Thursday, April 27, 2017

When Breath Becomes Air

Ever so often, and what I am always striving for, I find things that change me.  That because of the experience, whatever it may be, I am a different person than before.  Travel does this to me.  As I listened to over 20 hours of The Agony and the Ecstasy because of my experiences in Florence, Bologna, Sienna, and Rome I could see, hear, smell, and feel Michelangelo's story in a different way.  (Super bummer part of the story, the book is 33 hours long! And I couldn't renew the book from my library so after 20 hours of listening it expired and I have to wait to finish it after 2 other people listen to it!)  But travel changes me.  After experiencing a place I am changed. 

Last night I finished a book that has changed me more than any book I've read in years.  When Breath Becomes Air.  The book is about the life of a resident physician and his battle with terminal cancer and death.  But really his book is an introspective look at living.  About values and meaning.  And what is the point of our existence.

Spoiler alert: He dies.  And it is heart wrenching.  But it is absolutely beautiful.  Every word he writes is beautiful.  He has an 8 month old daughter when he dies.  He writes this message to her for when she grows:

“When you come to one of the many moments in life when you must give an account of yourself, provide a ledger of what you have been, and done, and meant to the world, do not, I pray, discount that you filled a dying man’s days with a sated joy, a joy unknown to me in all my prior years, a joy that does not hunger for more and more, but rests, satisfied. In this time, right now, that is an enormous thing.”

Listening to these beautiful words, I was driving home from work uncontrollably sobbing. I couldn't wait to get to Brad.  I couldn't wait to hold my baby in my arms and just love him.  As I was driving I just imagined his face light up when he sees I'm there.  I imagined just holding him and caressing his hair as he rests his head on my chest and holds tight to my shirt like he's done so many times.  Alas just like every other disappointment in life, expectations and realities never quite match up.  Brad wasn't excited to see me.  When I tried to pick him up he kicked and screamed and held on to the chair because he was having so much fun playing that he didn't want to leave.  Life, right?

There is so much I want to say about this book.  So many ways it has changed me.  Things I've always known.  Things I've always valued.  But things I feel more passionately.

The value of good literature.
The importance of family.
Constantly striving should be our goal.  
The urgency to seize the day!
In the end relationships are all that matter.

Alas, I am trying to describe the beauty of this book and as so often I don't feel I can do it much justice.  Just know, the book is so good that as soon as I finished it, I started listening to it again.  Yes, that good.

Monday, April 24, 2017


As I was reading through my journals from my early years a common theme I had completely forgotten about was sports.  From the age of 6 to 17 my free time consisted of 4 things: church, friends, Saved by the Bell, and sports.

It's crazy to think about now because it's so little of my existence now. (Well organized team sports that is) Especially since marrying Jason, sports in any form is not really a part of our life.  I can't even tell you who is playing in the Final Four!  (And I LOVE college basketball, especially March Madness!)  I love to quiz Jason on Superbowl Sunday who is playing every year.  He never knows.  And honestly, I don't mind one bit.

But I thought it would be fun to do a post on my years of sports.  But actually, I didn't start in sports.  I started in dance.  Here is me riding in a parade with my dance team, The Super Steppers!

But dance was very short lived.  Kinda feel bad about that, I might have miss my calling in life to be a professional dancer.  Oh well.  

From the age of 6-14 I played soccer, basketball, and softball. I couldn't chose between these two pictures, I think I was darling!!!

I stopped playing soccer when we moved to Cedar and they didn't have city league soccer.  So from then on I just played softball and basketball.

This was probably the summer after 7th grade when I dyed by hair pink? Who knows.
The highlight of my 8th grade year was when I made the 8th grade all-star basketball team.  This team started after our regular season and started practicing after school and playing against all of the other 8th grade teams around southern Utah.  I loved it.

And then my freshman year we had volleyball tryouts.  My whole life I had felt like I had been hiding in my old sister Sara's shadow.  She was so good at anything and everything.  4.0, artist, could 'run like a gazelle', you name it she could do it.   Anyway, the best moment of my life up to that point was when I was told I made the JV and Sophomore volleyball team as a freshman.  This was such a highlight because Sara had only played freshman volleyball as a freshman.  For once I had done something better than Sara!  It was huge.

The JV team my freshman year of high school.
I also moved up in basketball, starting sophomore basketball and playing JV.  
After my sophomore year of basketball I decided I was done with basketball but kept playing volleyball all 4 years.

All of the seniors our last season of volleyball.

