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.