Saying Goodbye to a Decade

Today is “the last Friday of my 20’s” which officially kicks off “the last weekend of my 20’s.” I will turn 30 on Monday (whooooaaaa did I just say I’m turning 30 on Monday? Yes I did!) and before I rush off to eat some gourmet cupcakes made by Gwen I want to take a minute to reflect on the major events of the last 10 years.

When I was 19 I moved to P-town to attend Brigham Young University. It was my first time living away from home and when I met my roommates they were visibly disappointed that I was “just nineteen.” (It’s not my fault a 24-year-old and 26-year-old were living in BYU-approved student housing!) Ever since that first encounter I’ve wanted to prove that I was more than just my age. Two months later, on October 28, I turned 20. I took a trip to a fast food restaurant (maybe Wendy’s) with some of my new friends. I remember being so excited to be 20. I knew that a new chapter of my life was well underway. All of the hard work I had done in junior college had paid off and I was where I belonged. My junior year at BYU was going well. More importantly I knew that in one year I’d be eligible to serve a full-time mission. That first year of my 20’s was merely the threshold of a wonderful decade full of experiences I never would have predicted. The only practical way to go through them is in list form:

“20” (Oct 2003-Oct 2004)
Junior year of college – Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
-First trip to Las Vegas (May 2004)
-Received my mission call to Brazil Rio de Janeiro-North (September 2004)
-Went to the temple and received my endowment (November 2004)

“21” (Oct 2004-Oct 2005)
-Left for Brazil (December 28, 2004)
-Learned a second language (Portugese)

“22” (Oct 2005-Oct 2006)
-Finished my mission (July 13, 2006)
-First trip to Peru (July 2006)
-Returned home and was released from my mission (July 30, 2006)
-Returned to BYU (August 2006)
-Third trip to Disneyland (November 2006)

“23” (Oct 2006-Oct 2007)
Senior year of college – Brigham Young University, Provo, UT
-Second trip to Las Vegas (November 2006)
-Graduated from BYU (August 2007)

“24” (Oct 2007-Oct 2008)
-Began violin lessons (January 2008)
-Hired by Omniture (February 25, 2008)
-Moved to a life-changing ward in north P-town (August 2008)
-First cruise: Eastern Caribbean – St. Thomas, St. Maarten (September 2008)

“25” (Oct 2008-Oct 2009)
-First trip to New York City (August 11-13, 2009)
-Shot a gun for the first time (September 26, 2009)
-Became an Adobe employee through Omniture acquisition (October 2009)

“26” (Oct 2009-Oct 2010)
-First post-mission trip to Brazil (November 19-December 1, 2009)
-Second cruise: Western Caribbean – Jamaica, Grand Cayman, Cozumel (March 13-20, 2010)
-First trip to Zion National Park (April 16-18, 2010)
-First trip to Europe: England and Sweden (May 16-30, 2010)
-Started this blog (July 9, 2010)
-Second trip to NYC (July 28-31, 2010)

“27” (Oct 2010-Oct 2011)
-Became an aunt (July 22, 2011)
-Fourth trip to Disneyland (October 13-15, 2011)

“28” (Oct 2011-Oct 2012)
-Second 10K – Provo Freedom Run (July 4, 2012)
-Moved to Sandy, UT (July 28, 2012)
-Second Half Marathon – Mt. Nebo (September 8, 2012)

“29” (Oct 2012-Oct 2013)
-First trip to South Africa (November 13-24, 2012)
-Became an aunt “for the second time” (March 4, 2013)
-Third Half Marathon – American Fork Canyon (June 15, 2013)
-Second trip to Washington, D.C. (June 30-July 7, 2013)
-Fourth Half Marathon – Timpanogos (July 27, 2013)
-Fifth Half Marathon – Mt. Nebo (September 7, 2013)
-Second trip to Zion National Park (October 18-20, 2013)

It’s hard to remember the early years in list form because my memories are so deeply rooted in the wonderful friends I’ve made. None of the events and trips listed above would have meant anything without my amazing friends and family. If I showed you pictures of every person who made an impact on me in my 20’s Google would have a field day charging me for storage. (Oh wait, they already do!) Honestly, though, every year I am in awe of the wonderful people I am blessed to associate with. I keep thinking, “It couldn’t possibly get better,” and then it does. Strengthening family relationships and holding onto friendships is a constant challenge but it is worth every imaginable effort.

