Sunday, December 30, 2012

2012 book "awards"

I read a lot. At the beginning of the year, I thought it would be fun to challenge myself to read a certain number of books. I settled on 35. I exceeded my goal.

Like I said, I read a lot.

Then I thought it would be fun to create little categories and "award" the books I read this year for being a certain kind of awesome or not-so-awesome. So here goes.

Books read: 51

Total number of pages read: 18,178

  • 5 stars: 12
  • 4 stars: 10
  • 3 stars: 22
  • 2 stars: 5
  • 1 star: 2
First reads: 37

Re-reads: 14

Longest book: Towers of Midnight (WoT #13), by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson. 864 pages.

Shortest book: The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson. 54 pages. Yes, this book really is that short.

Book that belongs on the pedastal of awesomesauce: The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This book left quite an impression on me when Mr. Applegate, my 5th grade teacher, read it to us. So much of an impression that it continues to leave the rest of the books I've read (minus a select few) behind in the dregs of its awesomesauce.

Book that belongs in my torture chamber: The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling. I don't think I need to explain this one.

Best escape book: Thy Gold to Refine (W&G #4), by Gerald N. Lund. My love for reading stemmed from the ability to escape into other worlds, not for the lessons the books taught (that came later). This re-read of the Work and Glory series has made me realize that Elder Lund isn't a spectacular writer. However, it is so easy to get lost in this world where the Steeds are real people. I've always loved these characters, which is why this series is one I often turn to when I just want to escape from reality. That fact that I read this book when I particularly needed something to escape to is a big reason why this book wins the escape award.

Best nonfiction: The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts, by Gary Chapman. I don't read a lot of nonfiction, and this year I only had two options to choose from. People are always telling me that marriage is hard but they rarely say why. This book explains some of that mystery.

Yawn award: Crossroads of Twilight (WoT #10), by Robert Jordan. The 9th Wheel of Time book had the most epic ending ever and then Jordan killed the momentum by writing his most boring book of the series. He spends the first 500 pages telling us how every rock, stick, and item of clothing reacted to the event at the end of book 9. My brain was too desensitized to notice anything interesting after that. The next time I re-read this series, I'm skipping this book.

Chick award: Star of the Morning, by Lynn Kurland. This book is pegged as fantasy, but it's all about the romance. This is an extremely clean romance, which makes it a safe, enjoyable escape read.

Funniest book: Bored of the Rings, by the Harvard Lampoon. This book has more than its fair share of sexual and potty-mouth humor, but there are also plenty of bouts of real humor. Even though I felt like a vile betrayer reading something that mocks something as sacred as Lord of the Rings, I sniggered through most of the book. Simply reading the names was enough to give me some much-needed comic relief during my study breaks. Sorhead and ballhog were among my favorite names.

Saddest book: Messenger, by Lois Lowry. This book is sad, obviously, but I've read other sad books that don't affect me like this one does. I cried buckets of tears both times I read this book, though luckily I was alone when I read it this year.

Book I was most pleasantly surprised by: Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah. I checked this book out from the library, but ended up turning it in before I had a chance to read it. A few days later I saw this book again when I was buying a new journal at Barnes and Noble. So I bought it. Usually when I pick up a book I've never heard of before or have some vague interest in, it ends up being a "meh" read. That was not the case with this book. I loved it. It's beautiful, tragic, inspiring, and educational, all wrapped in one lovely package.

Book I was most disappointed in: The Three Musketeers, by Alexadre Dumas. The '90s version of this movie holds a special place in my heart, partly because of childhood memories and the Bryan Adams song at the end. I expected this book to be about lovable rogues who have great adventures, just like in the movie, but instead it was 600 pages of a violently hormonal d'Artagnan, lazy men who gamble and sleep with other men's wives, and slight after slight on the female race.

Book that fueled my hope for humanity: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith. Life can be good even if you're poor and your dad's a drunk. Like The Casual Vacancy, this book starkingly reflects real life--every messy bit of it--but unlike the Casual Vacancy, I closed the book filled with hope.

Book that would make a great movie: I debated between a Wheel of Time book and The Goose Girl, and eventually my girlie side won out and picked The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale. It's a great story that I think boys and girls, men and women, would enjoy. And I certainly wouldn't mind seeing the relationship between Ani and Geric on screen.

Book that should not be made into a movie: Again, I debated between two books: The Giver and The Casual Vacancy. As much as I don't want to see The Casual Vacancy on screen, I think it's still more doable than The Giver. I don't know how filmmakers could do it justice, especially since Jonas lives in a world without basic things like color. Half the greatness of the book is the little discoveries throughout as you realize this world doesn't have things we all take for granted; we don't need a movie to spell all that out for us.

Book I wouldn't mind living in: The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. Watterson captures childhood perfectly through Cavlin and Hobbes. I would love to be one of Calvin's playmates and join him on one of his many adventures. That is, after I filched the Transfimogrifier (sp?) and turned myself into a boy. Otherwise Calvin would only throw snowballs at me, even if it was in the middle of July.

Most thought provoking: The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. Every night after I put my bedtime reading aside, I would lie in bed and think about the themes in this novel: redemption, hope, abuse, relationships. This book deals with a lot of difficult issues, but it sure gave me a lot to think about (and to be grateful for).

Most unique: Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad. Most of the books I read fall under the YA and fantasy categories, so I've been trying to expand my world view a bit. I never would have picked up Heart of Darkness just for fun, but it was a surprisingly enjoyable read.

Favorite character: Razo, from River Secrets by Shannon Hale (he also appears in the other Books of Bayern, but this book is about him). I love his easy-going nature. I love his obsession with food. I love his crazy hair. I love his ability to crack jokes in any situation. And I love that he loves his little sister, Rinn, so much. He may not be the best warrior, but he has unique skills that don't force him into the limelight all the time. This is the type of guy I could easily fall for.

Least favorite character: That would be Simon from The Casual Vacancy. He had to battle a lot of other venomous characters from The Casual Vacancy to get this award.

Character I could relate to most: Rinn from Forest Born by Shannon Hale. Rinn is basically me when I was a teenager, except I didn't have like 12 older siblings. There are so many things about her that I understood on a deeply emotional level.

Best crop of the year: You know a book is good if you'd recommend it to your friends without hesitation. Here's the most satisfying crop of books I came across this year (in no particular order).
  • The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
  • The Gathering Storm (WoT #12), by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
  • The Books of Bayern series, by Shannon Hale
  • Sons of Oak (Runelords #5), by David Farland
  • The Giver, by Lois Lowry
  • Messenger, by Lois Lowry
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
  • Bored of the Rings, by Henry Beard
  • Christmas Jars, by Jason F. Wright
  • Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah
  • The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
Complete list of books read during 2012 (to see my reviews, click here):
Cinder and Ella, by Melissa Lemon
Crossroads of Twilight (WoT #10), by Robert Jordan
Knife of Dreams (WoT #11), by Robert Jordan
The Indispensable Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
The Gathering Storm (WoT #12), by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
The Five Love Languages, by Gary Chapman
Towers of Midnight (WoT #13), by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
Star of the Morning, by Lynn Kurland
The Scent of Cherry Blossoms: A Romance from the Heart of Amish Country, by Cindy Woodsmall
Switched, by Amanda Hocking
Torn, by Amanda Hocking
The Mage's Daughter, by Lynn Kurland
Sons of Oak (Runelords #5), by David Farland
Princess of the Sword, by Lynn Kurland
Ascend, by Amanda Hocking
Worldbinder (Runelords #6), by David Farland
The Wyrmling Horde (Runelords #7), by David Farland
Defenders of the Covenant, by Angie Lofthouse
The Goose Girl, by Shannon Hale
Enna Burning, by Shannon Hale
River Secrets, by Shannon Hale
Forest Born, by Shannon Hale
Alcatraz vs. the Scrivener's Bones (Alcatraz #2), by Brandon Sanderson
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini
The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
Lincoln: The Biography of a Writer, by Fred Kaplan
The Three Musketeers, by Alexander Dumas
Of Grace and Chocolate, by Krista Lynne Jensen
The Giver, by Lois Lowry
Gathering Blue, by Lois Lowry
Messenger, by Lois Lowry
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Cinderellis and the Glass Hill, by Gail Carson Levine
The Princess Test, by Gail Carson Levine
A World Without Heroes, by Brandon Mull
A Pillar of Light (W&G #1), by Gerald N. Lund
The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James
Like a Fire Is Burning (W&G #2), by Gerald N. Lund
Heart of Darkness, by Joseph Conrad
The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling
Truth Will Prevail (W&G #3), by Gerald N. Lund
Bored of the Rings, by the Harvard Lampoon
Thy Gold to Refine (W&G #4), by Gerald N. Lund
A Season of Joy (W&G #5), by Gerald N. Lund
Christmas Jars, by Jason F. Wright
Some Kind of Fairy Tale, by Graham Joyce
Winter Garden, by Kristin Hannah
Praise to the Man (W&G #6), by Gerald N. Lund
Stardust of Yesterday, by Lynn Kurland
Princess of the Silver Woods, by Jessica Day George
The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

My 2012 resolution: Be uncomfortable

In the past, my New Years Resolutions from year to year have been much the same: be nicer to my siblings, do my jobs without Mom telling me to, work out more, save money, get good grades. I usually came up with a list of 15–20 things I wanted to "improve" on that I smugly hung up somewhere in my bedroom or shyly hid in my journal.

