Danny: "Yay! You finished writing your novel! Do you want me to get you a treat to celebrate?"

me: "No." (thinking of the pan of brownies I have basically devoured by myself in the past few days).

Danny: "Do you want to...[looking over my shoulder at what I am doing on my computer] blog about it to celebrate?"

me: "Yes."

Danny: "You're going to celebrate writing 50,000 words...by writing more!"

Here is the Top Ten List of Things I Learned from Nanowrimo 2010
10. Pick a better story
9. It's hard to write when you are the primary caretaker of two babies...
8. ...but it's very possible...
7. ...and sometimes enjoyable. Except why did they choose to put nanowrimo in the month of both my birthday AND Thanksgiving? That was dumb of them.
6. Outlines shmoutlines; the outline usually made the writing more difficult
5. Blogging is a totally different kind of writing from noveling.
4. Writers deserve a lot more respect than I tend to give them. I think I'll go easier on them in my book reviews from now on.
3. My brother is amazing because he has finished not one, not two, but SEVERAL novels. And by finished I mean edited, revised, edited, revised, edited, revised, edited, revised, etc. That is not something I have done.
2. I want to bury this novel in the backyard so I never have to see its ugly face again (and no, you can't read it either)
1. Nanowrimo 2011 here we come! And this next time, I won't start 4 days late and have to write 8,000 words the last day!

me: "Okay, let's watch youtube to celebrate now."
Danny: "You didn't actually say that. You just typed it."
me: "Okay let's watch youtube to celebrate now."
Danny: "Okay."

Conversations with Jane recently

Signs italicized. What Jane probably meant in (parenthesis).

6:30 in the morning.
me: Jane? What's wrong? It's so early. Why are you awake? What do you want? You should be sleeping! sleep
Jane: food (I'm hungry!)
me: Okay, let's go downstairs and get your food. But first I need to go get some clothes on. You need to wait here on your bed because Daddy is sleeping. I will go get my clothes on and get dressed, and come back, and we will go downstairs and eat breakfast. Wait here.


Jane: juice?
Me: Oh, sorry, the juice is all gone. But you can have some milk.
Jane: banana?
Me: Sorry, the banana is all gone. But you can have some cereal.
Jane: Banana all gone.
Me: Yes, the banana is all gone. But you can have some cereal.


Jane: Da-da? (sign for Daddy, asking where he is)
Me: Daddy isn't here right now.
Jane: Daddy work
Me: That's right, Daddy is at work right now.

Okay so maybe I'm rejoicing in very mundane things right now. But the fact is, she is actually able to communicate in more than, "I want this Gimmee this now!" This makes me happy.


Old Soul, New Soul, Whose Soul, You's Soul!

This one has a little star. This one has a little CAR!
Say, what a lot of souls there are.

Can you tell the kind of literature I've been reading lately?

Somebody was recently talking to me about something super weird and interesting, a thought I have literally never had before: the age of our souls. So, yeah. That's pretty deep doctrine (aka probably false doctrine). We didn't talk much about it, but it was excellent food for thought, so it's going on this blog.

The gist of the idea is: we know how old our bodies are, but who's to say that our souls were born in the same order? As in, maybe my children have older souls than mine, even though they are physically younger than me.

I've been thinking a little about what this means, and whether I am an "old soul" or a "new soul." Obviously, it doesn't matter that much. But it's fun to think about.

Which leads to the next question: why oh why didn't I pick to write my nanowrimo novel about this?????? Then I'd have a lot more time to think and philosophize about it. There's always next November.


I wish I were older

I have been wanting, longing to be older than 23 (now 24) since we moved to Katy.

We picked our house because it was the nicest house we could afford in the nicest part of town. This means that there are very few others in our ward in the same position as us: newly (2 years) married, young babies, first job post-undergrad degree, early 20's.

I am not complaining that Danny picked such a booming field, got multiple job offers, and it doesn't require a master's degree to receive a good salary. Uh, duh, of course I'm not. These are huge blessings in our lives!

I just wish I were about half a decade older.

