Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011

As this year creeps to a close, my mind turns naturally to the past year. This year has been quite a whirlwind. I want to share some things I learned and experienced this year. (These will be out of order, but put as they come to me.)

New York, New York! This year, my family had a huge change. My dad started a job in NYC. It has been totally different. He started in September, and it's been a blast. Still, having him gone in the City all week has been kinda weird. But we've had a ton of fun going back and forth, and I'm a total pro on the train now. :)



Maddie's journey and baptism!
This year, I met a wonderful girl who was investigating the Church. We became great friends, and I'm grateful for her friendship. She had quite a journey, and I was so excited to see her finally baptized by Anthony in December. I love you, Maddie!

Concerts, musicals, and more concerts! This year, I went to my first concert - Owl City (with Matt Kearney). Then it went crazy. I followed that up with "Night of Joy" at WDW, seeing many bands, including Jeremy Camp and Newsboys. Then, I saw Owl City yet again, and was introduced to Days Difference at that show. I LOVE THEM. In the musical sphere, I saw Les Miserables national tour and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and The Lion King on Broadway. I went to The Hit at the Hale in Orem with BYU. I also got to see Poolesville's Suessical the Musical, Shakepeare Troupe's Midsummer Night's Dream (Excellent), and the Junior and Gaithersburg Troupe shows. :) So fun.

Shady Grove Academy- All I Need to Say. This year was the last half of the first school year of SGA. It has been so amazing. We have an awesome group of kids, great teachers, totally fun classes that are a whole mess of work. I've learned so much. With SGA in 2011, I've studied US history, US government, chemistry, journalism, American literature, European history, European literature, Spanish, algebra II, human geography, environmental science, knitting, sewing, and baking. I've taken part in 5 AP classes, and gotten good scores on the 2 AP exams I took in the spring. I also took the US history SAT subject test and received a VERY satisfying score. I've gone to Philly, the Federal Reserve Board :), and the water quality testing lab. I've collected data at the cemetery. I've had all manner of chemicals in my garage. I've had kids do dissections in my basement. I've participated in a tavern debate about whether or not to ratify the Constitution, the trial of Louis XIV, an Enlightenment Salon, the trial of Nathaniel Bacon. I've played countless games on Bubbabrain. I've spent time with some wonderful kids. I've learned so much about life and the world.
I LOVE SGA.

SHOWS! I got to be a part of so many amazing shows this year. I already wrote a post a mile long about Little Women, but I'll give it a shout out: BEST SENIOR TROUPE SHOW EVER. I also was able to be a part of Dance Intensive, an auditioned dance troupe, with a focus on modern dance for the 2010-2011 season. THAT was a blast. We had 8 of the best kids I've ever met. Our numbers were a blast. (Especially the 13 minute one.) I was also a part of an Irish step class (soft shoe), a Broadway choir, and an amazing Advanced Tap class with an insane teacher who I love to pieces. I also went to Theatre Camp yet again, and was a part of Crazy for You (for the second time). This time I had Irene for a scene - which was an adventure. I learned so much about myself through  that experience. I'm grateful for that.







I don't have a picture for this, but I learned so much about myself in general. I had some really high highs, and some really low lows. I got kicked in the face, but I always had those amazing experiences to balance it out. This year, I loved with more than I ever thought possible, and I can honestly say I know I was loved in return. I actually learned better what that word means. I lost things, and people, I valued. I saw people move on, I welcomed people in. I was a helping hand, and for one of the first times, I let others help me too. I was taught. I felt the hand of the Lord. I'm so, SO grateful for all I've learned in 2011. I hope and pray that 2012 will be another year of growth, that I will be able to take the hits as they come, and that I will be able to recognize the blessings and lessons. I love my Heavenly Father. I love my Savior, Jesus Christ. I love my family, my friends. I love my teachers and leaders. I love you!

Blessings to you and yours for 2012,
S

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Overpopulation - a Thought.

