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Springtime.

25 March 2012

It’s springtime in Salt Lake.  My hyacinths have opened, filling the air with their rich perfume.  My tulips are showing buds.  My cherry tree will burst any day.  My maples have started blooming.  The world is coming alive again after winter.  I’ve spent my spare time this weekend wandering around, finding the magic of new life.  P introduced me to the earliest blooming maple in the valley, which was beautiful.  We took a meandering drive through the Avenues looking for new blooms and discovered the tallest black tulip magnolia either of us had ever seen.  And when we walked through temple square, the gate leading into the yard around the temple was open so we explored a little nook with a star magnolia in full bloom and lots of white crocuses.

I love the world in the spring.  Every venture out my front door, from long walks actively searching out the world’s beauties to mundane three minute trips to the dumpster, brings a wealth of rejuvenation–both my own and the earth’s.

101 Things: Update Month One

21 February 2012

The Project: complete 101 things in 1001 days.  Finish by Sunday, October 12, 2014.

The update details:

  • I reserve the right to edit the list if circumstances demand a change or two.  If I change something, I’ll note it in a monthly update.
  • Activities in progress are in italics.
  • Activities completed are struck through.
  • Recurring activities are updated with a countdown and/or a bullet list below them of what I’ve done.
  • When I write about a particular activity, I’ll link to it on the list.
Hope you have fun following my (mis)adventures!

The Update

1. Monthly culture–visit a site, go to a concert, see an exhibit, go on an art walk, etc. (1/33)

  • My Valentine’s gift from Paul: an evening out to see Red followed by dinner & dessert.

17. Extend a micro-loan through Kiva or a similar organization; make it an ongoing loan that goes out again once I’ve been repaid.

  • Loan 1: to Chang in Cambodia, where she farms rice and potatoes; to rent additional farmland with the goal of eventually buying more plots

33. Try a new food (or a food I’ve been saying I don’t like) once a month. (1/33)

Beets (yum!) ·

36. Get a piggy bank.  Use it to save spending money for an upcoming vacation.

37. Pay off my credit card.

40. Watch a TED video or listen to an an iTunes U lecture once a month. In other words, learn something new. (1/33)

42. Get into the habit of using a calendar/planner and to-do lists to plan and organize my days.

58. Make it a habit to start my day with a decent breakfast.

72. Make it a habit to cook healthy, balanced meals for dinner at least five nights a week (except when I’m on the road; then I’ll buy healthy, balanced meals). Note: I still need to work on the healthy meals while traveling; somehow it’s much harder to eat a healthy meal when the restaurant offers such unhealthy yumminess.  That said, tonight I got soup and a salad (of course, I did have beef jerky & peanut M&Ms for lunch).

94. Explore street art on a monthly basis.  There are a couple places in the city where people paint pretty regularly; it’ll be fun to track the changes. (1/33)

  • Month 1: No changes to the street art at 3rd South just west of 2nd East, but there was a kinda cool bike on the side of Nobrow Coffee.

96. Memorize one poem a month.  It’s kind of old school, but I like the idea of memorizing poetry.  When I did it before, it was a good way to be thinking regularly about a particular poem and how it works. (1/33)

101 Things: It Begins (Again)

15 January 2012

A few years ago, I stumbled across a “101 things in 1001 days” meme and decided I’d do it.  I started my list, did some of the things on it, and then life got busy.  And I stopped.  Recently a couple of my co-workers picked up on this through a more formalized website, the Day Zero Project.  I’m not really interested in participating at that website, because it’s just one more place to check in and interface and I don’t want to add it to my daily life.  But I do want to start blogging again.  So I’m going to put my 101 Things back onto my blog, with modifications and updates, and go from there.

Here’s how it will work:

  • I’ll build my list and post it here. It will be a work in progress for a while, I suppose.  If you have suggestions, do make them in the comments.  And I reserve the right to edit the list if circumstances demand a change or two.
  • Activities in progress are in italics.  Activities completed are struck through. When it’s a recurring activity, I’ll keep a countdown and will add what I’ve done in a bullet list below.
  • When I write about a particular activity, I’ll link to it on the list.
  • Each month, I’ll repost the list with updates.
  • Finish by Sunday, October 12, 2014. Hope you have fun following my (mis)adventures!

