Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Raise the World

You know those charity commercials that show children looking straight into the camera from their dirty, poor conditions? The images that make your heart wrench but you don't know what you can do about it? The phone number flashes on the screen asking you to make a donation but you have no idea if it will actually make a difference.

It's one thing to look at images on your flat-screen TV from the comfort of your couch in your heated home. It's another thing to photograph those images yourself, to be standing there in your dusty Teva sandals and long skirt, not wanting to take out your camera but also dying to so that you don't forget what's before your eyes.

It's different to become friends with the little boys who play soccer in the neighborhood field every day in their bare feet, to shoot marbles into dirt holes with them and to learn their names and let them laugh at you as you try out your Swahili--and then to one day see those boys in their home environment, to peek over the fence and see them in the only clothes you'll ever see them in, with dirt in their mouths and their little baby sister sitting in the yard with tears seemingly permanently running down her brown cheeks, with no adult nearby to feed and protect her. At times like that you only wish that picking up the phone and giving a credit card number is all it took to make everything right.

(These ain't no photos from google images!)
This Friday is an event called the Hunger Banquet at BYU and this is my plug for it. The theme this year is children.  Not only do the proceeds of the event go towards organizations we feel are influential, but every person who attends will have greater perspective and awareness of what children go through today. Being aware of a problem is always the first step to solving it.

Some problems are more urgent in solving than others:

"We are guilty of many errors and many faults, but our worst crime is abandoning the children, neglecting the foundation of life. Many of the things we need can wait. The child cannot. Right now is the time his bones are being formed, his blood is being made and his senses are being developed.  To him we cannot answer ‘Tomorrow’. His name is ‘Today’."

Gabriela Mistral, 1948

When you raise children right, you raise the world.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Ski Skool

I'm pretty sure I learn some of the most important lessons during the weekends when I don't spend a minute in a classroom.

My extremely smart roommate Jamie is in the accounting program at BYU. Since it is the #2 accounting program in the nation, PWC (one of the major accounting firms) does some hard-core recruiting here. For instance, they sponsored a skiing day this past Saturday for all the accounting students and they could bring a guest. I got to be Jamie's guest and ski at Sundance all day and get donuts and free lunch for just $10 (ok, so there's no such thing as a free lunch).

My FHE brothers Kevin and Cameron came too and I was on the ski lift with them at one point. I had been getting off at the first stop over and over, because I'm not a very experienced skier and the easiest hill was enough excitement for me. But when I was riding the lift with Kev and Cam, they put the bar down in front of us and wouldn't let me get off on the first stop, thus forcing me to ride to the top of the lift and be on a blue square level-run which was, to say the least, terrifying to me. I don't know why they had such confidence in me that I could ski at that level, but those pro-skiers slowed down and made sure I made it down safely.

It was on that run down that I got a taste of how skiing is supposed to be. I embraced the speed instead of constantly trying to slow down or come to stop. The beautiful views, the cold wind in your face, the friction-less velocity of skiing....it was a whole new world that I never would have discovered had I stayed on the bunny hill (which I certainly would have done if not for the challenge of my FHE brothers). I went down that blue square hill several more times voluntarily and loved it (yes, it's possible to love something you're terrible at, thank goodness!) despite the epic wipe-outs.
I didn't think I would ever be able to ski down a hill any steeper than the easiest one. This experience solidified in me one of my all-time favorite quotes by Eleanor Roosevelt,

"You must do that which you think you cannot."

Monday, February 20, 2012


 I watched this incredible movie Saturday night and suggest that you find it this week and WATCH IT. Red boxes have it.  It will make you laugh, cry, but mostly leave you wanting to be better.

If you can't tell from the trailer, it's about four policemen who resolve to be better fathers. Never has a movie been more needed in a society than today.  In Africa I definitely saw that if fathers were more involved in providing for their families, it would solve so many of the country's ills. Many men would be gone drinking all day (banana beer for everyone!) and the women would have to take care of the children, cook, and try to earn money (that would be spent on more beer).

But developed countries like the good US of A is certainly not immune. In fact, 1 in 3 children in the US live in homes without fathers.  Almost 40% of children born in the US are born out of wedlock, which nearly always been none or little involvement with the father.

