Month: January 2012

Good Art/Bad Art

Psychologist Carl Jung once said about dreams”This whole creation is essentially subjective, and the dream is the theater where the dreamer is at once: scene, actor, prompter, stage manager, author, audience and critic”.

I think you could say the same thing about art (which is form of dreaming or at least can be)- its whole creation, existence, and relevance is subjective.  What I like in art may be totally different than what you like.  It probably is.

I am not the most artsy person in the world but I do enjoy a good museum.  I also have artwork all over my apartment including framed Van Gogh posters, Minerva Teichert print, concert and movie posters and a print I bought in Florence when I was 17. This art inspires me and boosts my spirits when I look at it.

That said, not all artwork needs to be inspirational, or even optimistic in feel. I can find beauty in many different styles and approaches, but I prefer it to express some type of emotion.

My personal favorite is the impressionists but I am also willing to accept more challenging pieces. I even like modern art except for when it becomes lewd or mockish.

Just as I think Broadway sullied itself with the foul language and content of recent pieces I think art should be a bit above this tawdry fray.  I know others differ in this view but this is my blog and that’s my view.

I like pieces that you can look at again and again and see new things each time.  I hate ones that pound home a message or are visually assaulting.  I don’t like art that exists solely to be different or unique.  Usually that type of art is obnoxious, over-the-top and annoying.

Here’s an example of something I like and something I dislike.

Good Art: La Mariee by Marc Chagall.  It’s challenging without being stupid.

I’m not sure what the goat means or the flying fish but I still think it is beautiful.

Bad art- A sculpture by the artist Jeff Koons. Isn’t it funny to have  a baloon animal statue in Versailles? So clever…Stupid to me. Ridiculous.  Usually art like this statue  is trendy, and of the moment, and while perhaps moving at that time,  it fails to have the universality of masterworks.

What made me start thinking of this topic was actually two movies.  Recently I watched The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick and Film Socialisme by Jean-Luc Godard.   Both movies are very artistic but to me one works and the other is pretentiously awful.

The Tree of Life is ostensibly about a family in Texas in the 50’s but its actually Malick’s view of life, death, afterlife, history, creation, and more.  It tackles a lot for one movie, but if you go in with an open mind, I don’t see how you can not be moved?  It is not my religious views on these topics but that doesn’t really matter.  It is beautiful to me when I hear anyone express their faith, even if it is not my faith.  When someone shares their soul with you it is an honor.  That’s how I felt watching this movie.  It’s scope is magnificent going back to the creation of the world, through the dinosaurs , to a family coping with loss, to a reunification in the afterlife.  The movie has a sadder tone than I was expecting and left me feeling a bit morose but it was still beautiful.

I think what helped me enjoy the movie is I was totally prepared for it.  I had no illusions that it was going to be a typical movie.  It always helps when going into a new experience to know  you are doing just that.

The acting is superb, with my favorite being Jessica Chastain as the free spirited mother of the family (you couldn’t have a more different performance from her in this than the character she plays in The Help.  She’s great in both).

Pitt plays the strict father but it is not a cliched performance.  There are moments of deep sadness in his face, especially when he fails to make it as an inventor.  The kids are also very good.

In contrast, Jean-Luc Godard’s Film Socialisme is almost unwatchable. It is the worst kind of art.  Pretentious, condescending, undecipherable, confusing and stupid.  It is a series of images tied together with NO coherent plot or message.

Even the worst propaganda is better than this because at least it isn’t trying to be something grand.  Even the subtitles are intentionally ostracizing with single words summarizing paragraphs of dialogue.  Words like “watch”, “thoughts”, “you”, “dialectical thinking”, “British Armada…” .  Godard calls it his “Navaho English”.

There is no acting and we get bored out of our mind with scenes from a cruise ship, random images of Jesus,  battleships, screens with words like ‘Hell As’ followed by a scene from Spartacus. At first I felt stupid, like I wasn’t smart enough to get this movie, and then I just got mad.  I agree with Roger Ebert (a pretty smart guy!):

“This film is an affront. It is incoherent, maddening, deliberately opaque and heedless of the ways in which people watch movies. All of that is part of the Godardian method, I am aware, but I feel a bargain of some sort must be struck. We enter the cinema with open minds and goodwill, expecting Godard to engage us in at least a vaguely penetrable way. But in “Film Socialisme,” he expects us to do all the heavy lifting..”

I agree with Ebert.  It is an affront.  In my opinion, good art, should not leave all to the viewer.  The artist should contribute some degree of themselves and make that clear to the viewer.  They can then absorb the vision of the piece in whatever way they wish.  There is actually something remarkably lazy about Godard’s work.  If I was a filmmaker or artist I’d be insulted.  To think of all the work that goes into even the most average films and then compare it to this hack-job it blows me away.  And then he tries to defend it by saying it is ‘art’!

To make matters worse it isn’t even overtly political.  That would at least make a little more sense.  For example, what does a llama at a gas station (a repeated image in the film) have to do with socialism?  Questions like that are just annoying, not thought provoking

Ebert says:

“His Navajo speakers touch on socialism, gambling, nationalism, Hitler, Stalin, art, Islam, women, Jews, Hollywood, Palestine, war and other large topics. It all seems terrifically political, but there is nothing in the film to offend the most devout Tea Party communicant, and I can’t say what, if anything, the film has to say about socialism. Godard has sent my mind scurrying between ancient history and modern television, via Marxism and Nazism, to ponder — well, what?”

For nothing.  So that he and all the intellectuals who pretend to enjoy this drivel can feel superior.  Boo!

This very well may be the worst movie I have ever seen.   All the other bad movies at least make an attempt to make sense and not ostracize the viewer.  They at least want me to feel some emotion instead of just boredom, fatigue and disgust. Perhaps I could have tolerated it as a photography exhibit or a 20 minute short film but at 90 minutes I have never had a more unpleasant experience watching a movie.

Even this trailer is practically unwatchable.  Imagine 90 minutes!

So that’s my view on art.  I think it should say something and be at least mildly approachable.  It should have some heart or emotion to it.

Want to see what I am talking about- Film Socialisme is a stream on netflix- but you have been warned!

What is art to you?  Anyone else seen either of these films?  What do you think?

Interview Part 3

1. What would you do to solve world poverty?

I would do nothing to actually solve the problem because I don’t believe it is a solvable problem.  The only way a utopian society works is if all pride, greed, selfishness, guile are taken out of man.  Unfortunately these qualities exist; therefore a true utopian system with monetary equality will never happen. People from my own faith have tried to eliminate poverty and despite the best of intentions it did not work.

2. if you can’t completely change world poverty how can you make an impact?

The first thing I would address is what is actually a ‘right’ in our nation.  In the Bill of Rights the government ensures that citizens can behave in a certain way uninhibited by government.  For instance, freedom of speech is a right to say what you want.  The Bill of Rights does not guarantee any possessions or standard of living for citizens as a right.  However, far too often the word right is used to describe health care, housing, food, clothing.  These ‘rights’ are things people worked for and sacrificed for millennia and now they are looked at as an inherent right.  I do not agree.

That said- I do think that a democratic government has an obligation to help (not a right) provide sustenance and housing for those that are the most worse  off.   History has shown that democracy does not flourish when people are starving.  Pretty much every dictator has risen because of poverty and starvation.  They promise easy answers with soaring rhetoric that can make their pitch very tempting.

The economist Friedrich Hayek describes it well “A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers.”

He also said “Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom.”  The less we are dependent upon the government we are, the stronger our democracy remains.

