Monday, July 27, 2009

Conquering mountains in pictures

There's been a shortage of pictures on my blog lately. That's not because I'm anti-photography, it has more to do with a couple of adventures my camera has had, including the fact that my computer refuses to acknowledge that my camera exists. The long-term solution to this, getting a new laptop to replace the five-year-old trooper that Matt bequeathed to me, is in the works. Fortunately for me, Cim took some pictures along the way to the summit of Timp, so I have proof that I was there:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Conquering mountains

Last night at about 9:30, Cim and I decided to hike Timpanogos this morning. We had tossed the idea around before that, but last night the decision was made, and accordingly, I showed up at Cim's house at 6 AM and after a little expedition to the grocery store, we were off on the Timpanookie trail head, which we concluded is much, much prettier than the Aspen Grove trailhead. For one thing, there are multiple rivulets and waterfalls that flow over the trail, which gives it something of a charming, refreshing air. We enjoyed ourselves quite a bit as we splashed over waterfalls, trod carefully across alluvial fans, and slipped through snowfields.

Although I grew up in Utah Valley, this is the first time that I summited Timpanogos. I attribute it mostly to my poor health as a teenager- there's no way I could have done such a steep hike back then. And I still carry something of a legacy from those days in the form of scar tissue in my feet and a searing pain behind my shoulder blades with every breath that occasionally pops out of nowhere but can often be associated with lots of heavy lifting and carrying, including backpacks. In fact, for a long time, I just couldn't carry anything on my back at all if I were going to be exerting myself, because the searing pain would start up almost as soon as I started breathing more heavily. I was seriously excited when I was able to carry my own backpack containing not much more than a change of clothes, a toothbrush, and a swimsuit, for the full length of an overnight trek in Thailand a year and a half ago. That was real progress. And today is another exciting day in my book- I carried my own (light) pack to the top of Timp and back down again, including our unintentional detour when we got mixed up and went too high on a snowfield, slid down a piece of an alluvial fan, and somehow managed to get ourselves on the Aspen Grove trail instead of the Timpanookie trail. Fortunately we didn't get too far before we figured out that we were heading the wrong way and someone was able to point us in the right direction. I'm going to be sore tomorrow, but I really feel like this was almost a rite of passage. I subconsciously tie myself down to my past too often (who doesn't?) and forget that there's really nothing wrong with me now that some exercise and some good stretches can't take care of.

I was reminded today, oddly enough, of another long expedition I took about six years ago. Towards the end of my semester in Nauvoo, we all took a Saturday and walked from Nauvoo to Carthage, roughly 23 miles. Since we were in Illinois, the land was pretty flat, but since we were walking on back country roads, the cobbles in the road were huge rocks that hurt our feet and that you could easily turn an ankle on. The alternative was to walk on the side of the road, where the springtime mud was so thick and clayey that it quickly added inches to our respective heights. Meanwhile, we passed through the full spectrum of seasons during the course of the day as we went from sunshine to strong, strong wind to rain to snow to hail to more wind to more sun to more hail . . . something possessed me to keep walking.

Six years ago, I was much closer to all my teenage health problems than I am now. I still considered myself to be recovering from a long, unpleasant bout of candidas, which is essentially identical to chronic fatigue syndrome in its symptoms. My feet were just a couple of years past surgery and my arms seemed to be giving me more grief than they do now. I was honestly rather amazed that I had the stamina to walk 23 miles, let alone through wind and hail storms. But I did, and I think completing that walk was my first big step in banishing the demons of the past.

There are things in everyone's past that can hold them down and prevent them from moving forward if we let them, whether they be old grudges, stereotypes we were labeled with, even something like a lost love or the memory of a good season and the belief that such a good season will never occur again. But holding on to the past and allowing it to hold us captive, whether the past be good or bad, painful or pleasant, will effectively prevent us from moving forward and seeing what Heavenly Father has in store for us next, what He wants to teach us, and how He will requite us to learn and serve. The Gospel is a Gospel of forward motion, as Joseph Smith himself said, "Brethren, shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, Brethren, and on, on to victory!"

That's my goal. The past is there and it always will be. It is good to learn from it, but it is not good to tie oneself down to it so that no forward and onward motion can take place, no victory. Courage, Brethren! Always forward, never backward.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Unfortunate Humor

Earlier this summer, I read "A Series of Unfortunate Events," and while the caricatured nature of the events and people annoyed me at times, I did really like Lemony Snicket's writing style, so much so that I've used several of his quotes as taglines in my Gmail account. The quote I currently have is from his book The Slippery Slope, and is thus:

"A man of my acquaintance once wrote a poem called "The Road Less Traveled", describing a journey he took through the woods along a path most travelers never used. The poet found that the road less traveled was peaceful but quite lonely, and he was probably a bit nervous as he went along, because if anything happened on the road less traveled, the other travelers would be on the road more frequently traveled and so couldn't hear him as he cried for help. Sure enough, that poet is dead."

