Author Archive for Skye Tronn

03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part080

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

Oh, goodness! How’d I forget that part079 was one of those landmark moments to save my progress?

Here, in belated cele-belat-ion, lemme put the first attachment here at the top, so you don’t miss it– it’s my dad’s song that I played a snippet of five mails ago.

iwillgoAKAnephiscouragebutwaybetter.mov: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ACemi-tbNAB7UtrhIeJuF-FtZAay3uA2/view?usp=drivesdk

I better go save my mission right now before it’s too late!

>> trace var elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_progress;

547 / 720

>> function percentAge

{

var.converttoNum x= 100 == varB;

trace varB.roundNum += “%”;

run.saveMe;

}

>> elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_progress.percentAge;

75.972 2  2   2    2     2

2     2     2      2    2     2

ERR  FLAGRANT  ERR

EXTREME ERRRRBB-B

BIDI  BIDI  BOM  BOM

BIDI  BIDI  BOM  BOM

BIDIBIDI BIDI BIDIBIDI

BOM                      BOM

BIDIBIDI BIDI BIDIBIDI

BOM                      BOM

BIDI   BIDI   BIDI   BIDI

BIDI   BIDI   BIDI   BIDI

BIDI   BIDI   BIDI   BIDI

BIDI          BIDI          BI

CADA VEZZZ

ZZZ

Zzz-z-z

*

… Man, those repeating decimals are killer on this primitive system. I, uh… I THINK that was still sufficient, though? That’s why you have to– Rule Number One– save, &– Rule Number Two– save often.

The second-to-the-last attachment from last mass-mail was from my stint coming-upwards-on-a-year in Grantsville. Shortly after sending, I was alerted that one of my very favourite people I’ve met in Grantsville & in my entire life has passed away. I don’t know the details– maybe no one really does– but Leonard Tayon, giant-treehouse-constructing extraordinaire & one of the greatest examples of service, charity, & unfeigned love– has climbed the highest swing. I know everyone in the family is shaken by this, &… well, that’s understandable. Brother Tayon’s a rock of a man, & I know for sure I’ll lean on all my memories of him all my days, & it’ll keep me going. It’s interesting– only a day before I received word from Elder ‘Ita about this, I was sharing my memories of him with Elder Ryen. Isn’t it interesting when you think about someone when something rather important might be happening concerning them?… I know it’d be easy to pass off as a coincidence, especially considering I talk about Brother Tayon rather frequently, but… I think there might be something a little more to it than that. We are connected to each other in some pretty interesting ways, after all.

The sign he placed at the top of his treehouse reminding everyone to “Look up!” is even more resonant than before. & it was going to stick with me for good already, so. Look up today, if you haven’t yet. It’s good for you.

Haha, that reminds me of some advice I received recently. We were at one of our favourite people’s houses (currently overcoming divorce & taking classes to become a CNA!), & he told us, “I’m really trying to focus on what little I have control over & be okay with everything else.” A few weeks ago, he’d mentioned the Serenity Prayer. If you’ve never read that little blurb, I think it’s a powerful sentiment, religious or no. I believe it’s used in the Alcoholics Anonymous program… He proceeded to share something silly & profound: “One of my bosses kept a hula hoop in his office. One day, I decided to ask him about it, & he took it, dropped it on the floor, & stepped into it. He said, ‘Whenever I’m out of sorts, I take it & step inside of it, & remind myself that THIS right here is literally all I have control of. Anything outside of this is out of my control, at least directly. The only way to change anything outside of the hula hoop is indirectly, but I always have to start with what’s inside.'”

Sometimes, I think it’s good to just step into that circle of influence, for perspective. & it can help us all know where to begin. (Man in the Mirror, anyone? Perhaps it should’ve been Man in the Plastic Dingus. “You know… for kids!” [Sorry, this is my second time saying that in these mass-mails, I don’t think anyone will know what I’m quoting.])

As we were walking home, Elder Ryen added to this dispensing of wisdom: “We were on a field trip to the Smithsonian, & we had to do this test, & all of the answers could be found in the museum. One of them was about stars, & our teacher told us, ‘When it comes to finding answers… don’t be afraid to look up!‘ That was some of the best advice I’ve gotten. I’d add another thing to it, so it’d be, ‘Don’t be afraid to look up, & on the road, look as far down as you can.'” I’m into these double meanings here. Simple literal advice is secretly sagely. Oo-oo-ooh. I’ve attached some pictures I’ve found of Brother Tayon at the top of the attach-list. The amount of outpouring about him online is pretty staggering. But hey, that’s the affect of Just One Person. Remember that, now!

With the summer underway, we’ve started having some fun unexpected encounters with people as we’re walkin’ ’round. (It’s funny when you’re the only people walking. It’s, like, “Where is the rest of civilization?” Even in a tiny town, you DO expect someone else will be, at any given moment, outside & using their feet to move around. The odds should not be that low.) When we were walking by one of those transient apartment complexes I’ve come to know so well as a missionary, a Polynesian lady with a janky-looking leg brace stopped us & asked if we were the missionaries. She repeated the same few sentences quite a few times, in very muffled English, “I’m LDS! My family’s LDS! My name’s Rihanna I know someone who needs a blessing! Hard times for him. Follow me! Can you follow me? Is that okay? Come!” She hobbled, & we grabbed the groceries she was carrying for her so she could focus on the task at hand. She pointed shakily to the other end of the building & explained, “It’s the last door. 13.” I confirmed, “13?” Rihanna’s eyes got massive, & very seriously, staring at me, & shaking his finger adamantly, she said, “13. … 13. … … 13.”

Rihanna talked about her chronic leg pain for the past few years We got to door number 13 (I don’t know, maybe she thought I said another number? Or maybe she just likes repeating herself), & a man who I’d say looks a little Native American answered the door. Rihanna explained to him– Richard– that we were here to give him a blessing. With terse adamance, she demanded, “You need a blessing!” Richard looked amused & said back to her, “Rihanna, you need a blessing, too.”

She gestured for us to go in the house, & Richard said, “We can just do it out here.” So, we did– it was just a prayer, since that seemed to be what he was comfortable with. As we finished, Rihanna again said, “I’m LDS! My family’s LDS!” Richard said, “Well, your family’s LDS, but you’re not practicing LDS… you aren’t going to any church.” He looked at us & said, “I’ve started going to a couple different non-denominational churches. I need some guidance in my life right now, & I know Christ can take away these bad things from me.” Rihanna continued to mutter about this & that, & Richard said, “Well, I got my prayer. But you– YOU’VE got your leg thing.” Rihanna began to repeat the same things about her leg again. Richard cut her off, asking, “Don’t they do a special blessing for sick people, with oil? Boys, could you do that for her?”

Strangely enough, Rihanna seemed way more hesitant for us to do anything for her. I think she might just be very single-minded, hence the phrase-mutters. (“Huh? Someone doing something for me? But I was doing something for them!! What’s going on?!”) When we asked for her full name (That’s how it goes in a formal blessing, if I hadn’t explained that.), she started, “Violetti”… & I repeated, “So Rihanna Violetti?” Richard shook his head, “No, Rihanna’s her street name.”

… huh.

We had her sit on a tiny stool outside that seemed like it was made for toddlers to climb up to put their hands in the sink. Watching her squat on that, out in the walkway, in an apartment complex on a busy street, was quite a sight. But somehow, all of that just kind of melted away when Elder Ryen started to bless her.

We’ll hopefully come back some time soon! :  ) Richard told us, “I just want to do what I can to follow Christ. There’s a couple people like you that stop by here sometimes! They’ve stopped by every few days…” We’re the only people assigned out here. … How much do you wanna bet they’re all from different churches?

This encounter is pretty short, but it made me happy: Walking past a home where a minivan had just driven up, I waved at the mom unbuckling her son from the baby seat. Normally, in these situations, people do not return my hello. They try not to acknowledge me & they try to get in their house as quickly as possible. In this case, instead, for my hello, I received a, “Hello, elders! Could you do me a favour & say hi to this four-year-old who loves missionaries?” This sweet little kid was too shy to say anything back to us, but he was grinning from ear-to-ear, & shyly raised his hand to us. His name was Parley. The mom said, “Sorry for bothering you. He just always wants to see the missionaries.” I said, “No way, Parley just made my day!”

Or– I know that Elder Ryen loved this miracle, because he’s broke– we had no dinner one night, & we hadn’t eaten at the local Mexican restaurant yet, so it seemed like the obvious choice. Elder Ryen pointed out, “I’ve heard it’s expensive.” … but then, when I asked, “Would you like to eat somewhere else?” He said, “I don’t care where we eat.” (Uh… is this what it’s like for most people when they’re trying to decide where to go on a date? Should I read into this, or what?) On the way there, I took a longer route because there was some trash in need of picking up cutting through the Wendy’s. I turned to the car pulling into the drive-thru, & customarily waved cheerily while hopping about for rubbish. I heard some excited yelps from the inside as the windows rolled down, & out popped a whole bunch of familiar faces from the Magna 2nd Tongan Ward. The husband promptly shoved a fistful of cash into Elder Ryen’s hand & said, “Take it! Just take it!” Everyone turned to me & said, “We miss you! You’re in the palangi wards now? We remember your ‘ukulele– glad you’re still carrying it around. Keep up the good work.”

As we walked towards the Mexican restaurant, their car drove by us, & for the next ten seconds, all I could hear was an increasingly elevated chorus of, “BYYYYYYEEEE… B-B-BYEEEEE!!–” from the kids, as they got farther & farther. You can imagine the sort of smile I had on. Elder Ryen said quietly, “That was a miracle.”

THEN– when we arrived at this restaurant (which has a signed picture of Danny Glover on the wall that says, “You’re simply the best!” on it), after we ate, we didn’t even need to pay. Someone paid for us & swiftly left the scene. Elder Ryen was kind of speechless. I feel like this was for him, since you know I could care less about money. Haha, so this was an Elder Ryen kind of miracle.

On my side of the miracle-spectrum, there’s been this one family in the ward (the Gallaghers) that flagged me down on the road a while back & said we could stop by whenever to share some ‘ukulele music. As this is part of my specific calling (… Come to think of it, I’m not inferring this– when I was set apart, my calling was clear that I was to share my talents. & this coming from a complete stranger I’d only met five minutes before.), I felt this to be important. But– since this is a very me-centric thing, I didn’t want to prioritize it. Every time I tried to stop by, no one was home. Then, as we were walking home after our day (once again, the pathway being dictated by the bread-crumb trail of garbage), we ran into them again. The mom who’d greeted us initially said, “Elders! I heard you’ve been stopping by, but I haven’t been around! I just got back from a trip. Actually, right now, we’re looking for my son’s dog. Have you happened to see a dog wandering about aimlessly? He’s pretty dumb.” Her son & his girlfriend looked a little embarrassed behind her, hahaha. Anyway, right then & there, we shared a little song, & then we had a sweet little discussion about the power of music, for musical & non-musical types alike.

& then, they found their dog shortly after! Maybe the ‘ukulele has sweet dog-whistle-y frequencies?

This last one’s as rare as they come: We were walking down a street we don’t normally go down in search of some people that probably wouldn’t be (& weren’t) home… but we had our Hope Set High! On this truly deserted road, on the opposite side of the street, a lady with a girl in a stroller & a boy on piggyback started along her Merry Way. (There’s a street called Miriam Way out here… in Hunter, there was a Merry Lane… I don’t think I mentioned there’s a girl I met named Miriam, except spelled Merryim? Because she was born on a Merry Christmas?) I waved & smiled & said my hello, as I always do. Normally, in these situations, people do not return my hello. Again. They use the distance to hurry up & apply emergency evacuation procedures to this awkward pass-by. I think something about being more-or-less alone with the missionaries just doesn’t jibe well with them… Maybe they’re thinking, “Oh, no, they caught me! Maybe they’ll try to talk about God with me!”

In this case, instead, for my hello, I received a, “Can we set up an appointment?!”

Excuse me?

