Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Currently Netflixing: Toddlers in Tiaras- It is interesting. Not sure what I think about it yet, but those kids are seriously cute! And Keeping up with the Kardashians. Funny.
Currently Reading: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss (just started)
Currently Planning: on buying some cream colored paint for a headboard I just bought off KSL
Currently Eating: banana bread I made yesterday. yummmm
Currently Wishing: for some bookshelves so I can organize and display all my piles and piles of books!
Currently Rose: Is biting my knee, and her flower headband has fallen over one eye, pirate style. Arrr.
I just barely updated my blog, and it is so much easier to upload photos! Woohoo!
Monday, February 27, 2012
Raimo and I spoke in church yesterday, which was a little quick. We've only been in the ward for two weeks. It is always a good experience though, even if it is nerve-wracking. Raimo did such a good job, and I would post it, but he didn't write out his talk like me. But I, being an English major, chose to type mine up like I would an essay. So here it is:
My husband and I are new to the ward so I guess this is a perfect chance for us to introduce ourselves to all of you. My name is Jessica Laitinen. I grew up in Riverside, California, went to BYU where I studied English and also met my husband, Raimo. I’ll tell you our story really quickly. We actually met ballroom dancing. We were in the same dance class my sophomore year, and I thought he was so cute—he was a little aloof. Our dating happened little by little, but Raimo turned out to be the most determined man. I was actually dating someone else in the class with us, and that guy would walk with me halfway to my next class and we would part ways. Well Raimo started following behind us, and he would pick up where the other guy left off and would walk me the rest of the way to my next class. This says a lot about Raimo—he is very persistent, a little bit funny, and very determined, and these characteristics continue to shine through in our marriage, in his work, and in his testimony. After much dancing and much dating, we were married a year and a half later in the Newport Beach temple. And just this last July our sweet baby girl, Rose Colette, joined our family. She is the joy of our life. Being first-time parents, we are so in love and just in awe of how wonderful it is.
So that is a little bit about our family. We are speaking today about the Atonement. Last Sunday our relief society lesson was about the Savior, and I loved hearing the women share their feelings about Him. We all reverence Him and love Him so very much, and it strengthens my testimony to hear others speak of Him. He is beloved. He is sacred to us. He is our helper, friend, and (perhaps most importantly) the one who redeemed us. I have a testimony of Jesus Christ—I know He lived, I know His teachings are true, I know He died and was resurrected, and I know He was more than just a wonderful man and teacher. He is God’s son, and I know He atoned for my sins so I can have the choice to repent of my mistakes and live with God again one day.
The bible dictionary gives a wonderful overview of the atonement so I will start with that as a reminder of what the atonement actually was and what it means for each of us. I like this because it is so well-written and covers so many important points in just a few words. It says:
“The word describes the setting “at one” of those who have been estranged, and denotes the reconciliation of man to God. Sin is the cause of the estrangement, and therefore the purpose of the atonement is to correct or overcome the consequences of sin. From the time of Adam to the death of Jesus Christ, true believers were instructed to offer animal sacrifices to the Lord. These sacrifices were symbolic of the forth-coming death of Jesus Christ, and were done by faith in him. Jesus Christ, as the Only Begotten Son of God and the only sinless person to live on this earth, was the only one capable of making an atonement for mankind. By his selection and foreordination in the Grand Council before the world was formed, his divine Sonship, his sinless life, the shedding of his blood in the garden of Gethsemane, his death on the cross and subsequent bodily resurrection from the grave, he made a perfect atonement for all mankind. All are covered unconditionally as pertaining to the fall of Adam. Hence, all shall rise from the dead with immortal bodies, because of Jesus’ atonement. “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive”, and all little Children are innocent at birth. The atonement is conditional, however, so far as each person’s individual sins are concerned, and touches every one to the degree that he has faith in Jesus Christ, repents of his sins, and obeys the gospel. The atonement of Jesus Christ redeems all mankind from the fall of Adam and causes all to be answerable for their own manner of life. This means of atonement is provided by the Father, and is offered in the life and person of his Son, Jesus Christ.”
In preparation I studied some talks from the recent General Conference. My talk today is just a collection of their thoughts and my own interpretation of those thoughts.
