Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Christmas Songs

On Sunday I was able to go to Relief Society for the first time in awhile (I'm usually in Nursery). One of the ladies in the ward announced that on Wednesdays she sings Christmas songs at the assisted living facility nearby and invited anyone to join her that was able to. Normally I work Wednesday mornings, but since the semester is over, I could actually make it.

I woke up and seriously contemplated staying in bed. However, I felt a push to get up and get ready and I'm so glad that I did. I drove to the assisted living home and the only other person there was this lady who made the announcement. There were a handful of residents sitting around to listen, but I was grateful I came. 

The lady in my ward played the piano and sang the melody. I was secretly grateful because 1) I can't play the Christmas hymns very well, 2) I can't sing melody. I harmonized with her and many of the residents joined in singing with us. 

Things have been pretty overwhelming for me lately. I have been dealing with a lot of stress, some health issues, and some new changes with management at work. But going to the assisted living home reminded me of something -- service brings peace. I put my selfish desires aside, and spent time visiting with people who don't always get may visitors. I was able to celebrate the birth of the Savior through song. I was able to share my testimony through music. And by simply smiling at the residents, putting my hand on theirs, or taking the time listen to them, I could see their eyes light up and I thought, 'This is why I came'.

I have been using too many excuses lately. It's really not hard to serve others and I want to do a better job at following Christ's example of service.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Updates Via Pictures

I decided I have too much to write about, so it's easiest to just summarize some of the events that happened via pictures and short captions:

I apologize for the messy sink full of dishes. But this picture was taken literally the day before Bastian learned how to jump on our counters. I blame Alvin and his terrible, terrible example. Alvin not only jumps on our counters, but he jumps on our fridge.

 We built a table fort one night for date night. It was fun.

A friend in the ward had some free VIP tickets to a golf tournament. He gave them to us and even though we aren't really into golf, the course was beautiful and it was nice to just get out for the day. 

This picture does not fully capture how awesome this is. This was in a children's hospital we stopped at on day. This adorable miniature town with trains was fun to watch! And the hot air balloon is super cute. 

One day we explored old town Scottsdale. We walked around, looked at some art galleries and some shops. Arizona weather is really nice. I love we have opportunities to walk around outside in November and December without freezing. 

Sometimes we explored malls or outlets and our favorite kind of stores to check out are toy stores, game stores, or places that sell miscellaneous treasures. Like these cat mugs. I'm going to make some of my own because these are awesome.

We went to Santaquin for Thanksgiving! I was happy Jonathan was actually able to come too. Both of my siblings were there. They brought their significant others (gotta admit, that was kind of weird for me). We had a nice time. It was a short trip, but I didn't realize how much I missed my family till I was there with them. 

This was from a trip we made to the Mesa temple. It had been awhile since we'd done a temple sessions and it was so peaceful there. 

 Gingerbread houses because, well, that's what you do in December.

Went to our ward Christmas party. I should have taken a better picture, but you can tell we're at the church, right? 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

End of the Semester

I have been so behind on blogging. Oh my heavens.

Things have been really busy. This is the last week of the semester, and then I'll have some time to actually breathe. I have FOUR WEEKS OFF for Christmas. On the one hand, that's awesome. It gives lots of time for getting stuff done and visiting family. On the other hand, that's four weeks that I'm not getting paid. Luckily I've got a few work projects and tutoring sessions lined up, but it still will be a smaller paycheck than usual. And med school is expensive. So are bills. Blehh.

The end of the semester is always so bittersweet. I hate goodbyes. It's a bit easier with the online class because I don't know what the students look like (once you attach a face to a name, then goodbyes become harder). But all the same, the end of the semester is tough because my students have mastered the basics, as well as some really hard concepts, and it's hard to go to a new semester starting from square one where the majority of students are still working on understanding how to factor. And finally my students are participating and we have gotten past the awkwardness! But the sweet aspect comes from seeing how far they have come. Seeing them finish up math for good. Having people tell me this was the only thing holding them back from graduation. Hearing them tell me they never thought they'd be able to conquer this class, but then they come out with a B-. I legitimately feel like I have made a difference. That feeling is priceless. That is why I teach; it's a very rewarding job.

