February 26, 2017

Carnaval in the Sambadrome

Some of our American friends here in Sao Paulo joined a Samba club and danced in the competition parade Friday night. The costumes were so over the top impressive, the floats incredible and the infectious beat of the drums propelled everyone to movement.

Here we are with them and some of the other costumes around us . . .


The parade started a touch after 11pm and 7 Samba schools participate each night for 3 nights. They each get an hour. Yes, that makes for a VERY late night. Thankfully, our friends were the second school to go. We ended up getting home just before 3 am.

There are approximately 3000 dancers in each school and each one had about 5 floats. I suppose that makes 63,000 dancers/costumes and 105 floats in total for the 3 nights. The winning school will dance again on Fat Tuesday. I've actually never experienced such flawless organization and execution in Brazil since I've been here. Lots of things seem fairly haphazard. But not this. This, my friends, was a logistical nightmare yet they pulled it off beautifully.


The first float we saw had marionette "puppets" dancing. They're not puppets but really dancers with ribbons connecting them to sticks on giant hands. Incredible. My mom would've loved it. And I kinda really hope she can look in on this type of stuff...because if she lived here, I'm pretty sure she'd be on whatever costuming and float committees she could find.


The Sambadrome is a stadium for parades. Like it's a narrow lane with bleachers on either side. I understand it fits 30,000 people. As the night got later, more people came. Some who'd already performed with earlier groups. And there were thousands outside the gates.


What I didn't understand until we came was why a parade wouldn't be on the regular street. Why this special stadium? Well, these floats are amazing. In Portuguese, they're called carro alegórico (allegorical cars). Each one has a theme and tells a story. I'd love to know which stories, but I'm not up on my Brazilian folklore. But I digress. The floats are big. Like probably 30-50 feet tall. Most had at least 50 different dancers on them. They quite simply wouldn't fit with telephone wires on a regular street. That would be a disaster.

In fact, on the way home we saw a disaster. Traffic was slow, which is weird in the middle of the night...but hey, Sao Paulo has many surprises. One slowdown was for a float trying to go under an overpass on the freeway. The driver slowed down to a crawl to make sure he could fit. 

Another looked like it hopped a curb trying to exit said freeway. And yet another looked like maybe it had been trying to turn a corner and there were pieces of this float in the road with half a dozen people trying to help. Poor float. And poor creators who were probably frantically trying to put it back together for it's time in the spotlight.


This fun pink lady had trapeze artists hanging off the back of it. So, uh, yeah. This is what I mean when I say the floats are over the top. I mean seriously. Brazil is schooling the world on how to do floats. Go big or go home. Not really. Go big or come to Brazil. That's the message, alright.


On the back of each float there were maybe 20 guys pushing it along. I'm not sure if there were any motorized sections, but it didn't appeared to be.


Pretty much I loved this warrior princess fighting her dragon. Look at her feathers. Amazing. I wonder how many birds had to die for this celebration...actually, I wonder if they are real or fake. I didn't play with any so I'm not entirely sure.

 

There weren't any topless girls, which everyone at church was worried about. I thought the same...until I saw my friend's costume. Then I started thinking maybe this would be an okay activity. The only sketchy thing is that they had condoms by the basket full and were handing them out. To everyone. Because everyone has sex at a parade???

There were cleaning crews after each school performed. I loved this garbage can/vacuum. And the only street sweepers I've ever seen in Brazil happened to be here at the parade.

I'm grateful for the opportunity we had to experience Carnaval in Brazil. It's such an incredible cultural celebration. One that I highly recommend. But more the clean version and less the wearing of nothing but body paint and drinking all night long and not knowing who exactly you slept with. The latter is self destructive. The former is glorious.

And our beautiful children watched Netflix and put themselves to bed. They let us sleep until almost noon and brought us breakfast in bed. Well, granola and milk in bed. But still. It's been a really long time since we stayed out late like this. And no, I'm not including our night-flights to/from Brazil in the same staying out late category. Ha ha.

January 27, 2017

The Big Reveal

I think I'll start this post just like my last one...so excuse the first lines. But I got distracted typing yesterday, so I wasn't able to pull in the part of the story that went with those lines. And rather than not publish, I did it anyway. Because shorter posts spread out over more days is more fun, right?!

A month ago I bought tickets to come visit my mom. Only I didn't tell her. Or my dad or anyone - except my sister. And she coordinated the ride from the airport and staying with my parents (what's a couple of extra guests, anyway?)...so logistics were covered.

There are no direct flights between Sao Paulo and Seattle, so when Chicago showed up on the cheapest route, I made the layover about 10 hours instead of just a couple. That meant Elliott, my sole travel companion, and I could visit the city on our way to Seattle.

We arrived early in the morning and finished with customs and a train delay to bring us to Millennial Park by 9am. But holy moly, it's soooo cold in Chicago. My nose is sore, my lips are chapped and the eczema rash on my hand is bright red inflamed and starting to crack open. Eek.

