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Archive for April, 2011

Teen Moms

So it’s no secret that I love junk TV.  I think it started with Trading Spaces, and since then I’ve been hooked. Extreme Couponing? I’m all over that. 19 Kids and Counting? Please, I remember when they only had 16. And don’t think I didn’t watch Sister Wives, for the purely anthropological analysis of modern day polygyny of course.

So several months ago, I was at my in-laws house and my sister-in-law was watching this show called “Teen Mom.” Apparently there was a show on MTV that showed teenage girls navigating the new world of parenthood and messy relationships, all while texting simultaneously. It was some of the lowest of the low in reality TV. I was hooked.

When we got back home, I didn’t tune into the show regularly, but if it was on while I was browsing through the channels, I would stop and watch. It was just too easy to laugh at. Overly dramatic breakups, petty screaming fights with parents, new boyfriends/girlfriends while the kid was still in diapers.

http://media.mtvnservices.com/mgid:uma:video:mtv.com:644438

Last night, John and I caught the last twenty minutes of an episode. A young girl had just given birth to two darling boys. They showed her parents crying as she gave the boys their father’s last name, a decision I never understood. If I had babies out of wedlock, they’d have my last name until I had the dad’s last name. Just saying.

Within a day of bringing the babies home, the boyfriend got in a huge fight with the girl’s parents and left. A few days later, the new mom and dad are driving down the road with the two matching car seats in the back. The couple begins to fight, and the girl breaks up with him and demands that he take her home.

You know what he does then?

Pulls over and demands that she gets out of the car. He then leaves her stranded on the side of the road in the rain, and speeds off down the road.

My heart broke.

The next clip is of her yelling at the car saying something along the lines of “I’m calling the cops!! That’s kidnapping!” (Note to anyone who might find themselves in this situation: yes it is. Call the cops.)

She calls her mom instead to come pick her up. In the meantime, the boyfriend returns to leave the kids on the side of the road with her, perhaps aware of the jail time for kidnapping. Her mom shows up, and there is all sorts of yelling and pushing. It was not a pretty sight. The cops show up and arrest the dad, though the mom decides not to press charges.

What sort of father leaves his newborn children on the side of the road?

It gave me a new appreciation for the show Teen Moms. Not because it’s cinema at its finest, groundbreaking journalism, or really even something that I think should be filmed. But it shows with honesty the pain and the complexity of the lives of these women. Sure, we can judge. We can think “well, if the parents had been around…” or “why didn’t they just use a condom?” But that doesn’t do anyone any good.

You always hear that teenage parents are ostracized because people are worried that if they befriend them, they condone their behavior, and in our post-puritanical society that wouldn’t be acceptable. But we never have an excuse not to love somebody, not to care for somebody, not to accept somebody.

Seeing those babies on the side of the road broke my heart. (This is twice in a week that I’ve posted about babies. Just FYI, there is no bun in the oven. There isn’t even dough rising on the counter. Heck, we haven’t even bought the flour).

Today, I picked up a shift at the family transitional housing facility the organization I work for runs. Last time I worked here was back in December. Fun fact – it was snowing then too, just like it is today. A couple with a little baby stopped by to ask if we had a place to stay. It was my job to tell them that because we were a transitional facility, we had no emergency shelter. They were more than welcome to fill out an application, but it would likely be a few months before they could get in. I gave them directions to the homeless shelter downtown and told them it doesn’t allow children to spend the night. The only advice I had was to call the police, which they had already tried. So they left.

It was about a week before Christmas, and I had just turned this new little family out back into the cold. Just like the innkeeper, I thought.

It’s so easy to turn people away. To think, “it’s okay if I judge them, they shouldn’t have gotten themselves into that mess anyway.” But there’s no need for that.

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How can I NOT do a wedding post on the “Royal Wedding Eve?”

Ah, I remember the day before my wedding. Throngs of people lining the streets. Every TV network was covering the event. There was much discussion of my dress – lace? Modern? White? Ivory? It’s a friggin wedding dress people, they all look pretty similar.

I’ve been swamped with work this week, but the TLC wedding coverage has made good background noise for cooking dinner. I wouldn’t say that I’m obsessed (if I was planning my wedding still, I probably would be however), but it is such a unique historical event so I am intrigued. Plus I’m a girl and I like princesses. So shoot me.