I have a lot of updates to give, but for now I'll have to keep things short and sweet. Technically the last day of the semester is tomorrow, so I've still got a few more busy and demanding few days. Next week the updates will come though. I'm making it a goal, so be prepared. :)

Sunday, October 30, 2016

A Hiking We Will Go

I've been a bit of a slacker with my blogging. I meant to post about this 3 weeks ago, but better late than never!

For Jonathan's birthday, we decided to go hiking on a day that we both had off. We looked into several options but eventually decided to travel to Sedona and do some hiking there. It was really pretty! It was also nice to just get away and to see trees and red rocks again. We enjoyed spending time together to and getting to enjoy some fresh air. Here are some pictures from our hike:

Near the end of the hike I started to get a headache. I'm sure there were multiple reasons - I wasn't drinking enough water, I hadn't eaten much all day, we were walking in Arizona heat for 8 miles or so. When we got back to our car I took some Excedrin that I keep in my glove box. Well, my headache turned into a migraine and about 20 minutes up the road we stopped at a Wendy's to eat. I was starting to feel nauseous and before I had a chance to eat my food, I ended up throwing up in the bathroom. My migraine quickly got worse and I couldn't handle any lights or sounds. Jonathan ate his dinner in the car in the parking lot and I ended up throwing up a second time (only I didn't make it to the bathroom. I was that person who puked on the parking lot. It was embarrassing.) 

Jonathan drove us home and I had to lie my head on the side of the car door holding my head super still. I was scared of throwing up again. I was scared to eat anything. I was scared to try and take medicine again (I literally threw up the Excedrin, so I didn't have anything to help combat my migraine anymore). We got home and Jonathan had to carry me to our apartment because I couldn't even handle the slightest bit of movement. He laid me on the couch, gave me a neck massage, rubbed tiger balm on my temples (that stuff is amazing), made me eat and drink a little something. I could only handle eating half a piece of toast. I tried to take a nap to sleep off the migraine, but when I woke up an hour later, it was even worse. And then I threw up again. Jonathan was so sweet and right by my side the whole night as I was lying on the couch practically paralyzed in pain. After several more hours, I finally was able to take medicine and move to our bedroom. 

The migraine started around 6pm and did not subside until around 10:30 or so the next morning. I have never in my life had a migraine last that long and have one severe enough to cause me to vomit. It was not an experience I'd wish on my worst enemy. 

Lessons I learned: 

Do not take Excedrin on an empty stomach.
Drink lots of water while hiking.
Headaches can turn into migraines; take medicine early on.
If you're going on a long hike, eat more than a granola bar. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

My Life, Defined by Taylor Swift Album Releases

It's October, 2016 and I had a good friend ask me, "Do you think Taylor Swift will come out with a new album?"

Since she asked that, I've been thinking about about the previous Taylor Swift albums and more specifically what they remind me of. And I tell you what, thinking back made me cry. I was one of those people who absolutely loved listening to Taylor Swift and so each album brings back vivid memories of my life.

Album 1: Taylor Swift
This album came out in 2006. I was 15 years old and a sophomore in high school. I had just moved to Layton and had discovered the song "Teardrops on My Guitar" around the time a boy I had a crush on told me he liked a girl name Annie instead of me. I was hurt and it was the first time I felt I could truly relate to a song. Maybe that experience is what made me like Taylor Swift. I could relate to her music. She's also the person who got me starting to write my own songs, as cheesy as that sounds. I guess I never saw music as storytelling before. I was into poetry at the time, and I had composed a couple piano pieces before, but it wasn't until I listed to Taylor Swift that I realized songwriting was simply the child of piano compositions and poems. My life was changed. I got so excited the first time I heard Teardrops on the radio, because until that I just listed on the internet. I'm pretty sure one of my siblings got me her album for Christmas and it didn't take me long to learn every single song on that CD.

