Friday, December 17, 2010

Remembering the Provo tabernacle

I was driving to Salt Lake when I heard on the radio that the Provo tabernacle was on fire. At first I didn't think much of it—I just assumed that it was a small fire, no big deal—but the news updates kept getting more and more dire. So when I got home, the first thing I did was pull up google. Instantly, I was flooded with images and videos of that beloved building in flames. The words "the roof has collapsed" kept popping up everywhere, and try as I might, I couldn't find any hopeful news.

Watching that beloved building go down makes me incredibly sad. It's like a part of me has been lost forever. That building didn't play a huge part in my life, but it was one of those things that I always assumed would be there. It is a part of my heritage, it is a part of my memories, and it has always had a special place in my heart.

Like thousands of current and past BYU students, I went to the Provo tabernacle for choir concerts and stake conferences. It was in that building that I listened to Elder Ballard speak words that penetrated my soul and soothed my aching heart. It was there that I stood with other BYU singles and sang "We Thank Thee, O God for a Prophet." It was there that I watched and participated in numerous choirs, listened to speakers from the balcony, and felt the strong spirit that resides there.

And like thousands of current and past Utahans, the Provo tabernacle has always been a part of my life. I remember sitting on the balcony—I felt like I was on top of the world—when President Tervort's tiny form took its place with the new stake presidency. I remember watching my mom sing in her pretty green dress. And most of all, I remember driving down University and seeing that "pretty castle." It filled me with a sense of wonder as a child, and that sense of wonder never really went away. The building was magical.

Despite the uncomfortable benches, annoying poles, narrow walkways, and rickety staircases, when you are in the Provo tabernacle, the choirs sound like heavenly angels, the speakers are all messengers from God, and the people around you have more love in their hearts. That is the magic of the tabernacle.

Provo has a lot of historic buildings, but the tabernacle is different somehow. When you walk in, you just feel a special spirit—a spirit that connects you with the pioneers, with all the people who have gone on before us. Everything that happened there was special. If those walls could talk, they would have incredible stories to tell. It is heartbreaking to think that that particular spirit is gone forever.

Whether the building can be saved or not, today was a sad day for Provo. The tabernacle, along with BYU, is the heart and soul of Provo, and without the tabernacle, there is no heart. The tabernacle defines Provo's character in so many ways and I have difficulty imagining what Provo will be like without it. There is no replacing something that monumental.

So as much as it hurts to say it, I think it is time to say goodbye to the tabernacle we know and love. There is no changing what is past—we can only move forward. While we I may never get to be encased in those beloved walls again, I will cherish the memories I have of them for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, so let it snow and become a winter wonderland

This morning I finally got what I wanted: I woke up to that magical winter wonderland. The other snowstorms we've had don't really count because they were expected and disappointing to boot. Today the only precipitation I expected to get was rain. Instead, I woke up to an unexpected 6–8 inches of snow, and the snow was still falling. A perfect December morning. The kind that I look forward to all year and that makes me feel like a kid again.

A few things I am grateful for as I sit next to the Christmas tree in the warm living room while sipping a cup of cocoa:
  • The fact that I went to bed early last night so that I was actually chipper at 7 am (that only happens about once a year) and got to enjoy the fresh snow and Christmas lights for a few minutes before the sun was fully up.
  • My job interview in Salt Lake was yesterday and not today.
  • The adventure of taking Kimberly to the bus stop.
  • The fact that Kimberly got stuck so that she couldn't drive her dying car in the middle of a storm.
  • The fact that we made it to the bus stop in time (despite the incredibly slow minivan in front of us) so that I didn't have to drive all the way to Provo.
  • The 3 snow-themed songs in a row that I heard on my way back to Elk Ridge after dropping Kimberly off at the bus stop.
  • Good tires. My car rocks, even though it has no personality.
  • The adventure of unburying Kimberly's car and getting stuck twice while driving it around the block.
  • A brother with muscle and a love for things with motors.
  • The fact that Tyrel finally stopped talking about iPads and other i-things so that he can plow Brother King's driveway before he goes to work.
  • I finally get the snow day I've always wanted—no work or school for me!!!!
And even though it took me an hour to write this post because I had to keep going outside to unbury or move something, it is still snowing. It's going to be an awesome day.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Selfless service

Yesterday our sacrament meeting theme was selfless service. The general consensus seemed to be that people should serve because it is their duty and not because they will get some sort of reward out of it. We should all become saints who dedicate our lives to bettering the lives of others without expecting anything in return.

While this is a worthy goal to have, and ultimately what we should all be shooting for, I don't think the reason for serving is really that important as long as service is getting done. It is not bad to serve others because it makes you feel good inside or because it comes with the promise of root-beer floats. Service is a two-way thing and it is impossible to participate in it without getting something good out of it.

Or maybe I'm just trying to satisfy my own conscience; I usually only serve when there's something in it for me. I willing play the piano in church because it shields me from getting a scary calling (although it didn't keep me from that blasted visiting teaching supervisor calling), I'll go to a service activity if there is a promise of good food, I only go visiting teaching to get my companion off my back, and I only make dinner for my family when I want a real meal to eat. It is really hard to guilt-trip me into doing anything and I rarely do anything unless I want to.

Despite my attitude, lives are still being blessed: my ward has a reliable piano player, someone's leaves are getting raked, maybe someone actually got something out of my visiting teaching visit, and my mom didn't have to worry about cooking for a day. Probably the only one losing blessings here is me because I grumbled through the entire process, but the receiver still got the benefits from my help and the world is a better place.

Service is service, no matter why you do it. Some day I hope to be able to serve without the ulterior motives, that it will just come naturally, but until that time I will serve for all of the benefits I can get. It's hard to get someone as stubborn as me to do something nice for someone else, so avoiding extra work and giving me prizes, treats, and warm fuzzy feelings is a good way to trick me into being a nice person.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The ups and downs of freelance

One of the things that has always attracted me about a career in writing and/or editing is the freedom it gives you to choose your own hours and workplace. What could be better than working at home in your pajamas?

However, I'm not quite as excited about the prospect of doing freelance work as I once was. It would just be so much easier to have a 9–5 job where I showed up every day, did my work, and then went home. Freelance work requires a lot more patience and motivation—you have to actually abide by the hours you set, and a lot of the time (at least for beginners like me) you have to risk not being paid much for awhile in order to work your way up. I have a very hard time getting myself to do something if I don't know exactly what's in it for me—this is the biggest reason why I want a stable, full-time job.

Unfortunately, the search for a full-time job has been a bit of waste of time to say the least, so I have been putting forth more of an effort to find freelance work. And believe me, it's not a whole lot better than searching for a "real" job.

However, I did make a few breakthroughs during the month of November. I applied for a copywriter position in Provo and, typically, was their second choice, so they decided to keep me on as a freelancer. I've only done one project so far, and I'm starting to doubt that I'll get another one because it's been a few weeks, but it was exciting to negotiate a pay rate that was worthy of someone with a degree.

In addition, I also found a job as a writer at I found several websites that hire freelance writers, and was the most popular one for the search engines. I was flipping through the openings in the religion section, and was delighted to find one entitled "Narnia, Hobbits, and Christianity," which is basically what my senior capstone class at BYU was all about. I never dreamed that I would ever actually make a profit off what I learned in that class, but it seemed like I had found a possibility. So I applied, submitted one of my analysis papers from the class, and waited.

A few weeks later, I got an email from saying that they wanted me to be the "Christian Speculative Fiction Examiner" for the Provo area. While a little sad that I wouldn't be writing about Narnia and hobbits all the time, I was pretty excited to get such a long job title. It makes it sound a lot more important than it really is. I've spent the last few days figuring out how the system works, and I think I am going to give it a try.

Here is where you all come in: most of the money I can make is generated from traffic, session length, and publishing frequency. So while I still have no idea how much money I could actually make off of this little column, I decided to try it out because (1) I need something to do, and (2) I am running out of money. It's time to take desperate measures. And, if any of you would like to write about your area of expertise on, there is a referral program and I get 50 bucks for each person I bring along . . .

So, the URL to my page is Really long, I know, so thank goodness for the copy-and-paste function. This is very much an experiment and if anyone has any questions or suggestions, I would greatly appreciate any help I can get.

I apologize in advance if you get sick of reading my stuff. :) And to prove my sincerity, I am going to log off now and do something that doesn't involve thinking or begging. Farewell.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

10 reasons why it rocks to live at your parents house during the holidays

For the past 3 Christmases, I experienced Christmas the way only BYU students can—where our only decorations were a measly string of lights and an aloe vera Christmas tree, the last two weeks of classes did everything they possibly could to kill the spirit, students getting engaged left and right (finals are not the only end-of-semester deadlines BYU students have to worry about), Christmas carolers every night, and extremely creative present ideas for the virtually no-income students. These experiences really weren't that bad—college Christmases are special in their own ways—but they just don't compare to being at home during the season.