All the time parents ask me advice on how to get their kid through junior high/high school unscathed.  Although I can't promise them anything, these years are rough!  But my one piece of advice is, get them a place to belong.  It doesn't necessarily matter where it is, the basketball court, the drama stage, the choir room, it doesn't matter.  Find a place where they can belong, work hard, and feel a part of something.  This will give them a place to learn and grow but feel like they aren't alone.  Although at Cedar High we rarely won any games.  (we were up against larger school with a lot more practice and club experience)   I learned a lot of lessons in that gym.  I learned how to handle physical pain.  I learned how to stick with something even when it gets hard.  I am so grateful that through those scary years of my life, I had a place to go and people who were apart of my team.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Spring 2011

As I was driving home from school yesterday, I was basking in all the joy that Spring Forward time change brings me.  Sunshine.  Coming home and having it be daylight outside really is a big deal to me.  I can be a normal person again!  Ah…. I turned on the radio and I instantly rewound to another time.  The Dog Days by Florence and the Machine came on and I was instantly back in an early spring memory of 2011.  It was another transition period of my life.  It was a pretty rough time.  I had just lost all my friends in Provo to the dreaded “M” word. (marriage)  And I was needing to repeat the never ending cycle of making good friends just to lose them.  I had moved out of my Provo apartment but Provo is a hard place to give up.  Provo had become my whole world.  I had spent the majority of my real adult life there.  But I figured it was time to move on.  Time to try new things.  So I moved to Cottonwood Heights with a friend from my masters program at BYU.  Salt Lake was a completely different world.  A good different and a very bad different. 

I had to keep reminding myself over and over again, “Change is hard, even when it is for the best.”  Because no matter how adventurous I like to pretend to be, I hate change.  And this change was hard.

But the best part of being in Salt Lake Valley over Provo was I was unique.  I was a 28 years old, single, beautiful, smart, educated LDS girl.  And unlike in Provo where I was just like every other girl, in Salt Lake I was of value.  I went on way more dates in this period than the previous 6 years.  But of course I found the bad boy that peaked my interest.  And he threw me on a roller coaster.

But the best thing that happened about this whole situation is it got me out of my rut.  It got me out of Provo… And the living situation was far for ideal so it made me think quickly of what I’d like to do for the summer of 2011. 

So the spring of 2011.  It was rough.  Still questioning life.  Still feeling so alone.  But it brought about the best decision of my life up to that point.  What was the best decision of my life up to that point?  Glendora, California the summer of 2011.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The daughter of an artist.

I can't draw.  Or paint. Or do anything creative.  It's not me.  Not at all.  And as much as my Uncle Leon begged me to take his art class, I wasn't naive enough to think I could.  It's just not in my nature.  I am not a perfectionist in the slightest.  I don't care about details.  (A nice way to say, I am very sloppy.)  I'll start with stating how I am not an artist because that is the question I am probably most often asked when someone hears my dad is an artist, "Oh are you an artist too?"

My experience growing up with an artist dad was probably different than most kids relationships with their dads. Until I was 6 my dad was a full time artist which meant he stayed home and painted all day every day.  After I was 6 he got a job teaching at Dixie College and so he taught school 3 days a week and painted 3 days a week.  My entire life my dad worked 6 days a week.  Essentially he worked 2 full time jobs.  I am so proud of that fact.  I am proud of how hard my dad worked.  And as he reminds me time and time and time again, "Painting is hard work."  But I am so proud of my dad and how hard he has worked because I know it is dedication more than any natural talent that has gotten him to where he is today. A quote from Michelangelo I think is so true, "If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful after all."   But this idea of vacation or free time was a foreign concept in my childhood because my dad could always be painting.  And he did.

That being said, he never missed anything.  That is another concept that was foreign to us, "Dad has to work" was never a statement made.  Because the school year of colleges are relatively short, I don't remember not having my dad around for everything.  He could attend every sporting event, we could go to every reunion, we were never limited by a tight work schedule.  It was nice.

But I thought  I would go through the process of a painting.  First my dad has to come up with an idea for a painting.  During the majority of my childhood my dad was "commissioned" to do paintings.  That means someone would ask my dad to paint a specific painting and he painted it.  As an artist, this is when you have arrived.  You know you are going to get paid.  You always have work.  The hard part is, making the commissioner happy is not always an easy job.  Before my dad got commissioned to paint paintings, he would paint a painting and send it to an art gallery.  The awesome part about that job was if a person liked the painting they bought it.  So the pressure was to make a cool painting that people would generally like.  The pressure with doing a commissioned painting is to try and please the specific ideas of what the commissioner wants or thinks they want.  Because the painting is an idea, sometimes commissioners could have unrealistic expectations of what a painting should or could look like.  Unbelievable pressure.

When he was a "gallery painter" he primarily did paintings to be sold in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  So most of his paintings were cowboy and Indians type paintings.  Or landscapes of the Teton Mountains.  Here are a couple of examples I found on the internet.  

