Saturday, August 22, 2009

Am I Cursed?

I have a serious problem. It keeps getting me into troubling situations. And yet, even though I know about my problem, I still can't figure out how to fix it.

The problem is this: I can't say no. I just can't do it. I am especially prone to fall victim to this curse when confronted with an unexpected request--one for which I have not prepared an acceptable version of "no."

Yesterday, I was standing in line at the bookstore, eyeing the delicious Ghirardelli caramel squares that are always on display near the register. (You'll be happy to know that I did not purchase one. See Thursday's post.) I was daydreaming--possibly even humming a little--minding my own business and totally unaware of an impending attack. As I set my books down and the friendly lady scanned them, she suddenly hit me with, "Do you want to donate a bag of coffee to send to our troops overseas?"

I panicked. I wasn't expecting this question. "Yes!" I blurted out.

"Thanks!" she said, scanning a bag of Seattle's Best Coffee. I saw $9.99 show up on the register screen.

WHAT THE?? A multitude of thoughts passed through my head:

Is a bag of coffee really $9.99??
I've never bought coffee before in my life--why am I buying it now for troops overseas?
Don't the troops overseas already have coffee provided for them?
Should I tell her never mind?

But it was too late. She was handing me my books with a serene smile...she was throwing the bag of coffee in a box that will supposedly end up overseas...and I was walking away, $10 poorer.

To be honest, it doesn't bother me that I spent $10 on coffee for troops overseas. If they truly need it, I am happy to provide it. What does bother me is that I said "yes" without thinking--that it's always my knee-jerk reaction to say "yes" whenever anything is requested of me.

"Rachel, can you teach the afterschool SAT class?" (even though you are totally stressed and overwhelmed by teaching as it is...)
"Rachel, do you want to come to my Pampered Chef party?" (at which you will be pressured into buying an expensive kitchen item which you will never use since you hate cooking...)
"Rachel, can you go to Platos Closet and sell back this box of clothes for my family because they are 'racist' and won't let us go in there?" **This was a real request made by a woman who goes to my church who is infamous for abusing people's generosity. And, like a dumby, I guessed it...

Oh my. This is a serious problem. Aren't there books and films about this? Isn't this the premise of a recent movie entitled, Yes, Man? (I never saw it--but if someone asks me to, I'm sure I'll say yes.) And I seem to remember that Ella was plagued by a similar malady in the novel Ella Enchanted.

I hope a fairy godmother or handsome prince frees me from this curse. But in the meantime, I've devised a phrase which I can blurt out the next time a devious bookstore clerk asks me to make a coffee donation:

"Not today, thanks."

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The other cuties...

A few days after Laura arrived in Buffalo, two other cuties joined us: My older sister, Sarah, and her precious angel of a baby, Callum. I am obsessed with him.

While he was in Buffalo, Callum met some new friends:

Our favorite neighbors, the Lemons!

(Don't ask me how Callum slept through a dinner of laughs with the Deb-ster!)

And most importantly, his Uncle Ryan!

Callum and Ryan had a great time getting to know each other...Ryan was a very willing babysitter! After one of our sister outings, we pulled up to the apartment and found the boys chilling on the balcony. Aren't they cute?

Thanks, Sarah, for making the long trip and hauling all the baby gear so Ryan could meet his nephew!

I love my sisters and had a great week with them. Sarah is such a good mother, and I want to be just like her when I have my own little cutie. I hope he/she is half as precious as this smiley guy:

Maybe I shouldn't admit this...


1. I have been listening to Taylor Swift's "You Belong With Me" on repeat for the last hour...and singing along quite loudly.

2. I slept until 9:00 this morning--after having resolved to get up at 7:00. For once, I'm not mad at myself for this irresponsible behavior.

3. I decided that I am not going to eat a single treat for two weeks. Not one. So don't ask me to or try to tempt me because the answer will be, "NO WAY." (I will be steering clear of the dessert table at the upcoming church fiesta.) I want to see if I can do it. I want to do hard things.

4. Saying an occasional "damn" does make me feel liberated. I'm sorry if this changes anyone's opinion of me. I think it's a phase, and I'm hoping I will grow out of it.

5. I want to have a good day today.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fun with Pepper

My cutie of a little sis (who I affectionately call "Pepper") came to Buffalo for several days last week. I loved it.

