Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2013 book awards

I read more books this year than I've read in any one year of my life (if you don't count picture books). It was exhilarating in a way, but I kind of never want to do it again.

I'm grateful for the experience, though. I've grown a lot as a writer this year, and my intense reading load had a lot to do with that.

And, if possible, books mean more to me now than they ever have. Just like friends in human form, books affect you no matter where you're at in life. They change as you change. It was eye-opening to re-read series like Harry Potter, Hunger Games, and Mistborn and experience them in a whole new way. I also have more patience for books that in a former life I wouldn't have even considered, which has introduced me to some delightful new treasures.

Goal: 75 books

Books read: 81

First reads: 54

Re-reads: 27

Longest book: A Clash of Kings, by George R.R. Martin. 969 pages.

Shortest book: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander. 42 pages.

Total # of pages read: 29,007

Average # of pages per book: 358

Ratings:
  • 5 stars: 24
  • 4 stars: 21
  • 3 stars: 24
  • 2 stars: 10
  • 1 star: 2
*I've eliminated the Harry Potter series from the following awards. I wanted to give the other books a chance.*

Favorite book: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins. I know, I know—it's cliché to pick such a popular book as my favorite book of the year. But I'm sticking to it. This book is intense, exciting, thought provoking, and emotion-inducing—all the things today's audience wants—but it also has things like characterization and character growth. That is extremely rare in a world that is happy enough with fast-paced action and predictable endings.

Least favorite book: Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann. This book is stuffed with classical references and is supposed to be an inspiring contemplation on finding lost art. In other words, it's incomprehensible the first time you read it. And it's about a man who stalks this "beautiful boy" until he (the stalker) dies. Creepy.

Best escape novel: Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson. This is the first time in a few years that I've read a Sanderson novel that wasn't Wheel of Time related. I've been a Sanderson fan for a while, but it was still a surprisingly enjoyable experience re-reading this series (partly because I must have been half-dead the first time I read the trilogy and failed to retain most of the details, so it was like reading it for the first time). Even when my eyes hurt from reading endless pages for my American Realism/Naturalism class, I couldn't go to sleep without escaping into this world for at least a half hour. With the amount of worldbuilding Sanderson does, it's really easy to escape into this unique world. 

Best nonfiction: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain. Throughout my life, I've been asked a variation of the question, "Why don't you ever talk?" more times than I care to remember. I used to be quite sensitive about it because it made me feel like there was something wrong with me. Quiet was such a refreshing read because for once, it defends the traits of introverts rather than praises the traits of extroverts. It helped me embrace the person I am rather than try to become someone else.

Yawn award: How the Other Half Lives, by Jacob A. Riis. Think photojournalism meets Charles Dickens. This is actually an important book and it made me really grateful that I have a life that involves more than working myself to death for hard bread and crappy shelter, but man. Just thinking about the book makes me yawn. I wish I could have absorbed this book in small pieces, but I didn't really have a choice on that matter. Stupid school.

Chick award: Austenland, by Shannon Hale. This is quite possibly the girliest book I have ever read. If you're in the right mood for it, it's clever, fun, and hilarious. I listened to the audio version of this book several years ago when I was working in the bindery and I couldn't stop smiling. That was definitely the best shift I ever had.

Funniest book: Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh. This book is based on one of those blogs that you read when you're supposed to be working and everyone knows you're not working because you keep snorting because your laughter has to escape somehow. If you don't mind a little (and sometimes, a lot) of profanity, definitely give this book/blog a read some time.

Saddest book: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. This book is about teenagers dying of cancer. Of course it wins the Saddest Book award.

Weirdest book: Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie. Once I realized that this book is an allegory of India gaining its independence, it made a lot more sense. But without that knowledge it's just plain weird. Basically, it's about a guy who has a super power nose that allows him to speak to the children born during the midnight hour of the day India became independent. And he can smell people's thoughts and emotions. And sometimes the narrator forgets who he is. It was so weird that the book's complete disregard for punctuation didn't bug me as much as it should have. I can't even begin to imagine what it must have been like to edit this book.

Most thought provoking: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky. More than anything, this book made me really glad that I'm not a teenager anymore. It also strengthened my resolve to teach my future children right from wrong so that they will have a reason to say no when I'm not there to coax them.

Book I was most pleasantly surprised by: Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins. The first time I read this book I was livid for two days. If it wasn't part of a trilogy that I really liked, and if I had had a fireplace at the time, I would have burned it like I did The Casual Vacancy. I never intended to read it again, but after seeing Catching Fire in theaters I had Hunger Games stuck on my brain (I even braided my hair like Katniss's for a few days), so I reluctantly decided to give the books another chance. And I'm so glad I did, because my opinion of this book is pretty much the opposite from my first impression of it. It's still a difficult and heart-wrenching book to read, but when I finished it at 2:00 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving I was immensely satisfied and at peace. I wasn't so blinded by my own expectations and anger to completely miss the point of the whole book this time.

I didn't enjoy the withdrawals afterward though. I think it might have been worse than Harry Potter Withdrawals.

Book I was most disappointed in: Crossed, by Ally Condie. I waited a long time to read the Matched trilogy. I had heard from a lot of trusted sources that it was really good, so I was looking forward to reading it. I finally got my hands on Matched—and finished the book feeling underwhelmed. I hoped that book 2, Crossed, would give me something that I hadn't already seen in The Giver, Hunger Games, or Twilight, but, again, I was disappointed. Not to mention it suffered severely from dull middle-of-the-series syndrome.

Book I am most glad I abandoned: The Octopus, by Frank Norris. I was assigned to read this book the week I had to turn in 55 pages of writing for school. The discussion board thread was optional, but I gave the book a shot anyway. It didn't take me long to conclude that this is the most boring book ever written, so I felt absolutely no guilt in abandoning it. Don't ask me what it is about, because my brain discards dull writing almost instantaneously for my own protection.

Book that fueled my hope for humanity: Wonder, by R.J. Palacio. This is a story about a boy with severe facial deformities who goes from being made fun of and even feared, to being the cool kid everyone wants to be friends with. It was endearing and inspiring without being over the top, and I think everyone will relate to at least one of the characters.

Book I would like to see as a movie: The Rebels of Cordovia, by Linda Weaver Clarke. Sometimes, I get irrationally angry when I read books that are poorly written. Especially when the books have pretty covers and intriguing storylines. I feel betrayed when the writing robs me of what I thought was going to be a delightful reading experience. That's why I want to see this book as a movie. There's a good story buried deep down, but it would be so much more enjoyable to watch on screen, without the distraction of bad writing.  

Book I wouldn't mind living in: Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. No other setting can compare to Green Gables, not even Hogwarts (though I feel like a heretic for saying that). It has everything I want: beautiful scenery, adequate distance from civilization, wonderful people, and lots of romantic spots that feed the imagination and soothe the soul. I think my heart will always long for a place like Green Gables.  

Book I would not want to live in: Game of Thrones, by George R.R. Martin. Women in this world basically exist to be raped and told what to do, not to mention it's against the laws of nature to be happy regardless of your gender or social status, so—no thank you. 

Favorite character: Peeta Mellark, from Catching Fire. One of the best things about the Hunger Games trilogy is all the fabulous characters. Collins is so good at creating flawed but lovable characters. So I'm kind of surprised that I'm giving Peeta this award, the least flawed character in the trilogy—some would say he is too perfect. Plus, I've always had a weakness for the tall, manly, handsome, jock-type guys like Gale. Of all the characters, Gale should be my favorite, right?

Nope. Not this time. I think Peeta may have charmed me over to his team. He has people skills that I only wish I had, he always knows what to say, he's strong, and he's artistic. Attractiveness aside, he's just a genuinely good person, and he loves Katniss unconditionally (yeah, I'm a little bit jealous). This is one reason why Mockingjay is so hard to read—I miss the old Peeta so much that the spot in my heart reserved for him breaks into 47 sad pieces. Even now, I just want to give him a hug. And I'm not a hugging person.

