Tuesday, December 3, 2013


My first weekend at Harmonious Monks was more exciting than I could have imagined. Every movie I had seen about a small town, innocent girl being tossed into the crazy nightlife of "showbiz" felt true-to-life as I watched people come through the door by the dozens, wearing everything from sparkly cocktail dresses and five-inch heels to do-rags and mud chops. They filled every table, then they filled every space on the floor. I don't really know the capacity of the facility, but fire safety wasn't on anyone's mind as they carried fancy drink after fancy drink to the partying patrons.

I was assigned three tables, just enough to get me oriented and used to the weekend hustle. They weren't kidding when they said that the place transformed on the weekends. The sleepy karaoke-and-hamburger crowd from Wednesday night was nowhere to be found. In its place were bachelorette parties and loads of alcohol.

Back in the kitchen I was introduced to a few more server/entertainers. There was a thin girl with long dark hair and Zooey Deschanel bangs named Candy, a short Filipino girl with sass and lots of sparkly jewelry named Ria, a tall brunette with brown curls and tattoos on her collarbone named Megan, a handsome, dark-eyed boy named Jay and there was Ethan.

I recognized Ethan immediately. He had graduated one year later than me at my high school. We had done a few musical numbers together during my brief foray into the drama club. He was also the first gay person I had ever met and the only one I had really had a friendship with.

When I saw him, he gave me a big hug. It was nice to see a familiar face in such a new and strange environment. I didn't know it then, but my relationship with Ethan was going to become one of the best and most enriching relationships of my life.

After the meet-and-greets, we got busy pouring dressings into individual cups, making sweet tea, cutting lettuce, and remembering lyrics. It seemed like a really friendly environment. A "work family", as it were.

I remember the electricity in the room when Dennis took the stage and began testing the sound system. It would be starting soon. This is what drew the crowd there every weekend. This is what kept Monks open.

The show.

He strapped on his guitar, turned on the mic and in a fabulous display of showmanship, welcomed the captivated crowd to his humble establishment, "Harmonious Monks, home of the world's most talented wait staff".

I stared at the stage with eager anticipation. It was magical to feel the excitement of a live performance, knowing that soon I would be a part of it.

For the first song, he called up Candy. She took a moment to punch in a drink order then galloped over to the stage. The music started. She sang an impressive rendition of "At Last" by Etta James and the crowd hooted, hollered and sang along. After her song, she jumped down and got back to serving. It was interesting to see that the people who wowed on stage were the same ones who served the cheese sticks.

The night continued like this, with Dennis calling different members of the staff up to the stage and performing songs with them. Dennis would sing along with some, others he would merely play guitar for. Each song was well-known by the patrons, ranging from the Beatles to Jimmy Buffet with a little bit of everything else thrown in between.

I did OK with my tables, but it was probably clear to my customers that I was not hired for my waiting ability. I hadn't heard of any of their drinks and couldn't answer most of their questions about the menu. But I had one great principle on my side. We'll call this Bar Lesson #1.

Bar Lesson #1: People who go out to drink and party don't let too much bother them -- including crappy waitresses.

I did my best and mostly survived.

As the night got later, the customers got drunker. By midnight, I was exhausted (not used to staying up past 10:30ish) but enjoying myself immensely. I was feeling like the crazy college days I had been deprived of were finally here for me to experience and enjoy. I was able to dance and be occasionally ogled by strangers. It was new and exciting.

The "new and exciting" was bumped up a notch when Dennis pulled me aside and asked if I would be comfortable singing "You Oughtta Know".

"Tonight?" I asked.
"Yes, tonight. We've got a space to fill because Jackie's not here."
Adrenaline started pumping through my veins.
"Yeah, definitely."
"Ok, I'll call you up after 'Sweet Dreams.'"

I couldn't believe it. I was going to sing on my first night. Did I remember all the words? Oh crap... maybe not. I told Ria (the floor manager) that I was going to run outside to study lyrics and pulled up the song on my phone. Outside the back kitchen door, I huddled with my fingers in one ear and my phone at the other. I sang the song over and over until I felt that I had a good grip on the material. Then I went back inside and waited to be called up.

They were in the middle of 'Sweet Dreams'. Candy, Ethan and Dennis sang three-part harmonies with Ethan doing an impressive performance of the robot. I checked on my tables and tried to slow my pounding heart.