Again,  I think we should do some minor assistance to help those that are the worse off. This helps prevents an over-reliance on the government, thwarts revolutionary sentiment, and encourages more people to try and move onward from this minimal help. The rest of the citizens should be allowed to experience the true ups and downs of the free market. I believe with Hayek that if we create a false low the high will not be as high; thereby, allowing less prospering in general.  In the end, everyone is better off with a free market.

3.  What do you think is the greatest national and international crisis of our time?

People like to throw around the crisis word quite liberally. I think our largest national crisis is our insurmountable debt, $15 trillion and growing.  I worry that people are unwilling to make the tough cuts to entitlements and other programs to fix the debt.  Eventually the US will be seen as a bad investment by other countries (already happening). We’ve already lost one of our credit ratings. We are closer to becoming the new Greece or Ireland than anyone wants to admit.

My personal belief is we should stop raising the debt ceiling and cut, cut, cut.  I think a balanced budget amendment is a great idea.  Then we need to prepare the citizens for sacrifice.  If we really decide to tackle this debt everyone will pay a price.  Its just a reality.  We have NO money!  I have not seen how stimulating the economy has done any good.  Its a nice idea in theory but not in practice.  All we have done is made the dollar weaker, borrowed more and uplifted a bunch of companies like Solyndra that the free market should have handled.

Once again I agree with Hayek “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge which in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”  The idea that we can sculpt a positive outcome and never face the pains of a negative downturn just doesn’t work.  It has harmed us immensely.

Another national crisis is manufacturing.  In WWII the US Govt was able to take a flourishing manufacturing sector and convert factories into military suppliers. We also produced our own steel, copper and other metals.   If a similar conflict happened now we do not have the infrastructure to prepare for a world war.  Assuming we could find factory space, we don’t have the skilled blue collar workforce like we did in the 40s.  Almost all of those jobs have gone to countries like China, Mexico and India.

Why have these companies left US manufacturing?  It is simple.  All of the regulations, labor disputes and taxes make it impossible to run a profit, or at least not be as profitable as nations without all of those barriers.  Companies are responsible to their shareholders for making money and if producing in China makes more profit they usually don’t care where it is made. People like to say they would spend more to shop American but it has not panned out in actual sales.  We have to find a way to be competitive.

Also, there are companies that have little choice but to go to China.  In the handwarmer business our competitors completely undercut our prices making the profit margins so low we had no choice but to have the warmers made in China over Japan.

To help solve this manufacturing crisis I would make it easier to start up a business, ease the tax load on the self-employed, have a bare minimum of practical regulations and provide incentives to keep companies here like low taxes and an occasional subsidy. Why do you think so many movies get made in Canada? Because they have subsidies and low regulations that make it attractive for Hollywood companies to make their movies there.  (If you look Toronto is the New York and LA in many a movie).  An investor in some movie doesn’t care about loyalty to America, they want to make money, and if filming in Toronto costs less they do it.  We have to make America as attractive for businesses as any other country.

As far as an international crisis, the crumbling of Europe greatly worries me.  If Italy, Greece, Germany, Ireland and Iceland were companies they would all be bankrupt.  They have received bailouts because they are governments but I don’t believe bailouts actually work.  I think they just extend the problems a little bit longer before the crisis hits.  Countries like Greece will never be able to pay back the debt they owe. In 2010 the Greek public debt was forecast  to hit 120% of GDP.  No company could get away with this kind of debt.  The Greek government even lied and falsified data to get accepted into the EU.  Makes Enron look honest.  I honestly don’ t know what to do about it but there has to be consequences.

I am also very concerned with Iran’s nuclear capability.  They hate Israel, have a brutal dictator at the helm, and are a sanctuary for Al Queda.  All very comforting information.  I worry that as we withdraw from Iraq, Iran will get stronger, spreading its influence amongst its friends.  This is not what the US wants.  I worry that with our rapid abandonment of Iraq another Khmer Rouge will happen. We need to be very careful.

To be honest I’m not sure what the solution is for Iran but sanctions aren’t working.

 4. What do you think is the problem with politics today?

The problem starts with the death of the melting pot.  America is no longer an amalgamation of differing ethnic groups and viewpoints.  It is a scattering with one group here, another over there, spotting the map.  What happens then is a representative is chosen from this cluster, sharing that cluster’s perspective.  If he wants to get reelected the politician knows he must keep the cluster happy; however, now he is in Washington and must interact with all these other clusters through their representatives.  This creates divisiveness and an unwillingness to compromise.  For instance, someone from Utah would never vote for a pro-choice bill..  It would be political suicide here.

This sorted environment creates more partisan representatives who are more extreme.  Some could argue the founders were a pretty partisan and extreme group,  and they would be right, but the spirit of compromise they brought with them tempered their extremism making popular policy a reality. They were even willing to put deeply held moral views on the table for discussion when that would never happen today.

There are things I agree with about the democratic party but the issues have become so polarizing that it feels like you give an inch they take a yard, making everyone more stubborn and uncompromising.

5. What is an issue you disagree with in the republican party?

Immigration.  I believe that it is too difficult to get citizenship or even a green card.   The amount of work takes years of paperwork by trained professionals, a basic implausibility for a hardworking migrant worker who wants citizenship.   My sister-in law got a greencard after she married my brother and the interviews and paperwork was astounding.

Immigrants have always proven the naysayers wrong and they have always benefited our country in the end.  Sometimes it takes a generation or two but they become productive, even exemplary citizens.   So, there you go.  I think we should make it easier to get a greencard and then citizenship.  This would solve many of the problems that go along with illegal immigration such as drug trafficking, sweat shop work, gangs and the sex trade.   We can do better for our immigrants.

6. What can we do to better educate our children?

Education starts at home.  Anything we can do to help a home be more stable for a child the more likely he or she will be able to learn.  For example, having more big brother big sister programs might help support parents as they raise their children.  I’d love to get involved but the closest chapter is in Salt Lake 30 minute drive.

This may be controversial but get the lemon teachers out!  They damage the progress of children instead of advancing it.  I don’t know what the best way is for finding out the lemons but everyone knows who they are.  At my high school there was a math teacher who was a notorious lemon.  He told us at the beginning of class that the only reason he taught was to coach.  Most of the time he’d put problems on the board and my fellow students would explain them.  This should not happen.  This person should certainly not get tenure for doing a lousy job.  There has to be a better way.

I find it insulting that the idiot math teacher I had will get the same tenure and benefits as my awesome history teacher who truly engaged every individual in learning.  Its wrong!  There has to be a way to differentiate the crap teachers from the awesome ones.   The problem is the teachers union doesn’t want you to touch tenures; thereby, limiting the potential bonuses that could be given good teachers, and vaulting up the lemon teachers to the same status as the good teachers.  If I was a good teacher I’d be ticked off to see lemons getting the same treatment as me.  It is disheartening and discourages quality education; thereby, creating more lemons.  How do you get motivated when you know the lemon will get every bit of benefits and pay as you?

There has to be a solution. Get the lemons out! A bad teacher can cause years, even decades of harm.  I had a lemon choir teacher in high school and didn’t believe I could sing until I took lessons again at 25.

I would also say that we need to get more field trips in the budget for schools.  I learned so much going to the museums in DC and trooping around the Chesapeake Bay.  I saw things that my parents never saw and museums I would never have been too with my family.   Surely there is something we can cut to make room for a few field trips or perhaps we could fund-raise?

The point is somewhat mute because I plan on homeschooling my children (if I ever have any) but I still would like to have as effective a public school system as possible.

