Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Receiving the Gift of Christmas

Christmas isn't about presents;
It's about GIFTS. 

I know Christmas isn't about Santa or the packages under the tree, but the importance of gifts should not be overlooked at Christmas-time. Sometimes we try to incriminate the commercialized gifts of Christmas in order to heighten the spiritual importance of the season. But, the center of this holiday is in fact a gift. 

Christmas is a celebration of the gift of Christ, but what kind of Christ do we receive? I know this may seem like a strange question, but it is something I've been ruminating on recently. At Easter we tend to focus on the majesty and power of Christ and his ministry; we celebrate the gifts of his miracles, his atonement, his sacrifice, resurrection, and power to save. This is a man of majesty and glory extending to us the gifts of immortality and salvation. But, what kind of Christ are we given at Christmas? 
A sweet and tender babe. 

Yes, this baby is the Messiah, the Lord of lords, the King of Kings, the Prince of peace, and he will perform the greatest gift of love known to all mankind, but for this one moment, he is the baby asleep in the hay. To his bedside come shepherds bringing admiration, wise men bringing frankincense, gold, and myrrh, a father bringing support and protection, and a mother giving not only of her physical body, but surely a soothing kiss and loving words. Being so small and new, what could this little baby possibly give? 


Prophets had foretold of his coming for thousands of years and these prophecies were recorded in the Old Testament and also the Book of Mormon. Believers held onto the promise of a deliverer who would come and redeem them. He was a gift long expected. What must it have been like to believe in Christ when he had not yet come? 

The Book of Mormon provides a testament of the people living in the Americas at the time just before Christ's birth. Some of these people began to believe that "the time was past for the words to be fulfilled...therefore [the] joy and [the] faith concerning this thing hath been in vain" (3 Nephi:1:5-6). But, others continued to "watch steadfastly for that day and that night and that day which should be as one day as if there were no night, that they might know that their faith had not been in vain" (3 Nephi 1:8). 

I imagine little doubts crept into the minds of those who believed, but harassment quickly turned to a life or death situation as "a day was set apart by the unbelievers, that all those who believed in those traditions should be put to death except the sign should come to pass" (3 Nephi 1:9). 

The joy is that he came and the promise was fulfilled. 

Not only to those in America, but to those from the House of Israel awaiting their deliverance in the West, this baby brought the gift of hope and the assurance that their faith had not been in vain. 

So maybe Christmas isn't about Santa and toys, but it most certainly is about a baby and his gift to each of us. Here is hope. Here is the hope to fuel our faith in God's promises made to each of us. Here is the hope of Christ's promise to save our souls and heal our sorrows. 
In the midst of our holiday giving, let us remember and receive this precious gift. 
Merry Christmas!  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Defined by Numbers

I decided last night that I don't want to be defined by numbers. 
I am not the size etched in the waistline of my jeans. 
I am not an age
I am not a percentage 
I am not a test score
I am not a number. 

When I think to the times my heart sinks the most, it is often in the realization of man's inhumanity to man. During the Holocaust, one way the victims were dehumanized was through losing their names and identities. Each person was assigned and branded a number to replace their name. Similarly, slaves and prisoners were also branded with numbers. I think to one of my favorite musicals, "Les Miserables," where Jean Valjean is referred to as 24601 in the very opening song:

JAVERT: "Five years for what you did
The rest because you tried to run
Yes, 24601"
JEAN VALJEAN: "My name is Jean Valjean"
JAVERT: "And I am Javert
Do not forget my name!
Do not forget me, 24601"

Thankfully, I am not branded with a number in this manner. However, I see people define themselves with statistics and numbers all the time. I do not want numbers to define who I am. I am not a number; I cannot be a number because a number has no way of grasping my entirety. A number doesn't show you how funny my hair looks in the morning, or the way I crinkle my nose when I laugh. Yes, numbers can do amazing things in computers, machines, codes, etc. But, they cannot define who I am; that power is all mine. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

