Monday, April 22, 2013

New York: Ten Years Later

Ten years ago today I boarded a plane in NYC and landed in SLC Utah, becoming a returned missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. The I love NY logo has always had an extra special meaning to me. I LOVE NY. Its people, its food, its fast pace, its multi-cultural overload. It was an awesome place to be a missionary. We taught people from every human inhabited continent. Every door was a new adventure. I heard only Temple Square is more international than the NY North mission.

This last week I had an awesome opportunity fall into my lap to go back. I stayed with my Jamaicans: Rose, Jabarie, Wadi, Taji, Marcus, Marie, Makai. I met Rose on the street one day in Yonkers and gave her a pass a long card. Two months later I was transfered to her area and she was referred to us by her friend. After our first visit she scheduled all of the lessons in the next two weeks and was baptized soon thereafter. I'll never forget when we asked her about her feelings after we told her about Joseph Smith and his prayer to know what to do and visitation by God the Father and Jesus Christ. She said "Oh yeah I believe that's true! Angels are real and can be seen sometimes. God can too." 

When I called the day before to ask Rose what she was doing tomorrow she said "oh I've got a crazy day why?" Cuz I might be able to come out. "Get over here then!" I love her. Jabarie came and picked me up in a car that Rose said "You can't miss him. It would be a miracle if there is a car louder than Jabarie's" 
Driving Manhattan in style

We cruised Manhattan in style and met up with some of his friends from Florida.  We shopped in Soho then ate at Lombardi's which is not only the first pizzaria in America, its been dubbed the best. After a divine meal we went and got the best Canoli's in the US at Ferreras.  But since its not an often occasion, dessert got double duty with a stop at the famous Baked by Melissa for some mini cupcakes. Driving around Manhattan in a sports car is a rush as we went through Times Square and past Grand Central Station and zoomed it down some little side streets. The one ride we took on the subway I was touched by an African man who was getting off, saw Jabarie's metro card wasn't working, and swiped his own so that he could get in. I love these people. 

The next day I hung out with Rose at her day car. She had kids from all over the world and they were soooo cute!! Before lunch we took a walk through my old area with a few children in tow. There were so many houses where I'd stood on the steps with my companion. I saw my old landlord Jimmy. He remembered when we missionaries ran the car into the side of the building. He asked me to send his best wishes to my companions. 

Taji took me for a NY Deli sandwich for lunch. We passed the stop sign that is now in place where I totalled a car. That was the one the taxi driver sued me for a million bucks. Didn't go through though.  Still, an intersection is improved now.  

I stopped by Rosenell's house. She lives in some projects. Not remembering exactly where she lived I went over to some nice African American ladies on a bench and asked if they knew where the deaf ladies lived in the building. They looked at me like I was crazy for being there, but as most NYer's do, warmed up when they found I was nice. Rosenel didn't recognize me but let me come in when I told her I'd been a Mormon missionary there. She had me write my name and address on a paper which she carefully looked over with her big magnifying glass. Then she went from cold to: "AHHHHHHH!!! I know you!! You were companions with the other Sister Johnson!" She was sooo excited!! Rosenel is deaf and lives too far away from the deaf branch to go there. She went to church for several years for all three meetings not hearing a word. Her reading level is low, yet she reads voraciously. I interpreted for her when I was in her ward. She shared a graham cracker and her testimony with me. What and amazing person she is.

Nothing like some Zumba before dinner, Rose, Marie, Makai and I headed downtown Ossining for some exercise. BEST ZUMBA CLASS EVER!!! These New Yorkers can dance! I enjoyed being the tall white girl in the back of the class trying to keep up and copy those moves. SO FUN!

For dinner, Rose took us all out for Hibachi at the Okinawa Steak House. Food shows at their finest, there was flying egg for us to catch in our mouths, an onion volcano, and lots of flaming grilling going on.  

