Thursday, December 31, 2015

Out with the old, in with the new

So I haven't written a blog post in a very long time, not because I don't have anything to say but because there is too much to say and I'm having trouble putting it all into words.

As you know, I moved to Utah on September 30th.  I have officially lived here for three months.  A lot has happened in that time, some of it good, some of it not so good.  Instead of boring you all with a detailed narrative of all of the goings-on of the past three months, I'll just list some of the things I've learned.

(DISCLAIMER: If you know me well, you know that I'm kind of snarky and sarcastic sometimes and such is the case with this post.)
  • To quote the movie North and South (the British one, not the movie about the American Civil War), "I believe I've seen hell...and it's white.  It's snow white."  Okay, maybe that's a tad bit dramatic but I have come to the conclusion that snow is a natural disaster.  I lived in Provo for five years and I hated the snow then.  I hate it even more now that I have a car and I have to commute to work in it.  Growing up in California, my winters were rainy and that's just the way I like it.  Some say, "But Celia, Christmas isn't Christmas without snow," to which I reply, "Uh, Christ wasn't born on a snowy day so we don't need snow to celebrate his birthday."  Others say, "But Celia, snow is so pretty!"  Yeah, that may be the case for about 10 seconds until cars start driving in it and it turns brown and gray.  Now, I recognize that snow can, in fact, be beautiful.  I've seen the snow up in the mountains, untouched by human activity.  Yes, that is beautiful.  I know that all the snow that the Sierra Mountains are getting is great to help combat the drought going on in California.  But it does nothing for the roads.  And my car has never looked so bad.  There is no way of keeping a car clean here!  Okay, I've exhausted that topic.  Let's move on.
  • Embarrassing or not, I'll freely admit that I have become a pretty big fan of the band One Direction in the last three months.  I started listening to some of their music before I moved out here and now, every time I hear one of their songs, it reminds me of home.  Is it strange that a British boy band reminds of California somehow?  Probably.  But every time I'm homesick (which is a lot of the time), I listen to One Direction and I feel a little bit better.  Judge me as you will.
  • As referenced above, I found out that I am not as immune to homesickness as I thought I was.  There have been a few times when I've been driving home from work or laying in bed at night and I just start crying.  The San Francisco Bay Area is a crazy, expensive place but it's home.  I miss going into the city every so often.  I miss living near the ocean. I miss the weather.  I miss my family.  When I flew to Southern California for the Thanksgiving holiday, I had a short layover in Oakland.  As I looked out the airplane window over the water and the Bay Bridge, I had to fight back a few tears.  Man, I love that place.  We went to a Warriors game a few weeks back when they played the Jazz in Salt Lake City.  Even though Sara isn't much of a basketball fan, we were both screaming ourselves hoarse and obnoxiously cheering and clapping when the Warriors won.  Bay Area pride was at stake! You can take the girl out of the Bay Area but you can't take the Bay Area out of the girl.
  • My first Sunday in our new singles ward was...interesting.  Sara was out of town for work so I crossed the threshold of the Utah singles ward all by my lonesome.  Our new ward is HUGE, like 400 people huge.  Coming from a very small singles ward back in California, to experience this ward for the first time was overwhelming to say the least.  After church was over, I drove into the garage at home and just sat and breathed in and out for a while in my car.  Now that we're no longer considered new to the ward, we've gotten a lot more comfortable with the number of people and have actually made some friends!  I got a new calling as a Relief Society instructor and Sara's on the Activities Committee (no surprise there).  Everyone is very nice and friendly.  It's still a little overwhelming but I've enjoyed the experience so far.
  • Miracles happen.  I moved out here without a permanent job.  We drove out to Utah on a Wednesday.  I applied for three jobs in Salt Lake the following Friday.  On Monday, I heard back from all three of them, set up three interviews, worked for Sara in the meantime, and was offered a job within the week.  After having experienced long-term unemployment before, I was very happy and grateful to get my current work situation so quickly.  While my job as the HR Paralegal at Primary Residential Mortgage is much more fast-paced and stressful than my old job, I've already learned so much and I'm gaining a lot of great experience there.   
This year has been a crazy year for me.  I've seen lots of changes, strange circumstances, heartaches, and joy.  I'm looking forward to seeing what 2016 has in store for me :).