The song ended and the crowd applauded. Ethan was high-fived a number of times for his dance moves. Then Dennis took the mic and announced that the newest member of the wait staff would be making her debut performance. "Let's bring her on up here - Asia! Where are you, Asia?"

I awkwardly waved at the crowd and made my way to the stage. A couple of people cheered. I stepped up and took my place at the mic next to Dennis. "You ready?" He asked with a smile. He gave his guitar a few strums. I smiled back and nodded. Remember the words. Remember the words.

The drummer began to play that opening drum beat; the one I'd heard so many times before. I opened my mouth and started to sing.

"I... want... you... to know... that I'm... hap... py for you..."
It was going great.

Except that something was wrong.

With no opening note to cue me about which key to sing in, I had picked the wrong one. It didn't matter until the band joined in, but then it mattered a lot. I looked at Dennis with panic as my voice wiggled around trying to find the right key. The audience went from interest to mild disgust in a single second. Dennis looked at me intently and started singing the proper notes. I caught on and was soon singing in the right key.

I had two thirds of the song left to go, red embarrassment evident in my face and a thoroughly confused crowd. But now that I had found my bearings, I decided to own that remaining two thirds. Embarrassment left me as I sang with the sass of a truly scorned woman. I grabbed my hair and clenched my fists as I gave Alanis my best shot. I knew I was good. Now I needed the audience to know it too.

The crowd responded. Heads turned back in my direction and they started to bob as the attitude and fresh voice of the new girl boomed throughout the restaurant. I still censored myself, bleeping out the F word with a blank space of nothing, but even that was forgiven as the crowd cheered me on.

The song ended and I stood there, beaming. The crowd shouted and cheered, their various bottles and glasses lifted in my direction. I looked at Dennis; he laughed and nodded. My rocky start was forgotten and I was officially initiated into the gang.

As I stepped down from the stage, I was high-fived and patted on the back. My fellow servers looked at me and smiled, realizing that the awkward Mormon girl could sing.


2:30am finally came. The crowds had thinned into a few remaining patrons, sprinkled throughout the trashed restaurant. The lights had been turned back on. Servers were wiping down tables and trying to locate the chairs that belonged at their tables.

I was beyond tired as I finished sweeping my tiny section. I went to Ria and did my checkout, my final numbers in for the night. She took out a wad of cash, counted out some twenties, fives and tens, then handed me my tips. I had made $180.

I took my cash and waved goodbye to my new coworkers. Ethan hugged me again and had security walk me out to my car (parked in a non-vomit-prone location).

"You did a great job tonight." He said. "See you tomorrow."

I drove home in a daze. My ears were still ringing from the absurdly loud speaker system and the hollers of the crowd. My legs were weak from power walking and dancing. My eyes were heavy with sleep. I had a rolled up wad of cash in my pocket and a permanent smile on my face.

I felt like a rock star.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Starting Out

The next day, my brain started catching up with my body and I had several small meltdowns. They involved a lot of prayer, a lot of phone calls to past mentors and friends, and a lot of whining to my mom.

I tried not to look at Facebook to see what cool movies and tv shows my old college friends were working on. I tried not to think about the word "waitress" and instead thought about "server/entertainer", which kind of sounds more professional but also kind of sounds like "stripper".

My real moment of clarity came when my mom told me that I should just try it. "Just try it for a few weeks and then you can quit if you don't like it." Now that I had heard this from my mom and from Dennis, I felt confident that I could do anything for two weeks. I took a deep breath. I'm not selling my soul to the devil. This could be fun.

That night I went to work. I wore a black tshirt and some old black hand-me-down slacks. I don't need to tell you how Amish I looked compared to my tiny shorts and tank top clad colleagues. I was taught how to make tea and coffee. I cut lettuce, lemons and limes. I was handed a menu and told to memorize the side options. And I was presented with about 5 billion different names of alcohols, alcoholic drinks and their oddball nicknames.

Customer: I'd like a Soco Lime please.
Asia: I don't know what that is.

I got the hang of working the registers and trying to please customers. But this was a Thursday. And I had been reminded several times it was really the weekend shows that paid the bills. At the end of the night my trainer, a nice girl named Jackie, counted out my tips (about $24 in cash) and told me she'd see me tomorrow. She also said I shouldn't expect to sing for my first few weekends. I should just try to take it in and get the hang of it.

"Sounds good." I said and headed toward my car, parked right outside the front door.
"Oh and don't park there tomorrow." Jackie said.
"Why not?"
"It's right outside the front door. It might get vomited on."

