Saturday, April 18, 2009

Murray Library Boyfriend

One of the best parts of living in Murray, Utah is being able to see a library employee named Danny each time you visit the city library.

If you are lucky, Danny will be sitting at the front-most circulation desk when you come through the door. He’s the young man who will say “Heeeey! You’re back!” and give you a big smile and nod as you walk through the door.

Sometimes, when people are really friendly like that, it can be easy to misinterpret their friendliness.

My sister Suzy was 8-months pregnant and had two toddlers in tow when she first met Danny, and he was incredibly friendly with her, impressively flipping the library books in an artistic manner as he checked them out to her. Suzy wasn’t sure if he was trying to hit on her or not, but thought “Isn’t it obvious that I’m in a relationship?”

But, as she chatted with other young mothers who go to the library frequently, she realized that Danny is friendly to all. One of Suzy’s young mother friends likes to say “I have to go to the library today so I can see my boyfriend there”.

I love people who are friendly like that, especially when you realize that they aren’t trying to hit on you.

I tend to be a friendly person too, and my intentions are sometimes misunderstood.

When I worked at the Church Office Building, I often warmly greeted the cafeteria employees there. One day, when I greeted one of the young men behind the sandwich counter, he said to me:

“I’m off the market”.
“Huh?” I replied.
“I’M OFF THE MARKET!” he spoke loudly.
“Market?” I asked, still confused.
“I’M ENGAGED!” he said with frustration.
“Oh! Wow! Congratulations!” I replied enthusiastically. Then I realized that he’d interpreted my friendliness differently than I had intended it. Ooops!

I’ve been on both sides of that mistake.

Anyway, I happened to see Danny at the library last night, and interacting with him was so much fun that it made me smile for about 30 minutes afterwards.

So, I thought I’d blog about him. If any of you happen to visit Murray, you’ll definitely want to include a stop at the library to see our collective boyfriend Danny, who, if you are lucky, will be waiting there for you.

Danny, thank you for raising the happiness level in Murray, one “Heeey! You’re back!” at a time!

Inspired by the Lady Utes

Although I know and love many sports fans, I’m not one of them. I’ll sit down to watch a sporting event occasionally, but usually do this only as part of building friendships with sports fans. “If I could change what I’m interested in, I’d really like sports”, said my cousin Heather, and I have to agree with her.

Despite this, this week I had the unique and wonderful experience of having dinner with the University of Utah women’s basketball team. My friend John is a season ticket holder and had been invited to the team’s year-end banquet; he kindly invited me to join him.

When we arrived, I was surprised at how few people were there, and immediately regretted my lack of basic homework about the team, because it was clear that we would be interacting with the coaches and players. We shared a table with the associate athletic director and the team's information director, and chatted with one of the assistant coaches, all of whom were incredibly gracious.

What made the event so fabulous, though, was hearing head coach Elaine Eliott talk about the season and the players. She is extremely well spoken, and despite my lack of interest in sports, I found her comments inspiring.

The Lady Utes started the season with a 1-4 record, and she spoke of how damaging losing games can be to a team’s confidence. Then she rephrased “Losing games can be demoralizing, if that’s the way you choose to react to it.”

She spoke a great deal about choice. She spoke about character. She spoke about effort and growth.

Her team chose to react to their difficult start (their first games had been against some of the top teams in the nation) in a charactered way, believing that although they had lost several games in a row, they could choose to make their future better.

And that’s what they did. They ended up winning the Mountain West Conference during regular season play, won the MWC tournament, and won the opportunity to participate in the national NCAA tournament.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right”, a wise person once said. I keep relearning the truth of that statement. I saw it when I traveled to Central America with a microcredit organization; while their “outer” work involved providing loans and business training to help women pull themselves out of poverty, the heart of their job was to help the women BELIEVE in themselves. The first, middle, and last steps were always to build the women’s confidence in their own ability and power to choose a better future.

I’ve seen it also in my weight loss and fitness efforts. Your thinking controls about 98% of the results you get. What you say when you talk to yourself about mistakes you’ve made or challenges you face, is what determines whether or not you will be successful.

