Wednesday, December 30, 2009

i love technology

i just web cammed with my family for the first time ever.
it was fun to see everyone live and in color.

my nephew lane blew me kisses and said he missed me.
"you need to come here right now," he said.
"i can't, beccause i live too far away," i said.
"why?" he asked.
(i've been asking myself that a lot this week too.)
he told me to stick out my tongue so he could see it.
then he stuck his tongue out too, so I could see it.

my nephew brodee picked his nose and ate it, while his dad was talking to me.
it was hilarious. 
apparently, it tastes good, because he went right back in for another one.

my nephew ghent said hi.
he was too busy doing other things to say much more.

i watched my brother rob give the nephews horse rides
wrestle with them.

my mom and dad look older, but still the same.
they like this webcam thing.
i gave them a tour of the living room of my new apartment.
(i know, i know.  i owe the rest of you photos.)

i saw my nephew garrett's long-ish hair.
his voice is suddenly so deep.
gotta love puberty.

i love that the tech guru in the family is my sis-in-law, nick.
rob couldn't get the video call up and going,
but nick did, right after i downloaded the update.

i saw my sister, becky's, very blond hair.
it now matches her youngest boy's hair color.
very cute, but i like her better with her natural color.

i missed seeing my nephew miles, 'cause he was sleeping.
it was great to see jon & jeny though.
jon was reading books to the nephews and jeny was listening.
i wanted to be there to listen too.

technology is amazing.
it's so cool to think i was sitting here in dc
watching my family in UT
and they were watching me
in real time.
okay, there was like a three second delay, but still...

i love technology.

Monday, December 28, 2009

i looked out the window

i looked out the window and what did i see?
four missionaries singing carols to me.

i have a soft spot in my heart for the lds missionaries.

i promised them christmas goodies, 
if they would stop by to serenade me with carols.
they're such great young men
with such a bright light in their eyes and huge kind spirits.
they had me laughing and singing with them,
and remembering when i was missionary myself in chile.

they saw the ornament on my tree
with my little brother chris's photo and asked me about him.
they listened as i described him,
and talked about the miracles
that happened in our family the year he died.
chris wanted to be a missionary too, and now
when i see missionaries i think of chris
and imagine him as a missionary.

i also think of chris's comical side and how he made me laugh.
it's that unique sense of humor that only young men have.

yep, it's definitely unique to them.

so, if a pair of young men in suits and ties happen to knock on your door
then you should tell them you've heard they know how to sing
and ask them to sing their favorite hymn for you.

they might look at you weird,
but they will sing.
and you'll have a smile on your face
and a warmth in your heart.
i do.

photos by me


Tonight my good friend Pam called and invited me for an outing
to the Washington, DC LDS Temple Festival of Lights.
I love Christmas lights, so I was excited to go.
Temple Square Christmas in Salt Lake City, UT is the best, but this was almost as good.

Pam and I posing in front of the Temple.
Pam is one of my best friends here in DC.
I've been assigned as her visiting teacher for almost four years
and we have so much fun together.

Over 500,000 lights light up the gardens surrounding the temple and visitor's center.
The lights on the ground in the shape of flowers were my favorites. Flower lights!

Even the pussy willow trees were decorated for the season. So pretty.

I loved this blue tree.

Such a beautiful building with all the lights.

Christmas lights symbolize to me the light of Christ, which help keep Him at the heart of the season.

I hope you felt His light and love this season.

photos by me

christmas gifts

Christmas Day has come and gone.  The climatic ending of weeks and in some cases months of preparations.  The presents wrapped and placed under the tree, the packages and cards placed in the mail, the cookies and goodies baked and plated, Santa's sleigh all packed up and the reindeer at the ready, the Nativity story ready to be read aloud and families gathered together when they can.  All the trimmings of the season and I'm always a bit sad to see them end.

An old friend of mine said to me recently that when he is old and senile and doesn't know where he is, he wants it to be Christmas every day where his mind is.  I like that idea, not the getting old and senile part of it but the idea of Christmas every day where my mind and heart are.  As I've thought recently about things I want to accomplish this year, I've wondered what I can do to make it Christmas every day in my life.  I love the feelings of Christmas, the spirit of giving, the spirit of Christ and the spirit of love.

By living the gospel of Christ and letting His light shine through me, I can feel Christmas every day and just maybe I can help others feel His love and light too.  I think this is the best gift of Christmas.


Me on Christmas night after a long day at work.