I turned around and headed out. "I'll remember that."

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


It was about 11:20ish when I pulled into the parking lot at Harmonious Monks. There weren't many other cars, so I got a pretty good spot.

 As I walked toward the front doors and the glow of the neon lights, I couldn't help but feel a bit excited. I had never been to a bar at 11:20ish. I didn't really know any of the people inside. And I definitely didn't know where this would lead me. I was hoping it would lead to exciting friends who would take me to fun dance clubs and teach me how to twerk.

 When I walked in, the place seemed mostly empty. The lights were low (I later came to know that the lighting standard was, "If you can read a newspaper in here, the lights are too bright."). The tables and chairs were tidily placed in rows. Sitting at a few of these tables and the surrounding booths, there were about 10 patrons. They mostly sipped on beers and watched a man with a curly mullet sing some Bret Michaels karaoke. I don't mean to say this with derision. He wasn't doing it to make a fool of himself and his friends and supporters were not laughing. He genuinely loved "Every Rose Has Its Thorns".

The bar was manned by a single bartender: a tall, fit blonde with a collection of tattoos on her shoulder and back. Leaning against the bar on one elbow was a tall man wearing a blazer and sporting the second curly mullet I'd seen in as many minutes. He looked around, surveying the place in a supervisory way. Next to him was Dawn Karaoke.

She waved at me excitedly and motioned for me to come up to the bar. I nodded and made my way over to them.

Dawn had her hands and arms in full presentation-mode as she introduced me to the tall man in the blazer. "Dennis, this Asia. The one I told you about. She sang karaoke at Wing-It."
"Very nice to meet you." He shook my hand.
"He's the owner." Dawn explained with an emphatic nod.

Dennis was very charismatic and professional. He asked me if I'd come to audition. Audition? I guess I had, though I hadn't really thought this far ahead.

"Yes sir." I responded.
"What can you sing?" He asked.
Hmm... tough question. I really should have come prepared with some kind of repertoire. Since I had just been "discovered" singing Respect, I responded, "I really like singing soul music like Aretha Franklin."
"Meh," he responded, "The people who come into this bar aren't really interested in Aretha Franklin. Do you know any rock?"
What? Rock? Like... rock and roll? My brain went totally blank. "Umm. I can sing Joan Jett."
Did I really know any Joan Jett songs? She was the only female rocker I could think of.
"But Joan Jett only sings 4 notes," He said.
We both thought for a moment. Or rather, he thought while I counted how many different notes were in Bad Reputation. There aren't many.
"Can you sing Alanis Morrissette or something?" He asked.
One song flashed into my mind. It was a song my high school friends and I used to blast in the car on the way to Barnes and Noble.
"I can sing You Oughtta Know."
"Yeah. Go do that." He said.
"Um. Ok."
Dawn gave me a big thumbs up.

I made my way past the patrons toward the DJ. He had long, rock-and-roll hair and a kind face. I told him what song I wanted to sing.
"Alanis. Excellent. Ok, take a seat. I'll call you up in a bit."

I went back up to the bar and sat by Dawn. The tall, fit bartender came over and asked if she could get me anything. I responded with a shy, "No, thanks."

Before too long, my name was called. It was time to sing. I took a deep breath and headed for the stage. I stepped up, took the mic and waited for the music to begin.

It was then that I remembered that Alanis Morrissette's You Oughtta Know has some interesting karaoke difficulties. To start, the song begins with drums and Alanis's voice. This means there is no cue for what key or what note on which to begin the song. Second, this particular song contains an unflattering word about 3/4 the way through. This was not a word I was accustomed to saying and I hadn't had time to think of a good replacement.

These were the thoughts racing through my mind as I looked out over my tiny crowd. Dawn gave me another thumbs up. Dennis waited patiently for the song to load. Or maybe he was judging the way I was dressed. "Did she just roll out of bed?" He may have been thinking to himself.

Luckily, problem 1 was averted - the karaoke track began with playing my opening note. Whew. The track started to play. The sound of soft drumming filled the room. I put on my best performing face and began to sing.

"I want you to know... that I'm happy for you..."
[Insert dramatic sequence as I sing. Think Xtina in Burlesque.]

I tried to sing with expression and angst, channeling my best man-hater. I wasn't able to think of a good word substitution for the impending expletive so it was replaced instead with a big awkward blank space, but other than that I felt good about my performance.

