Monday, January 30, 2012

Today has NOT been my day.

I just set off the fire alarm. Single-handedly. As in, I'm literally the only one to blame. The school had to evacuate. The fire trucks came.

I hate my life.

I put a bag of popcorn in the microwave that sits in the hallway between my room and the band room for three minutes. I left it there so I could continue writing an email. By the time I came back to it, the whole hallway was filled with smoke. Then, the fire alarm sounded.

I'm on my way to drop off "Hot Tamales" to the entire main office as a peace offering for my horrible blunder.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Yeah, yeah, yeah!

Look at the flash mob my sassy sisters pulled off! I couldn't be more proud. Tina did the choreography and Anna was the dance captain.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Water Damage

Curse those two fateful words.

You'd think I'd have learned my lesson.

Ladies, ladies, LADIES. Please be smart and don't put your cell phone in your back pocket. If you insist on doing so, please remove it and put it safely in your purse while you use the lavatory.

So, for the second time in 5 months, I had to trudge through the snow (yes, it actually snowed in Utah today) to the AT&T store, which was thankfully open on a holiday. I was keeping my fingers, toes, and anything else capable of being crossed crossed when I walked in, hoping the same sales representative that helped me replace my last phone would not be behind the counter.

Phew. Two new dudes. One kind of cute. This could be fun. I'll just limit my explanation as to why I'm there. Mr. Cute Sales Associate has no idea what happened to my last phone. "My phone experienced some water damage. I have insurance." That is a much less humiliating version of the story, and still true. Honesty is the best policy, after all.

At the very moment I'm stepping up to Cute Boy's register, who should walk in from that little back room but the man who worked with me for about 2 hours getting my last phone set up 5 months ago after an eerily similar water tragedy? And he knew the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I wasn't so smart back then about masking my errors. He has the name of one of the three chipmunks, by the way. It is emblazoned upon my soul now.

As he came in and out from the back, I avoided eye contact. He kept doing double takes at me as I gave my scripted explanation to Cute Boy. Please don't remember me, please don't remember me please don't...

"Hey! I think I sold you your last phone!"

And there it was, all out in the open. "It was in my back pocket again!" I exclaimed defensively. So Chipmunk, of course, starts taking control of the whole situation, calling in the phone and getting a new one shipped right from underneath Mr. Cute Boy's nose. Whatever. My pride was not salvageable at this point anyway.

But this is the best part. When I kept referring to how it was in my back pocket, Mr. Cute Boy just looks at me and says, "So? It was in your back pocket and water or what?" Really, cute boy? You may have it got it going on in the looks department, but it aint so bright upstairs. I had to actually SAY THE WORDS, "It was when I was going to the bathroom."

As I was leaving the store with assurance that my new phone would be arriving in 2 days time, I said to the two boys, "I really enjoy these little get togethers we have." Chipmunk Sales Associate said, "Yeah, it had been 5 months and you hadn't even texted or called! I was getting worried. I was beginning to think you didn't love me anymore!"

Oh, but I do, Chippy. Why else would I drop my phone in the toilet? See you Wednesday when I have to come back in and face more public humiliation while you replace the protective screen on my new phone and take my old one back.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

It's a Jolly Holly-Day!

Happy birthday, Holls Balls. Thanks for being such a true and devoted friend for nearly 20 years. I don't know what I'd do without you!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Sense of Humor

Today, I began to understand a little bit more about the character of our Heavenly Father.

I've been having a hard day. I'm a big worrier, and today I couldn't keep my mind from racing around in circles over concerns I have. I sent my parents an "SOS" email for some advice on how to calm my anxiety. It felt so good to read their responses. No matter how old I get, their advice is always precious to me. My dad wrote the following in his email back:

"First, take a really deep breath. A deep, cleansing breath. HMMMMMMMM!"

It is evident that my earthly father has a sense of humor.

I read that email just before going to do a session in the temple. I went with the intention of seeking peace, solace, and a much needed break from my worries. I haven't been to the Jordan River temple very many times since I'm fairly new to the area. I had to use my phone's GPS system (which, for those of you who know me, is not that unusual). When the temple was clearly in sight, my GPS told me to turn too early (or I misunderstood, which is a strong possibility). I ended up going down a neighborhood street with a dead end. As I turned the car around and looked at my GPS for instruction, I noticed the name of the street looked funny. I looked up at the street sign and couldn't believe what it actually was. I pulled over and took a picture so I could always remember God's message for me:

It is obvious that my Heavenly Father has a sense of humor, too.

When I was in the temple, my mind didn't stop racing and my stomach was in knots. I remembered what my dad had written in his email and I started coaching myself to take deep, relaxed breaths. It is amazing how our body can fix itself when it's in a calm, relaxed, tension-free state. I felt a million times better and calmer. Deep breathing does wonders.

I spent some time praying in the temple when the session was over. I leaned over with my elbows on my knees and my head bowed. I was startled when an older man, like a grandpa, came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. Usually, people shy away from interrupting other people when they are praying. I had no idea who this man was and hadn't seen him before that moment. He said to me, "You better stop thinking so hard. You might blow a circuit!" I said back, "My mind has been racing," and he said, "I know" and then wished me a good night. I know that man was inspired to come say something to me. I loved his jovial tone, and it again reminded me that the Lord must love to smile and laugh, too.

