Dec 28, 2013

2013 Year in Review and a Look into 2014

Here we are, at the end of another year! Here are a few highlights from 2013!

I started a new feature on my blog, called Book of the Month. On the first of every month, I recommend a book that I had read the previous month. It's a little hit or miss, but that's the way reading goes sometimes, isn't it?

A friend and I started a "letter game" for writing. We have now started our second story.

I turned 25!

In June I went to Prince Edward Island, fulfilling one of my New Year's resolutions, and a dream of mine!

Sis and bro-in-law made me an aunt with the arrival of Baby E in July. Bro and I then went and visited them in August.

In October I decided to apply to graduate school. Well, it didn't start out that way. I first just decided to take the GRE, to have that avenue open for me, and then quickly decided to apply to grad school while I was looking around at programs. This meant that the last couple months of the year were spent studying for the GRE and filling out my application. My application is in (except for one letter of recommendation) and I am going to try to forget about it until I hear word.

In addition, this year I've learned a lot about being strong and healthy, as well as the people in my life who love and support me no matter what.

As for my other New Year's Resolutions. I did write often, until about July when I started having to look for new jobs, and then I started studying for the GRE. I'm getting back into it though, and will hopefully have more time to write as 2014 begins. As for the "exercising with some frequency"--I did okay for about the first three months, then I stopped. Then in September I started up again, and I exercise about 20 minutes a day three or so times a week using a work-out app called Sworkit. Not ideal, I know, but it's better than nothing.

Now, to try to see the future and look forward to 2014 . . .

I now have until June to find a new job. Starting in January, I'll go down to working three days a week, so I'll spend the other two days a week "working from home". I'm planning on writing in the morning, and doing some job searches in the afternoon. I did apply for two jobs this month, but have yet to hear back from them.

There is also my grad school acceptance/rejection to get--sometime around March I think. If I get into grad school, then I will not be taking a vacation this year because money. If I don't, I still may not be taking a vacation this year. It all depends on whether or not I get a job. If I am able to go on a vacation, I have no idea where I want to go. I have kicked around the idea of New York and seeing Broadway plays, but I don't think I'd want to go by myself. It can't be anywhere too expensive, since I don't have as much vacation money this year as I did last year. Suggestions? Probably somewhere in the US.

Well, there we are! The year didn't turn out how I thought it would, but then, nothing ever does. I look forward to whatever new adventures 2014 brings!

Dec 15, 2013

Afternoon Tea

Friday after work three of the girls I work with and I decided to go to Afternoon Tea at the Grand America Hotel. We'd actually had it planned for a while, as a special Christmas treat, and because we like doing things together.

Even though I spent 8 week in England, I had never been to afternoon tea. Truthfully, I just started drinking herbal tea about two months ago. I know. What kind of Anglophile am I?! I had also never been inside the Grand America, even though I have admired it from the outside, because it's just a beautiful building.

And it's just as beautiful inside. Lush carpet, beautiful chandeliers, a harp player, tile floors. It made me feel like I had a lot more money than I actually do. Or ever will.

The tea room is just off of the lobby. In my head I was picturing a tea room like this:


When actually there were couches and chairs as well as tables. The four of us sat at a table with beautiful dishes. The waitress came to get our order of tea (I ordered chamomile citron), and she poured hot water into a wine glass sitting on the middle of the table. The glass had a pellet like thing in it called a "tea flower." While we enjoyed our tea, the pellet bloomed into a flower!

Our first course, as we waited for our tea, was strawberries and chantilly cream. Then our tea was brought out. We each had our own tea pot, and we shared a sugar bowl which had real "lumps" of sugar. For the record, I take one lump. ;) We also got sandwiches at this point.

There were five different kinds of sandwiches, with enough that we all could have one of each. There were ham on marbled rye, chicken salad with almonds, egg salad, cucumber, and a smoked salmon wrap. There were also scones with clotted cream, lemon curd, and strawberry jam.

Then came the pastries. There was orange madeleines, jam cookies (I don't remember what they are called), vanilla cream cake with fudge, double chocolate cake, and macaroons.

The atmosphere was perfect. I'm not a huge fan of eating out, usually because there are so many people and it's so loud. But this was perfect. Everyone was in their little groups, and the noise level just seemed like a murmur. For the most part I didn't even notice the other people. There are large windows which let in a lot of light, and tall ceilings. At the opposite end of the room from where we were is a large fireplace. Of course, the company was great too. We all love Jane Austen, England, and period movies, so we talked about that, and sometimes we just sat in silence and enjoyed the food and atmosphere. It really did make me feel fancy and rich.

This is definitely something I want to do again, for special occasions. I would suggest it to everyone else too.

Dec 12, 2013

Togetherness

This might come across as kind of weird for some people, but one of the things I like the most is when I am comfortable enough with another person that we can be in the same room with each other and not feel the need to talk to each other.

I know, sounds really weird.

But think about it. You know that you really feel comfortable around someone when you don't feel the need to fill up the silence, or when you don't feel uncomfortable with silence. It's the best feeling in the world to just be with someone.

Last night, M was working on one of her final papers on one edge of the couch, and I was lying on the other part catching up on my reading (now that I don't have to study for the GRE anymore, I've been able to read four books already this month!). And we just stayed like that for an hour or more. If we came across something interesting, we'd share it with the other, but for the most part we sat in companionable silence. It was great.

This happened last year with my parents last year, too. We had the fireplace going and we all just read our respective books, enjoying being together in such a close and relaxed way.

This is not to say that I don't enjoy conversation with the people I love (and, you know, other people that I like too), because I do. I like talking to M about our days and sharing funny things. I LOVE talking to my mom. This is also not to say that I don't enjoy doing other things with people. I like watching movies, and sharing in on our likes and dislikes.

But there is something to be said for moments of quiet contented silence with someone you enjoy spending time with. It's a different kind of togetherness. It's relaxed, and calm. And it's moments like that when you feel that you really understand someone, and that person really understands you. Being together in that kind of situation seems to bring people closer in some way.

I hope that in my future I find someone who I feel comfortable sitting in silence with, as well as talking to them.

Dec 6, 2013

A Glance into the Past

I was watching Ramona and Beezus tonight (crying fest!) and there is a scene where Ramona gets her own room for the first time and she's really excited. Then Beezus comes in and tells Ramona about how scared she's going to be, sleeping in a room by herself in the dark. And it reminded me of something from my childhood. So, let's get in the TARDIS and head back to 1998.

Vworp vworp vworp

Up until I was 10, I shared a room with Sis. Our room was pretty big, and for most of the time we shared it, we had twin beds. If I ever got scared, I'd walk across the room and get into Sis's bed, though I always had to be on the side of the bed against the wall, which meant I usually got squished. For about a year before I got my own room, we had a queen bed that we shared. Sis spreads out a LOT when she sleeps, so I usually ended up in a ball on the edge of the bed.

So, when it came time to get my own room, I was pretty excited! We had just built an extension onto the back of the garage for my dad's shop, which meant that the room that used to be the shop became my bedroom. The door opened into the sink section of the bathroom, and there was no carpet, and just enough room for a twin bed, but it was going to be mine. (It's strange, I just realized that I still dream about this room, as if it's still my bedroom, even though I haven't lived in that house--or even been in it--for 9 years.) Anyway, I don't remember how it all went down, but I do remember being slightly scared when it came down to it.

If you've spent your entire life sleeping in a room with another person, and being scared of the dark, going into a room all by yourself is kind of scary! So Bro and Sis agreed to sleep on the floor of my room (my hard concrete floor with only a braided rug for a cushion) the first two nights.

It's kind of nice to know that your family is always there to sleep on your floor when you need them.

Dec 5, 2013

The GRE

As you all know, I spent November studying for the GRE. I did take a break or two for social activities, including the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary! For a geek like me, it was Christmas a month early. But a lot of my time not at work was taken up by studying, learning new things, taking practice tests, then going over the practice tests (which usually included another person for the math). It was a busy month, with not enough reading time. Something I learned, though, is that I'm feeling pretty serious about grad school--if I weren't, I would have given up part way through the month.

