Tuesday, May 13, 2008

WC - Friday and Saturday

I am going to finish this thing up today so I can get to posting about the rest of my life! This is the longest post ever! I am warning you to go get a snack or something right now.

Friday we went back to BYU - this time in our matching hoodies and black shirts. Julie B. Beck, the general RS Pres. was the keynote speaker for the opening session. It was so amazing that I could have just gone home after her talk and been totally uplifted for the rest of the year. The topic that she was speaking about was STRENGTHEN THY STAKES: STANDING STRONG AND IMMOVABLE IN FAITH. She talked about how sometimes we complicate the gospel so much that we forget what the gospel is all about. She encouraged us to be accountable for what each of us promised we would do before we came to earth. I loved that she pulled out her scriptures and read from them - she wasn't just giving a prepared talk - she was teaching us the gospel.

Sister Beck told the women of the church to help each other to navigate the world and to build up strong defenses not only in our homes but in the schools our kids attend. Our ancestors did not go through all of those hardships crossing the plains so that we could be comfortable - we need to be out working and making a difference. She said that we need to make a choice between doing all of the busy work that we do every day or doing something bigger. I feel like my busy work makes a difference but I am totally motivated to be more of an influence in my kid's schools.

The next session we went to - the title was taken from the talk Sister Beck gave in last October conference - it was TURNING THE MTC INTO A REVIEW, NOT A REVELATION. Jeffrey N. Clayton, a former mission president was the first speaker - he was so great. He gave so many guides to help prepare our kids for missions and to make our homes a place where strong missionaries are formed. Then Mary Ellen Edmunds spoke. She is one of my personal heroes. She was the RS teacher when I was in the MTC. She was really the only female MTC leader that we had regular contact with - I'm sure there were others - but I have used so many things in my life that she taught us in the MTC. She had so many ideas like having a mini MTC in your home with teenagers; sing, pray, read scriptures and study the Preach My Gospel book together. She encouraged us to share our testimonies with our kids constantly - to let them know how we feel about the Book of Mormon, the prophet, the sacrament. There is work enough to do!

We went to a class on strengthening Family Home Evenings presented by Brother and Sister Lloyd Newell. He is the voice of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and just listening to him speak was wonderful. We were so tired at this point - I took lots of notes trying to stay awake. Hansen was falling asleep taking notes and we were giggling at her gibberish. We were also giggling while imagining Brother Newell's soothing voice asking for more toilet paper for the bathroom or ordering McDonalds at the drive through. It was a great class.

The main event was the closing session. Our good friend, Kelly B, saved us seats in the Marriott Center - on the 2nd row. We were to the left of the podium but we were so close. We intended to skip the session before the closing one but were afraid we would lose our seats so we sat through a class taught by Brother and Sister Osguthorpe about eternal marriage. They were adorable and I was glad we got to hear most of that.

The anticipation of the prophet arriving was so thick. All of the chatter turned to complete silence when President Monson walked in to the room and then everyone started singing We Thank Thee O God For a Prophet. The spirit was so strong, my throat clenched shut with emotion and the tears started flowing. My testimony that this is truly of prophet of God burned in my chest. I was so thankful to be there at that very moment with almost 20,000 women who all share the same faith, standards and values and to be sharing the same space as the prophet. He gave such great council to mothers and women and he oozed love for the members of the church. One of the things I loved about his talk was his statement that everyday is a special occasion. Don't save your good china for a special occasion that never comes! Use it! He counseled us to always say thank you and to keep our list of regrets short. He said that when you do something wrong - you can right it but when you miss out on something it is gone and you won't get it back.

President Monson encouraged us to have Patience, Faith, Fortitude and Humility. I am taking these four values and trying to weave them in to my life with new resolve. I have decided that the next four times I read the Book of Mormon - and I want to read it at least four times in the next 12 months - that I will read with these four character traits in mind. I will start right after girl's camp with patience. After President Monson was done speaking and had left the building - we were in no hurry to get out of there. We didn't really want it to be over. We stayed in our seats and wiped our tears and filled out our surveys - some of us wrote naughtier things than others! Then the most fabulous thing happened! A photographer came over and asked if he could take our picture. We asked him who he was shooting for and he said it is for next year's promotions so - if our picture is in the catalog next year - we will be setting up a table in the Marriott Center to autograph all of your copies!

