Saturday, December 3, 2011

My Life List

Have you ever taken the time to think about what you want out of life?  Not just a bucket list of crazy things you’d like to do, but a real life goal list.  I mean the things you REALLY want, the ones that would let you become who you want to be.  Have you really thought about it?
I’ve spent the last couple of months doing that sort of sit-down-and-write-it-out soul searching for the first time in my life.  If you had asked me a year ago what I wanted to do with my life, I would have said, “I want to be a college history professor.”  I was going to publish and lecture and inspire.  I guess God has other things in mind for me.
This year I got sick.  I had been diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, a disease where my immune system periodically attacks my thyroid, but I was fine for a while.  Then I had an attack.  My thyroid basically stopped functioning, and my metabolism slowed to a crawl.  I was cold all the time.  I gained weight, and a lot of it.  I felt moody and depressed.  I couldn’t remember simple things.  My brain was in a fog.  I couldn’t handle interacting with people, so I hid out in my apartment all the time.  I was so, so tired, a kind of tiredness I can’t even describe.
From an outsider’s perspective, I probably seemed mostly fine.  I even convinced myself that I was okay and didn’t go to my endocrinologist until I had spent months feeling awful.  I was just terrified that the doctor would say I was fine and my symptoms were all in my head.  It turned out that I really did need medication, and now, months later, I can say that I feel worlds better.  Only now that I feel normal can I understand how terrible I felt then.
What’s the point of all this?  Getting sick, along with coming to grad school, forced me to figure out what I really want out of life.
Hashimoto’s disease, my little Japanese friend, will never go away for me.  I will experience other attacks.  Eventually my thyroid will be completely destroyed and I’ll just take medication.  I will always be more tired than someone my age should be. 
I certainly don’t want to be too dramatic here, because I understand that this is a very livable disease and that many people experience much, much worse.  I don’t want to trivialize their troubles by overemphasizing my little ones.  Last year one of my roommates had half her thyroid removed, so clearly I'm not the only one with health issues.  All I’m saying is that my experience has helped me realize that I can’t have (and honestly don’t want) everything I’ve ever dreamed of.  I have to focus on the most important things because I’m never going to have enough energy to do everything I might want to.  Here’s what I want – really, REALLY want:
1) A strong relationship with my Heavenly Father
2) The best health I can have
3) A happy, lasting temple marriage
4) To be a mother, and a really good one at that
5) To build and live in my dream house (nothing fancy, but I’ve been planning it for years – it will have lots of books in it)
6) To live as sustainably as possible/To grow my dream garden and produce most of the food my family needs
7) To get an M.A. and have the skills I need for a satisfying career
8) To speak French fluently
9) To publish a YA novel
10) To travel the world
Obviously, some of these things are more important than others, and they aren’t necessarily in order.  Of course I have other things I’d like to accomplish, but I’ve been making this list again and again, and these are the things that keep showing up.  I'm definitely still ambitious, and some of these things will take A LOT of work.  These are the things I really want, though, and knowing that helps me prioritize.
So, what do you want?

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Grad School = No Fun, part 1

My first Sunday here, I woke up feeling chipper and got ready for church especially carefully.  This was my thought process:

Me: “Yay!  Church is today!  I get to make friends.  I live in crummy graduate student housing, but at least that means everyone in my ward will be my age!  Yay!”

Then I got to church and realized the building was enormous and I had no idea which of 18 chapels I was supposed to enter for sacrament meeting (slight exaggeration, there may be only 15).  So I did what any rational adult would do:  I hid in the bathroom for a little bit.

While in the bathroom, I met an overly friendly girl (side note: I don’t like it when people talk to me in bathrooms.  Even people I know).  Through her aggressive friendliness, she figured out I was in her ward and helped me find the chapel.  I was grateful, and my optimism about church returned.   

Then this conversation happened:

Me: So, what year of school is this for you?

Overly Friendly Girl, gesturing to herself and roommate: We’re freshmen.

Me, unwilling to let my optimism die:  Freshmen in graduate school?

OFG: No, like, we just graduated from high school.

Me, still praying things will be okay: Are there very many freshmen in the ward?

OFG: Yep, pretty much everybody.  We all live in the dorms.

Me: …

Me, reeling: …

Me, still reeling: ...

Me, (internally) for the next three hours of church:  How do I get out of this ward?  How do I get out?  How do I get out? How do I get out? How do I get out?How do I get out?How do I get out?How do I get out? How do I get out? How do I get out? How do I get out? HowdoIgetout?HowdoIgetout?HowdoIgetout?HowdoIgetout?HowdoIgetout?

