Thursday, June 21, 2018

Temporary pleasures

My work commute recently got a lot longer, so I used the extra time spent trapped in a car as an excuse to refresh my podcasts. I got rid of a few and added, erm, more than a few.

So far, having a long commute hasn't bothered me at all. More time for podcasts and music is a win as far as I'm concerned.

But if you were to ask me to give you a recap on my podcast consumption every day, I would fail that test more often than not. I wish I could go around impressing people with random trivia and interesting tidbits about every subject under the sun, but my brain insists on letting a lot of that information disappear after a few hours, like it's a dream that quickly fades from memory.

To some extent, it's the same way with books. Books stay with me longer, but it disturbs me how soon I forget even basic plot points. My book nerd ego is wounded every time I can't discuss a book at length, or at least enough to fill the silence of an elevator ride. (Which is why I take the stairs. Anything to avoid elevator small talk.)

I've always prided myself on having a good memory, so the fact that I can't hold on to everything I take in really bothers me. And what does it say about me that I spend so much of my free time on things I'll likely forget? That I love spending my time and mental energy on things that'll disappear? What about all the other non-life-changing experiences I've had that are lost for good? Am I less of the person I should be because I can't rely on my memory baggage to follow me wherever I go, informing every decision?

That last question was the start of bucking me off of my philosophical high horse, although a part of me wants to get back on. I don't like failure. Even if the "failure" is a faulty but human memory.

Because humans aren't designed to remember everything; in fact, it's a mercy that we don't remember every mundane detail of our lives. (Can you imagine how exhausting that would be?) Living in the moment often means engaging in temporary pleasures—basking in something while it's happening, then letting it go when you move on to the next distraction.

And if I'm lucky, the temporary pleasure could become a lasting memory of generalities, if not specifics. For example, I've been in a great period of life where I have the time to indulge in books and podcasts at a rate others would scoff at. The experts would probably tell me I'm ruining my mental health by filling so many silences with media when I should be meditating, but when I think of books and podcasts I think of sunset walks, rejuvenating lunch breaks, relaxing me time, and stimulating drives. These temporary things have become a fixture in my life that I'll surely miss if/when I'm forced to take a step back from it all in order to make room for more "permanent" and life-altering experiences.

If nothing else, I can console myself with the knowledge that what could have been a boring and frustrating morning on Utah roads was a calm and entertaining start to my day. Who knows, maybe my lack of road rage made someone else's day a little better, too.

Some podcast recommendations
I always appreciate it when people I know recommend podcasts to feed my addiction, so here are a few I've been enjoying lately (hopefully ones I haven't already mentioned in previous posts):

  • Harry Potter and the Sacred Text—a reread of the Harry Potter series, with each chapter analyzed through a different theme and then analyzed using a sacred practice. It's my favorite HP podcast right now, which is saying a lot.
  • LeVar Burton Reads—Spend 40 minutes or so listening to LeVar Burton read a short story to you. What's not to like?
  • Nocturne—Stories of the night. Great for nights when I'm restless.
  • Tell Me Something I Don't Know—A game show where the contestants try to stump a panel of smart people with obscure but interesting facts.
  • The Allustionist—word/language history. Perfect for word nerds.
  • fiction/non/fiction—current events paired with a piece of literature that mirrors it. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Packing revelations

My original intent for this post was to debunk the popular belief that packing is a terrible chore, akin to writing a research paper or running a 10k. Packing isn't so bad, I thought as I typed away, because if you're packing it means you're about to have an adventure. Maybe a quick getaway, maybe something more permanent. The reason for the packing negates the chore-ness of it because it's a necessary final step before something changes.

But packing for a move? Big adventure, yes. Exciting change, yes. But fun? At first, sure—I couldn't wait to get started, actually—but the delight wore off as my back pain increased. And as it dawned on me just how much work this was actually going to be.

Remember that phenomenon that caused time to slow down while I was waiting for my house to be built? Now it's causing my possessions to multiply, so no matter how much work I get done, I'll never be done packing. This is not just an ambitious chore; it's a near impossible task.

I've had other revelations as well. Like how I buy food I think I'm supposed to have because they're in every American family's household: canned green beans, popcorn, peanut butter, rice. The most respectable of the expiration dates on those products was somewhere in the land of 2016.

I've been living in a one-bedroom apartment for six years, so storage space is limited. And what do I do with my one and only storage closet? Fill it with boxes. Some of which are too small to be of use for anything bigger than pens and some that are held together by duct tape. I figured I'd be thanking myself later when the time came to move, but if I had known how many people would suddenly have boxes to get rid of as soon as they found out I was moving, I would have used that storage space for something more useful.

