Tag: life

Madeline is 10- A Decade Come and Gone

Madelien

My baby sister Madeline turns 10 today. I can’t believe an entire decade has gone by since she has been a part of our family.  I know it is such a cliche- but really where does the time go?  I remember the day she was born.  I had the unusual circumstance of leaving for college with my mother pregnant.  It was a stressful time for our family as we had just moved to California from Maryland (I know all the way across the country!), my mom had 2 other young children and she had basically full bed rest for the entire pregnancy.  To add to the pressure both myself and my sister Megan went out to BYU at the same time.  This was a surprise for my parents as Meg was only 16 at the time.  ( I was delighted with Megan going to school.  It was like my best friend taking that big step with me).   My parents tried their best to handle everything with grace and cheerfulness but it was hard.  My mom used to call our dorm room and try her best to sound happy but it always came across as pathetic and sad.  It was a very exciting but conflicting time for both of us.

At the end of our Summer term we traveled home for a two-week time period.  I don’t remember when the original due date was but my mom was scheduled to be induced at the beginning of our trip.  It was on a Friday and we debated because it was the superstitious day of Friday the 13th; however, in the end we wanted to spend as much time with the new baby as possible.  Plus, my mom was ready.  Into the hospital she went and later that afternoon she had the baby (my mom always had fast deliveries).  She was a beautiful baby with light blond hair and a button nose. Madeline didn’t have the bleach blond Anna had but was definitely fair.  For the next two weeks we helped my mother as much as we could and took care of the baby.  From the beginning Madeline had spunk and curiosity for life.  I thoroughly expect her to do great, dynamic, exciting things- she has the personality for it.  She always has.

Some may find it odd to have a sibling that I have never lived with for more than a week or two.  How can we be close? Well, I have been fortunate enough to always travel home for visits at every major holiday.  My family has also made it a priority to travel to Utah as much as possible.  I have often heard the younger kids grumble about “another visit to Utah…”  What they didn’t realize is these trips were essential to the unity of our family.  As all of my siblings grow, I know I will continue to see our relationships grow and our friendships deepen.  I am a very communicative person and as cute as little kids are I almost enjoy the more talkative pre-teen and teenager ages more.   I look forward to many more birthday’s with Madeline!

Aside from memories of her original birthday, I have also been contemplating the last decade.  10 years.  It has been 10 years since that big day for our family.  What have I done in that 10 years?  I started to list the accomplishments and if I am allowed to say, it’s not to shabby of a list:

Since 1999 I have:

Started and graduated with my bachelor’s degree from BYU in Political Science emphasizing in political philosophy.   In 2001-2002 I was able to be a teaching assistant for Matt Holland and David Bohn- one of the great honors of my life.

Completed an MBA

Had 5 different jobs (that’s just counting what I do now as one job!)

Lived in 14 different apartments.

Had 29 roommates/companions (that is only counting my sister once who I lived with 3 times)

Served a 20 month mission for the LDS (Mormon) church.

Took at least 4 years of voice lessons (8 recitals)

It’s hard to know exactly but I figure I have been to California at least 40 times in 10 years.

Plus, I have been to Japan, Mexico twice (that’s 2 cruises), Hawaii 3 times, New York City 3 times, Indiana once (aside from the mission), Las Vegas 3 times, Disneyland once, Jackson Hole and more.

Two of my siblings have gotten married and I now have 4 nieces and one step-nephew.

I tried to count but I have lived in 15 wards and had 21 callings at church.  Most of my callings have involved activities or enrichment.  I have served as  a teacher once and this was my favorite calling besides my mission.

Assuming we talked for only an hour a week, taking out 2 years for my mission, I figure I have talked to my mom on the phone for over 400 hours.  In fact, it’s probably double that.  I have similar statistics for both Anna and Megan.   I am so grateful for the time they take to make our relationships strong.

There have been some sad, tough times, but  I am proud of the woman I have become.  Some especially hard times were in 2001 when my grandfather and 2 cousins died, 9/11 happened, and other family crisis erupted in one year.  2007 was also a difficult year where I dealt with depression, anxiety and even a panic attack.  My mission also had many struggles accompanying its triumphs.

I have started a blog, gotten on facebook, and watched far too many hours of movies, dvds and cable (reality tv has become a particular addiction)

I now have 20 cookbooks and have sampled hundreds of recipes while throwing tons of parties- some more successful than others.  I like to think I am a pretty great entertainer at this point, and I hope I have made a few people happy through my efforts.  My personal favorite is the original Barefoot Contessa cookbook and the follow up Barefoot Contessa Parties by Ina Garten.  Delicious!

