Saturday, February 20, 2016

Faith, Trust, and Aloha


Last summer, in the midst of job rejections and figuring out new plans, my dad made a comment about someone he wanted me to meet in Hawaii. I had no impending plans to visit, and felt no urgency to get there. Of course, with my parents living there, I knew I would eventually get back, but trying to scheme a separate trip just wasn't a priority.

(And before you ask, nothing came of that someone, and this move is entirely unrelated to that.)

So once my new plans started coming together for studies in the southern hemisphere, it only made sense to stop in to visit my parents in Hawaii on my way back from New Zealand. It would give me some time to re-group, catch up with my parents and friends there, and enjoy Christmas holidays with them. I also hoped to work on some job applications. I had a few leads for teaching English internationally thanks to my new TESOL certificate, and felt like I just needed some time to sort through it all and find a clear direction for my next step.

I had only been on Oahu about a week when my mom texted me, all excited about something. She had run into the chair of the English Language Teaching and Learning department at BYU-Hawaii. I had thought about maybe doing some volunteer tutoring with the department while I was visiting. However, when mom mentioned to her that I had just finished my CELTA and also had a master's degree in language teaching, the chair was insistent to meet me. I sent her my resume, stopped by for a chat, and suddenly, I had a job offer! With 2 full-time instructors about to go on leave, and a new online curriculum under development, they need teachers! I happened to have the right training at the right place and the right time!

Although it was an exciting offer, I was hesitant because of my Canadian citizenship. I knew I would have to obtain some sort of work visa in order to work in the US. That was when they told me about a work authorization that exists through the North American Free Trade Agreement, that allows Canadians and Mexicans with certain professional credentials to obtain short-term work permission. University teacher was one of those professions. All I needed was an official job offer and to head home so I could apply for the permission upon re-entrance at the US border.

All of this happened so fast, I could hardly process it all! However, I had a couple months to do so, as I waited for the offer letter, and the right time to go home. I was also hesitant to get too excited, in case it didn't work out for whatever reason. I have had back experiences with sharing good news too soon and then it going sour...

An interesting thing happened in those 2 months. Though I have loved my time in Hawaii in the past, I still always felt a little out of place. I wasn't completely confident with myself whenever I was there. I met awesome people and made wonderful friends, but I felt too old for the student crowd, and too young for my parents' crowd. I helped with projects, but never felt like I could really invest because I always knew I would have to leave. It wasn't my place.

But this time was different somehow. Something about being just a couple years older made me feel more peace within myself. Honestly, much of that is probably thanks to my experiences in Australia and New Zealand. I had gained so much peace and trust in the path that my Father in Heaven was leading me on, that it gave me the confidence I had lacked before. And I guess it was finally the right timing. I felt like my life experience and age difference divided me just enough from the students to feel more professional. And yet, I still felt youthful, vibrant, and happy - in fact I am often still asked if I am a student here :)


I got involved with projects that seemed truly inspired, connecting with some awesome students. Things that would not only build great future opportunities, but also create bridges between departments on campus to improve the students' experiences. I went back to one of the best singles' wards on the planet, and had several absolutely amazing Sundays filled with inspired words, spiritual strength, and old and new friends. I also tried looking into a few other work opportunities, but each time I did it felt stressful, confusing or awkward. I suppose with everything being lined up so beautifully for me here, I didn't need to look elsewhere. I felt so much love and concern from God. It was so humbling!

With the new year came my offer letter, and just reading it got me excited again. It was starting to feel real! In an attempt to maximize my travel time and budget, and join my sister's vacation time, I set out on a multi-stop trip to visit close friends on my way home to pack and prepare for this new job. I spent a glorious, albeit chilly week playing at Walt Disney World with my fabulous younger sister, and catching up and karaoke-ing with old friends. I visited my dear friend and husband in their new South Florida home and got to attend her baby shower and soak up many hours of conversation and laughter. I then made my way to Utah for a very busy week helping my BFF and her brilliant students with their latest play, while cramming in as many visits as possible with friends there. And I finally made it home to sort through my stored belongings, pack some clothes and belongings for my new adventure, check-in with family, and head out again!

After all these wonderful travels and visits and wonderful times across multiple time zones, I felt so completely humbled and blessed! I had tried my best to just enjoy each day as it came, and not worry about the future 'what ifs' that awaited me. It was amazing!! Seriously, it felt like each day was a total gift, I felt insane amounts of love for each friend who made the time to see me, and I felt so much hope for my future. I knew that no matter how things went, it was the way God had prepared for me - and I was more than willing to let His all-knowing hand take the lead away from my limited view.

I felt good, but extremely nervous regarding the work authorization application and crossing the border. Of course, I have had bad experiences in the past, so that may have been part of it. But I really think I needed to feel that to help me better prepare with all the necessary documentation, and to be ready to respond calmly to whatever circumstances I would face.

