Tuesday, August 27, 2013

It's fun to stay at the YMCA

There were two really difficult sacrifices I had to make when we decided to leave Utah.  One was my favorite grocery store, WINCO, the other was leaving behind my gym.

I have worked out at the new Pleasant Grove recreation center since it opened a few years ago, and I was in love with it. It was part of my routine. There were so many benefits! Close to home! Family friendly! Inexpensive! Clean! New!  You can see why I was struggling with the thought of leaving it behind.

As we now know, when we do what Heavenly Father asks us to do (move away from our beloved grocery store and gym), we know he is going to give us something better.  I guess I had my doubts that he would know how important this was to me, and I was just going to have to suck it up and cut my losses.  Silly me.

Just a few minutes from my new house is the most beautiful gym I have ever seen. Looking from the outside you would think it was a fancy-schmancy health club, but turns out, it is the Bellevue Community YMCA.  When I asked a few people in the ward where they worked out, they seriously gushed about this place. Being from Utah where they don't have YMCA's, I had no idea how great it could be. I have heard that not all YMCA's are this awesome, but this one definitely is.

After looking into it, it is quite a bit more expensive than the PG Rec, but what isn't more expensive out here? Oh yeah, nothing.

Boy oh boy, though, you get what you pay for!  It is AMAZING!  The best part is that you can have up to 2 hours each day of FREE childcare while you work out!  The daycare area is also BEAUTIFUL! It is separated into 3 different areas by age, they have lots of friendly staff, an outdoor fenced play area, and a very secure system of making sure your kid doesn't go home with someone they don't belong to.

The other perks:
- Tons of machines, so there is always one available. Each machine has it's OWN TV attached. (This is huge because the best way for me to power through a 50-minute workout is to watch a good show.)
- Great family-friendly indoor pool
- Physical therapy & massage therapy on-site (for additional cost, of course, but still it's available!)
- 3 studios with different classes going 14 hours each day! (I can't wait to try Danceblast, Balletone, yoga, spin, and ballroom dance!)
- All-natural juice bar on-site
- It's not just a gym, but a community center where people come to take music classes, spend time together, etc.
- There are SCRIPTURES on the walls. Seriously.

I could go on and on... but let's just say, I'm not missing the PG Rec at all anymore. :) 

I went to work out there for the first time last week and it was so great. We had toured the facility on Monday night when I signed up for my pass, and we spent some time at the childcare center.  Evelyn had loved it then, so when I brought her back she couldn't get in there fast enough! She ran to the lady in charge (who had shown us around on Monday), and didn't even bother saying goodbye.

After my AWESOME workout, I went to pick her up and she was totally dirty and totally happy. She loved every second of it. Meg, the lady in charge, told me she had played for almost the whole 90 minutes outside (hence being sweaty and dirty), and was perfect the whole time.

I could have broken out in song I was so elated.

I can foresee many good times for Evie and I at the YMCA. The song is right. It is fun.

Evie's happy, dirty face after playing at the YMCA.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Me and the Missionaries

Something cool about living outside of Utah is that I have had a lot more interaction with the missionaries than I did back home.

Our ward has their own set of SISTER missionaries!  This means that the relief society sisters in the ward get to be even more involved! Going on splits, feeding them, etc.  It's exciting! We are the closest member family to their apartment, so if they need anything they call us first, pretty much.

One of our sister missionaries, Sister Johnson, injured her back a little over a week ago. I guess it was an old injury that she re-injured, but apparently it was very severe. She was in the ER weekend before last, and then has been pretty much flat on her back ever since then. This means that they need even more help than usual.  On Tuesday I was asked to take them to the chiropractor in the afternoon. I had already signed up to go out visiting with the un-injured sister (Sister Munafo), that evening so it wasn't a big deal at all.

Before going to the chiropractor, I took them to the post office to pick up a package, and while they were there, Sister Munafo dropped their cell phone in the parking lot. She didn't realize it until after we were at the chiropractor and by the time we got back there, it was gone.

I sent a text message to the phone, and a kindly gentleman had picked it up, and he gave us his address where we could come and get it.

I made some quick salads for dinner, and we dropped sister Johnson off at a ward member's house for the evening.  Sister Munafo and I went to visit Pete, the man who had picked up the phone. In the car, Sister Munafo told me that she was going to give this guy a Book of Mormon and see if he would visit with us.

He turned out to be a very nice older gentleman, and both he and his wife were very gracious. We did talk to him a little about the church, and left them with a Book of Mormon.  It was a good experience. 

