Monday, December 16, 2013

                                                                                Taken December 14, 2013
                                                                    We received this from someone who happened
                                                                                      to see them walking

SO much has happened this week! Last week, Stephen talked about getting into a groove at the MTC, and it has totally happened. Now that we have a very basic understanding of Japanese and (believe it or not) know most of what our sensei say, it is becoming much more fun. The real problem at this point is staying focus on the work instead of telling jokes with the chorotachi or learning to sit like a Nihonjin (more on that later) It is difficult to remember that in 2 weeks (OHMYGOODNESS) we will be in Japan and will have no idea what people are saying. So we are trying to SYL as much as possible so we won't feel as lost.

As I flip through the pages of my journal to decide what to focus on, I am finding there is so much I want to say, and so little time to say it. Words on a screen can barley convey all that has happened here; but I will try my best.

Okay, so:

We saw the Christmas devotional! It was SO cute! We all vole how Russell M. Nelson's grandson winked at the camera. But it was adorable! And President Monson inspires me SO much! If he can be the prophet and do all of his duties even while missing his wife and feeling ill, then why should I complain about waking up at 6:30 every morning?

In PE at the main MTC campus, you can do the following: run on track, use exercise equipment, play basketball, play volleyball, or do four square. And when I first arrived, I thought: Man, four square is so lame. All of those senkyoshi look like fools. A few days ago, I was feeling kinda icky, so I decided to play four square as a low impact sport. And do you know what? That is the coolest game in the world!! Cool kids play four square. Seriously. A;though it can get kinda competitive. And I am kinds good at it... :)

My district and I have grown so close. All of the chorotachi are so amazing! We are trying not to think about leaving them. Although yesterday we all sat like Nihonjin while studying

Here is a how to guide:
1.kneel. Do NOT cross you feet
2. Sit with your back straight.
3. See how long you can go
I have found that after the first 20 minutes you can't feel half of your body. After 30 minutes you question your will power. At 45 minutes (the highest I have gone) you stand up like an old woman and make weird noises. 
Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. It is quite an adventure. I would recommend trying it. I would love to hear times!

We got kohai! (New people) I love them so much! Right now they are going through the most difficult week of their lives. But once they make it through the first Sunday, life becomes easier. And so much more awesome! They all have so much faith it is really inspiring! They are all doing very well and the shimaitachi are such examples to me!

So, one of our teachers I think my brother Stephen would have a ball with. He is a total word nerd,and likes dissecting Eigo to Nihongo. So on Monday, he said we were going to do something a little different. And he opened up to a scripture in Japanese and we went through it line by line to figure what what scripture it was. So we did. That was cool, but that is not the most important part of the story. The scripture was Doctrine and Covenants 6:34. In that scriptures says "If ye are built upon my rock, ye cannot fall" and in English we always interpret that as "we need to build upon Christ's gospel". But in Nihongo, the word is translated differently. The word for "build" is passive, so the literal translation is "If you are built by someone upon this rock, then you cannot fall". 

Sometimes we think we have to do it all on our own: manage stress, accomplish things, even live the Gospel and commandments. But, in reality, the Lord does not want us to do that. We need His help to be built upon his rock- to keep His commandments, to have enough faith. He doesn't expect us to pull it all out of sheer will power or pure determination and hope we have it inside of us. It is through Jesus Christ and His Atonement that we can be made to do these things. I testify that that is true. God wants to help us be better. He does not expect us to navigate life alone. 

Ever Onward,
Molen Shimai

Hello everyone! ( Konnichiwa, mina san!)

