Wednesday, March 18, 2015

COME SEE "FREETOWN"



Get your tickets to "Freetown" today!

Exclusive Washington, DC premiere with the director, Garrett Batty, at AMC Hoffman Alexandria, Monday, March 30, 7:30 pm. 





Caught in the middle of a brutal civil war, six Liberian Mormon missionaries in Monrovia flee the widespread violence of their native country. Their destination: Freetown, Sierra Leone. With the help of local church leader Phillip Abubakar, the missionaries make the difficult journey, only to have their troubles compounded by a rebel fighter bent on killing one of their own. Based on true events, FREETOWN is a thrilling and inspiring story of hope and survival.


Due to the "on demand" nature of this special, one-time only showing, we must sell a certain threshold of tickets in advance for this viewing to happen. Tickets will NOT be available at the door or on Fandango. They are only available through Tugg.com. So buy today! Don't miss your chance to see this incredible new film.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Slovenly Productivity

For the past 2 months my bedroom has been a disastrous mess. I mean over the top messy. And I hate it. I don't like it when it's like this.
It started when a roommate moved out, and I switched bedrooms. Shortly thereafter, before I had the chance to get organized in the new room, I went on the big cruise with my family. And then I came back, my laundry exploded, and minutes later I came down with that little nasty kidney stone attack and spent 3 weeks in bed.
I followed those 3 weeks in bed with 3 weeks of working 50+ hours each week at the spa. And then I threw a huge party, and then helped with another huge party. And party planning tends to explode all over my house (and car).
And in short, for someone with only a part-time job, I've been so overwhelmingly busy for the last 2.5 months that something as simple as unloading a laundry basket has been very low on my list of priorities.
Tonight I was certain I was going to sequester myself away in my room, put on a movie on Netflix, and fold some clothes and get organized. It didn't happen. Not even close. But I did get a bunch of bills paid. And bills are always more important than laundry.
I'm moving in about 6 weeks. (Where? That remains a mystery, even to me.) And knowing that, it's becoming even more difficult to motivate myself to organize my room. I'm more likely to just start packing and preparing for the move.
I'm impressed with my tolerance for slovenly living, even if I do hate the mess. I had no idea I could put up with such a disaster for so long. But then again, maybe I shouldn't be so impressed with my own exhaustion and laziness.
That all being said, I think I should hire someone to come over and organize and run my life for a day for me. Is there a service that organizes and pays your bills, plans meals, buys the groceries, does the laundry, and vacuums floors? (And isn't called a wife?)

Sunday, March 15, 2015

The Next Big Adventure


Some pretty building and flowers in Belgrade, Serbia. Summer 2014 

In the past week I've made the unexpected decision to join Clog America on their summer tour this year. I hadn't expected to have the funds, time, or resources to make the trip this year. But with everything else in my life falling apart recently, suddenly the 2015 summer tour came together for me.
I've had to explain to a few friends how it is I became associated with a group of cloggers from Utah, and why I get to travel around Europe (again) with them. Every time I explain it, I laugh even harder. But basically the short version goes like this.
I accepted an invitation from a strange man on the internet to go to Serbia.
Seriously. That's basically what happened.
The longer version is this- a man who had read my columns for several years sent me a very nice email and explained his relationship with Clog America. And told me how they would like to invite me along on their tour as their social media person. So I said yes.
It honestly didn't hit me until I was in the Belgrade airport looking for a total stranger just what a crazy situation I had gotten myself into. I had taken a few precautions (for instance, my plane ticket was flexible. I could have left at any time.), but I really was just along for the ride.
And what a crazy ride it was. I won't say that it was fun and easy every step of the way. Joining up with 40 complete strangers, having no control or influence on what could happen next, and not really even fully understanding the situation, was really hard on me. It was definitely a learning experience in "letting go." I like to be the boss, and I like to be influential. And I really like to make my own choices. So to be at the mercy of so many unknown people for so long was really hard.
But granted, it was a hard thing to deal with in the middle of an awesome situation. 3 weeks in Romania and Serbia? Not exactly a hardship, you know?
I didn't love every minute of the trip. But I did love more hours than I didn't.
Which is why I more than willingly volunteered to join up with them again this summer as we tour Switzerland and Germany. 20 more days of folk music and dance festivals in the heart of Europe. It's going to be great!
And if you thought I posted a lot of pictures of food in Serbia and Romania, just wait till you see what happens when I'm in the land of chocolate and cheese! I can't wait! (Did I mention we are going right through the town of Gruyere? Oh yes, there will be cheese. Lots and lots of cheese. AND CHOCOLATE!!) (I have a lot of weight to lose before I go to Europe and happily gain it all back.)
(So much chocolate!)
This year I will have more responsibilities than just social media for the group. And I'm excited about the changes. I'd much rather be able to contribute more and be busy, than just be along for the ride. Patiently waiting for things to happen is just not my style! I'd rather make things happen! (And oh, will I be making things happen this year!)
Watch out, Europe, I'm coming back for more [chocolate and cheese]!


