I’m getting very sentimental this year. Next week, I’m leaving on a jet plane for South Asia (India and Sri Lanka) where I’m spending Christmas with a couple friends instead of my family. It made sense this year. My parents are on a mission, and my (0nly sibling) brother is spending Christmas with his in-laws. I have a friend who lives in the middle east, and is not coming back to America for Christmas, so we’re meeting on the other side of the globe to do some touristy things and celebrate Christmas together. It sounded like a great idea in September. Now I’m getting a little weepy and sentimental. I’m listening to Christmas music every chance I get, spending more time at public celebrations (hello Nutcracker and Santa Lucia at the Swedish Embassy!) and trying to find the perfect presents to put in the mail this week before I go. Trying to deconstruct these feelings is a bit interesting. What am I going to miss? Is it sentimentality over missing my family and the trappings of Christmas, or is it a suspicion that celebrating Christmas in a hotel and on a beach will make the day less special, less focused on the spirituality of the event, and tantamount to skipping the holiday altogether? [Read more…]
I sat outside St. Peter’s Basilica twice this week. Too late to get in the building, I made do with sitting in the square and remembering. I could not be in Rome and not pay some kind of homage to this holy place. [Read more…]
Here is a fairly accurate transcript of a recent conversation I had:
Friend A: I think I’m going to visit Jerusalem this year.
Me: That sounds fun. I’ve always wanted to go. I asked my Dad if he wanted to go with me and he said he thought the Second Coming was too near so it wouldn’t be safe.
Friend A: Your dad doesn’t think he’s righteous enough to be taken up into heaven?
Me: Mormons don’t believe in twinkling.
Friend A: You mean you don’t believe in Revelations?
Friend B (studying to be a Priest): Maybe they just believe that it’s more metaphorical.
Friend B: Or maybe they think John the Revelator was crazy.
Everyone laughs and smiles–thinking to themselves: “yeah I’ve thought that before…”
End Scene [Read more…]
I recently found myself on a 14 hour non-stop flight from Dubai to Washington D.C. I don’t travel well. I have a tendency to get airsick, I can’t sleep on planes, I get dehydrated and stuffed up, and wind up with jet lag and more often than not, a cold. Ironically I love to be in foreign places, and frequently find myself wishing for transporter technology. On this trip, not only was I coughing, slightly nauseous, bleary/sand-paper-eyed, but my legs were swollen and covered in bruises from climbing in and out of helicopters. Long story. [Read more…]
I’ve often wondered how much of an effect foreign missions have had on the culture of the church and its members. I know that for individuals, two years or eighteen months living in a different culture is life changing. Often missionaries return to change their majors, career plans etc. I also know many returned missionaries who have chosen to live overseas, recognizing from their mission experiences that they enjoy the adventure of it. [Read more…]
This post will discuss the season 4 finale of Big Love, HBO’s series following the lives of a polygamous family in Salt Lake City. Enter the spoiler zone at your own risk… [Read more…]
Like many other Americans, I recently spent $14 to witness a truly amazing 3-D spectacle. Some people are calling this visual masterpiece “Avatar.” I call it “Dances with Shrek.” [Read more…]
I just cleaned out a cupboard in my kitchen that was full of food storage water. I wanted to put away some small appliances in a more convenient place, so I decided to start drinking the water, but it was disgusting. I checked the dates, wondering when I bought it, then realized it was about 8 years old. Oh yeah. I remember. Living in Washington D.C. in the season of fear. [Read more…]
Tonight, the world celebrates the coming of the new year with clinking champagne glasses, eventual slurred speech, and possible DUIs. You, my teetotalling Mormon friends? For you, I present the great mocktail recipe exhchange. Eat, drink, be merry, and wake up tomorrow without a hangover, contemplating how you don’t need to set goals, because you constantly strive for anything virtuous, lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy (including virtuous–or rather virgin–beverages). [Read more…]
