Sunday, December 23, 2007

Light and Life to All He Brings

I love this nativity clip (click on photo above). I love the tender music--you can feel the sweet spirit and the powerful reverence for the birth of the Savior. I love the diversity of the nativity scenes--the multiple cultures and media through which to adore the Christ child--the wood, the beads, the stone. I love the expressions of love and peace and hope. I love the different camera angles revealing the different personalities, emotions, and deep worship. I love the connection, the draw to baby Jesus. I feel like I can be there with the shepherds and Mary and Joseph. I love the line, "and fit us for heaven," because this, too, is my deep hope.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

NBA and quilts

What do the NBA and quilts have in common, you might ask? Well not a lot. I just turned in my last paper of the semester yesterday, and it happened to be on quilts commemorating war. I can tell you a whole bunch of great stories about quilts and the Civil War--like the one about the family who loaned some quilts to Confederate soldiers in their town. The soldiers returned the quilts but one was loaded with typhus germs, and the parents of the family died within four days. But they kept the quilt to tell the story. Go figure.

Jessica swung us some tickets to the Wizards v. Timberwolves game last night at the Verizon Center, and then Stacie got us visitor passes to see their friend Mark Madsen who plays for Minnesota. So what kind of conversation do I have for an NBA player? All about quilts. Nice. Jess had told him about many of my quilt stories because that's all I've been talking about lately. It was a fun night, even though I felt like a groupie watching the team come out. I loved how Mark introduced all of his teammates with some unique fact about each one. He's all about the team.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Harmony

I love Christmas in Washington, D.C. My roommates and I waited in line at the Kennedy Center in the wee hours of the morning on Saturday for tickets to the traditional Messiah Sing-along on Sunday. It was an incredible event. I have always loved performances of the Messiah--I've seen it performed with a boys' choir at St. Paul's and another performance at the Barbican in London. One old roommate even loaned me a cd of Harlem choirs rocking out to Handel. But there is nothing like participating in the event, surrounded by music instead of music just coming out at you. I had a strong bass on one side and an enterprising soprano on the other. The conductor was delightful; the soloists were wonderful (I loved how the contralto really rejoiced as she sang); and the trumpets certainly sounded. The concert hall was alive that afternoon. As for me, I stumbled around my notes, but when I hit right on, I could feel the reverberations run through my soul. I thought of Grandad singing the Hallelujah chorus along with us and I sang with all my might.

On Friday night, Kendall took me on a Christmas tour. We saw the trees at the Four Seasons Hotel--decorated by big interior designers to be sold for thousands of dollars at an auction for charity. Some of them were a little over the top--a decoupage of flora and fauna, or crowded with peacocks, or wrapped with an electric train all the way up the tree. Our favorite had glass bubbles. Then we stopped at the Elliptical to see the National Christmas Tree and the Pageant of Peace. Deeee-lightful!

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Oh, the Joys of Eating Spaghetti with a Spoon

I am my mother's child. She has always taught me to make do with what I have--and to have a fun time doing it. Last night I had dinner in between work and class. For the past week or two, we've been out of plastic forks, so I've made do with a spoon and a knife. Generally I eat a sandwich or a yogurt or something like that, so I'm fine. Well last night I brought sesame chicken and noodles. Have you ever eaten spaghetti with a spoon? I mean, I did eat linguine with pesto on Saturday night and I admit, I used a spoon to scoop the pasta into my fork, as I always did in Italy. It was delicious. But it's much different when you don't even have a fork. It slides right off and spills all over everywhere. I made it work last night, but I also laughed my head off and thought of my mom. She would have LOVED it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Lights at Antietam

Last night Kendall and I drove up to Sharpsbursg, Maryland, for the annual Memorial Illumination. The battle of Antietam on 17 September 1863 was the bloodiest day in American history--over 23,100 men were killed on one day. There was one candle for every soldier, spread out over the acres of farms and fields. It was quite the sight--the vast scale of the event. I can only imagine.While it was a long drive (an hour and a half) and an even longer wait along the road outside the park, the lights were beautiful. And Kendall even got out of his car to check to see if they were real candles--they were. We saw a couple of groups of reenactors dressed in their Civil War uniforms, gathered around fires. It started to rain as we drove away, and I wondered how that would affect the candles. But I guess that's part of the reality of the actual day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Let There Be Light!

There is something magical about those four words... not only In the Beginning, but In the Interim. I think light is a tender mercy on several different levels. Tonight Kendall and I went to the temple lighting ceremony at the Washington, DC temple, an event for dignitaries from around the world. Of course the count-down to hitting the switch and the different colored lights suddenly illuminating the dark night was breathtaking in and of itself. I love the colors and patterns and deep relief they provide. And of course I love the deep, pure white of the temple. There is something about light in the darkness that is so comforting and peaceful.

And I love the light in people. I loved greeting people from all over--the Ukraine, Barbados, Germany, and, particularly my new friends from Argentina and Uruguay. I loved the light in their eyes when we recognized each other in a huge room of random people, and the way we kissed on the cheek. I loved the way their children ran down to sing with all the other children and the delight these kids from everywhere found in singing "Jingle Bells" and "Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer." I loved the Mormon Choir of DC and the light their music brought into that theater, and of course the light of the Apostles who were there with that mission.

But I think in particular tonight I am grateful for the light of understanding, of coming to a shared belief--of seeing in the same light. I love the phrase that when you learn something new, a lightbulb comes on. It's a wonderful event, especially to recognize that the light comes from outside of you. It is a blessed tender mercy to come to this light.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving the Second: A Report

Thanksgiving adventures delivered as promised. The day opened with a brisk Turkey Trot. Janae led the pack and Jessica and I held our pace at 27:45 along the Potomac River. It was the perfect running day: in the 60s with a slight breeze. Who ever thought I would run on Thanksgiving day in shorts and a tanktop? We loved watching the people dressed in pilgrim hats.On to the feast. The food was divine--the most moist turkey I've ever had, the smoothest mashed potatoes (served in two scoops: one for gravy and one for noodles, which were surprisingly good! Who knew?!?), cornbread stuffing (thanks, GranNomi!), Dubatei's rolls (yes--we had to run to the store for yeast at the last minute. How does that work, you might ask? And how does one turn the Jesse Smith Relief Society bread recipe into rolls? It's all magic--African magic), delightfully tangy cranberry salad, green bean casserole (no, I didn't try it--I'm still anti-bean), and of course pumpkin and pecan pie (the crust was Aunt Nita's recipe, made by Gayla, and the filling was the Moss family recipe, made by me--a good combination). Mouthwatering goodness. In the photo: Carmen (Chilean), Dubate (African), Javiera and Paula (Chilean), Kendall, Jeff (Ferril's son), Pablo (Chilean), Gayla (Kendall's sister), Ferril (Gayla's husband), and Lori (Ferril's daughter). We had Jessica's beautiful cornucopia and Kendall's colorful African tablecloths and napkins, with Gayla's Currier & Ives dishes and her great grandmother's turkey platter--which turned out to be the same dish as my grandmother always used!

The Spoons game did not disappoint. The Chileans and the African loved it--although it was very hard to explain to Dubate that he only needed four cards in his hand at a time and that he did not need to match the design. Unfortunately he got the Donkey. Poor guy. We learned a Chilean card game suspiciously similar to Phase 10 (I lost big time), and then we rounded it all off with a rousing game of B.S. (or Liar, or Dubbio as they say in Spanish or French but all I know is Italian).

