Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 books

For nine months this year, I enjoyed the luxury of reading what I wanted, whenever I wanted. I plucked random books from shelves in the library, reread books I loved as a teenager, and discovered new authors. It was lovely. I'm glad I eased up on my reading aspirations, especially after the intensity of last year.

But, I'm ready for another reading challenge. My to-read list on Goodreads currently has 214 books on it. And frankly, that's 214 books I want to read that I've forgotten about. So it's time to focus and start chipping away at all those (hopefully) wonderful books. I've seriously considered only reading books on that list for all of 2015, but that's a tad too restrictive, especially since I love rereading books. So my goal for 2015 is to read 50 books from my to-read list.

But first, let's talk about the books I read this year.

Goal: Read 60 books

Books read: 66

First reads: 46

Rereads: 20

Books by female authors: 33

Books by male authors: 33

Longest book: The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas—1276 pages.

Shortest book: Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp—64 pages.

Pages read: 26,744

Average number of pages per book: 405

  • 5 stars: 21
  • 4 stars: 17
  • 3 stars: 21
  • 2 stars: 7
  • 1 star: 0
Favorite book (fiction): The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. My poor heart—this book is almost too much for it. One minute I'm basking in the gorgeous writing and the next I'm crying over a character I love. I cannot recommend this book more highly.

Favorite book (nonfiction): Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand. I love the World War II time period. (Huh. I just noticed both my favorite books are set during WWII. Point proven.) And this story is too incredible to not be true. Before you say you don't like nonfiction, give this book a try. I'm pretty sure you'll love it.

Favorite reread: Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine. This is one of my favorite books of all time, so rereading it is always a treat. I keep trying to find a fairy-tale retelling that measures up to this one, but I don't expect to ever succeed at that venture (although Shannon Hale's Storybook of Legends comes close). This book is just too awesome.

Best discovery: The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton. I'm so glad I found this book, especially since it led me to The Forgotten Garden, which is one of the best books I've read this year. Both books develop slowly, which gave me more time to revel in the lovely writing and enjoy the characters' stories. Whodunnit mysteries don't appeal to me all that much, but a good family mystery does, apparently. And each book had immensely satisfying endings, the kind that make you both marvel and ache.

Best escape book: Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer. This book was distracting enough to make me forget about a disheartening BYU loss. And to eliminate any temptation to turn on the TV. And to keep me from sleeping at night. I love it when books do this, but I would be in trouble if they were all like this.

Funniest book: Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham. I didn't expect this book to be amazing, since it doesn't seem fair for someone to be beautiful, smart, funny, a fabulous actor, and a good writer, but . . . apparently it is possible to be all those things if you're Lauren Graham. This book has the charm I love about Gilmore Girls, and it had me laughing out loud many times. I kind of want to read it again right now.

Saddest book: And the Mountains Echoed, by Khaled Hosseini. The saddest thing about this book isn't so much that no one seems to get their happy ending, but that the tragedies they deal with are battles real people face every day that just can't be won. Still a great book, though.

Weirdest book: Dangerous, by Shannon Hale. Don't get me wrong, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. But there are aliens that take over peoples' bodies, and aliens weird me out.

Yawn award: Families and Faith: How Religion Is Passed Down Across Generations, by Vern L. Bengtson, Norella M. Putney, and Susan Harris. This study and its findings are very interesting, but, like most published studies, the writing is pretty dry. If I didn't have to review it for the Deseret News, I would have just read the conclusions and skipped everything else. There was definitely a lot of skimming going on as it was. . . .

Chick award: What Is Hidden, by Lauren Skidmore. This is probably the funnest book I read this year. (And yes, "funnest" is too a word.) I grinned like a lovestruck teenager through most of it.

Book in most need of a proofreader: Gadiantons and the Silver Sword, by Chris Heimerdinger. The Tennis Shoes books are entertaining—I adored them when I was a teenager. But the proofreading is just awful in this book. I have some experience with the rigorous tests required to be a proofreader, and I cannot fathom how this book made it to press as is. Moral of the story: don't skimp on editing.

Book I was most pleasantly surprised by: Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen. It's always a pleasant surprise when I actually enjoy a so-called classic, but I really didn't expect to like this one. I just picked it up so I could complete my Jane Austen To-Read list. But this book is funny, and doesn't have nearly as many balls as the other books. Don't listen to the naysayers—this one is worth your time.

Book I was most disappointed in: Where I Was From, by Joan Didion. For nonfiction writers, Joan Didion is an idol. I loved every one of her essays I read for my graduate program, which is why I picked one of her books to read during my last semester. Oh, how I wish I could reverse that decision. This book has almost no trace of the writer I admire, and I'm still bitter about it.

Most thought-provoking: Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt. This is one of the first books I read that really made me think, and I love it for that. 

Fueled my hope for humanity: The Book Thief wins this one by a mile, but I'm trying not to highlight any book more than once. So here's my second choice: Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel. I think I'm a little bit of a dystopian junkie. This one isn't your typical YA love story set in revolutionary chaos—99 percent of the world dies in a flu pandemic, and the poor survivors have to pick up the pieces of a world that went completely dark, the memories of life before the world ended haunting them all the time. How do you keep going after such loss? Read and find out. (Spoiler alert: Star Trek plays a role.)

Book I'm most glad I abandoned: The Map of Time, by Felix J. Palma. I don't mind too much if a book gets off to a slow start, but this one was so slow that not even the prospect of time travel could keep me going.

Book I'd love to see as a movie: It's about time we had a Brandon Sanderson movie, don't you think? Mistborn is the one I'd most like to see as a movie, but since I didn't read that book this year, I'll go with Way of Kings

Book I don't want to see as a movie: The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway. The only things more boring than fishing is (1) watching someone fish and (2) watching someone golf. Sure, the old man gets attacked by sharks a couple of times, but that doesn't change the fact that 90 percent of this movie would be the most uninteresting thing ever.

Book I would love to live in: Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery. If I can't live at Green Gables, then Anne's little house with the garden and the brook is the next best thing.

Book I'm perfectly happy not living in: Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson. If you've been victim to the sharp steel edges of my parents' bar stools, you'll have deep sympathy for Raodin, who has to suffer the pain of a stubbed toe for an eternity. Sure, not everyone in this book is stuck in Elantris, but if there was even a chance that I'd have to endure that kind of torture forever, I'd travel to another world, no questions asked.

Favorite character: Picking just one is too stressful. I can't do it.

Least favorite character: Kokor, from The Call of Earth by Orson Scott Card. Some people are just impossible to like. Like those people who have severe I'm-a-martyr syndrome and who think they are justified in ruining other peoples' lives to make themselves feel better. These people tend to be arrogant and have extremely low self-esteem. There is absolutely nothing likeable about Kokor.

Most interesting character: Shallan, from Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson. Just when I thought I had this girl figured out, we'd find out more about her and I'd have to reevaluate everything I thought I knew. I know I praise Brandon Sanderson all the time, but the way he writes Shallan is really quite masterful.

Most relatable character: Cara from Allegiant, by Veronia Roth. I've already forgotten a lot of what happens in these books, but I do remember liking Cara a lot. She's Erudite, sure, but she also has things like emotions and common sense. She's not in the spotlight very much, and I think that's the way she prefers it. Sounds like me to me.

Book crush: Howl, from Howl's Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones. Howl isn't the kind of guy I would want to be married to: he's vain, whiny, and extremely high maintenance. But he sure knows how to melt a girl's heart with his attempts to hide his goodness behind a mask of cowardice, and the obvious affection he has for everyone he complains about most. He's just an adorable mess.

