Saturday, March 31, 2012

I am happy/I am crazy

Oh my dear family, how are you this week?

I have to admit that nothing makes me more trunky than feeling like I just don't time to give you. You are the people I care about most and are a major driving force in me doing this whole missionary thing and I just hate the feeling of not being able to give you the time and attention that I want too. I guess I'm just thinking about this because Mary told me I'm mysterious and apparently Hunter worries about me. Oh goodness. I'm so sorry and I don't mean to mysterious. Do any of you ever have the sensation of having their heart in two different places?

Well let me begin to be less mysterious and tell you about my week. On Monday I went to the doctor and he yanked my big toenail off with rusty pliers. Just kidding. It was much more sanitary and professional than that. He gave me antibiotics for the infection and three days later I came back to have him cut my toenail in a pretty intense manner, but have no fear my toe was totally numb. I'm wearing flip-flops around right now. Hopefully I'll be all healed before long and I'll be able to start running.

Our work is going really well. In fact we have six baptismal dates which is more than most districts have. It's not because we're really amazing but a lot of it comes from the fact that Lodi has always had the assistants who were always good at getting people excited about missionary work but never had a lot of time to do a lot of work. We on the other hand have lots of time and have been getting tons of referrals and it has changed everything. In contrast to so many other times in my mission we have more people to visit than we have time for.

I just have to tell you that I love you and that even when things here are really good it's still really hard for me to be away from you. It's hard too because as a missionary it's hard to say that I miss you and that it's hard for me to be away from you otherwise people will think somethings wrong with me and I'm trunky and depressed. I'm not either of those- what I am is a normal boy who misses his family and friends because they are so much to him and it's hard to say goodbye to them. Oh my. The thing is that I feel like I can tell you these things without you judging me and thinking something is wrong with me. I think a bit of it may come from being surrounded by other missionaries who are AP's or who think they are and they really do need to be an example to the rest of the mission. I'm not example quality because I feel like I'm too honest. Is that bad?

OK I'm done complaining and ranting.

What I really need is more brain training on being happy.

And I am happy- I just miss you too and when I write you it seems to spill out more than usual.

So Dad. Thank you for your brain training. I did read everything yo wrote and I really do want to hear about it for the next seven weeks.

General Conference starts today and I'm pretty excited about it. There's just something about being a missionary that makes conference so exciting. If only I had a turkey sandwich, I think life would be complete.

I very seriously considered deleting my paragraph of whining, but decided to leave it in an attempt to be less mysterious and show how crazy I really am.

I got my Easter package and it was so nice. I wasn't even expecting a package. Despite all the good chocolate my favorite part was the pictures. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Well I feel like I've gone on for long enough. I hope you have a great week and a great general conference.

Love Ben

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Ooey Gooey Lovey Dovey

Well my dear family- I just have to say that you are all very beautiful people.
Lately Anz. Anderson and Anz. Jenson have started saying that they want to join our family and anyone who looks at my pictures will want to too. I can't really blame them. I love our family so much and we really are a funny bunch, but if I could just be shallow for a moment I have to say that we are a beautiful bunch. I've been noticing more and more that Mary the eight year old is a really pretty little girl. Don't even get me started on 20 year old Mary. I just have to say how good looking all of you are. I've been doing what I can to catch up to you this week. For the first time in a year I went to get a hair cut in a parrucchiere- a hair cut shop. They gave me a nice Italian looking haircut. I also finally got a doctors appointment for my toe so hopefully I'll be able to start running again sometime soon and I'll be a little less fat. Do you guys ever just look in the mirror and just say "Wow- I'm good looking."

And Mary. Oh wow. She is so pretty. I'm just afraid my friends Bona and Dunshee may have caught on. Really though I'm so lucky to have not only a bunch of really nice, happy people around me but also good looking. The Mitchell cousins too.

OK enough being shallow.

This week I've continued on in training my brain. I feel happier all the time, and it's easier to be nicer and kinder to everyone, I've even been less tired. I have to say that I've known what a difference love can make in someone's life, but I underestimated the effect it could have in a missionary companionship. I was even using some of the tricks that Dad got from his book and I didn't even have to go to Harvard! It also seems to help that spring is in the air and the weather could hardly be nicer- but I have to say that the brain training went well this week.

I also have some news- P-day is now on Friday so you should all start emailing me on Thursday nights.

