Inspired by Life

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mingling with the media - Newseum

“Uncle Vernon: What were you doing under our window, boy?
Harry Potter: Listening to the news.
Uncle Vernon: Listening to the news! Again?
Harry: Well, it changes every day, you see.”
― J.K. Rowling

 (FDR talking to the press)

This weekend, Aaron and I managed to go to the Newseum before our Groupon expired. Although we only had an hour or two to spare, it was well worth the trip for both of us, for very different reasons. If I had a nickel for every minute that Aaron spends reading the news, I would be a very wealthy woman! So this place was heaven for him. 

I, on the other hand, was invigorated by the impact and influence that the media had in the campaigns from a very early time. Working in PR has made me more aware of these things, and I am always thinking of it in a public relations and media/reporter frame of mind.  We spent an hour or so in the exhibition titled "Every Four Years" that covered campaign reporting from the time of FDR, who had a knack for winning over reporters with his radio persona. He used simple language and analogies as he pictured the American people sitting in their living rooms listening to the radio. 

I wandered downstairs to the Pulitzer Prize Photographs and was instantly mesmerized. I am a photographer at heart, along with a few other things :), and I could have spent a long time in there. My mind's eye sees things that can immediately be frozen in time, and I long to have it be so with the click of a lens.  There were some haunting photographs that tell such a profound story that you can almost imagine yourself there; imagine the thoughts of the people in the photographs, and in some cases, wish you could change the outcome. It was great to watch some b-roll of the actual prize winners talk about their winning photographs, and share their experiences.  

Here is one of my favorites: 

William Beall was photographing the Chinese Merchants Association parade in Washington, DC. There was plenty to shoot. People on the sidewalk. Chinese dancers and paper dragons. Out of the corner of his eye, Beall saw a small boy step into the street. In front of the child was a dancing Chinese dragon—and a tall, young policeman. The policeman intercepted the child cautioning him back from the passing parade. Then Beall saw his shot. He fired one off with this camera and froze forever a look of childhood innocence. Isn't that the cutest boy, ever?? 

A wonderful few hours together and I hope we return to the Newseum soon! 

(Media question to Beatles during first U.S. tour 1964)
"How do you find America?"
"Turn left at Greenland.”
― Ringo Starr

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Golden Rule

“If you want a golden rule that will fit everything, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
― William Morris

Today, I attacked the kitchen before it attacked me. A scientist's dream was flourishing on the counter top in a Tupperware—completely unrecognizable as to what the original contents were. I chided myself that I was no longer the good housewife who cooked and cleaned and had my house spotless and free of dirt anymore. Work had taken over my every waking moment, and other things started to slide. It is a slippery slope!

Now, I love what I do for work, but maybe I love it too much :) However, all things in moderation and balance. Today, to try to regain some of that balance, I cleaned my house. It has always been a therapeutic thing for me, and I enjoyed the process. It made me think of the golden rule mentioned above: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.

If I had followed that rule diligently, I would not have a house overrun with things to dust, clean, wash, polish, preserve, and display. Most of us feel that we 'need' it because we can immediately see the hundreds of uses for what we are about to buy. How fast our minds justify our purchase! We bring it home and give it a place of prominence in our kitchen, our closet, our living room, or wherever the item belongs. We use it a lot for a week or two at the most, and then it becomes another wonderful-to-look-at dust gatherer, that I now have to clean every week along with the others in the gadget graveyard.

 So, in keeping with the golden rule, I am going to refrain from having anything else in my house that is not beautiful or useful in the future.

How many of you have things in your home that are neither useful nor beautiful?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Exercise and humor

“My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is.”
― Ellen DeGeneres

 Yesterday, I made a second attempt at getting some exercise, and I actually succeeded. This took some determination on my part as it involved a) getting ready to go to the gym, b)driving to the gym only to find out that it was the wrong location than the one I wanted to get to, c) discovering the myriad of ways that gyms can complicate your life and take your money when all you want to do is to get a workout, and d) having a heated discussion with a gym manager who insisted on speaking to me like I would have a hard time understanding what he was saying if he didn't say it slowly. 