Sunday, March 08, 2015

Men Are That They Might Have Joy?


It's time to pull out the same picture I use over and over again when my heart is in emotional turmoil. 

My stormy seas picture gets used every time I'm faced with complications, confusion, and heartbreak. 
The picture of the skydiver - 
- is what I use when I've made a decision, and I'm jumping into the unknown. 
But the stormy seas picture is for when I don't know what to do, or when I'm not ready to accept my options. And today it's all about the stormy seas. 

This scripture has been on my mind a lot lately. 
Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.

"Men are that they might have joy." 
I struggle with this. I wish that I didn't. I hate that I struggle with it. I envy people who believe that everything around them is always good. I get annoyed by people who use this scripture to justify narcissistic or selfish behavior and choices. 

Over the past several years, particularly through my long stints and trials of unemployment, it has been very hard to believe that I am that I "might have joy." It all too often feels like my entire life is designed to be a punishment or to really define where my breaking point is. 

Today was another roller coaster of emotions for me. Things I firmly believed and accepted to be true, and that I am supposed to have joy, were nearly impossible to accept at the end of the day. In one moment I could believe that answers to prayers were found, and I was about to say goodbye to some of my biggest struggles. And then in the next moment, in just the course of a simple conversation with a friend, I learned nearly be accident, that I was completely wrong about my answers. 

In a few more weeks I will have to accept that someone else's selfish actions will profoundly change my life. (To be more honest, I've already accepted that those actions will have a negative impact on me. But in a few weeks, I will have to make the necessary changes to my life as a result of those actions.) Accepting that I have to take an option that I don't want, I don't like, and will make me profoundly unhappy, is what makes it so hard to accept "men are that they might have joy."

I know we each struggle with our own issues of faith. But this one is mine. I struggle to believe and accept that we are supposed to have joy, when my life has turned out so very far off from what I wanted. I have found joy in the life that I have. But I have had more "trials" than happiness in the last 7 years. Where is the joy? Where is the end of the struggles? Where is the path that leads to my joy? 

I have no answers. I have no neat and tidy way to wrap this up. All I can say is that I guess my hope is tied up in believing that this scripture is true. That men are that they might have joy. I do believe it. And as such, I will continue to have the faith that my situation will improve. Things will change and get better. I will find joy. Somewhere, somehow. 