I finished and smiled at my tiny crowd as they applauded me. I walked back up to the bar where Dawn gave me a big hug. I looked at Dennis. Dennis looked back at me for a moment.

"Let's go sit over here and talk." He gestured toward a booth against the wall.

We had barely sat down when Dennis said, "I'm going to hire you."

My heart jumped into my throat. What? Hire me? My head was spinning. Was this my plan? I just came for sketchy friends and dance moves. Getting hired to work in a bar felt like flying past my mark and landing in a scary unknown.

But what was I expecting? I had just auditioned for the owner of a bar.

I let out a nervous giggle and said something like, "Really? Wow. Ok."
"Have you ever been here on a weekend?" He asked.
I hadn't.
"Well we put on a big show with a live band where all the servers get up and sing different songs. We've recently added pyrotechnics. It's pretty cool."
I looked around at the sleepy patrons, now listening to an older man whistle into the microphone. Dennis, sensing my disbelief, added, "Yeah. This place transforms into something totally different on weekends."

He started explaining pay (I could expect around $4/hour plus tips) and other information while I was still processing what was happening. OK, so I could be a server/singer. I had never worked in a restaurant before. I knew next to nothing about alcohol. There were dozens of reasons this was a terrible idea. My college degree was on fire somewhere in the back of my mind. I snapped out of my introspection in time to hear about the uniform.

"You'll have to wear a tanktop with black pants or shorts. The tank top can be any color." He explained.
Uh oh. Not ok. "Umm. Can I wear a shirt with sleeves?"
"Well, everyone wears tank tops."
"I don't wear tank tops. I'll have to wear something with sleeves." I was already turning into a diva performer with demands.

Dennis looked at me, trying to figure out if I was serious. Then, with a kind smile he gestured toward my t-shirt (I had since removed my hoodie). It was a plain white v-neck from target. Every girl in America owns this shirt in 30 different colors.

"Can you get a few t-shirts just like that one, only black?"
I smiled, "Yeah. Definitely."
"That'll be fine."

I then realized I hadn't asked a crucial question. The very question that had kept me from gaining employment with the PGA.
"Would I have to work Sundays?"
Dennis smiled again. I think he found some kind of tender humor in how naive and, perhaps, religious I was turning out to be.
"We're closed on Sundays."

I smiled. He looked at me quizzically, perhaps sensing my inner battle. "I'll give you two weeks to panic and bail." He tapped the table in a conclusive sort of way and got up to go tend to some owner-ly duties.

I sat in the booth, exhilarated and terrified, some very Mormon thoughts flying through my brain. Could I work in a bar without being tempted to drink? Would I have to fight off inappropriate advances from drunk men? Was it potentially dangerous? Dennis was starting to walk away. In a quick moment of desperation I got his attention.

"Hey Dennis?" I said.
He looked back.
"I'm Mormon. Is there going to be any problem with that?"
"Why would there be any problem with that?"
"I don't know. I just wanted to get that out of the way. Just so you know."
He smiled again, laughing to himself about the strange homeless-looking Mormon singer he had just hired to work in his bar.

Dawn rushed over to get the update. "I got a job." I said. She cheered and gave me another hug.

I repeated to myself, "I got a job."

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Dawn Karaoke

Being turned away from the PGA Tour was not the end of the world. I had a kickin' resume and, as previously stated, I had the Lord on my side! No sabbath-day work for this girl!

With endless optimism, I started calling and emailing everyone in Jacksonville who is even slightly interested in television production. I had my name added to the Jacksonville Film Commission website. I called and emailed and applied to jobs at all the news stations. I signed up for and applied to film and media jobs all over Florida. I met with local media enthusiasts who were occasional contractors on media projects. I had a Skype interview with some media entrepreneurs in New York City. At one point, my mom heard on the news that a film crew was coming to Jacksonville so I looked up the production company's information on imdbPro and emailed them with my interest and my resume. I think I may have directly emailed Stephen Baldwin at one point.

The point is, I did EVERYTHING I could think of to try to gain employment in my field. I even went back to the PGA Tour and met with a different division in the media department to see if they needed any production coordinators or assistants. But the few responses I received didn't lead to me working for Oprah or Steven Spielberg. They led me to some bummed out soul searching. I was 23. Unemployed. Living with mom.

Wait, why was it a good choice to move back?