If all of that weren't enough to convince me to relax, I was driving home and listening to classical music. Of course my mind started racing again. I decided to change the station to pop music, most likely to distract me from my thoughts. The second I pushed the button to one of my pre-programed stations, the words, "And breathe, just breath. Oh breathe, just breathe" came through my speakers. It was impeccable timing.

Thank you, Heavenly Father, for reminding me that I'm not alone and that laughter is the best medicine.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Good Samaritan

I was moved today by the image on the cover of the church program for Sacrament Meeting. It was an artist's depiction of the story of "The Good Samaritan."

I wanted to see how other artists have interpreted this same scene, so I did an Internet search. There were countless renditions:

I was surprised to see how many of the artistic greats throughout the centuries chose to interpret this particular story through the medium of art.

Domenico Fetti (c. 1589 – 1623)
Italian Baroque Painter

Delacroix (1798 – 1863)
French Romantic artist

Van Gogh (1853 –1890)
Dutch Post-Impressionist Painter

It's obvious that this is a parable that has deeply resonated with mankind for generations upon generations.

There is a commonality in all the different artistic versions I looked at. The person the Samaritan is aiding isn't someone who could simply use a helping hand. As the scriptures teach, the man has been stripped, wounded, and left half dead. All of the artists clearly demonstrate this helplessness on the face and in the body language of the wounded man. He is totally helpless and completely at the mercy of anyone willing to come to his rescue.

Seeing these pictures gave me the desire to study the parable in the Bible again (Luke 10).

The Savior gives this parable in response to a question posed by a lawyer who is hoping to trap Christ in His own words based on the law. The man asks the Lord, "Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus wisely asks the lawyer to refer to what is written in the law. The man responds with the two greatest commandments: 1) Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind 2) and thy neighbour as thyself. The Lord agrees and says, "this do, and thou shalt live." Insistent upon trying to provoke the Savior, the man asks, "And who is my neighbor?"

It is at this moment that the Lord teaches him the parable of the good Samaritan. It was very telling for me when I focused on the characteristics of the good Samaritan:

1) He is compassionate. He doesn't see the injured man as a Jew and himself as a Samaritan who don't speak to one another; rather, he sees the man as someone who needs his help. How often do we refrain for talking to someone who looks like they need us because they intimidate us or they aren't in our immediate circle of friends?

2) He takes the time to bind the man's wounds. He doesn't drag him somewhere for someone else to help him. Sometimes, we want to be charitable, but only to a certain extent, depending on what we have time for or what we feel comfortable doing. We are willing to serve in some ways, but not others.

3) He gives the man his own beast to ride. Although the scriptures don't specifically say, I doubt it was an incredibly short walk to the inn where he brought the man for help. It's easy to give something we don't really need to a worthy cause. How much more difficult is it to serve when it comes at the sacrifice of something that brings us comfort or even something we need?

4) He brings him to safety. The Samaritan doesn't just bind the man's wounds and wish him well. He takes him to a place where he can safely recover. Who knows where the Samaritan's intended destination was and how far out of his way the inn was. How can I help people find safety from the storm, whether physically or figuratively? Do I bring people to the gospel, which is the ultimate refuge from the difficulties of the world? Is it too far out of my way to bring them to the scriptures, to prayer, to the Lord?

5) He stays with him and takes care of him. Following up with those we serve is so important. In October, I wrote about "The Widow's Might," a service project our stake did. My friend Eric visited a sweet elderly widow who had recently lost her husband. I found out during the holidays that he went back a couple times since then to drop off flowers. We were able to accompany him just before Christmas to her home. She was brimming with gratitude and expressed how much she needed our visit, as this was her first Christmas without her companion. Eric could have easily gone to the service project in October, patted his back for visiting some women in need, and continued on with life. But he didn't forget his widow. What a beautiful example that was to me.

6) When the Samaritan eventually has to leave, he makes sure someone else is caring for the Jew. The good Samaritan asks for the help of others to watch over the man he saved. How can I better recruit loving leaders, friends, family members, and people with expertise I don't possess to help those who are crying out for help when I can't do it alone? As a teacher, I've had experiences where students have come to me with problems I don't know how to resolve. How grateful I am for counselors, administrators, and colleagues who are trained to help and have more experience than I do. Do I seek help from others?

I'm touched by the parallel of the Savior as the ultimate Good Samaritan. Each one of us is severely wounded by sin. We are completely at the mercy of someone to stop and save us from death and misery. There is only one who can, and that is Jesus Christ, our Savior. He is not in our "league" so to speak. He is greater than us all. But he stops anyway. He gently picks us up, binds our wounds through His atoning sacrifice, and leaves the Holy Ghost, prophets, and leaders, families, and friends to watch over us in His absence here on earth. I love Him and am so grateful that even though I am a mortal being, I can feel His spirit healing me when I need Him so desperately.

