Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Simplicity


I did something completely crazy yesterday. I bought a watch.
For years and years I always wore a watch. I couldn't survive without a watch. But eventually I no longer needed a watch as my cell phone and it's lovely digital time display became a permanent fixture in my hand or pocket.
And then for years I was that girl who couldn't be removed from her Blackberry. And why should I be separated from my Blackberry? You can do everything on it- tell time, send emails and texts, check the news, Facebook, and movie times. Heck, I can even read books and listen to music on my phone. Exactly why would I ever want to not be with my phone?
I gave up a Blackberry for a different model smartphone almost a year ago. My new phone does everything my Blackberry did. We're cool.
But I was and have still been that girl who couldn't put her phone down.
And then something amazing happened last week. I went on Trek and left my phone at home. The youth weren't allowed phones, so I chose to leave mine behind as well. (Funny side effect of this- the youth didn't have cameras! They all use their phones as cameras, so we had a serious lack of cameras on the trip!) I wondered how I would survive with no phone on me.
The answer? Just fine.
It took a few hours before I stopped putting my hand down to find my phone in my pocket. But eventually I stopped reaching for it. It wasn't until late on the second day when I had 5 minutes of quiet to myself that I wanted my phone. After about one minute of sitting alone on a tree stump wishing I had a phone, that I got over it and didn't care anymore.
Just like that, a ten year phone habit broken.
Amazing.
I even left my phone at home yesterday as I ran errands. Granted, it was by accident that I left it, but I realized I didn't need it or care, and I didn't go back for it.
And the world didn't end.
The only problem I really had was that I didn't know what time it was without my phone. So I bought a $10 watch at Target. Problem solved.
I'll be going to Girls Camp in 3 weeks and I just might be leaving my phone at home during that trip as well. Okay, maybe not at home. Maybe I will just leave it in my car and turned off. After all, I might need it for emergencies or problem solving. A responsible leader will have a phone nearby. But I won't need it in my pocket because I'll have my watch on!
After camp I'll be on my way to Cambodia for a month. (I still haven't completely wrapped my mind around that one! I'm going to Cambodia!!) I'll definitely be sans phone during that month. Do you think I'll really be able to survive that long without it? I'll have my watch on. I think I'll be just fine.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Fun New CityDeals Offers!


Remember to add "FIREWORKS" to your purchases to get the extra 20% off. When you click the links the full price will show. Add the code at checkout and save more money!

Extra 20% Off Site-Wide* for a Limited Time with coupon code FIREWORKS

$280 One-Night Stay at a Luxury Mountain Home Near Zions National Park ($1,000 value) with coupon code FIREWORKS

$49 Complete Teeth Whitening Package ($199 value) with coupon code SUMMER30

I'm excited to get this deal. I had just sent an appointment to get this exact product from a dentist here in town, and was about to pay closer to $300 for it! (The dentist was going to do the first application of it on me.) I'm more than happy to save the money and buy it here instead!

$440 Five-Day Salmon River Rafting Trip in Idaho ($1,195 value) with coupon code FIREWORKS


Monday, June 27, 2011

I Can Do Hard Things

Little known fact about me- I rarely ever vomit. I may get nauseated and horribly ill, but actual rejection of stomach contents? Maybe once every five years.
Which is what makes 3 am last night significant, as I held my head over the porcelain throne in my every five year tribute. Mostly what I wanted to do was die. Instead, I pulled a blanket and pillow on to the floor and slept on the bathroom floor and wondered how I was going to survive the next day.
Today I had to move out of my apartment. Thankfully (and this is a long and complicated story I won't go into) the missionaries came over to help. And instead of just the two I was expecting, I got six hearty young men, ready to make this the fastest move in history. And move quickly they did. The entire apartment was loaded into the truck in under 30 minutes. (Actually having everything packed before they arrived helped.)
Moving + recovering from my 5 year tribute= not an easy feat for me.
But thankfully we all survived.
Oh and did I mention that my car is in the shop? Last Tuesday I turned it in for a repair that really should have only taken 2-4 hours to fix. As of 4 pm today they have yet to even look at it. I'm car-less. Well, I was until I got a rental car.
There's just one catch about free help and labor. My hearty young men moved all my stuff to the basement. All.my.stuff. Which means I've got to dig through complete and total chaos down there now and figure out what I need to take up to the second floor. If I sound like I am whining, I might be.
But, I remembered I can do hard things. If I can walk 20 miles dressed in petticoats, I can carry 20 boxes up the stairs (as soon as my stomach regains control).
And in the meantime I've got about 80 hours worth of work to do in less than 3 days. Anyone have a time turner I can borrow? 

Pioneer Trek


The pioneer youth trek of 2011 is now officially behind us! It was a great experience, and I am so glad I got the chance to go chaperon. We trekked about 20 miles, suffered only a few small injuries, saw a lot of blisters, and had no handcarts break down on us. Overall, I'd call that a great success.
Being a leader is always an interesting experience. We know the little things that went wrong behind the scenes. But it is always great and reassuring to poll the kids later to find out that none of them had a clue.
We thing that "went wrong" was that we walked faster than anticipated, and got into camp a few hours early one night. (This can barely be called a real problem.) So I got called into action to come up with a few ways to occupy and entertain the youth with no supplies, preparation, etc. (I secretly love operating on the fly.) I discovered I can still pull off completely off the cuff event planning. I really had fun pulling a joke on all the kids at one point. I share this so that other leaders who might be reading this can rip off my little idea.
After walking and pulling/pushing handcarts roughly 10 miles our legs, feet, and bodies in general were sore and achy. But alas, we have no chairs, just the sometimes wet, always buggy, nothing but dirt, grass, and rocks laden ground to sit on. So I gathered all the youth into a big circle around me, and told them how "back when the pioneers walked across the plains," that they didn't have chairs either. So when they got tired they would all stand in a circle, then sit in each other's laps, and this was called the "Pioneer Chair."
(I've intentionally made the below picture blurry so that you can't easily identify other people's children. But I think you can get the point.)

