Friday, July 23, 2010


I've worn glasses since I was four (five?), and I've never been thrilled about the idea. I'm sure it helped add to my bookwormishness as a child (aside: a couple years ago I saw a friend of my older sister's working at American Eagle or Buckle or someplace like that, and when she saw me, she said I haven't seen you since you were little! Little, and always with your nose in a book. Yes, thank you. That's me), When I was twelve I finally decided it was time to graduate from glasses into contacts, and since then I've been a contact wearer, almost 100%. I guess it's now such an integral part of my existence that I don't think too much about it anymore, but when I was at the optometrist's office this past week, my eye doctor said something that really hit home.

My eye doctor, who is also a good family friend, was looking through my chart and mentioned how neat it was that he's been taking care of my eyes for so many years, and I remarked at how grown up his kids were. Then he told me how much of a blessing it was that I'd started to wear glasses at such a young age, because most of the people who are far-sighted, like me, don't catch it until they are teenagers, and by that time they already hate reading. So it was such a blessing that I caught it in time to be able to learn to enjoy reading! We had talked about my being an English major and how, in a roundabout way, having glasses helped me to read and study what I love.

So, I'm thankful for my glasses/contacts, because thanks to them I can do what I love to do - read!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I'm a big fan of the personal essay. In fact, my interest in creative writing has centered itself on the personal essay. Why, do you ask? oh, and what is a personal essay, exactly? I asked myself that when I took a "Writing Creative Nonfiction" course at BYU this year - and came to the realization that the personal essay was a treasure of immense importance that I had been missing out on for, oh, 24 years or so. To define what a personal essay is, it might be easier to start out with what it isnot. A personal essay is not fiction. It is truth, from the perspective of the writer. The word essaycomes from a French word meaning "to try." An essay is, in essence, a trial of ideas - including meandering thoughts, conclusions, and experiences collected into a relatively short space. When I sit down to write essays, I try to extract meaning from my life - from my experiences and ideas, however quotidian or seemingly dull. William Hazlitt described the personal essay as a genre "in which the reader is admitted behind the curtain, and sits down with the writer in his gown and slippers."

Essays are fun to write because, like our minds, they aren't necessarily linear and neat; rather, personal essays invite both the writer and audience to embark on a journey, delving into the mind's meanderings in a sometimes mind boggling way. For example, thinking about one thing (apricots, perhaps) can lead me to think about another thing (like picking apricots off the tree in my backyard with my family) which can lead me to something else (everyday, meaningful time spent with family) and can bring me to some sort of conclusion (how time spent with my family has affected my life). or something like that :) fun, huh?

I'm laughing inside right now, because I first sat down to post a couple of interesting links from Time Magazine's website, and now I'm writing about personal essays. How in the world did I get there? I think I can tell you. First of all, I was watching the Glenn Beck show today, and he was talking about a nonpolitical rally called Restoring Honor that's happening on the 28th of August, and that sparked my interest. So I hopped on his website for more details, and ended up looking at the rally's Facebook page, and I started looking at the pictures for a charity auction held to support the rally, which included a signed copy of Time Magazine featuring an article about Glenn Beck entitled "Mad Man." Intrigued, I googled the article, and while I was reading it I noticed a Top 10 list: Top Ten Militant Animals, so I checked it out. And let me tell you, the read was hilarious and completely the meandering it took to get there (both the Glenn Beck article and the Top 10 list).

So as I sat down to post the link for the Top 10 list about militant animals (including Kamikaze bats... haha) I thought... hey, the way I got to this article is kind of like the process of writing a personal essay.

Except that I'm not going to draw any conclusions. :)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

hello again, Miss Austen

Some things just never get old. Obviously, the phenomenon of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice is a perfect example of something that never goes out of style (or out of print). I have seen several movie adaptations of Pride and Prejudice, but the Utah Shakespearean Festival's stage adaptation of Austen's story is the first time I've seen it on stage: it was an experience well worth the trip! Every time I see a version of Pride and Prejudice, I think about the character of Elizabeth Bennett for days afterwards. Elizabeth is one of my favorite characters from literature - along with Jo March, Anne Shirley and Horacio Hornblower - and I always fancy myself to be like Elizabeth in some way. But doesn't every Pride and Prejudice fan? So what is it about Elizabeth that makes me want to be more like her?

