A Bit 'o Random Musings on Politics, Religion, and Anything Else That Passes Through My Crazy Head

Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Carbs of 2020

The only New Year's resolution I stuck to in 2020 was baking a new bread recipe every month. 

Yep, I'm doing this. I'm going to bore you with a list of all the new bread recipes I tried, and provide links to the recipes if you are interested. Here goes - they are in alphabetical order because (with the exception of the F-bread) they were all pretty delicious, if I do say so myself, so it's not worth ranking.

Challah Bread (recipe lost to history - there are a bunch out there via Google): Part of the fun of trying new recipes is also getting to try new techniques, like braiding the ropes of Challah together (I got better with loaf #2).

Look at these beauties!

Cheddar Scallion English Muffin Bread: I am usually not a savory person, but this just hit the spot - it's really really good toasted, with great flavor. 

Cheddar. Scallions. Toasted Bread. #isthisheaven

Ciabatta (recipe lost to history): This bread was good, but I wasn't happy with how flat my loaves turned out. I did make a lot, so I had enough to share with some neighbors. Will need to work on this in 2021 - any volunteers for tasters?

Doesn't look great, but tasted okay

Cobh Loaf: An ode to Paul Hollywood's piercing blue eyes, I thought this was a pretty simple yet tasty recipe - the butter made it super soft and rich.

Paul's Cob Loaf. Would I get a handshake? Probably not, but tasted alright to me.

Fougasse (Fail!): being a huge fan of the "Great British Bakeoff," I decided to try my hand at one of the show's easier technical challenges: an herby bread called "Fougasse." It was, as they say, an epic fail. Way too flat, not enough flavor, and just looked and tasted bad. Not a keeper recipe, as it turns out. 

Fougasse Fail - didn't look or taste good. Further evidence I don't belong in the tent!

Ligurian Focaccia: Despite making this twice (once for my mom's birthday!), I managed to not get a picture of it. It has a lot of salt, but if you don't mind that (I don't) it's delicious!

No-Knead Oat Bread: Just like people say they don't have favorite children, I probably don't have a favorite bread, but if there was one of these recipes that I could save from a burning building (or remake again and again), it would probably be this one. Very yummy.

I just love recipes that don't involve kneading. This is so good, I might have devoured this whole loaf. 

NY Times No-Knead Bread: This is just so easy - the biggest ingredient it requires

is time (essentially a whole day). It's a very very very simple recipe and technique, but yields some delicious bread.

Another Lazy, Yet Delicious. Loaf

Rosemary Parmesan Skillet Bread: I didn't get a picture of this one, but it was yummy and flavorful, despite being relatively flat - didn't rise as much as it probably should have.

Swirled Garlic Herb Bread: Mine was definitely not as pretty as the picture (needed more herbs, I think) but it tasted great, which was no surprise given how much butter is involved!

Swirled, herby, buttery - what's not to like?

White Cheddar Bacon Apple Biscuits: I pinned this recipe on Pinterest because I like all of these things individually, but wasn't sure if they would go well together, so I was intrigued. Well, they do go very well together, so you should definitely try this recipe!

A full sheet of these beauties.

Up Close and Personal with One of Our Delicious Friends

For my final recipe of the year, I'm trying my hand at a Nutella babka for my family's New Year's Eve party tomorrow. Here's hoping it turns out well!

20 Good Things in 2020

As Washington Post humor columnist Alexa Petri (channeling Charles Dickens) described 2020: "It was the worst of times. It was the worst of times. It was the season of darkness. It was the season of darkness. It was the winter of despair. It was the winter of despair." 

But there have been some good bits too. So, here is my annual wrap up post (and sorry for not blogging more this year...it's been dispiriting to say the least).

20. Visiting my company's (brand new) training facility in Florida in January. My last plane flight was to Florida to teach training to our company's new hires. It was fun to be one of the first people to see our new training facility (which has now been shut down longer than it's been open - impeccable timing!).

Flying home to National Airport has the BEST views.

