Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016: The year I read 100 books

I didn't set out to read 100 books this year. It just kind of happened.

How do you accidentally read 100 books in a year? You do it by judging a book contest, not sleeping, and simply for the pure love of books.

Oddly enough, I started the year in a book slump. I finished 2015 feeling like I had read everything; nothing felt fresh or interesting anymore. Which made the beginning of 2016 the perfect time to focus on the stack of books (20, to be exact) I had agreed to read and judge. Two years ago I applied to be a judge for a book contest, thinking it would be a fun way to read a lot of books for free. I wasn't hired then, but they asked me to apply again in 2015; that time I made it onto the initial judges' panel.

I probably shouldn't go too much into specifics, but basically the aim of the contest is to draw attention to great books that wouldn't otherwise be noticed (primarily of the independent press and self-published nature). I lobbied for the memoir category, so I spent January and February reading people's life stories. Most weren't that great and some I didn't bother finishing (if you don't think you need an editor, I don't need to waste my time on you), but I found a couple absolute gems that made the whole experience worth it.

By the time I had submitted my scores and write-ups, I was ready to explore the world of fiction again, and my reading pace hasn't slowed much throughout the rest of the year. In fact, I didn't feel the strain of my ambitious goal until about November, which was when I started favoring short books over long ones. I was too close to my goal not to meet it—and who knows if I'll ever get another chance to read this much again.

It was the luxuriousness of the experience, more than anything, that kept me going. In every stage of my life that involved busyness, I longed for the freedom to just read for hours, not worrying about anything else. This year I had many evenings and weekends where I was able to do just that, because my life is just that awesome. It was one of my silly childhood fantasies that actually came true, like having a piano in my room.

My reading productivity also made me feel like I was actually making a dent on the impossible number of books I want to read in my lifetime. My TBR list is down to 442 books, which is only 50 more books than I had at this time last year!

In summary, it was a great reading year. I hit a reading goal I didn't think was possible, and I did it without hating books at the end. The best part? Now I get to reward myself with a 900-page fantasy novel of my choosing—or several, if I want—because I won't be trying to break any records next year. (Or perhaps it's time to find a new hobby...)

But first: my 2016 book write-up.

Goal: Read 100 books

Books read: 100

Books I didn't finish: 7. This number would be higher if I wasn't trying to finish so many books.

Pages read: 33,474 (335 per book)


  • 5 stars: 19
  • 4 stars: 41
  • 3 stars: 27
  • 2 stars: 12
  • 1 star: 1

First reads: 84

Re-reads: 16

Fiction: 67

Nonfiction: 33

Books by female authors: 49

Books by male authors: 50
*Plus one written by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

Longest book: Don Quixote, by Miguel de Saavedra Cervantes. 1032 pages.

Shortest book: State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, by Alexis Rhone Fancher. 54 pages.

Favorite book (fiction): A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. This book can be summed up in one word: charming. It's about a count who is put under house arrest in this elite hotel in Russia, and it's just delightful. Just read it, and you'll understand.

Favorite book (nonfiction): Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense, by Krista Schlyer. This was one of the first of many memoirs I read this year. I loved it immediately and it stayed my favorite throughout the year. The ridiculously long subtitle pretty much sums up the subject matter, but it was the writing that hooked me. Some people just have a gift of wordifying difficult experiences—I can't think of any other way of describing it. Schlyer also has a sense of humor very similar to mine, which strengthened the kinship I already felt with her writing. This is not a well-known book at all, but it's one of the most kindred-spirit-est books I read this year. (And that's two words I had to make up in an attempt to describe my love for this book.)

Favorite reread: A Return to Christmas, by Chris Heimerdinger. This is one of several books my 5th grade teacher, Mr. Applegate, read to us that I continue to love to this day. It stayed on my mind for years after, and I always regretted not making note of the title or author. But then, one year at our annual Rushton/Carter Christmas party, I got a little book in a white elephant gift exchange (always a win for me). At first I was excited because I recognized the author (I was a big Tennis Shoes Among the Nephites fan back in the day). Then I read the first few paragraphs and the diatribe on snowflakes felt so familiar—I was stunned when I realized this was "that Christmas book that's kind of like The Prince and the Pauper" that I didn't think I'd ever find again. It was my own little Christmas miracle. So I read it year after year at Christmastime, sometimes reading late into the night on Christmas Eve. Eventually I realized there were other Christmas books out there, so I shelved this one for a while. This year was the first time in nine years that I've read it, and the magic it holds for me was still there. It might even be a little more special to me now, now that I have twin nephews.

Author challenge: Last year I wanted to track down all the books by Wallace Stegner; this year it's Sharon Shinn. While Stegner is the best in the business for satisfying, thought-provoking writing, Shinn delivers the kind of escapist fiction I love without sacrificing good writing or character development. I expect I'll make my way through her backlist in 2017 whenever I need a break from reality.

The great American novel: The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner. I still can't believe I didn't study any Stegner in college, but I guess he wasn't dead enough. This book isn't as good as Crossing to Safety, which "won" this category last year, but it's my second-favorite Stegner novel to date (I've read four). Nobody does the American West at the turn of the 20th century better than this guy.

Best escape: The Children of the Promise series, by Dean Hughes. I know LDS fiction isn't everyone's cup of tea hot cocoa, but if you read just one LDS fiction series, make it this one. Parts of it get a bit soap-opera-y, but Dean Hughes knows how to write about war. I got so caught up in the Thomases' lives that I kept half-hoping I would run into one of them at the grocery store or something, and then was depressed when I realized most of them would be dead by now. That's how real this family felt to me, and it's been a looooong time since I've suffered through book withdrawals this intense. (I had to buy the entire follow-up series as part of my therapy.)

Funniest book: The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson. My parents gave me this gorgeous, hardbound collection for Christmas last year, and I spent a good part of 2016 basking in Calvin's imagination. (I even found a couple of strips I've never seen before!) There is so much more to Calvin and Hobbes than mere humor, but the humor is wonderful. The perfect treatment plan for stress caused by 2016ness.

Saddest book: Since You Went Away, by Dean Hughes. Because it covers the bulk of WWII, and war is sad.