Lots of other people seem to enjoy these quotes too, and I've gotten lots of comments on them. Last night, I had the following conversation with my friend Dave, of orange soda bath fame, with reference tot he quote:

Dave: that's great.
only it's not about the road less travelled

me: please expound

Dave: that poem
isn't even called that
it's called the road not taken

me: ah. I see.
Take it up with Lemony Snicket.

Dave: ...which is the other road. I think it has more to do with the making of decisions than it does with the forging of new paths.
already have

me: what did he say?

Dave: he shot at me with a gun
and told me if i ever came back to his bedroom in the middle of the night again, he'd forge a path from my backside to my cranium with his foot

me: Oh, Dave. Why did you choose the middle of the night to discuss such a topic with a man who writes books in seires called things like "A Series of Unfortunate Events?"

Dave: just seemed fitting

Good conversation starters can be found in the oddest places.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Foliage abounds

There are some pretty flowers planted just outside the door that I go through at work that I see every day that make me happy- little pink and white blooms from the genus Gaura, common name Whirling Butterflies.

Ever since I first studied this genus in college, it's reminded me of my sister Laura. I think the first connection was just the similarity in names, but something about the common name reminds me of her, too. Laura is a dancer, as you can tell from reading her blog, and I'm sure if I asked her to, she would dance like a Whirling Butterfly for me.

Another fun plant that I've encountered often this summer is Cotinus coggygria, the Smoke Tree. We saw one at the zoo sat week and my cousin Christie decided that it needed to shave.

And lastly, I am quite pleased with my new houseplants, including a 5 1/2 foot tall palm and a tradescantia plant that is so bushy that it looks like it has a fro. Since a common name for this tradescantia is wandering jew, we named it Father Abraham, but we're still taking bids for a name for the palm. Meanwhile, I am being sadly reminded that nasturtium are not intended to take the full heat of the afternoon sun, as mine are looking rather faded and shriveled. And I can't convicne my basil to grow very fast. This has been a learning year for the balcony garden. Next year I'll be better prepared.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Questions of decor

Time for a poll. I've been slowly working to make my living room look like a real living room with cool things on the wall and such, and I've been contemplating the idea of taking some of my favorite pictures that I've taken, enlarging them, and framing them either for the living room or just my bedroom. I was really excited about this idea, but now I've suddenly become more reticent. So I'm looking for other opinions. If you were going to put any of the following pictures on your own walls, which would they be? (Or, even if you wouldn't put them on your own wall, which do you like best?) I have my favorites, but I'm not disclosing that information so that this is a blinded test.









Wednesday, July 15, 2009

O cornflower

I had a new blossom on my balcony this last weekend- my first cornflower bloomed. Another common name for the cornflower is the bachelor's button.

The irony of this is not lost on me.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Making up songs in cars with boys

Last Saturday I went to the Oquirrh Mountain Temple open house with Becca and her boys, T and K. The boys were remarkably well behaved and behaved very respcetfully both before and during the openhouse, when K whispered to me that he knew that the temple is where "marrieds" happen. "You mean weddings?" I whispered back. "Yeah, marrieds," he replied.

After the openhouse, they had apparently used up their supply of reverence and became a little more rowdy. Then we drove to Becca's aunt-in-law's house for lunch, and it became clear that some kind of intervention was needed to keep them entertained. Becca and the aunt were up front and I was back with the boys. So, I resorted to singing silly songs.

There's one we sang when we were kids where you take any well-known nursery rhyme and modify it thusly:

Georgie Porgie, Pudding and Pie
Kissed the girls and made them cry
When the boys came out to play
They threw him out the window
the window
the second story window
With a heave and a ho and a mighty blow
They threw him out the window

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so between the two of them
They threw it out the window
The window
The second story window
With a heave and a ho and a mighty blow
They threw it out the window

You get the idea. I wish I could play the tune, but you get the idea. Of course, T and K loved this idea and soon they wanted to sing their own versions of the song. I quickly discovered that they weren't aware that the general idea is to use a nursery rhyme and modify it, when they started coming up with the following gems. I had my notebook out of my purse transcribing as fast as I could:

A cowboy was sitting on his horse
and then the cowboy jumped on a pole
and T and I came into the park
and then two spiders came right up our pants
and we threw them both out the window

K was in a tent making his bed
And then in came T and threw him out the window

A car was driving down the road
and a snake came along
and a spider threw him out the window

The grass was blowing and a spider was there
and a snake came along
and threw a tree at him and threw bomb at him
and threw him out the window

And, my favorite:

Maria was sitting at a table in the house
and along came a spider
and asked her if he could throw her out the window

You may notice some recurring themes in these rhymes. Before we began singing, we were entertaining ourselves by pretending there were lots of snakes in the car- both mean ones and nice ones. I had to eat one of the pretend snakes because it just wouldn't behave, and the nice ones kept giving T little licks, which make him happy. The spiders I'm assuming were abundant because the first nursery rhyme I sang to them was Little Miss Muffet. I especially like that the spider I encountered in the song was polite enough to ask me if he could throw me out the window before actually doing so.

