Tuesday, December 30, 2008
This year, the following reflections came, mainly from reading old mission letters, and reading a talk from Pesident Henry B. Eyring, of the First Presidency of the LDS church, & Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quroum of 12 Apostles. I love this picture of them below (for a little visual :)
The talk is called “O Remember, Remember” from the Nov 2007 Ensign. In summary, he shares an experience as a kid when the thought came to him, “I’m not giving you these experiences for yourself. Write them down.” He began that night to write, and has kept the habit up. At the end of each day, he would ask himself, “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us, or our family today?”. As he thought about it, he began to recognize where the Lord had intervened throughout the day, and said, ‘I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.”
Gratitude began to grow. Testimony grew. He writes, ‘And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened.”
These statements have really caused me to reflect the past 3 days sense reading them. I’ve started an experiment, trying out his reflecting method to end my own days…and I have seen the blessings. Friday, the Lord intervened, placing an old friend in my path as my bank teller. She shaved 2 weeks off the process of getting a hold of money I needed that day to pay bills. What were the odds I would be assigned to the one teller I had been good friends with in 4th grade? That was no coincidence, it was a tender mercy Yesterday, while cleaning, I came across the letters I had written home while a missionary. I read a few and had brought back to my mind experiences I’d had with some of the people I loved most in Uruguay. I had forgotten details…and I had forgotten the feelings, and the testimony gained from the experiences. All the feelings, love, yearning for their happiness, and affirmations of truth came rushing back as I read those letters. I don’t think I can adequately express here the power those letters had on me. Sometimes, the mission feels like a dream—no one else really experienced it, and it feels like a far-off memory. It’s so bittersweet to think back: it was the most profound, powerful impact of your life, and yet something you hardly ever get to talk about. You see pure miracles happen, honest to goodness things you’d think you’ll only read about in books or hear from others…and then you return home, and rarely have chance to share them. Or, find that all anyone asks about is what the food & weather were like. On the mission, you see heaven reach down and touch earth. You see mountains moved and prophecies fulfilled. In time, for me, I have started to forget. I honestly don’t remember some of the stuff that I read about in my mission journal, and it amazes me I saw such things in my own life, or that I boldly said some of the things I said. Last night, hearing myself speak so assuredly of the power of the Book of Mormon, in the moment in life when I was watching it change lives, was a powerful experience for me . It not only reminded me of my testimony, but also backed up Elder Eyring’s words that we should write down these things, for they will strengthen us later when we remember them. I felt the experience of finding these letters was the Lord intervening in my day. Yesterday, I also realized that a random, kind “I love you David.” Calms my little brother down, and causes him to sweetly say back, “I love you too.” Believe me, THAT was a tender mercy to discover! Today, I touched base with so many people that I have not really seen or spoke with for 8 years, but who had big impacts on me during my youth. It felt good to hear of them, and strengthen them. It felt good to feel gratitude for their service to me, and to try and repay them with a kind smile and offer my friendship. It felt like a loving gift from a loving Father to make this day special. In the 3 days since trying Elder Eyring’s experiment, I have come to see the value each day has held in my eternal progression. Isn’t that amazing advice given to us? I definitely think so!
He also gave us a warning, that particularly stood out to me. He said, ‘Seeing such things takes the Holy Ghost. And it is not easy to be worthy of the Holy Ghost’s companions in a wicked world….’Take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from they heart all the days of thy life.” (Deuteronomy 4:9). This really caused me to think. Am I doing things in my daily life, that keep me from recognizing the hand of God? Yeah, actually. I’m not talking huge sins, but worldly distractions keep me from even glancing heavenward till the end of my day sometimes. What am I doing that is causing me to forget the profound lessons I’ve learned?
At church, they spoke of the people who partook of the tree of life, but then cast it away, ashamed, due to the pointing and laughing from the people at the great and spacious building. I thought back to Elder Eyring’s words, and wondered, “Did they forget? Did they forget all the tender mercies, and moments of divine intervention that got them through that mist, that kept them grasping the iron rod, to get to the fruit?” At some point, they stopped remembering those experiences, or maybe never even took the thought to recognize them, and then the voices of the world became louder and louder…until those voices became their reality, blinding them to the blessing of eternal life they held in their grasp. It gave me food for thought. How loud is the voice of the world to me right now?
Also at church, the RS lesson was on how to “fuel” the soul. Every answer and story shared, was a means to help us remember what the Lord has done. Remember our testimonies, and thus keep them strengthened: Profound prayer, taking the sacrament, searching the scriptures. Sister Painter, now serving as the Stake YW President, turned to me at the end and said, “you know, I was going to say “fulfilling our callings’, but sometimes, that completely tires you out! I mean, sometimes, this calling really kicks my butt. But then, I stop and think of all the miracles I’ve seen while serving, and I realize it’s all worth it.” That really made me think, too. Sometimes…oft times …serving in a calling can mean “Wasting and wearing out their lives” as it says in D&C. And yet…those are the times we reflect on to strengthen testimony. I read my mission letters to renew testimony. Elder John Groberg wrote a book that became an amazing movie (The Other Side of Heaven). President Eyring gave his kids his old journals, and they refer to them to help them through their own lives.
I love how when studying a topic, the Spirit custom-fits all the messages at church to what I am pondering. It’s almost as if he’s elbowing me a bit, reminding me to pay attention, this is important, and yes, there will be a life-test on it later
In the talk that follwed that conference, new Apostle, Quentin L. Cook spoke on living by faith, and not by fear. He shared one of my favorite scriptures (it rhymes ), “Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants. Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you, and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ” (D&C 68:5-6).
His reminder, coupled with Elder Eyring’s encouragement to keep a tangible remembrance, has caused me to reflect a lot on the experiences in my life that I need to always remember. I guess it’s what prompted the 3-page essay on my experiences with an Apostle. It’s also making me think on my current situation in life. Isn’t it written somewhere, that some trials are given people, so that they may testify of the hand of God in their lives? This scripture makes me think of that—"Be of good cheer, I’ll be with you every step. Bear record of this to others.” Strengthen one another….haha, but that leads to another lengthy “reflection” that ended up turning into a talk :)
Monday, December 22, 2008
Let's start with the obvious...
