Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas musings

I should be writing my talk for church. My body woke me up at 4:47 this morning, reminding me that I had something important to do. Right now I'm having spiritual overload, so I thought I'd blow off some writing steam by coming here and letting you take a sneak peek at my Christmas experiences/thoughts.

This year at my house (well, technically my parents' house), Christmas wasn't anything huge or special or fancy. It's so cute to see everyone working on little projects for everyone else, scrambling to get them done behind closed doors without anyone suspecting what they're doing. Covert texts and whispered conversations. Signs on bedrooms that read "STAY OUT!" or something similar. Trying to finish quilts at breakneck speed while someone's at work so she won't have a clue what she'll be opening on Christmas morning.

This year was kind of strange...I'm so used to having my little brother around to: a) be the goof-off during our live nativity re-enactment; b) eat most of the sweets the neighbors bring and that adorn the big counter in the kitchen; and c) insist that we wake up at freaking 6:00am to head downstairs and see what Santa has brought. And he was there for none of it. Since he's a missionary, we get two phone calls a year from him--one on Christmas, the other on Mother's Day. This was our first phone call from him. We got to talk to him for about an hour and a half...and as each minute ticked by, I found myself missing him a little more. Best part: he started quoting Johnny Lingo, and it was spot on. We were laughing so hard. He told us about his spiritual experiences and getting to baptize someone in the rainforest. He explained the food and the living situation. He told us about his shoes and how they were completely worn out from all the walking he does. He kept asking about boys in our lives (my sisters and mine). We put him on the speaker phone in the living room and just sat gathered around it. He sounded so good. He hits six months next week; I guess you get to burn a tie at six months, and he has already chosen his sacrificial offering.

We also got to talk with my sister who's living in Uzbekistan. She told us about the trampoline their family got, and how it showed up in the yard, but none of her boys noticed it for awhile. We got to hear about how their living situation has been these last six weeks, as she hasn't been able to really contact us in the meantime. She hasn't had Internet for six weeks...I can't even imagine. They've already made friends there (she's really good at just digging in and finding people to befriend), and she's been to parties and had parties. True Snow--always doing the party thing. They had a great Christmas over there.

As some of you know, I was a quilting fiend this Christmas. A little less than three weeks ago, I decided to make two quilts, one for my sister and one for Lacy. It was easy to keep the secret, because when I was around Paulie, I could talk about Lacy's quilt and vice versa. Neither knew they were getting one as well. And after many hours of cutting, sewing, quilting, clipping, being frustrated at stupid thread, breaking needles, and then finally finishing the last seams, I had two beautiful quilts, ready to be wrapped and given away. Both receivers had perfect reactions. I love surprising people with something I've worked on like that. I had a friend visit me while I was amidst all the fabric and chaos. I told him that he was walking in on "Quilt City," and he said he didn't care, that he was the mayor of Quilt City. Ha! Well, Quilt City has temporarily shut down until I make a baby quilt for Natalie's baby.

Santa Claus brought me two things I've been wanting: a guitar and a printer. Remember how I said I wanted to actually learn to play the guitar? Now I can! And I've been needing a printer for heaven-knows-how-long, so this is a welcome addition. Man, Santa is great.

One of the cutest things about Christmas was my 7-year-old nephew. He gets so excited about things, and it's great to have that childlike wonder around at Christmas. On Christmas morning, he wanted to give all of us aunts and grandparents a gift that he had bought with his own money. My sister and bro-in-law give him a little change every time he keeps his c-pap (a medical device) on all through the night. He saved bit by bit and purchased each of us a cute little gift from Bath & Body Works. You should have seen his face when he handed each of us our gift bags. Sarah said he wanted us to open them individually so he could see the looks on our faces. What a sacrifice it was for him to spend his meager allowance on something for each of us when he could have just as well kept the money for something for himself. True spirit of Christmas, right there in action.

All in all, I've enjoyed the season. I've gotten to spend time with my family (and we haven't had any fights!), rock out to Christmas tunes, and really think about the spirit of giving. This year, I'm so grateful for my Savior and all He's done for me--I couldn't have made it through these past twelve crazy months without Him or His sacrifice. As we were performing the nativity this year and my niece kept stealing the Baby Jesus, I was touched with a feeling of gratitude for that baby who grew up and atoned for us, for ME. I love those sweet, tender moments where I can feel God's love so strongly, and this Christmas has been full of those.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

If I had more...