Happy New Year!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Fun Family Time

It has been good to spend so much time with family here in California since I will be moving to Utah at the end of the month.  Here are a few pictures to document our adventures.
Mom and I visited Lisa down in San Diego about a month ago.  We took a trolley tour out of Old Town and got to explore the city.
The view from the trolley.
On our way to Little Italy.
We stopped in Little Italy to get some lunch.  We ate some delicious pizza and some amazing Italian cake I can't remember the name of.
We did a session at the San Diego Temple.  This is such an awesome building!
After a couple of days in San Diego, we went to Yucaipa to visit Shelley and her family.  Berry-picking with the kids was so much fun.
Mariah and I wore matching aprons.
These little twins couldn't be any cuter :).
A couple of weeks later, we went down to Southern California again for Mariah's 8th birthday and her baptism.
It was awesome to be at this little girl's baptism.  I'm so proud of her!
Back in the Bay, we decided to have a fun day trip into the city.  We rode on the ferry from Jack London Square to the San Francisco Ferry Building.  Sydney and Rhyan were excited to be on a boat.
Jonathan had a good time sitting with us on the ferry.
Sophie was excited to get off the ferry and eat our picnic lunches at the park across from the piers.
Bruce was running around trying to avoid the camera at Sue Bierman Park but I caught him anyway :).
Everly always smiles for the camera.
You can't help but smile when you see this little face.
After we finished eating, the kids played on the awesome playground at Sue Bierman Park.
They particularly loved climbing on this.
Rhyan was an absolute climbing pro!

After playing at the park, we went to the Farmer's Market, the San Francisco Railway Museum, and ate ice cream.  I think the kids really enjoyed their time in the city.  Bruce wanted to have a sleep over in one of the tall buildings.  Sydney asked if we could all live there someday.  But we had to go back on the ferry.  The Ferry Building is one of the few buildings in San Francisco to survive the 1906 earthquake.  It's a pretty cool piece of history!
Some of us decided to sit on the top level for the ferry ride back. It was a little cold but worth it for the view.
Mother and Daughter
We passed under the Bay Bridge to get back to Oakland.  There were some cool views of the Bay from the Ferry.
Sydney enjoyed the ferry ride.
Almost back to the dock at Jack London Square.
It has been a fun few weeks.  Hopefully I can squeeze in another trip to the city before I move!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

I'm Moving

If you had told me a year ago that I would be moving back to Utah, I would have said you were crazy.  I don't have anything against Utah but I lived in Provo for five years and, while I loved it while I was there, I thought that I was done with the place.

I've lived back in my hometown for the past three years.  I got my paralegal certificate from Cal State East Bay.  I gained work experience in an accounting/law firm.  I made great friends in my singles ward.  I've enjoyed exploring more of the Bay Area during my time here.

But I've been feeling for a while like I need a change.  About a year ago, my friend and now roommate Sara asked me and Katy if we would ever consider moving to Georgia.  I have always had a fascination with the American South so the idea of living near Atlanta was very appealing to me.  We actually flew to Georgia last November to check out the area and to look for a house for Sara.  I loved Georgia.  The fall leaves were beautiful.  The proximity to Civil War sites was amazing.  The people seemed very friendly and hospitable.  I could see myself in the future sitting on a porch swing in the evenings, sipping lemonade while swatting away at mosquitoes.  I could be a regular southern belle and it sounded amazing...

...until it didn't.  For whatever reason, the move never felt right.  I struggled with the decision to move to Georgia for several months.  Things didn't seem to be falling into place.  And then one day, everything fell out of place and the move wasn't really possible anymore anyway.  It was kind of a relief to have my decision made for me, even though I felt some sadness that I wouldn't be living in the South.  Instead, Sara said she would be buying a house in Utah.  And I had another decision to make.  Do I go to Utah where there are more people my age, rent a room in Sara's house, and get a new job?  Or do I stay here in the same ward I've been in for three years, stay with my current job that doesn't necessarily pay me the big bucks, and find a new roommate?  It seems like a no-brainer but I struggled for a couple of months.  It's difficult to leave a place that has always had the label of "home."

