"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

FYI

The internet & cell phone service is shaky at best here, but lately it has been non-existent. I keep falling asleep while writing each night and I will post as much and as often as I can. Love you all! Julie

Welcome Dance practice in the gym. Ryan is on the left, Alex McKenzie (one of our directors) is in the red shirt and I am right behind Alex. 

One Hundredth Part


Monday, June 28, 2010 11:30p.m.
This is where it gets hard. How do I record all that happened this day? Morning feels like a decade ago. I’ll try-

We arrived at the school at 8:45 along with everyone else. Packets to pick up, sign ups for temple sessions, costume fitting times and the cast talent show (my talent is applause) and pictures for name badges. It was wonderful to see so many familiar and loved faces. So many hugs. And then the energy and buzz of excitement from everyone, new and old alike.

Costume check-in. Notice the tables of bonnets on the left and the bagpipers- they rock!

Ry and I were one of the first for our costume fittings. This year we are “merchants” and wear shades of deep red / brown  costumes. I have pantaloons, a petticoat, 2 skirts, 2 bodices, 1 shawl and 1 bonnet (less than last year). Ryan has more costumes– 2 complete outfits and a cravat! He can now add cravat tying to his list of skills.
Miss Claudia in one of the 4 classrooms full of costumes


Trying on bodices


Ry's first costume - notice the cravat tying skills! 


They put me to work ripping out hems.


Costume fittings post cravat tying lesson. Love the shades. The costume ladies did let him know that sunglasses were not part of the 1830's fashion. 


A word about the costumes. I wish pictures could somehow convey the enormity of the costume department and their attention to detail. There are over 10,000 pieces of costumes! The department takes up fully half of the middle school. The ladies are amazing. My tailor made notes to clean the Velcro on my dresses today! They are completely outfitting almost 200 people in two and three costumes each and they are going to take time to clean my Velcro. Two things happen right off the bat in costuming – first, you start to feel a part of something really, really big. You start to catch a glimpse of the army that make this happen. It is exciting and humbling at the same time. Secondly, we really start to get to know each other as we are learning together and helping each other into the costumes. And the laughter starts as we novices try to navigate 19th century clothing.

Current cast costumes awaiting alterations.


Just one corner of the alteration room. These sisters are AMAZING!

 After our fittings, we returned to the gym and joined in various orientation meetings. We discussed the Frontier Country Fair, it’s purpose and goals, logistics and responsibilities. We sang hymns – The Spirit of God Like a Fire is Burning and Praise to the Man. The hair stood up on my arms and tears came to my eyes as we sang. The music we sing on stage and off stage is amazing.

We shared our expectations of this experience and why we came. A few meaningful notes for me:
  1.  We are not hear to “act” like a gathering of saints, we are a gathering of saints. A saint is something we each become, develop; something we are, not something that can be scripted or imitated. It has made me think about how much this life isn’t about what we do, but instead what we become.

  1. We have many opportunities to demonstrate who we really are.  Everyday we have multiple opportunities to be inconvenienced, offended, or even hurt by someone else. The saint part happens in those seconds between the offense and our response or reaction. Those moments of decision when we are wronged.
Lunch

After lunch we met the core cast and they performed one of the vignettes – the one about missionary work in England. It was tremendously moving and again, I felt part of something so big. Truly a “marvelous work and a wonder”. I felt a kinship with the early saints that I haven’t felt before – a kinship of purpose. Their goals, desires and very lives were dedicated to bringing others to Christ. That is my goal. It felt like I had found some kindred spirits from across time and heaven felt very close.

After the vignettes we met as districts. Ryan and I are in the Joseph Smith District. Jeff Dickamore (Joseph Smith) and Shanti Rose (Emma Smith) are our district leaders. There are two other families and one sister in our district. We met each other and then discussed a few things. Jeff pointed out that we can’t invite someone to come to Christ if we are not there. We don’t say ‘go to Christ’, we say ‘come’. Come to where we are, where we are striving to be. As we shared our reasons for coming and our goals, I suddenly realized that we are serving a mission and inviting mostly members to come to Christ. 90% of our audience will be members of the church. All of a sudden, I saw things in a different light. The church spends thousands of dollars and innumerable man-hours and resources and the goal is the members.  As I thought about why, I suddenly started connecting the dots. We are called as missionaries. We are inviting others to come to Christ. We are asking them if they know anyone who would like a free gift of the pageant cd. We are asking them to share the gospel. It has made me realize how sharing the gospel and coming to Christ are tied together. I am not sure that I can come unto Christ without sharing the gospel.

