Thursday, December 25, 2008

Joy to the World

"Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy." One of the most quoted scriptures from the Book of Mormon. When I was a kid, I remember hearing this passage quoted often by people using it to justify incessantly seeking after frivoulous fun. See? Men are that they might have joy. Proof that God wants us to be happy (or in other words, to have fun)—that the whole reason we exist is to have fun. I remember my dad teaching us that this passage could not be read without the following verse: "And the Messiah cometh in the fulness of time, that he may redeem the children of men from the fall." At the time, I didn't fully understand the connection.

It wasn't until years later that I started noticing that, in the scriptures, joy seems to be inseparably connected to redemption through Christ.

In Mosiah 4, when King Benjamin's people realized their need for a Redeemer, they "cried aloud with one voice saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins." Then, "after they had spoken these words, the Spirit of the Lord came upon them and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins."

In Alma 36, as Alma the Younger was "harrowed up by the memory of [his] many sins," his mind caught upon the thought of Christ and he cried within his heart: "O Jesus, thou son of God, have mercy on me." His pleas were heard, and his pain was taken away and replaced with "joy as exceeding as was [his] pain."

Again and again throughout the scriptures, joy seems to connote a state of mind, spirit, and emotion that comes as a direct result of receiving redemption through Christ.

Understanding this has given added dimension to my concept of joy. Indeed, men are that they might have joy. When Adam and Eve are taught about the atonement, Eve proclaims, "Were it not for our transgression we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption."

The Christmas hymn means more now than before: "Joy to the world, the Lord is come. Let earth receive her King!"

Thursday, December 18, 2008

This Episode: Brought to You By the Letter "J"

Sometime ago I noticed a pattern in my life. 90% of the guys I've ever had crushes on or who have had crushes on me have names that start with the letter "j". It's weird. My very first crush that I can even remember was on a boy named Joel when I was in first grade. He had blond hair and could run uncommonly fast for a kid his age. He was dreamy...or at least as dreamy as a first grader can be.

And so it began. Since Joel, I've had a string of "j"-names to keep me preoccupied. I've been through a Jeremy, a Jared, a Jason, a John, at least three Jeffs (one of whom was actually a Geoff...but the "j" sound was still there...). There have been two Jordans, a Jim and a Jimmy. A Josh (a guy I knew in college who now, 10 years later, is dating a friend of mine...), a Joshua (who I actually professed my love to, and then wished I hadn't), and a José (where the "j" sound was lost but the letter remained).

Now, don't think I haven't given any of the other letters a chance. The more serious boyfriends in my past have not had names that start with "j". In fact, while there have been many "j"-names in my life, I've never legitimately dated any of them. It seems that the "j"s like to come around to keep things interesting. But boyfriend material for me, at least so far, has been found in other realms of the alphabet.

Nevertheless, I keep collecting "j"s. And who can blame me when they're so collectible?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Define "Separation"...

So, I've been meaning to write a response to the ridiculous display that was the Larry King Live show a few weeks ago. Enough time has passed now, that I really should just let this one go. But, I can't. That's how much it irked me. The program focused on the same-sex marriage issue. Joy Behar from The View was sitting in for Larry King, so I knew from the get-go I would likely be driven to yelling at my television before the hour was over. And Joy, bless her heart, did not disappoint.

There are so many things that deserve commentary from the hour-long show, it would be impossible to address them all. So, I'll focus on the thing I yelled the loudest/longest at. And that was this inane statement made by her first guest, lesbian/actress/gay rights activist Cynthia Nixon. This statement was made in response to Joy's question about whether the LDS church should lose its tax-exempt status because of its members' involvement in passing Proposition 8. And I quote:

"If they're doing the things they have been doing—if they're making robo-calls in favor of candidates or political positions, yes. One thing we really need to keep in mind here is that we do have a strong separation in this country of church and state. So, once a church starts advocating a political point of view, I don't feel like that's free speech on their part, I feel like that is mixing where they really don't belong."

She reiterated: "Separation of church and state—very important."

