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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Three Years Ago Today...

I was standing on US soil for the first time in a year and a half...and wondering what parallel universe I had just dropped out of. A word to the wise...if you spend over a year outside the US (particularly in a socially conservative and sparkling society such as those found in Asia) don't make your first stop in the United States LAX...just trust me.

Yep, that's right folks...three years ago today I had just returned from my mission in Busan, South Korea. THREE YEARS!!! Wow. It has gone by so fast. I think this means I'm getting old...oh was bound to happen, right?

So, to celebrate (?) said anniversary, I thought I'd recap a few of the things that have happened since I got's been a wild ride, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Once the missionary shenannigans ended...


Ended up back at BYU with two girls I LOVE

Spent four day busting my booty for a congressional candidate in the great state of Iowa

Caught Potomac Fever as a summer intern in DC


Got a Real Job

Moved BACK to DC...

Made some new friends

Played with Jane...Lots...

Went BACK to Korea
Started this BLOG

(See 8 months worth of blissful prose below...)

And Generally Caused Trouble...

Stay tuned for more adventures...It's been a great three years and there's more where that came from!