Looking at the list above helps me feel like I accomplished something in my 20’s. I learned a language, an instrument, and myriad life lessons. I have loved countless friends and received innumerable blessings. My family has proven its undying support and taught me that there’s always room for more love. Next time I run a half marathon I’ll be in a new age group (30-34) but I think that’s okay. My passport is going to expire next year so I’ll just have to travel anew and get new stamps. I simply hope that during the next year of my life I’ll be able to let go of my 20’s and embrace a new decade full of mystery and adventure. Even if it takes me a year to cross the threshold and realize what’s at my feet I am confident it will be better than anything I can currently imagine. Here’s to you, here’s to me, and here’s to 30. 


Fall of Fortitude

fortitude: mental and emotional strength in facing difficulty, adversity, danger, or temptation courageously

Last night I watched one of my all-time favorite movies, “Dan in Real Life,” with a group of close friends. One scene stuck out to me like never before. Dan and his daughters were in the midst of an annual family reunion when he inadvertently fell for his brother’s girlfriend. In an effort to get away from the couple and their lighthearted flirting he took his daughter, niece and nephew on an impromptu field trip:

The scene reminded me something that happened back in August. I was sitting on my couch and spotted a Book of Mormon on a nearby shelf. It was the standard paperback issue the missionaries carry around. One of my friends had left it in my apartment by accident while he was on splits with the elders. On that particular afternoon my head was whirling. Something rather confusing had happened and I wasn’t sure what it meant. I didn’t know if I should feel hope or indifference. I picked up the book, closed my eyes, flipped it around a few times so I wouldn’t know which cover was which, and opened it. Keeping my eyes closed I placed my finger on the page. I opened my eyes and read Ether 2:23:

And the Lord said unto the brother of Jared: What will ye that I should do that ye may have light in your vessels? For behold, ye cannot have windows, for they will be dashed in pieces; neither shall ye take fire with you, for ye shall not go by light of fire.

I recognized the story. The brother of Jared had just built eight barges so his people could cross the ocean and inherit the Promised Land. The barge design was completely enclosed except for a hole in the top and in the bottom which would allow for light and air whenever the barge was on the surface of the water. The brother of Jared had just asked, “Behold, O Lord, wilt thou suffer that we shall cross this great water in darkness?” (Ether2:22). The Lord continued:

For behold, ye shall be as a whale in the midst of the sea; for the mountain waves shall dash upon you. Nevertheless, I will bring you up again out of the depths of the sea; for the winds have gone forth out of my mouth, and also the rains and the floods have I sent forth.

And behold, I prepare you against these things; for ye cannot cross this great deep save I prepare you against the waves of the sea, and the winds which have gone forth, and the floods which shall come. Therefore what will ye that I should prepare for you that ye have light when ye are swallowed up in the depths of the sea? (Ether 2:24-25)

Before I continue the story of the brother of Jared I want stop and look closely at these verses. First off the Lord compares the barges to whales in the sea. The barges were designed to be completely submerged while withstanding a beating from the ocean. Waves, winds, and floods are each mentioned twice. Once the elements let up the barges could return to the surface of the water and the top hole could be unstopped to allow for new air. The word “prepare” is mentioned three times in verse 25. The brother of Jared’s preparation included building the barges but it didn’t end there. The Lord promised to prepare the people to cross the waters by giving them light. He challenged the brother of Jared to figure out how to light each barge.

The mere prospect of riding in a modern-day submarine freaks me out quite a bit. The idea of time-traveling back to the era of the Tower of Babel and watching people construct vessels with no steering equipment freaks me out even more. As mentioned in verse 23 there were no windows - only a measly skylight in the top of each barge. The people were expected to commend the vessels to the sea and leave all steering in the hands of the Lord. Okay, I might be able to get on board with that but then the Lord promises to hammer them with waves, winds and floods. Holy cow.

