Friday, December 4, 2009

Adventures in Piano

I confess. I'm the type of person that often sits there and worries about what people think of them. When I'm struggling in a class, I worry that people think I'm stupid. When I'm good in a class, I worry that the other students will think I'm a know it all. I worry when I say something stupid or don't say anything at all. I worry about what Jane Doe might have thought when I made that comment in church and if she'll go home and talk with her roommates about how much I babble on and on.

So when the parents of the ward mission leader (of my last ward in Florida on my mission) come up to me after the baptism and say "it was so nice of you to fill in on the piano", my first thought is that my playing was so bad, everyone thought I had to be filling in.

In fact I was filling in. I had played for another baptism there already. There was an assumption that since there were three sister missionaries serving in the ward, one of us had to be able to play the piano. They were right. It was me (but not very well, mind you!). "Please call a pianist," I had requested fervently for the January baptism we were coordinating.

"Yeah, no problem," he'd assured me. When we came that night, there was a crowd of people, but no one to play the piano. Inevitably I sat at the bench, worrying about how awful each jarring note must have been to all the poor listeners.

About a month later, my mission companions and I took an investigator to see another baptism. Once again, there was no one to play, so I sat through, hoping that people would let me and my companions into their homes after.

As my companions talked to Sister Nelson (who was getting baptized the next week), I talked to my ward mission leader. Well, it wasn't so much talking as begging. "Please, please, PLEASE remember to call someone to play the piano next Saturday," I asked, hands clasped and ready to get on my knees if need be.

"I will," he told me. I looked skeptical, he promised again. I made a mental note to call him the day before.

As we turned to the others, Sister Nelson had a glint in her eye. "I didn't know you could play the piano! Will you play for my baptism next week?"

My ward mission leader smirked. I hid a scowl. "Yes, of course," I said. I can only hope I didn't ruin anyone's favorite song.

When I started school again, I decided my dismal playing skills had to improve. I signed up for one credit of piano lessons. It turned out to be a great class to have. No midterm. No busy work. And an excuse to mess around on the piano for at least five hours a week. I have taken private lessons for two semesters now. This summer, the family I stayed with got sick of my playing, I'm sure. The kids locked up the piano at least, but I continued to practice whenever possible.

When I went home last Christmas (after semester 1 of lessons) I sat at the piano and practiced. Upstairs, my younger brother, who's loathe to compliment me in anything, went to ask my mom "Is that Marie playing? No way!"

That's right. It's amazing what some hard work, an expert teacher and some determination to never be caught off guard again can do to a girl! Though my playing was far from perfect and I still have a long way to go, I have to say that I'm grateful for the ability to improve on the talents we've been given and for the people in our lives who encourage, support, and sometimes even coerce us into useing them.


PS Thanks Annie for singing and enjoy the video :)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

One Fishy Morning

It was a quiet Sunday morning. With church not starting until two, my roommates and I were all minding our own business, taking the morning easy. There was a slight thump near our door.

"Probably someone visiting next door," Liz said.

Being in a complex, you often hear the comings and goings of the next door neighbors. We continued to get ready for church. The blowdryers ran, the curling irons heated and sounds of running shower water filled the air.

A real knock at the door approached. "Come in!" several of us shouted simultaneously. The door creaked open.

"Why is there a dead fish on your doormat?"

We all went over to where a frozen dead fish, laying on its back, looked up at us. I could hear the "glug, glug, glug" of my stomach churning.

Freddie the fish chilled on the frontdoorstep until we were about to leave for church.

Melissa and Liz started rounding up the usual suspects. Lance was out of town and Levi claims he wasn't around during the hour of dropoff. We're still checking out the alibis.

For the person who put the dead fish there--whoever you are-- beware! I watch Bones, Law and Order, and Cake Boss. (So the last one doesn't have anything to do with this, but I do love seeing the elaborate cakes they make...)

If there's anything I've learned from Hollywood, it's that there is always evidence left behind. We will find you. If it's the last thing we do!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

As I talked to my mom the other day, she expressed how appalled she was that Utah doesn't observe Veteran's Day across the board. The banks are still closed and we may not get our mail, but the rest of us continue on as if it were just an average day.