7. Has the importance of education changed in the last few years?

Yes and No.  Education has become much easier over the last few years.  Not easier in sense of content (although that argument can be made- grade inflation is a serious problem) but in access and locations.  With the internet thousands graduate each year with credited bachelors and and higher level degrees (including myself, MBA 2008 UofPhx, flexnet program).  It is exciting to live in an era where education is so available.

With so many graduates; however, you have a problem of a Bachelor’s degree not having the power it once  had.  Bachelor’s degrees have become a dime a dozen, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t important.  Even a liberal arts degree, that may be seen as impractical, still adds great value to our society.  Any education makes people better, and better people have better kids, better kids make the future better.  Plus, educated people are more thoughtful voters which is what our democracy needs to remain strong.

8. What other issues are you solid on?

Pro Life- My personal beliefs is that it should almost never be done.  If the mother is really going to die I might consider it.  I have stronger feelings on this issue than my church’s official stance.  I believe it should almost never happen.  I believe life starts at conception  and that life is innocent and pure.   A baby at any phase has value,  has life.   I think it is also a mistake to assume that a poor woman should have abortions so she can provide for her already large family.  This is making a judgement about the value of this human being.  Poor people, facing dramatic odds, have made huge differences in our world.  Who are we to say that life is not valuable?  That is God’s decision. That’s my view.

Capital Punishment- Some people have committed such terrible crimes they should pay the ultimate price.  In fact, they are usually treated with much more grace than their victims ever were.  We should be stricter with parole and inmates serving their actual sentence.  I don’t view incarceration as a form of recovery. There are those that change their lives after jail but those are the exception to the rule.  I think non-violent offenders are more likely to rehabilitate.  I also don’t agree with the 3 strikes rule.  This has led to huge overcrowding in the California penal system.  Everyone should be judged by their action not by some set policy of 3 strikes.

Pro-Gun- I debated about this for a while but my gun friends have finally convinced me.  If someone wants to own a gun I think they should have the right to do so.  I don’t have any issue with waiting periods but guns must be locked in a safe at all times so nobody can accidentally get them. I would like to learn how to properly use a gun. Anyone want to take me shooting sometime and show me the ropes?  As a single woman I can’t deny that the thought of safety and protection hasn’t entered my mind.  They still kind of freak me out but I think that is because of my ignorance in using them.  If I became more informed that would remove some of the fear.

Health Care- Again, I think the free market is the best solution for health care.  The insurance system we have is not really free market because the consumer doesn’t feel the true cost of their care.   When I was uninsured I called to make sure I got the cheapest prescription, compared doctors rates and got the best deal.  Do I do that now that I’m insured? Sometimes but not on a standard basis.   If you look at procedures in the free market (not covered by insurance) such as lasik eye surgery they have gotten better and cheaper each year.  That’s what the free market does.

I don’t have a problem with free clinics for those badly off but nothing to the extent of the socialized medicine found in Europe and in Obamacare.  Such programs create more expenses, not less, leading to huge government spending, with the standard of care going down.  Why do you think most of the wealthy come to the US for surgery or treatment?  Its because we are the best.  We would be even better if there was a true free market instead of the insurance system we currently have.

Pro- Marriage- This isn’t  a shocker.  I support marriage between a man and a woman.  This is God’s system for His children.  That is what I believe.

So, those are some dicey issues.

I think that there is another underlying issue throughout the globe that will be felt in the next 30 years.  We have entire generations who stare into computers all day, everyday (including myself).  You almost have to plan ahead to do anything creative, enlightening, joyful.  I call this generation the Dilbert Generation, and I think it is going to have an impact on our happiness, families and society at large.  I’m not sure what the solution is but companies like Google are at least trying to bring a creative atmosphere into the workforce.  This should be encouraged.

9. Who are you voting for?

Well,  I liked Michelle Bachmann but she’s gone.  So I am voting for Romney.  I like his jobs plan.  Go to his website and read it.  Its good.  He knows how to lead and get things done. Let’s hope he gets the nomination!  I am also not ashamed to say that I do feel a connection to Romney because of our shared faith.  That’s not a reason to vote for him, but I am kind of rooting for him.  Is that so terrible to admit?

There is a wider range of political thought in the Mormon church than we are given credit for (both Romney and Harry Reid are members) and on either side of the spectrum we add a focus on family, a deeply seated patriotism, a belief in helping all who suffer, and a hard work ethic.  These are values I see in Mitt Romney, and I will be curious to see how he implements them as President.

My prediction is- Romney will be the nominee and will do quite well against Obama because so much of Romney’s ‘dirt’ has already been spit out.  Bain will be old news by the time they get to the general election.  Romney could fall apart but if he doesn’t I think a very strong race could be had between Romney and Obama.

Good luck Brother Romney!

Twin Cakes

As all my facebook friends know I’ve found a new obsession.  Twin Cakes raw gluten-free snack bites.  These delectable ‘cookies’ are low glycemic, low sugar, low carb and despite their small size they pack a ton of flavor.  I like them so much that I emailed the owner (one of the twins Lori) and she agreed to give me a bulk rate.  I now have 16 bags coming this week- that’s 160 balls in various flavors:

the brownie bites are very rich. Under 100 calories, 6 gr sugar, 9 carbs. For strong chocolate lovers only.
mint chocolate coconut bites
spiced hazelnut dough balls

And I ordered the Cinnamon Coconut bites which they do not have a photo for on their site.  I will sell bags to anyone who is interested at cost. This is really just a way for me to get healthy goodies at a discount.  I’m not making anything. Call me for the prices. They are between 8-10.

Spiced hazelnut dough ball –  4 bags for
Brownie bite – 4 bags
Cinnamon coconut bite – 4 bags
Mint Chip coconut bite –  4 bags

There are 10 bites/balls per bag.

If you are lucky enough to live near certain stores that carry their product I am very envious.  I can’t say how delicious I think they are.  I just love them so much!   If someone tried to tell me I couldn’t eat them I think the fangs would come out.

Ingredients for brownie bites (as an example) maple syrup, cocoa powder, coconut oil, coconut butter, coconut flour (all organic).

Ingredients for cinnamon coconut bites- coconut flakes, maple syrup, coconut oil, coconut butter, cinnamon (all organic).

Most ‘healthy sweets’ taste just awful which leaves me craving for the bad stuff.  These bites are full of flavor.  You really don’t need to eat more than one.  Plus they last forever.  If refrigerated could have them for many months. They are also vegan for anyone interested in that.

It actually means something to me to be able to eat something sweet and have it not ruin my diet.  Something sweet that actually tastes GOOD! It really does add to the quality of my life.  The first time I tried one I literally had a few tears. I had just finished the sugar fast and it was like yes! This I can live with.  This is delicious! This is the sweet life!

Now, you cant eat bags and bags.  They are still a sweet but they are all pretty strong.  The temptation to eat more than 1 is usually not there for me.

If you come by my place ask to try one.  I want to get as many of my friends hooked as I can so I can make more bulk orders, possibly lowering costs even more or convincing Whole Foods or someplace around here to stock them.  They make me very happy.

So, if you are interested in any of the above items at the above prices let me know.  Again, I’m not making anything on this.  In fact, I will absorb the minor shipping charge.  No pressure because any that aren’t sold will be saved for me to gladly eat but if you want let me know.

I applaud people like the twins at Twin Cakes and Elana Amsterdam at Elana’s Pantry because they make good tasting products/recipes despite their dietary restrictions.  They aren’t happy with a ‘kinda, sorta, tastes like the real thing’ treat.  No,  they wanted something genuinely delicious.

I admire that type of thinking.  Too often I feel discouraged because something has been removed from my diet.  I don’t think ‘how could I make it work and make it still taste delicious’.  People like this inspire me to do better and be more adventurous.