Saturday, March 07, 2015

The Toys 'R' Us of My Childhood is Gone

Tonight I had the chance to drive down the roads of my childhood. Really, I miscalculated the timing and route to dinner, and forgot about HOV restrictions, and had to go the long way around. And that meant driving surface streets through town, right passed the neighborhood I grew up in.
Being a DC native means accepting that nothing stays the same. Sure every town around the world changes with time. But growing up in DC it's a little more extreme. There are very few "natives" in DC. And when you tell someone you are a native, they tell you how they've never met a real local before. 
That's me. Local girl. Still living in her hometown. 
Long-term unemployment has a way with messing with your head, making you wonder if you are good enough, smart enough, anything enough. And then you drive down the street, and see how the world is moving on without you, everything is changing, everything but you. 
But there are some things you are never prepared to see change. 
The Toys 'R' Us of my childhood, my harbinger of happiness and dreams, is gone.
And a Walmart has been built in its place.
This breaks my heart. I'm being forced to acknowledge that the simpler, easier times of the past are gone. I'll never get to wander its giant, fun, overwhelming, noisy, and colorful aisles again.
I have to be a grown-up. And accept that all of my problems cannot be solved with a new toy.
I don't like this. I don't like this at all!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back to feeling a little more like me


Back in September I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. The diagnosis came as a shock, and not too much of a surprise all at the same time. I wasn't mentally prepared for the diagnosis, but came to accept it with time.
In October (after the midsingles conference) I began to take the prescribed medications for the illness. I had postponed the medications since some of the side effects would have been hard to decipher from my real life problems while handling the last conference details (mood swings, extreme emotions, depression, etc.). I needed to know if it was conference stuff bothering me, or the medications. (Thankfully I never felt that way about the conference!)
As soon as I began taking the medications I started to feel better. My body didn't hurt like it did before. The aches and pains went away so fast it felt like magic. Unfortunately, the magic came with the downside of accepting that if the drugs were working, that it meant I really did have fibromyalgia. (They aren't painkillers per se, but instead mess with your brain chemistry and the inflammation of nerves.)
For about 2-3 months I enjoyed living like a real person again. I could be more physical, work out, take the dog for a long walk, etc., without the threat or misery of fibromyalgia pains after the fact (or during it).
And then January hit. I started to notice the weight gain a few days after Christmas. It wasn't too severe at first. But my pants fit a little snugger than I liked. I blamed it on holiday treats, even though I really hadn't indulged much. (While I do love chocolate and will overdose on it, I'm really not that into sweets otherwise. There is very little sugar in my diet.)
By the second week of January, when my family went on the cruise, there was no denying it. I had suddenly gained another ten pounds. Just boom! There it was! Clothes that fit me the day I packed for the trip I couldn't even pull on by the end of the trip.
I knew everyone just thought I had gained the weight slowly and normally. After all, nobody really sees me very consistently to know better. But I knew something was wrong. You don't gain that much weight that fast. It's not right.
Well, then the whole kidney stone thing happened. And my weight gain wasn't my highest priority. But in the days between doctor's appointments I kept hearing different nurses take my weight. I noticed my weight jumped another ten pounds in just one week. I barely even ate anything that week. (But I also barely moved. I lived in a ball on my couch riding out the kidney stone pain.)
Then one fateful day I woke up and realized nothing, and I mean nothing, in my closet fit. Not even my baggiest sweatpants could be pulled up over my stomach. It was a little terrifying. I didn't even look like me in the mirror. I kept thinking how I looked like Monica (from "Friends") in the fat suit. I stood on the scale and discovered I weighed 30 lbs more than I did around Christmas. I had gained 30 lbs in under a month. More like 2 weeks.
