Chunks--Hobos, Leanna, Julie, & Idaho State Fair

This doctor was looking at a Hobo spider bite on my leg today, which I got while weeding by the mailbox last week, and he said, "You needed to bring the spider in with you." . . . OK. It's hot. I'm tired and having a triple ornery month. I’ve had no summer—no camping, no fishing, no horses, no Pro-rodeos, no fresh mountain air--Plus, though I’ve made it a goal to watch my mouth (no laughing, Matt), I’m seldom able to keep it shut and act with any decorum or dignity when someone, who should know better, makes stupid stupid comments like that one. I say, “What?”
“It would help if we knew whether the spider was mature and/or male, since they have more venom than females.”
“Wow." I'm biting my lip. "I agree with you about older males."
And it goes downhill from there because I’m thinking, WHAT? WHAT! I mean what exactly is a “mature” spider? Does he wear spectacles, have perfectly groomed manners, know the best restaurants in New York, read the Washington Post with his poached eggs? It's been a long errand-running burn-out day, and suddenly I'm over the edge into that dark hysterical laughing that you know you'd better quit--or else.
"I'm sorry. I just wasn't thinking. I flipped out. I think I ripped all the spider’s freaking legs off and fed him half to the snakes and half to my cat.”
And, then it got worse. What is the matter with me?
“But, I can go try to find his brother and bring him in if you want. Actually, how do people do that? Run back to their garages and find steel gloves? Catch the spider in a butterfly net? Or call the fire department? And, how can you really tell if a spider is male or female anyway?”
I don’t want to know the answer. I don't think this guy has any answers about anything anyway. Besides, he’s standing wide-eyed with that what-is-the-quickest-way-to-get-HER-out-of-my-office look. But, while I’ve got his attention, I ask, “Is there anything anyone can really do about spider bites?”
“Well, yes, if we know for sure it was a Hobo Spider or, say, a Brown Recluse, we give you a treatment of antibiotics.”
Antibiotics? ANTIBIOTICS? Hasn’t this guy ever listened to Alanis Morrisette? I’m living on a planet with degree-carrying IDIOTS. (Edited out screaming.)
“OK, thanks,” I say on my way to pay money, cash I-could-have-have-bought- ice cream-with to the receptionist for listening to a foolish talking medical degree. “If I find the spider, I’ll bring it in.”

My advice? (Sorry David.) If you get bitten by a spider, wait until your leg is gray and putrid-smelling before you pay good money to hear what you could have looked up on the Internet.

Leanna, NO, that’s never too much information (except for the joke about Labor Day). We’re with you and excited. I’m betting on Sunday night.

Julie, I wish you’d “write” about your life. Title it “The First Year of a Solitary Affair.”(Not funny.) But, I think there’s a huge market for a book about “wives of medical students,” as long as it was strictly honest. Then, they’d know they’re not so alone.

Megan (daughter) is going to the Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot with me Monday afternoon, but she has to leave there for SLC around 4:00. So I’m following her down in my car to stay for the 7:30 Pro rodeo. If you’re bored, come with us or meet us (except not you, Leanna; you’re definitely NOT invited), so I don’t have to sit alone in the fairway waiting for the rodeo, as I delightfully watch a mish- match of wonderful people (scads of writing material), as I eat bits and pieces from all the food booths--corn on the cob, tiger ears (huge scones with honey butter), cotton candy-- and as I walk through the arts and crafts exhibitions, pay to see the Snake Lady (just kidding), or ride the Widow maker rides. Seriously, do come if you can. It’s a novel experience. (I really do love it.)


I am Lord Henry.

As I read The Picture of Dorian Grey a week ago, I felt true horror for the first time in my entire life. I had experience anxiety for a test and the burden of guilt for having to confess a wrong, but I’d never before felt truly horrified. However, reading the insidious philosophizing and smooth-talking of Lord Henry opened my soul and filled it with a horrible view of my own selfishness and devilish words; It sickened me. I could see myself giving charming discourses convincing others of philosophies I didn’t even believe myself for the mere amusement of it, or smiling nicely as I tempted others to adopt worldly ideals in a half-serious way.