A few weeks ago, I was talking to my sister Lisa on the phone about my possible move.  She asked me what my goals are in regards to where I live.  I said I want to have more dating opportunities, pay off my student loans more quickly, and be able to save enough money to actually do the things I want to do like go on an occasional trip, go to the optometrist without having to worry about breaking the bank, and buy chocolate milk without feeling guilty about the extra cost.  (Sidenote: After writing that sentence, I realize that my worries seem so small compared to people in other countries.  We are so lucky to live in America.)  After I spelled out my goals, it became clear to me that my goals aren't being realized here.  I had a few more experiences that made me realize that a move to Utah is the right thing to do, and I made my decision.

I told my boss last week and my last day at my job is September 25th.  Telling him made everything very final and I went out to my car soon after and cried.  While I complain about the large liberal population here and how expensive everything is, I am going to miss this place.  I grew up here.  I love the hills.  I love the proximity to a beautiful city like San Francisco and the coast.  I love the fact that I get to go to family dinners every other Sunday and play with my nieces and nephews.  I am going to miss them so much!

So I'll be moving to South Jordan next month.  I'm excited but also pretty nervous.  It will be interesting to see how this all plays out.  I wish I had believed people when they said life just gets harder and more complicated as you get older.  Life is crazy!  But I'm excited to start this new adventure.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

I Hear America Singing

This morning as I ate my pancake breakfast and listened to the sound of a high school band marching through the streets of Pleasant Hill for the July 4th celebration, I began to reflect on what it is that I love about America.  I feel like I have always had an innate love for my country but I wanted to point out just a few of the things, big and small, that make the United States of America my "home, sweet home."
  • I came across a passage in the book, The Greater Journey: Americans in Paris by David McCullough, that I found interesting.  The book explores the lives of Americans who went to Paris in the 1800s to study subjects such as art and medicine.  While all of them enjoyed the elegance of the architecture on Paris streets and the history of the Old World, nothing could compare to the sweetness of home.  In fact, the song "Home! Sweet Home!" was written by an American in Paris. 
    Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
    Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
    A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,
    Which seek thro' the world, is ne'er met elsewhere.
    Home! Home!
    Sweet, sweet home!
    There's no place like home
    There's no place like home!
    Though I haven't really been outside of the country, those who have always say that they loved visiting other countries and experiencing other cultures but there's something special about returning home to America.  We may not have a Versailles or ancient Roman ruins but we've got the spirit of ingenuity and freedom, "a charm from the skies" if you will.  There's no place like home.
  • Country music.  Love it or hate it, you have to admit that it's pretty dang American.       
  • I love how I can travel 2500 miles east and I will still be in the same country.  I've gone on trips to places like Atlanta and Washington D.C. and I'm still rubbing shoulders with people who watch the same TV shows I do and who care about the same things.  While this is a big, diverse nation, at the core of it all, I think most of us want the same things: security, peace of mind, long-lasting relationships and friendships, etc.  It's pretty amazing when you think about it.
  • I love the fact that I have the freedom to spend my money on the things that I am passionate about.  I love that I can get an education and have a career.  While I don't have my own family yet, I'm happy to see my nieces and nephews grow up in a free country where they can develop and use their talents.  We really do have so much freedom and it's our responsibility to make sure that that freedom continues.
  • As a conservative in the San Francisco Bay Area, I run into a lot of people that I don't agree with politically.  Sometimes I get frustrated with the people around me and I disagree with them, but we still generally get along just fine.  I don't hate others that I disagree with and they don't hate me (I don't think anyway).  For example, I have a neighbor that I completely disagree with.  Their lifestyle is completely different from mine and I don't condone the things they do.  But just this morning, I heard my neighbor singing The Star-Spangled Banner and I realized that while we have different views of the world, we at least have one thing in common: our love for our country.
  • I love our history!  It has been quite a rollercoaster ride since our country's inception 239 years ago.  Not many countries have experienced as much as America has in so short a time.  We declared our independence.  We overcame the most powerful military in the world with unskilled and inexperienced soldiers, the "rabble in arms" as they were called.  We repaired a nation after fighting a bloody civil war.  We've experienced serious economic recessions and joined with other nations in world wars.  This country has a remarkable history.  Not all of it has been fun and games.  There have been quite a few missteps along the way.  But it's pretty amazing nonetheless.
It's been a while since I've sung the national anthem so I decided to sing it today.  I'n not very tech-savvy so the recording isn't great but it was kind of fun to sing both parts!