We stayed busy:

Drive-in! The movie was terrible (G-Force...talking guinea pig CIA agents...what were we thinking?!?) but the atmosphere was awesome. Tons of shooting stars!

Thanks, Tiff and Creed, for letting us borrow the truck!

Thanks, Ryan, for putting the air mattress in the back and letting the sisters snuggle as you drove!

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario...

All dressed up to see a play.
We were at least 40 years younger than everyone else in the joke!

Laura is quite impressed by Ryan's huge guns.

Niagara Falls...

Aren't we lovely?

Maybe not.

Palmyra, New York...

Outside the Mormon temple

Laura in the Sacred Grove, a historical site for our church

Shakespeare in the Park!

I miss you, Pep! Come back soon!

P.S. Laura was not the only cute person who visited me last week...stay tuned!

Monday, August 17, 2009


Tonight, I saw what was, in my opinion, an excellent movie--Julie and Julia. I loved it. It inspired me.

The movie tells the story of two seemingly unremarkable women who accomplish remarkable things by simply pursuing their lofty goals--day after day after day. They both did not "see the end from the beginning" and had no idea how their pursuits would end up. They both faced significant discouragement along their journeys. They both had the support of devoted husbands who believed in them.

Who knew that Julia Child was in her 40s before she really started cooking? Or that her famous cookbook took 8 years to write and was rejected by her intended publisher? Or that she was wildly in love with her husband? Or that she was heartbroken that she could never have children?

I didn't.

So, as it turns out, remarkably successful and impressive people are like me? They're just normal people with faults and bad habits and moments of total meltdown?

I am someone who likes to see the end from the beginning. I often don't like to start on an endeavor unless I can be sure that it will end well. I am also someone who has grand goals that often don't materialize--mostly because I don't persist through my discouragement. I'm also not that self-disciplined.

Remember my blog post several months ago about wanting to run a half marathon? Well, if you go back in my blog history, you won't find it.

I erased it.

I got too busy or too lazy or too something, so I gave it up--and I erased the post from my blog because I was embarrassed and didn't want anyone to know that I am a quitter.

There you have it: I am a quitter.

But after watching the movie, I feel more inspired to really start pursuing some of my life goals--in small steps, day after day.

My older sister is in town (hence the reason for the outing to the movies), and tonight at dinner we had an interesting conversation. I told her that I am still scared to be a mom because it looks difficult--and sometimes not so fun. At that, she burst into laughter and said, "Rachel, can you think of anything in life that is worth doing that is always fun??"

I had to sheepishly admit that, no, I cannot.

I have done many hard things. And sometimes, they're not so fun. And sometimes, I'm discouraged. But in the end, I am always grateful that I persisted.

So, motherhood is definitely one of my goals, even if it's hard. I'd also like to write a book. I'd like to run another half marathon. I'd like to speak Spanish fluently. I'd like to do something to help the children in my neighborhood, academically and emotionally. I'd like to pray morning and night, every day, and have a closer relationship with God. I'd like to adopt kids who need me. I'd like to overcome my addiction to junk food and learn to enjoy vegetables. I'd like to help a lot of people--as many people as I can. I'd like to live a good life and show my husband every day how much I love him.

Those are some of the things that I'd like to do. I am just a normal person, and believe me, I have many a discouraging flaw. But as I watched the movie tonight, I kept thinking, "They were normal, just like me. I need to make some specific goals and see what happens! And who knows...I might have some fun along the way..."

I love inspiring movies.

P.S. Can I just add that we have new neighbors who swear NON-STOP? As I sit here typing on our balcony (It's too hot to sit anywhere else), I have heard more curse words in 15 minutes than I ever thought possible. As irritating as this is, I do agree with one of their tamer quotes: "Buffalo is too damn hot."


Monday, August 10, 2009

Night at the Cine

While we were in El Sal, we borrowed a projector from an organization in the city and put on a "movie night" for the kids.

They were greeted at the door of the "cinema" by this handsome usher:

Nice vest, Andrew!

Admission to the cine was very expensive. To get a ticket, you had to give us a smile.

These kids are smiling 100% of the time anyway, but when we asked them to consciously smile, some of them panicked and didn't know how to do it! :)


It was a fun and relaxing night!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Feels like family...

One of the sayings at the Hogar is that when you are there, you are family. I love this mentality, and it definitely describes the atmosphere of love and acceptance that I always feel when I am at the orphanage.

