Volunteering at a Soup Kitchen

My mom signed us up. At first everyone whined, including my dad. But then we accepted facts as the time came for us to leave the house. I told my youngest brother, “Tonight’s Christmas Eve Eve, and so all of Santa’s little elves are spying on us just checking to make sure that we still deserve to be on the ‘Nice List’. Christmas Eve Eve is very important so you have to be really good at the Soup Kitchen. Okay?” He nodded at a violent speed.

We had close to no information about how the runnings of the soup kitchen worked, like who we would be feeding and how. All we knew was the address, and to bring pulled pork on buns and tell our friends that we had invited to bring salad and dessert. Approx mouths to feed: 55

We pulled into a sketchy, warehouse part of downtown and unload our haul. It was pouring and our crock-pot dripped while we stood outside, knocking on the glass doors of the building we thought was the Soup Kitchen.

I really didn’t know what a soup kitchen looked like. A large cafeteria perhaps with ladies in hair nets and men with beards holding out bowls?

” ‘Naught ‘a th’ sort. “

A woman opened the glass doors with a grin larger than the country called China.

“HELLO! Welcome, Welcome, Come on in! We weren’t expecting you tonight because HQ forgot to tell us you were coming, but here you are!” She ushered us into the kitchen, her big blue eyes were gleaming behind her petite landlady glasses. She began to clear away what looked like thawing frozen meals and then pointed to the tantalizing aroma coming off our crockpot, “And what you have there looks so much better than the frozen sandwiches we keep in stock!” We smiled at each other and at her, then we rolled up our sleeves and got to work; no hair nets required. (Score!)

Salad was tossed, brownies were cut, and well, pulled pork sat there looking amazing; all in a little room that close to nothing like what I had imagined.

There were two long tables, each as long as an olympic ping-pong table. They were surrounded by blue plastic chairs. A christmasy centerpiece was plopped at the end of each table, complete with smiling snowmen and mini plastic Douglass firs set on one end of each. Booster seats hung low on the walls, available for reach. Thank-you cards and hand-drawn pictures were taped in an arch around the entry-way. It was no Best Western, but it was build by love.

As we set up shop, we learned a few things about this Organization,

1) They are an application-based Women and Children’s home for the Homeless. The people we would serve had earned their place here, the goal is to help these families through food, education, safety, comfort, and self-reliance.

2) There’s a learning center for the kids who live here and are tutored there by high schooler kids who need community service hours!

3) Random Drug tests.

4) We would actually be feeding half the number of people we had prepped for because during the holidays, many of these families leave to be with family.

(And a few other neat things which I will remember and slip in later)

We were ready and the doors opened. That room was more full with appreciation and Merry Christmases than oxygen. People ate. I sort-of taught the two little girls who were also volunteering how to toss a salad. Lots of people who had never tried pulled pork before came back for seconds. Almost everyone in the room was smiling, except for the ones with their cheeks full. We made faces at the babies and talked with their mothers. We took shifts eating with the families or behind the counter dishing up. Nothing was scary anymore, and we were all really enjoying ourselves.

Then, those little girls I tossed salad with? One opened up her little violin and played in the corner all three songs she had memorized, including the Can Can. It was adorable. Especially when she messed up and paused, her bow in mid strum, with a stumped and concentrated look on her face. “Oh yeah!” Continue she would. The families who remained clapped to the rhythm, and a few poked their heads in to see where the curious sounds were coming from. One little girl in particular who had long dark hair and huge brown eyes, probably the same age as the girl playing, stood very close and watched intently. I left to do something in the kitchen, but when I came back, the violin was on the dark-haired girls shoulder, and my little salad girl was teaching her how to play. Dark-hair was ecstatic, closing her eyes and playing short little screeches to her heart’s content.

Christmas is about that rosy red thing called love. I pray for you and your family that you find some tomorrow and all the days to follow. And if you can’t find some, give some. Don’t worry, you have this love generator thing called a human heart. It’s very useful when serving soup in a kitchen, which I strongly suggest you try sometime. Musical instruments optional but highly looked upon.

Merry Christmas Guys :)

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Night-Time Epiphanies

Hit the Regina Spektor Radio on Spotify, pop over to WordPress, “New Post”. I got words today man!

Hey this fire
It’s burning
Burning us up
Hey this fire
It’s burning
Burning us up

The fire of words baby! I swear they’re eating at my soul this day and unless I pour them out on my keyboard I may be ashes in minutes!