After distrct meetings, we had a 3 hour break for dinner and Family Home Evening (a time each week for families to spend together usually with a short lesson, thought &/or scripture and activity.) We met back at the school for our first dance practice. We learned the whole welcome dance and almost half of the evening dance. So much joy, laughter, and fun. As the directors introduced what we were going to do, they talked about the idea of moving joyfully. We were not going to be dancing; we were going to move joyfully. By 9:00 we were all hot and sweaty, but we were also laughing.

It was a joyful day! So much more than I can ever share. Love you all!

Front - Ryan
Back - my dad Tom, Step-mom Sandy, me, and my step-sister Heather




Welcome Home!

Sunday Evening~
As I said yesterday, we made it my friend’s home and had a great few hours visiting. Pamela is such a good friend – we actually met on the internet! We both visited a homeschooling board and struck up a friendship. Eventually we met in person and now seem to see each other once a year or so. Each time, we just pick up where we left off.

I’ve been thinking of friendship lately. One of the remarkable traits about Joseph Smith is how everyone considered him a dear friend, even if they only met him once in their lifetime. Quote after quote talked about how he listened to each person and how loved they each felt. He cheered with them their celebrations, truly mourned their heartaches, and always served them cheerfully. I want to be more like that. One of my goals this Nauvoo adventure is to improve listening ~ to really hear what others are saying.


This morning we attended Sacrament meeting with Pamela’s family after eating a killer breakfast casserole. Three times Ryan reminded me to get the recipe so I guess it will be a keeper! Ryan had the opportunity to step out of his comfort zone a bit and help pass the sacrament. It became a lesson in miscommunication. He didn’t really know exactly where he was supposed to pass too (each congregation is slightly different). He was doing a great job and a couple of times I smiled my encouragement. I knew he was self conscious, but he was doing an excellent job. Afterward, I found out that his self-conscious self interpreted my smile as laughing at him.  What?????? After we got it resolved, the rest of the meeting went well. The speakers spoke about missionary work and I loved this scripture/quote printed in the program:
           
“How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace and bring glad tidings.” Romans 10:15   Quentin L.Cook said of this scripture, “It has been observed that the members are going to have to move their feet and let their voices be heard if they are to achieve this blessing.”

Loved it! The other quote I loved and am adding to my collection  is  “Rub some dirt on it”~ when you feel like complaining and life is hard – just  “rub some dirt on it”; get to work. Life gets easier when you just get to work.





After sacrament we said goodbye and headed for the road. We only stopped once for gas and some sandwiches and spent the time listening to the Book of Mormon on CD and listening to John Bytheway’s “Get an Attitude”. We arrived at 4:30 and went straight to our lodge. We are renting a little cabin just outside of Nauvoo and it is wonderful! The owners are the sweetest people I have ever met. It feels so homey – filled with antiques and deer heads – a hunter’s paradise. Incredibly peaceful. I keep thinking, “I could live here forever.” We unloaded and found homes for everything and spent time visiting when my parents arrived.  Around 6, Ryan, my sister Heather and I drove into Nauvoo. We first went to the pageant site – so different! The lights are up on the towers but the stage is still being built and the sound tents are not up. The chairs and all of the frontier country fair need to be set up as well. I am excited to see it tomorrow. I love seeing everything take shape as everyone pitches in.

We drove to the middle school and all checked our email. Everything is exactly as I remember it. Over and over again, it feels like home. We ran into friends from last year’s cast that are in our cast again this year at the temple as we drove back. I can hardly wait for tomorrow.

We ran a few errands and then came home. My dad read aloud a chapter from one of the Patrick McMannus book he just bought and we all laughed. Highly recommend McMannus for lots of laughs.