I had a flash of deja vu a week or so ago, something triggered a childhood memory and I was struck by the oddest thought…I’ve somehow become the person I wanted to marry. I guess I’ve always been a planner, and I had a very clear vision of what I wanted as a child. I wanted to live in Northern Virginia, married to a man who was a lawyer, and who did international work. (What that actually meant was a little hazy to me, but that’s what I wanted.) I now live in Northern Virginia, and am a lawyer who facilitates criminal justice reform in other countries. (I have a better grasp now of what the job actually entails, which I’m sure is a relief to my boss.) [Read more…]
I signed up for my comprehensive exam today. October 31. Halloween is my favorite holiday, so I figured it would bring me good luck, and I’m going to need it. See, I’m in trouble. In order to graduate this December, I have to write my culminating paper this fall and pass the exam. Normally, this program is one and a half or two years, but I took a couple of years off to move to Afghanistan, and so I took the introductory courses four years ago. Apparently the exam is based on the introductory courses. Right now my plan is to befriend some young, innocent, smiling grad student and cajole their notes out of them. The fact that I go to class at night when I’m cranky is kind of a road block to this plan, but I’m cagey and tenacious, so I figure I can pull it off somehow. [Read more…]
I’ve been at my current job for four years. During that whole time, there has been a homemade sign hanging up in the bathroom stall: LADIES PLEASE REMEMBER THAT OTHERS USE THE RESTROOM BEHIND YOU!! PLEASE BE CONSIDERATE OF OTHERS AND CLEAN UP BEHIND YOURSELVES. ALSO THE AIR FRESHNER (sic) IS HERE TO USE. THANKS TO ALL. [Read more…]
I don’t dream much. When I do dream, they tend to be vivid and memorable. The other night I had a surprising vivid dream that I’m still thinking about: I had a conversation with my great-grandmother who died six months before I was born. [Read more…]
It has recently come to my attention that we, as mormons, have done something shameful, I thought it may be too hot to post, but I can’t be silent. [Read more…]
I don’t think that gratitude is a natural emotion for human beings. Well, let me clarify, because that isn’t quite true. I think that gratitude can be classified in two ways. There is gratitude that we feel for indivuals–for recognizable and identifiable others who have performed a recognizable and identifiable good for us. The actual strength and level of gratitude we feel for others is probably tied up in the status of our relationship to those people and to the level of good that they performed for us. I think we can feel a profound sense of gratitude towards other people, and that feeling is often tied up with any number of other feelings, love, admiration, indebtedness, embarrassment, etc. That’s not the kind of gratitude that I’m talking about here. I’m talking about meta-level, non-individualized gratitude. The “count your many blessings” type of gratitude. I don’t think that kind of gratitude is natural for human beings, and I suspect that evolution is to blame. [Read more…]
A good friend who was staying with me recently greeted me one morning with the following devastating news: “I don’t know how to tell you this, but you have a new roommate. He’s living under the dishwasher. I named him Jorge.” [Read more…]
I’ve recently returned from working in a conflict zone for the past two years. This is the first in a series of posts about how the heck I’m supposed to live in America now….I’m generally befuddled.
There’s not a whole lot to do at night when you live in an aluminum container converted into living quarters. You can take a shower, brush your teeth, surf the ‘net occasionally when the link is up, and watch your dvds of Buffy the Vampire Slayer over and over again. Then you’ve pretty much exhausted the possibilities. So to stave off boredom and to relieve a certain amount of job stress, I actually developed a good habit, which frankly surprises me and is somewhat out of character. Anyways, extreme conditions call for extreme actions, so I started exercising. Nothing too intense, but I would walk around the track surrounding our compound for about an hour every night. I’m quite sure that the guards snickered when I was passing and were taking bets about when I’d give up, but I just cranked up the Metallica and chose not to care. Here’s the surprising part, which I’m sure some people have discovered, it feels good to exercise. See, there are these things called endorphins and they make you feel groovy. Also, and this is shocking, exercise leads to weight loss, decrease in stress, and general heart health. I felt like a genius–in on a little secret that only a few people know…the beautiful people.
