Sunday, November 27, 2016

Lao Culture Experience

You know, when I sit down to write you all, about 10,000 things pop into my brain (“Should I tell them about this experience?… Or maybe I should write about this?… What does God want me to say?… How can I express what I have been feeling just with words?.... Why are all these boys around me screaming English swear words when they don’t know what they mean?”... etc.)  Contrary to popular belief, email times (at least for me) are one of the most stressful parts of the week.  How in the world can I explain to you all what I feel every day in just one blog entry? I try to give it my best each week, but if you want to hear a little more about subject a,b,c, etc., please shoot me an email, and I will try to accommodate to your needs as the reader. For after all…the only thing I do is type on a computer…the reader is the person who really gets the benefits from reading. So please let me know what you think! 

Jump rope champs

The Work: 
We are going on 9 weeks with no church. The members are starting to get a little discouraged. I think we elders are doing OK… but it is hard to see the members ask again and again and again, “Elder… are we ever going to have a church?”  All we can say is, “I know just as much as you do brother… we have no idea.” It is hard right now for the members, and that just kills me. I want for their happiness so bad. They are teaching me the way to be truly converted to the Gospel, with or without a church building. I just want everything to work out OK so that we can get a place soon. I am confident that the Lord knows exactly when we will get the new building. We don’t know that, so that is frustrating. But it is a great opportunity to learn patience, right? As positive as I am trying to make this sound, it is hard right now. Especially for the members. Please keep them in your prayers. Last Sunday Elder Bouw along with Brother ____ and Brother ____ went to Thailand to partake of the sacrament. There is a church building about an hour away from Vientiane (the capital of Laos). But it involves crossing the border and that involves money, which sometimes the members don’t have. I was reminded how grateful I was for these two faithful Lao brothers. Both of them are returned missionaries from Thailand. They are always willing to do whatever it takes to make the Church grow. They love the Lord, and they show it through their actions. Their faith is remarkable. Most of the time I spend in Laos is me just watching (with awe) the members work miracles through their faith. They receive dreams, visions, and other guidance from the Spirit, and they act on it immediately.  Every ounce of their soul is poured into the Gospel of Jesus Christ because they understand the eternal importance of it. Money doesn’t matter. In fact, you don’t even need running water to receive revelation. All you need to do is ask God. There are no pre-requisite courses or some bare-minimum test score evaluation. Everyone can ask of God. What a beautiful thing. Not to get all mushy on you… 

Let’s just go to the culture for a second, sound good? 

The Culture: 

1. This week we had Lao Culture Week. What I mean by that is the elders did everything like Lao people. There were certain rules Elder Cheney typed up. The rules went as follows:
  • Only eat Lao food 
Lao week food... mmmmmhhhh
  • Only speak Lao 
  • Sleep on the floor with no AC 
Lao week - my bed
  • No AC in the house for the whole week. Only fans 
  • Wash all clothes by hand 
  • Do the dishes the Lao way (involves dunking dirty dishes multiple times into bins)
  • Take off your shoes while in the house 
  • Use “the squatter” for all bowel movements (a squatter is a toilet in the ground… very common in Asia. Luckily we have one just out the back of our house… we cleaned that bad boy up, and it was as good as new).
Bathroom (aka the squatter)

I can’t remember who thought about doing this, but it was our way to celebrate Thanksgiving. By doing the things the Lao way, we became even more grateful for the cushy American way that we were all brought up in. The big killer for me was sleeping on the floor. The no AC was not a big deal… because my body actually runs at a lower temperature that most… so I don’t get hot very often. But every morning my back would just scream in pain. But we all did it (Except Elder Bouw hahahaha). We ended our Lao week with Thanksgiving dinner at the Stevenson’s home. 

Big thanks to Sister Stevenson for a DELICIOUS Thanksgiving feast!