We ended the day with family prayer. I loved kneeling with my family, listening to my dad’s voice pray for the Lord’s blessings on this missionary opportunity. It is funny. I have only been here for a few hours and yet I already feel taller spiritually. I love feeling like I am home.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Gathering



Saturday, June 26 close to midnight
I called my dad early this morning and they had just passed security at the airport headed to St. Louis! For some reason I thought they were flying out tomorrow. I also received an email from a cast member saying the gathering had begun! Core cast, directors, costuming, technicians and staff are all arriving and going to work. It is such a cool feeling to feel part of a huge gathering of people. We have been keeping them in all of our prayers. 

Today, I have been intentionally putting first things first. As a result, I slept last night instead of making another mid-night run to Walmart. I showered and dressed early and drove to the temple this morning instead of packing while lingering in my pajamas all morning. I was grateful that Ry had a great time rock climbing with the scouts instead of impatiently focusing that he was late getting home. So what that we left at 4:00 instead of 1:00? We left with smiles on our faces and the Spirit in our hearts. My house is a bit cleaner than it would have been and (so far) I've remembered everything, thanks to the extra time. I am liking this "first things first" idea. 


I am trying a few new things on this trip - 
*Money - I put my cash in a Dave Ramsey envelope and I am writing down where I spend it and how much. Always before I just throw the dinero for a vacation in my wallet and spent it. At the end of the vacation, I have NO IDEA where it all went and usually only a magnet to show for it. Not this time! I am going to know where I wasted/ate my money. 

*Chocolate - as needed only. For the first time evah, I did not stock up the car with peanut M&M's, Oreos and trail mix (loaded with chocolate). I suddenly realized that there is chocolate at every gas station in America and I could just pull over and buy some as needed. I know, duh! Either I am going gain slightly less poundage on this adventure or I miss the adventure completely because of the constant stops... we'll see. 

*Munchies - I found my perfect munchies! Who knew I would LOVE sliced English cucumbers, carrot sticks and almonds so much? Not I! Even had one of those rare mothering moments when Ry put away his half eaten bag of chips and asked if he could have more cucumbers. Yes, I think I heard angels singing in the background! :)


This McDonald's is in Vinta, OK and is above the freeway. We stopped, walked around the gift shop and grabbed a burger. 


We drove 5 hours today - we are half way there! We spent the drive talking about some goals and expectations for Nauvoo, listening to a John Bytheway CD - First Solo (highly recommend all of his stuff) and listening to the Book of Mormon on CD for an hour. We arrived at my friend's home after 9:00 and her two boys and Ryan spent the next hour+ in a nerf guns war and making paper airplanes.


I am so grateful for wonderful friends - I have been blessed to be friends with some amazing people. 

PS-
 I am posting from the Middle school in Nauvoo. We arrived at 4:30 - no problems, just a bit stiff. Our lodge is AMAZING!!!! So perfect for us. We unpacked and drove around for a bit. It feels so much like home. So many details are exactly how I remember it from last year. I am taking more pictures and will write more tonight & post in the morning. I love this place!!!! 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Preparing to Leave

The last few days have been filled with preparation. Many of you know that Ryan and I will be traveling to Nauvoo, IL and participating in the Nauvoo Pageant. We were in the Pageant last year so we know what is ahead and I am hoping to take you all for a bit of the journey.

Nauvoo is a city that was founded by the Mormon pioneers in the late 1830's. They arrived there destitute as they had been driven out of the state of Missouri, most arriving with only the clothes on their backs. The area was a swamp and malaria became rampant among the refugees. They overcame and within a few short years had built the largest, most beautiful city in Illinois with a population of over 20,000.  Located on a gentle bend of the Mississippi, with a gleaming temple built on the bluff and the sprawling city at it's feet, it became a major center of commerce and leadership for the state. It's beauty, cleanliness, industry, organization and safety were reported far and wide, many considering it to be the most beautiful city they had ever been too. For the saints living there, it became a beloved season of joy, nestled between the painful past of Missouri and the arduous exodus to Utah in the future.

In 1844, the prophet Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum were murdered at the hands of a mob. Outsiders thought that the Mormons would disband without their leader, not realizing that Christ is our leader, not Joseph Smith. As the church and Nauvoo continued to grow, so did the persecution. In the middle of winter in 1846, the saints left the beautiful city, their farms and homes, and made their way across the frozen Mississippi river heading west with what they could carry. They spent the winter huddled in tents and shacks in a place called Winter Quarters just outside of what today is Omaha, Nebraska. Over the next decades, thousands of Mormon pioneers would make their way west, stopping in Nauvoo before continuing on to Utah. Through the years, Nauvoo, once one of the greatest cities in America, became a ghost town. Much of it was looted, some destroyed and all fell ruin to decay. The magnificent temple built by the sacrifice of so many as a monument of worship to God was used as a cattle barn for a time before it was finally struck by lightning and burned to the ground.