Tuesday morning I took the test. It was a really rough morning. Have you ever been walking along, fine as can be, and then you just run into a wall unexpectedly? And you can't see anyway around, over, under, or through that wall? And besides that, you don't feel very good because you just smacked into a wall? Well, that's kind of how I felt the morning of the GRE. 

I had felt fine the day before, and slept well that night. But I hit the wall as I was getting ready to go. Roommate M was driving me since the test was taking place at the university she attends, and she was heaven sent. She talked me into getting out of the car (with some help from a phone call to my mom) and taking the test. And, boy, am I glad she did!

The whole test taking experience is kind of surreal--I know I did it, but I don't really feel as if I did. M walked me to the testing center--which was good because I never would have found it on my own--and figuratively held my hand through the sign in process. Then I signed in and had to read and sign a confidentiality agreement, where I had to copy a paragraph into cursive. I haven't written that much in cursive since I was in elementary school! And they don't even teach cursive anymore, so that's going to have to change soon. Anyway, I went in, they signed me in on the computer and took my picture, which was lovely (/sarcasm). I had to take my watch off, even though it isn't digital, and then I had to stand while they waved a metal detector wand over me. They also asked to see my wrists, which reminded me of Mulan, when she goes to the matchmakers and she has notes written on her arm. 

Then I went in and got started!

Two hours later I had a quick break and about an hour and a half after that I finished. You get your scores immediately, and I was surprised that I hadn't done that bad--considering the wall that morning. I did slightly better than I had on my practice tests (I always ended up with the same scores on allof my practice tests), and my verbal was above average and my math just below. I finished early (I've always been a fast test taker, which is good and bad), and M wasn't back yet to get me, so I just sat and watch the snow fall. I was exhausted! In fact, it took about two days for me to recover, which is why I'm writing about it now instead of yesterday. 

I went to work for about five hours, which made me even more exhausted. So I recovered by lying on the couch and watching Holiday Inn that night. Nothing like some Astaire and Crosby to help a person feel better. :)

I just want to give a shout out to everyone who was so supportive the past month and who sent prayers my way on Tuesday--I needed it more than I knew when I asked for it. 

Dec 1, 2013

November Book of the Month

Before I begin, here's an update from last week's book of the month. I read the second book, which used a lot more bad language than the first. That's just something that I'm not comfortable with, so I probably won't be reading any more in the series.

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent most of my spare time studying for the GRE, which resulted in me not only not having a lot of time to read, but also in not having any time to write any more posts on my blog. It will all be over on Tuesday though, and then I just need to finish my grad school application and I can "relax" and wait. Sigh.

This month's book of the month is The Amaranth Enchantment by Julie Berry. This story is a bit of a Cinderella retelling, but I felt that Berry's approach and telling of it was so different that you didn't feel that you were reading the same fairytale that you know backward and forward. Amaranth follows Lucinda as a mysterious woman and a mysterious jewel appear one day in her uncle's goldsmith shop. When her uncle dies and her aunt turns her out into the street, Lucinda must rely on a witch, a thief, and a prince to help her to restore the fortune that was stolen from her when her parents died.

I love fairytales and fantasies, but it's hard to find well written ones. I was pleasantly surprised by this book and will probably read Berry's other book. Another mention is that it is published by my favorite publishing company (which probably shows what a nerd I am), Bloomsbury Press. I have never read a book printed by Bloomsbury that wasn't well written, well edited, and a good story. Take that as you may.

Happy reading!

Nov 1, 2013

October Book of the Month

I didn't read as many books last month, even though I realize that I still read more books than "normal" people do in a month. Instead of reading, I spent two weeks with Baby E (she's wonderful!), and then I decided to apply to grad school (ack!) which meant that a lot of my time has been taken up by the grad application. And this month time will be taken up by studying for the GRE. Sigh. Life never slows down.

Without any ado, here is this month's book.

Size 12 is Not Fat by Meg Cabot. Heather Wells was a teen pop sensation. Now she's an assistant director of a college dorm . . . excuse me, residence hall. Just three months on the job and a student dies. The police are certain it was an accident, but Heather isn't so sure. With the help of her ex's brother, Heather sets out to prove it was murder.

This is the first book in the Heather Wells series, and I liked it well enough to get the second one. Heather is a fun character--a little ditzy, but with heart and a love of food. There are interesting secondary characters, and the plot is good. There is also very minimal swearing and sexual references. I like a good murder mystery (which is probably the cause of half of all my strange dreams), and this was a good one.

Read a good book this November! It's a great alternative to going out in the cold!

Oct 22, 2013

Letters of Intent

I'm applying for grad school right now. It's a little stressful, but exciting at the same time. I'm hoping that in the next couple of months everything comes together, I do well on the GRE, and I have everything turned in by the deadline. The thing I'm not looking forward to writing is my letter of intent. I'm just not good talking about myself in a professional way (I really have no idea what that says about me . . .), so I thought I would write what I wish I could say here on my blog to maybe get it out of my system, and then I can write a professional letter to send to the University.

Dear Admissions Board,
Yo, I like to write, let me into your program.

Okay, okay, that's probably not the best way to phrase it, even for this kind of thing.

Dear Admissions Board, 
I love stories. I love stories told in the form of art, music, movies, theatre, and dance, but mostly, I love stories told by the written word.  
From a very young age, I started creating stories in my head. At first I used books and stories that I already knew, and I would insert myself into them as a character. As I got older, I started writing things down: character bios, lineage, even a few sentences. I started creating my own little stories, spending Sunday afternoons writing them down in notebooks, on the computer, or on loose pages of notebook paper. Some of these stories I submitted to my elementary school's "Reflections" contests, and then later to my high school's literary magazine, Tabula Rasa, where I was also the prose editor my senior year. 
Sometimes I would forget how good writing would make me feel, until I would stay up late at night writing down my ideas, or pieces of stories. Once I got to university, I became an English major because I wanted to learn about more stories. And I did! Diverse stories that I never thought of reading before. I started deciding for myself what I liked about different types of story telling, and I branched out in how I read. Even when my schoolwork became overwhelming, I always made time for personal reading, because, like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, "until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing." Stories are like breathing to me--an essential part of my life that I take for granted until they are not there anymore. 
While at university, I took two creative writing classes. The way these classes made me think about creating stories and characters, it was an eye-opening experience for me. And being able to get honest feedback, not just from a professor, but from my peers, that was something I had never experienced before. In my "Writing for Children and Adolescents" class, I heard from published authors who had written the kind of books I would like to write, to the audience I want to reach. I learned by trial and error, so different from the lecture and test routine I was used to. It was inspiring and challenging. It was hard.  
This is why I want to be accepted to your program. I want to learn even more how to tell the stories that are in my head, and to be able to grow stronger and more confident in my writing. In the three years I have been away from school, I have felt the lack of the learning environment in my life. I had been searching for knowledge through other means, which is satisfying in itself, but I have felt the desire to be back among my peers, sharing the learning experience with them. In my work as an editorial intern, and a part time worker, I have learned about telling different kinds of stories, and how to make them better. As I aspire to become an editor, I think it is important to know how writing works, to experience the kind of criticism that someday I may be giving. The most exciting thing about your program is that you encourage your MFA students to write the things they want to be writing. I want to make my career in young adult fiction, and learning to write it will help me in my career goals. 
Thank you for your consideration of me to the Creative Writing MFA. I hope that you can understand my passion for stories, and that I plan to bring that passion with me to your university.  
Sincerely, 
Whitney

That's better than the first, but still not what I think the admissions board is looking for. Guess I'll keep trying until I get it down pat.

Oct 5, 2013

Dreamland and Other News

These past two weeks I have been having some weird dreams. Have you ever had a series of dreams that are all related to each other? That even take place in the same "dreamland"? The majority of my dreams always did seem to take place in the same world my brain created, but not it has shifted to something much worse.

