Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Three Moments from Yesterday

"Why Miss Katherine, you have flowers in your hair."

They say that my grandma Olson wore a silk flower in her hair every day when she was young. Yesterday morning, I walked out of my house and turned to lock the front door and realized this: it was the third day in a row (excepting my church clothes Sunday) that I was wearing flower-shaped earrings (the ones Reija bought for Karren, that I love). Too, I was wearing, third day in a row, my slip-on school shoes with the flower design on the toe (the grey ones I bought that one shopping day with Kristine and Sara). And also, too, I was wearing my purple shirt with the red flowers on the front and the back (the one J. told me was a good color, when we stood under the lamplight after a night at Dave & Buster's).

As I turned from door to stairs to bike, I was pleased by it all: the flowers on my ears, the flowers on my shirt, the flowers on my shoes. Like Grandma's flower, I thought, as I kicked up my kickstand and rode the gravelly drive to the street.

"So now I feel like a real Californian."

Last night, we had an earthquake. I was at a friend's on-campus apartment on the first-floor of a mid-rise building (Abrams, to be exact). And I heard a thundering, felt a thundering, and thought (so many years at BYU!): There must be a lot of girls running down the stairs. But the building kept shaking, from side-to-side, and my friend said: This is an earthquake. I tried to remember the emergency skills I'm supposed to have been developing over the years and wondered if, finally, I would already need them. (The unassembled bookshelves in that tall box, leaning against the wall--does that count as a triangle?) No, it turns out. Thank goodness.

"As always, my passes at omniscience are absurd, but you, of all people, should be polite to the part of me that comes out merely clever."

My final preparations for bed include washing my face and brushing my teeth, of course. I do this at our bathroom sink, which is white and has a wide (happily wide) edge to it. Last night, as I put my floss away (on a shelf that's high and requires a stretch), I brought my toothbrush and toothpaste down even though I didn't need them right away. I put the toothbrush and toothpaste on the edge of the sink, as I leaned to wash my face. I realized that they--and the book I'd brought with me into the bathroom--might get wet on the sink's edge, as I rinsed soap from skin and makeup from eye, so I decided to move them to a safer, dryer spot. I looked down to the sink's ledge where they were and saw them, for a second, like a picture: a blue toothbrush and a tube of regular paste Crest, lying on top of Reija's paperback copy of Franny and Zooey. The pile of three all lying on the white porcelain edge of my bathroom sink. There was something about that I loved--the grouping of the Salinger with my nighttime necessities. Toothpaste for the brush, toothbrush for my teeth, and Salinger for my soul. "As one limping man to another, old Zooey, let's be courteous and kind to each other."

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Upward Pull: A Talk for Convocation

This is a talk I gave last night at Convocation, a sort of school year kick-off service for and by the LDS Stanford community. It's held in Memorial Church (so beautiful, see Procrastination blog entry below), and Elder Robert S. Wood was the keynote speaker. It was a very good evening; I felt such love for and from my community.

* * * * *

Sometimes I feel an upward pull, a desire to be better than I am. Perhaps you, like I, have wondered if there’s more to life than this, if we can be better than we are. We go to school, to work, to our recreation. We talk with people we love, we try to find ways to serve others, and we try to read the good books always being recommended to us. These are the manifestations of the good desires within us. But we are flawed, too. We drop our pencils; we barely remember to take out the garbage, resenting that tomorrow or the next day, it will have to be done again; we miss appointments, are late, forget birthdays and the lyrics to even the songs we like. Amidst this—the good things in life and in ourselves, amidst the mundane, and, sometimes, the horrible—we wonder: Is this all life is? Is this all I am? Surely, there must be something better than this, even all of this. Surely, I can be better.

Henry B. Eyring, current First Counselor of the First Presidency of our church and a former professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, described this upward pull. In one of my favorite talks, he said: “That upward pull we have felt is far more than a desire for self-improvement. It is a longing for home.”

What President Eyring described is not a homesick longing for a childhood home, but is, I believe, our native human desire to, as President Eyring explains, “be again with the Heavenly Father we have loved and who loves us.” We may not know it, we may not call it that—but our individual desires to be better than we are, despite life being what it is, are manifestations of our inborn senses of how we can and should change in order to be with God again, feel his love, and live in his presence along with those we love.

