i am grateful for singing (not the same as karaoke…that post will be coming soon)

I have always loved to sing. Choir in elementary school was one of my favorite classes. I sang in talent shows and around the house. In middle school, I participated in our school musical, The Boyfriend (I played the French maid). And then in high school, I was part of our a cappella choir. Choir was one of the highlights of high school for me. I loved it so much.



C&J Christmas Concert

C&J Christmas Concert 2 When I got to college, I decided to audition for one of BYU’s four choirs, Women’s Chorus. I think it would be appropriate to mention here that while I LOVE to sing, I might be the worst auditioner (yes, I know that’s not really a word) of all time. Like, the worst. I get incredibly nervous. There’s something I’ve never liked about needing to “prove myself”. So, by some miracle (or the fact that the choir conductor knew what she was looking for), I made it past the first round of auditions (the soloist round) into the group auditions.

Well, in a group, I am fine. My talent is not in soloing. I’ve never had the voice quality to solo. But I am an amazing blender. So, once I made it to that round, all was well and I made it through. I loved it so much. That didn’t keep me from missing class every so often (not sure why), but really, it was so fun. And then I’d hang out after class and listen to the Men’s Chorus.

Women's Chorus 2

Women's Chorus

In fact, while in the Women’s Chorus, I had the opportunity to sing during one of the world wide meetings for the women in my church. And, besides it just being a cool opportunity, at the time, my sister was on a mission for our church in Washington D.C. and she’d been gone about nine months at that point and she got to see me singing on a big screen on the other side of the country.

If you watch this video, you’ll see me on the far right aisle at about 1m25s three rows from the bottom.

So, fast forward about *cough* 10 or 15 *cough* years, and I’ve been missing singing a lot. Shortly after moving to Tokyo, I was asked if I would lead the music in our main church meeting each week, which I’ve been doing since last August about. As part of that, I promised myself I would try and sing in church (like, in a small group or on my own) and so, I’ve done it twice now (including today). And, while I am not in the greatest vocal condition these days (I’m quite out of practice), it’s felt amazing to both be singing again and to be pushing myself out of my comfort zone a little.

With that, I am posting the two songs I’ve sung. One was a run through (when I sang in church, it was with my friend Teresa) and the other is from today, with the same friend and one of the cute girls at church who’s part of the youth group. And in fact, the song we sung today, I Need Thee Every Hour, was a song that I got to sing in the Tabernacle in Salt Lake as part of a missionary choir when I was in training before heading off to Switzerland for 18 months. And in fact, it was a pivotal point for me during that time. Music has such power and I have always felt the closest to God while singing.

And they are not perfect, but they are from my heart and soul. As much as I always love singing, I love singing the most when I am singing in praise of my Savior and my Father in Heaven.

some necessary pruning

conservatory garden, central park, nyc

This week was hard. Like, really and truly hard. Like “cry at least once a day” hard. My heart broke a little, in fact. Not the romantic kind of break (that isn’t nearly as painful in my experience), but the kind of break that comes from the realization that you are deeply flawed. And while I thought I’d eradicated said flaw, in fact I haven’t nor had I noticed that it was still there. And as a result of this flaw, I’ve alienated or hurt people. A broken heart that comes from learning how negatively someone sees you and then recognizing that everything s/he has said is true and that you needed to hear it, even if hearing it was incredibly hard. A broken heart that comes from regret and sorrow for past and present behaviors. And from knowing just how disappointed my mom would have been if she were here.

Oh, the things I would give for a do-over (or 100 do-overs).

I’m not writing this because I want anyone to feel bad for me. I don’t. I’m the one that got me here and I’m the one that has to get me out. And I’m getting there. I’m writing this because this isn’t the first time I’ve learned this lesson and I want it documented this go around. I’m writing this because writing is my outlet. I’m writing this because, even if I’m not prepared to be explicit, I do want to be real.

I’ve learned a lot this week. It’s amazing that there never seems to be less to learn, isn’t it? And while most of what I learned was about myself, I also learned a little more about Japanese culture, like that there is some real beauty in the Japanese traits of politeness and discretion that usually make me a little crazy, but when you’re sitting at your desk at work at 10PM crying because your heart hurts (and not just “tears rolling down your cheeks” but “tear streaming, nose running, breath halting” type of crying),  and you’re coworker just pretends that nothing is wrong and keeps doing her thing, you can’t help but recognize the value of such traits.