I had a great Christmas.  It was different from any Christmas I've had.  I didn't get to see my family this year.  I spent the day working here not exactly ideal, but it was still a good day.  I took my small electric skillet in with me and cooked scrambled eggs with cheese and sausage for everyone.  It was a pretty quiet day until this happened, but thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been.  I got to eat Christmas dinner with my BFF roommates from London.  It was great to have them here and they shared in my excitement as I opened my Christmas gifts.

photo by my friend sara

Thursday, December 24, 2009

happy christmas

“True happiness comes only by making others happy—the practical application of the Savior’s doctrine of losing one’s life to gain it. In short, the Christmas spirit is the Christ spirit, that makes our hearts glow in brotherly love and friendship and prompts us to kind deeds of service.

“It is the spirit of the gospel of Jesus Christ, obedience to which will bring ‘peace on earth,’ because it means—good will toward all men.”

Giving, not getting, brings to full bloom the Christmas spirit. Enemies are forgiven, friends remembered, and God obeyed. The spirit of Christmas illuminates the picture window of the soul, and we look out upon the world’s busy life and become more interested in people than things. To catch the real meaning of the “spirit of Christmas,” we need only drop the last syllable, and it becomes the “Spirit of Christ” (Pres. Thomas S. Monson, December 2008).

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

a christmas elf

Dad, this post is for you.
From your Christmas Elf.
This year I really was an Elf.

Aren't these girls so cute?!?!
I'm so blessed to work with such fun people.

Sometimes I can be a little sElf conscious. 
As you can see above, this was not one of those times. 
I had to be jolly and full of Christmas spirit and spunk.
I was part of the holiday spirit posse at the work Christmas party.
This wasn't too hard because basically my normal sElf is very outgoing and happy.
Do you know which Elf movie I'm from?

Everybody told me I could just wear the little costume
and not worry about it being too short.  Ha!
They said I could just be mysElf and no one would say anything.
While that was flattering, my more modest sElf was not entirely comfortable
with the idea of such a short skirt.
As you can see from the photo above, the skirt was short, really short.
I think the costume really was made for an Elf.
I was glad I was wearing the Christmas snowflake boxers for two reasons:
they helped me feel modest,
because at this point the waist band of my tights were nowhere near my waist. 
I hate to think just how sElf conscious I would have been without the boxers.
I think I would have been labelled an Elf-hibitionist or worse.

Buddy, the Elf, and I enjoying the last dance together.
We closed the party down.
It was great fun!

If you'd like to elf yourself, try this link:
Let your sElf go and have some fun.

Have fun making this Christmas merry and bright.

photos by my good friend drpA

Sunday, December 20, 2009


I called home this evening, and my mom was busy being grandma.  I talked with my nephew Lane and here's how the conversation went.

Lane: Are you coming over?
Me: No.
Lane: Why not?
Me: Because I live really far away.
Lane: Well you can drive.
Me: It would take me three days to drive there.  It's really far.
Lane: Oh...  Well, where are your kids?
Me: I don't have any kids.
Lane: Why?
Me: Because I'm not married.
Lane: Why?
Me: I haven't found a boy who wants to marry me.
Lane: Why?
Me: Because Heavenly Father hasn't said it's time for me to get married.
Lane: Why?
Me: I don't know.
Lane: Well, tell him it's time.
Me: Okay.  Will you tell him too?
Lane: Yes.  Heavenly Father it's time for Christine to get married.

Are you listening, God?
Here's hoping.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

thundersnow snowpocalpsepalooza

It won't stop coming down!

This is a serious snow storm.
I love it!

Just a few photos from my walk with my friend AL up to Eastern Market for brunch... yes it was open.
Walked to Frager's and bought a shovel.
Then stopped by a friend's house with birthday wishes.
Cleaned the steps down to my apartment and salted them.

Life is grand!!!!

I can't believe this is DC.  Amazing!
It was easier to walk down the street where the snow plow
had gone through than on the sidewalk in 20 inches of snow.

So beautiful!
I'm dreaming of a white Christmas...
Dreams really do come true.

The house where I live in the basement.  Such pretty snow!

P.S. I stole the title of this post from my friend SC.
It made me laugh and it's totally appropriate for today.

photos by me from my cell phone


This is the view from my doorway this morning.
Lovely marshmallow snow, untouched by humans.
I still need to buy one of these and some of this.

I walked up my stairs to get a better look.

Notice there are no cars parked on the street.  My street is a Snow Emergency Route or SNER.
SNERs are great fun if you park on them during a
"crippling snowpocalypse"
(this is what some of the local media termed our winter storm),
you get towed and reparked on a route that is not a SNR.
Not only do you get reparked, and
have to call the DC DMV to figure where the heck they parked your friend's car
which you're supposed to be using to pick him up from Dulles Airport in less than an hour,
it's also a $250 ticket.

