Sunday, June 28, 2009

I Am Happy When I'm Here ... BUT I'm Too Realistic To Ever Believe

Those were the first words I heard out of Sky's mouth when I first met her at Church. I remember pondering about that afterwards. Church is 3 hours. You must be REALLY REALLY happy, spitting out fumes of happiness to be committed enough to stick around for 3 hours, listening to talks about the gospel and learning about the prophet or other scripture related wonders. You must be REALLY REALLY happy, to sit there and sing the hymns which talk about the Saviour, Zion, the Atonement, the love for Heavenly Father, repentence and the Plan of Salvation. And last but not least... you must be REALLY REALLY happy to come again.

She was ... but now she is even happier. Because last night... Sky got baptized. Last night... Sky made a promise to God. Last night... Sky was forgiven and given a blank slate. And as of last night, Sky is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Before the baptism - she was a bundle of nerves. She was jumpy but from trepidation of .. what have I gotten myself into? Besides a cuter jumpsuit since it was a large child's size, she was doing it. She was going to step into that water and make a promise to God. After the baptism, there was a joy in her twinkling eyes, a glimmer in her flushed cheeks and a giddiness in every step she took.

She bore her testimony and I'll never forget my favorite analogy - she talked about this path to God... how she had found it and though it wasn't going to be an easy path and despite other paths around that looked more fun and alluring, this was the path that was going to lead her where she knew she needed to be. What I liked about that analogy was the honest and sincere declaration that .. hey, this isn't easy... trust me, it isn't but I know it's the only way back to God and I want to do it... and oh wait, watch me.. cuz I am going to do it!

It was so beautifully priceless to see Sky's growth as she came to learn of the gospel and be touched by the Spirit. In her, I have found a friend who not only understands me and can relate, but is so devoted and so fun to be around because she is also silly, crazy, generous, thoughtful, caring, intelligent, and out of this world!

Happy Baptism Sky! You are truly awesome, fantabulous and superrific beyond belief!

Remember That One Time...

I often have moments with the missionaries that lead us to say... remember that one time....?
So I've accumulated some of my favorite remember that one times... because I want to remember these moments with my favorite missionaries who have definitely been on a missionary high lately with the baptism of 4 new members in our ward within the last month, including my buddy, Sky!

Remember that one time... DDaisy called the missionaries and talked to Elder Cox, telling him, "Hi, my name is Daisy and I started investigating the Church in San Jose and am now back here... when can we meet for a lesson?"

Remember that one time... Daisy met Elder Ridge for the first time and told him he had the ugliest orange paisley tie on that she had ever seen in her life?

Remember that one time.... Elder Ridge and Daisy made up a secret handshake and she got really excited but the next time we met, he forgot how it went?

Remember that one time.... Elder Cox told me Daisy she shouldn't worry about getting married since he just met someone who got married at 74?!

Remember that one time... when Elder Ridge scolded at his companion and said, "You're my companion but right now, I cannot agree with you because you just told her she'd be 74 when she gets married!"

Remember that one time.... when Daisy went to the Revlon 5k at the Colliseum and ran into 20 or so missionaries working the event and called the elders right away to share about it?

Remember that one time... when Elder Ridge told Daisy she had to shave her head if she wanted to get baptized?

Rember that one time .. actually, more than once... when Sky and Daisy told the missionaries they had just been drinking together and decided baptism and the whole Mormon thing was just not for them?

Remember that one time.... when Daisy told the Elders about her 5-year college reunion where beer was free flowing ahd she smelled some from a red cup and it smelled so fresh and Elder Ridge said, "Don't be stupid Daisy! Why would you toy with temptation like that?"

Remember that one time.... when Daisy realized the Church was true and knew she couldn't turn back?

Remember that one time.... when Daisy decided not to get baptized and texted the missionaries at 12 AM?

Remember that one time... when Daisy then got an answer (or more an encouragement that she better) from God after freaking out about baptism?

Remember that one time... the elders made Daisy promise not to date any non-members for two years and then yelled at her when a non-member asked her out?

Remember that one time... the elders told Daisy she intimidates men and to be nicer?

Remember that one time.... when Momma Chou brought the only Mormons she knew to Daisy's baptism?

Remember that one time.... Elder Cox got to baptize someone for the first time?

Remember that one time.... Elder Cox made a contorted face for almost every photo during Daisy's baptism?

Remember that one time... Elder Cox destroyed Daisy's Welcome to Relief Society certificate because he was so excited about the Reese's Pieces Peanut Butter cupcake that he dropped the chocolate cupcake he was holding into the same bag that held her certificate?

Remember that one time... when the elders left a note on Daisy's car to avoid the forbidden fruit because although the words of wisdom say eat fresh fruit... it's not supposed to be soaked in alcohol.

Remember that one time.... when Joseph Smith prayed sincerely for an answer?

Remember that one time.... when the Saviour died so that we could live?

Remember that one time... when God's Church was restored?

Remember that one time....

Oh yes. I will remember.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

My Baby Brother and Me

When I was growing up, I used to wonder what it would be like to have a sibling. I was constantly lonely and bored. Albeit I never had an imaginery friend, I hated being the only child and developed some insecurities manifested by the sucking of my thumb (until 5th grade) and the inability to let go of my two security items - a pink satin blanket I still have to this day and still use (yeah it's almost near the end of its life) and a lil stuffed white bear with a pink t-shirt (I have no idea where she went).

At five, I began going to ballet and tap classes on Saturdays and group piano lessons at the local Yamaha. I loved dancing. Hated the piano. What I liked about dancing was the ability to express myself through steps and arm movements and I knew someone was watching when I twirled in my tutus for dance recitals. Plus, I loved having make-up applied to my face as a lil girl because my own mother didn't own any make-up nor did she allow me to buy any to play dress up. My aunt would always come in to help me with dolling up my face for a performance. Piano, on the other hand ... was so insanely dull. I hated memorizing the different notes and symbols and the constant scolding of the teacher to mimic my hand like an apple, not a bread when I hit the notes. And hit I did. The piano, that is. My notes were cacaphony to the ear... yet my mother kept making me play and not just when I felt like it (which would have been never) but instead for a gruesome hour each day! UGH. At the young age of five, I was opinionated and an attention hog. These two things would make life a lot harder at six.

