Monday, December 22, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There IS A Problem With America Today...

Okay, I admit it, this is a rant, which I don't usually do, and I KNOW it's close to the holidays, a fact that should dissuade me from ranting, but I felt morally obligated to pull up the soap box for this one...

The bottom line is

I have a problem with this...

The text quoted by the stars featured in the commercial is the response to a letter written to the New York Sun newspaper in 1897. In the letter 8 year old Virginia O'Hanlon asks if there is really a Santa Claus. Here is the original letter written by Virginia, and the full response of Sun newsman Francis Pharcellus. *Full text courtesy of **emphasis added

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, 'If you see it in the Sun, it's so.' Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?"

Virginia O'Hanlon.
115 West Ninety-Fifth Street

"VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."

So, is it just me, or does anyone else have a problem with one of the nation's largest and most successful department stores using (read exploiting) this heartfelt composition that defends love, faith and the beauty of things unseen for their own corporate gain? Yes, I understand that Macy's will donate to the "Make A Wish" foundation, and that is what they are supposed to be promoting here, but I find it ironic that the people chosen to promote this campaign and quote this truly beautiful text from which we might all learn a lesson about selflessness, faith, and a belief in the beauty of the unseen are the symbols of a moral bankruptcy that appears to be sweeping our nation.

A few examples...

Jessica've seen the music videos, the tiny may have even (unfortunately) seen some of her attempts at acting. I cannot get behind a girl who renewed a furor for hot pants. Not impressed.

Donald my mind one of the sleaziest men alive and an irrefutable example of corporate America's tendency to vaunt itself above the principles of kindness, selflessness and decency

Tommy Hilfiger...One of the brands that has become a symbol of American least all of us know a "Hilfiger Guy/Girl" no comment on the guy as an individual, but still...

Martha Stewart...REALLY?!? MARTHA STEWART? The woman went to PRISON for stock manipulation and LYING to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to save her own (already very VERY rich, may I add) butt...and THIS is the woman Macy's has chosen as a spokesperson for spreading the spirit of Christmas? Aish...

Yes, I know all of these people design for Macy's and have extensive clothing, perfume, furnishing lines in their store, but REALLY? They had to take the heartfelt response of a true believer and put it in the mouths of some of the people who are responsible (in my humble opinion) for propagating some of the greatest ills in our country (okay, they're not selling drugs or porn, exactly, but still...Donald Trump?!? Come On...) They might as well have put the Enron guy in there, just for good measure.

So, I'm interested to know what other people's reaction was when they saw this commercial...Am I being too sensitive? Overreacting? Overdramatic? Surely not, since I never do any of those things...Right? What are other people's thoughts on this? Anybody have any other "great travesties against the American public" they would be willing to share?

Serve it up...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

In Gratitude...

Yes, I know Thanksgiving was almost a month ago...

Better Late than Never.

SO I am counting this as a general post of gratitude precipitated by the Thanksgiving holiday but carrying over into the very blessed Christmas season.

Don't judge me, I've been busy...


I hope this does not come across as is not meant to be...

I didn't get to go home for Thanksgiving this year, about which I was truly bummed. To be honest, Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. I think it is because when I truly take the time to make an honest reflection on the blessings that I have received in my life, I cannot help but be overcome with the most incredible feeling of peace and love. When I look at my life, there is no question in my mind that I have a loving Father in Heaven who knows me personally and is aware of my needs, joys, and sorrows and who sends me blessings and trials alike to deepen my faith and strengthen my character.

I was sad that I didn't get to go home this year to be with my family, unquestionably the greatest blessing in my life. However, I was lucky enough to be able to spend the day with a large group of old and new friends alike who, in the absence of nearby family, have truly come together to form a group that is as close to family as one can come without the bloodline to account for it.

It was a day spent full of joy found in preparing each others' meal, laughter at the concurrent bliss and discomfort that comes with eating oneself into oblivion, and a general feeling of peace and comfort in enjoying each others company. It was a day that made me so grateful to have not only a family who loves and cares about me deeply, but friends who feel like family.

One of our activities for the day was gathering all present into the living room and going around the circle with each person saying one thing they were thankful for. Consistently, each person had a difficult time choosing just one thing. It was truly a testament to the blessings in our lives. The exercise made me, once again, acutely aware of the numberless reasons I have to be thankful. So, in honor of the holiday season in which we find ourselves, I have compiled a list of things I am thankful for. Not a general list like family, a warm place to sleep, a job that provides for my needs, (although I am deeply grateful for all these things) but a more specific list of moments and memories tied to the people who are dearest to me. Many of you may recognize yourelves in this list, and there is a reason for is because you have been part of my life and have changed and blessed me in some way, for which I am truly grateful.

