Sunday, December 28, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Please Enunciate Clearly

I love my family.
We've been a little lethargic today. Tonight, I decided we needed some bonding time and got Michael and Angi to come play a round of Pass the Pigs with me.
It was a lot of fun. We decided to do a tournament, best two out of three. When we were almost through the last round when Laura got home from work and Dad came through the kitchen. We convinced them both to play a double round with us, to 200 points.
Dad was kind of asleep through the whole thing, I think. He gets in autopilot mode sometimes and you know he's not completely there. He wasn't doing so well in the game, and I felt kind of bad for him. It was kind of late and I thought it would be nice if we could wrap up the game so he could go to bed.
Angi, meanwhile, was playing really well. So was Laura. For a while, it looked like they would be neck-and-neck the whole game. Then Laura had a string of bad luck, and Angi won. When she realized that she had more than 200 points, she exclaimed, "Yeah! I beat you down!"
However, what it came out sounding like was "Yeah! I beat you! Dawm!"
Laura and I looked at each other and burst out laughing. Meanwhile, it slowly registered with Dad that he'd just heard something that sounded like an expletive come from his daughter. His brow furrowed even as he began to chuckle.
Angi, aware that something was amiss, began exclaiming, "what did I say? what did I say?" and once I could breathe I explained to Angi what it had sounded like she said and to Dad that this was not actually the case. We all had a good laugh, which had the effect of waking Dad up a little more. In fact, he woke up enough to suggest we play a second round- but only to 100 points.

How do you measure a year?

There was a song that was popular with the music, dance, theater kids when I was in high school that went something like "five hundred twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes, how do you measure, measure a year?"

I don't know the answer to that- a year is so much time. so very much can happen in the course of a year, and at the same time so little. Looking back to last December, I am so different and yet so much the same as I was then. But here are a few of the events that took place this year, some funny, some serious.

This first picture is a magazine page that someone put up on the wall of my cyto lab on campus before I ever got there. I left it up because it was kind of funny, but some days it almost made me cry. This picture alone, in some ways, summarizes the first half of the year nicely. However, that's not entirely fair to say, because it leaves out loads and loads of personal growth.

Although there were some rather rocky times this year, I was eventually able to find peace. Thanks, David.

Michael took this great picture of my beautiful almost-18-year-old cat. Isn't he cute? We like him.

Also, I spent some time with some Kenyan models. Wasn't it nice of them to let me pose with them? And how come they're all so photogenic?

This is one of my favorite artistic shots. I'm not sure how I got the camera to focus on the bubbles instead of the people, but I love the effect. Angi and my foster cousin and my Aunt Marie blew a lot of bubbles.

This picture may not look like much, but the three people pictured here actually make up a very powerful superhero set, generally known as the Triple Triumvirate of Three, or the Triumvirate for short. Stu never forgets anything, Heather is always right, and I know everything. Together, we are unstoppable.

Heather and Stu really wanted us to go on a double date, so I found a willing candidate and we used our superhero powers to produce delicious food on an Iron Chef evening. Aaron was a good sport.

Family reunion: here we take advantage of Matt's height and Doug's skill to launch a water balloon high into the stratosphere- Curtis' invention

Post-balloon launch. I'm not sure if Curtis is scrutinizing the skill of the launch or trying to see where the balloon went . . .

It is a little-known fact that I learn obscure languages in my spare time. I don't have a lot of time to spare for this, so I go for the intensive courses.

Earlier in the year, my family and I rediscovered a childhood favorite of ours: marbles! For one of our post-family dinner entertainments, we taped down marble circles in the front room and tested our skills.

Typical Dad pose. Doesn't get much more quintessential than this.

The only wedding I successfully attended this year was that of James and Jenny Kendall. James was my high school friend; Jenny was my roommate (if you're noticing a trend, you're right). Heather, on the left, was also our roommate, last year. We had a very united apartment, which I miss.

This may be one of my favorite photos from the year. The young violinist- in concert black with green sneakers. Angi, you are fabulous.

Angi borrowed my camera to take some pictures for her photography class. She got some really cute shots of our cousin David, but unfortunately, Misha and I were feeling rather silly. I'm quite proud of this one, actually.

The love of a father

As noted (extensively) in my previous post, I've been having some car trouble this week. This is rather unfortunate timing because it, along with the weather, has been wreaking havoc with my attempts to start moving to Salt Lake, not to mention my attempts to get to my new place of employment to get some necessary paperwork and such taken care of before I start work.