Best cover: Cress, by Marissa Meyer. This cover does everything a cover should do: it's pretty, it uses an appropriate font, and it gives you a hint of what the story will be about without giving much away. My favorite thing about this cover is how clean it is—there's a refreshing use of white space going on. I'm also a fan of covers that don't show people from the front; it takes a lot more creativity to create a book cover without slapping a picture of a model on the front. Getting just a glimpse of Cress and her hair does a lot to make the book seem more mysterious and interesting.

All the books I read in 2014 (titles in bold are the ones I recommend most highly):
  1. Northanger Abbey, by Jane Austen
  2. Wizard's First Rule, by Terry Goodkind
  3. A Ring of Endless Light, by Madeline L'Engle
  4. Where I Was From, by Joan Didion
  5. Divergent, by Veronica Roth
  6. Anne's House of Dreams, by L.M. Montgomery
  7. Insurgent, by Veronica Roth
  8. If You Knew Then What I Know Now, by Ryan Van Meter
  9. Allegiant, by Veronica Roth
  10. On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction, by William Zinsser
  11. Families and Faith: How Religion is Passed Down Across Generations, by Vern L. Bengtson
  12. Way of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
  13. Words of Radiance, by Brandon Sanderson
  14. Steelheart, by Brandon Sanderson
  15. Someday, Someday, Maybe, by Lauren Graham
  16. The Best American Essays 2013, edited by Robert Atwan
  17. The Paris Architect, by Charles Belfoure
  18. And the Mountains Echoed, Khaled Hosseini
  19. What Is Hidden, by Lauren Skidmore
  20. Howl's Moving Castle, by Diana Wynne Jones
  21. Elantris, by Brandon Sanderson
  22. If I Stay, by Gayle Forman
  23. True Colors, by Kristin Hannah
  24. The Count of Monte Cristo, by Alexander Dumas
  25. Castle in the Air, by Diana Wynne Jones
  26. Anne of Ingleside, by L.M. Montgomery
  27. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
  28. Dangerous, by Shannon Hale
  29. Warbreaker, by Brandon Sanderson
  30. Mort, by Terry Pratchett
  31. Eastward to Zion, by Susan Aylworth
  32. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
  33. Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
  34. Ella Enchanted, by Gail Carson Levine
  35. The Piano Tuner, by Daniel Mason
  36. Glamour in Glass, by Mary Robinette Kowal
  37. The Memory of Earth, by Orson Scott Card
  38. Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen
  39. The Call of Earth, by Orson Scott Card
  40. Anatomy of a Misfit, by Andrea Portes
  41. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand
  42. Firefly Lane, by Kristin Hannah
  43. The Old Man and the Sea, by Ernest Hemingway
  44. Firstborn, by Robin Lee Hatcher
  45. Quidditch Through the Ages, by Kennilworthy Whisp
  46. The Secret Keeper, by Kate Morton
  47. Tennis Shoes among the Nephites, by Chris Heimerdinger
  48. Gadiantons and the Silver Sword, by Chris Heimerdinger
  49. The Feathered Serpent Part 1, by Chris Heimerdinger
  50. The Feathered Serpent Part 2, by Chris Heimerdinger
  51. The Sacred Quest, by Chris Heimerdinger
  52. The Fires of Calderon, by Lindsay Cummings
  53. Stone of Tears, by Terry Goodkind
  54. The Lost Scrolls, by Chris Heimerdinger
  55. The Forgotten Garden, by Kate Morton
  56. Cinder, by Marissa Meyer
  57. The Golden Crown, by Chris Heimerdinger
  58. Till We Have Faces, by C.S. Lewis
  59. Warriors of Cumorah, by Chris Heimerdinger
  60. Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
  61. A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens
  62. Station Eleven, by Emily St. John Mandel
  63. Cress, by Marissa Meyer
  64. Tower of Thunder, by Chris Heimerdinger
  65. Kingdoms and Conquerers, by Chris Heimerdinger
  66. The Storybook of Legends, by Shannon Hale
Previous years:

Thursday, December 11, 2014

When $100 is magical

Once upon a time, I accompanied my mom to the grocery store. She grumbled something about only having 10 dollars, and then quickly went into the store while I waited in the car. Though confused by my mom's tone of voice—she made it sound like 10 dollars was a useless lump of change—I imagined all the wonderful things I would buy with that kind of fortune. Why, I could get 20 candy bars for that much money! I could get 10 things off the dollar menu at Wendy's! I could buy a beautiful bag of marbles, a book, maybe even a Barbie.

Ten dollars was all it took to open up a whole new world of opportunities.

It wasn't long before people started tossing bills at me in exchange for watching their kids for a few hours. Payment for my services soon turned into checks that went straight to the bank.

In no time at all, money went from being a treasure to a commodity. I needed much more than 10 dollars now to imagine a life of riches. One hundred dollars would do it.

As a poor college student who now understood the feeling of helplessness caused by having only 10 dollars for groceries, an extra 100 dollars had enough power behind it to change my entire month. I could buy enough food to last for weeks, fill my car with gas several times, or even splurge on fast food just once without feeling guilty. It would be 100 less dollars I would have to save for tuition, or would pay for a nice chunk of books for one semester.

This time, though, the money wasn't a medium to get frivolous things. I stood in awe of it because every little bit made a noticeable difference in my quality of life.

Well, I graduated from college, and soon even the magic of 100 dollars disappeared. Now that I had established some stability with plenty of wiggle room, my dreams suddenly got a lot more expensive.

So the last four years when I've gotten my Christmas bonus (always $100 or less), I've stopped for a minute to think about the responsible things I could do with this extra money. Buy Christmas presents for other people. Put it in savings. Make an extra student loan payment.

But none of those options ever sound appealing. One hundred dollars isn't going to make much of a difference, no matter which good cause I try to dedicate it to. (Not to mention the bonus always comes in cash, which means a 20-minute trip to the nearest UCCU branch if I want to be boring and responsible.)

But there is one thing that has high potential for personal satisfaction: guilt-free indulgence. It's how I started my Harry Potter wand collection. It's paid for a couple extra movie tickets and delicious restaurant meals.

And this year, it allowed me to live one of my fantasies: a bookstore shopping spree.

This $100 was magical.

It started out like this:

Usually I'm more impressed by $100 bills, but this was the most
enthusiasm I could muster on a Tuesday right after work.
And turned into this:

This was before the BYU-Utah game happened.

I love Christmas.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Dream diary: Part 5

A spur-of-the-moment trip to Ogden
On a random Thursday night, Tiffany and I decided to spend the night at our aunt's house in Ogden. Without telling her. Her family didn't mind, although there was no room to sleep inside so we slept in someone's truck. And the next day I had to shower in a public bathroom. I knew I was going to be late for work that day, so I kept trying to text my boss to tell her that, but something always prevented me from finishing that stupid text: I was too slow, a plane crashed near the house and we had to dodge the flying debris, my aunt's entire family swarmed in to prepare for a surprise birthday party (no idea whose). Ignoring the new hole in the roof, we started preparing for the party as if it were a celebrity event; stylists were even brought in to make us pretty. My stylist turned out to be my boss, so I didn't have to worry about texting her (that was by far the most stressful part of the dream). She gave me Shirley Temple curls, and I was not happy about how young it made me look, especially when an attractive guy showed up at the party. We were about to leave when Tiffany ran into an old friend, and they started planning a trip to Europe, starting at the Washington, D.C. Temple. Because it's so close, obviously.

