Friday, September 12, 2008

New blog!

BJ and I decided that we should join the masses of married people that have joint blogs. We haven't done much to it yet... just a few posts spanning the the last several months. (We started it while we were still engaged.) We finally got a background on it that we like (thanks for the picture, Travis!), so we decided it was time to share it with the world. If you are Google Reader folks, a) good choice and b) take a moment to go look at the actual blog. We don't want BJ's hard work at making it pretty to go to waste. :) It's nothing much yet, remember, but we wanted to share it while it's still in its infancy.

That means I will slowly wean myself off of this blog and onto that one. I'm not sure what the final outcome will be... we shall see.

So, without further ado... our blog:

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Hanna - 1; Me - 0

Well, looks like I didn't avoid Tropical Storm Hanna. Both of my flights were canceled. [sigh] But I was able to get new flights and I'll still get home tonight... just three hours later. At least, that's the plan for now, as I sit in the Philly airport. Hopefully it'll stay that way come Atlanta. Y'all are remembering me in your prayers, right? :)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Missionary Moment

So... being a missionary scares me. Like... spitless. Talking to some random stranger about religion? Scary! I suppose if the stranger brings it up and asks questions, I'm fine. But I really can't fathom a situation where I would be the one to bring up the topic of religion and what we Mormons believe.

That is... until today. So, I'm at this luncheon. When I walked in, most of the tables were full and I didn't see anyone I knew, so I just picked a partially-empty table and asked if I could sit with them. They agreed readily, saying that they were a table of strangers. Then I heard a voice say, "Well, not anymore." I looked up and across the table from me was Steve! Hahaha. Go figure.

Anyway, so we all got talking and I mentioned that I work for FamilySearch. (Now, the problem with saying this is that the Digital Book project is just a teensy weensy bit of FamilySearch. Also, they only quite recently even put us on their website. So I always fear that when I say I work for them (or wear the shirt with the logo on it (which is everywhere at conferences)) that people will think I will know how to use FamilySearch. Hmm... perhaps I should learn how to use it...) They asked what I do and I told them that I was part of the Digital Book Team, which was only a tiny part of FamilySearch, but then explained our mission of digitizing family history books and putting them online for the world to access. One lady asked how much it cost to access. I told her it was free to everyone. Susan, the lady next to me, looked doubtful. "Why would you do that?"

!!! Now what? Perfect opportunity, but how do I explain without babbling forever? I think that's another reason why I'm scared of missionary opportunities. I don't know how to simplify things. How do I answer this questions without a huge discussion about temples and sealing and then gosh, we'll have to get into priesthood keys and I'm not entirely clear on that, and ahhhh! I don't have time for this!

Instead I used previous conversation to help me. Susan is quite new to the genealogy world. She did her genealogy, but did it all by herself. She had no idea the network that was in the world... people wanting to help other people put family histories together. Once she experienced this network she was shocked at how many people wanted to freely share everything they had done with her. Why would people be so nice and sharing? She loved it. So when she asked why we would do all of this work for free, I reminded her about how genealogists wanted to share everything and told her that's what we were doing. "Why should our Family History Library be limited to only those people who can come to Salt Lake? We want people to be able to do their genealogy sitting at home at 2 am in their pajamas." Another lady commented on how those were called "Slipper Genealogists" and conversation went on from there.

Here and there questions were asked about the Church's projects, but most of those questions I deflected to Steve. (Oh thank you, Steve, for being at that table! I really need to learn so much about us before I do anything like this on my own!) I think he convinced half of them to do Internet Indexing by the end of it. (Did you know you get a free subscription to if you do? Who knew?)

Susan got a phone call she had to take and left. I got this feeling after she left that I needed to tell her more about why we do this. Why we think it's so important that we provide these services for free. Oddly enough, I wasn't even afraid about it. Of course, about a minute before she came back they started the lecture (which was hilarious. I'll have to blog about that in and of itself). So when she came back I couldn't say anything to her. But through the entire presentation bits of things I could say kept creeping through my mind.