Without further ado, here goes!

The List

1. Monthly culture–visit a site, go to a concert, see an exhibit, go on an art walk, etc. (0/33)

2. Road trip up the west coast at least along Big Sur, maybe further.

3. Travel to a foreign country.  Preferably one I haven’t visited before, but since time and means are limited I won’t be too choosy.

4. Plant an herb garden in my kitchen or on my balcony; use the herbs I grow in my cooking.

5. Write a children’s book.  Just because I think it would be interesting to try.

6. Keep up with regular blogging.  By regular, I mean at least weekly posts and preferably more often.

7. Read a book and write up an old-school book report once a month. (0/33)

8. Learn how to play chess; re-learn backgammon and checkers.

9. Go stargazing.  Maybe during the Perseids, since it’s the meteor shower I remember from backpacking trips with my Dad.

10. Visit Saguaro National Park when it’s in bloom.  I’ve wanted to see the saguaros in bloom since I first encountered them a few years ago. (see #s 19, 26, 31, 38, 50, 59, 65)

11. Spend an afternoon people watching.

12. Fill in a cinematic gap once a month.  Heaven knows I have enough of them that I could probably watch a classic film I’ve somehow missed weekly and still not be caught up by the end of 1001 days. (0/33)

  • Gap 1: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (at Paul’s suggestion)

13. Make it a tradition to give service  on Thanksgiving Day. (0/2)

14. Read the Constitution.  Complete with all amendments.  I’ve read parts of it but am ashamed to admit that I don’t think I’ve ever read it all the way through.

15. Donate blood.  As a consequence, learn my blood type (seems an important thing to know).

16. Go Christmas caroling.  I always want to do this at the holidays and it seems I never do.

17. Extend a micro-loan through Kiva or a similar organization; make it an ongoing loan that goes out again once I’ve been repaid.

  • Loan 1: to Chang in Cambodia, where she farms rice and potatoes; to rent additional farmland with the goal of eventually buying more plots

18. Take a roadtrip without a destination.  Just get on the road and drive until I see something that makes me want to stop.

19. Visit Arches National Park.  Part of my larger national parks list (see #s 10, 26, 31, 38, 50, 59, 65)

20. Learn to swim.  I sorta know how in that I can keep myself from drowning and can play in a pool.  But I don’t know well enough to swim for exercise and I’d like to be able to.

21. Join a gym.  Use that membership regularly.

22. See the Northern Ligths.  Not sure where, exactly, but I’ve been wanting to see the aurora borealis for a very long time.

23. Learn to knit.  I can already crochet.  And technically I’ve already taught myself the very most basics of knitting.  But I need to really learn.  I’ll probably take advantage of Blazing Needles classes to do this.

24. Experience a sensory deprivation pool/chamber.

25. Send a secret to post secret.  Not sure what this is going to be, because I feel like my life is mostly pretty boring and doesn’t have that many secrets in it.  I’ll be thinking about it.

26. Visit Yellowstone.  If possible, stay at the Old Faithful Inn. (see #s 10, 19, 31, 38, 50, 59, 65)

27. Write a letter to myself to read at the end of this project.  Cheesy? Yes.  But I still had fun reading the one I wrote as a 15-year-old to myself at 25, so I figure I’ll enjoy writing to my future self again.

28. Kiss Paul in the rain.

29. Watch sunrise and sunset on the same day, maybe on one of my visits to a national park.  Maybe just here at home.

30. Go snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.  I’m not much for downhill skiing, but think I’d enjoy one of these.

31. Visit Zion National Park.  For more than a quick afternoon stop on a roadtrip. (see #s 10, 19, 26, 38, 50, 59, 65)

32. Get a tattoo.  Okay, in all honesty I’m probably far too wussy to do this.  The thought of getting a tattoo fills me with dread of pain.  But I sorta want to do it anyway.  I may do henna instead.  Or maybe I’ll do a piercing. I guess we’ll see what happens with this one.

