Tuesday, September 12, 2017

20 great things about my 20s

It's the last day of my 20s. Such a strange feeling. I've spent the last year reconciling myself with this inevitable reality, and you know what? There's no need to be so dramatic about it.

But I'm not quite done reflecting yet. I tried to put these 20 things in a special order, but that was turning out to be impossible, so, know that the order isn't important. And that this post is really long. Don't say I didn't warn you.

1. All the pampering

Once I graduated from the starving student period of life, I slowly slid into a whole new world: a world that included non-essential but delightful things. I bought a queen-size bed so I can sprawl out as much as I want to when I sleep. I discovered how amazing pedicures are. I found a hair stylist who gets my hair and has helped me figure out how to manage it. I spent too much money on clothes, movies, books, and music. I didn't get to do these types of things much during the first 22 years of my life, and the novelty of being able to casually cough up money for temporary pleasures still hasn't worn off. Sure, I've had to relearn how to stick to a budget—it's a lot harder when I'm not punished with a shortage on food every time I splurge—but I really, really enjoy having the time and the means to relax about finances every now and then and enjoy some of the frivolous things.

2. Hobbies

I'm a hobby person. Cross stitching, crocheting, photography, reading, design projects, piano, and journaling helped make my free time—when I had it—more meaningful. Even cooking got to be more enjoyable. It's quite an indulgence to invest in so many hobbies, some of which I've been developing for a lifetime, some of which are new. My twenties were great like that.

3. Piano

One of the hardest things about college was not having my own piano. Sure, I could run down to the basement of Miller Apartments or to virtually any classroom on BYU's campus, but it wasn't the same as having one in your own home, waiting for you whenever you needed it. I've made other major purchases in my 20s, but buying a piano was the most important. I don't use it as consistently as I used to, but having one at my disposal at all times has played a large role in helping me de-stress, sort through my muddled thoughts, and find joy during rough stretches.

4. Walks

I started taking regular evening walks soon after moving to Midvale, and it's often my favorite part of the day. It's my time to enjoy being outside, to think, to listen to podcasts, or simply to just move around for an hour. Walking may not be the best workout, but it's the only one I've been able to stick to, and it does more for my overall well-being than anything else does. They've pretty much become a non-negotiable part of my life.

5. Roommates

I learned a lot from four years of roommates. Like, how to (finally) make my bed consistently. And how to make do with a small amount of space. Having roommates helped me come out of my shell more, and we did a lot of fun things together. Those were good years, for the most part; I'm really grateful for those memories.

6. College—BYU

I loved being a BYU student. Those years are among my fondest memories of the past decade, and it's not just because of the social life. I just really loved being a student on such a beautiful campus, no matter how grueling it was at times.

7. My "no studying on Friday nights" rule

Not long into my freshman year at BYU I made a personal pact: I would never do homework on Friday nights. Even if I had a ton of work to do. Even if I was bored. The only time I broke this rule was when I had a test on Saturday morning (or when it was fun homework like reading a novel), but the rest of the time I guarded this precious homework-free time. I almost always had too much work to do, but I desperately needed this block of time to allow myself to relax. It saved me from many a meltdown. I've continued to follow this stricture, not doing freelance work or any other brain work if I can avoid it. I am beyond spent by Fridays, and often the only thing that gets me through the day is knowing that I have an evening of nothing to look forward to. I wholeheartedly recommend following a similar practice if you aren't already—it's one of the best decisions I ever made.

8. Grad school—SNHU

Grad school was not part of my master plan until it happened. And it ended up being the least stressful part of my academic life. The fact that I wasn't expected to pursue this degree, and that I was concentrating entirely on things that I liked (except for that dang teaching class), made it a luxurious experience most of the time. I've often said that the journey of completing my MFA was more important than the actual diploma or any monetary rewards, but it actually has helped in my career, too. I spent 18 months living the life of a writer, and while I eventually decided that writing full time was not something that would make me happy, it did give me some valuable insight into how writers' minds work. It was a treasure trove of information that I've drawn from heavily as I edit other people's writing, reminding me what sort of feedback is actually helpful and keeping me humble—because the writers have the harder job. And since the entire program was online, it opened my eyes to the many ways to keep learning that don't require a traditional classroom environment. Which is a good thing; otherwise, I may have had to go get another master's degree, just to keep myself entertained.

9. Podcasts

Podcasts are the number one reason I haven't been tempted to go back to school. They don't replace taking an actual class entirely, but they do fill the void, the one that must be filled with learning. And some of them are just plain fun. My podcast addiction has only gotten worse since I gave Alohomora! a chance 3–4 years ago, but I try not to let that bother me. Having too much to listen to is a problem I enjoy having, for now.

