September 27, 2012

This is Why You Bake Two Cookies

Anyone who knows me knows that I. love. chocolate-chip cookies. I don't care much for sweets (chocolate and cheesecake being the exceptions), and I'm definitely not a cookie person. But I just LOVE chocolate-chip cookies!

Ideally, I like to keep choc-chip cookie dough (homemade, of course) in my fridge at all times, because that means I can have a warm, fresh-baked cookie any time I want. I don't always have cookie dough in my fridge, but today, today, I do. And today was one of those days that was just screaming for choc-chip cookies.

Now here's the thing about baking single serving cookie portions for yourself. You can't bake just one. Sure, you think oh, I'll eat in moderation and only make one. And maybe you do. But inevitably, an hour later, you know you're going to want another one. So, really, just save yourself the trouble in the first place, and bake two cookies (maybe more?) at once, OK? In an hour, you'll be glad you did!

Lesson in a Parking Lot

Saturday night, I came home from Torben's birthday party. The parking lot closest to my building is suuuuper tiny, but I'm an optimist, so I always check for a parking spot, even if I know I probably won't find one. On Saturday night, I really didn't think I would find a spot. So I only barely pulled in the nose of my car into the lot, quickly glanced around, saw nothing, and left to park elsewhere.

Ten seconds later, when I was walking to my building, I saw.... THE BEST SPOT IN THE WHOLE LOT WAS WIIIIIIDE OPEN!!! (Well, technically the spot right next to it is the best spot, but it's a handicapped spot, so it doesn't count for me.) And I thought, "Well, shoot!" Then I thought, "Oh, gosh. This is how I am in life, too."

I'll show up some place, thinking I won't find what I want to find, and so of course, I don't find it. Because I'm not looking for it. (Just like I didn't see the perfect parking spot wiiiide open. I didn't believe I would find it, so I didn't. Even though it was right there!)

This was an important lesson to learn this week. I'm actively working on keeping an open mind and two open eyes. So thanks for that, parking lot!

PS Since I've mentioned him here the last two days in a row, I'd just like to give a special happy birthday shout-out to... Kyle! May the Yankees win tonight in your honor. :)

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to EMILY!!!! (whose awesome blog you should check out!)

September 26, 2012

Palmyra Pageant

I realized yesterday that I never posted about my trip to Palmyra this summer! A group from my congregation took a trip to upstate New York (same trip as Niagara) to watch the Hill Cumorah Pageant and tour the LDS Church historic sites in the area. Upstate New York is where the Prophet Joseph Smith grew up, where he first saw God the Father and the Son, and where he received the plates to translate the Book of Mormon. (If any of that is confusing or unfamiliar to you, feel free to ask me questions! :) )

The first thing we saw in Palmyra was the Smith Farm, where Joseph and his siblings grew up (mostly):

The first home. So tiny!
Ceilings so low! In those days, taxes were determined by total area, so lower ceilings = lower taxes.

The home they upgraded to later. It was still small but definitely more spacious than the log house.
The barn.
Our tour guide was a sweet senior elder. Oh, how I love senior missionaries!
Then we made our way into the Sacred Grove. To the world, this place may be a grove of trees, but for members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, this ground is sacred. In 1830, Joseph Smith was only 14 years old, but he was very concerned about religion and which church to join. He read in the Bible (James1:5) that if he asked God a question, God would answer him, so we came here to pray and to ask God which church he should join.

God the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ appeared to Joseph in answer to his prayer. They told him to join none of the churches, and Joseph was called to be a prophet to restore the Church that Christ had left when He lived here on the earth 2,000 years ago. Joseph was truly a prophet of God, and he accomplished the work God intended him to do.

This I know to be true.

Sitting with Lee in the Sacred Grove.
Joseph said, "I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. When the light rested upon me, I saw Two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name, and said, pointing to the other, '[Joseph,] This is my Beloved Son. Hear Him.' "

And so... Here is my requisite "pillar of light" shot. (As a lightning bolt strikes me...)

And a video I made to send to my missionary brother:

Some more pretty scenery from the farm:

After leaving the Sacred Grove and the Smith Farm, we headed into the town for a picnic lunch and to look at Main Street.

We stopped by the Grandin Press, which is where The Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ was first published in 1830. Members of my church read the Bible and the Book of Mormon, together with two other volumes of scripture, and revere both as the word of God.

Then we saw the actual Hill Cumorah, which is where the plates were buried.

Next, we traveled to the Peter Whitmer Farm, where the church was first organized and Joseph completed the translation of the Book of Mormon.

And we made a quick stop in Seneca Falls, home of the Seneca Falls Convention (aka the first Convention for Women's Rights, held in 1848).

Then, it was finally time for the Pageant!


For dinner, we had chicken, coleslaw, rolls, and the famous NY salt potatoes.

The costumes were fun to look at.

