Monday, April 30, 2012

親人

My dear little friend,

You were so cute, in your little red sweatshirt, toddling between your parents while they chatted quietly to each other in Chinese.  You looked up at me and I couldn't help but smile as your face lit up.  Surprisingly, you opened your mouth and yelled out to me, "Ayi!"  I looked at you in shock and then at your parents who smiled kindly at me.  Your parents looked down and said something to you and I turned away.  But you called after me again, "Ayi!!!" I turned back around to watch you, wishful that you really were saying what it sounded like you were saying: Auntie.  You might have just been spouting gibberish - after all, you are still learning how to walk - but somehow those were the words I most wanted to hear.  After walking home and watching all the cute families interact with each other, it was nice to believe that someone, even a little baby like you, would think I belonged.

Love,
Me

Grandpa

The most elaborate gift my Grandpa made for me when I was a child was a rocking horse.  Sadly, I don't remember receiving it - just playing with it for hours on end in my basement - but my Grandma loved to tell the story of how I saw the rocking horse through the glass door while walking up to my grandparents' house and came sprinting inside, yelling, "That's mine!  That's mine!"  I might have even thrown my arms around it.  During the retelling of it, I would often shrink down in my seat in embarrassment; appalled at my audacity and boldness in claiming such a large gift.  My grandma would continue, "It was like you knew that horse was meant for you and you were so insistent that it was yours we just thanked our stars that it really was for you.  We don't know what we would have done if it hadn't been yours."  And she would chuckle at the memory of it.

I was so painfully shy as a child around my grandparents that it shocked me, and kind of still does, that there are moments (ones my grandparents love to tell me again and again) when I so completely forgot myself enough to be loud and demanding and boisterous - you know, the way I was when just with my siblings.  As a result of my shyness, I still wonder how much I missed out on by hiding behind my parents and siblings and how much they missed by my sudden muteness whenever I saw them glance my way.  I wonder most though if they ever realized how much I loved them.  And how grateful I was for all the little things they did to let one little middle child girl know that she was noticed and loved.

...

I've written this blog post about fifty times.  I'm still at a loss as to how to express my thoughts since Friday, when I found that my grandfather passed away.  I miss Grandpa.  I miss my childhood.  At the same time, looking back on my childhood, everything is a little fuzzy and overwhelmingly confusing.  While I don't feel lost, I feel a little unsteady on my feet.  It's not that I don't know where to go from here; it's just that I'm not entirely sure how to get there.

And yet, in the midst of all of this, are the memories of the good things, a million little things that I will somehow, someday have to formulate so that my children will know my Grandpa and know how much he is a part of me.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Good Friday

Dear Self,

Do you remember that one time when you forgot your lunch at home?  So you went home to eat and a package was waiting for you?  A package from Germany?  A package with a soccer ball in it?  A soccer ball that your favorite Bundesliga team signed?  A favorite team that included your favorite soccer player?

Remember that day?  Ha, how could you forget?

Love,
Me

I used to laugh at Makoto's signature -
that is, until I saw his teammates'.
At least I know which scribble is his.  

Friction Ahead

I've been reviewing thin airfoil theory in Aerodynamics this week.

There are two forces that act on an airfoil (think: wing) - Lift and Drag.

Lift is created from the pressure acting normal (perpendicular) to the surface of the airfoil.

Drag is created from the shear stress over the surface of the airfoil (acts tangential or parallel to surface of airfoil)

If we were to assume a world of inviscid (frictionless) flow, drag would not exist.  (Makes sense, right?  Drag is pretty much just a measure of the friction on the airfoil anyway).

And since, lift acts perpendicular to the direction that friction acts, it is independent of the friction that exists.

Wouldn't that be nice to live in world free of friction?  We'd have all the lift we wanted to soar and fly without worrying about being held down or dragged back in our progress.

But here's the clincher: If we lived in a world of perfectly inviscid flow, we would never experience lift.

Turns out that nature requires friction in order to create the environment for lift to exist.  (It gets technical here so I will spare you the details - but it involves the Kutta condition)

Likewise in our own lives: Those stresses that threaten to halt our progress and pull us back can actually be the stresses that create the environment that allows us to lift us above our present circumstances and to soar.

2 Nephi 2:11: "For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.  If not so...righteousness could not be brought to pass, neither wickedness, neither holiness nor misery, neither good nor bad..."

