30 May 2013

I've been planning for Halloween since March...

So remember when I was Leslie Knope last Halloween? And how people still refer to me as Leslie Knope? And how I was at the Embassy of Estonia (of all places) and a guy shouted "Knope!" and I answered (right?) and he actually was shouting "Knope!" and not "Nope!" (because then I would have been extra embarrassed that I answered)? Yeah, it's a little out of control.

But I still love Leslie Knope and everything she stands for and it was the greatest, easiest costume ever so naturally I'm going to be her again this year. But what will make Halloween 2013 even better is that this year I will have a crew.

You guys, I have a Tom, an Ann, a Ron, and a Jean-Ralphio.

I met Jean-Ralphio during interviews at my current job. He's got wild curly hair and a massive, story-telling, one-upping personality.

I met Tom, Ann and Ron at the airport on a business trip. They also work at my company. When I met Tom, he was still slightly tipsy from the pitcher of sangria he drank at brunch. He's a swag dresser and a firm believer in the "Treat Yo'self" philosophy. And he's Indian. SAY NO MORE.

Ann is demure and sweet, with a hint of sassy wit. The more level-headed of the bunch. A joy to be around.

Ron is a black-haired Jew, but his hair is full and he could pull off a gnarly mustache if he wanted to so he is a natural default.

My company is a GOLD MINE for Parcs and Rec look-alikes/act-alikes. I am in Heaven. Halloween couldn't come quicker.

14 May 2013

Happy Tuesday: For Mom

Today is the midway point between Mothers Day and my lovely mother's birthday. The OCD in me who seeks symmetry and synchronization in all things says that this day is the perfect day for a tribute to Mom.

As I sit in my rent-controlled studio apartment, reflecting on the journey that got me here, there are three lessons Mom taught me that stand out in my mind as especially worth highlighting on this inbetween day of celebrating the greatest woman I know.

1. Mom taught me to have a sense of adventure.

When Mom was young she packed her backpack and left the Home of the Free to explore the mountains, meadows, villages, and cities of our motherland to the east. She slept in Irish fields, roamed Italian streets, ate with Nords, Swedes, and Danes. Postcards home were few and far between for this bright-eyed adventurer.

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to follow in her globe-trotting foot steps. I did so as soon as I legally and financially could. Mom let me go wherever I wished, as long as I emailed her every time I arrived in a new country. How many mothers let their firstborn, blonde, seemingly defenseless daughters gallavant across Europe, shacking up in seedy hostels and on park benches, living off of cheap salame and bread, with scant means of communication? I asked her once if she ever worried about me. "Sure I worried," she said, "but I couldn't not let you go because I did the exact same thing when I was your age." Mom worried because she's a mom, but she never showed it because there's no point in worrying your children.

This brings me to the next lesson learned...

2. Mom taught me to roll with the punches.

Mom has this miraculous ability to find the good, the comical, the memorable in every unfortunate situation. Never any worries. Never any stress. She calmly faces hardship, frustration and grief with a smile on her face. So when things like surviving as a missionary in Romania and graduating with a European Studies degree and no career plan happened in my life, I leaned on her and on the optimism she instilled in me since birth.

In a phone conversation a month or so ago, she told me all about her new life philosophy: "Have fun!" All she does is have fun. The woman cannot be kept down. Tennis every week, bike rides to the beach, hikes with Dad and the pup, sleepovers with her best friends, dancing at weddings...Occasionally she'll remember I exist and call to inform me of all the fun she's having. Life is to be enjoyed, not stressed over. I thank Mom for that golden lesson.

This brings me, again, to the next lesson learned...

3. Mom taught me to trust in God.

Mom's story is one of steadfast faith. She taught me how to recognize God's hand in my life - the daily miracles that so often go unnoticed, either because we are distracted, absorbed, or otherwise unable to perceive the sweet moments and tender mercies as evidence that God is aware of, and actively involved in, our day-to-day lives.

Everything that has led me to where I am now - new job, new city, new friends - is so far from my own doing. I was guided here by a power beyond me and never could have accomplished as much as I have without the constant guidance (pushing, really) of my Heavenly Father. I'm a West Coast girl who enjoys the slow life. I have little to no qualifications for the unreal job I landed. This clearly wasn't my plan, guys. But it was someone else's, and I trust that this particular Someone knows what He's up to.

So with a combined sense of adventure, utopic optimism and trust in God, I live a pretty darn awesome life and I have Mom to thank for it.

Cheers to my mom, the greatest woman I know.

