Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Substitute That Brought a Smile to My Face

Growing up.. in our home, all bad words starting with B, D, F and S were unimaginable. Our parents didn't use them and if we dared even say, "shut up" or "stupid," we were reprimanded and punished. My brother and I tried our luck with the word "shut up" a lot and upon doing so, would always quickly follow up with an apology. We knew it wasn't something we could say in front of our mom. End of story.

Why this didn't continue once I was out of the house is beyond me. It makes me sad that I let such words permeate into my daily vocabulary, even if it was only when things went really really bad.

This past summer, I criticized Quinn and Andy about their incessant use of the word "freak." I know it's not a bad word.. but it's what I'd call a substitute for a bad word. That's "freaking" awesome. What the "freak." Can you "freaking" believe it? My beef with the word "freak" was the fact that it was a substitute for a shorter F word that wasn't so proper. You could say the same about words like "shiz" or "gosh" (which I do proudly avoid) but instead, I do admit to using words like "crap" and oh my "goodness." There are also words like "geez" or "heck" but all of the aforementioned qualify as "substitutes." Most substitute words are one or two letters away from their manipulative stepsister. So why even use a substitute word? Why not avoid the substitute words all together?!?!

The first time I felt this way was when my senior high school said anyone who uses the F word is just not intelligent enough to express it with other words. I remember pondering about her comment and thinking, that's hard.. .but she may have a point.

Needless to say, it's been refreshing to once again, be cleansed of such biting words and return to days similar to my youth when I knowingly avoided the use of such words. In fact, these days... when I use words like "crap" or "heck," I feel guilty. As if... I have just succumbed, to my weakness of word usage and am admitting defeat in my word battle for honor. Vernacular prowess is not my specialty which makes it no surprise that one of my repetitive prayers is asking for my thoughts, actions and words to be kept pure. I have always felt that thoughts are the hardest... actions are a bit easier... and words should be easiest. And words, for the most part ... are!

These days, you can find me struggling with when things go wrong unexpectedly. Like when I stub my toe, get a papercut or jam my finger, and oh, did I forget-get cut off on the highway. This is when... the habits of my past word usage days sneak up on me. I've gotten better... to the point where no verbal obscenities are vocalized.. but now... the thoughts have become the hard part. I might not say something inappropriate when I get cut off by a mean car.. but inside, my brain thinks the word! The bad word! ACK! DOH! (yes, somehow ack and doh are okay.. maybe because they seem cartoonisque and remind me of Homer Simpson and donuts)

... which leads me to the thought of the day... the substitute that brought a smile to my face.

You see... even though I loathe substitute words... today was different.

Upon entering the 10 freeway, a car abruptly merged and ALMOST, kid you not, slammed into me. The first thing I thought was "what are you freaking doing?" and outloud, I said "freaking eh car!".... pause.

Silence. ....

And slowly.. a small chuckle emerged.

And then I started smiling! Yes - it was a substitute... but it was so instantaneous that I knew, a year ago... instead of a "freaking" thought, my thoughts may have been more ill laced.

And that... brought a smile to my face.

It is true. Things seem hard, but you work at it... and they become easier. And then, when it still seems impossible, you pray about it and ask for strength, and you keep working at it... and eventually, it really does become easier. Maybe it's because of the persistent nature of keeping at it... maybe it's the help of Heavenly Father... maybe it's both. Regardless, I am so grateful for the experience and though I'm still working on avoiding substitute words all together, I'm so happy for this small moment of a substitute word in my life.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In Chinese We Have a Saying...

Chi bao fan....mei shi gan!

Full of rice, nothing to do. Its meaning stems from the inane nature of doing things that you must be so bored to be doing them... because why bother otherwise?

Lately, I've heard that a lot from my parents with all the wedding crafts I am enjoying! I've always liked doing crafts.... since I was a kid actually.. so much that my mom used to sign me up for craft classes all the time - I learned Chinese knotting, ceramics, painting (least favorite), and lots of gluing beads and stuff to painted thinga ma bobs.

First, I bought tissue paper ... 480 sheets of purple and 480 sheets of lilac, sized at 20" x 30" (which is like getting 960 sheets of 10" x 15" sheets of both colors) for $22.81/per package plus shipping and handling (cuz I didn't want to drive to ghetto LA to pick it up).
Compared to drug store or craft store tissue paper of $3.99/pack of 16 sheets, I got a steal! So I calculated... I have enough tissue paper to make.... drumroll.... 120 poms (each pom takes 16 10" x 15" sheets) with a cost savings of $3.61 per PoM, or $ 433 bucks for 120 PoMs! What a steal!