Turns out there is no escape hatch.

Friday, July 8, 2011

I Miss You, London!

My advice for anyone visiting London:
Spend a few hours wandering Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.  Don’t bother touring Kensington Palace – it’s not worth the entry fee.  Do bring a bag of peanuts for the squirrels.  Man, I miss those squirrels!
Eat Ben’s cookies whenever possible.

Watch Les Miserables and feel like you’re going to burst with emotion as the cast sings One Day More.
Shop along Portobello Road.  Warning: if you haggle too low, you will offend the shopkeepers.
Visit the Cabinet War Rooms, because they’re so freaking cool!  Winston Churchill’s cigar and a sugar packet some government employee squirreled away are still there.
Watch Wicked and, if you’re anything like me, sing every single lyric in your head throughout the entire play.
Attend communion at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Then climb all the way to the tippy-top of the dome.

Eat a full English breakfast: bacon (nothing like American bacon), sausage, beans, eggs, stewed tomatoes, and toast.
Wander the Victoria and Albert Museum.  If only the Grace Kelly clothing exhibit were still there, I’d tell you to spend an hour and a half in it, like I did.
Visit Hampton Court Palace and recreate statues for photos.  Avoid enraging King Henry the 8th, since he’ll probably be there.
Spend a day at the Tower of London.

See as many Shakespearean plays as you can, especially at the Globe.  Hopefully there won’t be as much blood involved as there was when we saw Macbeth.
Ride along the Thames on a boat tour.
Shop on Kensington High Street and hope you’ll run into Kate Middleton.
Visit the home of your favorite author or poet, but don’t go to as many as we did.  It gets old.  Keats’ and Dickens’ houses were okay.  Samuel Johnson’s was lame.

Explore Covent Garden, where you can be “a disgrace to the noble architecture of these columns.”

Attend a ballet or some other performance at Royal Albert Hall.  Simply beautiful.
Shop at Whole Foods on Kensington High Street because it’s incredible.
Line up outside Buckingham Palace for Trooping the Colour on the Queen’s official birthday (which isn’t actually her birthday).  Catch a glimpse of the Royal family.
Go to the British Library.  I mean it!  They have a Guttenberg Bible!  And Jane Austen’s writing desk!  And the papers the Beatles wrote their lyrics on!  Go!

Dress up and go to tea at the Orangery.
Try every flavour (I’m being British) of Magnum bar.  These are now available in the U.S., but it’s just not the same.
Visit all the Art Galleries in London – the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, and the Tate Britain.  They’re all reasonably sized, so you can see every painting.
Hang out at Trafalgar Square, and, if you’re braver than me, take a picture riding the lions.
See The Mouse Trap, the longest running play in the world, and realize you’re a part of history.
Try all kinds of random food like baklava and ostrich burgers at Borough market.
Go to every single West End show you possible can.  Even after 11 musicals and five plays, I still regret the ones that I turned down.
Ride the London Eye at sunset the night before you go home.  Say goodbye to the most wonderful city in the world as your heart breaks a little.

I could go on and on (and I already have!).  Good golly, I miss London!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dear Burt

Dear Burt of Burt’s Bees (I’m assuming there’s a real Burt, even if there is no Betty Crocker),

Thank you for creating what may be my favorite product line ever.  Your acne line calmed my skin after years of abuse at the hands of ProActive.  Your afterburn has soothed many a sunburn and currently rests on my reddened shoulders.  And then there’s your chapstick.  The wonders of your chapstick defy my powers to communicate.  I love you, Burt.  I really do.

I love that you strive to make all your products as natural as possible.  I love that you never use sulfates or other environmentally harmful ingredients.  I love that your packaging always includes recycled materials.

With that in mind, I hope you understand that what I’m about to say comes from a place of compassion.

Burt, you really need to work on your lotion line.  I’m not saying the lotions don’t work well; they moisturize beautifully.  For years I had cracked, scaly hands that could frighten away little children, and your hand cream ended my desire to wear gloves at all times.  The problem is that your lotions just don’t smell that great.  Well, maybe the scents are okay, but they’re way too intense.  I may have ambitions to become a suburban hippy someday, but that doesn’t mean I want to smell like a freaking herb garden.