I'd Like to Clarify One or Two Things

 I have received various responses to my continuous effort to keep marriage near the top of my priority list. I realize that the majority of these comments are meant to comfort me in my singleness, but sometimes they just crawl underneath my skin. "Jenny, how old are you?" (answer) "Oh please, you are so young. Stop worrying so much." OR "When I was your age, I had no intention of getting married. Focus on just enjoying your life. Travel. Start your path to a career. If marriage happens, great! You don't need a man to be successful." AND "Think of all the amazing women who were not married until their thirties -(Insert endless amount of names here). Look at all the wonderful things they accomplished and the great husbands they found!" I'm not saying that I disagree with any of this. I know it was all given to help me feel better and be better, and I appreciate that, but here's the thing...

 I was on a date with a friend a while back. He inquired whether one of our mutual friends was married, so I said "No, she is not." To which he returned, "Jenny, are you really that depressed you are not married yet?!" -- I sat stunned at the thought that my unemotional answer would elicit such an emotional response. Is this what everyone thinks? To those of you with his same question, i'd like to clarify one or two things. 

#1. It has nothing to do with how old I am: My parents were married at the age of 25 and my siblings followed suit. I never grew up with the notion that I needed to be married at a young age. In fact, the earliest age I wanted to be married was 23. (Funny how we think we know how an age feels long before we get there) I don't advocate rushing into marriage, or putting it off. I believe people simply want to feel ready when that big day comes, and we are all ready at different times. As I stated, I am just barely in my designated age bracket for marriage. I don't feel like an old spinster, or that all my friends are married. This is not about age, it is about timing. I had a dear friend once express how nice it would be if God simply sent me a letter one day saying, "Dear Jenny, you're going to get married in a couple years. You don't need to worry so much. Please just work on enjoying the opportunities i'm providing you to be ready." I'm not frustrated that I'm 23 and unmarried. I'm simply trying to plan my life around an unknown. 

#2. I want to stop worrying about this. Another close friend of mine once suggested that if we all stopped worrying so much about dating, maybe it would just happen naturally. He's getting married now, so maybe he's right. No one should try to force marriage; we want that natural progression from friend to boyfriend, boyfriend to love of my life, love of my life to husband, etc. But despite how natural this process should be, the constant preaching about effort adds a lot of pressure. The worries creep in that I am responsible for my situation, I am not putting myself out there enough, i'm not stepping out of my comfort zone enough, i'm not vulnerable enough, I'm not attractive enough, I'm too picky, i'm not picky enough, i'm not going on enough dates, i'm not accessible, i'm waiting for a guy who doesn't exist, i'm not good at this, and I should just be done. So you tell me, how do I not worry about this? 

#3. Depressed is not the word, and Marriage isn't actually the issue. I'm not upset that I am not married, or even overly sad. I'm still so young as you've all mentioned previously. You see, I am not actually worried about getting married right now at all.Yes, marriage would fit fine into my life right now if I were in love with someone I wanted to marry, and yes I still want to make marriage the priority. But to be honest, i'm not anxious about marriage, i'm anxious about falling in love again. 

There's the rub. I'm not envious that all my friends are getting married; i'm envious they have someone to pour their heart into. I've tried to just embrace the whole "I am single woman, hear me roar!" mentality and it doesn't stick. I don't like the "dating around" stage because I'm just no good at it. But, it's impossible to simply skip to the good part, so here I am. I guess i'm learning patience, but what I really want to learn is that my heart is capable of falling in love again. Even if it breaks, at least i'd know it still works. For a while, I feared the beating of my heart was slowing to that monotone sound of a dead-straight line. I looked at it helplessly, crying out for someone to please save it. With a transfusion of love from my friends and family, I began pumping large doses of hope back into my little heart. It resuscitated temporarily, but continues deflating. I've decided there must be a hole; something must be missing. I'm not sure how to fix it, except to find a receptacle for the love that is bleeding out uncontrollably.

