Monday, March 28, 2011

Grapefruit Fandango and Eden

I don't know why, but there is a social stigma associated with talking about babies once you get to be a certain age. When you're twelve and doodling in your diary, it's totally fine to imagine what your "grown-up" life, kids included, will entail. Even when you're first in college, talking about adult life and the plans you have, kids included, is totally normal conversation. Once you're actually an adult though and not married and not getting any closer to those babies you once talked about, the topic of children falls into that socially unacceptable category that you only broach with your closest friends. Of course, it's okay to talk about other people's plans. After all, they're married and in the position to actually have kids. But you, a single woman in her late twenties - well, that's kinda awkward.

Tonight though, social acceptance be damned, because I have been thinking about the name Eden for a little girl. There is not some profound connection I feel to the creation story or Adam and Eve that inspired the thought. I just have seen the name over the past year and have added it to the list. Yes, the list - the one that every girl has written down somewhere even if it is only in the recesses of her mind.

My list is in a notebook that Hillary gave to me on my twenty-second birthday. There are two lists under Hill's page title of "names i love" - one is the list I added to from twenty-two until about twenty-five. My second list was started only about a year ago, but the chances of naming a baby one of these names is much more likely. I don't know why I think that, but I guess I trust my older self more to pick a name I won't be tired of after a few months.

Naturally there are more names on my list than the number of children I want to have, but that's a whole other topic that I probably should save for a discussion with my future husband. Just hope he knows how much I like the number three.

Anyway - I do not know where that whole spiel came from. Maybe it's the nostalgia of making plans as I prepare to graduate or the perfectly intoxicating smell of Grapefruit Fandango permeating my room. I just can't help myself.

a few more notes

Still thinking about “Seven Pounds” – that movie really is powerful. Have you seen it? Seen it lately? I thought it was much better this time because I was not so shocked by the overall story....

Anyway – here’s a few more things that have been on my mind.

*I cannot help but love March Madness. I know the Cougars and the infamous Jimmer Fredette are out, but it’s still been a great tournament. My fingers are crossed for either Butler or UConn to win it all. *Lore Segal’s “Reverse Bug” – Such a hard short story to describe but it essential tries to answer the question, can we compare and quantify human pain? Ultimately, I think Segal shows that we cannot, and yet her attempt to have her characters deal with that question is humorous and sickeningly sad at the same time. Read it, listen to it on the New Yorker: Fiction podcast – doesn’t matter.

*I need to go to school more often. I love learning, but I don’t like wasting my time. Some of my classes have felt like a waste of my time. Funny thing is I’ll miss this whole experience, but right now I am so excited to be done with people telling me what to do.

*Have you ever considered why we stand the way we do on an elevator? Try facing the opposite direction from everyone else or even standing against a sidewall facing the sides of the other people. Always entertaining to try and break social norms.

*Mark Zuckerberg came to BYU and did a Q&A with Senator Hatch. So interesting that one man was able to change the way we interact with each other. I was impressed by how articulate he was and love that he came in a hoodie and jeans. Plus Ryan met me at the Marriott Center – still can’t believe how grown up he is. *I actually checked all the blogs on my blog list this past week. It has been forever. Glad so many good things are happening in your lives.

*Just over a week ago I was in Los Angeles for my last round of Clippers meetings. Those were great. Staying with Maria was, of course, the highlight. We even snuck in a day at Disneyland. It was the first time I had been to the Magic Kingdom with a friend since middle school. I really could get used to living down there. *Last but not least, Jewels is just days away from finishing her independent study classes which qualifies her for graduation with me in April. So happy for her and her imminent freedom. Happy Monday everyone!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Note to Self

Note to self: watching “Seven Pounds” before you try to go to bed is not a good idea. Great movie, but completely unsettling. Despite how disturbing it is, I do love how we see the character through Will Smith’s character’s eyes. Ezra, Emily….they’re completely relatable which makes the story all the more beautiful and all the more tragic. Note to self: reflecting on disturbing movies only makes falling asleep harder. And now since I can’t sleep, here are a few other things that have been ticking through my brain over the past couple weeks….