I Can Soar by JYJ's (TVXQ's) Junsu:

Click on the CC and then on English subtitles if you have trouble understanding his English.

"A man can never know how strong he really is until he is beaten, torn, shattered...until he is broken, beyond despair, on his knees in pain...and without even knowing how or why...stands back up."
~ Thomas F. Lerchenfelt, Jr.

For my dear friends who are struggling with great forces against them,

Please remain strong.  You will rise above this.  You will.  And you will become all the better for it.  In the meantime, lean on your friends and your God and we can make it through this together.

Love,
Me

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I might be biased

Last year, one of my friends attended a Kpop concert in which she was immediately asked by some very eager and excited girls, "Who's your bias?"

It's a funny question but one that makes sense.  Essentially, which group are you most here to see?  Which person in that group is the one that keeps you interested?  For a culture like Kpop in which there are literally hundreds of bands with similar music styles, a bias is what draws you to one band over the other.  Further, within a band of boys (or girls), having a bias helps you start to distinguish the members from each other.  Otherwise it's just a mass of all similar looking boys (or girls) who change their hair color and clothes every thirty seconds.

Picking a bias is always kind of a random thing for me but, for some reason, they usually stick.  My bias within Shinee?  Onew, all the way.  Why?  I have absolutely no idea.  I mean, there are lots of great things about him: he's smart and witty and he doesn't mind making mistakes; he also takes his career in stride and knows when to take something seriously and when not to.  But why I chose him over Jonghyun, Minho, Taemin or Key who all have pretty impressive qualities themselves is not anything that I can really put my finger on.  (Although I do like awkward people and I'm not sure anything quite beats the Onew Condition when it comes to awkward)

A bias is also kind of a funny thing because it can have little to do with actual musical tastes.  For example, my favorite Korean band is CNBlue but I don't know much about the band itself other than genuine appreciation for their music.  In this way, they work like an American band.  I love their music, own their albums, listen to it in the car and sing along but for the most part, I don't spend my free time looking them up.  A bias on the other hand - it could be the most inane article on some random kpop website and suddenly I'm convinced, "I need to read this and find out if Onew really does insist on having pink sprinkles on his ice cream cones."  (Not a real story but if it were, you can bet I probably read it)

All of this is just to give you a glimpse at the power of a bias in my funny little life.  Of course, everyone really knows that my biggest bias is none other than Makoto Hasebe.  I first noticed him during the World Cup but how I noticed him is a mystery to even myself.

No matter, just like with a Kpop bias, this bias gave me a team to cheer for and a player to watch.  Soon enough, the rest of the team became familiar to me.  Before I knew it, I suddenly had a favorite team in the Bundesliga as well.

On Friday, I had the rare occurrence of watching Hasebe play (via ESPN3).  Since the World Cup, I can count the number of times I've watched Hasebe play on one hand.  While I settled into the game, I couldn't help but smile as I watched him move around the field and interact with his teammates; I was reminded all over again why this kid first caught my eye.  I like to think that, despite my bias, I am still pretty fair in my assessment.  I don't have any illusions that Hasebe is the best player in the Bundesliga or even the best player on his team.  I've read enough reports on him to know that although a good technical player with good dribbling and ball handling skills, he is slow for a midfielder and he sometimes struggles to attack and push the game up field.  However, on Friday, as I watched I felt that I was competently gauging that he was playing a good game.  He was aggressively moving the play forward but also solidly proved to be where he needed to be in his position as defensive midfielder.  Yet, when the second half of the game started, Hasebe was promptly subbed out of the game.
Source: 
I stared at the screen in shock.  Had my bias really affected my judgment so much?

The answer is Yes.  But not for the reasons you think.  I went back and rewatched the game.  Hasebe did play a solid game.  It wasn't error free but, then again, no one was.

So, here's really how my bias affected me:  I spent part of my Friday watching a soccer game.  I spent part of my weekend on and off thinking about that soccer game and my assessment of it.  I spent part of my Tuesday rewatching that soccer game.  In short: I am a soccer fan.

This from the girl who dreamed about (American) football in middle school, the girl who played rugby in college and the girl who never bothered to find the time to sit down and just watch sports.

So, how is it that I now schedule time and energy dedicated to the "beautiful game"?

