Monday, November 17, 2014

Papa Crane

As many of those close to me know, the past few months my father has been going through a lot of serious health issues. As siblings, we had to face the very possible reality that we would be losing our father in a short matter of time. When we finally got him into a hospital, he was merely hours from death, and we were told to prepare ourselves. . With a lot of prayers and luck, and lots of hard work from doctors and amazing hospital staff, he stabilized. Though the issues and risks are still there, the outlook looks more promising.

As this was all happening, I really took a chance to reflect on my father and our favorite moments together. This picture is my favorite of my dad and I. Not because I think we look all that fantastic, but it's from a trip he took me and my cousin Konrad on while we were both in college. The three of us spent a week sleeping in tents and fishing and hiking Montana. This was the most fun I had ever had in my adult life with him. The picture explains him to a T. The fishing waders, the hat, the glasses, the loving and carefree smile, and of course, the outdoors. I think this picture describes his personality more than I every could.

The reason I wanted to really write this though is because of his strength as a Father and influence for better to all those around him. As I was grieving over his health, I was comforted in letters that he had written me years before. I have turned to these letters multiple times when I need direction, and in particular, when I need direction from my Dad.

In May 2011, right before I graduated from College, I traveled to Peru to work at a rural elementary and get experience working with the children and just living with a new culture. I think my parents were more nervous than I was about traveling to a foreign country by myself. But it was certainly a challenge for myself also. Before I left, my dad handed me a stack of letters he had written me to accompany me on my trip. On the envelope were the following titles,

  1. When you lose confidence
  2. when it hurts
  3. when you're discouraged
  4. when you don't understand international politics
  5. when your prayers seem unanswered
  6. when you still don't get answers to your prayers
  7. when you misunderstand the answers to your prayers
  8. when your problem(s) seem to great
  9.  when your faith is challenged
  10. when you hear the spirit
  11. when you're prompted by the spirit
  12. when you don't want to change
  13. advice to a missionary
  14. when your efforts seem small or inconsequential
  15. when you need a miracle
  16. when you need (another) miracle
  17. when it seems like everything in your life is going wrong
  18. when you are tempted
  19. when the answer to your prayers is no or not this way
  20. when you're afraid
  21. when you are tempted to break covenants
  22. when you want to be acquainted with God
  23. when you don't want to keep the sabbath
  24. when you have questions about weekly covenants
  25. when you can't get motivated
  26. when you don't want to eat at the poor lady's house
  27. when you're tired of the orphans
In every letter there is advice and stories from my Dad to help me in these circumstances. Though some are just funny titles, there isn't a time that I haven't relied on every single letter at some point or another. These will continue to be a treasure that I will hold dearly for the rest of my life. In some letters when I broke the seal, there were little hand written messages before I open the paper that say things like, "strength and honor" or "I love you". 

My Dad is a gem. I don't know how I was so lucky to end up with such an incredibly caring and thoughtful man. For the time being, I am so happy to be able to spend as much time with him as possible while he is here. When he is gone, I still have these letters and the endless memories to hold onto. I am so grateful for every moment that I have had and will have with him. And more than everything, I'm so grateful for the amazing influence he has been in directing my life. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Benefits of Travel

I have always put traveling on the top of my priorities list. Whether it was visiting for a week or moving across the globe, I have always done everything in my power to find the time and means to explore. At first I traveled for thrill and the wonder, the discovery and beauty. As I did this however, I have discovered the benefits of travel that may not openly present themselves. There is nothing quite like it. 
  • Exposure to Cultures
    • You learn to appreciate and be comfortable with other cultures. Not only that, you learn to embrace them and somehow make them a part of yourself. There is such a huge understanding of others that comes from understanding their culture.
  • Appreciation for your Circumstances
    • Nothing will make you feel blessed more than living in the suburbs in a third world country... or trying to go pee in a squatter... or sleeping months on end in a bug infested bed. We take so much for granted and it's important to put your life into perspective and appreciate what you have been given. 
Cajamarca, Peru

  • Understanding of Other Opinions
    • I feel that you learn to accept and more understand other's values, lifestyles and opinions as you witness first hand their lives and where they are coming from. And with that understanding you learn that we are all of value, no matter who we are.
  • A Love for Others
    • When you learn to understand a person or people and see their circumstances, you can't help but love who they are.
South Africa

  • Discovering Yourself
    • It wasn't until my last semester of college when I lived in Peru, that I realized I wanted to be a teacher. I came home, graduated in a different field and applied for a Masters in Education. I discovered my true passion in life as I interacted and worked with these amazing children. They helped me discover myself more than anyone back home ever had done before. 
Puylucana, Peru

