Thursday, December 29, 2011

It's THAT time of year.

It’s that time of year, my friends. That time of year when the excitement of Christmas is over and all that’s left is to take inventory of your life. Another year come and gone. It’s that time of year when your spouse starts thinking of resolutions they’d like you to make. ;)
Ryan Edward is a goal fanatic. He’s all about the “envisioning” and the “positive thinking” and the “set a goal and it will happen”… not barring hard work of course.
We went out to lunch today and we were talking about our potential. We were talking about what we think we’re meant to accomplish. Who are we? What are our strengths? How can we best serve? Is service our motivation for success, or are we motivated by glory or money or praise?
It’s that time of year when you take a good long look at who you really are. But who are you? Deep down, without the influence of anyone else… who are you? You probably have no idea. Ryan Edward and I were talking about that. How much of who we are is because of circumstance? Because of our surroundings? Of our town, of our neighborhood, of our friends, family, health, finances? If our circumstances changed, would it change us? I think so. It makes me wonder: What is innately me and wouldn’t change no matter what or who influenced me?
Three things I deeply love just because I do.
1) I love to create. I love to spend hours (if only I had hours to spend) puttering and applying and knowing that the most important person for me to please with the thing I’m making is ME. I love to work on it until I’ve looked at it so long that I don’t like it anymore, and then take a break from it, go back to it and realize that, really, I love it a whole bunch, finish it, and then set it out on display in front of me and stare at it from every angle and know that I did that.
This is me all the way. It’s something Ryan Edward and many others don’t understand. They think there must be more useful ways to spend one’s time, or they think everyone is better off getting whatever version can be bought in a store. They might be right, but I still love knowing my two hands and my imagination brought something into existence. When Ryan Edward questioned my latest project… the frilly/funky “tween” tutus I made for my daughters for Christmas, I told him that I never have time to create anything anymore, and it’s stealing my soul away. I needed to make these, whether it made sense or not. He looked scared (haha). He backed away slowly, and didn’t question my methods again, nor my late, late hours leading up to Christmas. Far be it for him to suggest I lose a portion of my very soul. :)

2) I adore romance. I feel lost if I don’t regularly feel that romantic thrill I get from a story or a movie or a song. I think I’ll need a steady dose of it all through January as I start another phase of what I like to call my “healthy lifestyle” change, but what is REALLY a series of daily pep talks in which I cycle motivational speeches like “You see, Amie, you feel so much better when you’re doing this” with self-loathing statements like “You can’t eat that candy Amie, you just can’t or you’ll have failed again and you’ll dread getting dressed in anything without an elastic waistband every day for the rest of your life. Is that really what you want? Is it?!?!”
In the name of romance, I’ll tell you my favorite book that I’ve read in the last six months or more. I hesitate because I wouldn’t recommend it to a young, unmarried. It’s got too many hormones for them, but ahhhh....the hormones. I love them. Shhhh. Don’t tell the young, unmarrieds. It’s Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins. The best thing about it is the way the author is able to keep the chemistry going and the big question of whether the couple will end up together through the whole book without making the reader dislike either of them. Mmmm and they get so close and then something legit barely keeps them apart, and then something else legit, and I just love every heart wrenching second of it. I’m very particular about my endings and this one didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait to get my hands on the companion novel, Lola and the Boy Next Door.

3) I’m going to nutshell the third one by saying that I love things that are constant. Getting in bed at the end of the day, so cozy and peaceful. Good music that can make you feel things and bring back a thousand unexpected memories when it comes over the speakers at the grocery store. Justice. I LOVE rules and the following of them, and the end result being expected and deserved. I love watching Judge Judy. I’ve been watching court TV since I was in elementary school. Deep down, I wish I could speak my mind like the judges do. Tell people that they’re being stupid and unfair when they are, and punish them as they deserve. Sounds a little harsh, huh? Justice. Harsh but fair. It just makes sense to me.

In the name of the New Year, three things I want to be and could be good at with work:
1) Organization
2) Fitness
3) Getting my books published
Aaaaand just for fun, three things I love because I’m married to Ryan Edward, and probably would NOT love otherwise:
1) Deep movies with “tough” messages.

2) The history channel.

3) Heaven help me… sci-fi… but dang it, Captain Picard is awesome. None of you should be able to deny that!

Does it make you think? What makes you YOU? How do other people influence you? And how do you hope to improve what you are? ...It's THAT time of year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Inspiration At Christmastime

Every once in awhile I catch a glimpse of a higher plane that I'm just sure I could get to. I even think I catch a glimpse of how to get there. It happened last night at a Christmas program. I was listening to music. I was watching families play instruments and sing duets. I wanted to reach inside myself and let out the best parts of me.

It's easy to lose sight of, because it's only a glimpse. I go back to life as I know it. I go back to being proud of myself for getting the daily work-out in, for getting the daily shower in... I settle for not doing the pretty version of my make-up. Scratch that. I'm not trying to make this about the outside of me, though that is what becomes the focus too often. I'm trying to tell you that inside all of us, lies what we CAN be. What we're meant to be. I know you know the feeling that I'm talking about, and I'm telling you we need to believe in that feeling. It's real. It's true. Daily work-outs and showers are part of the way to get there perhaps, another first step must surely be finding ways to catch more of those glimpses. After that, who knows? Maybe a "visualization" poster or repeating things to yourself in the mirror every morning. :)

If it was easy you could bet I wouldn't be sitting here with my hair looking like a rat's nest, having already used the "Santa is watching" threat four times, hold on.... make that five times... with plans to spend the day doing a thousand Christmas projects that, ideally, would have been finished weeks ago.

But this I cannot deny: somewhere inside me, there is greatness. Somewhere in this life that I've complicated far more than it needs to be, there is the potential for greatness.

What is the vision? It's different for all of us. For me it's being a mom and wife that can feel good about the job she's doing, it's about success as a writer, it's about making a difference, it's about charity, it's about intelligence, and in honor of the daily shower... I dare say it's a little bit about hygiene. It's about giving the best I have. It is giving, you know. When you become your best, those around you automatically benefit from it. The more you give, the greater you become and everyone wins. Everyone receives, everyone grows, everyone wins, and more is possible than we ever dreamed of putting on a "visualization" poster.

One day I'll look back and say, "There was a time in my life when I was proud of myself for getting in a daily shower, and that was in the late afternoon!" The people around me will chuckle, and maybe some of them will cry, because maybe... they'll be catching a glimpse of a higher plane.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Contest Winner!

Thank you all for following and commenting! You are wonderful and I so need your encouragement! I wanted you all to win a million pillows. That's about how many Ryan Edward sleeps with at night. He might could go so far as to call it "work". :) He has to test the merchandise I suppose. He's definitely an expert. His pillows are taking over the world!!!

No matter who won the contest, I would be thrilled and have something wonderful to say about you, even if I don't know you. Your comments all got me in the Christmas spirit, whether you were commiserating or reminding me of the magic of Christmas! Jullie- I feel the EXACT same way about the Christmas letter... and could add to it! ....Let's go for a walk and talk the whole time just about that! ;) Christy- I laughed out loud that you let Bruce off the hook so that you didn't have to spoil his good mood! I love it! And Kelly- you brought back some really embarrassing Christmas video memories of me singing Celine Dion, badly, and with much emotion to my new CD player on Christmas morning as an early teen. Ah- the things that exist on camera that never should.

The winnner of the latex pillow iiiiiiis (drumrollllllllll):

Stefanie Ewer!!!

I put all of the names in a bag, some twice, and I drew out the little paper that said, "Stef". Now I will tell you why we should all be happy that she gets a new pillow. She is a blast to be around and she is so kind. We don't see each other very often anymore, but when my Dad passed away she brought flowers to my door. I will always remember that, because often times (like almost daily) I think of doing kind things for people, especially if they're down but it takes a LOT to actually commit, spend time and thought get something for them, then go out of your way to bring it to them, see them, hug them at the door, and ESPECIALLY to give condolences, because so often people don't know what to say. I think she did something spectacular when she did that! I hope she or whoever she gifts the pillow to sleeps as though on a cloud (if that is, indeed, a good thing. To me, it is!).