Thursday, May 7, 2015

Berkeley Rose Garden

When I was maybe seven or eight, my Dad and I decided to plan a Daddy-Daughter date to a place we had never been before.  He pulled out a little guide that detailed Bay Area must-sees and looked for free/cheap venues.  We settled on the Berkeley Rose Garden since it was free and it was described as a peaceful place with gorgeous views and beautiful flowers.  Dad and I walked up and down the terraces examining each rose.  There are so many different types of roses!  My favorite at the time was Joseph's Coat; it had red, pink, orange, and yellow all in one blossom.

Ever since then, it's been something of a tradition to go there with my parents during May or June of each year.  I always end up taking millions of pictures of flowers that no else cares about but here are some of the pictures I took this past weekend.

If you are looking for a nice quiet place to sit and enjoy nature, I definitely recommend the Berkeley Rose Garden.  It's one of my favorite places.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Brightening the Shadows

[DISCLAIMER: I've been in something of a funk lately and I've found through experience that one of the best ways for me to get out of a funk is to write.  So here I go.] 

All of my life, I have felt like I am destined to walk in other people's shadows.  I have always fought hard to be in first place but I always come up just a little bit short.  Even if I get the best haircut in the world, I will never be the prettiest girl in the class.  Even though I consider myself to be a somewhat intelligent person, I have never gotten the highest grade.  My career path perhaps doesn't seem as interesting as others.  Though I have musical talent, my voice isn't the most powerful and is more suited to blending with other voices than to solo pieces.  I have, what others have called, a "quiet humor" and so will always be outshined by louder, more outspoken comedians.  I try to serve in my own little ways but I struggle with feelings of inadequacy when I see others who seem so much more capable of comforting others and talking to them about their problems.  I haven't traveled the globe (though I want to) and my life experience seems fairly ordinary.  I have realized that, despite my best efforts, most of the time I will be in second place.  My personality is kind of a back-stage personality rather than that of a stand-out actor.

I think all of us feel like this at some point (or many points) in our lives.  Even those popular, extroverted people who seem to constantly be in the limelight probably feel like they do so much yet receive so little acknowledgement for their efforts.  I think it is human nature to desire praise, to feel validated, to feel like people appreciate your contribution however small it may be.

There were many good talks in General Conference but Elder Ringwood's talk entitled, Truly Good and Without Guile, was especially timely as I have struggled these past few weeks with feelings of inadequacy and self-criticism and the (probably stupid) notion that my life is boring in comparison to others' lives.  Elder Ringwood spoke about Alma's sons, Helaman, Corianton, and Shiblon.  Though he was perhaps the most steady and diligent in his faith, Shiblon received the least recognition.

"It appears that Shiblon was a son who wanted to please his father and went about doing what was right for right’s sake rather than for praise, position, power, accolades, or authority. Helaman must have known and respected this about his brother, for he gave Shiblon custody of the sacred records he had received from his father. Surely Helaman trusted Shiblon because 'he was a just man, and he did walk uprightly before God; and he did observe to do good continually, to keep the commandments of the Lord his God' (Alma 63:2). As seems truly characteristic of Shiblon, there is not much recorded about him from the time he took possession of the sacred records until he gave them to Helaman’s son Helaman (see Alma 63:11).

"Shiblon was truly good and without guile. He was a person who sacrificed his time, talents, and effort to help and lift others because of a love for God and his fellowmen (see Alma 48:17–19; 49:30). He is described perfectly by the words of President Spencer W. Kimball: 'Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion.'

 "In a world where praise, position, power, accolades, and authority are sought on every side, I honor those wonderful and blessed souls who are truly good and without guile, those who are motivated by a love of God and their neighbors, those great women and men who are 'more anxious to serve than to have dominion.'"

I'm not saying that I'm as good of a person as Shiblon but I feel a certain kinship with him.  He didn't hold positions of power.  He didn't gain world-wide fame.  He didn't stand out in a crowd.  He probably lived a relatively quiet life.  But he put forth his best efforts to do good within his sphere of influence.  Though he lived in his brothers' shadows for most of his life, he chose to keep the commandments and endure to the end in righteousness simply because it was the right thing to do.