  • Discovering Those Before You
    • Traveling gives you an opportunity to learn first hand the life of those from the past. You can feel connected to your ancestors or feel a love for the ancestry of other people. There is a connection so strong and irreplaceable to those before you.
Eilean Donan, Scotland

  • Respect for Other's Struggles
    • When I lived in Germany, I had to face the struggles of being a citizen of a country and not speaking the native language. I couldn't believe how difficult and how belittling that experience was. Coming from a place rich in Hispanic immigrants I immediately felt a strong need to learn Spanish. There is nothing comparable to being a foreigner in the place you live, and if I could help someone else feel more comfortable, or to help them learn, I realized what I needed to do. 
Shanghai, China

  • Building Incomparable Friendships
    • Nothing will build a friendship faster than travel. It doesn't matter if you're together for a couple weeks or a year, I will always feel a strong bond to those I have traveled with or met while traveling. Now in marriage, I can't think of a better way to grow closer and strengthen our relationship. 
Prague, Czech Republic
Roatan, Honduras

  • Rich Experiences
    • What else can I add to this? These are moments you will remember and cherish for the rest of your life. I am building a legacy through my actions and my experiences, I want them to be good ones. 
Machu Picchu, Peru

  • Spirituality
    • I have never been more dependent on God than traveling by myself in a foreign and maybe scary country. I have never felt more connected to my spirituality than taking in God's creations through the entire world and seeing the beauty that He created. And I have never felt more connected to my church than seeing it unwavering and indifferent in every country I have been to. Feeling the spirit, all the same, through languages I don't even understand. And watching it touch the lives of those with completely different lifestyles and circumstances than my own. 
    • There is also something to be said about learning and exploring religions throughout the world. They make their mark on your beliefs and how you grow spiritually as well. 
  • Time for Relaxation or Leisure
    • No doubt that traveling is a time to get away from the stresses that you have at home. It's a time to let go and soak in the new adventure.

  • Time for Charity
    • This can present itself in a variety of ways. In Swaziland, I was able to give a family of 8 some of my old clothes and towels. As simple and insignificant as this sounds I was able to see the relief and joy it brought to their family. In South America I was able to teach at an elementary and provide knowledge in areas the school was lacking. Charity does not need to be a large act, but it can make a difference all the same. Usually you are doing more for yourself than you will every do for anyone you serve. 
Nhlangano, Swaziland

  • First Hand Learning
    • There is nothing comparable to learning a language submersed in it. There is also no greater respect that can be gained for History than experiencing it first hand. 
Auschwitz, Poland

  • Real World Experience
    • I 100% owe every single job I have ever had to the experiences I have gained through traveling. What made me stand out over every other applicant was the knowledge I had gained through travel and the unique and specific experiences. I got my teaching job because the very cultured and unique teaching I had done in Peru. I was offered a job at my University because of the interactions I had experienced and gained with those of other cultures and nationalities. My life would be completely different today had I not gained these real world experiences through travel. 
  • Appreciation for Art
    • Whether this be painting, sewing, cooking, dancing, architecture, or music. Whatever it may be, every country is rich in artistic history and you learn to love the artistic culture associated with any population. 
Bejing, China

  • The Food.
    • The world is full of amazing cooks. Go out and discover it!

We don't have endless supplies of money. But we save and make it happen. It can be done, and it's so worth it. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Complete Home Remodel- Before and Afters

It's our anniversary! 2 years of home ownership that is. So in light of this happy occasion, I thought I would share some of the drastic changes we have made to our home. Most were made within the first month after we closed, but some have been done within the last month. Everything has been done for less than $15,000.

You can find detailed posts about our house projects under the "Our Projects" tab here. 

The Kitchen

Dining Room
Dining Room remodel post here.

Living Room

Office/ Spare Bedroom

Master Bedroom


Bedroom #3

Downstairs Bathroom

"Dance Studio"

And allow me to also point out the shed, yard and grass.

I wish I had a (before) before picture, maybe some day I will find it. But let me paint you a visual picture. The top steps were a bright green carpet, the landing was a gold, brown and yellow linoleum. The stairs leading down were a gray industrial carpet. Oh! And don't forget the one blue wall and the other pink walls. The before picture below is after we started renovations.

Backyard- Fire pit

The grass

 (some of) The Fencing

Not all the changes are pictures. We've also made some more updates since some of the pictures have been taken. We tiled our entire basement which was cement at the time. We also painted and added molding. We finished the laundry room as well and landscaped more of the yard. It's been a long and tiring journey, but SO worth it!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

God and the Leopard

I just shared this story in church, but I thought it would be a good one to share here as well. In 2011 I went with my brother to South Africa and Swaziland to visit the people and the area where he served his mission. I think I'm going to have to eventually share more stories of this, but for now I'm sticking to the story of how our Heavenly Father answers our prayers.

