Thursday, July 22, 2010

Not Letting It Go

I have spent years of my life being accommodating. I have put other people's needs first, and unless it's life altering, I have let other people have their way and I try to live up to their expectations. In most situations, I actually prefer the outcome of letting other people win simply because it makes people happy, and rarely do I end up unhappy in the tradeoff. I have discovered though in recent months, that I am less willing to accommodate issues that affect me. Is this "growing up" or is it the people pleaser (most specifically parent pleaser) in me slipping away? I have no idea. I just know that I am feeling liberated by freeing myself from all these accommodations. I can still help other people and compromise and all that other lovely touchy-feely stuff - BUT I can also live my life the way that I want to. I love that.

Not sure if that makes any sense, so I'll explain it to you over cold lemonade or a long walk. We probably need to catch up anyway.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Taking Chance

My friend Natalie recommended the movie "Taking Chance" ages ago, and I finally watched it last night. It is an exceptionally powerful account of a man escorting a fallen Marine back to his family and final resting place. There is not a lot of action throughout the story, but the impact of brave soldiers is felt at every moment. I am grateful for the men and women who give their lives so that we can live in this great country. Chance Phillips was one of those men who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and because of his bravery, people's lives were saved and the world was made a better place. Watch the movie. It will change your life.

Friday, July 16, 2010


I have so many types of heroes. One group of people that are heroes of mine are those dedicated to the cause of Invisible Children and ending the nightmarish existence of child soldiers in central Africa.

Nate Henn was one of those people dedicated to the cause. He was a great guy who just wanted to make the world a better place. Nate died in the terrorist attack that occurred in Uganda during one of the final matches of the World Cup. What I love about Nate and the peoeple around him is the renewed resolve in the face of tragedy. We can make the world better. We just need to take the time to do it.

*For more information on Invisible Children, visit

Monday, July 12, 2010

Toddling Goddess

Mae makes every day better. If you have a minute, check out a couple of the latest videos posted by Jewels while the Munsons are living it up in Kansas. Someday, Mae will resent me for this, but an aunt has to do what an aunt has to do. Happy viewing! ps. Notice in these videos that Mae talks to herself, reads, and has traces of OCD. Too much relation to the J-cubed team?!?!

Saturday Snapshot

I know my blog has been completely bereft of real life stories. Those of you who are not readers are painfully bored by my posts. To make up for it, here is a snapshot of what my life is like on weekends in Los Angeles….
On Saturday morning, I worked. Sounds like a sad way to kick off the weekend, but it’s the only Saturday I’ve had to work, and it was to help with the Clippers’ Spirit auditions. This means 170 girls and women (I need both since the age range spanned from freshly graduated teenagers to women in their early 30s) auditioning for a coveted dance team spot. I have never seen anything like the auditions in person – 170 dancers learning a routine in less than 20 minutes and then performing for ten judges. The cuts, the skimpy outfits, the incredible athleticism, the unreal flexibility, and the thrill of being in the same room as a quality DJ for the time in ages made for a great morning.

After I left there, Maria and I were off to go walk Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Notice that I did not say, shop Rodeo Drive. We did walk in and out of a few stores, but when the shoes do not have prices attached and the tag on a bracelet is 2.3 million dollars (no joke) there isn’t much chance of purchasing anything. From Rodeo, we drove up to the Los Feliz area to visit the Griffith Observatory (featured in “Alias” and “Transformers”). I confess that I fell asleep during the planetarium show, but the view of the whole city was breathtaking even in the smoggy haze. Even more beautiful was Griffith Park, which surrounds the Observatory.
My day could have ended with those three outings, but that was just the daytime. Saturday night consisted of Maria, Jake, Josh, and I venturing to Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yes, a real cemetery with the most dramatic looking headstones I have ever seen) to watch an outdoor screening of “Arsenic and Old Lace.” A bit surreal and a bit creepy to watch a black and white movie that included an actor who was actually buried in that cemetery. Overall though, it was one of the coolest things I have done this summer.

There you have it, a day in the weekend life of my LA summer. It definitely is one continual adventure, and I am thoroughly enjoying every minute of it! Happy Summer!!

The Double Bind

The Double BindThe Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The first time I read “The Great Gatsby” I got lost in the prolific verbiage and in the tragedy of Gatsby’s failed dream. Fitzgerald showed the price we pay for dreaming and the seeming impossibility of letting go of dreams even when we know they cannot be reached. I have read “The Great Gatsby” at least a dozen times since my first, and each time, the price of dreaming seems even greater. The characters’ broken lives that once seemed far removed are much more reminiscent of reality, and each time I understand a bit more why Gatsby refuses to let his dream die.
Chris Bohjalian’s “The Double Bind” is also a story about dreaming though the dreaming is less entrenched in reaching for the unreachable and more focused on the dreaming that is associated with mental illness. The story revolves around Laurel Estabrook, a beautiful woman in her 20s whose life has not been the same since being brutally attacked while riding her bike in Vermont. Laurel retreats into her love of photography and her work at a homeless shelter as a way to hide from further loss and disappointment. Through Laurel’s interest in one of the men staying at the shelter, the reader is able to travel between Fitzgerald’s Roaring Twenties and modern day New England. Bohjalian’s seamless writing guides the reader through a world where Daisy’s crime really happened, where Gatsby really did die for love, and Pammy grew up trying to make sense of it all.

