Thursday, April 29, 2010

Unexpected Blessings

A few weeks ago my aunt said something to me in regards to a Facebook status update that really made me sit up and think. At the time I was a bit miffed over the foster care people FINALLY calling me about placing a child. After so many months of waiting and hoping for a child, they called and had one for me on the day I was packing the moving truck to leave Utah. I was frustrated, to put it mildly.
But my aunt in all her wisdom said she had been thinking how great it was that the agency hadn't ever placed a child with me. Just think of all the things I would not have been able to do that were so important to me if I had had a child. I couldn't have gone back to Virginia for my grandfather's funeral. I couldn't have stayed so long either. And I couldn't have gone to Haiti.
Just think of all the unexpected blessings I received by not getting the thing that I wanted so much.
And now I am learning a new lesson. When we are humble and contrite we are more open to new opportunities as well.
Please don't read me wrong. I am not implying that humility or contrition are what lead me to Arkansas. But I am finding that when in a place devoid of friends and family we are more open to making friends with the unexpected. Just like when we are hungry we may eat something we'd otherwise shun, just to discover it is good.
There are unexpected blessings all around us. Even ones that appear to be annoying buttheads.

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on: you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently, He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.

- CS Lewis

Monday, April 26, 2010

Six Degrees of Separation


This weekend I had the fun chance to go up to Branson, MO to visit my friend Cindy, her husband Tom, his son Kyle, and daughter-in-law Tara. Cindy and Tom currently live outside Phoenix, Kyle and Tara in Dallas. Tara, Cindy and I sat down for some good old fashioned girl talk while the men were off grilling (insert "Home Improvement"/Tim Allen "ho-ho-ho" here). Within minutes we made a crazy 6 degrees of separation connection. I don't remember how we got on the subject though! But it went something like this-



As you may have noticed I am friends with the band Due West.
One of the boys in the band is my friend Matt.
Matt's girlfriend is Cardin.
Cardin's sister is Katie.
Katie and Tara are childhood friends!
But it keeps going!
Katie is married to Nathan.
Nathan's sister is Liz, one of my oldest friends!
Liz, Nathan, and I grew up in the the Oakton/Herndon area of the DC suburbs.
In her college years Tara lived briefly in Herndon. But she never knew Nathan or Liz then.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Things to Do in Arkansas

I've been making a list of things to do in Arkansas to keep me entertained and to teach me about my new state and surroundings. If you know of anything within a 400 mile radius of me, let me know. I'm open to suggestions! My goal is to try and do one of these things each weekend.

1. Crater of Diamonds State Park- a state park where you get to dig for diamonds. And if you find one, you get to keep it! I'm saving this one for when Little comes to visit me. About 5-6 hours away.

2. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints Oklahoma City Temple (about 3 hrs away)

 3. Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints Memphis Temple (about 4 hrs away)

4. Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock - I've never been to a Presidential Library before. I'm very curious about it. About 3 hours away. Will definitely be combined into a bigger trip to Little Rock.

5. War Eagle Cavern- Located on a secluded site used by the Indians hundreds of years before the first European settlers came to the area. Every effort has been made to leave the caverns and ground in their natural state. And only about 45 minutes from me.

6. Eureka Springs- a quaint little town with "medicinal healing" hot springs. Its only 1-2 hours from where I live!

7. Arkansas Discovery Museum in Little Rock. Just a hands-on museum with fun exhibits.

8. Casinos- I hadn't realized there would be so many casinos around because I hadn't remembered how many Native American reservations were nearby. I live very close to the Oklahoma border, where there are tons of them. I have my eye on the Hard Rock Casino, and a few others.

9. Branson, MO- If you haven't heard of Branson before, it is almost hard to explain how a little town literally in the middle of nowhere became a tourist attraction. Fancy hotels, "wild west," headliner shows, big name restaurants, you name it. its right there in the middle of nowhere. And just a mere 2 hours away. I'll be visiting a friend up there this weekend!

