Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I have this friend who served an LDS mission here in Salt Lake. On his mission he was introduced to many attractions and collected some obscure stories about some pretty cool (and strange) places. As a result, he developed a rather bizarre tour of the city.

I was first introduced to his tour about a year and a half ago. He set me up on a date and we doubled with him and some other girl because his actual girlfriend was busy (but that’s another story). I loved it. Being from Salt Lake, I’m used to the typical things that make Salt Lake – well, Salt Lake.

What’s great about this tour is that you can do it within 2 or 3 hours. There are some long stops, and some short stops to give it variety. And of course each stop has a mission-related story. I was familiar with most of these places, but here is what was on the 2007 tour:

Gilgal Gardens
Hobbitville (it’s always just a driveby)
Cathedral of the Madeleine (it was closed)
The Virgin Mary Tree
The Garden Park Ward
Summum Pyramid (by Welfare Square)

Last night I did the tour again with my friend Dre and her friend from out of town. Last night was a little different. We made it to the following:

Gilgal Gardens
Cathedral of the Madeleine
The Virgin Mary Tree
The Summum Pyramid
The Mormon Ovens

OK…we didn’t actually make it to the Mormon ovens. And I’m still unclear as to what those really are. He took us up through Federal Heights and then we started walking in the snow. After twenty minutes of hiking I asked if we were there yet and he said we were maybe half way there. The guide’s girlfriend and I decided it was too cold, my wet feet were starting to freeze, and so we turned back. After about 25 minutes of chatting in the car we get a call from him saying, “Hey where you guys at? We need you to come pick us up at the hospital.” Apparently they took a wrong turn and walked over the mountain and out the other side and ended up at Primary Children’s Hospital. So we picked them up and called it a night. Fun…nonetheless. Always a good time.

This got me to thinking about if I had visitors from out of town and were unfamiliar with Salt Lake, what kind of tour would I take them on? First, I would try to get my friend to take them on his tour, because there’s nothing better, but if I were left on my own, I think I would take them to some places I really like and know a little bit about:

The State Capitol Building is one of my favorite buildings in Salt Lake. And I was actually a tour guide there so I know a lot about it. And it’s right by my house so this would be the first stop.

Next stop: the Cathedral of the Madeleine. It’s a beautiful building and a nice complement to the Mormon Temple, so people know other religions thrive here too.

Gotta hit Gilgal Gardens. I mean, a man who built a strange, sculpture garden in his back yard with Mormon-related symbology? A sphinx with Joseph Smith’s head? Awesome. I remember my mom took me there when I was really little. Years later I asked her where that man’s house was with the statues, and then my ward ended up going there one night for an activity.

Then we’d go up to Red Butte Gardens. It's pretty all year long. There are a lot of little gardens and the view is amazing. If I planned it right, we’d get there around sunset where you can see the whole valley.

Then we’d drive down to Temple Square where I’d take them to the tabernacle – if it’s a Thursday night, we’d be able to pop in on the choir rehearsing, which might be exciting for them. If they still let people do that…

And then maybe I’d take them to the Joseph Smith Memorial Building to look around and then take the elevators to the top where you get an awesome view of Temple Square.

We’d also eat somewhere during the tour -- depending. You have to be flexible. Possibilities include Cucina in the Aves or even the Garden at the Joseph Smith Memorial.

Probably not nearly as entertaining as my friend's tour, but it would be informational. If I had another day, I would probably take people to the Spiral Jetty or Antelope Island because, you know the Great Salt Lake and everything. And it’s amazing out there – almost surreal.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Personal Belongings

There’s a lot of talk around here about budget cuts and potential layoffs. No one feels safe. In fact, we were called into a budget meeting several weeks ago and before the meeting, one of my coworkers told me how he put all his belongings in a cardboard box and asked me if I’d send it to him if something happened.

Several months ago I decided it was time to start backing up all my personal files I keep here at work. I didn’t own a computer for a very long time, so all my personal digital photos and documents I kept on my office computer. I finally moved all my photos off my hard drive and onto disks just in case I was called into a meeting and asked to not go back to my office.

After the holidays, I tend to clean things out and start anew. These days, with imminent layoffs and an inclement budget forecast for FY10, gathering important personal items is wise. Because I feel like I’m constantly getting rid of things, I never considered myself a pack rat, but apparently (photos to follow) I keep a lot of things for whatever reason.

I started this job in 2001. The girl before me left a lot of stuff in my desk. I got rid of a lot of it but kept some of it. Like these pastels. These may have been here for years before her time too judging from the design and look of the box. I guess I thought someday I would get artsy and draw a picture with them. Hasn’t happened.

Back in 2003 I took a nonfiction writing course up at the University. I submitted a series of emails I sent to my friend Ilene. Ilene and I had this thing where we would watch 7th Heaven just so we could write to each other and bash on it. After the course I got this email from the instructor who encouraged me to publish them. Never did. But I like to keep this around as a reminder that a professional writer thought I was publishable.

This here is a phone holder. My mom (or Santa Claus, can’t remember which) gave this to me. I’ve had this ever since I’ve had my first phone. Back then phones were big enough to fit snugly in there. No longer.