As also noted, my dad is a pretty good hand with cars. So today, he and I went to the garage to see what he could figure out about what was wrong with my car and if he could do something about it. I asked questions while he did things but I tried not to ask too many, because I know how my dad works, and his brain doesn't process questions from other people while he's hard at work. He determined after a little tinkering that it was a bad connection and went through his toolbox to find the right things to fix it.

As I idly checked my car's fluids while he did some battery terminal replacement, I started thinking about my dad and how much respect I have for him. I watched him blow on his fingers to warm them up in the sub-freezing weather, and I thought about all the many, many things he has to deal with. His job is very demanding, and on top of that he has responsibilities at home that most people don't deal with. In many ways, he never gets to take a vacation. I know that no one really gets a vacations from home and family responsibilities, but his burdens are much weightier than most. And although he was tired and cold, he was taking time to help me with my car. Just because he loves me. As we finished up and I started the car to see how it worked and heard that lovely growling engine sound, he closed the hood and said, "oh, good. I feel a lot better about sending you off in this car now."

I wanted to do something back for him that would let him know just how very much I appreciate his time and skills and service. But presents for my father are of course ridiculously hard to do. He's so busy that even things he might enjoy like books or movies or games are rather pointless. Anything else he needs is already in the house. And it occurred to me that really the best way for me to help my dad is to continue what I've done for so long- help his children. Give them some of the love and attention and help that sometimes slips through the cracks in a situation like ours. In essence, remove a small piece of his responsibilities.

And as I thought about this, the comparisons between my earthly father and my Heavenly Father became so clear that I almost started crying. I can see the things that my earthly father does for me quite clearly, and from this I know he loves me- fixing my car, asking me questions about biology and genetics, buying me all kinds of gadgets that he's sure I'll like, giving me counsel and blessings (oh, how I'm going to miss being able to slip on over to his office for a blessing when I'm feeling sad or concerned. I've been so spoiled at BYU).

My Heavenly Father does even more for me, although I am not always aware of it, or I don't always recognize it at the moment. He grants me my life and my sense and gives me beautiful sunsets and starry skies and the ability to think and remember things, my family, my friends, my testimony. He also has much on his plate, although He is not hindered by time and does not tire. I want to show Him how much I appreciate His assistance and love and attention when He has so much to do, also. And there are not many things I can give Him that will be effective presents. In fact, the solution for showing both my fathers how much I love them is essentially the same: the best gift is to help their other children.

So, here I come. 2009 is dawning, and while I frown on making extensive lists of well-intentioned resolutions that will almost certainly all fall through, I look forward to a year for showing my thanks to my fathers for their love and their gifts to me- by helping their children. Because I have been so blessed- I need to pass the blessings on.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Adventures of a Christmas Eve's Eve

Is it just me, or is Utah colder than normal just now? It is quite possible that it's just me, since I still catch myself thinking about my toasty warm Kenyan village, but it sure seems pretty nippy out there.

Today was a peaceful day. I am in transition right now and consequently am spending a week or so at my parents' house. This morning, I got a call from my old roommate and comrade Emily. She married my high school friend Steve, and they are in town at Steve's parents' place for the holidays. Emily invited me to come partake of the family tradition of decorating gingerbread houses this evening, which invitation I accepted.

Steve's family (ie his mom) are serious about their gingerbread houses- these are the real deal. At my house, we make houses out of graham crackers and call them gingerbread houses; these ones are really gingerbread. So I was given a nice little bare gingerbread house and set in front of a dazzling array of sweets and told to decorate it however I wanted. Dave, of orange soda bath fame, also made an appearance and since he didn't have time to decorate a whole house, he satisfied himself with decorating a few gingerbread men. The first one he did was decorated by a large frosting cross in its middle. He called it the Drawn and Quartered gingerbread man. This one was eaten quickly to put it out of its misery. The second one held a peanut brittle flag in a pretzel staff in its hand. This one survived to grace the door of my gingerbread house with its protection.

Steve and I also had an entertaining discussion about the unexpected way things turn out sometimes. I call him my high school friend; let's be honest. Back then we were more like acquaintances who were generally on all right terms with each other. Steve would frequently do things that annoyed me and change that status quo to acquaintances who were generally not on good terms. However, several years after high school, we found ourselves in the same BYU ward and discovered that we could be friends after all. In fact, as Steve likes to tell the story, it was in coming over to my apartment to discuss a dinner group with me that he first began to notice Emily, who was my roommate (even though Steve likes to tell it that way, it should be noted that there was no romantic attraction going on except between he and Em. Just sayin'). Anyway. I digress. The point is that nine or ten years ago, I would have raised my eyebrows so high they would have shot out of the ceiling if someone had told me that after we were both done with college, I would be making gingerbread houses in Steve's kitchen and watching him soothe his baby daughter. Upon hearing me voice this, Steve concluded and I concurred that it was because he married an amazing woman (and because that woman happened to be my roommate).