After the Chileans left we watched a low-budget documentary film, Hands on a Hardbody, all about some crazy people in a very small Texas town involved in a contest at a car dealership. Everyone had to keep a hand on the prize truck for as long as they could--whoever held out the longest won the truck. We were all rooting for the lady without teeth, then the man afraid of rain, then Benny, who had won a two years previously, then the evangelical lady who accidentally took her hands off to praise the Lord and clap her hands with joy. All in all, it was a delightful day... so much to be thankful for: good food, great friends, and big laughs.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Thanksgiving is probably my family's biggest holiday. We usually gather from all around-- Hawaii, California, Missouri, Colorado--usually to a cabin in the Utah mountains, where we eat, play Spoons, watch football, talk, laugh, and enjoy each other immensely. I love just being together and enjoying each other. I love hearing stories and laughing so hard we cry and getting into intense Spoons battles. And the food--there's always GranNomi's stuffing and Mom's homemade rolls, not to mention the turkey and everything else.

I can only count three years in my long life when I've not been with my family for Thanksgiving: one when I was on study abroad in London, one on my mission (the second Thanksgiving Mom met me in Italy and we celebrated together in Florence with a roasted chicken!), and one when I lived in New York and couldn't afford to fly home. Well this year will be my fourth Thanksgiving away from the family. They're all in California this year at a beach house. My sister even called me yesterday and said, "Don't feel bad or anything, but we're all at the beach and it's incredible and we wish you were here." How do you think I felt?Well today was one of those incredible fall days, where all day long people say, "can you believe this day?" It was 70 degrees with a glorious sun and beautiful leaves and I was outside almost all day with Kendall's family, touring the monuments. Not quite the beach, but basking in the sun at the World War II memorial was invigorating in a different way.
So this year I'm thankful for new Thanksgiving adventures. Tomorrow we've invited people from the Chilean embassy over for their first American Thanksgiving. Apparently the Texas tradition is to have noodles with your mashed potatoes. I'm making GranNomi's cornbread stuffing. Gayla, Kendall's sister, brought her Currier & Ives dishes and her great grandmother's platter. I'll teach everyone how to play Spoons the Foster family way. And Saturday we'll all be at my house to watch the BYU-Utah football game.

Here's to Thanksigiving Washington D.C./Texas/Chilean/Utah/California style...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Falling for Fall

I think one of the greatest things about living along the Mid-Atlantic Eastern Seaboard is long seasons. Day after day after day I drive to school or through my neighborhood and I see a new tree in full color and I must say that Fall is a tender mercy. I love how the trees change at different speeds on their own time. I love the vibrant color and how it burns and then fades away. I love how the different shades blend together--from the green to the new colors to the vibrant burning to the fade-outs to the trees with bare limbs.

On Saturday I went to Eastern Market in the District to buy a birthday present for dear Stace. It was one of those quintessential fall days--the air was crisp and clean. I wore my scarf and my red jacket, and I scuffled through the leaves on the streets. I love that neighborhood--the row houses, the tree-lined streets just east of the Capitol, the distinct architecture. Families were out with their kids, and I saw an older woman who had just purchased her fruits and vegetables from the farm stands there, sitting down to rest on a bench before she continued on her way home. She had the biggest grin on her face--I know it was because it was such a beautiful day and she was just so happy to be alive--just like I was.

So I came home yesterday and did some fall housecleaning. I put my winter quilt on my bed, aired out my down comforter and fluffed it up, changed my sheets, and vacuumed and dusted. And I'll tell you what--my sleep last night was delicious. I've fallen for fall (it doesn't hurt that there's a great man around, too!).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A little bit of ice cream goes a long way

There is something magical about ice cream. As cold as it is, it sometimes warms you up like nothing else. Sometimes, even when it's freezing cold (ok, so it's not freezing cold outside today, but I think I was freezing inside), you should just have ice cream. I remember fondly living in Italy and really needing ice cream. Almost every day. It was perfect for when we'd spent the day with doors slammed in our faces, being spit on, or rocks thrown at us. That little bit of frozen bliss--whether it was fragola or frutti di bosco or nocciola or (!) nutella--just sort of spread through my blood stream and enlivened me.

One time I had one of those yucky doctor's appointments. One that you do not look forward to and one that you never want to repeat. Needless to say, I felt raw and slightly violated. I went back to work and asked my boss if she would go get some ice cream with me. It was the perfect answer--a little splurge of toffee crunch softened everything. My friend Maureen had the same experience last week, and I marched her right up to the Johnson Center for some ice cream. She (and I!) felt much better.

I've had great moments of frustration today at work. My one respite: ice cream. I ran up to the Johnson Center for a cup of my favorite chocolate vanilla twist. And I tell you what: that same frozen bliss spread through me and calmed me down. It's going to be ok. A little bit of ice cream goes a long way. Thank goodness!

Monday, November 12, 2007

American Anthem

I've sort of been obsessed lately with the new Ken Burns documentary, The War. Part of my interest stems from my fear of my oral exams covering all of American history and a serious need to utilize even my non-reading time to inhale all the history I don't know. So watching documentaries has suddenly become a part of my personal entertainment and date nights.

Last week I went to a lecture at the State Department with Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, producers of The War. They talked a bit about making the film, then they showed a couple of montages about Iwo Jima, the Battle of the Bulge, opening several concentration camps, etc. The most touching, though, was the piece with Norah Jones singing "American Anthem" set to photos and live film.

The words keep running through my head... "Let them say of me, I was one who believed." I loved listening to people comment about the personal connections they felt to the War--their fathers and uncles had served, and they gained a new understanding not only of their own family, but of their country and their civic responsibility and patriotism. I loved being in that auditorium with those people who have dedicated their lives to the diplomatic mission of the United States. Amazing people doing amazing things.

And in the spirit of Jennifer Brinkerhoff, Happy Veteran's Day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Joshie & Jill, or, When Little Brother Grows Up

When Joshie's hair first started really growing, he had these amazing luxurious golden curls. We were enamored with them--my two sisters and I had long brown hair that our mom wrapped in pink sponge curlers every Saturday night to get that kind of boing. And then little Ben had scraggly brownish-blond hair. Joshie was a novelty.

And then Josh grew up. He seemed to have a fascination with his hair. He caused extreme panic in my mother's heart when he decided to bleach his hair platinum the night before Lisa's wedding. Mom marched him down to Kelli's Kuttin' Korner and pled with Kelli to work hair magic. The wedding pictures show him with this odd reddish-brown cut.