This happened to me during my first week in DC.  I got to learn the hard way about SNERs.
Try pronouncing SNER the way its spelled and that's pretty much how I felt that day.
It's a weird feeling to look out the window to see how much snow there is,
and then realize the car isn't there anymore.
In fact, there are no cars at all parked on the street.
(Yes, the Twilight Zone theme song played in my head.)
I finally found my friend's car parked two blocks away,
 and was able to safely drive through the snow to Dulles and retrieve him. 

We protested the ticket in traffic court.
Now, I don't normally pull out the
from-a-small-town-in-Utah-with more-cows-than-people-and-we-don't-have-SNERs-card,
but this time it worked.
The judge threw out the fine.  Yay for the judge!
Moral of the story: Watch where you park in DC during a snowstorm.

My new neighbors learned this the hard way this morning. 
They parked their car and their U-Haul on the street over night last night. 
This morning they're calling the DMV looking for their vehicles.  Poor them.
I tried to warn them but no one answered the door when I knocked.
I'm awake now because they knocked on my door asking for help.

And on a much happier note:

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Toys in ev'ry store
But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be
On your own front door.

Isn't my front door so pretty with all the snow!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!!!!

Oh, and I'm buying these as soon as I finish this post.
Or something like them.

photos by me

Thursday, December 17, 2009

the real reason

Six years ago today my youngest brother Chris died in a ski accident.
I'm really feeling it this year, because I won't be going home for Christmas.
I miss him.  I miss my family.

This is a time when we get to reflect on great joy and promise.
I remember how hard it was to find the joy that year.
My belief and faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ made finding the joy a lot easier.
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not:
for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people" (Luke 2:10).

The good tidings of great joy are that a baby was born in Bethlehem,
who is our Savior.
Thanks to Him, the promise of life everlasting is true.

This is the real reason I love Christmas.

photo by me

Monday, December 14, 2009

improv everywhere strikes again

I LOVE Improv Everywhere, an improvisation group that stages "missions" on the streets of NYC.  All of their missions are intended to put a smile on people's faces and look like a lot of fun.  I would love to do something like this here in DC.  You can watch more of their mission videos here.

Their recent Salvation Army bell ringer mission is my all time favorite, and it really gets you in the mood for Christmas.  Enjoy!


Sunday, December 13, 2009

not my father's nativity

This is what Christmas is truly about: the birth of a baby who would become the perfect man, our example, our Savior.  It's awesome to me that the circumstances of his birth were so simple and uninspiring, and yet through the ages his birth has inspired faith in so many people.  I'm sure his parents, Mary and Joseph, couldn't imagine at the time the blessings this little child would bring or all the prophecies he would fulfill.  

After receiving shepherds who had been told by angels to follow a star where they would find and worship a newborn baby in a stable manger, and then three wisemen who brought priceless gifts and followed a star to find a king, these young parents must have known he was pretty special and that other people thought so too.  The scripture says "...Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart."  For me it's hard to imagine the wonder and awe that Mary felt as she experienced these things.

And yet each Christmas I feel a sense of wonder as I think about the true meaning of Christmas.  There is so much about this season that I love, and that inspires me.  It's easy to get lost in all the symbols of Christmas and forget the true reason behind our celebrations and gift giving.  Ever since my brother died six years ago at Christmas it's become a little easier to remember the true meaning of Christmas.  This tiny child born in a stable, whose birth was heralded by angels and recorded in the stars, gave us so much promise and hope.  He showed us how to truly live, love and serve.  He paid for our sins and overcame death so we could have the promise of life--life immortal and life eternal with God, our father. 

I love Christmas for these reasons.  I love setting up the nativity and focusing on the the Christ child.  What a season of joy and hope this truly is.  I hope you feel it in your heart.


At home with my parents, we set up the little nativity scene from my father's family.  He's had this nativity since he was a child.  It's a well loved classic nativity from the 1940s, with cracked paint and multiple repairs.  The original baby Jesus is missing.  Dad wanted to slide down the coal chute and thought his mom would let him if he threw baby Jesus down the coal chute.  To his great disappointment he didn't get to slide down the coal chute and so baby Jesus remained in the coal.  I love this piece of family history and all the imperfections from aging and the love that it has received.  I miss this little nativity.  (Please see the comments for my father's version of the coal chute baby Jesus.  Thanks Dad for setting me straight.)