So, I don't think I've ever blogged about my quilting group, but here is an example of a time when it felt especially difficult being 24. Every week, I go to a quilting group of some of the ladies in my stake. Most of them are somewhere in their 50's (they were talking about how old they were, I'm not just guessing), the closest in age to me is 36. Please don't think I'm calling them old, because if I had to pick a word to describe these people, that would not be it. Old is tired and boring, and these people are energetic, witty, gabby, and hilarious. I feel like I "fit in" with this group for lots of reasons: love of quilting, experience travelling and living abroad, but mostly we share the same balance of really loving domestic things (cooking, canning, sewing, quilting, children, etc.) whilst really not being submissive, lowly housewives. Which I'm not sure exist, but that's for another blog post.

I would say that going to the quilting group is one of the highlights of my week. Usually I just sit and listen to what everybody else is saying. Yesterday I mentioned that I was an exchange student in France when I was in High School. Somebody asked what year that was, and when I said '02-03, there was a huge reaction. I mean, I'm pretty positive everybody knows that I'm two to three decades younger than them, like it's not some big secret, but announcing what year was my junior year opened the gateway for the verbalization of many of the thoughts I've been having for the past year or so since we've been here: "Oh man, I bet you think we're a bunch of old fogies!" "Well, just remember what you used to think when you were that age; I remember thinking thirty five is SO OLD!" "I'm pretty much old enough to be your mother! And then some!"

It actually felt great that somebody would acknowledge that I am really young. I think it's because of my birth order; I am the oldest daughter in my family. I was the first to leave home, at the age of 15, to spend a year in France. I'm a lot more used to the "oldest" mentality. It took some serious adjusting when I married Danny and became the youngest sister (in-law...whatever, they're like sisters).

It's good for me to be on the young side because it helps me listen better. I'm SO glad I go to my quilting group because I really struggle with having compassion for others, and nearly every week there is some other story about health problems that I had never, ever, ever, ever considered before. I love that there are so many wonderful, capable, strong women in my ward in their late 20's-30's-40's with kids the same age as mine, because I can go to them for really excellent advice and help.

It doesn't feel like I'm quilting with my mom, or my mother in law. I don't think most of the quilting ladies work, and my mom does - Elementary Art. I know this "keeps her young." Also, my mother in law has a nine year old at home. She has several friend groups, including one that is 20ish years younger than her!

She says that age doesn't really matter when you're an adult. I know it shouldn't, and I know it's not other people; I just need to find a way to get over feeling different from everybody because I'm so young. In a few years, it's not going to matter. Why should it matter now, really?

Another reason I love to listen to the quilting ladies: eventually, talking about age, they all unanimously agreed that being an Empty Nester is the best stage of life. I had never thought about that either, and it was really interesting, and actually quite a relief. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed, up to my ears in childcare. Sometimes it's painful to think how time is slipping away, how I will never see my Jane as a tiny baby again. It's so nice to know that there's so much to look forward to. These women are some of the happiest people I know. When I get there, I want to be just like them.

Blogging about this helps me feel a little better about things. I still wish I were older, so I would have a less difficult time fitting in.


The "R" Word

Yesterday I heard a really interesting story on NPR that criticized former President Bush.

Now, I grew up in a land wrought with Bush-bashers. I guess that happens when you live in Massachusetts and then France, during the outbreak of the Iraq War no less! Honestly, it always made me feel uncomfortable, the name calling, the put-downs, the insulting jeers that had little to nothing to do with focusing on why his policies were bad. And I'm not saying I believe all of them were (I don't). It reminds me a heck of a lot of the Obama-haters down here in Houston, particularly the negativity on the conservative talk radio stations that I can stand for about five minutes before I have to change the station...I just can't find myself agreeing that either of them is a fully evil person who justifies such hatred. Or even that their actions are completely evil, and that I should be terrified of "what they are doing to our country."

Yesterday was honestly the first time that I can recall hearing a negative story about President Bush that I fully agreed with. Basically the story is about how when he was interviewed for his new book, the most emotional he got was when the subject turned to Kanye West calling his reaction to Hurricane Katrina racist.

I agree with the author of the article, Jay Smooth. Instead of discussing how race was an issue during Katrina, the subject was twisted into a discussion of President Bush's feelings.

