Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A detailed analysis of my current well being

Dear Family-

Let me begin my very clear, detailed analysis of my current well being by trying to make last week a little clearer. I have to admit that I don't exactly remember what I wrote last week so I'm not exactly sure of what I said. What I do remember of last week was feeling kind of down and wanting to show it just a little bit, but not enough to make you worried. Because the thing is that sometimes, and especially lately, I just feel a little bit down. But I don't want to make anyone worried and I don't want anyone to think that missions are too crazy or that I'm too wimpy so I don't really pour my heart out like I normally might. And on top of all that things aren't that bad. I just don't have the energy or excitement that I've had before.

The funny thing though is that Anz. Free is my favorite companion I've ever had. We get along really well and I feel like we're both just slogging through this lovely January and midway point of our missions together. As time goes on not only have we found that we have a lot in common but our families too. On multiple occasions one of us has said "I think our dads would be friends" and the other answers saying "I think our moms would be friends." Of course now that I want to give an example or two nothing comes to mind, but maybe it's just because the feel I've gotten of who his parents are is so similar to my own dear old mom and dad. And the "feel" of someone is can be hard to put into words.

So as for myself. I'm good. Padova is cold and wintery. We ride our bikes a lot. I feel really tired even though I can never seem to get up on time lately. But, life is not all bad. Don't let my initial complaints fool you because I refuse to just let life pass me by without finding something to be surprised or amazed at. On top of that I feel guilty just writing more complainy things. One of the things that still makes me feel cool is riding my bike down a bumpy cobble stone road, when the only light is that given off by lamps showing the little shops everywhere. Almost every time we ride through the old sections of Padova I can't help but letting out a little- ooohh.

The other day on a long bike ride I pretended I was riding Seabiscuit through the streets and suddenly my legs started pumping with the power of a racehorse and the ride turned into a thrilling race.

Transfers are this week. Anz. Free and I are both staying, but Anz. Duque is gong home and being replaced by Anz. Portellano. To celebrate Anz. Duque leaving, the Maughans, the senior couple who know Grandpa Fritz, took us to the military base. It's the second time I've been and again I was amazed at how it felt to go back to a little bit of America. God bless America. We ate Taco Bell for lunch and although it was great I think I got my fill of greasy fast food until I go home again. I don't think I'll really realize the ways I've changed on my mission until I'm put back into normal life. Just like I don't realize how my stomach and taste buds have changed until I taste Taco Bell.

Dear Hans- I hope you enjoy this section of the letter just for you. Could you ask Gabe why I haven't heard from him for weeks? Did he get my letter? I don't know how the mail is going right now. Way to go in wrestling. I just hope you're ready to get pinned again when I get home.

Stefan- Have you heard from Harvard yet? Kiss a girl for crying out loud. Just do it.

I'm so happy to have my mom and dad who are crazy and happy and wonderful and the best thing about them is that they got married and had me and Stefan and Hans and Xander and Gabe and finally Mary. Mostly me but the others were good too. I loved mom's blog post about marriages being about families because I'm grateful for mom and dad for being who they are and the wonderful fusion of them that I find in myself. They are the best.

I miss you all. I'm doing fine. Don't worry. I think I've just been a little January-a-fied. It's a lot more bleak without all the partying our family does.

Before I forget- Mom you mentioned sending an envelope of pictures- if you haven't sent it yet would you mind putting the Bach cello suites on CDs and sending them to me and also the Rachmaninov symphony that's on our computer. Thanks you're the best.

Also I would love it if someone could remind me Uncle Bill's steps for telling someone they're going to die. I just remember setting.

Thanks for the celebrity update. Dad. I've been hearing a lot about Mitt Romney lately. What's going on. Do you think he'll win?

Dear family, I love you. I hope you have a good week. Do lots of exciting stuff to write me about this week. Happy birthday everyone- especially Dad this week.

Love, Ben

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Don't let go. Never give up.

Dear Family- I just lost my email, so now I'm starting over writing everything again- I'm afraid I won't be able to recreate it in all it's splendor and glory again.

What can I tell you about my week?