After the lecture was over, conversation just never lent itself to an easy opening while we gathered our stuff up. So I made a point to leave as soon as Susan did. Of course, now fear enters. What am I gonna say? Can I really do this? !!!!! I really almost just said goodbye and left. But I didn't! Be proud everyone!

Susan and I were walking down the hall, towards the classrooms where the next set of sessions were (even though I had every intention to go the opposite way back to my room so that I could go do some touring before I leave) and just chit chatting. A pause finally came and I worked up the guts to say, "So, you were wondering why we're willing to do this for free." Her faced lit up in an "I knew it! There really is a catch!" sort of way. But I plowed on. "We believe that families are forever. We don't believe that they have to be separated at death. So we need to put families together now. So you were asking why we're willing to do this for everyone and not just members of our church? Well, aren't we all family? We were joking back at the table that we were all related somehow, so everyone should have the opportunity to be together. It's not fair to keep a family apart just because they don't belong to our church." Her expression changed as I was speaking. She looked thoughtful now. "I'm sorry I was skeptical," she said, "but in this day and age, everything seems to have a catch. It's refreshing to know that there are still genuine people out there."

I figured this would be the end of the religion topic, but I was wrong. It was her turn to look really nervous as she stammered her way through a question for me. "What is the difference between LDS and Mormon?" Shocked by the question (I had expected polygamy or prophets or Word of Wisdom), I took a second to answer. But I told her the official name of our church and how LDS was just a shortened form. Cuz really, who wants to say, "Oh, you're Catholic? I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." It's just too long, so we decided to shorten it for ease of conversation. Then I explained how Mormon was a nickname given to us because we believe in the Book of Mormon. I explained a little about the Book of Mormon (oh, why didn't I bring one with me?!) and how people used the term against it, but how we don't take offense to it, because the Book of Mormon is such a central part of our religion. But because people don't believe we're Christian (enter different beliefs such as the Trinity here), we wanted to change our focus so that people know that we are, in fact, Christian. Thus, we use LDS, which indicates our full title, which includes Jesus Christ, instead of Mormons. We use both, though. LDS is just more formal while Mormon is more casual.

She was a little confused because she thought LDS and Mormon were two different sects. Like, a break-off group or something. So I explained to her that when Joseph Smith died, there werebreak-off groups. That's why there are now RLDS (now Community of Christ) and FLDS (I think that's what it's called?) churches. We have some of the same basic doctrine, but there are significant differences. For example, the FLDS have been all over the news because of polygamy, whereas we don't practice that anymore. (The look on her face told me that I hit right on the money of what she had been thinking.)

At this point we had been standing outside of the classrooms for awhile and she really needed to get into a session. I wished her luck with her genealogy and she wished me luck with my touring of Philly. Then she gave me a hug and thanked me for being willing to share and talk with her. Then she asked my name and we talked about how I just got married (yes, my name tag says Tianna Lovell), and she went off to class.

As I walked back to my hotel room, I couldn't help but be a bit pleased with myself. I had done it! I've been praying for missionary opportunities and for the courage to act upon them when they came... and I did it! I truly was blessed today. First, to sit by Susan, second to have the impression, and third, for receiving the courage to act upon it. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about it. I may not know everything, I may babble too much, my voice may have shook through the whole conversation, and I maybe didn't say all of the things I should have said (whoa - this sounds like me on Fast Sunday if I get up to bear my testimony), but I knew I did what Heavenly Father wanted me to do. And now I have a friend in Susan.

