Had such a wonderful morning! With my family being in town I decided to host a little brunch before the Saturday morning session of my church’s General Conference. This is an event put on by the leadership where we hear talks, beautiful music and inspiring words from the prophet and apostles. I look forward to it every 6 months, but with all the challenges lately I was particularly anxious for the guidance of my leaders.
The first session was wonderful with an emphasis on families and on enduring trials. President Eyring’s talk especially moved me. He said “Trials aren’t always for punishment, but rather for polishing”. I’ve felt polished lately! He also said “If the foundation of faith is not embedded in our hearts the power to endure will crumble”. This a sobering reminder that without studious watch-care my faith could erode. I will not let that happen. I will do whatever it takes.
So, back to the brunch. I love to entertain and make things beautiful and appetizing. It was a pitch-in (or potluck) but I made 4 quiches and an Easter Cake.I also got some daffodils and have a few other Easter decor pieces. All and all I think it turned out pretty well.
I’m getting my freezer in a few hours so it will be a great to store my leftover quiches in it right away! Hurray for appliance purchases.
I love both the movie and now the book. In fact, the movie is pretty much a perfect staging of the book, so if you like the movie you will probably like this.
It might sound odd but one of the things I love about this story is its reassurance that there is a potential for good in all of us- the rich, the poor, the educated etc. There are no villains or heroes in this story. Everyone wants to be good and lead a good life. If society, philosophy, business, or family pressures push them away from their good intentions- isn’t it still comforting to know that those intentions exist? I love Helen’s insistence that Mr. Bast not give up his “I am” for in giving this up he would be giving up his existence. She could not let humanity whittle him down. I also admire Margaret for finding the humanity in Mr. Wilcox. This is I am sure the same essential part of him that Mrs. Wilcox found and it probably allowed her to love such an imperfect man.
I love that I love every character in this story and yet I hate them all at the same time. Isn’t that the way real human beings are? Don’t we all have noble and evil in us? I believe that by ending the novel the way Forster does he concludes that a peaceful medium is obtained by most of us in life (this is symbolized by Howards End- which seems to be thrown about just like the characters- in between London and Oberton for most of the book). He is saying that the greatest peace comes from reconciling our place in the world, our right to be, and the rights of those around us to be happy with what God has given them.
The characters are particularly impressive in Howards End because so many are dynamic and interesting. When you have a supporting character like Mr. Bast getting an entire story arc you know good writing is taking place. In fact, it is hard to think of an accessory character in the whole story. Everyone is studied and pondered upon.
The novel also deals with the concept of saving. Mrs. Wilcox tries to save Margaret by giving her Howards End, Margaret tries to save Henry through love, Margaret and Helen both try and save each other and certainly Helen tries to save the Basts. In the end, goodness, hope and loyalty save all and provide all with wisdom, self awareness and comfort.
My only fault with the book is I wish there had been one religious character. As comforting as philosophy and literature can be I find they fall short in satisfying eternal meanings in life. A religious character would have at least demonstrated a contrast. I admit this desire is partly egotistical. There is something validating about reading characters that see the world like you do (a sensation I so rarely have) and it is comforting to hear your voice coming out of any text. On the other hand, we can learn more about ourselves through opposing points of view. Still, in a book claiming to touch on every sphere in society it would seem that religion might factor more or less into one of those spheres.
I love A Room with a View but I like Howards End even more. RWV tells us that finding our inner-self comes from looking out of our sphere of influence- from embracing adventure and romance with all the lusts and philosophies that accompany such passions. It tells us that finding our match brings perfect completeness; whereas, Howards Ends says that finding the humanity in all people including ourselves makes us fully human. I LOVE this book!
The movie is just amazing. With such nuanced performances from Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter and Anthony Hopkins. Plus, its gorgeously shot by the Merchant/Ivory production. If you are having a Downton Abbey withdrawal rent this wonderful film.
Gosford Park is another winner, written by Juliian Fellows who also writes Downton Abbey
This is a continuation of my last post but I decided to separate them out.
Last night I went to a book signing by Ally Condie author of Matched. This is a dystopian novel about a society that controls everything by statistical analysis. I enjoyed it and it was neat meeting the author. She was very personable and friendly, answering questions for an hour. I liked how she talked about the process of writing. It was more scattered, jumping around the text, than I have heard from other writers. I also thought it was interesting how she pulled from little and big things in her life. Something like watching her mother paint became an element in the story.
Matched- (My Goodreads Review) 3 stars.
I feel kind of bad for Condie because her book feels really redundant of a million other similar books that have become popular in recent years; however, it is a shame because I think it is better written than most of those books.