My lack of employment also led me to another revelation. I didn't have any friends in Jacksonville. At least none between the ages of 16 and 40 and/or didn't live in my house. Not that I necessarily needed non-relative, non-Warner-family friends. I kept my social life quite full by sunning myself in the backyard by day and watching The Bachelor with my mom by night.

But I needed peers. I needed someone who could relate to my quarter-life crisis. I was also hoping to have a few stereotypical young-and-single experiences like the ones I had seen in LMFAO music videos. Being at BYU hadn't afforded me many (any) of those. Don't get me wrong, I love BYU and had wonderful academic experiences. But in Provo, if I wanted to go dancing, it would take an inordinate amount of effort to find someone who had the motivation, time, and resources to go with me. It also required an hour-long drive to Salt Lake City. There are no clubs in Provo. There are no bars. There are no coffee shops. There are only 35 frozen yogurt shops and a 24/7 Denny's.

The exception is Halloween, the night I looked forward to all year. This was the night where everyone and their relief society president threw a costume dance party. I would dress up as something fun, but not dance-restrictive and hop from party to party all night, boogie-ing until my feet ached.

Then I would wait 364 days for it to come around again.

Now that I was back in Jacksonville, I was hoping to find someone who would help me live out some young and reckless fantasies. No, I didn't want to wake up vomiting marijuana into a top hat. I didn't want to try any alcohol, drugs or other harmful substances. But dang it, I wanted to DANCE. And sing karaoke. And go somewhere where you have to show ID to get in. I wanted a few sketchy friends who could provide my life with variety and stories about vomiting marijuana into top hats. The starchy, sterile, poverty of Provo had made me a little stir crazy and I wanted to get a taste of teenage rebellion. Or 23-year-old rebellion. Or something.

But no job and no friends led to a lot of sunning myself in the backyard by day and watching The Bachelor with my mom by night.

Until everything changed.

One night my mother and I were at a family restaurant for their karaoke night. Tess, a kind, Filipina lady from church had invited us and I was excited because, without sketchy friends, this would be the closest I could get to any kind of party life.

We showed up at Wing-It, ordered some appetizers and Tess and I put our names on the list for singing. After a preteen finished singing Love Story by Taylor Swift, I took the stage to sing Respect by Aretha Franklin. I enjoy singing this song for karaoke because it fits my range pretty well and it's fun to be the white girl rocking out to some Aretha. The audience seemed to enjoy it and the DJ even gave me his card in case I was ever interested in collaborating on some recordings.

I may not be anywhere close to winning American Idol, but karaoke suits my talents perfectly. People aren't looking to be judgmental; they're looking to see their friends make fools out of themselves. With the bar set low, I always feel like a celebrity when singing karaoke.

When I returned to my booth, my mom hugged me and told me I did great. Then, out of nowhere, a random girl appeared in our booth.
"You did a really great job!" She said.
"Thank you!" I responded, trying to match her enthusiasm.
"Hey are you looking for a job?"
I was dumbfounded. What an odd, strangely pertinent question. "Uh. Yeah."
She launched into her next question. "Have you heard of Harmonious Monks?"
A vague bell went off in the back of my mind. Hadn't I been there once for a tai kwon do banquet ten years ago or something?

Then she went into a spiel that went something like this:

"Well there's this place called Harmonious Monks and all the servers there are singers and they put on a show and it's great. My roommate works there. His name is Ethan and he's gay and a musician and he's so funny. You should come over and jam with us some time! He would just love you. Anyway, I know the owner of 'Monks' (that's what we call it!) so I could get you an audition. I'm sure the owner would hire you. Anyway, take my number! I'm gonna give you my number! And we can get together sometime and you could sing at Monks! That would be so cool."

To be polite, I pulled out my flip phone and added her to my contacts. Her name was Dawn and I didn't know her last name, so I added her as Dawn Karaoke. She complimented my singing once more and bounced back into the night from whence she came.

The rest of the night was fun and low-key. Tess sang some Faith Hill and my mom and I cheered in support. Then it was time to go home and go to bed. Afterall, it was past 9! No one of esteemed repute does anything after 9pm.

That night, after returning back home, I flipped open my phone and looked at Dawn Karaoke's number. Should I delete it? Who was this random girl? No, I did not want to work in a bar. I was a TV producer, not a waitress.

But my itch for adventure started to kick in. She's young, single and lives with a gay musician. She wanted me to come over and "jam" with them. This could be exactly the kind of social shake-up I was looking for. A nice, non-BYU social experience. Who knows? Maybe she would even know some good places to go dancing.

