Friday, December 17, 2010

Remembering the Provo tabernacle

I was driving to Salt Lake when I heard on the radio that the Provo tabernacle was on fire. At first I didn't think much of it—I just assumed that it was a small fire, no big deal—but the news updates kept getting more and more dire. So when I got home, the first thing I did was pull up google. Instantly, I was flooded with images and videos of that beloved building in flames. The words "the roof has collapsed" kept popping up everywhere, and try as I might, I couldn't find any hopeful news.

Watching that beloved building go down makes me incredibly sad. It's like a part of me has been lost forever. That building didn't play a huge part in my life, but it was one of those things that I always assumed would be there. It is a part of my heritage, it is a part of my memories, and it has always had a special place in my heart.

Like thousands of current and past BYU students, I went to the Provo tabernacle for choir concerts and stake conferences. It was in that building that I listened to Elder Ballard speak words that penetrated my soul and soothed my aching heart. It was there that I stood with other BYU singles and sang "We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet." It was there that I watched and participated in numerous choirs, listened to speakers from the balcony, and felt the strong spirit that resides there.

And like thousands of current and past Utahans, the Provo tabernacle has always been a part of my life. I remember sitting on the balcony—I felt like I was on top of the world—when President Tervort's tiny form took its place with the new stake presidency. I remember watching my mom sing in her pretty green dress. And most of all, I remember driving down University and seeing that "pretty castle." It filled me with a sense of wonder as a child, and that sense of wonder never really went away. The building was magical.

Despite the uncomfortable benches, annoying poles, narrow walkways, and rickety staircases, when you are in the Provo tabernacle, the choirs sound like heavenly angels, the speakers are all messengers from God, and the people around you have more love in their hearts. That is the magic of the tabernacle.

Provo has a lot of historic buildings, but the tabernacle is different somehow. When you walk in, you just feel a special spirit—a spirit that connects you with the pioneers, with all the people who have gone on before us. Everything that happened there was special. If those walls could talk, they would have incredible stories to tell. It is heartbreaking to think that that particular spirit is gone forever.

Whether the building can be saved or not, today was a sad day for Provo. The tabernacle, along with BYU, is the heart and soul of Provo, and without the tabernacle, there is no heart. The tabernacle defines Provo's character in so many ways and I have difficulty imagining what Provo will be like without it. There is no replacing something that monumental.

So as much as it hurts to say it, I think it is time to say goodbye to the tabernacle we know and love. There is no changing what is past—we can only move forward. While we I may never get to be encased in those beloved walls again, I will cherish the memories I have of them for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, so let it snow and become a winter wonderland

This morning I finally got what I wanted: I woke up to that magical winter wonderland. The other snowstorms we've had don't really count because they were expected and disappointing to boot. Today the only precipitation I expected to get was rain. Instead, I woke up to an unexpected 6–8 inches of snow, and the snow was still falling. A perfect December morning. The kind that I look forward to all year and that makes me feel like a kid again.

A few things I am grateful for as I sit next to the Christmas tree in the warm living room while sipping a cup of cocoa:
  • The fact that I went to bed early last night so that I was actually chipper at 7 am (that only happens about once a year) and got to enjoy the fresh snow and Christmas lights for a few minutes before the sun was fully up.
  • My job interview in Salt Lake was yesterday and not today.
  • The adventure of taking Kimberly to the bus stop.
  • The fact that Kimberly got stuck so that she couldn't drive her dying car in the middle of a storm.
  • The fact that we made it to the bus stop in time (despite the incredibly slow minivan in front of us) so that I didn't have to drive all the way to Provo.
  • The 3 snow-themed songs in a row that I heard on my way back to Elk Ridge after dropping Kimberly off at the bus stop.
  • Good tires. My car rocks, even though it has no personality.
  • The adventure of unburying Kimberly's car and getting stuck twice while driving it around the block.
  • A brother with muscle and a love for things with motors.
  • The fact that Tyrel finally stopped talking about iPads and other i-things so that he can plow Brother King's driveway before he goes to work.
  • I finally get the snow day I've always wanted—no work or school for me!!!!
And even though it took me an hour to write this post because I had to keep going outside to unbury or move something, it is still snowing. It's going to be an awesome day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Selfless service

Yesterday our sacrament meeting theme was selfless service. The general consensus seemed to be that people should serve because it is their duty and not because they will get some sort of reward out of it. We should all become saints who dedicate our lives to bettering the lives of others without expecting anything in return.

