Friday, November 27, 2009

City of Lights

In an effort to keep up with my “expressive” writing, allow me to share a night in Paris.This summer I traveled to Montenegro and the surrounding Balkans with my family to visit our family friends. After a wonderful two week stay, we boarded our plane and unwillingly flew west towards home. After a layover in Serbia, we continued onto Paris where our flight itinerary dictated we must stay the night. No one protested. Taking advantage of our 24 hour jaunt in the Parisian capital, we immediately boarded the subway and made our way into the City of Lights. We exited the train at the stop “Hotel de Ville” and began our exploration of the city. While all of the buildings were beautiful, le Musee du Louvre wore a particular golden crown of perfection that night. The sun was finishing its long summer day and approaching the western horizon as I walked under an archway into the Cour Carrée, a large courtyard showcasing Pierre Lescot’s Renaissance façade. Unseen, an old man was playing a violin under one of the entryway arches and the music echoed across the nearly empty courtyard. The setting sun splashed golden rays onto the exterior of the Louvre turning the stone into a golden masterpiece and the center fountain began splashing liquid gold. I made way across the courtyard towards the west and after exiting through another arch, I came into view of the Cour Napoléon and I.M Pei’s great pyramid. Before descending the stairs to the pyramid’s level, I stopped at the closest window. Standing on my tipsiest tippy toes, I caught a glance of the gold gilded ceilings of the interior. Surrounded by a golden palace, housing golden ceilings, I looked towards the pyramid and marveled at the architects of past and present. The truth is, what I love more than anything is art history—and standing next to the world’s greatest museum basked in such glorious colors proved to be magical night. Just for me.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Hollow

I grew up in a magical place. Magical and perfect. My childhood home sat in front of 40 acres, complete with towering trees to climb, a small river and pond to splash in, and mazes of bushes and shrubs so large, I never explored them all. The area was known as “The Hollow,” due to its location in what I'll call, a ravine. There were many hills to trek up, and although none were very large, I felt like a conqueror each time I crested the top. Many hills climbed above the ravine and had spectacular views of the surrounding mountains; I would sit at the top for hours, soaking up the beauty around me.
Now, the Hollow is a housing development and a tattered, depressed shadow of what was once my paradise on Earth. Often, I like to think when I die, my spirit will revisit that happy place as it used to be, perfect and intact. I’ll hop over the fence near my house and joyfully walk across the grassy plain to the pond, shaded by large willows and filled with stinky moss. I’ll trot down the hill adjacent to the pond and climb aboard the rope swing—a dangerously old, insecurely hung, fraying piece of rope with a sharp-ended stick loosely knotted at the bottom to serve as a seat. Apparently saftey was never my concern as a kid. I’ll climb up to a platform on the tree and jump into flight. I’ll lean my head back to let my hair swish about my head and I’ll peer up through the dark green, intertwined leaves where I’ll see patches of perfect blue. I’ll swing back and forth through the dancing light, swirling and swimming between earth and sky, green and blue—smelling the fermented rot of old leaves against the new buds of growth; and listening to the splish-splash of the river over little rocks and large pebbles until my worries and frustrations have no choice but to give in to the serenity of this peaceful place.
Maybe it will be fall time and the crisp air will match the crisp leaves crunching under my feet as I walk through tunnels of pumpkin orange, cinnamon-candle red, and hard candy lemon yellow. The air will smell like frozen sagebrush and frozen dirt—and all will be wonderful. Or maybe it will be winter with the sounds of happy children sledding down the hills. Or Spring time when the purple flowers grow and the cotton trees release fuzzy white snow onto the freshly green grass. Or maybe it will be the lazy summer, when all is hot, muggy, and still. Regardless, all will be happy, all will be joyous.

I miss the Hollow. I wish I were still there. I am hopeful, however, that one day, in some form, in some way, I will return to partake in its perfectness. Thank you, God, for giving me the perfect childhood hollow to grow and to learn through. Thank you for keeping it alive and sacred in my heart. It will always be my favorite place.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Airports and Flying

