Best Sacrament Christmas Program Ever

I'm in charge of music in my ward and decided to go out with a bang for the Christmas Program. My partner Dallin and I rounded up all the best talent in the ward and created the a Christmas Program that will go down in history. At least for me. Not that I'm biased or proud but it came out just how I wanted it. Scriptures and their readers, songs and their singers, all hand-selected and delivered.

The idea was to get out of the same old Luke 2 story rut and get to the juice of why Christ's birth was even a big deal. It matters that Christ was born because Christ atoned for our sins and died for us. His birth would be meaningless without his life and death.

So without further ado... Merry Christmas!

Reader: Matt Turner
“I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.” “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”
Mosiah 15:1 Isaiah 25:9 Isaiah 9:6

O Holy Night: Leah Petit Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Reader: Roxeanne Hutchins
“Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Behold the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.” “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.”
Matthew 1:18, 20-21 Luke 2:4-7

Away in a Manger: Men’s Ensemble A Capella

O Come All Ye Faithful: Choir Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Reader: Dani Passey
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Luke 2: 8-14 2 Ne 32:3?

Angels We Have Heard On High Accompanied by: Bryce Coombs

Reader: Heidi Juergens
“And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.”
Luke 2:16-19 Luke 1: 46-49

Mary’s Lullaby: Sara Olds Accompanied by: Sister Olds

Reader: Eric Jones
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon him.” And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved”
John 2:40 Matt 4:23 John 3:16-17

I Heard Him Come: Dallin Larsen Accompanied by: Bryce Coombs

Reader: Shane Mount
“He is despised, and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father – That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”
Isaiah 53:3-7 D&C 76:22-24

I Know That My Redeemer Lives: Scott Moore, Leslie Hyatt and Choir Accompanied by: Dallin Larsen

Bishop Robison Testimony

Closing Prayer


Great news

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints often announces its three-fold mission:
  1. Preach the Gospel
  2. Perfect the Saints
  3. Redeem the Dead
Every nonprofit organization has a mission statement and this unofficial one coined by Spencer W. Kimball has guided church funding and activities since 1981. It has been confirmed that the church is adding a fourth fold to its already three-fold mission of the church:

4. Help the Poor and the Needy

Because it's hard to feel the spirit or of God's love when your most basic needs are not met
Because the act of helping others in need perfects us as we fulfill our baptismal covenants
Because Christ did, and asked us to do likewise

I would love to delve into the political implications of such a statement, and thrash any of those morons who believe in any level of deserved poverty crap, but I'm going to simply say that I'm excited. "Caring for the poor and needy has always been a basic tenet of the Church," said LDS Church spokesman Scott Trotter, this is simply a reminder that it is our responsibility.

Traveling Responsibly in Burma

I'm going to Burma in 19 days and it's giving me anxiety. I don't usually get too stressed about travel itineraries and over-planning when I go abroad. I never buy guidebooks and cringe at the idea of booking a tour operator. Give me a good 3-4 days of internet surfing and I have a handful of possible travel routes worked out. But not with Burma. 12 days there is stressing me out. I'm not worried about safety (I'm well connected and well protected), or expenses (I'm more or less rolling in dough) or hitting all the sites in my limited amount of time (seen one or two, seen 'em all... sort of).

Here's the thing. I believe that as citizens of the world, we have a duty to travel responsibly. We shouldn't flaunt our wealth or enforce our culture upon the areas we visit. We should make an effort to at least learn Hello and Thank You in whatever languages we can, and then some. And we shouldn't go to places we're not welcome.

That last one is what's got me all riled up and ready for a guilt complex. Aung San Suu Kyi (Burmese political leader [and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate] currently under house arrest [for fighting for democracy. How dare she!] made a statement requesting that tourists stay out of Burma for now. Travel money goes straight to the hands of the military junta running the place.

72% of people polled here said travelers should avoid Burma. Another report cites, "The military dictatorship is eager to encourage tourism, and tries hard to present an attractive image to the world." (link) I don't want my money spent on ammunition, oppression or the lavish wedding of General Than Shwe's daughter.

But there is a flip side. Many pro-Burma organizations (like the Free Burma Coalition) say that travel to Myanmar, when done responsibly, is a good thing. It brings outside influence to an otherwise isolated people (good, not in an ethnocentric way, but in that they can see that what they endure is not normal and shouldn't be accepted), awareness to the outside (as long as travelers are aware and spread the word upon their return home), and if done right, some say that just 2 percent of travel funds could end up in the hands of the junta. Lu Maw, one of the Mustache Brothers (famous Burmese satirists) said, "We need many ears, many eyes. The regime is rich - if tourists don't come it makes no difference to them. But it does to us." (link)

So I'm going. And planning, more than I ever have for a trip, to make sure that I do it right.

This Damien Rice song was written for Aung San Suu Kyi. There used to be a great video on YouTube with video of her in action interposed with Damien and Lisa singing (their voices sounded better too) but alas, copyright issues and this live version isn't bad.

Go Damien and hygiene. Maybe that's why Lisa Hannigan left you for a decent (US-Bound) solo career.


All I want for Christmas..

How is it that this is still and will always be the best non-hymn Christmas song?

An added bonus to the video is a pre-skanky Mariah Carey and go-go dancers in lit Christmas tree frames.


Bring On The Christmas Cheer

I always resent finals season, not for (should-be) long study hours (or actual study escape daytime TV binges) but because it takes away from the Christmas season. Growing up, Thanksgiving 'til New Years was guaranteed to be filled with Christmas spirit/activities and now I have to work a lot more for it. Energy that should be spent doorbell ditching goodies and building gingerbread mansions is spent reading, reviewing and testing. It might also have something to do with crap college apartment decorations that don't measure up to home, having the season split in two with traveling home, and the fact that my last four Christmases I've been in kind of a funk (just home from Africa and angry at materialism, in Thailand where there isn't Christmas, just home from Thailand and depressed at post-mission life, and round one of empty nester parents/post-dramatic breakup).

The Christmas season this year has had the potential of being very bah humbug but I'm not going to let it. I'm not going home, but rather working a ton (time and half at the MTC means oodles of play money in Asia) and spending it with my sister and her family (my favorite people on earth). I get to prep for my trip, hibernate with Brooke and for the first time in my life, I may have a White Christmas (I saw that movie last week by the way, and it is not that good, nor is it really much about Christmas. Lame.)