Elder Carl B. Cook talked about an experience in which President Monson caught him looking down in an elevator—he was overwhelmed by his new calling and feeling the stress, and was showing those feelings in his face. President Monson said, “It is better to look up!” Elder Cook says that if we, like President Monson, exercise our faith and look to God for help, we will not be overwhelmed with the burdens of life. We will not feel incapable of doing what we are called to do or need to do. We will be strengthened, and our lives will be filled with peace and joy. We will come to realize that most of what we worry about is not of eternal significance—and if it is, the Lord will help us.” I found this particular quote to be very encouraging, and a good reminder that Heavenly Father wants to help us and wants us to be happy. I think sometimes I feel guilty asking God for help. But He wants us to! I put myself in His position for a moment—if my son or daughter were struggling in any way or was in need of my help, I would want them to come to me! It can be extremely difficult to admit the need for help, but we can remember He is our Father and has this infinite ability to forgive! And that for me is quite hard to imagine, but he wants to forgive us and wants us to recognize our faults and weaknesses. It is part of the purging process on this earth in which we are stretched and become more perfect and more like Him. “President Monson’s encouragement to look up is a metaphor for remembering Christ. As we remember Him and trust in His power, we receive strength through His Atonement. It is the means whereby we can be relieved of our anxieties, our burdens, and our suffering. It is the means whereby we can be forgiven and healed from the pain of our sins. It is the means whereby we can receive the faith and strength to endure all things.”
I like the fact that he lists so many different ways the atonement can work in our lives. Perhaps the most obvious way is allowing us to repent of sin, but he also lists how it can take away the pain of our sins, our guilt, once we have repented. It can give us strength, relieve our anxieties, burdens, suffering, and give us the faith and strength to endure all things. Whenever I am reminded of all the many facets of the atonement, I think to myself—am I really making good use of this gift?? I think I just forget from day to day the many ways it can bless me and help me to become a more faith-filled, happy person.
I want each of you to think of a trial, or a burden, or a hardship in your life right now, or anything that is weighing you down. Keep it in mind as I share this. A Stake Relief Society president at a conference in South Africa gave each attendee a helium balloon. She explained that their balloon represented whatever was holding them back in their lives. On the count of three, they all released their balloons, or their “burdens.” There was an audible “Ahhhhh.” I want you each to imagine what it would feel like to let go of your balloon, or your trial. That is how the atonement can work for us. I have felt that relief of turning over my burdens to the Lord, both in repenting of my sins and also in turning to Him for strength and metaphorically releasing my balloons when I am experiencing hardships or trials. It is the most wonderful relief!
Elder D Todd Christofferson said, “Rather than interrupting the celebration, the gift of repentance is the cause for true celebration.” When we think about repentance, I think we dread it. But he is saying it is a joyful thing. He also points out that “suffering for sin does not by itself change anything for the better.” That’s an important point. Holding onto the sin or the guilt of sin does not change us for the better, nor does it make us feel any better.
Elder LeGrand R Curtis pointed out an insight in his talk that offers new meaning to Christ’s title “Redeemer”. To redeem is to buy or to buy back property. For example, property is redeemed by paying off its mortgage. I think it is interesting to consider the atonement as an act of paying off my mortgage. Not my house mortgage, but actually paying off ME. I think I sometimes equate the “Christ redeemed me” with “Christ suffered for me” and while each is true, their meanings are totally different. The fact that our Redeemer was willing to buy each one of us back shows us how important we are to him. Not only did he suffer for us, he satisfied the demands of justice. This can teach us that the worth of every soul is great to Him. It can help us to choose to repent, knowing He believe in us. It can also help us, as we repent, to know that He values us that much, and therefore we ought to believe in ourselves and in our ability to become better.
One final thought that came to me is the point of life is not so that we can do everything right. The point is that we already know we are going to get it wrong, but will have the courage to repent and improve ourselves. Elder Cook said “Real repentance, real change may require repeated attempts, but there is something refining and holy in such striving.” I thought that line was just so beautiful and it rang true with me. It is the striving that is so important—this continual repenting and turning of our hearts will prepare us for celestial living.
