Saturday, February 14, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 14

Last week, Michelle and I spent a couple days working on Valentines.  It was so fun!

I made a goal to make all my Valentines using only what was in my craft drawers.  I wasn't allowed to buy anything new.  It was a fun challenge.  Because I used leftover materials, all twenty Valentines were similar, but unique.  I used scraps of ribbon, cellophane, paper, shells from the New Beginnings frames I made last week, pearl beads from a wedding guest book I made for my mission companion 6 years ago, etc. 

Special thanks to Christina for the line, "You make me happy as a clam." My ideas were just not jiving: "If we were on the beach, you'd be the pearl inside the clam."

I love the whole, "not matching is the new matching" thing that's 'in' these days. I felt a lot of freedom to mix and match paper colors and designs. 

Michelle made paper cupcake Valentines and I thought it was clever when she left mine on my bed with a note indicating it was "gluten free."  

We spent the evening of the 14th delivering Valentines.  We had a lovely time!  We were able to spend some time with my Grandma Carolyn in Draper, which was one of the highlights for me!  When we got home, I made a Valentine's Day smoothie (it was pink and everything ;-)).

I received the best Valentine text of all time from my dear friend Many. Even though it's funny, it really touched my heart! 

 My student teacher and I have differing views of Valentine's Day. I love it! She feels the opposite, because people should show they love each other everyday.  In addition, she is all about self love.  She told me, "Valentine's Day is just another day to spend with the person you should love the very most: Yourself!" So happy Valentine's Day, Katie.

And now, just for fun...

Flashback to Valentine's Day a year ago:  

He's still my Valentine.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 13

Tonight, my parents and I got to attend one of Anna's ballroom performances. Christina was the faculty member in charge of the event that night, so I got to see both sisters on the same stage, even though only one was dancing. Seeing them dance that would be a real dream come true!

The performance was at an adult stake dance. The place was decorated beautifully. As we waited for the ballroom portion to start, we watched couples out on the dance floor, moving to the beat of the live band of cute old men (who were quite talented!). The couples were clearly having a wonderful time. I made the comment to my mom that it's pretty impossible to dance without a smile on your face. The love I found today was the love for dance. My sister Anna had it written all over her face in her three numbers (Viennese waltz, Cha Cha, and Jive). Of course, I always think my sisters are the most beautiful and most graceful of all the dancers. It has been such a treasure to spend the past 6 years in the world of ballroom with my talented Tina and Anna. I am not too proud to admit I did not receive that gene, but I am honored to be a spectator!

Looking for Love: Day 12

So much love.

The love I experienced yesterday brought me to tears.

About 5 years ago, I joined a choir called the Wasatch Chorale while I was teaching middle school in Orem.  I don't remember how I heard about it or what led me to audition.  I remember seeing my director for the first time as I waited in the hall for my audition time at UVU.  I texted my mom and said, "So this is what love at first sight feels like."  I've always been a bit dramatic ;-).  Over the course of the next couple years, however, Dr. Reed Criddle became more than a school girl crush.  He became a great mentor and dear friend.  He is a genius at what he does. He took the UVU choir department, of which he is the head, by storm when he first began his job there as a brand new professor. He is kind and good.  In addition, he is an excellent programmer and a composer (people will be hearing his name in the choral world more and more as he continues to publish his choral works).

Each year, he and his choral department invite a high school choir to share the stage with them.  We were absolutely floored by this opportunity.  It's the chance of a lifetime for a high school choir like ours and it's a highly effective recruiting tool for their program.  Getting to share a stage with Dr. Criddle was a dream come true for me as an educator and as a conductor.

A week and a half before our performance, Reed generously donated his time to do a workshop with my students on the songs they prepared.  They were blown away and inspired.  I had seniors asking me afterward what their audition process is like at UVU so they could try out in the fall. 

Last night, we loaded a bus and headed down to the St. Francis of Assisi church in Orem.  They are so generous to allow choirs to use their place of worship.  When we got there, we rehearsed in their space for the first time.  It was incredible to hear their sound resonating through the room.  The pieces we prepared were Scarlatti's "Exultate Deo," Eric Whitacre's "Seal Lullaby," and Stephen Hatfield's "Living in a Holy City." 

We then practiced our combined number, "What a Friend."  Reed was so generous to offer one of my students a solo opportunity alongside his own soloists.  I beamed with pride when my kid got up to sing his solo in front of the audience that night.  He put his whole heart into his performance.  My smile was a mile wide.

Our souls were then fed for the next hour or so as we listened to the UVU choirs perform. In addition to Reed's always stellar performances, Cherilyn Worthen, director of the UVU Women's Choir, did incredible work with her students.  I felt so, so lucky that my students had the chance to hear such high quality choral music.

