Friday, December 24, 2010

words from the eve

I do not feel guilty for writing this post given that I am not wasting quality Christmas Eve family time to write this (everyone is asleep). Though, I must admit that halfway through the festivities today (which included, in the first half: brunch, doing ballet formations with little Maddie, big people conversation, and watching Disney movies) I gave up on sociability (which is not always my strong point)and found calm in the form of my bed and a good read (Villette, by Bronte). After this rejuvenation, it was back to more Cummins family festivities! We played our own tried-and-true, concocted version of Dictionary Dabble which we simply call "dictionary." Basically it is a game, beloved most by my logophile mother, where one person looks up a word in the dictionary that no one in the company claims to knows. Everyone then creates their own definition of the chosen word, and these definitions are all passed in to the word-finder who reads all them aloud along with the real definition mixed in. Each person then chooses which definition they believe to be the correct one. I am usuallly surprised at the level of intelligent, dictionary-worthy definitions invented, but you know everyone is getting tired of the game (as was the case after 2 hours of it tonight) when no more thought goes into the made-up definitions (like, "an African cookie," "a mythlogical animal," "a potato dish eaten in bowls" or Dad's defintion of the word "collop": "in Danish, the sound that horses hooves make when they run."). Words choosen in tonight's "dictionary" vocabulary-building fun: Mashhad, oribi, nutation, saltation, collop, and soca.

Merry Christmas from the nerds of the Cummins household.

Oh, and a big Merry Christmas to the kiddies across the street who decided to take it into their own hands and decorate our yard's trees last night with Charmin ultra soft.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

stories from shoah

read the post below.
there are more of these videos.
and, reasons that Elie Weisel wrote his story, Night (link is in French).

Friday, December 17, 2010

the worth of a soul

I read "Night," by Elie Weisel, last night. I've read it before. It is one of the most moving, painful 109 pages of autobiographical text in its stark depiction of the horrifying atrocities that the Holocaust (or, in Hebrew, Shoah) heaped upon the European Jewish population. "Night" is Elie's own story and experience as one who suffered in the Nazi death camps. It is a surviving voice for the 6 million Jews who were silenced.
In respect to the incomprehensible suffering that "Night" details, it seems almost impertinent to state that I liked this narrative. Instead, perhaps it is better to say that I learned from this story and that this lecture heightened my sympathies for and awareness of the human cause. I don't believe I understood the profundity of this narrative the first time I read its pages, and I recoginize my continuing incapacity to grasp, this even the second time around, the extent of the inconceivable suffering and barbarity that was waged against the Jews. But, I do comprehend what I felt as I read, and what I felt was helplessness - as though I was witnessing something that I could not end and that I could do nothing but observe . And, anguishing as this may prove to the reader (as it was to me), perhaps that is the point. Perhaps we are only to observe, sympathize and learn.

A few years ago my dad, then the principal of a secondary school, had the opportunity bring a Holocaust survivor to his school to address the student body. My dad brought me along so I could listen and learn from the experiences of this man. I do not remember his name, but I remember his story. I remember the abiding sorrow that veiled his eyes, even some 50 years later. I was only 11, yet I will never forget what strange and foreign torment afflicted my soul as he told of his terrible experiences in Auschwitz, as he bore his forearm tattooed forearm, a black number forever there engraved. Similarily, in reading "Night" I confronted the same sentiments that I did as my eleven year old self. I don't think one, whether old or young, can fully understand what happened to those who were brutalized by the Holocaust. However, I do not think this to be the reason that those who survive continue to share their story. Really the purpose is to know that it did occur and to let that knowledge perpetuate a constant remembrance so that we may remember what the bitter fruits of unadulterated hatred are and resist them.

I am glad to be reminded, once again, of the unbounded worth of every one of God's children and our calling, as His children, to develop love one for another and fight that which opposes humanity.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

all I want

Driving home the other night I came across a confused man and his wife sitting in their car at the gate entrance that accesses our little neighborhood. The man, driving a nice model sedan, rolled down his window and looked at me with a confused expression that spoke louder than if he had waved me down with jumbo glow sticks. I rolled down my window and inquired if he needed help. He asked if I knew how to get to a certain road in the neighborhood. At that demand, I fumbled about in my brain trying to find out where I had compartmentalized "Grouse Ln." But, I had been taken off guard and thus my efforts were futile. Of course I did not offer him the dainty little fact that I've lived here for 12 years and that I really should know where this street named after a ground dwelling fowl was. Instead, I simply said, "Well, I'm not sure right now. It's as if you're asking me what I want for Christmas, and no one ever seems to know what they want on the spot." He understood and probably continued configuring his GPS. One minute later, pulling into our driveway, I remember where that old Grouse was located- just two roads down from ours.

This all goes to saying that it's Christmastime again (though, it never quite feels like it until the day after), and I am undergoing the annual barrage of "Ah, dearest sister/daughter/friend, what do you want for Christmas?" Just like the Grouse Ln. question, this one is asked in on-the-spot futility. It is as though that question is a magical curse shot from the wand of Hermione; once uttered it wipes the mind of the responder and stymies any other useful response but that of "I don't need anything" or the classic "I'll think about it" (which one never does). Then, on December 26th the spell breaks and the flood of all things your heart truly aspired to unwrapping Christmas morning breaks forth. You then, in the days after, end up abusing your already waning wallet (because now you realize that you actually did need something) while returning those gifts that people bought while you were not "thinking about it."