I am Thankful That:

  • You are my biggest fan, even when it's hard.
  • You let me wear your irrigating boots, even though they were 10 sizes too big, and everything else that went along with it.
  • You have a neverending positive attitude, even when it's all falling apart.
  • You have a level head, even in the pursuit of perfection.
  • You have a kind and unjudging heart that I seek to emulate.
  • You have unconditional love for someone I care about deeply.
  • You taught me the value of etiquette and a good picnic table.
  • You came home with M&M's in your pockets...always.
  • You taught me the value of a good meal, the scriptures, and a good crochet hook (despite my terminal failure at the craft).
  • You are always willing to dance a jig, particularly when your joints are cooperating.
  • You were the best penpal a girl could have.
  • You are strong and kind and never speak ill of those around you.
  • You will always call me 'Dude'.
  • You are smart and witty and one of the hippest moms I know.
  • You are both the first to gather around the piano.
  • Your home is always open.
  • I know you love me, even when I give you a hard time about being cranky.
  • You are truly my sister, my friend, and will always be the better half of the 'SSS' should a good windstorm ever present itself.
  • You made her happier than I've ever seen her, and have become a true and trusted friend.
  • You are always there for your friends and family is always first.
  • You are fun and accomplished, and his perfect match.
  • You are always up for a road trip and you love to move it move it.
  • You were not afraid of one of my more unsightly breakdowns and we've shared some of the worst moments in cinematic history together.
  • Getting ready for a dance together is sure to make the evening a winner, and are half of the classiest duo I know.
  • We are always up for a coffee break, even though we don't drink coffee, and everything that goes with it.
  • You are always up for a trip to the beach and a good girls only cuddle session.
  • You will never turn down a chance to get your Boot Scoot on.
  • You have convinced me to love you despite your crazy facial hair.
  • You are the most impeccable combination of eloquence, quirkiness, witt, joy, and sincerity that I have ever had the pleasure of meeting in human form.
  • You are a dancer. Period.
  • You, my dear, have a way with words, and are the most accomplished bargain shopper I know.
  • You are motivation personified, and know how to make data entry at 2AM a reasonably enjoyable experience.
  • You make communism look good. Real good.
  • We met one night over virgin daqueris, free chips and salsa and a slightly awkward bet, but now I wouldn't trade ya.
  • You introduced me to the joy of eating pudding cups while listening to banjo music, and are truly, truly loyal.
  • You made me feel worth it, even when I didn't think I was.
  • You see the value in an evening of Thai food and shoe shopping and you feel your music with soul.
  • You ran with me...the first 5 blocks anyway :)
  • You are patient with me even when I forget how to tie the knot you've taught me at least 5 times.
  • You were my first friend in a new place, even though I was sure I wasn't cool enough for you.
  • You love foreign film, fine food, and a good round of tennis, even though you beat me every time.
  • You get so overcome by the things you love that you can't express yourself.
  • We met on the mission...because we both know we never would have made it out if we had met before.
  • You healed me when I was broken.
  • You will always be my best friend and no matter how long we go without talking, it always feels like no time has passed when we do.
  • You never let me forget that I have great assets.
  • You are the most refreshing combination of enthusiasm, realism and hope a girl could ever have the pleasure of meeting.
  • You tell me how you feel.
  • You are classy and never pass up a chance to convert your hair stylist :)
  • You are a class act running buddy.
  • You made the time, the tears, and all the failed attempts worth it.
  • You are not afraid of awkward.
  • You call 'em like you see 'em.
  • Your voice makes me swoon and you cook like a champ.
  • You like to talk politics.
  • You are always up for a midnight swim and you do what you love.
  • You still keep in touch.
  • You are my friend.
  • You are my family.
  • I could never do it without you.
This list is long, but it does not begin to describe my feelings and the things I love and admire about so many of you. I am truly so blessed by each and every person in my life. My heart is so fully gratitude for the love that I feel from the people in my life and I hope that in some small way this serves as an expression of the gratitude that I feel to those who touch my life in so many ways both small and significant. To those of you who find yourselves in the things above, please know that there is so much more that I want to say thank you for, but sometimes cannot find the words. I am truly blessed, and it is because of you. Thank you.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Bragging Rights...

Pre-reading caveat...


See, here's the thing, though, I have always wanted to be...and in particular, I have always wanted to be a runner. I don't know what it is about the sport of running that I find so compelling. Maybe it's that you can run anywhere, is the quintessential individualist sport (as one who doesn't play nice with others...and by that I mean I'm not any good at anything...I don't like being subjected other people's ridicule and competitive nature...might I also add I blame a lot of jr. high scarring on this particular fact...), maybe it's that my grandfather ran the Boston Marathon, oh, you know, a couple of times, no big deal...maybe it's the fact that I look really great in spandex (okay, fine, maybe not so much that one) maybe it's the fact that runners (distance runners in particular) have copious amounts of self-control and discipline...of which I have none...could be any number of things.

