Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Playing in the Street

Tonight after I made dinner, I went outside with the tater tots to play.  We ended up throwing the frisbee.  It was really fun.  I had to go inside and change from my clogs into my sneakers so that I could run faster to catch the disc.  I am not a fan of the heat, so the 50-degree weather with a light drizzle was just right for me.  I was blissfully happy out on the street throwing that frisbee back and forth with them.  We played for about an hour, and then came in to eat.  I didn't want to stop, ever.

Monday, May 16, 2011

James & Shauri Wedding: Movie Night

My very favorite part of the wedding festivities, besides watching the actual marriage ceremony, was Friday night at the movies.  Shauri had rented an older movie theater in downtown Newport, the kind with just one giant screening room full of velvet chairs, like your high school auditorium.  All of the wedding guests had been invited (ordered) to submit a homemade film for this night.  James begged the members of his family to do this, probably because he knew we wouldn't bother otherwise.  Shauri's sister-in-law, Amy, took all the video submissions and put them together in categories, with 4-6 movies to a category.  The categories were "Musicals", "Short Picture Featuring a Bride", "Short Picture Featuring a Groom", "Documentary--Short Subject", "International Picture", and "Mockumentary--Short Subject."  We would watch all the films in one category, and then break for live entertainment by various wedding guests, including my brother Mark singing a VeggieTales song with two of my tater tots, and some of James' oldest friends reading made-up entries from his diary (hilarious!).  I also loved the performance of Paul & Tamara Doughty who invited James and Shauri to come onstage and sit on stools.  Paul & Tamara stood behind Shauri and James, and as they sang a rather cheesy (but beautiful) love song, they simultaneous manipulated James & Shauri's limbs to make it look like they were acting out the words of the song.  Super funny for the audience--possibly quite awkward for the unsuspecting bride and groom. 

Some of my favorite films: my brother Mark told a joke that he had heard from James when they were in college.  It is one of my favorite jokes of all time, but it does not seem to make many other people laugh.  Although the film was not universally appreciated for its hilarity, I still got a big kick out of it.  My brother Nathan stole the show, I believe, when he came out on stage to sing one half of a duet from Les Miserables while the film version of himself sang the other part.  His film self was huge, and looking down on his live self.  It was very energetic and over the top, and I was bursting with pride.  It easily won for its category.  My mom made up the cutest, sweetest song ever, a history of our family set to the tune of "Gilligan's Island."  The film went between her singing the song with my dad, and pictures of our family over the years.  There was a really nice film submitted by James' friend John who is currently living in Australia.  He filmed himself in Sydney harbor with the opera house in the background and apologized for not making it to the wedding.  The title of his film was "Australia is a long way from Boston."  I also loved a film called "Boise Chamber of Commerce" by our friends the Hansens who we grew up with in Boise.  It was a little propaganda film trying to entice James and Shauri to settle in Boise, showing what an easy commute it is between Boise and Washington D.C. or between Boise and Baghdad.  It bragged about how many wonders of the world are located in Boise, including the pyramids, the Eiffel Tower, et cetera.  Us Boiseans were laughing our heads off.  We loved it!

Following the final guest-submitted short film, we were treated to a slightly longer film made by Shauri.  The music for that film was two love songs written and performed by James.  The film had clips of different couples telling how they met and fell in love, and also talking about how we set up Shauri and James on their first blind date.  My mom and dad were in that film, and Dan and me, and my brother Mark and his wife Kamis.  My mom found out on camera that my dad had only joined the thespian club in high school so that he could spend more time with her (their first kiss was while rehearsing for a play).  She couldn't believe it!  It was adorable.  I did a lot of the talking in the clips of Dan and me (can you imagine?), and it was really funny to watch Dan's expression as he kept his mouth shut and let me go on and on.  Kamis made us laugh by listing off all of the significant dates in their courtship such as first date, first hand-hold, first kiss, etc.  She stopped partway through and explained that the only reason she knows all of these dates is that they are all divisible by five.  That really made us laugh. 

Basically we were just laughing so hard all night long that our cheeks were sore.  It felt so good to laugh that hard.  It was so easy and comfortable to sit there in the theater and watch those cute movies and live performances, all by people who love Shauri and James.

