Sunday, March 30, 2008

I believe in grace.

I've been thinking about grace ever since I heard a recent convert to my church read Ephesians 2:8 at Ward Conference in January. If you are unfamiliar with NPR's "This I Believe", the weekly program is basically a five minute recitation featuring an essay someone wrote on what they believe in.

This year's list of goals includes having my writing published, so I thought this could be a good opportunity to attempt to accomplish my goal.

I submitted my essay last week so we'll see what happens. I was going to wait to see if my essay was actually chosen for broadcast before I posted anything because how cool would that be? But seeing how they get tens of thousands of essays, I thought I would publish it myself before it gets filed away:

I believe in grace.

It doesn’t always make sense to me; but when ambiguities such as grace and love manifest themselves, I’m moved by the clarity they bring.

When I was in the third grade, my teacher planned activities for our class to celebrate spring: For weeks I looked forward to making treats and dying eggs. I remember telling my mom how much fun it was going to be and I imagined what colors and designs I would choose. Before the big day, my teacher told us to come to class on Friday with a hollowed out egg. We were also told to bring our spelling test signed by a parent, and if we didn’t, we would have to sit out from the activities.

At nine years old, I was the perfect student. I was studious, I was obedient, and I was responsible. So when I forgot to bring my spelling test that Friday, I was devastated. I knew what the consequence would be. When my class jumped from their chairs to collect art supplies, I sat still in my desk examining my perfect, hollowed out egg, overcome with disappointment as I fought the inevitable tears.

It wasn’t long before my teacher pulled me aside. She knelt down, descending below my sad self and said I should join the rest of the class. With tears in her eyes she told me I could bring my spelling test on Monday. And then she gave me a hug. I couldn’t believe it. My disappointment disappeared with this unexpected gift.

Twenty years later, I remember this moment. Even though I fell short of what was required of me, my teacher graced me with love and understanding. She could have stood her ground and let me sit out as an example to the other students, but she knew punishing me for this small mistake wouldn’t teach me a new lesson. The lesson I learned that day was how much grace can lift someone’s spirit.

Still, I seem to have a hard time grasping grace in my life. I sometimes subscribe to the idea of karma – what goes around comes around. But then I’m reminded this attitude of a balanced behavioral checkbook is detrimental to my happiness. If I’m constantly keeping count of what I feel I’m entitled to I may never be satisfied. If I’m blessed beyond what I deserve I might never feel worthy. I must remind myself that I know better. Not everyone is punished for breaking the rules just like not everyone is rewarded for their efforts. Life may not be fair, but when I think about it, more often than not, I’m on the fortunate end of the imbalance. And this moves me to offer the same grace to others.

I believe in being gracious to others and I believe in accepting others’ graciousness whether I’ve earned it or not. Sometimes you are blessed simply because someone loves you. And that is why grace is a gift – not a reward.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

"Caring, sharing every little thing that we are wearing..."

Thanks to everyone who voted on my poll. The majority seems to think Rania and I don’t look the same, but we could be sisters.

In light of this, I decided to post a picture of me and my actual sister. Lisa is 3.5 years younger than I am and one of my best friends. This was taken in Hyde Park about 5 years ago when we visited Mom and Dad in London.

We never thought we looked that much alike, but there is some resemblance. We are both 5’3” and we both have dark hair although hers is a lot curlier than mine. And while I maintain a Snow White complexion, her skin has a year-round tan.

About a month ago I was walking outside Wild Oats and came across an old family friend (my parents affectionately refer to him as “Goofy Todd”). He asked, “How are you Lisa?” and inquired about my “little one”. When I explained he was mistaking me for my younger sister his excuse was, “Oh! you look more and more like her everyday.”

I had no idea I had been aging in recent, not to mention exponential retrograde, but it was flattering, nonetheless.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Party Laura

About two years ago I went to a party at my friend Steve's house. As soon as I got there my friends Nick, Joe and Clint (it seems like there were more) came up to me and said, "Oh my gosh, your twin is here!" They were serious too. They said she looked just like me. Clint married her in December.

Anyway I didn't think she looked like me and neither did my girlfriends. We both had long dark hair and similar body types I guess. Guys are weird that way. I think a lot of girls look the same to them. So they called her Party Laura because they met her at that party. Now that we know her better, we call her Rania.