33. Try a new food (or a food I’ve been saying I don’t like) once a month. (0/33)

34. Start practicing random acts of kindness consciously.  I think I’m a pretty kind person, but it can’t hurt to be more thoughtful about this.

35. Buy an original piece of artwork or a limited edition print.

36. Get a piggy bank.  Use it to save spending money for an upcoming vacation.

37. Pay off my credit card.

38. Visit the Grand Canyon.  Maybe even a hike to and camping at Havasupai Falls. (see #s 10, 19, 26, 31, 50, 59, 65)

39. Make homemade applesauce.  Yum.

40. Watch a TED video or listen to an an iTunes U lecture once a month. In other words, learn something new. (0/33)

41. Start saving for retirement.  Because it’s a smart, grown-up thing to do.

42. Get into the habit of using a calendar/planner and to-do lists to plan and organize my days.

43. Give at least some hand-made gifts for Christmas (realistically I don’t have time to make all the gifts I give, but I can make some).

44. Learn to identify 5 new constellations.

45. Start making iTunes play lists again.  Occasionally burn one and give it to a friend.

46. Learn how to cook dishes from my favorite cuisines: Indian, Thai, and Mexican. (0/3)

47. Make homemade jam.  Probably either strawberry or raspberry freezer jam. (Really I should make this an annual occurrence. Homemade jam is so yummy.)

48. Make an alphabet book for my new niece/nephew (#25!).

49. Stay up all night to watch the sunrise.

50. Visit Canyonlands National Park. (see #s 10, 19, 26, 31, 38, 59, 65)

51. Add a Le Creuset French oven to my stock of culinary tools.

52. Go on a girls trip with my mama and my sisters.  Should be rather nutty if all seven of us go!

53. Go to a concert at least once a quarter, some classical, some not. (0/8)

54. Make Julia Child’s beef bourguignon.

55. Attend a live taping of The Daily Show.  Or The Colbert Report.  This is maybe a bit unlikely since I live in the west, but I do get to New York state at least once a year, so maybe I can make it happen.

56. Visit another Frank Lloyd Wright house.  Most likely Hollyhock House, since it’s in L.A. very near my friends’ home.

57. Explore a city that’s completely new to me.  For pleasure, so business trips don’t count.

58. Make it a habit to start my day with a decent breakfast.

59. Visit Capitol Reef National Park. I plan to be getting stamps on my National Parks Passport as I visit all these national parks (thanks, Randi!). (see #s 10, 19, 26, 31, 38, 50, 65)

60. Explore a Salt Lake cemetery.  Not sure which one, but I’ve always enjoyed a ramble through a cemetery and there are a few beautiful ones here.

61. See a Cirque du Soleil show, probably in Vegas.  I’ve been wanting to see one of these shows for years and never have.  Sometime when I’m en route to California, I’ll stop to take one in.  And I could combine it with #11, since Vegas is a great place for people watching.

62. Write a six-word memoir.  Do it again.  And maybe again.

63. Visit the This Is the Place Heritage Park.  A little like Salt Lake’s version of Williamsburg.

64. Go to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts.  It’s a small museum and the collection looks a little underwhelming, but I want to support what local art scene there is.

65. Visit Bryce Canyon National Park.  Utah has a wealth of national parks; I want to take them all in. (see #s 10, 19, 26, 31, 38, 50, 59)

66. Go bird watching.  Preferably at the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

67. Make a habit of reading poetry, both old favorites and new finds.

68. See the wildflowers in bloom.  Spring, summer, and fall. (0/3)

69. Learn the names of my neighborhood trees.  And remember them.

70. Get all dressed up and go out on the town.  I don’t do it often, but I have a good time when I do.  Paul, I’m hereby putting you on notice for this one.

71. Go see films that are part of the Sundance Film Festival.  Probably just whatever ends up easy to get into.

72. Make it a habit to cook healthy, balanced meals for dinner at least five nights a week (except when I’m on the road; then I’ll buy healthy, balanced meals).

