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!