Next, I bought silk flowers. 2 different 84-pk silk rose flowers for $14.99 (plus shipping and handling) and some styerfoam balls from Mosketel's and JoAnn's Fabric (Mosketel's is WAY cheaper - $1.49 and $2.99). And then I began stuffing. And this is what I came up with.

I know... what am I going to do with 120 PoMs right? Wish I thought of that before I made the purchase. Oh well.... my friends are creative - they'll think of something. I've already tasked two of 'em with figuring out how to cover up the bsaketball hoop that doesn't go up by using it as a base for something 3-dimensional. And... I haven't even talked about the placecards yet (those are a surprise).

I'll be the first to admit.. there's a sense of accomplishment from the DIY crafts (plus I'm doing this on a budget!) and my mom seems to have caught the bug. Most recently, she decided to do our centerpiece flowers herself. She even got some friends who volunteered to help out from picking the flowers, getting the vase, to just commenting if it's a go or no go. This weekend marks the test run (even though we know the flowers might be out of season by June). Should be exciting!

More to come on the DIY cheesy cute wedding of the year!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Stubborn as a Bull!

I'm not particularly exceptional when it comes to selecting my scripture study materials for the day. There are some common and recurring items in my weekly round up including the Book of Mormon, the Old Testament (sooo slow.. only at Exodus!), and talks from the Prophet and Apostles. Not having any exceptional methodology of selecting items to study from, yesterday, quite frankly...dumbfounded me.

As I rode downtown aboard the metro train, my brain pondered over all the things I was to do leading up to the wedding. Seemingly small tasks, each one would take a bit of time and remembering I would be gone for two weekends in New York for my brother's graduation only made matters worse. I listed everything in my head, was about to write it down when I thought (and this has been a common thought) - if I can't even get through a wedding without stressing out, how am I going to handle kids running around, the family finances, cooking and cleaning, etc. ?! At times like these, I feel pretty inadequate.

The wonderful fiance reassured me that all would be okay and though he was right, I wasn't quite settled in believing him. On my way out from work, I quickly went to to print out a talk for my train ride home and printed out the first two talks, both given in March of 2010. Not thinking much of the subject matters, I quickly packed my stuff and was on my way home.

Once in the train, I immediately learned the 5 o'clock train is just like the 5 o'clock bus - rush hour. As I stood there, holding on for dear life as the train shuffled me back and forth and I attempted to adjust my weight to prevent myself from tumbling forward, I began to read. And the Spirit was there.

I had been praying specifically for more strength when studying to feel the Spirit and be reminded of all the things Heavenly Father would have me understand and know. Recently, the Spirit was not as strong as He used to be during study time and I knew that was an indication that I was being pushed to grow even more.

In the talk, the speaker gets into a car accident and a family in his ward volunteers to help mow his lawn. Grateful, he offered to give him payment but the family refused. He said, "I might, because of pride or some other misguided notion, have chosen to refuse these gifts. That would have negated the giving of the gifts." As I read this, my heart wondered if my foolishness and fear of asking for help was prideful. Despite my lists of to do's and a former post about how it's okay to ask others for help, I have been stubborn in my ways and have refused asking for help beyond those who offer it.

And then... my mind wanders to others who are less fortunate than me. To the girl at work who is planning her wedding almost independently, and in contrast, there is me - who not only has a loving mother who has hand selected and made arrangements with the caterer, taken me with her friends to get bridal flowers and has most recently decided to do the centerpiece flower arrangements herself, but also a future mother in-law and sister in-law who have helped me with sewing questions, are making adorable matching flower girl dresses, have updated me on LDS traditions and even helped me find a family deejay!, and a best friend who has flown down to spend a weekend with me doing wedding stuff (and putting up with my anal, "no - not sure if I like that" attitude).. In my mind, I have so much help, how can I fathom asking for more?

But upon reading that talk... I knew, without a doubt, Heavenly Father was telling me... it is okay. It's okay to need help, even if you already have a lot of it... and it's okay to ask for help, even if you already have a lot of it. And as soon as I realized that, I felt warm and fuzzies all over.

So now... I just have to muster up some courage, avoid my stubborn ways, and ask for some help.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I Have a Plan!

I've been going to sleep at 10:30 PM every night... or trying to, at least.... so I can become accustomed to an earlier schedule for my future husband, who faithfully sleeps at 10 PM every night. Sometimes... I fail a bit and end up sleeping at 11 or 11:30 but tonight.. I am failing miserably. It is 12:30 AM and I am still wide awake. Not even a bit tired. Something has been on my mind all night.

What's neat is ... staying up...I was able to catch Sky on google talk. Sky, contrary to what one might think at first, is not inactive. She is in Africa, doing some awesome things and I admire and look up to her in so many ways (even though she is shorter than me). I live vicariously through her experiences going abroad and through her eyes (or magnificent photos on facebook), am able to see some of the world that I have not been to.

