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.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

When you work on a holiday

Holidays refuse to be ignored, even if you're too busy to notice them. Even if you don't celebrate them. And even if you have to go into the office.

Something about the eerie lack of noise and the drop in temperature due to fewer bodies to combat the overly excited air conditioner is sending my thoughts into a bajillion different directions.

So here we have another lovely bullet-point blog post.
  • What is the proper spelling for bajillion? The only spelling suggestions I'm getting are "bazillion" and "billion." I get that "bajillion" is the Old Spice version of the word "bazillion," but it really should get its own place in the dictionary. "Ginormous" is an acceptable word now, so why can't "bajillion" be?
  • I have acquired a new softball-related battle wound. This one is on the palm of my right hand. The ball hit me so hard that it left a blue smudge on my hand, which I'm guessing came from the stitching, or maybe the words "Murray YSA stake" written in blue marker. (Grounders are mean, you guys.) The budding bruise is roughly half the size of my cell phone. I may post a picture in a few days when it's more impressive looking.
  • I can't believe it's only Wednesday. For the amount of work I've done this week, it really should be Friday by now.
  • I did decently well on my MuggleNet O.W.L.s this year (which, by the way, are really difficult, especially if you don't study or cheat). I only failed four classes (Ancient Runes, Astronomy, History of Magic, and Magical Creatures) and I got an Exceeds Expectations in Muggle Studies. My grades in seven of the classes improved from last year, so I'm feeling pretty good about myself.
  • My home teachers came over on Sunday and were impressed by my Harry Potter paraphernalia. For fun, they decided to ask me a really hard trivia question: Who let the troll into Hogwarts? (Incidentally, this is one of the level-one questions in my homemade trivia game. The multiple choice options are something like (a) Quirrell, (b) it flew in, (c) Tyrel, and (d) something else weird). It was really hard not to laugh when one guy blurted, "Neville!"
  • I just subscribed to The New Yorker. That's the third literary magazine I've subscribed to this year. Some people get cable; others just read too much.
  • I hate Gmail's new categories thing. I already had a perfectly good system set up with all my folders. Now I have to sort through three different tabs to get all my emails into the right folders, which adds a lot more clicking to my life. I bet doctors hate this "improvement" too.
  • After two sleepless nights and three days of the worst allergies I've had all year, I now know what happens when you take Benadryl that has passed its expiration date (even if it's only by a couple months): instead of knocking you out and curing your symptoms so you can breathe and stop scratching your nose, it puts you in an unpleasant, drugged-but-alert state for six hours and does nothing to relieve your suffering.
  • I am not planning on reading The Cuckoo's Calling. For those of you who live under a rather large boulder, that's the book that J.K. Rowling published under pseudonym Robert Galbraith that no one knew about before we found out who Robert Galbraith really was, but now it's the #1 bestseller on USA TODAY's Best-Selling Book List. I can't decide if this annoys me or not.
  • I think my maximum capacity for summer enjoyment is two months. Even with the rough winter we had, I started longing for fall in mid-July, right on schedule.
  • I've had a very "balanced" summer, though. Meaning I got the right amount of work, school, play, and socializing in. Usually my summers are very lopsided with work and play, but school and social activities have balanced things wonderfully.
  • I can't decide if I want to buy season 2 of Once Upon a Time.
  • I killed the biggest fly in the world on my bathroom mirror yesterday. Its splattered remains were about a mile wide. Or the size of a quarter, same diff.
  • Karl Malone turns 50 today. He's almost as ancient as my dad. :)
  • Why is the world so obsessed with William and Kate? Also, I don't think it's fair that Kate Middleton is flawlessly beautiful in every possible way.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

On being single

*Sometimes I start posts, but don't publish them. Then I forget about them. I wrote this post over a year ago, and I always planned to publish it, but I . . . didn't. Until now, that is.* 

I seriously doubt there is anyone out there whose life turned out exactly as they planned. And even if things turned out hunky-dory, there were probably detours and setbacks along the way to hunky-dory land.

I certainly didn't plan on working at a software company and living alone at this stage in my life, for example. I was raised to expect to have a husband and a kid or two at this point, and while self-sufficiency was taught in my home, during my teen years I figured that the main purpose for any skills I acquired was to ensure that I had a Plan C (Plan B was to go on a mission in the unlikely event that I was still single at the ancient age of 21) just in case my perfect plans were disrupted.

Little did I know that the Plan C I put very little thought into would become my Plan; not just a temporary setback, but an entirely different road.

For a while, I resented it. All I wanted from life was a temple marriage, but instead I got a salary and independence. Being single is hard enough with the stalkers and awkward dates, but when your whole world centers on beliefs that center on marriage and family, being single is so much harder. Not only is it your lot to be alone but you're also almost second-class, someone who has yet to reach her full potential until she finds a man to elevate her.

I was never one of those girls who felt worthless because she didn't have a boyfriend; until I was about 20 I frowned upon having a boyfriend at all. I only relented then because my 21st birthday was coming up, and I had a deadline to meet.

But if there's anything I've learned over the past two years, it's that I don't need a man in order to become the person I want to be. I don't have to sit around, bored, waiting for my other half to come along while I squander my youth waiting for a guy to come along with the key to unlock the potential inside me.

Another awesome realization I've had is that being young and single doesn't mean you aren't a real person. It's not the limbo mode you have to go through before "real life" starts. Just look at Alma, Moroni, Mormon, the stripling warriors, and Joseph Smith--they were all young and single (and large of stature, incidentally) when they started doing great things, and they changed the world.

