Thursday, December 15, 2011

Returned with Honor

And now, behold, I say unto you, that the thing which will be of the most worth unto you will be to declare repentance unto this people, that you may bring souls unto me, that you may rest with them in the kingdom of my Father. Amen. (D&C 15:6)

Between the ordinary and the mundane of life, one finds the the small, simple notes that compose a masterpiece of personal joys.

Six years ago, I met a 14-year-old boy in Canela Brazil, who I have since lovingly nick-named, my little Joseph Smith. After teaching, a simple lesson in less-than-perfect-Portuguese, this boy looked at me with his big brown eyes and said: "I want to know everything about Joseph Smith." I knew then that he was a special son of God.

Soon thereafter, Lucas was baptized August 2, 2005, alone with no family support, but a vibrant testimony. I was transferred out of the area only a few weeks later.

Since that time Lucas and I have communicated via letters (while I was still serving) as well as email (after I came home). I was ecstatic when Lucas informed me two years ago, that he would be serving a full-time mission in the Brazil, Sao Paulo North mission.

Words cannot express the joy I have felt as I have wrote and received letter after letter. Such a simple act of love has brought more happiness than I can describe. I have cried and laughed as I have read each letter of this stalwart missionary. Mostly,  I've loved see the joy and light in his face as he sent me pictures like this:

Yet, today my tears of joy were different. For this very day my favorite little Joseph Smith honorably returned home to his family and friends in Canela, Brazil. He has completed a mission.

Welcome home Elder Lucas Schenatto, I can't wait to talk to you!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Playing for Father Joe

"Let's Go Rose Park!"

"Come on, show 'em West Side"

Eyes focused.
Knees Bent.
Glove ready.

The crack of the bat from the opposing team. The ball soared south-west, straight toward me at alarming speed; I steadied my hand, lowered it slightly and.... GA-WHOOSH! The ball was a imprisoned in my glove.

At that exact moment, I thought of one of my greatest heroes, a man who 30 years earlier had made similar catches: my dad, who I have lovingly nicknamed: Father Joe.

Truth be told, my giddy-nature and love-for-the-game has no doubt been influenced by a father who still watches the World Series religiously. Yet, as I have played for the past ten weeks, I am surprised by the increase of love I have felt towards my father. It has become my favorite game, because it is HIS favorite game.

Each time I have walked into the batters' box, my memory flashed back to four small kids, waiting anxiously on a front lawn in rural Utah, to hear the roaring sound of a white Chevy Sierra approaching our drive.

"Pitch for us Dad, please!" my brothers, sister and I would yell in unison.

And he'd pause--nonetheless thinking of his legitimate reason to walk in the house after a long day at work and then chores on the farm--pushing all thoughts away, he played.

Sometimes he'd stay for an hour pitching and watching us as we raced around homemade bases of irrigation boots, old bottles, or ball caps. And other times, he'd only stay for 15 minutes, so each one of us could hit at least once, before church responsibilities or farm chores called him away. Nonetheless, my brothers and sisters were delighted by every second he played.

Play I did these past ten weeks, every Wednesday night, I'd pause from my adult responsibilities just like my father and enjoyed the spirit of fun.

As I stepped on the field, be it at base or shortstop, I paused again to glance at my dad's favorite glove, marked with permanent black marker: WATSON. I'd smile, prepare my stance, and think: "Dad, this one's for you. I'm going to make you proud."

After some great catches, I couldn't wait until the game was over, so I could text Father Joe and say, caught one tonight: Watson Style!

These past few weeks have reminded me that our family relations are some of the best gifts we have been given. For as my hero has taught me, "In family relationships love is really spelled t-i-m-e, time." (Utchdorf, 2010)

For 15 short minutes, have made all the difference for me 15 years later.

So let's play ball!
I'm playing for Father Joe.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Sacrifice and Compensation

I don't really think Adam looked at God after his first sacrifice and said, "So, uh, can I eat that lamb tenderloin, because it looks ooooohhhh soooo good."

So keep that in mind as you think about the content of this post, its not really about what one gets as a result of sacrifice, but the joy of realizing what comes because of sacrifice.