What's also neat is the inspiration I had to just blog. As I was saying my prayer before bed, the Spirit overwhelmed me and I felt like I really just needed to blog about FHE tonight.

David and I are FHE co-chairs, and we haven't done a great job with our callings. Most of the time, we are frantically calling each other on Sunday night to figure out who is giving the spiritual thought, who is bringing the treat and who is conducting. Though a committee of about seventeen, we are normally, on average, about five strong excluding us two. But we have acknowledged this and are actively seeking to remedy the situation ... and also learning how to delegate, a developmental point for both of us. And so far, we have had a great time working together (yes, I speak for both of us).

A couple of weeks ago... we were told we couldn't use the Church building for an upcoming FHE. Though daylight savings has happened and it's pretty light at 7:30 PM, we weren't quite sure it was time for ultimate frisbee at the park yet, and the Bishopric preferred we visit their homes in the summer instead (seems like a summer thing, right?). So,,, what were we to do?

Luckily for us, one of our ward members was close by when I was told this, and had just moved into an awesome assisted living apartment about five minutes from the Church and really wanted an opportunity to have people over. He asked me if we could have an FHE at his new apartment and it was as if Heavenly Father planned for us to have just the right timing.

Tonight was the FHE at someone's house. Our host gave us the spiritual thought and I was so touched by his sincere and honest testimony and the Spirit was so strong. I was so proud of him, of his new apartment, the beautiful nearby recreation room (complete with fridge, stove, large entertainment system, huge flat screen and DVD player, couches and dining table) and his generosity in inviting us over and having us over for game night FHE. Then, we even got to tour his apartment and as I walked around the room, noticing how empty (granted it's new) it was on the walls with the exception of a beautiful frame of Jesus and some people, I was just moved. There was also a photo of who I am guessing is his mom but it looked like a printed enlargement of a photo and wasn't framed. I suddenly became really sad. I know he's barely just moved in, but I think he's mostly all moved in...if that makes sense at all... and something was missing.

On the way out, I asked him if he needed anything and if he did, to let me know. I'm not sure why but I just felt like I could give him something. I suddenly thought of a desk I had that was going to be sold this weekend, and asked him if he wanted a desk for an empty area I saw behind the couch. He told me he was getting a dining table for that area but I quickly told him the desk was small enough that it could probably go in his bedroom. He seemed delighted.

I came home and I was still perplexed. What was bothering me?

FHE was bothering me.

Why didn't more people show up? Why was tonight such a poor showing? we normally get 30-50 people and tonight.. I even put signs up at Church and anyone who came late...could have still come.. or even called me if they got lost...

Confused. Sad. Disappointed.

And then.. I got a bit mad.

I often find my thoughts thinking about those with disabilities and how to help them and as much as I hate to admit it, feeling sorry for their situation. Unsure of how to help, I am often lost. So it the case often with our host. He is so kind hearted, so strong with his testimony and so friendly. He was actually one of the first people I met at Glendale 7th and he reached out his hand and introduced himself to me and ever since, I have never gone a Sunday without saying, "Hi, how's it going?!" And, I'll be the first to admit - there are times when I struggle with how to answer or deal with him - when he pesters me about FHE and if we can do a cooking lesson (which logistically seems like a nightmare) or he gets upset that our FHE skit night is more improvised and not prepared like a full play he is accustomed to. And I've seen others unsure of how to respond to him, how to tell him he's not invited to a party or get together that is just for close friends, or how to tell him something said that he misheard was not inappropriate.

And then... I got sad.

And then... I just stopped. We have a saying at work. Solutions, not problems. Because I know he does not want me to feel sorry for him. He is one of the happiest people I know and he was psyched for those of us who did join him.

Who cares if the normal FHE gang didn't show up tonight? Those who did - had a blast! Who cares if not everyone got to hear his amazing spiritual thought tonight? Those who did - are strengthened because of it! Yeah!!! DOUBLE YEAH!!!

And then... I became focused on my own thoughts again. There was something more I could do. I'm always praying about opportunities to serve others.... and here it was staring me in the face.

I thought of all these ideas... but in the end... this simple plan makes me feel the warm fuzzy inside me the most.

I am going to make him a Proclamation of the Family frame with photos of him and his other family, the G7 family, surrounding the Proclamation and it will be for him to hang in his new apartment. I will plan to take photos of him and friends over the next couple weeks or even month - however long it will take to get some good images ... maybe steal some from facebook... and hopefully he hangs it on his wall which won't be as empty with the beautiful painting of Jesus and his Proclamation. And ... getting creative.. maybe when I give it to him - I will ask the other FHE Committee group to help me and we can have a lil party at his house to thank him for opening his new apartment to help us with our FHE activity. And maybe... just maybe, we'll invite other people who missed out on tonight.

