Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Some friendships are meant to be

One of the first people I met in my ward in Salt Lake was a spunky, cheerful girl named Megan. We quickly discovered that we had a lot in common and were kind of amazed that we hadn't met each other before. She grew up in Centerville with some of my good friends from BYU, Graham, Jared, and Nate. She served a mission in Taiwan with my friend Brooke and my even better friend and old roommate Karen. In fact, she also lived with Karen- and she and Karen moved into a certain apartment in a certain building just months after I moved out of the exact same apartment. In fact, we were both invited to Karen's wedding and we would have both been there if I hadn't been out of the country. We both were looking at job options in Boston before accepting positions in Salt Lake. Now she's dating my fun and friendly neighbor right across the hall, Daniel.

However, tonight was the clincher. We went out to get something to eat tonight and it came to light that we are both currently reading "The Story Girl" by L.M. Montgomery, author of "Anne of Green Gables," but much more obscure, and we are both more or less at the same part of the book. We laughed for ten minutes over that one. What are the odds? We decided that based on that one fact alone, we are pretty much destined to be friends.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Altoid poetry

Since I mentioned it in my last post, I thought I might as well go ahead and post the fruits on my labors from the poetry club this last week. I'm not usually this prolific.

The sun is always shining
The night may be black
The clouds may be thick
The storm may fester and brew
But they do not touch the sun

It shines on
Sending its warmth and light
to the earth

No storm is so big that it can
quench the fire of the sun
No night is so black that it can
put out its brilliant light
For with the passage of time
The clouds roll back
The earth turns round
And the sun, unchanged, unaltered,
and unaffected by the small
things that seem so large on the earth
Appears again, still burning bright

Now, for a little less philosophy and a little more humor, poem #2:

Tunneling deep within the ground
Feel the warmth of the rich, brown soil
The way is dark, and every sound
Is muted while I onward toil

Taste the earth and know its flavor
Telling the way by touch and scent
It's so simple, yet I savor
This simple life, and I'm content

Up into the bright sun shining
Wriggle and squiggle, twist and squirm
All creation should be pining
To live life as a small earthworm

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

Although I was raised in Utah, the ruggedness of this place has never been my favorite. I'm a phytophyll, a hydrophyll, I love lots of greenery and big trees and lush flowers and rivers and lakes and rain. If I could pick anywhere in the states to live based off of physical features alone, New England and western Washington state would win hands down. My favorite foreign experiences are definitely influenced by the amount of foliage and water- which means that Russia and Morocco were not my favorites.

But all that aside, there is a lot to be said for the stark majesty found in my Utah mountains, which I am quite fond of. I had a few experiences this week that kind of drove that home to me.

For example, on Wednesday evening, I went on a spur-of-the-moment drive up Emigration Canyon with my neighbors from downstairs, Dan and Marcos. The Canyon is about a ten minute drive from our apartment building, and offers great views of the Salt Lake Valley, Summit County, and any number of craggy and beautiful mountain peaks along the way.

Thursday, I drove down to Provo for a meeting of Josh's poetry club, the Curiously Poetic Altoids (so named because it is based out of Alta apartments), and we headed to Rock Canyon Perk to write our poetry. Something about the stillness of the evening, all the while threatening to rain, and the close proximity of Squaw Peak and Cascade mountain, lit up by the setting sun, did a lot to put me in a contemplative mood and actually write some poetry. I'd been afraid of a serious case of writer's block earlier in the evening.

Tonight, while attending the Utah Arts Festival with some kids from my ward, I got to watch a huge thunderstorm roll in over the mountains while listening to a pretty decent country band. As they said, the light show was free, and boy was it spectacular. Something about watching the clouds curl and caress the mountains has always made my heart ache a little, in a kind of a longing way. It's something so beautiful and so far away- unreachable.

