Monday, October 26, 2009

April Showers in October and Utah Baby Prep

I spent an extended weekend up in Utah for one last trip before the baby comes because my work scheduled gave me a few days off this week. This allowed me to pick up some items from my sisters (none of whom are having children in the next few years) and spend time with friends and family. After all the rain in LA, it was nice to have showers that included gifts vs. those with just water.

Some of the highlights include:

Fresh REAL ORGANIC EGGS from my parents' hens

Painting my toenails for what will probably be the last time before delivery (I had to be quite the contortionist to finish)

Lunch with my mother-in-law Karen and her girlfriends---which turned out to be a lovely baby shower. Karen had the greatest idea of taking pictures of the gift-giver and the gift to make for nicer memories. My favorite gifts include the diaper cake, cute sheets and blankets that match Liam's bedding set, an adorable Noah's Ark blanket and matching burpcloths, and the cutest little dinosaur pajamas. I think Steven will especially like the dino pjs. Dinosaurs were (and possibly still are) a great favorite of his.

A night out to Garner Village and a movie with The Man Basket Society (sorry, no pictures of this event).

A Garff/Kemp family baby shower from my sister-in-law Catherine. This was an awesome opportunity to get to see much of Steven's and my extended family. My father-in-law, Bill, seemed especially glad to see that his namesake is doing well. All my sisters and sisters-in-law came, along with many of Steven's aunts and cousins (even second cousins!). It was a book-themed shower, which was great, because Steve and I are always reading so we may as well get Liam started early.

Karen made the most perfect blanket---surfing dogs! Also included was the book, "Where the Wild Things Are" with a matching stuffed monster.
Steve's cousins really enjoyed the food (not that I'd blame them...)Karina and Courtney (cousins)
Steve's cousins, Karina, Valerie, and Missy, got me the cutest little jogging outfit for when Liam starts running with me outside the womb. My favorite part about this was that it matches my dog (and hence the stuffed animal that my brother Daniel and his wife Karalee got for me) Catherine picked out the cutest stuffed caterpillar to go with the classic book.Steve's cousin, David Doman, designed a tote bag with this design (which was filled with awesome bear books from his sisters and mom). I also got the cutest little wipe cover made by my sister-in-law, Karalee. It even matches my diaper bag!
I got a lot of other really great items from my sisters and sisters-in-law on the Kemp side, such as diapers/wipes, a baby bjorn, a "baby's first Christmas" outfit, bottles, a smaller diaper bag for short outings, and from my sister Karina, one of my favorite books "Click, Clack, Moo".

We also had a Kemp family get together with almost everyone. It was a ton of fun to see how my nieces and nephews are growing up.

I got to stop by and see my best friend growing up, Annalisa Paul, and her family. I hadn't seen them for probably at least a year because Anna is in Logan and I am in LA. Anna and I used to have crazy activities (Like eating weird foods, trying new activities, or building a snowman in random friends' yards) that we would call our "Adventures" Anna and her mom got Liam the most adorable onesies, one of which has "baby on adventure" printed on the front. Perfect!

I finally feel (mostly) ready for this baby to come. After the showers, I am nearly prepared for feeding, diapering, and putting this little guy to sleep. It's hard to believe that he'll be here in about a month!

The trip worked out really well because Steven had to work insane hours this week (7:30 am to midnight or later) for a job he got as driver/security for the NuSkin convention in LA. It brought in a nice bit of cash that we can use to supplement my maternity leave until Steve starts working full time. Steve probably won't brag about it, but as part of this job, he got to be security for our governor, Arnold, when he was speaking at the convention. How cool is that? My husband, the security for the Termintator!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Babymoon, Take 2

We were supposed to go to NYC for our babymoon, but my OB requested we pick something closer to home and something that would not involve flying (in case I went into early labor). That left us with few options. The one we finally decided on was a weekend trip to Steve's parents' condo in St. George. One, because it was close; two, because it was inexpensive; and three, because it was beautiful after all the rainy weather we'd been having in LA.

It was a lovely, relaxing time. We lazed about the pool, ate out, read and watched tv (we really will get a converter box someday...) and slept to our hearts' content.

Most of our waking hours, (when not watching tv or eating), were spent hiking. Our first night we spent a few hours looking for Anasazi drawings (to no avail), and had a nice sunset hike.