*The closely guarded secret formula of Coca-Cola has coriander (herb similar to parsley) and citrus flavors in it. Thank you “This American Life” podcast. You learn something new every day.

*The stories coming out of Japan just seem to get sadder. I stopped watching the news because I couldn’t take any more interviews with people whose whole families were missing. *A famous Chicago chef named Grant Achatz beat tongue cancer and recovered his sense of taste. He is considered one of the most creative and innovative chefs in the world. I hope to one day eat dinner at his restaurants – Alinea and Next. *I heard a “This American Life” segment about people who cry on airplanes. I thought it was just me. I cry on planes all the time. Sometimes the salty mess all over my face makes sense – it’s related to comings and goings, other times, I just start and cannot stop. Thank you again “This American Life” for putting another undefined part of my life into words. *I am an independent voter. This means I do not have set opinions on many political issues, so don’t be surprised next time you ask me a question if I present both sides of the issue and don’t actually answer your question. I don’t do it to be annoying. I just keep talking in hopes that I’ll stumble across a truth that makes sense to me.

*I took Mae to “Tangled” yesterday and then to the Disney store to buy the “Tangled” doll. It was, without a doubt, the highlight of my week. That adorable (and stubborn) two-year-old calls me “Jackin” and was more fun to watch than the movie. She clapped and cheered with all the lanterns were floating around Rider and Rapunzel. Too cute for words. (There were photo attempts of Mae with her little hand plunged into her little bag of popcorn or with the girl paid by the movie theater to be dressed up (long blond wig and all) to be Rapunzel, but Miss Mae would not have it. Maybe next time.)

And now it’s after two, and the sun will find me sooner than I want it to. Better try to sleep. Good night. Sleep tight.

Ps. I found the source of the mysterious ticking noise….

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

If I Stay

If I Stay (If I Stay, #1)If I Stay by Gayle Forman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There's that cliched concept of not being able to put a book down that people use all the time, but in reality, they put the book down at least for a few hours to sleep. I did not put this book down. I bought it at Barnes & Noble, came home, and started reading. I did not stop until I reached the finals words on the final page. Even then I was so enraptured, that despite it being the wee hours of the morning on a school night, I read the author interview and the "behind the music" sections.

This book is tragically beautiful. I cried all the way through it. Couldn't help myself. I'm behind on schoolwork, so I am resisting the urge to write an expanded review right now. However, if you haven't already, read this book. Just be warned, you'll laugh, you'll cry, and you'll fall in love with all the characters. There won't be much choice in the matter.

Happy reading.

ps. On an unrelated note, editing has not been my strong suit lately in my reviews. Someday soon, I'll finish grad school and regain my critical eye that notices blatantly misspelled words and missing punctuation. For now, don't judge me too much. I'll rejoin the grammatically correct world eventually.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace with MarriageCommitted: A Skeptic Makes Peace with Marriage by Elizabeth Gilbert
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Let's be honest - I think I bought this book because I was so in love with Javier Bardem's portrayal of Elizabeth Gilbert's now-husband in the movie "Eat Pray Love" - I can't think of another reason why because I struggled to get through the book, Eat Pray Love, for two years. That's saying something for a woman who burns through books she loves in two days.

Anyway - I don't know what to say about this book. I really liked some bits of it, and others I thought that Liz was taking some pretty serious liberties with not enough research to back her opinions. If you look at it as a novel-length editorial on marriage, then I think you might have a clearer expectation of what you're getting into.

So while I don't buy all that Liz did have to say about love, sex, and marriage, I did love reading about the women in her life and their experiences falling in love and falling out of it, making things work, and simply doing their best with what life has dealt them. Vague I know, but that's all I have to say about it for now.

Oh, and I still love Felipe. The end.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Sing You Home

Sing You HomeSing You Home by Jodi Picoult
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

When I first discovered Jodi Picoult a few years ago, I could not get enough of her and to this day, I still count "19 Minutes" and "My Sister's Keeper" as two of the most riveting books I have ever read. "Sing You Home" is written in classic Picoult style - the story is told from multiple perspectives, it's about a controversial topic that has been in recent headlines, it involves a court case, and of course, a quick twist at the end. Picoult's style is actually why I stopped reading Picoult books. I started anticipating her twist before she got there, and her desire to push the proverbial envelope got annoying.

