Saturday, October 31, 2009

It's Not What You Always Think...

I'm currently in the midst of my sixth and last busy season and as much as I enjoy that statement... there are definitely aspects of it I will miss dearly.

I'll miss the difficult times that bring a group of random people together, the shared enthusiasm for yet another over-indulgent but firm sponsored meal as the highlight of the day, the random Starbucks and Jamba Juice breaks during the day which warrant a breath of fresh air(literally and metaphorically), the "oh! I may have found an issue" ah-ha initial excitement, moments the "oh! man... I really have a lot of work now" eventual dread moments, the "oh! am I going to ever finish it in time?" threateningly permanent pondering moments, the "man, I've been stuck in a bare room with white walls and fluorescent lights for way too long" moment, the reminder that it's late when the cleaning lady or man comes in to take out the trash, the painful growing pains, the memorable team ramblings, the high anxiety, the tight deadlines, the plethora of coaching moments and everything and anything that is..busy season. And like the run-on sentence that just was, that is exactly how busy season feels. Intense. Extreme. And hopefully... over soon!

For the last three weeks, my days have been jam packed with client meetings, update meetings and team meetings. Among all the meetings, we were told on Friday, as a team, to determine if we'd participate in the annual Homewalk which our managing partner sponsors. We were strongly (if they could force us, I'm sure they would) encouraged to attend and after the manager left us with the task of compiling a report of who would be going, the room was filled with bitterness and resentment. Maybe it was the stress. Maybe it was the deadline. Maybe it was the messy conference table strewn with paper clips, crumbs from the variety of dinners from the past weeks, clutter of post-its both used and new, and the piles of utensils on the side table that had accumulated from our time spent eating at our computers... whatever it was, nobody seemed happy. Negative Nancy's, Debbie Downers and Pouty Patty's all around... alas, where was Optimistic Oscar?

Nobody wanted to go. Why should we go to a work function on the weekend? I don't even like the homeless, can I help some other cause instead? What excuse can I think of to justify not going? I was disgusted by the conversation topic but I did not retreat entirely and instead I encouraged well thought out excuses for not going and indirectly contributed to the growing consensus that "firm-sponsored community service" seems self-serving. The complaints continued and began to wear on me. I myself, had told everyone I could not go because of a wedding but when team members began to comment on how they'd rather spend time with their own families instead of dragging 'em out to the event, I grew sad. It seems so often, once the incentive to load your resume or college application with volunteer service disappears, less people are willing to donate their time to the service of others. I grew mad. Why couldn't everyone be more selfless and stop thinking of only themselves? And then, in a fury of typed messages to a friend, I was reminded not to judge. I was reminded of those who might choose to anonymously give their time to others. I was reminded to be thoughtful, considerate and have charity towards everyone. I grew taller .. and realized... I better repent.

A few hours went by and like an elementary school colored parachute that you lift high up, run under and sit at the edges of the chute now in back of you so that you are engulfed in a parachute tent of colors, the stress seemed to loom over our heads. And then.. without any real turning point, the parachute seemed to just deflate on its own and the room lightened up. A joke was told. A sarcastic but funny remark was shared. And then.. we seemed to be normal again.

I sat there.. thinking, if the wedding isn't until later, I can probably do the walk in the morning. Again, talk of who was going came up and this time, I chimed in that I might be able to go. "Well, if you go, I will go too," a co-worker responded ... "I just don't want to go alone." And then, as if on cue, another spoke up and said, "I guess I'll probably be going too..." and then, with seemingly begrudging hesitation, everyone else agreed.

I sat there... stared at my computer screen... and was dumbfounded by the sudden change of hearts. The intensity in the room had only added to the reactions I had witnessed only hours before and upon doing so, I quickly passed judgment... yet a few hours later... I knew there were other concerns that had stopped them from fully committing which made me think of all the other times I quickly conclude on someone or something because of my initial observation and then am wrong. And I realized... it's really not what I always think. I should really work on those thoughts - on controlling them and ensuring my thoughts are not too critical and judgmental so they cannot then influence my words or my actions.