The boys liked these songs enough that we sang them all the way to lunch and then all the way home from Draper to Orem, and I heard them breaking into random renditions of the song throughout the rest of the day. I'm so proud.


Upon frequenting Josh's blog today, I noticed the quote that was displayed in the sidebar, which is very good continuation of the idea I was trying to work with in the latter part of my earlier post entitled "'Child,' said the lion." Since this quote was given by President Dieter Uchdorf, it is well worded and I take it as a good source of authority:

In the end, the number of prayers we say may contribute to our happiness, but the number of prayers we answer may be of even greater importance. Let us open our eyes and see the heavy hearts, notice the loneliness and despair; let us feel the silent prayers of others around us, and let us be an instrument in the hands of the Lord to answer those prayers. [A]s you immerse yourselves in the work of our Father… discouragement, inadequacy, and weariness will give way to a life of meaning, grace, and fulfillment.
— Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Happiness, Your Heritage.” Ensign, November 2008, p. 120

Josh has an excellent array of quotes that pop up in that sidebar of his; they tend to be rather thought-provoking. There used to be an array of comical ones as well, many of which I either personally uttered or inspired (more of them were the result of my inspiration than their speech, back when I was the apartment muse). But I haven't seen the humorous ones so much lately. I guess they're probably not as worthy as thoughts by President Uchdorf, C.S. Lewis, Hugh Nibley, and Robert Frost. Oh, well.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Take it by the horns

Okay, it's time for some adventures and I'm looking for adventure buddies. In the next couple of months, I plan to go camping, go hiking, explore Antelope Island again, camp out in the Red Butte Gardens, catch a couple of plays at the Shakespearian Festival in Cedar City, eat at at least three obscure delis or cafes, and attend a symphony or two, preferably at least one at Deer Valley. Any takers? I'm not averse to doing cool things alone, but it is more fun with other people.

Friday, July 10, 2009

"child," said the lion

One of my favorite quotes is from "The Horse and His Boy," one of the lesser-known Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and goes as follows:

"Child," said the Lion, "I am telling you your story, not hers. No one is told
any story but their own."

It is just one way of putting an expression that is generally held to be true- you really never know what anyone else is going through. Even for the people I interact with most closely- coworkers, family members and close friends, I still see such a limited piece of their lives and who they are and all the things that go into making them who they are.

The last two or three years have held, without a doubt, more unexpected challenges, heartaches, and, shall we say, opportunities to grow and streeeeeetch than I ever would have foreseen or have experiences before. Yet one thing that I've learned more and more, and forgotten, and learned again, is that being in the depths of sorrow or pain is not an excuse to not treat others kindly or to feel like you're getting the short end of the stick or anything of that nature. Because I know my own story- I know it really well and I analyze is and overanalyze it and try to change it and learn from it- but I don't know the stories of those around me. And the more I talk to the people around me and learn about their stories, the more amazed I am at how many people are living with huge challenges or getting hit by sudden misfortunes. And although I'm a lot better at philosophizing than I am at living my philosophies, I am discovering more and more that people really ought to be treated gently and kindly- and I really ought to pull myself out of my own problems and dilemmas more often and look at those around me. There are amazing, wonderful, heart-wrenching, inspiring, sobering stories being played out all around me, hidden within the minds and hearts of the people I speak to and pass on the street every day. And maybe if I spent more time searching out these stories and finding ways to ease the paths of those around me, my own troubles might diminish, doing both of us a favor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

No man is an island

Dear Becca,
Thank you for pulling over to help me out when my tire blew on my car yesterday on the freeway. Thank you for patiently trying to help me out as we went from one crazy attempt to another for getting the car in a condition where it could be driven the remaining 40 miles to my apartment.

Dear Dad and Mike,
Thank you for doing your best to provide long-distance tech support and exhausting your collective impressive knowledge of cars to try and help us figure out what was wrong and how to fix it long enough to get the car to a shop.

Dear Angi,
Thank you for providing lighthearted conversation and keeping the little boys entertained while we drove into town toting a flat tire that was threatening to smash my lap and legs to try and find a place to either fix it or get a new one.