Any time I go through something especially difficult, my thoughts often turn to my mother and how I wish she was still around to help me through these things. Not because she’d make it all better or because she’d be on my “side”. She was always on my side in the sense that she wanted me to be successful in life, but if I was in the wrong, she wouldn’t tell me otherwise. She would, however, always help me see what I could do to make things better, to make me better. And then she would tell me she loved me.

The safety, security, and courage that come from unconditional love should never be underestimated.

I have a long way to go. Old habits die hard. And I have a lot of regrets. And a lot of apologies to make. I am also full of gratitude to the people whom I know I’ve hurt or wronged and who have given me their forgiveness without waiting for me to ask for it.

I’m sorry for being vague. I try not to be on the blog. But the wound is too fresh to open it up for public viewing and commentary. My heart still hurts and it probably will (and should) for a while. I’m also pretty ashamed and embarrassed. And while I’ve recognized what I need to change and made some improvements, I still have a long way to go. That’s all.

To end this on a more positive note, because really the result of all of this (I hope) is that I’m going to be a better person and that’s a good thing, I want to share one of my favorite quotes that is so very applicable.

Mere Christianity is one of my favorite books. C.S. Lewis so eloquently captures what he imagines Christ would say to each of us:

“Give me all of you!!! I don’t want so much of your time, so much of your talents and money, and so much of your work. I want YOU!!! ALL OF YOU!! I have not come to torment or frustrate the natural man or woman, but to KILL IT! No half measures will do. I don’t want to only prune a branch here and a branch there; rather I want the whole tree out! Hand it over to me, the whole outfit, all of your desires, all of your wants and wishes and dreams. Turn them ALL over to me, give yourself to me and I will make of you a new self—in my image. Give me yourself and in exchange I will give you Myself. My will, shall become your will. My heart, shall become your heart.”

a perfectly ordinary weekend

Without getting too deep into the details (I’ve drafted a super detailed post, but I’m not sure anyone really wants to read that much), to say this past week was hard would be an understatement. There were some really good moments, but honestly, this week was by far the hardest one I’ve had since moving to Japan (and then some). It was long and exhausting and things kept going wrong. Like really basic things; missing my stop on the train, getting on the wrong train, my computer crashing, my email not working, not being able to find things on shared drives, forgetting to respond to an email I really needed to respond to, etc, etc. And that on top of a schedule that would have kicked my butt all on its own.


By the time Friday rolled around, I was so happy, I might have cried tears of joy. You know, as opposed the tears of frustration and failure that I’d cried on various other occasions during the week. In fact, I’m pretty sure God knew that I had hit my limit because, while I had made a commitment to myself to attend the temple, I was having a serious existential crisis trying to figure out how to keep that commitment and get everything done at work that I needed to get done, and just like that, five minutes before I needed be walking out the door, my computer kicked me off. I just stared at my screen as program after program shut down and I was logged off. I was done. That put enough of a pause in my work momentum to remind me that, contrary to what my actions of indicate, no one was going to die if I didn’t get this or that email sent or form filled out. So I packed up my stuff, said goodbye to my coworkers (all of whom were still there) and walked out the door.

I’m sure I would have enjoyed my weekend whether I had made it to the temple or not, but I’m also sure that it was that much better because I did go. I just needed to be reminded of what is most important. Combine that with some warmer temperatures, and a perfect weekend was in the making.

After the temple and dinner out at this amazing kushiage place, Tatsukichi, that one of my business heads recommended, I was walking home and suddenly I was in this perfect Tokyo moment. I’m not sure exactly how to describe it, except to say that I felt completely content and happy. One of those moments you wish you could capture in a photograph to put on your wall or bottle up to be imbibed later. I couldn’t stop smiling. Which was kind of incredible considering the week I’d just had. But that’s life, right?

Besides going to the temple, I made one other very important decision during the week which greatly affected the awesomeness of my weekend. I got a cleaning lady recommendation from one of my friends and scheduled her to come on Saturday morning. What an amazing blessing to be able to afford that right now. I know it won’t be a forever thing, but right now I can afford it and it’s totally worth it to buy myself some time.