Least favorite character: Mary from The Grass is Singing, by Doris Lessing. I've read about murderers, rapists, sociopaths, and child abandoners this year. But Mary wins the Least Favorite Character of the Year Award because she is lazy and does nothing but whine. She gets married because that's what girls do, and then does absolutely nothing after that. Just sits there in the dark, refusing to use her skills to fight off poverty and hunger. And then she has the gall to complain about her wretched life. No, I have absolutely no sympathy for Mary.

Most relatable character: Miri, from Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale. One reason Shannon Hale's book speak to me so much is that I can connect with many of her characters on a deeply personal level. Miri is smart, independent, and eventually finds a balance between her love of home and the mountains and her thirst for ambition.

Crush: Gilbert, from Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery. This should surprise no one. He's handsome, charming, smart, mischievous, not intimidated by strong women, and fits this description: "I wouldn't marry a truly wicked man, but I think I'd like it if he could be wicked, but wouldn't." That's my perfect man, right there.

And, because all good book awards have a Top # List of some sort, here are my Top 10 Books Read During 2013. I spent a ridiculously long time thinking about this list, and each title comes with my highest recommendation.

      10. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
       9. Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson
       8. Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale
       7. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
       6. The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adriana Trigiani
       5. A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
       4. Son, by Lois Lowry
       3. Mistborn, by Brandon Sanderson
       2. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
       1. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

And then there are all the other books I read, which may not have been distinctive enough to be awarded in one of my special categories but are still worth mentioning. If you're interested, here is the complete list of books I read during 2013 (click here to read my reviews), in chronological order:

1. No Unhallowed Hand (W&G #7), by Gerald N. Lund
2. Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka
3. Death in Venice, by Thomas Mann
4. A Memory of Light (WoT #14), by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson
5. The Stranger, by Albert Camus
6. Son, by Lois Lowry
7. The Grass Is Singing, by Doris Lessing
8. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
9. Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys
10. So Great a Cause (W&G #8), by Gerald N. Lund
11. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky
12. Love in the Time of Cholera, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
13. The Fairest Beauty, by Melanie Dickerson
14. Austenland, by Shannon Hale
15. Palace of Stone, by Shannon Hale
16. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio
17. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain
18. The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer, by Sandra Scofield
19. All Is Well (W&G #9), by Gerald N. Lund
20. Matched, by Ally Condie
21. Midnight's Children, by Salman Rushdie
22. Crossed, by Ally Condie
23. Reached, by Ally Condie
24. The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green
25. Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery
26. Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery
27. Drawing on the Power of Resonance in Writing, by David Farland
28. Midnight in Austenland, by Shannon Hale
29. Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt
30. Anne of the Island, by L.M. Montgomery
31. Game of Thrones (ASoIaF #1), by George R.R. Martin
32. Peter Pan, by J.M. Barrie
33. Harry Potter's Bookshelf: The Great Books Behind the Hogwarts Adventures, by John Granger
34. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
35. The Truth of the Matter: Art and Craft in Creative Nonfiction, by Dinty W. Moore
36. A Way Back to You, Emily Gray Clawson
37. Equal Rites (Discworld #3), by Terry Pratchett
38. The Rover, by Aphra Behn
39. The Beggar's Opera, by John Gay
40. The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley
41. A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens
42. The Book of Psychological Truths: A Psychiatrist's Guide to Really Good Thinking for Really Great Living, by R. Duncan Wallace
43. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, by J.K. Rowling
44. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, by J.K. Rowling
45. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, by J.K. Rowling
46. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, by J.K. Rowling
47. Mary Barton, by Elizabeth Gaskell
48. Description and Setting, by Ron Rozelle
49. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K. Rowling
50. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, by J.K. Rowling
51. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
52. The Tales of Beedle the Bard, translated by Hermione Granger-Weasley
53. The Rebels of Cordovia, by Linda Weaver Clarke
54. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander
55. A Clash of Kings (ASoIaF #2), by George R.R. Martin
56. A Beast in the Jungle, by Henry James
57. Anne of Windy Poplars, by L.M. Montgomery
58. Mistborn (Mistborn #1), by Brandon Sanderson
59. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain
60. How the Other Half Lives: Studies among the Tenements of New York, by Jacob Riis
61. Quotidiana, by Patrick Madden
62. Maggie: A Girl of the Streets, by Stephen Crane
63. The One-Eyed Man, by L.E. Modesitt Jr.
64. The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2), by Brandon Sanderson
65. The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
66. The Boys of My Youth, by Jo Ann Beard
67. The Game, by Jack London
68. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
69. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened, by Allie Brosh
70. Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
71. The Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3), by Brandon Sanderson
72. Holidays on Ice, by David Sedaris
73. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
74. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins
75. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins
76. The Alloy of Law, by Brandon Sanderson
77. The Christmas Box, by Richard Paul Evans
78. The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Nonfiction, by Dinty W. Moore
79. The Shoemaker's Wife, by Adriana Trigiani
80. Nightingale, by David Farland
81. Revolution, by Jennifer Donnelley

Previous years:
2012

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Why I like being an adult

As a kid, I had an adult-esque attitude about the passage of time; I knew my childhood wouldn't last forever, and I was determined to make the most of it while I could.

This meant that I wasn't as excited about my milestone birthdays as my peers were (with the exception of 12. I was more than ready to graduate from primary). I dreaded my 16th birthday because I wasn't ready to date yet. I loved imagining perfect dates in my little dream world, but in reality I just wanted to stay home on date nights and watch my favorite movies.

I wasn't that excited for my 18th birthday, either, because that meant entering the official ranks of adulthood. (If only I had known then what I know now--real adults don't consider 18-year-olds real adults.) I enjoyed having the legal right to sign my own permission forms my entire senior year of high school, but mostly I mourned what I could never have back.

Twenty-one wasn't a whole lot better. I had always told myself that if I was still single at that age, I would go on a mission. But I didn't want to serve a mission, and I wasn't anywhere near ready for marriage. Two things you don't hear a lot at BYU.

But by the time I hit my next sort-of-milestone birthday, 25, things were different. I had had enough life experience to feel like I had some control over the little things in life. I knew what to do when I had car problems. I sort of knew how health insurance worked. I was comfortable going to places on my own. I could occasionally splurge on a new book, shirt, or bacon cheeseburger without having to ask permission or explain my actions to anyone.

The wonder of childhood was gone, but it came with some pretty good trade-offs. Instead of worrying about what others thought of me, I got to know and like the person I am. The hermit hole I had envisioned spending my career-adult life in became a world unimpeded by ten-foot-thick steel walls of uncertainty and fear. A laid-back nature replaced my anxiety-filled one. "I can't" made way for "What's stopping me?"

In some ways, adulthood is still a let-down. Like when you realize it's actually kind of nice to have people telling you what to do. And when you realize that you spend more time standing in line at Walmart or the at driver's license place or at traffic lights than you do having parties and staying up past midnight.

But in other ways, it sets you free. That comforting yet smothering blanket of childhood and adolescence isn't there to shield you from the world while trapping you with so many unknowns. Life doesn't make a lot more sense from the adult perspective, but at least you are better equipped to handle it.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

My 2013 in review, according to Facebook

Part of my job as a copywriter is to read industry news every morning. Around this time of year, every website, blog, and organization does a "Recap of This Year" or a "Predictions for Next Year" post.

I don't read those posts anymore. 

I did, however, entertain the idea of writing my own "Recap of 2013" post. After all, people do it all the time when they send out Christmas cards. 

But I couldn't settle on a specific goal for this post: should I be funny? insightful? Should I make a list, or go for the essay format?

So many options, so many different ways I could talk about myself.

Then I saw that Facebook had compiled my top 20 moments of 2013 for me, and I immediately knew how this post would go.

So here it is: My top 2013 moments, according to Facebook.

