Friday, March 23, 2012

Maybe I started crying on the phone today.

I spent the better part of my day on the phone and/or waiting to be connected on the phone to talk to insurance, radiologist, emergency room, and hospital people. All about our accident that happened seven months ago. If only we were living inside of the country to receive all of the follow up things we needed to fill out/send in after we mailed in the initial paper work and claims.

The tears came after successfully getting ahold of someone post two+ hours of trying, just to be told that I needed to call the person I had previously been talking to. The individual was even so nice, it just happened to be the straw that I could not carry. If any of you know how difficult/anxious-making I find even regular phone calls, you may understand.

(I am a not a very good adult. And Spencer better be very proud of me.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The first day of Spring

brought a new little niece to me, and a new little daughter to my brother Joe, and his wife Sarah. We knew for a short while that today would be the day, because my sister-in-law was going to be induced, but it was still a delight and surprise when I got the message that she came. It was also a delight and surprise when I woke up today and realized that it was officially Spring. Really, what better day to be born? What better way to begin this perfect season than with a birth? The season itself exemplifies all things life, all things hope.

I still remember a day in Utah that was an in between Winter/Spring day. It was cold outside. And I was walking to school. And there was snow on the ground. When I got to the campus and was walking up the dreaded hill (the one on the South side, near the duck pond), I saw daffodils springing forth out of that cold, hard ground. I was still. I was still because things that look dead aren't really dead, and Spring is the best time to remember that. On other blustery days I would consciously remind myself, "There is Spring. There is hope." The reminder soon became a mantra to me. Or perhaps a prayer. I would think it so often and so sincerely. It may have been the only way I made it through those short days and long nights.

I also remember other Vernal Equinoxes, when there wasn't a baby to celebrate. Just the season itself, and its accompanying promise of warmth and light. That was enough. And so we gathered together, to eat, and drink and share. There were multiple go around the circle activities, where persons present could read a poem or scripture, or perhaps pass around a picture. We would also say our favorite thing about Spring, just as we previously sat (or danced) in a circle sharing our hopes and joys of Winter. And Summer. And Fall. Sometimes during Spring Equinox we planted seeds carrying wishes written in very small hand. Other times just scraps of paper. Twice we dyed eggs naturally with onion skins (and other things). Once they came out the deepest red. Another time they looked red in the water, but came out a warm yellow.

The next year I read a little book, called "The Tree that Survived the Winter," because my year had been a very hard year. One that felt like winter.  (It is really a marvel that I survived.) Someone inevitably talked about symbolism. I probably also talked about Persian New Year. There were always candles. There was nearly always flute playing and jumping over those candles. There was always chanting. Quiet to loud, with strands of words that meant Spring to us. I don't remember them now, except "Verdant" and "Green," but there were so many. One for each person.

This year my word would be "Scarlet." And if I were given three words, they would be, "Scarlet Rose Hunt," the babe's whole name. If I were given four, I would add, "Hope," because that is what Spring signifies for me the very most. One more fact about the baby: she is just a few ounces short of 7 pounds (which I suppose is not a very complete fact, but it is the best I can do). Also, I love this picture my brother posted.

I think it is something about Scarlet's big sisters peeking in at her, with curiosity mingled with awe, mingled with hesitation. And I love these old Boston/Equinox pictures. And each person/memory associated with them.

Circa 2011 (don't let the time stamps deceive you):

Circa 2010:

Circa 2009:

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Napping House.

My 93 year old grandma encourages people to take naps. In fact, one of the first things she says to people when they walk into her home is, "Oh, you must be so tired! Why don't you take a nap?" It doesn't matter what time it is. You got there at 10 am, and only had an hour drive? "Oh, you must be so tired!" You've been there for three days, and are reading a book? "Oh, you must be so tired!" And because I often am tired, I tend to take her up on the offer. 

Thus it is possible for Spencer to ask me after church, "Are you going to take a nap?" And when I answer, "Yes, how did you know? Because it is Sunday?" it is possible for him to say, "You took a nap every day you lived here! You've taken a nap every day since you've been back! The fact that it is Sunday only increases the likelihood!" 

It is also possible for me to remind him that he fell asleep yesterday on the couch, one hour after waking, and that my grandma teetered over to him with her walker, to carefully lay a blanket on his resting form. (It was a sweet sight.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Favorites x 2: An Ending.

