Wednesday, July 12, 2017

8 things I learned in June (and half of July)

1. South Dakota is beautiful. Before vacationing there for a week, I was under the impression that South Dakota was one of the boring states. Which may be true, depending on how you define boring, but its beauty is also significantly underrated. I might blog more about this later. If I have the mental energy/brain space for it.

2. I also couldn't be content living somewhere that remote. My goal in life is to, essentially, avoid people, so this realization came as a surprise to me. I always pictured myself being happy in one of America's wide open spaces, with nothing but trees, sky, and clouds for company. But, after a while you start to get tired of all that green. Deep thoughts while enjoying nature don't entirely compensate for the opportunities of the "real" world. You start to miss having access to all the conveniences of civilization. Never thought I'd say that, let alone believe it, but I guess it's good I realized all this before I made an impulsive move to a sparsely populated spot. Utah is just the best, guys—you get the best of both worlds. (Although not quite that much green.)

3. Wyoming is the most boring state in the nation. That million-hour drive through Wyoming's nothingness is enough to drive you to insanity. The most interesting part was the windmills. And the clouds that seem to go on for an eternity.

4. Brandon Sanderson's cosmere is even more complex than I thought it was. With Oathbringer's release date just a few months away, I'm trying to get some good cosmere studying in. And it's intense. But one of these days, I will understand it. I'll probably still be saying that in 20 years.

5. Lemonade doesn't quench your thirst—it just makes you more thirsty. I love lemonade, but I think I'll refrain buying it from the store from now on, even if Trader Joe's is having a sale. I spent many evenings this week overfull because of the thirst that cannot be quenched.

6. What kind of editor I am. We're in the middle of hiring a managing editor at work, and this whole process has helped me see where my strengths lie as an editor and what I actually want out of a career. I feel like I have more realistic long-term goals now, and a much clearer picture of what my career will entail here on out.

7. Why I'm rereading everything this year. Since I became a podcast maniac 3–4 years ago, my reading habits have changed. I read more, I read more widely, and reading has never been as big of a priority as it is now. But this year, I keep going back to my old favorites. I've gotten so caught up in discovering new authors and forming opinions on some of the hot books everyone is talking about that I haven't spent as much time on my first love, the genre that made me a compulsive reader—fantasy. So I'm going back to my reading roots. Book Riot recently posted a stupid article about rereading not counting as reading, but it's been the most satisfying part of my reading this year. One pass simply is not enough for any book worth rereading, and I've gotten so much out of all of my book reunions.

8. Taking time off to play is worth every hassle. I totally already knew this, but I wanted to share two more pictures.

Planning our yearly sister party is a huge ordeal, but it usually ends up being one of the best weekends of the year.

My favorite South Dakota picture.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Boredom and progression

My aversion to bedtimes started as soon as I was old enough to climb out of bed on my own. Maybe even before then. I was convinced that the party started after the kids were in bed, and I was on a mission to catch the action. Night after night, I would sneak into the living room where my parents were watching TV and wait for the excitement to start. Night after night, my parents found me curled up on the floor behind the couch or next to the garage door, having failed once again to gather any proof that I was missing out on something.

But if you really want to annoy your dad, fall asleep in his chair. All the time.

Eventually I got bored with my little game and started staying in my room, but I still had to check in occasionally. (This would have been a much more productive activity if I could actually hear what was going on.) I spied on card games, caught my dad jumping on the trampoline after dark, and became pretty familiar with the TV shows and movies my parents liked to watch without us. (I remember lots of Star Trek. Maybe it was a ploy to get me to quickly lose interest and go back to bed.)

Slowly I acquired later bedtimes, and it wasn't too much longer before I was staying up later than my parents (or at least my mom). I had still found no evidence of parties, yet I couldn't shake the thought that life had to be so much more exciting when you were free to do whatever you wanted at night besides get more boring sleep.

It wasn't so much the night life I wanted to be a part of; it was the apparent freedom adults had in every facet of their lives. Staying up past the kids' bedtime was just the beginning.

