good reads

lately i've been thinking of all the wonderful people in my life--i definitely have more than my fair share. some have stayed around, others come and go, but all have enriched me so much and it makes me feel so happy to think of it. well, last night i was thinking about books, and i actually had the same feeling. a coworker of josh's, miki who i love, told him about this website, goodreads.com, and she said i would just love it. so she sent it to him, he sent it to me...and she was right! it's really fun, if you're a book lover like me. josh has been asking me forever to make a list of books i've read and rank them (he loves rankings--my numbers guy). those of you who know me, know i've read a lot, and the task seemed like too much. however, i must say i had the best time doing exactly that last night thanks to the website. it is wonderful to think of all the amazing things i've read. i felt so lucky to have read them. i thought of how books i've read have influenced me, changed the way i thought, helped me understand something or someone completely out of my realm of experience. recently i read in cold blood and felt how little there was separating myself from this criminal put to death by the state--we're much the same. you read english patient, age of innocence, anna karenina--and you don't condone what they do--but you see the tragedy and the humanity. on and on and on...i feel so lucky that i've been able to read all of these things--some uplifting, some depressing, some informative, some entertaining. i thought of all my different reading kicks--i read all of jane austen, most of wallace stegner. i had a spurt of reading adventure/outdoors books like desert solitaire, into thin air, endurance, etc. i had a time where i was SICK of uppity british lit and read lots of american classics. i had a time where i only wanted non-fiction, and read ghandi, churchill, john adams. i had an asian kick--read wild swans, good earth. all in all, i've read tons of great books. i am not an elitist, but i am a literary snob, i admit it. i am very picky about what i'll read and who i'll take recommendations from--because there are a million books i'd like to read and i'll be lucky to have time to read a couple of hundred more before i die. plus, people have this ridiculous assumption that if a book is a "classic" that it's hard to read or not as good as the latest NYTimes best seller. not true! once a friend of mine said "janell, not everyone can read the books you do!" what? everyone can! i am not any smarter than anyone else. i don't automatically know all of the symbolism and deeper meanings. the difference with great literature is it is entertaining AND enriching. you enjoy it, and afterwards you have a deeper, richer understanding. right now--in school--i read for school only because i have so much of it. over my summer break i did read two fiction books and was reminded of how wonderful it is to get lost in a book. there's just nothing better. sometimes a good book is as wonderful and gratifying as your favorite person. sometimes it's even better.



this cracks me up. it's from an article today in the new york times:
Are Your Jeans Sagging? Go Directly to Jail. the article itself is interesting, if you're interested in constitutional issues. some towns are trying to ban sagging your pants, ruling it is indecent exposure. but the real entertainment is in these pictures. i love it--we've all seen it and it's hilarious. banning it? seems silly to me. don't we have more important policy issues to be worried about?

sad commentary

this article in the new york times is sad to read. i don't agree with the death penalty under any circumstances. i do, however, understand people's feelings of hopelessness and not knowing what else to do with serial criminals. but here you have a man, now 30, who when he was just 19 years old was in the car with a guy who killed someone. just 19 years old. and you learn that when he was a toddler his dad used to take him on drug runs. and now we're killing him--an eye for an eye. i can't see any justice in that. i don't understand it...


i love dc

today i have been bed ridden. barely gotten out of bed at all. josh got the kids up, fed them breakfast, gave them baths, took them to church...i laid in bed feeling weak and nauseous, my stomache rumbling, a lovely case of the stomache flu, about which i'll spare you the details. finally at about four this afternoon josh brought me some juice and cut up watermelon (with some lime--which i love), the thought of which actually didn't make me feel worse, so after getting a little something back in my stomache i feel a little better. not much. thank goodness it's sunday and i can just rest all day, sleep all day, stay in my pajamas all day, and finally finish reading 'the red tent.' i did read a big stack of library books with joshua this morning, but other than that i've really done nothing--so if i blog a little, maybe i'll feel semi-productive.