The toddler-sized Wizard of Oz
There's something wicked brewing in the world, and Emma, Captain Hook, and Prince Charming (from Once Upon a Time) have taken it upon themselves to stop it. Of course. Someone discovers that the evil mastermind behind it all has set up shop in a windowless room on a . . . bus, I think. But a really cool one. Our heroes make it to the room, which is shielded from view by a green curtain. Emma pushes the curtain aside, expecting to see the Wizard of Oz/former boyfriend/flying monkey, but instead finds my two-year-old (at the time) nephew Jaxson sitting on a bar stool in front of a bunch of computer monitors, his legs swinging in the air as he types stuff on keyboards. This affirmed my belief that this kid is a genius, so I immediately set out to recruit Bronx—Jaxson's twin brother—to be part of the evil mastermind team. I found him happily playing with stuffed animals in Shannan's room.

A set of unlikely events
My ward had a pool party in my parents' living room, and my dad ran for mayor of Elk Ridge.

Harry Potter and the Muggle duel
It was one of those dreams where I was convinced I was awake, because, in my dream, my alarm went off and I started getting ready for the day. I noticed that a lot of things seemed to be out of place, and my bathroom was a complete mess. I had just about decided that I must have been sleep walking when I saw that my front door was slightly ajar. I went over to shut and lock it, just as these two guys tried to break into my apartment. They were stronger than me, so they busted the door open anyway. So I grabbed one of my wands (I really wish I knew which character's wand it was) and Crucio'd them on the spot. (Hey, you break into my apartment, you suffer the consequences.) Then I Imperiused them so they would leave and never come back. (The fact that this worked should have clued me in that I was dreaming, but I was still certain I was awake.) Then I started cleaning up my bathroom—there were a bunch of swimming suits hanging up to dry—when my bishop came over and reminded me that we were running 1.15 miles after my tithing settlement. On my way out, he asked my sister (Shannan) if she wanted some celery. Then, finally, my alarm went off for real, and I was no longer confused.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Some pet peeves

  • The phrase "That's too funny!" How can something be too funny? Is there a limit to a person's threshold for funnyness? Will I explode if I accidentally read or hear something that crosses the appropriately funny line? Has "That's soooooooooooooooooo funny" gone out of style? Or is this just another example of ridiculous political correctness trying to appease .000037% of the population that gets some sick pleasure out of finding offense in everything that exists?*  
  • When restaurants close at 9:00 p.m.
  • When Thanksgiving is less than a month before Christmas.
  • Jiffy Lube.
  • When people are too busy complaining about the cold and the snow to appreciate the magic of a winter wonderland. If you're one of those people, please move to Mexico.
  • When someone hands me candy instead of chocolate.
  • When BYU basketball games take place before 5:00 p.m. on weekdays.
  • When musicians record one song, insert a ginormous break, and then record another song, all in the same track. WHY DO THEY DO THIS? IT MAKES NO SENSE.
  • When you work on a day most people take off and email is down.
*It's probably just one of those unexplainable language phenomenons caused by airheads.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

That time my car was a fridge

Sunday night, after putting enchiladas in the oven, starting my dishwasher, and wiping down the kitchen (a rather satisfying succession of actions), I opened my fridge to put the cheese away. When the light didn't pop on, I groaned.

I know better than to assume that when your fridge light isn't working, it's because the light bulb is out. (Learned that one the hard way.) Usually it's something more ominous, like no power in critical power outlets. Like, say, the power outlet that keeps your perishables from perishing.

The frustrating thing was, I knew there was a simple fix to the problem. They told me so the last time this happened, but they left out a crucial piece of information: where to locate the magic switch that would make my fridge hum again.

Major communication fail.

Since nothing electrical in my apartment is located in the obvious place (I still have a hard time finding the light switch in the dark, even though I've lived here for over two years), I couldn't find the magic button on my own. All I got from my fiddling was flashing clocks that needed to be reset.

I started to resign myself to another fridge's worth of food gone to waste, when my dad pointed out the obvious: it's cold outside. The entire state is basically encased in a giant freezer.

So I hauled my food out to my car. My only worry was that my food would overfreeze, actually, since the low that night was 15 degrees. My solution was to put a blanket over my enchiladas and a few other fridge items. (Laugh all you want, but it worked.)

With my food stored outside, I envisioned living like a pioneer for the next 15 hours, running outside to the "icebox" in my coat and slippers when I needed milk for my cereal. Funny how we modern wimps put ourselves on the same level as the pioneers when one appliance fails.

The next day I worked from home. I didn't want anyone pushing any magic buttons without my being there to witness it this time.

All in all, what could have been a much more annoying problem ended up being a little adventure that forced me to use my dormant primitive creative powers and gave me an excuse to work from home bundled up in comfy clothes and blankets. Not a bad situation to find yourself in.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Thoughts with no theme

  • It's quite a luxury to be able to dump your thoughts on a page without having to connect them in any way. English teachers don't let you do it, editors don't let you do it, and neither do themed blog challenges.
  • But today, I'm doing it.
  • November is almost halfway over, and I still haven't gotten that hankering for Christmas music yet. This is why I want it to get colder—it's the only way to fix this weird problem.
  • My hair is short again, and it's so refreshing. I don't know why I hung on to that dead weight for so long.
  • Today I learned that these awesome bikes are called Wiggle Bikes.

  • I also learned that they have a 110-pound weight limit. But don't let that stop you from channeling your inner child.
  • Also, they should make adult versions of these bikes. I'm positive they would make family reunions more fun, not to mention their YouTube possibilities are almost limitless.
  • I've been on a crocheting kick lately. This is what I'm making right now. Except it's green.
  • There are only two full work weeks until Thanksgiving.
  • I really hate renewing my temple recommend. You know those stories you always hear about the increased opposition an individual faces when they decide to go through the temple? It happens again when you renew your recommend. 
  • Daylight savings is really messing up my workout routine. Goodbye until March, evening walks.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Let's hear it for the men

It's a pretty good time to be a woman. We don't have to rely on rich husbands to achieve success and status. We can save ourselves from the dragons of the world. Our opinions are respected. We can, in theory, have it all.

After centuries of being silenced and undervalued, it's great that women today are recognized as viable human beings.

But something happened to the other half of the population in the process. Some men lost their way as women rose up and claimed what belonged solely to men for centuries. The pressure to support a family, establish a successful career, and participate in civic duties was alleviated somewhat, as women found ways to make their voices heard and their influence felt.

Without that pressure to drive them, though, men started to get complacent. For years, women have outpaced men in college graduation numbers, for instance. And it certainly doesn't help that people tend to tear others down when they are moving up. How many commercials or TV shows have you seen in the past few years where the woman is portrayed as a successful career woman while the man is portrayed as a messy, clueless guy?

I could write several posts on how women have endured negative stereotypes for far longer than men have, and how there's still a long way to go before men and women are on equal footing.

But you know what I want to see more of? Men being leaders. Men working hard. Men being good fathers. Maybe instead of focusing on encouraging women to pursue a career in male-dominated fields, we can take a minute to remind the men that they are still, in fact, strong, smart, capable, trustworthy people. Maybe instead of agonizing over the many places women are absent, we should think for a minute about why we have two halves of the same race.