At six, my mom had another baby. He was adorable - the cutest baby boy anyone had ever seen and who could deny that little dimple?! I resented him. I couldn't play with him and he was the only thing people wanted to talk about or see when they came over now. Nobody asked me about ballet or the piano anymore. Nobody asked me when my next recital was anymore. Nobody asked me to do a twirl for them anymore. Who cares about his stinky diapers and cute lil laugh? Who care if he has a dimple? Who cares if he's the cutest baby ever? What about me?!

My grandmother noticed immediately and advised my mom to take immediate action. So my mom took me aside one day and told me there was one thing I had that my baby brother could never have that I was lucky to have forever. I must have rolled my eyes (where do kids learn these things so young?!) in disbelief because she then proceeded to tell me what that was. "You have six years with just Mom and Dad that Lay-Lay will never have," she told me. I thought about it for a while and then like a flip of the switch, I was happy again. I bounced off with the knowledge that I already beat him - even before he was born! Take that sucka!!!

As Lay-Lay and I grew up, we had our differences. Well, I had our differences. Mainly - the fact that he would never leave me alone! He tagged along with me everywhere if given the opportunity, hung around when friends were over, sat there and just listened in on our conversations, pretending like he knew what we were talking about.
And then... when I went to college and came back for a weekend... he must have been 13... he ran into the room while I was sleeping in the morning, gave me a big hug and said, "Jia - I missed you!" I was in shock. I had never felt the sisterly love that others talked about in movies or on tv until that very precise moment. It's a bit embarassing to say I never realized I truly loved my brother until I was 19 .. but it's true. Up until then, I just went through the expected emotions one should have for their family members. Of course I cared for him and took care of him, but Asians don't show a lot of emotions nor do we really hug or say I love you. So his little gesture out of nowhere meant the world to me and it opened my eyes to truths about our sibling relationship and what it really meant to the both of us.

These days, my brother is one of my best friends. He laughs at me when I tell him about guys that I'm crushing on and advises me against overthinking, overanalyzing and overreacting. I give him advice about the real world, how to handle difficult people and he listens. He complains about adolescence, me about adulthood and we both try to keep each other in check. We laugh about stupid things only we understand (that's 20 years of inside jokes and some immature ones like you're mom! ... yeah ummm you have the same one...), plan our busy weekends together (e.g. beach, eat, shop, bake, cook, get food, run errands, eat more, watch a movie, eat again) and complain to each other when mom or pops is being unreasonable. I send him care packages for holidays, postcards intermittenly and talk to him online or on the phone at least three times a week. If I have a business trip anywhere on the east coast, I make a stop over to see him and be sugar momma for a weekend. Sometimes he forgets to say thank you which bugs me out but it's this weird sisterly love that I can'y deny and often times, forgive him too easily and quickly. When we go out together, people often think he's the older brother, mainly attributed to his looming height of 6'4 and what I hope is a youth that radiates within me! No matter what, at the end of the day, I am big sis and he is lil bro.

So when I told my lil bro about the Church, he was the first one genuinely concerned and frightened for me. Do you know what you're getting yourself into? Do you even know what Mormons believe in? Do you know who Joseph Smith is? After some discussion with him, I found out he had invited some missionaries into our home at 16 when I was off in college. He was instructed to read parts of the Book of Mormon and asked to pray but he didn't do both. He read and didn't pray. His high school debate partner was Mormon. He knew some crazy Mormon girl who got pregnant at 19 and then got married. He made some assumptions about Mormons and was sticking to it.

But there were two things that he said that touched me and lead me to believe.. he will give me a chance to speak to him about it all in more depth one day. When I asked him how this would affect him and how it was for me, his response was, "You're my sister.. how could this not affect me?" and "I disagree but I'll go to your baptism." At this point... I hadn't even decided to get baptized nor did I invite him.

He came to the baptism. And he had really bad allergies throughout the baptism but to the rest of the world, he was touched. Who knows the truth? Only God and my brother.

I pray for him everyday. That he will come to know the things I do and that he will see the example I provide. He knows the crazy things I did, he witnessed some of them and he knows how big of a change this is for me. He must wonder... he must. He can't not wonder.
The other day he told me about how he wanted to write a film about his life in the early 20's, a couple years into college but still not graduated or in the real world. He told me about what everyone was doing and how people have changed, then asked me if that's what it was like for me at that age. It was, I told him. It's weird how life sometimes parallels another.

I know God has a plan for him as he did for me and I hope I can be a part of that plan.

I <3 my baby bro

p.s. that turkey we made for Thanksgiving was bomb-diggity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Gena, We'll Be Friends Forever

I'm not a crying person. In fact, before I came to investigate the Church... I cried
1) when some bullies threatened to beat me up in 5th grade
2) when I got a C+ in PE and my mom became furious and grounded me (I was really really weak and running a mile was beyond anything I could ever do)
3) when I had a dream that my lil brother died
4) when a hs boyfriend refused to talk to me during a speech tournament because I forgot to meet him after my round and was instead playing games with the rest of the team
5) when my grandmother died
6) when I got dumped by a boyfriend of less than a week out of nowhere
My point is.. I can pinpoint everytime I have cried .. because it has been rare.

Lately, I've been an "almost crying" person. Many times, after feeling the Spirit, I have been moved to tears in my eyes, finding it hard to breathe and sniffeling a whole lot. I used to watch people on the stands at Church, bearing their testimony, confused at how easily they were moved to tears.
I cried like a baby this weekend at the realization that I may lose some of my closest non-LDS friends. I cried at the realization that as great as this experience has been, there will be trials such as this, that challenges me beyond my own capabilities and strength. I cried and cried as I journaled some of the emotions and confusion I was experiencing at how something so great could also take away a part of my past that made me who I am today.

