Thursday, December 24, 2009

so this is christmas

a very merry christmas eve to you, my dears!

i still basically can't believe that christmas is tomorrow (tomorrow? tomorrow!) and the rapidity with which it has snuck up on me this year makes me a little nervous that i am going to wake up tomorrow and be 90 years old.

in the meantime, in a few hours i am off to denver for many days of eating, sleeping, movie watching and other usual family revelry, this time not punctuated by frantically repacking my car, plotting a cross country road trip route or the general emotional instability that precedes a major life change. so yes, i am looking forward to it very much.

speaking of major life changes, it has now been two years since i started keeping this blog, and i think she deserves a change as well. so, we are going on a brief (don't panic) hiatus for a redesign, helmed by my ever-so-talented cousin, trevor, and a little quiet reflection about where we want to go and what we want to be in the year ahead. we'll see you again on january 4, the year of our lord two thousand and ten. (if you're dying for a fix before then (and i wouldn't blame you in the least) i'll be over at segullah on december 26th.)

until then, all my love and best wishes this holiday season.

hugs and kisses,

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

this tree is my tree, this tree is your tree

in just one of many examples of how these united states of america are a democracy for one and for all, i give you the national christmas tree.

yes, indeedy. a christmas tree for all of us! the main tree is surrounded by 50 smaller trees, one for each state of the union, and while the decorations aren't much to write home (or to the internet) about, the atmosphere and the view are worth the chilly trip.

plus, santa was there!

though, i am starting to doubt in his omnipotence. when mary told him she wanted a boyfriend for christmas, the response was a little lackluster. quoth santa: i'm just a toymaker.

Monday, December 21, 2009


on saturday morning it started to snow.

having been hardened by many a harsh utah winter, and having the benefit of public transportation, which meant i could go out in the snow without driving in it, i headed downtown to finish my christmas shopping. (because the last saturday before christmas is totally the perfect time to go to target.)

and then, because the weather didn't seem that bad, i went to see dana's new place in dupont circle.

by the time i headed home, around 4 in the afternoon, all bus service had been suspended, the metro wasn't running above ground, the underground trains were running excruciatingly slowly and the outside world looked like this.

it finally stopped dumping sometime in the wee hours of sunday morning. by then church had been cancelled and uncle bob and aunt joyce and i had watched one christmas movie, three episodes of "mash" and eaten a whole batch of chocolate chip coconut cookies.

the next morning, it took the three of us about an hour to dig out half of the driveway and a narrow, narrow path up the stairs to the front door. i didn't get dressed all day long, and by sunday afternoon work on monday had been cancelled. (unless you are the person in this house who has to keep debating healthcare reform.)

they say it's the worst storm in these parts since 2003. and while you are right if you remember that i hate snow more than just about anything there is, if it means no church and no work and a perfectly good excuse to do nothing at all, then i say, "let it snow!"

Friday, December 18, 2009

what healthcare reform and baked goods have in common

last night at dinner i interrupted a long and increasingly convoluted conversation about healthcare reform (is there any other kind?) to talk about the impending office christmas cookie exchange.

the office christmas cookie exchange, i explained, goes like this.

everyone who wants to participate bakes cookies.

everyone who baked cookies gets together to trade cookies.

everyone who baked cookies goes home with new, delicious cookies.

"oh," saith uncle bob. "sounds like a healthcare exchange."

but, i continued, i am pretty sure that the rules aren't actually going to be enforced and that everyone is going to come in and eat cookies, whether they baked them or not. so, some people bake, but all people eat.

"oh," saith uncle bob. "sounds like the public option."

rimshot, heyo!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

mr. sandman

we have a situation over here, people. the situation is that i have not slept in days. literally. there has been a lot of tossing and turning, but only a two or three hours of fleeting shut-eye all week. i am basically running on swedish fish and diet coke at this point. it's not pretty.

the source of this instant-onset insomnia remains a mystery. and, as a person who can generally sleep anywhere, under any circumstances, for any length of time, i feel at a particular disadvantage because i don't have any tried-and-true tricks to lull myself to dreamland.

i have tried everything i can think of, so far to no avail. this includes, but is not limited to: a hot bath, lemon tea, listening to soothing music, trying another bed, trying another pillow, trying another side of the bed (head where my feet usually are), putting on more pajamas, trying different pajamas, taking off my pajamas all together, reading something boring, reading something interesting, shopping on the internet, paying bills online, blog posting (yesterday's post was a late-night wonder), blog stalking, facebook stalking, staring at the ceiling, getting up to go to the bathroom, counting down from 500, tylenol cold medicine, making a mental list of everything that might be subconsciously keeping me awake and then dismissing each item as unimportant, working out before bed to wear myself down, imagining every scenario in which i could run into jake gyllenhaal and have him fall instantly in love with me. and i am sure the list goes on.