I’ve got sweets coming…Life is good! :).

Btw- anyone who comes new to book club will get to try them.  This should definitely entice you to come!  (It sure would entice me!)

Little Women

Little Women (Little Women, #1)Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just read it again for the first time in years for book club. It is honestly a difficult book for me to critique because I have such fondness for it from childhood. It is perhaps the hardest to be objective of things we love as children. Wouldn’t you agree? It was the first big book I remember reading, the first novel that I was proud of.  In my memory I was 9 and I ate up every page.

This is of course the story of the 4 March sisters in Civil War America. As we meet them, they are sad about a poor Christmas with a father far away. Over the course of what was actually 2 books they deal with the effects of war, illness, romance and poverty while being constantly guided by the perfect mother they call Marmee.

Little Women is completely sentimental but it works on several levels. First, as a transcendentalist Alcott creates an ideal family, ideal situation, ideal mother. Transcendentalists believed that the human mind could be perfected until the afterlife.  Ralph Waldo Emerson, a friend of Alcott, said ” Build, therefore, your own world. As fast as you conform your life to the pure idea in your mind, that will unfold its great proportions.”  Alcott presents a ‘pure idea’ and that has tremendous appeal and power.

Even the version of poverty is perfect- its a poverty that is chosen and moral, and the fear of abject desolation is never really felt by the women. It is also an ideal version of wealth with all of the main figures coming around to see the value of giving and helping the misfortunate.

Admitting the sentiment- why has the book remained so popular for over 150 years? I think it is because there is great comfort in an ideal. Its no wonder Alcott’s book was so popular immediately after the Civil War, a time where people could use a little idealism- to dream that everything could be good again.

I was also reading on the Kate Hepburn movie sleeve and it said “Released during the depths of the Depression. It buoyed American’s spirits. It still does”. Even in movie form there is something comforting and buoying about this story. People want to believe in such a world.

I also think this sense of comfort has allowed the story to transfer well across cultures and mediums with versions in opera, broadway, and even anime.

It may seem strange for a grown woman to have dolls but I cherish my Madame Alexander collection because I cherished it as a child. I will do an entire post on them sometime but 3 of my most treasured are my Little Women dolls- Beth, Jo (1984) and Jo Goes to New York.

Little Women is also written very well. Alcott clips things along at a fast enough pace that the sentiment is not distracting- especially true in part 1. I was amazed with how much happens in just the first few chapters.

She also creates 4 young women that almost any child can relate to, especially Jo who yearns for self expression, and the ability to be different. I remember how this inspired me when I read it.  People relate to Jo because I think secretly they wish they could be her. They wish they could be that unconventional and free, but real life often tempers the free spirit.

Growing up in the March family also seems like a lot of fun.  I can remember being envious of the plays they’d perform, parties attend, creating newspapers and having secret groups in attics along with other various misadventures.

I never had any male friends so the idea of a Laurie brother figure was very appealing (my brother and I squabbled constantly as children and have always struggled to understand one another).  Like I said, the whole situation seems very idyllic and happy.  Even a Christmas where the girls get 1 book under their pillow has a certain charm.  It did for me as a 9 year old and still does now.  Almost tough to put into words.

I also saw things this time that I didn’t get from my early reads or the movie versions.  Alcott is more nuanced in her character development than at first blush.  Laurie is more of a rascal, and he and Jo argue more than I remember.  Perhaps this shows my age but it made sense this read-through why she would refuse him.  I’m not sure I quite buy the perfect romance between Laurie and Amy but it was better than I remembered.

Beth is also more nuanced than the perfect child I remember, experiencing some aching loneliness that Alcott allows you to feel.  Beth was based on one of her sisters and you can feel that personal ache within the story.  Alcott also said that she took the events of her hard life and gave them a happy, hopeful perspective, so while it is sentimental (as all imagined life is), it also feels remarkably grounded and personal.  Like reading someone’s journal and who isn’t a bit sentimental in their journals?

I just enjoy this book so much and hope to be able to read it to my nieces or daughter if I have one. I hope it will inspire them to figure out who they are and what they want in life- that it will encourage them to act, read, write and serve others. That it will make them cry, smile and laugh. Its a great book!

View all my reviews

I’ve been surprised by how many of our book cluber’s haven’t read Little Women and how many dislike it.  I suppose sentiment will do that.  What do you think? I look forward to a good discussion and I will try my best to have my 9 year old self not take things too personal 🙂

1933 version is so great-

The most rediculous version was in 1949 with Elizabeth Taylor looking absurd as Amy.

1994 version is great (wonderful music) but the Laurie is perhaps to perfect.  It should be a little easier to understand why Jo says no. 🙂 Also, I don’t like Susan Sarandon as Marmee.  She is too icey and Marmee is all sweetness and warmth.  Still good film.

There was also an excellent Broadway musical in 2005.  While it does take liberties with the story, the heart is right on.  I love this duet between Beth and Jo.

One more by the amazing Sutton Foster (who I saw in the Drowsy Chaperon in 2006).  What a gift her voice is.

PB and J Pancakes

Lately food has been a pain in the neck.  Everything just looks gross and I’ve had no appetite to eat much of anything.  I am sure that sounds peachy but it is kind of a pain.  I have food, healthy food, and I’m not eating junk but just looking at my fridge makes me feel nauseated.  I can’t explain it. The odd thing is eating these super small amounts I feel great!  I feel alert, happy, light.   This whole month I have felt really well.  I’ve had painful days but not as many as in other months (I think part of it is this amazing weather we’ve had.  I feel weighted down when the weather is cold and gray).

Anyway, as I bird-eat I find that I have to freeze a lot of what I make because I’m just not very hungry.  Its hard to make meals for 1 anyway but even if I do there is still at least one portion left these days.  Some things freeze better than others.  Like the other day I made these thai peanut noodles.  They didn’t reheat well and kind of turned black.  Still tasted good but looked gross.

The pork I made Sunday has saved well and will be nice to have frozen for quesadillas, pizzas, omelets ect. I am working to come up with recipes that I can freeze so that hopefully we can have a healthy, low GI, freezer meal party.  A couple of my friends are already interested.   The problem is a lot of freezer meals contain creamed soups and preservatives which I do not want, especially hanging around in my freezer for months.  If any of you know of good freezer meal recipes that are low in sugar and white carbs send them my way.  Does anyone know how quinoa freezes?

So, today I decided to make my whole wheat pancakes as previously posted https://smilingldsgirl.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/whole-wheat-pancakes/.  This was a recipe given me to my internet friend White Lilly .   These are not the heavy whole wheat pancakes you are used to but are light and fluffy.  (This time I used Stevia instead of sugar.  It didn’t really work.  I would use agave instead.)

Anyway, to shake things up a bit I decided to make PB and J pancakes.  So, I took a bag of frozen strawberries on the stovepot, melted them down (didn’t need any liquid because of the ice but if you made from fresh might need 1/4 water), and a tbsp of stevia.  I let it cook until the strawberries were wilted.  At this point you could blend it to make it smooth but I kind of like the hunks of strawberries.

Strawberries, raspberries, peaches and cherries are all considered LOW GI fruit. Having an index of 32 or below.  Kiwi’s, figs, mangos and bananas are nearly double; however, they can still be valuable for other reasons if used sparingly.

With the finished strawberry topping I spread a layer of creamy peanut butter on each pancake and then poured the strawberries on top (the strawberries will be good on yogurt or ice cream.  Nice way to use frozen fruit, which is cheaper and lasts longer)!