I've even unburied a few boxes that were never unpacked from my last move, filled with mementos from my life that hold only sentimental value: participation trophies, badges, graduation announcements, terrible stories I wrote as a teenager, signed softballs, business cards, and—my favorite—the Wacky Wednesday book my brother made me when he was about 7. I thought that was gone for good and I was overjoyed to find it.

Did you catch that part where I mentioned I live in a one-bedroom apartment? Yeah. Starting my packing two weeks early was necessary due to the never-ending nature of the project, but pretty soon I'm going to start having nightmares about suffocating in boxes. Kids would have a ball playing the lava game at my place, because there's very little carpet (aka, lava) to be seen.

And there's still more packing to do. And miraculously, still more empty boxes, even after I used about 30 for all my books.

Please keep your "Just wait until you have to unpack" comments to yourself. I'll cross that bridge when it comes.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

The longest wait

Five months. The longest wait of my life.

Buying a house is something I've wanted to do for years. It was a new year's resolution more than once, but every time I started to move forward, I panicked and decided it could wait another year or two. #CommitmentIssues

But when the time was finally right, it happened fast. As in, less than a week after I started searching for reals, I signed a contract.

The way everything fell into place so perfectly and so quickly is a post for another day. Because this post is about waiting.

A theme I'm quite familiar with.

Since the townhouse I bought wasn't built yet, move-in day was still a ways out. And the combination of my excitement and complete readiness to move on with my life actually caused time to slow down. (You'll be reading about the effects this is having on global warming, the economy, politics, etc. soon.) Even as I write this, I'm not convinced my house will ever actually be ready, because by then time will have slowed down so much it will have stopped completely, leaving me stuck in the waiting period between two lives.

The slab of cement to the left of Jeremy is mine. Jeremy kind of looks like a giant in this picture.

Figuring out how to live in the present the past five months has been a challenge. There's a reason I needed a change; I no longer felt like I belonged in the YSA Midvale life. Being forced to stay put when I knew I had a ticket out just rubbed salt in the wound.

At first I resolved to make the most of my dwindling days in SLC, particularly my singles ward. I would magnify my calling I felt wholly unsuited for and make one final push to establish strong bonds where I was at. All so I could make the separation harder on myself. I joke, but I yearned to leave something behind as evidence that I had lived here.

And sometimes I succeeded at going out in my blaze of glory. But the closer May became—the month my house was supposed to be finished—the less motivated I was to engage in my current life at all. It's been so frustrating wanting to give up on singles wards once and for all but still needing to feel like I was contributing where I was at.

One of the ways I coped was by crocheting. I've crocheted three rugs so far to put in the bathrooms, the kitchen, maybe I'll do one in the library—the important thing is that it's allowed me to work toward my future in a small way while getting my mind off everything else.

Winter slowly turned into spring, and my house started to take shape. Even though the wait has been torture, it really has been fun to see my house at every stage of the building process. My favorite was when it was all just wood, because it took me back to the days when my childhood house was being built. I was only 4 at the time, but I remember scoping out the territory a few times. (The giant pile of dirt in the front yard was a memorable highlight.) And then years later when Dad was finishing the basement, my sisters and I spent a lot of time downstairs roller blading in and out of all the wooden pillars.

One of the three bedrooms. It's going to be so weird to have so much space.

So I was a little sad to see the wood covered up, but eventually you have to let your babies grow up.

Funny story: when a bunch of us went to tour our houses (I bought the townhouse next to Kimberly and Jeremy's), we had our houses mixed up. So when we were exclaiming over my spare rooms, we were actually walking through Avonlea's and Conrad's rooms. So I flipped this picture because I know it'll drive me crazy in the future seeing us waving at each other from the wrong directions.

And life resumed its snail pace. They built the roof, I started binge-watching one of my comfort shows, Once Upon a Time.

They installed the drywall, I got really into watching the Jazz in the playoffs (I've never been this excited and hopeful for the future of this team).

I was most distressed when I arrived to see the construction crew at my house, which meant I wouldn't be able to explore inside. :(

They started painting, I read my first Stephen King novel.

I did not get to pick the exterior color, so I was a little bummed to see we got tan instead of the blue/gray I was hoping for. But it does remind me a bit of the yellow house I grew up in.

Attempts were made to actually live life rather than just escape it, but I've been trying to close this chapter of my life for almost a year—I have very little left to give at this point. Just let me embrace my role as the spinster aunt already.