Could we do better to ensure equal rights in this country? Sure. But let's do it without de-manning the men.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Final thoughts

It's a beautiful fall day, and this is my last post on bold living.
[Image courtesy of the Wheel of Time reread on Tor.com]

It's been an interesting project, one that I both enjoyed and abhorred.

What I liked about it

As a writer, my two biggest challenges center on finding the motivation to write and deciding what to write about. This blog challenge took care of both for me; I already had my topic, and I knew I had to write something every day. It was refreshing to not have to wrestle with either of those challenges for once.

Any time you focus on one thing for days and days, you learn more about it than you normally would. You notice it in everyday conversations, in movies and TV shows, in advertisements. About a week into this challenge, I perked up any time someone said the word "bold," and had to resist the temptation to take notes on everything they said after that. I noticed the different ways people used the word to describe actions, and I was constantly watching people for examples of how they incorporate boldness into their lives.

This challenge also affected me in ways I didn't anticipate. As I dug deeper into bold living, I was forced to delve deeper into sections of my own life. Boldness became a tool to solve issues I was grappling with, and a magnifying glass to help me identify areas I needed to improve in—often in ways I wouldn't have tried before.

What I disliked about it

It's called a 31-day blog challenge for a reason. There were times I didn't even want to use any form of the word "bold," I was so sick of it. I would long to write about insignificant things—my craving for pizza, the contact I lost this morning after I put it in, anything!—without having to justify how it fit into bold living.

Writing every day was difficult, too. Weekends were especially hard, since I rarely blog on Saturdays and Sundays. You probably noticed that those posts were less meaty than the weekday ones.

Would I do it again?

Maybe. The arguments for and against match up pretty evenly. (Although the personal growth aspect should probably get more weight, meaning the pros outweigh the cons.)

But for now, I'm happy to be done. I'm going to try to keep up my new daily writing habit during November via my own version of NaNoWriMo, but this blog will go back to normal. Hallelujah.

Some final stats
  • My page views for this month more than quadrupled my previous record. Traffic started spiking a few weeks before I started this challenge, though, so I don't think the extra traffic was solely because of this challenge.
  • Most popular post: bold literary characters.
  • My favorite post: probably the corn maze one.

And, that's a wrap! My 31-Days of Bold Living page now has 31 entries.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

What a life of boldness looks like

Writing about boldness for 30 days probably doesn't make me an expert on the subject. Just ask any PhD student.

But during the last 30 days, I've looked at boldness from every angle I could think of, from creativity to risk taking to formatting. And I've tried to live a life of boldness, if for no other reason than it would give me something to write about.

To me, bold living means a lot of things.

  • Taking control over your life
  • Not allowing your fears to have the final say in your decisions
  • Being willing to try new things
  • A bit more flair to make things interesting
  • Daily risk taking
  • Standing out
  • Daring to be extraordinary

A life of boldness may not give you all the things you want, but at least at the end of the day you can look back and think, at least I tried. At least I had an experience. At least I didn't let [insert challenge here] beat me. 

And when bold living pays off, it pays off in a big way.

You won't be hearing much more from me on the subject, though. Not for a while, anyway.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A side effect of bold living

Ask my mom to sum me up in one word, and she'll probably say "sneaky." I like to do things in secret. I avoid anything that draws attention to myself, even if it means taking the long route to the bathroom so I don't have to walk past as many people. I'm pretty good at being invisible, and most of the time that exactly what I want to be.

But it's hard to be bold and sneaky at the same time. Whether you put on a flashy outfit or try out a new hobby, somebody is going to notice.

There are a lot of good things that come from bold living, but the extra attention is a side effect I'm not fond of.

I'm also not fond of the person who decided to do this blog challenge during a 31-day month. Why not do it in February, eh?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Balancing boldness with contentment

Boldness and contentment are pretty different—one means you're willing to try new things and the other means being happy with what you have. But it's important to incorporate both into your life.

Of course, it's possible to have both in your life at the same time. You can be perfectly happy with where you're at and still be willing to take risks. But usually it's a teeter-totter from one to the other. When you're content, you probably won't be in a hurry to change things. When you're constantly seizing new opportunities, it's harder to appreciate what you already have.

I don't have the secret formula for when contentment should override boldness, or vice versa. But I think this is one case where it's okay to flip-flop back and forth, depending on personal circumstances.

Bold living is rewarding, sure, but I think I'll focus on contentment in November.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Boldly living in the present

I have this problem where I get so excited about the future that I forget to live in the present. I can so clearly visualize how things are going to be that sometimes I'll ignore opportunities that have no potential to lead to the future I've envisioned.

Which is pretty dumb. Especially since my plans for the future always take longer than I think they will. You miss out on so many "now" experiences when your focus is solely on the future.

It's good to have a plan for the future. But something I have to constantly remind myself is that we don't live in the future; we live in the present. It's so much easier for me to focus on outcomes, but the journey is just as important.

Bold living can help you accomplish your goals. It can make some great things happen. But it can also help you live every day to the fullest, and even take you places you didn't plan on going. We spend most of our lives trying to get somewhere, but the journey is not simply a means to an end. The journey is where we do our living. Bold living is one of many ways to help us truly appreciate the present.

We're in the final stretch now. This index is almost full. Hooray!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Progress report

I know I've mentioned this before, but the theme I inflicted upon myself for 2014 is Be Bold. To help keep this theme in mind, I decided I would do one bold thing a month. (Which seems a little wimpy after you've been writing about bold living for 26 days, but, it's important to start small.)

So I've compiled a progress report for how I've been doing up to this point. (Good thing I have my journals handy. It's hard to do these types of personal evaluations without them.)

I did sealings at the temple for the first time.

I mastered the art of bread making. And I gave my two weeks notice. That was the hardest part of the quitting process.

Since it was too hard to be friendly, I decided to try a different tact: make it easier for others to be friendly to me. I did this by making the silliest goal ever: getting to church a few minutes late every week so I would be forced to sit by someone during sacrament meeting. I did the same sort of thing for Sunday School. It worked surprisingly well—a lot of ice was unthawed that month.

Oh, and I started a new job and finished my master's degree.

I got some party invites, and I actually went to a couple of them.

I took a golf lesson, and learned that it can be fun if you let it.

I went snorkeling. Which, despite the annoying equipment required and the panic you have to overcome to be able to breathe underwater, turned out to be really awesome. I also kissed a dolphin. Which was weird.

There was this guy on my softball team I liked, so I decided to get to know him a little better instead of keeping my distance and hoping he would somehow feel a deep connection between us and approach me out of the blue. A few weeks later he started dating another girl in the ward.

I played on my stake's all-star softball team. No longer the best female player on the team, it took a lot more guts to show up and play. Not that I should have worried, though; the more intense the competition is, the less the guys will trust the girls with the ball, so it's not like we were expected to do much anyway.

One of my coworkers quit, which ended my role as the newbie who's still learning things. I had to take on a lot more responsibilities and be more assertive overall. (Remember when I said I would cry if October was as bad as September? Well, that's pretty much the new normal now.) It was quite a learning curve, and I made some mistakes along the way, but it's been good for me.

I've said enough about October. Go over here for a recap.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

One sentence

Sometimes, you don't have to be bold.

Because you're hanging out with your family instead. You can find legitimate boldness over here.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Halloween at work

I am amazed every year at the lengths people will go to for Halloween. The creativity and the planning that goes into every costume. The humiliation that is willingly suffered when costumes are donned.

I may not understand it. But the excitement people have for this holiday can be a little contagious.