I remember back in Siena Presidente Fergnani, the branch president, would usually turn our correlation meetings into him discoursing about the gospel to us in his own excited and passionate style. Whatever the week his theme was normally the same- "Non mollare mai, non ti arrendare mai!" or "don't let go, never give up." He would go on and on passionately explaining to us why this was so important. " Anziani, Satan wants us to give up. So much of the time hard times come and we lose our sight and we think all is over. We are convinced that all is lost, that we can't recover, that we can't repent or keep coming to church or keep believing. We lose all hope of ever recovering and too many people leave the church or lose their testimonies because Satan convinces them to give up. But we can't do that. We can never give up." He would grip the sides of the table and shake saying, " We can't let go. When life gets hard and things seem impossible, we just have to hold on. Satan will be beating on us to give up and telling us that it's all over, trying everything to convince us that the game is over and we should just give up, but that's not true! We can never let go! Life is hard. We make mistakes, bad things happen, loved ones die and friends are lost, but when that happens we have to listen to Jesus Christ who is there with us telling us 'just hold on, I'm here with you' He is with us and he will help us. We just have to trust him and hold on. Never give up. Never let go."

I loved listening to Presidente Fergnani talk half becuase of how he inspired me and half because he was a little crazy and he made me laugh. But lately I've held on to his words as a battle cry- Never let go. Never give up. I've noticed that so many missionaries in the scriptures faced dissapointment to the point that they were ready to turn back. Alma, Ammon, all the other sons of Mosiah, Peter and Paul. At some point every one of them was ready to give up and go home, but the Lord's message to them was always the same- Be of good cheer. Don't give up. Never let go. Things will get better. To me patience has come to mean realizing that difficult times will pass and that things will improve. I can get through this. I won't give up. I won't let go.

This week Elder Causse came from France to tour our mission and yesterday he spent the day talking to my half of the mission. He lifted my vision of the good things to come and the hope that we do have. Missionary work is moving forward and changing. Last year our mission baptised over 350 people which hasn't happened in an Italian mission since the whole country was a mission.

Dear Dad- inimitable. Of course I read all your email. It started with one of my favorite words.

It's birthday season so I think I'm going to get all my birthday business done at once- Happy birthday Mom, Dad, Gabe, Mary, and Xander. OK, glad I got that all taken care of.

Just kidding. Gabe I sent you a letter and Mary should be getting a letter soon too becuase she's turning 7. or is it 6? Just kidding. I know that you're turning 9. No 8. When are you getting baptised Mary? I'm actually really sad about missing your baptism. Make sure you send lots of good pictures.

How was your birthday Gabe? Mom and Dad isn't your anniversary next week? Speaking of weddings, thanks for the Clint and Katy pictures mom. You know how good it is for me to think about weddings right now. I'm just kidding, the pictures were really good. It's weird to think about people getting married. It kind of feels like Stefan getting asked to Sweethearts, but just on a bigger scale...and more long term. Anyways no pressure Stefan. You're not getting married, you're just going to a dance. Although...

I got my birthday package at the conference yesterday and I have to admit that I feel very spoiled. Mom has always been good at going crazy with valentines candy, but this year I feel especially spoiled with all the fancy, high class chocolate I got. I'm so used to being cheap and poor that I almost feel like I stole it. Speaking of being cheap and poor we just got a 10 euro increase so now we get 193 euros a month. Three cheers for gelatto. Actually I haven't eaten gelatto for a while now because it's so cold and foggy.

An old trick that I relearned this week was when you're feeling down or having a hard time being grateful for your life go find someone who is worse off than you and compare yourself until you feel better. Oh wait. No the trick is to help them and realize how good your life really is. Last week we found out that one of the nigerian members of our ward, Abraham, was in the hospital. He had been there since December 8 and no one knew until just last week. We're not sure what happened to him becuase I think he had a stroke becuase he doesn't walk much and he just lays in bed. We've been visiting him and reading to him and feeding him and it's really been nice. It's too bad that bad things happen in life, but I think it's a good thing that they do. How would we ever help each other if nothing bad ever happened?

I'm doing ok, and I hope you all have a great week. Please pray for me. I hope your January is happy and bright. Have a good week.

Don't let go. Never give up.

Love, Ben

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I'm preachy this week because I'm perfect

Before I forget next week I will be emailing on Thursday instead of Wednesday. So don't worry next Wednesday and try not to shed too many tears about my my email coming a day late. Just look at it as an extra day to compose lovely letters to me.