That’s what I wanted to say, but instead I said, “SURE!” as we crossed the street to talk with this lady more. Right then & there, we set up a time to come back– she mentioned she was going to go pick up one of her other grandkids from school. (One in a stroller, one on piggyback… maybe the other one travelled back wrapped around her leg? [Remember when baby Rey’ used to do that, mOm?]) We shared a song with the grandkids, & the lady left us with a, “Be blessed. Have a blessed day.”

… WHOA, & in speaking of spontaneous happiness, when I said I’d have more to say about Wes, the man I’d never met before, I wasn’t expecting it to come with such force.

We almost didn’t make it to his baptism on-time, for one. Brother Dominguez was extra-fashionably late, & when we called him, he answered with a hushed franticness, “Uh, Leila (his daughter) had an accident. We’ll be right there.” Ah, let’s hope that’ll be the only accident, & not the beginning of a trend.

When I first walked into Wes’ baptism, I felt normal. I even felt a little detached from the events around me, since I really had no clue who this Wes character even was. I was mainly just happy that Daniel (you might remember he reminds me of one of my old buddies, Arynn?) had decided to bike all the way to see this happen, in preparation for his own baptism. & I thought, “Maybe that’s all I’ll get out of this. That’s fine! That’s still a good thing.”

The sister missionaries who’d taught him were so excited to be there, & you could tell just how much they loved Wes. They each gave a talk. One of them gave a five-chapter talk about avoiding potholes (“Chapter One: I’m driving down a street, not paying attention, I’m listening to music, having a good time. I fall in a pothole. Chapter Two: I’m driving down the same street, I’ve forgotten the pothole, I hit the same pothole. Chapter Three: I’m driving down the same street, I remember the pothole, & try to pay attention. I turn off the music. At the last moment, I get distracted & fall in the pothole. Chapter Four: I’m driving down the same street. Now I’m really scared of the pothole. In trying to avoid the pothole, my grip slips & I fall in the pothole again. Chapter Five: I don’t go down this street anymore.”), & how we can “change the path we go down at any time”. One of them gave a talk about garbage fires, & how we can burn the mental-emotional-spiritual garbage in our own life– how change is truly possible– through all that God has provided us.

So then I assumed that what I was going to get out of this were the excellent talks by people who DID know Wes well. VERY good thing. (Not to mention, a whole bunch of cute toddlers kept walking up during the talks & babbling. That improves ANY talk instantly!) But then, it was time for the baptism. Elder Ryen & I were to be the witnesses to this, standing at the front, to make sure everything’s done in the proper order. Brother Dominguez actually forgot how to do it. (“It’s been a while!” he said.) Something really odd happened, personally, for me. Somewhere, in this 10-second ordinance, I… uh, I immediately felt this personal love for Wes. I found myself saying with hushed excitement, “Way to go!” as he got out of the water. (I learned, later, that as the water had been filling, Wes had gone to see it & had started to tear up, which only endears me more to him.) I found myself filled with so many words of gratitude for having been here to see Wes (in my mind, suddenly, my Wes), & as Wes filed back into the room in his dry clothes, I said, “Wes, I don’t know you, but I love you. & I know God loves you.” I was the first to give him a hug in the line-up of handshakes for him. Elder Ryen followed in suit, “Well, if he gets to hug you…”

One of the other speakers told Wes, “One of the things you’ve just promised to do is to take upon yourself the name of Jesus Christ. When you think of taking a name, it’s kind of like being adopted into a family. & for me, personally, Christ has become like a second father figure to me. He is always there for me, & He’ll always be there for you.”

So– certainly I’ve talked about how quickly & strongly I grow to love all of those around me. (& I mean, this is a normal principle for me throughout my life. You know me.) But… this normally requires… like, a minimum of five sentences exchanged. This is running on far, far less. This was another silent language altogether. & I was grateful to be able to hear it.

OKAY– we talked about Wes. & we talked about how Daniel was there. Daniel’s family is… in a real spin right now. & this after his sister Lexi told me, rather bombastically, “Our mom’s life is easy because she’s a single mom!” Well… uh… it’s not easy. It isn’t easy. In the middle of a lesson, Daniel’s little brother (who I think is in therapy?!) began to scream about the littlest brother in the family, repeating, “I hate him! I want to stick a knife in his eyeball!!” When the mother tried to get him to calm down, he said with great spite, “I’m gonna stick up my middle finger! I’m gonna do it!” The mother said, “I’ll chop it off.”

… At the end of the lesson, Daniel volunteered to say the closing prayer. I was surprised, & I was really interested in what he was going to say.

He prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this day. Thank you for my family. Let’s hope we have a good day tomorrow, & let’s hope we’re all safe. I love everyone in my family– even my younger brothers, & I will do anything for them. I will help those in need. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

The next time we stopped by, things were even worse. Daniel had supposedly gotten into a fight with some other kids in the neighborhood after they called his brother a bad name. Also, the kids had been leaving the house & going anywhere they felt like while their mom was at work. On top of that, no one had taken out the trash. Daniel came downstairs, angrily smacking things while begrudgingly taking his time in putting everything together to go out to the trash. I tried to ask him if he needed any help, & he just stared & shook his head. He practically punched the door open on his way out. Meanwhile, Lexi had sullenly shuffled down the stairs to sit on the last step. She stared at us. Brother Tomaszewski (pronounced Toe-mah-shev-skee, a sweet Polish man who tagged along with us) asked her, to try to break the silence, “How are you doing?” Lexi shook her head, with a look of terror on her face. Brother Tomaszewski said, “Ah. Bad day.” Lexi said, quietly, “This is the worst day. Worst day of my life.” I said, trying to show I felt for her, “I’ve had a couple of those, too. I’m really sorry, Lexi.”

Lexi went back upstairs, wordlessly, & Daniel came back, crawled up into a ball, & leaned against the wall.

Her mom said from upstairs, “Lexi, go to your room. I don’t want to see you right now.”

Silence.

“Lexi, are you listening to me? Go to your room!”

Silence again.

“Go to your room!”

The crying that followed broke my heart.

We tried to stay there for a little while & talk with Daniel, but between that & the crying that seemed to dreadfully go on forever, Brother Tomaszewski wisely said, “Maybe we should just come back later?”

We left them with a prayer, & probably less than an hour later, Daniel’s mom texted us, asking if we could stop by the next night & try to fix the damage done.

The next day, Daniel & Lexi were back to normal. Can you guess what our lesson focused on?

That’s right: loving your mom. Don’t make things any harder for her, tell her you love her, even doing random nice things without being told. My favourite part of the lesson was Elder Ryen committing them to “hug your mom at least twice a day.” (Excellent advice– in one of my favourite books, Once upon a Marigold, the main character states that we should have at least six a day, which I agree with. Two is a great hugs starter pack, though.) Lexi brought up, while proudly sporting her Trolls onesie, “After watching Trolls– because they have a singing time & a hugging time in there– mom sets a timer & has us all hug for five minutes! It’s great.” Yeah, that’s more my speed. Anyway, lesson well-spent.

Makes me think of this one girl we teach named Isabella. Every time we leave, she runs out with us & tries to hug-tackle our legs. When she’s read from the scriptures, she says, “I like reading from this book. It’s important, because it’s all about hugs!” I mentioned that whenever I’ve read from the scriptures, it feels like a hug straight from God to me, so Isabella certainly has something there.

The 25th wedding anniversary of our landlords (the Schaabs) just passed– & yes, we were invited! They even sent an invitation to us! However that works… … we live in the same house… but, uh… it… it came in the mail…

For the past two months, I’ve been slowly going through all of Sister Schaab’s old cassette tapes & sheet music (’cause she writes music n’ all!) & digitizing it as an anniversary gift. She’s only around on the weekends, mainly, because of her full-time position taking care of her mother, so… all I know is she got the stuff. Hope she liked it. In the process (because she gave me full permission to search for all her music), I also found some other interesting tidbits, including two special postcards attached below. I’ll probably have to come back to this at some point & share more Schaab-y goodness.

At any rate, the anniversary wasn’t heavily attended, but that actually wasn’t a bad thing. We got to know the extended family better, all of whom are truly talented. (I attached a mecha-dog one of the granddaughters drew, a little excerpt of Sister Schaab & another one of her relatives dueting, & another one of the granddaughters singing Elvis on the ‘ukulele.) So, yes, like all the best events I’ve been to, it turned into an unofficial talent show before long, hehehe. Sister Schaab asked us to sing a song for the event, in honour of one of her nephews who’d just taken his life. She’d shown me a whole bunch of remembrances of him online, & I noticed that I’d seen a picture of his elementary-school-age daughter pretty much every morning, stuck to the Schaab’s fridge door.

SIster Schaab tried to introduce our piece, but started hysterically sobbing. Her sister came up to comfort her, & get her to breathe normally. I hate hearing people cry. Thankfully, as Elder Ryen & I sang my favourite, Families Can Be Together Forever, a peace enveloped everything. Someone came up & told us, “Great job, elders. It felt wrong to clap after that.”

(As a side-note, later that night, as I fell asleep, I heard Sister Schaab singing to her dog, Samson, to the melody of Families Can Be Together Forever, “I have a crazy dog on Earth, his name is Samson Schaab. … I really love my dog, oh, yes, I really dooo~“)

The rest of the anniversary fare was nice & light, whew. Which is good, because I don’t like talking about people crying. We all tried to guess trivia questions about the Schaabs as written by Sister Schaab– we fiddled with a very snarky Magic 8-Ball, NO ONE successfully found out the name of the pasta inside the chicken-salad croiss-andwiches (Acini de pepe… I thought it was orzo.)… My moment was when Sister Schaab sang a song, & asked a four-part question: “What’s the title of the song, who sang it, what movie is it from, who starred in it?”

I blurted out, “Through the Eyes of Love, by Melissa Manchester, from Ice Castles, &, uh… one of the Bensons was in it… … ROBBY. Robby Benson.”

For this & my killer dance moves (I was pretty much one of the only people on the dance floor. Didn’t want to let Sister Schaab’s killer mixtape, lovingly recorded through a terrible microphone, to go to waste.), I received a medal of honour. :  ) Which you can see in one of them’ pictures down there. Then we cleaned everything up with them, & even plugged some holes in the floor where ants were coming out with dish soap. ANNIVERSARY ACHIEVED.

Warning: talking about religion!

Second-to-the-last picture there has an honorary missionary in the group shot. See– there was this kid named Tyler who’d started coming to all our meetings in preparation to go back out on a mission to Honduras after dealing with some pretty intense stomach pains. Funny– first time I saw him, he was just wearing normal clothes, but I felt immediately like he had this glow about him. A glow that only comes from wanting to serve others. & knowing he came home for stomach issues– WELP, that’s something I’m all over now. Tyler received his re-call (which doesn’t sound right. It’s a call again, not a rescinding of the call he got, or… er… ur…), & in less than a week, he’s already back out there…

We’d all gone around in a circle & talked about the reasons why we wanted to serve others, & after I’d said my reasons, one of the missionaries asked me a follow-up question: “Why did you wait so long?”

I said, “Some easy things for other people are kind of difficult for me, & even though people will never be fully ready for something like this, I knew I still had some growing up to do. Not only that, but I didn’t have a really good support group, or friends. Heavenly Father fixed both of those problems with me, He made sure I was ready enough, & that I’d have friends who loved & supported me. I’m so grateful… ‘Cause, you know, when you need to do something, he’s always got your back!”

Tyler (or perhaps I should say Elder Skelton? Yeah, he’s a Skelton! Just like Elder Skelton! He’s just not… he’s… HHRMR–) said, “My experience was a lot like Elder Sonomura’s. Coming back was really embarrassing for me, & it wasn’t just for the sickness. I had some other emotional things I needed to work through, & I had almost decided not to try again. But it’s true, when you really know this is something you need to do, Heavenly Father’s gonna have your back, the whole way.”

Done, thank you for your understanding!

