***What you are about to read is very very long***
If this is your first time reading the "History of Stephanie" then read this first and this second, we now conclude the "History of Stephanie" Duhn Duhn Duhnnnnnn
I went through graduation and then a 2 week Europe tour with my choir. My last day in Michigan three of my friends came to see me off; Lauren, Amy, and Sarah. We all cried, I had already cried with my friend Karin at church. I wanted to stay in Michigan because I was comfortable but I also knew that things would not remain the same. All my friends were going away to college or still in High School. I considered getting a job and an apartment and staying but when I prayed about it I knew it was time to go to Utah with my family. Plus I really had NO money. You wouldn't either if you spent it all having the time of your life in Europe. I kept in touch with these friends religiously. I was really good about writing them all a monthly letter by hand and then later emailing them often until Facebook was invented.
When I got to Utah I was both nervous and excited. Nervous because I didn't have a clue what my next move in life would be and excited because one of my best friends, Kristina, had already moved here 1 year prior. We both talked about all the things we were going to do together. I wanted to show her some cool stuff that I remembered when I lived there in the past. Together we were going to rock the town. Well I got there only to discover that she was secretly dating my brother and that "they" had already done all the things "we" talked about. I knew they were dating honestly. They were friends before his mission and she wrote him way more than I ever did. To be fair my brother talked to me about them dating before I moved back and I was fine with it, happy really. Who wouldn't want their best friend to date and maybe marry her brother. However, I really had no clue how much this would effect me in a negative way. I was lonely. I was close with both of them and suddenly I felt like the biggest third wheel in the world. I was immature and started competing with them. I even tried to get them to break up and make them choose. I would fight with both of them and kept crying, "What about me and my feelings?" Sounds so evil of me because it was. I didn't know what to do. I felt like I was losing my friend and my brother at the same time.
The first few months back really sucked. It took almost 6 months for me to adjust and grow up about the situation. When I did I had some one on one time with both of them and apologized for my behavior. It was a good growing experience. To deal with the new situation I personally set my own ground rules for each of them to keep my friendship and sister relationship separate and in check. This altered my relationship to both but kept everyone happy and my emotions manageable They did eventually get married and now have 4 kids and 1 in the oven. Some things are just meant to be.
Needless to say I went through a bit of a depression upon moving back. I didn't have a job for a month so I filled my time with rollerblading around the neighborhood and along the park trails. I also took up running and lost a lot of weight. I was chunky in High School but lost almost 15-20 pounds through exercise and unemployment. I was in great shape. To be honest there was a cute boy in the neighborhood who roller-bladed and ran so you could say I was really motivated when we became jogging buddies. He was too old for me and nothing became of it other than a new fit version of myself.
My parents lived in Cedar Hills, which was up near the mountainside at American Fork Canyon. We were a mile from the Mount Timpanogos Temple in a newly developed area. Eventually I found a job at a local copy shop. I had a blast working with 3 other ladies and making copies is really my thing (come to find out). A few months later my brother got me an interview at his job, Convergy's. I interviewed and took a job as a customer service rep. answering inbound calls. I did technical support for Bayer and their blood glucose machines. I worked there for 8 hours and then went to the local copy shop in the evenings and Saturdays as my second job. I worked two jobs for a year. After a few months of saving money my Dad took me out to help me purchase my first car. It was a white Chevrolet, can't remember the year. I paid $7000. I got a loan and had it paid off in a year and a half. It was a great car and lasted until I wrecked it just before getting married when I was 20 years old. However, that was a blessing in disguise because I had an insurance payment coming up that I could not afford and the pay out from the car was enough to buy a used car and pay for our honeymoon.
A little bit about the cars I have owned. My first car was the white Chevrolet, our first car together was a red Ford escort. Lars had an old Honda that he gave to his brother when we got the red car. We sold the red car 3 years later along with most everything we owned. A few months after that we bought an Oldsmobile. It was a nice spacious car. Tragically it was killed when we were in fender bender on I-80 on our way out of town to go camping. All traffic stopped suddenly and we stopped just in the nick of time, but the guy behind us didn't and plowed into us which pushed us into the flat bed trailer in front of us which punctured the radiator, between the back and the front the car was gone. We didn't get a ticket, the guy behind us did for crashing into us and the guy in front of us did for having expired plates. We drove a rental until we bought a silver Ford Focus, the car I drive today. It was our 4th or 5th wedding anniversary and we went car shopping instead of dinner because we only had the rental car for 2 more days. We got that car paid off pretty quickly. A year later we felt the need for a second car so we went to a Ford dealership to test drive cars for "the fun of it", and drove off the lot with a brand new Ford Fusion We still drive this car today and it is close to being paid off. We will likely trade in my car for a truck or a car big enough for the boy and for camping before too long.
I attended a small singles ward branch, yep you heard me right, a branch in the heart of happy valley. It was the Manila 6th Branch and it was NOT a meat market. The guys and gals that attended there were like a little family and we didn't date each other much. As the years went by that changed and long after I left the branch did become a ward. We met in the "A" frame chapel across the street from the temple. I was sorta shy but still attended all the activities. My family ward had a singles group but my brother was already involved in that and I wanted to be different so I went to the branch. A few weeks into attending I made a friend, Rachael G. She asked me how old I was, I informed her I was 18. She cheered, "At last, I am not the youngest person in the ward anymore." She was 18 and a half. That was the beginning of a beautiful friendship. She is the kind of friend that no matter how long in between seeing each other we pick up exactly where we left off.
