Aaaaand Scene.

All of Hollywood turned out in their best to celebrate the 84th annual Academy Awards yesterday.  Super Bowl Sunday is great and all (I typically don’t party unless my birthday happens to be the same day. This year, it was, but that’s beside the point.) but I really love to pull out all the stops for the Oscars.

I usually try to watch as many of the nominated films and performances as I can before the awards ceremony. I didn’t do such a great job this year, but that just means I have a solid list of movies that I need to see in the near future.

My point today is not to discuss Hollywood’s biggest night, the dresses (Octavia Spencer, Penelope Cruz, Natalie Portman, Gwenyth Paltrow, and Jessica Chastain wore my favorite gowns.), the winners (LOVED Meryl Streep and Jean Dujardin’s speeches), or the upsets (I feel bad for Martin Scorcese. The guy gets shafted ALL the time).

I wanted to just say that, as much as I love the silver screen, there are some moments in life that far surpass my favorite movie scenes.   These are moments where, for a brief moment, I am allowed to touch perfection.

Some are simple, each one surprises me, and all are treasured memories.

My walk to work when the rising sun makes the distant mountains seem to float on the horizon.

A soft, breezy, twilight stroll through my neighborhood that could almost transport me back 100 years.

The blinking lights, the buzz of hundreds of voices, and the smell of tons of fried food at the Texas State Fair, and how it all melts away to a low, glowing hum, as you ride the ferris wheel up into the night and look out over the Dallas skyline and wish you could just stay there for hours.

Laughing on the front porch with friends; playing music, singing songs, and trying to forget the humid, sticky heat that never quite leaves when the sun goes down.

Wind whipping through the open window of the car as we sing our anthems at the top of our lungs.

The smell before rain and the storms that wash the world clean.

Endless Texas Summers filled with more memories than you could ever hold on to.

The moment his back lit form turned the corner of the house across the street and walked toward me. Rose in-hand, he stepped into the yellow glow of our teeny little student-housing apartment porch light and asked ME to the prom.

Driving down the 101 listening to Phantom Planet.

Wagon Wheel and Apple Blossoms.

Running through the hotel, we were PRAYING that we’d make it back to our room before Rulon found us out and get us in SO much trouble for being in Trevor’s room after curfew.  Herbal Essences shampoo and the smell of diesel engines will always remind me of that band trip.

“Ladies and Gentlemen, Stevie Nicks.”  I have never seen 5000 people get to their feet so fast.

3am Live and Odis.  The year that live music changed my life.

Walking into the dark basement, I didn’t understand why it was such a big deal that, “Tony just got shot.”  I’d soon find out just how big of a deal that was.  #badfeelings

Walking through my small town, the trees on fire as summer ignites and burns into fall.  Starry nights, bridges, parkways, bonfires, and good friends, all tucked into our little piece of Shenandoah.

My life is better than any movie.

Your Stories:

What are your movie moments?

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“Thank You, More Please?”

“I’ve been feeling lately that, maybe I’m more resilient than I thought.”

One more year down and only God knows how many more I have to go. Already 2012 has introduced an insane collage of joy, hope, pain, love, friendship, laughter, tears, hard lessons, and tender mercies. I hesitate to think what the coming months will bring me.

2011 dawned with many good-byes and a great big adventure! I spent the first week of January in Dayton, Ohio with the Rieben family. Val had gone to get Alexis from Bulgaria and I rode herd for the rest of the clan during the day while Richard was at work. I had seven kids, (4 of whom have special needs) one absolutely INSANE dog, and an aloof but annoying cat for one whole week. I LOVED it.

Insanity at it's most enjoyable!

When Val flew back in with Alexis, I hopped back in my loaded little Toyota and kept heading west.

Headed West

Friday, January 13th marked the 1 year anniversary of my arrival in Salt Lake City. I drove into town on that snowy evening and immediately joined Brianne and Peter for dinner and a show at the Pioneer Theater.

It was a pretty great way to start a year.

I started this year with a bang by co-hosting a house party with a friend of mine on New Year’s Eve. We had board games, Rockband, Just Dance on the Wii, Mocktails, party food, and dancing. At midnight we toasted the new year with Martinelli’s and partied like it was nineteen-ninety-nine. (It is hard to believe that 12 years ago, I was in high school celebrating a brand new century.)

Since that night, however, I have had more ups and downs and cried more tears than I probably did during the entirety of 2011.