Some other fun doodads below, including temple day pictures, a performance from church of three sisters– I think they actually made up the harmony in the chorus, which I’m impressed with!– & some pictures from the group blitzes we’ve been having where we’ve gone around those transient-apartments to get to know people… & sing them songs! Once again, I am overjoyed to say I played someone’s favourite song without knowing. … Heymaybe my dad’s song will become one of your favourite songs right after you read this mail! … Speaking of, I’m-a gonna attach it over here. … Because it is important. Because it is all about hugs.

iwillgoAKAnephiscouragebutwaybetter.mov: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ACemi-tbNAB7UtrhIeJuF-FtZAay3uA2/view?usp=drivesdk

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

justwannashakehishandagainA.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1QjG0676ys0W8BilBsFbNcWvSK124BnNa/view?usp=drivesdk

justwannashakehishandagainB.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1HFvvm9qYbPRgQIRqRNEbyapoRx_3BBYH/view?usp=drivesdk

getthatcornoutofmyface.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xacNPimW7POdhscjFDxW0mIIio0YP0N4/view?usp=drivesdk

steampunkha’ole.jpg: https://drive.google.com/file/d/129a0Qp7dmzLE500OdIYZRAKW3oeHJ28o/view?usp=drivesdk

documenting&harmonizing.MOV: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1FbD9_bH2gUKjHQK6SQ_fQHyd9J9wu5vD/view?usp=drivesdk

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03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part079

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

STEP THREE: WIP; Wrap It Up

Time to finish this musub3. 😉 We got the rice, the spam… now we just gotta wrap it up. … in nori. (I’m a little ashamed, a lot of the islanders don’t know what nori means. They just call it “seaweed stuff”. Elder Kapisi’s got my back, though.)

After all the temple-open-house festivities had subsided, all the elders in our mission were blessed to get things set for the rededication… by carrying literal TRUCKLOADS of chairs. I also had a chance to meet someone named Elder Martin, who serves Spanish here. Turns out… he went to prom with my cousin, Nevyn, who’s currently serving in Japan. (& from what I’ve seen, she seems like a serious CLASS-act there, just like she is with everything in her life.) When I first saw Elder Martin’s face, after he mentioned (in a very similar way to someone else we all knowww) this was his very first time seeing snow, I felt like I… knew him. In some way or another. Like, maybe we had something in common. & now I know that, um…

… well, for starters, we both like Nevyn! (… ?)

Anyway, all of that will be documented well in the attachments.

In the past few weeks, I’ve run into a couple kids traipsing along a similar trail to our own. The only difference is… they’re soliciting, & we’re technically not. That’s right, all you thin-mint lovers, it’s FUNDRAISING SEASON!! & they’ve seemed so forlorn & about ready to give up, that I’ve bought a little something from them. One of the kids’ moms actually was in charge of calling up all the orders, & her flustered response to me answering the phone with the standard, “Hello, this is the missionaries!” was classic. The kid’s excited glow replace despondence in seeing someone actually sign the empty mail-order form, coupled with the mom’s shock-surprise made it all worthwhile. She later sent me an adorable text, which I’ve attached. Gotta show a lil’ solidarity here! We feel their pain, after all. Mainly in the feets-region.

Speaking of feets-region, Elder Kapisi has some severe pain all up in that business. I gave him a foot massage the other day, & he was yelping the whole time. He’d pound the floor & whimper, “I just wanna cry… I can’t cry… momma, I won’t cry…” It was ever so much fun to finally be able to use my masseuse skills again! (It’s been a while– last time was Mass-mail #20!) I think my family can attest that I can do that for an hour straight & not even think about it.

Ac-tually… this reminds me about one of my favourite missionaries, Elder Miller. I attached him in the last mass-mail singing a cappella. See– Elder Miller is a multi-talented missionary. One of the first talents that really proved invaluable for him, way back when he was on a three-week trial mission, was being the mission masseur. Everyone was being mean to him– I can’t even imagine why, he’s the most demure, sweet, unimposing pup I know– & instead of giving up, he lost himself in serving his missionary roommates. By giving them some deep massage therapy. When his three weeks were up, one of the missionaries got up to give a quick talk of gratitude about Elder Miller. All the other missionaries were laughing at him for talking about this in public, but hey– he didn’t care, & neither did Elder Miller. Jesus washed his disciples’ feet. I can massage them. “Ye also ought to massage one another’s [feet]. For I have given you as an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.” (emphasis added) After all, what better way to show you love someone… then to touch their sole?

… Also, I must’ve really been going to town on the strained muscle on Elder Kapisi– I didn’t even notice until afterward I’d given myself blisters on my knuckles! (I dunno, does that say more about the state of Elder Kapisi’s monster of a heel … or the state of my delicate fing-eys? *waggles fing-eys*)

On Saturday, someone I’ve only met once– & only for, like, ten minutes, is getting baptized. Everything that’s had to do with him has happened while I’ve been away from the area. *cracks up* What are the odds? Anyway, the man just plopped down into our laps the other week– like… like Free Real Estate or something equally miraculous. The Ward Mission Leader (who actually served in this mission!) in that area told me, “It must be the ‘ukulele! It makes magical things happen!” Hahaha… I think it’s more like how Roald Dahl once put it: “Charlie is just lucky to be here.” Which I most certainly am. So– while I have next to no clue what’s going on (But when do I, really?), I’m sure I’ll have more to talk about this newly introduced character in this ever-increasingly convoluted piece that is My Life. In time. In Time.

In the mean-Time— something I DO have much-more-than-enough material to talk about: I got to attend another gob-smacking baptism that Elder Ryen was invited to. He’d started teaching this man named Jason before it became clear he wasn’t within the jurisdiction of their area, hehehe. Jason was such a sweet man– his smile made me think fondly of Nova’s perfect box-smile. The lady who gave one of the talks had also been the one to ask him if he wanted to learn more about Jesus Christ. She said, while addressing Jason personally, “We were both working the late-night shift. I was exhausted, & grumpy, & I just wanted to listen to the music in my ear-buds & get this over with without having to interact with anyone. But YOU– you’re so nice, & friendly, & kind, & you just love to talk with anyone. I’m kind of the opposite. But, people can’t help but be happy when they’re around you. I felt something tell me so strongly that I needed to talk with you, even though I was SO cranky that night. & I’m so glad I followed that, even though everything else in me was telling me not to. Being your friend has made me a better person.”

Another speaker said, offhandedly, “I was a little worried about the turn-out to this, but I really shouldn’t have been. You’re so good at making friends, Jason! Like, I remember you telling me about that guy who you talked to at Target for, like, two hours…”

There was a pause. He looked at the man sitting next to Jason, also dressed in white. “Is that Gordon from Target?” Jason & the man both nodded, grinning.

When Gordon baptized Jason, I was far back & couldn’t quite see what was going on, at first. All I knew was that they hadn’t left the font yet, & everyone was getting very quiet. As I tilted my head, I finally got a glimpse of a very tender scene: Jason was hugging him. The way Gordon held Jason seemed very parental. Which is apropos, considering none of his immediate family seems to be around anymore. Jason even chose the day to get baptized because that was the day his brother passed away.

Jason then proceeded to tackle-hug all the elders who helped him– Elder Ryen included. I’m surprised he didn’t fall over– that was faster than a locomotive, I tell ya’. Jason bore his testimony: “I’m going to be honest, I never thought this would happen to me. & also to be honest, even though people didn’t see it, I used to be a very sad person. But, what can I say? There are just moments where your life changes, & you just don’t know it. & this hasn’t been easy, but God’s supported me the whole way. He brings you new friends, & brings back old ones, too… & that’s what’s happened for me. The Holy Spirit is true. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

As I left, I got to meet one of Jason’s “old friends”. They met in a math class in highschool almost ten years ago, & they bonded over both being qualified to go into AP, both testing out, passing with flying colours, & for whatever reason, being forced to stay in the other class. & he’d never forgotten about Jason, & apparently, it went the other way around, too.

OH– forgot to mention, the opening hymn was the same song that Elder Miller sang last mail! Which you also might recall I sang with Elder ‘Ita back in Mass-mail #. :  ) Enjoy all the facial expressions I make as I just really get into it. (I am always really into things. & stuff.)

Second-to-the-last attaché-men is a drawing I found that an old Grantsville friend-o’-mine (Marlee Vaughn) gave me on the day we became friends. Enjoy, anyone who knows what she was drawing! If you DO… let’s talk about it! Over a musubi, preferably. (Did you know that musubi means “coming together”? Like “communion”? How fitting! How rare! Watch the Japanese box-office record-breaker Your name. for more on that.)

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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ÜPS (That’s… pronounced oops. Not… not Yugoslavian Postal Service.), there’s a few things I’d like to clarify from my hasty send:

– Forgot to insert that the mass-mail containing my arrangement of Saviour, Redeemer of My Soul was not simply a standalone hashtag… but “#43”! Y’can’t ever get enough of Elder ‘Ita, so review that, if you haven’t heard it in a while. :  ) Hey, with that added to the two other covers in #78 & #79, it ties up another trilogy of sorts!

– That baptismal performance of Saviour, Redeemer of My Soul was, like, the Bizarro version of my piano accompaniment experiences of #78. The bishop was accompanying, & just turned to everyone right before he began playing & mentioned, “The program says to play this song, but I don’t think anyone knows the melody that’s written in our books… besides, this melody is better.” The magic that followed was up their with Marty McFly saying, “All right, guys, this is a blues riff in B. Watch me for the change, &… try keep up, okay?” Impromptu dream-come-true unfolding right into my ears, instead of some impromptu nightmare. None of my pens got stolen, even! WAOW.

– Elder Miller wants to go into massage therapy when he gets home. He’s gonna take the world by storm, with his bare hands!! (“I healed a man… with DEES. THUMB.“) I also failed to mention that I wasn’t trying to hurt Elder Kapisi. He actually loved it. (Whew. Wouldn’t want to misrepresent how good my family is at lomi-lomi.) He just kept encouraging me to attack the knot in his heel. “Hurts so good!” Or, as I’ve heard Grandpa Tyau would say, “Gotta crush the crystals.”

I just gave Elder Kapisi some furikake, for future musubis. He made me promise that I had some furikake for myself before he’d actually accept this… omiyage. “Promise. Promise… as a missionary. Don’t lie about furikake, okay?”

I take musubi too seriously to infringe such trust.

After all, I DID just write three mass-mails straight centered around the theme.

That’s the power of SPAM.

03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part078

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

STEP TWO: SPAM; Skye’s Positivity-Alternating Mission

I have a lot of mixed emotions every day. I’m not even going to try to sort out these experiences here. That’d probably not do them as much justice. The lack of structure will help you to feel me. Y’feel me?

We were walking to a house we’d been referred to. As we approached the door, a car came up to the driveway to pull in, then abruptly did a U-turn & drove out of the circle. We waited there to do an obligatory second knock, & the car came back into the circle, noticed we were still on the porch, & made another U-turn. As we walked out of the circle, the car came through again. The lady in the car gave us what I deemed to be a VERY sincere smile, & waved back at me when I waved. (Because… I wave. … This is something I do. My first words weren’t “Hi!” for nothing.) The car did, indeed, end up stopping in the garage of the house we were knocking at.

An older man named Brother Bishop (haha-haha… oh… Utah…) came up to me & asked me to play him his favourite hymn. Afterwards, he told me, “You keep that smile, okay, bud? That’s the first step I learned for myself on a mission. The very first thing you gotta do, before anything else, is smile. Smile, or you don’t have the Spirit of God with you.”

We met a family who was very polite & cordial but definitely didn’t want anything from us. As I tried to decide where to go next, the mom of the family came out of the house holding a gigantic turtle & asked us, “Wanna see something cool? This is Truman.” We all just stood around & admired him. It was very comfortable. (Picture below.)

We recorded a little video message for a family’s old foreign exchange student named Yuki. They’ve stayed close friends since he left, even with such a massive language barrier. (When some missionaries asked him, in Japanese, if he had any questions, he said, “Uh… well, I have one. Why is that when we eat, right before, they all close their eyes & talk?”) I used some very broken Japanese for him, & flubbed the second half of the song, but I hope my sincerity didn’t get lost in translation.