Early Wednesday morning I was back on a flight headed home to SLC. What a gift to have been back. The Church is true. The gospel of Jesus Christ is real and powerful. Far more than a stop sign or finding new friends, sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ deeply changed lives, including mine. He is the same Savior for all the people all over the world and He loves them all. I loved being a part of that love. And I LOVE NY.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Hallowed Grounds of Martin's Cove

I've been to Martin's Cove long ago, looked over the graves, tied burlap to my feet and walked up Rocky Ridge, and camped near the gravesite along the creek. This was not a new experience for me, yet it was a renewal of my appreciation of the amazing pioneer heritage shared by the members of the Mormon church.  I went on a road trip with my sister Katie and her six lil tikes through Wyoming. We drove past Martin's Cove, a particularly significant site in Mormon Pioneer history where the Martin Handcart company sheltered under the early winter storms. Late leaving England, late starting their trek across the plains due to many set backs, they had a lot against them. The story is a sad one with many deaths, yet many more survived than died even though they ate 1/2 cup of flour a day and had burned all their extra blankets to lightened their loads before the snow hit. Freezing and hungry yet with the aid of many rescuers from the Salt Lake Valley hundreds of miles away, they made it through. There was a hallowed feeling even from the freeway. We stopped and visited on our way back. One of my favorite parts was when the guide asked if there were any deer hunters among our group. My niece Diana raised her hand. Curious. She said "We killed a deer with our car" and looked at me. Indeed I'd hit one a few days before that did much more damage to the car than the deer. It was funny!! Especially when you consider I'm the girl who dropped out of the hunter safety course just before the shooting range cuz the guns scared me.
Three of our ancestors crossed the plains by handcart. In the Willie Handcart company, which was a little ahead of the Martin, were Ann Herbert came with her sister Hannah and her son Charles. Ann lost most of her toes.  Hannah is thought to have been a stow away on the boat from England and then married one of the company at the start of the trail to secure funding to go. Character. Ann married Andrew Jackson Rynearson when she got to the valley. He had run away from home, prayed to know where to go and followed his feelings right into Brigham Young's wagon train in 1847. That's how he came to find the Mormon Church.
It was a very deeply moving moment to stop and reflect on what they had done. These people went through soo much to follow the leaders of the Church and come to Zion. It made me think that the small sacrifices I make to live the gospel are really quite insignificant in comparison and the blessings are far more than anything we may go through to get them.

 The Handcart

 The typical bundle of a woman's belongings packed for the trip

"Francis Webster was a survivor of the Martin Handcart Company who found spiritual strength from what e endured on the plains in 1856.  In his old age, he spoke of the journey during an adult Sunday School class discussion about the ill-fated handcart companies. In 1943 William R. Palmer wrote his memories of what Francis Webster had said:
"He (Francis WEbster) said in substance..."I was in that company and my wife was in it...we suffered beyond anything you can imagine and many died of exposure and starvation...we came through with the absolute knowledge that God lives for we became acquainted with him in our extremities. 
I have pulled my handcart when I was so weak and weary from lack of food that I could hardly put one foot ahead of the other. I have looked ahead and seen a patch of sand or a hill slope and have said "I can go only that far and there I must give up for I cannot pull my load through it" I have gone on to that sand and when I have reached it, the cart began pushing me. I have looked back many times to see who was pushing my cart but my eyes saw no one. I knew then that the angels of God were there. 
Was I sorry I chose to come by handcart? No. Neither then nor one moment of my life since. The price we paid to become acquainted with God was a privilege to pay and I am thankful I was privileged to come to Zion in the Martin Handcart company"

Diana pointing to Ann, Hannah, and Charles Herberts names

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Months to Days, Days to Hours, Hours to Moments

It amazes me how this thing call time, this business only measured by man, moves forward. I think God doesn't measure by time because I think he measures by moments instead. Recently I've been feeling the significance of moments  more acutely.  A hymn I love echoes my feelings well: 

Time flies on wings of lightning;

We cannot call it back.
It comes, then passes forward
Along its onward track.
And if we are not mindful,
The chance will fade away,
For life is quick in passing.
’Tis as a single day.