I hope no one in California is freezing in 50 degree weather. As for me.... On Tuesday morning we woke up, shoved out feet in some shoes, and went outside into FALLING SNOW! My trudge turned into a frolick, while Dansie Shimai's trudge remained a trudge. She says snow is pretty, but she doesn't like to ice or cold. Daijobu- she's nice enough to let me have my fun!
The only downside is that I am cold. All the time. Last gnithI was feeling quite icky and went back to the apato early (worst thing in the world- I didn't like the feeling) But after a full 9 hours of sleep, I am feeling better now :) 
And, yes, I saw Sister Metzger and Elder Gomez. It was for about 3 seconds on their first day, but both of them looked so pumped and excited it made me want to do so much better! Both of them looked super stoked! Hopefully I will see them again before they depart.
Japanese update: WE GOT OUR NAMETAGGGGSSSSSSSSS!!!! We are highly encouraged not to wear them at the MTC (I barley know what it says- how can I expected others to know?) But that doesn't stop me from holding ti and giggling like an idiot (I have now shame, ebacsue frankly, it is that awesome) My Japanese name is Moren, which was expected. "Mo" means "seaweed" and "ren" s a ream of paper. Or it could be "More-n" which is a lake with embarrassing left over "n". I am so happy- except for Dansie Shimai's name- Danshii. It means "man." But she will write in to try to get ti changed. Our names are not actually translated into words, but they do kind of sound like them,. Which makes me feel bad for Bennion Chōrō, who's name sounds like "Four toilets".
It is insane to think that we will be going to Japan very soon. I don't feel very prepared. My brother Stephen said there is a point in the MTC where you get comfortable there, and I have hit it. At this point,  I really really really really really really to teach the people of Japan about how they can be happy- Just as long as they come to the MTC.  And if they spoke 1/2 Eigo. Yet, if we are comfortable, no growth ever happens. And the Lord needs me in Japan. So, even though the first little bit may be uncomfortable, it will be SO worth it!
Looking back, I have learned so much. I do not know an awful lot, but it is a far cry form the first day when I stared at  my first teacher and thought, "I wonder if he is speaking real words..." Now I can basically understand my teachers- if they speak slow and pull from my bank of 200 words. 
Which reminds me: I had a creepy thought. Sometimes I forget that my teachers have access to the outside world- therefore, the Internet. So, if any of them have found this blog: HI! I love you! ....This is kinda weird, but you are awesome.....
Okay, that strange moment over. 
Funny story of the day: we have an investigator named Nagashimada. So, we can either call her, Nagashimadashimai or Nagashimadasan. The downside is, during our lesson on Monday, I kept calling her Nagashimadasanshimaisan. She was very nice about it, though. And ti sounds like a rap.
I love it here so much! At the MTC, I have never been more humbled in my whole life. But I have never felt the strength of God more in my life. I know that God wants me in Japan to help certain people. Lean ring the language is only part of the process. And refining me is part of the
(And another happy Birthday to Josef)

ai shite masu!
Moren Shimai

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Whoa!!! I am half way done!!!

BEFORE THE REAL ENTRY: It has occurred multiple times this week that I have sent a letter to friends and then the very next day, received a letter from them. So, Amelia and Steph, those notes were just hello notes and not responses. Responses are coming!

Okay, back to the entry.

And it came to pass that in  the 28th day if the 11th month of the 5th year of the reign of Obama, there was much rejoicing throughout the land.  (IU wish I came up with that one, but another shimai did)

So, Thanksgiving in the MTC is amazing! Thanksgiving and birthday in the MTC is amazing!

We had Russell M. Nelson and his adorable wife speak to us that morning. It was so awesome! He is a totally normal guy who is going by the Spirit on everything (aren't we all) We keep hearing about being more confident, which is something I need to work on- boldly proclaiming the Gospel and not worrying about my Japanese so much.

Speaking of Japanese, it is going rather well. If you take it one day at a time and trying to learn as much as possible and pray with all you got, then it turns out very very very well. Although, FUN fact, we received emails from the senkyoshi who just left for Nihon and...are you ready?.... one of their gaijin trainers has been out for 5 months and has trained 3 people. That is in the Kobe mission, but we have heard that is quite common in Japan as a whole due to the lack of sister missionaries. I am praying my face off.
So, we had a turkey lunch, then all walked to the Temple as a District. I love my district so MUCH! As long as no one starts quoting "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" we all stay very focused. It was so peaceful to be at the Temple and to feel peace there. Not just "ohmygoodness I am in the outside world" peace, but just... it's indescribable to those who haven't felt it and to those who have felt it cannot express it. And, if I may be so bold, I believe we have all felt God in our lives. So, then we came back and I distributed the old man cakes according to personality. It was very fun. We then had sack dinners (so employees could go have dinner with their families), did a HUGE service project! I bagged lentils. I am very talented at that. Actually, I will add that to my list of talents:

1.Making lists
2. Finding my own talents
3.Bagging lentils

So that was very rewarding. We did it for kids in Utah who don't have food over the weekend. 

Then we watched the film "Ephraim's Rescue"- as if 17 Miracles didn’t make you CRY ENOUGH. Seriously, it was bad. Dansie Shimai had to put up with me complaining about people dying it in the movie for the rest of the night.

But she is so awesome! She asked what our family did for Birthday traditions, and I let the one about the Birthday fairy slips. So, that night, she put a note on the floor and spread packages of candy all over it so when I woke up in the morning, it was there! She is so cool! I would like to be more like her.

That was my birthday/thanksgiving. Everyone was very nice. I hope everyone's thanksgiving was very good. And I am glad so much family was able to come down for thanksgiving weekend.

So, for the rest of the week...OH! Yesterday, to unstress ourselves, we learned how to say this:

"So, doyatte dōbutsu ni taberu koto mitai desu ka?" "chakaii mitte kudasai."
 (Hey, do you want to see how animals eat their food? Watch closely.) Yes, it did make our days. It was wonderful!

The language is an adventure. We had a sensei who is Nihonjin say to use that Japanese is hard. But i think that's apart of the point. We are asked to do very heard things so we can grow. And I want nothing more than to be over there telling people about the Gospel. And how they don't have to be sad.

Well, sorry this entry is a little everywhere. But I am so grateful to be in the MTC and doing this. I know this is what I am supposed to be doing.