And to think people gave me a hard time for hanging a small TX flag up now and then my freshman year of college! I Took this outside the LBJ Ranch tour. Notice the lights are on. I think she saw me eyeballin' her pride and joy and checked the alarm system from afar :)
Texas Furniture--and no, Aggies have no qualms about using a longhorn to make furniture they can sit their tush on!
I am so popular!
Only in Texas do I find my name on everything! Hardware stores, restaraunts, streets, and apparently on restored stoves at an 1880's Living History Farm! :)
A cute TX botique
Considering the rest of the world considers Giraffe hide and hot pink to be the "in" item right now, cowhide and red doesn't seem like such an odd combo anymore!
One of my favorites!
That's right folks, for only $2 million smackers, you, yes you, can be the proud owner of a TX town who's motto is "Good songs, Cold beer". Dance hall and fancy restrooms included. Located only 20 miles from Lukenbach (of "with Waylin, and Willie, and the boys..." fame!), the town's 4 occupants live in a classic 1971 home. (and yes, this is ALL advertised on the above sign. :) It's honestly a charming area only a few miles from my Grandma's home in the Hill Country...I've just never seen a town for SALE before! :)
And I saved the best for last! Thirsty anyone?
I have LOVED my time in Texas this past week, reconnecting with family and the culture I grew up in. It is a good way of life, and a great background to have. Please don't take this as me poking fun of my home state--I love this place! We Texans aren't blind to finding a little humor in ourselves though. Hope you enjoyed! Ya'll come back now, ya'hear? ;)
Sunday, December 14, 2008
It was sad leaving David, though I showed him on his count-down to Christmas calender when I would be back. (Cutest side note in the world: how now calls daily to read me each little book from that christmas calender. If I miss the call, he leaves me a message, always ending with "I love you...we all love you...I love you Beth!". It's the favorite part of my day! :)
I came back this week thinking it would be jam packed...and I have not been disappointed! Here's a short recap of my life the past 4 days:
Wed--after no sleep the night before, and a 2 hour nap on the airplane, I flew into Phoenix during sunset & rush hour traffic. (translation: MAGNIFICENT AZ hot pink sunset behind purple mountains, while leaving enough light to see details of the land below, and rush hour red break lights lighting up each street, creating perfect rows. It was AWESOME! I've flown over a hundred times in my life...and have not had a window scene capture my attention so fully for quite some time!) Lynn picked me up and started rushing me home so I could get to ward visits, only....we got lost. Like LOST, lost! We didn't realize it until we hit 19th Ave...but we were in Glendale! We turned around, only to get lost again. Needless to say, a 10 minute trip home took us an hour and a half. We didn't really mind though, as it gave us time to catch up and giggle :)
I came home and now made a mad dash for ward visits. So embarrassing, but I was one of the last one's there. I am so grateful Melissa had the binder full of maps in her trunk! They had passed them out and were already splitting into groups. The visits were great! I have to say, it was one of my favorite nights yet. Usually no one's home for me, but we had a lot of luck this time! I ended up companioned up with one of the new guys in the ward, Tommy Hancock. He said he was new--so any ward members reading this, get to know him! He was fun to do the visits with, friendly with everyone, and patient enough to visit 5 different houses of sisters with me (including an apartment complex we searched for half an hour, only to find out the girl had moved! I actually don't know if he was willing to serve, or smartly figured out ward visits is a great way to meet a bunch of girls in one night! Whichever the reason, I'm greatful he was willing to cheerfully drive us around for over 3 hours! :). I had the chance to drop by some sisters I have not yet had the chance to get to know, so I loved it! We finished up about 10 pm.
Thursday--Caught up on sleep, laundry, & finishing the 3rd twighlight novel (so annoyingly addicting. I had to skip ahead, skimming, just to finish it & get things done, haha :) then headed to Enrichment (after getting lost of course...thus prompting me to ask for a GPS for Xmas!! :). It was "fabulous" as Courtney would say. Bere Flores & the Enrichment Committee did an amazing job getting it organized, decorating, and provided a tasty meal! Picture on facebook to come soon ;) Night ended with cops pulling me over for a headlight being out. It ended with being sent to court, and them watching me cry in the car for 5 minutes (I thought they had left at that point. My "what on earth has happened to chivalry" side was completely ticked off when I finally realized they'd been watching the whole time. Isn't there something wrong with a society that for whatever reason, leaves a girl crying on the side of a dark road at night?? Boo on that memory!)
Friday--Cleaned, cleaned, cleaned the house. I figure since it feels like Spring time outside, I might as well get a little spring cleaning done! (Really, I just want to have a clean & organized room to come back to in January when the new job starts!) Friday night we had the ward conversion dinner. Again, great food, great company, and touching stories shared of personal conversion. It was a night I'm glad I didn't miss! I was extremely touched by the testimonies & stories of McKenzie Daniels, Steven Emmons Catherine Cantwell, & Caley Meegan. Caley gave me a new favorite quote when she said, "I had one of those coincidences in life...what are those called? Oh right, Mormons call coincidences 'Tender Mercies'!" :) haha, that was great, and actually pretty true!
Afterwards, whoever stuck around till clean up was done went to Cold Stone at Tmpe Marketplace. I love this picture--it's in the 60's, and we're all huddled around the fire, eating ice cream, in December! Only in AZ :) Nate then saved the day by replacing my car headlight & restoring internet security, all in one two-hour swoop that kept him up till 1 am! Thanks Nate!
Saturday Today was fun! I went with a friend to a lunch hosted by Indian co-workers. I've only tried Indian food once, about 6 months ago, but found it good enough that I wasn't nervous about today's little adventure. And...the food was great! After being there for about a half hour, I realized I was in a strangers house, full of other strangers I didn't know--but who all knew each other--and eating food from a foreign land. Curiously enough though, I realized I felt at ease being the odd-ball-out, and fully enjoyed the company! It actually reminded me of having people let us into their homes during the mission. I had loved visiting with people in their family settings where they feel most relaxed, and this felt no different. I thought the wife was adorable and she had such a sweet niceness to her. I was actually a little bummed realizing I probably won't have an opportunity to see them again, but did chalk their eager hospitality up to their culture, giving me a good impression of Indian people. It also reminded me of friends I had from that region back in highschool...and how much I enjoy being around that culture and those people! Thanks for the experience Jon!