If you've ever been to a cheesy teamwork seminar, you've probably seen this before as the "trust chair" or "teamwork circle," etc. Words cannot express how greatly amused I was when a few kids later on asked me if the pioneers really did this!


The trail was muddy at times, dry at times, very uphill at times, and sometimes a little downhill. We were "attacked" by Indians along the way. And on the hardest hill (a 3/4ths mile uphill pull) "angels" (volunteers dressed in white) suddenly appeared in the woods and came down to help push/pull each cart up the hill. As soon as the carts were up the hill, the "angels" disappeared back into the woods.
One of the angels helping push
We also had a "women's pull" to "re-enact" (we actually really worked to not call our trek a re-enactment. We hesitated to call it that. But the English language fails me right now in finding the right word.) The men were called off to serve in the Mormon Battalion. (Which for you non-Mormons out there was when the US Government, that had just barely kicked the Mormons out of Missouri and Illionois, came asking for help. Over 500 men crossing the plains with their families, left the trek to go fight in the Mexican American War. The women and children were left behind to pull themselves across the plains.) The girls pulled their own carts without the boys for about an hour. My favorite quote was upon the boys' return, hearing one of the girls say, "I've never been so happy to see a boy in my life." The boys were greeted with the girls loudly singing, "I love my Mormon Boy!"

The women's pull
All in all, a great experience. I am very glad I didn't find out about the huge bear near our camp until after we had left. I am also very glad that the only snake we encountered was a tiny garter snake some of the kids played with. I'm a little sore (oh my gracious my calf muscles hurt), but incredibly grateful for not getting any blisters. (Thank you $90 Merrill hiking shoes!)

You can check out our great kids on the local Roanoke news- (the embedded video is spotty, so here's the link if you can't see the video - http://www.wdbj7.com/videobeta/7143a87d-9cae-4c4c-9303-f0ba32369e92/News/Several-dozen-children-from-local-Mormon-churches-take-a-spiritual-journey)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Preparing for the Pioneer Trek


Dressed like this (a plump, short, pioneer grandmother in pink) I will be taking off for the next few days as an "aunt" on the Pioneer Trek. (From what I can gather, there are no flattering pioneer clothes good for hiking.)

A Pioneer Trek? Oh yes, a trek.

For my non-LDS friends, I shall explain.

It has become a tradition in our church to take the youth on a pioneer trek reenactment every few years. (This tradition began after I left high school, so this is my first one.) Wearing the traditional clothing of the 1800's, complete with bonnets, skirts, aprons, and for the men no pocket pants, suspenders, etc, we pull handcarts in the summer heat, across "the plains." In our case, "the plains" will be a mountain fire road.

All efforts are made to make it as realistic and rugged as possible. The youth will truly pull handmade handcarts for about 20-30 miles. We've been asked to not bring anything with batteries in it, including cell phones, ipods, and flashlights. We'll be cooking with dutch ovens over fires. Considering the ample amount of rain we have had here lately (thunderstorms for 3 straight days), I'm guessing the fires won't be easily built. There are no "rain contingencies." If it rains on us, we'll just make due, just like the pioneers did. I went up to scout out the place two days ago and discovered our trail looks like this-

No question about it. We're going to get muddy.

To enhance our learning experience, we will be bringing pioneer stories with us to share over the campfire. In many cases the youth will be bringing stories of their own Mormon pioneer ancestors. The purpose of the trip is to gain an appreciation for our Mormon pioneer heritage that made us the church that we are today.

The youth (ages 14-18) will be divided into "families" headed up by a Ma and Pa. In our small town we have about 100 youth attending, many of whom are kin to each other already. I know that I will have at least 1 first cousin, 1 second cousin, and probably 10 third cousins attending. Personally, I think that makes this an extra special trip, as we gain an appreciation for our ancestors we will be able to share it with other descendants from those same people- the people that made us cousins!

Normally there are couples picked to be the Ma and Pa parents. And occasionally a few extra "aunts and uncles" are brought along as additional adult helpers. I'll be serving as the group historian and overall helper. There is one other designated "aunt" for the group as well, and she'll be the photographer. (Thankfully this means if I can get the local paper to publish a story on us no one will be subjected to my bad photography!)

This is my first trek, and I have to admit, I'm getting a little nervous. Walking 30 miles over 3 days is ambitious enough. Add in 100 teenagers, handcarts, and this dang bonnet, and I'm not so sure!

Wish us luck! I'll see you all in a few days! 

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Making my dreams come true! AKA- My summer plans!

About 11 years ago I witnessed a bad car accident and the amazing skills of volunteer fire fighters and EMTs. From the moment I saw the vols in action, I knew I wanted to be one of them. A few short months later, and I was a certified fire fighter complete with a yellow helmet. But most importantly, the volunteer bug had bitten me, and I knew I wanted to give back to the community whenever possible.
This my baby sister Steph.  I can't find any pics of me as a FF/EMT. But let it be known, I was almost as cool as my sister .

Not long after I became a FF/EMT I went to Romania and discovered my love for international travel and international volunteer work. And again, my love for volunteering increased. And I discovered a desire to want to work in less developed countries.