Before you get all defensive and say you have an unscented body cream, let me inform you that your “unscented” claim is a boldfaced lie.  Perhaps you mean it hasn’t had any scents added, but it certainly has a scent.  More like a stench.  How could a 100% natural lotion smell so intensely chemically?  I can use that lotion only when I won’t be around other people for a couple of hours.

Please, just use scents a little less liberally in your regular lotions, and I’ll be one happy girl. Thanks so much.

Probably your biggest fan, although it seems dishonest to say that definitively,


P.S. I’m pretty sure you’re the reason I want to keep bees someday.

Monday, May 30, 2011

I promise I'm not a Republican (or a Democrat, for that matter)

I’ve suspected for years now that I have the soul of an older woman.  Here’s a little taste of the evidence:
1) I just updated my Pottery Barn catalog subscription.
2) I recently saw a woman in her 60’s and thought to myself, “Huh, that seems like a nice age to be:  comfortably retired, kids all grown up…”
3) I frequently think about my own funeral (not in a creepy way, I promise) and know what hymns I want my mourners to sing.
4) I’m tired.  Always.  I have been since I was about seven.  Stupid thyroid.

But here’s the clincher:  I’ve been listening to AM radio all week, and I really, really like it.  Even the conservative talk-shows.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Can I have an A for effort?

Today I stole my mom’s appointment and paid a visit to the dentist, feeling exactly the way I do going into a test I’m going to rock (something that doesn’t happen often). This is because …duh, duh, duh, duh! I have become a flosser.  That’s right.  Every single night, I floss my teeth.
It’s ridiculous how pleased I am with myself over this.
Suddenly, I feel like I have unbeatable willpower.  When I consider habits I’d like to have, but have never been able to develop, I just think to myself, “What about flossing?  You used to think you’d never be a flosser, and now look at you!”  I’m making crazy plans to limit my sugar intake, eat vegetables every day, and actually go to bed before 3:00 in the morning.
I’d recommend this flossing thing – it’s wildly empowering.
My Dentist's Office
 Anyway, back to my appointment.  In general, I like the dentist’s office because he always tells me what nice teeth I have and says that as long as I brush and floss regularly, they’ll never give me any trouble.  The teacher’s pet in me feels instantly gratified.
I used to experience a slight twinge of guilt because of my non-flosser status, though.  The dentist and hygienist could always tell because of the massive amounts of gum bleeding caused by their little scraper of doom, but they’d ask about my flossing habits anyway.   I’d admit my failure in shame, feeling like I had only earned an B+ on my dental exam (on a related note, I just realized it’s called an exam for a reason – haha, I’m so funny!). 
Not this time, though!  I am a flosser!
The hygienist even used the scraper of doom more than usual because my now-adult gums apparently required measuring, and there was barely any bleeding.  When asked if I flossed, I triumphantly declared, “Yes!  For the past two months.”  I was finally going to be an A student.
Then my X-rays came back.
I have a cavity.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Is There a Name for People who Love Lists?

I should just warn you now; I’m obsessed with lists.

Seriously. I buy notebooks dedicated solely to list-making.

Mostly, I love to-do lists: Groceries to buy, chores to complete, movies to watch, places to visit, music to purchase, assignments to finish, piano pieces to learn, and books to read. Especially books to read.

I have this dream of becoming a truly cultured person, the sort of person who has read everything, been everywhere, seen every major film; someone who knows high culture and low culture, who can talk to anyone about anything; the sort of person who speaks foreign languages fluently and has traveled the world.

I make lists about these dreams.

So far, I’ve been exceptionally blessed, with family and circumstances that have helped me toward accomplishing my goals. I’ve completed my public education and earned a bachelor’s degree, which requires at least a decent cultural introduction. I’ve lived in two foreign countries and have learned a smattering of Spanish and good amount of French, even though I'm discovering it’s freaking hard to learn a language. I probably watch four movies a week (maybe I shouldn’t admit that), and I try to choose high-quality ones, especially ones on the American Film Institute’s 100 best list.