I've been waxing reflective lately, pondering about what I would do *if only*. In some cases, it's embarrassing, but I'd like to think that I'd do things differently--be a better person, help the world...that kind of thing. And so...

If I had lots more time... I'd do so many more things. I would learn languages. I would read more books and reflect on them. I would sleep. I would send thank you notes. I would decorate my apartment in coordinating fabrics and decor. I would actually learn how to play the guitar instead of just dallying in it for a few months. I wouldn't feel bad about taking long, moonlit walks or sitting in a bubble bath. What can you do, though? 24 hours in a day. 7 days in a week. 365 days later, and you're just a year older. The thing is, it's not like I DON'T have time! I think I need to learn to prioritize so I can accomplish goals instead of just whining here on my blog about how I never get to do anything.

If I had a lot more patience...I wouldn't snap at people who try to help me with frustrating projects. I'd stop driving like a maniac and getting bent out of shape at other drivers' little indiscretions. There would be no more grumbling at my nephew when he acts like a 7-year-old boy (which he it turns out...). I would figure that no one's perfect all at once, and I would work on my flaws little by little instead of feeling defeated by my fallibilities.

If I had a lot more faith...I could jump into things with both feet and not hem and haw about making decisions. It's always turned out well in the past. Sure, there have been some bumps and bruises along the way, but I'm grateful for and content about the way my life has gone, and I figure it's quite possible that it'll just get better.

If I had a lot more energy...I'd pull off some amazing feat of strength, like running a marathon. As it stands, I can barely do any sort of actual running--asthma gets in the way of the required breathing it takes to do things like that. With more energy, I could probably make gourmet meals and do things like keep my house clean and the laundry folded instead of getting home from work and crashing in front of the television until I can muster the initiative to make some semblance of put-togetherness.

If I had lots more motivation...I would go back to school. It keeps gnawing at my soul that maybe I should consider a Master's degree. Right now in my life would be the ideal time to do such a thing, so what's holding me back? The tests. The homework. The studying. The bureaucratic hoops. And then I begin thinking about all the pros... A degree. The chance to expand my horizons. More earning potential. What's a girl to do? Maybe some baby steps...who wants to decide what degree I get? Suggestions are welcome.

If I had lots more money... I'd travel. But I wouldn't just travel to go sight-seeing (although, that would be one of my aims). I would love to get into humanitarian work. I've seen small glimpses of this kind of outpouring of graciousness, and it's something I could really get behind. As far as money is concerned in this matter, I really do like to give. I mean, I can be frivolous, but if it came right down to it, I'd much rather help feed struggling third-world countries than live in a multi-million dollar home with a maid. It's been a secret dream of mine to really dedicate myself to a cause that helps better the world a little at a time. I realize it would be kind of a sick fantasy for me to believe that my tiny contribution will affect nations, but I'm a firm believer that every little bit helps. And I've seen the pictures that show the gratitude and love that people exchange in these ventures. I'd like some of that, both on the giving and the receiving end of things.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Snow business

BOO. This morning I woke up to four inches of freshly-fallen snow. It's kind of the first really big snow that's happened this year, and I am admittedly not ready for it. I'm not a skier or anything, so really the snow holds no big appeal. The only thing snow is good for is water the next summer. Mountains, you can keep all this white stuff. We city-dwellers would like to reclaim the streets (wow, I just made snow sound like the byproduct of gangs or something...)!

Here are the conclusions I've reached just since walking out of my apartment building on this cold, blustery morning:

1) Slip-on sneakers will not pull me through this winter season. Previously I could get away with ballet flats and other ridiculous shoes because I was out in the elements for mere seconds at a time (walking to and from the car at work), and my feet could handle small snippets of cold. Currently my situation is such that I walk a good two miles a day outside, and my abundance of silly shoes will simply not hack it. I need to invest in a pair of good boots if I'm going to pull off the walk I did this morning ever again.

2) People are not going to wake up early to shovel their sidewalks. 6:30 is too early for anyone to be awake, really, but to expect them in galoshes and gloves, wielding a shovel merely to clear the path for me? It's foolish of me to cast that expectation on anyone. So I trudged through. And who else but me would feel a little bit sorry that she's packing the snow down, only making it more difficult for the shovelers later in the day?

