Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Roommates

Standing on Middle-Aged Adult's doorstep has me in a reflective mood these days. My trial run at adulthood is about to expire, and it's forced me to evaluate my progress. Have I met expectations? Will the Powers that Be recommend me for a promotion to "real" adulthood, scratching off the word "young" before my title? 

Perhaps the most important question of all: did I make the most of the last of my youth?

No doubt these questions are inspired in part by the end-of-year evaluations that are coming up at work, but it's also the first time I've entered another decade while being in a position to do a useful reflection on it. When I turned 10, I had fun telling people I was a decade old for a few weeks, but that wore off quickly and I moved on with my life. At age 20 I was still clinging to my teenage years—the years when I knew everything—and was too flustered to look too far forward or backward. 

But at 10.75 months away from 30, I have some thoughts. So for the next several months, I'm going to document some of the pearls of wisdom I've picked up during my 20s. It's been a formative decade, with unique experiences I think are worth getting down on paper in a way they haven't been recorded yet. (You know, because I'm not doing enough to document my life. And because people just can't get enough of millennials pontificating on their barely lived lives.)

I figured I'd start with a pretty universally 20s experience: roommates.

Let me just get this out of the way right now—most of my roommates were good ones. (Trust me—if you're reading this, you were not one of the bad roommates.) 

Most photoshoots end in pyramid attempts.

Counting both sisters who lived with me away from our parents' house, I've lived with 12 different girls. Those girls came to Utah from seven different states, bringing their own traditions, expectations, and emotional baggage. We were all LDS, which gave us a huge commonality to start from, but blending that many personalities—often with no prior roommate experience to make it easier—was always a challenge.

Amber (the person taking the picture) made us these aprons for Christmas, and we loved them so much we wore them to ward prayer. Yay for roommate bonding! On a completely unrelated note, I miss those pants I'm wearing. They were so comfortable.

Of course, I didn't understand the importance of most of these roommate-melding tips until after I learned the hard way, but I picked up some invaluable roommate rules to live by as the years went by (many of which, I confess, I learned by breaking):
  1. Establish right away how you're going to handle chores, from who buys the milk to when the dishes will get done. Most roommate disputes will be eliminated if you follow this simple guideline.
  2. Respect each others' boundaries. Especially in college, you're probably living in a space that is nowhere near big enough to handle you, your dreams, and several other people, and the only way to survive is to respect each others' space. If someone doesn't want you to eat their brownies, don't eat their brownies. If someone has to go to bed early because they're one of the poor unfortunate souls with a 4:00 a.m. toilet-cleaning job, keep it down after 10:00 p.m. If you have a boyfriend, remember that he still isn't your roommate and shouldn't always get couch and TV priority over those actually paying the rent.
  3. Do fun things with each other, but don't forget to establish relationships with people outside your home, too.
I didn't have that many friends in high school, so some of my college roommate experiences were a shy girl's dream come true: staying up late talking about boys, always having someone to sit by at church, having adventurous people in your life who force you to try new things. At times I put way too much pressure on myself to be as comfortable around my roommates as I was around my sisters, and I never truly nailed that skill, but I learned enough to start knocking down those huge social barriers I had been hiding behind for most of my life.

Jumping pictures are a great way to loosen up.

It was also hard. Living in close quarters with the combined pressure of school, work, and a host of new adult responsibilities is hard on anybody, but doing this without having the solitude I needed was the hardest thing for me. It's the reason I had an emotional breakdown every semester—I could pretty much count on it happening either the first week of school or about three-quarters of the way through the semester. My car became a sacred space during that time; it allowed me to escape to Elk Ridge whenever I needed to and provided privacy when I couldn't get it anywhere else.

I was (am) a complete nerd who genuinely enjoys doing homework and takes "candid" pictures of myself when I'm having a good hair day.