There were a few other experiments with color and skater afros as Joshie skied and skated through the adventures of his life. Then there was the bungie-cord accident that nearly blinded him at age 16. Mom is convinced that that's when his hair started turning gray. I think Josh has had a lot of those kinds of experiences--for a while there it seemed like he was always in the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong friends.Then something happened: Josh met Jill at physical therapy, back in April. There was something about her in her quiet, unassuming yet confident way. Josh really wanted to date her, but she insisted that she would only date a clean, honest, active Mormon boy. That's when Josh began to clean up his life and turn things around. One thing led to another and next thing you know, Josh and Jill are officially engaged. They're getting married in May in Montana.
I'm delighted. I have been amazed at the person Josh has become. I loved watching him take Jill to meet Grandad before he died, and ended up staying for a week to help out (and that Jill went along with it so cheerfully!). I love that Josh is taking into account the responsibilities of life--that he is anxiously trying to clean up and grow up. I love having conversations with him on the phone and feeling his concern and love for me and for our brother and sisters. I love his jokes and his passion for climbing and river running and now for church. I love Jill for her patience and ability to see Josh's potential. I'm delighted that she will be a part of our family. She is an angel.Josh's hair is still a little wild--that's how I know it's really Joshie in this adult body. I love growing up.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Country Dancing in Sweet Home Alexandria

That's right, friends. Those of you who know me may know that I'm not a huge country music fan. Well, not really at all. But in preparation for an event with people from the Chilean embassy at Nick's, the local country dancing establishment here in Alexandria, Kendall and I went for a practice run last night. And I have to admit: it was GREAT. I loved the live band--Taylor Made from West Virginia--who sang songs of their own creation, like "Sweet Home Alexandria." I loved watching the most random couples in their cowboy get-up--one woman was outfitted in a crazy red dress like a bar lady. It was great. I loved the women in their cowboy boots and spurs, jangling on the floor, and the men with their western shirts. And I loved swinging around the floor in the two-step. I'd love to learn the West Coast Swing--that looks like a lot of fun times. But only if your partner knows what he's doing and he doesn't swing you off into the middle of the room. Not that that happened, but it's just a bad idea.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Roy Rosenzweig, 1950-2007

My professor and the Director of the Center for History and New Media where I have a fellowship, Roy Rosenzweig, passed away yesterday due to lung cancer. He was a wonderful man--brilliant at his specialty. He led the vanguard of digital history and opened to the world countless possibilities for public history in accessing the masses. His scholarship was sound and his efforts were astounding. He has probably impacted the way every historian has become involved with the Internet.

And he was also kind-hearted. He was a quiet man but he smiled often and his eyes twinkled. He made such conscientious decisions in our assignments at the Center, and he was supportive of our ideas and our efforts. He was eager to hear our opinions and to use our talents. I loved that in his effort to teach our PhD colloquium this semester, he wanted to know what we as students wanted to learn. His sincere desire was to help us. I remember walking with him from the last class he attended back to the Center. His steps were slow and his breath was labored. And yet he wanted to know how my semester was going and where my research was taking me. I'll never forget the last concern that he had with my life: that I not take a job that would improve my financial situation because it would hamper my studies and my scholarship. He believed in me and for that I honor him.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

The Beauty of Eating

I was just scolded kindly by my Russian friend Nastya for eating a sandwich while we walked to the library. I explained that I don't seem to have time to sit down and just EAT, and she told me that it was bad for my stomach. It reminded me of living in Italy, where people constantly chided us for eating on the run, whether it was a slice of piping hot pizza or a fresh calzone or an impromptu sandwich of prosciutto and formaggio on a bun from the market. Italians couldn't understand our rush to get to appointments.

I do miss the eating culture of Italy. I love that offices and schools and stores close for two hours during pranzo, and that this becomes a sort of sacred time for family and friends to gather and eat. It's not just eating really great food, though. It's partaking of each other's company and time--of being together. It's sitting through several courses and talking and laughing and singing together.

I have so many memories--drunk Italians singing "So This is Christmas," the only English song they knew to sing to two young Americans in Sicily on Christmas day. Or the time we peeked into the kitchen before dinner and saw a live octopus in a tub of water, caught just an hour before. I think we escaped before being tortured. Or the evening with Mario's family--this huge family living out in the country, with all kinds of food and my first try of calamari and laughing and people. Or what about the Gerentano family and the basketball size bowl of spaghetti that made me cry when we left--although hearing their 2-year-old sing along to Pavaroti on TV to perfect pitch certainly made me laugh. Or eating pears and cheese after Sunday dinner on the patio overlooking the mountains of Cosenza. So many great memories...

On Sunday we had a lovely evening. We grilled shishkebabs and ate out on the patio--coconut rice, homemade bread, and salad with gorgonzola cheese, pears, and craisins. We sat out there with the citronella candle burning and talked and laughed for quite a while. I loved being with my friends--enjoying their company, listening to their perspectives, and feeling a part of something. It was a beautiful tender mercy.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

You just never know what you're going to find when you walk around the corner...

So I've felt just a tad bit anxious as of late... part of it has to do with papers due, an unexpected job opportunity that just might change my entire career trajectory, recent undertakings of an old colleague, blooming social opportunities, and the cusp of a changing season.

That said, I loved coming in to work and school just now. I usually circle around trying to find a spot in the parking lot closest to my class that gets out at 10:00 pm, and I usually end up driving all the way around campus. Well today I stumbled upon someone leaving right away, so I got a very close spot. There's nothing like good parma (ME-ese for parking karma).

Then walking onto campus, I saw the funniest thing: a very sharply-dressed guy was wearing a nice navy blue double-breasted blazer with gold buttons. He carried a leather briefcase and was holding hands with a beautiful woman. Here's the kicker: he was wearing salmon pink pants that were an inch too short. It was great. Classic. I thought I was back in Italy. I loved it. It made me smile.

Then as I rounded the corner past the library, I heard some suspicious shouts and found a crowd of onlookers gathered around Fenwick. There were 3 army guys repelling off the building. It was great. It looked like fun until the one on the ropes lost his balance and bounced into the wall back first. He did make it down safely.

Who knows what will be around my next corner?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shoot the Moon

It's been a full moon lately, and I have LOVED watching it move across the sky and change light and color. There's something about the moon... I think its cool and sometimes uneven surface is comforting in a strange sort of way. I love how the clouds can cast both an ominous and a warm shadow over the moon. Sometimes the moon looks angry--it casts an orange color. Sometimes it looks cold and slightly sad. And sometimes it's warm and inviting--like you want to do something crazy in the light of the moon.

I remember living in Arizona, where the moon can loom so much larger over the horizon than it does in other places. I would want to follow the moon out into the desert where it looked like I could drive right up to it.

My grandmother told me the other night that when she was young, when it was a full moon, they used to climb to the top of the haystacks on the farm and sing to their hearts' content. I can just picture it. I love that. I want to find a haystack in Virginia and sing to my heart's content.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Baby steps... making bread and entertaining dignitaries

So I've always joked that the reason why I'm not married is because I can't bake bread. Ask any of my former roommates. I have tried and tried. I have ruined Rhodes Frozen Rolls and I've messed up bread maker bread. I have even had problems with those stupid Pillsbury biscuits in a can in the refrigerated section. I do not know what is wrong with me. I am a strict follower of instructions. I go by the rules precisely. And yet nothing seems to work out. I can bake cookies and desserts and I can grill. I can crock pot and I can make ice cream. I can also quilt and clean. So I've decided that I'm not married because I can't bake bread. And that may or may not be a problem with my secret desire to entertain dignitaries (but that's an entirely different story...) There's always a reason, right?!?

On Friday my dear roommate Jessica walked me through making some crescent rolls for our book group. She literally watched me do everything from the yeast to the rolling to the baking. And, friends, I have some wonderful news: the rolls turned out incredibly! They were flaky and melted in my mouth. They were even good two days later!

So last night I felt a little more confident when my roommate Janae planned a big pizza dinner. She had invited 14 people and made plans for all these gourmet pizzas--goat cheese and spinach, BBQ chicken, mozzarella/tomato/basil, and pepperoni. But then something came up and she didn't make it home to prepare. I gathered all the courage I have and rolled out the dough as people started arriving. I assigned one person to be my souez chef and another person to be my facilities manager. Someone else was the table arranger and someone else became the head pizza chef. Another person started the ice cream maker. Despite problems of pizzas cooking slightly unevenly, we had success.

