Thursday, November 15, 2018

books, including my new favorite

I've mentioned this like 734 times before, but I LOVE a good book.  I love how it can make you think.  I love how it can take you into a different world.  There are two that I've read lately that I keep thinking about.

The first is EducatedI chose it when it was my turn to host because I was already half-way through it as recommended by lots of people around me, and I was hooked to that thing I tell you!
(more info. and reviews on that book here)

I got Dave to read it too, and a couple of my non-bookclub friends who I had a little "mini" book club lunch with on the side to discuss the ins and outs of that thing.  It's a memoir of a woman (Tara Westover) chronicling how she grew up and it's fascinating, heartbreaking, inspiring, and so thought-provoking. 

I've been thinking since I read that book about a million things, but one of them is what it means to be educated.  Sure, there are a lot of different definitions, but I love thinking about the kind of education we get from life experiences and how they affect our lives.  There was one part in the story where Tara, after educating herself and getting herself into a prestigious study abroad program, finds herself with a group of people exploring on a windy and somewhat precarious terrain.  She explains how she looks around and finds that everyone is crouching low to the ground, groping for direction and wonders at the fact that she is standing straight, bracing the wind.  Easy.  I think about that analogy to life.  She was prepared through the tough things she had done in life, not just for that windy patch but in general.  She had learned and was uniquely able to do certain things because of the things she had been through.  Made me wonder what my unique capacities are, and what I can do to push and grow and learn from them.

I kind of botched that example...hopefully it makes a little sense?  Bottom line is that that book sure made me think.

But the main book I want to talk about right now is this one: 
It is HERE.

Guys, I know this is going to sound dramatic, but I think this is my favorite book I've ever read.

For reals.

It is SO good!  So much packed into that thing, and you know how things hit you differently depending on what you are doing and thinking about at the time?  Well, this one hit hard on parenting and religion and mercy and love.  It was so beautifully written and took me right into the life of a Muslim family from India living in America going through tough, and sometimes beautiful things.

Things that made me think.

And think hard.

I talked a little about how much I was loving this book when I was talking about moments over HERE, but there's just so much more!  I adored getting to be in the mind of the mother, of the daughter, of the son.  Things they worried about, how they interpreted their religion and life.

But most of all I loved getting to be in the mind of the dad at the end.  Oh my goodness, so much to think about.  Everyone has their own story, that's for sure.  Made my heart so full and brought me to tears so many times.  Maybe it's just because I've got some parenting things rolling around in my mind lately, but man alive, GOOD STUFF.

I keep thinking I need to do a whole series of blog posts about different takes on different things that hit me in that book, I just wish I could have a giant book club with all blog readers about different questions that came up in my mind (we did have the best book club discussion about this book...late into the night and I loved it).  Trying to get Dave to read it.  So much to talk about!

For now though, because I may not ever get to that "series" I wish I could carve out time to do, let's just leave on these three points:

1)  I love how this book weaves in so many thoughts on religion.  How these parents want the best part of their religion to reach and settle into their children, because it has given them so much happiness.  But how each of the three children explore and figure it out in their own ways.  One of them takes a pretty tough road, and is constantly trying to figure things out.  Made me think about all our journeys to find religion, and faith, and what makes sense with our own personal connections with God.

2)  I love the parenting in this book.  How those parents try and try again.  They make mistakes and mess up despite trying their very best the best way they know how.  I can so relate to that!  I love the depiction of communication and how it is learned and how it grows.  I loved the little things, like how one of the daughters wishes her parents would compliment her and all the good things she does as they dote and cheer on her brother, who needs that encouragement so much more.  Made me think about praising and pushing and how different kids need it in different ways.  I loved that one of the daughters became a doctor because her parents pushed it, not because she would have chosen it herself, and what a beautiful path it turned out to be for her.  What things should we help push our kids on like that, and what do we let them just figure out?  I could obviously go on and on about the parenting stuff I learned from that book.  Maybe I really will get to that "series"!

