Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Chapter Two: The semester of self

Chapter 2.

I think of my life as a series of chapters bound up in a great big novel. Maybe this is why the great storytelling behind Jane the Virgin resonates so well with me. Documenting my life this way has proven to be a bit of a messy art because there are subchapters, characters who come in and out of my life in sometimes the most random of ways, and there are currently 17 journals (+ my 10 year journal) that house the entire story. Complicated is a gross understatement. 

My departure from Provo this April felt like another close of a chapter. An important one. I can't describe the sensation exactly, but I just feel like things will be different. Mostly because I will be a little different. I felt the reality of this right before I left Provo. I have reached the halfway point of graduate school, the countdown to graduation is a very present event in my mind. Two years will go by quicker than I'd like to presently admit. 

Last year, when I got back from my adventures in Buenos Aires, I wrote a similar post. These are the faces that I think I'll miss the most from this chapter in my life. This is not to say that any of these people will not make appearances from this moment onward (Heaven forbid!), but when I think back on this semester and all the lessons I learned, these are the faces that stick out most. 

Lys.
I first met Alyssa two years ago. I don't remember the exact details surrounding our first encounter. But we had a mutual friend, Rachel, and I figured, I like Rachel ergo I'll probably like Alyssa—this thought proved to be a true statement. She is one of the most artistic beings I have ever met down from everything she doodles, to the furnishings in her bedroom, back to the socks she wears on her feet. I have been with her during stressful and unpleasant situations alike and greatly admire the poise she's had in moments where I would have screamed at the top of my lungs and said some more unkind words. I don't know where in the world she'll be come late August, but I'm feeling really spoiled to have had her in my life for two years. 

Bro. Swartz & Vescovo Cardullo.
These two. We've had three different second counselors in the bishopric since I first moved into the 97th ward, but these two have remained constant. It's been fun to see their bromance blossom. They couldn't be more different Bro. Swartz is probably the most active person on our ward Facebook page always ready to offer any kind of service. He's a true renaissance man: he paints, he fixes everything, he explores the outdoors, he cooks, and he pays the most sincere compliments. There wasn't a ward council/PEC where I wasn't greeted with a, 'you sure look lovely today' or 'do you know how much you're loved?'

& Bishop. I've raved about him before, but I really did get to know him on a deeper level this year. In moments of stressful frenzy I'd have this voice in my head whisper, "go visit Bishop." I always left chats in his swanky home office feeling like I could conquer the world. It always put a smile on my face to get random texts inviting me over for Sunday dinner or a random game night or simply just because.

Scott.
Honestly, this is the friendship that surprised me the most this semester! Even though Scott was in the ward all of last year, if you asked me what I knew about him it was could be summarized in two points: 1) He traveled...A LOT. and 2) He has his own fishing boat in Alaska. Sometime in January, I was at Bishop's house waiting on someone to leave when I saw Scott sitting by himself at the island in bishop's kitchen. I thought, "oh, I don't really know him; I should be a good member of the ward and talk to him." It was during this conversation of worldwide travels and a completely foreign life experience that I thought, "we need to be friends." If I had to describe Scott to you in one word it would be good. I know that may sound like a lazy word, but I honest to goodness mean it. He is truly good. He asks me if I need things from the grocery store, listens to when I just need to ramble, is always down for a quick errand run, and always ready for adventure. good, just real good. 

Ashley.
I began teaching Ashley piano in September of 2014. It started out as a calling, but we continued the lessons till well after I was released. Ashley reminds me so much of my fourth grade self! Although, she's much better about practicing the piano than I ever was. She loves to hide in the pews of the chapel and makes me find her before each lesson, and she always asks if we can play Heads Up at the end of every lesson. She and her Father have been the kindest to me and have been more than understanding when my crazy graduate school schedule gets in the way. I always leave piano lessons with Ashley wanting to sing at the top of my lungs with a reminder in my heart that life is grand.

Monday, May 2, 2016

April 2016.

Dear (insert your name here), 

    I arrived in California with a letter waiting patiently for me. This letter awakened my deep love for snail mail, and reminded me why I aptly named this blog "Letters from Lauren" in the first place. There's something magical behind the art of letter writing. So, indulge me if you will while I make this blog post read like a personally addressed letter. Now that I'm at home, I feel like I'm writing these letters to friends still in Utah rather than to friends here at home. 

    For some reason, April feels to me like it was spliced in half down the middle quite like a fully ripe watermelon with one half being the ill-fated season of finals and the other half the carefree and sometimes idle-concentrated weeks of pure freedom. 

   The beginning of the month found me in St. George. Usually this red-rock rich town is merely a bathroom break on the journey between Los Angeles and Salt Lake, but on this occasion it was the destination. I went down to St. George for a school-related conference. While in St. George I had one of those it-truly-is-a-small-world experiences as I sat at a table with three men who had connections to my mission. In fact, I had served with a daughter of one of the men! 

April was very much a month of transitions. I reestablished contact with friends of former lives and celebrated with them the growth that had taken place during our months of separation. With my move to California, I was released as Relief Society president and spent many a shower pondering how I had grown in the course of a year. 

April was a month filled with more goodbyes than hellos. There were a few see-you-laters, but things will be different. It's more than just a feeling. There will be familiarity when we're all reunited again, but four months time changes people, changes perspectives. In four months time, we will all be changed, laced with stories of small adventures. I eagerly await that reunion!