But this year I decided to approach the New Years Resolution thing a little bit differently. As much as I love crossing things off my to-do list, I thought it would be more effective to focus on being rather than doing. If you don't know the difference, read this conference talk. It rocks.

I couldn't resist making a few list-like resolutions, but I made one resolution that became my theme for the year: be uncomfortable.

My bishop is always encouraging us to put ourselves into situations where we will be uncomfortable. Go out on missionary visits. Say hi to a long-haired hooligan. Bear your testimony to your co-workers. He's told me a couple of times that there's nothing he loves more than being uncomfortable, as long as it doesn't kill him.

I don't share Bishop Ayre's enthusiasm about discomfort. I've done a pretty good job avoiding it up till now. So I took upon myself a real New Years challenge this year; one that would require real change, not one that I would probably do even if I didn't consciously decide to do it.

While I didn't seize as many opportunities as I could have to be uncomfortable (even Bishop Ayre agrees that there's a limit to the amount of discomfort you can handle), I launched myself into the realm of discomfort many a time. In summary:

  • I went to several FHEs.
  • I participated in my ward's co-ed softball team.
  • I spoke in sacrament meeting.
  • I asked my home teachers to give me a blessing.
  • I made the best of my smoker's apartment.
  • I moved out of my smoker's apartment.
  • I worked out where people could see me.
  • I decided to go to grad school.
  • I survived my first semester of grad school.
  • I voiced my opinions at work.
  • I voiced my opinions at school.
  • I asked more questions at work (and not just through email—I approached people for help more times than I care to remember).
  • I shared a little bit more of myself on my blog.
  • I talked to people at work a little more (though I still blush whenever anyone so much as looks at me).
  • I performed a couple times with my mom and sisters.
Most of the time, being so uncomfortable made me all the more aware of my weaknesses. I spent a ridiculous amount of time dwelling on how much I hate going to social functions by myself and how much I dread casually swinging by someone's office to remind them to get their newsletter articles to me. Many of the hopes I harbored were dashed when my brief, adrenaline-filled bouts of discomfort failed to produce any short-term blessings.

But overall, being uncomfortable allowed me to confront my weaknesses and show them that they aren't the boss of me. Asking questions isn't so hard anymore. When people ask for my opinion on something, I can answer them without saying "I don't know about that—ask so-and-so." Others claim to have been blessed by my moments of discomfort, like my home teachers who came over to my apartment at 10:00 p.m. to give me a healing blessing, and the people who listened to me sing with my mom and sisters.

I didn't make this resolution because I wanted to check it off the list and be done with it. I made it because I hope being uncomfortable will become a bigger part of who I am. And I'm not done focusing on this theme—not by a long shot.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

One smile

I stopped by Smith's today on my way home from work. As usual, I was frazzled from a long day of work: nine hours of reading off a computer screen, fighting with html code, editing other people's writing and trying not to get too worked up over questions that end in periods, and wondering how the heck this not having a real boss thing could ever work. I wanted to get the errand done as fast as humanly possible so I could begin my de-stressing exercise at home.

I've become a bit of a champion quick grocery shopper. On days like today when I only have to stock up on the essentials, it almost takes more time to walk from my car to the store's entrance than it does to grab the items I need and whip them through the fast lane. Within minutes of entering the store, I exited it with my two bags of groceries and my gallon of milk.

The only thing separating me from my car was the old man monitoring the basket of coins and dollar bills that hurried shoppers left for charity on their way out. Usually I avoid these stations, but that's really hard to do during this time of year when volunteers are stationed at every entrance of every store. So I settled for my next-most effective avoidance maneuver: I tried not to look the man in the eye and quickened my pace a little.

As I passed him, the man said, "Merry Christmas." I risked a glance back, and saw that he was smiling a genuine smile, his eyes sparkling a bit under his bushy, gray eyebrows. If I still believed in Santa Claus, I would have been convinced that this man was Santa in disguise. He looked as if he wanted nothing more than to ring the cheap bell outside in the cold as people rushed passed him avoiding his gaze. His smile was the most real thing I've seen all week. It washed away my stress and fatigue quicker than an episode of Boy Meets World could.

I drove home thinking about all the smiles I had received that week—the ones that were only there out of politeness or because someone wanted something. I thought about all the smiles I hadn't received, like when I went to my ward Christmas party on Monday.

But the only thing that really mattered was that old man. He didn't smile because he was about to ask me a favor, nor did he keep his smile to himself because he sensed that I wasn't friendly. He just smiled.  I doubt he knows what a gift that smile was to me, but it'll be at the top of my list of "gratefuls" when I go to sleep tonight.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Revisiting that wonderful feeling

I can think of few feelings that are as wonderful as the one you get when a semester officially comes to an end. I think I've been a little bit in denial the past 11 weeks when I told others (and myself) that school wasn't a huge burden because I had the free time to dedicate to it. I figured that since I finished studying by 9:00 p.m. every day, I wasn't making as big of a sacrifice as most people thought I was. The past month has taught me otherwise, as I struggled more than I ever have to find the motivation to finish that final sprint.

It's been over two years since I've experienced this, but once again I find myself enveloped in that comforting "whoosh" feeling. All you current and former students know what I mean—you feel warm from the inside out as if you've just drunk a mug of delicious hot cocoa, and if it weren't for gravity, you would float away because that iron bar that's been crushing your shoulder blades for weeks has suddenly disappeared.

It's such a good feeling. It almost makes all the suffering worth it.

The feeling gets even better when you realize that there are four complete weeks standing between you and the next semester. By then, I'm sure I'll be ready to jump back into the fire. 

But until then, I'm going to relax, have fun, and enjoy the Christmas spirit. Hard work (after 5:00 p.m., that is) will commence in 2013.

Friday, December 7, 2012

"I have all these thoughts, and I HAVE to say them!"

My boss at BYU had this grandson who wouldn't talk. When he was about five, his parents took him to "therapy," where they literally fed the kid candy whenever he said anything. That did the trick. From that point on, he wouldn't stop talking. One night, this kid and his brother were staying at Mel's house for the night, and after enduring nonstop talking for about 15 minutes, the older brother said, "Russel--I'm trying to sleep. Please stop talking!" To which Russel responded: "I have all these thoughts, and I have to say them!"

I sympathize with that kid. I know what it feels like to have your head stuffed so full of thoughts you feel like you'll explode if you don't let some of them out. Hmmmm. I just had a possibly brilliant idea. I could rename this blog "Dumbledore's Pensieve." Too much?
  • I've uncovered another truth about adulthood. When I was a kid, I thought one of the great things about being an adult was that you didn't have to do anything anyone told you to do. I already learned that adults still have to do what they're told, but now I realize how much of a luxury it is to have someone to tell you what to do.
  • And another realization: getting a promotion isn't all about the glory. It means you're about to be a lot more uncomfortable, all the time. At least, that's the case if you're like me and you're very unambitious when it comes to climbing the corporate ladder.
  • I now understand how it's possible to get overwhelmed by emails. I check my inboxes constantly and I like them to be clean. Seeing that I have 12 unread emails makes my blood pressure rise a little. Now, all of the sudden, I am getting 100+ emails a day and it's impossible to keep up with them all. I guess I'm going to have to de-OCD my email habits.
  • The parallels between my life now and my life eight years ago is just freaky.  
  • Last night I learned that I do not have the correct genes required to load new staples in a staple gun.
  • This morning I had an unusually mundane dream. I dreamed about getting ready for work, making breakfast, and talking to people at work about normal work things. Boring.
  • I am so happy it's Friday I could . . . take a nap.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Gratefuls: Nov 26–30

Nov 26: My homework isn't so important that it can't be put off for a day.

Nov 27: Opportunities to relive the past. These opportunities come up more often than you might think. Sometimes, they make you sad because they act as painful reminders that time is the great destroyer and that things can't be the same again. But other times, it's like no time has passed at all and everything feels . . . right, just like it did before. People say you shouldn't live in the past, but I think it's okay to treasure those opportunities to relive the past when they come. God knows I hate change, and each chance he gives me to temper the severance of change is a tender mercy.

Nov 28: Pure, milk chocolate. Especially the kind that can only be bought from obscure companies that rely on high school kids saving up for choir tour to make sales.

Nov 29: Pictures of my nephews. Especially the one of them sitting in the snow. Jaxson's expression of ultimate betrayal is priceless.

Nov 30: It's Friday! Even though I have hours of suffering (i.e., homework that I've been putting off that must be faced) waiting for me this weekend, at least I won't have to go to work too. And, whether I'm ready or not, everything will be turned in by Sunday at midnight. Maybe I'll be a little bit less of a stress ball next week. I doubt it, but I can always hope.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

That change thing again

While growing up, I had this perfect image in my head of what my future would be like. It's the future a lot of LDS girls dream of having: marrying a rich, handsome, and spiritually strong husband in the temple by age 21 and getting right to work at being a stay-at-home mom.

In hindsight, it's somewhat amusing to note how few things over the past 10 years have turned out the way I thought they would. All that meticulous planning and preparation doesn't amount to much when life rears its ugly head and forces the dreaded "C" word.