I opened a blank text message and addressed it to Dawn Karaoke. "Hey it's Asia from Wing It". I made sure to leave out some punctuation so that I would look appropriately laid back.

Then I hit send.

I didn't hear back from Dawn that night. As a matter of fact I didn't hear from her for a while. I shrugged it off and continued my life as usual. I was getting really tan and beginning to feel really unemployable. My impressive resume was starting to look like a list of fun things I did in college. Maybe I could be a waitress, I joked to myself.

Then, one Wednesday night I was watching Frasier re-runs in my mom's room. I was in my jammies, no make up, head-on-pillow, ready to pass out for the night. It was 11pm. Then suddenly I got a text from Dawn. "Hey I'm at Monks and the owner is here! You have to come right now so I can introduce you!"

What do I do? Do I put on some pants and go to a bar at 11pm on a Wednesday because a random stranger texted me and told me I should?

 I showed my mom the text. She shrugged. But it was an excited shrug that was less of an "I don't know" and more of an "Adventure could await you!".

Adventure won out.

I threw on some jeans and baggy sweatshirt and jumped in my car to go meet up with Dawn Karaoke and the mysterious owner of a bar called Harmonious Monks.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Adventures in Golf Employment (or lack thereof)

I was getting a little tired of titling my posts with Part III, IV, LXVIIXIVIXXXI (totally a real roman numeral...) because it was beginning to feel uncreative and lame. So this is a continuation of my "Last 1.5 Years" story, but with a more fun title. Woohoo!

So I was a tiny bit thinner and a whole lot more confident. I was ready to conquer my final interview with the PGA Tour and accept a full-time media position. I felt like hot stuff. Recession shmecession! I can get a job in any climate! Any state! Worthless degree who? Majoring in film is a slam dunk!

The job I was up for was the position of footage logger, which essentially means I would watch 8 hours of golf every day and then type up a frame-by-frame account of what happened. Why yes, it does sound like the most boring job ever. However, it paid money, offered benefits and when people asked where I worked I could say, "Oh you know.. PGA Tour. You may have heard of it. Or golfed before in your life." I certainly had not... and interviewing for a job that revolves around golf made me sweat in weird places.

You see, I know nothing about golf. I have played it zero times and the thought of watching someone play it makes me fall into a coma. All I know is that it's the one sport where points are bad. I have a hilarious joke on retainer for any time I'm playing Boggle and my opponent is losing. "Hey!" I say, "If this was golf, you'd be dominating!" Then I laugh like a comedy genius.Thinking about my interview, I was nervous that I would be asked many golf-related questions or, even worse, someone would try to have a friendly chat with me about a specific golfer. For example:

Friendly person: So did you see how Mansy Pansy Pie played last week?
Asia: Most definitely, good sir! Mr. Pansy Pie put on quite the display with his club and many-dimpled ball.
Friendly person: You are a sham.

As preparation for my interview, I researched "golf" on Wikipedia and realized just how complicated and over-my-head it really is. I looked up golf vocab words like "fairway" and "bogie" and tried to memorize who the good golfers were. I knew if I mentioned Tiger Woods they would know that I was a novice so I had to dig deeper. (Obviously I forgot them all immediately. Hence the Mansy Pansy Pie reference...)

Armed with a random smattering of golf information and a great attitude, I headed out to my interview.

The PGA Tour is mostly headquartered in a large complex called World Golf Village, full of fancy hotels and buildings sprawled over golf-course looking grass and shady areas. (Shady like lots-of-trees, not like you-might-get-murdered.) The funny thing about World Golf Village is that it was built when the economy was booming and it's obvious they planned for a lot of expansion. But when money got tight, plans to expand kind of withered, leaving a huge, beautiful complex in the middle of nowhere. Driving down International Golf Parkway, you'll pass way more tiny farms and pastures than you will Radissons. But I bet those farmers sure feel fancy telling people they live on International Golf Parkway.

I walked in and met my potential employer. I just remembered that his name was maybe Zach. He gave me a tour and introduced me to who my coworkers would be. They were mostly boys around my age. He showed we where my computer would be. It was basically a done deal!

After our tour, we went back to his office to discuss details. This is where my employment train derailed.

You see, golf is a game that people play on weekends, mostly. So people who work in the golf industry have to work a lot of Sundays. As part of my Mormon religion, I take the Sabbath day very seriously and try to never shop or work on Sundays. As maybe-Zach was asking me if I would be comfortable working weekends, I flashed him my biggest smile. "I would be happy to work every Saturday! But, unfortunately, because of religious commitments I've made, I can't work on Sundays." He looked very confused. "Everyone works on Sundays."