3)  But the part I loved the most was about mercy.  I love this quote, "we must imagine for each other, seventy excuses before landing on a single judgement.  And also refrain from judgement because we do not know, when one is alone, how repentant his heart [we do not know the secret sorrows others are carrying].  I love that the dad recounts in the end, "Of all my mistakes, the greatest, the most dangerous, was not emphasizing the mercy of God.  Every verse of the Qur'an begins by reminding us of God's mercy."

What a good reminder.  We are all flawed.  We all have so much to work on.  But how beautiful to have that velvety thought running through our minds, "GOD IS MERCIFUL."  And He, as a loving parent, forgives us all our trespasses and lets us try again and again.  And again.

It is a GOOD book.  If you read it (or have read it), come tell me your thoughts.  I wish I could discuss it every day:)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Claire's high school volleyball season

Claire's first high school volleyball season has come to an end.  

And this is my favorite picture from the season :)
Ha!

All that hoopla, practices every day after school, multiple games all over the valley each week, serious bonding with a bunch of great girls, and mountains of learning are all tucked away.
...only to burrow into club tryouts this week.

No rest for the weary.  Ha!

Claire has loved being hooked at the hip to this crew:

...and her face looked like this most of the season:
And Dave and my faces looked very similar, watching her take on the same stance Max did for all those years right at that net, on the same court.  We love middle blockers :)


Loved watching Claire's energy on the court (above):

And off the court too :)

Fun to sometimes have some family visitors in the bleachers with us:
Love the energy of the JV and Varsity team on the sidelines too.  See them standing behind the bench below:





Love the cheering kids on the sidelines in this pic below:
Just lots of positive energy on that court.


Oh and I love how the older teams always did the "tunnel" at the end of every Freshman match, win or lose:
(Dave and I have a little inside joke about the "tunnel" so we loved that they do that even more :)

We had a little "closing party" at the park with the Freshman team:


And then a big whizbang party and ceremony with all teams...which I didn't take pictures of but here are some Claire and her friends got:

Pretend this one isn't blurry, I just like it:
Here they are with one of their coaches:

...and the main coach and his daughter:
Man, there are such good people in volleyball!

Thanks for giving us such a fun season, Claire Bear!
Love you baby!
...and love these teammates who taught you so much.
There's so much great learning to be done in life.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

my 2018 word -- mindful

Well, now that it is the middle of November, I figure it's a good time to unveil my "one word" for 2018.  Ha!  I think it's taken me the first ten months of the year to wrap my head around that little word.

It is MINDFUL.

I was hesitant to pick that word because it's trendy right now.  It seems like I hear it left and right.  Maybe that's partly because I've been thinking and pondering it, I don't know, but it does seem like it's thrown around a lot.  Because of this, I think there are a few different definitions of it.  Dave laughs and thinks it's just my same "focus" word from a few years ago reinvented, but to me it's different.

I chose this word because I wanted to be more mindful as to how I spend my time each day.  I came across some interesting things to think about when I was trying to get into a habit of meditating every day (still struggling with that one, but I've learned a lot in the process).

The guy who invented "Headspace" (Andy Puddicomb) gave an extremely interesting Ted Talk about how to take care of our minds a little better (the talk is HERE).  He talked about a research paper from Harvard that says on average our minds are lost in thought almost 47% of the time.  I can relate.  My mind tends to spread all over the place.  Did I text back that person who asked about such-and-such?  How can I teach more empathy to my children?  I need to add eggs to my grocery list.  How can I nurture so-and-so better?  Gosh dang it, I forgot ______(fill in the blank).

Puddicomb talks about how when our minds are lost in thought we miss out on so much of the "here and now."  We get so stressed with all those difficult and confusing emotions swirling around in our heads that we are no longer present in the world we live in and we miss out on so much goodness in life. "This constant mind wandering is a direct cause of unhappiness.  We're not here for that long anyway, and to spend almost half of our lives lost in thought and potentially quite unhappy seems tragic, especially when there's something we can do about it.  We have a positive, practical achievable scientifically proven technic to help our mind me more healthy, happy, more mindful and less distressed {meditation}.  The beauty is that even though it need only takes about ten minutes a day it impacts our entire life."