And then suddenly, I was in college. No one cared what time I went to bed as long as I didn't keep them up. I could take naps between classes. Some of my lunch breaks were long enough to allow me to actually leave campus in search of something edible (but alas, my budget still forced me to get by on homemade sandwiches and carrot sticks). I could coordinate work and school however I wanted.

The structure that had held me back all my childhood was gone. Now I got to set the rules.

Finally I was part of the free-adult club. Nothing could be more exciting.

But as I moved on from college life to the career life, I finally started to see reality: there was a reason I fell asleep spying on the adults, and it wasn't because I was tired. There is no secret fun club to join when you enter adulthood. In fact, a lot of the time, adulthood is actually pretty boring.

The side of me that craves a routine and just wants stability had no trouble accepting that. But we humans are hardwired to need progression in our lives, and for the first time ever, I couldn't rely on a new grade or new classes to automatically provide that for me. I didn't have a marriage or my own growing children to keep me on my toes. Life wasn't as much of a journey anymore; I was stuck at a destination.

This shift in worldview helped trigger what I like to call my quarter-life crisis. I had achieved what I had spent my whole life preparing for—independence—but it wasn't the bright, happy, glamorous place I had envisioned all those nights I was plowing through massive amounts of reading after getting home from my shift at Domino's. Oftentimes, it was dull enough that I wanted to sleep through it.

After weeks of becoming more and more unhappy with my lot in life, I found myself stuck on the side of the freeway in American Fork—halfway between my two homes—in a car that was overheated. Somewhere between being stranded on the freeway to when I was able to coax my car to safety at Thanksgiving Point, I resolved that I was going to start going to the temple every week. I didn't know how it would help, exactly; all I had was my hope that putting God's priorities first would help me sort out my troubles.

It turns out God was several steps ahead of me, as usual. I had gone through the temple about six months before, much sooner than I had planned to go. But it felt right at the time, and once I started going to the temple every week I understood why it was the right time for me to take that step. Over the next six months, the temple filled all the holes in my life. It made up for my lack of dating prospects and my inability to establish close friendships. It gave me something useful to do with my abundance of free time. It filled my need for a purpose in life and helped me grow in a vacuum.

After trying out all the temples in the valley, the Draper Temple became my temple.

This wasn't the one-and-done solution to the rest of my adult problems. But it did help me gain a better understanding that it was my job to make sure I was always progressing in some way, always working toward something, and now I was better equipped to handle it.

So I got a master's degree. I delved into hobbies. I landed in a more satisfying career. I got better at having a social life. I delighted in all the perks of being a childless aunt. I studied the scriptures more diligently.

I spent a lot of time on meaningless things too, but eventually I found a comfortable balance between contentment and progression. We're not meant to coast through life, but we can't really be awesome all the time, either. The key, at least during my 20s, was to embrace change when it was needed and to be grateful always.

And to let the childlike excitement take over from time to time. If you can't let the little child in you out every now and then, then adulthood has no choice but to be boring.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017


Since I started this blog in June 2010, I've never gotten through a month without posting at least once. If I don't post today, that streak will end, and I just can't allow that to happen.

I was looking over my paltry blog stats today and realized that this thing has been going for seven years. 442 posts. (Does that number make anyone else think of Lost? It's not exactly one of the numbers, but it's close.) I know I shouldn't be surprised that I've found 442 things to post about—I've filled 21 journals on much more mundane things—but, well, I'm surprised.

So I'm going to celebrate my seven-year blogerversary by highlighting some fun (for me, at least) stats.

First post: So, I'm done with classes. Now what? Boy, I was a rambler. Probably still am, but I hope I've curbed that tendency somewhat.

Post with the most page views: Bold literary characters. I wonder how many people stumbled upon this post because they were looking for inspiration for their English papers.

Most popular topic label: Life lessons. I know, I know. You're all shocked Harry Potter isn't at the top. I am, too.