Sister Munafo hadn't made any appointments because of the unpredictability of Sister Johnson's injury, so we just dropped by several investigator's houses, hoping to find someone at home. After trying three different places, we ended up visiting a very interesting woman named Lee.

I think Lee may have been part of a religious cult in the 70's... and she had a lot to say about religion in general. She was very warm and kind.. and like I said, had A LOT to say.  She also is a professional Colon Hygienist and has written several books about spiritual connections to colon cleansing. It was pretty...enlightening?  We left there with free copies of her books, and our heads pretty much spinning, but she did commit to read one chapter of the Book of Mormon, and she told us that she didn't have any problem believing that it was the word of god. She also told us that a TV evangelist was a prophet... so yeah.

Today I took them to Trader Joe's and the farmer's market for groceries. Thankfully, Sister Johnson's back is doing a lot better after a week of rest, so she was up for walking around quite a bit.  It was their p-day, so they took their time and enjoyed the day. They loved the farmer's market. They are such great girls. I really enjoy spending time with them.

On Wednesday they are coming over for dinner and then we are going out on splits again.

Hopefully there will be more interesting stories to come :)

Leafing through these has proven to be very entertaining.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Making Friends

I am sure that 99% of you know that I am Mormon.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  I believe in Jesus Christ and his teachings. I try to live my life in harmony with those teachings. I go to church every week and I pray and read every day. I love it.

When we decided to move to Tennessee, it was completely because we felt directed to do so by God.  We had absolutely no other reason to choose this place, and in fact we almost didn't.  We prayed and prayed and prayed...  And we knew that this would be the right place for us.

We moved here without knowing anyone.  The one person we knew here was moving away before we got here, and so I can say that right at the beginning we felt pretty friendless.

I am a social person. I thrive on social interaction. I need friends not only for fun, but also for my sanity.  It is just who I am and I have always been this way!  The first week here was a little hard for me, but then we went to church.

Our ward (congregation) here is wonderful!  I have made so many friends.  There are many many women in the ward that are in the exact same situation as I am, and they do things together several times per week.  They have welcomed me with open arms and helped me feel at home. I can honestly say that if it weren't for these incredible women, I think I would probably be in complete misery here. Feeling like I am a part of this wonderful group has made me feel like I belong here, and that this is truly my home now. I feel busy and fulfilled, and almost all of these opportunities to be involved directly relate to the Relief Society in my ward.  It is wonderful.

I am sure you will hear more about them in the future... since it is my whole social life. :)

I'll just leave it with this:  Heavenly Father is good. He knows exactly what we need and when we do as he directs, he blesses us abundantly. He knows how difficult it was for me to leave behind cherished friends and family, and he has given me even more people in my life to cherish.  He is good.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Choosing Vanderbilt

Nathan decided a couple of years ago that he would like to go to graduate school.  I come from a very education-centered family and have always been supportive of that.

Last fall when working his way through his final year at BYU it was finally time to start addressing that desire.  Nathan took the GRE and received a very good score.  We started hearing from schools, inviting him to apply and waiving application fees.  Three of these schools were Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York, Notre Dame in Indiana, and Vanderbilt here in Nashville.  

We had never really considered going out of state for school.  Nathan had already started working in a research lab at BYU under a really wonderful professor, and we just assumed he would stay on there.  Then, one day Nathan came home from school and said, "What do you think about going out of state?"  He thought I would be totally against it (not sure why...), but my response was, "Sounds cool to me.. let's see what happens."

Nathan submitted his applications to those three schools, plus BYU just in case.  We heard back first from Rensselaer - no.  Then, we waited for months and months.. no word from anywhere!  During that time we both had a very special feeling about Notre Dame.  We decided that it was our first choice, and if we heard back from them with a yes, we were going. Second choice was BYU, and third choice was Vanderbilt. The reason being that we didn't know anything about Vandy, we knew it was pretty hard to get into and we didn't even think it was a real possibility.

We heard back from BYU with a yes, which was expected.  Then we heard back from Vanderbilt that we were on a waiting list.  We didn't want to bank our lives on a waiting list, so that was out.  Then, we heard back from Notre Dame with a no.  We were pretty surprised, and it caused us a lot of stress. Suddenly we had to reevaluate. We decided to wait until BYU's acceptance response deadline and if we hadn't heard back from Vanderbilt, then we were staying in Provo.

One week before the deadline, Nathan got an unexpected email from a professor here at Vanderbilt. She was interested in him, and wanted to talk to him on the phone.  They set up an interview on the phone for the following Monday, just days before the deadline.  The evening after speaking to him, she sent an email stating their intent to offer him acceptance with benefits. Vanderbilt is also a prestigious school, which could help Nathan later in his career, especially if he ever wanted to be a professor.

