Saturday, June 23, 2012

When in Rome: Day 1

---When I went to Europe as a teenager I didn't keep a travel journal. I only took pictures and figured they would be good enough memories for me to remember where I went and what I did. But it has been 6 years since I went and a lot of my memories have faded and I am so mad I didn't keep a journal because now I don't know what a lot of the pictures are of. So for my Europe blog posts they will be pretty detailed and probably boring. But this is one experience I want to remember forever. So lots of pictures and random thoughts... :)----

Wednesday June 20th and Thursday June 21st

Our trip began at JFK airport. When we boarded the plane I was surprised with how long it was. It felt like it took forever to get to my seat. Mike and I sat together and I was surprised at how claustrophobic I felt sitting between the window and Mike. I am pretty sure the seats were smaller than other airlines I have flown.

I took benadyrl and my plan was to sleep the whole time. I did a pretty good job at it too. I woke up only to eat my free meal (Mike and I were both surprised about that.)
After dinner I watched "The Vow." I cried through the whole thing. 

Our trip began at JFK airport. When we boarded the plane I was surprised with how long it was. It felt like it took forever to get to my seat. Mike and I sat together and I was surprised at how claustrophobic I felt sitting between the window and Mike. I am pretty sure the seats were smaller than other airlines I have flown.

I took benadyrl and my plan was to sleep the whole time. I did a pretty good job at it too. I woke up only to eat my free meal (Mike and I were both surprised about that.)
After dinner I watched "The Vow." I cried through the whole thing. 

The first part of exploring was kind of defeating as the streets don't have street signs like the ones we have in America, they are etched into the sides of the buildings. So finding the name of the street was hard. Finding the street on the map we have was almost impossible. We found the Trevi Fountain only because our hotel in a 2 min walk from it. Finding the spanish steps was a little more challenging. Finally I told Mike we needed to eat something so we sat down at the first place we saw. When he took our drink orders we forgot to ask for tap water so we got it in a bottle which costed us 7.00 Euro... Mike was in shock when we saw that on the bill. So at diner we made sure we asked for tap water. For lunch we shared some pasta cardanaro and a margarita pizza. 

After lunch we grabbed our first geloto of the trip and boy was it delicious!!

We then found our way to the Spanish Steps where we were worked over by a local. He handed me flowers, told me to keep it, took pictures of Mike and I then demanded 5 euro for his flowers and services. I kept one flower and gave the rest back and he still made me give him 2 euro. Ridiculous! We walked up the steps (maybe a little panting was done, it was 99 degrees and humid ok!)

We roamed around Borrguse Park for several hours. We tried to get the free wifi the signs talked about but didn't have any luck! We also cooled off our feet in a pretty fountain. It was a much needed cool down as the weather here is so hot! 

After a while we decided we were tired of walking so we got a cab to take us to  Piazza Navona. It was really a lively and fun place. People were everywhere doing so many different things. There were street performers, singing, dancing, dressed up in fancy ball gowns, people painted to look like statues. The piazza was lined with patio resturance, just a really cool European vibe. 

After people watching for a while we got out our Rick Steve's guide book to find a place to eat dinner. We found a great one just down the street. I was happy that the food was reasonably priced. We got pasta, a ham and cheese calzone, bruschetta and drinks all for 23 Euros. With the exchange rate that is probably $30(is) that is really good for us. When we go to a "cheap" place at home it is usually at least $35. The food was delicious as you could imagine and I was stuffed by the time we were done.

After dinner it was dusk so we decided to do a little but of Rick Steve's night walk. We walked to the Pantheon, which was really, really cool. We got out my iPod that I had downloaded some Rick Steve's walking tours on and listened to him tell us about the Pantheone. I didn't realize that it was first built in 70  B.C. and then rebuilt in 120 A.D. That is a pretty old building. The colosseum was build in like 400 A.D. and it isn't in nearly as good shape. Anyways since it was night we got great pictures but weren't able to go inside.

