Tuesday, July 22, 2014

7 is a magical number

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows came out seven years ago yesterday. MuggleNet wrote a special anniversary post about that day, so I've been walking down memory lane a bit as I've read others' experiences with reading that book for the first time.

I think a pretty good way to gage whether an experience is life-changing is if you remember the tiniest of details surrounding that event. I've already written about what it felt like to hold that book for the first time, but there are other moments that are just as clear:
  • I was really ornery during the 40-minute drive home from the Orem Barnes & Noble because Shannan was reading the family copy of the book by flashlight and I had to be responsible and drive.
  • I was sitting on some drink crates at Domino's when I found out that Norbert was a girl. My manager was bitter that he didn't think to bring his copy to work with him, so he hid in the office during the slow hours while I grinned my face off in my little corner.
  • I was sitting under the swamp cooler trying to stay cool when Ron came back. Bored Tyrel kept stopping by to sigh at me, completely flummoxed that I was wasting a perfectly good Sunday afternoon on that orange Harry Potter book. 
  • I read the last 400 pages alternating between bouncing on my bed and sitting on the floor. I had to remake my bed that night because my wide range of intense emotions caused it to combust. I cried the whole time I was putting my bed back together.
  • Because when I read the last page, I felt like life as I knew it had ended. And it had.
Yeah, Harry Potter is "just" a book and a cultural phenomenon. But there isn't a day that goes by that I'm not grateful it's been part of my life.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July grumblings

July is full of quintessential summer things: fireworks, barbecues, swimming pools, sunshine. It paints such a lovely picture regardless of what time of year it is, especially when your head is stuffed with memories of spitting watermelon seeds off the deck and playing softball as the sun sets.

The summerness of July is almost great enough to make me forget the worst part—the oppressive heat. After experiencing Florida's murderous heat/humidity combo, I will be forever grateful that Utah exudes heat in the dry variety.

But that's not enough to waylay the grouchiness that comes every time temperatures are above the 90s for more than a couple of days. I wish I could just not let it get to me, but the heat is like a dementor that feeds off of my energy. It's an enemy I simply cannot beat. Especially when my A/C isn't powerful enough to combat the inferno as well as I'd like, which means I'm averaging about 4.5 hours of sleep a night now. And it's not restful sleep.

Hence the grouchiness.

I guess I've no choice but to grump my way through the next month. Hopefully no one notices the bags under my eyes and my shortened tolerance for, hmm, anything. Except for watching guilty-pleasure TV shows in the dark for hours. And eating Denali Extreme Moose Tracks ice cream. Obviously.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

My top 10 playlist (2014)

I'm pretty serious about my Top 10 Playlist. For some reason it's important to me to always know what my 10 most favorite songs are. And because I manage this playlist so protectively, it's a huge deal whenever a song is awesome enough to bump off one of my top ten beloveds. A big enough deal that I want to, say, blog about it.

This playlist has changed many times since I got my first iPod in 2007. (Back then it was mostly sappy love songs.) It's fascinating how personal preferences change over the years—in music, books, hobbies, friends, etc.—and I've always kind of wanted to document my ever-changing Top 10 Playlist in some way.

So here it is: Angie's Top 10 Playlist for summer 2014.

1. "(Everything I Do) I Do It for You," by Bryan Adams
This was my no. 1 song back in 2007, and it hasn't budged since; it's the only song on this playlist to hold its original spot. I love everything about this song, from the opening chord to Bryan Adams' raspy voice to its true-love message. Plus, the music video at the end of Robin Hood romanticized the concept of playing a grand piano in the woods for me long before the Piano Guys got together. In fact, I think I'll add that to my bucket list.

2. "Brave," by Sara Bareilles
My theme for 2014 is "Be Bold," so this song is pretty much my song of the year. Especially since it talks about being brave by doing something I've always been afraid to do: speak up. I listen to this song sometimes before social outings, and it always gives me a little extra oomph to do more than just show up and wait for someone to talk to me.

3. "When You Come Back to Me Again," by Garth Brooks
This is the song that reminds me God loves me. I discovered the Vocal Point version of this song during fall semester 2008, which was one of my hardest semesters. On a particularly rough day, I got in my car, drove to the Provo Temple parking lot, and listened to this song at least 15 times. I felt like I was drowning in a dark ocean of responsibilities and confusion, so the ship-lost-at--sea metaphor was especially powerful to me. The simple reminder that there was a lighthouse watching the lost ship struggle, lighting its way back to safety, was one of the most poignant answers to a prayer I have ever had. It's one of the few songs I devote my full attention to every time I hear it, because God always feels so much closer.