Since then I cut my hair and just last week Rania cut her hair. We had a party last night. I decided we should get our picture taken together since everyone thinks we look the same. Once I looked at the picture, I said, "Oh my gosh, we look the same!" I think our eye color is almost identical. It's crazy. I took a lot of pictures last night and every time I looked back on one with me in it I thought I looked more and more like Rania. So I'm putting a poll up. Let me know what you think.

The cocktail party last night was our third annual and one of our best. I love my friends and I love that they come dressed up. This party was a farewell party for Maria since she leaves for Manhattan sooner than I like to think about. If you don't know Maria, or even if you do, you can read more about her on her blog by clicking here, or on my blog by clicking here.

Here's a slideshow with only a few of the pictures I took.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008


The past two weekends I’ve been a housesitter. I absolutely LOVE the house I live in, but sometimes housesitting is great because I can pretend to live somewhere else and enjoy amenities I don’t get to enjoy on a day to day basis.

My friend Jane asked me to take care of her dogs a couple weeks ago. I wasn’t really housesitting – although she told me I could stay there if I wanted. I probably would have spent more time there had I not been so busy. Jane said to feel free to use their amenities. I guess what she meant was their cable and their jet tub. (Jane, when is the hot tub going to be up and running again?) I didn’t have time watch TV there or take a bath, but the best amenities at Jane’s house are the cute puppies and the piano. And I played with both.

This past weekend my sister asked me stay at her house and feed the cat. I wasn’t planning on spending as many nights there as I did, but I ended up staying all four nights because I was nervous about leaving the cat inside all day. He definitely has a schedule. Every morning when I let him in, it was time to drink out of a faucet -- which faucet he wanted to drink from was always a surprise. My favorite instruction that came along with Dominic was to be sure to feed him, but not to worry if I didn’t because he is kind of fat. Dominic needed me to pet him ALL the time.

I was enjoying living in a house I could never afford by myself with the amenities that come along with it: a garage, a bathtub, and a new wardrobe. Lisa doesn’t care if I wear her clothes as long as I give her credit on the compliments I receive. So, Lis, people liked your shoes and that copper ring with the white on it. Oh and your maroon sweater with the elbow patches.

I don’t have cable at my house, so it’s nice to change up my television routine. I watched a little bit of Dance Crew on MTV, but mostly I watched morning news shows and four episodes of Alias on the big screen downstairs.

I learned a couple things this weekend: I’ve been using Aveda shampoo for the past year and I forgot all about static hair until I used Lisa’s Loreal shampoo. So I’ve concluded all-natural shampoo prevents static.

I also learned my sister has an addiction. Lisa. We’ve talked about this, but when you told me about your problem with purchasing lip gloss (not necessarily using it, but purchasing it) I had no idea it was this severe. As I was looking for a flat iron I came across several cosmetic bags full of lip products. I counted 35 tubes of lip stick/gloss/stain or whatever in your upstairs bathroom. What’s disturbing is this doesn’t count what you brought with you to L.A. Your obsession with collecting lip products is almost as crazy as my compulsion to rinse them off and line them up in a row.

Just so you know I put them all in one big cosmetic bag under your sink.

Welcome home. Thanks for letting me stay at your house, wear some of your clothes and eat your food. I didn’t have a party, but I did vacuum.

Friday, March 14, 2008


These are my feet. Feet aren't the prettiest things. Mine actually knew they were getting their picture taken so they had their toenails painted. Still, I'm not quite sure which pose flatters them most.

Feet say a lot about a person. The other night I had my first full reflexology treatment. Last summer I had a mini-session with a girl at the Farmer's Market. About a month ago I ran into her at Rubio's. I recognized her, she recognized me and then she sent me an email to get an hour treatment at half off. I figured I couldn't turn that down. She has a Masters Degree and is certified in all this stuff called "sole healing" she's been trained, attended healing seminars and has an extensive library with books about reflexology and energy work.

This is their "demure" look. The treatment is kind of a foot massage, but not really. She works all over your feet, finding tender spots and working on those like someone giving you a body massage would. But she also tells you about yourself according to your feet. So here is what my feet say about me: My feet scream "I'm healthy." I'm physically healthy and emotionally healthy. I asked what unhealthy feet look like and Julie told me some people have really curved and scrunched toes. I always thought that was a result of wearing pointy shoes.