*Side Story* Many years later when I was feeling blue and sitting on my parents porch I cried out to the heavens, "I miss my friend Rachael, I could really use her right now." Before I could take another breath I heard Rachael's voice at the gate asking to be let in. I hugged her so tight and thanked her for following whatever prompting she had to come visit me. Yep, that is how awesome she is.
Over time a little group within the ward formed that consisted of Me, Rachael, Kathy, Alyssa, Tiffany, Brian, Jacob, Jason, Ryan, Khalee, Rick, and another Brian, (many of these guys were Brian's roommates), later Andrea and Dave joined the club. There were a few others but I can't remember their names. We had ward F.H.E. and then we would all head over to Brian's house for Phase 10, movie watching, cooking, games, laughing, adding silly quotes of the night to our white board. 90% of my life was spent with these people. When I wasn't at work or sleeping at my house I was goofing off at Brian's house. Occasionally it was just Brian, Jacob, and Alyssa. The four of us would take last minute road trips together to take pictures of nature and temples. It was a blast. I had so much fun with my group of friends. I barely slept. I would get up at 6:00 a.m. to commute to work by 7:30, go to school, come home, do homework, eat, and then go play with my friends until the odd hours of the night, get a few hours of sleep, rinse and repeat. I lived that way for a solid year when my body was young and fit and could handle no sleep. If it meant spending time with my friends I could sacrifice a few hours of sleep. Thankfully I remained safe and my parents only had to have an intervention with me once to caution my habits and lifestyle.
I was living at home until a girl from my ward needed another roommate. I was 19 and had a job and money so thought why not. I moved out but only a few miles from my house. I would visit weekly and partake in the "home shopping network" aka raid the food storage. It was myself and 3 other girls. 9 months later one of the girls bailed on us and moved out because she broke up with her fiance and needed a change. My portion of rent had to be increased to help cover the entire rent. We were not going to replace her and we did not renew our lease as another girl got married. I was determined to be responsible and to do most everything on my own. I was more than flat broke but too proud to ask for help. I didn't buy food for weeks. I remember one time I went to a community party and filled up a Ziploc bag with food from the buffet table to take home. I only had rice at home and stretched it with that bag of food for a week. I think one of my friends told my Mom what was going on because a few days later she gave me a case of mac n' cheese. The case came with a lecture about how family is supposed to help family and to not let my pride starve myself anymore. Since then I try to take support if needed and willingly offer it. Once the other roommate was married I was homeless so I moved home when I turned 20 to save money and prepare for a mission.
When I was 19 I quit my second job and enrolled in college. I worked full time and attended school full time. I was very busy but I still found time for my friends. I attended and got my generals from Salt Lake Community College. I tried taking an institute class there but the culture was too clicky for me. Instead I attended an institute class through my branch. I went to SLCC for 1.5 years and then transferred to Utah Valley State College (which later became Utah Valley University). I originally studied teaching. I wanted to teach History and Theatre, then I switched to just Acting. During my last semester I had an experience that told me I should graduate in Theatre Make Up but I was so close to graduating I just kept on going. I graduated with my Associates in Theatre from there 1.5 years later. I am very grateful, to this day, that I never had to pay for college (all but one semester). My job had tuition reimbursement and then after I quit that job I had a Theatre Scholarship. The scholarship required me to work XXX amount of theatre volunteer hours. I was offered another Scholarship the following semester but declined it as the hours were too time consuming for my schedule that semester. I was illegible for Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and took that instead. I had to live within a certain poverty level but that was easy as I was married and working part time in the Theatre Costume Shop. I never had to take out a loan for my education. My budget was extremely tight but that is how things go when you are a student. I had a blast getting my education and crossing paths with many awesome people.
I was involved in a ton of shows from back stage to on stage. My last semester was so heavy with shows that I barely saw my husband. I told myself I was going to take a break for 6 months which turned into years. I hope to be involved in local theatre again when we settle down. I do get my fill by attending shows and volunteering at church Road Shows.
I had a lot of fun jobs throughout college. I was an inbound telemarketer for Bayer and then later for the Unites States Postal Service. Both through Convergy's. Then I worked at the Theatre Costume Shop as a work study student and got pad $600 a month. After college I worked various temp jobs to keep myself busy until I found something permanent. I temped at an Asphalt Construction office, sorted through scrapbook paper at a printing shop, did labeling assembly line work at Tahitian Noni and a local candy shop. My favorite short time job of all was managing concessions at a baseball stadium for the minor league team Orem Owls. I worked late hours and that wasn't fun. But being in the baseball atmosphere was a blast. Most of the times I was overseeing one of the concession stands but I also got to walk around the crowd and hawk snacks and drinks. That was great!!
Let's talk about boys now. I liked a boy named Brian in our branch. He was a tiny bit shorter than me and was 1 of 2 exceptions I ever made to my "if he is shorter than you, don't date" rule. He worked at Walmart and Rachael and I would go flirt with him there. He was kind to me and let me kiss him once but then he decided to move away to Colorado. Before he left we sat down and had a nice chat about how we are both awesome but probably wouldn't be awesome for each other. A week before he left he met his future wife and cancelled his move, they married a few weeks later. I don't have a clue what became of them.