PB and J pancakes. I've been trying to have better food photography on my blog. What do you think? I honestly couldn't eat all of this only 1/2. It was really good though.

And look at all I was able to save, enough for 5 more breakfasts.

5 Breakfasts in the freezer! Ziplocs work the best to stuff things in my little freezer

I’d like to get another smaller freezer because mine is always crammed full.  If anyone has a deal let me know.   This is the kind I would like:  I am hoping to find one used, on sale.  We will see.

Anyway, enjoy the pancakes and start experiencing with freezer meals and please send me your successes. Love ya!

Rachel’s Homemade BBQ Sauce

I love sauces.  One of the hardest things about sticking to a low GI diet is that most produced sauces/dressings are high in added sugar.  In addition, most not only have sugar but have high fructose corn syrup which is like concentrated sugar.  This left me with dry, boring food.  😦

Lately I’ve been experimenting a lot in the kitchen and trying to come up with recipes that are low GI and taste good.  I’ve had 2 less than stellar successes but today I think I scored.  ( I tried to make enchiladas with my own enchilada sauce and they were such a disappointment.).

I have made my own barbeque sauce!  BBQ sauce is usually loaded with sugar, molasses and honey.  Especially my favorite, Kansas city style, which is a dark, rich sauce.   Now I made this sauce with agave but you could use coconut syrup or brown rice syrup or yacon- whatever low GI sweetener floats your boat.  I don’t think stevia would work as well in this recipe because it isn’t a liquid syrup but you can try it!  I am also not a fan of splenda. Its not natural like the stevia or agave plants and to me it has a chemical aftertaste.

(For agave haters read this) The Agave Bad for You Fallacy

One thing you have to remember is that any sweetener is just that a sweetener but some are absorbed less quickly and converted into glucose.  Its kind of like the difference between whole grains and white flour.  They are both grains but one is absorbed more quickly than the other.  Our bodies are designed to taste sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and unami, and I believe it is important that any diet for it to be a realistic lifestyle change must incorporate all of these taste buds.  They are there.  They aren’t going away.  Doing a sugar fast may be helpful to change habits and lessen cravings but unless you cut out your tongue you will always want sweet.

there are areas of your tongue designed to taste sweet. Its how our body is made. Find healthier ways to satisfy those natural cravings

So, my goal is to find ways to satisfy my taste buds without raising my blood sugar levels (and its working I haven’t had a high reading in a year).  I try (sometimes unsuccessfully) to take regular dishes and lower the simple carbs and substitute/reduce the sugar in them.  (Any recipes you have in this regard I’d love!).

My sister and a friend are coming over tonight and she suggested we make this soda pop crockpot pork I’ve made in the past.  At first I thought, no way!  If there was ever a dish loaded with sugar this is it.  In addition to 2 cans regular cola an average recipe has 1 cup or more of highly sweetened bbq sauce and an additional 1/2 cup of brown sugar.

One of the things I admire about people like Elana Amsterdam is she hasn’t let her celiac disease stop her from eating anything.  She finds a way to make cupcakes, cookies, crackers, pies all within her food restrictions (she also uses agave and explains why).  Amy Medling is another good example.  Her menus are so full and rich and yet completely PCOS/Low GI friendly.

I think an attitude of looking at food limitations as a fun challenge, not as a burden, is very commendable.  Sometimes I feel like all I get is one more thing I can’t eat each day (especially during the sugar fast, someone told me I couldn’t eat sugar free gum and I about lost it.  I couldn’t take all the no’s anymore!).

Never to be undone by a challenge I decided to go for it.  The pork is brewing in the crockpot right now but I have a feeling it will be delicious.  I used oogave cola soda .  This soda uses agave instead of high fructose corn syrup or sugar.  Again, its not about it being a non-sweetener because it is but it is a better choice.

So, then I added a cup of my awesome homemade bbq sauce.  Even if the pork doesn’t turn out it was worth it just for this recipe I invented. (And remember you are using just a little bit of sauce.  The recipe makes over 4-6 cups.  (I didn’t measure the final amount but it was a lot).

Here goes:

Homemade Low GI BBQ Sauce

1 large can tomato sauce (or pureed tomatoes in a blender and strained)

1/2 cup of water

1/2 c balsamic vinegar (doesn’t have to be the fancy stuff.  I used some I got from the dollar store!  Save the good stuff for bread or strawberries.  I think you could also use apple cider vinegar which has some health benefits but it wouldn’t give you the dark KC BBQ look.)

1/3 c agave (can add a little more depending on taste)

1/2 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp mustard powder

1 tbsp chilli powder

1/4 tsp cayenne

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp yellow mustard

2 dashes of liquid smoke (start small and can add more because it packs a punch)

1/4 c Worcestershire sauce (this does contain hfc and sugar but it is such a small amount for a large quantity of sauce that I wouldn’t worry about it.  If anyone knows of a Worcestershire sauce that doesn’t have added sugars let me know. )

Mix all together with a whisk until it boils and then quickly turn to med low and let simmer for 45 minutes.  Then bottle and store in your fridge.

Rachel's Homemade LOW GI BBQ Sauce!

I’m really excited about this recipe.  I think it will be great on hot dogs instead of ketchup (and I do intend on making my own Low GI ketchup) or with sweet potato fries.  With roasted chicken it would be delicious, or on ribs it would be fabulous.   There is tons of potential.  Hurray!

Let me know what you think and if you alter the recipe in any way.  I will post a photo of the pork tonight.

“It is a far, far better barbecue that I have now, than I have ever had before” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

“It is better to have burnt and lost, then never to have barbecued at all” – William Shakespeare

(Just a little joke!)

Posted later-

Here is the pork

agave bbq pulled pork

The pork is a 5 lb pork shoulder rubbed with salt and pepper.  Then you put it in the crockpot with an onion sliced up, 2 cans oogave cola and a cup of Low GI BBQ.  Let cook on low for 6 hours.  Then drain most of marinade, shred pork and add another cup of sauce, heat on high for 1-2 hours.

The pork was tender and full of flavor.  I really liked it.

31 Year Old Breakdown

I’m afraid I’ve got insomnia tonight so to the blog I go…

So as all my facebook friends are aware I had a mini-meltdown today. (ps.  I take facebook status’s as just that the status of my life, good, bad, happy, sad, whatever.  I know others don’t look at it that way but I chose to be this real in my social media interactions).  It has been a long week with lots of work hours, and not as much exercising as I would like.  In addition, this Sunday is my last Sunday in my ward, which makes me sad and freaks me out, but also on Monday is my 31st birthday.  How you ask could a 31st birthday be worse than a 30th?  Well, last year I had just fallen down a flight of stairs and was in great pain/drugged up on my birthday. So, this is the first functioning birthday of my 30s.

Anyway, let me tell you about my ward change first.   For those outside of the Mormon church we have several sectioned off wards (congregations) to suit certain language needs and lifestyles.  For example, there are Spanish wards to help people who speak Spanish to attend and understand church.  There is also what they call YSA Wards (Young Single Adults).   This includes any person unmarried 17-31 (can be divorced.  Usually if you have kids you are encouraged to go to a family ward because YSA wards do not have a primary for little one’s).

I have been in YSA wards since I was 17 years old and at the time the idea of turning 31 and ‘graduating’ out of the singles wards seemed impossible and yet here it is.  This April I am helping to plan our 10 year BYU College Graduation Reunion.  10 years since I finished at BYU.  It boggles the mind.   To me it is a little scary- what did I do with that time?  Did I do the right things?  Is God happy with my efforts? I believe that He is and that knowledge is very comforting.