Christmas music has been great respite from all the cold and school hating I've been doing, especially the Sufjan Stevens version of Holy, Holy, Holy (30+ plays this week alone). It talks (sings?) quite a bit about the Trinity, a belief which I don't ascribe to (I believe the Godhead are three separate personages), but I've taken the (non-copyright endorsed) liberty to change the lines about the Trinity to ones I actually believe in (I don't think the writer would be too happy about it because the song was actually written for Trinity Sunday, but this means a lot more to me). Actually, when I sing along (there's a really pretty, subtle harmony line), it's different every time. Adjusted lyrics go something like this:
Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee;
There is a sign at the sight of thee, merciful and mighty
Blessed Redeemer (x3) love for eternity

Holy, holy, holy! Though the darkness hide Thee,
Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see;
Only Thou art holy; there is none beside Thee,
Perfect in pow’r (x3) in love, and purity

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty
All Thy works shall praise Thy Name, in earth, and sky, and sea;
Holy, holy, holy; merciful and mighty
Born Christmas morning (x3) in peace and humility
or Praising his mercy(x3) Faith, love and charity

Text: Reginald Heber (1783-1826)
Music: John Baccus Dykes
Merry Christmas Season!


The Whole Fam Damily, pt. 1

When Brent and Mia set the date for their wedding to be the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I immediately pictured long tables topped with mismatched tablecloths and Chinet event paper plates because we had to make room for everyone. Scratch that everyone, make that Everyone (the capital E makes a difference). Extended family and close friends from both sides were sure to be there. Sure enough, family and friends came in droves for the red-letter day and I got big hugs from cousins, sincere talks with aunts and uncles, and enough whirlwind chaos to last me a while. In fact, Thanksgiving was big enough that we had to have it at the church. Don't worry, my mom made about a hundred trips to Safeway and I think we came home from the meal with a full turkey, cooked and ready for leftovers.

The best part of Thanksgiving day was Karaoke. Yes, Karaoke. Brent and Brian are always talking about it (it was even all set up for after Grandpa's funeral. It didn't make it into the program, not for lack of appropriateness to the occasion but rather a lack of adequate sound system). I don't think I've ever really sung karaoke but I got first run as the boys were setting it up. We are the Champions. What better karaoke is there than Queen, right? The further I got into the song (and more dramatically I sang), heads popped into the room one by one until I had a bonafide crowd. I won't go into the setlist for the Karaoke party but rest assured, it was awesome- and I'm positive Mia's family thinks we're crazy.

It was a party. Pictures:
My debut
Boys rocking out (I think also to Queen)
Dad and Aunt Paula
Babies playing house

Cute Hart girls

Pt. 2 might take a while.


Diamond Dan and my exceptional driving

Side note: Driving back from the airport tonight there was a moment where I signaled to change lanes one lane to the left. At the same time, a van two lanes over signaled right to move to the same spot I was headed. Both vehicles waited for a moment, waiting for the other to make the more aggressive move. After that moment, both vehicles unblinkered and the van sped up and I slowed down and then proceeded to change lanes. I though to myself first, how great that cars have this built-in system of protection against collision; second, I'm glad we were both actually using it; and third, my handlebar mustachioed driver's ed instructor Dan (we called him Diamond Dan, named after the Driver's Ed School he ran [rhyme not on purpose]) and the chain-smoking drive-along supervisor, Margarita would be proud of me today.

**I have so much to do this week. Update on Thanksgiving and Brent's wedding are stewing**


pretty tree

There's a tree outside my window that is in all ways possible, perfect- just as tall as our house and wide enough at my second story level that I can't quite see how broad it stretches. I appreciated the tree when I moved in and it was green, mostly because it blocks the view of any potential pervs across the street from seeing into our bedroom. This means I can keep the blinds open and the room as light as I like it without worry of a peeping Tom. My appreciation of the tree has now sky-rocketed because it is not just a functional privacy-keeper, but because it is just beautiful. Fall changes have turned it deep red and at the risk of sounding cheesy, it really is comment-on-its-beauty-out-loud-to-no-one (and on a blog) breath-taking. All I've got is a camera-phone picture. It does it no justice, but it'll have to do now that winter has taken over.


H - A - Double L - O - W - Double E - N

I usually have high expectations for Halloween and I'll be honest, they are rarely met. It's a holiday, like New Year's Eve, that I imagine is way more fun with just a little bit of alcohol. This year though, I figured out that my problem isn't a lack of liquor but a lack of proper holiday spirit. When you grab leftover clothes from the back of your closet you feel like you're dressed up as a Goodwill grab bag, regardless of how much that bathrobe looks like a ninja robe or how much puff paint you add to your eye mask. So, in the spirit of Halloween- and to keep me on the sobriety wagon- this year I decided to put some effort into my costume.

The inspiration for my 80's rocker outfit was the badass pouf ponytail I've been dreaming about for months (think Rihanna big on a runway, but longer and 20 years ago). Throw in massive amounts of eyeliner, bright red lipstick that made it through two showers before it finally faded and some rockin wear (Thank you Forever 21 for still selling black and gold stretch pants in 2009) and voila! I'm a rockstar.

Brooke channeled Joan Jett in a Stones tee, Mary had a black and gold tutu and Dallas was in a one-piece racer costume and denim vest. My math tells me that that much spandex in one car makes a rock band.
I even look mean!
There are 2 curlers, 2 bent up toilet paper rolls and a half a can of hairspray keeping that volume

Less mean, but still hard core.
Oddly enough, the music playing in my head while dressing up was was less Heart and Pat Benatar and more Scissor Sisters, Music is the Victim and a lot of rockin Beck.

Happy Halloween.

And PS. I can't adequately describe how happy I am that it's not snowing yet.



I'm a realist. I'll admit it. I'm practical, cynical, logical. There are very few decisions I make where my emotional response trumps rational thought. I naturally look for holes in inspiring movies and am working to overcome an overall skepticism I feel about love, dreams and lofty goals. I'm the girl who is watching the bride and groom about to say 'I Do' thinking that there's still a chance it might go to pot. Awful, right? It's not that I'm a robot-I feel, I dream- my brain just usually wins if there's any argument. I back up my emotions with pros and cons lists and schedule the air out of my dreams. I don't know how I ended up like this. I was raised in a house of dreamers and love surrounding myself with people who think and feel big. I love feeling the buzz of people getting all riled up and passionate about something that strikes a chord with them. It makes me feel human.

I've watched this trailer for Bright Star about 5 times today. 'He's a dreamer. She's a realist..." Sounds like my kind of story. I watch it and can hardly breathe (see? Robots don't go mushy for John Keats). The world needs more dreamers.


Rise and Shout the Cougarettes are out!