Once again I've found myself in a situation I didn't see coming, a change I really didn't want to happen unless it was on my own terms. Silly me. I should know by now that life takes great pleasure in taking these "terms" and tossing them over cliffs into the turbulent waters below rather than carving them into stone and treating it like a sacred artifact.

But the thing that annoys me most is that the enemy--Change--isn't actually the horned bad guy I like to envision him as. I put a lot of energy into hating Change (though most of the hate comes naturally), but it seems like every time Change comes along, he wins the I'm-righter-than-you-are argument.

And then things have a way of working out. Even worse, I find myself praising Change for forcing me into situations I never would have put myself in, allowing me to learn, stretch, and grow, in turn making me a better, stronger, more empathetic person. It galls me to admit that my life has been enriched by Change, that some of the greatest blessings I have come from the thing I consider my enemy.

So in the end everybody wins, even if some of us incur considerable losses along the way. Just once, though, I'd like to punch Change's smug little face. That'll even out the playing field a bit.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Gratefuls: Nov 21–25

Nov 21: I'm an optimist. And sometimes, I'm an unrealistic optimist. Today, this little bubble of protection I've been living in for the past few months shattered. So I'll admit, I wasn't able to come up with anything I am truly grateful for until the day was almost over.

Most people don't like their bosses. Many people spend their working hours working for a tyrant and then go home and complain about what their boss did to tick them off that day. If they found out their boss was leaving, they would shout "Hallelujah!" and throw a party. But when my boss told me today that he was no longer an employee of the company, the last thing I wanted to do was shout for joy. As the day wore on, I had that awful feeling you get after someone just dies. You may be able to distract yourself enough to forget about your troubles for a short period of time, but eventually you notice that hole in your chest and wonder why it's there. And then you remember.

I'm not necessarily grateful for the pain, but it's only the lucky ones who are devastated when their boss is no longer their boss. I've been extremely fortunate these past two years.

Nov 22: Hot apple pie with vanilla ice cream. Mmmmmmmm.

Nov 23: The Cartettes still got it.

Nov 24: Books that have more entertainment value than literary value. Book snobs frown upon these books, but it is so wonderful to read something that makes it so effortless to immerse yourself into and escape from reality for a little while.

Nov 25: The houses that I can always count on to have Christmas lights up right after Thanksgiving. It's comforting to have the same expectations about certain things year after year, and to see those expectations fulfilled year after year. The world can crumble all around us, but that doesn't stop people from decorating for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Gratefuls: Nov 14–20

Nov 14: My co-workers. I have a boss that is tailor-made for my personality and co-workers that understand the importance of having a sense of humor.

Nov 15: Not having to go anywhere after getting home from work.

Nov 16: Crossing scary things off my to-do list early in the day.

Nov 17: (1) The people at the grocery store who had the same harassed, I-didn't-want-to-go-anywhere-today look, whose hair was pulled back into a hasty ponytail, who didn't bother putting on any makeup, and who wore long coats to cover their pajamas underneath. I felt a strange kinship with these people. (2) While everyone else was bemoaning the loss of their beloved Twinkies, it finally occurred to me that my favorite treat may be gone forever as well—those little, one-dollar cherry pie things. Luckily, grocery stores still sell canned pie cherries, so they will help me cope with my loss.

Nov 18: Today I realized that there are Rivendell apartments and a Privet Drive in my ward. Clearly I picked the right ward, if not the right apartment complex.

No 19: One day down, two more to go. . . .

Nov 20: The fact that I don't have to talk to anyone on Tuesdays. It's a lot easier to revel in my typical Tuesday blues that way. There's something about fueling a bad mood that is oddly satisfying.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Burning books

I used to joke about burning my textbooks at the end of every semester. My plan was to get a big group of people together—all laden down with the textbooks that put them to sleep and broke their backs—lug the offending books up to a canyon somewhere, and throw a big bonfire.

Of course, I never did it. It would have required too much effort and planning for one, and, no matter how much I hated a book, I felt a little Hitler-ish even joking about sending it to its fiery grave. So of the books I had no wish to see again, I sold back the ones I could and threw away my science textbooks.

As you all know, I bought J.K. Rowling's new book, The Casual Vacancy, awhile back. It became clear to me early on that this definitely wasn't going to be a book I would reread. So I decided I would try to sell it when I finished it.

I got even further into the book, and the thought of making a profit out of putting this book into someone's unknowing, innocent hands made me feel a little guilty. So my next plan was to recycle it, make the book pay for the tree to whom it owes its life.

I finally finished the book. Over the next few days, I noticed a lot more sunshine in my life, sunshine that couldn't get through the dark cloud that was hovering over my head during my two-week mad dash to finish the book no matter what. My hatred for the book had just become a lot more personal. It wasn't just the time I wasted reading the book now; it was the effect it had on my life while I was reading it. Suddenly, recycling it seemed too good a punishment for this book. My thoughts once again strayed to my bonfire of burning books, only this time it was hundreds of copies of just one book rather than a variety of old textbooks.

The idea was hard to push aside, especially since my fireplace has become my new favorite toy of late.

And then something snapped. I did the unthinkable: I tore out the first 10 pages of The Casual Vacancy.

There was no stopping me now.

Feeling like I did the time I cut seminary to buy prom shoes, I lit the pages on fire and watched with glee as the flames erupted right there in front of me. (Note to self: paper makes much bigger flames than wood.) I continued to feed the fire a few pages at a time. (Note #2 to self: paper burns a lot faster than wood). I watched in fascination as the blackened corners curled up into ashen balls and disintegrated through the fire grate. I thought about all the characters I abhorred and how their existence was melting away right in front of me, about how the hellish town was literally being devoured by fire. It made me smile.

After the 503 interior pages were blessedly gone, I threw in the dust jacket. Throwing something into flames that are inside your living quarters is probably not the smartest thing to do, by the way. I was a little worried when the flames whooshed upward and the dust jacket started bubbling all weirdly (from that point on I kept my ice-cold fridge water by my side, just in case), but I'm sure this fireplace has weathered more dangers than the likes of me playing with it. I promise, Mom, my life (and my apartment building) was never in any real danger. Although if anyone heard my evil giggles emanating from my apartment they might have thought otherwise.

And finally, it was the cover's turn to go. I almost couldn't get it to catch fire, but the flames eventually started slowly licking away at the spine.

A half hour later, my book was gone. It was nothing more than a rather large pile of ashes, some of which still have letters on them. Take that, you vile, crummy book.

*I have to point out that even though I loved hating on this book, that doesn't mean I think everyone else should burn their copies, nor would I apply physical force to keep anyone away from the book (if they are older than 18, that is). Because that would really be Hitler-ish of me.*

So good-bye, The Casual Vacancy. You will not be missed.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Gratefuls: Nov 8–13

Nov 8: BYU choirs. I like having a sister in one of the choirs because otherwise I probably wouldn't go to any of the concerts. The Women's Chorus always sounds like a choir of angels and the Men's Chorus--ah, the men. Just picture them singing songs from The Jungle Book. The possibilies are endless: Drums. Dancing. Jumping off the risers. Animal sounds. Grass skirts.

Nov 9: Gloomy winter weather and "handsome" snow. Even in the city it looks like a winter wonderland.

Nov 10: My fireplace. It took two hours to rearrange my living room to my liking without anything blocking blocking the fire and I have to add matches to the list of things I have no idea where to find in a grocery store, but it was worth it.

Nov 11: I finally finished The Casual Vacancy. I hated that book about as much as I love the Harry Potter books.

Nov 12: Heat. The heater and back-up generator in my work building broke, so it wasn't unusual to see someone bundled up in coat, scarf, and gloves not to go grab lunch, but to go to the bathroom. When I finally got home I was greeted with the beautiful sound of my furnace working its magic. I then threw a log in the fireplace and sat in front of it for two hours, unthawing. It was positively delightful.

Bad photography aside, does this not look very much like a Harry-Potter-esque place to study? I just need a squashy armchair instead of a mushroom chair. And Hermione to "help" me with my papers.
Nov 13: Leigh Butler's Wheel of Time Reread. It's the highlight of my Tuesdays. Every time I hit the "Refresh" button and a new post appears, I smile, sit up a little straighter, and wait impatiently until lunchtime. Sadly, she's almost done with Towers of Midnight, so soon I won't have any WoT goodness to distract me until the last book comes out.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Research papers: A major flaw of the education system

I have two 15-page papers due after Thanksgiving, and I'm starting to experience some procrastination anxiety. I'm far more behind than I should be. More than once over the past several weeks I have seriously questioned my state of mind when I decided it would be "fun" to give up my well-earned freedom and dive back into school again.

I. Hate. Research. Papers.

Not only do I hate them, but I think they're a major flaw of the education system. As an English major undergrad, I wrote my fair share of papers (though I brilliantly maneuvered my schedule so that somehow the longest research paper I ever had to write was 12 pages long, and that was for my senior capstone class).

My sole complaint of my academic experience has centered on the focus the system puts on research. Research is all well and good if you plan to get a PhD in some obscure subject, but for us normal people, I never saw the value in it.