After all of this, I still managed to get a workout. It wasn't much, considering the fact that I had spent almost an hour and a half motivating myself to get to the gym, and then getting a workout talking to someone who must have had some dumbbells thrown at his head a few times. (sorry, that was mean but it was really frustrating.) I stretched for a bit and then ran for a mile or so - yes that is a major leap for my otherwise sedentary body :D 

The point is, I endured the obstacles just to run a mile. And it felt great!

Here are some gems I found while trying to insert an appropriate quote for this blog entry:

“Exercise is a dirty word. Every time I hear it I wash my mouth out with chocolate.”
― Charles M. Schulz

“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”
― A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche 
(I don't know about this one unless I put it to the test.)

“I ran three miles, staggered into the lobby, and took the elevator back to my apartment. No point to overdoing this exercise junk. --Stephanie Plum”
― Janet Evanovich, Two for the Dough 

“I take my only exercise acting as a pallbearer at the funerals of my friends who exercise regularly.”
― Mark Twain 
(Love this one!)

“I believe that every human has a finite amount of heartbeats. I don't intend to waste any of mine running around doing exercises.”
― Neil Armstrong 

“A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball and others of that nature are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks.”
― Thomas Jefferson 
(Who am I to argue with Jefferson?)

“If there really is such a thing as turning in one's grave, Shakespeare must get a lot of exercise.”
― George Orwell 

And my favorite one:

“Whenever I feel the need to exercise, I lie down until it goes away.”
― Robert Maynard Hutchins 

Hope you all had a good laugh. Hey, that counts as exercise! 

Sunday, February 12, 2012

To my darling husband, on our 2nd anniversary

“The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated.”
― George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion & My Fair Lady

The other day, I read a quote by President Gordon B. Hinckley: "I am satisfied that happiness in marriage is not so much a matter of romance as it is an anxious concern for the comfort and well-being of one’s companion. Any man who will make his wife’s comfort his first concern will stay in love with her throughout their lives and through the eternity yet to come."

I knew that by President Hinckley's standards, I had married one who would stay in love with me for all eternity. 

For the innumerable times you have shown anxious concern for my well being, thank you. 
For the laughter that rings loud in our home—thank you.  
For the many games we have invented together—thank you. 
For the intellectual discussions that accompany many a meal in our home—thank you. 
For leading us in reading our scriptures and family prayers—thank you.  
For the times we slow dance in our living room—thank you. 
For the gentle, kind, and meaningful things you do for me—thank you. 
For being my best friend, and greatest joy—thank you! 

And for always treating me like a lady, even when I feel or behave like a flower girl—thank you. 

I love you.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

...enough to keep me warm.

“I don't just use yarn from a store. I buy old sweaters from consignment shops. The older the better, and unravel them. There are countries of women in this scarf/shawl/blanket. Soon it will be big enough to keep me warm. ”
― Laurie Halse Anderson, Wintergirls

As we strolled down Duke of Gloucester Street, we passed several colonial stores and tradesmen and craftsmen and women were hard at work. One of the most fascinating ones was yarn-making. We were drawn to it by the smoke that was billowing from the yard, and a group of people gathered around a woman dressed in colonial apparel, as were several others throughout the area. 

I found myself intrigued by this method of making yarn, and watched intently to see how they were dyeing yarn.  Today, it was yellow/mustard color, and the pictures show them in their final stage - drying on a clothesline. 

We learned that yarn was in great demand, and that they would dye the yarn that supplied the fife and drum band, and the soldiers uniforms during the war. They also dyed yarn according to the fashions that were in season in Europe. It was very interesting to note that people at that time showed off their wealth by the colors they wore. For example, if your husband was wealthy, then you would order a luscious green color.  I happened to be wearing a green scarf, therefore Aaron was pronounced 'rich'. If only it were that easy! :) 

The dyes they used were natural dyes - like walnut, indigo, turmeric. They heat up some water in a large cauldron. Once the water was hot, they would add the ingredient that produced the color, let it blend in, then put in the yarn that was going to be dyed, and basically cook it in the mixture. 

