25 December 2010

Mission Call

I've been called to serve in the California San Fernando Mission, Spanish Speaking!!! I report to the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah on 16 February 2011.

The last week has been quite a whirlwind! I received my call on Friday, 17 December. I worked my last day of picking roots on Monday, moved home Tuesday, went to see my new "nephew" on Wednesday, went mission shopping on Thursday, and then celebrated Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my mom and Tanner, and even the Sister Missionaries for a few hours! We also got to talk to Skylar today for almost an hour! It really has been a CRAZY week, but I'm loving it!

Thoughts on the call: EEEEKK!!!!! Where exactly is that you ask? Well, let me tell you! It is one of the missions just north of LA (LA lies in the southern end of the San Fernando valley), so still in Southern California. It doesn't include much coastline, but is a pretty long mission that extends into the interior quite a ways. It includes a couple national forests, and a lot of areas populated by mostly migrant farm workers (aka illegal immigrants) according to Logan, who taught a lot of people who traveled between his area and mine depending on the growing seasons. Tim and Jan know my mission president, who they say goes home in July, so I'll only be there a couple months with him. Ah well. It happens, right?

So... How am I feeling about this, you ask? How am I NOT feeling?! hahaha... but alas, I know you can relate, so I'll try to sum it up briefly: 1) TERRIFIED. about being a missionary. about this actually happening. and about learning Spanish. 2) STOKED. about being a missionary. about this actually happening. and about learning Spanish. and WARM weather for almost the entire year, give or take a few rainy weeks! haha (I guess they didn't pay attention to my wearing a scarf in my picture! haha) and also about having something to talk about with Logan both now and for the rest of our lives. And we can do it in Spanish, even! 3) RELIEVED. that I'm staying in the states (as much as I love traveling, I know better than most my age that it is not nearly as glamorous as most think it is, and with all the adjusting I will have to do anyway, I'm just really glad that I'll still be able to a) buy cheap shampoo in huge American bottles, b) buy JIF Crunchy peanut butter, Oreos, ice cream, and all my other favorite comfort foods if the need arises, c) I don't have to take a ridiculous amount of things with me because I KNOW I can get them in the field. 4) STRESSED. I essentially have about 6 weeks to go through the Temple in Nauvoo, go to Arizona to get my things from Erika's, go to Provo to get some missionary essentials that you just can't really get anywhere else, do some hardcore studying, and mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepare to "lose" myself, as much as anyone can prepare for that--as you well know! haha So I have A LOT to do! 5) SAD. Unexpectedly, I've come to realize just how attached I am to several people here in Mississippi, and I really am sad to not only have to say goodbye, but having to leave immediately with the likely prospect of never seeing them again. But this also makes me feel like I didn't completely fail here, which is a bit of a relief, too!

But, I'm off for another adventure! This time though, it has nothing to do with me, and I could really use all the prayers that you can remember to say for me!!

08 September 2010

Reading in the Mississippi Mud

So, I took a video to document what I actually do at work, cuz I know you are all just so curious to know what a Day in the Life of a Root Picker is really like... haha. Sadly, Blogger has decided not to load my video. :( Chin up though, because what I REALLY do is listen to audiobooks. So, here's a list of the 42 books I've read or listened to so far this summer. If you want a review on any of them let me know, because unless I felt really strongly about them, I haven't gone into detail about them. By Author's last name:

Catherine Anderson
Star Bright

Jane Austen
Pride and Prejudice

David Baldacci
The First Family

Suzanne Brockmann
Stand-in Groom (didn't love this)

Geraldine Brooks
People of the Book

Suzanne Collins (love her writing!)
The Hunger Games (again)
Catching Fire (again)

Jennifer Crusie
The Cinderella Deal
Faking It

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Complete Stories of Sherlock Holmes

Janet Evanovich
Hero at Large

Ariana Franklin
Grave Goods

Diana Gabaldon
Dragonfly in Amber
Drums of Autumn
The Fiery Cross
A Breath of Snow and Ashes
An Echo in the Bone

Elizabeth Gilbert (I love that she's so thought-provoking, even if I disagree with her sometimes)
Eat, Pray, Love

Chris Heimerdinger
Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites
Gadiantons and the Silver Sword
Tennis Shoes and the Feathered Serpent, part 1
Tennis Shoes and the Feathered Serpent, part 2
The Sacred Quest
The Lost Scrolls
The Golden Crown
Warriors of Cumorah
Tower of Thunder
Kingdoms and Conquerors