#1. I started 2013 on sure footing.












#2. I started school without any distractions.












#3. The January blues hit and I started to miss my sisters.




















#4. Unsurprisingly, Kimberly was feeling the same way. Have I mentioned that we have the same brain?















#5. A month and a half into the new year, I enthusiastically threw myself into my studies.












#6. Then I shrunk myself.
























#7. I suffered temporary, but severe, memory loss.











#8. Since family relations are important, I made sure to keep those lines of communication open so we can always talk about the important stuff.












#9. I remembered my parents' anniversary.


















#10. I marveled at American culture.












#11. I happily welcomed summer.











#12. I defended my major and three people supported me.


















#13. I looked out for my own safety.













#14. I became a master at managing my down time.












#15. I shared my testimony with my friends.


















#16. I celebrated the most important holiday of the year with Harry Potter and chocolate.












#17. J.K. Rowling gave me an early birthday present.


















#18. I got a very specific number of happy birthdays on my unlucky birthday. Coincidence? I think not!








#19. I dressed up for Halloween.













#20. I got a last-minute invite to wake up early on a Saturday morning.


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Frozen

  • -8 degrees this morning.
  • Venture outside at 6:50 a.m. to move my car from behind Dad's so he can go to work.
  • Go outside again at 7:10 a.m. to move my car from behind Mom's car so she can go to work. Car won't start.
  • Try again at 7:25 a.m. This time, the car starts.
  • Properly bundled up this time, go outside yet again to head to my 8:00 a.m. dentist appointment. Car won't start.
  • Attempt to "borrow" brother's car. His is stuck/frozen in the snow. Won't budge.
  • Try to start my car again, but only succeed in hurting my fingers.
  • Storm inside and call dental clinic to cancel my appointment that I specifically set up knowing that I would be in town today.
  • All that worry about going to the dentist for the first time in two years, wasted.
  • I hate going to the dentist, anyway.
  • But really, this bitter cold is getting ridiculous. I'm so over it.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A tender mercy

It's been about a month and a half since I wrote a "real" blog post, but this one is going to be very similar to my November posts.

I can't count the number of times in my life when the weather man promised a blanket of snow for the next day. The next morning I would bounce out of bed and shoot for the window. But my excitement was crushed more often than not when the view before me was brown and dead rather than white and sparkling.

I've learned to not put too much faith in the weather man. Including this week, when everyone was talking about the storm that was supposed to hit Utah late Monday night.

My 2013 can be summed up in two words: BE PATIENT. It's almost second nature now to not expect immediate answers to my prayers, semi-immediate results from my efforts, because my life just doesn't work out that way, especially not this year. I didn't expect Mother Nature to be any different.

But I couldn't quite squash this somewhat pathetic plea: "If you really loved me, you would just this once give me the thing I want when I want it." A winter wonderland when I woke up the next day.

This morning I was afraid to get out of bed. I was debating whether I should sleep another nine minutes when I heard one of my favorite sounds: a snow plow. Like the olden days, I bounced out of bed and shot to the window. In front of me wasn't dead brownness or even a measly dusting of snow: there were several inches of snow clinging to tree branches and resting on top of cars. And the snow was still falling. And it hasn't stopped all day.

My co-workers sigh in sadness or exasperation when they glance out their windows, but every time I see that swirling snow it's almost as if someone is gently reminding me, "You see? Some prayers I will answer quickly."

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Gratefuls Nov. 23–30

Nov. 23: My nephews still know who I am!

Nov. 24: Long Sunday naps.

Nov. 25: No school this week. Yay! I had planned to get a little bit of writing done today and tomorrow to help make next week less horrendous, but I've decided I would rather have fun instead.

Nov. 26: So, I saw Catching Fire on Saturday and I can't get it out of my head. I was planning on avoiding books and rotting my brain via TV all week, but Harry Potter has taught me that sometimes staying away from books is more distracting than escaping into them. So today I'm grateful that I have the wonderful luxury of time to dive into a trilogy that demands your full attention.

Nov. 27: Leaving work early to start a long weekend. In traditional Thanksgiving Break fashion, we kicked off our vacation with a TV show marathon and a game of Risk. Sometimes I think the evening before Thanksgiving Break officially begins is the best part of the entire break.

Nov. 28: Mom's surgery went well and she doesn't have to hobble around anymore.

Nov. 29: When you have a lovely day off and realize with a jolt of happiness that tomorrow is Saturday.

Nov. 30: Good books, leftovers, and Christmas lights.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Gratefuls Nov. 16–22

Nov. 16: My Saturday homework marathons never take as long as I think they will.

Nov. 17: I love it when general authorities come to stake conference and you get to see a side of their personality that you don't get to see during General Conference.

Nov. 18: Five years of working at a pizza place has given me super-human tolerance for pizza, when it easily could have gone the other way. I am basically going to be living off of pizza this week. 

Nov. 19: My TV shows. I only watch two, but they provide a nice excuse to take a break a few times a week. And Once Upon a Time is much better than it was last season.

Nov. 20: Christmas music. I might have put Christmas music back on my iPod before Halloween this year, not sure, but I only allowed myself to listen to the occasional song that made it through my shuffle stream, and during that week it was 60 degrees I skipped all the Christmas tunes. Today, I put an end to such foolishness. It's time to be reunited with old friends, and to acquaint myself with the new albums I bought with my Amazon gift card last week. 

Nov. 21: Winter fruit, like pomegranates and oranges. The only downside is that neither can just be popped into your mouth. You have to work for it first.

Nov. 22: Reliable co-workers.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Gratefuls: Nov. 9–15

Nov. 9: I was productive enough during the week to allow myself to declare a homework strike today.

Nov. 10: That wonderful barbecuing meat smell. If I ever come across the Amortentia potion ("The most powerful love potion in the world!" according to Hermione), I'm sure the first thing I will smell is meat on the grill. Best. Smell. Ever. And, just for fun, I think that seductive smell would be accompanied by the smell of rain on concrete, new books, and homemade bread.

Nov. 11: As ready as I am for sweaters and Christmas music, I am loving the 60-degree weather we've had the past few days. Especially since it means I can delay moving my workouts inside for a little bit longer.

Nov. 12 (11/12/13): Utah Technology Magazine, a digital magazine I've been editing pieces for, released its first issue today! (iPad version only for now, sorry. But it looks awesome on the iPad, so if you have one, you should check it out.) It's been really exciting to watch UTM morph from an idea to an actual publication. You can get a preview of the content on our website.

Nov. 13: Today I was stuck in Orem for a for a few hours between meetings. So I decided to go on a walk, and I discovered a lovely park hiding behind some mansions. It had walking trails, a duck pond, and lots of fall leaves. These types of discoveries make me miss Utah County.

Nov. 14: Last week, I wrote a review for our marketing automation software company, and today they sent me a $100 Amazon gift card! Naturally, I've already spent half of it.

Nov. 15: I made a "Rainy Days and Mondays" playlist a week ago, and I finally got to use it today. You won't hear me complaining about Utah's gloomy weather forecast.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Gratefuls: Nov. 1–8

I wasn't going to do the November Daily Grateful Thing this year, but I have to be honest here. Nothing good is going to happen this month if I'm not watching out for it.

Besides, I'm tired of looking at that Barbie.

Nov. 1: (Repeat from last year) Halloween is over! I really tried to be a good sport about Halloween this year (it helped immensely that no one made it their month's mission to get me to dress up). And I even enjoyed our office's costume contest/office decorating contest, and then I skipped my homework for the day to watch Clue. But it was still kind of exhausting. It's such a relief to have the hoopla of Halloween out of the way. Now for Christmas! Just kidding. Sort of.

Nov. 2: I did everything I needed/wanted to do today. And I had a long to-do list (which included sleeping in and watching TV for a couple of hours). I'm still kind of in shock that my day actually went as planned.

Nov. 3: People who like snow and don't complain about winter all the time. I like my family.