I had good intentions of posting more often, but Christmas is all consuming right now! If I don't get to say much until January know this: I'll come back with a vengeance!!! My Januaries always need something fun to focus on.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Christmas Conundrums

In the hope of commiseration, I’m doing a contest. I’m sharing a few things that haven’t fallen into holiday perfection for me this year and for your response, I’m giving away a free latex pillow, ($99 in value, and priceless in comfort) because we all need our sleep more than ever this time of year. If you comment on my blog, I’ll enter your name in the drawing. If you haven’t been a follower and become one, I’ll put your name in again. Just become a follower and then leave a comment and tell me your name and that you became a follower! I’ll draw out the winner in one week. In your comments, I’d love to hear about your humorous Christmas Conundrums or any suggestions you have for us when you read ours! Merry Christmas preparation everyone! :)

I love Christmas. I breathe it in. It gets under my skin. Jingle bells tinkle, yes tinkle, in my head all through December. I believe in a certain type of magic. There’s some kind of magic in the air at Christmastime. How else do you explain the joint excitement and charity of so many at once?
I’m not quite as angelic in my love for Christmas as you might think though. My favorite thing about it is not as selfless and generous as some. My favorite thing is spoiling the heck out of my kids. Bear in mind that we all have a different definition of “spoiling the heck out of”. There’s the degree of spoiling in which you are considering starving children in third world countries and berating yourself for the amount of gifts you have stuffed in the top shelves of the closet. Or there’s the degree of spoiling in which your child’s friend from school tells you that they’re going on a family trip to Europe for the holidays, so they aren’t getting much by way of presents, just a Porsche and a pony. ;) You can go from berating yourself to checking for ponies in a quick hurry.
A week ago, I was doing the usual late night internet window shopping. I waited until Ryan Edward was not quite asleep, but was drowsy and drunk on ESPN because I didn’t want him judging me on my obsession with Christmas shopping. Then I checked the website that I’d had my eye on for months. The only website with the only boots that my almost teenage daughter wants for Christmas. Stop thinking there are similar boots elsewhere because there are NOT. How do I know for sure? Hours of fruitless research.
The pictures of the lovely boots, the furry, colorful, trendy, stylish boots were all overshadowed with the evil, evil phrase “back ordered”. Nooooooooooo! I started attacking the keyboard like one of those mysterious computer genius guys does when he’s diverting missiles in the nick of time. My missile, however, was not to be diverted. The boots are simply unavailable until January. The only way they’ll be under the tree for my daughter on Christmas morning is if I go out and hunt down a hot pink grizzly bear and shape its fur into boots with my own two hands. That’s one of the solutions I considered as I lay awake until the AM hours, fretting about it. Of course I know that’s really silly, which is why I’m now making jokes about it. I ended up explaining to my daughter, and she is happy to wait until January, even though the boots are her most wanted present. She’ll be more than fine. We’re very blessed and we remind ourselves of that all of the time.
Still, Christmas with all of his wonderment does have its challenges, or rather; we have our challenges at Christmastime. It can hardly be blamed on Christmas itself.
Most years I manage to coax Ryan Edward up onto the roof to hang the lights. He dreads doing it and I dread nagging, but neither of us want to see our house go un-twinklefied for Christmas, so we finally… and by finally I mean after several snows and about the time the weather is at its all-time most frozen… begin the task. Ryan climbs up on the ladder, scowling to imply that this is all my fault. I stand below and throw things to him, yelling up to him that there has to be a better way to do this than the way we do. This year I bought big, multicolored lights. They remind me exactly of the ones my Dad would put up when I was little (except they’re LED). We plugged them in, and made certain they worked. Ryan scowled. I yelled up to him to take a close look at the neighbors lights from up there and try to decipher what their secret is for training each individual bulb to stand at uniform attention like obedient little soldiers.
“Throw me the push broom,” Ryan calls, “I’m going to try to sweep the snow off before I climb up onto the highest peak of our frozen roof.”
“Mom! My hands are cold,” Derek says in the near crying voice, because both he and his brother insist on watching their Dad do… well, absolutely everything that he’s doing.
“Put them in your pocket,” I say as I run for the broom.
On the count of three I throw the broom up to Ryan. He scowls and tells us all to back up while he sweeps the snow off. So far he has one strand of lights up, the sun is long gone, and the cold air is biting through my thick coat like it’s a carnivore. Ryan may sweep the roof, but the ice that remains is about to sweep his leg more perilously than that punk from Karate Kid did to Ralph Machio.
I finally give in and tell him to come down, in my grouchy voice. Despite that, he finishes putting up a second strand from the relative safety of the ladder. This leaves the job about 2/5 done. He comes down and plugs the lights in to observe. I’m suspicious that he may well leave the half complete job plugged in just to bask in the joy of what he’s accomplished so far. I begin planning what delicious calories I can drown myself in to make up for this experience. Then I look up. The entire first strand, the only one that went up fairly easy, is as dark and bleak and dead as the Grim Reaper. Ryan need not swear aloud. His every movement is a swearword as he hoists the ladder back to the beginning and jostles each light as if a good shaking will make them obey. They are unafraid. I’m desperate enough to administer CPR to each bulb if only it would help, but apparently they are Do Not Resuscitate.
We walk in the house. I dare not complain or suggest anything further. I talk about how happy I am for our heat, and doesn’t that warm air feel amazing as it surrounds you the minute you walk inside. Though I do it out of fear of sending Ryan over the edge… it is true. The warmth and safety of our home does feel good, even without the awning lined in big, multi-colored lights. I don’t know if we’ll attempt it again this year. You have to weight it all. The starving children against the kids with the vacations and ponies. You have to look at the Christmas list in all its splendor. The things that get crossed off because their done, and the things that get crossed off because the lights died on the table, and chances are when almost everything is crossed off for one reason or another, you might realize that none of it mattered much at all. That there’s something else that didn’t even make the list and it makes the whole thing seem small by comparison. In that way Christmas is no different than any other day. It’s all about figuring out what’s most important… I just really want to figure it out under multi-colored lights.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Why oh Why is it in a Drawer???

I’m taking a break from My True Love Story until after December. I want to be able to pour my whole heart into it, not rush through it and mark it off of a long, sometimes miserable list! I AM, however, going to try something different on my blog. I really miss the spontaneity of a blog being more like a journal. Instead of working tirelessly to recreate a story, I want to just sit and write whatever comes to mind. So, I hope you’ll visit! I plan to do this every day this week, as it will take a lot less time than the stories I write. I hope it entertains!
I want to first respond to questions I get about my book, which I am embarrassed to answer. The answer is this: my manuscript has been sitting in a drawer of my nightstand for almost… no, it couldn’t be! But I think it is… almost a YEAR. How terrible! When my Dad passed away, one of my first thoughts was I’m going to chase my dream and make Dad proud! I’m going to start right now, right after the unthinkable (losing my Dad) has happened, because I won’t be afraid. Something truly scary has happened to me and chasing my dream seems comforting by comparison! So I started my blog, with every intention of editing my book, finding a writer’s group to help me, and pursuing publication. I’m still going to do it, but the time frame is---wow--- really affected by my emotional circumstances.
I’m funny about my time. I save the thing I like doing most for last. I make myself do all of the stuff I hate first. I clean the blasted bathrooms, I do the dishes, and then I sit down with baskets full of laundry and fold it while sipping Crystal Light and watching one of my favorite TV series. It’s heavenly. It’s the same thing with my book. I keep saving the joy of it until I’m past adjusting. Adjusting to Mom moving here in a time of grief, adjusting to Mom dating, adjusting to the holidays without Dad and with a family that’s changing so much and so fast you wonder at times if you’ll recognize it! :)
I’m learning so much though! Every new experience, or “adjustment” as I’ve been calling them, makes me a better writer.
I’ll tell you a story. The summer before last, our most wonderful in the world next door neighbors hired our oldest daughter to water their yard for them while they went out of town. There were soaker hoses that she had to turn on for about twenty minutes at a time. Life is insane with four kids all talking a mile a minute, all on different schedules, all making messes at the speed of sound. We didn’t check up on the job she was doing for the neighbors. We wanted to teach her responsibility, and I figured the worst that could happen, which would be just awful considering that our neighbors are the most wonderful in the world, would be that their plants might die under her watchful care. Wrong.
Sunday morning, our daughter went over there to tweak something or other, and noticed that the window well was full of water. She had forgotten to turn off one of the soaker hoses. Under the circumstances she trusted her Dad not to freak out more than she trusted me, so she ran to him. By the time I noticed tension emanating into our house from the yard next door, I came upon Ryan standing in their window well in shorts and his white church shirt, scooping buckets full of water out as fast and furious as he could. It was to no avail. We got the key to the house and went inside. Our legs moved us, though I don’t know how, to the basement of our dear friends’ and as we stepped off of the bottom stair, their carpet just squished and splatted under our feet. We had flooded our neighbor’s basement. The whole entire basement.
We’d have to move of course. We’d be shunned by all. We’d lose our friends, we’d lose our dignity. The world, for us, would pretty much have to end. Ryan is a glass half full kind of guy, but that day he just sat there on our couch, staring at the wall for like an hour. We just couldn’t believe we had let such a thing happen. We couldn’t believe there was nothing we could do to take it back, to make it go away! It took days to even function properly. Angels took over our neighbors’ bodies and they responded with perfection. If you are ever going to flood anyone’s basement, I highly recommend them. I never blogged about it, or posted about it on facebook. It was too painful. I did sit down weeks later, though, to work on my book and wrote one of the saddest scenes I’ve ever written. The bad guy was brutally mean, and the good guy was heart-wrenchingly tortured (Amie style that is, which is the really bearable kind of bad-guy torture). I could write that way because I knew emotion that I hadn’t known until dumdumdum- THE FLOOD.
Moral of the post is this: The writer in me is getting better. The time-manager in me is scouring the figurative bathrooms so that she can get to the fun stuff, aka editing her manuscript for crying out loud and magically transforming into a published author. And no- I don’t believe that’s really the way that happens. I know that there is still plenty of figurative toilet scrubbing to be done along the way to book signing status. Talk me through it people, ‘cuz I’m scared.