We also spent a hot day hiking and looking for dinosaur tracks.

I would have missed them if it wasn't for Steve and Nike pointing them out to me.

The best part of this hike was watching Kiki and Nike trying to cross the cattle guards. Nike got stuck and just ended up leaping over it, while Kiki finally figured out that there was a crossbeam she could walk on. When Steve tried to get a picture of her face (she got so confused trying to cross), Kiki figured out she could just walk around the side and followed Steve around the easy way. Nike never did figure it out and spent his crossings stuck between the rails and jumping over them.

It was a fun trip. We're sad that we weren't able to go to New York since that is something we've always wanted to do, but also glad for the chance to save money before I take maternity leave.

Plus, we needed all that rest to prepare us for our neighbors' rock ballad karaoke competition at 4 am this morning!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

William Blake and Deep Space

I am currently reading Terryl Givens's latest book When Souls Had Wings which is an excellent history and examination of the concept of the pre-mortal existence. The artwork on the cover is from William Blake's The Third Temptation.
I couldn't help but notice that it bears a striking resemblance to this Hubble Telescope photograph of the Eagle Nebula called the Pillars of Creation.
Intrigued by this, I've combined a few more of Blake's creations with images from deep space.
The similarities can probably be explained by coincidence and the ephemeral and luminous quality of Blake's art. But I can't help but wonder if Blake really did see these images in vision as he claimed. Or perhaps he just had really good long distance eyesight.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dog Tired

Nike was so tired from our strenuous 4-mile "run" yesterday that he slept all through the Sunday morning session of General Conference like this:

Or maybe it was the bath that wore him out?

Either way, he needed both these activities. Look how clean he is! It might be the last time he gets washed before the baby comes because I'm having a hard time manuevering in the tub to get him clean.

He didn't do anything but sleep the rest of the weekend. He didn't look particularly comfortable, but boy was he out! He barely even opened his eyes when I came up to him. It reminds me of when my brothers Albert and Peter used to fall asleep in the closet or in a pile of socks (they always fell asleep in the weirdest positions). Or the time that Arthur fell asleep under the Christmas tree and we had to call the police because we couldn't find him after a 4-hour search.

Also, here's an upated photo of Rita, since we haven't posted any pictures since she was a baby:

She got to play while the dogs were outside drying off after their bath so we snapped a few photos.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

How Mormon Studies is like ruining the movie

"LDS students at the University of Utah need to know that their church encourages secular knowledge and religious knowledge. And they need to know that religious studies represent the opportunity for crucial secular knowledge about a religious topic. Many of them are going to think, 'Why do I need secular knowledge about my religion?' This is a bit like thinking 'God made my body, why would I need medical knowledge about my body?'"  Philip Barlow: Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University speaking on the need for a Mormon Studies program at The University of Utah.*

There been have been a few movies whose releases I’ve really anticipated.  The first Star Wars prequel, the new Star Trek, and even the new Indiana Jones (sigh).  But the movie whose release I anticipated more than any other was the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (that’s right, the one movie to rule them all).  And while it wasn’t perfect, seeing it was a real experience.  The best part was how well the film’s makers recreated Tolkien’s world as it existed in the books and in my mind.  It felt as if the scenes were actually shot in Middle Earth. 

The DVDs came with something like 15 hours of extended features and, being the geek that I am, I eventually got around to watching each and every one of those hours.  That’s like an entire waking day of my life!  Most of these extras were in-depth making-of features that covered almost every scene from the film.  They showed the sites in New Zealand as they looked in real life and how they transformed these locations with sets and CGI.  They showed the masks, and models, and how they produced the digital effects.  There were even interviews with the actors talking about what was going on in their minds and around the set when various scenes were filmed. 

The next time I saw the movie it was different.  I didn’t just see Middle Earth on the screen, but instead I also saw the real locations.  I saw where the lights had been placed.  I saw acting techniques and motion capture animation.  In short the movie was ruined just a little bit.

Watching movies requires the audience to suspend disbelief.  You have to be able to accept the show as it is presented or else the film becomes nothing but lighting, acting styles, location scouting, plot construction, composition etc... 

This is not unique to films, but everything (or virtually everything) that we experience requires us to engage in similar suspension of disbelief in order for that activity to be comprehensible.  When your professor is giving a lecture, you have to ignore teaching styles and techniques if you are going to learn the material being conveyed.  You have to just take for granted everything that has been artificially constructed around you and pretend, at least for a moment, that this artificial system is real.