That's actually not true. P-day is still on Saturday, but I think you should all train your brains to think that it's on Friday so that I hear from you more.

Well this week was good. The work is actually going really well in Lodi. I think it helps that even though we don't have as much time as normal missionaries we do have more time than the APs did. Nearly every time we go to a members house they give us referrals which is amazing. I can't tell you how much scheming and planning and begging I did in every other ward to try and get referrals and it never really worked. Here they just do it and it's amazing. We'll probably be having a lot of baptisms here.

I can still hardly describe how much I love you and how every time I sit down to email I don't really feel like writing about events during the week but I really just want to talk about you. You guys are the best. You make me want to be better and I am overwhelmed with gratitude to just be the son of Mom and Dad and the brother of Stefan, Hans, Xander, Gabe and Mary. I'm so happy to have Grandpa Fritz and Grandma Maria and Mitchell cousins and Ruth and Bill and fantastic friends all over the world. I love the Linkouses and all of you. It is a supreme honor to have a girl like Mary just think about me. You make me so happy. You push me to be better and I love you all so much.

I'm really not a lovey dovey person, but I feel like I just turn all ooey gooey lovey when I write because you are so great. Well that's enough from this Italian emotionalist. I hope you have a great week.

Love Ben

Saturday, March 17, 2012

one year

Well my dear family it's official- one year.

Can you believe that an entire year has passed since we last saw each other? We've talked on the phone once and Skyped once and in between we've emailed every week, but beyond that there has been no other contact for the last 366 days. And yet I don't know if I have ever loved you so much and appreciated every bit of each of you in such a profound way. I would say that I've come to appreciate what I've lost but saying that I've lost you would be completely wrong- I would say it's more accurate that I've come to find and know each of you better than ever. I really have been able to take the step back that I needed to see each of you how you really are.

At home in the mix and bustle of life there always seemed to be something keeping me from being grateful for you in the way that I am now. Now that I have the long distance view each of you have come into focus and I see you more clearly that ever. Oh I love you and as hard as it has been at times to be away from you looking back on the last year I am so grateful for this chance to step back and the way it has changed my view.

Speaking of changing view, I think Dad's book sounds really interesting because lately I've been thinking about the same idea of training your brain. It seems like our brains have reflexes and we often make decisions and judgements without even realizing that it was all based on mental habit. Working in the office I've noticed how differently people react to the same thing. Some people tend are a lot more pessimistic and tend to overreact every time inviting anger and fear while others stay calm, maybe laugh a little and find the good in each situation. I've also realized that by realizing that we form mental habits we can choose to mold our own reflexes. I've been training my brain to stay calm when presented by a problem, to find the good in people and situations and to be a problem fixer instead of just a problem finder. It really highlights the importance of our small simple actions throughout the day because each decision whether big or small can lead to the formation of habits which affect how we think.

I am so glad that Stefan was born and that he lived through all the crazy things in his life. I remember one day at our house in Sugarhouse when we were walking up the driveway. Stefan had a balloon tied around his wrist. As we walked down the driveway something happened and Stefan began to fall right in the direction of the stairs that led to the downstairs appartment. Mom instinctively reached out and grabbed the string of the balloon and Stefan stopped mid fall hanging sideways- his feet on the ground and his upper half supported by the balloon string. As a five year old I remember thinking about all the crazy things that always seemed to be happening to my little brother and wondering why he always seemed to be having close calls ever since he came home from the hospital. Even leaving the hospital was a challenge to be overcome thanks to his near death in the first few hours of his life.

Years later its obvious that there were forces calling for the death of my little brother, yet there was a greater call for his life that kept and preserved him. We now see his great capabilities and wait to see exactly what he will do. I have my money on stopping an erupting volcano saving the lives of millions of people.

So I gradually became more and more dramatic as I wrote but the thing is that whenever I write about Stefan it's hard not to be dramatic because he really is great and I really do think the dramatic sounding things that I write.

Just in case anyone was wondering I'm doing pretty well. Things are pretty crazy, but I'm just using it all as a chance to better train my brain. Things in the office are going well and I'm getting to the point where I've learned things well enough that I'm starting to be able to put my own touch on things and improve things where I think it's possible. We are really busy and I don't know how I stay awake as much as I do because I am so tired every night as I go to bed.
I love you all very much and I hope you have a great week.