So we enjoyed the Piazza for a while then headed to the Trevie Fountain. I thought maybe at night it would be less crowded for some reason. I was wrong. It was packed!!! So many more people than when we were there in the day. We fought the crowd to take some pictures then treated ourselves to some more gelato. Having my favorite Italian treat in front of my favorite Italian Monument was the perfect way to end my First day in rome!

 Having my favorite Italian treat in front of my favorite Italian Monument was the perfect way to end my First day in rome!

(Our Hotel- Just a 2 minute walk from the Trevi Fountain)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Butterflies & Daughters

Today is Fathers Day. This means it is only fitting to brag on my STUD of a father. Not only is he still pole vaulting at least 10ft at the age of 50+ but my dad is really smart... I say this because he spent over 30 years of his life in school. :) 13 years of K-12, 4 years Undergrad, 8 years Doctorate of Nutrition, 4 years of medical school and 3 years of residency which is like Med school applied in the real world. I admire his determination and perseverance to keep going even when things didn't go his way in his schooling. He worked hard to provide for his family. He did all of this with young children at home. But when he came home from school, work and church obligations he still found time to play doll house, give me baths and act like I was the queen of the kingdom, tell me bedtime stories, have family home evening, read and explain the teachings in the Book of Mormon, teach me how to throw a baseball, build a tire swing in the backyard, go to our little league games, go to the pool, take us for ice cream at UDF, teach me how to ride a two wheeler and so, so much more. He always did the best HE could and I have many tender, loving memories of my childhood because of him (and of course my mother too, but that goes with out saying.)

My dad LOVES music. This is one of the things we both really love and connect with. He can listen to a song he knows and tell you where he was, what he was wearing and what was going on in his life when he first heard that song. I am similar as many songs take me back to the place where I first heard them. I remember the first time I heard the song "Butterfly Kisses" on the radio It was the summer and I was 10 years old. I was in the car with my mom driving into downtown Columbus. We were going to meet my Dad at the hospital where he was working then we were all going to go to some festival in downtown. I heard the song an as I listened to the lyrics (as I always do) tears streamed down my face as I thought of my dad. I thought of all the games we played when we were little, I thought about what it would be like when I turned 16 and how I was sure I would look just like my mom as the song suggested. Then I thought about my wedding would be someday and how special that day would be. In the temple ceremony a father doesn't walk his daughter down an aisle I always imagines the daddy/daughter dance and how special that moment would be for us. With tears still rolling down my checks as the song ended I decided that would be the song my Dad and I danced to at my wedding. I told my dad about that song and it instantly became "our song."( In fact I get defensive if my sister mentioned dancing with my dad to it at her wedding.)

The day I left for college I was a mess. I cried the whole plane ride to utah and I cried myself to sleep that night. I couldn't even talk to my family that night because I would just cry and no words would come out I was so homesick. I remember my dad telling me it was ok because the morning I left he was driving to work and our song Butterfly Kisses came on the radio. He said he had to pull over to the side of the road he was crying so hard. He couldn't believe how fast I had grown up and all he could think about were those memories we made together when I was a little girl. He told me he loved me and he was proud of me. It made me miss him even more. 

That year when I came home for christmas he gave each of us kids a special gift. He wrote us all a poem an framed it for us. Mine was called "Butterflies and Daughters" Luckily grandma was there to get a picture of him reading it to me for the first time... as you can see I was crying... that is a theme with me. 

Butterflies and Daughters

Two of the finest creations found on earth are
Butterflies and Daughters, both have great worth.
One quietly matures in nature's safe care,
The other in a home with family all there.
Butterflies grow quietly, encases for none to see
But watch closely, daughters grow just as quickly.

Like the flight of the butterfly, my daughter has left
The warmth and the safety of her own family nest.
How beautifully she sails through sunlit skies,
Now and then landing softly, right before our eyes.

My daughter began much like the butterfly,
But now fleets and flickers in the clear blue sky.
Stronger and matured she can't be forced back,
Fond memories of home and love she'll not lack.