73. Once a month make a big batch of something I can stock my freezer with.  Makes healthy mid-week meals easier. (0/33)

74. Celebrate my 39th birthday in style.  I’ll celebrate 37 and 38, too, but I think a big, fun send-off to my 30s is in order.

75. Get my appropriate Utah ID and register to vote.  I should have done this by now, but have been dragging my feet.  Time to embrace my status as a Utahn, even if I’ll always identify as Californian first.

76. Walks in gardens at least once a month. This shouldn’t be hard, since Paul and I walk through Temple Square on a weekly basis, but I’d like to add Red Butte and Gilgal and others to our regular list. (0/33)

77. Read Sense & Sensibility.  It’s the only Austen novel I haven’t read and I really should.

78. Attend a Christmas Eve midnight service.  Not sure which denomination, but I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time and this year I missed out cause I got sick.

79. Celebrate Ephiphany.  I’m not sure how it’s traditionally celebrated, but I think this is a sadly overlooked holiday.

80. Go backpacking again.  It’s been far too many years.  I have all the gear I need and easy access to amazingly beautiful mountains.  This coming summer will find me out hiking and sleeping under the stars.

81. Build a fire and roast marshmallows so I can make s’mores.  Because I haven’t had one in forever and that’s just too long.

82. Spend a winter weekend at a cabin in the mountains.  Play outside and then come in to warm up by a fire.  Consume far too much hot chocolate, lounge in bed until far too late in the morning, read a good book or watch a good movie.

83. Volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

84. Hang a wind chime on my balcony.  I do love the sound of a wind chime just outside my window.

85. Get a massage.  I’ve only ever had one and it was lovely.  I think I deserve another.

86. Create a monthly budget and stick to it. (0/33)

87. Write a piece of flash fiction.

88. Travel by train.  I love traveling this way and it’s been a while since I’ve done so.

89. Dine by candlelight.  I’ve done this once or twice and it’s fun.

90. Watch a movie at a drive-in.  Haven’t done this since I was a little kid and there just happens to be a drive-in theater in SLC.

91. Five museums in five cities–go to five different museums in five different cities.  This would be a nice way to liven up some of my business travel, too.

92. Give flowers to someone.  I love getting flowers.  And I’ve sent them for certain kinds of occasions.  But I want to give some to someone just cause.

93. Build something with legos.  Preferably the old school basics, rather than a kit.

94. Explore street art on a monthly basis.  There are a couple places in the city where people paint pretty regularly; it’ll be fun to track the changes. (0/33)

95. Write a “This I Believe” essay and submit it to the website.

96. Memorize one poem a month.  It’s kind of old school, but I like the idea of memorizing poetry.  When I did it before, it was a good way to be thinking regularly about a particular poem and how it works. (0/33)

97. Learn how to crochet Amigurumi animals.

98. Go white-water rafting.  Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time.

99. Take pictures in a photobooth.

100. Make a new list of 101 things for the next 1001 days.

101. Donate $5 for each goal I don’t complete.

A Gospel of Love

30 May 2011

Yesterday I was listening to Krista Tippett’s On Being; her guest Kate Braestrup (a chaplain to the game wardens in the parks and forests of Maine) made a comment about Christianity that had me first a bit angry and then a bit sad.  Here’s what she had to say:

Krista Tippett: You point something out that’s very simple, but really striking and unsettling in good way and bad.  That even when the miracle . . . is of a life restored that is always a temporary restoration and you say that most of the time, perhaps, a miracle can only be the resurrection of love beside the unchanged fact of death.”

Kate Braestrup: “This is an argument I have, probably a continuous argument that I have with Christianity, I always felt that it was answering a question I wasn’t asking. . . . .If you decide that the most important thing, the highest possible value is life, that is breath in the body and walking and around and eating sandwiches whatever, then you’ve lost . . . because we’re all going to die. Then you have to posit this whole other set of things that you can’t see and can’t connect with. . . .   If I posit instead thatthe most important thing is love—then what i have is, yes I have a world that is full of suffering and evil and pain, and I have something to do.   I have something to look for and I have something to do.  To me that works better, that is of more practical value, than fretting about, okay “Is death real? do we live forever? what does eternal life mean? would I want eternal life? if there’s a hell doesn’t everybody get eternal life, just some of us in hell and some of us in heaven? . . . You can still talk about it but it becomes less of a pressing issue.”