At work today, many people spent all day preparing for our party later in the afternoon. I missed most of the fun because email reviews are taking over my life, but I'm not bitter.

I did, however, manage to get one picture of my work area while everyone else was crammed into the gym. The PR girls all dressed up as characters from the game, and while I wouldn't be caught dead in one of those costumes, I was really quite impressed with their ingenuity. Sadly, they aren't pictured here, but here's some of their handiwork.

My new place of work: Candyland. It even smelled like candy.
At least this year, people didn't have to Google "Muggle" when I told them who I was supposed to be. See more on bold living here.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

When bold living doesn't change your situation

I'm a firm believer that if you want something to happen, you have to make it happen. I've tried that sitting-around-waiting-for-a-miracle thing, and it's not a very reliable way to make sure things get done.

Which is why bold living has been my focus this year. My hope was that it would help me live more fully, take more risks, and thereby make things happen.

And it has helped—I've had experiences I wouldn't have had if I didn't make a conscious decision to be a bit more daring. I'm more willing to take chances than I used to be, even though it's not necessarily any easier. (I'll post more on this later this week, so stay tuned.)

But this challenge has also been a reminder that I can't control everything in my life. Bold living has enriched certain aspects of it, but my life is still my life. It's a hard lesson for us independent types to learn, but sometimes the only way to get a miracle is to wait for it to come to you. (I can just see feminists around the country squawking at that statement. But I don't care about them.)

But that's no reason to not live boldly; in fact, it's because of the situations you can't change that you should strive to live a certain way. I don't care if you want to focus on boldness or contentment or continual learning—the way you live your life regardless of your lack of control defines the person you are and the richness of your life journey.

It's like my stake president told us last month: trust God that things will work out, and then go live your life.

I'm amazed I'm still learning things about bold living after 23 days of writing about it. I guess that's the whole point, though, isn't it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Pretty much the boldest person I know of

When I was at BYU, there was this guy in my ward, Andrew Wilcox. He is one of the most uniquely awesome people I have ever met. Everyone liked him, even though he was just a lowly freshman. I distinctly remembering him heart-attacking all the girls' apartments on Valentine's Day, and leading a snowball fight in the Miller parking lot—with a broken foot. He got around with this cool skooter thing—he would kneel on it with his injured leg and push with the good one. This did not stop him from participating fully in the snowball fight.

In the past year, he's used his awesomeness to become something of a YouTube sensation. (He even made it onto some major news networks.) This is a guy who knows how to live life to a fullest that most people wouldn't even attempt.

The only other person I can picture busting some moves on a stranger's roof is my brother. Maybe I should find a way to introduce them. I don't know if the world can handle that much awesomeness at once, though.

I think it'll take me about 700 years to work my way up to Andrew's type of bold living. Until then, I'll just let him entertain me.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A bold playlist

  1. "Anyway," by Martina McBride
  2. "What About Now," by Lonestar
  3. "Breakaway," by Kelly Clarkson
  4. "I Hope You Dance," by Lee Ann Womack
  5. "Brave," by Sara Bareilles
  6. "Brave," by Hudson Lights (not a remake of the Sara Bareilles version—this is a completely different song)
  7. "Go the Distance," by Michael Bolton
  8. "Stand," by Rascal Flatts
  9. "Defying Gravity," from Wicked
  10. "Don't Stop Believin'," by Journey
  11. "Live Like You're Dying," by Tim McGraw
  12. "Miracles Happen," by Myra
  13. "This Is the Moment," from Jekyll and Hyde
  14. "Voice of Truth," by Casting Crowns
  15. "The Power of One," by Bombshel
  16. "On Top of the World," by Imagine Dragons
There are plenty of things you can do while listening to this playlist. Or you can use it as part of your pre-game ritual before you boldly go out and do . . . something.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Why I take risks

  • Because the long-term rewards are sometimes greater than the short-term rewards of safety and comfort.
  • To challenge myself.
  • Because I don't want my fears to dictate all of my decisions.
  • It's the risks I took that paid off that I'll want to tell my grandchildren about, not all the times I stayed home where I was happy and comfortable.
  • To make my journey more interesting.
  • To get exposure to new things.
  • So I can be more.
Why do you take risks?

You can find more long-winded reasons here.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Boldness in the kitchen

Cooking for one person has its advantages. I don't have to cook new food that often, for one, because sometimes it takes over a week to eat all the leftovers.

But it also has its disadvantages. Like eating the same leftovers for over a week. And less motivation to cook, period, because there's no one to impress but myself.

But sometimes I put in the effort anyway. This weekend, for instance, I made two things I've never made before: Easy Broccolini Flounder Bake and applesauce.

The flounder dish I got from The Skinnytaste Cookbook, which is based on a food blog I follow that has yielded some tasty food. I don't cook fish that often, but in the spirit of trying new things, I decided to give it a shot.

It was actually pretty simple to make, and I only set off my hyper-sensitive fire alarm once. First I grilled some colorful veggies.

And then I threw them on top of seasoned cod (I couldn't find any flounder, and besides, I feel uncomfortable eating something that shares the same name of one of the characters in my favorite childhood movie), and let the oven do the rest of the work. Twenty minutes later, I had a lovely meal waiting to be consumed over some good magazine reading.

To be honest, I wasn't blown away by its tastiness, but I won't have any trouble eating it for the next few days, either. The tomatoes were my favorite part, unsurprisingly.

Now, the homemade applesauce—that didn't disappoint. I know pumpkin is all the rage these days, but nothing can compare to apples, in my opinion. I used to help Mom can apples when I was a kid, which is hard but immensely satisfying work. Especially if you get to sample fresh, hot applesauce before packing it away. (This is the sole reason I often heat up my applesauce before I eat it, in a feeble attempt to whisk myself back to my childhood, when certain things tasted better.) Sometimes at night, I would sneak into the fruit room and eat an entire bottle of sliced apples. There's no way my stomach could handle that much fruit now, but at the time those apples were simply too delicious to stop eating.

So I started with these apples,

which were promptly peeled, chopped, and thrown into a pot.

I threw in some lemon juice, cinnamon, and brown sugar, and let the crock pot do the rest for me. (Aside from the occasional stirring on my part.) For the next six hours, the smell in my apartment got more and more intoxicating.

A few hours after sunset, I was impatiently waiting for my bowl of applesauce to cool a little bit so I could see if it tasted as good as it smelled.

It tasted better.

Seriously, it's like eating apple pie, but without the crust. I am completely in love with it, and I don't think I'll ever buy pre-made applesauce ever again. This experiment in the kitchen paid off big time.

Taking pictures of your food is almost as much work as preparing it. But there's something about this blog series that has inspired me to use more pictures. You're welcome.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The 5K I almost ran

My stake relief society put on a health fair today, which started with a 5K run. When I first heard about it, I seriously considered doing the 5K.

The fact that I had never before considered doing such a thing only encouraged me more. It would be something different, something daring. I even went so far as to interrupt my lovely walks with spurts of jogging to prepare my body for five straight kilometers of running.

I still think I would have gone through with my plan if it weren't for one thing: the 5K was scheduled to start at 8:00 a.m. On a Saturday morning. All week, my resolve has been weakening. There's a reason I don't work out in the mornings—my chance of success is about .027 percent. Even lower than that on a Saturday morning, when I hoard those precious extra hours of sleep like nobody's business.

Last night I didn't even set my alarm. I knew I wouldn't get out of bed.