At the end of the day... it's not what you always think. ... and even if it is what you always think, letting some time pass as part of your confirmation process can't hurt.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That's Actually Not Cool...

I was part of the "Smoke Free Class of 2000." The lofty campaign was deeply embedded into our lil 7 year old minds complete from a jolly jingle, demonstrations with stained cotton to depict the images of our lungs after just one puff and brightly colored yellow t-shirts.

Unfortunately, like many kids, I did try smoking and though smoke free now, missed the point of the campaign by trying it.

I was 14 and wanted to look cool so I begged Gege, my oldest cousin six years my senior, to let me take a puff and "play baseball," the code word he used around adults when he wanted to go smoke a cigarette. I remember it vividly. We were outside of my parents old house, the sun was just setting and it was a breezy fall evening. I stood on the sidewalk watching him smoke and politely asked for a menthol, the mint flavored cigarette. He refused. I begged. He refused again. I tried to persuade him by using logic. Why could he smoke but I could not? Didn't he want to share his fun with me? I decided bugging him would break him down and he'd eventually give in. "You're too young," he told me. "But all the kids are doing it!" I explained. "Have you?" he asked. Without hesitating, I told a white lie. "Yes... tons of times! So it's not a big deal... I just want to try a menthol versus a regular cigarette." "You already tried it before?" he looked at me incredulously and sternly. "Well.. sorta..." I replied.

Upon hearing so, he handed me a cigarette with much skepticism, his eyes growing wider as I took it into my hands, his head tilting as if to focus on me more carefully. I wasn't sure how to light it.. I just held it in my mouth while he lit it right? He fidgeted with the lighter and frustrated, eventually snapped the cigarette back into his mouth, lighted it, and gave it back to me. I wasn't sure how it all worked but I had seen it tons of times on television and on the streets so I took it in between my fingers, brought the cigarette to my lips and took in a puff, trying my best to look seasoned at the art of smoking. As I held the cigarette, thinking for a brief moment how cool I looked, Gege's eyes grew large and he turned around and screamed, "Xiao Gu Gu! Zhong Cheng Jia zai tsou yan!" which translated to Auntie!! Daisy Chou is smoking! (the full name is always used when trouble ensues...)

My mom never heard... never stormed out of the house in anger.. never did anything.. but the fear of what she would do was enough for me to promise Gege never to smoke ever again. I didn't understand... he did it, he looked so cool doing it, why couldn't I? I wanted to know what he didn't know. I begged him over and over again to not tell on me and he struck a deal with me. "If you promise NEVER EVER to smoke, even when other people are pressuring you or telling you it's cool, then I won't tell your mom," he said. "Okay! I promised.

We pinky swore and after we did, he let out a deep hearty laugh. "What's so funny?" I asked. "You didn't even inhale." "Huh?" I replied, utterly confused. "If you smoked before, you'd know when you take a puff, you actually breathe it into your lungs." "What?!" I yelled. He tricked me! I eventually worked out a deal to actually take a puff, actually inhaled, and ended up coughing until I wanted nothing ever to do with a cigarette again. And he eventually told my mom and I got yelled at but promised NEVER EVER to smoke again. I'll never forget that day. It was a pivotal point for me.. the moment I decided smoking was really not cool and that I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. I'm so glad that moment happened because it helped me avoid smoking on the patio at college parties, in happy hour settings, and at any weekend outing.

After being in Vermont for a week with two chain smokers, I've been reminded of how uncool smoking is. I'm not ashamed to make blatant comments about how disgusting it is or how their second hand is killing me and my future. Then, at lunch today, I found myself starting a conversation about why they smoked. "Does it make you feel better or taste good or what?" i asked sincerely. Before they even began to answer, I interjected with.. "because when I was younger... and I tried smoking, it was seriously.. because I thought it looked cool. Before I could get addicted, I realized how gross it was and got over the whole cool thing and I really think every single person who smokes, does it because they think it's cool and then are stuck doing it forever and not by choice!" I paused. I had said a lot. I felt immediately guilty of the over critical attitude I had exhibited. Oops. Time to repent.