4. "Danny Boy," by Vocal Point
I've always liked this song, but this arrangement is really something else. There's so much to enjoy about it—the harmonies, the emotion, the message, the haunting melody. Listening to it just once is never enough, which is why this is the most-played song on my iPod.

5. "Go the Distance," by Michael Bolton
First off, Michael Bolton has a beautiful voice, even if he is hard to understand sometimes. And, this song inspires me. I also played this song for the Clavinova Festival when I was about 14, so it's got that added nostalgic element to it.

6. "Savior, Redeemer of My Soul," by Vocal Point
Pretty much everything I said about "Danny Boy" applies to this song. Any song that Keith helps arrange and is the lead singer for I'm guaranteed to love. I hope this song is in the next LDS hymnbook.

7. "The Time of My Life," by David Cook
If I ever decide to run a marathon, this song would definitely be on my playlist. I get a burst of energy every time I hear it. I first heard it about the time I graduated from college, and it perfectly described the excitement I felt about my exciting adventures ahead. It still excites me, because it always makes me feel like I'm living the best time of my life right now.

8. "Cowboy Take Me Away," by the Dixie Chicks
Several of the lines from this song came straight from my brain, I swear. When I find that special guy, he is going to listen to this song.

9. "Somewhere in the Middle," by Casting Crowns
A part of me hates this song. It's so frustrating to give up what you want for what God wants for you, sometimes, and this song really whacks you upside the head with that message. But when I'm done rolling my eyes, I love this song because it so perfectly captures a battle I've experienced many, many times.

10. "All for Love," by Bryan Adams
This song doesn't have any profound impact on my life, but I love it anyway.

Monday, June 30, 2014

My town

Last week, I needed just one thing: something to counter the beginning-of-summer slowdown at work. You all know how well I handle boredom (a.k.a, not well), and my sanity was calling for something exciting to keep itself intact.

Luckily, Elk Ridge Days (which, apparently, is a thing now) was last weekend. Immersion in a nice, friendly crowd and a couple of countrified meals was just the thing I needed to wipe the painful memories of workplace inactivity from my mind.

The parade was nice and short, with a few more glamorous floats than we've been treated to in the past. The bluegrass band didn't arrogantly turn up the mics so everyone within 20 miles could hear their tunes, but rather kept the volume to a perfect background-noise level so we could eat our pulled-pork sandwiches and chat without damaging our vocal cords. I easily could have parted with hundreds of dollars on jewelry and handcrafted wooden things at the country fair. There was even a Tilt-a-Whirl type ride (shaped like a strawberry) at the park. 

And to top it all off, the weather was perfect.

But the best part of the whole celebration was the rampant Elk Ridge-ness. I've been to other city celebrations and while they're all unique and charming in their own way, they're also loud, overcrowded, and infested with cigarette smoke. Elk Ridge, even after 30 years of human habitation, can still put on a celebration without overwhelming its residents and bringing out the miscreants. 

I knew I had a good thing going while I was growing up here. But it's an even bigger blessing, perhaps, that every time I come back for a visit, everything is the same as I left it. This place continues to attract and breed good, down-to-earth people. There are still no sidewalks on the roads. It's still quiet and peaceful, and the stars are always easy to find at night. 

Sure, there are houses in places that used to be weedy fields, and occasionally another pointless stop sign will unexpectedly appear, but Elk Ridge is still Elk Ridge. It still feels like the home I grew up in, even though I belong somewhere else now. Those mountains are always there to welcome me back when I turn onto Elk Ridge Drive, completely forgiving of the fact that I stopped growing there and had to move somewhere else. This town doesn't resent the fact that I have another home now; rather, it's always there to be the home I remember, whenever I need it.

Elk Ridge is pretty great like that.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

A list post, just because

  • I've not had much desire to write anything non-journal-related since graduation. But I can still manage a list post, at least.
  • Besides, work is horribly slow right now and I've exhausted all my other methods of pretending to be busy. I wish the insanity of July–September would just get here already.
  • I'm also listening to music, something I don't usually do at work because it's distracting. Currently, "Shape of My Heart" by the Backstreet Boys is playing, which keeps making me think about a certain roommate party.
  • I got 9 O.W.L.s this year, one of which I got an Outstanding on. Yay me.
  • Since Harry Potter World was seriously lacking in Ravenclaw paraphernalia, I bought a Ravenclaw t-shirt online when we got home. I'm wearing it on Friday and I'm very excited.
  • Yesterday I made stuffed peppers for dinner. They were pretty tasty, but I had to eat a large bowl of ice cream afterward to make up for the fact that my dinner consisted almost solely of vegetables and I felt deprived.
  • I watched the Girl Meets World pilot the other day. I get that the show is targeted to a generation that can't fathom a world without internet and cell phones with cameras on them, but I still wish they would have just rebooted Boy Meets World instead of making a sequel show.
  • I always forget how expensive oil changes at Jiffy Lube are. Yes, they treat you like a queen and they clean your car for you, but chivalry doesn't count when they overcharge you $30 for it.
  • The window on the driver's side of my car is the only one that rolls down now, thus depriving me of one of my favorite things about summer—evening drives with all four windows rolled down.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A liminal space in Florida

