Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunrise, Sunset

Since we documented the shortest day of the year, it's only fair that we do the same for the longest day of the year.

This is what 21 June 2010 looked like in Edinburgh

4:00 a.m.

6:00 a.m.

9:15 p.m.

11:20 p.m.

Long gone are the Dark Ages.

I find myself up by 6:00 a.m. every day due to sunlight coming in the window. Usually around 6:45 a.m. my body finally figures out that it has been tricked by Mother Nature.

Is 6:45 am too early to take a nap?


Steve and I are definitely loving the Scottish summer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Borrowed Heart

I've had a lot on my mind leading up to this week, mostly thanks to memories running through my head, and mostly surrounding the event which this post is about. Before getting into the details, I came across this quote and found it surprisingly meaningful in relation to all the things occupying my mind.

A memory is what is left when something happens and does not completely unhappen.
-Edward de Bono

June 16th is a very good day. It became a milestone of sorts in 2007. Many of you know the story of my dad's epic heart episode of 2007 (some more than others) and June 16th is part of all that. It fell on a Saturday that year (the next day was Father's Day, which makes this story that much more poignant), and I remember it had been a crazy day on my mission. My planner had fallen from my bag earlier in the day, causing no small amount of distress when I realized it was MIA, lots of appointments fell through, things just didn't seem to be going well - you know - a typical day in the mission field. =) We came home at 9:00pm, checked our messages on the answering machine, and this is what I heard:

Sister Irvine, this is President Larkin calling. We have some good news for you. Your dad has successfully undergone a heart transplant surgery and the doctors think everything looks good. Your mother asked that I wait to inform you until after the surgery was over, which it now is. She has kept us updated and the operation went smoothly. Please call us when you get in.

I was stunned. Talk about a complete 180 in the emotions department. From disheartened to ecstatic in 10.269 seconds! I called President back and spoke with him briefly. I knew I wouldn't be able to call my family, but I asked if I could call the companion I was serving with at the time this whole thing started - the incredible Sister Soderborg (she's the one I mentioned in our blog post about our trip to Utah). I got to call her to share the amazing news - and even though she technically isn't family, she kind of is. She'd been with me when I needed someone close by. Whatever the reason for having them, memories are priceless. They serve to remind me how fragile life is, yet how powerful human beings are through expressing love, sharing sorrow, developing hope, etc. etc. etc. Maybe that's why I like that quote above so much. Things happen in life that leave a mark, but only because the story doesn't actually end with the experience that caused the memory in the first place. It marks the beginning of other stories stemming from the original incident and the pattern never really stops. The memory of receiving that news didn't vanish when the clock struck twelve that night - it has lingered in my mind for three years now and through many big events that have since transpired. The story of the heart transplant surgery will never "unhappen."

My dad always sends a clever announcement to mark the passing of another year with his borrowed heart. The picture above is what I found in this year's announcement. Even as a patient in critical condition he managed to make lasting friendships with his doctors and nurses, and continues to think of them and thank them for their hard work on a regular basis - particularly when June rolls around or whenever he has his "routine procedure" check-ups. Whether it's a small dinner with the docs or a big party with family and friends, he commemorates the gift of life he received and shares it with others. For some strange reason I always seem to miss out on the fun of celebrating his recovery. The first anniversary shindig happened to be during the week that I was working at EFY (but hey, I can't harbor a complaint since that is the same week that I met Steve!), the second was also a day I had to work, but I did manage to pop in and at least say hello before having to leave. And now, for year number three, an ocean is all that is keeping us from attending. Even though we won't be there to celebrate with my dad, his docs, and the rest of my family, I can at least pass on the lesson that he has never stopped teaching me, which is, never pass up an opportunity to tell those you love that you love them.

So here's to you and your borrowed heart, Dad.

Three years down, and many, many, MANY more to come.

I love you.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Buona Sera, Signorina

You know how life seems to have a soundtrack depending on the circumstance in which you find yourself? Last week the soundtrack revolved around "Buona Sera, Signorina." If you don't know this song, youtube it and listen to the version by Dean Martin. Classic. Steve and I decided to celebrate my 26th birthday with a delightful trip to paradise - Italy. Besides being in one of my very favorite places with Steve, I got to spend a week with one of my dearest friends, Annmarie. Good friends, beautiful art, delicious gelato - it doesn't get much better than that. Twenty six started out with a bang beginning in Venice, followed by Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre and Pisa.

First stop: VENEZIA

St. Mark's Square in Venice. Funny story about this place. I told Ann we'd meet her under the pointed arches of the entrance to the church. As it turns out - my memory has faded these last five years - the arches at the church are rounded. The pointed arches are at the Doge's Palace right next to the church - and there are about fifty of them. Glad we managed to meet up.