My employment confidence was shrinking quickly, but my spiritual confidence did not waver. "I'm sorry I can't." He nodded his head solemnly and said, "Well, that's a bummer."

And that was it. I didn't get the job. He was kind and courteous and showed me to the door. Part of me was disappointed, but another part of me felt amazing. I had just turned down an amazing opportunity because of my commitment to keeping God's commandments! I'm going to get so many blessings! I'll probably work for somewhere even better! Like Working Title Films or Oprah's new network! World, here I come! I've got the Lord on my side!

Literally... these were my thoughts. And while I definitely did have Heavenly Father on my side and I'm sure He was proud of me for sticking to my guns, the blessings He had in mind were much different than the blessings I had in mind.

Then somehow I ended up working in a bar.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Last 1.5 Years, Part III

It was December 30, 2011 when we pulled into my mom's driveway. The timing of this move was only semi-coincidental. I knew my life was about to change in some pretty drastic ways (I had already moved across the country back into my mom's house) and I relished that the new year would mean so many new beginnings.

The actual countdown to midnight was spent at the Warner's house, where all good parties take place. We ate pizza and sang karaoke (two of my very most favorite things) into 2012. Another part of the evening was spent writing down new years resolutions and posting them on a cabinet so they wouldn't be forgotten. Some were health related and some were career related. Some of the Warner children had goals related to farts or something. Either way, it was clear that 2012 would be full of new experiences and fulfilling dreams! Self Discovery 2012!

[Cue dramatic montage music.]

One of the first things I wanted to do in 2012 was lose weight. I didn't want to dabble in different diets and exercise programs, I wanted RESULTS. So I went into a weight loss clinic about a mile from my house and got a consultation. By the end of our meeting, I had a bag full of vitamins, a list of foods I was allowed to eat and about $800 less in my bank account.

The point of the diet was to eat absolutely no fat and take pills with a pregnancy hormone in them to help get rid of body fat. Perhaps sketchy science, but I was monitored every week by a nurse so don't judge me por favor.

The first time I went to Walmart with my mom to buy groceries off my new "approved foods" list, I think I cried. It was really hitting me that I was going to have to make some pretty tough changes. Some of my very best friends were missing from the list. Cheese? Nope. Peanut butter? Fat chance. Mini powdered donuts? Nowhere to be found as part of my new diet. I wasn't even allowed to eat bananas or carrots. My mom had to console me as we filled the cart with spinach, green beans, chicken breast and... yea, that's about it. The list had other things on it, but it just made me cry more to think about eating things like tofu and cauliflour. "You can do this, honey," my mom said as I tearfully handed the very confused Walmart cashier my debit card. "You like chicken." She said.

So basically for 3 months straight, here's what I ate every single day:

Breakfast: apple
Lunch: Soy beans and weird soup
Dinner: Chicken breast and green beans

Literally... every. single. day.

I was eating 750 calories per day and was told not to exercise (because I wasn't consuming enough calories). Slowly, however, I started sneaking other, more delicious foods into my diet. Fat free cheese? Yes, please! Mint chocoloate chip ice cream? Just a spoonful at midnight when everyone is asleep. After three months, I had lost 25 pounds, which was shy of my 35 pound goal, but I went from a size 10-12 to a 6 and everyone I saw basically told me I looked like a super model. Plus I really missed food.

My next stop of the journey of Self Discovery 2012 was employment. Remember all those amazing phone interviews with the PGA Tour?

Yeah, well...

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Last 1.5 Years Part II

In September 2011, I went to Zimbabwe for about 10 days. My cousins took me around the country to different landmarks. We went on Safari and saw tons of wild elephants, giraffes, hippos and monkeys. We went to Victoria Falls, the largest waterfall in the world, and marveled at the lack of safety railings. You could (and many people have) be looking over the edge a little too close and straight up fall to your death. It was terrifying and invigorating. But Zimbabwe was also insanely expensive. Like, if you want to buy an Igloo cooler, it'll cost you $200 (actual example!). So being recently unemployed made the Africa trip a more anxious experience than perhaps I was ready for. But it was still a welcomed distraction from making life decisions.