My life may seem dull to some.  I may not be a model.  I may not be the funniest kid in the class.  But I have the same capacity for good as everyone else and my life is just as valuable as the lives of business owners or the rulers of nations.  If it is my lot in life simply to brighten up the shadows cast by others, then I guess I'm alright with that. :)

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

When Life Gives You Lemons

When I was twenty-years-old, I went to a state-wide YSA conference at the Oakland Interstake Center.  As a general rule, I really hate these kinds of things but I went because all of my friends were going and I knew I would get an earful about being an anti-social, party-pooper if I didn't attend.  So I sat and listened attentively to all of the workshops on marriage and dating, even laughing at some of the jokes that were said because I was young and idealistic and thought that I would, of course, be married by the time I turned 22.

Around 4:00, things started to go a little downhill.  There was a meeting in the large auditorium in the Interstake Center.  I was sitting in a row with all of my friends when a guy came up, sat in the row in front of us, and turned around and smiled.  Being the naive girl that I was at the time, I returned his smile to be nice but realized too late that I was the only girl in my row who had; everyone else was ignoring him. 

I soon learned that a small act of kindness can, unfortunately, have bleak consequences.  The guy followed me around for the rest of the day.  He didn't speak English very well and I found myself involved in a lot of awkward conversations which, if you know me at all, I do not excel at. I have a hard enough time with native English speakers as it is.  I tried to avoid him but he somehow kept on finding me, eventually handing me a handwritten note that read, "I'm an accountant.  I make lots of money.  Give me a call sometime."  Being young and inexperienced, I wasn't sure what to do so I crumpled up the note and threw it away.  All of my friends said I should have kept the note as a souvenir.  By this point, I was regretting my choice to come to this activity.

Of course, the conference had to end with a dance.  I've never understood why people love dances so much.  What is the appeal of dancing around in a circle for a few hours, occasionally being asked to dance by a stranger who can't hear you over the music anyway?  But apparently I'm the odd-one-out with this opinion, so I reluctantly stepped onto the dimly lit gym floor and spent the next thirty minutes trying to avoid "my accountant friend."  As it turns out, he wasn't the only one I should have been avoiding. Another boy randomly came into our circle of friends, singled me out for some reason, and tried to freak dance with me.  This was the straw that broke the camel's back.  My friends tried to laugh it off but I had had enough.  I went outside and called my dad to ask if he would come all the way out to Oakland to pick me up and take me home.

Maybe that doesn't sound like that awful of a night and when I compare it to others that I've had since that time, it actually sounds pretty tame.  But the things that happened to me that night compounded with all the other unfortunate things that had happened to me that summer just about put me over the edge.  I went into my room, got ready for bed, and tried to sleep.  Instead I spent the next three hours crying and praying.  I had always felt like I had a testimony that God was there and he listened to my prayers but, in that moment, I wasn't really sure.  I realized that all I wanted in that moment was the assurance that someone was listening to me and knew that I was having a rough time.

At about two in the morning, I finally stopped crying.  I laid there in bed for a few minutes until the thought popped into my mind that I should read my scriptures.  I was tired and worn out from all the sobbing but I turned my light on and pulled my books out of my scripture bag.  Normally I would flip to a verse in the Book of Mormon when looking for something to sooth my soul but that day I felt like I should go to a random page.  After flipping through, I landed in the middle of the book of Psalms in the Old Testament.  After a few verses into Psalm 66, I was crying again.  "I cried unto him with my mouth, and he was extolled with my tongue...Verily God hath heard me; he hath attended to the voice of my prayer.  Blessed be God, which hath not turned away my prayer, nor his mercy from me."  One of the worst summers of my life actually led me to one of the most spiritual experiences I have ever had.  I knew that God was there, that he heard me, that he listened to me, that he was aware of my situation, and that he wanted me to succeed.

I am especially grateful during this Easter season that I have a Savior who not only knows of my situation but knows exactly what it is like to be in my shoes.  Christ is not a sympathetic observer of our lives; he is an empathetic participant.  If we rely on Him, He will carry us through our hard times and help us to overcome anything that stands in our way of true happiness.

