Monday, May 31, 2010

A Glimpse Into My Oh So Mormon Life

Due to Stake Conference next weekend, we had our fast and testimonial Sunday today and our Break the Fast theme was "That's So Mormon."

I didn't grow up in the Church so naturally, half the typical food items and cultural aspects of being Mormon are still quite foreign to me. I can pick up on most - but with food, it's definitely a learning experience which made me ponder.. am I really that Mormon... culturally that is? For example, I learned tapioca in marshmallow and mixed fruit is "frog eyes" and both that and jello are not desserts, but side dishes.

I recently also learned what a Hawaiian Haystack is from a lovely reception of our friends who got married last week. I was stuffed to the brim from all the Hawaiian (coincidence?) food served at my bridal shower earlier that day so I had to take the word of those I love and know well who consumed it and exclaimed, it's awesome! For those of you who aren't familiar with it, it's a combination of rice, gravy, fruits, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, guacamole and sour cream and wa-la - Hawaiian Haystack.

As part of the wedding planning process, I have also been able to learn much more of LDS culture. For example, including a photo with an invite - completely Mormon. Another Mormon thing? Bridals! Yes yes... I know there are many non-LDS brides who also take 'em but in general, they are definitely the minority and when I talked with a lot of my non-member friends about it, it was definitely a new concept to them. As is the timing of sending out invites - non-members traditionally send invites out 3 months prior but LDS culture is closer to a month within the wedding.

It seems there is always definitely more to learn about cultural LDS stuff and with each passing day, I am finding that out.

I suppose it's the same with the Gospel. There's always something to learn and even when you think you've got it all down, there's more. Some of the learning can be instructed (someone can tell me what a funeral potato looks like, the ingredients and directions to make it, or I can try to learn by example, watching someone else cook 'em, ask questions, etc. ) It always surprises me that we go to Church each week, talk about the same scripture stories and the same principles and doctrines, yet feel differently about it every time. The Spirit knows how to teach you something new with each relearned concept and the application to our own lives is varying as we grow and learn. Challenges are thrown are way that cause us to apply each principle again and again, yet it feels different and in the end, we look back and realize - look how much we've grown.

I've been reading the scriptures for more than a year now and I still have not gone through all of the Old and New Testament, but despite having gone through the rest of the scriptures, I still would not be able to summarize all the stories within the Book of Mormon. I feel inadequate most of the time compared to those armed with so much more depth of each biblical story, but I hope with time, I will just continue reading and learning, and never lose sight of the learning that will happen with each passing day. I must be patient and diligent and put my shoulder to the wheel when it comes to studying everyday and ensuring my studying is progressing.

In the Church, there is so much emphasis on spiritual growth and spiritual stagnation is the same as falling backwards. I think of my own growth in learning about the scriptures and the culture and I know I want to continue forward, not backward which means not standing still. And then, when I take a glimpse into my oh so Mormon life, I will smile and know I have made an effort and seen the fruits of my efforts.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

We Made His Blog!

Our photographer's name is Jimmy Bishop but his company is called Gideon Photo. How neat is that!!! Gideon is this dude in the Book of Mormon that comes out of nowhere, and helped lead the Nephites to freedom from their bondage to the Lamanites (the bad guys), who died defending the Church against a wicked man named Nehor and eventually had a valley and a city and even a photography company (if you google, you find two at first....) after him! If you want to know more, let me know and I"ll send you a Book of Mormon with pages highlighted.

See our photos on Gideon's blog!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Gratefully So

Today, I semi-alphabetized approximately 300 invitations. By semi, I mean I put all the invites into their appropriate last name category, but did not alphabetize them within there.

Next, I went to get my dress fixed. This consisted of a phone call to the manufacturer, an e-mail to the manufacturer, about six phone calls to the dress shop, and ultimately a stop by the store to pick up the dress, and yet another stop at the new seamstress the Bishop's wife recommended I go to. There, the new seamstress (and my favorite new seamstress) took a pair of scissors and cut up my dress. Literally. She said, "this might hurt" to which I responded, "doubtful," and then snip-snap, and the dress was cut! Once done, I sat outside in my car, called some partners who had left me messages and did a bit of catching up for the day of work I skipped to fulfill wedding errands. Yes, did I mention, I took the day off in hopes of putting out some wedding fires.

Then, I hurried on over to Trader Joe's to grab a quick salad and apple for dinner and forgot I had to also stop by Walgreen's to get envelopes for our FHE activity, "Remember Snail Mail?!"

I arrived at the Church with about 45 minutes to spare, which was perfect since my cousin, also engaged, had just returned from China and was giving me some advice about how to mail invites to our family overseas (her advice consisted of send them a pdf in e-mail).

