Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Who Went About Doing Good

This afternoon, I had a visit from Mr. Palmer, one of our patients. His hearing aid wasn't working, so I cleaned it and got it working again. It's one of my favorite parts of the job. The service is free and our patients really appreciate the help.

A lot of our patients are elderly and like to talk, and Mr. Palmer is one who can talk the longest. Fortunately, I can be a pretty good listener when I try, and I have heard some interesting things over the years. For some reason, today Mr. Palmer decided to tell me about his health scare last summer. He had a stroke and was in a coma for 5 days and in the hospital for about a month. Before he awoke from the coma, a doctor told Mr. Palmer's daughter that he would eventually wake up, that was almost definite, but that he wouldn't be much use when he did. Mr. Palmer seemed to confirm this diagnosis when he awoke and couldn't remember anyone or anything. He had a hard time talking and his head hurt. His two son-in-laws gave him a priesthood blessing and shortly afterwards, Mr. Palmer regained his memory and a lot of the functions the doctor didn't think he'd ever have again. Mr. Palmer made sure I realized that his recovery was long and hard and that he still has issues that he's learning to deal with, but then he testified about his belief in the priesthood over doctors any and every day.

I thought the story was finished, but he continued. A few weeks ago, he was going about his job - something about identifying and verifying cattle brands before the cows get sold/transported from auctions - and he found a stray who had slipped into the herd of a friend of his. Mr. Palmer couldn't recognize the brand, but he noticed a ear tag that had a phone number. He called the number and told the man who answered that he'd found one of his cows. The man came to pick it up, very thankful to have his cow found. While Mr. Palmer was filling out some paperwork, the man who had lost his cow chatted with the man who's herd the cow had temporarily joined. The latter man told him about Mr. Palmer's stroke the summer before, so he mentioned it to Mr. Palmer.

Mr. Palmer told him more details, including some of the things the blessing had said (he didn't remember the blessing, but his daughter had written key points down afterwards). Mr. Palmer was told he had family and friends on the other side who were waiting for him, but that it wasn't his time to die; he still had things to do here. He was also told his sins 'til then were forgiven, Making it the perfect time to die, Mr. Palmer remarked to me. He told the other man, There's just one problem, the Lord told me I have something more to do, but he didn't tell me what it was. The other man thought a moment before saying, You had to find my cow.

That struck Mr. Palmer as being highly significant. He quoted to me a portion of Acts 10:38, "Jesus of Nazareth...who went about doing good..." That, he said, is what I need to be doing, good.

How easily I get caught up in my own selfish desires and plans and forget to serve others. I needed this reminder that doing good needs to be high up on my to-do list.

Thanks, Mr. Palmer.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Alicia: my biggest regret

"The rule is perfect: in all matters of opinion our adversaries are insane." - Mark Twain

I wouldn't classify Alicia as my adversary, but I certainly thought she was insane. In fact, I often refer to her, non-maliciously, as my "pyscho roommate".

Many of you know that "Alicia" isn't her real name, but did you know that it's the alias she used when she worked? You learn something new every day, don't ya.

My first contact with Alicia was a letter. The summer after high school graduation I received a letter in the mail that had a return address in Cody, WY. I wondered, Who do I know in Cody, WY? I opened it up and the first line read, "I bet you're wondering who you know in Cody, WY". She had called the school, found out that I was going to be her roommate in the dorms, and asked for my address. I thought we must be fated to be best friends for life.

My first week of living with her made me seriously doubt the possibility of that ever happening. She informed me that she was bisexual (sorry, Cassie, if this pops up a red flag at work), that she had had a nervous breakdown her first year at school, and that she wanted to become a stripper. I was very naive, very sheltered, and a little nervous. I had left my family, my boyfriend, and all my very normal friends back home and was missing them very much at this point.

About a month into the quarter, I broke my hand (my "pride scar" - if you don't know the story, feel free to ask me about it sometime). Alicia was incredibly helpful; she stayed with me in the emergency room 'til the wee hours of the morning, called my bishop (whom I'd never met, tee hee) and had him come give me a blessing, called my professors and told them I was having surgery so would miss their classes, and sat with me in my hospital room until my mom arrived. After my surgery, she helped me transcribe notes that I had recorded during class, helped me with homework, and was basically as helpful as you could ever want someone to be. She even helped me fasten my bra - that's a true friend!

