January 30, 2013

Mormon Helping Hands

*A continuation of my adventures in NYC last Thanksgiving. (See also Posts 1, 2, and 3.)


The Saturday after Thanksgiving, LeAnna, Naomi and I had breakfast with my friends Dustin and Susan and their adorable daughter Fiona. After that, all of us but Susan and Fiona drove out to the Rockaways to help with Hurricane Sandy cleanup. It was really amazing to see how streamlined and efficient the Mormon Helping Hands projects were and how much the Church is doing in these hard-hit areas. We had the privilege to help a family whose basement had flooded. Before the storm, this had apparently been the "man cave" -- complete with awesome TV/sound systems, beautiful furniture, cushy sofas, fluffy carpet, spare bedrooms, and a fully-stocked bar. But thanks to Sandy, the man cave was left looking like this:


Thankfully, this house had the least damage among many of the houses in this area, and the flooding was limited mostly to the basement and garage. (Although the mold had spread to the main level of the house, as well. We bleached EV-ERY-THING in the basement and first floor. I mean EVERYTHING -- walls, floor, ceiling, etc. etc. etc.) We cleared out trash, damaged items, and remnants of what once was.


The pile of garbage at the end was unbelievable!

Me with Lee
Some of my other DC friends helped at a different house. Unfortunately, the home at which they worked suffered A LOT more damage than the one where we worked. They had to literally knock down walls and everything! These poor families!


We felt grateful and above all, humbled for the opportunity to help. I know the work we did was minimal in the grand scheme of things, but I hope and pray that if nothing else, those we helped were at least able to feel the love of their Heavenly Father as we worked with them in their homes.

BEFORE
AFTER

January 29, 2013

Christmas Break, Part 3

(Last one, I promise! PS Part 1 and Part 2.)

Over the break, I was able to get together with some of my Oakland sisters. As much as I just LOVE these girls, I think the best part was seeing all the BAYYY-BEEEES!!

How adorable is little Eliza? Just like her mommy. Look how sweet she is with Michelley's Asher? :)
Baby Asher! Remember when he was just a newborn itty bitty thing?
And here is Jayli's little Joselyne giving a kiss to little Asher, the ladies' man. So cute!

I also got to see my cousin's beautiful daughter, Brianna, ON the day of her 15th birthday! Unfortunately, I won't be able to make it to her quinceañera next month, but I got to see her practicing her dance for her big day!

And I got her tiara for the quince! She's going to look beeeaaauuuutiful!

Oh! And remember the time I went to Winter and Lee's Iron Chef/White Elephant/Ugly Sweater party? (I neglected to include these photos in Part 1. Ooops!) Winter has always thrown the BEST parties, and it was SOOOO fun to see friends from my favorite ward in college (SL University 38th ward, what-what!), because I hadn't seen many of them since BEFORE my mission.


This party had some of the most HILARIOUS white elephants I've ever seeeeen!

Redneck  "boob job" kit, amazing plaque, iPhone cover that you hold up by sticking your finger up the nostril


I redecorated in my brother's room (you know, since he's gone), and I think my favorite part was using our little kid photos on top of this bookshelf. :)



I FINALLY finished this blanket for my mom! I started it in September hoping to be finished before Christmas, but unfortunately, it took me about another week after Christmas to finish it completely. I'm so proud of myself! It's my first crochet blanket ever, and I was really happy with the way it turned out. :D



I got some love from my two youngest brothers.


and from the dogs (Jaxie on the left, Ringo on the right)



And I enjoyed a last-day lunch with both of my  parents (I know, right??) at Weber County's best Chinese restaurant (ABC Mandarin)!


Spending three weeks at home was exactly what I needed to refresh my soul. I had so much fun seeing friends and spending time with my family, and I'm glad I took advantage of the time off from school to be at home. (I mean, it probably IS the last time I'll have the luxury of taking off for that long, right?)

Thus ends the Christmas Break 2013 portion of this here blog.

January 28, 2013

Weekend Recap

I had a lovely and refreshing weekend.

On Thursday (OK, so technically this isn't part of the "weekend," BUT it involves hot chocolate, so....), I discovered that Open City has a $1 Hot Chocolate Happy Hour, M-F, 2-5pm!! $1!!


Mmmmmm.....

Friday night, I went to the GSPM "Welcome Back" reception, after which I... asked the wrong question and ended up in a very... lively... political/religious/gender-y conversation with Jenn, Kyle, and Steph. (Ironically, debating politics/gender roles/religion isn't exactly my favorite way to pass the time, but I love these guys, and I always learn something from them so... you know.)

Please note the snow on George's head. (Also, my sweet new BR blazer that I thrifted for $7!)