Dear T and K,
Thank you for staying mostly well-behaved and only teasing each other a little while I was busy being stressed out. T, thank you for the car advice you offered. You know way more about cars than I did when I was seven. And K, thank you for keeping my mind active and engaged by asking me simple math questions along the way.

Dear Tim and Christina,
Thank you for being brave enough to stay with my car with the blown tire on the side of the freeway while the rest of us lugged the tire into town. Thank you for being even braver and driving my car with its treadless front tire down the emergency lane five miles to get off the nearest exit ad meet up with the rest of the crew. Since the gearshift refused to budge from park to drive after you got out of the car, I'm glad you chose a decent location to leave it, since it ended up spending the night there.

Dear everyone already mentioned,
Thank you for patiently taking a four hour detour out of your plans to be home at a decent hour so that I wasn't stranded outside of Ogden all night. It's kind of ironic that we had to leave the car off the side of the freeway after all that, but thank you for getting me safely home.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for being willing at the drop of a hat to drive me up to Ogden to retrieve my car, even though you are busy studying for the bar exam. I don't think I could ask for a better neighbor.

Dear Megan,
Thank you for calling me about going to the natural history museum so I could explain my car situation to you and you could offer to take over Daniel's position of driving me around, since it was your day off. Thanks for driving me to work so I could get a few critical things done and driving me to Ogden to find my car had not been vandalized or stolen as I had worried. Thanks for deciding to jaunt out to Willard's Bay while we waited for the tow truck to show up and thanks for the excellent conversation about serving and selflessness on the car ride back as well as the excellent singing along to the Wicked soundtrack at the top of our lungs. Thanks for deciding to stop and look at that great little vintage furniture store while we waited for the two truck to arrive and thanks for going to lunch with me at the Mongolian barbecue while we waited for the damage to be assessed at the shop. Thanks for asking the mechanic if we could get in the car while it was being hoisted up to begin work- I would never have thought to have done that. Thanks for taking me back to work and picking me up again in the evening.

Dear car,
Thanks for not getting hurt any worse than you did, and for not getting me hurt at all. I'll be glad to see you again in your repaired state with new tires and a repaired inside fender wall. Let's not try any tricks like that again, shall we?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Kids, I am a misfit. I don't think I really belong in this modern world of Americana. I've had this driven home to me a few times recently in different ways.

As anyone who knows me at all knows, I am a bookworm. That's putting it mildly. I put away books like some people put away a chocolate bar. I've had to visit my dentist a few times recently, and each time his staff seems fascinated that I not only have a book with me, but a different one each time. A lot of people apparently get home from work or school, plop down on the couch, and turn on the TV to relax. If I plop down on the couch, my hand automatically goes for my latest tome of interest, not the remote. I can count on one hand the number of times I've turned on the TV and flipped channels without having a specific show or program I wanted to watch, usually when I'm staying in a hotel. In fact, we don't even have our TV cable connected in my current apartment. The TV is solely used for watching videos, and most of the time when that happens it's because I'm working on sewing or crocheting something, or because Mel puts in a workout video.

Maybe I should be used to this by now, but I just can't get over how much TV the majority of the world seems to watch. I've zoned out of so many lunchtime conversations at work because they start revolving around the latest episode of "Dancing with the Stars," "The Biggest Loser," "The Office," or some other show that I've never seen a full episode, let alone the one last night. And I start thinking to myself, is this what people do with their lives?

To be fair, I've had plenty of evenings where I didn't feel like moving off the couch, or going to any effort to do anything. But most evenings, I'm just itching to *do* things. I want to water my garden and scheme about making curtains for my sliding glass doors and possibly some kind of quilted wall hanging to go on what Melanie calls the ugly wall.

I want to find a good recipe for pumpernickel bread and make strawberry jam and figure out more simple ways to cook vegetables than just sauteeing them. I want to pull out my sketchbook and enter the frightening realm of drawing once more and maybe take a watercolor class and learn how to make all the baby blankets in the little crocheting instruction book I just bought and improve my skills on sewing shirts and learn how to alter patterns so I can sew for people besides myself.

I want to rent a digital keyboard and start learning simple piano pieces again and practice singing and play my flute and compose descants so I can accompany the ward choir with my flute. I want to be really brave and try writing fiction again. I want to read everything I can about genes and cancer and also read all the books I got at great sales that are still sitting unread on my bookcase. I want to explore all the fun little side streets in Salt Lake and discover restaurants and random little shops. I want to go hiking and find wildflowers and take pictures of sunsets. I want to finally actually meet my goal to introduce myself to all my neighbors in my building and take them a tasty treat so they'll remember me (maybe pumpernickel bread?).

Good golly, guys, who has time to watch TV every night? What a waste of a life!