We pulled up to a house that we’d assumed was brand-new & was about to be moved into. A car pulled up right as we did, & we found out that the same family still lived there– but they’d had to wait for it to be rebuilt, because… … the house had burned down. One of their sons had been using some bee-spray in an unwise way, & caused a rather insidious chemical reaction. It caused damage for all adjacent homes. The family’s daughter is currently still suffering emotional & mental side-effects from the displacement of the past year.

On one of the busier streets we walk down, a car pulled up next to us. A whole slew of kids pile out, clown-car style, & cheer out, “Elders! Let us shake your hands!” As we found out, they were doing a competitive scavenger hunt, & one of the marks-to-check was to shake a stranger’s hand. It was great! But it also made me think, “Wait, you think of us a strangers? I mean… we’re strange… I guess… let’s be friends!

Once, when it was raining, an elderly man named Brother Taylor drove up & gave us a ride. He looked at my last name & asked, with perfect pronunciation, “Nihongo dekimashitaka?” I responded, “Ah, skoshi?” He nodded enthusiastically, exclaiming, “Yosh!” He’d served a mission in Japan many years ago, & was very happy to get to use his Japanese again. As a goodbye to me, he admonished me with a, “Ganbatte!” (This means “Keep on keeping on,” basically. This means an awful lot to me. You might remember that picture I keep in my scriptures that someone drew for me. Besides saying, “Get well soon!”, it also says, “Ganbatte kudasai.” It never fails to give me strength.)

I pointed my finger behind me, & right when & where I pointed, a car crash happened. … Did I do that?

At a restaurant, another elderly man noticed my ‘ukulele, & asked me where I was from. Come to find out, he served a mission in Hawai’i only a few years prior, & his wife was a local from Nanakuli, & they even have some family out in La’ie. After we prattled on, gushing about local traditions & customs, & that unsubstitutional Aloha spirit, they left. The man who’d taken us out to the restaurant stared at him leaving, then at me with my ridiculous grin, & said, “You just made his whole week.”

We sleep over at our district leader’s house about once a week. He has a Big Comfy Couch. I sleep exclusively on it. He tucks me in. What service! In multiple ways, even!

I was attending a baptism, & they didn’t have a pianist picked out. They asked if I could do it. I mentioned I barely knew how to play sheet music. They told me the two songs they picked out, & I very quickly learned how to play the bare minimum– just enough to make the chord progressions work. As I practiced, a man told me, “That’s kind of loud. Is there a way to turn down the volume on that?” A lady came up to me, asking me for a pen. Well, it seemed more like a demand. She mimed writing with one furiously, & seemed to be asking me, “Why haven’t you already given it to me? I need it way more than anyone else!” So I gave her a pen, she immediately walked out with it, & never came back. The chorister asked me, after I’d already practiced for half-an-hour, “Can you play another song, instead?” I told her the situation, & that I really would’ve needed that time to practice, & had already just committed a new song to memory thirty minutes ago. She said we’d keep it with the original choice. Into the actual program, I did an acceptable job on the first hymn. Then, when it got to the second hymn, she vetoed me as I was going to begin, & said what we’d be singing instead. I said, “I can’t play that,” & so they all just started singing acappella. Which they probably should’ve been doing to begin with, because it was a Samoan ward. They can sing just fine. Maybe they just wanted someone to sit at the piano, so they could say they had a pianist?

Last e-mail, there’s an attachment of my district singing in a McDonald’s PlayPlace. We’ve started to make it a point to always sing together there. One time, a lady came up to us, holding up his tablet, which had her husband on FaceTime. She whisper-mouthed, excitedly, “He served his mission in Hawai’i!” He swayed to the rhythm with his earbuds in.

Someone noticed I had an ‘ukulele & asked me, “Is that a mandolin?” I get that a lot. I said, “No!” Then they asked, “Would you like a mandolin?” Then I got a mandolin.

Raiden’s grandma asked us to stop by their friend’s house. Her name was Sadie! She sang in the stake choir with us, & wore a tie with a Pi symbol on it that day. (She’s a math professor, & it was March 14!) We asked her if there was anything we could do for her. She asked if we could to take over a bed mattress back to Raiden’s grandma, because she’d been needing one. We gladly lifted it over the estimated block to deliver the mattress. I’ve never seen anyone so mad at someone for asking missionaries to do something. Raiden’s grandma kept insisting, over & over, “That’s not your job! She shouldn’t have asked you to do that! Oh, man, why’d she tell you to do that? You don’t need to! I’m gonna get on that girl’s case. That’s not your job!” Meanwhile, we’re just sitting back, mumbling crumblingly, “We… wanted… to?…

Everyone wants to make sure I’m not on the island with the volcano, & that my family’s alright. Then their heartrate can go finally back to normal. :  ) People have even stopped us on the road to ask. (One of them asked me to send this message along: “The Hardman family is always thinking about you & appreciates all your boy does!“)

We were pulling some weeds for this lady who’s in a really bad place in her life right now. As I mentioned last mail, I’m not good at hiding when I’m sad for someone. She kept asking, “Are you okay? You just don’t seem like yourself today. Are you homesick?” I said, “No. Well, yes, I’ve actually been homesick every day of my mission. But that’s not going to go away. This is… something else.” She said, “Well, hope you feel better soon. You can talk to me, if you want.” & all I could think was, “BUT IT’S YOOOOU–” So what I said instead was, “It’ll be fine. It’ll work itself out.” She invited us to her son’s birthday party.

At a lunch, everyone in our district huddled around a lady who’d asked Elder Kapisi about my ‘ukulele. (My ‘ukulele tends to get passed around from Poly to Poly whatever social function I go to. Like a newborn baby in church gets passed around from tutu to tutu. Well-loved.) Elder Kapisi shoved the ‘ukulele into my hands, & we played If The Saviour Stood Beside Me for her. She sang along the whole way, & as she left, she told us, “Keep up the great work! & thanks for playing my favourite hymn for me.” I love it when it’s their favourite.

As we took down a giant tent, shovelled around wheelbarrows-worth of red rocks, & wished we had machetes for the heavy underbrush of weeds we had to slice’n’dice through, someone told us about how the most humbly-put advice he’d ever gotten, in meeting someone who spoke at our church’s General Conference, was, “Lead your family with the love of Christ, & all will be taken care of.”

We were invited to a wedding, but we were too busy at a weeding to join. :  ( It was important to get that service done, but… I mean, it was Cinco de Mayo themed… It still meant a lot just to be invited.

We were walking to someone’s house– we were looking for a girl named Maple. As we passed by her house, we saw a friendly water-balloon fight happening in the house right before Maple’s. No one appeared to be home, & I asked if anyone at the other house knew their neighbours. They pointed at one of the girls who was most fiercely into the battle, & said, “Yeah, Maple lives there!” Maple has wanted to be baptized for a long time, & goes with her neighbours every Sunday, just because she can. Her parents just separated, & are equally split on allowing this to happen.

I’ll end with this: Elder Kapisi & I were on exchanges, & went to visit one of their favourite families. On the way, we noted that we both walk at the same pace. A lot of elders walk like they’re run, but Elder Kapisi & I are on Island Time. :  ) No rush. Cruise. We also both love to talk with people as we go! But we’ve noticed that people here are often just confused– even disgusted– by a wave & a smile. Elder Kapisi observed, astutely, “It doesn’t take anything to say hi back! They could at least give us the nod! I don’t know, people are just different here…”

When we arrived, at Island Time, only the wife & her boy were there this time, & when we asked her about her husband, she said, rather matter-of-factly, “I haven’t seen him since last night. We’re probably going to separate. He’s a great guy, but he’s kind of like raising another kid. I don’t see him changing, & I’ve put up with this for too long. Sad it’s gotta be this way, but… …” Elder Kapisi later told me that this had come out of nowhere, & they’d seemed perfectly happy. We ended up drawing a picture of her son, Isaiah (picture below– kind of looks like someone from Coco, I think…), & not only did we play a hymn for them… since we have Poly Power on our side, we also played Israel Kamakawiwa’ole’s arrangement of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful World! (Elder Bailey has always affirmed that What a Wonderful World belongs in a hymnbook, though.) We left them with a little message about families, & a poster I just happened to have with me about the importance of families. The mom said this was exactly what she needed to make her Mother’s Day.

That Sunday, the whole family was at church together, for the first time.

Below: some service, some shoes, some smiles, some singing, some ‘subis!

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part077

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

STEP ONE: CTR; Cook the Rice

Is everyone ready for this trilogy of SPAM? I know I AM.

For the past three weeks, I guess part of the reason I’ve been too preoccupied to send off these e-mails is due to the increased amount of SPAM in my life. See, with the amount of islander influence in our district, we’ve taken to making huge batches of SPAM musubis to share, at a rate of once a week! So each of these e-mails attachments below have some lovingly selected SPAMoments (Apparently, Minnesota called recipes for SPAM “SPAM-dandies” back in the Leave-it-to-Beaver era of marketing. Thanks, Zoë!)… & you’ll even see me improve with each batch, along with my co-chef, Elder Kapisi!

Along with that, each of these three e-mails has a drawing at the top that I drew for one of my favourite families. Things have been very rough for them, & I often have difficulty separating my empathy for people with my own personal emotional health. I think they were worried about me a week ago when, after they’d unloaded a whole bunch of their own strife on me, I kind of shut down. By that, I mean, I forgot to smile. (I guess it’s just a lot more noticeable when I’m not smiling? That’s what I get for being so impossibly transparent.) Really, all I was doing was thinking, “This is terrible. How can I help them be a happy family? This is so out of anything I can influence. I love them so much. What else can I do?”

This sort of feeling is something I am altogether too used to. So many of my dearest friends & loved ones have problems I honestly cannot fix. When I got back home, Elder Ryen turned to me & gave me a big hug, because he could tell I needed it. Muffled into his shoulder, I said, “I wish I could just take this from them. I know that’s not how it works, but… I still do.” I guess that’s why the message that I get to share is one I cherish being able to share– because even when I can do absolutely nothing, or can barely even relate to the extent to which someone is suffering… I personally have felt these sorts of burdens lifted from me, in knowing someone did, in-fact, choose to feel these things for us, so we wouldn’t have to feel them alone, & that there would be a happy ending.

But, of course, that doesn’t mean it’s easy. That’s not the idea, that’s not the point– I always think about my mOm’s mantra (mOmtra?), “Challenging is fun!” Stories wouldn’t be beautiful & moving if the conflict had a simple fix, no one would ever try to be much of anything if it was easy… We’d probably not even have much of a reason to feel such Love for each other, if we didn’t go through strife, then see others through their own. So, let’s not let these things distance ourselves from the human connection we need so desperately. Reach out. Even when you think that’s the exact opposite of what you want to do, you don’t know how much you BOTH need it.

I decided to put such a thought into action, & had a sudden burst of inspiration. This past time I was with this family, I explained that I was only sad because I care about them an awful lot, then handed out little drawings of each of them. Then I decided to play them Validation, the short film that is the namesake of these mass-mails. This often contentious family were all smiling & crying along with it. I think one of the most powerful lessons in Validation is that the main character was able to find joy regardless of if his life was all he wanted it to be at the time. How’d he do that? He found it through showing love to others, & help them see what’s so Awesome & Great about themselves. &– whaddyaknow– that ultimately leads to a beautiful happy ending, with such an infinite range of influence felt on every character in the film, &… at this point, every person who’s watched the film, which is not a few. (I know, I know, it’s just a film. But it DID change my life.)

This principle is very Pay It Forward-ish– I said, afterwards, “I’ve already mentioned we’re not your therapists… but do you all compliment each other? Or say nice things to each other? Or make it clear through your actions that you’re grateful for each other?” I pointed out that my drawings were one way that I show gratitude. The family sheepishly looked at one another & said, “We probably don’t show it anywhere near enough as we should. We’ll work on it.”

