Friday, May 31, 2013

Tokyo Day Two: Imperial Palace, Ginza, and Yokosoka

We spent the first part of our day exploring the gardens of the Imperial Palace in central Tokyo. We then wandered over to the Ginza area, which is like the Fifth Avenue of Tokyo. The main purpose of visiting Ginza was to visit our favorite macaron place, Laduree. But it was fun to people watch since they close the main street down on Sundays. They close a lot of the main streets on Sunday just so people can ride their bikes down them. It's really lovely. I like the way the Japanese think. 

After that we hopped on a train to go to the navy town Yokosoka where one of Victor's Naval Academy friend's is stationed, which is about 45 minutes south of Tokyo. What was supposed to be a leisurely train ride turned out to us getting kicked off trains twice because of traffic accidents. We had no idea why we were being kicked off, where we were, or what we should do, which left us with that helpless feeling of "why can't we speak Japanese??!!" But, luckily we met an American expat who was also heading down there and also spoke Japanese who helped us get where we needed to be, and it turned out to be a nice evening with friends, and Yokosoka is such a charming city.
It's so fun that because of things like our missions and Victor's school we have friends all over the place. It makes traveling even more fun. 

Tokyo Day One

We got into the city late on Friday night, and after breakfast on Saturday morning, we headed straight here:
We haven't been able to visit the temple since January and we used to visit at least once a month in D.C. We've missed it, and it was a wonderful morning. It's pretty tricky to get a picture in front of the entire building. It's surrounded by buildings, a busy street, and a park with tall trees across the street. This is the best we could do. Also, the people behind us are actually Okinawan members from a nearby ward who had made a temple trip up to Tokyo as well!
From there we hopped on the metro over to Shibuya. Shibuya is like the Times Square of Tokyo. It's one of the busiest pedestrian crossways in the world. We took a seat from the nearby Starbucks and loved watching the light change and all those people crossing. It seems crazy and hectic, but politeness is such a huge deal that it's actually very quiet and orderly. 

Also this is a frequent site:
And they're off!
 Then, of course, we did a little shopping at the promised lands of cheap and cute clothes:
^^^Notice the Japanese guy who photobombed  my picture??^^^

We ended our day walking through Harajuku and up to the Shinjuku area. Full of electronic stores, karaoke places, bars, and adult arcades (just like kid arcades, but with smoking and alcohol---it was hilarious to see grown men spending their Saturday night playing their arcade games).

It was a fun day. And I got cute new clothes, so I was very pleased. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Softer Side of Tokyo

^^^One of my new favorite photos^^^

We just got back from Tokyo yesterday and we loved it. You know, Japan was never on my "must go-to" list, and neither was Tokyo. And now? Well now I can't get enough of this place. I can't wait to go back to mainland Japan. Tokyo was an amazing city. So huge. You feel engulfed in it. And yet I have never felt more safe in a city. Rarely do people lock up their bikes. First graders can travel solo by metro to school. And the metro gates just stay open most of the time to accomodate the fast pace of the city but assuming that everyone will pay their fare. 

The neighborhood we stayed in was such a quaint area. It was right by the temple and such a beautiful park. We ate at that little bakery for breakfast most days, as well as the cute fruit stand next door. We loved being able to see all aspects of the city: from the crazy hip Shibuya and Harajuku area, to the classy Azabu and Ginza area, and the older historical area (and slightly hipster) of Asakusa.

 I'll post more pictures of our day to day adventures if you care to see what we did---and if you want some travel suggestions of things to do in Tokyo. I was clueless to all the cool things to see in this city. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend a visit to Tokyo!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Realistically Ever After

Ever since graduating high school and beginning college, there are those milestones that I see myself and my friends cross over that really make me feel like an adult. And in this day and age of social media, you can clearly track them. College graduations, marriages, children, the beginning of real careers. And sadly another one of those things I have been seeing is friends my age having to go through divorce. It really hurts my heart to have to see.

Marriage has been on my mind a lot lately. I feel like everything I have been watching and reading in the past few months is about how basically marriage is great while it lasts, but eventually unhappiness is inevitable. In one week alone, I watched three separate movies unintentionally that all blatantly taught that message. "Hey, enjoy it while it lasts, because soon [insert problem ie jobs, kids, aging, etc] is going to come along, and one or both of you will be left unsatisfied, unfulfilled, and out of love."

It was really frustrating to watch. And I think I realized that I was starting to believe it in tiny ways creeping in on my thoughts. It's easy for that idea to creep in when all you seem to see on entertainment news or social media is people getting divorced after years together, citing reasons of "just not being in love anymore," "drifting apart," or "irreconcilable differences."

I still am so perturbed that Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are on tabloid covers for "marriage turmoil" because of what he said at the Oscars when he thanked his wife and said about his marriage: "It's good. It is work, but it's the best kind of work. And there's no one I'd rather work with." The fact that so many people are distorting what I think are really sweet (and realistic) words makes me so upset with society.

There is plenty of advice about how to make a marriage work. I've read a few things, but to be completely honest, I never have to look beyond the contents of for wonderful and inspired advice on marriage. Years and years and years of advice. Just last month, there was this beautiful talk.