I'm taking two classes this year that are actually very similar: AP Environmental Science and AP Human Geography. APES is an applied science, focusing on how we USE biology, chemistry, and geology in our interactions with the environment. AP HuG is not as much physical geography, but where people are in relation to each other, the study of culture and the impact it has on our use of land/resources and interactions with one another. I'm not normally a science person, but I am a government person. I am LOVING these classes! I basically am learning the science behind the policy issues we hear about all the time, like poverty, pollution, water use, energy, language, religion, terrorism, and population. It's SO COOL! (And it makes learning about biogeochemical cycles more bearable. Seriously, "bio"-"geo"-"chemical"... That includes EVERYTHING! Geez.) What I'm thinking about right now is a sensitive issue, as we just reached another mile stone- 7,000,000,000. Yup. I'm talking about population growth.

Here's a cool video by National Geographic about Baby 7 Billion.

Now, you all know I'm a pro-lifer, but I'm also a skeptic. I can't take information at face value. There is more to the story. (That's another reason why I love history.) Malthus' theory of population growth is no different. Thomas Malthus was alive at the time of English Industrial Revolution, and he saw the growing difference between the rich and poor. He also saw cities that were crowded and DIRTY. The death rate was falling while the birth rate was remaining high. His thought was that it would continue that way until there was not enough food for everyone on earth. Well, he was right to be concerned, but here is a video of the Demographic Transition Model. Malthus was alive in Stage 2 Britain. Today, most developed countries are in Stage 4/Stage 5. Malthus took a good guess, but he wasn't as good of a fortune-teller as he thought the world would be out of food by 1890.

Here is a video by the Population Research Institute about our global growth rate. They've got one of these good news/bad news deals. Good news: we are not going to run out of resources due to OVERpopulation. Bad news: in 25 years, our population with peak, and by the end of the century, we will be to losing 1 billion people every 20 YEARS! Wow! With individuals living longer lives AND our growth rate shrinking, we cannot afford to lose the most valuable resource - human lives. We will end up with more adults that are unable to work than young people able to support them.

If our world CAN support all of us, then why is there hunger? Again, the PRI made a great video about both hunger and poverty. I hope that we can try our best to solve REAL problems, not imagined ones. Can we please build infrastructure and reduce conflicts to insure the access of food? Can we not give government handouts, but provide job training to those in poverty? The "Overpopulation Theory" is a form of eugenics - "There needs to be less of YOU so there can be more FOR me."

This also gets into the issue of women's rights. Does she have the right to have children? Does she have the right to have girl babies? Does she have the right to be here at all? But I'll save this discussion for another post. (Now you're all dying to know where I'm going with this, aren't you?)

We've got a lot of problems on this world, but overpopulation isn't one of them. But, greed, abortion, war, and lack of mature discussion are.


Think about it.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"Waiting"

(By Sarah Sheets – 7/2/11)

Waiting.

Hope.

Prayer.

Faith.

Christ.

Love.

Forever.

Temple.

Pure.

White.

Snow.

Clean.

Bubbles.

Fun.

Laughter.

Brothers.

Messy.

Drama.

Tears.

Hope.

Waiting.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lessons from "Little Women"

I was just about to write about something totally different, but my iPod is on shuffle, and "Our Finest Dreams" from the Broadway musical Little Women just came on. I was blessed with the opportunity to be in that show last school year, and it was an amazing experience. The show is based on the book of the same title by Louisa May Alcott. It follows the journeys of four sisters growing up in Civil War America. It follows, in particular, the life of the second oldest sister, Jo, who "yearns to travel, and write great books." I played the role of Meg, the oldest sister. This show isn't your average musical comedy. Each and every character is deep and complex. It was awesome studying the book, the show, and the time period for character development. The characters were there. We just had to find them. We got to know each one, and they became our friends. When I was on stage with the girls, it wasn't Sarah, Laura, Paula, and Maria, it honestly was Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy. It was the greatest thing ever. When we got in character, we became them. After rehearsals, we'd do and say things that were not our own. They belonged to the girls we were portraying on stage. It wasn't limited to the sisters. Ellen, who played Marmee, was a senior and became the one we called when we needed comforting. There were times when I needed a friend, and then I'd go to rehearsal and become Meg. I had a friend in her and her sisters.
Now, I don't want to sound all Jekyll and Hyde here. I wasn't assuming another personality. What was happening was something that every actor longs for. It was an absolution of character development. If you know your character well enough to be able to befriend them, you can embody them when you're on stage. If you are so much in character that your lines come naturally, as they are what the character would say anyway, you're doing it. (It also makes improv AWESOME.) I loved being a part of this show. It made me a better person. I learned so many lessons. Here are a few of them.