Elder Ryen added, wisely, “One thing I noticed was that the effects of what the main character did didn’t come back to him immediately. It was a little bit at a time. Sometimes, we might even wonder if we’re even making a difference at all, or is anything even changing? I’ve seen the results sometimes– it’s amazing. But even when I don’t, I try to remember that things really are getting better, even slowly.”

Someone in our district just finished her mission– her name was Sister Garrow. Got a couple attachments down there related to her last week in the area. Sister Garrow was, I feel, kind of an honorary Poly. I think we all kind of adopted her into the group because she always was very emotionally blunt. Like– I feel like one of the archetypal traits of islanders is that, if we have “beef” with someone, it’s all out in the open, we get it over with, & then move on. Sister Garrow was like this. Sister Garrow also greeted everyone with a, “Hello friend.” She was also an unceasable perfectionist who never stopped until she got it her way! Which I’m certain will serve her very well. In the next life. … Wherever that is. (What? There’s a world outside of Utah? *feels like he’s waking up from a dream*)

Everyone came to a campfire– Elder Ryen burned his 6-month tie while others made s’mores. (I’ve never seen the enjoyment in burning articles of clothing. I’m on the s’mores side of things. [Oh-oh— also, did you ever think that musubis are local Hawaiian s’mores?! MADE YA’ THINK!]) Sister Garrow got everyone in order, & practically commanded us all to sing songs accompanied by ‘ukulele. It was the best. Vert quickly, all the members of the family who’d invited us over to this backyard all crowded around us to hear. After a good hour straight of singing, we ended with a prayer, & the grandfather in the family told us how deeply moved he was by this simple joy of song.

He continued, “It reminds me of a dream I had, which is a lot like one of the dreams written about in the scriptures. I dreamt a whole bunch of people were on a difficult path to get to partake of the Fruit of the Tree of Life. When people got lost or were stumbling down the path, they’d sometimes end up on the other side of a large wall. But those who’d made it were able to reach out. They had these, like, ELASTIC, RETRACTABLE ARMS they could use to grab hold of the others, & make sure they were safe. I called it ‘The Long Arms of Love’. That’s what you all are. You’re reaching out with that love.”

Let’s talk about someone we’ve been extra-specially reaching out to– the man who’s recently undergone that messy divorce. He’d recently confided in us about some of the hardest moments of his life, where he’d been riding on his motorcycle & thought, “If I crash & die right here, & make it look like an accident, that means at least my wife’ll get insurance. That’s good. If I do it any other way, she won’t…” Now, he’s really found his way out of that horrifying headspace, & realized how many people around him love him– very much including us. I can’t end a lesson without giving that man a hug. Elder Ryen’s said many times how much he reminds him of his own father, who’s been through so many similar things. But besides others’ love, he’s especially working on finding a way to love himself, as well. He’s even quit vaping, which was one of the last things really keeping him in his old ways. (Crazy how much easier it was for him to quit drinking…)

We were walking by his house during the first week of addiction recovery, & his sister flagged us over, & shouted, “Hey, do you wanna roast some BEANS with us?!”

… well, that’s what we thought she said. Let me correct myself– she said, “Do you wanna roast some WEENS with us?!”

… As in hot dogs.

Have you ever heard anyone ever say that before? It doesn’t sound like something that people say. Stop trying to make “weens” happen. At any rate, it was the best way to end a day, playing music & making some’more s’mores with friends. This might seem like something very minute & insignificant, but… That WAS one of the mandatory steps of the addiction recovery program– to fill up your schedule with fun activities, & to have a party with the missionaries after, hahaha. Besides, it’s the boring stuff you remember, as Pete Docter once put it.

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part076

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

I know I already recounted the similarities between those two kids I was buddies with back in 2009 & the two kids I’m buddies with in the now-time, but I realized I had a little videographic evidence of BOTH of them. Watch the two top attachments one right after the other, & you’ll see what I mean. (Also, my dance moves have not changed! For a refresher on my dance moves, go to Mass-mail #64. Because they are so fresh.)

Warning: talking about religion!

Another really pivotal part to Daniel & Lexi’s temple open house excursion that I didn’t do justice was the context behind him saying that he felt like Jesus was right there beside him, & was happy. He’d brought up that he’d been reading from the book we’d given him, & he said those good feelings had come from that. He said he wasn’t always quite sure what everything meant (Goodness knows I feel the same, hahaha.), but those feelings were there, all the same.

As someone whose understanding of things tends to be rather rudimentary, I’m grateful that, as I pray, I get exactly what I need every time I read the scriptures. & that’s not through some intensely focused reading-between-the-lines– it’s something that comes from, I think, from simply trying to spend some time with God, listening to what He wants to tell us today on a personal level, & in doing so, knowing Him better. That’s the way I view all these simple things we do & that I, at this time, am truly grateful to get to share with others. Especially when sharing it with kids, I get so happy, & all the things I share have this warmth to them that warms me just as deeply, too.

Done, thank you for your understanding!

I just realized I have way too much to say about this. No one is surprised.

One of the ushers at the temple immediately recognized me, & I immediately recognized him. He’d been one of my first ward mission leaders, back in the days of Elder Blätter & Elder Coco. He said, “Wow, guess it’s already been a year… a little over a year… since you were in Hunter. Are you still playing that ‘ukulele? I loved that!” I had left my ‘ukulele behind for the ONLY time when I ran into him (You’ll notice that trip’s the only picture I took without it on my back!). I was disappointed I’d left it in the trunk, hahaha– but, for myself, it meant even more that, even without a visual reminder, he’d remembered that about me.

As Daniel & Lexi took the tour, they asked thoughtful questions about everything they saw. They weren’t even that loud. This bitter-looking man with a twisted smile was in-front of us. He’d taken who I can only assume was his girlfriend on this tour, & he seemed certain that these kids were ruining his date. He kept turning around with this “I’m so reverent & good” look on his face, hushing the kids like a stressed-out librarian. He & his girlfriend were almost doing SIGN LANGUAGE to each other when THEY talked– I never heard so much as an audible puff of air from him.

… & I’m sorry if it sounds like I’m hounding him, & I’m certain I’m projecting a little– but his smile was so pinched, like everyone around him was desecrating his personal holiness, & his eyes were daggers. He even was getting on this one dad’s case who was trying to keep three of his kids both engaged & quiet, one on each of his arms, & one riding his back whilst grabbing at his face. When one of his kids asked about one of the beautiful rooms they were passing, he told the kids excitedly, “This room is where a mommy & a daddy kneel & get married. In other places, getting married is just for a little while, but here, this is how families can be forever!” Bitter man just turned around, shushed again, & smiled again like he was the only sensible one in the room.

… Things to note about this: yes, we’re quiet in a DEDICATED temple, & certainly, even when it’s not dedicated, showing reverence is important. But… here you are, looking down on little, innocent kids who are asking sincere questions & trying, in their way, to show respect to this place. I don’t see what you’re hoping to gain from acting like this, especially if you’re on a date with someone you hope some day to have a family with. Some day, you’ll have kids, & they won’t be quiet all the time, I can guarantee that. To me, that happy dad is a hero.

(It kind of makes me think of a story I heard about a bishop of a ward posing as a homeless man & attending church. Everyone treated him very badly, & told him to leave. Let’s show some of that tolerance n’ love of those in dissimilar situations to our own, shall we? It isn’t love until it’s honestly tried. One of the most recent additions to my favourite songs, I Am Nothing by Ginny Owens, says it rather well. & makes me sob.)

On the way back from the open house, as I put my arms up on the back of the front seats, serving as a human barricade to try to keep Lexi & Daniel from bugging each other (Of course, they’d go around back… or as I mentioned, Lexi has a killer right hook.), we talked a little bit about their mom. I said, “It’s good that she gets some time to rest. She looked really tired.” Lexi retorted, “No, she’s not tired at all! She’s a single mom, so everything is really easy for her & us.” I blinked. “I dunno, being a parent is pretty tough. Don’t you think taking care of all you kids wears her out?” Lexi shook her head. “Nope, it’s a bweeze. Not to be rude, but you don’t know our mom. We know her way better.”

(Oh, here’s a lifehack: If you want to save ice cream, but you aren’t going to put it in a freezer any time soon, put it in a hydroflask. It totally saved it, since I had to go more-or-less immediately to my next temple open house with Raiden after Lexi & Daniel.)

Later on, I told Lexi’s mom what she’d said. She’d gotten home late to our appointment because she had to do groceries as well as a child psychiatrist’s appointment. She pulled up, flinging open her car’s dented front door, then asking us apologetically to step around all the mess, then corraled her littler two boys upstairs with the forcefulness of a military sergeant, then went immediately into frying up some bell peppers to start dinner. When told that Lexi thought everything was easy for her, she laughed & said, “Well, I’m glad I MAKE it look like I have everything together… instead of holding onto a thread… which, you know, I am.”

Honestly, I don’t know how parents make it work. Also in the past week, we moved the lawn & whacked the weeds for another single sister who’s also taking care of her sick mother out in St. George. … Actually, her last name IS George. She must be St. George. As we sang to her little daughter (who’d made her stay home because she was supposedly too sick to go to Grandma’s… then immediately got better), Sister [Saint] George made us cookies. Attached to the foil over the warm paper plate was one of the kindest notes I’ve ever received. I shall also attach it to the foil over the warm paper plate that is this mass-mail. (Eighth from the top!) Also, this lil’ three-year-old was busy trying to help us pull the weeds the whole time (with varying success– a lot of it just looked like kung fu), so… Brodie could learn a thing or two from this gal. C’mon, help yer’ momma.

(Haha, quick little detail I think is adorable: Sister George asked if we wanted water, then came out with some glasses on a tray for us. She said, “I’m all out of wawer bobbles–oops. I mean, water bottles.” I grinned & said, “That was so totally a me-mistake right there.” I’ve slipped up on that phrase so many times. Must be all the wawer in the word, makin’ it slippery.)

Sister George had come to us AS an online referral from St. George, hahaha– which confused us a great deal. (Hey– that’s something I forgot to mention my gratitude for: electronic planners & maps. … Can’t you all just see me looking like a clueless tourist my whole mission, with a giant, ruffled fold-out map? :  ) Ah, a sight to behold.) Before that, we’d received an even more goofy referral, from the Temple Open House. It was for a 9-year-old named Danielle. The information given was, “She thought the open house was cool. Her favourite part was the gold & chandeliers.”

When we arrived & asked for Danielle, the mother grinned & said, “Hey, Danielle! I think this is because of the card you filled out.” Danielle sheepishly popped up from behind her mother. Her mom said, “Yeah, Danielle really wanted to see that stuff, because she just got baptized, & she wanted to see what she’ll get to do afterwards. Wanna talk about it?” Danielle smiled nervously & buried herself in her mom’s shirt. Which is apparently completely not in her nature– but… missionaries affect kids in the most unexpected ways. :  ) When we talked about the information that’d been left, Danielle’s mom said, “Oh, man, it’s even better if you see the way she REALLY wrote it– it was so adorable, I had to take a picture. I was, like, ‘Uh, honey, I don’t think you know what that’s for. Do you really want to fill that out?…’ But she really wanted to, so… hey, whatever makes you happy.”

First off, Danielle didn’t say the temple was cool. She said it was SUPER-COOL. Get your facts straight. & she didn’t say gold & chandeliers. She said, “I love the goldan shandelears.” :  ) Then under the space for Phone Number, she put, “I don’t have one,” & for Zip Code, she put, “What is that??”

As we left, her mother apologizing for the confusion, I said, “No, don’t apologize, Danielle just made my day.”

Another fun story involving kids making my day– we ate with this family called the Bartholomas, & the whole family was… on the same wavelength as me. Let’s just put it that way. For example, the dad did all the cooking, & has double vision, so he can’t drive. The mom is a librarian, which is as noble a career as you can get. (She’s also going for a second Master’s degree, currently!) The eldest daughter, who’s a little socially inept, spent a great deal of dinner dancing in the living room with her earbuds in. When I looked at the soles of her shoes, they were COMPLETELY worn out so you could see her socks. She was told to make certain to only SHAKE the elders’ hands– no hugging. (She said, “No hugging strange men. Got it. I guess I can’t hug daddy anymore.”) She also mentioned, in hushed tones, that when she was little, she’d been saved from drowning in a pond by an angel.