It's ESPN's College Game day here on BYU campus and it's apparently a pretty big deal. I just clicked on the link to the ESPN site and there's LIVE STREAMING coverage already (timestamp 6:58am). Okay, maybe not Live Streaming now that I'm thinking about it. It's daylight behind him, and if my geography training doesn't fool me, the light says its late afternoon. I wonder if all those people cheering (or standing 20 feet away awkwardly staring into the camera) behind him were staged? Regardless, the pre-filmed live streaming scam clip shows an official looking man with an awful bleach job standing in front of Y mountain in that parking lot west of the stadium reminding us all that something called the BCS bid is on the line here. I'll be honest, I can't tell who's got a better chance at it, but there are names being dropped. Names that I've heard of. It's a big deal.

Though not opposed to school pride or sports enthusiasm, I'm not really the bleeding blue football fan type to be in the loop about such an event, there's been quite the whisper all over Provo in preparation for the big day. University Communications even sent out an informational email requesting all (all) students to "familiarize" ourselves with basic ESPN College Game Day protocol. Here's an excerpt from the email, deemed important enough that every member of the student body got it.
Arrive Early: ESPN GameDay attracts thousands of spectators to the live audience. If you want a spot in the crowd, you need to plan on being there several hours in advance. In fact, large groups of fans from other schools are planning on arriving by 5 a.m. or earlier.
Thanks BYU. Blackboard's got an outage, beware of H1N1, and arrive early to get my screen time. Good to know.

So now down to the real reason I'm posting at a dark, unnecessarily early hour. My cougs! No, not those Cougs, MY Cougs- Heidi and Jessica, my Cougarettes. Brooke and I moved into this apartment mostly blind and were pleased to share walls and refrigerator space with these two lovely ladies. They had to be up and at 'em at the crack of Game Day (though apparently not as early as those dirty Utes who are coming to steal space in front of ESPN cameras) and I offered to chauffeur them. These two are a good complement to Brooke and I (and fill an oddly similar social function as Heather and Jessica did way back in the Freshman-Sophomore year roommate day) and to put simply, are just delightful to be around. Cute, fun, nice, good girls. How am I so lucky?

The left two with Cosmo


50 Great Voices

NPR is doing a year-long search to narrow down 50 great voices. I look forward to the outcome. Email your suggestions (and links, if possible) to GreatVoices@npr.org

Chris Cornell, Fiona Apple, Freddie Mercury, Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, James Taylor... I'm brainstorming.

Check out Rolling Stone's top 100 list for ideas.


There's a sunrise out there calling my name

I'm cranky and hungry and sick of being allergic to every food that sounds even remotely appetizing. I'm looking at a good week of being tempest tossed on life's billows (?) so I figure I might as well nip all the hating life I'll be doing in the bud and get some perspective. I've mentioned before that I'm a sucker for a sunrise so now, to start off midterms with a nostalgic smile, here's a little list of my Top 5 most favorite sunrises to date.

1. The Sunrise Drug That Got Me Addicted. Any day I went to school the long way, Demery Hill, Sammamish, Washington. At the top of my hill is the 'peak' of the Sammamish Plateau. If you hit it at the right time of day (early) and pause at the right spot, you catch a perfect view of the Cascade Mountains without any powerlines or streetlights blocking the view. (picture to come)

2. Proof of Plans Realized. September 2005, en route from London to Dar es Salaam. The little nubs of shadows are Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt. Meru and they signaled to me that all my painstaking roller-coaster of a preparations in going to Africa had come to fruit. The dark continent was welcoming me with a sunrise.
(In fact, if I didn't feel it would be hogging my Best of list, I'd put the sunrise over Lake Manyara (aka Pride Rock) and my last night, an all-nighter at a fancy schmancy beach resort in Kenya.

3. The Morning After. June 2005, Macchu Picchu, Peru. I was adamant that we make it for the sunrise. So even though we lost our train tickets up the valley and even though (or perhaps because) our pleasant day hike the day prior to this shot turned out to be a trial of patience and CPR-skills, the crisp glow over Putucusi was incredibly meaningful. Here, with some of the 8 who bonded on the mountain behind us, new friends from 6 countries.

4. More Perks at the Mansion. Summer 2008 through 2009, Provo, Utah. As if the jetted tub, King-sized bed and bedroom-sized closet weren't enough, the view from my suite at the 493 house was proof of my living in luxury was above my station. I should have been on a moldy bed on cinder blocks sharing hot water and bathroom space with 6 girls and a view of faded, mustard-yellow brick. Instead, I got East mountains, Utah Lake and the BYU skyline in perfect position from my pillow. (Here's my handsome dad looking stoically off into the sunrise)

5. Culmination of a Lot of Hard Work. December 2007. Ankor Wat, Siem Riep, Cambodia. It's not that a sunrise has to be in some exotic locale to be breathtaking. As noted from favorites 1 and 4, I can find beauty in my own neighborhood. That being said, even a poor sunrise can be made beautiful with ancient ruins in the mix. My last week as a missionary, I jumped the border and was literally in indescribable awe of this sunrise until well past lunch. And apparently today.

I feel better (deep, yoga-style inhale-exhale). I might live through the week. When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed, count a sunrise or two and it'll calm you right down.


What is the deal...

What is the deal with all the cute guys wearing wedding rings anyway?
And my carefree, responsibility-free days disappearing?

At least the sun is shining...


The truth will set you free. But first, it will piss you off. (Gloria Steinham)

I was just talking to a close friend (and by that I mean letting her vent to me, as is necessary from time to time) and at the end of our conversation she asked me a very personal question that, if answered honestly, had a potentially very hurtful response. I've lied to my friend before about questions like this. I've lied to a lot of people, and I know they've lied to me, because when it comes down to it, people hate hearing the truth. People like to be talked up, talked into, validated, placated; anything but hear the truth. Whether they can handle it or not is inconsequential (take that Jack Nicholson and all your quoters). In fact, truth can be a powerful motivator for self-awareness and positive change, and isn't as hard to take as we think it is, especially if it comes from someone who loves you and is delivered in a positive manner. Today I was honest with my friend. She thanked me for my open answer and as I hung up the phone I got to thinking about how many friends I have. A few (and by that I mean, tons). How many, though, would give it to me straight when it might make me cry or feel bad or hate them forever? Fewer. Not as many as I'd like. But wait, would I really want more? Could I handle all that truth? I'd like to think so, since I'm tough as nails and impossible to offend... Plus, Tom Cruise needed to hear with Col. Jessop said about freedom and there's a good chance I need to hear whatever someone might be watering down for my benefit. Makes me want to watch the Invention of Lying, the new Ricky Gervais movie about lies and their effects.

American lawyer Clarence Darrow said, "Chase after the truth like all hell and you'll free yourself, even though you never touch its coattails."

Honesty. The best policy. Something to strive for. Something to demand. Something to make us better.