i'm going back three months, to the end of may when i was in washington dc, which i want to blog about because a) several of you loyal readers were with me back in the day and share my love for the place. b) i had a wonderful, perfect time. c) something about being back there makes me very introspective. i went on my own, and josh was a stay-at-home dad for a few days. although before i left i had 5 meals prepared, a fridge full of groceries, laundry all done, etc--afterwards josh still told me we should hire a maid, which idea i fully support! it's been awhile since i've traveled without my kids, and it was refreshing and relaxing--and a very fun getaway with my girl susan.
isnt' that beautiful? the jefferson monument. it was a beautiful day, and i was alone for most of it. this reminded me how much i love being alone--and i love being alone in a big city, there's just something about the anonymity of it. i was filled with thoughts of 2000. when i was over on this side of the river i thought about the cold day nick and i went out to the awakening--such a beautiful sculpture, the man freeing himself from the ground. and this, the einstein monument just barely off the mall, hidden away in the trees on constitution ave, reminded me of matt--his favorite. one day i studied (yes i brought my books and studied a lot--i can't let go) at the national gallery of art and thought of brooklyn, the artist. we were MIRACULOUSLY assigned as roommates at our humble ghetto abode in alexandria, VA, where your nights are filled with the incessant banging of bedposts against the neighbors thin walls. the fact that she was my roommate is proof that heaven was smiling down on me, i may very well have lost it with some of the others (ie. right-wing nut). but brooklyn was perfect--she is all light and sunshine, thought and honesty, reality and beauty. just what i needed.
anyway, this time i also had a wonderful long run, i lost track but it was somewhere between 10 and 15 miles. i just took off and ran and ran all over the city, then down the mall, across the river, along the parkway, and into one of my favorite of all the monuments--roosevelt island--the nature preserve in honor of teddy. it's beautiful and quiet and a refuge from the city. when i was in dc, sometimes i would get so restless to be out of the city, into the mountains, away from all the people, the traffic, the noise, the endless political debates. so i learned to appreciate the beauty of small little refuges the city provides. a small grove of trees, a little stream, everything means more and i learned to appreciate them more and to feel alone and peaceful even as the city rushed by. this picture to the left is the mall. but really, you can't see how beautiful a day it was, how beautiful the place is, although it's true i may wear rose colored glasses. the entire city is just magical to me. i've always thought of the cheesy phrase "i found myself in paris," but for me it was dc. i think i found myself there. not that i felt particularly lost--but it was there i learned to really know what i cared about, what i believed, what i liked, without reference to those around me. for awhile i actually think i went too far, it was a far out experience after which, back at school, i was able to be centered. but it was in dc i stopped worrying about what other people thought or what other people were doing--i was happy by myself, i was happy being myself. i loved spending time alone on long walks, at kennedy center concerts, on the metro reading the new york times or 'the alchemist' or writing in my journal, ice skating to jazz music at national archives. i learned the joy of eating out by yourself, of being alone in thought. this may sound funny, because i think i've always been a bit of a loner, but at college i had so much fun all the time, i had so many great friends all the time, and maybe that didn't leave me enough time to take it all in. so in 2000 i did.
now, don't get me wrong--many of my favorite people in the world are people i met in dc in 2000. a lot of what i loved and learned stemmed from my interactions with others. the endless debating forced me to learn to give voice to my thoughts, to not be afraid of disagreement or disapproval, and taught me to understand that my opinions are as valid and as educated as anyone else's--that other people don't know more simply because they speak emphatically or use absolutes. or simply because they are men. i also learned a lot about my religious beliefs from nick and matt and from one guy ryan that i interned and took long lunches with--from the questions, sometimes painful, that forced me to ask myself what i believed and what kind of person i wanted to be. i also had an experience at the national cathedral, participating in a non-denominational religious ceremony when the Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke, for which participation i was severely castigated by my mormon peers--which forced more personal reflection. and my grandpa passed away that semester. this was much harder for me than i ever would have thought, i still don't quite understand it. but i'll never forget matt's kindness--bringing me ice cream and sitting up with me without talking--nor the tulips emily left on my table.
back to the near past--at some point in my run i had to head back over arlington bridge, and then i wandered around the FDR monument, which i also love. all the water, the fountains amidst all the stone, and right next to the river. it's beautiful. and what's more beautiful are the FDR quotes engraved on the stone. here's one i love...
but there are many more. he talks a lot about social justice, which is huge for me--almost everything politically for me. i feel like there's so much in dc that's inspiring. not that it isn't easy to be disillussioned by things, by politics. i worked for senator hatch, i know all about disillusionment. but really--there's so much good. i ended up going by the white house, and of course here you see the permanent peace protest--which reminded me of dave who told me he joined them one day, fingers in a V and singing give peace a chance. cracks me up. way to be a part of the process!
speaking of dave, it was great seeing him and matt s, friends from BYU, and even jozsef who i met in dc in 2000, an entirely different context, and now he randomly lives out there with some good friends of mine who previously had no connection. small world. it was fun eating out with the noisy and interesting debate matt always fosters, now moderated by his sweet wife, and cracking up watching the office, talking late. best of all was hanging out with susan. what a great time. we just talked and talked and talked and talked--all day and up late and off to lunch and in the car. just like old times. there aren't many friends like that in the world. but susan has got to be one of the best people to talk with. you can bet we're laughing like crazy, crying a lot--talking about old times, but also about politics, religion, relationships, families, future plans, fears, hopes. everything is on the table. susan is simply the best. that's why she's one of my very best friends and favorite people. she's beautiful, intelligent, compassionate, hilarious... on and on. thank goodness for the dorms that brought us together!
other good times from my trip included walking the cobblestone streets of georgetown, and the tow path and rock creek park. it's such a beautiful, historical, fun place to be, especially with company this good. and dupont circle, off to the left here, with lots of fun shops and restraunts and expensive living. it's somewhere i now love especially. but enough details...
the whole trip was perfect, the timing was perfect, the people were perfect. i love the place more than ever.