The Bartholomas’ youngest boy had just received an virtual reality headset that morning, but said he was waiting patiently until we left to open it. (That’s some REAL commitment to reverence there.) He quoted off a medley of YouTube videos to me verbatim, & I couldn’t help showing my admiration, hahaha. When we sang them a song, he made really clever interjections to our lyrics. As we sang, “Mine is a home where is a home where every hour is blessed,” right at “hour”, he cheered, “MILLISECOND!” :  ) Sounds like something that Nova would do, right? (Hahaha, does anyone in the family remember when Nova totally schooled us with his thoughtful responses to the missionaries at the Visitor’s Center?)

There were two more trips made to the Temple open house this week (Saturday marked the end of this era, hee.)– one was with the lady with all the pretty rocks from last mass-mail. :  ) Sister Spotz is one of those people who I think everyone instantly admires when they meet her. (Example: This little kid she’d never met before randomly ran out of her place in line to hug Sister Spotz!) She was a volunteer fire fighter most of her life, & has saved, like, a bajillion stray animals. She’d find them while volunteer fire fighting, heehee… one time, she found twin kittens that were latched onto each other for dear life, & she thought for sure she was looking at some two-headed Egyptian cat god, hee. One of the twins stayed white & the other turned darker, & they still sleep curled together head-to-tail, like a Yin-Yang symbol.

There with her family, Sister Spotz said that she really felt this was the closest to the feeling of heaven she’d ever gotten. I’m really praying that a lil’ Yin-Yang can find its way into their lives, if you know what I mean.

The other trip was a little unexpected: We were invited last-minute to attend with all the young men & young women from one of the wards. We were in a car with only ONE other kid, though– his name was William. I’m not entirely sure why he went with the missionaries, instead of with all the others… Maybe he’s not the social type? At any rate, we got along so well. We spent the whole time talking about music from the 1980s, his Renaissance history class, & the minutia of an authentic Australian accent. He loves to drum, & so, as we walked with him, he would air-drum rhythms, which I thought was just rad. We also happened to have acne in the same place that day. … which is another kind of solidarity, or at least that’s what my subconscious expressed to me, hahaha. I was, like, “Look at how much we have in common!! We even have the same FACIAL BLEMISHES. For some reason, this endears me to him!”

I’m just very grateful for all the people who I get to meet every day. Even just in walking down the street to wait for a car to pick us up, we saw a man doing yardwork, & started to help him out. Turns out, he’s been trying to quit smoking so he can be ready to baptize his daughter. & he LOVES spending time with missionaries. He offered to take us out for sushi, which is his favourite & his best.

It is also my favourite & my best.

Or– in a single morning, ALL IN A ROW, we got to lay down sod, mow a lawn, realize the lawnmower was busted & fix it, & then, in coming back, we saw our neighbours moving. Turned out that two of their buddies had just had to leave, so we came in just at the right time to lift all of the heavy auto-shop parts this family had lying around. :  ) … I also packed away ten boxes-worth of DVDs. Antics attached below.

Other attachments include…

– A picture Raiden took on my camera at the temple! Wow, great job, Raiden! Keep it up. Proud of you. (On the ride back, we talked more about his cat, Big Bear. Big Bear’s nickname is Tiny Bear. … :  )…)

– Me non-covertly recording Sister Tula of the Guac Squad of Light as she does her best impression of airline hostess.

– A picture of Aukuso & Leti’s wedding. :  ) Yes, they really are married. They sent a heart-felt thank-you our way. There’s miracles up ahead for this brand-new family, I know it.

– Me reviewing a lawn. I mowed it, so maybe that shows too much bias.

– A rock with a face on it. …

– Me & The Ghost of Christmas Bork.

– Four missionaries & a bike lock.

– Exclusive footage of me riding on a bike, live from my coat pocket.

– Me wearing a lei made out of old discarded puzzle pieces. One-of-a-kind on Etsyyy!~

Actually, speaking of the cross-section of Hawai’i & Utah, this is the only proper thing to end my “Sharing Time” on: We were asked by one of the bishops’ wives to sing in Primary. Which you can bet I was all about. We got to sing an opening song with them, they sang “Hello” to us (Since we’re their guests! We’re their guests!), then the teachers asked, “So, who felt God’s love for them this week?” They’d started this thing where everyone was asked to look for the blessings & favours & good things in the past week. Anyone who had one of those good things would put a little fluff-ball (a “warm fuzzy”, no doubt) into a big birdcage-looking thing. Elder Ryen & I each got to plop a flull-ball in, & I shared just a little of what I already have here. Then, we shared a quick little message (You better believe everyone had the best answers to questions) & sang one of my favourite hymns, This is my Beloved Son. I felt like my chest was a birdcage full of warm fuzzies.

The kids clapped as we finished, & right as I was leaving, one of the teachers said, “Hey, did you know that in church in Hawai’i, they like to say Aloha to each other? Why don’t we give the elders a BIG aloha!” The kids actually all did– which I was highly impressed with, since it’s very… counter-culture to Utah. My smile couldn’t get any bigger as I clasped my hands together & said, “Aw, wow, you just made my day– thank you SO much.” The teacher continued as I closed the door, “Yeah, it means hello, goodbye, I love you, you are great…”

… You are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part075

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

I’ve been trying to learn how to adequately play a brilliant piece my dad wrote for a while now– after loads of attempts on the ‘ukulele, I think I’ve decided it works better on that beautimus one-of-a-kind instrument I was gifted & haven’t utilized nearly enough. Each member of my fAmily is a beautimus one-of-a-kind instrument, so I suppose it only makes sense. Clip of me trying it out is at the top of the ‘tachies.

On the topic of being underutilized… … bikes. We haven’t talked about those since early last year! I haven’t had the need to use one until I got here, &, honestly, I thought I’d had my trial with that ride all the way to Temple Square. But the question arises, again & again, “Do you elders have a bike?” & it’s not that easy to acquire one anymores, since the bike storage unit was discontinued due to negligence. (What? An inexperienced, self-led group of oddball youngsters demonstrating negligence & naïveté? Say it isn’t so!) We got in touch with a brother who’s been supplying them… he said his rather large supply of refurbished bikes had been depleted like some super-sale on steely hotcake. I was almost relieved– for leisure, bikes are great, but I don’t often showcase great amounts of balance & tact on a bike. It seemed as if this were the answer for us– if there were a real need for bikes, a reasonable way would present itself.

This will seem unrelated, but hold in for one more of my standard paragraph-y blurbs: ust a few days ago, a new family moved into the house we’d help Shawn & Emily move out of, & Elder Ryen thought we should go over & help out. By the time we’d changed into service clothes, everyone was gone. … But we were still in service clothes… surely someone could use some service while we were dressed for the occasion. The English family (who serve with my Gramma Sonomura!) came to mind. At the door, we explained the situation, & asked if there were anything we could do to serve right now. Sister English let out an enthusiastic “hmm!“, put on her shoes, & directed us into mowing & weedwhacking. Not only that, but Brother English had gotten very sick just a few days prior, & we were more than happy to give a blessing. Seemed like the Plan B prompting had been important to follow through on!

… Then came something I wasn’t expecting: an answer I honestly was hoping wouldn’t come: Sister English looked us over as we worked, & asked, thoughtfully, “Do you two have bikes?”

She had two beautiful bikes in the garage that she & her husband weren’t going to use any time soon again. She sent us on our way, Elder Ryen swiftly pedaling back home on his new ride while I sheepishly ran alongside him, holding to mine while simultaneously nearly tripping myself with it.

I am happy to say that my continued, constant prayers have been answered, & I have been able to ride safely this week (You better believe I’m saying a lot of thank yous.), &… I suppose, if nothing else, it’ll make me more confident, co-ordinated & prepared to get back to… *GULP*… eventually getting my driver’s license. (Challenging is fun!)

Another underutilized thing: technology. You know who makes the most of it? My fAmily! We don’t blame technology for the failings of this generation, as I often feel people lazily throw out as an explanation for The Way It Is. I think we often forget the unbelievable creative & synergistic potential of these tools… for that is all they are, & it depends on us on whether we will use it with gratitude & comprehension, or whether we will follow an insipid path of least resistance, complicitly scrolling through doldrums of things an algorithm tells you you like. I personally like to focus on what an amazing miracle & blessing technology has been in our lives, rather than blame it for… I don’t know, doing everything we tell it to too well, hahaha. & let’s be clear: technology is basically a word describing all of man’s adjustments to our natural world, in order to survive. If you don’t want technology, you don’t want houses, clothes, cooked food (raw meat is probably as non-tech as we can get), ART, MUSIC, BOOKS

I digress. I wanted to say that let’s use these modern miracles we’ve been given, & let’s use them VERY WELL, instead of thinking that the answer is less. The answer is certainly always moderation, but– that doesn’t mean we should shy away from doing good, simply to get “off the grid” or some malarkey like that. One of our last district meetings was all about technology, & after all the negativity was out of the way, I brought out my Grandma Truele’s eBook she’d written entitled, “Be the Hero of Your Story – How Technology Can Give Us Spiritual Insights,” & read some excerpts. (I think the other missionaries were a little blown away by a grandma who writes metaphors about Intel processors & has uploaded over a hundred YouTube videos.) It immediately brought some light into the conversation. (Which technology brings us every night– thanks, Nikola Tesla.)

Personally, I know another reason I’m here in this mission is because they’ve been early adopters of the latest technology. Many people default to not using what they’ve been given to its fullest, but LEM’ME AT IT! I embrace it all with fervor. I cherish my sheet music collection (How else would I be able to pull up any hymn requested of me on the spot?), my many Plan of Salvation impromptu art displays, the hundreds of pictures, talks, videos & articles I have at my disposal to share & share alike, my scheduled daily scriptures we send over text, even my wonky, laggy video-call lessons! (One time, Elder Forsyth & I even responded to a question over text by recording an answer & uploading it to YouTube… wonder if they liked it?)

… & let’s not forget just keeping in touch with You. If I couldn’t do this the way I have been… well, I sure would be bummed! I’d keep thinking, “Man, that’s so cool! Oh, I wish I could share this with everybody. … … Alas, such will never be. I will just have to remember all of it & tell them about it later. I can’t even write it down somewhere, because paper & pencil is technology. Shuckydarn.” & goodness, as much as I enjoy snail mail on a person-to-person basis… what I’ve been doing here would really be impossible in the last generation of tech in missionary work. I’d have to write SO small to fit all this in a standard envelope! & let’s just forget about “attaching” things. “Uh, yes, I’d like to send this Laserdisc™ to 83 of my closest friends & family…” I’m so grateful for You (That doesn’t have much to do with technology.), & for being able to have this time with You, even now! (That DOES have much to with technology!) What would I do without that? (According to this, I would be caveman eating mud.)

So, if you’re just slogging along in the murk your devices are giving you at face-value… wake up! This world is amazing, & there is so much we are capable of doing & being a part of, if we just use our brains a little & put a lil’ volition in. If there’s one thing my fAmily is good at, it’s making amazing things out of unassuming things. Get creative– it feels amazing. Just look around, & you’ll see God is a master of creativity, too. I’m certain He loves to get creative!