Someone out there must have some other suggestions for me!! Any ideas?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The No TV Challenge


A few weeks before leaving Utah I turned off our cable subscription. I made some crazy decision to take a No TV Challenge. I can still watch TV shows on iTunes or Hulu. But I'm just not subscribing to cable. (And trust me there is no broadcast TV here!) It has been roughly 4 weeks without TV now.
I'm not so sure how I feel about it yet. I still get to watch my favorite shows (with the exception of 1) online. And really, I spend less time watching TV because it is faster to watch it online. But I find I'm not getting as much done (as some people suggested that I might). Watching a show online means I'm not able to multi-task like I usually do when watching TV. So really, not having a TV means I am getting less done.
Granted, things are a little unusual right now. Normally I have a few more distractions during the course of a week to keep me entertained and occupied. But right now friends and activities are in short supply, and really I don't have much to do. The TV would be a nice diversion, you know?
It is nice to be saving the money on the cable bill. And for that reason only I'd like to not get a TV again. But really, I miss TV. I'm wondering how long I really want to put up with this?!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I'm confused

I have some fun pictures to show you of Arkansas, but for some reason my blog has decided to stop posting pictures. The little button for picture posting has disappeared on me. I can only post from URL's?? I don't get it. So, for the record, I have pictures. Some are even interesting. And I tried. I really did. But I don't know why I can't make it happen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

And These Things Shall Give Thee Experience

And These Things Shall Give Thee Experience by Neal A. Maxwell

I listened to this book on CD while driving down here. And I have listened to key parts over and over again since finishing it. Because the CD was an abridged version, I have now ordered the full book on Amazon. It has made that much of an impact on me.

The Amazon product description-
In the midst of deep affliction, the Prophet Joseph Smith was told, "All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." The world at that moment was shown anew that God is aware of man's suffering, and that pain is not without purpose. Such concepts are not always easy to accept, but, as Elder Maxwell observes, "the hardness is usually not in their complexity, but in the deep demands these doctrines make on us." All These Things Shall Give Thee Experience focuses on some of the "hard doctrines" that members of the Church must grapple with in the latter days. This book will help the Saints prepare for the trials ahead, while assuring them that the power of God's love is constantly available to the faithful.

I highly recommend it. 

New Life

There is so much to say about my new life here in NW Arkansas. It is beautiful here. I wasn't prepared for how pretty it really is! I was never a big fan of the Utah countryside- brown fields, brown mountains, dust, dirt, tumbleweed, and those stupid big mountains that block my view! (Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder!)  But I love the Arkansas landscape! Everything is green, green, green! Oh how I have missed green trees, green grass, green moss, and just green everywhere! Many flowers are blooming as well, so you also get big bright spots of color mixed in with the green. Right outside my window is a beautiful little seedling tree with beautiful purple buds all over it. I have no idea what kind of tree it is, but I love it anyway. Supposedly I'm living in the Ozark Mountains. I guess Utah has rubbed off of me a little bit because I can't see a mountain for the life of me around here. But there are some gorgeous rolling hills. Oh and the lakes! There are lakes everywhere too! I took the dog and drove out to a big lake in the rain yesterday. Why? Because we could. It was just beautiful with heavy trees and woods all around it. It reminded me of Lake Anna back in Virginia. I can't wait to go back out on a pretty day and sit on the shores and read a book! (Pretty much my most favorite activity ever.)

The "little" town I live in isn't so little after all. It has a quaint downtown area with a restaurant row. I tried it out on Friday night with some co-workers and completely fell in love with it. There are plenty of stores and activities going on all around the area. And there is an Ann Taylor Loft about 15 minutes away. Plus several Thai food restaurants and good sushi. Really, what else do you need?

I'm still far from unpacked or settled into my new apartment. I was just too exhausted after my first few days of work, and then decided to just relax all weekend rather than work myself silly. I'm still living out of suitcases, big plastic garbage bags, and boxes. So don't you all rush down here to come visit me, okay? I need a few more days to get settled in!

I get asked a lot if I am still in contact with "Little." The answer is YES! We email each other every day. I miss her a ton! We're hoping to have her come down and spend a long weekend with me this summer. I may not officially be her "Big" anymore, but she'll always be my little girl. 