Some of our group, with the actors who played Joseph Smith, Jr., and Lehi (a Book of Mormon prophet)

I know that doesn't do this justice at all (sorry, Camille!), but you know... :)

I randomly ran into a few people I know at Pageant!
Jaclyn, one of my sorority sisters from the U. I literally hadn't seen her in years!
Elder Navarro (Now known as "Andrew." Weird!), from my mission!
Elder David Cook (recently released from the 70) and his cute wife. Elder Cook was a great mentor and career counselor to me when I needed one.
The pageant was great, and I'm so glad I made the trip! (I almost didn't due to school, finances, and whatnot, but I figured... what the heck. Why not? Ha ha.)

And finally, a quick stop at the Palmyra Temple before heading back home on Sunday.

Oh, like you've never eaten beef jerky while standing in front of a temple?
If you've never made this trip, I 100% recommend it!

September 25, 2012

On Living the Gospel


I have two recent experiences to share on this topic.

Experience #1 

Last week, I attended a conference for work. I sat at a table with four other people. Two of them were a married couple who told me about the great work they were doing with their small non-profit. The wife mentioned they worked mostly with the youth of their church, and I asked which church they belonged to. I don't think she heard me, so I asked  a second time. (I had a hunch she might say LDS... And she did!)

But the way in which she delivered her answer is what really shocked me. She looked to the left. She looked to the right. Then she leaned in closer, cupped her hand around her mouth and with the apologetic look of a child caught with her hand in the cookie jar, whispered, "Los Mormones." (Spanish for "The Mormons.") I smiled at her and said as proudly and loudly (Relatively. I mean, we were at a conference. I wasn't going to shout it.) as I could, "Yo tambien soy Mormona!" (Spanish for, "I, too, am Mormon." Everyone at the table happened to speak Spanish. Even the French-Canadian guy.)

It made me sad that she seemed embarrassed to acknowledge her membership in the church. As I go about my days, I try my very best to actively live the gospel. I know I often fail, but I do the best I can. I almost go out of my way to make sure my friends and colleagues know I'm LDS, not because I'm trying to preach to them or wear my religion on my sleeve or anything (and I really hope I don't come across self-righteous or preachy or anything like that), but because I hope that I can be a good example and a good representative of my church and, most importantly, of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Experience #2

Tonight, I had a telephone conversation with my friend Kyle, who is also LDS. We talked for ... Hang on. Let me check my cell phone.... 1 hour and 24 minutes, mostly about politics (I'd say 95%). You should know that Kyle and I have very different political views. At one point, our conversation got a little... heated. But we were able to bring it back to a good place and find common ground on a few topics. I enjoyed being able to talk to Kyle, because I know that even though we have very different viewpoints on some big issues, at the end of the day, we'll still friends.

My conversation with Kyle made me realize that as members of the Church who are politically active, it is imperative that we live the Gospel. Kyle and I affiliate with different political parties, but wherever we go, we are also affiliated with the Church, and more importantly, with the Savior. We've each made baptismal covenants, which have included taking upon us the name of Christ. This means that wherever we go, the people around us should be able to recognize that we are followers of Christ. It's like... wearing a team jersey.

Kyle often wears his beloved (read: old) Yankees t-shirt, which is a clear indicator to the entire world that he is a Yankees fan. As member of the church, we don't wear a Jesus jersey, but people should know by the way we act and by the way we live and treat others that we are on His team, and that we're doing our best to live His gospel. In this case, living the gospel means it's important for our political discussions to be civil and calm and.... not heated. Not just with each other, but with anyone else. I think this is something that is lacking in our country. Most Americans (including me) are tired of partisan politics, of gridlock and bickering, of fighting and not comprising. If all politicians could remember that the person across the aisle is a brother or sister, if we were all trying to live the gospel just a little bit better, and even for those who may not believe in God, if we could all just be a little bit kinder to each other, our politics wouldn't be so bitter, and the world would be a better, more peaceful place. Even the folks whose opinions most differ from ours deserve to be treated with respect and kindness. I fully expect members of the Church and all other followers of Christ to be examples of this, because, guys... We know better.

Capitol Tour

Last month, my (single and available and AWESOME *hint, hint, chicas*) friend Kyle took me on a personal tour of the U.S. Capitol. I haven't taken a tour in a couple of years, and it was fun to hear Kyle's perspective. The tour was extra special, because I got to go to the Floor of the House (where they actually pass bills) and see the Speaker's Balcony, neither of which I'd seen before. I wasn't allowed to take photos everywhere, but I took some where I could.

Before the tour

Kyle is a big deal!
Lady friends, if you'd like your own private tour, I will gladly impart unto you Kyle's phone number. ;)
Nancy Pelosi's office!
Blurry photo, pretty halls.
On the Speaker's Balcony
View from the Speaker's Balcony
 And, a video for my brother (and for YOU!).

Thanks for the awesome tour, Kyle! :)