It’s interesting to see how much rebroadcast of Diana and Charles’ wedding there is, knowing how it ended. Not to be morbid, but knowing that divorce is in the future, it makes it sad to watch. I hope, too, and pray, that William and Kate won’t experience the pain that Diana and Charles did. The wedding will be fun to watch, but even more importantly, I hope their marriage is a beautiful one.

I’m just writing this while watching Diana’s wedding. For like the millionth time this week. (I don’t get all the fuss about what does her dress look? It looks exactly like the bridesmaid’s. Just bigger.)

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Without any further ado, more pics from our reception. Please try to ignore all the paparazzi in the background.

One uninvited guest – the dog next door.

The Dinner Hour

We should’ve put some more effort in planning our menu. I didn’t realize until we got there that there were multiple starches and like one vegetable. Also there was supposed to be a vegetarian entree, and there wasn’t! My apologies to the vegetarians at our wedding.

First we were introduced. Which was a little silly because we had been hanging out for a couple hours already.

The boys were a bit outnumbered at our wedding. I think it worked out okay though.


I love my cousin’s reaction at us coming out.

I’m not really sure why they were so excited, to be honest!

More cousin shenanigans.

One great thing about having a photographer is that you get to see all these moments you would’ve never known happened otherwise.

I have 9 cousins on my Dad’s side. 3 are close in age with my 2 sisters and I, and then there is about a 10 year gap between us and the younger 6. We didn’t assign seating at the wedding, so they all decided to make a kids table and put 9 people at one table! One of them got banned apparently, though.

We didn’t have a head table, but we marked off 3 tables for the bridal party, parents and grandparents. My Nana decided to opt out though and sit with her friends.

Another funny story from the dinner – come 6:55, the DJ told us that it was time to eat. (The DJ was not great, but it was so lovely to have a Master of Ceremonies. I gave him a schedule and then didn’t have to think about anything after that, he just took care of it all.) So we went to get our plates (buffet), and one of the caterers came running up to us saying, “Um. It’s not 7 yet? You guys told us 7? The food isn’t ready. So we just stood there and snacked for a few minutes!)

See how full my glass of champagne is? When I went up to the bar to get a glass to toast with, the bartender decided to give me and my groom a double pour. It was good champagne, too!

This picture is from my sister’s toast, when she mentioned a particular fight my dad and I got into when I was 3. Our deacon yelled out, “who won?” We still haven’t settled that one. We’re both saying “me!” here.

Cake cutting. We just did it because its one of those things you do at weddings. But you know what I love about this picture? Look in the background – no one is paying attention anyway!

Dinner’s over – next up, dancing.

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Last of the California pictures until I dig out my card reader.

After LA, we ventured down to La Jolla. First was a stop at an amazing (and incredibly authentic SoCal bakery) called Panera. Hey, what can I say? Our options are limited in Montana. Sometimes chain restaurants are a treat.

In La Jolla we stayed with John’s aunt and uncle, and their 17 mo old daughter. We arrived on their doorstep right as the little one was waking up for her nap. I think we ruined her lunch as she stared at us skeptically for about an hour. She quickly warmed up though, and we headed down to the beach.

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Los Angeles

Next stop on our road trip was LA. We got there late Friday Saturday evening, just in time for dinner. We have impeccable timing. We were staying with one of our housemates from JVC in Spokane, Jon. He’s also in law school, so the guys had lots of (boring) things to talk about. It made me laugh because whenever John and Jon get together they usually talk sports non-stop, but this time they threw things like tort reform and habeas corpus into mix.

Not really those two things specifically, but they are the only two legal terms I can think of at 8 am.

Can you read that sign? It says “Doctor Office.” We were in Venice Beach, and several street vendors asked if we wanted to “get legal.” Marijuana, people, I’m talking about marijuana. It has been a big fight here about if its regulated enough, but California makes Montana’s laws look like a dictatorship.

Dodger Stadium

Jon pointed out that while the Lakers are popular, the Dodgers are really LA’s team, since real people can afford to go to them. We sat in front of a hilarious 4 year old girl, who was determined to cheer despite knowing zilch about baseball. She kept yelling “Strike him out!” no matter who was at bat and attempting to start a “Let’s go Dodgers!” cheer with her squeaky little voice. After one failed attempt she turned to her dad and asked, “Why is no one clapping?”