I am grateful and feel lucky to know about the atonement. It is not a subject other religions focus on—the focus is more on his death on the cross. But this most important event happened earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Christ kneeled down, prepared to undergo this most painful and unbelievably difficult event in order to offer salvation to every person who had and would ever live. It amazes me that he did it knowing that not all people would choose to accept this gift from Him. It was His greatest sacrifice both of body and spirit, and it is what saves you and me from spiritual death.
I love Him.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
For some reason, there have been a lot of Brandons. The first one happened junior year of high school. He was tall and good-looking and Asian (I had a thing for Asians). It was the first time I dated someone that shared a lot of my interests. He loved going dancing! He loved singing, theater, artsy stuff, and was a hopeless romantic. It was really really fun! Perhaps this led me to hope to share some of these commonalities with my future husband. If I could wrap up that relationship with one word, it would be spontaneity. We did things like jumping into the pool with our clothes on. He surprised me with a trail of rose petals leading to a romantic set up on the stage of our school's theater. We went to the beach and snuggled. We doubled with my best friend and her boyfriend a lot, and it was really fun because all four of us were old friends. I knew my parents weren't too keen on the idea of my dating him because he had a little bit of a bad boy with the ladies, which made me not want to tell them anything about it. Thankfully, he was always respectful. For my birthday that year I chose to get tickets with my parents to a jazz concert, and he got to come along. We got to dress up, go out for dinner, and enjoy a night of scat, blues-y music, and dancing. It was totally up our alley and we both loved it. I still have a CD he bought me that day from a musician on the street.
On Christmas Eve that year, we really wanted to see each other for some reason, and since I knew my mom would not want me hanging out with him, I told her I was going to do some last minute shopping. Instead, I went to the movies with Brandon. During the movie, someone starting pelting hard candies at our heads from behind--I have a feeling it was a certain friend of my mom's, and she must have ratted us out to her because I got in big trouble when I got home. I think it was the only time I lied to her about being out with a boy. Brandon and I had some wonderful times at stake dance, and we even went to midwinter together (interesting note--Raimo's date for junior prom in Utah wore the same hot pink dress that I wore in California). I have this memory of the two of us being in the back seat of a suburban and making out on the way home. Why on earth was I doing that when there were two other couples in the front of the car?? I was crazy, that's why. I think the night ended with some hot tubbing, the steam weighing down my up-do and melting all my makeup. Later that school year we both ended up being leads in our high school play Oklahoma!, which would have been ideal for spending time together, but unfortunately the relationship had ended by then. It was not hard for me to move on from Brandon. And I don't think he missed me either. It was just over. How nice to just have a relationship end with no lingering feelings. Maybe this relationship was just infatuation? I later dated his older brother, Ryan too.
Another Brandon happened in college. I learned a lot from this relationship. It was quite unlike anything else I have experienced. I was new to the ballroom scene and we met in one of my first dance classes. He was one of the better dancers, which I liked, and he asked me out. I don't know why he kept asking me out--I did something pretty embarrassing on our first date... I fell asleep!!!! We had gone dancing up at the Murray Arts Center and had a wonderful time, but on the drive home I must have been too comfortable or something. To my credit, it was an extremely exhausting time in my life, with a huge load of classes and tons of dance and ballroom team and also being part of Women's Chorus. But how embarrassing! I guess it did not deter him, because we became dance partners and continued going out. I was always really comfortable with him and really happy too.
We shared a great love of food and both had a very special place in our hearts for ice cream. He took me out for ice cream after most of our dance practices--cheesecake or strawberry for him, chocolate or peanut butter for me. He would make me dinner all the time (he was a very good cook). I don't think I ever made dinner for anyone but I was lucky enough to have home-cooked meals at his apartment fairly frequently, followed by a movie and cuddling on the couch. One night after a movie had finished, we were still sitting/laying there in the dark when I knew that our first kiss was going to happen. I seem to remember it taking him a while, but it finally happened.