Ya'll are awesome! ai shite masu!

Molen Shimai

Saturday, November 23, 2013

My Treasured Experiences

I wish I had a little box. One of those old Victorian ones that are really intricate and delicate. One that I could take with me everywhere. And, whenever i had an experience (good or bad) I'd open it and hide it away in there. So that, when I see you, I could open it and have you see all of the great and marvelous things that have happened. Every emotion. Everything. So that you would know exactly what a mission is like. 
But, I trust, that hopefully words will be enough (grrr. I want maho! [magic]) But until unicorns are proven real and experience boxes are found, I will just have to write the best I can.
Which kinda stinks.


Last week, the Nihonjin left the MTC for Japan. They were only here for two weeks, but considering that they know Japanese pretty well, it doesn't surprise me. Last Sunday during study hour we heard them singing. So, Iordacheschu Choro (the Doctor Who lover) got this awesome idea to go over to them and ask how to sing the mystery song in the Nihongo hymn book (I had such a pretty dream, Mama) But when we walked in with with our hymnbooks, they automatically assumed the best and told us the next hymn were were going to sing. So we sang with them in Nohingo for the next hour. It was by far one of the coolest experiences ever! Then one of them said, "We should do the EFY medley!" And I totally understood her! (Just kidding on that one. It took us five minutes of our kindergarten Nihongo and their 3rd grade Eigo to figure out what we would do. Gestures and humming were involved. We should have done interpretive dance!) But when we did it (1/2 in Eigo, 1/2 Nihongo) the Spirit was SO strong. It was like a wave of something came into the room and everyone started to tear up. We couldn't explain it (much less to one another) but we all felt it! It was beautiful!

On Sunday, we had Mary Ellen Edmunds speak. You know, no big deal. I just freaked out. Dansie Shimai was very nice. And then she heard her speak. And now she's in love with her, too. (If you don't know Mary Ellen Edmunds, look her up. She's hilarious)  That we needed to be nice to each other at all times. She also spoke about her mission and how she chose to be happy! It was just- Agh! Phenomenal. It really helped me get through the week.

And we got more teachers! They are all students at BYU.  We got Clark Shimai (Sister Shimai!) Which means,  not ONLY do we have another female in the room (yoshu!)  but we also get hugs from one of our teachers! When you're on a mission (to avoid awkwardness) you only hug those of your same gender. So when our other sensei go around the room they give the chorotachi monster hugs and slap their back and hit their face and weird choro-bonding stuff. And when they got to us- BOOM. Handshake. So now we get hugs in class. It is good. :D

On Wednesday we hosted for the first time. That means we help brand new senkyoshi when they arrive at the MTC. It was really awesome to help out my akachan! (I call them that, because, frankly, they are super cute) So that was awesome. It was also interesting to see how much I have grown since first arriving here. I still know very little Nihongo, but I am understanding it more.  I will host again this week as well!

So, during one of our lessons, we asked our investigator how he liked reading D&C 121. He then paused and asked us "Why Josefu Sumisu was in Liberty Jail?"
Well... I know how to say he's a prophet, that Heavenly Father called him, and how to say dinner, but I literally knew NO TANGO to say, "Well, he was treated unfairly and was persecuted because he was a prophet of God. Even now the government has issued apologies for the way members of our church were treated back in the 1800's." (If you would like more information about this fact. Watch the Joseph Smith: Prophet of the Restoration movie on It may make you cry)

I am trying to read the Morumon Sho in Japanese. I love that book so much. Like, seriously. It answers every question. In the world. I dare you. That;'s right. I dare you to come up with a question and then find the answer in the Book of Mormon. I testify it is there. I know it. It is amazing and heart stopping and peaces confirming. It has helped me with doctrinal questions, with learning Japanese (reading it in English and Nihongo, of course), feeling sad, being frustrated, or even being homesick. It helps with the most poiganant of joys and the most dire of circumstances. Read it when happy, you get happier. Read it when sad, you feel comforted. I purchased a tiny one and take it with me everywhere. It is so cool! Seriously. Morumon Sho. Tell your friends.

Okay, Morumon Sho rant over (Well, not really. That could have been this whole post, but I am out of time)

The Lord loves everyone. Seriously. That means He loves you. So stop beating yourself up and talk to Him! He wants to hear from everyone- even someone as imperfect as me. I can say that this is His church, because it is. It makes sense in my atama and my kokoro. It is real. And it can make anyone happy.