Post with the most comments: My pre-30s bucket list. It's a little depressing how few of these things I've actually accomplished. Somehow I've got to find a way to go skiing, leave the country, get married, have a kid, buy a house and a piano, finish learning "Rhapsody in Blue," and perfect my ranch dressing recipe in the next 3 1/2 months. Totally doable.

Post that used the least amount of words: 10 reasons why the NBA lockout sucks. I had forgotten about this one! Things are a bit different now.

Post that was the hardest to publish: I have a hard time being publicly personal (public = anyone who is not me). The personal stuff doesn't always make it to the publish phase, and when it does, my instinct is to quickly bury it so no one sees it. All of the Pearls of 20something Wisdom posts have been hard for that reason, especially the aloneness one.

My favorite post: Burning books (although this one is a close second). I stopped so many people from reading The Casual Vacancy with this post. You're welcome. But I still look back on the book-burning experience fondly.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

The Muggle remedy to allergies

A year ago, I wrote this post. I was inspired when I wrote it. Inspired, that is, by the allergies that bust out of hibernation every spring and race through my body until November.

It's a dark path I tread this this time of year. Even without allergies, Utah springs (aka still mostly winter) aren't that great, and I spend a lot of time wishing my nose into oblivion, or at least equal suffering for all.


The fact that I was contemplating evil to eradicate an obnoxious problem got me thinking that perhaps I should explore my other options a little bit more. Including one that, at the time, seemed just as annoying as the problem it was designed to solve: allergy shots.

I didn't love the idea of getting shots regularly—swallowing pills, and sometimes even gutting the symptoms out, is a lot easier. I don't really have a problem with needles; it's more the continual trips to the doctor's office that are unappealing. And I had heard that weekly shots were required for five years in order for the treatment to be effective. What if you want to go on vacation? What if you move? What if your work schedule won't allow it? What if something happens in year 3 that prevents you from continuing? It just didn't seem worth it.

Well, you shouldn't base important life decisions on hearsay. You have to do your own research before ruling something out.

Which is what my sister Kimberly did. It's always better when a trusted source does the work for you.

As soon as I learned that allergy shots aren't required weekly for the full five years (just the first 3–6 months, during the build-up phase), I sought out my own allergist. He educated me on the terrible injustice of allergy reactions being based on genetics, rather than being required for everyone, and the horrifying reality that allergies tend to get worse until you're in your mid-30s, after which they stay there until, finally, starting to dissipate around your eighth decade.

The thought of enduring a spring even worse than the one that sent me to Voldemort for help was too much. I scheduled an allergy test the next day. (Which verified that I really am allergic to many things in the weeds/trees/grass/critters categories. I felt strangely vindicated.)

The week after Thanksgiving, I got my first allergy shot. I was committed now.

It wasn't always smooth sailing. It's hard to coordinate two office visits per week during business hours. About a month in, I had to double my medication on shot days, which made me tired and killed my productivity for the rest of the day. I had a random reaction the day I hit maintenance, the wonderful day you get to graduate to only needing one shot a month. My head turned a shade of purple that would put my fellow Cooper-blooded relatives on a sweltering July day to shame, and they had to close down the shot room so they could put out the flames. (Aside from my head feeling like it was on fire, I didn't have any other exciting symptoms.) This led to an evening derailed, an $867 ER bill, and steroid medication for three days that—surprise, surprise—wouldn't let me sleep.

But there were positive signs, as well. Two people came in for their last shot ever while I was waiting in the lobby, and both told the nurses the shots had changed their lives. As we inched into February, I could already feel a significant decrease in my allergy symptoms, which typically happens later for most patients. March passed and April started, and I was still waiting for the allergy symptoms that love me so much to attack. For the first time in a long time, I started drinking in the smell of blossoms and spending time on the grass without wondering how long it would be before I would have to pay for such pleasures.

