Friday, January 28, 2011

Lazy Morning

Scout and I were having one of those mornings where we didn't feel like accomplishing much. So we didn't. It was the kind of morning where you decide to take off your footie pajamas then run around in a onesie for a while, just because Mommy is letting you.

After a while, we decided the day looked promisingly warm (relatively speaking anyway), so we got all bundled up and went outside.
As you can see, I got camera happy before we ever even made it outside. The puffy little pants are just so adorable.

Then, we came inside and Scout once again decided that pants are not for her. So, she took them off. You've really got to maximize on these opportunities for exhibitionism. Good thing for her that I'm a sucker for toddlers running around with bare little legs. I think they're adorable.

Scout was feeling quite natural in front of the camera today, so I was able to get a lot of expressions that are what we typically see, including (of course) the ones where she's obviously mid-sentence. I think my favorites are the top left and top center.

So we took some pictures, played with the sheep (which normally lives in the crib, so a good day for special privileges), danced to some music, ate graham crackers, put the pants back on and went down for an early nap.

A good morning.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Day 34: Your Favorite Quote

"Oh, the comfort -- the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person -- having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away."

Dinah Maria Craik

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Day 32: A Photo You Took

I took this one at the Bolz Conservatory last week. It was really nice to get in some green.
Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 24, 2011

Day 31: Whatever Tickles Your Fancy

This last week a long-anticipated but much dreaded event occurred. One of my absolute favorite blogs in the world has come to an end. If you haven't read it yet, you really should. Start from the beginning. In tribute to this pseudo-icon of Mormon culture I must simply say:

Dear TAMN,
I loved you. I loved to hate you. I laughed with you, but mostly at you. Some days, I swear I met you. Many days, I deliberately chose not to be you, if only to preserve self-respect. And every once in a while, if only for a few minutes, I most definitely was you. Thanks for all the laughs, for enriching our cultural dialogue and for making us all a little more self-aware.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Day 30: The Friendliest Person You Knew for Only One Day

I've tried really hard to think of someone who fits this description. And I can't. I suppose there's no one I've known such a short time who has left much of an impression. So instead, I'm going to share (yet another*) mission story about someone I really didn't know at all. He wasn't exactly friendly, but he was helpful and I was definitely grateful he was there. Mom, you probably shouldn't read this story.

First a little background. As I've mentioned before, my last companion was quite beautiful and not so great at Italian. She was brand new, so I'm sure things improved after I left. Because she was at the beginning of her mission and I was at the end of mine, she was a bit naive and I was a bit cynical. Plus, I've got that aforementioned mean streak that makes shutting people down come so naturally. So when the creepy men came along, as they did almost every day, I was in charge of telling them where to go and how to get there.

As missionaries in Verona, we rode the bus everywhere. One night, we finished an appointment just after nine and headed to the nearby piazza where a bus would shortly come to take us home. There was a major bus interchange near our apartment, from which we could walk home in a few minutes. The piazza was quite dark and there was a young man waiting near the stop. He kept his distance from us and avoided eye contact, so we didn't talk to him. My lovely companion had picked up a rather persistent admirer at the same stop a few weeks earlier, so I was a little wary of men traveling by themselves at night. So there we were, my companion trying to decode the bus schedule, me waiting on the sidewalk a few yards away to be sure we flagged down any bus that might pass, and the other guy, waiting and keeping his distance.

After a few minutes, another man approached from across the street. He was Romanian and rather drunk. Likely due to his inebriation, he didn't even notice my beautiful companion and came straight up to me. He started mumbling and pointing telling me something about a drink. Eventually, the mumbling developed into, "There's a drink in that bar over there." Of course he wanted me to come get a drink with him. I ignored him and prayed that my beautiful companion would stay put. He was quite insistent about the drink and the bar, so I finally told him to go back into the bar and get himself the drink. About the time my companion walked over to see whether I was speaking with a potential contact, the other man at the bus stop turned and looked our way. Upon catching sight of my lovely companion, my new drunk friend was really interested and became even more adamant about the drink in the bar. Sadly, I had to inform him that she didn't speak Italian (especially not slurred Italian with a thick Romanian accent), so he'd have to keep conversing with me.

As his insistence escalated, a bus appeared out of the night and I politely informed him that we needed to get on it. He boarded as well, as did the other man. Near the middle of the bus, there were two single seats open, one behind the other. We sat in them and I turned sideways so I could keep an eye on my companion behind me. The young man from the bus stop took a seat near the back. The drunk man stood next to us, still trying to somehow charm us with his inebriation. I tried ignoring him again. He pulled out his cell phone and told me he wanted our number. As he got louder and louder and closer and closer to my face, I noticed the man from the bus stop watching our one-sided conversation very closely.

It's interesting to note that, while the bus wasn't crowded, the seats were all full. But no one said anything, most people just staring mutely into their laps or out the window into the night. The one exception was the man from the bus stop, who continued to watch intently.

