bawled. Not because I was happy for him but because I didn't know if I could handle him being around for five more months. It was going to break my heart to have him gone but it was breaking me to have him around as well. I needed a clean slate and a second chance at college life. A friend from the bookstore where I worked, which was probably one of the highlights of my early college experience, once asked me if I cared about anything that wasn't my boyfriend. At the time I was offended. Of course I cared about other things: church, my family, education. . .etc. . . but he started me thinking, did I?
      I trudged through the remaining months of Nick's stay in Utah with a bad attitude and a lot of pain. Then the time came for him to go to the temple. I was sick. I had wanted to go to the temple since I was a little girl. It was something I had been taught about at an early age and waited my whole life for. And Nick got to go instead of me. I knew it was coming, it was what I wanted for him, it was what I expected of him, but the heart wrenching sadness and jealousy that came the day after he went were unplanned for.

    Now back to my highly red personality and tendency to be correct in all things. At some point I had unfeelingly decided that depression was weakness and could easily be controlled with the proper will power. I remember arguing the point that a depressed person simply had to decide to be happy. I think I had even said something like that to someone very close to me who needed encouragement. I was wrong. I was uncaring and arrogant, and self righteous, and wrong.
     After Nick went to the temple I lost myself. I didn't care anymore. I lost interest in everything that I was doing. I felt like my life was a blur of going through the motions. I felt like something that had always been important to me, my life goal in fact, had been turned into a weapon that was being used against me to pull me down into despair. Cause that is what it was, despair. I didn't know how anything could be okay again.
    Throughout that week of utter darkness (because that was all it was), I fought battle after battle with myself inside my head. I listened to church music constantly in an effort to pull myself out of my miserable stupor. I read my scriptures and prayed with everything in me for a reprieve from the utter sadness and despondency I felt. At one point, I remember crying on my dirty bathroom floor in my college dorm begging for my demons to desist. I just wanted to see light at the end of the tunnel rather than the unending darkness that was stretching before me. Then my Mom called. I cried into the phone and begged her to come get me. I couldn't be alone with my misery any longer. She got there in 22 minutes, a record. I spent a fair amount of time sharing my fears and my pain and my desire to be fixed with her that night. She listened and comforted me. She said exactly what I needed to make it through the rest of the week. Prayer answered, though I did not realize it.
    I was still miserable, however, I had reassurance that I was being listened to, but I wasn't anywhere near happy yet. I continued to pray and beg for help. For light. Then I got a second call. My bishop, who I don't think I had ever met, from my singles ward, that I did not go to, called me and asked if I was alright. I burst into tears on the phone. I was the furthest thing from alright that I had ever been. He listened patiently as I cried through my story and he gave me counsel. I was stunned and felt so blessed. I knew at that point Heavenly Father was listening. My mom was one blessing, but she knew I was struggling so I didn't quite recognize it. But to have a man I didn't know call and ask me that question was a very clear answer to my pleas.
     By Friday of my week from hell (I truly believe that's what it was), I had become a much more humble version of myself. I understood what being depressed meant, though compared to many, I had only had a small taste. I slowly began to improve after taking my bishop's counsel. It took until Nick left and then some to feel normal again but at least I could see some kind of glimmer at the end of the tunnel.
      I would like to think that that whole awful experience taught me somethings. I would like to think I am less arrogant now. I would like to think that I learned how to be empathetic and tactful. And, I would like to think that I learned more fully how to lean on other people and on my Heavenly Father.
    I know there are people who know me who will be surprised to know that I am a much tamer version of what I used to be. But, I am. I am on a constant journey of trying to change and better myself.

    About a year later, I actually read The Color Code. At the end of the book it talks about balance. Every color has strengths and every color has weaknesses. The end of the book gave me the impression that the goal should be to collect the good qualities from every "color" while dropping the bad ones. I don't know why I had to read that book to figure out that strengths needed to be strengthened, and weaknesses needed to be dealt with (either dispensed with or turned into strengths). I was taught similar things in church my whole life but I wasn't paying close enough attention. I have the power to choose what qualities I want to have and who I want to ultimately become. However, I think I will turn out better, if I let Heavenly Father help shape me.