Danny completely disagreed with me on this. He thinks that trying to argue why somebody is not a racist would validate their accusation in the first place. He thinks if race were an issue during Katrina, it would be that the hurricane was racist, not the President.

I do believe that race was an issue during Katrina. Had the hurricane hit a white urban center instead of a black urban center, the aftermath would have been different. And I think it's unfortunate that instead of being able to discuss these "r word" issues with a level head, people become enraged and over emotional.

Danny thinks the "r" word should either be like a swear word - something you would never, ever call anyone (like Nazi). Or it should be like any other vice: like "lust" or "selfishness." Admitting that everybody suffers from racism to some degree, and that we all have to overcome it just like we all have to overcome selfishness.

I think the main problem is that Danny and I are from the white world. Neither of us grew up with any sizeable amount of non-Caucasian community around us. So to us, the "r" word is pretty easy to discuss. When you're from a place with a one race majority, you can discuss the "r" word easily because it's not an every day issue, it's an intellectual issue.

But I think the "r" word already is like a swear word in places like Mississippi and Louisiana, where people still live with a disgusting and horrible memory of the past.

And I guess the reason I am even saying "the past" is because I've been sheltered from dealing with race issues my whole life. The truth is they are not the past. It still exists today. I just think that becoming inflamed over the "r" word just doesn't do anything productive at all. I wish that President Bush could have done differently during this interview.


"C'est une POUBELLE!"

I just have to post about this before I do anything else. Dan woke me up for his night nursing, and as I woke up, I was having the most intense argument with the lady under whom I student taught. Except, truthfully, she would never have argued this point because she is a smart person.

I was refusing to teach three chapters from the textbook. What was in these chapters? The scientific words for over a hundred different kinds of dinosaurs.

I argued against it, shouting at her in perfect French. The only real phrase I remember yelling was the one Dan interrupted me on, which was, "C'est une POUBELLE!" (it's a trash can!). This offended Madame to no end. She acted as if it were a swear word.

When I woke up, I was so confused. It took several minutes to realize a. I wasn't yelling, b. I wasn't yelling in French, and c. nobody was going to force me to teach some useless vocab lessons in real life.

The funniest part about the whole thing is that if somebody were to try and force me to teach those chapters, I would probably have a similar reaction.


"The Help" by Kathryn Stockett

My Aunt Yvonne sent this book to me and I read it in 2 days. Really, in 2 halves of days. My friend Amy had recommended it. Everything my friend Amy has recommended I jump on because she's got excellent taste in books. So I started reading.

You know how there is a certain point in a book where you say, "ah-ha! I am going to finish this book!" Well, at least, that's how I am. Usually it's in the middle somewhere. This book, it was on the first page. Specifically why: I really liked Aibileen's voice. It was fun to read a book written in a southern accent. I could hear her in my mind.

I loved the book. Great read. The epilogue, written by Stockett, made me cry. For about a second, and then I had to tend to my toddler who was whining about me not paying attention to her for half a day. I smell a movie.

She did an excellent job with the tension. I felt really nervous for the characters. I felt their worries. She really showed that well. She also did an excellent job with her setting. It felt like I was there. I could see the silver and feel the heat. Maybe this is because it was in the 80's today here in Houston. But really, she did an outstanding job with her setting.

Except for two things.

One, I was extremely disappointed at her lack of good male characters. There wasn't a single one. Seriously? I mean, I just don't believe that there were zero good men in Jackson, Mississippi at that time. All of her men were either chauvinists, bigots, unhappily married, psycho-naked-homeless, "whores" to their father's political career, oblivious, or wife-abusers. Stockett seems to have something against men in general. Oh yeah, and all of the ones with children were terrible fathers.

Two, I was also discouraged that there were zero happy female housewives. Come to think of it, there were zero happy, normal marriages, white or black! There was only one that came close, Celia and Johnny, and he was too stupid to realize that his wife had four miscarriages? And she was on the brink of leaving him because she didn't fit in with the society ladies? Okay, that's seriously not normal.

I think that those two gaping flaws in the book portray more truth about Stockett's personal biases than reality of life in Mississippi in the 1960's.