As the years start to race and I think of the past
I remember my butterfly daughter at last.
What happiness and pride now swells in my chest
When my butterfly daughter returns to the nest.

Love and Butterfly Kisses,

I have kept that poem in a special place ever since I got it. It is such a treasure. When my dad and I sign a card to each other we always sign it love and BK (butterfly kisses) I love that we have "our own little thing." Almost four years ago I had that special moment with my dad on the dance floor. All eyes were on us and we didn't want to cry, but knew if we listened to the words we would both be a mess in front of everyone. So we laughed and made jokes through the first two verses but the third verse, the one that talks about the little girls wedding we listened to. I think we both fought of the tears as long as we could but it was such a special moment that I will remember forever. Another memory of a song engrained into my mind forever.

Happy Fathers Day Daddy!!! Thanks for a childhood full of love, laughter, happy memories, "hugs in the morning and butterfly kisses at night." You are a Stud! I love you!
Love and BK,
Your butterfly daughter!

The Odd Couple

 Winter 2009
Fall 2011
Summer 2012
(The night before the Johnson's moved)

Good Best friends are hard to come by. Which is why I am so bummed to see mine move to the other side of the country! I feel like I make friends easily enough. However,  I am super inwardly shy. I have to force myself to talk to people sometimes and I am constantly finding reasons why someone is "cooler" than me or might not want to be my friend. I know it is ridiculous and silly but it is true. I can have some major self confidence issues when it comes to making friends. (I think some of that is scars left over from high school?)

This is why for me it was nice that when I moved out to CT I was almost "forced" into some friendships.  I wasn't really forced, but Mike was already friends with the Stoke and the Johnson's were friends with the Stokes so we were all just friends together. Which was  wonderful because I loved them. But Cynda and I like to think of it as "forced friends." 

There was a small group of us that spent a lot of late weekend nights playing games, watching TV and talking.  We went on weekend trips together, had BBQ's, picnics at the beach and that sort of thing. Then the Moffit's moved, and then the Stokes moved and then it was just Cynda and I left of this group of friends that had been like family to us. 

Of course we made new friends who I love dearly but Cynda and I spent a lot of time together. She got called into Young Women's and for a while she was my advisor and we worked closely together. The girls thought it was weird at first that we were such good friends. They thought we were a pretty "odd couple" and they were right. We are pretty different. Cynda is gentle, softer spoken, kind and tall. I am a little louder (my classroom voice gets the best of me), I have a stronger personality (thank you mother), I come off a little harder to people (but only because I am usually so nervous of what other people are thinking of me while I am talking, I can't calm myself down well enough to be gentle) and I am a good 8 inches shorter than her, which makes taking picture standing up awkward. 

Even though we were an odd couple she still somehow became one of the best friends I have ever had. I could be myself and not worry about what she was thinking of me. I could wear my Pj's, fuzzy socks and baggy t-shirts and she would only make fun of me a little ;-) She listened to all of problems, concerns and fears and gave me awesome advise. She even told me when I was being stupid about things, which I love. We always have a lot to laugh about when we are together, and usually it is ourselves. 

I know we will stay good friends, even with the distance. I also know this isn't the last time I will have such a close friend. But I thought a friendship like this deserved a written place in my personal history. Best Friendships take time. They don't happen over night or even over the course of a year. I know with time I will make more best friends, and I can't wait. Because best friends really are the BEST! 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Kirtland - Youth Conference 2012

Last Friday night I set out on my 72 hour journey as a chaperone for Youth Conference. We took 185 youth, 40 leaders, 4 charter buses and a lot of food with us to Kirtland, Ohio and back. In the beginning I was looking at it with the attitude of "I am giving my time to serve the youth." By the end of the trip my attitude was "I have been truly blessed and uplifted because I was able to come on this trip." It was one of the coolest trips I've ever taken.

Friday night we checked the youth in, feed them dinner, broke them into teams, played get to know you games, made a team flag, cheer and moto,  practiced our theme song, listened to a talk then loaded the buses and pulled out at 11:30PM! We slept on the bus, that part was yucky. I lucked out and at least had my own seat, but that only made sleeping a little easier.


