Three Things about our Thailand Trip 2014

It's the big things that are hardest to boil down into Three Things. We spent 2 weeks in Thailand it was amazing. No play-by play this time. It was just great. Three things I loved:

1. Food. 

Thai food is effing amazing and people who eat in Thai restaurants in America only know the half of it. It's SO cheap. And SO delicious. And it's EVERYWHERE. Best thing about Bangkok- I always say when people asked me what I thought of the city (that, and 'there are gems everywhere: Ornate temples hidden by skyscrapers, a beautiful vista, park, sunset, building, distracted by 8 million people, a ton a pollution, and people everywhere)- is STREET FOOD. You can't go 10 feet without there being someone selling you something to eat, something delicious, and cheap.

Meatballs, fish balls, crepes, waffles, salad, omelets, ice cream, soup, rice dishes, veggie dishes (in a box or bag), smoothies, iced chocolate (in a cup or bag), meat skewers, rice blocks, deep fried everything, fresh iced cut fruit. It's the way I eat: grazing, snack by snack - some heartier than others) with an occasional full meal.

The full meals were pretty dreamy as well (not surprising). Highlights:
  • The most delicious fried chicken I've ever eaten, cooked by my friend Oh's mom in honor of us and Chinese New Year (not sure which trumped, honestly) (secret ingredient: white pepper!)
  • The most delicious Indian food I've ever eaten (It was technically Bangladeshi, but it was naan and curry and full of crack, I'm sure.
  • Crepes, Roti, waffle sticks. Breakfast treats all day.
2. Friends

People I taught, people I served with, people I met later (and a random exchange with a girl I never met but who knew who I was because she served after me but before all my MTC missionaries. And happened to be sitting behind us at the train station, heading to random corner of the country. [" You're headed to Ubon? That's random! What takes you there?" "I was a missionary for the LDS church..." "I was a missionary for the LDS church!" "Are you Sister Knudson?" WTF]. In (a wholly dissatisfying to me and my future memories) summary:
  •  P Oh. The first woman I taught with all my heart. I LOVE HER. Not in the saccharine way, in the 'my soul cares for her soul' way. 
  • P Ae and P Tik. The gruesome twosome. Both my companions, best friends, always there for encouraging words- as well as both literal and figurative noogies. They razz me plenty but I know they love me :)
  • P Napa. That investigator who sacrificed it all, got baptized, got married, sealed, and is now expecting a baby and moving to America. Every missionary's dream investigator. Seeing her Happily Ever After is a regular delight.
  • A random American friend. Who I dated briefly when I came back to visit, who I run into occasionally (this time on street, when neither of us even live in BKK). There's something wonderful about being on good terms with a romantic interest that didn't pan out. Connecting on the same things you did before, as friends this time, not too marred by history.
  • Sailing companions. Jamie and Higgy met us and were woonderful sailing crew. There's not too many people who I'd commit to a week in very close quarters, but the Karera's were breezy and fun, set to tune of Calypso (see above).
3. Warm wind and peaceful sitting, enjoying the sites, sounds, and smells that are uniquely Thailand.
  • In Lumpini Park, watching giant monitor lizards
  • Around Victory Monument, which has the best shopping, even with government protester tents 
  • Sailing - there is really no sensation of calm quite to compare with warm tropical air, being carried by wind
  • Waterfall climbing in the country
  • In the sun, at the pool or on the beach
  • On jumbo planes and regional carriers (with hi-so treats!), trains (scratch that, we missed our train because I can't tell time in Thai), automobiles (candy-colored cabs), motorcycle taxis (hold on for your life), tuk tuks, ferries, a 38 ft sailboat, crammed Zodiac inflatable boat, and of course, on foot. And by snorkel. 


Music Monday: Three Things about every song on John Mayer's Paradise Valley album

It's no secret that I love John Mayer. He's the only singer I can think of who I like almost all of his songs, and whose musical talent I respect whole-heartedly. His albums somehow, over the years, have tracked well to my personal life dramas (excitement at life, heartbreak, indifference, calm and settled, always self-searching). Paradise Valley is the latest, and I listen to it on repeat. Now, because I love it so much, I'm going to go through song by song and pull out three things from every song. BECAUSE I LOVE it.