Nov. 4: Nerds (the candy. Although nerds in human form are good, too). I was having a seriously hard time staying awake after lunch today. A leftover box of grape Nerds saved me.

Nov. 5: My car. It hasn't been in the shop (for anything other than routine checkup type things) for over a year. It's a good little car. I don't miss the drama of a constantly breaking down car one bit.

Nov. 6: It's Wednesday, and I don't hate life. Woo-hoo!

Nov. 7: I woke up to "Time of My Life" by David Cook this morning, which is my fifth-favorite song. Seriously, I should start every day like this.

Nov. 8: BYU basketball starts tonight.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Woes of a grad school student

So, I escaped a lot of the horrors of grad school by choosing an online program. I don't have to defend my thesis (at least, I don't think I do--how do you "defend" a collection of personal essays, anyway?), I'm not living on a starving student budget, and school works around my work schedule. Heck, I've even enjoyed it most of the time.

But sometimes, I suffer. And by sometimes, I mean right now. It's part of the universe's plan to make sure October/November is a soul-sucking time to be a student.

And then I saw this on Facebook and it made me smile:

A gift idea for your loved ones: Graduate School Barbie
Item description from this blog:
Graduate School Barbie comes in two forms: Delusional Master's Barbie (TM) and Ph.D. Masochist Barbie (TM).
Yes, I'm feeling delusional at the moment.
Every Graduate School Barbie comes with these fun-filled features guaranteed to delight and entertain for hours: Grad School Barbie comes out of the box with a big grin on her face that turns into a frown after 2 weeks or her first advisor meeting (whichever comes first). She also has adorable black circles under her delightfully bloodshot eyes.
Thank you for noticing.
Comes with two outfits: a grubby pair of blue jeans and a 5-year-old game T-shirt, and a floppy pair of gray sweatpants with a matching "I hate my life" T-shirt.
Okay, have you been spying on my wardrobe choices?
Grad School Barbie is anatomically correct to teach kids about the exciting changes that come with pursuing higher education. Removable panels on Barbie's head and torso allow you to watch as her cerebellum fries to a crispy brown, her heart race 150 beats per minute, and her stomach lining gradually dissolve into nothing. Deluxe Barbie comes with specially designed eye ducts. Just add a little water, and watch Grad School Barbie burst into tears at random intervals. Fun for the whole family!
And don't forget the frizzy, bushy hair that you have all the time now because you no longer have the energy to straighten or blow-dry it so you let it air-dry all the time and you don't even care what people think of your "new style."

Oh, the things we higher-education types put ourselves through.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Busyness

Life is like a line that is moving ever forward, never at the same speed or in the same direction, but always moving nonetheless. One of my favorite relief society teachers once illustrated this point by drawing a line of her life. When she was finished, the chalkboard looked like my Jr. high textbook covers that I doodled on when I needed something to keep me awake. I can't draw anything more realistic than a sunflower, so I traced squiggley lines over and over again until each of my brown textbook covers were decorated with countless dizzying lines. I rarely had ink-splotched-free hands during those years.

I've noticed that whenever my life line starts to descend at a sharp angle, I automatically start thinking of new things to do, even when I'm already so busy I'm only just keeping up. I pull out old InDesign projects, search for freelance jobs, go to ward activities, check out new books from the library. For some reason, when I spiral out of deep contentment or complete happiness and experience a string of bad days—as we all do—I assume that new busyness will help me rise to the top again.

After work today I rushed home, changed into my comfy clothes, and set out for my daily walk. I tried to enjoy the clear blue sky, the crunchy leaves, and the warm autumn sunshine, but my heart just wasn't into it. 

I turned onto my last street of my 2.45-mile walking route. My gaze landed on a house across the street. Two old men were sitting in lawn chairs beneath an enormous tree that had shed thousands of pinkish-red and burnt-orange leaves. An old woman opened the front screen door carrying three mugs filled with (I assume) a hot delicious beverage. She carefully handed a mug to each gentleman and then sat in the vacated seat next to them. She clutched her own mug, perhaps smiling at a gruff thank-you from one of the men, but I got the impression that she was smiling because she couldn't help it.

Witnessing that simple scene was enough to remind me that busyness is an obstacle, not a means to an end. It's a barrier that forces our life lines to swerve out of alignment. The world would have us think that if every second of our lives isn't being logged toward work, hobbies, volunteer work, or some other worthy busyness, then we aren't doing enough to justify the precious time we've been given.

Then I watch a wise old woman relax on her front lawn, holding a mug that will soon be too cold to be called a "delicious hot beverage," and I realize just how wrong that ideal is.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A first time for everything

1. I am sick of reading. I've managed my classes thus far by balancing my schedule with a writing-intensive class and a reading-intensive class, but that didn't work out so well this term. I'm looking forward to a Thanksgiving Break with no books and no daily writing quotas.

2. When you've worn through the duct tape covering the holes in your shoes, it's probably time to replace them. So today I bought a new pair of tennis shoes for 30 bucks--a steal. I'm hoping my new ones last at least six years like my comfy hobo shoes did.

3. I got a flu shot today, but only because everyone else was doing it. It was so not a big deal. I wonder if I would have avoided the Plague last year if I had gotten a flu shot then.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

When my bed becomes my enemy

It's been a brain tiring week. So brain tiring, in fact, that three nights in a row I slept so deeply that small sounds, bathroom-break urges, and superfluous thoughts couldn't rouse me. In other words, I fell asleep and didn't wake up again until my alarm went off, three nights in a row. Usually that happens about three times a year.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Oh, how nice!"

The past three mornings my only thought has been, "Eeeermmooooooofhgh."

That, my friends, is the sound a person makes when they really don't want to get up. This morning it was so bad that I hit the snooze button five times and then, after I had showered, I snuggled back in bed to "say my morning prayers."

And hours later, the only thing I want to do is sandwich myself between those silky soft sheets. I don't want to work, read, listen to music--none of that. I just want my bed.

Too much "good" sleep is like a drug for me. It's oh-so-wonderful, but I'm much more oriented and happy when I get my normal 6-7 hours of semi-interrupted sleep.

P.S. Can someone please tell me how high school schedules are distributed at the beginning of 2nd semester? I can't remember, and I'm really tired of the stress it's causing in my dreams. Thanks.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The art of reading

My professors are always telling me that if you want to be a good writer, you must write a lot (duh) and read. A lot. I'm still working on the writing-every-day thing, but I jumped at the excuse to read more than I already do. In less than a year, I've turned my love for reading into something more closely resembling an art, a balancing scale of guidelines and skill.

Guideline #1: Don't stick with one genre. 
You never know what you're missing if you stick with just one genre. In my pre-artful reading days, I read mainly fantasy, YA lit, and Mormon fiction, and I am slowly expanding my reading pool to include nonfiction, literary magazines, the classics, and modern hits. I still love thick fantasies, I'm falling more in love with creative nonfiction every day, and I'm starting to appreciate the classics for more than just their literary value. On the other hand, I still don't really like mysteries, I have not acquired any more patience for modernism, and the YA genre doesn't call to me as much as it once did. I know what I like not because I read a lot of what I like, but because I expose myself to a wide net of books.

Guideline #2: Don't finish books that aren't worth your time.
It took me years to fully grasp this concept, but there are far more books in this world than I could read in 10 lifetimes. I used to commit to finishing every book I started, but I've relaxed on that a bit. It's a shame to waste precious reading time on something worthless when there are millions of other great books awaiting your devoted attention. Because I'm trying to explore books of many varieties, I don't abandon as many as I would like, but at least I can abandon poorly written books now without feeling guilty.

Guideline #3: Always read more than one book at a time.
I used to religiously concentrate on one book before moving on to the next, but I've since learned that mood and environment are prerequisites to whether you will enjoy a book or not. When I'm in a loud restaurant for a lunch escape I want something that doesn't require my full attention and that preferably lies open on its own (this is where I do most of my magazine reading). When it's my bedtime reading hour, I want something that will reward me for living through the day (the classics don't cut it). I keep at least a couple "main" books with me whenever I settle down for some good reading time, and I have piles of unread books next to my nightstand waiting for my mood to change in their favor.