Not good. Not good at all.
I did my own internet research and contacted my doctor. The doctor really didn't believe me. She told me to cut out sweets. Uh, I never eat sweets. My internet research told me I was experiencing a very rare side effect of one of my medications. Other people described it the same way I did. It felt like I had a "basketball of water weight" on my stomach. I'm not exaggerating when I say I looked 9 months pregnant. In fact, I had a very important meeting I had to attend during that time. And since none of my clothes fit, I had to go out and buy something. And yes, I bought maternity pants. They were the only option for getting pants that would accommodate my freakish belly.
I also went into hiding. I didn't let anyone see me if I could avoid it.
And immediately started the weaning off process for that drug.
Within 48 hours of backing off the drug (Gabapentin or Neurontin, if you are curious), the water weight literally started to just fall off of me. I magically started to shrink. As fast as I gained the weight, I lost the weight. Which, just for the record, was not a pleasant experience. That's a lot of trauma for the body to go through.
It takes a few weeks to wean completely off these drugs. You can't go cold turkey because they mess with the brain's chemistry, and can cause seizures, among other things.
I've been off the medications for a little over a week now. My body is almost back to normal. I still have a good 10-15 pounds I'm going to have to lose with hard work (and less magic). But thankfully the scary water weight is gone, along with the "fat suit" look.
Things are a bit of a downer because going off the drugs meant going back to feeling the fibromyalgia pains. And let me just say, they suck. I can feel every joint, every knuckle, every stupid little finger, toe, limb, etc., on my body.
But on the bright side, I'm not feeling "stupid" anymore. One of the side effects of Neurontin is becoming forgetful, or fighting through a strange fog to process things. It's hard to explain what that feels like. I know I am smart. I know I can learn things quite quickly. I remember details quite well. But under the influence of this drug, I've struggled to learn a basic computer system at the store. I can't remember even the simplest of things. I've never lost my keys, phone, etc., before. But on this drug, I've lost them over and over again. I've made simple mistakes, or left things at home, repeatedly. It's that feeling of "I know I walked into this room for a reason" but ten times worse, and it never goes away.
And on top of everything else, I haven't been able to write one decent thing since starting the medication. Not one article, page in a book, etc. I've barely even posted to social media. And mostly because I couldn't get my brain to formulate any decent thoughts.
There was a constant struggle in my mind over what to do - be in pain, but be smart, or, be on the meds, and be "stupid." I always knew I was going to choose the pain over stupid. But my doctor convinced me that my problems would go away if she upped the dosage. It was the higher dosage that specifically caused the freakish water weight.
So now I'm back to my more natural state. No more drugs. And in just the last 10 days medication free, I've written several pages in a new book, submitted a course abstract to a local college (and got accepted to teach it!), one article, and other things. My brain is back online and I can think again! It's amazing how fast I lost and regained my ability to process and think like that.
But yeah, now I'm also back in pain. Not so crazy about that part.
There are other medications I can try. Insurance won't cover much of the cost. Supposedly they won't have the same negative side effects, but we won't know until we try. And I really don't know if I want to risk it. I have too much happening in the next few weeks and months with promoting my book, writing articles, and teaching some classes, to suddenly "not be smart" again. But then, can I endure the physical demands of the upcoming opportunities without the medications?
Fibromyalgia is a non-discriminating bitch.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Sharing the Gospel through Social Media is LAUNCHED!