What really got me was Dorian’s awareness that even his attempts to do good were selfish in their true nature, efforts meant to satisfy his just remorse and guilt and mask his evil nature.

Jami, you were unfortunately right. I am Lord Henry, and God help me change.

(Post publishing edit: This sounded too heavy and out of character, so I'll include an apology for my characteristic moralization that's hiding in there somewhere.)


The countdown begins, but who can count?

I steal from the Writing Center a lot these days. Okay, so I don't actually "steal." I just borrow things temporarily from there because I know where everything is. The keys are still "hidden" in the same spot after all. I have been doing some private tutoring with a girl who has been going to freshman academy. I'm more like her "organizational coach"; I help her stay focused and organized with all of her assignments, and sometimes I help her with her assignments as well. It's been nice to have something to get myself out of the house, use my degree, and get paid for it all at the same time. But every now and then I'll find that we need a pair of scissors or a highlighter, and my feet take me to the quiet corner of the Writing Center to snatch a few things from the drawers. (Don't worry, everything gets returned when we're finished.) And today I used the handy dandy paper cutter to cut up the business cards I made for myself. They're definitely not anything fancy, but they're mine. They make me feel all official. It feels wrong to be in the Writing Center alone, though. Eerie. It's meant to be filled with tutors and patrons and a sense of friendship and welcome. Right now it's just dead. I look forward to when school is really back in session, and I'll be able to bump into some of you while I'm there.

Pregnancy-wise, I'm doing just fine. This Saturday I'll be at 38 weeks. (Meaning the baby is "term," but she's not actually due for two more weeks.) She could come anytime now. Part of me can't wait to see her. I have a strong desire to count all ten little fingers and all ten little toes, which I never understood why people did that until I got pregnant. I just never realized what a miracle it is to make a perfectly formed, healthy baby. To believe that my body can do that on the first try without any practice boggles my mind. I won't believe it until I see it--until I can count all of those beautiful little appendages. Anyway, like I said, part of me is so excited to meet her and to finally see what she looks like, but then part of me has to keep reminding myself not to be too eager--"This is the last time that it'll be just you and Lance, so enjoy it while you can. Everything will be different when she comes." Different in a good way, of course, but still different.

Lance thinks she'll come this Saturday. He's pulling the "I have a feeling..." card, but I have to wonder if it's really just that he's so hopeful and eager for her to come that he's turning it into a feeling. I am trying not to think about it, though, so if it doesn't happen then I won't be disappointed. But why did he have to say that? Because even though I know that technically she can show up anytime she wants, I now find myself looking things up online about symptoms of oncoming labor and then quizzing myself on all of the items listed. "Hmmm...I think I could have felt something like that..." I can hear Sis. Morgan laughing at me, too, as I try to make plans on when she'll come. I can hear her in my head "What control do we have at all over anything? It's all on the Lord's timetable." Thanks, Sis. Morgan. I need someone in there to keep me on the ground.


I don't know what to write. (Note the uninspiring post title) I'm in Dallas, Texas right now. I've stayed in four different hotels during the past three weeks. My brother-in-law warned us against the first hotel we were going to stay in. Apparently if I went outside at night in that area of town I would be mistaken for a prostitute. (Nothing to do with how I look personally, of course.) The hotel we just moved from was in a better area and close to Austin's work. The Texas Ladies Club was just down the street though. Austin had to explain to me that a ladies club is the opposite of a gentleman's club, although both involve stripping. I guess I knew this already, it just didn't really register. We just found out that we're allowed to move into an apartment, and we found one in a very upscale part of downtown Dallas called Uptown. And yet a few blocks down is a little store called Condom Sense.

Hmm. My train of thought has taken me to unexpected places. Anyway, here is a picture of Sammy Gene (six weeks old now) that I took yesterday. She likes to sleep with her hands up near her face. I might go to the dark side and start a Facebook page to share pictures. I'll let you know if I do.