Revealed scripture tells us that the prophet Abraham felt this longing, too. He was a good man, righteous. But he felt that there was greater happiness and peace and rest for him. He was righteous, but he desired to be a greater follower of righteousness. He had great knowledge, but he also wanted to add to this earthly knowledge a “greater knowledge,” of godly things. He wanted to be a father of many nations, to have children and a legacy that would impact humanity in peaceful and long-lasting ways. He wanted to receive instructions from God, and once given those instructions, he wanted to obey them.

I feel the upward pull President Eyring describes. I, like Abraham, try to be good. I want to be someone who knows things. I want to learn more, and to learn more about godly things. I want to be a mother. I want to be productive and to have children, both literal and figurative, who bless the world with their righteousness and with peace. I want, like Abraham did, for God to tell me what to do, and I want to be the kind of person who does what God tells her to do.

Revealed scripture tells us what Abraham did when he felt this upward pull. He sought for the blessings of the fathers and for the right to administer those blessings to others. LDS doctrine teaches us that the blessings of the fathers that Abraham seeks here are the blessings of the priesthood, the authority God gives man to act in his name. This priesthood is God’s power, a real power. It is not man-made pomp or influence or argument. It is not the dazzle of intellect or the sheer weight of tradition. The priesthood authority is the literal powers of heaven given to man to effect, to bind, and to bless. When Abraham felt the upward pull to be better than he was, he sought the blessings of the priesthood.

I have sought after and have begun to receive the blessings of the priesthood, the blessings of my physical and spiritual fathers. By the power of the priesthood, I have made covenants with God. I have promised I will always remember the Savior Jesus Christ and that I will try to keep the commandments that He has given us. I have covenanted to try to love others, to bear their burdens, to comfort them when they are in need of comfort. And I have promised to be obedient, chaste, and giving.

As I have tried to keep these covenants, I have felt God’s power in my life. A friend asked me this week if I could, with my faith, part the water in the fountain at CafĂ© Borrone. I haven’t seen God’s power manifested like that. But I have seen and felt and do see and feel God’s power in my life: I, as self-interested and flaky as I am, feel purpose in life and love for those around me. And I, as easily dissuaded and discouraged as I am, feel divine hope and patience, even in the face of my daily trials, when I spill food on myself, drop my pencils, say annoying things to my friends and my professors. Even as I take out the garbage, resenting it all the way to and from the garbage can, I do, I really do remember that I am bound to God by my covenants and that I am blessed and strengthened and protected by the priesthood, which administers the atoning grace of Jesus Christ. This power—the softening, changing, purpose-giving power—is some of the power of God that I see in my life.

Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ want us to return to them. They want us to feel the upward pull and to, as Abraham did, seek the blessings of the priesthood—their blessings, given by their power. They want us to want to be better than we are, to change, and to covenant with them, that we may become like them and love others as they love, both here on earth and forever.

I pray that as we study this year, that as we pay attention to our desires to learn more, to run faster, to think more clearly, and to be kinder to our neighbors, that we will remember that our true-hearted desires to be like God, to be with God, and to feel His love again, are reminders of God’s plan for us, a plan the sole purpose of which is to help us find greater happiness and peace and rest, as Abraham did, by seeking the blessings of the priesthood, the literal power of God.

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Abraham 1:2
"Making Covenants with God" by Henry B. Eyring

Thursday, October 18, 2007


I mark my initials on the food and food stuffs I store in general spaces. I do this for one reason: to remind myself that a particular food item is mine. I don't actually care--don't, don't, past and present roommates know all too well--if other people use/eat/feel comfortable giving away my food and food stuffs. In fact, actually, it makes me feel complimented. That they would think something I would choose and buy would be something they would want. (For instance, Karren and my dark chocolate-covered soy nuts. Totally complimented that she would want to snack/sneak them. No sneaking necessary.)

So I don't mark my food with my little swirly SO to keep others away. I SO it so that I will (1) know that I can eat/use it with impunity. (I've learned I naturally feel too comfortable with communal living and being free with other people's things, so I usually feel a little guilty/doubtful about eating/using food and sugar and spices that aren't marked or aren't mine, though, though, here at Melville I usually do it anyway.) Also, (2) so that down the road, down the road, when the food item is unclaimed and/or moldy and forgotten, I will see it, know it, and take responsibility for it. ("Whose rotten grapefruits are just sitting on the counter, fruit fly breeding? Gross. Oh wait. Those are mine.") This often, often comes in handy.