Upon finishing the gingerbread decoration, I drove to Provo to meet up with Cim and some of her friends for dinner at the Bombay House. Since Cim spent a couple of months in India last fall, she had a great time looking over the menu and asking our server about his hometown in India (which happened to be right near where the village she lived in was). Time spent with Cim is always good. I parted paths with them at the door with a smile on my face and strolled over to my car. It remained completely dark when I opened the door. That's a bad sign, I've learned the hard way. Sure enough, turning the key in the ignition had no effect.

Quicker then lighting, I whipped out my phone and called Cim. They were just about to pull out of the parking lot, but they came over to my car instead to help assess the situation. The first problem was our lack of jumper cables. Cim started going to other people in the parking lot (not that there were many) to see if she could find someone who could lend us some. No luck. She then went into the restaurant, where someone claimed to have them in their car, but discovered they were absent.

Then began our adventure. We all piled into the suburban and drove around Provo looking for jumper cables. We quickly discovered that by now it was quarter to ten, and not many places were open. Finally, we found cables at an AutoZone which was open until eleven, bless them. We returned to the cold, dark parking lot triumphant- and discovered that we couldn't get the two cars close enough to connect the cables. There were two other cars in the lot besides mine, and one of them was parked on my left, right where we needed to put the suburban. After some fancy driving over snowbanks in an attempt to get the suburban battery close enough to mine, we gave up that tactic and called the brother of one of the boys to bring his Pathfinder.

Fifteen minutes and several cheesy Christmas songs on the car radio later, we were once more happily hooking the car up to the jumper cables, only to discover that it still wouldn't turn on. We adjusted the cables and tried again and again- and then we heard an engine start up. The guy who was helping me was elated, but I furrowed my brow. Something about the engine being on sounded different than normal, and none of the dashboard was lit up . . . then I realized that someone had gotten into the car next to mine while we weren't paying attention, and they had just happened to start their engine at almost exactly the same time as I had turned my key. We were so cold and it was so ludicrous that I almost fell out of my car laughing.

At long last, we managed to adjust the cables just right so the car finally started. Then my faithful friends agreed to follow me home to make sure I didn't end up stranded somewhere. For this I was grateful. I didn't actually end up needing their help, but it's kind of unnerving to be driving down a highway at 55 mph and have your headlights and dashboard dim drastically.

Now the Vanilla Bean is sitting in my parents' garage, having undergone a minor checkup from my father, who, while he is probably not an MD as far as cars are concerned, could probably be likened to a NP. He knows a lot. And I am slowly learning from him. In this case, he is not sure what the problem is. So, since it is late and it is cold, we will wait until tomorrow. I'm not really one for long showers, but I took a long hot one tonight to try and return heat to my system.

So far, it's a rather unusual Christmas week.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Some people are amazing

I've had a few opportunities lately to talk more openly and deeply with some people I care about a lot that have really helped me gain so much more appreciation for them. It never ceases to amaze me how much I can learn about people and how much more I will be impressed with them and be able to relate to them after such conversation. It takes a lot of trust- that the other person really is interested in what you are saying, that they won't think less of you, that they will validate your feelings and ideas, and that they will prove trustworthy with personal information. And consequently, few things leave me feeling more flattered, more respected, more loved, and more loving, than sharing deep, thoughtful conversation with good friends. And since loving one another, caring for one another, mourning with those who mourn and comforting those who stand in need of comfort, and bearing one another's burdens that they may be light is close to the core of the gospel, this really makes sense.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Kenya vignette: News from November 4th- election excitement and language barriers

It’s election day and we are excited, even though we’re about 8-9 hours ahead of the States. Voting is going on now, but we won’t know the results until tomorrow morning.

Everyone is super excited for Obama to win. They have a lot of unrealistic expectations for what Obama will do for Kenya (kind of like the unrealistic expectations a lot of Americans have for what he’ll be able to do in America).

