Newness for a New Year

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween and Happiness

Items of note for Wednesday, Oct. 31:

1. Happy Halloween. I didn't dress up, but I did wear a peachy-orange shirt! That is about all I can offer for days I teach. I do plan on eating chili and eating candy tonight. Mark is coming down and we are going to watch semi-scary movies with Amelia and Erin. (Semi-scary means not really scary at all, but intense. Think Charade.) Erin wants to watch Watcher in the Woods, but I have never been a fan of that movie. It's too creepy for me!

2. I won my first eBay bid today on a clothing item. We will see how it all comes out. I opened a PayPal account and finally feel as though I have entered the world of eBay. I have frequently ordered books of, which is affiliated with eBay, but I have never placed a bid on eBay. I guess I matured a bit in Internet terms.

3. Six years ago today I received my mission call. My hometown is of the variety that calls the family early in the morning to let them know about the big white envelope from Salt Lake City. My parents got the call and went and got it for me. They came and woke me up with the white envelope in their hands. We had expected to open it later in the day when the family was going to come over. But, my family couldn't wait once the envelope arrived.

So, I fatefully opened the envelope and read my call. I skipped ahead a little, I couldn't help it, and read Bulgaria. I was completely surprised. I had studied French in college for three years and could read, write, and speak fairly well. I thought for sure I would go French speaking. But, as per usual, God knows so much more than I do about what is good for me. With all the hind sight bias I now have, I couldn't have chosen a better fit for me. The people of Bulgaria and my fellow missionaries were exactly what I needed. I worked hard to love the people, and I do. One of the things that makes God's foreknowledge so great is that we can't see the resplendent good that will be the eventual outcome, but He can. I had no idea how my life would be changed because I accepted that call.

I never had a mission scripture, my ward didn't do anything like that. But, I seemed to frequently gravitate towards Matt. 28:20 which reads, " ... and , lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." I always figured that if God could be with me in Bulgaria, then he could be with me anywhere. I have been reflecting on that verse this week. If I could tell someone a part of what I learned in Bulgaria and after it would be that God really is with us always. I think we could all acknowledge that we are involved in situations that have no certain outcome; we have no idea how it will all conclude or how that will affect us for the rest of our lives. On one hand it is exciting to know that to some extent the daily doings of our lives really can have lasting results, but it is also terrifying that there is such a potential for pain or joy that is conditional on what we do today. It is hard to work through such periods, especially when you wonder when it will end. I guess there is some comfort to know that there will always be times of uncertainty. But the greater comfort is that God wants our happiness more than we do and in the end we will be happy, really happy. I can with confidence look back at my mission and see how although there were incredibly hard, painful days, I experienced happiness.

As I work through my own expectations of happiness, my thoughts today end on the following: we often want happiness on our terms, although we often shortchange ourselves in terms of the happiness we could experience if we would but submit ourselves to the process that brings God's happiness.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Reasons I love Primary

Yesterday, I went to Thomas and Erin's ward to help Erin in primary. She needed someone to pretend to be an investigator for Sharing Time. The full-time missionaries were there and I was supposed to ask questions such as "Who Am I?" and then the primary children would pick a primary song that would help answer my questions. It was great. I haven't been in primary for a while, but here are a few experiences that might embody the essence of primary.

1. A ward was getting out as I was waiting out in the hall for Erin. There was a couple who walked by, who had just finished their primary class down the hall. The woman looked at her husband and said, "I'm done being a Mormon today."

2. There were three children running back and forth in the hall, they were giggling and chasing each other. It seemed as though they were at the end of their 3-hour block. One adult stopped them and said, "No running in the church." They promptly stopped until he was gone, then started again.

3. Once in Sharing Time (junior primary): the missionaries were talking about the first vision. They help up a picture of it and asked what it was called. They said, "This the first what? It starts with a V." A very well-behaved sunbeam on the front row raised his hand and with a serious, thoughtful voice asked "virgin?," with a serious face. He didn't know he was getting his stories mixed up! The adults and missionaries did a great job not laughing out loud.

4. Sharing Time (senior primary): There will always be the few children who seem to have an answer for everything and they somehow seem to pronounce it with such power and volume. One girl repeatedly asked the Primary President who she loved the most out of the primary. She then sat on the front row and bobbed her head up and down for a seemingly endless few minutes. But, the jostling of her brain did not effect her ability to speak.

