Saturday, October 31, 2009

One of those A-HA moments...

After a week full of those "adventures" (where you do NOT ask what else could happen because it DOES), I saved up Friday night to go visiting teaching (church program, see details here--it WAS, after all, the end of the month!). Julie and I had a nice, cozy visit with Jen, which went slightly longer than anticipated. At 9:45 pm, we realized we still needed to run into Georgetown to visit Karen.

Now, this story will have more meaning for those of you who know Georgetown on a Friday night, particularly the Friday night before Halloween. The traffic is crazy and the parking is crazier. There were folks testing out their costumes and cops all over the place. Julie left a husband and sleeping child and baby at home who may or may not have needed feeding. We brought melting pumpkin ice cream for Karen. Our situation was a teensy bit dire.

In my desperate way, I hurled out a very vocal pleading to God: "Please provide us with a parking spot if you want us to visit Karen!" I was half joking--ready to creep down M Street and Wisconsin, and all the hopeful street parking in between. When what to our wandering eyes should appear, but A PARKING SPOT RIGHT IN FRONT OF KAREN'S SHOP. I'm not kidding. It was there. And the street was lined with cars everywhere else, parked and waiting to park. You know.

We ran in and chatted and laughed with Karen while she took a break from work and admired her kitty hidden away upstairs and hugged her and told her Heavenly Father must love her. Then hightailed it home. Where I found another parking spot right in front of my house.

I believe in visiting teaching miracles.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Candle in the Wind

Last week I had to go to Philadelphia. Twice. For two separate conferences.

Ok. I was cheap. I had a ride up and back on Thursday and I didn't want to pay for a hotel room until my Saturday conference.

I decided that after a couple of intense weeks of research, writing, powerpoint making, and all that other stuff, I deserved a slight detour after my second presentation: the Dian
a exhibit at the National Constitution Center.Judge me all you want. I admit: Diana was my princess. I am a Diana-lover. My grandparents lived in London when she got married and send us news clippings and books and postcards. When I was on study abroad in London, I lived around the corner from Kensington Palace, and everytime our class was interrupted by the sound of her helicopter flying in or out, we wondered what activity was happening.

I loved her dresses. I loved that it took a while for her to find her style, but boy did she find it. I loved that she supported British fashion designers and I loved her sense of class.

I loved her emphasis on humanitarian aid. I loved that she used her station in life to do an incredible amount of good. She didn't shirk away from the difficult situations that were so far removed from her own palaces and royal activity. She jumped in.

Most of all, I loved that she loved people. She touched sick people and held people with crazy diseases. She wasn't afraid of the royal imprimature being polluted in any way. She was brave and fierce.
She obviously struggled privately. And yet she had a grace and a poise that stood strong despite her difficulties.

I remember exactly where I was when I found out about her death. At first I was convinced it was a conspiracy plot by the queen because Diana had stolen her spot light and because of all the troubles with Charles. I watched her funeral and I bought the Elton John cd in support of her, and I listened to it over and over. She was my princess.

The exhibit, by the way, was delightful. If you get the chance, wherever it travels, you should go. I LOVED seeing the dresses I had seen in pictures. The train on that dress? 25 feet long. Incredible. And well worth the $36 parking ticket for being three minutes late to my meter. Take that, Philadelphia. You can't ruin my Diana experience.

And I think I'm going to go to London this year for Christmas. Or to do humanitarian aid somewhere. Is anyone in?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Misty Moisty Morning

A couple of weeks ago, a friend gave us tickets to the White House garden tour. We braved the rain and chill and metroed in for the biannual event.
I've lived in DC for over three years and have yet to be invited to the White House (I'm still hoping for a Christmas party invite this year... hehehe), so I jumped at the opportunity to come within yards of the famous building.

The Rose Garden

It was beautiful--and exciting to be at the same location where so much happens on the news: the Rose Garden, the Oval Office (I loved that it was literally adjacent to the playground for the OBama kids).

The other thing I loved was the additions from each administration: the magnolia trees planted by Andrew Jackson in memory of his wife Rachel, the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, the Children's Garden (with handprints of many First Children and Grandchildren!). I found it very interesting that the Clintons planted an elm tree. Who loves the elm? Anyone? Isn't it the most common of all weed trees? At least it was at my mom's house in Utah. I loved seeing the Obama playground, but, I'll be honest here, I was a bit perplexed why the famous Michelle Obama kitchen garden was not on display (Could it be in disrepair? Is it a farce? Are they growing unmentionables there, not fit for public view?).After a warm sandwich at Pot Belly, we were on our way. One DC experience richer and a bit wetter... (is that a word?)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Last week I flew home on Columbus Day. The holiday sort of threw off my travel plans.

(Yes--I didn't know Columbus Day had the power to throw off travel plans. I didn't even know it was a holiday until I moved East. Don't get me wrong--I think Columbus and his travels are worth celebrating. Maybe not the manipulation of the native peoples and the beginnings of American imperialism, but the idea of exploration and expansion. You know.)