Senioritis may not pass the Blogger spell-check but it has it's very own Wikipedia report so it must be real. Even without such a flawless resource backing up the disease's reality, I can bear testimony that it is real, because I am experiencing it as we speak. I have an exam tomorrow morning for which I am wholly unprepared and I cannot seem to talk myself into any sort of mood or panic to study for it, so instead I'm blogging. When I'm not blogging, I'm watching old Grey's episodes and my brain is turning to mush (really, I think I am getting stupider). I sometimes also spend hours on the internet looking at plane tickets, designer dresses, the history of Burma, the history of suspenders (actual Google search today), or, when all else fails, any one of my 600+ friends' profiles on Facebook. And their friends. And cute boys I may be stalking... on behalf of my friends.

According to Wikipedia, "The main symptoms of senioritis are the student is not doing homework, chronically procrastinating, losing motivation for doing well in school, grades dropping, or "coasting", which is going through classes with very little concentration or application of intent."

Case in point.

It doesn't help that my course-load this all-important final semester matches exactly that of most incoming Freshmen. I've taken mostly the Honors route, though, so I can't complain- at least they're smart, aggressive Freshmen. So here's the rundown:

Honors Biology 260: Wildlife and Ecology Management.
I've been thrice so far this semester. Once for syllabus day, once to give a presentation, and once tonight (I'm thinking of turning over a new leaf). Today I befriended a cute boy named... Eric? I don't remember now, but I think I'm going to write him on his mission. The professor is goofy in that loud, story-telling party guest kind of way, which isn't awful, but mostly I just do the crossword, or will do the crossword now that my leaf is officially turned.

Honors 201: Innovation and Ideal in Western Cities, Antiquity to 1500
I have a mini crush on my professor because he's got a witty, almost femme sense of humor that I like to think I get more than my teenage counterparts. In reality, most of my classmates have much more insight on how a city is both the impetus for and product of culture and innovation and I'm somewhat jealous.

Management Communications
Basically, how not to sounds like an idiot in an office setting. The first three weeks have been all grammar review and I catch myself mid-headdrop every week, but I've gone every time! I think this class will be very practical. As a bonus, my professor knows my cousins from Fallon, NV. Small world.

This last minute addition to my class schedule has been a wonderful escape. I'm way out of my league here, but I've always wanted to be better at drawing. My professor, Wulf von Barchsomething is eccentric as all getout but I've already learned a lot. It's fun to have some direction to my doodling. Perhaps one day some doodle of mine will merit framing.

Public Health prep
In preparation for my research work in Thailand. So far it has been the other three students giving reports on different topics in the region and me telling them if it's right or not. I'm sure the workload will increase as our travel time draws nigh. And that I'm excited for.

This is depressing. This is unlike me. It's like I have... a disease.


Addiction Recovery step #2

TV is bad for so many reasons. Sure there are plenty of arguments for educational TV, but let's be honest, when I watch TV it's not NOVA, the history channel or even the Food Network, it's Grey's Anatomy. The last week and a half I somehow got sucked into the black hole of seasons one and two (so good, I know). I was a closet Grey's fan for a good part of season five and I'm still pretty embarrassed to be coming out in the open with this. But I have to admit my addiction before I can recover. I inhaled every episode like a line of cocaine and went back for more making one too many late night marathons (with accompanying sluggish mornings at the MTC)

I binged on storylines laced with infidelity, sex and selfishness (no argument here); I overdosed on shots of all too often sunny Seattle skylines and overly idyllic Bainbridge Ferry runs (I'm homesick!); I indulged in sappy alternative music that was underground 3 or more years ago when these episodes first aired (long unearthed, but no less appealing). But now, after the whirlwind of prom and Denny dying and Burke in a hospital bed, I need a break. No more marathons til I can get productive again.



Get Up Offa That Thang (Shake til you feel better)

I've been promising Joni that I'd go visit her in St. George all summer, and I finally made good on my promise. I wasted and wore out the music that's been haunting my i-pod for the last year and half on the way down, loaded it up with new stuff and enjoyed George Winston and James Brown on my way up (hence the namesake of this post, my new favorite song). I texted far too liberally for how fast I was driving (and for the fact that it's against the law now [rightly so] to text and drive) but I'm just so good at texting without looking I couldn't help myself.

St. George was much more pleasant than expected. I've only ever stopped in for refills and bathroom breaks on the way to Las Vegas or California and now I'm realizing it's quite a shame. The temple is beautiful, the red rock is unmatched, and being with Joni was just so easy. I'm bummed she's moving so I have less excuse to get back. I did get some more practice helping her pack though. A mind for Tetris really has made me a box packing pro.

Oh, yeah, and great news: Beaver's slogan is "The Best Tasting Water in the US." Lucky Beaver. Payson's is "Your cure for Summer Blues." Hmm.


Actors who sing

Earlier this summer the often brilliant, sometimes a little to indie-weird, but always sexy in that brooding, long haired rocker, better in sunglasses kind of way Pete Yorn dreamed up an album of duets inspired by 1960s French rocker Serge Gainsbourg (less sexy, mostly because he's kind of a creep). Serge recorded an album with the much too beautiful for him Bridgette Bardot. It was loungy and a little too breathy for my taste. Pete's stab at the genre holds a nice throw-back to the 60's frenzy and I think I'd love it except for the fact that the super beauty Pete chose was Scarlett Johansson, who I hate (if you can name a movie where she's anything but obnoxious, please let me know).

Reminds me a lot of actress Zooey Deschanel's fresh sounding throwback collaboration with musician M. Ward She & Him (hers sounds more of a funky Doris Day to me). Both very retro. Both a little odd (in a good way). Both have lines that are suspiciously Beatles.

Got me thinking about other actresses who join up with singers. Off the top of my head I love Nicole Kidman with Robby Williams (Something Stupid) and Gwyneth Paltrow with Huey Lewis (Cruisin') and Babyface (Just My Imagination) from the movie Cruisin'. And I'm gonna have to think up some more. Any suggestions welcome!



PHEW! After four months, several burn-outs followed by more marathons than I should admit, I am officially caught up on LOST! Now I'm ready for the final season come 2010. Looks intense...