This Christmas, however, I get to enjoy every stage of the Christmas holiday at home, and with it comes many benefits.
  1. Decorations. Christmas is not Christmas without Christmas lights and a Christmas tree that is taller than you (even if it isn't real). It is so much more comforting to come home to a house sparkling with lights than to a dark, drab apartment complex.
  2. Snow! Provo does get a few good storms a year, but they've got nothing on Elk Ridge. We actually get snow that covers all of the grass for long periods of time. And driving isn't always that bad—the snow plows do pretty good at keeping the roads clear. However, as long as there are no major accidents, it's always an adventure getting home to Elk Ridge during a snowstorm. A lot of people hate it, but I think it makes life more exciting. There is something that is just so comforting about snow—I don't care how inconvenient it can be at times. It's magical.
  3. Food. While December is full of homemade goodies and fattening treats, we always have 3 special Christmastime snacks stocked throughout the house: spiced cider, nuts, and oranges. We don't usually eat these things (except maybe oranges) at any other time of year, so eating them during the holidays makes them more special.
  4. Smells. Christmas smells heavenly. Whether it be a candle, spiced cider, or something chocolate, there is always a comforting and delightful smell in the air.
  5. Jazz games. I love that I get to watch Jazz games whenever I want to (provided that there is a game on, that is). I don't have to plan around anyone else because the games get top priority at my house. It's an awesome system.
  6. I'm not in charge! While I love and need my independence, sometimes I just want to take a break from it all. At home my parents get to make all the decisions and I get to just relax and go with the flow. For the most part.
  7. Sounds. Provo is full of noise—partying students, blaring tvs and music, never-ending traffic, and that blasted train. Elk Ridge is almost completely silent. At times, I swear I can hear the snowflakes fall. And one of the most comforting sounds I hear at this time of year is the sound the snow plows make as they are driving up and down the streets. It means that the snow is falling and I am safe in my warm bed, and most importantly, I can look forward to seeing a pure, winter wonderland when I wake up.
  8. Neighbors. If you can't tell, I hate big cities. (And yes, I consider Provo a big city.) It was depressing to drive around my college neighborhood and see nothing but boring apartment buildings. Driving around Elk Ridge is a lot more fun. Half the people put lights on their houses, and there are always those neighbors that are competing for that "coolest Christmas lights" spot. I must admit, my family does what it can to stay in the running for that one.
  9. Family. I know certain people are waiting for me to list this, so I probably better get it over with. :) Christmas is a time for family. Friends are important too, but I've always been a much bigger fan of family during the Christmas season.
  10. Atmosphere. In college, students look forward to Christmas so they can have a break from school and so they can see their families again for a few weeks. When you are already home, it's easier to look forward to that magical Christmas morning—parents are hiding gifts around the house, siblings are wrapping presents and putting them under the tree, everyone is talking about the next family Christmas party. It kind of makes me feel like a kid again to be around all the pre-Christmas excitement.
While the Christmas spirit is attainable wherever you are, having a house and a family to go with it takes away a lot of the effort.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Death of the annoyingly persistent, funky-accented salesmen

The holidays bring out the best of people and the worst of people. Human beings are usually at their best when they are giving to others, and at their worst when they are accosted by salesmen of any shape or size.

If you happen to run across one of these salesmen—particularly the funky-accented, lotion-selling ones—don't hesitate to scream and run the other way. You may want to accidentally knock something over on your way so that they'll be too distracted to call after you. This may even save a few of your fellow human beings. If either of these suggestions are too extravagant for you, then try pulling out your cell phone and fabricating an intense conversation, or put your hands in your pockets and avoid eye contact with everyone around you. Simply losing yourself in the crowd is not enough, because they WILL find you.

And last but not least, do NOT shake anyone's hand. The minute they have a hold of you they won't let go until you are sitting on the stool by their booth, sampling something that in any normal universe you wouldn't even consider trying out. And the more you try to fight them, the harder they push—they'll attack your looks, your social life, your one-syllable responses, and your mom. It doesn't matter if you tell them 5 billion times that you aren't interested in anything remotely similar to what they are selling. It doesn't matter if you tell them 50 times that you don't have a job and therefore no money to waste on frivolous, expensive gifts. And if you betray any annoyance or standoff-ishness, they will have the gall to reprimand you for your unfriendliness.

So after 15 or so minutes of this lovely treatment, you only have 2 choices: succumb to the stupid guy and buy his outrageously priced merchandise, or walk away midsentence, preferably when their backs are turned. And if you choose to walk away, don't let their calls or pathetic, long faces draw you back. Theirs is a trap that makes the best of people become rude and murderous.

And remember this: just because you have already talked to one of these annoyingly persistent, funky-accented bullies doesn't mean that you are safe. They will annoy the crap out of you until the day you die. And then they'll move on to your mom.

By the end of the holiday season, even the best of us will be murderously ornery. So for the greater good of all mankind, all salesmen must be banished from the earth. Forever.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving all year round

Thanksgiving has come and gone; most everyone is back to work, school, and reality. Thanksgiving came and went rather quickly this year for me; I didn't get to enjoy the buildup to a break from school/work. I didn't have to think of Thanksgiving to get me through the month of October and November. It just came, nothing spectacular happened, and then my life returned to its easy, slow pace.

However, I don't think this lack of change is a bad thing. Believe me—I don't envy those who had to leave their warm beds this morning and venture out into the snowy weather. For me, this lack of significant holiday feeling has within it a lesson: Thanksgiving isn't a one-time thing, but rather an everyday thing. I didn't feel any extra gratitude on Thanksgiving because I am filled with gratitude every day: gratitude for my home and family, for my education, for the gospel and the fact that my parents raised me right, for my gifts and talents, for the changing weather. It took me awhile to get to this point, but I don't need a holiday to make me appreciate what I have, because no matter what goes wrong in my life, I will always have so much more than I lack.

However, I did have one extra thing to be grateful for on Thanksgiving day. We gathered at my Grandpa Jackson's house with about 30 of my Mom's family members (which is only about a quarter of the grand total). The attic was lined with a couple of long tables, just like we did it when I was young. Jessica and Vikki fought over the bunny spoon. The small kids sat at the tiny table. Everyone brought their specialty foods and the first few minutes of the meal were full of compliments to the various chefs. It was Thanksgiving as I have experienced many times in the distant past, but not very much in the recent past. After dinner, Mom, Lore, Terri, and Deona kept us entertained with their sister banter (now I know what I have to look forward to in 20 years). It was an afternoon full of good food, laughter, bonding, and more laughter. I am grateful for holidays that give us an excuse to reunite with beloved family members.

And, I must say that I'm grateful for one more thing: I am sitting inside a warm house that has been Christmas-afied, there's at least a foot of snow outside and it's still snowing, and I have nowhere to go. If I had school or a full-time job, I wouldn't be enjoying this particular moment nearly as much.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

"They say a true blizzard is on its way."

Anyone want to take a stab at who said the above quote?

I have been rather enjoying the pre-blizzard excitement. Facebook is full of people complaining that they aren't ready for snow yet, people worrying about what their drive home from work or school will be like, and people expressing their excitement about the changing weather. I must say that I am one of the latter. Even though this weekend left us with several inches of snow in our backyard, I can still see patches of mud and weeds; I think the real magic will begin sometime tonight, just in time for all of those holiday travelers.

While I always look forward to the first magical snow of the season, I don't think I've ever been so prepared for it. Usually I will wait for months to see that magical snow and it will finally appear some time in mid-December, by which time I have given up on planning sledding excursions and hoping for a white Christmas, catching me completely unawares. But here we are, a few days before Thanksgiving, and everything points to a promise of a white Thanksgiving—and all of Utah waits in anticipation. Tyrel has been on the computer all day looking at Google Earth and updated weather reports, I've seen several trucks drive down our street with their snow plows attached, and most shockingly, my dad finally broke down and bought a snowblower.

During our first winter in Elk Ridge, we got dumped with several feet of snow during our first snowstorm. It is the only time in my living memory that church was actually canceled (I never got a snow day on a school day)—and I was too young to appreciate it. The bishopric called everyone and advised that we shovel our neighbors out of their driveways rather attempt to drive to church, even though it was only a few blocks away for most of us. And so my dad got out his brand-new shovel and spent hours unburying the driveway. I remember running through the sidewalk/driveway with Tiffany after Dad had finished shoveling; the walls of snow were about twice my height. As far as I knew, we were enclosed in a magical igloo of sparkling snow and ice—it was an adventure I had never experienced before and one that I am not likely to ever forget.