What a treat it was to eat real turkey with cranberry sauce and mashed potatoes…. What a blessing. Best Thanksgiving yet (on the mission)… Granted last year I had KFC when I was with  Elder Stone, but you know, home cooked meals are just unbeatable #missmommascookin 

2. In Laos, if a man wants to marry a woman, a dowry needs to be paid to the father. We rarely hear of this very traditional marriage style in the States, but in Laos it is an expectation. The terms are set by the girl’s father. Most males have to work years and years to save up enough money to pay the dowry. That being the case, most couples start dating/get married around the ages of 27-28 here in Laos, which is why they all freak out when they find out that we 20 year old kids dated girls before we came to Laos as volunteers. Hilarious hahahahaha.

The new crew

The Funnies: 

1. Classic Elder Smith-Driggs moment… sleep talking/walking. I remember my dream very clearly: I sat on my glasses in the middle of an English class, and I was freaking out because I couldn’t see anything. What actually happened in real life was this: It is about 11:30 at night, and everyone has peacefully gone to sleep until Abraham gets up and starts feeling around all the other elders on the floor for his glasses saying, “ແວນຕ່າຂອງຂ້ອຍຢູໄສ,” which means, “Where are my glasses???” I consecutively woke up 3 of the 4 elders and was pushing them around on the floor because I told them they were sitting on my glasses. I got a flashlight and started shining it at all of them trying to find them. Obviously not finding anything, I went back to sleep. Everyone else was just ticked off because I had messed up their beauty sleep on the floor with no AC hahahahahaha. 

2. This week we went to Brother ______ house, and his mom was so nice to feed us…. That is until the dessert. The last thing she brought out was a “green drink” as we would call it in the Smith-Driggs home. My mom knows well that if it’s one thing I hate… it is a vegetable smoothie. Especially the GREEN DRINK. I asked for the ingredients before I partook of the drink, and the mom answered saying, “It is made from ____ leaf, _____ leaf, ____ some dirt, finger roots and______ boiled plant. Make sure to drink it before it turns to gelatin.” I smiled up at her then with horror looked to Mino who was laughing his head off. I can eat crazy fish guts, eyeballs, duck intestines, pig skin, all that kind of stuff… but when you put a smoothie in front of me… I just can’t do it. The texture is just not right. So with determination in my voice, I said, “This is for you Mom… I am going to drink the green drink.” ONE GULP BABY. LET’S GOOOOOO. DOWNED THAT BAD BOY. I had to drink water quickly afterwards, but I did it Mom. Love you #happythanksgiving #smoothiesaredeath 

The green drink

3. I jump roped with some kids in the middle of the street. Except they were about 2 feet tall, and they were playing with yarn… so I had to squat down and jump with them. They loved it. There is a picture of them at the top of the blog. They skip rope right next to our house all the time. They thought it was hilarious that I could jump rope. To be honest, I was pretty excited myself.

9 bananas after eating a full meal... beat Elder Morley's record...fantastic job Elder Cheney!

The Spiritual Thought: 
I apologize for the lengthy email this week… there was just so much to say. But today I want to focus on two scriptures found in Mathew. Mathew 6:8 tells us that our “Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.” I was thinking of this scripture from the perspective of a teacher. As teachers, we know exactly what our students need to do in order to succeed and to learn English. We wait and try to help them along the path of becoming better students, but we also have agency involved here.  Even if we beat the students over the head with a stick saying, “This is the way you need to do it,” the students never understand until they learn for themselves. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know exactly what we need to succeed. Prayer does not help our Father in Heaven in any way. He is a perfect being. He doesn’t need us to talk with him. He is always willing to give us guidance. For all you parents out there, think about this for a second: If you knew every single decision your child needed to make in order to be the best human being they could be, and they kept making mistakes… you would get pretty frustrated. Especially if they keep making mistake after mistake, and THEY DON’T EVEN ASK YOU IF YOU CAN HELP OR HOW TO DO IT… how rude. This whole time you are thinking that your kid is just being stubborn. Christ is the master teacher, and he knows how to help us. His arms are outstretched towards us at all times. Most of the time we are stubborn little naughty kids (bless our hearts). I have no idea what I am doing most of the time. I just kind of go along my life hoping God will help me out. I want to testify that God understands our needs. Prayer is free, you can do it anywhere, and you don’t have to be worried about anyone suing you. God will always help us with our needs. Mathew 7:7-8 tells us that if we seek for God’s help, he will help us. We may not have everything, but if we stay close to God through prayer we will be OK. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Matter of Algebra