My first flight was uneventful, and I knew I had only an hour and a half to go through security and customs, make my application, and catch my connecting flight. There was a bit of a line through security, but it moved okay. The bigger issue was once I reached the waiting room for customs pre-approval. They were making everyone use these automated kiosks to do their declarations, instead of hand-writing it while in line, then handing it directly to the officers, like they used to. Unfortunately, this bit of technology actually slowed things down a lot, and everyone was stressed out about missing their planes. It turned out that I had to do a hand-written form anyway, because of my work authorization... of course ;)

Anyway, after all this I finally got to the most kind, and even flirtatious, border officer I had ever encountered, with about 40 minutes before my flight took off. He led me to a very quiet waiting room for secondary processing, and left me to my thoughts. Everyone waiting in there looked worried. You couldn't use cell phones. I did my best to practice my yoga breathing and stay calm. Freaking out never made anything better, and I just wanted to send positive vibes to the girl processing my application. She called me up at one point for some clarification, then I was sent back to wait. As my flight time grew closer, my silent prayers became "Please let this go through in time for my flight!" But then I realized that it was much more important than it was done properly, so I let go and asked "Please let this process properly so that I can go begin this new life and opportunity in Hawaii. I feel like I can do some good there. If it means I have to miss my flight and get there later, I'll be fine. Please just let this go through as necessary."

A wave of calm came over me, and I completely relaxed. Eventually, about 15 minutes after my flight time, she called me up again, and kindly explained that though my documentation was adequate, my offer letter was missing some details. But instead if simply turning it down, she gave me permission to get on my phone and get what they needed. Within a half hour I had contacted my future employer (who miraculously answered the unfamiliar call), she had sent a new, more detailed letter, I had contacted my family, found a hotel for the night, paid my fee.....and got that beautiful little stamp of approval. I was in!! This new adventure was officially happening!!

The way it all came about, after so much anticipation, was rather humorous, humbling once again, and absolutely happy!! I could hardly believe it!!

The airline kindly re-booked me for the next evening, and I spent a relaxing night and day in the Vancouver suburbs before boarding my actual flight to Honolulu. The next step in my wacky and wonderful life has finally, officially begun!!


So that's the story. I am now in the process of all the fun paperwork, training, and preparation as the newest adjunct faculty member of BYU-Hawaii!! Patience is still a daily test for this little go-getter, but I have lots of practice with enjoying each day - so that's exactly what I'm continuing to do. And let me tell you, each day is filled with blessings! I have a real job, using my degrees, in a beautiful place with all sorts of awesome people to serve and learn from. I am blessed, blessed, blessed!!!!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Getting lost - and what I found along the way.

Six months ago I arrived in Abidjan, Côte-d’Ivoire. Today I find myself in Laie, Hawaii, after months of education, adventure, and growth in France, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and New York City.

Say whaaaaaaaaat???

That is about how I feel, so I can only imagine what others must think of my extraordinary life. Allow me to fill you in a little on how I got to this point, and the amazing the series of experiences that have guided my decisions along the way. Even in these short few months and in such simple ways, I can look back and see a very specific purpose for each step along the way. I can never doubt the presence of a higher power guiding my life, because I couldn't have imagined all this myself!

The first half of 2015 was a bit of a roller coaster. I took several leaps of faith and repeatedly fell flat on my face. With my work ending and no future opportunities coming together, I felt pretty lost. In spite of the job rejections and failures, I decided to just keep moving forward as if I did have somewhere to go at the end of June. Around that time I had read a story about a family who lived their life in faith, as if the blessings were coming, and at the right time they did come, and the family was perfectly prepared for them. So instead of leaping again, I decided to simply use my faith to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Africa

That was when the opportunity was presented to go as a translator to the West African country of Ivory Coast with my Dad and a few BYUH students, to work with an NGO there. I knew I was joining the group late - only three 3 weeks before leaving - and it quickly became apparent that things were not very well organized for the trip. As an experienced traveler and almost-obsessive organizer, I wanted to help, but the guy in charge of the NGO - and therefore the whole trip - was adamant to do things himself. Although it was frustrating, I still felt good about going. I thought maybe it could lead to future professional opportunities, while giving my resources to those in need.

I also decided that I would move to Calgary, Alberta upon my return. I liked the city, there were lots of fun people with similar age and religious background to myself, and once I got there I was sure to find work. I also applied for my Alberta teaching certification so that, at the very least, I could substitute teach until I found something more permanent. It seemed like a smart and logical next step for me, and a good location to finally establish myself.

So I packed and prepared for the trip, while also putting things in motion to move to Calgary when I got back. As I prayed about my plans, I felt good and almost excited! It was the first thing to actually work out for me in months!





A canceled flight prolonged our travels, (and also planted a seed in my mind about Montreal) but eventually we made it to Abidjan. Many people have since asked me what I thought of the Ivory Coast (Côte-d’Ivoire). Honestly, the country itself is lovely! The jungles were lush and full of life. The cities busy and fascinating. The people we met were generally kind, respectful, resourceful, and hard-working. In fact, I was so impressed by how respectful and supportive the men were, both to the women in our group, and to their wives and the women in their villages and congregations. This had not been my previous experience with African men I had encountered through rude comments and cat calls in other countries. I cannot tell you how much I noticed and appreciated this difference!

The first couple days were uplifting, exciting and interesting. Unfortunately, it didn't last. There were some good moments, but overall it was a pretty miserable trip. This difficulty had very little to do with the location or the people we were trying to help. The bigger issue was the poor organization and mistreatment from the people in charge of our group.

     

     

I wish we had been able to experience more of the local people and the country itself, instead of being so contained and controlled in our little group. I won't re-hash all the sordid details here (it still gives me major anxiety when I think about it), but we decided to leave on day 10, halfway through the planned trip.

As soon as we decided to leave, both Dad and I felt an amazing wave of peace and joy come over us, and everything fell perfectly into place. We came into contact with so many kind and wonderful people who helped our quick and easy departure. Within a few hours of our decision to leave, we found ourselves on a nearly-empty, amazing flight with Corsair (if you ever get the chance, fly with them!) We kept looking at each other in amazement at how smoothly our departure had gone, and how wonderful it felt to be free of that whole situation!