But Brandon never told me how he felt about me. I guess you could say we were technically friends, or dance partners, with benefits. We went on like this for a long time, and eventually we were just kind of "together" I guess. I think he had a hard time with sharing how he really felt with me, though his actions were speaking for him. But it was awkward that we never even acknowledged our dating or liking each other or even that we enjoying spending time together. I still went on dates with other guys during this time. In fact, a lot of weekends I had to double up the guys--I was meeting lots of people in my singles ward, lots from ballroom, and still getting together with guys I knew from home. It sounds pretty awful, but I didn't feel guilty about it at the time. I didn't feel like being exclusive with any one of them.
One day with Brandon really glows in my memory. It was a cold, sunny, and beautiful day in December and we spent it snowboarding. But as usually happens with me snowboarding, I was done after just a half-day, so we went back to his dad's house and had hot chocolate and played games by the fire. It was simple and cozy and romantic, and from there he drove me to the airport for Christmas break. I did not want to leave.
He was an easy person, and extremely intelligent too, more than he let on. I also loved how mature and independent he was. He was older than me and had a good job and was always the driver and paid for everything. And yet despite his maturity and intelligence, he never made me feel inferior in any way. However, I met Raimo during this time and Raimo was exciting and so very cute and I loved everything about him--I could not help myself. I had to tell Brandon I was going to become Raimo's partner instead, and eventually our relationship was completely over and I was headed toward the thing I had always avoided: exclusively dating one guy. My future husband.
I felt horrible doing this to Brandon, and I would have wanted to continue our friendship if that were possible, but that would have been impossible since we had moved beyond friendship long before. I got the impression that I was a bright spot for him in his life at the time, which made me feel very guilty. But it was a really important step for me, being honest about my feelings and moving forward. We are not in touch at all, but he is someone I occasionally think about and hope the best for.
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
What you also don't know is that even now, as I am recounting this story, I am still cracking up, throwing my head back and laughing every couple of sentences. Once I lose myself, I'm just a GONNER. Speaking of Netflix, Raimo is sitting in the room with me watching Heroes, and he seems totally unfazed by the fact that I have been cracking up, but I just found out he has been recording me while I sit here laughing. I will have to post it for you if I can get my blog to handle that many cookies or whatever. You know what I'm talking about.
Don't you just love laughing? I haven't lost my marbles like this in a while! Ah!
Would I recommend Gossip Girl to you? NO! It is full of suggestive material, and the teens go around butting into each others' business and doing all kinds of things that no high schooler should ever do (or adult, in my opinion). But like I said, it is my guilty pleasure, and I have to watch it for Chuck. I need to know that he ends up with Blair-I love how he loves her and knows every. single. one. of her favorite things, down to the tiniest details. I love what he did for her for her senior prom. And I also need to know what happens to his empire that he is building at the age of 21. Maybe I have a thing for powerful men? Well, but then there's Lon. So maybe it's more like powerful, good men who are capable of loving one woman with so much intensity. I love love.
I was pretty young when we first met. My mom bribed me to go with her to a reunion in her hometown, Lake Arrowhead. She and I made some bet about how many people would say, "Wow, you look just like your mom."
Okay maybe not that many, but it was a lot. It was also the first time I met my mom's old high school boyfriend. Along with his son, Blake. Talk about keeping it in the family. I talked with him and about four of his guy friends, but it was Blake who got my number. He really stood out and was definitely the leader of the crew. He smiled a half-smile, had curly red hair, and could make me laugh. Actually, he can make anyone laugh, which is part of his charm. I have a lot of memories with Blake, and for some reason I can remember so many details about our dates.
As I mentioned before, Blake somehow got away with taking me on a non-double date when I was 16. I guess he just showed up by himself, said hi to my folks, and out the door we went. It just goes to show he was someone my mom trusted. It was a beautiful, warm evening, and I remember, after some delicious dinner (was it Italian?), walking along a brick path and enjoying the temperate night and the easy conversation. We ended up at the movies--he spent the first half of the movie trying to get a hold of my hand, and the second half actually holding it. It was a simple, wonderful night.
When I think about our dates as a whole, I recall feeling a little uncomfortable and sometimes out of place. I was fairly confident as a teen, but I wasn't completely myself with him. And that may have been in part due to the fact that we were often hanging out with a bunch of his guy friends. They were totally a click, and I wasn't part of it, but I liked him and just kind of went with it. It was definitely something for me to learn from.