Improve the Shining Moments #226

Sometimes in life I can't wait for things to go more quickly: a cold winter, end of school, start of a new experience. But there's something about the here and now, the moments that are happening right now and their incredible orchestration and temporary-ness that strikes me lately as being vital not to miss. I guess in part it comes from having so many changes, or perhaps time crunches. To give a small window into why this is so present with me let me describe the past few days. I'm leaving town soon. I decided to spend the night yesterday at my sister's house to enjoy my nieces and nephews before I leave. Practically on the way out the door I learned it was my Sister in Laws birthday and they were eating at a restaurant for dinner right then. I almost just went straight to my sister's house but decided to go with my full stomach and stop in to say hello at their food table. There was my mom and family sitting down to eat in a very routine, ordinary way, but to me it was priceless because I won't get to be part of that for awhile. This morning, after a great time with my sister I found out my mother had been admitted to the hospital today. I went to see her. She's quickly improving and will be alright though it was an unexpected jolt on the system. At one point I had to go stand  in the sparkly sterile hall while the nurse was helping my mom. A  man with teary eyes walked out of the room next door. He came up to me and said, "It's a hard thing to see your brother die. All the memories and times together..." He only had a short time to live. The only thing I could think of to say was "it sounds like you lived to the fullest and took advantage of the moments you had." I went back into my mom's room where we sang songs and had a good laugh. Each moment is sooo precious. Opportunities don't last forever.  Live each moment fully because its the moments that make life full. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Its the marriages that make the nations

I've been enjoying doing a fair amount family history work and came across this paragraph in a booklet that is about my Routh line. I have never seen a more carefully documented line by people over the centuries. Here's a family who treasures each other deeply. The man who wrote this was the recipient of many documents that had been preserved and I found his view of the place marriage should have in society refreshing and true. It's really about the quality of marriages, the true quality of love and successful relationships instead of wealth and position, that show how a family fits into society. I loved it.

"Well, I have had my say, and would only add this, that I hope eventually to
compile an index of marriages showing both the names of those families into which
we have married, and of those families which have married into ours through the
centuries. 1 regard this as one of the most interesting featurcs of any family tree: it is
not only by the number of eminent men produced by a familyand we have produced
our fair share of great men, warriors, knights, Crusaders, Bishops and Divines, Chief Justices and Judges, Admirals, Generals and men of Letters and of Sciencenor by its
revenues (which were worth something like half a million pounds sterling per year in
modern currency, in the time of that Elizabeth Routh, ward in Chancery, who in 1500
married Sir John Cutts, Treasurer of the King's Household, carrying with her all the
estates of the main line of the Rouths of Routh) that a family can best be judged; what
gives a truer index to worth than either of these is the marriages it makes; for these
show, over a period, more clearly than wealth, rank, spasmodic outbursts of
brilliancy, or any other single factor, the true worth and position of a family in the
history of a nation."

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Ridiculous Outfit Challenge

 Yesterday I went shopping and had a moment of realization at Ross. You see, there are certain stores that bring out a certain side of my personality, or perhaps just my shopping tendencies. Ross is one of them. I realized that when going into a store, even though I'm looking for good clothes to buy to take home and use in real life, I will almost always jump into the mode of the ridiculous outfit challenge.

Perhaps it comes from fun times growing up in a family who loved to dress up and don't always take life too seriously. Here's my dad even in on the fun. Finding costumes in museums was a must use. These are some of the more mild ones too. In stores,  my sisters and I will scour the racks of items looking for that perfect outfit of ridiculousness. It could include accessories and many different layers and items. We then would take these back to the dressing room and try them on, bursting into giggles. 

This picture captures some of our silliness. The one below is a card we found in a store that exemplifies the sense of humor often found in our house. It reads: "Take a good look at this shirt and then be grateful that I only bought you a card"

 Here is actual footage from our last ridiculous outfit challenge held in England in May this year.

