Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Simple Life

Ah...another week...what happened this week?

I had a very enjoyable week. The most stressful thing I had to deal with was a huge 6 page paper being due in my Anthropology class on Wednesday. I was scared on Tuesday since I had not done much work on the paper and knew I would have to get it all done on that day. Luckily, the process ended up being very painless and I was able to write out the paper within 2 hours, giving me plenty of time to proofread and edit the paper before I had to turn it in the next day. We'll see how I did on that paper in a few weeks. Luckily, even if I didn't do too well, there is always a re-write that I can do to get a better grade. I'm going to need that re-write for the first paper I wrote for that class, but that is another story...

Once that paper was over with, I was able to relax quite a bit and spent my Wednesday enjoying American Idol and Lost, the two shows I most look forward to each week. They were both awesome, as they always are. (In case anyone is interested, I am officially rooting for Adam and Allison on American Idol). I also had a really great meeting with my creative writing group on Thursday, mainly because Joe was sick and wasn't able to attend. It was nice to get many positive comments for a change, and I feel that their more constructive comments are useful and will help me create a better book. Thanks, writing group! I also found out that Joe's brother-in-law was a missionary in my mission named Elder Law. He came to class with Joe, and it was cool to talk to him again.

The most depressing part of my week was witnessing my friend Kevin become swamped with work and homework and hardly being able to interact with him. He was so busy this week that most nights he would come home and immediately go in his room and close the door to start on his homework without even a greeting to me. But, I understand how much he has to do and I've learned that the best way to help him sometimes is to just stay out of his way when he has a lot of work to do.

But, the good thing is that it seems like Kevin's spirits lifted on Saturday and we were able to have a really fun time hanging out. We had a fantastic lunch at Fuddruckers and watched The Goonies, which was a good movie to laugh at due to the clearplay editing and the cheesiness of it. I saw a much better movie that day in theaters called "Knowing". I recommend this movie strongly and consider it to be one of my new favorites. From the commercials, it is a movie about a man and his son uncovering a list of numbers in a time capsule, which they soon discover are predictions for when natural disasters have occured. The is MUCH more to it than this, but I don't want to spoil it. But, it is definitely my favorite movie of the year so far, and may be part of my top ten of all time. A lot of critics don't like it, but I don't get all the criticism for it since I think it is brilliant. Oh well, different people have different opinions.

And, I guess that is about it for my week. Sorry that my life isn't more exciting with trips to find buried treasure and travelling to magical lands of wonder and imagination. But, I like my simple life and finding simple pleasures like watching a few good shows, listening to a good album, or going to lunch with a best friend. These things are what make me happy to live day by day. I don't need to go on extraordinary adventures, I enjoy my simple life, and I hope you can get some enjoyment from reading about it.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's a Wonderful Life

There is a recurring pattern that keeps happening throughout my life. It goes like this: I feel depressed with certain aspects of my life, so I have a resolve to change. Then, I set goals that are realistic and can bring about this change. Next, I start applying these goals in my life and am able to get through a few days successfully with these goals in mind. But, disaster strikes. I have an experience that really causes me to break down or I have a really bad day and I’m so distressed that I simply abandon my goals and go back to my old way of living.

This past week, I made several goals over the weekend to improve my life. I felt fairly successful in keeping these goals all the way up until Thursday, which was my typical break down day. When the day was starting to turn bad, I remembered that this had happened countless times before, and I just need to get through it positively and not let it crush me. During that day, I got a bunch of unusually negative comments from my writing group about my story, I studied all day for a big test and, after I took it, I discovered that I got a bad grade, I got picked apart in my writing group, mostly from the teacher himself, and then on more minor notes, I spilled a whole soda in my car, and spilled ketchup all over my room days before our cleaning check.

But, I knew that I could not let these experiences tear me down and stop me in sticking to my goals. So, I kept a positive attitude throughout the day, and even started to laugh when a new negative thing happened. Because of this attitude, things started to go a lot better. I was able to easily clean those messes, I learned that many of the negative comments made on my story from my writing group were actually helpful and would help me write a better book, and I learned the next day, that there was a huge curve on the grades of the test I took and I did 20% better than I thought.