But, the honest truth is I am just not genetically disposed to athletics...running in particular. I'm 5'4" I have a stride of approximately 6 inches and I have to buy running shoes with soles made of tempered steel to correct the pronation in my gate because my arches are so high you could drive a train through them...See, if Botticelli was convening a team of some sort I would have been his first round draft pick, but I'm pretty sure Bill Bowerman wouldn't have let me carry his team's towels for fear I might infect his runners with curvaceous slowness, or at least bad knees or all accounts me and running are just not meant to be...

For the visual learners in the group...

Not ThisEverybody still with me? A seriously sad plight indeed. I never thought I would be able to run any sort of distance...and of course sprinting was just out. Some people have fast twitch muscles, some people have slow twitch muscles...I'm just lucky if I can get mine to twitch. Now, don't get me wrong, I take good care of myself (with the one unfortunate exception of a particularly depressing year of college fueled by a lot of Law & Order and toast)...I go to the gym, I lift weights, I do aerobics, kickboxing, yoga, and did dance and cheerleading in high school...I'm not a total lot cause, I just always believed running was not my calling because let's face it, I'm shaped like classic glassware, and I just always figured my joints couldn't handle it, because...well...I guess 'cause my mom told me they couldn't, and why question momma?

Anyway...the bottom line is, this weekend I did something to prove myself wrong. This weekend, on Saturday, the 15th of November, I RAN A HALF MARATHON. That's right folks...13.1 miles...and I ran the whole way.


Not ThisNow, I know for some of you this is not a big deal...10 miles is like a leisure run for you. Again, a little more context...after we ran the mile for gym class I had to excuse myself, and went and laid down on the cold cement floor in the locker room (I know, you're asking me "isn't the floor in the locker room disgusting? to which I will answer you..."ummm, yeah") because I nearly blacked out. Again...running, not my calling.

Still With Me...?

ThisNot This

Since moving out to DC I've just decided that it's time I do a few things I always told myself I could never do. One of those things included running a road race of some significant length. Now, to this point the closest I've come was my office 5K...not that 3.1 miles is something to scoff at...but it just wasn't enough. Why I felt the compulsion to jump to a half-marathon rather than a 10K or even a 10 miler I have no idea...but I did...and the craziest part is...

I liked it.
(okay, fine...I liked most of it..miles 9-12 I could have done without...but you get the idea)

No kidding. I had a blast. The race was so fun, and I actually found myself smiling as I chugged along mile marker after mile marker. Maybe I was smiling because I knew I was about to accomplish something I thought was impossible...maybe it was because the inhabitants of Richmond had come out in full force and were camped out on their lawns waving flags and blowing noisemakers cheering on perfect strangers towards the finish line...maybe it was the satisfaction of passing that really fit looking African guy (don't worry, I'm pretty sure he was injured as there is no way I would have passed him otherwise..and yes, I know I'm profiling here...forgive me)...regardless of what it was...I thoroughly enjoyed myself. Particularly the finishing part...

The Richmond Half Marathon winds its way through downtown Richmond, VA as well as through some of the surrounding neighborhoods. The bulk of the course is quite flat with some barely intelligible changes in incline as you go along. My personal opinion on hills is that while they are a beast to get up, the pay off of getting to run with gravity on the other side is totally worth it...and by about mile 11 I was really ready to see some downhill. As I came around the final bend in the course and I could actually see the finish line and realized I was standing atop a fairly decent sized hill (possibly the only one in Richmond) but wasn't quite sure how I got there because you don't remember running up anything that that point, however, I didn't much care because I'd just run 12.6 miles and could see the goal at the bottom of that hill. It felt like I was flying.

I was only conscious enough of my feet to try and keep myself from completely eating it on the downhill (does it still count as a "strong finish" if you roll across the finish line?) but I ran as fast as I could (yes, I think I even managed what would qualify as a sprint). When I crossed the finish line I was completely out of breath, but so overjoyed to have finished strong that I was nearly in tears. As I gasped for breath one of the men handing out medals asked "Are you okay?" and all I could get out between gasps was "No, I'm great!"

Cheezy? Totally. But it's true. I don't know what felt better...knowing that I didn't have to run anymore or knowing that I had just proved myself wrong. In the end all the training, all the blisters, and all the sweat, tears, and pain that went into preparation were worth it. I didn't set any records, that's for sure (as in, the guy who won the marathon ran it 22 minutes faster than I ran the half) but I did something I had always told myself I could never do. I ran 13.1 miles. On top of that, I enjoyed running 13.1 miles. I'm really not too worried about what all the pounding is doing to my brain on the other hand is a completely different story...

Many kudos to all those who pushed me through, encouraged me, and expressed their admiration at my apparent insanity. I couldn't have done it without you. Big time props to Josh M for signing up for the dang thing with me and training despite some serious aches, pains, and scheduling were a champ and our weekend in Richmond will forever live in infamy...So, the bottom line is, never write yourself off. You may find you actually enjoy doing something you never thought you were capable of, and that it teaches you a lot about yourself while you're doing it. You may even cultivate a little self control and discipline along the way (not saying I did...I definitely had a milkshake to celebrate...I'm just saying some people might...)

