Sunday, May 31, 2009

The Small Details

As I wandered around Springfield last week, I reveled in the small delights of the Midwest. Here are some random detailed images:A charming view from within the upper chamber of the Old state Capitol. I loved the wavy light through the window.

And the peonies! Oh I love peonies!

I love the practice of opening my eyes and seeing. There's an art to finding value. Sometimes it takes looking up or finding a new angle. Sometimes it means cropping out. Sometimes it means a new perspective.
We stumbled upon this antique store located in an old car dealership. The building was fantastic--big display windows, a beautiful cathedral ceiling with a choir-type loft upstairs, all filled with stained glass and European hutches.

The Dana-Thomas home was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I loved the straight lines, the organic detail, the windows, the colors, the different levels, the thought and care of light and nature. There was a fountain inside the inner court, a bowling alley downstairs, an incredible library, everything built-in and functional. Oh I loved it.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Sprinfield, Illinois--Land of Lincoln

The name plate on his front door

Last week I spent in Springfield, Illinois--Land of Lincoln. I say that because other than small airports and restaurants that happened to close before 8:00 pm on a Monday evening and Rod Blagojevich mockery, this really is the land of Lincoln.

Our Mormon History Association Conference was at the President Abraham Lincoln Hotel. We had an opening reception in the Old Capital, across the square from the Lincoln-Herndon Law Offices, surrounded by life-size statues of Abe and Mary Todd and the boys. We had plenary sessions on the possibility of any meeting between Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln, and on Joseph Smith's trials in Springfield (and on all sorts of other simply intriguing and mind-bending topics!), and we awarded stove-pipe hats and Lincoln pennies at our student reception (with cash and books).
I took time to visit the Lincoln home (cool but honestly just like any other 19th century home) as well as the Lincoln Museum (full of very scarey wax figures and holographs and 3-D movies with smoke and vibrating seats) and the presidential library (closed for research on Sunday but it's a beautiful facility with a nice gallery).

And I learned a few things about Mr. Lincoln. Here's what struck me:
  • He loved two other women before he met Mary Todd. His heart was broken the first time when his fiancee died of fever. He was despondent to the point of major depression. Then his second love sort of fizzled out and he was actually relieved when he proposed and she turned him down. Then he met Mary Todd. He loved her dearly and devotedly. I love that love didn't come easily for this man.
  • Once he was married, life wasn't easy. Of four sons, only two lived to adulthood. One son died just a short time after they moved to the White House, and the death caused a great distress. Every Thursday, the day his son passed away, President Lincoln would go sit in the boy's room and remember him. He was deeply affected by the people he loved.
  • I also love that his career was not a straight shot to the White House. He dabbled around, working at a store, then picking up law, then running--and failing--for political office. Several times. He was firm and steady--but just because he knew how to weather through and power forward and pick up the pieces and start all over again.
  • Even as President--and especially leading up to those pivotal years--he had plenty of people who didn't like him very much. The press smeared him as a power monger, a racist, a violent man, a dumb man, a womanizer, a waste. Again--he sort of plowed through. He knew what he believed in--and he listened and studied and formed his opinions very carefully with much thought. And he moved forward with his eyes firmly fixed.
  • He was a joker. He knew how to laugh. He let his kids run wild in his office (ok, that part sort of bugged me--the wax figures of him stretching out barefoot on the couch while his boys threw ink wells at each other and scattered briefings and papers all over that messy office. Do you have to go that far?)--but he let his kids be kids. He understood them. He remembered.
Lincoln's Tomb
Beautiful--but filled with school kids and without the quiet reverence I always find at the Lincoln Memorial here in DC.

So even if Illinois produces such people as Blagojevich or the Chicago mobs or the Governor Ford, if it also produces people like Lincoln, there's every reason to celebrate.