CD 1 reminds me of discovering a new way to express myself. It reminds me of my love for songwriting. It reminds me of my friend Trevor because I begged him to teach me how to play guitar so I could learn to play "Our Song" and being the great guy he was, he taught me how to play some chords OVER THE PHONE. He was patient with me and even though we were miles apart, he successfully taught me how to play that song.

Album 2: Fearless
This album came out in 2008, when I was a senior in high school. Naturally, this song reminds me of my senior year. It reminds me of my friend Alyssa because I got to know her around the time the album came out. I'm reminded of random memories that school year involving my friend Jennie, my high school boyfriend Andrew, high school dances, visiting friends in Layton. It also reminds me of graduating and moving away from home.

Transition, it was an album my roommates and I bonded over. Freshman year I didn't know anybody and roomed with strangers. I remember fondly singing Taylor Swift songs with my roommates, who are now some of my closest friends. I am reminded of the new experiences of college. I'm reminded of working on developing my songwriting. I'm reminded of starting counseling and trying different prescriptions to combat depression. I'm reminded of Creamery ice cream and FHE and figuring out who I was.

Album 3: Speak Now
This came out in 2010, the year I met JulZ. That was a fun year. I lived with Kacie, Alix, and JulZ and I have a lot of great memories from that time. This album is probably my favorite Taylor Swift album. It could be partly because of the memories I have tied to it. I am reminded of Brynlee, Kacie's niece, and all the fun we had with her. I'm reminded of adventures with my roommates. I'm reminded of walking 25 minutes to get to campus each day. I'm reminded of talking to my parents on the phone more and working on saying "I love you" to my family more frequently. I'm reminded of working really hard in school to get straight A's (which some semesters I did, and some I didn't). I'm reminded of my friend Spencer and a little girl we were mentors for. I'm reminded of helping out at a kindergarten once a week. I'm reminded of gaining more confidence in myself and learning how to mature.

I also hold on to this album because it helped me get through a horrifying experience. The summer before I met JulZ, I went on a date with a guy I didn't know very well. The date went well and he asked if I wanted to watch a movie at his apartment that night. A million red flags went up, but unfortunately I ignored all of them. His roommate was lying in the living room with a girl on top of him. They didn't even acknowledge the fact we walked in, and the guy I was on a date with said we could just watch the movie in his room. I wasn't being very smart, and I agreed to go back there. I can't shake this memory, because it broke me. The movie ended and when I got up to go home, I was completely thrown off guard. He kissed me hard, without my consent, and pinned me down underneath him. His hands went places they shouldn't, and even though things didn't escalate past that, I was horrified. I got home after my roommates were asleep, and I locked myself in the bathroom and just sobbed. I felt scared and dirty and broken. However, thanks to amazing roommates, the power of the Atonement, and classes that kept me distracted, I was able to recover and move on with my life. I vowed I would never allow myself to be in a situation that like again. As ridiculous as this sounds, I got rid of any clothes that were even slightly immodest because I so badly wanted to be a better person and redefine myself.

What in the world does this have to do with Taylor Swift's 3rd album? Maybe it doesn't. But all I can say is I listened to that album countless times as I was going through the whole "redefining myself" process. And the next two years were really good years for me. I really did feel like a new person and I was learning to be more comfortable with who I was.

Album 4: Red
I never bought this album. It came out while I had a serious boyfriend and he bought it for us to share. We were usually together anyway, so it didn't make sense to have two separate copies. I didn't like this CD quite as much because it started to stray away from Taylor's country roots. My favorite songs to listen to were "Begin Again", "All Too Well," "Stay Stay Stay", and "I Almost Do". My boyfriend would always skip these ones, but when I was listening by myself I'd listen to them over and over again. He preferred the more upbeat, pop songs. It wasn't that I had anything against the other songs. But part of me felt like I only liked them out of loyalty to Taylor Swift. Like, I loved all her other albums, so I forced myself to love all the songs on the album Red as well.

This album is hard for me to listen to now. For several reasons:

1) The obvious reason. It reminds me of that boy and that relationship. And even though I'm married now to somebody wonderfully perfect for me, that relationship was a huge part of my life.