School.

Yes, I have been having school dreams. The school is a strange amalgam (sidebar: I love that word and try to use it whenever I can) of my high school and BYU. And for some reason I am taking art and math classes. But I can never find my classes, and I've forgotten my schedule, don't know my locker number or combination, and then there are all these people from high school or TV shows/movies I watch. Basically, they aren't the most comfortable of dreams.

Anyway, in other news.

I've decided to take the GRE. I'm looking into grad schools, but I haven't really decided if that's what I should do, but since the GRE lasts for a few years, I decided I should take it, and maybe even apply to a program or two and see what happens.

This has been about 6 months in coming. I received news that I would need to find a new job by the end of the year, which was heartbreaking but at the same time I knew that it is best for me. I'd been feeling for a while that I should start looking for a new job, but something would happen, and I would just brush the feeling away. But, here's the thing, Heavenly Father doesn't give up. In a way, I feel that everything that led up to me having to be let go (which no one really wanted that, but things happen and departments need to downsize) was really just God being like "Okay, Whitney, you wouldn't listen to me before, so now I'm forcing you into it. It's really for your own good." There was definitely some comfort in that, until I started looking for a job.

At first it seemed that I had a lot of options. I even applied for a great, entry-level position. But I kept getting turned down because other applicants had more experience and higher education. Which kind of got me started thinking about going back to school. And now I'm only coming across part-time jobs, even though I've broadened my search terms. The only thing I know is that I want to work with books, in some way or another; they are my passion.

This past week or two I've been thinking more and more about getting my MFA. Maybe it's because of these school dreams I've been having, or maybe because Roommate M has decided to go to grad school, but whatever it is, it's a different path I'm looking down. I feel as though the paths are dark and winding, and I have no idea of which I should go down or where they will lead. But maybe opening myself up to going down different paths, one will become more clear.

Growing up I never thought I would get my master's. That was back in the days when I thought I would be married at 21 and be having kids. My senior year of college, that thought changed. I found out about a creative writing MFA, and I became really interested in doing that. But even then I thought that I would do it once I had a job (hopefully one that would help pay for it), or maybe even years down the road. To be thinking about it at this stage in life is not what I was expecting, even though I know I should stop expecting things to happen when I think they should.

The good news is that my work has decided to keep me on (with reduced hours) until next June, or I find a job. I'm so grateful for them to be willing to help me and give me a lot of time to find something. They have even been working with me to sharpen my skills by giving me different tasks, and telling me about any job opportunities they know of. General Minion, my mentor, has even offered to help me on the GRE, and listens to me when I get down because I can't find a job. She was the one who proposed keeping me on for another 6 months, and she has sent me job listings I qualify for. It's been stressful, and it's been hard, and sometimes it makes me wonder about my talents and whether or not I have what it takes, but there are so many people in my life who are there to support me and to give me encouragement. Everyone goes through this at least once, right? It's just my turn and I know things will be better for it--if only I knew when!

Oct 1, 2013

September Book of the Month

I spent a lot of my reading time in the Regency period this last month, including this month's book. The book comes from an author I have read before, Georgette Heyer. A girl I work with suggested this book, knowing that I had enjoyed other books by Heyer.

Heyer basically created the genre of historical romance, but her books aren't heaving bosoms or shirtless men. Instead, they are exactly true to to period. In fact, Heyer became known as an expert on the Regency period, including a lot of information. Sometimes there is a bit too much information in some of her books, but the book I'm recommending, Arabella, is just right.

Arabella follows the oldest daughter of a Yorkshire vicar to London for her season, but on the way there, her impetuous nature causes her to make an influential man think she is someone more important than she is. Now all of London believes she's a rich heiress, which could get in the way of finding a good match.

This book, like my other favorite of Heyer's, Regency Buck, is very fun, with dry English humor.  I wouldn't say that people who like Jane Austen would like this, because the style is very different, but I would definitely recommend giving Heyer a go, especially if you enjoy historical fiction.

Sep 30, 2013

Banned Book Review

Okay, so I meant to do this Saturday, but I got distracted by cuddling with Baby E, who is in town, and spending time with Sis and Mom.

Banned Books week is over! I hope everyone read a banned book and fought for the freedom to read! Here is a little review of Looking for Alaska by John Green.

There were a lot of things I really liked about this book. One of my absolute favorites is the metaphor of the labyrinth that is introduced near the beginning of the book and is carried through until the end. The book is also organized into two sections, "before" and "after" and it's interesting to see the change between the two. It's a good look at grief, friendship, and intimacy. It also touches a bit on religion, belief, and life after death.

There was a great part that I liked in the second half of the book where the religion teacher is telling a story about a Sufi saint:

Karl Marx famously called religion "the opiate of the masses." Buddhism, particularly as it is popularly practiced, promises improvement through karma. Islam and Christianity promise eternal paradise to the faithful. And that is a powerful opiate, certainly, the hope of a better life to come. But there's a Sufi story that challenges the notion that people believe only because they need an opiate. Rabe'a al-Adiwiyah, a great woman saint of Sufism, was seen running through the streets of her hometown, Basra, carrying a torch in one hand and a bucket of water in the other. When someone asked her what she was doing, she answered, "I am going to take this bucket of water and pour it on the flames of hell, and then I am going to use this torch to burn down the gates of paradise so that people will not love God for want of heaven or fear of hell, but because He is God." (p. 174)

I just thought that was thought provoking, especially as a devout Christian.

There were some things that I didn't particularly like/enjoy. I do have to admit that of Green's novels, this is probably my least favorite. There is the sex scene, as well as the use of drugs and alcohol by teens, and some language.

After I finished it, I was talking to my mom who was a middle school librarian, and, obviously, is a parent, and as such has a different perspective on things. Through talking with her I decided that I think this book would be most appropriate for 17/18+, and, if I were a parent, I would prefer to have it be a guided reading. I would probably read along with my child (though, depending on the child, I may or may not wish them to wait until they read this book). There are some pretty adult things in the book, and that requires a certain maturity. Not that I'm going to go out and ban this book (obviously, because I'm against that), but it's my own personal observations and decisions. Maybe my experience with it will help form someone else's decision on whether or not they feel the book is right for them or their child.

I'm not a parent, so I don't want anyone to think I am stepping on toes, but my advice to parents is to read whatever book you think offensive before making a final decision. Get other people's views on it (possibly even the author's, as I did for Alaska) and make an educated and informed decision about it.

Well, that's it for this year's banned book week, but don't let that stop you from continuing to read banned books! Book of the Month post will be up tomorrow!

Sep 22, 2013

Banned Book Week 2013

It's that time of year again! Banned Book Week! Join me in fighting against censorship and read a banned book. (For my thoughts on censorship and the banning of books, please read all previous posts from the years. I just end up saying the same things over again.)

 Below are a few websites with information about banned book week:

Here is the ALA's website for banned books where they discuss the freedom we have to not only choose what we read/watch/listen to, but also the freedom to express opinions "even if that opinion may be considered unorthodox or unpopular."

Here is a list of books challenged or banned in 2012-2013. This list includes the book I will be reading for BBW.

The book I'm read this year is Looking for Alaska by John Green. When this book was first banned (five years ago), Green posted a video defending his book and addressing the banning of books. He gives a lot of the same thoughts I have about it (which I will quickly sum up here in case you didn't click on the link above), which is that no one should be able to tell anyone else what not to read. This is a personal decision. It is a decision that should be made using your own moral and religious standards as a guide. I welcome people warning me about something in a particular book, but I will ultimately make the decision to read or not to read it by myself. I am not against putting a book down if I don't like it.

