Saturday, January 8, 2011

Book #3: Harvest

Harvest: Memoir of a Mormon MissionaryTitle: Harvest: Memoir of a Mormon Missionary
Author: Jacob Young

I have a writing friend who has been working on a memoir of her mission for the last several years, and in my fiction class this week my professor talked about how a mission often provides good fodder for an author, so I shouldn't be surprised to see this mission memoir. In Harvest, Jacob Young writes about his experiences serving in and around Samara, Russia from 1999 to 2001. The book is pretty raw-- there's language and experiences (I can think of one in particular that had my eyebrows raised!) that would never appear in a Deseret Book publication. Young talks about how returned missionaries always say that the two years they spent serving were the best years of their lives, and he challenges those assumptions. He talks frankly about his loss of faith around the midpoint of his mission, and about how he went about finding it again. I found that refreshing, because in the non-Deseret Book literature I read by people who self-identify as Mormon, they often deal with their doubts, but not with overcoming or learning to live with those doubts. Young also showed how, on a mission where all of a missionary's time and efforts are supposed to be directed toward gospel study, it's easy to force those doubts to a head. While many of us learn to overcome or live with doubt, I think it would be a lot harder when religion is the primary motivating force of each day like it is on a mission.

I think that Harvest is a well-written account of one elder's mission (although there are lapses where I felt like Young was using big words to show off and the story definitely could have used some tightening-- there were other places where the pacing wasn't great-- he spent a long time talking about his first companion and about his crisis of faith, but sped through the last year of the mission in a few pages). I think it would be most interesting for an LDS audience, for Russian-speaking RMs (my husband is one and he enjoyed the passages I sent him), and to people who have gone through or are in the midst of similar faith-crises.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The main-floor bathroom

When I was uploading these pictures, Annie asked me, "Why the heck are you taking pictures of the bathroom, Mom?" I told her I wanted to put them on my blog, and she rolled her eyes at me like it was the lamest thing ever. But I do want to show off the cool new wall art here in the bathroom, and thank my mom for helping me put all of the fabric on the hoops (you may notice the fabric from the assorted projects we've done around the house since we moved in) and for meticulously cutting the excess off each one. I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out. In another room, I'd probably start hanging a little lower, but I do have two young boys, who tend not to have very good aim, so the bottom border here is pretty high.

Christmas 2010

On Christmas Eve we celebrated with our friends, Blue and Doc and their kiddos, performing the nativity and singing around the piano.

 Once the kids went to bed (we drugged them all with Benadryl, so they dropped pretty quickly) we dragged out all of the presents and stuck them under the tree.

Then Christmas morning arrived...

We had all four grandparents for Christmas dinner:

Then Christmas redux on Tuesday night with the Godfamily:

 We finally let Bryce dig into the gingerbread house, a directive he took literally:

Maren is Four!

Pink was the order of the day from the streamers to the cake!

The girls loved eating fancy petit fours at Maren's party!

Maren's big sister Annie was an enormous help at the party
Maren with her presents on the big day
Let's get ready to rip!
The ripping commences.

Spellbound by the flame.

At Red Robin for the birthday dinner.

Book #2: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon

Where the Mountain Meets the MoonTitle: Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
Author: Grace Lin

Annie got Where the Mountain Meets the Moon for Christmas, and since it was one of the most buzzed-about middle grade books of 2010, I decided to read it while Annie was engrossed in her last day of lazing about the house watching iCarly and House of Anubis

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon recounts the story of Minli, a young girl living in the shadow of Fruitless Mountain with her overworked father and sighing mother. Each night, after working hard in the rice paddies, Minli looks forward to hearing her father's fantastic tales. Minli decides that she can better her family's life by setting out to meet the man in the moon, and on the way she encounters the characters from those tales to help her on her way.

While the stories in Where the Mountain Meets the Moon were engrossing and the book teaches exactly the kind of message that I want my middle grade readers to encounter, what I will remember most about the book is Lin's skill not only as a writer, but also as an artist. The book is beautifully illustrated by the author, and each page is richly printed in multiple colors. Now that Annie's winter break is over, I'll be pushing her to start reading this book.

Book 1: Lolita

LolitaTitle: Lolita
Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Since I like to think of myself as a pretty well-read person, Lolita is one of those books that I theoretically should have read a couple of decades ago. I don't know if it was my innate Mormon prudishness or something else that kept me from picking up the book at fifteen or twenty, but I was embarrassed that at 35, I still hadn't read anything by Nabokov. So I bought the book on my Kindle six months ago, and then didn't read it. I finally decided I couldn't put it off any longer and dispatched the book on Saturday.

You all know what Lolita is about. Even if you haven't read it, you know that pedophile Humbert Humbert embarks on a cross-country journey with Lolita, the preteen object of his affections (who also happens to be the daughter of his recently-deceased bride of just a few months). I expected Humbert to be repulsive, but I also expected him to be a little bit less intelligent, less self-aware about his unnatural proclivities. Furthermore, I expected Lolita to be less of an innocent, less complicit (at least in Humbert's eyes) in the relationship. It was an uncomfortable book to read, but I'm glad that I can cross it off the list.