Once, Karren and I were cleaning out the fridge, and in the condiments door, we came across a lemon juice container. It was small, yellow, plastic, lemon-shaped. Classic and, from its lack of luster, mature. We picked it up and there, on one of its curved sides, was a swirly little SO. Mine, we guessed. And then we turned it round and there, on the other side of the same lemon container, was a smart, dark, black permanent marker KT. SO. KT. Both on one lemon.

I have considered that lemon-finding moment for the past, oh, seven months. Still, I CANNOT FATHOM HOW SUCH A THING HAPPENED. And I wish, wish, wish, we could rewind the living and replay the moments when I thought it was mine and SOed it and when Karren thought it was hers and KTed it and when it was bought and who paid.

My point: I love this story. And despite its being about lemon juice, I think it's very, very sweet.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Procrastination: The Lyric of a Midnight Deadline

I added a link to Breast Cancer on my Mozilla Firefox bookmarks toolbar, so when I am really procrastinating, I can click on it and fight breast cancer. Which I just did/fought. Hyah.

I realized I hadn't eaten dinner (officially), so I het up a bowl of Trader Joe's butternut squash soup, toasted a piece of cracked wheat sourdough, added some of Reija's salsa and my plain yogurt (to the soup), and ate. Slowly. Also, I grinded my own pepper to season it.

I checked my four active games of Scrabulous on Facebook. No one had moved. (Wait! Just checked during this writing, and Patti Z. has moved! "[Last play 4m ago.]" I'll be back.) *** FOUND for 21 points.

Oh, just saw a (1) come up next to my Gmail - Inbox tab. I'll check that. *** Just an email I was cc'ed on but with pertinent data. The LDS students have a convocation every fall at Stanford. They bring in a big name speaker, pair him with an undergrad student and a grad student, and have them all speak (sequentially, of course) from the gilded pulpit of the Memorial Church. The Institute Choir sings. Goodness, that's a beautiful building. This year, Elder Robert S. Wood is the big name speaker. This year, I am the grad student speaker. Topic: Abraham 1:2. I should begin to think about that, maybe I should start drafting my talk now?

No, no. This is procrastination enough. A blog entry. With an added picture. You know, to stave off the criticisms of being such an infrequent blogger (S: Did you read my new blog entry about rockstars? M: No, I don't check your blog anymore since you never post regularly). Point taken.

Um, um, um. I could/should read my scriptures. Maybe someone has called me? It has been thirty minutes since I last checked my phone. I should put these dishes away. Does it count if I click for breast cancer twice in one day? When does the day start over--EDT or PDT? Do they know where I am? Does it reset at midnight here? How does that work, if, in fact, it works at all?

It's 10:30 pm.

I should put these dishes away. Will do. First, I should edit this entry. You know, just reread it, to make sure it, you know, reads.

From the top.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


I've taken lately to using the term "rockstar" to describe the people I love and the rockstar people I come across. For instance.

And yesterday, yesterday, I was talking to a classmate, a 2L, with a low voice, soft. Thin face, thin grey hair, thin pale sweater, and a propensity to introduce the idea and value of beer into our conversations, and I said to him, Foster, what did you do before law school? He said, I toured the country with my band for 10 years.

He told me then that he played the guitar, that he and his brother (his partner) had decided their band had gotten as big as it was going to get and they could spend the rest of their lives playing to 200-300 person crowds each night or, or, they could leave and get real jobs. They decided on real jobs and here he is now in law school. (He also said there's only so much Budweiser one person should consume in a lifetime, and he'd definitely reached that limit.)

I said, In your personal statement, did you say "You should admit me because I am literally a rockstar"? He said, it did give me a lot of interesting things to write about.

A rockstar, literally.

Note: I'm not even sure "rockstar" is one word. Maybe it's supposed to be two. But I like its compounded form. I think it emphasizes the solidity of the thing, the intense and solid nature of the status of being a rockstar, the qualities of being so great the rockstar label is deserved. Rock star? Rockstar.

Too: On the heels of my firm's interviewing at my law school this year, one of my attorney friends was telling me about how his interview with one woman I'd recommended had gone. I said, What did you think of her? He said, You know. I said, I do? (not actually having any idea what he was referencing). He said, Yes, just like you said. She's a rockstar.