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!