Oh right, along with the pastels, I decided to keep these little circle stickers. We use them to indicate a piece out in the gallery is sold…so not very often. Martha Stewart showed me how to make decorative streamers with them. So a few Christmases ago I made a bunch of these and hung them from the windows in my office. Except this year. I forgot.

I never really found a good place for this little stained glass window my mom brought back for me from someplace. I think it’s supposed to be the rose window at Notre Dame. It looks good placed up against a blank word doc on my computer screen though doesn’t it?

The dolphin stamp. My coworker left this on my desk once, or maybe he even handed it to me as a “gift.” The cool thing about this stamp is that it lights up when you press down on it. I keep it around because my friend’s son likes to play with it when they come to visit.

I forgot I put all this salt and pepper in a plastic baggie. I don’t remember where I found it but apparently I felt strongly that they be kept around. I think I kept it around for my edamame I used to snack on in the afternoon.

It’s amazing how much personal stuff one accumulates at their office. I’ve heard horror stories of people getting laid off and then not being allowed to come back and save files on their computers or emails or pictures. I have a bunch of CDs here, books, toys – for the kids that come to visit. Maybe it’s time I transfer the important things to a more secure environment.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Looking Back..and Ahead

As my friend Carri and I drove home from a ski trip last week, we discussed “New Years” resolutions and goals. We asked each other about the goals we set last year. I didn’t formally set any, but I’m always trying to better myself.

As I look back on this past year and the things I remember consciously telling myself “this is important to do” I can, in retrospect, see a cohesiveness and common purpose. And as I examine what I was trying to do, it has become clear that I was trying to heal my soul.

I think our confidence and spirit can be damaged in many ways by things that happen to us, people that hurt us, and mostly things we do to hurt ourselves. I decided I didn’t want to do anything to hurt myself; I didn’t want to deprive myself of opportunities for whatever reason, and I was going to embrace what I love without limiting myself or shrinking for fear of comments from critics (and my own demons). I was going to stop inventing obstacles or reasons why I shouldn’t have what I want.

In retrospect, I can see why certain things were important to me in 2008. I'll share some:

1) I began the year volunteering at the Capitol building as a docent. I adore that building. It was always something I looked to on the hill when I was young. It was almost a beacon, straight ahead; a focal point of beauty, truth and order. Being able to go inside seemed like a special privilege. Now I live a block and a half away from that building, and once it was restored and open to the public, I knew I wanted to be part of it’s history so I spent two weeks telling people about the architecture, the artwork and the function of the building. I loved it.

2) At the beginning of the year I decided I was going to take every opportunity I could get to travel in 2008. I have expressed before how important travel is to me. I need it to reboot my mind, to discover new things and indulge my curiosity. I went to D.C. with my dad and we packed our days with tours, lectures, performances, and what I maintain to be the best meal I can remember. I traveled to Wales, England and France with the Utah Chamber Artists. The best part about that trip was having my mother, brother, aunt, uncle and a couple cousins with me. Spending time away with them was a treat that doesn’t come around often enough. Going to Aruba with friends was the most relaxing and carefree trip of the year. No schedule, no expectations, just going with the flow – which is good for a planner like me. I visited my best friend in Idaho in November and there’s nothing like just sitting next to your best friend that reminds you who you are, what you love about yourself and what you want for yourself. New York City was just fun. I probably spent more money there without thinking about it, and if you decide beforehand that spending too much money is what you’re going to do, it is liberating.

3) In the fall, I joined the Utah Chamber Artists. Something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but always pushed aside. It has enriched my life in so many ways. Rehearsals are time consuming, but I love them. Performing again has been exciting. Sharing a common talent with 40 people that are so different from one another is a fun and unique experience. And being able to sing and spend time with my mother and my brother has made it even more rewarding.

4) Something that I never thought I would do was actually stick to a regular exercise regimen. I’m using “regular” and “exercise” so loosely, it’s ridiculous. But I instigated a weekly yoga class at work. I don’t do the gym, so I thought if I hired someone to come to ME and my coworkers, we would be more likely to accomplish our goal. So every Tuesday, we have a yoga instructor come to our building and about 6 or 7 of us spend an hour with him. It has taught me patience, calm, focus, and in many cases how to relax. I’m sure I’ll learn much more as we progress and our workouts get more challenging.

Healing your soul is a lifelong pursuit because life’s knocks will always come around. I plan to keep looking for ways to reintroduce myself to what I love and what I need.

I’ve been preparing for the next art exhibit here at my gallery. We are doing a commemorative show on an artist who passed away right before Thanksgiving. I am sorting through all his notebooks and am realizing that he collected a lot of affirmations and other encouraging quotes and articles to help him achieve his goals. I decided to use them in the exhibit. A couple really stood out to me and that is a definition of the word “elegance” that I never thought of before:

“Elegance is the use of the least amount of energy to accomplish what you are after. The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. That’s elegance.”

"To know what you want, to know why you want it, to have impeccability and a vision, and to step into it -- that is elegance."

Elegance is going to be one of my goals for 2009. I know it takes a lot of work to achieve what we want, but I believe we have a tendency to make things more difficult than they need to be. If we have clarity, vision and purpose and apply that to our decisions and behavior, we can accomplish what we are after with ease – and elegance.