Søren Kierkegaard may rightly be looked upon as the Danish little prince. In Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s French tale, we meet a small prince from a planet far away, and a lost pilot. The little prince tells his new friend, “What makes the desert beautiful, is that somewhere it hides a well.” The aviator narrator understood. When he was a child, he heard about a house that held a buried treasure. While the treasure was never found, its secret was enough to make the house magical. The little prince fell asleep in his arms, as he walked through the desert to find water, and the aviator said to himself, again: "What moves me so deeply, about this little prince who is sleeping here, is his loyalty to a flower—the image of a rose that shines through his whole being like the flame of a lamp, even when he is asleep..." The little prince held a hidden devotion to a rose, and a planet and star far away. Even though he had to leave them. Even though he was too young to understand his rose. Søren Kierkegaard, that sad, sweet prince, held a secret devotion for his own rose, his Regine. Even though he had to leave her, causing them both great despair (as well as many sleepless nights). Even though they could not understand each other. (He was too reflective, and she too immediately passionate for that.) The image of Regine shines through his whole published work, like the flame of a lamp that cannot go out.

A beginning.

Once upon a time, a baby was born to a proud mother and father. The mother was a simple woman, reported to be round, short, and kind. She had been a servant, in the home of a wealthy hosier. She could not sign her own name, three letters long, without the help of another guiding her hand. She would be exalted from her station, by disgrace in her station, for the same hosier would bless her with a child, and then a wedding, and then six more children. This particular baby was the last—the child of their old age (not unlike Abraham and Sarah). While they might not have known it, this was also their child of promise. He too would make the journey to Mt. Moriah. He too would place the object of his love on an altar before God. While the father did not accompany him, the child carried his memory with him. Indeed, he carried the father’s weight on his back, and his sadness. (How many days was his journey? Perhaps more than three, and as silent.) The child learned of God from this father, including the sad familial tale when the father was himself a son, and young shepherd, standing on a hill in Jutland. Hungry and cold, the small shepherd threw up his arms and cried out against his Maker, before spending the rest of his life trying to undo his cries. (Is it any wonder that the shepherd’s son felt anxiety and guilt before God?) He took communion with this father. He was baptized and confirmed in the presence of this father, in the church of his father. He would learn of piety before God, and self-denial. Through all of this, he developed faith in God, a faith so strong, that no matter how many times it was expressed, could not be fully revealed. These same things could be spoken of his love for the object of his sacrifice. And unlike Abraham, who was asked to sacrifice his son, this son, would sacrifice his betrothed. He would do it not with a knife, which is dull as a sword, but with the mightiness of a pen, and a breaking of an engagement, in a time and place when engagements were not broken. The son as we know is Søren Aabye Kierkegaard, the father, Michael Kierkegaard, the betrothed, Regine Olsen.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Yeah Samake: The Mormon presidential candidate I believe in.

Why do I believe in him? Because I heard him speak at my school last night, in an overflowing auditorium. Chairs gathered in from every nearby classroom, and still people standing, eager in the hall, back, and sides. (I have never seen the room like that.) I believe in him because his words were powerful, hopeful, direct, honest, and sincere. He exuded sincerity.

He was introduced by Patrick Mason, the Howard W. Hunter Chair of Mormon Studies, and my Gendering Mormonism professor. They had crossed paths a few weeks back in DC, and now they were here, in California. When it was Yeah's turn to speak, he shared a video. He shared this video:

As I watched it I felt alive. And close to crying. And one million other things that I haven't felt in a long time. It was clear that he is someone who believes in good things, not because he wants to sound like he believes in good things, but because he really does. Among the good things that he (and I) believe in are honesty, education, and equality. (I will come back to the education part in half a moment.) He also believes that given tools to help themselves, people can rise out of poverty. He believes that corruption can be rooted out of even the most corrupt places. He believes these things because he has lived them. 

I so admired his father's commitment to learning, to education. I so admired that same father's sacrifice and insistence that all 18 of his children go to school. People asked him why he did it, and "Wouldn't they be hungry?" His father answered, every time, "My family will go hungry, but they will not know the darkness of illiteracy." (Which answer is without a doubt the most moving part of the video for me.) Then afterwards, Yeah told us that he did know hunger, and about the many nights as a child that he could not sleep, because his stomach was so empty. He would cry in the night, and when his mother woke from those little boy cries, she would simply wrap fabric around him tighter, to hold his stomach in. That was all she could do.