Podcasts I'm especially loving right now: the Legendarium, Literary Disco, and Annotated. If you want some non-book recommendations, try 99% Invisible, Lexicon Valley, Gastropod, Myths and Legends, and BackStory.

10. Career

Sometimes career advancement hinges on appearing in dorky promotional videos.

My career is not the most important part of my 20s, but let's be real—I spent too much time at work for it to not be one of the most important things in my life. I've worked with a lot of words and wordsmiths over the years. You'll just have to read this post again if you need a refresher, because, ironically, I can't put together an assembly of words I'm happy with. Something about this subject is just hard for me to write about.

11. BYU basketball

I was at this game. It was the most awesome sporting event I've ever attended.

I didn't get into college sports until after I graduated from college, but now I'm really dedicated. Jimmermania is to blame. Some years have been better than others, and some years I was unhealthily obsessed, but it's something I look forward to every year now and that brightens up the dreariest part of winter. Call sports pointless if you want, but reigniting my love for basketball has made my life better.

12. Stake softball

Pretend that's a softball field in the background, not my apartment. I am terrible at taking pictures in the moment. When I have to be in them, anyway.

Of the many times I've tried to get some sort social life going post college, stake softball is the only area I really succeeded. I have a much higher success rate when the activity involves, well, an activity ("show up and eat and mingle" themes are usually a bust for me), and when it's an activity I enjoy, it becomes more than just another opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I played all six summers I've been in Midvale, and it's provided much needed balance—and fun—to my summers. Again, sports play an important role in my life. I did not expect that to be one of the takeaways from my 20s.

13. Books

The great 2016 book cull. These are the books that made it through the screening process. I alphabetized them.

I wish I had joined Goodreads a few years earlier so I could give you an exact count of the books I've read in my 20s. I'm very sad about this. But I'll try to get over it. Since I opened my Goodreads account at the end of August 2009 (just before I turned 22), I've read 509 different books. Many of which were re-read. In college I didn't have time to read for fun, but I read for homework. This was when I finally started to appreciate the classics, although I still don't consider classics "fun" reading. Good for when I need some brain stretching, though. And since getting my master's, I've become the textbook definition of a voracious reader. It's been a wonderful luxury to have the freedom to devote so much time to chipping away at my endless TBR pile. I've become a more active part of the reading community (mostly through podcasts and Twitter), and books are more important to me than ever—as evidenced by my growing book collection at home. If there's one thing that will finally give me the courage to buy a house, it will be the fact that I need more room for my books.

14. Travel

I still haven't stepped foot out of the country, but I've visited a lot of the states (thanks to the many vacations made possible by my dad's Frequent Flier Miles/Marriott Rewards Points and the ACES conference my work pays for). I've seen most of the Western U.S. now and have even made it east of Utah a few times. I am not a seasoned traveler by any means—I leave Utah maybe two times a year, and never for longer than a week and a half—but I'm grateful for any chance I get to explore another piece of this great country. But I think returning home is my favorite part. One quick adventure is all I need to fully appreciate my boring life again.

15. Alone time

If I ever get married, you'll know it's true love because that's just about the only thing I'm willing to sacrifice my alone time for.

16. Being single

This was "the" trial of my 20s, but I eventually came to not only appreciate, but love, the single life. The dating (or lack of) part of being single sucks, but pretty much everything else is great. The freedom. The independence. The money. The not having to plan around others. Honestly, if there ever was a decade to enjoy being single, the 20s would be it. This is no big revelation because that's what the world is always shouting at us, but I needed to experience it myself to believe it. These "me" years have been a gift.

17. YSA wards

This picture was taken so long ago it feels like it was another age. This was the year my roommate was one of the relief society presidents and she made me teach relief society.

I've spent a third of my life going to singles wards. That kind of boggles my mind. But they've become the norm for me. During my BYU days I longed to graduate into a family ward, but now you'd have to drag me—death glare and all—into one. Part of the reason for that is that I don't feel like I have a place in a family ward as a young single adult. Some singles integrate just fine into a ward that focuses on already established families, but I need to be somewhere I'm not an anomaly. But even if I was properly married with kids and fit the mold for a regular ward, I would miss the energy of YSA wards. The absolute silence during the sacrament. The fun. I know a lot of YSA wards have problems, but most of my wards have operated the way they're supposed to. So well that I don't want to leave.

18. Temple/endowments

It's been a huge source of comfort to me to not have to wait for marriage—something I seem to have no control over—to enjoy the blessings of the temple. I would not have made it through the last six years without it.