Silly little sidenote- you may or may not have noticed that I frequently pick song lyrics or a play on some sort of movie quote as my blog post titles. (No one has ever commented on them, so I don't know if anyone has ever noticed that I do that.) Since posting about Arkansas I've come to realize that I only know two songs that involve Arkansas in them, and they are both about Little Rock, so they don't work for me. I can't think of any other movie or TV quotes or songs that incorporate Arkansas. Can you think of any??

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Grandma's Feather Bed

I found this fun little John Denver and the Muppets number on YouTube today. It just makes me smile. I can't help but think of my cousins, and trying to fit six little girls into the back of a station wagon, or into one bed, or just trying to get us to all be quiet for some reason. I can't explain it all too well, but if you are one of those 5 other little girls, you know what I'm talking about. Our family loves John Denver, fun folk songs, and "lots and lots of cousins everywhere!" We may never have all tried to sleep in one big feather bed together, but if we had had one, we would have tried!




(And no, this has nothing to do with Arkansas, in-breeding, or my new life! Just fun little girl memories.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Another Bend in the Road



The closing chapter of the first Anne of Green Gables book is titled, "Another Bend in the Road." I believe it is Marilla that says it in regards to how one part of Anne's life is coming to a close, but how there will be so much more ahead, just beyond the bend, that she cannot yet see. (Wait, that sounds far too romantic for Marilla to say. Maybe Anne says it? If all my books weren't packed right now I'd go look. But you get the picture. Really, it was Lucy M Montgomery who said it, and I've always been proud to share my nickname (Lucy) with her.)
"Another bend in the road," is exactly how I am feeling tonight. An important chapter of my life has come to a close. But there is another bend in the road, with so much ahead that is not yet seen. The three years I spent in Utah were volatile roller coaster years to say the least. When I moved to Utah I was running away from something, desperately trying to leave my past behind me. This time things are different. I didn't want to leave. In spite of having no roots or ties to the area, I wanted to stay. But I chose to leave. I spoke openly to my friends about my reservations about leaving. But after a lot of introspection, prayer, and letting go of some pride, I am glad I made the choice to do it.

So Much to Do!

I've got so much to do to make my little apartment a home! Today my new couch arrived and I love it. And I started painting the living room.
Tomorrow, fate willing, the moving truck will arrive with all of my earthly possessions. Finally I will be able to eat in my home again, sleep in a real bed, and stop wearing the same jeans over and over.
Ooh, and the internet installer comes tomorrow. Hallebooyah! I am going crazy with no internet, no tv, no DVD's, etc.
Oh who are we kidding? I just want to get settled in and start my new life!
Before and after pictures coming soon. Also, check the twitpics for in progress pictures in the righthand side bar.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Arkansas

I'm here. I made it. I drove all the way to Arkansas, and I've started my new life! There's a ton to say and nothing interesting to say all at the same time.
The drive was as boring and painful as you can imagine. Stuck in a car for 1,000 miles with a dog and a cat, and one or both of them peed on the blanket in the back, is always fun. I may never get the stench out of my car!
I like my new apartment. I chose not to have any expectations, except for one, going into this whole new world experience. The only expectation that I had was that I knew what side of town I wanted to live on. Somehow the internet guru that I am made a big mistake. I thought I knew which side of town I was on, what was around me, what church to attend, where the restaurants were within walking distance, etc. But no. Somehow I never noticed that every time I put in my address that it was showing me the city center, not the actual address. I have no idea how I missed that. So much to my surprise, I live nowhere near the area I expected to be in. Now don't get me wrong, this is a small town. I'm only 7 minutes away. It just isn't what I was expecting at all. The irony being that this was my one and only expectation.
I'm glad that otherwise I have/had no expectations. As a result, so far everything has been a pleasant surprise. My apartment is great. The management staff has been very helpful so far. I really can't complain! And with a little luck my furniture will all arrive tomorrow. I'm looking forward to having something to sit on other than my air mattress!
I'm exhausted and then some. I am looking forward to going to bed (on the air mattress) early tonight and getting some strength back. Last night I was so tired that I didn't get around to hanging up the shower curtain. So this morning before 9 am church I had to hang it up, and as usual I managed to oversleep. I was so tired I could barely move this morning. Normally at that level of energy I would have blown off church and stayed in bed. Half way through my shower I noticed something was wrong, but I couldn't figure out what. When I got out of the shower I looked in the mirror I figured it out. I had hung the shower curtain up inside out. (One side is a turquoise beach scene, the other plain white.) I was so tired I hadn't even noticed.
I have a ton to do between now and Wednesday- when I start work. Hopefully I will have more reliable internet access soon.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Goodbye Seems to be the Hardest Word