Though, in all reality, I really do not need anything this Christmas I am still completing the inventory of my assets as to locate any possible vacancies that need to be filled (translation: I am thinking about it). Here are a few things that you might consider getting me for Christmas. By the way, world peace comes with free wrapping.

monthly, scheduled visits from General Authorities
or a 2011 subscription to the Liahona in French

a gold plated, diamond-encrusted macbookor, a couple of my favorite pens: Pilot V7 in black
a roundtrip flight to New Caledonia
or, international postage stamps so at least my letters can take a vacation to New Caledonia

you choose.
oh, and I could use a new journal.
that's all.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


You know what revelation has trickled its way to me ever since my return to the blogging world (and to my unabashed, compulsive reading of blogs by people I've never even met)?

Blogging is great.

Okay, that's a banal epiphany, right? But, really, blogging is great. For one, it empowers a written release for one who has much to say and nobody to tell it to. That sounds commiserable (and all too familiar), so here's a better reason: Blogging is great because it is a medium with abiding availability (to those with the prerequisite modem and connection) for those moments of especial inspiration. Admittedly, I use the word "inspiration" loosely here for it is dependant on what the author considers to be "inspiration" - a bean and cheese burrito, for example, may be, to someone somewhere, inspiring. And, sometimes it feels more satisfying to write in a blog (or to it?) then in a journal. Nevertheless, journaling is a sound, respectable habit (and, personally, necessary) unless you choose to kill two birds with one stone and bare all on your blog, unleashing all your white-hot wisps of thought and feeling beyond your sphere of control. But that just rings foolish to me.

Thirdly (or whichever numbered affirmation I am at), blogging is great because you can hone and display your writing skills in the process of creating posts. Yes, this is more of a personal reason given that I need all the help and practice I can get. Or, perhaps blogging is great because you can conceptually mold, create and propagate your own perception of who you are, such as the idea that you are a great savant or an ingenious cook. And, perhaps that's motivational to the writer; pressure to now conform to that elite status written in online stone, or maybe it's just a way to egg on one's ego. Indeed, otherwise you may just be providing humor for the grammarist in flaunting your flagrant lack of style (unawares, of course; I doubt one would enter the blogosphere with such an aspiration). The latter (humorous lack of style, that is) refers to me and mine, of course (yes, Lynn Truss, laugh on) and not you, unless you find that the shoe fits. Additionally, I fall even further into a special why-one-blogs category because blogging is great for one (uh hum) who is habitually home all day with expendable time outnumbering the decimals in π and nothing to do with said time but prepare a Young Women's lesson for Sunday (chp. 47 on "Environments"), study the informational art in the Old Testament student manual (did you know that month 9 in the circular Jewish calendar, or our December, is called Kislev?), watch complete BBC films on YouTube, organize the attic, eat salsa, etc. In a bizarre way, it helps me superficially mediate the gap between the chasm of idleness and productive satisfaction by granting me a feeling of value by writing nothing of value. Does that make sense? Me neither. But, I still feel a sense of blogger value having now filled this negative space and, donc, I shall continue on. Just not today; this is December 14th's second blogging attack.

Wow, all of a sudden the use of this medium sounds completely motivated by personal gratification; it's all about me, me and me! I suppose blogging should be (and is, generally) great for more altruistic reasons such as its potential (and thus the writer's responsibility) to better and inspire the readership. Or, at least, to make them laugh.

I have failed in all noted areas of benevolent blogging today. I'll try again soon.

By the way, I feel like I just wrote a "pro-blog" argument paper, though not grammatically conventional; I apologize to have scandalized the use of adverbs and parentheses in this one fatal blogging blow; adverbs alike now cry, "It was a run-by blogging!"

the excitement builds

Voilà, a survey of the literature to be exposed and absorbed by my francophonic heart in French 340. It's bound to be a thrilling semester full of petticoated women and masked, snide addresses to "le Roi" himself. From La Fontaine's succient fables critising underlining moral issues in 17th century France to the scandalous farces of dramatist Molière, I do have high hopes for this course.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

bras and brazos

Who would have guessed that days after you went ice skating the place in your body that ached the most would be your arms. I suppose I did wish to emulate the "port de bras" expressiveness of the 6 - 15 year old prodigies whizzing by me in their hot pink sequined skirts and black Lycra tights, completing triple luxury axles and double-dutch toe touches, but that clearly was presumptuous of me. And, great aplomb is bound to come to those who pay a private coach more than an average college tuition and not to the girl who remembers one or twice a year that ice skating exists and glides around in circles waving her arms like a traffic control officer, wearing denim and $2 rental skates.

I have to admit, every time I see one of those little girls with the pristine white skates and wet noodle flexibilty spinning along in the corner with a look of determination and self-confidence I wonder what in tarnation I was doing at 6. One thing is sure: I wasn't planning right and there was too much Nickelodeon involved; I should have boarded that figure ice skater train a long time ago.