This could be because we have a fall break, or maybe it's a choice of Utah to observe Pioneer Day instead. Either way, we're missing out on the purpose of a vital holiday in our nation.

I challenge everyone to do something this Veteran's Day to make it a real holiday (especially my friends in Utah!).

My mom mentioned that she is writing to all the Soldiers she knows today.

Her class is leading the school in their annual drive for care packages. Soon they'll gather all the items students have brought and send hundreds and hundreds of packages to different units who are so faithfully serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

One thought I had this morning was from a book I read this summer on WWII. An army man commented that even though they were paid no one would let them spend their money while on leave. Broadway shows were shockingly discounted for our troops, meals were free, and no one let them leave a shop without some token of appreciation.

As I went into the dining area, I noticed a Soldier getting his breakfast and thought about that quote I'd read. Before going in, I went up to the cashier and handed her some money. "I want to pay for the man in uniform," I told her, then went to get my drink.

I hope that we can get to the point that our military men and women are treated with the respect and honor they deserve! I can't thank them enough for the sacrifices they are making for me so that I can live in a country where I can freely choose who I want to be, where I want to go and what I want to do with my life.

Thank you again, and may you have God's protection.


Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Facebook: the Plague

Dear Facebook friends of generation TMI,

I don't care if you just got out of the shower.

Your choice of breakfast cereal holds no interest for me.

If I wanted to know how the Dodgers are doing, I would turn on ESPN.

It would be nice to know once in a while how you're doing, instead of just what you think about the lastest politics.

If you're my friend, I could probably tell you which character of Twilight you're most like better than some automated quiz a bored ninth grader created. (fyi Just because you take the quiz doesn't mean you need to post it.)

Overly sappy sentiments are better left in a message between you and your significant other instead of advertised on your status update.

Everyone can tell when you're saying something you'd be embarrassed to say to someone's face. If you wouldn't say it in public, don't post it.

I would like to know...

...About birthdays, anniversaries, and other momentous occasions you're having. It's nice to be able to celebrate in a little way for you!

...How you're doing! Isn't that the point of staying in touch? To see how each other are doing?

...Interesting articles or information you've found--in reasonable quantities.

I hate the feeling of hiding your updates on my wall, but less is more. And sometimes you're giving too much.


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Picture Blog

I'm taking a lovely photography class that still uses the retro form of film! Of course this also means working in the dark room with chemicals and all sorts of other scientific knowledge that will help me take better pictures. (I'm just glad we have to know what the effect is and not the entire scientific reaction that occurs.)

We worked this week on manipulating the paper in the dark room. Not to bore you with the details, but the paper works like the film in the sense of light exposure = dark areas. So these are called "photograms", which are done by putting objects on the paper to block the light from darkening certain areas. Some items are more transparent, turning those spots grey instead. Here are the photograms that I did...

This was a "desk" concept. Several people used this same idea. This was an easy one, setting the timer and strategically placing the objects on the page to try and make it look cool. The real magic happened in the developer. If you've never seen a picture developed old school, I highly suggest finding your closest dark room and have a gander.

This was the one I was REALLY excited about. After the demo our professor did on Monday I went home and started planning. This one was a process. I made the tree and 3 hills with thick paper and an exact-o knife (including the cut out of the little creature there). I also used wax paper to make clouds, though I didn't like how they were turning out on the test runs, so I scrapped that. The snow is sugar in the raw that I got packets of from a local bookstore/cafe. This is the third attempt. The first was over exposed, the second underexposed. And as Goldilocks would say, this one was just right.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Education Week and Mt. Timp

When I got back to Utah, I noticed pamphlets of Education Week going around. The week was fun, full of motivation and a real spiritual boost. I figured it was time to start applying as many of the principles I learned as possible to make myself a better person.

One of the seminars I attended was about making college scholarship material that would be reusable on several applications and "wow" the panel/committee who decided who got money. One of the things the brother talked about was rephrasing to make accomplishments/roles sound impressive while keeping them honest and not puffed up.

For example, if you were a Laurel class president you could say:
"I was president of the local chapter of the largest organization in the United States for women ages sixteen to eighteen".

Sounds good huh?