Viva Las Vegas

Well, I made it. I’m married, I have a new last name, and I live in Henderson, Nevada, with a boy. And I’m happy. So happy. I thought I would get butterflies the morning we got married. Everyone gets cold feet, right? But Brad and I never did. We got our marriage license the day before our ceiling, and the lady just kept saying, “You both seem so calm. I don’t typically see this.” Then the ladies in the temple kept saying, “We always feel so nervous for the girls because they seem so nervous, but you seem completely calm.” And I was. So was Brad. And now that it’s all said and done, we keep asking ourselves, “Why did we wait 19 months to do this?”

We went to Glacier National Park for our honeymoon. It was a different kind of beautiful than I’ve ever seen. It looked like hundreds of paintings smashed together. I felt like we weren’t in America. At a certain point during each hike, there were small signs next to the path that read, “Entering Grizzly Country.”  For being such a sure warning, I’m not sure why they didn’t make the signs bigger. Then the signs gave specific rules on how not to get killed. They said such things as, “If your body has a strong odor, do not hike. If you are carrying food, do not hike. Make lots of noise as you hike so the animals will know you are coming. Report all Grizzly Bears and Mountain Lions you see while on the trail.” Luckily we didn’t see any bears or mountain lions because we would have been dead before we could report seeing them. We did see lots of dear and mountain goats. Beautiful. Sister Morgan, if you’ve never been there, it’s time. Brad and I will come pick you up and take you with us.  

Now we’re in Henderson, Nevada, in our little apartment that seems huge because we don’t have enough to fill it. I thought I would cry for days leaving Idaho, but I only cried when I hugged my family goodbye. I’ve driven downtown four times by myself so far. I’ve even changed freeways. And I’ve only gotten really lost once. Talk about true accomplishment. I might even like it here, but I don’t want to jump to conclusions too quickly.

I start work on Monday as a long-term substitute. All that means is that I’m a teacher who writes lesson plans according to the state curriculum, but I don’t get paid a salary. The hope is that by October the district will start hiring again, and I’ll get to keep my spot and get paid like a real human being. The teachers keep scaring me about what it’s like. The big fights are outside of my classroom, so they told me how to best jump in to break up a fight. They even told me how to handle students who are having sex outside of my classroom. I’m not in Rupert anymore…


The summer went too fast this year. I am not ready for it to be over. I haven't gone to Sis. Morgan's house and walked out onto the patio. I have not sat by the river, or floated in the canoe. The summer got away from me. And now I can't get it back.

I went up to Rexburg today to take a test. Everyone was gone, obviously. The semester is over, the campus is dead. I walked around the campus after my test was over, trying to recall how happy I was here. Even with all the stresses. But a funny thing happened. I couldn't. I could not bring up the happiness that I once felt. There was memory, yes, happy ones too. But I could not make myself feel happy just by being in Rexburg. I walked down to Porter Park and gazed up at the Birch trees. I went into the library, past the pickle smell on the first floor, and up to the Writing Center. So many happy memories. But instead of feeling happy about being there, I felt pain. I don't belong there anymore. There is nothing left for me in here.

I wonder if that is what my grandma is feeling about life. She has been dying inch by inch for months. And I wonder if she feels as if there is nothing left for her here. She seems as if she is ready to die. She wants me to have all her clothes she says. Every time we go to her home that is what she says. She wants me to have her clothes. She did recognize us today, but she tells me that. She has hot pink pansies planted in the front of the house. But she wants me to have her clothes.

I don't know how I will feel when she dies. I don't know if I will feel sad. She's my grandma by title, but I'm not really sure what our relationship really is, or ever was. My heart goes past her and into the basement of her home where my uncle spends most of his time. He doesn't realize what is happening. He does not know what will happen. This is the woman that raised him, and where does that leave him? He is a 13 year old boy in a 46 year old body. He has limited understanding and ability to take care of himself. His father does not care for him. His only friend, advocate, and companion has been his mother--my grandmother. What will happen when she is gone?
He sits in the basement with a jar full of pennies and he counts them. He counts them one by one and writes the numbers in a spiral bound notebook while he sits on the floor. He pours them out and ca-plink ca-plinks them back into the jar. I have never seen him get all the way through an entire jar of pennies. I'm not sure what will happen if he does. What will happen if he counts all the pennies? And really the answer is simple. There will be no more pennies to count.


