Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Keeping A Promise

“Some people don't understand the promises they're making when they make them," I said.
"Right, of course. But you keep the promise anyway. That's what love is. Love is keeping the promise anyway.” ― John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars
This quote can be applied to so many things. But, on those days when I'm not quite doubting my doubts, I think this quote applies to Church. A lot of people I know who have left the church claim that they did not know what they were getting into when they were baptized or when they went through the temple. But there was always the reason that they did it. It was still a choice. And I think sometimes that is just as much a reason to hang on, find the good, and move forward as any. I feel like we always find our reasons later, if we are willing to look for them. You find the reasons why you love the Savior, and why you love church.

This also applies to relationships. Sometimes relationships bring up hard things, e.g. disease/illness, that are hard to deal with; things that we don't know we are going to be facing when we decide to get into the relationship. And if you really love the person, then you keep the promise, you move forward.

This quote comes from one of my new favorite books, The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. It made me cry at least twice. And if I think about it for too long, I can easily tear up again. It's a very beautiful, perfect, sad story about love and life and it makes me think (and feel) things. Even a month after having finished it.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Writing

After waiting four months, I got another rejection letter from Woman's World . This is pretty sad news, since, I really liked this story.

Rissa was dreaming of the hot Hawaiian sunshine when she felt a sudden crisp morning chill penetrate the warmth of her coat. A deep, gravelly voice further interrupted her pleasant thoughts saying, “I think this is your stop.” She forced her eyes open and realized that the line of people exiting the train had already poured onto the platform.
                “Oh goodness,” she said, grabbing at her belongings, trying to clear the fogginess from her brain.
                “Hold the door,” the man said, offering a smile and the wool hat she had just dropped. “I should have nudged you earlier. Better hurry,” he urged.
                As Rissa was racing out the door, the train pulled away and she realized she hadn’t the chance to thank him.
                Rissa’s commute began early every morning. It took over an hour to get from her house to her office on the train, but she enjoyed the extra reading time the commute provided, and she appreciated avoiding the heavy traffic and icy roads. Normally she read, but yesterday she had been tired. It had taken mere seconds before she drifted to sleep. She nearly missed her stop.
                This morning she juggled two piping hot chocolates and her laptop bag, hoping she would see her champion to properly thank him. She hoped that she would remember what he looked like. Rissa wished her hands weren’t full so we could concentrate on reading, instead she was distracted every time the train stopped letting in a waft of cold air and a crowd of new faces. Finally, a face sparked her memory, and he seemed to remember her, too.
                “Good morning,” he said, looking down at the hot chocolate in her hands.  “Is that for me?”
                “I wasn’t sure I’d see you again,” she admitted. “But just in case, I wanted to thank you for yesterday.”
                He took the cup of hot chocolate from her, offering a small salute with his cup, “You’re welcome. I was afraid that after you thought about it, you would find it creepy that I knew your stop.”
                 “I hadn’t thought of that, but now that you mention it…” she trailed off and grinned. “Really, though, I’m grateful. I’m Rissa.” She pulled out a business card and offered it to him.
                “Greg.” He grabbed the seat across from her and smiled as he tucked her card into his breast pocket, then pulled out his own.
                “How did you know it was my stop?” Rissa asked after a moment.
                “I don’t know if I should admit that.”
                She gave an encouraging look.
                “Alright,” he conceded, taking a breath. “A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a beautiful woman reading one of my favorite books. I immediately wanted to strike up a conversation about it, but she left the train before I found the nerve.” He nodded at the book sticking out of her bag. “Every day she got closer to the end, I knew I needed to make a move. Yesterday, I finally got the nerve to sit beside her, only to find that she wasn’t reading…she was sleeping.”
                “How disappointing.”
                “Not as disappointing as you might think,” he admitted, “because it provided me with a perfectly good reason to speak to you today.”
                Rissa sat back in her chair, studying Greg. He seemed sincere. Not only was he handsome, but he was friendly and personable.
                “So this is your favorite book?”
                They spent the rest of her commute sipping hot chocolate and discussing the book until he said gently, “This is your stop.” He got to his feet, handing over her laptop bag as she adjusted her coat.
                “See you tomorrow?”
                “Definitely,” he said.
                The morning commute quickly became Rissa’s favorite part of the day. She often saved Greg a seat and they spent the morning talking. Their conversations ranged from the mundane to the ridiculous and everything in between.
                “I’ll save you a seat, tonight,” he said with a smile.
                Rissa was surprised, as she knew they did not take the same train home. But when Rissa boarded their usual car, Greg grinned at her. He was standing in the aisle and pointed to a single available window seat. She noticed that his normal place next to her was occupied by a mother, holding her baby.
                “This train is busier than the one I normally take,” he commented, smiling at the sleeping child and then at Rissa.
                They rode for several stops in silence, catching each other’s eyes while listening to the bustle of the other passengers. Occasionally he grinned at her, and she couldn’t help but return it.
                “Will you have dinner with me tonight?” He finally said.
                She nodded.
                “Then this is our stop.”