 I worried my friends as I searched out for such clothes and kept bringing them out to show them. I did explain what I was doing but they kept thinking  that I was serious about buying these clothes. (This is a legitimate concern for the serious shopper who goes into a store only looking for clothes to take home). We did take some fashionable finds back to the dressing room and have a "what not to wear" moment of critique which was fun. But I think I shall always enjoy a good ridiculous outfit. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

England Endearments

 Winston Churchill once said of America and England that they are two great countries separated by one common language. And its not just the accent, though accents here are very distinct and, though we have our regional accents in the US, they seem to be more defining  of who you are and where you're from.

Several have asked me, "so what's different out there from America?" The answer: a lot. It's a whole lot of little things. Just about everything imaginable has its own English way about it. I thought I'd write up a few and give you a peek of the world across the Atlantic.There's the obvious of course. People drive on the left instead of the right. The driver sits in the car on the right instead of the left. Most of the cars are manual with the stick in the left hand rather than the right. (This is why after three driving lessons, I don't drive here).  The plugs are different and a different wattage. The little switches that turn the power socket on and off remind me of light switches and I still don't know why they have them.

In the kitchen, the electric kettles are AMAZING!! No longer need I wait for 15 minutes for water to boil. The first time I saw my roommate boil water in the electric kettle and THEN place it over her pasta in the pan on the stove I was sold.I still haven"t figured out oven temperatures.

 Walking down the street one morning I passed a stranger.  Shattering the silence of the moment was a cheery "Good morning Darling!", spoken as if by Mary Poppin's Bert himself. What delight!! I remember the first time I heard "thanks love" on the train from the ticket man. I was taken aback but at the same time quite tickled inside with the warm salutation.  So many new phrases have enhanced my communication options. Instead of "have a turn," its "have a go." A common one is "get yourself sorted" which is so much more than a phrase but an actual attitude here of making sure you take the time to get everything situated before proceeding ahead. (A concept a fast paced American can greatly appreciate). "I can't be bothered" is another favorite. Its said anytime something isn't seen as a priority to be done. "I'm not bothered" is a great way of saying "no problem." When at the pool, the ladies in my lane talk losing two or three "stone" instead how many pounds. A stone is 13-14 pounds. Make sure and DO NOT jump the queue (or line) here because, in England, the lines on the highway, bus stop, grocery store, are something you don't mess with. Brits love to queue up. Common phrases come up in conversations regularly such as "to be fair..." Then there's 'cheers' which came from the army where they would bang glasses and the person with a coin in his cup would have to go fight the next day. It means a lot of things including thanks, and 'bye." You've never had vegetables until you try the English "Veg" (pronounced 'vedge'). Not only are they lacking in a lot of that spray stuff Americans use, here they know how to cook them to perfection. Very tasty. Perhaps its the proximity to France? Britain takes English to a whole new level on the love language scale. Terms like 'ducky' and 'lish' (placed after someone's name), in addition to the loves and darlings make the place liveable despite the awful weather. In addition to new sounds, words, and phrases, social interaction is different here. You may have heard that the Brits are reserved and don't show much emotion. They make up for it in the words they use to express that emotion. They are expressing geniuses! No wonder so much great literature came from here. The amount that they say for what I might say with a few peeps of intense passion (a few squeals and such)  is intriguing. I actually found it exhausting to stay mentally engaged with all of the chatter when I first arrived. 

Education is different. Gone are the days of insanity, always being given way more work than you can muster in the time you have. Here, I had three two-hour classes a week, a library, and the assignment to write a long essay for each at the end of the semester. It doesn't mean that we don't work hard. I read a 400 page textbook in the first week this semester. We have to hunt down the materials.  Its all about pacing yourself in a self directed search for the answer to an essay question you picked from a list. Though I did have some assigned reading assignments the first semester, mostly it was up to me with a bit of help from a very long suggested reading list.

The pub is a new concept. Its not so much a tavern nor a bar as it is what its name means "the public house." Its a place to go and be with the community, eat a meal, and share a story. They are family friendly, though, some more than others. I've gotten many a meal, drink of water, and use of the restroom from the local pubs. The pub owners used to be the most knowledgeable men in town because  all day they would  listen to everyone's gossip, (and I told you about the chatter).

