Sunday, January 31, 2010

New Camera

Instead of buying Christmas gifts for each other this year, Jay and I decided to invest in a new camera. It's something we've thought about doing for a long time, but were hesitant because nice cameras are EXPENSIVE. And BIG. And INTIMIDATING. We ended up taking the plunge, though, because we wanted to learn to work it well before we have kids. And also because Jay offered to carry it on our outings (call me a wuss, but size/portability was a big issue for me).

We got a Canon Rebel XSi, and I really like it. There has certainly been a learning curve, but we're slowly getting the hang of it. I don't have a very artistic eye, so I harbor no aspirations of going pro, but I do hope to become proficient.

Here are some of the more artsy shots we've gotten so far (these were taken at my parents' cabin over Christmas break):

Jay snapped this beautiful sunset from the cabin:

I bundled up in at least 10 layers to venture outside and snap these photos. It had been snowing all day:

I love this picture Jay took of our friend Scott during a rousing game of Curses in the cabin basement:

And this picture of a San Antonio sunset:

If anyone out there with superior photography skills would be willing to teach us a few tricks, we'd be happy to make you dinner or babysit your kids! I find that one-on-one instruction is a whole lot more effective than reading manuals...

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Disc Golfing in Beaumont

A couple weekends ago, we went to Beaumont to visit Jay's sister Andrea and her husband David. We were only planning on staying from late Friday night to Sunday afternoon, so we left Lucy home by herself (with plenty of food, water, and fresh litter), but we were having such a good time that we stayed through Monday morning. (Poor Lucy--I still don't think she's over it! We've always shut her out of our room at night, but now when she wakes up in the middle of the night she scratches under our door and yowls. Separation anxiety?)

I didn't get a lot of pictures during our visit, except when we went to the frisbee golf course. Me + Frisbees = not much fun, so I decided to take the opportunity to figure out how to work our new camera in manual mode. Here's some pictures from the day. Watch for the mid-flight frisbees.

I love how hard Jay concentrates--check out that tongue!

Jay threw his frisbee into the water. It took a little bit of gymnastics to get it out:

David's disc landed like this right on the side of the stream. Nice!

Here are a few shots of the landscape (I was trying to get a handle on manual focus and light settings):

We had a great time. Thanks for hosting us and feeding us, Andrea and David!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Speech Therapy and Barbies

A new year, a new semester. This time around, I'm interning at a local middle school (last semester, I was at a military hospital). I really enjoy it. I still don't think I'll ever work in a school setting, but I like my supervisor, and the kids are a hoot.

When I was a kid, we used to get together with our favorite cousins all the time. We were always up to crazy shenanigans of one sort or another. I remember one day we decided to put on a Barbie fashion show/beauty pageant for our little sisters, so we dressed up the dolls and did their hair. In the process, we found a "Ken" doll that had long, brushable hair (I think it was the doll version of the post-metamorphosis "Beast"), and one of us decided it would be fun to dress him up like a girl and put him in the lineup. Then someone else (probably me) decided it would be pretty awesome if Ken/Beast ended up winning the beauty pageant, because wouldn't the little girls look foolish when we unveiled him? So we set to work, teasing his hair, wiggling a dress up over his man-thighs, and even applying real makeup in an attempt to make him the most beautiful Barbie transvestite ever. The dress wouldn't fasten in back, but we safety pinned it and resolved to only show his front. We dressed down the other Barbies with avant garde hairstyles and fuchsia dresses, and invited the little girls in for the show.

Sara and Tierra were probably only 8 and 6, but they took just one look at tranny Ken and asked, through their giggles, why we had dressed a BOY up in GIRL clothes.

And it was true: he looked pretty ridiculous.

I feel like speech therapy in a middle school is often similar to this experience: we spent hours brainstorming and planning and working to come up with creative ideas and games that will help the kids accomplish their goals in a fun setting. Unfortunately, all too often, the kids just give me a funny look that says, "Miss, this isn't fun, it's work dressed up in a Mickey Mouse suit. Stop pretending this is Disneyland so we can get this over with and go back to class."

And I'll be darned if they aren't right.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Happy New Year

{Yes, I realize this is belated--just be impressed I'm getting this up while it's still January. See, I have this problem with remembering to take pictures of things. And then I have a problem with remembering to upload said pictures onto my computer. And photo-blogging about events is my least favorite kind of blogging, probably because it feels like a documentary, and who wants to see a documentary of my life? Not me. Posterity: I do this for you.}

We spent Christmas in Louisiana with Jay's family this year. It was a good time. I'd post pictures, but (surprise) I don't have them on my computer--they're on Jay's. So maybe I'll get around to it in June. Anyway, the day after Christmas we flew to St. George to visit my fam. It was a bit of an ordeal to get there: we had to drive to San Antonio from Louisiana (7 hours), come home and repack, go to the airport and wait a couple hours for our delayed flight, fly to Vegas (3 hours), and then drive to St. George (2 hours). We pulled in after one in the morning (2:00 Texas time). We were beat. But it was worth it:

My sister, Sara, was waiting up for us. She'd just gotten home from her mission to Scotland a week or so before, so this was the first time we'd seen each other in over 18 months. My gosh, I love this girl. I sure missed her.

We woke up bright and early the next morning to get ready for 9:00 church, where Sara would be giving her homecoming talk. She and my other sister, Lisa, and I were going to sing, as well.