I'll lure my niece and nephews in with empty promises like "Someday, all of this could be yours."

The builders tell me they're on track to be finished by the end of May, but I'm having trouble feeling any excitement about this news. Because, like I said, time will have stopped by then.

This is what waiting does to you.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

My 8 most memorable Midvale moments

This is old news to some of you, but I bought a townhome! I've known since January that the Midvale chapter of my life was about to end, but with a five-month wait still ahead of me, I've tried to avoid thinking too much about the actual move itself. For reasons relating to my sanity.

I can't think of any wait that has felt this infernally long. Even the senioritis I felt for six months before college graduation was more endurable. But it's finally feeling close enough to get started on some closure activities.

First up (on the blog, anyway): memorializing my most monumental but mostly mundane Midvale moments.

1. Playing with fire

I couldn't have cared less about this perk when I moved in—my roommate and I actually put my 70-pound TV in front of it for a while—but my fireplace soon became my favorite toy and is the thing I will miss the most when I move. I went through a mourning period when winter started ebbing away and I had to come to terms with the fact that I soon wouldn't have a fireplace to plan my winter hobbies around. (For the air-quality enthusiasts, I only used my fireplace on "green" days, which wasn't nearly as much as I wanted to use it.) No more reading, watching TV, or crocheting next to the comforting glow and warmth of the fire. No more turning all the lights out just to watch the flickering flames. No more burning books I hate.

Apparently I'm not done mourning. Have another fireplace picture.

2. That time there was a geyser in my closet

You can get the low-down on that here. When I did the four-way walkthrough for my new house, "how do I shut the water off?" was at the top of my list of questions—because I'd rather avoid another flooding, thanks.

3. That time my car was a fridge

More details on that here. "Where's the breaker I flip if my fridge dies on me?" was the second question on my list at my house walkthrough. Which I think I've forgotten already, dang it.

4. That time I was stalked by a cat

I didn't mean for this to become a post full of self-promotion, but, here's the story about the cat. This stalking went on for about a month. When I casually mentioned this to the apartment managers, they didn't seem at all surprised because apparently this cat was stalking everyone in the area. That revelation made me feel significantly less special.

5. A month in the Stinkhole

After my roommate got married, I moved into a smaller, one-bedroom apartment. I only stayed there a month, the shortest amount of time I've lived anywhere. But the Stinkhole left an impression, that's for sure. So much so that after a few weeks I upgraded its nickname to the Pits of Mordor.

6. Santa can't get through the chimney, but pigeons can

This is a big story for me, so I'm really surprised I never blogged about it. Consider this your bonus story.

It was the Friday before Labor Day. The minute I got home from work my roommate confronted me with this news: "I think there's a bird stuck in our chimney." We huddled by the fireplace (which took some maneuvering, since my TV was still parked in front of it) where she kept saying "Did you hear that?" and I would pretend I did. Eventually she left to spend the weekend with her family, and I put in a Gilmore Girls DVD and tried to forget about the supposed bird.

Some time into my binge-watch session, a pigeon strutted out from behind my TV like it owned the place. I shrieked and fled to the kitchen. (That's my natural response whenever anyone rings the doorbell, too.) And I probably called my mom. After my heart rate had settled a bit, I grabbed my broom—my weapon/shield of choice—and reentered the living room to open the balcony door. It didn't take much coaxing to get the pigeon to move from its carpeted perch; as soon as it saw that flood of sunshine, it stretched its wings and launched itself to freedom. It was actually a rather poetic moment, setting that bird free so it could fly off into the sunset.

Probably one of the most exciting Friday nights I had in Midvale, which should tell you a lot about my life.

7. The death of a car

Before moving to Midvale, I had only ever had altercations with curbs and bushes; never once had I been in a car accident that involved another person. But then in a one-year span, I was in two car accidents, one of which was a block from my apartment and that totaled my car. #SaltLakeCountyDrivers

This is what happens when a senior citizen turns left in front of you when your light is green:

I was lucky, though. Usually when I think of someone's car getting totaled, I imagine horrific crashes on the freeway that involve blood and broken bones. I walked away with just a minor burn on my thumb from when the airbag went off and some wicked whiplash (the people in the other car were pretty shaken up, but uninjured). And that collision was probably the cause of the migraines I started having months later, but they seem to have stopped.

There are so many ways it could have been worse. Like, if I hadn't hit the brakes when I did, the driver of that mini SUV would have hit me directly, instead of me ramming into their rear passenger door. Not a fun scenario to think about. This accident was one of many times I felt like I was being watched over by angels during all those years living by myself.