The last few weeks have been rough.  Things never seem to go the way we plan.  People say bad and unfair things about us behind our backs.  People's lives are turned upside down by tragedy.  The world is a scary place.  But I know that, through it all, God is there.  Bad things will eventually turn into good.  The sour will become sweet.  Trials can be overcome and we will be better and stronger people as a result.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Highway 1

Sara, Katy, and I decided a couple of months ago that we needed to just take a breather from life for a couple of days.  We thought it would be fun to stay at a hostel for a night while we explored up and down the coastline a little bit.  We concluded that the hostel at Pigeon Point Lighthouse, about an hour and a half away, was our best bet so we made our reservations for this past weekend.  We had a very loose itinerary for the trip so if we saw something on the side of the road that we wanted to check out, we could do it and not have to fight time.

The first thing we spotted was a group of greenhouses near Half Moon Bay that had a sign that read, "Carnivorous Plants."  You can't see a sign like that and not stop and take a look.  Katy bought a couple of succulents from one of the other greenhouses dedicated to less violent flora and then we were on our way again!

Around noon, we saw an English pub on the side of the road and thought that it was high time to have some lunch.  Katy said that the views along the California coast reminded her of her time in the British Isles so it seemed appropriate.

It's an inside joke but Katy finally found her amputee!
Because I'm a sucker for a good landscape, we stopped a couple of times along the side of the road just to take pictures of the yellow flowers and the green grass and the blue sea.  I may have let out a few sighs of contentment and some potentially annoying exclamations of "It's so pretty!" throughout the whole drive. But I just couldn't contain myself!  It was so beautiful!

Our next stop was actually on our itinerary.  In Pescadero, there is a little goat farm called Harley Farms. First of all, Pescadero is a very picturesque little coastal town that was established in 1856 so it appealed to both my historical and romantic sensibilities.  And despite my professed dislike for animals, I actually get ridiculously excited when I see miniature versions of larger beasts.  So as you can imagine, my tender heart may have thumped a bit more than usual when I saw a sign saying that there were over 150 baby goats at Harley Farms that day.  And the three of us are big fans of goat cheese and bread so we made sure to stop into the little Harley Farms shop to try some samples.
I tried to be friends with this donkey but he...didn't really react to my supplications.
The adult goats.
And the cute little baby goats!
Just down the road in Pescadero was the Pie Ranch.  While the establishment definitely has some political views we don't agree with, I can't really fault their pies in any way.
It started to rain a little bit so we took shelter under these awesome trees.
Around 3:30, we checked in at the hostel and walked around the lighthouse and down onto the beach called Whaler's Cove.  My phone ran out of battery just before we went down to the beach so you'll just have to take my word for it that it was beautiful.  There were some sea anemones down on the rocks and a couple of cave-like areas to explore.

If you look closely, you can see some seals laying on the rocks.

I accidentally photographed this seagull several times.  No offense to the seagull but this is probably its best angle ;).
Such a beautiful place!
It was both slightly rainy and sunny so there was almost a constant rainbow all day.
We ate dinner in downtown Pescadero, picked up some bread and goat cheese for breakfast the next morning, and then drove along the coast while the sun was setting.  We stopped in the small city of Davenport, California for dessert before turning around and heading back to the hostel to bunk for the night.  We were in a six-person bedroom but no one else had checked in as of yet.  We got ready for bed and then played my historical trivia game for a couple of hours until a couple of other women checked into the room and spoiled our fun.  How dare they! ;)

I'm not sure if any of us slept very well.  I struggle with insomnia anyway but staying in a strange place aggravates my already less than healthy relationship with sleep.  I was still awake a couple of hours after everyone else had fallen asleep and got to hear Sara wake up and freak out because she couldn't remember where she was.  HAHAHAHAHA!  The ladies in the room that we didn't know treated poor Sara like a child after that.  ("It's okay, sweetie.  Did you have a bad dream?")  I finally fell asleep around 1:30 and maybe got four hours of shuteye before I woke up for no reason at 5:30.  I waited for everyone else to wake up and then we got ready to go back home.  We checked out of our room and then ate our breakfast overlooking the ocean.  I could get used to waking up to that view!
It was a great little trip and it reinforced my belief that the California coast rivals some of the prettiest places in the world.  I love my home state!