Okay, off I go. Attempting to learn Japanese and praying my face off as I do it. But the Lord will help me. Hopefully, we won't accidentally share the wrong scripture. :D

Ever Onwards,
Molen Shimai

Monday, November 18, 2013

Life is an Adventure

The MTC (like life in general, and probably the rest of my mission) is a roller coaster. Some days I feel like a whole lot and some days I feel like I've learned nothing. Some days I know Nihongo and others I don't. But during my darkest times this past week, the quote by President Hinckley's Father has been bombarding my thoughts: 
Forget yourself and go to work.
That is not a very easy principle. There's a lot of things that can hurt your pride. I know mine was a few times. But now I am better  :) I also think of Majorie Hinckley's quote (I'm on a Hinckley high. It's kinda like drugs, but with the Spirit. And you don't die.) "You can either get through life laughing or crying. I prefer to laugh. Crying gives me a headache.

So that language is musakashi, but I suppose...that's rather the point. If it was easy, then why would I need the Lord to get through this? I think of Nephi's faith: "If the Lord has done all of this, then why can't He help me to build a ship?" (Something like that. Molen Shimai New Translated version) And a ship is built on piece at a time.
Because the work-others we want to serve- is really all that truly matters, isn't it? That's what the Savior did- not mope about things. He Just Acted.
As a class we were teaching one of our sensei, and he at the front fo the class, doing well acting as one of his kyudosha (investigator). And I thought he was asking about why Christ had to die, so I found 2 Nephi 2:6-7 in the Eigo Morumon Sho, half-way shoved it at Dansie Shimai and said, "Look it up for me." So she did, and I looked at him and asked, "Utamawa, do you wonder why Iesu Kirisuto had to die?" And he paused and said, "Yes. I was wondering." So I gave it to Him. Half way through reading it his ears got really red. Like, it was crazy. I thought he felt like crying. Because I was feeling it, Dansie Shimai was feeling it. The class was feeling it, until he looked up with a red face and started spurting off all of this Nihongo I didn't understand. So I tried, and stared, and tried and stared, and that went on for a while until a choro kicked in. Utamawa also said the word, "sad" and I knew that one! I just learned it! Unfortunately, no one else had learned it, so everyone was flipping through this dictionaries. Moe choro was sharing something very inspiring about Jesus Christ loving us and how we can be happy from it. At that moment, his companion, Iordachescu choro (Your-da-kes-ku), looked up from his dictionary and practically yelled "It's sad!" At that point our teacher absolutely lost it. 
So what REALLY happened was the Kyudosha asked about commandments and if killing was one, and we flipped to 1 Nephi 1:6-7. So that was confusing. And then he said Moe Choro was really helping him until Iorachescu..(honestly, I don't even know how to spell it, but he's cool) yelled in the middle of class. SO that was the adventure lesson of the week. To be frank, it was pretty hilarious. 
Now is the time to make mistakes, take chances, and get messy! And, frankly, most of them are quite fun.
Our district is all a little stressed, so if you help pray for all of us that would be great. We are getting to the point where those who took classes before hand are started to get into new territory and those who had no formally training are entirely lost all together. But the discussion I had with Meyers Shimai about verbs has really helped me. So I will bake her a hypothetical cake as a big thank you.
This is real. Jesus Christ is real and wants to listen. Even, no, especially to people who feel like they have messed up or fallen off the wagon. Because He cares about them and can make them happy. He has made me happy. Watashi was Kono Kyokai ga shinjitsu da to shitte imasu. 

Continuing on this absolutely wonderful adventure,

Molen Shimai

Sunday, November 10, 2013

OH MY GOODNESS IT SNOWED! LIKE LITEREAL SNOW FELL OUT OF THE SKY AND MADE MY BODY COLD! IT WAS BEAUTIFUL AND WONDERFUL! Happened on Saturday.  I was literally frolicking. It was beautiful. I loved it!

Japanese is difficult, but something easy is rarely worth doing.

I have two teachers: Gregory Kyodai and Hatch Kyodai. We should probably get a picture with them. There are a few more that weave in and out. It's so weird because they are all recently returned, but they know the language so well. Like, really well. It hit me in class the other day that when they pause to answer a question, they are not taking time to translate into Nihongo, but are trying to find a way to say ti simpler. Yup. But that gives me hope that one day I will be able to speak with their speed and pronunciation.

Being on a mission is so much different than I thought it would be. Like, imagine being on a treadmill kicked up really high... and then being asked to hold a baby. An Asian baby. It is complicated, but it is really cool when you think about it.

Let me know if there is anything I can pray for! Prayer is amazing. Like really amazing. Like really super amazing.

And if you would like to pray for me, that would be cool. I am having difficulty pronouncing the words correctly (all the letters sound the same!) so if you wanted to do that, that would be awesome.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Companion! Sister Dansie

Good Thing Mari loves books!

MTC District
Sister Molen has Arrived!!!

KONNICHIWA!!!! The MTC is absolutely amazing and wonderful!
I have very little time todfay (Myldsmail was down this morning. My doryo and I threw a hissy fit of massive proportions)
DASNIE SHIMAI WA DORYO DESU! (Dansie Shimai is my doryo!) IT IS TOTALLY AMAZING! We are a lot alike. I mean, scary alike. I will have to put down a list of everything later. But needless to say, she is awesome! She is a far better companion than me, so I am trying to be better at listening. 