What Braestrup said had me a bit angry because, in my mind, it’s a blatant misinterpretation of Christianity.  I think it’s fairly impossible to read the New Testament as the foundational record of Christianity and not understand that the gospel of Jesus is a gospel of love first and foremost.  The two great commandments he gave are both entirely caught up in love–love God, love self, love neighbor.  His actions almost always demonstrate love and compassion.  It seems undeniable to me that Christianity is about nothing if it is not first about love.

After re-listening and thinking about why it is that Braestrup may have concluded that Christianity values life more highly than love, my anger turned into sadness.  Thinking about what Christianity has to say about eternal life, I can understand her perspective.  Some versions of Christianity have become so obsessed with the notion of eternal life, that they hang their doctrines on the binary of heaven and hell.  Those who are saved and come to Jesus are rewarded with eternal life; those who either refuse to come to Jesus or who are so misfortunate as to never hear of Jesus are condemned to eternal death in hell.  And to deny the existence of that eternal death in favor of the loving inclusion of all mankind is to brand oneself a heretic, as Pentecostal Bishop Carlton Pearson discovered the hard way.

Other versions of Christianity are perhaps less strident on the topic of burning in hell, but still emphasize the notion of Christ as the bread of life, the living waters.  This Jesus is the savior not because he suffered or because he knows each of us intimately, but because he overcame death making living forever possible.  I understand why Christianity so often emphasizes life as the highest value.  Jesus promised life.  The whole notion of the atonement, when understood as the betrayal, suffering, death, and resurrection of Jesus, is about robbing death of its human victims and instead giving humans eternal life, both spiritual and physical.  And that eternal life is the promised reward: be good, do good, and you’ll live forever just like Jesus.

And this is where my anger turned to sadness.  Because I think that this emphasis on life, especially the after life, is misguided.  The way I read the message of Jesus is this: Love everyone.  Period.  In my mind the two great commandments must be conflated.  The only way I know to love God is to love the people I encounter (you know, that whole “inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these my brethren, ye do it unto me” thing).  Even the line “if ye love me, keep my commandments” is about love, not obedience. So often Mormons argue that we show our love through unwavering obedience to all of God’s commandments; I simply do not agree. Jesus gave this particular instruction as part of his final evening spent with his disciples and it is squarely situated between multiple iterations of his new commandment: “That ye love one another; as I have loved you, love one another. By this shall all people know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” in the previous chapter and “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” in the following chapter.  It is clear to me that Jesus’ primary concern is not life, nor is it obeying various and sundry commandments–it is loving each other.  I love God when I love people.  And the only thing life has to do with that is as a reward for fulfilling that commandment.

And that, right there, is the problem and the source of my sadness.  That Christians have allowed their attention to shift away from Jesus’s essential message–love each other–to the promised reward.  And that this focus on the promised reward so often prevents us from living the essence of the message, that in the name of giving others access to Jesus as the bread of life and the living water we fail to first know and love them.  I would even argue that the failure to know and love others equates to a failure to gain the reward of life, no matter how diligently someone lives every other commandment or how dedicated one is to saving others by spreading the good word.  After all, eternal life is to know God and Jesus1, and we know God by virtue of loving others2.

And that is why I do not care what happens after I die.  It is why I care very little about the nature of God.  I am Christian and I am Mormon insofar as those philosophies have shaped my life and how I think about things.  And they have led me to one very simple conclusion: the only thing that matters is love.  If that makes me sound like a hokie hippie, I suppose I’m okay with that.


1 John 17:3
2 1 John 4:7-8

planning.