We all got Dodgers snuggies, too. Win.

Beautiful sunset behind the stadium.

After the game (Dodgers won!) we spent an hour walking around the parking lot looking for our car. We didn’t park in one of those areas that had a number, and every corner of the parking lot looked exactly the same. Plus it was multileveled. It was awesome.

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Happy Easter!

Below is a re-post of my Easter last year. My JVC community travelled to Hays, a tiny reservation town in Eastern Montana. By tiny, I mean like 700 people. The nearest grocery store is an hour away. It was the most beautiful Easter I’ve ever experienced, and since most of you weren’t reading my blog last year, I thought I’d share this. Hope you have a blessed Easter and find some time to rejoice and relax today!

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His hands shook as freely and unpredictably as the flame of the candle he held so precariously. He spoke slowly, waiting patiently for the words to reappear as they disappeared in the flickering light. The children were amazed by the dancing light in the bowl which sat on the table beside him. My heart leaped up into my throat every time they decided to see whose fingers were brave enough to get close. As the tiny ones leaned on the table, the alcohol sloshed to one side of the bowl and the flames would leap up higher, and eyes would open wider.

This would a far cry from the Easter Vigils of my youth. A nicely lit wood-burning fire would be lit outside in a well-contained pit. But this year, I was in a room another world away. This year, in a small gym, crowded around a table precariously balancing the previously mentioned lit bowl of fire, in the community of Hays, a town of 400 in the Fort Belknap reservation.

The procession thankfully began, and those gathered processed one-half of the way around the gym. Although it was only 6pm, the room was pitch black. Blankets hung on the walls, blocking the light. I found this mildly ironic that we were trying to make night come early, especially after the long cold Montanan winters. But I imagined several of the parishioners had long drives home.

The priest, an 82 year old Jesuit, sang on, continuing to struggle in the unreliable candlelight. He must be used to persevering, living on land like this, I mused, and the fidgeting of the crowd definitely didn’t phase him. He finished his prayer, and the lights came on.

“Okay, time for the baptisms!” he yelled.

“JOSEPH!” A nun, quite obviously from New York, yelled. “You forgot the Liturgy of the Word!”

Thus began the liturgy of the world. Children ran wild, mothers pursued. Members of the congregation read, in that quick, flat reservation accent accentuated by nerves and punctuated by cries of children. A college student on an alternative spring break trip sang a responsorial psalm. She was one of about a dozen students from Michigan, who looked utterly bored (or exhausted) throughout the mass. Also in attendance, and the reason I was there, were the all of the Jesuit Volunteers in Montana.

And then (as the priest predicted it eventually would be) was time for the baptisms. About a half dozen children were preparing to make their sacraments this night. It was easy to pick them out in the crowd. The girls’ hair was perfectly coiffed, even though the curls would soon melt in the baptism pool. The boys stood tall, although they could not resist nudging their younger brothers mischievously.

The room was filled with the smell of sweetgrass and sage, as the herbs for the smudging were burnt. Once again, I was reminded of my Easter Vigils where the smell of incense hung heavy in the air. An elder, holding the bowl of smoking herbs, circled the bowl around the children – to the north, south, east, and west. The ceremony of smoke and fire, and the ceremony of water.

This was not a solemn, reverent occasion, although I fear I am making it sound that way. Mothers, Fathers, Godmothers, Godfathers crowded around the hot tub (ahem, baptism pool). Cameras flashed, and girls ran to change into their communion dresses. At one point, I stood up.

“Are we supposed to be standing?” Bree asked.

“I don’t think there are any ‘supposed to’s’ in this mass.” I replied.

I snuck out in the midst of the baptism to run over to the JV house, a mere 50 feet from the church, to use their bathroom. The legendary winds of the plains whipped my long skirt and drew it out into the wind. The sun was setting over the…

I have no words for it. They have all been used.

The wide, open plains.

The vast expanse.

The house of sky.

It felt as if I was standing on the entire world.

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Simon

A little different post than usual, today. I meant to have this up yesterday for Good Friday, but I spent the whole day working on term papers. Lame.

In JVC orientation, we were taught about a spiritual exercise of writing biblical stories in our own words. So here’s my version of Mark 15:21

A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Warning: this post contains some language you probably wouldn’t use in front of your grandmother.
__________________________

“It’s April,” he slurred. “Mother-blastin April. It’s April, and it’s still fucking snowing. Why the hell is that?”