Skill #1: Fast reading.
The faster you read, the more you get to read. This doesn't mean you fly through everything you read without comprehending anything or stopping to ponder, but--ya gotta be a fast reader to read a lot of books.

Skill #2: Strong eye muscles.
Reading for hours at a time can really hurt your eyes, so it's something you have to practice. I've read so much the past couple days (mostly stuff for school) that my eyes are still jerking around my eye sockets for a while after I turn the light out. Some day I hope I can read for four hours straight, should I choose to do so.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A word on online education

A little over a year ago, when I was first looking into MFA programs, I sort of had my heart set on enrolling at either BYU or the University of Utah (yes, you read that right). But because I hadn't taken the GRE yet and had missed the application deadlines by about five months, the earliest I would have been able to start school was September 2013, assuming I got in. One adviser at the U said I could take a few classes before being officially accepted, but even then it would be January 2013 before I could start anything.

I didn't want to wait that long. My decision to go to grad school literally happened overnight (on Memorial Day, to be exact), and once I had decided, I couldn't stand the thought of delaying. I wanted to seize the opportunity before I had a chance to talk myself out of it.

So I started looking into online programs. After some obsessive researching, I applied to Southern New Hampshire University, and by mid-June I had been accepted.

I had my doubts about doing my masters 100 percent online. I didn't think that an online degree held as much weight as a brick-and-mortar degree, and I worried that I was taking the easy way out.

From where I'm sitting now, though, it's obvious by the way everything fell into place so quickly that SNHU was where I needed to be.

So here's how my program works. Each term is 11 weeks long, and each week has readings, discussion boards, workshops, writing assignments, etc. (this is not a go-at-your-own-pace program). Instead of recorded lectures, we are given a module overview (usually a couple of pages) to read, and the teacher does the rest of his/her teaching by responding to our discussion board posts and asking deeper questions when relevant.

It's a fantastic system. I don't feel like I am being short-changed at all. With the exception of one professor my teachers have been awesome, the classes are very interactive despite the fact that we're spread across several continents, and I have grown immensely as both a writer and a person.

In fact, this learning environment is better for me in a lot of ways than traditional schools. I thought I would miss having live classroom discussions, but I actually get more out of the online discussions. I've always been a backseat observer and I've never been good at coming up with brilliant responses on the spot, but now I have time to "listen" to what others are saying, process it, and form my own opinion before responding when I'm ready. This is the first time I've really been an active part of the discussion, which has made my learning experience so much richer.

I think it goes without saying that I also love not having to find time to meet with an assigned study group, participate in stupid group projects, and sit through days of boring presentations. Schools put way too much emphasis on group interaction these days. Learning to work in teams is important is a skill everyone should develop, but it is not the best setting for people like me to learn in. My teachers thought they were doing us all a favor by planning "fun" group learning activities, but this usually left me exhausted and a little traumatized. I never thrived in that environment, but I'm thriving at SNHU in ways it wasn't possible at Payson High or BYU, simply because I'm left alone.

Because my program is all about writing and reading, it works perfectly online. It would be really, um, difficult, to learn how to be, say, a doctor, online, but we writers are in a much more flexible field.

I still don't think online education should replace brick-and-mortar schools (especially in grades K-8), but I also don't buy the long-held assumption that live classroom instruction is always better, either. There's room for both in this world. I, for one, am glad I got to experience both.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Pride goeth before the fall

I tried not to get caught up in the rivalry week fervor this year. BYU's last three losses (the last two in particular) were heartbreaking, heightened by the fact that I allowed myself to dream about going to work victorious the following Monday.

Instead I had to face gloating Ute fans. 

I do not want to go through that again. I have pride, people, and I don't like having it rubbed in my face. 

By way of protection, I decided that this year I would have a zen, come-what-may attitude about the whole thing. I would keep my silence and think about the Texas game instead.

But how do you keep your cool when someone asks you--all in good fun--where you're going to watch BYU lose? How do you remain silent when people keep stopping by your desk to deliver another BYU-specific doom's-day prophecy?

You can't, that's what. You have to fight back.

D(arn) the consequences.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Hello, Skechers

This morning I did something I haven't done since May: I donned socks and shoes before leaving for work. I've been trying to transition out of open-toed shoes all week, but I just wasn't ready to reprise my role as Heartless Jailer of Feet.

But this morning it was below 50 degrees. For the first time in many months, my toes were cold.

I approached my dresser and stared at it, trying to remember why I was there when I was already fully clothed. After opening the wrong small drawer, I opened the one on the right and dug through my white socks that I grudgingly put on for each of my softball games and found a pair of forlorn-looking black socks. As I was putting them on, my eyes searched for my black Skechers beneath the pile of flip flops and sandals. Since I don't have X-ray vision this was a pointless exercise, so I got on my hands and knees and shoved several shoes aside until my hands found the shoes that had been overlooked for months.

It took me over two minutes to tie them. (I'm a little out of practice at achieving the perfect balance of snug but not too tight, okay?)

And so it begins: shoes, jackets, hot chocolate, pumpkins, chimney smoke, colorful leaves, the itch to play Christmas songs on the piano, and football. Autumn, I am so glad you're here.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My unlucky birthday

I've been looking forward to this day for quite some time. I haven't had a Friday-the-13th birthday since 2002, when I turned the wee age of 15. That was the year that started my I-don't-want-people-to-know-it's-my-birthday complex. (Let's just say that I got a little too much attention, which is kind of traumatizing for a teenager who hates being in the spotlight.)

This year I relented a little on my birthday secretiveness because this particular birthday is more awesome than all the others. Not only is it Friday the 13th, but it's also the year 2013 and I'm turning 13 x 2.

So here are 13 highlights of my unlucky birthday.

1. Unsurprisingly, it all begins with Harry Potter. Technically, the announcement that J.K. Rowling will be writing the screenplay for a movie series based on Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them was released yesterday, but I consider it an early birthday present because today, the world revolves around me. The series will begin in 1920s New York and will star Newt Scamander, author of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Just think about all that that might entail: American wizarding culture, cameos from an auburn-haired, 40-year-old Dumbledore, concrete representations of magical creatures we haven't seen yet. While I would still rather get an 800-page book set in the Harry Potter world, a movie series written by JKR herself is the next best thing. I always knew in my heart that she wasn't done with Potter. Judging by how much Harry Potter Withdrawals suck for avid fans like me, I can't even imagine what they must be like for her, the person who knows that world and its people better than anyone else. Mark my words, this won't be the last Harry Potter project she's involved in, either.

2. It was rainy and gloomy most of the day. My favorite kind of day.

3. The sales/marketing team at my office has a tradition that we go to lunch for everyone's birthdays, no questions asked. It's great.

4. I was serenaded to four times today. It was embarrassing all four times.

5. One of the miracles of life is that no matter how full you are, there is always room for a few bites of cake / pie / ice cream / brownie. With extra chocolate on top.

6. Two of my co-workers argued over who got to pay for my meal.

7. I left work early and took a nap. I dreamed that I was taking a drama class and we were split into four groups to rehearse. Kimberly's group was awesome because James Moyer was in it. But I was stuck with Crosby (from Parenthood)—who wouldn't cooperate because he was playing with Jabbar the whole time—and a murderer who kept riding his scooter up and down the stairs.

8. This text from Tyrel: "Happy birthday ducky's sisster."

9. Listening to my Top 10 Favorites playlist in my car.

10. Austenland was both hilarious and satisfyingly swoon worthy. I kind of want to go see it again.

11. Going to a restaurant just because it looks interesting from the outside is risky, but we scored big time. Now I know of a sit-down restaurant 10 minutes from my apartment that has good Mexican food. And I've decided that I might have a salsa bar at my wedding. Along with the already planned root beer floats and fudge.