Monday, November 28, 2011

My True Love Story

The Countdown Goes Fast!
up to Day 2,675ish

Elder Leonhardt,
The primary had a talent show not too long ago. It was so fun to watch. I kept thinking about the expectation that I have for my own kids and how I want to give them every opportunity possible. Children can teach adults so much. You know that picture of Jesus with all of the children? One little boy in our primary said that he has that picture hanging on his wall and that he is in it. I think it’s so cute that he pictures himself with Jesus.
I got a Young Adult romantic novel for Christmas. I blame those books for my sometimes unrealistic outlook on life. But, regardless of that, I read the entire thing today. :)
I wish I was as generous as you say I am. The truth is I can be much too selfish at times. For instance, I was pretty disappointed in our phone conversation on Christmas. It’s hard to look forward for months to a conversation that last only minutes, and with people listening. But I suppose you’re worth it, aren’t you. ;)
P.S. Remember how I always used to say, “I could care less”? You would say, “It’s, I couldn’t care less.” That's so you. :)
I am sorry that I haven’t written much about after I get home lately. I have done that on purpose. I want to find out about you when I get home. Right now I am completely focused on this work. When I get home I will date you and see if this is still what we both want. I don’t want to be vague, but I must.

Elder Leonhardt,
Well, I bet you don’t even realize it, but it’s almost Valentine’s Day. So, Happy Anniversary. Since it’s the holiday of love, I’m sending you some love stories… the spiritual kind of course! And the traditional insight from Calvin on the subject as well.

P.S. Remember at school dances when you would point out the really mushy couples by saying “Twelve o’clock” or “Two o’clock”, etc? I laughed so hard I could barely dance!

I love seeing your progression in your letters. When I think of you, I think of light. Light and darkness cannot occupy the same space and that is what you do and have always done is drive the dark away. I admire, respect and trust you.

Elder Leonhardt,
I’ve been so happy lately. I hope you’re happy too. My roomies were complaining about life today and I inadvertently kept changing each negative comment into something happier. I didn’t even notice I was doing it until Sara burst out, “Amie! Can you just let the glass be half empty for a day?!?!” We all laughed and laughed. Carlos Castaneda said, “Thing don’t change. You change your way of looking, that’s all.”

P.S. Remember playing U-No with our friends and you would make up your own rules and have us all doing crazy things?

How do you like US on the cover of this card? Remember that porch swing in my back yard?
Happy Birthday! You’re 20. Did you hear me? You’re 2-0. No more teens. No more adolescence. 20. Come join our ranks. Yeah, I’ve been here for a whole 7 months.

P.S. Remember when I used to call you chipmunk? I will again.

Elder Leonhardt,
I’m in our truck right now, headed toward the desert with my family. We’re out on a family venture and it’s a beautiful, sunny, Monday afternoon, despite the fact that I didn’t get a letter from you this week. ;) I’ve been a little sad lately because the pageants and parades are all taking place and I’m not a part of any of it now. My life for the moment consists of working and playing, nothing too spectacular. I’m trying to focus on quiet works of service. Matthew 6:3-4. “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth. That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.”

Elder Bye and I are still loving serving as Assistants to the mission President together. I think we have a deeper respect for one another than we do for most people. He is a competitor. He wins, yeah WINS almost everything he does. It’s good to see him set that mind toward missionary work.
Amie, I know that Jesus Christ loves us and wants us to find peace. I have found where heaven is and won’t stop ‘til I get there.

P.S. Remember when we were in your back yard talking and we, or I decided to let your dog, Crocket, out? Not a good move. We were chasing him around Ferron Creek Subdivision for an hour. It’s good to think about our memories together. Thank you for being so memorable.

Elder Leonhardt,
Tasha and her family were in town this weekend. I talked to them at church. She and I tried relentlessly to get her little Ryan to say my name and he wouldn’t. Then he finally said, “Ummnthgmm”, and I decided that was close enough! Tasha says that later he said my name lots of times, so guess he does take after you… anything to be difficult. ;)

P.S. Remember when you said that the #1 thing you’ll look for in a wife is good eyebrows???

I will be coming home in two months. It’s scary to me to end things. I have always had trouble with ending things. I have one comfort that I will always remind myself, I HAVE DONE MY ABSOLUTE BEST. I really have. Now I see the fruits of service, I look at myself and say that it has been the BEST thing I have ever done. I will never lose my desire to be good or my desire to make someone else feel good.

I haven’t heard from you for awhile, but I will see you on November 17 anyway. I invite you, if you can and if it works out, to come to my house on that evening.
P.S. Remember when I played that Beach Boys song for you that reminds me of you? It says, “Well you’re kinda small, but you’re such a doll…” Yeah that was good.

Dear John,
Just kiddin’. ;) This is my last letter to you. How do you feel about that?!?! I’m kinda happy. Hmmm… on the 17th of November, I’m invited to your house- if I’m not busy or anything huh? Well… you know, I’ll have to check my schedule, but I’m pretty sure that day has been free for a good two years or so! I’ll be there.
It’s more clear to me now than ever why you love missionary work. I hope you won’t be too sad about leaving though. You can be a great missionary here at home too. You’ll love it. I’ll see you soon. (Can you believe I just WROTE that?!?!) It felt so good- I think I’ll do it again. I’ll see you soon.
Love, Amie
P.S. Remember before you left you said, “Goodbye forever”? Yeah right. ;)

This letter will be the last that I’ll write to you from my mission. My mother and you have been the champions of my mailbox for 2 years. When I remember back to my letters from Lincoln, 2 years ago, I don’t think I knew you as well as I do now. Does that sound weird? To me it does, but I feel like it is true. Two years have been a good amount of time to get to know you, not forget you.
I don’t have much to say because I will see you in 1 ½ weeks. I just truly want to thank you.
Love, Elder Leonhardt

P.S. Remember all of the good times we are going to have?