So, as it turns out I'm kind of hooked and am looking forward to the next one. Should be ready to go as soon as all the scabs heal over...

Oh, and by the way...

ThisNot ThisThere's crazy, and then there's suicidal...I'll stick with just plain crazy, thanks very much.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Fire In The Hole...

This one you have to see to believe...

So, I love living in DC because there is the craziest variety of stuff to do around here. One night you can go watch b-boys battle in a breakdancing competition held in a church in a neighborhood in northeast and the next night you can go to La Boheme at the Kennedy Center and enjoy the rest of the evening strolling along the Potomac waterfront. There is no end to the things you can do in this area.

Not only is DC full of totally varied activities, but you have the entire East Coast within just a few hours...from the Hamptons to the Hills of West can do and see it all and don't have to go that far out of your way.

This past weekend, however, may have topped my list of craziest and most fun things I have done while living out here. Last Saturday's activity definitely takes the cake...or pie, rather...punkin' pie.

Last Saturday, several of my friends and I got up at the crack of dawn...okay, pre-dawn, let's be honest, there is no semblance of sunlight at 5:30 in the morning...which seems particularly cruel on a Saturday...anyway...tanget...sorry...

We got up early and headed to Bridgeville, Delaware. What's that? You've never heard of it? Well there's a reason...There's NOTHING there...Except of course for the annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin! The Punkin Chunkin (heretofor referred to as "the Chunkin" or "PC") takes place annually in Bridgeville, and is, by all accounts, the biggest deal of the year. The point of said Chunkin is basically to build a contraption for the sole purpose of flinging, rocketing, or basically propelling a pumpkin as far as you possibly can. The competition is broken into three categories...Catapaults, Trebuchets, and Pneumatic Guns. Let me tell you, if you've never seen a pumpkin come rocketing out of a steel pipe at 200 mph and subsequently fly over 3,000 feet, you are missing out.
Now, don't get me wrong, I grew up in a small town...The rodeo every year was a big deal and there was an inordinate amount of drunken beligerence and debauchery that went along with that whole scene (my parents, being the responsible folks they were felt it wasn't the place for a little girl, and thus I was never allowed to compete in any of the rodeo events like my other little tyke farmhand friends...I still feel this is why I never claimed my title in mutton busting...but I'm not bitter). Anyway, the point is, I've been around rough crowds and seen my fair share of tailgating and associated activites, but this brought things to a whole new level...

On entrance to the Chunkin, we were greeted by what appeared to be the entire student body of Bridgeville Jr. High School, along with a few booster club moms sprinkled in for good measure and supervision (?) directing traffic. By all appearances they had been there since about 6 am.

Not only had the traffic directors been there since about 6am, it seems that so had the tailgaters. There were people in RV's, pickup trucks, vans, you name it, they brought it. It looked like some of these people had been camped out for days just waiting for the PC events to begin. Not only had these folks been camped out since whenever, but that's about the time they started drinking (beer of choice, Natural Ice or "Natty Ice" to anyone who's ever been to college party where the point was not to enjoy the finer bouquets of an alcoholic beverage, but to get wasted as quickly and as cheaply as I've been told anyway).

In addition to the beer of choice, there were definitely some popular clothing options...camouflage, overalls, hunters orange, cut off denim, and hard hats.

So, the first few seem obvious...tailgating, public intoxication, mass gatherings in fallow soy bean fields in Delaware...but "why the hard hats?" you ask. Well, I'll tell you why...Because on the off occasion these pumpkin-flinging contraptions will have a misfire. What this usually results in is the gourd in question being flung backwards into or over the crowd of onlookers..."isn't that dangerous?" you which I say, "ummm, yeah, it is. " I was pretty much afraid for my life during the entire Trebuchet competition after watching one of the machines completely self destruct in a flurry of snapping cables and cracking timbers (no one was hurt, thank goodness) and then seeing yet another of these modified war machines fling its payload backwards over the crowd of onlookers and into the fairgrounds area where normal carnival type activities were taking place...good thing there were no innocent and unsuspecting children in that area...oh wait...

Luckily we all made it out unscathed, and managed to escape falling victim to even one stray seed.

Some highlights from the day included BBQ for lunch (they just do it better in places where people have fewer teeth, I really don't understand it, but I'm working on a theory), watchingwhat appeard to be the entire population of Bridgeville High School act as the pumpkin chasers (basically a fleet of them out on 4-wheelers sitting in the field waiting for the pumpkins to drop out of the sky so they can measure the distance of the chunk...again you may ask "isn't that dangerous?" and again I will answer you..."ummm, yeah."), playing "spot the minority" (not a lot of them out in Bridgeville, and yes I was among Asian friends so it was okay...geez, so sensitive), and, of course, seeing what was basically a huge airsoft gun shoot a pumpkin 4,482 feet...yeah, that's right almost A MILE...a I haven't lived until you've seen that.