So, I love my Utah mountains. Although I'm not planning in living in Utah indefinitely, I do think I'm lucky to have spent so much time here, despite its lack of ideal characteristics. The beholder looks, and sees the beauty of the place. And is content for now.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Blessed PA system

I don't know what the deal is with the PA system at work, but it provides us endless entertainment. Apparently the receptionists at the front desk have a hard time telling if they're dialing a number or putting the phone on the overhead, because we'll fairly often hear a beep followed by a voice saying "hello? Hello?" which is very humorous. It's even better when people start yelling "hello!" back from their cubicles.

Today was even better. We heard the beeping noise that indicates that someone is about to make an overhead announcement, then a pause, a big intake of breath, and a sneeze. And that was it. after a moment of stunned silence, laughter erupted around the R&D area. Then the petite little Italian woman who works two desks down from me called out "bless you!" and the laughter commenced again. Random sneeze announcement. Made my whole day.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Thoughts to live by

I reread a significant portion of my latest thought journal today in church and found these things I jotted down in May 2008 to be especially relevant:

And when the strife is fierce, the warfare long
Steals on the ear the distant triumph song
And hearts are brave again and arms are strong

-For All the Saints

Wherefore, seeing we are also compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and set down at the right and of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:1-2

Lift up your heads and be comforted . . . notwithstanding our many strugglings, which have been in vain; yet I trust there remaineth an effectual struggle to be made. Therefore, lift up your heads, and rejoice, and put your trust in God.

Mosiah 7:18-19

Let us not waste our time saying with bitterness, "is this what I was born to do?: let us rather ask ourselves the question that was asked of Esther: "who knoweth whether thou are come to the kingdom for such a time as this?"

-Marjorie Pay Hinckley

The last quote is from a booklet that Sister Hinckley wrote for the women of the church several years ago entitled "Is the what I was born to do," in which she addresses the different situations that women in the church find themselves in- which are many and varied. She relates the story of Esther,t he beautiful Jewess who marries King Ashareus and finds herself in a position she never chose for herself- that of risking her own life to save the lives of all of her people. In encouraging her to find the faith to do this, her cousin Mordecai asks her "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" or, "maybe this is what you were born to do!"

One of my greatest fears is that the longer I live my current lifestyle, a single working girl, the easier it will be to slip into a life of self gratification, excess comfort, and selfishness. This is a constant battle that I wage, sometimes more effectively than others, and I feel like I've been letting it slip lately. It is sometimes far to easy to let the question "who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?" turn into the much more cynical and pessimistic "is this really what I was born to do? Really?" It takes a lot of faith to go about life with the first attitude over the second, no matter what our circumstances are. But it's much more rewarding and fulfilling, even though it can be so hard, so tiring, and so frustrating at times. But whoever said that becoming the kind of people the Lord wants us to be is easy? Despite all the struggles we have made in vain, there is still an effectual struggle to be made.

One thing I am working on doing is a suggestion from my mom. She, of all people that I know personally, has by far the most to complain about or to despair over. Yet when I go into her room late at night to tell her goodnight, I find that the thing she wants to tell me the most is how many tender mercies she received that day. Lately, she's been encouraging me to end my own day by contemplating on my own mercies. As I think about these things, it becomes a little easier to think in terms of "I am here for a reason, my life has purpose, and I will trust the Lord," and the thoughts of "is this what I was born to do?" recede, just a little each day.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Beating the Odds

What are the odds of getting three flat tires in one week? Because I think it's pretty impressive, in a rather depressing way. Maybe I should just say that it's depressive. Apparently whoever owned my car before me favored beauty over function and the fancy chrome rims that my car came with have been slowly decaying away so the tires don't seal properly, hence my flats. I currently have the spare affixed to the left front wheel because my left front rim is apparently in poor enough condition to be essentially non-fixable. Tonight's homework assignment: find a good place to get metal rims for a decent price. If all goes well, Saturday's fun chore will be having the new rims put on the car, possibly with some new tires, since mine have taken something of a beating from deflating so easily.

