Sunday, December 21, 2008

Sometimes My Room Gets So Cold, I Have to Wear These

I cut off the tips myself, newsie style.

Sometimes, a girl's got to type when all the world is cold.

* All the world = her basement bedroom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I took the night off

and ate popcorn with a spoon.

My roommate Wendy made mention the other day of this possibility: you make microwave popcorn and then you cover it with something. She suggested cinnamon and sugar. Then she said something about almond joy (melted chocolate, coconut, and almonds).

So tonight, I didn't go running, even though I'm nearing the end of the Year of 100 Runs.* (And even though I changed from my work clothes into my running clothes, to make it more than a de minimis chance that I'd actually head out.) (No go.) And I didn't do any work. (Nothing billable, at least.) I didn't even leave the house once I got in (except a trip to el garbage can).

INSTEAD I made myself some pop-o-corn, covered it with melty chocolate chips and hot and crunchy peanut butter, and then ate it. With a spoon.

Spoon-licking good.

* The Year of 100 Runs has been my goal for 2008. I have to run 100 times between January 1, 2008 and December 31, 2008. Each run has to be at least 20 minutes long, and if I want to count two in a day, then each of those runs has to be 30 minutes long. We're at Dec. 17, and though I'm behind (I pretty much have to run every non-Sabbath day between now and New Year's), I've never had to do a two-a-day. Which I've just decided is success, too.

Hey. Read a poem that's almost exactly like this blog post by Elizabeth Alexander, the poet who will be reading at President Obama's inauguration: Turns out, she's good.

Monday, December 08, 2008


This is a new blog I'm co-writing. Check it out. And tell everyone you know. We're going from beta (now) to HUGE (later?).

Also, the other writers are awesome.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The First Birthday Cake of the Week (!!!)

This was on the table when I came home last night. It was angled so it was facing the doorway, and me, as I walked in.

You should know these things:

1. The card says "Hoppy Birthday, Sarah!"
2. It's my birthday on Saturday.
3. That is a little trail of chocolate chips behind the bunny. Turns out yes, my roommate's mind works that way. (I ate them anyway.)
4. We ate that bad boy last night. (As Erika said, "It's good that Jeanette made this on a Tuesday. Then we can celebrate again on Saturday!" Very, very true.)
5. It was a red velvet cake, so when we cut into it--it bled. ! (In the great tradition of the Texas/Steel Magnolias armadillo groom's cakes.)

IT WAS SO AWESOME I couldn't handle it. Really, by far one of the best moments of my day. My week. My 28-year life.

To the birthday week that's just begun!

(And to Jeanette, a rockstar and a patriot.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sarah's Most Favorite Work Conversation Thus Far

The following interchange takes place in the "Coffee Room" (that's what the plaque says) on 13W, Sarah's floor. The high-tech coffee machine/tea brewer/water heater has just finished dispensing hot water into a biodegradable/made-from-corn cup to give life to Sarah's packet of instant oatmeal (a pretty typical Sarah workaday snack).
Machine (via insistent blinking text on a small digital screen): CAUTION--YOUR DRINK IS HOT.

Sarah (out loud, to machine):
Caution. Your mom is hot.
Then Sarah, stirring her oatmeal with a coffee stirrer, laughs all the way to her office. First door on the right after the hallway to the elevators.

This is not the exact version we have in our office, but close enough. If there's an "Enjoy Your Drink" that comes up for us, it certainly isn't on an angle. That would have caught my attention.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

When we were younger, my brother dreamt of taking one room of the house and spray painting it gold.

In the past two weeks, I have spray painted gold the following things:
  • a dozen IKEA picture frames
  • the rim of a $2 IKEA clock
  • the faceplate & screw of an electrical outlet
  • the interior walls & wire lattice work of the giant dark wood china cabinet I bought on Craigslist (before I decided it was a no go)
  • a light switch (though unsuccessfully--anyone know how to make spray paint stick on a light switch?)
  • various parts of my body.
Spray painting things gold is by far my newest favorite pasttime.

This is part of my efforts to make the space around me more beautiful. After two years at Melville (my own domestic heaven), I have learned the value of being around beautiful things. My new standard is this: I want to be around things beautiful enough they make me want to be a better person.

At first my current roommates didn't understand this, and then they laughed at it, and now they use it as a guide to understand how I'm feeling about the things in our housescape.

Roommate: Sarah, how do you like this toaster? Is it ugly?
Sarah: It's not too bad. It's okay.
Roommate: Hm. You mean, it's just not beautiful enough that you want to be a better person?
Sarah: Yeah. Well--yeah.

(I hope they're not worried that I'm sizing them up similarly. They needn't--once again, I have found myself living with really, truly beautiful roommates.) (Wait--that was sizing them up. Well, okay, I did it. But they came out victorious! Hooray for beautiful roommates!)

To this end--the house improvement end--my roommate Erika and I have done a variety of things: bought all new, beautiful dishes; painted the kitchen white and "starry sky"; bought a fat and high red couch and armchair for recently unfurnitured living room; bought a china cabinet on Craigslist, borrowed a truck to move it, negotiated it from the District to my house in Virginia, unloaded it almost (almost!) before it started to rain, moved it around a million times, spray painted gold on the inside and the lattice work (and my airways, no doubt), and then decided the china cabinet was a no go; bought another much better china cabinet online; and spent a Friday night shopping for and thinking strategically about what on earth to do about the 12 accent tiles in our kitchen back splash that are limpid and bleh prints of flowers in vases. No resolution. Yet.

The no-go cabinet.

I worry, of course, that this is a superficial way to use my money. That I should be devoting this money to paying off my law school loans/supporting African refugees/donating money to fast offerings/saving/traveling to see my family, etc. But Melville--it meant something. Its loveliness made us calmer. It made us glad to see each other. It helped us love the world more and treat it more tenderly and feel more satisfied from day to day, from red bowl of cereal to polka-dotted cup of hot chocolate. It's a remedy for the world's elite, I know. Who but a small fraction of earth has the luxury to buy $8 dessert plates? And who on earth actually has the gall to say it's because it will help them lead a better life?

But I believe in transforming my spaces, and I want to be better at doing it. There's value in this. There's got to be--it has made such a difference to my last two years. There's got to be a scriptural analog to this, more even than just a house of order.

Maybe (and I'm thinking aloud here), maybe this is part of what God was saying during the creation. Maybe not only "It is good," as in, it's a good idea, let's keep it, that will work, I am pleased. But maybe more, or too, "It is good--it makes life good." Creations so beautiful, they make life good.

God on Day Three: "Yup, those fish definitely make me want to be a better person. Let's keep 'em. Good work, team."

Good work, team.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Because This Was Too Long to Say in Church on Sunday, I'm Raising My Hand Right Now. Please Call on Me.

This past Sunday in Relief Society, my ward was discussing some of Joseph Smith's letters to his wife Emma. The letters were written on his many trips away--to preach, to set up business, to establish the church, to rein in the church, to deal with the lawsuits and allegations and legal charges laid against him. Etc. This was one of the points of the lesson: Joseph Smith was away a LOT, but he loved his family.

One of the women in my Relief Society said something about how it's evident that Joseph Smith put his family first, that they were his first priority, and that that's clear to see from his letters. And though I think that probably this is fundamentally true--that probably he did love his family more than anything else on this earth and probably they were his first priority--I don't think that's clear from his letters (even ignoring the fact that we were reading excerpts), if for this reason alone: Joseph Smith was away from his family A LOT. And, some might say, often voluntarily.