He emphasized each word, as if he was departing some noble truth on me. I took another long drag on my cigarette and replied,

“How the hell am I supposed to know? Geez.”

But he had already forgotten what he had asked. His head slumped forward, and he began to snore softly. We were both leaning against the cold cement wall of a FedEx loading dock. Just another back alley in another past-its-prime city. The wind blew a sheet of newspaper across the way. Some real cowboys we are, I thought, we’ve got the tumble weed and everything.

I looked beside me. The hair spilling out from his soiled army issue cap was matted with dirt and blood and seat. Who knows the last time it was cut, washed, or hell, even combed. The zipper on his jacket was broken, and I couldn’t tell if his jeans had more holes or more stains on them. I wasn’t sure I looked much better, though I at least tried to shower every day.

A pool began to form under him, and trickled down the asphault towards me. I stood up.

“Joe, wake up. Get a hold of yourself.”

I gave him a little shove with my foot. Nothing. A harder one.

“Shit, what the hell was that for Simon?”

He didn’t look up though, and instead began fishing around in his jacket for a brown paper bag. Joe pulled it out, took a long swig, and wiped his mouth with his sleeve. The booze dribbled out of the corners of his mouth and down his beard, but he didn’t seem to notice. He stared hard at the bag for a minute, as if he was trying to read some invisible writing, trying to decipher some secret meaning. Deciding whatever the hidden message was wasn’t worth the effort, he closed his eyes and took another swig.

Still not looking up, he lifted the bag up to me and waved it in my general direction. I sighed and just stared back at him. Pathetic. He kept waving it.

“Dammit, you gonna take it or not?” he grumbled.

Exasperated, I grabbed the bag and took a sip. It tasted terrible. At least, I remembered that it tasted terrible. I stopped tasting the stuff a long time ago, sometime after she left me. No idea how that one bad fight, that one bad night, led to this, but it did. I took another sip, not wanting to think about the fighting, the divorce, the kids I haven’t seen in years.

Hell, I still have kids. I have to babysit this idiot, I thought, handing Joe back his bottle. We all take our turns, some sort of informal street code of ethics. Don’t let him die, that was the only rule. We’re all out on our own here, until someone gets this bad. Do unto others, right? Some golden or silver or something rule I vaguely remember from all those Sunday school lessons, another lifetime ago.

I thought about the time Sam had been watching him. Sam went off on a bender, and the next morning we found Joe asleep on the railroad tracks. Lucky son of a bitch, the trains in from North Dakota had gotten stopped by a blizzard up there.

“What seems to be the problem here, officer?” Joe slurred, barely intelligibly.

I turned around to see a cop walking towards us. Joe seemed quite pleased at his little joke, and after several failed attempts, managed to tuck his bottle back in his coat. It was to no avail. The cop grabbed and dumped it out, adding to the puddle next to him.

“Okay, fellas, time to move it along before I cite you both with drunk in public, loitering, and open container,” he said.

How can you cite us both with open container, if there’s only one bottle? I wondered, but thought better of asking the cop this. Joe had already fallen back asleep. I stared back at the cop. He stared back, hands on his hips, eyes narrowed and firm. I knew who was gonna win this, but I was in a fighting mood.

“He can’t walk,” I snapped.

“Well how the fuck is that my problem? He’s one of you, you do something about it, ya piece of shit.”

“What the hell am I supposed to do about it? Where’s he gonna go? Look at him, he’s too drunk to even sit up,” I said, knowing with every word I was getting closer to getting another ticket that I couldn’t pay. I didn’t care though, I was cold and angry that I got stuck babysitting this loser again.

“Look, you move him, or we’re gonna book him and you too if you don’t watch your mouth.”

“He’s not my property. Why do I gotta do something about him?” I didn’t really give a damn about what happened to Joe.

“Oh please, don’t give me that. This bum has been pissing on the streets for years. He’s like your king or something. Yeah, king of the bums. I’m tired of dealing with him. Tired of dealing with all of your kind’s bullshit. You do something about it or I will.”

I weighed my options. I could let the cop take him. He’d get three hots and a cot, and Lord knows he needs a shower. He wouldn’t like it. No one would like me for it, but what the hell am I supposed to do about it?