Night-time epiphanies. Have ’em? Thought processes really do take place at night, when things are quiet and muscles are tired. Well, your brain isn’t a muscle. True story bro. Something about the dark and waiting for unconsciousness to come… thoughts run into genius strands that are so frustratingly forgotten the next morning. Solution:

Write it down! I had to turn on the light a few times but it was soooooo worth blazing my eyeballs out. Otherwise you’ll think you’ll be able to decipher your writing that was written in the pitch-black darkness, but really you won’t. (Testify: middle bottom picture, middle of pad.) Anyways, there was something my half-conscious self came up with last night that I liked.

More sleep.
More water.
More grains.
More Color.
More right.
More clear. 
 

Read it over again. Now you should know that I love self-improvement, and at night like think of ways to make SydneyJoTo a better SydneyJoTo. That’s pretty much all this list is. An eclectic gathering of goals for the soon-to-be sophomore.

(pssssst! Stop reading here if you gotta get to doing, or stick around if you’re seat’s comfy enough or if you’re a teenager.)

More sleep.

Most Teens stink at time management. So usually it’s the latest thing in the day that takes the hit. Bedtime. I think ending school at 3:30 is dumb. Why? The average American household has dinner from 6:30-7 o’clock. That’s leaves a succinct 3 hours for homework, sports games/practice, friends, and travel to and from all of these. However! Many families with teens have dinner later, like from 7-8, even 9 o’clock as to not disrupt the order of early evening activities. Why don’t we just try that?! The trick must be getting all of one’s homework done before the dinner bell rings, so one can have some restful family time after dinner and then hit the hay.

Ask your boss-people if a later din-din is right for you. Side effects may include an earlier, less desperate night’s sleep.

More water.

Utah. Geeze Louise. Water not only tastes fabulous there but an excessive amount is also vital to one’s happiness at that high and dry

Water. Go get a glass NOW.

altitude. I stayed with my Aunt K. who taught me the importance of the “H2O Diet”. She told me that before going anywhere, drink a glass of water. Then when you’re done with that, drink another one. This was a few days before volleyball camp and she knew this advice would later prove valuable during my sweaty court antics. Also, I’m pretty sure water has an effect on one’s happiness. After camp, I kept up on the water intake. It’s bad but, Water made things clearer. (El-Oh-El!) But seriously, there is something about more agua in the system and  I’M SURE THERE’S A SCIENTIFIC ARTICLE OUT THERE SOMEWHERE that ties water with happiness! If over 70% of the human body is made up of water, then why not be constantly trying to maintain that? Especially since water has ZERO cals and other junk. It’s the purest and best thing for you on the planet. Plus, dehydration is found frequently in TEENS! Read about it here. With all the other social/educational/hormonal crap we’re dealing with, I’m sure water intake is very low on the priority list for most teenyboppers-and-poppers. Not good.

So go drink some now! I’ll wait.

More grains. 

If Manna was bread, (which it probably was) it took this form.

 Again, Aunt K. But also my mom. You see, I’ve just begun to hate white bread. It’s this little flower of hate that was planted by these two lovely women and has been watered by my love  for health food ever since. Oatnut bread is too good to cheat on with that white fluffy stuff that has absolutely NO nutritional value. So dear reader, I invite you to hate white bread with me. And feast on Oatnut for your breakfast toast instead. And then for your sandwich at lunch. Take a break for dinner. Teenagers, there is no “w” in pb&j. However there is a “b” which stands for bread, which could easily mean “Oatnut bread”… if you wanted it to.

More color.

I can’t stress this enough. There is color in the world but when the world chooses to paint something beautiful whether it be on the ground, down an alley, or in the sky you’d better darn well appreciate it.

Colors.

More right.

Not less left, but rather more doing the right thing. The Right Thing. We all subliminally know what that means, whether we want to or not. Some would argue that everyone has different priorities, and therefore different ideas of right and wrong. But I don’t think so. Balance. There’s a balance everywhere, and when you start looking for it, you’ll find it, especially in people. Somehow there are happy stories and there are sad stories and there’s the untold stories of people just making it through. But those are just stories. Whether the story happened to a loved one or a stranger you are still you. And you always have a choice. We all do. And so we control the balance of right and wrong. It just seems that the gusts of the world head in the wrong direction and so we have to lean against it. That’s when I come in with my belief of Heavenly Father and Satan. The Gusts are from Satan and the freedom to be blown away or lean against it comes from Heavenly Father. Then, Heavenly Father will go so far as to give you something or someone to hang on to, or will even lead you to a non-gusty area! That’s all called faith, take it or leave it.

More clear.

So I’m rested, hydrated, healthy, appreciative of the world around me, and I’m trying to do the right thing. That lifts a fog, and what I see now gives me something real to write about.


P.S.