19. Family relationships

Your relationship with your family changes as you get older. In most cases, you either become each other's obligations or each other's closest friends. I see my family much less than I did when I was living at home, obviously, but those family bonds are strong. Not unbreakable—even the relationships with your favorite people require work if you want them to last—but strong. It's cool that we're all in the adult stage of life now and can relate to each other on more equal planes, without the pointless bickering mucking things up.

20. Niece/nephews

I saved the best for last. I spent many years being envious of all my friends and cousins who got an early start at aunthood, but my turn finally came five years ago (coming up on six, actually). Being an aunt has lived up to the hype. I adore those little tykes.

So for this section, you get four pictures. One for each unique little person. Narrowing it down to just one favorite for each was a tragic exercise.

Jaxson is a precocious kid who wants to be an adult RIGHT NOW. I love this picture because he manages to look both grown up and perfectly childlike.

BRONX'S FACE. This is the oldest picture of the bunch. I've been gushing over it for five years.

Not quite a typical Avonlea smile, but it's a pretty good portrayal of her personality. A little bit sassy, always ready to pose, exuding adorableness.

Noah is a little daredevil who's always looking for an excuse to giggle about something. Such a funny kid.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Summer 2017 book wrap-up, Twitter style

*Maybe if I keep writing summer wrap-up posts, the infernal heat will go away.

23 books, summarized in 140 characters or less.

Unquiet Land by Sharon Shinn, 3 stars
My least favorite of the Elementals series. Boring love interests are a major downer.

Divinity of Women by Heather B. Moore, 4 stars
A nice read on the women of the Bible and Book of Mormon.

Word by Word: The Secret Life of Dictionaries by Kory Stamper, 5 stars
One of my word nerd heroes talks about life as a dictionary editor. It's fun and fascinating.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton, 3 stars
A good mystery that is just spooky enough for a rainy weekend. But the ending ruined the good thing the book had going, IMO.

The Identicals by Elin Hilderbrand, 3 stars
A nice beach read. You read it, enjoy it, then forget it. Except I still think about it from time to time.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard, 4 stars
A good read on the beauty and ruthlessness of nature. But don't read it if you need a plot.

The Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler, 3 stars
A character-driven book (why am I reading plotless books in the summer?) with an ending you'll want to discuss.

Be Frank with Me by Julia Clairborne Johnson, 5 stars
A young woman helps out an eccentric kid and his reclusive mother for several months. You'll be sad when it's time for her to leave.

Arcanum Unbounded: A Cosmere Collection by Brandon Sanderson, 5 stars
For those who just can't get enough of Brandon Sanderson, even though he does nothing but give us new worlds to play in.

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, 5 stars
When you're stressed out, just go to Narnia. Problem solved.

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis, 5 stars
The book I always enjoy but must rely on the movie to remember the plot.

*Note: I did not reread The Horse and His Boy because I hate that one. But I did review it.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis, 4 stars
My favorite symbolism of the entire series.

The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis, 3 stars
The adventures are starting to feel a little stale, but I reeeeally want to fly into Narnia like that.

The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis, 5 stars
Adored this one as a kid. Magic soil that grows anything you plant, flying horses, the birth of Narnia—I love it all.

The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis, 3 stars
It's also cool to see the death of Narnia. Still mulling over Susan's fate, though.

Switch by Chip and Dan Heath, 4 stars
I really wish the authors' names were Chip and Dale. But there's some cool ideas on how to enact change.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, 3 stars
A timely refugee story with a hint of magic to it. A tad overwritten, though.

Landline by Rainbow Rowell, 3 stars
A magic phone allows a woman to talk to her husband in the past. WILL IT SAVE THEIR MARRIAGE?

The Spectator Bird by Wallace Stegner, 4 stars
A short (for Stegner) book about aging, basically. An excellent read, as his books always are.

Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging by Sebastian Junger, 4 stars
The root of all our problems: we don't do things together. Introvert me balks, but Junger makes some points that are hard to argue against.

Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow by Jessica Day George, 5 stars
A pretty great fairy tale YA book that doesn't get a lot of attention.

Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain by Oliver Sacks, 3 stars
Fascinating at first, but the case-study-after-case-study format gets wearying after a while.

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, 5,000 stars
If there ever was a perfect book, this would be it.

For more great book talk, head over to Modern Mrs. Darcy.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Summer 2017 wrap-up (covering mostly just the good stuff)

GUYS. Summer is almost over. I cannot express how big of a relief that is. I feel like I'm coming back to life, kind of like how normal people feel when spring starts to unthaw a long winter. I simply was not built for long, hot summers. Convention insanity doesn't help, either (more on that later).