19. Empanadas Cookbook Club! Also before the shutdown, in January, I had my Cookbook Club friends over and we made (what seemed like) a bajillion empanadas. We even had some dessert chocolate/dulce de leche ones. So good and so fun! I miss having people over and cooking for them.

Empanadas - yum!

18. (Into) The Woods! I've never been so grateful for the woods/park behind my house as I was this year. Lots of long dog walks and chances to enjoy the seasons changing.

The Woods Are Like a Beautiful Cathedral. I Love Trees!

17. Working from home/being gainfully employed - so many people have lost their jobs during this time, I am seriously lucky that I got to work from home. While I missed interacting with real people, I was grateful to be able to cut down my commute time, save gas money, and most of all, just still be employed.

My "Work From Home" Setup. Luckily I bought a new desk in January!

Daisy likes to interrupt important work calls for playtime. Which is why she is banished to the kitchen while I work upstairs.

16. MLK Service at National Cathedral in DC. It's something I've wanted to do for a long time and I'm so glad my mom and I did it in January before the shutdown. Also late this year my company announced we'll get MLK day as a paid holiday starting in 2021, hooray!

Celebrating MLK at National Cathedral in DC

15. Temple trip to Philadelphia. One of the last "normal" things I got to do before the pandemic was travel with a few friends to the Philadelphia temple in early 2020. I debated whether or not I would go, because it was a busy time at work and it's a long drive, but in retrospect I am very glad I did - great company and a peaceful place to ponder. I have missed the temple during the pandemic.

Peace. Look forward to returning soon.

14. Trying out new recipes. With more time at home, it was fun to experiment and try new dishes. This sausage pizza from the Washington Post has gotten made a few times (minus the olives, because olives are gross).


13. Photo contests. I am rather proud of myself for creating two virtual photo contests with friends and family this year - we even had prizes. It was a fun way to share what we were experiencing during this crazy time, even if we couldn't gather in person.

12. Somewhat Celebrating the Suffrage Centennial. Most of the celebration was virtual, but I did go down and see all the buildings in DC lit up with "suffrage colors" for the anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment. Also got to attend some super interesting lectures and talks online commemorating the event, and read (or at least start to read) some great books about the persons involved. Very grateful to live in a free country where I have the ability to vote (see item #3 below).

National Archives Building

11. Christmas Cookie "Virtual" cookie exchange. I organized a virtual cookie exchange - people swapped recipes and for those friends who lived nearby I did a "dough delivery" service where people could swap doughs. Then we had a virtual baking event and played some Christmas games. I'm grateful for those friends who have participated in the activities I've organized and for those activities they have organized!

Chocolate crinkles, nutella chocolate chip swirls, peppermint sugar, pecan snowballs, and pumpkin whoopie pies! Get in my belly!
10.  Increasing my "app-itude" - so grateful for the technology that has gotten us through this. Thank you Zoom, Google Meet, Netflix Party, YouTube "Watch2gether" parties, video calls, and so many other things that have made this bearable.

9. Bread baking. One of my 2020 New Year's resolutions was to try one new bread recipe per month. It's one of the few resolutions I've kept, even with the yeast shortages this year because of the pandemic. I won't insert pictures of them all here, but three of my favorites were the cheddar scallion loaf, apple bacon cheddar biscuits, and no-knead oatmeal bread (recipes included at links).

King Arthur's No-Knead Oatmeal Bread was SOOOO good.

8. Discovering cool places close to home, like the Freedman's Cemetery in Alexandria, VA; Hillwood Museum and Gardens and Kenniworth Lotus Gardens in DC; and Harper's Ferry/Antietam/Gettysburg. There were plenty of opportunities to do "day trips" to cool outdoor locations that I normally wouldn't explore because I would be traveling farther away.

Frolicked in a field of sunflowers

Visited Hillwood Estate/Gardens with Friends

Freedmens' Cemetery in Alexandria on a beautiful day.