After breaking his back (and the shovel) on that record-breaking pile of snow, my dad vowed that he would never be caught unprepared again and he bought a snowblower. As I recall, it worked only when we had an inch or less of snow on the driveway. And we have not since gotten a snowstorm such as the one we saw in '92. So to save my dad from premature crippling, my mom, Tiffany, Kimberly, and I took our turns with our trusty shovel. And then Tyrel got old enough to do all of the manly chores and he's been doing all of the mowing and shoveling ever since.

I knew that buying a snowblower was going to come into play soon, but I figured it would be next winter; Tyrel won't be leaving for his mission until this winter is over. But alas, I was wrong; apparently my dad didn't want to take any chances.

So here I am, safe at home in my comfy clothes, sitting by our Christmas-smelling candle. For once my eagerly anticipated snowstorm will come when I want it to come, and not a month later. I have a feeling it's going to be an impressive winter.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Movies 1-6: Documenting the journey

At about the time filming for 7th and 8th Harry Potter movies was finishing up, I read an article that outlined the best thing about each of the first 6 movies. I thought it was stupid. Whoever wrote the article was obviously being paid to make the producers happy. (I would include a link here, but I couldn't find it anywhere.)

But don't worry—you don't have to read a substandard review of the first 6 movies, because I am graciously providing you with my own.

1. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

I think it's safe to say that the best thing about the first movie is the trio: Harry, Ron, and Hermione. True, Daniel Radcliffe doesn't really get the acting thing down until about the 5th movie, but in the 1st movie his cuteness and innocence makes up for it. Hermione is perfect (I'm sad that they didn't keep her bushy hair and busy-body personality throughout all of the movies) and so is Ron. The Harry Potter franchise may have had a different director, composer, and producer for almost every movie, but the cast stayed the same for the most part. (It's not Richard Harris's fault that he died, though it is Goyle's fault that he got busted for doing drugs.) When the movies were just getting started, everyone expected that there would be a completely new trio by about movie 5, and that made us all sad—because the original trio had us wrapped around their fingers from the beginning. I didn't dare hope that they would all last 7—let alone 8—whole movies. We even got to keep the original Malfoy, Neville, Seamus, and Dean. Just as I spent my teenage years growing up with the real Harry Potter gang, I got to spend my teenage-into-young-adult years with the movie Harry Potter gang. That's a gift I didn't think we would get to have.

2. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

I didn't have to think very hard about this one: Lockhart. Kenneth Branaugh plays the part so well. I think he is among one of the best to personify the character I had envisioned in my mind. And—I can't resist adding this little bit—Ron's and Harry's voice changes are quite entertaining. This movie follows the book very accurately as well.

3. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Honestly, there isn't a whole lot to be said for this movie. It was my favorite book (next to the 7th one, probably), but they completely left out the Quidditch Final—Oliver Wood wasn't even in the movie—they didn't do the Grim stuff OR the Dementor stuff right, and everything just looked different. There wasn't any consistency between this movie and the previous movies, other than the familiar faces. I don't think I'll ever completely forgive them for botching such a wonderful book so horribly. However, I am determined to find something warm and fuzzy about this movie . . . I've got it. I liked that they emphasized the relationship between Harry and Lupin, especially with the way Lupin talked about Lily. We don't get much time to reminisce with James's old friends, but the time Harry spends with Lupin is special, because Harry doesn't get much time with Sirius. Okay, and they did a good job with the going-back-in-time thing. That was fun to watch on the big screen. And, they finally got Harry's hair right. And the scene with Aunt Marge was good. Actually, I probably would have thought it was a very good movie if I hadn't have loved the book so much.

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

After my huge disappointment with the 3rd movie, I watched the 4th one without too many expectations. So, it didn't bother me that the entire movie consisted of the 3 tasks and the Yule Ball with little else. There was just no way to cram everything into a 2-hour movie. I absolutely loved the way they did the Yule Ball segment. They caught every awkward situation of jr. high school dating and romance. Everything from Professor McGonagall's dancing lesson to Hermione's crying on the stairs was just so . . . TRUE. We've all been there, done that, which made watching these teenagers struggle through the dating game all the more enjoyable.

5. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

This is probably the only movie that I absolutely loved the first time I saw it. Most Harry Potter fans like this book the least because of Harry's outrageous moodiness (all those capital letters do get annoying after the first couple chapters), but the movie-makers did a great job of toning down the hormones, making it a lot easier to sympathize with Harry's situation. I loved the DA segments more than anything else. The Fred and George stuff was a little bit disappointing, but the scenes with the DA members practicing together and building friendships that will last for years is just so wonderful. Sigh. And the fight between Dumbledore and Voldemort is awesome.

6. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

The first three-quarters of this movie is great. A lot of people complained about the emphasis on all the romantic elements, but really, that's what the book was all about (you know, other than all that juicy stuff about Voldemort's past). Ron and Hermione's little love triangle was exactly the way I imagined it to be, and the Harry-Ginny thing was, well, I won't talk about that. I loved that they were able to keep the light-heartedness of everyday life going even when horrible things were happening around them. This is a very dark time in the Harry Potter world, but the movie didn't feel dark; in fact, it felt more like a comedy until the last 15 mintues of the movie (which I'm not going to talk about either). However, since there is so much emphasis on the romantic elements, they're going to have a job explaining certain things in the next movies—the Horcruxes didn't get nearly the emphasis that they needed. I'm sort of banking on the fact that they'll put a lot of the 6th book elements into the Deathly Hallows movies.

Things I look forward to in movies 7 and 8:
  • Dumbledore getting the funeral he deserves.

  • The Battle at Hogwarts. I will forgive them for not including a battle in the 6th movie if the one in the 7th (well, 8th) movie is beyond awesome.

  • Ron and Hermione's kiss.

  • The scene where Ron comes back and destroys the Horcrux. (I get chills just thinking about that one.)

  • Harry's old Quidditch team, the DA, and the Order of the Phoenix piling into the Room of Requirement. This is my favorite scene in the ENTIRE SERIES, so they better not mess it up. Or leave it out entirely. I think I'll cry for days if that happens.

  • The epilogue. I've already seen pictures of what everyone will look like, but I'm still looking forward to seeing it all in motion.

The Harry Potter movie ride has been a fun one. It has had its ups and downs, but that ride will soon be ending. I hope it leaves us all soaring. Then the ride won't ever really end.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

If I could go to Hogwarts

Just like many of you, I have often wondered what my life would be like at Hogwarts. Would I be good at Quidditch? Which House would I belong to? Which subjects would I excel in? Not being able to truly find out for myself how I would adjust to life at Hogwarts, I have come up with my own sketch of what my life would be like if I lived at Hogwarts.

House: I've always considered myself a Ravenclaw—I didn't need the Daily Universe to tell me that. I love books and learning and I don't want them to ever end. And I actually like studying (as long as it's not anything science related). And according to Jon-Michael Drehner from BYU, "I don't know who is more intelligent and creative than an English major." I must agree. However, I do have a mischievous, daring side that could qualify me for Gryffindor—after all, Hermione found herself in Gryffindor even though she had all of the qualities of a Ravenclaw—but I usually imagine myself in Ravenclaw. It kind of makes me sad that Ravenclaw is the House we know the least about. Another reason why the 7th book is so awesome—we learn very important things about Ravenclaw.

Wand: According to J.K. Rowling's website, my wand would be made of vine, like Hermione's, and I think it would contain one unicorn hair. It would be long—about 13 inches—and nice and flexible for charm work.

Favorite subjects: Charms, Transfiguration, and Defense Against the Dark Arts would be my favorite subjects. I think I would excel most in Charms, mostly because I think that is the place where I would be most able to exercise my creativity, but I would also do well in Defense Against the Dark Arts. And transfiguration just sounds interesting, though a bit harder than most of the other subjects. I don't think I would like Potions that much—I'm not really much of a cook. And I'm not that great at making things grow, so Herbology wouldn't be my best subject, either. History of Magic might have some appeal, but I doubt even I would be riveted by it, especially the way Professor Binns teaches it.

Position on the Quidditch team: I know I would have wanted to try out for the Quidditch team. I think I would be a Beater. Not many girls play this position, but I played softball for like 12 years and always did well at batting practice. Being a Chaser would be fun too, but my aim isn't quite as good as my hand-eye coordination and I didn't play enough basketball as a Muggle to prepare me for it.