Some years ago, the Church began the process of re-purchasing the properties and restoring Nauvoo. I first fell in love with Nauvoo when I was 10 years old and we spent a few short hours there after attending a family reunion in Ohio. Over the years, more and more of the city has been restored, the Red Brick Store, Scovil Bakery, The Browning Gun Shop, the brick yard, the blacksmith shop, the mansion house, private homes and farms, the temple quarry. For years, a fence guarded the foundation stones of the temple. Walking around the foundation stones felt like wandering through a cemetery - so quiet, so sacred. A few years ago, the temple was restored. It is amazing. Breathtakingly beautiful. I cried when I first saw it last year.

For years, the church has put on a pageant in July. Five years ago a new pageant opened and using an outdoor stage, music, and with a cast of 300 members from all of the world, we tell the story of this city, the people and the gospel that made it great. The audience seats 3,000 and most nights it will be full. Before the pageant starts, there is a frontier county fair where everyone, cast and audience alike, travel back in time and spend the evening playing pioneer games - stick ball, dancing, tug-of-war, cross cut sawing, stilts, puppets, checkers, quilting, rag tying, and stick pull, just to name a few. At 8:30, the bagpipes sound and lead everyone to their seats and the pageant begins.

The pageant is a miracle of no small proportions. First, there is the core cast - a group of 20 members who have all the speaking roles and are in the pageant for the entire summer. Next, there are the Young Performing Missionaries - a group of 10-12 young adult who perform many of the shows around the city and dance in two of the dance numbers in the pageant. They are also there for the entire summer. Then we have the work crew - two groups of about 12 young men ages 16-25 who work the light towers and all of the back stage (or I should say under stage. They move the stage by hand multiple times each evening). Each work crew is there for 3 week - they are amazing young men and Ryan wants to be on work crew when he is old enough. Then we have family casts. There are 5 family casts of 15-25+ families. Each cast has approximately 120-150 participants and this is what Ryan & I will be doing. The first week a family cast is there, we learn the show. Our week is filled with costume fittings, learning the County Fair games, and learning the entire 2 hour show in less than one week. We will begin Monday at 9:00a.m. and we will be performing in the finale by Tues. night. One week later, we are performing the entire show. And the pattern continues all 4 weeks of pageant, constantly there is a rehearsal cast and a performing cast all month long. It is a miracle. The directors and staff are amazing. Costuming alone is a miracle. There are over 10,000 costumes. Each cast has participants ages 18 months to Great Grandparent. That many people, that much stuff, that little time... It is a miracle.

I wish I could somehow communicate the feelings I have for this sweet place. There is a line from the pageant that Parley P. Pratt, a Mormon pioneer and former apostle of the church says in the beginning of the pageant- "When you (speaking to the audience) are here, we are here." That is so true. The lives and testimonies of these pioneers permeates every stone in Nauvoo. You can feel them. Their voices and testimonies radiate. Over and over again last year I spoke with people not of our faith who loved Nauvoo. One couple had come for only a week but were still there over two months later. The husband, not a member, didn't want to leave. Last year, Ryan and I were there on the one year anniversary of the divorce. I will never forget the first thing the artistic director, Ray Robinson, said when he first met our cast. He said that "Nauvoo is a healing place." So true.

So, the last months have been filled with preparation. There have been daily devotionals and assignments to prepare for this opportunity. We have been learning the pageant music. Tuesday, we were set apart as Special Representatives of the Church of Jesus Christ for the Nauvoo Pageant. Yesterday, I got the car trip checked and we spent an hour deep cleaning it. Today is laundry, packing, cleaning. Tomorrow, pack the car, clean the house and hopefully get on the road by 1:00. I am hoping to email a bit each day and take you along with us. No promises because internet is very spotty in Nauvoo and it is so hard to communicate the millions of wonders of each day. "I can not write a hundredth part..."