I sat on my padded plastic chair and thought about this. My father was away a lot when I was growing up. I'd wager (metaphorically) that he's still away a lot. And this is due primarily to his church callings. He was called as bishop of my ward in early 1989. He was called as stake president of our stake in 1993. And when in 1998 we moved--to be closer to his work, I thought--we moved right into the part of the stake they were chopping off to become its own district, and Dad was called as district president. He was unsurprised. That was ten years ago almost exactly. It's been twenty years since Dad sat regularly on our bench with us at church. It's been twenty years since he's been home regularly on Sunday mornings and since he hasn't had to go out multiple times a week for church-related meetings. Most of my memories of my dad from during my high school years are of him standing in the kitchen at 11 pm, tie off and white shirt sleeves rolled up, eating something microwave-reheated off a plate, while I sit at the kitchen table, reeling off about my day and my many life decisions. "Right, right," I can hear him saying. He is holding his fork, looking at his plate, and swaying a little from side to side. Periodically, he picks up a white ceramic mug and drinks some water.

And so, this past Sunday, I asked myself this: How is it that I can tell that, even though my dad spent a lot of time away from us doing church stuff, we were his first priority? How is that I can reconcile my desire to call us his "first priority" when, in reality, he so often chose to be away from us, thereby de facto prioritizing something else? And, more generally (even trenchantly, perhaps), how do we, as a religion that preaches so loudly--so consistently and, these days, so publicly--the central importance of the family, reconcile our claims that we value family above all else, even as we ask these men, these women, these families to spend so much time necessarily apart? (Despite the church's many attempts to get us to streamline our church work and increase time spent with family, a fair amount of church service necessarily means time away. You can't really make a daddy-daughter date of bishop's interviews.)

And, in good interior monologuing fashion, I came up with an answer. While my Relief Society teacher was teaching away, I realized this: I know that we were my dad's first priority because I knew--I KNEW--that he would rather have been with us. I always knew that he would rather have been at home with us. I knew that not even in his heart of hearts was he kind of glad for the responsibility or the power or the self-importance or the whatever that could come from being such a figure in so many people's lives if he were a less humble and a less good man. He loved us the most. He enjoyed us the most. And if he hadn't been called to do that work, then he certainly would have gotten into his car and come home straight to us. And to a sitting dinner.

And I can only think that he was able to communicate that to us because it was really true. Families are smart. They can read between the lines and sense deep truths and pick up the small messages sent by the small acts made by the small parts of us. They can accrue.

So that's my answer. I think that the only way to make our families know that they are the most important thing to us (after our commitments to keep our covenants and serve God) is if they really are. If, in our heart of hearts, we really do love them most. And that, my friends, is the kind of purity only Heaven can help us to. Because, let's face it, if I had had a kid while I was still making sacrament meeting programs, there's a good chance that kid would feel, alas, a little bit nexted.

Please heaven, help me love my hypothetical children so much more than I love the Microsoft Word drawing toolbar and the looks on people's faces as they see what I've got for them this week that my kids never have cause to wonder if I spend so much time on the program because I secretly don't want to be with them. Please. Please. Amen.

Friday, November 07, 2008

A Week Late But Oh So Great

I don't take nearly enough pictures. This is all I have of the Halloween night that highlighted last weekend's adventures in which I had three sets of guests in town simultaneously: Becky R. and a BYU MPA contingent, Reija and Jeff from the Rochester parts, and a few key appearances by Mikey J., my former compatriot in SLS/LDS '08 crime (he was the only other single LDS kid in my class). They all came to Virginia and hung out with me and, on Halloween night, they made my vision come true: there we were, at 11 pm, roasting marshmallows Reija and I had decorated with colored sugar* over a fire Rebecca built in the fire pit we have stashed in our backyard, listening to Mike tell his stories and entertain us all. And then we played hide-and-go-seek in my house (with the lights off). I lost.

The long and short of it is: I'm almost 28 ("practically 30," as Michelle was wont to say), and I just had the best Halloween of my life.

It was a long time coming.

(Thanks, team. Would you consider: Halloween '09?)

*In the picture, Reija's holding the marshmallow version I made of her--red hair, blue eyes, purple shirt, surprised smile, and all.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My Sister Anika: An Overly Long, Long Overdue Introduction

I've been in a long-term relationship since the day I was born. Anika (ANN-ih-kuh) and I are the third and fourth children in a family of nine kids. We follow two boys; we precede three boys; ergo, de facto, we were a pair. By necessity, we lived that way. We split a bunk bed until I was three, shared a pull-out couch until I was seven, and had matching white-metal daybeds until we moved--from the upstairs to the basement--when we took over Nate and Dan's room and lived out our high school years in their low wooden box beds. When I was fifteen, Anika graduated and headed off to BYU, and I became the first in my family to get my own room. I kept two beds.

I followed Snika (that's a nickname; it's pronounced Sneeka) two years later, living first in what had been her freshman dorm (a coincidence) and then in what had been her sophomore-year apartment complex (not a coincidence). I liked the idea of doing what she had done. This wasn't new. Growing up, we were riffs on a theme. She was wide-cheeked and blonde, I was wide-cheeked and brown. She played the violin, I played the cello. She was student body president, I was student body president. She was elected homecoming queen, I was nominated once. By one person. I think.

Despite that, I have to say this: Anika is one of the best people you'll ever know. If you met her, you would quickly agree. No illustrating necessary. But I do want to say this: though I've heard her described as an angel, as a "hummingbird with dignity," and as "the kind of woman we all want to be," she and I used to kick each other when we were angry with each other. Among other ways we disagreed. Once she had a little dish of plastic raspberries, shiny and pink and luscious in their fakeness. I wanted to touch them, to eat them, to make them mine. And when she left the room this once, I think she could see it in my eyes, and she said, "Don't take any of my raspberries! I've counted them, and I know how many I have!" I liked to read in bed at night, long after she wanted to go to bed, and I would say, "Just until the end of the chapter," and she--being generous and sympathetic--would agree. But I started at some point tracing my finger along the lines on the page; I thought it made me read faster and engage better with the text. (I liked to have theories even back then.) This didn't help because Anika would watch me, it turned out, and knew then when I had started a new chapter. "Hey!" she would say, and then yawn, "you started a new chapter..." and she would try to wait impatiently for me to shut my book and turn off my light, but usually she would just fall asleep before I gave in. By the time we were in high school, she consistently fell asleep with the light off, and almost always with her bed covered in textbooks and homework and clean, unfolded clothes. I would laugh and turn off her light and push her leg back onto the bed and hang my clothes on my chair, so they would be ready for me the next morning. I loved that Anika didn't go to bed; she gave up and fell asleep.

I have to confess: this is all old data. Anika and I haven't lived together, really, since 1997, though we've had a few stints here and there over the summers. The summer she brought home Rachel, a roommate, and we repainted the house. The summer she came home engaged, waiting out the summer by making practice wedding cakes with rich fondant frosting while her fiance finished out his study abroad term and made long-distance calls to her from the Jerusalem center. I haven't lived with her since before she was married, and she was married when I was 19.

But she still looks at me when she comes to holes in her stories, like maybe I'll know what she wants to say, like maybe I was there with her when the event happened and maybe I'll fill in the blank and rescue her from momentary forgetfulness. But the truth is, I rarely know her stories in advance, these days. She got married, moved, had a baby, moved, had another baby, moved again, got a washer and dryer, had another baby, bought a house, moved, started taking community ceramics classes where she's the resident Mormon and LDS living expert, and, just newly, started teaching early morning seminary. She wakes up at who knows when and bakes food (sometime this year it will be brownies, I guarantee it) and teaches teenagers religion around her dining room table while the sun rises and the other houses on her street come awake. And then she tends to her always widening galaxy of husband and kids and neighbors and friends and church members. And then she falls asleep and then wakes up and does it again.