I could berate myself for squandering a unique opportunity, but I'm not going to do that today. It's great to always be willing to try new things, but you have to accept that you won't always meet your lofty goals. You'll fall short from time to time. It's just part of being human.

I did, however, still walk a 5K this afternoon in the gorgeous autumn sunshine. That's gotta be one of the best ways to enjoy the most beautiful weather of the year.

Maybe I'll try football instead of a 5K. That would be equally shocking. See more on bold living here.

Friday, October 17, 2014

A breakdown of the Hogwarts houses

Each Hogwarts house is known for a few specific qualities, but the people in each house possess qualities that fit in each of the other houses, as well. The right combination of certain qualities could land you in one house even if it seems like you belong in another (see: Hermione); furthermore, it's the way you choose to use certain qualities that set you apart from students in other houses.

Which gives me the perfect opportunity to break down each of the houses according to one trait: boldness.


Let's start with the obvious, shall we? During Harry's 4th year, the Sorting Hat says it flat out: "Bold Gryffindor, from wild moor." In Muggle terms, the Gryffindors are the jocks of Hogwarts: cocky, daring, more than willing to break the rules. But they're also chivalrous and brave, basically making them the coolest house at Hogwarts.


Ravenclaw is where "those with wit and learning, will always find their kind." They use their boldness to fuel their creativity. As pointed out in the Ravenclaw welcome letter on Pottermore, Ravenclaws "are the most individual—some might even call them eccentrics. But geniuses are often out of step with ordinary folk, and unlike some other houses we could name, we think you've got the right to wear what you like, believe what you want, and say what you feel. We aren't put off by people who march to a different tune." Proud Ravenclaw, right here.


Slytherins are willing to do whatever it takes to get what they want. This doesn't necessarily make them evil; it just means they're ambitious. While a Ravenclaw will go to untold lengths to find the answer to a perplexing question, Slytherins will chase their dreams just as far. They tend to be much more subtle about how they go about achieving their goals (just look at Voldemort—he was a sneak through and through), which is one of several reasons why I think I'd be a Slytherin if I weren't a Ravenclaw.


Hufflepuffs get a bad rap for being pushovers, but when faced with a moral battle, I have no doubt that the Puffs would win. They are extremely loyal, and are far more concerned with welcoming people with open arms than worrying about what people think about them. Theirs is a quiet strength, but don't forget that when the moment of truth comes, they'll be a second behind the Gryffindors to charge boldly forward. (And they're only a second because they're more likely to think before they act. I can't say the same for Gryffindors.)

This is a part of a 31-day series on bold living. Harry Potter references have somehow found their way into several of these posts. I'm not obsessed or anything.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

To be more than ordinary

With that word constantly on my mind, I notice it in a lot more places than I normally would. Like in this quote, while I was browsing the news:
“Fear never bothers you if you’re average, but the second you dare to be more than ordinary, fear awakens.” — Jon Acuff
And he's right. The easy thing to do would be to stay put, never changing. But there's something inside of every one of us that isn't content with unchanging stability. We all have that spark inside of us that urges us to do and be more. Fear will always be an obstacle, but it is oh-so-satisfying when you finally beat it.

I finally made it past the halfway point! The rest of this thing should be pretty easy, right? Right?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The aftermath of a bold move

This year, I've focused a lot on enlivening my social habits, which often requires all the boldness I can muster. For some people, making friends is so natural they don't think twice about it, but I have always struggled in this area. Sometimes I feel like every cell in my body is fighting against my having any sort of social life at all. Pushing back against my introverted tendencies is almost always exhausting and discouraging.

It's often a battle I don't win, which doesn't exactly inspire me to try harder. (Which is why it's important to recognize when it's time to take a break.)

But every now and then, I score a victory. And the euphoria from that victory is strong enough to last for days. Weeks, even, if I roll with the momentum.

This week, my goal was to go to Cornbellys with my ward. I have loved corn mazes since the first time I went to one about 15 years ago. I was a brand-new Beehive, and didn't really have friends in the ward. But when your dad is in the bishopric, it's hard to get out of going to activities. (It's even harder when your mom is the Young Womens president—but that came later.)

My worst fear came to pass when everyone clumped into groups and darted into the maze, leaving me to either hang out with my dad or go through by myself: equally humiliating options when you're 12 years old. I entered the maze anyway, mostly to satiate my curiosity; I wanted to see for myself what all the fuss was about. In front of me were a few girls in my ward. One of them saw me ambling along, and immediately invited me to be in their group.

And just like that, I was part of a laughing group of girls, just like I hoped I would be. Every year I went back, it was a similar story—I would somehow find myself in the middle of a group of teenagers, having a great time.

So I had a lot of good reasons to go to the corn maze with my YSA ward. But those same fears I had as a teenager were still there: I would have to show up alone and sneak into a group. There would be three solid hours of socializing. No one would understand my sense of humor, and I'd spend the whole time wishing one of my sisters was with me.

It didn't matter that I knew the activity would be fun. It didn't matter that I've been longing to revisit a corn maze for years. It was still a social activity with people I hadn't cliqued with yet—my instincts were screaming at me to stay home and crochet instead.

But this time, the need for something different—even if it was uncomfortable—won out. And the payoff was better than it usually is—I planted a few seeds for new friendships, saw the stars and some wicked awesome pumpkin carvings, and burned my tongue on 7-11 hot chocolate. (Completely worth it, in my opinion.)

It's another good corn maze memory to add to my journal. But the euphoric feeling I had when I went to bed that night—knowing that I took a risk, which paid off—that's what I'll remember most.

This blog challenge may have been what tipped the scales for this particular battle.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Bold obedience

Shannan's post from yesterday got me thinking about rebellious boldness versus obedient boldness. Judging by my actions, I think most people would classify me as obedient, but I've always been more of a rebel at heart. Especially as a teenager, I got a thrill from toeing the line a little and watching people's shocked but awed reactions. I've often admired those who break the rules more than those who always do what they're told.

But obedience is something to be admired, as well. It's crucial for soldiers to follow orders in battle, even if they don't fully understand or agree with them. It's a required skill if you want to keep your job, stay out of jail, and earn the trust of your superiors.

Despite this, the cool factor of obedience isn't nearly as high as rebellion. Some would even argue that to obey is weak—that by doing someone else's will, you're diminishing your own agency.

That might be true if obedience were always easy, but it's not. It's hard to obey rules you don't understand. It's hard to obey the counsel of your leaders when no one else does. It's hard to obey when you stick out like a sore thumb if you do so.

Obedience requires humility and strength of character—humility to accept that someone else understands the bigger picture better than you do, and the strength of character to withstand the ridicule that often comes with choosing the less cool option. It's not the flashy, exciting kind of boldness, but it requires bravery all the same.

This is part of a 31-day series on bold living. The index is still here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Guest post: The bold outlaw

Are you tired of me talking all the time? Would you like to get someone else's perspective on that word? I sure would.

So I've asked my sister Shannan to write a guest post for me. She blogs at A Creator's Heart.

The Bold Outlaw

I don’t think a series on “Boldness” would be complete without at least one mention of Robin Hood. I mean, he is the Bold Outlaw (that’s a real title, I kid you not). So I’m really excited that Angie’s letting me write a guest post on this series as I am more than a little obsessed with the legend.