FAMBAM: what is crackalakin! Small world, Boppa and Kate are currently in Bangkok... just across the border! I wish I could come say hi to you, but I can't :(  Have a fantastic trip. I love you both! This week was crazy. Elder Morley finished his mission, and our new friend Elder Tanner Blocker came up from Thailand. More on him later.... let's get this party STARTED!

The Work:
Still don’t have a church. BUT IT DOESN’T PHASE US. WE ARE DOING OK! This week I wanted to introduce you to a man named Mino. He is a Lao person but went to Australia to go to college. He learned about Christianity down there and was baptized. Fun fact, he knows Elder David Ball (close relative/great friend/”smash” missionary) who is serving in the Sydney North Mission. Anyway, Brother Mino is a total boss. He loves the Lord, and he loves sharing the gospel with his friends. When he came back to Laos, he found the Church online and was surprised to find us here. We got a phone call in the morning from him asking if we could meet for lunch. So 4 of us went to eat lunch with this random guy. Come to find out that he is a member of our church, baptized in Australia, is the ward mission leader in his ward, and he wants to meet all of the members in Lao and be friends with them. 

It has been so special this week to go around with Mino meeting members of the Church who are his own people. His own language and culture. All of the young members here in Laos have been hanging out with Mino and his fam, and everything is going along great. It has been really special to watch Mino enter this world that he didn’t even know existed and to get to know some of the members. That has definitely been the highlight/miracle of the week. All because a Korean sister missionary invited a random Laotian guy on the streets on Sydney. Missionaries – never forget how important it is to open your mouths and invite people. You don’t know what you have ‘til you don’t have it. #inviteinlaosບໍ່ໄດ້ເດ
Imagine Mino here...
Elder Smith-Driggs sent a picture of Mino, but it didn't come through.  If anyone else has one, please reply with the attachment, and I'll add it to the blog.

The Culture:
1. You can drink beer here starting at age 15.

2. Most people sleep on the floor with a mat/cushion.

3. Most people wear face masks while they ride their motorcycles.

4. Our English students bought us our own soccer jerseys! And we totally played and got destroyed hahahahaha.

They even got our names on the back! Thanks Ms. Peng and Ms. Bo!

5. They do everything to avoid the sun here. Both males and females will bring an umbrella with them to keep them from getting tan. (They want to be as pale as possible.. here that is attractive - lol). They wear gloves, jackets, and long socks so that none of their skin will get tan. All of this in 95 degree weather. Hilarious and really cute. I love the Lao people. I think the elders are going to start wearing the face masks… there is a lot of dust here.

6. Elder Blocker is adjusting to the work just fine. He is a great missionary. It is always strange doing the work here in Laos. But it looks like he is adjusting fine. He is doing really well with the language - just going to town on it. Good for him :)  You can learn any language if you have help from the Holy Ghost.

The Funnies:
1. E. Saunders just learned how to do a handstand for the first time. And the first time he tried, he fell off the wall and nailed his shins on the cement floor. Ouch….

2. E. Ingleton has the worst diarrhea he has “ever had in his life.” He has been inside the bathroom more than outside today. Ouch….

Classic "elder" picture hahaha. I just had to throw this in here.

3. E. Bouwmeester bought for fabric for a bright red suit. Just so that he could have a red suit. Because no one else has a red suit. ແລ້ວແຕ່ Classic Elder Bouw.