Friday night we went and saw the movie Made of Honor with Hansen's sister who lives close by. We snuck Subway in and ate it during the movie. I thought the movie was cute but I think I was one of the only ones in our group who did. We got home late, stayed up late and then slept in really late on Saturday morning.
Saturday we went to see Pam's mom at her new place and then she went to lunch with us at Zupas. I lifted this picture from Hansen's blog - on the left is the group with Jill, Hansen's sister and on the right is the group with Pam's mom. After lunch we made two more mandatory Utah stops to Roberts and to the Deseret Book Outlet in South Jordan. I packed an extra bag just for the books and goodies that I knew I would buy at these two places and I filled it up! We made it to the airport in a mad dash but had plenty of time to get our flight. There were no real or imagined celebrities on board, but the month had changed so we did have new in-flight magazines which meant new puzzles to solve on the way home.
My wonderful children welcomed me home with a sign on the garage and a completely clean house! I am not kidding - it was spotless! Another year of Women's Conference gone too quickly but plans are already in the works for next year! We are pretty sure that if our picture is not in the catalog then the powers that be are going to ask us to make the funny video they show during the opening session about what not to do, or they are going to ask us to perform some special musical number or something. We have a couple of great tambourine players in our group. We came up with a plan to capitalize on the event and make some money next year selling real Diet Coke out of Hansen's van in the stadium parking lot.
Good Times.

Monday, May 12, 2008

WC - Thursday

I think that I have put off blogging about the actual Women's Conference part of my Women's Conference trip because I have so many strong emotions associated with the actual conference that I haven't wanted to take the time to write it all down, wipe my tears and relive the experience!

We woke up to Christmas! Well, snow on the ground and for us Arizonans that is like Christmas. There wasn't really any on the ground in Provo but Draper was covered in the beautiful powdered sugar dusting that I love. I don't miss the cold of living in Utah - but I do think the snow is lovely.

We dressed in our first matching outfit and headed out! Per usual, we were running a little late and our dash to the Marriott Center was hectic - but it warmed us up plenty! We found some not so great seats for the opening session and fell in love all over again with Sheri Dew. She introduced the theme of "Awake, Arise and Come Unto Christ". She told us to Awake to who you really are. Arise and make your life a ministry and Come Unto Christ by leaving the world behind.

She also talked about the influence that women throughout the world can have - she even mentioned having a BLOG and sharing your testimony through it! She shared this wonderful quote from Pres. Spencer W. Kimball: "Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world. " And then Sister Dew asked us "Are we ever going to Do more than just quote President Kimball? It was an important moment for me to reflect on what I do more than what I believe. I really love that Sheri Dew!

The next class we attended was called LAY HOLD UPON EVERY GOOD GIFT. The main reason we chose this class is because Barbara Thompson was one of the speakers and she is the hilarious 2nd counselor in the general RS Presidency. But both speakers were so good. Elizabeth Ricks taught us that each of us has important gifts to contribute and that we need to discover the gift, develop the gift and then honor that gift. She brought it all home by saying that when we fail to honor the gifts that Heavenly Father has blessed us with, we fail to honor HIM. My favorite thing that Sis. Thompson said was a quote from Joseph Smith that said (paraphrasing here) to be cheerful - people like to be with other people who are cheerful. Just listening to and watching Sister Thompson made me cheerful.

The other thing that made me cheerful was our matching clothes. People started noticing us and we saw a few ladies with the same jacket - as soon as we did, we would run over and tell them they needed to walk with us or sit with us or whatever. We ran in to this girl, Brittney from Provo, who was also wearing a yellow shirt with her jacket. She thought it was hilarious and came up and asked us if she could get her picture taken with us. It was fun. Of course in our minds, we were becoming Women's Conference legends with our matching shirts, hoodies and necklaces - we had a blast with this.

We attended two more classes on Thursday one was called: I'LL KNOW THE SCRIPTURES ARE TRUE: ESTABLISHING SCRIPTURE READING TRADITIONS. One thing we have learned in our vast Women's Conference experience is to choose classes that you know the presenters are going to be great. We have been burned in the past by choosing classes based solely on the title or whatever is close to where we are. This is a bad idea - choose the speakers! We chose this scripture one because of Vicki Matsumori - a counselor in the General Primary Presidency. The other presenter was Jean A. Stevens whose main message was that the Lord wants us to succeed in reading the scriptures and understanding - we just need to make an effort and He will bless our efforts. Sister Matsumori said that family scripture study is important but that everyone knows it is hard - she quoted her bishop who is fond of saying that the Lord's plan allows for families to be together for eternity because it will take them that long to finish the Book of Mormon together.

Our last class on Thursday was called A MERRY HEART MAKETH A CHEERFUL COUNTENANCE - we went because of Emily Watts. We knew it would be light and funny and give us a break. She did not disappoint. It was fun and funny and lifted our spirits. Another great thing that happened during this class is we met Jodi from Denver who came to Women's Conference alone because she knew she needed it in her life at that moment. Here we were five crazy loud women drawing attention to ourselves with our antics and I was reminded how important the messages of WC are to so many by Jodi. I really enjoyed visiting with her and I was so glad to gain a little perspective from her.