Hiking Mt. Timpanogos

Even though:
  1. A poorly (strategically?) placed hole twisted my ankle
  2. A night of hiking threw off my sleep schedule for a good week
  3. A razor sharp glacier sliced up my forearms and bruised me all over leaving marks that make it seem that "slid down the glacier" is some euphemism for being thrown down the stairs
  4. At least three times during the 11 hours up and back I would call the emotion I felt "bored"
  5. A good 60% of the hike up I would call the emotion I felt "freaked out of my mind"
  6. I was perpetually leaned to one side (to bring my center of gravity towards a 'safe' mountainside and away from imminent death over the cliffs)
  7. A missed (freaking nonexistent) trail marker forced me nearly crawling upward, clinging to shifty rocks for dear life
  8. My stomach is just now recovering from trail food
There is a plus side:
  1. I made it. Alive. Intact. Awake.
  2. I love conquering my fears (most of all that obnoxious fear of heights and falling)
  3. A view of Salt Lake, Utah and Heber/Midway valleys - all at once, twinkling
  4. Good company
  5. Reaffirmed my confidence in my athletic ability. I may suck at/hate running and most forms of exercise but I can hold my own on an incline
  6. Deep (at times panting) breaths of fresh, non-smog/inversion/polluted/Geneva-steel-and-exhaust valley air
  7. Checked it off the list of local treasures to take advantage of before I graduate and leave Provo behind [(biking the Provo River trail is next. Planning's gotta start soon) (any recommendations welcome)]
  8. My battle wounds make me look tough and adventurous, and thankfully don't hurt that bad
  9. Looking down the mountain at a pilgrimage of headlamps winding through the trail was pretty empowering
  10. A slide down the glacier was a rush, and gives me the courage to finally try out the steep slide at 7 Peaks
  11. I finally have a reason (a big fat right cheek hole) to replace my 5 years old, children's sized, elastic waistband, zip-off Columbia hiking pants I've been holding onto for longer than I should
  12. I pitied the morons hiking up in the daytime (blistering heat) and was grateful for a chilly breeze and constant shade (aka darkness/lack of sun)
  13. Stars shining brightly (shining for the whole world to see....) especially the Pleiades Cluster, which is hard to see in any level of light pollution
  14. I'm a sucker for a sunrise, and this one makes my list of lifetime favorites (post to come)
I took this picture!
Some quick facts about good old Timp:
  • Mt. Timpanogos is the 47th-most prominent mountain in the contiguous United States. Sounds made up, but isn't. Check out Timp's contemporaries here. (Way to go Mt. Rainier for kicking every other mountain's less geomorphically active trash
  • To explain Timp's layout as the shape of a reclining woman, legend has it that an Indian maiden died of grief after her lover was killed. This legend (but not the ballet it inspired) may actually be made up
  • There is also debate among professionals (probably Geographers) as to which kind of glacier the Timp glacier actually is. I personally don't really care either way
  • From 1911 to 1970, there was an annual "Timp Hike" some time in July where thousands of hikers would make the climb together and get badges for success. My dad participated several years and talks about old men who had dozens of badges as a tribute to their years of participation. They stopped the tradition due the damage 1000+ hikers can cause to a mountain in a day
  • Timp is my dad's mountain. When he dies he (sometimes seriously, sometimes jokingly) wants to be cremated and have his ashes scattered at the top. I say, Why not?


Mount Timpanogos

Worth every painful step.

(more later, need to recover)


Idyllic Mapleton

A funny phenomenon comes every mid-August as hundreds of BYU students (official count) find themselves lost in the transition between Summer and Fall housing by the ever-manipulative Provo landlords who require early check-outs and late check-ins (I wonder what they are doing in the in-between time Heaven knows they are not steam cleaning). I myself thought that I'd skirt that issue this year by avoiding a complex and living in a house - owned by my parents.

No such luck.

Renters still came- a germaphobe family of renters, no less- and the cleaning check was worse than that of any apartment I've lived in (Thank you to the people who have lived in the house within the last 3 years who left their crap for me to clean up, btw. And lucky DI/garbage man who now gets to deal with it). Worse yet, with my boxes packed up I found myself homeless. Lucky for me, there are some perks to being kicked out on the streets by your landlords (parents). In my case, I can't move into my new place til later this week so in the interim I've been holed up at my sister's. Much better than a friend's couch (or floor) I get to enjoy:
  • My sister. Pick your favorite member of your family and I'll bet you my sister could take that person in a fight. Maybe not a literal fight (though she's feisty enough to hold her own) but in overall awesomeness and soul-sister quality. (Enjoying time with her husband also counts as a perk.)
  • Her girls. Kaylee and Riley. Man has not seen pure, uncontainable joy until he sees toddler in their tree swing. It helps that they love me. Yes, I'm that aunt.
  • The view. One window looks straight up Mapleton canyon, another sees Utah Lake (and is far enough away to not deal with the stink). My bedroom window faced a nice string of nameless to me Wasatch Mountains that stretched all the way to Payson. Morning light along the ridge was great motivation to wake up early, if the neices rumblings didn't do the job.
  • The land. Paul the Farmer came regularly to work with Alfalfa fields and orchards of the not-so-next-door neighbor Dorothy. We saw baby deer and peacock. My personal favorite is the pond on the property (you know how much I love floating). Me and Kaylee took the old metal rowboat for a spin. I read as she played Cinderella and counted butterflies. Does it get much better than that?
  • The neighborhood. And by neighborhood I mean the stretched out community of Mapleton. People walk in the morning (not wearing spandex), yield for pedestrians and the junior high kids I saw flirting as they walked down the street were dressed like junior high kids (go figure!). It is a very unassuming and comfortable town.
The soundtrack for the week has been anything that might be played with a banjo or item found in an early century kitchen (you know, spoon, jug, washboard). Ricky Skaggs (and the Kentucky Thunder for some songs), an assortment from O Brother, Where Art Thou (aka Soggy Bottom Boys) and a guy named Chad Jensen (I think a friend of Doug's?) who is all instrumental and all rockin' in a hick bluegrass kind of way. Makes me miss the Seattle Folklife Festival (link to an equally rockin' spoon musician).


Hiking the Y

Over Rated!!

A strong woman's skills...

As summer 2009 rolled around and I turned up single in the sunshine, I spotted this spine bookshelf in one of Brittanie's home furnishing catalogs she still subscribed us to after she moved out. I was enamored with its simplicity and, feeling industrious, I ripped it from the pages and pinned it to my wall, vowing to build this bookshelf as a symbol of my independence and ability to do things on my own. I had oodles of time on my hands now, and what better way to spend it than creating something.

I spent a couple weeks trying to find how-to instructions on the internet and Finally stumbled upon an HGTV special. The instructions called for little more than three planks of wood and a router. Step One: figure out what a router is. Step Two: locate a router and someone who could kindly explain to me how to use it. Step Three: build, rejuvenate and move on with my life. Simple, right?

As does often happen with impulsive strokes of creativity, I got distracted for about a month. Then I bought my wood and located a mentor. My sister's father-in-law had a woodshop and a keen eye for building. Any Sunday would do.

Sundays sure are hard to find the motivation to do much else than go to church and sleep/eat the afternoon away so in no time I found myself in August with three planks of wood and no bookshelf.