12. Mom's after-9:00 personality. "Captain Underpants!"

13. Nerdy gifts. I am now a proud owner of the Elder Wand. When I pulled it out of its velvet encasement I became drunk with power and Avada Kedavra'd Shannan on the spot. I also got an awesome Harry Potter pillow, a new piano book, piano earrings, another Piano Guys CD, an earring holder, and chapstick (green apple Jolly Rancher and chocolate syrup—it actually comes in a container shaped like a chocolate syrup bottle and it tastes like chocolate).

Yup, my fifth Friday-the-13th birthday was pretty freakin' awesome.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Harry Potter Withdrawals. Again.

I think I need to join a Harry Potter support group. It would do me some good to be around people who fully understand the grief I feel every time I finish the series, to talk me out of the crushing guilt that descends upon me when I crack open another book when Harry Potter is still reeling in my mind.

It's comforting, in a way, to know that after 6–10 re-reads, the Harry Potter series still has the power to  stimulate such powerful emotions in me. The Quidditch Final in Prisoner of Azkaban still sends me soaring to Cloud 9, Sirius's death in Order of the Phoenix still breaks my heart, and Deathly Hallows still leaves a gaping hole in my soul when I finish reading it.

It always boggles my mind when I hear of people who gave up in the middle of the series because they were bored, or who haven't gotten around to reading the books yet. Don't they know that every sacrifice—whether it be sleep, money, time spent with family and friends, or PTO time—is worth it to feed your soul with this world that J.K. Rowling so exquisitely describes?

But I've come to the understanding that Harry Potter is my perfect series. That's not to say it doesn't affect thousands of devoted fans the way it affects me, but rather that its perfect blend of humor, lovable characters, and wonder is the exact right formula to touch me the way it does, to continue to entertain me after reading the books more than any sane person should. Harry Potter isn't this wonderful elixir to everyone, but it is for me, and for a lot of other people as well.

So I've checked off phase one of my Harry Potter Withdrawals recovery process: write about my feelings. Now it's time for the most painful step: pack the books away and read something else. I think I'll go easy on myself and start with The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

Summer reflections

Labor Day has come and gone: BYU lost its first football game and Payson Community Theater's production of Shrek: The Musical has already drifted into memory lane. I'm not sure how that happened.

Several weeks ago I was at an after-church social and I asked this girl how her summer was going. Her reply was, "I'm not gonna lie--it's been really boring."

I could definitely relate. I was that girl last summer (and the summer before that, and before that, and before that . . . ). Not counting the week I spent romping through California, I spent most of last summer bored. It's no coincidence that it was just over a year ago that I made the decision to go back to school.

But this summer was different. Even though I never crossed any Utah state lines, rode any roller coasters, or actually slept in a tent outside; even though my job was, shall we say, less than thrilling; even though I was stressed about a lot of things, it was a good, full summer, one that I can look back on without any regrets.

And I think I know why: school. School was the salt of my summer, the ingredient that enriched everything else. With about 20 hours a week dedicated to studying British literature, experimenting with creative nonfiction writing, and trying to digest the mess that is modern publishing, my mind got the nourishment it needed to keep the rest of me happy and productive. Not too long ago, four months of homework-less bliss was the highlight of my summer, but my have the tides changed.

*That's not to say I enjoyed every moment of school. I still hate research papers. And there were days I really struggled summoning the willpower to get even just a half hour of work done.*

It's highly likely that my fondness for summer school is due to the fact that I don't have school for the next three weeks, so I'm feeling a lot more forgiving of the thing that monopolized so many of my evenings and Saturdays.

So, it's been a pretty good summer. In addition to my literary life, I also found golden nuggets in many other simple things, such as:
  • Softball. As much fun as I had playing, I consider it a small miracle that my social ineptitudes never managed to talk me out of going to a game.
  • Rainstorms. I played softball and kickball in the rain, and I went on the most glorious walk of my life in the warm evening rain.
  • Summer evening walks. One of my favorite things about summer. It's going to be really hard to give those up when temperatures plummet to the 40s.
  • Drives with all four windows rolled down. Another one of my favorite things about summer.
  • Harry Potter. Harry Potter has brought so much happiness into my life, and it's been wonderful to visit the Wizarding world again. I'm finishing book 7 tonight and I'm already feeling the painful compression in my chest that means I won't escape withdrawal pains this time either.
  • Time with friends and family.
  • Rewatching my favorite TV shows. Man, it's nice to have the occasional 43-minute escape from life, especially since it's easier on the eyes than reading.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time passing

I've always loved starting new months. Even February isn't so bad for the first few days. It's rejuvenating to clear my whiteboard calendar and write in new stuff, delete all my texts, and pay the last of my bills. Flipping to a new pretty picture on my three calendars every month is another special treat.

But I have to wonder what is so celebratory about time passing, especially when I'm not counting down to a significant life event or trying to get through a rough patch. Is it the New Years-esque clean slate feeling? Is it the changing seasons? Is it the knowledge that I'm older and wiser than I was last month? Satisfaction that I'm one month closer to the high point of my life (whatever that is)?

I think it's a mixture of all of the above, in addition to one of modernity's mantras: I'm In a Hurry and Don't Know Why. We're all trying to get somewhere--passing time makes us feel like we're making progress. Unless, of course, you're stuck--then it just feels like time is passing you by.

I don't know if it's the cooler weather and changing leaves, the anticipation of a football/holiday weekend and a three-week break from school, Harry Potter warm fuzzies, or simply the eve of one of my favorite months of the year. Today I am content to celebrate time: the past, which I can look back on and grimace or smile; the present, where I can live fully in the moment; and the future, where I store my dreams.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

When it rains

I'm a firm believer that when inclement weather arrives on the scene, 95 percent of the time it doesn't foil your plans; it simply, shall we say, enhances the experience.

Yesterday was my company's summer party. One of my co-workers has been planning this event all month. That morning it was cloudy and 10 degrees cooler than the day before, but we moved forward with our plans nonetheless. 

At 11:00 a.m. the marketing team arrived at Big Cottonwood Park ladened down with raw meat, condiments, bags of ice, cake, coolers, and drinks. The wind was blowing approximately 50,000 miles an hour, so we anchored anything that weighed less than five pounds down with pickle jars, drinks, and plates of watermelon. Our hair blew in thousands of different directions at once, clothes threatened to part from our bodies, and the letter A on our ChartLogic cake peeled off.

But the rest of the employees arrived anyway, and became very adept at crouching over their plates while they ate to prevent the wind from whipping their burgers, chips, and cake balls away. Piling our plates with food was difficult, as we no longer had the option of putting our plates down while we loaded up. More than one of us upended our feasts that way.

Phase two of the event was a company kickball game. We were prepared to play despite the wind, but by the time everyone made it to the field the wind had finally died down. 

In its place was a light drizzle.

We divided into four teams. As the hour wore on, the rain got heavier and heavier, but the battle for 1st place only got more intense. It didn't matter that the ball was hard to catch because it was so slippery. It didn't matter that injuries were more likely due to the wet grass. We played on, and by the time the winning team put my team out of our misery (they scored at least 12 runs in the last inning), we were all thoroughly damp.

And thus I fulfilled one of my lifelong dreams; playing sports in the rain with no shoes on. Softball games are usually canceled the minute a blip of lightning appears 50 miles away, and most umpires require that athletes wear proper footwear for their own safety. But yesterday there was no thunder, no lightning, and no umpires. And, it turns out, it's kind of hard to kick with flip flops on, so I was one of four who played barefoot in the warm, summer rain.

In short, it was awesome.

Most of us returned to the office wet, exhausted, and frizzy-haired. But I would gladly relive that experience.

