Banning Books!

When I was in elementary school, I loved reading Alvin Schwartz's Scary Stories series. His books offered a collection of ghost stories that plainly scared the bejesus out of me. But I still loved them even though they made me sleep with a nite-lite at night.

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that Scary Stories was the #1 Most Challenged book from 1990-2000. I mean, really? I know these books are scary, but do they really need to be challenged or banned?

Here are some other books on the list that surprised me. (These books are still some of my favorites.)

Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
The Giver by Lois Lowry
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle
Goosebumps by R.L. Stine
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
Where's Waldo? by Marvin Hanford (Are you kidding me???)

And even Are You There God? It's Me Margaret made the list too at #65. This was such a favorite of mine! I remember reading it from cover to cover and then starting all over again. It's a must-read for tween girls everywhere.


Raining for Three Days and Counting...

The skies finally cleared up this morning. For three days in a row, the rain ruled over North Carolina. It dribbled down in little droplets, it poured in loud pitter-patters, and sometimes it blasted the windshield of our car, causing the wipers to rock back and forth in a frenzy.

The rain reminded me of a short film I watched back in elementary school---a movie that frightened me and made me incredibly sad. It was called "All Summer in One Day" and it was based from a 1959 Ray Bradbury short story. The film follows a group of children on Venus, whose parents left Earth to colonize the second planet. The Venutian landscape is a cruel one---a place where rain falls down for days upon weeks upon months. A place where the sun only shines every seven years and for only an hour.

One of the girls in the class is an outcast. She recently moved to Venus from Earth and still remembers what the sun looks like and how it feels on her skin. The other schoolchildren make a pariah out of her, shunning her because she has experienced something that they crave to know. When the teacher is out of the room, the children lock up the girl in the closet. Then they forget all about her because the teacher announces it is time to go outside to see the sun and to play.

And this is the part I remember the most vividly. The children rush outside and everything in the dire landscape is changed. The sun shines wildly in a blue, blue sky. Flowers pop out from the soil and bloom in ecstasy. The children run and scream and laugh. The rain has finally disappeared. Summer has arrived.

But once the rain comes back, the children remember the little girl. They unlock the door in silence. As the girl makes her way out of the closet, one by one the children hand her the flowers they had picked outside---the flowers that only bloomed every seven years for one hour. And that was the end of the movie.

Depressing? Yes! Why did they show this to elementary school children?! And why would people ever move to Venus?!

Six months already?

This upcoming Friday, Justin and I will be celebrating our six-month anniversary! Time really does fly and I can't believe that we've been married now for half a year. Here is a picture of us taken on our recent trip to the wonderful city of Charleston, South Carolina. (Honestly, I didn't want to leave the city or its delicious pralines.)

For our anniversary we've decided to go to a nice restaurant up in DC called Farrah Olivia (it's actually in Old Town Alexandria, but close enough). The head chef of the place appeared on Iron Chef America and is currently on the reality show The Next Iron Chef on the Food Network. The chef, who is from Africa, mixes modern American cuisine with African accents. Sounds interesting!

Anyway, I just have to say that I have the most wonderful husband that I could ever ask for. In the morning before I wake up, he unloads the dishwasher and takes out the trash because he knows I hate doing them. He loves me despite the fact that I can be as lazy as a cat, as sleepy as a newborn, and as hungry as one of those contestants on The Biggest Loser. He patiently listens to my rants on feminism and the plights of women throughout history. He is supportive, kind, funny, so smart, and has the prettiest green eyes to boot. And he is just plain wonderful. Everything I could have asked in a spouse he has in spades.

To our first six months and many more!

Oh, London...

Today I was flipping through the channels when I stopped upon a documentary about "The Secrets Behind the Da Vinci Code." The first portion of the show discussed the role of Mary Magdalene (was she a prostitute or Jesus' wife?). In between clips of distinguished academics furrowing their brows and chipping in their two cents, there was a rapid succession of various paintings of Mary Magdalene---including one portrait of her I saw in person at the National Gallery in London.

*Huge sigh*

I miss London. I miss those busy days back in the fall of 2003 when I whooshed around the city viewing marvelous works of art and nibbled on delicious Pink Lady apples purchased from Portobello Road. I miss the H&M by Oxford Circus, which offered the coolest and most affordable clothes (why don't American H&M's have the same clothes???). Oh, how I miss that wonderful city.

Justin and I should be taking a trip up to DC next week and I definitely plan on dragging him to the National Gallery of Art. Right now they have a J.W.A. Turner exhibition on display, which I am dying to check out. I had never even heard of Turner until I went to London (SHAME) and he just happens to be, like, the most famous British painter. The entire Tate Britain seems to be decked out in Turner paintings. I also can't wait to see the Edward Hopper exhibition that is up too.

Ah, art! How I love it. It gives me a little taste of London when I need it the most.

Attack of the Silicone Dolls!

A couple of weeks ago, Justin and I watched an interesting---and very strange---documentary about life-sized silicone dolls and the men who purchased them. Broadcasted on BBC America, the documentary titled "Love Me, Love My Doll" followed the lives of four men in the UK and the US who bought and lived with their so-called Real Dolls.