By the end of the day we were completely exhausted and had watched about all the Chunkin we could handle...despite the enticing invitation to stay and watch that night's fireworks display (billed as second to none in the world...imagine that...move over Paris...back off New York, Tokyo, DC...Bridgeville is about to show you what's up) we decided it would probably be a good idea to get on the road before all the drunken tailgaters, so we headed back to what appeared a much tamer DC.

All in all, it was a very fun and unique day, and I think I have definitely gained a greater appreciation for all the types of personalities that make this world a much more interesting place.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Rather Good Day...

Shorty...I promise.

The thing is, today I had a pretty great day filled with some things and people that make me smile. I also, wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles, managed to tote my camera around with me all day long...and was able to document said smile-worthy activities and, here goes...

Started out the day by NOT getting out of bed earlier than absolutely necessary...delightful...

Got out of bed just in time to get dressed and have lunch with these two lovely ladies. Marne' and Laura took me out for an early birthday lunch (yes, I know I only have two days left... but seeing as how this birthday will mark being more 30 than 20, I'm holding on to every last second of my 25th year...thanks very much).

Anyway, we talked about everything and nothing...made plans to visit each other in states and cities all over the country, and laughed about funny memories that we've re-hashed at least a hundred times, but still manage to find infinite humor in. After paying our check, another 30 or 40 minutes of chatting and laughing, and probably a third or fourth pass by the waitress giving us the evil eye, we finally left the's easy to see why these girls are two of my favorites.

Next it was off to BYU's Homecoming football game with Claire and Joel. It was FREEZING, but we had a great time and it was so fun to be back in the stadium wearing cougar blue and cheering my heart out. All in all it was a good game, we won, it didn't snow...and did I mention we got free beanies? CANNOT beat that. Nope... You can't.

Have I mentioned I love this one, too?
After the game we went back to Claire and Joel's with Joel's family for brownies and ice cream as Claire's belated birthday celebration. Sadly, I did not have my camera at this point. Not documented. My bad. Suffice it to say it was lots of fun and way to go Mother Wagstaff on the brownies. Yum.

So, to end the night I went back to the hotel, changed and cleaned up and headed to a birthday party of a friend. Looking for trouble obviously...(okay, not really, just got bored waiting for my friend to pick me up...and since I had been taking pictures all day anyway...please, like I would actually look for trouble...honestly).

So, the party was a total anomaly, and there were like 25 guys there and about 9 girls...weird (not quite as noteworthy as the MTV snowglobe balloon party...but still). So, I chatted, flirted, giggled, asked enticing questions, etc, etc, etc...the sad's just still a little awkward, and I'm not really good at it...curses. Oh's never too late to get a puppy, right?

All in all, it was still a rather good day.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Okay, Okay, I Give...

I know I haven't been very good about posting the past few...*gulp*...months. I apologize. The truth is, I've just been feeling a little uninspired lately...and I suddenly have developed a severe case of fickle memory and keep forgetting my camera, so, not only do I not have any witty, sentimental, strange, or even mildly interesting anecdotes to relate...I also have no photos. Sorry. I fail.

So, at the behest of a several of you, I've decided to expound on a rather terrifying topic...taking on, not just Provo...Brigham Young University--the under 25 dating capital of THE WORLD--at the ripe old age of twenty fix (ie when you're more twenty six than you are twenty five...but not quite willing to give up that coveted slot in the early to mid-twenties bracket when registering for things like marathons, magazines, beauty coupons, know...twenty-fix).

It's a strange thing, coming back to your alma mater, it's such a flood of memories...the spots where you studied, slept, hid-out, ate lunch, had the odd breakdown, kissed that one guy, or was it the other one? (KIDDING, I'm totally kidding, geez, give me a little credit) Buildings where you lived and studied are now just fields of grass or have been paved over to make way for newer, shinier facilities and, strangely (read annoyingly), even though you've only been gone 2 years, all the other students seem to have gotten significantly younger (since when are they letting 18 year-olds into college? rude!). All in all, it's kind of a surreal experience.

So, as I pondered on coming back and reverting back to student life (sort of...I don't know if living in a hotel and having your life paid for really counts...) I tried to figure out how exactly I was going to approach the whole situation. Was I going to try to integrate myself fully back into the collegiate culture, or was I going to stay on the fringes and be like those white-haired professors' wives that end up in lower level language classes and humanities courses as they deal with empty nest syndrome and try to further their own personal enrichment...coming to class and paying just dues, but not really being considered a part of the student body...

Tough choice...but as visions of ladies in elastic waistband jeans with rolling backpacks flashed through my head I realized I was just going to have to bite the bullet and try my best to fit in...again.

I'm not going to lie...first week was tough. Despite my best efforts, I just felt like I stuck out. It also didn't help that I wasn't listed on any of the class roles so with every new class and professor I had to give an explanation of who I was, why I was there, why I wouldn't actually be getting grades, etc, etc, etc...subtle 'Manda...way to blend in...anybody have a rolling backpack I can borrow?!?