1. Wildfire.
Might be my favorite song on the album. I read that John Mayer, speaking of this album, recounted that he was listening to a Jack Johnson album and he noted that it just felt good. So he decided to not worry so much about every word and every note and just make an album that feels good. You feel it in this song. It reminds me of Josh Turner's All Over Me- just oozing a laid-back summer. There is something magical about late, warm nights with your honey.

Best line: "A little bit of summer's what the whole year's all about"

Really, is this a country song or what.

2. Marie.
Filled with wonder and tinges of regret. And the stalking of old loves, not because you still love them, but because you just want to know how they turned out. I sometimes look up old boyfriends and I don't think it's weird. Just because John and Marie ended up in different places, doesn't mean he can't care where she ended up and he can't wonder if she'd be proud of him.

Best line: "From time to time I go looking for your photograph online, but some kind of judge in Ohio's all I ever find"

Shout out for the last 30 seconds of 'oh oh oh oh' that doesn't change tune from the same four notes over and over but somehow doesn't get boring BECAUSE THE GUITAR BEHIND IT IS SO GOOD. Way to make it interesting, John.

3. Waiting on the day.
You can hear that John Mayer is growing up enough that he can picture the long term idea of someone being there. He wants to believe it's possible for someone to be there all the way. No more "faking love for an hour or so"

Best line: "I'm waiting on the day when these words are in stone, when the kids are all grown, and we go dancin"

There is something terrifying and exciting about hoping for a forever kind of love, or hoping that the love you have is the forever kind. Waiting is excruciating and exciting and totally worth it.

4. Paperdoll
I'm secretly in love with Taylor Swift and John Mayer and whatever drama sparked the retaliation song-writing feud they are in (she slammed him for making her cry in 'Dear John'. In Paperdoll, he  basically calls her out as a lost, spoiled baby.) So passive aggressive, and likely petty, but don't you kind of wish you could get into a song-writing feud with someone?

Best line: I don't actually love the words or the music, just the alleged stab at Taylor Swift. Taylor's Dear John was one of her worst songs too. Doesn't make it any less juicy.

Is it just me or is this song reminiscent of the under water level on Super Mario?

5. They Call Me the Breeze
This is my kind of guitar solo. Reminds me of my Guitar Hero Stevie Ray Vaughn Days, back when I was addicted to the game and I thought it made me both talented and well-rounded.

Best line: guitar solo

Please, Guitar Hero/Rock Band, please make this into a game song.

6. You Love Who You Love
The commitment-phobe's confession, and a bit of self-defense by way of Katy Perry, who I'm hoping it works out with, even though their voices don't actually blend very well (not like his and Taylor's, if it must be said). She seems a lot more normal and grounded around the overtly and excessively soulful John Mayer, which I feel good about. I also totally get that sometimes people you love aren't any great picture, they're just who you love and you gotta stop over thinking and just follow your heart.

Best line, from Katy Perry: "Some have said his heart's too hard to hold. And it takes a little time, but you should see him when he shines, cuz you never want to let that feeling go."

The video is ridiculous, but actually kind of great. KP's laugh at the end of the song almost ruins the song. Laughing in songs is almost never a good idea.

7. I Will Be Found
No one else can call themselves a birdie and get away with not sounding like an idiot. I like this song for the pure determination of it. "I will be found" sounds like a mantra. Like, he knows he's not so great at being a grown-up, but he's moving forward, head down and self-aware.

Best line: "Maybe it's a long-played game, but that's a good thing."

Life lesson from the heart of Montana. I bet he stole the line from some sage neighbor who, though missing a leg from the war and rebuilding broken relationships with his kids and an alcohol addiction, has taken Mr. Mayer under his wing and reminded him of the heart of life.

8. Wild Fire (the not-John-Mayer version)
I don't really get why this is on the album. I guess, John Mayer produced it, so it counts as his, but it seems like it should at least be a duet or something. I don't hate it (except the weird suicide at the Eiffel Tower reference), but I don't really think it fits. Whatevs.