I Write Most Easily in Lists or Chunks

I went to Tanner's wedding this past week, and it was very nice. His new wife, Carli, is normal in the best way, and Tanner seems effortlessly happy.

I'm at Jacob Lake selling expensive rugs. I'm better at being a salesman this time around, at least I talk to more people, which is a small, satisfying victory for me. My favorite things to do are watch the Olympics, read (currently Wuthering Heights), and watch birds at fountain near the cabins.

I'm trying to vamp up my scripture study and prayer and soforth--the usuals. It's a good thing, but sometimes I fear I can't sustain the effort, as if I were sprinting, and I wonder if I'm not trying too hard, and there's some principle I'm missing, like, oh, I don't know, the Atonement? Anyone else ever feel like that? Anyone ever heard that DairyMan's Daughter song by Michael McLean?

Michael McLean is possibly my guiltiest musical pleasure, guiltier even than Beyonce and Avril Lavigne (you heard me...but I also like the Beatles and Stevie Wonder, which I think atones for a lot of bad taste). Michael McLean, for those of you not in the know, writes (but does not sing because his voice is terrible) some of the cheesiest Mormon music out there, songs with lines like "When you feel trapped inside a never ending night--Hooooold Ooooon--When you've forgotten how it feels to feel the light--Hooooold Ooooon..." I began to like him on my mission. And this is my argument in favor of Michael McLean: I think he means all of his songs. They're cheesy, I know it, but I think he means it, and I can't help but like him. I don't think that's the case with a lot of the EFY music or Christian rock, but Michael McLean's legit. Sorry Ivor.

I met a fifty-year-old Chinese man from Vancouver in the gift shop today, and we chatted a little (some in Chinese, but not much). He said, "I take my daughter for summer break and see national park." Then tonight I bumped into him and his daughter in the dark in an obscure slot canyon by the Colorado River and we chatted a little more, and I asked him if you can say xiari for sunset, and he said, "It's okay."


The city is dying.

This morning, my mother saw a woman in a JC Penny dressing room stuffing clothing into her purse. She told me this as we drove down Firestone blvd. by the Target and the Golf-N-Stuff and the LA riverbed. “The thing is, she was white and looked kind of like a trashy version of Martha Kendall (one of my mom’s friends.)” I asked her if she did anything about it. “The thing is the stores can’t prosecute shoplifters anymore because they get sued for defamation if they do.” I’m back living where I grew up for the first time this year, but it’s different because it’s not my home anymore.

It seems like the things familiar to me as a youth have corrupted with time. Dad tells a story about a man in a Cadillac with tinted windows pulling up across the street for a drug deal. News reports blare with stories of another man shot dead today after an argument goes violent—more after these messages from our sponsors. Half-finished McMansions bursting on their small lots sit empty; their dirt lawns cook in the sun because the owners took out a bad loan and lost it all in the mortgage crisis. Even at home, the familiar pillars of my life are cracked and mossy.

“No, someone else may have called but it wasn’t me. I didn’t call you at all when you were gone.” My grandmother was trying to tell me that while my family was on our three-week drive she hadn’t called us at all, which was incorrect because she called over a dozen times every day (except three.) She was sitting in Grandpa’s tattered brown La-Z-Boy recliner. Dark brown washcloths served as makeshift arm-covers for the chair where the fabric had worn thin and stringy. Grandma wore faded navy-blue sweatpants that seemed to veil her thin, bony legs. A dozen wadded up tissues lay on her lap and between her legs. Her head was limp, pointed at her shoulder, and her grey skin seemed to have melted from her face.

“Grandma, you called me no less than eight times in the last three days.” I pulled my phone out and looked at the missed calls list. I thought about showing her how many times she had called me, but then slid it back into my pocket.

“No I didn’t. The only time I talked to your dad he told me to go to sleep.”

“That’s because you called at midnight repeatedly until he woke up and talked to you. He told you to go to bed because you should have been there instead of on the phone.”