Stephen Knight describes Robin Hood’s boldness in his “mythic biography” of the man as, “physical and ethical courage and success in his encounters with strong, oppressive enemies.” So not only does he have the courage to stand up for what’s right, but he has the physical strength to do it and he’s even successful! Also, can I just say that his boldness combined with his crazy skill at archery makes him seem a lot like a super hero?

But I digress. The point is that Robin Hood exemplified bold living in everything he did. When Robin and his gang robbed people, they didn’t just take their stuff and be done. Before robbing the guy, they’d actually blindfold him, take him to their camp, and feed him a kingly feast. Afterwards they’d “ask” for payment, only taking all the money if the dude lied about how much he had (I should point out here that these details I’m drawing from the original Robin Hood ballads from which the legend stems). When Robin opposed the sheriff, he was always sure to thoroughly embarrass him before he escaped. Nothing Robin did was subtle. He was extravagant in his rebellion and no one could be in any doubt of what he stood for.

His way or rebellion wasn’t the only thing that made him bold. Look at his chosen enemies: Prince John, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Gisbourne (a freaky assassin in the original tale), and pretty much all men of the cloth (excluding Friar Tuck, of course). These are powerful, dangerous men who had the resources to make Robin really suffer without punishment. That’s why he was outlawed. The life of an outlaw is romanticized through Robin Hood, but imagine for a moment what it would be like to be considered no better than a wolf - evil, and anyone can slaughter them and be rewarded. That’s not exactly a life of luxury. Despite that, Robin made his life in Sherwood worthwhile and wonderful and kept pressing forward with never a worry about what the men of power might do to him.

Robin Hood is bold because he didn’t hide. True, he had to stay out of reach of foresters and soldiers, but he usually outright robbed all those guys, and everyone knew he lived in Sherwood. In a world of corrupt government and religious leaders, Robin never faltered in his opposition to them and he didn’t worry about all of them knowing it. He even maintained a loyalty to King Richard - a king that most the people didn’t believe in anymore (although, it should be said that Robin Hood tales were originally set during King Henry’s reign, not Richard’s. But whoever the King, Robin was always loyal).

I think the boldness of Robin Hood is what makes him so enduring. In this world of shifting values, distrust, and cowardice, people want to believe in someone who will stand up for the right thing no matter what. That’s why super hero movies are so popular these days. Would that we could all be bold enough to never hide what we believe and feel.

If you're wondering why Robin Hood was excluded from my Bold Literary Characters list, it's because he's not strictly literary. And I haven't actually read any books about Robin Hood. This must be fixed.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Practicing what you preach

When I started this project, my biggest worry was that I would say everything I wanted to say by October 15, and then I'd be desperately grasping for publishable ideas for the rest of the month.

So it didn't surprise me that I spent all day today racking my brains, seizing on everything that was said during church and trying to spin it into a blog post. Sometimes that works, but today it didn't.

I've found that when I'm suffering from writer's block, it's usually because I'm not living enough. Life has so much inspiration to offer, but it's difficult to recognize that when you're not living to the best of your ability.

Most of what I've had to say about boldness so far comes from thoughts I've had throughout the year as I've tried to live more boldly, but I haven't had much experience to draw from in that area this month. Oh sure, I've had a lot of good excuses. Work has been exhausting. Past attempts at boldness didn't work out the way I wanted them to. I'm tired of doing everything on my own.

But I think I'm ready to practice what I've been writing about for the last 12 days. It takes work to live a life worth writing about, but I made a commitment to see this challenge through. And who knows—maybe it'll take me someplace unexpected.

This list still has more empty spots than filled ones, because October still isn't halfway over yet. Rude.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Missionary friends

When I go on my walks, I'm rarely in people mode. I pay attention to the audio coming from my iPod and whatever season we're being blessed with at the time, but I ignore people as much as possible. Occasionally an outgoing child will tag along and strike up a conversation until I walk out of their radius, and ward members will stop and wave from time to time, but usually I get what I set out to get: an hour of me time.

However, there is one group of people who don't let my headphones and averted eyes stop them from approaching me: missionaries. I've met many missionaries on my walks. Elders who look younger every time I see them. Smiling sisters. Senior couples who seem to be at complete peace with the world.

I'm not always eager to stop and make chit-chat, but I'm always glad they made me stop anyway. Even though they find out right away I'm LDS, they don't cut our conversation short to go talk to someone who might boost their numbers. They don't even ask me for names of people I know who need to hear the gospel. Their focus is always on me. They find out everything about me they can during those 15-minute conversations, and rather than feel annoyed at their prying like I usually would, I am deeply appreciative that they were bold enough to reach out and remind me that God will pour out his love for me in any way he can.

It's missionaries who truly capitalize on bold living.

Friday, October 10, 2014

What I wish everyone knew about formatting text

  • The underline is so 1980s.
  • As in, there's no place for it.
  • Seriously, don't underline text.
  • If you need to emphasize something, use bold or italics.
  • Never use both, like this.
  • All-caps are okay, but only in very small doses.
  • If you do this, you'll just look excessively ridiculous. 
  • And then people will mock you on their blogs.
The author realizes it's a bit of a stretch to include a post on formatting in a series dedicated to boldness. But it's Friday. You understand.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Bold literary characters

Sirius Black, from Harry Potter. Sirius is a tricky character to classify. On the one hand, teenage Sirius was at the top of his game: he had popularity, good looks, and smarts. But post-Azkaban Sirius—the version of him we spend the most time with—is a shell of the person he used to be. But he still retains that bold streak. As a teenager, he had the nerve to defy centuries of family Slytherin-ness, and as an adult he continued to live by his mantra, "What's life without a little bit of risk?" That's why his story is so tragic to me—not only does he take the fall for his best friend's murder, but then he has to spend his "freedom" cooped up at home, away from the action. For a person with Sirius's temperament, that had to be almost as bad as rotting away in Azkaban with soul-sucking Dementors.

Ella, from Ella Enchanted. Ella may be cursed with obedience, but she takes what control she can and performs every command her way. With snark, if she can manage it.

Egwene Al'Vere, from The Wheel of Time. There are plenty of bossy women in The Wheel of Time series, Egwene among them. But she rises to power not because she is fond of telling the boys what to do, but because she can see what needs to be done—and then she does it. She doesn't let youth and tradition hold her back, which is why her leadership is so desperately needed among the Aes Sedai pinheads.

Kelsier, from Mistborn. I think Kelsier and Sirius would get along. They would probably leave worlds of destruction in their paths, though. Like Sirius, Kelsier has gone through some horrible things, but he is able to channel his recklessness into a brilliant and suicidal revolution. It takes a special kind of person to even attempt to beat such odds.

Athos, from The Three Musketeers. One of the only parts of the book I actually liked was when Athos single-handedly took on an entire army and walked away unscathed. He is by far the best musketeer, especially if you're going by the book.

Rachel Lynde, from Anne of Green Gables. Being bold enough to always speak your mind isn't exactly a good thing. But most of the time, I like Rachel anyway.

Elizabeth Bennet, from Pride and Prejudice. Women have come far since Jane Austen's day, but Elizabeth's strength in spite of society's limitations are still inspiring.

Gale, from The Hunger Games. Katniss fought because she had to, but Gale fought because he wanted to. One isn't necessarily better than the other, but Gale's way is more bold because he wanted to fight even before he was thrust into a revolution.

Bilbo Baggins, from The Hobbit. Bilbo did what no respectable hobbit would do—he had adventures.

And clearly, I read a lot of fantasy. What characters jump to your mind when you think of boldness?