Anyway, don't worry, I'm not going to torment you with a week-by-week log of my awkwardness in trying to re-integrate myself into the student population. Suffice it to say that things got better, and I even got invited to a few crazy parties (one involved a very small apartment filled with lots of people and even more in, if a guy of average height was standing still in the room the balloons would have been up to his chest...meaning for those of us on the shorter end of the spectrum, they hit just above the neck...add in about 50 dancing college students and lots of hip hop was kind of like being stuck in the MTV Snow Globe from sort of a fun, crazy, "oh, my friends are not gonna believe this" kind of way). Like I said, things got's a sliding scale...

While there have definitely been some awkward moments, there are also some things that are pretty sweet about coming back under my current circumstances. Among them are:

  • Not being poor (I find this to be pretty much a plus as compared to my 24 previous years of existence).
  • People in my classes think I am a genius...*Note* THIS HAS NEVER HAPPENED helps to be able to rattle off random facts about Korean politics on command...especially in a room full of recently returned missionaries who are obsessed with the country, but know next to nothing about the way it actually functions...totally money...
  • Getting to spend tons of time with friends and fam...what more could I want?
  • Eye candy. Okay, I know, most of them are young enough that I could have been babysitting them at some point, but can you blame me?
  • Renewed appreciation for my own individual sense of style. I have to say I love coming to church and being one of about seven women in the entire congregation with her natural hair color and definitely the only one sporting togs picked up at a flea market (and not looking bad while doing it, thanks). I think the root of this is really just realizing how much I've grown into myself since moving to DC and how comfortable it's made me with my own individuality. Bless it.
  • Running at altitude. Not gonna lie, the first week was miserable..I thought my lungs were going to explode every time I hit the pavement...However, after two months of training at 4500 feet, running the Richmond Half Marathon at 150 feet is going to be pretty much great.
  • Thai Ruby...'nuf said
  • Having someone else make my bed EVERY DAY
  • The unprecedented opportunity to spend at least 8 hours a day studying nothing but Korean and working with some remarkable people who have been unnecessarily dedicated to my success. I consider myself very fortunate to be able to work with these great tutors, teachers, and friends on a daily basis.
  • Ummm, in-house hot tub...Yee-aaah!
  • Meeting the occasional guy who happened to hear that I had an actual job and was over the age of 23 and is actually interested. Did I mention said occasional guy happens to be an attorney? Again, Bless it.
  • Riding a bike. I never biked when I was in school. I always walked...but there is something about racing down University Parkway in the cool fall air that does wonders for the soul...there are days when I get to my hotel and I feel like I just want to keep riding around for hours listening to the wind rush past my ears...
  • Football. #8. Again, 'nuf said.
In all seriousness, this list could go on, and on, and on. There have been a lot of great things about being back, some of them silly and some of them a little more on the serious side. Really, one of the greatest benefits of this trip has been the confirmation that moving to DC, taking my job, and doing what I've been doing for the last year and a half were truly the right choice for me, and I wouldn't have my life be any other way. This experience has been so rewarding, not just from a linguistical improvement point of view, but has made me value so much my every day life in DC. So, while I probably won't come home with (m)any cougar-ing successes (sorry guys...I just couldn't fully get behind it) I will definitely come back with a renewed sense of appreciation for what can often feel like the daily grind.

And hey...I've still got three whole weeks left, so who knows what else could happen...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Waiting So Long To Say Goodbye So Soon...

Okay, relax...this post is not as dramatic as the title would suggest...mostly it's about me and my obsession with summer...

So, as some of you might know I am back in Utah (taking Provo by storm...Again) doing a work-study program to improve my Korean courtesy of my office. Truth be told, it's a pretty sweet gig...more on life in the Big P after 25 to come in a later post...

Being in Provo has not been so bad, and I am lucky to have the chance to spend some quality time with excellent family and some close friends. Last Saturday I went with my cousin Emily, her husband Mike and Mike's brother's family to Deer Creek reservoir in Provo Canyon for a day of wakeboarding and enjoying what could be the last throws of summer.

It always seems so unfair that something I wait so long for every year (umm, yes we're talking about summer) seems to go so quickly. It feels like I waited an eternity for Memorial Day weekend to mark the beginning of this most blessed of seasons (I don't think I've formally dealt with my sun worshipping on the blog yet...but I know there are those of you who are intimately acquainted with my affinity for the beach and other activities involving me getting tan...for the rest of you...I'm sure it will come), and then have it snatched away before it has even begun. Saturday's activities were a great way to feel closure on my favorite season and offer up what may be my final homage to the Sun Gods of summer 2008.