Different scanes of yarn are pulled out at different times to get various shades of the same color. Here is a lady who is checking on some yarn and you can tell the colors are obviously different although they are taken out of the same pot. 

The yarn is taken out of the boiling water and tossed in a bucket of cold water. It stops the dye from processing further. Then, the yarn goes through a few rigorous hand rinses, before it is is swung in the air, like we would swing a rope to lasso an animal. The yarn is swung round and round to get rid of as much water as possible, and then it is hung up on the line to dry. 

Here is an example of the exotic colors that these women and men have managed to produce, using only natural ingredients and colonial methods. 

What a splash of incredible color! I hope you enjoyed learning about yarn. It was so cold that day, and seeing all this beautiful yarn was enough to keep me warm :)

The history you do not know...

“The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know.”
― Harry S. Truman

Today, Aaron and I walked the hallowed halls of the Christopher Wren Building, part of the College of William and Mary—the oldest college in the United States. Of all the notable alumni who have graced these buildings, it is important to mention the following: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe and John Tyler—who were the first, third, fifth and tenth president of the United States. 
The Sir Christopher Wren Building is the oldest college building in the United States and the oldest of the restored public buildings in Williamsburg. It was constructed between 1695 and 1699, before the city was founded, when the capital of the colony of Virginia was still located at Jamestown, and the tract of land which was to become Williamsburg was populated by simple timber buildings and known as "Middle Plantation."


The picture above is that of the classical grammar school. This school was designed for the education of young boys ranging in age from twelve to fifteen, who would study Latin, Greek, mathematics, geography, penmanship, and the Church of England catechism. These boys—the privileged sons of planter gentry—came to the College with some prior education, often having been taught by private tutors on Virginia plantations. They were expected to grow up to become leaders after completion of their studies at the College.  There is a map on the wall opposite the one with the fireplace that was drawn up by Peters Jefferson, father of Thomas Jefferson, and Joshua Fry, who measured and mapped the land of Virginia for the Board of Trade and Plantations in London. 

The Blue Room served as the administrative seat of thee College throughout the colonial period. Meetings of the president, masters, and Board of Visitors were held here, and the College charter, seal, and other official documents were kept in this room. Documents written by students and dating to 1797 referred to this room as the "Blue Room", a place from which both discipline and praise were issued. Today, the room is used by students defending their doctoral dissertations and honors theses.  There is a portrait of Margaret Thatcher in this room, who is the first female chancellor, as well as the first British chancellor of the College since the Revolutionary War. 

During the colonial period, all the students and faculty of the College were expected to live and work within the Wren Building (at that time, simply called the "College"). The Great Hall (pictured above) served as the refectory, or dining hall, as well as the room where large gatherings, lectures, and recitals were held. The General Assembly of Virginia met in the Great Hall twice during the colonial period. This hall is filled with portraits of nobility and royalty of England, and also portraits of three presidents of the United States who were educated at William and Mary: James Monroe, John Tyler and Thomas Jefferson. Today, it is the home of one of William and Mary's favorite wintertime tradition: the Yule Log Ceremony. 

The Chapel at William and Mary. 

Sorry about the long blog entry, but you can tell that we spent a significant amount of time discovering this treasure in Williamsburg. If you ever visit Colonial Williamsburg, this is a must see place—walk the halls imagining the great minds that have walked there before you.

Williamsburg Farmers' Market

“By ten o'clock, the sidewalk along Vine Street looks like the Fourth of July parade. Mama minds the cash box while Daddy and Mitch go to haul more tomatoes and peppers from the truck. The basket of beans is almost empty, so I fill it up again.”
― Paul Brett Johnson,
Farmers' Market

The air was filled with the sounds of friends greeting friends, dogs barking excitedly as their owners walked them past stalls filled with delicious goodies, and little kids, all bundled up against the cold, snuggled in their little stroller, while their parents loaded up on jams, breads, cookies, vegetables, and flowers. 

