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Friday, January 27, 2012

A Gold Medal In Humility

You know what makes for a good leader? (Newt Gingrich, take note).


I've been thinking about this a lot for about the past week because of this guy:

You see I went to a meeting on Saturday that he spoke at. I've actually heard him speak a number of times and even talked to him in person once or twice. In fact, I've got his autograph on a little piece of paper that says it's a-okay for me to go into an LDS temple.*

Because, he's not just an Olympic gold medalist, he's also a counselor in my stake's presidency (which is like if a bishop of a diocese had a helper). I've never seen him do his gold-medal winning pommel horse routine-- at least not since 1984 (though I hear he still does it on occassion)--but the thing I really like about him is his self-deprecating humor.

For example, he once told a friend of mine that he had to speak at a middle school career day and he had no idea what he was going to tell those kids. In his words (which are very paraphrased, since I wasn't there), "What am I supposed to tell them? Practice the pommel horse so you can ride that train for the rest of your life?"

The other thing I like about him is that, when I wear heels, I tower over him. Which I can't brag about very often because I'm 5'3". On a good day. Which means...

Peter Vidmar is ... short. I'm comfortable saying that because it's not something he's trying to hide. In fact, he jokes about it a lot. And it always makes me laugh. Like at this meeting on Saturday. He showed a soccer picture of one of his sons when he was four years old and then said, "When you're a four year old Vidmar, that soccer ball is huge!"

And then he told the story behind this picture that he has kept on his desk for twenty-two years. As he was driving his son to get his very first AYSO soccer picture taken, President Vidmar (that's what we call him in our stake) looked over and saw his son had wiped his chocolatey fingers on his white uniform. So he said to him, "What are you doing? Your mom got that uniform all clean and ready for you and now you've smeared chocolate all over it right before your picture!" And some more stuff like that.

And you know what his son did?

The exact same thing that my kids have done--and maybe your kids too--when I've gotten mad at them for some little thing that doesn't really matter in the big scheme of things.

He cried.

So President Vidmar apologized, his little boy got his picture taken and when they got it back the little smudge of chocolate was barely visible. And the story could end there and the incident forgotten. But it doesn't and it isn't.

I've heard that Peter Vidmar keeps his gold medals hanging on a wall where other people can see them because he's often asked about them. But he keeps this picture of his now grown son in the chocolate-smudged uniform on his desk to remind him every day about what's really important in life.

After told the congregation that story and shared a few other insightful things,  he showed us this video: Parenting: Touching the Hearts of Our Youth. I don't care who you are, what religion you practice or don't, or if you're a parent or not, this video is for you. But I'm warning you. I'm not a cryer and I got a little choked up.

So did a lot of people, including President Vidmar and the other members of the stake presidency-- who are pretty successful men in their own right. And, I've gotta tell you, I love seeing grown men who aren't afraid to cry in public. Not crocodile tears, but the genuine kind. Especially the men who are very successful professionally, because humility doesn't always get you very far in the world. But when it comes to success in things that really count...

That takes some humility.

* This is called a temple recommend and it's not really up to President V. whether I can go or not. He just very nicely asks me questions about whether I'm following the standards we believe God has given us to live by. It's up to me to decide if I can answer those questions honestly or not.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Conversations at Breakfast: Maid in China

So it's a good thing I had this post already planned out because I took a toddler to breakfast this morning for the first time in four years. And then I remembered how there's a lot less conversing and a lot more wiping of little fingers and mouths during breakfast with a toddler (FYI, Cinnamon Sugar Bagel Poppers, not a good choice for a two year old). Also, there is a lot more crying and yelling of things like, "mine!" The Yentas (oh, they were there) were not amused.

Now, onto a conversation from a few months ago. The one right after Thanksgiving where Paula said, "so I met my new Chinese sister-in-law while we were at my mom's."