Yeah, you'd think when I heard that I would meditate EVERY day.  He did.  He went ahead and became a monk to try to figure things out.  While that isn't the answer for me, the thought really has sent me on much more of a quest for mindfulness.  A quest to focus my thoughts in a powerful way.  Being there for what's most important and knowing what that "most important" stuff is.

For me, this quest for mindfulness has brought me to think more deeply on several things.  First of all social media.  I wrote about how that's hindering mindfulness in many ways back HERE and HERE and HERE.  I wrote about my new screensaver to make me more mindful HERE.  (I have gotten too used to that one now, I need to switch it up...). 

That "one word" of mindfulness running through my mind also inspired me to get hopping with my new daily "system" that I'm still working on (inspired by blog readers) back HERE.

It's also got me more zoned in on connecting to God...mostly through reading my scriptures these days (talked about that back HERE)...and I personally think that "connection" is even more powerful than meditation.  Perhaps it qualifies as a type of meditation now that I think about it.

Maybe I've waited to become an "expert" at becoming mindful to write about it here...perhaps that's why it's now November and I'm just barely writing.  And I'm not writing about it because I've mastered it. 

Quite the contrary. 

I think it's one of those things that the more you learn, the more you realize you need to learn.  But here I am, writing about it because I think becoming mindful is a journey.  It starts with the seed of awareness and starts to sprout.  And you can nurture it in the ways that seem the best for you personally.

I'm on a journey.  I think all of life is that way, don't you think?  But if I can be keep taking steps toward becoming more "mindful" of how I'm spending my days, the meaning comes to life in them so much more fully, in beautiful technicolor.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Fall break -- California, some college tours and a sleep over

I had this scheduled to post earlier, but wanted to write something meaningful about Veteran's Day before I posted.  And here I am, totally late.  The kids are home today and we've had the cousins over as per tradition when we have Mondays off, and Grace is on a student council trip and we are working on all kinds of projects.  But I just have to stop and say, I've felt such a gratitude for our Veterans leading up to this day.  What a great time of year to be GRATEFUL for all those who have served, and continue to serve.  I know there is so much sacrifice and grueling work and heartbreak...so many highs and lows wrapped up in keeping citizens safe and protected, and I am just so very grateful.

Hope everyone is enjoying soaking in this great day of gratitude!

I'm celebrating by trying to get going on recapping life over here. 

So here we go on Fall Break 2018.  I am out of time today, so I'm not proofing this...beware!  A lot happened over Fall Break!

We had big plans to go to Lake Powell as per tradition, but the 58 degree rainy weather forecast made for a change of plans.  We had some connections through friends to go to a place in California instead (same group of people except one and a half families who couldn't swing the switch, dang it!).  We missed them!  But California was pretty great.
We listened to General Conference en route...loved Lucy's notes:
...made up a little family dance:
Ha!  (That's an outtake pic...)

Watched more conference there with friends:
Ate our traditional conference cinnamon rolls...except we didn't make them this time, brought some that had been in the freezer since last Christmas...not quite the same appeal but hey, tradition rules ;)

Lu and I got to ride her beloved ferris wheel:


We enjoyed the beach:









It was during this dinner out that we finally got the news that Max had done it:  He had slipped that ring on Abby's finger.  And this picture popped up on our group text:
One of my favorite memories from the week was huddling around my phone on FaceTime with those two, their excitement electric, telling us all the details.
Love.

We went to Disneyland one day.





The big kids stayed late, and Lucy sweet-talked all the adults into playing some scum:
Ha!  Lucy sure has some great supporters.