Before this documentary, I had only heard of blow-up sex dolls that I occasionally saw in baudy movies like "Old School." I thought life-sized dolls were pretty much a joke---gag gifts given out at bachelor parties or a funny addition to an immature fraternity. But nobody took these dolls seriously, did they?

Indeed some people do. One of the men in the documentary, a computer engineer in England, had two life-sized dolls who seemed to be his only friends. He dressed them up every morning and would sometimes take one for a drive with him. After his mother died a few years before (whom he had lived with), the man decided to purchase the dolls for companionship and, ahem, sexual purposes. In fact, these dolls are made for sex. Their figures, a la Pamela Anderson, could grace the cover of any Playboy. They have slim waists, toned bottoms, and gimundo ta-tas. (I mean HUGE. I mean my eyes popped out of my head when I saw one of the doll's breasts. We're talking H-cup boobs.)

Another man, a Virginia hillbilly who lived in the backwoods, proudly stated that he preferred his dolls to real women any day of the week. After years of rejection in the dating world, this man decided to hell with real women and purchased two dolls to satiate any desires he may have.

After watching the documentary, I noted three categories of men who buy these dolls:

1.) The lonely guy who never had many friends and who had even fewer girlfriends. This is the guy you always felt sorry for in school because he didn't have any social skills. I suppose after decades of loneliness, these men turn to dolls for companionship because they can't seem to connect with any other human being.

2.) The horny guy who gets a kick out of banging a hot-looking (albeit non-living) doll. Yep, there was one of these guys on the show too. In fact, he had so many dolls that he didn't have any more room to store them. Gross.

3.) The plain old weird guy who actually preferred a synthetic doll over a real human companion. One of the men featured on the documentary named Davecat (yes, this was his name) fell into this category. In Davecat's mind, he was having a relationship with an inorganic human versus an organic one. He also spent hours applying make-up to his beloved doll as well as buying her clothes. At one point he fondly recalls the first few weeks after she had arrived, remarking that they had had sex frequently.

Anyway, it was a fascinating documentary even though it was a little spooky. Some of the men I felt a little sorry for while others just plainly disturbed me.

What will I teach my daughter?

This video frightens me. It scares me because I see myself in it.

I was the typical girl in high school who based her self-esteem on what boys thought of me. I fawned over my crushes in my classes and I bit my lip in disappointment when they paid me no attention. Sometimes at night I would cry into my pillow, feeling ugly and sad because no boy had asked me to Homecoming.

I brought my low self-worth with me to college where, at times, I would still cry after my roommate had long fallen asleep. On weekends I would watch my friends go out on dates and receive attention from the boys in our apartment complex. Later on I would watch as they got engaged and married. Of course, I was happy for them but I was also disappointed that no charming beau had wooed me to be his lovely maiden.

For years my self-confidence was reliant upon how I looked on the outside. No matter how well I performed in my classes and no matter how well-read I became, I wished I could become someone else. I would stare longingly at the petite BYU co-eds who embodied our society's description of beauty---long smooth hair, small thin noses, wide blue eyes, and picture perfect frames---and I wished I could look like them. It mattered little to me that they weren't very smart or couldn't hold a decent conversation. They could offer something that I couldn't---and I wanted to be beautiful more than anything else.

It took a long time for me to finally focus on the good qualities I embodied. It took a very long time for me to place my self-worth in the context of my intelligence, my writing, my work ethic, and my ability to find common ground with others, rather than my physical appearance. But somewhere down the road I decided that I would love myself freely instead of loving myself if only some guy thought I was pretty. And after I finally reached this pinnacle, I found the self-confidence that I had longed for my entire life.

I worry though about my future daughter. I worry that she will fall into the same trap I fell into, crying into her pillow at night because Bobby asked another girl to the dance. I want to show my girls that it is their mind---not their face or body---that is beautiful. The last thing I want is for them to imprison themselves as I did for so many years, getting sad and depressed over something that can be so temporary and fleeting.

I suppose I can only try my best to raise them well and to dispel the messages that the beauty industry will send them. And to hope that they will be smarter than I was.


Well, I am finally getting published! After months of rejection and laziness (I am so undisciplined and have squandored too many hours watching Star Trek rather than writing), Sunstone Magazine has decided to publish one of my personal essays in their upcoming issue on Mormon women in the 21st century.

For those who don't know anything about Sunstone, it is a journal for progressive Mormon thought. It tackles a wide range of genres from scholarly articles to personal essays to plays to poems. Some conservative Mormons view Sunstone as slightly heretical because it has often published pieces that question LDS theology. But for other Mormons, like me, Sunstone is a haven of deep and intellectual thought---a place where it is okay to doubt and okay to question the status quo. Indeed, I turned to Sunstone many times when I seriously wondered if I wanted to remain a Mormon for the rest of my life.

As for other news on the writing front, I am trying to write a piece about spacesuits for Highlights Magazine (you know, that magazine you read as a kid). Boy is it hard to write for kids though! I'm trying to write for a 5-7 year-old audience and I'm finding it much harder than writing for adults. It's hard to keep things simple---and still create a well-written piece---but I'm determined to do it. (If my darned laziness didn't get in the way so often.)