7. Reading a whole bunch of books! As a member of (ostensibly) 4 book clubs, I had lots of opportunities and time for free reading this year. According to Goodreads, I read over 16,000 pages and I'm hoping to hit 50 titles by the end of the year (which is about twice what I read in a normal year). Maybe I'll do a separate post rating all the books, but the "fun" highlight was re-reading the *all* the Miss Marple novels this year.

6. Serving in the church. This year I've gotten to work with the young women at church ages 12-13. They are a really fun bunch! We've done lots of virtual activities (Zoom pictionary, Virtual coloring event, sharing our favorite YouTube clips, "Among Us" game night, and more), a socially distanced movie night, and an outdoor Christmas MadLibs game. With a new church responsibility coming my way in the new year, I appreciate having this opportunity to get to know them. They are going to do amazing and wonderful things.

Outdoor (socially distant) movie night at the church!

For one of our virtual activities, we dropped off mug cakes for everyone so we could make and eat our treats "together."

5. Friend get togethers. We've done socially distanced backyard chats, park birthday parties, July 4th BBQs, ice cream/cookie "dates," and a memorable goodbye party at Iwo Jima - all socially distant/masked. I am grateful for good friends.

 Blueberry Raspberry Bars for our 4th of July Socially Distant Backyard BBQ

4. Lots (and lots) of doggie snuggles. Still very grateful to have a dog, and that she has kindly become a more of a cuddle bug this year for my sake.

Looking mighty fine after her recent haircut!

3. Biden won the election!!!! Seriously, looking forward to having a non-crazy man as president. This year I also got to serve as an election worker, which was an interesting experience (not sure if I want to do it again, but it was interesting!).

My homemade "Bye Don" sign for October 2020.

I was working on the Saturday they called the election, but I did switch on Fox News to watch them call it for Biden, it felt good.

2. Week-long getaway to Asheville, North Carolina with my parents. Travel opportunities were very limited, and social interaction was too, so it was nice to get away with my dear parents (and two dogs - theirs and mine) for some time in the woods of North Carolina.

Hiking to Crabtree Falls near Asheville, NC.

1. VACCINE IS ON ITS WAY! So grateful for the scientists who have made multiple vaccines happen in a very fast way. Yay, science! The best news about this year is that it's almost over, and that next year will hopefully bring an end to the pandemic, lockdowns, and mass deaths.

There are several trees in my neighborhood which have "faces" all year round - this year someone cheekily decorated one of them with a mask. But don't worry, Mr. Tree, the vaccine will soon be here!

I hope you managed to find some joy in 2020 - wishing you a very happy 2021 with more of the people and places you love!

New Year's Eve last year - it only looks like I'm giving 2020 the "finger" but if I had known what was ahead, I might have given this year the finger in reality.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

What Colonel Jessup Taught Me About Empathy and Race Relations

Experience #1: Growing up Mormon, many of my friends were (and still are) political conservatives. One friend in particular, let's call him Jay, is very conservative. In high school, I liked to push Jay's buttons by imagining hypothetical scenarios that would test Jay's theories of politics. I don't remember what we were discussing (it could have been any number of issues), but one day I went too far. I *do* remember that the hypothetical scenario I concocted was completely beyond Jay's experience, and he replied "there are no *actual* people like that" (to be fair, I was given to dramatics so he may have been right, given that I don't remember the particulars). However, at the time, I remember thinking that this was a failure of empathy on his part - he literally could not imagine someone in the circumstances I described.

Experience #2: Recently, I was discussing President Trump's decision to hold a rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Juneteenth in the wake of mass protests on racial justice topics with a friend. We'll call this friend Steve. I was explaining that this was a very insensitive date and place to hold a rally given current events and the history of Tulsa (see here and here or listen to this podcast if you don't know what I'm talking about). Steve, an intelligent and well-read conservative who was aware of the history, responded with something like "I understand why African Americans are upset, I would be too!" I was momentarily blindsided - he could see their feelings as rational, without feeling the least need to identify with them in their quest to get the rally cancelled (I should note that the President has since moved the rally to the day after Juneteenth).