This year for my first Christmas in my own apartment before buying a tree or putting up lights, I set up a nativity.  In my travels this year I bought a nativity from the Woodcarver's Village in Kenya. It looks totally different from any nativity I have. It's earthy, tribal and stern, but it gets the basic story line across. I love the animals: a warthog, hyena and a sort of African sheep. This is definitely not my father's nativity, but I love it anyway.

And then I have this nativity from my sister-in-law, which I put under my tree.  What better place to put God's greatest gift to us than under the Christmas tree where we put all the gifts we are giving and receiving.  This has really helped me to remember the true meaning of Christmas this year.

I really love this one too.  My mom made this for me in Relief Society one year.  I just feel loved when I get this one out.

I picked this one up in Italy.  I have seen similar scenes on many of the buildings there.  I plan on keeping this one out all year.  So very Catholic of me...

photos by me

Saturday, December 12, 2009

an overlooked carol

You'll know what I mean by the title when you hear which carol it is.

I love this version! 
It's fun, fresh and has pretty amazing vocals. 
I want to see these guys in concert.

May your true love give you some very nice gifts this Christmas.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

capitol christmas!

Each year at Christmas I tell myself, "Self, you will go see a tree lighting ceremony at the White House."  And then I don't do it.  This year I told myself the same thing and then happened to mention it out loud to my friend AL.  She's a fan of the Capitol Christmas tree lighting ceremony because you can actually get onto the Capitol grounds and feel more a part of the ceremony than at the White House.  I said, "Self, this is a pretty good idea.  Let's do it."  So, we did.

Like all events on the Capitol lawn involving any members of the Congress or Senate, attendees to the tree lighting ceremony had to pass through security.  As we went through, we saw people with their government IDs getting into the area closest to the tree.  I had come straight from work, and had my ID with me, so we used it to try and get in.  No luck, only a Capitol staffer ID worked the required magic, but we still had a pretty great view of the tree outside the fence.  I'll get some close up photos another time.

The tree is 85 feet of Christmas gorgeousness covered in handmade ornaments.  It's from the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forests in Arizona.  The school kids of the Grand Canyon State made all the ornaments. 

Apache dancers danced and blessed the tree, so it would be a true symbol of peace and goodwill towards all men.  It was really cool to hear their drumming and chanting, and it really helped to pass the time as we stood in the cold, damp grass waiting for the ceremony.  Unfortunately, it was too dark to get a good photo of the dancers.  The master of ceremonies was a real class act, cutting off the performance by telling the dance troupe, "Okay, that's all we have time for."   

We then stood and listened to the US Marine Corps band play Christmas carols until the ceremony began about 20 minutes later.  The band is so good, and it's always a treat to hear them play. 

The porch of the Capitol, where President Obama was inaugurated earlier this year, was filled with wounded warriors from Walter Reed and Bethesda Military Hospitals.  That was a nice touch.  The governor of Arizona said the lights on the tree represented all the service men and women all over the world sacrificing for our freedom.

I couldn't resist taking a photo shot of the view from the west lawn of the Capitol where we were standing.  Winter evenings in DC can be quite beautiful, especially at the Mall where they be can even be magical.

This is what happens when you try to take a long distance photo in the dark without a tripod.  I think it's an accidental artistic shot.  Uh-huh, right.

After several minutes of speeches by prominent Arizona politicians all trying to work the comparison of a Christmas tree to America, the lights were switched on by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and a seventh grader from Surprise, Arizona.  The state held a drawing for which child would travel to DC and help light the tree.  I seriously want that job someday!  Not the Speaker's job, the job of being a seventh grader selected to travel with your family and school teacher to DC and turn on the tree.

More lights!  Senator John McCain was among the Arizona politicians who spoke.  I saw the top of his white haired head, which really didn't make for any exciting photos. 

All the politicians and the Capitol Architect who spoke were very proud of the fact that LED lights were being used on the tree for the fifth year in a row.  Because of the LED lights, it was a green Christmas tree (pun intended). 

I'm not exactly an environmentalist of any sort (I do recycle), but somehow I think that the green-ness gets erased when a tree that's 125 years old gets cut down and trucked across the country along with 80 other freshly cut, perfectly healthy trees for the purpose of decorating the Capitol and select members' offices, but that's just me.  I'm now mildly curious about the cost of buying back that carbon footprint, but not enough to give up buying a fresh Christmas tree. 

Presenting the Capitol Christmas tree...or that totally random woman with pink gloves checking the photos on her camera.

AL and I with the tree and Capitol dome in the background.  All in all it was great evening, and even the loss of my license and debit card didn't dampen the Christmas spirit.