This post is possibly history making. I’m going to relate “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby” to the gospel. (I watched this movie in a trailer park with a bunch of armed security guards, so I just have to be a fan.) Anyways, at one point, Ricky Bobby prays to “Dear Lord baby Jesus” then, just to mess with his wife, escalates to praying to “Dear 8 lb. 6 oz. baby Jesus.” Heretical? Hypocritical? Scandalous? Nahh. This is why I love Christmas… [Read more…]
When asked about polygamy, a common answer given by modern-day Mormons is that polygamy acted as a social welfare mechanism, providing financial and social security for otherwise single and poor women. I know that my own family’s lone polygamy story stresses this aspect. My great-great-grandmother was orphaned on the way to Utah, and wound up marrying my relatively well-off and already married great-great-grandfather because she had no other way to survive. If I remember correctly there was a significant age difference between the two. They wound up settling in a small community in Cache Valley. Her relationship with the first wife was quite rocky, and when my great-great-grandfather left town, this much younger second wife would clean out the chicken coop and move herself and her children into it until he returned. [Read more…]
I live and work in the same compound, which means that I never really go home. I work, eat, socialize, and cannot avoid the same group of people. The other night I was in the gym and ran into a colleague. He looked at me and incredulously asked “What are YOU doing here?” “Um, um, um” I stammered for a bit… “I’ve been having some trouble with insomnia lately, so I’m trying to work out…umm…” He looked horrified and said “I meant, what are you doing here at this job, I thought you transferred to Washington D.C.” Oh. [Read more…]
I have a secret. This isn’t one of those fun, gossipy secrets. It’s more like a burden…a trying to keep someone from getting hurt kind of a secret…and it’s weighing on me. I have this strong urge to divulge, like keeping it in is somehow painful. So, I went to see a secret keeper, my bishop, talked it over with him, unburdened myself, and left feeling calm, peaceful, and able to cope. On the ride home I thought, “how many more people unburdened themselves tonight? How many more secrets is he living with?” [Read more…]
There is a scripture I’ve read several times this week, and everytime it makes me cry: [Read more…]
I’ve been reading a pretty interesting book for one of my classes: “A Spy for all Seasons” by Duane Clarridge. He’s a fairly egotistical but clearly bright man who spent years in the Clandestine Services at the CIA. He spends a fair amount of the book commenting on other people’s careers, strengths, and ineptitudes–which is both fascinating and makes me grit my teeth in annoyance. Eventually he got to a Mormon (who’s name was changed to protect his identity). [Read more…]
Do I have any moral responsibility for what goes on in the ‘nacle? Should we all be blamed for what others write? Let’s examine the opposite concept first, should we get credit for the bloggernacle as a whole because we are participants? This is of course a loaded concept in Mormonism, but I’m proud to be part of this community. I learn from you all, I find comfort from your words, I laugh with you even though I don’t know most of you. There is something surprising and fresh and real about our community, and I’m proud of it. Does pride connote ownership and responsibility? [Read more…]
There are two consequences of dropping off the face of the ‘nacle and lurking for several months. The first is that you are harassed by your co-bloggers because of your lack of participation. Kind of a snarky and blog-worthy home teaching equivalent. Although, I have to say I couldn’t tell if they were “hey, we’d really like you to come back to full fellowship” kind of messages, or if they were “hey, wouldn’t you like to remove yourself from the rolls of the ‘nacle before we go to the bother of ex-ing you” kind of messages. Maybe I’ll lie low a little longer, find out, and let you know… [Read more…]
I love Halloween. I love dressing up, I love seeing little munchies dressed up, I love scary movies, I love the silliness of it, and I love–love–copious amounts of the bewitching substance known as chocolate. Love it love it love it.
But I’m a Mormon, so should I feel guilty? Is loving Halloween one more arrow in my quiver of badness and unorthodoxy? Is this holiday just too pagan for the saints?
Blogging vs. Snogging [FN1]. Compare and contrast [FN2] and then you decide.
That’s what I wish it said. I’m all in favor of joy–but right now, the most joyful sight I could think of would be the back of my own eyelids. I’m tired. I’m achy-joint, scratchy eye-lid, fuzzy-brain chronically tired. Some nights I’m too tired to sleep, and I wake up every hour looking at the clock. Every day I wake up to my annoyingly loud alarm buzzing (the only effective setting I’m sorry to say) wondering if I’m going to make it. Somethin’s gotta change…but nothin’s gonna change. This is my life until the first week of June. Come on June….
I’ve had a very expensive education. The older I get, the more I’m finding that the only thing it is really good for is to sound witty and erudite at cocktail parties. The irony is that I don’t drink and hate cocktail parties. Instead of learning my lesson, a make it on your own bootstraps and grit kind of lesson, I’m going back to school. Again. For another very expensive degree. One could draw the conclusion that education does not make you smarter.
You knew it was inevitable. Within weeks of joining a family ward, I was assigned to corrupt the youth. Okay, not actually assigned–apparently I "volunteered" to teach early morning Seminary, and let’s just say that no one has actually prescribed corruption. We’ll see what happens.