I love airports. They’re busy and crowded and usually smell weird; but the airport is the gateway to adventure—the paterfamilias of travel if you will. It’s also a place where essentially everyone is angry. Something about the stress of travel releases the monsters inside us and we unleash our airport woes on innocent victims at the check-in counters, the gate, or the nearby Cinnabun stand. I like to think I’m a good sport when it comes to travel. I’m a trooper. However, I understand how the strain might cause some people to snap. For instance, I’m currently flying on an airplane the size of a soda can—and based on the rattled interior, I’d say it’s time to be recycled. As far as the overhead bins go, they are small enough to hold a small purse, but if you need to store anything practical—like luggage—forget about it, that goes below. Furthermore, when I received my seat assignment for this particular flight I felt encouraged when I read seat 19a—that’s practically at the front of the plane! Umm, not on this plane. Here, seat number 19a is the very last row which means my seat doesn’t recline, there’s no head room, and I don’t have a window; but on the bright side the bathroom is only two feet away.
I’m tempted to let a small amount of irritation corrupt my mood but honestly, I have no right to complain. I’m traveling 900 miles in less than two hours—a distance that took my ancestors 3 months to walk. I can understand how people might become frustrated, but I personally think everyone needs to take a chill pill, or some xanax depending on your own personal preferences, and relax. Or should you need even more comfort, just ask the flight attendant for one of those airline wing pins—they’ve brought peace to thousands of children throughout the past decades, maybe a piece of nostalgic aluminum will brighten up your day as well.
In the end just remember not to bring more than 3 ounces of liquid on the plane, wear easily removable shoes, leave your knitting needles at home, and as I learned today, no peanut butter is allowed on board. Keep a smile on your face and appreciate those airport personnel making your flight a possibility—they deserve some recognition.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What are your dreams?

At times it seems we view the world desensitized—desensitized to other places and other people. Luckily, if we seek new experiences we may be presented with an opportunity to re-sensitize ourselves to the world we live in, and the life we lead. This process is as if someone rips out your inexperienced eyes and replaces them with a newer, wiser pair.
I received my first pair of new eyes from a young girl in Zambia, Africa. While visiting a village I found myself surrounded by a number of young girls and we began a conversation. While amongst my new friends a girl standing next to me asked a simple question: What are your dreams Juel? I opened my mouth to respond but to my surprise, I stood there with my mouth open wondering what I was supposed to say. I looked up and saw her bright eyes looking into mine—deep black mirrors reflecting my own stunned expression. What did she mean? Did she want my career aspirations, life goals, or my future family plans? I stood there looking at her and stupidly repeated the words ‘um’ and ‘uhh’ over and over again; I wanted to take off into the brush and join the wildebeest for how confused I sounded. And yet, here I stood, surrounded by anxious girls waiting to hear what I had dreamed. I suppose I am used to reciting the quick 5 second version I’ve had memorized since I was 8: Graduate high school, go to college, start a career, get married, have a family, blah, blah, blah. That’s what everyone else says and does, that’s what I’m going to say and do—so standing in a barren field I told the girls my barren plan.

Even before I finished my one sentence future I realized it didn’t count and the group’s saddened eyes reflected my own disappointment. Here were girls who grew up wanting the lives of pilots, doctors, lawyers, professional cooks, architects, etc—so what life did I want? What are my dreams? It’s a simple question. And not only is it simple but it should be the very foundation of my life. My dreams should be written on my bathroom mirror, engraved in the dashboard of my car, doodled in all of my notebooks, and etched into determined lines on my face. Dreams should be the motivation to wake up in the morning, the sunshine when life gets dark, etc. When life becomes dreary your dreams should be the one thing giving you the courage to carry on. So, I realized…..I’m in trouble.

How many of us truly have dreams? Do the education and career goals we all have qualify as true dreams? Or is college and a real job just the next instruction in our project of life? What is it we truly want deep down inside? What makes fighting for the future worthwhile?
After some thought I realized I do have dreams—and I’m excited to fulfill them. I want a graduate degree from an Ivy League. I want a pilot’s license. I want a black Thoroughbred gelding and a chocolate Labrador Retriever named Pilgrim, or a blue Great Dane named Pax. I want to travel the world and learn its languages, meet its people, and write their stories—and along the same lines of writing comes one of the most important: I want to write something people remember. But finally, I want to receive so many sets of new eyes that one day, I’ll be able to give someone else a new pair.

As the psychologist Csikszentmihalyi said "For better or worse, our future will be determined in large part by our dreams and by the struggle to make them real." Happy Dreaming everybody.

Monday, May 18, 2009


I have discovered my true weakness.