What ties these experiences together?
A couple of my friends have posted things about supporting police in the wake of large scale protests against police violence following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. I have seen this op-ed "America, We Are Leaving," by a police officer, floating around social media and I wanted to address it head on, because I feel it represents the same failure of empathy as my stories about my friends Jay and Steve. It also represents those who often respond to "Black Lives Matter" with a discussion that "Blue Lives Matter." Reading through the op-ed, I would describe it as having strong "Colonel Jessup" energy (stay with me here!).

Colonel Jessup, of course, is a fictional character in the Aaron Sorkin drama "A Few Good Men." In the movie version, (which features peak Tom Cruise) Jack Nicholson plays Jessup, a commander at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Jessup is arrogant and high handed. An enlisted man under Jessup's command, Private William Santiago, has died in mysterious circumstances, and two marines are charged with his murder. Tom Cruise is the marines' defense attorney, Kaffee, and sets out to convince the jury that Colonel Jessup ordered a "Code Red" to torture Santiago for being a snitch, thus absolving the marines of murder because they were just following orders.

In a classic legal courtroom confrontation scene, Kaffee confronts Jessup and draws him out. Jessup eventually admits that he ordered the Code Red, but not before he provides a totally morally abhorrent rationale for strongmen with guns keeping us safe. At one point Jessup says "You don't want the truth because deep down in places you don't talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall....I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom that I provide, and then questions the manner in which I provide it!" Jessup is incensed that Kaffee (or anyone) would dare to question the manner in which Jessup operates - he claims that we need strongmen without morals to protect us from worse threats.

The police officer op-ed linked above has that same attitude as Colonel Jessup - "how dare someone question the police, we are providing your freedom and you should thank us and go on your way." While this op-ed may be extreme, this op-ed brings forth some dangerous ideas, for several reasons:
1) The police are employed by the people. They should be answerable and accountable for their actions. The fact that this officer is mad that citizens are calling bad police officers to account means that he is prioritizing his comfort and view of himself and fellow officers as "good people" over the very real suffering of the citizens he is sworn to protect.
2) His attitude towards those he arrests seems to be "they deserve this, they brought this on themselves because they are criminals." He remarks that those he arrests have a bad attitude about being arrested (yeah, I would too!). In America, you are innocent until proven guilty, even after you are arrested. One of the things that makes America truly exceptional is that everyone deserves respect and due process of law (it's one of the things our country was literally founded on!). He may not like this, but this officer is required to treat everyone fairly - our constitution and bill of rights gives everyone the benefit of the doubt and rights to fair trial and fair treatment by law enforcement authorities rather than presuming they are guilty because they were arrested.
3) He complains that police "used to be believed" and now have to produce video evidence to support their assertions. Well, there are several cases that might have led to reduced police credibility, including, but not limited to: (a) the case of Walter Scott, who was shot by a police officer who claimed he felt "threatened" by Scott even though video evidence surfaced that showed Scott was fleeing the scene and the officer shot Scott in the back; (b) the case of George Floyd, where one police officer sat on a citizen's neck for nine minutes, and three other police officers watched and did nothing to stop it (and the Minneapolis police department initially claimed Floyd was resisting arrest); (c) numerous videos during the current protests which show police officers initiating violence against peaceful protesters. All of these incidents (and more) have reduced credibility of police and made it harder for us to trust them when they tell us their version of events. Trust has to be earned.
4) The author claims that he has never seen anyone treated differently by cops because of their race. Well, unfortunately, study after study after study after study has confirmed that just isn't true. Black people are more likely to be arrested, more likely to receive longer sentences for the same crime as a white person, and yes, more likely to be shot by cops (even when unarmed). There is systemic racism present in our justice system, and if this officer is unwilling to acknowledge that, then he isn't listening to the Black friends he claims to have.
5) One line of the op-ed claims we live in the "...most violent society we've ever seen." However, violent crime has actually declined since the 1990s crime wave. In fact, from 1993 to 2018, violent crime decreased by either 51% or 71% (depending on which database we're using). This perception that we are living a violent society all too often leads us to endorse heavy-handed police tactics against a society that is actually becoming less violent overall. This is endorsed when we emphasize killings of police and point out how dangerous their job is, as if that somehow justifies cops murdering unarmed people. In fact, statistics show that it's safer to be a cop now than at any point over the last 50 years. Cops don't even make the Top 10 list of most dangerous occupations in the U.S.