Once I was back on the mainland, I started making preparations to move to home to Jacksonville. That meant getting rid of a lot of stuff and looking for work. Through a generous contact at church, I was able to have multiple phone interviews with the media department at the PGA Tour. I felt pretty legit! Even in Jacksonville, Florida I would be able to use my degree. With BENEFITS and everything. Didn't think those still existed? Me either. I've never had them before. But this was my chance!

So maybe there was a light at the end of my mysterious, anxiety ridden tunnel.

I decided I would officially make the move at the end of the year. It would give me a clean break. I had been in Utah for 6 years and wanted a bit of time to let go and prepare for life changes. I savored those last few months in Utah. I spent time with friends, my aunt Jackie (who lived in Lehi), and the beautiful mountains.

The plan was that my mom and brother were going to fly out to Utah for Christmas then drive back with me in my car. Oh yeah! And to be economical, I just stuffed everything I owned in there too. My mom, Zac, me and MASSIVE amounts of stuff driving cross-country. Was there enough room? Not really... But we were renegades, dang it!

Before we left, I went to go-cart boy's house. It was a freezing post-Christmas evening. His whole family was there and they were doing something precious like baking or playing a board game. I gave them all hugs and said my farewells. I didn't cry, which was pretty BA of me because this was a big deal. I had spent a lot of time (perhaps too much time, I see now) waiting for our awesome friendship to turn into something else. And I'm not exaggerating about the awesome friendship. We were really close. I was going to miss him, but only because I had no idea what (or who...) was waiting for me in Florida. I gave him a hug, handed him a letter and got in my car (more accurately, I shoved my body in between my guitar and a box of shoes, struggling to close the door behind me).

Then we drove away.

About 4-5 days later, we all had knee and back and rib and foot problems, but evenutally my family and I made it back to sunny Florida.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Blog Post! "The Last 1.5 Years" Part I

My friend Erica recently told me to post on my blog "even if it's just photos of your new married life, but especially if it's funny stories about skinny dipping or something like that."

The truth is, I've been trying to write some new posts for a while. The last year and a half of my life has been full of excellent blogging material. First of all... I got married. I found a boy who liked me enough to hang out with me forever. So that was cool. Also, for most of 2012 I worked as a singer in a bar. This was so very out-of-character for me I don't even know how to start explaining it.

So maybe I should just start at the beginning. Or rather... at the end of my time in Utah. That was really where my life took some unexpected detours.

It was September 2011. I was living in Provo. The important things about my life at this time are as follows:
- I was working television which, considering that I majored in media production, was essentially my dream employment situation.
- I was in love with someone who was not in love with me (and I had a daily emotional roller coaster about it).
- I weighed 168 pounds, which isn't huge, but in the land of Provo Barbie dolls, I felt enormous.

It was a very strange time in my life and I couldn't help but feel like I wasn't really progressing. I felt like I was on a launching pad, waiting for lift off. Waiting...

...and waiting....

Then one day... I got laid off.  I suddenly didn't have a job anymore. My contract with the TV company I was working for was not renewed. I called my mom from a gas station, probably cyring. She told me I could move home, if I wanted to.

I thought about it. I could probably get another TV job in Utah if I stayed. The industry out there is surprisingly happenin' and I was fairly well connected. And what would happen if I moved back in with my mom? That was probably pretty lame... But I kept thinking about that "launching pad" feeling...

Then I went home to my apartment and sat on the stairs, thinking about life. Something about losing my job felt right. Something about moving away felt freeing. Utah had been good to me, but had I drained the well? As I was sitting on my stairs, the boy I was pining after came by to borrow zip ties. He was building a go cart. Noticing my pensive, slightly depressed demeanor, he invited me to come test drive it with him. I, of course, accepted.

It was probably the most bittersweet go cart ride in history. As I sat, snuggled next to the boy I would never have, thinking about where I would end up, who I would be in a year, feeling the wind against my face, I said a quiet goodbye to Utah. Goodbye to my unhealthy relationship (or lack thereof...) with "go cart boy". Goodbye to job security and cold winters.

Then I went to Africa.

[Sidebar: I've been to many cool countries, mostly by inviting myself on other people's trips. A few months prior to my lack of employment, my grandpa told me he was going to Africa to visit some of my cousins. I promptly invited myself to go with him. He was a little suprised, but accepted my offer. We bought our tickets and made the arrangements. Then, a week before the trip, my grandpa called to tell me that grandma was too frail for the trip so they weren't going anymore. I now had a ticket to Africa and was going alone.]

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