Weirdest book: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. I guess I shouldn't be surprised that this book is weird. Every movie adaptation I've seen is weird, too. Still not a fan of the story—it's one of those (sorry to use this word again) weird stories I was only able to appreciate as a kid.

Yawn award: The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. How do they expect kids to become readers if they keep making them read the driest collection of words ever printed on paper? I hope teachers have updated their reading lists since I went to high school, because, come on. There's better stuff out there. Random sidenote: is 11th grade the adultery year for everyone, or is that just a Payson High School thing?

Pleasant surprise: Summers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn. I never know what I'm going to get when I read a new author, but when I love the book, it's the best kind of surprise. No—it's a gift. Yes, I'm a nerd.

Biggest disappointment: Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld. This is a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. Emphasis on the "modern" part. It didn't work for me for a couple of reasons, the main one being that half the charm of Jane Austen is the old-fashioned values system—take that out and you have warped, less wholesome versions of some of literature's most beloved characters. I know the whole point of updating a classic is making it relevant to today's society (which the author does quite well, actually), but in this case it's to the story's detriment. I haven't had so many negative feelings about a book since I read The Casual Vacancy (and we all know how that turned out).

Most in need of an editor: Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master, by Tao Porchon-Lynch, Janie Sykes Kennedy, and Teresa Kay-Aba Kennedy. It's always annoying when the editing step is skipped or rushed over, but it's especially sad when the book could be great, but it's held back back by bad writing. This is preventable, people. Hire editors.

Required reading: When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. You've probably heard about this one. It's about a (real) doctor who finds out he has terminal cancer just as he's finishing up his residency. Kalanithi, who is gifted in both medicine and writing, wrote it partly as a way to come to terms with his mortality, and the result is a powerful book about the beauty of life.

Bookish treasure: 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff. This book is a staple among book nerds, but I didn't discover it until this year. It's a delightful little book of correspondences between a woman in New York and a bookseller in London. Short, funny, and did I mention delightful?

Most life-changing: The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister. I incorporated this book into my scripture study over several months—because wow it's loaded. It helped me understand the atonement in more than just general terms; it's the most personal gift I could ever receive. Just this year I've found so many ways to use the atonement in my life, and it's made a difference.

Stayed with me the longest: The Invoice, by Jonas Karlsson. People have found many ways to reflect on the pricelessness of life, but this book is the most unique I've seen. In this book, a guy gets an invoice for an outrageous amount from a company he's never heard of. He later finds out that he's being charged for every experience he's ever had: his parents' deaths, the coffee he drinks, his part-time job at a video store, that spring afternoon he enjoyed the sunshine streaming through his window. Everyone around him is freaking out because of their invoices, but even though there's nothing special about his life, his invoice is higher than everyone else's, and it just gets higher the more he tries to argue his case. It's such a cool book with a great message.

Book I'd like to see as a movie: A lot of the books I read this year would make good movies. At the top of my list, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, is already in development, according to IMDb (starring Jennifer Anniston, which is a casting choice I don't agree with). It's about a woman who hits her head and forgets the last 10 years of her life. In reality, she's a mother of three children and is going through a nasty divorce, but she thinks she's still pregnant with her first child and madly in love with her husband. Perfect romantic comedy material.

Book I'd love to live in: I'm going to cheat a little on this one and pick Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Technically it's the screenplay I want to live in, but the titles of the two books are the same so I guess it counts? I don't really care—I just want to hang out with Newt Scamander for a couple decades.

Favorite character: I'm tempted to sneak Newt into this category as well, but I've already stretched the limits of my self-imposed rules too far. So I did a little digging and remembered that I quite enjoyed Kate from Anne Tyler's The Vinegar Girl. This is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, and Kate is hilarious. Reminds me a little bit of my sister Shannan, too.

Least favorite character: Kathy from Troubled Waters, by Dean Hughes. We all have that relative who has to argue with everything everyone says and who thinks they are morally superior due to their constant consumption of the politically correct Kool-Aid. In real life, you can just ignore them or leave the room, but in books I feel obligated to suffer through their arrogance. Thankfully Kathy gets better, but she's unbearable at this point in the series.

Most relatable character: Mattie from A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. Because she has her own word-of-the-day calendar. And she would agree with me on the next point.

Crush: I had planned to get rid of this category this year, but I just have to say this again: Mr. Darcy ain't got nuttin' on Captain Wentworth.

I didn't read as many stand-outs as I did last year, so narrowing down my favorites to just 10 was completely possible and only a little bit agonizing. So here's my Top 10 for 2016:
  1. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
  2. Almost Anywhere, by Krista Schlyer
  3. The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister
  4. The Invoice, by Jonas Karlsson
  5. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
  6. The Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson
  7. To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey
  8. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
  9. The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
  10. Summers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn

All the 2016 books:
  1. The Mapmakers of New Zion: A Cartographic History of Mormonism, by Richard Francaviglia
  2. Rainbows in My Pocket: The Life and Times of a Former Kid in Small Town America, by Zed Merrill
  3. Uncluttered: Discovering Strength and Purpose in the Chaos of Life, by Lisa Giesler
  4. The Lake House, by Kate Morton
  5. Almost Anywhere: Road Trip Ruminations on Love, Nature, National Parks, and Nonsense, by Krista Schyler
  6. L.A. a la Cart, by Richard Asperger
  7. Thorns, by Marguerite Keiffer
  8. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
  9. Souvenir, by Kathryn Rhett
  10. Chiseled: A Memoir of Identity, Duplicity, and Divine Wine, by Danuta Pfeiffer
  11. Bethany's Calendar, by Elaine Marie Cooper
  12. Shot Down: The True Story of Pilot Howard Snyder and the Crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth, by Steve Snyder
  13. Eve and the Choice Made in Eden, by Beverly Campbell
  14. State of Grace: The Joshua Elegies, by Alexis Rhone Fancher
  15. Dancing Light: The Spiritual Side of Being Through the Eyes of a Modern Yoga Master, by Tao Porchon-Lynch
  16. Jackie: The Adventures of a Little Boy Trying to Grow Up, by John Tammela
  17. A Thousand Nights, by E.K. Johnston
  18. Amazed by Grace, by Sheri Dew
  19. All the Birds in the Sky, by Charlie Jane Anders
  20. The Four Words for Home, by Angie Chuang
  21. Writing Tools: 55 Essential Strategies for Every Writer, by Roy Peter Clark
  22. The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley
  23. The Emperor's Soul, by Brandon Sanderson
  24. Shadow's of Self, by Brandon Sanderson
  25. Bands of Mourning, by Brandon Sanderson
  26. Signal to Noise, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
  27. Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson
  28. This Is Where It Ends, by Marieke Nijkamp
  29. Harry Potter and the Classical World: Greek and Roman Allusions in J.K. Rowling's Modern Epic, by Richard A. Spencer
  30. The Real Jane Austen: A Life of Small Things, by Paula Byrne
  31. Stars Above, by Marissa Meyer
  32. Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner
  33. The Nest, by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney
  34. Rumors of War, by Dean Hughes
  35. Chasing Water: Elegy of an Olympian, by Anthony Ervin
  36. Since You Went Away, by Dean Hughes
  37. Daughters in My Kingdom: The History and Work of Relief Society (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)
  38. Far from Home, by Dean Hughes
  39. When We Meet Again, by Dean Hughes
  40. As Long as I Have You, by Dean Hughes
  41. 84, Charing Cross Road, by Helene Hanff
  42. The Forest for the Trees: An Editor's Advice to Writers, by Betsy Lerner
  43. The Writing on the Wall, by Dean Hughes
  44. Hearts of the Children, by Dean Hughes
  45. How Many Roads, by Dean Hughes
  46. Take Me Home, by Dean Hughes
  47. So Much of Life Ahead, by Dean Hughes
  48. Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner
  49. Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld
  50. I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh
  51. Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley
  52. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll
  53. The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle
  54. Midway to Heaven, by Dean Hughes
  55. My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult
  56. A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly
  57. Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon
  58. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by Jack Thorne
  59. Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations, by Ron Fournier
  60. When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi
  61. Silver in the Blood, by Jessica Day George
  62. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
  63. Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler
  64. Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch
  65. The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  66. Letters, by Marjorie Pay Hinckley
  67. Sleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel
  68. The Only Pirate at the Party, by Lindsey Stirling
  69. Deerskin, by Robin McKinley
  70. The Complete Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson
  71. To the Bright Edge of the World, by Eowyn Ivey
  72. My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante
  73. A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles
  74. Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal
  75. The Infinite Atonement, by Tad R. Callister
  76. Dolly, by Anita Brookner
  77. Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
  78. Summers at Castle Auburn, by Sharon Shinn
  79. Commonwealth, by Ann Patchett
  80. The Invoice, by Jonas Karlsson
  81. I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith
  82. What Alice Forgot, by Liane Moriarty
  83. Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger
  84. The Bookshop on the Corner, by Jenny Colgan
  85. The Room, by Jonas Karlsson
  86. Emily of New Moon, by L.M. Montgomery
  87. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander
  88. The Great Apostasy, by James E. Talmage
  89. The Boys the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, by Daniel James Brown
  90. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between, by Lauren Graham
  91. Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles
  92. Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader, by Anne Fadiman
  93. The Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon
  94. The Remains of the Day, by Kazuo Ishiguro
  95. Best-Loved Fairy Tales, by Hans Christian Andersen
  96. Enchanted, by Orson Scott Card
  97. A Return to Christmas, by Chris Heimerdinger
  98. Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues that Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes, by Gordon B. Hinckley
  99. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Saavedra Cervantes
  100. Troubled Waters, by Sharon Shinn

Previous years:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Aloneness

When I was in high school, a nostalgic adult said to a big group of us, "You'll never have as many friends as you do now; enjoy it while you can." I looked at my two friends sitting next to me and thought, "Boy, that's depressing."

My twenties have been my most social decade, but it's also the decade I've spent the most time by myself. I'm an introverted homebody, so the uptick in alone time wasn't as difficult for me as I'm guessing it is for other people. But even though as a kid I dreamed of living all by myself so I wouldn't have to share my ice cream with anyone (I could even eat it straight from the carton!), it came with a steep learning curve.

My experience isn't unique; most people in their 20s have to get acquainted with themselves real fast due to new environments and increased independence. When you're on your own, you learn things there wasn't time or space or reason to learn before.

With that extra time and space came challenges I didn't expect to have, especially considering my independent nature. Moving out of Utah County and living in an apartment that didn't look like it was built as a volunteer project in the 1970s was exciting at first, but once things settled down and a new routine was formed, I felt a little lost. Everything had changed: my environment, the way I spent my days, my safety net of people. I slowly realized that the real test to adulthood was just beginning: adjusting to relying on myself for everything. It wasn't the budgeting and the cooking and the keeping the apartment clean that tripped me up—I already knew how to do those things. It was the not having someone around who was obligated to notice when I'd had a bad day, the sudden lack of core people outside work, the long future ahead that I had to traverse on my own.

A hole had opened up in my life, one that I always assumed would be filled by default. But it was all up to me now; the emotional support, the Friday-night entertainment, the sounding board for making decisions. I, and I alone, was responsible for all of it.

Now, a normal person would use this life change as a chance to develop new friendships and to latch on to someone to journey through life with. And while I certainly tried this tactic, I've never been much of a team player. I learn and function best on my own; this hurdle was something I had to tackle by myself.

(Before you start thinking I was lonely and forgotten for six years, let me set the record straight. I wasn't. Moving on.)

Somewhere amidst the solitude I started to figure some things out. I learned how to pray more effectively. I learned to trust, and even rely on, my Heavenly Father. I learned that I can't do everything, but I can do more than I thought I could. I learned how to fill my time with meaningful hobbies and goals. I got to know myself really well and found peace with some of my more inconvenient personality quirks.

I'm not sure I would have learned some of these things if I wasn't forced to do it on my own. If someone else was always around, I wouldn't have put in the work required to become a better, more complete version of myself. I'm lazy, I have no trouble admitting it—if somebody else can pick up the slack, I'm all too happy to let them.