Years passed, jobs happened, and life moved on. But one thing never changed- my overwhelming desire to get involved at a very deep level in volunteering in a less developed country. But people tend to not hire women who specialize in marketing firearms to go work overseas. So I sought out different opportunities to go abroad to volunteer, but nothing ever seemed to work out. Meanwhile, I found plenty of great opportunities to serve at home, and took advantage of those. (Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Boys and Girls Club are just 2 examples. Also serving at church with the youth program really meant a lot to me.)

When I finally got the opportunity to volunteer in Haiti it all just clicked in me. I knew it was time to start returning to that feeling I had felt nonstop for so many years and get more involved in volunteerism.

Haiti earthquake orphan

I don't know if words can even explain how the little girl in the picture above changed my life. Is it possible for a photograph to capture a life changing moment? It was right then as I held darling little Nathalie that I knew I would be following my instincts and dreams, and not returning to a more regularly prescribed 9-5 life. I still dream about that little doll, and wonder about the life she might have had.

All of these experiences are what lead me to signing up for the Peace Corps. Again, joining the PC was not a hard decision for me. I knew I wanted to do it. But it isn't easy to choose to leave your "normal" life behind, even if the life you are living is not the "normal" that you want. The big delay the Peace Corps presented me with last week broke my heart. I am 100% ready to leave with them today, if they would just take me.

But the delay is there, and so I spent a few days mad and sad, and suffering from a broken heart on a different front. And then I picked up the pieces, asked myself what it is I have always wanted to do, and what do I need to be doing to reach the next levels of my life. I suddenly have a lot of time on my hands, and thanks to getting out of debt, favors, and hard work, I suddenly am not constrained by finances anymore.

So what do I want to do with my life, or at the very least, with my summer?
I want to serve more. I LOVE SERVING. I've said it before and I'll say it again, if Mormons had nuns, I'd be the Mother Theresa of Mormons.
I want to date dang it. I'm so freaking bored here. I want to meet some men.
In the bigger picture and longer term, my ultimate "professional" goal is to work in or with orphanages.
I want to travel more. Not for the stamp in the passport. That's not me. I travel to truly experience other customs and appreciate other walks of life, and enjoy the people. While I loved staying with my family at the resort this past month, that's really not my style. I'm not the type to stay in a nice hotel or go on a cruise. I'm a much more organic traveler that is in it more for the learning experience than the fun of it all.

To find the answers to my happiness and future I talked to family and friends, looked into options, and put some feelers out there. But most of all I prayed and listened. And now my summer looks like this-

This week- go to youth conference with the teens from church. More on this tomorrow!
Next week- work, work, work, and make some money!!
Work some more the next week.
Go to the DC Singles Conference the following week.
Pick up "Little" and show her around Virginia!
Go to Girls Camp with the girls from church.
Have a few low key days where I'm sure I'll just work, work, work!
Speak at a singles conference.
And then, drum roll please!!!
I'm headed to Cambodia to work in an orphanage for a month!

CAMBODIA!

cambodia


I'm so excited about this! I really cannot believe how fortunate I am to have found this program. I made it clear to them that I am not looking for a "hold the cute babies" program. I really want a program where I can learn more about the administration, politics, funding, etc that goes into running an orphanage and private foster care system. And the people I am working with are happy to help me with that. This program will help open doors for me professionally as I work to change my career from for-profit to non-profit, especially as I continue to look for long-term assignments overseas. Just 15 degrees above the equator, this is a dream come true for me.

This summer has just gone from dull and sad to suddenly the most exciting and opportunity filled summer I could dream of. I can't wait!!!!

Funny sidenote: I found out that Cambodia was a real possibility on Saturday while with a church group. Overwhelmed with possibilities and excitement I blurted it out to a man from church that was standing nearby. "I just got accepted to go to Cambodia to work in an orphanage. Ugh, now I have to figure out how to tell my parents!" He looked at me funny and said, "Your parents who live in XYZ country?" (I nodded.) "You think they will have a problem with Cambodia??" I replied, "Its not the Cambodia part. Its the volunteering in an orphanage part I don't think they will care for." He looked at me funny for a minute then said, "From what I know about you, the orphanage part was the part that made the most sense!" 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Jumping out windows

Henri Matisse "Open Window"

Dear Universe:

It really is amazing what a little prayer, faith, patience, and a good nap can do for your attitude. Oh and not being completely broke helps too.

In the past few days things have gone from completely depressing, with lots of tears and anger, to rainbows and sunshine. Suddenly everything just feels right, like I didn't get hit by a train and my life got derailed last week. I was mocking that obnoxious "When God closes a door, he opens a window" platitude last week. (I'm still mocking it this week. I don't believe true doctrine can be found needle stitched onto a pillow.) But this week it feels like I have found a dozen windows and I want to jump out of them all.

I had a wonderful and unexpected weekend. I got to help take the youth from our church up to the Temple in DC. I was lucky enough to have 3 of the cutest 12, 13, and 14 yr olds you have ever met with me. (I now know more words to Justin Bieber songs than I thought possible. And I'm okay with that.) I love that age group. They just bounce so quickly between being little girls and wanting to be big girls. Having them with me all day really made me miss "Little." I can't wait for my kiddo to get here next month!

I also got to meet 2 blog readers while I was up there! Hello! You know who you are!

I can't tell you much more about the great, fun, and exciting (at least for me) things that are about to happen. But I'll unveil them one at a time as they become more public knowledge. But I will tell you this much- one of the projects takes place 15 degrees above the equator! I can't wait!