Luckily as I boarded the Marc train for BWI a couple of weeks ago, I saw a notice about no train service on Columbus Day. Phew. So glad I saw that and didn't get stuck with a hefty Amtrak ticket on my way home. There's more than one way to get home, right? I planned just to take the metro shuttle to Greenbelt and metro home. Plan B.

Luckily again, I checked the metro website the morning before my flight. Detoured again. The holiday weekend would see scheduled track work on the green and yellow lines, with complete closure from Gallery Place south. Phew again. I mean--that was my direct path. I juggled around the metro map and realized that I could transfer to the red line, then back to the blue line, then catch a bus at the Pentagon and make it home just fine.

Except. The red line is still slow from the horrible train wreck a few weeks ago. And I was tired and that bus would have tacked on another 30 minutes or so home. So I called sweet ME, who agreed to meet me at Farragut North on her way home from work. Perfect. Crisis averted.

My point is this: I think we often make great plans. Fantastic, perfect plans--to ride off into the sunset, or to achieve a certain goal, or to arrive at a certain destination at a specific time. Then something happens. Routes are closed. People fall through. Scheduled track work happens. Columbus arrives back in 1492 and the world celebrates for years after. You get the picture. The exciting, exhilarating part is this: figuring out where you go from here. Rerouting, as the GPS says. Examining your options and making a new plan. Finding a new course to the same destination.

That's it, my friends. Detours are GREAT.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Sing like your shoes are on fire!

Last Saturday evening I flew from Denver to Salt Lake City, where I hugged my cousin Barbara at the airport on her way back to California. Then Janiece picked me up and we headed down to UVU just in time for the Snow Patrol concert. It was fabulous. Great music. Good crowd. My favorite quote of the night was an encouragement to sing along: "Sing like your shoes are on fire!"

What does that mean? It must have something to do with urgency and passion--as if your life depended on it.

When was the last time you sang like your shoes were on fire?

I don't know.

But I do know what it's like to be in the hot seat. In fact, I've got a paper for a conference that I must turn in tomorrow. The great news is that I've found some incredible stuff that makes all the difference to prove my ideas. I'm so super delighted with some stuff that GoogleBooks turned up for me, and that I could interlibrary loan a very rare book from the Newberry Library in Chicago (it's the only extant book from the Salt Lake City Ladies' Literary Club's contribution to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair). I owe the interlibrary loan office some cookies for pulling that one off for me. Plus the archivist at BYU let me take digital pictures of the entire book, Songs and Flowers of the Wasatch. I have such perfect research for this paper.


But I only have two days to get it all together.

Granted--it's only a paper, and this will actually be a chapter in my dissertation, so I have more time.

In the meanwhile, though, I'm singing as if my shoes were on fire. I'm so excited about what I'm doing and yet I've got to get this thing rolling!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hide and Seek

I love playing hide and seek with a three-year-old. This is how Savannah wanted me to play with her last week:

"I'm going to hide in the cupboard. You go over there and say 'one and two and three; ready or not.' Ok?"

It was so easy that way. It didn't take long and it didn't last long. Only two hides.
If only all the other things that are hiding from me could appear at such command: my dissertation, my husband, a new spare tire that I don't seem to have the time to go find and buy. Sheesh, I'd even take a normal date and a chapter at this point!

But I guess there must be something in the seeking process. Something about recognizing needs and limitations, measuring distances and time and expectations, studying and working through options, testing out possibilities, researching and writing and editing, and asking for help. And sometimes, just waiting. And NOT counting. That's the hardest part for me.

Then again, maybe there are more lessons to be learned from those kids.
  • After helping herself to a giant piece of birthday cake, then spilling it all over the floor, little Savvy immediately responded by singing, "I'll go to time out!" Maybe I need to sequester myself into my own time out and really separate myself when I recognize trouble.
  • After putting Vicks vapor rub on poor Sierra, who was coughing up a lung (did you know they don't make kids' cough medicine anymore?), Savvy said, "I'm sick, too. I need medicine!" Maybe I need to recognize and ask for a healing balm--and believe mightily in it.
  • When I sat Luke down on the gravel playground, he put his hands down to push himself up to his feet. He didn't really like the feel of the sharp little rocks, but he just kept trying. And he never got discouraged--he had the biggest smile on his face. He was so excited to be outside and he wasn't going to let some little rocks stop him from enjoying the playground with the big kids!
Man, I love those kids. I love how I can feel my heart expanding to love them.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The One Who Finishes... or Lessons Learned in St. George...

My quads have calmed down enough for me to tell you a little tale.

Once there was a crazy graduate student who thought it would be fun to train for and run the St. George marathon. She had never done that one before, and her sister and sister-in-law all registered together. What a time for some good old-fashioned family bonding.

Well, then the training part came. And it was very very hot and humid in Virginia. And then she rolled her ankle helping someone move and the swelling never really went down. And even she never seemed to get enough sleep and enough to eat (TRANSLATION: she had a ginormous appetite and ate everything in front of her but just didn't seem to be burning all those calories). She made it through the long runs, even though her running friend suffered a very serious injury and she found some great guys to run with (and they pushed her and pulled her and made her run much faster than she ever thought she could).