So bring it on, baby. I need MUCH more practice when it comes to really entertaining dignitaries, and while I did make some good crescent rolls, I still need to perfect the actual bread experience. But baby steps... baby steps...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

"I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing"

I love that sense of confirmation. Yesterday on my way to class I ran into my friend Patrice who used to work at the Center for History and New Media with me. She got a job teaching second grade and is working on a master's degree. I haven't seen her since school started. She was absolutely glowing last night as she left campus. I asked her how things are going with her class and she beamed as she told me how she wakes up excited every day because she loves what she's doing. She even got her first love letter from a second grade boy yesterday:

"Mrs. Mortson, you're the best teacher ever!" with hearts all over. How great is that?!?

When I worked at BYU I had the same feeling. Most days I couldn't wait to get to work because I loved what I was doing. That excitement has worn off a little bit as I've marched through graduate school--the late nights and long readings sometimes take their toll. But the sense of confirmation--of being at the right place at the right time makes all the difference. I'm in the middle of the process right now, but I'm doing exactly what I want to be doing.

I love what Mother Theresa said once when she was asked if things were better in Calcutta as a result of her efforts: "It doesn't matter that we're successful as long as we're faithful." Therein lies the contentment.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

These are a few of my favorite things...

I admit it. Yesterday I was feeling a little grouchy (yes... it happens... especially when I get pulled over because my windows are tinted too dark. What, you might ask? Yes, it's true. The cop even told me my car wasn't registered in my name, but then it turns out he punched in the wrong number. Hmmmmmm....). So on the way home from class last night I turned on my Sound of Music soundtrack and blasted "My Favorite Things" with my windows down and my sunroof open. Then I sang as loud as I dared. I decided I didn't care what other people thought of me.

It sort of reminded me of one of my favorite JB things--her depression sunglasses. She had this totally old school HUGE 1970s sunglasses that she kept in her car and when she was feeling a little depressed, she would whip out those babies and put them on, then smile and wave at all the folks. I love it. Wreckless abandon of fashion sense and what other people think, singing at the top of your lungs... these are a few of my favorite things...

What are YOURS?

Friday, September 07, 2007

OBX and the End of the Summer

I know, I know, it's been a little while since I've blogged, but since school started last week I've been reading like a wild banshee (I hope they read--they should). So how great was Labor Day weekend at the Outer Banks? It was my first experience at Duck Beach and it was almost magical. I loved it. LOVED it. And yes, I was a total nerd and toted a bag full of books to read on the beach.

If you've never been to the beach in North Carolina, I think you should make it a point in your lifetime to go. I've been often to the beach in California and even a couple of times in New York (I'm not sure Coney Island counts--but it's an experience all its own--and Fire Island was grand). But nothing compares to the Outer Banks, where the water is warm, the body surfing is exhilerating, the sun is pleasant and the sea breeze is invigorating. We experienced the beach at all its finest hours: early in the morning for a quick run, throughout the day, biking in the afternoon, in the evening at sunset, and at night scrambling from sand crabs and ocean foam. Oh--and the lighthouse!We rented a big beach house with about 20 people--complete with a pool and a hot tub, across the street from the beach. It was all about cards and food and BBQs and talking and lounging and ME dancing. It was the perfect end of the summer, and now it's time to really buckle down and hit the books.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Tonight, tonight... Boy, boy, pretty boy... and other such showtunes excitement

Last night we had a perfectly delightful evening at Wolf Trap with the Boston Pops and Keith Lockhart. I would even go so far as to say it was magical in that I had a whole host of memories and emotions reawakened from deep within me.

Such as "Rhapsody in Blue." I love the free and easy melody that tightens and expands across the keyboard and up and down the scale and the convergence of instruments--brass, winds, strings, percussion. Ah, the good old days of the Timpview High School Orchestra and Terry Hill. We rehearsed and rehearsed to play this for state orchestra in Logan, Utah, sometime in the spring of 1991. Of course we took state (who wouldn't have with Sam Peery on the piano?), but I mostly remember studying madly for the AP US history test on the bus all the way up and all the way back with my nerdy orchestra friends, and laughing our heads off.

Then there were our various performances of "Rhapsody in Blue" while on our Eastern European tour. We performed it in Wencelas Square in Prague to a crowd of Czechs. We also performed it in the piazza of a small town somewhere in Slovakia--the streets were not flat there, and we had to figure out how to keep our music stand up and the piano from rolling. In the middle of his first solo piece, Sam discovered that the keyboard was 8 keys short and he had to improvise.

Then Keith Lockhart pulled out West Side Story... let's just say I couldn't sit still. My sisters and I used to dance and sing to the old record my mom had. I think Lisa even tried to write down all the words so she could memorize them (there were a few phrases in "America" that we could never figure out).

I took a Cinematic Adaptations of Literature class my last semester at BYU, and we studied Romeo and Juliet. We read the play, then watched both Zefferelli's film and West Side Story, and I became enamored with the choreographic adaptation of Shakespearean emotion.

When I lived in Arizona, Jennifer and I had a friend, Mikey, who would upon request do the "Boy, boy, pretty boy" snap song for us. We loved it!

When I lived in New York City, I was amazed to find out that the movie had been filmed where the Lincoln Center is today, and the neighborhood used to house thousands of lower class ethnic groups, who heavily protested the demolition for an upper class performing arts center that I had grown to love.

So last night was magical... from "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" to "Bring Him Home." I love show tunes!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

My new passion: homemade ice cream

I don't know how it happened... ever since I experimented with that peach gelato recipe, I've become addicted. I can't stop thinking about new recipes or checking Craig's List for a good, cheap ice cream maker. Until then I'm borrowing my friend's amazing Cusinart ice cream maker and fantasizing about all sorts of Ben & Jerry's flavors. This weekend it was Milky Way, with chunks of the candy bar swirled in. Next week I've already decided: mint oreo. I even have the ingredients. There's just something about the texture and quick melting of homemade ice cream. It's rich and smooth and pure flavor. I'm dying to try fresh blueberry, since it is the season.

I think my love for ice cream comes from my grandmother. I love hearing stories of ice cream on the farm--they would each get a half a cantelope and fill it with homemade ice cream, then eat to their heart's content. I can just imagine the lazy summer days in Duncan on the Gila River, staying up late to talk and play games and sing. When I was little whenever any of us were sick, Grandad would bring over a McDonald's milkshake, saying it was the doctor's orders. I think those milkshakes were always the best medicine. On my mission we used to stop for gelato every day in the summer, and sometimes even in the winter. In Palermo they eat ice cream in a brioche--like a roll. So good! Maybe we can try that this weekend, too.

Ice cream just makes everything ok. One day I'm going to figure out how to make my favorite Italian gelato: nocciola (hazelnut). Or then there's frutta di bosca (a wonderful medley of berries). Oh--and nutella ice cream! Or a cone with nutella AND nocciola... oh the possibilities are endless!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A Bountiful Harvest

Yesterday morning I went to the farmer's market in Old Town Alexandria for the first time--and it immediately became one of my favorite events that I want to go to every Saturday. There were all sorts of stands from farms mostly in West Virginia, with all sorts of fruits and vegetables--tomatoes the size of my face, peaches, corn, cantelope, apples, cucumbers, berries, watermelons--and baked goods, jams, jellies, breads, rolls, cinnamon rolls. And then the flowers--sunflowers, daisies, herbs. I was overwhelmed with the colors, the smells, and the tastes--every stand had samples. It was amazing.