Kate Cook and Michael Brusasco as Elizabeth and Darcy, respectively

First, I find her impertinence and wit delightful; she seems to have a witty comeback for every remark directed at her (even if her replies get her into trouble). When she first converses with Lady Catherine de Bourgh, Lady Catherine is shocked at her "direct answers," and that she gave her opinions "very decidedly for so young a person." She wasn't afraid to speak her mind, and didn't feel like she needed to bend and simper at Lady Catherine's feet!
Second, her loyalty to her family is admirable to me. One of her biggest qualms about Darcy are his efforts to separate Jane and Bingley. She speaks so well of her sister Jane, and runs to her side when Jane gets sick at the Bingley's. And despite her acknowledgement that her mother and younger sisters are ridiculous, her love towards them is still evident, especially as she warns her father against Lydia's going to Brighton with the regiment. Even when she marries Darcy, she helps her family to rise with her instead of shunning them in her new sphere.

Lastly, I wanted to talk about her ability to change. Elizabeth's opinion of Darcy and Wickham are very decided from first acquaintance; however, once she learns the truth about Darcy and Wickham, as well as Darcy's motives behind separating Jane and Bingley, she is quick to admit that her pride and prejudice towards Darcy were at fault. We all make mistakes! She was no different - but she was able to admit her mistake and move on.

Isn't good literature wonderful? :)

PS I also saw Hitchcock's play 39 Steps at the Shakespeare Festival - it was hilarious! I would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

In Defense of Food

well, I'm already slacking on my goal to post more often! however, the best part about life is the opportunity to try, try again :)

I thought I would begin my renewed blogger resolve with a book review, since I'm working my way through my summer reading list. although you will notice, the first book I read this summer was not on my planned list - that's because it was introduced to me by my new friend Shaina, who lent it to me to read on my long flight back from London. without further ado, let me introduce you to Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto"

one might think, with the obesity problem in the United States going at full force, that food is to blame. in a world where "food" is most often genetically modified and scientifically recreated, this book celebrates real food - the kind of food you can pick off a tree or pull from the ground. it is a defense of food that your great grandmother would recognize as food. Michael Pollan writes about the obsession in the United States with "nutrition," not food, and how our obsession with food science has inhibited our ability to truly appreciate real food. in lieu of making a huge list of all that I learned and appreciated from this book, I'll just stick to a few highlights:

highlight 1: whole foods
the concept of "whole foods" became more clear to me as I read this book. in the grocery store, when you pick up any random food product on the self, you're apt to discover an ingredient list like this: Rice, Sugar, Polydextrose (Source of Fiber)Hydrogenated Vegetable Oil (Coconut and Palm Kernel Oils)Salt, contains Less than .5% of Natural and Artificial Flavor, Red 40, Yellow 6, Turmeric Oleoresin (Color)Yellow 5, Blue 1, Blue 2, BHA (to Help Protect Flavor).......etc. etc. (the list of ingredients goes on and on, in other words). instead of buying food with dozens of ingredients we can't even pronounce and don't naturally occur anywhere, we should buy real food with real ingredients! Michael Pollan suggests that in order to avoid eating food that has been scientifically tampered with and thus stripped of many nutrients (processed flour and sugar, for example) we should only buy food that our great grandmothers would recognize as food. why? because the "western diet," high in processed foods, created stuff like heart disease and cancer, so by eating whole food, instead of processed food, we can live longer and healthier lives.

highlight 2: change our food culture
this doesn't only include what we eat, but how we eat as well. a large part of our food experience should happen in the kitchen or dining room, with the rest of the family, eating real food and getting real conversation. Pollan writes "the shared meal elevates eating from a mechanical process of fueling the body to a ritual of family and community, from mere animal biology to an act of culture." amen.

highlight 3: reestablish a connection with food
this includes having a garden, whenever possible! Pollan writes about the (healthy) relationship we can have with food when we help coax it out of the ground, harvest it, cook it with our families, and eat it together. then maybe we can recognize that food is, as Pollan says, "no mere thing but a web of relationships among a great many living beings, some of them human, some not, but each of them dependent on the other, and all of the ultimately rooted in soil and nourished by sunlight."

so this brings me to Michael Pollan's simple motto for overcoming the deranged, industrialized world of food products:

Eat (real, not processed) food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

happy eating!