4. E. Cheney fell asleep on the floor for 3 hours the other day. He was really tired so he just laid down on the ground on his back. Next thing you know, he wakes up three hours later. Good thing that he wasn’t teaching that week.

Classic Elder Cheney hehehehee. Got this bad boy while he was sleeping...

5. E. Morley went home…. Not a funny. Actually quite sad. He is a smash missionary. Love him to death. Soon he will be meeting my family in Utah. Awesome! Tell him I say hi Mom!

Elder Morley!

Spiritual Thought:
Learning about the gospel is like learning kindergarten all over again… except with a spiritual brain. The body/mind may have a master’s degree because you have trained it since you were a little kid, but spiritually, maybe you are in the 2nd grade, or even preschool. You have to allow your spiritual part to grow/learn at a pace that you can handle. Just because you don’t understand Algebra in 2nd grade doesn’t mean that you quit learning it. It means that you need to start step by step. We all understand that Algebra is a necessary life skill… but some of us don’t know how to get there. Sometimes we can see the benefits that other people have from being “spiritual” or participating in religion. Heaven help those poor Mormons with all of their rules, am I right?? Man those guys have it rough;)  But I think most people who meet the Mormons tend to say that Mormons in general are a very happy people (as a whole). Yes we have our crazies, Mormon culture comes into play here and there, but I think most people who are not members of our church or even religious at all recognize that we have something different. It could be the fact that we send 19 year old punk kids to teach about the restored gospel, or that we have our own pathetic swear words, or that we can’t use microwaves (that last one was a joke). 

The point I am trying to make here is that you need to give us a chance people. Spiritually, you may be going to kindergarten! Your very first day at school… you have your cute little Scooby Doo lunch box, your mom just sent you off, and you have no idea what is going on. And worse yet – the people teaching you keep telling you that all of the learning is going to happen not only by studying in books but by studying your soul. To all of you out there who are studying the soul, or studying with your spiritual mind, my heart goes out to you. That is the hardest thing for me – to understand how my spirit is doing. Is it growing, shrinking? Becoming smarter? Weakening? These are questions that can be answered by our Heavenly Father. He is the master teacher. Not the missionaries, not your parents, not your bff at the mall…. It is our Heavenly Father. SO ask him…. because his teaching is personalized, helpful, and free! If you have any questions, feel free to turn to him. He, just like Enterprise, is always willing to pick you up;)

I love you all so much and am praying for you!

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Vote Josh Garff for President

Now that Trump is president, I think we elders will build a wall around our house for protection. All I know about the election is what my English students tell me…. And they can barely read English. So all that they see is what the media puts out… and after the media puts stuff out we get memes and videos clipped together to make each candidate look bad…but as far as I know Donald Trump is our new president-elect. I wasn’t invested in the elections this year because we do not read outside news. But I did figure out that Josh Garff was NOT running for President.  That was news I was sad to hear. We all love and support you, Josh, and I would vote for you again. #Garff4twoterms #bringrecessback #tahitianpride #SkylineOlympics (I hope that you are reading this Garff family and getting a kick out of it just as much as I am hahahahaha).

So today we took a trip a couple hours north, rented a houseboat with the members, and just tutted around for a couple hours while we relaxed at various beaches and ate lunch together on the houseboat. What a relaxing day. Isn't it beautiful Mom!?

Chillin at Talae Lao

It isn't Tahiti Josh... but you have to give credit to this scenery man ;)

The houseboat

Found this bad boy on the beach

We got a newbie up here in Laos! Welcome to the brotherhood Elder Ingleton. Elder Michael Ingleton is from the state of (you guessed it) UTAH (gotta love the Mormon population in that state). He is adjusting great and is picking up Lao really quickly:) Next week Elder Morley will finish up here in Laos and head home, so that will leave a new spot for our friend Elder Tanner Blocker to come up and replace him. We can’t wait to have you up here buddy:)