Milk Duds.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Something Cathartic

I need something cathartic. Some way to purge. Maybe sitting here looking at this now empty word document will help—maybe the process of writing the following sentences, the process of filling the empty white space of my double-spaced, Times New Roman document will somehow release the burning thoughts in my head, somehow cleanse the burning pain in my heart.
I’m not sure what’s driving this madness trapped in my overall sane body. I thought maybe I was channeling the manic-depressive Spring weather, but it’s warm and sunny now so it must be something else. Maybe some sick part of me misses school—even though I scored excellent marks on my finals, I left campus after their completion not feeling glorified or empowered, but rather empty and disappointed. Maybe this is how the Greek founder of the marathon Pheidippides felt—he ran 26 miles only to die at the end. Shouldn’t an accomplishment of excellent grades earn an A in personal satisfaction? Maybe it’s that friend moving away or my sister’s imminent departure back home. It might be too much work and not enough riding. Maybe I spend too much time inside and not enough outside enjoying the sun and tree blossoms. I haven’t been on a plane for awhile—maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s time for a new adventure and the freedom only travel can bring; a good trip is a regular antidote to the dullness of everyday life and a quick fix to the deepest of ruts.
However I doubt my angst is a plane ticket away from recovery and a decision to stay from my sister or a cut back in hours at work probably won’t help either. I think these things are natural and maybe they’re even good for you. Deep down inside I secretly love the troughs in my waves of emotions—even depression has a bright side. I become more grateful for what I have and enlightened to things I would otherwise gloss over and miss. It’s a painful price for increased awareness but just like you can’t drive a nail without a hammer, maybe you can’t fully appreciate the good without the bad.
In the end this is life—a series of emotional roller coasters we all ride. Some coasters are fun, other’s make you sick. Some are long, some are short. But regardless, buckle up and hold on for the ride ahead.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Spring Revisited

A few days ago I posted a jazzy little number regarding the ups and down of springtime; to end this post I offered my salutations to Spring in the form of a Robert Frost poem with the intention of bolstering hope in my own soul. The combination of sunny skies and a supposedly stable forecast strengthened this hope and I was looking forward to consistently warm weather. Well, short story made short—it’s raining. Yes, I opened my blinds this morning only to peer out of a window covered with nature’s teardrops into a grey miasmal morning. Shame. I was going bike riding today…
Alas, upon further reflection of my own attitude I’ve drawn the conclusion my outlook must change and luckily, I have just the experience to inspire a new approach.
Several years ago I spent a month in Zambia, Africa working with the organization Mothers Without Borders, a non-profit dedicated to the service and protection of orphaned children. I took a number of lessons back home with me, however let me relate my very first wakeup call—metaphorically and literally.
Upon arrival to Zambia after some 36 hours of travel time later, we settled into our hostel bunks and fell fast asleep; 5 hours later around 4:00am we all awoke to the rooster living next door. I’m not sure what Zambian’s feed their chickens, but I might bet a small sum steroids was the cause of this particular rooster’s hearty crow. Every morning, usually starting around 3:30, the rooster would follow a consistent schedule of crowing ever 30 minutes. After night number four, in unison we complained to the head lady in charge, Cathy. “We can’t sleep. That stupid rooster keeps waking us up. Isn’t there something we can do?” we all chanted. We proposed an ‘accidental’ chicken killing or some bribe to the rooster’s owner—anything for a restful night’s sleep. We expected sympathy and understanding from Cathy but she only smiled and offered her advice. “Listen,” she said. “That rooster has the right to be next door and to crow every morning and all day should he so desire. Now, you can spend your nights bitter and hateful towards the rooster, or you can accept he lives here too and move on.” Cathy then told us, as strange as it might sound, that if we embraced the rooster his crows would not wake us—if we accepted and loved the rooster, we would sleep peacefully uninterrupted. After her advice, we all went to bed unconvinced; however after further discussion we came to a consensus sending love vibes to the rooster was worth a shot—we had nothing to lose at this point. Surprisingly, the next morning we awoke at 7 and no one heard the rooster during the night. After that night, morning after morning we arose rested and surprised the rooster hadn’t crowed. We still knew the rooster existed—and he still crowed. We heard reports in the morning from other travels complaining of some rooster waking them up early in the morning; we passed on our condolences but secretly smiled on the inside.
I’ve decided to apply this same logic to my frustration at Spring weather. And you know what? It’s worked. I’m not bothered it’s raining. In fact, I’m embracing the rain and enjoying the unique atmosphere it brings.
Maybe Cathy made up her speech of love and acceptance—but I still love that stupid rooster, and I don’t care that it’s raining.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Pie Pizza

Some people like to argue the Pie Pizzeria puts too much cheese on their pizzas. I like to argue those people are crazy.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Spring Time

