Friday, February 22, 2008

Ukuleles, Websites, and my friend Tad

You may think the three don't belong together, but in this case, they do. Yesterday, my fellow Ph.D. student-friend Tad was talking about the web design skills he's learning (all the while grumbling about Wordpress trauma under his breath). Tad had a brilliant plan: he found a somewhat random and dilapidated ukulele-maker website. He hopes to approach the owner and propose a deal: he'll design a new website in exchange for a ukulele. Now I love that--not only is the picture of dear Tad with his curly red hair and hole-y jeans sporting a ukulele simply delightful (he says it must be easier than a guitar because it has less strings and is shorter), but the concept of bartering is back!

My friend Jenn recently made a beautiful quilt for a friend in exchange for a painting. I know people with kids often switch baby-sitting for each other. I love the idea that we all have abilities--quite different from other people around us. And we all have needs, also quite different from people around us. I believe that in the perfect world, our various needs and abilities should match up--and not only can we take care of each other, but we find ourselves very well taken-care of in the process.

So you go, Tad, with your cool ukulele website. Maybe you can play your ukulele for me and I can make you some cookies or something...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The National Cathedral... an experience of civic religion

Most of you know about my interest in material culture--how people create objects to illustrate their values and beliefs. I loved touring the Washington National Cathedral on Sunday with Kendall and Krista. The building itself is a testament of culture and national identity. Construction began in 1907 and followed the pattern of European Gothic cathedrals--sort of an example of American refinement. The typical cathedral pieces are all there--but done in a new, American way.
The rose window in most European cathedrals demonstrates judgment and hell. In this cathedral, the colors and light symbolize life and hope. The tour guide said that the color changes depending on the direction of the sun.

The stained glass windows illustrate both biblical stories and American stories. Three windows show the three branches of government--with the Supreme Court, the White House, and the Capital at the top, and biblical stories underneath (how appropriate that King Solomon and his wisdom goes with the judicial branch). There is a whole window dedicated to American agriculture, with one lancet including a John Deere tractor. One pane depicts the creation of the moon and the earth and contains an actual moon stone from the first American mission to the moon (the astronaut who stayed in the shuttle while the others walked on the moon attended St. Alban's school, right next to the National Cathedral).

Traditionally a screen separates the nave from the altar. In the National Cathedral, in the spirit of democracy, the screen is open so all can see and participate.
We went up to the tower and walked around, admiring the view. It was a cloudy day, but we could see the monuments and the Capitol on the National Mall, as well as the temple and Bethesda and Silver Spring. The tour guide told us about one "Americanized" gargoyle in the shape of Darth Vader. We couldn't find it, but this picture tells it all.

While we proudly proclaim a firm separation of church and state, I love that we can use both to illustrate beliefs and values. We can talk about our country at church and we can use churches to demonstrate our national identity. I suppose we should also have a National Synagogue and a National Mosque, too.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Enough Said.

I'm going to bed tonight with a big old smile on my face!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Potomac Primary

There's something about voting that makes me feel democratic and patriotic. And there's also a sense of responsibility--I really had to weigh out my thoughts for this primary. I loved that I wanted to think strategically--not only about what I believe and want for the government and the future of the country, but about what my vote will mean in the competition of the election. I love being a thinker...

And I love the process of showing my identity, tapping the screen (or the good old days in Utah of punching a card, or in New York of pulling that huge old lever--how did those votes really count?), and getting a sticker. I think my favorite was being able to actually put my ballot in a box. There's something mysterious about the ether world of the Virginia computer or the old-school New York voting machine--where do my votes go? I can't see them. I guess I just trust the process.

My friend A. Todd Jones emailed me yesterday. I love that every time we talk he tells me that he votes for me. There's nothing like a vote of confidence--even if it is from a man who considers himself the president of himself. He even has that printed on his checks. I love the fact, though, that we can express our hope and confidence in principles, in a democratic system, in people, and in relationships. I vote for trust and loyalty and love and hope and the future.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Whether the Weather be Good...

When I was a kid, our family went camping once at Mesa Verde. We attended the ranger campfire program and learned this little campfire song which my mom still sings to this day:

Whether the weather be good,
Whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold,
Whether the weather be hot,
Whatever the weather, we'll weather the weather
Whether we like it or not.

Do not ask me why I remember that song. It's random. Very random.

The other night, though, I was so grateful for a little weather tender mercy. Kendall and I planned to go on a walk on the National Mall one evening. He had worked late and I had been reading all day with a lengthy, boring research methods class where the professor simply went around the room to each of the seven students and hashed out their dissertation topics (except when he got to me he announced he was sick and closed the class). At any rate, we both needed a walk. The weather called for torrential downpours and thunderstorms, 100% chance, right at the time we planned on going. While there's something fun sometimes about being caught in a rainstorm, it's not necessarily true when you're tired and just need some fresh air.

Well, as luck or tender mercy would have it, the rain didn't come until much later. It was a great night--warm (like 63 degrees in February!), clean pre-rain air, and of course beautifully lit with the monuments. Nice. It was just the little break I needed, in a lot of different ways. And for the record, I CAN weather the weather. I think it takes rain to really appreciate dry.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Shout Out to JBrink

Happy, happy birthday, Jennifer dear,
Happy days will come to you all year!
If I had one wish, then it would be,
A happy, happy birthday to you from me!

Today is the birthday of a dear, dear friend: Jennifer Brinkerhoff. She has been an incredible tender mercy in my life, and I am so very glad that she was born! We were roommates for two years in Tempe, Arizona. I can't tell you all the crazy things we did together, nor can I number the times she asked me, "What are you going to tell your kids about me, your crazy roommate?" I don't think I've laughed or cried as much as I have with her. I've attached a few pictures here to illustrate the beauty and wonder that is JBrink. (Please know that most of these pics were taken over 8 years ago... but boy, did we have fun!)
I still remember how excited I was to go camping with our ward. I had only been in the deserts of Arizona for a short time and I couldn't wait to get back into the mountains! We arrived after dark and opted to sleep out under the stars. When I woke up in the morning, I saw that we were still in the desert, and if it hadn't been for JB, I would have cried. She made my desert experience bloom as a rose.
We were so not excited about our new University ward after the boundaries were reconfigured. I think we were the oldest in the ward. We decided to get all decked out for the ward Christmas party--black velvet, hot rollers in our hair, and the best part: our black joker glasses. We acted as if it were completely normal. We had a great time--but we did refuse to sit on Santa (the bishop)'s lap.
One summer a group of us hiked down to Havasupi falls. It was an incredible experience--between the beautiful water falls and playing in the water, to great company (remember singing Primary songs with Greg & Hopie, and how Greg insisted he had been in Honors Primary because he didn't know the songs we sang?), to pretending the bats in the horrible outhouse were butterflies. Ah, those were the days.When Jen came to visit me in Utah, I met her at the airport in disguise. She did not even recognize me. We loved dressing up. Too bad I don't have pictures of us doing yard work in our floppy hats, or laughing so hard at the thrift store when buying clothes for our 80s party, or dressing up as the four seaons one year for Halloween.Ah, the Nutcracker 5K. We had to run in tutus. What fun!

Happy Birthday, my dear friend! Here's to a great year of peace, joy, and delight!