Idaho Boy goes to Harvard, Take 2

My dad wrote a nice long email today to correct many of the errors in my narrative of his life as a Harvard student.  I found the details of his story fascinating.  I give it to you in his words:

"My guidance counselor would have never suggested I consider an Ivy League school. He was more or less stunned I ended up there. The Dean of Freshmen at Harvard at the time was from Idaho. Every so often he would come to a few rural high schools in Idaho and try to find someone who would apply and who had a chance to be accepted. I do not know why he came to Meridian HS at the time as no one from Meridian had ever gone to Harvard. One Meridian student I knew who was two years older had gone to Columbia and as far as I know he was the only one who had gone to an Ivy League school until I went off to Harvard.

"It was announced over the intercom that a recruiter was here from Harvard and anyone interested could come down to the office and talk to him. I was the only student who showed up. He patiently explained to me how Harvard would pay me to come because my parents were so poor. I found this hard to grasp and he gave me an application. I filled out the application and then stopped because it asked me to write a 500 word essay. I was stymied by that.

"A few weeks later my Young Mens leader [a church group for teenage boys], a Stanford grad named Bob Woods, [who] would eventually become the dean of the business school at Memphis State and the Stake President of the Memphis Stake, found out from someone (possibly my mother) that I was "applying to Harvard." He had to come to my home to talk to me about it because I was not attending Young Mens [activities] and had not since I was about 13. He had a business partner who was a Yale grad and was trying to get a few Idaho kids to apply to Yale. Bob took me down to his office and I met this man. Yale did not require a 500 word essay and I filled out the application and sent it off.

"Your mother eventually found out from me that I had not sent in the Harvard application because of the essay. She got after me and I wrote an essay about the week I had spent on a psychiatric ward in California when I was visiting my sister who was a social worker there. Teresa helped me with the grammar and spelling so that it made sense (that was not how it was supposed to be) and I sent the application off just before the deadline.

"I actually was a good applicant (except for the essay part). I took the SATs and scored a 750 on the math portion and a 740 on the verbal portion. That actually put me in the highest one percent of college applicants who took these tests. Since I was from a rural HS and not a prep school and not even a school that had AP classes and had never even heard of the SATs before I took them, the admissions committee apparently rated me highly. I was also required to take at least 3 achievement tests. These were like AP tests and I had not had any AP classes. I got a 630 on the chemistry one (the equivalent of a 4 on the AP test), a 520 on the English one ( a 2 or 3 on the AP test), and a 790 on the US History one (a high 5). I was ranked 10th or 11th (out of 200) in our HS class academically. The one boy ahead of me went to the Naval Academy and the rest were all smart girls like your mom, who was co-valedictorian. My application also included my work history (I had an extensive one at that point). That was also unusual since I worked even during the school year.

"I never played HS baseball. I was a good basketball player but I stopped because I didn't like the coach.  I had some great teachers who really supported me and wrote great recommendations for me. I was a Harvard National Scholar which is the highest award they give to incoming freshmen .

"I have a couple more things to say about the Dean of Freshmen. They did not actually pay for my travel to Harvard but he did somehow find out that I was staying in the dorms over the holidays because I did not have the money to go home. He showed up at my door with round trip tickets to and from Idaho and took me to the airport. When we were freshmen proctors we were supposed to be on the lookout for people like me. Harvard had a fund to help them out.

"The scholarship was supposed to be enough so you did not have to work while at school. I couldn't deal with that and got jobs anyway. I had extra time because I did not play any sports at Harvard. They were all too big and fast.

"I had a huge amount of academic catching up to do. My education was more like that of a ghetto kid. I had to start at the beginning level of everything. I got As in the beginning science classes but I was lucky to get Bs in everything else. But with your mother watching over and encouraging me my last two years I was able to get As pretty much in everything and actually graduate Magna Cum Laude with highest honors in my department (History of Science). I had a great expository writing teacher as a freshman and she got me to the point I could write a B paper. Teresa, though, got me so I could write an A paper and a "Highest Honors" thesis, something I had to do for my department.

"Your mother, by the way, got a number of A pluses at Harvard. I had never heard of such a thing!

"One last thing--I wanted to major in Chemistry at Harvard but to my dismay I found I was too far behind in the sciences to compete a chemistry major in the required 4 years. I did have the satisfaction of performing so well in organic chemistry that my professors nominated me to be a special tutor in organic chemistry at the Harvard Bureau of Study Counsel. This was the best paying job I ever had at Harvard and I am sure helped me get into medical school."          

PG's commentary: Two super heroes stand out to me in this story.  First, the Dean of Freshmen at Harvard, an Idaho boy who came back to his home state to search for kids whose lives he could change by sending them to Cambridge for an education.  I love the image of him showing up on my dad's doorstep with round trip tickets home for Christmas.  And the second, but most important hero of this story: my mother.  Her hand in my father's many successes is, to me, a sweet and touching part of their love story.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Boston & Cambridge

Note to my Mom & Dad: Please feel free to correct the historical errors in what you are about to read.