But wax figures? Really?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Sometimes victory isn't necessarily winning. Sometimes victory is simply coming out on top. Sometimes victory is recognizing the way that you can act instead of being acted upon, that you can be in charge and choose how to feel or not feel, that you can hold your head up and accept your situation. And you can recognize the humanity in it and in others. And you can even love it.
I had a small yet incredibly significant victory on Saturday night. Let's just say that I came out on top. After a somewhat difficult start that morning, I realized my choices and I worked and planned and took charge. I knew what I needed and that it was outside of myself, and I sought after it. I was magnified and enlarged beyond my ability and I loved it. My life hasn't changed in any dramatic way, but I feel changed. I feel light and whole and hope because of how I chose to approach a heavy situation. I feel victorious.Sometimes in my life, victory is achieving the end of my 34th year. I have celebrated for a couple of days now--I have some pretty incredible friends who have thrown me a birthday dinner, taken me out to dinner, brought flowers and cake, sent cards, given gifts, promised baseball games, sent facebook messages, and left voice messages... I even used a gift card from last year to get an incredible massage last night. I feel FULL.

The very best way I could think of to celebrate is to release this past year to the wind and to embrace my big 35. I got some helium balloons and write some notes--one to myself about the courage and sacrifice and charity I've learned this year. This is my way to celebrate and embrace. Here I go!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Fancy Schmancy

Sometimes it is REALLY fun to get a special invitation at the last minute--to get all dressed up in a swanky dress, find a great date, and go to the shi-shi Metropolitan Club in DC for a dinner event. And when the doorman asks how he can help you, he directs you right up the grand staircase and to the left, to a wood-paneled room, fine art on the walls, darkly lit, for a pre-dinner reception.

Even more fun is when the event is for the National Bible Association, and you sit at the same table as a retired ambassador to the Vatican, and you hear the Senate Chaplin and the House Chaplin offer prayers, and you hear from this year's recipients of the Congressional Awards.

So it may not be the White House Correspondents Dinner (go Jill with you and all your celebrity conversations and pictures!), or TOFW, or Hawaii or Europe or the wilds of the world, but it was pretty cool.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Phone Call

How many of you out there remember that movie, The Phone Call? The one filmed at Ripples Drive-Thru on Canyon Road? Where the guy keeps waiting for the phone call... or is it the old lady waiting for a letter in her big mailbox, or the Cipher in the Snow? I get them all mixed up. And then there's the Award. Remember that one?

I loved my Tuesday this week. I have a kind of big event coming up this weekend and it's been sort of boiling away in my tummy for a while. All that nervous anticipation and trying to squash expectation and having no clue what is going to happen. Well on Tuesday it started with a phone call from my dear friend Laurel asking if she could go to lunch with me. Not really possible since she was in Salt Lake City and I was in Fairfax, Virginia at the noon hour. But she talked me through some stuff and told me how much she loves me and that was that.

Then Barbara called. She thought my weekend was last weekend and wanted to hear all about it, but since it's this weekend and we'll both be in Springfield, IL for a conference next weekend, we decided to do breakfast together in the Land of Lincoln.

If you were driving along a country road in Ireland, wouldn't you want to stop and make a call just because you saw this phone booth? I think it would have to be a delightful call. And the thought of a phone booth in Ireland reminds me of that grouchy wheelchair lady in Waking Ned Devine whose phone booth gets knocked off the cliff. I love that scene. I love that movie.

Then Janiece to arrange our hotel for Springfield. Then Mauri. Then Shireen to schedule a time to go get a pedicure with me. Then Marni on a walk. The list goes on and on. Jen & Diedra planning a birthday BBQ on Sunday. Lauren inviting me to dinner on Monday. That's a whole lot of really great phone calls.

(Ok, some of those were emails, but they didn't have email back in the day of the BYU Motion Picture Studio movie of the Phone Call, although isn't an email from a friend similar to a letter in the mailbox for that little lonely grandmother?)

The point is, there is nothing like a good phone call. Even if it's just a quick check-in, or a voice mail. Admit it--you'll save a good voice mail. It's so fun to listen to over and over. There's nothing like hearing a voice say your name and say his/her name and connect in some way. And there's nothing like a nice, long, late conversation where you can laugh or cry, tell hilarious stories, describe your day's experience, share, over the magical line.