In reading a series of articles titled War on Boys about how boys have been falling behind girls in education, emotional health, and jobs; it shows that research has shown that:
  • Infants whose dads live at home were as much as 6 months ahead in social and personal development.
  • Time with dad, more than anything else, predicts empathy in adulthood. 
  • Dad's involvement reduces the likelihood that a child will need ADHD medication or emotional or behavioral therapy.
  • Dad's presence increases school performance, his likelihood increases likelihood of dropping out.
  • Most gang members come from homes without dads.
  • No dad around increases likelihood of criminal activity and dad is the single-biggest factor in preventing drug abuse. 
Reading all of this made me thankful, once again, that I have the best dad ever. The hikes, the bike rides after dinner, the chats after scripture study, the movies, the campouts, the canoe trips, the cabin trips, the taking a "short-cut" with his GPS and being pretty sure it was a long-cut. He would sleep on the trampoline with us even though he hardly slept a wink out there. He would talk in a British accent for hours after watching Pride and Prejudice with us. He built me a milk parlor to milk my goats in, for pete's sake. Who knows where I would be without him.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"Are you sure you want to do that?"

Last night I went to the mission call opening of two good friends. Logan, from my stake back home, got called to New York, Spanish-speaking, and my roommate Ashling got called to the California Oakland mission, Mandarin-speaking. I am so happy for them!

Needless to say, I've been thinking so much about missions. This is nothing new. In fact I've been thinking about missions for quite a long time. But if you were to take an x-ray of my brain the mission section would be red with a new level  of hyperactivity. (BTW, sorry to write yet another mission post.)

Watching a young man open his mission call feels different than a when a girl opens hers. I suppose it's just different for me because I  know the process she's gone through to get to that point of opening her mission call.

When you first tell people you want to go on a mission, they are either really supportive or they smile, shrug, and say, "You're probably going to get married first, honey." Or they say, "You know it's not a requirement for girls to go  on missions, right?" (No, really? I don't HAVE to do this? Wow! That changes things.) Or, they say, "Are you sure you want to do that?" How tempting it would be to reply seriously, "Oh." Pause. "No, you're right. I should think about this. Thanks for your concern, I'll give it some thought." As if one would voluntarily leave all they hold dear and pay their own way for 18 months without giving it some thought, ha.

But what I LOVE is when people ask me WHY I want to serve a mission. You see, there is lot to think about when thinking about a mission, but asking WHY is the most important thing to think about. I have been thinking about how I need to find clothes for the hottest weather I've yet to experience, how I'm going to survive the fact that they eat mayonnaise on everything in Paraguay, and how I can't wait to finally master the Spanish language. But what I love to think about most is the experiences I'll have with the people, for it is for them that I am serving a mission. I can just picture myself sitting on some old chairs in the yard of a poor Paraguayan family teaching them the Plan of Salvation, or teaching them that they are children of God....and the thought makes my heart beat a little stronger and nearly brings tears to my eyes. It makes me want to do everything I can to be better able to help others feel what I have felt--the happiness, guidance, peace and comfort of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel has truly brought me more happiness than any other single thing.  The thought of sharing the source of that happiness is what makes me sure I want to do this.

Friday, February 10, 2012

His Work

"This is [God's] work and glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man."

Doesn't that scripture change everything? It does to me.

It changes mountains from just big mounds of stone with snow and trees on them to beautiful creations that God created just for us to enjoy and use in our life.

 It changes people from just being ordinary people to people who God loves so much that His entire purpose is to ensure their well-being.  

It changes the commandments from rules that must be obeyed to rules that God gave us so we could progress, so we could be eternally happy. 

It changes trials from events that make our life hard to events that God lets happen because they will help us become better people and more fit for eternal life. 

It changes times of catastrophe or loneliness from questioning God's involvement in your life to realizing that  God loves you, so this must be for your good. 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Birthday Season

First, it was my dear roommate Emily's birthday on January 29th.

 Then it was mine on Wednesday and my roommates made me this awesome cake! How did they know I love Paraguay?! Impressive cake, no? I loved it!

 Then it was my roommate Ashling's birthday on Thursday. She was born in China so we're still trying to figure out who is older than who with the time difference. Emily made her a berry pie as a nice break from all the cake.  (Emily and I had just got home from an intramural soccer team, we don't always match unfortunately.)
 THEN, we were all at the Judd's house (our professor from Jerusalem) for dinner on Friday and came home unexpectingly to our apartment FULL of friends, karaoke, and food. It was the most surprising surprise birthday party of my life! Jamie and Brooke and Nicolle had been planning it for weeks without any of us knowing! We had a pinata and an epic dance party and a towering colorful cake. It was soooo fun. It was so nice of our friends to come to yet another party after having been to three smaller ones that week for each of our birthdays. They are troopers. Or, they just like free cake.