But let's backtrack even further for some background info. You see, Paula has this brother who is like a luxury car without a muffler. He's a nice guy who spews out a lot of crap. In other words, he lacks a filter. (At least according to Paula. I've never actually met the guy). For example, one time he was being wheeled into surgery and he got into a fight with his doctor. And if there's one guy you don't want to offend, it's the one holding the knife who's about to cut you open.

Anyway, Bob* decided after being divorced for a while that he needed a new wife. And since he likes Asian women, he decided to go right to the source. More specifically, China. Because, if there's one thing China's got, it's Asian women. Lots of them. Like a quarter billion or something.

But when I say he went right to the source, I don't actually mean he went to China. More like, he went to the Internet where he met her via e-mail. Which is, in itself, pretty interesting considering the fact he didn't speak Chinese and his new wife, Candy (not her real name, just the American one she chose for herself), didn't speak English.  I mean write. Write Chinese. Or speak it.

But what is the inability to communicate in the face of true love? Not much, if you are Bob and Candy. for after a whirlwind romance via email and a meet and greet in China, they decided to marry. Unfortunately, the one thing America won't import from China, is their women. So the newlyweds had to part until Candy and her son, Peter (not his real name either), could get visas.

Fast forward many months later to Candy's first American Thanksgiving where she meets her new husband's family. And they meet her.

Here are some cultural differences Paula noticed right off the bat. Now, maybe these aren't things that all people from rural China do, but since Candy is our only exposure to that part of the world, we're going to assume they do. Kind of like people in other countries assume all Americans wear cowboy boots and say things like, "nucular" (can't imagine where they got that idea).


Cultural Difference #1: the Chinese think their phones are pets. So they put ears on them. This is something I can actually get on board with. Phones aren't any cheaper than pets, but I bet they don't get scared by fireworks. And, if they get eaten by wolves, who cares? You can just buy a new one.

Cultural Difference #2: Chinese mothers think it's okay for their ten year old boys to wear girly kitty socks and hoodies with ears. Which makes me think there must be a shortage of actual pets in China if they are trying to make everything look like an animal.

Cultural Difference #3 became obvious while Paula rubbed her Dad's shoulders. Her brother, seeing this, wanted in so he said, "Wife!" then pointed to his sister and then to his own shoulders. And Candy's response? She giggled and pranced over to give him a back rub.

And then when Bob saw his sister drinking some juice he said, "Wife! Juice!" Candy's response? ...I think you already know.

But in my favorite example of CD #3, Paula and her mom were having a conversation with Candy. (Actually more with Candy's phone since it was magic and she could say something in Chinese into it and the phone would say it back to her in English and vice versa those Asians have all the best technology). Candy said to Paula, "so, you nurse? Husband want me to be nurse."

And Paula, in recounting this story to us, paid me the highest compliment by saying, "and then my mom said something that Brittany would say."

What was it that Paula's mom said? Well, she straightened up, got fiery look in her eye and said, "In America, women do what they want!"

And it's true. I would totally say that.

But what Candy said--with a smile-- was, "I think I do what husband want."

And what Bob yelled from the other room as he overheard this conversation was, "Stop Americanizing her! I can't get this here!"

We had a good breakfast laugh over that story, though Paula does pray her brother doesn't call Candy Wife! in public. People might take that the wrong way. But she's pretty sure he does because of that whole no-filter thing he's got going on. We also kind of wonder if Candy isn't sitting in her comfortable American home right now, playing with her pet/cell phone while her son's at school and her husband's at work, thinking she's got a pretty good gig going on. She does what makes her husband happy for a few hours a day when he's home from work and then has the rest of her life to do what makes her happy. And everybody is happy. It's sort of a win-win.

I'll tell you one thing though, I'm won't be answering to the call of Wife! anytime soon.

(And also, today Monica expressed her feelings about GATE being dumb and said I should put that on the blog because she wanted to hear if people agreed. Your thoughts? Let me clarify, she meant the program, not the kids in it. Obviously, they are not dumb).

* Bob is not his real American name, but I can't remember what it is. I don't think he has a Chinese name.