Joe had slumped over, and was now just laying on the ground. He doesn’t do well in jail, I thought. Plus some young kid had died detoxing in jail a couple weeks ago when the guards refused to give him any medical attention. I could drag his ass somewhere else to drink. I know if I did the second, I’d be leading him to his death. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon. No one ever said it, but we all knew it.

If I take him, at least then he can be around people who give (however small) a damn about him.

“Fine, whatever.”

I hunched over and yelled, “Joe! Wake up already!”

Nothing.

“Dammit Joe, get up!”

Still nothing. Damn drunk.

I grabbed his arm and hoisted it over my shoulder. The guy was tall, he had a good six inches on me. But he was skinny, and I at least still had some muscle left. I thought maybe I could drag him to the end of the alley, and we could just set up a camp behind the Mexican restaurant instead. Maybe get a free burrito if the nice waitress is working, not the bus boy who pretends not to see us when he tosses dirty water out the back door. The guy is a jerk; I’ve gotten drenched one too many times by him.

I shuffled a few yards down the alley and looked over my shoulder. The cop hadn’t moved. He stood there, hands still on his hip, waiting for us to move out of his sight. Waiting for us to just disappear for ever.

“Joe, fuckin’ wake up and walk already.”

Nothing. A different kind of nothing, I thought. His breathing was more shallow, more labored. I began to grow worried, but I kept walking. The cop was still there, still watching. My back ached. How the hell can a guy who never eats even weigh so much? I gave up, and dropped him down like a sack of flour.

“Dammit Joe, I can’t carry you until Kingdom come, ya gotta wake up and walk a little.”

Nothing. I crouched down and gave him a shake. No idea of how many times I’ve seen him in drunken stupors, but this was different. There was no grumble when I tried to wake him, no flailing of the arms to swat me away. Just that painful breathing, which was growing quieter.

I picked him up again and dragged him three blocks to the hospital. It was a busy street we walked down. A mother hurried her children off the sidewalk when we passed. Geez woman, it’s called homelessness, I thought. It’s not contagious. I thought about stealing a cart from the grocery store as we passed, and wheeling him the rest of the way. I thought better of it, realizing that’s a good way to get another cop on my ass.

They told me at the hospital what I already knew. That I wouldn’t see him again, not in this life anyway. I don’t know why it bothered me so much, to be honest. I barely knew the guy. Didn’t even like him much, really. The nurse started to asking me questions about his nearest relative, like I would have a clue. I just turned around and walked right back out the door. Lighting another cigarette, I shuffled back down the street to tell the guys the news.

This was no way to live.

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Bread, Feet, and Awkwardness

The word became flesh and dwelt among us.¹ I am the vine, you are the branches.² I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will not hunger, he who believes in me will not thirst.³ Take and eat, this is my body. This is my blood of the covenant.¹ Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him shall never thirst. ² Now you are Christ’s body.³ His body, which is the Church.¹

Jesus is the Word. He is God. He is the bread of life, cup of life we drink. The Church is his body. We are the Church. This is the mystery.

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On Holy Thursday, Catholics celebrate the Last Supper, which is basically comprised of two celebrations: one, the Eucharist where Jesus broke the bread and gave it us to eat.  Christ said that the bread was his body, and asked us to do this in remembrance of him. And as Catholics we do that and celebrate that mystery described above every Sunday.

The other thing we do on Holy Thursday, I’m not a big fan of. We wash each other’s feet. We do it because Jesus did:

Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded….”If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15“For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.” John 13: 5;14-15.

Basically (as far as my limited understanding goes) it was Jesus’ way of modeling service to us. He humbled himself, and we should do the same.

But I gotta admit, it’s awkward. A lot of churches will just have a representative 12 people do it. But no, my church has everyone do it, both washing and being washed. It’s not the washing of other people’s feet I mind, so much as having someone wash my own. I don’t really get it. I don’t sit there and think “oh I am feeling so served right now.” I’m sure foot washing was a much different gesture 2,000 years ago, but the symbolism is a little lost on me. I try hard to focus and think about loving God and loving others, but the whole time I’m just thinking “ahh you’re touching my feet. Do they smell? Ugh. How long should I scrub? Should I clean clip their toenails while I’m here? (just kidding!)”

