so, this happened

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L. asked me to marry him on a Saturday in the pouring rain. It wasn’t a surprise–we’ve been talking about it for a while, and even picked out rings beforehand–but L. made it perfect anyway. He proposed in the same spot he kissed me for the very first time, and it was sweet, and simple, and followed by Ikea-as-usual intertwined with goofy romance (and a cinnamon roll, because surely being newly-engaged warrants a cinnamon roll).

My rings are beautiful, and not at all like I was expecting I would want. We went to a jewelry store to see what the options were, and although I thought I would be coming home with something super small and simple, the look on my face when I tried these on convinced L. that these were the ones I was supposed to have. Diamonds, y’all. Who ever thought I would have diamonds? And L. has a ring too (because why should I be the only one who gets one?), and I smile every time I see it on him.

I’m a little overwhelmed with this idea of planning a wedding–turns out that even super simple and low-key weddings still require a lot of planning, who knew?–but I feel happy every day when I put on my rings and think about what they stand for. Not the start of a life together–we already have that–but the continuation, and hope for even better things to come.

S&L, coming to you legally bound in May 2016.

March, part 2

(I know, I know, it’s May already. Ssshh!)

In March, my dad came to visit me, by way of two conferences (one in Munich, the other in Denver). On our schedule were coffee houses (of course), crosswords to complete (of course), and a trip to Escalante National Monument. (And work, but I’m ignoring that, as it does not make for a fun blog recap.)

Dad has been to every national and state park within driving distance of California, pretty much, and he had been to Escalante before. We booked a room at a pretty little B&B, selected some hikes, and I prepared to get sunburned once again. (Yep.) First up was a six-mile hike to a waterfall:

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Then, a couple slot canyons, which we only made it through thanks to the hospitality of an experience guide, who let us tag along with his group and got us through the sticky parts.

 

And lastly, a hike through Willis Creek: muddy and delightful.

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The dinosaur was there too, of course.

The dinosaur was there too, of course.

On dad’s last day, we went out for Japanese food at Kyoto’s, where dad made us pose, because that’s what dads do.

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This is my happy face. Don’t judge.

Though I’m sure dad would much rather have me living in California, so he’d have yet another excuse to visit often, I’m also pretty sure Utah’s beauty makes up for a lot. Thanks for visiting, dad. It meant a lot to me.

things that are saving my life right now

I’m stuck in the throes of dissertation writing, and it’s about as fun as it sounds. These are the things I rely on to keep me sane:

1. The SelfControl app on my computer. I have the willpower of a fish, but it’s just about enough to set the app that blocks Facebook, Pinterest, Feedly, and Higheredjobs.com (because I like to stress out about my future even though it’s completely counter-productive). (Now that I’m thinking about it, I should probably add some more sites to that list.)

2. Josie the Dog, because she requires frequent walks and that gives me a justified break, and one I probably wouldn’t take otherwise.

3. Sending progress reports to my friend R. She’s at the same stage that I am, and we keep each other updated on our progress. Not only do I get to feel good about what I’ve accomplished that day, there’s a little voice in my head that says, “No, you can’t watch Netflix! You have to have something to report to R. later. Go work!”

4. The library, because it provides me with books that are not dissertation-related yet keep my intellectual curiosity alive.

5. Friends who make me get out of the house and do fun things. Last week, I attended a Favorite Things party. Next week, there’s book club.

6. L., because he lets me complain all I want and puts up with my moods when the stress hits, and happily putters around in the kitchen when I don’t want to cook. (And luckily owns two hundred t-shirts (I’m actually not exaggerating) so that I can ignore laundry all I want.)

And most of all:

7. The knowledge that this will pass and I will move on to a rewarding job, fingers crossed. No matter what happens, I will never have to write this dissertation again.

April’s book list

April was a slow month for me, with a total of seven books.

April1. Flesh and Blood, by Patricia Cornwell. Cornwell’s Scarpetta mysteries have been very conspiracy-prone of late, so I was glad to see this one return to the realm of “normal” thriller-mystery. An unsettling end means that I’m wanting the next one to come out soon. Recommended for Patricia Cornwell fans!

2. Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters, by Shannon Hale. Smart, insightful, and subtly feminist in all the right ways. If I have daughters (or if anyone around me has daughters), you can bet I’m giving them all the Shannon Hale young adult books I can find.

3. Sidney Chambers and the Shadow of Death

and

4. Sidney Chambers and the Perils of the Night, by James Runcie. This is a new-to-me series, and I’m liking the cleverness of the series. Canon Chambers is a very likeable character, Runcie’s portrayal of small-town life in the shadow of Cambridge add a wonderful sense of scenery, and most of the mysteries fit well in this imagined environment. (The second book gets involved with some international espionage, so take that for what it’s worth.)