I took a break for a bit but then started dating another Brian in the ward, weird I know he has the same name GASP. We hung out all the time and then it turned into dating. He was nice and 10 years older than me. We had some fun but when things got serious we figured out we were not right for each other. But that didn't keep us from the merry-go-round on and off dating for almost 2 years. The song Hot and Cold from Katy Perry is a good description. He brought the worst out in me and I am sure I brought the worst out in him. I tried dating other guys but I always ended up back with Brian. It was the Mormon version of friends with benefits. I knew it wasn't healthy and needed to break the habit. (I would like to note that this Brian fellow is totally a super nice guy, we just weren't right for each other. We remained friends for a time and are now acquiescence Now he is married and has two adorable children.) The older I get the more I realize how God knows what he is doing and that certain things just work out for the best.
Through the support of some friends I was able to break it off for reals (The War is Over by Kelly Clarkson was my song to myself during that). I prayed for strength and to not be lonely through the process. Through prayer I felt like I should prepare for something. I figured it was for a mission. SO I started to clean up my act and get temple ready. The timing was going to be great. I would get my generals done just as I was putting my papers in and then I would turn 21 and serve. I was satisfied with my decision but also sad to leave my family and friends and miss out on events in their lives. Little did I know I was really just preparing for the Temple....
I officially met Lars at a singles ward activity. Our branch was having a service scavenger hunt and I was in a bad mood and didn't feel like serving so while everyone else left I stayed behind. Only problem with that plan was that Lars and his roommates were late and needed a guide through the hunt so I swallowed my bad attitude and went with them. The activity ended up being super fun and I was in a good mood by the end, service does that to you ya know. I thought Lars was cute and that his roommates were pretty cool. We all said we would hang out sometime. Sometime happened months later. I was too busy with life to do any serious hanging out outside of my small circle. His roommates always kept me in mind when they were doing stuff and I always took rain-checks Then one Saturday night I nothing to do. I had offers to hang out but nothing felt right. Then I remembered Lars roommate Matt had left me a standing offer to hang out. I only had his number so I called him. He told me that he was working but that Lars was available. (OHHH the super cute one I thought). He gave me his number and I called him and asked him 3 questions upon him answering the phone. 1) Do you like MST3K? 2) Do you like Moose Tracks? 3) Have any plans tonight? They had just had a ward activity that morning and he was already having some people over. I joined in on the fun and stuck around after the party was over to flirt and stuff.
That day forward I made every effort to include Lars in my circle of activities. One of those activities was a lazer tag group outing. We were in a friends van, said friend dared me to tell Lars how I felt. Right then and there I turned to Lars, who was sitting in the back seat, and told I thought he was cute. (seize the day yo. I was always about that and GIRL POWER) He paused and responded with, "I think you are cute too." The rest of the evening we flirted back and forth. My glasses got lost and he helped me find them. I knew he liked me back because no one else helped me find them but him. :) We sorta started dating. We never went on any traditional dates instead we hung out a lot. We finally kissed during a Simpson's episode one late night after a ward F.H.E activity I was infatuated with him to say the least. This concerned him, he wanted to insure he was getting to know "the real me" vs. what I thought he wanted me to be. So less than a few weeks later he broke up with me. I was hurt but sort of relieved and then confused. We of course kept hanging out but only as friends. Most people didn't even know we were even an item so it was no big deal.
It was at this time that out of no where more than one guy had an interest in me. I was never really a guys choice for love. I was frumpy and nerdy looking but hilarious and awesome all rolled into ME. I was a mix of girlie girl and tomboy. I was always the "friend" of boys and never the love interest. I may have loved them but many never reciprocated those feelings. I went from that to suddenly raining men on me at the same time. It was really confusing. One inactive LDS guy had a house and threw money at me and offered to take me out to eat all the time, which I was a huge sucker for. Another was an old boyfriend who said he at last came to his senses about me. Another was a friend of a friend who expressed a deep interest to get to know me better. They all were nice and had money and things but none of them could take me to the temple. I still wanted to serve a mission so I was baffled at what to do with myself. Then there was Lars, whom I really liked and he could take me to the Temple, as our friendship grew so did our new love for each other. He saw me for who I really was. I was happy that he still liked me and was grateful for the break to be sure of my feelings for him. The timing was perfect. I was able to fend off the 3+ other suitors for a 1-2 week period, they all had something going on and just left me alone. During that week Lars helped me move my sister into an apartment. He said some cute things about a phone game that made me fall in love with his imagination all over again. That night we both confessed our true thoughts and feelings toward each other.