On Saturday, I experienced the MOTHER-OF-ALL-ROAD-RAGES at Costco. (Holy moly, that place was NUTS! I'm never going back on a Saturday. EVER! In fact, I may never shop at Costco again after that insanity!) Somehow, I ended up spending millions of dollars and filling up my entire back seat!

I couldn't capture my face + the entirety of my car, but trust me, it was FULL!

Saturday night, I went to a birthday party and had some girl-bonding/nail-painting time.

Sunday was just lovely. I managed to wake up at a good hour, get ready, prepare dough for rolls, AND somehow be EARLY to church! (Early?? Me? Who am I??)

The highlight of Sunday has to have been Cesar's baptism after church, for a couple of reasons. Firstly, because seeing the faith and conviction of our new converts really helps to strengthen my own testimony of the gospel. (And it warmed my heart to see SO many people there to support Cesar!) Attending baptisms reminds me of my own time as a full-time missionary and of how much I loved the people I taught. Just yesterday, I caught up over the phone with the first family I ever taught, and honestly, my dear Oakland-ites will have a place in my heart forever. The final reason that I loved attending Cesar's baptism today is because my brother had his own first baptism of a family he has taught yesterday, and shoot, I missed him a lot this weekend, and attending a baptism in my own ward helped me to feel a small part of the joy that he must have felt yesterday seeing people he has grown to love make sacred covenants with Heavenly Father. One of the family members (a twelve-year old girl) had asked my brother to perform her baptism, and I'm really excited to find out how it went. :)

To cap off a very spiritual and missionary-filled Sunday, we had the elders over for dinner at our home. They invited us to use the internet to share the gospel this week and promised us that we would have an opportunity to bear testimony if we did so. I'm excited to test out their promise and to hopefully share some good experiences on this here blog when I do. :)

January 27, 2013

Goals

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Suddenly, January is almost over, and as usual, I'm behind the times and haven't written one of those "new year's goals/resolutions/etc/etc" posts. Not because I don't like to have goals, but because I've been thinking really hard about what I want my goals and wishes and plans and dreams to be. 2013 will be a year of many changes, and I want to make sure I'm moving my life in the right direction. (Also, I overanalyze everything, and looking at my life in the big picture and thinking about the life I live and the life I want to live... holy-cow-that-overwhelms-me! And so I procrastinate. But whatever. Back to writing this post...)
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The last really BIG life goal/decision I made was to go to graduate school. I don't remember how I first heard about my program. It might have been a flyer or a billboard somewhere, but I remember it was three years ago when I was just a fresh-faced intern in awe of all that Washington, DC had to offer (I'm still in awe, btw. And I'm in awe now that I've been here for 3 years this month! Who knew I'd still be here?? Oh, wait. Heavenly Father did.)

So, yes, I heard about GSPM somehow, and I knew that if I ever went to grad school, it would be at the top of my list. I "happened" to find out that a colleague from one of our clients was an alumna of the program, and I sat down with her to ask her about the program; she raved and raved, and I scribbled all over my notebook, trying to catch everything she said.

But it wasn't the time for me to be thinking about graduate school. I asked the Lord a few times, and it kept not being the right time; and then all of a sudden, it was. (Which was mind-blowing, btw. It was all so quick!)

The application deadline for fall semester (June 15th, 2011 I remember) was just a few months away! Which meant the last day for me to take the GRE was... March! Which meant I had to study! And write a personal statement! And get letters of recommendation! And... and... I was hyper-ventilating! But miraculously, everything got done. Letters and personal statements were written, transcripts were ordered, GRE's were conquered, and I GOT IN.

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I'm STILL in. I'll finish up my classes in August, and I'll walk in May. (And my graduation is on the National Mall! The Mall!! I'm telling you, the DC magic has not worn off. I don't think it ever will.) It's so weird to be so close to the finish line (and yet so far away...). This is the part in a race where you'd start sprinting, because you're almost to the end. And it coincides with the beginning of a new year, a new semester, and a new perspective.

Last summer semester was really hard for me. I scaled back my load in the fall, and things were better but still rough. Being at home for three weeks over the holidays was just the thing I needed to feel energized and refreshed, and now that I have my first two weeks of classes under my belt, I feel ready to organize, to plan, and to make goals.

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Right now, I'm still in "research mode." See, I like to gather information about all of my options. Then I like to weigh each of them, stew over them, fret, make pro/con lists, consult the starts, read the tea leaves, etc. etc. before I make a decision. Then I pray. And if I get an OK, I move forward. I'm not finished figuring out everything, and there will definitely be sub-goals or short-term goals to reach the bigger goals, but these (plus a few unlisted personal items) are some of the things I want to accomplish in 2013.