Well, like I said, a bias can be a funny thing.
Source:

Monday, April 23, 2012

My BBoys

That is, Bundesliga Boys and not those kids who break dance.  (Although break dancing is pretty amazing too)

Dear Kagawa-san,

Deutscher Meister 2011 and 2012?  The new record holder for most goals for a Japanese player in the Bundesliga?  When you broke your foot last year, I was hoping you would make a big comeback.  But I never expected this.  Not only that, but you and your team look like you're all having so much, I'm half tempted to risk to incite Gelsenkirchen's wrath and start liking BVB <gasp> in addition to Schalke 04.  Almost.  

Love,
Me


Dear Hosogai-san,

Your team is doing so well right now, I couldn't be prouder, even if it did mean putting mein wölfe to shame in their own stadium.  But wow, kid, your spikes aren't just brilliant, they sparkle!  Blinding your opponents - is this your new tactic?  

Love,
Me


Dear Koo-ssi, 

I always knew you had it in you!  When I read last week that you were one of the players in the Bundesliga who is coming into their own and making a huge difference, I started cheering.  It seems you really have found your place in Augsburg and contributing to ensure they stay top flight.  I'm looking forward to more great things.  

Love,
Me


Dear Uchida-san,

Turns out, you didn't lose your job and you've contributed to your team's success this season.  After all is said and done, I guess not much changes.  Your fangirls are still fangirling.  Your friends all still tease you and post pictures of you on their blogs to increase their own readership.  Your team still wonders if you were a male model before you came to Germany.  You still crack me up with your sound bytes.  And your hair remains, as ever, both perfectly messy and perfectly coiffed.  Looking forward to many more seasons with you.

Love,
Me


Dear Okazaki-san,

Has anyone told you how very young you look with your hair cut?  I looked at you and thought, "Wow, he looks like he's about 25."  Funny, since you really are (or 26 now).  Glad to have you back from injury and pleasantly surprised that Stuttgart is in a solid 4th place.  Where did that come from?  

Love,
Me


Dear Usami-san,

You started midfielder for Bayern!  I've been waiting for this all season.  I hope to see much more of you in the future.  

Love,
Me 


Dear Sakai-san,

I've been enjoying watching you make a place in your team at Stuttgart.  Can't wait to see what else is in your future and here's hoping we see you on the National Team soon.

Love,
Me


Dear Vfl Wolfsburg,

A year ago, this time, we were both concerned about relegation.  Now, we're both solidly somewhere in the middle but still setting our sights for more.  Euro League?  As we've both learned, in the struggle and even in the failure, we learn something valuable about ourselves.  Hope rises up above it all.  I'm cheering for you.

Love,
Me


Dear Hasebe-san,

Good things await.

Love,
Me

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hide and Seek

It's a rainy day.  Although I had a long and wet walk into work, I can't complain since Virginia needs the moisture.

While fumbling to grab my keys out when I arrive at work, I happened to look up and noticed this: 
 This poor little moth was doing its best to stay safe from the weather while remaining safe from predators.

I'm always impressed by the bugs that make visits to my lab this time of year so I stopped to take a picture.  But when I took a step back, I looked up and noticed that there were moths all over the place.  The white ones were mostly hidden on the white doors and the dark ones on the brick above.  Let's see if you can find them.

  Here are the doors of my lab:
 And above the doors:


Can you find all the hidden moths?  (Hint: There are 17 on the door picture and 15 on the brick picture)
Answers below.

But first:

Here is a gorgeous night view of the trees near the basketball courts as reflected over the pond at UVa.
It was stunning.


Answers here:

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Rise Up in the Morning

While on a walk on Sunday, one of my friends suggested: You might try just spontaneously going on adventures with your friends.  I smiled at what she was getting at but honestly doubted anything would come of it.

Last night, I was walking home from rehearsal and a friend saw me on the road and picked me up.  On the way to my house, I was invited to go on a sunrise hike the next day.  Surprising even myself, I agreed.  

This morning when I rolled out of bed at 4:30 am, I think I wondered what I was getting myself into.  The hike to the top was not easy for bodies as exhausted as ours already were.  For a few minutes, I wondered if we were even going to beat the sun to the top.  

But we did.  
Me at the top before the sun came up

It was a glorious experience to sit on top of the world and pause to watch nature work its magic.  
I demanded that my friend let me use her hands as a model

The  sun peeking over the horizon

What a wonderful world!  