At this point, we didn't know what to do!  We were so conflicted.  We had been praying for months about getting into ANY graduate school, and now we were forced to make a choice in only a couple of days that would greatly affect our family in the long term.  Nathan sought the advice of his professors at BYU, who were very vague.  His research professor offered him a fellowship (additional money) if he stayed, and promised that he would be done in 4 years instead of the 5 at Vanderbilt.

It began to seem obvious that the greater benefit would be to stay at BYU.  I honestly felt quite let down that we were going to stay, but I was trying to be supportive of Nathan and his choices, and so I told him that if he felt we should stay, then we would stay.  It made logical sense... so let's do it.

After one day of having decided on BYU, Nathan sat me down and told me something wasn't right. He didn't feel like BYU was the right choice and he felt like the spirit was making him feel unsettled about it.  I told him, "Why don't we decide on Vanderbilt and see how that feels for 24 hours, compared to our BYU decision?" 

We knelt together in prayer and told Heavenly Father that we had decided on Vanderbilt, and asked Him to help us to feel peace if this was the right decision.  The difference in the way we felt over the next 24 hours was very significant. We both felt peaceful, and the next evening we sat down together, looked each other in they eyes, and said, "It's supposed to be Vanderbilt."

Nothing about coming to Vanderbilt made logical sense.  Yes, they offered us scholarships, benefits, stipends... but so did BYU.  We knew it would cost us thousands to relocate our family. We knew it would be inconvenient, hard, possibly isolated.. but we both knew it was what Heavenly Father wanted for us.  So we did it.

Here we are after A LOT of effort and money, and looking back I can already see the blessings unfolding for us.  We have only lived here a month. I can only dream of what wonderful things Heavenly Father has in store for us. He truly does take care of us.

Three nights ago, Nathan and I were talking about the path that lead us here to Tennessee.  He was lamenting that he never felt he had a good mentor in his education. Someone that had done it all before, was unbiased and could guide him where he should go and what he should do.  I reminded him that despite lacking such a physical figure, look where we are!  We have the ultimate mentor guiding us. By relying upon Heavenly Father, we have come all the way from the beginning of Nathan's college career at UVU to BYU to Vanderbilt, with really very few setbacks. He has blessed us and guided us in everything. He watches over us and if we listen carefully, he does tell us where to go.

That is the best kind of mentor you can have.

Evelyn Explores Vanderbilt Campus

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Falling in Love with Tennessee

Hello friends,

Wow, it has been quite a long time since I have written a blog post.. and even longer since I've posted consistently.

Things change, though, and I am finding myself again in a phase of my life where blogging seems possible & meaningful. For quite a while I was very busy and just couldn't really find the time to write. My life had also taken on a more steady, predictable nature and I found that I didn't really have much to say.  But here we are again in another (very different) chapter of life and I think I have quite a bit to say.

In this post I am not going to try and catch you up on every detail of what has occurred in the last year (but especially the last 3 months), but I will give you the basic details with plans to share more later.  We relocated our family from Pleasant Grove, Utah to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of July.  My husband Nathan was accepted at Vanderbilt University to do his PhD in electrical engineering. He started his first day of classes yesterday, and will be done in approximately five years. Yes, five years. I know, it's a long time.  He is taking a straight-to-PhD route from his bachelors, though, so that is why it will take a while.

Despite how long it is going to take, we are comfortable here and very happy. He has a full-tuition scholarship with a generous monthly living stipend, and they also cover his health insurance, so as far as money goes we are doing fine.  Well, at least as well as we were when I was working as a poor, underpaid high school teacher... which brings me to the next great thing.

I quit my job, and I am now a stay-at-home mom.  I am the happiest I think I have ever been. I was afraid I would miss the validation that I get from working, but I am finding validation in other ways.  I am happy and content. And I get to spend all day with my little hunny-bunny, Evelyn.

What I hope to do with this blog over the next while is to share my experiences here in Tennessee so that friends and family back home (and anyone else who cares to read it), can see how we are and what we are doing here.  I also have dreams of starting a healthy food blog, and for now I think I will just share my healthy recipes here and aspire to grow that project into it's own separate blog.

I plan to update frequently, so please check back for more interesting stories regularly.  I have posts in the works that include some pretty entertaining stuff... like colonics, hot chicken, Tomato festivals, 6-legged cows and so much more.

Love you all.

Our New Home