Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Finding control

I am learning to swim laps.  I like it except not when I get water in the back of my throat and start choking.  It all goes to pieces at that point.  But,  that is happening less frequently.  So there is hope for me yet.

I have started doing physical therapy on my knee.  It just wasn't getting totally better and then I saw how my kneecap was a bit out of place.  So I crunched it around a bit and got it back to where it looks like the other knee cap.  There is some ligament that is really sore after that, but the physical therapy exercises don't feel harmful now, so I might be able to get back to kick boxing soon.

I am reading dating books.  They are annoying but possibly useful.  I have learned that it does me little to no good to be nice to guys.  I just have to be sassy and interesting.  I don't think that I can muster being a jerk face, but I am becoming sassier.  It is fun.  I annoy people now more than they annoy me.  I briefly considered trying to adopt a sexy persona when I go to Bolivia since I will be hanging out with a bunch of people I don't know yet, but I decided that I am probably just not that kind of girl because I am prioritizing protecting myself from mosquitoes and the sun over flaunting my sex appeal.  So maybe there is no hope for me.

I was reading about basic business planning in developing countries and they said that you must consider what goods and services you can offer and what resources you have to start a business providing those goods and services.  For people with few material possessions and barely enough money to feed themselves, prostitution immediately came to mind.  Low start-up costs and immediately available goods and services.  For some reason, microcredit has not been emphasized in our business planning classes.  I am  making sure it makes it in though.  I do not think prostitution is the means of escaping poverty that I would like to impress upon anyone.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From some odd numerically based email address which did not automatically go to the spam folder.

Message 1.) Send ya the picture



Message 2.) Send ya the picture


(Oh no!)

Message 3.) Send ya the picture



Message 4.) Sorry it took me so long! 

But here is my master piece.


Message 5.) Torkoise, white, 

blue,yellow,red and...  


(I can just close my laptop it isn't from 


(Opened with some anxiety)

By Emma Barlow

Saturday, July 24, 2010


I have been realizing lately what a strange place Utah is and I don't mean in the eats-the-most-jell-o sort of way.  Utah is much stranger than that.

When I moved to NY, I needed a haircut, had no car, and the only place near my apartment was called "Peach Fuzz"  and it was a hair salon with an exclusively black clientele.  I got the worst haircut I have ever had (besides the one I gave myself in a fit of rage that once) there though they did their best.  Before then, I had never known that there were separate hair cutting establishments for different ethnicities.  It makes sense that there are given the differences in hair texture and styling preferences, but I had never thought of that.  I grew up in Utah, which is a pretty white place.

Now with all that whiteness around, people might think that there is a lot of racism and to be truthful, there are some Mexican jokes that get told.  The jokes are entirely inappropriate, but they stem more from  socioeconomics than skin color.  (That doesn't make them any better.) Those jokes were told about the migrant workers who were poor and sometimes stole things from the houses near the fields where they worked.  But I didn't hear any jokes told about the Mexican kids we went to school with.  My best friend from K-3rd grade was a Mexican boy.  I didn't even realize he was Mexican until we were in high school.  He was a nice kid.  His parents were cool.

Utah is strange, because even though there are tons of white people there, almost every language on earth is spoken fluently, and fairly authentic cuisine from every region of the earth can be eaten between Salt Lake and Provo.  It's because of all the missionaries that go everywhere.  And then they come back to Utah, thinking that whatever remote corner of the planet they served in is the best place ever.  They tell stories about the places and the people that they loved and they keep eating the food and speaking the languages and they teach their children the languages.

I remember getting my grandparents to speak Swahili and Lingala for me.  They weren't fluent in those languages, but they knew enough to survive in the parts of the Congo where the people spoke no French.  I thought (and still do sometimes) that going to the Congo would be about the coolest thing on earth. Maybe that's why when I met all of the Sudanese refugee boys who had finally been given a home in the US, I thought they were the coolest people I had ever met.  Maybe that's why I was willing to date the Kenyan man I was friends with in Atlanta.

We never actually dated though.  He was far too shy and there was a lot of social pressure in Atlanta against black and white relationships.  So we stayed friends and he was very nice. That was more than I was able to do with the Black security guard I was friends with.  He was from Seattle and going through bad culture shock in the South.  He loved that I was from the West and we would talk about the things we liked in the West and he would give me a hug each morning when I walked past the booth he sat in outside the parking garage.  And that was all fine until an elderly black guard saw him hugging me and put a stop to it.  There was nothing wrong with his hugs.  They weren't tight with him all squirming against me because he wasn't getting enough action.  They were just light like acquaintances at a party.  And he didn't get in trouble because he was a security guard and that was overly familiar behavior.  Believe me.  There were black girls who went through the metal detectors in halter tops and daisy dukes with navel piercings and the guards felt them all up and down and I never saw a wand come out when those girls set the metal detectors off.  Hands were sufficient.  No, the hugging wasn't the issue.  It was that he was black and I was white and after that day when we got "caught" he called me "miss" and nodded curtly. Now I am not saying that nothing like that would happen in Utah, but what I am saying is I never saw that sort of thing happen in Utah.