^^My face at discovering what a young-almond looks like.^^
^^(L to R: Facetime with melhor amiga Shelly and her ADORABLE son; when your bishop is one of your best friends; Facetime with Lys even though we live less than a block away from each other. 
^^Last Sunday in Relief Society. I love the bright colors in this picture. Spring is here, y'all!
^^All the Relief Society Presidents in the stake. Our monthly meetings kind of reminded me of MLC on the mission, but minus the whole drive-to-a-meeting-with-a-companion bit. :)

^^A burn party. Where we lit things on fire to say farewell to things of the past. I love how horrible this picture is.

^^An improptu picnic party on campus after Lys, Kel, and I went for a taco run.
^^Chelsea's bridal shower. I hadn't seen this girl since before my mission! She was such a huge part of my life before the mission. This was all that I could hope for for a reunion. 
^^Scott took me to one of the most picturesque places in Provo (I'm convinced of it) for a picnic. It was beautiful! There were petals falling down with every gust of wind and deer frolicking a couple of yards away. Top that off with Bon Iver's Holocene as background music + laying in the sun on a picnic blanket and you have a scene out of a  Nicholas Sparks movie. 
😍😍😍

Lastly, JJ's wedding. Her fiancé husband's middle name is Compton, so I guess he's okay. 😉

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

YELLOWSTONE.

It all began on Taco Tuesday, as all good stories must. 

Alyssa, Kelly, and I went to Don Joaquin's last Tuesday and ate tacos on the lawn in front of the HFAC. Somewhere in the conversation I mentioned off-handedly that the National Parks were free that week. The conversation went a little something like this: Kelly said, "I have family that lives an hour outside of Yellowstone." Lys continued, "Oh, we should go." All of us:"No, really we should go!" We made plans to head on the road right after Jalynn's wedding in Salt Lake.

We lucked out BIG TIME! The park was relatively empty and we had perfect almost fall-like weather. The clouds hung low and there was slight rain, but it was beautiful. Nothing like a little gloomy skies + some Bon Iver & First-Aid Kit to make you feel at one with nature. 
Megan's one big wish in Yellowstone was to find bison. We pulled over at the first sight of bison only to realize later that there was bison in the park for days! 
^^reppin' my city!
^^I couldn't get over this DANGER sign! That cartoon boy with the fannypack—flashback to the '90s.
The crew. Kelly's cousin Derek was kind enough to drive us around Yellowstone. He was a true gem! Kelly also made us take pictures with all of us facing one side. Apparently, this is how Kelly's fam takes pictures on every family vacation. Just trying to be like the Robins!
^^Kel definitely fell while trying to dance on the boardwalk of a gyser while we were trying to film a segment of our trip music video [comin' at you soon!]. She saw this sign AFTER falling.
Old Faithful!!! We definitely tried to get everyone around us to clap after Old Faithful shot up his famous streams of water. I think we had about ten people join in our chorus of applause.
YAAAAAAAS!
Kelly's Yellowstone dream was to see a grizzly bear. She asked all of us to say prayers that we would see one. Literally as we were about to leave the park, we saw a handful of cars pulled to the side. We thought it had to be bison, but then I spotted it..."BEAR!" Needless to say, Kel was plenty excited (see below).
On Sunday, we went on a nature walk in the forest behind Kelly's fam's house. Guys, I never knew Idaho could be such an enchanting place! While I still wouldn't say I'd love to live there, I'll definitely consider visiting there frequently. So, if one of my family members decides to move to Idaho, I won't be mad!
^^Meg definitely got tree sap all over her leggings from sitting on the tree stump two pictures above. Classic. 
^^Just getting comfy on the air mattress. I loved having these girls with me in the mountains. It was fun to just escape the bubble that is Provo for even just a little weekend. 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

QUESTIVAL

I'm in the midst of finals right now, and the end is in sight! Last weekend our California Crew was reunited for a weekend long adventure—Questival. Questival is an 24 hr adventure scavenger hunt of sorts. We weren't really in it to win, mostly, we just wanted to explore Utah!
We got a flat tire! First adventure of the trip. Haha. & yes, Scott's wearing a tunic. He'll tell you it's because he's dressed up as Kronk (our team name was 'Beware the Groove,' from Emporer's New Groove), but we wonder about him sometimes.
We slept under the stars on the Salt Flats! It was surprisingly not that cold, although in the morning it was pretty windy. We may or may not have arrived at the Salt Flats at 3 in the morning. oops. I'm not going to lie, I didn't really sleep all that much, mostly because I kept hearing cars driving on the Salt Flats and kept getting worried that one of them would run us over. Kind of an irrational fear because the cars were parked by us, but still! Nunca se sabe!

After the Salt Flats, we crossed into Nevada to complete challenges in Wendover. 
^^One of our challenges was to find and take a picture with a Utah State Quarter. Did anyone else have one of those books growing up where you would collect the state quarters?!?!?! Also, did you know they've since expanded the quarters to include other scenes like National Parks? whaaaa?
^^Another challenge: Eating at a diner and ordering the 13th item on the menu

We ended our questival adventure at Antelope Island. I had never been and it was beautiful! We happened to be there on a day where it wasn't crowded at all. It felt like we had the whole island to ourselves, okay, kind of. 
^^buffalo!!!!
^^Ignore the bugs on the windshield, isn't that sky just dreamy?