Of course being a gallery painter has a lot of pressure as well because if no one buys your painting, you starve.  Also galleries take at least 40% of the profit from the sell so an artist has to paint twice as much to make the same amount of money.

Luckily in the last 10 years because of print sells, my dad hasn't had to do as many commissions.  He now can decide exactly what he wants to paint.  But of course like I said, no matter what you are painting, it is hard work.

So here is an example of how it works.  He has an idea.  Or I have an idea.  Or someone has an idea.  The idea I wanted him to paint for a long long time and FINALLY he painted was the woman taken in adultery from the New Testament.  So we talk about exactly what should be on the painting.  We talk about what the background should be.  Who should be seen.  The positioning of it all.

And then we take pictures.  I say we because it is always a group effort.  First, there has to be models.  I cannot tell you how many times my mom, dad, or even I have walked up to someone and said, "Hey will you model for a painting?"
An example of such models.  (My little brother Craig modeling)
We have closets full of costumes for painting.  We have all sorts of lights.  When my dad is taking pictures my mom and others are holding lights for the pictures.  Taking a good picture is key to making a good painting.  I have spent hours (my dad has probably spent years) looking through slides and later digital pictures trying to find a good image to paint.

Once an image is deemed good enough to paint my dad takes it out to his studio and gets to work.  Of course I don't know the exact details of the process of painting.... remember I am not an artist.  And let's be honest, it is super duper boring watching someone paint.  It's a slow tedious job.  Although I have spent many many hours getting lectured while my dad painted.  But rarely if ever have I actually just sat there and watched him paint for enjoyment.  One memory that is cemented deep in my mind is the sound of my dad painting.  Until around 1998 my dad used the same easel to paint at our house.  It was an old broken down easel that Ricks College was going to get rid of in the early 80's so my dad took it.  Every time my dad would put pressure on a canvas to a paint the whole easel would rattle.  So the sound of my dad painting was the rattle of the easel with either a General Conference talk or baseball playing in the background.  That is the sound of my childhood. 

At many points along the way in his painting, he will bring his painting inside or ask me to come to his studio to look at his painting.  Yes, I said that right.  My dad, a professionally trained and educated artist asks me, a nobody in the art world my opinion about his painting.  (For the record my dad asks anyone and everyone their opinion about his paintings and it shocks people every time.)  Honestly, I think it is one of the best traits of my dad.  He doesn't get offended or hurt whenever anyone critics his paintings, he works hard to fix the problems. I grew up thinking this was totally normal, but when you think about it, if you had been slaving away working your tail off on something for hours upon days even weeks and someone saw it and ripped it to shreds...

Anyway, I actually blame my dad and this ritual from ruining my whole life in two ways.  1. He has groomed me into a pretty decent art critic which is great because I am now an art appreciator and feel like I can really help him, bad because I can't stand bad art.  2. He has taught me to believe that my opinion means something!  It is a terrible trait!  I hate that I think my opinion means something.  My life would be so much better if I thought my opinions didn't matter, or even better just didn't form anything opinions in the first place!

But I digressed.

So my dad would have me look at the painting, tell him what is good, what is bad.  And shockingly, 99.9%  of the time he would change what I said.  (Like I said, giving me this false impression that my opinions matter)

After he finishes the painting, the last thing he does is spray the painting with a varnish.  Although the spray is filled with all sorts of toxic chemicals, I love the smell of it.  For the rest of my life the smell of varnish will always remind me of my dad.

So back to my idea that I wanted my dad to paint, the story of a woman taken in adultery.  I love the story so so so much.  It took years for my dad to see my idea but when he did, he liked it so much that he has painted it a few times trying to make it perfect. (One attempt was purchased by the church to put into a temple so we don't have pictures of it)  But here is one:

The next attempt my dad wouldn't call the same scene but I would.  He called the painting "My Redeemer."  Jason and I loved it so much that we bought it.
Of course since we don't have room for it in our current house, and we don't want to have to move it around, my in laws graciously offered to store it for us until we have a more permanent home.   

So that is an example of what it is like to live with an artist.  

I thought it would be fun to search the internet to find my family members in my dad's paintings. 

Broc is the boy in all three of these paintings.  My mom is in blue on the end painting.

Chad is over Christ's shoulder in this painting.  

Baby Redd (Sara's son) is this baby.

Craig is being blessed in this painting.

And Craig is on the right in this painting.

My mom and Nick are on the right in the this painting.

And most important.  That bowl she is holding?  That is our popcorn bowl.  Every Sunday my whole life we ate popcorn in the evening.  It was always popped into that bowl.  

Monday, April 17, 2017

Shouting from the roof tops.