My feelings towards her slowly shifted throughout the quarter and she became my best friend. I can still vividly remember the night she received her first job as a stripper. She didn't work at a strip club; she was a private stripper. Men would call her employer and if they picked her, her boss would page Alicia. That night her pager went off for the first time, she woke me up to tell me and I actually felt a bit of excitement. She changed into her sexy clothes and I made her promise to wake me up when she got back and to tell me everything! She did, and she did! I learned a lot from Alicia. A lot.

We became hermits. We'd lock ourselves in our dorm room and pretend we weren't there when anyone knocked. We spent all our free time together. We talked and talked and talked. Again, I learned a lot from her - sometimes too much.

Then she convinced her boyfriend to move to Utah and they moved into an apartment together. I moved home for the summer, and when I got back, I moved into an apartment with my cousin, Alyson, and a girl, Cori, I had met at the end of the school year who had spent the summer in my hometown. Alicia and I kept in touch and went out once or twice a week. When Cori moved home to get married, Alicia was having some problems with her boyfriend, so Aly and I invited her to move in with us. It was great living with her again, and I seem to remember the three of us getting along quite well.

Alyson ended up moving home at some point, I don't remember the exact reasons, so Alicia suggested we invite her friend Jennifer to move in with us. I'd met Jen a few times but had never really bonded with her. I agreed, though, and for awhile, things were quite nice.

Things started to go wrong by the end of summer 1997. Alicia started having money problems. She had received two substantial insurance payments at the beginning of the summer and had spent all of the money and more by the end of the summer. Jen and I found this out when the three of us went to get tattoos (no, I wasn't getting one, you know me better than that, I was just going to watch). Jen wanted to wait 'til payday, but Alicia offered to pay for the tattoo and let Jen pay her back if they went that day. Jen agreed but when Alicia tried to withdraw money from the ATM, it said she didn't have enough - she even tried $20 and it said insufficient funds!

Things started getting rocky for Alicia, so I tried to help her as much as I could. Then she and her boyfriend spent a week in Wyoming and her car broke down in Lyman on the way back. They called us and we went to get them. Jen and I got seriously lost but had a blast. We also talked a lot. Somehow, we discovered that Alicia had told us different versions of the same story. I didn't think a lot of it, because I realize that sometimes one embellishes the story through repeated tellings. It troubled Jen, though. A week later, when the four of us returned to Lyman to pick up the car, Jen wanted to compare other stories with me when it was just the two of in the car. Turns out, Alicia had told lots of different versions of lots of different stories. It got worse. She had lied, out and out lied, to me about some serious things. She had lied about me, too. Things that were just mean and horrid. I felt so unbelievable betrayed.

This is where my regrets start. I should have confronted Alicia and tried to work things out. My only excuse, feeble though it is, is my youth and inexperience. I shut her out of my life. I stopped talking to her about things. Don't mistake me, I didn't go around ignoring her, I'd still say hi and bye and such, I just wouldn't sit on my bed late at night and talk 'til dawn with her like I used to. She noticed and asked me about it, but I denied that anything was wrong. However, I couldn't stand to talk to her - I doubted every word that came out of her mouth and I wondered how she'd use my words against me.

It got worse. She lost her job but didn't tell us. Every afternoon she'd pack her lunch and head off to work - by this time she had quit stripping and had a job at a call center. In fact, she'd go to her boyfriend's apartment (don't ask how we found out). Then her boyfriend decided to move to Colorado. During this time period, I was served three, count them three, warrants for her arrest; she had been fraudulently bouncing checks for months. If she would have been home, she would have been arrested. If she would have been pulled over, she would have been arrested on the spot. As it was, she wasn't home when the sheriff's deputy came, I was. The first time it happened I thought they were going to arrest me since she wasn't there! By the third time, the deputy and I were thinking of eloping. (just kidding) So, Alicia was just a trifle worried about money. Her family began to figure some things out right about now, too. For years she had led them to believe that she was the perfect church-going, virginal, Mormon girl. They knew nothing about the stripping, the pot (did I mention she smoked pot?), the sex, etc. For reasons I can no longer remember, they started catching on and weren't happy.

So, Alicia was having a tough time; her boyfriend moved, her family was giving her a hard time (threatened to disown her), and she was in serious financial straits. What a bad time to have her two best friends and roommates stop being friendly. We started going out without inviting her, I'm ashamed to admit.