Monday, April 16, 2012

Love Language

When I returned to the US after living in Taiwan, I was genuinely worried that I had lost my ability to sufficiently express myself in my native language.  For a person who still aspired to become a writer, this was one of the worst consequences I could imagine.  As a result, one of the first things I did when I got to the US was to pick up the closest big English novel on my sister's shelf - Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - and read it.  Forget about the Chinese that I'd acquired in the past eighteen months.  Nothing, I determined, was going to come between me and my ability to express myself.

(Looking back now, I should have been more concerned about my engineering - I was home for six months before I tried to get back into math and realized I'd forgotten even my trigonometry.  I ended up cramming three college semesters of calculus in a week for my linear algebra class.  Thermodynamics likewise required me to cram an entire semester's worth of material in a week.)

In the past nine years, I have come to realize a few things:

(1) Nothing will change the fact that English is my first and native language.  As such, it holds a specific role in determining how I relate to the world, how I understand language in all its forms, and how I express myself.  Even I reach my lifetime dream of becoming fluent in Chinese, English will always remain.  Its place was decided long ago.

(2) I am madly in love with Chinese.  I love how Chinese sounds (especially the Taiwan accent).  I love speaking it and the way my mouth wraps around its sounds.  It's one of those languages that, in hearing it, just leaves me giddy.  I could go on about and on about this language and how beautiful it is.  When I try to share this with others, they usually just stare back at me.  Sometimes, I wonder if I'm in love with the best language there is to love or if everyone feels this way about their second language.

(3) It takes serious discipline to learn and maintain any language.  Nothing really takes the place of just buckling down and putting real time and energy into memorization and repetition.

(4) Understanding goes much deeper than simply comprehension of vocabulary.  Communication is layered and often very complicated.  I can know the definition every word in a sentence (in English or otherwise) and still be at a loss as to meaning.

(5) I have yet to meet a language that is not beautiful to my ears.  There is something stunning about hearing language spoken by natives and watching people interact in other languages.

(6) I hope that I can learn to be conversational in a third language one day.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Beverage For Adult Giraffes

A few weeks ago, I talked about soccer players and non-soccer product endorsement.  Apparently, Hasebe-san decided it was his turn to try his hand in advertisement for Kirin.  Kirin is a beverage company in Japan of similar size and prevalence as Coca-cola in the US.  (Google translates it as "giraffe", hence the title of this post)

The beverage?

Beer - like his teammate Nagatomo?  
Tea - the beverage of choice of all Japanese people?

Nope.

大人のキリンレモン (Adult Kirin Lemon)

What is this drink?  It's a carbonated drink flavored with lemon and some amino acids that are intended to provide health benefits for adults.

Essentially, it's like the healthy (if carbonated drinks ever count as healthy) version of Sprite.

The ad?


"If you drink Kirin Lemon, your childhood dreams will come true."
Or "If you drink Kirin Lemon, a cartoon will give you his job."

Does it sell?

Seeing as how I might be a little biased, you tell me.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Early Bird Gets the ...

Dear William Wei,

Thank you for this amazing song.  You not only expressed how I've been feeling about my career lately but also gave me the hope to keep going.  I've already tried to make demands to my youngest sister that you marry her and join the family.  She declined - something about having never met you or other such nonsense.  Please join the family anyway?

Love,
Me
鳥日子 詞曲/演唱:韋禮安

總搞不懂 早起的蟲 怎麼生活 難道像我
怎麼做怎麼錯 怎麼我還不想放手

早起的我 總是落空 到底誰說 努力就
有天成功 到底哪天誰告訴我

日子一天天度過 曾經的熱衷 不甘願就這樣消磨
嗚~~等著我 什麼時候 離開枝頭
嗚~~不回頭 願望不多 只要我能相信我
逆著風 就能飛上天空

Bird Days by William Wei 
(translated by Ruohua Lee) 

I've never understood it - how does the early worm survive?  It's just that  
How do I do this?  How did I go wrong?  How is it that I still haven't given up?

I get up early but everything still just comes to naught.  They say that effort will
One day bring success.  Can someone tell me when that day will come?  

Day by day, I simply get by.  I'm can't let my passions just wear away like this.  
Oooh ~ I'm waiting for the time when I can leave this branch.
Oooh ~ I can't turn back now.  My dreams are not many - I simply want to be able to believe in myself,
That I can fly against the wind through the sky.  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How To Make Someone's Day 101

Be yourself.