5. Perhaps I saved the best for last, but I couldn't help but smile as I walked away yesterday because I got a popcorn ball. I haven't had a popcorn ball in years. It was orange for Halloween, of course. It wasn't as tasty as I remembered, but I still ate the whole thing. I couldn't help but enjoy eating it in honor of all the popcorn balls I ate as a member of primary.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Have you ever had a jacket, or a skirt, or whatever other article of clothing that fits this bill, that needed to be dry-cleaned, but you just kept putting it off. I usually think of it right when I go to put something on that hasn't been dry cleaned in a while. I then find something else to wear and forget again until the next time I try to wear it. Well yesterday I discovered that one of the perks of my house fire is that I got to dry clean everything I own (everything that is dry clean only of course). Two weeks ago, I took in all my clothing and all of Amelia's clothing to be cleaned. When we went in the girl looked at us and said, "I'm going to get my manager." I guess they don't usually have orders that large. When I mean large, I mean they had to roll all our clothes out in a large bin. All in all the total wasn't as bad as it could have been, especially since we took it to BYU's facility (which has a much better rate for students and employees). And out of 61 items, they all came back on the first try--nothing was lost or misplaced. But, the next time you look at your bill, just think it could have been $190 instead of $20-30. Then again, I can now enjoy a completely clean, pressed, and relatively smoke-free dry-clean-only wardrobe.

Monday, October 22, 2007

So You Think You Can Dance

One of the women I work with brought in a classic movie (VHS of course). I took a break today and watched the whole thing. I was only going to watch the first bit, but got carried away. If you haven't watched this in a while, you should. I laughed at how close this is to the reality TV shows that involve dancing, only in all the 80s glory. The whole soundtrack is full of great songs--and you can't help but be glad that Sarah Jessica Parker finally found out about hair serum to control her ultra frizzy hair.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

I'm Thinking of You, Thinking of Me

The other day I was talking with my friend about the moments in life when someone or some event randomly rushes into my thoughts. At such moments I can almost feel the intensity of the moment or person. I guess I was thinking about it because I have such experiences regularly. I will be walking somewhere or talking to someone and I will be caught away in nostalgia of times long gone. I asked my friend whether she ever thinks about the people who may recall her in their everyday memory. I figure that if there are people and places that come to me then I must appear in some thoughts somewhere. I like that idea, not because I am vain enough to believe that people need to think about me, but because it means that we all continue to revel in the goodness of what has been. Sure there are some not-so-pleasant memories, but I believe I reflect more often on the memories that bring that distinct smile to face: a subtle smile that no one else can understand and is often hard to explain.

I am writing about this because I just ran into an ex-boyfriend of mine. I guess you can't help but feel nostalgic as you become drenched in such memories that accompany past love. He told me that he was walking to the theater last week with his brother and he walked past the restaurant we ate at on our first date. We had walked to that same restaurant, and he couldn't help but think of that evening so many years ago. I laughed because I think of it every time I pass it. We both paused and absorbed the memory, sharing it equally between us in the coolness of this fall day. We reminisced about the good old days and how long it feels since they were fresh to us.

I was glad that I live on in his memory because he always will in mine. I somehow enjoy the knowledge that we carry bits of others with us. I believe it was Tennyson who said we are a part of all we have met. As Jaron and I parted ways, it was sweet and comforting to realize that our souls will always return to such moments ... moments when we can with time and distance look back and smile at where we have been and how that has made us who we are.

The Fire ... Continued

Here are some more pics from the aftermath of the fire.

This is the cooler with the front melted away.

This is the wall of the laundry room. Notice the oxyclean was safe inside the cabinet.

This shows how the erratic the fire was. This toliet paper was right above the dryer. Two shelves up, the vacuum was completely melted, but the TP was fine.

Here is another example. This was in the kitchen. I like to think of it like a good roasted marshmallow: nice and brown on the outside, perfect on the inside.

We spent almost an entire Saturday at the laundromat.

It was quite a feat to wash everything we owned: clothes, coats, blankets, towells, everything. It felt a little like the good old days of doing laundry at Boy Scout Camp when we did laundry for 50 boys. Only this was much better overall. But, by the end, we started to feel the weight of being homeless and smelly.

Although we still had some laughs.

And we laughed at Thomas.