Saturday was more of a blur since I was so tired. We arrived, unpacked, ate had a morning side then began touring. We visited the Morely and Johnson farms. The Johnson farm is where Joseph Smith was tarred and feathered. It also is home to the "revelation room" one of the few places that we know Christ has appeared in this dispensation of time. The feeling in that room was so overwhelming and powerful. It was just so neat. That was the day I spent with my family. Although later that night I did have a pretty cool experience that some would look at as simple but it was powerful to me and hopefully my YW. One of my YW, who is shy and quiet lost her iphone. She was really upset and flustered. After doing a quick scan I knew it was going to be hard to find. But I had a thought "make this a teaching moment." So I said "Glendy, we need to say a pray and have faith that the Lord will help us find it." She was really nervous to pray and even asked for my help. After we prayer we went back to work. We looked for 10 minutes and I was getting nervous, it was dark and there were a lot of people but mostly because I needed her prayer to be answered so that she could have that experience with prayer. Finally the phone was found, I was so happy, as was she. The I said "Glendy when Heavenly Father answers a prayer we must thank Him immediately." So she said another prayer. It was beautiful and simple and yet so powerful.

That same night two other YW in my ward lost an earring (and even smaller thing to find.) They also knelt down to say a prayer and in less than 30 seconds the earring was found. It is by these small and simple things that great testimonies of our Father's love are forged.

I almost had to crawl on all four legs to get into bed that night, I was really THAT tired!

Sunday was my favorite day. We went to a grove/park area by Kirtland. President Checkets said a few words, then our the Bishop of each ward addressed His Youth. After that everyone was given a little packet with storied about people who lived in Kirtland and questions about the readers spirituality. The next 45 min all the youth spread out in the field and read the packet or scriptures or prayed and meditated. It was pretty powerful to look out and see the reverence and meditation of the youth. I was even able to have a few minutes to myself which was wonderful.

After solo time we went to Historic Kirtland.

While in Historic Kirtland we visited the visitors center where we watched a great movie. It was about Ann Whitney and her family's faith. It was all taken from her journal. I need to pick up my blogging for my future family to have a record of my life, especially those experiences where I feel closer to my Father in Heaven. Then we went to the Hotel where they now have some cool papers including the original word of wisdom documents, the picture from the book of Abraham and a 2nd edition Book of Mormon. That was pretty cool. We also saw the Ashery and Sawmill. While we were there the sister missionary giving us made the comment that "When we put the Lord first, everything else becomes a little easier." She was referencing all that the Whitney family sacrificed monetarily for the church. They put the Lord first and that sacrifice, although maybe not easy to us, was easy for them to do because they had put the Lord first. It made me think of my own life. I have a lot going on, as many of us do, and I struggle so much to keep up with it all. Then I had this moment of epiphany... do I put the Lord first? What is the things that are most important for me to get done every day. When I am being honest , it is unfortunately not reading my scriptures and saying my prayers. Those things may or may not get done daily and they may or may not be done with the full purpose of heart that they should be. I am working on putting Him first in my daily schedule, before anything else.

My favorite stop was of corse the Newel K. Whitney store. More specifically the School of the Prophets. The spirit was so strong there, another one of the few places we know that Christ has appeared. Since there were a lot of us who needed to get through I thought they might rush us. They were about to have us leave when I asked if we could sing "The Spirit of God." The spirit was so powerful in the room. After the song the Sis missionary told us how when she started her mission the mission president brought her in that room and told her about some of the things that happened in there. Then he gave her some time alone to tell the Lord what type of missionary she wanted to be. When she is done with her mission, she will go  back to that room and report. She told the youth that they could take a moment to pray and tell the Lord what type of people they wanted to become. That was really neat. All the youth sat praying, pondering and crying. I love seeing the strength of these youth. It is truly humbling.