There are several reasons for this. First is that parameters (number of pages and scholarly sources) and MLA style got way too much attention. I always felt that teachers were discouraging me from using my own brain because unless I had "evidence" from some faceless scholar to back up each of my arguments, they would tell me my paper was lacking in some way. I wasted so much time trying to get MLA citations right, and teachers wasted even more time emphasizing the importance of italicizing book titles and enclosing journal articles in quotation marks. I've also always had a hard time meeting the minimum page requirement; I am a very concise thinker, and therefore writer, and it really bugs me that I get punished for having the ability to say something in 20 words instead of 100.

Second, I have never actually learned anything useful from any of the research papers I have done. This is probably because of the way I approach research papers--getting the stupid thing done rather than adding my thoughts to the ongoing conversation. The only thing good about finishing a research paper is turning it in so I can finally cleanse it from my brain.

Third, it seems like academia is trying to turn us all into researchers rather than people with actual skills. This is the main reason why I favored my editing minor over my English major; in the minor, we practiced doing actual things that editors do, like editing, indexing, and proofing layouts. In the major, we spent hours rifting through the library's website, looking for sources for our research papers. Sure, we got a lot of writing practice, but I think we would have been much better served learning how to write persuasively and interestingly rather than wasting all of our time on the library website. I loved that my English major taught me how to think, but it wasn't the research papers that did that--it was the response papers and the class discussions that broadened my horizon.

Fourth, I hate talking like an academic. It takes all the fun out of writing if you have to sound like a stuffy old intellectual. I have to eliminate almost all traces of me in order to conform to proper standards. It must be incredibly awful to grade research papers.

Fifth, I strongly suspect that most of the time, teachers make us write papers and then do a boring presentation just so they don't have to prepare any material for two weeks. I will forever despise them for that.

But that's the way the system works. I doubt a rant from me will change anything, especially since those with the power won't pay it any mind if I sound like a real human being.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Gratefuls: Nov 1–7

A lot of people are doing a daily grateful thing for the month of November. Work is really slow this week, so I thought I'd fill in the time gaps thinking about some of the things I'm grateful for.

Nov 1: Halloween is over!

Nov 2: After almost dying of the stomach flu, I have my appetite back. For dinner I had a small salad, a rather large scone, French fries, 4 chicken fingers, and a large chocolate milkshake. It was a delightful, extremely fattening meal to say the least.

Nov 3: My dad. He turned old again: 50. And, as a random side note, he'll be double my age for the next 10 months.

Nov 4: Going to church after missing two weeks in a row. Just like I never really appreciated my healthy body until it raged an awful war inside me, I never really noticed the light that regular church-going brings into my life until I had to do without it for two weeks. Believe me, I felt the loss.

Nov 5: I cooked a real meal for the first time in three weeks, and it turned out quite successfully.

Nov 6: In hopes of avoiding long lines, I stepped out of the office at 10:30 to go vote. I only had to wait about five minutes. Score! And, I finally had the energy and the strength to enjoy a lovely Autumn walk.

Nov 7: I can run up and down stairs again without crashing. Well, no more than normal, that is.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

20 years ago, on a day much like today . . .

The date was October 31, 1992. A young, mysterious family of six pulled up to the new house on Cortez Drive in their white station wagon. No one knew where these strangers had come from, but judging by the constant stream of moving vans it was clear they intended to stay.

Just before twilight, a couple of the children, cleverly disguised as pigs and bunnies, emerged from the house and set out on their reconnaissance mission. At house after house they stopped, gathering intel and dangerous amounts of sugar along the way. (The parents would expect payment, after all.)

Meanwhile, back at the newly occupied house, swarms of children pressed their sticky fingers against the pristine doorbell, ignoring the "There's no candy here" sign. The woman inside occasionally appeared at the window, the dull glow of the incandescent light inside casting shadows across her unfamiliar face. But mostly the woman ignored the children, focusing on unpacking box after box of curious artifacts.

As the years passed, the neighbors suspected that something was slightly amiss at this new place. Alarming sounds were constantly being emitted from the yellow-hued structure: loud laughter, pitiful wailing, echoing booms, elephantine nose-blowing, thunderous stomping, and random bursts of operatic noise-making.

The sights were rather curious as well. A young girl (sometimes two) regularly climbed out her window after dark with a towel on her head. The boy seemed to have an unruly fascination with throwing rocks and knives. Sometimes the children chased each other around the house in crazed fury, sometimes in wild delight. And as if to throw invisible spies off their trail, these strange human beings left the house in a variety of costumes, from softball uniforms to princess dresses, at odd times.

Those who watched this house over the years, looking for suspicious activity, never found proof that the residents were particularly harmful. But as the house paint faded and the trees grew taller, one thing became increasingly clear: this 20-year-old structure has indeed housed a host of strange people over the years, but there's no doubt that the people there lived.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Advice from my 20-year-old self: Don't die of boredom

I had a teacher at BYU who told us there were two qualifications that set you apart as a "true" English major: (1) you must be able to bench press the weight of the books you lug around every semester, and (2) you must not sell back your Norton anthologies, but rather keep them so you can display them proudly in your future home.

I actually did try weight lifting with one of my anthologies and a few of my reference books once because they were the heaviest "small" things I owned, and while they possessed the necessary weight for me to get some value out of the workout, they had no convenient handles to make it possible to lift the book without it slipping from my grasp, so it wasn't the best use of my time. 

I also took Dr. Mason's second stricture to heart and never sold back my anthologies. They currently sit at the bottom of my bookshelf, but only because the rest of the shelves are too flimsy to hold that much weight. I kept them because I wanted to proudly display my nerdiness to the world and because I had a feeling they would come in handy again some day. (And, I wanted to finish reading Utopia some day.)

Fast forward five years later: once again, I'm studying the works that are great enough to anthologized. Once again, I find myself shuffling through the Bible-thin pages and poring over agonizingly long pages of minuscule text in preparation for class discussion the next day.

One of the works I've been assigned to read this term is Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad. I read parts of this my sophomore year in college in Dr. Mason's class, and I did not care for it at all. I hated postmodernism from the moment I learned the term, and I sat through the class discussion with glazed over eyes caused by both boredom and sleep deprivation.

I'm a little more prepared for HoD at this point in my life; I've even enjoyed reading it somewhat. But the funnest part about revisiting this work is reading all the little notes I wrote in the margins during those long two-hour blocks of English 292/293. I don't remember any of the discussions that went along with the notes, but I'm glad I jotted them down all the same; they remind me of what I am supposed to be learning from the text and provide me with insightful content to impress my classmates with—they think I was smart enough to come up with all this on my own.

Today, after slogging through a particularly uninteresting segment about Mr. Kurtz, I noted a small paragraph of text I had squished into the margin:
2 choices: (1) make someone who is already depraved even more depraved. (plunder) (2) Kurtz - starts at the top and ends up lower than anyone else.
Beneath this fascinating commentary was a small insertion on the corner of the page:
Don't die of boredom.
How thoughtful of my 20-year-old self to leave that note for the benefit of future readers. How fitting that I chose to keep myself awake by playing the role of the Half-Blood Prince and planting my own pearl of wisdom next to the ancient text.

Still in the early excitement of being back in school, I did not need this thoughtful little warning at this time. I am, in fact, still excited enough about school to look forward to going home so I can do homework. And, may I add, a little more prepared to appreciate stream-of-consciousness writing. 

But thanks for the warning anyway, 20-year-old self. Maybe in a year or so I'll find a similar warning that will be much more fitting of my situation.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Memo: Dressing up for Halloween

To whom it may concern:

Many of you have your Halloween costumes picked out by now. You've gathered the costume "ingredients" and now they're sitting in your closet, waiting to be concocted into that masterpiece you've been envisioning since early September. You're obviously excited about being someone else for a day, which could explain why you've replaced the typical ice-breaker questions like "Where are you from?" and "What do you do?" with "What are you being for Halloween?"

There is one major reason why this question is unacceptable when posed to adults: some of us stopped agonizing over that decision when we were 12, and therefore the assumption that we know what we want to be for Halloween is unfounded. It is unclear when Halloween became an adult, rather than kid, holiday, but some of us obviously missed the boat when the tides changed.

What's that you say? Dressing up is fun? If you mean watching others walk around as celebrities, inanimate objects, and mystical creatures is fun, then you're right--that is high entertainment.

But wait, I'm a stick in the mud if I don't participate in this childishness? Way to state the obvious: of course I'm a stick in the mud, and proud of it.

So to all of you who make it your life's ambition to convince your stubborn friend to dress up for Halloween, or who is offended when someone you invited to a raucous Halloween party turns down your invitation without a moment's hesitation--give up. Don't waste your energy on hopeless causes. Focus your energy instead on ignoring the offending person while you go about celebrating as you wish. It's the only way we'll all make it through this holiday without any casualties.


An annoyed, disgruntled, stick-in-the-mud adult

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


When I was little, my parents discovered the most wonderful place: Tepanyaki. It was a paradise of food entertainment, intoxicating smells, and wonderful, wonderful food. My parents liked it so much that they decided to risk taking their five small children there. At the same time.

And thus began the traditional, once-a-year outing, one we took in honor of the August birthdays and then in honor of the August and September birthdays (today there are six in all).

Yesterday I prepared myself appropriately for this great event. I didn't make myself eat carrots for lunch because I knew I'd be getting a healthy helping of vegetables at dinner. I didn't eat anything after 1:00 p.m. to ensure I would be adequately starving by the time dinner was served. I blotted out my dinner plans for the next two nights because even after eating my delicious fill, I would still have leftovers to enjoy the next day.

