Sunday, December 27, 2009

We should all use logic like this

Today I was playing a game with K and he decided to give me one of his cards. I looked at the card and asked in some confusion, "Why are you giving this to me? I'm a little confused."

He shrugged and smiled and said. "Just . . . for happiness."

That's kind of hard to argue with. I took the card.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


So I registered for a one-night instructional class on artisan breadmaking through the U of U's continuing education program. I received an email confirming that my registrations request had been received, but that I had not been formally accepted into the class yet. My favorite part of the email reads thus:

Confirmation of your enrollment will be sent by email within 2 business days. If you did not provide an email address, confirmation will be sent via postal mail. Please allow time for delivery.

I'm glad that they sent me an email about what will happen if I didn't provide them with an email contact. These people are thinkers. But I am excited for this breadmaking class.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Feels like Home

I have a home! Not just a place to live, but a place that feels like home! I'm so content.
Welcome to the new abode of Maria. joining me on this adventure are Cassaundra, Sarah, Theresia, and Kerstin. We are collectively a pretty good looking, intelligent group of girls. We all either have a master's degree or are completing one- in topics as diverse as violin performance, social work, and biotechnology. You are all invited to come play with us. We are very good at playing. We are also very good at working. I moved in on Saturday amid a fair amount of confusion, because all the windows in the house got replaced last week and everything was still in disarray because of it. Consequently, after I got my room in some semblance of order, we went over the house and wiped off every surface and wall to get rid of the fine layer of dust.
Here I be and here I think I'll stay for a while. Moving every year is staring to get old- I think I'll need a pretty compelling reason to dislodge me from this house. Everybody come play!

Party Like It's 2009

Hm. It just doesn't have the same ring to it that it did a decade ago.
I would like to announce that the astronomical first day of winter is today! That means that the days are now getting longer instead of shorter. This is awesome!
I can't decide if I feel like this year whipped by or if it went so slowly. Definitely a lot of things have been packed into this year, that's for sure. Here's a sampling:

Apparently no one believes me when I tell them that I have an amazing view of the Salt Lake Valley from my apartment, because no one has taken me up on the offer to come visit. Just so you can all see what you're missing, this is what I see out my window:

And, after several months, we put together a pretty cute interior, too. I'm sad that I left my cute apartment when I moved on Saturday.

Car trouble: My car is a good car, but I guess if you buy a car that's ten years old you expect to have some problems with it. Moving close to the Great Salt Lake did a serious corrosion number on my rims and after four flat tires and a freeway blowout, I caved in and bought new tires and wheels. The first flat was greeting me in the long-term parking lot of the airport when I got back from New Zealand. After 18 hours of travel, that's not a sight I was hoping to see:

Later, I failed my safety test because of burnt-out bulbs on my car and I was too cheap to have them replaced in the shop. My most excellent neighbor Daniel helped me figure out how to put the new bulbs in. It just happened to be the first day that it decided to be cold and snowy, too. But I felt great after I put new blinker bulbs in my car.

Family: always a big, important part of every year. This year the first notable family happening was the passing away of Hazle the Cat, shortly before his eighteenth birthday. I made him a little shroud out of orange fleece with cat faces on it and Michael asked to be the pallbearer:

The next big thing that happened was the return of Elder Mark Sederberg from his mission in Spain! I still can't believe I left my camera in the car when we went in to the airport, but I got some good pictures from the Park-n-Wait before we went in. Here are Laura and Tricia depicting how excited they are.

The next big thing that happened was the birth of my third nephew, Becca and Mike's third little boy. I blogged about this recently, so I'll try not to dwell on how adorable my nephews are too much. But I love them and we had fun:

The other big things are still announcements in the family- Matt and Tricia's baby and now Tim and Tina's baby will be making their debuts in 2010. As I've said before, I love being an aunt and spoiling nephews. It will be great to have some closer to home.

Smaller family happenings this year include the fact that Michael and Laura had the same hairdo for a little while:

Also, Tim continued his BeatleMania by purchasing Beatles Rock Band. We rocked out when he brought it home on Halloween. Then we watched PeeWee's Big Adventure. Tim thought it was a great night.

And, as always, my family are just kind of a crazy bunch. I like it.

What else? Every year there are weddings and wedding receptions. I attended my cousin Luke's wedding and I'll attend Meagan and Daniel's next week . . . I lose track of all the receptions I go to. I did attend one at the end of the summer for my friend and old roommate Lexie, one of the most sincerely kind people I've ever met. This is catching up with more old roommates: me, Cammie, Lindsey, and Emily.

I got to go to New Zealand, too. Although the trip didn't go quite like I'd planned, I was spoiled rotten by the very kind and engaging family that hosted me. They really went out of their way to make me feel comfortable, which I appreciate a lot. I also appreciated the amazing beauty of New Zealand.

And of course, 2009 will be ingrained in my mind forever as the year of depression. But dang it, if I can make it through what I've made it through this year, I can make it through just about anything! Bring it on, world! I'm ready for you- with my hand firmly in the hand of God. A new year, a new decade, a new phase of life. I feel like celebrating!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Hands of the Lord

Life comes and goes in strange and unexpected ways. Death still has not touched my life in very many closely personal ways, but this morning I received word on the death of someone I don't know profoundly well who has touched my life profoundly.