That is not my life. Mine is a life of security passes and secretaries and elevators and case law. I have roommates, whom I love, and friends, who make me laugh, and usually some chocolate chips somewhere around me to eat when I want chocolate. What I'm saying is--my life is a good life. I'm grateful for it. But when at work people say--as they often do--"Oh, don't worry, you'll find a practice group you like"--I want to say to them, "Like? LIKE? If I wanted just to have a job I liked, I'd move to my sister's and be her roommate again and help raise her kids." It's a life that sounds great to me, though, like Elizabeth Bennett, I'm pretty sure I would teach them to play "very ill." But it's an outmoded model, one I'm pretty sure has gone the way of the hoop skirt, though, like civil war reenactors, I sometimes desperately wish it could come back into society's (and God's) good graces. Oh, Anika. I recognize I idealize your life. But it's such a nice, beckoning ideal.

And so I'm left with this, my only real question about beginning again to share a cohabitating life with the sister I almost continuously companioned for my first fifteen years: Were I to move in with Snika again, how will her husband feel about having to share her daybed?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ms. Sarah Goes to Washington

I took this picture with my very own camera phone just last night.

Last year, my grandparents sent me a card. "We are so proud of you," they said, "for becoming a lawyer in our nation's capital."

In our nation's capital. I felt like a small town hero.

But being in DC does make me feel a little like a small town hero. I recently watched Mr. Smith Goes to Washington again, the Jimmy Stewart movie about a young idealistic senator's first time in the capital. Mr. Smith (Jimmy Stewart) becomes embroiled in corruption, unwittingly of course, and when he goes to tell the truth about his "distinguished" fellow senator, he becomes the subject of attacks from all of the powers of politics--the other senators, his state's political machine, big media. But he stands strong, literally, as he filibusters for twenty-three hours, while waiting for his state to send their support for him to Congress. (Technological advancement would clearly change this in a remake.) But the truth is stymied and the only word that comes from his state is anti, anti, anti, but he doesn't buckle. He stands for truth and righteousness, as he knows it, but then he collapses beneath the weight of his own exhaustion. And the movie only resolves and the girl gets the guy when the senior senator at the center of the corruption caves and comes clean. I just gave the movie away. But it's still good.

The point of this, I guess, is to say that my patriotic DC-self is awakening. The metro stop after mine is Arlington Cemetery.
If I take a wrong turn leaving the office, I end up at the White House. Last night after work, I met Elizabeth at the Jefferson Memorial. The sun was setting, the high schoolers were touring, and the lights of Virginia shone in the Potomac. And then Elizabeth and I got scammed by a woman asking for money for a taxi ride.

I am not dissuaded. Tomorrow, I will wake up, and I will go to work, and I will be a lawyer in our nation's capital. I will stand for truth and righteousness. I will search Westlaw like a colonial revolutionary. I will bluebook like a citizen and a patriot. And when I turn over in my bed tomorrow night, George and Martha will turn with me, nuzzle into my pillow, and whistle "When Johnny Comes Marching Home" softly in my ear, as I fall asleep under a giant, down-filled flag.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Dutch Bike Dutch, For the Uninitiated




Peanut butter.

Dutch Bike Dutch (n.) is a homespun event planned by Jeanette and a few of her compatriots. This weekend it consisted of (1) one night's hotel stay followed by (2) bike rides of various lengths (15, 30, or 60 miles, give or take, depending on one's ability to get lost) and (3) free peanut butter. It was sponsored this year by Crazy Richard's Peanut Butter (, the peanuts-only peanut butter brand owned by my roommate Stephanie's parents. Did I mention that before? She's a peanut butter heiress. (It's pretty awesome stuff, actually. Its only ingredient is peanuts. No joke. Totally worth buying online or in your local grocery store.)

This time was the seventh time (they go twice a year--once in Fall, once in Spring), and it was the happeningest Dutch Bike Dutch ever. More than 70 young/not-so-young single adults from DC, NY, and Philly converged upon the Quality Inn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania (to the other hotel residents' chagrin), for late-night chatting, mid-morning tire-pumping, and early afternoon peanut butter eating.

And my great friend and former roommate, Elizabeth J., is visiting me from Austin this weekend, so she joined the crew, too. (See her and me and some locals by a covered bridge below.*) Despite my perpetual nose-blowing and deep-throat coughing (see previous post), it was awesome.

Yes, for those of you wondering, I did the hilly 15-miler ride mostly on my Raleigh cruiser, much like this one.

I also rode a few miles on a friend's small road bike, which he kindly offered for a respite. On it, I did go faster, but I was essentially pedaling in fetal position. We switched back before the end. He looked disappointed.

Today, my rear end and I are sore. But happy.

* All pictures courtesy of Elizabeth J.

Okay, one story: My favorite single moment came at a stop sign. A group of us bikers were lined up behind a horse-drawn buggy, which was trying to turn left onto a busy street. A little boy was looking out through the back window of the buggy. He was wearing black and had little blond bangs hanging from beneath a little black hat. He was staring out the back window at us, specifically, it seemed, at Paul, my roommate's boyfriend, who was taking this small, downtime moment to check something on his iPhone. Paul on an iPhone, the little boy in a horse-drawn buggy, and me without a camera. America, circa 2008. Heaven love us.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Home sick.

Today I stayed home sick. To convalesce.

I believe in the word "convalescing." It sounds healing and purposeful. It adds meaning and focus to the general sort of lazing about and alternating sleep/movie schedule that usually fills up a sick day. Before I started to use the word "convalesce," I felt guilty skipping obligations or activities just to nap or watch TV, sick though I may be. I felt like staying home to be sick was a sign of weakness. I'm my parents' daughter; I should just buck up. And carry tissues.

But now that I "convalesce," I don't feel guilty at all. Theory: Watching a movie when I'm "convalescing" is restorative, whereas watching a movie because I can't or don't want to get up is just plain lazy.

And who can say no to a convalescer? No, don't convalesce. No one can say that.

I will acknowledge that convalescing might, at least in part, be a psychosomatic thing. If I tell my body I'm convalescing, then when I'm sitting at home eating nachos with my roommates in lieu of going to the swimming pool with Jeanette or to the gym with Erika, what I'm subconsciously doing is telling my immune system to do its work. Go right ahead, body. Heal. I will not distract you with exertion.

"Oh, sorry, I can't exercise right now. I'm convalescing."

Try it. It's great.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Surprise! or How I Found Myself Floating in Cayuga Lake (Ithaca, NY), Fully Dressed and Surrounded by Empty and Bobbing Beer Bottles

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You should know this: Jane (a friend from Stanford) and I decided to surprise Reija (my newly former roommate) by coming to Rochester for the weekend. We were close-lipped and stealth, and when she came home Friday afternoon from school, we were waiting in her house. "Aghhhhh!" she yelled and hugged us and smiled. "You're here!" We were. And it was a delight.

Saturday, we decided to go canoeing. We didn't know where we could rent canoes near a body of water, so Reija texted a friend. "Go to Ithaca," he said. "There all your dreams will come true."

