Saturday, March 29, 2008

Let's Go Fly a Kite!

Yesterday afternoon Dorian, Jessica, and I braved the crowds and drove around the annual Smithsonian kite festival. Although there were no bowler hats and flying women with umbrellas (thank you, Mary Poppins!), the magic of kites and crowds and wind and spring were exhilarating. The colors, the dancing fabric and paper, the spring in the air, the pink and white cherry blossoms, and the Washington Monument all made the crazy crowds and hour-long drive around the National Mall completely worth it. I can't think of a better way to spend an hour on a Saturday afternoon during the Cherry Blossom festival, even with my paper kindly waiting for me at home.


I did it again yesterday. I was almost all the way to the Pentagon on 395 when I remembered that I forgot something vital to the day's excursion. So I got off at Pentagon City, did a u-turn, and got right back on 395 back to my house.

Thank goodness I remembered at that point, because where do you a do u-turn after that last exit before the district without crossing Memorial Bridge or 14th St. bridge, or going through Arlington Cemetery to turn around? I mean, really, thank goodness for the u-turn possibilities in Pentagon City.

Those of you who know me well know that I'm not afraid of making u-turns while driving. I try so hard to follow mapquest directions perfectly, but I often go too far--or not far enough--and inevitably I have to turn around. Just ask Janell, who actually wrote about our little adventure on her blog. Or Brad, who thinks I'm a horrible person because sometimes I disobey those pesky No U-Turn signs. For the love.

And thank goodness for u-turns in general in life. So often I am in such a big hurry to get through my never-ending list, or to accomplish the impossible for the day. So often I'm in such a rush that I forget to slow down and enjoy the journey, or realize I've forgotten something important, or, worse yet, acknowledge that I'm simply going in the wrong direction. Thank goodness for those gentle reminders, for the views along the way, for the very possibility of doing u-turns, of changing direction, of recognizing my mistakes and forgetfulness and realizing alternative modes. And thank goodness, really, for all the options to arrive somewhere... really, I'm on my way.

Yesterday I was rushing to the archives at Catholic University. As I quickly walked into the library, I turned around to look behind me and abruptly did another little u-turn, just to capture the view of the basilica framed by pink blossoms. What a view! Thank goodness for u-turns!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Easter Color

Last weekend I went shopping and came home with what I thought were some great buys--a khaki jacket, a tan linen shirt, a creamy blazer, a navy blue sweater, and a white shirt with lemon yellow stripes. Jessica took one look at me and told me I needed more color in my life. While I enjoy the safety of my blacks and browns and beiges, I agree--we all need more color.

I love Easter color. I love the way spring brings color to a drab winter--and I love that yellow is a big early spring color. I love that the freeways here are loaded with daffodils along the shoulders. You have to hand it to the little suckers--they must be a hardy flower they way they can survive all the early spring cold snaps. Last week we had a lot of strong winds and my daffodils were all sort of blown down; they looked completely defeated. With slightly warmer temperatures and no wind, they're starting to stand back up again.

One of my favorite things about our Easter dinner this year was that we all put on African shirts: bright blues and yellows, reds and oranges. I'm dying that I didn't have a camera there. I arrived at Kendall's and found Kendall, Gayla, and Dioubate all decked out in their colorful African wares, and Kendall offered me a choice from several other shirts in his closet. I picked a deep indigo piece from Guinea. As our other friends arrived, I made them all pick a shirt to wear. It was great--and I really think we underestimate color. I love that I have so much to learn and that life sort of hands out these kinds of eye-opening, color-inspiring experiences. I need to break free from my usual boring pattern and embrace color. Bring it on!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

March Madness

Ok. So it's totally a distraction for a busy student who should be researching, reading, and writing--and for that matter, cleaning and preparing a little talk for Relief Society and maybe even doing some laundry. But oh, the fun of March Madness... even for someone who really has not followed college basketball at all this season.

I just love filling out the bracket. Maybe it's the part of me that loves making lists and crossing things off and seeing "progress." It just feels good and accomplished and satisfying. I love that at this time of year I constantly check the scoreboards when I should be reading about the Civil Rights movement or finding archival sources for my paper. I love choosing teams whose names sound like good, solid basketball teams because I really honestly know nothing about their statistics this season. I love choosing an underdog team or two to go pretty far--simply because I believe in the challenge of making it big against all odds, and I delight in the unexpected. Oh, the excitement of it all!

Yesterday I asked the students working in our lab if they had filled out their brackets. Most of them had no idea what I was talking about. And so, for the first time in my pretty un-athletic life, I explained the simple joys of March Madness. I printed brackets for them and tried to describe the fun in blind choosing and watching scores. One undergrad even admitted that she knew sports had something to do with balls... oh there's so much to teach!

It is all paying off. My Russian friend Nastya just came rushing in to my cubicle to tell me that she saw a score flash by on some website and one of her teams is doing well. Wahoo! I think she's converted! I don't know that she's ever even been to a basketball game, but now she's addicted to March Madness. And Maureen and Tad are also playing along, waiting madly to see how their teams do. Mission accomplished!