Though we were right on time and closed at 8:30, by the time I got out, it was 9 PM. 20 minutes later, I was home with more goals on my list.

1) Finish scrapbooking 15 pages for volunteer activity for Children's Hospital of LA
2) Do a session of the bar method work out for one hour

I was only able to finish 5 pages and 20 push-ups.

Which brings me to wonder... how do people with 9-6 jobs plan a wedding?! I had the whole day off and I still feel like I accomplished nothing. And so, in the midst of all the wedding things I still have left to do (placecards, welcome table frames, placecard table frames, marriage license, pack, pick-up Andy's ring, figure out my hairstyle, organize and prioritize), I came to the realize... I am so grateful for all the help I have had from friends and family, for the job that I have which allows me to be flexible with time off, for the fiance who though studying hard everyday, still lets me bore him with mundane wedding details, and the energy and anal affinity for making lists, crossing items of my list and alphabetizing that makes this whole process a bit annoying, but definitely doable and in the end, very enjoyable. I'm grateful for being of good cheer and I hope I can always be of good cheer... even when things aren't looking that great.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


I've probably gone through about five different cans of pepper spray, attached to my keychain.

Two of 'em were confiscated - one at the airport and one at a concert. Another fell and exploded (I wasn't nearby so I was safe) and I only realized after it had exploded on the floor where I later found it. I'm not sure what happened to the other two... but I think they either expired or were destroyed from daily transportation on my keychain.

I have been considering the purchase of a tazer, but am unsure what the legal ramifications of carrying such a thing around or in my home, would be. I also am reminded that I need another can of pepper spray for my keychain everytime I drive by Big 5 Sporting Goods.

So when I saw a story on THS E! Investigates about two men who were in a seemingly perfect relationship but subsequently plotted to kill their wives, I got scared! Not that my future husband would try to kill me, but of yellow gatorade, the poison that the first dude killed his wife with! Ever since the show taught me that gatorade's yellow color and flavor is similar to that of antifreeze, I have been repulsed by the bright yellow sports drink!

Considering all my episodes with paranoia from the past and present, it's a surprise to myself that I made it to the New York Temple all by myself, via the New York public transportation, aka really old subway system, but make it I did!

To be fair to my paranoia, I did meticulously organize all my belongings into a back-pack (harder to rob me versus a purse), review the itinerary five times, and hold onto my phone safely in case I needed to call for help. And I didn't tell anyone, not even my own fiance, about my plans, until moments before the big trek out. This was in case I got too scared and backed out, and would have to explain why I didn't make it.

I know God doesn't always answer our prayers immediately, but I also believe He is so aware of us and that there are tiny blessings everywhere if we only but look.

My itinerary included a transfer from the end of the L to 8th avenue and then 1 uptown to 66th st - Lincoln Center Station, and then walk to the Temple from there. It sounded pretty straightforward and simple, so I set about on my route. But I missed the memo that the L that ends at 8th avenue going to the 1 means a short walk outside to get to the other line. As I sat on the L to 8th, thinking it would transfer by itself or be a short walk within the station (like what I'm used to at Union Station in LA), everyone on the bus became impatient, yelling outloud about why the doors wouldn't open when we were already at our destination of 8th. It was then that I realized... oh wait, I think I am at the end and need to get out! Needless to say, the announcement would have been made sooner or later about this minor detail, but the epiphany I had in that moment of "this is where I get off!" comforted me. Yet the moment I was out, I saw no connecting trains to the 1 so I did what any sane person would do. I asked for directions.

The lady behind the glass window did not seem amused. "You gotta go to 7th," she told me. My initial reaction was, so I got off on the wrong exit?! But I felt a strong prompting to make sure I knew what she meant. "So I take the train back to 7th?" I asked. "No," she responded, "you go to 7th," - man, was she being difficult or was I just stupid? "So," I continued, "how do I get to 7th?" to which she responded, with her eyes rolling in back of her head and a very distinct glare through the looking glass separating us, "you have to walk a block to 7th," in a very matter of fact, duh, are you completely serious? type way.

I got it.

I was supposed to WALK to another subway station.



I thanked her quickly and made my way out of the train station and onto the streets of New York where I had no idea which way east or west, 7th or 9th were. I knew the avenues ran north and south and the streets ran east and west, but which way did the streets get larger? Was I walking towards 7th or 9th? Who cares? I would just ask someone again! So I asked the next person I saw on the streets, and they quickly pointed out which way 7th was, and off to the subway station #2 I went!