We went to Ithaca. It was a beautiful drive. I fought the irrational coveting of every person we saw, every house we passed. I mean, I wanted (
wanted) to be me, sitting there between Jane and Reija in the cab of Reija's trusty truck, speeding along the highway from Rochester to the land of dreams. Jane studying civ pro, Reija talking medicine, me trying not to quote Mary Tyler Moore at every turn. I wanted to be me there, with them. But I also wanted to live the lives we sped by on the way--to be the one to live in that trailer, hanging laundry in that yard, run past by that messy-haired boy bee-lining barefoot into that cornfield; to be the preacher or the secretary or the custodian of that white-steepled church, changing the text on the roadside sign from week to week: "MOVIE NIGHT: SPEED RACER / THURS 6:45"; to be the women selling honey, pumpkins, and hardy mums from roadside stands; the research paleontologist or the intern, holed up in the upper rooms of the Victorian-era wing of the Museum of the Planet; the mom ushering her young kids into the steel-and-glass hall of the Museum of the Planet, to look at the dinosaur skeletons and stare and stare and stare.

And I wanted to be the people, out on Cayuga Lake, boating, kayaking, canoeing in a blue bow of water ringed by trees of red and green and yellow and brown.

And then I was.

We rented a canoe at Puddledockers on the canal portion of Cayuga Lake and decided to paddle out to the lighthouse at the mouth of the lake. "Do you have any advice for us?" I asked the 20ish-year-old Puddledocker employee who saw us off the dock. "Well," he said. "Have fun. And jump in. It's a great day for swimming." We all three just kind of looked at him. We were sweatshirts and t-shirts and sneakers and jeans. "We're not really dressed for that," I said, thinking of the Moosewood Restaurant, where we were looking forward to dinnering after our afternoon on the water. We strapped on our lifejackets and stepped confidently into the canoe. We were off.

Along the way, we stopped at a park bench alongside the river, at the edge of a golf course. We sat and talked and watched the water, the trees, the river lapping up against the edge of our canoe, which Jane had tethered to a root on the river bank. When we decided to go, Jane picked up some beer bottles. Three beer bottles. "I want to take these back," she said, "to throw them in the garbage." "We could throw them on the greens in the golf course," I said, not wanting to have the beer bottles rattling around my ankles. "They'd find them there." Jane held the bottles and said again, "I want to take them with us." "Okay," I said. "Okay," we said. And we got back in our canoe.

At the mouth of the lake, we decided to canoe out a little bit, to do a loop around a tall red buoy. We'd sat there for a while, watching the motor boats drive by, feeling the wind, being jostled by the water which had gotten a little choppy out on the open water. But it was getting time to turn back, so we made to head back up the canal, when we were rocked by a wave. Jane was singing children's songs in French. We were rocked again. I was sitting in the middle of the canoe and tried shifting to my right, hoping to stabilize the canoe. No luck. We were rocked again--and apparently I made a noise--and we were in the water.

Then we were treading water and grabbing bags and trying not to lose the paddles and I was trying not to kick off the flip-flops I'd borrowed from Reija's roommate and we tried to reflip the canoe, but it was full of water and was floating underwater, and I was afraid we were going to lose it at the bottom of the lake, so we flipped it again and weren't quite sure what to do. We were too far from shore to pull the boat in and the water was too deep for us to have something to stand on. But a boat pulled up--and then a second--and then a third--and we were saved. Jane was laughing so hard. "This is so funny!" she said. "This is SO FUNNY!" she said again.

"They need their canoe righted!" one boatman said to another. I was relieved. "But I'm afraid they've lost their beer forever!" And that's when I noticed our little circus of canoe and paddles and bags and flip-flops and girls was surrounded by a distinctive triumvirate of bobbing beer bottles. Three beer bottles. Three girls. And Jane was laughing so hard. "Wait!" I said, treading water and holding onto the canoe. "We don't drink! We were just trying to take them to a garbage can!" Boatman #1 smiled broadly and raised his hands, palms forward, gesturing in a "I'm not making judgments of you three at all!" sort of way. "Can we do anything?" said a woman in boat #3. "Yes!" said boatman #1. "You can grab the beer bottles!" And as we were pulled on board boat #2 and handed towels and asked to sit back as they tied our righted canoe to their rope line, I looked behind us and saw woman in boat #3, reaching far out into the water, trying to grab an elusive bottle. Her kids were watching dumbly on. I can only imagine the lessons she was teaching. "See, kids? This is why we don't drink and boat."

Back at Puddledockers, the employees there were surprised to see us all wet. "Things haven't been going well for you today!" one guy said, after we told him we'd lost Reija's camera because I didn't know, apparently, how to close the waterproof bag they'd loaned us and probably after remembering that we had called three times for directions because we had made an unnecessary 45-minute loop on our way to the store. "Actually," one of us said. "It's being a great day!"

A great day. A great weekend. It totally was.

(Note: After we left Puddledockers, we headed to Wal-Mart and a dollar store to buy new clean outfits, from the skin out, which is why we showed up at the Moosewood--an awesome, awesome vegetarian restaurant--fully clad in identical but variously colored track suits and hungry hungry and cold. We ate so much good food, including vegan chocolate cake, and drove home fat and dry and happy. Who could have wanted it to turn out in any other way?)

Friday, October 10, 2008

An Irony of Modernity

There I was, with my fourth genius bar reservation in one week, holding my iPod thinking, "Please don't work, please don't work, pleasedon'twork."

It didn't.

I'm pleased to say they're giving me a new one.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Personal Progress

Progress is
  • billing five hours of direct client services in one day (which, Monday and Tuesday, I tried--and failed--to do; next week, I'm shooting for six)
  • running before work and swimming after dinner, on the same day
  • getting my iPod to recharge
  • socializing mid-week with ward members
  • buying kale
  • making my bed with my own sheets (finally found amidst my many packing boxes), my new TJ Maxx faux-down comforter, and my just-delivered-from-Amazon silk and gold duvet cover
  • returning Baby Mama on time
  • and going to bed (let's hope, let's hope) before midnight.
That's change I can believe in.

Personal progress. What's it to you?

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Look Before You Lend

One day in the nineties, my dad and I were standing in the kitchen area of the South Shore Ward building in Patchogue-Medford, NY. Someone was telling my dad who in the ward had volunteered to bring treats to a then-upcoming youth activity. He/she was saying that one family in our ward--a family with a lot of teenage boys--said they probably wouldn't bring anything. But whoever the speaker was said that probably, this family would end up bringing something anyway. They usually did.

My dad looked sort of disapproving. I said, "Dad, isn't it better that they say they won't bring something and then do, than say that they will bring something and then don't?" I said it kind of flippantly, sure that my dad would agree and appreciate my quick, logical turn-of-phrase. My dad, my kind and generous-hearted and gentle father, looked me in the eyes and said: "It would be better if they said they were going to bring something and then did."

Today I promised three things that I later learned I didn't have:
  • a crockpot (to make barbecue beef for a small post-conference dinner this evening; my friend Peter came over at 8 this morning to get it going; alas, we had no crockpot; alas, we had to call a friend whose engagement has already elicited a crockpot; yes, we did slow cook chuck eye beef in it today, using it even before the happy couple did)
  • baking powder (to make corn bread for our dinner; fortunately, Peter had some; unfortunately, he had to drive home to get it, missing the first few minutes of the afternoon session of conference)
  • What's Up, Doc? (Peter and Jeanette and I wanted to watch it this evening after dinner; I said I owned it; I thought I did; I can visualize it even, even on my shelves; I could not find it in my hastily unpacked moving boxes, at least the ones that looked like they were producing movies; Peter went home, thrice disappointed, and Erika, Jeanette, and I ended up watching some of Baby Mama again; which, to be honest, is a surprisingly funny and subtle movie).
Saying I'm going to come through for people makes me feel great. Not coming through for people makes me feel bad. This is, of course, an eternal truth.