So here's the clarification: I am not depressed that I am not married yet, and I don't feel pressured to get married soon. I'm depressed that i'm so bad at being single, and I feel pressured to fall in love again before my heart empties completely. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Medicine Cabinet

It's that time again. Flu and Cold season! When we don't feel well, we head for the medicine cabinet. I'm sure we each have our personal remedies that "honestly work the best" up front on the shelves. But, what do we reach for when we aren't feeling well on the inside? Is there a medicine cabinet for that, and what in the world would we put in it? 

It's just a thought, but a thought that has been ruminating for a while now. I think I want to build a medicine cabinet containing the following:
  1. A book of poetry
  2. An ipod full of my favorite music - specifically replaying the Weepies, Ingrid Michelson, and Joni Mitchell  
  3. A movie that's going to make me cry and then leave me smiling
  4. High-quality Chocolate (best band aids I hear)
  5. Scriptures / My patriarchal blessing 
  6. A coloring book with a big box of crayons 
  7. A cook book with ingredients all ready to go
  8. A pre-paid plane ticket to the beach 
  9. Some of my old writings and letters
  10. A box of exercise clothes with a Zumba membership
  11. A cell phone with all my friends and family on speed-dial 
  12. Fresh flowers
  13. A ticket to a live play
  14. Fall leaves
  15. A cuddly pillow and blanket 
  16. Cleaning supplies (sometimes feeling productive is my best medicine)
  17. Jeans that fit perfectly 
  18. Tchaikovsky's "None but the Lonely Heart" piano music. 
  19. All episodes of Boy Meets World 
  20. A list of friends who need a friend
So, what's in your cabinet? 

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Psalm

I took a class on the Bible as Literature a year or so ago, and had the opportunity to write my own psalm. I've always thought the psalms were beautiful songs of longing and praise, so now I add mine. It was inspired by Isaiah 40:31, D&C 121, the story of Abraham and Isaac, and of course my own raw feelings.

Forget not my heart oh Lord
and forget not the secret desires which
reside in its depths.
For I have waited upon thee in hopes of promised wings
and foretold blessings.

Oh turn not away, oh Lord, these broken knees;
Nor scorn my shaking fingers
clasped in prayer.
For I seek thee and cannot find thy face.

Where, oh where art thou Lord that I may again feel
the embrace of peace in this
my darkness?
Hasten to my side and deliver my soul.

For anguish hath overtaken my heart
in the light of another’s dark suffering.
Oh Lord, what is my path
And where is the escape from sorrow and sin?

Do not, Oh Lord, conceal
your glory from me;
Open my eyes to the purpose of thy plan
and save me from my troubled doubts.

For in this, I the child,
carry wood to her pyre,
Willingly, sacrifice for the molding
of another.

I honor thy trust,
Yet see thou my blemish.
I fear the burning fire
and doubt
the unseen promise of deliverance.

Nevertheless, like Isaac of old,
Save me by the blood of a promised lamb.
Even in my weakness and travail,
 bind up the wounds of my aching soul.

You are my guidance and my comfort,
I shall not doubt, nor fear.
For thou hast renewed my faith
to sing praise and wait upon thy answers.

Forget not my heart oh Lord
and forget not the secret desires which
reside in its depths.
For I will wait upon thee in hopes of promised wings
                                                                 and foretold blessings.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Old men, Young men

I'm trying to be a runner. 
There are running "purists," who don't need the distraction of music to keep them going. 
I am not one of those.
There are those that hit a "runner's high" and feel as if they could keep running forever.
I am not one of those.
Honestly, I tend to prefer dancing, Zumba to be precise,
but right now I am trying to be something resembling a runner. 

In my efforts, I have started to run regularly around a well-known park in my hometown. It's mostly shady and flat, plus there is a wood chip path for runners, a natural stream water fountain, and a constant flow of interesting people. Today's interesting people were the old men and the young men. 