Green also talks about why he included the sex scene in the book. This is a perfect time to talk to teens about intimacy and what it really means. Books (and movies, TV shows, music) should open conversation. This is something my own mother did. I remember a specific time in my childhood. We had been watching a TV show (possibly "Diagnosis Murder," but I'm not sure) and it was about physician assisted suicide. The next day, Mom and I were in the car and she asked me what I thought about it. I honestly answered that I really didn't understand what was going on. So she explained it to me and we talked about. A couple of years later I was watching a TV mini series about Anne Frank. The images of the Frank family arriving in Auschwitz were so disturbing I turned off the TV and ran upstairs crying. My mom asked if I wanted to talk about what I had seen.

There was always open conversation between my parents, and part of that was that they used media to broach subjects that were difficult to understand or deal with. I totally understand that parents want to protect their own kids, but it is not up to them to make sure everyone else's kids receive the same kind of protection. There are books that I won't read. And I'm sure when I have kids, I may wait to let them read certain books until I feel that they are old enough to understand. To each their own. But don't force your views on the rest of the world, because the rest of the world sees things differently.

This ended up much longer than I meant. But choose a book from the banned book list, and fight against societal censorship!

Sep 1, 2013

August Book of the Month

Oh geez, guys. So this month I reread some really great books, but I already kind of wrote about them! But I think I just want to talk more about why I love these books so much.

So, I reread The Wednesday Wars, which I had read several times before. Then I picked up the companion novel, Okay for Now, which I'd only read once before I was worried. What if I didn't like it as much as the first time? What if I didn't have the same emotional reaction to it? And then I did and all worries disappeared!

I think . . . now that I've put some thought into, I think that what is so amazing about these books can come down to about 3 things.

1) The innocence of the narrators.
I think there is definitely a difference between innocence and naivete, and this book really does show that difference. They tell the story in simple terms, bringing you into their lives, but not revealing anything they don't want to until they feel like it. They portray growing up in the 1960s so clearly, without a lot of thought about the outside world, because, let's face it, they are 12. But at the same time they are completely aware of what is going on with the Vietnam War, and everything else going on at that time period. It's amazing.

2) The presence of good adults who are not parents.
Usually one of the main factors of the YA "genre" is the lack of adults/adult interaction. But what makes these books so good is that there are good, caring adults, and that they come in the form of teachers and librarians. I think it's great to show teens that there are people that they can trust and that will help them, even when it seems like everyone else isn't there.

3) The deliberate writing of Gary D. Schmidt
It is so obvious while reading these books that Schmidt (tangent: anyone think it's a little unnatural to have so many consonants in a row? Seven letters and only one is a vowel? Sorry, I was just looking at it and thinking, that is such a weird name.) wrote everything so deliberately. I guess a lot of what I wrote on number 1 can apply here. The way these books are written, they are written to show you exactly everything that you need to know to emotionally connect to these characters. Schmidt is a master of showing, not telling. And it seems that every character grows and changes throughout the books, even the minor ones. There is no character that remains the same from beginning to end, even though it might seem like it at first. The relationships between the main characters and their siblings, and between their friends, their parents, their teachers, mentors, etc., are all very carefully crafted.

I'm a little bit of a hypocrite because I hate people giving me expectations, because then I feel disappointed if those expectations aren't met, and here I am going on and on about how much I loved these books. But there you go. I'm a hypocrite. :)

Aug 31, 2013

Sisyphus, Part 2

Years ago, I wrote a blog post about how I felt like I was Sisyphus. That I was constantly pushing my rock up a mountain, only to have it fall down again--thinking that I was making progress and then something happening that made it feel like I was taking a major step backwards. In my pessimism, I thought that people didn't even think I was trying, that they saw me at the bottom of my mountain with the rock there, and they thought I was lazy.

And this might be true for some people. But I have learned this past week that there are people who think that I am strong. And that I'm brave. Even when I feel weak and cowardly. Because I keep trying. I keep pushing that rock. And sometimes I slip backwards, and sometimes it seems like I end up at the bottom again, but they know that I can do it, and that I'm trying, and they cheer me on and give me support.

And today, I'm really thankful for those people in my life.

Aug 13, 2013

Dear Baby E: I miss you!

Hey sweetheart! I just got back from a long weekend of getting to hold you, and let me tell you, I miss your warm little body in my arms.

Your Uncle, Bro, and I drove down to see you--and let me tell you, it's a long drive, and especially boring. But we had music, podcasts, and movies to keep us occupied; and, of course, food! Here's something you should know about road trip food: every Hinckley road trip includes two things, red licorice and Lorna Doone cookies. The licorice probably didn't get started this way, but part of the reason we always needed it was because I get carsick and when I was a kid the only way I could take chewable dramamine was if I ate it with licorice. I don't have a story about Lorna Doones, just that we always have them.

I'm not a good traveler, baby, so by the time we got to your mommy and daddy's I was pretty tired and strung out. But then I got to hold you and finally kiss your chubby cheeks. I rested you on my chest and I instantly felt more relaxed. You are a miracle, little girl.

Uncle Bro seemed a little stiff and uncomfortable holding you at first (you are pretty small), but by the end of the weekend, he had warmed up to you, and even found something that calmed you down.

You are kind of wiggly, except when you go into a deep sleep, and then you just go kind of limp. I think we kind of spoiled you, because by the end of the weekend, you did not like being put down, which was okay by me! But it wasn't good when we went for a ride--you didn't seem to like being in your car seat, though once you were fed and changed, as long as the car was moving you were okay. We stopped at one point to take pictures of a bridge, and I got in the car with you to let your mom have a look. I sang my special lullaby to you and gently shook your car seat (trying to imitate the movement of the car) and it calmed you down for a little bit. That made me feel good.

I introduced you to Jane Austen, too! I read the first 5 chapters of Pride and Prejudice, and the first time I read it, you stopped crying and listened to an entire page before starting again. That first line is pretty intriguing, isn't it?

I love you, baby girl. Can't wait to see you again in a month or so. You'll have changed so much!

Aug 1, 2013

July Book of the Month

Okay, so I just realized a conundrum: I have already talked about the best book I read this month in this post. So, there's that, and I guess I could leave it at that, but I would feel like I'm letting the interwebz down by doing that, so I guess I'll pick from the other books I looked at this month and choose a second best.

That would be a Belle Epoque by Elizabeth Ross. Belle Epoque, meaning the age of beauty, takes place in Paris during the construction of the Eiffel Tower. It follows a young girl who had escaped from her country life to go to Paris, where she tries to find a job. She finally finds a job, though it is nothing like what she thought it would be. Throughout the story she learns what lengths the rich will go through to raise themselves even higher, what it means to be beautiful, and what she is willing to do for her friends.

There's also a handsome bohemian musician. ;)

In all, it's a good period book which introduces a lot of great thoughts and concepts that are still a part of our society today. I like the backdrop of Paris, especially as the Eiffel Tower is being built--which most Parisians thought of as an eyesore, which is a great symbol for the main theme of the book. The characters are well written and their motivations are clear (from what I remember from the beginning of the month). I think this is a book that would fit teens 14 and up, and would be especially good for girls to read, because of the look at beauty.

Jul 22, 2013

Dear Baby E: Happy Birth Day

You've leveled up from fetus to baby! Congratulations!

You do need a little talking to though. ::stern look:: You caused your mommy and daddy some undue alarm, get all tangled up like that and having to be brought in to this world by c-section. Fortunately, you are safe and healthy and that's all we can ask!

You were born on 21 July 2013, at 10:49 pm. You weighed 7 lbs and were 21 inches long. According to your mommy, you are adorable, and I believe her though I have yet to see you. You've made a lot of people very happy, little one.

I can't wait to come and see you. I plan on spoiling you as much as I am financially able to. Love you!

Jul 20, 2013

One Pot Mac and Cheese

It's been a long while since I shared a recipe, so I thought I would share a new recipe I tried this last week. I was thinking of something to have for dinner that was rather easy to make, and didn't involve me having to go to the store. I found this recipe and this recipe on pinterest and sort of combined them using the things I had in my kitchen. It's not as good as my dad's mac and cheese, but it was easy and fairly quick to make.