Funniest thing, the host couple told me they had been an arranged marriage! I've heard of such a thing, but never met a couple with that background. It fascinated me, especially learning that they did each have a chance to "veto" the match their parents had made. If only we had such an easy system here in America! Just as I was starting to entertain thoughts of moving to India, I learned that I passed their "almost too old to marry" standard for women about 2 1/2 years ago! Yipes! Well, maybe it's good I'm slugging it out in an American system after all... :)
The lunch was followed up by a christmas shopping trip to AZ Mills, on a day probably crazy enough to rival Black Friday! The lines were so long in each store that it discouraged any 70% off discount being advertised! Fun to be among the bustling crowds though, & lots of cute kids in Xmas outfits. (I did however see a 3-D Scooby Doo game David was absolutly love, so I might just have to go back!)
After coming home, I enjoyed a quick grocery store trip with Lynn, and then an awesome Home Teaching visit. Funny enough, it was just fun to have our friends over watching, and of course making fun of, the awful hair-do they gave a lady on what-not-to-wear, looking at potential cameras to buy, pulling out Samantha to play with...until she uh-oh'd on Pearce--sorry Pearce!--and eat candy cane ice cream! A great little Christmas message was shared. Honestly though, I think I enjoyed the quality friend time to spiritual message ratio (45 min: 10 min,) followed up with a prayer. All visits should be as genuine as that! Thanks Skyler & Pearce!
As soon as the guys were on their way, Lynn and I took off for Texas Roadhouse for her birthday dinner! Yes, I know she had her birthday 2 weeks ago..but I wasn't here! I'd bought a gift certificate there about 3 years ago meaning to give it away, and always forgetting. I've been waiting for the perfect opportunity to spend it, and this was it! We had a coupon for a free apetizer & $30 to spend on steak & dessert. We had SOOOO much extra food to bring home, It was great!! By far the best thing there is their rolls & cinnamon butter. mmmm-mmm! I've gotta look up that recipe online. The steak was...I dunno, I'm a girl, I prefer fruit, cheese, and chocolate to anything fleshy. It was...a hunk of flavorless meet with onions on top. (Remind me to get the ribs next time, with extra sauce. I can't stand dry meat *crinckle nose*!) The sweet potatoe with marshmellows was awesome though! The atmosphere was a ton of fun too! Older less known country songs (though lynn and I both knew them well) played loudly, while we brushed our peanut shells onto the floor.
We made sure to take extremely flattering pictures of us kissing the Xmas fish before leaving. Isn't the world greatful Lynn and I don't drink? If these are the pictures we take purely sober...haha :) My only complaint is the place had a bit more red-neck feel to it than Texas to me...but the menu says it originated in Indiana. That explains everything! (haha, UOP joke...all our EXTREME redneck students seemed to come from Indianapolis area. Love 'em, but they were redneck! :) Follow this up with a chick flick & a new Xmas background for my blog, and it was a perfect girls night out! :)
Tomorrow starts the crazy, busy hustle of Sunday that I love so much. Monday an emissions test & a TB test for work. FHE at Temple lights. Tuesday hasn't been planned yet, except for a quick trip to Rawhide for a Cowboy Christmas (how can I skip it when it's just 5 minutes away and FREE?) And as always...I'm sure there will be more pictures to follow :) It's pouring rain outside right now. G'nite world!
Saturday, December 6, 2008
After 2 years as an Academic Counselor, and much debate, prayer, & thought, I quit my job and set out, full of faith and confidence that teaching is where i needed to be. It took about 6 weeks to obtain a substitute teaching license and be hired. Due to the economy though, apparently eveyone and their mothers are trying to get sub teaching jobs now. Meaning...I only get a job 2-3 days a week. One week, I didn't even get one. That's a lot of days in a row waking up at 5:30 AM for a job that falls through! To frustrate problems further, the paycheck I finally recieved BOUNCED. The agency paying me didn't have enough funds for the work I had done! WHAT ON EARTH?! Holiday jobs were not hiring me either, mainly due to the fact that I wouldn't work Sundays.
Right about this time, I took off for a family vacation back East, and then back to Texas. Since the begining of the trip, I'd been anxious to get back to AZ and find a job before my January full-time one kicks in.
And that's when a sweet little deal was offered. My very generous mom offered to employ me if I'd get a few things organized for her. A few quick calls to American Airlines, and I had a changed day of departure! I've LOVED being back in Texas with the fam so far, and don't regret the decision to stay on a bit longer and work with them. It's such a quaint little town, especially since I am use to the "city-life" of Phoenix (ha--like Ahwatukee is "city life"!).
In Phoenix, I just expect anywhere I go will take 20 minutes to get there. Doesn't matter if it's 20 miles on the freeway, or 5 miles thru a zillion stoplights. It just takes time, expect it. Here...well, I remembered everything being farther apart! I keep missing exits because they sneak up on me so quick! I jumped on the highway yesterday (a little 2-lane thing in a field), realized I was about to miss my exit, and went across 2 lanes to get to the exit. THere was a semi probably about 4 car-lengths behind me. And he HONKED! I seriously had to laugh--I've been cut off much worse in the city, and no one would have even blinked if they'd seen me do that in Phoenix! I have to admit though, the drivers are a lot friendlier here. The friendly wave characteristic of Texas towns is seen at nearly every intersection I hit. It's a slower-paced, more patient way of driving and treating your neighbors. Kinda cool.
I love the radio stations here. THe mix station stinks. It really only plays 80's all the time. The country stations though....sigh! Heaven on earth! The songs are not the fast-paced party-gone-crazy country songs they so often play in Phoenix, but just classics I grew up with & regular hits. Actually...more classics, and modern "Texas Country" (a sort of mix between rock, texas swing, and country). I dunno, it rocks, I love listening to it! I think the best part about the radio though is that the scenary outside my window MATCHES the feel of the song. As I drive along "That bluebonnet highway", with a few barbedwire fences here or there, or just seeing the open planes of Texas with that amazingly vast blue sky....SIGH! It's the pure definition of a George Strait country song! The men seem to match the coutnry songs too. I've had an eye-full of country boys down here, and I have to admit, it makes my heart do a little pitter-patter!