More than anything, though, I’m a reader. Thanks to my mom and some great English teachers in middle school and high school, I love, love, love books. With that in mind, I present to my blog the first of many lists:

100 Books to Read Before you Die

1 Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen X

2 The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien

3 Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte X

4 Harry Potter series – JK Rowling X

5 To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee X

6 The Bible (I’ve read the New Testament a few times, but for some reason I’ve always felt intimidated by the Old Testament)

7 Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte X

8 Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell

9 His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman X

10 Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

11 Little Women – Louisa M Alcott X

12 Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

13 Catch 22 – Joseph Heller

14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (Complete Works? Although I’ve been to many plays and read at least five, I definitely haven’t read the complete works)

15 Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier

16 The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien

17 Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk

18 Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger X

19 The Time Traveler’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger X

20 Middlemarch – George Eliot

21 Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell X

22 The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald X

23 Bleak House – Charles Dickens

24 War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy

25 The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams (I got within 50 pages of finishing this recently, but I just couldn’t get into it)

27 Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky

28 Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck X

29 Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll

30 The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame

31 Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

32 David Copperfield – Charles Dickens

33 Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis X

34 Emma – Jane Austen X

35 Persuasion – Jane Austen X

36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – CS Lewis X

37 The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini

38 Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres

39 Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden

40 Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne

41 Animal Farm – George Orwell X

42 The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown X

43 One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving

45 The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins

46 Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery X

47 Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy

48 The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

49 Lord of the Flies – William Golding X

50 Atonement – Ian McEwan

51 Life of Pi – Yann Martel

52 Dune – Frank Herbert

53 Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons

54 Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen X

55 A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth

56 The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon

57 A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens X

58 Brave New World – Aldous Huxley

59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night – Mark Haddon

60 Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

61 Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck X

62 Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov

63 The Secret History – Donna Tartt

64 The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold

65 Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas X

66 On The Road – Jack Kerouac

67 Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy

68 Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

69 Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie

70 Moby Dick – Herman Melville

71 Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens X

72 Dracula – Bram Stoker

73 The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett X

74 Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson

75 Ulysses – James Joyce

76 The Inferno – Dante X

77 Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome

78 Germinal – Emile Zola

79 Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray

80 Possession – AS Byatt

81 A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens

82 Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell

83 The Color Purple – Alice Walker

84 The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

85 Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert

86 A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

87 Charlotte’s Web – EB White

88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom X

89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

90 The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton

91 Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad

92 The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery (I’ve read big chunks of this in my French classes, and I want to see if I can get through the whole thing in French)

93 The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks

94 Watership Down – Richard Adams

95 A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

96 A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute

97 The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas

98 Hamlet – William Shakespeare X

99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl X

100 Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

Thirty out of one hundred – that’s not too bad for a 22-year-old, is it? This summer I want to take a decent chunk out of the list, though, so here’s my summer reading plan:

1 The Three Musketeers (I’ll be honest, I downloaded this, and I’ll be listening to it during car rides this summer)

2 The Wind in the Willows

3 Dracula

4 Charlotte’s Web

5 Memoirs of a Geisha

6 The Old Testament (I think I can, I think I can, I think I can)

7 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (I just have to grit my teeth and finish it)

I’ll also be reading:

8 The Bronze Bow – Elizabeth George Speare (Absolutely my favorite author for young adults. If I can ever write a book like hers, my life will be complete)

9 Pegasus – Robin McKinley (My next favorite writer for young adults. She writes great Fantasy)

10 A Householder’s Guide to the Universe – Harriet Fasenfest

11 Streams to the River, River to the Sea – Scott O’Dell

12 Eragon – Christopher Paolini

13 Eldest – Christopher Paolini

14 Brisingr – Christopher Paolini (These three are all re-reads in preparation for the fourth book coming out in the fall. I need a refresher since I remember absolutely nothing about the third book)

15 The Lost Symbol – Dan Brown

16 Le château de ma mère – Maurice Pagnol (I’m so close to finishing this book entirely in French!)

17 Some Lewis and Clark nonfiction book that I haven’t read yet

These, plus Robin McKinley’s Deerskin, which I read last week, should make for at least eighteen books in one summer.

Oh! And I’ll be going to Montana Shakespeare in the Parks, bringing me two plays closer to completing all of his works. I figure plays are meant to be seen rather than read, so attending a performance totally counts, right?

Maybe I’m being too ambitious.

I'm Back!

Attention world! I'm back.

I might be back in America, but my adventures aren't over, so more blog posts are coming soon.

I have to admit though, I feel a little bit conceited writing a blog. Am I really interesting enough to warrant this little chunk of Internet space (is it called bandwidth, or am I making that up?)? Probably not, but I'll just count this as my digital journal, and earn some points toward salvation. We Mormons are encouraged to journal, after all. And maybe, someday, the angels will quote from my blog. ;)

I like the idea of heavenly beings going high-tech.