But then, just minutes before arriving at the restaurant, I got a call from my dad: Tepanyaki was closed. Not just for dinner, but forever. No more giant waves of flame at the dinner table. No more onion-ring volcanoes. No more being served airborne shrimp.

We had a terrible crisis on our hands.

I was all for succumbing to the depression of foiled dinner plans and tarnished memories, but Tiffany and Jeremy immediately presented us with a way salvage our Autumnal birthday celebration in the future: go to Tucanos instead. With its endless array of food fit for the Carnivore Kings that we are (not to mention the mashed potatoes are to die for), we all agreed this was an acceptable alternative.

And thus a new tradition was born.

I am not one that generally welcomes change, and seeing one of my favorite, 15-year-old traditions come to an end was heartbreaking in a way. It was at Tepanyaki, not Tucanos, that we fed two-year-old Shannan the onion soup just so we could laugh at her facial expressions. It was at Tepanyaki, not Tucanos, that Dad taught us how to eat with chopsticks (of course, most of us gave up on those silly sticks when the growling of our stomachs got louder than the sizzling meat on the table). We didn't need menus because we had our meals picked out a year in advance; it was okay if we didn't understand what the chef was saying because we had his "script" memorized better than he did; we knew which tricks to watch for and they never got old. We were the most loyal once-a-year customers at the place.

I would have gladly kept that tradition going forever, but maybe it's not such a bad thing that circumstances have forced us to change. A similar thing happened when we discontinued our Rushton/Carter Christmas Eve celebration so we could celebrate that special night with our own families. It was sad at first, but it was necessary in order to create new cherishable memories.

Only time will tell what how Tucanos will contribute to our August/September birthday dinner. In the meantime, though, I'm glad there's still a Tepanyaki in Lehi.

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Today, my favorite color is orange.

It's the color of the fake flowers I bought today and that serve as a subtle reminder that I have a place of my own to fill with my own homey things.

It's the color of the withering leaves underneath the trees that stand guard over the homes of my neighbors.

It's the color that streaks across the sky as the sun sets a little sooner than it did yesterday.

It's the color of the light that shines out of the lamp posts outside that look remarkably like the lamp post from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

It's the color of the warm glow emitting from window after window, where families are gathered together after a long, lazy Saturday to visit or watch football.

It's the color of my fluffy slippers that will soon replace my flip flops.

Welcome to fall.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Dear blog: I still like you

I feel like I've been neglecting my blog lately. It reminds me of those times back in middle school when I was racked with guilt whenever I went more than a week without writing in my journal. I'm not sure if it's the writer in me or my marginally obsessive compulsion to document everything that causes this guilt.

Several times, I have come up with a promising title for a blog post, only to abandon it due to lack of thoughts to embellish upon or time to jot those thoughts down while they're still fresh. Even with my determination to get a blog post out today, I feel the slugishness slowly spreading across my mind, empowered by thoughts like "Why did you want to talk about this again?" and "This idea is sounding dumberer by the minute."

It used to be so easy for me to talk about nothing, but lately I've been too busy and then too tired to take the time necessary to ponder and write. But I've noticed that when I don't take time to ponder, life starts to lose some of its flavor. The leaves aren't as colorful. People aren't as amusing. My thoughts aren't worth preserving. Without all these venues for extra flavor, I've really got nothing to write about to satisfy the creative side of my brain. It's a rather disheartening process, I tell you.

So that's why I'm issuing this little reminder to a thing that doesn't have feelings or think for itself: blog, I still like you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Well it's, 3:00 . . . in the morning

About a year ago, I got a cold. And I was excited about it.

When I came to the conclusion earlier today (actually, technically that was yesterday) that I had acquired a cold once again, I was annoyed. Annoyed because this time, it's not funny that I have to blow my nose every 27 seconds. I'm growing weary of going to the bathroom every half hour because I'm drinking triple the amount of fluids I normally drink. I don't enjoy not being able to breathe, even if it means that I get to work at home on the couch in my pajamas.

Mostly, I'm annoyed because I had thought I had sunk back into invincible mode, which meant that I would only get sick every four years. Going through this cycle again wasn't part of my master plan.

It doesn't help that my "drowsy" cold medicine had the opposite of its intended effect. For three hours I laid in bed thinking about documenting my falling-asleep process in screen caps, and now I'm reading the 474-page 2014 EHR certification final rule. That's how wide awake I am right now.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sunday afternoons

Today as I drove home from church with my window rolled down, I saw families of a variety of different faiths and attire walking home from church. I saw teenagers and young adults talking to friends and significant others. I saw an old motorcycle gang riding leisurely through the streets of Cottonwood Heights.

When I got home, I immediately changed into my comfy clothes. I put some meat in the crock pot. I ate a chicken salad sandwich (or, as I prefer to call it, a "chicken fish" sandwich) and some grape tomatoes. Then I happily sunk into my Sunday-nap coma, the delicious smells of dinner slowly permeating my dreams. Upon waking, I saw that the sun was still shining and I had an entire glorious afternoon ahead of me, one that I could fill with whatever I wanted. To top it all off, I had a real meal (and possibly some chocolate cookies) and a perfect fall evening preparing to greet me, and thoughts of Monday morning haven't crossed my mind yet.

If only every day could be Sunday afternoon.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Highlights of my Labor Day weekend

  • The colorful mountain scenery that greeted me when I turned onto Elk Ridge Drive.
  • The epic thunderstorm at 5:30 a.m.
  • Seeing more than three stars at night.
  • Listening to the crickets.
  • Eating food off a stick.
  • Home-grown raspberries, tomatoes, and corn.
  • The music that plays when you pop in the first Fellowship of the Ring disc.
  • A few rousing rounds of Mad Gab.
  • The free onion we got with our shakes.
  • Watching the neighbor across the street play football with his son and grandkids on his front lawn.
  • Chocolate cake donuts.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The infallible cure to the summertime blues

I may be in the minority here, but I think summer is just too long. True, in February, summer sits on a glorious but unreachable pedestal, and I greet the first bursts of warm, dry air with the gratitude of one who has recently shed a heavy burden.

But then leisure turns into boredom, sunny skies turn into hazy heat waves, and my energy level falls into a continuous downward spiral. My subconscious knows that summer is about to end and I should relish the gloriousness I dream about during the dank winter months, but too much of a good thing prompts me indoors in front of the TV screen, my stores of creativity and motivation depleted.

Just when it seems like there is no cure to the summertime blues, the cosmic powers of the universe shift just slightly. The sun starts to set a little sooner. The unbearable 100+ degree temperatures give way to pleasant highs in the 80s and 90s. Kids suddenly start looking more well groomed, and stores like ShopKo and Walmart make a small fortune off of notebook and pencil sales. The guys at the office start throwing the football around. And soon you can no longer deny it--those trees in front of your office building aren't wilting from the heat; their leaves are changing color.

The infallible cure to the summertime blues? Autumn. Works every time.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Superheroes and fairy tales

There's been a pretty obvious trend going on in the book and movie industries over the past few years: superheroes and fairy tales. In fact, so much has been said about this topic that I could easily write a 30-page research paper on it. (I'll admit, the idea sparks some excitement.) But since I don't actually have to start thinking about research papers for another 33 days, I'll try to express my thoughts within the appropriate blogging guidelines.

Telling stories is part of human nature. We tell stories to entertain and to teach. Stories are often enriched by personal histories and traditions. Some stories are told or acted out, changing with each interpretation, while others are written down, to be preserved for generations. Stories give us a chance to escape to another world for a bit and to develop our imaginations.

There are those who would tell us it's unhealthy, even for children, to spend time in worlds full of happily-ever-afters and invincible superheroes. Stories like Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist and Robert Cormier's I Am the Cheese are perfectly acceptable because they won't risk making readers think that bunnies and chipmunks are adorable little creatures that will help them keep house, or that readers will one day discover a new power within themselves that allows them to beat up the bullies and get all the girls without any effort.

And yet, people still crowd the movie theaters to see the superheroes in action. Some are saying it's the need for a hero in this bleak world we live in that is driving ticket sales so effectively.

Personally, I love fairy tales; YA fairy-tale retellings are some of my favorite books. After the movie Thor came out, I decided I love watching superheros, too. I don't see anything wrong with a society that makes a huge profit off stories that couldn't possibly happen in real life. Even though we live in a world without pixie dust and vats of toxic waste lying around to miraculously change our circumstances, we can still relate to the characters, and, most importantly, rekindle hope for our own lives as we watch a stressful situation resolve nice and neatly on screen or in the pages of a book.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go watch Once Upon a Time.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Musings on the Olympics

I love the Olympics. I've been faithfully watching my favorite events (swimming and gymnastics) for over a week. Now that Michael Phelps has swum his last race and the women gymnasts are done competing for individual gold medals, my life will mostly resume its normal pace, one in which the evenings aren't decided by the number of athletes I just have to watch compete.