I have been in 5 book clubs and read countless books. Some of my favorites are Red China Blues by Jan Wong, Delicacy and Strength of Lace by Leslie Marmon Silko and James Wright, Urban Tribes by Ethan Watters, Harry Potter books, Jane Austen books, Elizabeth Gaskell books etc…

In the last 4 years I have become a lover of audiobooks, podcasts and radio programs including Car Talk, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life and Radio West.  Little things like reading a great book or listening to an interesting program are what make my life great.

My favorite perks of the last 10 years- high speed wireless internet, my ipod, and my DVR (like TIVO). I am still fantasizing about getting a Kindle someday…

Finally, I have had the best friends a girl could ask for.  Particularly when I think of the friends who have persisted over this decade, I feel so lucky.  There are too many to begin naming them.  Suffice it to say, I have had very few moments where I am lonely for a shoulder to cry on or a companion to share a laugh with.

Life is good, and I have much to be grateful for. I have a great life.

Clearly there are some life goals I have not met including losing a significant amount of weight, having a committed relationship, getting married, having kids (girl named Lili, boy named Christian but who’s planning!), getting a down payment and purchasing a home, going back to Europe,catering at least one wedding, earning a PHD, and writing a book. These are all things I hope to be able to list as accomplishments when I write my post at Madeline’s 20th birthday!  They are somewhat lofty goals but as the poet says “every dream proceeds the goal and the dream lies hidden in your soul”.   We will see how life happens.  I have certainly learned a lot in the last decade and can only hope that the next 10 years are twice as fruitful as the previous.  Thanks in advance for your support and help along the way.  It will be a great adventure!

(I hope this post doesn’t sound like eulogy.  I was simply feeling thoughtful about my life. )

Advertisements

Last Chance Harvey

If any of you haven’t seen Last Chance Harvey- see it. It’s great. Wonderful. Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson (who can do no wrong in my book) are both terrific in this gentle romance. They play Harvey and Kate- two mature adults who meet each other by chance in an airport in London.  Harvey is an American who is there to see his only daughter be married.  Kate works at the airport as a customer service representative.  When they meet Harvey has just missed his flight, been fired from his disappointing job and his daughter has chosen her stepfather to give her away at the wedding.  On the other side, Kate is single and has resigned herself to a mediocre life of work and caring for her mother.  Neither characters are happy or fulfilled. When they meet they are both at lows, which actually gives them a lot in common with each other.  As they get to know one another a sweet and simple romance develops.  It reminded me of the old school romances of Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant.

I don’t want you to think it is only a date movie or a chick flick; although it is excellent in both regards. It is also an interesting movie about work, family, happiness and taking risks.  I guess Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman decided to make the movie while filming one of my all time favorite films Stranger than Fiction- also a great movie about work, happiness, and taking risks.  Perhaps Fiction is slightly better than this but I loved both.

There is a line where Emma Thompson says:

“You see, what I think is I am more comfortable with being disappointed. I think I am angry with you for trying to take that away.”

Isn’t that a powerful idea? How many of us live a shallow life because it is safe, comfortable, or easy? I am a very risk-averse person and it is hard for me to jump into the unknown. While I have little experience with romance, I can imagine one of the hardest parts is trusting your heart to another human being who might break it. The thing that the character’s realize is that each of us give our lives to something whether it be work, art, family, friends, or love. We might as well give it up for something that has the greatest potential for happiness.
Another thing the characters realize is they have allowed their life choices and their definition of happiness to be defined by others. Emma Thompson has a particular moment of clarity I appreciated while on a blind date. Her friends basically trick her into this date with a person she has nothing in common with and doesn’t enjoy. In fact, it feels like her mother and friends have turned her love life into their hobby- like a giant guessing game. It’s funny because she doesn’t say anything but just looks around and realizes this is not the life she wants. I related to this moment. Not because my friends set me up but I have had moments of clarity where I realized my life was on the wrong track- that I wasn’t living the life I was meant to live.
I don’t believe in fate, but I don’t believe in coincidences either. I feel we all have a unique purpose in life that requires us to interact with particular people. I felt this sense of connection with others on my mission. There were people I know I was supposed to help, supposed to find. While not everything has this type of purpose, almost everything can be used by the Lord to further His plan.
In Last Chance Harvey the characters discover their own unhappiness but at the same time learn how much they need each other.
I don’t know if I have done the movie justice but I just loved it. It’s interesting because I also saw Ghost of Girlfriends Past- a supposed romantic comedy that was anything but romantic. What a contrast on every level! In Ghost the acting was bad, the characters were unbelievable , and the writers had the nerve to destroy one of the best books ever written- the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.  There is no comparison between the two.