The best part by far of my little "vacation" is my brother David. At 6 years old, he is a whole bundle of fun! He still has the laugh that has been so distinctly his since a baby--I LOVE his laugh! He only lets it out too when being tickled or teased :) He has a mischevous sense of humor, and calm, though playful nature. We're falling more into brother-sister roles these days with teasing and annoying each other....but we're both so deprived of this kind of attention, we just bask in it now! He's seriously the coolest little kid on the planet!
Needless to say, I am really enjoying this slow-paced vacation & time with family. I do miss my friends in Phoenix enough to go back though, so no worries Phoenix! :) For now though, I'm going to continue being Deep in the Heart!
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Last night was no different. I had a missionary dream! In the dream, I was traveling with a YSA group to a foreign country. We were playing some kind of Secret Santa game, and my Secret Santa had a young local boy bring me a carved tree trunk they had made (yeah, only in my dreams!). It was somehow gospel related, and really cool. Everyone ooooh'd and ahhhh'd over it. I asked the boy if I could give him something in return for being so kind and brining it.
I ran back into my apartment and searched for the Joy to the World DVD. But somehow...the next part of my dream was me sitting in a hotel lobby with this little boy, showing him pictures from a book about the importance of families. As we were looking through the book, he excitedly pointed out pictures of his family members. Apparently, the church had used pictures taken in this area for the book. Two local women wanted to know what the fuss was about. I looked up at them, to see the familiar faces of women who were in the book! They came over and a discussion about what the book was, who the church was, and their interest in the book insued. (*sigh*, if only it was that easy in real life!). BY the time the dream was done, I had 3 referrals for the sisters in the area. OH, and the great part. The whole dream was in Spanish. I LOVE it when that happens!
Just a silly dream, I know, but I loved the feeling of sharing the Gospel again. I remembered as I woke up, that it gives me a slight adrenalin rush. I woke up smiling, it was great! :)
The night before that, I had a dream of trying to solve a murder mystery...or trying to prevent one? I dunno, it was detective work, and old friends were involved. I think the suspense and mystery came from the Twighlight books I've been reading lately, and the Sherlock Holmes detective work came from diving back into genealogy the last few days (complete detective work!). It was random to see old friends in the dream though, and it made me wonder how they're doing when I woke up. Thanks to the joys of email and facebook, I was able to find them all and send a quick note to see what's up in life.
Random, I know! But always interesting to me to see what we dream about in certain times of our lives. :) Now what do they mean? Psychoanalyze away! ;)
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
I don't know why, but I can never sleep before plane trips! Roughly 8 hours from now, I need to head for a flight that will take me to the East Coast. I love the East Coast, and especially love spending time at my grandparents place in small Magnolia, Delaware. Their house has been the same my entire life, and the comfort of it all just excites me! I look forward to the smell of cantaloupe in the morning, liquid dial on my hands after playing with my grandfather's beagle puppies, counting all the scary faces in the "knotty-pine room", and eating Apple-Butter on every piece of breakfast toast :) This is my first trip to Delaware in the Fall/Winter, first Thanksgiving with my mom's family, and a rare chance to spend time with my 6 year old brother--I'm so pumped! :)
The adrenalin rush leaves me slightly antsy and bored, waiting here at home for the adventure to start! To kill time, I'm blogging a bit. The random thoughts today are a slight peek into my nerdy side :) I have a slight fascination with history--not war (since this is all the History Channel really shows during the day, SO created by boys, for boys), but the stories of people, understanding them, and what made them tick. I guess it's what made me choose Fam History as a minor and Psychology as a Grad student!
My latest interest has been in studying the lives of women leaders. I have simultaneously been reading 2 books: a book about 5 queens of Europe who were granddaughters of Queen Victoria; The other book is a collection of biographies of each of the LDS General Relief Society presidents, since the days of Emma Smith in Nauvoo (who, I've learned, was 5 ft. 9 in--my height!--and a year and a half older than Joseph. Yay for tall, older women everywhere! lol :). It's been interesting reading of such influential women living during similar periods of world history. The Queens of Russia, Romania, Norway, Greece, and Spain each struggled to nobly play their part in a world speeding towards the first World War. Many stumbled, and though some had great religious faith, the tragedies of life had harmful consequences on their personalities and choices. On the other hand, the biographies of the RS presidents are filled with individualized tragic events...all of which deepened their ability to care for and lead others. Interesting difference a Gospel perspective and its comfort can make.
For whatever reason, since 6th grade, I have been fascinated with the Romanov family of Russia. I vividly remember Mrs. S..something dramatically telling the story of this ruling family, and the creepy Rasputin that pretty much helped bring down their reign, and destroy their family. The movies of Anastasia (both the old Yule Bryner one, and the newer animated one), only fueled my curiosity to know more of the story. I've read the articles over the years, disproving that Anastasia actually made it out of her family's massacre alive. And yet...I'm still so interested in this story!
This interest has been peaked again with reading Born to Rule, as it follows the life of Alix, more well-known as Tsarina Alexandra, wife of Tsar Nicholas II, and mother of Anastasia. All I really knew of her is that she was the woman who brought Rasputin into history in a desperate attempt to help the health of her son. During my many hours of spare time substitute "teaching", I've read more of the depth of this woman, and can't help but pity the sad ending of her family, which was her highest priority. She had a deep faith, even refusing for years to marry her long-time love because she knew she would have to convert to a different religion (the Roman Orthodox Church). She finally did so, only feeling peace in feeling that her life was meant to help inspire her husband to rule Russia, and that God would approve of her conversion to do this, thus serving Him. Once committed to something, she threw her whole self into it.
The marriage she had with her husband is such an inspiration, and quite romantic! They were one of the few royals really dedicated and faithful to each other. They pulled together through everything, and joyfully raised a family together. She forever reminded her husband that in her eyes, his great accomplishment was being the type of husband and father he was, not being Tsar of Russia.