Rissa smiled. She liked the sound of that. He offered her his hand and they left the train together.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Driving Lessons

When I was young - and I'd guess about 12-years old or thereabouts - my dad drove a little red manual car. (This was before a deer hit him, or he hit a deer, and drove it with fur sticking out of the headlamp.) One day the car was sitting in the alley as we loaded it or were doing something, and my dad asked me if I wanted to drive.

Yes! Of course I did.

I eagerly climbed into the driver seat and he sat in the passenger seat. We were just going to go down the alley, a simple straight line. My dad instructed me, "Push down the clutch."

"What's the clutch?" I asked, again, very eager to learn.

"Get out."

And that was the end of my driving lessons until I was fifteen and began learning to drive for my permit and then license.

For the record, the second time my dad tried to teach me to drive, he was all sorts of patience and wisdom. And I really need to stress the word patience. I won't say I was a bad driver - duh, because I'm amazing - but, there were a few errors that had me doing some pretty stupid things. (Like riding the car over the parking barrier and/or curb. But let's not talk about that.)

I've felt woefully unskilled ever since. For the most part, one does not need to know how to drive a stick. However, there are few people in my extended family that do not know how. It just seems like something an Armstrong should know how to do. 1) Play basketball. 2) Roof a house. And 3) Drive a manual transmission.

This summer, my friend Matti and I are attending RomCon in Denver, Co. Can I tell you how excited I am? It's going to be pretty amazing. But we are planning to drive, and Matti drives a stick. This has me a little worried. Since she may not want to drive the full 16 hours there and back, if she expects me to help her out (and why wouldn't I want to help? I love driving!) then I have to learn how to drive her car.

So on Sunday, Matti took me out driving. Unfortunately, K-Mart has not gone out of business anywhere around here recently, and we were fresh out of abandoned parking lots. We tried a semi-abandoned parking lot, thinking that on a Sunday, it would not be as busy, and quickly found out that we were wrong about that. Besides, the length of the parking lot didn't really allow the car to get up to a speed high enough that shifting gears was necessary.

Spoiler alert: I am really bad at driving a stick shift.

I stalled the car too many times to count, and for some reason, my dominant left foot wanted nothing to do with driving. "I'm used to being bored!" it demanded. I tried to engage, and it just didn't work very well. After sitting at the exit to the parking lot, I made it onto a much busier street than where I should have been, and then stalled again at the light and then waited on the side of the road until it was all clear and continued driving into the Twilight Zone-country area of Herriman, UT.

I did OK on a straight road. I got into third gear. I even turned around, and DID NOT hit a single one of the eight or nine deer that decided to cross in front of me. I also did not stall the car once I got it moving again after we watched the deer frolic in the field and jump the fences.

Overall, it may not have been the worst lesson I've ever had. But then again... it might have been. Luckily, Matti's car did not seem to sustain any permanent damage, and she was rather patient.

I have until June to learn. I blame my dad for having me so ill prepared for such an adventure, but. . .I suppose that is all in the past now.


Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day Confession

I don't know why this year Valentine's Day is just rubbing me the wrong way, but it is. I know that I'm a hypocrite about things, and Valentine's Day is one of them. I love romance. I love romance novels - the cheesier the better. (I mean, I did read MLM for a really, really long time, remember?) But the sappy declarations on Facebook, and the tacky gifts and presents at the stores, and the blow up of pictures of flowers* and blah blah blah. For some reason I keep uttering, "God save me from all of this..." and I can't tell if that means I'm taking the Lord's name in vain, or offering up a very sincere prayer.

Luckily, I have a brand new carton of ice cream, and extra cookie dough to add to it, and a night planned to lose myself in writing...sappy romances.

I can't - I won't - attend a "Girls' Night" on Valentine's day. I just can't. It goes against the whole point of the holiday, and I'm nothing if not festive. I'm also a GO BIG or go home kind of person. So, I'm in for the night, ladies. Sorry. (Not sorry.)

*Chuck, I'm not talking about your texts or our conversation this morning. I still want those details!

Thursday, February 06, 2014

Extended Family

I need to preface this post and say that I love my family. Love. Love. Love. With my whole heart. I'd hardly change a thing about them. One of the reasons that I will not allow myself to move home is because I know that it would end up with me hanging out with them and no one else, happy as a clam. Because when I am with them, it's really the only place I'd rather be. They - for the most part - accept me as I am: the introverted, weirdo sister that likes history and reading, BBC, dressing up, and formal dinners (that have things like peppers! and spices! Oh my.) amongst a million other things that they just shake their heads at me and love me anyway.

I love them. Except...

I have several friends who because my family is so far away, have introduced me to their own parents and siblings and all have seemingly welcomed me with open arms. It's been lovely to have a place to go on holidays and for short visits and to feel love like only a family can provide.