(Can I just take a quick topic detour and tell you what a miracle that was? I'd been sick for 2 weeks, and though I was feeling a lot better, my voice was still on the fritz. Add to that the aridly dry Utah air, and I was in trouble: I couldn't sing a phrase without coughing. And since I'd arrived so late the night before, we were only able to practice for 20 minutes before the meeting started. Luckily, we had an amazing accompanist. And incredibly, though I'd coughed my way through both of the preceding hymns, it wasn't an issue during our performance. And miraculously, I think the whole thing turned out well--there was a sweet spirit present. This probably doesn't seem like a big deal to anyone else, but it was to me. It was an experience that re-taught me that God is mindful of me.)

Sara's talk was fantastically inspirational. She's amazing. What a treat!

(This picture pretty much sums up what I do when I go home, besides hang out with fam: eat and read all my little sister's new books. Thanks so much, Jay, for chronicling this.)

A couple days later, we took off for the family cabin--one of my favorite places. We watched movies, ate pounds of junk food, read, read some more, played games, and even bundled up once or twice to brave the frigid temperatures. Our last day there, the sun came out (it had been blizzarding the day before), and we did a few kamikaze sled runs down the hilly road. My sledding experience has been limited, so this was a real treat.

I don't have a lot of pictures from this trip because we just got a new camera and were (are) still in the process of learning how to use it, so most of the pictures didn't turn out. But here are a few:

My beautiful mother in the cabin kitchen.

Filling the basement with gunpowder from various poppers and confetti guns. We were actually all so exhausted that we nearly didn't make it until midnight, so the New Year celebration was a little anticlimactic.

Old Year detritus.

Me, Jay, the sibs, and Sadie (unfortunately, the pictures with Mom and Dad aren't on our camera).

We're goofy, but we have a lot of fun together--I love my fam.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Let's just get this out of the way: I'm opinionated (no sharp intakes of breath, please). Which basically means that I feel strongly about a lot of things, some of which even I freely admit are really quite stupid. It's likely that you don't share some of my opinions, and you may even feel exactly the opposite. That's fine. So disagree or debate with me, but don't get offended. Deal?

I really have a problem with "unique" or "creative" names and spellings. I've noticed it most frequently in the Mormon and African American cultures, but there are other culprits out there. It's getting out of hand. (Case in point: I recently met a (non-mormon, non-AA) boy named Georgie. His name is spelled Jorjje. I wouldn't be surprised if he accosts his parents later in life and says something to the effect of, "Mom and Dad, do you HATE me??")

I graduated from Brigham Young University, and I love my alma mater. I'm not much of a football fan, but Jay and my dad, along with other various family members, are. BYU's new head coach has done some pretty great things for the team. His name is Bronco Mendenhall. I consider it fortunate for his parents that he grew up to be a football coach. Then again, with a name like Bronco, what other professions are open to you?

Bronco and his wife, Holly, have three sons: Breaker, Raider, and Cutter (One Who Breaks, One Who Raids, and One Who Cuts, respectively). The Mendenhalls are apparently pretty confident that their boys are going to follow in their father's footsteps and have illustrious athletic careers. If they fall short, well... they can always be thugs or hit men (can you imagine a broker named Breaker? or a dentist named Cutter? or an attorney named Raider?).

As a service, because it can't be easy to come up with such unique and violent monikers, I've decided to compose a list of potential names for any future little Mendenhalls:

Tearer (alt. spelling: Terror)
Splinter (or Splinterer)
Blitzer (though maybe it sounds too much like the Reindeer?)
Invader (Vader for short)
(Jay submitted most of the football term names, including "Receiver," but I decided it didn't make the list because it wasn't violent enough)

And in case they decide they want a name more reminiscent of "Bronco":

So, if you happen to be acquainted with the Mendenhall family, please feel free to pass the list along.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Opera Lady

We moved to San Francisco when I was almost two. My parents had both graduated from BYU a few years before and had been living in upstate New York. My dad worked as a chemical engineer for IBM but soon realized he didn't like the uncertainty and politics of Corporate America. I've wondered at the courage and faith it must have taken my parents to sell their snug house, pack their lives into a moving van, and move back across the country so my dad could go back to school. They traded their house with a spacious, green, forested backyard for a tiny, balcony-less apartment in congested, downtown San Francisco, their beautiful four seasons and at times sub-zero weather for a daily forecast of 60 degree temperatures, chilly wind, and steel grey skies.

I'm sure it was an adventure, filled with flamboyant characters and public transportation. And San Francisco is a beautiful place: it's just different. I have some memories of living there, but one of my favorite things is to hear my parents tell what they remember, effectively adding depth to my youthful, one-dimensional recollections.

I love hearing my mom talk about Opera Lady. There isn't much to tell, really. Every weekday evening around 6:00, Opera Lady would walk past our small apartment on Bush street, belting song after song at the top of her capable lungs. She was really quite good, mom said; she had a strong, professional-caliber voice. Sometimes my mom would look out the window when she heard her coming. Opera Lady was always dressed in business attire, apparently on her way home from some corporate job. She had a large voice, bold and true. I'm sure she elicited stares everywhere she went, but she didn't seem to mind.

In the subsequent years, my parents and I have mused about this woman, attempting to fill in some of the blanks of her story. She presumably lived in an apartment; there wasn't much else available for working class folk. Perhaps she had practiced singing at home but received complaints from the neighbors? Did she try to give up singing for awhile only to discover that life was colorless without it? Not having a car, perhaps the only place for her to go was outside. Was she nervous the first time started singing, strolling down the sidewalk in a pack of people? Did the stares bother her? Was she hoping to quit her job to pursue the dream of music?

I find this woman fascinating, and I find myself wishing I could be a little more like her. Not in a walk-around-my-complex-belting-out-show-tunes kind of way, but in a more uninhibited, less concerned about the critical glances of others, more secure and confident kind of way. I wish I were were so dedicated to my passions that I didn't let fear or laziness dictate my lack of action.

As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
- Marianne Williamson