I confess though I started to miss how engrossing her books can be. Plus I am a sucker for books written from multiple perspectives. So, when I saw that her new book had come out, and that it was about a music therapist and a school counselor, I decided to give it a go. I should have read the book review a bit more closely because I did not have a complete picture of Picoult's controversy flavor of the year.

"Sing You Home" is the story of a married couple whose marriage falls apart amidst multiple failed pregnancies and IVF treatments. Max finds solace from his broken marriage and his alcoholism in a fundamentalist Christian church. Zoe finds her solace in her work (again as a music therapist) and in a woman named Vanessa who is a counselor at a local high school. After Zoe and Vanessa cross state lines to get married, they decide to have a baby using frozen embryos from Zoe's previous fertility treatments. Of course, Zoe and Vanessa need Max's approval, and a lawsuit spearheaded by Max's church in Max's name ensues.

I am not in love with this book, though in true Picoult style, I could not put it down. After writing devastatingly beautiful passages about losing a baby and the changes that take place in both Max's and Zoe's life, I felt like Picoult rushed the last third of the book. She established new interests and plot elements without actually developing them, and suddenly, the story was simply over. The book gets three stars when it probably only deserves two and a half for the fact that I was so into the book that I finished it in a three days.

Long story short - if you're not a Picoult reader, don't start with this one. If you are a Picoult reader, just don't expect fireworks. This isn't her best though the topic is interesting and deserves our attention. Kudos to Picoult though for adding a musical component to this book by including a CD of original songs to accompany each chapter. Picoult wrote the lyrics and Ellen Wilbur wrote the music and sang the songs. It definitely added to the overall reading experience.

The Wednesday Wars

The Wednesday WarsThe Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been exceptionally tired, and so I have put off reviewing "The Wednesday Wars" though I could not stop talking about it while I was reading it and the days after I finished it. This book, despite its detailed depiction of rats running around in the classroom ceiling, was wonderful. I love that it took place in 1967-1968. I love the political and social references, and the wording used to characterize the main character Holling Hoodhood's (yes, Hoodhood really is his last name) teacher Mrs. Baker. I love the Shakespeare references and how well Schmidt captured the simple desires a seventh grader has for validation and acceptance.

This is simply a story of a seventh grader named Holling who doesn't quite fit in (in all honesty, what seventh grader ever feels like he/she fits in?) and his path to figuring out his worth over the course of a school year. Throw in Mickey Mantle, Vietnam, an unrelenting father, Catholics, Jews, and cream puffs, and you have "The Wednesday Wars."

I'm not sure a middle schooler (the intended audience) would love this book as much as adult, but I think they would enjoy it - perhaps for different reasons than an adult would. Teachers, especially, would enjoy this book - we can't help but love well-written characterizations of ourselves.

As for being a Newberry Honor Book, I am glad to report, that Schmidt's "Wednesday Wars" is very deserving. Happy reading!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Clippers, CAFR, or None of the Above

I should be working on Clippers projects or my CAFR project for accounting, but instead, I'm reading a friend's philosophical musings on Nietzsche, writing random emails, reading book reviews and NPR stories, and listening to perfectly brilliant nocturnes played by the unparalleled Janusz Olejniczak.

A few things that you should know while I'm in the middle of putting off my to do list:
*I keep thinking about a story I heard today on an old podcast of "This American Life" this morning about a blind man taking his baby girl Tess on a walk for the first time. Listening to it, I was reminded how much we take for granted and how often we don't stop to look at those around us. The podcast episode is called "Neighborhood Watch" if you want to check it out.

*Our March book for book club is Christopher McDougall's Born to Run. More information about the book can be found at
*My graduation announcements have arrived. I haven't let myself open the box yet because I know all will to do work will leave me once I see how tangibly close graduation really is. It may or may not be somewhere in the range of 44 days.