“Well, that’s not how I remember it, but I don’t see any point in arguing it.”

I wonder if she knows she’s wrong, or if she just doesn’t want to argue, I thought. She took a hard candy out of her mouth and half-puckered her lips. “It’s not working, my mouth is still too dry.” Grandma placed what was left of the candy onto a white plate among 15 other pieces just like it—small buds of colorful hard candy, some re-wrapped in their clear plastic.

“Have you tried drinking some more water?” I asked. I grabbed her almost empty glass and stood up.

All that remains of the vibrant Grandma who spent my childhood showering me with toys and compliments and who told me she was so proud of me all the time is a shell of a person, a corrupted body of flesh that has stolen another piece of my home forever. I am not home; I’m in LA.


Western Spaghetti by PES

I love these stop animations. This is the one I wanted to post because it's shots of Ivor and Chan cooking last weekend. Chicken with onions, pineapple, basil and oil. Ummmm. They are good.


Lying About Where I'm From

I always used to tell the truth about where I was from. But a Korean kid at the mostly freshman ward we attend right now summed it up best with his own experience. "When I tell people I'm from Rexburg, they look disappointed, like they want me to explain that I'm Korean before they're satisified."
I've always thought it was funny the way people would ask me "where are you from?" To anyone else they just want to know where they're from, but when directed at me they expect a report on my ethnicity and when they hear the answer "Canada" their expression says that they want to know how it is that I'm Canadian. You can't be Canadian! You're ASIAN! What do you know about being Canadian?

The Bishop of our new ward came by to visit and to get to know the people that are in the new ward that is being organized. Dan and I talked to him for a while and the question eventually came around. Where are you from? Canada. Disappointment. I explained I was originally from Singapore. He looked satisisfied. The snob in me wondered if he even knew where Singapore was.
Maybe that's why I started lying. If you have no idea what my world is like, I'm going to make you question your own world. Maybe I just got sick of the disappointment in their eyes when I told them the truth. Where are you from? Moroni, Utah. Really? Yeah it's a place in the middle of nowhere Utah. They look at me like I'm lying, and I look them right in the eye with a slight smile that challenges them to question my lie. When I turn on the lie, I can lie thru my teeth. The usual "look me in the eye and tell me it's not true" doesn't work on me. If they want to know the truth they'll stick around.
Moroni, Utah came as a side lie to the greater lie that my great grandparents came across the plains with Brigham Young. What you don't believe it? Why would I lie? I have nothing to gain by lying to you.
This weekend though, the first leg of the great California adventure involved a kind of spiritual journey to Manti for one of my best friends wedding. Passing through to Manti though, was the mystical town of Moroni, Utah. The lie that I created to fight the question that they would ask found its mystical birthplace.
The lie is complete now. I'm from Moroni, Utah. It's somewhere between Ephraim and Fountain Green. We raise sheep right on the outskirts of town. It's the small of the small town, a place where your grandparents live and the town will vanish the moment they die.
I love lying about where I'm from.


So I Tell People That I'm Not an Art Major...

Dan's been helping me refine my technique. Not bad for a first independent attempt using new technique huh?It's been a while since I drew anything, but it feels great to be doing it again.

I feel like I need to fill up this white space right next to the picture. I don't really have anything witty to say, so maybe a couple of sentences of ramble like this is sufficient right?

[No transition] I don't know when I became a horrible pack rat. I keep everything, movie stubs, performance stubs, programs, whatever. As long as there is some kind of memory associated with it, I keep it. Maybe I don't make a conscious thought to keep whatever it is, but months later I'll find something like the "Fiddler on the Roof" ticket stub from three years ago, and then I can't throw it away. Why is that? This even carries over to pictures that I take on my camera. I can't stand to delete anything. I was deleting photos today, trying to make room for my California trip. It really took me 20 minutes to psyche myself up to delete things. Be ruthless. Just click on those pictures and hit DELETE. It's not that hard. But it was. I contemplated buying a new SD card for my camera just so I didn't have to do it.