I learned from this that attitude is very important. Keeping a positive attitude throughout these negative experiences helped me to not get overwhelmed by them. I was able to tell that they were not really that big of a deal, and that I could push through them. I am happy to say that I am now still on track with my goals and have had several great days since. I love life and appreciate all the small pleasures that it offers. I have a great family, great friends, a great church, great opportunities, and great music. I am really privileged to have my life, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. That is why I’m going to stick to my goals no matter how difficult life gets, so that I can improve and make the most out of this wonderful life I’ve been given.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday, March 9, 2009

Since my week was really boring, I’m not going to bore you by trying to pull out mundane experiences and try to make them seem more interesting than they really were. Instead, I’m going to share something insightful that I learned yesterday that has changed my outlook on life. Every Sunday I go through the same thing, I think to myself, “I served a mission? Wow!” It seems surreal to me that I served a mission because it seems beyond my capability. It just doesn’t seem like something I’d be able to do, and yet I did do it. In psychological terms, I think I have some cognitive dissonance about the whole situation, and I’m still trying to reason out that I really did serve a mission.

Ok, that sounds really weird, but it is true. So, last night me and my friend were discussing mission experiences and I started to realize something- my mission was a great experience! I have often put down my mission because of various factors and that has caused me to have a negative view about the whole experience. So, not only do I doubt my mission’s existence, but when I do admit to its existence, I think of it in a negative light. So, needless to say, this attitude about my mission needs to change, and Kevin helped me realize that last night. So, to signify that I am having a change of heart about how I feel about my mission, I want to share five specific people/families that had a profound impact on me on my mission.

1. Donna Worthy

I had the privilege of meeting Donna in my first area. I was a brand new missionary and was understandably nervous about doing missionary work in general. But, what was the most nerve-wracking of all missionary activities was the idea of tracting. Knocking on strangers’ doors and hoping they are interested in what we had to say was a terrifying prospect. Lucky for me (or maybe un-lucky for me) my trainer hated tracting and we did not do it often. In fact, when we did do it, he said that he only did it because he needed to train me to do it for my mission, otherwise he would have avoided it entirely. Well, one of the first times we ever tracted, we knocked on the door of a nicer older lady which was a welcome change from the more antagonistic doors we had been knocking on. She said she was busy and that we should come back another time, so we kept going back and leaving notes on her door when we discovered she wasn’t home. After this happened quite a few times, we were starting to think that she wasn’t really interested after all and was avoiding us, but we persisted one last time and we finally caught her home and she invited us in! What followed was a series of great lessons taught in a very short time period to Donna. We got through all the lessons and tried to get Donna ready for baptism before Elder Shultz left the mission, but it didn’t work out.

Then, I got Elder Maxfield as a companion, and we clashed a little bit at the start of our companionship. One thing that angered me then was that he delayed Donna’s baptism when he found out that she had a male roommate. Looking back I know he was right to delay the baptism, but I was frustrated then because I was on the verge of one of my first big baptisms. I had the unpleasant task of telling Donna that she wouldn’t be able to get baptized until she moved out of her house or got her roommate to move out. Well, this ended up being quite an ordeal because I found out that her roommate was not a very nice guy and ended up threatening Donna and was a danger to her. When she was moving out, she called me in a panic saying that she had filed a restraining order against her roommate and that she was worried he would come after her in a drunken rage. So, I made sure the bishop was aware of this, and they called the police to watch over Donna as she moved out her things.

Well, after she moved (and a family in the ward was gracious enough to let her move into their home) we were able to get her ready for baptism and so we set up the program and finished the discussions. She was able to get baptized, and I was able to witness it- it was such a great day. I just felt so blessed to be able to knock on the door of someone so receptive to the spirit and get to see her whole progress unfurl. She was such a diligent woman who made sure to be in church every week and to be there ready to learn for our discussions. I will forever be grateful for the things I was able to learn from Donna and the way it helped me to step up to the plate to solve the issues that came up. She also gave me a note that expressed her thanks for my involvement in her life. I cherish this note and my experiences with her.