9. You're No One Til Someone Lets You Down
Back to country and twang. The kind of heartbreak cowboys sing about.

Best line: "Yes, I've been told that some people grow old without losing part of their soul, but if that is true I don't wish it on you, there's so much to adore with a heart that is blue."

Tis better to have loved and lost, sure because of the love, but also because of the loss.

10. Badge and Gun
Can we just call this a boy song? Man song? A lone wolf, out on the prairie, living his life with honor and grit.

Best line: "Give me those jet-black, kick back, lay down nights alone"

Who doesn't love a storm-chasing cowboy loner?

11. On The Way Home
What a great album caboose! Reflective, wise, personal, bluesy, great guitar, simple harmony, meaningful lyrics, everything a good John Mayer song (and album) is.

"You'll go back to love that's waiting, I'll unpack in a rented room. How's that life you swear you're hating? Grass is greener, that makes two.

Just remember on the way home, you were never meant to feel alone"

See ya next round, John. I'll be waiting.


Women and the LDS Church: A note to three parties

If you're anywhere near LDS Church members, you've heard there's a heightening conversation about the role of women in the church.

Even if you're not in those circles, it's around. Last year, progressive Mormon Joanna Brooks was on the Daily Show; last month, the NYTimes covered the subject. In short, a group of women are making a stand for female ordination and greater participation in the Church at large. The church isn't really recognizing the movement. Members are split.

I feel all sorts of complicated about the movement because on one hand I'm happy to see these conversations happening, people noticing, and talking about the fact that men and women are not equally represented in church leadership (they're just not), that young women are not taught leadership skills to the same degree that young men are (it's not just me and the activists that thinks so), that the way we talk about 'different but equal' may be true (I believe in differences and their value, so so much) can inculcate a sense of being put in your place, a sentiment women have been fighting for centuries, in and outside the word 'feminism'. Women believing they can be leaders. People in general believing something and standing for it. It's a good thing for the soul, standing for something you believe in. And it's inspiring seeing others do so. So I love that Ordain Women is making waves.


I'm also annoyed at how the Ordain Women folks are framing it all. That priesthood gets more attention than leadership and representation in ward decisions. That it's all or nothing. That it's set up in what feels like, or can be perceived as a protest. I don't think it is the most effective way to elicit change in this scenario. I think there are other, more effective ways to talk about it.

I'm annoyed at the Church's response, or lack of it, as is often the case. That in a religion that celebrates the importance of asking, of questioning, and above all a church that believes in continuing revelation, that the concept that the role and rights of women in the church could change would be unheard of or not welcome is beyond me.

And, I am SO Annoyed at the response of members of the church. For the same reasons as above, but in a more personal, condescending Facebook post kind of way. Comments like "anyone supports this doesn't have a testimony/understand the temple/deserve to be heard." I want to punch them all in the face, then yell at them that they don't have a testimony/understand their temple covenants/deserve to be heard because they are the exact kind of judgmental, self-righteous hypocrites that Christ discourages more than people who ask questions. Then I want to cry because why can't people just get along and feel good and have faith, all around, eh?

SO, to calm my annoyed self, sort out my conflicted thoughts, and to add my meager voice to the growing pile of disagreement, here's how I would to address involved parties, if I ruled the world:

1. To the Ordain Women movement.

You're alienating people by making it all about priesthood. Even though it's NOT all about priesthood - from everything I've read it's all about equality and concerns being acknowledged as much as anything else - but it's called ORDAIN Women. And we know that people only read headlines (as NPR so smugly showed on April Fools). They take soundbytes and from them decide to be for or against.

Civil Rights made headway not angling for the vote, but for rights in cafes and on buses. This is not the civil rights movement, but I know women who want more leadership, broader callings, and some change. But priesthood is a BIG CHANGE. And women who would support the cause of change are going to shun this movement, or worse, deride it, because it feels like too much. It doesn't mean there's not room for the priesthood conversation, but inclusivity and toning it down a bite will bring more power and church member support than high demands and drama. I want more from my church organization and I wholeheartedly believe that it will happen, but I don't necessarily think priesthood has to be part of that. So you're alienating me, for one, and I wish I could join you, but I can't. It just feels too dramatic. As does the Priesthood Session entry ticket stand-off. I think it's weird women can't go in too, but they've obviously dug their heels in on this one, and it this is not the cross to die on, nor is it the way to get positive attention for the long-term. It just makes people feel disrespected and protested. Mormons are sensitive to anything anti, even if it's within the church.