I didn't though. The pack rat lost this time, and I rambled enough to make this post not look so lonely in white space.


Opening Ceremonies--Celebrating the Human Body.

OK. Yes, my heart hurts over Tibet (it has for a long time), and yes, I'm aware that a family member of our Volley Ball coach was murdered by a Chinese man on Saturday (who immediately committed suicide),and of other sundry events taking place as I write, but I'm still in awe over the opening Olympic Ceremonies.
Can we argue that some of the money spent should have gone to other causes? Yes. Of course. Is it strange to see Pres. Bush playing volleyball in Beijing while Russia blows Georgia off the map? Yes (no more words on that issue). But, I feel sorry for any who missed the opening ceremonies (except for EmPo and Bradly, who had a very good excuse). What an amazing event!
Zhang Yimou (director of HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, etc.) gets most of the credit. Maybe later, he will regret aligning himself with China's official authoritarian state identity, since he's been at odds with China's leaders most of his life, but he is an incredible Chinese Artist--maybe "he" will be the future China, as he tries to move his homeland out from under Mao's shadow; or, maybe he's selling out his old beliefs for fame and money--but, right now I don't care, because he gave those who saw it an amazing gift of art, theology, harmony, vision, and pure beauty. I heard two newscasters today, who have covered over 25 opening ceremonies between them, say they have never seen anything like it, not only in the Olympics, but also in any art form, ever; nor did they expect to see such an event again in their lifetimes. One said, "There are no words for it."

Today, I got addicted, forgot about politics, watched volleyball, swimming, and cycling--yuk--but I loved it all--even found myself routing for Lithuania's long-haired Samoilovs against US almost-seven-foot giant, who should have won, but didn't. And good for Spain for winning the cyclist race, which was painful to watch because of the tortuous route. The point? The celebration of the physical human body is the center of the Olympic Games. My body hurts all the time now, but I remember how it feels to be healthy (though none of us reaches the training heights of Olympians. Hardly). I love this celebration, no matter where it's held, but, there's no doubt that Zhang Yimou artistic portrayal will be hard to beat--ever. If you missed it, try to pull up some news coverage--but not from YouTube--don't wade through the hate mongers; go to a reputable news source for some re-runs--if you can find one, that is.


Sister Morgan, I think it's a dream.

Between your beautiful book I read this morning and the picture you put to the side of this blog, I'm feeling quite homesick. I loved seeing even furthur into your heart by reading your book. I could hear your voice in many parts as well; thanks again. I'm curious: what is the only line you wouldn't change? There were many beautiful similes and images. Not surprising.
I keep thinking that I'm living a bad dream too. But I don't want to feel this way, so I implemented our deal. I found one thing that I like about this place. I know that I'm supposed to have two more--I'm working on it.
I like all of the culture. Asian people, black people, chinese people--it's all here, and it's great. I'll keep looking.



Hello friends. I am writing from some obsure library in PA and they have a timer for the computer! I can't believe it. (I keep saying that with everything out here. There aren't even blinds on our windows because of how thick the trees are. Travis loves it; I'm trying.) Needless to say, I don't have much time.
We're getting the internet on August 12th and I'm looking forward to it. Did we do the right thing? Julie, you're much more brave than I am.
How is everyone doing? Where is everyone for the seven week break? I guess now it's about 6 or 5 weeks, but don't shoot me for reminding you how quickly it's flying by. Oh yeah, I forgot. I'm too far for any of you to shoot me even if you wanted to. I guess there is a perk to being on the opposite side of the country.
Anona, contratulations on the baby! EmPo, you are such a beautiful bride and I'm happy for you.
Once we get the internet, I'll describe our trip on our blog. By the way, it is www.travnjam.blogspot.com so you can come and visit. For a short version, though, I'll just say that now I know how to change a fuel filter, a fuel pump, and to report an accident on my insurance (not my fault. Someone backed in to me). That's all for now though.
Much love.

Ohh--Bridal Pictures

I got my bridal pictures taken last week by one of my good friends. She took 860 pictures in 2 hours. She's incredible. She's edited  few of them and put them on her blog. Go check them out.