Sunday, July 9, 2017

20 Reasons I'm Still Single...according to everyone else

Page from my 2016-2017 planner 
1. I'm too tall
2. I'm too smart
3. I'm too intimidating
4. I'm too picky
5. I'm too liberal
6. I still want to get married in the Temple
7. I'm considering a PhD program
8. I'm not social enough
9. I spend too much time with my family and friends
10. I'm too independent
11. I act like I'm already married
12. I don't play hard to get
13. My type tends to land somewhere between -1 and 1 on the Kinsey Scale
14. I don't stay put long enough
15. I am too busy
16. I don't give guys a chance
17. I am afraid of getting hurt
18. I am afraid of having a relationship actually work
19. My body isn't symmetrical
20. Boys are stupid

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Everything I never Wanted to Be

I flew to India in late January to attend the wedding of one of my dearest friends. Before arriving, I had been told to prepare for an assault to the senses. I thought I was prepared for the smells, the colors, the sounds, the tastes, etc. However, what I wasn't prepared for was the way India would show me my own inhumanity.

The wedding was spectacular! Truly, it was a once in a lifetime experience being part of an Indian wedding. I will likely never again attend a wedding ceremony in the middle of the night, nor feel as glamorous as I did wearing my Sarees. During this time, we were showed endless hospitality and generosity by the bride's family. It is something I will never forget.

I will also never forget the people of India, especially the children. The first day we arrived in Hyderabad, we ventured out to one of the famous forts. While there, fifteen people asked to take my picture (and I'm certain many took a picture without asking). Even though I was wearing typical Indian clothing (lent to me by my friend), as a 5 foot 8 inch tall, blonde, curly haired, blue-eyed, extremely pale, american female, I was conspicuous--to say the least.

As someone who doesn't typically turn heads in a room, the attention was flattering. Women wanted their children to be in photos with me, calling me beautiful. I imagined what would happen to these photos--"here, look at this american I saw today!" I hoped none of them ended up in scrapbooks or framed on walls because I don't feel that I deserve that kind of attention as a complete stranger. Still, feeling like a movie star was flattering. Though, it also quickly became tiring. I couldn't go on tours without being stopped by someone. While I began the trip eagerly accepting to take photos with these strangers, I ended it coarsely and curtly answering, "No."

India's overstimulation wore me down and closed me up over the 10 days. On the streets, especially in the markets, I could not walk without being prodded. If it wasn't someone wanting a photo, it's someone begging me to look at their wares, step into their shop, take their tour, buy their trinkets, feed their child, etc. The thing is, I know it isn't with mal intent, it's just business. They need money, and I might have it. Even if I say, "No, I am not interested," maybe I could be persuaded, or worn down enough to give in. I understand. But, there was little let-up and it soon took a toll on me.

I was worn down, but not in the way they wanted. I wasn't warming up, I was just turning off. I soon mastered the art of putting my sunglasses on, looking straight ahead, and walking. (If I don't acknowledge them, maybe they'll go away?) I became coarse, hard, admonishing men for heckling me and hiding my face from children in need. I, literally, turned my back on humanity.

I wasn't ignorant of it. I noticed this creeping coarseness and attempted to combat it early on. Maybe if I never have cash on me, then I can tell these kids I don't have any money, and they will move on to someone better? (This sometimes worked....most of the time they didn't believe me. It was "No" = "try harder.")

OR if I can't offer them money, maybe I could at least offer them a smile, some human connection to remind them that they matter and are still a someone sharing this planet with me? I tried.

One little girl followed me for about 7 minutes asking me to buy an elephant keychain. I told her I wasn't going to buy anything. (didn't work). I told her I didn't have any money. (didn't work). So, I asked her what her name was. She answered while still pushing these keychains at me, telling me they were a good price. I agreed with her and told her my name. I said I was from America and that I was a teacher. I asked her if she went to school. She said she did--a bit defensively--and then lowered her price. But, as I tried to keep talking with her, it became apparent that she did not want to converse with me. She wanted me to buy these keychains, that is all.

You've maybe heard about the slumdogs in India, and you might know about how the money they earn rarely goes to helping the actual kids. I knew about this too, and while I wanted to help them, desperately wanted to save each one--I knew that nothing I did was going to be enough. Even my money wouldn't help these people.