I had been invited previous to that night to take a midnight hike up Mount Timpanogos-- one of the largest peaks in Utah-- and try to hit the summit to watch the sun rise. When I was sitting on my couch with a book in hand and a box of truffles in my lap this sounded plausible. Sure I could hike 18 miles, though I had never hiked that far and hadn't even done a short hike in about 6 years.

So off I went, thinking this would be so much fun. Let's just say this was a tall mountain. A very, very tall mountain. (Or as that brother would have put it, it was a high peak of a challenging distance.)
One of the guys in the group was very patient, coaching me along as everyone else went up ahead, to meet the other half of the group who had camped out for the night. I thought I was doing okay until we started to hit some rocky ground. "Okay, we have to go up this slide of rocks," he said, after scouting out where the trail picked up. As far as I was concerned it wasn't where it was supposed to be.

I started to implement the idea of rephrasing the comments. As I prepared myself for the steep climb up the loose rocks, I thought, "I will ascend the stony way."

Later, as we were getting closer to Emerald Lake and my feet felt like lead, my legs like rubber, I told myself, "I am unbalanced and at a loss for energy."

As everyone else went the last couple hours to the summit, I used someone's sleeping bag and slept in a little shed built by the glacier lake. Instead of worrying about the hard, concrete floor, I changed the content to "a quaint little one room cabin on the edge of an exotic body of water."
After a few hours of rest, I got a head start to where a couple of people were waiting for us to meet up with them. While giving me directions, one of the guys told me to walk along the edge of the cliff. I asked him politely if he would tell me to “take the path along the ledge,” instead.

Through this method of easing the terminology I was able to make it safely back to civilization with the knowledge that I probably shouldn’t have tried hiking Mt. Timp in the first place (what can I say… hindsight is 20/20).

Still, in the process I think I was able to prove that 1)what you learn can apply in all areas of your life and 2) It really does matter how you say things!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Cat and Dogs

No I didn't forget to pluralize the "cat" in the title. I have had a cat since my freshman year in high school. Her name is Sassy (though sometimes I call her Sassafrass... my brother used to call her the two year supply). My sister got a cat at about the same time along with the family dog we already had. Life was good for Sassy.

The dog eventually ran away and my sister's cat became feral. Sassy was promoted Queen of the castle and life was great.

Then came Cosby. I was on my mission when my mom went through empty nest syndrome and got herself a lhasa apso puppy. The first email from her after this purchase went something like this:

I got a new puppy. He's sooooooo cute! Your brother came home for a few weeks. My puppy is soooooooo cute!!! We hope you still have limbs after the mosquitos finish feasting on your flesh. I'll send pictures of the puppy soon because he's SOOOOOOOOOOOO CUTE!!!!!

I can't be held responsible for any abuse Queen Sassy edured, though she obviously held her own. The first thing I noticed when I came home was that my mom's puppy fought like a cat and steered clear of mine.

If this wasn't enough, my sister decided it would be fun to get a female Lhasa--which she named Belle-- and breed them at some point. Some point came unexpectedly this last December with a litter of 10 puppies. Though my mom cried at each parting, she consoled herself that she would get to keep one of them.

So we have three lhasa apsos in the house--Cosby, Belle, and Cooper. Cooper really likes Queen Sassy. He likes to think Sassy is his playmate. Sassy's lost her touch with training the beasts to leave her the heck alone. The following is a video of me trying to get her to fight back against the monster known as Cooper. I think she did a pretty good job:

Sassy Strikes Again


p.s. Because my sister pointed out it sounds like something not as nice, I'll clarify that I said "whop him sass"

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I don't have much to say, except that I hit 1,000 miles on my bike today. I bought my bike a little less than a year ago and my dad bought me an odometer/speedometer device so I could keep track. Though I didn't do as well as I should have this summer, I have hit the 1,000 mark on my evening ride!

The next goal is to train to do the Pacific Northwest coastline next summer!

Friday, July 24, 2009

She Gave me the Big Bed- some thoughts on leadership

In today’s world, we’re used to a definition of leadership that gives privilege, power and prestige. Those of high standings can sometimes convince themselves they are above certain consequences for dubious behavior or try and take the extra advantage, simply because they can. To hold rank over someone is a constant reminder that you have more than them. Recently, there has been one story after another of politicians in the middle of scandal, both in office and in their personal lives.

The Lord would have us lead a different way. His way.