France



That put us about 10 days ahead of our plan, so we ended up exploring Paris for a week on the way home. This had been my plan all along - though a week later - but Dad was just going to go home. It was so much fun to be able to show Dad around my former stomping grounds! He has never been a huge fan of France, but he genuinely enjoyed this trip, which was particularly satisfying :)


     

We rented a car, checked out the LDS temple construction site in Versailles, spent a day at Disneyland Paris, got to see so many of my beloved friends from both my work at Disney and my mission years, and just enjoyed being free to go and do and eat wherever and whatever we wanted!

     

We were able to connect with local people and enjoy the local experience in a whole new way. We also managed to get our return flights sorted out, with reliable internet and a phone. Yay!

Most importantly, we drove up to Vimy Ridge to see the Canadian First World War memorial, and tour the area where Dad's grandfather fought and survived. That experience is a part of our family legacy and who we are. Visiting that sacred ground with my dad was both humbling and inspiring! All of our time in France was simply lovely :)



But here's the best part!

Although it was frustrating and confusing, somehow that whole experience taught me exactly what I needed to kick-start the change I needed in my life, and help me make some decisions about what I really want and need for my future.

1. I need to teach. Translating and teaching French to the BYUH students were among the best experiences I had in Africa. I loved finding ways to help them understand the new language and information. I loved the challenge of translating instructions for my dad to the local people. It was amazing to see their eyes light up with understanding.

2. On that note, I want to use my language skills. I love connecting with people in their own language. Even a limited understanding of foreign language can tear down barriers and divisions to enlarge understanding and build bonds. I have spent a lot of time learning and developing language skills in French and Spanish and I need to make more effort to keep and improve those skills.

3. I don't ever want to work for a controlling, demeaning dictator of a boss, or put up with anyone who punishes me for trying to be my best. So I want to find something fulfilling that I can do for work while maintaining my freedom and independence.

4. I can do good wherever I am. I don't have to fly across the world or put up with mistreatment while fixing problems in Africa to prove I have good to offer the world. I can add to goodness to any place that I live! And I will! I will continually strive to improve myself so that I can serve and be of greater use wherever I happen to be.

In addition to these lessons and the amazing clarity I gained through the challenges of Africa, my confidence was boosted and rebuilt through the joys of France on the way home. So many of these wonderful people that I hadn't seen in years had such kind and complimentary things to say about me when meeting my dad, and I feel so humbled to have left such an impact on the very people who had taught me so much. Such an amazing blessing!!















The clarity and confidence were just the combination I needed to start making some different decisions for my life. I don't know that I had to trek across the world to figure this out, but I am so very grateful for the little bits of inspiration that showed up to me along the way of this grand adventure!

Canada

Upon my return, things started rolling quickly - in a whole new direction. Moving to Calgary no longer felt right at all. I began to recognize that, in a way, that plan was like giving up on the real me and what fulfills and impassions me, to do what is expected or what I "should" do at this point in my life - settle into a stable job and life and hope to find a husband.

Ugh.

Of course there was no one specific telling me this, but it somehow I had felt that pressure. And I know there is nothing at all wrong with that path; it is okay and even ideal for a lot of great people. However, I realized that I would not last long in that situation. I would be fine of course. I would survive, but maybe not thrive... And as long as it is just me in this awesome life, I want to thrive! And when I am thriving and happy, I can give and serve so much more!

So, after our extended layover in Montreal I determined to try moving out there. I could use my French daily and maybe get back into teaching. I had been waiting on my Alberta teaching certification, and realized that although I had enough French credits to teach high school in Canada, my master’s program didn't give me ESL teaching credentials outside of Utah. And wasn't likely to find work teaching French in a city full of native speakers. So I determined to find the most internationally-recognized English teaching certification.

Before long I found the CELTA course through Cambridge English. As an international program, it is offered by institutions around the world, so I could have taken it just about anywhere. Then my ultra-pragmatic dad suggested, “If you can go anywhere, why not go somewhere fun?"

Yeah why not?!

Thus the scheming began! I looked into places I love that I would want to spend more time, like New York or Florida. I considered moving early to Montreal and taking it there. Then I started thinking about the places I hadn't been...

I then spent the next month or so working on renovation projects to top up my savings to pay for the course and ensuing adventures, all the while saying my goodbyes and packing up my life. I also finally received reimbursement for treatments from a car accident last year, so that definitely helped with the upcoming expenses! I was busy, but so productive and happy - it was awesome! I had found purpose again! Although physically exhausting, it was probably one of the happiest times I have spent in my home town. The pieces all started coming together!

Australia

I have always wanted to go to Australia - like for as long as I can remember. And I didn't want it to be just a vacation, because it is so expensive and intense just to get over there. It also happened that have a dear friend and former mission companion living with her husband and kids in the state of Victoria, and I had wanted to visit sometime before they came back to the US. With that in mind, and inspired by my dad, I searched for CELTA courses in Victoria. I found an intensive one-month course in Melbourne - the nearest major city - and the course became my excuse to go live my Australian dream!

Once I made the decision to go, I prayed so hard to find a good place to live where I could feel comfortable and have what I needed, without having to spend a ton on rent. Miraculously, I found this amazing place on Airbnb, below my budget and in an awesome neighbourhood close to everything I needed. Everything fell beautifully into place, and in mid-September, a few days before my course began, I took the massive flight to the southern hemisphere.