Saturday morning, Norie showed up and, at first, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. It was kind of like when the movers came to pack me up in New York. I’m not used to sitting by while other people do the things I would normally do and that I’m perfectly capable of doing. Seeing as how I’d just purchased myself three hours of time not cleaning, I didn’t let too much time pass before getting on with what I wanted to do. So, as Norie cleaned for three hours, I sat on my couch preparing my lesson for church today. In addition to teaching the girls on Wednesday about makeup and such, it was my turn to teach them at church as well.

clean apartment

So nice and clean! Now if the rest of my stuff could just arrive…

Can I just say that I am now convinced that there is no better way to start a Saturday than having someone else clean your house while you focus for three hours on the things that matter most? I read scriptures and watched videos (my favorite being one about this one) and listened to talks about the Savior. It was pretty much the best money I’ve spent in a long time. And it was exactly what I needed; a clean apartment and a clear, focused mind.


It was then time to get outside and enjoy an incredibly beautiful (almost) spring day. And what better way to do it than to go for a bike ride…which I needed to do because I had to go pick up my bicycle from my old apartment. (I’d left it there when I’d moved because it wouldn’t fit into my friend’s car with all of my things and it was too cold to ride.) And Saturday was a perfect day for a bike ride. It was warm and sunny and the air just smelled like spring. I was clearly not made for winter.

I had plans to get out to IKEA to pick up a few things I didn’t buy in the states, but as I started out on my way home, those plans just didn’t seem that important anymore. I had been rushing so much during the week (and the weeks before) that taking as much time as I wanted to stop and smell the flowers (literally) on my way was a luxury I did not want to pass up. And that bike ride confirmed to me that I had made the right decision to not miss Tokyo in the spring.


plum blossoms just outside my apartment building


cherry blossoms (or ‘sakura’ in Japanese) down a little alley on my route from Roppongi to Nishishinjuku


And then Saturday night my dear friend Jennifer (one of my favorite people here!) hosted a little dinner party (or in my case, dessert party) at her home in celebration of her new waffle iron recently arrived from the states. Any reason to throw a party is a good one…but fun things from the U.S. might be the best one when living overseas! Such a fun evening. No rush. No stress. Just good food and fantastic friends.

And finally today. I love Sundays, but today was a particularly good one. And while I have no idea how well my lesson went (it’s hard to tell when you’re teaching teenagers), I made it through it and was able to get the girls to share a little. And I was able to share a little bit of myself with them. And after church, I got to do a little singing as I prepped to sing in church next Sunday. Something I’ve been promising myself I would do for a very long time.

Definitely still needs a little work, but I’ve got a week…and I’m making someone else sing with me (she just wasn’t able to stay after today to practice). I’m not quite ready to solo but oh how I do love to sing. This makes me miss my college (and high school, for that matter) singing days a lot. Maybe I’ll have to add voice lessons onto the list of “things to do while in Japan”. You know, squeeze it in between work, church, travel, socializing, ikebana classes (which I’m starting again next Saturday), learning to play the guitar, and just normal life stuff. Why not, right? I mean, clearly last week is an indication that I can take more on…

emergency preparedness (aka i can’t live without technology)

As mentioned in the previous post…I was in Rhode Island when Hurricane (or Tropical Storm, as she became by the time she actually landed on RI) Irene hit. We knew she was coming and, technically, we were in a mandatory evacuation zone. We chose not to evacuate. The good news is this ended up being fine. Not really the point of my post, though.

Over the past few years (decade? few decades?) my church has been talking about emergency preparedness (ETA: it’s actually been something like 75 years). But when an actual emergency is imminent, suddenly all this stuff that’s just been words and theories becomes very real. Suddenly the crank flashlight/radio my grandma gave me for Christmas (the one that I kind of rolled my eyes at) became the best gift ever known to man. Especially when I realized that I had never purchased batteries for my Maglite and every store was out of D batteries (epic fail on the parts of Energizer and Duracell if you ask me).

And then there’s the case of the iPhone. I had actually been thinking about this the other day, when I pulled up a map on my phone for the 20th time that day. What if the world was really ending? What if I actually needed a real map, you know, the kind on paper that does disappear when the power goes out and I couldn’t recharge my cell phone?

And then, with Hurricane Irene, these what ifs became very real questions and they led to more questions. What am I going to do if I need money and can’t pull it out of the bank because ATMs are no long operational? What if I need to call someone on a non-digital land line (do those even exist anymore?) and I can’t because I don’t know any phone numbers…well, almost. And what if I wasn’t in Rhode Island with all of these people who are much better prepared than I am and I hadn’t realized how much water I needed? Or food? Or realized that when power leaves, so does your water because electricity runs the pumps. And so on and so forth.