8. The worst showers ever

I started with my favorite thing, so I'll end with my least favorite thing (aside from the noisy upstairs neighbors).

I love hot showers. And for most of my life they've been easy to come by, minus the times I was forced to take a shower right after certain family members (let's just say, early church was a trial for all of us). But when I moved to Royal Ridge, the hot showers I craved were no longer mine to claim. During year 1 the hot water lasted about 15 minutes, which wasn't too bad. But that window of time got shorter and shorter, so that now, in year 7, I can really only count on about 5 minutes of hot water.

I tell myself 5 minutes is still a million times better than no hot water at all, because dragging yourself out of bed a few hours earlier than you're ready just to be attacked by an icy jet of water is the absolute worst way to start your day.

And these wimpy water heaters have certainly made me a more economical showerer—it would take some real effort to stretch a shower out to 15 minutes now—so something good came out of it. But now whenever I spend time in a hotel or sleep over at my parents' house, the thing I am legit most excited about is a luxurious shower.

Getting those in my own house, every day? That would be the life.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

When the world becomes your playground

I wouldn't say that travel is one of my passions—maybe it would be if I was loaded and spoke all the languages—but I do have a desire to see as much of the world as I can with my own eyes (this includes the Shire/Rivendell, Narnia, and Hogwarts, in that order). Even if it's just so I can say "I've been there!" whenever said place turns up on TV or casual conversation. Even if I only spend a few hours there. This world is huge and interesting, and as much as I love going somewhere via the books I read and the movies I watch, sometimes you've just got experience something for yourself with all five senses.

I didn't travel much as a kid—we were very much a Lagoon and/or camping family—but that's changed in the past five years or so. I've come a long way since the days I would tell my dad "anywhere east of Utah" whenever he asked us where we wanted to go on our next vacation. A lot of my bucket list places have been checked off.

In the U.S., that is. Fortunately, the U.S. is big enough to keep sightseers busy for a while, but eventually you're going to want to expand your travel area. Plenty of things were stopping me from stepping outside U.S. borders, but the main thing was that I didn't have a passport. Money, language/cultural barriers, and lack of travel know-how don't matter if you don't have the golden ticket required to leave your home country.

With no real need to travel outside the country, I put getting a passport on the back burner. (That's me in a nutshell—avoid wasting effort on something until it becomes a relevant issue in your life.) But it made me sad sometimes knowing that I couldn't just hop on a plane and fly somewhere on a whim. (What if someone offered me an all-expense-paid trip to Europe one summer? If it happens in Gilmore Girls, it can happen in real life, right?) I would hear people talk about their exotic travels and wonder if I would ever get to do any of those things. Would I ever eat authentic Italian food, go on a cruise to the Bahamas, or see any of the sites from the books I've read? Until I hunkered down and took the steps necessary to secure a passport, I would always be somewhat limited in my dreams.

But then it finally happened—a family vacation was planned that would require a brief amount of time in Canada. Who cares if Canada is the least "foreign" country for a United States citizen to visit? I had the nudge I needed; the effort required to get a passport was now relevant to my plans for 2018. 

The process turned out to be much less of a hassle than I expected it to be, and, a few weeks ahead of schedule, my passport arrived in the mail.

As I held that little book in my hand, it was like the world opened itself up to me. I was no longer "stuck" inside one of the biggest countries in the world—I had what I needed to go anywhere I wanted, whenever I wanted, whether it was a meticulously planned trip or something spur of the moment.

The world is now my playground, and I can't wait to start playing in it.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

On reading a series that's already finished

Since the day I was old enough to read chapter books, I've been a series reader. I don't think I even started reading stand-alone novels outside of school regularly until after I graduated from college.

It started with the Boxcar Children books. I abandoned those early on because of a specific writing quirk that bugged me (a very early sign that I was meant to be an editor), and moved on to the Baby-Sitters' Club Little Sister books, then the "grown up" Baby-Sitters' Club. Then it was all the Mormon fiction I could find (Work and the Glory, Tennis Shoes, Children of the Promise, etc.), and eventually I wormed my way into fantasy.

For an avid reader, series are a special kind of refuge because you get to spend more time there. Which means more time to develop love for the worlds and characters and less time agonizing over what to read next.