It's why I'm grateful for those difficult first months living in Midvale. It's why I'm grateful I didn't marry in my early 20s like I planned. I needed some time to myself first. A lot of time, because stubborn people are slow learners.

And if you haven't had a quality aloneness period yet, I hope that some day you do. Because as it turns out, aloneness is one of the best things that could have happened for me.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

What the fandom wants, the fandom doesn't always get

Nine years is a long time to pine for something. And once you're given the thing you've been pining for, it's impossible to not be disappointed in some way.

Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is a case of fans getting what they asked for, if not what they wanted. At least not everything they wanted.

Obligatory spoiler warning.

I was one of those fans who went into Thanksgiving thinking, "I get to watch new Gilmore Girls episodes tonight!" Even my family was on board, happily willing to replace our traditional Thanksgiving weekend Lord of the Rings marathon with Gilmore Girls (the revival graciously gave us two—that I remember—LOTR references as consolation). Watching "Winter" for the first time was, to steal a word from Kevin Porter of the Gilmore Guys, transcendent. The first 15 minutes or so felt forced, but once I got over the jarring sense of being back in uncharted Gilmore territory, that feeling I had yearned for for so long settled in: I was back in Stars Hollow. Whatever discontent was in store, that hour of warm fuzzies would make it all worth it.

I was familiar enough with Amy Sherman-Palladino's writing style to expect some frustration to go along with the delight. ASP isn't one to give us cake without serving it with a side of prunes.

The revival has its beautiful moments, some of the best of the entire series. Everything involving Emily is flawless (and Lorelai, too, for the most part). Richard's death was handled beautifully. Some of my favorite Kirk moments ever happened in these new episodes, and my stance on Jess went from Team Still Harboring Resentment Toward Season 2/3 Jess but He's Probably Still Better than Logan to Team Jess Is Too Good for Rory—Stay Far Away and Marry Someone Decent Like Mandy Moore.

The revival also has its problems, the most unforgivable being time. The whole point of the revival is to finally see the ending ASP had envisioned, but with nine years between the season 7 finale and "Winter," the story ASP has been harboring all these years doesn't quite work. Everyone is in the exact place we left them in, which is irritating. The actors all look exactly the same and it would have worked fine to only jump forward a few years, but instead we're supposed to believe that Luke and Lorelai waited nine years to have the "fresh kid" conversation and to get married just so we could see it, that Rory would still be trying to figure out how to adult even though she's in her freakin' 30s. (Netflix's lack of episode length restrictions also stuck us with time-wasters like the Stars Hollow Musical and another dumb Life and Death Brigade escapade.)

But what I think fans wanted more than anything was this: closure. Thanks to Rory being the Absolute Worst and those infamous final four words (which were, to Alexi Bledel's credit, delivered perfectly), that is exactly what we didn't get.

From a writing standpoint, I love it. The best writing always has divisive characters, and Rory's journey works thematically. But as a fan, I just wanted things wrapped up in a semi-neat bow. In this post-GG revival world, I feel like I'm right back where I started.

Which was probably ASP's evil plan all along.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

All about Newt

The main reason I started this blog was so I'd have a medium to dump and organize my thoughts when my journal just wasn't cutting it. But sometimes I get lazy and expect those thoughts to go away of their own accord, which rarely works, and often means they start invading my dreams. For example, the last couple of days I've dreamed about Fantastic Beasts and OMG NEWT SCAMANDER IS ADORABLE AND EDDIE REDMAYNE IS BRILLIANT. I kid you not, these dreams are shouty all-caps dreams. On repeat.

I get it, brain; you loved Fantastic Beasts, and you won't be silenced until I talk about why.

My excitement for the new Gilmore Girls episodes has overshadowed everything else in my life lately, so I went to the movie on opening weekend more out of Harry Potter loyalty than actual excitement. These days the Harry Potter franchise just lets me down, so my expectations weren't high.

I should go into every movie like this; it's almost a guarantee that I'll be pleasantly surprised. The pleasant surprise was delightful, and brought back a little bit of that feeling I wish I could bottle up of reading a Harry Potter book for the first time. I loved not knowing what was going to happen, and I loved not having a book to compare it to. The only "that's not how I imagined it" moment was with the niffler—I imagined them to be fluffier and less possum-like. It was freeing and wonderful experiencing a J.K. Rowling creation onscreen first. I was able to enjoy this film in ways I just wasn't able to experience the eight Harry Potter movies, no matter how excited I was for them.

But that's all secondary to Newt Scamander himself. I had heard beforehand from a few different sources that Eddie Redmayne "underacted" and was too dull to do a JKR hero justice.

I COULD NOT DISAGREE MORE. (Yes, those all-caps were necessary.)

Because I know this guy. He avoids eye contact, like my brother does. He seems to hide behind the hair that falls over one side of his face, kind of like my sister does with her jackets. He is most at ease when he's doing what he's good at but clearly isn't in his element when he's around people (again, like my brother). He develops close bonds with a select number of people and doesn't really need anybody else, like me.

He doesn't just feel familiar; I understood him right away, though it took me a while to put my finger on why. This is a guy cut from the same cloth as my people—shy, introverted, perhaps with some Asperger's tendencies—but portrayed in a real, natural way rather than as an obvious caricature anyone can pick up on immediately. Newt is just Newt, and every acting choice Eddie Redmayne makes feeds into that. (He's a genius, I tell you. Give him a raise.) Behind his uncharismatic outside demeanor is a lovable, endlessly interesting soul that is so much more than his social awkwardness and unique talents. I cannot stress enough how great it is to root for a hero who, without his case of magical creatures, would be living silently and invisibly among us.

I may not make it until the DVD comes out to watch this movie again. And I can assure you I'll be properly excited for the next movie.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

To the people upstairs

Are we allowed to talk about anything besides the election yet?

Good, because there's another issue I'd like to discuss. It involves a class of people that are almost universally despised: upstairs neighbors.

Apartment dwelling is a trial for everyone involved. Together we deal with ridiculous fees, other people's pets, and miscreants who are constantly parking in our reserved parking spots. Any of these can cause murderous rage on the best of days, but for the most part, we can all agree that these things are horrible and then move on with our lives.