When I first entered the Florida Orlando Mission, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was assured—as I’m sure most new missionaries are—that my trainer was the best of the best. I came to find out that Sister Powell had trained once before and had been an example and leader in our mission. While we served together, she was called to lead all the sisters, giving me opportunities to serve with many sisters I would not have otherwise. Sister Powell was gentle, kind and understanding, and showed me so from my first day.

During our first week together, Sister Powell and I lived with two other Sisters in a neighboring area. This was because our area was new for Sisters and there was not yet an apartment for us to stay in. As the arrangements were completed, we were able to go into a new apartment. Furniture from storage was brought for us to use. We had a queen-sized and a twin-sized, which had been donated from our ward.

“Who’s getting the big bed?” asked an Elder who had been helping with the move.

As my experience in seniority and leadership up to this point had been entirely worldly, the answer seemed obvious. “Sister Powell, of course,” I said as we finished loading up a truck.

The morning had been long and arduous, and we still had the rest of the day to go. I fell asleep during our lunch and woke up to Sister Powell putting her own sheets onto the twin bed. The other was already made up and ready. “But you were supposed to have that one,” I told her.

“I was making it up, thinking how nice it would be to sleep in a big bed,” she said. “Then I realized how selfish that was and how I’m supposed to be serving you.”

She continued to make the other bed, insisting against all argument that she would get better sleep away from the large window by the bed she’d prepared for me.

This was the first of many occasions I found Sister Powell showing what it truly meant to be a leader in the Kingdom of God. She showed her love of Christ by serving “the least of these” (Matt 25:40) and served with all her “heart, might, mind and strength” (D&C 4:2). She taught me that a true leader doesn’t take advantage, but instead finds ways to bear the yoke of those they have stewardship over. They are willing to take responsibility, strive to be humble, and find new ways to be obedient to allow themselves to be close to the spirit.

As my time came to lead others in the mission field, I tried to emulate the example Sister Powell set for me. I strove to put the needs of the Sisters I was called to lead first, and I hope I was the sort of leader that would give up the big bed.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ten Things I Learned from my Chocolate Fast and More

I realized I haven't exactly been great about giving a general update on my life. This is because I feel kind of silly talking about myself and announcing what I've been up to. Still, I think one reason I found the blog idea appealing was as a way to let people know what is going on with me from time to time without having to go into some monologue when I get together/ catch up on the phone with them!

This summer I was invited to live with a dear, sweet family with four little nerd bombers that I simply love to pieces. (By the way, nerd bombers is my new favorite phrase). They live in Mesa, AZ and moved here while I was on my mission. While I lived in Reno, I nannied for the four previously mentioned nerd bombers and they were my only way to relate to Sister Goodman when she'd talk about how much she missed her nieces and nephews. I've had fun with them at the library, taking long walks in the Phoenix heat, going swimming, and getting crafty.

Though I've had no luck finding a second job to suppliment my income, I've taken it as a sign to take the extra time and do something that I've wanted to for a long time: sell my jewelry. As I'm sure most anyone who will read this already knows (because I'm pestering anyone who will hear with the info) I have started to design and sell pieces on etsy at Hopefully I will find some success. Next summer I'm wanting to sell at little city events throughout Provo/SLC. We'll see if I can help support my hobby and earn some college money while I'm at it!

Last, as of this past week I completed one of the most difficult tasks I've ever undertaken: I went a full year without chocolate. A roommate of mine came home one day, deciding that we should show we had self control by doing this. I did it mostly to support her. So did her sister. The three of us accomplished what we set out to do, some of us more stoically than others. There are many lessons I got out of my chocolate fast. Here I will leave you with the top 10:

1) Recies Pieces do not have chocolate in them.
2) 99% of the time, when someone wants to do something nice for you, they make you something with chocolate in it.
3)I have true friends who would call for a full intervention if I'd tried to go for another year (Thanks Chessie!)
4) Some people consider Oreos chocolate-- even though they don't have any real chocolate in them!
5)Approx. 79% of the girls I know believe that they would die if they went without chocolate for a year.
6) The other 21% suggest to "just keep going" because "you're on a roll"... they are the crazy ones.
7) Don't leave your really good chocolate in the fridge where nerd bomber #1 can reach it.
8) Chocolate starts looking good for breakfast when you haven't had it for a year.
9) Some people are cruel and tease you with chocolate... right when you're craving it the most.
10) I can do anything!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

My Superpower

Anyone who knows me (or has even seen a picture) knows I'm white. Like... whiter than white. While my siblings all managed to steal the Estonian genes which allow them to look Latino by the end of summer, I ended up with the pure Irish side. Not that I'll complain-- it means I can pull off red hair where they can't.