This concludes my 100th post and first year of blogging! I would like to thank my dear dear dear readers, hug my mostly supportive parents who thought this would be just another phase, and my poor computer that has put up with a year of frustrated writers-block-induced-head-banging. This kid loves you all!

{Edition}

Just heard this song on Spotify: thought it applied perfectly to my “theory of balance”. That’s it :)

I Left My Heart @ Camp Ritchie

sound of music mountains are big had

So last post, I was ready to leave for Girls Camp, and now I’m home and exhausted. Allow me to fill you in on the Oreo filling :) (Ah! Quickly before sleepy Sydney falls asleep on the couch!)

We left in cars. I with my mommy and three friends. All crammed in our little civic and making friendship bracelets.

 

We got there unpacked, boring boring boring. Well here’s what happened on Tuesday and what I wrote in my journal;

July 24th

Today I got tired of people. People are tiring sometimes, especially teenage girls, I’m tired tonight from archery and BBs, plus rappelling but also I started to get annoyed at people’s imperfect-ness. Then we had devotional. It was about a story about a town of wooden people called “Wimmiks”, who judged one anthers actions and appearances using stickers. Kinda mean huh? We do that too shockingly enough, just in a more subtle and mental way. And I realized I had been a Wimmik by thinking that my ways of sinning were somehow more acceptable than the other girls ways of sinning. Just because you sin differently from others doesn’t give you the right to judge them or get tired of them. That’s god’s job. I was humbled and bummed out. Realizing your wrong and being chastened will do that to you… but it makes us better people. But I was still left with a dry, dusty feeling that reminded me of Rango. I just prayed for some intimate inspiration. Hopefully I’ll find it tomorrow but it’s dark in our cabin and Sarah’s complaining about my headlamp light. We’re all exhausted. Thanks for listening.

-JoTo

P.S. Happy 12th Birthday Tyler!!! xoxo :)

July 25th

I’m sitting in my friend’s car on our way back from our 4th year hike. In  a car? I thought you were supposed to be oblivious to all forms of civilization for a week! Yes indeed a car. So you drive down 88, past Kirkwood Ski Resort and Caples Lake, and turn into the El Dorado National Forest parking lot. Past the bathrooms, there’s a 2.5mi trail, that brings you to Winnemucca Lake. The lake could give a Polar Bear hypothermia, but it’s the journey there that makes the journey worth it. We hiked through the prettiest woods you’ve ever seen. Brother W. said, “It’s like we’re walking through a painting”, and seriously, Monet should have checked this place out. Wildflowers outnumbered grass blades and ferns sat scattered like leafy watchmen. Pine trees aren’t exactly Cherry Blossoms, but they looked really good with colorful Indian Paintbrush gathered in bushels around their roots. Fallen logs, ancient and a soft white, lie dappled with sunshine falling from the canopy. As we trekked up and up the uphill, the Pines thinned and we were in an open meadow, aka Poppy-Town. Flowers galore covered the grassy hill like a little city of colorful people. Instead of busting places in little cars and taxis, they all stood static until alternating breezes urged them to dance. We heard running water, and to our delight ran a good-sized summer stream, running the way we would take home. It ran happily over rocks and through small granite formations creating baby waterfalls. Framing the whole stunning picture stood something entirely muting. Mountains patched with icy snow, straight out of the sound of music, or even a dream. sound of music winnemucca hikingsound of music mountains are big had

It was all uphill though, and the girls were tired. I however was high on beauty.

“This is SO Pretty! Look, BUTTERFLY! Augh, I could just live in a SHACK here! Appreciate! Appreciate! Appreciate!” I would squeal pointing to a cluster of flowers or a pool of glossy water. As I was gleefully sharing my feelings, Brother W. stopped me.

“You think THIS is cool? Imagine heaven, and the kingdoms in heaven. No one can even imagine.”

I almost cried when he said that. I’m such a marshmallow. If God could craft such a beautiful place as this, Earth, then what has he crafted for us AFTER this? This is just the Basement!!! Although I may melt my marshmallow-self by just thinking about this, I have been inspired. My soul has drunk from the well of happiness. This was the answer to my prayer. This WAS the answer to my prayer.

Tonight at our fireside I learned that before you go to bed, put on your “PJ’S”.

P- Prayer

J- Journal

S- Scriptures

Cute huh?

July 26th 

Today, the boy-scouts appeared like strapping young specks on the beach across the lake and the girls turned into boy-deprived banshees. We had been at waterfront, basking, swimming, paddle boarding, and kayaking when it looked as if boys started to appear across the waves. We went mad, yelling out “BOYS!” to those unaware. We began paddling in circles, or at least trying to stay in line of sight of the boys camp, without going so far as the speedboat would have to come over and embarrassingly scold us. Turns out, the boys hadn’t sat out just to watch our girly youthfulness or wondered which of us were old enough to date… they were too busy waiting for us to GET OUT! We realized this once our final whistle to get out blew and we scrambled in shivers to the rocks for our towels and shoes. We sat on the rock overlooking the lake, cold, sad, and wet as we watched the strapping specks do cannonballs into the water and tear away on sailboats. To our dismay, scout masters don’t approve of co-ed swimming. Dang.

