Beware coincidence!

Netizens beware: It is a small world after all.  The strangest thing happened to me this morning.  As is my (bad) habit, I was doing some early-morning blog reading when I came across a truly startling photo.  My friend related that her family had seen a rainbow while on a drive.  She pointed out the left side and then asked where the other side had gone.  Her husband humorously replied, “Oh, you always think there’s two sides to every rainbow.”   Funny, huh?  Well, not nearly so funny to me as the photo she posted to illustrate the reported conversation.  There was a photo of a rainbow ending at . . . my house?!!! 

To understand why this is bizarre, you need to know that although we both now live in Utah County, I haven’t visited her home since she lived in Berkeley, CA  about a decade ago!  I don’t think she has ever been to my home either here or in Berkeley.  Apparently, she snapped the photo because she loves rainbows, but she had no idea that it was my home.  So,  we are Facebook and e-mail friends, yes, live at most a  few miles from each other, yes, but real-life house visiting friends? well–not yet.  (I’m  not opposed.  I’m  a regular reader of My Imaginary Blog because her children are beautiful, charming, and witty.  Not to mention Zina herself). 

So, er, if you are going to post pictures of someone else’s house, car, child etc., I recommend including with it a rainbow , a unicorn, or a puppy dog, NOT  disparaging remarks, because you know, it is a small world after all.

Inconsistency

So, at the beginning of the week I posted about blogging  and Julie Beck’s remarks and wondered whether I was spending my time on what is less important at the expense of what is more important.  Since then, after being an infrequent blogger for months, I have posted several things in a row.   Worst,  most of the things I have posted are the review-type posts that do not represent deep or sophisticated thinking nor are they a careful chronicle of my children’s lives.  What gives?  Was I at all serious about my blogging worries?  Or was it just something to say?  It wasn’t just something to say.  I do worry about it because I know that I am a person who can easily waste time–lots of time on the internet.  On the other hand, the fact that I could waste lots of time on the internet doesn’t mean that if I am using the internet, I am wasting time. 

Part of what triggered the post was that after a particularly busy period, I had tons of pent-up blogging desire (ridiculous-sounding, but true).  Also, because I was lucky enough to get a smartphone for my birthday (and recently figured out a few things about how to use it), it is now much, much easier for me to blog.   Anyway, writing about blogging earlier this week reminded me that I actually do think it is valuable and helped me remember some of the reasons why.  Also, while I do think my reviews are a less valuable part of my blogging, they do still represent me and what I care about and what I am spending time thinking about right now (for better or for worse).  And, as I said before, I just enjoy writing reviews.

Good Use of Time?

My treasures

My treasures

Two weeks ago, we had a big regional church meeting for hundreds of the LDS congregations in our area. The president of the Church’s women’s organization was one of the people who spoke. Her remarks about mothers and computers caught my attention.  Sister Beck expressed the hope that mothers would benefit from having computers as tools in their homes, but worried about those who might neglect more important things (children, for example) for the less important things that can steal one’s time on the internet.

Shortly before hearing her talk, I had posted a lengthy review of Mimi’s Cafe, which, while pleasant enough, isn’t close to being my favorite or my highest local recommendation. I love to write reviews, but it seems obvious that the reviews I write are not that important or valuable–to me or anyone else.  I simply enjoy writing them.  This has caused me to think in the days since her talk about the worth of blogging, my blogging particularly. I don’t have it all figured out yet.

Things I know:
1) Keeping a journal is good, and blogging is often a form of journal keeping.

I have never managed to keep a journal for any extended period, although I think it is a good thing to do. Although I have not been the world’s most consistent blogger (and worse recently), I have managed to record lots of things about my life with my blog. The thought that someone might read motivates me and then I end up with a much better record than I would have if I weren’t posting it.

2) Blogging is fun!

3) Blogging (and other forms of social media) can be a good thing to do, a good use of time. Sister Beck’s talk made me wonder whether in blogging (and in writing restaurant reviews on Urbanspoon) I am wasting my time on something that isn’t very valuable (and is sometimes a complete waste of time).  However, I was initially motivated to blog by Elder Eyring’s talk on keeping a gratitude journal and by Elder Ballard’s talk on sharing the gospel. Although I lost sight of the gratitude theme of this blog over time–probably because grateful optimism doesn’t come naturally to me–that is exactly why a gratitude-centered blog is helpful to me–because it doesn’t come naturally.  And so if I re-remind myself periodically that my intent is to write about my life with a positive gloss (not a whiny or negative one), this can really be helpful. When I write about my glass as half full rather than half empty, it becomes true. Writing it down helps me to conceptualize it that way.