And today, I went grocery shopping right before the big rainstorm hit. As the cashier was ringing up my items, I watched in awe as floods of thick raindrops came pelting down on unprepared victims. I pulled out my Utah Jazz umbrella as I exited the store and walked calmly along to my car. Despite my attempts to keep both my hair and my groceries dry, each bag had taken in a lot of water by the time I finally got them in the car. My hair was still mostly dry, but my pants were making delightful galoshing noises as I put my cart away.

I felt like I had just climbed out of a swimming pool when I finally entered the welcoming arms of my apartment. I threw my clothes in the dryer, put pajamas on, and mopped up the puddles I had tracked in. I now have a full evening of Harry Potter, hot chocolate, and freshly dried clothes to look forward to.

Neither of these experiences would have made it to my blog if it had been a typical sunny, summer weekend. But when it rains, life becomes much more blog worthy.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

To the extroverts

Dear extrovert,

First off, I want you to know that I admire, and often envy, your ability to instantly make friends, shine in the spotlight, and make decisions on the spot. You're a pretty great person, actually, and I'm glad to have you in my life.

But I believe your knowledge regarding the inner workings of an introvert's mind is sorely lacking. This is not entirely your fault--you've been raised in an extroverted world that values being heard over being introspective, being friendly over being shy.

It is not my intention to lecture you on a centuries-long prejudice. But perhaps if you give me a few minutes of your time I can help you understand a significant portion of the human race a little better, and then maybe we'll be able to talk about something more interesting than my nonverbal habits.

An introvert is someone who re-energizes by being alone or meditating on various life happenings. Trust me, there's no need to look so concerned when I tell you that I spent my Friday night cuddling with a book instead of a human being. I may accept an invitation to a party every now and then, but if I decline please don't take offense. I often prefer my own company over that of others, but it's nothing personal. And please don't worry about my well-being the day after a party; I may be exhausted, but I'll recover. Eventually.

Introverts are often erroneously pegged as moody or depressed, probably because of the expression created by relaxed facial muscles. This is one of those situations where you shouldn't judge a book by its cover. Facial expressions are unreliable personality meters, regardless of your genetic wiring.

And finally, introverts are silent because they preserve their vocal chords for opportune moments when they have something useful to say. They are not judging you, they do not think they are better than you, and they are not smarter than you (though you have our permission to assume this anyway). I should warn you, though, that stupid questions will be answered with scowls, glares, and excessive eye rolling. "Why don't you talk?" and "Have you ever had a conversation with anyone?" qualify as stupid questions. I, for one, have decided to stop trying to politely answer idiotic questions like these, and wholeheartedly believe that you deserve whatever damage is caused by my death glare.

As a common courtesy, I don't try to make you feel like a freak whenever you project yourself on everyone around you. I would appreciate the same treatment from you whenever I draw inward.

Sincerely,

An introvert

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Carter Family Quote Board, 2009-2013

Every household should have a quote board. It took my family four years to fill ours up completely, but it has brought us many laughs. Just in case our quote board gets lost somehow, I thought I would preserve the essence of it in a more permanent form. Enjoy!

"You used to knew . . . phtb . . ." --Mom

"I only like to say hello to people when I know they can't hear me." --Angie

"I lost my train . . ." --Shannan

"This movie is rated PG for mild peril. By the way, what's peril?" --Tyrel

"You're sucking a dead dragon?" --Tyrel

"At my house there's nothing entertaining to eat." --Tiffany

"People don't just subconsciously start vibrating." --Kimberly

"I thought you said you were sleepy." --Tyrel
"Me . . ." --Mom

"Darrin made me tell me . . . huh?" --Mom

"I was just talking out loud." --Mom

"Ow, my foot hurts! I mean, my knee!" Kimberly

"I pretty much decided, that what I like most about building stuff . . . is the building part." --Tyrel

"I can't finish my game until it's done!" --Angie

"Machine gun . . . darn it." --Tyrel

"My armpit smells nice." --Kimberly

"Those people have noses!" --Tyrel

"Everyone is James in the end." --Kimberly

"I'm just a good dog." --Shannan

"Keep your butt away from me." --Kimberly

"Where's my liver!?!" --Shannan

"Hey! We don't want anyone breaking in on us while we're gone!" --Dad

"If it were between running around naked and being nice to the cat, we'd have to run around naked." --Bishop Searle

"I'm simpler than you." --Shannan

"I dissed myself with bad grammar." --Shannan

"It's a guy and they're both fat." --Tyrel

"KISS ME!" --Angie

"Listen to your little sister. She is wise." --Dad

"I'm clueless to when I'm unaware of what's going on." --Tiffany

"I'm funny! I love myself." --Tyrel

"All I need to do is double my score and I'll beat you." --Jeremy S.

"Because you left the lie, Jughead!" --Dad

"Well, when life is boring you should definitely film it." --Kimberly

"I'm almost positive I was still pregnant with Mom." --Tyrel

"When I sleep, I twitch and moan and groan, and I wake up and my shirt's gone." --Tyrel

"It even has theoretical trailers!" --Tyrel

"Men are that women might be." --Tyrel

"Well, his Mom's dead, but his isn't." --Shannan

"The throught cost my mind." --Tyrel

"Does anyone want a diagram of the ear--I mean, heart?" --Angie

"Wise man must inspirate." --Tyrel

"Are those tator tots?" --Tyrel (looking at Shannan's croutons)

"It feels good to have a wet butt at the end of a long day." --Tyrel

"You know, old gum tastes kind of like pickles." --Angie

"I thought two-dollar bills were extinct." --Tyrel

"He must have been a 10-year-old super genius when he was 12." --Tyrel

"Why does it say 'Good luck' on your behind?" --Tyrel

"No way." --Jeremy S.

"Hey, now's the best time for a nap . . . I want some chocolate." --Mom

"Oh my goodness, you do have five toes! Where did you get those?" --Mom
"From Santa Claus." --Tenashious

"What about the Carter man? Who has the profound ability to scare people to death with just his face." --Tyrel

"Normally I don't put my head this close to people's butts." --Kimberly

"But if you really hold me tight--I must pee first." --Angie

"It's kind of dumb that this pizza crust comes in a square and it's supposed to be round." --Angie
"Yes, I agree that that is round." --Kimberly

"POOH PURSE COO PURR!" --Kimberly

"I don't think Jeremy (B.) should take you home." --Mom
"Well, normally he just takes me to the hospital." --Kimberly

"My daughters the carnivores." --Dad
"And your son the spinosaurus." --Tyrel

"It's Hiroshima."
"Who's she?" --Tyrel

"My sandwich tastes like a hot Italian day in Mexico." --Jeremy B.

"I like your lips. They match your eyes." --Mom

"I'm going to relinquish the compressive powers I have over my containments." --Jeremy B.

"I have a leg hair. It's really long because I haven't shaved in two hours--I mean two days--I mean two weeks!"  --Kimberly

"We'll probably just hang it and screw it up." --Dad

"Whoa, my butt." --Mom

"I'm worried that he might be a drug lord." --Tyrel

"What is your occupancy? I mean, occupation?" --Tyrel

(Talking about Dad) "I want my presence!" --Mom

"I thought it was a purse. I think it was a car though." --Shannan

"Look, we got two loaves of eggs!"
*Later*
"Marilee gave us two gallons of--oh my gosh!" --Kimberly

"Cool! It's a butt zipper!" --Jeremy B.

"She'd need a ladder or a jet pack or something." --Tyrel (speaking of Kimberly reaching a DVD player on the ceiling)

"Can I have your ticket? I ate mine." --Tyrel

"We wouldn't have to pop as many pills if we had some that were a little stronger." --Dad

"For my birthday, I want a cool copy of the complete works of Jane Austen." --Shannan
"Well, I want disintegration rays and Plasma cannons." --Tyrel

"I've officially decided that family prayer gives me gas." --Shannan

"My hair smells like puke." --Mom

"I don't know who you are, but you're about to have lunch!" --Shannan

"Gas: A creative burst of energy." --Shannan

"If I can get the beam bright enough, I can almost see it." --Tyrel

(Pointing at a tiny lizard) "It's a bug of some kind!" --Angie

"We're going to have lunch before we can eat the movie." --Dad

"I want to die of old age, or in an explosion." --Tyrel

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

That pesky high school dream

I haven't been a high school student for seven years, but that hasn't stopped me from visiting Payson High School in my dreams over and over again. Last night was another frustrating sequence of trying to remember what my first class was and trying to get to choir on time so Mr. Dahlquist wouldn't give me a negative.