While this is a worthy goal to have, and ultimately what we should all be shooting for, I don't think the reason for serving is really that important as long as service is getting done. It is not bad to serve others because it makes you feel good inside or because it comes with the promise of root-beer floats. Service is a two-way thing and it is impossible to participate in it without getting something good out of it.

Or maybe I'm just trying to satisfy my own conscience; I usually only serve when there's something in it for me. I willing play the piano in church because it shields me from getting a scary calling (although it didn't keep me from that blasted visiting teaching supervisor calling), I'll go to a service activity if there is a promise of good food, I only go visiting teaching to get my companion off my back, and I only make dinner for my family when I want a real meal to eat. It is really hard to guilt-trip me into doing anything and I rarely do anything unless I want to.

Despite my attitude, lives are still being blessed: my ward has a reliable piano player, someone's leaves are getting raked, maybe someone actually got something out of my visiting teaching visit, and my mom didn't have to worry about cooking for a day. Probably the only one losing blessings here is me because I grumbled through the entire process, but the receiver still got the benefits from my help and the world is a better place.

Service is service, no matter why you do it. Some day I hope to be able to serve without the ulterior motives, that it will just come naturally, but until that time I will serve for all of the benefits I can get. It's hard to get someone as stubborn as me to do something nice for someone else, so avoiding extra work and giving me prizes, treats, and warm fuzzy feelings is a good way to trick me into being a nice person.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The ups and downs of freelance

One of the things that has always attracted me about a career in writing and/or editing is the freedom it gives you to choose your own hours and workplace. What could be better than working at home in your pajamas?

However, I'm not quite as excited about the prospect of doing freelance work as I once was. It would just be so much easier to have a 9–5 job where I showed up every day, did my work, and then went home. Freelance work requires a lot more patience and motivation—you have to actually abide by the hours you set, and a lot of the time (at least for beginners like me) you have to risk not being paid much for awhile in order to work your way up. I have a very hard time getting myself to do something if I don't know exactly what's in it for me—this is the biggest reason why I want a stable, full-time job.

Unfortunately, the search for a full-time job has been a bit of waste of time to say the least, so I have been putting forth more of an effort to find freelance work. And believe me, it's not a whole lot better than searching for a "real" job.

However, I did make a few breakthroughs during the month of November. I applied for a copywriter position in Provo and, typically, was their second choice, so they decided to keep me on as a freelancer. I've only done one project so far, and I'm starting to doubt that I'll get another one because it's been a few weeks, but it was exciting to negotiate a pay rate that was worthy of someone with a degree.

In addition, I also found a job as a writer at I found several websites that hire freelance writers, and was the most popular one for the search engines. I was flipping through the openings in the religion section, and was delighted to find one entitled "Narnia, Hobbits, and Christianity," which is basically what my senior capstone class at BYU was all about. I never dreamed that I would ever actually make a profit off what I learned in that class, but it seemed like I had found a possibility. So I applied, submitted one of my analysis papers from the class, and waited.

A few weeks later, I got an email from saying that they wanted me to be the "Christian Speculative Fiction Examiner" for the Provo area. While a little sad that I wouldn't be writing about Narnia and hobbits all the time, I was pretty excited to get such a long job title. It makes it sound a lot more important than it really is. I've spent the last few days figuring out how the system works, and I think I am going to give it a try.

Here is where you all come in: most of the money I can make is generated from traffic, session length, and publishing frequency. So while I still have no idea how much money I could actually make off of this little column, I decided to try it out because (1) I need something to do, and (2) I am running out of money. It's time to take desperate measures. And, if any of you would like to write about your area of expertise on, there is a referral program and I get 50 bucks for each person I bring along . . .