I guess everyone is excited for Obama except Ruth. She dislikes Obama because his father’s tribe has treated her tribe poorly. So she is a staunch supporter of McCain. Last night we had a discussion where Ruth explained to us that there were 42 tribes in Kenya- it’s the different tribes within the same national boundaries that causes so much political trouble in Africa. There’s a great deal of trouble in the Congo right now because of tribal differences.

Anyway, Ruth couldn’t wrap her mind around the idea that there are no tribes in America or Canada. She asked us a few times to make sure we understood her correctly.

Speaking of misunderstandings, Lucy called me over the other night to ask me about all the cushions I had. I got a little nervous, trying to think when I had told her that I had cushions. She told me that when we had been making my bed, I told her that I had a lot of cushions, and she wanted to know if I still had them. I looked at Cynthia for help. Cynthia was also confused. She asked Lucy if she meant blankets.

“No, cushions,” Lucy repeated. After a couple of minutes of this, a light suddenly went on in my head.

“Do you mean questions?” I asked her.

“Yes, cushions!” she replied. The way she pronounced the “q” and left out the “t” made the two words indistinguishable. And I had told her that I’d had a lot of questions.

Kenya vignettes

I spent the night before I left at my parents' house, and discovered while I was there that I had forgotten two essentials- my toothbrush and my journal. Since it was after 10 PM when I discovered this and I would be leaving the house at a little after 6 AM to go to the airport, I opted to just buy a new one of each as soon as possible upon arriving in Kenya. So, when our volunteer group was turned loose in the supermarket, I made a beeline for the school supply section and found an inexpensive 200 page notebook to use while I was there. By the time I left, I had used almost 3/4 of the pages to record my experiences, thoughts, and impressions, as well as recording contact information for lots of people, making arbitrary lists, pressing flowers, and for some reason, beginning a list of 100 things to do before I die, although I didn't get more than halfway through making that one.

Since the rest of my journal is currently in digital format, I've been starting to type up my Kenya journal to add to the rest of my journal for 2008- or random thoughts and journal 2008, as the file is called. Since blogging and even emailing weren't huge priorities while I was there, and also because I didn't take the trouble to upload any pictures while I was there, I'll be putting up a random sampling of journal entries and pictures over the next little while. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Is the real question "why," or "why not"?

I have a couple of good friends, Dave and Curtis, who I know I can always look to if I'm in need of a good laugh, a zany adventure, or both. With these boys, I have participated in roll parties, random drives down to Payson just to see how far off the beaten track we could get before the people in the backseat noticed, intense country dancing (the only time I've ever been dancing that there were two boys and I was the only girl), Flight of the ConChords parties, ice cream consumption outside when it's 40 degrees, spur-of-the-moment trips to Seven Peaks, followed by watching any number of random YouTube videos, reading and discussing Steinbeck, poetry nights . . . My personal favorite was the dream contest we had at Curtis' house a couple of years ago. We all picked a couch, tried to nap for about twenty minutes, and then shared the dreams that we had to see whose was the best. My dream won. We were reading "A Man for all Seasons" in our book club just then (another Dave innovation), and I had a dream during my nap that Thomas More was bald and under trial for treason. However, during the course of his trial, he started growing hair, which was apparently a sign of divine approval, so he was let off the hook. For a prize, I was awarded two jars of jam that Curtis found by rummaging in his mother's kitchen.

Wait, I take it back. I think my real favorite was the time that Dave and I were having a G-chat conversation and he was logged in to the email account for our book club. I also had the password for this account, so out of curiosity, I tried logging in to it to see if I could while Dave was logged in at a different location. Lo and behold, it worked! I then proceeded to mess with his brain in a big, big way by typing things into his end of the conversation. Man, oh man, was that entertaining.

We have good times together. We even have special names for each other- Dave can explain where they come from, I just accept them. He's "Fate." Curtis is "Bust." And I'm "Marga." But no one besides Curtis and Dave are allowed to call me that.

However, in September, Fate and Bust embarked on a journey that I chose not to join. For about two years, Dave has been mentioning one of his great goals in life is to swim in a hot tub full of soda. I was given an invitation to join in- and I must admit that I was tempted until the dream became a reality and the type of soda they chose was orange soda. Somehow the idea of sitting in a pool of orange soda is much more disgusting to me than, say, sprite. I'm proud of them for fulfilling their dream, though. And although I did not join in, I did go and observe. And then I was reminded of it all when I found this YouTube video. By watching it, you can get a small glimpse into how these boys' mind work. Enjoy! Also, I'm interested- would you have joined in, or not? And why?