"We are already a covenant-making people. We need to be a covenant-keeping people."
- Camille Fronk Olson

May I work harder and with more humility to come through on those eternal covenants I have already made. May I be a better friend, promising and delivering the things that will help others' lives to go meaningfully and well. And may I please find What's Up, Doc? in my stuff somewhere. It's such a funny movie.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Three for Three

Note: This is not my actual cheeseless pizza. It is a dramatization.


Stephanie had asked me if I wanted to go to institute with her. Feeling like I don't leave my house enough and that I should try to be a part of the larger DC singles culture--and, as happens periodically, feeling guilty about my eh-institute attitude--I said yes. Later, I asked Jeanette if she wanted to come. The plan: Leave for institute at 7:20. It starts at 7:30. It's 15-20 minutes away. I didn't say anything.

I got home from work at 6:30, with just enough time to make the cheeseless pizza I'd been talking about since the night before. (Cheeseless pizza = crust + sauce + toppings.) Erika wasn't a believer. "Prove me wrong, Sarah," she said. "I hope I'm wrong." But, of course, I didn't start the pizza until 6:55 (I found Erika on her bed, where Stephanie found the two of us; there was talking). As I sauteed up some old garlic (found on the butter shelf in the fridge), onions, carrots, broccoli, mushrooms, the girls gathered. I baked the crust (pre-made) with some olive oil above it and olive oil beneath, then I added the toppings, and slipped it back in. By the time the pizza came out of the oven, all four of my roommates had gathered in the kitchen, waiting to eat, waiting to leave. "We never do this!" Stephanie said. "We're never all home at the same time."

I rolled the pizza cutter across the pizza, four times, five girls. And Erika took a bite. She shook her head. "I'm a believer," she said. "It doesn't need the cheese. I was wrong."

Then it was 8, and Stephanie's friend pulled up outside to take us to institute (a part of the plan I hadn't seen coming). We went outside, and there were two in the car already. But we piled four in the back anyway--Wendy, Steph, Jeanette, and me--and headed off into the crazy rain. We got stopped in bad traffic one exit out, made room for the police cars, pulled off the highway, and headed home. Then Jeanette and I watched a movie. It was awesome.


We went swimming. Jeanette has started swimming, and I want to be like her, so I wanted to go too. I invited Kim G., a new friend from my ward (and the daughter of my former Plainview New York Stake stake president). Steph sent me an email titled: "gah swimming!"; she wanted to come, too. So Wednesday night, we gathered in the kitchen with swimsuit and towels and $4 each. Jeanette with goggles; the rest of us with goggle envy. And we took off to the pool. It's a high school pool, turned county pool at night, and the room is steamy, the lanes are narrow, and the parents watching their kids' swim practices look as bored as I remember.

But we swam--though we're not all confident swimmers--and we came home again, through the rain, wet and cold and ready for dinner.

I made linguine with clam sauce and broccoli. Jeanette set the table. Kim did a crossword puzzle and filled the water glasses. Wendy made corn on the cob. Steph provided sliced cucumbers and grape tomatoes. We had grapes. "You're eating dinner as roommates?" Kim asked. "We never do this," Wendy said. We sat around the kitchen table and ate until we couldn't. Then Wendy made milkshakes, and we watched a movie. That was Wednesday.


When Erika and I got back from the gym on Thursday night, the debate had already started. I had backseat debated for the first ten minutes as we tried to follow it at the gym, trying to read the closed captioning as we ran. "She's not answering the question!" I yelled. Erika would look over and smile. "No, don't say it!" I said. Erika would look over, smile. "I can't believe he just said that!" I said. The man on the treadmill next to me got up to leave.

We walked into the house, sweaty and cold but feeling good, and we found the girls in the livingroom. Wendy was eating ice cream. Stephanie was eating double-stuffed Oreos. Jeanette was eating dinner. "What are you eating?" I asked. "What's on the stove," she said. I got some, too. Then Erika and I sat down, and we watched Palin and Biden smile and wink. "I don't like women winkers," Erika said. "Oh really?" I said. "My sister's a winker. I do." Half of us would talk and the other half would watch the TV. Then we'd all be quiet and listen to the thing. Then two of us would talk, and the other three would watch TV.

When my plate was empty, Jeanette stood up to get me more. I sat in our fat taupe recliner, sweaty and tired, and she handed me my plate, full of noodles and tofu and something else. I looked down at the plate and up at the room, full of women I am coming to love. I was glad to have all this. I was hungry for more.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sarah and Men: A Story in Two Parts (with Glossary)

Part I.

At one point last year, Reija turned to me and said, "Sarah, I've been trying to picture all of the men that I know you think are attractive to see if I can find what they have in common."

"Oh?" I said.

"Yes," she said. "And the only thing I've come up with is that none of them have great hair."

Note: My apologies to those of you male readers who might think I find you attractive.

Part II.

This last Sunday was my second Sunday in my new ward. Because I've been busy with my move-in-to-do list--namely, painting my room and setting up my bed so I can stop croaching on Jeanette and Erika and the couch, and sleep in my own bed, which I finally did last night (wahoo!)--I haven't been thinking much about the fact that a new city will also mean new boys to meet. And date. If all goes well. But the thought started coming to me this Sunday as we were walking into church, so as the services started, I looked around to check out the situation. A quick survey of the men in my ward and the thought, These boys look nice, but there aren't any yet that I feel like really could be, you know, for me. At first look. I figured I'd have to wait to get to know people or know more people or let life unfold or whatever, but that's what I was thinking. Until the second speaker.

He stood up. He started telling his leaving-Provo-and-coming-to-DC story in this way that was funny and charming and tender. He spoke heartfully of his testimony of repentance and of the Savior. He was bald. And I thought, "Oh good, there's at least one guy in this ward who looks like he could be my style."

He was the high council speaker.

The end.

Note: To my credit, he was youngish (in his early thirties? nothing the Stanford Second Ward hasn't seen), and he isn't married. He wasn't wearing a ring, he didn't mention a spouse or children, and then we checked him out on the stake website afterwards. No woman with the same last name at his address. In fact, he lives near me in a townhouse with some single guys. But still. STILL. Still.

But who's surprised?

A Glossary for the Mormoncentric Terms Used Above:

  • Ward: An LDS church congregation.
  • Stanford Second Ward: One congregation of young single adults between the ages of 26 and (heh hem) 35 (or older) in northern California. I was a member of this ward for about a year and a half.
  • High Council: A group of men selected from a number of wards in a given geographic area (we call it a "stake"), who are chosen for their spiritual maturity (ish). They are typically middle-aged or older. And are almost always married; though, it turns out, they don't have to be.
  • High Council Speaker: One Sunday a month, each ward in a stake is visited by a high councilman from (often one from another ward in that same stake) who gives one of the talks during services. High councilmen, being middle-aged or older, are known for being long-winded and dry. Not the kind of speakers that usually prompt crushes by girls in the visited congregations.
  • Reija: Pronounced RAY-uh. A newly former roommate of mine, with whom I lived for two years at Melville, an Edenic sort of mansion-cottage in the un-self-sustainably affluent and idyllic town of Palo Alto. She is seerlike and observant. Like an eagle prophet.

I just saw Charlotte Gray with Billy Crudup and thought he was ridiculously good-looking. And he has great hair. Ish. Right?
(He's the one on the right. The one who doesn't look like a high councilman.)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

We do!

I attended a wedding in Pennsylvania on Saturday afternoon. That's one of the glories of the East coast. State-trotting is like hop-skotch. It's child's play.