We discovered I'm tightest in my back and my neck. If you didn't know this already, your feet are basically a map of your body. So up around the big toe is your neck and so when she worked on that it really hurt. She did a little bit of energy work and it was actually really cool. I could feel energy running up through my legs and my arms, but not really in my neck which was her goal.

Julie avoids all the new-agey stuff because she's a religious person and doesn't necessarily believe in all of that. But she said if she did she would tell me I was a "star child".

I learned some things about the language of feet though. My feet tell me I'm a giving person and very intuitive. I also learned the right foot is your past and the left foot is your present. Julie told me I used to hold a lot of things inside and not share my emotions (something I'm very aware of) but according to my left foot I've recently overcome that, which has made me more emotionally healthy. But then she pointed to the little toe on my left foot and said I remain somewhat of a private person. The fact that my second toe is a little taller than my big toe means I lead by example. I remember being concerned about this when I was little because most of the people I knew had toes that slanted down at a clean angle. I remember asking my dad if he thought my toes were strange. He took off his sock and said, "Nope. You have Greek God feet -- like your daddy.

My session was very interesting. I'm going to have to go back sometime and see if my feet have progressed. If anyone is interested in having their feet worked on, let me know. I can hook you up.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fast Forward Songs

Last week I watched Little Shop of Horrors for the first time in like ten years. I don't know how many times I watched that when I was a kid, but it must have been a lot because although I didn't necessarily know what song was coming next, once it did, I was singing along. I forgot how much I loved that movie – and how much fun the music is.

I watched a lot of musicals as a kid. And I loved them, but as I watched Little Shop of Horrors, I remembered how I would sometimes fast-forward through the song “Somewhere That's Green” when Audrey imagines her perfect "Good Housekeeping" life with Seymour. It's not a bad song; I guess I just got bored. I liked seeing the unmistakable little Seymour and Audrey juniors, but I didn't care for the song too much.

Come to think of it, there were a lot of musicals where I habitually hit the “FF” button through at least one song. Although I enjoy them now, for some reason they didn't appeal to me as a kid.

Sound of Music: “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” & “Something Good”
I guess I didn't like “Climb Ev'ry Mountain” because it was just the Mother Superior standing there singing by herself. The song wasn't very exciting to me and the visuals didn't keep my interest either. “Something Good” again, was just two people standing really close and singing in each other's faces. There was no dancing or moving around. Little aside: It wasn't until I was in high school that I realized the movie wasn't over after the wedding between Maria and Captain Von Trapp. I'm thinking when it was on TV, my mom told me it was over so I would go to bed.

Into the Woods: “No More”
I wish my mom told me to go to bed after all the marriages in this musical, because once you come back from intermission the giants come, the princes realize they don't love their princesses and everything in the woods goes to hell. This song is when the Baker is with his Father (whoops I gave it away if you haven't seen it) and they're just sitting on a rock singing a sad song. I still don't like it. I'm sensing a theme here. I don't like a lot of songs when people are holding still looking sad or concerned.

Mary Poppins: “Feed the Birds”
It was gloomy and gray and sad and the pigeons at Trafalgar Square freak me out.

My Fair Lady: “Get Me to the Church on Time”
Oh my GOSH that song never ends.

The Wizard of Oz: “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”
Now that I'm conscious of the sad and still theme, this song came to mind. I actually really love this song, but it took a long time for Judy Garland to sing it and I remember thinking, “I know how this one goes” and wanting to just move the story along.

Les Miserables: “Turning”
I have the 10th anniversary edition of Les Mis in concert. So it's not the actual production. It's an orchestra on stage and actors in costume. Almost just as good if you ask me. But the song “Turning” is all the women singing the melody from “Lovely Ladies” in a slower, more melancholy manner. Boring. At least they're moving. But I have to tell you, one of my favorite songs in Les Mis is Maurice singing “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” It's an extremely sad song and when I saw it on Broadway he was just sitting at a table in a chair. So sometimes, they can pull it off, keeping me engaged.

Grease: “Beauty School Drop-Out”
I don't know why. Bored me a little I guess.