Lao elders

The Work: 
English classes are going well. We are headed to the end of the term here soon which requires yearly reports, as well as tests. All of this is an opportunity to learn and grow in my assignment here in Laos. This week I was thinking about my call packet which says that, “Your assignment may be modified by your mission president.” I thought that was put in there for some sort of legal reasons to give the mission presidents some cushion, but my assignment was modified, and now I teach English all day. There is no finding (other than referrals), currently no church building, along with other strange things. When I was sent up here President Johnson told me – “Elder Smith-Driggs, you try your best in doing the missionary work that you CAN do. In this case – you do your very best job to be the best English teacher you can be. That is your calling right now.” And so it goes. The members are getting along just fine:)

The Culture:
  1. Getting out of rainy season currently, but we still have had rain here for 5 days straight. Where is the sun? idk
The real way to cut a pineapple

I think I am going to get the pink one...what do you think Eliza?

The Funnies:
1. I was so tired on Tuesday night. It was just a really rough night, feeling down on my life, and I was so tired that I walked in the door at 9 pm and went straight up to my bed, dropped my backpack next to the bed, and collapsed on the bed in my missionary clothes… and yup, you guessed it – I woke up the next morning in my shirt and tie. All the other guys woke up and were like, “Dude - Elder Smith-Driggs we tried to wake you up, but you were out man.” So yup – I totally pulled a classic greenie and slept in my suit and tie. Gotta love being a missionary.

2. Here in Laos there are biker gangs. They consist of 16-20 year old boys on their bikes (motorcycles). They come out some nights and run all the red lights on a certain street here in Laos. They can be heard whooping and hollering and swearing while gunning it through the red light. Quite fun to watch. On one occasion this week, we met with the group as we biked up to the light. There were about 20 of them…. Just talking and goofing off. I spoke to them in Lao, and they all went quiet (classic Asian culture thing – “Wow we can’t believe you can speak our language!”)… I said, “Hey do you guys want to race?... because I bet I could take you down on my bicycle!”… They responded with, “Alright man you are on! Let’s do this!” I told them they would have to wait for the light to be green, and they agreed. While we were waiting for the light to turn green, I turned to them as the clock was ticking down from 10-9-8-7-6…. And said, “Are you ready to lose?!” and as the words came out of my mouth Elder Cheney from behind me comes around the corner out of nowhere and Tokyo drifts (drifts his bicycle) about 15 feet from the curb, making a huge screeching sound. This perfectly timed entrance was greeted with “ooohs” and “aaahs” as this 6’4” white guy peeled out of the light. All 6 of us elders yelled a warrior like battle cry and peeled out of the intersection going faster than Lightning McQueen. We all whooped and hollered together as we biked our little buns through the green light…. And who do you think won? You got that right – THE MORMONS. Big thanks to my bike (nicknamed Black Sabbath) for getting me through.
ເດັກແວນ (biker gang): 0

3. There is a minimart right next to our house, and we drop by every night to get random snacks/groceries. We taught the guy who works there the word “spicy” so whenever we drive by he yells “spicy” back out at us hahahahahaha.