We taught a boy named Isaac & his sister Lizzie the other day– I think I mentioned them vaguely– they’re recently adopted, & know very little about God or Jesus Christ. Isaac understands it all better than some adults do, though. After a lesson where I’d been drawing things, Isaac & all the other boys there went back to playing basketball. Lizzie & her friend Chloe both asked me if I could draw some things for them. So I did so, & my drawings & their drawings are below. They kept saying that my drawings were way better than theirs, which I shot down over & over again. I don’t think anyone can fathom how much I love childrens’ drawings. I wish everyone could have that same fearlessness that children do when they draw– they commit to it, & the happiest of accidents shine through. I said, certainly with double-meaning, “Everyone should try to draw the way that they draw, because everyone’s way is totally different, & totally brilliant. Making art makes us happy, & that’s the best part! You better both keep drawing, because you’re awesome at it.” Funny– even as I talked about repentance being kind of like white-out on a piece of paper, Chloe brought up, “That’s like when I draw something, & I didn’t do it just right, so I can keep trying again & again until I’m happy, because God likes that I’m trying!” … ART.

In this past week, we met another brother-sister duo… … & these two are pretty special to me, because I can’t help thinking they’re an awful lot like a family my dad & I taught way back when as home te–… I mean, ministers… (Maybe the best word for it is friends?) Their names were Arynn & Aryka Dyer. These two are roughly the same age they were at the time– these two are named Daniel & Lexi. They’re equally rambunctious, equally goofy, equally precocious… & they’re also equally contentious, hahaha. In our very first lesson with Daniel, we asked him if he wanted to be baptized, & he said, “Of course! I know God will be happy if I do, & that’s important! I like it when He’s happy.” As he thought of the right words to say, he put his hands together in a kind of faux-reverence, stuck out his front teeth a little & looked up at the sky. He does that a lot– it’s actually rather adorable. Also, when we handed him the Book of Mormon, he immediately began reading it. (He’s a GOOD reader.) He said, “Man, I’m gonna read this every night! I think I should!”

With all of this in place, we felt prompted to ask him if he’d like to go to the temple open house with us. His whole family seems excited at the idea, & we scheduled for the middle of the next day.

When we arrived with our ward mission leader (who used to be a missionary in this mission!), the door was wide open, but no one answered. Maybe we should’ve planned for something like this. After all, our lesson with Daniel the day before had been prefaced with a 30-minute wait for his mother to come home. We started to get back into the car, grasping for any way to fix this, asking, “Do you think the kids might be playing somewhere on this street?” The ward mission leader immediately stopped the car, looking to the right, asking, “Is that them?” We busted out of the car, asked Lexi if their mom was home, & she said yes. She went into the open door for us (An open door is not an invitation…), & the groggy answer was got was that their mom had forgotten, somehow, within this <24hr period, & had agreed to babysit someone on the street.

& that’s when we were going to give up. THEN, the ward mission leader stepped in, asking, “Could we just talk with your mom for a minute?” From upstairs, we could hear Lexi say, “Don’t ask me to come up with something to say to them, I don’t know what to say!” Their mom came down, the ward mission leader said, in his best “I’m-a-dad-&-my-life-is-all-put-together” voice, “Hi. I’m Carlos, I live on your street, & we were wondering if we could just take your kids out to the open house, & you could stay here? We’d be back before dinnertime. & maybe on the way back, we could treat them to some ice cream?” Lexi started grinning at the mention of ice cream.

I sat in the back with Daniel & Lexi, & had a nice conversation about favourite foods, favourite colours, & families. (… Families are my favourite.) We also enjoyed doing funny voices & faces at each other! (Which really took me back to the Arynn-Aryka days.) Daniel mentioned, “Sometimes, I feel like Jesus right there. When that happen, I just really wanna give Him a hug. He did so much for me! I mean, He died for me.” Lexi replied, “He can’t be with us right now, but sometimes, when I pray, I get so happy, & I know that’s His way of giving me a hug.” I affirmed that we’ll all definitely get a chance to hug Him someday.

Lexi got progressively more nervous about going to this– I think it was a little out of her comfort zone. We sent back pictures to her mom throughout the line, & her mom kept pointing out how adorable they looked, but that Lexi looked pretty nervous. Lexi started saying she didn’t want ice cream anymore (Instead, she wanted fries, for a while. & then, nothing. She kept telling Daniel to tell us she didn’t want anything.), for some reason, & that she thought she should’ve stayed home– she even began to say she thought she looked ugly in the pictures. Obviously, all of these things were products of her hesitancy. But when we finally got to go, all of that seemed to melt away, & both Daniel & Lexi got the feeling that this had been worth it. When we reached the end of the tour, we took a picture in-front of a statue of Jesus Christ, & as I was turning to go, I noticed that Lexi wasn’t moving. She slowly took one of her hands & felt one of the scars in the statue. She said in a hushed tone, “So that’s what that feels like… He did that for me.”

If you can believe it, even after that, all the way home, Lexi was a total brat. *cracks up* I had to sit between Lexi & Daniel, because they wouldn’t stop hitting each other, & Lexi kept hitting me when I’d done this specifically to stop the hitting problem. She hit HARD! But my many days of being bullied by girls made it a breeze. :  ) … Uh, er. :\ Hm. Not only that, but we got Lexi & Daniel’s youngest brother a cone since he seemed so sad he wasn’t going. When we handed it to him, he threw it on the ground, & said, “DON’T WANT A LITTLE ONE.” Ah. Hah. :/ It all just made me wanna hum the hymn Love at Home nervously as I walked away.

But you know what? All of that good stuff & bad stuff goes together. That’s what makes up a family. I wouldn’t give it up at all, broken ice cream cones & all. I believe that families can be together forever, & we’ll certainly never be perfect families in this life (especially not in the sense of trying to get together as one BIG family, oof), but we DO complete each other. & we can all try to encourage & bring the best out of each other. It’ll all be worth it.

That’s along the same lines as that one family that has a lot of those concerns, about eternity &… … simply getting along… Elder Skelton had learned the grandma in the family had a serious love for cool rocks, searched out a whole bunch of them, & I gifted them to her the other day. Attachin’ her perfect smile beloo-oow& onto the last wordy blurb–!

We also had a chance to bring Raiden & his family up with us– another wonky family that I do adore. It was the funniest thing, though– the meeting right before we went up to the open house with them was… … well, it was bad. It was the worst encounter I’ve had on my mission. The atmosphere was dissolving into nothing but upset & anger, & I felt strangely dizzy & as if a large weight was slowly slumping upon me. Kind of like that large, flailable mattress I carried! … Haha, speaking of which, we’d carried a mattress for her neighbour, Sadie (who was also in the stake choir, wearing a Pi tie, since she’s a math professor), a couple days prior. Raiden’s grandma was almost irate that Sadie had asked us to carry a mattress, even though we love doing stuff like that. She couldn’t get over it, & kept insisting we don’t have to do that, & shouldn’t, in-fact. … I suppose this odd adamancy that things be done a certain way (She’s almost mad when we don’t want candy every time we come over, too, yipe!) led to these bad, yet extremely well-meaning circumstances in this meeting.

Elder Ryen saw I was feeling lousy & asked if I needed a blessing of comfort.

Which is one of the nicest things any of my companions has ever asked me.

Almost as much as the blessing itself, him caring was enough to keep me smiling & keep me going.

To quote an oft-misunderstood movie auteur, “If everyone could learn to love each other, the world would be a better place.” People sometimes say that things can’t really change, but when we show we care, in any way we can, it actually does change things. I know this, because You’ve changed my life.

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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03
Jun
18

elderSkyeSonomura_operationValidation_massemail.part074

OLD E-MAILS ARCHIVED HERE: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/category/operationvalidation/]

(OPENING DISCLAIMER: If you’d like to read why I’m out here, here’s a talk I gave before I left: https://webloomsage.wordpress.com/2016/10/30/my-farewell-talk/ If at any point you’d like to stop receiving these lil’ e-mails or if you know someone who isn’t on the list and wants to be, I will add & take away as requested. :  ) I know that not everyone here is religious, & I’ll do all I can to put disclaimers for anything like that. Trying my best here!)

My mOm makes everything I make that much better– she always has. 8D She fixed the perspective & evened out some of the shading– & also got rid of my pesky guidelines, which, for lack of a ruler, I just traced over an actual album cover, heehee. Attaching her edit at the top, which will most certainly be part of the final print. I am happy & content. Creativity rocks.

Personally, I think the real miracle of last week– & perhaps the real miracle in any circumstance, is peace. Peace is an increasingly scarce commodity to come across, & I’m often stunned by how I can feel that everything will be just & fine & just fine, even when everything is anything but fine. Elder Ryen even mentioned in a prayer this past week, “Thanks for Sonny, & his ability to stay calm in crazy situations.” There IS a bigger picture, even if it can’t be viewed all at once in this life. We DO catch glimpses of it, in an assortment of guided feelings. & if that’s the case, all we need to do is keep our ears & hearts pealed, & try to go about doing Good, & just try to feel at rest.

I’m trying to constantly see things again, as if for the first time. Or perhaps, as a conductor would put it, “Once more, with feeling!” & that can make all the difference.

I got to be a part of two baptisms that I had nothing to do with in the past week, but all the same, I felt very much a part, & very fortunate to be there. One was in the Samoan ward, with two kids, Kaprice & Kymani. Elder Forsyth, who’d been in that area, & Elder Kapisi, who’d been his companion, had the privilege of baptizing them. Elder Forsyth is a pretty stubborn person (He doesn’t deny it!)– he’s refused to try anything pertaining to Samoan culture, adamant that he wasn’t called to the language or culture. (He HAS, however, realized he’s not at all allergic to fish, & actually has a thing for catfish! So, baby steps.) So hearing him ask Kymani to say his full name, “but slower,” was adorable. His baptism technique this time around was pretty dramatic! It was almost like he was lifting weights & trying to show off– he dipped him down slowly, squatting slightly, then cleanly pulled him out in perhaps 0.7 seconds. He said, “Just wanted to make sure it was done right the first time.” Oh, yes, certainly. *does a little pectoral dance* Both kids came up to hug me & say thank you, which I think is super unheard of, considering they’d never even seen me! Then, their Ward Mission Leader drove us back, & the whole way, we sang local Hawaiian songs on the ‘ukulele together.

The other baptism was for Elder Ryen– one of his investigators, Nathan, had asked him to do the honours. (His first time ever, yowzah!) It was easy to tell which person in the room was Nathan– this thirty-year-old immediately came up & gave everyone bear hugs, & had this unconquerable, childlike smile on his face. Every person who entered the room he gave a very emotional hug to, & an “I love you.” I’d say almost all of them said it back to him! When we took a group picture, the relative taking the photo said, “Hold it, keep that smile!” & Nathan said, “Oh, always, after this day & forever.” An uncle asked him, “How you feeling? Are you nervous?” Nathan shook his head, “Not at all. This is the happiest day of my life. I’m ready to be reborn.” Whaddaguy, right? After Elder Ryen baptized him, Nathan sprung out, raised up his arms & said, “HALLELUJAH.” To most, that might sound almost silly, but he meant with all of him.

He had asked to give the closing prayer himself, & said, “Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for this amazing day you have given all of us. Please help me to always remember how I feel right now, & how I feel how close you are right now. Emmanuel, you are truly with us.” (For those who don’t know, Emmanuel means “God with us.”) “I love You, & with this promise I’ve made, I promise to show that & to spend every day in the service of You, to all those I see, & to sing it from the rooftops. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.”

Afterwards, I had slunk over to the piano to practice a bit, & Nathan kept saying encouraging things about what I was doing (“Don’t stop, it sounds AMAZING, Elder!”), & thanking me over & over for being here. Even though I’d never met him, I felt such incredible love. I guess that’s what he meant by serving others– what a perfect way to show it. Before I left, he came up to me & said, “We need to stay in touch! We should get together & jam– back home, I have a didgeridoo & a djembe. This is all the stuff I just love.” Guess he meant singing from the rooftops literally, huh? He DID pick the hymns for the service himself– great selection, & unusual ones for a baptism: Hark the Herald Angels Sing, Onward Christian Soldiers. Both reflect going forth & sharing our love with others through song. They also both certainly reflect Nathan!