So of course I bought a bunch of stuff--I was so excited for garden tomatoes that I almost cried. I have been afraid to plant anything around here because of the darn squirrels. I had to take a picture of our purchases.

I told my friend about my outing, and she told me about her favorite thing about living in Omaha a few years ago. Every Sunday during the summer harvest season, people would bring their excess to the church kitchen and it was a free-for-all. Every week, she picked up tomatoes and corn, and she dropped off her offering--usually brownies or cookies. What a great system.

This morning I found a new favorite passage in the Old Testament, Leviticus 26:
3 ¶ If ye awalk in my statutes, and bkeep my commandments, and do them;
4 Then I will agive you brain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.
5 And your threshing shall reach unto the vintage, and the vintage shall reach unto the sowing time: and ye shall eat your bread to the full, and dwell in your land safely.
6 And I will agive bpeace in the land, and ye shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid: and I will rid evil beasts out of the land, neither shall the sword go through your land.
7 And ye shall chase your aenemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword.
8 And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.
9 For I will ahave respect unto you, and make you fruitful, and multiply you, and establish my covenant with you.
10 And ye shall eat old store, and abring forth the old because of the new.
11 And I will set my tabernacle among you: and my soul shall not abhor you.
12 And I will awalk bamong you, and will be your cGod, and ye shall be my dpeople.
13 I am the LORD your God, which brought you forth out of the land of Egypt, that ye should not be their bondmen; and I have broken the bands of your ayoke, and made you go upright.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Oh, Bean!

Ben outside the Supreme Court

When my brother Ben was little, he was playing one day with a little neighbor girl, Rachel Harrison. Who knows what kind of monkey business the two were up to when for some strange reason, a dresser fell on Ben. Little Rachel was so worried that she shrieked, "Oh, Bean, are you ok? Bean?" She was a little confused--but we like to repeat the phrase.

Ben stopped by for a quick visit this weekend. He had just finished a 6-week internship in Vermont with an outdoor magazine, where he camped in his truck the whole time. I was quite impressed with his resourcefulness and ability to save money--he showed me his whole set-up with a big tank of propane for his stove, his mountain bike, his bed--it all fit nicely. He made friends with the old man who ran the campground and offered to do work in exchange for a free stay and use of their showers--he actually built a huge fire ring after his day job. One week it rained for almost a week straight. Ben would finish his day's work, then go sit in his cab until he rigged up a tarp so he could at least fire up his stove in the back of the truck. I have to hand it to him--he certainly knows how to make things work.

We had a great time--seeing the monuments at night, touring the Capitol, the Museum of the American Indian, and the Air and Space Museum, and wandering around Georgetown. I love this kid.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

La Festa di Pesca

It just sounds so much better in Italian than in English--The Peach Fest. But that's what we had last night. 'Tis the season, and I'm a believer! Jessica grilled pork chops with a peach glaze and made this amazing peach salsa with avocado and tomatoes. We added a green salad and grilled green and yellow squash for color and vitamins. For dessert, Suzanne made this amazing peach crisp with blueberries, and I found a recipe for peach gelato (no ice cream maker necessary) that I of course had to try. It turned out delightful! The perfect texture--oh the Italian memories--and great flavor. And it was so easy... now I want to try it with other fruits. Do you think it would work with watermelon?!?

3 pounds peaches, peeled and pitted
1/4 cup fine sugar
1/2 cup yogurt (the recipe called for mascarpone or yogurt. I just used vanilla yogurt).

Cut up the fruit--the smaller chunks the better. Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until frozen solid (about 2 hours). Grind in blender with sugar, then add yogurt. Blend until smooth. Place in a container and return to freezer for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. If the ice cream freezes all the way through, put it through the blender before serving.

So my tender mercy is this: Enjoy the season!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Rain, rain, and more rain

How do I get myself into the most random, precarious situations? Last Friday I was at work and it started pouring rain. I laughed when my friend mentioned that she hates the rain and she wished it would stop soon. I told her that we really needed the water... grass is dying all over the place around here and they've declared a drought emergency in Maryland.

Those words came back to haunt me. I was supposed to meet my co-workers at Happy Hour at Artie's in Fairfax. They all left a little early, when the rain cleared up a bit, but I wanted to put in a full 8 hours of work. I thought if it was still raining I would grab the old CHNM extra umbrellas in the storage closet and be fine.

Unfortunately, we have a new admin who actually locks the storage closet. And it was raining hard--like crazy--small rivers forming everywhere. I had parked far far away in the student parking lot. And I was wearing a cute little summer skirt and white blouse. I sat in the lobby waiting for the rain to slow down, thinking I didn't really want to go to Happy Hour and pretend like I was having fun with a bunch of tech geeks who were drinking up a storm. Then I got into a conversation with a random lady, who offered me a ride to my car... and yes, friends, I accepted a ride with a stranger. Her name was Tippi, but her real name was Elthenia, because her mother loves names that start with E. She drove a minivan with a bunch of really great shoes sitting in the front seat. And just when I thought she was going to kidnap me and sell me to the gypsies, she actually drove me as close to my car as possible and I jumped out without getting too wet...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

It's true... I'm official... I'm a Virginian

I did it... I got a Virginia driver's license and registered my car here. No more Utah Delicate Arch plates. I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about this. I embrace my East Coast identity, but I did like my Utah past. For those of you who ride in my car, you'll often hear me exclaim, "I'm from Utah!" when I am not entirely graceful in my driving or when I'm obviously lost. No more excuses now. I'm actually super excited. And the best part is that I thought I'd have to pay upwards near of a million dollars to register here in Arlington County, but I was pleasantly surprised. Virginia isn't so bad after all...

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Art for Art's Sake

Sometimes I think we forget to take advantage of the things surrounding us. I am completely embarrassed to admit that in the 11 months that I have been here, the only Smithsonian museum I've visited is the National Portrait Gallery. Hello! For some reason the Potomac River has became an impassable barrier... at least for art. I go into the District all the time to meet friends for dinner, or for a movie, or to eat pizza behind the Lincoln Monument, or to go running along the tidal basin or the National Mall. But for some unexplainable reason I haven't embraced the Smithsonian.

Yesterday I met a friend in the District. We had hoped to see the exhibit at the Ripley Center on the French and Indian War, but alas, neither one of us had looked at the fine print (it closed 15 July). Instead we wandered through two museums that otherwise I probably would have never visited. First stop was the Freer Gallery--Asian Art. I loved the soothing calm of the Buddhas and the tranquil scenes on Japanese silk screens. And the James Whistler Peacock Room was incredibly rich and ornate.

Then we headed over to the Hirshorn Museum. Josh told me I'd probably hate it because it's contemporary art. Some of it, it's true, I didn't really understand. But there were some fascinating photographs and invigorating art--the kind that inspires conversation and questions and intrigue with color and texture. My favorite was this giant canvas of stripes--the colors were great and I loved the different shades and varying widths. There wasn't any more than that--but I was completely drawn in by the colors playing off of each other in very straight, linear ways.