The Room of Requirement: I would use the Room of Requirement for several things, including the following:
  • Church. This seems a bit sacrilegious—I'm pretty sure there aren't any Mormon wizards. :) But, someone's got to be the first, right? So I'll go to church every Sunday morning and whenever the high councilman gets a little carried away with his stories, I'll just start practicing my non-verbal spells on him.
  • A music room. I know I couldn't live without a piano for an entire school year. And I like to sing to myself too. So I would use this room at least once a week whenever I needed to get away from people and lose myself in music.
  • A bathroom. Throughout the entire series, there are only 6 mentions (that I can think of) of people bathing: (1) when Cedric tells Harry to take a bath, (2) when Harry takes Cedric's advice and takes a bath with his egg, (3) when Hermione tells Harry that Quidditch captains have equal status with the prefects and get to use the prefects' bathroom and everything!, (4) when Ron and Ginny get back from an abyssal Quidditch practice and head for the showers after dinner, (5) when Wood tried to drown himself in the showers after losing the first Quidditch match of the season in book 3, and (6) the bathroom that sprouted in the Room of Requirement after the girls started showing up (book 7). This may sound weird, but I have often wondered where non-prefects showered, because I'm pretty sure the prefects and Quidditch players weren't the only ones who cared about cleanliness. Or maybe there was some kind of magic that allowed people to go months at a time without showering. The lack of any mention of showering just struck me as a bit odd, don't ask me why. Anyway, there is a point to this. If I could use the Room of Requirement, it would be for my own PRIVATE bathroom—not one that I would share with my fellows. Then I could take as long as I wanted and I wouldn't have to worry about any really awkward bathroom situations.
Patronus: I have thought about this one a lot. Somehow, it seems cheating to decide my own Patronus. So I decided to take one of those dumb Facebook quizzes and see what result I got. That result was a fox. (I guess that makes me a lot like Seamus.) And I think I'm going to stick with it. I'm a very pragmatic person and I rarely tell people what I am thinking, so I think the fox personality fits me well. Good job, Facebook.

Pet: Definitely an owl. I hate cats and I would get made fun of if I had a toad. :) And honestly, who would want a rat? Besides—I'm not much of a pet person and an owl would take care of itself. I would love to have a snowy owl like Harry's. I would probably call her Hedwig too.

Wizarding Career: I'd like to think that I would take a leaf out of Ginny's book and become a Quidditch correspondent writer. None of the other Wizarding careers I've heard about really scream me, except for Ginny's career choice. I don't think I could stamp out my passion for words even if I were a wizard.

Monday, November 15, 2010

My Life is Harry Potter

During my last year in college, I discovered the website I would check it every now and then when I got bored, and I usually spent way too much time on it. Then one day, I found and I was quite excited. A lot of the posts were sort of dumb, but I pasted a few of my favorites here. I guess I'm not the only one that lives with my head in the Harry Potter cloud.

Note: I tried to leave every post the way it was written, but I just couldn't stand some of the grammatical errors, so I fixed them. Please don't sue me for trying to make the world a better place.

"Today, I was at the gym and I was feeling a little self-conscious because my hair was really big and frizzy. As I walked across the gym, someone says to me 'SUP HERMIONE?!' and I didn't feel self-conscious anymore."

"Today I spent 3 hours looking up Harry Potter vs Twilight things, and I am proud to say that our favorite wizard beat those gay vampires by a long shot, and that Hermione beat Bella. My life is now happy. And as long as Twilight remains stupid, and Bella idiotic, and Harry Potter the best thing that ever existed, it shall remain that way."
I only kept this one because it makes absolutely no sense at all; therefore, it makes me laugh every time I read it.

"Today, my facebook friend asked me what Harry Potter was. I immediately De-Friended her."

"Today, I taught my dog to come when I say 'Accio dog.'"

"Today, I was on Facebook, and under recommended pages it said 'Harry Potter. Many people who like Harry Potter like this.' Yes, yes they do."

"Today in Target, some random guy came up to be and said 'The sorting hat told me that I belong with you.' Guesss who has a date for tomorrow night? Oh, not me. He was really creepy so I ran away."

"Today, I was driving down the highway and I saw a car with license plate 'Muggle.' When I passed it the driver was a ginger with a beard and a faux hawk and he had lots of tattoos. I've decided it was a wizard trying too hard to blend in."

"Today, my friend and I decided to impress our Harry-Potter-hating teacher. In the middle of his lecture, she stood up, pointed a wand at me, and yelled 'CRUCIO!' I rolled all over the ground, writing and screaming in agony. We thought we were the coolest kids in the room. No one else laughed."

"Today I sang the entire Mysterious Ticking Noise and had a wizard duel with Cleverbot. The future of artificial intelligence is looking bright!"

"Last night, I dreamed I was at Hogwarts. Then, my mom woke me up. I'm still not speaking to her."

"Today, I realized that even though Harry Potter had magic, us Muggles could have found out who Nicolas Flamel was in two seconds using the internet instead of searching through a library for weeks."

"Today my dad came home from work (he's a professor at a law school) and told me that he had been reading through the textbook he uses for his class. One of the case examples was Harry Potter being on trial for the use of underage magic in the Ministry of Magic."

"Last night, I was in my room and my light went out, so I picked up my wand and aimed it at my light and said reparo. The light came back on."

"Recently, in Algebra Two, in the back of my math book was 'This is the property of the half blood prince.' That book contained all the answers to the homework along with easy tips to use on the calculator. I got an A in the class."

"I just realized that Voldemort would really like Twitter. You don't call your contacts 'friends,' you call them 'followers.'"

"Today, I yelled 'TEN POINTS FROM GRYFFINDOR!' at my dogs because they wouldn't be quiet."

"I only went to see eclipse just to see the new harry potter trailer on the big screen."

"I have a dog. Her name is Jk Growling."

"Today I told my sister the best comeback ever. 'Your mom looks like Voldemort.' Then I realized we have the same mom. Oops."

"My birthday is the same day as Harry Potter's. This past year I was so excited for his birthday, that I almost forgot about the fact that it was also my birthday."

"I was in London today at King's Cross Train station, me and my friends proceeded to find the inbetween of platform nine and ten. We definitely tried to get through the wall just as an attempt. After we did it about three or four times a man came up and said to us 'We have had about enough injuries from people running into this wall, please please please be careful!' Looks like were not the only ones who try."

"Today was my 12th birthday. I got a letter from my grandma with 100 dollars in it. I cried because it wasn't from Hogwarts."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Favorite Harry Potter quotes

No one can say it quite like J.K. Rowling. Rather than posting the text for the entire series (I'm pretty sure that wouldn't be legal), I have picked a few of my favorite Harry Potter quotes and copied them here for my enjoyment, mostly.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

"I hope you're pleased with yourselves. We could all have been killed—or worse, expelled." —Hermione
"Yeah, and lucky Harry doesn't lose his head in a crisis—'there's no wood,' honestly." —Ron (This part is even more awesome when you read the 7th book and Ron laments that they didn't have Crookshanks when they were going to spy on Voldemort in the Shrieking Shack and Hermione says, "Are you a wizard or not?!"
"Are you really Harry Potter?" —Ron
"Mars is bright tonight." The centaurs
"Where's the canon?" —Dudley
"Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" —Dumbledore
"I suppose she thinks you don't forget your name. But we're not stupid—we know we're called Gred and Forge." —George
"Scars can come in handy. I have one myself above my left knee that is a perfect map of the London Underground." —Dumbledore

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

"Lockhart will sign anything if it stands still long enough." —Ron
"Watch out for that tree!" —Harry
"It is our choices, Harry, that show what we really are, far more than our abilities." —Dumbledore
"You know what, Harry? If he doesn't stop trying to save your life, he's going to kill you." —Ron
"I want more bacon." —Dudley
"I hope Ron's not in a girl's toilet." —Percy

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

"Well, honestly . . . 'the fates have informed her' . . . who sets the exam? She does! What an amazing prediction!" —Hermione
"Tell me, which of you will be dying this year?" —Professor McGonagall
"Pity you can't attach extra arms to yours, Malfoy. Then it could catch the snitch for you." —Harry
"Mr. Padfoot would like to register his astonishment that an idiot like that ever became a professor." —Padfoot