Wanted: Prayers

I fly out of Philly on Saturday early afternoon and have a layover in Atlanta for several hours. I'm really nervous because Tropical Storm Hannah is on her way, and will quite possibly interfere with my my flights and cause delays and all that jazz. Meh. I don't want to be late. Could you please all pray for me and good weather? I have no desire to be stuck in an airport during a tropical storm.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Room Service

I got breakfast this morning via room service. (Question: how much should you tip room service people?) Here's a bit of our conversation as I filled out my receipt:

RS: Is this your first time in Philidelphia?
Me: Second. But the first time I was, oh, about 13. So I don't remember much.
RS: [laughs] Where are you from? What city?
Me: (knowing that he'll have no idea where "Ririe" is, I decide to go for the state.) Idaho.
RS: Idaho? I've heard of this. [pause] Is it an island?
Me: [stifles a laugh] No. Do you know where California is?
RS: Oh yes, California!
Me: It's north of that.

As he left the room I heard him muttering to himself, "Idaho... Idaho..."

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mike and Chocolate

So, Mike took all of us and some of our partners (and one other lady, Monique, that he "felt like he should invite") out to dinner tonight. I had no idea when I walked out of my room how amazing this would turn out to be.

So we went to this family-style Italian restaurant across the street from our hotel. Our waitress was this hilarious black girl (I'm not being discriminatory... it just helps understand her attitude and it becomes important later in the story.) named Dee. She came out and introduced herself and explained the family-style dining (we get two appetizers, two salads, two pasta dishes, two meat dishes and two desserts, then we all share them). Then as she was walking away Mike stopped her. Now, I should tell you that Mike loves to take people out to dinner and refuses to let anyone else pay. He's just a great guy that way. So anyway, he stops Dee and said just loud enough for everyone to hear so they wouldn't try to go behind his back and pay, "I'm the only person at this table that has any money." Dee's face lit up and she squealed and ran around and gave him the biggest hug from behind and said, "Oooh! My kind o' man!" The look on Mike's face mixed with the unexpected behavior of our over-energetic waitress was too much, and we all just about died in giggles.

Dinner ended up being fantastic... but way too much food. For starters we had two salads (a caesar salad and a house salad), onion strips, giant mushrooms covered in some sort of breaded topping, and crab cakes. I could have easily eaten enough to be content. However, knowing that there was much food yet coming, I resisted. The main course included lobster ravioli, lasagna, chicken parmesan, and chicken marsala. I ate as much as I could while still leaving room for dessert.

All during the main course we just sat and talked. Sue dominated the conversation, and man am I glad that she did. She told us the most amazing stories of things that had happened in her library (she's the director). Everything from a Mexican guy who washed his hair in the toilet to a guy who chased a 12-year old around the parking lot with a belt to a registered sex-offender who came into the library, pulled up his picture on the sex-offender website and showed it to the person sitting next to him. Let me tell you, Sue is a riot.

Finally came dessert. Strawberry cheesecake and vanilla bean ice cream with toppings on the side. Typically I'm not the biggest fan of cheesecake. It's just too rich to take more than a few bites. But this stuff, man oh man. It's fantastic. Utterly fantastic. It was so light and delicious. Mmmmm...

Anyway, so Dee came out to give Mike the check. He looked at it and asked her if tip was included.

Dee: "Yes. 18%."
Mike: "Make it 20."
Dee: "Are you sure?"
Mike: "Yes."
Dee: "Are you sure?!"
Mike: "Unless you don't want it."
Dee: [puts out her hands in a "stop" signal] "No, no, no!"

At this point, she squeals again, runs over to Mike's side, gives him a side hug and pretends to kiss his cheek. Then she straightens up and starts to leave. But not before Mike gets his say. In a loud voice he hollered after her, "I didn't get a real one!" We thought it was going to end at that because she was busy looking over a bill at another table, but as soon as she finished she came back over, very visibly prepped herself, then leaned over and kissed Mike on his outstretched cheek. We all laughed and clapped. As Dee left this final time she remarked to the rest of us, "Now he can't say he didn't have chocolate for dinner."

I'm not sure I've ever eaten or laughed so much in one sitting.

1776 --> Philadelphia

So, I'll try not to babble too much this trip, as I tend not to finish my trip blogs when I do that. But there are some stories that simply must be told.