So I really do need to take more advantage of everything around me...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Overdue Library Books and Tender Mercies

So this is a really great story... and somehow a really great tender mercy. Last semester I had a run-in with the Mason Library. I have come to depend greatly upon book-due notices in my email. At Mason, they hand you a slip of paper in the book with the due date, which I always either use as a bookmark or use as a bookmark in another book or just lose. Fall semester (and at every other program I've been in) they sent out overdue notices BEFORE the book was due. I always managed to stay on top of things. Last semester, though, there was a glitch in the computer and I had an overdue book. I tried to talk myself out of the exorbitant fine and was squashed in the face by a really mean (though young and male) librarian.

One of the great parts of the Mason Library system is that although they have a somewhat poor collection, they are part of the Washington Research Library Consortium and you can check out books from any university around, which they'll deliver to the Mason Library.

Well as you may know, it's been a crazy couple of months for me with the end of the semester and all the family stuff going on. Sunday night I was digging through a pile and found a WRLC library book due 13 June. Yikes! If you're overdue on WRLC books, they'll give you a fine and revoke your borrowing privileges, something not too appealing while I'm still in the beginning of my program.

And here's where the tender mercies come in. The power went out at work yesterday, so I took the opportunity to run over to the library. I saw Mean Librarian guy outside smoking, so I ran in like a flash to return the book before he unleashed his fury. I apologized from the bottom of my heart to the guy in there, who told me he was not the Spanish Inquisition, and then reminded me that it had been due 13 June. He checked the computer, and there was magically no fine! And no repercussions! I like to think of it as Grandad looking out for me since I was looking out for him...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I love Experts

So this may be a bit random, but I love friends who are experts. My grad school colleague Misha used to do lighting for community theater and college theater in Washington and northern California. On Wednesday she and I went to Wolf Trap to see Camelot, a delightful experience. Not only was it a beautiful summer evening (not hot or humid! and it's July! and it only rained for 10 minutes during the intermission!), and the music and plot were great (so sad! and yet so hopeful!). I loved hearing Misha explain all the lighting and sets and back stage activity. It was like my own private tour from my grass seat without even moving. I learned all about scrims and screens and heard all sorts of stories about some very creative ways she rigged together special effects. Very cool.

Yesterday, a whole bunch of us gathered at our friend Carrie's house. She has experienced some horrible grief over the past couple of weeks, and she's now at of town at a funeral. We cleaned and repaired and planted flowers. While I think Brad was the only real expert there (he actually knows how to fix anything--and I love that I can call him for the most random repair work), the rest of us were experts in doing whatever we could to express our love and concern for Carrie. It was incredible to watch--so many trips to Lowe's to buy Magic Erasers and flowers and mulch and weed killer--scrubbing walls and the fridge and every window around. People even went the extra mile and mowed the back lawn and trimmed the neighbors' edges. The place looked incredible.

I have a good friend who is an expert at computer security, and she is coming over sometime this week to help me configure my laptop. Another friend is an amazing scriptorian, and she always seems to have the perfect scripture for my Sunday School lesson. I also draw upon amazing cooks, people with impeccable fashion sense (i.e. flashy red shoes for my birthday), quilters, web developers, and historians. I LOVE watching people in their own element and drawing from their talents.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I'll be honest... I hate mice

I used to think that I am a very clean person. I also used to think that mice flourish in dirt and filth. I used to think a lot of things, including mice come into the house in the winter. Those presumptions are all fading away...

Last night a mouse ran boldly past me and my roommate from the living room, through the dining room, and into the kitchen. It wasn't like it was sneaking stealthily from corner to corner, dodging past shadows and creeping around corners. No. It was as bold as can be, as if it had every right to parade through our nice, clean, neat suburban lives. We've had glimpses of it before, but always hoped it was just a figment of the crazed imagination. But no, folks, it's real. And it's invading my life.

During the two years I lived in New York City, I had a similar encounter with a mouse in our Harlem apartment. I had always heard stories about rats as big as cats in Manhattan, and I swear I saw them on the subway and on the streets. They freaked me out. Then we had a little mouse in the house. When the super left some fishy white "rat poison" that didn't do a thing, he threatened us that if there was one, there would be a whole pack of rats, and that the restaurant adjoining our building had closed because of rat problems. As if that didn't freak us out enough, our little rodent-visitor became a frequent sight, darting through the kitchen and under the stove or the fridge. We invested in mousetraps from the dollar store downstairs and a can of cheese whiz. We even named the little guy Voldemort--something to do with his huge ears and the coming out of the new Harry Potter book that summer. But when we actually watched Voldemort come out from under the stove, poke away at the cheese whiz on the trap, then go back under the stove, that was enough. Erin and Anne Marie guarded the stove while I ran back down to the dollar store and bought every old wooden mouse trap and sticky glue trap they had. We lined the floor around the stove with them and waited. And waited. And waited. And nothing happened.

So last night Jessica and I pulled out two of those dollar store mouse traps and seeing as how we are much too refined to own any cheese whiz, we slathered on some peanut butter. I of course used the rubber gloves and set the trap off a bunch of times on my rubber gloved fingers (those are mighty powerful springs there). Every time I walk into the kitchen I hope against all hope that the trap will be sprung and we'll find a mouse. Jess even became the bigger person by promising to take care of the fellow--only with careful thought of the shovel in the shed and the fact that we don't need to keep the used mouse trap.

Please, oh please, oh please...

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Hooray for Grandad!

14 July 1924 - 25 June 2007
My dear Grandad peacefully passed away a week ago, and we buried him yesterday. I have some very tender memories running through my mind and heart and am eager to share them here.

Families are as big as their family stories. As a budding historian and a graduate student, I have been trained to search for accuracy, to verify facts through primary sources. As a member of a beautiful family, I realize that our family stories may not be entirely verifiable--and if they are, often they lose a bit of their drama and power. These family stories provide me with a couple of important things: a sense of belonging--an identity with a larger group; an understanding of important family values--expectations, hopes, dreams; and an opportunity to participate--both in hearing and in telling our stories. Elder David A. Bednar said that "the home is the place where we cannot hide from who we really are," that home is potentially the most natural, most effective setting for learning the gospel because we find the truth about ourselves and we cannot hide from it. I want to share stories told by Grandad and about Grandad. These are stories that we will tell our children and our children's children. These are the reasons why we celebrate Grandad.

Last Sunday night, just hours before Grandad passed away, my dear cousin Arian had a dream. She dreamed that we were all gathered to say goodbye to Grandad. We believed we would see him unresponsive on a hospital bed, as he had been for the past few days. How surprised we were to see him come walking out the door, followed by GranNomi and our parents. He was beaming--full of light and life and beauty. We were so surprised that we shouted for joy. He had been healed! We celebrated this miracle, just as we celebrate his life.

Hooray for Grandad and sports. Although Grandad was only 5'8", he was a basketball star in high school with a strong jump shot. When he tried out for the University of Arizona Wildcats team, the coaches seriously doubted his ability. They required him to make 10 free throw shots, and he made every single one. They asked him to do it again, and he made every single shot. He made the team and soon became team captain. The newspapers dubbed him Buzz Bomb because of his ability to win a game from half court on the buzzer. The team participated in the 1946 National Invitational Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
I love hearing stories about him sneaking into Uncle Gordon's high school basketball games at a time when it was embarrassing for a parent to be there. He always left early or waited afterword so as not to be caught.Grandad always planned baseball games at our family reunions and encouraged us in our sports--like the time when he allowed Marilee 5 or 6 strikes, even though Jennings threw down his glove in protest. My favorite sports memories of Grandad are the creative games he planned for us. After one Thanksgiving dinner when the grandkids were all a little too rambunctious for our tired parents, he would hold contests to see who could hold their breath the longest, or he offered a dollar for whoever could hold his or her nose to the floor the longest. We all immediately fell asleep. And the hours of playing dominoes, Hand-and-Foot, and the sometimes violent game of spoons. Grandad was our champion.