Family is the most important thing. The March family showed this to me on many occasions. The family is the central unit to society. If you have your family, you can do anything. Love them. They won't be here forever.

Letting people go is hard, but it's what necessary. I sang this song with Laura (who played Jo) after the show at the SGA graduation. I didn't get to sing this song in the Senior Troupe production, but singing it with Laura at the graduation was an awesome experience. It was SO emotional. I love the girls graduating, and I didn't want to see them go. But I sang the part of Beth, and that's the part asking to be let go. I was recognizing that Somethings Are Meant to Be.

You never know who your best friends are going to be. Even if they seem weird (or maybe even creepy) at first, do be afraid to Take a Chance on Me.

Sometimes things go wrong, and that's the way it has to be. This is something that I was taught very well the year of Little Women. Bad things happen, but it's up to you to pick yourself  up and move on. Days of Plenty is a song that Marmee sings to Jo about Beth's death. It wasn't included in our version of the show, but I love it anyway.

Love makes you a better person. Now, I did get to sing this one in the show. Funny story: Right after our last dress rehearsal (the day before opening), my friend Nick, who played John Brooke, broke his foot. Seriously. We didn't know what would happen, but after many prayers and a doctor, he was able to perform (in a black boot, but without crutches.) After we finished this song, we held the end while everyone clapped. It was AWESOME. Nick is my buddy, and I really love him. That song was a team effort - especially those shows.  Although we were friends before, I think we learned to have that Christ-like love for one another that Friday night performance. It is in a much different context, but I became More Than I Am.

Forgiveness is necessary. Amy does something dreadful to Jo, and Jo is FURIOUS. She refuses to forgive her. But when an ice-skating accident almost takes Amy away forever, Jo realizes something. "'I had let the sun go down on my anger; I wouldn't forgive her, and today, if it hadn't been for Laurie, it might have been too late! How go I be so wicked?' ...Neither said a word, but they hugged one another close, in spite of the blankets, and everything was forgiven and forgotten in one hearty kiss." (Little Women, pg 85)

The past is amazing, but people grow and change. Don't be afraid of the future.
This is something I struggle with. I hate letting go of the good times in the past. I hate seeing people change - especially for the worse. I pray that my heart will be softened to letting go of things that are in the past so I may look forward with a brightness of hope. The Fire Within Me makes me cry- Every. Single. Time.
Be brave. Sometimes it's scary. But we've got the Lord on our side, and we can really do ANYTHING. We can be Astonishing too!

Have fun. This whole show was a ball. From the giant trees in Volcano Press to the hoop skirts in Delighted, and the sword fighting in Finest Dreams to the two of us lovers limping on together after the ball, it was pure joy. This song captures it for me: Our Finest Dreams.

DO NOT let fear rule your life. Live, laugh, sing, dance, cry, paint, learn, read, write, act, work, ice skate, play, fly a kite, fall in love.

That mysterious hero may be your sister. Weekly Volcano Press. That's all I have to say

Let your light shine in the storm. Jo was not afraid to stand up for what she believed in. I love that about her. We shouldn't be afraid either because:


Sometimes when you dream, your dreams come true. In extraordinary ways, suddenly a day can be so amazing. And sometime when you yearn, you burn the air. And then, you are not the same, and the world is... Astonishing. Here's this song.

I LOVE Little Women. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life, and I'm grateful for the "March Madness" I got to be a part of. The "family" really became my family, and I love each one of them, as well as the rest of the cast and crew. I love the book, and my copy is one of my treasured items. I am so thankful for the lessons I learned from Little Women.

Peace from the East,
S

Sunday, November 20, 2011

L-I-F-E.