Things moved fast right after that. We were having fun just being together. I knew I was going to marry him but I figured it would be a long way down the road. Then I met with my bishop about my mission and expressed my confusion of going or seeing where my relationship will take me. My Bishop point blank asked me if I could see myself marrying him. I said with a very sure YES. He encouraged me to pray about it. I did. I got my answer. As it turned out Lars was going through the same thought process. Very soon after my meeting with the Bishop Lars and I talked about it and decided to fast and pray. We did so the next day and we both got the same answer. "YES, NOW GO DO IT!" As a hopeless romantic I often wondered how would I know when to get married and if it was right. I can tell you that I just knew and the spirit confirmed it. There was sort of an "AHHH Heaven's Opening Up Experience" but it was mostly I came up with the answer and the spirit gave me a sure feeling and I never doubted again. Looking back I see how everything fell into the place and the right time for the right reasons and I am so so glad for it.
We met in January 2003, were engaged by May 2003, and married August 2003. We had some obstacles as to when we should get married. Some of my family is very conservative and traditional, they suggested we have a long engagement. We knew it was right and figured why wait when we already know. I didn't want a winter wedding and summer/fall was creeping up fast so we planned it and did it. My Mom was a rock star at executing weddings/receptions. My brother got married to my friend in May so my parents were already in wedding mode. My wedding day was one of the most perfect days of my life. There was no terrible disaster or family drama to work around. We did it and had so much fun. We were married in the Timpanogos Temple and had a reception without a line that evening. It was a party; we had dancing and ice cream with Reese's butter cups. My colors were yellow and red and the church gym was decorated so nice, it did not look like a typical Mormon wedding, which was my goal. My dress was a medieval princess like dress with an empire waste and angel wing sleeves. The moment I put it on I knew it was made for me. It was to this day the best reception I have ever been too and I am not biased at all.
We honeymooned in San Francisco for a week. We returned to our apartment in Orem and fell into a busy routine of work, school, friends, and family. Everyone told us the first 6 months were going to be the hardest. We thought they were crazy. We had so much fun and didn't fight until March 2004 over how corned beef should be cooked. To this day we still cook it two different ways on St. Patrick's Day. I am glad we were so strong from the get go because lots of elements around us were tough. Within the first 6 months we had two funerals (both of Lars' grandpa's) and his step-father sent to prison for fraud. Life was tough in that regard but we had each other to lean on.
Right before Lars and I got married someone wise told us to treat our honeymoon like our first family vacation. Both of our families valued vacationing when we were kids so we thought why not. Rather than flying to San Francisco we drove, besides the fact that we had no $$. We got to see more and make different memories together. Since then we sometimes like to take the scenic route during our vacations. Many of our vacations together haven't been expensive but they have been memorable. Each year we would go to Vallejo, CA after Christmas and/or summer to spend time with Jamie and Neila and their kids. Jamie and Lars are best buds from V-Town and grew up together. They seriously talk almost everyday. We always went to see them and when we moved to CA they came to see us or we met in the middle and went camping. Today it is an annual thing to have some sort of trip with them. At the end of that trip we usually end up back at their house to have a mini reunion with the other V-Town folks, Jason, Julie, Brian, and Christy.
Speaking of camping, this is something Lars and I love to do. Each year we would buy something new for our camping collect like a tent, sleeping bag, or dutch oven. After a few years we had every basic thing we needed for camping so now the only expense is just food, gas, and camping fees if any. When we lived in Utah we would camp once a month or more during the summer. It was free in Utah especially when we roughed it. When we moved to CA it was more expensive since every camp site was a state or federal park. We also did lots of traveling within CA. One year we flew to Boone, IA to visit Lars sister. That was a fun trip. We got to see parts of where Twister was filmed and play with our nieces and nephews. No matter where we live we try to take a mini vacation around our home every month. There is always something wonderful to discover.
Life as a newlywed in Orem was fun. We had other friends who got married around the same time as us that we hung out with weekly. They were Matt and Amy, Brandon and Karen (later he divorced and married Melissa who is much more awesome), Josh (Lars brother), and Lori (Josh and Lori later became our next door neighbors). We all lived within minutes of each other. The boys would play their computer games in one room and the ladies would hang out together in another room chatting and goofing off. The evening would end with the ladies bugging the guys to get off their computers so we could go "do something." We were all in school/working and super poor too. We had enough for our needs but sometimes we barely got by. Back then it was easy to get by on just rice and beans. We were young and fit for the most part. We all talked about the future as if we knew all about life and said we would stay friends forever so we could go on cruises when we are old farts. Now this group is all spread out across the country. We talk to them often, some more than others, and a few not at all. Life does that sometimes. People grow and change. I believe that life gives you phases of friends, some of those friends out grow each other and some stick with you forever. We were pretty young and dumb then, still trying to figure out life...heck we still are at times, but we are grateful for the memories and lessons learned.
We attended a BYU married ward. It was huge, it has 2 Relief Societies and one super large Elders Quorum. Everyone was in college and trying to show up the next person. We made friends with a few other couples that we hung out with often to play games and to build boats to send down the Provo river with. I don't remember their names or what became of them. I did make one really good friend that just got me, Thia B. She was a convert with a cool story and just got life and people. She talked me out of getting a nose ring and helped me see my true beauty over and over again. We became friends and hung out a lot and still keep in touch to this day. I even got to go see her in Memphis and tour the town where Elvis and many other musicians were made.