Monday, November 21, 2011

My True Love Story

Hell's Bells!
Day 2,310

My new college experience is much more the way I imagined college to be. My roommates are all beginners to college, the way I feel, and they are full of energy and gusto. They instigate collaborative dinners, movie marathons, and midnight Denny’s runs. They lure boys with food. They tease me because I’m in love with Keanu Reeves. They decorate for the holidays. At random times they do the Macarena in the living room. We rent a little, old house and we’ve even barbequed out on the deck. One of my roomies has a stolen road sign, cows crossing, and it’s hanging on the wall above our kitchen table.
In front of our house, near the street, there’s an old wooden post with a mailbox sitting atop it. What it contains on a weekly basis has a lot to do with my frame of mind. Sometimes when the weekly letter is late, I go for a drive, park somewhere quiet, hike to a place with a beautiful view and try to see the future. If I could see it, I wouldn’t live in this confusion. I don’t want to hurt anybody, and I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to make anyone a fool, and I don’t want to be a fool. Two years. TWO YEARS! Who keeps in touch that long with only letters, and an exactly five minute long conversation on select holidays? Do we even know each other anymore? Is there a chance we might know each other even better?
“Amieeee,” my roommate calls out in a sing-song voice, “A letter from a certain Elder Leonhardt just got here!” I’m reaching to take it out of her hand in seconds.
The envelope is different. It’s long. Usually they’re the standard 4X6ish, but this one is longer and thick. His letters, like his notes in high school are always one page long. One page, with one or two “P.S.”s, memories, the part I look forward to most. But this envelope is much too thick to only contain one page. I immediately get nervous. The feeling drapes over my face like a bad omen, and my roommates and the boys that are visiting, once jovial and hyper, grow quiet and concerned. I take the letter without saying anything and I walk to my room. I leave the door open, sit against a wall in the corner and open the unusual envelope. The letter is five pages long, five pages filled with his handwriting. I start to shake.
First of all I want you to know how scared I am to write you this letter. Don’t get scared by that sentence because I think you have been waiting for this, and more importantly, you deserve this.
Don’t get scared? Don’t get scared?!?! Is he kidding me right now???
I read the letter. It attempts to summarize our entire relationship. What he’s sorry for and how he’s changed. How he’s determined that we’ll re-build our relationship on true ground. He’ll need to date other girls, but he wants to date me and treat me like I should be treated. He doesn’t want to kiss me, not for a long time, he wants to know who I truly am, wants to think about that, not about kissing. All of that, all of those things that are going to happen and aren’t going to happen, it’s all for when he gets home. Until then… until then… he has a job to do. He has to throw himself into the work he’s doing. He has people to teach. He has to be focused or he might not say the right things to them when they need it most. He won’t be able to write every week anymore. He’ll try to write every other week. He hopes I understand. He’s sure I will. I’ve been so supportive, and he knows I understand the reasons he’s out there. He knows I have the same beliefs that he does. He quotes my letters. He uses my words like proof against this selfish girl who is now clutching this letter with tears streaming down her face. I don’t see this letter through all of my beliefs and my selflessness. I’m a girl living in the world, dating, kissing, luring boys with food! Counting down the days. He’s holding onto the days, praying that they don’t go too fast. Praying he can do all of the work that he needs to do.
One of my wonderful, funny, sweet, crazy roommates peeks around the corner of my doorway and sees me crying. She gasps. “What is it, Amie? There is no way he broke up with you!”
“No. No…” I say, through sobs, it isn’t that. He just…” How do you summarize five pages, five stupid pages of ink on paper? No voice behind them. No reassurance. No, “Amie, you silly girl, don’t you know what I meant? That when I said I didn’t want to kiss you right away, I meant it as a compliment. I meant to tell you that I want to care about your mind and your heart because the idiotic boy that I was before cared more about your lips. I don’t want to be like that anymore.”
I have to read it the only way that I can read it. “I don’t want to kiss you right away. I’ll date other girls when I get home. I won’t be able to write every week anymore.”My roommate pulls me up by the arm and leads me to the support of the group. I frantically wipe tears off of my cheeks. The other roommates stand up at the sight of me and flock around. The boys that are there shake their heads and smirk. I still clutch the five pages in my fingers. There’s a chorus of “What is it Amie? What’s wrong? What did he say? Surely there’s an explanation!”
I sniff, get a word out here and there, the sound of concern grows and swells. Then a good friend of everyone in our apartment, a returned missionary, a boy named R who is sitting back on our sofa wondering at the chatter of the lesser understood sex yells out, “Hell’s bells!”
I’ve never heard the expression before, but it describes the setting with such perfection and hilarity that I start laughing. I’m laughing this somewhat hysterical laugh through my previous sobs. Everyone else clamps their mouths shut and the room gets quiet.
“What did you say?” I ask R.
“I said, ‘Hell’s bells’. It’s an expression, and it’s never described anything so well up until now!” he says. “What is all of the commotion about?”
I have one sentence to try and explain. One sentence to try and do what Elder Leonhardt couldn’t do in five pages. “He says he can’t write every week anymore because he needs to concentrate on his mission.”
A new chorus of reassurance starts up amongst my beloved roommates, but I’m still looking at R. He’s someone who has been out there; he’s the closest thing I have to understanding this letter.
“It’s perfectly normal,” he says, flippantly. “How long has he been out now?”
“Just over a year,” I say.
“Totally normal,” R says. “He’s trying to be the best missionary he can be. You think he can do that and be thinking about you every day? Not likely. Don’t take it personally. If you want his mission to be effective, accept it.”
My breaths are coming slower, deeper. This makes some sense to the selfless, believing girl who wrote those quotes from Ryan’s letter. She’s in here somewhere.”
“Amie, you silly girl. Don’t you know I’m trying to be a good man so I’ll deserve you one day? Don’t you know the best way I can commit to the rest of my life is to commit to this now?”
Ryan, don’t you know that I’m dating people here who can be with me right now? Who want to kiss me right now? Who want to commit to me and not ‘date other girls’, blah, blah, blah. What if I’m not the girl you’re trying to deserve? What if I’m a girl who reads your five page, heartfelt, thought out letter and can’t understand it, can’t accept it?
I remember a letter Ryan wrote to me about a man they taught once. His little brother had been killed when he was young. He was angry about it. He had so many questions and not any answers that he could live with. Ryan got to tell him that we believe that he’ll be with his little brother again one day. I don’t know if he accepted that or not, and if he didn’t that’s okay. We’re all free to believe what we want to believe, but if there are people out there searching for what Ryan is worthy to teach them, then it’s bigger than me.
Hell’s bells. I’m about to face another year of staring into an empty mailbox, of staring into a future full of question marks, of staring into a mirror and wondering if I’m really the girl Elder Leonhardt thinks I am.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Putting Together the Pieces

Today I got out a giant umbrella and walked with Luke to his bus stop. There were giant white snowflakes falling all around us and I imagined how warm and cozy the bus must feel for him as he got on board. I caught a perfect view of him out one of the many windows as the bus drove by me, walking back to the house, and I smiled my biggest smile and waved my happiest wave. I thought about how it won’t be long before I’ll wish for moments like that back. I thought about how fast time goes.
I used to sit on the tiny balcony of an apartment Ryan and I lived in when our oldest was a toddler and the next was a baby. We had lived there for a couple of years and we didn’t mind the daydream of moving on, owning a home, feeling financially secure. But I remember, perfectly, sitting out on that balcony, looking past the generic, colorful playground equipment, past the shared swimming pool, to a barrier of other tall apartment buildings all filled with young couples like us and thinking, “One day, this view will be a distant memory. It is so familiar now. It’s all I know, all I can imagine, but one day I’ll never lay eyes on it again.”
I remember last Christmas like it was yesterday. It does not seem like a year ago. Not a whole year since I hid Alli’s first cell phone away in my sock drawer, anxiously awaiting Christmas morning. Not a whole year since I turned down desserts and exercised feverishly so I could feel good about myself while Christmasing with my family and then ate all through Christmas break and gained it all back.
I teach my kids the same little songs and actions that my Mom taught me when I was little and I can still hear the echo of her voice when she taught me. I can still feel the warm sun on my face, still feel the pavement under my feet as we walked to the local library, singing with her all the way there and back.
That’s how short this life is.
It’s comforting in a way, focusing on and lamenting over scales, clocks, money and technology. Little things. Fleeting things. However, in the moments when you have that out of time experience, when you stand out in the gently falling snow and usher your kindergartner onto the school bus and watch him smile and wave goodbye, you just want to wrap your arms around the people you love and make sure they’re happy and taken care of. You just want to wrap all of your memories up in the little antique doilies you got from your Great Grandma and tuck them away in a hope chest that smells clean and old at the same time and keep them forever safe… and you want to make more.
My Mom is dating someone, and it’s serious. Many of you will be wondering what the story is, so I’ll try to summarize. He was a friend of my Dad’s in high school. They hadn’t stayed in close contact, but he came to visit my Dad once when he got really sick. He also came to my Dad’s funeral. I so appreciated everyone who travelled to come and pay respects to Dad. A few months later, this man’s wife, who had been sick for many years, also passed away. My Mom travelled with friends to the funeral. Later, emails began between my Mom and this man because (and I believe this with all of my heart) no one can understand losing a spouse except for someone who has experienced it. They talked of nothing but their spouses and their grief for months. The emails began to be so healing that phone calls seemed an even better opportunity. By the time they went on their first date (which kind of freaked us out) they were already close and only got closer. There was a shift in relationship, so natural, that my Mom said it felt right.
This is where it starts getting a little tricky for us, the onlookers. This is where a thousand questions, questions you never even thought of asking, come into your mind. Justin, Jeremy, Jordan and I are Monte Gee’s kids, and being like him in many ways, we don’t enter into ANYTHING without thinking it over to the result of at least five headaches and a goodly portion of heartburn. Rest assured, we have taken our feelings and the circumstances apart and put them back together like a jigsaw puzzle, and before it’s over we’ll be able to put the puzzle together blindfolded, our spouses will too.
The pieces of the puzzle are like our daily stresses about scales, clocks, money and technology. Each piece is important. When the puzzle is put together, it’s like the out of time moment I had at the bus stop today. The picture is a man and a woman who have had their hearts broken; who have been through more than most of us can understand. It’s a picture of them finding happiness when they once hoped for only survival. It’s a picture of two families standing behind them in support because life is short, and they just want to wrap their arms around the people they love and make sure they’re happy and taken care of. My mom’s only daughter is in that puzzle, and while she’s still coping with these new ideas, and writing a blog post about them, she’s also wrapping up her memories in little antique doilies and tucking them away in a proverbial hope chest that smells clean and old at the same time, she’s keeping them safe forever… and she’s willing to open her heart and make new ones with new people because there’s still room in her hope chest for that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My True Love Story

Author's note: I just got my 70th follower! Woot! Woot! And she left an awesome and very flattering comment on last week's post, with a numbered list. ;)Thank you to her and thanks to you all SO much!!!
I Once Was Blind, But Now I Like What I See