Matched tells the story of a girl who lives in a Distopian society where everything is controlled via statistics for maximum happiness. While I wish the philosophic debate had been handled more than the gooey romance it was an interesting premise. Is it better to have guaranteed happiness or the risk of chosen happiness?
On one hand I appreciate that Condie gives 2 love interests that are compelling for Cassia but neither of them are developed enough, especially Ky. He is basically a staring, brooding, poetry reading presence but no real depth. Finally in the last 3rd of the book I felt like I got to know him a bit more but for most of the book I was thinking ‘Why is she picking this dope over a life-long friend like Xander’.
Still, for these kind of books it was pretty good. I’d recommend it to a girl in its target audience. Most of the writing is good except for the romantic sections. They come off as very corny.
Kind of like Hunger Games I don’t really feel much of a desire to read the entire series. hmmm?
I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had this year to meet authors. I don’t know if I will ever write a book but I find the process fascinating. Even writing this blog helps me feel a kinship to other writers and listening to their feedback and advice makes my entries better. If I do write a book I can tell you what type of book it will be- either a memoir or a book that reads like a memoir, that feels like a real story.
An Ordinary Fantasy
The girls I was with Tennille and Jenny, were talking about their favorite books and many of them were teen literature featuring robots, vampires, werewolves, mutants, super heroes ect. I mentioned the books I like and it was interesting to hear their reaction. Some of my favorites they liked but some they found boring. As we chatted I realized I like books about REAL PEOPLE. Even if it is fiction the characters have to feel somewhat real in order for me to relate to them. This is the way I have always been.
I try to be open minded about any genre of books and have books I like from many. However, of my top 10 favorite books half are memoirs or based on a true story, 1 is poetry, 3 are classics and 1 is a contemporary classic:
(If I added an 11 it would be My Life in France by Julia Child.).
Not a magician, werewolf, vamipire or fairytale in the bunch. As my friends and I were talking one of them said ‘I read books to get out of my world not to stay in it’. I found this interesting because I also read books for the same reason. Puzzling hah?
Why do I respond to books about ‘real’ people and feel tepid about what most would consider a fantasy? Is it possible I have a somewhat ordinary fantasy?
I have never been a dreamer. Never had a bucket list or a dream guy or a list of great things I wanted to do. I have never wanted to be more than I already am. The best people in my life have been the most simple people who really believed in me.
Maybe the reason I relate to regular stories is that a lot of the stuff which is easy for others has been difficult for me. (I know this is relative as some have many more struggles but hear me out). For example, losing weight which appears to be easy for others has always been so difficult. Simply eating is a task filled with stress and peril for me. Its no wonder that characters who live in a ‘real’ world without these trials feel like a fantasy or an escape. For me, just being accepted and feeling beautiful or smart was a fantasy, was something I felt I lacked. It took clawing through it all to be the confident, happy woman I am today.
Also, schooling was a challenge for me. Between the bullying, strabismus problem and mild dyslexia, things like reading, focusing, getting good grades were always more difficult for me than for my siblings and friends. I think a fantasy book did not help me to deal with any of these problems where a book about a real person can provide solutions, perspective, and inspiration- even one set centuries ago.
Characters like Jo March, Anne Shirley or Atticus Finch gave me a mold that I could follow. They were my version of a fantasy of what I would want to be like if all my dreams came true. Stories in other worlds, imaginative as they might be, did not give me inspiration and solutions I could apply to my everyday life; therefore, I found them less compelling to read. I couldn’t relate to the characters or their challenges.
My romantic fantasies are also quite ordinary. As someone who has never been kissed, just a regular, ordinary romance excites me. No vampires or life saving peril needed.
Neither one is right or wrong its just different tastes. The older I’ve gotten the more open minded I am and the better reader I am, so I try to gain from all literature I read. However, my favorites will always be about ‘real people’.
What about you? Are you more motivated by ‘real life’ stories or by fantasy (other worlds, magic powers, non-human creatures etc)? Do you find stories about ordinary people to be boring and prefer a new, different world? What are some of your favorite ‘real people’ books?
On that note I am going to see the Hunger Games tonight…See, I’m expanding and growing!
First of all let me just say that today has been a great day! I went to boxing and it was awesome
and I got my second bountiful basket. This time we got pineapples! Yum!
I’m excited to try new recipes with all the peppers and pineapple. My plan is to freeze a lot of the pineapple for smoothies, recipes ect. This will be easy to do with my NEW FREEZER!!! I’ve wanted one for forever and this week I found out I am getting a tax refund. I did my homework and got a good deal at home depot. They are delivering it on Thursday! I am so excited to make burritos, breakfast burritos, mini pizzas and things like that so I can eat healthy in a hurry. It will also help me to save money because I can buy in bulk and freeze.