I have enjoyed reading other’s blogs–I think of my cousins’ wives who I would not have known as well, and of others who have inspired me, helped me to count my own blessings, made me laugh (we’re all on this motherhood ship together) or just offered useful tips.  Motherhood is isolating and some of us are more clueless than others.  I need useful tips!     

4) Sister Beck is right.  The internet can be a big time-sink.  There are a lot of valuable things I could do with my time; it is far too easy to let the internet eat it all up.  

Big questions left over: I’m still thinking about all this.  These thoughts push  me in the direction of writing more about my kids (though with an 11 turning 12 year old this is increasingly problematic), more about gratitude and important things, and less on restaurant and product reviews.  Unfortunately, I really like writing product reviews.  Suppose we designate writing product reviews my hobby  (I don’t scrapbook,  waterski, ride horses, play Bunko, watch television, or cross-stitch).  Hobbies are defensible, aren’t they?  Are they?  How much leisure time can we spend on doing things that really aren’t valuable or important, but just fun?

I don’t remember

Kate is three.  I realized this week that I don’t remember finding out that she would be a girl.  I know that we did–I found an old post discussing possible names* and they were all female–but I can’t remember finding out.  This sudden realization that I can’t remember what seems like a fairly significant event disturbs me.  I only have three children after all!  How can I not remember?  Where were my other children?  Who was watching them?  How did I tell them the news?  How did I feel about it?  How did Pdad feel about it?  I don’t know.  I don’t remember.   

Kate at Three-I don't want to forget

Kate at Three-I don't want to forget

I wonder what else I don’t remember.  It is like when someone defriends you on Facebook and you suddenly notice that his or her status updates are not showing up on your homepage any more.  You check, and yep, you’ve been defriended.  The defriending itself is not even as disturbing as the uneasiness–who else might have defriended you that you don’t even know about?  And so I find myself wondering: what am I forgetting that I’ve forgotten?

I need to blog more.  I think I need to worry less about saying something interesting or important, and just at least say something–because I don’t want to forget. 

*The runners-up were Amelia, Beata, Bethany, Catherine (Kate), Carrie, Christa, Eden, Eliza, Nora and Sariah

Cool Things

 

The color of our dinner last night

The color of our dinner last night

1. Eating by color–check out this helpful grocery list 

The list is a lot more action-oriented than the tired advice to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.

2. Librarians who recommend books

I had a great experience at the Orem Library the other day, but this Provo Library service takes the idea to a whole new level!  What a great service!  I think responding to these forms would be a fun job.     

2. Facebook, blogs & social media

On both my blog and facebook, I have received so many great furniture and furniture store recommendations.  It is so helpful!  Thanks, everybody!  So far, I have checked out Four Chairs, BassettDandBwoods and Cherrico furniture thanks to people’s recommendations.  I even got to see the chairs I was interested in in the wood I was interested in–invaluable.  (Thanks Brad!)

Great New Blog: Late Enough

I spent too much time today reading the blog archives of a person I don’t know and haven’t met.* A newly discovered really good blog is a pleasure. After a few posts convince you that you want to read more, the excitement of clicking on “archive” and seeing the months unfurl waiting to be read is like looking at a field of snow no one has touched yet: it’s waiting for you. 

Late Enough has only a smallish archive, but I’ve read enough to be excited to see more.  The genre is classic mommy blog: a daily life answer to what it’s like in the trenches.  I found this blog by clicking something over at Every Day I Write the Book.  So, not only does Kacy have a great blog of her own (she was already on my blogroll), she also has some really interesting people following her blog.    

* “A person I don’t know and haven’t met” is redundant, but I like how it sounds.