a little unconventional

monday night we went down to fairmont park to see a skating competition. fairmont park is just north of i-80, right on the border of sugarhouse and sugarhood, which isn't much of a hood. salt lake doesn't really have a hood, unless you're from holladay or sandy, and then you think everywhere northwest is hood. this would explain why i have friends who fear liberty park, and surely wouldn't be caught dead at fairmont, least of all with this crowd. we loved it. josh starts reminiscing about the good ol' days in miami where he was the only white kid around, but could still shoot hoops with the best of them. all the smoke and black flag t-shirts take me back to my days of watching indy bands, which all began because i had a thing for a drummer who ended up dating my sister. and then a bass player who had a thing for me but also a girlfriend, and then a guitar player that actually went my way. but back to skating...these kids were amazing, and some old men also. one guy i swear was bill gates jr. the wavy brown hair, the glasses, and the nerdy white-boy look--only wearing a helmet and dropping into a pit, instead of making millions and starting foundations with melinda. yep--that's him...

joshua loved it, and was very disappointed to learn that his dad can't do any tricks, and actually ate it pretty bad the one time he was on a half pipe. joshua decided he wants to learn, but when josh told him the skate park is pretty tough, joshua said--"that's alright dad, we'll go home and PRACTICE, and then come here." my one complaint is that in the hour or so we were there, my two sweet, innocent, sheltered children must have heard the f-bomb a few hundred times. luckily it means nothing to them, and they don't notice. but when we got in the car josh and i had to laugh. "well boys, at least now you know what the f in fhe stands for." we thought it was a great family night, if a little unconventional...


this is us, life is good.

yes, i know this is many photos, but literally hundreds ended up on the cutting floor. and it very well may be three more months before i blog again, so you may as well take what you get. that includes you nick--mr. blogosphere regulator. besides, these kids are CUTE (full disclosure: they are mine.)