I spent a day switched out with Elder Kapisi from Maui, who I’d recently shared all my hymn sheet music, because his grandfather had sent out a gorgeous handcrafted ‘ukulele for him. Off-handedly, he asked if we could practice singing a song together, just in-case the opportunity should arise. Just as we started, the Spanish elders, who share the apartment with Elder Kapisi, lunged out & said, “You know what we should do? Tonight, we should all go around together in the trailer parks & serenade everyone!” We started to practice a hymn I’d only just learned to play, taking a couple different tangents along the way (’cause everyone had a request to make to sing together– all too happy to oblige!)… soon enough, we were out n’ about, & we even made someone’s day with our music! We also made our own day with our music, hahaha. (The second attachment has us singing, half in English & half in Spanish.

Now, how does that sound?)

Elder Kapisi turned to me in the middle of one of our visits there with a Spanish family & said, “You never really get this in English-speaking… like, there ARE so many kind people, but… not quite like this.” It’s true– we’ve recently had some quick encounters with Spanish people, & they are SO kind even when they have no idea what you’re saying. I told one of them about how we share messages about Jesus Christ, & this man who was busy fixing a car nodded enthusiastically & pointed to the heavens, saying, “Oh, yes, he’s coming. I know it.” Or another friendly man whose lost but kindly smile as I spoke to him prompted me to just say, “Jesucristo te ama!” Immediately he nodded & pointed back at me, saying something like, “Bien, tu, hermano,” then tipped his hat & walked off with a jaunt in his step. Little exchanges like that are enough to keep me going without any trouble.

After a rather delightful dinner & dessert prepared exclusively by the HUSBAND (Homemade crème brûlée, he acted like it was no big deal, & said, “It’s all right if you don’t like it. We aren’t forcing you to eat anything.” Meanwhile, he’s over here feeding us our hopes & dreams, goodness… it’s apparently how he wooed his wife!), this husband asked if he could do anything for us. We said we needed a fellowshipper for a lesson coming up, & he immediately changed into some church clothes. This lesson didn’t end up happening, & still, he asked if he could be of any help. He ended up taking us to contact around the neighborhood, & then out for some fries (?!?), we talked the whole way about cooking (The recipe is a only a guideline– so he’s kind of like my Dad in that regard.) & other fun things.

He wondered a couple times if I was weirded out by his candidness (He mentioned he hadn’t been able to go on a mission, & he felt pretty bad about missing this opportunity due to life choices at the time.), but I assured him that people like him were some of my favourite people ever. I also asked him if he’d ever been a ward missionary, or a ward mission leader. He got really adamant that he was a poor choice. I said, staring at him, “Brother, you’re spending time with missionaries. Like, a LOT of time. Voluntarily. That makes you an excellent choice.” He also tried to shove off a statement I made about how awesome his children are. (Which, really, they’re exceptional. One of them had this cloven foot when he was born that he recently had a very painful surgery to fix. He has this amazing smile– & couldn’t stop talking about how excited he’d been to be baptized, & how he knew Heavenly Father was happy with the choice that he’d made– how it brought them that much closer together. A young Nathan in the making?) He made one of those sarcastic jokes he’s so good at making, “Yeah, well, you don’t have to raise them.” Then he thought about it, & a few seconds later, he said, “No, you’re right. They really are great.” I think we really all need to learn to say those sorts of things about each other, without any pretense.

This sort of thing went on all the way til’ 8pm, when he was letting us off for our last lesson of the day. He said, “If you want me to leave, I will, but I’m here if you want me.” I’d been feeling this whole time, as lessons cancelled, that he was actually meant for this lesson all along. I said, “Honestly, I really want you to come in with us for this.” &, of course, he did.

He was helping us teach a couple that had serious unwillingness to ever commit to anything at all– even simply PICKING UP the scriptures every day. Not reading them, mind you. Just picking them up. The wife’s mother has undergone a rather dramatic & miraculous surgery, but has been living in the house for two years longer than intended. (Meaning it was supposed to only be four days… hahaha.) She talks for everyone else, & has a million miracles to recount. Meanwhile, the husband falls asleep (He has sleep apnea he isn’t taking care of.), & the wife glares around & rolls her eyes & tries to avoid answering any questions. (Once, she DID mention that she thought God COULD answer prayers, but that he wouldn’t for her, because of the choices of others. Hm.)

… But, this time, it was different. This time, the wife spoke when we asked her about the miracles she’s seen, in the difficulties of being a nearly full-time caretaker of her mother. She started listing off every blessing, all the people who live next to her & have done so much to keep her going, & the rest got blotted out with her tears. She tried to pull herself back together again by saying, “… the fact I haven’t just become some crazy cat lady, even though I’m literally surrounded by five cats… now that’s a miracle.” Near the end of the lesson, the wife stopped us & said, “I just want to let you know that if you need to drop us, you can. We aren’t coming to church any time soon. I understand, because you need to report back to people, & you aren’t seeing any reason to come back. We get it. It’s not that I don’t believe. It’s not that I don’t know it’s true.” The wife started to glare around at her husband & her mother while swallowing back angry tremblings. “I don’t want the blessings. I don’t want my family to be eternal. I’m sick of all of this hatred among us, & I can’t stand it. I can’t see it changing any time soon, & forever would be torture, if it went on like this. Sometimes, I just want to become nothing & feel nothing. That sounds better.”

We tried to just express we didn’t care about her “progress”, that we loved coming over. We talked about our love & God’s love for all of them, & how everything WOULD work out, with a perfect eternal plan, even if it didn’t seem like it would. But as this raw sadness was exposed more & more, I ended up saying, “Honestly, this is so far out of my own experience. I never could honestly say I’ve felt this.” This is where the man we’d invited with us stepped in & shared a bit of his own backstory, then assured her, over & over, “There will ALWAYS be people who love you. You don’t need to do anything for God to be there. God will always be there. & there’s all kinds of happiness in this life. It’s different for everyone. God will always be waiting to give you what you need.”

Then he helped to end it with a little levity– the mother mentioned that Mother Teresa had a serious faith crisis a great majority of her life, & said, “She’s my hero.” He said, “You know, my hero is Harrison Ford.” She turned to him quizzically & said, “I like him, too, why’s he your hero?” He nervously chuckled & looked around, saying, “I just wanted to see everybody smile.” Then, when we sang a short song (Love One Another) together, he ended with a beautiful falsetto note.

When we left a little after 9pm (He said he was disappointed that he wasn’t going to get us to break rules by staying out later, hahaha), I told him, “Thank you, brother. So sorry for keeping you out so late.” He’d left the room to take a call, assumedly from his wife, so I was a little worried. “You are AWESOME, & I know you were supposed to be there.”

He said, “I believe that’s true, too. You know why? Because it’s after 9pm, & my wife wasn’t mad at all when she called me on the phone then.”

We’ve gotten to take two families to a temple open house in the area so far. (If anyone here is unaware, before a temple is dedicated/re-dedicated, anyone can go through it & see everything. It’s the best! I had a chance to do it with my family once– one of the happiest days ever.) You might recall the man Elder Skelton & I were visiting who was going through a really nasty divorce with his wife. He’d talked about having finally built up the courage & inner strength to SIGN the papers she’d mailed to him…

… but not to send it in. That was still too terrifyingly final to do– not him. Finally, it was his father who took it out of his hands. His father had asked for a ride to the bank, since his father’s handicapped, asked how the papers were going, then said he’d mail it for him. It made me think a little of how our Father in Heaven can do that for us– take things that are too hard for us, & lift an unbearable burden.

When he went, one of the sisters in our mission (They all get to serve them a couple times a week, *Napoleon Dynamite voice* LUCKY. But I guess we’re not peppy enough or something.) asked him what his favourite thing about the tour was. He’d been very quiet most of the time, sometimes breathing very heavily, trying to dispel the overwhelming emotions that were building. He said, after a moment of recollection, “Oh, everything. Everything was my favourite part. It’s just been pretty hard. The sealing room was hard to go through.” He confided with us on how he’d been through with his wife, after working to get there from their initial civil wedding, only to see it all dissipate into nothing.

On the ride back, he said, “That was hard. Like… really hard. But part of me feels like… now is the time where the real healing can begin.” We left him with big hugs & a promise we’d be around next Monday to talk more (Which I am currently looking forward to, as I always do, with some SEErious zest.), & for anything else he might need.

We also took Tony’s family. Tony’s a trucker who we only see once every month. He always gives us donuts. One time, he left a lesson just to get them, because he “had time”. We’d given him an ample 2 hours only for him to go into the non-existent third hour like it was nothing. He’s the sort of man who can hold an ample conversation on his own & laugh at his own jokes, hard. He talked about when he was an emcee & told jokes such as, “Once, at his 50th wedding anniversary, Henry Ford was asked how he’d stayed married to his wife for 50 years. He said, ‘It was easy. I stuck to one model.'” or “I always bring an extra pair of pants when I go golfing. You know why? … … In-case I get a hole in one.”

He also quizzed me on Hawai’i, only asking for yes or no questions, really– & then later on said that I’d told him all the things HE’D told ME about Hawai’i. I suppose you have to learn to amuse yourself in a trucker lifestyle! The smallest things seem to be of endless entertainment– with me, he always brings up an old show from the generation of the original Hawai’i Five-O called Hawaiian Eye… with Elder Skelton, he could never stop talking about Red Skelton, some comedian I’ve honestly never heard of– & Elder Skelton alike, beyond knowing they’re related. Their distant relationship was enough to fuel hours of over-the-moon-ecstatic conversation, shouting across the room to his wife: “Val! Val, did you hear that?” Sweetly, patiently, her reply would come: “I can always hear you, honey.”

It’s all very funny, because Tony constantly refers to members of the church as “we” & “us”… he’s started to attend church all by himself when Val can’t go… a while back, he even attended a meeting where our current prophet was! :  ) When Tony went up for a handshake, the prophet took one look at him, then reached out for a big hug. That’s what I’m talkin’ ’bout! I love it when my mass-mails are full’o massive huge hugs. (From… Huge Hands Hans?)

During the whole ordeal, he excitedly talked over everything, mentioning with pride those in his family who are planning to be baptized or to go to the temple. Val said, nudging him, “If you’re saying all that, then what about you?” He chuckled a little, said, “You know what? We’ll see.” Then he proceeded to talk more about donuts, laughed at himself, then immediately pointed out, absolutely flabbergasted, about the long traffic light. I swear, I’ve never seen what Red Skelton looks like… he must actually be Red Skelton, all along. TAKE MY WIFE.

As someone put on the little booties that go over your shoes when walking on temple grounds, I had to, of course, balance on my other foot. I was grinning the whole time, haphazardly hopping a bit in place while this 13-year-old boy struggled with the elastic on the bootie. A man overseeing this whole thing chuckled & said, “Keep smiling, elder.” Oh, always, after this day & forever.

Going over my fix-the-sink story here reminded me of something in Grantsville I never quite talked about– when I arrived, at first, the sink had all this hard water all around the sides & in the drain. Elder Forsyth said not to bother with it, because many had tried, & it wouldn’t properly clean, even with Ajax. Well… I went at it, anyway, every week, scraping little by little, often with my own fingernails. (It made them nice & smooth, hahaha.) It didn’t show over time, but in time, it was almost entirely gone. A tiny difference, perhaps– a tiny thing, but I hope also a nice thing, like this bubble wrap barricade around the sheer cliffsides of the sinktop. I mean, you start to understand that even tiny favours can be important when your tweezers are safe.

More music at the bottom, from the beginning of a missionary meeting when no one was showing up. (Elder Skelton’s too good at piano, too.) Also, there’s some really rad footage of me wearing a long black wig after service. The family we were helping out gives everyone silly nicknames— mine is Quimbee, which they bequeathed upon me with a bracelet. (Also to be fawned over below!) The wig did whimsical things to my hair’d underneath. (Also to be gawked over below! You know you think it’s becoming.) The last attachment below is a piece of watercolour art by the very same lady who did the piece in the Englishes’ home! I saw it in another house & immediately knew it was her. I’d recognize such art anywhere, much like I’d recognize You anywhere. :  )

You are great, you are awesome,

sKye (eLder sOnomura)

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