My district is ABSOLUTLEY PHENOMENAL. Dansie Shimai and I are the only shimaitachi in our district, but that's okay. The chorotachi are so much fun and very focused! Someone did make a Studio C reference, so we got a little distracted on that end. About 1/2 of our district took professional Japanese courses before coming, so I am a little behind. Yet, my meetings with Meyers Shimai REALLY helped!! I would be so behind if I didn't look at those.
The first day when I stepped into my classroom it was just me and a choro with the teacher,. While waiting for everyone, our sensei spoke to all. All Nihongo. All the time. It was very overhwhelming, but he gestures a lot, so that helps. I was really freaking out about the language until on the second day when our guest teacher and sensei were doing a practice discussion and we were all basically close to tears, the guest sensei stopped and looked at all of us. He then said the first full English phrase. "Japanese does not convert. You don't even convert. The Spirit converts. So Japanese does not matter as much as the Spirit. Japanese is just a tool." That really hit me. I remember saying many times before I left, "How can I teach the people if I don't know the language?"

Dansie Shimai and I had our first meeting with an investigator yesterday. His name is "Mansan" and he is really a returned missionary portraying someone he taught on his mission. I was so nervous that I would mess it up. We prayed A LOT before hand! Dansie Shimai was very understanding when I was freaking out. During the lesson, I...okay, I really had no idea what he said,. but the meaning came through so clear. I tried to see Mansan as the Savior would. We wrote up a whole lesson plan and basically threw everything away half way through when he started asking questions. Mansan didn't like himself, felt guilty about a lot (which I think derives from his parents fighting), was "Chinese" and knew nothing about Christ. I looked at him near n the end and I realized that there are millions about people out there that don't know God loves them and that they can feel peace. Not self-reassurance, but an actual peace from an outside being who cares. After he said the most beautiful prayer (by then  I was a mess) I told him God loved him. I don't know if it meant a lot to anyone else, but it meant a whole lot to me. I gave him my Morumonsho in Nihongo and left (which is a problem because NOW I don't have one to study off of) I've been thinking about that; I knew I was giving him something I needed badly, but I had absolutely no problem with doing it. I think I felt the love of Christ for him. We are meeting with him again tonight (ahhh) and I am quite nervous. BUT you can bring your notes in, which is good.

I remember once hearing that Rosetta Stone wanted to buy the MTC's way of teaching. Well, I will tell it to you. And you can share it. It was not what I expected at all. It is something modern psychology cannot exalpin and cynics cannot question: unrefined people come in here, got to classes by themselevs, do things, on their own, and then become master teachers.
And classes?
You walk in. And they tell you to pray. They tell you to pray until you have nothing left. They stick you in a room for six hours a day with a teacher speaking nothing but your language and then, at the end, you kneel on the floor and beg for the gift of tongues. Ans then you go around and try to speak it. That's it. No smoke and mirrors. Just priesthood power and shinko (faith). A lot of shinko.
 I am surprised at how much I have retained. Of course it's not as much as I would like, and I am trying not to compare yself, but I do feel blessed. I am learning the Japanese IA need, but not the one I want. (It complicated, but it's really cool when you think about it) Shinko, people. Shinko.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Expect a Miracle?

I fretted over the title of this blog, biting figurative fingernails (if I had any left!), and tearing out my hair (I have plenty of that, don't you worry. It'll be a 'fro in Japan) And, in the end, I recalled a sticker that has to be from the 70's I saw in the Family History Center of my church almost a year ago.

I was sleepy eyed and grumpy, helping to clean the church building one morning. Amidst missing breakfast and picking up moldy cheerios, I was not sure if I was in the best mood possible. I was wallowing, moping about some things that morning. Naturally, that turned into whining about bigger things. And, like it always occurs with everyone, it turned against myself. Feeling overwhelmed from everything and thinking life was impossible. That I would never get better and become a person I wanted to be.

Then, vacuuming that commercial grade carpet with a vacuum older than me, I looked up in the morning light and saw an old, cracked sticker stuck on a file cabinet. It was old writing (lots of serifs) and looked like it had been there so long it had worn itself into the metal.

Expect a miracle. 

Like most things I end up loving, that comment bugged me. "Expect" a miracle? Isn't that a little snarky? 

Then, that morning began to improve when the words on that sticker bounced around in my head. 

"Expect" is a whole new level of faith: not only do you know God is there and He give His children miracles, but you understand that when He asks you something, He will give you the means to do it. (1st Nephi 3:7: I will go and do the things which the Lord has commanded me, for I know the Lord giveth no commandment unto the children of men save He shall prepare a way for them to accomplish the thing which He hath commanded them") 

"Expect" is an action word. When someone is "expecting" a child, do they continue living their lives like they had a month ago? No! They change things in their lives: they eat different food, try to stop bad habits, change their house, and adjust their lifestyle- all for "expecting" a little baby to arrive.