I look back at my life and wonder in those 10 years did I do enough to help people, to serve others, to mentor children?  Sometimes I’m envious of teachers because they have written into their job professions opportunities to nurture future generations.  Working from home I have limited interactions with other people, limited chances to mentor.  I’d like to find something to volunteer for but haven’t come across the right thing for me.  I’d love to work with Big Brother’s Big Sisters but the closest one is in Salt Lake.  If anyone knows of a teen that could use a big sister send them my way.  I’d love it!

Anyway, today I started thinking about the next 10 years.  What are the 30’s?  The 20’s are so clear- college, mission, grad school, work etc.  30s are much harder to define.  What are the big accomplishments for a single girl in her 30s? Its honestly hard for me to come up with a list.  With no big things coming it is easy to ask the question- has all the big stuff happened or if it didn’t happen, should it have happened?  Is the game for big stuff over?

This left me feeling sad.  As a single LDS woman how does my life matter?  How do I contribute to the world?  What would be the lesser because I’m not here?  I do not have anyone who needs me for physical survival such as a young baby needs her mother; nor, am I a teacher who gets to influence many children and make a difference.   There are a few people that need me for emotional and other support.  My Dad told me yesterday that ‘he leans on me more than almost anyone else in his life’.  That meant a lot to me.  Its nice to feel needed.

My Dad also said ‘I know if you were gone there would be a lot of people grieving at your funeral and I think that says something’.  It is comforting to think about ways you’ve helped people and added value to their lives.  (Not that I’m dying or anything, friends.  Just an example).

This is going to sound like such a pity plea but oh well-  If any of you would mind sharing a way I have contributed to your life  it would be the best birthday present I can think of.  I would love it.

I know I can do better but I also know for sure that the Lord is happy with my life.  If I try my best he will fill these 30 years with excitement, adventure and moments that matter.

I must admit diving into this new huge mid-singles branch with nearly 600 people freaks me out.  I’m just so happy in my little ward family and I love being Sunday school teacher.  Its sad to see a change but as it is in the Lord’s hands I am sure it will be change with blessings at the end of it.  It might not be easy but it will work out.   I am so grateful that my friend Stefanie is going to join in! She is awesome and we’ve been friends since 2005. It will be so nice to have a kindred spirit to share this big new adventure with.  Hurray!

I also am no longer considered young by my church- rude! 🙂

How do you get through your 30s?  What worries you about growing older?  Do you ever fret about your legacy or lack of one? Do you worry that your life doesn’t matter like you hoped it would? I have felt all of these emotions and asked each of these questions and I am a mere work in progress at this point!

I found this quote by President Hinckley that gave me a lot of comfort (as he always did.  I miss President Hinckley sometimes). President Hinckley said  it best when asked about his legacy:

“I don’t know and I don’t care! That’s not my concern. I’m not trying to build some legacy of some kind. I’m just trying to move the work forward the best way I know how. And as I believe the Lord would have it move forward. And let the future take care of itself.” 🙂

I hope I can follow his counsel and keep moving forward with whatever the Lord puts in my path.  I am positive that will lead to peace and a recognition as a good and faithful servant  in the hereafter.

Writing and Reading for Children and Teens

This is a quick post- (Believe me I will do my 3rd interview I just want to make sure it is well thought out and that my political opinions are explained adequately).

On Saturday I went to an awesome literary symposium put on by the Provo Library.  This was with my friend Emily Whitman who has been my BFF for 11 years.  With 2 kids and my busy work-life it is harder to get together than I would like, especially a full afternoon so Saturday was such a treat.

We got to meet Haven Kimmel who wrote the wonderful memoir A Girl Named Zippy- a book which holds a special place in my heart because it is about growing up in Indiana.  I have never met an author that I admire and it was so interesting to hear her perspective.  She seemed a little melancholy over the recent changes in the publishing industry and said:

“I’m not sure how to continue in an art form that has changed so much that I no longer know how to perform it.”

But she was also very funny and there was a spirited debate over the advent of ebooks.  In her mind they lessened the archival nature of a library, created a technological ‘upgrade’ need and excluded the poor/disadvantaged from the freedom provided by free books.  It was interesting to me because I purchased a kindle in August expecting to love it but I haven’t.  I rarely use it and prefer a real book that I can write notes in and arrows (I know you can do that in a kindle but I find it very tedious).

In fact, if anyone wants to buy a traditional 3G kindle I will give you a good deal (of course, they came out with the fire literally 2 weeks after my purchase!).

Anyway, the second session of the conference was on teen literature.  While it was interesting I disagreed with the attitude of the presenter.  She was a teacher in the public school system and to me she had a very defeatist attitude (she was a perky lady but still defeatist).

One of the first things she said was ‘It would be nice for my students to be reading more challenging books but at least they are reading’.  Then as she continued one of her main qualifications for a book being a good recommendation was that it was ‘really fast’.  I felt like she said that phrase 30 times in the hour. (Tell that to all the kids pouring through Harry Potter at 0ver 700 pages).

Her attitude annoyed me because I feel it is emblematic of a culture of compliance that we have in nurturing children and teenagers.  We could encourage them to do better, be more, but instead we are happy with the least modicum of effort.

I’m not saying every child has to read Foucault and Thoreau but let’s not assume they can’t.  Let’s see the greatest potential in all the people around us whether it is reading, dieting, learning, whatever. The greatest people in my life always saw my potential, the biggest disappointments failed to help nurture me (I still feel some resentment towards my high school choir teacher who stomped on my talent so hard I didn’t sing for 7 years in public after).

Once a child/teen is presented with reading options and they chose Diary of a Wimpy Kid, no problem.  At least they are reading something over nothing. (I have never read Wimpy kid but that was just the example the speaker used about what her high school senior kids are reading). I just want the options to be presented and to not assume they will immediately go for something less challenging.  I hated that assumption growing up.

It turns out there is quite a lively debate on this topic on the web spawned by an article in the New York Daily News by Alexander Nazaryan.

http://www.nydailynews.com/blogs/pageviews/2012/01/against-walter-dean-myers-and-the-dumbing-down-of-literature-those-kids-can-read-h

http://oinks.squeetus.com/2012/01/in-which-i-gamely-stick-out-my-tongue.html

I’m actually inclined to agree more with Nazaryan.  As mentioned above, this feeling comes from the way I felt as a child.  I hated being pandered too and treated like I was stupid because I was young.  I wanted nothing more than to be shown the respect I felt I deserved.  I wanted to be heard and taken seriously from a very young age.

One of my greatest goals if I am ever a parent is to let my children win an argument.  This might sound funny but I want them to know that they have the ability to think things through on their own and that Mother is not always right.  (Not every argument, but I want my kids to feel a freedom of expression and to learn to back up their thoughts as well as they can).

Basically my feeling on writing for children and teenagers is summed up best by Dr.  Seuss (a man who is about as creative as it gets, so proof my approach does not limit magic or youthfulness in kids):

I don’t write for children. I write for people.” Or, as he once told an interviewer, “I think I can communicate with kids because I don’t try to communicate with kids. Ninety percent of the children’s books patronize the child and say there’s a difference between you and me, so you listen to this story. I, for some reason or another, don’t do that. I treat the child as an equal.”

Finally, I think most teens are turned off of reading not because of difficult, boring books but because of the way those books are dissected in the classroom.    If kids were allowed to present their own point of view instead of over-analyzing character motivations and styles I think they wouldn’t be as turned off.  I think it is more a matter of approach than the material itself.