I could go on (this article gets me pretty worked up and I've been thinking about it way too much this week), but I'm going to stop here. We (and I'm speaking about "we" the white people here) need to be able to empathize with Black people - until we identify with Black people as much as we identify with cops, and see Black people as full human beings, we are not going to be able to make the difficult changes that need to be made in our society. We need to be just as mad about racism as Black people, even if it doesn't personally affect us. We need to be able to imagine and understand what it is like to be a Black person in America. I'll close with this TedTalk about "How to Be Black" in America. We white people need to feel this experience, and understand it.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

On "Not Wanting to Be Bishop"

One of the book clubs I'm in recently read the book "The Priesthood Power of Women: In The Temple, Church, and Family" by Barbara Gardner, a BYU professor. During our (Zoom) book club meeting, we discussed whether we think women would ever hold the priesthood. One of the women made the comment "I don't want to be Bishop." It's a comment I've heard many times from female members of the Church.

Well, ANY member of the church, male or female, who *wants* to be a Bishop probably shouldn't be. Wanting power is pretty antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ, in my opinion - leadership is about service, not seeking for a particular office or calling.

As someone who personally believes that women will someday hold the priesthood, I really want to engage with this "I don't want to be Bishop" sentiment. Wanting women to have the priesthood isn't about "taking away" something from men. It's not about a power grab where I want women to have control over others' lives. It's about wanting women to have ability to grow spiritually and exercise all their spiritual gifts.

It's not about ME wanting to be Bishop (I've had administrative callings enough to know I'd be a terrible Bishop) - it's about looking at women who are phenomenal Relief Society presidents and YW Presidents and Sunday School teachers, and saying THEY should be bishops. Wards would be blessed by women serving in priesthood roles.

Saying "I don't want to be Bishop" I think fails to engage in the fundamental questions: if God loves men and women equally (and I hope/pray that most Church members agree that He does), why do we have a leadership structure that relies heavily on male members of the church? Aren't we missing the wisdom and experiences of many of our members by having a gender-specific priesthood? If the goal is for men and women to achieve exaltation and become like God, aren't women going to exercise the power of God (i.e. the priesthood)?

That actually leads back to my main beef with Gardner's book. While it had some good insights, I think fundamentally the book an exercise in the mental gymnastics required to reconcile an unequal power structure with equality amongst the sexes. Essentially it felt to me like we are trying to come up with a justification for a system rather than engaging with the fact that the system is unequal and asking God if that's really what he wants. Does God really not want women to be Bishops? If so, why?

Anyway, it's been on my mind and thought I'd get this down while I was thinking about it.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Alone But Not Lonely

Well, it's day 3,867 of our quarantine due to Coronavirus (or it only feels like it!). I don't know if I'm going to be publishing this post, but being alone with my thoughts means that I need to write down what I am thinking about, at least.

There was a moment in the most recent Little Women adaptation that hit me right in the feels. Jo March refuses to marry Laurie, her best friend of many years. After traveling to New York from her Massachusetts home, and then returning and losing her sister Beth (it's not a spoiler alert if the book has been out for 150+ years, right?), Jo is reconsidering. Should she marry Laurie? He's a good man and a good friend. In a scene with her mother, Jo talks about knowing that she doesn't "need" a man, but she's still just so lonely.

I do not know if I am more or less selfish than the average person, but I do know that I think about myself and my own concerns a fair amount. As I've previously blogged, I do know what it's like to feel lonely and want to be loved, which is why I identified with this scene so much. I'm also someone who spends a fair bit of time wallowing, rather than doing anything about it. I do want to be loved, and sometimes I ache for it. In the immortal words of SmashMouth, sometimes I really wish that someone "loved me for me," and not because they were "required to" by already being related to me. That sentiment betrays my privilege - I am super lucky and blessed to have a very loving set of parents, siblings, and in-laws who care about me.