This was one of my favorite images that came up on my Internet search of "The Good Samaritan." It reminds me in such a simple way how this parable applies to each of us.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Matter of Perspective

Warning: Before you read further, I must inform you that this post is for the light of heart, but not for the weak of stomach. Decide accordingly whether or not to proceed.

I had an interesting shift of perspective today. In order to fully understand how this happened, I invite you to use your imagination as I paint for you a couple scenarios.

Think for a moment of your sanctuaries. Picture a place on earth you would love to be at any given moment. Imagine a place you could spend hours upon hours and feel like you had everything you needed at your disposal. Where is your safe place, the place you where you feel you can recharge your batteries and thus get through anything? These locations are different for everyone. Melissa might say Disneyland. Kate would probably have a garden in London on her short list. My mom might choose a hot bubble bath. Tessa is likely to choose Magleby's. Everyone has those special places they were asked to write about during third grade journal time.

Now, go with me to the opposite end of the spectrum. There are some places we would rather drink swamp water than go to if we can help it. For some, it may be on a doctor's table, waiting to get a shot. For another who fears height, it might be on the edge of a tall cliff. For others, it could be inside an elevator, or in a play pin (it has been my experience that babies hate those). Interestingly enough, many places we consider our worst nightmare are sanctuaries for those we know and love. For example, one person might hate being under water, while another person finds swimming a sacred haven. Another person could despise sitting in a football stadium through a football game (me) while another person looks forward to one eagerly (my brother-in-law).

I would venture to say, however, that there are some locations that are universally part of the second category in the eyes of the majority of human beings. One of those places would be the bathroom of an airplane (maybe edged out slightly by a porta-potty).

This week, the stomach flu ran through my entire family. I was one of the last to be afflicted, and it so happened to be the morning I was supposed drive to Long Beach to catch a flight back to Salt Lake City. My dad and mom drove me and my sister and her husband down south, as Jer and Tina were being dropped off in the same location for a cruise. My mom made a bed for Christina in the back because she had already been throwing up before we left. I started feeling it about 2 minutes before walking out the door. My dad was also ill. We were a sorry group. We came armed with bowls, garbage bags, plastic bags, Clorox wipes and Sprite. Halfway there, I decided I didn't want to fly anymore, as I assumed I would be getting worse based on the pattern established by my family members earlier in the week. I called the airline (who shall remain nameless) and learned I would have to pay $140 above and beyond the price of the original ticket to switch to the next morning. So, I decided to suck it up and keep on rolling.

I got to the airport and bid a pitiful goodbye to my family members. Upon arriving at the check in desk, I learned my flight was delayed an hour and fifteen minutes due to fog. Beautiful. I found a place to lay on my backpack, quite miserable. When we finally boarded, I was able to fall in to a fitful sleep for the first 45 minutes or so of the flight. I awoke suddenly and realized it had grown REALLY hot in the time I'd been asleep. In fact, I was breaking out in to a cold sweat! I quickly removed the thick beautiful scarf my sister made me from around my neck. Then I realized the time had come. I grabbed what is affectionately known as a "barf bag" from the place where I'd moved it for more convenient access. I darted a look behind me to the bathroom where I saw a man waiting for his turn. If I could just hold on a little longer I could make it inside the blessed four(ish) walls of that glorious place known as the airport lavatory. I looked back a couple more times and made eye contact, trying to hold the bag in front of me and maintain a sickly expression (that wasn't difficult), hoping to convey the message that my business was perhaps more important than his. No such luck.

It was an interesting experience to be ill in the middle of an airplane. Most memories of having the stomach flu consist of my mom patting my back and saying, "You poor thing!" validating the pain I was feeling. She'd bring in a tray of Lipton's noodle soup and stay by my side, despite the risk to her own health. Here, however, I was preparing for public humiliation. Turns out no one seemed to care much. I didn't receive any comments, good or bad, from anyone near me. Most people were heavily engrossed in the phenomenal on board entertainment this airline provided on the screen in front of them. I can't decide if I was grateful for that or not. I think mostly grateful. I saw the bathroom was now vacant and brought my little bag to the back with me, asking the flight attendant how I should best dispose of it. She was kind, but looked at me with a slightly grossed out face, as though no one had ever had the problem before of needing to dispose of one of those magic little baggies. It was weird.

And then I stepped in to my sanctuary. I finally made it to that precious little room where no one could either be disgusted by me or ignore me if I had to barf again. A place to dispose of my little white bag that horrifies everyone else. The place where there was running water, soap, and paper towels, everything I needed to get through this illness. It had a mirror where I could look and empathize with the person staring back at me. Never before have I had a moment where I wanted to stay in the airplane restroom forever. But it certainly was the case on that flight. Alas, I couldn't stay indefinitely. There were many people on the flight, some of whom I'm sure were struggling with a similar fate. Going back to my seat was going back to the unknown. I had no idea when I'd need the refuge of that little room again and whether or not it would be available for my use.

But go back I did, a bit in awe of the wildly new perspective I gained on a one hour and twenty-eight minute flight to Salt Lake City.