I hope you all go out and rent Last Chance Harvey and I hope you like it as much as me. Post your reviews in the comment section of the blog. Enjoy!

More Poetry

I haven’t done a poetry blog in some time, so here goes.  I was thinking yesterday of memories and how they often leave a sad aftertaste in our mouth.  Isn’t that weird how we often remember the struggles and sorrows more vividly than the joys? I mean how many wonderful birthday parties do we all have but the one that goes wrong is the most memorable? Human nature is so strange on so many levels.  Here’s a poem that catches the paradox of memory:

The Net of Memory by Adela Florence Nicolson

I cast the Net of Memory,
Man’s torment and delight,
Over the level Sands of Youth
That lay serenely bright,
Their tranquil gold at times submerged
In the Spring Tides of Love’s Delight.

The Net brought up, in silver gleams,
Forgotten truth and fancies fair:
Like opal shells, small happy facts
Within the Net entangled were
With the red coral of his lips,
The waving seaweed of his hair.

We were so young; he was so fair.

Here is another that I like extolling the virtues of the simple life. I particularly like the line “Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss, beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss.”  Especially in this economy it is good to remember that happiness is not gained by more possessions but by the simple contemplations of a happy heart and mind.

Sweet are the thoughts that savor of content by Robert Greene

Sweet are the thoughts that savor of content;
The quiet mind is richer than a crown;
Sweet are the nights in careless slumber spent;
The poor estate scorns fortune’s angry frown:
Such sweet content, such minds, such sleep, such bliss,
Beggars enjoy, when princes oft do miss.

The homely house that harbors quiet rest;
The cottage that affords no pride nor care;
The mean that ‘grees with country music best;
The sweet consort of mirth and music’s fare;
Obscured life sets down a type of bliss:
A mind content both crown and kingdom is.

This is probably my favorite poem on music by my favorite poet Elizabeth Bishop.  I love music and poetry because they both capture moments so succinctly. Most of the big events of my life were accompanied by some type of music.

I am in Need of Music by Elizabeth Bishop

I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

One last poem by Elizabeth Bishop.  This is more of a series of questions regarding travel- why do we feel a need to venture to distant lands? As someone who loves to travel but also loves being at home it is an interesting question.

Questions on Travel by Elizabeth Bishop

There are too many waterfalls here; the crowded streams
hurry too rapidly down to the sea,
and the pressure of so many clouds on the mountaintops
makes them spill over the sides in soft slow-motion,
turning to waterfalls under our very eyes.
–For if those streaks, those mile-long, shiny, tearstains,
aren’t waterfalls yet,
in a quick age or so, as ages go here,
they probably will be.
But if the streams and clouds keep travelling, travelling,
the mountains look like the hulls of capsized ships,
slime-hung and barnacled.

Think of the long trip home.
Should we have stayed at home and thought of here?
Where should we be today?
Is it right to be watching strangers in a play
in this strangest of theatres?
What childishness is it that while there’s a breath of life
in our bodies, we are determined to rush
to see the sun the other way around?
The tiniest green hummingbird in the world?
To stare at some inexplicable old stonework,
inexplicable and impenetrable,
at any view,
instantly seen and always, always delightful?
Oh, must we dream our dreams
and have them, too?
And have we room
for one more folded sunset, still quite warm?

But surely it would have been a pity
not to have seen the trees along this road,
really exaggerated in their beauty,
not to have seen them gesturing
like noble pantomimists, robed in pink.
–Not to have had to stop for gas and heard
the sad, two-noted, wooden tune
of disparate wooden clogs
carelessly clacking over
a grease-stained filling-station floor.
(In another country the clogs would all be tested.
Each pair there would have identical pitch.)
–A pity not to have heard
the other, less primitive music of the fat brown bird
who sings above the broken gasoline pump
in a bamboo church of Jesuit baroque:
three towers, five silver crosses.
–Yes, a pity not to have pondered,
blurr’dly and inconclusively,
on what connection can exist for centuries
between the crudest wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden footwear
and, careful and finicky,
the whittled fantasies of wooden cages.
–Never to have studied history in
the weak calligraphy of songbirds’ cages.
–And never to have had to listen to rain
so much like politicians’ speeches:
two hours of unrelenting oratory
and then a sudden golden silence
in which the traveller takes a notebook, writes:

“Is it lack of imagination that makes us come
to imagined places, not just stay at home?
Or could Pascal have been not entirely right
about just sitting quietly in one’s room?