Not so with upstairs neighbors. They are far worse than the monthly reminder that apartment owners are money grubbers and the existence of residents who insist on having pets but who refuse to clean up after them.

If you're lucky enough to share a ceiling with someone who is capable of walking without throwing their weight around like an 800-pound gorilla, count yourself lucky. You're even more fortunate if your blessed neighbors are never home.

But at some point, we all have to deal with the worst kind of apartment dweller: the kind who has 12 children hyped up on sugar. The kind who has a dog that is trained to bark every 37 seconds when you're trying to fall asleep. The kind who practices bowling during all hours of the day.

You'd think these people would be more understanding of the noise coming from your apartment, seeing as how they're the ones trying to hide a herd of elephants under their bed. I mean, it wouldn't bode well for them if I reported that to management.

But it turns out I'm extremely mistaken. I, of course, am the worse offender when I have the TV on at a volume I can comfortably hear it. My fire alarm goes off whenever I open the oven, so, naturally, I deserve to go to jail. And soothing exercises like playing the piano? Well I can just forget about that—that's grounds for execution.

But never fear; they can't break me. The Christmas music you heard me playing at 9:45 p.m.? That's only the beginning of my revenge, friends. You just keep moving furniture around at 2:00 in the morning. Two people can play this game.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pearls of 20-something wisdom: Roommates

Standing on Middle-Aged Adult's doorstep has me in a reflective mood these days. My trial run at adulthood is about to expire, and it's forced me to evaluate my progress. Have I met expectations? Will the Powers that Be recommend me for a promotion to "real" adulthood, scratching off the word "young" before my title? 

Perhaps the most important question of all: did I make the most of the last of my youth?

No doubt these questions are inspired in part by the end-of-year evaluations that are coming up at work, but it's also the first time I've entered another decade while being in a position to do a useful reflection on it. When I turned 10, I had fun telling people I was a decade old for a few weeks, but that wore off quickly and I moved on with my life. At age 20 I was still clinging to my teenage years—the years when I knew everything—and was too flustered to look too far forward or backward. 

But at 10.75 months away from 30, I have some thoughts. So for the next several months, I'm going to document some of the pearls of wisdom I've picked up during my 20s. It's been a formative decade, with unique experiences I think are worth getting down on paper in a way they haven't been recorded yet. (You know, because I'm not doing enough to document my life. And because people just can't get enough of millennials pontificating on their barely lived lives.)

I figured I'd start with a pretty universally 20s experience: roommates.

Let me just get this out of the way right now—most of my roommates were good ones. (Trust me—if you're reading this, you were not one of the bad roommates.) 

Most photoshoots end in pyramid attempts.

Counting both sisters who lived with me away from our parents' house, I've lived with 12 different girls. Those girls came to Utah from seven different states, bringing their own traditions, expectations, and emotional baggage. We were all LDS, which gave us a huge commonality to start from, but blending that many personalities—often with no prior roommate experience to make it easier—was always a challenge.

Amber (the person taking the picture) made us these aprons for Christmas, and we loved them so much we wore them to ward prayer. Yay for roommate bonding! On a completely unrelated note, I miss those pants I'm wearing. They were so comfortable.

Of course, I didn't understand the importance of most of these roommate-melding tips until after I learned the hard way, but I picked up some invaluable roommate rules to live by as the years went by (many of which, I confess, I learned by breaking):
  1. Establish right away how you're going to handle chores, from who buys the milk to when the dishes will get done. Most roommate disputes will be eliminated if you follow this simple guideline.
  2. Respect each others' boundaries. Especially in college, you're probably living in a space that is nowhere near big enough to handle you, your dreams, and several other people, and the only way to survive is to respect each others' space. If someone doesn't want you to eat their brownies, don't eat their brownies. If someone has to go to bed early because they're one of the poor unfortunate souls with a 4:00 a.m. toilet-cleaning job, keep it down after 10:00 p.m. If you have a boyfriend, remember that he still isn't your roommate and shouldn't always get couch and TV priority over those actually paying the rent.
  3. Do fun things with each other, but don't forget to establish relationships with people outside your home, too.
I didn't have that many friends in high school, so some of my college roommate experiences were a shy girl's dream come true: staying up late talking about boys, always having someone to sit by at church, having adventurous people in your life who force you to try new things. At times I put way too much pressure on myself to be as comfortable around my roommates as I was around my sisters, and I never truly nailed that skill, but I learned enough to start knocking down those huge social barriers I had been hiding behind for most of my life.

Jumping pictures are a great way to loosen up.

It was also hard. Living in close quarters with the combined pressure of school, work, and a host of new adult responsibilities is hard on anybody, but doing this without having the solitude I needed was the hardest thing for me. It's the reason I had an emotional breakdown every semester—I could pretty much count on it happening either the first week of school or about three-quarters of the way through the semester. My car became a sacred space during that time; it allowed me to escape to Elk Ridge whenever I needed to and provided privacy when I couldn't get it anywhere else.

I was (am) a complete nerd who genuinely enjoys doing homework and takes "candid" pictures of myself when I'm having a good hair day.

I voluntarily put an end to the roommate phase of my life several years ago, but there are things I wish I had done differently. I wish I had gone to more football games. Gotten into college basketball when I was still a fellow student of Jimmer's. Spent less time hiding in my room. Tried harder at dating while I still had spies to help me and a humongous selection of dateable guys to choose from. Worked harder to repair awkward and contentious (not to mention stupid) situations. That I had spent less time looking forward to the day I would be roommate-free and more time appreciating how special the roommate experience is.

Some experiences are best shared with other starving college students. Such as gathering up your spare change and taking a quick walk in the snow so you can bask in the joy of 7-11 hot chocolate and Dunford donuts.

If I'm being entirely honest, the roommate saga of my life is pretty evenly split between the good and the bad. But the good memories mean so much more to me; I don't think about the hard times much anymore. It's become almost a mystical part of my past, a place where it was normal for people to knock on our door at 11:50 p.m., where Hamburger Helper was a feast for kings, when hang-outs seamlessly turned into dance parties, when grocery shopping and attending a singles ward was an adventure. 