I've felt like I connect with this woman--we have similar personalities, depths, passion, reservations, priorities, etc. It's interesting to see her reaction to the people however, and their reaction to her. Some things, I almost feel I take as a warning not to become, while others I take comfort in relating to a woman who I can really understand. Some great quotes from her letters to family:
"We have so much to do in our short sojourn on this earth; such manifold tasks for all of us to accomplish. What joy if any small way we can help another wanderer bear his heavy cross or give him courage to battle bravely on! how many faults we have to try and master-the hours seem too scarce in which to fulfill all our tasks."--11 Jan 1903
"What sorrow this life does bring, what great trials and how difficult to bear them patiently...suffering always draws one nearer to God, does it not, and when we think what Jesus Christ had to bear for us, how little and small our sorrows seem in comparison, and yet we fret and grumble and are not as patient as He was." --26 April 1894
Well, this topic has made me tired enough to actually get some sleep :)
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I signed up to work with a company that promised daily jobs, and that they would even give me the choice of valley-wide schools to work for each day. I knew I was in trouble however when the over-chatty government worker handed me my substitute teaching certificate and said, "Boy! We've been getting a lot of you guys lately, more than usual! Must be the economy these days....". She was right! Jobs have been scarce, giving me only a few opportunities a week (if that) to work. So when a job actually comes along...you take it!
This level of desperation has led me to accept jobs across the valley...and when I say across, I mean ACROSS. NW Glendale, Laveen, Southwest Phoenix, you name it...I've driven the 45 minutes to get there BEFORE rush hour starts. At most of these schools, I have found myself to be the minority, both in race, religion, and sometimes even sexual-orientation. The teaching method of most schools I have been in, is to hand the children busy-work. I come in, all ready to read stories, lead lessons, and make learning fun (that's the educational background I have), only to hear a grumpy teacher bark out in broken English, "Get your books out 1st grade! Copy them, word for word, 5 times! No talking!". All fun is then zapped from my job, as I then have to become Miss Meany, the No-Noise Monitor. Boo!
Of course, not all experiences have been like this. For the most part, I have found children starved of positive attention & a kind word. In situations like the above, I suddenly feel like the Florence Nightingale of substitute teachers, as I quietly go from child to child, looking at their work, and complimenting them each for something specific. I LOVE seeing the smiles light up their faces from the encouragement. Some class personalities allow me to do this, others don't. Today's for instance, really didn't. In fact, with most of the kids bigger than me and already of a legal age, I was pretty sure at a few points they were just going to beat me up. They were already partly doing it on each other anyways. The language out of their mouths was....graphic, to say the least,both in words used and subject matter talked about, and the non-motivated attitudes epitomized what you would only expect to find in a made-up teenager on sit-com TV. Needless to say, after an attempt at conversation with the student counsel led to questions about if I'd ever #(*%&@?! been to *@(#*&% Chip N Dale's, like the girl turning 18 next week was doing, I stuck to reading the book I brought and counted down the hours for normalcy to return to my life!
A few days ago, I had a profound experience that, if for nothing else, can surely b used in a talk one day on the importance of not labeling others. I had a class of 6th graders who had not yet had a stable teacher (i.e. 4 months of subs!). All were actually pretty good kids, and I was left with an open day to fill with my own creativity (YES!) Pretty soon however, my creative genius was thwarted by a few ruffians in the back. Godfrey, Rammon (who also went by both Juan and RJ throughout the day), Jason, and Daniel...for some odd reason, some teacher, somewhere, had thought it a bright idea to stick all these little hooligans together at one table. They were rude, distracting, loud, disruptive, and even at times, physically harmful to both others & themselves. They refused to follow any instruction, and often just ht the floor and stated making baby sounds if I tried to address them one-on-one. Needless to say, was not amused and authoritative Ms. Alamo came out, yelling a few choice instructions.
Lunch time came, and to no one's surprise, this table of future-criminals were left, not yet dismissed due to unfollowed directions. I seized the opportunity to calmly go into a stern spiel about their behavior being unacceptable. Two sentences into my discipline however, the thought came that if I continued to treat the boys as outlaws, their behavior would remain that way throughout the day. So instead, I heard my voice change and the words come out, "Hey, I know you guys are good kids....you are GOOD KIDS. I know that. I can be the nicest teacher you've ever had, or one of the meanest. It's really up to how you choose to behave. Please don't make me be mean, I want to be nice today. Can you all help me with this?" heads nodded. "Good. Should we start over when you guys get back?" this time, I heard a few "Yeah"'s come from them. I took a deep breath of encouragement, and dismissed them.
I'm not going to say the rest of the day with these kids was easy...getting them to quietly read took about 20 minutes of patient (and sometimes stern) coaching to get away from each other. But the minute I saw even one of them actually LOOKING at a book page, I ran over and thanked them for the good job they were doing. I did this with each one of them (minus Daniel who was...MIA for some odd reason). Pretty soon, I was able to go back to this group of boys and tell them they were currently the most well-behaved group in the whole class. They were ALL on task and working hard. The boys looked at each other and laughed, saying, "Yeah, THAT'S never happened before! We usually only get yelled at." Daniel did eventually come back, and even annoyed the boys that he only wanted to play not work. He unfortunately was eventually sent to the office to spend the rest of the day (A first for me!), but it did solve the problem.
Godfrey, a little african-american boy, especially soaked up any little praise I gave him about the work he was doing. He went from the little boy that morning threatening to cut his wrists, to intently writing two paragraphs about his thoughts on school. The real reward came when he told me, "Ms. Alamo? You're nicest substitute I ever had. I ain't never liked a substitute, but I like you!" :) Pretty big compliment coming from a boy I'd been snarling at only that morning!
Alas, the day did not end happy. The permanent teacher appeared in the class during the last 5 minutes, along with a neighboring teacher. The neighboring teacher immediately said, 'Want to know who the angels and devils are? I'll tell you!" he then systematically went around the room, pointing to each child and labeling them as "Angel". He got to Godfrey--sweet Godfrey!, who looked hopefully up at the teacher's pointed finger--and said, "This one? This one is a devil! You better watch him! He's not like the others!" He then pointed to Rammon/RJ/Juan and said the same thing. I watched Godfrey's face just fall at the label given to him in front of his brand new teacher. I was standing next to Rammon at the time, who I heard say, "Man, that's messed up! I mean, i can be bad, but I can be real good too! I've got two sides of me! I'm not always bad, mannnn!!", Godfery too was mumbling in disgust and looked at me, 'But I was good today, right ms. Alamo?", to which I affirmed, and tried to high-five him a few times for the job well done before he left.
