Sunday, August 28, 2011

I think I'm turning Japanese, I really think so

This blog post is dedicated to Taylor. Mainly because the thought contained in this blog was originally from him. He shared this idea with the rest of the family a couple weeks ago and I loved it so much I had to share it with more people. He said he was pondering a BYU Devotional by Brad Wilcox called "His Grace is Sufficient" when he came up with this fantastic thought.
Before my brother left for Japan, he spent all of his time learning about Japan. He took classes on the language, he learned about the culture and the people. So when he actually got to Japan, he wanted to put into practice everything that he had studied. In his own words, he said he wanted to become "as Japanese-y as possible". He then compared that experience to our lives here on earth. Before we came to this earth, we lived in heaven with our Eternal Father, who is God. He came up with a plan that we might become more like him, but to do so we had to come to earth to gain a body and to have experiences that would teach us how to refine our characters and become like God. So in order to help us develop these God-like attributes, God has given us commandments. If we want to become like God, we must live as God lives, and he shows us how He lives through these commandments.
Here is an excellent quote by Elder D. Todd Christofferson in a talk he gave last April that goes along with what my brother was talking about. He said: "Our Heavenly Father is a God of high expectations. His expectations for us are expressed by His Son, Jesus Christ, in these words: “I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect” (3 Nephi 12:48). He proposes to make us holy so that we may “abide a celestial glory” (D&C 88:22) and “dwell in his presence” (Moses 6:57). He knows what is required, and so, to make our transformation possible, He provides His commandments and covenants, the gift of the Holy Ghost, and most important, the Atonement and Resurrection of His Beloved Son."
I think so often people don't see the big picture, or the eternal plan. They see commandments as limitations, or things that deny freedom. But in reality, these commandments are teaching us how to be like the Creator of all heaven and earth, the Lord Omnipotent, God our Heavenly Father. What could be more powerful than that? I am so grateful for the commandments in my life, that have taught me more about the character of God and have taught me more about my potential and what God has in store for me. I am so eternally grateful for the Atonement of Jesus Christ, and that through His Atonement we can be forgiven of our sins and made clean again as we continually repent. I am so grateful for God's plan, and that He truly is our loving Father in Heaven.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Just Say No To Brain Damage

I had a dream a few days ago where a friend of mine got a concussion, and for whatever reason I was put in charge of making sure this friend stayed in the room we were in and didn't do anything to aggravate his concussion. He was very disobedient and it was very frustrating for me. I kept trying to tell him what was good for him, but he didn't understand. He just thought I was being mean. I eventually called the police to stop him from playing sports (random dream, I know). When I woke up though, I realized that this was a lesson I needed to apply to myself. While I was home this weekend, I had the chance to talk with a great family friend who has spent the last year or so studying Traumatic Brain Injury. It was a fabulous talk and it helped me to realize that I needed more patience with myself. I am very much still in the process of healing. In fact, I am way ahead of schedule as far as the healing process goes, apparently, so therefore I cannot let myself get upset when I don't feel 100%. We talked a lot about how extra tired I am all the time, and how I need to learn to say "No" and to be okay with taking a break so that I can heal. A part of me feels guilty. There are so many good things out there that I could be doing, and that so many other people around me are doing all the time, but I need to realize that I am healing and often I will have to say "No". I've been studying a lot lately the talk "Good, Better, Best" by Elder Dallin Oaks, and it has been helping me a lot. The choices that I have in life are not between good and evil, but among many very good things. I need to learn to distinguish between these things so at this time in my life while I am still healing and don't have the energy to do many extra-curricular activities, I can know which are the best things in my life, and let go of the good and better. And I need to stop feeling like I'm not good enough when I don't do what most other people are doing. I need to be okay taking it easy, and just saying "No".

Sunday, August 7, 2011


The dictionary defines "honor" in the following ways:
1. honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.
2. high respect, as for worth, merit, or rank: to be held in honor.
3. high public esteem; fame; glory: He has earned his position of honor.