The point? I am completely and totally dependent on technology. I mean, I could survive (physically) without it, assuming I had a source of food and water, but that would be it. The world has automated and electrified so much of my life that I don’t really have to “know” a lot of stuff I used to have to know…like how to get from point A to point B without Google Maps.

Now, this is not some sort of post about how I’m going to turn over a new leaf and be less reliant on technology. I’m not a crazy person. But maybe I will go purchase myself an atlas and maybe I’ll write down important phone numbers on a piece of paper and put it in a ziplock back…and perhaps I’ll even start saving putting some cash away for a rainy day (you know, the kind of rain that comes with hurricanes).


My life the past few weeks has been crazy. There has just been so much going on; so many people to see, so many things to do. I’ve been throwing parties of various types at least once a week and going to others. There are the work friends, the church friends, the out-of-town friends, and the best friends. And while I am so happy that I now feel like New York is home, after this past week of go, go, go…I was spent. And let me just state for the record that it takes A LOT for me to be spent, so you can only imagine how busy I have been.

On Sunday, I began a complete melt down. Well, it might have started Saturday night. Or maybe Saturday morning. Oh, well, you get it. Unfortunately, there were still a lot of activities that I had committed to, and…well, if you don’t know how I feel about breaking a commitment, let’s just say that it is extremely rare that I back out of something if I’ve made a commitment and it’s something other than just “hanging out”. Not only that, but I didn’t want to miss out on all of the fun things that were still to come. So, I put on my big girl pants and, as my family likes to say, sucked it up.

Then Monday rolled around and, still exhausted from all of my weekend activities, I had a day from hell. Well, really just two hours, but they were the two hours at the end of the day and two hours past when I had intended to be leaving the office. Without getting into it (because it wouldn’t be ethical for me to discuss these things on the interwebs), I will just say that people are sometimes really stupid…which is a big part of why I have a job, so I can’t complain too much…except to say that yesterday was not the day I wanted to deal with this particular issue.

When I finally got out of the office I texted Sara to see what was going on. With Sara leaving today, I definitely wanted to hang out last night. I got on the train and headed home and, as is my ritual, started reading. As it were, I happened to read this talk (a sort of speech) that was given by one of the leaders of my church. There was one line that captured the gist of the talk and was exactly what I needed to hear:

“If life and its rushed pace and many stresses have made it difficult for you to feel like rejoicing, then perhaps now is a good time to refocus on what matters most.”

As I considered this on my way home, two things occurred to me. First, I have not been spending nearly enough (read: any) time on my personal progression. Second, while my life is seriously amazing and I want for almost nothing, I have been running so fast that I have not been able to enjoy it. Even during my “downtime” I end up either having several things I need to get done or I’m so spent all I can do is sit and stare at the t.v.

So, last night, after making plans to see Sara today for lunch, I decided to just be at home, alone, and go to bed at a normal hour (unlike tonight). Of course, I couldn’t sleep, and because I was just laying in bed for two hours, I finally had enough time to think and…well…let’s just say it was a rough night. But I figured some stuff out and was able to get a little clarity and a little focus.

On my way home tonight, I decided the one thing I needed to do was go running, so I changed into my workout clothes and headed to the gym. I got on the treadmill, turned on my music, and left everything behind. And I remembered how happy I am when I’m running…not running around, but literally running. The whole world changed in those five miles. I don’t know how else to explain it but that. Something about the combination of some of my favorite music and physical exertion just does it for me. So many things that I’d been stressing about just stopped seeming so important. I was able to clear my head and refocus on what really matters.

It’s so easy to lose focus in life as we worry about “missing out” on things or strive to obtain success the way the world defines it. And it’s not that we are making bad choices. I would say that all of the things I have been doing over the past few weeks have been good things. It’s just that they have sometimes been at the expense of the best things. And that’s what I needed to remember. That’s the place that I needed to get to…a place where I was humble enough to realize that my way wasn’t working and I needed a little intervention. And that’s what tonight did for me.

As I ran home from the gym (not because I still wanted to be running, but because it was butt freezing cold outside–thank you east coast), Alicia Keys’ Empire State of Mind (the one where it’s only her) came on. I love this song, partly because I think it’s a great song, but partly because this song has become my New York theme song. I swear it seems to pop up at the exact moments when I remember how lucky I am to have the life I have and live in this fabulous city, and I can’t help but smile. And tonight, it was just a little bit sweeter.