What on EARTH, gives a man the right to make someone else feel the way I saw Godfrey feel? Who on EARTH employed that man to shape young minds?! I was so mad that day as I left, feeling like with one loud, imposing label, this man had undermined all the progress I had made with the boys that day. Positive Reinforcement had actually worked on some pretty tough kids seeking any kind of attention they could get.
It made me think though--people really do tend to live up to the labels we give them (or, the expectations set for them). Or, as my roommate so poignantly put it, "it's easier to believe the bad stuff people tell us about ourselves. So, if they say that's who we are...we'll believe them. And we seldom disapoint." Is it any wonder then, that from an early, impressionable age, the church teaches us we are a "Child of God"? How wonderful is that? :) We are labeled the highest honor that can be given to a creation on this planet--His child. The expectations are set, the destination high, yet achievable. I'm so grateful for the kind encouragement we get from an all-knowing God, who knows our potential, and encourages us to that point, instead of punishing us for not yet being there.
So, with all this in mind, I have accepted a position at Keystone Montessori ( http://www.keystonemontessori.com/ ), a school that believes in quiet, patient encouragement of the child. After thinking about it, it seems more like the method our Heavenly Father uses in our spiritual upbringing..and one I would like to develop more myself. I start in January! I'm looking forward to the challenge of learning new methods. Honestly...I'm SO excited about this position! Reasons I'm excited:
--the diverse group of students have such an attitude that instead of being labeled a "minority school", it feels more like a "culturally diverse school" (meaning, they actually look me in the eye and don't try and make me feel guilty for being born how I was born.) Culture becomes a celebration that enhances the learning environment, instead of a label.
--They teach Spanish! Yay, I get to tutor in Spanish!
--I'll work with a teacher from Vera Cruz, Mexico...who already knows I'm Mormon that served as a missionary in south America, and she's asked a question or two :) Oh...and she hates having to run by a watch as much as I do :)
--My job will be to specifically work one-on-one with each child to monitor their progress...my forte.
--I am in charge of "Individual Fieldtrips"--meaning taking different kids to the public library, or to go get more "frog food" from the local petstore. How fun is that? Random breaks in the routine are fun to me :)
--We do art! And there's a heavier focus on Science than in most schools.
--And the ring-dinger of them all: Free trip to Washington DC! :) Apparently a "class field trip" in this school means taking 26 pre-teens to the US Capital! Or Pennsylvania...apparently the kids haven't decided yet :)
Until next time blog-readers! :)
Monday, November 3, 2008
Two weeks ago during a stake Rodeo dance, our 2nd Counselor, President Skinner (who BTW is awesome--he dressed up as dwight from The Office for Halloween!) pulled me aside and asked if I would speak. He told me he felt impressed to let me pick my own topic, and wanted me to think it over. That's when I felt true intimidation from an assignment! I jotted down some ideas, but during sacrament meeting, one idea stood out clearly in my mind. I've learned to start trusting those clear first impressions, so I went with it! The thoughts that came to my mind after, and the scriptures that accompnied them have touched my heart. I wanted to share some of the insights here, in hopes that they might touch another heart as well. Because I didn't have time, I didn't go into as much detail at the pulpit as I had written down when the thoughts first came. Here I'm going to expand though... :) ***Note: I recommend either turning the sound off, or scrolling down to the bottom and choosing "Nearer, My God to Thee" by Lex de Azevedo to listen to...George Strait & Rob Thomas just don't seem like really approrpriate back-ground music for this! :)***
STRENGTHENING ONE ANOTHER THRU FRIENDSHIP & SERVICE
LUKE 22:32 "When Thou art converted, strengthen thy bretheren"
D&C 108:7 "Therefore, strengthen your brethren in all your conversations, in all your prayers, in all your exhortations, and in all your doings."
I have noticed the theme of many conferance talks lately have been pep talks about enduring trials and hard times. This theme strikes a chord with singles. During this time, our testimonies are being tested & tried--by the world, by peers, & even sometimes by family. We are in a stage of life where we have gained independance from parents, but not quite moved on to co-dependance with a companion. We can experience some of the toughest "trials" during this period because we are dealing with matters of the heart. We cannot hide from lonliness or the sadness this can sometimes bring in quiet hours. We often cannot escape the sorrows of broken hearts. During this time of choosing our Eternal Companion, it is a time of trial & error, learning & growth, highs & lows. These years though, are so vitally essential to our eternal development. We cannot escape them, nor should we.
However, the thought kept coming to me was not to speak about how to get ourselves through our own trials, but instead to focus on how we can help others through their trials. Why should we strengthen our brethren? And how do we do it?
Why do we have trials?
I had an experience in the temple over the summer. I had a simple desire to go, but no driving reason: I was at peace in my life and very happy. It seemed like just a normal temple visit. However, for a reason I did not understand at the time, my mind was opened during the temple session, and it was as if I had a teacher sitting beside me showing me each trial in my life, and what specific thing I had learned from that trial. I was filled with understanding, even to the point of complete gratitude as I began to see each "trial" as a true blessing in my life. They became blessings because I saw how they each brought me to the point of happiness I am at today.
At the end of this out-pouring of instruction, I realized that each sorrow in my life had carved out a hole in my heart, that (when I allowed) the Savior had been able to fill with his love. I began to understand that these trials had helped me grow in my capacity to feel compassion and the Savior's love towards others. I wondered why I had received such instruction right then?
A couple of weeks later, I was called to be Relief Society President. It was shared with me that while I was sharing my testimony of the above experience, both the Bishop and his 1st counselor knew I was to be called. I now found myself caring for the welfare of 120 young women, the majority of which were much younger than me...and all of which were going through the struggles of single's life. I have since thought back to that temple experience many times, and drawn upon the memories of my own "trials" as I have tried to offer compassion and comfort to sisters in the ward.
I remember having a discussion with a mission companion once, who felt she had had no major trials in life. (I personally think this was just her eternal optimism showing thru! :) As we heard story after sad story of the hard-times going on in investigator's lives, she often felt it was hard to relate, and felt she lacked the words of comfort to offer...to the point that she felt not having "trials" had been a trial in her life! I have found now that I am greatful to be able to remember past trials & the ways I wanted to be comforted, when approaching sisters now that are going through the same thing.
We often wonder what Heavenly Father wants us to learn & gain from a trial as we go through them. I have come to believe that we pass through some trials to prepare us to serve others who will pass through the same. The Savior experienced the greatest "trial" of His life in Gethsemane, so that he could know how to comfort each of us in our hour of need.