The best part of the evening, however, came halfway through the concert.  Just before the program began, I was sitting in the pew feeling a little sad.  This night was one of the greatest professional opportunities of my life.  And I wasn't sharing it with anyone.  I don't think I realized until that moment how important it was to me to have someone there to see it and experience it with me.  Because it was in Orem, I didn't want to guilt my SLC friends in to coming.  My parents were at a family history conference in Salt Lake City that they planned to attend for months and months.  I couldn't ask them to sacrifice that.  I mentioned in a text to my mom at about 7:00 p.m. (the concert started at 7:30) how sad I was that they couldn't hear my students in this amazing venue.  After my students performed in the middle of the concert, I checked my phone in my purse.  There was a text from my mom saying, "Sounded wonderful!"  Turns out that the moment they got my text, my parents jumped in the car and drove from SLC to Orem to be with me that night.  They could sense how much I needed them there.

The minute the concert was over, I rushed to my mom and dad in the back of the church, threw my arms around them, and burst in to tears.  Even remembering it makes me emotional.  And that's where I experienced the truest and deepest love that exists. 

I will never forget that night. 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 11

Today's edition of "Looking for Love" is brought to you by a text Allie sent me today.

The idea is genius. For a first date, you can go bakery hopping on Saturday mornings at all the local gluten free bake shops.  

It's guaranteed to be love at first bite.

Bonus: If you marry someone gluten-free, you can have an entirely gluten free household, plus someone to stand in solidarity with you when a piece of cake is taunting you at a birthday party. You can also reproduce gluten intolerant little ones, thus helping you recommit to a 100% gluten-free environment.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 10

I often experience moments of renewed love for my job as a teacher.  Of course there are times when it feels like the hardest job in the world; however, those times are far outnumbered by the moments that remind me I am part of the best profession there is.

 I have a student who is an excellent student and a hard worker.  He is vigilant about his grades and takes his assignments seriously.  He really enjoys being part of choir, too, even though you wouldn't know it to look at him.  He comes across as a bit of a "tough guy" before you know him.  In many ways, he is the model choir student. 

6 months in to the school year, he rarely matches pitch successfully. 

His attitude, nevertheless, is amazing.  I had the chance to work with him one on one during choir auditions today.  I told him he was going to need to practice a lot over the summer to be ready to return to choir in the fall.  He said, "I can do it! I like a challenge."  And I believe him.

We have in-class performances coming up.  He came after school today with his friends to work on his song. His original partner wasn't taking the assignment seriously, so he asked a friend from another group to perform with him so he wouldn't have to sing alone.  I had a lull in auditions so I said I could work with them for a few minutes.  We started working on the simple song we chose for him to sing.  In the first few minutes of our mini rehearsal, I admit I was a little worried.  The melody was no where to be found.  Slowly but surely, however, he started matching one or two notes at a time.  Pretty soon, he was singing a string of notes accurately.  Though he still probably missed 40% of the notes, he progressed miles in ten short minutes because he was willing to try, put in the effort, and take feedback and apply it.  It was clear he was pleased with his success, however small it might seem to someone else.

And that is why I love teaching over and over again.   

Monday, February 9, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 9

I know most of the love I've been talking about the past eight days isn't romantic love.  But let's be honest- it cannot be ignored. Why? Because it's one of the very best things in life. And I'm a diehard romantic. 

I did a random text survey of my friends and family asking them to respond with their favorite love song of all time and why.  And I must say, this has been one of my favorite experiences "looking for love" so far. I found it in abundance.  Seriously- these responses are so sweet that I want to squeal/cry.  It's a gift to know love like this exists. I treasured all the answers and I hope you will, too!  You may find a new song or two to sing to your special someone on Valentine's Day (or at least to burn on a CD...oh wait...people don't do that anymore...maybe buy it for them on iTunes and secretly put it on their phone?). 

I have several...but my top two right now (from my wedding) are "All of Me" by John Legend and "I Choose You" by Sara Bareilles.  "All of Me" because it's just so honest and raw.  I feel like he is bearing his soul, which is what I think love should be like..."I Choose You" because every single day, loving someone is a choice. If you quit consciously making the choice, love loses its magic.
Funny you should ask me that, because I am totally crushing on the song "Thinking Out Loud" right now.  Not sure if I can say it's the best of all time, but I think it's so sweetly romantic, the whole, "I'll love you til I'm old and gray" thing.  Every time I hear it, I just want to be dancing with [my husband].

"At Last" by Etta James and "Book of Love" by Peter Gabriel.

Well, "I Will Always Love You"by Whitney Houston I think wins the prize! I also have a special place in my heart for "Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts and "At Last" by Etta James.

I don't spend too much time with the lovey dovey songs but if I had to pick off the top of my head right now, I would say either, "Wonderful Tonight" by Eric Clapton or a couple of Journey songs which are equally as awesome: "Faithfully," or, "Open Arms."