Just like many others whose plans didn't work out as expected, I am happy with my "lot in life." In fact, a very wise Someone knew that this road would be better for me than the one I had picked out, though I would not have agreed with Him a year ago.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Letter to me (at 17)

One of my favorite Brad Paisley songs is "Letter to Me." Every time I hear it, I wonder what I would say if I could write myself a letter "and send it back in time to myself at 17." I think it would go something like this:

Take Spanish. Your college self will curse your existence if you don't.

I know you love your Volkswagen Golf and you are weirdly proud of the bruise on your right hand from all the times you punched the steering wheel to get the speedometer to work, but you'll save yourself thousands of dollars if you trade it in for a car that isn't possessed.

It's great that you don't plan to have a boyfriend while you're in high school. But leave some room for boys in your life.

The real reason you're hesitant to try out for softball isn't that the team is comprised almost solely of cheerleaders or that you're afraid you won't like the sport anymore if you have to dedicate so much time to it. Quit fooling yourself; you're hesitant to try out because you're scared. Stop being a chicken and do it.

Take more risks. Allow yourself to fail.

You don't have to be the best at everything.

Treasure every moment you have in choir. And thank Mr. Dahlquist for letting you be one of his accompanists; not many accomplishments will be as gratifying as that one.

Don't forget about your cousins.

No matter how long you've been on your feet, no matter how tired you are, don't speed on Elk Ridge Drive. And don't tell the cop that pulls you over that your speedometer doesn't work, geez.

No one in this world pays as much attention to you as you do. Think about that for a few minutes.

Just admit it; you like your family more than anyone else.

Mr. Paisley is right—these are nowhere near the best years of your life. Enjoy the experience while you can, but know that the best is yet ahead.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Basking in competitiveness

I think my favorite part of this summer (aside from our annual sister party, watching movies on our garage door instead of doing fireworks, and, you know, being warm) has been playing softball. At first I thought my days-long happiness was because I was so proud of myself for getting out of my apartment on a week night, but that's only part of it. There's a basketball-sized portion of my consciousness, awakened when I was a little girl, that just loves to compete. And not just compete, but compete well.

Sports have taken a backseat since I got my first job as a CSR at Domino's. It was time to prepare for adult things, like buying a car and saving for college, so that meant letting go of certain "childish" delights. I still followed sports--basketball, mainly--when I could, but I'll admit a big motivator for that was my determination to shock people out of the mindset that I'm a girly girl. I resigned myself to the fact that the most sporty I was likely to ever get again was the bouncing sessions I participated in every time an intense basketball game was on (Sweet 16, anyone?).

One of the great things about graduating from college, though, is that you have time to do things that you haven't done for years, even the things you abandoned in the name of adulthood. Last year, I played softball for the first time in eight years, but I didn't go to enough of the games to get past my rusty stage. I spent more time lamenting my lost skills than I did basking in the funness of the game.

This year has been different. I've gone to every game the Union YSA Ward has played in so far and while we're not as good as we were last year, I've enjoyed it a lot more because I shave off a little bit of rust every game. Sure, the first few games I couldn't throw straight and I had to resort to stopping grounders with my bare shins because my mind and body weren't quite in sync yet, but over time my aim got better and so did my hand-eye coordination.

Then special sporty moments start happening. I stop a grounder at third, throw it to first, and as I'm watching the ball soar through the air, I hear a guy behind me say, "It's good!" before the ball plants itself firmly in the first baseman's mitt. I hit a perfectly pitched ball to my sweet spot (center field) and I hear the catcher behind me say, "Woah, that was a nice hit" before I take off running.

Moments like these are what make sports so fun--not necessarily the exclamations of awe, but rather the awesome power that spreads through your body when you make a good play or the satisfying tingling you feel in your hands minutes after you hit that ball into the gap in the outfield.

Ah, sports. I'm glad we've gotten back together.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Surrendering for peace

I don't know a lot about war, but I've read enough history (and fantasy novels) to know that surrenders usually occur to prevent further fighting and bloodshed. To put it in oversimplified terms, all you have to do is surrender to the guy with more power and the turmoil will end.

Surrendering isn't synonymous with giving up, however. Merriam-Webster's defines surrender as "to yield to the power, control, or possession of another upon compulsion or demand." Surrender involves more than just letting go; it involves an actual transfer of control.

There are risks that come with surrendering, of course. If you're surrendering to someone/something corrupt, it'll save you from one bad situation only to put you in a different bad situation. If you surrender too often, you can't be counted on to stand for anything.

Sometimes, though (usually when you're least prepared for it), surrendering is not just the only sane course of action, it's the only course of action. You've made a plan, executed that plan, made adjustments along the way, and still you feel like you're walking through a battlefield of doubts, conflicting fantasies, and unfulfilled personal miracles. Finally, you throw your hands in the air and say, "All right, God, you win! I'll keep blindly driving the car as long as you don't let me fall off a cliff."

I expected darkness and confusion when I hit this point last week. To my surprise, I got peace instead, a peace more complete than I've felt in a very long time.

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace.
—1 Corinthians 14:33

Surrendering to the one who is holding all the cards all the time, who knows where you're going and who you're supposed to be, is never a risk. I expect this to be one of those lessons I'll have to learn over and over again, but that's really okay—learning that the miracles God has in store for me are so much better than the ones I can dream up is kind of a pleasant cycle to go through, especially when the end of the cycle is peace.