Sorcerers and Seers

Khaled Hosseini
Kite Runner

Sophie Kinsella
The Undomestic Goddess

Linda Francis Lee
The Ex-Debutante

Daniel Levin
The Last Ember

Truman G. Madsen
Jesus of Nazareth

Susan Mallery
Hot on Her Heels
Finding Perfect

Greg Mortenson (he's my hero)
Three Cups of Tea
Stones into Schools

Elizabeth Peters
Laughter of Dead Kings

Francine Rivers
Leota's Garden

Danielle Steele
One Day at a Time (didn't enjoy this one compared to most)

Lauren Willig (I love this series, and the narrator, so I listen to my favorite parts consistently)
The Secret History of the Pink Carnation
The Masque of the Black Tulip
The Deception of the Emerald Ring (my absolute favorite)
The Seduction of the Crimson Rose (my next favorite)
The Temptation of the Night Jasmine
The Betrayal of the Blood Lily

The Mischief of the Mistletoe

Stuart Woods
LA Dead (hated this...)

05 July 2010

Ketchup. Catsup. Catch up.

However you say it or spell it, I've completely neglected my blog for way too long. And now I'm like my mom's last Costco polish dog... surrounded by way too much catch up. Not that it really matters to anyone but me, seeing as how this is the way I journal about my life. So for the maybe two people who actually read this blog and don't know what I've been doing with my life, I'll just bullet point it for you.

1. I graduated from BYU. Cum Laude. Sweet!
2. Left Provo and moved back to Indy after applying for 200+ jobs.
3. Sent another brother, Skylar, on a mission in May, to Manchester, England. Awesome!
4. Had an internship with a brand new nonprofit in Carmel--the Indiana Collaboration for Families with Infertility. It's a cause very close to my heart, my co-workers are incredible people, and I have learned a ton! Visit www.myicfi.org for more information!
5. My brother Logan is getting married to Liz Torwudzo on July 17th! Excited to get to know her better and welcome her to the family! Though being completely honest, it seems SO WEIRD to me that Logan is old enough to be able to get married! haha
6. I accepted a job with the Forest Service and I've just moved to Cleveland, Mississippi this week. Luckily I had a friend here, Tricia Saylor, who I served in the RS presidency with for a year. She is here with Teach for America teaching high school Spanish in the black school (East Side High School)... so I'm living with her in a tiny yet adorable Mother-in-law house. I start my new job tomorrow, and I have NO idea what to expect. And just in case you're wondering, No. This job has NOTHING to do with archaeology OR anthropology OR anything remotely related to ANYTHING I want to do with my life. But out of those 200+ jobs I applied for, it was the ONE AND ONLY job offer I received. And though it definitely is not my dream job, it's a job. And I feel lucky that I even got that in this economy. So I've jumped completely out of my comfort zone into a big scary ocean of unknowns and endless possibilities with only the life vest of faith in Jesus Christ and trusting that God's plan for me is way more magnificent than I could ever come up with for myself.

That pretty much catches you up on the important things. Right now we are dealing with a septic tank problem. AKA it's coming up through our toilet and shower, making both completely off limits. Good thing I don't ever need to pee. Or wash. OH WAIT. haha

Oh the life in the Mississippi Delta. :)

I'll try to be better though. Really.

08 March 2010

Floral Design

So the more I learn, the more I'm grateful that I'm about to graduate because I realize I probably would be changing my major right now, or at least adding on a few minors. I am taking Floral Design this semester, and LOVING EVERY MINUTE of it. My favorite so far as been my Japanese design arrangement, but that's probably because it is the first one where I really didn't know how to do it beforehand. We started out the semester with just a simple bouquet and learning how to wrap them. Then we made bud vases for Valentine's Day. This was followed by boutonnieres, and then last week we made our Japanese design. It's been on my Bucket List for years to work in a Floral Shop, but now I know that it's going to stay on that list. I love this. I love flowers. If I am ever rich, this is definitely the hobby I'm going to take up... but for now, I'm just going to have to be satisfied with my perennial garden that is 2000 miles away from me lying under a blanket of snow.

Freewriting and School Lunches

In my Writing and Researching about Religion class, we practiced a technique called Freewriting, where you are given a topic and then you just sit down and write about anything that comes to mind when thinking about that topic. I REALLY enjoyed this, which is rare. I never enjoy writing exercises. School Lunches--the topic given to us-- brought back a flood of memories that I've spent years repressing. So many things came to mind: the segregation between those who bought and those who brought their lunches, finding seats, how a good lunch experience set the tone for your mood the rest of the day, and the rules for making not just and acceptable but an excellent lunch at home. However, as I started writing, I was surprised where it took me. There are so many things I could say about school lunches, but for some reason there was one in particular that I couldn't suppress. I don't really have much to write about these days, so I thought I would share what I wrote.