Like: Urban Spoon

I want to recommend  the website Urban Spoon.  Just like Amazon, TripAdvisor, and Yelp, it features user reviews.  Urban Spoon focuses exclusively on restaurants.  I like that  Urban Spoon is an aggregator–not only does it have user reviews that people type in when they visit the site, but it also gathers critics’ reviews from major newspapers and magazines.  For bloggers, they offer “spoonbacks.”  If you put the Urban Spoon image in a review on your blog, they will publish your post on Urban Spoon with a link back to your blog.  It gives tiny audience bloggers like me a chance to feel famous (and I can’t help it, I love that!). 

Urban Spoon has a section for  many of the major cities in the United States.  I was pleased to see that they had one for Salt Lake.  I was even more pleased to realize that American Fork, Orem, and Provo (as well as several other small  Utah cities) are listed as neighborhoods of greater Salt Lake.  I was surprised to find how much information they  had about  restaurants in Orem and Provo.  

Urban Spoon also features a very simple thumbs up/thumbs down rating system for restaurants.  I admire the simplicity of “like/don’t like,”, but I wish they also offered an “it’s okay” option.  Also, of course there is no way to tell whether my vote of “like it” for Golden Corral is because it makes my children so happy or if it is because I am under the impression that it is incredible gourmet fare!  But I figure that is what the review section is for.  The simple rating system does have some utility.  If you sort a city or neighborhood by popularity, the consistently people pleasing restaurants do rise to the top.  This is especially valuable if you are looking for a restaurant to take a diverse group of people to.

Other features I appreciate are the wishlist (when you read a great review you can add the restaurant to your wishlist so that you remember to try it in the future), the maps (showing restaurants you’ve reviewed, or restaurants on your wishlist, or Chinese restaurants in a given neighorhood)  and the ability to compare reviews and wishlists with friends.  Give it a try;  see what you think! 

 Have you already tried Urban Spoon?  Do you use another dining review site like Yelp?  Why do you like it?  I was a fan of  TripAdvisor’s reviews, but TripAdvisor has less information about each restaurant, lacks the critics reviews, doesn’t offer a spoonback type feature, and the majority of the reviews are written from the perspective of the tourist rather than the townie.  Urban Spoon has won my allegiance.

Going Local

I like this blog.  I enjoy writing here.

My blog used to be more anonymous.  Other than Pdad, no one but strangers read it because I didn’t tell anyone where to find it.  In its most recent incarnation, it’s been anonymous in that I don’t use any of our actual names.  However, almost everyone who reads it with any regularity knows me personally (although some of you are getting pretty fuzzy on what my children’s real names are), so it is not very anonymous in that sense.

On my about me page, I wrote about my religious beliefs, which were never meant to be hidden.  However, because I have many friends who are not Latter-day Saints (Mormon), I ended up leaving out some of the specifics of my life because I didn’t want this to be one of those blogs written by Latter-day Saints for Latter-day Saints.  I was hoping to write something more widely accessible and interesting.

However, I find that this is not working for me.  In hoping not to be too narrow, I seem to end up not writing about things that are an important part of my life.  So, I’m thinking I’m going to go local.  I am going to write more from my perspective as a Latter-day Saint, because it’s a truer view of where I am.  This is my blog and it’s about me, as embarrassing as that sometimes is.  Also, even though it challenges my desired anonymity a bit more, I am going to write more specifically about living in the Provo/Orem/Salt Lake City Utah area.  It’s where I live and it’s what I know about.  (And for those of you who live here too, I have a really wonderful restaurant to recommend!)

Good Books, Bad Books

So, in my last post, I asked some questions about monitoring the books our children read.  And then I focused on how a good parent implements her intentions after answering those questions.  In this post, I will go back to the question of what makes a book good or bad.

Good books are those we read for entertainment, edification, and education (but not necessarily all three in the same book). Ideally, my children (and I!) will read many books that are”virtuous, lovely, of good report or praiseworthy.”  [Rosalie and I must be on the same wavelength because I had written this before I saw her comment on the previous post].  Many books are not praiseworthy because they are mindless fluff and/or poorly written.  Many other books are not lovely or of good report.