I secretly hate Spring. Not in the same way I hate overcooked broccoli or Microsoft Word 2007, but still, I’m not exactly Spring’s biggest fan. Now before I’m chastised for chastising the season of new births and infinite hope, let me explain. Spring is a season of cruel tricks and bitter games, of crushed hope and resulting despair. For example, sometime around this last St. Patrick’s day the sun peeped through the clouds and teased us with warmth, the promise of green grass, and chirping birds—the epitome of spring. One week later that green grass and warmth was lost to 6 inches of new snow and the birds migrated back south in protest. This cycle of warmth and cold remains prevalent throughout the spring season and the weather’s manic-depressive behavior is enough to drive anyone mad.
I almost love Spring, in fact, it’s probably number 3 on my ‘favorites’ list of seasons, but I feel as though I’m stuck in an atmosphere controlled by a light switch Mother Nature keeps flicking on and off. Apparently my seasonal biorhythm can’t keep up. And as it turns out, I’m not the only one. Believe it or not more suicides occur in the first sunny days of spring and early summer than any other time of the year. A sad fact known by few.
Yet in the end yet Spring IS the season of hope and we must remember Robert Frost’s words:

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers to-day;
And give us not to think so far away
As the uncertain harvest; keep us here
All simply in the springing of the year.

Right now the sun is shining brightly and the weather forecast predicts nothing but blue skies and 70’s for the next 10 days so perhaps it’s best I stop complaining and ‘spring’ outside. Shabby pun I know, but the prospect of stable weather has me giddy. To all those that love/hate spring: go outside.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I’ve never had a sister. Occasionally, I wonder what having a sister means—what benefits and blessing she could offer or what inconveniences and personal frustration her similar DNA might bring. They say a sister is a forever friend, the chocolate chips in a life of cookies and the bright blue sky after rain. So what happens to those who don’t have one? I like chocolate chips and blue sky, am I destined to a life of snickerdoodles and Seattle-like cloud cover? As it turns out, I’m not. I have a new sister: my new un-biological sister Marija—an exchange student who joined our family last Fall. Marija arrived from Montenegro, a country of geographical mystery whose location many fake to know. They ask Marija where she’s from, she replies Montenegro, and they smile and nod their head as if they’ve been to the Balkan country. Alas their feigned eyes and spurious smile reveal Montenegro might as well be a fictitious planet or a mystical underwater city.
When Marija arrived she became instant family and my friends wrinkled their eyebrows when I claimed ‘I’m going to see my sister’; apparently you can’t advertise the presence of a sister after promoting the existence of only one younger brother. But Marija is my newfound sister and best friend and together we’ve laughed and cried and taught each other various tidbits of wisdom; we’ve fought over the bathroom and guilted each other into going to the gym; she wears my clothes and I borrow her shoes and in the end we’re just as much sisters as any other biologically related kin.
I don’t understand why our connection happened so quickly or remains so strong; maybe we both have the right amount of brain and just enough sass to understand each other. Or maybe her strength rubs off to cover my own fears and my patience calms her ever passionate fervor. My brain has formulated various theories and explanations for our new found sisterhood, and when I grow weary of looking for possible answers I remember an axiom from Marija: When you start thinking too much, it’s time to stop thinking.’ Because I suppose in the end it really doesn’t matter—sisters are sisters.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Recently while out of state, I attended a dinner party hosted by some old friends. After dinner, desert, and a period of vegetation, a series of games began. We had typical card games for those traditional types, Guitar Hero for the electronically coordinated, and a heated game of monopoly for the fiscally minded. Somehow during this time, someone proposed a Jello-O eating contest to which I say—don’t ask. Long story short, I won. Apparently their high school career of Jell-o shots couldn’t compare to my lifetime attendance of Mormon birthday parties, weddings, and funerals. For any out-of-state readers, Jell-O is the mainstay of any Utah social gathering and the icon of our weird culture—in fact, the official Icon. In 2001 the Utah Legislature voted Jell-O, with all of its glossy sheen and incandescent colors the official snack food of Utah. Also on the ballot sat another Utah favorite: ice cream. But as Senator Gene David argued, “Ice cream is not sexy. It’s not wiggly and jiggly.” I must say, I agree. The sultry shine and jovial bounce of Jell-O definitely says “Fun with Food” much more than sticky melting ice cream, regardless of any minty flavors or accompanying chocolate sauce.
And why shouldn’t Jell-O enjoy precedence over other Utah snacks? It’s such a versatile product; regardless of the occasion there’s a Jell-O recipe to match. Take the following examples: For a multi-cultural celebration, no need to run to IKEA for Swedish meatballs or Gualverto’s Mexican for fajitas, keep it simple and make a Jell-O Bavarian cream. Or for any weekend bash, throw out the traditional chex-mix and make everyone’s favorite Pretzel Jell-O, the combination of crunchy pretzels, velvety satin cream cheese, and strawberry Jell-O. Throwing a baby shower? No problem. Prepare for motherhood with Lemon Snow Salad: Blend 1 can pineapple, 2 large jars of junior baby food delight (that's right, baby food), cream cheese, evaporated milk (not sweetened) and of course, lemon Jell-O. Yummy!
While I would like to report these recipes are figments of my imagination, I have to admit I’m not that creative. They’re legit—straight outta That’s right, Mormon housewives and party planners alike are making these delightful little deserts and apparently feel the need to share the recipes on the wonderful world-wide-web. As a native Utahan I feel obligated to support the state’s decision and endorse their love of Jell-O—I just hope we’re not judged for it…
In the end while other states like New York and Maine enjoy the blueberry, Georgia the peach, and Florida the Orange, I will love and embrace our state elected food of Jell-O. So for all those out-of-state, you may choose what food you will, but as for me and my state, we’ll choose Jell-O.
For those interested in sources, and recipes:

Sunday, February 8, 2009


Word of the Day:

Frigorific: causing cold: chilling.

While snowshoeing my toes become frozen due to frigorific conditions.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Few Musings

So the entire population on Facebook has posted their “25 Random Things”—a collection of random tidbits and loving anecdotes about their life which I believe annoys more people than actually sparks any third party interest—it’s a fun idea but such activities are usually reserved for chain emails, speed dating activities, a psychology assignment when your high school teacher is gone, etc. However, after leafing through a few friends’ comments I couldn’t help creating a list of my own. In an effort to break the norm of 25, and in defiance of ‘following the crowd’ I will only post my top 15.

1. I don’t like swimming.
2. I secretly fear one night I’ll sleepwalk to my computer and change my facebook status to something completely inappropriate.
3. I’m convinced that in the last year I’ve grown 2 centimeters taller and my shoe size has shrunk half a size. No comment.
4. I love the smell of sagebrush after rain and pine needles during a snow storm.
5. I feel guilty killing spiders. Really guilty.
6. I was once offered 2,000 camels to become an Egyptian shop-owner’s wife.
7. I received a DVD player for Christmas from someone who knows I don’t have a T.V.
8. I usually insist on driving. It’s a control issue of sorts.
9. My dad was kidnapped in Mexico.
10. I’ve prayed in the Vatican, a Mormon Temple, an Israeli synagogue, an Orthodox church, and an Egyptian Mosque.
11. I wear mismatched socks almost daily.
12. My car’s name is Iris Almira.
13. I walked the city of Jerusalem so quickly it’s fair to say “Today I ran where Jesus walked”.
14. I cannot sleep on airplanes.
15. I want to live my life as if I’m filming the movie Baraka.


Friday, January 30, 2009

A Thought Regarding Pride

The Cold Within

Six humans trapped by happenstance…In dark and bitter cold
Each possessed a stick of wood, Or so the story's told.
Their dying fire in need of logs, but the first one held his back,
For of the faces around the fire, he noticed one was black.
The next one looked cross the way and saw one not of his church,
And could not bring himself to give the fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes, he gave his coat a hitch,
Why should his log be put to use to warm the idle rich?
The rich man just sat back and thought of wealth he had in store,
And keeping all that he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man's face bespoke revenge as the fire passed from his sight,
For he saw in his stick of wood a chance to spite the white.
And the last man of this forlorn group did naught except for gain,
Giving just to those who gave was how he played the game,
Their sticks held tight in death's stilled hands was proof enough of sin;
They did not die from the cold without. They died from the cold within.
--James Patrick Kinney

Thursday, January 29, 2009


I have a fetish with quotes. In fact, I fill my everyday conversation with whatever maxims I can pull from memory and most of my writing centers around one type of aphorism or another. With that as my introduction, let me explain my motives for starting this blog and what purpose I hope it will serve—and why not start with a quote? Ernest Hemingway declares, "There is no rule on how to write. Sometimes it comes easily and perfectly; sometimes it's like drilling rock and then blasting it out with charges." I believe writing is hard and it’s painful, but it’s also cathartic. I enjoy writing and it serves as an emotional outlet for the many thoughts swirling in my head. I’m hoping if I weave these numerous thoughts into systematic sentences and paragraphs I’ll reach some level of clarity and understanding.
This blog is not geared towards anything specific, nor is it written with any purpose in mind. It is my simple desire to write whatever observations I might have as well as experiment with the power of writing. It will also be an exploration of form and the various methods of syntax and diction—all with the intention of writing with a clear, fluid, and readable tone. It is not my objective to write an electronic journal with the mindless rants about my life and the latest drama I encounter, but at a certain point life IS the latest drama and its inevitable emotions caused by friends, family, or lovers; an occasional dialogue on the subject will be required. However, in the end, as cliché as it may sound, I will write for writing’s sake, for as E.L Doctrow says, “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go.”