One Pot Mac and Cheese

1/2 lb pasta (all I had was wagon wheel)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon dijon mustard (I have no idea why I have dijon mustard--I don't like mustard, but I do, so I used it)
lemon pepper
cheddar cheese (how ever much you want)
freshly ground pepper

In a sauce pot, combine ingredients from the pasta to the lemon pepper. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then turn to low, cover and cook for twenty minutes. You'll want to continue stirring to make sure the pasta doesn't stick together. At the end of the twenty minutes the pasta should be all the way cooked. Turn off the burner. Add in the cheese and stir until it's melted. Put pepper in to taste.

Jul 7, 2013

Sunday Special: The Gospel is a Sonnet

You know how sometimes you go back and read a book, or watch a movie, or listen to a song from your childhood and it's not as good as you remember? This isn't one of those times. Last week while I was waiting for my holds to come in at the library, I picked up a book I haven't read for some years. It's a pretty classic book, most kids read it at some point in their life. I read it by myself first, then my sixth grade class read it. And I'm sure I read it after that once or twice. But when I picked it up this last week and read it, I was so surprised by how deep this 200 page book written for children actually is.

The book? A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle. It seemed like there was something in every chapter that could relate to the gospel, or just life in general. I really liked how L'Engle didn't take God out of science, but made Him part of it. She taught about good and evil and how to tell the difference, and the importance of love and trust. It's an amazing book.

The part of the book I wanted to talk about today in my Sunday Special comes near the climax of the story. Two characters, Calvin and Mrs. Whatsit, are talking about knowing the future, and Calvin asks if the Happy Medium (a seer of sorts) couldn't tell them what will happen. Here is Mrs. Whatsit's answer and the following conversation:

"Oh, not in this kind of thing," Mrs. Whatsit sounded surprised at his question. "If we knew ahead of time what was going to happen we'd be--we'd be like the people on Camazotz, with no lives of our own, with everything all planned and done for us. How can I explain it to you? Oh, I know. In your language you have a form of poetry called the sonnet."
"Yes, yes," Calvin said impatiently. "What's that got to do with the Happy Medium?"
"Kindly pay me the courtesy of listening to me." Mrs. Whatsit's voice was stern, and for a moment Calvin stopped pawing the ground like a nervous colt. "It is a very strict form of poetry, is it not?"
"Yes."
"There are fourteen lines, I believe, all in iambic pentameter. That's a very strict rhythm or meter, yes?"
"Yes." Calvin nodded.
"And each line has to end with a rigid rhyme pattern. And if the poet does not do it exactly this way, it is not a sonnet, is it?"
"No."
"But within this strict form the poet has complete freedom to say whatever he wants, doesn't he?"
"Yes." Calvin nodded again.
"So," Mrs. Whatsit said.
"So what?"
"Oh, do not be stupid, boy!" Mrs. Whatsit scolded. "You know perfectly well what I am driving at!"
"You mean you're comparing our lives to a sonnet? A strict form, but freedom within it?"
"Yes," Mrs. Whatsit said. "You're given the form, but you have to write the sonnet yourself. What you say is completely up to you." (186-187)

What I love about this speech is that it puts so perfectly what the Church is like. I think a lot of people look at the LDS (Mormon) Church and think that it's so strict, that we just follow blindly without any original thought, and "don't have any fun." But, to me, the Church is like a sonnet. We are given certain guidelines and rules, but within those we are given the freedom to create something beautiful. A beautiful life. And it's the strict form that make it all the more beautiful.

Think of Shakespeare. He wrote over 100 sonnets, just stand alone sonnets. All of them different, all of them beautiful. And then he took the sonnet form and used them in his plays, the most amazing example (to me), is when Romeo and Juliet talk for the first time. Their lines create a sonnet: 14 lines, iambic pentameter, ABAB rhyme scheme, ending with a rhyming couplet. And no one ever notices this until it's pointed at to them (at least, I didn't until my Shakespeare professor showed us).

The thing is, to make life good, there has to be "rules" but that doesn't mean that rules are really holding us back, they are creating a safe world, a world where we are forced to become more creative, to find the beauty in hard things. I've never written a sonnet, but I imagine it's a little difficult making sure it fits all of the criteria. But in a way, that makes it all the more worthwhile, yeah?

Here's another way of thinking about it: take a road. There are certain laws we have to follow, right? Speed limits being a big one. Driving on the correct side, not passing on the right, not crossing double lines, stopping at red lights, using our blinkers, no driving under the influence, etc. But if we follow those laws, we have the freedom to go anywhere. I could get in my car and head east on I-80 and go across the entire country. I could go south, west, north, northeast, southwest, westnorth, northsouthwest, where ever. I could drive up to Canada (if I have my passport), or down into Mexico. I could zigzag across the country and visit every continental state, or I could go straight to a specific destination. And as long as I follow the rules, no one is going to stop me.

Laws, rules, guidelines, "strict forms of poetry"; none of these prevent us from having a beautiful, creative, fun life. In fact, I would say, the freedom they give us, the freedom the Gospel gives us, within those rules, makes it even more beautiful, creative, and fun. God doesn't want us sad, nor does He want us to be carbon copies of each other, but He does want us to be safe, and to be able to return to Him someday. To do that, He has given us a plan, with certain things we need to follow, while at the same time, allowing us to choose and create our own life-sonnet.

Jul 1, 2013

June Book of the Month

In keeping with the "theme" of June, the book I'm recommending is Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery.

After I got back from my vacation to Prince Edward Island, I decided I wanted to reread Anne to see how being there has changed the way I feel. And I was reminded by how much I love Anne and the Cuthberts. There is something about that little red headed girl who worms her way into everyone's hearts, the reader's included. I think every little girl should be introduced to Anne Shirley, because of her imagination, and her desire to be good. She has faults (stubbornness), and makes mistakes (liniment in a cake, getting her friend drunk, breaking a slate over someone's head, dying her hair, etc.), which makes her even more endearing. And there are so many good things Anne has to say, some adorable, and some quite profound. Things that young girls need to hear.

That being said, I remember it being a lot more difficult to read than it actually is. I think I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time when I was about 12, and I did read it several times throughout the years, but reading it again it was a quicker read. This isn't a bad thing, just an observation and something to keep in mind if you are thinking about recommending it to a kid.

And to finish this review off, I cried at the end. Even though I knew what was coming, I still cried. I think that's the best recommendation I can give--that I can still have an emotional reaction to something after having read it (and seen the movies) several times.

Additional reading:

The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by LM Montgomery

This is a short autobiography (about 100 pages) where you learn about the inspiration of some things in Anne of Green Gables, as well as Montgomery's childhood, etc. Really interesting read.

Jun 20, 2013

Going Home (PEI Day 6)

I decided to get to the airport early the next day because I hadn't been able to check in to my flight online the night before, and because I had something to ask Hertz about the car. It was a good thing I did too, since my plane ticket seemed to have disappeared.

Yes, that's right, they couldn't find my plane ticket. A very nice man named Angus spent an hour searching for it and calling different airlines. When I had been driving through Charlottetown on my way to the airport I was sad to be leaving, but when I thought that I wouldn't be flying home that day I immediately got homesick. All I wanted was to be able to go home now. Fortunately, Angus was finally able to recover my boarding passes and I was finally on my way home!


There's something about walking out to a plane, or exiting a plane by stairs that makes me feel like I'm in a movie. And I got to do it quite a bit on this trip. :)

My first layover was in Montreal, and let me tell ya, it was like entering another country, even more so than entering Canada was. Everyone was speaking French, and I had to go through customs, which I thought was weird. (Come to find out, it made it so I didn't have to go through customs once I actually entered the US. It was still weird though.) 

When I made it to Chicago, I was able to call home. Mom told me that she had been tracking all my flights, which made me feel loved and missed. It was that last flight that was the worst. It was the longest of all my flights, and the last leg of a journey is always hard to endure (I am not a good traveler, have I mentioned?). I also finished my book thirty minutes before the end of the flight, which was a bit rubbish. It was too late to turn on my iPod because I would just have to turn it off again in a few minutes when we started out descent. So I wrote in my journal, but it still didn't take up all the time. I glanced out the window and saw our wonderful Utah mountains, and got a bit teary eyed. No matter how much I loved the Island, or what a good time I had, Utah will always be my home and it felt good to return to it. 