And then the day came. All were settled snugly in their beds for the night at the Courtyard Marriott, when what to their sleeping ears should hear but a wake-up call at 3:30 instead of 4:30! Someone at the front desk made a little mistake (TRANSLATION: I don't know how to talk about that without some not very nice words except they gave us a nice credit on our bill).

Here are the highlights of the whole experience:
  • There is a great sense of victory that comes with finishing. Sometimes it's not the finish you had imagined--there was no finish-line flourish here (TRANSLATION: The finish-line flourish is when you have this euphoric burst of energy that comes out of nowhere and suddenly your legs are pounding the pavement and you cross that line with this immense amount of energy and strength and pride). There was just the ability to cross the finish line. Period. It was crossed. And there was something both humbling and powerful about submitting to the idea of finishing. Not winning, not PRing, not breaking any record, not qualifying, but finishing. That's it. It's a beautiful concept, friends.
  • There is a power in running with a sister. I thought I ran faster than Lisa, and she had really banged up her knee on her last long run. But I'll tell you what, more than I needed to run fast and strong like I did with my guys in training, I needed to run with my sister. I needed her. She needed me. We pushed each other and laughed and told each other stories and listened to our Ipods and danced and sang and waited for each other to go to the bathroom and get Icy Hot rub-downs at the aid stations. She walked with me when I didn't think I was going to make it up the Veyo hill at mile 7, and I kept her going. At the end, Lisa had a lot more energy than I did, and I wanted her to finish strong, so she went ahead. But then, right before the finish line, she turned around and waited for me so we could cross together. That meant the world to me.
  • There is something about making something so huge and seemingly impossible into something more manageable. Lisa and I utilized the Galloway method this time, where you run a mile and walk a minute. Something like that. We learned to conserve our energy and rest our aching muscles. And even though near the end we took more frequent and longer walking breaks, and it was hard to push those aching quads back into running mode, it sustained us throughout the race. My favorite part, though, was the big, silver star balloons at ever mile marker. You could see them from far away--and we knew we just had to make it to that balloon and we could walk. I LOVED those balloons (TRANSLATION: I would have married one if I could).
  • There is something about being surrounded by runners. A marathon becomes a group effort. My great bishop was running as was my cousin John and my sister-in-law Jill. There were signs along the route that made us laugh and keep going. And the crowds near the end were energizing. I loved it.
That's all. I don't know if there's anything left in me to do another one. I do want to beat my time, but my body feels old and tired. And I've got to take good care of it. I've got miles to go and this body needs to see me through, because I'm a finisher.

Monday, October 05, 2009


Last Wednesday I came home. My Utah home, that is. I haven't been home since Christmas last year. That's a long time. What can I say? I've been busy. And living on an ever-decreasing poor student budget.

I've decided I have a couple of homes. I love love love the rolling green hills of Virginia, the thick trees, the brilliant greens and fall and spring colors, the rivers and the history and the age. I love the East Coast culture and I love the incredible people here. This, to me, fuels me and gives me direction and compels me to action. Oh I love that I have found a place to call home that quickens my inner being.

But there was something in the air when I got off that plane at Salt Lake International Airport that I hadn't felt in a long time. A sense of familiarity and deep, long personal history. My history. And the history of the people that I love and that I have made my study and passion. This, too, is home.

I woke up on Thursday to the sprinkling of snow on Timpanogos with the dusting of fall color creeping down the mountain. Oh I love the majestic rocky peaks. I did some research at the new Church History museum in Salt Lake City--looking at old, familiar records in a beautiful new location. That new library is breathtaking--from the bronze friezes to the rich carpet to the warm afternoon sun. I have loved catching up with dear old friends, spending time with family, and even catching a General Conference session Sunday afternoon.And yet... after a couple of days here (well and a sojourn in St. George, details pending the healing of my throbbing quads), I find myself anxious. I feel in-between. I have papers to grade, a paper to write, more research to do, planes to catch, a conference to attend in Denver.
Basically, I've come to the conclusion that time marches on. I remember on my mission after five long, hard, rewarding months in Bari, I was inevitably transferred to Foggia. As I rode the train and looked out the window at the fleeting city scenes that had become my own through a lot of pavement pounding and hard work, I felt like Bari had become a part of me--a part of my very being. I had laughed and cried and withered of exhaustion and thrived with love there. I had give myself to Bari and I took that city into my own self. And I was leaving it behind. But I was also taking a part of it with me. Bari had enveloped itself into my soul.

Before Italy and since then, I've added a lot of homes to my soul: magical London with its enchantment and European delights at every turn, sunny Arizona with its delightful orange blossoms and breathtaking sunsets, dynamic New York City with its mad craziness and breathtaking life all rolled up together, and of course, Washington DC and Utah.

We create homes and we take them with us. They blend together to make us who we are. And we carry them with us everywhere. And we can find home all over again.