My colleague shared this video with me.  I think he chuckled his way through it.  I cried my way through it.  It was touching and beautiful.

The story of a boy who made an arcade entirely out of cardboard.
That arcade made one man's day.
That man in turn wanted to make a video to tell the world about this arcade.
He made that boy's day.
But in making that boy's day, he helped that boy make a lot of other people's day.

And together, they made my day.

You can watch it here.  


The moral: Be yourself.  You have a lot to share.  The world is waiting.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Raison d'etre

A friend recently asked me my opinions on music.  I figured after a flippantly written blogpost about my replay music lately, that I should address the overall concept of music in my life.

It's only when we lose the influence of something significant in our lives that we often stop and realize what it meant to us.  The times I've most noticed music in my life was when I noticed a lack of it.

Last year, for a few months, I had significant problems with my voice.  I wasn't sure the cause - sickness, stress, strain from singing in my acapella group - but I suffered through several multiple-week bouts of not being able to sing.  It was only then - when I had to consciously stop myself to prevent damage to my sore vocal cords - that I realized how often I sang.  After this period was over, my roommate told me.  "It's nice that you have your voice back again.  You're happier now that you can sing again and you sing when you're happy."  I hadn't ever thought about it in that way before.    I laughed at her since I feel like I sing even when I'm not happy.  However, there must be some truth to it because, last week, when I ran around the house as I got ready for the day, my roommate greeted me in the hallway, "You're certainly in a great mood this morning.  Did you get some good news?"  I looked at her in surprise.  "Yes, but how did you know?"  She laughed.  "You were singing."

One of the most obvious times in my life when music played a very different role in my life was my mission.  I didn't mind the rules - only hymns and classical music on Sunday mornings and preparation days - and memorized and sang hymns while I rode my bike or walked so that I felt no lack.  Or thought I didn't.  In my last month of my mission though, I went over to a family's house that I had seen at church but never spent much time with.  As my companion and I made our bows and shook our new friend's hand and switched out of our shoes and into house slippers in the entry way, I noticed some classical music was playing in the background.  The next conscious thought I have was that both my companion and the woman were staring at me open-mouthed from the entry way.  I had somehow made my way, uninvited, into the living room and situated myself right next to the radio.   I wasn't sure how long I had been there.  To cover up my rudeness and my embarrassment, I smiled, "Oh, is this Handel's Water Music?  I used to play the violin and I played this piece."  But it was a wake-up call: I loved music - and I missed it desperately.

Can I imagine my life without music?  No.

Can I really comprehend exactly how much music has influenced me?  No.

But I know it has and does.  And I am glad for it.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Winter Of My Discontent

I am a big believer that if your life is not going as you hoped, then you should try to change it in some way.  Make a new friend, take up a new hobby, change up your routine or, if necessary, take steps to make a significant impact on how the course of events pan out.

If you look at my activities since starting my PhD, you may notice a few stark moments of "change".  When I first came to UVa, I jumped into one service activity, one academic-related activity, and a few church-related activities.  After about two years, I dropped all of it.  A few months later, I picked up a different service activity, a different academic-related activity, and a different church-related activity.  A few years later, again, those all fell by the wayside in a personal effort to adjust my situation.  It's been one and a half years since I picked up the latest in service activity, academic related activity and church-related activity and I'm about ready to call quits on it all again.

The funny thing is, I can change the things I do in my off hours but somehow all my efforts are unable to make a real impact in the one thing that I have struggled with the most: obtaining my PhD.   I've doubled my efforts; I've given up a million time and re-started a million and one times.  I've talked to people, gotten advice, received help, tried to figure things out on my own, read textbooks, taught myself programs and equipment use.  I've used scientific reasoning to come to answers, worked through detailed plans, fiddled around when that didn't work and gone with my gut instinct.  I know my lab about as well as anyone can know a lab - even though I'm still learning exactly how many problems one experiment can have - and still at a loss how to make it all work at the same time.  I've pleaded and prayed.  I've fought and screamed.  I've been humbled and gained hope to try again.  It's been an exhausting six years.  I'm ready to be done.  But until I have data and results, I'm here.  For some undisclosed amount of time.

How easy it would be to walk away from it all, even if that means spending six years on something only to not get a degree.  Even if that means never going to Japan.  Even if that means never becoming the person I want to become.