I voluntarily put an end to the roommate phase of my life several years ago, but there are things I wish I had done differently. I wish I had gone to more football games. Gotten into college basketball when I was still a fellow student of Jimmer's. Spent less time hiding in my room. Tried harder at dating while I still had spies to help me and a humongous selection of dateable guys to choose from. Worked harder to repair awkward and contentious (not to mention stupid) situations. That I had spent less time looking forward to the day I would be roommate-free and more time appreciating how special the roommate experience is.

Some experiences are best shared with other starving college students. Such as gathering up your spare change and taking a quick walk in the snow so you can bask in the joy of 7-11 hot chocolate and Dunford donuts.

If I'm being entirely honest, the roommate saga of my life is pretty evenly split between the good and the bad. But the good memories mean so much more to me; I don't think about the hard times much anymore. It's become almost a mystical part of my past, a place where it was normal for people to knock on our door at 11:50 p.m., where Hamburger Helper was a feast for kings, when hang-outs seamlessly turned into dance parties, when grocery shopping and attending a singles ward was an adventure. 

Most of my roommate experiences ended in marriage. Also, this picture is proof that I could never be an actor/model; if someone tells me to look at these people I barely know (minus the woman in white) and giggle, the best I can manage is a "This is the stupidest thing ever" face. Which masks the "I want to kill you for making me do this" face.

I look back on those years fondly, so much so that sometimes I almost wish I could live in that world again, where roommates are your family and everything is fresh and new.

I'm pretty sure BYU won this game.

But, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Prediction time

Whoever is running the marketing campaign for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should get a giant raise. They could have announced the new episodes via an article on KSL and shoe-horned them into a one-week timeframe on Netflix with horrible streaming, and I would have gone out of my way to watch the girls in action again. I didn't need anything beyond the official "It's happening!" announcement to get me watching.

Netflix knew they were catering to a rabid fanbase, but they didn't settle for the typical, run-of-the-mill marketing (though there was still plenty of that). They hired Kirk to summarize each season in a series of two-minute videos. They launched a Stars Hollow website (run by Tayler Doose, paid for in part by an ad placed by Kirk, of course.) They turned 200 cafes in the US and Canada into Luke's Diner for a day.

I wasn't too far from one of the locations and happily would have stood in that two-hour line for something handed to me by a grumpy employee clad in flannel and backward baseball cap if I didn't like my job. So I had to settle for taking a quick selfie, not even managing to capture the authentic Luke's Diner sign. My selfie skills leave much to be desired. But, look—clouds!

All this before they released the trailer.

Let's just say, I've never been so excited for Black Friday.

Tragically, that's still a month away. I'm afraid I'll have to bore you with some fangirling as I finish out the last bit of this nine-year wait.

Prediction time!

  • Let's get this one out of the way—Rory will pick Jess. (I'm still undecided which boy team I'm on, but I always got the impression that Amy Sherman-Palladino meant Rory and Jess to end up together.)
  • And this one—Luke and Lorelai will get married. (This is the only thing that will devastate me if it doesn't pan out.)
  • Sookie will be on some sort of cooking show that forces her to take time away from the inn.
  • Dean will be happily married to someone nice, Jess will be doing something unconventional—dropping in to see Luke occasionally—and Logan will still be a rich, charming jerk.
  • Emily will have a meltdown that will be both devastating and comedic.
  • Something bad will happen on June 3.
  • Kirk will open a cat store and call it Kirk's. Or decide to become a maid (that could explain the Friday Night Dinner appearance).
  • Lane's dad will continue to be a mystery. And one of Lane's kids will follow in his grandma's footsteps and be a Seventh-day Adventist. The other will rebel and become a Mormon. (Why not?)
  • The Gilmore Guys will get more than just a cameo, preferably a quick scene where they're confusedly discussing someone's fashion choices as the girls walk by. 
  • Paris will run for Senate. Or be Hillary Clinton's right-hand woman.
  • One of the crazy town functions will include a pig auction. Kirk's idea.
  • The last four words will be . . . something no one's guessed yet.