This year, we were lucky enough to have some members of our family (and others who might as well be members of our family) with us for our El Sal trip! Ryan's younger siblings, Ashley and Cole, and one of my best friends from college, Kirsten, came along for the week of fun. They have heard about the orphanage for years, and it was so fun to introduce them to the kids.

Ashley is a fabulous seamstress (as is her mother), so she brought supplies for a pillow craft which she did with several of the girls. She printed their photos on fabric and then helped them embroider their names and stitch the pillow together. They love their photo pillows and carry them around all day!

I think the boys in the orphanage quite liked Ashley as well...these two fellas kept trying to hold her hand while she helped them with Bingo! (Watch out, Nate!)

Cole may not be a cute seamstress with crafty ideas...but he is a tough athlete with sports ideas. He kept the orphanage boys moving all week, as they tossed footballs, passed soccer balls, and even completed an obstacle course. Here he is with Edwin, racing through the obstacle course at top speed:

Here he is with Muscle Man Memo (who looks a little like Nacho Libre in this photo, might I add):

Although Ryan is not nearly as big and tough as his little bro, he had to get in on the Muscle Man action too!

My good friend and former roommate, Kirsten, is a fantastic singer, and she used that talent to keep the girls at the orphanage entertained. They were singing, "Hola! Hola!" all week!

Finally, I must write a word or two about two of my favorite new friends, Molly and Andrew Hunter. I met Molly and Andrew when I was in Provo last February recruiting for the orphanage project, and I knew right away that they would do a fabulous job as Hogar volunteers. I was right! They lived at the orphanage this summer and made such a difference in the lives of the kids. Andrew is a Therapeutic Recreation major and used those skills in his activities and interactions with the residents; Molly is a photography major and used her talents to capture the kids' spirits and souls through the lens of her camera. Not only is her photography going to be used for all of the orphanage's new fundraising materials, but she also hung a display of many of the kids' photos on the orphanage wall before she left:

In addition to being exceedingly talented, this couple is exceedingly fun. Check out the Dumbledore and Harry Potter outfits that they sported during our HP-themed scavenger hunt this week! Classic!
As a side note, I must also add a photo of Ryan's costume. He was the vicious Voldemort, whom the kids hunted and threw water balloons at. Frightening, huh?

Through my involvement with the orphanage in El Salvador, I am lucky to not only get to know such incredible kids, but also to get to know better my wonderful family, old friends, and new friends.

Thanks, hermanos, for a great great week of fun and laughs.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

This is what love feels like.

Our first morning at the orphanage, I was greeted by Xiomara, who ran across the grassy lawn screaming, "RAAAAAQQQUUUEELLL!" and then threw her arms around me and wouldn't let go for about five minutes. I'd say that was a pretty happy welcome.

When I first saw Inecita, I was surprised that she burst into tears--a totally different reaction from Xiomara. Inecita can't talk, but she is very cognitively aware, so I asked her, "Ines, why are you crying? Are you sad?" She shook her head no. "Are you happy?" I asked. She nodded her head and then reached out for a huge hug. I think my heart melted on the spot. My sister-in-law, Ashley, and I took her to a secluded spot in the orphanage for some one-on-one time to make a crown and blow bubbles. She was all smiles.

And then there's little Carmencita Flores, who I can't help but squeeze and hug and kiss. Isn't she a doll?

This was my fifth trip to the orphanage...I've spent a total of about five months of my life there...and I love it.

An El Sal Birthday

Ryan celebrated his 27th birthday at the Hogar del Niño Orphanage on Thursday.
What a fun way to celebrar!

The kids and I planned some surprises for him, including a raucous, birthday wake-up call:

"Buenos dias! Feliz cumpleaños, Bryan!"

A birthday crown and t-shirt, which we forced him to wear all day:

And a little "surprise" fiesta in the evening, complete with a Batman piñata and some wild dancing:

These kids can shake it!!

Thursday was also the last full day of the current Hogar volunteers, Molly and Andrew (who are awesome by the way), so the fiesta was in their honor as well. I planned a game "Pin the Sombrero on Molly and Andrew," which was a hit:

Maria didn't seem to quite understand the game, but she still loved it, as you can tell from this video:

It was a great party and a great trip...I have many many more photos and stories to post and will do so at intervals throughout the weekend. (Too much to do all at once!)

Feliz cumpleaños a Ryan, truly one of the most patient, loving, and fun people in todo el mundo!