Continent, city, country, society:
the choice is never wide and never free.
And here, or there . . . No. Should we have stayed at home,
wherever that may be?”

I hope you enjoyed these poems.  Do any of you have favorites? I would love to hear about them.  Post them as comments.  Have a great weekend!

What do you give this woman with a BUMP on her head?

I had funky but real life scare on Saturday.  What happened is I was working at the houses, tired and sore from cleaning and being on my feet for two days straight.  As a little reward I decided to bring my swimsuit and enjoy the hot tub up at the house.  It was cold and very windy and the hot tub sounded great!

Without even looking at the temperature I jumped right in and the water was around 95 degrees, which is warm but  not hot.  To keep the heat in I decided to only unfold one part of the hot tub cover.  These covers are heavy.  In fact, it is difficult for me to move them at all.

As I was enjoying the hot tub the wind got worse and all of the sudden a huge gust caught the cover and quickly blew the folded half over landing a large blow to the back of my head.  I didn’t see it coming and the punch sent a shock through my body.  I didn’t black out- thank goodness!  If I had I could have drown because I was completely alone at the house.  After a second, I was able to get out of the hot tub and rush inside.  After sitting I changed and then laid down with ice on my head.

For the next few hours I monitored my condition carefully.  I felt a little light headed but it was hard to tell since I had been in hot water, and been tired. Eventually my dad arrived bringing food, which I was able to keep down.  Perhaps I should have gone to the emergency room but I decided to just rest.  If it had been a weekday I probably would have gone to the doctors, and I may still do that tomorrow. We’ll see how I am feeling.

Since the accident I have felt pretty good; although, a fairly strong headache has never completely gone away.  I have a big goose egg on the top of my head and it is tender to the touch but considering what could have happened I feel lucky.  Who would have ever thought that a relaxing hot tub could become so dangerous!

Naturally I have been thinking about it today.  It is sobering to think I could have died or at least have been sent to the hospital.  I am so grateful I was safe and that the Lord was watching out for me- even when I was doing something admittedly stupid.  Sometimes on this blog and in my life I grumble about politics or people that get on my nerves,   I whine about a bad day, I wish things could be easier or better.

In the end I love my life! I know what it feels like to be unhappy- to be depressed.  I have had periods where I felt alone, confused on how I could make things better, and even hopeless.  Getting through such experiences has taught me that I am worthy of a happy, vibrant, wonderful life.  This is my right as a daughter of God.  I do not have to resign to a stupefying existence that I don’t enjoy. I love my family, friends, job, hobbies, interests, entertainment choices, and most importantly my faith. As I said in my Easter post I know that Jesus lives and watches over my life.  He wants me to be happy.  He forgives me for my sins.  He loves me unconditionally.  I am alone a lot in my life but in truth I am never alone because Jesus Christ has never forgotten me.  He is my best friend.  I am so grateful for that.  I am so grateful that He watches out for me and I hope I live my life in a way that He is proud.  As a friend quoted to me the other day “I hope I wake up every day and Satan says ‘man she’s up again!”.

I am so glad that I wasn’t hurt and that I can keep living my wonderful, happy life.  How lucky am I to be happy- really, truly, genuinely happy?  I wish everyone could feel as I do. What a gift!

By the way, thanks for all of the positive feedback on my blog.  It boosts me greatly and is a fun part of my life.   The process has also made me a better writer.  I have now been writing this blog for over a year, and we are at 5,000 hits! Not bad for a single girl from Draper, Utah.  Not bad at all.

headache_small

The last few days

It has only been a week or so since I last posted but it has been a very busy time for me. Some highlights are:

– I gave the lesson in the combined priesthood/relief society meeting at church. My ward is large and this was basically a lecture in front of around 200 people! A little scary but exciting as well. I felt the Lord was inspiring me as to what to share. The message was that we as singles can be happy and live a full life. You can also gain a testimony from Heavenly Father that your life matters- no matter your marital status. I talked about 4 key points to a happy gospel centered life:
1. Seek Daily Personal Victories- find little things everyday to be happy about even if it is something small like working out when you don’t feel like it or cooking a good meal when you are tempted to eat out.
2. Live a full life- find things that you have always wanted to do and then set goals to do it. There are few things you can only do when you are married. Living a full life is why I am constantly setting goals, planning trips and taking classes. I am not perfect in this regard but the effort makes me happier.
3. Discover your divine nature and purpose- pray to Heavenly Father and He will tell you of your worth. As Romans says “we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” Think about that- we all have the potential to be glorified with Christ. I believe each of has to ask God if He loves us, if we are His children. I also believe He will answer that prayer.
4. Remember “not my will but thine be done”. Jesus Christ set the perfect example of humbling submitting his will to the will of the Father. We all have difficult experiences that seem unfair or unjust. Following the Savior’s example in such instances helps us to find purpose, meaning and to survive happily.