I need to think about something else now. Like how I'm going to find the time to listen to all of seasons 5–7 of the Gilmore Guys podcast in the next 31 days. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Car #3

I've never cared about cars much, aside from the essential function they serve of getting you places.

That is, I don't care about other people's cars; I've always been rather attached to mine.

I bought my first one at age 16, right after my sophomore year of high school ended. It was my favorite color and had a sun roof. It was the car that necessitated my learning how to drive a stick shift. It was also insane. After four years of dealing with its quirks and trying to explain its weird problems to people, I threw the white flag and decided to get rid of it.

This was a 1997 Volkswagon Golf. I can just see my future kids/grandkids exclaiming in awe, "Your first car wasn't even made in this century?"

So I moved on. Car #2 was also a manual, the unique shade of blue that changes colors depending on the lighting, still had a tape player, and wasn't nearly as unique as Car #1. I missed having a car with a personality at first, but I soon came to appreciate it for its reliability. Aside from a few expensive repairs during times in my life when I had no money to spare, it was a wonderfully boring car. I planned on driving that thing as long as it would let me.

And then one beautiful morning in September, this happened:

So long, 2003 Hyundai Elantra. No humans were harmed in the totaling of this vehicle (aside from some wicked whiplash the next day and a small burn on my thumb from when my airbag went off).

Totaling your car sucks, but once I got over the shock of it I started to realize it might be a good thing. It needed new tires and I was about ready to replace it anyway—plus, I didn't expect to get much out of it because despite its reliability, it was worthless by car standards.

Still, I felt guilty leaving it at the junkyard after I had scoured the car for my belongings, leaving it there all smashed up and filthy. It deserved a better end, perhaps at a comfy retirement home for cars.

But as soon as I found out how much State Farm would give me for my totaled car, I didn't waste any time buying Car #3. Only this time it was an entirely new experience, because I'm no longer a teenager or a starving student in college—I didn't have to settle for the cheapest car in the lot. I could splurge on cool features, and finally get a car with a built-in iPod USB port so I would never have to do without my favorite invention again.

A mere hours later, I drove away from the dealership in my brand-spanking new car with 41 miles on it, testing out the Bluetooth car function on my mom.

Introducing my 2017 Hyundai Elantra. I've always wanted a red car, despite its unfortunate connection to a certain rival school.

It was then that I finally understood why we have this commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I've never had a reason to be proud of the cars I drove aside from the pride of ownership, but I'm dang proud of this one. It's shiny and red, no one has ever driven it before, and it has bells and whistles. It's unexpectedly stressful driving it because I've never driven something so perfect before. I think I'll actually be relieved when it gets its first scratch—no more pressure to keep the car perfect.

In addition to bringing about the need to repent of idol worshipping, this car also made me feel a bit like an old codger. I always feel a little guilty letting my obsolete things go, so I cling to them long past the point of sense. Which has only made upgrading to a car that is 14 years newer than the previous one that much more jarring.

For one, it's an automatic, because manuals are apparently pretty much extinct now (I'm still a little bummed about that). I'd been driving my mom's car for about a week so I already had some time to reacquaint myself with the modern world, but it takes time to override 12+ years of muscle memory. I still have the occasional moment of panic when I'm in a hurry and try to turn the car off without putting it in park or try to push in the clutch only to find air, but I'm confident that those instincts will soon be killed off by convenience. It's also strange to have voice commands, a camera that shows what's behind you when you're backing up (I still don't trust it), and a remote lock and unlock function. You know, the kind of stuff people in movies use (and everyone who's bought a car in the last five years). It's weird being on their level now.

But the great thing (at least to me) about buying a new car is that you get to enjoy having the new and hip features for a while, but technology will soon outpace you and you'll once again be the one with the charming, outdated thing. By the time I'm done with this car, I'll probably be the only one still driving on the ground—because everyone else will have flying cars, of course. (Or at the very least, self-driving cars.)