We visited the bean...or rather Cloud Gate, Millennial Park, the cultural center, ,the Riverwalk, explored Navy Pier and went on the Centennial Wheel and walked around town...of course we went shopping, too. Not so much to buy stuff. But shops are heated and we like that.



Our flight to Seattle arrived about 40 minutes early - no big deal, because my sister Kristal's flight got in early, too. So as we were taxiing to our gate, her plane landed. From the plane she texted my brother Brett to come early and he was only 20 minutes away so we didn't have to wait around at all. My sister met us in baggage claim and then instead of her going outside to meet him, I did. As I approached the car, he got out and was smiling. He'd done a double take...because Kristal sure does look a lot like Bridget. Ha ha ha. Priceless.

After me, Kristal came out. Then a minute later Elliott came. When Brett was sure we weren't hiding anyone else, we started driving. Along the way we called my brother JC to see if he was still at the office. He was so Brett said they'd stop by. So for the next 20 minutes we plotted how to surprise him. Wouldn't it be fun to put Elliott in our big suitcase and say that Kristal brought something for JC? Yeah, that's an awesome plan. Except when we pulled up around the back of the office and got out of the car, we noticed that Elliott is a lot bigger than we remembered and sizing him up next to the suitcase, it was clear our plan was destined for failure. So we just put him in the trunk instead. And not having a plan for me meant I was going to get in with him. Trunk time. Yay! 

So Brett drove around to the building entrance, goes in, feeds JC a line about the car having a leak or something because there's a musty smell. JC comes outside to check out the car and Brett starts filming. I hear them and decide to film my first Facebook Live video. Brett popped the trunk open and Elliott and I pop out waving our hands and give JC a mini-heart attack. Success! Mission accomplished. And then I notice that after all the selfies Elliott and I had taken in Chicago, my camera is pointed in the wrong direction and I missed filming JC's reaction. #FacebookLiveRookie


After going out to dinner, we split up into separate cars and my sister, Elliott and I continued our journey to my parent's house.

BACK STORY: Last week I started ordering a few things from Amazon. I was careful to adjust my Prime 2-day shipping to be more like 4 or 5 days so the packages wouldn't arrive before we did. And then Tymon asked me to get some dodge balls and I was like, okay, click click, it's done. And then I realized I didn't adjust any dates. The balls were set to arrive a few hours BEFORE we arrived. Eek! So I started hoping my parents wouldn't go out their front door and wouldn't notice the package.

Which now brings me to the airport in Chicago. Elliott and I are sitting down charging my phone when my dad calls. I answered and was praying he wouldn't hear that we were in the airport as flights are announced. They got the package and he's concerned about how to get it to me. Doh! How did they discover the package??? I bet the delivery guy rang the bell. Darn him. 

Remember...this is a surprise trip. So, I say it's probably pretty light and that it's dodge balls. We have to get them from the US. But "Tymon isn't home" I say with certainty...even though he might have been. What did I know? I was sitting next to my gate at O'Hare. So I continue on about making shipping arrangements and getting back to him the next day. Then quick, I change the subject. 

My sister is coming to visit. Really?! Cool. Yeah, he tells me. He's excited because she'll come to church with them and everyone will think that she's me because we look so much alike. Except that we don't. I mean yes there's family resemblance, but no for us looking like twins. 

The thing is he has proof we look alike. Apparently Google's Picasa wants to label us as the same person. Ha ha. We used to dress up like twins when we were 5 and 6. That was fun. And we bought matching outfits when we were 14 and 15 and pretended to be twins at summer camp. But seriously, it's been 25 years since such escapades. Which brings me back to the...

PRESENT STORY: Kristal and Elliott stayed in the car when we arrived at my parent's house. I rang the bell and my dad came after a few moments. He looked at me and gave me a hug. I didn't say more than hi, no use in giving him more info than necessary to ruin the surprise.

So then...
     So then...

Kristal walks around the corner and my dad says he thought Kristal looked an awful lot like me. Bwahahahaha!

So, it was a quarter after 10pm and I went in to see my mom who was already in bed. I gave her a kiss and she said hi. While our faces were so close together she locked eyes with me.  I could see the wheels turning. And not understanding how I was Kristal. How was Kristal looking so much like Bridget? Then Kristal came in and cleared up the confusion immediately.

This surprise trip has had the most fun reveals ever. From Elliott's reaction to when I told him he was coming a couple days before we left, to my siblings' and my parents' reactions. I loved it. 

The moral of the story: The best way to confirm that someone doesn't look like you is to impersonate them being you.


January 26, 2017

Lucky!

A month ago, I bought tickets to come visit my mom. Only I didn't tell her. Or my dad. Or anyone else except my sister. I gave her the info on my flight and then she got one that was coming in 15 minutes before mine. This way she could get a ride from the airport and I could tag along. We both planned to stay with our parents. Simple. Easy.