The eery feeling on the train of... am I going the right way is never fun. I must have asked two strangers, one on the outside waiting to get onto the train, and once more on the train, just to confirm and be safe. I knew where my exit was, and I had a map in front of me, but just in case some freakish one time exception were happening on the trains, I made it a clear point to find out from someone who looked New Yorkish.

As I exited 66th and walked out of the subway station, right in front of me, a short walk across the street, stood a normal looking building. But as I looked up, I saw the sun shining distinctively behind a familiar looking, gold statue of Angel Moroni. Woo-hoo! I made it!!!

There was a small triangle corner from where I had exited the subway, perfect for taking photos of the Temple, but not too far on the other side of the street. So I aimed my camera and began taking photos while people gathered around to wait for the cars driving by.

The sounds of a big city - think random ambulance noises, cars zooming by, honking from irritated drivers waiting for pedestrians and the pedestrian traffic - shoes, talking, cursing, etc. - were all silenced upon entering the Lord's house. It was dead silent inside, except for the whisperings from those of us inside. It was beautiful! The marble white floors, the same familiar paintings of Jesus Christ and beautiful stained glass windows greeted me, along with a smiling face who upon seeing me, asked, are you Sister Chou?

Yup! I am for another month or so....

Inside, I met another woman and her daughter from Colorado who were together on a graduation trip to NY to just hang out, shop and spend time together. The woman was a convert at 15 who had also been sealed inside the LA Temple when she got married (later, not at 15) and her family awaited her outside. We talked briefly inside about her experience, her family's reaction over time, and her life. Her son had returned from his mission, her daughter had just graduated dental school after completing her undergrad at BYU, and she was shining with happiness about the loving husband she was so blessed to have. She told me she has never regretted joining the Church and coming closer to God and Jesus and actually having a relationship with both. We shared our experiences and it was so awesome to hear about her non-member family and some difficulties she had in not coming across as righteous but still sticking to her beliefs. I know my own testimony strengthened from our conversation and her shared story uplifted me so much!

So despite my random paranoia and initial fear of actually going to the Temple by myself.... public transportation in a real big city, it was worth it.

I can't promise you the gatorade you drink won't be laced with anitfreeze or that you might not need that little can of pepper spray on your keychain, but I can tell you going to the Temple when you really don't feel like it... when you think it's too much trouble, when you're afraid of the traffic, the time commitment or the long wait, that is when you need it most and that is when it will be the most rewarding. That much, I can promise you.

I'm So Vain....

I think almost every girl wants to look good on her big day and I most certainly do.

...which is why today, after trying on my dress which was now built up with a higher neckline and sleeves, I was utterly disappointed with the pure hideousness of the dress destined to be a part of my big day. It seems they decided to not only build up the dress from its sister strapless version, but bead it along the way. It looked like I had a huge coat of arms in the form of bead on my chest. The sleeves bulked in their largeness and instead of being separate from the shoulders (as I think most sleeves are), they stayed connected to the bodice, not giving me much room to move my arms sideways and out. What's worse ...these aforementioned alterations cost $200.

After struggling all day with the looming bad feeling and overwhelming disappointment, I came up with a proposed solution and plan of attack. I'd first, call the manufacturing company Monday morning and give them a piece of my mind (in a logical matter of fact manner as to why they should consider additional customer service for their "temple ready" line which failed my expectations) and second, start to find a new seamstress to do alterations immediately. Either way, I shouldn't "mope," as my mom taught me, and should learn how to deal with it instead of being sad about it.

Yet, despite my plan of action, I still felt .... frustrated.

The really hard thing about getting sealed in a Temple is not that my family won't be there (it's not great.. but it's only a half hour they miss). In fact, today I have decided, the really hard part about getting sealed in a Temple are the minor details that my mom, aunt and other close family, are unable to help me with. None of us know where the dress should sit on the arms, the neck or the back. None of us have seen enough built-up dresses in real life to understand what shapes look better with what fabric and styles. None of us have a clue. ... which only makes me feel worse when my mom and aunt try to help me and I shut down because I have no idea how they can help me when I don't even know what it's supposed to be like!

So... I must be really vain, because...

I do want to look good on the big day. I do want to take my future husband's breath away. I do want my kids to say, "wow Mom, you looked great!" and I do want my daughters to bicker over who gets to wear mom's dress for their own wedding.

I do (not really a pun since I won't)

I think my mom saw the disappointment in my eyes because as she looked at the photos, didn't say much about how bad it looked (my mom is pretty blunt so I expected she would...) but only how we could easily fix it. She didn't dwell on the items, as if to communicate they weren't important. And she didn't treat it as a big deal.

It reminded me of my cousin's firstborn, who sometimes falls unexpectedly after running around. At these moments, everyone nearby yells "safe!" so she will know it's okay and not break down into tears.