When you seriously study something it becomes much harder to suspend this thinking.  This is because the most important part of studding a subject is being able to step outside of that subject, as much as possible, so that you can approach it with an objective mind set.  Once you step outside a system that you are studying it becomes more difficult to experience that system as it is meant to be experienced from within itself. My background in philosophy and law makes watching presidential and other TV debates almost paralyzing.  I find it almost impossible not to focus exclusively on rhetorical devices, logical fallacies, inference chains, and narrative techniques.   It’s almost as if I can’t even hear the messages that the candidates are attempting to communicate.  Of course, philosophical and legal training enhance my understanding and appreciation of these debates, but to a certain extent they also get in the way.

This same phenomenon occurs with the secular study of Mormonism.  To properly study Mormonism it is necessary to go beyond the spiritual point of view and approach the religion with secular eyes.  This entails understanding the Gospel not just through spirituality, but also through politics, economics, philosophy, history, law, sociology, psychology etc…  It is like stepping outside of the movie in order to see lighting techniques and acting styles. 

Now, I believe that a purely secular viewpoint is insufficient to explain Mormonism.  Mormonism is necessarily spiritual and therefore cannot be fully explained by appealing solely to secular disciplines and explanations.  Still, it would be just as wrongheaded to claim that there is no need engage in secular approaches to study the faith.  Surely Mormonism is influenced by the same principles that govern secular systems and secular tools can provide a better understanding of the religion.

The problem is that secular study of Mormonism, as important and rewarding as it is, makes it harder see the Gospel without reducing it to purely secular concepts.  A good example is the use of the cross.  Mormons usually explain that they do not widely incorporate the image of the cross because the cross focuses on the Savior’s death rather than his resurrection.  But a secular study offers a different explanation. Mormonism’s aversion to the image of the cross is largely the result of geography and history. When Mormonism began, the image of the cross did not have much widespread use among American non-Catholic Christian churches.  The fact that the Church did not embrace the use of the cross was typical of Protestant churches of New England and the Midwest during that period.  Later when the LDS church was relatively isolated in the West, the cross gradually became more and more prominent in American Protestant congregations. By the time Mormon and Protestant cultures began to more fully interact with each other in the twentieth century, Mormonism had missed the boat on crosses. By then the cross was seen as a way to distinguish the LDS faith from other religions and church members had begun to associate the cross with the apostasy.**

Explanations like these are fascinating but they can also change the way we experience our Faith.  For example, now, every time someone talks about Mormon theological aversion to the cross, I can’t help but focus on this historical/geographical explanation and I tend to ignore the doctrinal side of the discussion.  I worry that I may even, unconsciously at least, dismiss the point of focusing on the Savior’s resurrection.

I love the secular study of my faith.  Not only is it interesting, but my understanding of the Gospel is enhanced.  However, secular study can never have the same life altering effect as spiritual study and I worry that focus on secular study can detract from spiritual understanding.   

I like Barlow’s analogy to medical knowledge.  By possessing medical knowledge we can better understand what we need to do to improve our physical health.  Likewise secular knowledge of the Gospel can help us better know what we must do to improve our spiritual health.  But we can never forget that the focus must always be on doing as opposed knowing. 

Aristotle makes a similar observation.  After explaining that the only way to become good is to do good acts he observes: “Yet most men do not perform such acts, by taking refuge in argument they think that they are engaged in philosophy and that they will become good in this way.  In so doing they act like sick men who listen attentively to what the doctor says, but fail to do any of the things he prescribes.  That kind of philosophical activity will not bring health to the soul any more than this sort of treatment will produce a healthy body.”***

We cannot let ourselves be deceived into thinking that simply by engaging in secular study we will become better Mormons. The only way to become better Mormons is by doing.  It is the spiritual side of the gospel that gives us the courage and motivation to live it.

* Grote, Michael. “Mormon Studies may join University of Utah curriculum.”  Mormon Times 09,Sep. 2009

 ** This historical/geographical explanation of cross use is discussed in Givens, Terryl. People of Paradox.  pages 114-115.

 ***Aristotle.  Nicomachean Ethics Book II 1105b 11-18