We spent the days in the sun on the lake, smelling that delicious mountain air, and passed the nights watching movies or eating out. Eventually things fizzled. But in true Jessica-fashion, the old flame came back for me a few times. We got together a few more times. I went with him to his senior prom and we sang "A Whole New World to each other, even though he had a certain "Rosie" on his mind. And since my family vacationed sometimes on the mountain, we'd get together, naturally. I think part of the problem was that Blake liked the idea of me more than he liked the actual me--I had other guys back in Riverside who were sure trying harder than he was. And I think the other part of the problem was simply that we weren't in love. But I definitely was "in like" with Blake, and my memories of him still bring a smile to my face.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Ballroom competition in our matching sweatsuits.
With the boyfriend.
She does things like this with her fingers.
Month 6 and 7 have been so great and so easy! Rose sleeps like a champ. She is starting to sit more and continues to do lots of push-ups, but no actual crawling. When I check in on her at night, she is often sleeping on her knees, which I find absolutely adorable for some reason. She laughs at us a lot--she is very ticklish on her thighs, shoulders, and belly. Every morning I go get her around 7 and she joins us in bed, and every morning she discovers daddy in the bed and gets the cutest smile on her face. She loves him so much! She gives him kisses and touches his face.
We spend all day playing together, and I shower and watch Netflix during naps. This is the life. Haha it is not perfect, but most of the time it is pretty awesome. Rose is eating pears, apples, bananas, blueberry-apple, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Squash wasn't a favorite and peas were totally rejected. I tasted them and I can see why.
I try to enjoy every day with her. There are times when I wish I could just record every minute. But even the camera doesn't really capture everything the right way.
Oh how we love our little Rose Colette!
Saturday, February 18, 2012
My first love
was probably Marc. He could not have come into my life at a better time. I was feeling pretty down about Josh--in fact, I had to spend a whole choir trip watching him with his new girlfriend. My mom and I stopped in at the jewelry store, which used to be owned by my grandpa, then my uncle, and then Wayne, Marc's dad. I had stayed in the car, but my mom came back for me and took me inside to introduce me. Marc was so cute. He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and his hair was bleached I think. He had the bluest eyes and was so cute! I know, I already said that, but he was cute! He got my phone number, and called me while I was on the choir trip. I was ecstatic! I dated Marc for a while, but it was always kind of from afar. He lived about an hour away, so quick hang-outs weren't really our thing. On weekends he would bring his best friend Oren along as the token third wheel since we were under 18 and didn't go on single dates yet (Blake would break this trend with no resistance from my mom amazingly, but that's another story). I didn't like Oren all that much, but I really loved being with Marc! He is one of those people that is incapable of guile. He was always easy going, had a smile on his face, was kind to everyone. Dating him probably influenced the list of character traits I would look for in my future husband. It was easy to tell Marc would one day be an amazing husband and father. And I sure daydreamed about it.
I didn't even know how popular Marc was until he took me to his senior prom. That was unbelievably fun--he seemed to know everyone, and everyone loved him! And he didn't even seem to recognize that he was popular. He was just genuinely friends with everyone. What?! I actually had to get out of playing the piano for my school's Women's Chorus that night in order to go with Marc. My choir director wasn't super happy with me, but it was so worth it!
One of our favorite activities was swimming. Marc was a summer-lover and I was too (not a "summer-lover" like in Grease; a lover of summer). We spent hours in my pool, and he had the most toned body from hours and hours of water polo. He was a really good swimmer, and did I mention he was super cute?? I just remember warm summer nights with the dark sky above and the glowing pool below. We also spent a lot of late nights on the phone, and my mom would pick up the phone upstairs and inform me it was time to hang up and go to sleep. Ah, the pre-cell phone days. How did we survive? On one of those phone calls Marc first told me of his dream of becoming a pilot, a dream that has now, about eight years later, come true.