My marriage is only shy of two years old, and I know I am no marriage expert. I know that it's not always going to be newlywed bliss. Children are going to change our relationship and probably make the highs higher and the lows lower. Getting older in general and the challenges you face in life will also do that. But I am so grateful for the knowledge that I have that marriage can last for forever, and it is worth fighting for because you can have lasting happiness. I just love what Elder Clayton says in his talk: "I have observed that in the happiest marriages both the husband and wife consider their relationship to be a pearl beyond price, a treasure of infinite worth."

As a teenager, I remember my mom counseling someone close to her over the phone who was beginning the separation process from their spouse. She asked, "how often do you pray together??" (the answer was never) Again in college, a girl in my student ward remembered being so bold in asking her youth leader how and why she had gotten divorced. The woman said, "honestly,  I think it all began when we stopped praying together." Also just last week (I'm giving away how much tv I have watched, no!), Katie Couric was interviewing Mark Burnett (creator of "Survivor") and his wife Roma Downey ("Touched by an Angel" girl) and they too said that the reason they are still holding hands and are happy in their marriage is because of prayer. And I wonder how many people watching that interview scoffed at them.

I just read another book about marriage by the professional volleyball player Gabrielle Reece who wrote about saving her marriage that divorce papers had been filed for. I read it because it was causing quite a conniption in people when she said that it is important to be submissive in marriage, and I wanted to see if that's what she really meant to say. She got wrongly criticized, because what she was saying is that wives should serve their husbands, AND VICE VERSA. She has it figured out. Marriage is not a one man show, and you can't expect to make it work if you're only ever thinking of yourself.

Like I said, I've been thinking a lot lately of all the things that need to happen to make a marriage work.   And in thinking about it, there's a lot more I could talk about. But I feel very strongly about these two:
Prayer and service.

It's so simple but it works.

I'm no marriage expert, but that's my two bits to the volumes of advice about relationships that are out there. I love being married, and I want to continue to love being married. I want others to love being married. I want others to want to get married. I just want us all to be happy. And despite what the world says, I really think it's possible. That's not to say there won't be difficult times. It's still life. But how sweet it is to know that you really can have your own happily ever after, if you're willing to work for it.

So there you go, thanks for listening.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy 18th Mel-Mel!

To my beautiful blonde and leggy youngest sister, 
(nice photo bomb, will.) 
Lover of puppies and kitties and all that is good in the world,

Who is seven years younger than me and yet a few inches taller (not bitter or anything),
I hope you have a great birthday! Sorry we can't be there, but I hope you know that we miss you and are thinking of you.

I'm so excited to see what this year has in store for you. Graduating high school. Heading off to play soccer and start your college years. Proud of you, and love you lots, Melanie!

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Glass Blowing

Okinawa is famous for its glass, and there are glass blowing factories all over the island. Me, Lindsay, and her friends got to participate in a glass blowing workshop when they were here and I just went last week and picked up our finished products! I was very excited. 

First, you blow the red hot glass into a mold...
Then they cut off the bottom of it and stick it back in the fire...
 And then we shaped the tops of our glasses...

Watch out, Dale Chihuly. I am on my way to being a glass master. 

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Happy Birthday, Juju!

Happy happy birthday to my big sister Juju (aka Jennifer). I missed giving her a birthday shout out last year, and I hope that she will forgive me! 

Dang, we were cute little girls. Jennifer and I are only 14 months apart (thus the nick name Juju--I couldn't pronounce Jennifer), and having a sister that close in age was awesome. We had so much fun together. 
As the oldest, Jennifer was often referred to as "Mama Juju" because she was a natural at being the caregiver and the peacemaker. These were attributes that I seemed to willingly hand over to her; I highly doubt my siblings would refer to me as the peacemaker. 

After the early years of me being the pesky tag-a-long baby sister, Jennifer finally embraced it and willingly shared her high school friends with me. My bestie Kelsy was (and still is) originally her friend ha ha. It's great. 
Then came the college years, and I remember being so glad to transfer to BYU because it meant I would be in the same town as Juju again. It was just so nice having her there and being able to have somewhere to go in those moments when you don't feel like going back to your apartment (not because of you, Kelsy!).

Now Juju has her own little tiny. She got her way of having the first grandchild (threats to me were involved--not lying) and she is such a good mama. I love that kid. Dare I say more than I love Juju?? I love you, Jenn. Lots and lots.

So happy birthday! Hope you have a great day. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Creepy Ikei Island

We took a drive to another island when Lindsay was here. Ikei Island is connected to the other islands by a charming red bridge. The island is tiny. You can drive from tip to tip in less than five minutes. As we drove around the island, it was just strange. The middle of the island had lots of farm land that you could tell was getting worked, but yet not a soul in sight. On the north coast of the island sits a big resort hotel that has been abandoned after closing last year. Super creepy. 
I realize that a tiny island like that would have few people, but seeing all the houses, boats, and huge hotel with no people around was just so eerie! We also saw a snake while we were walking down a path, which also added to us getting spooked ha ha.

Maybe someday I'll go back to Ikei Island. I hear the snorkeling is nice. But I look back on these pictures and I just get creeped out again! Especially the big empty hotel. That's a horror movie waiting to happen.