We had an amazing time and, blessed day, I was still able to get up on the wakeboard, actually stay up, and even do something that somewhat resembled carving... I am proud to say that we all made it through the day without breaking, spraining, or otherwise maming ourselves...however, based on the accounts I collected from fellow boaters, we were all definitely feeling our age (figuratively speaking, of course) the next day. All in all it was great times with great company and it was a wonderful reminder of how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful place and enjoy the blessings of family, friends, and free time.

Here are a few photos from the day's activities:

Mike braved the cold morning water to show us how it was done...good thing we all had to follow his lead...

Yes, that's me...actually upright and not being dragged behind the boat...shocking, I know

Emily took a turn too...she got up on the first try and hung on like a champ

The kids wanted to go on the broken air pump and three winded and dizzy adults later they were having a blast...Emily had a pretty good time too...
I can't remember if this was before or after Mike drove the boat through its own wake, causing a monstrous wave to flood the boat...and I do mean flood...the bilge pumps had to kick in to get it all out and we pretty much said goodbye to dry towels for the rest of the day :)
We had so much fun with Mike's brother's kids...they were a blast...
We managed to wear them out by about 11:00 am
The following are a few photos just in case any of those cool wakeboarding/skating companies are looking for fresh new faces to represent their should never rule out the possibility of a hot modeling career popping up at any minute...

Product Placement...Anyone?
Just Two California Boys Doing Their Thing
She's Always Been the Hot One...
Viva el Verano! Until Next Year!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

By Popular Demand...

Thus far I've told a few of my tales from the farm. (What can I say, growing up on a big ranch in the middle of nowhere makes for some semi-amusing anecdotes) So, after several requests from friends and fam I have decided to relay this little gem from my childhood.

(also please note I have only made 2 posts this month which is pretty much pathetic, so I am trying to round out the number before the end of the in, tomorrow...)

As I have mentioned before, when I was little I followed my dad around endlessly. If I could con him into letting me go with him anywhere, I was all over it. This started at roughly the age of three. Bless him for being such a good sport about the whole thing. Let's be honest, a three year old girl has no business doing most of the things we did; fixing fence (involves implements of both the heavy, blunt and sharp varieties), herding cattle, branding cattle, vaccinating cattle (all tending to involve large bovine-type creatures wishing they were pretty much anywhere that we were not poking, prodding, or, ummm, searing them) irrigating (lots of water, shovels, ditches...), harvesting (tractors towing large scythe-type instruments), fertilizing/spraying for bugs, weeds, etc (toxic chemicals... might explain a few things) get the idea.

Don't get me wrong, my dad was very protective, and to this day I know that he would never do anything that would put me in danger...aside from turning me out in the dating pool of course...but that's a different matter altogether...My dad just didn't mind making me his sidekick, and I was more than happy to follow him around and tried my best to be as big a help as possible...let's face it I was just generally in the way...but somehow he didn't seem to mind and I thought it was the greatest.

Now, aside from the obvious physical dangers that come from working on a farm, there are some hazards that present themselves, particularly for little girls who are supposed to be learning how to be ladies, despite the fact that they would rather be playing in a pen full of yearlings and their...umm...leftovers. Ranch life can be kind of rough...rough work, rough company, and rough language.

This, of course, was to be expected, and was even generally tolerated, mostly because one of the top offenders of polite sociabilities was my dear grandfather. You have to know that my grandpa is one of the most wonderful men I know. He is honest, hard-working, loves God and has dedicated his life to his family, his religion, and serving those who are dear to him. I love and respect him very much. However, when I was much younger, my grandfather had something of a ranch-hand vocabulary. Don't get me wrong, dealing with the struggles of ranch life (cows in general, machinery that refuses to stay fixed, and the ever present threat of bad weather) are more than enough to merit a few quality four-letter words every now and then...but it became a problem because I was not only my dad's shadow (meaning I was out with grandpa a lot), but something of a parrot.

You can see where this is going...

One fateful day, I was out with my dad and grandpa fixing fence. I was about three, so this meant they were fixing the fence and I was most likely preparing to hammer nails into something they would no doubt need in the near future. As we worked I suddenly piped up and in my best three year old ranch hand voice said "Dad, hand me the damn hammer..."

Quite honestly, I don't remember what happened after that. I don't particularly remember being reprimanded at the time...probably because it was clear that I had no idea that 'damn' and 'hammer' were actually two seperate words. All I knew was that every time grandpa needed to pound a nail he needed a damnhammer...since I was planning on pounding nails, that was clearly what I needed too. Three year old logic...Go figure.

Anyway...the point is, following said incident someone had a little sit-down-heart-to-heart-hellfire-and-brimstone chat with my dear grandpa. I don't really remember if it was mom, dad, or grandma...might have been all three, but I do know that after that, grandpa made a concerted effort to make sure that all farm implements, livestock, and surrounding landowners were referred to by the names more generally recognized by establisments like Britannica, and the Social Security office.