And the moral of the story is,

1. Don't leave your dryer on when you aren't home--even if you think nothing will happen.
2. Clean behind your dryer every six months (the fire chief told me that).
3. Buy Charmin TP because it won't burn!
4. Buy an Apple. It was in the midst of all the smoke and it is still working great! It was black on top, but they even managed to clean it off.
5. Buy a Strand Bag when you go to NYC. Yes, this is the only bag I have that doesn't smell like smoke because I had it with me when I left the house. But, it has been my lifesaver as I have hauled all my stuff around. I love it; it is a wonderful bag. And it was only $8.

I would also like to say thank you to all the people who have helped us and who have let us stay with them or keep our stuff at their place even though it smells. You know people love you when you smell and they don't mind!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Sweet, sweet technology

I just found out that the copiers at work also work at scanners. You can then send that scan directly to someone with one easy step: hitting the copy button. Amazing! I have always fussed with scanners, but now all I have to do is act like I am copying something but hit a couple of different buttons and bam, I have scanned and emailed as a PDF. I love technology.

Fire and Smoke (with pictures)

There is a man who walks up and down University Avenue in Provo/Orem. He carries all his belongings on his back and also has garbage bags in his hands. I can't count the number of times I have passed him. As I passed him yesterday, I felt a small bit of empathy for him as I felt the presence of my own plastic bags in my car. I now carry my life in plastic bags, both large black garbage bags and a few smaller white grocery sacks. In some ways I was prepped for this by serving in Bulgaria--where they always carry their belongings in plastic bags.

Anyway, my car has become one of the homes I now have that takes me between my other homes:

1. My parents' home in Centerville, where all my clothes are.

2. Thomas and Erin's home in Orem. I have most of stinky food there.

3. Brother and Sister Killpack's basement in Springville, which is where we sleep.

4. My office at school, where I keep a lot of other things.

I just got the pictures of the fire developed and I decided it was about time to blog about this whole ordeal. Many of you have heard this before, but now you can relive the saga with text and pictures.

6:55 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4

My roommate has been doing laundry, but leaves to go to a play. I need to go get some papers from my office so I can grade for the rest of the evening. I hear the dryer going, but figure it is almost through its cycle since my roommate had started it a while before. My mom always told me not to leave the dryer going, but I figure I will be right back and it is already done--besides it isn't my load.

7-7:45 ish p.m.

I am in my office gathering papers and catching up with some family members on the phone.

7:50 p.m.

I am talking on the phone with Thomas when I pull up to my house. I see smoke coming from the back, and I hope the neighbors are BBQing again. When I pull in the back, I see the smoke coming from the back windows. I tell Thomas I think my house in on fire. He quickly prompts me to get off the phone with him and call 911. I get out of the car and some of the neighbors come to help. They had just seen the smoke and came to call 911. So, I call 911 with extremely shaky hands. You hope to go your entire life without ever really thinking you would find yourself in this type of situation, and you never think you will have to call 911. Well, it wouldn't connect right away and there was some message on my phone about this being an emergency number. I couldn't really make sense of it, and all I could think was, "Yeah, I am having an emergency!!" After my third try it finally went through. The woman on the other line was extremely calm, which was good because I felt anything but calm. I explained what I saw. (FYI: my calls to 911 didn't stay in my call history. I see what they didn't, but I didn't know they wouldn't.) The neighbor had felt the back door, which wasn't hot, and said we should open it. I was nervous to do so and my hand was shaking so bad I could hardly get the key in the lock. But, I did and smoke poured out. I saw no flames, but I could hear water from the laundry room. I knew it had to be the dryer because that was the only thing going when I left. I explained what I saw to the 911 dispatch, but within 5 minutes I heard sirens. I went to greet the firefighters, but felt so alone. My roommates were both gone, and I stood there without knowing what to do or what was really happening.

The fire chief talked to me, and I explained the layout of the house so they knew what to expect. He kindly directed me to the fire engine, where I escaped the gathering crowds. I didn't want to talk to anyone. I called Thomas back and he said he was on his way. I called Mark and left him a somewhat frantic message to call me back and that I was sitting in a fire engine cab. I also called my landlord, which is not an easy call to make, by the way. "Hi, this is Breanne and the house is on fire."
I waited to get out until Thomas got there. I am glad he works in PR because that is exactly what he did for the rest of the evening. He talked to all the people who wanted to know what had happened--as if the fire trucks weren't a good indicator.