It seemed too good to be true, to be experiencing so much relief so quickly, but the following tests confirmed that what I hoped for was actually happening:

  1. Spring was in full force, and I was still very much sane.
  2. I survived a five-hour flight next to a lady with a cat.

I still haven't gotten through a visit to my parents' house without wanting to rub my nose off, but there's still time to reach that level of immunity. I have every reason to believe that some day soon I will no longer be allergic to my hometown (or rather, everything south of I-15 Exit 253. Where there is still more nature than buildings).

The moral of the story? There is a cure to annoying, non-life-threatening problems, and yes, it is worth it to take the longer, non-evil path to relief.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Career stuff

This post has been sitting in my queue for weeks, and I've lost track of how many times I've rewritten it. The primary pursuit of my 20s has been establishing a career, so I can't just not talk about it. But the problem is, I have no idea how to concisely say everything I want to.

I could start with a timeline of significant career happenings. Too boring? Fine.

Or I could write a "20 Things I Learned While Starting My Career" post. But that's been written about 8 million times already—no one wants to read that again.

Perhaps I could do a Q&A. Answer all those questions people ask when they find out what I do. Ugh, even I have no interest in reading that.

Maybe I should just get the words down and see where they take me (career lesson #15).

The lucky ones start showing signs of what they'll be when they grow up at a young age. Looking back, I can totally see that I was one of them. I beat my classmates at all the reading challenges in first grade. I subconsciously started editing signs by fifth grade. I wrote a bunch of terrible stories in elementary school and junior high (many of which starred my celebrity crushes, from Lance Bass to Chad Michael Murray).

I had other passions—music and sports, mainly—and even dabbled in other fields (like accounting—weird), but I was destined to work with words. That's what I was drawn to. That's what brought me the most satisfaction (career lesson #4). It wasn't about the money, the status, or the glamour. All I needed was words. (And punctuation.)

Career path: all set.*

*Although it did take me a while to stop hoping for the "marry rich" solution to adulthood (career lesson #436).

But the weird thing is, there's more to a career than deciding what you want to do. I grew up in a world where a job is something you have so you can get money so you can eat and take hot showers and wear clothes and all that fun stuff. Perhaps that, combined with my greater desire to be a wife and mother, is why it took me so long to grasp that a job can be more than a means to an end or a necessary evil (career lesson #53). It can be a good and meaningful part of your life.

For starters, adults aren't great at making friends, so chances are, your workplace is where most of your friends are (career lesson #28).

My first business trip. I was still green enough to think that was what adults actually called them.

A field trip to Top Golf. My family thinks working for USANA means you just play all the time. If only that were true. Let me just say, there's a reason my blogging frequency has dropped drastically over the last six months. 

And secondly, if your job is the most important part of your life, then you'd better make sure it's a good one (career lesson #41). That you're doing something you enjoy, that excites you, with people you can easily tolerate. Because if you don't like your job and you don't have something pretty significant to make up for it, then you'll find yourself constantly wishing for something to fill the void (career lesson #40).

Editors are a bit of a dying breed, so I had to fight for the right to be one (career lesson #42). Not all of my editing peers get that chance, even if their skills are seriously impressive. But somehow I found a way to make a living using the skills I want to use. (And I don't have to teach! I'll forever be grateful for that.) I've been very fortunate.

There's no way to say this without sounding cheesy, so maybe read this part really fast, before you have a chance to roll your eyes: I found my "calling." Editing is what I was meant to do, and I have zero regrets about choosing this career.

And, I think that's all I really need to say. Hooray. I'm kicking this thing off my queue.

Friday, March 31, 2017

A break in Florida with my people

The occasional vacating of your life, breaking away from routine, is a health benefit I think we can all get behind. It's even better when you spend your time away from normalcy with "your people." People who get you. People who share your interests. People you've known for a long, long time.

I'm fresh off a week spent with three distinct groups of people that others may not have enjoyed spending time with, but who made the trip extra special for me.