Life. It's such an interesting word. It's such a little word, but it means so much to us. People will do almost ANYTHING to save their own life. If you are a life-saver, you are considered a hero. If you take someone's life, you are a villain. I think why people place so much value on life is because it is finite. There is only so much. The world will go on, but life ends. When it's over, it's done. People don't know what happens next. (Of course, there are those of us who do know what happens next. If you would like to learn more, go to www.mormon.org.) Even if you know what happens next, and are hopeful and optimistic about the future, leaving this life is still disquieting. I've been thinking about life and what it means.

L - Love. Life involves finding those we love. It means we are part of families. It means we have  friends. It means we are able to get married and have our own families created purely by love. We feel love, and it is one of the reasons we don't want to leave. We don't want to leave the ones we love.
I - Individual. Being an individual means we get the chance to make CHOICES. That's one thing that people yearn for. Our Heavenly Father blessed us by giving us the ability to make choices. Even if that means making mistakes. But the reason we have choices is so we can grow and become better than we are when we came here. We get to make choices about what we do and who we become! What we like, who we spend time with, where we live.
F - Faith. We spend our lives discovering who we are and who God is. We get to develop and serve Him while we are here. It is important to our growth to spend time figuring out our relationship with our Father and our Savior.
E - Experience. While here on Earth, we experience. It's the things we do that really mold us into individuals. We have a world of possibilities - literally! We treasure those memories.

Sadly, there are those that never get a chance to have a birthday. These people never get to love, experience, become individuals, or develop faith. They simply - lose their chance. It is heartbreaking to me to think of the friends I might have had, the role models we might have looked up to, the leaders that might have escorted us to better times, the husbands and wives that will never be married, the parents that will never have children. It pains me to think of the THIRD of my generation that never had the chance to be. Abortion is wrong and must be stopped. Worse is the evil of late term abortions. It is stopping life. It is taking CHOICE to LIVE from those that are powerless. It is preying on women who have been hurt and used. In Maryland, where I am from, there is a man who is performing late-term abortions in my area. He flies in from another state every week to perform these abortions. There is a group of people who have joined together and have peacefully protested his practice for several months. This December 5th will mark the Doctor's first full year since he first arrived. 720 lives have been ended since he first came. Below is the information on the protest that will be happening that day in front of the clinic. Even if you can't make it, please join us in prayer in defense of those who never get a shot a LIFE.

Think about it.

1000 for Life event.
http://www.facebook.com/#!/events/307732915906385/

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In The Battle Of The Mind I Will Take My Stand.

So.... Something I've been thinking about a lot lately: the Battle. Not just any battle, but the Battle between good and evil, the Battle that we fight every day. The reason I've been thinking about this is that I've been reading the war chapters in Alma/Helaman the last couple weeks. One thing I've noticed this time through is that they do more preparing than actual fighting. They are always "strengthening their cities" and "building fortifications". It's good stuff. I do believe that the stories in the scriptures are lessons for our day, and although we may not be in hand to hand combat or worrying that our cities will be attacked by Lamanites, we can still learn from them. Here are some of the things I learned:

First off, what kind of battles do we fight?
We have battles everyday, fighting things from our own tempers to discouragement to temptations. To get personal, my battles are more along the lines of fighting discouragement or frustration. Some people battle things that are more looming, such as homosexuality or drug abuse. Still, every battle is equally important, because if you lose, your spirituality is at stake - and that's everything.

How do we prepare for these battles?
In the scriptures, the preparation involved digging ditches, building towers, erecting walls, and training soldiers. In our day, the things we do to prepare for our battles involve following our "program of strict training", as Sister Dalton put it, and doing things such as attending church and seminary, reading the scriptures and praying continually, living the standards in For the Strength of Youth (No matter what age you are), and being an example to others. The more we adhere to our training program, the more prepared we will be to fight off daily temptations and frustrations. It is a battle in itself to stick to the program- the World can look very appealing. But we know Who will win this battle. We must remember that the second battle the Stripling Warriors fought, none were lost, but many were severely wounded. We will make it out, but that doesn't mean it will be easy.