I'm quite excited to say... I have a plan!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

But My Momma Said....

Growing up, my mom always had breakfast for my brother and I before we left for school. Normally, that consisted of one of the following: a deluxe breakfast which was usually eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, orange juice, and an assortment of fresh fruit etc., leftover bento boxes from the previous night's dinner, egg mcmuffins, bagels with cream cheese and cut fruit, Chinese rice congee with about five different dishes from a can to pick from such as pickled radish, spicy eel, dried pork, spicy tofu, spicy bamboo, and mian jin (wheat gluten and my favorite!) or special Chinese rice congee with abalone, duck eggs and scallops. Sometimes, the overload of such extravagant breakfast menu items meant my brother and I were psyched to have pop tarts or Lucky Charm's! But often, even the cereal would have to be accompanied with some type of fresh cut or peeled fruit such as honey dew, oranges, clementines, cantaloupe, watermelon, kiwis, apples, pears, strawberries, or grapes. Rarely were we allowed to leave the table without having finished both our meal and serving of fruit. No... we weren't spoiled! It's just an Asian mom thing.... I mean, we weren't the only kids to get fresh cut fruit ...but we were the only kids to get fresh cut grapes, peeled and without seeds (she would manually remove 'em). So I guess you could say we were a lil bit spoiled....

In many ways, preparing food and cooking is my mom's thing. She doesn't often ask us for help with the actual cooking... only to help unload the groceries, set the table or clear and wash the dishes. So when my brother and I began baking or cooking... she seemed indifferent and unimpressed. And then... when I moved out on my own, I found out - she was neither when she told me one day, "Don't worry about learning how to cook now - you will learn eventually when you're married and cooking everyday."

With that nugget of truth, I have started to fear how awful my cooking may be or how unfortunate my poor future husband to be will be since come June, I will be cooking everyday (almost). I'm pretty good at the non-cooking essentials such as washing fruit, preparing sandwiches and tossing salads. But actually "COOKING" is a whole other story! Though I have some experience, it is fairly little and I have lots to learn. And so, I have begun to follow recipes - with the hope that the more I cook, the easier it will become - the more I'll be able to figure out what is easy to cook based on the ingredients already in the house and grocery shopping will be simplified.

I figure cooking will be like everything else I try to do consistently such as scripture study and gym time. It might seem uncomfortable at first and I might have to rely on recipes when I begin... just like I might rely on study guides and instructional videos. But now.. I know where to go to find conference talks, past talks, scripture study guides, etc. and I can run through different exercise routines on my own so hopefully... one day, I'll be able to cook without the recipe book and the measuring cup.

I did manage to make some salmon that was pretty aesthetically pleasing AND taste bud-riffic! Beginner's luck.

They say the way to a man's heart is through his stomach... I sure hope Andy is the exception! At least until I learn how to cook more!

Monday, April 5, 2010

It's Just a Really BIG Easter Egg!

When I was a child, I loved plastic Easter eggs. Brightly colored, pastel, large, small - you name it, I wanted it. So whenever Easter rolled around and the Cadbury commercials were back on air, I would start pestering my dad about some plastic eggs.

One Easter, my dad forgot to get me some plastic Easter eggs. Our family was not religious, so when exactly Easter was would sometimes get forgotten and there was no greater meaning beyond plastic Easter eggs or sparkly grass. I kept bugging him about my plastic Easter eggs and finally he said, "let's go get 'em!"

We must have gone to every single drug store and grocery store that day, with no luck of finding any plastic eggs. Defeated, my dad dropped me off at home with my mom and said he would go find me my plastic eggs. I knew my dad would get me my eggs. He promised.

That night, after hours of searching high and low for colorful plastic Easter eggs, my dad returned with a really large egg. "It's a special egg!" he told me, "the biggest of all Easter eggs!" I delighted with joy and took my one large egg and went to go play with it.

Years later, I wouldn't recall this incident, but my mom would remind me that the one large and really BIG Easter egg... was actually a container that female nylons used to be sold in.

And so... my past memories of Easter besides one actual egg hunt our family had one year in our backyard.... boil down to a Leggs canister.

This Easter was special to me. It was the first Easter I had a strong and still growing testimony of Jesus Christ and the ultimate sacrifice made for me. Though I went to Church last year and knew I was going to be LDS, my testimony was weak and upon listening to others bear their testimony, I wondered if I would ever feel that strongly for my Savior. True, I had felt the Spirit and was already acting in faith... but I was still not absolute. Today, a year later... I am confident in my knowledge of the Savior and understand that Easter is not all about big plastic eggs...