When we first arrived in Africa we stayed 3 or 4 nights in Krugar National Park. We were here for the Safari adventure to see the amazing animals that Africa had to offer. This was incredible.

Well on our last day in Krugar Park, after we packed up camp to head out we said a prayer before we headed on our way. In the prayer my brother said, and I quote, "Please let us see a leopard today." After he finished I burst out laughing at him for his obvious desperation and what I thought of as childishness. He just said, "What? I really want to see a leopard in the wild."

Now I'm going to throw out this completely made up statistic, but I'd say one in a million people will see a leopard out in the wild. At least a good look at one. They are great at hiding themselves and they usually don't want to be seen.

Well we're driving on our way out of the park. We're the only car in any direction and out of the bushes walks a leopard. Sure enough, there it was. It stood right next to my brother's window and stared him right in the eyes. The leopard looked at all three of us in the car and then walked on. It walked in front of our car on the street for a couple yards and then bounded off again into the bushes where it once again was completely hidden and undetectable.

Luckily after the initial shock wore off, I quickly grabbed the camera and snapped a couple shots.

As I was reflecting on this experience today I realized a couple of things. First, God has a great sense of humor. I can just imagine him laughing like I did at my brother's absurd prayer and excitedly waiting for the moment to fulfill it. 

Second, our Heavenly Father loves us more than I could ever possibly imagine. He loves us so much that He will do anything in His power to make us happy. Whether that be helping us feel loved through an extremely difficult time, or helping us to see a leopard in the wild. He loves us and cares about our well being. We are here to enjoy the journey. Yes, there are hard times and sometimes terrible times to be endured, but they are all part of the plan. We are here to grow and learn to rely on the Lord, and this can't be done without sacrifice on our end. But God is there in times of bad and in times of good to bring infinite happiness and pleasure. 

Thanks to Jake's Grandma, we have a plaque of a Gordon B. Hinckley quote in our living room that is very fitting. It reads, "In all of living, have much fun and laughter. Life is to be enjoyed, not just endured."

God is there. He loves us. And he wants to see that joy in our lives. "...ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you;" 
- 3rd Nephi 27:29

Monday, April 28, 2014

Graduation and the Importance of Education

Here is my little wifey opportunity to brag for a second. Jake is going to be so embarrassed if he actually reads this. (No he does not read about 90% of my posts.) My husband just graduated this past weekend from Weber State University. I couldn't be more proud of him and all of the work he is put into school. After high school, he left for a two year LDS mission to Washington D.C. During this time, he was unable to attend school or work on any credits. But it was here that he was inspired to pursue a career in the criminal law system, which is where the decision for his major came from.

When he got home, he had no idea what to do or where to start. He and his brother, who is also currently in school, are the first college students of their family. Neither have much experience with school and Jake always felt like it was a goal that was completely out of reach. Non-the-less, he returned home in the Fall of 2011 and started classes in the Spring of 2012. Here we are merely two years later and he is finished.

Not only did he finish, but he received top grades in all his classes, finishing as a high honors student from Weber State University. He was awarded full academic scholarships for all his semesters at the University based on his GPA. AND he did this all while doing 18 credit semesters, working full time during the day, and fulfilling church callings, going to class and studying hours each night.

I am so proud of him and all his has accomplished thus far. He is one of the hardest workers I have ever met. And no matter what he is going through, I have never heard him utter a single complaint.

Now the fun stuff starts! Jake isn't done, and neither am I. In the fall, we are both starting our Master's degrees. Me in Education and Jake an MBA. I was accepted to into USU's School Counseling Masters back in 2012, and after much consideration, we both felt that our efforts needed to get Jake through his undergrad and really consider my educational options. Now the time has come for me and those two years of waiting have really changed my perspective and ideas of what I want for my future. The wait was crucial for my final decision and our financial stability. During the summer I will be starting my 30 credit licensure program and in the fall,  I will be attending the University of Utah for and M.Ed. Degree. I have always know that I wanted to go to grad school, but was never sure what it would entail. I am now ready, and I am excited to start.