So checking into our flight Sao Paulo I was asked if, on a standby availability basis, I would like a complementary upgrade in seats. Change my lousy economy seat for better? Yeah. No thought required there. We were in row 45...aka the last one.

There were 3 seats on our side and the lady next to us moved. LUCKY!!! One extra seat in coach means we can lie down to sleep with the illusion we won't get a kink in our necks. And Elliott took hers because our touch screen TVs were temperamentally responsive.

Maybe 10 minutes before take off, they called my name to come forward and to bring all of my belongings. LUCKY!!! The upgrade came through! They handed me my new boarding pass and I was moving to 6E. LUCKY!!! I wasn't getting a few more inches of legroom, but rather seats that fully recline into a bed. LUCKY!!!

So then I say, I'm traveling with my son. And they're like, "uh, lemme walkie talkie over to the gate agent." Then they told me to go back and get Elliott. LUCKY!!! The seats aren't together. DON'T CARE! And then we get to our new seats and the flight attendant talks to a couple of people and gets them to move to create two seats next to each other. LUCKY!!!



I planned a long layover in Chicago for me and Elliott so we could visit the city a little bit. So we didn't bring backpacks or anything that we'd have to carry around all day. We just put our toothbrushes in my purse. I was pretty bummed about not having my neck pillow but not bummed enough to want to bring it to carry around in Chicago. No matter. In first class seats you get 2 pillows. One full size, like for your bed. And the other half that size, which is still double the size of the lousy coach pillow. They were like bits of heaven to a weary soul. LUCKY!!!

So we ordered drinks before the flight...they came with a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. A few minutes later they came by to take our dinner order. Yes order. Like we had 5 different choices. And had we looked at the menu? There were a couple of breakfast choices, too. Both with more than a yogurt and croissant. LUCKY!!!

After takeoff they served us nuts in a little ceramic bowl. I don't mean peanuts. I mean cashews and almonds. LUCKY!!! Remember the old days when international flights gave you a hot towel to wash your hands before a meal? Yeah. Haven't seen that since....uh, maybe the 90s. Well, turns out they still do it for business class. LUCKY!!!

We had an appetizer, salad, main course, cheese and grapes plate, ice cream sundae dessert and then were left with our personal big screen TVs for the next 7 hours. Wow. LUCKY!!!

I'm pretty sure this LUCKY upgrade will never happen again. And I won't be booking business class tickets for my family of 7 any time soon. But it was so awesome just this once.

January 22, 2017

Bomb Dropping

I spoke in church last week. That in and of itself is not super remarkable. Except this time, it was in Portuguese to maybe 200 or so people. Did I mention I don't speak Portuguese? Well, that's not entirely true. I do speak a little bit. But not everything I said was within my skill set. In fact, I learned several new words.

Graeden spoke in church last February. In Portuguese. I'm on the slow track. Ha ha.

I wrote the talk in English. It took me a couple of weeks. Of thinking. Of praying. Of brainstorming ideas. Of writing. The problem was, it just wasn't good. But in the final hour of Saturday night, I pulled it together and I emailed it to Caleb, Tymon's business partner who lives in our basement. He was on the phone with his Brazilian wife, who now lives in Texas. They spent the next couple hours working out a translation. I didn't mean to hijack their evening. But I did. And they were willing to help me. And I am grateful for their help. Meanwhile, I went to bed.

Sunday morning, I woke up at 6:30, opened my email, found the talk and read through it. Out loud. With a timer. It was supposed to be 10 minutes. Turns out it was 12 in English. And 25 in Portuguese. Whoops. But what could I do? Church starts at 9am and I don't have the language skills to shorten or fix anything. I read through it again, got dressed and went to church.

I got to church and sat up front. I warned the brother conducting that I was going to take longer. He said no problem, I had until 9:40, which means instead of 10 minutes, I could have 15. I said, sorry. I'm taking longer. Once I start I have no ability to stop.

I started. Didn't look up. Read my paper. My head down. Worst presentation of my life. I only looked up a few times only seeing people in the first two rows. I had no idea where Tymon and the family were sitting, though I caught Jocelyn alone on the front row at one point. The clock was on the wall but I couldn't look at it. I didn't want to know how much time I was taking.

A few times I put my finger on the text to help me not get lost. I talked about the gospel as it's called the Plan of Happiness. I focused on the need for us to have experiences on earth. And opposition in all things. Toward the end, I talked about the bomb God dropped in our lives when Evan died. I had some tears that welled up. I couldn't see. But I needed to read. There's no way to improvise with my language skills. I just wiped my right eye. And pressed forward.

I sat down at 9:50. We sang a rest hymn. Good thing it was only one verse. That left 12 minutes for the next two speakers. Whoops. I apologized. Maybe they were secretly thrilled. I don't know. The meeting actually ended just a few minutes late. Not too bad. Phew!