On Tuesday, August 28, 2005 I was sitting in a small, dusty, garage-type room packed with five computers in Porto Alegre, Brazil. I was planning to attend the Porto Alegre Temple later that afternoon with my friend, Sister Alaina Jordan, but had stopped quickly at an internet cafe to read my weekly family email. As I clicked open the email from my dad, I read these life changing words:
Tamra, Rugrat got out of his pasture on Saturday and was hit by a van. Luckily the people driving were not severely injured, but Rugrat had to be put down. I heard a neigh that night, and I figured it was him thanking me for all the hay I had given him all these years. I'm sure you'll miss him.
Niagara Falls gushed from my tear duct. My horse, my only horse, was dead. I had been the proud owner of horses for more than 12 years. My mind flashed back to the day I had said goodbye to Rugrat. I took him for a long ride around town, galloped him on my favorite trail, and then fed him some carrots while I stroked his neck. As mom and I drove away, he ran the fence line and whinnied as if to say, "I'll miss you."

It's been almost seven years since that gloomy news day in Brazil. Yet as I glance back with my 20/20 vision of perfect understanding, I realize how much the Lord has compensated me in "horses" because I left mine to do His work.

I spent more than two years riding a beautiful mare named Pacer in Hyrum, Utah. Debbie, Pacer's real owner always claimed her horse was more mine than hers. We formed a fabulous relationship, and although Pacer has been sold, I still visit Debbie often.

When I graduated from Utah State, I feared I would never ride again. Yet, I was delighted when I was introduced to four fabulous horses: Lucy, Lizzie, Paint and Angelina, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. I spent hours on their backs, relaxing my brain from the stringent demands of academic philosophy, research and writing. For the year and a half I spent in that wondrous state, those four ponies became a lifeline.

Now, as an independent woman, living in downtown metropolis, I often wonder how a cowgirl ended up swapping lives with a city girl. As I spent a holiday weekend in my hometown I found myself longing to take a pony on my favorite trails. So I called up a mom of an old pony-club pal and within 30 minutes, Tikki and I were enjoying ourselves on the dusty trail.

Since my last ride, I have realized, God truly recognizes and rewards us for our small sacrifices. I never expected to meet and ride so many wonderful horses during the past seven years, but I have, and its made my life more pleasant and joyful.

So, maybe Adam did eat a nice lamb tenderloin after he sacrificed his best lamb; and although the superb taste of the meat left him drooling, the greater sweetness probably dawned on him as it did me: God is the source of all blessings, even those that follow heart-wrenching sacrifices.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Bug Signs...Coincidence or Tender Mercy?

I was never one to believe is crazy signs. Yet I had a dear friend teach me last year that nature can teach us many things if we're willing to pay attention.

My first introduction to this concept was the "Watson Penny" theory. My mother is known for her delight in finding random pennies. To her, its a simple symbol that someone else is looking out for her. I've followed my mom's example in this simple act of faith. I've found pennies before my thesis defense, my Utah job interview, and also on many horrible-no-good-days. These small tokens are tender mercies from above.

Still, another pattern of nature has me baffled: Bugs.

The first bug I noticed starting investing my Oklahoma apartment: Jumping Crickets. The showed up in my room and the bathroom. My roommate and I found it quite ironic, due to the fact we'd never seen these bugs before. After some silly conversations, we determined these bugs were trying to tell me to "jump into my future" with spunk and happiness. After that, we never saw another cricket. The message had been delivered.

The second bug that became my friend was the lady bug. About three weeks before I was suppose to move back to Utah, I found multiple lady bugs on my shoulder, or knee. They paused long enough for me to notice them, and then fluttered away. As I pondered my lady bug encounters, I thought of that child nursery rhyme: Lady Bug, Lady Bug, Fly Away Home. That was all I needed. A simple answer from heaven, that truly answered my countless prayers inquiring whether I was making the right choice to graduate and move home a semester early. After I came to this realization, I didn't see another lady bug until the day I left for home. It was a sweet reminder of heaven's approval of my choice.