Took and adult bike-ride one morning:
...and loved the uninterrupted time these guys got to hang out:

We had those few days in California and then Dave headed back for work while the girls and I made the trek to Utah to meet up with these two other kids we love:
We hadn't seen them since they got engaged so we were all so excited, but it was pouring rain, hard to find parking, Lucy was yowling trying to maneuver the puddles and the rain in the dark despite (or maybe because of) all the help we were trying to give.  But those guys had hot cookies waiting for us and we were pretty excited to see them for a little before Max had to get some sleep for early-morning volleyball the next day.

From there we headed through leaves and glory to visit three colleges.
We stayed at Noah and Krisit's and got some good morning hugs:
Then Grace and I took a tour of Utah Valley University (UVU).

Pretty impressed with that place!

After that we went to a career fair at BYU, and within about 15 minutes ran into four people we know and love:



We didn't really "know" this guy, but kind of, because he was in so many of Elle's Jerusalem pictures, the girls spotted him from across the parking lot and we had to say hi.

From there we made the long drive up to visit Dave's parents and two nephews up in Rexburg, Idaho:
Nana fed us the most delicious soup in their cozy home and we felt so welcome and so happy to be there after all the driving.  

Drove around the dark BYU-IDAHO campus with Cole and Papa while Nana stayed to play cards with Lucy.  Ran around the indoor track, found some exceptional art at the mini conference center, walked in to the big huge chapel building where someone was jamming out on the organ as the carpet cleaning machines whirred through the halls, our eyes wide with all the beauty bouncing off those walls.

So much adoration spilling out of that late-night conversation with Nana and Papa.  I’m the luckiest to have them as my second set of parents.

I don't have pictures of that night, too cold to take out my phone, ha!  But here we are the next day on our two BYU-I tours:

One with these nephews showing us the way:


And one in this golf cart with an actual official tour guide:
...amidst all this beauty.



The next morning was this one:
...a pretty profound experience what I wrote about back HERE.

More driving and oooo'ing and ahhhhh'ing at all the beauty of the earth:




Until we arrived in Logan where we went to dinner at this tasty place I fell in love with.
(I know that's not the most important thing, or very picturesque, but it was good enough to add to this post and I really am trying to be selective in the pictures.  My mouth is watering thinking of it.)

Meanwhile Dave was back home at a company golf thing and sent this:
Yowzas.

We saw our own beauty-views the next morning at our Utah State University tour.


Of the three college tours we took, this one took hold of Grace's heart.  

It doesn't hurt that the weather was glistening off of the fall leaves and that we ran into a few people we love:
(second cousin above, family friend on the left below, cousin on the right and some guy who was awesome and stopped to tell us the story of his decision to attend USU when we got talking at lunch.)
It never hurts to have your fellow-senior-cousin come join in the second part of the tour and think maybe he'll go there too...
...nor does it hurt to find out all about "true Aggie night"  Ha!  That is a pretty funny tradition that happened to be happening that night.
Ok, and the ice cream didn't hurt the experience either:

My parents went here, and got engaged in that "A" tower behind us, so it was fun to be together there with my sister Saren and think of those parents of ours traipsing around the same campus.

Saren and I drove back down the canyon together with Lu, and Grace, Isaac and Claire drove their car so we could all have some good talks en route back to Saren's house where we got to see her little remodel project (so exciting):

Then we watched our cousin on the other side in his football game along with Nana and Papa and other cousins:
Grace ran into some HEFY friends and was so excited about that.

And then...on our last night...we had a sleepover/dance party with this crew:
Played cards until late, and then dance party until even later:
(My parents were out of town and missed all the hoopla...missed you M&D!)
Phew!  We were sure tired in the morning!

Grace and Claire turned into "engagement photo coordinators" to help these two figure out some outfits:
 Loved watching this group together...missed Elle though!!
Lu was the official photo-bomber:


Here are some out-takes of our morning:







We tried to go wedding shopping at a place that was all stuffy and didn't let you try on wedding dresses without a stylist and an appointment...but we still had fun looking.
And then...we came home.
To be reunited with our David...and our dog.
It was quite a week!  
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