Sometimes you just have to stop and listen for the still small voice to tell you what you were scared to admit you knew all along. And then just go with it! And I am so glad I listened!


Friday, June 17, 2011

Girl's Search for Happiness - REVISED


Yesterday I posted a rather lengthy and unhappy post about my situation in life.

It's gone now.

Why?

Because it just wasn't me. I'm not one to let depression get me down. I'm not one to let circumstances get me down. I wrote in a moment of weakness, before I remembered my own strength. The problems are still there, but there are no longer tears for my problems.

If I suddenly have months and months to kill, and indefinite future, food in the cupboards, and a place to lay my head at night, then all is well. Worse things have happened in my life, and I am okay with that.

And so instead of wallowing in tears and self-pity, I will rise again. I'll rebuild and go forward.

Today I am focusing on my spirituality and creativity, and less on productivity and making things happen. I can't begin to tell you how good that feels!

Have you heard this song? (I'm sure you have. It is everywhere these days.) I love the words. "Happiness hit her like a train on a track. Coming towards her, stuck, still no turning back." The real video of the song actually terrifies me. But I love the song. Enjoy the Glee cover of it with me, will you?




Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reminder!


Also, I'm just reminding you all for the berzillionth time to share my recruiting and jobs website with your friends and family! Jobs By Erin - http://www.jobsbyerin.com
There's several jobs in Utah available right now! And I'm always happy to help with resumes, and just collect resumes for future positions. 

Girl's Search for Happiness


Exactly one year ago my life was in complete shambles. I had followed the advice and pressure from those who loved me and had followed a path I wasn't comfortable with, and it had turned out very badly. Suffering from a lot of personal and emotional wounds, I picked up what I called my life and moved to Roanoke.
Why Roanoke? I had a free place to live, and a place to regroup while looking for the next plan. Over the past 3 years I had been through so many changes and heartbreaks I just needed a place to stop and start over again. I had endured a very painful disappointment and breakup (that I never discussed on this blog) with a wonderful man. Not to mention I went through a very personally revealing forgiveness experience with him, so that we can be friends now. I had also endured "the economy" in a very personal way. In three years I went through 4 jobs, and lost each and everyone of them due to the economy, or poor management. In short those three years brought me experiences that really did a number on my ability to trust and my expectations of others.
When I arrived in Roanoke I made the choice to be completely in control (which now in hindsight was a complete joke). That I wasn't going to allow poor management, or the economy, or anyone else, dictate my life again. I was going to decide what I want, and then I would go get it. Instead, I really learned just how often people think that everything in your life will far apart so that you will magically stumble on the right man, fall wonderfully in love, and get married. (All so you won't need that job you didn't get.)
I decided to follow my heart and do the thing no one saw coming and apply to the Peace Corps. I also continued to search for an ideal job. If both the PC came through and I got a great job, I would cross that bridge when the time came. Out of the blue, a good friend approached me and offered me a commission based job with a company she was starting. It was an interesting mix of my business skills and learning new skills, and I took it. That job has been a great blessing to me (thanks Heidi!), but I never had planned on it being my long term plan.
Two weeks ago I would have told you that I had come a long way in one year. I clawed my way up from near financial ruin to actually having money in the bank. I learned to forgive and open my heart again. I devoted the entire year to serving others at church, in my family, and in my community. I learned a new career. I worked on being a writer again. I was finding myself in a very happy place, knowing that major changes were right around the corner- PC placement, a possible relationship, and more.
This week? Everything has changed. I feel like I've been hit with a truck. Relationship? Non-existent. My trust skills? Gone with the wind. Peace Corps? Almost feels impossible right now. A plan for the rest of my life? I could really use one.
I'm lost all over again. I have no idea what will come next. When I'm feeling positive I think I have so many options I can't decide which is best. When I'm not feeling as positive, I'm angry at the world, and wondering why me, and wishing there was just one option that made me happy.
But most of all, if just one more person tells me that the good things in my life have been taken from me in a Divine Intervention so that I will suddenly stumble into the right path of happiness and love, I may scream.
Be patient with me friends. I've got a lot to think about and deal with right now. And unfortunately, I have little time to think about it. I'm grateful for what I have. I really am. I can see that I am still very blessed and not in the dire straits I was in last year. And for that I am very grateful. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why must kids grow up??

"Little" and me in May 2011
"Little" (on a ferris wheel ride) in June 2011


Can we all just agree it is completely unbelievable and unfair how much this kid grew up in just one month? I swear to you last month when I saw "Little" she was still shorter than me! This month? She's maybe, at most, half an inch shorter than me!! I told her to stop growing up, but I told her that last month, and look how well it worked. I'm going to have to move back to Utah just so I can make sure I don't miss out on anything else. If she keeps this up I'm going to have to stop calling her my kiddo, or little girl! And I am really not ready for that yet. 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Unhappy Peace Corps Update

My personal Peace Corps timeline-
July 2010- began application process online
August 2010- actually submitted it (after finishing it I sat on it for a long time before submitting it, just to be sure this is what I wanted to do)
September 2010- Did fingerprinting, etc.
October 2010- Met recruiter, had in-person interview
November 2010- Nomination, received medical paperwork day before Thanksgiving.
January-February 2011- did the medical stuff. Took forever.
February 12, 2011- Submitted medical
April 2011- Checked in, was told I would hear back on my medical within 2-3 weeks.
June 10, 2011- Checked in again about my medical after 7 weeks with no contact. Was told previous person incorrectly told me I was about to get reviewed. Was told I would be reviewed by end of June.
June 12, 2011- Received the following email -


The Placement Office is the office responsible for the final evaluation of applicants for suitability and competitiveness and the final selection of applicants for specific programs.   Evaluation and selection are typically done after applicants have received medical and legal clearances.  At this time, we understand you are still in the medical process, however, we are contacting you to provide you with information regarding your current status.