It was the wedding for a friend from law school, who was one of our most discontented law students during our first year. And maybe all the way through. But she ended up marrying the law association president, who was essentially the posterboy for law school and the law school life. As Karren would say, life unfolds.

But they were a beautiful couple--beautiful--and they were married on the front steps of her family's home. They had a Quaker ceremony, which meant that there was no officiator, just my friend's grandma reading them questions and waiting for them to reply, simultaneously, "We do." I don't remember the questions, exactly, but they were wedding-like and lovely.
Do you promise to love each other, cherish each other, value each other's independence and spirit, while working still to become one and one family?

We do.

Do you promise to be rich and poor and still in love?

We do.

Do you?

We do.
And then, at one point, the grandma asked us, the audience, a question:
Do you, friends and family, promise to welcome this new couple into your lives, to support them in their marriage and help them to become parts of your communities and become the strong and loving family that they desire to be?
And, from our white folding chairs under a large white lawn tent, the eighty of us had to/got to answer:
We do!
We do. Which of course made me wonder--do we? Will we? Do I? Can I? Will I? How?

I'm still thinking that through. But it was lovely. And it was followed (in an even larger white lawn tent) by barbecue chicken and pasta salad and cupcakes and the best veggie burgers I've ever had and drinking (but not for me), and I was back in Virginia before midnight.

Welcome to the East coast. We love marriage here. We do.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

When the L Burns Out, Whose Gym Is It Then?

At one point in college I thought I was earning $7.00/hour because I had been earning $6.50, and they gave me a ten-cent raise.

I was 19 years old.

It took me a few weeks to figure it out.

Tonight, I joined the Gold's Gym near our house. I went in, bought a yearly contract from a woman named Victoria Valeur (rad, RAD name) (but no, she was not wearing a velour suit), worked out, and walked home, all between 8 and 9 pm. As I told V.V., I needed to get home in time for the season premiere of The Office. She was sympathetic. And sufficiently speedy.

My point is this: As I was running at minute 19:30, I thought, "You have thirty seconds left until you can change the speed," and then I thought, "No! Don't get caught in that trap! You really have seventy!" And then I remembered college.

Oh, time. How it teases.

(I actually saw a Gold's Gym in Austin with the L burned out. It was glowing there in the dark, a floating, illuminating reminder that heaven cares about our corporeal existence. And wants us to take action.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Coffee Cake So Immense

I saw a coffee cake today that was so big that it made me think of a poem KT recently posted on her blog. It is a poem about autumn. It begins with this line: "Lord: it is time. The summer was immense."

I quoted it to one of my co-workers, another new associate with whom I was going to lunch. She and three others and I found ourselves unusually without scheduled lunches (it's typical for new attorneys at my firm to lunch with more senior attorneys for most of the days during the first few weeks of work), so we headed to the Corner Bakery. We paid for ourselves. I'm not sure what she thought of my comparing summer to a coffee cake or quoting Rainer Maria Rilke at a casual Tuesday lunch, but it was a nice moment. A nice moment of collegiality and humanness and food we were buying ourselves (like real working adults) in the midst of two days of sitting, drinking free herbal tea, eating free fruit, and listening to people say, over and over again, in many and different ways, "Welcome to firm life." For example: "Here's a gift umbrella."

Tomorrow I start actually working with my assigned practice group, which works solely on pro bono cases (meaning, cases we do for free, for the good of thing). I'll spend three or four months with them, until I rotate into another group, another practice area, another kind of law with other co-workers. Maybe by then the mean blisters I got yesterday will have healed.

But my shoes. They were oh-so-pretty. Once the blisters die down, I do plan on wearing them again. Half-size too small and all. Patent leather stretches, yeah?

My next goal is to have a job where I don't spend the second day of work thinking mostly about my feet and whether or not anyone would notice if, underneath my computer-training console, I wore the flip-flops I'd smuggled in my bag.

Autumn Day by Rainer Maria Rilke

Lord: it is time. The summer was immense.
Lay your shadow on the sundials
and let loose the wind in the fields.

Bid the last fruits to be full;
give them another two more southerly days,
press them to ripeness, and chase
the last sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now will not build one anymore.
Whoever is alone now will remain so for a long time,
will stay up, read, write long letters,
and wander the avenues, up and down,
restlessly, while the leaves are blowing.

(Translated by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann, “The Essential Rilke” (Ecco))

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mary Tyler Moore

I've started watching the Mary Tyler Moore Show on I'm about eight episodes in to season one, and already I'm charmed. Wikipedia calls it one of the best sitcoms of all time. I can see that. It's about Mary Richards, a girl who'd been putting her boyfriend through medical school, until she realized he was graduating but still wasn't going to marry her. So she took off for a new life--and got a new job as, she was boggled, an associate producer of a news show--in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her new day had dawned.

The opening credits are this lovely montage. Pictures of Mary Richards/Tyler Moore driving off in her car, alone, overlaid by images of her last days at work, the party that bid her goodbye, packing her things up. And she gets to Minneapolis and she wanders the streets in her fur-lined hooded overcoat and in the end, she's surrounded by the people of her new city, who walk by busily, and she revels in it all and throws her mod beret triumphantly into the sky. Mary Tyler Moore. You're going to make it after all.

I start work tomorrow. I'm a new girl in a new city, with a job title that sounds incomprehensibly adult to me. I'll go to work tomorrow, put on my new clothes (no beret), and hope that when I'm pushed on the metro and passed by others busily walking by I'll feel triumphant and not just infinitesmally alone.

Resolution #1: Be like Mary Tyler Moore. Make it after all.

How will you make it on your own?
Who can take a nothing day, and suddenly make it all seem
Well it’s you girl, and you should know it
With each glance and every little movement you show it
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You’re gonna make it after all
How will you make it on your own?
This world is awfully big, girl this time you’re all alone
But it’s time you started living
It’s time you let someone else do some giving
Love is all around, no need to waste it
You can have a town, why don’t you take it
You might just make it after all.

Friday, September 19, 2008

For the Halibut

If I were to say that I had just come back from Alaska, you might ask something well-meaning like this: What was your favorite part? (As did both my parents and possibly one or more of my younger siblings.)

Alas, it's a question that stumps me. But I'm trying not to run from challenge, so, as a stop-gap measure, I will nominate three.

Three Possible Favorite Parts of My Trip to Alaska
  • the (almost) sheer beauty of the place
  • Whittier, AK
  • Christy Y., a long-lost friend I met up with, who was spending her summer driving tour buses around Alaska.
The Beauty
It was rainy and gray about half the time I was in Alaska. The clouds were serious, sometimes masking entire mountain ranges (if I had a dollar for every time someone said, "If the clouds weren't out, right there would be Mt. McKinley!", I'd be well on my way to being able to afford some Sarah Palin glasses), but still, still--the hills were green and the rivers were white and I saw the northern lights. Just one night, in Fairbanks. We had to walk out of the light of our hotel parking lot and stand in the shadows of behind a hulking building. But there they were in the sky. A faint green swath through the low sky, undulating on the south end like a slow, frayed ribbon. And the sun came out for my final few days there. Half the trees were yellow, and valleys opened up on both sides of us as we deadheaded (drove) the coach bus home from Fairbanks. I wanted to build a house on the side of the highway and never never leave.

If I half-closed my eyes and ignored the industrial lots, the functional and unpretty buildings, and all the machinery, it was a seriously beautiful place.

Alaska's state motto is "North to the Future."

