Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Little brown dress

Would you -- could you -- wear the same thing every day for a year?

This person did. And I'm fascinated by it:

So, here's the deal - I made this dress and I wore it every day for a year. I made one small, personal attempt to confront consumerism by refusing to change my dress for 365 days.

In this performance, I challenged myself to reject the economic system that pushes over-consumption, and the bill of goods that has been sold, especially to women, about what makes a person good, attractive and interesting. Clothes are a big part of this image, and the expectation in time, effort, and financial investment is immense.
She blogs all about her experience and insights over the course of the year, and as I read I found myself secretly wishing I could wear the same thing every day, realizing that it's not realistic in my world -- but then thinking, ok, what IS realistic? Ten items of clothing? Fifteen? Yeah, maybe, actually. Twenty? That's still a LOT less than what's in my closet right now. And it's also a lot more than most people in most countries in the world own.

Anyway, I have approximately one million more thoughts related to this topic. The idea of simplicity, of simplifying life, seems to be popping up every time I turn around -- in movies, music, and friends' homes.

So this post is kind of just a teaser. More thoughts on this later.

Everybody hurts

Without going into personal detail, can I just acknowledge something here?

Sometimes I hurt. Sometimes I hurt a little, sometimes a lot.

Don't worry, I am fine. But the past couple of weeks have not been fine. That's just kind of how life works sometimes. I'm coming out on the other side of this one, amazingly intact, and starting to have some pain replaced by wisdom and insight and even peace. But a part of me -- call it the emo part? -- still wants to acknowledge it, to say, this is how I felt. Not, this is how I fixed it, or this is what I learned, or this is who helped me -- but simply, I felt this. I am a real person having a real human experience, and this is how it feels sometimes. And I know I'm not the only one who feels it.

And so, in the spirit of teen angst, this song from my teen years is for all of us.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Getting my stuff done

I'm having one of those days.

Four in a row, actually.

In fact ... posting this video to my blog is a shining example of my amazing non-productive productivity ...

Friday, February 6, 2009

My dad and the untold story of black mormons

I saw a moving film (for the second time) on Saturday night called "Nobody Knows: The Untold Story of Black Mormons."

It does a beautiful job of covering, as one of the producers, Darius Gray, put it afterwards, both the the bitter and the sweet. I felt somehow healed by it, not just in terms of racial reconciliation but also in terms of reconciling my faith. I highly recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to see it -- whatever your race or religion.
Check out some extended clips from it here.

Coincidentally, I also received a short memoir from my dad this week on the same topic. I was excited to get this piece of family history -- I'd never heard all the details before. Like my dad, I am proud of the progress my country and my church have made over the past several decades. Thanks, Dad, for recording and sending this!

"In light of the recent inauguration of President Obama, our first black president, I thought it would be fun to share a set of cultural experiences I had in South Georgia.

"In 1979, I was living with my growing family in South Georgia. Just one year after the revelation on blacks receiving the priesthood, our small branch of the Church, in Americus, Georgia, was the only integrated church in the County, with 50% black population. I was a counselor in the branch presidency, and we were having trouble getting white members to accept black members attending church with whites, refusing to sit anywhere near them, and certainly not on the same pew!

"I had a black home teaching companion named Willie, and after home teaching the relief society president, I learned from the elder’s quorum president that I was never to bring Willie with me to her house again. Not letting us in the house the first time, she had let us visit with her on her old southern porch. Next time, I was informed, she would not be so kind.

"At work, I was teaching multi-cultural training, with a 50% black and 50% woman workforce. The white men didn’t like us “HR black lovers” too much, because of this training, and said it was totally unnecessary, since they had been raised by black mammies, and therefore got along with their black brothers quite well.

"On the home front, the white man who built my house came by one night, under the cloak of darkness, to tell me that if I sold my house to a black man, which I was considering doing, he, the builder would be run out of town and it would destroy his business.

"One day, Sister Stevenson, a black member of our branch asked my wife Vicki and me to sing at her son’s funeral. Her son had been killed in a drive-by shooting. So Vicki and I went to the funeral at a small, one-room church out in the country. The church looked like an isolated wooden shack, with a red dirt parking lot, and a single picture of Martin Luther King hung from the white walls inside.

"When it was our turn to sing, there was no piano for the accompanist we had brought, so we proceeded to sing Oh My Father “acapella.” In the middle of the first verse we realized the crowd of black family members was beginning to sing with us, clapping and swaying to the beat. So, yes, you guessed it, we went the distance with all the verses with black choir accompaniment. Vicki and I adapted to the southern singen style, and found ourselves exhilarated by the spiritual experience we were having together.

