Friday, March 14, 2014

happy bowling ball day / 7 year anniversary

I feel like I've written this particular blog post a few times (I have) and this time, I'm not really sure how to begin.

Seven years ago today, I had a bowling ball fall off the top of a flag pole on my head. And, yes. You read that right. How's that for a start? ;)

If you want the details of the story, here are my other blog posts with variations of "here's what happened" and "cool things I've learned": here / here / here / and here (I know that doesn't take us back seven years, but those are the best posts.)

And if you'd like the quick version of the story, here's the youtube video:



Honestly, seven years ago feels like a really long time. Sometimes, I don't even really feel like it actually happened. I mean, really, my brain did block out a lot of the pain which means I have very limited memories of the four days following the accident. But, I was really blessed to heal completely, so all I've got as 'proof' that this wasn't just a dream is the quarter-sized scar on my head.

Looking back on that day, I do remember everything up to the actual accident. I had plans to go to Tremonton for spring break. For some reason, I felt like I should go a day later than I originally planned, so I did. I was hoping to impress a boy that I really liked so I wore my favorite yellow shirt and I blasted the AC through the whole drive so I didn't have sweaty armpits by the time I got there. I had curled my hair and I was wearing my favorite giant, bug-eye glasses. (They were 'in' then, I promise.)

My friend, Christina, picked Marble Park as the place for us all to meet and play because she just had to show me their barbed wire collection. So, we looked there first. (Admittedly, it's quite impressive.) Then we played on the swings, rang some giant wind chime things, teeter-tottered, and gathered around the flag pole for pictures. Obviously, I needed to climb onto the tallest platform. Ashli, Mac, and I were all on that platform and we noticed that the cement holding the flag pole in place was starting to weather and chip away. We pushed the flag pole and found that it would move about a centimeter in whichever direction we pushed it.

I took my sunglasses off my head and tossed them on the ground - I remember this clearly. Then, I looked over my right shoulder and said "wouldn't it be funny if I fell off?" That's when the bowling ball came loose from it's four green prongs and landed on my head. Some important notes: First, I'm glad my sunglasses were off my head. Second, what a blessing that I was looking down and the bowling ball hit the spot that it did. Third, I'm pretty certain there were angels 'carrying' that bowling ball down with conversation that went something along the lines of "okay, guys, slow it down, but not too much! And make sure it hits the exact right spot, just like we rehearsed!" (Some of this is in jest, but I'm also not convinced that it didn't happen exactly this way. We'll chat about it in the next life.) Fourth, FOR REAL... who has an actual bowling ball fall on their head??

I was immediately knocked out - which is great, because then I didn't try to catch myself when I fell and break my arms or something. Friends came over, ambulances and parents were called, there was lime green vomit and me turning mostly blue (and nobody even took a picture) and this is the part where the rest of the story is not from my own memory. (Minus some flash backs about helicopter doors closing on my arm and oxygen mask drama.)

You guys, I don't really know what happened that day. I don't 'get' it. How random is my life? But, you know what else? How perfect is my life? In a way that I cannot even explain, I needed that experience. To the point where maybe it really did make a difference that I went a day late (finishing touches on that weathered cement?). I don't know how, but it taught me so many incredible life lessons. I'm really excited for the part of heaven where I get to watch the movie of that first bowling ball day. (I believe in heaven movies.) I want to see the angels involved, I want to know the things I felt and experienced (minus the mass amounts of pain), and I want to know why exactly that bowling ball was mine. It's funny how having a bowling ball nearly kill you can convince you that God's hand is most definitely in your life.

And I think that's my "moral of the story" today. God's hand is always there in my life. For some divine reason, life is hard sometimes. Bowling balls fall on people's heads (okay, that might actually be a once in a lifetime kind of thing). But really, life doesn't just "happen". Life is a beautiful, perfect, messy, heartbreaking, healing masterpiece. And nobody but the artist could ever really tell you just how remarkable this work of art is. I lack a lot of understanding, but I do know that my life is a gift from my Heavenly Father. I am forever grateful for a moment of "re-gifting" - which will never really be the right word, but for that moment of not getting my life back or obtaining it again, but knowing that I'm still here because I'm meant to be here.

It's kind of remarkable how life truly is so perfect. And sometimes what feels like a bowling ball crashing down on your head - those things that happen that kind of make no sense or cause more pain than you really understand, those things are the beautiful part of that miracle God is working in your life.