When Hurricane Katrina hit and drove the people of New Orleans all over the country, a lot of black people ended up in Utah.  They were fed well (though they complained that the "jambalaya" was not jambalaya and I believe them) and they were clothed and helped and when all was said and done, a lot of them decided to stay in Utah and thought that maybe that the storm had been a blessing.  And I think the blessing went both ways.   I bet it is possible to get some real jambalaya in Utah now.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


I am a fairly obtuse person and it isn't easy being that way.  I generally mean well, but I just plough through  life and sometimes forget what another person might be thinking or feeling.  Sometimes I don't ask the important questions about the things that a person is really excited to talk about.  And sometimes I say all the wrong things and bring up those that hurt the most.

As I drove home from Las Vegas, I was thinking about grace.  As I so often do, I started thinking about Kay Whitmore and his kindness to me.  Now I may be obtuse, but I am at least a little intelligent and it didn't take long after meeting him for me to realize that Kay Whitmore had been through every experience I could imagine and many that I couldn't and that he had navigated most of them successfully.  I viewed him as a source of unfathomable wisdom and he willingly shared his wisdom with me.  There was once though, when I think I took things too far and asked a little too much.

Kay Whitmore had a special familiarity with us students.  He was our Branch President at church.  There were 60 Mormon college students in Rochester and he was sort of the watchful shepherd over our little gaggle.  He had dry, wicked humor and would frequently talk himself into a hole over the pulpit.  He would give us updates on the married and now expecting past members of our group in colorful anecdotes sprinkled with innuendo.  He would give candid assessments of dramatic musical performances put on by the Eastman music students, about whom he was so enthusiastic that they never took offense.  (None was ever intended.)  And he had a famous speech about gender differences that went like this "Men are like microwaves.  You can turn them on and off with the push of a button.  Women are like crockpots.  It takes a while to heat them up, but once they're hot, well..... they're hot."

I had wanted him to talk to students about how to be successful.  Clearly he knew how to succeed.  He had been CEO of Kodak and that was more success than most students would ever come close to.  Yes, he had been fired from being CEO, but no one and I mean NO ONE (among the people I talked to) thought that he had deserved being fired.  He had inherited some really big problems and had proposed some measures to keep Kodak managers and executives honest and they hated those measures and he got fired for them.  Pure politics.  Someone had to take the fall for the company's problems and since he was the top guy, it was him.  Everyone felt that way.  So I thought.

I had hinted to President Whitmore that I wanted him to talk to us, the students, about being successful several times.  He always asked "And what are my qualifications for success?" and I would say "You were CEO of Kodak.  You must have done something right." And he would look into my adoring face, smile, and shake his head.

I got my real chance to set this up when I was asked to organize the speakers for a LDS YSA conference.  I had the venue and I didn't know many people and so I issued a formal request.  When I did, he looked stoic and he asked me "So you are asking me, as a member of the Church, to do this for the Church?"  and I didn't really understand the question and I just smiled and said "Yes."  And he nodded and said "All right, for the Church, I'll do this."  And I was thrilled.  His secrets of success would be ours.

When the time came for his talk, I treated him with all the professional courtesy I could, but I took the liberty of introducing him myself.  I talked about all of the service he had done in the Church and that was all fine. But when I got to the CEO bit, he blushed bright red and waved his hand to the side indicating that it was time for me to finish up and move aside.  As he looked out at the group of students, I saw fear and embarrassment and I suddenly realized the situation I had put him in.  He was looking out into the faces of children whose parents had been laid off by him.  He was looking into the faces of people who had seen the very public demise of his career on the local evening news.  He was standing there facing failure.

Kay Whitmore gave us the best talk I have ever heard about how to be successful.  He did so with humor, grace and enthusiasm.  He gave us concrete advice that was instantly implementable and useful.
1. If you can stand it, learn math.
2. Accomplish the most important thing every day.
3. Build in time for yourself so that you don't burn yourself out.

The entire group took notes furiously and asked really good questions.  I thanked President Whitmore and gave him the small gift that was provided to all of the speakers and he blushed and took it with much embarrassment acting as though he didn't deserve it.

I saw pure grace though, because after that, whenever his experiences as CEO seemed helpful to someone, he would share them with whoever was in need.

Thursday, July 15, 2010


I spent an hour talking with Grandpa tonight.  We have a special bond that was born when I lived with him and Grandma for a year during college.  My grandparents heard the uncensored Miriam that year, instead of the putting the best foot forward to make them proud sort of Miriam that I had been before then.  They would ask me for my "cool-collected opinion" of various situations and I'd give it.  I'd ask the same of them .  I painted Beer steins with Grandma, and attended the book club she hosted for her friends.  I did yard work with Grandpa and helped him clean the basement after the sewer line got clogged.  He secretly got me a Cummings chocolate Easter egg when they were in season (food of the gods) but told me I couldn't let on to the cousins or he'd have to get them all one.