Day 2250ish

High school matters. I know they tell you it doesn’t. I know we tell ourselves it doesn’t. It may be the most wanted to be believed lie out there. Even now, as they read these words, people are gasping. They’re averting their eyes. They’re cussing at me. They’re making sure their impressionable teenagers aren’t reading… because high school stinks in a lot of ways, and there’s only one sentence that will get people through it. “High School doesn’t matter.” I understand the kind lie we tell ourselves. There are few ways to escape high school, so the only solace is in the possibility that it doesn’t matter.
Here’s the truth: High School doesn’t matter, as long as you can leave it behind. It’s all up to you, but it isn’t easy. It takes self-discovery, maturity, real confidence, forgiveness and trust. Probably a lot of other near impossible things too.
So instead we tell ourselves that in the future, when everyone goes to college, we are all equal. That it doesn’t matter who you were or what people thought of you. That the playing field is evened out and everyone starts over again. We all want it to be true. Even the most popular kids in school want it to be true because as they grow older, they have to live with the way they treated people. They have to live with the inner doubt, whispering to them that they really aren’t everything that people believed them to be. The ones who weren’t popular, they take that with them too. They hear the echoes of people taunting them or they hear the silence of people ignoring them. We all fight the high school voices as they tell us repeatedly who we are; we all continually try to figure out whether they’re right or not. We all bring it with us.
The High School stars wish they could get back the glory days, the kids that weren’t stars go out with a fervor and try to prove to the world that there’s more to them than people saw in high school, and the girl that got her heart broken… no matter how the boy seems to change, or tries to take it back, well, she can’t quite trust him anymore.
Tonight I have a blind date. Never been on a blind date before. His sister set it up. She’s pretty new in town, so there’s mystery. She’s my friend, but I’m intimidated by her because she is so stand out beautiful and skinny and confident. She’s the kind of girl who definitely has an amazing brother that you’d kill to be set up with.
I’m going to be so confident though, because I’m not that nervous, self-conscious, crying silently in the dark of the audience in the school auditorium because Ryan is singing to another girl on stage at a high school assembly girl anymore. I’m a pageant queen, a college student, an experienced dater, a really good writer of missionaries, a janitor… okay, well the other stuff is really cool. Besides, high school doesn’t matter.
So I’m all glammed up and I’m waiting to be all picked up, but the minutes are ticking by. Five minutes after six o’clock. Ten minutes after 6 o’clock. Eleven minutes. Twelve minutes. How long am I supposed to sit here pretending I’m not nervous for this?!?!? Eighteen minutes. Nineteen minutes. I’ve stopped primping. Stopped pretending that- so what if he’s late, because I was going to be late anyway. I fully intended on it.
Twenty-one minutes. Twenty-two minutes. Should I call his sister? We’re doubling with them. Meeting them somewhere. Meeting each other first. Alone. Driving somewhere, getting a chance to talk. IF he shows up, that is. Twenty-three minutes… and a knock at the door.
I let my self-righteous indignation push the butterflies out of my throat, down deep into my stomach, smooshed way down there where I can barely feel them fluttering around. My parents aren’t the type to have the official meeting of the boy on the first date. My mom is the type to peek out of unseen window corners, while whispering a little prayer. My Dad is the type that, if a boy has so much as caught a glimpse of him or even heard anything about him, it’s more effective than him cleaning his gun in the living room. What a good man he is, but if anyone hurt me, they really would need to be afraid.
So, with no introductions to perform, I am free to glance at my watch and greet him with an, “I wasn’t sure if you were going to make it,” before I raise my chin and move past him out of the front door, and bounce my hair, alluring, and now, untouchable, as I stomp down the front steps.
He’s smiling as he climbs behind the steering wheel, playing it off as though my anger is cute as a button. He’s good looking. Blond hair, a fresh t-shirt, frayed jeans that fit right and don’t try too hard, but no amount of good lookingness can forgive this extreme lateness, because I am so done with cocky boys who think they can make me wait around.
As he reverses out of my driveway, he asks, “So… how has your day been?”
“Pretty good, until the last twenty-three minutes or so,” I say.
“Why is that?” he asks, making nothing easy.
“Uh… because that’s how late you are.”
He’s still wearing that amused smile when he says, “I’m sorry, I lost track of time because I was vacuuming out my truck. I wanted to impress you.”
My head snaps toward him. This bit of flattering honesty is unexpected. I look at the floor, begrudgingly checking the vacuuming job. “Oh. Well, the truck… does… look… good,” I say. Then, because his honesty disarmed me, I disarm him right back with some of my own. “And… you smell good,” I say. Boy am I a sucker for men’s cologne. I’d almost grab a stranger who walked past in the grocery store to tell him he smells good.
After I shamelessly tell him, in so few words, that the scent he gives off is pretty much delectable, the conversation warms up considerably. He asks me if it would be okay if he turns the radio off because he’d rather hear me talk. I’m thrilled, as I have secretly wished for less radio chatter and more human chatter on many previous dates. The conversation turns out to be so much better than the radio ever could be. We drive toward the nearest city, the conversation clicking instantly, the sparks flying. Rain starts pouring down, large amounts being swooshed out of our view by the windshield wipers, copious drops making their impact as they pelt and splatter new puddles of their friends on the road below us.
I tell him about how my first kiss happened in the rain, and this opens the conversation up to clever flirting.
Did you know that blind dates have a reputation for being bad? Whoa. I’m here to stand up in defense of the honor of blind dates everywhere, because this is some of the best chemistry of all time regardless of blindness, blurriness, or perfect 20/20 vision.
We meet up with his sister and her date. We hardly know they are there, except to politely add to the conversation on occasion. I can see them looking at us in wonder, so mesmerizing is the way in which this blind date has removed it’s sleep mask to a surprise better than Christmas morning.
By the time we say goodbye on my front porch that night, I- the guardian of all sacred kisses, am puckering up wholeheartedly. He hugs me and tells me, with a gravelly voice, that he sure wishes he believed in kissing on the first date, but he wouldn’t want to disrespect me.
I walk in the door, close it behind me and fall to the floor instantly, staring up at the ceiling as though it’s covered in twinkling stars and fluffy pink clouds made of cotton candy, and rainbows… beautiful, beautiful rainbows.
The face of my brother, Justin, looks down on me with concerned confusion because he’s a boy and doesn’t understand the dreamy sighs and the conscious, simulated fainting.
“I take it the date went… well?” he says.
I think I respond with something like, “Mmmm… rainbows are pretty.”
He’s truly shocked at my over-the-top happiness and asks the question that maybe you’re all asking, “Do you think you could like him more than you like Ryan?”
I frown and the clouds and rainbows swirl together in a psychedelic pinwheel. “I don’t know,” I say.
That’s the big question when you’re writing to a missionary, and it’s hard to know when you’re obligated to answer it. Do you have to decide who you like best on the first date? Within a week? Within a month? Within six months? If you have to decide in the first 23 minutes, I’m afraid the guy I went out with tonight is completely out of luck.
The very concept of having to choose is falsely flattering to me. I don’t really have a choice. It’s not like two boys are on their knees in front of me right this second. It’s not like I can make a T-Chart! This one’s good qualities versus that one’s. Bar graphs. Math formulas. Amie + X= Happily Ever After. It doesn’t work that way. It’s much more complicated. Amie+X(thepast)+fear about being hurt in the future+ letters that don’t even say "I love you" (greater than or less than Amie+Y(the present)- we don’t know anything yet.
Math and my brain don’t mix well. When I was in tenth grade my Dad jokingly said, “Take your final required math credit and if it doesn’t start clicking, then your senior year you can just take basket weaving.” I swallowed my pride and re-took a simpler math class and it finally did start to click. Eventually we figure things out. Sometimes we have to take the pressure off of ourselves by saying, “Hey! If we never get it, there’s always basket weaving.” Oh yeah, and “High School doesn’t matter.”
So my advice to myself as I traverse dating back home while writing to a missionary is this: “Try to experience life. Try to be honest with others and with yourself, and try to remember that if you’re living right you’ll figure everything out eventually. I can think of no metaphor for the basket weaving… I just really love my Dad.

Monday, November 7, 2011

My True Love Story

Writing To A Missionary

Day 2,140- 2,250ish

Elder Leonhardt-
I believe that we are blessed by the Lord just as fast as we prepare ourselves to receive blessings. I’ve seen this many times in my life. Most recently, I was offered an unexpected summer job here at home! I will be cleaning the local churches and maintaining church grounds! (That is the reason I glued grass on this week’s letter.) I know it doesn’t sound at all glamorous, but for some reason I love the idea of working in a quiet and familiar church. The older man that will be my manager laughed and said he loved the idea of Miss Emery County riding around on a riding lawn mower. Ever since he said that I picture myself mowing lawns with my banner and crown on, and for some reason I like the contradiction there.

I hope that you like your new job. That should really keep you busy. Yes, I too have mowed some lawns in my time, but it really isn’t as bad as I said, I just wanted sympathy.
I want you to know that I appreciate people now. I have seen so much good in people. There is light in everything you see if you are looking for it. The light in you is amazing.
P.S. Remember when I first saw you at the church. I called you “Amos”. Remember when I used to keep the basketball away from you and you’d always get it.

Elder Leonhardt-
I’m sitting on my front porch swing on a beautiful rainy Sunday and I had to write you a letter! Sorry about the raindrops, but you know when it’s raining I HAVE to be out in it!
Thanks so much for the pictures! Your Mom and I were saying you look like you glow. Those people in California are the object of all of my envy because they get to see it in person. But they need you right now, and you are reaching so many of them. You really are amazing. I’m so happy to know you and write to you on your mission. Your letters and just the thought of you alone help me want to better myself.
P.S. Remember when I made you take off your shoes and wade in the gutter with me in the rain?