Round one of gelato (I eventually lost count). My favorite flavor used to be coconut, but I think it's been replaced by lemon.

Carnival masks!

The Rialto bridge

Rough translation: love of friends street. How fitting! I still can't believe we got to hang out in Italy. We used to talk about living in Paris so Ann could sing with the Paris Opera, Penn would be a ballerina in the Paris Ballet Co. and I would be a curator at the Louvre.

We dream big.

Until that happens, we'll be content with Italy. I could probably find a pretty cool museum somewhere, and I know Ann would fit right in.

Grande Canal at dusk

Besides meeting up with Ann, we also got to hang out with some other fabulous friends. Back in 2005 I was on a study abroad in Vienna and became friends with Brian Lee. As it turned out, Brian was engaged at the time to Mary-Jane, pictured above, who also happened to be Ann's roommate the same semester Brian and I were in Vienna. Small world, eh? Brian served his mission in Italy and Bri and MJ decided to join Ann after their opera program ended on her Italian adventure, which made our travels that much more fun.

Brian and I were good friends in Vienna with a kid named Ryan who always posed like this in pictures. Arms extended with his hands in the gesture of blessing, which you see in pretty much every religious altarpiece, fresco painting, tapestry, etc.

The Four Tetrarchs

Porphyry sculpture commemorating the division of power in the expanding Roman Empire

Gigantic (and very cool) clock in St. Mark's Square. An old digital clock of sorts.

A view of St. Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace.

(I felt like I was in The Italian Job...)

We didn't ride in a gondola, but did enjoy the water taxi on the trip to the airport to head to our next destination...


This is Ann's bed. It belongs to a four year old named Zach. We were very fortunate to be able to stay at Sarah and Clint's (Ann's sister and bro-in-law) place while we stayed in Rome. It was a tight squeeze with all five of us, but it was a blast.

Steve and I got the fold-out couch upstairs. We decided after the first night that it would be better to use the mattress on the floor rather than on the springs so as not to roll into each other all night.

One of the amazing things about Rome is the fusion of ancient and modern. Here, the Colosseum (completed in 80 AD) stands near the Roman Forum. Just across the street are modern apartment buildings. Sometimes I wonder what it would be like being a kid growing up in Rome and going on field trips to the Forum, and the next month to the Pantheon or to the Vatican. So much history everywhere.

Statue of Marcus Aurelius on the Capitoline Hill (much of which was designed by Michelangelo).

Looking down from the Capitoline Hill onto the ruins of the Forum

Il Vittoriano Monument built in honor of Victor Emmanuel (united Italy) in 1885. It is a stunning building located in the Piazza Venezia. Looks old, but it's basically a toddler compared to other stuff in Rome.

Trevi Fountain

I've made a point to throw in a penny on previous visits, but we didn't do that this time. Who knows if we'll make it back, but we sure enjoyed the visit with the Lees while we were there.

We became fast friends with this tourist from Germany while we were people-watching on the Spanish Steps. He was standing in front of us, taking a picture of his friends/family standing behind us. Since we knew we'd all show up in the pictures we decided to pose and smile. Why not? Once he reviewed the pics on his camera he came up to us and started talking with us because he thought it was funny that we posed in his pictures. Germans are some of the friendliest people on the planet. I knew him for three minutes, yet it felt like he was my grandpa by the time he and his family left.

Ann Sandwich!

These guys are the best. The four of them surprised me with a small birthday celebration after dinner. They even went the extra mile and sang "Happy Birthday" to me in Italian.

Steve always has a favorite building in each place he visits, and this was his favorite in Rome. The Pantheon.

Rightly so.

It's awesome.

Piazza Navona

Question: Which name do you associate with this fountain?
a) Cardinal Baggia
b) Gian Lorenzo Bernini
c) none of the above

If you answered:
a) you've obviously read Angels and Demons and associate this fountain with the drowning of Cardinal Baggia
b) you know your Bernini - congrats! He designed the fountain in the middle of the piazza.
c) no comment

Steve and Zach. Not sure who was more exhausted after the climb up the dome of St. Peter's. I'm guessing it was Steve. Zach is a pro at this stuff since he has the home-court advantage.

View of Rome from the top St. Peter's basillica.

St. Pete's

It rained one day while we were in Rome, but we still made the most of it. This is the day when I lost my wallet (frustration!). Luckily I got everything straightened out at an internet cafe and we went on our merry little way to the Vatican museums.

Amigas in the Vatican

One of the best parts of this last year has been sharing the art that I love with Steve. I've spent years learning about all kinds of art from different periods and now I get the chance to share it all with Steve. I have to be careful not to kill him with an overdose of art, but he makes me realize how much I love teaching people about art history.