To be honest, the main story of trying to get the book published wasn't super exciting to me; The main reason I enjoyed this book was that it explored something I had literally never thought of. That, and Stockett did an excellent job with making you feel like you knew her characters. I really felt like I could see them, like I was there. Well, in a man-hating, marriage-hating version of there.

Anyway, it's a very interesting book with a fascinating theme: the relationships between rich white southern women and their poor black maids in the 1960's. I would highly recommend it!


Process to get a Tourist Visa to the USA is Unfair

I lived in Jordan for a total of 6 months. The most recent time I lived there I stayed for 4 months with a Muslim family in Irbid. This is what I did to get my visa: I walked off the plane, got my luggage, walked to a desk, showed them my passport, possibly paid them some money but no more than $30 and I don't remember if it even cost me at all, then they stamped my passport and waived me through.

That is it.

My best Jordanian friend, Sanaa, called me yesterday to wish me Happy Birthday...and to ask about getting a visa to come to the United States.

It's not like I haven't had Jordanian friends come to me asking about visas before; but this is different. She's the one who enabled me to learn Arabic. She's the one who spent hours and hours with me, who convinced her family to let me stay with them. She's a Muslim version of me. She is awesome. I really, really love her.

She's getting married in a few months and she wanted to know about what she and her husband will need to do to get a visa to either come to the states as tourists, or to study here, or to work. And probably she would also want to know the details of how to immigrate.

Last night, I looked up the specifics on how to come as a tourist. What I discovered absolutely fascinated me. I always knew it was unfair, as in, I can just flash my American passport and go basically anywhere, while it's nearly impossible for her to enter the neighbouring country of Israel. It's so weird that she lives 30 minutes away from the border but to cross would basically never happen unless there were extreme circumstances.

To get a visa to the USA would be difficult, but not quite as impossible as a visa to Israel (I assume). Basically, a tourist visa requires that the applicant prove they have a reason for coming, and a compelling reason for returning home. The assumption is that all applicants for American visas are potential immigrants. Fair assumption, America is a great place to immigrate.

Here's the process:
This is a general website about getting a visa to come to the USA:

There are 4 different kinds of visas:
1. travel/tourism
2. study
3. work
4. immigration

In order to visit the USA for travel/tourism purposes, 90 days before you leave you need to do these things:
(I found this information at this website: http://jordan.usembassy.gov/niv_how_to_apply_for_a_visa.html)
1. Read the frequently asked questions website

2. Fill out the nonimmigrant visa application available at this website:

3. Print the DS-160 confirmation page and bring it to your interview. (you will need a photo of yourself. Here are the requirements: http://travel.state.gov/visa/frvi/frvi_3877.html)

4. Schedule an appointment for an interview at the American Embassy in Jordan. You can do this here:

5. Pay the fee of JOD 99.4 JD ($140) before your interview at a participating branch of the Cairo-Amman Bank. It is non-refundable (you have to pay it even if you don't get the visa)


Arrive at the Embassy before 09:00 a.m. on your appointment day and bring the following documents:

  • The DS-160 confirmation page.
  • If your photo did not upload to the DS-160, bring one passport photo that meets these photo requirements.
  • Your passport, valid for at least six (6) months after your departure date.
  • All prior passports.
  • The Machine Readable Visa (MRV) receipt from Cairo Amman Bank.
  • All other documentary evidence that demonstrate your ties to an overseas residence (employment letter, bank documents, letters of invitation, property deeds).
  • If you are the spouse of an applicant, please bring your original marriage certificate.
I understand the purpose behind the strictness, especially for issuing tourism visas. Our government has a solemn responsibility to ensure the safety of American citizens. Maybe all of the red tape is even necessary. But that still doesn't make it fair.

(There are some countries, mostly Western European, that do not require advanced application for a passport. Like, if you're from France, you can just get your visa at the border. But Jordan is not one of these countries.)

Now I'm interested in learning what it would take to immigrate from Jordan. Talking about this with Danny, his take was that no wonder there are so many illegal immigrants.

Won't it be great when there is a perfect government across all the countries on the earth and we don't have to worry about making sure people return to their home countries after their visit is done?