As we strolled through the historic Duke of Gloucester street, we reflected on the fact that this was one of the first colonies in America, and Thomas Jefferson and George Washington walked these very same streets.  We were thrilled to find Jefferson, seated on park bench, immersed in thought and surrounded by paper. So we stopped by to say hello and take a photograph, which he graciously obliged. 

We chatted happily with the locals, sampled some goodies, and ended up buying some delicious cranberry orange bread and some macadamia nut cookies. Loaded with the scrumptious loot, we proceeded to check out the other farmers' stalls.  There were doggy biscuits, blackberry jam, savory cheesecakes,  mushrooms, and beautiful flowers. 

Despite the cold and windy day, everyone was cheerful and happy to be there, and be a part of this lovely, historic town and tradition.  

No better way to enjoy a Saturday morning!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Date night - Unrestrained, hearty laughs

"A good, real, unrestrained, hearty laugh is a sort of glorified internal massage, performed rapidly and automatically.  It manipulates and revitalizes corners and unexplored crannies of the system that are unresponsive to most other exercise methods."
~Author unknown
 Our date night included driving to Williamsburg to kick start our anniversary weekend, cheap Chinese food, and Jenga. 

 I thought I was getting spicy shrimp but it tasted more like sweet and not too sour shrimp. Aaron and I both realized we could have just had a snack and been satisfied. Oh well!

We ate, talked, and relaxed. Our hearty laughs started when Aaron pulled out one of his early gifts—Jenga. I understood the game and had a general idea of the rules. Aaron, however, felt impressed to make up rules (lying to me) to make me believe he knew this game very well. The whole time we were were playing this, he taunted me and laughed at me, claiming that I was going to topple the tower. 

I know I certainly enjoyed a very hearty laugh when Aaron crashed it right to the ground :) It was fantastic crash! We could not stop laughing, and it was so good for the soul. We laugh a lot together, and it is one of my favorite things to do with my darling husband. 
Unrestrained, hearty laughs. 
What a wonderful date night!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Date Night - The Iron Lady

 "If you set out to be liked, you would be prepared to compromise on anything at any time, and you would achieve nothing." ~ Margaret Thatcher

Aaron surprised me tonight and took me to the movies. We are not generally the movie-going types, so this was a change in scenery for us. As we discussed what movie I would like to see, I realized that the three options I had chosen were all British-themed :) I guess I can't help myself. 

The choices were War Horse, Sherlock Holmes and The Iron Lady. As you can tell, The Iron Lady won—mostly because it was showing early enough for us to watch it and still make it to bed at a decent hour. It was fascinating to watch Meryl Streep bring her flair to the screen as the first female British Prime Minister. The movie itself jumped around a bit, and from the reviews, it appears that it was not very accurate either. It did, however, show her ambition and her drive to make a difference in the world. Her strict personal code of conduct and tireless work ethic always guided her to do the right thing irrespective of whether she was liked by her party or cabinet ministers. 

Most of all, I loved spending time with Aaron. We also managed to sneak into the other rooms to watch parts of the other movies we had wanted to see. We had a sneak peek of War Horse before our movie started, and we watched about 20 minutes of Sherlock Holmes after we were done with our movie.  

We had a great time together and I loved every minute of the wonderful surprise :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Close to the dessert table...

“Now she and I sit together in her room and eat chocolate, and I tell her that in a very long time when we both to go heaven, we should try to get chairs next to each other, close to the dessert table.”
― Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies: Some Thoughts on Faith

One of the things I enjoy doing when it is cold outside is to curl up on the couch with a good book, and a steaming cup of hot chocolate, held tightly in my hands, warming my soul. Perfection in a cup.

I love that Anne Lamott talked about a dessert table in heaven—I am definitely grabbing a chair close to that table :)