2) I felt like Taylor Swift wasn't being as true to herself. I started feeling uncomfortable watching her music videos. I can't explain it exactly, other than I didn't feel like she was quite as sweet and innocent anymore. Almost like her focus turned into what would make her most popular and successful rather than focusing on singing from the heart and holding onto her innocence. I don't mean to judge her or put her down, because there are hundreds of celebrities who are 1000 times more provocative and self centered and crazy. But I guess I felt a little disappointed is all.

3) Lastly, my life was a complete mess at the time and I lost myself. This album just fills me with regret, guilt, and pain. I tried to keep it a secret from people at the time, but after I graduated from college until about January of 2014, I struggled. That vow I made a few years prior, where I'd never "be in a situation like that again" was broken. Multiple times. I don't want to talk about details; I don't think they are necessary. But suffice it to say, I made some really big mistakes. And even though I've never admitted it before, in hindsight I see I felt trapped in that relationship. I felt like I had to marry this guy because nobody else would want me. I cried a lot. I felt scared I'd say something wrong when I was around him and that he'd blow up at me. He would coerce me into doing things I didn't want to do and if I didn't comply, he would make me feel guilty. He'd constantly play the victim and after nearly a year and half of that, I ended up a broken soul. I struggled with church, wasn't temple worthy, and even though I felt so incredibly lost and distant from myself, I felt I was too far gone.

In summary, the album Red brings back way too many hard memories that haunt me.

Album 5: 1984
Honestly, I only know the songs from this album that played on the radio - "Blank Space", "Shake it Off", and "Style". I might have heard one or two others once, but I never bothered to buy this album because I knew it was even more in the pop direction than Red was. Some people love that, but not me. I didn't feel like the lyrics were as good/meaningful anymore and I didn't want to listen to the others songs and just be disappointed. Maybe one day I'll listen to the songs on this album, but no guarantees.

So what does this album make me think of if I haven't listened to the whole thing? Well, it came out in 2014. I was roommates with Jenna, working full time as a director for Ology, and I was working on gaining back a testimony. I was meeting with my bishop frequently and working on developing my desire to live the gospel to the fullest. 2014 was a huge growing time for me. I was figuring out what I wanted and sincerely trying to be happy and confident with myself again, but so many hard things happened that year. That was the year Trevor died in a car accident. That was the year my mom called me and told me she and my dad were divorcing. That was the year I found out my mom was in love with someone else. That was the year I tried dating again and was broken up because, in his words, he needed to focus on himself. But ya know what? As hard as those things were, life went on. I survived. And not only did I survive, I regained my strength and I'm feeling pretty good about how things are now.

Now we are in 2016. I am far from the person I was in 2006. And 2008. And 2010. And 2012. And 2014. It's kind of crazy looking at all those years and seeing how much things change in such a short period of time. Part of me wishes I could erase several of those years, but at the same time, I know things happened within those years that helped me become the person I am today. I'm not a perfect person. I have so many areas of my life I need to work on and improve. But overall, I'm feeling happy and I'm feeling more confident with myself. I can look in the mirror and say the words "you are a good person" without feeling like it's a lie now. That's a huge deal.

So I guess now the only question that remains is the one from the beginning of the post - Will Taylor Swift release a new album this year?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Happy Birthday to Babe!

Guess what? Jonathan had a birthday last week! Unfortunately his birthday fell on a weekday that we both worked, which was quite unfortunate, so we went hiking a few days before his birthday (that'll be a separate post) since that's something he enjoys doing. Anyway, he kept saying how he didn't really feel like his birthday was coming up. I think this is partly due to the fact he has been super busy, and partly due to the fact he doesn't want to be 29 yet.

I decided to surprise him. He loves decorations, so I decorated the living for him with streamers, giant fish, balloons, a banner, and some spirals:

I did this the day before his birthday because I wanted to throw him off guard. Plus, I last minute found out I didn't have to teach that night so I was able to spend the evening with him. I got to see his reaction when he walked in and it made me happy. :) We had a mini birthday party (just the two of us and the kitties, haha) and I had a few gifts for him to open. Nothing too fancy nor expensive (because we're poor), but they were all things that very much remind me of him and he got so excited each time he opened a new present:

We had some dessert and went walking together and it was just nice to have the evening. What he didn't know was I had another surprise for him. I still wanted his actual birthday to feel special!