A few thoughts I've had while watching the Olympics from my pad:
  • Defeating Voldemort with a horde of Mary Poppinses is a brilliant idea in theory, but the execution of it was . . . lacking. There should have at least been some wand work going on. Hagrid could have led the Mary Poppinses with his own pink umbrella.
  • If I had planned the literature section of the Opening Ceremonies, it would have included a firework show put on by Dumbledore and Gandalf--that would have topped the Beijing Opening Ceremonies no sweat. Then an epic battle between the good guys and the bad guys would ensue. King Arthur would lead the good guys and would go charging into battle shouting, "FOR NARNIA!" Then the bad guys would fall into the fires of Mordor, which would be used to forge the Olympic rings.
  • I can't decide if it's a bigger travesty that most of the athletes who enter the games will not return home with a medal, or that many of the silver medalists are bitterly disappointed.
  • I'm not convinced that Michael Phelps is done swimming.
  • The women's gymnastics commentators need to brush up on their vocabulary. They've used the words"catastrophic" and "unbelievable" so much that they've lost their meanings.
  • I also wish that the commentators would employ the rule "If you can't think of anything not obvious to say, don't say anything at all." For example, if a gymnast flails a leg out while she's on the balance beam, I'm pretty sure the audience will still understand what just happened if the commentator doesn't say, "That was a slight balance check."
  • If I were a male diver, I would protest the uniform requirement. I don't care how much I loved the sport; I wouldn't succumb to such humiliation without a fight. But, what do I know? Maybe guys like to look like they're wearing diapers.
  • Sorry, but I think track and field is boring unless they're showing the runners in slow motion so you can watch their faces wobble.
  • I really wish there was a Olympic "no spoiler" rule on the internet. I accidentally learned the outcome of at least three of the major events before I got to watch it. The spoiler rule will never happen, so I'll just settle for complaining.
  • I actually watched some of the commercials for marketing education purposes. But I still hate them. Especially the Mountain Star Healthcare one.
  • I feel slightly patriotic when I'm on a walk and I pass dozens of houses that are watching the Olympics.
  • Watching these toned and fit athletes do incredible things makes me want to work out. My workout of choice is cross stitching on the couch.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bright spots on a deplorable Tuesday

I've never liked Tuesdays. Most people give Mondays the gold medal of hatred, but I have always reserved that honor for Tuesday--the day toward the beginning of the week in which you don't have the cushioning weekend effect to give you the boost needed to endure four more eternally long days.

But, as always, there are bright spots, even if I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel on this deplorable Tuesday. Such as:
  • My work day just went past the halfway-done mark.
  • It's Harry Potter's 32nd birthday! Only five more years until Harry sends Albus Severus off to Hogwarts in real time. Er, don't think about that too hard because it might give you a headache.
  • I just got my book list for my first semester of grad school. SQUEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An unconventional 8-5 week

I like having an 8-5 job. I like the stability and predictability (try saying that five times fast) that comes with it. I like waking up at the same time every day, having a pretty good idea of what to expect for the day ahead.

But even for those who don't mind sitting at a desk all day, doing the same thing day in and day out can get kind of boring, even if tasks and meetings keep you busy. A field trip to Office Max or an hour-and-a-half lunch break can go a long way in breaking up the tedium just enough to keep you content with the tedium.

My week so far has deviated from the norm quite a bit, adding a few more firsts to the story of my life.

  • While Sunday is not part of the typical work week, this Sunday's normal flow was disrupted slightly due to the fact that the entire bishopric was out of town. Our elder's quorum president conducted sacrament meeting, and he looked like a freshly ordained elder who is still getting used to wearing a suit, which he hasn't quite grown into yet.
  • I've written a lot of video scripts for marketing videos, and I've seen the finished products that were created from the scripts, but I've never witnessed the important middle part: shooting the video. I got to watch a real director and real actors try to impromptu their way through awkward segments. I was one of many who stood in the background, away from the lights and camera, watching the actors as they struggled to remember lines they looked at for the first time that morning. I was a bit mystified by the number of times the crew adjusted an actor's tie or told them to wipe the invisible sweat from their forehead. I am still amazed at the amount of skills and people required to create a 30-second video.
  • I also had my first (and hopefully last) cameo appearance, which featured Shari and me sitting awkwardly in the background.
  • I ate in a coffee shop for the first time. My curried-chicken sandwich weirded me out. People watching was fun though.
  • July 24th--the holiday that isn't a holiday. It was a normal day for me, but not normal enough to stop the booms and pops that echoed through the darkness that night (thankfully people were done making noise by about 11:30).
  • In honor of a departing co-worker and to welcome a new one to the crew, we went to Cafe Rio for lunch. Seriously, I don't know why I don't take real lunch breaks more often.
As for today, well, I can't believe it's Thursday already.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Laments from an early morning hater

I once wrote a story about a young girl whose favorite hobby was waking up before sunrise to sneak to the mysterious forest across the street. It was during these times, when the air was still, the dew was fresh, the town was quiet, and the sun was rising, that this girl felt most happy to be alive.

This was one of the few times I didn't heavily inject my own personality into my fictional character. I drew from what others had said about the tranquility of early mornings because I certainly had no memories to draw from. I much prefer to experience mornings with my eyes closed.

But there are times that I wish I could truly enjoy a sunrise and ponder on the symbolism of each new day. I wish I could drink in the fresh morning air instead of the air that's already gone stale. I agree that mornings are beautiful, but I am not genetically programmed to appreciate them fully.

My idea of a good sunrise is when the curtains are closed and I am still blissfully asleep. My first thought when I am awakened with a sing-songy "Rise and shine!" is kill. Simply put, mornings are not pleasant. Even when I am forced to rise with the sun I try to prolong my sleeping time in the shower. I am in too big of a hurry (because I woke up late) to enjoy my surroundings. I yawn repeatedly until at least 10 a.m. No one ever gets a cheery "Good morning!" from me. Waking up is a demon I have to battle for several hours every day while the poetry-inspiring morning quietly slips away.

Now, sunsets, on the other hand--those I can appreciate.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My learning cycle

My life is a mystery to a lot of people, but those who manage to break through the ice will eventually learn at least three things: (1) in my mind, Harry Potter is not a fictional character, (2) I live and breathe through the keys of a piano, and (3) if my home were ever on fire, my first course of action would be to figure out how to remove my journals from danger in just one trip.

While Harry Potter books and pianos are replaceable (however guilty I may feel admitting this), I would be devastated if I lost those pages of my life's history. Half my memories would be gone forever and the rest would slowly fade, I wouldn't have a record of all my funny dreams, and, most importantly, I would lose documentation of my personal learning cycle.

I think the reason most people don't get into journal writing is because they approach it with a this-is-what-I-did-today attitude, recording events like they're outlining a meeting itinerary. I started out that way (it's much cuter when an eight-year-old does it), but within a few years I had mixed it with a this-is-what-I'm-thinking-about approach, which is why I never tire of reading the story of my life.

I am currently typing up my journal from year 16 of my life (having an electronic version of my records will make it a lot easier to grab and go when that fire comes). I've noticed an eerie number of parallels between my life then and my life now. Not so much the events, but the thoughts and experiences. I complained about the same things then that I'm complaining about now, and I learned lessons back then that I was sure I figured out for the first time months ago.

So I'm a little indignant--at myself, I guess--that most of the life-changing realizations I had when I was 16 didn't stick. By the time my 24-year-old self came to fruition, many of those lessons had to be relearned.

Indignance aside, I've decided it isn't a bad thing that I apparently go through the same learning cycle every eight years (judging from my rather short life thus far). Human nature may tell us that to learn something twice means you failed to learn the first time, but, well, we're just mortals. We can't be expected to remember everything, or to be molded after just one pass. Sometimes it takes multiple passes before an experience really adds to who we are.

And, if I got everything right the first time, I have a feeling that when my house catches fire and I see my life flash before my eyes, the only thought to cross my mind would be, "It was very boring."

I do find solace in the fact that I'm not exactly the same as I was when I was 16; that would be more than just a little depressing. A lot happens in a girl's life between the ages of 16 and 24, so I hope I would have learned something.

But, in the off chance I come across my 16-year-old self while walking down the street, I would have a few choice words with myself:

Live your own life; don't try to duplicate someone else's.

And yes, those words still apply.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

My first library card

A few weeks ago I got my first library card. I feel that this happened rather late in life, considering how much I love books. But, one of the downsides of growing up in a small town is that you don't have access to certain things others take for granted, unless, of course, you are willing to pay a ridiculous sum for something big-towners get for free.

This predicament left me with three options if I wanted to read books: (1) get up really early on Mondays (like nine 'o clock) and check out books from Mt. Loafer Elementary (this option was only available during the summers), (2) walk to the park on Wednesday afternoon when the Bookmobile arrived and check out books there (unfortunately, this charming option was only available sporadically, and not at all after I was about 10), or (3) read what we had at home, and after you've read everything you want to read, read the books again, unless you are desperate enough to read Star Trek (I re-read a lot of books).

I guess option 4 would have been to check out books from my own school, but the library hall in Jr. high was claustrophobically skinny and I honestly don't think I even knew where the library was in high school until about my senior year. (Not that it had a good stock of books, anyway.)

But as luck would have it, when I moved to Provo I lived directly across the street from the Provo Library. I always intended to run over there and get my own library card with a picture of a frog on it, but for some reason I never got around to it. The fact that I didn't have time to read for pleasure may have had something to do with it. . . .

Then I moved to Midvale, and I lived here for over a year before I finally got my first library card. My to-read list was getting alarmingly long, and I finally decided that it would be impractical to buy all of them. I was running out of shelf space, after all.