Every week is such a challenge for me to describe and this week is no different. I thought the holidays were over but then January 6 was La Befana which is like an old lady form of Santa Claus. I heard several different stories of La Befana but the common theme is that she leaves candy in little kids socks and then at night they burned a dummy of her on top of a 40 ft. bon fire. On top of that it's saldi which is one of the two big sales they have every year and everything is around 50% off. Needless to say things have been a little crazy. A blessing from it though is that the craziness has driven us into the homes of the members more and I feel like I've been so blessed getting to discover the cool people that they are.

There's the Fusato family whose mother danced at the Royal Academy in England. She started a dance school here in Padova but then gave it up to take care of her two little kids. They meant a lot to her because they were the only two children out of seven that were born living. The walls of their house are covered in art. Most of it is thanks to Sister Fusato's father who was a painter, but many were also from their daughter who just graduated in art restoration. Fratello Fusato showed us around the house patiently, and proudly explaining each of the paintings. Then there are their two children who are both married now. Their daughter Priscilla is married to Raffaelle Dal Pozzo who served a mission in Greece. They live in the Fusatos garage that has been turned into a small apartment. They're trying to get by while studying and working. Bishop Minassian is Armenian by descent but was born in Iran and then moved to Italy when he was a teenager. He was baptised about 13 years ago and has been the bishop for about the last 5. His wife Sister Minassian is from Columbia and they have us over for lunch about once a week because they want to know the missionaries. Fratello and Sorella Marchione were baptised years ago and today Brother Marchione is a patriarch. Their three daughters all married men and then converted them. One is in the stake presidency and the other is the stake young mens president now. Titles don't matter to me, but what does is that the Pagnins and the Donatos have five children and three who are all nice happy kids. Their fathers are dedicated to the church and are serving and helping others. Their mothers are mothers who care for their kids. All this is thanks to missionaries years ago who met the Marchiones, introduced them to the church and were patient with them as they made the decision to be baptised. Life isn't perfect for the family though. The Marchiones have a son who lives in Milano now.

I could keep going on and on about Michael, Honest, Prince, Monday, Ken the Pinatos, the Osmani's the Miminis and the Coles. I feel so lucky to be able to be with these people, to get to know them and to be able to work with them.

I liked what you said Dad about being immature. I've been feeling like Peter Pan lately because I never want to grow up. I don't want to worry so much or care so much about unimportant things. Luckily I still feel pretty young. I guess I am turning 20 but it feels more like a joke. I'm not old at all. I still don't have to shave very much and I definitely laugh too much at the wrong times. I would still like to drive a cool car too though. They have lots of Porsches here and I really like them. I bike past an Audi R8 most days too and that would be a fun car. Anz. Valli would always get mad at me for slowing down when we biked past Ferraris. I just feels like a shame to bike by without taking a second to covet a little.

It's funny that you're talking about the Book of Mormon, Dad because we've been focusing a lot on that lately. Look through chapter five of preach my gospel. My favorite part are the questions that it asks and the scriptures that it gives about the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is everything which I'm sure you know, but maybe that would help you put your thoughts together. I remember you reading the Book of Mormon to Stefan and me when we were little. I still remember you explaining things to us like the way that baptism symbolizes death and rebirth and then you lay me down and lifted me up again. I haven't always been good about reading the BofM and I remember being embarrassed when you asked Stefan and I how we were doing reading on our own. Even at 6 or 7 Stefan was flying and I got frustrated and just stopped. Then you would ask me where I was in the BofM and I would be embarrassed so I would just make something up about being somewhere in Mosiah. I do remember though when I had my free time between school and leaving on my mission I would wake up every morning and start reading the BofM. I would read for hours, not being able to stop because I just felt so good. Then I would feel tired, almost like I had gone for a nice long spiritual work out and I would stop. But day after day for about a month that's what I did and I'm so glad I did because it changed my life. Even if I was a little bit slower than my little brother Nephi in figuring things out I'm so glad it happened. To me the Book of Mormon is all about salvation, because we are nothing- especially me- but in spite of that we have a Saviour in Jesus Christ. When I think about it the BoM is all about rebirth just like you taught me when I was little. You're cool Dad. I hope you know that.