We ditched the closing session in favor of doing a little shopping at the BYU bookstore. My kids had put in their souvenir orders so I had to oblige, three CTR rings and one BYU magnet. I bought a few other things (candy) and then we went to dinner at California Pizza Kitchen. We wanted to stay close so we could return for the concert that night. I didn't have the desire to throw my bra at Michael McClean but I did almost wet myself while Eclipse had the stage. They were fabulous, as were Jenny Jordan Frogley, Hillary Weeks and Kenneth Cope. I am about to get rude here so if you went to the concert and you loved it - stop reading, this is the end of the post anyway. There was a group of women singers called Mercy River and they were not good. They were bad. They were really very bad. Type 2 embarrassing kind of bad. I wanted to see a long cane pull them off of the stage, I wanted the lights and equipment to all of a sudden go out, I wanted Hillary Weeks to come out and say it was all a joke and she just pulled these three no-talent women out of the audience - it was that bad. It was so bad that we were begging for Mercy (river). Michael McClean totally saved the concert with his set - at the end he had everyone learn and sing the chorus to a good-bye song. It was a spirit manipulating move - but I soaked it up and cried many salty tears.

We got home late, stayed up late, talked all night about forming our own girl group - came up with a name for it, and were so excited to go back on Friday.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

WC - Tuesday and Wednesday

I have been thinking of posting about Women's Conference since we got home Saturday night but I have been putting it off. Partly due to the laundry, homework and school concerts that have needed me in the last two days and partly because the emotions are so close to the surface - I don't know if I can do the trip justice. After long deliberation, prayer and fasting - I have decided to break it up in to a couple of installments. If you don't want to read the long version here, you can get the abridged versions at Pam's blog or Nic's versions here and here and even Shannon has beat me to a review! I love all of the little details and you can bet that I am going to account for them here.

The AZ girls, me, Shannon, Pam and Vicki took off for the airport Tuesday afternoon around 4:30. This is a different plan than usual - typically we fly out on Wednesday evening - but because we could save about $20 (not because we wanted one extra day of fun) we left earlier. We had a good time in the airport with an elderly business man who wanted to give us some trouble and then had fun on the plane finding celebrity look alikes (Courtney Cox, Lindsay Lohan and George Stephanopolis) and one real celebrity. Jon Du Pre is a local news anchor who is much better looking in real life than in this picture. We talked to him at the baggage claim in SLC for a little while and once we remembered his name we promptly googled him. He is LDS and has a fascinating story. You can read it here. Jon Du Pre became the baseline on what we judged everything for the rest of the trip. i.e. "I'm not coming here again.... unless Jon Du Pre is there." He seemed like a nice guy off for a golf trip out of town, he wasn't wearing a wedding ring and we were all dying to know if he was meeting his girlfriend that he met on some Mormon dating web site.

After a short wait at the airport - Nicole had a small mishap on her way to the airport in her purple pleasure mini-van - we were off to the Hansen's house. Hotel Hansen has been our resting place for the last three years. The basement is the place for our loud laughter, late nights and exploding suitcases. We did not waste any time once we were settled - we got right on to the prizes.

Included in our prizes were new tags. Hansen explains the tags very well here. The six of us (our friend Susie in Texas is part of our group, but couldn't make it to WC this year) have decided not to exchange Christmas presents but exchange gifts during our annual trip. This year the girls went above and beyond. I can always be counted on for the matching pajamas. Here we are in all of our after hours glory. [It has been brought to my attention that I never post pictures of myself on my blog - I don't know why I never have - I guess I don't really have many pictures of myself] This picture is pretty blurry but from left to right is Hansen, me, Vic, Shannon and Pam.

Hansen made us the most adorable journals - they have dividers so that we can write about different aspects of our lives. Vic got us all matching purses to carry around BYU, Shannon bought us matching hoodies that made us a very famous crew on campus and Pam made the fabulous necklaces you will see around our necks in all of the coming photos. We stayed up until after 4 a.m. watching American Idol and laughing, talking and catching up with every one's shenanigans.

Wednesday morning we got up and got ready to go to the temple. Some in our group had never been through a session there, or a session of that kind before so that was great. The grounds were beautiful, the tulips in full bloom, but it was freezing. We had lunch at the Garden room at the top of the Joseph Smith Memorial building and watched the snow flakes start to fall.
Nicole had to take her kids to swim practice so we changed clothes while she did that and then we went SHOPPING! We went to Tai Pan Trading, one of my favorite Utah shopping stops. It is always a must - but it is much easier to buy the things I want when we are driving home rather than flying. We closed that place down, went to Wal-Mart for snacks and the movie 27 dresses then stopped at Arctic Circle for a mushroom swiss burger, french fries, onion rings and FRY SAUCE!
We watched the TIVO'd Idol and saw Brooke get voted off and then ate our junk food and watched the movie. It was another 4 a.m. bedtime for some of us - but it was all worth it! Good Times! I will work on the other 3 days later today.