Here's a slightly better case of beating the odds, though. I talked to Laura a couple of days ago and she informed me that her roommate Lisa was coming in from California on Thursday (today) for a visit. She mentioned that they would be lunching in Salt Lake and told me I could join them if I so desired. I laughed a little because I already had lunch plans for today with my friend McKay, who is also visiting from California. He and Josh came by and we managed to get ourselves lost looking for The Gateway Mall, which was embarrassing for me because I live in Salt Lake and embarrassing for McKay because he'd been there within the last year. Josh claimed no embarrassment.

We found ourselves hankering after pizza and thus once we finally found the mall, headed for the California Pizza Kitchen, where we were amused by our server, who was a little absentminded and assured us at one point that he didn't drink before coming to work. He also accidentally brought me a strawberry smoothie instead of strawberry lemonade, so I ended up getting the smoothie for free, on top of the lemonade. This also made Josh happy, since he hadn't ordered a drink and I decided to let him have some smoothie. He happily worked on inventing a long straw by splicing two of them together so he wouldn't have to exert himself and lean forward.

While we were chilling waiting for our non-drunk server to bring our pizza, I realized two girls were trying to get my attention. Lo and behold, it was Laura and Lisa! Laura had mentioned that she would be at the Gateway, but I had completely forgotten. It was exceptionally random- what are the odds of running into one's sister at a restaurant in Salt Lake when you are both dining out with friends visiting from California? I don't know, but I'm pretty sure the odds are pretty small.

In other news, I hate few things more than driving on the freeway in torrential rain. Especially if there are semis also on the freeway. I hate driving by semis on the freeway in bad weather. Also, one of my tomato plants is sporting small green berries! (yes, a tomato does qualify as a berry- it has a soft, fleshy exterior, middle section, and center, or exocarp, mesocarp, and endocarp, which is the botanical definition of a berry). Also, PETA is kind of ridiculous sometimes. If you aren't aware of their "sea kitten" publicity stunt, you should take a look, especially at the sea kitten stories. And the reason I bring this up is because of a news article that caught my eye today. Apparently President Obama is under mild condemnation- for killing a housefly. Oh, let the good times roll.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Funny things

I took my car in today to get the tire patched since it was flatter than a pancake when I got home yesterday (thanks again for saving my neck, David, I don't think I could have cranked that jack by myself). The man behind the counter took down my car info and personal info, and when he asked my last name, I automatically spelled it for him, since it's amazing how many ways people can misspell my last name. However, apparently I need to start spelling out my first name, too. When the job was done and I headed out to drive off in the newly patched Vanilla Bean, I glanced over the receipt I'd been given and discovered that the Big-O Tires man thinks that "Maria" is spelled "M-e-r-i-a." I know that the schwa is kind of pervasive in American English, but this is a little extreme even for someone who can plead Hooked on Phonics. It reminds me of the time that several of my siblings and I went en masse to order smoothies from Jamba Juice and put the order under Mark's name. However, the cashier didn't quite catch the name we gave and rather than go through the embarrassing procedure of asking Mark to repeat himself, she wrote down her best guess as to what she had heard- Bark. Heh. I had forgotten that until just now.

After I got my tire patched, I stopped at the grocery store (mmm- fresh cherries and chocolate milk. But not together). I realized that I was parked next to a Camry with the same build as my car and it made me grin because it reminded me of how my roommate Holly and I had twin cars last fall (we still do, but we are no longer roommates). Holly apparently didn't think that our cars looked all that much alike until she caught herself trying to unlock the door to my car with her key. Good times.

In other news, I'm a little worried that I might need bigger pots for my tomato plants as they continue to grow and look kind of wilty and I'm pretty sure it's because the pots they're in aren't big enough water reservoirs for them. Poor little plants. Bigger pots would sure make the balcony crowded, though.