Of course, the way I deal with these feelings is to ignore them and not talk to anyone about it (super healthy, yes, I know). Post-traditional singles ward, I spent some time in a "mid-singles" ward for singles older than 31, but right now I am in a "family" ward full of people who are mostly in different life circumstances than I am. This doesn't always bother me, but sometimes I feel my "outlier" status.

It was a sucker punch to the gut last week when I received an email message from my Stake President that they were advising that no one take the sacrament to people outside their home for the next few weeks. I know it wasn't meant this way, but it felt like a flashing red sign that I don't "belong" in the church. It made me feel like I wasn't important or necessary to the church's functions, and it didn't matter if I couldn't have the sacrament. Obviously the majority of people in our stake live with someone who can bless the sacrament for them, and I'm glad that's the case. I also understand the reasoning behind the request - I don't want to endanger anyone and give them Coronavirus. Ironically, I had decided that I would not ask my ministering brothers to come that week, because they had come last week, but I was still upset about the mandate.

When I'm at my most bitter, moments like that make me question whether I'll show up to Heaven only to find a "Married People Only" sign (of course, there are plenty of other reasons I wouldn't make it to heaven, ha ha). Our church is devoted to marriage and kids, and it makes me feel less than others sometimes. Even though I believe it isn't deliberate or intentional, I can't help feeling so alone because of this.

As a single person who lives by herself, I do spend a lot of time alone normally, but Coronavirus obviously means that is multiplied by a factor of 1,000. Now that I'm working from home full time, I can go days without talking face to face with another person (other than brief hellos from fellow dog walking neighbors). Because of that, I've been thinking about this Mary Chapin Carpenter song, Alone But Not Lonely. I don't know how to be alone but not lonely - it's not something that comes easy to me.

One of our Mormon hymns ends with a prayer that resonates with me - I hope I can have the faith to walk the "lonely road" even if it is hard. And sometimes it is very hard.

O, Give me thy sweet Spirit still,
The peace that comes alone from thee,
The faith to walk the lonely road
That leads to thine eternity.
(My Redeemer Lives, Hymn #135 in current Hymbook)

Monday, December 30, 2019

19 Neat Things From 2019

It's time for me to dust off the blog for my "Year in Review" post where I recap my year. As usual, the items aren't in any particular order until the top five. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Wouldn't it be loverly...to see a great show in NYC?
19) 2019 started off right, with a trip to NYC with my parents to see one of the best musicals ever, My Fair Lady, at Lincoln Center. We also managed to fit in some museum time, chocolate cake french toast, and my favorite scallion pancakes.
Smiling because I only paid $100 to see this show the second time, and it was fantastic!
 18) Teaching training in Chicago in January is not my favorite, but I did find a cheap ticket to Hamilton and so I got to enjoy that show again.
Atlanta Temple

Halifax, Nova Scotia Temple

Philadelphia Temple - hate the traffic, love the temple itself!
17) Sadly for me, the DC temple remained closed during all of 2019. But I did get a chance to visit several temples while traveling - including Halifax, NYC, Philadelphia, Memphis, Atlanta, and Chicago. Excited that the Church announced the DC temple open house will be in fall 2020, hopefully the DC temple reopens by the end of the 2020 year.
16) The Nats won the World Series! I may have to stop complaining about how bad DC sports teams are (we'll always have our football team...). Baby Shark, Do Doo Do Doo...
West Wing Weekly Taping with my partner in crime, April, who loves West Wing almost as much as me
15) Went to my last taping of "The West Wing Weekly," my favorite podcast, which is about my favorite TV show, "The West Wing." The podcast is wrapping up in 2020, saddest of days! The TV series is also leaving Netflix in 2020, which makes me glad I have my full DVD set.
14) Attended "Diner En Blanc" for the third year, this time with my friend Hannah.
Our Diner En Blanc place setting this year
13) Taught the 11 year-olds at church (for 8 months of the year). We had about 10 of them, and there was A LOT of personality in that room. I always enjoy hearing the perspective of kids on the gospel, because they will tell you what they are thinking.
12) Plenty of baking/cooking adventures - I still like trying new recipes and enjoyed a few meetings of "Cookbook Club" this year. For 2020, my goal is to expand my repertoire of bread baking skills - I know how to make my mom's/grandma's rolls super well, but I want to expand my knowledge of bread in 2020.
Cambodian Pineapple Soup for Cookbook Club