On the wood chip path, I noticed two young men, shirtless and toned...(hard not to notice) 
They were running side by side with one of these men being completely bare foot. 
"How in the world is he running bare foot on the wood chips?" was the question that sparked my curiosity in the first place. But, what really got me thinking was their specific positioning with the runners in front of them.

Ahead of them, also running side by side, were two other men.
These grey-haired men not only kept their shirts and shoes on, but they also wore hats to keep the sun off their faces. 
I couldn't help but smile at this brief snapshot of life.
Two young men with their vibrant, confident, and fearless spirits bolting toward their future.
Two old men, content, cautious, and wise, allowing the past to chase them.
All running. 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

In memory of Sheila

Sometimes it is hard to say goodbye.
I've only ever loved one car. She was my first--the first car I ever drove. I remember feeling upset by the fact that I wasn't supposed to use both feet to press the pedals. We passed my driving test with flying colors together, but she still doesn't trust me to parallel park much. On our first drive alone, I rocked out to Beyonce feeling liberated and alive. 

She was the setting for my first kiss, cheering me on with music and soft revving noises. 
She got me in trouble once for speeding down a hill, which we both thought was ridiculous. She witnessed tickle fights, crazy car dancing, and my learning to change a flat tire.
We moved away to college together, and then drove endlessly back and forth between Salt Lake and Provo. She even accidentally received a "wedding trashing" at my best friend's wedding. 

Over the years, Sheila has seen me at some of my most desperate and glorious moments. She's felt me pound the steering wheel and heard me wail a prayer into the night. She's been my silent companion as I drove my thoughts around town. She helped me be brave and pushed me to laugh, dance, and sing. She saw the cheesy and romantic deliciousness that settled into the constant comfort of being.

She is truly amazing, but now I feel like the rotten husband trading his wife in for a newer model.
Sure, she and I celebrated her 100,000 mile birthday about 10,000 miles ago.
Yes, my sister criticizes her air conditioning.
True, the windshield wipers make annoying sounds
She's been battered and bruised by no fault of mine or her own, but she has never ever let me down.

I'm going to miss her, but I am learning to love again. Perhaps this new car will be the car that takes me to graduate school, the one I drive away in from my wedding, the car that drives me to my first home, and the one my first child leaves the hospital in.

Either way, dear Sheila, it's been a good ride.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Attitude of Singing

It was a small thing- a direct result of too much talking, yelling, projecting, singing, etc. I was losing my voice at the end of each week, but surely it would come back once I stopped talking to an entire bus-load of students.
 It hasn't. 

"Severe muscle strain" were the words from the doctor with the white coat and credentials. "Months" was the projected time for recovery to settle in. Until then, this singer would need to be on vocal rest. No projecting, no whispering, and no singing.

Singing is part of who I am. It's been part of my daily routine in ways I never realized until it was taken from me. No more singing along to the car radio, rocking out in the shower, and no breaking out into song randomly because I feel like it. It's funny because I find myself compensating in other ways. I sing along in my head simply mouthing the words. I rock my foot, tap my thumb on the steering wheel, and bob my shoulders back and forth to the music. My whole body sings without any sound at all.

I can live with that in the privacy of my car, but not being able to sing is nigh unbearable when it comes to church. I turn away invitations for solos and participation in choir, but that is nothing compared to not singing the hymns. "For my soul delighteth in the song of the heart; yea, the song of the righteous is a prayer unto me" (D&C 25:12) It feels so wrong not singing them. I feel like people are looking at me and thinking, "why isn't she singing? Maybe she chooses not to sing the hymns, or perhaps she isn't a very good singer." I'm neither of those things, but how could they know that I am sitting there desperately yearning to open my mouth and sing?