Thank you for the letter. It really brightened my day. It was very helpful. I truly did need to hear exactly what you said.
I’ve been thinking about the way I was in high school. I wish I could do it over again and really make a difference. I’m going to do all I can for people. Maybe I still can make a difference.
I have seen many conversions while I have been here in California, but perhaps the greatest conversion is my own. I want the whole world to know what happiness and peace the Gospel brings to all homes, and especially my own.
P.S. Remember when we were voted “cutest couple” in the yearbook?
P.S.S. I am calling home for Mother’s Day on May 12th at 8:15. I am allowed to talk to you for a few minutes.

Elder Leonhardt-
I think of you a lot now that I spend so much time in the local church buildings. I have lots of memories of you there. I’m really glad you made some of the decisions you made back then. You were a lot smarter than I was. I’m glad you dated a lot, because I wouldn’t ever want to rob you of good learning experiences. You learned that I’m the best, right? ;) Anyway, it’s mostly thanks to what you did that we’ve come this far.
Last night your brother, Daymon, and his wife, Suzanne, did a fireside here in Ferron. I went and I couldn’t believe how much it made me think of you. Daymon is such an amazing person! He reminds me of you so much! They sang the song that you sang at your farewell. It was almost as if they wanted to torture me. ;)
Your Mom invited me over to visit when it was over and a lot of your family was there! My mouth always hurts when I leave your house because I can’t stop smiling and laughing the whole time I’m there.
Nathan remembered my name, piece of cake and his favorite Uncle is still “Uncle Rynie”. (I had to check that.) I hope all of this doesn’t make you homesick, but I wanted you to know how much I love your family. You are lucky to have them and they are lucky to have you.
P.S. Remember whenever I was at your house late, your Dad would invite me to have family prayer with you guys? That really touched me.

Elder Leonhardt-
I’m listening to your tape right now for about the sixth time… in three days. Your family has listened to it as well. I love hearing your voice especially when you’re talking about your beliefs… or me… I kinda like it when you talk about me too. ;) I have GOT to record a tape for you! You wouldn’t believe how different it is from letters! It makes me feel like I know you a lot better, like you are right here talking to me.
When I first listened to your tape I was surprised to hear you say, “I hope you’re keeping a list of all the things I want to do when I get home.” I turned around, reached into my desk drawer and pulled out the piece of paper which is titled, “Things to do with Ryan when he gets home…” Amazingly, going to Zion’s and Bryce Canyons are two of the first things on the list. Yeah, I’m way ahead of ya. I’m just starting to realize how much you and I think alike and I love it!

It was so good to hear your voice on Sunday. You sounded great. I really don’t have a mind frame for anything except missionary work, so when I was talking to all of you I couldn’t think of anything to say. Yeah, I know it’s weird, but I couldn’t. I don’t mind it though. I want to be really out of it when I get home if that’s a sign of someone who was absorbed in missionary work.
Elder Leonhardt-
It was great to hear your voice for the few minutes we talked on the phone. I had fun talking to the rest of your family while I was there too. Your nieces and nephews are the cutest kids in the whole world! I love them so much! Remember when you always said your kids will be cuter than my kids and they’ll beat my kids in basketball? Anyway, Trav told me to come and visit next time I’m in Price. I really do love your family like they’re my own.
I love the stories you tell me about the people you are teaching in California. Someday I want to meet the families. I feel close to them, even though I don’t know them. Maybe that’s because we share the same feelings for you.
P.S. There was a man working on the floor of the cultural hall last week and I was shocked and excited to find out he was from Yuba City! He told me he would find you when he goes back home and tell you hello for me.
(Author's note: Other missionaries added this lovely commentary to my envelope. I was amused to find that missionaries took the opportunity to embelish my evelopes with fake messages quite often.)

Yesterday Elder Hunt and I were out on our bikes and we were having a deep conversation about pride. He wasn’t looking where he was going. You know those “Road Work Ahead” signs? Well, Elder Hunt rammed the sign. I laughed a little bit. Okay, you got me, I laughed a lot.
P.S. I was standing in Priesthood meeting on Sunday greeting people coming in and some guy comes up to me and says, “Hello Elder Leonhardt, I just got through talking to your counterpart, Amie.” I put my hand on his shoulder and asked for a repeat. He told me about how he had been doing the gym floor in Ferron and talked to a beautiful girl named Amie. It was really fun to talk to him.
Elder Leonhardt-
I’m really sorry I missed a week and I’m sorry this letter is rushed.
I have been so busy with my responsibilities as Miss Emery County! I am so nervous for the Miss Utah pageant, and feel so ill prepared as I hear that other contestants spend years getting themselves ready for the competition. I think my interest in pageants ends on the County level and I will be glad when this is over with! This week I had to not only work, but “reign” over the county fair and be in the parade. I still have to write an article for the newspaper and make a video for the local TV station.
P.S. Remember when we would write notes and you would only write one word all of the time. “Tell.” Or “Yep.” My late letters are only payback! ;)
I was thinking about you today and all of your thoughts and all of your hopes and dreams, and you know what? They are the same as mine.
The work is going well. I feel a desperation in my testifying. I want the people to be what they can be so badly. I have committed to memory first Corinthians chapter 13. I have been able to memorize as much in an hour as I used to in ten hours.
P.S. Remember when I was talking to you from your window and that kitten kept attacking my leg?
Elder Leonhardt-
I can’t believe that you so casually mentioned in your letter that you changed your hairstyle! Your hair is iconic! Therefore, I am anxiously awaiting pictures, and this letter is dedicated to the possibilities of what your new hairstyle might look like. Are any of these correct? :)

P.S. I laughed SO hard when I remembered that cat that kept attacking you outside of my window! You would be mid-sentence and the silly thing would jump right up and lay its claws into your jeans! You’d kick it off, resume talking, and it would do it all over again, playing a game with you! I’m laughing so hard right now that I can’t write! It was SO funny! I love our memories.

Elder Leonhardt-
Oh Gosh. The other day, I had a date come to the house and you should’ve heard what my little brother, Jordan, said to him! He looked right at him and said, “Amie’s gonna marry Ryan when he gets off his mission.” My family had a good laugh about it, but it was a terrible situation for a moment or two!
I want you to know that I am dating as we agreed that I would do while you are away. I wouldn’t mention it, but someone suggested to me that it was dishonest for me not to tell you about my dating in our letters. I thought I should ask and make sure. Do you still feel the same about not wanting to hear about it or has that changed?
No, I haven’t changed. I do NOT want to hear about your dating experiences. I think it is great that you are dating good people (as I know you would) and I think you will grow from it as you have already found. I think that story is hilarious though, and I appreciate Jordan’s looking out for me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My True Love Story

Author's note: Please don't let my writing about my beliefs alienate (or bore, or offend) you if you aren't a member of my church. These stories are really about a young girl figuring out who she is and who she loves. We all have to do that in one way or another! :) Thanks for reading!