Monday, March 10, 2014

going to be okay

I'm on a stationary bike at the gym right now. I'm pretending I can breathe, but it's mile four and my legs might fall off (not to mention my behind... tmi? too bad). I'm trying this whole new blog wherever I am thing. Turns out I'm a much better blogger when I write bits and pieces on my phone in my free time. And bless blogger for updating their app and making it way easier to blog from my phone.

More important than my gym habits: I am seriously surrounded by the most incredible people. The comments, texts, messages, and jelly beans (yes, jelly beans - they made me cry) I've received in the past week have blown me away. Seriously, I know the kindest people! The best part is, they've been right there caring for me all along. Another favorite part is finding others who are also fighting silent battles and sharing a moment of "hey, we can do this, we're not alone."

Today has been a really good day. Something about admitting to the world that you're not okay makes everything seem just a little bit more okay. With a side note of "uhhhhm did I really just publish that?" And a large amount of panic. But really, vulnerability. I'm trying to not be so terrified of it.

I wish I could tell you what made today such a good day. I think it's a combination of a lot of things. Among them: the nicest friends ever, incredible family, lots of praying, more praying, and just stepping back and letting myself breathe. 

I've spent the last week in a mostly constant stage of "I'm not okay I'm not okay I'm not okay what do I do?" in my own head. And sometimes I'm not okay. We've already discussed that. Today I feel like some of the challenge I've felt in the last little bit is the fact that I let myself panic through that perpetual state of "not okay". I put a bunch of pressure on myself to "get okay" and fix everything. And I live in that state of concern trying desperately to figure out how to be okay.

That whole time, I'd pray and get constant reassurance that everything was going to be okay. I knew that. I know that. But I wanted it okay instantly. And I think that's something I'm learning. Along with it being okay to not be okay sometimes, it's also okay to let go of fixing everything and thinking you have to make it all okay on your own and right away. You don't. There's something about letting go that helps that "going to be okay" process along. There's something about that journey - the "going to be okay" journey that makes that destination of "I'm okay" that much sweeter. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

silent battles

I've mentioned in recent blog posts that life has been hard for me lately. Honestly, it's difficult to explain why it's been hard because it's a lot of things and it's a lot of mental things. It's dating, it's work, it's self-esteem, it's acne, it's growing up, it's not wanting to grow up, it's a whole lot of learning things about myself that I didn't realize before, it's failure, it's overcoming weaknesses and discovering new ones, it's healing, it's holding on to hope, it's letting go of things that need to be let go of... and that's just the beginning.

When someone is diagnosed with cancer, that challenge has a label. It's google-able and people have heard about it before. They may not understand what it's like to go through that trial, but it's something they've heard of before. When someone has cancer, you can post about that on Facebook and ask for help - and thank goodness for that! I'm grateful for the lives that have been blessed and the prayers that have been answered because we know how to ask for help when someone has cancer.

But that's the thing. Sometimes we have trials that aren't google-able. Sometimes there is no easy label for why life is hard. Or maybe it's something private that you don't actually want to talk about. I know some brave people who talk about their challenges with infertility. I think people who share their struggles with cancer are incredibly brave too. I also have learned that sometimes there are brave people fighting silent battles that they don't understand, can't label, or aren't really prepared to open up about. Sometimes there are battles that are so innately internal that you really can't tell people about them. And the more time I've spent thinking about this "silent battles" concept, the more I come to realize that a LOT of us are going through these times in life and maybe we don't know what to do.

I feel weird telling people that life is challenging right now and not being able to really fully explain why. I tell some close friends/family a little bit, but there are so many deep factors to why life is hard for me right now and I don't even understand half of them. So, hi, life is hard. I've got a whole lot going on inside of me and I've got no label to tell you why.

But I want people to know that my life is hard. I feel selfish just typing that. The phrase "misery loves company" comes to mind. But I think it's much more than that. Honestly, I think sometimes we need to cry out and say "Hey! You people that care about me! I am not sure I'm okay right now and I need help." Actually, I think we spend a lot of time crying out messages like that - I think our bodies know how to get that message out when we're not ready to admit it. I'm sure you've seen lists of "signs of depression". They're filled with things like fatigue, over eating, under eating, insomnia, over sleeping... you get the point.