Our apartment in Orem really sucked, a the time we didn't know this. We should have shopped around more but we got the first apartment we saw and paid too much for it. The landlords were even worse. We were without heat in the dead of winter for more than 2 weeks, without a/c in the heat of summer for more then 3 weeks, without a working toilet for a 1.5 weeks (we used the next door vacant apartment). The neighbors below us always had an alarm clock going off in the middle of the night while away on a two week Christmas vacation that the landlord could never find it to shut it off. When our 1 year lease came up we were too poor to move so we had to suck it up for another year. One time the maintenance guys came to fix a sink and somehow one of my wedding pictures hanging near the sink got soaked in water and ruined. I called the landlord and got nothing from them, so I wrote them a nasty letter each week for months until they finally paid to have it replaced. We were so so happy to get out of that apartment after 2 years.
Our next apartment was a shared basement apartment with Lars' Mom in his brother's house. It was alright. We didn't have control over the heat and were always freezing. Plus there was never enough natural light for me. Other than those two things it was really cozy. We were only there for just about a year. Then we made plans to move to New York. I was graduating from college. Lars had been graduated for a semester already and was just working at an auto part shop. He was applying to NYU's film program. We sold everything we had and moved in with my parents until his letter of acceptance came. We were confident and young and naive. I had gotten an apartment and job lined up for myself in NYC. Then in the same week the job and apartment fell through and we got Lars's rejection letter. It was not meant to be but it was a hard pill to swallow at the time. We were both super depressed and clueless about what direction to take next. We had worked towards that for years and BAM it was gone. Lars had worked hard to buy a film camera. He made a short with it and also did wedding videos on the side. He entered the short into a few competitions only to get more rejection. As bummed as we were we were not going to let a rejection letter stop us from our goal. I guess we were too white and poor for NYU but not for our dreams. The Lord had other plans for us and we just had to figure out what they were. It was a very hard time for us, people say the first year is the hardest but for us the 3rd year was. We were dealing with this and living with my parents and another sibling's family and it was all just a bundle of trials and heart ache that took a year or so to get through and repair.
So we were down in the dumps with nothing to our name. But we did have some money in the bank from selling everything. We bought a used car and I got a few temp jobs until I landed a permanent job that I liked in downtown SLC for a company called DTI. I ran a copy center in a law firm. I loved this job. The atmosphere and the people were like a second family. To this day I keep in touch with my HRO family and meet with them on a monthly basis. I thrived with this company and they valued my work. Lars still worked hard at networking with other film people to start projects/businesses. At one time he did have a production company called, Solunar Productions. We met a lot of slackers and people who tried to screw us over. It was very discouraging. Eventually he found a group of guys that were serious and smart. They did a few projects (commercials, shorts, yoga videos) together over the years.
Then we moved to Sugarhouse. One of my favorite places that I have ever lived. It is a few miles from downtown. Unlike Utah County's cultural bubble Sugarhouse had a Bohemia artsy fartsy atmosphere. Around the corner from our house there were lots of family owned shops, restaurants, and a park. There were many trees that were stunning in the Fall. Plus I was just a short walk to the bus station. I would take the bus, bike, or roller blade to work. We rented a sweet townhouse for $700 a month. It was 3 levels with 1 master bedroom/bathroom, 1 bedroom, 1 full bathroom and a half bedroom. The kitchen was nice with a dinning and family room with a fire place plus a full unfinished basement with hook ups. That's not all, we also had a sweet little patio. We loved it there, our neighbors were awesome and the ward was pretty nice. Our neighbors had a huge garden and orchard and they were nice enough to let us pick from it. One year I had so many apples I made dozens of jars of apple sauce.
We hosted many weekend gatherings at this home. Most every weekend was spent playing hours and hours of Rock Band with our friends, Josh, Lori, Brandon and Melissa. Our band was called The Bee Sharps (from The Simpson's). In the summers we had BBQs and in the winter we BBQ'd then had hot chocolate. Our fridge was always full of soda and snacks for entertaining. We almost always ordered Free Wheeler pizza (a one of a kind pizza joint in downtown) I remember the day we bought our PS3 and then months later we bought a big screen flat TV. We took pride in entertaining our friends. For one of my birthday's we had a superhero video game party. Everyone had to come dressed up as a superhero (real or made up) and then we had computer games set up in the basement, video games on the tv on the main floor and then video games set up on a projector in our spare room. We stayed up all night playing my favorite game, Gauntlet. On warm summer days we would walk the shops in the heart of Sugarhouse and get a Jamba Juice. During the winter months we would play in the snow at Sugarhouse park.
Life was grand there and I am sure that we would have spent many many more years there until we outgrew our living spaces from having a family or wanting to buy a house. However, our time to move from there was sprouted by our desire to see Lars succeed at his goal of becoming a film maker. True he was getting some satisfaction from his local networked group but we didn't want to live life wondering "what if we tried for this and actually succeed?' I was very successful with my company and they were sending me out to implement new sites across the country. One site I helped opened for 2 weeks was in southern California. I also saw Wicked while there. Best musical ever and it continues to change my life. Lars and I had visited southern California once before to see family. We loved it. I loved it even more after working there. My boss at the time said he was going to transfer there. I told him to take me with him and thus we began the paperwork and waiting period for an opening to become available.