Two stories came to mind to illustrate this. I only had time to share 1 in conferance though. I think the other was just to help cement the concept in my mind :)
Story #1) My first week on the mission was a major culture-shock. Mainly with the amount (or lack of) food we ate. I went from eating 3 hearty meals a day in the MTC, to 1 cup of rice a day in the mission field. We walked all day with a bag over one shoulder. I understood nothing of the language. I was exhausted, bored, and constantly hungry. I questioned a million times why I had come out to a country clear on the bottom tip of the worldb where I knew NO ONE, just to smile at people all day and starve to death! I felt miserable, and one night while praying, just could not take it anymore. I remember the hunger pains cutting so deep that I began to cry...I think the exhaustion is what kept me crying. In this moment of complete dispair, forcably came into my mind the words, "I will not leave you comfortless!". My crying abrubptly stopped, and a peace of pure comfort spread through my body, like a warmth, and made my whole body tingle. I basked in it! I later found that the verse was from John 14:18. (I also discovered a grocery store within a few days and solved the lack of food problem :). The experience was a turning point for me--from that point on, I knew I was where the Lord needed me to be, and that He would not leave me alone to do His work. The Savior became a very personal friend to me in that moment. It made me wonder though, how was he able to comfort me so completely? How was he able to extend that loving hand of mercy in my hour of need?
Story #2) Fourteen months later, during my very LAST week of the mission, my question was answered. The elders had handed us an investigator who had already received a first lesson. We went in to teach her the second, and she was clearly not that interested. She had her own religion and felt satisfied, she said. She had invited us in to be open-minded, and because her father had just passed away and she wanted the comfort of prayers said in her house. She invited us back, so I went to leave her the typical reading assignment from the Book of Mormon. Into my mind came the thought, "leave her Alma chapter 7 to read". My face scrunched up in confusion--Alma 7 is a bold invitation to be baptized. This woman was not ready for that, it made no sense. I ignored the thought, and left her a light-and-fluffy neutral passage about faith instead.
My very last day--in fact my very last hour as a missionary with an assigned area, we stopped by her house for a follow-up visit. I had been invited to dine with a dear friend and neighbor to bid farewell, and was tempted to reschedule the appointment. Something though pulled at my heartstrings with this woman, and I had to go visit her. We followed-up with her regarding the passage, and she kind of blew it off, saying she had read it, but it was nothing new. After a while, she confessed to us with painful eyes and heartfelt words that she believed her father was in a better place, and that she believed she would see him again one day. That did not, however, change the hurt she was feeling right now at loosing him. She wanted comfort.
Again, even stronger this time, came into my mind Alma chapter 7. I flipped it open, and saw that the verses about baptism were indeed verses 13 & 14, but the verses the Spirit wanted me to share with her were verses 11 & 12 that speak of the Savior Jesus Christ:
"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptaions of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
"And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities"
In Greek, the word for bowels means "the tender affections of the heart; compassion". So, if we substitute that in, the scripture says, "he will take upon him their infirmities, that the tender affections of his heart may be filled with mercy..." I love that!
I then testified to that dear woman that she had a personal Savior, who had not only died and been resurected so that she may one day see her father again, but he had also suffered through her present afflictions. He had taken them upon himself, so that he could now fully comfort her. A light came into her eyes as she grasped this concept, and she expressed deep gratitude in learning this new truth about the Atonement of Jesus christ. I realized in that moment, as the Spirit filled the room, that her savior loved her so much, he had sent his servents not to baptize her, but simply to help her understand that she had a Redeemer waiting to comfort her in her hour of need. 10 minutes later, I was in a taxi, and starting my journey back to America. I will never forget the lesson I learned that day, of feeling the intense love and compassion God has for each of his children. I knew in that moment that He knows us each individually, and what we are going through. He stands ready, waiting for us to turn to Him for the strength and comfort we need to pass through trials. [note: Mosiah 3:7-9 also illustrates this point: "And lo, he shall suffer temptations, and pain of body, hunger, thirst, and fatigue, even more than man can suffer...And lo, he cometh unto his own that salvation might come unto the children of men even through faith on his name."]
I came to understand during those last tender moments as a missionary, that Christ suffered physical, mental, and spiritual trials in order to have the capacity for the kind of compassion that leads to mercy. He fulfilled the law of justice with his death, but he is able to extend the hand of mercy to us because of the deep compassion he has for each of us. I am forever greatful for that compassion!
The concept that really struck me while preparing this talk is that through baptism, we have covenanted to take upon us the Name of Christ, to become like him, and to "mourn with those that mourn, yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort" (Mosiah 18:9). If we are truly to become like the Savior, we must have the capacity to comfort & strengthen others in their time of need. How do we extend that comfort to others, when we have not yet gained the capacity to do so? Trials are a catalyst to developing that capacity!
[sidenote: today while watching a biography on the life of Spencer W. Kimball, the 12th prophet of the LDS church, I learned that he lost his mother at an early age, and the older sister who then raised him died early as well. He also went through multiple health problems that should have taken his life, including throat cancer, 2 brain surgeries, and open heart surgery. In the biography, they said that these experiences deepened his compassion for the thousands of people he conuseled during his lifetime of service. He continusly drew upon them.]
How do we strengthen our brethren?
Through service! Service is to trials what advil is to a headache: it dulls the pain and allows us to feel happiness in life again! I have gotten to the point where I absolutly crave a service project when going through a difficult time, because I know it will get my mind off my own sorrows, and get me through the ordeal quicker. It's like a little eraser that just takes away the pain for a bit.
How do we serve one another in a single's ward setting?
1) Magnify our callings! I cannot think of one single calling in the church that does not give us the opportunity to serve someone else. Every calling is designed to help us serve others, and build friendships. We can use our callings to creatively serve others, and get to know them. Our callings can be used as "excuses" to go outside our comfort zone and meet others. I used to feel funny doing this in meetings, but now have had to do it so often that i think it's odd we don't all do this more often. It's so easy to just go up to someone and say, "Hi, I work with the Relief Society and don't think I know you yet, I'm Beth. What's your name? What do you do?", or "Hi! I'm a district leader and your in my district! What was your name? Oh! Are you going to school?" etc.