I think that is the same as our parents (as my mom did) and Heavenly Father. He knows when things seem too much and we just want to hide and stick our head into a hole for a while. He knows when these moments happen and instead of egging our negativity or agreeing with our Debbie Downer type attitude, He does nothing. Nothing unless we act and act in faith. Nothing unless we are diligent in keeping and striving to keep the commandments. Nothing unless we prepare to receive inspired guidance from above. Nothing unless we do something. And that something can't just be anything.

Disappointments are gonna happen in life.. that's kinda just how life is. But it's how you deal with it that matters... how you respond with good cheer, and try to uplift yourself and others. That is incredibly hard sometimes but that's why we have our savior, Jesus Christ, and why our loving Father above gave us His beloved. That is why I know things will get better. Hey... the dress can't get any uglier at this point.. only prettier!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Shockingly Slothful

Lately... I've been shockingly slothful. In my defense, my hour commute to work has been weighing down on me, and instead of waking up in time for scripture study or a work-out, I have been sleeping in and going to work without either. At first, it was okay because I would do both after work. Sadly, I surprised even myself when my weekly workout routines of 4 or 5 days per week became 2 or 3. The expedited decrease in physical fitness is not the only aspect of my routine that has become lazy. My scripture study has become the last thing I do at night, and as such, is usually never at a desk. That's not to say that I usually did study at a desk, but the frequency of utilizing my bed* as a desk has dramatically increased. i dare say, the study has become too lax and most times, I fall asleep reading. The situation was magnified when I found myself, rethinking a visit to the Temple two weeks in a row.

I know it's not always possible to visit the Temple weekly but being single and only living 35 miles away, it is definitely feasible to make it a part of my weekly routine. That said, lately, I have been rethinking whether or not I can make the commute and time commitment.

Yet both times I have gone... despite the impending inclination to put it off (just this one time... I'll go next week... promise), I have gone. One of the principles most often taught during my Church meetings every Sunday is that of making sure you go to Church when you LEAST feel like it as that is when you need it most. So taking that principle into action, I did exactly that. They say there are blessings from the Temple and to that I testify.

The first time I went to the Temple against my inherent reaction that time was of essence and the Temple just didn't fit into my schedule, I was out in an hour which compared to my normal three hour duration, was amazing. Not only did I feel the Spirit and do some work, I was out in due time! Coincidence?

The second time I went to the Temple against my once more inherent reaction that work was overloading me and there was no way I could get through the pile of demands on my plate.... I decided the second I pulled out of the driveway. I could drive to the bus or train station, or drive to work. The two modes of public transportation meant no Temple after work, and though I had already committed to finding time on Saturday to go by the Temple instead, in the split second that I pulled out of the driveway, I told myself... when you think you need it least, you need it most, and off I went! Now normally, the local commute to downtown LA takes an hour, plus parking and walking to my office. This day, the lights were all green, the roads were all clear and somehow, I know not how, I arrived in 45 minutes-- parked and was up in my desk within the hour. Wow. And then, as I got through all my work demands, each conversation, each task, just happened. Work was happening. Not one of those, wow, how do I keep getting more on my to-do list, but one of those, wow, I'm checking items off and my list is getting smaller! It was insane! Nothing special happened at the Temple in terms of an a-ha moment. But upon leaving, I once again thought... coincidence?

For two weeks, I have gone to the Temple against all initial desires and for two weeks, I have seen blessings in my life.. not necessarily huge, in my face, wow moments, but small, minor, I actually got that done and more type moments. And I'm reminded that "by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise," (Alma 37:6).


*Sidenote - I recall a study done in college about the effectiveness of studying in bed being null. The argument was that the body thought of bed as a place to rest and therefore, studying in bed meant 1) you'd fall asleep or 2) you'd be unable to fall asleep if it became a study place. I know for me and most people, it's the former option that is dangerous. The latter rarely happens... although probably not completely uncommon!

Saturday, May 1, 2010

How Do I Love Thee?

Everyday, Project Wedding send me an update of how many days I have left, and a tip. The tips are always useful ones about DIY projects or reminders for things to do as it winds down to the big day, but mostly are to cost save and help plan w wedding, not a marriage or an eternity together. So, I can't help but wonder... where's the advice about how to ensure I am communicating appropriately, I am putting my future eternal companion's happiness ahead of my own, and that I am truly cleaving to my future husband to be? Yes... it is about 49 more days.. but the redundant wedding planning advice is uselessly unnecessary at this point. To all my married buddies reading this... what's one piece of advice you would give me in terms of my marriage and not my wedding?