I've written before about my friend James Njuguna and the work he's done with a charitable organization he founded in Kenya, Fadhili Helpers, which is the group that I volunteered with while I was there. James is truly an inspiration to me, one of my role models. I didn't know him all that well while I was in Kenya, my orphanage was in a village outside of Nairobi and I didn't make it in to the Fadhili office in town very often, but the little I knew of him impressed me. In recent months, I've been collaborating with him to edit and clean up his website, and in the process, I've learned a lot about him and his dreams and drive.

James is devoutly Christian and desires more than anything to be able to raise his countrymen out of poverty, physical, mental, and spiritual. He started from scratch just a few years ago with a group of like-minded young men, believing that it was God's desire, and built a program that brings in volunteers from around the world and places them in orphanages and school. He started his own orphanage in Nairobi and has a child sponsorship program in place. He orchestrates the work of missionary groups going into the most rural parts of Kenya to preach the good news of the Gospel to the tribes that live there. All this from a man who grew up as one of the youngest children of 13, in an almost destitute house, who could only finish high school because someone donated the school fees for him.

James is funny and easygoing and happy and always looking for ways to help. And there is a big hole in my heart right now because of the news I received from Fadhili this morning.

James was on his way home last Friday- almost there, in fact- when he was accosted by a group of thugs who shot him dead and ran, apparently without even taking anything.

My friend Anena, who went to Kenya the same time I did as a volunteer, extended her stay indefinitely, and started her own NGO, knew James much better than I and wrote about her perspective and the Kenyan perspective on death on her very eloquent but not G-rated blog (Anena is one of the most fascinating people I've ever met, but some of her habits caused James to tell her sometimes that she needs Jesus- something he never felt the need to tell me. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if he felt that I adhered to religion a little too much, since I'd never take chai with them). Anena knew James much better than I got the chance to, working with him very closely as she began her organization to assist women and children with AIDS. And she has exactly the same assessment of him that I do.

But, the glimmer in this tragedy is that James' work is well-enough established that Fadhili will continue to assist Kenya's orphans and streetmen and children from broken homes. Now it might be even more important, because now, on top of being a wonderful organization to help so many who cannot help themselves, it is a living monument to the life of a good, good man.

I've given thought lately to the idea that God has no hands but us- that it is critical for us to do our best to be listening for God's nudges, because often those nudges are guiding us towards someone with a need that we can help. We are the hands of the Lord when we choose to be, and we assist in blessing His children by actively serving those around us. James, you were the hands of the Lord. If your life wasn't worn out in service, it's only because you didn't live long enough to do so. You are one of my heroes, and will be forever.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Late, I know

I was flipping through my photos of visiting Becca and her family in October and couldn't resist sharing, even though they're over a month old now.

Isn't this baby adorable? I'm glad I got to spend some quality time with him, especially after Becca pointed out that he looks significantly like I did at that age. No wonder we bonded.

To bond even more, here's M wearing a Halloween onesie that I decorated for him laying on the blanket I crocheted for him. Spoiling nephews is fun.

I'm not a huge fan of Southern California, but I am very jealous that a winter garden is a feasible option there. T and K and I picked out two varieties of heirloom tomatoes, basil, chives, sunflowers, and a couple of other plants to go in their balcony planters. I was drooling at the garden center.

This is T's rendition of an UNO wild card, done in UNO cards. He's a very creative kid.

At the scarecrow display at the pumpkin farm. This was one of many scarecrows created for a local competition- T and K are doing their pirate imitations to go along with the scarecrows.

K is also very creative. One afternoon he grabbed both his and T's Indiana Jones fedoras and used them to cover up his whole head because he wanted to convince me that his head was missing.

This is during the creation of a pie that T and K helped me make. Fortunately, their parents were taking an afternoon nap and I think we had most of the mess cleaned up before Becca could come see what we were doing. Piecrust with two young boys can be a very messy affair.

Another baking excursion- making pumpkin bread, I believe. K specifically wanted me to take this picture so it would look like T had two heads.

A little farther north- going to the redwoods with McKay. I believe this tree had a diameter of seventeen feet (correct me if I'm wrong, McKay)

I think I fell in love with this place.

This is McKay trying out the very naturale benches along the sides of the path

McKay and I had a debate about whether sequoias are taller than redwoods and couldn't come to a conclusion. We tried to call Josh, sometimes known as WikiJosh, so he could either tell us or look it up for us, but McKay's phone wasn't getting any reception in the forest. I guess technology can only get you so far.

Yep, any time anyone wants to go camping in the redwoods, give me a call. (But not from the redwoods, as that doesn't work).

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Spread the joy

Melanie and I just got involved in an in-depth discussion of music theory. The debate was why sharps and flats are both needed and why we can't just do all key signatures with sharps. After drawing out the circle of fifths and several keys and trying to transpose the key of A flat major into the key of G sharp major by just changing the notation of the flatted keys, we determined that it was because you'd have to use both C and C sharp in the same key. Which turns out to be the same reason I gave her in the start that she didn't like- the presence of double sharps, just under a different name.

That was surprisingly fun. I didn't realize that the music geek in me was so hungry to get out and play. Bless you, circle of fifths.