I'm tired, bereft of energy, motivation and funding.  And still no respite is in sight.  I'm asked on a daily basis now, "When are you graduating?"  If only I knew.  Please no more questions, no more looks of disappointment - they can't compare to what I see every morning and evening looking back at me in my mirror.  I just want to fail in peace.  I just want to walk away.

So, why can't I?  Why do I stay on, buckling under the pressure of a frustrated adviser, a frustrated lab colleague and a frustrated graduate program?

Is it because deep down, I really think that I still succeed?

Laughable really, since they say someone who does the same thing over and over and expects different results is insane and I've been doing the same thing now for a few years.

Spring has come to Charlottesville.  When will mine arrive?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Playlist Lately

I'm like the anti-hipster.  I like things when it's no longer cool to like them.  This applies most definitely to my music.  However, despite that fact, I still somehow find it necessary to listen to these songs on repeat for days on end.

These are the songs that have been dominating my headphones lately.

One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful

Yeah, I've listened to this song nonstop for about five days now.  I should be wildly embarrassed but I've decided this is the theme song for my family.  The women in my family are pretty amazing and absolutely beautiful and I don't think they realize it (with the exception of perhaps Baby who hasn't a doubt in her head that she's beautiful).

Venus - Shinhwa

On second thought, maybe I should be infinitely more embarrassed about this song.  I can't seem to figure out why I listen to this song on repeat.  I think it's because a boyband composed of thirty-somethings that is still going strong (and in fact, making a comeback after a four year hiatus) is such a baffling concept to me.  It's also somehow gratifying to know that skinny boybands grow up into normal sized manbands.

Five Days - Patrick Nuo

I was reminded of this song with the video above of Hasebe-san pulling off some pretty fabulous soccer moves.  If only I could see more of this in Hasebe these days.  I do love his passing game and his crosses but there's still something so fabulously cheering about watching that kid take on defenders on his own.  This song supports my theory in a roundabout upbeat way.  (Note: He did decide to singlehandedly break down the North Korean defense during a recent game by dribbling through it because he realized the North Koreans were doing too well against the Japanese passing game.  While I didn't get to see it, when I read about it in an article, I cheered.)  (Note: Once again, too many opinions about a man I don't know)

Jaywalking - Eye Candy (Shut Up Flower Boy Band OST)

If I could translate Korean, I so would do it for this song.  I love the way the melody ebbs and flows with the lyrics.  Probably one of the best fake band songs I've heard in a long time.  I can't get over how much fun this song is.

It's Not Like It Isn't Lonely This Way - Yen-J

I'm breaking my usual rules left and right today.  I usually only include official videos by that group (when possible) but this English translation is pretty good and I thought it might be nice for once for people to understand what the music I like says.  I've loved Yen-j for a while now.  So it should be no surprise that he made an appearance on my oft played lately.  But what surprised me is that it was this song that I kept wanting to listen to.  It's so sad and poignant.

Fantastic Baby - Bigbang

For as much as I claim I don't really like these guys, they certainly keep showing up on my playlist.  Silly T.O.P and his "Fantastic Baby."  It's fantastically addictive.  I could do without his blue hair though.  I do like Bigbang because most of their music makes excellent running/workout music.

Sherlock - Shinee

I love these boys.  And even though Taemin looks like a girl and Minho looks awkward dancing in skinny jeans, I keep pushing Replay.  (Ha! I'm too funny)  Onew continues to reign as my favorite in the group although I still can't place my finger on 'why'.  

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Child's Play

Sunday, I watched General Conference with two adorable kids who, despite my best efforts, proved to be excellent distractions.  They also proved to show how fabulous and magical life can be.  

T: I can beat up a pirate.
My sister and I:  Really?
T (whispering): I got a sword from Target.
(This of course was during a talk but my sister and I couldn't help but burst out laughing)

Marc: You need to drink enough water.
T: So that you won't be dead.
Marc: Exactly.  Water helps your brain and your lungs and your heart.
T: Oh, but the doctor has two hearts.
(Reference to Dr. Who - these kids are OBSESSED with Dr. Who)

K: Marc, you need to wash your hands!
Marc: It's fine, really.
K: NO!  You need to wash your hands!  You have to wash off those bad germs so you won't get in trouble!
Marc: (shrugs)
K: I washed my hands so I only have good germs.  
(She was quite adamant and almost worried for his soul since he was left with bad germs)