So, feeling like a little kid on the first day of school, I walked into a library and registered for a card. The excitement wore off a bit as I started to take in my surroundings. This library definitely wasn't . . . warm and fuzzy, and it didn't have either of the books I wanted, so I consulted the list of the 20 libraries in the Salt Lake Valley, and found at least three that were closer to my apartment, despite their being located in different cities.

Yesterday I walked into the Sandy Library, feeling like a kid on the first day of school again. This library was much better stocked, much cleaner, and it had a bright and happy Harry Potter corner.

But it still only had one of the books I wanted. I was still a bit disappointed by the size of the library. I'm afraid that after using the BYU library for four years, anything short of the Library of Congress will fail to impress me.

Nonetheless, I checked out a couple of obscure titles and headed home. My excitement at having my own library card was quickly ebbing away. It occurred to me that if I wanted to check out any popular books I would have to plan ahead and put the book on hold and wait for longer than it would take to buy the book on Amazon and have it shipped. I tried not to think about the billions of sticky fingers that had touched the books I had checked out. I was saddened that the books looked ratty and didn't have the new book smell.

I may want to marry every bookstore I walk into, but the only thing I want to do in a library is get out of it, honestly. To me, each book is a special friend that should be treasured forever, not something to be borrowed after millions of others have finished with it.

Suddenly, this whole library thing doesn't seem like such a good deal to me. I think I would still rather spend seven bucks on a book than borrow one for free--this way I'll get more "friends" and I won't have to share them with anyone.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

God's love

Last week I began to sympathize with atheists and non-believers. Almost since man was created, there have been those who have argued that if a God existed, he would not allow unimaginable horrors to happen to good people. These things happen every day to people who don't deserve it, and that is evidence enough for those trying to prove there is no Supreme Being watching over us, listening to our prayers, and performing miracles on our behalf.

It is easy to get caught in the never-ending circle of whys and lost in the hopelessness of grief, whether you are suffering or watching those you care about suffer. It may seem safer to dwell in misery than to try to experience happiness again.

Yes, I've heard the logic of non-believers. Yes, I see their point. But I don't believe it for a second.

Why? Because God's love is more powerful than all of the suffering in the world. It is powerful enough to overtake even our most bitter trials. Grief, anger, and hopelessness have the power to destroy, but God's love and the Atonement can rebuild, complete, and bring peace. That power is everlasting and sustaining, as real as the rising sun each new day.

That still may not answer the question we all have at times as to why God allows bad things to happen to good people. The best answer to this question I've heard comes from the movie Love Comes Softly. The truth of God's love, says a man who lost his wife years before and whose barn had just burned down, is not that God allows bad things to happen, but that he will be there beside us when they do.

And he is there, always. The pain may be staggering, but nothing can outshine the power of God's love.

Beautiful people

One of my favorite things about traveling is observing the people. It is fascinating to watch the locals go about their daily business, walking along the streets like it's no big deal that people like me take time off work to go see. I love observing those who came from foreign countries to visit ours. I even enjoy watching my fellow (American) tourists, allowing my mind to imagine the many ways our fates aligned so we would eat lunch at the same restaurant at the same time.

My latest traveling adventure took me to the winding streets of San Francisco, the majestic trees of the Redwood Forest, and the thrilling roller coasters of Six Flags. My path crossed with that of thousands of other people, all walking along their own paths full of hills, weeds, thorns, sunshine, and flowers. The people I saw throughout the week were but a glimpse of the living that takes place every day in every corner of the world.

It seems impossible that one world could hold so many different, complex stories, but it does. It seems impossible that one person could care about each individual who has ever lived (or will live), but He does. Despite our vast differences and circumstances, the people of this world have much in common. We all have the same amount of hours in a day; we all experience joy, despair, confusion, anger, satisfaction, and a host of other emotions; and we're all a part of the same big, human family, led by the Being who created us all.

This world is bigger than me; it's bigger than all of us. It's big enough to house billions of beautiful people and the stories they live.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Letting the girl in me shine

Ever since I was a little girl, I have put a lot of energy into repressing my girlie side. I scorned dresses and shoes. I refused to wear makeup that didn't look like it could naturally be there. I avoided necklaces, fingernail polish, and perfume. I mocked frills. I was baffled by accessories like decorative belts and matching purses.

Whenever the girl in me tried to make herself known, my overbearing tom-boy persona shunned her. It's frivolous to own anything that has no practical function, my tom-boy self always said whenever I was sidetracked by something pretty. My tom-boy self was always there to nag me whenever I was tempted to embrace my girlie side, and over time I began to equate girliness with silliness, frivolousness, and vanity, all things I did not want associated with me. I didn't want to become anything remotely close to what Barbie would approve of.

Things changed a little when I started a career. I had more time for primping and more money for things which only purpose was to be decorative. Slowly, the girl in me began to have more of a say in the "frivolous" decisions I made.

At my sister party a few weeks ago, I was drawn to a flippy skirt loaded with polka-dots. I have a strange obsession with polka-dots, so I bought the skirt, and everyone commented on how "me" it looked.

That Sunday I wore it to church, but the effect of the outfit was spoiled a bit by my comfortable, functional shoes. I found myself thinking, I wish I had some sexy shoes to complete this outfit. Never in my life had such a thought crossed my mind, but the thought lingered.

So today I stopped at a shoe store after work. And I found the perfect pair of shoes: Black. Manageable heels. Strappy things. As an added bonus, they were actually comfortable and I didn't feel like a flamingo walking in them, so I bought them.

As I was trying them on at home, another abominable thought crossed my mind: my feet would look really cute with painted toenails. Then I remembered the Mary Poppins spotlight bag I was given in Relief Society a year ago, which contained a fingernail kit, complete with bright red fingernail polish.

So I painted my virgin toenails a bright, sexy red while listening to Disney princess songs. I used the toe-separator things and felt like the evil lady from The Chipmunk Adventure.

And I liked the finished product. I really liked it.

Did I need another pair of Sunday shoes? No. Did I need to paint my toenails to enhance the effect of my shoes? Certainly not. But for once I felt proud to let the girlie side of me shine rather than shun her in embarrassment like I've always done.

The tom-boy will always be the dominant side of my personality, but I'm slowly coming to realize that it's okay to embrace being a girl, even if it means fingernail polish and high heels.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Church ball

I've always felt that summer isn't summer without softball, which is one of the many reasons I joined my ward's co-ed softball team this year. I figured it would be an easy way to reconnect with my athletic past and get to know some new people.

I've learned two things from my co-ed softball experience so far.

#1: You can't make up for eight years in one day.

The last time I was on a softball team was during the summer between my sophomore and junior years of high school. This means that it's been eight years since I've played softball, other than the times I forced my siblings to play catch with me. Those years were loaded with choir, school, and work, so my dreams of stunning the world with my athletic prowess was put on hold for a time.

So I knew I'd be a little rusty, but I was fairly certain that once I got some real dirt on my glove I would show everyone what it really means to play ball like a girl.

But for some reason, the macho skills I had spent 10 years developing didn't come back to me when I returned to the baseball diamond. Every ball I hit went straight to an infielder's mitt. My fielding was mediocre at best. As grounders unexpectedly bounced over my shoulder and as I failed to hit perfectly pitched balls, I would ask myself, "I used to be good at this, right?"

And the sad thing is, I'm not sure I ever was that good--I just thought I was. This is seriously damaging to an ego that thrives on being just as capable as the boys at doing boy things.

#2: Church ball is competitive.

I erroneously assumed that since this was church ball, everyone was here to play for fun, not to win.

I'm not sure why I thought that. Sports, even if they are sponsored by devout Christians, are by very nature competitive.

My team went into our Tuesday game undefeated. The high council speaker had praised our skills at church on Sunday, and the Union Unicorns were stoked for the match-up against the Murray YSA ward, who were also undefeated.

The game was intense. I never thought I would use that term to describe church ball, but there it is. Every other call was disputed (usually by the other team, might I add). Dorky baseball phrases were used as coded instructions. Base coaches took their jobs seriously. By the end of the game, the only thing keeping players civil was the thought of sweet revenge every time the other team scored.

Each team got its dose of sweet revenge, but in the end it came down to the classic Hollywood situation: up to bat, two outs, bases loaded, down by one point. And instead of hitting the ball over the fence and sending us all home, our batter struck out and made the Murray ward annoyingly happy.

It's one thing to say "It's just a game"; it's another thing entirely to shake off a loss that was so close to being a blockbuster win.

One word: Grrrrrrrr.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sandy is revisiting all the Pixar movies in preparation for the upcoming movie, Brave. I read the post on Toy Story earlier today and I came to a somewhat disturbing realization. Even more disturbing is that this realization came in the form of a math equation:

Andy + a bit of Sid = Sandy. I am a Sandy.

Before today, I always considered myself an Andy: someone who cherished her toys. My toys were my friends, and I was three-quarters convinced that they came to life whenever I left my bedroom. In fact, sometimes I would wait outside the door with my ear pressed against the doorknob in hopes that I would catch them talking to each other before they reverted back to their plastic states. I played with Barbies past elementary school; Kimberly and I reluctantly passed on our precious Barbies to Shannan with the solemn instructions to brush Teresa's hair often, to not call Pocahontas "Poke" to her face, to keep Ted away from the beans, and to make sure Mike and Ken didn't lose their legs too often.