My friend Jill had helped me prepare for the trip and was my first contact once I arrived. After a few days of settling into my new home and working through the jet lag, we spent a lovely girls' weekend meeting the local critters on Phillip Island. Penguins! In real life!!





Sunday I attended church in one of the friendliest wards ever, and Monday I ventured out to my first day of class.

My classmates were fascinating, and I found instant friends that I would have never predicted. Through our lessons and discussions, I felt over and over how much I was in the right place at the right moment. Especially when facilitating a class! I felt so at home with those students from everywhere, with their at-once heartbreaking and inspiring stories.





Everything came together perfectly during my stay, from the course to my hilarious and interesting classmates to warm church experiences to the perfect housing situation. Not to mention that my housemate for the month was among the kindest people I have ever known, and is now a dear friend. It was like I had been perfectly guided to Melbourne. I loved it all! There is so much history and culture, with great food and lots to see and do. It felt very European but with all the right North American twists to make me feel right at home.



After so much fell apart over the previous months, I cannot tell you how humble and grateful I felt for every day in that place!! I found so much peace and felt so many simple joys flooding back into my life as I met fascinating new people and wandered the streets of that city. It felt like getting to know myself again - and yet I also became more confident than I had ever been - in a calm, content way. I found myself walking home at night with a huge smile on my face over the smallest things! I would sit in church reflecting on all the amazing goodness in my life and feel this beautiful sense of peace and joy fill my heart. I felt like I was finding my soul again and it was being filled to the brim with blessings!! And it still blows my mind that the entire thing from first idea to stepping on the plane happened in just 6 weeks. A-MAZ-ING.

The ensuing travels and adventures only added to the wonderful things I am still learning about myself, and I'll tell more about that another day. The personal journey I took over theses precious, amazing, unexpected months was more than I could have hoped for and exactly what I needed. Who knew that it would take so many failed attempts to stop fighting for my logical plan, and give in and let God lead me?

So that's the story! Nothing at all like what I was planning for my life! Clearly, the Lord has other plans for me... And I am certainly not complaining :)

There are more awesome things in the works, but all that will come in good time. I certainly have learned a lot about patience this year! And I am so grateful for it! I have learned to just step back, enjoy and make the most of the moments and places I am in. And I have gained a whole new appreciation for the carefully crafted plan my Father in Heaven has for me. It was not always be easy, but life in His hands is filled with love, light, joy and adventure. We just have to trust His guidance through the winding roads and storms along the way ;)

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Almost...

I was going to get married today.

After so many years of dating and trying and breaking hearts and having my heart broken and failing and trying again, I was going to get married.

At least for a few weeks I thought I would.

But, clearly, I am not getting married today, nor any time in the foreseeable future.

And many people are asking. “Why not?” and “What happened?” Many others are wondering the same, but are too polite or shy to ask. Now that I have had some time to think about it, I suppose it’s time to clear the air.

Please know that this is simply my side of the story. I cannot speak for Andrew, nor do I mean to villainize him at all. We are both adults and were willing participants in this misadventure. He is a really great guy and was incredibly kind throughout the learning process.

Before I go further, I need to explain something. I grew up learning, and believe deeply in the doctrine taught by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We believe that the marriage of a man and woman, and the family it begins, are among the greatest aspirations and most precious possessions we can have in this life. Marriage to me is about partnership. It is about finding your literal “best friend forever,” someone who will love you for exactly who you are while still encouraging you to become better every day. Marriage is about committing to spending the ups and down and sideways flipturns of life with one person, for the rest of forever.

Spencer W. Kimball, the prophet and president of our church from 1973 to 1985, once said, “Almost any good man and any good woman can have happiness and a successful marriage if both are willing to pay the price.” (find more of his comments here, if you're interested)

The older I get, the more I lean on my faith for direction in my life. And the older I get, with fewer dating options, I have tried to not be too picky about those I date. I didn’t want to miss out on a good man because of my preconceptions. So I had pretty much narrowed down my needs to two simple things: I needed a man who I could connect with spiritually and be able discuss my faith with; someone committed in their own faith and respectful of mine, with whom I could continue to grow spiritually. So spiritual connection. Secondly, I needed honest, open conversation, and lots of it. Talking is not only how you get to know a person, it’s how you build trust, work through the issues that arise, and teach each other. For me it means connection, feeling valued and respected, and mutual sharing. So maybe I'll call it intellectual/emotional connection.

When I met Andrew, those two elements were there immediately. In our very first phone conversation we both shared personal experiences and our feelings about our faith. He spoke very frankly and honestly and I did too. In the first week, though we had scarcely spent five or six hours in each other’s presence, we had spent nearly a dozen hours on the phone - in equally-sharing, honest, and varied conversation. I thought, if this is how it’s going to be forever, sign me up! A good man, with a strong commitment to living his faith, being completely honest, and learning about and with me. Awesome!

So I took one ginormous leap of faith and got engaged to a man I hardly knew, after only one week.
People have been known to do crazier things, right? Especially in our church! Both of our parents had gotten engaged after very brief courtships. We had enough faith to make it work, right?

I honestly thought the spiritual and intellectual connection were all I needed. Everything about our individual circumstances seemed to line up perfectly. It seemed like so many things had been orchestrated to put us together. And with a prophet telling me that any two people could make a marriage work, I was willing to take the plunge and do just that.