When ever I am going through a particularly hard time in life, I always think of my favorite cartoon character of all time, Prince Zuko, from Avatar: The Last Airbender. He begins the TV series as the main bad guy, hunting down the Avatar to restore his honor and regain his rightful place as heir to the throne of the Fire Nation. Throughout the entire 3 seasons of the show Prince Zuko is obsessed with his honor. He is most particularly concerned with the third definition of honor, high public esteem. All he really wants is for his father, the emperor, to think well of him. He wants to earn his place as the heir to the throne. But as the story progresses, life only gets more difficult for this banished prince. He faces trial after trial after trial, and nothing ever goes right for him. But somewhere on this journey, he starts to realize the difference between right and wrong and he sees that by regaining his "honor" in his father's eyes would be going against everything that is right. And when he is on the verge of regaining the honor which was everything he spent the entire story searching for, he gives it all up to go against his father and to do what is right. And, interestingly enough, it is just when he gives up this definition of honor that he does in fact find honor, like the honor listed in the first definition found in the dictionary: integrity in one's beliefs and actions: a man of honor.

In my life, I have seen how "seeking after the honors of men" or making choices based on selfish or prideful reasons instead of choosing God's will always leads to frustration and unhappiness. I have come to learn that when we are humble and obedient, then that is when we start to become the people that we are always meant to be. That isn't to say, however, that we will always be spared trials if we always choose the right. Sometimes trials are the greatest teacher in life, and help us become the person that God desires us to become. Such was the case for Prince Zuko. In the start of the series he was immature, arrogant and selfish. Through his endless amounts of trials he learned humility and most importantly the difference between right and wrong. We live in a fallen world, and we cannot escape affliction, but if we put our trust in God he can make these experiences beneficial for us and help us develop characteristics that make us more like our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ.

President Uchtdorf gave an absolutely wonderful talk about this subject a few conferences ago, in his talk "Your Happily Ever After." He states: "Has there ever been a person who did not have to go through his or her own dark valley of temptation, trial, and sorrow? Sandwiched between their “once upon a time” and “happily ever after,” they all had to experience great adversity...The scriptures tell us there must be opposition in all things, for without it we could not discern the sweet from the bitter...In stories, as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps to develop a depth of character that comes in no other way. Our loving Heavenly Father has set us in a world filled with challenges and trials so that we, through opposition, can learn wisdom, become stronger, and experience joy...It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop."

Like Prince Zuko, we too are heirs, for "The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us." (Romans 8:16-18) God knows the big picture, He has a plan. He know what is best for us and He know what He wants us to become. He knows how to change us, for He says "behold, I have refined thee, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." (1 Nephi 20:10) And He tells us, like Uncle Iroh tells his nephew Zuko, "You are going through a metamorphosis, my nephew. It will not be a pleasant experience but when you come out of it. You will be the beautiful prince you were always meant to be."

And so as I go through hard times, I remember this. I am searching for honor. Not the honor and glories of men, but I am striving to honor my God, to choose the right in the face of adversity, to bear my trials with humility and patience and to let God change me into the person that He always meant for me to become.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Here's to you, Roberto Alomar. Thank you for baseball.

It started one spring day in 1992. I was eight years old. My younger brother had just turned 5, which my father felt was a good age to pass on the great American father-son tradition of baseball. My first reaction to this was, as any older sibling would react, jealousy of all the extra time my dad was spending with my brother. I was the oldest, and therefore clearly the better child in my 8 year old mind, so if my brother could do this baseball thing, then so could I. I informed my father that I had suddenly become a baseball fan, thank you very much, would he please pass me the newspaper so I could choose a favorite baseball team? At this point in my childhood my family were all Atlanta Braves fans, and we were living in Oregon so technically the hometown team was the Seattle Mariners, so my dad tried to push me in one of these two directions, but I took one look at all the team names and with no doubt or hesitation in my voice I declared myself to be a Toronto Blue Jays fan through and through. They did, after all, have the prettiest mascot of all the teams in either league. A few days later there was a game on TV with the Blue Jays, and though I can't remember the exact reason why, there was one player that caught my eye more than any other. Perhaps he hit a homerun that day. Or perhaps he made a diving catch that took my breath away. But whatever the reason, the result was the same. I declared that day that Roberto Alomar would then become and forever be my all time favorite baseball player. And here I am, 20 years later, never regretting a single moment.