and still. nothing. it's very, very bad. i mean, i'm functioning, but not for long, i don't think. so tonight, i am pulling out the big guns. freshly laundered sheets and nyquil.

wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

penny for your thoughts (a shiny nickel, too)

lately, instead of starting conversations by asking "what's new?" my friend (codename) v-slice has started asking, "what's on your mind?"

this is a far superior question if for no other reason than it gets right to the point. when someone asks me "what's new?" i feel like i have to come up with some hilarious story or run out and plan an exotic vacation rightnow so i'll have something to say next time they ask me. when someone asks me, "what's on your mind?" i can just cut to the chase.

right now this very moment i have something on my mind that is not quite fully formed. and i am going to let it take its time baking. here are the questions i am turning over.

what does it mean, as people of faith (and, particularly, as people of the mormon faith) to be in the world but not of it? how can we unapologetically live our own values, while creating a safe space where no one feels like they have to apologize for living by a different code? how do we build common ground when we are different, and come together when there are some things from which we are asked to keep ourselves separate? how can we be righteous without being self-righteous, and discern without judging?

i have a lot of gears turning in my head, working this one through. for certain, it is a tightrope walk the requires ultimate balance and finesse, constant self-awareness and charity. i am going to keep muddling at it and get back to you when some more coherent thoughts have formed. (i am really good at asking questions these days, but answers seem harder to come by.)

in the meantime, you should tell me what you think. to paraphrase the spice girls, what you really, really think.

Monday, December 14, 2009

on the second day of christmas...

are you guys ready for more christmas revelry?!? because that is what's going down around here.

behold, the white house christmas tree!

aunt joyce preferred the year when the theme of the white house christmas decorations was "white house pets," but i thought this year's display was just lovely. plus, i hadn't been on a white house tour in a while, so it was nice to brush up on some of my trivia. (fact: the item that has been in the white house the longest is a portrait of george washington that has been hanging there since the white house was very first built. the heroic dolley madison saved it from the fire. which is maybe why they named a street after her. maybe.)

i am also pleased to report, for those of you concerned with matters of national security, that entry to the white house is being extra-super-carefully monitored these days, in the wake of the state dinner crashers. as proof, i offer the following exchange.

man at the gate: name please.
aunt joyce, flashing fancy senate spouse i.d.: joyce bennett.
MATTG, searching list.
AJ: oh, i am a senate spouse. i'm not on the list.
MATTG: from now on, everyone has to be on a list.

but christmas fun doesn't have to stop at the white house! no sir!

behold, christmas in colonial williamsburg!

emily and miss angela and i headed down this weekend to take in all the pageantry. i had never been to colonial williamsburg, and i imagine it is painfully charming all the time but it is even moreso with wreaths and red capes everywhere. i was also especially fond of all the british flags flying. makes sense because, as miss angela pointed out, "we are still under the crown here." a quick visit with berto and mary rounded out a most lovely weekend.

but christmas fun doesn't have to stop with living history! no sir!

behold! this evening, cristy and i hit up a delightful exhibit of christmas cards drawn by well-known american artists at the national museum of american art and then headed to a holiday craft fair, where we enjoyed chicken empanadas (so. delicious.) and crisp winter air. we both agreed that we could not be any more happy than that moment.

and, behold. of such moments is the christmas season made.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

the never-ending story

i wanted to be a journalist ever since i had my first byline in the fifth grade. from that moment on, i could never imagine doing anything else.

being a journalist influenced almost every decision i made: what classes to take, what summer camps to go to, what books to read, what college to attend, what major to have, what people to admire, what internships to apply for.

my name in print, it was all i ever wanted. going to work every day at my first real job at a

big(ish) daily newspaper felt like a dream come true.

i wanted to be a journalist because i believe in the power of stories. i believe that stories can teach us. they can touch us. they can change us, hopefully for the better but sometimes for the worse.

when we know people's stories, i believe that we understand those people better. when we can tell our own stories, we find a firmer place to stand in our communities, our spheres, our identities.

stories are a way to get our heads around topics that are big, scary, controversial, easy to ignore. stories shed light. stories elicit action.

in short, stories make up our lives.

to tell people's stories, it was all i ever wanted. the chance to tell people's stories was a dream come true.

the one problem with dreams though is that they are, by definition, not always reality. and the journalism of my dreams did not account for industry instability, massive layoffs, constant worry, or the glenn beck takeover.

and so i felt in my heart that it was time to make a new dream, time to take what living my dream had taught me and put it somewhere else. it felt sad, but it felt right.

i still think of myself as a journalist, though. or at least as a storyteller. and i still believe that the best of my dream is true. i still believe that stories make people better, make governments more honest, make life more fair.

i still believe.

which is why i was over-the-moon thrilled when my friend, cristi, invited me to serve on the board of directors of her non-profit organization, the press institute. (goal #28, check!)

through the press institute, women and men around the world, from mexico to nepal to nigeria, are trained to tell the stories that matter most to them. they write about AIDS and poverty and human trafficking. they write about the triumph of decency and the human spirit. they develop skills that enrich their lives and earn money that supports their families.

stories are making their lives better.

and you can help make their lives better, too.

right now, any money donated to the press institute will be matched, dollar for dollar. your $10 becomes $20, your $20 becomes $40, your $50 becomes $100, and that can change someone's life.

at this christmas season especially, consider giving to the press institute in the name of a journalist you love. (like me!) i will personally send you a thank you card if you do. and if you need still more persuasion, check out this article, which argues (among other things) that charitable giving is the best form of gift giving.

because the only thing better than a good story is a happy ending, right?