But today I saw the truth: even as an innocent little kid, I had a bit of Sid in me. While I took care of my own toys, I frequently tormented Shannan's toys when Shannan wouldn't obey her Great and Noble Babysitter. I stole her dog, Fred, strategically placed him in a clear glass of water, and put him in the freezer so that several hours later, when my dad opened the freezer, in the spotlight was a stuffed dog stuck in a glass of ice, his "circulation" cut off my the ring of ice around his neck. I threw her toys on the roof where she couldn't reach them. I even pretended to take a bite out of Ned's ear at the dinner table. Her reaction was to flail her arms, scream "Noooooooo!" and topple off the piano bench she was sitting on.

Kimberly and I also enjoyed playing bad guys, and 97.4 percent of the time I was the boss and she was my servant. We stuffed our stuffed animals into grocery bags and hung them from the prison bars (a.k.a. monkey bars) outside, we threw Barbies off the roof with parachutes that clearly didn't work, and one day we decided to bury a bunch of our Happy Meal toys in the sandbox--Mom digs up a new one every few years.

One more shameful confession: if I had ever had a rocket like Sid's, I would have at least considered strapping Jed to it so he could fly to the sky and burst into smithereens.

But Sid can't have been that bad of a kid--we all know that he secretly wanted to ride the pony, and he didn't turn into a serial killer later in life. His just enjoyed tormenting his little sister, which is what little sisters are for, right?

Despite my dark past, I still consider myself more Andy than Sid. Why? Because I cried at the end of Toy Story 3, not because Andy went off to college, but because he left his toys behind.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The lost days of summer

I can't help but harbor a slight bitterness toward the younglings who are wild and free for the summer. As I go to work, the kids are still lying in bed. As I freeze to death in my cubicle, the kids are outside jumping on the trampoline, running through the sprinklers, and playing catch. And as I'm starting to settle down for the night, worn out from a long day of work and obligations, I hear the kids squealing with delight as they run around outside, ecstatic to be out past their normal school-day hours.

For the kids, summer means freedom: freedom from school and homework, freedom from jackets and shoes, freedom from schedules and rules. Even the air smells more free because the sharp bite of spring wind is replaced with the lazy breeze of summer.

For the adults, summer is much the same as the rest of the seasons. It may, in fact, be the worst season of all because the youthful days of summer are no longer ours to claim. If feels so wrong to step into a windowless office building when the world has blessed you with a warm, sunny day. It's such a waste to spend so much of this time of year inside, worrying about other things, when there is grass to smell, birds to listen to, and clouds to look at. It's a shame to read about health IT off a computer monitor inside when I could be reading a young adult novel outside on a hammock.

Of course, there are still lunch breaks, evenings, Saturdays, and holidays/vacations, but the youthful days of summer are gone forever. Never again will I be so free. And that's a bummer.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Live your passion every day

I've been thinking a lot lately about why I do the things I do. Why do I wake up in the mornings? Why do I go to work? Why do I cook meals, go on walks, and read my scriptures?

The answer to each of these questions is fairly simple: because I have to. I have to get out of bed every day so I can go to work, which enables me to pay my bills. I have to eat, exercise, and study my scriptures because my body needs it to survive and thrive.

The most important whys, however, lie in how you spend your time doing things that aren't necessary to your survival, things like going to choir practice, playing softball, or attending a book club meeting.

About a month ago, my family went to visit my grandpa, who is on hospice care. On the surface, he seemed like the same sweet old man I always remembered. But I had to wonder how I would react if I were the one lying there, waiting for death to come. Would I spend my waking hours regretting all the things I didn't do, or would I rejoice in the life I had lived?

I am certain that when I find myself at Death's doors, I won't be reflecting on the things I had to do, like prepare meals and pay the bills. Rather, I'll be reflecting on the the passions I pursued and the people I loved. I don't think I'll regret the hours I spent writing and playing the piano, or the years I spent building relationships, because I didn't do these things because I had to: I did them because they were what made life rich, even if I spent a majority of my time doing what had to be done.

The nice thing about doing the things that really matter is that even if the moments are small and fleeting, they are powerful, and they tend to stick with you. You don't have to dedicate your life to doing only the things that will make you smile when you reach the end of life's road. Simply pursuing your passions every day, even if it's just for a few minutes, is enough.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Not part of the plan

When you're little, life is so simple. You don't plan for the future; you live for the present.

When you get older, it becomes necessary to plan and prepare for the future. You find solace in the fact that you have a plan, and you stick to that plan like Velcro.

But sometimes, despite your careful planning and meticulous execution, things don't go as planned. You may have managed to convince yourself that you are in control of your own destiny, but then life steps in to teach you otherwise.

And it's a beautiful lesson to learn, that you're not always in control. If everything went according to plan, we would constantly be selling ourselves short by staying in the safe zone, away from the impossibles.

It's when life steps in and opens the door to the impossibles that makes all the difference.

Friday, May 25, 2012

The Friday curse strikes again

I've been sitting here for 25 minutes, alternating between staring at the wall and glaring at the clock. I started my day feeling like I could do anything because I wouldn't have to repeat the work-day process tomorrow. But then 2:00 hit, and the motivation and stamina that has helped me to endure 20+ hours of writing a user guide in addition to my normal duties took my brain and flew out the window into the cloudy world outside.

At least part of me is free, I guess.

The rest of me, though--the part of me that is getting more irritated by the minute--is left to debate whether it would be a better use of my time to call it quits and get a head start on my much needed R&R, or to stick it out and get a head start on next week's heavy workload that's squeezed into four days instead of five.

The first option is looking a lot better right now, especially since I no longer possess a brain. The only problem is that my guilt sensor hasn't turned off yet, so here I am, still sitting here.

It's at times like these that I wish I had a job that didn't require writing skills, or any skills I acquired in school. I've used the term "brain-tired" so many times the past month that it's become a permanent part of my vernacular. Using creative and analytical thinking skills can be just as exhausting as standing up or lifting heavy bundles for eight hours straight.

Time for a vacation, yes? I think so.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Now I know how the bugs feel

I, like many of you, marvel at the predictable stupidity of bugs. On boring camping trips, I sometimes entertain myself by watching the dumb little bugs run into the lantern over and over again, bemused that they are so inextricably drawn to the pretty light.

I found myself sympathizing with the dumb little bugs somewhat as I drove around tonight trying to find a patch of sky that wasn't covered with clouds. Because doggone it, if I can't watch The Watcher in the Woods, I was going to do everything in my power to get a glimpse of my first eclipse.

Luckily for me, a hole in the clouds appeared as I was heading west, back to my apartment. Suddenly, the warnings from the guys selling the cheap protective glasses receded to a dull static as I looked directly into the sun (through my sunglasses, of course). The only thought running through my head was, "I can't help it . . . it's so beautiful . . . ."

And that's why I was half-blind the rest of the (short) drive home. And it's the reason I'm seeing crescent moons all over the place.

But hey, you only get the chance to be as dumb as a bug once every twenty years or so. I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Those Harry Potter fans . . .

It's been 19 months since I last read a Harry Potter book, and with each passing month it gets even harder to resist diving back into the books again. The itch started at about the 15-month mark just like it always does, and the only reason I've resisted it this long is because Shannan and I got a lot of books for Christmas. Playing around in Pottermore and watching all eight of the movies helped satisfy the craving a bit, but it was a bit like eating semi-sweet chocolate chips when I what I really wanted was mounds of pure milk chocolate.

Even as I sit here, I can picture the books sitting in my living room, all pristine and lovely, seductively calling my name.

Eventually I will give in, but the longer I fight this battle the more enjoyable losing the battle will be.

In the interim, I will continue to heap my praises upon my favorite series of all time.

It's rewarding to watch the birth and progression of a legacy. J.K. Rowling started her writing journey years before someone helped her distribute her story to the world, and today the books have been translated into 67 languages, they sat on the New York Times Bestseller List for 79 straight weeks, and after about 10 years officially outsold the KJV Bible, which was one of the first books published and was the only book many families had in their homes for generations. The movies have generated more revenue than the Star Wars franchise, and J.K. Rowling is the only author that became a billionaire from her book sales.

Harry Potter books have inspired eight movies, at least four theme parks, and countless fan sites, not to mention an entire generation of children who secretly hope to get a Hogwarts acceptance letter on their 11th birthday.

But it doesn't stop there; Harry Potter continues to find ways to affect our daily lives. April Fools Day is more than a silly holiday that gives you an excuse to pull pranks; it is also Fred and George's birthday. Halloween is first and foremost a solemn day to remember Lily and James Potter, and some fans may even remember to celebrate Nearly Headless Nick's deathday as well. May 2 is known by Potterheads everywhere as the anniversary of the Battle of Hogwarts. Quidditch is played in college campuses across the world, the biggest tournament of which will take place in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics.

The books may be published, the movies era may be over, but one thing remains clear: fans have not forgotten the love they have for Harry Potter, for Hogwarts, for the tidbits of information Rowling has leaked about the wizard world. And most of all, we can't quench the magical memories of discovering Harry's world for the first time.

I suspect the Harry Potter Generation will continue basking in Harry Potter goodness for years to come. If the Trekkies can keep their fanbase alive, the Potterheads most certainly can.