My grandma has a huge walk out freezer so I teased her that I’m becoming her! Oh well, not too bad a thing to be.
As all my facebook fans know I’ve been deeply absorbed in a new non-fiction read: Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone by Eric Klinenberg. Through both anecdotal and statistical evidence Klinenberg examines the new reality of 31 million US residents—roughly one out of every seven adults—live alone.
By the way, I love a good non-fiction. Reading this book reminded me of the excitement I felt when I read The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenberg, Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam- which discusses social and political loneliness not living arrangements, Urban Tribes by Ethan Waters, and The Big Sort by Bill Bishop. Books like this make you feel validated because someone is taking your life choices seriously and examining them for both good and bad side effects.
The book description sums it up best “Though conventional wisdom tells us that living by oneself leads to loneliness and isolation, Klinenberg shows that most solo dwellers are deeply engaged in social and civic life. In fact, compared with their married counterparts, they are more likely to eat out and exercise, go to art and music classes, attend public events and lectures, and volunteer. There’s even evidence that people who live alone enjoy better mental health than unmarried people who live with others and have more environmentally sustainable lifestyles than families, since they favor urban apartments over large suburban homes.”
Recently this has been on my mind because in moving to the family ward I have found an untold number of people who are surprised even shocked that I live alone. This happened so frequently that I began to feel hesitant in bringing it up and perhaps a bit of defensiveness. Who, after all, does not feel a little bit defensive when their lifestyle is questioned.
This reaction is particularly weighted in my community where marriage is not only a goal for a happy life but a requirement for exaltation and eternal life. By choosing to live alone during this portion of my life some may fear I have abandoned hope of meeting Mr. Sunshine, or that I have something against marriage. This couldn’t be further from the truth. I strongly support traditional marriage and believe it is a holy institution.
From my view living alone is proof of that support. I value the institution enough to not settle for anything less than the right person.
That said- I value my life enough to keep moving forward and progressing with or without a man. Perhaps this feels more natural to me because I’ve never really had a romantic partner. Not sure why but it is the truth. I have always been a social butterfly, with lots of friends and activities but never met someone I wanted to date more than a couple times or certainly marry. The way I see it finding the right person is not in my control. I can do what I can but even when doing those things he may not come into my life. God has His reasons for this and I trust Him.
What can I control? I can control where and how I live my life. I can control how hard I work, what friends are worth nurturing and what activities are worth my time. For me, living alone is my opportunity to control my life in a definite and concrete way. I love that!
For example, by attending church each week I am deciding what I believe and want to dedicate my life to. There is no one else to get me out the door or push me into getting ready. I am not doing it to set an example for children or to keep a relationship happy. I am doing it because I believe it is true and the best way to live MY LIFE.
People often seem worried about my social life living alone and that a sense of isolationism will overtake me. I’m not going to lie and say that never happens but as Klinenberg points out loneliness can happen in any situation. In an interview of a woman named Helen he says:
“In Helen’s view for most of us loneliness is inevitable. It’s part of the human conditions, and she rejects the belief that living alone is its source. ‘People are in an incredible panic to avoid being alone in the room with themselves’, she explains, but their desperation can lead to disaster because ‘there’s nothing more lonely than being with the wrong person…When a relationship doesn’t go well, its a very lonely situations. You can’t go to the person that you’re with for help because, in your eyes, they are the problem. So you become a little island all to yourself within that relationship, and it’s very lonely'”
I would wager to say that even in the healthiest of relationships there are periods of isolation and loneliness that top anything I have felt through living alone . There are a few moments where I wish I could call on someone to help with the groceries or fold the laundry (laundry I detest). The times I wish I didn’t live alone the most is when I am sick because there is no one there to take care of me and nurse me. Luckily such moments are few and far between and I make do. In general I believe I am not a lonely person despite living and working alone.
Many singles, particularly single women, who live alone are remarkably active and social in their community. “The General Social Survey, which is the largest study of American social behavior, shows that single women above age 35 (divorced as well as married) are more likely than their married contemporaries to do the following activities: see or visit a best friend at least weekly, have a ‘non-visit’ contact with a best friend at least weekly, spend a social evening with neighbors, regularly participate in informal group activities and be a member of a secular social group. ”
The great thing about living alone is all of those interactions are done by my choosing. I am not forced to be friends with my husbands peers or make nice with my kids friends parents. Is that not a blessing?