Enter a new boy (friend boy, not boyfriend), random friend of a friend (friend of the ex-boyfriend's ex-girlfriend's ex-boyfriend to be exact) who happens to not only be handy with woodworking and building in general, but also has the key and rights to the BYU building lab hidden away in the Nichols building (often mistaken for the older, less attractive wing of the Bensen). He builds things for cooky professors all the time and BYU pays him for it. Lucky me.

So off we go to the BYU professor's manufacturing lab where they've got more machinery than anyone would know what to do with and he sets to work explaining the intricacies of building. I demand that he can't do it for me, that I have to do it myself. He obliges, nicely. Well, I suppose I wouldn't mind him cutting a couple of the shelves, seeing as I value my hands intact and don't quite trust my hand-eye coordination near a table saw. I cut about two of my own planks and he worked out the rest. I don't like to think I'm a wuss, just worried about BYU's liability and this boy's when blood starts spurting from my fingertips.

I did glue my wood together on my own and secured the clamps mostly on my own. There will be some more assembly done for me tomorrow and I'll stain it on my own after that.

Here's the story of my life: set out to assert my independence, only to find it much more obliging to let a steady gentleman step in and help me out. Is that unhealthy?

[picture of the masterpiece and my hand in its creation to come]

Great Songs About the South

My trip down south got me thinking about all the great music of all genres dedicated to the region. I stumbled upon this website and am exited to pursue the songs I've not yet heard. Some of the ones I've chosen for my Best Songs about the South:
  • Mississippi Queen by Mountain and Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughn- Thank you Guitar Hero for opening my mind to both of these southern greats. The former is my favorite fake guitar riff to rock, the latter gives me carpal tunnel just thinking about it (not me playing).
  • Black Velvet by Alanna Myles. I'm not actually sure what this song is all about, but it's slow and sweaty and all the sexier for it- Though the thought of velvet in a southern summer doesn't scream sensual.
  • Walking in Memphis - this one hit wonder by Marc Cohn oozes the glory days of Elvis and the southern religious fervor. (Cher painfully tried to cover it, but failed. And doesn't look like Elvis.)
  • Carolina On My Mind by James Taylor. Oh James, please be my friend.
  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia is perhaps the most unusual video known to country music (check out the 3 minute 80's crime show with Reba hollering in the background here). Leave it to Reba McIntyre to take an otherwise rockin' song about corrupt law in the south and make a joke of it by bad costumes and way too many over-acted voice-overs.
  • Tennessee by Arrested Development. This soul searching old school hip hop reminds me of the Perry's for some reason. ("A game of horseshoes!!")
  • Calling Baton Rouge. Garth Brooks. The one from his Double Live album.
  • Memphis, Tennnessee, Jackson Square, Rebecca DeVille, and more by Mason Jennings. The first is sweet, the second eerie, the third heartbreaking. Who'd have known Mason's a native midwesterner?
Somehow I want to put Ludacris' Southern Hospitality on the list, but can't make myself do it.

Am I missing any?


and I miss the ocean when I go to sleep...

I have always claimed myself to be a lake person rather than an ocean lover (Might have something to do with my "happy place" love of floating and overall dislike of being sticky and covered in salt water). When I think of me and the great blue, however, I always kind of haze over the Southern California Pacific Ocean when I think of my ocean experience (which I apparently make the time to do...). This is mostly due to the fact that I have a generally bad attitude about SoCal and its hype. Blah blah blah, we won't get into the psychoanalysis of that just yet. Any Californian and California lover will just tell me I'm bitter. Maybe so.

At any rate, I have at least somewhat caved on my usually anti-southern California sentiment. This weekend I was reminded of how amazing SoCal really is.

I got a glimpse of LA suburbia- the adorable, quaint kind- in Redondo Beach. Somehow by a touch of fate and only a few detours, all my Freshman/Sophomore year roommates were in southern california the same time. Heather lives there, Brooke visiting her sister, Jessica her in-laws, and me down for a wedding. We had dinner on the pier and giggled about the high voice and other silly nights that don't make sense to really anyone else but us. We are all very much in different places right now (Heather with a newborn, Jessica a toddler [both with husbands and their respective careers], Brooke in law school and me, still working away at my undergrad) but it was so nice to see that regardless of differences, the giggles still come. Believe it or not, we really are friends!

Saturday I spent in Laguna beach, mostly at Brooke's sister's friend's condo on the beach. We walked through town and I was honestly less than impressed at the actual beach (due to the swell there was an uncomfortable amount of seaweed and because it's the O.C. there were an uncomfortable amount of tourists in bikinis that didn't suit them) but walking (and company) was great. It's a funky little town and the ocean is just such a force it's hard to not enjoy its presence.

Saturday evening was Brit's reception, which was just lovely. She was beautiful and she had hands down the most beautiful bride's bouquet of any I have ever seen. I did not catch it. (:(?)

After the wedding, Rachel and I (with the help of her handy I-phone GPS) wandered to Huntington and watched the sunset from a much cleaner, much less crowded beach then got lost back to the UC-Irvine campus to watch 500 Days of Summer at a funky little theater with some friends of hers. I Adored (with a capital A) the movie. Anyone who has been through any level of heartbreak or any position of heart breaker will identify. I laughed, I cried, I learned about myself and all my failed relationships. Better than therapy or even a rebound.

Lovely long weekend. Even the drive there was serene. I just like Rachel so much. We chased the sunset across the desert (sunset is The redeeming quality of the Nevada desert.) and rolled into Vegas in time to catch Le Reve (the Cirque du Soleil-esque plus fire and water show at the Wynn, discounted tickets compliments of the ever-accommodating Matt Phelps). The show was out of this world bizarre but incredibly impressive.

Perfect vacation. Pictures to come.


A father's little princess


Moving story of a single father just trying to make it work. I don't have any real reason to like this article so much, except that I'm a little princess ("all girls are").


I read this quote in a bathroom book.

Friedrich Nietzsche's rejection of Christianity, truth, and the potential of equality makes me a bit wary of him, but any man with a consecutive 'tzsch' in their name that doesn't alert a red squiggly spell check line must hold some clout. I hold that beyond Neecha's (go ahead, you try to spell it without looking) world-renowned philosophy and philology (not to mention his sweet 'stache and 'thinking hard' pose) he deserves attention for this lovely quote:

"Without music, life would be an error."

Frer N., I couldn't agree more.


Celebrating the Dodges.

Any returned missionary will gladly tell you that the 2 years or 18 months they spent serving were some of the happiest they have ever known. You might not hear these RMs report that they have never been more stressed, emotionally strained and virtually always on the brink of panic than during that span of time. Some argue that happiness lies amidst such chaos. A hectic missionary schedule and a purpose with eternal consequences are sure to bring both satisfaction in success and constant questioning of that success. Throw in the adversary and I'm telling you, it's a big old mess. While few admit to this dichotomy of emotions, I believe it is inherent to the nature of missionary work. No complaint, just fact. I swear I was level-headed and sane before I served a mission, but as much as the work brought out the best in me, it also brought out the crazy. I remember Sister Marsh and I would always defend ourselves of our neuroses saying "I promise, I'm not like this at home."