The Laoco├Ân

Grand-daddy of Hellenistic sculpture

This was the first time that I've seen the Raphael rooms inside the Vatican. For some ridiculous reason I've always gone a different way to get to the Sistine Chapel. Not this time though. I finally managed to see School of Athens by Raphael.

High-Renaissance at its best

While we were staying at the Whitings place, they were staying at a friend's villa on the outskirts of Rome. They had us over for dinner one night and we feasted on salad, pesto, and the best lentil stew I've ever tasted. Delish.

We thought we had arrived in this picture, but we went down the wrong driveway. We had to backtrack after some Italian guy asked what we were doing at his residence. Ha! The villa we wanted was the same number, but it also had an "A" on the address.


It was a pretty stroll though.

Galleria Borghese
This is my absolute favorite place in Rome. I didn't care what else we did or did not do/see in Rome as long as we got to go to the Borghese Gallery. I love this place. Bernini's early sculptures are here and they are breathtaking. You can't take any photos inside, otherwise I'd have taken one zillion pictures of my favorite sculpture of all time, The Rape of Proserpina.

So you don't think I'm a crazy person, here are some pics from the internet to give you an idea of how amazing this sculpture is:

The sculpture is based on the story from Ovid's Metamorphoses and was commissioned by Cardinal Borghese in 1622.

Detail of the Rape of Proserpina

I saw this bike on our stroll through the Borghese Gardens and thought it looked cool.

Remember that post I put up a while back about my dissertation topic that included this sculpture (Ecstasy of St. Theresa by Bernini)? Well, I changed topics the day before flying to Utah and now I'm researching a tapestry. I promise it's cooler than it sounds. Anyway, this sculpture was part of the reason we came to Italy. I still wanted to see it even though I'm no longer using it for my dissertation. I made Steve jump in the picture to give you an idea of size/dimensions.

Catching a train back home to Trastevere.

The Lees, Steve and I stayed at a sweet apartment our last night in Rome since the Whitings were coming home from the Villa. This was the view out the bedroom window - hello, St. Peter's!


We went to church in Rome and even though I only understood part of what was being said, I thoroughly enjoyed hearing Ann sing Joseph Smith's First Prayer in Italian. Bellisima!

Next stop: FIRENZE

The beautiful Duomo in Florence

(Ask Steve to tell you about Brunelleschi's dome's a good story)

East doors of the Baptistry. Ghiberti won the competition to design the panels after beating out Brunelleschi, who became the mastermind of solving the problem of the unfinished dome on the cathedral.

Street art. Amazing. These chalk drawings line the streets of Florence and always attract a crowd.

Me and Ann on the Ponte Vecchio.

These guys kept us entertained as we waited to meet up with some of Ann's friends from school. At the first sign of the police they gather up their goods in a sheet and take off.

Piazza della Signoria
the original home of the David by Michelangelo

Dinner at a restaurant close to where Ann went to school for the Italian language program.

Artists at work

And next came: CINQUE TERRE

This is in Monterosso (city #5). Beautiful and vibrant colors on every street.

Vernazza (city #4) - I loved this city. I think Capri has been ousted as my favorite scenic spot in Italy. Vernazza takes the cake.

Waves crash all around you since you can walk right down to the shore from the city center (these are really small cities along the coastal cliffs between Genoa and Pisa).

You get from city to city by train or by hiking. We decided to walk from Corniglia (city #3) to Manarola (city #2) as the sun was setting.

Walking along the coast between cities.

This is what we saw as we came around the corner into Manarola. Stunning! I think this was Steve's favorite city of the five.

You are surrounded by the most picturesque sights no matter where you go. I highly recommend Cinque Terre to anyone venturing a trip to Italy.

Via dell'Amore (Lover's Lane) is the path between Riomaggiore (city #1) and Manarola. Another beautiful walk that only takes 20 minutes. The fence posts along the path are covered with locks that people lock and then toss the key into the sea.

The symbol/token found along the Via dell'Amore. All that stuff around us - locks.

We stayed in Riomaggiore and enjoyed wandering through the small town up in the hills as well as down around the coast.

Steve always wins the "Who do you know?" game. Wherever we go he always sees more people he knows than I do - even in Italy. How random is that? He ran into his friend, Michelle Reider and her husband, John. He spent time on a study exchange with students from Biola Unversity in California a few years ago, and we ran into them on the train platform as we were leaving Cinque Terre at La Spezia. Small world.

Final destination: PISA

Who knew that all the renovations the Italians have done would finally fix it (almost, anyway)?

Only kidding.

It still leans.

Especially with the help of millions of tourists each year that snap either this picture....

Or this one. Take your pick, they're both pretty popular in these parts.

After snapping a few pictures of the leaning tower we booked it back to the train station to make our connection to the airport so we could fly home to Scotland. What an amazing trip it was. It was great getting to spend time with dear friends in such an incredible place. Until next time...