Next mission: how will my bracket do?!? And after that: it's a good thing March Madness ends before my paper is due...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

On the Cusp

I really think it's almost here... I can smell it... I can see it... I can feel it... Buds bursting, cherry blossom festival planning, sun staying, warmer temperature... it really IS on the cusp. Today I saw cherry blossoms playing hide and seek at the University of DC. Yesterday on the way home from the gym I saw some lovely purple blossoms poking out. I can hardly contain myself...

I'm on the prowl for spring. I'm actually on the prowl for a lot of things. It's this on the prowl, on the verge, on the cusp that's so exciting. I've been working away madly on a paper for a conference, hoping I can turn it into a dissertation chapter, and at the least, the final paper for my research methods seminar. I've uncovered every stone, explored every possibility, emailed every archive and list-serv in search for that blossom, that bloom, that proof of evidence that proves my thesis.

Yesterday I went through 7,000+ images on the New York Public Library website and found a trail that I followed today at the University of DC. That in and of itself was an entirely new experience--not only was I the only white person in the vicinity (I felt like I was back in Harlem!), but the layout of the library was extremely odd--the microfilm things I needed on the 2nd floor but all the reference help on the 5th floor, and the only way in between was to go back down to the 1st floor and take the elevator up, then being passed around from Mr. Hooper to Miss Bloom to who knows what. But that small lead was everything... I'm on the cusp... it's going to burst any day now.

I love being on the cusp in other ways, too... spring, I'm ready for you!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Cutting and Piecing

A bunch of quilter friends and I are making a quilt--we all chose a fabric from the same fabric line and will make 20 of the same block, then exchange and make our own quilts. See my friends blog about their blocks: Jenn, Erica, and Julie.

I love every step of the process. I loved picking my fabric--and I even bought more of my favorite fabrics from the line to add some blocks and borders. I loved cutting and piecing, pressing and sewing again. There's something ironically comfortable about the monotony of cutting and sewing, pulling apart and putting back together in new ways. I love making my points match and seeing the final project so quickly. I can't wait to figure out the overall design with the different blocks and fabrics, then add my borders and back. It's kind of like the big paper I'm working on this semester--cutting apart, piecing together. Or so many other things in my life. So many life metaphors...

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

There is Nothing Like a Good Haircut

Or at least a different haircut. The flip is gone, my friends. Gone the way of all old haircuts. I've entered the world of Posh Spice with a little Katie Holmes sass. Now my little stack is nowhere nearly as dramatic as Victoria Beckham, and my color is certainly not as blond, but it's a fun little change.

I think the best part is losing the weight of old hair. I don't mean pounds necessarily, but the fresh new feel and new outlook. Tomorrow morning when I wash my hair, I already know the shortness--even though it's not that much shorter--will surprise me. And I probably won't be able to style it exactly the same. But it's the change that's exciting and invigorating as I wait for spring. It's a new me--a fresh start.

One time I visited my sister Lisa when she lived in a little teeny town in Wisconsin. She had told me on the phone several times before my visit that she just didn't fit in there, that people would stare at her when she walked into a store or somewhere new. She felt out of place. Once I arrived in Delavan, I could see why. It was March and still very steeped in winter--and I'm sure the cold temperature had something to do with it. The atmosphere felt stagnant and old, like an old haircut. I had a brilliant idea. I wondered if these people all got a really great, new haircut, if it would change the town. I think it just might.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Name Them One By One

Last night I was grumbling to Kendall about a paper that seems to be swallowing me alive. I told him I was discouraged, to which he immediately sang:

"When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost
Count your many blessings, name them one by one
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done."

I laughed--particularly because both he and I stumbled over the words (it's hard when you start a song in the middle and not at the beginning)--but I realized he was right. So before I jumped head first into my paper this evening, I named one by one the things I am grateful for:

1. The man who opened the door for me when my diet Coke bottle exploded.
2. That diet Coke--some days it just does a magical work on me.
3. The sun--I think it was up to 70 degrees today and I loved soaking in the sun for a few minutes.
4. Not having anything to do at work--and my supervisor is out this week--so I could tackle my paper.
5. Having the inspiration of HOW to tackle my paper.
6. All the contacts I have at various archives--I emailed everyone I could think of for contextualization information for my paper. I have to smile when I think of them because I've had such great relationships with them: my Jewish South African Lyn at the American Jewish Historical Society, my fantastic adviser Peter at NYU, my great, funny, real friends Bill, Randy, and Chad at the Church Archives, and countless others.
7. Learning that I can have graceful endurance--as Elder Maxwell teaches in "Enduring Well."
8. Driving with my moonroof open, blasting Elder Maxwell on my Ipod.
9. Going on a walk with dear Jessica.
10. Lighting my cinnamon vanilla candle and letting the flame carry away my negativity.
11. Realizing the power of my own clinical material--that I can learn and work and heal and arise and be counted.
12. Kendall and his efforts to un-discourage me.

I love that by naming my blessings, I know that I can name and be named.