We left messages with my roommates, but they didn't arrive until later. To be honest, I could only think of my laptop sitting on the kitchen counter. I have been investigating external hard drives to back up the info, but I hadn't made a purchase yet. I kept on telling myself that at least no person was injured, for which I am so grateful. I began to think about what I would miss the most. What would make my soul hurt to lose to blackness? I wasn't sure. The firefighters were very nice through the whole experience. They updated us as information became available. I discovered that the laundry room was burned and there was a lot of heat damage in the kitchen, but the rest of the house had only smoke damage. I asked exactly what that meant, and the response was that there was soot and smell on everything. I felt a heavy relief.

The firefighters talked us through what they knew, told us what to do as we started to clean up, and asked what we needed from the house for the night. We weren't getting in there till the next day. I asked for my laptop and cell phone charger. My phone was almost dead and I knew I would need to call people.

9 p.m. (maybe)

We stayed with Thomas and Erin that night and for the next few. We walked away with what ever we had on and that was it. They taped off the yard with yellow Fire Department Tape, which really made it look like a crime scene. They said to wait for a call the next day.

9:30 p.m.

I emailed my classes and the English Department to cancel class for the next day. I didn't think showing up in my yoga pants and chacos would go over well, besides I didn't feel much like teaching anything the next day--besides needing to wait for the Fire Warden to call.

11:00 p.m.

When my face broke a few years ago, I realized that so much can change over the course of 24 hours, but now I see how much can change in 1 hour or merely an instant. As I tried to take in what had just happened to me, I couldn't help but think of the people and things that mean so much to me. What happens if we never tell people how we care? We always believe there will be another minute, another opportunity to share what brings us joy, but sometimes all we have is the now.

I tried to go to sleep, but all the trying didn't help much. I can usually sleep and sleep well, but not this night. I replayed the entire evening over and over again. I also started to realize how much this would effect my life. How do you begin to describe the feelings of loss and wonder at such a time. One firefighter told us not to wonder "if." What if I had been home? What if it had happened at night? If not tonight, then when would it have happened? What if ...

Here are some pictures of what we found the next day.

The dryer.

The laundry room.

The kitchen.

Stay tuned for more pictures and explanations.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Fire and Smoke (Part I)

This next post will take me some time to get down in its entirety. I will do what I can to get it up as soon as possible. I feel the need to get it down because then I can sort through the emotions that have been raging inside me.

On Thursday, Oct. 4 I went home after running to my office to get some papers, to find smoke coming from my kitchen window. You never really understand the fear that captivates your whole being in such a situation until it has you so tight you can hardly breathe. You can't think, and you seem to lose control of the connections between your body and your brain. Maybe the disconnection protects you from fully realizing the pain and terror as you stand before a nightmare. I never thought I would be a person who experienced a house fire. I just felt myself immune to such a thing--that would only ever happen to someone else. Well, as with so many other things in my life, I have been starkly reminded that I am susceptible to all things. I will break down this event in my next post, but for now know that my house was on fire. It was pretty much contained to the laundry room (started in the dryer) and scorched a bit of the kitchen as well. We feel extremely blessed that the rest of the house has smoke damage alone. Our task now is to air out, clean off, and pack up.

I want to thank everyone who has already so lovingly and willingly helped us. I have rarely felt so vulnerable, and I am deeply grateful for the support I feel. I am also so thankful to my God, who spared us what could have been complete ruin, and who has continually extended his mercy and comfort to us these past few days.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Realizations of a College Instructor

Did you ever have one of those days as a college student when you didn't feel well (physically or emotionally) but you opted to head to class and merely exist in the back of the class? You could sit through 50 minutes even though you weren't really there. Well, I never thought that my instructors might also have those days, only they couldn't just sit in the back of the class. I somehow forgot or never really conceived of my professors and instructors as having real lives or emotions for that matter. Nothing outside the limits of my class that is. I thought they were always prepared and ready to teach.

Today I haven't been feeling so great. I curled up on my office floor and slept today so I could feel good enough to go teach a class. It was all I could do to concentrate on the words coming out of mouth in some sort of coherent manner.

I guess what this means is that I forget that people are really all just people: we get sick, we are unhappy, we are bored, and we are distracted. I guess the role of teachers then is make their students never know just how normal they are.