I don't know if it's the best love song of all time, but I love, "Angel" by Jack Johnson.  [My husband] is not a romantic or sentimental at all, but one time when we were dating, this came on the radio and he casually said I was his angel.  Then probably some joke afterward, but still every time I hear it I am reminded that he loves me for just being me.  So I guess it's the best love song ever because it reminds me I'm loved.

That is such a hard question.  There are so many but I absolutely love 1000 years by Christina Perri.  I think it's beautiful to think how long we all think we wait for love and then once we find it how long it lasts.  In the song it's 1000 years, but really it means eternity :-). I also love "God Bless the Broken Road." I think my particular road was very broken but in the end all worth it because, really, I cannot imagine another road where I would have met [my husband].

The first one that comes to mind is, "When You Say You Love Me" by Josh Groban.  It is the song [my husband] and I danced to at our wedding. It really describes what it feels like to hear [my husband] say he loves me.

"I am a Child of God."  (While I realize I am supposed to be keeping all of these anonymous, I just have to say my cute dad gave that answer without skipping a beat.  Sorry, Dad, I just had to share.)

[My husband and I] both actually thought of, "Our House" by Crosby Stills & Nash because it's one of "our songs."  It's a really sweet and simple song.  And it's not referring to bricks and mortar but the love that makes any house a home. The other one is, "Whenever I See Your Smiling Face" by James Taylor. 

Our song is "Time in a Bottle."  Still works and gets sweeter with time, because it says, "I would do it all again."  Means more the more you've been through.

"Your Song" by Elton John is just simple and Sincere. "Come What May" from Moulin Rouge is like a grand, passionate gesture.  I like 'em both.

Our song was, "Your Song" by Elton John.

"At Last."  Love the lyrics and the build up,  At last my love has come along.  My lonely days are over and life is like a song! At last the skies above are blue.  It's the kind of song you can only sing with a little bit of heartache.  Love is so sweet because you know what your life is like without it.

I don't know about the best but my favorite is "Feels Like Home." I just relate to waiting and hoping a long time to find love.  And the idea of it providing a sense of comfort and belonging reflects what I would like a relationship to be like.

"Sound of Music."  It is one of my favorites.

"Now and Forever" by Richard Marx.  Our wedding song.  Really dates me I know. But I love this song. :-)

Mine is in Spanish! I am sure if you read it you may understand it. :-) "Eres" by Cafe Tacuba.

"For Always," by Josh Groban; "Inspiration," by Chicago.

Off the top of my head: "Right Here Right Now" by Jesus Jones and "All I Want" by Toad the Wet Sprocket.  Probably not on your list yet, eh?

"Unchained Melody."  God speed your love to me.  "You are my Sunshine."  You make me happy when skies are gray.  I'm not sure I can choose just one...I also like "Secret Love" from Calamity Jane.

Ben Folds- "The Luckiest." It is just such a sweet look into different phases of love (except the second verse gets a little weird haha).  

"Forever" by Jessie and the Rippers because it is a fact and it is the best love song ever!!

"The Girl" by City and Colour.

"Come What May" from Moulin Rouge.

I do love, "That's All." And then there's, "I Wish You Love."

My parents' song is, "You Send Me," Sam Cooke, so I always liked it too.

I'll just go with my first instinct, "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" by Frankie Valli.  Because it shows how smitten he is with her, how he only has eyes for his romantic interest, but he demonstrates the passion and willingness to put himself out there too, and risk it all for the opportunity of a life with her.  Also, it's got a pretty catchy chorus, "I love you baby," and you can feel the emotion and zeal in his heart when he is singing.  These elements are the makings of a good song, which is also a requirement to be the best love song.

"The Way You Look Tonight was our wedding song and, therefore, if a favorite." :-)

And now for a few of my favorites! Since it's my blog, I get to say as many as I want ;-).  A few of mine were already said. But here are a couple more...
  • "Someone Like You" from Jeckyl and Hyde
  • "Out of my League" by Stephen Speaks
  • "Fallin' For You" by Colbie Caillat
  • "Is It Really Me" from 110 in the Shade
  • "To Make You Feel My Love" (lots of incredible covers)
  •  "Time after Time," especially the cover by Carly Simon
  • "The Nearness of You," cover by Norah Jones
  • "The Day Before You" by Rascal Flatts
  • "Never Saw Blue Like That" by Shawn Colvin
  • "I'd Give it all for You" from Songs for a New World
  • "At the Beginning" from the Anastasia soundtrack
  • "I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz
  • "When You Say Nothing At All" by Allison Kraus
  • "Through the Years" by Kenny Rogers

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 8

I never know where I will stumble across love throughout the day.  Today, I wanted to watch a family friendly flick after church.  I browsed through Netflix and settled on one I have been wanting to watch for a couple weeks.  And over the course of the next couple hours, I fell in love with this man:

Why I fell in love with Rudy:

Disclaimer: I don't actually know much about the real Rudy, so I'm really only talking about my love for the movie Rudy.  I'm sure they are quite similar.  Whether or not the real Rudy was exactly the same, this movie presents him as such a powerful example of a fearless, dedicated man.  Every kid needs to see this movie.