05 May 2013

Happy Sunday: Smart Mormons

Happy Sunday, peeps. You can all rest easy, I AM alive and well. To kick things off after this month-long hiatus from the blogosphere: a fantastic, well thought out article written by a non-Mormon about Mormons. Maybe true, maybe not. A logical and interesting perspective, nonetheless. Less spiritual and more political than the average Happy Sunday post, but a solid glimpse into an elemental LDS belief.



"SMART MORMONS?" By Mike Jensen Tuesday, January 22, 2013, Canada Free Press

Mormons have intrigued me ever since Mike Huckabee back in 2007 claimed that Mormons believe that Jesus and Satan are brothers. With the recent election over, I decided to check out Mormons a bit more.

My hope in doing this was to explain to readers who Mormons are and whether or not 22 percent of the people were justified in opposing having a Mormon president.

But instead I’m going to share an intriguing bit of Mormon theology I learned that I think makes them perhaps the most politically wise human beings on the planet. Ironically, this story stems from that Huckabee quote about the relationship between Jesus and the devil, but the lesson to be learned is one that, regardless of our political or religious views, we would all be wise to consider.

So here’s what I learned: Mormons, unlike most other Christian sects, believe that all humans lived a life before mortality. They call this the pre-existence or pre-earth life. At birth a veil is placed over our minds so that we don’t remember it (you’ll see why in a minute).

In this pre-earth life, we were all in the presence of God as His spirit children. Jesus was there—the first-born of God’s spirit children, and a leader in the councils in Heaven. Lucifer was also there, and was another leader among the children of God. He was called a "son of the morning."

At some point in this existence, the Father called all of His children together to explain how things worked. All of His children would have to leave His presence and come to earth for a period of testing. The goal was to see if we would live a righteous life even when we had to live by faith, as we would no longer be able to remember God or heaven (that’s the reason for the veil).

If we would live a righteous life, we would be given the opportunity to return and live with God forever. Otherwise we would forfeit that chance, because no unclean thing can live in God’s presence. However, God knew that we would all make mistakes, so he would provide a Savior for the world. This Savior would live a sinless life, and because of that, he would qualify to pay for the sins of the world through what would be called the "Atonement." If people would sincerely repent of their sins, then the Atonement would essentially erase their sins, and they could still return and live with God. The Father called for volunteers to be this savior, and two stepped forward: Jesus and Lucifer.

Lucifer said that he would be the savior and he would force everybody to live righteously, thus guaranteeing that all of God’s spirit children would return to Him in heaven. Jesus said that He would follow the Father’s plan and allow God’s children their free agency. They could choose for themselves whether to live righteously and take advantage of the Atonement or whether to live in sin and forfeit the opportunity to return and live with God.

God rejected Lucifer’s plan, causing Lucifer to rebel and declare war on God. One-third of God’s spirit children joined Lucifer in this rebellion. In the end, the rebellion failed and Lucifer and his followers were cast out of heaven. They came to earth without bodies and now, continuing the war they started in heaven, they tempt men to do evil to one another and lose out on the chance to return to God.


Now, any traditional Christians reading this will see similarities to their own belief system. Most traditional Christians believe that Lucifer lived in heaven as an angel, but then declared war on God and was cast out.. However, the causes for that war are not necessarily clear in traditional Christian theology.

That is where Mormon theology is so intriguing. For Mormons, the greatest of all battles, the war in heaven, was fought over LIBERTY—or as they call it, "free agency." Lucifer wanted to take it away, while God demanded that humans have it.

Although a Mormon might balk at my making comparisons between their religious beliefs and modern politics (and as I said earlier, every Mormon I’ve ever known was a very good person, so I apologize to any I offend), I see a direct correlation here. For a Mormon, the battle for liberty is not unique to this life; it is the core battle of the ages. Lucifer lost the war in heaven (he really thought he could beat God?), but the war continues on earth. So seeing the government become more and more tyrannical is not just a political concern; it’s a fundamental, eternal concern. I’m inspired by this Mormon theological idea: God intended for humans to be free to make our own choices and live with the consequences of those choices. The Founding Fathers of this country said essentially the same thing in the Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evidence, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

My study of Mormonism has not only given me new-found respect for this people and their religion; it has also made me evaluate my own attitude towards the liberty that seems to be slipping through all of our fingers. Is this just something that is nice to have, and for which I thank the Founding Fathers? Or is it really something that is endowed by God, and that He expects me to fight for. According to Mormon theology, I already fought for this once. The fact that I’m here says that I was on God’s side in the war in heaven, and fought for liberty. A Mormon might ask, why should any of us be less willing to fight for it here than we were there?