So the background story: Sometimes we walk around Hobby Lobby looking at the fun stuff there. Every time we walk down this one aisle he mentions that we should get glow in the dark stars. I kept saying no, because that's something you put in a kid's room. Well, I bought a TON of glow in the dark stars and while he was at work on his birthday, I spent two and a half hours putting them on our ceiling. There were about 200 stars, and I organized them into about 8 real constellations, and 3 fake constellations (plus random stars here and there). I tried to take a picture, but it looks dumb when the lights are on and the camera wouldn't pick it up when the lights are off. You'll just have to take my word for it that it looked awesome.

HE LOVED IT! He was so excited. We kept them up, and he still gets all giddy at night when we turn the lights off to go to bed. I admit, I like them too. It's fun sleeping "under the stars". :)

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Hair Challenge

The last few weeks I challenged myself to be kinder to my hair. This meant keeping heat tools to a minimum, and washing my hair every other day instead of every day. It amazed me how many different hairstyles you can actually do without a flat iron or curling iron. Additionally, it amazed me how many hairstyles look fine with hair that's been "washed" with dry shampoo. I didn't take pictures of myself each day, but I have my recordings from when I taught. I took screenshots from my recordings so you can see what I ended up doing:

This first picture gives you a glimpse of what my hair looked like when the pink was still there. This day I kept my hair natural. I have a few framing layers that were going a little bit crazy though, so I pulled them back in a half pony tail.

This was the next day. I didn't wash my hair, so this was just my natural hair with some dry shampoo.(You can't really see the pink in this because the quality of the photo is so terrible, but the pink was still there -- just looked more like a rose gold)

I took a shower and braided my hair. I slept in the braids with the intent to have my hair curly the next day. But when I woke up, my braids still looked fine, so I decided to go with the Pippy look. It took me 0 minutes to do my hair in the morning, which meant extra sleeping time. :)

The next day  I just undid the braids and wore my hair curly. That was an easy hair day too, because undoing the braids took 20 seconds.

And of course, you've got your basic pony tail. That's a hairstyle that requires no hot tools.

This day I cheated. I did use my flat iron to add some curl to my hair, but I didn't do it everywhere. My natural has a tad bit of wave to it already, so I just played that up. And I added this little braid for added interest.

My go-to 3 minute hairstyle is a bun on top of my head. If my natural hair is not cooperating, or I want a quick hairdo that keeps me cool on hot days, I go this route. I use a hair elastic to put my hair in a pony tail, then I split the pony tail into two sections and twist them together. I wrap that piece in a bun shape, and then use about 3 or 4 bobby pins to secure it in place. Easy peasy.

This is another go to hairstyle I'll use if my natural hair isn't cooperating. I can't do a single braid going straight down my back (I'm still working on mastering that skill... it just always comes out as a failure). I usually opt out for this side braid instead because it's fast and easy. Sometimes I'll do a french braid, but I'd say 9/10 times I do a dutch braid instead. I usually pinch and pull at my braid to make it fuller since my hair is generally pretty thin.

This is what my hair looks like when I undo my loose side braid. It's not super curly, but it adds just a little bit of wave. Best part, no hot tools! All I did was add a little dry shampoo.

There were a few other days where I repeated hairstyles. I slept in braids another night, and did a half up pony tail another day too, I believe. But I'm glad I challenged myself to be kinder to my hair because 1) It made me appreciate my natural hair rather than despising it like I usually do, 2) It got me thinking outside the box. Instead of repeating the same two hairstyles, I tried to experiment with other styles that work with my hair, and 3) I learned that it IS possible to wash my hair every other day and not look disgusting (my hair gets greasy and oily fast, which is why I couldn't stand skipping a day of washing it). 

Any female friends out there reading this, I challenge you to take this next week and be kinder to your hair too. :)