I was reading in the Book of Mormon the other night and came across a scripture that describes angels in the "attitude of singing and praising God; yea and my soul did long to be there." What exactly is an attitude of singing? I don't know, but I love it. My soul longs to be singing, but at least for the next few months the "attitude of singing"  will have to do. Here's hoping that my singing career isn't over just yet, but even if my voice never comes back...I surely will always yearn to sing the prayer of my heart and be grateful for the way singing made me who I am.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Oxytocin: The Bonding Drug

Can you be addicted to bonding?  

Oxytocin has been labeled as the "bonding" drug. It is what naturally occurs during childbirth, nursing, and intimacy.  However, it is also wrapped up in eye contact, holding hands, putting your arm around someone, a hand on your knee, hugs, kisses, etc. It's that warm bonding that happens from physical touch. 

Believe it or not, but people believe it has a specific use in healing wounds. Perhaps there's something to the phrase "Will you kiss it better?" Mothers have kissed their child's scraped knees for ages, but has anyone ever thought it might help the healing? I've certainly found that a hug, a lingering squeeze of my hand, and a kiss on my forehead heal a wounded heart. Love heals. 

In fact it was the topic of healing that first brought the bonding drug to my attention. I attended a Social Science / Human Development Conference with my roommate once during College. The topic of the conference was Pornography and I found myself in a few presentations specifically dealing with what to do when your loved one has an addiction to pornography. 

The presenter specifically mentioned the two "Love" drugs: Dopamine and Oxytocin. He suggested that both are present during sexual intimacy, but only Dopamine appears to be present during the viewing of pornography. This Psychologist's study focused on the benefits of the increasing of intimate touch when talking with a loved one, even when talking with a loved one about his or her addiction. It is as simple as touching someone's arm, knee, or hand. Oxytocin separates the fantasy from the reality. It's the "bonding" drug that says, "I love you," "I'm here for you even when things get hard," and "I want to stay with you." It's real. I'm real.     

 I realize there are people out there that love to be alone, but I believe no one truly loves being lonely. We are relational beings.We like bonding. This is why we seek relationships in our significant others, friends, family, co-workers, strangers even, and of course in the cyber world of Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even this blog. We are meant to be in relationships.We want to give our lives to someone who will trust and understand. In fact, besides being a major contributor to romantic attraction and maternal bonding, Oxytocin also appears to heavily increase trust and empathy. What a drug! 

It feels good. I, perhaps more than most people, tend to crave that bonding and long for it when it is not around. It speaks to me more than words sometimes. I found bits of it when my Grandma would simply hold onto my hand at the table, when I would cuddle up with my mother while we watched a show, and in the silent snuggle listening for a beautiful heartbeat. It is in my two people "just being" moments. But, what happens when you are just one person being? You simply crave. 

Can you be addicted to bonding? Well, I sure am. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Happy Girl's Bout With Sadness

I consider myself a happy girl. 
In fact, I pride myself on my positive, optimistic, hopeful attitude. 
But, sometimes even happy girls feel sad. 

Though dealt with in different ways by different types of people, grief is something to which we are simply not immune. Some run through it, some sleep through it. Some talk it out among safe relations, some cry it out privately in the dark softness of wet sheets. And some, do a combination that is all their own. But this is not about the "some," it is about the "one." Specifically, it is about me, the happy girl, and my turn with sadness.

"There lives the dearest freshness deep down things" 

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote those words. Our "deep down things" are perhaps some of our most precious and sacred. They make us who we are and shape who we become. Recently, I discovered a sadness aching deep down inside of me. As a happy girl, I tried to fight it off with the thought that I shouldn't be sad. But, there lives the dearest freshness in those deep down things and sometimes it's ok to be sad. There is beauty in sadness.

Still, I didn't want this sadness. I tried to sweat it off with exercise, wash it out with expensive shampoo, mask it with fancy makeup, cover it with a new dress, or simply push it aside with constant activity, but somehow it persisted. It sat by the door of my heart like an obedient puppy, a pain demanding to be felt. So, I felt it. I felt it singing in the car, finishing my book on the patio, falling asleep, waking up, showering, or sometimes simply gazing at the clouds. These were the days when tears streaked down cheeks like rain on car windows, and I wondered if perhaps tomorrow they'd finally stay dry. For a week they didn't, but there was beauty in that sadness. 