5. The Square Root of Murder, by Ada Madison. Delightful cozy mystery series, this time math-themed, instead of knitting/book/quilting/whatever themed.

6. The Raven Boys, by Maggie Stiefvater. I’ve been seeing her books touted for years, but only picked one up after I read this online and thought I should read more of her writing. See my comments about Shannon Hale, above.

7. A River in the Sky, by Elizabeth Peters. I don’t know if I just missed this one because my library’s Overdrive system didn’t have it, or it was written to fit back between prior novels, but I saw it at the library and picked it up. I’m a fan of Elizabeth Peter’s Egypt mysteries, and though this one is set in Palestine, it fits nicely and was a fun, quick read.

Tell me, what should I make sure to include on May’s list of books?

March, part 1

March was busy, ya’ll. I came back to Utah, celebrated my birthday, had my sister and my dad over to visit, went on two road trips, and then hosted L.’s family. And I worked on my dissertation, presented at a conference, and tried to ignore the fact that the end of graduate school is looming and I’m not quite sure what the next step will be.

(The latter is giving me a lot of anxiety, when I let it. At the conference, a senior scholar asked what my plans were, post-PhD, and I said that I would love an academic position, but given L. and mine’s two-body problem/dual career problem, and the scarcity of tenure-track jobs anyway, I was exploring my options. He then wished me good luck and told me that I would no doubt be exceptional at whatever I chose to do. That was very nice of him and I think of those words whenever I start feeling like a failure, which is often.)

But! You can always count on your family to distract you, so here are some pictures from the trip my sister E. and I took to Dinosaur National Monument on the Utah/Colorado border.

Why yes, we are wearing dinosaur-themed t-shirts. Thank you, Threadless.

Why yes, we are wearing dinosaur-themed t-shirts. Thank you, Threadless.

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First stop, educational opportunity.

But not too educational, apparently, as there were plenty of imposing yet plastic dinosaurs in the garden behind the museum.

But not too educational, apparently, as there were plenty of fun, imposing yet plastic dinosaurs in the garden behind the museum.

Oh no! Dino has been captured!

Oh no! Dino has been captured!

Best part of Dinosaur, CO. The town itself is small enough to be almost non-existent. The information board made a joke about it almost going extinct after the oil bust, which was both funny and sad.

Best part of Dinosaur, CO. The town itself is small enough to be almost non-existent. The information board made a joke about it almost going extinct after the oil bust, which was both funny and sad.

IMG_1658First stop: the quarry. I don’t have any good pictures, but if you want to see what I’m talking about, go here. Basically, what you get is a wall of dinosaur fossils still in their stone environment. When they were uncovering them, eventually, they ran out of funding and storage space, and since they weren’t really finding new specimens, they decided to build an enclosure around part of the quarry so visitors could get an idea what it looked like. They had handy little visual tech aids, which were cool, to help you identify specific fossils, and an enthusiastic ranger who told us the above story. It was really cool and might have been my favorite part.

Hiking in the desert.

Hiking in the desert.

Our selfie taking skills steadily improved. Not pictured: the wicked sunburn I gave myself. (Who needs sunscreen in the desert? Not us, that’s who!)

Not pictured but also included in E.’s trip here: breakfast at the Park Café, a study session at the library (turns out all play and no work makes these two grad student sisters very anxious), lots of coffee, lots of walks with Josie the Dog, and much talking. It was heavenly.

what I read in March

What better way to get back into the swing of blogging than a monthly recap of the books I’ve read?

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It’ll be a short recap, actually, because the majority of books read in March belong to the Amelia Peabody series of cozy mysteries. Written by Elizabeth Peters, these books deal with an archeologist family, headed by matriarch Amelia Peabody, and surrounded by a cast of characters that make for highly enjoyable reading. If you like cozy mysteries at all, go read this series–it’s better than most. (Cozy mysteries can be both delightful and terrible, and these are definitely the former.) They go very well with dissertation writing–after a day of teasing out complex problems, it was very nice to spend a couple hours in twentieth century Egypt with Amelia and co.