So let me tell you, never in my life have I received so much positive feedback from speaking in church. Probably 15-20 people thanked me for my words during the next couple of hours. Tymon said 5 or 6 complemented me to him. Then scattered throughout this past week half a dozen more reached out to me individually and today at church another 4 or 5 congratulated me.

It was a humble presentation. I'm happy my pronunciation and accent are acceptable enough that so many understood my words. I'm happy the Spirit spoke through me. I'm happy for the sounding board and editing help Tymon gave me. I'm so grateful for Caleb's help.

Feedback: One brother told me that the talk was well written and asked if he could use one of my stories. He's a writer and really liked the way I told the story...I told him I had a blog. Another brother said that that talk was General Conference worthy. Another friend said: Estou muito orgulhosa de ti!!!
Agora só vou falar português contigo!! She's proud of me and only going to speak to me in Portuguese. I replied, Como? Não intendo...What? I don't understand. Ha ha. A few more asked for my talk by email. I've attached it below...in English and Portuguese.

The Plan of Happiness

My family and I moved to Brazil about a year and a half ago. We’re from the NW corner of the United States next to the Pacific Ocean. There are many hills, rivers, lakes and tall evergreen trees as well as clouds and drizzle for about 9 months out of the year. In my professional life, I teach teens how to drive. My siblings and I own some driving schools and they are taking care of the business while I’m in Sao Paulo.

Something most people don’t realize when learning to drive is that the actual physical task of driving, like stopping and starting or turning corners has very little to do with crash-free driving. Many focus their efforts and judge their success on how well they can parallel park. In reality, very few people crash or die while parking.

Likewise, in life people get caught up in specific details, perhaps financial success or popularity on social media. But in reality, those things have very little to do with the eternities or our personal development. To help us to focus on what’s important, Heavenly Father has created a plan for us. The bible calls it the gospel.
The Book of Mormon expands on that name with a few more. Each name focuses our attention on a specific part of the gospel. For example, when I think of the Plan of Salvation, I think of being saved to live with God in heaven. Talking about the Plan of Redemption turns me to Jesus as our Redeemer and his role within the plan. The Plan of Mercy is like a dance between the Father and Son and how they’re going to work together for our benefit.

Jesus taught us in John 3:16
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

So while the gospel plan goes by several names, the object is to have everlasting life.

There is another name that the gospel of Jesus Christ is called: The Plan of Happiness. I’d like to focus on this one because to me, it’s a little different than the others. Instead of focusing on what others have done for us, it centers on what we can do for ourselves. The Book of Mormon prophet Lehi, in 2 Nephi 2:25, taught his family about life’s purpose. 

Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.

President Thomas S. Monson taught us in the last general conference that it is not enough to just believe in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
We need to work and learn, search and pray, repent and improve…

When we combine the words of both prophets, we find the wisdom that when we work, learn, search, pray, repent and improve, we will have joy. Having experiences are important to our Heavenly Father’s Plan of Happiness. Without them, it’s just theory. Something untested. I first learned about the pre-existence, coming to live on earth, Jesus Christ’s atonement and the afterlife when I was a child…so long ago that I can’t remember NOT knowing. But knowledge isn’t enough. There are things that are impossible to understand without actually experiencing them.

What does joy look like for me? Because sometimes, I’m just not happy. And counting my blessings only makes me feel guilty for having so much yet still focusing on what I lack. Sometimes, all I need is an attitude adjustment. And sometimes real changes need to occur. I’ve collected 5 ideas that I can practice in my life to bring me joy.

First, joy is the result of what we choose to think about. When we choose to indulge in feelings of misery, rejection, abandonment, sorrow and betrayal, we feel powerless and those feelings take root. When we choose to turn away from feeling sorry for ourselves, even if we are in a situation that won’t change, we gain power to change ourselves. Focusing on what we can do and feeding productive thoughts leads to positive shifts in our behavior.

The second comes from a group of researchers at Harvard in 1939. They set out to find some answers to life’s pressing questions by following the lives of over 700 men. One group was composed of upper class Harvard men and another group included the working class men in Boston. This longitudinal study spanned over 75 years and looked at many things, including happiness. The findings overwhelmingly indicated that there is one simple way to be happy. Invest in close, positive relationships.

The strongest indicator at age 50 of whether or not you’ll be alive at age 80 is how strong your positive relationships are. It’s not your cholesterol level or how much exercise you get. Not how much you drink. But rather your positive connections to others.

One of the hardest parts of living in Brazil for me has been my lack of close friends. A large part of this is due to my language difficulties. However, slowly but surely those relationships are developing. In the past month, I’ve worked on connecting to others by inviting friends to come to join us for a meal or activity. I’ve also accepted invitations from friends to their homes or to experience new places with them. Investing in real-life friends who live near me bring more happiness than those on my social media accounts.