Where Do You Look To Find Yourself?
Day 2,140ish

I know one place that I look. It’s a little town in Southern Utah and it’s called Beaver. I don’t know why it defines me so. It might be because I spent two crucial, transitional years there, seventh and eighth grade. It might be because my first real interactions with boys took place there. It might be because it’s a small town where everyone knows each other and most are related, but they eventually accepted me as one of them. It might be because of the traditions they have in that little town that are different from anywhere else that I know. The all-out way they celebrate the fourth of July, the way they spend their summers at co-ed 4-H camp and putting on summer plays in a quaint little playhouse, or the way they end their summers with an ice-cream sundae party that turns into a food fight, and then a late night swimming party at the local pool. It might even be that I moved away, and when something ends prematurely we romanticize it until we remember it more wonderful that it even was. But ah well, I like doing that.
J went to the same college that I did. I’ll never forget registration. I don’t think I’ve ever been so overwhelmed in my life. I was staring blankly at lists and lists of classes and it could have been a foreign language. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, or even what path to start down. The excitement of escaping my regular life and embarking on the college adventure was quickly being replaced with cold, hard reality, and bleak, shuddering fear. My parents helped all they could, but it was a little like when the math homework finally got so advanced that they didn’t know how to explain it anymore. I felt distanced from the others that were here with me from Emery County. None of them were someone I’d feel comfortable going to and saying, “I’m in over my head and so afraid.” I didn’t know where to turn for help.
After awhile, we muddled through the actual registration, and then my parents and I left the others and went to campus to sign paperwork for my apartment and some other things. We pulled into a giant parking lot and there, walking just a few feet from where our vehicle was facing, I saw someone so familiar I’d swear I’d known him longer than just this life. It was J. Seeing him was like cold winter nights when I’d put a flannel quilt in the dryer until it was toasty all over and then I’d wrap it around myself and completely shut out the chill in the air. I jumped out of the car without thinking, and called his name. It was a blessing to have run into him on this huge campus, filled with hundreds of people, none as wonderful as he was. Hearing his name called out randomly startled him and he looked in my direction. I ran to him and threw my arms around him in a relieved hug, even with my parents looking on. He reciprocated, startled but happy. After that moment, college stopped feeling quite so lonely.
Now, months later, months of college experience that leave me just as desperate for the dryer heated quilt experience, I visit him at his dorm room. “J, my college apartment makes me feel like I’ve been cast on an episode of MTV’s ‘The Real World’, and I’m the conservative Mormon girl that is pitifully sheltered and na├»ve.”
J is a great listener. He just turns up one corner of his mouth signaling that he hears me, but also that my dramatics entertain him, which only comforts me because if he thinks the concern is small enough to be amused by, then it must be.
Two of my roommates are from Chicago, and they’re all pierced and tattooed and they like to go to clubs and go dancing. They’re really nice, though they look at me like they think I was not born, but rather just sort of wandered out of a corn field one day. Then I have my Japanese roommate, who cooks huge, foreign smelling Japanese meals for her friends in our kitchen, and fills the room with indecipherable chatter and the sink with even less decipherable dishes that don’t get clean as quickly as any of us would like. I have the roommate who has recently fallen in love with the boy from the apartment across the parking lot, and they are so in love that the parking lot has become too far a distance for them to be separated. At night, he cuddles into her bed, and in the daytime, he stores his milk in our fridge. The roommate I share a room with is beautiful, accomplished and headed in the direction of world domination. I met her when I competed against her at Miss Utah State Fair. What I wouldn’t give to have her confidence. The look in her eye and the shade of her lipstick says, “Bring it on world.” She gives me great make-up tips, fashion advice and life advice, but I feel a little like a small girl playing dress up. There is one other roommate who seems to love the small town life, as I do. She’s less afraid than I am though, and she has a gift for laughing even when she feels like crying. It’s a magnetic trait and I find myself drawn to be laughing alongside her. She’s writing to a missionary as well, and it’s given us a starting off point for a great friendship.
“I don’t know what I’ll do without you when you leave for Australia,” I tell J. He’s received his mission call, and I’m really pumped about the idea of him acquiring an Australian accent.
“You worry too much,” he tells me, and he has a way of making the remark sound like a compliment. “Are you going to make it to my farewell?”
“I wouldn’t miss it!” I say.
It seems like the next thing I know, I am there, hearing his farewell talk and being not at all surprised by its insight, intelligence and humor. Australia is a lucky place, and speaking of places, I spend the rest of the Sunday looking around the small town of Beaver with a dreamy look in my eye. This town is straight out of a storybook… instead of the reality show I feel trapped in. It’s been the scene for a lovely part of my story. Late night high school football games, my young, teenage hand clutched in someone else’s. Night games, one of which ended with me stepping on a rusty nail. My eyes always searching the streets for that shiny, red Toyota truck. My first experiences with the phone ringing and the person on the other end being a boy, calling for me. Hugs that I was sure were more of a thrill than any kiss ever could be.
You know what I’m learning? There isn’t just one place that you’re “meant to be” in. There isn’t just one person that you’re “meant to be” with. We don’t have to go through life searching for the one right answer. We can choose between so many good things, and we can make any of them into a happy life. I used to believe in destiny, but now I believe in pro-activity. I believe we can make our happy ending anything we want it to be.
Dear Elder Leonhardt,
I’ve made a big decision this week. I’m going to spend the summer at home and attend Snow College in the fall. The atmosphere just seems to fit me better. I’ll explain it all one day when you get home. I’ve had some major answers to prayer, and for that I will be truly, eternally grateful. I’ve found that sometimes we have to swallow up our fears and do as it says in Proverbs 3:5-6, Trust in the Lord and lean not unto our own understanding because even when things are falling apart, our Heavenly Father can comfort us. He knows so much more than I do, I hope I can learn to trust Him and turn my whole life to Him.
President Ezra Taft Benson said, “Men and Women who turn their lives to God will find that he can make a lot more of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends and pour out peace.” Those are some beautiful promises aren’t they?
There is so much more I want to say, but I’m out of time. I can’t wait for your next letter, sometimes I live for them. I’m so glad the Lord blesses me with your friendship.
Love, Amie

Dear Amie,
Moving can be another thing we experience together, but separate. I’m being transferred to a new area this week. There’s so much to do before I go. I have to pack everything up. It’s like moving away from home every two months.
I pray for you every day. Prayers are so important. I have found that I am nothing without communication with God. I just bought four study guides for the four standard works. I want to know all that I can. I want to become as Jacob is in Jacob 2:2, a man who when he talks, everyone listens, and I see myself slowly doing that.
It’s March Madness right now. I haven’t seen a basketball game in four months, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me at all. Remember when I would make a huge bracket of all the college teams and have a betting pool? You filled one out, and you were a pretty good guesser.
I’ve been doing a little genealogy on P-day. It is really fun. My Great, Great Grandpa Jacob Fredrick Leonhardt was the first to join the church in my family, so the first boy will be named Jacob?
Love, Elder Leonhardt

Elder Leonhardt,
Jacob huh? Hmmm… let me search MY geneology awhile and then I’ll let you know. ;)

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Modern Day True Love Story

Day So-close-to-forever-that-it-no-longer-matters :)

I sat and stared at the computer screen forever last night. Then I wrote a paragraph. Then I erased it. Then I wrote three paragraphs that I thought were good, but didn’t seem right for the story I wanted to write. Then I got a little bugged that ESPN was on in the background. Then I went for a drive. Then I came home and still didn’t have my story, so at 10:30pm I gave up and watched old episodes of ER until I fell asleep. Like I said in the last post… things are all mixed up right now, and when things are taxing my mind I can’t always write! So I’ve decided the “My True Love Story” for the week will just be a little peek into the current life of Ryan and me. (By the way, I hate “Ryan and me”. That sounds so wrong. Why does Microsoft Word tell me that “Ryan and I” is wrong? I know. It’s because I wouldn’t say “take a peek into the life of I”. Still, it seems very wrong.)
So I’m stressed about a lot of things right now. Some are huge, and you wouldn’t think I was being a drama queen, you would say, “Wow. That really is huge.” Some are PTA responsibilities and kid responsibilities and laundry and Halloween and searching out which garbage can smells funny, and having our parents over for dinner tonight, and needing to seem like I keep a perfect house and make a perfect meal for that, and…. well, you get the point.
I was furiously scrubbing the kitchen table this morning as Ryan was getting ready for work. The Fruity Pebbles had already dried on and stuck. You people with kids too grown up for this… cherish it! CHERISH IT I SAY! So I was scrubbing and the phone was ringing and the kids were whining and my mind was reeling and I said, in a breathless voice, “I just don’t have time for the nervous break-down that I deserve!”
Ryan hates comments like that. He truly is allergic to negativity. It makes him physically ill. So he said, much to my consternation, “Don’t say things like that.”
Not. A. Good. Move.
I decided he needed to learn a lesson about his wife and when to let her negativity fly. So I got the spray bottle full of water. I walked down the hall calling, “You can’t get away with your non-supportive nature this morning!”
I came around the corner to the bathroom doorway like a woman on a mission, turning the nozzle so that my hit would be forceful and direct. I startled him. His eyes grew large. Time slowed as I pulled the trigger. My aim has never been anything to brag about, so I didn’t really bother aiming, just went for his general direction. I was smiling until I saw the water missile, in its seeming, slow motion trajectory shoot straight for his left eye. My smile faded a little and my eye brows rose up to join it in an “oops”.
I watched as the water, quite of its own volition (and through very little fault of my own) shot, with some force, right into my husband’s open eyeball. The residual droplets sprayed the whole left side of his face.
After he huffed and yanked the towel off the rack, dried his face and blinked the wounded eye a couple of times he used his this-is-somehow-my-fault-for-marrying-a-crazy-woman voice to ask, “What the heck did you do that for?”
I resumed my served-you-right attitude for long enough to get my point across and then I just flopped over on our bed and laughed long and loud until tears were coming out of my eyes. WAY better than the nervous break-down that we all deserve, but none of us have the time for. Hopefully you can just get a chuckle from my experience and then you won’t have to shoot unsuspecting people in the eyeball.
The end. Have a great Monday!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