#EmpowerLDSWomen or something like it. I can get on board with that. I'll fight that fight (with love and faith, of course).

2. To Church Leadership (I mean the big guys: Prophets, Apostles, Seers, and Revelators, and the local guys: Bishops, Stake Presidents, Relief Society Presidents)

Let's take a long, hard look at what leadership roles in the church are really priesthood-only. Is it really necessary that the Sunday School President be a man? Is it really necessary that witnesses at baptisms and sealings be men only? Are there ways to involve women more? Get them in presidencies, have the RS President sit on the stand an Sacrament Meeting, involve them in more than women's organizations, primary, and activities. Some wards are better at this than others. But to make it consistent, it needs to come from above. That's how hierarchy works.

We're not a ground-up organization, we take the lead from above. So in areas where the Stake President feels fine about women holding their babies when they are blessed, it happens. In areas where they don't, it doesn't. That level of arbitrariness doesn't feel great, especially to women who care very deeply. The more we can make it clear through the words of the Church Handbook that we want to get women involved, more than in a support role, the more that will happen. Yes, there are women who don't want priesthood, don't want more responsibility, don't want any changes. But there are enough that do want some of those on some level, that the opportunity to grow and become perfected through an expanded spectrum of service in Christ's church, that we should be talking about it, not in Temple Square protests, but in Ward Council all the way up to Quorom of the Twelve Apostle meetings and everywhere in between.

I don't think men and church leaders who are men are trying to oppress women. AT ALL. No need to be defensive about that, at least from my end. But I think that, with the help of thousands of years of precedence, women are sometimes just left out sometimes. Forgotten about. And in order to not be forgotten about, we need to be intentional about reaching out and extending opportunity.

3. To women (and men) in the church:

Stop being such condescending, self-righteous hypocrites. Stop posting criticism and judgment under the guise of bearing your testimony. Just stop. Asking questions doesn't mean you lack faith. Wanting more than we have now does not mean wanting to be a man. The issue is a lot more complicated and more personal to A LOT of people. Just because you don't want the priesthood because you're busy enough already, or you don't think women (and the men who support them) should be raising a stink because of propriety or order, or whatever beef you have with the imploring hearts of God's children (no matter how vocally they are imploring), it doesn't give you any right to get up on a high horse and demean the hearts of others.

I've seen posts and heard comments and had conversations where people express their opposing beliefs in a positive, constructive, 'stand for what you believe in' kind of way that I know it's possible. You don't have to agree, support, or condone anything you don't agree with. The Christlike thing would be to try to understand where these women are coming from. The most basically decent thing to do is to keep your derision to yourself.  Check yourself: You're not being Christlike if you're talking/posting with any level of scorn. To those who say 'Christ cast out the money-changers and Ordain Women are like money-changers', first of all, get a grip on what the stakes are. This is not Satan throwing firebombs. The ladies of Ordain Women say themselves (with certain exceptions, I'll grant you) things like: "We really want to have the priesthood so that we can spiritually grow and so that we can fully participate," This is not a hostile takeover. This is, like ALL individuals who commit their lives to Christ a personal process. You can disagree with how they go through it (I have my concerns, see above), but please understand that this, at its core, is about coming closer to Christ. So calm down, and be understanding. Please.

Bonus to the haters: Please also stop saying that doctrine doesn't change. That's what our faith was founded on. What we have proof of over 150 years of leadership. I believe in modern revelation, which, by definition, means doctrine can change, and has changed.

Word is the women of Ordain Women were refused at the door of Priesthood session again tonight. I kind of don't care. Because it's not about sitting in the auditorium of a conference broadcast on the internet. But the conversation isn't going away. And I'm glad about it, even though I anticipate feeling even more complicated about it. I do any time when people considered on the fringe of the faith raise their voices, and those nestled deep in tradition bristle. But that's what we Mormons do. We ask questions, and people bristle. And we figure it out.