Friday, June 5, 2009

The Glory of God is Intelligence

Upon checking my email this afternoon, I discovered that my mother had sent me a news article about the newly forming Nauvoo University. Although I really should be finishing up last-minute preparations, I couldn't help stopping and reading it, since I have a soft spot in my heart for Nauvoo.

BYU used to have a semester program operating in Nauvoo, in a building right across the street from the temple. The building used to be a Catholic girls' school, and it was dripping with character. When the LDS church first purchased the building, there was a wing with nuns still living in it, and the nuns would take their meals with the students.

By the time I got there, in Winter of 2003, the nuns had moved and the wing where they lived had been torn down. But that funny building, which looked like the 1970s collided with a medieval convent, was still there, and it was my home for four months. I loved to go across the hall from my bedroom to the project room and curl up in a couch where I could see the temple out the windows. The view from my own window was pretty good, too, I could see a big swath of the Mississippi river and it was especially pretty at sunset.

I could go on ad nauseum, but the point is that BYU closed their Nauvoo program in 2006 because the medieval convent was an ancient building that cost way too much to maintain. This news was very sad for me to hear, although, having lived there, I understood completely how it cost more to keep it up than it was worth. In any case, I wasn't the only one who was saddened by this news, and one person, my computer science professor in Nauvoo, Evan Ivie, decided to do something about it. So, what did he choose to do? Take the idea and run with it, and now he has plans to turn the Semester at Nauvoo into a full-fledged Nauvoo University. If anyone can do it, Brother Ivie is the person for the job.

I'd really like to write more about this, but I'll have to do it sometime when I'm not running out the door to the airport. If you're as curious as I was, though, you can always check out the Nauvoo University website: nauvoouniversity.com

Monday, June 1, 2009

Always a new adventure

I spent the afternoon in a small darkroom looking at light-sensitive fluorescently labeled slides on my microscope. Unfortunately, for some reason the intercom system doesn't pipe into some of the labs, so I heard something muffled being announced a couple of times, but could never quite make out what it was. Then, just as I was coming out, another announcement was made and I caught the tail end of it- something about a snake incident. What on earth? I wondered. But I assumed it must not be code for an emergency at least, because nothing else happened.

Then I got back to my desk and discovered that I hadn't misheard- there was in fact a snake incident, a rattlesnake was sighted in the parking lot and there had been some emails sent out to all the employees advising them that help was on the way and to be careful if we needed to go near that area. I missed the whole thing by staying sequestered in my little room. All that excitement passed me right by. Drat.

Packing . . . and unpacking

I started pulling together some things tonight in preparation for going to New Zealand on Friday. Passport- check. Still in its little bag, accompanied by about 1500 Kenyan shillings (roughly 20 dollars) and my yellow fever vaccination card. They told me when I went in to get immunized that I wouldn't be allowed in to Kenya without proof of yellow fever vaccination. So I clung to that card as tightly as I did my passport- and no one ever even asked to see it. I doubt I'll need it to get into New Zealand, either.

Fancy-schmacy electrical adapter that claims to have a configuration for every kind of plug- check.

Camera- check.

Backpack- this is where the really embarrassing discovery is made. I never unpacked my backpack from the flight home from Kenya. Wow, all kinds of fun things in here. A little piece of cheap candy with a smiley face on the wrapper- must be left over from the day we brought candy for all the kids at the orphanage. An airline pillow, a kind of nasty looking container full of cookies, some little fudge bars from Nakumatt, the very tattered copy of the Conference edition of the Ensign and the little blue Book of Mormon that I took with me everywhere. A pair of really nasty socks, full of red Gathiga mud. Maybe I'll frame them to remind me how amazing that mud was. My sunglasses! I thought they were lost- nope. Just packed away in my backpack for the last six months. The little cheap alarm clock that I bought and used twice. The sun rose at 6:30 and the people were up with the sun right outside my window- not a bad natural alarm clock, really.

Wow. That was kind of fun, although I probably really should have done it a long time ago. Now its time to put away these things with their memories and make room for some new ones.