He continued to talk, and I continued to listen, wishing I could write every word down. I tried. And while I am a fast typer, I am not that fast, so my white and black page is full of fragments. Beautiful, hopeful fragments. I give some to you:
It's not like the people are dishonest. It's like they're deprived and will do anything to bring bread to their table. | When you care for people, you are cared for. | I'm here not because I am the best citizen of Mali. | It is not because I want to make money, but because I want to give back. | [Why people in a Muslim region would vote for him for mayor, 86%] It is not about your religion. It is not about where you live. It is about what you can do to help [them] go through life. | I know that I will not misuse a dollar of the tax money. | We cannot rely on the central government. We cannot rely on foreign aid….We must rely on our selves first. | We did not send the army as used to be done. | People believed in the message I shared with them. | No one has ever told them where the money went before. | [He took something from his religion:] The Elders Quorum of the city of Ouelessebougou. | Every city would send a trusted man or trusted woman. | It has to be done by us. | ...the nicest high school. Even better, we got running water,…, solar panel field. We suddenly have a quality of living superior to most of the people in my country. | Once your mind is stretched it never goes back. I have lived in America… I have seen free speech. | Never in the history of my country has a mayor run for president. More importantly, never in the history of my country has a Christian run for president. | Victory is not winning the election. I'm not in this for the power… I'm in it because I know that if we provide opportunities to people, they can rise themselves out of poverty. | Again, I tell you: Mali is not a poor country. Mali is a country with poor leadership. 
I believe in him because he answered difficult questions with grace. One woman feared for his physical safety, acknowledging that people who have power do not easily give it up. Another was not convinced that he would be able to wipe out corruption on a national scale, despite his great success as mayor. She was from Africa, like him, and made her way to America and BYU, like him. Yeah responded that it is easy when you look at it as as cities: "Mali is just 703 cities." My friend Chuck asked him about Mormonism and race issues. Someone else asked him a more general question about the role his religion plays in his campaign, if it is made an issue. He answered that, "it is dangerous in Mali to talk about religion in politics," but added that they "can teach America something." Not the danger part. The focusing on what unites, part: "We should not in any case let our religion divide us. Contrary to what you hear, 1% of Christians live in peace with 95% Muslims... Of course my faith has inspired me, [but] this is not a religious matter. This is not what we are thinking about in Mali. We are thinking, 'Who can bring three meals?' 'Who can bring us access to health care?' 'Who can bring us to education?'" I thought about our own GOP, and how different the debates would be, the conversations. 

I believe in Yeah Samake because of his commitment to education and to miracles: "My life is a miracle. I really believe that many miracles have happened into my life. One of two kids will die [in Mali]  before the age of five. 450 deaths out of 1000 births. It is really a miracle to survive. I was sent to school where the literacy rate was below 11%. My father made a drastic decision to send all [18] of his children..." His father was poor, and his father, making education another miracle. One that opened all of the windows and all of the doors. One that reminded me that the doors and windows are not always open.

I believe in him because I heard his conversion story. Perhaps rather simply, it involved him feeling the spirit for the first time. Not at Mormon church, which he went to, but at a football game. The U vs. BYU. I have to assume that it was at the latter, because it opened with a prayer. He found that fact strange. (It is strange.) Yet, something remarkable happened. As he listened to the prayer, he began to cry. And cry. And cry. It no longer mattered that men from his country do not cry: he was so profoundly stirred, having "felt for the first time the spirit."

This prayer opened a floodgate—not only of tears, but of questions. He asked so many questions. Ultimately he asked to join the church. They had him take 6 discussions. As he was ready, they told him he was not able to join the church. "They didn't tell me why. I was quite hurt. I went to Colorado. I thought if the people in Utah won't do it, the people in Colorado will. I took 6 more discussions. They wouldn't do it. They told me it was because they would kill me," meaning the people back home. The Muslims. He said, "They won't kill me. They are my family. My people. My village. They know me." Still, they would not baptize him. 

Sometime later he was in New York. A bishop there had met his family. Yeah told him he wanted to take the discussions. The man was excited. He took 6 more discussions. And then the same problem, but with one difference: the bishop fought for him and called the Mission President. Yeah was baptized sometime in 2000, exactly one day before he flew home. He thought, "They're all going to join. We're all going to be happy Mormons in Mali. Mali Mormons." Great laughter from the audience, and then a pause, "It didn't quite work out this way."

He continued with his testimony. "It has brought the light out of me.. I did not know Jesus before…It has changed the way I see myself. It has changed the way I look at others. Service has been something I then try to do….Love is service and time. Jesus has served you and myself…That knowledge is phenomenal. It guides my life. I love to serve, because I know when you serve, you will be served."

I also believe in Yeah because he believes in himself, not in a pompous way, but in a positive way, a way recognizing that there is a difference to be made and that he can make it. Near the very end of the evening, he pronounced, "I strongly believe that you are staring at the next president of Mali." His confidence waxes strong because he has "a story to tell the people." A true story. "I have a story of a child growing up in poverty and making something out of his life. I have a story of someone who has turned a city from bottom… I have a story of what education can do… I have a message for the Mali people. I have a message of hope….The media is interested in my message. I don't pay the media. They are interested because it is new…[because] that candidate has a compelling story for Mali." The majority of his "contenders have already served and failed. They have failed Mali."