This was in January 2008, this boss later changed his mind about his own transfer. I decided to continue with mine. That September DTI flew me out for an interview with a new client to manage their law firm copy center. During the same trip they offered me the job. Lars and I had already prayed about it before the trip and felt good about the choice to say yes if offered the job. I flew home and we had 2 weeks to find a new home in Southern CA, pack, find my own replacement, and move. Things went so fast but fell right into place. Lars quit his job and drove down to find an apartment then flew back to get me and all our stuff. We were sad to leave the convenience of our friends and family but super excited about our new adventure. My last day of work was the same day we loaded the truck. We spent the night with my parents and then drove to St. George and spent the night with his Mom who was living there at the time. It was near Lars birthday so we had a cake to celebrate. The next day we drove to our new home. I remember we stopped in Barstow, CA for a potty break and I got scared for a minute because that city was so ugly and scary and I thought to myself, "What the heck did we just do?!?!"
We arrived and unloaded our truck with 2 other people in the ward. Apparently everyone else was too busy protesting Prop 8. We went from a townhouse to a tiny 1 bedroom apartment. We thought we got rid of enough stuff but didn't. We had arranged to have a storage unit just in case and it was needed. Our apartment was right next to the 57 freeway on a street called, Sunkist. I loved that name. It was small in a huge apartment community with one pool. We later learned that living near the freeway makes for a dusty apartment.
We unpacked and I started getting settled in my new work culture and environment That was a huge test. I felt like I had to prove myself and work a lot of hours. Lars had to help anchor me to what mattered most. I had my struggles and shed tears but still enjoyed what I did. I was with that location for 1.5 years. Eventually I got promoted to a larger site. This site was hard and I hated the working atmosphere. The client was rude and unappreciative. I did have a good team and some of the people were nice but I struggled to enjoy what I was doing. I almost quit a million times in the 1.5 year of that location. Finally I had a heart to heart with my boss and basically gave him an ultimatum. Within 3 months he had me transferred to a middle management position. That position required more traveling within Southern CA and out of state. I loved it. I was happier and felt more accomplished in the ability to do my job. I traveled from San Diego to Los Angeles weekly. I also went to Fort Lauderdale, FL for a two week opening and loved the team, environment, and food there.
Lars didn't go back to work for a year and instead wrote a screenplay and worked on networking to find an "in" into Hollywood. Again, we met some nice people and then some really sucky people in this regard. It was a process that was discouraging to say the least.
In our free time we went exploring all around our new surroundings. We did not have a GPS for the first year so we had various maps printed that we kept in the car. One time I went to the Stake Center and took a wrong turn home, I thought I could figure out how to get home on my own. I ended up in Buena Park way past dark. I finally broke down and called Lars for directions. It took a while but I got used to all the freeways and the grid free directions. We loved exploring the new culture and things to see and eat. We enjoyed the beach, hiking, Venice Beach, Hollywood walk of fame, Griffith Park, downtown Disney, Universal Studios (my favorite of all places), and parts of San Diego. We found a delicious German restaurant and Ruby's Diner. We had a free tour we would give any visitors that came in to see us.
We had cool neighbors, Leighton and Angela, that tried to include us in their outings and family activities. We were alone for some holidays but they were sure to invite us to their Hawaiian family gatherings. Our ward wasn't too bad either. There were a few young couples but they seemed to do their own thing. We hung out with Leighton and Angela, Devon and Mark, Tiffany and Nate mostly. We were adopted by The Avila family too. We had game night at there house every few Sundays. Lars was the ward mission leader for a while so we were tight with the missionaries and a few families that they brought to church with them. One family was the Lopez family. Lars baptized their kids and I became workout buddies and friends with the Mom, their kids were awesome. Our Bishop was really cool too. We made it a tradition to take cookies to their house every Christmas.
As much fun as we were having exploring we were still super poor. The cost of living was expensive. With Lars not working things were extra tight. The first Martin Luther King Day after moving there I fell at the beach and broke my hand roller blading. We were not insured. Even though I didn't need surgery it was still an unexpected expense. Soon after that we hit rock bottom on our finances and maxed out a credit card that we were using to pay for gas and food. We were freaked out about how we were going to get by. We didn't want to go back to Utah like this and were determined to make it on our own. After all this was the "Hollywood" experience and at least we had each other. We had to catch a break somewhere. We got rid of anything we didn't need and crammed all our stuff from storage into our tiny apartment and was able to get our rent lowered. We even sold Lars film camera. We were able to save a little here and there just to get by to the next pay check. Lars started looking for work. It took months for him to find something but it was an answer to our prayers when he found a good job with great insurance. Slowly we started to dig our way back up.
After lots of efforts and sacrifice we were able to get things paid off and live on a more manageable budget. We had been in our 1 bedroom for 2 years and our lease was almost up. We decided we wanted to find something bigger to expand our family with either a dog or a baby, which ever came first. :) We hunted for apartments first in our own complex, but the manager was dumb and didn't take our application serious. She was later fired for dropping the ball on more than just that. By then we decided we needed to live somewhere else. A girl in my Stake that I had met during our stake musical was an apartment manager. I reached out to her and she had an opening, but it was only for a 1 bedroom apartment. Lars was hesitant but I had a good feeling and told him we needed to at least look. We looked at her 2 bedroom apartment and then the 1 bedroom that was available. We loved both of them. The 2 bedroom was just like our townhouse in Sugarhouse minus the basement. We decided to take the 1 bedroom and then wait for a 2 bedroom opening.