"Expect" is saturated with surety: If you are doing family history work or being sent halfway around the world, if it was by the word of the Lord, you can expect miracles. It may not the be the ones you anticipated or at the time wanted, but it'll be what you need. It is in that absolute trust that you will receive what the Lord knows you need that things go well.

So I am expecting miracles. Hence, the title of the blog.


At my "Open House" (I tried not to call it one, because I heard a rumor we aren't supposed to anymore?) I practically forced everyone to leave with an origami butterfly!


(I didn't make these. But they are the same style) 

Well, I made each of them. And I made a terribly awful lot. To be honest, I didn't realize how many I had made until I looked over and there was a huge pile. 

They remind me of the Gospel. In origami, you follow a very specific set of rules, and the results are always the same! The same is true for the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If you keep the commandments, you will have His Spirit with you. Always. 

The second, and more poignant reason, for me occurred when I was trying to complete the pattern from memory. I found myself practicing when anxious, sad, or nervous about anything regarding preparing to serve. Do you know what came out of all those feelings and situations? A delicate little butterfly. I suppose I could have crushed the paper and been angry. I could have run away and flung myself on my bed. But I didn't. I made butterflies.Even if some of them didn't look the exact way I wanted, I tried my best. And I chose to make butterflies.

They are a constant reminder to me that, even in a difficult situation, something beautiful can come out of it. It only depends on what you decide to do. To make butterflies or to crush the paper. It's a choice.

I am so excited to serve! It is only six FIVE days left and I feel absolutely unprepared. I don't think I would ever feel truly prepared, but I want to get close. 

Need to do:
Get toothpaste (enough for a year and a half)
Get gloves
Write farewell talk for tomorrow (heh heh, I mean, I totally already wrote that...)
Learn Japanese (lols totes)
Pray. A lot.

And many other adventures. I am so grateful to have the opportunity to go serve. As insignificant as I feel, I believe I have been called to go by Priesthood Authority. So I'll trust that fact that, maybe, I'll be able to do a good job. That's my hope. :)

Monday, October 14, 2013


I am surprised no one has made anything like this yet. And I believe there are quite a few people who I am sure have thrifting tips far better than mine! So, please comment or (better yet) make your own article! If we all can let each other how we “thrift” (my favorite verb. Ever.) then maybe we can make it easier for everyone trying to serve the Lord to look professional, adorable, and still have money when they come home!

So, this is an article for missionaries who need Sunday best outfits, but really, it can be an article for anyone who wants to go shopping without needing to pull out a second mortgage. Or anyone who wants to find things that are not revealing, overpriced, or bad quality. So I think that covers just about everyone.

So, coming from the point of view from a professional personal shopper and a lifelong thrifter, here are some more reasons WHY you should thrift:

-Do you need pieces for a season that is out? (for example, are you going to Panama and have to shop in the dead of winter?) THRIFT STORES! They carry pieces for all seasons year round. They may spotlight sweaters in winter or shorts in summer, but they still carry them!!!

-One of a kind pieces? And, no, I don't mean “one of a kind” in an ugly way. I mean in a cute way. They are there!

-You want floral? Yup, it's there

-Do you like vintage like me? Yup, it's there (More on vintage vs. just plain old later)

-One word: knee-length.

-Need/want button ups? There are a dime a dozen! (Well, more like $2.50 a piece, but compare that to $30 each)

-Need durable? C'mon, who really wants to spend $900 on a wardrobe that you will destroy in a year and a half? If you want inexpensive(notice not the word “cheap”) clothes that'll survive 18 months- two years, then do it.

I think I have made my point. Honestly, once you pull away the gauzy misconception of “grandma clothes”, you find a place where you can buy CUTE, INEXPENSIVE clothes that'll survive you for a year and a half!!! (or for longer!)

Now, would I say thrift everything on your mission? Nope. There are things, for many reasons, you should NOT THRIFT for your mission:

-Bras, socks, tights, and undies. I don't care how many times it has been washed. It's

-Shoes. Don't misunderstand this one. I ADORE thrift shopping for shoes! However, as a missionary, you'll be walking a whole lot, and you do not want shoes that have already been broke into. They won't last as well as other pieces. (it's an entirely DIFFERENT story if the shoes have never been worn. Then go for it, girl!)

-Hats. I love hats, but considering the amount of people that go through a thrift store in one day, don't try them on- just to be safe.

-BASIC PIECES. If possible, I would love to thrift my whole mission wardrobe. But it is very difficult. It is not impossible to find pieces that will work in thrifts stores (I have found quite a few), and I would still look. But I would be prepared to put money out for classic pieces. If you need a classic white top, or a basic black skirt, I would just retail it when you're at a month or a few weeks left.

Now, the most IMPORTANT one: HOW.

Thrift shopping is an adventure! I like to call it a treasure hunt. I am not going to flat-out lie to you and say that every piece in a thrift store is adorable. It's not; just like everything in Kohl's isn't. But you will find success.