In The Quiet Moments

Things have been a little mixed up lately. I guess I’ve been missing my Dad. Fall is all about my Dad. It’s strange to see the leaves change without him here to point out how pretty they look. He’d be out on the mountain with my brothers, even if he was here, and sick, that’s how they’d celebrate their October birthdays (his and the twins’ are just a day apart). We wouldn’t even get to Thanksgiving before he’d be scheming about how to get away with spending more money than he should on us for Christmas.
I’ve been on a kick since he passed away, talking about how life is mostly hard. Which is just a basic fact. Day to day, there are mostly challenges and setbacks, annoyances, diets, reasons to cry, reasons to zone out and distract ourselves with TV and computers so that when we turn them off we can face reality again for a little while. My argument is usually that every once in awhile there is a magical little moment. Something like you hearing your kids laughing in the other room, during one of those rare occasions when they’re playing amongst themselves instead of thinking of demands for you to fulfill. My theory states that those moments, by some miracle, make the tough moments (numerous as they are) all worth it.
My sister in law, Tasha, and I were discussing the theory the other day on the phone. She said, “It’s true. Life is mostly hard. But what do you think about in the quiet moments? Do you think about how hard everything was that day?”
I said, “No, I guess I don’t.”
She said, “My mind automatically goes back to how cute my kids looked doing this or that, or how much fun something coming up is going to be. I don’t find myself thinking about the hard stuff.”
Today I was looking through old pictures, trying to find one of Luke when he was a pirate, so that I could convince him that it’s okay for boys to have make-up on their faces if it’s Halloween, especially if it’s to create a beard.
I found the pictures of him when he was a newborn. I remembered being pregnant with him. I was really sick for the first months, and no sooner had that ended than I got two severe cases of the flu, seemingly one right after the other. Ryan went to Christmas parties without me while I lay in bed next to a garbage can, sweating, uncomfortable and massive and sure I’d never live through it. I hated not being well enough to take care of my kids. I hated pleading with God to make me well and still feeling sick. I tried to think of the “something that I’m supposed to learn from all of this”, but I couldn’t think of a darn thing.
I thought of Tasha’s words. “What do you think about in the quiet moments? Do you think about how hard everything is?”
I looked at our smiling pictures, holding baby Luke.

I looked at one Ryan took of me, after I fell asleep while praying because I was so tired that I couldn’t get on my knees and stay awake through my prayer. I can even smile and chuckle at that one now.
I looked at a picture of my Mom, trying to figure out the camera so that she could take a picture of my Dad holding the baby… and I wasn't sad.
Maybe life isn’t so hard after all. I think what matters most is what settles into your heart and mind… in the quiet moments.

Luke and his cousin Dax.

My Dad and Luke.

Monday, October 17, 2011

My True Love Story

Words Written on Pages

Day 2,042ish

Pink lid guy... what? I can’t give them all masculine colored lids. A girl’s got to color co-ordinate. Pink lid guy lives in a dorm full of Utah Utes fans. I am a BYU fan by association to Ryan, therefore it was my duty to taunt them. The taunting didn’t seem to bother them, quite the opposite in fact. I wonder how Ryan would feel knowing he’s given me flirting ammunition.
Pink lid guy is blond haired, blue eyed and a little rough around the edges. He almost always wears a baseball cap. We went to church together once, and he cleaned up great, in a stylish dress shirt and tie, but even then you could tell he wasn’t in his natural state. When I hang out at their place with him and his friends, I feel like I’m doing something just a little bit shady. Maybe it’s that I’m away from home with no parental supervision as a safety net or maybe it’s that these guys ooze “playerhood” and I’m afraid I’m out of my cockpit of control. Whenever I’m here, I can practically hear my conscience screaming “Mayday! Mayday!”
Pink lid guy is sitting next to me in the dorm’s common room on a couch that is so ugly I doubt it’s ever even seen better days, different shades of scratchy brown yarn woven around each other, intermingled with bits of college boy grime. His roommates and friends are teasing him about me openly. He vaguely enjoys their banter, but focuses lazy eyes on me… feeding me lines with a practiced sincerity that I’m sure has worked marvelously in the past. It’s with an astounding amount of contrived embarrassment that he manages to both hesitantly and determinedly admit to me that he writes a little poetry. “Nooo,” I say, playing my part in this little skit, saying a word that slews of girls have said before me, and they probably said it with true enthusiasm. To be honest though, I’m starting to believe that I can’t be with a boy poet. I’m the emotional poet in my relationships, and I can’t imagine there being room for more than one.
“I could… show you one of my poems… if you want,” he offers.
“I’d love that!” I say, and I am very curious what sort of poems pour out of that baseball cap clad brain.
“Come with me,” he says, “It’s upstairs. I wrote it in my friends’ yearbook.”
“Upstairs?” I say. Mayday. Mayday. “You mean, upstairs where the bedrooms are?”
He looks at me like I’m a little girl, speaking little girl talk that’s hard to understand.
“Come on,” he says.
I follow him, but I linger in a small kitchen area while he goes to rifle through old yearbooks. I stare, riveted, at the monopoly game board that’s hanging on the wall. The boys have acquired it from McDonald’s, and are doing an admirable job of filling it with the game pieces that they accumulate by eating there. He comes out and places the book in front of me on the kitchen table, saying, “I mean, I don’t know if it’s any good, but it made a lot of people laugh and it kind of became famous around my school.”
Now I’m more interested. A poem that made people laugh? This I can see genuinely coming from the attractive boy in the baseball cap. I read the poem, scrawled next to a humorous sketch of a cow in a field. The poem is written in the words of the cow, and it makes me laugh out loud. I’m thoroughly impressed. I see a new dimension to pink lid guy, and I praise him appropriately for his cleverness.

Before long, snow falls over the campus and it’s time to go home for Christmas break. I wonder what life is like for a missionary at Christmas time. I wonder what presents I should get for all of the people on my list. I wonder why I’m still seeing pink lid guy when the truth is, he makes me uneasy. I know he isn’t right for me, but I’m the worst at ending relationships. The very worst. I can’t instigate a non-happy ending! It goes against everything I stand for.
Being home is so welcome, my memories of it are all sunny and warm, even the ones at Christmastime, for some reason. Beautiful, comfortable, warm, sunny home. Thank you Mom and Dad, for giving me a place like this. I’m lying on my stomach on the living room floor. (I would never lie on the floor at college. Ewww. The years’ worth of nobody knows what that’s gone on atop that college apartment carpet.) Next to me there is a stack of comics, straight from the weekly newspapers. My Uncle Devear and Aunt Virginia like to save them for us and give them to us in stacks. They like to do little things for us kids, little thoughtful things that they hope we’ll enjoy.
I like to peruse the comics and cut out my favorites to send to Ryan. We don’t often write of our feelings, a rare paragraph here and there. A good chuckle is about the best thing I can send him across the miles.
Dear Ryan,
It’s Christmas Day and I’ve found a new way of driving my family crazy. About every fifteen minutes I say, “Just think, Ryan could be on the phone with his family right now!” Then they all moan and wish, like I do, that I was at your house talking to you too. Two years ago yesterday, you sang my song for me, the one that you wrote about me. Remember? And last year I wasn’t speaking to you at Christmastime.

Dear Amie,
Thank you for the Christmas package. I sleep on the blanket every night, and I look at the pictures of you too much. Sometimes I let my mind wander and think of us in the future. It really does make me happy to think about that. I hope you like the ring I sent. I wore it for a day or two to warm it up for you. I like that it says, “Best Friends Forever” because I believe that’s what we are. Remember when you said that someday I would feel sorry about how I treated you? Well, I really do. It makes me sick to even think about it. I hope you don’t still think about it, because I truly am sorry.
How is it that Ryan is still making all of the other boys look bad? Even with just words on a page? Even with just those rare paragraphs every couple of letters, where he tells me that he thinks of me “too much”. I guess it’s because something inside me is telling me that they aren’t just words. They’re truth, and truth is powerful.
So I try to send truth back without distracting a missionary from his work, and I try to entertain him with a little humor. Some of my favorite comics are the Far Side comics with their laugh out loud observations about life. As I flip through the big, awkward pages of the newspaper comics, I suddenly see one that sends me springing from my relaxed position on my stomach to my knees, my chin jumping out of its restful place on my hands and jutting forward for a closer look.
I see a caricature of a cow, standing upright on his hind legs in front of an audience of other cows, a word bubble coming from his mouth. What, you might ask, is the cow saying? He’s reading a poem, a very funny poem. A very familiar poem... one I read in a yearbook recently. And last I checked, Pink Lid guy doesn’t write the Far Side comics.

Pink lid guy just instigated a non-happy ending, so that I don’t have to.
It’s a blustery night, my first one back at college after Christmas break. Pink lid guy called and asked me to come over. My hands are stuffed in my pockets, along with a small, square comic, cut from a newspaper, as I walk into the common room of his dorm. I ask him to sit on the couch, the boy-germ infested one, and I pull out the comic. I hand it to him and wait quietly while he reads it. He must wonder at his bad luck that I would stumble upon his fib and forgery just a couple of weeks after he had delivered it to my impressionable mind. “You lied to me,” I say. “You didn’t write the poem.” How can one respond when confronted with a lie that is so blatant, it’s published in a newspaper? You can hum and haw, you can even claim that Gary Larson must have stolen the idea from your high school yearbook. If the girl who’s accusing you is heart-broken and scorned, it could get pretty messy, but I’m kind. Because the truth is, this isn’t the reason I won’t be seeing him anymore. He’s a good guy… for someone else. I hope his future involves being happily married to a stunningly beautiful and agreeably, gullible girl. He’s going to write her poetry. Words like, “Near…far… wherever you are, I believe that my heart will go on.” She is going to blissfully pretend that the poem wasn’t stolen from the theme song of the movie Titanic. I wish them well.