So, here...once again, we need to have a history lesson. People love to pull out the "separation of church and state" clause. But do any of the people who use it to defend their positions really have any clue where it came from? Doubtful. If they did, they would stop using it since it doesn't mean what they want it to.

The phrase "separation of church and state" is not, contrary to popular belief, in the Constitution. Rather, it was a phrase Thomas Jefferson used in a letter he wrote to the Danbury Baptists in 1802. Again, I quote:

"Believing that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their Legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,' thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."

Thomas Jefferson was merely asserting that there should never be a State religion. In other words, a government should not determine nor define the faith of its citizens. He did not say that religious organizations should not be permitted to encourage their members to advocate a particular side of an issue which arises in the public square. In fact, he supported this.

Few things perturb me more than this claim by so many in our society that religion has no place in politics. When Sarah Palin was named McCain's running mate, everyone was concerned about whether her religious beliefs would influence her choices. OF COURSE THEY WOULD! Just as Obama's and Biden's fundamental religious views (whatever they are) will guide their actions. It would be impossible for them not to.

I love how people who don't consider themselves religious think that their lack of religion doesn't affect their they shouldn't have to stand for the religious beliefs of any other person or group being "imposed" on them through any established standard influenced by religious values. Do they not realize that their anti-religious views are being thrust upon those of us who consider themselves religious? Do they not realize that everyone has a religion—that the absence of religion is a religion?! There is no neutral ground here, people.

In his talk entitled "A More Determined Discipleship," given in 1978, Elder Maxwell quoted MJ Sobran. Try this on for size:

"The Framers of the Constitution … forbade the Congress to make any law ‘respecting’ the establishment of religion...; and they explicitly forbade the Congress to abridge ‘the free exercise’ of religion, thus giving actual religious observance a rhetorical emphasis that fully accords with the special concern we know they had for religion. It takes a special ingenuity to wring out of this a governmental indifference to religion, let alone an aggressive secularism. Yet there are those who insist that the First Amendment actually proscribes governmental partiality not only to any single religion, but to religion as such.... It is startling to consider that a clause clearly protecting religion can be construed as requiring that it be denied a status routinely granted to educational and charitable enterprises, which have no overt constitutional protection. Far from equalizing unbelief, secularism has succeeded in virtually establishing it...."

Elder Maxwell then said:

"Brothers and sisters, irreligion as the state religion would be the worst of all combinations. This new irreligious imperialism seeks to disallow certain opinions simply because those opinions grow out of religious convictions. Resistance to abortion will be seen as primitive. Concern over the institution of the family will be viewed as untrendy and unenlightened. In its mildest form, irreligion will merely be condescending toward those who hold to traditional Judeo-Christian values. In its more harsh forms, as is always the case with those whose dogmatism is blinding, the secular church will do what it can to reduce the influence of those who still worry over standards such as those in the Ten Commandments. It is always such an easy step from dogmatism to unfair play—especially so when the dogmatists believe themselves to be dealing with primitive people who do not know what is best for them—the secular bureaucrats’ burden, you see. "

This was 30 years ago. Are we there yet?

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Sing Praises to His Name, He Forgets Not His Own

As Whitney and I stuffed our turkey today, we wondered who came up with the idea to fill the cavity of a dead bird with bread crumbs and onions and celery. I mean, it was genius, whoever it was...just doesn't seem like the most obvious of culinary maneuvers....

But a day of thanksgiving? What could be more natural than, as George Washington said Thanksgiving should be, "a day...devoted to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be—That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks—for His kind care and protection"?

In 1857, Sarah Josepha Hale, the individual most credited with making Thanksgiving a national holiday, wrote that a national day of Thanksgiving would create a union among all the States and Territories such that "the peoples of the Old World would thus be taught that freedom from man's tyranny brings us nearer to God—that, while rejecting earthly lords, we willingly acknowledge our dependence on the Lord of heaven and earth."

And what a dependence we have. But here's the irony of it all: it is through our reliance on Him that we grow strong. And as we continually demonstrate a willingness to rely on something more than our own arm of flesh, "God, our Maker, doth provide for our wants to be supplied."