After historic Kirtland we had dinner, which I only mentioned because it was Chipotle and it was delicious!! Then we headed over to the temple where we took a group photo of all the kids... Almost 200 youth! That is so many for one stake. Then we took pictures by ward. I love these kids. I'm so blessed to be able to work with them.

After pictures were over we went into the temple for testimony meeting. It was one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had. What a spirit that resided there with us in the temple, a place the early saints sacrificed so much to build, and a place where Christ has been. We started by singing the hymn the Spirit of God which was very powerful. That hymn was first sung at the Kirtland temple dedication and the words describe beautifully the joy of the saints to be a part of the restoration of the Gospel. After that every member of the stake presidency addressed the youth. They were followed by the testimonies of about 15 youth executives. After they shared there testimony President Checketts invited anyone who wanted to come bear their testimony to come fill in the pews where the choir would have sat. With that over half the youth stood up and began taking there place in line to share their testimonies with us. It was like a gust of wind that took your breath away, to know that so many of them wanted to share their faith in Christ with us.

As the youth bore powerful testimonies of Christ more and more youth took the stands. Youth I never would have guessed would get up were there now, waiting in line. It was a sight that as a leader was so fulfilling. We sacrifice so much time and effort and spent so much time on our knees praying for these youth and to see that they DO have a testimony of the Christ and they ARE trying their best is so rewarding. It makes it all work it.

As I listened to the testimonies my heart ached for some of these kids. I had no idea that things had gotten so much worse then when I was in high school. There were stories shared about being bullied, called gay, youth being told that they were so worthless they should take their own life. Friends and family committing suicide, loosing all of their friends because they held tight to their standards. Not having many friends because they were different. It literally broke my heart and I just wept for them. When did the world become such a cruel place? But I was filled with joy when I saw the strength the Lord had given to overcome the adversity in their lives. I felt the Love the savior had for them, and the youth knew He was their for them. That He loved them, and knew them and was there for them when they needed him. It was remarkable the strength of the youth. As scary of a place as this world is becoming the Lord really has/is saving his strongest most valiant spirits for last.

This amazing testimony meeting went on for a little over 4 hours. I am a fidgety person and I am an adult so you would think the youth would have had a hard time sitting still and being quiet through the whole meeting. They were quiet, attentive and respectful the whole time. It is a testimony meeting I will never forget and feel so blessed to have been apart of. At the end of the meeting we sang "Praise the Man" and EFY song for the closing prayer. It was the perfect way to end the meeting as the words were so powerful and the spirit so strong. It was one of the EFY songs we sand at my last EFY. I have such special powerful memories of singing that song beside my brother and feeling the spirit so strongly and knowing beyond any shadow of a doubt that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. That he restored the gospel of Christ in its fullness to the earth in this last dispensation of time. I remember the burning I felt throughout my whole body as the spirit testified to me that this church was true. I felt all of those feelings again as I remembered that 18 year old girl who was still trying to find herself. Such a powerful night.

I got a few pictures of the temple after testimony meeting. Notice the few blue specs that only occurred when I put my flash on. You can call them whatever you want, but I think they were angels. For surely there were several present that night at such a powerful meeting in such a sacred place.

We changed into our PJ's and hoped on to the bus, where we "slept" that night. We drove through the night to NJ so that we could go to six flags in the morning. My girls we nice enough to let me hang out with them at the park. I rode a few rides with them before I called it a day. I was running on fumes at that point. It was in the high 90's and I had a massive headache. I finally found a bench in the shade and just sat there for an hour or two. I was defeated! It had been a long weekend.

Look at my poor feet. They look like giant sausages. They don't normally look like that but I was hot, tired and retaining water like it was nobodies business. I had to get a picture since I had never seen my feet look like that before. I figure this will happen a lot during pregnancy?

We got home around 8 and I was in bed by 9:30. It was one of the most tiring, rewarding weekends ever and I can't think of another way I would have wanted to spend my labor day weekend. (Especially since Hubby was at home studying his brains out for the CFA.)