At this point, I started wondering how best to get out of the situation. We had only encountered such persistence once before, and that was with a smooth, sober man in a crowded piazza in the middle of the day. Late at night on a bus was less ideal for warding off would-be wooers, especially drunk ones. I considered the options. The bus line does end, eventually. Once we'd been through every stop, in theory he would have to get off. However, that would potentially leave us far from home in a remote neighborhood alone with a bus driver and this burly drunk Romanian. Although we could stay on the bus, it would sit at the last stop for five or ten minutes, the driver would get out to smoke, and we would be stuck. Even assuming he did eventually leave, we would have to ride the circuit all the way back home, putting us out way past curfew.

Alternatively, we could follow our original plan, getting off at our stop and heading for home. Maybe he would give up when we exited. However, men had followed us off the bus in the past. That's just fine in midday, but even major bus stops are frequently deserted at night. While not great, this option was the most likely to get us home on time. So, I decided to take it. As we approached our stop, my companion and I stood up to leave. The Romanian announced that he too was getting off here. Fortunately, the young man who had been watching us intently moved toward the exit at the back of the bus. At least we would have a potential ally once we got off.

Then, as the bus pulled to a stop, the solution came to me. Thanking heaven that we both spoke English, if not Italian, I instructed my companion to stay on the bus. The doors opened and I beckoned for our friend to get off. "This is your stop, right?" I asked. What could he do? He was too drunk to come up with a good excuse, so he had to get off. Once he did, I saw the young man from the back of the bus walk over toward him, looking around for us. As the doors closed, he saw that we had stayed on the bus, our eyes met and I hope he understood that we were grateful for his help. He nodded to me, acknowledging that we were safe, and the bus pulled away.

My companion and I exited at the next stop, half a block away. Thanks to those wonderful Roman city walls, there was no way our ardent admirer could see us. We went home a different way, home not more than two minutes later than we might otherwise have been.

Having a brand new companion is, in many ways, like being a mother. I think I felt most like a mom when trying to help protect her from creepy men. I was happy to help, but it's kind of lonely when you're the only one who knows where you're going or how to communicate with people. I was grateful, that night, for someone else in the world who was worried for our welfare. As President Kimball said, "God does watch over us and does notice us, but it usually through someone else that he meets our needs." No angels necessary when a concerned Italian will do.

*Sorry about all the mission stories. I guess that's when everything interesting happened to me. More likely, it's just a very condensed period of meeting new people and having new experiences. So there are lots of stories to tell. And I want these recorded somewhere for when I've forgotten them. Truly, this is a selfish pursuit.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Day 29: Favorite Color

I have issues with this one. I've almost always had issues with this one. Why this obsession with favorites? Why must I rank the colors? Can't I choose a favorite a color scheme instead? Must I choose just one? I don't agree with telling our children they should have a favorite color, a best friend, a favorite food. Variety is good and enjoying one thing does not have to come at the detriment of another!

On top of my aversion to playing favorites generally, I think too much can be read into a favorite color. Or, at least, I thought so when I was little. Red? So cliche. Pink? Even more cliche. Blue? That's a boy color! Brown? Boring. Black? What is wrong with you? The options were so limited. Moreover, it really depends on what you're going to do with the color. The colors I want to wear, eat and look at are all quite different. I like red accessories, black clothes, green grass, brown fabric, white milk, purple carpet, yellow flowers, and orange vegetables.

I once tutored a little boy who told me his favorite color was white. Then you can color it whatever color you like. Perhaps I should stick with his answer.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Day 28: Favorite Places to Shop

anywhere that sells housewares

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Day 27: A Talent of Yours

I love to cook. It supports my eating habit nicely. In particular, I love to bake. I'm really developing the non-baking aspect of cooking these days though, since baking tends inevitably to lead to carbohydrate overload. Over the past two years, I have even begun straying from the recipes and doing a little experimentation. Don't get too excited, "experimentation" here means "substituting whole wheat flour for white," "not measuring the amount of fresh basil I add to the pasta" and "not adding quite as much butter as the recipe calls for." It's nothing too brave or innovative. But I did downright invent some combinations over the summer when we had vegetables coming out our ears. And they were delicious, if I do say so myself.

My cooking habit has recently received a major boost. This is primarily due to the fact that James's eating habit also gains most of its support from my love of cooking. As part of a fabulous surprise birthday party, which I should probably blog about later once I've collected pictures from those who had cameras, James and many others fulfilled a longtime dream of my baking heart.

I now have one of these sitting on my coffee table:

I'm not exactly sure where I'm going to put it yet. It is, after all, a full 16 inches tall. But I'll find it a home, even if I have to oust the microwave. For the time being, however, I'm very happy keeping it where it is. Sometimes I just like to look up at it and admire its shiny redness. It makes me smile every time because (1) my husband knew just what I wanted, (2) he surprised me with it, (3) I don't have to knead anymore, and (4) it's so pretty!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Day 26: Favorite Books

The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder (especially These Happy Golden Years)
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty White
The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
But Not the Hippopotamus by Sandra Boynton
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
The Lorax by Dr. Suess
Persuasion by Jane Austen

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Day 25: Someone You Judged by Their First Impression

I'm going to assume the prompt means to ask for someone I misjudged. And who's to say that I'm wrong? While that could describe the vast majority of people I've met, including many many of my closest friends, I'll share just one.