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

on the first day of christmas...

remember how it is december already?

when the heck did that happen? (besides the obvious answer of eight days ago, of course.)

seriously, i don't know if it is the lack of snow (praise the heavens!) or what, but this holiday season totally snuck up on me. (despite having tuned out aunt joyce's flute students playing christmas music for the past two months. no exagerration.) so to make up for lost time, i have been squeezing in as much seasonal cheer as i can.

for starters, i read "a christmas carol" for what i think was the first time, and enjoyed a rousing discussion of said masterpiece at enrichment book club. i also bought an advent calendar, which always seems to mark the official beginning of christmastime.

leaving the store after the purchase of said advent calendar, i backed my car into a pole, which does not invite as much christmas cheer as one would hope. but, the damage was minor and i decided to just get over it.

especially because there was a christmas-themed murder mystery party to attend! wherein i, nat the nutcracker, had to dance all night without moving my arms or my legs, which invites more christmas cheer than you might expect.

between accusing rudy (the red-nosed reindeer) of making fun of my dancing behind my back and eating tons of vegan gingerbread cookies and marshmellows, i also managed to solve the murder. the culprit was, ironically, wearing a t-shirt that said, "i didn't do it." a likely story.

i also watched "a christmas story" with patti and michelle, and ordered presents online. so i would say i am back on track in the christmas celebration department, despite my continuing disbelief that the big day is right around the corner. since a good question bears repeating, i'll ask mine again.

when the heck did that happen?

Monday, December 7, 2009

belles of the (white house) ball

i just sent uncle bob and aunt joyce out the door to the white house christmas ball.

there has been all sorts of discussion over the past week or so about what aunt joyce should wear. after 18 white house balls, a girl runs kind of short on options. as you can imagine, i am sure. she finally settled on a "long, black thing," which was actually a very lovely party dress. she wore it to a christmas ball with the clintons, and to one with the bushes as well, but we don't think anyone will notice.

while she was busy primping, uncle bob was searching the house for his senate i.d. they are very picky about proper i.d. at white house functions these days, you see. (don't worry. he found it.)

other preparatory chatter was as follows.

me: "what time is your cab coming?"
aunt joyce: "7:45. and he better drive fast. they close the doors at 8:15."
uncle bob: "i would really prefer to just drive myself, but they won't let you take cars anymore. the bushes always let us take cars."

aunt joyce: "we can't eat until after we get our picture taken, because i'm not taking any extra lipstick. should i take extra lipstick?"

uncle bob: "you smell nice."
aunt joyce: "it's hair spray."
aunt joyce: "do you think i should put on perfume?"
uncle bob: "i think hair spray is just fine."

as the cab pulled up.
aunt joyce: "well, here we go to freeze our butts off."
uncle bob: "we don't have to stay for long. i hear the decorations are kind of grungy anyway."

and, scene.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


the bennett thanksgiving of 2009 began like this.

as soon as i walked in the door from work on wednesday afternoon (hurrah for early release!) aunt joyce started shouting, "help! help!"

i didn't smell fire, so i wasn't super worried.

but i still (sort of) rushed into the kitchen to find the counter, the floor, the carpet and aunt joyce all soaking wet with brine mix, which was continuing to spill out of the bag aunt joyce was precariously grasping to keep it all from crashing to the floor.

first, i laughed.

then we got the bag (and the turkey that was inside it) safely up on the counter, and used approximately three full rolls of paper towels to deal with the rest of the mess. (sorry, environment!)

and so thanksgiving began.

the infamous brine incident was really the only mishap though.

we started off turkey day itself right by delivering some meals for the knights of columbus...

... and the rest of thanksgiving was just a string of lazy days with kids and cousins and dogs running around. mixed with scintillating conversations about reality shows (the product of pride! says uncle bob), blogging (the product of pride! says uncle bob), healthcare reform (which no one dared ascribe to pride! in the presence of uncle bob) and various other worthy topics. and, of course, we put up the christmas decorations.

i also got a special thanksgiving treat in the form of shopping and dessert (because what do you need after thanksgiving more than cheesecake?) with anna, who was in town enjoying the holiday with her family in leesburg.

and so, my cup is full.