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

"Ecletic you say? With a plug? Gracious, I must see that." —Mr. Weasley
"You coming to this ball thing on Christmas day, Hagrid?" —Ron
"I have gone temporarily deaf and haven't any idea what you said, Harry." —Dumbledore
"I killed my father." —Barty Crouch Jr.
"Don't be stupid . . . it's a flying house!" Dennis Creevey
"What are you doing here?" Rod and Fred
"I want to fix that in my memory forever. Draco Malfoy, the amazing bouncing ferret." —Ron
"Did I tell you I've invented a broomstick that'll reach Jupiter?" —Ron
"Er, is this the new stand on elf rights? You're going to make yourself puke instead?" —Ron
"If the Hogwarts Express crashed tomorrow, and George and I died, how would you feel to know that the last thing we ever heard from you was an unfounded accusation?" —Fred

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Don't put your wand there, boy! What if it ignited? Better wizards that you have lost buttocks, you know!" —Mad-Eye Moody
"There's been a mistake. No one in their right mind would make Ron a prefect." —Fred
"Special discounts to Hogwarts students who swear they're going to use our products to get rid of this old bat." —George
"Just because you have an emotional range of a teaspoon doesn't mean we all have." —Hermione
"The mind is not a book, to be opened at will and examined at leisure. . . . The mind is a complex and many-layered thing." —Snape
"I didn't think there was anything in the universe more important that homework." —Ron
"We believe the dementors are currently taking direction from Lord—Thingy." —Fudge
"The world isn't split into good people and Death Eaters." —Sirius
"I expect what you're not aware of would fill several books, Dursley." —Mad-Eye Moody
"Size is no guarantee of power." —George
"You know Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts, but you cannot deny he's got style." —Phineas Nigellus
"Ow kunnit nofe skusin danger ifzaf?" —Ron
"Wow, I wonder what it'd be like to have a difficult life?" —Harry
"Well, that clears it up. It would have been really annoying if you hadn't explained yourself properly." —Ron
"You don't want to bottle your anger up like that Harry, let it all out. There might be a couple people fifty miles away who didn't hear you." —Fred
"What are Fred and I? Next-door neighbors?" —George
"The thing about growing up with Fred and George, is that you sort of start thinking anything's possible if you've got enough nerve." —Ginny
"I could have gotten rid of the sparklers myself, of course, but I wasn't sure whether I had the authority . . ." —Professor Flitwick

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

"It was a lucky day for the Weasleys when Ron decided to sit in your compartment on the Hogwarts Express, Harry." —Mr. Weasley
"There is nothing to be feared from a body, Harry, any more than there is anything to be feared from darkness." —Dumbledore
"Your father and I were made for each other, what was the point in waiting?" —Mrs. Weasley
"There's no way they'd let me be a Death Eater!" —Ron
"I'm tall." —Ron
"What have you been doing to that book, you depraved boy?" —Madam Pince
"That Harry Potter's got more backbone than the whole Ministry of Magic put together!" —Neville's gran
"It's high time your grandmother learned to be proud of the grandson she's got, rather than the one she thinks she ought to have." —Professor McGonagall
"I've learned not to expect too much from boys." —Moaning Myrtle
"Excuse me, are you the imprint of a departed soul?" —Ron
"I am good-looking enough for the both of us!" —Fleur
"Once again, you show the sensitivity of a blunt axe." —Nearly Headless Nick
"She didn't see that, did she?" —Ron
"There's no need to call me sir, professor." –Harry
"I am not worried, Harry. I am with you." —Dumbledore
"Nobody's ever asked me to go to a party before, as a friend. Is that why you dyed your eyebrow, for the party? Should I do mine, too?" –Luna

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

"I don't think you're a waste of space." Dudley
"Vot is the point of being an international Quidditch player if all of the good-looking girls are taken?" —Krum
"The fact remains he can move faster than Severus Snape confronted with shampoo when he wants to." —Fred or George
"Well, I don't know how to break this to you, but I think they might have noticed we broke into Gringotts." —Ron
"Merlin's pants!" —Hermione
"And what in the name of Merlin's most baggy Y Fronts was that about?" —Ron
"Perhaps just one more, Master Harry, for luck?" —Kreacher
"Daddy, look—one of the gnomes actually bit me!" —Luna
"Imagine losing fingernails, Harry! That really puts our suffering into perspective, doesn't it?" —Hermione
"OI! There's a war going on here!" —Harry
"What's that, an illness?" —Ron
"If you should feel any burgeoning talent today—perhaps an unexpected urge to sing opera or to declaim the Mermish—do not repress it!" —Xenophilius Lovegood
"If there was a wizard of whom I would believe that they did not seek personal gain, it would be you, Harry Potter." —Griphook
"A brutal triple murder by the bridegroom's mother might put a bit of a damper on the wedding." —Ron
"Brains like that, you could be a Death Eater, son." —Aberforth
"You know how to drive, I take it?" —Dedalus Diggle
"We teachers are rather good at magic, you know." —Professor McGonagall
"Imagine if something went wrong and we were stuck as specky, scrawny gits forever." —Fred
"Can’t you even tell us apart when we’re Harry?" —George
"You look much tastier than Crabbe and Goyle, Harry." —Hermione
"It's me. I'm extremely famous." —Ron

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A bit of Harry Potter trivia

When I was in 8th grade, I started making a Harry Potter trivia game for an English project. However, that project didn't end on the due date. At that time, only 3 of the books were out. And because I have such a hard time moving on after finishing a new Harry Potter book, I continued to come up with trivia questions as I progressed through the series. Finally, last summer I finished the game: each book had 4 levels and each level had 30 questions, making a grand total of 840 questions.

Today I have included a level-4 question from each category for each book. I have even provided a key at the bottom because I'm awesome. So put your thinking caps on—some of these questions are a bit ridiculous. (Most of the level 4-questions were designed to stump me, particularly the fill in the blanks.)

Book 1

1. At the end of the year, how many house points did Ravenclaw have?
A) 312
B) 352
C) 426
D) 472

2. What were the first and second passwords for the Gryffindor common room?

3. True or false: Harry's last letter from Hogwarts was addressed to: Mr. H. Potter, The floor, Hut on the Rock, The ocean.

4. Who said: "Peeves, the Bloody Baron has his own reasons for being invisible."

5. Fill in the blanks: "_____! _____! _____! _____!"

Book 2

1. During his detention with Lockhart, to what fan did Harry address the first envelope?
A) Veronica Smethley
B) Penelope Hopkins
C) Gladys Gudgeon
D) Doris Crockput

2. Who died in the Chamber of Secrets?

3. True or false: Ron is afraid of spiders because George turned his teddy bear into a spider when he was three.

4. Who said: "Honestly, if you were any slower, you'd be going backward."

5. Fill in the blanks: Professor _____'s arms were full of _____, and with another twinge of guilt, _____ spotted the Whomping _____ in the distance, several of its branches in _____.

Book 3

1. When Madam Rosmerta, Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Professor Flitwick, and Cornelius Fudge were discussing Sirius Black at the Three Broomsticks, what did Professor McGonagall order to drink?
A) A small gillywater
B) Four pints of mulled mead
C) Cherry syrup and soda with ice and umbrella
D) Red currant rum

2. What did the manager at Flourish and Blotts say was just as bad as Hagrid's Monster Book of Monsters?

3. True or false: Parvati Patil's boggart is a mummy.

4. Who said: "Not now, thanks, I'm pickling some slugs."

5. Fill in the blanks: A number of small _____ broke out in the corridors, culminating in a _____ incident in which a _____ fourth year and a Slytherin _____ year ended up in the hospital wing with leeks sprouting out of their _____.

Book 4

1. Which of the following is NOT a language Mr. Crouch speaks?
A) Troll
B) Centaurian
C) Mermish
D) Gobbledegook

2. Who took a chunk out of Moody's nose?

3. True or False: One of the merpeople dwellings Harry swan past has a pet grindylow tied to a stake.

4. Who said: "Don't be stupid . . . it's a flying house!"

5. Fill in the blanks: One week later, however, _____ was telling a _____ tale of _____ in which he struggled _____-_____ against fifty heavily armed _____ who had beat him into _____ before tying him up.

Book 5

1. Which of Sirius's relatives tried to force through a Ministry bill to make Muggle-hunting legal?
A) Araminta Meliflua
B) Aunt Elladora
C) Phineas Nigellus
D) Andromeda Black

2. What was the first memory Harry had to relive when Snape broke into his mind?

3. True or false: Professor Marchbanks examined Dumbledore in Transfiguration and Defense Against the Dark Arts when he took his N.E.W.T.s

4. Translate the following sentence that Ron so rudely says with his mouth full of food: "Ow kunnit nofe skusin danger ifzaf?"

5. Fill in the blanks: After skirting a large _____ stand that looked as though it had been made from a severed _____'s leg, they started up the dark _____ passing a row of _____ heads mounted on plaques on the _____.