Love, Ben

p.s. I forgot to mention the exciting news of Estella's baptism last Saturday. It went really well and it was amazing how smoothly things went teaching her...I figure it is good to give updates on things like baptisms. Most of the time I just get bored writing about normal missionary news like trying to teach 20 lessons or the new planning system we've come up with. Instead I spend my time writing about brain training and stuff like that. I'm weird I know but that's just how I am.

Again- Love Ben

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I am a crazy man

Hello family,

If I told you I could have more big changes in my life would you believe me?
Yesterday President told us that we are switching areas with the APs so after about three weeks of being in Milano I'm saying goodbye and heading to Lodi. The change isn't too drastic because I'm still with Anz. Anderson and I'll still live in the same apartment. That's actually not completely true because next week I'll be moving apartments. I've been living with the AP's, but next there's a senior couple leaving and in the apartment shuffle Anz. Anderson will be moving. The change is being made because when Elder Causse came he really emphasized that the assistants should be the example for the mission and they should be put into a position to reach the standards so they can better show people what to do. Lodi is about a 25 min. drive from the office and their schedule isn't as flexible as ours. By switching they will be much closer to their area and we'll be able to work in Lodi more than they have been able to.

Life in the office is so different. There is always so much to do which I really like. This last week has been crazy because new missionaries came in and old ones left. I got the benefit of going to the departing missionaries dinner so I got to see people like Anz. Bona and Anz. Rich. Can you believe that Anz. Bona is home now? Mom and Mary you should definitely go see him.

Why is half of our family in California? Why didn't the other half go?

Poor Hans I'm so sorry that your sick. I've been a little bit sick too. Unfortunately I just don't have time to be sick so I just keep going.

Well to be totally honest I just am not sure what to write about right in this moment. I miss you of course but I've just been so busy with so much stuff that isn't that interesting to write about. The Sorelle that were training us in the office left this week so now we're on our own. This is the real test of how well we learned how to do things in the office. One of the things that I've been amazed with is how much time and effort goes into keeping the mission running. The office works so hard and always has to make sure people have apartments and supplies and everything else they need to do their work. One of the things I like about my job is that I get to see how the mission as a whole works and I get help keep it going. The other thing is that a lot of what I do is helping other people do their jobs and make them look good. For example we help Sorella Wolfgramm cook and we make lunches for trainings. I do projects for president and the assistants and because of that they do their jobs better.

I don't know if I've ever told you about GEMs but I will now. The battle cry of our mission is GEMs which stands for 'grow every missionary.' The Wolfgramms decided when they were just starting out that they wanted to help every missionary grow on their mission. Personally I think it's because they knew that missionaries are all on different levels and some would be really good and others not as much. They didn't expect everyone to be perfect so they came up with the idea that they wanted everyone to improve. The idea behind GEMs is that you GEM or grow the person you're with the most- your companion. This can mean anything from doing something nice for them or teaching them something new. The idea can be so simple but also so profound. The cool thing is that GEMs has a way of making all things for your benefit. A really great companion can set a great example for you while a tough companion gives you the chance to exercise patience or develop charity.

I'm afraid that thus far in my email I have not given sufficient information on my current well-being and I can just hear mom complaining about my email. I'm doing fine. I'm so tired and a little sick because of it. I love my work in the office and I'm really trying hard to put on a happy attitude about some things. Have you ever been in a situation where you really feel like you need a good attitude about something even though it might be easier to not? But I have to have a good attitude and make things work.

Something I've noticed that my companions have taught me over and over is the importance of self control especially when it comes to emotions. I've learned to become so much steadier than I was because I've found out how easy it is to make a little thing a big problem just by freaking out about it in the moment. In contrast it's amazing how staying calm in a crazy moment can isolate the craziness to the moment and then with time everything eases over and life is good.

Oh my dear family, I miss you so much. Can you believe we are almost to a year?
Dear Mary this is a secret note hidden to you within a letter to my family. Thanks for your email. Watch out, spring is in the air and I imagine that there will be lots of RM cougars on the prowl.

I hope everyone is feeling better and is not at Legoland next week. I sure would love to hear from all of you. By the way, thanks for your Valentines. I just got them the other day. I'm watching the birthday video for the third week in a row.

I love you so much. Please pray for me to have a happy attitude and keep control of my emotions. Isn't it funny to admit that I always have to take the position of the calm steady one lately? Yes me, who was crazy before, I am now the calm steady one.

Have a great week. I hope Utah gets warmer because spring has arrived here in Opera.

Love, Ben