Recent events, specifically the federal budget resolution for this fiscal year as well as projected budget realities for next year, have had a significant impact on current Peace Corps’ operating plans. A result has been significant reductions in the number of Peace Corps Volunteer assignments to be filled for the remainder of 2011.  As a result of these adjustments, if/when you successfully complete the Peace Corps medical qualification evaluation and final application review, there is a strong likelihood you will not be placed in a program until January-March of 2012
Recognizing the challenge this may pose to you, we want to ask what you would like to do at this stage of the process.  The first option is to evaluate your application with a target placement date of January – March 2012.   If you choose this option, we would conduct an initial screening of your application for suitability and competitiveness and let you know the next steps within three months of the date of this letter.  Please keep in mind, any potential invitation would not happen for several months and is pending successful completion of the medical process and a suitability review.  If you choose this option, please continue to seek further opportunities to make your application more competitive.  Also note, if you are selected for service, a Placement Officer will work to match you with an opening, taking into account your skills, availability, necessary medical support needs, and the needs of our host countries.  If this option does not work for you, we can withdraw your application from consideration. 

We understand that you may need some time to consider these options but ask that you respond to this email by July 1st, indicating your interest in remaining active for consideration or indicating your desire to withdraw. 

As of today- absolutely no clue what I am going to do next. 
Give up and withdraw?
Stick with it and make the best of the next 8 months? 
Tell PC I am sticking with it, but proceed as if I hadn't? 



Friday, June 10, 2011

Out on Vacation

Greetings!
I'm back in Utah for a few days. For the first time in several years I'm with all my siblings and nephews and my parents! We're hanging out in Park City and having a blast.
I'm sure there will be more to share later!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

What makes a good leader?

After attending the conference over the weekend my brain has been working overtime, really thinking about different ideas and beliefs that I hold. In short, some of what I heard has really hit home with me and has me reconsidering what I thought I believed.
I have not heard one candidate or party at this point that represents my beliefs well. And so I am asking myself, which issues are the most important to me? Also, what defines a good leader? 

Sunday, June 05, 2011

My Brand of Politics


Warning: Very Long Post Ahead

As mentioned in my previous post, I spent Friday at the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference in Washington, DC. I went at the invitation of my father, who was going mostly to support Mitt Romney. I was going because it promised an interesting lineup of GOP hopefuls, and I wanted to hear what they have to say for myself.
While my father is a well-known Romney supporter, as is the majority of my extended family, I am not completely convinced he is the candidate that best represents me.
If you want to understand my politics, read on. If you don't care at all about me and my politics, you'll want to skip this post. Because this post is nothing but me and my beliefs.
I was at one point in time very conservative. I worked on Capitol Hill for an extremely conservative congressman. I worked full-time on a Presidential campaign for one of the most morally conservative candidates ever seen. I did at one time work for the NRA and for Beretta. So it is safe to say that in the past, I have been known as an extreme conservative.
However, I have also worked for a homeless shelter for teens with HIV. I listen to NPR, and avoid Fox News. (Why would I want to listen to conservatives talk about conservatives? I prefer to listen to what democrats have to say about republicans, and what republicans have to say about democrats. Republicans talking about Republicans is boring.) I am in the process of joining the Peace Corps. My politics are absolutely not in line with either Republicans or Democrats when it comes to international policy. (Never have been either.)
I am mostly morally conservative. I am somewhat fiscally conservative. I am definitely not big business or big government. I am absolutely a fan of a flat tax. I am an even bigger fan of a strong military. I think affirmative action and most civil rights legislation is a joke.
The one thing about me that is hardest for most people to understand is my feelings on minimal legislation. I do not believe in regulating or legislating every little thing. Particularly when it comes to civil rights. I do not believe in “creating” a right by writing legislation for it. If there is such a thing, I'm not just a die hard Constitutionalist, I'm also a die hard fan of the Declaration of Independence. Particularly the following language-
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
For me right there is enough reason to not need laws to create rights or equality. In the document our country was founded on we were all made equal with certain rights, and among those rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. There are many more rights, but they do not have to be spelled out. The only right you do not have is the right to hurt the lives and liberties of others around you.
My politics are not straightforward or easily understood. I frequently find myself learning and growing in my own beliefs. But from what I have learned in the past about the Tea Party, I find that they like the idea of passing legislation to define things the way they want them to be. (Gay marriage, abortion, and most other civil liberty issues.) I'm not saying I am or am not in favor of gay marriage or abortion. I'm just saying I don't want to see laws governing it. I believe such matters should be settled in the courts. I am a much bigger fan of court rulings than I am of politically charged moral legislation.
I also do not believe at all that what is right for me will also always be right for you. In this respect I am a huge fan of strong municipal governments, and a considerably smaller federal government. If you don't like your municipality, you can elect someone else, or move to where you do like the laws. If people really did pick and choose where to live because they liked their local governments, we would have a very different political world. Also, I honestly believe people would be happier overall.
So there you have it. My politics in a very confusing nutshell.
I have turned off the comments on this post intentionally. 