Klinenberg goes on to say that not only can it be a blessing to live alone but it is in many ways the fulfillment of the American spirit. The idea of self reliance and rugged individualism is woven into the fabric of the American dream. Ralph Waldo Emerson said in his essay ‘Self Reliance’ that “society everywhere is in conspiracy against the manhood of every one of its members” and “Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world”.
Henry David Thorough made the case for self reliance by moving out to Walden pond and living alone “I have, as it were, my own sun and moon and stars, and a little world all to myself” . That’s how I feel about my apartment. It is a little world all to myself. I have a form of freedom that is not possible in a relationship, and while I would love to meet someone, I don’t think there is anything wrong for appreciating the life I have, while I have it.
As a silly example, I have pink bed sheets and pink curtains with 2 Audrey Hepburn posters on my wall as a headboard of sorts. Could I have this room when I marry? Probably not and I’m OK with that but its exciting to do things uniquely my way while I have the chance.
I also have the freedom to live my life the way I want. For example, a friend of mine recently told me about the efforts his wife makes at keeping him on a diet. Portioning out food, making only healthy recipes and scolding him when he diverges off the plan. I laughed when he told me saying ‘and people think in Mormon marriages the man rules the roost!’. In some ways this is very touching and loving but it made me feel proud of my own weight loss journey. I did it on my own with no micromanaging from anyone. While everyone’s support has been key the day-to-day decisions are mine.
There are also more silly benefits of living alone including full usage of the fridge (and particularly freezer space), full control of the television and the DVR space, freedom to keep the home as clean or messy as you wish, and entertain as little or as much as you prefer without asking permission from roommates or spouses.
I can also put up whatever Christmas tree or other holiday decor I want without consulting any other opinion. My apartment is something that is mine and mine alone. Is there not something appealing about creating your own space that is just for you? I am sure if I do get married I will still need my own space whether it be in the form of a garden, park, room or even a jetted tub!
I also have complete discretion on how I spend my money, which to me is very empowering. I can take a long shower or turn my heat up to whatever I want. I can take a trip if I decide I have the money for it. I can go out to eat or get frozen yogurt before dinner. I can lead the life I want to lead. I love that!
I enjoyed living with roommates for years, had 31 of them from 17 to 28. I had good relationships with all of my roommates and 3 of my current best friends were former roommates. I loved creating a mini-family with my friends but there just became a time where I needed to move on from an adolescent roommate experience to a fully functional grown up living on my own experience.
The cravings to have my own space really started after my mission- the ultimate shared experience, 24/7 no breaks with a total stranger. I was a little scared at first that it might be socially difficult but I’m so active with church, gym, voice lessons, friends etc that I honestly have not felt lonely much. In fact, I revel in the sanctuary I’ve created for just ME! Aside from getting married, I don’t think I would like having a roommate again, even with someone I love like a family member or dear friend.
I’ve always been fiercely independent, so in many ways living alone is the ultimate example of my nature. I have achieved independence in every way possible and yet I’m still a remarkably social and giving person. I have found a lifestyle that I like, even if it stumps and confuses others. Hopefully by knowing me people’s views will be expanded and stereotypes erased (speaking of stereotypes… I do not own a cat. I’m allergic!).
I work alone. I live alone. I’ve traveled alone. I go to the movies alone (something that befuddles most people) but in truth I am never really alone. Jesus Christ and His spirit are always with me. I have spent probably a cumulative month of my life feeling truly alone and those were some of the hardest days, but learning to reach for my Savior during those tough times made me a believer to the end. He has never abandoned me in the lonely times. If anything I feel His presence more and more with each tear I might cry.
I promise I want to get married, so please don’t read this thinking ‘Rachel is getting too set in her ways’. Send Mr. Sunshine my way and I’m all over it. 🙂
I’ve mentioned a couple of times on this blog that this morning I had plans to attend my first boxing class. It’s been fun to see and hear people’s response when they hear of this plan. I’m not the most spontaneous person, pretty predictable, so it’s neat to every once in a while surprise people. It’s not a huge surprise to me because I’ve always liked punching bags and loved taking self defense at BYU. Maybe its a result of being bullied as a child but I’ve always wanted to be able to defend myself and boxing always looked super fun and satisfying. (Better not tick me off. I’m in training! 🙂 )
I was a little worried that my pulled leg muscle would prevent me from going but I decided to go for it. The Boxing for Girls club is in the Sugarhouse neighborhood of Salt Lake, so a good 30 minutes from my apartment. They do a good job with the styling of the gym, giving it a gritty, boxing feel.