I think the world has taught us one giant lie that needs to be torn to bits and destroyed forever. That lie is this: "Asking for help is not okay/means I'm weak." Perhaps it's phrased differently in each of our minds. Any way you say it, it's a lie. We were put here on earth with other compassionate humans for a reason. We can ask for help. We were born into family units with people who love and care deeply about us for a reason. We can ask for help. It's OKAY to not be okay. It's OKAY to let people know you have flaws. It's OKAY to need help.

I let myself do this thing where I say "I'm fine, it's okay, I've got this" for a long time until I'm crying in my car on the way home from work and it's all I can do to think of something I might be able to eat without feeling like I'm going to vomit. I'm learning that I'm allowed to ask for help before I reach this point of desperation. I can tell someone I'm struggling before the tears come. I'm allowed to get support from friends and family any time I want. I've learned that all you have to do is ask. People LOVE you. They want to support you and help you be okay. We're not here to work through all our challenges alone. It was never meant to be that way.

Ultimately, I've also been learning how to turn to the Savior. It's okay to need Him. It's okay to ask for divine help. In fact, we are promised "ask and ye shall receive". He wants to run to us, to succor us, to heal us and bless us. I think I re-learn how much I need to rely on the Savior almost every day. In my favorite Holland talk of the day, Elder Holland says "When He says to the poor in spirit, “Come unto me,” He means He knows the way out and He knows the way up. He knows it because He has walked it. He knows the way because He is the way." Up and out is exactly the way I feel like I need to go.



I also want you to know that I am okay. I have moments where I want to scream out and cry out and tell everyone that I'm not okay. Those are real. But I also have wonderful, blissful, joy-filled moments where I feel peace and I know that I am okay and that things are going to be okay and I know I'm on a beautiful path. I'm finding that there is a lot more joy in the struggle than I ever believed there could be. Slowly, I'm starting to realize that there is a lot to be learned from the hard times and even from making mistakes. I have to remind myself, but I think that deep down I actually do know that being vulnerable, taking chances, going off of gut feelings and moving forward (even moving forward feeling like you have little to no sense of direction) is a lot more like progress than staying safe in your comfort zone and not ever risking anything. And through all of the scary, vulnerable, not okay moments, it really is always going to be okay.

Friday, February 28, 2014

a parking lot blog post about life

My cool friend, Katilda, does this thing where she free writes while she's waiting for trains and such and then posts sections of that on her blog. I think it's rad. One time, I watched some boys do engineering homework for over an hour and my phone died so I thought WWKD? (What would Katilda do?), pulled out my Institute journal and wrote everything I was thinking.

I'm not sharing that writing with you today.

Right now, however, I am sitting outside the Logan temple in my car listening to the rain fall in my roof. And I'm writing this blog post on my phone. So let's hope the updated blogger app does better at formatting than it did in its former life. I'm channeling my inner Katilda and just writing whatever I want to write.

This wasn't intended to be a Katilda fangirl post really. She is worthy of that, but I actually want to talk about some things I've learned recently.

Life is way hard. Like, sometimes it's overwhelming to the point that I could vomit kind of way hard. Or lay on the floor and sob on the phone to your mom level of way hard. I've always been emotional, but it turns out that I am a highly sensitive person. I feel a lot. And when life is hard... #allthefeels. Back in October, I visited a couple that I look up to quite a bit. (They're kind of like my Logan parents.) I actually showed up on their doorstep in tears, heartbroken over a boy. As I sat sobbing in their living room, we talked about what I was feeling and one of them said "you know, when I met you I could tell you were an extremely happy person, but I couldn't help but wonder if somewhere among all those high highs you had some of these low lows."

That comment stuck with me. Truthfully, I am kind of an extreme person. But I'm starting to think that's not such a bad thing. In institute, we were talking about the story of Alma the Younger and his repentance process. He talks about the pain he experienced before he repented/experienced a change of heart. After the change he says "And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!"

The part that hits home for me is the fact that after a change of heart, his joy was as exceeding as his pain. Do you know what that tells me? Moments of deep pain and sorrow are worth it. We all know what its like to be sick and then appreciate being healthy right after just a little bit more. Because, opposition.

And deep down, I honestly believe that all those deep pain, life is so hard I could vomit moments are really just change. Which is repentance. I don't think we'd ever experience a fullness of joy without sometimes having glimpses of a fullness of sorrow.