It's not uncommon for me to dream about something over and over again--Domino's Pizza and Harry Potter are just a few examples of that. It makes total sense to me why I would dream about those things. But I don't understand why I keep going back to high school. And each time I dream about high school I get more irritated.

So I decided to do a little bit of Googling and see what the "experts" have to say about dreams. I found three different websites that have the same but different interpretation for dreams about high school.

Website #1
To dream about high school refers to the bonds and friendships that you made while you were in high school. What spiritual lessons have you learned? The dream may also be telling you that you need to start preparing for the real world.
I can't remember when I first started dreaming about high school, but I'm prepared to bet that it was after a few semesters of college. This was about the time that I declared my major and spent a lot of time thinking about what I wanted to do with my life career wise. The last five years of my life have been dedicated to preparing for the real world, really, so that last statement makes a lot of sense to me.

Website #2
To dream of being in high school represents anxiety or concerns you have in regards to gaining power, resources, or status. How well you are being perceived by others or how well you are performing in life. You want more responsibility, status, or to feel more capable. You are trying to improve yourself in some manner.
High school points to insecurities, or anxieties about how powerful or capable you feel as a person.
Attending specific classes in a school may represent the manner in which you are thinking. For example, history classes may reflect the reexamining of your past and math classes your attempts to solve a difficult problem.
So, lots of doubt going on here.

*Sits and thinks*

Okay, this interpretation makes sense to me too. I don't consider myself an insecure person, but I am a young adult trying to find her place in the world. Which means I spend a lot of time being confused. I still don't consider myself a full-fledged adult, so maybe my repeating high school dreams reflect the anxiety I experience as I try to figure out how to be an adult. And I do want more responsibility and to feel more capable of tackling life. What I'd like to know is if other young adults dream about high school as often as I do.

As for classes, I've only ever dreamed about choir, English, math, and band. It's obvious why I dream about choir--it's the only part of high school that I actually miss sometimes. English is pretty self-explanatory as well. What fascinates me is that I dream about math, of all things. I haven't taken a math class since high school, ironically. It could be some repressed fear I have about my math skills regressing to that of an 8th grader, or it could be my subconscious's way of showing that I'm trying to solve a difficult problem. I'm going to have to start paying more attention to when I dream about math.

Website #3
High school represents a turning point in life. It is a time when one meets lifetime friends, commits silly mistakes, and shared hopes and dreams. A mixture of emotions, expectations, and memories gushes out from the thought of high school.
To dream about high school refers to lessons learned and preparations made for life.
This blog has become a mechanism for me to share life lessons. I talk about life lessons more than anything else. Maybe dreaming about high school actually means I'm progressing rather than being stuck in the past or unable to overcome old fears.

I think I feel a little better about this whole situation now. I was starting to think that my high school dreams meant that I had unresolved issues with my past or something, and that I wouldn't be able to move on until I touched base with everyone in my class or something. If nothing else, it's nice to be reminded that dreams are often symbolic, not literal.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

33 great things about Harry Potter (my version)

Because it's Harry Potter's 33rd birthday, my Facebook news feed was full of Harry Potter posts this morning. This article showed up a couple of times, and while I enjoyed it, I couldn't read it without rewriting it in my head based on my own experiences with my favorite Harry Potter character. (Actually, McGonagall is my new favorite character, but Harry held that spot for a lot of years.)

But what is this blog for, if not to project my view of the world to a minuscule pool of readers? Here are 33 reasons why I think Harry Potter is so great.

  1. He's remarkably normal for someone who had an abusive childhood.
  2. Despite his Muggle upbringing, he still remembers that you can make fire without wood: "Lucky you pay attention in Herbology, Hermione," said Harry as he joined her by the wall, wiping sweat from his face. "Yeah," said Ron, "and lucky Harry doesn't lose his head in a crisis--'there's no wood,' honestly." (SS, 278)
  3. His snark. "There's no need to call me sir, Professor."
  4. He's a very curious fellow.
  5. He was never tempted by power or riches. He did throw the Elder Wand away, after all.
  6. He's quick to forgive (for the most part). He doesn't hold Sirius responsible for his parents' deaths, he welcomes Ron back with open arms after he abandoned him in book 7, he names one of his kids after Snape, and parts ways with Dudley amicably, among other things.
  7. Half the Weasleys are alive because of him.
  8. He may have a bit of a hero complex, but he's still very humble.
  9. He lost his Firebolt and Hedwig within minutes of each other. He didn't spare a thought for his Firebolt, but he mourned for Hedwig.
  10. He buried Dobby without magic.
  11. He was good to Kreacher (after a bit of coaching from Dumbledore and Hermione).
  12. He helped Neville find his inner Gryffindor.
  13. He defeats Voldemort without using a killing curse. And he escaped from him more times than anyone else managed to do.
  14. It's because of him that we get Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes.
  15. He takes care of the Norbert problem. I'm pretty sure I would have let someone else--like Dumbledore--deal with it. I guess that's why I'm a Ravenclaw.
  16. He's fiercely loyal to Hagrid, despite his many faults.
  17. He has a big heart.
  18. He doesn't let Umbridge or Voldemort defeat him. 
  19. He's a natural leader.
  20. He's not the type of guy to sit and think about things without ever doing anything. 
  21. He's always saving people.
  22. He's Dumbledore's man, through and through.
  23. He's not afraid to break the rules, or to make his opinion heard.
  24. He has a cool scar.
  25. The only person he ever tries to be is himself.
  26. He marries Ginny and has three kids. Precious.
  27. He becomes head of the Auror office. The perfect man for the job. I hope he included Dumbledore's Army in his resume.
  28. He finds humor in Trelawney's bleak predictions.
  29. Friendship and bravery are more important than books and cleverness.
  30. He's actually a pretty good student, too.
  31. He takes Luna to Slughorn's party.
  32. He's a great Quidditch player.
  33. He's very generous. He always shares his candy, he buys Ron and Hermione Omnioculors, he gives Dobby socks, he dumps a bag of Wizard money into the Fountain of Magical Brethren. It's really amazing how little the Dursleys rubbed off on him.

Friday, July 26, 2013

A battle lost

It's been 1,020 days. I fought the battle long and hard, but I never expected to win it. It was always a matter of how long I would last until I surrendered.

Today, I started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

It's been almost three years since I've allowed myself this pleasure. During that time, I
  • Started a career
  • Moved out of Utah County
  • Moved into my own apartment
  • Read 134 books
  • Decided to get my masters in creative writing
  • Completed about 2/3 of my masters degree
  • Wrote 41 papers (this includes short papers, research papers, essays, and short stories)
  • Went to Washington, D.C., San Diego, and San Francisco
  • Saw the Redwoods
  • Burned a book
  • Survived the worst sickness of my life
  • Watched Michael Phelps win his 18th Olympic gold medal
  • Discovered I like painting my toenails
  • Saw an eclipse
  • Voted
  • Got my endowments
  • Went to two temple sealings
  • Got swept up in Jimmermania
  • Became an aunt
  • Went to the groundbreaking ceremony for the Payson Temple
  • Went golfing for the first time
  • Bought a piano

And that's not even counting the Harry Potter-related occurrences, in which I
  • Joined Pottermore
  • Started a wand collection
  • Started listening to MuggleNet's Alohomora podcast
  • Took the O.W.L.s twice
  • Saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows parts 1 and 2 in theaters

Clearly, I found a way to move on with my life after finishing book 7 on October 10, 2010.

But, it's time.