Group 1: Editors

Despite our reputation for being rule-abiding sticklers, boring introverts, and proud grammar Nazis, editors are actually a pretty fun group of people. (And let's not refer to us as grammar Nazis anymore—we've decided to use "grammando" instead. Come on, help me get this trending.)

ACES is a special conference. It's a place where I can get a "word nerd" pin and everyone around me covets it. Finding typos in PowerPoint presentations is a competition rather than something that just makes you roll your eyes (yes, typos wriggle their way even into editors' presentations). It's the best opportunity I have all year to commiserate with, learn from, and buddy up with people who understand what it's like to have a career dedicated to words. Half the world thinks we can be replaced with software, but we know there's more to our jobs than properly punctuating sentences. Editing is much more of an art than it is a science, and it involves far more people management than most people realize. But my people? They get it.

While last year editors were abuzz with the news that AP would lowercase "internet," this year was all about the partial acceptance of the singular "they" (the "they" that refers to someone who wishes to remain anonymous or who prefers "they" as their personal pronoun). Despite being in use for hundreds of years—even Shakespeare used the singular they!—and despite most editors being completely on board with adopting it fully, so many people are still clinging to the "it's not grammatically correct!" argument. But the fact is, language changes—even *gasp* the meaning of words—and nothing else has come anywhere close to filling the generic pronoun need. Most editors are going to keep fighting for singular they's complete acceptance, even if it means we'll have to pass the torch on to the next generation of editors.

This is from one of my favorite sessions—Kory Stamper's reading of her new book Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries. Kory makes my people look cool. (I'm in this picture, FYI. And I do not look cool.)

Chicago also finally took out the hyphen in email, but I guess that's not quite as exciting because that's what we've all been doing anyway. The announcement still got a pretty raucous cheer, though.

But lest you think editing conferences are full of happy friends who agree on everything, certain debates can get dicey. Particularly those between AP and Chicago frenemies.

The mug that inspired this picture says "4 Copy Editors Killed in Ongoing AP Style, Chicago Manual Gang Violence." Sorry, Nick, I'm pretty sure I'm winning. My Chicago sunglasses give me superpowers. And Chicago is better. Obviously.

And if you get to check out a bookstore and walk along a lovely beach with another one of your people, you count yourself very fortunate.

I was sad to see the first part of my trip end, but I consoled myself with the knowledge that my next "group" of people was on their way to pick me up.

Group 2: Mom and Dad

When I casually mentioned that I was going to make a stop at Harry Potter World while I was in Florida, my parents pulled out their phones and immediately started working out how they could meet me there. Before I could really process what was happening, we had a mini vacation planned, just the three of us.

Not everyone would be thrilled to hang out with their parents at an amusement park, but I've always liked my parents more than is really normal. And I think I'm old enough now that I don't have to be embarrassed by that anymore. Besides, my dad is super handy to have around for these types of things.

Group 3: Potterheads

My parents dropping everything to go to Harry Potter World for the third time should give you a little insight into why I am the way that I am. I wanted to fully immerse myself in the Harry Potter experience while I was at Universal, and my parents—and the bajillion other fans crammed into that little park—were 100% supportive of that. Of all the fandoms to be a part of, Harry Potter is one of the best.

Like every other witch and wizard, we started our journey to Hogwarts in London.

We tried to pay Sirius Black a visit, but for some reason he was out. 😭😭😭

So we proceeded to Diagon Alley. Walking through that busted brick wall is seriously like stepping into the movie. You're walking innocently along in the mundane Muggle world, and then BAM. You're in the wizarding world.

I was too intimidated by the goblins to ask for a withdrawal, but the ride was cool! I wish we had been able to go on it more than once, but it was broken down the second and third time we went back. I suspect nargles were involved.

After buying Sirius Black's wand (I now own seven wands—eight if you count my remote control wand), I was morally obligated to add something from  Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes to my ever-growing Harry Potter collection. I'm sure that U-No-Poo will come in handy at work. (Don't worry, guys—they're basically just M&M's.)