Since that day, part of my daily prayer is for God to strengthen me and that those relationships remain strong and maybe some of my friends will start to see me as an example or at the very minimum, respect my decision and support it. So far, all my friends have been very supportive but I know they are still confused at how quickly I have come to know the Church and changed my life.
I don't like sharing that I cried. In a way, I'm ashamed that this strong person I thought I was, never really crying, is now balling like a kid who got hit in the head by a basketball. But I felt moved by the Spirit after having a long conversation with one of my bestest friends, Gena, yesterday over the internet (she's in the UK on tour for work).

And so Gena, I know you're reading this ... this one is dedicated to you. I love you so much and I hope if anything, this entry brings a smile to your beautiful face and that you believe me when I say, we'll be friends forever. Friends of different faiths can be friends too.

Gena, I am still the same Daisy you met in econ tutoring class in 2000. I may be a little more put together now on the inside and outside. Whereas before, I might have been the duck in the pond who looked calm above but was frantically treading water below, I am now that duck on land, chilling and relaxing, just taking life in and loving it every moment.

And as I sit here, typing these words, my eyes are already filled with tears.
Gena has always been a very devoted Christian since I met her in 2000. She has a heart so large and filled with love for everyone and had tried to share her religion with me many times in college. I always shrugged her off when she started to talk about religion and denied her anytime to go beyond inviting me to Pathfinder, the religious organization at school that she was active in. In reality, I never told Gena this but she was one of those friends I was sometimes afraid to fully be myself around because I wanted to shield her from the horrors of my own life (which albeit not entirely crazy was probably a bit out there compared to her). I felt bad about myself sometimes when I was around her, because she was an example of a good daughter of God. I'll never forget her telling me she had alcohol with me for the first time on my birthday. I felt guilty, like I had taken a piece of her innocence and introduced her to another world, one of drunken nights and stupid but funny regrets.

Gena was one of the the smartest, funnest and most naturally beautiful and amazing person I had met in college. The moment I met her, I knew I wanted to be her friend. I took her by surprise when she asked our other friend, Andrew Kim, what his ethnicity was. I blatantly blurted out in a condescending voice, "Duh, he's Korean, can't you tell from his last name?" I now realize, in retrospect, that that one phrase not only shocked her but could have turned her away from me forever. Instead, despite her shock, she laughed it off and still became my friend.
Over the years, we talked about our lives, our goals for the future, struggled together on accounting exams, interviewed for the same company, worked for the same company, complained about our jobs to each other but also remembering we were so blessed to have a job, talked about relationships, provided advice, comfort, laughter and incessant friendship. When my boyfriend of three and a half years and I broke up, Gena was one of the first people there by my side, maybe not physically, but emotionally and completely, despite being in Texas at the time. I didn't need words of comfort because the relationship had been dead for so long, but I'll never forget Gena un-facebook friending him to show her love for me. It seems so silly now, but it meant a lot to me that she was willing to cut off any ties to him based on the disloyalty and way he had treated me.

As we grew into real adults, Gena and I have always remained close despite distance or time zones. As I came into my late 20's and became more bitter about the world, Gena has always remained a positive influence, and been the only one who took the time to ask me, are you okay. She realized the surmounting cynicism in my tone when I wrote and wanted to make sure I was okay. Naturally, Gena was one I was a bit afraid to tell I was investigating the Church. When I finally got the guts to tell her, she had mixed feelings. On one side, she was esctatic I was developing a relationship with God, and on the other, she was not sure about the Mormon church.

And then yesterday, she told me she loved reading the blog but felt like an outsider everytime something about the LDS Church came up that was foreign to her or mentioned it being the true church. I tried explaining to her that just because we were of different faiths, did not mean we would fall apart. She didn't believe me and she told me again and again, how much she wanted to share in my joy with God and Jesus Christ.

Gena's example to me is only one more reason why I love the Gospel so much. I struggled with her, telling her that so many other faiths don't really admit others to Heaven if they don't believe and asked what that meant for those in places where the gospel is not shared with them. I told her about the baptisms for the dead and tried to cite some Bible verses from John (I do pay attention and take notes during Sunday school) but she was not sold and over and over again, told me how happy she is .. but sad that she is just an outsider.

Nobody is an outsider. Gena is and still will be one of my dearest friends. In a way, I think maybe she is scared that now, I have other religious friends and not just her. What she doesn't realize is, she is just like those friends. And again, like I say so often, Mormons are Christians too. We believe in the same God, the same saviour and that he died so that we could live. We're the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Gena, if anything, the gospel has brought me closer to you because all those things I once admired of you, I know fully appreciate, beyond what I knew before.

Gena, we'll be friends forever. I love you and I hope you understand, my faith won't change that or the way I feel about you or our friendship. We have grown together for 9 years and this is only the beginning...
Although.. at my wedding, we will have our shoulders covered .. but we'll still be cute, promise.
I love you Gena. Sincerely.. entirely, and forever.

Monday, June 22, 2009

There's a First.

I got a call at 10:38 PM from Kenny Lee, a guy I dated in college and went to high school with. We ran into each other recently at the local gym and worked out once thereafter together and I told him I was investigating the Church.

"Hey, what's up Daisy." he said.
"Hi, what's up?" I said.
"Do you want to get a drink?" he asked.
"Umm, well I'm actually in San Jose right now." I responded.
"Oh, for business?" he continued.
"Yep." I said.
"Okay, well next time you're in town, call me and we'll go grab a drink." he said.
I hesitated. "Umm, you know I don't drink anymore right?"
"Oh yeah, that's okay, we'll go get some coffee and talk." Boy was not giving up.
"Umm, I don't drink coffee either." I responded.
"So, you're still doing that religious thing? Did you go through with it?"
"Yeah, I'm Mormon now." I said.
"Oh. So you actually did it?" he inquired.
"Yes, I did." I confirmed again.
"When?" he asked.
"Two Saturdays ago," I continued.
"So you did the whole water dunking thing and everything?"
"Umm... yeah." I guess he didn't believe me. "Daisy, are you seriously Mormon?"
"Yess!" I explained.
"That's a first. I've never spoken with a Mormon before."

There's a first time for everything.

Modest is the Hottest!