Luckily the brother of Jared was a man of great faith, “highly favored of the Lord” (Ether 1:34). Through his faith and prayers he and Jared successfully avoided the confounding of tongues at the Tower of Babel (Ether 1:33-35). The Lord spread that blessing to his family, Jared’s family and their friends and family (Ether 1:36-37). The brother of Jared had led these people away from the tower and through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land (Ether 1:38-43). He had already had a hand at testing out similar barges in the sea in the wilderness (Ether 2:6-7). Having already spent at least four years in the wilderness with these people he certainly knew their strengths and abilities. Some part of him knew the voyage was possible. Instead of backing down he stepped up to the Lord’s challenge and came up with a solution for lighting the barges. “And it came to pass that the brother of Jared, (now the number of the vessels which had been prepared was eight) went forth unto the mount, which they called the mount Shelem, because of its exceeding height, and did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones; and they were white and clear, even as transparent glass; and he did carry them in his hands upon the top of the mount,” (Ether 3:1).

The third chapter of Ether gives an amazing account of the brother of Jared praying to the Lord for forgiveness and pleading with him to touch the sixteen stones, “…that they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light when we cross the sea,” (Ether3:4). Paraphrasing can do this chapter no justice. It’s worth a review if you have a few minutes.

After the Lord touched the stones, “the brother of Jared came down out of the mount, and he did put forth the stones into the vessels which were prepared, one in each end thereof; and behold, they did give light unto the vessels” (Ether 6:2). The final preparations were made and once all of the supplies were gathered the people, “got aboard of their vessels or barges, and set forth into the sea, commending themselves unto the Lord their God” (Ether 6:4). We know that the Lord always makes good on his promises:

And it came to pass that the Lord God caused that there should be a furious wind blow upon the face of the waters, towards the promised land; and thus they were tossed upon the waves of the sea before the wind.

And it came to pass that they were many times buried in the depths of the sea, because of the mountain waves which broke upon them, and also the great and terrible tempests which were caused by the fierceness of the wind. (Ether 6:6-7)

Although they were driven down into the dark waters time and time again, “no water … could hurt them,” (Ether 6:7) because of the manner and quality of the construction of the barges. Their physical preparation was sufficient and their spiritual preparation was constantly tested. In order to return to the surface the people would “cry unto the Lord.” The wind driving them to the Promised Land was constant as were their songs of praise and prayers of thanks (Ether 6:8-9).

And thus they were driven forth; and no monster of the sea could break them, neither whale that could mar them; and they did have light continually, whether it was above the water or under the water. (Ether 6:10)

These remarkable people survived these conditions for 344 days (Ether 6:11). That is three weeks shy of a year! If I had to choose between spending 344 days in a sea-tossed barge or 344 days crossing the plains with the pioneers I would probably pick the pioneer trek. That’s saying a lot!

And they did land upon the shore of the promised land. And when they had set their feet upon the shores of the promised land they bowed themselves down upon the face of the land, and did humble themselves before the Lord, and did shed tears of joy before the Lord, because of the multitude of his tender mercies over them. (Ether 6:12)

I’m grateful for that day back in August that led me to rediscover the story of the brother of Jared. Much of the tumult and confusion of summer has passed and, as predicted, fall is settling me down into a new, calmer rhythm. As a result I’m vulnerable to a constantly creeping false sense of security. Although I’m not in a barge several meters under the ocean’s surface I am living in a wild world full of dangers and temptations. Perhaps the greatest danger is forgetting I need God and the greatest temptation is to become lax in following His commandments. I want my heart and my testimony to be fortified and tight, “light unto a dish” (Ether 2:17). I don’t mean I want my heart to be closed. I just want to make sure I open it at the opportune times to let in new light and air. (Metaphorical light and air, that is. I don’t want a pulmonary embolism!)