It was too incredible to be coincidence, it could only have been fate, that in 1992 the Toronto Blue Jays would go on to win the World Series. Against the Atlanta Braves, no less. My family still laughs over the memories of that series spent huddled on my parents bed, eyes glued to the TV, the entire rest of the family jumping up and down on the bed cheering loudly when the Braves would score a run, while I would sit pointedly ignoring them, knowing they were being foolish for of course my Blue Jays would overcome in the end. And how was I to have known, months earlier, that my very own favorite player would become on of the key figures in that series? My joy and obsession would only increase the next year as the Blue Jays and Roberto Alomar won the World Series again. By this point my entire bedroom was covered in baseball posters and I had a baseball card collection to rival any other 9 year old. I probably had more Blue Jays hats and posters and figurines and shirts than any other person on the West Coast. I had officially become hooked.

I think the highlight of my baseball career must have been the Cleveland Indian years. Before Roberto Alomar was traded to the Indians I was already well aware of his superior fielding super powers at second base, but when his mastery of the infield was combined with the skill of Omar Vizquel at shortstop, baseball ceased to be a sport for me and became a heavenly art. The finesse. The grace. The intuition. The elegance. The acrobatics. Never has this world seen before nor will it ever see again anything so beautiful and so glorious at a 4-6-3 or a 6-4-3 turn by those two infielding gods.

Even in the beginning of high school when I was introduced to the thrill of the Red Sox, the Curse of the Bambino and Yankee-hating at its best, Roberto Alomar was still the key to baseball for me. The Red Sox may have become my favorite team, but none of their players, not even the extremely talented and attractive Nomar Garciaparra, could over take my devotion to skill of the best second baseman to ever play the game. The Gold Gloves, the stolen bases. That is what a true baseball player for me is. In high school I played 2nd base on my softball team, just to be like Robbie. I soaked up everything my Spanish class could throw at me, just because Robbie spoke Spanish too (as a side not this also started my obsession with all languages, and now 4 1/2-ish languages later I still can't get enough of them). I even decided to become a Certified Athletic Trainer when I grew up, so I could spend the rest of my days reveling in the joys of life that only baseball could bring. To anyone who knew me in high school, I was the girl obsessed with baseball, who thought of nothing else. Baseball, indeed, was my childhood.

In 2005, Roberto Alomar retired. I was serving a mission for my church in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and had not been involved at all in the 2005 series. In fact, when I got home near the end of the 2006 season, it was like coming home to a stranger. Baseball had changed. Roberto Alomar was no longer there. Even Nomar, no longer a Red Sox, would only hold on for a few seasons longer before retiring himself. I still knew many players, but I had lost the vital element of my baseball fandom. Even still today when I watch a Red Sox game, there is something missing. I root for Jacoby Ellsbury, not so much for his great talent as much as for the fact that he grew up in the same middle of nowhere farm town in Oregon, and for the fact that while he probably hasn't been to church in years, I think members of his family still go to my church, and for the fact that I used to watch him play in high school now and again when his team would play against my brother's team. But when all is said and done, it almost doesn't even matter to me anymore. The soul of the game is gone for me.

I will, of course, enjoy baseball for the rest of my life. But it will never be the same. There will never be another Roberto Alomar. Years from now, when I have children of my own, they will ask what life was like for me when I was a kid. And I will pull down the boxes that I have treasured away. And next to the box of snow leopard stuffed animals and Winnie-the-Pooh figurines, I'll pull down my box of baseball cards and reverently hand them to my kids. This. This was my childhood.

Here's to you, Roberto Alomar. Thank you for baseball. Though this is the year you first became a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, you have long since been in my Baseball Hall of Fame. Congratulations, for what ever my opinion may be worth, to the best second baseman in the history of baseball.