...or so Elder Cox told me when I told him I was struggling with the concept of modest clothing. Modest dress was explained to me as clothing that covers my shoulders, shorts or skirts that go to my knee and all clothing not being too tight. The moment I was told of this, my mind jumped to the cute halter dresses and shorts that I owned. I thought... do I have to throw all these away... but they're so cute! And then I thought... what about all the photos I have framed where I'm wearing stuff that shows my shoulders? Do I have to discard those as well?

Of course, I needed a second opinion. So I asked my female LDS friends. Apparently, this whole modest dress thing is difficult for every LDS girl. And why not? Open up a fashion magazine and guess what? Tube tops. Tank Tops. Tight tops. Spaghetti Straps. Short shorts. Daisy dukes. Lots of shoulders and tons of knees. And not always presented in a slutty way... just nice, fresh and oh so pretty. It's not that I didn't understand why modest dress was important, it's that I stubbornly refused to believe such a change was necessary.

Would my shoulders really lead a male to have impure thoughts?! Would showing my legs really be immodest?! Seriously? ...?! I justified that my shorter shorts were appropriate and my tanks are all conservative. Yet despite disagreeing with the principle, I wanted to be faithful, so I started to live it. And by doing so, I committed to God ... to revere in his guidance and teachings, even if it was a bit hesitant.

I liken it to myself at the age of seven when my mom made me memorize the multiplication table. I muttered under my breath that the calculator could do it for me or I could sit there and add up all the numbers slowly. My mom didn't like that answer and that summer, I learned the multiplication table.

With the whole modesty concept, I first thought - think positive Daisy! At least you have an excuse to go buy new clothes. Who doesn't love a shopping trip, right? Upon doing so, I became even more frustrated and infuriated with the whole modest concept. Modest is not the hottest... because if it were, maybe someone would be selling it somewhere! I glared at my cute summer dresses. Why couldn't you have sleeves?! I wanted to yell. I ignored my work wardrobe (which is all 100% modest), denied my capris any love and hung on to the hope that I would find some really adorable clothing that fit the modest box.

I failed. Big fat "F". I didn't get it. What was I doing wrong? And then... something else dawned on epiphany of sorts...

I really didn't need to go shopping... I just needed to be creative with what I already had.
What prompted this was the reminder that should I ever get married and sealed in a Temple, I would have to have sleeves on my wedding dress. Unlike most girls who envision their wedding down to the detail, the only part I knew was my bridesmaid dresses were going to be a dark purple. I hadn't even thought of my own dress and now I had another limitation. And as shallow and temporal as that was, I was bummed.

Completely discouraged by this entire concept of modesty in clothing, I once again, turned to my female LDS friends for some help. This time, I was reminded that even if it is hard, it's not a big deal and it can be done. I was given some links to a wedding blog for a Mormon wedding coordinator who did a ton of Mormon and non-Mormon weddings. I was blown away. Everyone looks good on their wedding day. The shining smiles, glowing faces and happiness is contagious and always evident. I started to calm down a bit. Then, I studied some of the Temple apporpriate dresses and realized, it''s the person that matters. Kind of like how you're not supposed to judge a book by its cover... it's what's on the inside that counts.. BUT, I rebutt myself... you don't want a book that's torn up and sometimes, that book does sit on the bookshelf as a piece of decor... so, there's a fine balance. And that got me thinking. My faith led me to dress more modestly... but my heart wasn't in it. I thought I was being entirely faithful but really, I was doubtful and hesitant. Knowing this, my heart was moved. I could do this.. entirely - mind and heart committed.

I pondered about what Elder Cox said to me that day. Modest is the hottest. And then I likened it to work clothing ... thought about all the things that had made it so hard for me to do thus far... and it suddenly made sense.

When people dress inappopriately to work, it creates distractions. I try not to judge but when I see a girl wearing a too low shirt or too tight pants to work. Instead, I am 1) distracted by their chest and 2) not paying attention to their words. It's one thing to be put together and look professionally cute... it's another to look like you're about two minutes from the club's VIP table. If I want someone to take me seriously, I need to dress the part.

But even more fascinating to me... is the fact that this one example demonstrated to me why it is so important to follow God and not pick and choose which pieces of advice the prophets provide. A lot of people liken this to being brainwashed and doing whatever you're told.. but similar to my example above, it's not something every faithful person takes upon without thought. It's most often a struggle. For me, it was a retreat from what appeared normal by the world's standards today (which is not always ideal...think about it... nobody locked their doors in the 50's and now....? Censored Sex and the City is now available at 11 PM on regular television.... wow!) but having received blessings from other faithful situations, I knew God had my back. And time after time, being faithful has demonstrated such. It certainly is the case wit modest clothing. Honestly, I don't even really think about it anymore.

I leave you with this. "Modesty is not just cultural. Modesty is a gospel principle that applies to people of all cultures and ages. In fact, modesty is fundamental to being worthy of the Spirit. To be modest is to be humble, and being humble invites the Spirit to be with us." ~Elder Hales

p.s. I avoid immodest clothing by denying it. I won't even look at clothes without sleeves or are too short or tight anymore. Don't even tempt yourself with it. If you can't be cute because of those limitations..... 1) it sucks to be you and 2) you need to work on your creativity.

p.p.s. Basic is beautiful.

p.p.p.s. Modest is hottest

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Million Dollar Question

It's no surprise to those who know me or stalk my facebook that I recently got baptized. I might not be yelling it outloud through a megaphone... but I am quite eager to share the wonderful news with anyone willing to listen. Prior to my baptism, anyone who heard the news would bombard me with questions about why I started investigating the Church... why I didn't choose another religion... why I would give up so much of me to become LDS... why - why - why.

Since Saturday, June 13th, around 8 PM, the million dollar question is, "Did you really go through with it?" and after hearing I did, the change in expression in their faces is priceless, one I'd describe as a bit of awe (can be easily misinterpreted and maybe is just pure shock) and then acknolwedgment comes in the forms of, "As long as you're happy," "That's wonderful, congratulations," or "I'm very happy for you." Unknown to anyone but me (and maybe other Latter Day Saints) is... the true happiness that I feel. I thought about how I could convey it and I came up with two examples.

