So, Todd had to go to Orlando to run a conference for 9 days, and I thought I would tag along. Now that we know that Emily, Clark, and the girls won't be joining me, I am left to my own devices.
Orlando is a lot like Texas: it's flat, it's a little humid (but not very this time of year!), there are lots of pine trees, there are lots of nicely landscaped things, there are lakes with fountains, and bayous... only the bayous here probably have alligators.
Our hotel is nice, and the convention is happening right downstairs so Todd and I will be close. There is a pool downstairs and a workout room, and the parking garage is only a HALF MILE away. Seriously.
I have looked up some attractions (live mermaid show!)and I am trying to put together a few things to do while I am here (on the cheap). I might try to go to Disney World, we'll see (that's not cheap).
This is what I did today:
I forgot to bring a tank top with me, which was key to several outfits I was planning to wear, so I headed to the fancy-pants outlets down the road. (Here is my testimonial for GPS units. We brought ours with us and it is indispensable!) I only bought a tank top (and one cute green shirt... very Kelly Wearstler, so if you see me wearing it and I am standing next to Todd, don't ask me where I got it!).
Last night as we were driving to dinner we saw a huge complex called "Mary, Queen of the Universe." We had a wee chuckle. That's a big name. Since it was right next to the outlets I drove on over today to check it out.
It's a huge Catholic church. I was in time to catch Mass. It was very touching. They hold weekday mass in a small chapel and it was totally full with people kneeling in the doorways. Some of these people were obviously tourists, and I was struck by their faithfulness at attending mass on vacation.
There were people in the main chapel (there is a name for this area, but my art history is failing me because I am also watching Seinfeld right now); people were quietly praying there. I asked ahead of time if I could take photos, but it felt strange to take photos in a place where people were praying.
All along the walls there were beautiful stained glass windows and paintings. Here are a couple of my favorites:
Mary, who was described in the placard as the "new Eve." I'm not sure what that meant, doctrinally speaking, but the window shows paradise on the left and the fallen state on the right, and the Mary is really beautiful.
These windows were so beautiful, and what a perfect vehicle for telling stories (way to go medieval churches of Europe!). It made me wish, just a little, that our churches were a little more... decorative. But then we've got the temple, and the restored Gospel... OK. We win. But again, I was touched to be in this beautiful space. It is dedicated to God, and the people there were earnest seekers.
This was a cool alcove. It depicts Joseph listening to a young Jesus. I liked the look on Joseph's face. He's really listening. I also liked the little hatchet on the wall behind them. Joseph was obviously teaching Jesus, too, but something Jesus is saying took precedence.
The main chapel was huge and quiet.
The crucifix above the alter was interesting. The cross is implied. But with all respect, the sight of the crucified Savior is not inspiring for me. I much preferred the stained glass windows and the hope of the resurrection.
Outside on the doors were other scenes from the Bible. This is the one I liked best: it is of the prophet Jacob.
You can see angels ascending and descending the ladder as he dreams, his receiving the birthright from his father, Esau asking for porridge, and Jacob wresting with the angel. It's cool, huh!?
There was an outside chapel called "The Mother and Child Chapel". It was lovely. All around this alcove were the names of people and families who have donated to this complex. They were from all over! Imagine trying to do that on a temple! I'm kind of proud that our temples are anonymous, they belong to everyone who paid tithing.
I appreciate how Catholics revere motherhood.
Motherhood and families are sacred institutions. I can get behind that.
I LOVED the gift shop. It was like the BYU bookstore for Catholics. I wanted to buy LOTS of things. I might go back and get more Virgin of Guadeloupe stuff, I just got a magnetic bookmark. I love that image, it is so iconic... and rainbow-y! With stars and clouds and angels! Yay! I also like that she is the patron of lost souls and the unborn. I also want a little St. Martha, patron of cooks, statue for my kitchen. I think I could get into making shrines. In fact, I would have been a really good Catholic. I like all the prayers for specific things and all the saints over specific categories. I like categories. But I can understand the frustration of feeling like you are getting the run-around. I like being able to pray directly to my Father in Heaven, in the name of Jesus. Prayer! Done! How comforting!
Outside there were fountains and ponds with lily pads and beautiful blooming magnolia trees. I like the sturdiness of magnolias. Sturdy and delicate at the same time.
I really enjoyed Mary, Queen of the Universe. I will probably go back. If you have any requests for Catholic paraphernalia, please make your requests in the comments.
After church, I went to Costco: my other religion.
I worshiped at the big-box warehouse store for food I can eat while I'm here. I got bread, cheese, fruit, and candy to see me through the week so I don't have to eat out all the time. I have been to Costco in some pretty exotic places: Honolulu, Cancun, & Juneau to name a few. It's like a tradition now. A ritual: seek out the Costco and try to not buy onions or potstickers just because you know you are out of them at home.
Then it was pool time. I am not an advocate of "laying out" or "tanning" but I do like the look of my legs are greased up and tan-like. I'll take some (tasteful) photos tomorrow. Stay tuned... more Florida adventures to come.
P.S. There are two confirmed cases of swine flu in Florida. Neither were in Orlando county (is that a real place?... I just made that up. Neither county were where I am.). I am selfishly hoping that people don't go to Disney so much. There are at least two schools that have shut down in the country because students who had attended a band competition here fell ill (not with confirmed cases), but as Todd's co-worker pointed out: "Duh... wouldn't you fake sick with swine flu to get out of school, too?" Yeah... but just in case, wash your hands. Right now.