For Christmas I was debating about getting my 12 year old sister Pride and Prejudice, but I did and she was excited.  I could have gotten her Prom and Prejudice (as suggested by the speaker) but I had confidence to give her the real thing.  I think with a little digging we can see the literary potential of all of the people around us, especially the youth, and their life will be better for the faith we show in them.

It is also important to remember that you aren’t going to win with every suggestion.  They might even hate what you put out there for them to read but I think that is good.  Development of a critical eye and a well reasoned mind is part of the learning process.  I read Scarlet Letter as a teen and hated it, still do, but you can bet I can explain why I dislike it so much! I could then, I can now!

So, that’s my opinion on that.  What do you think?  How do you think we should approach reading for teens and children?  Are the classics still relevant and important to introduce or is just getting them reading enough?

(Nice what I think of as a quick post… 🙂 )

Writing and Stories

Ok.  We are taking a break from my interviews for one second.  This is a topic I have wanted to address for some time.  I love writing and have always enjoyed creating stories (not as much as my sister but I still like it).   Growing up the advice to writers was always ‘tell what you know’ (think Jo March, Anne Shirley etc).  However, if this was the standard we would never have fantasy, magic or imagination (unless there is a mystical world out there I am unaware of).

Lately, I have heard a different vein of this old school writing advice.  Not only should you write what you know but that is the only thing you have a ‘right’ to write. If you venture away from your world than you are accused of stealing the voice of others.

For example, many have criticized Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, for telling a tale about black household workers in the 60s.  She even admits to being ‘nervous’ about it in an interview:

Q.  Were you nervous that some people might take affront that you, a white woman in 2008–and a Southern white woman at that–were writing in the voice of two African-American maids?

A.At first, I wasn’t nervous writing in the voice of Aibileen and Minny because I didn’t think anybody would ever read the story except me. I wrote it because I wanted to go back to that place with Demetrie. I wanted to hear her voice again.

But when other people started reading it, I was very worried about what I’d written and the line I’d crossed. And the truth is, I’m still nervous. I’ll never know what it really felt like to be in the shoes of those black women who worked in the white homes of the South during the 1960s and I hope that no one thinks I presume to know that. But I had to try. I wanted the story to be told. I hope I got some of it right.

I have also heard the same criticism of Sue Monk Kidd’s writing in The Secret Life of Bee’s.  In Utah some are mad at Stephanie Meyer for writing characters that do not uphold her Mormon faith.

I take issue with all of these arguments.  Are we really saying that Stockett can only write about Southern white women, that Stephanie Meyer can only write about Mormons, that Sue Monk Kidd can only tell stories of girls from small towns in Georgia?  (I don’t even like Meyer’s writing but I will defend it on this level).

Nobody enjoys a good memoir more than I do but I also love creativity and vision.  Who cares if a character may not be perfectly historically accurate?  If it works within the world of the story that’s all I care about.

These types of exclusions and criticisms are another example of how we preach diversity while becoming more isolating every moment.  We are no longer a melting pot of ideas and cultures but a scattering or clustering of those ideas.  Any break from cultural autonomy is seen as bigoted or an affront.   It makes it easier for most of us to stay in homogenous groups such as exemplified by Utah (where I live) or Portland (great book on this topic is The Big Sort by Bill Bishop).

Getting back to writing,  if a book is well written I shouldn’t even be thinking about the author and his or her story.  After all, when I’m reading Jane Eyre I’m not wondering how a clergyman’s daughter who didn’t marry until she was 30 could write such sexy, romantic prose? No, I’m enthralled with the story and then only after do I ask those questions.

To me it is sad that we are making authors ‘nervous’.  That we are forcing them to ask those questions and perhaps abandon a powerful story.   I like how Sue Monk Kidd describes her writing process:

“It took me a little over three years to complete the novel. The process of writing it was a constant balancing act between what writing teacher Leon Surmelian referred to as “measure and madness.” He suggested that writing fiction should be a blend of these two things. That struck me as exactly true. On one hand, I relied on some very meticulous “measures,” such as character studies, scene diagrams, layouts of the pink house and the honey house. I had a big notebook where I worked out the underlying structure of the book. I relied more heavily, however, on trying to conjure “madness,” which I think of as an inexplicable and infectious magic that somehow flows into the work.”

How can such madness and vision be tempered by thoughts of what is appropriate for them to write?  How about we just let them write and enjoy the results?  Maybe we would get better books if we encouraged true creative freedom.  That’s one thing I appreciated about The Book Thief is it has an unabashedly unique voice and perspective.   Nobody said, “Markus Zusak you are Australian, you can’t tell a story about WWII Germany” and thank goodness for that.  It is a perfect example of an author embracing the ‘madness’ and it working so thoroughly.

So, yes as Professor Bhaer says in Little Women “You must write from life, from the depths of your soul! “, or…maybe not?  Write whatever your soul tells you to write and even if it is a fairy story or about pygmies in Africa, it will become your story because you wrote it.  Look at Alexander McCall Smith.  He wrote about a spunky female detective in Botswana and he’s a stodgy old man from Scotland but it works.  There are so many examples.

All I’m asking is that we give people a little more room to breath outside of their life experience.  This doesn’t weaken any culture but adds a new voice and how can that be bad?

Interview Part 2

I know you are all anxiously awaiting my next entry in this trilogy of interviews, so I won’t keep you any longer.  Here goes…

Marriage/Courtship-

What do you think makes a good marriage partner?  I think it is just that, a partnership.  There shouldn’t be a sense of domination in any way.  Nor should one spouse feel overly defined by roles or responsibilities but the entire marriage should be a joint responsibility.

Too many people lump the decision of having kids and getting married together.   The two should be separate choices.  You should ask the question do I want to be with this person if we don’t have any kids at all?  Then you can say as a separate question will he be a good father?  That said, I really can’t imagine anyone that I would want to marry that wouldn’t also have the qualities of a good father but I think the 2 questions should be separate.

To me a good test of a relationship is will the person sit through something they don’t care for just because you are in it.  I’m not saying they have to love it but is your participation enough to count them in.  This is true for both people in the relationship.  He better get used to sitting through a swim meet and cheering and I can go fishing or do whatever outdoorsy thing he loves.  The other person’s happiness should make you happy most of the time (we all have our moments).

Another test- does the person make things fun that would normally be a drag.  For instance, I’ve always said I want to go dancing with my boyfriend.  I hate dancing, so if I can have a good time doing that we have genuine chemistry.  Maybe that’s silly but there you go.

Finally, the best couples I know have an intellectual chemistry which is tough to define.  Do you find the person you are with interesting? Not that they have to be interested in the same things per say but do they approach problems with a similar vigor, are you fascinated by the world?  Do you listen to each other in a complimentary way?  I could never be with someone who thought I was dumb or vice versa.

Why do you think so many marriages fail?  Actually in my life not many do.  Amazingly enough at 30 not one of my friends that I have seen get married has gotten divorced.  I have met friends after they were divorced but never seen the entire process from someone in my peer group.  Even in the Mormon church it seems highly unlikely that there wouldn’t be 1 couple.  None of my cousins or siblings have gotten divorced. Perhaps that will happen in this decade but so far so good.

I think when marriages do fail it is usually because of selfishness.  People begin to feel that their needs are more important than their spouse, and a partnership becomes 2 separate entities coexisting.  Every situation is different and some times people just aren’t compatible but I think usually there is some kind of selfishness involved.

How can you comment on marriage as a single woman who has never had a relationship?  Well, it doesn’t take getting shot to know it is not a pleasant experience.  Some things you can extrapolate as an observer of life and human nature.   I’m sure I will learn a lot when it is my turn but a girl can’t spend 3 decades and not develop any of her own ideas on the topic, so there!