Today, I'm thankful. For so much.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Wait a Second...

While chatting on the phone with my mom the other day, we were reflecting on my coming to LA and on the incredible experience it has been, particularly with the recent occurrences surrounding Prop 8. She told me that she had come across a passage in her scripture study that had made her think of me. I asked her where it was. "Amos 4:9, I think," was the response.

I looked it up and read it aloud:

"I have smitten you with blasting and mildew: when your gardens and your vineyards and your fig trees and your olive trees increase, the palmerworm devoured them: yet ye have not returned unto me, saith the Lord. " I don't even know what to say. Thanks, Mom....

She quickly corrected herself. "Oh, wait. What? No...try Micah, not Amos."

"For now shalt thou go forth out of the city, and thou shalt dwell in the field, and thou shalt go even to Babylon: there shalt thou be delivered; there the Lord shall redeem thee from the hand of thine enemies."

Ah. That's better.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


A week ago today, California voted on Prop 8. By a 52% majority, it passed. On Wednesday, the day after Election Day, demonstrators gathered in front of the Los Angeles temple to protest the passage of the Proposition, and specifically identified the efforts of the Mormons as the reason it passed.

I couldn't resist the opportunity to go check it out. It was truly surreal. My friend, Zach, who was in the area, came and met me there. We went and stood right in the middle of the mass to get an up-close-and-personal view of what was happening. At first there were maybe 75-ish people gathered in front of the temple listening to some representative of a gay & lesbian organization give a speech about how unfair this was and how now that Obama was president, he was going to help change this, blah, blah. It was pretty weak, really. Not largely attended and rather quiet. We looked at each other and said, "This is it?" So, we turned to leave.

As we turned and faced east down Santa Monica Boulevard, we saw a mass of people coming our way—filling the four west-bound lanes of the street. An estimated 3,000 of them. They held signs with the most condemnatory language I've ever encountered. (And they say we are full of hate.) They waved gay pride flags. They chanted and screamed rude things about the Mormons and the things we hold most dear. (And they call us bigots.) They posted their signs on the gate to the temple and wrote "Liars" and "Bigots" on the walls. They told us to get out of California because this is their state. (And they say we are intolerant.)

One guy climbed up on the base of the light pole and screamed, "My fellow Americans..." He did the whole "give me liberty or give me death" thing, which kind of offended me to have Patrick Henry's noble declaration used in this context. He continued by proclaiming that this was why our Founding Fathers had created the Constitution, that this was what men have fought and died for—so that the gays could have the right to marry. I could not help but shake my head and say, "No sir, you've got it all wrong." (Luckily, only Zach was close enough to hear me.)

I'm continually shocked by how misconstrued the intents of the framers of the Constitution are by people who clearly do not know their history. They think that the Constitution was created so that the people of this country would be free to do whatever they want—to act on their basest desires, if they feel so driven. This could not be further from the truth!

The Founders advocated freedom of thought and belief, to be sure. But they frequently acknowledged the necessity of religion to influence government and moral ideals to directly shape the structure of our society.

George Washington: "Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, Religion and morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labour to subvert these great Pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and citizens."

John Adams: "Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

Benjamin Franklin: "Virtuous Men ought to league together to strengthen the Interest of Virtue, in the World: and so strengthen themselves in Virtue."

The Founders created a Constitution which would allow all religions to stand on equal footing. But they also created one which would allow the religious-minded to do everything they could to perpetuate the morality of their society.

The outcome of Prop 8, my "tolerant" gay friend, is a perfect example of what the Founding Fathers intended. The vote was put to the people and the outcome was influenced by the "Pillars of human happiness." Barely.

Check out more pictures, taken by a good friend of mine, and get a behind-the-scenes look from the perspective of an LAPD officer. Also, see the Catholics come to our defense.

Monday, November 3, 2008

♂ + ♀ = 8

So, I've been MIA for a while now. And for anyone who doesn't know why, the title of this post says it all. Here in California, we're fighting same-sex marriage. And what a fight it has been. I have been lucky enough to have landed myself right in the epicenter of activity. The bishop of my singles ward has a great deal of experience managing campaigns and, therefore, was called upon to help lead the membership of the Church in the Yes on Prop 8 efforts in cooperation with the Protect Marriage coalition. Because of his direct involvement, we, the members of the Santa Monica 3rd Ward, have become his foot soldiers.