The third idea

Several years ago, I was teaching a 15 year old girl how to drive on a 2-lane highway. We were in a no passing zone when an on-coming car came into our lane. He was trying to get ahead of several vehicles in front of him. I saw him as soon as he entered our lane and knew we had just a few seconds to respond. While moving my hand toward the steering wheel, I asked my student driver if she saw the car in our lane coming straight for us. We were at risk for a head on collision.

She didn’t see it until I asked her the question. Even though in our classroom sessions she had learned what to do in the case of a head-on collision threat, in the moment we needed quick response, she hesitated. I guided our car to the shoulder. And then we took the next exit so we could change our pants. Just kidding. No bodily fluids escaped. But we both gained important experience that day.

It doesn’t matter how great she scored on her exams in driving school. In the moment she didn’t even see the problem. Excellent drivers train their vision on the horizon and incorporate visual search patterns to scan intersections and points of conflict as well as being aware of what’s going on behind them.

Just like excellent drivers, if I want to excel in happiness, I need to set my vision high on the eternal perspective found in the temple. While aiming for the eternities, my visual search patterns will draw my attention to what is happening in my home, my neighborhood and in my city. So that I may better prepare myself and my children to handle the challenges that are presented to us.

Low-aim drivers are surprised when crashes occur. But if we look up, usually there are warning signs for problems in our lives. By incorporating consistent search patterns, we can recognize many problems before they become catastrophes.

The fourth thought came to me from my missionary training center experience. While there, one of our teachers let us in on a little secret. He said that the real reason we go on missions is not for convert baptisms, but it’s for our own benefit. By serving others, we find out who we really are and build up a store of spiritual experiences and habits that will bring us happiness for years to come.

The same can be said for going to the temple. The real reason we go is to gain eternal perspective. The real reason we read scriptures and say our prayers is to connect with God. The real reason we go to church is to connect with others we wouldn’t necessarily otherwise connect with. All of these connections have the power to transform our lives and bring us happiness.

Yesterday, I helped a friend wash her dishes and clean her kitchen. I’m pretty sure the sink wasn’t clear for more than ten minutes before dinner prep started and everything was dirty again. But tackling a project you’ve been avoiding feels good. And I got an hour to practice speaking Portuguese and connect with a friend in real life.

Fifth, comes from Ecclesiastes 3:1, 2 and 4 
 To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;

Sometimes, it’s important to remember opposition in all things. If we don’t know the bitter, we won’t know the sweet. There is also life after devastation.

My belief in the Lord’s plan of happiness went untested for most of my life. Then the Lord dropped a bomb when our one year old son had an accident and passed away. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t so sure about this plan. It was a great plan for when my grandparents died. It was great plan for when my uncle died. It was even fine when someone else’s child died. But when it was my child, everything was different. Leaving the hospital empty-handed, without our boy, shook me to the core.

Why me? Why my boy? This question turned into, “why not me”? Why shouldn’t I experience grief and pain? Why am I any different than millions of others who’ve experienced the same thing?

Through all of it God was there. Beside me. He was patient with my anger. Because I was very angry. And hurt. Why didn’t he save my son? I had faith. I prayed. We used his priesthood to give our son a blessing. So when it we most needed HIM, why didn’t he help us?

Six days after our Evan died, Jocelyn was born. While in the darkest abyss, he granted me a ray of sunshine. A reason to get up in the morning. Never before have I been the recipient of such love and compassion from living angels God put into my path. And into my home. What I didn’t realize is that God did listen to my prayers. And answered them in ways that are still being shown to me over 8 years later.

While there is still missing and still longing for our son, I have also never felt a greater peace in my life than when God confirmed to me that our son will be okay. And when the waves of grief sneak up on me, I go back to that peace. And I’m thankful for who this experience has made me.

Sometimes, I wonder what heaven will be like. Then I remember that I know. I’ve had a small taste in the little arms of my son wrapped around me. Holding on tight. It speaks of warmth, light and laughter. God is love.

God gave us the Plan of Happiness to help us to focus on what’s truly important in life. Theoretical ideas don’t make us happy. We must have experiences. When we choose to focus on the positive, we are happy. When we invest in close positive relationships with friends and family we feel loved. Focusing on eternal perspective helps us interpret day to day life issues and see where we’ve come from. And finally, there is opposition in all things. Your happiness will be tested.
I leave these thoughts with you in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.


O Plano de Felicidade e o Papel de Jesus Cristo


Minha família e eu nos mudamos para o Brasil há cerca de um ano e meio. Nós somos do noroeste dos Estados Unidos ao lado do Oceano Pacífico. Há muitos montes, rios, lagos e pinheiros altos lá, assim como nuvens e garoa por aproximadamente 9 meses do ano. Na minha vida profissional, eu ensino adolescentes a dirigir. Meus irmãos e eu somos donos de algumas auto escolas e eles estão cuidando do negócio enquanto eu estou em São Paulo.