One weekend, right before Christmas, Jen and I spent the entire time at her mom's house, without Alicia, of course. When we got home Monday morning, Alicia's car was there, but Alicia wasn't. I checked the answering machine and listened to a message from Alicia. She was calling from the hospital and informed us that she had threatened to commit suicide so had been admitted into the psych ward. We rushed over there, guilt almost overwhelming me. She wasn't allowed visitors but we were told we could come back that evening. It was a long day. When we visited, she was doing better. Her parents were coming to take her home for Christmas, her boyfriend, who hadn't called her in two weeks, was calling all the time, and we were there. She told us the story of how she ended up in the hospital and it was quite dramatic. Only later did we hear the real version from our neighbors. Yes, she had lied to us again. Then, to increase my frustration, she totally lied to her pyschiatrist - in front of me! I won't go into details, because I don't want to, but it made me realize that she was as much the little liar as ever.

At this point, I stopped even trying to keep up appearances. I ignored her completely. It made living in that apartment an absolute hell. Weeks after she got back from her parents' house, I started having weird visions. Every time I took a shower, I'd envision Alicia coming into the bathroom and pulling a Pyscho moment, stabbing me repeatedly with my big butcher's knife. I felt completely irrational, and scared. I started locking the bathroom door. I shared this with Jen and she just laughed. One day, however, when Alicia went to "the gym" (she never actually went, just said she was going - again, don't ask), Jen stole the letter Alicia had just put in our mailbox. It was a letter to her boyfriend and after convincing me that we should read it, we got a glimpse into Alicia's disturbed mind. The letter contained rantings and ravings, expletives galore, and a threat to kill me. We were stunned. I refused to stay in the apartment with her, so Jen and I went to Jen's mom's house for the weekend. Sunday night, we sat Alicia down and told her she had to move out. She took it calmly, called her parents, and by Monday, she was out of the apartment. Turns out, her parents had already made the decision that Alicia should move back with them. That Sunday night, though, was rough. I made Jen sleep on the futon with me and I couldn't sleep because I kept picturing Alicia coming into the living room and killing me. As you know, this didn't happen, but it made for a poor night's sleep.

I was glad when she left. Good riddance, I thought. That feeling lasted a long time. After awhile, though, I could see where I had done wrong, where I could have been a better person, a better friend. I saw how I could have helped Alicia avoid all the drama we ended up living through. When it was all happening I thought I was an innocent victim. I was wrong.

A couple months before my mission ended, I had a dream. I dreamed that I was taking the bus from Montreal to Utah and that we stopped in a small town in Ohio or Iowa or something. While the driver gassed up, my fellow passengers and I ate a quick lunch at a tiny diner. On the same block as the diner, there was a gas station. As I ate, I watched an old, run-down station wagon with a gaggle of screaming kids pull up to the tank. Alicia stepped out and started to gas up. I couldn't believe it. I hesitated for just a moment, then quickly left the diner and ran over to her. She didn't recognize me at first, so I told her who I was. I apologized for everything and started to cry. She cried, too, and also apologized. We hugged for an age or so, then the bus driver called for us to get back on the bus. I gave her a quick hug, told her I love her, and got on the bus. I woke up sobbing.

I'd give anything for a chance to apologize to Alicia and make things right between us. Anything.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A New Decade

I’m turning 30 - tomorrow.

I remember turning 20 – it was the 20th anniversary (year, not day) of Star Wars. I thought I was so old, so mature, an adult. Twenty long years of experience; I knew who I was and what I wanted from life. So I thought. Just for fun I tried imagining turning 30 and couldn’t – it was so far off, I’d be so…old.

I don’t feel old, maybe because I’m practically in the same spot as I was a decade ago. I’m still single, no kids, renting, not dating, and just playing every chance that is given to me or that I can take. Of course, there have been changes, improvements. I’m a college graduate (thank the stars!), I have my own apartment (no roommates!), and I’m making more money than I did ten years ago (how did I live on $10 a week in groceries???). I’ve also served a mission, lived in New York as a nanny, travelled a bit, and have met some wonderful people. I'm an aunt and have three sisters I didn't have when I turned 20 (one half-sister and two sister-in-laws). I'm more comfortable with who I am, what I think, and what I believe.