Holiday Roll Baking for friends and neighbors

Peach Strawberry Gallette for a roommate reunion feast
11) Lots of doggie snuggles. Reviewing the pictures I took during 2019: 80% dog pictures, 10% food pictures, and 10% everything else. I hate taking pictures of myself, so maybe I can work on that in 2020? Probably not, Daisy is much cuter than me.
She's so fluffy I want to die!
10) Traveled internationally for work. I didn't really get to see much of India, but my Indian co-workers were unbelievably kind and gracious, and it was great to meet them and teach training in Bangalore and Kochi. It was NOT great to spend over 12 hours in the Kochi airport due to flight delays on our way home.
View from the Hotel Rooftop Pool in Kochi, India
9) Last December training in Orlando! My work has had a work training event every year in December for many years, but this year was the last hurrah - my team will be switching to training in Orlando in May for 2020 and future years. Unfortunately that means I won't get to see one of my favorite co-workers, who transferred to Atlanta and is in a different group. Luckily we were able to do one last hurrah at Downtown Disney together this year.
8) Because I neglected to paint or carve my pumpkins for Halloween, I ended up using them to write things I was grateful for during the month of November. It was a fun idea and I may do it again next year, because it really helped me maintain a spirit of gratitude during the month.
Gratitude Pumpkins
7) A new Church calling: teaching Sunday lessons and planning weekday activities for the 12-13 year old girls at Church. It is a time-intensive calling but the girls are sweet and it is good to get to know them.
6) Attended the 50th Anniversary of the Moon Landing presentation on DC's National Mall. I have been to some cool things in DC, but this was one of the best - they used the Washington Monument as a projector screen to show some of the footage. It was truly EPIC, as the kids (used to?) say.
Moon Landing presentation on Washington Monument in DC

5) Helped to plan "Activity Days Camp" - a three day camp for the 8-11 year old girls at Church. I blogged about it earlier in the year, but it was very fun, and a good excuse to use my party planning traits inherited from my mom.
4) Surprised my family on Christmas Eve by picking up my brother Kevin and sister-in-law Saba at the airport and having them join us for a few days. My parents had no idea, and it was so fun to surprise them!
Me, Kevin, and Saba in DC
3) As the Church transitioned to a 2-hour block of meetings (instead of 3 hours of Sunday meetings!), they also implemented the "Come Follow Me" home study program, encouraging families to study together. Rather than mope about how I don't live with my family and couldn't participate in the home study curriculum, I organized some friends for a monthly discussion group and it has been wonderful to discuss the gospel with friends, something I don't often do.
2) Organized Mormon-themed suffrage tours of Washington, D.C. (to co-opt a popular 2019 song, I am 100% THAT history nerd). It was fun to study up on the subject and concoct a tour of suffrage history that intersects with my Church. There were some tough, smart, and civically-minded women in the Mormon church and we should all know more about them. Someone who is a better writer than me should write a book/articles about it.
Cookies, part of my suffrage tour
1) Visited Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, basically fulfilling a life-long dream to travel to the Land of Anne of Green Gables. My book club celebrated its 10-year anniversary in 2019 and several members decided to travel to PEI to celebrate. It was a magically delightful and beautiful place. After PEI, I journeyed on alone to Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, and it was just amazing as well. The world really is so beautiful and, as Anne says "Dear old world, you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."
The Beautiful Lupine Flowers of Prince Edward Island
Here's to more memories and fun (and a new President? Please?) in 2020!