Below is a song that goes with this theme. It is a song written for the guys, but it is just as applicable to the girls as well. :)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-fUlZkri_g

Thanks for reading!
God bless,
S

Monday, September 26, 2011

Moments That Matter Most

There is nothing quite like the inspiration that comes from the Holy Ghost. Or better yet, nothing like following that inspiration. Sometimes, in our busy lives, it's extremely important to stop and do the "silly, little" things that we could, and probably should, do later. I've learned this one through experience. For example: Does it make sense to stop and write a friend a letter in the middle of the school day when you have TONS of homework? No. Is that letter important to that struggling friend? Absolutely. Or, it's pretty dumb to heart attack someone in the middle of the afternoon, when it's still totally light outside, and his parents are sitting outside, right? Yeah. Am I glad we did it anyway? It is one of my favorite memories.

Sometimes, raising your hand in Young Women's with a comment that will touch someone else's heart is an act of service that we don't know we are performing. We may never know it. But they will. I have been on the receiving side of this before. Sometimes a random hug will make someone's day (or week, in some cases.) Shouting "Hey *insert name here*! I LOVE YOU!" and meaning it. Listening to someone for a while. Smiling. Mourning with those who mourn. It's what counts.

Are we then to forget about the big things, like school or noble service project?? No! We are to learn how to balance it. A challenge, but indeed a noble endeavor Below is one of my favorite videos in the whole world. (It makes me tear up every time.) The words spoken and shown in this video are far more eloquent than mine, and the images paint a beautiful picture. Enjoy!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l70e1TfN34w

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Summer Fades Away...

Well, it's over. Summer 2011 is OFFICIALLY complete. School started today. ("FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL! FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!") I'm super excited to be doing something productive again, to use my brain, to soak in new knowledge, to see my friends, to start working on the musical, etc. I can't complain that summer was over too quickly - I had 120+ days of summer vacation. I got out in mid-May and just started in late-September. (Sweet.) That's a third of a year! A lot happens in a third of a year! I just want to do a little retrospective on my summer experiences. So, buckle your seat belts, folks, because you're in for a wild ride!

-LDSEHE: Ok, so it was the last week of school, but it really was the beginning of my summer. The Latter Day Saint Eastern Home Educators' youth conference (LDSEHE) was in VA beach this year. So, I got to chill by the ocean, listen to great speakers, and hang out with awesome people.

-Learner's Permit: I became a permitted learner! Yay! Getting my parents to take me driving, now, there's the hard part...

-Audition drama: Long story short- I was in a dance troupe last year that ROCKED, and I didn't make it this year. This was a total shock for me, and was super painful for a while. I'm over it now, but I will miss that group terribly this school year.

-Woodstock: I went to Woodstock!! ...Virginia. The HST Thespian Honor Society went there for their induction retreat. Wooo!!! It was amazing. We really had a great time.

-Girls' Camp: Always a hit, this year was B.O.O.T. Camp, and I was a spirit leader. Bethany and I had WAAAY too much fun leading the Army girls. We won everything. Yup. Gold star. Not to mention the filming of Die Hard 4 with Madeline and our stake camp director. I was the hostage/cameraman. Win. As well as Special Op: FBO. That's all I'm going to say about that, but it was definitely one of the highlights of my summer.

-EFY: I can't begin to describe how fantastic EFY was. I got to meet so many people, hang out with old friends, go to classes, and feel the Spirit SOOOOO much. I loved it. Best year.

-Theatre Camp: It's the tried and true summer camp. A blast every year. I met even more amazing people this year. I got a lead, I got to tap dance pretty much 24/7, I got to room with Bethany and Maddie, be swank with Karl and Garrett, shop for school supplies with Connor, giggle with Abbey, be in a group with Tanner for the 3rd year in a row, and basically love everyone. It was at TC that my pleurisy attacks happened. Ouch. Good thing I have such amazing friends. Karl, Maddie, and Bethany saved me more than a few times. Also, Tanner and I literally saved a girl that fell down the stairs in the HFAC and passed out - awesome for us, stinks for her. Anyway, I LOVE TC.