Biggest hint I can give you: SEW! Or know someone who can sew (You can pay them in banana bread). Sometimes, a dress can be totally YOU but be a little too short or have an old 80's neckline. Then just go on Pinterest, find out how to fix it, and then do it/ask a family member or friend.(There are some web pages at the end of this article)

“But, Mari,” You may say, “I don't sew! And I am not going to ask someone in the ward who I'm not very close with to do it for me!” That's okay. (If I may, don't be afraid to ask for help with only one or two pieces. I doubt they will object to helping out a missionary. If you are really scared, ask a Relief Society President)

Yet, if you still say nay, thrifting is still the best option!! All the expertise I have needed to know on some pieces is how to sew a button or take off a shoulder pad. I can't sew very well (it's literally a joke) but I found pieces don't require much, if anything!)

So, to paraphrase the famously addicting/false doctrine musical “Saturday's Warrior”: “Don't see them as they are- see them as they could be.” Changing a button to sleek black or white or removing a shoulder pad will change a piece's life. And pulling in the seams or removing length will give it a new one.

IN STORE TIPS: This may be the most vital part. And I am sure there are tons of thrifters out there with better/more advice, so I would recommend you share:

-Be prepared to hit up multiple stores. There are a few in your area- google it. Or ask around. My best recommendation would be to thrift in an affluent area or in a town near one. The donations tend to be higher quality and more modern. And, very often, never worn with the tags attached. (those are my favorite! :D ) Everything will not be in one store, so don't give up after looking through one for a half hour. I would start going after you get your call so give yourself as much time as possible.

YES stores:

Assistance League (these tend to have a vintage section. And are cheap. And are wonderful. And my favorite)

Savers (huge. Tons of options)

Salvation Army (Love it! No, it is not scary or gross stuff. They tend to be picky with what they put out. Pick high quality merchandise. Occasionally something will have a stain, though, so be aware)

Working Wardrobes (Blazers and office wear! Literally, blazers for a dollar. Amazing.)

-St. Paul de Vincent (Huge. The ones I've gone to have nice quality. Warning: call and see if they have dressing rooms, though. A few don't.)

-Uptown Cheapskate (this is one I am running on merit from my sister. She served in Utah on her mission, and fell absolutely in love. The things she got were modern, cute, and well-priced. And I want to steal everything she bought there)

Ma and Pop thrift stores (Pro- Good quality. Con- Can be more pricey, since they tend to be for-profit)

NO stores:

-Goodwill (I hate Goodwill. Wow, that sounds really bad. I know it is weird to say thrift stores are “pricey”, but Goodwill is unnecessarily high. They are basically Salvation Army with higher prices. And corporate is mean to their employees. So, you CAN go if it is a last resort.

-If they don't have fitting rooms.(Trust me, they are important) Most places do, and all of the places I have told you tend to. You will need to try things on. Sizes are tricky. YES, the clothes are washed, and NO you won't get sick.


-Go in with a budget. Seriously. I tend to go about $5 over mine. As long as you have an idea going in, you should be more controlled. (My usual is to do $20 per store.)

1:Look through everything. It is really a treasure hunt. To entertain yourself, you can always find one or two horrible pieces and make it a game with a friend as you look. But skim until you find someone you like.

-I am going to give you a secret I've learned shopping for people at work: you do NOT have a size. You have a size RANGE. And, quite honestly, it can be quite expansive. For example, (I can't believe I am putting this on the Internet) my usual size is a four, but I own skirts sizes 2-12 from thrift stores. The OLDER the piece, the higher size you will be. The NEWER the piece, the smaller size you will be. Remember that.

2:Something you like can be the: fabric, shape, or concept. If, when you eyeball it, it looks too big, take into account the sewing principle above. If you like the concept but hate everything else, then put I back and remember it; you will most likely find something along that style again in your size. If it is your size, though, and you can see a future for it, then...

3:Figure out WHY it is there. Normal reasons are:

-A stain* (if it is not a make-up powder stain that can easily be removed, put it back)

-A tear or rip (If it is along a seam, it can be fixed very easily. If not, put it back)

-Missing a button (replace it with ones you love! Keep it)

-It is a winter piece donated because it is now summer (keep it)

-Just plain old worn (As cute as it may be, it won't last 18 months. Put it back)

-Owner got bored with it(Happens more often that you think. She may have only worn it once, or may have the tag still on it when they decided they didn't want it. It's gold! Keep it.)

4:Rinse and repeat until you have a pile. Then TRY THEM ON. If it is older, imagine it as it could be. Sometimes, it'll just plain fit weird. But other times, imagine it with new buttons or a little shorter. I find it is like shopping in retail stores. A few pieces will work, a few won't.

5:Does it match with stuff you like? Do you really like it and are not just settling because it is a dollar? If you can answer that honestly, then BUY THAT SUCKER!