If there were one thing about my family that I could change, I would make them read more. I would instill upon them my love of books and get them excited about some of the best books that I have read in the past few years. The more I hang out with one of my surrogate families, the more I really wish I could do this.

This particular family is filled with irreverent, hilarious people who are all Harry Potter trivia warlords. When we are on long drives, we play things like 20 Questions - Harry Potter, in which the person tries to stump the rest of the car by picking a most obscure magical creature, item, or place, character, or spell or literally anything, and then everyone else guesses it within the 20 questions. It is hilarious, and the fact that their dad seems to be reigning master over stumping everyone is even more impressive. They have debates over the details of these books. They know the characters intimately, can quote them (probably recite them) and are just geniuses at taking allusions from the books and making them work in other aspects of their lives. It's fun.

Now that Harry Potter is long over (we think...?) another book has come upon the scene and thankfully, I was put on the group text between all the siblings who have read The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss. Which means that randomly, in the middle of the day or night, my phone starts lighting up as somebody comes up with a theory or anecdote about the book, and then everyone debates or expands on the idea. Or we all commiserate on how the third book in the trilogy is much too far away from being published.

When I attended the wedding of one of the brothers, we all put references to The Name of the Wind in his guest book. It may have been the most hilarious thing I have ever witnessed/participated in at a wedding.

I wish I could joke with my siblings and send random quotes from shared books that we have read. I wish that we had the easy-going ribbing and joking that comes so naturally to my friends' family members. The Armstrongs are not stiff, stodgy people. We are quite relaxed and...comfortable. But if I could, I would give us more wit. I would give us the easy bantering of shared interested and mutual love and respect that I know we have, but we just don't always know how to display. I would give us a little bit of irreverence that almost always ends in smirking and laughter.

I wish I didn't live so far away, because I feel like in the past ten years I have lived in Utah, I've missed a lot of bonding time with my siblings. I maintain a close relationship with most of them, but it is only as close as a quick phone call can lend. And it's not always enough.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Demanding Customer

The other night on my way out of town, my friend and I stopped in Layton to have dinner with her husband. They decided on Brick Oven (not a favorite of mine) as I was not planning on eating since I had a giant lunch and was not really hungry.

Brick Oven is a well-known pizza place here in Utah that has recently been expanding to other locations outside of Provo. The building in Layton is much nicer than the one in Provo, with the one exception being that the lights are too close to the table and much, much too bright. I quickly remedied that by unscrewing the light bulb. Seriously, people, it was blinding.

The server came up to us and introduced himself by saying, "My name's Zach*. But people also call me Frodo. It probably has to do with my extremely good looks or something."

Uh-huh.

I had decided that a dessert pizza would be just the ticket to dining without eating a giant meal. I was dreaming of the giant cinnamon roll they sell at The Pie, but could not find a dessert pizza listed anywhere on the menu. When I asked if Frodo had a dessert menu, he didn't know, but we discovered it on the table. No dessert pizzas were listed. However, there was a Sampler item, which included all you can eat pizza samples with a dessert pizza at the end.

I just wanted the dessert pizza. Frodo was confused and tried to sell me on the Sampler. And in particular the garlic chicken pizza, which sounded like vomit on a piece of cardboard.

When I asked him what sorts of dessert pizza were offered on this Sample - there were three pictured, but you couldn't really tell what they were - Frodo didn't know, and confessed that he had only been a server for a few days.  I insisted that I really wanted a dessert pizza, and could he please ask what they had available?

Instead, a manager approached the table.

At this point, I felt as though I were being a troublesome customer. Or, at least that is what it appeared to be. However, it shouldn't have been this difficult. I wanted dessert pizza. They have dessert pizzas. Why couldn't we make this work, and why couldn't he just tell me what kind of dessert pizzas were available?! It was sort of absurd.

After the manager explained to me the different types of dessert pizza (nothing cinnamon roll-like), I decided upon the berry cobbler pizza. And then Frodo and the manager proceeded to check back on me several times.

"Your pizza just went into the oven."
"Ok. Great!"

"Your pizza is cooking right now, but it will be done real soon."
"Thanks."

"I just saw them pulling out your pizza. We'll have it to you shortly."
"Fantastic."

"Here's the pizza, does it look OK?"
"Looks good."

"How's it taste?" (This said with a gleam in his eye, as if he had just delivered a most precious pizza made out of the most delightful ingredients that could be from nowhere else. As if he had done me a great favor, and was ready to be lavished in praises and gratitude.... or maybe I was just reading into it.)
"Really good. Just what I wanted."

Only it wasn't. Actually, it was pretty good. No complaints there, except the mild comment that the topping to fruit ratio was a little off.

I felt like they were really trying to appease me. As if they were afraid I would make a scene and storm out of the store if they didn't give me what I had demanded. I found it mildly hilarious. I don't think I have ever been waited on so much.

Why am I telling this story? Mostly because I don't want to write a post about how much I hated today at work.

*Name has been changed, because...well, frankly, I don't remember.

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