Marc left for his mission while I was still in high school. We wrote each other, but the letters were not particularly poetic or long. However, he returned the summer after my Freshman year at BYU and we picked up where we left off. With my going and coming from BYU, our dating was a little scattered. We never really discussed our dating or the future, and maybe if we had, things would have panned out differently. Somewhere along the line, Marc moved to Provo. Whether that was to start a new life or to be closer to me, I wasn't sure, but I assumed the latter and it really freaked me out. I had a whole different life in Utah with an incredibly busy schedule, dating, friends, choir, and ballroom. I had gone on my first few dates with Raimo and was really liking him. I was dating a TON my sophomore year--for some reason, that was my peak in dating. I "broke up" with Marc, and I think it really took him by surprise because we had never actually talked about being officially together. I'm sure I hurt him, and though I really liked him, I knew with having him so close by I could only date him exclusively, especially since I'm pretty sure he was not dating anyone else. He was an RM. And I liked him a lot. But I knew I didn't want to get married yet, and ultimately I didn't feel like he was "the one".
I got it into my head that I shouldn't have broken up with him and made up with Marc the following summer (Raimo and I were broken up), and we spent time together but never really dated again. There were a lot of times when I really missed Marc--he was someone I loved being around and really admired, plus he was just an adorable, fun person. I'm a better person because of him.
P.S. One of the things that I will never forget is that after his mission, Marc made it a goal to keep up his scripture study. Every single night he would read for an hour. I'll tell you why this is especially amazing--I would keep him out super late on our dates, and he would still have the long drive back home, and then he would start reading. By the time I had sent him home, I was already crashing in bed. I have never been good at making the time for scripture study, much less for an hour every single day and at such a late hour. I always wished I could be like that.
Friday, February 17, 2012
My first kiss
unfortunately happened just outside the door to Mr. Pocheco's physical science class in front of a bunch of other students. Fortunately, it happened to be with a hot guy that had the a great smile and who also happened to look good in baseball pants. We were both freshmen and happened to be in Mrs. Jones' literature class. I was completely unaware that Sean Greer even knew who I was. Maybe it was the cheerleader mini skirt that did the trick, but notice me he did, and he completely took me by surprise when one day he asked me for my number. I think I must have given him my "digits" on a scrap of paper before skipping away to my best friend Amanda to divulge my amazing news.
The great thing about Sean was that he was not only tall, dark and handsome, popular, and pitcher on our baseball team; he was also very sweet and a complete gentleman. Since I was technically not allowed to date until I turned 16, he went along with my family on some interesting outings, including a trip to a local Home Show, just so we could be together. The Home Show turned into a pretty funny joke between the two of us. In turn, we went with his family to his brother-in-law's baseball games. (Side note: I remember wearing some teeny tiny white shorts to one of these games and was FREE. ZING. It was totally worth it, I'm sure.) While my family's dating policies must have been totally foreign and strange to him, he never tried to get me to break this rule which I really appreciated.
He did, however, teach me how to kiss. He caught me off guard one day after walking me to class and just bent down without any fuss or warning. One. Two. Three kisses, and that was that. We practiced some more later, like after the midwinter formal on my front porch. With tongue. I proceeded to go inside and tell my mom all about it. What?!
As I was dating Sean, someone else started taking notice of me for the first time. My elementary crush and best friend's older brother, Josh. He was pretty irresistible since he was a junior and had been on my crush list since 1999. I was torn because I wanted to date him too, but Sean didn't get the whole "I date lots of people because I'm an LDS teen and can't technically be in a relationship" deal. I thought I should probably pick Josh because he was Mormon like me. Dating Josh lasted less than a month. Maybe less than one date. He was my first "technical" date on my 16th birthday, he told me he loved me in the rain, wrote me poetry about my "denim-blue eyes", wanted to talk about politics which I did not care about, then stopped calling and went for another girl who was actually his age.
I regretted breaking up with Sean. Around my senior year I got it into my head that I wanted to date him again and went to great lengths to run into him. I even got a membership at LA Fitness because I knew (or thought I knew) he worked out there. Stalker status, right? I remember going to Starbucks with my girlfriend Traci, mulling over how I wanted to go out with him. I actually became less sure of myself with each high school year, and by that point I was no longer a cheerleader, had fewer friends than ever before, ate lunch alone sometimes, and was pretty ready to move on to college. I had Traci act as co-conspirator on the treadmills at LA Fitness, but alas Sean and I never went out again.
So what do you think? Want more???