However, after spending most of the first two weeks of our relationship apart (with an engagement in between), the excitement of the reunion was extremely short-lived. Even just spending a full day together, I noticed things that felt strange, and even awkward. He would behave in ways or make comments about things that surprised me. It wasn't awful, but it seemed inconsistent with the man I had been mostly talking to all this time - this “voice on the phone.” The scariest part was that I just wasn't really attracted to him. I felt insecure and annoyed with the whole thing. But I had no idea why!

I huge pit formed in my stomach from that first night back together. I felt so shallow and superficial. How could I be put-off by the physical presence of a person I had grown so close to and cared so deeply about??? And the things is, he is not unattractive! He is a handsome man! It wasn't really about his appearance, yet that was the first way this apprehension manifested itself, and I felt horrible. Had I made a mistake….?

As the days progressed and we spent more time together, the pit would not go away. I blamed it on exhaustion, illness, and hormones. I talked to my parents, my dearest friends, and I prayed. Boy did I pray! Like every waking minute that I wasn't talking to another human being, I was talking to God. In fact, I kind of yelled at him a few times… (Don’t worry, I apologized later) I was just so confused! How could something that felt so incredibly right and happy and wonderful, now feel so devastatingly miserable?!?

We talked through my anxieties from the first time they appeared. I tried to just choose faith and work through my fears, and we had some fun and happy moments along the way, but overall I knew something was “off.” I don’t really know how else to describe it. Our relationship just wasn't right.

I felt guilty for not being as dedicated as he was, for even having doubts at all. I began to question my ability to receive and hear answers to my prayers, like I had unknowingly done something to push away the heavenly guidance I had relied so heavily upon my whole life.

When we were together I felt smothered. When we were apart again, I didn't miss him. The pressure of our engagement was horrible and making both of us act strangely. The wedding plans I had been waiting my whole life to make suddenly gave me panic attacks to even think about.


I wanted to be excited about getting married! And not just the event, but the fact that I would get to build the rest of my forever with one wonderful man! I wanted to wake up thinking about him, and miss him when we were apart. I didn't want to get married simply because I had an opportunity to. I wanted to want it.

But I just didn't. And I couldn't understand why or how I could go from one extreme to another so quickly.

So we talked through it and tried to just date. I went to the temple, prayed more, received an amazing priesthood blessing filled with precious, personal counsel, and talked more with my dear ones. Again there were some happy moments along the way, but I did not feel what I needed to feel to commit to forever. I wanted to love him with my whole heart, not halfway.

My parents told me to stop over-thinking it and just enjoy the romance and the whimsy. It took me a while to realize it, but the thing is... we didn't have any. We made a choice to get married based on an unspoken check list of qualities, and a whole lot of blind faith. But there was no real romance or "falling in love" involved. And I realized that wasn't enough for me.

At first Andrew struggled with that. He tried so hard, and make grand gestures that should have made my heart melt, but I felt nothing but guilt. He wanted to fight for me, he wanted to change, and work together to make it work. Seriously, he was incredible! But after more contemplation and much more conversation, he finally understood, and then explained to me what my anxiety had been telling me all along. We simply do not match.

He has the type of personality that just gets enough information to act, and doesn't need any more. So as soon as we were engaged, the deeper, probing questions stopped. Our conversations became imbalanced. He was content to have found a good potential wife and then go ahead and plan for forever. He kind of even forgot about me and my needs along the way - his words, not mine. Meanwhile, I was feeling undervalued and disconnected because of the lack of sharing conversation. 

A number of other factors in our respective approaches and experiences in relationships also contributed to our incompatibility. Really, no matter how much faith we had, we couldn't fake what wasn't there. I couldn't love him the way he truly deserves to be loved, and he couldn't be what I needed. All the good intentions in the world couldn't "fix" it. And really, with such a new relationship, we shouldn't have had to work so hard just to function from so early one. Isn't it supposed to be fun?!

And I guess that’s the key. When President Kimball promised “happiness and a successful marriage” he said IF they “pay the price.” I am fully aware that marriage brings challenges. Especially for this chica, who has gotten very good at being alone. However I also completely believe that relationships should develop naturally, and be enjoyable as well as exciting. That success shouldn't be forced, but guided and pursued together.

So as it turns out, I do need more than a spiritual and intellectual connection. I need chemistry, sparks, attraction, whatever you want to call it. I need romance! I need a personality that can "click" with mine. I want to be genuinely twitter-pated on my wedding day! I want to marry my favorite guy on the planet!! I want to look forward to grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, road trips, and raising babies with a man I just can’t get enough of - even when he is driving me crazy or calling me out on my crap. I want to spend our lives learning about each other, teaching one another, sharing our stories, our faith, dreams, fears, brilliant thoughts, crazy ideas, and insecurities. I want to argue and work through differences, then have fun making up and starting again. I want to learn patience and respect and empathy, together.

And I really truly believe it is possible to find that.

But it’s not because I have been fooled by too many romantic comedies or been blinded by trashy young adult literature (which I don’t read, by the way). It is because I have experienced it! I know that kind of love exists because I have felt it! I have dated some truly amazing men. Men who made me feel valued and beautiful and funny and strong, even when I was completely hormonal, emotional and straight up crazy. Men that were such awesome friends to me that I still kind of miss them. Men that made me feel like a partner, like we were part of an amazing team - for whatever length of time we spent together. And though none of those relationships worked out for the long haul - for a myriad of reasons - I have felt, in tiny glimpses and beautiful moments, the way I want to feel when I get married. Not to mention that I have seen it, in the dedicated husbands and wonderful relationships of my friends. It IS possible! It does exist!! And gosh darn it, I want it, and am willing to wait for it.