Recently, obviously with the long winter, I haven't seen lots of bugs; until a few weeks ago. My new bug friend is SPIDERS. (I'm sure Ronald Weasley would not approve). I find them on my patio, in my sandwich during a picnic date, and I even found one on my arm, when I was sitting on the grass after a softball game! So naturally, do to my past experiences with the lady bug and the jumping cricket, I thought I would amuse myself this evening by googling: "symbolic meaning of spiders." I was baffled by some of information I read. Here's some of my favorites:

The Spider serves as a reminder that our choices construct our lives. When the spider appears to us, its a message to be mindful of the choices we are making -- and ask ourselves: How are my choices affecting my life? How can my choices improve my life? How are my choices affecting others in my life?

The appearance of a spider says the decision can be any direction, but just remember whatever you end up with is what you yourself have weaved.
As I've been presented with many choices these past few weeks, its no wonder the spider has been stalking me. I don't really believe in destiny, nor fate -- but I do believe that God uses small and simple things, like nature, to teach us.

Yet, I do agree with Ronald Weasley who proclaimed in the second movie: "Follow the spiders? Follow the spiders?! Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies?"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bandwagon Traffic Jam

And now for the traffic report....

We're seeing some serious backup happening between the Watson Interchange of idea central and time required. Expect some delay due to agricultural advocacy and local business development, coupled with family and church responsibilities, as well as academic goals and playful hobbies. Communication channels are expected to be sparse, random and slightly jumbled, until problems are resolved.

Keep alert listeners, its going to be a fabulous summer.

Friday, June 10, 2011

A Learner in Learning Learnersville

Today I became an academic on the outside.

A couple of months ago, my thesis adviser suggested I submit my 100+ thesis document into a conference paper, a.k.a chop it down to 30 pages. With the switch between jobs and states, I admit, a part of me groaned at the thought of having one more thing to do. Nonetheless, I made a half-hearted attempt to produce a paper in a matter of an afternoon. I sent it off, and promptly forgot I had ever done anything with it.

A few months later I was surprised when I read the following message in my gmail inbox: Please find the attached acceptance notification of your paper submission for the 2011 ACE International Conference.

Those words made my jaw drop like Sebastian in the Little Mermaid. In fact I began to question the integrity of academics--I did not believe my paper was up to par, given my less-than-enthusiastic attempt to submit something worthy of a conference.

Yet, today, as I presented my work, my attitude changed. I realized good research is still good research regardless of its poorly written transitions, or a few typos disguise. The data I collected bridged a more than 20-year-old gap in agricultural communications student data. Such useful knowledge was in high demand, and screaming for the front stage spotlight. I received compliments from many different faculty and students on my ability to recognize the research gap and then rigorously attempt to fill it with something.

Although, I must confess, the most fascinating thoughts of the day have been devoted to all those who have graduated with some type of upper-level college degree, and never attempted to distribute the knowledge they spent anywhere from six months to three years researching. Consider all the graduate studies that have been "sentenced for life" in the a thesis section of a university's library, where their only true use is to collect dust in the land of the forgotten. What a sad waste of talent and hard work.

I loved sharing my research today, hearing the feedback, and networking with fellow academics. I have learned much as I listened to the other presenters talk about their discoveries. I gained a personal testimony similar to John Milton who believed progression towards Truth was dependent on sharing thoughts with another in the open marketplace of ideas. In essence, progression of a public's educational knowledge is only derived from healthy discussion and discourse. Truthfully and whole-heartily, I was happy to be on the market floor today.

So to sum up my day in Dr. Seuss Language: I've been a happy learner in learning learnersville.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Personal Horcruxes

No, I don't plan on becoming an evil wizard anytime soon, nor do I plan on trying to figure out how to be immortal now (because it will just happen later, its just a matter of time :)

Yet, in a few ways I have been rediscovering myself with the appearance of different objects. Consider my list:
Chocolate: my African American cabbage patch doll I bought when I was in 2nd grade (yes, I did name her chocolate as a 7-year-old kid). It was the first toy I ever bought with my own hard-earned money. She taught me the value of a dollar and I have cherished her for more than 20 years.