During the majority of the calendar year I love my life and I cherish my friendships and experiences.  I have fun, I learn, I grow, and trust that my dreams will come true.  Life during the holidays, especially with two younger sisters married and starting families, is a bit more difficult. Magic and romance take over the world during the holidays and I carry that festivity through my birthday in February.  However, each year when I take inventory, as most are wont to do, I discover that one huge gaping hole in my life.  I am alone.

Single.

Since I left home at 18, I have been single.  (I never dated before that, but I was a Shiraki. You are NEVER a single person when you live in the Shiraki household, you are a Shiraki.)

I am convinced that if you were to survey my good friends from high school they would have all told you that I would get married young, and I actually did come a little too close to doing just that than I am comfortable admitting.

Fortunately I had a Heavenly Father who was looking out for me and who knew that I would be happier if I experienced a bit more of life first.  Instead of finding some young buck and getting married, I entered college, left college,  worked, played a bit more than I should have, made many stupid mistakes, and I lived my life.

I have learned so much from the people who have come and gone, and I love them all for the role that they have played in my life. I am eternally indebted to those who have not left me, who continue to support me, love me, and give me a swift kick in the pants when I need it.

As I’ve passed through my late twenties, and I look forward to my early thirties, I realize more and more that I would not change who I am or what I have experienced for anything in the world.  Each person, each mistake, each heartache, each moment of joy, and every lesson learned has shaped the person that I am, and they will shape the person I become.

Yet, with all the confidence that I feel in who I am and how strong I have become, I still fight the horrid insecurities that I have battled my whole life.

The devil’s nasty little minions pick at me and whisper in my ear;

“You’re too fat and you’ll never be skinny. Ever.”

“You’re not pretty, no one has ever thought you pretty.”

“You’re uneducated, a college drop out. A failure.”

“You’re too old.”

“It doesn’t matter how good you try to be, you will never be good enough.”

“No one wants to date you. You’re a fine friend, but who would ever more than that from YOU?”

“You will NEVER have the things you want. You screwed that up a long time ago.”

They begin to chant these and more until it is too loud to bear.  Like the Lost Boys  in my favorite movie version of Peter Pan, they yell, “Old, Alone, Done For!” as I, like Captain Hook am unable to find my happy thought while swinging over the gaping jaws of the ticking crocodile.

Despair settles itself into the hollow places of my heart and turns the small dark corners to cavernous wastelands, threatening to consume me whole.

One light only can dispel Doubt and Fear from their tireless beatings and allow me to again find my happy thoughts.  Faith, the union of Hope and Joy, comes with small reminders of love and fleeting glimpses of a vast, infinite, and FABULOUS future.

Faith comes by way of a movie, suggested by a friend:

“So here’s what I have to say to you… Sadness be gone! Let’s be people who deserve to be loved. Who are worthy. Cause we are worthy, we really are! You are a good [person]. Go get yourself loved. That’s all I got.”

Faith comes from inspired words of encouragement:

“This is our one and only chance at mortal life—here and now. The longer we live, the greater is our realization that it is brief. Opportunities come, and then they are gone. I believe that among the greatest lessons we are to learn in this short sojourn upon the earth are lessons that help us distinguish between what is important and what is not. I plead with you not to let those most important things pass you by as you plan for that illusive and nonexistent future when you will have time to do all that you want to do. Instead, find joy in the journey—now.”

Faith comes with friends and family who prove more than anything else that I am loved.

Ringing in the New Year! Bring it on 2012!!

Carmen, Kember, and I at the Twilight Concert Series

Melyssa, Katie, and I at Grace Potter

Sean, Petey, Bryce, Kember, Me, and Sean on the 4th of July.

Megan, Justine, Kember, and I getting ready for a Masquerade.

Good Times. Fond Memories.

BV friends and family.

My Family. Some are blood related, some aren't. Some are here, some are missing.

In the end, I remember that I may be single, but I am not alone. I am surrounded by those who do love me and I have a loving Father in Heaven and a Savior who is ever near and aware.

In the end, Faith fills me with Gratitude, and Gratitude begins to heal what is broken and cracked.

In the end, I give you the following:

“You have great potential in this lifetime. The key to your life is gratitude. You do not give enough thanks’

‘Well, how do I do that?’

‘Simple, say ‘Thank You”

‘When?’

‘All the time. Right now. After you say ‘Thank You’, you should say, ‘More Please.’ With gratitude, the universe is eternally abundant.”