First, think ridiculous amounts of glee, joy, skips in your step, constant grinning ear to ear until your facial muscles tense up, butterflies in your heart (not stomach) and a very consistent emotion of being loved. It's like that child going to Disneyland for the first time the next day and trying to sleep at night, but not being able to because of the constant excitement stirring in them! I'm constantly excited about my newfound religion and life. I look forward to my daily scripture study, the challenge to become and I'm completely immersed in the power of prayer. Another analogy I shared with Elder Cox, Elder Ridge and an investigator yesterday was this: Think of when you have a crush on someone of the opposite sex and those emotions inside you when you first start talking to them. You're constantly giddy, there's a goofy grin on your face everytime someone mentions their name and you can't stop thinking of them. Now take that, multiple it by infinity, put a repeat loop at the end of it, and that is the feeling of cloud nine, because this is truly amazing, fabulous, wonderful and out of this world! I feel like a bubble - I'm all colors of wonder swirling and moving and that wonder is true happiness that nobody could give me except God. And I know it's not always going to be like this, it's not always going to be as exciting or as fresh and new as it is right now and I will have trials of faith.. but I eaglerly anticipate such. I can't wait to show how faithful I am. I can't wait to show I can change and work on my shortcomings. I can't wait to make that commitment to Him every weekend. I can't wait to endure till the end. I can't wait and I'm not anymore! I'm doing it.... I'm living it. I'm here baby!!!

Some thought it was a phase. I have $100 coming into my pocket next June as a result of a co-worker teling me I'd be non-Mormon by then (inactive they meant) and agreeing to bet on it (I know gambling is stealing but this was too good to pass up).

Some thought it was for a guy. It was. His name is God and his son, my saviour, Jesus Christ, died so that I could live and I found them through the Spirit. Oh, they meant a mortal guy walking this earth, you say? Hmmm... interesting enough my response is always the same.
1) I started investigating the Church at a family ward. To those who don't know what that is.. it's pretty self explanatory. A group that convenes at a Church to meet, mostly consisting of families, hence single available men... not so much.
2) I've been on, e-harmony, even (really cheap site - don't use it) so I'm not abashed to say I am looking for a boy who can be a man or someday my husband... but it's pretty safe to say, it takes a whole lot more than love for a mortal man to make me change my lifestyle and who I am to live the gospel I have learned about through the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints.
3) If you're really curious, join me at Church and you'll see. I'm not saying you'll get baptized.. but it'll be worth it to take some lessons and start praying.. and just check it out. You must me curious.. I know I was. Plus, the missionaries rock.

I've always been curious about why Mormons don't drink. The tea and coffee thing make sense - they become so addictive, but with alcohol, there is always the argument that a glass of wine a day is good for you. Hmmm. So is moderate exercise, eating right and helping others... but then again, we don't always consistently do that, right? When I asked the first missionaries I had a lesson with about this... their response was, Heavenly Father wants to protect us and told us not to drink because he knows it will hurt us. But what about the whole a glass of wine a day is healthy for you? Think of when you drink, the things you do and how you feel. Is it still good for you then? Heavenly Father might not think so and so he wants to protect you from it. I'm a pretty reasonable person and this simple statement has so many flaws in it that I could easily have run away from the missionaries and never looked back. I politely said thanks, got in my car and drove off. My mind was a whirl. When I drink... the things I do... how I feel. Not always the smartest things.. but nevertheless fun and free-spirited, rebellious even! Moreover, my inhibitions are abandoned when I'm drinking. I don't like the side effects and I don't seem to have control over how much I drink. One glass always turns into three of four and impaired judgment has led to a couple of regretful and inappropriate buzzed driving (which per the commercials on TV is still drunk driving). Wow. Was it starting to make sense? Was God really starting to make sense to me? Was God talking to me? Was this real?

This constant curiosity.. wonders of what makes these people do such things.. what makes them so happy... kept creeping back into my head. And this is only one example, but it's a goodie!

I vividly remember receiving a letter from a Mormon co-worker about his recent marriage, his upcoming baby and his life with his wife.

*The true identities have been protected and the following names have been changed.

Family & Friends,
Merry Christmas from The Big Apple! The holidays have been busy for us and we just barely had a chance to take our Christmas card picture last week, so you'll have to excuse receiving this in e-mail form. We wanted to make sure this got to everyone before Christmas. Christmas is a great time to be in New York City and we decided to stay here for the entire Holiday season - Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's - this year. We've enjoyed seeing the city all decked out for Christmas and this last weekend we had our biggest snow storm yet while living here.
Thanksgiving was a fun weekend as Jane's parents and little brother, Conrad, were in town to help us celebrate. We went to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and had dinner at our house and then spent the weekend shopping, going to the Radio City Music Hall's Christmas Spectacular and Cirque de Soleil's Wintuk. It was fun to have our first hosted Thanksgiving dinner and to be able to show some more family around the city that we live and love. Last night we went to Handel's Messiah at Carnegie Hall and for Christmas Eve today we're going to see the matinee of White Christmas, which is currently on Broadway. We'll round out the Holidays by spending New Year's Eve in Time's Square, which is 1 1/2 blocks from our apartment.
2008 has been a great year for us and we feel very blessed. We have had a wonderful first year of marriage and have been privileged to see and do so much for both work and play, and sometimes a combination of both. We've been to L.A. and Utah a couple of times each, along with trips to Las Vegas, Boston, Chicago, Niagara Falls, Palmyra & the Hill Cumorah Pageant, a Caribbean cruise and the Jersey Shore. We most recently celebrated our first anniversary in a cottage on Nantucket. Along with all of the trips, we've enjoyed exploring this great city that we live in and entertaining all of the guests that we've had. We have made a Top 100 list of things we'd like to do/see before we have to leave and are through almost 75 of them!
Jane has had a successful year with Access Nursing. She is now the Branch Manager for the New York City office and is still trying to get used to an office setting. She sometimes longs for the patient interaction of a hospital and finds the show Office Space a little too close to reality now to be funny. She is within walking distance of our apartment, though, and definitely has the better commute. John* continues to work in the National office of PwC in New Jersey. His 2-year tour wraps up at the end of June and has gone by extremely fast. He has learned a lot during his time here and is extremely glad he took the opportunity to come.
Our biggest news of the year came in August when we found out Jane* is pregnant. She's due April 16th and we're not finding out what we're having, so that will be a surprise. It has been fun to watch the baby grow and to feel it move. It is one of the most amazing things either of us has ever experienced and we're so excited to be parents. The nuances of having a baby in New York City have been interesting to learn and we've been practicing hailing cabs at all times of the day and night so that we can get to the hospital when that moment does come. Luckily, it's not too far away on the Upper East Side, so there shouldn't be any problems. It will also be interesting to bring the baby home in a cab - just a few of the things that have to be done differently when living in the city.
In August we got a dog. He's a Yorkshire Terrier and his name is Abindigo. He wasn't supposed to be in our Christmas picture, but we were walking him when we took it and the cameraman must have thought he needed to be in it, too. He's about 7 pounds full grown, so doesn't take up too much space in our tiny apartment. He has a great personality and brings a smile to anyone's face that he comes across. He loves to say "hi" to everyone on the street in his own way and pretty much everyone that passes makes an "awwww" noise or stops to pet him. He also thinks he's much bigger than he is and loves to wrestle just as much with a 100 pound dog as he does dogs his own size, if not more. We're thankful he doesn't bark and hasn't chewed up our apartment, though we're still working on the potty training.
We have also kept busy as Cubmaster and Assistant Cubmaster for New York City Cub Scout Pack 527. We spend our Friday nights with about 6 cub scouts every week with activities ranging from picnic/sports days in Central Park to going to Grand Central Station and the Metropolitan Transit Museum. During the month of November the boys prepared kits to put in with Thanksgiving dinners that we helped package and deliver to needy families in New York City. It has been interesting to try and plan Cub Scout activities in such a big city, but we've really enjoyed it and the opportunities for service it has brought.
We are looking forward to 2009 and all of the joy and blessings it will bring. We hope you all have had an enjoyable 2008 and are enjoying the Season as much as we are. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
John and Jane Smith*