I loved watching the season highlights film, which was full of exciting moments, although I was sad to see that the arena was mostly empty at their home games (at away games, the arenas appeared to be full). Coach Eliott did not say one word about that lack of support; instead, she focused on what she had control over, which is building the people she worked with, and building an excellent program.

I was delighted to receive a T shirt from them, which I will start wearing to my weightlifting class. When the class gets tough and I don’t think I can or want to do it, I hope to remember Coach Eliott, and draw strength from her example of chosing the charactered path towards growth.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Drive-By Shooting

“Sometimes, when you are a man, you like to wear stretchy pants in your room, just for fun.”
-Nacho Libre

Sometimes, when you are a tourist, you like to take photographs out the window of a speeding car, just for fun.

The risk, of course, is that you’ll get photos like this:
This is a photo of the Washington Monument. Really. Trust me. Can’t see the Washington Monument? That’s only because it happens to be behind that street post just then.

Here’s another shot of the Washington Monument I was able to take a few seconds earlier:

Similarly, here’s one of my shots of the Jefferson Memorial:

And the shot I was able to get a second later:

All the folks on the steps were gathered there to enjoy the free entertainment that is part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. Here’s one more drive-by shot that shows some of the beautiful blooms:

One of the disadvantages of taking photographs like this, is that you are setting a bad example for children nearby who would like to borrow your camera so THEY can take a shot out the window TOO. When six-year-old Ada asked if she could borrow the camera while we were on a shuttle bus at the National Cherry Blossom Festival, I agreed, but only if she kept the camera inside the window. Here’s the shot she captured:

She’s did a good job, didn’t she? Especially since I only let her take one photo instead of letting her snap, snap, snap away like I had been doing!

Here’s a little video of the airplanes landing at Reagan National Airport that I was able to capture from the shuttle bus. (By the way, the name of the place is Haines Point, which I said incorrectly in the video).

Sometimes, when I’m taking pictures out the window of a speeding car, I’m not doing it just for fun, but because that is the only way you can capture certain shots.

Like this one of a unique aircraft we saw flying around near NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center as we were returning from Chincoteague Island, Virginia.

The day trip we took to Chincoteague Island gave us several interesting drive-by photo opportunities. At one point, we got lost and found ourselves in a trailer park. I was pretty impressed by how people had started with a simple trailer, and built houses around the trailer as they could. Here’s a shot of one of them:

I was also interested to drive by this house built on the end of a dock.

While we were at the beach at Chincoteague Island, I was able to capture this shot of a surfer there. This is a very hardy surfer, since it was very cold.

(I must admit, this was NOT taken from a moving vehicle like all the others were. Because it was hard to capture, however, that makes it worthy of this blog post, in my humble opinion. It was hard to capture for two reasons: 1. The surfer himself had a hard time catching a wave. 2. I had a hard time catching him catching a wave. So, I got lots of garbage photos out of it, just like I do when I’m drive-by shooting.)

Here’s one more shot of the surfer:

I crossed the border into Virginia several times, and most of the border crossings had a nice “Virginia Welcomes You” sign. On our drive to Chincoteague Island, though, a gas station had a very different type of sign, a confederate flag that said “The South Starts Here”. I didn’t have my camera then, but I was able to get a drive-by shot of it on my way out of Virginia, where it said “The South Ends Here”. I haven’t spent much time in the South and so I don’t know how confederate flags are received there, but in my mind that wasn’t a welcome sign…it seemed more like an un-welcome sign, especially for African Americans.

By the way, I was interested to learn that this area was the birthplace of Harriet Tubman, and was also the location of many of the "stops" on the Underground Railroad that sheltered fleeing slaves just before the Civil War.

But I digress. Back to drive-by photo shooting.

Finally, here are some of the shots I took of the bridge over the Chesapeake Bay as we were driving across it:

I liked being able to capture both cars and boats in a single shot:

I liked the sense of movement in this shot:
I liked the sky in this one:

And this one has an interesting portion of the bridge:

In conclusion, Nacho Libre and I would like to dedicate this post to digital cameras. Without them and their no-cost delete functionality, drive-by shooting wouldn't be nearly as much fun.

Life Lessons Learned from Children

I spent this past week on vacation in Maryland with my sister Julie, her husband Randy, and their five children. It was a joy to be with them. The experience of traveling with children aged 7 and younger reminded me of several life lessons that I had forgotten in my grown up world.