And that is why I did not get married today. Because both Andrew and I deserve that kind of love in our lives. 

Honestly, I don’t think it was a mistake to get engaged. We took a risk, a leap of faith. We tried. We both learned things in that accelerated learning environment that we couldn't have learned otherwise.  It made us face things we might not have in a slower progression. So no, it wasn't a mistake to get engaged, but it would definitely have been a mistake to get married. Even when all the outside factors line up, what really matters is internal compatibility, and we just didn't have it.


We have both needed some space to work through all this and deal with the loss, but I hope we can be friends someday. And I wish him nothing but the best. He is such a good man with a huge heart and I have no doubt that he will make someone incredibly happy someday.

I admit that I feel pretty lost right now, and there are a lot of things in my life that I am unsure of, but this I do know: At the end of the day, your spouse should be the most important person in the world, and that is not something I want to force or compromise on. Though it isn't easy, I will wait, continue clinging to hope, and praying to find the right guy for me - then work like crazy to keep him when I do.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The really truly actual honest-to-goodness dealio

So, apparently I have some explaining to do. Please forgive me for today, but the timing was so perfect, I just couldn't resist! And fortunately, my fiancé thinks I'm hilarious, so I'm set ;)

I'll go more into more detail in another post for any who are interested, but for now, here's the short explanation:

A couple weeks ago my friend introduced me to a wonderful man. He called me looking for activity planning ideas, and the conversation just kept rolling. Over the week that followed we talked for 2-3 hours every day in a completely open and honest manner about all sorts of random things both trivial and deeply personal. He may be even more blunt than I am. I know, right?! So refreshing!

He said things I've always hoped to hear from a man. He understood me in ways only my dear friends do. And he loved all my random quirks and whims and fancies - after only a week of knowing me!

I was just being myself! Completely unabridged. He was too. And because we were willing to let go of our doubts and insecurities and defensive tactics to talk openly about any and every topic that came up, we grew closer in that time than I had ever imagined possible. 

Our plans lined up. I looked forward to and enjoyed the times we talked but didn't pine for it or get distracted from my work. In fact, with all those hours on the phone and very little sleep, it was incredible how productive I was still able to be. Divine assistance, I’m telling you.

So after spending a week trying not to freak out about our perfectly aligned goals and ambitions, and the way his smooth, deep voice just calmed my soul... the next time we got together became the day we got engaged! It was like a power above and beyond us was perfectly coordinating our lives, then handed it all over and said, “Here you go. What do you want to do with this?”

We talked about these amazing feelings, about our amazing week, and about God's hand in our lives. He said something about how God lines up blessings and opportunities in our lives and it's up to us to act and take the leap of faith. And then it happened.

I said, “Let’s do this.” He said, “Marry me.” And then put his grandmother’s ring on my hand.

And I busted up laughing. The joy just overflowed! I couldn't help it!!


And yes, my logical brain was freaking out and saying it was happening too fast, but my heart and soul and everything around me was filled with the most exhilarating joy, peace, and happiness! I never thought it was possible to feel so much goodness at once, especially in regards to a person I hadn't known very long. But I couldn't deny it! As I looked into his kind, teary eyes that day, I felt more light, hope and pure joy than ever before. I knew it was right, that this was the best man I could ever hope for - and I just couldn't stop! 

So there you have it. I know this is incredibly fast, totally crazy, and completely unexpected, but it is also exciting and good and so amazingly happy!!


And though I have had a few moments of panic hit me since then, every time I talk about it, or talk to him, or see his face, I feel that excited calm and happiness all over again. And that is enough to help me step forward in faith and start building my forever with my new favorite guy. 

They say "when you know, you know" which I always thought was an overused cliché! And I cannot deny the overwhelming, completely unique way I feel about Andrew and this whole situation. However, this is still my choice. Love is a choice. In whatever form it comes into our lives, we must choose to accept, pursue, or embrace it. There will always be questions of other people or possibilities or what-ifs, so we must choose where to put our heart, and move forward. I am ready for this next, precious step in my progression, with this man, at this time. So even though all things are already pointing to this, I also choose this. I choose him.

It is a huge paradigm shift for a flirty girl who has become a pro at being single! And yet, I know that God is in this. I may have moments of nervousness, but overall I just know that it will be okay. In fact, it will be wonderful! He is a good man, living in the best way he knows. I am trying to do the same. And as we put our trust in God, and keep up this amazing flow of communication, we will become even happier and healthier and better people - both as individuals and together. Watch out world!! I'm joining forces with a dynamo and things are about to get exponentially more awesome!!

So much LOVE!!!
My ring!

It's even prettier up close!

p.s. Andrew also has a darling daughter from a previous marriage. Her name is Emma, she is 5, and she thinks I'm a princess :) Those who know me well can probably imagine just how excited I am to become a part of her world.

p.p.s.We are getting married in the Edmonton Alberta Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on June 27 (check out the link!). Rocking party to follow :)

Monday, June 30, 2014

alone

The funny thing about being single is that everyone seems to have some sort of commentary on your existence.

"It'll happen when you stop thinking about it/looking for it/waiting, etc"
"You just have to sit still long enough for a man to catch you!"
"Don't worry, there's always the next life."
"You just have to put yourself out there."
"You're too good for these guys."
etc....