During the forties, the Japanese claimed two small islands off the coast of Alaska, and, according to my reliable tour bus driver friend Christy, the American government freaked out. From Alaska, Seattle is only a hop away. (It is three hours from Seattle to Anchorage on a commercial plane today.) So the U.S. government looked to strengthen their Alaskan presence. One place they chose was Whittier because, apparently, Whittier is almost always covered by clouds, making it virtually impossible to see by air. The only way into Whittier (besides navigating through the waterways) was by railroad, twelve miles through a mountain. In Whittier, the government built one giant building, in which everyone did everything. This one building housed all the housing, the doctor's, the grocery store, a church, a movie theatre, everything, apparently. Everyone spent almost every day inside of it, because, it being Alaska, the weather was usually bad.

Today, the one main building still stands, but it is hollowed out, moldy, defunct, and vandalized. Now people live in two buildings: a row of apartments one street away from the water and one high-rise backed up against the base of a mountain. Cars can drive through the railroad tunnel into Whittier, but the tunnel's only wide enough for one car at a time. So the tunnel alternates. In to Whittier, from 4:30 pm to 4:45 pm. Out from Whittier, from 5:00 pm to 5:15 pm. In to Whittier, from 5:30 to 5:45. You see.

Christy and I decided to drive to Whittier on our last day. We hung out at a glacier visitors center until it was 4:22, then we drove to the tunnel. We paid our $12, waited for the green light, and in to Whittier we went. 25 mph, 12 miles, through a small, dark tunnel. And when we emerged, we were in Whittier, which, no one told us, was absolutely beautiful. The small town of Whittier is ringed by high green mountains, with waterfall cascades and blue and brown glaciers. It was covered by clouds today (as usual), but with no rain. A white cap of clouds, a blue water inlet, and a ring of green mountains and glaciers and waterfalls. We got lost trying to get to the old and the new main buildings (who knew there would/could be a dead end in Whittier?), but saw the whole thing (including the excessively creepy old building) in time to make it out during the next out-from-Whittier tunnel window.

(I didn't take this picture of Whittier. Like most publicly available pictures of Alaska, this one is unrepresentatively sunny. But you can see the beauty of it--and the buildings. The old creepy moldy one is the big white one on the left. The new apartment/multipurpose building is the high-rise on the right. Yes, it does have a waterfall right behind it. So awesome.)

If anyone had spent any money making the buildings in Whittier be charming and not just present, it would be a hideaway destination of our dreams. Oh, the forties. If only they hadn't been distracted by fighting that war.

Christy Lu
I met Christy in the year 2000, during my first (and only) summer home from college. She had been roommates with two of my first-cousins in Cedar City during 1999-2000. When a neighbor in New York wanted a summer nanny, we thought of my cousin Becky, who didn't want the job. But she thought of her roommate Christy, who did want the job. So Christy came to Long Island and nannied, and I came home to Long Island and worked as the drivers' ed department secretary, and when we both weren't at work, we were together. It was a great summer. But we lost touch after one or two post-summer emails, until August, when I emailed her and asked her if I could come stay with her for a week in Alaska. You know how I am.

I found Christy again because I'd run into my cousin at a family reunion. I told her how I was thinking about Alaska (state #46!), and she told me how she'd just seen Christy and how Christy was in Alaska this summer, driving a bus. I was on that bandwagon fast.

So Christy's company let me come along with her for her final tour of the year. I got to watch her charm her passengers, joke with them, delight them. "You had the halibut?" she asked one passenger, after we'd had dinner on a train. "Oh, yes," said the middle-aged, white female passenger. Christy smiled, all dimples and cheeks and little white teeth. "Now you can say you came to Alaska for the halibut."

I got to watch her maneuver the 45-foot coach, checking her mirrors, turning the steering wheel slowly, backing up straight into a 10-foot wide space with her eight-foot wide bus.

And I got to hear her thoughts, watch her movies, share her food, and remember how good it is to be with good women, who are confident in God and positive about life and willing to watch four hours of Jane Eyre before bedtime. What a good time. What a blessing. What a mercy.

Now, South to the Future

Christy is trying to decide what next to do with her life and with her talents and schooling. She knows she will tour Europe this fall and then visit many of her nine siblings. She might even come and stay with me for a month or so. But what then? She's not sure. Talking with her about what is next for her made me think about what is next for me. I'm done with college. I'm done with grad school, with law school, and with any sort of student living, probably. I'm done for now, for the time being, with California. And though my heart remains loyal, I've already moved out of Melville. I am, as I write, on a coach bus to DC, where a key waits for me under a flower pot, where my car waits for me in a driveway, and where I will wait for my new roommates to come home.

I loved Alaska, and I am glad that I went. And I am now especially glad to come home to a future I've been waiting for.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"You've Got to See It Before It Melts," Said Mrs. Klein. (Mrs. Klein Is My Parents' Next-Door Neighbor.)

Tomorrow I go to Alaska.


I have a goal to go to all fifty states before I'm thirty. Alaska will be state #46 (following which I'll have two years to hit four states before my birthday in December 2010: North Dakota, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky).

I'll be honest: I actually never thought I'd go to Alaska in my lifetime. Turns out, all you need to travel are time and money. I guess I grew up thinking that there would be more barriers to exotic locales than those. Checkpoints, papers, purposes, questionnaires, savvy, know-how.* A minimum threshold of glamor or good will, at least.

Nope. Alaska. If Sarah O. can do it, you can too.

I'll be back in a week, and I will tell you how it goes. And if I get a glimpse of the Palin brood.

Oh man. I'm so excited.

Woop woop!

P.S. If you have some extra time and are wanting some more media to consume, I'd like to recommend the Mary Tyler Moore Show. I've been watching it on I started with season one, episode one (to do it right), and I've got to say--the show deserved its fame. It's still charming. And she's still beautiful, fake eyelashes and all.

*Okay, I guess technically when traveling abroad there are checkpoints and papers. But I'm a low-hassle kind of girl, I'm realizing. Which deserves its own post. For now, I want to say this: checkpoints and papers are much less hassle than I expected. Maybe because, in my experience thus far, both checkpoints and papers were, at core, just issues of money and time. And, as a new law school graduate, I've got the latter and no meaningful way of appropriately valuing the former. I'm good to go.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Mix Tape?

Or mixed tape?

I'll take comments.

A Short Story (with Plot Points) About My Sister (and a Friend) on Her (Their) Birthday(s)

Today is Beka's thirteenth birthday. She is a teenager.

This morning I made and hung nonsensical and plentiful birthday signage around the house (continuing/importing a long-time roommate tradition because, as Michelle once said, "There's something about signage that's so effective").

In addition to this real world posting, I wanted to do an online posting and bedecor my blog with a short story to the world about the arrival of Bekarek, my youngest sibling and newly teenaged sister.

* * * * *

Thirteen years ago on a day right around today...

[insert graphic of flashback time waves--dddddddd, dddddddd, ddddddd]

My good friend Jen was prepping for her 14th birthday, which was to be on September 9, 1995. She was really excited that my mom was due somewhere near her birthday, and she often (often) tried to convince me to deliver her a baby sibling with which to share her birthday. I tried to explain how little control I had over the situation--so few inducements at my disposal--but she was still hopeful I could work it out. I thought, what are the chances? My life is never that cute.