The people are friendly and real, the countryside is gorgeous, the castles, estates, and abbeys are fun,  and the small villages, what we would call post card perfect, look, as they say,  'chocolate box perfect.' By the way, they do have good chocolate, though I don't often buy it.  I do like England.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Nope for me on the Kony campaign

So this campaign online right now has the aim of making Kony famous to the world in order to get him arrested and end the conflict in Uganda. I do not consider myself to be an expert, but I have been to Uganda, and interacted face to face with former child soldiers, aid workers, and community members there. 

Let's start with the positive. Awareness has been raised of a very serious problem. That's good. I think that the approach to seek out policy members who can affect change and cultural carriers who are famous to get on board is a good approach for a mission of getting the word out there and beginning to tackle the problem. I commend effort. However, far more needs to happen than that. In fact, the more I really think about the details of this one, the more I don't like it.

Bear with me as I pull out my critic card. It's not something I do openly on a regular basis as I grew up in a world where I was taught cynics don't contribute. But it is also important to have a brain. I think it is important to get all of the facts and not just let the emotional tug play on one's heart. The campaign movie is geared to arouse one's emotions. Yes, Kony is a VERY evil man and must be stopped. I agree with this. However, I have reservations about this method and organization.

The first red flag to me is the amount of money that the 'kits' cost. To pay $25 for a T-shirt or $225 for an everything kit of a few T-shirts, a bracelet, and some fliers is a bit extreme. Obviously they need funding but there is no transparency here of where the money is going.  Surely, that much money could be used to do A LOT of good if put in the right program with the right outcomes. I think it should be fair for anyone giving to a cause to know exactly where that money is going. But this campaign has not explained that. While I was in Uganda, my guide told me that allegedly one of the head staff of 'Invisible Children' had been calling Kony on the cellphone and was believed to be in kahoots with him. Aid does bring in a lot of money and that money can be used to support what you do not want it to support. Kony and Muesevni both know that aid money is a great resource for supporting their war objectives. I am wary of this.

Secondly, Kony is not currently in Uganda. When I was there in July, he had not been in Uganda for three years. He is in the Congo. Though he threatens to come back to Uganda, you want Koney? Go to the Congo. The footage is old.

Thirdly, What message is this campaign actually saying? Remember my previous comment about the alleged calls between Kony and Invisible Children. Isn't fame one of the things terrorists want? I find it disturbing to see the name of such an evil man posted on a campaign flier next to "Obama 2012". It looks like he is running for President. If you want the message to stop Kony, don't use a sign type and slogan that the world sees as a message of seeking supporters and votes. Say "Stop Kony Now" not "Kony 2012". This gives me the creeps. And with that in mind, no I wouldn't want his name on my wrist or in my yard or on my wall. Ewwwwwwww!

Lastly, There is a lot more that needs done than just arresting one man. This is so much more than a military matter, which is their route for fixing the problem.  When I was in Gulu there were 500 NGO's registered there and some mentioned that there are a whole lot of aid workers running around and not necessarily a whole lot of things getting done. There were some great things I saw. One was a school called Laroo that was funded by the Belgium government that was for war affected children. I saw a different school up the road that received no aid and the stark contrast was stunning. This wasn't only in their resources, but the educational abilities of the children were vastly better in the aided school. There's a ton of money and effort already being pumped into the system. It just needs better coordination of effort to eliminate waste. Children have been being reintegrated back into their community and programs have helped people back to their homes.But there is corruption and aid needs to be done right, and often it is not. There is no mention in the video of any of the good that these people have already done for the people of Uganda save the one boy coming to the US to speak and being befriended. Where is the evidence of their work thus far? What good have they been doing with all the money they have gathered? And why aren't they showing that? And again, what are their specific plans that they have in mind to do with all that money they will bring in?

These are my initial thoughts on the matter. Of course more facts and research can be done on it. But for right now, I am, without apathy to the conflict, steering clear of this route. I shall go find my "wise as a serpent yet harmless as a dove" route somewhere else.