The moral of the story is, I turned out all right (yeah, debateable, I know, we'll talk about it later) but I couldn't have done it without my family and the experiences I had as a very small child. Many thanks to grandpa for always being there to teach me the way things really were and to mom, dad, and grandma for making sure I didn't grow up to be a foul-mouthed rodeo queen. I am truly the sum of all my parts.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Rings That Bind...

*Warning...this is kind of sappy
** Other is also long

I could blame it on my penchant for jewelry (something about all those rings and an abundance of precious metals) but I don’t think that’s it. I think it's that the Olympics brings out a better side of me, and the world in general. They dig down to discover that beneath my realist exterior is a shining hope in the idea that people are fundamentally good and that people with differing values, cultures, and ideals can exist in harmony. I should note that my realism is not a façade, that’s different…a façade is fake, and I am not a fake realist…I am an actual realist with a fundamental belief that people can be better than they are and that there is a greater good to be aspired to…think of it as if the heart of an optimist and the mind of a realist were roommates…and just happened to be renting, well, me…anyway, you get the idea.

I was genuinely concerned about this year’s Olympic Games. I love the Olympics because it seems to be a time when the world comes together to celebrate raw human achievement. Nations quit nagging each other about what belongs to who and who can and can’t have what and we cheer on not only those athletes from our own countries, but the underdogs, the miracle workers, and all those who have fought through adversity to achieve something most of us only see in day dreams; Olympic gold.

This year, however, during the weeks and months when the world should have been ramping up for this special season, riots were raging, editorials were arguing, and politicians and diplomats alike were clashing over how to handle this year’s games. Don’t get me wrong, I am not a Chinese apologist. Their human rights record, among other things, is disconcerting, and I do no feel like the Beijing Olympics should be viewed as any sort of reward (on a technicality, having the Olympics in your city is not all it’s cracked up to be…national economies of hosting nations tend to take a medium to long-term dip following the end of the games…go ahead, look it up) but as an opportunity for the Chinese to get its collctive act together.

The fact of the matter is, however, a lot of people in the world felt naming Beijing as the 2008 Olympic venue was a sign that the world had decided to award China for a lack of progress in several areas where progress desperately needs to be made. As cliche as it sounds, my heart hurt watching the torch--the symbol of the games--circle the globe followed by conflict and struggle.

I have to say, however, that in the wake of the preceeding conflict this year's games have been pleasantly surprising.* Despite some initial verbal sparring between world leaders during the opening days of the games (ie Hu Jin-tao telling Bush that China’s human rights record was no one else’s business) and the unfortunate timing of Russia’s invasion of Georgia (don’t get me started) the world has seemed to, once again, put aside its differences to focus on the competition.

I wasn’t thinking about the war in Iraq as I watched the story of a 35 year old German gymnast who began competing again (against 16 year olds, may I remind you) so she could afford health care for her son who is battling leukemia. I was not thinking about our abysmal economic outlook as I watched Michael Phelps and the rest of the US Men’s 4x100 meter relay team defy all predictions and sensibilities in one of the most amazing races ever (note: I was thinking about my abysmal economic situation after jumping on, and subsequently damaging my bed, while watching said race, and realizing I would rather not have to replace it…stupid Ikea). And, I most definitely wasn’t thinking about Iran’s nuclear potential as I wept (yes, folks, you read it here first, Stonewall Stanfill crying like a child) through the women’s gymnastics individual all-around medal ceremony.**

During all of these things I was not only thinking about how proud I was to be an American, but how proud I was to be part of a greater human family (cue sappy peace & diversity iconography. Check). I personally do not ascribe to the idea that we all have the same basic needs, desires, and values simply because we are all members of the same species. I do believe that such philosophy leads to misguided wars and general cultural insensitivity. Our cultures, beliefs, and societies make us fundamentally different from our brothers and sisters from other parts of the globe. HOWEVER, I also believe that for two weeks every two years, we put aside our differences and come together in a spirit of competition that, strangely enough, unites us beyond our socializations and binds us to each other.***

I don’t have the answers to the world’s great questions. I am, in no way, under the delusion that the Olympics will solve the problems on the international center stage. What I do know, however, is that there is something in these games that is special and that helps us focus on something other than our differences. I have a great fear that the lead up to this year’s games were a shadow of things to come…more contention, more demonstration, and more focus on why we are fighting than on why we need to settle our differences. Like I said, I don’t have the answers, but I hope that in the future the Olympic Games will be a venue where the world can come together and focus, even if it’s only for two weeks, on the things that make us great, and not the things that tear us apart.

*I would like to point out that, while this year's games have been thus far a great success, I am shocked and saddened by the stabbing of two American spectators early in the first week of the games. This, however, I think was a random act of violence, and not necessarily politically motivated.

**I would like to make a note that this was at approximately 2:00am and my patriotic breakdown may or may not have had something to do with sleep deprivation.

***Please also note the Olympics are not a substitute for the gospel or the knowledge and faith that we are all children of a loving Heavenly Father. This post should not be read as such. Just clarifying.