"After the funeral, and at the luncheon, most of those black family members and friends hugged us and told us how much they liked the song, accepting us as members and friends of the family. I was deeply moved by this experience as our hearts were touched by their kindness and love. I have often wondered since then, when and how we might begin to be as loving and Christian as this community of black people. 30 years later, I take great joy in seeing how much progress the Church and our nation have made.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


It's really the only way to describe DC last weekend: Obamarama. One big Obamafest. Or, as one columnist put it, a combination of an Obama-themed flea market, a tour bus park, a street party and an armed camp.

Another way to describe it would be our mantra for inauguration day: "More miserable = more memorable!" The complete story:

Yes, I managed to roll out of bed with a 6 on the alarm clock, dress in five layers on top and three on the bottom, and pack sardine-like onto a train with folks from Missouri and North Carolina for what turned out to be an hour-long ride into downtown. More miserable = more memorable!

By some miracle, I actually met up with my friends (Kim, Richie, Hannah and Greg) in the throngs of people. In eight years in Washington, I've never seen anything like these crowds. We waited in line for a couple of hours -- I won't comment on the tundra that was DC except to say that I've never been happier to pay above-market price for anything than I was to purchase $5 handwarmers some lady was hawking out of a backpack. But it was ok, because more miserable = more memorable!

Our line eventually dissolved into a crowd of confused people. At one point, people started chanting, "Let us in! Let us in!" and I pictured myself actually dying heroically while protecting the two women next to me in wheelchairs from being trampled. (More miserable = more memorable?!)

We squirmed around the outer edge of the crowd to the front where security guards were turning everyone away (even though we all had tickets!), saying the mall was at capacity -- which turned out not to be true, as we found out by running half a block down and cutting onto the mall between some parked tour buses. After jumping a concrete barrier, pushing through another crowd, breezing through a make-shift security point and running across two downed fences, we ended up with a great spot on the north side of the Capitol reflecting pool -- just as the ceremony started. From there on out, it was much more memorable than miserable.

It was true -- there was real energy and comraderie in the crowd. My favorite moments of the ceremony included:
  • Aretha Franklin's song (she rocked), especially when she sang the line "Land where my fathers died" -- it gave me chills. (Yo Yo Ma was cool, too, but the slow song, although beautiful, didn't match the upbeat tempo of the crowd. I did love it later when I watched it on TV.)
  • Obama's speech, especially this paragraph:
"Those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task."
  • People-watching in the crowd around me, especially all of the older African-American ladies dressed to the nines in their pearls and fur, walking with their heads high and seriously contagious smiles on their faces. The meaningfulness of this event to the black community in DC can hardly be understated and has touched me over the past couple of weeks.
So there you have it. My view of the Obamarama. But this post would not be complete if I didn't include a picture of the cookies we frosted at Collette's house sporting the Obama logo. Ryan and Kim brought some Obama cookies from New York, too -- please note the "black and white" cookie, as well as the mini-pecan pie -- "Yes Pe-Can!"

Whatever your politics, it was hard not to get caught up in the excitement of this weekend -- of being alive to see history in the making. Here's to America!

The problem with getting to work on time

... is that it makes the day too long!

That's what it says on a refrigerator magnet given to me by someone who knows me WAY too well.

Last week I discovered another problem with getting to work on time. Well, in this case, early. I arrived at 7:40, almost an hour and a half before our office officially opens. I turned on my computer and then walked out to the cafe to get water and tea. As I was about to walk back to my desk, I realized I didn't have my little grey fob-thingy to get me back in. I was locked out, trapped in the lobby, and no one else was in sight.

I didn't know what else to do, so I watched CNN for a while, all about Bush's farewell address and the plane crash into the Hudson River. I tried using the lobby phone to call and see if any of my coworkers who usually arrive early had snuck in through the other entrance. Finally, at 8:10, the director of our project came into the cafe. I, of course, pretended like I'd only been in the cafe for a few moments and nonchalantly let him hold the door open for me because my hands were full.

His reaction to seeing me at 8:10 am: "What are YOU doing here so early?"

Thursday, January 15, 2009

My nephews are cuter than your nephews

Sorry, but it's true. Could these guys possibly be any more ADORABLE?!

Seriously. Just try to resist these handsome baby blues ... go ahead, try.

Thanks for the pics, Em! I love them! And I love the real you guys, too!