Liminal space is a term you learn early on if you're an English major. Essentially, it means a point between two spaces. It can be a physical space that separates one world from another, a pivotal moment in someone's growth as a person, or even—and I may be stretching the definition a bit here—a pause in time.

My recent trip to Florida was a liminal space for me. For 11 days I rode roller coasters, played in the water, and ate lots and lots of food that I didn't have to prepare.

When we left it was still May. Now, it's not just June; we're in the double digits already. It always surprises me when I get back from vacation that nothing stopped while I was gone; mail was still delivered, emails still came in, people still went to work. It's like I lost a week and a half of my life; it went on as normal, but I was somewhere else while it happened.

Which is the whole point of going on vacation, of course.

This particular trip was special, because it was the first time the entire Carter clan has vacationed together since the kids started getting married. Eleven people in all, forced to hang out with each other for 11 days.

  • We mastered the child swap/fast pass systems to take most of the line-standing out of six amusement-park-themed days.
  • None of us learned to like Florida's drinking water, though.
  • So. Many. People.
  • Most of us experienced for the first time the fiery inferno that is heat + humidity (though luckily, the worst of it waited until the last three days). I have new sympathy for the Wicked Witch of the West.
  • We ate too much food, of course. I gained a whopping 7 pounds on this vacation, despite all the extra walking and melting.
  • Some of us enjoyed Harry Potter world more than others. And some of us mourned that we came all the way to Florida only to miss the Diagon Alley expansion by a few weeks. And that there wasn't very much Ravenclaw stuff. Not everyone wants to be a Gryffindor or Slytherin, you know.
  • There's no way we'll stay in a hotel during future Carter vacations. Staying in a house with a private pool and jacuzzi spoiled us for good. Now, if we could just find a house that actually had comfortable beds. . . .
  • Some of us went from having no desire to go snorkeling to thinking it was pretty cool. Okay, awesome.
  • And Florida's ocean is so, so warm.
  • Having two 2-year-olds around made the trip more fun for everyone. Except perhaps their parents.
And the best part is, we made our triumphal return to properly dry air without killing each other. Accompanied by thousands of hours of video footage to document every stage of our journey. Maybe I'll share some of it in another post, because that's another great thing about vacations—making everyone else jealous of your good time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Dream diary: Part 3

Do you ever get excited to go to sleep so you can find out what your next dream will be about? I do.

Jews and Nazis
The Nazis have taken over America and they will arrest you if you so much as look at a Jew. I let a Jew cut my hair because she was desperate (for money, I think, but I don't remember paying her), and eventually I got caught. My punishment was to have my birthdate tattooed on my arm and to be deprived of my walks for five years. Oh, and I had to go back to Domino's, of course, and Dad had to chaperone me on all of my deliveries. Which means he got all the tips.

Personal Revelation
A girl in my ward went to the temple with some heavy questions, and this is the answer she got: 8:17. Later that night, at exactly 8:17 p.m., a mysterious stranger (I think it was one of my uncles) told her to eat pasta. All of her problems were solved.

Once Upon a Family Reunion
I'm at a family reunion, only everyone is a fairy tale character, and none of us are actually related. (I never said my dreams made sense.) I think I was Belle, because Rumplestilkson Rumplestiltskin Rumple was always after me. Everyone was watching The Wizard of Oz in a room full of green food.

An Adventure with Brandon Sanderson
I was assigned to complete a super-secret quest, and who better to be my partner in crime than Brandon Sanderson? Although he didn't look like himself at all—he looked more like . . . the kind of guy who would star in a Hollywood adventure-quest movie. Our mission was to find an object hidden on a hill like the one Pacha lives on in The Emperor's New Groove. Magical guns and police-like fairies were involved. And I wanted to slide to the bottom of the hill on a mattress, like we used to slide down the stairs on boxes as kids. No idea if we completed our mission or not—stupid alarm clock.