I know everyone is worried about Clint this week but I'm hoping he stays nice and sick. I figure Dad had pneumonia when Mom and Dad got married and things have worked out pretty well for them. Maybe there's something to getting married then you're sick. Sorry Clint, but my prayers are for your lungs to fill with mucus. Actually maybe not that bad. Good luck with the wedding everybody.

I miss reading so I hope that you'll start making a shelf for me of books to read when I get back. I hope you're all enjoying your literary freedom and reading lots of good books.

Thank you Mitchells. I got your Christmas package this week. You guys are too nice to me. How did I get and aunt, uncle and cousins as goofy and fun as you.

Linkouses- You guys are awesome. Thanks for your email Kit. I think about you guys a lot and I hope you're doing great.

Life is good and I'm still happy to be alive. I hope you all have a great week.

Love Ben

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Week 1-- RUN!

Dear family,

How can I describe this week?

I've felt the same way I've felt every year trying to jump from the relaxed holidays into trying to work hard even though the weather is gray and gloomy. It's hard though because I've still been working the whole time so I'm tired. I want to rest hard and then work hard. I am just so tired.

To be honest I'm not sure what to say...What do you want to hear?

Well, New Year's is kind of dangerous in Italy so we had to stay inside at night and that day was designated as a cleaning day. We spent the day moving some furniture and cleaning out the apartment and I actually really enjoyed it. The cleaning and organizing part of me went crazy with the missionary junk piled up from years and years. That night we stayed inside and listened to the fireworks. Sorry Hans I didn't kiss anyone at midnight.

The cleaning day made me think about how I enjoy doing different kinds of work. It was just fun to do something different for a change even if it was sweeping and moving furniture. It's made me think about how each of us is different in life and how we all have different talents and different things we enjoy. I also think it's interesting that every boy my age in the church is expected to come and do the same work. I guess it works because there are lots of different ways to do missionary work.

I was thinking about all your emails and the way I'm feeling and I think the first week of the year is just a tough one because we have to clean up from the holidays and get back to work all while still really wanting to just stay in lazy, party mode. It doesn't help when things are cold and gray. Let's go back to the way they did things in the medieval ages and work hard in the fields all year and then go into a partial hibernation during the winter. I'm tired and I'm feeling lazy and I hate that I have an extra measure of guilt for that because I'm a missionary. Well even if I am a missionary, I'm still human.

I did hear a thought I liked this week about goal making being compared to running. The example was given of David running at Goliath before he slayed him and also Joseph in Egypt running away from his seducer. The point that I liked the most is that the most important thing is to just go. To do. To start running. Of course there's more to making goals, but I know that so much of the time I don't accomplish goals or don't even make them because I'm so occupied about making good goals. In the end if Dad doesn't make it to 212 pounds in 2012 it won't matter as long as he's trying because in the process he'll probably make progress in his health. He'll probably exercise a little more and will probably eat a few pounds less of chocolate a day( which is a shame). I've been having a hard time making New Year's resolutions especially because next year at this time I'll still be doing the exact same thing. I feel like I want to do everything I'm doing, but just a lot better.

I just want to improve this year. I want to put of any major trunkiness until next March- and at that point I'll just go crazy. I'm just kidding. My goal is to be more simple and less serious. I want to enjoy my life and all the good things around me even though I often feel like I should be worrying about things and taking things seriously because I'm a missionary. I debate a lot about how being a missionary should change you. Of course everyone should improve as a missionary, but how? I know I've changed and I'm thinking about what I want to change in the next year. I want my gospel knowledge to improve and I want my Christ-like attributes to improve- faith, hope, charity, patience...One of the things I don't like is being stressed about rules and obedience and feeling guilty about just not being good enough ever. I want to be dedicated and hard working but I want there to be desire and sincerity to the way I live and the choices I make.

In the end I suppose the only thing I can to is just start running. It would probably help to think about exactly how I'm going to do these things but I'm not going to let myself get caught up in that. I'm just going to go start doing and changing.

We're all going to make it through the first week of the year. I hope you all do just fine. I'm sure you will. As for me I'm going to go start running.

Have a good week. I love you.

Love, Ben

If your name is Mary or Mary you can expect a letter soon. Or Gabe.