So, here's what else I've learned: Life is really really really good. Like, so good you want to shout it from the roof tops, so good that you tear up over Full House moments and Olympics commercials. Because when you believe in good, when you feel the good, everything is good. Even the hard stuff.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Oh, my love is Mill Hollow








If you're an Elise's Pieces hipster, you may have been reading my blog for long enough to remember that I worked at a really stellar summer camp for 5 summers of my college life. (Maybe you don't have to be a hipster... maybe I still talk about it like it happened yesterday. You can take the girl outta summer camp...) Recently, I learned that the school district that owns and operates that summer camp (Mill Hollow) is considering shutting it down. I don't know much about school district budgets and the cost of running a summer camp, but I do know the value of Mill Hollow and the incredible effect it had on my life.

So, with that in mind, I drove up Logan canyon earlier this week far enough to be out of phone/data service and just wrote about how Mill Hollow changed and affected my life. It was kind of healing to write about this place that has had such a deep impact on me. When I got back into phone service, I sent the following to the superintendent and anyone else who may be involved in the decision making:

My mom is a teacher in Granite School District. As early as I can remember, she would always leave for a couple days each summer to take students up to Mill Hollow. When my mom would come back, she'd hand me a pink shirt with the Mill Hollow logo on it in a slightly bigger size than I'd received the summer before.
Once I was old enough, I went to Mill Hollow as a student. I have more pictures of pot guts (read: the grass in front of the lodge) than you can possibly imagine. I learned how to boondoggle, I ate popcorn and watched fire dance to "Puff the Magic Dragon", I gave my best friend a bloody nose and she, in turn, ended up with a free snow cone. I learned all about Aspen trees, how to point out an Indian paintbrush flower from a mile away, and I can still sing every word of "The Princess Pat" and tell you which counselor autographed my arm at the end of the week.

The summer after my first year of college I became Brownie. Cabin 4 was my home and I memorized the names of 30 adorable (and exhausting) little girls. It was one of the hardest, but most rewarding summers of my life. Four summers and a change of camp name (Sonny) later, I locked up the trading post one last time and handed Dave McOmie my hostess keys in tears.

Working at Mill Hollow changed me. I credit much of my sense of self-esteem to smelly, adoring 4th graders, hours of filling perpetually empty vending machines, and especially to the incredible staff members and managers who became my best friends. I still run into teachers who know me by my camp name and care about "what I'm doing with my life after Mill Hollow". I now run into all-grown-up 6th graders from my first summer on the Utah State campus. I don't know how they recognize me with more make up and a lot less dirt, but they do.

I can't bring myself to throw away my giant wads of boondoggle or my 12 Mill Hollow t-shirts and staff polos. It would be like giving away a piece of my heart. I think the real message I want to share is that Mill Hollow is so much more than an item on a budget. It's a refuge, it's a school, it's home. Children need a chance to be adored by exhausted college students. They need a chance to realize that there is more to life than Facebook and Snapchat. They need to learn that hiking up to Inspiration Point means so much more than sore feet and still not having cell phone service; it's about finding true beauty in this world and knowing that you can do hard things and it's always worth it when you do! These kids need to learn that who they are is wonderful, that they can spend 3 days without makeup and feel beautiful, that it's okay silly songs about turtles and jello without caring what everyone around you thinks. 

I promise that Mill Hollow will live on in the hearts of hundreds of camp counselors, caring teachers, and students no matter what happens. But I think if you asked any one of those people, they'd tell you that they want their children to feel what they felt and learn what they learned. Mill Hollow matters, it makes a difference. I know it does.

Thank you for your time,
Elise


I'm sharing this on my blog for two reasons. One: my love REALLY is Mill Hollow. That place has my heart on a level that can't even be put into words. Two: I want all of my friends who attended, visited, worked at, or listened to me obsess over Mill Hollow to know how they can help. Here is the information I found on Facebook: 

We should all email and write to the superintendent of Granite School District:
Martin Bates Mwbates@graniteschools.org
The following email addresses should all be copied in your email:
Kathy Goodfellow kgoodfellow@graniteschools.org 
David Garrett dfgarrett@graniteschools.org 
Mike Fraser mjfraser@graniteschools.org
Ben Horsley bhorsley@graniteschools.org 

Granite School District Board of Education 
Gayleen Gandy ggandy@graniteschools.org 
Terry H. Bawden thbawden@graniteschools.org
Connie Anderson clanderson@graniteschools.org
Connie Burgess ccburgess@graniteschools.org 
Julene Jolley jmjolley@graniteschools.org
Dan Lofgren dlofgren@cowboy.us
Sarah Meier srmeier@graniteschools.org

If you don’t like emailing, please call 385-646-4523. 