Algo que a maioria das pessoas não percebem quando aprendem a dirigir é que o ato físico de dirigir, como parar e começar o carro ou fazer uma curva, tem muito pouco a ver com a habilidade de dirigir sem acidentes. Muitos concentram seus esforços e medem seu sucesso na sua habilidade de estacionar em paralelo. Na realidade, muito poucas pessoas causam acidentes ou morrem enquanto estão estacionando.

Da mesma forma, muitas pessoas dão importância demais a detalhes específicos desta vida, como por exemplo o sucesso financeiro ou a popularidade nas redes sociais. Mas, na realidade, essas coisas têm muito pouco a ver com as eternidades ou com nosso desenvolvimento pessoal. Para nos ajudar a nos concentrar no que é importante, o Pai Celestial criou um plano para nós. A Bíblia chama isso de o Evangelho.

A este nome, O Livro de Mórmon acrescenta mais alguns. Cada um destes nomes focaliza nossa atenção em uma parte específica do evangelho. Por exemplo, quando penso no Plano de Salvação, penso em ser salva para poder viver com Deus no céu. Falar sobre o Plano de Redenção me faz pensar em Jesus como nosso Redentor e seu papel dentro do plano. O Plano de Misericórdia é como uma dança entre o Pai e o Filho e como eles vão trabalhar juntos para nosso benefício.

Jesus nos ensinou em João 3:16
Porque Deus amou o mundo de tal maneira que deu o seu Filho unigênito, para que todo aquele que nele crê não pereça, mas tenha a vida eterna.
Assim, embora o plano do evangelho tenha vários nomes, o objetivo é alcançar a vida eterna.

Existe um outro nome pelo qual o evangelho de Jesus Cristo é chamado: O Plano de Felicidade. Eu gostaria de focar neste nome, porque para mim, é um pouco diferente dos outros. Em vez de se concentrar no que os outros fizeram por nós, ele nos lembra do que podemos fazer por nós mesmos. O profeta Leí do Livro de Mórmon, em Segunda Néfi dois e vinte-cinco, ensinou a sua família sobre o propósito da vida.

Adão caiu para que os homens existissem; e os homens existem para que tenham alegria.

O Presidente Thomas S. Monson nos ensinou na última conferência geral que não basta apenas acreditar no sacrifício expiatório de Jesus Cristo:
Precisamos trabalhar e aprender, procurar e orar, arrepender e melhorar ...

Quando combinamos as palavras destes dois profetas, encontramos a sabedoria de que quando trabalhamos, aprendemos, buscamos, oramos, nos arrependemos e melhoramos, teremos alegria. Ter experiências é importante para o Plano de Felicidade do Pai Celestial. Sem elas, é apenas teoria. Algo não testado. Eu aprendi sobre a pré-existência, a vida na terra, a expiação de Jesus Cristo e a vida após a morte pela primeira vez quando eu era uma criança... tanto tempo atrás que eu não consigo lembrar de um tempo em que eu NÃO sabia estas coisas. Mas o conhecimento não é suficiente. Há coisas que são impossíveis de entender sem experimentá-las.

O que quer dizer alegria para mim? Porque às vezes, eu não estou feliz. E contar minhas bênçãos só me faz sentir culpada por ter tanta coisa e ainda estar focando no que me falta. Às vezes, tudo que eu preciso é um ajuste de atitude. E às vezes as mudanças reais precisam ocorrer. Eu juntei cinco 5 ideias de coisas que eu posso fazer para trazer alegria à minha vida.

Primeiro, a alegria é o resultado do que escolhemos pensar. Quando escolhemos pensar em miséria, rejeição, abandono, tristeza e traição, nos sentimos impotentes e esses sentimentos se enraízam. Quando escolhemos não sentir pena de nós mesmos, mesmo estando em uma situação que não vai mudar, ganhamos poder para mudar a nós mesmos. Concentrar-nos no que podemos fazer e alimentar pensamentos produtivos leva a mudanças positivas no nosso comportamento.

A segunda coisa vem de um grupo de pesquisadores em Harvard, em mil novecentos e trinta e novi 1939. Eles procuraram encontrar algumas respostas para as perguntas mais importantes da vida estudando as vidas de mais de setecentos 700 homens. Um grupo era composto de classe alta da Harvard e outro grupo incluiu os homens da classe trabalhadora em Boston. Este estudo longitudinal durou mais de setenta e cinco 75 anos e olhou para muitas coisas, incluindo a felicidade. Os resultados indicaram claramente que existe uma maneira simples de ser feliz. Investir em relações próximas e positivas.

O indicador mais forte para saber se uma pessoa de cinquenta 50 anos estará viva ou não aos oitenta 80 anos é a qualidade dos seus relacionamentos positivos. Não é o nível do colesterol ou quanto você se exercita. Não é o quanto você bebe. Mas sim suas conexões positivas com os outros.