Perks of Being a Mormon (PEI Day 5)

Sunday means church! Fortunately, there is a ward that meets just 10 minutes from where I was staying, so I got all ready for church and headed out early, since I seemed to become lost every time I tried to get somewhere. The church was actually easy to find, so I was there 30 minutes early.

Everyone in the ward was super friendly. They all came up to meet me and ask where I was visiting from, which was great. This is the great thing about being Mormon, there is a worldwide network of people to take you in and make you feel at home. The ward was smaller than I was used to, but the talks and lessons were good.

In Relief Society, I sat next to a woman who lives in New Brunswick (I think . . . ) and she crosses over the border to Maine every week for church! That just blew my mind. Imagine going to a different country for church every week. Crazy.

I had some good conversations with the members, which I should have expected. Everyone apologized for the unseasonably cold weather they had been having, though it's not their fault.

After a good day at church, I decided to take a walk and find a place to sit and read. I ended up walking past Beaconsfield again, and onto a nice little walkway by the ocean. After walking a bit, I found a bench where I could read for a little while.


The view as lovely, and the day nice, just warm enough with a slight breeze. There were people out on the water on little boats, and lots of families taking walks. It was a very pleasant place to read, affording comfort and just the right amount of distraction. 

A little while later I decided to continue my walk circling around past the park and the lieutenant governor's house. I also went on a walk later that night to a different part of town, with a nice little memorial garden, down by the wharf. I also got ice cream again from COWS. 


While I ate I took one last look around Charlottetown, since I knew I wouldn't have time before leaving the next morning. 

You know, I had been a little worried about going on vacation by myself. I thought I might get lonely, but I never did. I had a wonderful time! I was so relaxed and never thought about work or home (except when I talked to my parents). There was always something to keep me busy, and things to see. The people were so friendly that I never felt that any need for anyone else, at least, not for the six days I was there. 

Jun 19, 2013

Blue Skies (PEI Day 4)

Friday night I was starting to wonder what I would do for the last two days I was on the island. Come to find out there was nothing to worry about!

Saturday was a beautiful day! The sun was out, the sky was blue, and the weather was warm. There is a farmer's market on Saturdays in Charlottetown, and I got the bright idea that I was going to walk there, because it was only a mile away. So after breakfast I headed out.

And got lost.

Eventually, I came to the conclusion that I wasn't going to find the market, so I turned around and starting making my way back.

And got lost.

At one point I looked over in the direction I was pretty sure I needed to be headed, and I saw the spires of St. Dunstan's Basilica, which is right across the street from my hotel. And I thanked God for St. Dunstan, whoever he was, because that's how I found my way back.

St. Dunstan's Basilica
I decided to get some lunch from the grocery store and head out to the beach. I had heard of a beach called Basin Head that was famous for it's "singing sands." On my way out of town, I saw the farmer's market and realized how close I was when I had turned around! Dagnabit! Oh well, it was an adventure!

Basin Head is supposedly located in a town called Souris. One thing I learned about PEI highways is to just follow the signs, and you should be able to get to where you're going. You turn when it says to turn and you go straight when it doesn't. After about an hour I got to Souris, but didn't see any sign for Basin Head. I went straight through without seeing it. I did end up at a beach eventually, just not the one I was heading for. I finally just turned into Red Point Provincial Park. 

The sand was so soft beneath my bare feet. I don't even know when the last time was that I walked in the sand--very possibly five years ago when I went to Cornwall during my study abroad. I found a little place to sit, and I read and listened to the waves, and ran my hand and feet in the sun warmed sand. There wasn't a cloud in the sky. It was perfect. I even got a little sunburned.

The place I stopped to read

Warming my feet in the sand.


After about an hour and a half, I decided to roll up my pants and brave the water. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the water was not cold! I walked back the length of the beach, just in reach of the tips of the waves before they rushed back to sea. 

I drove back to Charlottetown and decided that I wanted to see go out and see a movie, just because I could. I looked up showtimes and the theatre, and a couple hours later went out to find it. The theatre was a little hard to find, and I had to stop at a Burger King to ask for directions (Google made it seem like it was on the other side of the street, in full view, when really it was behind the mall). I saw Now You See Me, which was a lot better than I was expecting it to be (there wasn't a big choice in movies). 

After the movie, I headed to COWS Ice Cream Parlor, which boasts the best ice cream in Canada. Considering it is the only ice cream I've eaten in Canada, I can neither confirm nor deny that claim. But it was pretty good. 

Not All Who Wander (PEI Day 3)

For my second day on PEI, I had decided to spend the morning in Charlottetown, and then to go somewhere else on the island for the afternoon. Not really sure what I was going to do in the afternoon, I spent my breakfast looking at the tourism materials available. With two or three ideas in mind, I went out into the city.

I love Charlottetown. It's got a small town feel, and just feels so laid back and calm. I had taken a little walk before dinner the night before, and loved how downtown was set up. (I was also whistled at . . . sort of. A man had asked me a question and then said, "Miss, if I may . . ." and then he attempted to cat call, which didn't work, so he added, "I was trying to whistle, but I can't." I smiled and thanked him. I love that he asked my permission first. So Canadian.) The first place I went was the Province House, just down the street from my hotel.


The Province House is called "The Birthplace of Canada." A very nice guide told me all about how representatives from the various provinces met on Prince Edward Island to discuss the unification of the country. These Fathers of the Confederation never wrote anything up or signed anything during this meeting, but it was significant because it started the process. Funny story, PEI didn't even join Canada until several years later because it was a pretty prosperous province and didn't feel like sharing it's wealth. It was only after the shipping business all but disappeared with the appearance of steam powered ships and PEI lost all it's money that it finally joined the union. 

As I said before, I couldn't go anywhere without having a conversation with someone, and it was true here too! I watched the little movie they had about the meeting, then talked to the guide and the security guard for a little while. The guard even gave me three free pins to add to my collection!

After that, I wandered down to Beaconsfield House.


Beaconsfield House was built in 1877 and had all the best of the modern amenities, including indoor plumbing, central heating, and gas lighting. It was built by a ship builder and his wife, the daughter of another ship builder. Interesting story: a house already existed on this property, but they wanted their dream house there, so they picked up the existing house and moved it across the street! That house still stands. Five years later, they were bankrupt because of the aforementioned decline of the need for wooden ships, so they sold the house. This next owner tried to sell it, for a mere $10,000, but couldn't, so instead he and his two unmarried sisters lived there for 35 years. Then it was a home for young women, then for nurses. It has now been restored to it's previous Victorian State. It's a gorgeous home, and the original central heating system still works and it used today!


This house isn't anything important, except that it was for sell and I want to buy it.

After my morning in Charlottetown, I went back to the hotel to figure out where I wanted to spend the afternoon. I decided on the potato museum, because it sounded random and I wanted to see how much one could say about potatoes. I found the directions on Google Maps, and headed out. Somewhere a long the way I took a wrong turn, so I changed my mind and decided to drive the Red Sands Coastal Drive instead.

There are four coastal drives on the island, covering the four different parts. Each coastal drive is marked with a little picture and arrows, so you know where to go. So I just kept following the arrows, knowing it would get me back to Charlottetown eventually.

In all, I drove for about three or four hours, but I didn't feel it at all! The Island is so beautiful, and the highways take you through little towns, and past farms with their fields of red dirt ready for planting, and white churches with lovely graveyards. 

Prince Edward Island . . . is really a beautiful Province. . . . Elsewhere are more lavish landscapes and grander scenery; but for chaste, restful loveliness it is unsurpassed. . . . Much of the beauty of the Island is due to the vivid colour contrasts--the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea. (L. M. Montgomery, The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career, 10-11.)
This is what I saw on my drive--and during the rest of my trip--the "chaste, restful loveliness."