I have kept Ether 2:24-25 on my bathroom mirror for the last month and a half. Remarkably September is already coming to a close. I’ve had many joyful days this month. Sometimes things are going so well I look at my bathroom mirror and think, “How could I have ever needed that scripture?” In those moments I carefully read the verses out loud and remind myself that anything can change at any moment. God has promised challenges and he has also promised deliverance. May I never cease to see his miracles in my life.


Some Nights

If you looked up “fun” in the dictionary you’d see a gigantic photo collage of the wild and zany activities my friends have come up with in the last few weeks. It all started on Saturday, August 3rd when one of my friends put out a feeler on Facebook. It triggered a “What should we do tonight?” brainstorm that set in motion a rip-roaring chain of events that shows no sign of stopping. That night we decided to go to a nearby park and “play.” We kicked things off with a lively round of sidewalk chalk sketching before heading to the various playgrounds.

One of the playgrounds had this treacherous wheel ride that I have nicknamed “Spin Cycle.” Everyone (who was willing to risk their neck) took a turn inside while the bystanders spun them around as fast as humanly possible. (I personally took the job of “lighting crew” and so we could film the whole thing.)

Whilst inside the wheel some were more verbose than others. Gwen, for example, managed to exclaim, “I feel like I’m galloping on a horse!” and “I’m catching air!” Having tweaked my neck on a waterslide earlier on the day I decided it was best to give my neck a break. The rest of the evening was filled with swinging on swings, playing a few rounds of a light machine game and spinning on any and every contraption that could spin us. And that was just the beginning.

Two days later we found ourselves in the midst of a less-than-festive tri-ward luau. People were starting to come after us with water balloons so my ward rallied and decided to flee. We stopped at an ice cream shack where I was able to snag one of my all-time favorite treats: a chocolate-dipped cone. After some convening and reconvening we set out for the same park we had gone to nights before. First we checked on our chalk masterpieces. I was quite pleased to see they were completely intact. Next we headed to the Spin Cycle where a few more people were initiated into the Circle of Death (aka the Circle of Friendship.) One of our guys took a bad spill out of the wheel and for a moment everything froze. Once he was on his feet again a few more brave souls took their turn in the wheel. Although I didn’t have an excellent excuse to hang back (no lighting crew was needed because it was still light outside) I did have an excellent time watching my friends scream, “I’m gonna puke!”

After some tranquil climbing on the jungle gym people started chasing each other which led to a chaotic game of tag. I got tagged and chased Gwen for a few hundred feet but I couldn’t manage to tag her. Instead I decided it was best to hide in the bushes and catch a few friends by surprise. There’s just something awesome about hearing your friends approach unawares. They’re just laughing and having a good time and then all of a sudden it’s, “Ahhhhhhhh!!!” Game over. Having completed my mission of tagging someone I continued on with the group to the other playground. For whatever reason tag was just in our blood that night and we needed more. Believe it or not we played Hot Lava Monster for about an hour straight. The last time I played that game was probably eight years ago when I was a summer camp counselor. It is very different to play with adults because they are bigger, faster and louder. I think we had at least 12 people playing and it was just insanely fun.

After banging our knees and elbows on every structural component of that playground (and sacrificing a few ankles) our group finally called it a night. Well, most of us, anyway. Those of us who weren’t quite done moved our cars over to the library parking lot so the cops wouldn’t come looking for us in the park. We pulled out a blanket and settled down on the west boundary of the park. After a few minutes it got a little chilly so we decided to start a dance party to combat the cold. Yes, we’re nuts. Eventually a cop spotted our cars in the parking lot and walked over to our little encampment. “Guys, the park is closed. When you get a minute I’ll need you to head on your way.” “Sorry! We’ll go right now.” “No, no, that’s not necessary. Just when you get a minute. Have a good night.” Score! With the officer’s blessing we bided our time. Eventually the sprinklers came on and we headed for the parking lot. I left after that (yes, even I go to bed sometimes) but apparently another officer visited my friends in the parking lot a little while later “just to say hi.” Rad.