Rising Action
And then, la, on September 9, 1995, my sister was born. I couldn't believe it. She was beautiful. And she was the things we'd hoped she would be--healthy, human, and compliant:
  • she was born two years after our youngest, making us all two or four years apart--> Nate, two years, Dan, two years, Anika, two years, Sarah, two years, Joseph, two years, Dad's dissertation, two years, Jacob, two years, Peter, four years, Rachel, two years, now Bek, AND
  • she was a girl, keeping with our grouped gender pattern--> boy boy girl girl boy boy boy girl girl. Now Rachel would have a partner, too. (The big boys: Nate & Dan; the big girls: Anika & Sarah; the little boys: Joseph, Jacob, and Peter; and now the litte girls: Rachel & Rebekah.)
But, she wasn't blonde. She was darker (well, just not blonde, really), which, at the time, we figured disrupted our oft-remarked upon alternating complexion scheme--> vanilla chocolate vanilla chocolate vanilla four years vanilla chocolate four years chocolate, now another chocolate.* We were happy to have her anyway.

AND SHE HAD COME ON JEN'S BIRTHDAY! What more does a 14-year-old girl want than to surprise her friends with really good birthday presents? Very little.

So, I decided not to tell Jen or any of my other friends until Jen's birthday party, just a few days after the 9th.

For Jen's 14th, we went to a nice Japanese restaurant. I learned how to use chop sticks and ate food cooked at my table. The beef was so good, and we were laughing so hard, and it was a great, great time. Then came the moment when Jen would open the gifts. I'd covered a box in magazine cut-outs and Modge Podge (a shellaq substance totally in vogue in the mid-nineties), and inside the box, I had placed a piece of paper.

Jen: I love this box, Sarah! It's mint! [Or whatever we were saying then.]
Sarah: Open it, Jen! Open it! [As fourteen-year-olds, we were always talking with exclamation points, I'm sure.]
Jen: Okay! Here I go!

She opens the box. She sees the paper, which says

Born September 9, 1995
Baby Girl Olson [she wasn't yet named]
some lbs, some ozs [I don't remember those details, alas]

Jen reads it silently. Her face! Her face! I can see it! She's excited, too! She exclaims!

Jen: Yippee!

Then, her face falls. She is puzzled.

Jen: (slowly) You named her Chocolate Healthy?

Oh man. I laughed so hard I think I fell off my Japanese bar stool.

No, no, we didn't.

* * * * *

To Jen and especially to Beka: I love you both. Happy, happy birthday to the two of you, on this good September day.

*Not too long later, we realized Beka was a breed all her own. Blue eyes and light brown hair. Caramel.

Monday, September 08, 2008

What We Lose, What We Hope to Find Again

She told me what she misses most right now is the hugging. "No one hugs me here," she said. "I'm so lonely, and no one hugs me." She listed her new friends: "My roommate doesn't hug me. My friend doesn't hug me. My neighbor doesn't hug me. My classmates don't hug me. And I don't have visiting teachers, so they don't hug me."

"Do you hug them?" I asked, knowing, of course, that it was an unfair question. Unfair because I didn't really ask it to know the answer--if she was hugging in her new life, she would already have said so--and because I had wanted to imply that the solution was within her grasp. (Her grasp. That's funny.) My know-it-all/colonizing tendencies. I'm working on them.

"Well," she said, "I already instigate enough touching that I'm trying to be sensitive about it. Sometimes I give side hugs, and sometimes I put my arm around this boy I know. I don't want--I don't want him to get the wrong idea."

She and I were talking on the phone. It was late where we were, in the same time zone, in the same state, but not within six driving hours of each other. I wished my arms were longer.

I was okay with her living apart from me, I thought. We'd been roommates before we both moved. "I'm okay with you living apart from me," I said. "But only when I think that the people around you are treating you well."

"Oh, they are, they are!" she said quickly, then stopped. We were both quiet.

"Maybe I should start hugging them," she said. "Or scratching their backs in church, like I want to. Or playing with their hair when I come into a room and they are sitting down." She laughed. "What would I say to them, when they asked what I was doing?" She laughed again. I said, "You'd say--the human body needs to be touched seven times a day to be healthy." Touched positively, I thought. I didn't say it out loud. I figure she'd understand the distinction. "Launch your loving on them," I said. "I'm for."

Seven times a day. Here, where I am, in this few-week period when I'm between lives--between California and DC, just living in NY with my family--the touching for me is fine. My sisters and I are close, and we voluntarily squeeze onto couches, onto the benches around the kitchen table, onto the chairs at church. I get hugged well at church, too, by Jane B. and Marissa and a variety of other Relief Society sisters when I see them. They hug me often and tightly. In my home branch, I feel like a rock star.

But I'll soon be on my own, too. Making a new life in DC. I'll need to find new grocery stores, new Blockbusters, new places to buy sweet potato fries. I'll spend the first weeks, months, picking up new habits, routines, defaults. I'll refit my old things into new spaces: my mugs in new cabinets, my clothes in new closets, my oh-so-familiar face looking back at me from mirrors that shine and crack in ways that are new to me. And I'll have to find people to hug. To hug and be hugged by.

I've lived in DC twice before, and I already love my roommates there. So I will, I'm sure, have a leg up. An arm, I guess, if you will. But this moving and loving and need for touch.

What else am I going to find I've lost in the transition?

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wrinkles in Time

I have a wrinkle. My first one. It's a small vertical line in my skin, not quite halfway between my eyebrows. It doesn't go away when I stop smiling. That's how I know it's a wrinkle.

I'm not so much concerned that I have one. I'm one of those who's excited about finding gray hairs, admittedly maybe at least as much from principle as from a sense of aesthetics. (Though among many others, a young John McCain reminded me again that gray can be good--who knew he was so good looking back in the day?) But I am worried about how I got it.

I got it from furrowing my brow.

Brow furrowing! Alas. I didn't realize I'd spent so much time being grim.

I told this to a friend recently--"I have a wrinkle, and it's from furrowing my brow"--and the friend said, "I always thought it was a prayer line."

Prayer. That's a nice thing to think about me. But always, as in, before this conversation?*

I just got back from a week-long visit to Texas, and there my best friend Laura had this idea: If I want laugh lines (and I do--they're the romanticized result of a life of buoyancy, good health, and cheer), then I should turn lemons into lemonade. I should start laughing with my wrinkle.

Genius. Reminds me of my brother Jacob's newest favorite quote: "There go my people. I must find out where they are going so I can lead them." (Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin)

As a child the "it will stay that way" threat about ugly face-pulling seemed silly to me. Its illogicality was so obvious as to be nonsensical. The face--it's so plastic, so malleable. Wide mouth, rabbit nose, bubble cheeks, evil eyebrow, pursed lips. Turns out, I was wrong and folk wisdom is finally having its day. Who knew?

What I'm saying is this: The furrowing. Watch out for the furrowing.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Gchat Lesson on Patience and Action

I wrote like three drafts of this blog post with all kinds of high-falutin' and mock epic ramp ups, but really I just want to say this: a friend of mine said a seriously beautiful and seemingly true thing today about how on earth we reconcile the need for patience and the need for action.* I feel like its truths will unfold.


5:10 PM David: patience is the essence of fine mexican food, sarah o [...]
that's what my favorite mexican restaurant in san diego has painted in large print on the wall
so i've decided to apply it to other aspects of my life
me: Wow.
5:12 PM Wow was too big a word for that moment, maybe.
Nevertheless, I am impressed.
Though how do you balance patience with taking control?
David: here's how i see it
me: say
5:13 PM David: i walk up to the register
and i spell out my order
tell them what i want
that's taking control
then i wait as they prepare it
knowing that it will be delicious
that's patience

I know. Seriously. A metaphor that is genius, elegant, and tasty.

Muchas muchas gracias, David Shoe.

*Or in scriptural words:

James 1:4: But let
patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

versus something like

D&C 58:29: But he that doeth not anything until he is commanded, and receiveth a commandment with doubtful heart, and keepeth it with slothfulness, the same is damned.