Merry Christmas from our nation's capitol!

photos by me, AL and other random people at the ceremony

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

a trip around the world on a christmas tree

kilt wearing santa from scotland with nativity from germany in the background.

henry viii from england

matador jacket from spain and in the background photo ornament made by my little brother's friend

murano glass ball from venice, italy

the finished product.

more ornaments to follow over the next few days.

(and no it's not touching the radiator.
it's several inches away from the radiator.)

photos by me

Saturday, December 5, 2009

some snow, a tree & a latin carol

Today it snowed!  It was a lovely, sticky, wet, marshmallowy fluff snow with flakes that looked like clumps of goose down feathers falling from the sky.  It was so beautiful.  Snow just makes me happy, and it makes me want Christmas.

Christmas greenery at Eastern Market covered in snow.

I bought my Christmas tree from Eastern Market in the middle of the snow storm this morning.  It's standing in all its naked glory in my living room giving off a pine scented perfume that says, "Hey, Christmas is here!"  Decorating will occur either tomorrow or Monday evening.

My little tree waiting for its ride home.

A Christmas concert this evening in a lovely Lutheran Church on Capitol Hill was the perfect end to this day.  The Capitol Hill Chorale once again performed a beautiful concert and inspired me with works of beauty.  They performed one of my favorite carols In dulci jubilo, better known in English as Good Christian Men, Rejoice.  I love singing this carol in the original Latin and German text, but the English translation in the program tonight was particularly poignant.  It fully wrapped my heart in Christmas spirit today.

"In quiet joy now sing with hearts aglow!
Our delight and pleasure lies in a manger.
Like sunshine is our treasure in the mother's lap.
Thou art Alpha and Omega.

"O tiny Jesus for thee I long alway!
Comfort my heart's blindness, o best of boys.
With all Thy loving kindness,
O prince of glory, draw me after Thee.

"O love of the Father!  O gentleness of the Son!
Deeply were we stained by our sins.
But Thou for us hast gained the joy of heaven.
O that we were there!

"Where are joys in any place but there!
There are angels singing new songs,
and there the bells are ringing in the king's court.
O that we were there!"
(original Latin and German text by Heinrich Seuse, 1328)

Happy Christmas!
I definitely caught some Christmas spirit today.

photos by me

Friday, December 4, 2009

where I was & where I am

Last year I was here.

I can't believe it's been a year.  So much has happened.
I've been home from Afghanistan for a year as of today!

My heart is so full.  Thank you God for letting me come home.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Things I'm thank for this week - VII

We all know it's good to be thankful or in others words to cultivate an 'attitude of gratitude'.  I recently read an article on The Benefits of Being Thankful.  The author summarizes the benefits, which result from consciously spending a little time each day being thankful.  Participants in the study reported greater levels of optimism and more positive moods and a feeling of belonging, or in other words "experiencing gratitude promoted psychological well being."  Not only did they feel better, but they also spent more time helping someone else with their problems.  Participants in another study reported less physical illness symptoms and spent more time exersizing.  So, being thankful also promotes physical well being or good health. 

Another study, focused on participants with a neuromuscular disease, and they reported higher levels of positive sleep, as well as more and better quality sleep.  The study group participant's spouse or partner were also asked to track behaviors during the study and reported more positive outlooks and less negativity, meaning that the effects of gratitude were noticeable by others. 

I already knew all of this.  Okay, I hadn't consciously sat down and thought about how being grateful was making me happier or healthier, I just knew on some level that it was.  This article simply confirmed what I already knew and could feel within myself as I contemplated my blessings.

I love that God's commandments are for the benefit of his children.  And so it is with the commandment to " in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which He doth bestow upon you" (Alma 34:38).  I hope that you often spend time contemplating and listing those things for which you are thankful.  As you do, you will reap the blessings of being thankful.

It's hard to narrow the list to just a few things each day for which I'm thankul.
So, here is a long list:

leaves changing colors
raking leaves
sleep and rest
my savior and friend, jesus christ
hair cuts
good food
my job
good conversation
my grandma's orange chairs
my family
books on my shelves
art on my walls
time off
time alone
time with friends
hope, faith, love, service
testimony of christ, prayer, the restored gospel and god
being thankful

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Things I'm thankful for this week - VI

my sense of self

especially saturday mornings when i don't set an alarm.


light and truth


photo from:

Friday, November 27, 2009

Things I'm thankful for this week - V

warmth and heat

good books

the guidance of the holy spirit and answers to prayers

my comfy bed