Five very social days later it was once again Saturday. (This time it was August 10th.) With tickets in hand our group struck out for the county fairgrounds where many of us would be witnessing our very first demolition derby. (I thought it was my first time but my dad later informed me that he took me to one when I was very young. My bad!) There’s something unsettling, dirty, cheap and lovely about walking through a county fair. You know it’s a gigantic rip-off. You know it’s probably not safe. You know there are carnies BUT there is also magic in the air. It’s the strangest combination of dust, grime, steel and sparkling light in the known universe. We found our seats on the bleachers and then people started making runs to buy various grease-dipped food. (Oh how I prefer chocolate-dipped food!) The derby began and once the sun lowered behind the clouds we comfortably drifted away to the crash-bang-boom rhythm of the cars. Even still my friends could not hold still. We couldn’t help but notice the almighty Gravitron ride spinning just behind the derby arena. Two friends scouted out the ticket price and found out it was $4. Four dollars for the best fair ride of all time? Let’s do it!

Image credit
To my great delight we had a few people in our group who had never been on a Gravitron. I tried to describe the gravity-compressing sensation in very placid, nonthreatening terms. “The ride is completely enclosed so you won’t fall out. You’ll just feel like you’re being pressed against the wall but it’s cushioned so it won’t hurt.” (Now that I look back on those words all spelled out I can see that it would have easily been interpreted as, “You’ll be locked into a metal room with padded walls and spun until you can literally climb the walls like the crazy person you are.” I probably should have just said it that way.) We timed our dash for the ticket booth perfectly. (We waited until the penultimate event was over so that we could ride the Gravitron while the tow trucks were cleaning up the mess in the arena.) After snatching up our tickets we got in line and waited for a few nervous minutes until the previous passengers were completely unloaded. Then it was our turn!

We spread out slightly so we could have room to freak out and then the ride started. It had been about six years since I had been on a Gravitron and to be honest I had forgotten what it was like. According to Wikipedia “riders [experience] centrifugal force equivalent to three times the force of gravity” when the ride is at full speed. Can you say a-w-e-s-o-m-e? I felt like my whole stomach was being pressed down to a thickness of about 3 inches. In order to keep my diaphragm from collapsing I very strategically screamed my head off. Big breath in, big scream out. It was hard to keep doing this because I was laughing so hard. I wish wish wish I had kept my iPhone in my hand so I could have taken pictures and videos of my friends – especially the first-timers. Luckily one of my friends took video and this is a still shot from it:

After the ride ended we stumbled then sprinted back to our seats for the final event. We made it just in time! Before I knew it the derby was over and we were cooking up our next plan for the evening. We rendezvoused with a few more friends at Sonic and chatted away for the next hour or so. “Surely,” I thought, “this highflying summer sprint to the finish will slow down eventually.” Surely I was wrong.

Last night I once again witnessed my friends’ constant craving for summer gallivanting. My ward softball team played its first game in a two-night regional tournament and we WON. The game was over before 9:00 which meant the evening was wide open. Much to my delight one of my friends asked, “Okay, what’s next?” before I even had my cleats off. I live off of this kind of energy. Within minutes eight of us were scurrying to the other side of the park to play soccer. Even though two girls weren’t completely comfortable playing soccer they still tried it. I feed off of these kinds of people. Once soccer wound down it was time to come up with something else. Someone suggested “Hands Up Stands Up” (a handstand competition) and I designated myself as the official photographer.

Watching them play was fascinating. These friends of mine are cordial, competitive, goofy, great people. They would rather risk dislocating their shoulder than “call it a night.” (Yes, one of the girls dislocated her shoulder.) I thrive on this kind of determination. Eventually we made a break for the nearest 24 hour restaurant. I fully anticipate that tonight (when we will play at least two more softball games) will be just as action-packed and spontaneous. Whether we are celebrating a few momentous victories or mourning our premature elimination I know that we’ll be having the time of our lives. Someday soon our lives will settle down into autumn routines and early, quiet evenings. In the meantime our summer nights are books waiting to be written. Grab your cleats, your camera, your phone, your lantern, your wallet and your friends. We’ve got stuff to do.