Then we had lunch at the Leaky Cauldron. I love saying that. I gave the cold Butterbeer a try, and it was tasty. But I still like the frozen Butterbeer better. Just don't drink them both in one day—you might get drunk from sugar.

The Hogwarts Express also feels like the real deal. Even standing in line at King's Cross Station is cool.

However, I was forced to take a brief break from being a wizard to figure out how to best word this sign so as to not confuse its American audience. I don't really know how to turn off my "edit" mode.

ANYWAY, back to Hogwarts. Dumbledore was nice enough to let me visit again.

This is the only part of the park where you remember you're not actually in Hogsmeade. The snow on the rooftops certainly looks cozy, but the effect isn't powerful enough to counteract the Florida heat.

I also tried to sneak into the Ministry of Magic,

but that was pushing my luck. Even Dumbledore couldn't persuade them to let me in.

And with that, the fantasy ended. Soon after, we left Harry's world behind.

The good feeling of being amongst my type of people disappeared the next morning when I was seated next to a lady with a cat on our five-hour flight home. But I guess I had it coming—the week leading up to that moment was perfect, so karma had to even things out a bit. (Luckily, my allergy shots are doing their job; otherwise, I would have been a sneezy mess of itchy misery the whole time.)

So, this year's word nerd vacation was a soaring success. Can't wait to see how next year turns out.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

One life lesson

February 16 is a bit of a dark day for my family. Eighteen years ago my Grandma Rushton passed away, and then three years later to the day we lost my brother's best friend. We've got death anniversaries spread throughout nearly every month of the year now, but February 16 has cemented itself in my mind as "the" dark day, probably because it the first time I experienced a loss of this magnitude. These deaths were also the hardest, the most unexpected, and came far too soon.

I knew my Grandma Rushton as someone who had one of the most bedecked houses/yards in Payson during Christmas season, who gave wonderful gifts, and who made every holiday special. And her cherry tomatoes and homemade rolls were almost too good for my little body too handle—on at least one occasion Grandma had to come out to the tomato patch to get a hug from me before we left her house.

But I never really knew her when she was healthy—she died of cancer when I was 11—so most of what I know about her now I've picked up from stories. It's enough to elevate her to sainthood: mother of eight biological children (seven of whom are boys) and to anyone else who needed safety and love, the first person I think of whenever a Relief Society teacher asks us to think of someone who characterizes service, a fierce competitor, someone with a diverse collection of talents who wasn't afraid to use them.

I'm fortunate to know her as well as I do, but what I really wish is that I had had more one-on-one time with her. Something of my own to solidify her specific-to-me presence in my life.

Fortunately, I'm not completely deprived; one memory keeps resurfacing, and it's time I wrote it down.

I was about 10 and it was Super Bowl Sunday (I think). Football was the most boring thing in the universe at the time, so after we wrote down our score predictions, a group of us shut ourselves up in Grandma and Grandpa's room to play Hand and Foot. My sister Tiffany and I were on one team, my cousin Shamra and her friend Carrie on the other.

About halfway through our game, Grandma came in to check on us. Tiffany and I were winning, and at least one of us was ready to go out. Shamra and Carrie, on the other hand, didn't even have any canastas yet. Not wanting to be mean, we debated giving them one more chance to get some points.

Grandma passed on a lifetime of card-playing wisdom in two words: "I wouldn't."

We didn't listen. And we paid for it.

Shamra or Carrie picked up the pile on their next turn, which was stacked so high it kept falling over, and ended up beating us by about 6,000 points.

When Dad and his brothers joke about fearing their mom's scolding more than possibly bleeding to death because of some injury caused by stupidity, I believe them. When people tell stories about Grandma taking chili over to a neighbor in need, I'm not surprised. But when the subject of Grandma's merciless card-playing comes up, I know they're speaking truth, because I learned it from Grandma first-hand.

I haven't taken pity on an opponent ever since. Grandma says.