2. The Torres Family

I love the Torres family! They are one of the most awesome families I have ever met in my life and I feel distinctly privileged to have met them. I was companions with Elder Hulse in Vancouver and we were out tracting. We were not having much success, so we decided to get back into our car and find a new area to work in. As we were about to pull away, a car drove past us, stopped, and then backed up until it was parallel to us. A man and woman were in the car and they rolled down the window and the man said, “Hey, you guys should come visit us!” He then gave us their address and then drove away. We were stunned at first, and then ecstatic. We were very excited to go visit them.

Well, we went over to their house and found out they were the Torres’ family and that they were converts that had become inactive in the church the past few years. Over the course of this inactivity, three of their children passed the age of eight and were now eligible for baptism. We were really excited at the prospect of teaching this extremely cool family in order to bring them back to church and to baptize the kids who were old enough. We taught them the lessons and it was great fun. The kids were very rowdy and were always bouncing all over the place as we taught them, but we were always impressed with their understanding when we quizzed them on our lessons.

I remember that this was around when Star Wars Episode III came out, and all the kids were super excited about it. Elder Hulse urged them to not give any spoilers away, and it was all they could do to keep it in. We had lightsaber battles with them in the backyard, which was always a lot of fun. The Torres family ended up being one of the most active families in the ward when I left. I remember the huge smile that spread across my face as they walked into church the first time. They told us they wouldn’t be able to make it, and then surprised us by coming anyways. I am touched by the great faith they displayed.

They have a huge lotion company that they run and part of the reason they stopped going to church was so they could run this company on Sunday. So, when they got active, they dropped their Sunday business, which was a huge sacrifice. Not only that, they were trying to decide how much tithing to give, and they decided to give a substantial amount that they were concerned about being able to afford. The next day, they received ten times that much in a huge lotion order. I am humbled by their example and am so glad to have been part of their life. I left the area before the kids had their baptism, so I wasn’t able to see it. They were all crushed when they heard the news that I was leaving, so much that Sister Torres said she would call the Mission President and complain. But, it was my time to leave, and I am glad that a future companion of mine, Elder Burt, was able to come in as my replacement and later tell me about how great the baptism was.

3. Susan Lohstreter

This entry is getting really long, and there is a lot I can say about Susan, so I’ll just try to point out the highlights. She was our next door neighbor when I was serving in Richland. She was a recent convert and was a good friend to all the missionaries that had lived next to her. She accepted me and Elder Tenney with open arms. We had double transferred into the area and we knew nobody, so it was a great comfort to have such a close friend living next door to us. We would visit with her practically every day and read a little out of the Book of Mormon and visit with her, and I will cherish all those moments. President Hinckley gave a challenge to read the Book of Mormon every year, and Susan was determined to finish it in time, so we helped her along. I remember the huge smile on her face as we finally were able to finish the Book of Mormon. It was such a great feeling.

Susan added an important element of fun to what can sometimes seem like a lot of hard work as a missionary. She played tricks on us, we had snowball fights, and she planned an elaborate trick on an incoming missionary in our district. She had such a great sense of humor, but also an incredible amount of heart. She has such a big heart and so much love for so many people. There are many problems with various members of her family, and she always shows such great concern for them. She takes care of her 3 year old granddaughter, Violet, who is quite a handful. She also is very missionary minded and was always there to help us with investigators we were teaching. She would often let us teach missionary lessons at her apartment, and when we brought investigators to church, she was always one of the first to greet them.

There are countless other stories I have that involve Susan, but I will stop here for now and conclude that she is one of the most inspirational people I ever met. She always made me feel at home when I was around her and I always felt the love she had for me and my companion. When I was feeling depressed, she was always there to cheer me up. I am forever grateful for her example of love and service and will always consider a close and dear friend.