Rudy is eternally optimistic.  He gets rejected from Notre Dame after working like a dog.  Despite a learning disability, he gets better grades than ever before in his life. He goes home at Christmas and tells his dad he didn't get in this semester, but he would next time.  Of course his father and brother are skeptical (to put it mildly), but Rudy never wavers in his conviction.  Even though the odds are stacked against him in every way, Rudy knows he has the will to succeed.

He works his tail off.  When he is consulting with a priest about getting in to Notre Dam by first attending Holy Cross, he says, "I'll study twenty hours a day if I have to." And he will.

He gives 110% of his body and soul to what he loves.  When he finally walks on to the Notre Dame prep team, his teammates get mad at him for treating each practice "like it's the Superbowl." The coach gives them a hard time for lacking Rudy's heart.  But Rudy is there to help his beloved team,  even knowing he will never dress with the team for games. One of his teammates says to him in the locker room after practice, "Do you understand that if you don't cool it out there you're going to get yourself killed?" Rudy responds, "If I cool it out there, then I won't be helping you guys win next week's game. Got it?" He knows that his job is to give them an authentic experience in practice that will prepare them for game time.  So he will give his blood, sweat, and tears so the team can be led to victory.

Rudy is realistic about his abilities and appreciative of every opportunity that comes his way.  He recognizes that he is small and wasn't born with any athletic talent to speak of.  But he has more drive than any other member of the team.  All he asks of his coach is to let him dress (not play) for one game so he can make his family proud and see his dream come true.  In exchange, he gives the team every ounce of what he has within him.

I love how he wears the Notre Dame jacket his best friend Pete gave him in nearly every scene.  Even though it's not the same as the other guys wear, it represents his dream and the support of his best friend. 

I like the human side of Rudy, too.  It seems like absolutely nothing can break the kid; however, when the last dress list of his senior year is posted and he isn't on it, he is devastated.  He decides to quit the team with only one practice left of his last year in college.  His anger is justified.  He worked tirelessly since childhood toward the goal of being part of the team on game day.  He didn't miss a single practice throughout college and proved himself worthy of the chance.  Though he is ready to quit, he listens to the advice of a trusted friend and is willing to humble himself to come to his final practice anyway with his head held high.  As a result, his team rallies around him and petitions the coach on Rudy's behalf, helping him finally reach his goal.  If more of us were like Rudy, the world would be a much different place.

Rudy, will you be my Valentine?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 7

I found love on the ground on my walk today.  Might I add I was wearing a short sleeved T-shirt and capri workout pants.  Just a(n) (ab)normal day in February in Utah!  I loved walking up and down 3300 south where I live, listening to music (especially Broadway- it's the music of my soul) and discovering all the stores right in my neighborhood.  I ended up spontaneously buying a middle eastern kabob from a little store because I was curious.  I also popped in to a couple places I'd never been before looking for a walk-in eyebrow waxing, but they were busy at the time.  I did a lot of thinking and processing.  I don't know that I spend enough time doing that.  I'm anxious to get in to a more firm routine of exercise and pondering. 

I was able to celebrate the love of a former student, Airen, on her wedding day.  It was so fun to reunite with the old madrigals crew!  I spent a lot of the day making Valentines, so her wedding gift (bottom left corner) ended up resembling one.

Between the Valentines, the wedding, and the movie portraying the William and Kate love story that Michelle and I watched, I encountered lots of love today.  But the love I want to honor today is a little different.  I'll explain after recounting the following story from the wedding reception.

(Katie walks in to the wedding reception where her former student is celebrating her marriage.  She sees another former student at the end of the receiving line chatting with a couple around her parents' age.  She pats her student on the back and says hello as she drops off her gift and takes her place behind him in line.  While the husband is talking to Sam, the wife turns to address her.)

Wife: Hello! How are you doing? (They shake hands.  The woman is extremely warm and it's obvious she and Katie have met.)

Katie: I'm doing well, how are you? (She has no idea who the woman is, but assumes it must be the mom of a former student because she looks familiar).

Wife: We are doing well.  You look so pretty. Let me rephrase look beautiful!

Katie: Well, thank you so much! (Katie is taken back by such a kind compliment, especially when she really doesn't know who the woman is.  The husband is now done talking to Sam and turns to greet Katie.  It appears he knows her as well.  After exchanging hellos, the couple turns around and faces front in the line again. Katie immediately addresses her former student in a whisper.) Sam, who are these people?

Sam: The Clarks.  He's one of the members of the seventy I think.

Katie: Well, are they the parents of any students I've had?

Sam: I don't think you'd know any of their kids.  I only know them because they used to be in my ward.

(Katie and former student Sam continue catching up on what Sam is doing now that he is graduated.  At one point, he mentions he still life-guarding.  The wife turns back around.)