It's official! "Sharing the Gospel through Social Media" is LIVE! 




I'm hoping to see it pop up on a couple of other key sites in the next few days. And really hoping that it got picked up by Deseret Bookstore. So if someone out in the Jello Belt sees it in a bookstore, would you please take a picture of it (with you in it would be great) and send it to me??

Monday, February 02, 2015

Sharing the Gospel Through Social Media


It's official! My new book, Sharing the Gospel Through Social Media, is published and here!
This book was published by Cedar Fort Books and will be sold in bookstores around the country, and online.
Heed the prophets' call and learn how to use your social media skills for good! This comprehensive guide shows you how to kindly and respectfully spread the good news of the gospel through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, your blog, and in many other ways. Perfect for leaders or the everyday Saint, it will help your whole family become modern member missionaries!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

"Friends" vs Real Life and Friends

I haven't blogged much lately (well, for the better part of the past year I suppose) because I've lost interest in talking about my private life so publicly, and I write more on my Author Page on Facebook now.
But lately I have felt like writing a few things, so maybe the blog will rise again.
Or not.
This week was very unusual for me as I had kidney stone surgery (sort of). A few weeks ago, right after our family cruise, I thought I had severe back pain. And I probably did have actual, regular back pain (from traveling and riding a horse in Mexico with the worst saddle I've ever seen). The back pain was bad enough that I didn't recognize the symptoms of kidney stones until it was too late. I was in so much pain I decided to go to the E.R., which required either an ambulance or a friend to take me, as I was in no condition to drive. I texted everyone I could think of who wouldn't be at work at that time, and found one wonderful friend to take me. Even as I waited for her to pick me up, I debated calling an ambulance. But ultimately didn't take an ambulance because I was worried I wouldn't be able to get to the door fast enough to let them in.
These are the real problems of being single and living alone. How to keep from dying alone in your own home because there was no one else around to open the door for you. As it was, it took me nearly 30 minutes to slowly move across my bed to reach my phone to call for help.
I've been watching "Friends" a lot on Netflix for the past few weeks. (Being bedridden from kidney stones and then the surgery will do that to you.) Sure it's a sitcom and far from reality. But I think sometimes all these silly TV shows that glamorize single life do a huge disservice to actual singles. Life isn't like it is on "Friends" where everyone is buddies with the cute guys/girls across the hall, and everyone comes and goes and eats each other's food. I don't know my neighbors' names. Believe me, as I was sobbing in pain, praying for a miracle that someone, somehow would know that I was in need of help at that moment, I wracked my memory trying to think of a neighbor's name I could yell out to get help. But the truth is, I could probably recognize one guy who lives on my floor, but I've never asked his name. But of the other 2 apartments, and presumably 5 other adults who live here, I have no idea what they look like, or what their names are. (I don't even really know that 5 people live on this floor.)
And it has always been like this. I never know my neighbors or anything about them. They are just people who could afford the same amount of rent I can, and need to live in the same area. We have nothing else in common. We don't even speak the same language.
On "Friends" they do everything together. They hang out in the coffee shop. They spend holidays together. They go on vacations together. Again, sure, it's a sitcom, and it's all fiction. But the truth is, when I want to go see a movie, and invite friends, it takes a week's notice, and 50 text messages for all of us to agree on something.
I had little to no expectations for my friends to be able to drop everything and come assist me after my surgery this week. I have been grateful for the few friends who have made the time and effort to come over and help me out. (I really was bedridden all of Tuesday and Wednesday. Today I was able to shower on my own, and I think by the end of the day I will be able to walk my dog.) I know my friends love me and would help me if they could. But the truth is that life is nothing like it is on TV. Friends can't make time sacrifices like that to always be there for you. When you are single, your job is to look out for yourself. You don't have the luxury of assuming other people will be able to help you out.
Part of me finds this all a bit ironic and funny. Because I definitely get the impression from non-singles, that they assume that since I have no family to tend to, that when they need help, I should be able to drop everything and be there for them. (And I often do.) But when a single person needs help, it can be far more difficult to find someone to give the help.
I'm grateful for the system my church has in place to provide help and compassionate service when needed. Yesterday a woman from my congregation that I didn't know showed up with dinner for me, and took my dog out for a big walk. (The dog came home one very happy pooch, which is good, because help isn't coming to walk her for a few more hours today.) She didn't know me. She just knew I needed help because of our compassionate service system. Next week she is having surgery, and I've signed up to repay the favor by assisting her. (Although there is no expectation that I should do so. I did it because I want to.)
If it weren't for the compassionate service through the church I don't know how I would get by this week. I know my mother wishes she could be here. And my sister has offered to come help me (but she lives over an hour away without traffic, and has a full-time job, plus goes to college at night, so it's hard for us to work it out).
Single life is not what it ever appears to be like on TV or in movies. Singles aren't a codependent happy bunch of people who do everything together. They are floating, independent ships, looking for a comfortable place to anchor and find reserves and supplies.
As for the rest of my story and situation, I did have surgery on my kidneys on Tuesday. I'm recovering as well as can be expected. I have high hopes that tomorrow I can leave the house (for a job interview). I also have high hopes that I will be able to sleep for more than 3 hours before the painkillers wear off and the pain wakes me back up. Sleep would really make me happy right about now. I do expect to return to regular life by Monday. We haven't completely solved the mystery of my kidneys yet, and that situation is far from over. I expect there will be another surgery next month, but I'm going to push that off for as long as possible. I have no desire to "recover" from another procedure for a good long time. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Religious Liberty and the Right to Free Speech