I also have relationships that while not romantic have taught me something about how they work.

Family-

What is your ideal family?  I have no ideal.  I have never been a dreamer in that regard.   I’ve only had one time in my life (BYU) where an expectation lived up to lead up.  Most of the time it is best to take things as they come and be grateful for what you’ve got.

Will you be happy unmarried, without kids?  Yes. It has never been a big dream of mine to get married or have kids.  There are lots of reasons why but all I’ve wanted since I was a toddler (literally) is to be on my own, making my own life choices.  If the situation comes I will be happy and grateful but I don’t think there is anything wrong with being happy if it doesn’t.

If you did have kids how would you want to raise them?  What is important to you in parenting?  I believe that kids should be in the world but not of the world.  So, yes expose them to movies, literature, friends, education, but do it in a way that maintains their innocence as long as possible and allows them to have true fun.  I don’t think kids should be manipulated to be mini-parents.  They should be guided and counseled but also feel free to express their own views and ideas.  I want my kids to know that I like being with them and that they matter to me and to God.

I do love the homeschooling movement and feel if done well it can give your children the best opportunity to flourish.  You can communicate with your child in a way that no teacher can (as wonderful as they may be).  The argument against homeschool is always a social one but I feel this is silly because public school can be just as much of a social nightmare.  Any education requires monitoring by a parent and an active voice that makes actual learning the priority, not the grade received.

I love that with homeschool a parent takes ownership of how and what is taught to her child. She takes ownership of her child’s peer group, social activities and moral teaching.  Not that they don’t have those things, as some might claim, but they are guided by a parent.  There may be some who want to offer their children up to the alter of community good but not me.   It may seem odd for a single girl to have an opinion on homeschool but I think you will find there isn’t much I don’t have an opinion on!

(I will add that clearly homeschool doesn’t work for every situation.  I’m just saying that it would be my first choice if given the chance).

What did your parents teach you about parenting/life?  My mother continually teaches me to nurture others.  She is a very selfless person.  In fact, she even gave up her freedom of movement when restricted to bedrest for most of her 6 pregnancies.   This was a very difficult time for our family but she taught me that sacrifices are the most golden family moments.  Its like on my mission- the moments where I had given my all, were the one’s where I became a true missionary.  The moments in a family where you give all is when you are a true family.

My Dad teaches me each day to find joy in the journey.  I get stressed out with the details of life.  I put loads of unneeded pressure on myself and always have.  He has always been someone who can see a way out of stress and is a true optimist. He also has a zest for life that I admire and hope to emulate.

Friendship-

What do you think is a true friend? In the quest to save the family sometimes I feel we could focus more on friendshiping in the church.  Especially in the single-world friends have been a huge support for me.  As wonderful as my family is when I think of the trials of my life I can also see a friend who was there to see me through.

I’ve also had so many laughs with friends over the years.  A true friend loves and deserves love back.  A true friend sacrifices time to be with you.  A true friend has chemistry that just works.  A true friend listens when you need to vent and gives you frank counsel when required.  A true friend you could see every day and yet go years and still have that connection.  A true friend should not be work in the traditional sense.  It should be a happy work. (Its actually hard to describe a true friend, but you know it when you see it!).

One of the things I have struggled with in the last few years is maintaining an active social life.  It used to be so easy for me to gather people together.  Now it seems so difficult.  Even to have lunch with a friend can take weeks of planning.  I wish I had one friend I could call on a Friday night with nothing to do and do something.  That almost never happens.  People are just too busy.  Even getting people to come to book club or other activity can be so hard.  I’ve noticed I have more success with dinner parties or when hosting something for my swim group.  Not sure why but I’m trying to figure it out.  I love to entertain and would love to plan cute get-togethers.  After the year I’ve had I kind of got out of the habit. The Christmas Swimfest gave me a ton of confidence and I already have a Valentines Swimfest in the works.

It just sometimes feels that while friends are so important to me, they are less important for people with families.  There are exceptions which I am very grateful for and I understand the predominance family should take.  That said, it can still be hard and lonely to feel that everyone else has moved on to the next step and you are still in college-mode.  As much as I loved college nobody wants to be at the same spot forever.

Work/Adult Life-

What is the hardest thing to do as an adult?  Finding balance. It always seems that one part of my life is taking over whether it health, work, family struggles, exercising whatever.  Achieving balance is the goal of a lifetime.

In what ways has adulthood disappointed you?  This is such a good question for me because I wanted to be an adult so badly.  I would say the greatest disappointment is the mundanity of life.   I don’t know what exactly I expected but so much of life is routines and doing the same thing over and over again.  Even in the most glamorous jobs there is a fair amount of tedium. Its just part of adult life.

I also wish I had taken more advantage of time off as a young college student to explore or go places.  I think because my parents traveled I assumed I would be able to do that later, and I have been very blessed in that regard, but its hard!  Its hard to find the time, get off work, get ready, catch up when you get home etc.  Its something I should have enjoyed more when I had the chance.

I was also in a rush to finish everything.  I set a goal and I want to get it done now. This is why weight loss has been so tough for me because it is not something that can be done right in a few months.  It takes years, a lifetime really.  I don’t like things that take a lifetime!  Again, I should enjoy the journey more.

If you could have your dream job what would it be?  I think it would be cool to work in a political campaign.  I also love public speaking and think I might take a stab at politics some day. I feel I would be a good advocate for causes I believe in but I am sure the whole process would drive me crazy (again the waiting and the tedium are my struggles!).  Also, I think it would be great to teach college, especially at BYU.  I have pondered a PHD before but there are so few positions in the liberal arts that it does not seem like a good choice.  Still, it would be my dream job.

Are you disappointed to not be doing your dream job?  Yes but I’ve learned that how I work is much more important to me than what I am actually doing.  Working from home and being my own boss is worth any sacrifice- even working in accounting all day!  I get chills and feel nauseated at the thought of going back to ‘cubicle Hell’ as I call it.

My only regret in working alone is I don’t have the chance to mentor people.  I benefited greatly from mentors in my youth and I hope to someday have that chance as an adult.  I’ve enjoyed teaching in my ward the last 2 years and feel I have been a mentor to some of the younger girls (and I feel I mentor my younger siblings) but I’d like to find someone that I can really guide and mentor.

What is your greatest flaw?  Definitely holding grudges.  I grew up seeing the world in terms of bullies and victims.  That’s how I survived.  I learned that people who abuse do it again and I kept them in that spot forever.  There are still people from my life that I struggle with anger and resentment towards.  I know it only hurts me but it is tough.  I get better each year at forgiving and hopefully by the end I will be something like my Grandpa Richards who loved unconditionally.  That is my goal to be like him because he was so much like Jesus.  My relationship with Christ helps polish me each day and that includes grudges, resentments, fears and everything else.

Do you wish you were skinny?  I’d be lying if I said No. As I mentioned in my last post judgement has always been tough for me to absorb and unfortunately being fat carries tons of judgement.  I still feel great resentment at anyone who places a label on me because of my weight.  It would be nice to not deal with these judgements. However, I suppose society would just find something else to judge and I’d have to deal with it.  I do appreciate the strength my journey has given me and being heavy forced me to rely on God for praise because in a few moments that was the only place I could get it.  And maybe I do a little bit of good correcting prejudice and speaking out.  If that was the case, it’d all be worth it.

Well, that’s a lot.  Probably more than any of you care to read but it does me a great deal of good to say it.   The next entry will be on my views on the political and social issues of the day.  Should be pretty fun!   (I have had an interest in politics since I was in grade school and voted in every election since I turned 18.  It is very important to me).