The Spiritual Thought:
This week I have thought a lot about the ability that Laos has had to grow in the past 15 years. We have about 300 members here on record. And most of them are pretty strong in the gospel. Elders (young elders) started coming here about 3 years ago. I was talking with Elder Saunders about this yesterday. We were taking about Foosball. Now all of those who have ever played foosball understand that the ball just goes crazy all the time, and the people controlling the wooden/plastic people pass the ball back and forth until the ball goes into the goal. We compared this game to member missionary work. In most developing countries (meaning that the Church in those countries is just starting to grow) a lot of the time, the missionaries have to hold up the Church. They are the lifeline of the branch because they are the only people who know how to work a branch. Missionaries are everything at the foosball table. They are the controls, the people, and the ball. They work themselves to death to get a couple goals, then they switch out to a different area. Here in Laos, this is not the case. The Lord has prepared his people so much. Right now, the elders are the ball. The controls and the people are all the members. They bring people to church consistently every single week. New person after new person after new person. They tell us how to teach the investigators, what problems they have, when they are free, what their relation is to the Relief Society President, who should help us teach. All the elders have to do is sit back and say, “Sister, what do you feel the Atonement means to you?” – and the member who is helping us teach the investigator (who is most likely a family member), will give the investigator EXACTLY what they need because they have been living with them their whole life. The missionaries don’t know their problems! We just sit back and let the members teach!  Week after week the elders get kicked around like the soccer ball (to our delight)…we aren’t doing anything except to be there as the ball… and the members keep scoring time after time after time. And we rejoice together. We don’t do any finding, and each week more family members come, more friends come…. And so it goes in Laos. The members ARE the missionaries. What a blessing it is to be serving here in Laos. We still do not have a church, but that does not stop the members from inviting their friends to come. Amazing. Not 1 baptism has ever come from the elders. Not 1. The members in Laos play a mean Foosball:) , and the Lord rewards them for it. I am confident that this sort of missionary work can happen anywhere, whether in Guatemala or Portland or the Democratic People’s Republic of Laos. The Lord lives and he will help his people. Members and missionaries working together is the key to building his kingdom. 

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ
Abraham Smith-Driggs  

Monday, November 7, 2016

I feel like a potato

My mind and my body are absolutely exhausted. This last week has been a whirlwind. But ask me if that phases me..... NO! It doesn't. The work goes on. Why do I feel like a potato? Honestly that was the first thing that came to my mind. I think potatoes are quite delicious. They have kept the human race in existance for many, many years. And we get french fries from potatoes. So if I were to pick a vegatable - it would have to be the potato. Shout out to God for making the potato!

The Work: 
We still don't have a church yet. But that is ok. We will get one soon. A lot of people ask us what we do for Sundays if we don't have a church. Well, we go and visit the members. We have a lunch appointment and another lunch appointment, then we have a dinner appointment. All the while just saying hello to members. Other than that, the Lao elders teach English all day. What a joy it is to be a missionary in Laos! I honestly love it with every bone in my body. I feel like I am contributing to a work that has been prepared from the foundation of the world. The saints in Laos will get a church, and when they do - look out :) 

The cherished words of our Primary hymn come to my mind... I am a child of God!

The Bottom Line: 
As I (along with thousands of other missionaries before me) have said before, being a missionary takes every iota of your emotional and physical strength. That is why being a missionary can be such an influential part in changing a life. If you give your 100%, the Lord literally has an easier time to mold your heart into the person that he wants you to become. We learn that we have eternal potential... so why not dig deep and find it. 

Elder Magill's last dinner with the Browns!

The Funnies:
1. This week we held a big Halloween party for all of the members at Sister Stevenson's home! Big thanks to Sister Stevenson for letting us wreck your house with assorted murder scenes.... especially the bathroom that smelled like ketchup for 3 days... hahaha. Bless your soul. You are awesome! It was so much fun. All of the elders put on these pranks. We dressed up in black and would pretend to be dead people, or we would grab people's legs from the bottom of their chairs, etc. It was a lot of fun, and the members really enjoyed it. Gotta love Halloween! 

2. I am currently in Thailand, and so I got to call some of the recent converts I know... but when I try to speak Thai, it just sounds awful. All of them were like, "Elder Smith-Driggs, your Thai isn't very good buddy..." Face palm hahahahaha.

The Culture: 
As I got training from Elder and Sister Wong from the Area Presidency, I was reminded of the different cultures that exist in Asia. The Chinese are so different from the Laotian. The Japanese are a world a part from the Korean's and the Thai people. I can't explain it really, but those of you out there in South America that think that Asian people are pretty much all the same.... nope. They are pretty darn different. Just like Argentina is different from Brazil. Pretty different. Isn't it great that God made us all different? I love God! 

This is for all of the elders that have served in Laos.