Yaayyyy!!!! (imagine thunderous applause as you approach the cash register in triumph)

Now WHAT to look for:

-BLAZERS, BLAZERS, BLAZERS! You would be surprised how many quality and cute blazers there are for $7 in the world. (Not really surprising, when you think of it, actually. People always take good care of their blazers/suit jackets, dry clean them, and almost always remove them an hour or two into work.) LOOK FOR THEM. I find a one button suit jacket is the safest, youngest, and most classic. The more buttons you get, the older you look when it is closed. (I would not do more than 3 buttons if you are in teens and twenties)

-Knee length skirts. Seriously, it's like magic. They are everywhere, especially in fall and winter. A big 80's style is mid calf with buttons down the front. All it can take is changing buttons and/or shortening the piece to make it look more foxy (And by foxy, I mean mission appropriate awesomeness) Personally, the length they are is growing one me, though...

-Button ups. There are SO many. You will find a quite a few that work.

-Sweaters. You need basic colors? Or a stand out piece? There are racks of them from October-February. Just make sure they aren't stretched out or fuzzy. Those are no-no's.

-Winter jackets. Same concept as the blazers. A lot of people wear them for one winter and then donate to make room in their closets. I've found going to stores in affluent areas as the secret for this one. Affluent people get new jackets frequently apparently.

-Belts and accessories. $6 for a belt at Forver21 vs. the same/cuter belt for a $1? You can choose. But accessories tend to be in good condition. (A watch you will have to get a new battery. So watch out for that one) Some of the prettier necklaces may be retail priced, so don't be fooled simply because they are in a thrift store.

-Everything else. Don't be afraid to go through everything! To resolve the size issue, I would go around the two sizes you tend to be. (I have a system, where I flick through clothes like crazy and go down whole racks, whip something out, and then stick it right back. Apparently, I've been told it's like an action movie.)

Vintage tips:

-There is a difference between just plain old vs. vintage. If it is old and worn, it will not be worth your money. Vintage pieces are older style/throw back pieces that have been well taken care of and are in good condition. And yes, it may sound a little impossible, but they are there!

-True vintage pieces are not the easiest pieces to find. I would recommend stores like Assistance League and Cheapskate, which tend to have vintage sections. You can definitely find them in other places in stores(like the “collectibles” area), but the best quality are in these. If they are a dollar or two more, then go for it! If the price is leaning towards retail, then don't bother. You could find it lower somewhere else (or even just buy it retail)

-Vintage is YOU. There is no set way to do vintage pieces. They are your own style and personality. If you want inspiration, then go online (For me, I Pinterest them) and look up old pictures. It is usually best to juxtapose a vintage outfit with a modern accessory.

-BE AWARE of SIZES. I find myself going up the older the piece is. So eyeball when you take it out and then TRY IT ON IN STORE.

-Check for moth holes. They may be small, but they can be there. And those tend to lead to trouble.

-Shoulder pads are removable(and SO easy to do). And losing them can make outfits look 10 years younger. So try to fold back a shoulder pad when trying on a piece.

-I find the most vintage pieces come from the 80's. If you like that, then go for it! (I don't tend to) If you are like me, the good news is that the 80's provide more than velvet and leggings. During this time period, vintage became very popular. So quite a few throwback 50's styles skirts apparently were made. Don't be surprised if you see a few in great condition. ALL IN ALL, what I've found (maybe someone else has seen otherwise), the easiest vintage looks to do are 40's and 50's. (Basic BASIC descriptions: 40's- pencil skirts and button ups/flowy professional tops. 50's- A line dresses and skirts with collared tops. Just Pinterest it)

Potpourri Tips:

-Wet make-up marks (lipstick, foundation) are difficult to remove. Dry (Powder/eyeshadow) you get get off by rubbing pantyhose on it.

-Don't buy something because it is inexpensive. Buy it because you like it.

-Most thrift clothes are not returnable. Remember that.

-Take about an hour a week to go out and look. Things will compile quickly so you'll know if and what to retail when the time comes to go.

-Layering is magic! Seriously!

-*Stains. Confession time: I have a vintage 50's skirt for my mission with a little bleach stain. Because it is so small and in a place no one will look I decided to get it. That is common. If stains don't weird you out, are small, and in a place no one will see, then I would say get it. Your deciding factor is “Would I feel comfortable representing the Lord in this?”

-Don't get stuff with sweat stains. It may seem obvious, but sometimes there is a cute piece that has some. Even if you get the stain out with lemon juice, it'll still be worn. And you'll be doing enough sweating on your mission.

THERE WE GO. Those are a few basic tips I have found work for me. I am sure there are hundreds of you with much better tips, so please share them! If we all can band together with thrifting for our missions, it'll help us to stop worrying about the material and monetary and focus on the spiritual and satisfying.

Thank you, everyone!

Sewing/updating tricks:

Sewing from scratch:

My favorite vintage inspiration boards:

Happy thrifting!