It has been an absolutely incredible experience working with other singles under the direction of our Fearless Leader to preserve the traditional definition of marriage. We received the assignment from the Brethren to mobilize the Young Single Adults throughout California. I have learned so much. And I have truly been amazed as I have seen what I feel is only the beginning of the division that will form among the members of the Church as the world moves farther and farther away from Christ, and as we individually have to make a conscious choice. Do we "blindly" follow the prophet? Or do we consider ourselves more enlightened, more tolerant, more progressive...finding it too uncomfortable and inconvenient to buck the trend being set by the rest of the world? Would we rather remain inconspicuous and not, as an acquaintance of mine said, "make a scene?" I firmly believe this is only the beginning of the "scenes" we will be asked to make as the chasm between where we stand and where the world is headed grows ever wider. (Does Lehi's vision ring any bells?)

It has occurred to me several times over the past many weeks, as supporters of Prop 8 have been called intolerant religious fanatics, that "tolerance" is a dicey ideal to embrace. We would never be "tolerant" of a plague or a deadly disease. We would do everything in our power to protect ourselves from something we knew would so seriously harm us. So why would we not take similar precautions to protect ourselves, our families, our children, our society from something that we have no doubt (and that, in fact, we have been warned) will ultimately lead to ruin?

We are not against gay rights. We are for marriage and family. We are not for taking away any fundamental rights. Homosexuals have all the same rights under domestic partnership as married couples. And, last I checked...getting married isn't a "fundamental" right, anyway. (The opposing side keeps claiming that this is what Prop 8 would do
—take away fundamental rights. Where did this argument come from?) We do not hate gays. We do love our religious freedom and our right to believe that some behaviors have been declared by God as unacceptable. And we feel strongly that as the world demands that homosexuality become a protected class under the law, our religious freedoms are being put more and more at risk.

We have been called upon to hold the line, to maintain a standard, to proclaim that marriage is defined by God as between a man and a woman. No matter how unpopular our position, we must stand our ground. Even if the world refuses to accept a truth, that doesn't change the fact that it is true. Whether you like it or not, Mayor Newsom.

The fight (or at least this round) ends on Tuesday, but my fellow foot soldiers and I have all acknowledged to each other that we know we will be fighting this for the rest of our lives. Fortunately, we are so much more prepared now than we were when this began. Whether we win or lose on Tuesday, we know we have done everything we could do to ensure this passes, just as we were asked. More than that, because of our involvement in this, we are different. And the world will be different as we each carry this experience with us wherever we are called upon to take a stand—for the world will be spared, however obliviously, "for ten's sake."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Texas Sky's the Biggest One I've Seen

That one line of Miranda Lambert's song has been hanging out in my head for a week now. I got to go home for the 4th of July and it was on this trip that I finally decided that Dallas might just be the best place on earth. Despite the ridiculous heat, one of the things I enjoyed most while being there was the weather. In correlation with that weather, the Texas sky made quite a display.

On one day of my visit, the blue expanse was littered with huge cumulus clouds that had been busily piling their tufts higher than you'd even think possible. And because there's not much to interfere with your scope of vision in my hometown, it was a perfect panorama of monstrous cottony formations.

One of the things I miss most about Texas is the summer thunderstorms. And the day before I headed back to LA, I got an unexpected gift. The sky, rather suddenly, turned that indescribable greeny-gray color that I have yet to see replicated anywhere else. The sun was just setting, so it cast that perfect evening light on the trees, creating a stark contrast between them and the darkening sky--almost as if the trees were stage props against a false backdrop. The gray mass of sky quickly moved in and swallowed the unassuming white clouds, the temperature dropped and the gorgeous thunder ensued. Those huge deliberate raindrops you'll never see in California were quick to follow. I was in heaven.