The Music Man: “Shipoopi”
I don't know why I didn't like this song. It was a lot of happiness and dancing around. You know what I think it was the repetitiveness. Plus it bugged me because I didn't know what the words meant. Yeah, I'd still fast forward through this one.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Stifled Tantrums

I'm an easy person to get along with, right? I'm kind, gracious, get along with most people. Even when I don't particularly like you :)

See that smiley face? That makes it all better doesn't it? Whatever dig or snide remark, no matter how much I really meant it, was flattened by that smiley face letting you know it's all good and I'm not looking for an argument. Right?

Please. I'm not saying all smiley faces are insincere. But when they're not, most perceptive people can see right through them. Sometimes people like to use them with instant messaging in particular because it's hard to read tones. Tones are more easily understood when they're heard. So you stick a smiley face after your insult to imply sarcasm or "kidding". It's also easier to be confrontational in instant messages and emails because you don't have to deal with hearing the other person's tone. However, when you're not typing that smiley face with the best of intentions, you can roll your eyes as much as you want, but you better believe the person you're "smiling" at is squinting back at you.

I recently had a conversation with someone I'm polite with, but don't particularly get along with lately. We've been "smiling" at each other through patient yet awkward instant messages for some time now. I'm not used to this feeling. It's uncomfortable. But this conversation about a certain issue had to be dealt with. I thought about mitigating the discomfort by IM-ing it, but decided this was clearly a phone conversation. So I reluctantly picked up the phone.

It was an awful experience. Fortunately, we're adults and know how to use our words. We were even-tempered and articulate. But if you stripped the conversation down to our tones, (or if we were five year-olds) it would have sounded something like this:

"No! Mine."
"You're stupid."
"Am not."
"You're just jealous."
"Am not."
"I can do whatever I want!"
"Oh yeah?"
"Mom said I could."
"Did not."
"Did so!"
"Let me go!"
"You're not the boss of me!"
"Give it!"
"I'm telling Mom!"
"See if I care."

Yeah. That's what it sounded like in my head. It was so bizarre.

Monday, March 03, 2008

D.C. Chronicles: Day 4

We had another full day planned. Last night Dad gave me the laid back plan, the moderate plan and the aggressive plan. Being a moderate person I asked for the moderate plan. In fact, I don't think I ended up hearing the aggressive plan.

The moderate plan began at 8:45 AM. I guess that's the plan we went with because while I was at the computer I got a call from upstairs telling me it was time to head out. We went to Ford's Theatre to see where Lincoln was shot. Unfortunately, it was closed for a year. So we went across the street to the house where Lincoln died. That was kind of cool. I asked the national park ranger if any of the furniture was original and he said it wasn't. Apparently Chicago has the bed Lincoln died in. Why does Chicago have it? I mean, I know a private collector sold it to them, but c'mon. It belongs in the museum that commemorates his death don't you think? Let's all write letters.

After that we took the metro (which Dad kept calling the "tube" like he was in London) to the Library of Congress. Wow. I'm glad we found time to go there. Who knew that building was so beautiful on the inside? It was incredible. Loved it. Wish we had more time there. Another observation about Dad...and I think Mom has mentioned this before. He acts like a crossing guard. It's funny for awhile, but then it gets embarrassing. He is a very red personality, and I get along real well with reds, so I thought it was mostly funny. When the light turns red just as you're about to cross his arm holds you (and whomever else is there) back as he says, "Hold on!" and then when the walk signal comes he waves his arm and says, "Here we go!"

Now it was time to check out, go fill up the car and then drop me off at H&M while Dad looked around more at the Air and Space Museum. I needed more shopping time, but oh well.

If you're ever at the Smithsonian and you want a good place to eat, eat at the "food court" at the bottom of the National Gallery of Art. It's not like the food court at the mall, it's all made to order there. And they have gelato. And a pretty fountain.

So, I guess it's home again. I'm really not ready to be back. I want to be in D.C. longer. I need to find a way to get back there. If anyone wants to go to D.C., even just for the weekend, I'm your girl.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

D.C. Chronicles: Day 3

Today was a much more relaxing day. I got to sleep in because we didn't have to be out the door until 9 AM this morning. It's kind of nice having the complimentary breakfast at the hotel because I can eat at my leisure.


We took the car this morning to the National Air and Space Museum. We were there before the door opened. I'm an always on-time person, but I'm sick of being early. We were early to the Archives, to the Capitol and to the White House. I wouldn't mind waiting outside if it weren't so cold. And it's not even cold. I blame the wind and the humidity which makes the wind cold. The wind is not my friend here.