Sometimes I feel the need to tell people all the things that I am loving.  Like I am a bad person for not sharing.  Of course almost everything is food.... okay I think everything on this list is food.  But the other thing I am loving right now is books and I just did a whole post about books.  So here we go, things that I am absolutely in love with right now.

1. Quinn Popcorn

Popcorn has been a big thing in my family my whole life.  Every Sunday it was typically our evening meal.  There was only 1 way to make popcorn in my house.  Air popped with melted butter poured all over it.  I hate microwaved popcorn.  Until now.  I almost feel guilty telling anyone about Quinn microwaved popcorn because IT IS SO expensive.  Like almost $5.00 for 2 bags!  Yikes.  But it is so so so stinkin' good.  Like better than any popcorn I've ever had good.  The kernels are better than any other.  AND the dehydrated butter poured over the popcorn is DELICIOUS.  For some reason even better than just regular butter?  Weird.  I know.  But so delicious.  So like I said I feel guilty telling anyone because once you've had this popcorn it will be darn near impossible to go back to any microwaved chemical tasting stuff. 

2. Artisan Bread

Both Erica and Marcie hadn't made this, so I feel the need to share that it is the most AMAZING fool proof bread in the history of the world!  (Yes, shouting from the roofs tops, if possible)

So easy.  And looks so impressive.  I've made it a few ways.  Here is my personal favorite.

12-24 hours (I've even done it 3 hours before and just upped the amount of yeast and it turned out great)  before you'd like to eat the bread mix the following ingredients in a bowl.
1.5 c water *water temp doesn't really matter
3 c flour
1.5 t salt
.25 t yeast

stir together.  Cover with a lid or wrap.

Let sit on your counter for 12-24 hours.

About 2 hours before you want to eat the bread, turn on the oven to 450.  Either put the insert to your crock pot, or a casserole dish with a lid or your fancy dancy French named dutch oven or in our case, our actual camping dutch oven in the oven to heat up.  (If you use your crock pot insert or any other pot that doesn't have a lid, plan on putting tin foil to over the bread for the first 30 minutes of baking)

Pull the super sticky dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface.  Knead it 4-5 times (it'll be super sticky so I put flour on my hands first and just work with it until it resembles a roundish ball.  And then place the dough on a piece of parchment paper.  Let it sit for 30 minutes while the dish in the oven heats up.  After 30 minutes place the parchment paper and dough into the super hot dutch oven.  Bake for 30 minutes then take off the lid or tin foil for another 15 minutes.

Take the bread out of the oven and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cutting (if you want it to look good, otherwise DIG in!)

Best easiest bread ever.

3. Brie Fondue
This recipe came from Erica.  And it made the PERFECT delicious fancy dancy meal with the bread mentioned above.

Read for how easy.

Mince some garlic.  Cook the garlic in olive oil * like a tablespoon or 2 until golden brown on medium heat.
Cut the rind off a round of Brie.
Turn the heat down to medium low.  Add the Brie and cook until melted.
Garnish with fresh or dried rosemary.

Yes, easy as that.  AND SO delicious.

4. Good Morning Power Muffins

I love this recipe because it has no added sugar, just molasses.  Carrots.  And quinoa!  When I have leftover quinoa from dinner I make these!  So so so yummy!

5. Chocolate Molten Lava Cakes
I shouldn't admit how often Jason and I eat these Lava Cakes.... ok, almost every night.  It's true!  They are soo so  easy.  And they make 6 cakes with our ramkins so we bake 2 and put the batter in the fridge for later.

Having made this recipe at least 2 dozen times.  Yes embarrassing.  Here are some things I've learned.  
Our changes:
- She talks a lot about having quality chocolate.  We aren't convinced that is really important.  We have done both really high quality and not and really can't tell that big of difference.  (Maybe our palettes aren't refined enough?)  So we now just use whatever semi sweet chocolate chips we have around.

- We cut the butter down to cube rather than 10 T because 10 T is just annoying.  And honestly we can't tell a difference.

- Also we just use 5 whole eggs rather than 3 whole eggs and 3 yolks because that just gets annoying as well.  And once again we haven't been able to tell a difference.  

- We cut back on the sugar to like 1.25 cups sugar.
- I whip the eggs like she suggests for a few minutes but then I just add all the rest of the ingredients and whip them rather than folding them.  Once again we haven't been able to tell a difference.  

- Baking time is where it really gets tricky.  It will just depend on your oven and how cooked you like your molten.  
Here's what mine looks like straight out of the oven.  Delicious! 