My FFA Jacket: The corduroy blue jacket, accented with corn gold never fails to bring a smile to my face. When I see others in that jacket, I am reminded of my personal responsibility to lead, inspire and teach others about the future of agriculture, be it the urban garden, or rural ranch. When I see my FFA jacket, something swells within that says, "You Can"

Letters from Brazil: Although its been nearly five years since I returned home from serving in the Porto Alegre North Mission, I still have a deep love for all the people who I served. This week I received an email from a man I taught and was as giddy as a girl heading to Disneyland. Each time I read about a person's eternal progress, I can't help but feel an even deeper love.

My Okstate Sweatshirt and Blanket: I stand out like a chubby kid in dodge ball when I display my Orange--Utah is all about the Aggie & BYU Blue or the Utah Red. I admit it, I did bleed blue, a strong blue (aggie and cougar), until I came into contact with Cowboy Orange; but now my soul swells the biggest when I say, yup, I'm an OSU Cowboy! GO POKES!
Its funny how life's sweetest memories can be imbedded in small objects, similar to the fictional horcruxes penned by J.K. Rowling. I don't believe its because we actually place our soul in the object, but rather that such objects remind us of life's sweetest memories. And its in that moment, that one truly understands their own soul.

Life is good.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thoughts about The Present

Call me trunky for graduate school.

I miss reading. I miss thinking. I miss writing.

So I opened my own private school: Master Watson’s Academy.
Current Enrollment: 1, moi.

First reading assignment: The Present, by Spencer Johnson.
Book Review: (see below)

Spencer Johnson had already made my author fan club with his insightful book: Who Moved my Cheese?, a creative story about two rats and two humans that paints a realistic picture of different individuals’ reaction to change.

Johnson’s second book used the same technique to teach me about the power of being content in the present, regardless of unmet expectations or superb blessings.

Consider this line, “Pain is the difference between what is, and what you want it to be” (p. 39). The present can be consumed by an array of pains:

What: physical or mental isolation from God, family and friends.
Want: Pure love from God, family and friends despite words or actions.
What: an absence of hope
Want: a reason to hope, evidence or assurance life will be better.

What: a lack of trust in God, life and circumstance
Want: safe and stable environment, the assurance that he/she is protected from the storms of life.
What: the dread of mistakes, flaws and imperfections
Want: success, perfection, recognition

True, while such a list is far from complete, all four of those pains are broadcasted daily on our personal America’s Most Wanted networks. We all feel lonely, without hope, fearful and imperfect at one time or the other. Yet, Johnson claimed the key to overcoming such consuming emotions was to “appreciate what is right at the moment” (p. 38). Such feelings allow one to become more relaxed and find joy in the present. More importantly, focusing on what is right is like installing a security system for some of our most precious joys—love, learning and laughter. Each can be felt every day regardless of circumstance. They’re gifts from above.

Yet, living in the moment is only one piece of the puzzle, Johnson claimed. “We live in the present, learn from the past and plan for the future” (p. 67).

How does one learn from the past? “It is hard to let go of the past if you have not learned from the past; as soon as you learn and let go, you improve the present” (p. 50). Letting go may mean admitting that one was wrong, or it may even mean accepting injustice or the result of prejudice. Hannah, it could be as simple as confessing eating an entire box of corn dogs in one sitting was not ideal. Learn and Let go. “Remember that you did the best you knew how at the time” (p. 56).

Finally, Johnson wrote, planning for the future, reduces one’s fear and uncertainty, because regardless of what happens, he/she is actively taking a step toward his/her defined success. For me, defined successes have included serving as a state FFA officer, graduating from college, completing a mission, obtaining a master degree, and landing my dream job. Yet currently, my fears and uncertainties have doubled because I don’t quite understand what is on the next horizon. Promotions? Property? Prestige? Horse pooh. Such successes seem unworthy of my personal passion. So I’m stuck, at least for now, searching the stacks of my soul’s library for the map towards my next success.

However Johnson’s next lesson may save me some time: “living in the present, learning from the past and planning for the future is not all there is. It is only when you work and live with purpose and respond to what’s important about the present, past and future, that is all has meaning” (p. 75).