Wife: You're a lifeguard? That's such a great job.  I'm sorry to interrupt!

(The three continue in conversation as the line progresses, talking about the bride's family and which of the kids are married and so forth).

Wife: Are you two in the same ward?

(At this point, Katie starts to fear the couple thinks she and her student are there together, which is all kinds of uncomfortable for her.)

Katie: Oh no, I'm in the...the...(Katie is so flustered by the fact that she has been engaged in conversation with someone she is supposed to know but doesn't and the fact that this woman might possibly think she is dating her student that she can't remember the name of her ward.)  Sorry, I just's the Miller ward in the Granite Park Stake.

(At this point, the couple has reached the guest book.  As they lean over to sign, Katie makes a bold decision and addresses the couple once more.)

Katie: I'm sorry, but I just have to ask you guys.  How do we know each other?

Husband: Well, I do a lot of ward hopping so that's probably where.

(Katie is confused, because they acted like they knew who she was.)

Wife: Well what is your name?

Katie: I'm Katie Houston- I was Sam and Airen's choir teacher at Highland High School.

Husband: Oh, well our children went to Highland a few years back.

Wife: Oh that was ages ago; we're ancient.  They were there when Kathleen Slagle was teaching choir.  That's how long ago it was!

(Katie inwardly chuckles, because it was Katie who took over for Kathleen.  That must make Katie rather ancient herself!)

Katie: Well, it's funny because you look familiar.

Wife: You look familiar, too.

(Katie is puzzled- the woman doesn't actually know who she is at all. At this point, it's evident the three were playing the same game.  They all thought they were supposed to know each other and acted accordingly; yet, they may actually have never met before in their lives. When the wife and Katie see each other again later in the reception, the two act like they've known each other for years.)

I love that this happened.  It reminds me of the sisterhood that exists in church.  This woman was so kind to me, a complete stranger.  This story, of course, is an abridged version of our conversation. But from the moment we "met," she treated me like I was her own niece or a former student.  She was kind and complimentary (even though she didn't actually know me) and made me feel like my work at Highland is appreciated.  It was clear that loving people and seeing the best in them came naturally to this woman.  I am grateful for the love she so freely gave to someone she didn't know, who came to a wedding reception of a former student by herself, a little self-conscious.

The love I celebrate today is the love of strangers.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 6

This morning when I woke up, there was a text waiting for me from a dear friend.  I teach two of her children in choir.  Her oldest sang in my madrigals as a senior during my first year at Highland.  We started battling each other in Words with Friends about three years ago, and we haven't stopped.  That's how our friendship came to be.

The text informed me her brother-in-law (married to her husband's sister), was tragically killed in a car accident.  My students were very close to the cousins who lost their father.  Her son needed to miss a choir performance to attend the funeral, which is why she contacted me.  Needless to say, I told her not to worry about it at all.

After I read the text, I got on Facebook and one of the first posts I saw revealed a family friend recently discovered a recurrence of a brain tumor.  It hit me how full my news feed is with stories of people going through devastating trials. 

Today, I express my love for the plan of salvation and what I learned about it today. 

The first thing I realized, yet again, is how lucky I am.  I have so many things to be grateful for.  There is so much beauty in my life. I have an incredible family, loyal friends, and hilarious students.  I have health and energy.  Teaching gives me infinite purpose.  My life is richly blessed.  I realized how little I have to be discouraged about.

I have been gripping tightly to a non-existent life.  The life I imagined isn't the life I am living.  It's as though I walk around with a cloud over my head, ever so slightly shadowing the joyful moments in each day.  This morning, I got one step closer to letting go of my expectations and allowing my life to continue on the path it's on, a journey that continues to be a beautiful.  I can't believe I am halfway through my seventh year of teaching and an aunt to darling children who grow too fast.  I am reaching goals I never knew I'd have the opportunity to meet. 

My eyes were opened as I realized life is too short for me to spend it always wishing for more than what I have.

Recently, I made a difficult educational decision.  I chose to take a semester off graduate school due to substantial work conflicts and the ESL endorsement I am finishing.  It was a really tough choice.  Today confirmed I did the right thing as I pondered how precious life is and how important it is to be happy.  With one less class, I have time to pursue hobbies and maintain order in my personal life.  I can enjoy my job again.  It's a great relief. 

The plan of salvation helps me to view my life with a much broader lens that extends beyond mortality.  It reminds me that all the blessings I long for will one day be mine.  There is no need to fear as time passes by and I grow older.  The plan of salvation allows us to be with the people we love forever. I will one day build a family of my own to join the one I am so blessed to have. This life is a brief snapshot of time.  And I believe the depth of love we feel in mortality is just a teaser for what's to come in the eternities.

And that's saying something. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 5

It is an adventure to approach each day unsure of what kind of love I'm going to write about.  As I reflect on the day,  I recognize forms of love I haven't considered in a long time.  This was precisely the experience I had today.