It's funny. Since I hadn't remembered how much I love the Texas sky, I hadn't remembered to miss it.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Yosemite Part II: The Panorama Trail

On Saturday, part of the group did the Half Dome hike. I was pretty beat from the Yosemite Falls hike the day before, so I wimped out and stuck with the group doing the Panorama Trail – which is the easier/shorter hike – but the most scenic in the whole park. I’ll have to tackle Half Dome next time. The Panorama Trail begins at Glacier Point with a spectacular view of Half Dome, as well as the Nevada and Vernal Falls, our destination across the valley.

It winds in a U-ish shape around the valley with a steady decline to the floor below. On this trail, you encounter three sets of falls. When we reached the first, Illilouette Falls, we stopped for a quick snack and a short nap in the sun. Then we were on our way again.

After leaving Illilouette Falls, the trail turns into the mountain, causing you to lose sight of Nevada Falls. Upon reaching the summit of the trail, it cuts back to the edge of the mountain where Nevada Falls comes into view again.

The visual splendor is so impressive, you almost don’t notice that, even from this distance, you can hear the rumbling of the crashing water as it collides with the granite cliff and boulders below. When I realized what I was hearing, I was surprised by the incredible enormity of the sound. I’ve never heard anything like it. Joseph Smith’s description of Jehovah’s voice from the passage in D&C 110 came unexpectedly to my mind: “And his voice was as the sound of the rushing of great waters, even the voice of Jehovah….”

I’d never given any thought to that comparison, but suddenly I understood the brilliance of the metaphor. Was it Joseph Smith’s own wisdom to describe the Savior’s voice this way, or was it given to him in revelation? I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter. The phrase, for the first time, meant something to me.

We followed the Panorama Trail to the top of Nevada Falls. We stood next to the water and watched it forcefully throw itself over the edge of the cliff. The sound was louder now, simply because of our proximity to it, but it had held the same intensity from across the valley.

On the way down to the valley floor, the trail takes you past the third and final set of falls. This part of the hike is called the Mist Trail for obvious reasons.


On Sunday, we attended the LDS services in a small non-
denominational chapel directly across the meadow from Yosemite Falls. Coming out the door after the meeting, we could see the falls straight ahead of us on the other side of the valley. Joseph Smith’s words were still at the forefront of my mind and I wanted to be as close as possible to the “voice of Jehovah” again before heading back to Los Angeles.

Sarah and I took the path to the base of the falls which winds through a wooded area and climbs a slight incline where the calmness of the trees is suddenly opposed by the crashing water. We stood there momentarily and felt the spray of the water and the surprisingly strong wind produced by its force.

Again I was struck by the accuracy of the comparison. The “sound of the rushing of great waters” is immense. Amazing and beautiful and unstoppable. You can feel its magnitude as it vibrates through your insignificant frame. You are faced with the sheer energy of the rushing water, its unmistakable power, as it pushes the otherwise still air into great wind gusts. Strangely enough, despite the sense of power it carries, the sound is not scary, but inviting. Yet, you become acutely aware that if you choose not to respect the source of the sound, if you dare to test or challenge its strength in a feeble attempt to prove your own, you will not win.

Joseph Smith surely had occasion to hear the rushing of great waters at various times in his life. Prior to my visit to Yosemite, I had not experienced such a sound. Now that I have, the voice of Jehovah sounds different to me. And I love it.

Yosemite Part I: Yosemite Falls

This past weekend I had the opportunity to go to Yosemite with friends. Unbelievable. I’ve done very little camping in my life. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but I’ve never LOVED it. And I realized why over the course of this trip. It’s because the only camping I’ve ever really done has been in Texas and Oklahoma. Spending a week in a cabin or tent with high Texas-summer temperatures, and humidity to match, is not particularly enjoyable under any circumstances, but would at least be bearable if the landscape were interesting enough to make up for the sauna-minus-the-spa conditions. But sadly, the campsites I’ve seen in my day certainly do nothing to invoke any sort of Whitman-esque love of nature.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I have a rarely-shared appreciation for aspects of the Texas landscape. I love confronting the openness of the western portion of the state as I make the drive from Dallas to Amarillo. It fills me with a profound sense of loneliness that somehow makes me feel totally at ease and completely anxious all at the same time. That perfectly blue sky juxtaposed against the endless stretch of prairie with the occasional windmill...or, even better—oil well...makes my heart ache. In a good way. While I love it, I prefer viewing it from my car window with the A/C cranking. I’ve heard there are other areas of the state that offer spectacular views that serve as wonderful backdrops for scenery-hungry campers. But it’s no wonder I haven’t ever gotten truly excited about camping considering my girls camp leaders took us to an open field for our 4th-year hike.