Aha! Now there is the key to joy in the present: purpose. An assurance of knowing that one’s personal actions are making a difference, however the difference is defined in his/her soul: preaching God’s word, volunteering to teach a language or skill in a developing country, or growing organic carrots. How small or how indifferent such actions may appear, the result brings a sustainable joy in the moment.

Accept Today. Learn from Yesterday. Plan for Tomorrow. Live Life with Purpose.

Such small bits of wisdom may as Johnson concluded hold the secrets to making individual happier and more successful today.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Current Destination: Arrived or On Route?

Master Degree Recipient.
Marketing Specialist at Dream Job.
Inhabitant of big office on the second floor (window included).
Independent Salary and Apartment.

Sure, the feminist community would throw confetti at my current situation. They may even praise me up and down for my accomplishments. Yet, somehow I remain puzzled on how I even arrived at my current destination.

I believe the journey began at my brother's house in Sao Paulo, Brazil, nearly five years ago. As a recently returned missionary, I was browsing the computer for university programs, praying desperately for some type of program, (any type to be honest) to catch my eye so that I might transfer to Utah State for "one-of-those-ever-attractive-boys-i-was-sure-I-was-going-to-marry." My eyes landed on Agricultural Communications.

A few months later, I browsing again when I discovered a new branding program in our state called Utah's Own. My thoughts: Maybe I'll work for them someday.

Fast forward 5 years: I have a B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Communications and hold the title of Marketing Information Specialist at Utah's Own. Five short years, and my casual thoughts have become reality.

However, the irony of my situation, is my situation. (yes, I know that sounds like a line out of Hamlet).

I refer you back to the reason I was browsing online to switch universities: I was going to marry THAT boy. I wanted to follow the path of my sister, sister-in-laws, mom and grandmas. My professional aspirations for the past 5 years have always included only two titles: Executive Wife and Soccer Mom :). Still, I won't complain about the few titles and experiences that I have acquired in my job search. Consider them internships for my desired position.

Yes folks, in some instances I have arrived professionally ... BUT, be assured, I'm still on route for bigger and better titles. One day I'll be someone's mom.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Wonderful Updates

Letter written Sept. 10, 2002:

So, any hot RM's? My job's so easy! How's college? ...

So, anyhue--the spirit is so strong here--I don't know what it is but as soon as you walk in you feel it...
Everyone here has told me of how they can see a change in me...
I've never been happier in 5 years Tamra--I WANT to get married SO SO bad in the TEMPLE!!!...
Oh and I want 3 kids.
Love, Rachel

New Reply: January 22, 2011:

Yup, lots of hot RMs, none catch-able yet, unfortunately. College is over, I miss it.
I remember you when you came home from Bryce Canyon, the light that reflected from your eyes, your determination to serve the Lord--I sense that same change of heart within you now...I've kept the letter above for years...hoping one day, all those desires of yours would come true.

You thought you were happy 9 years ago, but just wait until February 26, when you'll finally fulfill your desire to be sealed in the temple for time and all eternity...

And the best part?

Three boys will be waiting to see their amazing mother, all dressed in white.
And I'll be blubbering in the corner, super proud of my best friend.
Love, Tamra
"Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same."

Monday, January 10, 2011

The view from my office window...It doesn't get any better :)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Rocking the technology :)

I've gone mobile...Yup that means I can blog from my phone now. I have not decided if this mobile technology is a pro or con yet. But for a girl living in a new town it definitely has its perks, it gives me the ability to talk with friends in stillwater, Logan and Brazil all at the same time. Plus it will also provide some much needed entertainment during an eight-hour employee orientation (what could any hr office talk about for eight hours?)

Still my enthusiasm for my new phone also has some cautions-as much as I'd love to side with the peeps who claim socializing via technology is the same as face-to-face, I have to disagree. I'm delighted I can keep up with my old friends via text, Facebook and Twitter, but I think I will still find myself longing for the sound of their laughs and the charm of their smiles. Honestly I used to believe you could really get to know someone via online communication, but as I met with a dear friend last night, I realized that after months of online chats and text messages, I recognized how silly my claim has been that I really understood him. Tis better to say I understood a small part of him. Sure, I'll always be an advocate for all forms of communication, but as in all things we must have a good mixture to stay balanced.

Still, I plan to rock my technology.