24 November 2009

this year for the first time i’m entirely in charge of producing thanksgiving dinner.  i’ve been actively involved in making other thanksgiving dinners, but i’ve never planned and made the whole thing.  and it’s kind of fun to sit down and plan a menu and figure out a schedule.  so here’s what my thanksgiving will look like:

the menu:

  • roast turkey breast with lemon and thyme
  • mashed potatoes and gravy
  • oven-baked bread stuffing
  • sweet white corn
  • homemade (of course!) dinner rolls
  • pumpkin pie (need i really designate it as homemade? really?  anything but is simply inadequate)
the schedule:
tuesday:
  • buy challah, slice in half-inch slices and leave out over night to dry
wednesday:
  • make gravy.  since a turkey breast won’t produce enough drippings to make gravy, i’m doing this step in advance using cooks illustrated’s “all purpose gravy” recipe (which looks delicious)
  • make pie crust and filling and bake.  i may even dig out my mini fall leaf cookie cutters and decorate the pies
  • cut the dried slices of challah into half-inch cubes and leave out over night to dry out some more
thursday:
  • brine the turkey (again using cooks illustrated’s directions; i do love my cooks illustrated subscription)
  • mix up rolls and let dough double in size
  • peel potatoes and cover with water
  • punch down roll dough and put rolls on pan to rise again
  • prep turkey and get it into the oven
  • prep dressing and get it into the oven
  • boil and mash potatoes
  • re-heat gravy
  • bake rolls
  • boil corn
  • carve turkey
  • EAT!!!
can i just say that thanksgiving is one of the very best holidays?  yumminess! 
{p.s. let me know if you want any of the recipes i’m using.}

read.

23 November 2009

just a little light reading on questions of sex, gender, and culture:

  • on why “chick flicks” are not all that woman-friendly: “7 popular chick flicks that secretly hate women.” (be forewarned of some profanity)
  • on the federal court challenge to prop. 8 and the broader related issues: “gay on trial.” winning quote: “They [defenders of prop. 8 who oppose gay marriage] also argue that sexual orientation falls on a continuum and that sexuality is ‘fluid,’ a decidedly nontraditional view that has taken root in college queer-studies departments but not the sort of thing you’d ever hear from Focus on the Family’s James Dobson.”  i’d just love to see most conservatives who oppose gay marriage swallow that pill.
  • jessawhy’s personal articles of faith, a beautiful piece: “my articles of faith.”
  • on the romantic paternalism prevalent in the church and the desire to be taken seriously: “romantic paternalism.”
  • on the dangers of the twilight saga (and a great example of why we should think just a little more carefully about the entertainment we consume): “ew moon: why twilight continues to hurt america.”  winning quotes: “Young girls around the country are debating whether she should choose Edward or Jacob. Which abuse is better? He’s insanely jealous and stalks me or he can barely control his anger and may physically abuse me at any moment?” and ” The messages behind Twilight? Be weak, let your man protect you. Be careful, don’t get him angry. If he hurts you, it’s your fault. Abuse is part of life. Accept it. If he really loves you, he’ll try not to hurt you but don’t be surprised if he does. You probably deserve it. You are nobody without your man, so don’t bother trying.” is it any wonder that the author of the series is mormon?
  • and, to be balanced, an interesting feminist defense of the twilight saga, which asks some very important questions: “another feminist defense of ‘twilight’.”
  • and my hero for the week: the ten-year-old boy in arkansas refusing to stand and pledge allegiance because gay marriage is not legal, therefore the nation does not provide “liberty and justice for all.” (no reading required, just a fast enough connection to stream video)
go forth, read, and comment.  i’d love to hear what you think.

accompaniment.

22 November 2009

chocolate chaud.

3 cups whole milk
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
6 oz. dark chocolate (i use one that’s 80% cocoa)

break chocolate into small pieces (i put mine in a baggie and beat it with my rolling pin–very therapeutic) bring milk, water, and sugar just to a boil and remove from heat.  whisk in chocolate until it is melted.  using an immersion blender, blend the chocolate for about a minute until it is frothy.  if you don’t have an immersion blender, you can put the chocolate in a regular blender and blend it for a minute.  it’s very yummy served with a toasted egg bread (challah or brioche, for example).  but it’s best served as an accompaniment to decorating for christmas.  yummy!

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