But I digress. My more recent trip to the great outdoors summoned an appreciation for nature which I have not previously realized. Chad, I now understand why you take that annual backpacking trip. (And I definitely understand why you don’t take it in Texas.) Clearly John had already discovered the secret. See? Hiking brings out the dancer in him. Who knew?

Yosemite was breathtaking. I was awestruck. The sheer granite cliffs rising straight out of the ground have an incredible and indescribable presence – a silent and overwhelming force. The weather was phenomenal. Not too warm, with nice breezes during the day. And chilly enough at night to really enjoy hanging out by the fire.

We climbed to the top of Yosemite Falls the first day we were there – a challenging hike for an amateur like me (pretty sure I wouldn’t have made it at all if it hadn’t been for my year-long love/hate relationship with the Santa Monica stairs), but so worth it.

The most significant take-away of the weekend: learning how spiritual communing with nature actually is. I’m no tree hugger, but I am obliged to say that I saw God in Yosemite. Alma was really on to something: “All things denote there is a God; yea, even the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.” I’ll second that. And I would even go so far as to make a slight adjustment to his statement. Going forward, I will read this passage thusly: “All things denote there is a God; especially the earth, and all things that are upon the face of it.”

Everything in Its Place

Ever wondered how much your life weighs? Neither had I, but I had the good fortune to find out, anyway. And now…I kind of wish I didn’t know.

In March, my roommate and I moved out of our (amazing) place in Santa Monica. She is returning to school and I was quitting my job (another story for another time) and was not sure if I would be staying in Los Angeles or not. Since the next steps for me were anything but clear, I decided to put all of my belongings in storage until I figured out where I was going to land.

Enter Door-to-
Door Storage
. They delivered a 4’x7’x11’ crate to my door. And for the next few evenings after work and the entire following weekend, my master packer (ie, my mother) and I worked to solve the puzzle of fitting everything I own into slightly more than 300 cubic feet. I have enough furniture to fill a one-bedroom apartment.

Some said it couldn’t be done. At times…I said it couldn’t be done. But somehow, my mother kept finding ways to fit more in the box. It was like watching Mary Poppins in reverse. You remember how much we admired Ms. Poppins as we saw her pull lamps and birdcages and coat racks out of her bottomless carpetbag. But what we really wanted to know was how she got those things in there. They don’t show us that part. And let’s face it—pulling stuff out is easy. No offense, Mary.

While my mom does have mad packing skills, and while we both worked our tails off to get the job done, neither of us is obtuse enough to actually think we did it on our own. I had the help of a master packer. And she had the help of a Master Packer. Over those few days, things fell into place – figuratively and literally – in countless impossible ways. We call it the Miracle of the Move. (To see a complete list of the many small miracles that make up the larger Miracle, visit my mom’s blog.)

After we had fit as much as was inhumanly possible into the portable storage crate...

...the Door-to-Door man came back to collect it. I was at work, but from what I hear, when he went to pick it up with his forklift, the back tires of his lift literally came off the ground. Turns out there’s a weight limit on those boxes. It’s 2,000 lbs. My box apparently weighed 2,800 lbs. The D-t-D man said it wouldn’t be a problem unless the bottom couldn’t support the weight and it caved. Great. Thanks for the reassurance.

A month later, when the storage crate was re-delivered to my new little 1-bedroom apartment in West LA, my mom (who came back again to help me move in. What a sport!) and I held our breaths as we opened the door. Amazingly enough, there had been very little shifting. Everything looked as it had when we had locked it up weeks before. I know what you’re thinking: “Where would any of it go?” Still, though…watching my life being carried away in a box has a way of making me nervous.