Faith and Freedom Coalition Part 1

On Friday I attended the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Washington, DC. I did not realize when I agreed to attend that I would be going to a major Tea Party event. I had agreed to attend when I saw the line up and saw that nearly every major Republican potential Presidential candidate would be speaking. Additionally, some other major heavy hitters would be speaking throughout the day, and I knew there would be a lot to learn.
I do not affiliate myself with the Tea Party. And as a Mormon, I also do not affiliate myself as an evangelical. In fact, I often wonder what it is that Mormons did that makes evangelicals hate us so very much.
Below are my pictures from the event, along with my feelings, and what is hopefully an unbiased report of the proceedings.
I did not arrive until close to noon, and therefore missed some of the big speakers like Michele Bachmann in the morning. I arrived just in time to catch Rep John Boehner speak. He gave the typical party line, and political, "We must defeat Obama" rhetoric.
John Boehner
At this point the ballroom was jam packed, and it was standing room only in the back. I apologize in advance for the awfulness of my pictures. Dark ballroom and lots of cameras flashing = lousy photos on my part.
The best picture I could get from the very back row.


Not long after Boehner was Former Gov. John Huntsman of Utah. He was particularly of interest to me. He's golden in Utah. People adored him as governor. I did not adore him because I had a serious problem with this Attorney General. And as mentioned in a previous post, I put a lot of stock into who a politician surrounds himself with. However, I have also met members of his family and know them to be very good people. In other words, I went into this very open-minded for Huntsman to sway me one way or the other.
Huntsman chose to play it safe with this crowd. Notably he played it safe from the very minute he was introduced. Ralph Reid (not a lover of Mormons he) introduced him as the such and such under Reagan, and was appointed by Bush to do XYZ, and was the GOP darling blah blah blah, "and was most recently the Ambassador to China." In other words, they failed to mention that just a few weeks ago Huntsman was an Obama appointee. It didn't go unnoticed. Continuing with the play if safe card, he did not make any major political statements. He told a sweet story about his two adopted daughters, and his experiences working in Asia, and said he was just there to introduce himself and his family to the crowd.
The crowd gave him the appropriate reception and applause when he entered. It is notable to mention that this primarily Evangelical crowd gave him a very warm applause as he left. There were even a few standing ovations. I went outside to see if he was doing autographs and pictures, but the crowd was surprisingly too big, and I couldn't get close.
Somewhere in there is Huntsman

A while after that I chose to attend a break out session originally entitled "Anti-Religious Bigotry." When I arrived at the classroom I discovered the class title was changed to "Anti-Christian Bigotry." The panel was headed by Dr Richard Land, who I have heard speak before and believe to be a smart man. Overall, this was one of the key hours of the day that convinced me I am not Tea Party material.
Too much hate. I lost count of how many times I heard the words "Judeo-Christian Values." I personally believe this expression is selfish, small-minded, and discredits people of other faiths. But that was exactly their point- to discredit people of other faiths. This is an injustice to Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and so many more. Let's not confuse religions with governments and regimes.
Basically what I learned in this one hour was that Christians feel discriminated against even though they are in the majority. To them I say, you should try being a Mormon Christian, and have to listen to the Christians mock every sacred thing you believe.
Sorry, Evangelicals, I just can't support you if you preach that way.
In my notes I wrote-
Dr Land- carefully talked about "vile caricatures" of Evangelicals, Catholics as compared to how kindly the media treats gays and Muslims.
He also said that if an alien were to learn about our culture by watching our news and entertainment media, it would believe that more than half of our country is gay, and that all Christians are stupid.
Tim Goeglin (Lutheran) - "American Revolution was fueled in the American pulpits of the Thirteen Colonies" (except he called them the "East Coast Amtrak States," why would he not say the original 13 colonies?). "Religious Christians are exotic cockatoos." "We need to find more ways in culture at all levels (high, low, and middle brow) to reflect our Judeo-Christian history."

Faith and Freedom Coalition Part 2 - Donald Trump Speaks

And now we'll fast forward several hours into the evening session. The website had originally slated Glenn Beck to speak. I was very curious to see Ralph Reid kick off a meeting that would have three Mormons speaking in it. (If you have never heard Reid speak, he is not shy about his Evangelical ways, and gets creative with language to specifically exclude Mormons from being considered Christians. Also, if you don't know this already, Reid is the head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, and an informal top gun for the Tea Party.) However, the lineup changed, and Beck was not there.
(Sidenote: http://ffcoalition.com/our-team/  Look on this page and you'll understand why I am flipflopping on how to spell Reed v Reid.)

The big kickoff name for the evening was none other than Donald Trump. It is still a bit surreal to think I sat just ten feet away from Trump last night.
Donald Trump at Faith and Freedom Coalition
What is more surreal to me was the discovery that I'm not opposed to his politics. Much to my total surprise, I actually agreed with a lot of what he said. The man knows business, international business, and money. And he really knows conservative politics.
The crowd went crazy for him. He had a rock star's reception, no question about it. 
My dad pretending to not care.
We were in the center, right in front of the podium, in the third row. During Trump's speech, there were nonstop people running up and taking his picture. (Hence the picture above.) Also, I feel sorry for all those people who probably learned what I did- it is very hard to get a good picture of him. He never closes his mouth!