And as much as I would love to stop thinking about my singleness, I am constantly reminded both by the well-meaning questions of others, and the plans I make for this "Party of One."

I realize that this is the logical next step in my life according to my family and church culture. Trust me, I'd love to take it! But for some reason, the opportunity to marry has never come my way. I have dated plenty and even experienced love, so I have no room to complain - but that also means being hurt plenty and experiencing loss and heartache. My sister recently commented that love and affection cause similar feelings to heroin-induced highs. So with all my experience I am now basically like a drug addict going through withdrawals. Awesome.

I know at least half of this undertaking is within my realm of control, so I try to make an effort without obsessing over it. Over the years I have read books, attended singles activities and conferences, gone on blind dates, listened to talks and motivational speakers, dated both within and outside my church, and even tried online dating.

Fail, fail, fail.

However as I reflected recently on my dating and relationship experience, I began to recognize a pattern. It is one that I have been repeating for years, and by all indications, has done me much more harm than good. In fact this habit may actually be undermining my ability to build and hold onto a quality relationship.

It's rather pathetic, really. It seems that, in the absence of a good man in my life, I grab a hold of whatever nearest semblance comes my way. I long so much for male companionship and validation, that I cling to whatever version of it I can find - justifying things I would never allow my friends to do and putting up with things I never would in my right mind. Yep, little Miss Independent is actually Little Miss Rationalization.

Now before my loved ones freak-out, let me assure you that I still keep all the promises I have made with God. However, I have not made it easy on myself. I think I have wanted a real, loving, lasting relationship so badly and for so long, that I have been willing to put up with a series of 'almost' and 'half-way' relationships just to ease the ache. These interactions fed my ego and satisfied a tiny fraction of my desire to love and be loved, but I realize now that they were incomplete. I yearned so much to be one half of a pair that I would tolerate less than I really wanted, needed, or deserved.

To quote a favorite chick flick: "I'm a magnet for unavailable men!" (The Wedding Planner). I can't count the times I have been hit on and even pursued by married, or otherwise "claimed" men. Some managed to avoid that subject with me, while others insisted that, "it isn't serious," or that they were, "still seeing other people" or simply, "it's complicated." I have been asked out and even gone on dates with guys who were in relationships with other people, based on these weak rationale. In many cases I knew something was off but I wasn't willing to let go of the attention until the truth smacked me in the face.

On the other end of things, I have also been the '"friend" - who was so much more than just a friend. The first one they call for moral support as soon as they break up with the girl of their dreams - but the one they ignored for months when things are going well. I've been the one they vented to about all the frustrations, hurt, and lack of support in their relationship, yet they still went home to her every night. I'm the one they just love so much and think is so amazing, but not amazing enough for any sort of legitimate commitment.

Sometimes their nonavailability was simply due to poor timing or sheer logistics. In my frequent and widespread travels I have a often met great guys during a week-long stay, or right before moving on to the next adventure. In those cases, I fully acknowledged the geographic challenges and my own choices that made things challenging. And yet, even then I somehow believed that a brief little romance could become so much more so I threw myself into it, only to be disappointed again. They weren't up for taking chances on the long-term, only the momentary pleasures along the way.

I was so desperate for affection, attention, and validation that I was willing to put up with these half-assed excuses for relationships, just to have a man's presence in my world - albeit sporadic and often inappropriate. (Please forgive the cussing, but no other adjective is accurate!) And when they weren't available when I needed that comfort and companionship, I felt the loneliness and insecurities pile up even worse than when I was actually on my own. But the thing is, they were never really mine to count on or turn to.

Which leads me to the question: How on earth does a confident and independent gal like myself find herself in such a pathetic and powerless position? What was I thinking?!? Who was I trying to kid?! I made so many excuses for conversations I shouldn't have had and situations I shouldn't have been in.  I was emotionally invested in an imaginary situation. Somehow I thought that one day, in some magical dream world, one of these guys was going to see the light and come running into my arms! Yet, even if they did, is that the kind of man and relationship I want? One that started with deception and heartbreak for someone else?

A few months ago I started to recognize this unhealthy pattern in my life. I can't believe it took me so long! Why didn't someone slap me and tell me how stupid I was being?! Clearly I was too comfortable with this pattern to recognize the harm it was doing. Maybe my nomadic lifestyle helped me hide my bad habits...?

Either way, I thank heaven for my personal moral standards. I have been protected and guided in spite of my mistakes and weaknesses. Fortunately I have never allowed myself to have a full-on relationship in these questionable situations, but I certainly allowed my thoughts to wander there a few times, and a part of me really wanted it to happen.

But once I recognized the pattern and came to my senses, I knew it had to stop. Not only was I making it harder for myself to find and commit to a real relationship, but I was contributing to the decay of others' relationships. I was living life on the crumbs instead of holding out for the feast! It was time to give up this fantasy world of minuscule moments of validation and fleeting affection, in order to open myself to the possibilities of a whole-hearted, sincere, committed, REAL relationship.

Now as you may have guessed, clearing out the closet of wannabe relationships and sorry excuses makes a lot of empty room. I will freely admit that it has been a tough road to go alone. Along with giving up those bits of support and friendly validation, I had to cut off the emotional sustenance I had relied on from these exchanges. I had to be willing to let go of those fleeting and inconsistent benefits in order to dump the trust issues, jealousy, insecurity, hurt, confusion, loneliness, anger, and misery of so many empty promises, vain professions and unfulfilled expectations.

Talk about ripping off a bandage to expose a gaping wound. Ouch.