6. OH this reminds me of my other favorite product!  Baker's Joy
I LOVE this stuff.  It make be full of chemicals (I haven't really checked) but I love it!  It is a cooking spray with flour added!  So you don't have to grease and flour baking dishes any more.  It is wonderful.  (So wonderful Jason bought 5 cans last time we went to Walmart...)

7. Fruit AND Vegetable pouches
I am sorry for all mothers that had to have kids without these!!!  Finding fruits and vegetables that Brad will eat in a hurry is SO hard.  These pouches have been a life saver!  Of course they are not all created equal.  I always look from pouches that have almost 100% vitamin A because that way I know there are a lot of vegetables in it and not just apple sauce.  I laugh at all the baby products that advertise vegetables in them and then have absolutely no nutrient value.  Anyway, love these.  I have always purchased the reusable pouches.... but sadly, this working mom doesn't have energy to make my own concoctions right now.  Maybe someday....

8. Grape Ice Breakers Ice cube
A little bit random but I have been loving this gum.  And it has xylitol in it.  Which according to 2 of my best friends in my singles ward who have now made whole careers off of selling gum with xylitol, it helps to prevent cavities.  So there you go.  

9. Some other recipes I have been making a lot lately,.
 Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana Soup  
except I leave out the bacon because I am too lazy and I think the sausage adds plenty of flavor.

Mongolian Beef

Chicken Verde Soup
except I just use bottled Salsa Verde rather than making it. 

10. Okay I'll throw in ONE none food related item:  It's hard for me to swallow my pride on this one because I am actually pretty upset about it.  Step Aerobics has been my workout of choice for 10 years.  I love how hard it is, how it keeps your mind working, and how you can easily increase the intensity if you want.  Well.... step is hard and there is definitely a learning curve.  And new gym goers aren't willing to learn it.  So it is a dying art.  So. Sad.  So let me be clear.  I will always prefer Step to any form of indoor cardio.

That being said.  I am jumping on the bandwagon.
In case you aren't familiar with the new Mormon fitness craze that's sweeping the nation... it is a choreographed hour long workout that does lots of jumping, burpees, and some body weight strength training.  I have lots of things I can easily criticize about it, mainly that I don't feel like it is that hard of a workout, but last time I attended a class I wore my heart rate monitor.  I was shocked.  My heart rate average was about 160 bpm for the entire hour.  (Which is about the same as if I was running a 7:30 minute mile for me)  So I figure I need to jump on the bandwagon.  ESPECIALLY because it doesn't feel very hard!  So I guess I have caught the High...

11. BCAAs from Idealfit
What is a BCAAs?  Honestly I have no idea.  It's the huge craze right now in the fitness world I am currently apart of.  Does it really make a huge difference?  I don't know, I love the taste and I like drinking it while I workout.  I feel it helps but who knows.  The taste of Raspberry Lemonade on the other hand, absolutely delicious.  (I just got the grape.... not bad but definitely not as good as Raspberry lemonade.)

Here is what their website says BCAAs are: BCAAs stand for Branched Chain Amino Acids, and they're essentials for muscle growth and recovery. IdealLean BCAAs not only contain a proven 2:1:1 BCAA ratio to maximize recovery and endurance, they also pack in a unique Fat-Loss Blend to help me stay lean, and coconut water powder so I’ll stay hydrated. Making weight can be the hardest part of any fight, and IdealLean BCAAs help me stay on track because they’re 0 calorie, 0 sugar, and 0 fat.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Books of 2017

I have a difficult time with New Years Resolutions.  Oddly enough, I have a difficult time with goals in general.  But if I have a goal for 2017 it is this quote often attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt, "Great minds discuss ideas; average minds talk events; small minds discuss people"

I figure if my goal is to discuss more ideas I need to fill my mind with new ideas.  So on my typically 75 minute commute each day and my typically 60-75 minute run every other morning I figure I should be listening to more ideas.  By the end of 2016 most books I was listening to were just fluff.  Good entertaining fluff.  But I decided it's time to buckle down and listen to some new ideas.  Here are the books I have listened to and a take away I got from the books in 2017 so far: 

How to Win Friends and Influence People -  This book should be cannonized as scripture.
My Take Aways - Conflict should be avoided at all cost. 

What Alice Forgot - the story of a woman who due to a head injury is able to see her current life from the perspective of her 10 years younger self.  

My take aways: One of my favorite books of this reading adventure. If I was going to say the most valuable thing I gained from this book I could sum it up in one of my dad's famous quotes, "Don't sweat the small stuff."  Sadly it is often the small stuff that eats at us.  If we could take a step back and look at a situation with the perspective of ten years difference how easily it is to 'not sweat' the small stuff.  I am trying to do this, trying to live my life now how I want my life to be in 10 years.  That is hard stuff.

The Last Lecture - like every teacher, this professor wanted to leave one last bit of wisdom for his students, or in his case his children.