I love that year.  I guess during a time when most late adolescents are getting to know themselves, I was getting to know my grandparents instead.  And they got to know me.  It was a good year.  They learned to trust my opinion and I learned to trust theirs.

Tonight, as I was talking to Grandpa, he talked a lot about Grandma (their wedding anniversary would have been yesterday).  He told me about the last time they went to California together, that "Mr. Toad's Wild Ride" was one of his favorites at Disneyland and he told me about their trip to Washington when I was a baby and they came to see me and my parents (and Marie too).  He asked how James was and I told him that James is dating a nice girl who is going on a mission soon.  I also told him I'd argued with James and not gone for sushi with him and his girlfriend.  He said "Well, if she is a nice girl, she deserves to go on dates without you there."

I think he's right.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The effect of etiquette books

It would be interesting, I think, to study the effects of etiquette books across various social strata.  The first time I ever cracked open an etiquette book was when I was was fourteen or so and James was eating mashed potatoes with his fingers.  I felt that there was certainly a better way and I went to the authorities for backup.  James (age 5) was convinced, and though his manual dexterity was still developing, he awkwardly used a spoon and dinner became much more pleasant for everyone after that.

I have seen etiquette books used in other ways though.  For example, when Marie's English students were rude in class, she required that they copy some number of pages (proportional to the offense) from an etiquette book. For some of her students in the hood of Las Vegas, it may have been the only exposure they ever had to basic manners.  It would be interesting to determine what influence those exercises had.

I sometimes think I catch a glimpse.  For instance, once I was eating dinner at the home of a no longer friend.  There weren't enough baked potatoes so I volunteered to split one with someone else and then proceeded to cut the potato crosswise instead of lengthwise.  We were in the midst of a hilarious discussion about pumping septic tanks.  Bread had been distributed in a manner similar to a football that is passed 20 yards for a glorious touchdown.  So I was surprised when the conversation stopped and everyone started staring at me.  Everyone.  I asked "What?"and they all started laughing at me and told me that any fool knows a potato is cut lengthwise instead of crosswise when it is shared.  I expressed surprise that such a rule existed and the etiquette book was procured and the rule was read. I jokingly asked if anything was said about discussing sewers or chucking bread around the room.  Neither of those topics were mentioned in the etiquette book so clearly no rule had been broken in either case.  The fault was clearly mine.

Etiquette finally started making real sense to me in France.  I was staying at the Fondation Mérieux for a week, eating three meals a day prepared by the second best chef in Annecy (which is known for some excellent cuisine).  I had the pleasure of eating with some fine and distinguished French gentlemen.  They were from a generation where etiquette was important and their plates were kept impeccably beautiful and clean throughout the entire meal.  I managed to use the correct utensils and I worked out the timing between talking and eating pretty well.  The men thought that I was delightful and charming, but as I watched the way they kept their plates so well composed, I felt like a complete slob.  "Aaah" I thought, "it does matter which way a person cuts a potato."

Monday, July 12, 2010

There's no place like home.

It's good to be home.  Mom is doing well post tendon re-attachment and we are hanging out on the couch a lot.  We watch movies.  Some are better than others.  We watched one with Harrison Ford as a scientist curing a disease.  That was heartwarming and mildly pleasant.  Then we watched The Time Traveler's Wife and we both cried when it was over.  We cried in a mourning things lost sort of way.  I held mom and she held me  and when we were done crying  I promptly drove to the nearest Redbox and jammed that movie back into it in an unkindly way, all the while thinking about how it had made my mom cry and it could just die for all I cared (except that it was just a DVD so it couldn't really) and I felt a little vindicated.

Michael taught me a bit about tennis tonight.  He taught me an even better way of gripping my racket with a bit of a downward angle so I am not lobbing balls all over any more.  He worked with me on the correct swing and preparing for a swing while running and then swinging while I am running.  I watched Michael play, and he is beautiful (sorry to say it that way bro, but it's true) while playing tennis.  His long arms and long legs extend, graceful and fluid as he swings the racket.  He has absolute control over where he sends the ball and the court somehow seems to shrink as he works his way around it.  The aesthetic rivals ballet in some moments.

James and I will go for Sushi tomorrow.  We will probably discuss concepts of Zen or something like that.

Dad likes what I cook usually, which is nice because cooking is a pretty big responsibility for me right now.  I am cooking cuisine that is gluten free, harmonious with a cardiac patient's diet (no fat or salt), and no poultry, avocado, or tilapia (Michael just became allergic to that too.)  I have been utilizing herbs heavily and it seems to work out okay in the recipes.