Aside from recess, lunch time [in junior high] was the most miserable part of an introvert's day in school. Precious little was more lonely, uncomfortable, and even humiliating as not knowing who to sit with. Being friendly to everyone tended to be a curse at lunch time, because all of the social rejects would somehow successfully seek you out. I had many friends, but they were all in different "groups," and in junior high hell would freeze over before the "smart kids" ate with the "band kids" and so on. Not mention that all of my friends bought their lunches, while I brought mine from home everyday. No, at lunch time it felt as if I didn't have a friend in the world. I would purposefully go to the bathroom and take my time, trying to let the other kids filter into the cafeteria and pick their seats. It was much easier to ask to sit next to someone I didn't know and eat in silence than to eat with the same social rejects every day. In fact, I never did tell them no--I was too kind (though now I'm grateful for that). So despite being able to fit in socially in the "real world" of the junior high cafeteria, I more often than not was invisibly lumped into the social misfits lunch table. But I survived it, just as I survived the countless other social injustices that occur in the awkward teenage years when it's a miracle that anyone can be a successful socialite.

Eryn told me that sounded sad... I must admit I was not feeling sad when I wrote it and I don't feel sad when I read it. I just have to painfully acknowledge how true that was for me in the sixth grade. I wasn't the first to experience dramatic lunch room seating situations, and I'm sure I won't be the last. I hadn't remembered any of these things though until asked to write about them... but I feel like there are a lot of lessons I can learn from the experiences I had in the cruel world of junior high. Surely the real world can't be worse, right?

04 February 2010

Two Men Dared to Do the Impossible

This video made my day. It made my day when I experienced it firsthand, but the replay is impeccable. My friend Aaron Knudsen is truly an artist in his skillful editing of the video. At first we all thought that David Healey was our hero, and as the scene quickly unfolded we all realized that Bonesaw (one of many terms of endearment for Dr. Bill Hamblin) was actually the true hero. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do... though I guess it would help if you knew the whole context of this with a background in who these people are... but it's still hilarious.


18 January 2010

Well life is super busy already, so I'm definitely cheating more than a little bit with this. BUT one of my teachers wrote a fantastic blog entry about our trip to Bethlehem, so the below entry is from Chad Emmett, professor of geography at BYU, and my Old Testament teacher in Jerusalem. His family is there in Jerusalem until next August while he teaches at the center. He is one of the kindest, gentlest, humblest, and smartest men I know. He gave so much to us students, more than just knowledge. I am so grateful to Brother Emmett and is wonderful family for helping make my experience in Jerusalem what it was!


Thursday was the student field trip to Bethlehem. Since the US State department still has Bethlehem (as part of the West Bank) on its travel warning list this is the only time students are allowed in Bethlehem. We passed through the Israeli checkpoint and a gate in the new security fence (aka the separation wall and the apartheid wall). The wall has certainly helped to cut down on suicide bombers, but it has also become a towering impediment to the movement of innocent people. There are several LDS Arab Mormon families in the Jerusalem branch who are not able to attend church meetings in Jerusalem because of the barrier--luckily diligent home teachers (with US passports) are allowed to cross into Bethlehem and meet regularly with the members. The Relief Society President who lives in Bethlehem is able to cross through the wall because she works for the UN and has a travel permit. Her job most likely ends this month which means beginning in January she too will not be able to attend meetings in Jerusalem.

The Palestinian side of the wall has become a great canvas for graffiti. Notice the Christmas tree surrounded by the wall.

This section of the wall separates the Israeli held enclave of Rachel's tomb in northern Bethlehem from the surrounding Arab homes.

Another view of the Bethlehem wall. Last week the students visited part of the wall betweeen Bethany and Bethpage on the eastern side of the Mt of Olives with Israeli Attorney Danny Seideman. He founded an organization (Ir Amin--http://www.ir-amim.org.il/eng/) that promotes a Jerusalem shared peacefully by Arabs and Jews. He is working to bring the wall down and to halt Jewish encroachment into the Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem.

Our first stop in Bethlehem was at the The Applied Research Institute--Jerusalem (http://www.arij.org/). The ARIJ uses great maps and GIS technology to monitor the wall, settlement growth, water usage, etc. in the West Bank and Gaza. The students got a good overview of the conflict from a Palestinian perspective.

Next stop was Bethlehem University which is run by Catholic Brothers and is sponsored by the Vatican to provide higher education for Palestinian Arabs--both Christian and Muslim.

At the center of the small campus is a beautiful chapel. It is decorated with processions of Christian children martyrs from around the world.

The dozen or so beautiful stained glass windows illustrated scenes from the birth and childhood of Jesus.

Part of our visit included a panel discussion with articulate, thoughtful students at Bethlehem University. BYU and BU coeds making friends.