I was so touched, almost moved to tears by the beauty in their update. My response as follows:

Hi John,
Thanks for the card and the update. You and Jane give me hope that happiness in marriage is possible. As corny as that sounds, I think you know that living in LA makes one quite pessimistic and hearing about your life and successes really inspired me to aspire for more in my own life. I am SOOOO happy for you guys and an odd big smile came across my face as I read your e-mail and an overall sigh of awwww that kinda reflects the sentiment of ... "Man!, that is so freaking adorable! I am so happy and jealous all at once and I hope I too can have that type of happiness one day!"
Though I have never met your new wifey, you guys are a beautiful couple and I wish you guys the best for the new year. I hope you guys decide to come back to LA for more adventures and congratulations on everything - life, love, work, New York experiences, your new adroable (but I can't believe you guys dressed it up!) dog and baby!!! Take care and best wishes for the holiday season. Merry Christmas eve!!!

This was December 24, 2008. On June 10, 2009, I wrote John a letter with the subject entitled "Ummm... guess what"

So.. I was in San Jose for a mini-rotation. And while I was there.. I started investigating the Church. Yes.. the same one you go to. And then... I am unsure why.. I gave up drinking. And then... I got some answers. And then.. I started living my life according to the commandments. And then.. I kept going to Church. Then I actually discovered the singles ward (much more fun than the family ward but same spirit everywhere). Then I went to Vegas and didn't drink. And then I got more answers. And then I knew it was true.
about 2 months later.. I am getting baptized this Saturday and wanted you to hear it from me first! It's a bit crazy especially given how much I love drinking but what can I say.. it's the true Church. =D
Hope you all are doing amazing and all the best! Oh.. if you guys are ever bored.. I started blogging about my spiritual journey.

His response was:

Daisy!! I'm so extremely excited and happy for you! And so angry at myself!
Let's go with the happy first. What an amazing story and journey you've been on. I have to confess I took a major break from work to read all about it and became completely engulfed. I had no idea you had gone to San Jose or that you had begun "investigating" = ). I'm full of oh so many questions. How did it start? Did you find it on your own, or did someone introduce you? What singles ward are you going to? How is your family taking everything?
Now to the angry part. One of the most frustrating things you'll find with the gospel is that you have this knowledge. A knowledge that tells you there's a purpose to all of this, there's a plan for each of us individually, that God loves each of us individually and that families are oh so much more than just what we've been stuck with. Families mean everything and are a means to enable us to learn correct and righteous principles and develop along our journey in life. This knowledge that we have is so extremely important, and what we need to know to ensure happiness beyond this life. Such a knowledge is also a burden, as I'm sure you're learning. Growing up in Utah, almost every single person I came in contact with either shared the same beliefs as me, or had at some point. Then I went to USC and faced a completely different world than I had ever faced before. I too, received question after question on my beliefs. Temptation after temptation - c'mon just one time/drink won't hurt. We won't tell, etc., etc. This time strengthened my testimony completely and was a time of tremendous growth for me (as are most times of adversity, it's just not much fun when you're going through it).
Anyway, my friends accepted me for who I was and eventually became the ones to stick up for me and answer for me when someone would offer something they knew I couldn't have - going even so far as to protect me from "magic brownies" someone offered me when I had no idea what was in them, just as one example. During my years at USC and living in L.A. ever since, I obviously developed many friendships and relationships that weren't with members of the church. In fact, my inner-circle became mostly non-members. So, now to the frustrating part. You develop these close friendships with people and care for them deeply and wish that they could share the same knowledge you have so that they could be happy forever, not just the moment. It's hard in a work environment, or many times with friends to even build up the courage to broach such a topic, but at the same time, it's the most important thing we could share with them. So in comes the frustration. And we never know when someone is ready/willing to know more.
So, I guess we have to be more brave and know that we're really doing a disservice to people by not sharing this most important thing with them. Take you for example, how much sooner could you have experienced all that you are experiencing if I had just opened my mouth? Now we never really know what circumstances are ideal, but I could have at least given you something. There's something to be said for living a good life and trying to be an example, but I realize I need to speak up more. When you e-mailed me awhile ago, I think after we found out Jane was pregnant and talked about happiness and your life and how that's what you wanted in your life, I could tell you were searching. Oh how badly I just wanted to say, "You can have it! I know a way!" Then I start to think how pompous that must sound to people and how odd people think my religion is and I don't end up doing anything, so that's obviously something I need to work on.
Wow, you just made me so excited. I wish we could be there this weekend. And I'm sure the missionaries have already warned you, and I can speak from experience from 2 years of being on a mission - the next few days are going to be the hardest yet. I hope they're not, but typically that's when the adversary works the hardest. He knows you're about to do this amazing, wonderful thing and he wants you to be miserable and will do anything to prevent it from happening. Cars breaking down, flat tires, burst pipes, accidents, work nightmares, temptation, etc. I've seen it all! It only made me realize how true the gospel is everytime something like that would happen because you can see how hard the adversary is working to prevent it.
Okay, I'll stop my rambling, but I couldn't be more excited for you. Please let us know if there's anything we can do for you. The questions from friends will continue to come. Until someone feels what you have felt, they will never completely understand. The church is true and God wants us all to return to live with him. You are about to receive the most important gift you will ever receive - the gift of the Holy Spirit. Let me know how everything goes and send pictures! Here's one of our little girl, who I can't believe is already 7 weeks old (her hair is only growing down the middle currently, so we give her a curlhawk)! We thought this one was funny because it kinda turned out like a headshot, which completely wasn't the intention.
Thanks for sharing your experience - I know these are deeply personal experiences and it can only help others, too! Please don't hesitate to ask if you need anything!