However, let me clarify...there is beauty in some sadness. The moments of sad/mad-ness, the screaming out, sinking into a ball, hitting the dashboard, illogical refusal of hope or help moments are not pretty. Not only physically does it leave you with eyes stinging and forbidding to stay dry (or open), but emotionally it puts you in a dark hole where no one can calm you and where "this hopeful stuff really just isn't helpful anymore." I don't like this kind of sadness and am glad it didn't stick around long. It just wasn't me and it wasn't beautiful. It's just horrible.

I'm the happy girl. I didn't want to be sad, I shouldn't be sad. I had so much to be happy about. I knew I was surrounded by loving family and friends, I knew i'd made the right choice, I knew God loved me, I knew I had so much going for me, and I knew so many other people had better reasons for sorrow. And still, I ached. And still, I cried. "Don't be Sad" was the whisper that entered my ear as my mother's arms enveloped my body. I really wanted to be happy, I did, but it was my time with sadness.

"Grief is not a force and has no power to hold. You only bear it. Love is what carries you, it is always there, even in the dark, or most in the dark, but shining out at times like gold stitches in a piece of embroidery" - Wendell Berry

You can't quit living because the world deals you a tragic twist of fate. Life calls us forward. It calls us into our bodies, our homes, our work, and the ones we most cherish. It bathes us in the passing of time and the taste of healing. It is in the people who offer us love and beckon love from us. It is in the ordinary pleasures of each separate day. It is my realization that I am laughing and smiling again, and that days have passed without the taste of tear soup. It is my acceptance that it is ok if tomorrow tears kiss my cheeks, nose, and lips. For there is beauty in sadness, and this girl is happy for it. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Life Lessons

Some of the most frustrating moments of teaching teenagers occurs when you realize they are simply choosing not to be amazing. 

I'd spend hours preparing lesson plans, practicing methodology, waking up early, staying up late, eating yucky food court food, and all for what? - For the belief that this program could somehow truly make these students think differently about government and citizenship action.

I saw it work many times. Students who recognized the opportunity provided for them from either the wallets of parents, school funding, or fundraising, and made the most of it. I saw when students actually tried to answer the questions I posed, or do the assignments associated with our outings, they blew me away. They thought deeply and came out of the week wanting to be better and knowing both sides of most issues. They emerged empowered.

I also saw it not work many times. Students who came for a free ride around D.C, wanting simply to take photos and engage with their hand-held screens. They didn't want me to ask them any questions, they didn't want to "think," reading was too hard, and they just didn't really care.  I'd try my best to make them care, to pull deep thoughts out of them, to bring up interesting controversy, but in they end they choose what their experience was going to be. They emerged tired.

"It's so frustrating", I'd think. "I've prepared this amazing opportunity for them, and I know if they would just participate in it and allow me to help them, they would get so much more out of it. I know what it could be, and they refuse to enjoy it."
Then it hit me.

How often does God feel the same way? The, "I've prepared this perfect opportunity for you, your land of promise, and if you will just trust me and keep my commandments, which I've prepared diligently for your benefit,  I promise you will be so much happier." And how often do we simply choose not to participate, or feel that our plan for ourselves is far better? "I don't want to work hard, I just want to see the pretty sites and play around."
I need to trust. 

"For behold, I have prepared a great endowment and blessing to be poured out upon them, inasmuch as they are faithful and continue in humility before me" - D&C 105:12 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

A Close Up look at my last 6 mos.

It's been a whirlwind of a six months. With weeks including 14 hour work days and the frequent 2 week stints with zero days off, I had very little time to keep up with this blog. Sorry. But, now I will give you the Close Up look at my last six months working in D.C.