Without going in to too much detail (I don't want to give away the surprise!), I had an after school practice to work on a dance routine with a group of co-workers. I stood there in my pink stockinged feet with my blue polka dotted shirt (that's what happens when you wear one is supposed to see that the socks don't match!) and watched a teacher lean in to a stretch.  I thought to myself, "I don't know if my body can even do that anymore." And then I felt the strangest thing.  I yearned for my body to move.  To bend. To stretch.  To have energy and ability to do more than it currently can.  For too long, I let work and grad school dominate my life.  I put many things that bring joy and fulfillment on the back burner, like being active.

Standing there in a room full of mirrors, I felt trapped inside my body.  People say, "If you don't use it, you lose it." True. Another old adage that is often used is, "It's just like riding a bike."  False. Being able to do a back bend or any similar body configuration is not something you can pick up where you left off when you were 10.  You have to break down your muscle again which takes time, pain, and sacrifice. 

For days, I've prayed for motivation to better care for my body. And all of a sudden, an overwhelming desire came in the middle of the HHS dance studio.  This time, however, I'm hopeful the urge is strong enough to yield change.

So what kind of love did I find today?

I found I love my body.  And I finally remembered it's potential.

Right now it's utterly inflexible and full of tension.  But when I begin to take better care of it and pry it from stress, I will be empowered to dance, to run, to play with my nieces and nephews, and to find joy in many more moments each day.

I watch Burn Notice (or some similar show) to wind down after work. And I'm not ashamed. But today was a little different than most days.  I usually plop on the couch and half watch TV/half play Words with Friends on my phone.  After I came home from dance practice today, however, I got in my work out clothes and simply stretched throughout the episode. And it was fabulous.

I hope this is the beginning of a new tradition.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 4

My theme for today is love through service, inspired by the Young Men and Young Women mutual theme for the year 2015:

 D&C 4: Therefore, O ye that embark in the service of God, see that ye serve him with all your heart, might, mind and strength, that ye may stand blameless before God at the last day.

Tonight was New Beginnings for Young Women.  Young Men and Young Women worldwide are encouraged to use #embark in social media to share ways they can "embark" in the work of the Lord with their friends and family.  We picked up on the boat theme and called our evening, "Embark on a New Beginning."  

The evening started with a program in the chapel.  Young women spoke about personal progress values experiences that had a positive effect on them, many of which were service oriented.  One young woman talked about spending two weeks strengthening her relationship with her 4 year old sister. Another girl shared how much she enjoyed teaching dance with her grandmother.  I love how the personal progress program is all about strengthening our character and helping us become more like Christ.  The way we do that is by serving one another. 

The theme was introduced through this beautiful video made by the church. I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch it! Admittedly, it brought a tear or two to my eye. 

After the program, we went to the cultural hall for a small service project to get excited about finding ways to help others throughout the year.  It was an idea from (find it here).  


I am excited to join the youth in this journey throughout the year.  I look at these kids and stand in awe of the people they are.  They live in a world where the line between right and wrong is blurred completely.  They are often looked down on for striving to maintain their integrity.  It is so hard to be a teenager now.  But the leadership of the church knows that, which is why this theme is so inspired.  It is through service that we truly learn who we are as sons and daughters of God.  Service brings everlasting joy, not fleeting pleasure.  We are kinder when we serve. We are less selfish when we serve.  When we serve, we love.  We love people who are different from us. We are often loved by them.  And, to quote Les Miserables, "To love another person is to see the face of God."

Below is one of my favorite scriptures.  

 Matthew 16:25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.

I know this scripture is true!  I have felt this in my life over and over again.  The last time I went through heartache, I asked for help from the Lord. The thought kept coming to my mind that I needed to serve others.  I didn't like that answer, because I felt like I wanted Him to give me what I wanted instead.  But I know that it is when I am serving others that I am the best possible version of myself.  And that's the person I want to be.

So let us #embark on showing love through serving our God.  How will you #embark?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 3

Today, I really looked for love. Like I searched for it.  Like I typed it in to a search box.

Today I am honoring electronic love.  I thought it would be fun to see how love has been transmitted through email in my life over the past year since last Valentine's Day.  What do others love? What do I love? How do people use the word "love" in casual conversation?  Do we truly love what we say we love?  Do we communicate love differently or more freely in writing than we do in real life?

These lines come directly from emails I have either received or sent (though not all were emails addressed to me or from me specifically). Who knows...there may be some love sent from YOU!