Uma das partes mais difíceis de viver no Brasil para mim foi a minha falta de amigos íntimos. Grande parte disso é devido às minhas dificuldades com a língua. No entanto, essas relações estão se desenvolvendo. Durante este mês, eu tenho tentado conectar-me a outros convidando amigos para uma refeição ou atividade. Eu também tenho aceitado convites de amigos para ir a suas casas ou para conhecer novos lugares com eles. Investir em amizades com pessoas que vivem perto de mim me traz mais felicidade do que amizades através da mídia social.

A terceira ideia

Vários anos atrás, eu estava ensinando uma menina de quinze 15 anos a dirigir em uma estrada de duas pistas. Nós estávamos em uma zona sem ultrapassagem quando um carro, em direção oposta, avançou em nossa pista. Ele estava tentando ultrapassar outros carros na frente dele. Eu o vi assim que ele entrou em nossa pista e sabia que tínhamos apenas alguns segundos para responder. Enquanto movia minha mão em direção ao volante, perguntei ao meu motorista se ela viu o carro em nossa pista vindo em nossa direção. O perigo de uma colisão grave era grande.

Ela não viu o carro até que eu fiz a pergunta. Mesmo que na sala de aula ela tivesse aprendido o que fazer no caso de uma ameaça de colisão frontal, no momento em que precisávamos de uma resposta rápida, ela hesitou. Guiei nosso carro até o encosto. Pegamos a próxima saída para que pudéssemos trocar nossas calças. Brincadeira. Nenhum fluido corporal escapou. Mas nós duas ganhamos uma experiência importante naquele dia.

Não importa quão altas tenham sido suas notas na escola de condução. Naquele momento, ela nem viu o problema. Os motoristas excelentes treinam sua visão no horizonte e constantemente escaneam cruzamentos e pontos de conflito e estão cientes do que está acontecendo atrás deles.

Assim como um bom motorista, se eu quiser ter êxito na área de felicidade, eu preciso treinar minha visão na perspectiva eterna que encontramos no templo. Enquanto visando as eternidades, devo estar constantemente escaneando o que está acontecendo em minha casa, no meu bairro e na minha cidade, para que eu possa me preparar e preparar os meus filhos para lidar com os desafios que são apresentados a nós.

Motoristas que só focalizam no que está diretamente a sua frente são surpreendidos quando acidentes acontecem. Se vimos encima, normalmente há sinais de alerta para problemas em nossas vidas. Ao incorporar hábitos de treinar a visão e escanear o horizonte, podemos reconhecer muitos problemas antes que se tornem catástrofes.

O quarto pensamento vem da minha experiência no centro de treinamento missionário. Enquanto lá, um de nossos professores nos contou um pequeno segredo. Ele disse que a verdadeira razão pela qual servimos missões não é para batizar pessoas, mas é para nosso próprio benefício. Ao servir os outros, descobrimos quem realmente somos e acumulamos experiências e hábitos espirituais que nos trará felicidade nos próximos anos.

O mesmo pode ser dito sobre ir ao templo. A verdadeira razão pela qual vamos é para ganhar perspectiva eterna. A verdadeira razão pela qual lemos as escrituras e fazemos nossas orações é para nos conectar com Deus. A verdadeira razão pela qual vamos à igreja é para nos conectarmos com outras pessoas fora de nosso círculo de amizades. Todas essas conexões têm o poder de transformar nossas vidas e nos trazer felicidade.

Ontem, eu ajudei uma amiga a lavar seus pratos e limpar sua cozinha. Tenho certeza que a pia não ficou limpa por mais que dez minutos antes da preparação da janta quando tudo ficou sujo novamente. Mas enfrentar um desafio que você estava evitando nos faz sentir bem. E eu tive uma hora para praticar meu Português e para me conectar com uma amiga na vida real.

O quinto vem de Eclesiastes 3: 1, 2 e 4

1 Tudo tem o seu tempo determinado, e todo propósito debaixo do céu tem o seu tempo:
 2 Há tempo de nascer, e tempo de morrer; tempo de plantar, e tempo de arrancar o que se plantou;
4 Tempo de chorar, e tempo de rir; tempo de prantear, e tempo de dançar;

Às vezes, é importante lembrar que existe oposição em todas as coisas. Se não conhecemos o amargo, não saberemos o doce. Há também vida após a tragédia.
Minha crença no plano de felicidade do Senhor não foi testada durante a maior parte de minha vida. Então o Senhor jogou uma bomba quando nosso filho de um ano teve um acidente e faleceu. Pela primeira vez na minha vida, eu não tinha tanta certeza sobre esse plano. Foi um grande plano para quando meus avós morreram. Foi um grande plano para quando meu tio morreu. Foi até um bom plano quando o filho de uma outra pessoa morreu. Mas quando foi meu filho, tudo era diferente. Deixando o hospital de mãos vazias, sem nosso garoto, me sacudiu até o âmago.