Hooray for Grandad and education. We loved hearing stories of his adventures at Duncan Union High School and the song, "Duncan Punkin' Rollers." Grandad's experiences at the University of Arizona and USC, where he earned his doctorate in music, have inspired many of us to pursue advanced degrees. We love hearing about the time an old professor got all mixed up and walked out the classroom door--into the closet--then all the students pretended to leave just to see what he would do. After hearing the sound of footsteps, he popped his head out and received applause from the class. Especially inspiring was his dedication and determination to make it through his oral exams.

Hooray for Grandad and music. We love the stories about how Grandad started violin lessons at the age of 8. When a boy at school called him a sissy, Grandad put down his violin case, punched him in the stomach, and said, "I'm not a sissy." At his first teaching assignment in Snowflake, the rough and tough high school boys considered him a sissy music teacher. Grandad took off his shoes and played football with them in an alfalfa field--beating them all. They all joined the band that year. Grandad used to come home from college to play his favorite violin piece for his mother--"Meditation from Thais." Great Grandad would say, "Harold, why don't you play something I'd like to hear, like "Turkey in the Straw." As a child, I remember going to my first concert at the DeJong Concert Hall with Grandad conducting. I was 3 and Lisa was 2, and when she saw him come out on the stage in his tuxedo tails, she yelled out, "There's Grandad! What is he wearing?" I received my first violin from him at the age of 3, and I loved our violin lessons. He organized the Stadium Avenue players for all the budding musicians in the neighborhood, and we had recitals once a month. I loved hearing stories about Grandad and his music service for the Church. One time, President Kimball asked him to direct the Tabernacle Choir. Grandad told him if that's what the Lord wanted him to do, he would. But, he said, there were more qualified people, and he would be happy to help find one. He did direct the Choir for an event at the Smith Field House. As chair of the Church Music Committee, Grandad headed the effort to put together the 1985 hymn book. He often told us stories about particular hymns and how they got in. After the first printing, all the mission presidents were gathered for a seminar at the Assembly Hall on Temple Square. The MTC missionaries came marching in, singing "Called to Serve," a stirring new anthem. Elder Packer leaned over to Grandad and said, "I'm sure that's in the new hymn book." Grandad said, "It will be!" They had to reprint and renumber everything.

Hooray for Grandad and the family. I grew up next door to Grandad and GranNomi, and we both had an acre of land and countless yard work. Grandad had an old green Dodge pick-up to take the prunings to the dump, and we always accompanied him with a stop at 7-11 on the way home for a treat. On our birthdays, he always sent a card with carefully transcribed music notation for the Happy Birthday song. I love the story of how many years ago, Grandad and GranNomi took their family camping with Aunt Nita, Uncle Ben, Melvin and Barbara. In the middle of the night, a bear attacked the tent. Grandad stepped out of the tent with his hands outstretched, scaring the bear away. He always protected his family. Always. Grandad was a fixer--when I was little, I thought he could fix anything. As I gerw, I realized his tools of rubber bands, crazy glue, and duct tape didn't always make everything as perfect as I thought they were. He also tried to fix relationships in his own kind, loving, forgiving way. We didn't always want to be fixed. The older I got, I realized that even if Grandad couldn't fix everything, I can. Grandad alway planned family reunions--with a baseball game, a hike, and a BBQ. We always had a testimony meeting. Following the example of patriarchs such as Adam, Abraham, and Lehi, Grandad always shared with us his belief in God and Jesus Christ, and eternal families. The Lectures on Faith teach us that after Adam became acquainted with God, he taught his posterity. Elder Bednar said, "Father Abraham was given the promise that through him and through his posterity, which is all of us, all the families of the earth would be blessed. How? By our bearing this ministry, which is the responsibility to proclaim the gospel, and this priesthood, meaning the saving ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ." We knew that family always came first for Grandad.

Hooray for Grandad and missionary work. Grandad had a larger family story--that we are all brothers and sisters and we have a Heavenly Father and Older Brother who love us. He wanted to share this with everyone he met--the security man at the airport, the postman, haircutter, and neighbors. Ezra Taft Benson said, "The Lord works form the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of the people and then they would take themselves out of the slums." That's how Grandad worked. I loved hearing stories from his time as mission president in London. One time he was assigned to drive President Benson and his wife from the Gatwick airport to the Heathrow airport. He practiced the drive to make sure he had it right, but the night of the appointment was dark and rainy. President Benson talked the whole way, with his face in Grandad's. GranNomi was in the back seat with Sister Benson, and she tried to engage President Benson in conversation so Grandad could find his way, but with little luck. He finally made it. I remember when they returned from their mission and spoke in church, he invited all the returned missionaries there to stand and recite D&C 4. I was completely impressed with the missionary spirit. As a result of his missionary stories, his grandchildren have served in England, Italy, Russia, Germany, Washington, and Idaho. He would send us cards with money in our currency, and we shared his stories with our investigators.

Hooray for Grandad and the temple. When Grandad served in the Provo Temple presidency, they had to do without his paycheck. They sold one of their cars and walked to the temple. When he walked past our house for his 5:00 am shift, he would always wave. The garden provided them with food--and as grandchildren, we always remember delight in the cherries, raspberries, blackberries. Josh and Grandad would always go to the garden to peel and eat a fresh turnip. Grandad taught us at an early age about temple meaning. I remember him teaching Lisa and me all about the meaning of the temple. We always heard about his experiences at the Atlanta Temple as he served part-member families and testified of eternal truths. He taught us the importance of temple marriage--first with his own example with GranNomi, his sweet bride. He sealed nearly all of my cousins. I gave him special instructions to find my husband and give him a gentle nudge, and to attend my own sealing one day.

Hooray for Grandad and his testimony of Jesus Christ. My favorite story about Grandad was when he was 19 and suffered from a ruptured appendix. He lived in southeastern Arizona and it took a long time to get him to the hospital. He suffered from peritonitis and was deathly ill for 3 months in St. Mary's Hospital. He was often unconscious and felt very alone, particularly at night. He would often sing the hymn, "Abide with Me, 'Tis Eventide." The chorus said: "O Savior, stay this night with me; Behold 'tis eventide." It was then that he felt the presence of the Savior with him, and he committed his life to serving Christ. I felt Christ with him as I spent time with him at the end of his life. I treasured the opportunity to care for him, to strengthen the feeble hands and the bending knees. I, too, felt the presence of the Savior as I learned how Christ served.

Hooray for Grandad. We have a champion on the other side. We are his champions here. Some of my favorite Grandad sayings are: "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine." "We're all in this together." And most importantly, "A deal's a deal." We celebrate Grandad and we celebrate our family. As Grandad would say, quoting Moroni 9:25, "Be faithful in Christ; and may not the things which I have written grieve thee, to weigh thee down unto death; but may Christ lift thee up, and may his sufferings and death, and the showing his body unto our fathers, and his mercy and long-suffering, and the hope of his glory and of eternal life, rest in your mind forever."

If you have memories of Grandad, please share!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blind Dates and other such nonsense...