The Confederation Bridge. It connects PEI to mainland Canada. 

Just a view I saw during my drive. I thought it showed
the red, green, and blue perfectly. Unfortunately, cameras never capture
what exactly it is that you see. 

After dinner that night, I went on another walk of Charlottetown. It was Prom night for two of the high schools, so I got to experience what a fun thing their Prom is! They "Promenade" to the Province house, where friends and family (and curious tourists like me) are waiting to see them. They come in all kinds of fun vehicles, like the sightseeing bus below. Fancy cars, tractors, pink fire engines, carriages, police cars, and two girls were even pulled along in wagons by their dates! The girls looked lovely in their dresses. It was so much fun to see, and made me wish that I were 18 again and going to Prom--almost.


I got to experience "turn down service" for the first time that night, and let me say, I'm a fan! It sounds so dorky, but they just come in and turn down your bed, leave some chocolates, fill your ice bucket, and pull down the shades (I didn't even know the windows had shades the first two nights!). I liked it, and I felt spoiled!

Jun 18, 2013

Anne with an E (PEI Day Two)

The next day I woke up to the sound of birds, and a little bit of sunshine streaming in through curtains. It was rather cold and windy, but at least it was raining. Thursday was to be my Anne Day, so I got ready and went down to ask the concierge (yes, I stayed in a place with a concierge! And where they would fold the toilet paper into little points. I quite spoiled myself!) how to get to Cavendish, where Green Gables is located. She printed out the instructions, then gave me more detailed instructions. She said that people in Charlottetown are bad drivers, so to be aware of that. I never did notice any particular bad driving habits, so either I'm the same brand of bad driver as the Islanders, or they aren't as bad at driving as the the concierge says.

The drive was very nice, as all the drives are I was to learn later, and I found Green Gables without any trouble at all.

The house belonged to some neighbors of LM Montgomery, and it is what she based Green Gables on, though she admits to not keeping very sharply to the facts. I have to admit I may have teared up a bit while I was on the property. I saw the house, and could imagine Anne in her bedroom, or discovering the drowned mouse in the crock in the kitchen. I could even see Mrs. Lynde making her way up the road to the back door to discuss the latest piece of gossip with Marilla. 

Lover's Lane
Green Gables is part of the PEI National Park. This means that the wilderness around the house is protected and properly looked after. There are two walking paths, about a half mile each. The first I walked was Lover's Lane. I can't even begin to express how green everything is. I don't think the pictures even show it properly.


The second walk was through the Haunted Wood. Montgomery called this wood the Haunted Wood when she was a young girl. The spruces creak and groan in the wind, which to a young, imaginative child would sound like spirits. I tried to capture it on video--you may have to turn your sound on high to hear it. Off of the Haunted Woods there is a path to the homestead where Montgomery was raised by her grandparents, and where she wrote Anne of Green Gables


Only the cellar still exists of that house, but some cousins of Montgomery's live on the property and have opened it up for visitors. They realized by reading her journals how much she loved the homestead and Cavendish, so they have tried to restore it as much as they could. There is a little book shop on the property where you can get a little verbal history of Montgomery's life.


After I was done at Green Gables (and had bought a warmer sweatshirt in the gift shop along with a copy of Anne of Green Gables), I headed over to New London, to see the house Montgomery was born in. Her mother died when she was 21 months old, and then she was sent to live with her maternal grandparents at the homestead we saw above. The docent at the birthplace was a nice woman and we had a good chat (and I came to learn that you can't go anywhere without having a conversation with someone. Islanders really are very nice). She told me how to get to the Anne of Green Gables Museum, in Park Corner just about 6 miles down the road, which is where I headed next. 


The Anne of Green Gables Museum is in the home of Montgomery's cousins (the Campbells). She would come and stay frequently throughout her childhood. She used this home in some of her other books, and called it "Silver Bush." This is also the home where she was married, in the parlor. I also was able to see the room she would stay in, and read quite a few selections from her journals. 


It is at Silver Bush that the Lake of Shining Waters is located. In fact, there is a letter on display in the museum that says that she did use the pond as her inspiration for the Lake of Shining Waters in Avonlea. 


On my way back to Charlottetown, I drove past the Cavendish cemetery. I thought briefly of stopping and seeing Montgomery's resting place, then I dismissed the idea. Not much further down the road, I decided that it wouldn't be much of a pilgrimage if I didn't stop by, so I turned around and went to go see it. My eyes got a little watery again as I told her thank you. Thank you for Anne, for without her I never would have come to PEI.

Weary Traveler (PEI Day 1)

This day of traveling was tough for me. My flight left at 6 am, and being the good girl I am who always follows instructions, my dad and I planned for me to get at the airport two hours before my flight. This meant I woke up at 3 in the morning, which is too early for anyone. Once I got to the airport, I realized that security didn't even open until 4:30! I could have gotten another half hour of sleep!

So, I just stood outside security, being anxious for the day ahead of me. I don't think getting 5 hours of sleep helped at all. Once I made it through security, I easily found my gate, and sat down. I was just sitting there, being anxious, when all of a sudden I felt sick. This isn't uncommon for me--I have a nervous stomach, and being anxious just aggravates it even more--but usually it's just a nauseated feeling that doesn't usually ever come to anything (except for a few times in high school). But then I felt that sour feeling which precedes the inevitable, and I stood up quickly to get to the bathroom. Unfortunately, I didn't make it more than ten steps when I had to stop at a garbage can to . . . let's say, expectorate bile. At the gate. In front of a bunch of strangers. At 5 in the morning. The fortunate thing is that I didn't have anything in my stomach, so it wasn't as horrible as it could have been. Either no one noticed, or everyone politely ignored me, but I was able to sit down not much later. At first I was pretty upset about this (being sick makes one upset anyway), but then the thought came to mind, "Well, the day can only go up from here, right?" And it was with that cheerful thought that I boarded the plane to Minneapolis.

I spent most of the flight listening to my "relaxing" playlist on my phone, and dozing off and on. The landing was a bit rough, and it was even worse when I realized I had fifteen minutes to get to my next flight. So, with little in my stomach, and feeling nauseated from the flight, I raced to my gate. A nice airport employee told me when to get off the tram and which direction to head. I made the gate just in time, as the lady who checked my boarding pass told me. Before asking me if I was over sixteen, because I "just look young."

It is this second leg of my journey that the best story comes in.

My seat was next to a guy, probably mid to late 20s. We chatted a little bit, but since I get sick on every mode of transportation (except trains), I eventually said that I was going to try to get some sleep and put in my earbuds. He said okay, and then started talking to me again a few minutes later. After doing this twice, I realized that I wasn't going to get any rest on this flight, so I stopped trying. About halfway through the flight he asked me how I felt about long distance relationships. I told him that I'm not very good with them, and then he asked what I would say if he asked me out. I told him I'd say no. "Well, I'd just like to hang out," he responded, "I'd like to show you Minneapolis." I said that I didn't expect I'd be getting back to Minneapolis anytime soon. Then we got to talking about polygamy, because I'm from Utah and apparently that's all he ever heard about Utah. And I found out he was originally from India. It wasn't a horrible way to spend a couple of hours. But the good part came while we were descending for a landing in Toronto. He leaned over and whispered, "Do you mind if I ask a random question." I didn't. "Well, I have three hours before my next flight, and you have 2 hours. Do you want to have a fling?"

Hahahaha. Seriously, the moment he said that I thought, "Oh, this is going to be a great story to tell!" I politely said, "No." "Are you sure?" he asked, "What if you change your mind?" I told him I wouldn't and the answer was still no. A couple of minutes later he leaned over again and said, "I didn't offend you did I? I just thought that if I didn't put myself out there then nothing would happen, and I . . . I think you're cute and you have a pretty smile." I assured him I wasn't offended (in fact, I was quite flattered that he wanted to have a "fling" with me!).