Most of my roommate experiences ended in marriage. Also, this picture is proof that I could never be an actor/model; if someone tells me to look at these people I barely know (minus the woman in white) and giggle, the best I can manage is a "This is the stupidest thing ever" face. Which masks the "I want to kill you for making me do this" face.

I look back on those years fondly, so much so that sometimes I almost wish I could live in that world again, where roommates are your family and everything is fresh and new.

All was right in the world on this day.

But, I'm pretty happy where I'm at.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Gilmore Girls: Prediction time

Whoever is running the marketing campaign for Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life should get a giant raise. They could have announced the new episodes via an article on KSL and shoe-horned them into a one-week timeframe on Netflix with horrible streaming, and I would have gone out of my way to watch the girls in action again. I didn't need anything beyond the official "It's happening!" announcement to get me watching.

Netflix knew they were catering to a rabid fanbase, but they didn't settle for the typical, run-of-the-mill marketing (though there was still plenty of that). They hired Kirk to summarize each season in a series of two-minute videos. They launched a Stars Hollow website (run by Tayler Doose, paid for in part by an ad placed by Kirk, of course.) They turned 200 cafes in the US and Canada into Luke's Diner for a day.

I wasn't too far from one of the locations and happily would have stood in that two-hour line for something handed to me by a grumpy employee clad in flannel and backward baseball cap if I didn't like my job. So I had to settle for taking a quick selfie, not even managing to capture the authentic Luke's Diner sign. My selfie skills leave much to be desired. But, look—clouds!

All this before they released the trailer.

Let's just say, I've never been so excited for Black Friday.

Tragically, that's still a month away. I'm afraid I'll have to bore you with some fangirling as I finish out the last bit of this nine-year wait.

Prediction time!

  • Let's get this one out of the way—Rory will pick Jess. (I'm still undecided which boy team I'm on, but I always got the impression that Amy Sherman-Palladino meant Rory and Jess to end up together.)
  • And this one—Luke and Lorelai will get married. (This is the only thing that will devastate me if it doesn't pan out.)
  • Sookie will be on some sort of cooking show that forces her to take time away from the inn.
  • Dean will be happily married to someone nice, Jess will be doing something unconventional—dropping in to see Luke occasionally—and Logan will still be a rich, charming jerk.
  • Emily will have a meltdown that will be both devastating and comedic.
  • Something bad will happen on June 3.
  • Kirk will open a cat store and call it Kirk's. Or decide to become a maid (that could explain the Friday Night Dinner appearance).
  • Lane's dad will continue to be a mystery. And one of Lane's kids will follow in his grandma's footsteps and be a Seventh-day Adventist. The other will rebel and become a Mormon. (Why not?)
  • The Gilmore Guys will get more than just a cameo, preferably a quick scene where they're confusedly discussing someone's fashion choices as the girls walk by. 
  • Paris will run for Senate. Or be Hillary Clinton's right-hand woman.
  • One of the crazy town functions will include a pig auction. Kirk's idea.
  • The last four words will be . . . something no one's guessed yet.

I need to think about something else now. Like how I'm going to find the time to listen to all of seasons 5–7 of the Gilmore Guys podcast in the next 31 days. 

Monday, October 10, 2016

Car #3

I've never cared about cars much, aside from the essential function they serve of getting you places.

That is, I don't care about other people's cars; I've always been rather attached to mine.

I bought my first one at age 16, right after my sophomore year of high school ended. It was my favorite color and had a sun roof. It was the car that necessitated my learning how to drive a stick shift. It was also insane. After four years of dealing with its quirks and trying to explain its weird problems to people, I threw the white flag and decided to get rid of it.

This was a 1997 Volkswagon Golf. I can just see my future kids/grandkids exclaiming in awe, "Your first car wasn't even made in this century?"

So I moved on. Car #2 was also a manual, the unique shade of blue that changes colors depending on the lighting, still had a tape player, and wasn't nearly as unique as Car #1. I missed having a car with a personality at first, but I soon came to appreciate it for its reliability. Aside from a few expensive repairs during times in my life when I had no money to spare, it was a wonderfully boring car. I planned on driving that thing as long as it would let me.

And then one beautiful morning in September, this happened:

So long, 2003 Hyundai Elantra. No humans were harmed in the totaling of this vehicle (aside from some wicked whiplash the next day and a small burn on my thumb from when my airbag went off).

Totaling your car sucks, but once I got over the shock of it I started to realize it might be a good thing. It needed new tires and I was about ready to replace it anyway—plus, I didn't expect to get much out of it because despite its reliability, it was worthless by car standards.

Still, I felt guilty leaving it at the junkyard after I had scoured the car for my belongings, leaving it there all smashed up and filthy. It deserved a better end, perhaps at a comfy retirement home for cars.

But as soon as I found out how much State Farm would give me for my totaled car, I didn't waste any time buying Car #3. Only this time it was an entirely new experience, because I'm no longer a teenager or a starving student in college—I didn't have to settle for the cheapest car in the lot. I could splurge on cool features, and finally get a car with a built-in iPod USB port so I would never have to do without my favorite invention again.

A mere hours later, I drove away from the dealership in my brand-spanking new car with 41 miles on it, testing out the Bluetooth car function on my mom.

Introducing my 2017 Hyundai Elantra. I've always wanted a red car, despite its unfortunate connection to a certain rival school.

It was then that I finally understood why we have this commandment: "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." I've never had a reason to be proud of the cars I drove aside from the pride of ownership, but I'm dang proud of this one. It's shiny and red, no one has ever driven it before, and it has bells and whistles. It's unexpectedly stressful driving it because I've never driven something so perfect before. I think I'll actually be relieved when it gets its first scratch—no more pressure to keep the car perfect.

In addition to bringing about the need to repent of idol worshipping, this car also made me feel a bit like an old codger. I always feel a little guilty letting my obsolete things go, so I cling to them long past the point of sense. Which has only made upgrading to a car that is 14 years newer than the previous one that much more jarring.