When we started with that empty box and all of my stuff, it seemed like there was no way it could be done. So it goes with the Door-to-Door portable storage unit…and with life. I find myself evaluating what I've accomplished over the past few years and wondering how what I’ve always wanted/expected fits with where I find myself now. What on earth am I doing trying to make it as a single working professional in Los Angeles?! I’m supposed to be married with kids. Not pursuing a career and continually losing hope that the dating life will ever pick up again. The reality does not jive with the vision I’ve always had for my self. And so the Miracle of the Move becomes a parable for my own life. Even when it seems like the things I hold dear can’t possibly fit in the box I’ve been given, everything, in fact, has a place. I just have to rely on the Master Packer to fit it all together.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Super Tuesday

Santa Monica, CA. 7 AM. I'm standing in line with fellow citizens who have come to cast their votes in the presidential primaries. I’m standing and standing and standing…and standing. The line is inching very slowly down a staircase just inside the door of the little gray church on the corner of Lincoln and Washington (a rather appropriate intersection for a polling place, no?). “There must be more people ahead of me than I thought,” I muse silently to myself. “But still…why is it taking so long to move even the tiniest bit? I mean, really…take your ballot, fill in the bubbles and be on your way.” Is it possible that some are still undecided as they enter the voting booth – still weighing the candidates and propositions even with ballots in hand?

I finally make it to the bottom of the stairs and now have a view of the front of the line. I see the problem. Can someone explain to me why of all the individuals facilitating the voting process, the one who appears to be the most able and quick-witted of the bunch is handing people their ballots (the job that requires neither thought nor dexterity), while the most (although seemingly sweet and grandmotherly) elderly and most likely to – at any given moment – go blind, senile, or possibly just die, has been commissioned to check people’s names on the roster? Upon reaching her, each person must state his or her name and then immediately repeat it at least once, as the Roster Lady is clearly hard of hearing. Once she discerns the name, she flips through the roster in so haphazard a manner that we all question her grasp of the alphabet. She then uses a ruler to help the voter more easily identify the line where he/she is required to sign. Between finding each name, however, she either drops the ruler on the floor or forgets about it when she starts flipping pages to find the next name, thus burying it somewhere in the roster book. So, before each voter can sign there comes the inevitable “What happened to my ruler?” Those of us in line quickly learn to pay attention so that when it is our turn to step forward, we will be prepared to state the whereabouts of the ruler.

Love it. Just another tribute to the efficiency of government. Let’s hear it for the American way.

When I finally reach the Roster Lady and perform the name/ruler ritual, she announces, “You are registered as a Republican.” I proudly say, “Yes, ma’am,” as all the other voters present turn to gaze upon the alien in their midst. She says, “That means you can only vote Republican.” She had given each of the Dems before me the same reminder – that they had to vote within their party. But she speaks to me as if she expects me to protest. Instead I say, “Fine by me,” and make my way past the shiny Democratic booths to the lonely cobweb-covered Republican booth in the corner.

As I head back up the stairs, and out to the street, I can’t help but think how liberating it feels to vote – even in Los Angeles – and how blessed I am to live in “this the greatest nation on God’s green earth!”

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

And Then There Was Maui

It's official: I'm a fan of a trip to the tropics in January. The thought of making this an annual tradition is extremely appealing, I'm not gonna lie. There's something really satisfying about getting a sunburn in the dead of winter. Though I probably shouldn't have taken another almost full week off of work so soon after being out for an entire week over the holidays, I justified it by viewing it as an indulgent birthday gift to myself. You only turn 30 once, right?

Rach and me at Paia Bay. We'd all gone to Paia for fish tacos and hoped to see some wind surfers in this popular spot, but the wind had picked up too much, and the choppy waves were more than anyone was willing to brave that day.

The change in the weather turned the water and sky a cool gray and green, and the strong winds made for some nice crashing waves.

Very picturesque, no?