The Spiritual Thought: 
My dear family and friends, I do not have a lot to say today. But yesterday I was reminded that good people need to repent too. Elder Wong taught us that bad people need to repent to be good. Good people need to repent to be better. And better people need to repent to be best. But it is impossible to be best. Not even Thomas S. Monson (the prophet) is the "best." Only the Savior can take that head. So why even try? Who cares? If we can't be perfect, if we can't repent from everything we have done because we can't remember the sin or whatever the reason... why even try? Because God told us that if we love him we need to obey him. A big part of that process of obedience is making mistakes, learning from them (S/O to Mom for the Mistake Cake*), and repenting.... then trying again to obey. The Lord does not expect perfection, but he does expect that we love him. And if we love him, we need to obey him. I testify that the love of God is infinite and that he invites us all to repent. Whether you think you need to or not - the Lord needs you to be better. I am trying to do that now. And oh how my soul hungers to be better. I am weak. Very very weak. But with my Savior I can be made strong. 

I love the deaf kids :)

I love you all, and I hope you have a fantastic week, wherever you are in the world. If you are in Idaho, please go pick some potatoes and make some fresh french fries. I could use some of those right now :) God bless you guys.  See you next week.

Love the Lord and Laugh, 
ອັບຣາຮາມ ສະມິດ-ດິກສ

Abraham Smith-Driggs  

*Mom comment: The Mistake Cake is a family tradition.  Here is an article I wrote about it for those who want to use the idea:

My son’s unexpected text read, “Mom, I’m done. Please come get me.”
“What?” I thought.  “How could the meeting be over already?” For weeks, my son had been anticipating attending a mandatory meeting for potential class officers.  I hurried to the high school only to find out from my son that the meeting had occurred the day before.  He was devastated.  He had listed the meeting date on our family calendar the day he heard about it because he was so excited to run.  But sadly, he got the date wrong.
We approached the administration that afternoon asking for an exception, but they answered, “No.”  I remember distinctly feeling deep disappointment for my son because he wanted to run so badly and had planned it for years.  I was also personally sad because our family wouldn’t get to celebrate his victory.  I was sure he would have won, and we love to celebrate.
As I walked to my car in the school parking lot, this inspiration came to my mind: “Celebrate anyway.  Celebrate his mistake and what he learned from it.  Life is about learning.  Celebrate the learning – not just the successes.”   
At dinner, I surprised my son and family with a cookies and cream cake they love.  I called it the “Mistake Cake” and explained we were going to celebrate our mistakes by learning from them.  Happily downing the creation, my son then told the family about what he had done wrong and what he’d learned from it.  We talked about what he could do in the future to avoid making a similar error, enjoyed the cake, and decided that our family’s mistakes now had a yummy chocolate lining. 
Quickly, the other children clamored to know if any of their mistakes warranted a Mistake Cake.  “Not yet, “ I said.  “You have to make a mistake big enough to learn a really good lesson.”  As of that night, our family shifted from trying to avoid mistakes to finding joy in learning from mistakes when they occurred. 
We have celebrated mistakes often since then.  One time we celebrated one of my whopping errors so the kids would know parents err too.  Another time, we celebrated one of our daughter’s mistakes but chose not to divulge what it was to the family because of its private nature.  But we still celebrated what she learned.
The following month, one daughter didn’t make the school volleyball team.  My husband decided we needed a way to celebrate our children’s attempting new things. Trying was different than making a mistake.  If one of our children didn’t get cast in a show, make a team, or win an election, we could still celebrate the learning that accompanies trying.  We enjoyed our first “Try Pie” that night.  It was a delicious, homemade key lime pie.  The kids then began striving for Try Pies as they attempted to develop new talents.
At last, one daughter actually got cast in a part she had worked hard to get.  “Hey, what do I get?” she asked.  “I didn’t make a mistake, and I did more than try.  I made it!”  “I Scream for Joy” ice cream became the final treat in our celebration triad.
In spite of putting on some pounds, we love learning from our mistakes, tries, and successes.  Learning itself has become the treat.