— Anyway, that was my lesson and I felt it went well. It was a nice moment for me to look back at the last few years and to see what I have learned. I could not have given that lesson a year ago, or a year and half ago. You don’t have that many moments of retrospection in life- moments where you can look back and see growth. I was proud of the women I have become while giving that lesson and I realized the many ways I can become better.

— Moving on. The last week has also been a busy week work-wise and in my other activities. I have started cleaning the rental properties and did so 3 times in the last 2 weeks. Yesterday I cleaned for 4 hours and then had to dig my car out of the snow. Needless to say my muscles hurt today! Maybe I should start the cleaning exercise routine? You could do “the scrub the floor”, “the shovel snow” and “the sweep/vacuum”. It seems to be working for me! It is actually quite satisfying to look at messy room, and then work on it and see the clean results. I never thought I would be cleaning houses as part of my job but it certainly beats a desk job. That’s for sure! I will do anything legal to avoid sitting day after day.

–Aside from work I had book club this week, which was great- lots of good discussion on Room with a View. It’s a great book club with a wide variety of participants. I feel priviliged to be a member and to know these girls.
I also had institute (kind of like Sunday School class), voice lessons, my cake decorating class, saw Slumdog Millionaire for the 2nd time (so great!), saw a play at Hale Theater (so great!), met friends for dinner 3 times, and more. Pretty good for just over one week!

–Oh I also went last Friday to see David Archuleta live with my friend Emily Hancock.  It was a lot of fun.  David is a good singer and it made me feel young going to his concert.   I think I was the only non-chaperon there over 20! Still- that didn’t matter.  In fact, it may have made it even more fun.  My only complaint about the concert was the 2 hours we had to wait for it to start (2 opening acts and 45 minutes of set up time!).  As annoyed I was at the wait, it was still a lot of fun.  I just love concerts so much.  There is an energy to a live performance that I love.

Emily and I at the concert!
Emily and I at the concert!

101_0621

–I hope you all had great weeks and are happy. Life is good!

Bowling Alone and the Great Good Place

goodplacescvrbowling-aloneIn my last post I mentioned how inspired I felt by Glenn Beck’s new 9/12 initiative.  Normally my posts are viewed by a handful of family and friends (15-35 visits a day). Both of the political posts I did caused huge upswings in visits- especially my last post.  I was shocked to have nearly 500 visits in the last 3 days! That post also had a record 11 comments.  It was great!

Clearly this discussion has touched a nerve with people and it caused me to wonder why?I asked the same question during the Democratic primaries- why was the country more interested in a community activist from Chicago than the slick experienced Clinton machine? I believe the election of President Obama, and to a smaller extent the initial response to the 9/12 project, shows the desire of the American people to connect with a cause- to be gathered together for a greater good.

This is an interesting trend because for years America appeared to be in the opposite direction.  Throughout the 80’s and 90’s individulaism grew along with a new sense of self-suficiency.  Without a major war or conflict to gather citizens, group behavior declined- particularly political action.  Such involvement became more of a hobby, rather than a necessity.

These trends are demonstrated in two of my favorite non-fiction books:  The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg and Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam.  They are both excellent reads with eye-opening ideas.

In the Great Good Place Oldenberg says that every human being needs three places: the home, work, and the third place.  The third place is the focus of the book because in it “neutral ground provides the place, and leveling sets the stage for the cardinal and sustaining activity of third places everywhere.  That activity is conversation.  Nothing more clearly indicates the third place than that the talk is good.”  Examples of third places include bars, pubs, coffee houses, bookstores, cafes, parks and even lobbies.  While these places may seem superficial and unnecessary, Oldenburg argues that they provide “precious and unique benefit” to those who frequent them including “the leveling primacy of conversation, certainty of meeting friends, looseness of structure, and eternal reign of the imp of fun all combine to set the stage for experiences unlikely to be found elsewhere.  These benefits also derive from the sociable and conversational skills cultivated and exercised within the third place”.  Basically the third place provides attendees an unpredictable and free environment of sharing that you just can’t get at work or in the home.