Over the years, the whiteness has perpetuated. Once I went to college there was little to no reason for me to go out and tan. In fact, tanning for me is to burn and peal in the hopes that the layers beneath might toughen up before summer's end. When Ido tan I don't so much end up with tan lines, but areas of graduated whiteness. So I stayed indoors, where I read lots of books and refined crafty, crafty skills. Then I went on a mission. Even in the Florida sun my "graduated whitness" lines ended somewhere between my shoulder and elbow, and below midcalf range.

This summer I'm in Phoenix. It's hot. Like HOT hot. It's a good excuse to use the family pass the Wrights have and take the kids swimming a lot. With the security of 50 SPF sunscreen, I went out with them. By the end of last week my back was red as a tomato; my neck was scarlet; my arms were threatening to blister and bubble; my legs... still white as ever. I was amazed. I went out again and again. Nothing.

This week I tried a little experiment. I slathered myself with plenty of sunscreen everywhere, except my legs. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Not even a little pink.

My conclusion? I have a superpower! My legs have gotten so white that they reflect the heat of the sun! Who knew, right? I just need to find a way to use these powers for good... and a cool superhero name.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Everything I learned, I learned from Primary Children

My family gave me grief when I moved home and decided I wanted a break from singles' ward. To be honest, it wasn't so much that I don't like singles' wards as it was that I really wanted to have some fun in a family ward. I like my family's ward, especially in more recent years. Besides the adults that I've grown to love on short trips home, there are opportunities that you don't get in a singles' ward. Like callings in primary. Yup, they called me to watch a group of ankle-biters ages four going on five. There were ten of them on a full day. They figured they needed two of us for purposes of wrestling them into reverence, so I had a team teacher.

In case you were wondering, the best kind of gossip comes from primary. Whether it's finding out that there is shoe-throwing going on in the house, or the kind of language older siblings are using when a sunbeam cries out "I'm tired of this crap!" right in the middle of share-time, there is always a story.

There were a wide range of kids in our class. One that asked straight off whether or not I'd remembered snack, a drama queen who cried when leaving her mom, the sweet little ones who were content to sit next to you and lean their head against your shoulder, and the spit fire who-- ever obstinant-- would smack her gum loudly to get your attention.

A couple weeks ago, the aforementioned spit fire was sitting on my lap after showing how reverent she could be. Turning around to look at me, and serious as the child ever was, she told me "I trust you." She turned back around to sing loudly with the music director while that sunk in. Throughout my experience first babysitting, then in daycare work and also in nannying I've found that the heaviest responsibility a person can shoulder is to hold the trust of a child. To have such an innocent person tell you they trust you is a great responsibility.

I realized while I thought about what this primary child had just told me that someone else trusted me too. My Heavenly Father. I'm grateful I had the chance to teach primary. Children have a way of keeping things in perspective that seems to get lost amid the social life of a singles' ward.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Shark Reef

As extra credit in my Oceanography class (of which I desperately need since I'm quite hopeless with even the most interesting of scientific study) I dragged my brother Mihkel and my neighbor Kelsi to go on an outing to the Mandalay Bay's Shark Reef. I highly recommend it for anyone who's looking for something to do around Vegas. They do have a resident discount too (of which the nice cashier gave to me, even though I'm technically a Utah resident now). Here's some pictures Mihkel took with his phone.

"Fish are Friends... Not Food!"
Mihkel named his stingray "Irwin"

It took a second to work up the courage, but it was really cool getting to pet the stingrays!

There's nothing like taking a stroll down the middle of a coral reef.
An actual dragon... seriously!

Kelsi petting the stingray

Somehow this picture of the Jellyfish seems to be upside down. Or maybe that's the magic of jellies!

The Golden Crocodile is the first thing you see when you come in. It's a pretty cool sight!