This was one of the best decisions we have ever made. Not only was the apartment awesome, but the neighborhood was better, our lease was month to month, and the ward had a lot more people our age and similar to our situation. It didn't happen immediately but we made some of the best memories and friendships from that ward/area, memories that we will tell our kids and grand kids for years to come. I felt right at home because I already knew some people, 60% of the people in that ward. They were in one way or another involved in the stake musical that I was also in. The ward was by no means huge, but still everyone was accepting and we had the whole smorgasbord of people in a stereotypical Mormon ward considering the size.
There was Relief Society and within that there was a group of girls that hung out a lot. They included everyone and anyone that wanted to be apart of the "Book club". It was really a younger group of ladies that met in the evening instead of the day for the older book club ladies. They invited me for a few months and I was too busy to go or wasn't sure I should go because I really don't read many books. I was in the ward for a few months before I actually made an appearance. After that I never missed a month, most of it was just to socialize and eat, both of which I love. This group of ladies hung out outside of church and book club a lot as well. Again, at first I shied away from it thinking, "my husband is my best friend, don't these ladies ever see their husbands, they seem like they are always together." Once I was going to book club I quickly involved myself in most of the other activities They were so much fun. We did lots of different things from pumpkin carving, ice skating, movie watching, crafting, supporting each other in various activities. We had such a variety of personalities in the group. We were all at different phases, some were married, some single, some with kids, some without kids, some from Utah or other states, and some born in CA. But we all got along and we all loved and embraced our differences. These ladies were Rachel, Marly, Shawna, Karen, Rebecca, Amber, Erin, Cece, Janel, Stacey, and Jamie. There were others and since I have left there have been more. I love these girls and have my own special bond with each of them.
Eventually the husbands got together and did their own thing too called "Anti-Book Club" where they ate food and played darts or video games. Sometimes Lars and I would double or triple date with various couples too. It was definitely a group of friends where we did "group" activities weekly. We tried to host things from time to time too. I learned to have fun and celebrate the simple things in life by attending some of our friends themed parties like a Christmas Ugly Sweater party, Woof'em making party, Nutella party, and many more.
Needless to say we had a blast living in that area and attending that ward. We have various callings too. I was in the Young Women's stake presidency and got to go to Girls Camp which was amazing. I also served in music and activities, and the Road Show specialist aka director/stage manager. Lars was a counselor in the Elders Quorum and later the President. I tried to become the pie eating champion of the ward but was beat out by the Bishop.
We were having a lot of fun working and living it up. We were married for 8-9 years by this time and got more serious about when to start our family. I remember one day we were goofing off on a Saturday morning and Lars stopped and looked at me and said, "I love you so much we should have a kid." That may sound funny to you but I know he was saying what I was thinking which was that our love was so strong and awesome that we should expand it. We felt a strong and peaceful feeling it was time. So after my 28th birthday we started "trying". At first it was all I could think about. I read about various methods, downloaded an ovulating app, tried standing on my head after "making out", everything. After 2 months we decided to try not thinking about it and to just relax. I scheduled a weekend camping trip with just the two of us to get some Rn'R and alone time in. I purposely scheduled it right before my next ovulation period. 4 weeks later I missed my period. I took a pregnancy test on Mother's Day, probably not the best idea. The test came back negative or so I thought because later I learned that if one line is faint you are still preggo, but I didn't realize this at the time. A few days after that I was still sure I was pregnant so I took another test and Violia! An absolute positive test. We were both ecstatic! It was right before bed and I don't think I slept much. It was hard to keep it a secret until we felt comfortable announcing it to the world which we did right after the first ultra sound when I was 7 weeks.
We moved into our awesome 1 bedroom apartment during September of 2010 a few months later a 2 bedroom became available. We declined it because it didn't feel right. Many months later another 2 bedroom became available and it was right next door to the manager. We were unsure about taking the apartment then we found out we were pregnant. We weighed the pros and cons of having a baby in smaller apartment vs a larger one. At the end of the day the larger apartment won out in hopes that more people will comfortable visit after the baby comes. This did happen. We really were the Barlow Hotel. Months leading up to the baby we had friends, family, and a few aspiring actors stay with us and more people after the baby arrived.
I remember when we told our manager that we decided to take the apartment. She was also my friend Marly. We knocked on the door and told her that we decided to take the apartment but we needed to update our contract because there was going to be an additional person living with us, then we showed her the ultrasound. Something unexpected happened, she embraced me in the biggest hug and then grabbed my hand and lead me into her apartment. Her husband was so confused at what was going on, so was Lars. Once in the apartment she handed me a picture of her own ultrasound. I gasped and then we re-embraced into a big hug. (I am tearing up just typing this, it was so so special). By then the guys caught on and shook hands and congratulated each other. It was so nice sharing a pregnancy with my best friend. I was far away from my family but we had each other for all the support you can think of.