My journal goes on into hardly legible entries about BB guns and Crafts that clearly display my exhaustion. However, the last night, Friday night, ended on one of the best notes of my life so far. Testimony meeting. It was more than a genius’ idea to end camp with such a spiritually strengthening activity. But again it was more than even that, to another-worldly extent.

Testimony meeting was incredible.  My heart swelled with not pride, but sisterhood and daughterhood, being a daughter of God and a sister to all of these wonderful people here. I’ve never felt so close to God before, but I’m sure the altitude is a contributing factor (; It’s so easy to feel so so so spiritual at camp, because all distractions are gone. The Media, Social Networks, material possessions, CARS are all irrelevant for six days. All that’s left is kindness and love  in the form of delicious food, under the stars and in clean air that provides for the very best of thoughts. It’s more than beautiful, it’s of God. The trick is, (and it’s VERY tricky) is to bring those same thoughts home. Like maybe… in the form of a Journal.

It’s hard to believe until you’ve felt God. If you don’t know where to find him, look to little children or the wilderness. You’ll feel his embrace in the form of Life. I know this to be true. Every last syllable.

-Sydney

Oh and on the way home we stopped at the Ghirardelli Factory. (AKA the place where they make the best Hormone Replacement)

 

The Warriors’ Mothers (Happy Mommy’s Day!)

When you’re a Mormon, you meet at a building according to where you live. and the people you see every Sunday and who live in your relative neighborhood are in your “ward”. There are thousands of wards across the globe. A ward becomes a family as people move in, move out, have babies, pass away… you get it. In a ward, the adults are given different assignments called “callings”, like chores within a family. These callings range from helping in the nursery to being the Bishop. (Equivalent to a pastor). Well anyways, my parents have the two coolest callings in the world. Mom is a Public Affairs Spokesperson which pretty much means she gets to know other church leaders from all faiths and works with them to do service within the community. She also helps to put on Mormon Helping Hands which is the big, annual mormon service project. Once again, I share this video a guy and friend in our ward produced.

This was filmed in our area at several of the sites we served at. This leads into my dad’s calling, Ward Mission Leader. Watch it again, and play iSpy for anyone wearing a rectangular black badge with white writing. (Do it now)

They are all missionaries, sent from our church to preach the gospel, and rake leaves when needed. My dad’s job includes the Young Men Missionaries, who have chosen to leave normal society for two years and dedicate those two years to God. My dad acts as a step-in mentor who drives them wherever they can’t walk or ride bikes, gives them what advice an ex-missionary can, and lets them Skype and call home on Mother’s Day. Destination reached.

Right now, two dedicated young men are contacting home to talk to their families, but most importantly, their moms. (Bing!)

” All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother. ” Abraham Lincoln

Mormon Missionaries and their relationships to their mothers could be equated to the Stripling Warriors and their mothers. I would jump into a summary of this epic tale from the Book of Mormon, but I’m lazy and this one is so much better,

“Nearly 10 years after Captain Moroni raised the Title of Liberty the Lamanites and Nephites were once again at war. The people of Ammon desired to help the Nephites. But they had made a vow to never to take up arms again. Their sons had not made this vow. These young men entered into a covenant to fight for the liberty of the Nephites.

They were men who were true at all times in whatsoever thing they were entrusted. They were men of truth and soberness, for they had been taught to keep the commandments of God and to walk uprightly before him.

These 2,000 stripling soldiers had been taught by their mothers that God was with them, that He would not let them fall. Now they never had fought, yet they did not fear death; and they did think more upon the liberty of their fathers than they did upon their lives; they had been taught by their mothers, that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.

Being led by Helaman, they were in many battles, but none died. The Lord rewarded and preserved them; for believing in Him, for having faith, for obeying His commandments, and for striving to serve others.” -mormonfind.com

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“Farewell my stripling warrior” Del Parson
missionary, missionary farewell, farewell my stripling warrior
A Stripling Warrior Saying Farewell

Today is Mother’s Day. Regardless of your religion, be grateful for mothers everywhere who are preparing their children for the battlefield of life. Be grateful for women who have the patience to teach children to be warriors. Mom, thanks especially for teaching me how to be a smart warrior and to stop and smell the flowers along the way.

What were some battle skills your mom taught you?