There were around 20 girls who came (plus, one Dad who was taking the class with his daughter, how cute is that!) and 3 instructors (2 men, 1 woman). For the first half hour we were given a routine of 5 sets of weight lifting and other aerobic activities (squats, lunges, crunches etc). We had to do each 17 times and then repeat the whole routine as many times as we could. I got through it 3 times.
This was a nice way to do things because you were pacing yourself but motivated by the activities of others. I normally hate aerobics classes because I can never keep up with the moves. I have almost no natural rhythm (and no I’m not just being modest…). It also made it easier to modify things so that it worked for you. For example, my leg being a little tight I could be more gentle on that side with the lunges.
Once that was over we split into 2 groups. Half of the group did ring practice where we had to move our feet from side to side in a circle and then about every 30 seconds do a push up (or as close to one as we can do!).
The other half got to try different punches with boxing gloves on punching bags. It was a ton of fun! Seriously I could punch that bag forever. I love it!
Everybody was so friendly and I will definitely be going back. I think it is such a terrific idea to have a place like this designed for girls. So brilliant! (I tell you every year I find one more reason why I love Utah. Each year it will get harder and harder if I ever have to move).
I bought a pass for 20 classes, so if anyone wants to come with me that’d be great. (Its $15 for a normal session, $200 for the 20 pass). I’m sure I will be super sore tomorrow but it’s worth it.
It’s great to try something new and add a bit of spice to my workout. (One amusing thing is the music was totally different than I was expecting. It was classic rock. I never thought I’d be boxing to Mama’s and Papas. 🙂 )
It was sort of funny after the workout I visited my Grandma Richards because the gym is close by. Talk about contrasts! Boxing and visiting the elderly. Not bad for a Saturday….
Happy St. Patrick’s Day. I was going to wear my green Sara Bareilles shirt but could not find it anywhere. I had a little green on the turtles on the back of my shirt so that had to do.
Today I am tired and sore but glad to be so. As I was working on my diagnosis I didn’t want to muddle my chronic pain symptoms with exercise related pain so I held off of any hard training. This means its been a few weeks since I did a serious swim- really since the QUAC swim. QUAC was awesome but it was very tough to recover from. I think because I was going through other stress and the gnawing pain in my ribcage (which in itself is a stressor) it made the recovery more difficult.
Anyway, I wanted to be able to tell my doctor for sure that the pain I was feeling was the chronic pain, not something from exercise. Also with labs and doctors visits I had to be careful to get my work hours in and that left less time for exercising; however, after a promising week of results with my thyroid medicine I felt like I was ready to get back to training. As much as I moan and groan about workouts I really do miss them when I can’t do them anymore. Especially swimming.
Today I met with my swim coach for the first time in over a month (crazy how fast the time goes!). He gave me a good workout- 1500 meters with intervals (250m fast, 250m slow, 200m fast, 200m slow…all the way down to 50m). It was intense and my arms felt heavy but it was awesome!
There is something about diving into the water that I find so therapeutic. There is a peace in the white noise of water that I love. You can scream under water and nobody knows. I find the minute I dive in my mind becomes clear and the repetition of the strokes allows me to mull over the problems in my life. Most importantly my body floats away, the pain with it. I don’t feel like a heavy girl in the water. I feel like I am flying!
It was great to get back in the water! Tomorrow I meet with my trainer, thursday swim with my friends and Saturday I am taking boxing lessons! I’m so excited about that! Yes, I’ve always wanted to take boxing lessons! There is a gym in Salt Lake that teaches boxing classes just for women. http://www.boxingisforgirls.com. I think it will be awesome. I took self defense at BYU and loved it. So, take notice and don’t tick me off in the future. I will be trained! 🙂
I got my first bountiful basket this Saturday! It was delicious! I’ve been enjoying the oranges this week and all the yummy vegetables. I made corned beef and cabbage on Sunday and that was yummy (my fridge is now stuffed with crockpot meals I’ve made the last few weeks!). Today I had a steak. My mother can not make steak. Cooks it to death. Once I learned how to make it right I love it! Its expensive and high in calories but for an occasional indulgence Ok. Especially after my intense swim. Don’t get too worried because with all my delicious veggies I made a massive salad to go with the steak!
There is something better about carefully selected produce. You don’t really realize it until you try the good stuff and there is such a difference. Yesterday I had dinner at Anna’s and she made ginger ice cream. With the fresh grapefruit and orange sections the citrus and ginger combined well, creating a delicious dessert.
My friend Kate and I decided we will do the baskets every other week. For $20 how can you go wrong? (We split the box equaling $21.50 per person). This week they had special pineapples to order. Hope they will have something like that next week. Yum!
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