My Take Aways: If you really want something, go after it even if time and time the answer is no.  Life is short, why in the world would you want to live it with regret?

 Argo - a detailed look at the inner workings of a CIA agent working in world affairs between 1950-1990.

My take aways: I loved this book.  Couple things I loved most.  One was about buy in.  Long story short, this agent who clearly knew WAY more about covers, secrest, and the ability to get around any system more than anyone else knew something that often times people forget.  The power of buy in.  (I am currently going through major drama at my school because of it.)  Anyway, rather than just telling the people he's trying to sneak out of Iran (a crazy insane feat) the plan, he gives them 3 options.  Then he leaves the room and let's them decide on their own what plan they should do.  One plan was FAR superior to the other plans.  But this agent knew what so often people forget.  Having people invested or having them "buy in" to a plan is paramount to the success of the plan.  Loved seeing this agent use this technique.

Second take away.  I can't even imagine how many things have happened in American history that we as the common people don't know, will never know, or won't know until it is irrelevant.  In some ways I am thrilled and some ways obviously it is tragic.  Real heroes are never known.

 You are a Bad A - How to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life.

My Take Aways: I didn't write about this book as soon as I finished it so it is starting to blur together.  The one thing I remember from it that caused me to soul search is "What is the one thing you love to do so much that when you do it you loose track of time?" Time is a very difficult thing for me.  Probably the thing I wish I could change most in life.  Life I've stated before I feel like time moves slower for me than the normal human.  So I laughed when I saw this question.  No one in the world is more aware of time than me.  At every given second of the day I can tell you the exact time.  That being said.  Something shocking happened the other day while I was teaching AP Geography.  We were talking about lessons from history.  We were making connections.  We were having so much fun that we all completely lost track of time.  So much so that we all gasped when the bell rang.  Literally gasped.  We were confused.  We had no idea what the bell meant.  It was seriously crazy.  So my take away from this book: true, real teaching is the one thing in this world that makes me loose track of time.

The Happiness Project - Little useful things to try and make life a little bit happier.

My take aways: where to begin?  I am afraid that Gretchen and I are two peas in a pod.  The exact same personality.  So every single thing of this book sang to my soul.  The one different between us.... I am probably way more lazy than her with no strong desire to change.

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

Take aways: I've known for years that good ol' Teddy led to a huge portion of the down fall of the balance of our constitution.  I am sad how our country kinda idolizes him it.  I loved learning about him.  He was awesome and it makes sense why people wanted to give him power like a king.  One experience that I think really helped shaped his views on people came from his childhood.  His dad was wealthy enough that like alot of wealthy men during the Civil War, he didn't go fight, he paid another man to fight for him.  His dad kinda felt guilty about it.  He saw a huge problem during the war and due to his guilt or maybe just being a good person, he went on a crusade to fix the problem.  And I think this crusade and maybe his philosophy on "common people" stuck with him and influenced Teddy.  Long story short his dad saw that if soldiers during the war were given their paychecks directly, the soldiers ended up wasting/spending their money and not sending any money home to their families.  Obviously this was a huge hardship on the families at home.  Teddy's dad went on a campaign trying to convince soldiers to send money home.  But in the end he just went the government route and made it systematic and a law that a portion of all soldiers money had to be sent home.  I think from this Teddy learned that some are superior/smarter than others and that it is the duty of the smart to create systems/government/laws to force people to do whatever they want.

Easiest example of Teddy doing this in his political career that he is praised for: issuing an executive order to create the national parks.  Of course I LOVE the national parks and am so grateful they exist.  But the method Teddy used to create the parks were COMPLETELY unconstitutional and set a president that has tragically allowed presidents to usurp so much power.  (anyway, off my soap box now)  It was very interesting and fun to read about such a unique character.

Memoirs of a Geisha - the victorious tale of a poor, orphaned fisherman's daughter who was sold into the work of being a Geisha in Japan in the early to mid 20th century.

My take aways: It's so interesting to see the world of another culture.


Healthy Brain, Happy Life and Grit

Take aways: I grouped these two books together becasue after a while I forgot which was which.  Both books were written by 2nd generation Asian Americans with high pressure parents and them trying to figure out how to please their parents and still find happiness.

What I took away from the books is one of the best discoveries of my exsistence and I am THRILLED!  I discovered what I would like to do if I was to get a doctorate! 

East of Eden - the brutal journey of 2 families as they try and settle in Northern California.

My Take Aways: Some people are good, some people are bad and in this book there is a character that is really really really bad.  But as always in life, the really really bad makes the light even brighter.

These is my Words - diary entries from a pioneer girl as she tries to tame the Wild Wild West.