I’ve also actually learned a thing or two; like…

… working hard and putting forth my best effort has always been worth it

... love is a choice

… life is a balancing act – I haven’t worked out all the balances, but I’m trying

… chocolate is a potent drug and I’m addicted

… I bond with people through talking

… I’m meant to be a brunette, not a blonde – I may have to relearn this lesson every couple of years, but that’s okay with me.

… broken hearts don’t kill, though at the time I wished they did

… it’s easier to forgive others than myself

… only boring people get bored (one of my favorite “mom” sayings)

… the gospel brings peace – why do I have to keep relearning this lesson???

… agency isn’t just a gospel slogan, neither are repentance and hope

… tormenting brothers who know where you’re ticklish = bad idea (good thing I’m no longer ticklish!)

… a reputation continues long after the bad habit

… I’d be lost and hopeless without the many, many good friends who have blessed my life

… differences are good and should be embraced

… sometimes dreams have to be tweaked a little to fit reality

I can’t help but try to imagine myself in ten years when I reach the big 4-0. I feel the same excitement and anticipation that comes with starting a new journal – the possibilities are endless and I can’t wait to see how my life unfolds, what happens next.

Thank you, all of you, for the parts you have played in my life these 30 years. I hope the next decade brings us even closer and that we get to share lots of blogging and nonblogging moments together.

Sunday, May 06, 2007


I made a new acquaintance today. Nope, not at church (though I did meet a nice girl named Rochelle). I decided to go for a walk after church since the weather was beautiful - cloudy and a little gray with just a slight wind. It was cold enough for a jacket, so perfect for walking.

I had just left my home when a cute, but dirty, puppy started nipping playfully at my feet. I gently chided it and told it to go home. Of course, being still a puppy, he chose to ignore my words and instead walked gleefully along with me, his tail wagging a hundred wags a second. I'm not good at recognizing breeds, so I'm not going to hazard a guess as to what kind of a dog he was, probably a mix. He had a collar and tag, so I knew he had a home somewhere. I kind of hoped he'd tire of me and head home soon. No such luck. Maybe walking with a puppy would be fun, so I "let" him walk with me. Afterall, he was incredibly adorable.

He became decidedly less adorable the first time a vehicle passed us and he went chasing after it. His nose came within seconds of being squashed, he stuck it so close to the front tire of the big SUV. My heart stopped, I swore and ordered the dog to come back RIGHT NOW! I realized the SUV driver probably thought I'm a horrible pet owner - no leash! - but how could I tell them that I was just an innocent bystander horrified at the thisclose death of a dog I didn't own?

After several more heart-stopping moments where the dog showed its absolute lack of willpower when it came to passing vehicles, I decided we needed to get off the busy street. I turned on to a street that would normally be fairly slow, but no such luck this time; church was just letting out and families were heading home. I prayed to find a clean-looking leash abandoned on the sidewalk, wondering if I could use my iPod as a leash in the meantime. I turned on to another street that was decidedly less busy - thank heavens! - though it would cut my walk quite short. At this point, exercising and enjoying the weather was forgotten. I was a woman on a mission - get home without the dog dying while I stood trying not to watch.

A thought occured to me, maybe the owners lived close to me and I could just stop by their house and give their dog back. I called the dog to me and it bounded into my arms. I tried to get a good look at its tag while avoiding kisses to my lips, chin, cheeks, and fingers. I discovered my new friend's name was Yogi - now I knew what name to curse when I was trying to avoid its bloodshed - and saw two phone numbers. I tried both and no one answered. Curses!

Since Yogi had behaved reasonably well while I was petting him, I started having him come to me everytime a car came by. He'd be so preoccupied with giving my fingers kisses that he'd ignore the car. This only worked half the time, though; the other half he'd abandon my fingers and would attack the passing enemy. I knew the cars' owners were yelling Take care of your !#$%& dog! I wanted to yell back He's not mine! but what was the point?

I was never so happy to be home! My mom had left the garage door open and Yogi had sprinted inside to smell everything. I shooed him out and shut the door. Then, while Yogi was smelling our two aspens, I sneaked inside. I watched from the front window when he looked up and realized I wasn't there. It almost broke my silly little heart when he looked all over for me. He ran to the garage door, nope, I wasn't there. He ran to the front door and barked. I didn't answer. He ran all over the front lawn, then moved to the back yard. He started to howl. Curses! At that point, I fled to my room.

I haven't looked to see if he's still there. I don't want to know. I'm such a baby sometimes.