I never asked John if I could share this, so I do it anonymously butwith the hope that the simple message of being a good example and not being afraid to sometimes approach the awkward .. wanna come to Church with me question is okay. Plus, this is is something I completely relate to now. I want my non-LDS family and friends to also know what I now know without being the religious fanatic trying to push doctrine down everyone's throats. Alas, I will be patient. I will live my life according to His commandments and hopefully the blessings I receive will touch them as hearing about John's certainly touched mine cuz you never know when someone is watching, I know I was.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Is Daisy Crazy?

Would it be completely insane to plan a last minute trip to Salt Lake City by myself to see Temple Square and other Mormon fun things? If so, I could see the Oquirrh Mountain Utah Temple Open House AND maybe the Mormon Miracle Pageant.

That's it! I've just convinced myself! Here goes nothing!

Monday, June 15, 2009

And Then I Was Mormon

Look at how happy I look in this photo.

Is it
a) because I am totally taller than Peyton
b) because we are posing with matching cupcakes
c) because I'm hungry and was told I could have a cupcake after the photo
d) because I am now a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints
e) all of the above

and the answer is.... E. Because I am soooo tall. Look, I even took a photo with Andy to show how tall I really am. And what's funny here is .. I look so angry because I am confident I am taller and trying to dog the camera. But the reality is...

Andy must have been tip-toeing.

I show those photos first because I'm just goofy and happy. Always have been, always will be. But there's something else... like some type of new amazing blush. Only it's just the realization that I have made a promise and committment to Him and I now have the gift of the spirit.

It didn't start out that way. Rewind to Saturday.

Anxiety. Fear. Excitement.
Butterflies in my stomach. Adrenaline in my veins.
I was so nervous. I had witnessed a baptism a week earlier where the girl's foot kept popping out of the water. As such, her baptism took 5 dips into the water. Scared that the same thing would happen to me... I praticed bending my knees, stretching my back bend and come the day of the baptism, I put my hair into a tightly kept ballet bun, even going so far as using hairspray.
Like any girl, I wanted a new outfit to celebrate the occassion. Like any girl, I shopped aimlessly for hours and found nothing. Like any girl, I ended up wearing something I already had. Oh well. Can't win 'em all.
6:20 My brother and I leave our home and head for the Church. Was this really happening? I knew a lot of my non-LDS friends were coming to show their support but I was still scared. Am I really getting baptized? Maybe they'd change their mind or flake on me last minute. Was I about to become Mormon? I check my phone as I'm driving. My brother reprimands me for putting his life in danger. "Stop texting!" he yells. Fine. What if they don't come? We get to the church.. I park... we got out of the car...I get my parents are already there and chatting it up with a LDS co-worker of my mom's. Can I really do this? We walk to the Church. This is it Daisy.
One observation: the white jumpsuit is not flattering. In fact, I looked like Humpty Dumpty and my friends who showed up early to hang out beforehand had a great time laughing at how ridiculous I looked. It's okay, I'm getting baptized.. I could care less. But I did jump around in the suit for a bit because it was indeed quite funny. Then, like any Asian event, photos were taken.
Here are my friends and family who showed up early enough to come by the baptism room with Elder Cox, the missionary who baptized me.

It was Elder Cox's first time baptizing anyone.. and boy, was he excited. You can tell from the expression noted here.

The actual baptism doesn't start until about halfway into the program. We opened with a hymn that I chose - one that didn't have too many Church specific terminology that might make it hard for my non-Mormon friends and family to follow along with. As we sang, my heart was filled with a tremendous acknowledgment that this was it. As I sat there, listening to the beautiful opening prayer, the powerful talk geared to evoke some inkling in my non-LDS friends and the moving solo .. I was in awe. Again, I had to remind myself that this was happening.

As we walked towards the baptism room... I quickly scanned the crowd and saw so many beautiful faces of friends and strangers - but all looking at me with love. This was happening. This is happening. This happened. Of course, anything that happens in my life cannot be without humor.. and such it came after my successful baptism (only one try baby!) when I realized... a towel did I not bring. Did the missionaries tell me to bring a towel? No! They didn't! The one thing they forgot to tell me to bring! ... Errr...even if they didn't, how could I forget such a thing? So three jumpsuits later ... (only one that I got baptized in), I was dressed and still trembling - a bit from the mildly cold water and a lot from the realization that I was washed of my sins. How simple.. and how beautiful.

Drea, Kenzie, Kate and Kwame...

Lucy and Spencer

Eric, Julia, Annie and Chris...

PwC supports! Kenny, Scott, Megan, Lindsay and Drea!