One of the co-workers is from Japan, is in the US on secondment and speaks very little English. He is pretty quiet most of the time. My question brought about a smile and he looked at me and replied, "Actually, that is true." Woah. Not what I expected. He continued. "That's why I started smoking and sometimes, even when I smoke now, I think, I am looking cool." Again, not what I expected. The other co-worker chimed in, "Well, I personally didn't start smoking cuz I thought it was cool, I just saw my mom doing it my whole life." I nodded, thought for a second and responded, "But you respect and look up to your mom and I'm sure growing up, you probably imitated her, so maybe you thought it was cool, subconsciously?" He shook his head and responded, "I don't respect my Mom though!" and my response was silence. "Just kidding!" he said. Whew. But I couldn't stop. "Isn't it interesting that everyone knows how bad smoking is and there are even laws against doing it in certain places but not with drinking when they're both not unhealthy habits?" I asked. Both my co-workers know I'm LDS and though I wanted to go on about how accurate the prophecies were... I decided that was enough for the day. Our conversation quickly changed to how awesome the homemade hot sauces, ketchup and cola at this uber green restaurant we were dining at, but I continued to ponder.

We all know examples are important. We all try to be a good example. We also all look for good examples around us. So just think, how much more important is it to be a good example to your kids? And how much more important is daily scripture study and daily prayer for your kids who will look up to you, will imitate you, and will think you're cool (even if they don't vocalize it)?! Like Elder Bednar said during the past conference, "Consistency is key!" Start building those good habits now. I read this morning that "good habits are the soul's muscles, the more you use them, the more they grow." You better believe it, plus the Prophet said it .. duh. Sometimes it is a big duh in our own lives. I mean, until I realized how stupid it was to smoke, I 100% thought it was cool and I am so grateful that someone I looked up to, told me stupid it was! Thanks Gege. I am reminded everytime I smell second hand smoke and everytime my coworkers take a smoke break. And on top of that, I've committed to making sure that my own definition of what is cool should be what is "cool" in the eternal sense, because that's what really matters and that's what really is ... cool!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Football and Me

I'm not athletic. I've never claimed to be. The extent of my athleticism is boxed into a category known as dance. I have been a part of numerous dance teams - drill, dance and formation ballroom dancing, but within in these groups, the concept of winning is drastically different. Unlike a "sport," there aren't different positions that work together and in most dance team competitions, it's the unity of performing the same moves or coordinated waves which determine the outcome of our winning.

So when I recently decided to join the powder puff football team with our Ward, I was not only skeptical, I was fearful.
And although I know fear and faith cannot coexist, fear is the best description of my decision to participate in competitive sports for the following reasons:

1) I'm not as competitive as some of the girls on the team.

At least not openly so. The extent of my competition is ensuring I am constantly pushing myself to be more than what I am. So if I can't even catch a ball, catching it once out of ten practice drills is better than none and sadly, to me, that is a win. Unfortunately, my teammates might feel different.

2) I am not willing to put my body at risk of catching a ball.

I once jammed my finger catching a football. Not only were my fingers swollen with purple and pain, but I was lucky enough to have it on my left
hand - the hand that is less utilized (sometimes I aim to be ambidextrous since I was born a leftie and switched over by my mom who inadvertently stifled my creativity). Now if I was an athlete by profession, I would not care, unfortunately, I am an accountant by choice and my hands are quite important as I am on the computer more than 10 hours a day. That means letting the ball fall sometimes and hearing my wonderful teammates cheer me on for the next catch while they repress expressions of utter disappointment.

3) It's football and I'm a girl.

I know, you're thinking How sexist! How gender typical are you Daisy? Well, I enjoy watching football... if someone is watching it with me but I really enjoy shopping... even if nobody is with me. I also enjoy good replays on Sports Center even if by myself but I really enjoy the cheerleading and dance competitions on ESPN and am usually by myself.