I will just say it here. Goodbye. If for some reason I don't say goodbye to you in person this week, please understand it was completely intentional. I hate saying goodbye. It really just sucks. I hate doing it and don't want to do it again. Tonight was hard enough. I had to say goodbye to "Little," which has been pretty much the one thing I have dreaded above all others since losing my job back in December. Let it be known, there were a lot of tears. A LOT OF TEARS. And there still are. I've been crying all night. And I have no doubt she's crying at home right now too. There was a lovely family hug filled with tears with her, her mother, and sisters. (During which the littlest 5 year old sister asked, "Why are we crying?")
I just can't do it again. I know I will have to, but I just hate doing it. This is the first move I've ever had to make because I HAD to. All the other moves I've made in my life were because I wanted to. It was a big, fun thing that I chose to do. And somewhere in there, yes, I want to do this, and I am excited to do it. But I tried for all I was worth to NOT move this time. Before I was always running to something. This time I'm leaving a lot behind. It is really not the same.
So please understand, if I intentionally don't come say goodbye to you, it was because I just couldn't handle it. Can I beg forgiveness in advance??

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Keep Calm, Carry On


I haven't said much about the upcoming move on my blog yet. I guess it is time to share! As mentioned before, I am moving to Arkansas to take a job with an ad agency. I'm excited to work on a big name national account doing what I love most- social media marketing. The agency itself (which will remain anonymous on this blog) is very reputable, well-known, and not a start-up (*ahem* as compared to my last 2 employers).
I am moving there sight unseen! I have been to the Little Rock area a few times on business trips, but never to the Fayetteville area. I did all of my job interviews over the phone and Skype, so I haven't even been to their offices or met them in person yet. I've even picked out an apartment just by looking at the website.
I figure at this point I could stress and worry and have a million expectations, or I can just roll with the punches and be surprised by everything.
I'm taking my dog, and I'm debating about the cats right now. I've made plans for the cats to stay behind in Utah, but I'm having serious second thoughts. I'll miss my kitties too much! And the dog will go crazy from boredom not having the two cats to herd around!
I will be going from my lovely 4 bedroom home here to a 1 and den apartment in Arkansas. I'm actually only losing 300 sq ft in space though, which makes me happy.
I've been asked if there are many singles or Mormons there. The answer is that I am living in a college town, so yes, there are younger singles. As for singles my own age? I'm not expecting any. As for Mormons, its no Utah obviously, but there are a surprising number. Or at least much more than I thought there would be.
I have no real friends or family in the area. There is one family that I have met before that lives there, and I do have an old friend a few hours away. And I just learned that another acquaintance/friend lives about an hour away in Missouri.
We load the moving truck on Wednesday. (Please, let it be a "we." Please, friends, please show up! I can't do it alone!!) I will clean the house on Wednesday, and maybe Thursday. And then I drive East!! The plan for the moment is to get into AR really late Saturday night, get my keys on Sunday, and move in Monday. I start my job on Wednesday. There are a dozen small details that could throw things off at this point. But we'll just "keep calm and carry on."

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Being Happy, Being Single, and Over 30

After my rant earlier this week about dating advice, I thought I'd share my own advice to singles everywhere, particularly to the ones over 30. At first, I called this dating advice. But then I realized, it isn't about dating. It is about Being Happy, Being Single, and Over 30.