It's become a tradition on this blog to have a summer wrap-up post every year. So consider this my "What I Did This Summer" back-to-school essay. Honestly, it doesn't look that different from the ones I wrote as a kid. (Only this one has pictures—erm, way more than I planned on sharing, sorry—because without pictures, you got nuttin'. Name that TV show!)

We went to swimming lessons.

We kicked off our sister party with swimming lessons, and I'll just say it was a much better way to spend a Friday morning than at the office.


The crazy thing is, 20 years ago we were the ones going to swimming lessons with our cousins.

Poor Tyrel, always surrounded by girls.

We went on vacation.

All of us but the Searles spent a week in South Dakota/Wyoming. Home to lots of blue, green, and brown—and not much else.

We went on a Tuesday, and there was still an alarming number of people there (which is why Shannan is not pictured).

I used to think it was super random that someone decided to carve people's heads into a mountain, but after seeing all those flat, smooth rocks, I kind of wanted to carve something into a mountain.

We spent the week in a cabin.

Our most successful vacations tend to be the ones where home base is a place we can claim all for ourselves.

We took walks and hikes whenever we wanted, because everything we needed was basically in our front yard.

The child had to be walked several times a day. During one walk she proceeded to pick up every rock she saw and stuff them in her pockets until her pants were literally falling off.

We found a rock that inspired us to stand tall and triumphant.

I was not as successful. Dang wind.
Turns out climbing a tree Yogi Bear style is much harder than it looks. Pretty much all I could do was jump and hold on.

Tyrel and I went to the top of the mountain. Well, Tyrel did. I almost made it to the top, but my fear of heights prevented me from moving past the low end of the top. So Tyrel skipped to the highest point while I sat in a safe spot and took selfies.

Many Dutch oven dinners were consumed, monitored by Kimberly and Jeremy. But mostly Kimberly.

And we can't forget Dad, the barbecue master.

I helped by taking pictures of fire.

And we did some other vacation-y, sight-seeing things, including visiting family who moved up here like 12 years ago (not pictured, sadly).

Rushmore Cave. This picture cracks me up.

This amusement park was awesome. It looked like some farmer/engineer guy built a couple roller coasters in his backyard. (In front of us is a bunch of farmland.) Not very many people were there, and the food was delicious. I'd give you the name of the park, but I kind of want it to remain anonymous so it's still deserted if we ever go back.

Oh, and since we had such picturesque surroundings, Shannan and I helped take pictures of the Balls family. I hereby proclaim them the cutest family ever.

We had a water party.

Whenever I picture the perfect summer day, it includes my entire family, an outdoor activity, and a barbecue. We usually have a water party on either Memorial Day or Pioneer Day every summer, and it's pretty much the best. See, sometimes I like summer.

Don't get in Bronx's way—because he will get you.

Noah had a little trouble aiming his squirt gun at first.

Tyrel's favorite part of the party. Every year.

I played softball.

As always, softball was one of the best things about my summer. I wasted my two good hits on the first game, but was much more successful at socializing than I've been in past summers. This year's team was special.

This was right after winning our stake tournament's semifinal, I think. It was an awesome game, complete with a miracle comeback. I just wish the photographer had waited until everyone was ready to take the picture. 

This next picture will give you a better idea of just how dedicated my ward was to softball this year, whether they were playing or not. (And this was after some of us—myself included—had already left.) Attendance at softball games was basically mandatory.

I survived Convention.

I didn't have time to be sad when softball ended (after a run in the regional tournament, which meant we got to play at the nice ballpark in Cottonwood Heights. It's rained three out of the four times I've played there), because Convention—the week I dread all year—was next up on my agenda.

I won't torture you with the details. These two pictures pretty much sum up the experience.

How I felt during that 72-hour work week:

How I felt when it was over (after I'd had a few days to recover):

The universe gave us an eclipse as a Monday-after-Convention gift.

I wasn't super excited about this "once in a lifetime" event, but pretty much our entire building emptied out around 10:30 Monday morning to watch the eclipse's progress, and I didn't want to be left out. My department ended up on the roof with 20-30 other people. Looking at the sun was fun, but my favorite part was when it cooled down 15 degrees and the sunshine dimmed enough so I didn't even need sunglasses. In case you forgot, I am not a fan of the sun.

I also enjoyed watching people from the buildings nearby come out in clumps to watch the eclipse. Even the golfers across the street took a break.

And, that's a wrap! Turns out it was a pretty good summer.

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 from 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.