Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dancing with my Danish relatives

A long time ago (1865) in a far-away place (Denmark), a young couple decided to leave home, family, and all that they knew in order to migrate to America. The world was much bigger then. Without jet travel and modern communications, this decision meant that they would never see their beloved parents and siblings again.

But, they had recently joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and felt a strong desire to gather with other church members, so Seier and Annie Jensen boarded the ship BS Kimball and sailed to America. Along the voyage, their toddler son contracted measles, and they sorrowfully buried him at sea. Within a year of arriving in America, Annie had another baby, but both she and the baby died within two weeks of childbirth.

Seier was heartbroken, and all alone. He wrote a letter to his family back in Denmark, expressing his longing for them.

Recently, that letter was found in an attic in Denmark. With the help of a few miracles, the Danish and American sides of the family found each other. The letter was translated from Danish to English for the benefit of Seier's descendants, of which I am one. (Seier remarried after losing Annie, and my great grandfather was the oldest surviving child of that union).

Last Saturday, I had the privilege of meeting some of my long-lost Danish relatives.

Here I am with Lene and Karsten Christensen, who live near Aarhus Denmark.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In the direction of your dreams

My refrigerator is usually covered with magnets. Magnets are my favorite souvenirs--I love to bring one home from each trip I take, because they help me remember the fun I had without cluttering up my house too much. Looking at them makes me happy.

Recently, though, I packed my magnets, because I was moving. I put them in metal baking pans, hoping they wouldn't get broken or banged up that way:

But I left one magnet unpacked: the one I bought at the gift shop of the United Nations in New York City.

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams! Live the life you've imagined." the magnet proclaims, quoting Henry David Thoreau. That's the direction I'm hoping this move will take me, but the process was challenging and sad, so I left the magnet all alone in the center of my otherwise naked refrigerator, because I needed the encouragement.

Grateful to be here, now

It was a hot day. So hot that I felt badly for the potential tenants who were sitting in a car in front of my house, waiting for the property manager I'd recently hired to arrive and give them a tour. I would have given the two men and a woman a tour myself, except I was really busy--my sister was moving out of the basement right then and her movers were coming in and out of the house, and I had a handyman in the kitchen installing an updated oven/range.

But it was too hot to leave them outside, so I walked out to the car and invited them to wait inside. The man in the passenger seat eagerly accepted my offer and threw the car door open, causing me to notice he was missing a leg from the thigh down. As he stepped out of the car and settled in his crutches, he spoke to the others in another language, and only then did those two climb out of the car.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I loved my friend

For several years, I've had this piece of art hanging in my home:

This is a Traditional Chinese representation of a verse of scripture from the Book of Mormon. My friend Jeanie Hsu made it for me.

I first met Jeanie when I traveled to Taiwan for my work in 2000. We worked together for a few weeks. Jeanie was a single woman not much older than me. She showed me around Taipei and helped me avoid making huge cultural blunders (or, more accurately, helped me recover when I did make them)! She was energetic, vivacious, and fun. I loved her.