Jake will be attending school at the same time. (A first for us.) Education has always been such an important aspect of my life. I truly believe that the best way to further and enhance your personal circumstances is through education. I feel privileged to be in a field where I can directly impact students and children and their perspective on education. I am also excited for what the future holds for us both as we pursue our long term goals.
Here's to more of these pictures to come.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life Lessons from Harry Potter

This is already on track to be my nerdiest post. But it's necessary. I have been obsessed with Harry Potter since my Mom brought home a copy of the Philosopher's Stone after traveling to Scotland when I was just 8 years old. From then on, my brother and I would lay on her bed while she would read us one chapter every night. I remember waiting for the times that we could curl up and get lost in the story. We did this for years. In fact, even when I was old enough to read them for myself, we still experienced it together, taking turns passing the book and reading out loud. I never read the books without my Mom and brother. It was our tradition until the series was over 10 years later.

I literally grew up with Harry in every way possible. As my life changed and as I grew older, he did too. As my understanding for the world around me developed and changed, the wizarding world helped me to understand this. And as I was placed in challenging, new and scary life situations, I knew I could over come because, lets face it, at least I wasn't facing He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named.

The Harry Potter series changed the way I viewed everything in my life around me. Everything.

First and foremost, Hermione completely changed my perspective and outlook on life. Yes, even as an 8 year old. I aspired to be Hermione Granger. She was my heroin as a child (still is). I looked up to her in every way. And what better role model could a young girl ask for?

Emma Watson was quoted as saying, "Young girls are told you have to be a delicate princess. Hermione showed them that you can be a warrior."

This could not be any more correct. I learned from Hermione that I didn't need to take the role of submissive and accepting. I could stand up for who I was, what I believed in, and those around me. As a woman in a man's world (yes, this is a man's world) I can make just as much as an impact, if not more, than my male counterparts. I control my own destiny and I have the ability to do anything. I don't have to be the supporting role to a man. I am important, powerful and in control.

She taught me to take pride in my accomplishments and rely on my own knowledge, not others. I learned the importance of independence in all aspects of life. I remember vividly from 3rd grade competing for the best student and top marks because, that's what Hermione would have done. She changed my perspective of education and learning to the point that it became "cool" to be smart. I owe my grades, college scholarships and current career to my role model throughout my childhood.

Though Hermione was/is my idol, other characters sure have their symbolic characteristics full of life lessons as well.

Harry: showed me the importance of selflessness and courage. He taught me to be strong in the face of adversity and to fight through whatever life threw at me. He taught me to never give in to evil and stand for what is right. 

Ron: taught me that friendship is worth fighting for. He showed me how important it is to surround myself with people who are going to push me to be my best. He taught me to follow in the great examples of my siblings while also setting my own goals. I knew I could look up to them, as intimidating as their accomplishments may seem. He pulled his weight the best he could in his family and his friendships. He showed me that believing in yourself is more powerful that any magic. 

Molly Weasley: taught me that my mother is my biggest fan. She showed me the delicate and caring role of a mother. She also showed me the strength and power a woman plays in her family. I learned to appreciate my motherly figures, whether biological or not, and appreciate the stresses and energy they experience based on my personal life. 

Draco: taught me that we are a product of our environment. People become what we raise and teach them to become.

Fred and George: showed me the importance of enjoying life and finding humor and joy along the way.

Percy: showed me that no matter my mistakes, or how I let them down, my family will always be there for me. No career, job, school or lifestyle is worth sacrificing them. 

James and Lily: taught me that our loved ones are never truly gone. 

Snape: taught me that there is nothing more powerful than love. There is a hero hidden inside of us all if we are willing to love.

Sirius: taught me that there is light and dark in everyone, but it is our actions that define us.

Dumbledore: taught me that what is right and what is easy are often two completely different things. He told me that I can find happiness in everything. He taught me to look past prejudices and take a real look at a person. 

Neville: taught me that hard work, determination, and dedication pay off.

Weasley's: showed me that family is more important than any worldly possessions. 

Luna: taught me to embrace everyone around me. She taught me that it's okay to be quirky and different. It is more important to be yourself and stand out, than to fit a mold and be ordinary.

Voldemort: taught me that a life without love is not worth living.

Language Development
Finally, one last life lesson...Writing and Language have never been my strong suits. As a child I struggled to read and write. My development was slow, and my understanding dim. During these crucial years of learning, I needed a miracle, and a spell was cast. Before Harry Potter, my interest in reading was obsolete. Once we picked up the first book however, I was addicted. I couldn't get enough. Whether it was the wizarding world or Beverly Cleary, from that day forward, I wasn't caught without a book in my hand. 

J.K. Rowling gave me, a young girl struggling to read, a motive and love for books. From reading the series, my writing, reading, speech, vocabulary, and all aspects of my language development thrived. To this day, I learned to love books, and like Hermione taught me, all of my questions could be found through reading. Thank you Rowling for the many worlds you have opened up for me.