And, speaking of skills that I don't have, let's not even begin with the lack of performance in the skills I might possibly claim. A reality check marked the box "Laurel Cummins" at church, of all places, today. Douglas, newly arrived immigrant from Honduras, graced the congregation so I approached and said hello. I soon found out that English was not his strong suit nor any suit, for that matter, found in the closet of his mind, so I attempted to put on my Spanish cap. That cap is actually a sneaky French beret; at every affirmation I said "oui" and at every positive fact I exclaimed, "c'est bien!" In fact, I didn't even know how to ask him what the names of his two sons were. I kept wanting to say, "Comment s'appellent-ils?" Instead, generously understanding the context, he fed me,

"Sus nombres?" - "Their names?"

"Oui! I mean, si!"

5 minutes later in the car the flood gates opened and "como se llaman?" rushed to me (all too late of course thanks to Murphy and his despicable laws). And, really, did I confuse "to be" verbs and question, "Tu esposa es aqui" instead of, "Tu esposa ésta aqui?" My dad said that he even remembered that from his days back in high school Spanish. And that, mis amigos, was 40 years ago.

Monday, November 29, 2010

au lit

I never get sick. Perhaps it isn't wise for me to begin a post using absolutes; I just want to emphasize the idea that I very rarely find myself in a state of illness. I mean, the last time I became stay-in-bed sick was over a year ago and the overtake of my immune system was a tyrantly greasy meal of roasted deer, cream and cheese gratin, and one too many forced servings of ice cream topped with canned fruit - I would not recommend eating that combination in one seating, by the way. But even that lasted only one painful day. Otherwise, I am as healthy as a horse (although I am not educated on the hardy immune systems of horses I would believe that we have that trite saying for a logical reason).

Until today. I have a nasty, nasty cold which has climaxed over these past few days into today's convalescence (I am typing this from the depths of my bed). Also, my condition was complicated after I decided to tackle my father and mother in their bed after family prayer and ended up twisting a "something" (notice my impressive medical terminology here) in my lower back. I suppose that's what I get for such irreverent behavior on the Sabbath. No big deal though. I don't need to bend over, sit down or make any nonsensical body movement like that.

I was thrilled for today's prospect last night. I even made a list of "goals" to accomplish. But, here I am in bed feeling, as I look out into the dying autumn world outside my window, that the 29th day of November will come and go in no special fashion. Though, being confined to a vertical position with a weight of blankets allows certain pleasures. First, I don't have to get dressed for the day. Second, I get to catch up on reading "Walden" and laugh at the coincidence of Thoreau's writing and my current state snuggled within what he pens as a "shelter within a shelter" that has "robbed the nests and breasts of birds to prepare." It also allows pondering and nap-taking. I dreamt today that I was back in New Caledonia - my older sister was my mission companion and we were trying to find the Berlingo while escaping a crazy man who was hunting us down (for reasons now forgotten). We came across other missionaries in a cave and were about to find the silly French vehicule when...I woke up, and I couldn't find my dream again when I tried to go back to sleep.

After reading this post you probably find yourself (as I do) more convinced of this apt musing of Thoreau's: "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation."

Quietly and desperately yours,

Friday, November 26, 2010


we watched the movie "The Young Victoria" tonight, and it struck my 1800's England heartstrings. yes: I enjoyed every moment.

fun fact: did you know that Queen Victoria herself proposed to Prince Albert? I supposed a queen would have to take it by the horns like that; she might behead an unsavory suitor who dared pose the question otherwise.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

watching K-Pax and typing away my thanks

this is my first post since my return from the other side of the world. needless to say, I am a little out of practice in this writing medium, but I am willing to make an effort if you are willing to excuse my rusty composing skills.

today it is not only a day of giving thanks, but it happens to also be my birthday - the 23rd annual celebration of my arrival on earth. My brother reminded me that my birthday and Thanksgiving land on the same day only once every 7 years. It's something like that (minus the calculation of leap years), I suppose. All I know is that the most I could ask for on such a rarely occuring day is the possibility of consuming lemon meringue pie and sucrose-impregnated yams. Done and done.

my birthday last year was spent unassumingly and without expectations - well, only that of continuing to work hard. I remember waking up early, cleaning the apartment and making a giant omelette for my missionary companion and I. We worked all day, teaching and talking with people about the Gospel. We didn't even eat lunch. It was the best birthday. It wasn't about me. It wasn't about my wishes or my pies-in-the-sky. It was about others. If I am thankful for anything this year, I am thankful for what this past year has been and done for me. I am thankful for what I have been able to provide for the world (namely, those in New Caledonia) through my service rendered in a small, simple way aided along by Heavenly Father.

I give thanks today for those who are around me - for those whom I can serve and help. And, since I cannot completely deny the perks of American birthday tradition, I give thanks for that beautiful present from mes parents: a new, large set of scriptures in English. Yes, malheureusement, I will have to read them in English at one point.

hoping that yours is a happy day of thanksgiving.