One of the blessings of finishing a mission, and perhaps the reason behind the infrequent reports of panic, is that the further you get away from mission life, the less you remember the emotional roller coaster and fits of crazy, and the more vivid become the moments of pure, heaven-sent love and joy as described by Ammon.

I have been home from Thailand now for just over a year and half, and have been enjoying much more of the serenity of the Alma 26-tinged memories than the ones he was blessed to haze over (you know, being rejected left and right, being cast into prison, watching the believers be burned alive). This weekend, however, I had a terrifying deja vu moment of joyful panic as I walked into the homecoming of my mission president, Karl L. Dodge and his Amazing wife, Gunda Le. I sat in the back, anti-social as I am, watching at least 50 of my former mission mates greet and I swear for a minute I was transported back to zone conference. Happy, joyful, passionate about building the kingdom!!!!! OH wait, I'M NOT READY FOR THIS. Oh the veil of forgetfulness was lifted.

Luckily, my moment of stress was quick and broken by the realization that I was NOT in pantyhose, that it was NOT 120 degrees outside, and that I could flirt with ANY boy in my eye line (a bit of a stretch seeing as most males in attendance were either the little boys that served with me or over the age of 50). And, of course, the calm of realizing that the salvation of a dozen or so individuals was not sitting in my petite, inadequate hands. What a relief.
he meeting was, of course, fabulous. The poor deacons (very slowly) struggled to work out the logistics of passing the sacrament to a ward tripled in size. I also remembered just how loud family wards are (There had to have been a familly doing cartwheels in the back of the overflow, if not fully playing a game of basketball). The Dodge's son Brian gave a great late homecoming talk about charity and the love of Christ making us pure. He had the pleasure (pleasure?) of both leaving and returning from his mission to Germany-Austria from the Bangkok international ward so it was his first time addressing his home home ward in Midway. Sister Dodge followed suit with all her zone conference addresses, focusing on small miracles and God's love for us. My favorite thing she said was, "Transitions are hard. But God is with you." She talked about some of the transitions she has gone through and that people generally go through. I swear sometimes that my life for as long as I can remember has been in transition, so this thought is particularly comforting for me.

As a special musical number, all Thailand returned missionaries got up and sang Called to Serve in Thai (Thanks to the MTC and missionaries' obsession with the song, I'm fairly well practiced). President Dodge then addressed us and focused on God's attention for the individual. It's interesting that most missionary homecomings focus on a principle of the gospel or missionary lessons, but that a mission president would zoom out a bit (or perhaps it's zooming in) and bear powerful testimony of the many ways in which God loves and looks out for his children one by one. This seems to be a lesson I have been learning over and over recently, all the more potent as taught by Karl (I'm not sure what to call him now).After church, the Dodges provided hot dogs, burgers, and that lemon-sweetened tea bread (and cake and blueberry tea bread and skittles...) and I enjoyed the desserts. And an amazing view of the valley(above). And seeing my mission president as a real person, mingling with his kids, his friends and the scores of twenty-somethings who worship him. Even this was a Thailand flashback, complete with meals on the floor and shoes off at the door.

It couldn't have been a better day. The day was so good, in fact, that I keep forgetting that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (who just happens to be my #1 favorite of the Elders due to his sincere and unapologetic calling to repentance wherever he speaks) snuck in to preside just as the Bishop was announcing the meeting and that I snuck in to shake his hand just as he was scurrying out (I guess Apostles can still scurry) with his arm around a lucky but likely terrified little deacon.


Girls Only Camping

Before anyone berates me about the dangers of a group of girls camping alone in the woods without any male protection, I think it is important to know that Raelle brought her gun- and slept with it by her pillow. And she's a good shot. Well, a good enough shot. In her words, "I'm getting better... but my shot'll knock anyone out real good.... as long as I get him in the chest."

With safety out of the way, any other naysayers who claim men build better fires, make better camp food or set up tents with any more efficiency: Back the freak off. Our fire burned strong enough for perfectly toasted marshmallows and some (delicious, if I might brag) Kami-made tin foil dinners. And tents just aren't that hard to assemble.

  • The Cunningham's tent is entirely see-through at the top, which I love. If I had perfect vision I would have fallen asleep star-gazing, but even as blind as I am, the fresh breeze and early light was ideal.
  • I hate bacon. But somehow when it's just a little bit dirty, it tastes much better.
  • Squatting in the bushes = no problem. Thank you Asia for improving my ability to stay dry
  • Some advice: Wandering tattooed, beer-holding neighbors names Keith are not always bad. In fact, they are friendly and have well-intentioned campfire advice. If there's any doubt, however, talk about your loaded gun loud enough he can hear it. Also, have a loaded gun.

Pictures to come...


The hottest music on the radio

I've heard Rock Me Amadeus on the radio three times on three different stations in the last three days. Did Falco die and take Michael Jackson's place on the airwaves?

This video could have easily been filmed at Neverland Ranch.


Down South

I wonder sometimes if southerners are as captivated by the west as we 'cowboys' are about southern belles and plantations. We don't have hot, slow summers like in Gone With the Wind or the Notebook (Ever seen 310 to Yuma? There's nothing romantic in the dusty desert). More importantly, there are more songs about the south than about any other region (see later post). Unfortunately, seeing as the south isn't so on the way to anywhere but Florida, it doesn't make too much sense to just stop by. So, I was beyond elated at the chance to hit a few hot spots earlier this month.

After years of talking about it and an arduous qualification process, little miss Kendall joined the Air Force. She spent 3 long months in Montgomery, AL in Officer Training (left, in her army moon suit surrounded by uniformed ... hunks?) and then had a weekend to pack up and drive to San Antonio. I missed her graduation/ceremony where she was given her new rank, whatever that's called. But, to make up for it, I flew down to make the drive with her. Flights to Montgomery were outrageously priced, but I got a steal to Jackson, MS, which by the way, is an adorable little airport. I jammed to Mississippi Queen in my head as we then drove down to New Orleans, and spent the night there.

My mom lived in N'awlins for 5 years in elementary school way back in the days of segregation and pickled pigs feet (I s'pose those are prolly still being eaten). We took the Causeway across from the mainland to the city- it was like driving across the ocean. I've never seen a longer stretch of bridge in my life. The I-90 floating has got nothing on this.