So, the URL to my page is Really long, I know, so thank goodness for the copy-and-paste function. This is very much an experiment and if anyone has any questions or suggestions, I would greatly appreciate any help I can get.

I apologize in advance if you get sick of reading my stuff. :) And to prove my sincerity, I am going to log off now and do something that doesn't involve thinking or begging. Farewell.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

10 reasons why it rocks to live at your parents house during the holidays

For the past 3 Christmases, I experienced Christmas the way only BYU students can—where our only decorations were a measly string of lights and an aloe vera Christmas tree, the last two weeks of classes did everything they possibly could to kill the spirit, students getting engaged left and right (finals are not the only end-of-semester deadlines BYU students have to worry about), Christmas carolers every night, and extremely creative present ideas for the virtually no-income students. These experiences really weren't that bad—college Christmases are special in their own ways—but they just don't compare to being at home during the season.

This Christmas, however, I get to enjoy every stage of the Christmas holiday at home, and with it comes many benefits.
  1. Decorations. Christmas is not Christmas without Christmas lights and a Christmas tree that is taller than you (even if it isn't real). It is so much more comforting to come home to a house sparkling with lights than to a dark, drab apartment complex.
  2. Snow! Provo does get a few good storms a year, but they've got nothing on Elk Ridge. We actually get snow that covers all of the grass for long periods of time. And driving isn't always that bad—the snow plows do pretty good at keeping the roads clear. However, as long as there are no major accidents, it's always an adventure getting home to Elk Ridge during a snowstorm. A lot of people hate it, but I think it makes life more exciting. There is something that is just so comforting about snow—I don't care how inconvenient it can be at times. It's magical.
  3. Food. While December is full of homemade goodies and fattening treats, we always have 3 special Christmastime snacks stocked throughout the house: spiced cider, nuts, and oranges. We don't usually eat these things (except maybe oranges) at any other time of year, so eating them during the holidays makes them more special.
  4. Smells. Christmas smells heavenly. Whether it be a candle, spiced cider, or something chocolate, there is always a comforting and delightful smell in the air.
  5. Jazz games. I love that I get to watch Jazz games whenever I want to (provided that there is a game on, that is). I don't have to plan around anyone else because the games get top priority at my house. It's an awesome system.
  6. I'm not in charge! While I love and need my independence, sometimes I just want to take a break from it all. At home my parents get to make all the decisions and I get to just relax and go with the flow. For the most part.
  7. Sounds. Provo is full of noise—partying students, blaring tvs and music, never-ending traffic, and that blasted train. Elk Ridge is almost completely silent. At times, I swear I can hear the snowflakes fall. And one of the most comforting sounds I hear at this time of year is the sound the snow plows make as they are driving up and down the streets. It means that the snow is falling and I am safe in my warm bed, and most importantly, I can look forward to seeing a pure, winter wonderland when I wake up.
  8. Neighbors. If you can't tell, I hate big cities. (And yes, I consider Provo a big city.) It was depressing to drive around my college neighborhood and see nothing but boring apartment buildings. Driving around Elk Ridge is a lot more fun. Half the people put lights on their houses, and there are always those neighbors that are competing for that "coolest Christmas lights" spot. I must admit, my family does what it can to stay in the running for that one.
  9. Family. I know certain people are waiting for me to list this, so I probably better get it over with. :) Christmas is a time for family. Friends are important too, but I've always been a much bigger fan of family during the Christmas season.
  10. Atmosphere. In college, students look forward to Christmas so they can have a break from school and so they can see their families again for a few weeks. When you are already home, it's easier to look forward to that magical Christmas morning—parents are hiding gifts around the house, siblings are wrapping presents and putting them under the tree, everyone is talking about the next family Christmas party. It kind of makes me feel like a kid again to be around all the pre-Christmas excitement.
While the Christmas spirit is attainable wherever you are, having a house and a family to go with it takes away a lot of the effort.