Monday, March 28, 2011

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Civil Wars

What could be cooler than sitting outside under a starry sky in Alabama?

Maybe a starry sky in Colorado.

But still, Alabama's pretty good.

'Specially when you got good friends and great live music.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Grandpa Davis!

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Today was my Grandpa Davis's birthday. He passed away in 2007 while serving as a full-time missionary with my Grandma in Greece. I still think about him a lot. It's amazing what an influence he continues to have in my life, even though he's not physically present.

Grandpa Davis made everything fun. The other day I was remembering how when I was a junior in high school, he was my seminary teacher. He taught us a bunch of silly cheers to help us remember scripture references. He also taught this one really ridiculous cheer that had no meaning, but made him laugh. He would yell, "How many red pencils does a seminary class need?" And we would all yell (or kind of groan, at 6:30 in the morning), "Five."
"How many?" he'd yell.
"How many?"
"Five, five, five!"

It's supposed to sound like you're yelling, "Fight, fight, fight!" kind of like in a traditional sports-type cheer. He thought it was so funny. I bet it was mostly just funny to see a bunch of lifeless and grouchy high schoolers participating in some silly chant like that.

Grandpa really was fun. He'd buy us treats if we were road-tripping, he let me steer the 4-Runner down Ragged Mountain one time when I was little (I was sitting on his lap), he took me to see Ryan Millar (ex-BYU volleyball player who played on the US Olympic team) and asked him to give me an autograph and take a picture with me. He'd stay up late playing games with us and we'd be the "Pillow Bellies" or the "Pillow Heads." He loved to play volleyball. One time our family won a volleyball tournament, and we've never quite been able to pull it off again without him on the team. BYU sports will always remind me of him, because he was the most faithful Cougar fan I've ever met.

I always felt like I had a special relationship with Grandpa--like he took a special interest in me. I wonder if he made a lot of people feel that way. Somehow I always felt like he gave me individualized attention, even when I was a kid and no one else was really paying attention to me. He could look over at me from the other end of the table, and wink, or smile, or roll his eyes and we'd have a little moment, amidst all the busy chatter by all the adults. I always knew he was aware of me.

Something that really inspires me is that somehow he always seemed to think very highly of me. He told our seminary class a story one time about how "one of our family members" was like Nephi (from the Book of Mormon), and when all the other family members were getting whiny and tired in our volleyball match (the championship one I mentioned earlier), "that person" was upbeat and got everyone excited and because of "that person", we came from behind and won the game. Then he told everyone that the person was me. I know that was definitely his spin on the story, probably because I was in the room, and he wanted to make me feel good. But it worked. He was genuine in his efforts to praise and uplift. It never felt phony, even if I sometimes felt he overestimated my good qualities. Even now, I often re-read the letter he wrote to me in the last weeks of his life. I'm amazed at what a good person he seems to have seen in me. I really hope I can live up to that.

Grandpa had his priorities in order. Family and God were both at the top. He was also plenty successful in his career as an accountant, but it didn't really seem to define him. He joined the Church while in the Navy as a young man, and shortly thereafter served as a full-time missionary for 2 years in Australia. He kept in contact with some of the people he associated with there, for his whole life. He met and married my Grandma after his mission, and they had their family. He served people and managed to always be there for his family, too. He and my Grandma served two full-time missions together--one as directors of the Church welfare program in Thailand, and another in Greece. I am so proud of the work they did.

I guess Grandpa's work really isn't done, though. His influence has been so profound here on earth, and I'm sure he's still doin' his thing on the other side.

I love you, Grandpa Davis!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Emma's Here!

This week my sister Emma came to visit. Both of us have Spring Break, so it's perfect.

Here's us at the pulpit where Martin Luther King, Jr. used to preach:

Here's us at a Civil War Memorial site, where we learned about many of the men and women who died to further the Civil Rights movement.