As revealed by Therese and Robin’s comments, there are at least two senses in which a book can be bad: a) it can be objectionable because it is inappropriate, either inappropriate in general [not virtuous, not of good report, not praiseworthy] or inappropriate for a certain age group or particular child or b) it can be of poor quality in the sense that it does not have content worth reading or in the sense that it is poorly written [not lovely, not praiseworthy]. Correspondingly, there are two ways in which books can be good.  a) They can be appropriate in the sense that they are not objectionable (a pathetically weak sense of good, to be sure) or b) they can be well written and have content worth reading [lovely, of good report, and praiseworthy].

After reading your thoughtful comments on my previous post, I was surprised to find that I may be the biggest censorship advocate in the group.  As I said before, where books are concerned, I think it is better to err on the side of restricting too little rather than too much.  However,  I disagree with Zina’s comment that “there’s probably nothing *too* bad within the spectrum of what Amelia’s likely to read.”  I think there’s quite a bit of bad stuff out there (yikes, look at the covers of the magazines at the grocery store), in the sense that there are a lot of books that would be inappropriate for Amelia to read ever, and even more that are inappropriate for her to read right now.

I was inspired to write my first post about censorship after finishing the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  I had never read it before and found it as I was searching through reviews looking  for books that would be good for Amelia.  Let me be clear, I really liked A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Although it isn’t always “lovely” in the most literal sense (because the heroine’s life is difficult as are the lives of those she is closest to), it was praiseworthy.  I would give it a good report!  However, I do not want Amelia to read it.  Not yet.  And especially if we don’t read it together.  I do hope that she will read it in a couple of years.  Tree falls in my “inappropriate at this age” category.  Amelia is ten years old.  The heroine of Tree has to face some adult issues fairly early in her life.  Amelia doesn’t.  She has time enough.

I am interested in whether any of you have read Tree and would take issue with me.  I wonder whether my stand is silly (in a sense it’s not a big deal because Amelia isn’t begging to read it, but the issue of what it is okay for her to read comes up again and again).  Like Zina, I was also a precocious reader.  My mother did a good job of teaching me which books to seek out and which to avoid, but still–I read some books that I would no doubt judge as inappropriate for Amelia.  As Zina mentioned, it is difficult to identify or label the specific harm.  Also, children are naturally curious.  (Advanced readers are perhaps even more curious than most children.  That’s part of why they read).  The forbidden is even more interesting . . . I know all that.  And I am continually surprised at the subject matters my young children are introduced to through my addiction to National Public Radio.  Is sheltering the young even possible in our world?  Does what they read matter?  Especially in mild (inappropriate at this age) cases like Tree?

I know that arguments can be made in both directions.  Like so much of parenting for me, the worry will continue regardless of which path I choose.  It will just change it’s object:  What if she’s too sheltered?  What if she’s unprepared?  What if I cause her to rebel?  What if she grows up too fast?  What if she becomes cynical before ever being both mature and happy?

Two specific categories of books that I worry about for Amelia are books centered around romance and books with sexual content.  Given the state of our culture, I think even fairly young children need to know a lot of facts, and Amelia knows how women get babies. However, despite my commitment to knowledge for my children on this subject, I do not think novels are a good way for children to gain the information they need. First, although I believe Amelia should know the facts now, I hope the part of her life where these facts are hers is a decade distant.  This isn’t information she needs to review frequently.  Second, the books I am concerned about seldom portray the reality I would hope for for my daughter: long term married loving monogamous commitment.  Since that reality is seldom portrayed, I am not eager for her to spend any significant time familiarizing herself with alternate competing possibilities.

I believe light romance can have its place.  I am not about to ban Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty.  There are good reasons why romance is an attractive genre for both girls and women.  Light romance can be fun and entertaining.  In addition it is often a wonderful vehicle for excellent (and educational) historical fiction.  That said, Amelia is ten.  I think much of the romance reading should wait.  Books that focus too much on young love—kissing and dating in the high school and college set—are harmful, not so much because they are outright objectionable, but because it’s just not time yet.  Amelia won’t be allowed to date for six more years and I hope that it will be at least a decade before she marries.  I want her to walk towards those years, not run.  The next few years will bring the pull of urges that will tempt her to believe that her life should revolve solely around attracting romantic attention, that her worth is her value as someone’s lover.  I don’t need books to introduce her to these feelings or to the world of romantic relationships before she feels its tug herself.

What do you think?  Do you take issue with my characterization of good and bad books?  Do you agree or disagree that knowledge of some things can come too early?