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.