Saturday, May 09, 2009


I have always loved the variety of the seasons. It seems that each one comes right when I need some kind of change, and the temperature shifts, the different weather patterns, the new flowers or leaves or whatever tokens nature offers me push me forward. Perhaps it has to do with the cyclical progress--it's not new, but it's renewing and restorative. I can let go of the hard, negative, heavy and reclaim some of the victory, the hope, the light. They come around every year.And yet I've measured this past year by what happened last year. Last year for Thanksgiving... last New Year's Eve... I remember going to New York City this weekend last year, walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with a man whose hand I clinged to but soon realized he was walking in directions I couldn't follow. Last fall was Fall Forward--I couldn't wait for the end of a very hard, heavy summer. I waited with baited breath for snow to fall after studying deeply and entirely for my oral exams. Another season ended. And then I yearned for, ached for spring, for green and growth and blossoms. For new life and hope. Spring Free.
This spring I've realized that seasons have seasons. I always think my favorite spring flower is the daffodil--so hearty and so early yet so bright and cheery. But then come cherry blossoms, magnolias, and forsythia, and then tulips and hyacinths. And then come the purple plum blossoms, then the red bud and dogwood, and just in the past few weeks, the azaleas. Each season seems to be brighter and brighter.
I love that spring lasts MONTHS here. Just the other day while walking to my office on campus, I saw daffodils. Persisting. In May for crying out loud. And that yellow bud--while not as exciting as the first one to pop through seemingly frozen soil--reminded me of the seasons of spring.
Right now I'm in the last season of spring. The one where the leaves pop out--almost over night if not over the weekend--and suddenly I'm recloaked in a world of green. Covered. And first it's that almost neon spring green, bright against the dark wood bark of Virginia's trees. The green deepends, and our week-long rains have sharpened the color of the grass and the leaves. Oh those leaves--they cover and comfort me.

And soon I'll have my summer flowers on my back patio--one bright pink head has already poked through. An early bloomer. My basil plant is thriving, ready to season my pastas and pizzas. And then the refreshing breezes of fall, the vulnerability of losing my leaf cover, and welcome snow. Over and over.

It's a matter of opening my eyes and taking it all in. And restoring myself. Each time.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


National Arboretum--Azalea Walk.
Holy cow--if you've never been during azalea season, you've got to see it. All the vibrant blooms you ever imagined.

align, v.

1. To range, place, or lay in a line; to bring into line.
3. To bring two or more points into a straight line; spec. said of bringing the ‘sights’ of a rifle into line with the mark, so as to aim straight.

I love those moments when things just fall into place. There are times when they fall into place naturally--like it's all about timing and it's just a matter of being patient. That process of time. Like spring finally coming, or the clouds parting for a moment, or even rain pouring down and washing all the pollen away. That fortuitous break that you recognize is completely out of your hands.

But there are also times when you work really hard to make things fall into place. You physically move mountains (And yes, sometimes--many times--most times--you are magnified by some higher power to move those mountains). There is a sense of accomplishment when you have stretched and sweated (is that a word?) and squeezed to achieve alignment.

I have a new dissertation adviser. And I cannot say how incredibly delighted I am. She thinks my ideas are great and has this great sense of expediency--she knows which hoops are important and which ones simply require the need to jump. She wants me to move forward. She is aligned with me, with my abilities, and with my goals. No longer do I feel blocked. This week I presented my prospectus and I'm finalizing the details of my committee. Then it's off to my pesky field statements and off I march to advance to candidacy. And then I can actually write my dissertation.

I also love this alignment with people. I'm a huge believer in reconciliation--as posted previously. There is a huge sense of relief when we can be on the same page. I experienced this alignment twice on Monday--and I love how it lightened my heart and put a skip back into my step.

But I also think alignment comes from deep within me. When I am in line with my goals, with my mission, with my plan. When my actions are consistent with what I want to have happen. When I aim straight. I'm on my way.