You always have to try. You do--simply because you have hope and you know the Lord works in mysterious ways...

Alas, last night was just mysterious...

My cousin and her husband and boys moved to Springfield on an Air Force assignment in DC about six months ago. I've loved having family so close. Their good friends from their assignment in Italy live in their neighborhood and they've loved reconnecting. Well, because my cousins know me, a single Mormon female, and their friends know a single Mormon male, they thought for sure it would be a match.

I only agreed to it if we could all have Sunday dinner together. It was lovely--I enjoyed meeting this family that I've heard so much about, and I love playing with my "nephews"--Arian's Benjamin and Bryce. But the guy... he dated my roommate and I've heard many not necessarily pleasant things about him. We were all civil and enjoyed the evening with grace, but it was a bit awkward, for both of us, I think.

Here is what I've learned about being set up:
1. Many people think that if you have one thing in common, it would be a great set up:
They're both single.
They're both LDS.
2. Blind dates can be extremely revelatory. You see what other people think about you by the people they are clamoring to set you up with. Sometimes that can be very painful.
3. It's always best to require a double date with whomever is setting you up. That way they can actually see the dynamics.
4. Often you can at least scratch it up to a GREAT story (and boy, do I have many!).
5. Sometimes you can meet some interesting people and at least expand your social circle.
6. Other times you just wish you could crawl into a hole.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

They should move that rock...

This weekend I went to the Shenandoah Valley with a bunch of friends--many adventures. Many adventures--involving deer and headlights on dark, windy country roads, turning around several times ("I think we've been here before!"), NOT playing Twister ("I'm not old; I'm mature"), a near-midnight tavern run (It WAS the only food around--and it was good), star-gazing, s'mor stuffing, and pancakes with chocolate and strawberries.

The highlight, though, was hiking Old Rag. It was incredible--especially the boulder scampering. At one point we got stuck behind a rather large group of Japanese-Americans who for the life of them could not seem to figure out how to get up a rather precarious rock formation. I became a little impatient and said something under my breath, and the Indian guy behind us actually suggested that someone should remove the rock so people could get up the mountain. His comment floored me--does he want a tram and an ice cream stand at the top? Are national parks supposed to be Disneyland?

At any rate, I pushed and pulled and heaved and LOVED the physical exertion, the scampering, the conversation, the friends, and the view at the top. What a day! I even picked some more wildflower weeds to add to my gloriously-blooming peonies. Here are some photos to prove we made it. I'll post more when I get them from my fellow hikers...

Monday, June 11, 2007

I love Fireflies

There is a brief window of firefly season here in Northern Virginia. I didn't see any at all when I moved here last August and I was so disappointed--I grew up in the West without the magic of fireflies. I remember the first time I saw them when I visited my grandparents one summer in Atlanta and then years later in Missouri. And I loved them in Central Park on summer evening walks in New York. Apparently the show up here in the early summer, and I love them.

There is something remarkable about the haphazard flashes of light--unexpected and unpreservable. They are so temporary that their light produces a little burst of excitement and wonder. I feel like a little kid again, staring into the air, hoping and being so pleasantly surprised to see fireflies pop back and forth in the dusk. I want to bottle them up so I can draw upon their light later on, but I know it's to no avail. The firefly reminds me to live in the moment.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

We are the Rising Generation

So I had a crazy opportunity on Friday... my good friend Laurel was in charge of an event here in Fairfax and needed help. I offered to act as a shuttle driver for the presenters, and Friday afternoon I found myself picking up Ardeth Kapp at the Dulles airport to drive to her hotel. It was sort of a surreal experience... I remember my golden days of Young Women when she was at the helm as the General YW president. I thought she was the greatest thing in the world--she had this amazing perception and vision with a sound foundation. I remember singing in the YW choir for the first Young Women broadcast in 1985 in the Tabernacle, and I remember being flooded with the Spirit and feeling one of my early first testimonies in a very powerful way. I also remember the balloon launching celebration--I even stayed home from a family vacation to attend. And I remember the bell-ringing celebration.

So after introducing myself to her, and hearing about her recent trip with her sisters to Canada where her brother received an honorary doctoral degree, I told her how much I admired her and that I was part of the famous broadcast. She gave me a hug right there in the car as I negotiated traffic on the Lee Highway and said, "Oh! You're one of my girls!" We talked and talked the whole way to the hotel, and I hope she didn't know that I had absolutely no idea where we were or how I was going to find the Fair Oaks Marriott.
Later that afternoon I drove Ardeth and Heber, her husband, to the venue, and we again chatted the whole way. Heber even offered some marriage advice: "Marry a rich man," he said. "Heb, did you marry me for my money?" Ardeth asked. "No," he said. "But it would have been much better." "What do you mean?" she asked. "What do you think about our marriage?" "Well, it just would have been better if we'd had money."

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Making Weeds into Wildflowers

Last week I was in Missouri visiting my dear grandparents. Things are not looking so good there--my grandfather as a very aggressive cancer and is home with hospice, and my grandmother is struggling to keep up with her new nursing responsibilities as well as grappling with what the future holds for her. As I went running one morning along the country roads, I struggled with my own emotions and physical condition. But I began to see the weeds all around me in their color and fine detail. I got back to the house, grabbed a pair of scissors, a bag, and some gardening gloves, and I cut flowers as far as I dared wander into the thick undergrowth full of snakes and chiggers and ticks.

I really believe that when we can open our eyes to find beauty, we can participate in actually creating it. We invite it in. We need it, and we allow it to heal and to refine. Thank goodness for weeds that become wild flowers.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Braving the Cold

On Saturday morning we woke to snow--kind of crazy with all the blossoms and flowers everywhere. And the temperature plummeted. I think it was 80 on Tuesday, and then down in the 30s and 40s the rest of the week. Jess and I braved the cold to go to a baseball game Saturday night--the Nationals and the Diamondbacks. We don't need to really discuss the score, but we do need to discuss the fact that the D-backs have new uniforms. Who knew they decided to join the rest of the free world (or at least the league) and have red and white? While I'm not a fan of purple and turquoise, I rather liked the effect with the scary diamondback snake.

At any rate, we bundled up--layers of thermals, wool sock liners, big blankets, hats, gloves, turtlenecks, scarves, coats--and thanks to the hot chocolate that Jess had to walk all over the ball park to find, we stayed relatively warm. It was grand.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

You're all worth it!

I am suffering from the worst allergies of all 32 years of my life. It started a week or so ago, and I figured the sneezing was kind of funny, but it quickly progressed to major congestion, headache, and a sinus infection. Well, $100 later, loaded up with Zyrtec, Nasonex, and Z-pak, I'm on the road to recovery... right?!?

So this morning to celebrate my road to recovery, I overcame my shortness of breath (yes, I run out of breath just by standing up and talking! I feel so old!), and my roommate and I went to see cherry blossoms! The jewels of Washington DC--and well worth the price. It was incredible... so many white ways of delight. We wandered along Haynes Point, then parked and walked along the Tidewater Basin. It was kind of chilly-but incredible. I guess only 20% of the blossoms are out right now, which means I must go again later this week. My favorites were the weeping white blossoms, but all of them were incredible. I even told the blossoms, with my plugged up nose, "You're all worth it!"

I'm including pictures of the great flowers in front of our house... and you'll see where the squirrels have wreaked their havoc on my tulips. If you know ANYTHING about how to stop squirrels, please, share!