I went through customs, which seemed an unnecessarily drawn out process, and had half an hour or so before boarding my last plane. We arrived in a rainy Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, about two hours later. Even from the air I was struck with how green the island was! I had had the idea of taking a bit of a walk around Charlottetown that night, but with the rain I didn't want to. Instead, I unpacked (I had read somewhere that if you are staying for more than one night, you should unpack, and I'm glad I did), then took advantage of the jacuzzi in my room and sat in there and read. Then wrapped myself up in a large bathrobe and sat on my comfy bed and watched some TV, with the fireplace going. It was lovely, and helped me recover from all my traveling.
You can see the jacuzzi in the corner

Nice welcoming fireplace, so cozy!

I could almost sleep well on this bed! That's a big deal!

Carry On Packing

Before I get started on the particulars of my vacation, I thought I'd talk a little bit about the choice I made to only pack a carry on. I am so glad I did this! I always knew where my luggage was (which was good when I didn't have a very long layover), it prevented me from over packing, and it made going through customs much easier.

I looked at a lot of people's tricks to packing a carry on for a certain number of days, and I was able to pack for a 6 day trip, with an extra outfit I didn't even wear! I had 6 shirts, two skirts, a pair of tennis shoes, pajamas, a pair of jeans, underthings, a straightener, hair things, and make-up (remember that your plane outfit will give you at least another pair of pants and another pair of shoes). By the time I had it all packed up, I still had enough extra room for souvenirs. The trick to packing only in a carry on is rolling the clothes. I only took the bare necessities in both clothes and make-up. Also, since you are allowed two carry-ons (a suitcase and a personal item), it's easier enough to put in the things you're going to want during your trip in your personal item. I took a back pack, and packed an empty purse in it, along with my phone, books, passport, itinerary, journal, and wallet. This I could just put under my seat on the plane and get into it.

I also take a purse with a strap long enough to cross over my body. It may not be the most attractive purse, but I like having my hands free, and not have to worry about keeping track of my purse while I'm wandering around.

So, I'm not an expert at packing and traveling, but those are just a few tips I've been learning about.


Jun 9, 2013

Doing New Things and How They Make Me Feel

You know how in murder mysteries, it seems like where ever the main character goes, he or she is always surrounded by murder? Like, they are on vacation, and someone gets murdered. They just can't catch a break!

Last night I had a dream that I had just arrived on my vacation on PEI and there was a murder at my hotel. Besides showing that I watch way too many murder mysteries, I think it also shows how nervous I am about going on vacation. At least this dream I know won't happen (well, I'm fairly positive), whereas the dream I had about a month ago about missing all my connecting flights was worse because it actually could happen.

Here's the thing: I'm a naturally nervous and worrisome person. I really wish I weren't, but it's not exactly something you can just turn off. So, this vacation, while I am excited for it, also makes me nervous. I mean, I'm leaving the country. By myself. To go to place I've never been, to do things I've never done before; like, rent a car, have my own hotel room, navigate a place I've never been. I've never been on a plane without having someone else I knew with me. So, yeah, I'm a little nervous.

And people, trying to be kind, sometimes make it worse. Having them express their excitement for me makes me more anxious about this trip. That probably seems weird to a lot of you, but it's almost like I have these expectations I have to meet now. My solo vacation isn't so much about me anymore, but everyone who is expecting to hear about it. I know that they are excited for me because they are my friends--I completely understand that. But it doesn't change the fact that every time someone says "I'm so excited!" I get a feeling like a rock in the bottom of my stomach. And then I think, "Why are you excited? You aren't going." Which is probably rude. Sorry.

Lately I've been thinking about the last time I left the country, which was just a little over five years ago. I was sitting in my mom's office at her work, because my plane didn't leave until about 1 or something. She had a TV and DVD player in her office, so I was watching movies. A teacher came in, and after mistaking me for a middle school student (I was 20 at the time), I explained to him who I was and what I was doing. When he heard I was leaving for England that day he asked, "Are you scared?" He was the first person who had asked me that, and it felt good to say, "Yes, a little." I have no idea who that teacher was, but the fact that he could see that I was nervous was such a nice break from all the "Wow"s and "That's going to be amazing"s.

I know a lot of people don't understand why I decided to take a solo vacation--especially all you extroverts out there. I know that sharing an experience with someone can be awesome, because I have shared some amazing experiences with people. But I need a break. I need to be away from my work and my coworkers, and just regular life in general. I need to be able to go on my vacation and not have to worry about if the other person is having a good time, or what they want to do (because I know I would). I can do whatever I want, because it is wholly my vacation. If I want to read in a park (if it doesn't rain the entire time I'm there), I can and I will. Another reason I wanted to do this by myself is because I want to see if I can. I'm a single girl (woman, I guess, but for some reason I can never call myself a woman. A woman is someone who is much more sophisticated and grown up than I am) who wants to travel (even though I'm a horrible traveler), but I might not always have someone to travel with, and I don't think that should be something to hold me back. I shouldn't have to wait for there to be someone to go with me. 

So, this trip, which I leave for very early Wednesday morning, is my guinea pig, my trial run, my beta test. And, despite my nerves, I'm sure I'm going to have a good time.

Jun 1, 2013

May Book of the Month

Okay, so I've been slacking on my blog writing. But I will never miss a Book of the Month post, so here it is.

Last month's book came as a recommendation to me and I was a little weary of it (as I usually am of recommendations from people), but I actually enjoyed it (obviously, or I wouldn't be paying the recommendation forward).

It's called The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. It is what I would call adult epic fantasy, which is why I was a little nervous of it at first. But the main character is intriguing, and the story moves quickly for a 600+ page book. There were some things I didn't like and parts that I felt went to slow, characters that I wish didn't keep popping up, but overall, interesting. It was also easy to see that Rothfuss is a bit of a gamer, with some of the references he put in.

I am told that it is the first book in a trilogy, but that the second book isn't worth the read (isn't that how it almost always is?). Fortunately, I felt that the first book wrapped up things pretty nicely that I don't feel manipulated into reading any of the rest of the series if I don't want to--meaning, it doesn't stop in the middle of a sentence, though there are some things that weren't addressed.

Since this was a good month for reading for me, here are a couple runners up:

Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne. You don't really notice how well something is written until you are an adult. There are so many good lines in Winnie-the-Pooh!
The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett. Supernatural mystery that was fun to read. Probably the beginning of a series.

May 1, 2013

April Book of the Month

Well, gosh guys, I need to start reading better books apparently. Because of most of the books I've read only being so-so, I'm going to suggest a second novel in a series. I told myself I wasn't going to do this, because it's a second book and all, but it just looks like I'm going to have to this month--it was the only book that got a "yes" on my scale of "no to yes!" that I use to rate the books I read.

The book is Everbound by Brodie Ashton. Ashton is a Utah author, which is why I read her first novel, Everneath. I'm all about supporting local authors. :) Anyway, I loved Everneath. It's a paranormal teen novel, but it was different in a lot of good ways from the typical paranormal. My favorite part (and this might be considered a bit of a spoiler . . .) is that the main character didn't fall in love with the weird creepy guy who's been alive for centuries and stalks her! She loves a nice, normal boy. Yay! Also, the great thing about Everneath is that it could have been a stand alone novel. I hate it when a book ends practically in the middle of the sentence.

For these reasons alone, I would have read Everbound, but fortunately Ashton is a good writer too. Everbound does take up where the last novel ended, and takes the reader to the Everneath, what some people would call Hades or Hell or the Underworld. I don't really want to give too much away from the first book, but it's nice for the girl to be doing the saving. Unlike a lot of series/trilogies, this book didn't suffer from what I call "second book syndrome" (mainly, it didn't drag and fill like a filler book before the third one) and the entire story arch of the book came to a conclusion, which is how it should be. But there will be a third book, as the arch for that book was introduced.

This month's book kind of ended up being two books, but that's better right? Hopefully, there will be good books in the month of May!