For one, it's an automatic, because manuals are apparently pretty much extinct now (I'm still a little bummed about that). I'd been driving my mom's car for about a week so I already had some time to reacquaint myself with the modern world, but it takes time to override 12+ years of muscle memory. I still have the occasional moment of panic when I'm in a hurry and try to turn the car off without putting it in park or try to push in the clutch only to find air, but I'm confident that those instincts will soon be killed off by convenience. It's also strange to have voice commands, a camera that shows what's behind you when you're backing up (I still don't trust it), and a remote lock and unlock function. You know, the kind of stuff people in movies use (and everyone who's bought a car in the last five years). It's weird being on their level now.

But the great thing (at least to me) about buying a new car is that you get to enjoy having the new and hip features for a while, but technology will soon outpace you and you'll once again be the one with the charming, outdated thing. By the time I'm done with this car, I'll probably be the only one still driving on the ground—because everyone else will have flying cars, of course. (Or at the very least, self-driving cars.)

Until then, I'll be over here, trying not to break the second commandment.

Monday, October 3, 2016

9 thoughts a stick-shift driver has while driving an automatic

Before getting into the car: This is going to be so easy. Anyone who can reach the pedals can drive an automatic.

Starting the car: Shoving your left foot into the ground won't help the car start.

Turning the car off: Repeat to yourself before turning the car off: "Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first. Put the car in park first."

Driving at a consistent speed: How do I control my speed in this thing? [Uses cruise control whenever possible, including in-town driving.]

Turning: Why can't I find the shifter?!? [Attempts to grab the air.]

Slowing down: What, the only way to slow down is to hit the brakes? How boring.

In a traffic jam: Moving your foot from the gas pedal to the brake over and over again is about as annoying as shifting over and over again.

Stopped on a hill: I'm going to take my foot off the brake and just sit here. Because I can.

Stopped at a traffic light/stop sign: Repeat while the light is red: "Lifting your foot off the brake pedal even just a little will cause the car to move forward."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The mysterious green box: where the cool kids hang out

They sit on nearly every street in America. You've probably asked your mom at some point what they're for. They're ugly and boring, yet shrouded in mystique.

Okay, okay, this box is brown. But you still know what I'm talking about, right?

These things were the focal point of a lot of my childhood games. The one at our house was at the edge of our property, so it was "safe" when we played any variation of tag, the boundary line when we needed one, even a base if we played baseball in the front yard. (Siblings/parents, this actually happened, right? I'm not just making this up?)

The Payson park had a huge one, and whenever we went there with my cousins the giant green box had a myriad of roles: a prison for (a) a bad guy who was trying to get out, or (b) a good guy we were trying to rescue; a cage for a big, bad monster that had been trying to get out for 100 years; a bomb that would explode if you touched it; a fortress (especially useful when water guns and snowballs were included in our game); or a transformer-in-disguise that was only pretending to be a box to lure us in.

None of us really knew what the thing was for, which might be why we were so drawn to it.

Kids congregating around boring objects—that, I get. Kids can make a game out of anything.

But as I've gone on my evening walks, I've noticed that these green boxes are hang-out magnets for adults, too. I've started avoiding one area of sidewalk because someone is always smoking by the box. Even worse is the one right next to my parking space, which I'm starting to fear is becoming the hot spot of my apartment complex. Half the time when I'm leaving or going, there are teenagers leaning against it trying to look cool, a couple coupling, or a lone person on their phone. Every time I see somebody by the box, I feel like I did in high school when my locker was by the good drinking fountain with the really cold water, which meant I could never get to it because there were always 20 football players blocking it.

The only difference now is that I don't care if I break up the party—I pay 15 bucks for that spot every month, dang it!—so every other day I'm parking a few feet away from strangers who are engaged in various forms of socialization, and trust me, there's no non-awkward way to interrupt them. (The socially gifted might have a shot, but as a territorial introvert I just want people to get off my lawn.)

Maybe it's because the boxes make convenient seats if you want to sit down (I'm still hesitant to do that, since you never know when one could be a bomb). Maybe there really are aliens hiding inside, using their mind powers to draw people into their trap.

Whatever the reason, I hope this trend stops before it gets out of hand. At the very least, the cooling weather will push people back to their couches inside, right?

Thursday, September 15, 2016


A few days ago, I turned 29. Before too much longer, people won't feel the need to qualify my adult status with the word "young." The cushion between my current age and 30 is gone—which is a little disconcerting for someone who's been afraid of turning 30 since her early 20s.

Because somewhere along the line, I absorbed the "30 before 30" philosophy, the idea that you have to accomplish certain things before you turn 30. I think it started in high school when college was looming on my doorstep and the yearbook staff was asking seniors what their post–high school plans were (actually, I have no idea if the yearbook staff actually did that, and I was on the yearbook staff). So I made a plan. Several plans. I even made a pre-30s bucket list.

But I couldn't plan past 30. That version of me was too old to relate to, and at some point I started thinking that 30 was the end—if I didn't have it figured out by then, then it was too late. I'd have to schmooze around with my regrets for 70 years.

Not to mention 30 is a milestone age in LDS culture that no one wants to reach—if you're not married by 30, then you'll either be single for the rest of mortality or end up marrying a divorcĂ© with three kids. (Or an apostle, and really, does anyone actually want to marry someone that busy and famous without the riches that typically come with that type of lifestyle?)*

*If you don't hear from me in the next few days, it's because I've been struck by lightning.

So I've been spending some time over the last few years trying to unlearn these crazy ideas so I wouldn't have to hit the panic button when I turned 29.

And I think it's working, because I don't feel like I'm standing at death's door. I can look at my past and be proud of my accomplishments, and look forward to my—gulp—30s where I will, yes, continue to experience new things. It still feels weird picturing myself in my 30s at all, but the point is, I can picture it. In fact, now that I'm pretty much an established adult with a stable life, I think my 30s will be easier than my 20s in a lot of ways.

Now that I've come to peace with the fact that I'm not the one person who will get to avoid this nasty aging business, I think I'll enjoy the last year in my 20s quite a bit (maybe I'll even find that ever-elusive perfect Ranch recipe, though I'm not holding my breath).

Provided I'm not hit with a quarter-life crisis in about six months.*

*Although I should probably just woman up and get used to calling it a mid-life crisis.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Summer book wrap-up, Twitter style

22 books, summarized in 140 characters or less.