More than anything, I hope I somehow communicate my heart, the spirit of this place, the testimony of these people, my testimony. Each day this week, my excitement and joy have doubled. Being far from family when the divorce happened, I felt very much like a ship without a harbor. Until Nauvoo, no place felt like I truly belonged. And then Nauvoo. It became my harbor, the healing arms of a mother. So many prayers were answered, so much strength given, so many blessings. Am I excited to spend the next two weeks in the blazing sun with 90% humidity singing and dancing in layers of costuming on little sleep each night? Absolutely. I can hardly wait. I am going home. I am going home.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

I wrote this post about my dad two years ago on his birthday. There is nothing I would change but I few things I would add. I love my dad. I love his kindness and goodness. I love his example of righteousness, testimony, service. I love him so much for being present in our lives, especially his grandkids' lives. When Ryan turned 12 my dad gave him a special Book of Mormon that he had read and marked up just for Ryan. He wrote his testimony inside and I tear up every time I read it. What a huge gift.

Our family was at a crossroads when my mom died and could easily have drifted apart. Most families do. But my dad kept that from happening. He calls each of us kids and my grandma (my mom's mom) weekly. He figures out a way both time wise and financially to be present at each milestone for all of his children and grandchildren.

Growing up with six kids on one income and with my mom's medical bills, money was often tight or, at times, non-existent.  i am so proud that my dad and step-mom have worked so hard to overcome financial adversity and are debt free. They are a huge inspiration to me. I love that they never gave up. I love that they worked so hard to make it happen. I love the blessings that have come, the opportunities that have come. They have truly turned a stumbling block into a stepping stone.

Lastly, my dad has always wanted to serve a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. This coming week my dad, stepmom, step sister, Ryan and I will be set apart as missionaries and participants of the Nauvoo Pageant.  I am deeply touched to have this opportunity to serve with my dad, to see his dream partially fulfilled.

Dad - I love you with all of my heart. Happy Father's Day.
Love,
Julie

Friday, June 18, 2010

Update

Since Memorial Day ~

*I finished school - inventories, grading, reports, and packing up. I actually had some time to complete some projects for next year so I am hoping (praying) next year runs even more smoothly.

*I attended a week long seminar called the Responsive classroom and I am very excited to start it next year. It was kind of weird. I was confronted with a few situations that you normally encounter in high school or college - ones that I had managed to skip back then. I've always been a late bloomer but sheesh.

*I traveled to Arkansas with my dad and Ry to attend the Hachtel Family Reunion (my maiden name was Hachtel.) Some of the highlights - visiting, the food, the farm, bottle feeding the calf, swimming, the Cassatot river rapids, homemade ice cream (twice), s'mores, swinging on the porch with Ryan dreaming about the farm we would like to have one day, all of the fireflies, Heavener Rune Stone park, waiting out the massive thunderstorm & flooding in a car wash with my dad.

*I have been lazy - sleeping in, reading books, watching movies and refusing to answer my phone for an entire day. (sorry if you tried to call me)

*I re-organized my garage and swept it out. And weeded the heck out of my vegetable flower beds.

*I went tanning. Theoretically it is to prep for my trip next month and because it is free. In reality, it is because tan fat looks better than white fat and I need to even out the fabulous farmer's tan I am getting. Because I am a pastey white skinned red-head scared to death of skin cancer I only went for 12 mins. which means I don't look like I went tanning at all. I think I got more sun weeding my veggie flower bed making my farmer's tan even darker. Go figure.

*I walked a couple of miles around the Lake with a good friend and treated ourselves to $1.00 smoothies from Jamba Juice - Pomegranate Pick Me Up with a shot of energy booster. After which I came home and scoured my bathroom at 11p.m. That energy booster works!

*I went to book club last night and talked about The Hobbit. We ate Hobbit food - mushroom appetizers, seed cake and punch. Very high marks to Ms. Paula Dean - I ate four of the mushroom appetizers and I HATE mushrooms! They were awesome. Or I was very hungry. But I have never been so hungry that I had to eat mushrooms before.

*I am currently working on catching up on a year's worth of filing (or at least it feels like it), running errands, getting ready to leave for Nauvoo next week, watching Little Dorrit, cleaning out closets, re-doing my budget, going to baseball games and working on some summer school projects.

Sorry no pictures lately. I can't find the usb cord for my camera.