  • Remember you are all loved.
  • I love using iMovie too. 
  • I know that no matter what happens, my Heavenly Father loves me and so do both of you.
  • Love you more than the wind and ten times over!
  • I'm enjoying so much getting to know love the Lord.
  • I would absolutely love to have the quartet come and do a presentation for my students, especially encouraging them with their solo and small group work.
  •  Let's show our love and support with welcoming arms from us ward members.
  • We love life here in Columbus [. . .]
  • You're so wonderful and I love you.
  • Thank you for your prayers and love!
  • I'd love to show off my new house!
  • Loves!
  • I LOVE that you have taken the time to share your thoughts on this [. . .]
  • I love choir except Men's Ensemble.
  • I'm very excited to meet her and love on her.
  • I think about you and pray for you and just love you.
  • I'm so excited for Thanksgiving because I love the holiday and the break from school, but mostly to learn more news of the twins.
  • Gosh, I love your updates.  It makes me feel like there's not so much distance between us.
  • (if it is ok I would love to have the wording just a bit different, if not it's ok) 
  • Just a reminder that I would LOVE pictures for our YW in Excellence slideshow!
  • I can help fold either day and I would love to still go to the temple if it still works for everyone.   
  • I know it was a little chaotic, but it was SO fun to see you guys, and I LOVE that little Scotty!!!!  
  •   I would love to get together for lunch or dinner sometime.
  • I love pumpkin with all of my heart
  • I love Baby Gap just as much as the next girl
  •  I would love anyone's input if we need to make changes...
  • LOVED looking at these! SOOOOO CUTE!!   
  • I love, love, love all of it...
  • We would love to have you share your thoughts with us on the 24th.
  • Thanks to everyone who has been so ultra supportive of me in my funny quest for that crazy little thing called LOVE
  • I love that Jesus calls to Peter and simply says "Come."
  • There are people I love fiercely on both sides, who I will continue to love despite our differences.  
  • What is it like to be so in love that you don't realize how completely bizarre your behavior is?!
  •  We need to love and respect every single human being on this earth.
  • I want to serve and love everyone of all faiths, just as my Savior would do.
  • It's definitely "me" combines two things I love (music and writing).
  • You love to sing in the car just as much as I do. 
  • In fact, you never judge me, just love me.
  •  We also share a love of good books.
  • I love my mom.
  • Mom and I love to laugh together.
  • The love that I have witnessed from her for her children and grandbabies is truly deep and inspiring.
  • I love this story because it reminds me that you are always on my team, no matter what. 
  • love and miss you all (even you, Shelley, I just can't get enough of you)
  • The most important things to me are kindness and love of the Lord.
  • Love you all. Love your children.
  • I love the family ward and stake and I have great neighbors that I have become close to.
  • But I found myself realizing how much I love being a mommy to this little guy and how much I would miss him if I spent a whole day away from him.
  • There was a love/hate relationship with this dinosaur turned bunny.
  • I love you, Darling Daughter. Love, your DAD
  •  I LOVE the idea of a summer reunion!! 
  • I would love to have my new car by this summer. 
  • I forgot how much I love them!
  • I LOVED the games your cute family came up with for your shower.
  • I don't even know her but I feel a love for her with how kind she was in her response.
  • I know Heavenly Father loves you. I love you.  
  • I simply cannot tell you how much I love these two precious little baby grandchildren! 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 2

When Anna was a little girl, she would say, "When I grow up, I want to marry Scraps."

Scraps was our cat.

Scraps was rescued from a storm by members of the Williams family.  Violet gave Scraps to me for my 11th birthday.  Anna and I are exactly 11 years and 4 months apart; therefore, Anna and Scraps grew up together.

Scraps' nickname was Nana Scraps because she treated Anna like her kitten.  According to my mom, Scraps "watched over Anna from the day she laid eyes on Anna until the day she died."  She would stick her paw in to her playpin when Anna was a baby and jump in to her crib.  She slept with her every night and would stay close whenever Anna was sick.  She sat on Anna's homework, "supervising" as my mom puts it.  She allowed Anna to dress her up, play school, and have tea parties.  Their love for one another was tender and true.

Anna's love for cats is not surprising, considering whose daughter she is.

Up until recently, my mother and Anna were the two greatest cat lovers I knew.  Then I met Allie and realized she, my mother, and my sister were kindred cat spirits. To them, a cat is not just an animal.  A cat is on par with a tiny human and should be loved and cherished.  A cat is a friend and a companion.  A cat is someone loving to come home to.

Every Monday night, Michelle and I go to Chris and Allie's for dinner and Jeopardy.  The love they have for their two cats is evident everywhere in their home.  Because I knew we were going there tonight, the special love between a cat and his/her human family seemed perfect to honor today.

Sully and Caesar enjoy spending time in some choice locations in the apartment.  Chris and Allie lovingly provide them with little beds in each place.

I asked Allie to tell me a little about her volunteer work with the Salt Lake County Animal Shelter.  I gained a huge appreciation for people like Allie, my mom, and my siblings who deeply love these little creatures.  I asked her specifically why she is so passionate about cats getting spayed and neutered. Allie told me that 12,000 pets are euthanized in Utah per year (2,000,000 nationwide) because of space.  A majority of those are cats.  There are so many cats who need a loving home and there isn't room for all the abandoned kittens that come in to the world. 