-Owl City Concert: Yes. I'm weird. My music is weird. I'm even too strange to be a hipster. I'm a neo-hipster. I'm down with it. The Owl City concert was one of the GREATEST nights Of. My. Life.

-Proms: I went to both HST prom and Mo Pro (Mormon Prom) this year with dates, (Oo la la). They were both super fun dances, and my dates were both super awesome guys. I had a fantastic time at each of them.

I had a memorable summer with just these events, not to mention my Dad being released as bishop after 8 years of service AND getting a new job, moving part time to NYC, having my first REALLY bad pleurisy attacks, waterballoon fights, trampoline sleepovers, going to see every Disney movie that came out, going Tubing with my youth group, going away, and coming home again. I loved this summer, and I'm sad to see it go, but I'm looking forward to what the school year has to offer!

Peace from the East,
S
(WOW. Sorry that was a mile long...)

Monday, September 19, 2011

Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made...

"NEEEEW YOOOORK!"

Well, New York was an adventure. I should've known living on the corner of 5th Ave. would be. But hey, it's awesome. We took my Dad up there this past week. New York City is great, but visiting normally, you'd never think of the realities of living there, like, finding a grocery store. Then once you've found one, planning what to buy, because you'll have to carry it all home. For example: you don't want to buy 3 2-liter bottles of soda, a gallon of ice cream, a watermelon, and a box of cereal, especially if you live 10 or 11 blocks away. Planning is VERY important.

Also, living there doesn't mean you have to follow the crowd. Literally. Every time you're at a crosswalk, you have to make a decision: do I follow everyone else and cross the street, even though the light is red, or do I wait and look like a total tourist? A word of advice: obey the law. I witnessed cars bulldoze through crowds even when the pedestrians had the right-of-way.

If you are ever looking for an apartment in the city, particularly in the midtown area, check the street your building is on. If there are bars under almost every building on the street (such is our case), be sure your apartment is on at least the 5th level. We are fortunate enough to be on the 11th floor of our building, but the noise still reaches us. Be aware of this. But the patrons of "The Ginger Man" and the "Home of the Kilted Bartenders" are kind enough to take Monday through Wednesday off from partying to rest at work.

Another part of living there, smoking is a normal part of life for about 85% of the residents there. (the other 15% are children and Mormons.) Sorry that it stinks. Sorry that it makes your eyes water. Sorry that you are trying to live a clean life according to the Word of Wisdom. Sorry that it makes you cough. Sorry that you have a lung condition that makes it hurt to breathe. Don't move here next time.

Take advantage of the resources. See the shows. Visit the temple. Go to the stores. Make a bear at the Build-a-Bear on 5th Ave., which is only the BIGGEST BUILD-A-BEAR IN THE WHOLE WORLD. No big deal. I'm chill with it.

I love New York. I really do. I really enjoyed my time there. I'm looking forward to spending more time there. My favorite things we did in NYC were watching Hawaii 5-O with my family in the apartment, going to the Lion King on Broadway with AMAZING seats, eating at Pret A Manger, stuffing my face with heavenly cheesecake at Junior's. But my most memorable moment was when we went to the top of the Empire State building at night on my brother's birthday. We could see everything and some. Being able to look down a city I just met, and to feel so at home was amazing. The lights were beautiful, the energy was amazing. I love New York City. Still, I was excited to get back on the train headed for Washington, D.C. I love it here. I have found room in my heart for both of my homes - two of the most amazing cities on earth.

I'm so blessed to be a Washing-Yorker.

"Act Well Thy Part"

In my church, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, there is quote that is shared often: "What e'er thou art, act well thy part." I love this quote, and have been thinking about what my part is, and how I can best fulfill that part. I am a daughter, sister, friend, cousin, youth leader in church, and a believer of my faith. I am a homeschooler, an actor, a dancer, a singer, a pianist, a teenager, a student. I have roles to play in this, the grand stage of life. I am striving to act them well. This blog is just a place for me to share triumphs, and probably some failures. I hope that they are enjoyable to read, and that I can share the things I learn with you.

Thanks so much for reading!