Here's what I learned about Trump-
He's pro-life and Catholic. He hates ObamaCare. He is still proud of himself for making Obama produce "that excuse for a birth certificate." He occasionally refers to himself in the third person. And a few quotes, "OPEC is laughing at our leaders." "Our leaders are stupid, you know, right? I'm not a politician, I can say stupid." The thing he said that really bothered me was regarding the war in Iraq. "To the victor go the spoils." He believes that the U.S. (and Allies) have the right to take over the Iraqi oil fields, and take the oil from them. He also wants to give a million dollars to every Iraqi family hurt by the war, and to every American soldier wounded or killed in the war, from the profits of those oil fields. This is one of those huge ideas that non-politicians come up with who truly don't understand international laws. This made me a little mad to hear, because people will like it, and it is not something that could ever actually happen.
But over all, I would say he's a smart guy and he knows his stuff. I'm starting to understand his appeal. And I'd be really surprised if we don't see him pull a Ross Perot towards the end.

If I thought it was hard getting a good picture of Donald Trump, it was even harder to get one of Dick Morris.


Dick Morris is not a presidential contender. He is for the most part a paid pundit. Although, to be fair, he has been an advisor to many people over the years. he really came down hard on the economy. He said, "17% of our economy (the medical sector) is paralyzed" by over regulations and fear. He mocked the bank bailout. And really made it clear he does not like Obama.

I should mention here that every single person who spoke lambasted Obama for calling the recent jobs report a "bump in the road." And everyone railed on the economy at length. The only person to actually make corrective suggestions was Trump.

Grover Norquist was up next. He started off his speech with an inappropriate joke I felt. "When midgets play mini golf, do they know?" What was the point of telling that joke?? He really went to town slamming environmental efforts and legislation by the Left. He then told a little story about rat heads. To paraphrase, when you buy a bottle of Coke and you drink it half way down and then discover a rat head in the bottle, you are disgusted, and you stop drinking it. You likely never drink Coke again, because the brand is tainted because of this one rat head. Billions of bottles produced regularly, but one rat head ruins it. "Republicans who vote for tax increases are rat heads in Coke bottles."

In my notes, I wrote this next.
I'm hearing too much "Judeo-Christian values" and "social conservatives" for my taste. I hear nothing about the beauty of the melting pot that is the United States. Where is the olive branch? Where are peace efforts? Where is partnership and education? It sounds like the Tea Party is all about be "Judeo Christian" or we will fight you. I do not feel this is the party of inclusiveness or belonging. This is a party of fighters.

Next up, Pastor Dr. Jim Garlow. He spoke about how he wants to see civil liberties being taught in churches. He wants pastors to stand up and bear the truths on issues. He made several references to the Black Robed Regiment. (If you don't know that story, it is an interesting piece of history, and I suggest you read it. I learned about it first last year at the Glenn Beck Restoring Honor Rally. He also openly called for a modern day Black Robed Regiment.) Personally, I don't agree with this at all. A person's religion can greatly influence their political moral issues. But I do not believe churches should be teaching politics.

Ready for Part 3, where I talk about Tim Pawlenty, Mitt Romney, and Ron Paul? Keep reading!

Faith and Freedom Coalition Part 3- Pawlenty, Romney, and Paul

I knew very little about Governor Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota going into this event. I knew he was well-liked and respected. This was another chance for me to listen and be educated. I really was open minded with each of the candidates, looking to see which one would have the "IT" factor, the leadership qualities, and the rhetoric I could support.
Tim Pawlenty

While I did find Pawlenty to be a good man, he was lacking the it factor. He was good like my favorite college professor was good, but he was not a commanding presence, or charismatic like Trump or Romney were. The it factor was the only thing that got Obama elected. I'm pretty sure everyone was blinded by his charisma, and didn't hear a word he was saying. (Otherwise, what were they thinking?) 
From the notes-
"Obama's fluffy rhetoric doesn't fill the tank or feed the children." 
He got a huge applause when he said he was running for POTUS. 
He wants to phase out ethanol subsidies (he said with a quick apology to those from Iowa). I wanted to stand on my chair and cheer when he said that!! I hate how much of our country is run on corn, not because it is best for us, but because Iowa is the first caucus state, and it gets the most kickbacks. Kudos to Pawlenty for standing up to Iowa!
"Wall Street needs to get its snout out of the trough." 
Very proud pro-marriage stance.
"We need a POTUS who will stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel." 
Believes in a balanced budget. 
"We followed Greece into democracy, but we won't follow them into bankruptcy." 
Talked in 2 lines about the jobs report, but did not offer job creation solutions. 

All in all, I liked him. I wasn't wowed by him. But I liked him. He's not a bad choice. 

Jay Sekulow was next. Another talking head type. He was focused on legal issues and the Middle East. He used one of my least favorite phrases, "Only in America." There is nothing I hate more than people who use that phrase implying that only in the US will you find hard working, free, entrepreneurs, who are self-made men. Every time I hear that expression I think, "You don't get out much, do you?" There's a lot of Australians, Japanese, Brits, Czechs, Italians, and many many other nationalities who should be offended by that expression. 