Perhaps this index will help inspire you.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

When boldness isn't the answer

I've talked a lot about the virtues of boldness, but it also has a dark side. Too much boldness can lead to recklessness and burnout at the very least.

In Alma 38:12, Alma the Younger counsels his son Shiblon to "use boldness, but not overbearance." By way of background, Shiblon was the the quintessential middle child: not as popular as Helaman, not as rebellious as Corianton. His dominant trait was his steadiness in his beliefs and faith in God.

One of the overarching themes in The Book of Mormon is "moderation in all things," which is exactly what Alma is teaching Shiblon here. Boldness is good, but it shouldn't dictate how you do everything. A daily dose of boldness won't do any harm, as long as you remember that some things need to be done gently.

Here's an index outlining situations in which boldness is the answer.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Boldness in creativity

Those in the business of creating—writers, artists, musicians, chefs, seamstresses, carpenters, graphic designers, to name a few—know their work requires a dash of boldness. Otherwise, their creations will never be more than a vague picture in their heads.

That's because to create—and to share your creations with others—is to face your fears. Every creation uses part of your soul for its foundation, and it's very difficult to let others see something so personal. What if they don't like it? What if they don't understand what you're trying to accomplish? And worse of all, what if they mock you for trying?

As a writer/editor combo, I am constantly aware of how others are picking apart my words. I worry about being too preachy, too vague, too naive. It's tempting to remove all vestiges of my personality in an attempt to write something that offends no one and garners no disagreements. But who wants to read something that bland?

Which is why boldness is essential to creativity. However you use your creative powers, you have to be willing to take risks. To create something people won't like. To create something no one has seen before. It's only when you create something truly meaningful to you that it will be meaningful to someone else—and you can only accomplish that by stretching outside your comfort zone.

The index is almost long enough to be a real index.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Choosing to live boldly

I'm having trouble writing a post today. My excuse? I'm tired. Lame excuse, I know. But I'm pretty sure it's harder to write about something that involves energy when you don't have any to spare.

Which got me thinking: is it possible to have a bold day if you can't summon a little bit of flamboyance? Can you live boldly when you're short on sleep, have a headache, or want to hide in a cave for a couple of months?

In my current state of tiredness, I feel 90 percent justified in saying no, it's not worth it, try again tomorrow. But I also know that it's easy to live a certain way when conditions are ideal; it's when conditions throw you through a loop that truly test your character.

This doesn't mean you're a failure if you come up short. That sort of thing is just going to happen, and nothing useful will come out of beating yourself up over it. But I think there's a lot to be gained if you incorporate boldness into your life even on days it feels like too much.

The other posts are here. There will be a quiz at the end of the month.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Boldly defend temple standards

Religion is a major piece of our world's history. During most of the time humans have inhabited the earth, they were believers. Beliefs changed and evolved, but people for the most part shared the same moral code.

That's not the world we live in today. In a very short amount of time, we went from being people who believed first to those who doubted first. The moral code that worked for centuries is now considered archaic and restraining.

This is a topic general authorities have addressed for years, especially lately with the Ordain Women movement and the ongoing fight for the legalization of gay marriage. As other organizations and religious groups have one by one lowered their standards to give the world what it demanded, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has boldly stuck to the standards the Lord has set.

Because that's the way we have to live our religion now: boldly. There are a legion of factors waiting to turn our beliefs into an unrecognizable mess—we can't afford to live our religion timidly or casually. To stand firm in a world that cares more about political correctness than the God who is in charge of it requires courage. In a world that elevates relativity in the place of absolute truths, we must be willing to go against the grain.

As Lynn C. Robbins said this morning, we must "boldly defend temple standards." The Church doesn't need to be defended—it will prosper without us—but we need to defend the Church. Everything that's worth having must be protected, even our testimonies.

Click here for more on bold living.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The bold apostle: Elder Holland

Elder Holland's talks are consistently among my favorites. I always feel a little cheated when he speaks in the priesthood session instead of one of the general sessions. Good thing that didn't happen this year.

It wasn't a hard decision to feature Elder Holland in this series on boldness. (The only other apostle I considered was Elder Oaks, whose "Thou shalt not hang out" talk of 2006 still rings in young single adult's ears.) He's not afraid to call us to repentance, to broach uncomfortable subjects, or to bear his testimony to a sea of doubters. He continuously makes me want to cheer, while forcing me to confront my weaknesses at the same time.

It's hard not to imagine such a powerful speaker as being powerful in stature, as well. 

About 10 years ago, Elder Holland presided at our stake conference. Between the only stake president I could remember being replaced by our old bishop and Elder Holland's appearance in little ol' Payson, that meeting was the most memorable stake conference I ever attended.

In typical Elder Holland fashion, he bluntly told the youth of the congregation that we weren't smart enough to make all of our own decisions. I wasn't the only teenager who looked around uncomfortably when he commanded us to trust our parents and leaders because they knew what's best for us.

But he didn't spend his whole time yelling at us, as one of my seminary classmates complained about the next day. He also introduced us to a novel concept (novel to me, anyway): love is multiplied, not divided. I'd like to blame my teenage-girl mindset for my surprise and awe at this statement; I had a hard time picturing someone acquiring a new best friend without shafting the former best friend. I loved my favorite people fiercely, but there was a part of me that thought I had a finite capacity for love. I didn't want to spread myself too thin. 

Even now, I have to remind myself that love isn't like a cube of butter, capable of enriching the taste of only 12 pieces of toast before running out. Love is its own miracle; it increases the more you use it.

After the meeting, Dad escorted his wife and five shy children to meet Elder Holland. I was torn between wanting to slink out unnoticed and wanting to meet my favorite general authority. 

When we finally made it to the front of the room, I was a little disappointed by how old and frail he looked. Here was a guy who could make people cower with his words, and he was shorter than me. He didn't even have a firm handshake (I suspect he was trying to preserve his energy). But when he looked me in the eye and thanked me for coming, I saw the boldness he lacked in his handshake burning in his pale blue eyes.

So when Elder Holland speaks, I shut up and listen.

The index is still here.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Why boldness, and not bravery?

As discussed yesterday, boldness is often synonymous with bravery. I debated over which word to focus on for this series, over whether it even mattered since the words are so similar, but in the end I decided to focus solely on boldness.

For starters, bold is a slightly more subtle word than brave (oh, the irony), and subtlety generally means there are more layers to unfold. We all know what bravery is, but we don't often hear about boldness as a virtue (or a vice, as I'll talk about later).

Bravery is a state of being. To be brave is to act despite your fears. Boldness, on the other hand, is how you perform an action. It's the difference between walking a tightrope just to get to the other side and walking across with a bit of flair—arm twirling, flips, crazy stuff like that.

To use a Star Trek example (Shannan, I want you to forget this ever happened), the motto of the show is "To boldly go where no man has gone before." (To clarify, I know this only because my editing classes always used it as an example of the split infinitive—I don't actually watch Star Trek. Unless Chris Pine is starring, of course.) Their goal isn't simply to discover new worlds, travel at unheard-of speeds, or do whatever it is those trekkies do. It's to do all these things with style.

Kind of like in Harry Potter, when Phineas Nigellus says, "You know Minister, I disagree with Dumbledore on many counts, but you cannot deny he's got style." (Now that I've countered my Star Trek example with a Harry Potter one, I feel much more like myself.)

In short, bold living isn't just about the things you do. It's about how you do them. The way you live your life is just as important as what you do with it.

The other posts in this series are available here.