The first thing I remember noticing about Sorella Bellows was her running. And running. And running. And running. At the MTC we had gym time for something like 45 minutes every day. Because we spent an average of 10 hours per day sitting in a classroom, gym time was essential to our sanity. My district, and most of our branch, played volleyball whenever we could get a court. Otherwise, we sat around and watched the Elders play soccer. (It was summer, so we desperately wanted to be outside. But we didn't really want to play contact sports with 19 year-old boys--yes, Elders, you may have thought some of the sisters were hot, but we mostly just thought you need of some time to grow up.) Anyway, this one sister, who was also going to Italy, would always run around the soccer fields. For the entire hour.

My companion and I decided to run once. We made it around the field approximately one time. And while we were running that one lap, she passed us. It wouldn't really surprise me if she passed us twice. I asked her how many laps she had run. She just laughed and said, "I try not to count." Don't you just hate those people? I mean, I like to exercise (although I may not have loved it nearly as much then), but people who just run and don't even want to know how far they've gone? There must be something wrong with these people. So, basically all I knew about Sorella Bellows was that she ran a LOT. And once I got to Italy, she would be in my mission. I think we may have had some limited interaction during class break, but it didn't help my impression. She was sweet. Really sweet. A little too sweet, you know? And just really nice. Always smiling and so...sweet.

Now, I can be a nice person, compassionate even. But if I had to boil my entire personality down to one word, that word would be sardonic. (Here, I've looked that one up for you: sardonic--adj.--characterized by bitter or scornful derision; mocking; cynical; sneering.) In other words, I wasn't too excited about Sorella Bellows. And I didn't believe she was really all that nice.

Fast forward ten months. My mission, we find, is just past half over. Am I doing a good job? I'm not sure. Since arriving in Italy, I've been in three cities. The most recent of those is Brescia, referred to by some as the armpit of the mission. My companion is about to go home, meaning I will receive my sixth companion in as many transfers. That's a lot of change, particularly for someone like me who takes a long time to get to know people. I've had some ups and downs with these six companions. Some were great, some barely spoke to me. I hadn't gotten a letter from home in a month. We weren't having much success with teaching. I was pretty worn down. I definitely wanted to be there, but I was unsure whether I was doing any good.

And then came the transfer call, telling me who would be my next companion: Sorella Bellows. I'd had several ideal companions picked out. She wasn't one of them. I just knew I would be miserable. We would have nothing in common and it would be another miserable companionship. After all, my meanest companion had spent our six weeks together telling me all about how wonderful Sorella Bellows (who'd been there just before me) was. I was a miserable replacement. And now, Sorella Bellows was coming with all her sweet superiority to make me even more wretched. God was certainly punishing me for my sardonic ways.

To make matter worse, between the transfer call and the dreaded arrival, I received an unwelcome email from home. My brother, who had promised at Mother's Day that he would NOT be getting married before I came home was engaged. I actually burst out crying in the middle of the internet cafe. The Elders were very concerned. I was upset enough to think about going home. I grudgingly taught a lesson on faith that evening, having none but desiring to believe anyway.

And then she came. I spent the entire bus ride home apologizing. I can only remember one of the reasons. Amidst packing for home, my companion and I hadn't had time to clean. Sorella Bellows insisted that she wanted to help me clean the apartment. And she meant it. She told me to stop apologizing. And she meant it. And so I did. I found that she was nice, and kind, and sweet really, but not in the way that I'd thought. Best of all, she didn't particularly enjoy the mean companion either. Within three days, we would kneel down for companionship prayers and decide an hour later that if we were going to talk instead of praying, we should at least give our knees a break and sit on the bed until we were actually ready to pray.

We found people to teach. But even when interested people were scarce, we still had a wonderful time looking for more. We rode our bikes all over Brescia, discovering beautiful scenes and wonderful people. We even went running, early in the morning when the streets are quiet and smell like fresh bread.

As our transfer together neared its end, I begged the mission president to let me stay in Brescia just six more weeks. So he did. He even let us go to the opera in Verona together. Sorella Bellows was completely willing to get behind my dream of seeing the opera and understanding it.

I think it was from her that I truly learned about charity and what it means. I learned volumes about compassion. I learned what it is to love someone with no reservations, no guile and no fear, just pure love.

There was a heat wave the summer we were companions, with temperatures over 104 degrees (we got very tan). I guess it should have been miserable with just one fan between us. But we biked around, sweated a LOT and had a wonderful time. I'm not a summer person, but I think I'll always consider that the best summer of my life. Even now, whenever I run I think of Sorella Bellows, and I think part of the reason I enjoy running is because of how much I love her. It reminds me of her, and brings me peace.