K: How do you say his name?
K's Mom: Elder Christofferson
K: Elder Chistopson?
K's Mom: Elder Christofferson
K: Ok.
(She goes upstairs to where her brother is)
K: T, quick, say, 'Elder Chritoffoson"
T: Elder Kistopson?
K: Good job!  Now you get a treat too!
(They got a treat when they recognized general authorities)

(K's dad decided to play an April Fool's Day joke on her by pretending she was dressed up as a princess)
K: I am NOT a princess!  Can I go outside to play?
K's Dad: You need to take off that pretty pink dress and that crown you're wearing before you can do that.
K: I'm not wearing a dress!  I don't have a crown.
K's Dad: You can't see it?  It's so pretty.  Go take it off before you go to play so you don't ruin your dress.
K angrily stomps out of the room and pretends to take off a dress that she obviously doesn't have on and can't see.  She also rips a pretend crown off her head.
K: Is that better?  Now, can I go outside?
K's Dad: But wait, those pearls!  Don't ruin your nice pearl necklace!
K: I'm not wearing a pearl necklace.
K's Dad: Yes, you are.  Can't you see those beautiful pearls.  It's so nice.  I'm almost afraid I'll hurt them if I touch them.
K goes out of the room again and angrily unfastens the pretend pearl necklace that she obviously doesn't see but her dad does.  
K: Is that better?
K's Dad: Hahaha.  April Fool's Day!

K gets the joke and plans her own.
K: (announcing to the entire room): I'm going to play an April Joke on Mommy.  I'm going to ... (proceeds to tell all her plans)
K's Dad: No, sweetheart.  Telling everyone your joke kind of defeats the purpose.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Worth of a Soul

My life: In Taiwan, there was a family that I worked with.  Three families and three generations in one poorly maintained home situated dangerously close to a power substation.  In the middle of affluent Neihu, it was the closest  I got to poverty on my mission and it broke my heart.  The parents all had to work long hours and low-paying jobs in an attempt to make ends meet and so left their 10+ children in the hands of an aged and stern grandfather who mostly ignored them.  Although fed and clothed, the children were starving for love.  My companion and I visited them weekly to teach them a short lesson about Jesus and teach a song or two and then play a game and eat a treat.  Due to mission rules, we were not allowed to hold or hug the children but we often talked of the day when we were no longer missionaries and we could throw our arms around those little ones and show them how much we truly loved them.  (My companion had a dream of trotting all those kids down the street to buy them all ice cream cones - another impossibility on a mission budget.)  As it was, those kids tried their hardest to worm their way into our arms and our laps.  They finally settled on simply kissing our hands when we left them each week.  

One day the male missionaries who served in the same area came back from visiting the grandfather and we laughed as they told us off the devious antics of the kids to scramble onto their laps and we smiled when they teased us and said that all the kids adored us and referred to us as, "Auntie missionaries."  Then one of the elders spoke up with a chuckle.  "I really don't get why you spend so much time on those kids.  They aren't going to amount to anything.  They're not going to make it."  I burst into tears.  

Book One: 
Yesterday, I found this excerpt from an autobiography of my new hero, Jim Abbott, a famous baseball player who was famous for being a pitcher in spite of only having one hand.  During his career, he had the opportunity to meet several other children born with imperfect bodies.  

"They were shy and beautiful, and they were loud and funny, and they were, like me, somehow imperfectly built. And, like me, they had parents nearby, parents who willed themselves to believe that this ­accident of circumstance or nature was not a life sentence, and that the spirits inside these tiny bodies were greater than the sums of their hands and feet."  

He then went on to talk about how those little children and their courage and optimism changed him and made him a better baseball player and a better man.  

I think that those words - spirits who were greater than the sum of their hands and feet - is such a great way to describe the potential of children born into difficult circumstances.  

Book Two: 
I was recently told about the book The Other Wes Moore by Wes Moore about two men from Baltimore with the exact same name and similar circumstances.  One Wes Moore went on to become a Rhodes Scholar and a White House fellow and the other ended up in prison for life.  Whoever told me about this book (I'm sorry, I can't remember who at the moment) said that this book discusses not only what small doors opened that made one a success but also leaves with the thought that the world is lacking and missing something from what could have been an equally wonderful and brilliant contribution from the other Wes Moore.  

So many people can judge children and say they won't make it.  I pray that I may have the courage to say that they can and be able to do much to help those children achieve their dreams and reach their potential.