 

Find your abundance in Gratitude. It will come. Do not loose sight of Hope and Joy for they truly bring Faith to the forefront of your life.

“Send that note to the friend you’ve been neglecting.

Give your child a hug; give your parents a hug.

Say “I love you” more; always express your thanks.

Never let a problem to be solved become more important than a person to be loved.

Friends move away, children grow up, loved ones pass on. It’s so easy to take others for granted, until that day when they’re gone from our lives and we are left with feelings of “what if” and “if only.”

Said author Harriet Beecher Stowe, “The bitterest tears shed over graves are for words left unsaid and deeds left undone.”

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, [member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints] Jay Hess, an airman, was shot down over North Vietnam. For two years his family had no idea whether he was dead or alive. His captors in Hanoi eventually allowed him to write home but limited his message to less than 25 words. What would you and I say to our families if we were in the same situation—not having seen them for over two years and not knowing if we would ever see them again? Wanting to provide something his family could recognize as having come from him and also wanting to give them valuable counsel, Brother Hess wrote—and I quote:

“These things are important: temple marriage, mission, college. Press on, set goals, write history, take pictures twice a year.” 

Let us relish life as we live it, find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows.”

Your Stories:

What is YOUR happy thought and how do you find it?

Bold and Bright

Am I supposed to take it on myself to get out of this place? Now there’s a loneliness inside her and she’d do anything to fill it in…She feels like kicking out all the windows and setting fire to this life, she would change everything about her into colors bold and bright. But all the colors mix together to gray.

I think we’ve all felt this way at one point or another. We find ourselves stuck in the habits and routines of daily life. Desperate to break up the monotony we search for something or someone to pull us up and out.

Here’s the thing. It doesn’t matter how colorful the world around you is. If you think it is gray, then gray is what you’ll see. No person, place, or thing can change that by itself. You have to change too.

The obvious question is, “How?”

Start looking for things that make you happy, the things that bring the brightest colors to your life. Identify them and seek them out. For me, one of the biggest has been dancing. I attend 2 social dance classes every week and I take advantage of as many other opportunities as possible.

You also have to pin-point what triggers the gray. For me, the most obvious is sugar. When I eat sugar that is junk sugar, I get depressed. I am more prone to feeling sorry for myself and I end up wallowing. The minute I cut out junk sugar and just stick to all natural sugars, I perk up and I am able to let the color back into my world.

Understanding this about myself was not easy and it took a long time. Even knowing this, I still sometimes find myself slipping back into gray. Bold and bright is something that must be chosen. So make it a choice.

Out There

Moving to a new place is terrifying.   Though some people might be worried about getting lost or the dangers of living in the urban jungle, my paralyzing fear is that I will have no friends.

“Just put yourself out there!” people will say to me.  “You’re amazing, they won’t be able to help but like you!”

Meeting new people and putting myself “out there” puts my self-esteem on a slow boil.  Before I can even get a word out, my insecurities begin to roll to the surface. Do I look alright? Am I too fat? Am I ugly? Do I smell funny? Do I talk funny? Am I too loud? Am I too weird? Why did you just do that, idiot!? You are so not cool! They will never like you! What were you thinking? Just shut up and walk away! Great, now everyone knows how stupid you really are!

Before long, I’ve boiled myself into a silent corner of the room, thinking that no one will ever notice me, and hoping that someone will come save me from myself.   See, I can pretend to be confident and strong, but there is a scared and very insecure girl inside of me that still holds on to all the negative things I’ve ever thought.

Over the last couple of weeks I have made a larger effort to stay longer at the activities, attend the ones I wouldn’t normally want to go to, and actually talk to the people there.   I am meeting more people and hope to develop friendships with current acquaintances.   I even have a few friends that I am beginning to do things with on a regular basis.

Opening up to new people brings the risk of rejection and ridicule.  It also can bring new people into your life who will forever change who you become.  It is those friendships that I look and hope for.

I am reminded of that song from Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

There are those who see in the world only that which can hurt and harm.  They shut down and brick themselves in; safe from the rest of the world, only to find that the pain has been bricked in with them. The devil takes on the roll of Frollo and would have us remove ourselves from every possible human experience. It is by breaking those boundaries and extending ourselves beyond what is comfortable that we are able to find friendship, love, and happiness.