This is so important if we want the message to be clearly heard. Please share and let your voice be heard!

You may also be interested in calling the Granite Education Foundation 385-646-GIVE (4483) to learn about ways the foundation may be able to support keeping Mill Hollow open. 

The message we would like to share is that Mill Hollow is one of the most valuable assets that Granite School District currently has in its educational arsenal. There are private citizens, both former student campers, parents, and future parents that are so interested in saving Mill Hollow for future generations that we are willing to serve in a variety of capacities to find funding, understand the resource allocation and develop a plan for ensuring that Mill Hollow will continue to be one of the best outdoor education experiences for students far into the future.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

a princess story. with dragons.

I am a planner. I get an idea and I am ready to go. I can't tell you how many times I have stayed up until 3 AM rearranging/redecorating my room because inspiration struck and it needed to happen NOW. Call it enthusiasm, call it instant gratification... whatever it is, it's a big part of me.

The benefit of planning things and doing things in your own life is that you've got control. You had the idea, you're taking care of the process, and you know what your end result will be. And if the end result is a little off, you whip out the seam ripper and fix it, or you let it go, because you know that mistake was all in your own control and you can be okay with it.

Okay, now let's talk about real life where you can't actually do everything for yourself and you can't know the end from the beginning in every situation. Sometimes, you get ideas or have goals that require some walking through the dark and trusting. I'm talking about all of life. School, jobs, dating (woof.), family, etc.

There are times when God asks us to take a step in the dark and trust Him. Those moments are really hard for me. I've learned enough to know that whatever God asks will always be good, but I have a hard time taking those steps forward without knowing how it's going to be good. Ultimately, I know that you don't have to have more than "Once Upon a Time" to trust that a "Happily Ever After" is coming. I truly believe that those phrases always go together. But it can be really hard to be patient as we wait for the end of the story.

And I think far too often we forget that there are dragons to face along the way.

Sometimes, you have to have more faith in the dragons along the way than the ultimate happy ever after. If dragons are a part of the process, they must be there for a purpose, right? I've been through enough in my life to know that trials and challenges make me a better person and are always always worth it. But I've also been through enough in my life to know that I trials and challenges are hard. It's really easy to want to avoid them.

Ultimately, I keep learning in my life that there is one simple truth I need to remember: God loves me and wants to bless me. He's the author of this story, He knows just how happy that ever after really is. And he knows which dragons I need to fight along my path. And He wants to bless me. And that truth applies to every situation ever. Ever. Which means I can always trust the path I'm on and the dragons along the way. Letting Him guide me is a part of the "Once Upon a Time".

Sunday, January 12, 2014

#elisebrain #taketwo

Do you ever have those nights when you drink chocolate milk through a straw and go to bed at 9:30 because being a grown up is hard? And really, it's not that hard, it's just that maybe it requires too much thinking. And feeling. And it's easier to just worry about who scribbled on the picture of belle that you were saving for last (because she's your favorite).

Yeah, sometimes I get really overwhelmed with the idea of being more grown up than I am right now. Sure I have a college degree and a big girl job and car payments, but I'm basically only responsible for myself right now and it's kind of not that hard. What happens when I get married and I'm supposed to be cooking dinner for my husband and children and all I really want is to watch Somewhere in Time and cry while I squeeze a fluffy pillow and eat ice cream from the carton with a fork?

Is it okay that I go crazy sometimes?  Like, we're talking sobbing on the floor in front of the fridge while eating peanut butter and jelly by the spoonful (from their respective jars) kind of crazy. Can I raise children in those conditions? Am I allowed to feed them peanut butter and jelly straight from the jars and turn on Full House for a few hours and pretend that laundry doesn't exist?

Don't even get me started on having a husband. And the whole girl emotion "it's not about the nail"-ness that even women will probably never really understand.

I'm asking because I really don't know how this all works. I kind of rock at being single. I take care of myself and on those I don't want to be a grown up days, I put sprinkles on my peanut butter toast and cry it all out. I've got this feeling that that doesn't just go away when you "grow up" and get married/start a family.

That's really all I've got. I'm not even sorry that I don't blog for a month and then I just come back to word vomit. So, yeah, I'mma go make another cup of chocolate milk and call it a night.

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