And then it was Mitt time. And oh boy was it ever. 
Mitt Romney
He was greeted very warmly by the crowd. Not the rock star reception of Trump, but definitely with more excitement than anyone else before him. He immediately launched into some of his standby stump stories about his family legacy before turning on Obama. "Obama has failed the American people!" In reference to the jobs report, "You can't solve a crisis if you don't see the crisis. And Obama doesn't see a crisis!" He quote Reagan a few times. (Actually all of the speakers quoted Reagan multiple times. Reagan hasn't been quoted this much since we was in office himself.) Romney also said he wants to return many federal programs to the states and private sectors. (Can I get an AMEN!?) "I believe in the principle of limited government." He also spoke on balancing the budget and free enterprise.
He did not touch on health care or any moral issues. And religion was not brought up once.
Hey! Down in front!!
Another interesting note, like Trump, the crowd of picture takers never dwindles while he spoke. No other speakers had that happen. 
He did receive a few standing ovations throughout his speech. But it is what happened as he left the stage that surprised me the most! All of the previous speakers had received a standing ovation, and quickly left the room. But as Mitt tried to leave the stage the audience rushed him! Tons of people came rushing to the front of the ballroom to take his picture and shake his hand! No one, not even Trump (granted he did have some huge NY muscle bodyguards nearby) got a stage rush like that! 
It must be said though, that no one was faster than my dad in getting to the stage. Did I mention that there are certain members of my family that are on a first name friendly basis with Mitt? (Note: I am not one of them. I've met him quite briefly, but never really met him.) My dad broke through the crowd to be one of this first up to him, and even got a hug, and a quick conversation while the mob took over!


And some more of the Romney mob (to get these pictures I actually jumped up on the stage. There was no hope for a good picture on my little point and shoot camera. Hundreds of cameras were flashing in the dark room. And there was constantly jostling and pushing in the crowd.) Keep in mind this was all happening at the front of the room, while a speaker (I think it was Ralph Reed) was trying to calm the room and introduce the next speaker. 

So what poor, unlucky speaker had to follow that rock star? None other than Ron Paul himself. Again, as stated previously, I really wanted to hear him speak. I was open minded to him, and wanted to give him the chance to convert me. 
Ron Paul
Don't be fooled by the girl taking the picture, Ron Paul did not have a hundred people taking his picture. She just got in my way as I took the shot. More than half the audience left when Mitt did.
As I said with Pawlenty, I was looking for the it factor. The thing that says, "THIS PERSON HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO SIT IN THE MOST POWERFUL OFFICE IN THE WORLD." Ron Paul is not that person. He is not a commanding presence. He has no charisma. He even looks sickly on stage. And I just realized he said so few things of interest, that I didn't take one note on what he did say. I just remember him talking about delivering babies. For the life of me I do not see what it is about this man that spurred so many grassroots efforts on his behalf. 
He is smart, and he is moderately well-spoken. But he does not belong in the Oval Office, he belongs in a professor's office, or writing books or columns. But he does not scream Commander in Chief material. 
I just don't get the appeal. 
There were a few more speakers to follow him, but no candidates. My family (with about 2/3rds of the remaining room) quickly got up and left at this point. 
The baby sis, Mom (with uncharacteristically straightened hair), and me (I had been up since 5am, and it was about 11 pm).

Mom, Dad, Steph

Is it just me or does my skirt look like a hotel carpet?



The End.

If you managed to read this far, I am absolutely shocked. Thanks. 

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Taking Time to Hear it for Myself


Tomorrow I will be packing up the car and kissing my dog goodbye and driving back up to DC for the weekend. I'll be joining my globe trotting parents and going to the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference. This will be a major platform for most of the GOP presidential hopefuls. Among the speakers will be Gov Huntsman, Mitt Romney, Michelle Bachman, Haley Barbour, Virginia's very own Gov Allen, Glenn Beck, Donald Trump, Ralph Reed, and many other notable GOP and Tea Party names.
The truth about me is I am less and less a Republican every day. I continue to become more independent, and more libertarian. This does not make me more moderate. In fact, I'm more extreme to both the left and the right. There are a few things I know I am not. One is a conspiracy theorist, and/or a supporter of Ron Paul. I am not an extreme tea partier either. I listen to NPR more than Fox News. But I am attending this conservative GOP event.
I'm the Peace Corps volunteer who once worked for the NRA. My politics are not straight forward or easily definable.
I'm going because I want to hear things first hand. I'd rather hear Huntsman talk about his Obama ties himself, and not hear what the media tells me about those ties. Trump may not be running, but he's going to be a major influencer in the next election. And I want to hear his opinions right out of his own mouth. And I really want to hear Romney talk about health care. I am a big believer in turning off the news, and going to the events. I like to see and hear it all first person. It is why I attended the Glenn Beck rally last summer (even though I was admittedly not a big Beck fan). It is why I have sat through a Michele Bachman speech. And I'll tell you this- the woman can speak. I didn't agree with one thing she said, and yet she sucked me right in. It wasn't till I walked away that I realized how much I disagreed with her. But during her speech, I gave her a standing ovation- she can move you.
I believe in getting out there and listening to the candidates first-hand. I also strongly believe in looking at their staff. I always look to see who it is they choose to surround themselves with. Who do they trust their money and image with? I've ruled out many candidates because their staff disgusted me (ahem, Obama, McCain, and  several years ago Sen. Phil Gramm).
I will go into Ron Paul with an open mind. I want to see what on earth it is about the man that makes people follow him. My understandings and experiences thus far tell me he would do good at a think tank, but absolutely not in the most powerful seat in the world. But I'm going, and I will listen.
And I will report back. I'll let you know what I see and hear.
But first, I must pack. And answer this very important question- black shoes or hot pink heels?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

I'm not 16 anymore


I am not 16 anymore. You know how I know? Because when I was 16 I could do the splits, dance for hours, and run 5 miles every day, and not have to go to bed with an ice pack.
Now? Not so much. Tonight I did some very simple yoga for an hour with the young women at church. While on an endorphin high, I took my dog out for a short sprint. Came home, and while watching So You Think You Can Dance, found myself moved by the music and dancing, and I suddenly my feet took flight, and I did a flying stag dance leap across the room. And was very painfully reminded that I am not 16 anymore.
Please pass the ibuprofen!

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