Our world and the people in it are imperfect. This means we will experience fear, doubt, anger, and persecution either within ourselves or directed at us by others.  We can have hope and be reminded of “the gift it is to be [us].”   Each of us has something that someone else wishes they had.  Treasure each moment as yours because it is there for you to learn and bring you that much closer to who you can be.

I don’t have to wish for just one day. I am blessed with a life full of them. I will face the rotten tomatoes, the jeers, and the Frollos in my life.  I am stronger because of them. I am amazing, beautiful, and talented.  I have worth because I am a child of God.

Gray Street

I’m in Utah…. Utah. I can honestly say that in the last 10 years I would have never expected to come back to Utah. 

Excluding my week-long stop in Ohio, the trip took 37 hours of road time, and about 32 of it was actually spent driving.   90 gallons of gas, $266 dollars, and just over 2400 miles bring me to the center of Salt Lake City. It’s crazy. Everything I need is within walking distance, and all the people I call family (with the exception of Brianne, Peter, and a couple of friends in Provo) might as well be on Mars, or at least on the other side of the world, for as often as I’ll get to be with them.

Starting over in a new city is a mostly exciting thing. New faces, new things to do, and a new identity to create for yourself. The possibilities are endless… and for the first time in my life, all I want are the old faces, and the old routine. I like the me that I am right now. I’m happy, most days, and I wouldn’t mind staying that way for a while.

It would seem that the Lord has other things for me to do.  I’m a little unsure of what is in store for me here.  As a matter of fact, I’m walking on blind faith at this point with the hope that the Lord will show me at least a little of what’s going on. I know that He will at some point.  I already have a few minor miracles to be grateful for.  On my way out here I had to cut all my previously planned meanderings due to a predicted snow storm in Utah.  This was a little irritating, but I made it work and drove into the valley about 1/2 an hour before it began to snow.  Today I went to get my car inspected to get everything transferred over to Utah registration and it passed! I was so worried that it wouldn’t. Also, due to the work I had during December, I was able to pay my first couple months of rent up front so I’m covered until I find work.  The next miracle that I’m hoping for is a job.  All I have to do is pray and keep looking and eventually the perfect one will find me.  I just need ‘eventually’ to be sooner than later.

For the first time in my life I want to be responsible. I want to pay my own way, do my own work, and be proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished.  I am on my own but not alone.  I find comfort in memories and hope.  I AM supposed to take it on myself to get out of this place. I’m gonna change everything around me into colors bold and bright!

Landmark Prize Fight

It is so interesting how the Lord answers prayers and helps you to learn what you need in order to grow.

June 2010 has been a banner month in my life. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a more unexpected turn of events. I began the month being the manager of a produce store. This was a little unexpected since I had only agreed to be an employee, but then, halfway through the month, I was given the choice to let the place close, or take over ownership on my own. The details don’t really matter, but what you need to know is that I couldn’t let the store close. Luckily, my Heavenly Father was looking out for me, and I found a business partner. With his help we have a real chance at success.

If learning the ropes and dealing with the ups and downs of last-minute business ownership weren’t enough, I had to also have some really stupid, dumb, and irresponsible personal decisions come up and bite me in the butt on the worst possible day.  What it boils down to is that I have to eat a big piece of humble pie and move in with my grandmother… which isn’t so bad, but it’s not so good either.

Every day of the last month or so has seemed like one round after another of some sadistic boxing match, where I can’t even see who I’m fighting. I’m just out there, sweating it out and throwing blind punches.  There are people in my corner, and people in the stands who are cheering for me. I’m just not sure how many more rounds I can take.

I suppose what this really amounts to is that I’m finally, after 27 years, having to face the music and toss of the last fragments of my care-free youth. That part of youth that doesn’t like, want, or step up to responsibility when it comes. The part that expects parents to bail them out.

This is also a result of a few prayers asking for help in learning to be more responsible with my time and money.  Let this just be my testimony to you that PRAYER WORKS.

I am just grateful that I know I am being refined. I’m pretty sure I’d be curled up in a corner crying right now, if I did not have faith and trust in a loving Heavenly Father. When I get to the other side of this, I’ll see my opponent, and be so grateful that I am not her anymore.

New Job

I started a new job today. I am blessed to be employed, and I’m very grateful for the income. I actually have so much recently to be grateful for, that I am at a loss at where to start! I will organize my thoughts and share them soon, I promise. (Moving is STILL stressful, in-case you were wondering. )

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