It has not been an easy process. Just recognizing what I had been doing to myself all this time is painful and humiliating. Over the past few months I've also been personally attacked and criticized for a variety of my perceived mistakes and weaknesses. Funny how the critics seem to come out of the woodwork when you are most vulnerable... Cutting off the communications I had come to cherish, and pushing away the ones I claimed to love were difficult and ugly moments. It still makes me a little sad. I didn't want to, but I did it anyway. I knew I had to clear out the unhealthy relationships to make room for the mere possibility of something real and complete.

I'm learning to just be alone.

On my own.

No pretending or rationalizing or dishonesty.

It was a harsh contrast at first. I've cried more than a few times, and more than once wanted to cave to old habits and run back to an artificial embrace. Instead, I turned to God.

My Heavenly Father is the one who knows me and my eternal potential better than anyone. He is the only man who has and will always be completely there for me, the one who will never desert or forget me. He has forgiven me and loved me and guided me through so many dark moments. I am learning to fully place my faith and trust in Him and His promises.

I've also found strength in the counsel, support and examples of wonderful women - and not just "You go girl" and other generic validation (Thank you Brené Brown, Liz Gilbert, Kjersti, Heather, and so many others!). I am learning to work through my issues instead of ignoring them. I am learning to value and take care of myself because I am worth it, and not simply because a man will want me more. I'm working on controlling my reactions and carefully choosing my words. I'm enjoying my long hair because I like it and it makes me FEEL beautiful - not because men like it better that way. I'm taking responsibility for my own happiness!

Honestly, this decision has be painful. It is rough and aggravating and discouraging at times - sometimes right in the midst of feeling stronger and healthier. I still have moments of aching, confusing loneliness. But I'm okay!

I'm still plugging along, working on standing on my own two feet (with heavenly support beams!). This singular struggle is far from over, but it is possible. It is within my control. And it is entirely my own - a type of clarifying, divine discipline.

I don't remember the last time I felt God so real and close in my life. I don't remember ever feeling so weak and yet so independent and strong at the same time. I am learning to love myself, thoroughly, without anyone else telling me why I should. I am also seeing my weaknesses more clearly than I ever have, which has not only humbled me, but has helped me focus my efforts on changing and improving those things. (Ether 12:27 anyone?)

And the best part is that even if I never find my "other half," by living this way and relying upon my heavenly guide, I am already whole - alone, in a crowd or otherwise.


Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bbbbbbirthday!!!

“The year you were born marks only your entry into the world. Other years where you prove your worth, they are the ones worth celebrating. 
” 
― Jarod KintzThis Book Title is Invisible


For the past year I have been an utter failure at blogging. The good news is that I was a pretty amazing success at living! I am beyond grateful for the experiences I had in that one, fascinating year. As the author quoted above said, I feel like it is a year worth celebrating! I don't suppose I changed the world, but I might have influenced a few people for the better, and I know that my own world was definitely altered. Hopefully this next year I will improve on sharing the lessons and adventure from this wonderful life of mine!

An even more exciting reason to celebrate, is the year that lies ahead! It is full of so much delicious unknown! And so many amazing adventures are already in the works! I have this incredible knack for never knowing where I will be in a year - and yet I always seem to get to where I need to be :) I have no doubt that this 32nd year in my existence will turn out similarly, and I am leaping forward into the many wonderful possibilities that come from trusting God and enjoying the moments. I've set goals, I'm discovering new dreams, and I'm reclaiming my health, happiness and independence.... at least that's my aim. Can't hurt to dream big right?!

It seems that today is the perfect day to jump back on the blogging wagon, so that I can share the incredible joy I feel in my heart right now. This is the best birthday I have had in years - not defined by the events, or even the people I have shared it with, but by how completely loved and blessed and happy I feel. I know good things are in store, and yet I have everything I need, right here and now.

It truly is a very happy birthday for me!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The big 3-1

An new day, a new year.

I hope to write about my past year when I have a little more time (yes, I know, don't hold your breath), but for now let me tell you just how happy I am to welcome in January 2013! This month brings the first of many adventures awaiting me this year, specifically with student teaching. But more importantly, it's my birth month!

And as a member of a singles ward of my church, now is the time I "transition" out of going to church with other young single people, and start going with the rest of the members in a family ward. I will no longer be considered a "young single adult," I'll be just a "single adult." Automatically old at 31. (Mind you, this won't officially happen till I graduate in a few months, it still has me thinking...)

For many, this is a difficult time as you try to find your place among the happy families and older couples while reconciling the solitude of your situation. It can feel like you've been labeled or are now officially "old." But you know what? I'm not even worried!

If I learned anything from 2012, I learned that age is relative, and I am truly the designer of my own happiness. As long as I do all the things I need to to take care of myself physically, spiritually, and emotionally, I surround myself with good people, and keep busy progressing towards worthwhile goals, I am happy! And quite frankly, I feel young, alive and fabulous!!
So in honor of this lovely milestone in my chronological existence, I've decided to give myself a gift every day of January 2013. Mind you, since I am still a broke student, most of these gifts will be experiences or other non-tangible gifts. I'll have to get creative!

I figure that the best gift I can give myself, and the world for that matter is to become the happiest, healthiest person I can be, and then to share my many blessings with everyone I meet. And I know that happiness begins one day at a time. I have a filled a lifetime with good and not-so-great days, and now it is time to take control and make each day happy in celebration of the wonderful gift of life I have been given.

31 days for 31 years. Nice, huh? :)