Por que eu? Por que meu garoto? Esta pergunta se transformou em "por que não eu"? Por que eu não deveria sentir tristeza e dor? Por que eu sou diferente de milhões de pessoas que sofrem a mesma coisa?

Por tudo isso Deus estava lá. Ao meu lado. Ele foi paciente com minha raiva. Porque eu estava muito zangada. E magoada. Por que ele não salvou meu filho? Eu tinha fé. Eu orei. O sacerdócio foi usado para dar uma bênção a nosso filho. Então, quando mais precisávamos dele, por que ele não nos ajudou?

Seis dias depois que nosso Evan morreu, Jocelyn nasceu. Enquanto no abismo mais escuro, ele me concedeu um raio de sol. Uma razão para me levantar de manhã. Nunca antes eu fui a destinatária de tal amor e compaixão dos anjos vivos que Deus colocou no meu caminho. E em minha casa. O que eu não percebi é que Deus ouviu minhas orações e as respondeu de maneiras que ainda são mostradas para mim mais de 8 anos depois.

Enquanto ainda sinto falta e ainda anseio por nosso filho, eu também nunca senti uma maior paz na minha vida do que quando Deus confirmou-me que o nosso filho ficaria bem. E quando a tristeza e a dor da perda retornam, eu volto para aquela paz. E eu estou grata pela pessoa que me tornei por causa desta experiência.

Às vezes, eu me pergunto como será o céu. Então eu lembro que eu sei. Eu tive um gostinho do céu quando eu tive os braços do meu filho enrolados em torno de mim. Segurando firme. Fala de calor, luz e riso. Deus é amor.

Deus nos deu o Plano de Felicidade para nos ajudar a nos concentrar no que é realmente importante na vida. As ideias teóricas não nos fazem felizes. Devemos ter experiências. Quando escolhemos nos concentrar no positivo, estamos felizes. Quando investimos em relacionamentos positivos próximos com amigos e família nos sentimos amados. Focalizar na perspectiva eterna nos ajuda a fazer sentido das questões do dia-a-dia e ver de onde viemos. E, finalmente, há oposição em todas as coisas. Sua felicidade será testada.

Eu deixo esses pensamentos com vocês em nome de Jesus Cristo, Amém.


October 21, 2016

Color Ourselves Into the World

I made paper dolls with the kids this week. For the younger kids we worked on colors and their dolls had Halloween costumes. For the older kids we worked on colors and names of articles of clothing. All of them loved the activity, which surprised me. Mostly because I don't think of 13 and 14 year old boys as liking to color. But they did. And so did the girls. I guess that's why adult coloring books are popular...because everyone likes to color.

I did my best to choose paper dolls that reflect their physical make up. But it was hard. Because the better designs, the simpler designs, the designs that weren't wearing lederhosen (seriously) were of people of northern European descent. Yeah. So not really my demographic. But still the show must go on. So I chose the designs best suited to the lessons needs. Because seriously, kids can color hair any color they want, right? 


Here's the crazy thing...most of the younger kids colored the hair blonde. We had one brunette, one ginger and one scribble monster that was completely black. But the rest colored the doll hair blonde. Seriously. There isn't one blonde in the joint. I've got the lightest skin but even I have dark brown hair.

I asked the girl smiling why she was coloring the doll with blonde hair (as I conspicuously colored mine dark). She told me blonde is beautiful. What?! 

And as I looked around all of the girls were coloring blonde hair. What?! 

I took a brown pencil and colored my skin super light. What's interesting is that it's the most realistic skin coloring I've ever done. I mean I've always used the peach or apricot color for my pictures I shouldn't, though. The super light brown looks more like the real me. So what color do these golden brown-skinned beauties of mine color the skin on their dolls? Peach. WHAT?! 

Whoa. How about we save orange skin tones for Trump and we stick to something more natural? And seriously, the color of their skin is beautiful. Despite my positive example, they colored their dolls using the beautiful colors of their choice. 

Why do we hate our hair, no matter what it looks like? I have straight-ish hair but always slept in curlers as a child and as a teen I always had perms. My sister always got the blonde dolls for Christmas and I got the brunettes/gingers. It probably made life simpler for my parents when there were only two choices in the store. But just once I wanted a blonde doll, too.

About 2% of the world's population is blonde. It's most common in the UK and Scandinavian countries. So why do we idealize blondes as children? Is it because it's what we don't have? I have to admit that as an older teen and young adult I came to embrace my hair. It's a pretty color. It grows quickly. I haven't had a perm in literally 25 years. I don't see myself getting another one for the rest of my life.

With the older children I teach, I also found some of them coloring their dolls more similar to themselves. I like that. To me it shows maturity to accept ourselves as we are. To view ourselves as beautiful. And to color ourselves into the world.
 
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