1. Lord of the Silent (Elizabeth Peters)
2. Children of the Storm (Elizabeth Peters)
3. Guardian of the Horizon (Elizabeth Peters)
4. The Serpent on the Crown (Elizabeth Peters)
5. Tomb of the Golden Bird (Elizabeth Peters)

And then, for the more literary part of my month), I also read

6. Shakespeare Saved My Life (Laura Bates). Bates is a Shakespeare scholar that found herself teaching Shakespeare to inmates in solitary confinement in a maximum security prison. I really wanted to like this book, and there were parts that were really interesting, but overall, I felt like Bates was trying too hard and I wanted to throw the book across the room after the third time she very earnestly told us how incredibly insightful these prisoners were. If you’re interested in Shakespeare in prison, I recommend a podcast from This American Life (Act V): I feel like it did a better job of showcasing the complexity that surrounds the rehabilitation of serious offenders.

7. Where’d You Go, Bernadette? (Maria Semple). Architect turned neurotic stay-at-home-mom wreaks havoc on her life, and everyone else’s.
It took me a very long time to get around to reading this book. I really liked 3/4 of this book, and I’m recommending it based on that. The characters are eccentric but believable, and the use of correspondence to tell most of the story is clever and well-executed. The ending is a bit blah, but that could just be me.

8. Death at Wentwater Court (Carola Dunn). I listened to this one through Overdrive, mostly while walking the dog. Short, enjoyable cozy mystery set in 1920s England.

9. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck). I was hooked on half of the book, cheering for the family, until Lotus was brought on the scene and I wanted to shake some sense into Wang Lung. Want to read something that will make your blood boil? The way women are treated in this book should qualify. (Also, this was a book club read. During the meeting, the lone guy present told us that this was the book that made him realize the importance of family planning and birth control. All the women in attendance just looked at him, because yes, thanks for catching on.)

There were two books I didn’t finish this month (rare for me!): Allure of Deceit (Susan Froetschel) and The Rosie Effect (Graehem Simsion). Allure tried too hard for my liking: part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, part exposé, I felt like it didn’t deliver on any of the fronts and stopped reading it halfway through. And although I really, really liked The Rosie Project, the second installment felt too formulaic and frankly too unbelievable for me to want to continue. I felt like the author sat down, brainstormed a list of challenges that could happen to someone on the spectrum, and then proceeded to throw them at his character all at once. If you’ve read and liked The Rosie Effect, let me know if I should reconsider and see it through.

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one year later

This is the photo on my lock screen right on, and it makes me so incredibly happy to see L. smiling at me when I wake up in the morning.

This is the photo on my lock screen right on, and it makes me so incredibly happy to see L. smiling at me when I wake up in the morning.

One year ago today, L. and I went on our first date. I remember getting ready, wanting to wear my blue flats with my dress and tights instead of sensible boots, and regretting my choice within two minutes of leaving the house because it was so bitterly cold. I was running late, hurry-walking, and I remember turning the corner and seeing you standing there. You pretended you didn’t see me and turned the other way, and that made me smile because I do the exact same thing to avoid the awkwardness that is the last hundred yards. I shyly said hello, we walked in and were seated, and thank God there was the menu I could pretend to study for a minute so I could get over my nerves. I remember talking about Harry Potter at dinner (an expected topic of conversation since we were going to see the Utah symphony play the soundtrack after dinner), and laughing at the very bad puns Vlad the conductor made, and me suggesting we go have dessert at the Cheesecake Factory because I really, really didn’t want the date to end. I remember splitting a slice and talking until 11PM, ensconced in a booth and our own little world. Who knew two introverts could talk that much? I fell deeply, madly, head over heels in love and luckily you felt the same way.

And now it’s a year later, as unbelievable as that is. I’ve met your family, you’ve met mine, we went on trips together to Denver and Disneyland, and not to forget the epic LDS immersion tour (otherwise known as my research trip) this summer. We bought extra bookcases so I could fill the house with words, although it took you a while to realize just how many books I have and the prospect of them being shipped to Utah is slightly terrifying to you. I make you breakfast (but never oatmeal) and you make me grilled cheese and we both try to stop Mara the Cat from licking the plates. You listen to me talk about Mormonism and rant about patriarchy, spend nights at the library with me, and tell me of course I will find a job that makes me happy. You share your house with me, made me into a dog person, and let me drive your car even when that means you have to take the bus to work. I love the utter seriousness with which you and your friends play board games, and that you play Mario Kart with me any time I ask. I love how we watch Shield together, and Brooklyn 9-9, and Castle and Modern Family and Bones and a million other shows, and so many YouTube videos it’s hard to keep track. I love you, L., and the life we’ve built together, and how you make my life better, every single day. Eight more days until I fly home to Utah: I can’t wait.

Seriously, have I told you how much I love this dog?

Seriously, do you realize how much I love this dog?