We moved next door but we kept it all professional for Marly since she was the manager. Just to clarify we DID NOT get any special treatment because of this. We still paid our rent and got yelled at when we were noisy, even if they were at our house while we were noisy. We did have a good laugh at this because sometimes we had to be really conspicuous and I of course, made it silly by being melodramatic while being conspicuous. We had a blast being next door neighbors and also figuring out how to be parents together. We had endless movie nights, funnel cakes, dinners, walks around Modjeska park, and late night conversations together. One time when I was up late with the baby I texted Marly and she happened to be up with her baby and we texted back and forth. It was so comforting knowing she was there and still is :). And now our boys and best friends too.
Okay. So we got pregnant and went through that process. My pregnancy was really good. I had morning sickness during the first trimester, a bunch of energy the second trimester, and all the waddling during the third trimester. Everyone was very nice and generous when it came to showers and gifts. We didn't have to buy that much stuff. Finally the big day came and Roan Larsen Barlow was born January 19, 2012. We were so in love from the get go and fall in love with him more and more each day. I was on leave from work for 3 months and then had to go back to work :( Marly watched Roan when I was at work. It was hard to leave my boy but I was as strong as I could be. It was comforting to know he was in good hands and when Marly was unavailable my other best friend Rebecca watched him. Stacey and her two little girls also helped out too. :)
There does come a time when you grow out of a company. My time hit after I gave birth. Before that my upper management went through a lot of frustrating changes. Because of the lack of transition a lot of balls were dropped to me and I was stretched thin and frustrated. After I returned from maternity leave I wasn't sure where my place was. By then we had a better boss but I didn't feel like I fit in anymore and I don't think the company wanted to work with me on where I wanted to go. Around this time we felt like it was time to return to Utah so we started looking for work that would get us back to Utah within my company and outside.
It was scary because we were having the time of our lives in CA and didn't want to go but on the other hand we felt like we needed to be closer to our family. We were unsure about how a lot of things were going to work out if we move or stay, stuff like jobs, home, and what to do with your kid when you have to go to work. By this time Lars had figured out what his true passion was, writing. He also decided that he wanted a job that will allow him to utilize his technical skills more. As we continued to consider our options various things happened that told us it was time to go. The biggest thing was that Lars department was shutting down. At this time we both started looking for work in Utah. It was still a process and we had some opportunities but didn't feel like it was the right one so we waited longer. Eventually the right opportunity presented itself and arrangements for the move were made as quickly as they were when we first decided to move to California. It was all so bittersweet.
We moved back to Utah in October 2012. The next few months had it's ups and downs as we readjusted to Utah and I personally dealt with postpartum depression. Lars found a fabulous job that he loves and offers him growth and opportunity. I am enjoying my job and Roan is growing up in the blink of an eye. We are currently house hunting. We count our blessing everyday and are grateful for the road traveled thus far. I may be skimping on some of the details for the last year but most of it has already blogged and the end here is more of a highlight reel. I think I will wait another 10 year and do another History of Me segment. But there you have it, me and my life over the last 30 years.
We made a lot of expensive mistakes in our lives. 1) The NYU thing could be considered one but I like to think it was a good lesson that closed a door and opened a more perfect door for us down the road. I would love to visit NYC but I am glad we didn't live there, we are "relaxed and take it easy kind of people" and the NYC culture probably would have killed us. Around this time we made a super expensive mistake. 2) We partnered up with Lars brother and invested in some property. The plan was to build a house on it then sell it and then buy more properties and build more houses and make lots of money. This was at the height of the housing market in Utah. We had many red flags to get out of this investment but we refused to quit. The housing market popped shortly after we began the investment and soon after that we were abandoned by our business partner, Lars brother. (Oh I was so pissed at the time, I didn't talk to them for months, but now we are on better terms). Lars and I were left with a mortgage payment we could barely afford. We kept paying it so we could save our credit. We paid it for a year until we were able to sell it. It was an answer to prayers but the damage was already done as we still had a ton of debt from the investment. To think that whole time we could have saved that money and bought a house, sad but an expensive lesson. It took us 1-2 years to pay off that lesson. We also learned never to partner on business ventures with family with your own money. By then we were onto another lesson. Which was always stay insured. 3) After we moved to CA I broke my right hand (well two fingers but it might as well have been my right hand) in a skating accident. We were not insured and I was the only one working. We put all the doctor bills and physical therapy on the credit card and spent 1-2 years paying that off. The day we got out of debt, just before Roan was born, was the best day ever. It was a lot of hard work and sacrifice but we did it and you can too if you are ever in that situation. Live and Learn!!
Ya know I love my life. I think that every minute of my life thus far has been awesome. I know when I am in "the moment" I think this is so great I am having the time of my life. And when I look back and think of all the phases and my happy to happiest moments I think how can this get any better. But you know what...it does, sometimes I don't see it until later but it does and keeps on getting better. I loved my childhood carefree days, I loved my youthful girls camp days, newly wed days were awesome too. But I think I love my life of the last 3-4 years the most. Maybe I will say this again in 20 years. Sure some of it was hard, but it really has been the best. Maybe because the older I get life a little more and I realize what really matters. I am not as much as a drama queen as I used to be during past phases in my life. I try to have more quality with those things that matter vs. quantity things that don't really matter at the end of the day. Love your family and friends people. Don't freak out about what you don't have because you won't enjoy what you do have. Carpi Diem. Enjoy the simple things and the large awesome things too. And just smile :)
Hope you enjoyed reading this. :)