Until then, I'll be over here, trying not to break the second commandment.

Monday, October 3, 2016

9 thoughts a stick-shift driver has while driving an automatic

Before getting into the car: This is going to be so easy. Anyone who can reach the pedals can drive an automatic.

Starting the car: Shoving your left foot into the ground won't help the car start.

Turning the car off: Repeat to yourself before turning the car off: "Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first."

Driving at a consistent speed: How do I control my speed in this thing? [Uses cruise control whenever possible, including in-town driving.]

Turning: Why can't I find the shifter?!? [Attempts to grab the air.]

Slowing down: What, the only way to slow down is to hit the brakes? How boring.

In a traffic jam: Moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake over and over again is about as annoying as shifting over and over again.

Stopped on a hill: I'm going to take my foot off the brake and just sit here. Because I can.

Stopped at a traffic light/stop sign: Repeat while the light is red: "Lifting your foot off the brake pedal even just a little will cause the car to move forward."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The mysterious green box: where the cool kids hang out

They sit on nearly every street in America. You've probably asked your mom at some point what they're for. They're ugly and boring, yet shrouded in mystique.

Okay, okay, this box is brown. But you still know what I'm talking about, right?

These things were the focal point of a lot of my childhood games. The one at our house was at the edge of our property, so it was "safe" when we played any variation of tag, the boundary line when we needed one, even a base if we played baseball in the front yard. (Siblings/parents, this actually happened, right? I'm not just making this up?)

The Payson park had a huge one, and whenever we went there with my cousins the giant green box had a myriad of roles: a prison for (a) a bad guy who was trying to get out, or (b) a good guy we were trying to rescue; a cage for a big, bad monster that had been trying to get out for 100 years; a bomb that would explode if you touched it; a fortress (especially useful when water guns and snowballs were included in our game); or a transformer-in-disguise that was only pretending to be a box to lure us in.

None of us really knew what the thing was for, which might be why we were so drawn to it.

Kids congregating around boring objects—that, I get. Kids can make a game out of anything.

But as I've gone on my evening walks, I've noticed that these green boxes are hang-out magnets for adults, too. I've started avoiding one area of sidewalk because someone is always smoking by the box. Even worse is the one right next to my parking space, which I'm starting to fear is becoming the hot spot of my apartment complex. Half the time when I'm leaving or going, there are teenagers leaning against it trying to look cool, a couple coupling, or a lone person on their phone. Every time I see somebody by the box, I feel like I did in high school when my locker was by the good drinking fountain with the really cold water, which meant I could never get to it because there were always 20 football players blocking it.

The only difference now is that I don't care if I break up the party—I pay 15 bucks for that spot every month, dang it!—so every other day I'm parking a few feet away from strangers who are engaged in various forms of socialization, and trust me, there's no non-awkward way to interrupt them. (The socially gifted might have a shot, but as a territorial introvert I just want people to get off my lawn.)

Maybe it's because the boxes make convenient seats if you want to sit down (I'm still hesitant to do that, since you never know when one could be a bomb). Maybe there really are aliens hiding inside, using their mind powers to draw people into their trap.

Whatever the reason, I hope this trend stops before it gets out of hand. At the very least, the cooling weather will push people back to their couches inside, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2016


A few days ago, I turned 29. Before too much longer, people won't feel the need to qualify my adult status with the word "young." The cushion between my current age and 30 is gone—which is a little disconcerting for someone who's been afraid of turning 30 since her early 20s.

Because somewhere along the line, I absorbed the "30 before 30" philosophy, the idea that you have to accomplish certain things before you turn 30. I think it started in high school when college was looming on my doorstep and the yearbook staff was asking seniors what their post–high school plans were (actually, I have no idea if the yearbook staff actually did that, and I was on the yearbook staff). So I made a plan. Several plans. I even made a pre-30s bucket list.