We had a great Arab lunch in a tent restaurant (at left in photo) in the Christian-Muslim-Arab town of Beit Sahour--the traditional site of Shepherd's Fields. For many years BYU student groups and Mormon Travel groups would gather at the foot of a forested hill rising to the north of Beit Sahour and Shepherd's field for a Christmas program with Bethlehem to the south as a backdrop. Today that pastoral setting is much changed. That forested hill is now covered with the fortress like homes of the Jewish neighborhood/settlement of Har Homa--seen in the far distance. The homes on the hill in the foreground are part of Beit Sahour--the wall runs between the two hills.

We then visited Manger Square and the Church of the Nativity. It is most likely the oldest church in the Holy Land--dating back to Byzantine times. It is jointly shared by Armenians, Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholics.

In 614 Persians conquered the Holy Land and destroyed all of the Byzantine churches--except this one. According to one 9th century source the invading Persians rode up to this church and upon seeing a mosaic of Persian dressed Magi on the front facade of the church (the triangle shaped area partly in the sun) could not bring themselves to destroy it. The shortened entry door is the work of the Crusaders who wanted to make sure all pilgrims bowed to enter the church and to keep horsemen from riding in.

The interior of the church in classic Byzantine basilica form. Since this church is jointly shared it has been the scene of disputes between rival priests who have resorted to hitting each other with brooms and mops when one sect cleans an area designated in the Status Quo as being under the control of another sect. To clean a floor or to repair a wall means you can claim it. This means everyone is very vigilant to make sure no one tries to gain any sacred ground. For years the roof leaked because the three religions could not agree on who would pay to repair it. To pay means to own and it was the Roman Catholics who were most able to pay--much to the frustration of the Greeks and Armenians.

Afternoon prayers by Greek clergy in their part of the church which is directly over the grotto of the nativity--which is the traditional site of a cave beneath a home which was used as an animal stable.

There is always quite a crowd in the grotto so it is hard to get photos. I poked my camera between pilgrims to get this photo of the 16 pointed star marking the site of the birth. When this star disappeared in the mid 1800s Greeks accused the Catholics of stealing it (or vice versa--I can't remember for sure) which then brought France to the aid and backing of the Catholics and Russia to the aid and backing of the Orthodox which was then one of the reasons for the outbreak of the Crimean War.

This is the adjacent Franciscan Church of St. Catherine. It is here where midnight mass is held on Christmas eve. We sang a few Christmas carols here--including a very nice Once in David's Royal City and the always favorite Angels We have Heard on High.

A nice stained glass window at the rear of the church. After an all too short hour of free time for shopping and exploring in Bethlehem we headed back through the Wall (the Israeli guard was very pleasant and we had no problems--unlike Monday's field trip journey through the wall to visit the Herodian) to a hillside near the Mar Elias monastery where we ate a sack dinner in the dark and then had a great nativity program.

Marie and the kids joined us for this part of the field trip. The Emmett Family Singers started out the program by singing the wonderful primary song "Picture a Christmas" which was fitting since were were looking southeastward to the twinkling lights of Bethlehem. This photo shows the holy family, their donkey, sheep and shepherds.

Here the wise men visit. The program reminded me of Christmas nativity programs at G & G Emmett's. Narrators read the Christmas story--including the visit of Anna and Simeon at the temple. We all sang carols and had special musical numbers including a vocal solo of Ave Maria, and a violin quintet of Away in a Manger.

The next night (Friday) we attended the student Christmas concert. It was an excellent concert--the students in this group are very talented. The local LDS community and friends of the center were invited--Jews, Muslims and Christians were all in attendance. Will's pre-school teacher--Miss Margaret--came with a friend. Sarah was introduced to some of our neighbors (above in photo) who live across the street who attended. A group of students have become good friends with some of these families. Saturday afternoon Sarah went with some of the students to visit them. She hit it off with the 12 year old girl in the center of the photo. There are plans to get together again soon.

See? Wasn't that a great debrief on my wonderful time in Bethlehem?! And I had already given you a bit about the concert... so I now feel satisfied. And Maybe I'll go look to see what Brother Emmett had to say about our trips in Galilee... because there were A LOT of them. ;) haha

01 January 2010


I was getting cranky working on my schedule because I just can't figure it out. Something just doesn't feel right about it. Grrrr. SO in rebellion, I've gone back through all of my posts and added pictures and occasional videos if they are going the right direction... haha. They are mostly either my favorite pictures, or they give a good feeling for some of the things I saw. Now if I can just catch up on posts from Galilee and December... Enjoy!!

And in the spirit of trying to stay UP-TO-DATE (novel concept I know...) I thought I would put up a couple of our family pictures that we took Monday morning before Erika and John went back home. Possibly our last family picture for a very long time...