The truth is, service is awkward. It’s awkward both to give and to receive. Peter didn’t want his feet washed either. We like to think that we’re good, that we don’t need help. It’s embarrassing; it’s awkward. This semester I had to enroll at disability services, and not gonna lie, I was a little mortified. I hated going to my professor and telling him I wasn’t on top of my game and needed special considerations. I want to be the best of the best. I don’t want help.

It’s equally awkward to help someone. Dancing around, trying to figure out how to say “do you need help with that?” Should you ask the person in the wheelchair if they need help with the door, or is that offensive? Should you offer up your seat to an expectant woman? What if you have made that most-feared mistake and it turns out she isn’t pregnant? And then there’s the bigger stuff. I’m sure no one who has ever set in on an intervention has found them to be anything less than awkward.

So maybe the original symbolism of the beauty of foot washing is lost on me. But it’s not irrelevant now. Maybe Jesus is asking us to get over our awkwardness, to help each others and ask for help.

That’s what I’ll try to remember tonight, when I feel awkward washing feet and having my feet washed. That I need to just get over myself, get over the awkwardness, and just try to love and be loved.

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SLC Part 2: Go Jazz!

Photography rule #1. Don’t take pictures of people in front of windows. I just really wanted a picture of John in front of the mountains. Tried as we might, we couldn’t figure out the flash on the camera. Photography rule #2: Don’t use flash.

Our second night in SLC we went to a Utah Jazz game. We climbed up to our nosebleed seats and watch the Jazz beat the pants off the Lakers. For the first half anyway. Then the Jazz decided they had enough and stopped scoring. Not the best strategy.

I forgot to whip out my camera during the actual game, so no shots of the court. My apologies.

This was neat to see where they filmed the halftime report.

The next day we said good-bye to SLC and hopped in the car for an 11-hour jaunt to LA. Driving through Utah was quite amazing. I know the state is 60% LDS, but I was still amazed at the sheer number of churches and temples we drove past. At one point on the highway, you could see 3 temples. We even drove past two LDS churches that shared the same parking lot! It made me curious if each church serves a relatively small number of parishioners.

The drive was gorgeous. Everyone asked us if it was terrible, but really it flew by. We drove through Vegas, but didn’t stop long enough to partake in our own sinning in the city. Next time.

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Salt Lake City

The first stop on our road trip was the great city of Salt Lake City. Despite trekking through Utah on a family vacation years and years ago, I had never been to SLC. John had been several times before, as he is a diehard Utah Jazz fan. (Side note: John thought it was weird that I suggested the Portland Trailblazers should be called the Oregon Trailblazers, because when you say “Oregon” the mascot makes more sense. He said that teams are named after cities, not states. I won when I pointed out that the Jazz were in fact not the Salt Lake City Jazz, but the Utah Jazz. On sports trivia: John – 10000, Me – 1).

We arrived late Thursday night, but just in time to met up with John’s dad, who was in town on business, to eat at a tapas restaurant. The menu wasn’t overly IC friendly, but there were a few delicious things I could eat. The best thing that we ordered (and I snuck a bite of) was this lemon butter scallops and pasta. Oh man, even just eating one scallop was heaven. We had some fancy flan type thing (of which the name is escaping me) for dessert, drizzled with maple syrup and sprinkled with bacon. Amazing.

The next day, we got up, bright eyed and bushy tailed on our first day of break and did homework. We headed over to a Starbucks, and I pounded out a couple more hours on my online public health class. Then to really cement our nerdom, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the Latter-day Saint history museum and temple grounds.

The whole experience was really quite enlightening, and I’m really glad we did it. John was a history major and I was a religious studies major, so I was excited to learn more.  The temple grounds were more than just the temple. There is actually several buildings in the complex – a convention center, administrative buildings, an assembly hall, a place for concerts, plus a few museums.

We spent most of our time at the church history museum. I knew the cliff-notes version of Mormonism’s origins (P.S. I know it’s PC to say LDS and not Mormon, but is there a LDS-ism?) but it was nice to have a more full understanding of what happened. For one, I had never really put it together that Joseph Smith’s revelation occurred during the Great Awakening. It always struck me as odd that a religion could take off that fast, but putting it in that historical context made much more sense. Additionally, I had thought that the Smith received the Book of Mormon right off the bat. It was actually about 10 years later. Again, that makes more sense. I can’t picture someone coming out of the woods and saying “I have a new book, let’s found a new religion!” and people going with it. Forming the religion, and then receiving additional scripture makes it more plausible that people would have followed him.