Having established the value of the third place Oldenburg goes on to explain their decline with the rise of suburbia.  Actually it’s not so much a decline, as it is a replacement with mediocre substitutes.  The carefully planned and placed Starbucks, Borders, and Chilis of the world attempt to create community but  feel pretty lame in comparison with their traditional counterparts.  I should know because I live in Utah- the home of chain everything.  Especially in Utah County, it is hard to find any unique restaurants or stores- and if they aren’t chains then they are rapidly becoming one.

The best community involvement  I seem to be able to do is sign up for a class at JoAnn Fabrics or look for a book club on Craigslist.  There is almost nowhere I can go by myself to just hangout.  The movies is the best I can come up with but still that’s kind of lame.  The problem of not having a third place is that you end up either alone or  surrounded by people who only think like you do. You never feel a real sense of belonging or sacrifice for the group.  Oldenburg says “The effect of the third place is to raise participants spirits and it is an effect that never totally fades.  Third place interaction is a matter of ‘making other people’s day’ even as they make one’s own in a situation where everyone gains.” As you interact together the patrons of the third place also get to see one another in a positive, happy light, instead of the grim view often found at work or are in other interactions together.  Think about it if you had shared a Coke with a new friend- would you feel as inclined blow up at them if they cut you off in traffic?  No.  We have lost both a sense of authentic community and an outlet for free expression in our country, and I think it has consequences. For one, President Obama’s election (for better or worse) was certainly helped by the underlying need for community activism that he successfully tapped into.

In Bowling Alone, a similar vein of thought is followed.  Instead of third places Putnam follows the registration numbers of civic organizations, clubs, and bowling leagues.  Groups such as the Lions Club, Masons, Elks Lodge, League of Women Voters, etc have all seen declining memberships  since the 50’s when they peaked.  Putnam says the old members didn’t drop out “but community organizations were no longer continuously revitalized as they had been in the pst, by freshets of new members”.  Even membership in the PTA has gone down every year since the 1960’s.  This may seem like a meaningless statistic but it has many ramifications.  For instance, the philanthropy encouraged by such organizations declines. “Altruism of all sorts is encouraged by social and community involvement.  Churchgoing and clubgoing, for example are among the strongest predictors of giving blood…To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends and neighbors are”.

The isolation that Putnam talks about has gotten so bad that most of us do not know our neighbors or have even introduced ourselves (myself included).  We click the garage door and then are shut away in our little world.  We then gather only with people that we have similar tastes with (which brings up another good book I just finished- The Big Sort by Bill Bishop but that’s for another entry).   Even on the internet we communicate in social networking sites such as Facebook only with like minded friends who we agree to come into our lives.  In the old civic organizations, clubs and churches a variety of people could participate and find common ground. In addition,  people that in previous generations would have been included in community discussion- even begrudgingly- are now left alone (unless they are able to find other nerds to hang out with!).  Instead of uniting our country, we keep dividing and dividing.  Its no wonder the politicians in Washington are so diametrically opposed to each other’s policy.  They have been living in a society where they are surrounded only by like-minded individuals and rarely have to branch out. When the founding father’s met they were able to find livable compromises within a diverse group of people.  Perhaps this was partly due to the spirit of community they had been raised in?  Perhaps if they had been isolated and only fed political dogma from one side, the compromises would not have happened and our country would not exist?

Who’s to know! Both authors have forced me to look at the world I live in differently.  Maybe it is because I have lived on the east coast, west coast, Midwest and in Utah, but I pride myself in being open minded.  In listening to every side of an argument and trying to find common ground.  This seems to be a lost art and part of the blame goes to the loss of the third place and the community spirit.  People like President Obama and Glenn Beck (to a smaller extent!) have tapped into this fundamental need and are allowing citizens to speak their peace- or at least giving them that feeling.  It is a shame such attempts at community activism are not more diverse in opinions and ideas but they are a step in the right direction.  Hopefully we will learn and find ways to expand our reach within the community.  I know the few attempts I’ve made have benefited my life.  I have a goal to do at least one act of community service a month.  Plus, I also look for ways to reach out to new friends.  I go to book clubs where I don’t know anyone, cake decorating classes, and even cruises!  I am better person because of such endeavors and I challenge each of you to do the same! Also, read those books.  I hope I explained their ideas in ways that make sense. They are great!