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.