I saw a lot of memorials, cities, plays, museums, office buildings, cemeteries, and hotels. I taught countless amounts of workshops trying to engage students in democracy. I made endless amounts of flip charts for those workshops. I attempted to teach my students how to make a perfect group circle, to think critically, and what the words Political Efficacy mean. I learned how to bus surf. I met senators, representatives, teachers, administrators, interpreters, advocates, kids from all over the country, and your good old average tourists. I told a lot of jokes. I traveled by train, bus, foot, car, and boat. I ate far too many food court meals, and certainly too many hotel continental breakfasts. (I'll be ok if I don't have another Taco Sunday for a while) I learned how to maneuver around New York City and not get completely lost in Central Park. 

But that's really not the gist of it all. Wrap up hundreds of students taking a stand on issues like federalism, gun control, immigration, healthcare, war memorials, and citizen action, a staff of awesome idealistic post graduates, and a city with endless possibilities and tons of history, and you get just the tip of my experience working here these last six months. 
This job sure made me think about history and politics in a new way
Meal time = "Me" time for the instructors, especially on a travel week with middle schoolers. 
The best moments are when I sit back and watch my students engage. Here they are about to reenact "Picket's Charge" in Gettysburg
This City really became home to me
At the end of the week, I had my students track their "Political Efficacy" (their beliefs about how participatory they are in democracy etc.) This week made me endlessly happy as students placed their markers off the chart!
I made some great new friends
I got to see children wanting to be "up close" and participating

So there's a peek at my last six months. Who knows what the next six months will bring?

The Big Apple

I had the pleasure of not only guiding my students around Washington D.C. these past six months, but also trekking them up to New York City. I loved watching my kids from the rural mid west clamp on to each other as they overwhelmingly looked upwards at all the skyscrapers and forwards at the hordes of people approaching us. Needless to say, they never wandered off too far from me.

New York is pretty dirty and there are SOOOOOO many people, but it also has a lot of character all its own. "So Here's to you, New York, New York!!"
New York has fantastic Art Museums
I saw Central park in nearly all its seasons
Sensory overload in Times Square

Top of the Rockefeller Center 
9/11 Memorial 
The only tree on the World Trade Plaza to survive 9/11
It was New Amsterdam before it was ever New York
I got to take Students to a Broadway play each week :) 
Dinner in Little Italy cannot be complete without a Canoli from Ferrara's 
The Chelsea Highline is a lovely example of citizen action in a community 
I could People- Watch in Central Park for hours

I guess you have to see Lady Liberty 

Monday, May 26, 2014

My Washington DC Favorites

1. Favorite Spot in the City = The Tidal Basin. Day or night, cherry blossom season or iced over - the tidal basin is lovely.
2. Favorite Statue = The Einstein Statue 
3. Favorite Restaurant = Ted's Bulletin. Art Deco, old time movies, milkshakes, good food, homemade pop-tarts!

4. Favorite Building = Library of Congress: I could stay in here forever!

5. Favorite overlooked art piece = The "Victory Day" bas relief at WWII memorial (Why walk around a mail box when you can kiss your girl over it?)

6. Favorite museum = National Gallery of Art (Obviously!)

7. Favorite Run Route = Taylor Creek and Potomac Overlook trail (Technically in Virginia)

8. Favorite part of my commute = the George Washington Parkway next to the river

9. Favorite Memorial FDR memorial  

10. Favorite Secret to share  = Kilroy is on the back of the WWII memorial 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

"An Art Amateur's Guide to enjoying Art Museums"

1    Where do you want to go?
Selecting what type of art museum, and which exhibits you are actually interested in, is the first step to a great museum experience. If you are an art amateur, you may want to start with a classic museum over any type of neighborhood gallery show. Narrow your interests down by answering the following questions:
1.      Am I more interested in Modern Art or Classic Art?
2.      Do I want to see paintings? statues? furniture? jewelry? Etc.
3.      What area of the world, or time period, do I find most interesting?
If you cannot answer any of those questions, I would recommend always going to see the “Highlights” or the “Most famous” pieces from the museum. You can usually get a guide at the Info Desk when you pick up your visitors’ map.