Here is the advice I wish we as singles would hear more often-
People give bad dating advice all the time, so don't take it personally.
People get asked out on bad dates all the time, so don't take it personally.
Enjoy being who you are! Do not hold yourself back from experiencing life because someone else hasn't picked you yet.
You are great. You are as God intended you to be (assuming you follow His commandments). Do not change yourself to win the affections of another. Who would you rather please? Your Father in Heaven? Or a person who has rejected you as you are?
Do more and be more. You have no excuse to not contribute more to your community. Be happy, live happy!
Make good friends, and enjoy your family. Be loyal to those who love you. You are going to need them next time you need to lift something heavy, and there still isn't a spouse around to help.
Stay grounded and keep focused on the things that are most important to you.
Don't take it personally when the object of your affection doesn't call you.
Find happiness in who you are, what you stand for, and what you have accomplished. Don't wait to be happy when someone else gives you validation.
Be forgiving and understanding, because no one is perfect. And dating helps us meet a lot of imperfect people!
When it feels like you are in a church that is family focused and excludes the singles, find a way to fit in anyway. Don't be afraid to make friends with little children.
When people ask the world's most annoying question, “So why are you still single?” smile and laugh and say, “I don't know, why don't you tell me?”
When someone suggests you just need to “pray harder” to find a spouse, sincerely suggest to them that they pray to help you find a spouse as well.
Don't give up on your standards and morals, just because after twenty years of dating it is getting rather tiresome. Recommit to your standards and morals, and dress in a way that makes your morals clear.
Re-evaluate your outward appearance, and ask a friend for advice on how you could improve. Unfortunately, as much as we want people to judge us by what is on the inside, they still see the outside first.
Go on a second date, even when "you didn't hear Lionel Richie singing" after the first date.
Everyone deserves a second chance. Only a chosen few deserve a third.
Make friends with the opposite sex. Make friends with people with similar interests as you outside of Church.
Remember that the relationships you see on tv and in movies are all make-believe. Don't judge your relationships by the fiction displayed. Never expect romance to move at the speed of a sitcom. And never expect love to exhibit itself accurately when written for entertainment purposes.
Get involved in your community. Give your life meaning! Do you want to be known as the person who ate out a lot and spent their money on food and entertainment? Or do you want to be known as the person who made a difference in their community? (Don't just do this as a way to meet new people, do this because it is the right thing to do!)
Ask yourself what matters most to you- building a family? Taking care of others? Making money? Creating a home? Go do it anyway!! Why wait? You can be a foster parent and give a home to a deserving child. Take care of your neighbors, ward members, friends, and family. Buy and build a home to suit you. Make major career moves- don't hold yourself back.

To the singles with children, I offer the following advice-
Women- there is nothing more unbecoming than a single mother complaining about finances and how her ex doesn't pay enough in support, while she is sitting there with fake nails, a fake tan, new clothes, and is eating out an expensive restaurant. You are far more attractive when it is believable that you put your children first.
Men there is no bigger turn off than a man who complains about having to support the wife he promised to honor, support, and love, except for a man who complains about paying child support. Don't just pay what the State requires. Pay more because you love your children and want them to have the best.
Men (and women) who pay support, or do not have full-time custody- It is obvious who the good fathers are and who the bad fathers are. Be a good father. To a potential date who is considering you as a potential spouse, and therefore potential father to her own children, it is important to see that you are a good father to the children you already have.
Pay your child support voluntarily. These things do become obvious to your peers. Put your children first! Why would anyone want to date a person who is a neglectful parent?

To my divorced peers I suggest the following-
Do not speak ill of your former companion to members of the same or opposite sex.
Be a good former spouse. Do not bicker. Do not air your dirty laundry.
Do not date until your divorces are final! Until the judge says you are divorced, you are still married!
When you learn to let go of the hate, you learn to be happy again.You may never get closure, but you can still let go.


There is nothing more attractive than happiness!

Do you have some advice or rules of thumb to add to this list? I'd love to hear it! Add away!!

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