My Take Aways: Perspective of previous experiences change current circumstances so much.  It's so easy to look back at an event in history and place blame... if only we could know what previous experiences had happened to people before they did something horrible to understand why they did. 

The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up - everything we own either brings us joy or drags us down.  Getting rid of all things that don't bring joy will make us happier and more free.

My take aways: This book is magic and I love everything about it.  I followed her advice completely with most of my belongs.  I truly feel more free and happy and keep my room much cleaner now.

Three Cups of Tea - a lost mountain climber stumbles into a Pakistani village after failing to climb K2.  He promises the leaders of the village that he will return and build a school.  He spends the next 20 years of his life keeping that promise.

Take aways: people who really impact and change the world are often difficult, crazy people.  I am so glad that exist.

Me Before You - a girls journey to find herself while taking care of a miserable paraplegic.  

My take aways - Unlike most women who read this book expecting it to me a romance - did you know there is a difference between a romance novel and women's fiction???? - yeah me neither - I loved the ending.  Probably morbid to say it but I did.  

10 Stupid Things Couples Do to Mess up Their Reliationshps - Dr. Laura doing what she does best.  Frankly, bluntly telling people exactly how it is.

My Take Away - I love her definition of the difference between secret and private.  In relationships, it's okay to have things that are private.  Private things happen typically in a bathroom behind closed doors.  Secretive is not okay.  Secretive is anything that in any way shape or form affects the other party.  

The Story of the World Volume 4 - The history of the world from 1850-1994.  

My Take Aways - I think reading this book or a book like it should be required in order to vote.  (I know, I know kinda extreme) This book does a great job at quickly and easily painting the current picture of all world current affairs.  It's boring and tough to get through at parts but I absolutely love seeing so quickly and easily the basic history of the last 150 years.  I have a much better grasp on the entire world because of it.  (I am making all my AP Geography students read this book this summer)

Super Freakonomics - people are not good nor bad but easily incentivized.  

My Take Aways: OH HOW I LOVE LOVE LOVE Levitt and Dubner!  Geniuses that I adore with all my heart!  The one thing I read from the book that would have probably been better if I had never known...... after the age of 2, there is no significant data that supports that a child in a carseat is safer than just wearing a seatbelt.  After Brad turns 2, every struggle to get him into his carseat will just eat at me. We love false securities but hey, at least car seat manufactures are making billions of dollars lobbying legislatures to make my kid be a carseat until he's an adult.  

Daring Greatly - How the courage to be vulnerable transforms the way we live.

My take aways: She used this quote from who knows where, "What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?"  The awesome thing is when I asked Jason this question, the answer was nothing.  So awesome.  Sadly, I wouldn't say nothing.  And I need to figure out how to attempt more things.  I really appreciated her chapter on shame.  How we all handle shame differently. 

The Nightgale - the story of a French family that lives through Nazi occupation and their undercover fight to try and save France.

My take aways: It's so hard for my generation and younger to even imagine war.  At least my parents lived with parents who experience war.  We never have.  Of course it is a good, wonderful thing.  But it also makes us so complacent.  Every time I read about war I passionately want to do everything in my power to prevent it.  Of course I recognize there is little I can do.  I recently watched Clueless and laughed.  I have turned into the passionate teacher trying so hard to fight a crusade while the students sit there bored.  Anyway, back to the book.  My favorite quote, “If I have learned anything in this long life of mine, it is this: in love we find out who we want to be; in war we find out who we are.”  There is obvious benefits from going through a refiners fire.  War is a pretty terrible fire to go through.... The most emotional heartbreak for me in this book wasn't in death or cruelty.  The heartbreak was in a fight I felt the main character should have fought and didn't.  But I won't be a spoiler.  It was a wonderful book.

When Breath Becomes Air  - the life of a resident physician and his battle with terminal cancer and death.  But really his book is an introspective look at living.  About values and meaning.  And what is the point of our existence.

My take aways: It is important to feel like my job as a teacher is a calling more than just a job. The value of good literature.  The importance of family. Constantly striving should be our goal.  The urgency to seize the day! In the end relationships are all that matter.

All the Light We Cannot See - the dual stories of a blind French girl and a orphaned genius German boy who have to live through the tragic world of war.

My take aways: This was the most difficult of all the books to finish.  I really wasn't feeling it.  The story in the end was beautiful but a lot of randomness to finally get to the meet cute.

The Agony and the Ecstasy - a biographical novel about  in my humble opinion, the best artist of all time, Michelangelo.

I LOVED this book.  And I am shocked how whenever I ask people about this book, they groan like I am asking them if they have read War and Peace.  *For the record, I have read 900 pages of War and Peace and actually really loved it too. Anyway, back to The Agony and the Ecstasy.  It is awesome.  It also helps that I can picture all of the places described around Florence.  Both Michelangelo and Florence will always have a special place in my heart.   