I found the French Quarter charming, highlights being easter pink and yellow colored houses with fabulously intricate cast-iron balconies. Jackson Square was nothing like Mason Jennings described, but rather filled with overpriced psychics and caricature artists. A long walk down Bourbon Street reminded me just how flip-flopped my life is from the rest of the world. Apparently no other city in the world allows you to carry open glasses of alcohol through the streets. I can't imagine why not. Bourbon Street lived up to its name as the Vegas of New Orleans. More importantly, live jazz music blaring throughout the city lived up to its reputation. French cafes were also a pleasant treat for breakfast.

The drive west from New Orleans was incredibly beautiful. The freeway winds through the marshes of southern Louisiana so there is water and trees Everywhere. The second we crosses the Texas border, however, both trees and water disappeared and were replaced by flat expanses of either ranch-land or, closer to Houston, buildings. We were going to stop at the Single's Ward in Houston, but got a late start. We also spent a good amount of time trying to figure out how to get her truck weighed at the semi-truck weigh station.

By Sunday night we were in San Antonio. We got Kendall settled at the Air Force Base and her and Jered's apartment set up and enjoyed a night on the River Walk and at the Alamo (which is apparently not a region of Texas but an actual building where some hoo-ha battle went down in the War against Mexico). San Antonio has zero street parking (frustrating but it made for clean streets) but the river walk was more charming than even the Miss America Pageant made it look (besides the creepy red tunnel a la Seattle Library 2nd floor). And before I left on Tuesday, I even got to see Matt Terry!


Foundations of the American Dream

De Tocqueville (1840/2000) famously wrote that every American is "devoured by the desire to rise" (p. 599).

Rise from poverty, rise from failure, rise from mediocrity.

I would debate whether or not every American is so devoured (especially while I'm staring at Utah's depressing poverty statistics and reflecting on our church's struggling activity rates), but I maintain that simply wanting success does not merit success. It is those who voraciously seek it who achieve it.


What the Swine Flu?

If you haven't heard, the MTC is a dirty breeding ground for communicable diseases. Close quarters, shared food, unsanitary 19-year-old boys- a bad recipe when the H1N1 virus rears its ugly swine head. Add in travel plans to hundreds of countries and it's a worldwide problem.

I showed up today to work to find out that Elder Partridge, a native Washingtonian who has had a cold for a little over a week has officially been diagnosed with the disease-which-shall-not-be-named. He's stuck in quarantine all week and all who have come in some contact with him are now on the watch list. They dished me out some Tamiflu to prevent any spread.



Window Seat View

I usually choose the aisle seat when possible - makes for less awkward multiple trips to the bathroom (thank you airline bankruptcy for scrimping on in-flight beverages, by the way. I'm not missing those extra few rounds to the VIP water closet up front.

When aisle isn't an option, I'll still usually opt for a middle seat, believe it or not - for the same reason (climbing over two people is way trickier than just one. It's worth being a bit more crowded if it means a bit more mobility [oxymoron?]. You can sneak past one sleeper, as long as their tray is clear, but two? Good night! Better to pass on the Ginger Ale and hold it til landing).

So I don't often make it to the window seat, even though I live for views of clouds and erosion lines. But the regional carriers for American Airlines offers the one-two layout where there are no middle seats and the lucky passenger assigned to seat A gets both a window AND an aisle (pure luck).

My seat was over the wing, so my view was still somewhat obstructed but what a view. I like being reminded that we are small and that our whole lives make up the tiniest fraction of the world, but our tiny lives still shape the landscape and patterns of our world make up the patterns of the whole world.

Jagged highways and winding lanes sliced through patches of trees or across mountains;

Suburban sprawl- with Walmart rooftops and well-planned cul-de-sacs;

Where are there bridges, which cities are hubs...

My favorite bird's eye views are farms, which seem to go on forever on the ground but have such obvious lines from above, especially out west. The flight from Cambodia leaving Siem Riep back to Bangkok showed me that even the most rural of farms (and I mean in the middle of Nowhere) clearly delineate property and crops, usually with precisely straight lines. The grids over the Great Plains are multi-colored. In the South they seem much more haphazard. These grids don't just decorate the land, they're proof of little lives.

These grids don't just decorate the land, they're proof of the little lives.

Travelling high down south

I love traveling. L-O-V-E it. Love new places, love new cultures, I love being forced to talk to strangers whose lives are such a flip flop of mine. I don't get excited about much, but I love the high I get the night before I go anywhere. Like in my mind I've got that scriptures from Mosiah 24 "Be of good comfort, for on the morrow, I will deliver you out of bondage" except bondage is the tedium of life and the deliverance is a trip ANYWHERE.

I accidentally left my phone on during my first flight so now it's almost out of batteries. When I saw the last bar flashing green (why green, anyway? Since when does green mean danger: loss of communication on its way?) I first congratulated myself for remembering to pack my charger, and brainstormed when I might charge it most efficiently. Then I had one of those aha! moments that seems desperate and pathetic for a minutes until the pure elation of unattached freedom sets in. I don't have to report to anyone! My green flashing last bar could go entirely blank the minute Kendall picks me up and it won't matter one bit. Ahhh... liberating, isn't it.


I love my sister!

Without her I WOULD GO INSANE. Or I at least would not know how to deal with my insanity.



Thanks to Southwest's $90 funfares, I got to go to Seattle a couple weeks ago. When I got off the plane, I wandered into the Made in Seattle gift store and was literally overwhelmed with how much I love the Pacific Northwest. Salmon, Native Americans, Mountain and Ocean views wrapped in green, art and local hippie-friendly industry. My home town rocks!

I wish more than anything that I had pictures to upload but alas, I lost my camera (and everything else that allows me to function day to day) so I hope my bullet list of highlights paints a vivid enough picture to compete with my old Nikon Coolpix (RIP).

Sunday dinner with the whole (growing) family. Nothing beats crock pot cookery and mashed potatoes. My bedroom empty but still intact.
Coconut ice cream at a random (but really nice) restaurant in downtown Seattle
Enjoying the Washington State Ferry System for what it's meant for (public transportation)
Spending time with a family that resembles how mine was ten years ago (busy and hectic but safe and happy)
Being peer pressured to jump (15 feet!) into the FRIGID Puget Sound and climb up a barnacley ladder --- in the rain! (worth the jump)
Sitting (in my pjs, at my house, in front of the fire, in those plush leather couches that make it impossible to do anything productive)
Playing the Brothers Knudson's newest prototype - Hecho
Brainstorming for Brent's musical
Snoqualmie Falls after a downpour (you could feel the mist all the way from the lookout point)
St. Helens Fresh Honey from a little orchard stand
Prosser, Washington (who knew it was so delightful! Amazing appetizers at a high-so restaurant, pizza at a charming pizzeria, milkshakes
Catching up with the Scrivners (and Baker City, OR)
Getting back to Provo (home sweet home!)