And look! This is after I signed a pledge to be an advocate for civil rights:

I love having Emma here. She is such a fun girl. Tomorrow we're taking a road trip to Panama City, FL to hit the beach. It's gonna be great!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Book Reviews

I thought it would be fun to review a few of the books I've read lately.

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. I just finished this one today. It was a quick read (I bought it Saturday, and it kept me busy for one train ride and part of one flight, plus some in-between time). It's a fictional, coming-of-age story with a tragic, historical event woven in. Mattie, the heroine, is ambitious and smart but confined by a promise she made her dying mother to help raise her sisters and take care of the farm.

Before I read the book, I read the following from a review by The Christian Science Monitor: "...Honest and unflinching in its portrayal of loss, poverty, racism, and pregnancy..." The book has won several awards as "young adult literature," so I cringed a little when I read that review, imagining that the book would feel pedagogical or jerky in its attempt to cover so many buzz-word topics. I mean, loss, poverty, racism, and pregnancy? I almost laughed when I read that, and then I wondered if I'd feel like a teenager sitting through health class as I read the book. And I can honestly say it didn't come across that way. Some of the efforts to be educational are pretty transparent--Mattie chooses a word-of-the-day and often defines it in the context of what is happening in the story, for example--but I was able to embrace that aspect of the book (yay for learning new words!).

The storyline is pretty good, with several interesting tangents to the murder mystery (which isn't much of a mystery, by the way). Mattie is faced with plenty of tough choices that require her to choose whether she will be true to herself. It sounds like a pretty predictable premise, but I really wasn't sure what she'd choose until the end.

Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell. Okay, if you haven't read Outliers, just go read it already. I've been hearing about this book for awhile now, and it's no wonder--this book is great. I have been filled forever with anecdotes and statistics. Ones I actually care about because they're fascinating. Did you know that way more professional hockey players in Canada are born in January than in any other month? Did you know that on average, it takes seven consecutive mistakes for a plane to crash--and the mistakes are usually communication errors, not the highly technical kind. Have you ever wondered why Asians seem to be smarter and better at school than Americans? Or why Southerners tend to be more territorial? You can find the answers to all this and more...

I loved this book. Okay, next.

Marry Him: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough, by Lori Gottlieb. The title gets people riled up, I have found. The word "settle" is pretty controversial, turns out. No one likes it. It's unromantic. It doesn't jive with all the get-your-man, happy-ending movies and books and music we've pumped into our systems. But as one of my guy friends pointed out, "Isn't settling what we all do when we get married?" He's right.

I heard Lori Gottlieb interviewed on the radio show This American Life, and she told a funny story about desperately wanting to meet a particular columnist because she was sure he was "the One." She actually lied to him--sent him a note asking if he remembered meeting her in the airport several years earlier--and he lied, or reconstructed a false memory, or something, and said he did remember and would like to meet up. Anyway, she ends up meeting him and is ultimately unimpressed. I liked listening to her and figured if reading her book was like listening to her talk, it would be entertaining.

Mostly the book was a collection of informal interviews she conducted with therapists, social scientists, writers, match-makers, single and married friends about current trends in dating and marriage, as well as her own stories and insights regarding the search for love and matrimony. Despite the hated term "to settle," I think she makes her point well--women, in particular, are becoming increasingly picky and often delay marriage in favor of holding out for Mr. Perfect. She poignantly but humorously tells her own story of passed-up opportunities and regret, and her shifting mindset as the years pass and she longs for the stability of marriage (she's like 41, I think, in the book).

It was a good read. Although, if you're interested, you could also just read the article she published in the Atlantic. It's everything she said in the book, only without repeating herself 10 million times. Sometimes feeling like the book was too repetitive was my only gripe. An interesting theme, though.

Next up on my to-read list: Freakonomics; Stick Figure: A diary of my former self (by Lori Gottlieb again); Brown Face, Big Master; the other Malcolm Gladwell books (Tipping Point and Blink), and I think I want to re-check out These is My Words from the library so I can finish it. Any other suggestions? Tell me what to read!


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