3) The train is a great method of transportation when Mother Nature decides to make the roads virtually unnavigable. What I failed to realize is that the train can get stuck on the tracks going up the hill! The driver tried and tried, and finally (after about five minutes) we got past the slick part of the track and were on our way. While my slight delay is nothing compared to the commute others endured, I was a tad worried that I'd either be hoofing it the rest of the way to upper campus or stuck on the train, holding up scads of commuters on their way behind us. We got stuck again one stop before I usually get off, so I decided to take matters into my own hands and take a detour.

4) Heaters are our friends. I don't think I need to reiterate this point, but at present, I've got the space heater under my desk, drying the cuffs of my pants (which were inevitably soaked by the time I made it into the office). Also, who knew that Legacy Bridge (up by University Hospital) is heated? The steps were clear, and the steam was rising off of it. It was a welcome sight for my thin sneakers.

5) It's that time of year for all the 'snow' jokes. Give it your best shot.

I just looked at the weather forecast on'm sad to state that the low on Thursday of this week is 5°. Four months until Spring...? Bears have the right idea; I think I'll hibernate until April.

Monday, December 7, 2009


I am here admitting to you that I feel guilty...

...posting on my blog from work. I really should be reviewing renewals at the moment, but I'm finding it difficult to concentrate on a Monday.

...eating too much Christmas candy. Those mint truffle kisses are divine, though! Luckily, the copy area at work--which is so often covered in pastries, cookies, candies, and other sugar-coated confections--is looking clear today.

...leaving a bag of garbage sitting on my kitchen floor for 5 days--and I don't know why I haven't gotten up the gumption to take it out to the dang dumpster.

...getting in the middle of a bad break-up/make-up situation and being so frustrated about it. Tell you what, I'm not going to worry about it anymore. Hands washed.

...thinking about ditching FHE tonight to do one of the following: a) sleep; b) quilt; c) sit in a hot tub.

...harboring crushes on guys who are basically unattainable. (Guilty pleasure, no...?)

...listening to horribly cheesy Christmas music and getting choked up about it.

...spending $135 on contact lenses that will last me a year. It's a necessity, so I'm ok, right?

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Don't know what you've got 'til it's gone...

Five months. My little brother has been gone on his mission for five months. Time has flown by, but with Thanksgiving last week, it made me wistful for when he was there to do things like help bring in all the metal church chairs or snarfing down all the extra pie.

But honestly, I think a mission is good for him. Even just from his letters, I can tell that he's started to learn what responsibility actually means (and not in the college, 'Hey Dad, I ran out of money...' type of way).

Every Wednesday (his preparation day), the family gets an email from him. I've learned a lot of things about my brother, and he's always saying them in kind of hilarious ways. Here are some of my favorite snippets:

At the MTC (in Provo)--
"This week one of the guys there actually went to my mission, sort of, he went to the puerto rico san juan misssion before it was 2 missions. so we talked to him for a while and he said that for a couple of areas in his mission, he actually carried around a machete, so I don't think I have to tell you how stoked I am for that."

At the MTC (in the Dominican Republic)--
"It's so awesome. all the workers come play basketball with us and it's mostly black people in this country so all of us gringos are getting schooled."

"...not only do I not speak very good spanish even when its slow, its really fast here. seriously, if mexicans talked in the slow, articulated drawl of morgan freeman, carribean spanish would be like how I speak english."

"k so being a district leader isn't as bad as I thought exept it is kind of weird because everyone expects you to fix their problems while you're still trying to work out your own."

"I don't know if I told you this yet but i hurt my knee again playing basketball in provo and they wanted me to go to the doctor but I didn't want to get held back from leaving, so I didn't. (don't tell mom, she'll be real mad)"
(This email was also addressed to our mother...)

"I have an excuse, half an hour a week is not enough to write all of you an entire personal letter, but you have all week, so what the deuce?*" Later in the same email... "*If Elder Snow has forgotten your email, or if you have sent regular mail that has not yet arrived, Elder Snow apologizes for his crude language. however if you haven't, he meant it."

"get on the fallen ones to write me letters, namely natalie and paulie."

"Annie: sounds like things are picking up in SLC, good luck meeting some hubbas your age"
"Natalie: thanks for the advice about my district, here's some for you: you're the parent in this situation, so you get to decide what to eat. I mean come on, if you can't keep your kid under control as a fetus, what kind of hope do you have when it can walk?"

"I am getting all right at spanish, I can hold a decent conversation with a teacher, but it's hard because I feel like I'm running a spanish port on an english OS; I think I need boot camp for my brain. (if you didn't get that anology ask dad. or mike. or natalie.)"