I love “The Double Bind” because I love “The Great Gatsby.” You cannot read and fully appreciate “The Double Bind” without at least a cursory knowledge of Fitzgerald’s most famous work. Truth be told, “The Double Bind” drags a bit in the middle, but the twist at the end somehow makes up for it. Gatsby was a man so ensconced in his dream that he failed to see that the person he had dreamed about no longer existed. Laurel’s own obsessions, which stem from nightmarish reality rather than beautiful dreams, are equally haunting and remarkable to follow. The discussion of mental illness is entwined with Bohjalian’s characteristic attention to detail. The intricacies of which fed my personal interest of ascertaining what mental stability and individual perception have to do with reliable story telling, both in fictional stories and real life (the lines of which often feel blurred).

If Goodreads allowed half stars, “The Double Bind” would be a 4.5. This is a must-read for Gatsby lovers. If you haven’t ever read Gatsby, forget “The Double Bind” and go get “The Great Gatsby.” It has the potential to alter forever your views of American literature and more significantly, American dreaming.

True Colors

True ColorsTrue Colors by Kristin Hannah
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Usually, I am not a book snob. I often like “Top 40 fiction” as much, if not more, as I like delving into the classics. Every so often though a book comes along that is just bad. Kristin Hannah’s “True Colors” is one of those books. Her characters are cliché and their emotions contrived. The plot lines are predictable to the point that I almost stopped reading the book entirely. The only redeeming quality in this book were the journal entries of a distraught teenager – while also predictable, the journal entries at least provided a distinctive voice.

If you bought this book already, return it. There are too many good books in the world to waste your time. Harsh review, I know, but it just was not the book for me…or you for that matter.

NieNie & Sundance

Stephanie Nielson went to Sundance. Why tell you this? Because it makes me happy when anyone mentions going to Sundance. If you have never been, let me know when you're going to be in Utah, and I will take you there myself. If you haven't been in a while, that makes two of us. Sundance will definitely be one of my first stops once I'm back in town.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Road Trip Essentials

I was talking to my friend Megan last night about long car drives. Anyone who knows me well knows that I am in my car all the time. I always figure that if I can get there within a day, I might as well go. To pass the time, I am an audio book and podcast listener. Since you already read enough about my book tastes, I’m only going to give podcast recommendations to all of you who have long drives, long bike rides, or long runs ahead of you….
** Book Review - The host, Sam Tanenhaus, is a bit much, but if the books being discussed or the author being interviewed are interesting, it’s totally worth it. I’ve gotten some great reading ideas from this podcast.

Classic Speeches from BYU - I can’t say that I am totally sold on this podcast yet only because I prefer the speaking style of more recent orators. That said, it is pretty amazing to listen to a talk by President Hinckley from the 60s.

ESPN Baseball Today - I realize most people are just going to skip right past this as a possibility, but if you love baseball, then this is a fun way to catch up on what’s happening in the league. Eric Karabell does a good job moderating. I am not a huge fan of his new co-host, but the power rankings that they do on Mondays are why I listen. I love hearing who their top ten and bottom five are. To be honest, I only listen to the Monday editions of this podcast unless something major happens. Give it a try. You’ll like it more than you think.

Freakonomics Radio - This one is actually an anti-recommendation. I love the Freakonomics books and random articles. In audio form, I think the authors sounds ridiculous and too into their own brilliance. Borderline tragic – read their blog instead.
**The Moth - The stories on “The Moth” are told live, without notes during shows that are recorded primarily in New York. They are raw, hilarious, evocative, and about a dozen other adjectives. This podcast is not for everyone because the content varies wildly and can sometimes be inappropriate. Whenever I listen to a particularly good one of these, I find myself thinking back to it all day.

**New BYU Speeches - I am not a diligent devotional attendee. This is my way of making up for it and for getting that taste of BYU while I’m away. I love these. Recently, my favorite MPA professor, Jeff Thompson, spoke on finding your calling in life. Even if your life seems like it’s on the right track, I still would recommend listening to it. Dr. Thompson offered some very salient points on fulfillment and our purpose here on earth. Barbara Heise gave another great talk from March 2 of this year on growing towards Christ. It was honest and completely inspiring. Listen to it while you get ready, while you drive the kids to soccer, or while you cook dinner – you’ll feel better about the world when you finish.