But I couldn't plan past 30. That version of me was too old to relate to, and at some point I started thinking that 30 was the end—if I didn't have it figured out by then, then it was too late. I'd have to schmooze around with my regrets for 70 years.

Not to mention 30 is a milestone age in LDS culture that no one wants to reach—if you're not married by 30, then you'll either be single for the rest of mortality or end up marrying a divorcĂ© with three kids. (Or an apostle, and really, does anyone actually want to marry someone that busy and famous without the riches that typically come with that type of lifestyle?)*

*If you don't hear from me in the next few days, it's because I've been struck by lightning.

So I've been spending some time over the last few years trying to unlearn these crazy ideas so I wouldn't have to hit the panic button when I turned 29.

And I think it's working, because I don't feel like I'm standing at death's door. I can look at my past and be proud of my accomplishments, and look forward to my—gulp—30s where I will, yes, continue to experience new things. It still feels weird picturing myself in my 30s at all, but the point is, I can picture it. In fact, now that I'm pretty much an established adult with a stable life, I think my 30s will be easier than my 20s in a lot of ways.

Now that I've come to peace with the fact that I'm not the one person who will get to avoid this nasty aging business, I think I'll enjoy the last year in my 20s quite a bit (maybe I'll even find that ever-elusive perfect Ranch recipe, though I'm not holding my breath).

Provided I'm not hit with a quarter-life crisis in about six months.*

*Although I should probably just woman up and get used to calling it a mid-life crisis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Summer book wrap-up, Twitter style

22 books, summarized in 140 characters or less.

How Many Roads, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
Mormons. America. Germany. The '60s.

Take Me Home, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
A Mormon in Vietnam. A picture-perfect marriage crumbles.

So Much of Life Ahead, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
Mormon soap opera. Plus history!

The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner. 4.5 stars.
A dysfunctional family hops across the American Northwest, chasing dreams that are doomed to crumble. Stellar writing.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld. 2 stars.
A modern Pride and Prejudice, minus the charm.

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh. 4 stars.
A compelling and cozy crime novel, with a couple of twists you won't see coming.

Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley. 4 stars.
A wordy, comforting, and magical Beauty and the Beast retelling. With sisters.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. 2 stars.
Like a crazy dream you can't wake up from. Oh wait, it is a dream.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. 2 stars.
We've got an unsolvable mystery; Sherlock Holmes to the rescue! And there are dogs.

Midway to Heaven, by Dean Hughes. 2 stars.
Like a Mormon Hallmark card.

My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. 3 stars.
A complicated and heartbreaking situation where everyone has a valid perspective and no one wins.

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. 3 stars.
A plot that mirrors the protagonist's self-picked word of the day. Also, a murder mystery in 1900s New York.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. 4 stars.
A time-traveling story where the romance is secondary to the characters and historical details. Well, except for the "honeymoon" part.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by Jack Thorne. 3.5 stars.
An entertaining play if you forget it's supposed to be a continuation of J.K. Rowling's masterpiece.

Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations, by Ron Fournier. 5 stars.
A dad and a kid with Asperger's take a trip together. They learn things. You needn't be a parent or know someone with Asperger's to enjoy this.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. 5 stars.
A life dedicated to medicine is cut short. But not before this young man shows us the beauty of living.

Silver in the Blood, by Jessica Day George. 3 stars.
Werewolves and Russian princesses.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. 4 stars.
A delightful story you'll wish you had read as a kid. A classic in its own right, regardless of the movie's success.

Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler. 3.5 stars.
A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. The "shrew" is hilarious, and the "rogue" who woos her is rather adorable.

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch. 5 stars.
A page turner with possibilities that will make your head hurt.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1 star.
The movie's better.

Letters, by Marjorie Pay Hinckley. 4 stars.
Glimpses into an amazing life, where yardwork and parenthood are just as prominent as exotic places and famous people.