Anyway, we saw the Space Station 3D movie narrated by Tom Cruise. I told Dad we saw this one when we went to Boston, but he didn't believe me. He should believe me. I have an exceptional memory, but I'm learning he doesn't, so I just reminded him that it was a good one.

This was a fun museum. I particularly liked the Wright Brothers exhibit. I learned all about Orville and Wilbur. After that I went downstairs and learned that I would not qualify to be a stewardess in 1950 for two reasons: 1) I am not between the age of 21 and 26 and, 2) My fingernails are rarely polished. There's also the attractiveness factor. Now, I know I'm not a dumpy girl or anything but they asked that you be, and I quote, "Just below Hollywood standards". I don't know what that means.


I'm not big on band concerts, but I really enjoyed it. This was the reason we came actually. Dad is the Exec. Director of the Barlow Endowment which commissions composers to write new music. This has been the reason for just about every trip I've tagged along with Dad. We go hear the world premieres of these commissions. With the exception of the Barlow piece, this concert was fairly accessible and easy-listening. There was the traditional Sousa marches, and then there was a Bernard Hermann suite from some movie I can't remember. He wrote the scores to Citizen Kane and other old movies. This one had something to do with the Devil? I don't know, I didn't bring the program with me to the computer. Anyway, it was a lot of fun. It was in Arlington Virginia.

Alice Barlow Jones, who sits on the board of directors was there and she took us to dinner at the Chart House. She had her son with her and then she invited a guy from the Marine Band and his wife. They were very, very nice and interesting people. I can answer any question you might have about the Marine Band now. Alice lives in D.C. and I guess the Barlow Endowment is based there even though BYU administers it. She's an interesting lady. I guess Bill Marriott is in her ward. Man. I wonder what that neighborhood is like. I enjoyed their company. But even if they bored me to tears, my sweet and spicy Chilean sea bass would have made it all worthwhile. In fact, I had the molten chocolate lava cake for dessert, which is one of my favorite things ever -- but the waiter could have brought out my dinner entree again and I would have been thrilled. That was the best fish I have ever tasted. It was incredible. I'm still thinking about it. I wish there had been more of it. I let Dad have a bite, but if those other people hadn't been there, I would have slapped his hand away when he went in for a second helping.

After dinner, we went to the Lincoln Memorial. Tomorrow I have to find time to go to H&M. I can't come Back East and not go to H&M.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

D.C. Chronicles: Day 2


I was really looking forward to the White House today until we discovered I wasn't on "the list." Dad was on the list, but my name was no good. A guy with a mustache and coil coming out his ear walked up to me and asked for my name and social. We waited about 40 minutes while they did a background check.

You can't take anything in there: no cameras, bags, nothing. After all that screening I was expecting to see some pretty exciting and exclusive stuff, but once we went through another security check they abandoned you to roam free through the first floor. I didn't think it was all that extraordinary. It was very European and looked like a lot of early 19th century homes I've seen in England -- with little or no screening.

I guess most of my White House knowledge and interest stems from NBC's "The West Wing". It's not like I was expecting to see Martin Sheen and Rob Lowe walking around, taking care of business, but I would have liked to see something a little more exciting than unused libraries and china cabinets. The portrait of George Washington (by Gilbert Stuart) was pretty neat. If someone knows how I can get a guided tour of the West Wing, let me know.


We didn't spend too much time here, but I saw some Vermeers which I love, some Rembrandts and some other things I'm sure. I know that's a really lame recap coming from an art historian, but if you really care (and I can only think of one of you who might) ask me about it later.


Amy is my cousin who has been living here with her husband the past four years. They actually live in Maryland so they drove to our hotel, Dad and I got in the back of their car and they drove us around for about ten minutes while we caught up on old times and then they dropped us off at our restaurant for dinner. Dad's idea.


Wow. Loved it. So beautiful. Ballanchine's "Serenade" written by Tchaikovsky was impressive. Even Dad likes the ballet, but he likens it to home teaching: the thought of going brings about indifference, but once you're there you think "this is really great".

I love the Kennedy Center. I love the ballet. I love Washington. I could really do well here -- until I ran out of money.