*My family came to visit - so much fun. That deserves more detail, but I'm sleep deprived, and brevity is the order of the day. Let's just say that having all five kids and my mamacita (my dad was stuck working 16 hour days courtesy of tax season) in town was a much needed break. And the senior ball dress Jenessa bought is amazing.

*I'm thinking about chopping my hair off again. I know, I know - I'm supposed to be growing it out, and I'm just barely able to put it in a ponytail (with eight bobby pins of course)...but short hair is so much more fun. (Random picture I know, but this is my hair from the back when it was the shortest - I, of course, am the one in the plaid.)

*Have you had edamame lately?! So good!! That and a cold caffeinated beverage are all I am craving right now.
Okay - that's it. I better get back to doing what I'm supposed to be doing or go to bed... Good night. Sleep tight. I fumigated the bedroom, so don't stress about bugs or monsters.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Second Letter for Justin

Dear Tania, Wally, & Chelsea-

Compiling the thoughts, prayers, and memories of people who knew Justin has been an awe-inspiring experience. Kids that wouldn’t turn half a page of writing in during my class wrote detailed narratives about how your son and brother has changed their lives. What I love most about what was written is how many people said Justin was their best friend. I think that’s the most incredible quality – to make people feel so important and so loved.

I have laughed and cried my way through these notes and letters. It’s impossible not to feel a sense of overwhelming gratitude for the chance to have known Justin. And while grief closely follows that sense of gratitude, the knowledge that death is not the end helps provide the hope that is so desperately needed at times like this. I know what is written on these pages cannot change anything, but I just wanted you to know once more how much Justin affected everyone who knew him. Everything good in Justin is a testament to his family. He would not have been the life force that he was without you.

After reading other memories of Justin, I have to add one of my own. It lasted only a moment. One day, in between classes, I heard “Hutch” ring out from the hallway. Knowing the voice instantly, I turned around from my desk to see Justin striding towards me. My sophomores, many of whom still hadn’t figured out how to be themselves, watched Justin’s every move. Justin wrapped me in a bear hug and simply said, “Love you Hutch,” turned around and walked out the door. It was chance interactions like that, plus the incredulous looks on the faces of thirty sophomores who couldn’t imagine hugging their teacher, which made being at San Ramon such an invaluable experience. I love Justin for so effortlessly making the lives of those around him better and for inspiring others to do the same.

As you mark what would have been his 20th birthday, know that you and your family are in the thoughts and prayers of many individuals. And if you listen closely, you’ll hear in the distance the sound of laughter as another classic Justin story is shared. There are so many great ones to choose from.

Happy reading!

With love,

[This is the letter I sent as my written contribution to the Justin project. Pictures of the project are included below. The letter isn't anything profound - just the simple thoughts of a girl who is trying like everyone else to figure out how to deal with the loss of such a great kid.]

Memory Box for Justin's Parents

I wrote a few weeks ago about a book of letters that I was making for Justin's parents of his friends' and teachers' memories and/or reflections about the wonder that was Justin De Young. A few of asked how it turned out and even more of you were great to listen as I tried to figure out to best present this collection of thoughts.

The project was a bit of an adventure as the majority of the people I was working with were teenagers whose concept of deadlines is a little hazy. That aside, it truly was a privilege to witness the outpouring of love and willingness to contribute that so many had. I couldn't find an acceptable binder/album/folder that felt right for the letters, and making a bound book was out of the question because the entries came in right up to the day that I mailed the project to Justin's parents. I decided on a box because I wasn't limited in the amount of letters I could include, and then the De Youngs could add things if they so desired.
The pictures I took of the box aren't great, but it shows how it turned out. The lid of the box is the one with the photo collage. The background behind the pictures are portions of people's letters.

The box was delivered to the De Youngs' on what would have been Justin's 20th birthday. So glad I was able to work on this box for them, and so glad that I was able to know such a great kid.

ps. Did you know Facebook will block you from sending messages if you send too many in a short period of time? I found that out while contacting kids and teachers about the project. I was blocked for three days because Facebook thought I was spamming people. I was less than thrilled at the time, but now I think it's kinda funny.