When our car was parked--or stalled at an intersection--women and children would tap on the windows to get us to look at them. I will never forget the toddler's face covered in flies and the woman carrying her. They'd motion their hands toward their mouths, begging us for money, food...human kindness. Instead, I had to look away. Once, or twice, I even ducked in my seat, knowing that if they couldn't see me, they wouldn't tap on the window. I didn't know what else to do. I just couldn't keep looking at them and not helping them, so I ran away.

Humanity's ever present need just pulled at me. It made me tired. It made me numb. It made me realize that it would be easier and less emotionally taxing if I just didn't engage. And that realization, scared me to death. I was becoming everything I never wanted to be.

As I rested my head on the back seat of the car, wondering if the young boy would disappear, Ingrid Michaelson's lyrics popped into my head:

"People are dying, I close my blinds. All that I know is I'm breathing now. I want to change the world, instead I sleep. I want to believe in more than you and me. But, all that I know is I'm breathing. All I can do is keep breathing." 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ring out Wild Bells

I’ve never been good with goodbyes. It seems to be something I resist, or at least something that is foreign to my essence. I think I said too many goodbyes in 2016.

Now, before I jump into yet another wail against 2016, I want to preface by admitting that a lot of beautiful and lovely experiences happened in 2016. It began pretty hopeful, as I recall. I have always liked the number 16 and I thought that maybe this year would be my lucky one. For a while, it really did feel lucky. I received the teaching internship I’d always wanted, I received good news after good news regarding funding for my upcoming trip to London, and everything seemed to be moving in my favor.

London was lovely as always. I found treasures in theatres, archives, and gardens. I went back to the Lake District where my soul expands and every doubt flies away on the wind. I hiked Arthur’s seat in full yellow bloom. I was in my absolute favorite place with one of my absolute favorite people. My thesis seemed to be taking shape, the prospectus would pass easily, and I felt confident in what I did and who I was becoming.

Like I said, there were many wonderful experiences in 2016. I went camping, horseback riding, skiing, hiking, running, dancing, and sledding. I wrote a lot and read a lot. But, the truth is, 2016 left me rubbed raw.

In July of 2016, I said goodbye to my Dad, or more accurately, I didn’t say goodbye. After my father was diagnosed with ALS, I always made an effort to tell him “goodbye” and “I love you” when I left the house. Though, on the 4th of July, I was so caught up in getting everyone out the door on time to see the fireworks, and my father was in such a state of sleepy unconsciousness, that I don’t think I even said goodbye. I don’t feel unsettled about that though. I know my Dad knew how much I loved him, and I’d made sure to tell him everything I wanted to long before that fateful night. I guess it’s ok because as I mentioned, I’m not very good with goodbyes anyhow.

A few months later, I said goodbye to the only guy I’ve ever truly loved. While I didn’t feel the absence of my father too often, I felt this absence unceasingly. I discovered that both of these men were anchors, pillars, and constants in my life. Having them there everyday and then suddenly gone the next was unsettling and unsteadying. Everything felt wrong and completely unexplainable. Finally, I watched the world turn upside down on November 8th  and the continuing slaughter in Syria, and realized I’d said goodbye to something / someone else, another anchor—my childlike self.

I used to radiate hopefulness, optimism, exuberance, wonder, trust, and a belief that everything was going to be ok. I lived by the mantra that humans were inherently good and that when you try your best to be your best, your efforts are met with abundant miracles and blessings. I laughed a lot. I was playful. I got excited about little things like chalk drawings and peaches on trees. 2016 forced me to grow up.

I don’t mean to sound so dramatic. Frankly, dramatic requires far more energy and vigor than I feel capable of right now. It’s just that I’ve never felt so rocked by a year before, and I’m trying to figure that out. So, here I am, saying goodbye to 2016 and a hesitant hello to 2017.

2017, I’m coming to you unsteady and unraveled. I’d like to say I’m coming with an open heart, but last time I went to chat with my heart, I discovered that she’s retreated, leaving a “closed for repairs” sign up on the door. (I don’t blame her for resenting me. I coaxed her to risk sticking her neck out so far and so vulnerably. So, if she just wants to lay on the floor and trace her fingers through the carpet for a while, I don’t blame her). I’ll just wait and plow forward into this year of unknown and uncertainty with or without her. Still, here’s hoping for a new year of lovely, beautiful experiences and growing up. 2017, be good to us please.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Happy Birthday Dad

Dear Daddy,

Happy Birthday! I’m wondering if birthdays become insignificant once you’ve died, or if your death day becomes a new type of birthday? It still surprises me that you’re not here anymore. Lately, people have been checking up on me, asking me how I’m doing and if this holiday season has been especially difficult. Ashamedly, I often don’t realize that they’re referring to the absence of you. Truth be told, though I often feel your physical absence, I rarely feel you gone. Remarkably, I see you still taking care of me and our family. You planned so well, and you take care of us so well.