Lesson 1: The English language can be quirky. Have fun with it.
One day we were driving through an intense rainstorm, and my 7-year-old nephew Peter started talking about how not only was it “raining cats and dogs”, but it was raining “saber tooth tigers and golden retrievers”. Here’s a little video of the moment:

Lesson 2: To remember a new vocabulary word, use it in a sentence right away.
“Do you know the meaning of the word avast?”, Peter asked me.

Peter is a little walking dictionary and encyclopedia, which is very fun. He talks about characters in Greek mythology as if they were his neighbors, and knows the meaning of all sorts of words, even ones that his Aunt Cindy doesn't know.

Peter graciously taught me that "avast" means “stop”, and was often said by pirates. So we all did our best pirate imitations, saying,
“Avast aarrrrrgg!”.

The next day, I was pouring milk for 6-year-old Ada, and when she’d had enough, she forcefully said “Avast!” And, of course, I knew exactly what she meant.

Lesson 3: “No” is a very versatile word, useful on many different occasions.
Paul is 18-months old, and is a little sweetheart. He’s also a bit of a tease. He’s just learning to talk, and one morning when he was a little frustrated because he had dropped his water, we had this conversation:

Lesson 4: Often, it’s the small things that bring us joy.
I had forgotten how fun it is to wear curlers. And a tutu. And your favorite color, PINK. Six-year-old Ada and three-year-old Mary Joy reminded me of this.

They also reminded me how fun it is to ride around on a baggage cart.

And Peter reminded me how fun it is to wear stickers that come from supermarket produce on your forehead:

Lesson 5: Live in the moment.
One park we visited had a rope that was used to block off traffic, and the kids had the idea of turning it into a jump rope. I would have missed this fun moment without their influence.

Lesson 6: Happiness is helping people who are smaller than yourself.
I was impressed by the way 7-year-old Peter would buckle his younger siblings into their car seats each time we got into the car. Six-year-old Ada was also very helpful. Here she is helping her younger brother Paul:

Lesson 7: Express your affection to those you love.

Three-year-old Mary Joy obviously loves her baby brother Levi:

I loved seeing 18-month-old Paul running his fingers through his mother’s hair as we watched the LDS Church General Conference.

Lesson 8: If life doesn’t go as planned, adapt.
We had packed and planned for warmer weather, but some days were downright chilly. One way six-year-old Ada adapted was by layering her clothing, like this:

We also adapted by having lunch in the back of Randy’s car, which turned an ordinary picnic into a memorable adventure.

Lesson 9: Take joy in the beauties of the natural world around you.

Mary Joy loved listening to the sounds of the sea in these shells.

The girls love all flowers, even the ones you can pick in your lawn:

I had to smile at this young boy’s description of some of the unique things you can see in the sea:

Lesson 10: A nap is always a good idea
We went to the timeshare office to use their wireless network to watch the LDS Church's General Conference. The office had wonderful window sills, perfect for a kids play area: or even better, a nap:

Lesson 11: When in doubt, improvise.

That's what 3-year-old Mary Joy did when it was her turn to read during the family daily scripture study time. Randy has downloaded the Book of Mormon onto an iPod touch, and each child who wanted to read had to wash his or her hands before getting the privilege of holding the iPod and gently touching it to scroll down through the verses.

When it was Mary Joy's turn, she gently held the iPod in her hands, and then, since she can't read yet, she just made up a scripture herself. "And it came to pass, that there were good people and there were bad people..." she started off as she looked intently at the little screen. She continued for a minute or so, and I was very impressed with her ability to use the language of scripture to make up scripture on the fly.

Lesson 12: A loving family is the best security you can find in this world.

Lesson 13: Parents of young children are true heroes.

I was so impressed by Randy and Julie's devotion to their children, as I watched them change diapers, sacrifice sleep, patiently guide and train their children, and plan activities so their family could have fun together. I don't think I exaggerate when I say that parents of young children are heroes, as they are the ones who are shaping the future and building our society.

At the same time, they are maintaining their own loving marriage; I loved this photo I was able to capture of Randy and Julie flying kites together on the beach.

Thanks to the Johnson family for a wonderful vacation, and for a reminder of life's important lessons.