So I'm on the plane when I noticed that the guy in front of me is playing some sort of trivia game on his TV. (There was a TV on the back of every seat.) So I decided to see what all there was. I found Bookworm and Bejeweled, but they cost $5 each. Yipes! Anyway, so they had this trivia game, and it was free. I'm horrible at trivia, but whatever. After a turn or two I realized that I was playing against the other passengers in the plane. One of the contestants (there were only 4 live players at the time) was Steve. (I work with him and he was sitting just a few seats away from me.) Humored, I started playing. And he destroyed me. I didn't realize how good Steve was at trivia. He took first place, in fact. (Hah! The look on his face!) But then again, I had come in halfway through the round. So we started a new round and I actually held my own. I was rather impressed with myself. I stayed in first place for awhile (until the guys back in the back of the plane started playing and dethroned me). Steve kept glancing back at me, apparently trying to discompose me, but it just made me laugh.

Later, long after I gave up on trivia, I was just sitting around listening to Harry Potter 5. I'm engrossed in the story when, from somewhere in the plane I hear, "911 Emergency" in a very official, emergency-like voice. Scared me to death. I quickly turned off my iPod and started looking around. The guy across the isle from me had his laptop open and was trying frantically to turn it off, close it (the audio continued), mute it, anything. It took him awhile, but he finally succeeded, red-faced and thoroughly embarrassed. I'm pretty sure he works for Family Search, but I don't know who he is.

Next adventure: baggage claim. I stood there, waiting for my luggage for 45 minutes. It was ridiculous. Steve was very nice and waited with me, even though his luggage came through quickly. Toby and her mom also waited patiently a ways behind, even though they didn't check any baggage. We would later all share a taxi to the hotel. While I waited, and waited, and waited, I started people watching, luggage watching, and a bit of eavesdropping. I got something interesting out of all of them.

People-watching: There was an Amish family there. I feel really dumb because I saw them, tried to figure out what religion they were (the headdress simply wasn't Muslim) and finally decided they must be Amish. Much later that night at dinner I was talking about how Jalin served her mission here and when we picked her up we spent about 2 hours in Philly and the rest of the time out in rural areas. Someone commented, "Yeah, with the Amish." And suddenly it clicked. Of course the people at the airport were Amish... we're in Pennsylvania! [rolls eyes at self]

Luggage-watching: My favorite was this luggage for an entire family that went around and around and around. How did I know they belonged together? Because they had written their name and address really large on the side of the luggage with a Sharpie. Also? They were from Vietnam. Awesome.

Eavesdropping: The lady standing next to me had been in Missoula, Montana and had a direct flight back to Philly. However, the plane coming in that would then take them was delayed. So they waited. And then the plane finally came in and as it was landing got struck by lightening! So, of course, they couldn't fly in that plane. So they ended up getting shipped to SLC and from there to Philly. Anyway, best part of the story... the passengers of the lightening-struck plane got off. Huey Lewis steps off the plane and says, "Dude. That was awesome. I have to do that again."

There was also a large crowd of missionaries just arriving. The missionary president's wife was there, welcoming them, and it was all just fun to watch.

Lastly was the taxi ride. Now, I realized that my taxi-experience is rather... unusual. I'm not sure I've ever ridden in a taxi in the states, but I've ridden in far too many in foreign countries. I was shocked to see a posted rate (my favorite being that while waiting, the charge is counted per 38 seconds. ... why?! Who's gonna do that math?!), a credit card machine, a list of rights for passengers and driver, a no smoking sign (with no smell of smoke to boot) and the ID of the driver in the window. So strange. Also, I was shocked that four of us got from the airport to the hotel for only $37. And that included a tip. Who knew that taxis are reliable in America? I did struggle remembering this was an American taxi, though, as the driver was quite possibly Muslim and there was no A/C. I had to keep reminding myself that as I mocked the fact that the essential parts of the ID were hidden by sticker remains on the window, he could understand me. So I had to keep my voice down.

Who knew travel could be so interesting in the States, too?