Book 6

1. What is the name of Hepzibah Smith's house-elf?
A) Baloney
B) Hokey
C) Stoker
D) Porky

2. What, specifically, was one of the "crimes" James Potter and Sirius Black committed that Harry had to copy out onto a fresh new card?

3. True or false: Voldemort was born on New Year's Day.

4. Who said: "Greatness inspires envy, envy endangers spite, spite spawns lies."

5. Fill in the blanks: Unnoticed by either, he seized the _____ that contained the _____ and began to try to open it by the _____ and most _____ means he could think of; unfortunately, he could still _____ every word of their _____.

Book 7

1. Who did Hermione's parents think they were after Hermione modified their memories?
A) Wendell and Monica Wilkins
B) Welby and Martha Williams
C) Willy and Marsha Widdershins
D) Wesley and Marissa White

2. Who forged the first ever Golden Snitch?

3. True or false: The battle of Hogwarts took place during a full moon.

4. Who said: "I am probably one of the only people alive who can say that they knew the real Harry Potter."

5. Fill in the blanks: There was a great ____ and a surge toward the foot of the _____; he was pressed back against the wall as they ran past him, the mingled _____ of the ______ of the, _____'s Army, and Harry's old _____ team, all with their _____ drawn, heading up into the main _____.

Key. Book 1: 1 (D), 2 catput draconis and pig snout, 3 False, 4 Harry Potter, 5 Nitwit, Blubber, Oddment, Tweak. Book 2: 1 (C), 2 the Basilisk, 3 False, 4 Draco Malfoy, 5 Sprout, bandages, Harry, Willow, slings. Book 3: 1 (A), 2 200 copies of The Invisible Book of Invisibility, 3 True, 4 A tiny wizard in a nightcap at the rear of the bus, 5 scuffles, nasty, Gryffindor, sixth, ears. Book 4: 1 (B), 2 Evan Rosier, 3 True, 4 Dennis Creevey, 5 Ron, thrilling, kidnap, single, handedly, merpeople, submission. Book 5: 1 (A), 2 He was five, watching Dudley riding a new bicycle, 3 False, 4 "How can it know if the school's in danger if it's a hat?" 5 umbrella, troll, staircase, shrunken, wall. Book 6: 1 (B), 2 Apprehended using an illegal hex upon Bertram Aubrey, 3 False, 4 Voldemort, 5 bowl, pod, noisiest, energetic, hear, conversation. Book 7: 1 (A), 2 Bowman Wright, 3 True, 4 Rita Skeeter, 5 roar, stairs, members, Order, Phoenix, Dumbledore, Quidditch, wands, castle

Friday, November 12, 2010

10 reasons why Harry Potter is awesome

I'm feeling the need to justify my intense Harry Potter obsession because some people just don't understand it. I am determined to convert those people some time before I die.

I've come across a lot of long (and sometimes funny) lists of why Harry Potter is so awesome, and I have decided to make up my own list, since I consider myself quite educated in the Harry Potter world. And I am going to be different and do it without bashing on Twilight. Here I go!!!!
  1. The characters. One of the biggest reasons why I am such a huge fan of the Harry Potter series is because of Harry Potter himself. He's not perfect—book 5 in particular is proof of that—but he is still an incredible person. The fact that he still fought for what he believed in despite all of the horrible things that happened to him is a testament to that. And of course, Harry Potter wouldn't be Harry Potter without the faithful Ron and Hermione. I love those two so much. Fred and George are also particularly awesome, as are Luna and Neville. There are so many amazing people floating around in J. K. Rowling's head and they are equally real in my head. I often find myself wondering what they are doing out there in the wizarding world, years after Voldemort's demise.
  2. Hogwarts. I don't think there is a child out there (or adult) who doesn't wish they could go to Hogwarts. Going to school in a castle with ghosts, changing staircases, magic wands, a forest full of magical creatures, and amazing food just sounds like a great time. More than that, however, Hogwarts feels like home. Misfits like Harry, Snape, and Riddle found a home at Hogwartse. Each of us feels like a misfit at times too, and we all want to truly belong somewhere. I think that anyone could fit in at Hogwarts, if they only just have the imagination for it.
  3. The author. If Harry Potter was written by an American, the series wouldn't be nearly as good. Back when I was in college (wow, that makes me feel really old), I took several classes where all we did was read novels—and the British ones were always better. Brits just have an inborn wit that Americans just can't duplicate. It's those little tidbits that make the books so delightful, the reason why readers randomly burst into uncontrollable fits of giggles. Okay, and I like that the series was written by a woman.
  4. The fight between good and evil. Anyone who thinks Harry Potter is evil is not only INSANE but they also haven't taken the time to read the books. Deeply ingrained throughout the entire series is the fight between good and evil. The books exist on that fight—it was evil that destroyed Harry's parents and gave him the desire to destroy that evil. There are so many wonderful things to be learned from the books and anyone who says otherwise is not my friend.
  5. The wizarding world. Each of us has our own little fantasy world, hidden away from the "Muggles" around us. Harry Potter's world is hidden, but it is not a small world. It is a vast world full of cultures, rules, diverse people and animals, and knowledge. The Harry Potter books give us but a glimpse of this world. Harry's world doesn't feel made up; it feels like a real, delightful discovery.
  6. The complicated plot lines. I have read the Harry Potter books many times, and I always find new things to enjoy in each run-through. For example, Peeves smashes the Vanishing Cabinet in book 2 that Malfoy spends the entire 6th book mending; Dumbledore mentions the Room of Requirement a year before Dobby shows Harry what it is; Hagrid tells Harry in book 1 that you would be mad to try to rob Gringotts, and that is what Harry does in book 7. There are always little nuggets to find, little nuggets that sneak up on you later. Reading Harry Potter is almost like reading the scriptures! Though after the 12th time or so through the books, you don't pick up on as many of the little clues because you have the entire series memorized. That is why if I ever get amnesia, I want someone to make me read the Harry Potter books so that I can experience the whole series fresh and new. Sigh. Somebody hit me with a hammer please.
  7. Quidditch and the D.A. I love anything that brings the students together. The Quidditch matches were fun House rivalries, and the D.A. was a brilliant way to unite the Houses. I just loved watching the students work together toward something great, whether it be defeating Voldemort or winning the Quidditch Cup. And, I loved watching Neville and Luna grow under Harry's leadership and the friendships created in the D.A. It was a fun game to be a part of.
  8. The appeal to all age groups. It bugs me when people try to classify Harry Potter into a specific age group because it just doesn't work. We talked about Harry Potter a lot in my YA lit class and how Harry Potter breaks all rules. It appeals to children, teenagers, and adults equally. You don't have to be a child to revel in the magic of Harry's world, and you don't have to be an adult to appreciate the lessons of love, loyalty, and bravery. There is something there for everyone; it's a ride that everyone can enjoy.
  9. The escape factor. When life gets stressful, Harry Potter is a safe place to run to. There is no better way to escape reality for a few hours than by diving into a Harry Potter book. Reading these books are effortless and comforting. It's not wonder I always suffer intense withdrawals whenever I make it through the series—it means I no longer have a (real) fantasy world to escape to. But at the same time, it also leaves me with the feeling that I can conquer my own life and that I really do have a lot to be grateful for.
  10. The journey. Half the fun of reading Harry Potter was the excitement of waiting for the next book to come out. It was so fun discussing with the rest of the world the fate of Harry and his friends. The wait drove me crazy at times, but at least it always gave me something interesting to think and talk about. And, I discovered Harry when I was 12 years old. In a sense, I went through Hogwarts with him. I felt his pain in a way that only a teenager could. It was a long journey for Harry, but it was an even longer journey for the rest of us. However, that made the journey more worthwhile. It still makes me sad that I don't have another Harry Potter book to look forward to. I miss that more than anything. There is nothing quite like reading a Harry Potter book for the first time after waiting 2 long, agonizing years to hold the book in your hands. However, I still have the longing between reads that contribute to the fun of finally laying my hands on a book.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It's Harry Potter week!!!!

As I am writing this, there are 7 days, 14 hours, 28 minutes, and 14 seconds until Deathly Hallows part 1 comes out. Needless to say, I am completely stoked to see the movie. So to help celebrate this grand occasion, I am going to have a Harry Potter–related post every day for the week leading up to the midnight release. (I'm not actually going to the midnight showing, though; I'm going to the 12:19 showing. In Orem. Because Payson is stupid and I only bought my tickets a month early.)