So basically my football world turned upside down when I heard Coach Mendenhall of the BYU Cougars at a fireside in San Diego last weekend.
I'll admit, I was watching a lot of BYU football because Andy is a huge fan and it's a great weekend pastime, but until last Friday, I wouldn't have called myself a Coug fan.

As the members of the football team spoke about their own experiences being a disciple to Christ through their mission, through football and life in general, the spirit engulfed me. I was touched by the simple words of each player and Coach Mendenhall and the message that the game was secondary and being a disciple to Christ is always first. It reminded me to take every opportunity to not only live the Gospel, but share it and be proud of it and not get caught up with the temporal things of the world. And then, when I least expected it, the defensive linebackers got up and sang a song. Again, the strength of the spirit moved me, which also caused me to chuckle a bit because there's no doubt in my mind that the spirit is real… why else would I become choked at the off-key musical performance of some big brawny football players?

After the fireside, I reflected on my own football experiences. The last practice I had was a Tuesday before this fireside, one in which I seriously considered bailing because there were other things I'd rather do - sure, it's a good work out but I suck and I would much rather be doing something I'm good at and also burns calories. I ended up going because of the obligation I felt from the prior commitment made. After this last weekend, I realized... I should continue going because it's actually not half bad AND the game is second to the relationships made there. Not only is it an amazing way to connect with other sisters from the Ward but the brothers as well! A bunch of dudes volunteer their time to not only teach us the basics of flag football (you know you can only pass one time, only pull flags if they have the ball .. ahh, it all makes sense now!) but have the patience to consistently coach and encourage us. And trust me... if you saw some of us newbies, you'd be amazed. I am amazed. And re-energized for football - both the Cougs and the Angels.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The One Time I Want Calluses...

There are a lot of Mormons at my work place. In fact, that's how I first came to learn about the Church ... through co-workers. During the day, I have a sametime chat list that is entitled "Momos" and whenever I have a gospel question, they are my go to people to contact if I want an immediate answer and Andy isn't online.

All my conversations are normally quite informative and very priceless but today.. one hit home and made me want to blog immediately ... and since it's Friday and I just finished everything on my list.. I'm going to take a risk and write it down before I forget!

Scott and I were having a conversation about life and audit and I told him a really funny story about realizing the presence of the Spirit and not recognizing it (sorta like a gain that isn't recognized until something is sold... yeah, I'm a CPA but I'm bad at math). We got to conversing about testimonies and he reminded me that the knowledge that I have is a major blessing.

In fact .. he said it with emphasis indicated by use of the caps lock key like this: "...that a MAJOR blessing." He went on to tell me, "it has to be nourished, just like everything else in life...a marriage, a plant, etc. and if it's not nourished, it'll die." He then followed it quickly by, "Not to freak you out, but you CAN lose that knowledge if you're not careful, God will take it away from you."

"I know!" I told Scott. "But ... it kinda feels like it's easier for me, only because I can see the stark difference of the Spirit in and out of my life." I went on to tell him... "I'm holding onto the iron rod tightly...and I feel fresh and ready to hold on forever." I paused for a second after that. And if my hands grow tired? That's the opposition talking right there because I refuse to let my hands get tired. And in fact.... my hands, are still not callused and therefore, are not shielded from the initial blisters which are painful at first but end up protecting me and enabling me to hold on continually. And I do fully intend to strengthen them! So, I have to remember to build small calluses which will help me hold on tightly and consistently. I liken it to when I first started investigating and was reading once a week... maybe twice if time permitted, praying at night only... and loading up on reading talks with three or four in a day and then taking a break for a week after until a new urge came to read and enlighten myself. Now, I'm consistent with the lil items that matter - daily scripture study and prayer and ensuring that I do not ebb and flow by over or under doing it.. and aim for the Goldilocks philosophy of what is just right for me.

It's weird because I never thought I'd want calluses. But I do because I don't plan on letting go of the iron rod... anytime.. ever!