Dad, I’m having a hard time filling your shoes. I tried to rake the leaves in the yard, but I couldn’t get all of it done before the snow came. The side yard is still covered in leaves; I’m sorry. How did you get all of the leaves out of the flower beds? I’m struggling on that one. Do the leaves just decompose and feed the soil? I sure hope so. Michelle and I cleaned out the rain gutters. You’ll never believe what we found! The gutters were clogged with all sorts of debris from when we got the new roof—tiles, nails, etc. Those workers sure left a mess. After we cleared it out, the gutters poured forth water like a fountain into the yard. You would have been happy.

We thought we weren’t going to do a big Thanksgiving dinner this year, but you know Mom, she has a hard time not hosting. I think she really misses you. I think she needed to host a Post-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving because she misses you. I tried to clean the table up just the way you taught me, making sure the nice silverware doesn’t go in the dishwasher, and washing each goblet by hand. It’s a lot of work. You did a lot of work.

We put up both Christmas trees successfully, and managed to force that giant bough over the door. I’m so glad you told Michelle about how the lanterns have electrical plugs inside them! I had no idea. We have yet to tackle putting lights up on the house. I don’t know if we’ll ever get to it. It kind of makes me sad because you always did such a nice job.

When I say that I rarely feel you gone, I don’t mean to say I don’t miss you. I miss you a lot. I miss your steadiness and stability. I haven’t been feeling so steady or stable recently. I really miss hearing you sing in the choir. I started crying in the car the other day because the station was playing Rutter’s “Candlelight Carol” and it made me think of you. I miss you whenever I eat mashed potatoes. I miss the way you used to grumble every time I put up that loud Santa Claus that greets people at the door. I think Michelle keeps turning it off though, so the battle continues. I miss the way you’d set up a little wrapping station in your bedroom and watch old Christmas specials while we assigned you which gifts go to which person and under which tree. You were always so helpful.

I don’t expect we’ll be getting a big basket of goodies this year from that one organization that always sent you a big basket. Those baskets were extravagant, to say the least. I loved unpacking them with you and awing over the expensive cheeses and random baubles. People sure loved and appreciated what you did for them. I know I did.
Well, I am realizing that I have a lot I want to talk to you about, so maybe I’ll try to write more often. I think I’d like that. Anyway, I just wanted to remind you how much I love you on your birthday. I wanted to tell you that I miss you, but that I know you’re not too far away. I wanted to thank you for taking care of me and supporting me, even now. You taught me how to be a real Lady, and a resourceful one at that. I love you Daddy

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

I Love London

I love London. I love the way Big Ben is bathed in rose gold when the sun sets. I love all of the parks and green spaces around the city. I love the trees in those parks, the stately umbrellas of green. I love watching the male pigeons puff up their feathers and twirl in circles hoping to entice a female. I love seeing the world's most obedient dogs trotting along without need of a lead next to their masters, or occasionally being pushed in a baby pram. I love that you can run into a Calvary brigade at the park. I love the kids in wellies scootering around, and the school children in their uniforms. 

I love the feeling of victory when catching the Tube right before the doors close. I love how Londoners are completely certain that you stand to the right and walk on the left, but completely uncertain if that applies to every day sidewalk movement. I love the markets and the many flower stands that seemingly pop up out of nowhere. I love finding blue plaques all around the city telling me where people of merit once lived. I love that on sunny days, no matter the temperature, Londoners will be sun bathing in their bikinis in the park. 

I love the ale drenched air of pubs. I love drinking Elderflower Presse at every opportunity. I love chocolate orange cookies from Ben's Cookies and Pistachio Almond Cronuts from Dum Dum Donuts. I love Paul Rhodes bakery. I love Hob Nob biscuits and pear drop sweeties. I love the custom of afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream. I love finding great Indian Food. 