My parents graduated from high school in rural Idaho.  They were both local superstars: my mom for her perfect grades, editorship of the school newspaper, and leading roles in most of the plays.  My dad was captain of the football team, a baseball and track star, and senior class president.  My dad went to the school guidance counselor for advice on selecting a college.  He had pretty good grades and standardized test scores, and loads of extra curricular activities and leadership experience.  The counselor suggested he apply to some Ivy League schools since they typically try to get students from every state, and the competition in Idaho was not that stiff.  So he applied to two schools: Harvard and Yale.  I'm not sure if he got into Yale, but Harvard offered him a full tuition scholarship.  His family was so poor, in fact, that Harvard paid for his room and board, books, and even the airplane tickets to get to school and back.

He spent one year at Harvard, and then served a mission for the church in France for two years.  He returned to Harvard, and over Christmas break that year, proposed to his high school sweetheart, my mom, who was in her senior year at BYU.  That next summer, after my mom graduated, they got married in Utah and then made their way back to Cambridge for my dad's third year of school.  They were Potato Newlyweds in Massachusetts! 

After finishing his bachelor's degree, my father stayed on at Harvard for four more years of medical school.  During this time my brother and I were born in Boston, and my mom completed a master's degree in Education, also at Harvard.  After medical school, our family moved to Connecticut for my dad to complete his medical training, where two more brothers were born.  His first job was in California (Bay Area), but he left a year later for a position in Idaho to be closer to his widowed mother.  My sister, therefore, the baby of the family, was born in Idaho.

Shauri & James' wedding this past weekend gave our family an excuse to visit Boston & Cambridge together.  I have only been back once since we moved, and the rest of my family hasn't been back ever. On Thursday the four oldest siblings got the family history tour of Cambridge, led by mom and dad.  Our tour began in Harvard Yard, where we rendezvoused with one of first freshmen that my parents mentored as dorm parents.  He is now a Pulitzer-prize winning writer and editor for the Boston Globe.  He walked with us over to Greenough Hall, where he first met me, a terrifying baby, and my mom and dad.  My parents had an apartment on the bottom floor of this building, and the freshmen lived on the three floors above them.  I remember this apartment.  We told some stories of when I saved my brother's life, more than once, while my father was supposedly watching us. 

The rest of the morning consisted of walking from place to place, seeing where my parents lived and worked and listening to stories from this period of their lives.  We saw my dad's freshman dorm, the church where I went to preschool, the building where my mom worked--which is now named after her old boss--the corner where she was mugged in broad daylight, the house they lived in as servants until my mother got knocked up and they were kindly dismissed (can't have a pregnant woman serving...). We saw the apartment building where my dad worked as a night watchman, and where they brought me home from the hospital after I was born.  I didn't realize that I had come home from the hospital to this place...I had thought they were already in Greenough House when I was born.  We saw the building where my dad lived his second year at Harvard, before he married my mom.  We couldn't go into any of the buildings, but it was still really fun to see where they had lived and to hear their stories.  It is amazing how magical a place can be when you know that your own family members lived and worked there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going to a Wedding

I will be on a blogging break this week as our family makes its way to Boston, Massachusetts, and Newport, Rhode Island, to celebrate the marriage of my brother James to my friend Shauri. 

Tomorrow we are driving to Rochester, New York, to see Dan's cousin Kevin and his family.  Tuesday we will take the kids to see the Sacred Grove and the Hill Cumorah (Mormon church history sites) and then press on to Andover, Massachusetts, where we will spend a few hours with my dear college friend Kirsti and her family.  Late Tuesday night my parents arrive in Boston, and we will spend Wednesday doing things in the area with them.  My siblings will be trickling in Wednesday and Thursday, and about half the family, including Dan and two of the tater tots, will go to a Red Sox game in Fenway Park on Thursday afternoon.  Friday we sight see in Newport, ending the day with a dinner and screening of films made by the wedding guests and the bride and groom (mostly the bride, who is a film maker).   Saturday is the wedding in the morning and the reception in the evening, with a photo shoot on trolleys in our 1920s-era outfits in the afternoon.  Sunday we celebrate Mother's Day with a continental breakfast in the hotel and a long drive home to Michigan.  No cooking or dishes for me, woo hoo!

I hope you have a good week, and I look forward to writing more when I return.