4. Candi Robello and Cylie Hepton

I can say tons of things about both Candi and Cylie, but I’ll try to keep it brief. Candi is Cylie’s mom and Elder Tenney and I taught her in Richland. She was originally an investigator for the zone leaders, but she moved into our area, so we started to take over teaching her and her roommate Jodi. They were both a lot of fun and I remember them always referring to me as the funny one because I would laugh at their crazy jokes. They had such a fun spirit about them and teaching them was a joy. We held Candi’s baptism on Christmas Eve and it was a very spiritual experience for everybody involved. I really developed a great friendship with both Candi and Jodi.

After Candi’s baptism, we started working with her teenage daughter, Cylie. Cylie had had a rough upbringing and was now living with a bunch of 20 year old girls away from her mom. Well, now that Candi had changed her life around by getting involved in the church, she wanted Cylie to move in with her, and throughout this whole process we began to teach Cylie. Cylie was a lot of fun to teach and she really was a smart girl with a lot of spirituality. We kept committing her to baptism, but she would back out the next day. She proclaimed Elder Tenney as her favorite Elder, and we continued to work with her.

Well, I found out that I was going to leave the area in a couple of days and so, I started to teach Cylie more earnestly. I remember when I told her that I was leaving she had tears in her eyes and seem genuinely upset. When we had our final lesson, I remember feeling the spirit very strongly. We were teaching about the Plan of Salvation, and I believe it is one of the best lessons I ever taught on my mission. I feel it really connected with Cylie and we extended another baptismal challenge to her and she accepted! Also, she said that she would really like me to baptize her if I could. I told her that nothing would keep me from coming to her baptism. This baptism unfortunately did not work out, but I still communicated with her through letters.

Then, I went to my final area in Pasco and was on exchanges with my district leader (one of my favorite missionaries, Elder Gatoloai). He told me about a new woman that had moved into the ward and that her name was Candi. I was so excited and urged him to take me to see her. I was even happier to find out that Cylie was actually living a few blocks from my apartment! So, I started teaching her again. The family she was living with were not too favorable to the church, so we would meet her at a local school and teach her more lessons. I was just so happy to get the opportunity to get to work with her again. I remember baking her a cake on her birthday, and her baking me a cake on my birthday to return the favor. I feel like I formed a close bond with both Cylie and Candi and I miss both of them a lot.

5. Tammi Wright

Tammi was our golden investigator in Burbank, Washington. The area had been closed for quite some time, but Elder Burt and I came in to open it back up and we were happy to have a solid investigator named Tammi. She really was an awesome lady with a very strong sense of spirituality. She went through the lessons with us flawlessly, and for each one I felt the spirit very strongly. I was overjoyed with the whole process and even more excited when she asked me to baptize her. We would meet with her at one of the coolest family’s house (the Rodriguez’s) and they were the perfect friends for her as she got more and more involved in the church.

Then, there was a little bit of a mix up about her baptism date which was originally scheduled for Mother’s Day. There was a child baptism the same day, and rather than have conflicting baptisms in the ward, we decided to move her baptism to the next weekend. Well, during the week in between, Tammi decided she wasn’t ready for baptism and began smoking again. We were disappointed, but it gave us a resolve to keep trying to meet with her and try to get her back on the right path. Our goal was never fully realized, but we had many great experiences with her that made me realize what a wonderful person she was.

One of the more memorable experiences was when we were teaching her at the Rodriguez’s home. We were trying to get her to commit to come to church, but she was reluctant to agree because she had a boating trip planned with her family. She said that she wish she could go to church, but it would take her boating trip getting rained out. When she said this, the biggest storm I’ve ever witnessed in my life started up. It was incredibly intense rain and hail and wind that was so strong it tore apart Brother Rodriguez’s back porch. After the big storm, all she could say was “I guess this means I’m going to church.” This was a huge manifestation of God’s power, and the power of fasting and prayer because Elder Burt and I had been fasting and praying about what we could do to help Tammi. She didn’t end up coming to church, but I am still struck by this awesome experience and the lesson I learned. I appreciate Tammi and the spirit I felt as I taught her. Even though it didn’t quite work out as I hoped it would, the journey we took with her was more than worth it.