I started writing these posts back when I still had a boring job and needed something to do to fill my oodles of down time. And then I refined the posts during my months of boredom from lack of job. So these posts are months in the making. :)

So at least we know that I will have something to entertain myself with while I wait impatiently to see this movie. I can't believe it is only a week away. My mom kind of rolled her eyes and shook her head the last time I vehemently expressed my opinion that if the movies weren't worthy of the books, I would be very, very upset. But really, the movie could be a complete disaster and that wouldn't change the book one bit. J.K. Rowling already gave us an awesome ending to an incredible series—what more could I want than that?

And since I don't think the movie will be a complete disaster (I think the producers were afraid for their lives when they made the decision to split the final movie into two; they didn't want to be stampeded by angry, fanatic fans if they changed too much of the movie), I can't wait to stand out in the cold for a few hours and lose a night's worth of sleep.

It'll be so worth it. Besides, no pain, no gain, right? Let the fun begin!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Apocalyptic dreams

As has been mentioned before, I have lots of dreams. Most of them contain at least one of the following elements:
  • Harry Potter
  • Lost
  • Domino's Pizza
  • Getting married
  • The end of the world
My apocalyptic dreams win the poll by far (though every now and then I will be repeatedly experience the woes of being a pizza driver). Last night I had another classic: it involved a heroic escape on a dragon (which we borrowed from a Chinese dude who lived on a big boarding house) with the man of my dreams.

My apocalyptic dreams aren't usually that scary, even though they involve lighting-fast lava, moody tornadoes, nuclear bombs, and raging floods that fill the entire world. (And frankly, if I get to ride on a dragon for 48 hours with a guy I am completely in love with, it kind of detracts from the gravity of the situation.) Oddly enough, I have never had an earthquake-themed dream, even though that is the only plausible natural disaster that could happen in Utah: Mt. Nebo is NOT a volcano (despite my childhood fears), floods don't just start at the top of the mountains, and tornadoes are very rare in this state. Yes, we did have a tornado in Salt Lake about ten years ago, but I think that was just a fluke. :)

So I guess I am a little bit bemused that I keep having these apocalyptic dreams. I'm not complaining—they usually make for really great stories—but I just wonder if there is a reason why I keep having these dreams.

Maybe my dreamlike obsession with the end of the world has its root in my childhood fear of all of the destruction of the second coming (particularly the mountains falling down). I remember walking around Lagoon once and wondering how all of the families could look so happy when the mountains were about to crush us all at any second. And it's not like my driving-off-the-cliff dream that I stopped having once I made it to the bottom of that 180-degree hill; I always finish these dreams. And besides, they don't scare me. But maybe there is a part of me that was just scarred for life by all the destruction we read about in 3 Nephi.

It could just be my fascination with natural disasters. I've never actually been through one, but I think they are really cool. Not the death and destruction part, but the fact that nature can put up such an epic battle that man has no chance of stopping. Storms always make me really hyper—the more intense, the better.

Or maybe I'm just really curious what the end of the world will be like. Maybe this is because I'm young and I have a hard time picturing myself dying of old age, but a lot of times I fantasize my life ending with everyone else's at Armageddon.

Actually, I think the real reason here is that I watch too many movies.

I wonder what the next epic dream will be like. Maybe it'll involve me marrying Volemort on a time-traveling island that is being chased by lava that is really pizza sauce.

I guess there are some advantages to being a light sleeper—I get to remember most of my awesome dreams.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A new way of reckoning time?!?!?!

For as long as I can remember, I have chronicled my memories based on what grade I was in at school and by the length of my hair. If someone were to ask me how old I was on 9/11, I would know because I was sitting in Mrs. McKinlay's 8th grade English class when I learned the gravity of the situation. If I saw a picture of myself with short hair at a high school function, I would know that it was my senior year of high school because I cut my hair at the end of my junior year, right before Trouvere tryouts.

This system has always worked very well; I went through a major haircut (and by major I mean cutting off at least a foot and completely revolutionizing the style of my hair) once every several years, and between each haircut I would have grown a lot, so it wasn't hard to place my age or grade whenever I saw a picture of myself. The length of my hair provided a sort of proof in the placing of my memories.

It worked the same way with my place in the school timeline. Each year brought new challenges and triumphs, and each year had its own feeling to it. Second grade was full of childlike wonder because Miss Spencer allowed me to reach the height of my goodie-goodieness and I had a best friend to tag along with me. Ninth grade was a dark year because the junior high kids were jerks and my small group of friends changed a lot. My senior year was a carefree year because I spent most of my time in the choir room and I didn't take school (or myself) quite so seriously.

So with these two markers to guide me along memory lane, I have never gotten lost.

But today I realized that I can no longer chronicle my memories this way. Being done with school and done with the dramatic physical changes, I'm not sure how I am going to reckon time. Instead of saying, "When I was a senior on high school, I took the last math class of my life," I'll have to come up with something like, "After graduation some time, maybe a year or five—it's hard to tell because I look the same with long hair at the age of 22 that I did at the age of 27—it was probably some time while Kimberly was still in school because she was complaining about doing homework, yeah, it was around that time that I moved into my first house." By the time I finally get to my point, my audience is probably still thinking about their math homework, their ACT score in calculus, the hours they spent studying for a math final, or the last math class they took, all depending on the age of said audience. And by the time I get to the exciting part of my story, they are too bitter about their massive amount of homework waiting for them, the wasted hours of studying in the cursed library, or the fact that I didn't have to take a math class in college to even care that I ever moved into a house all my own. And then no one will care about my cool story.

From here on out, my life is going to be a lot more stable. No more uprooting my routine every 4 months, or even every 9 months. My reckoning of time will become a lot more scattered. I'll judge my memories off of major events like weddings, funerals, and children—and those don't happen as often as the beginning of a new school year. Maybe as often as a major haircut, but even my haircut pattern has become quite standardized, not exciting enough to warrant a new marker on that line of memories. Even funerals get lost in the haze of memories sometimes because even though they're life-altering, I've been to so many of them that I lose track of when certain funerals took place. Call me morbid, but without my grade in school to help me out, I'm going to have a hard time remembering when all my relatives were buried.

So I'm not quite sure what I am going to do when I want to tell someone a story about something that happened to me post-college. Maybe I'll just say something like, "When you were 15, I learned how to successfully eat a pomegranate." Or I could start carrying my journals around with me everywhere so that I could pull out a book and say, "On March 13, 2012, I fell down the stairs and laughed my head off." Or maybe I'll just have to remember how old I am ALL THE TIME. Maybe I should just go back to school and never leave. Then I could say something like, "When I was a super senior to the fourth power at BYU, I had 200 grandchildren."

I hope you understand the gravity of this situation. Reminiscing as I know it has changed forever.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Exodus 14:13–14

During my sophomore year in college, I came across the following scripture:

"Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord. . . . the Lord will fight for you."

It inspired me so much that I wrote it down on a stickie note and placed it on my wall by my bed, right by my Dove Chocolate wrappers. (I am such a creative decorator.) However, I didn't write down the reference, so I didn't know what the context was, who was talking to whom, and what the ellipses were omitting.

A few days ago, a ran across that scripture during my nightly scripture reading. I was quite excited; I was beginning to think that someone had just made the scripture up. It is in Exodus 14:13–14, and the full references says the following:

"And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever. The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace."

Following this statement, the Lord parted the Red Sea. He did the impossible to protect his children.

I have never had much patience for the children of Israel. All they did was complain. God performed miracle after miracle, and yet they were still like children who were incapable of thinking about anyone other than themselves. I always found comfort in the fact that I would never act like that; I would trust God and do what I was told without whining incessantly about it.

But, am I really any better than they? These past few months of being jobless has really tested my trust and faith in God. I have so many wonderful things in my life, so many small miracles, and yet I still complain when one thing in my life still won't right itself. It is really hard to fight against the hopelessness and depression that comes with being unemployed. I almost think it would be easier if I did have a family to support; at least then my life would have meaning. So I have been learning to rely on the Lord more than ever—and yet I still doubt his power. I still can't bring myself to fully believe that God will fight for me, even though I know he has been there with me every step of the way.

I know that it doesn't really matter where or when I start working. There are much more meaningful and important things I will do with my life. But right now, it is important to me. And I've hit a pretty big dead end. I've done all I can do—now it's up to God to do the rest. And honestly, it's been really hard putting my trust in him rather than in myself. It just seems wrong to just sit around while I wait for a miracle to happen. But obviously, my work alone just isn't cutting it.

But I don't want to be like the children of Israel, so I am just going to push aside my fears and "stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord." He'll fight for me. I have never doubted that he has the power to do so, just whether or not he will use that power for my benefit. So I guess it's time to put aside those doubts and wait for my Red Sea to be parted.