But all of these series shared one drawback: none of them were finished (except the Narnia books, but I read them over several years, so it was like I had to wait for new books). The Baby-Sitters' Club managed to put out about a book a month for a while, but everything else required a much longer wait. It was years before I found out how the Steeds got to Utah. The Tennis Shoes adventures still aren't done. I can't fathom what it would be like to read all the Harry Potter books for the first time through without experiencing any of the years-long theorizing that happened between book releases. I've accepted that nothing I know about Brandon Sanderson will ever be final until the day he dies (hopefully at least 50 years from now). And the only reason I haven't read Patrick Rothfuss yet is because I don't want to join the angry horde of fans waiting impatiently for book 3.

It's a joy to always have a book to look forward to, it really is. But to be able to blow through an entire series with no pauses between books? It wasn't until recently that I realized I didn't know what that was like.

I've attempted many already-finished series, but haven't committed to most of them (several were written by authors whose first name is Terry—perhaps that's my problem?)—until my dad introduced me to the Codex Alera series by Jim Butcher. I finished the first book and moved right on to the next one. I finished another one and thought, "Man, it would have sucked to have to wait to see how that twist turned out." In the back of my mind I kept thinking I would take a break and catch up on some other books—because that's what I've been forced to do with every other series I've enjoyed—but I didn't need to. For once I didn't have to be patient. I didn't have to work hard to remember things. It was like binge-watching a show on Netflix, or eating two marshmallows right away without suffering any consequences.

I'm not about to jump aboard the "I'm never reading another series until it's completely finished!" train, but it has been a delight experiencing this particular reading pleasure. Two thumbs up, would recommend.

Head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy for more book talk.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

6 things I love today

It's well documented that I think Valentine's Day is dumb. That it causes unnecessary stress and depression, that it does nothing that birthdays and anniversaries don't already do, that it's ridiculously cheesy and commercialized, and—most egregious—that it has the worst candy.

But in my old age, I don't have the energy to channel my annoyance for dumb holidays like I used to. It's easier to just roll your eyes and roll with it. (Just getting started on the puns, here; you've been warned.) I've made huge progress on Halloween—thanks to having adorable little people in my life again—so maybe it's time for me to embrace Valentine's Day and all its nauseating pink-and-red gushiness.

OK, maybe I'm not ready to go all in just yet. But I do love some things, so I'll give this celebrating-Valentine's-Day-with-some-sincerity experiment a try by acknowledging what I love today.

1. Punny Valentines

I've been collecting my favorite Valentine cards throughout the day. Some are new, some you've probably already seen before.

The look on Ron's face really takes this one to the next level.

This one's for you to use, Mom.

Some editing humor for you.

The next one's not a Valentine, but I do love Calvin and Hobbes, so...

2. Cookies and coworkers

Last year when HR came around to hand out cookies, I got skipped. When one of my coworkers found out, he said "Not on my watch!" and made made a beeline to Harmons. He came back 20-30 minutes later with a box of highly superior cookies. I shared with the rest of my department (saving plenty for myself, obviously), who were all outraged on my behalf, and the whole thing turned into an impromptu department party.

This year, I was not skipped. And to make sure I wasn't skipped, one of my coworkers had her eye on the HR lady the whole time she was in our aisle.

The lesson in all this: get yourself some coworkers who are deeply invested in making sure you receive baked goods.

3. Love songs

I'll just own it—I love love songs. I may or may not have a playlist ready for days like this.

4. The Olympics

I prefer the Summer Olympics, partly because there are no other sports competing for my attention at that time. But I've still been trying to catch a lot of the action of this year's Games. I love becoming a temporary expert on random sports, cheering on my country, and watching people live their dreams. There's nothing like it.

5. Pizza

At some point, pizza became my traditional Valentine's Day dinner. I believe it dates back as far as 2010, when Kin and I were both in college. We made pizza and watched Gilmore Girls. The perfect way to celebrate Galantine's Day, in my opinion.

Clearly I was in charge of the toppings. Those are all of my favorites right there, with none of the boring, overused toppings like pepperoni and sausage.

Tonight's pizza was barbecue chicken with bacon, onions, and something spicy. It was delicious for a frozen pizza, and I ate the entire thing by myself, thank you very much.

6. My family

But Valentine's Day isn't supposed to be about the love you have for things. (Although I do enjoy having things.) It's about the love you have for the significant people in your life. And there's no one more significant in my life than my family. These are the people who get me, my closest friends, the weirdos I enjoy hanging out with most. 

I think I've shared most of the family pictures I have already, so I'll just leave you with our family's most recent addition, nephew #4.

Conrad does not approve of this pink burp rag.

It gets even better when you zoom in.