It was a fun birthday week. This Thursday it's Olivia's birthday (last one on the right). Good thing because it's been a few days since we've celebrated.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


Last year I was in Jerusalem for my birthday and I wrote this blog post. I can't help but write a similar one for this year. This blog is kind of full of gratitude lists, but what can I say? It's my blog and it's my birthday so I'll do what I want to. I'm still thankful for those twenty things of last year's list, but here's a slew of 21 more things off the top of my head that I'm grateful for this year:

1. I'm grateful for my mission call.  I can serve a mission now and I will be a missionary in 64 days! Do you understand how wonderful this is? Turning 21 has been a day I've looked forward to for years. There are no limits now, baby! My age can't restrict me from anything (ok, besides renting a car, running for president, and getting the senior citizen discount)!
2. I'm grateful for my wonderful roommates and past roommates who I'm still friends with. While others may come and go, they are my consistent friends and I love them dearly. I'm grateful for roommates like Jamie, who despite being in the middle of testing week in the #2-in-the-nation-accounting-program, got up early to make me waffles. I'm so grateful to live with girls who live in a way that the Spirit is really always in our apartment.
3. I'm grateful for my job at the MTC. I get to work with great girls and be in an inspiring environment (not to mention go on a date or two with awesome MTC teachers).
4. I'm so grateful Hope is at BYU with me. I will miss her so much (and eating at the Cannon Center with her, aka my one opportunity for chocolate milk).
5. I'm grateful for the Provo YSA  78th ward!  Home teachers who teach me in Spanish, FHE brothers who make homemade birthday cakes, a wonderful Relief Society presidency to work with. They're a true ward family.
6. The temple. So very grateful for it.
7. Last year at my birthday I didn't realize how much I appreciate reliable electricity and hot water heaters. After cold water-pressure-less showers in the dark in Africa all summer, I am now quite grateful.
8. I'm thankful for 21 years of good memories with my family.
9. Estoy agradecida por espanol y que voy a servir en espanol, y en un ano voy a estar en PARAGUAY!
10. I'm grateful for lessons that come only through experience.
11. I'm thankful to have friends who are supportive of my mission. I'm thankful to know so many girls on missions right now, and for their emails that inspire me and prompt me to think, "What kind of missionary am I going to be?"
12. I'm so thankful for the friends I made in Jerusalem. As of my birthday last year I had only just met them, but they've since become a huge part of my life. A few became my roommates. I'm so lucky to know them. 
12. I'm thankful for my friends from Tanzania--like Seth who's coming to visit from Texas this week, and Camilla and Austin who are such great examples to me, and Annette who just rocks my world, and Elliot who encourages me one g-chat at a time.
13. I'm thankful to be living in the U.S. right now and be able to call home whenever I want. There's nothing like talking to your mom to make you feel like you can do anything.
14. I'm thankful for my sister Carrie and her husband Jared and the good example they set to me in the way they raise their three precious children.
15. I'm thankful for my six adorable nieces and nephews who adore me more than I deserve, and, despite it all, make me so excited for my own kids. They teach me a lot of lessons about children.
16. I'm thankful I could go to NYC this summer with my mom to attend a United Nations conference, which made me thankful I don't have to learn the hard way that strong families are crucial to society, that marriage is worth fighting for, and the worth of every soul, even unborn ones, is great.
17. After taking a step back and looking at what's happened in the past year, I'm just grateful to be alive after a few near-death experiences. And yet I'm so thankful for those experiences. What a rush.
18. I'm thankful Mitt won Florida yesterday. You couldn't have given me a better birthday gift, Florida.
19. I'm thankful for my substance abuse class. Ask me about it sometime.
20. I'm thankful for a lot of things that I'm not going to tell the world about on a blog.
21. Especially on my birthday, I'm thankful for my parents. It is because of their faith in God that I'm even alive and have a birthday to celebrate. They have been the source of most of the things I'm grateful for. They have taught me the gospel and live it with all their heart, and the gospel is what has brought me the meaningful happiness I enjoy and the perspective to cheerfully endure the not-so-happy times. They've believed in me and paid for me and had fun with me and just been the best. Mom and dad, I love you!

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