My take aways: “One should not become an artist because he can, but because he must. It is only for those who would be miserable without it.”  I love this quote... and feel like it should be the motto for being a junior high teacher as well as an artist.
It is hard work doing great things.  That is why they stand out.  Because doing and being great isn't the norm.  Michelangelo was great because he was absolutely obsessed with working.  It absolutely consumed his life.  All relationships he had were ruined because he was so obsessed with his art.  And I love him for it.  I also didn't realize the number of Pope's in his lifetime and how closely he worked with many of them.  
Also I grew to hate Leonardo de Vinci because of the book. Leonardo may have been more innovative but I think Michelangelo was a superior artist.  
If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn't seem so wonderful at all.
Read more at:

Eleanor and Park - a Romeo and Juliet meets Perk of being a Wallflower.  The story of two misfits that find love. HORRIBLE language.  Would not recommend this book to anyone.  

Take Aways: All the time I deal with students that have horrible home lifes.  As I listened to the description of Eleanor's home life I couldn't help but scroll the the memories of all the students I've had that I am sure had home life's like her's or worse.  I think it is good to have such an awful description as a teacher every once in a while to remind myself what my students are going through.  It helps me become more sympathetic.  

Born a Crime - Awesome autobiography of a "mixed" boy growing up at the end of the Apartheid in South Africa.  

My take away: My favorite quote that I want to implement into why Geography is so important is, "When you make the effort to speak someone else's language even if it's just basic phrases here and there you are saying to them, 'I understand that you have a culture and an identity that exists beyond me.  I can see you as a human being.'"

Love and Gelato - a cheesy teen book about a teen who goes to live in Florence for the summer.

My Take Away: Didn't really have one.  Just loved to picture all the beautiful places in and around Florence as described in the book.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - Jason and I listened to this on our travels back from Christmas Vacation.  There will never be a reader as good as Jim Dale.

My take away: J.K. you are a genius.

I am Malala - the personal account for a teenage girl trying to fight against the Taliban.

My take away:  I love any book or story that shows the contrast between different Muslims.  Often times no matter how I try and teach it, I feel my students/American society views all Muslims the same.  (which is tragic since A. there are over a billion of them. B. some are so evil and some are so beautiful.)

The Family Romanov - Using primary source quotes, this book puts together the story of the fall of the Romanov family.  It was awesome.

My take aways: 1. The contrast between the two classes was so drastic.  2. I didn't realize the lower class was actually starting to get educated right before the revolution which might have even been worse because stupid young educated people thought communism would work.  3. and most important, by the end of Lennon's life he was starting to doubt communism.  He saw the people couldn't run the government.  And his doubt is what makes people conspire that Stalin killed him.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology - I only started reading this book because Stacy Carosi.  I had no idea what it was going to be about.  This whole book is about Scientology and Leah's experience within the church and trying to get out.  Very interesting.

My take away: I can't look at Tom Cruise the same which is sad because I really did like his movies.  But breaking away from a religion you had given your whole life to would be a very difficult thing.

A Man Called Ove - the story a depressed old Autistic man that tries to kill himself but helping others kept getting in the way.

My take away:  Reaffirmed the tender spot in my heart that old people need young people as much as young people need old people.  And I sure hope that someday my parents get to live in my backyard.

Anna Kendrick:Scrappy Little Nobody  - the struggle to become an actress.

My take away: It's shocking how much the world wants to portray that celebrities are different from us, when they really are just like us.

Defy Series - Defy, Ignite, and Endure - A fun fantasy series about an unrealistic teenagish girl who can fight better than any man.

Take away: Sadly... don't really have one?

Boys on the Boat - The inspirational story of a orphaned boy who is able to make it to the 1930ish Olympics by becoming a rower.

My take away: I have been involved and hope to be involved again with a group that has synergy like described in the book.

Honorable Mentions:
I also listen to podcasts.  The hard and good thing about podcasts is the fact that they are short.  Good because they are easy, and fun, and usually entertaining.  Bad because I feel like they are forgotten as easily as they came.  I am not changed by podcasts the way I am by a book.  But that being said there are many wonderful ideas I have gained through podcasts.  Some of my favorite podcasts are:
1. Freakenomics.  It rocks my world and I adore it.
2. TED Radio Hour.  Sometimes it's awesome, sometimes just super boring.
3. The Tim Ferris Show.  This guy is a genius and always gets me thinking.
4. This American Life.  I used to LOVE this show but now too often I find it WAY too political for me and it is hard to swallow.
5. Planet Money.