"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
Religious liberty and freedom has always been one of the most important Constitutional issues for me. I believe in, defend, and love all of the Bill of Rights. But the rights to free speech, freedom to worship, and freedom to exercise religious liberty (which are all greatly dependent upon each other and intertwined at their cores) are most important to me.
On January 27, 2015, my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints held an extraordinary press conference on the subjects of defending and upholding the right to religious liberty and nondiscrimination.
In the attached transcript, you will find this awesome quote from Elder Jeffrey R Holland, "Accommodating the rights of all people—including their religious rights—requires wisdom and judgment, compassion and fairness.
"Politically, it certainly requires dedication to the highest level of statesmanship. Nothing is achieved if either side resorts to bullying, political point scoring or accusations of bigotry.
"These are serious issues, and they require serious minds engaged in thoughtful, courteous discourse."
In the same press conference, Elder Dallin H Oaks said, "It is one of today’s great ironies that some people who have fought so hard for LGBT rights now try to deny the rights of others to disagree with their public policy proposals. The precious constitutional right of free speech does not exclude any individual or group, and a society is only truly free when it respects freedom of religious exercise, conscience and expression for everyone, including unpopular minorities."
Many people make the mistake of thinking that just because someone disagrees with one's point of view, that they must tear each other down, or block their rights. As you can read in the attached transcript, and see in your own life, the right to religious freedom (and the intertwined right to free speech) is often challenged and blocked by those who disagree with them on matters of sexuality. For instance, if the Mormon Church doesn't condone gay marriage, it must hate all gays, according to LGBT advocates. And as a result, many of those advocates wish to block or harm the right to religious freedom and their associated right to free speech. (For the record, if you read the transcript, the Church makes it blatantly clear that they help support anti-discrimination laws for all people, including LGBT.)
Aren't we all entitled, granted, and ensured the right to free speech, and to freely exercise our established religious beliefs?
Earlier this week I took an "interview test" for a potential job with an organization that will remain nameless, but I greatly admire and respect. They work to defend religious liberties.
Part of the test was to read about an actual religious liberty lawsuit and write a press release and talking points. (DISCLAIMER: I don't know how I did on it. I'm sure there are many qualified people for this position. I know I didn't do my best on it do to passing kidney stones and painkillers at the same time. I have many irons in the fire right now as I job hunt. But this particular job is a unicorn of sorts for me. It's a cause I'm passionate about, and work I enjoy doing. That doesn't happen very often.) Back to my point- the case they had me read was very controversial. (And I'm sure that was by design.) It involved an ancient religion that still practices live animal and blood sacrifices. On one hand, it is hard to defend animal sacrifice. Most people find it distasteful and horrid. And I'm one of them.
But does this established, ancient religion have the right to worship where they believe, and what they believe? Yes. We all have the Constitutional right to religious freedom. I could waste my time here and defend and explain how/why animal sacrifice is not as wretched as it may seem at first. (How is a sanitary sacrifice of a rabbit where all meat is eaten, any better or worse than shooting a rabbit for sport?) But that's not my point.
My point is that if you believe in the rights of free speech and religion, you do not get to pick and choose who gets it. It is universal. It is a right given to everyone, including those you disagree with.
Elder Holland summed it up best, "We must find ways to show respect for others whose beliefs, values and behaviors differ from ours while never being forced to deny or abandon our own beliefs, values and behaviors in the process. Every citizen’s rights are best guarded when each person and group guards for others those rights they wish guarded for themselves."

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