And while I wait, I will be at peace.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween in the good old days

So I am sitting here, bored, waiting for Kimberly to wake up and for Shannan to satisfy her hermit needs so that we can have an uproariously fun party. I keep glancing out the window, hoping to see the first of the trick-or-treaters, but no luck yet.

But then again, the huge bowl of chocolate in our piano room may end up being consumed by Carters and Searles only, because I doubt we'll get a whole lot of trick-or-treaters this year because no one knows how to have fun anymore. For some reason, parents won't allow their kids to knock on strangers' doors for candy, and besides, it's raining. That's enough to make any mother want to put her foot down. But I mostly blame the invention of the trunk-or-treat. What a great way to spoil the fun of a child's Halloween—giving the children candy that they didn't have to trudge through the freezing, wet streets for in a costume overloaded with extra padding for warmth. Sheesh—these days kids don't even have to work for their candy.

And it gets even worse than that. I used to think that Halloween was a kid's holiday, just like Valentine's Day, but I have been proven wrong again and again. Now adults are expected to dress up for work and school and for ridiculous parties. Apparently, most adults spend a good portion of the month of October planning up creative Halloween costumes and they actually enjoy themselves. I am totally fine with others making a fool out of themselves on Halloween—it's actually quite entertaining for me—but the minute they try to get me involved with their "fun," that's when I run away to my parents house and watch a "scary" movie. A much better way to spend Halloween. And every now and then we get give candy to the cute little families that knock on our door.

In the good, old days, my dad would take us trick-or-treating while my mom would get a much-needed break. (But that was only on the off chance that my dad didn't have to deliver pizza to hundreds of hungry zombies, witches, ghosts, and zebras.) My mom would make us wear coats over our costumes. We would go through as much of the neighborhood as we could without dropping dead. And at some point, we would stop at the Lee's house down the road and drink delicious hot cider while conversing with the neighbors. Then, when dad couldn't make us get out of the warm van anymore, we would come home and Mom would feed us something warm, and then we would go visit the grandparents.

That's what Halloween is supposed to be like—not crazy costume parties and lame trunk-or-treating. It makes me sad to think that my kids will probably never experience the kind of Halloween I enjoyed as a kid.

Wow. Now the thunder is rolling and the leaves are scurrying for . . . cover. And the hail is coming down murderously. Yep, I'll be surprised if I see any trick-or-treaters tonight. The good thing, however, is that Kimberly and Shannan have now emerged. Time for some awesome sister bonding.

And kudos to anyone who is adventurous enough to venture out in this weather. They will be my new favorite people.

Monday, October 25, 2010

The battle between fall and winter rages on

I woke up to a strange sight this morning: there was snow on the ground, but there were also brightly colored leaves on the trees. Huge black clouds were trying to overtake the horizon, but blue patches of sky were still shining through. The last stage of the fall–winter war is upon us.

So while I am going to miss seeing this familiar sight . . .

. . . I am looking forward to see this again.

All I can say now is this: Battle on.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Journal writing and learning from the past

I spend a lot of time with my journals. I write in my current one about once a week, and I am in the process of typing up my journals, something I try to do a little bit of each day. I am currently on Journal #9, which spans my 8th-9th grade years. It was with this journal that I made the goal to write every single day of the year, and I almost delivered on that promise. I only missed 15 days during the year 2002. Which means that I have had to type up way too many entries about an emotional teenage girl who just couldn't quite fit in with any of the "cool" crowds and who worried about not having enough money to buy new school clothes.

I got my first journal from my Grandma Rushton the day I was baptized, and I've been a bit obsessed with journal writing ever since. Maybe I am just incredibly self-centered and feel that it is my duty to tell the world what happened during every stage of my life. However, there is more to it than that. :)

I have narrowed my journal-writing obsession to 5 main reasons:
  • I have a hard time letting things go. It isn't until I have written something down that I can put it aside and move on with my life.
  • The writer in me refuses to be silenced. I need to write: for me, writing is almost like breathing. It's a part of who I am and I love doing it.
  • It is crucial to the decision-making process. I'm not one to shout out to the entire world everything that is going on in my life. In fact, I am pretty secretive about a lot of things. Writing in my journal is how I work through things and make decisions. It's a pretty good system, I think.
  • It helps me sleep. I have never been a good sleeper. Don't get me wrong--I love sleeping--but falling asleep and staying asleep has always been very difficult for me. However, writing helps me sleep. I do most of my intense thinking at night (which doesn't help) and I have found that writing something down before I go to bed does wonders in clearing my mind. And since I started a blog I have been sleeping so much better. True, having a consistent sleeping schedule helps, but if my mind is racing there is no way I will fall asleep, regardless of how tired I am. Writing is one of the best soothers of the mind that I've been able to find.
  • For my posterity. General authorities are always telling us to write things down and I took that advice to heart when I was young. Now I feel duty-bound at times to keep my journal current. I think it's fascinating to read other people's journals, and maybe some day one of my grandchildren will feel the same way. Half the time I am writing to them rather than myself.
So aside from journal writing actually being fun and fulfilling, I have also received many blessings from this practice. Even before I started typing my journals, I always kept an old journal by my bedside so that I could read it whenever I was having difficulty sleeping or something. And it has always been fascinating to me to watch myself struggle through something and then come out victorious. I vividly remember certain experiences that I didn't think would ever end, but I got through them and am stronger today because of it. It baffles me sometimes the things that threw me when I was a teenager or a child, but it is a reminder to me that I have grown and overcome some barriers, even if I still have many more to overcome.

It also entertains me to see how little I have changed in certain areas, too. I always had a bit of an attitude, and my sense of humor can be traced back to my childhood days. It's just nice to know that no matter how much you change, the person you started out being will always be inside you somewhere.

Many times I will read entries in which I was struggling with something similar to what I am dealing with today. It's almost like having my own set of personal scriptures--I can look to the past to find answers about my future. I don't usually find any profound answers other than that I made it though it then, so I can certainly do it now.

And, of course, I love reading about the funny stories, memorable vacations, and growing experiences. I have always been a little bit afraid I would forget everything. That fear is alleviated, however, because I have written things down, whether they are important or not. I will always have my past with me even if I forget the finer points. This is why if there is ever a fire and I can only save a few things, I will go for my journals first.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Hope for a chaotic world

I have been reading Man's Search for Meaning and have found it quite an interesting read so far. And it kind of makes me feel like I'm doing homework again, so that's a double bonus.

One of the things that interested me most so far is the author's observation of man's inward ability to hope, to believe that things will be better in the future no matter how bad the present is. I have been thinking about this a lot over the past week and think it is quite true. I have been doing a bit of "searching for meaning" myself, and through it all I have had this vision of a future where everything will work out, where things will be better than they are now. It is that more than anything that has given me the strength I need to simply enjoy life as I know it.

Then I started thinking about the world we live in, particularly in America. As Larry the Cable Guy says, "They keep talking about drafting a constitution for Iraq; why don't we give them ours? We're not using it anymore." All around us, marriage and family are being attacked. It seems like no one has a moral center anymore—life is all about pleasure and greed. When you look at the world this way, it is hard to believe that any of us could hope for a better future—surely it is going to get worse, not better.

And then I went to my brother's Court of Honor. I have never been to one before and it ended up being a much more emotional experience than I thought it would be. For once I was glad to have only one brother, so that Tyrel could enjoy accomplishments like this without having to compete with any brothers. The limelight was all on him. I was incredibly touched by the love his leaders showed him and that Brother Hansen and Tanner were there to witness it all. Tyrel may have lost his best friend when he was 9, but Tyler's family has still witnessed most of Tyrel's life-changing moments.

Anyway, there is a point to this rambling. . . . As I watched Tyrel recite the oath, I couldn't help but rejoice inwardly that the world has such a being. Temptations of sin have no power over him—he is only capable of good. This greatness is seen in individuals all around the church, and, thankfully, outside the church as well. Boys and girls are still being taught values and morals and they will go on to teach their children and their neighbors those same principles.

So when I look at the world through this light, I have every reason to hope that things will get better. Of course, things will have to get worse before they get better, but there is still a light at the end of the tunnel. We're not going to kill each other off until there are no humans left. We're not going to become so immoral that we become mere animals. There are still good parents in this world, good people who follow the examples of their parents. Better yet, God has given us tools—scriptures, living prophets, modern revelation—so that we won't fail like so many Nephite generations did. So I'm not worried too much about the future. The world is still crumbling away, but there is a bright hope that things will be better in the future.