So, those are five notable people/families from my mission that I will never forget. This is by no means an all inclusive list. There are many other people who had a profound impact on me when I was on my mission. But, these experiences and relationships make me realize how special my mission was and how I should not take it for granted. I am grateful for the experience and will try hard to remember it in a more positive light.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Just another week...

This past week has been very good overall. Probably the most exciting thing to report is that I got an e-mail from a band that I really love! About a week ago, I wrote a review on my music blog for an album called "Prickly Pear" by a band called the Source. A couple of days ago, a member of the band wrote me an e-mail to say that the band read my review and they enjoyed the review and felt it was thoughtful, lengthy and positive. It really made my day! I would encourage anyone reading this to read that review. It is in my blog called "Leviathan" and a link to it is on the right hand side of the page. Also, I encourage you to seek out this album because it is incredible and really is growing on me the more I listen to it.

Besides that, I continue to love my creative writing class as I keep mentioning each week. It is really great to see the progress I have made with my book this semester so far. I am going to make sure that I maintain a schedule of writing in my book even after my class has ended. It is so much fun to be able to release these great ideas that have been circulating in my head onto paper. I also got to go to the movies with my best friend Kevin and we had a lot of fun. I cherish these moments where Kevin finally gets a moment to take a break from his busy life and we can just hang out and do something fun for a few hours.

Now, on to the big frustration of the week: cleaning checks. I am very upset with how my apartment complex, Wyview, has treated me and my roommates this past week. Last Saturday (Feb. 21st) we had a cleaning check in the morning at 11:30. We all spent the morning cleaning the apartment and made sure that it looked nice for the cleaning check. Well, we never heard the R.A. come by to do the cleaning check, but when Kevin left the apartment at 11:40 he told me there was a note on the door that the R.A. had come, but we weren't home. Me and Kevin were both in our apartment and it seems suspicious to me that neither of us heard her knock. Either she knocked really lightly or really quickly (or not at all). The note she left for us said that she would be coming back again at 7:50 on Monday night for cleaning checks.

Well, Monday night is not usually a good night for us because we have Family Home Evening, and this week we had a ward Family Home Evening activity that went from 6:30-8:30. Well, we came home around 8 from the activity and the R.A. wasn't there, but our other roommate, Sushant, was there. So, apparently the R.A. never came by that night like she said she would. Then, on Tuesday night, we get a visit from the Hall Advisor who says that the R.A. tried to come three times, but we were never home, so now it was her turn to do our cleaning check. She said she would come back the next night for the cleaning check. Kevin told her that we are all busy with school and work and that she would have to realize that several days had passed since we did our cleaning.

Well, she came back on Wednesday night and was really rude to us saying that our apartment was horrible. She commented on the kitchen floor and accused us of not having cleaned it on Saturday even though me and Kevin both saw Sushant clean it. She said that she has a 5 year old and her floor never gets that dirty. She also commented on other things that were only dirty because we had been using them the last few days since our cleaning check. But, she was really rude and didn't believe us when we told her we cleaned on Saturday and that we were here when the R.A. came by and that she must have not knocked loud enough. She said that now the area manager would have to come for the next cleaning inspection and if it wasn't clean he would talk to us about our contracts.

Well, we got an e-mail from the area manager saying he would come Monday morning between 11 and 12, so we cleaned the apartment really thoroughly last night on Sunday. It was a lot of work and took us from our normal "day of rest". But, the apartment looked spotless when we were finished. Well, we got another e-mail from the area manager this morning saying that he was ill today and wouldn't be able to come by to check our apartment! He said that we would just have normal March cleaning checks with the R.A. and if there was anything wrong, we would have to have a cleaning check straight from him. So, basically, all of our cleaning last night was in vain and we are under a threat for our next cleaning check even though we really haven't done anything wrong. So, this whole experience has been ridiculous to me and I am upset with how Wyview has handled it. In almost 3 years of staying at Wyview I have never had this happen.

So, sorry to leave on a frustrating note, but that is pretty much my week. I hope to have more interesting things to talk about next week!