We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Lahaina, which is apparently the "ghetto" part of the island. The resorts are older, and according to Rachel "ugly." (Old = ugly. Good to know.) On Sunday we went out to Wailea, the not-so-ghetto part of the island to see the sunset and walk the path along the beach behind the stretch of amazing resorts lining that coast. (The Grand Wailea and the Four Seasons are pretty spectacular. Perhaps someday I'll be a guest there, and not just a trespasser. Something to wish for, anyway.)

We got there a little later than planned, so this is about all we caught of the sunset. I'll take it.

On Monday we chartered Captain Steve to take us for some snorkeling/whale watching/dolphin chasing. The snorkeling was pretty ho-hum, frankly. (Snorkeling in Belize has yet to be topped.) But the whale and dolphin sightings were unbelievable.

This was our view as we left the Maui shore to head for Lanai in search of some sea life. They don't call this the Rainbow State for nothing. (And when I say "they," I mean those who, like me, have always thought Hawaii's nickname is the Rainbow State...when it is actually the Aloha State....)

Our fearless captain, whose name was actually Dennis...not Steve, got us right up next to a whale who honored us with a full breach. It looked EXACTLY like this. Unfortunately, it happened so fast that the picture below is actually all I got....

My trigger finger wasn't quite warmed up, I guess. Or my camera likes to take its sweet time focusing before snapping a shot. Either way, I only captured the top of the head and a flipper to document one of the most incredible things I've ever witnessed.

After our one whale friend graced us with an impeccable breach, we moved on and found a competitive whale pod which, we learned, is comprised of four or five male humpback whales all competing for one female whale. (Incidentally, this ratio is the opposite of what I encounter in my life.)

At first, we watched the mammoth creatures from a distance, but they soon approached our boat (actually, it was more of a motorized raft, which means we were right next to the water—so close to the whales that it seemed we could have reached out and touched them). We got a nice, close look as they swam just under the surface of the water, showing us their backs as the moved silently past us. Kind of surreal to be so close to that many animals of this size.

Our dolphin sighting topped off an already well-worth-it adventure. We came upon a pod after our snorkel stint and they surrounded our little raft. These pictures don't at all convey how many there actually were. We had probably 25 almost within arm's reach. And we were told that for every one we could see on the surface, there were at least three more below.

Our view of Maui as we headed back from Lanai.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Turning Thirty

Remember when 30 was old? And when it meant you knew what life was all about and what your purpose was in the world? It was wise and experienced and unafraid. Nothing left to discover or learn.

As it turns out, 30 is none of these things. For me, at least, it is in every way the antithesis. It is being more unsure than ever about what life is all about and what I'm supposed to be doing in it. It is realizing how much I don't know and how much there still is to accomplish and experience.

Thankfully, the reality of 30 is far less dismal than the childish idea of it. As a kid you think that by 30 life is pretty much over when, in actuality, it has really only begun. With the anxiety that accompanies facing the unknown comes the chance to learn and do and continue moving forward. The path which cannot be seen is, by definition, a path to be discovered – an adventure to be had, a life to be lived. Bring it on. Here's to 30!


I've had over a week to reflect. Admittedly, as the actual day approached, I was dreading the turning of age. On one hand I wanted to pretend 30 had not arrived, but on the other hand, I knew I would regret it if I didn't in some way commemorate this landmark of a birthday. So, I chose – maybe in an effort to dull the awareness of leaving my 20s behind me – to spend it at the spa with good friends.

A sunny day in Carlsbad meant spending the afternoon by the pool after our spa treatments.

What is it about wearing cucumbers on your eyes?

I mean, aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits....

We had a lovely, relaxing time and left – feeling refreshed, rejuvenated...and quite comfortable with 30 – just as the fog came rolling in (hence the spots in this shot–do not attempt to adjust your set).

Sunday, January 6, 2008

And Speaking of Visions

"No great discovery was ever made in science except by one who lifted his nose above the grindstone of details and ventured on a more comprehensive vision." --Albert Einstein

Well said, Albert. Well said. And I like to think the same goes for discoveries in any discipline...or just in life. An excellent reminder—especially in those times when it feels as though you've become a slave to the details.