2       What to see?
Once you've picked a starting place, there are a few ways to decide “what” you actually want to see.
·         Follow the crowds – you’ll find the most iconic pieces this way, or you can always note them by how many audio guide symbols are on the plaques / how prominently it is displayed in a room.
·         Look for something familiar – find those pieces you think you might have seen before somewhere in a textbook, classroom, maybe a movie?
·         Go where you feel drawn – what catches your eye? What pieces spark your interest from a first glance?

3       How to see?
People gaze at art pieces for varying amounts of time. Some pieces may only elicit a quick glance from you, while others may have you standing there for a while. Your interest, your time, and if there are benches in the room will all factor into how long you spend in the museum. However, my tip is to accept that YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO SEE IT ALL  (Unless it happens to be a small museum).

If you are a new-be to the world of art, you may have no idea what you are looking for when you look at a painting or sculpture. So here are my best tips for you:
  • 1.      Read the plaques of the pieces you find most interesting – take down the Titles and artists.
  • 2.      If it is a painting you’ve never encountered before, ask yourself “What drew me to this specific painting?” and then ask “Why?” For example, if you are drawn to the size of the painting, the colors, or the subject matter, ask“Why do these things affect how I view or enjoy the art?” “What, or who, does it make me think of?”
  • 3.      If it is a “famous” or “Iconic” piece, you may want to start with the question: “Why is this so famous?” “What makes it stand out from any others?” “Do I like it? Or not?”
  • 4.      Of course, you can always take a tour or listen to an audio guide. Do you know a friend who loves art? Bring them along and have them share their knowledge! Art has lots of symbolism, so it can be helpful to have someone point that out to you.
  • 5.      Get close and then stand back. Sadly, you can’t get TOO close to the paintings because the guards will have a heart attack. However, it’s important to really “experience” an original painting by seeing the physical paint. In fact, if you come across a Van Gogh or a Seurat, you MUST get close to the painting in order to see the brush techniques. It will change the way you see their paintings forever!  But, just as it is important to get up close to the work, sometimes (especially with large canvases) the beauty is simply in standing back and taking in the work’s breadth.

Don’t come to an art museum tired, hungry, or thirsty. It often involves lots of walking and standing, which can leave you hungry and tired. Pack some snacks if possible because museum coffee shops are often overpriced. Take breaks! Eat, sit, relax. Don’t feel like you have to push through the whole time.
Don’t overlook the museum itself. Sometimes the actual building can be as interesting and as beautiful as the artwork.

You don’t have to like it, but you should at least consider it.
This is especially true for modern art, but could be applied to any style. Even if you decide that you don’t like a piece, a style, or even art in general, you should at least consider why someone else might love it or find it interesting. Sometimes all it takes it looking at a piece in a different way. This simple thing will really enhance your viewing experience. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Even When We're Broken

I learned about a special Japanese technique for fixing pottery this last week.
 It's called Kintsukuroi.
When a bowl cracks, instead of discarding it completely, they inject gold into the cracks to strengthen it.
This kind of struck me.. What a Beautiful Concept!
However, a certainly familiar concept.
How often are we the broken bowl, cup, jar, etc? Something happens, Life happens, and we are left cracked and broken.
In these moments, we don't feel presentable. That ache is real as if cracks cratered through our own heart.
However, hands of mercy offer us new and beautiful opportunities to be whole again.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ is the gold that fills our cracks and makes us whole again, leaving us even more beautiful than we were before.
We are always provided the golden opportunity to start again.
Even when we're broken, we are loved.

"Trust in God. Hold on in his love. Know that one day the dawn will break brightly and all shadows of mortality will flee. Though we may feel we are 'like a broken vessel,' as the Psalmist says, we must remember, that vessel is in the hands of the divine potter." 
-Elder Holland