todd and katie, two of our favorite people in the world, were just here. the sad fact is they took off tuesday morning, but only after katie and i got to run together. she's the world's best running partner, even if our husbands do think we have a bad, all-too-liberal influence on each other. todd is like a brother--lovable even as he harasses me. and there aren't really words to describe katie, aside from irreplaceable. she has a skillfull way of avoiding all praise, which means if i do say more, she'll have my head. todd, creative man that he is, took these pictures, and many more, for which we are in his debt. of course we are already way, way WAY in the debt-hole to todd and katie. put it on our tab.

one thing you've got to love about this zion of ours is that almost every night of a salt lake summer you'll find free outdoor music. monday night was no exception, which is why many of these photos are taken at liberty park--mondays in the park. the rest are from red butte gardens, where we melted the 100 degree day away until we found the water fountains in the 'children's garden.' then we escaped for a cold drink. with company like this it doesn't really matter how hot it is.

here you have it! the picture of happiness. joshua's face is pure, simple, boyish happiness. i may add that this happiness is derived from throwing little berries from yonder tree at us. no, he's not a trouble-maker. it was his dad's idea, and one he's had before, not surprisingly. of course this only goes along with my theory that all good dad's are only good dad's inasmuch as they are little boys themselves.

now here is the face that brings me sheer joy. you can't see that and not just want to grab him up and kiss those cheeks. he is adorable. even if i am his mom.

i love the picture of tall 6'03" josh towering over his little 10th-percentile-height 18 month old. the contrast is just too cute.

and there you have jacob playing in the water, unable to figure out how he keeps getting splashed when he tries to grab the stream. it was a love-hate experiment in cause and effect.

okay so maybe we're not QUITE as cute as our boys...but i happily take back seat to their cuteness.

that's us, and i'd say it's a good life.


back by popular demand

so what if it's been three months since i last blogged? i was hoping to keep you all in suspense so that when i did finally write again, no matter what i say will bring endless approval. regardless of what i say, that cute boy right there should bring your approval. that's my little jacob on a hike up in big cottonwood canyon a couple of weeks ago. the guy is adorable. he is FINALLY walking--at 17 months, and talking more and more. the best part about this is that now instead of angry grunts when he wants something, he smiles and says "bees!" (translation: please)
joshua is still our soccer star, but has also learned to swim (in a way), ride his bike sans training wheels, and is starting to read! the reading is my favorite accomplishment--although his repertoire is still largely limited to three letter words (unless he has the book memorized in which case he knows LOTS of words, and lots of dr. suess non-words).
josh and i just ran the provo canyon half marathon last weekend. i came in at 1:55. not fabulous but it will do. josh was three minutes behind me, and in pain the next day. i can only say that because we all know josh is in much better shape then me, he just doesn't run as much. we had fun, and enjoyed running together for the first 9 miles, while grandma juna watched the boys.
as for me, i am well on my way to saving the world. that's right. i just finished my second semester in the university of utah's MPA program. (confession: i LOVE the U, much to the chagrin of some. don't worry, i do still rise and shout for the Y.) so far i'm at a 4.0! i know that sounds much like bragging--but i did work my tail off so i'm entitled to a little pride. i am obsessed with school. really. i love it--it is a regular old party for me. what can i say? i'm a nerd.
i will write more soon, blogging is one of my semester-break goals, thanks to some of you angry readers. but first, i need you to check out this link... http://www.sistercommunity.org/?pageid=24&OuelessebougouSess=5f11fddd7dc29468ccfc842ddbbb15d5
i have recently started working with the Ouelessebougou Utah Alliance (OUA). this is one of our events we're putting on--a concert in downtown slc to get out the word about what we do, and hopefully raise a little funds for the beautiful people of mali. all the cool people will be there. while you're at the link, check out the website. it's pretty sweet. you can see what we do, and why i love it so much. that is your homework. check in and report back to me. if i am satisfied, i'll blog again.