  • GRADUATE! (Yay!!)

  • Read the entire Book of Mormon... in German. I have a minor in German, but I can't speak it fluently. I'm quickly losing most of what I learned in college, but I feel that reading the Book of Mormon in German will help me keep up at least a little of mein Deutsch. I've already broken down week by week which chapters I have to read to achieve this, and I'm doing pretty well so far. :) 

  • Find a job I love that moves me in the right direction in my profession (My long-term goal is to have my own political consulting firm. I envision a one-stop shop where candidates can come and have us run their entire campaign (fundraising, comm/press, social media, you name it!). I know that's a very long, LONG-term dream (and it'll involve finding the right people down the line), but hey, I've gotta take my baby steps now, right? Like... figuring out something BRILLIANT to say to Jon Huntsman when I see him again at our Utah Alumni event in < 2 weeks that will convince him to hire me for his 2016 campaign!)

  • Keep up with my back exercises. (Starting with committing to yoga three times a week in January.) I've slacked for various reasons, but in the end, la que va a pagar el precio soy yo. I know I need to be grateful for my body, and part of doing that is taking care of it by feeding it good things, exercising it, nursing it when it's sick, and (the hardest one for me) letting it sleep enough. So... I guess the real goal is to show the Lord gratitude for my body by taking care of it; to do what I have to do to take care of my health, but the small, manageable portion is doing my daily back exercises. :)

  • Spend more time connecting with friends in person (or on the phone, for long-distance friends). I feel like I've become more withdrawn over the past two semesters, and I don't like it. I'm the type of person who needs other people in her life. Right now, I seem to keep up with many of my friends mostly via FB/Instagram/blogs/etc., but I really want to make an effort to have more meaningful real life friendships.

  • Focus on developing Christlike Attributes. One of the things that's so scary about the fact that I'm going to graduate in a few months is the thought of having NOTHING to work towards... Tonight, we had a group chat with a few girlfriends (in real life!) about how difficult it was to transition from missionary life to real life, and for me, the very most difficult thing was feeling like I had no purpose; nothing towards which I was working. But regardless of what's happening in my life, working on developing Christlike attributes (when I use this term, I mean things like... faith, charity, patience, diligence, virtue, etc.) is something I ALWAYS need to be doing.

  • Expand (and maintain) my professional network. Along with developing personal relationships, I want to focus on professional relationships (many of whom are also  personal relationships). I want to do this by making time each week for (at least) one coffee meeting, lunch get-together, or networking event. I feel like this is something important, even when you're not job-searching. It's definitely important to maintain relationships and to let others know that you truly value them all the time, and not just when you need a "favor." And the benefit of new networking is that it pushes me out of my comfort zone and helps me to stay on my toes in Washington.

  • Learn to be present and give my all in everything I do. This one is going to be very hard for me. I have a really short attention span, and I find it hard to slow down mentally (even when I slow down physically). I get distracted easily, and I'm constantly fretting over everything I've yet to accomplish in any given time period. I think working on being present will help me deliver more at work and at school and help me to be more personally productive, as well. This one is definitely going to take a lot of sub-goals to work on... But I really want to feel like I'm on top with managing my time and the things I'm doing.

  • Reinstitute weekly planning! The first planner I ever owned (when I was 11!) said on the cover that "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and I firmly believe those words to be true. Plus, life goes so much more smoothly when you plan ahead, and it really is worth the time each week to plan for the week to come.

  • Keep an open mind. With regard to jobs, with regards to dating... and with anything else I do.

  • Save enough $$ to travel around the world. This is something I would LOVE to do after I graduate in August, but realistically, I may not be able to afford that this year. BUT! If I can't do it this year, I want to save enough money to be able to do it by the time I'm 30! (ie- Nov. 29, 2014). Let me know if you'd like to join me! :)

I'm grateful for a new year and a fresh start. Here's to making 2013 my best (and most exciting!) year yet! :)

January 25, 2013

Christmas Break, Part 2

Here is Part 2 of my Christmas break. (Part 1 is here.)

The day after Christmas, we had the most BEAUTIFUL snow day!



There was a lot of puppy bonding time.


And a good amount of chillin' inside time (especially on Christmas Day, New Years' Day, and on Sundays. :) Of course.)


I spent New Year's Eve with some of my DC friends in SLC.


But first, a little NYE dinner with my dad and brothers. (Roast beef is NYE dinner tradition!)

On New Year's Day, I read most of this:



And in January, my mom rode Trax/Frontrunner for the first time ever!


And I got to catch up with my bff (even if it was only for, like, two seconds!)



Now only one more part 'til I'm caught up on Christmas Break photos!  :)