In Puerto Rico--
"So I have now been in Puerto Rico for a week, and I am now a legit missionary, in fact, you might say that I am too legit to quit. (I hope I never become un-legit.)"

"also, I always thought stray dogs were an urban myth, you know, like the safe full of heads in the basement. but they're not, they're all over the place here, it was kind of a shock to me to have my beliefs turned upside down, and I realized that if stray dogs were real, other things that I had previously thought to be fake could also be real and then I realized that I have never actually seen the inside of that safe. and mom does have an unnaturally loose jaw."
(Don't ask...)

"you know what I did the other night in the dark? ran for my life from a junkyard dog, not a junkyard dog in the proverbial sense, but a junkyard dog as in a huge dog that actually guards a junkyard. that's right, apparently it's not just from the sandlot."

"we actually got chased around by a mob of children yelling at us, that was kind of scary. then there was this cat following us around and it seemed pretty nice and it wasn't diseased, which is rare because most of the stray animals here have some flesh eating disease that makes half of their fur fall out and they look really gross."

"also, there's a bunch of cockroaches in our apartment and we usually just smash them but this morning we found one that had gotten tipped over and was still alive so we torched it with some WD 40 and a match, so that was fun, even though I got burned."

(One of my favorites) "so all the houses here are made out of cement, and all the roofs are flat, a lot of people actually park on top of their house. but that's not the story, roof's here get pretty gross and slimy because they're not sloped very well and the water just sits on top most of the time. so people have to go up on top and clean them with a pressure washer. and there's this member in our area who has a really bad back and he's taking some medication for cholesterol or something that makes him really weak so he can't do it, so we were over there cleaning his roof one day and he speaks a little english so we asked him what the word for roof is, and he told us "techo" but we both heard "pecho" so we're out contacting one day and sometimes we offer service to people, so we say, in effect "hey do you guys need any help with anything?" and they say, "like what?" and we say "whatever you want, we could help you paint your house, or clean your 'pecho'" and we're saying this to men and women and getting some weird looks, but we always get weird looks so we don't even really notice and then we were in ward council meeting on sunday and we were telling the bishop about that guy and how we were cleaning his roof and they all look really confused, and our district leader, who is mexican but is fluent in english leans over to me and says "pecho means chest." yeah. so basicallywhat we were saying to random women on the street for a week was, "hey, do you need any help cleaning your chest?" welcome to puerto rico, I guess. I'm still laughing."

"I don't know if I'll still be here because transfers are next wednesday... wendsday? why does english never make sense? anyway, transfers are on Miercoles. "

In Dominica--
"...they don't have dirt here, just plants everywhere so that's cool, it smells like weed all the time here because technically it's illegal but if you get caught with it you just have to give some to the cop."

"every one here is black, two days ago I saw another white person and it about scared the crap out of me."

"you all said I would be craving peanut butter once I couldn't have it and I didn't believe you. but now 6 oz of peanut butter costs about 12 EC, or about 5 dollars, and it's not even really peanut butter, it's just weird. so I shall now eat my words of doubt and ask for peanut butter. please."

"I miss pie."

"I figure that since I left the MTC 3 months ago, I've probably walked about 700 miles. so for those of you who want to lose weight, I have a diet/exercise plan for you. eat only what 200 dollars a month will buy in a country where everything is imported and walk 10-12 miles a day. Its already working for me, we don't have a scale but I weighed myself at zone conference and I've lost 15 pounds, which means I weigh less than I have since I was a sophomore. don't worry mom, I know right now you're already thinking up an angry letter to write to my mission president about how I'm starving, but don't."

"sounds like you guys had a pretty boring thanksgiving. you didn't even go see a movie? five months after I leave and family traditions that have stood for centuries are crumbling. apparently this family just cannot stand without the prodigal son. who knows? maybe by the time I get home we won't even play the colors game to decide who has to wash, and then where would we be?"

And the latest, yesterday's email:
"Hey annie, another one of these random questions:The guy who plays harvey dent / two face on The Dark Knight (think his name is aaron eckhart) we have heard rumors that he is mormon, served a mission, went to byu... etc. etc. and we found a picture of what we think is him in a conference issue of an ensign. if you could confirm or deny this rumor that would be great. you have ten minutes. your [insert adjective here]-est brother"

Man, I miss that kid. (Refusing to cry...refusing to cry...)