Allie was particularly drawn to the shelter where she volunteers because it is a "no kill" shelter.  This means that all the homeless animals they house are either adopted out or taken by rescue organizations who find homes for them.  These organizations are bigger than shelters, have more money, and are able to publicize animals more.  Their facilities look like pet stores and therefore make the animals seem more appealing to potential owners.  These rescue organizations are the only way shelters can operate as no kill facilities.  Otherwise, they would run out of space and resources.  That's why so many shelters euthanize the animals who are not adopted.   People who simply do not want their pet anymore generally cannot take them to shelters, but rescue organizations will take them.  

If you are interested in getting a sweet little friend from the Salt Lake County Animal Shelter, It costs a mere $10 for cats over 6 months and $25 for cats under 6 months cover vaccinations, food, and housing. If you are interested in volunteering at the shelter, they will take any time you can give. You do not need to commit to any particular day or amount.  These organizations are run out of pure love.  And understanding that tonight has changed me. 

Allie shared her favorite story about Barney, pictured below.  Barney was around 15 years old, mangy, had no teeth, and they suspected he survived on the streets his entire life without a real home, despite being friendly around humans.  He meowed incessantly, but everyone in shelter loved him.  It seemed, however, like no one would ever adopt him. Finally, a young couple in their thirties decided they wanted to take him home. It was a very happy day for the shelter!

One last tip from Allie.  The best way to make sure your cats come home to you is to get them micro-chipped.  Every cat at the shelter leaves with a microchip.  They insert a tiny chip into their back between the shoulder blades that can be scanned if they end up at the shelter.  It has their owner's name and number.

Allie and Chris just found out they are having a baby girl.  I commissioned Christina to make a crochet cat stuffed animal for the new baby.  They named her Molly and Sullivan loves her. 

I am sort of known as the black sheep in my family for not loving animals the way everyone else does.  This post is my way of showing them that I believe in the power of cat love, even though it hasn't always been easy for me to understand.

In closing, Anna and my mom compiled their favorite cat quotes for me to share:
  • "Cats leave pawprints on your heart.
  • "No outfit is complete without cat hair."
  • "Way down deep, we are all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them" (Jim Davis, cartoonist for Garfield).  
  • "Time spent with a cat is never wasted" (Sigmund Freud)
  • "Every life should have nine cats."  
  • "There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats" (Albert Schweitzer).

P.S. Even after I decided to talk about love for cats on today's post, I tore off the page on my desk calendar just before leaving work and this was staring back at me.  I'm pretty sure this means I'm supposed to get a cat.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Looking for Love: Day 1

I love Valentine's Day.  No, really. I mean it. I really do.  I always have.  I'm a sucker for romance, even if my role is as a happy bystander. 

And this February, I'm looking for love. 

(But it's not what you think.)

To honor one of my very favorite days of the year, I am going to spend the next 14 days on a quest to recognize the random acts of lovingness around me.  We live in a world full of devastating trials and poignant heartaches.  There exists much sadness, selfishness, and neglect.  But in direct opposition to those moments of despair, there are boundless examples of deep, abiding, Christian love all around us.  This month, I want to recognize and salute those who love.

Day 1:

When I woke up this morning, I popped on over to my Facebook to check my news feed.  This was one of the first pictures that appeared.

The obvious love and tenderness this mama feels for her baby boy touched my heart.  I believe the love of a mother cannot be quantified nor rivaled.  I thought about Rachel, the girl in this photo. She is my sister's age.  She and her three siblings were all adopted.   Entering the Tate home, their family motto is proudly visible on the wall: "Together Always Through Eternity."  I grew up with Rachel's brother James.  Recently, he and his wife adopted their first child, Isaac.  Shortly after, Rachel gave birth to her son Owen.  This is a family who truly, deeply loves one another.  Whether adopted or biological, the love that exists between these parents, grandparents, children, and siblings knows no difference.  Their family is a beautiful example of love for me.

There is another kind of unselfish love that paves the way for beautiful families like the Tates to be together forever.  Every weekend, I have a special tradition of hanging up and folding all the clothes I didn't put away during the week while watching something online.  Today, while going through this weekly ritual, I turned on the Mormon channel.  I watched a short video about a girl who wanted her unborn child to have the kind of loving, big family she had growing up.  She knew she was not physically or emotionally equipped to provide that for her baby; therefore, she made the heart wrenching decision to send her child to parents who could better meet her needs.  A conscious choice of that magnitude requires the kind of love that only a mother possesses.  It is an incomprehensible love to give a child created within you the best possible life, even if that isn't with you.

The love I honor today is the love of families who have been affected by adoption, whether through selflessly giving, graciously receiving, unconditionally loving, or all three.  This includes foster parents who provide love for children who haven't felt enough of it in their lives.  Thanks to every one of you for your critical role in creating loving families, the most "fundamental unit of society."