Another interesting piece of the church’s history that we hadn’t realized before is that the LDS started mission work abroad very early in their church’s history. People abroad were recruited to resettle in the Utah area. Again, from a historical perspective, this helps explain how Mormonism became so well established in a predominately Protestant country. At a time when people all over the world were looking to resettle in the US, this would have been a good opportunity. Also, from an anthropological perspective, conversion to the country’s (perceived) dominant religion would aid an immigrants resettlement and acculturation. I’m not questioning the validity of people’s conversions, just recognizing that when you see mass change like this, there is usually social and cultural factors at play in addition to personal ones.

Another thing that fascinated John and I was the abundance of the beehive symbolism.

This was not explained in the museum, as apparently everyone already knew but us. Apparently it refers to a verse in the Book of Mormon, “And they did carry with them deseret, which by interpretation, is a honey bee; and thus they did carry with them swarms of bees” (Ether 2:3). The nice sister missionary we spoke to informed us that it was a symbol of hard work and the need for community while venturing into the unknown.

We were told that the Christus statue was a must see, but, being Catholic, I think we were already used to seeing statues of Jesus.

Another thing that we found interesting was that there was no mention of polygamy in the church museum. I realize that this is not a current part of LDS practice, but I thought that since it was a history museum, it would have been addressed. I had been interested in the LDS church’s perspective on the practice during its early history.

The last interesting tidbit was that the early LDS church was very communistic, sharing wealth equally. The same can be said of the early Christian church. At some point, however, the LDS church must have adopted the Protestant work ethic (a theory proposed by Max Weber suggesting that Protestants believed their earthly success was indicative of their heavenly success, and thus Protestants worked hard to gain material wealth. It is a concept that has greatly shaped American mentality and economy). It would be interesting to study when and how the transition took place, but alas, I am out of the religious studies game.

So it was really quite a neat experience and very informative!

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Wonder why you’ve been seeing a lot of adds for this type of fast food meal lately?

Every fast food chain, heck even Arby’s, has been promoting their fish sandwiches lately. Two-for-one deals abound. Why, you wonder? Because it’s that special time of year, that time of year when Catholics don’t eat fish on Fridays. About 22% of the US population is Catholic, 68 million people. Granted, a much smaller portion is practicing. And a much smaller population of that is driving through Burger King on any given Friday.

But it’s enough to make huge corporations change what they are selling. Sure, they are trying to profit off a religious belief, which isn’t exactly awesome, but it’s what’s happening. The truth is – we have some purchasing power. We can decide what gets sold.

And I’m not just talking about Catholics. Think about Catholics + all Christians + any person of faith + anyone at all who has a conviction of a belief in something greater, be it a deity or just a belief in humanity. What if we started making demands from our marketplace? I’m not just talking about fish sandwiches, but what if we started demanding that our grocery stores sell fair trade coffee and chocolate; what if we demanded our clothing outlets sell something other than clothes made in sweatshops? How about buying meat  that is humanely raised and hormone free? If practicing-Catholics-who-happen-to-go-to-a-fast-food-restaurant-on-a-Friday-during-Lent have enough power to influence what fast food chains sell, imagine the influence we all have. And fish sandwiches aren’t even good. Trust me, I had one last week.

Now I’m not writing this to make you feel guilty if you don’t buy fair trade chocolate, or only sweatshop free clothes. I suck at it. The temptation of buying what is cheaper gets to me about 75% of the time. My point is, rather, that we shouldn’t underestimate the power we have to influence the market. It is easy to stand in the grocery aisle and wonder, “is it really worth it to buy the fair trade bag of coffee? It’s not like I’m going to be changing the world here.” Because it could.

So maybe it’s not the worst thing in the world that companies are trying to make a profit on our religious convictions. But let’s think deeply about what are convictions are. It goes far, far beyond not eating meat on Fridays. We are called to be good stewards of our earth, to live in solidarity with the poorest of the poor, and to work towards building God’s kingdom on earth. If we start insisting that the companies we shop from respect those beliefs, good ol’ capitalism will do its job and the supply will start reflecting the demand. (That’s all I got out of 2 semesters of economics).

We have some collective bargaining power, and we can use it for good. So don’t give up. Don’t think that your actions are all for naught. We have some purchasing power.

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