At the very end of the evening, he said, "Power corrupts. I pray every day that I will be protected, that I will stay away from corruption. That is exactly why I want to serve one term…Really I want to do five years of presidency, stretch the mind of the people because I know they won't go back. They will demand good leadership once they have tasted it. I'm serious that I want to do five years…I'm doing this…for the rest of Africa. Good principled leadership. It works. Not only for the people, but for the leader themselves. People are scared that it may not work for them, because they don't know any other way. Show them that you can let go of power and live a happy life, an even happier life. No one has taken power and just let go of it." His brother-in-law told him that they will make him serve two terms. He still said no. Only one.

It was interesting to hear Yeah speak the very day that my facebook newsfeed was bombarded with pleas to, "Stop Kony," an apparently evil man from, in, or around Uganda. While I think that social justice (and regular justice) is important, I don't know if pouring money into the Invisible Children (or other such organizations) is the best way to stop bad things. My husband lived in Uganda. He saw aid wasted and donated clothes/supplies sold at markets, rather than making their way into the hands of those who needed them most. Because of corruption it became wealthy Ugandans purchasing items bestowed by even wealthier Americans. Many people he met expected him to give them money or fix things for them, simply because he was American. He didn't give money, but he did plant a garden, build several buildings, and install a simple water/pipe system in the small place where he was staying. 

I have not lived in Africa like my husband. I have not even been there. But, I agree with my husband and with Yeah Samake that "if we provide opportunities to people, they can rise themselves out of poverty." I see this as somewhat similar to the old adage: If you teach a man to fish..., while at the same time recognizing that there is occasionally the one time need to actually give fish. (If you look in the Bible, Christ followed both methods, sometimes teaching how and where to fish, other times offering not only fishes, but loaves.) Furthermore, I believe that it is better to invest in or for something rather than against something. How much money has the United States spent in efforts to go after single persons? Sometimes (read: all the time) I think the money could be better spent elsewhere. Thus, if any of you dear readers have heart urges to give to Africa, might I strongly suggest that you donate to Yeah's campaign? It will not be wasted, but will go to an honest man who hates corruption, and has successfully rooted it out of one city in Mali, and wants to root it out of the rest. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

On sickness.

I think I threw up 20 distinct times today. The latest being not that late ago. As a direct causation of that, my heart is still a little racy and my body is still a little sweaty. And I want my mom. Or I guess anyone to hold back my hair, wipe my forehead, encourage me to take tiny sips of water, feed me bland food (and/or popcycles) when I'm ready, and tell me it will be okay.

Spencer has been at school all day, so I have held back my own hair, wiped my own forehead, encouraged myself to take tiny sips of water (which I promptly threw back up), mustered all of the courage I had to again get out of bed and take a (thankfully) soothing bath, climbed on top of a chair to reach the Ritz crackers (which was the blandest food we had, and was, unfortunately like the water, not bland enough), and told myself it would be okay, despite the continued vomiting. I also managed to read several excellent articles from old dialogue issues. My favorite was by Claudia Bushman, and was on her "short happy time at Exponent II."

I am praying I will a. be able to fall asleep, and b. not feel wretched tomorrow. It is supposed to be a big day.

Monday, March 5, 2012


I love old pictures. And remembering that at one time I was a baby, and then a toddler with blonde hair.

What do you love about old pictures?

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Club PB&J.

Or: why my (Los Angeles) life is beautiful.

One reason my life is beautiful is because when I went to BYU I had the good fortune of becoming good friends with two boys named Spencer and Davis. They were both from Camarillo, California, and were the sincerest of the sincere and the funniest of the funny. (This Spencer is not to be confused with my Spencer, but is a very, very good Spencer nonetheless.)

A second reason my life is beautiful is because when we were at BYU they started a club called Club PB&J. Like the Mormon Women Oral History Project of which I am so passionate, the title is indicative of the objective. I.e., it entailed friends coming together, from all walks and areas of campus, to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and to talk about them. There was a president, vice president, secretary and official motto: I eat PB&J all day everyday. This was recited at the beginning of each meeting. Club members also had the opportunity to share what type of jam they were eating, what type of peanut butter, and what type of bread. Minutes were taken.

A third reason my life is beautiful, is because the president (Davis) and vice president (Spencer) both live in Los Angeles now, with their wonderful wives (who happen to each be named Kim). The fourth reason my life is beautiful is because even though LA has the tendency to swallow people whole, I get to see them sometimes, and hear their jokes, which remain golden after all these years. The most recent time was for my birthday(!). We ate delicious pizza and made big (art) plans for the future (that I am crossing my fingers actually happens). And one day last May we sat on the grass under a sunny sky and ate PB&J together like old times (minus Spencer but plus another old Provo favorite: Chris Duce and his equally beloved wife Natalie.)

So many other good people are here now (The Coy's, Rogers, famous Dave Peterson, etc.). It makes a city that is not that easy for me to live in easy. And occasionally even wonderful.

Provo, 2005.

LA, 2011.