How Many Roads, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
Mormons. America. Germany. The '60s.

Take Me Home, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
A Mormon in Vietnam. A picture-perfect marriage crumbles.

So Much of Life Ahead, by Dean Hughes. 4 stars.
Mormon soap opera. Plus history!

The Big Rock Candy Mountain, by Wallace Stegner. 4.5 stars.
A dysfunctional family hops across the American Northwest, chasing dreams that are doomed to crumble. Stellar writing.

Eligible, by Curtis Sittenfeld. 2 stars.
A modern Pride and Prejudice, minus the charm.

I Let You Go, by Clare Mackintosh. 4 stars.
A compelling and cozy crime novel, with a couple of twists you won't see coming.

Rose Daughter, by Robin McKinley. 4 stars.
A wordy, comforting, and magical Beauty and the Beast retelling. With sisters.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. 2 stars.
Like a crazy dream you can't wake up from. Oh wait, it is a dream.

The Hound of the Baskervilles, by Arthur Conan Doyle. 2 stars.
We've got an unsolvable mystery; Sherlock Holmes to the rescue! And there are dogs.

Midway to Heaven, by Dean Hughes. 2 stars.
Like a Mormon Hallmark card.

My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. 3 stars.
A complicated and heartbreaking situation where everyone has a valid perspective and no one wins.

A Northern Light, by Jennifer Donnelly. 3 stars.
A plot that mirrors the protagonist's self-picked word of the day. Also, a murder mystery in 1900s New York.

Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. 4 stars.
A time-traveling story where the romance is secondary to the characters and historical details. Well, except for the "honeymoon" part.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, by Jack Thorne. 3.5 stars.
An entertaining play if you forget it's supposed to be a continuation of J.K. Rowling's masterpiece.

Love That Boy: What Two Presidents, Eight Road Trips, and My Son Taught Me About a Parent's Expectations, by Ron Fournier. 5 stars.
A dad and a kid with Asperger's take a trip together. They learn things. You needn't be a parent or know someone with Asperger's to enjoy this.

When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi. 5 stars.
A life dedicated to medicine is cut short. But not before this young man shows us the beauty of living.

Silver in the Blood, by Jessica Day George. 3 stars.
Werewolves and Russian princesses.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum. 4 stars.
A delightful story you'll wish you had read as a kid. A classic in its own right, regardless of the movie's success.

Vinegar Girl, by Anne Tyler. 3.5 stars.
A modern retelling of The Taming of the Shrew. The "shrew" is hilarious, and the "rogue" who woos her is rather adorable.

Dark Matter, by Blake Crouch. 5 stars.
A page turner with possibilities that will make your head hurt.

The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 1 star.
The movie's better.

Letters, by Marjorie Pay Hinckley. 4 stars.
Glimpses into an amazing life, where yardwork and parenthood are just as prominent as exotic places and famous people.

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What I did this summer besides not sleep and talk about Harry Potter

I just realized that the only things I've blogged about this summer are Harry Potter and sleep. And while those two things really have been on my mind a lot the past three months, I'm pretty sure other stuff happened, too.

Such as, I worked a lot. Preparing for this year's International Convention about killed off our department. But that's not a fun thing to talk about, so let's move on.

I played stake softball. But I don't have any pictures, so I guess it didn't happen.

Ooh, I know. I finished my ginormous afghan just in time to summerize my bedding. I'm excited to pull it back out in a few months.

My family had a water party on Memorial Day for the grandkids and Tyrel.

Ladies, this muscular dork is single. (That's a balloon on his head, if you're wondering.)

Avonlea loves her cousin Noah. LOVES him. 

Passing on a beloved tradition.

The 4th of July happened, and we did sparklers and pop-its (is that what they're actually called?). Once again, for the grandkids and Tyrel.

She looks so much like baby Kimberly in this picture.

We also watched Prince Caspian on our garage door, because that's what you do when fireworks are banned in your area.

I colored my hair for the first time since high school. It's not really what I had in mind, and I miss my natural boring brown hair. But I'm reconciling myself to going about life with yellow hair.

I went to Seattle with my family (minus the married kids), where we weren't allowed to talk about the w-word for a whole week. Many hilarious things were said, we ate a ton of great food, watched the Olympics every night, and slept in every morning. Heaven.

Other highlights include going to a Mariners game, which we all enjoyed more than we thought we would.

Except maybe Shannan.

I ate a deep-fried Twinkie, which kind of tasted like bread with powdered sugar on it. Not really what I was expecting.

We fulfilled our hike obligation for the next couple of years. (Except for Tyrel, who climbs a mountain once a week.)

Look at all that green!

Mom and Dad aren't so sure about Tyrel's tripod/selfie stick.

I had a great time embracing my crazy, curly hair for a few days (humidity's one redeeming quality), and learned that taking dramatic wind pictures is hard and usually not glamorous.

We went to a bunch of museums. The guitar tower was my favorite.

And the Invisibility Cloak display that had nothing in it.

I faced my fear of heights and made it to the top of the Space Needle without completely losing my dignity. I somehow ended up at the front of the elevator, right in front of the window, and had nothing to hold onto to make me feel anchored. And once we got out of the elevator I couldn't shake the feeling that the tower was swaying. The view was awesome, but I don't need to go through that again.

Note Mt. Rainier in the background. 

This picture makes me look slightly more terrified than I actually was. Only slightly, though.

And other shenanigans happened in Seattle.

We rode the ferry and went on a boat cruise.

We sat in these amazing recliner chairs for the Star Trek movie, so we had to go back and see another movie (Pete's Dragon) on our last day. And stick our very own Troll in the Troll's head.

I dove right back into the craziness of work, and went into Convention exhausted. I have no pictures or cool stories from this year, but I do have documentation from my Fitbit that it happened—I averaged 18,000 steps per day over the four days. That's about double what I usually get. I watched Friday Night Lights every night and took the most amazing bubble bath of my life on the last night to recover. And slept a lot on Sunday.

So, some good stuff happened this summer. But, as always, I'm stoked for it to step aside for fall.