Sunday morning.. I was confirmed. How lovely is my Heavenly Father that he not only blessed me with the presence of my two non-LDS friends, Kate and Drea, but with Elder Vera - who I first started my lessons with when I first came back to LA. And.. the talks were so eloquent,, meaningful and touching... oh my!
More photos... notice Elder Cox's expression is identical from that noted above when he was getting ready to baptize me! Elder Ridge does not look that excited even though I asked him to confirm me... kill joy huh?!

Missionaries galore...Elder Vera, Elder Ridge and Elder Cox

He just really loves that expression. We'll have to teach him how to smile when he baptizes Sky.

A semi-smile and a Daisy without thorns.. smiling because she is now confirmed.

And no.. I don't know why the spaces are funky.. but I'm too lazy to figure it out right now.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

My Mormon Childhood

Apparently... I grew up Mormon. Well, not precisely....but my overbearing, ultra conservative and super-strict mother laid down the law with so many rules, restrictions, traditions and teachings that as I was sitting in our Stake Conference last night, listening to the panel of LDS parents discuss some of the challenges parents are facing today, I was shocked to realize how amazing my own mother did for my brother and me. I know part of that is due to her relationship with Him, despite her being a rather laid-back Catholic, she prays everyday and I am confident Heavenly Father heard her prayers and answered them, blessing her in so many ways amidst the hardships and sacrifices she has made throughout her life as a mother, wife and friend.

When I was growing up, television was forbidden from Monday through Friday 3 pm (yes, conniving and smart, I challenged why I could not watch TV on Friday mornings if the rule ended Friday and the rule was clarified as extending until Friday 3 PM). I'll be the first to admit that my Pops was less strict and while Mum was off at Adult School one time, I was allowed to watch Superman and even caught a glimpse of the Beverly Hills 90210 pilot commercials. Anxious to watch this cool new show that was basically about anything and everything I was unable to comprehend (and righteously so!) as a 10 year old, I set the VCR to record the show at 8 PM (mum would be back by then from class). The perception was I obeyed like a good filial daughter. The reality was I sometimes snuck around and watched TV until she came home. Unfortunately, she was mostly home from after school until sleeping. Hence, my weekdays were mostly television free and my Friday nights became TGIF (no pun intended since ABC had the TGIF line-up!) all night long.

When I was growing up, we ate dinner together at the table, without distractions only known to today's technology filled world, everynight. I don't recall there ever being an exception except when the dance team's practices started going until 10 PM. At that time, the other three members of the family still had dinner together. I did hear the tradition started to falter a bit when I went off to college as cooking for three just didn't seem the same, but at that time, our tradition became family dinner once a week. To this day, my brother and I both feel a void when we have not had family dinner in a while and aim to plan something together, whether it's brunch or dinner, because otherwise .. it just feels awkward. Sometimes the conversation is great, sometimes there is a bit of bickering, sometimes we finish quickly and depart our separate ways, but always it is time well spent and time that is crucial to strenghtening our family bonds. When I see families in restaurants where the kids have earphones on or the parents are reading newspapers, I am shocked and disgusted and want to run over and scream at them. Alas, that is their family and their upbringing, I can only keep the concept in mind for when I raise my own family.

When I was growing up, my parents were part time chauffuers. They carted my group of crazy hoochie momma girlfriends from mall to movies, to home, to movies to mall. Anxious to take our glamour shots, we even sought out farther malls with better backgrounds and ride shifts seemed to always be split between the BFF's mom and my pops. Nobody else's parents seemed to care or have cars. Oblivious to my parents and even me at the time, was how this little act of driving the kids everywhere kept them sane and comforted because they always knew where we were. The days of dialing 1-800-collect and then shouting out "Pick us up Dad" when prompted for your name and then quickly hanging up and awaiting his arrival are gone in today's age of cell phones, but I confidently believe cell phones don't matter since kids rarely pick 'em up anyway (as evidenced by my own brother six years below). My parents also distrusted 16 year olds with licenses and that being said, my parents drove my high school boyfriend and I to Disneyland despite him having a car and despite the group of friends we were going with who all drove and met us there.

When I was growing up, my curfew was 8 PM. It's not that I couldn't hang out with friends after 8 PM, it's that I could not go out after 8 PM. In other words, friends could come hang out at our house until the break of dawn but should I decide to step out of the house ... trouble would I be in. Sneaky and manipulative mother of mine knew having the kids over would enable her the power of peace of mind, knowing we were there and not up to trouble. There were exceptions to the rule known as school events such as dances, speech tournaments and dance concerts and rare outings such as Disneyland or Magic Mountain. I remember how angry I was when my parents would not let me go to Citywalk with my high school boyfriend even if I offered for them to drive me there (especially when Disneyland was okay). I remember how angry I was when my parents would not let me go to Old Town Pasadena with my friends even if I threatened to just lie to them and say I was just hanging out at my friend's house. I remember how confused I was about why they would let me go to the mall, which was just as much a mess as Old Town or Citywalk and how frustrated I was with the stupid restrictions that I alone had. When I was old enough to go to such places with friends, I realized they were filled with older people, drunk, inebriated and just weird whereas the mall was not populated with such "weird" people as my mom will explain today.

When I was growing up, I was only allowed to use the phone 3 times per day. I easily got around the rule by talking on the phone whenever my mom wasn't home and then claiming it was my first call when she did get home. Even WITH the rule, I was on the phone for an exorbitant amount of time. In fact, it is sad how much time I lost on real life interactions with friends, schoolwork, or books because of the time lost talking on the phone. However, having the rule, I knew the moment mom was home, I had better be doing something other than talking on the phone. And again, her sneaky little restriction worked because when not talking on the phone, I did my homework, read or hung out with the family. When that became too boring, I immersed myself in extracurricular activities.

That said, I cannot wait to be a mother and to instill the same values and rules (catered to whatever issues my own kids will be facing in their day) my mom did for me, but to also explicitly teach my kids the principles of faith, prayer, and repentence and the gospel. It won't be easy... as evidenced by the panel discussion at last night's conference but my mom once said.. "I gave you wings and I taught you how to fly .. but whether you decide to stay here, glide in the air or soar above, is up to you. I cannot prevent you from crashing or guide the path of flight once you have flown off and you can decide which principles of flight you take from me but the eventual flight is your own."