2) Pray for one another. We love those we pray for and serve. It's a simple, yet profound truth. In the RS Presidency, every week we each pick out a girl to pray for that is going through a difficult time. We then will include that girl in our daily individual prayers. I have been completely amazed at the miracles I have seen happen with this simple approach! I wish I could go into more detail, but lives, hearts, and attitudes have changed the very week these individual prayers began. I have also seen a change in myself, as I have come to feel a deep love for the girl I am daily praying for. Prayer is a powerful tool we can use to strengthen one-another!
3)Practice friendshipping skills. A true friendship helps brings others to Christ. We can do that by helping others feel loved and cared for, inquiring after them and showing concern about what is going on in their lives. If we don't feel comfortable talking to people due to being shy, not knowing what to say, or simply just not really caring---practice!! Fake it till you make it. The more we practice "small talk" conversation skills, the easier it will come to us. In the church, we are to ask each other how we're doing: "And the church did meet together oft, to fast and to pray, and to speak one with another concerning the welfare of their souls" (Moroni 6:5). Initiaing friendships is a way to strengthen one another. (also I have written down here Hymn #293...I'll have to find the words later, I think it talks about friendships that bring us closer to Christ).
4) Lonely? Find some someone lonelier and make a friend :) Get invovled! Friendships are usually made outside of the 3-hour block of church. Go to FHE, do your visiting teaching/home teaching, and go to, or host your own game nights! By building these friendships, we will find opportunities to serve, thus making both us and others happier! :)
5) Speak positive words, words of affirmation. We are surrounded by "put downs" in today's media and American humor. We should be builders, not wreckers of self-esteem. Complment others. When we notice the good in them, point it out to them. It's a sure-fire way to make friends, strengthen others...and probably even get a few extra dates out of the deal :)
In closing, I read my favorite scripture. It is regarding serving our fellowman (Docterine & Covenants 81:4-5)-
"And in doing these things thou wilt do the greatest good unto thy fellow beings, and wilt promote the glory of him who is your Lord.
Wherefore, be faithful: stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees."
I then bare my testimony that I know our burdens will ligthen as we serve others, and strengthen one another. I bear testimony that there is a Savior who knows and loves each of us, that these things are true. And close it in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
Again, I apologize for my lack of brevity, but it's what has been on my mind for 2 weeks! If you've made it this far though, I would love to hear your own thoughts and insights. My understanding of the topic has increased as people have told me the thoughts they had while I was speaking. (like that it just makes you feel 10 times better when someone knows what you're going through, and can say that). I'd really love to hear your thoughts! And....on 2nd thought...that Rob Thomas song below actually goes pretty well with this whole theme. it says "Call on me, I'll be there for you, and you'll be there for me!". Haha, no wonder I like that song so much! :)
(Added the below in 2016 after a friend posted - felt it went with this theme)
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
visited 33 states (66%)
Create your own visited map of The United States or determine the next president
I think my visits accross the U.S. have been a little bottom-heavy! One reason I chose to live in Arizona is because I get cold SO easily...and probably one of the subconscience reasons I've stayed out of all our northern states!
I would really love to visit New England though one day!
Sunday, August 24, 2008
I've decided to try this blog again. Life seems to be a rush of learning and growing right now...and it might be a good idea to write some of it down. I love the lessons and am just trying to keep up!
This summer was FUN-tastic!! The highlights were a trip to Mexico with friends and a trip to Delaware with the fam. For some reason, it was one of my most favorite vacations with my family! I loved both trips so much that I decorated my whole bathroom with a beach theme...especially anything that reminded me of the east coast shoreline. Imagine how excited I got when I came home and met a girl who had just moved here from....REHOBOTH BEACH!!
(and how would Mexico pictures be complete without a picture with this cute old woman selling hand-painted art on the beach? :)
(David, Leslie & I enjoying some Delaware waves :)
Aww, we <3>
One of my favorite pictures of David during the trip--he's really learned to ham it up!
A highlight of the trip was learning more about my great-great-Grandfather, P.B. Elliott (the original Phillip Benjamin Elliott that both my great-g'father and grandfather are named after). He worked at the Indian River Life Saving Station ( a pre-curser to the Coast Guard at the turn of the century). I had visited the life station before and toured it....but this trip really hit home for me. I felt the connection with a man who spent his life in service to his fellow man....it's a trait that I see in my mom, in one that I hope I can continue to pass on to my kids one day. What really got me was watching the pictures flash by of 19th century CPR being performed on a stormy beach while Kathy Matea sang of the storms they overcame in this old Irish way. I HAVE to find that song, it was soul stirring enough to cement in my heart the awesome-ness of my g-g-grandfather's life :)
(David in front of the I.R. Life Saving Station that P.B. Elliott worked at)
(One of the pictures drawn in the 1800's showing how P.B. Elliott saved men from ships going down in the storm)
I've also had a lot of fun decorating my 1st leased apartment. They've been okay with any colors I splash onto the wall, or any holes I pound in as I constnatly rearrange all the works of art I seem to be obsessed with lately. I found a huge painting of The Creation finger-touch painting by Michaelangelo, and just love staring at it and contemplating the Eternities.....or gazing at a glowing sunset over a Tuscan field full of red poppies and feeling tranquilo :) Having a place feel so homey has let me finally host dinner parties and other gatherings...it's been soo fun!
The Delaware beach memories inspired bathroom :)
Showcasing some of my macro photography. Taking pictures of flowers was a sort of phase I went through earlier this year...it's on the backburner for now. All of these flowers were found right outside of my apartment!
My Tuscan inspired corner...or "The Red Wall" as it's affectionately called ;)
Decorating the top of the kitchen cabinets started as a big challenge! It's been fun finding things on huge discount at different stores and fitting pieces together.
By far, the best part of the summer has been the friendships! 6 months ago I was at a crossroads in my life, not quite knowing where to go. I was offered a job back in my homestate of Texas and seriously considered it for the chance to start something new. Instead, I chose to move to a new part of town...Ahwatukee. Funny how one decision can completely change the course of life! I have appreciated the friendships and loved the people I have met through the Tempe University 1st ward.
26th Birthday Bash!
Roomie & Me
I hope all who read this are doing well! Until next time,