**New Yorker: Fiction – This podcast is an author reading and discussing another author’s short story that was published previously in the magazine with the fiction editor. Sometimes the stories aren’t great, but usually the stories and their authors are lesser known, so it’s almost like a treasure hunt for someone you didn’t know you had lost (in the reading world – nerd alert, I know).

New Yorker: Out Loud - In an attempt to be more cultured, I took the “New Yorker” magazine for a year and found that I could not get through its dense pages. I moved on to a couple “New Yorker” podcasts until I find a few extra hours that I’m willing to spend on this insightful magazine. This podcast focuses in one story from the current issue of the magazine – Roger Federer, depression, fall musicals, adults as portrayed in children’s literature, Gen. Petraeus**(SP???****, you name it – they discuss it. This is another podcast that I selectively listen to only as the topics seem interesting or informative.

**NPR: Books – I can’t help it. I love hearing anything and everything about what’s happening on the literary scene. Same as with the NYTimes Book Review – I get great ideas here, but I skip the books and authors who I know I won’t want to read.

NPR: Fresh Air – This a special topics podcast that covers current affairs, politics, art, etc. in depth with host Terry Gross (unfortunate name) doing the moderating. Since it is NPR, my more conservative friends may not like the spin on some interviews, but overall, it’s very interesting.

NPR: Pop Culture – This is like less salacious “Entertainment Tonight” – guilty pleasure listen.

NPR: Story of the Day – Do you remember “fishing” at school carnivals? You never know what five to ten minute story will be chosen. I like this for the variety of topics that I get exposed to.

**Stuff You Should Know – My MPA teammate Nicole recommended this podcast to me back in the fall, and I can’t remember life without Chuck and Josh telling me random facts. From them I’ve learned about some many things including the origins of Santa Clause, human spontaneous combustion, McDonald’s, and Mesopotamia.

**This American Life – Host Ira Glass’ voice will be emblazoned in your ears forever once you start listening to this podcast. The approach to a seemingly simple topic is often unorthodox, but the glimpses into people’s lives and psyches are fascinating. Again, there is a more liberal slant, but c’est le vie. I love this style of journalism.
There you have it – more information than you ever wanted about what I’m listening to in my car and while I get ready in the morning. Try one of them out though – they’re free on iTunes along with hundreds of other possibilities. Give that Top 40 station and rest, and you’ll be surprised how much you can learn.

Ps. Meg – since this one was for you and Justin, the podcasts I would recommend checking out are the starred ones. Call with any questions. Good luck on your trek to Texas! I miss you already.

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane

The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I picked up “The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” because of its cover. I bought it because of its author biography:
“Katherine Howe is completing a PhD in American and New England Studies and is a descendant of Elizabeth Proctor, who survived the Salem witch trials, and Elizabeth Howe, who did not. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband.”
They had me at Elizabeth Proctor. Perhaps it would be prudent to mention that Elizabeth Proctor as portrayed in Arthur Miller’s historical play “The Crucible” is one of my fictional heroes. Every time I read that play, I am gasp as she lies for the first time in her life to save her husband, and he wanting to be a better man, has told the damning truth. Thus a book that dabbles in the Salem Witch trials and written by someone related to the Proctors was a must read.

“The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane” jumps between the story of Connie Goodwin, a PhD student at Harvard, on summer break in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1991 and the family of Deliverance Dane in the late 17th and early 18th century. In the respective stories, there are elements of magic, morality, and mystery interwoven with hatred, longing, and general misgivings of the unknown. Thrown in a delectable steeple painter with a gorgeous smile (he’s in the 1991 story so no assumptions apply in this book) and a few herbs and you have Howe’s brilliant first novel.

This is a story for “Crucible” lovers and newcomers to Salem. “Crucible” lovers will be searching for details that tie into the beloved and haunting play. Newcomers will just be along for the ride, perhaps better able to get lost in the story as they have fewer expectations of where the story will go. Either way, I think you should read it – possibly as an October book club choice. It would be perfectly suited to that more bewitching time of year.

Happy reading!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Forgetful but Blissful Summer

I wrote a couple posts. I set out my computer bag with my work things in it so that I would be able to carry my computer to work (where the evasive internet is!). I carried that computer bag into work (you see where this is going, don’t you?), and when I opened it – no computer. So no posts, no real updates.
The short version is that I am loving playing tourist in L.A. I love having endless hours to read, walk on the beach, and reconnect with the parts of myself that get lost when life is so crazy. Yes, it’s true that I saw the Eclipse red carpet on premiere night, the Laker parade, and the NHL draft in the same week. I love the summer even with all the forgetfulness that a relaxed state of mind brings….