I love how small the theaters are here. I love being a groundling at the Globe, even in the rain. I love biking down Pall Mall under arches and British flags. I love how the Brits pronounce most things so properly, but then throw in startling sounds like Pasta (pronounced like Fast) or Pall Mall (pronounced like Pal Mal). I love going to Evensong. I love walking across the Golden Jubilee Bridge and along the bank of the Thames. I love Trafalgar square with its buskers and its giant lion statues. I love all of the art museums, all of them. 

I love the looks we get when we ask waiters for suggestions, especially when we ask things like "Is the blueberry muffin good?" I love the reaction when we announce we are from Utah (my favorites so far have been 'Yee-Hah!" and "that's a pretty progressive state"). I love duvets and towel warming racks. I love the meadows of that unfortunately named, Rape. I love foxgloves and poppies. I love the cheese. I love corner yogurt and muesli. I love sassy Ffiona and her delicious french toast. 

I love the men in navy blue suits. I love the young man sitting on the bench in hide park with his shoes off, just reading. I love the white haired man feeding the pigeons. I love Louis, the host at Wagamamas and Jade, the shop girl who works at the flower stand by the globe. I love Kurt, who helps manage Dan Hillier's artwork. I love Robin for the way he uses the word beautiful so sincerely. I love the wander-lust surrounding the city. 

 But, despite how much I love this place, I also love the feeling of coming home. I love being with my family. I love driving my car. I love sleeping in my comfy bed and having my closet full of clothes. I love an abundance of vegetables, fruit, and water. I love how efficient americans are. I love seeing the moon and the stars. I love sunny weather. I love relaxing back into the regularity of each day. For sometimes it takes the splendor of a city like London to remind us what is splendid about normality. 

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Serendipity in Rome

Everything feels bigger in Rome
My time in Rome has proved serendipitous as there seemed to be a moment of perfect timing each day. 
Our first taste of serendipity came with the weather. While we encountered rain, it always seemed to come at the exact right time. It poured and poured the entire time we walked inside the Vatican museum, but let up enough for us to travel over to the Pantheon. Once we were in the Pantheon, Andrea and I sat looking up at the Oculus. I looked at Andrea and said, "I bet this is incredible when it rains." We began hoping it would rain just enough for us to see the rain come down through the oculus. Sometimes your wishes come true. 
 A light misty sprinkle of rain poured into the Pantheon and kindly let up as we left. 
For Appian Way, the Colosseum, the Forum, and all other outdoor experiences, we had beautiful sunny weather. 

Walking into St. Peter's Basilica will knock the wind right out of you. 
If you don't collapse from having to wait in line forever to go through security, the sheer opulence and majesty of the Basilica will take your breath away. Honestly, I've never been somewhere so opulent. Surely, the Catholic church isn't hurting for money. We happened to make it into the Basilica a few hours before it closed. The sun rays were descending on the high altar and the Basilica was preparing for Mass. While they close off a large portion of the Basilica for Mass, if you just tell one of the guards you'd like to participate in the Mass, they will let you through the barriers and up to the beautiful throne of St. Peter. While I couldn't understand everything that was said during the service, I am relatively familiar enough with Catholic Mass to grasp the main parts. One part that I think is truly lovely is the "greeting" where the members of the congregation turn to the members seated around them and greet them with a smile, handshake, and a wish for God's peace to be with them. There was a lovely couple seated next to us that greeted us and those seated on the other side of them and proceeded to finally greet each other with a tender kiss. While I am grateful that the LDS church doesn't open temples and temple ceremonies to gawking tourists, I was happy to be part of mass at St. Peter's that day. 

Finally, I know that everyone believes they have found the best gelato in Rome, but I really think we might have it. It might also be the most expensive Gelato in Rome though... 
We began our Gelato tour with Gioletti's, a relatively famous gelateria which had a whole crowd inside waiting for gelato. I admit it was delicious, but still not as good as Don Nino. 
Don Nino is located near the Pantheon. We decided to go in because it was "aesthetically" the best looking Gelato shop we'd seen. Their signature flavor, Don Nino, is a mixture of Almond and Pistachio, and it is to die for. I had that with the Ricotta. Yum! We soon became good friends with the workers at Don Nino, who would tease us for our poor Italian and laugh with us as we teased back. While Don Nino, is honestly the best Gelato I had in Rome, the best Gelato I had for the cheapest price was on the Isle of Trebina. Trebinos had really delicious gelato for only 2 Euros! 

Tune in Next time for London Adventures!