2015 in review

See 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014‘s answers here!

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 28, and spent it jetlagged but in Utah. We went to Sam Weller’s (my favorite book store in Utah), I made a lemon layer cake, and thoroughly enjoyed being home again.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
Maybe picking out my wedding dress? I thought the whole “you’ll know when you find THE dress” thing was a myth, but it is not. (At least it wasn’t for me.) I thought I was going to end up with a short, simple, pretty but also practical dress, but I did not. Sure, I tried on short dresses first, but none of them made me feel especially pretty or bridal (even though I don’t know what feeling bridal actually means). But then the wonderful, wonderful saleslady had me try on a long dress, and that felt pretty good. And then she brought me a dress that I didn’t think I’d like, but I’m non-confrontational so I tried it on anyway, and when it slid over my head, I knew. L. hasn’t seen it yet so I’m keeping it under wraps, but two words: French lace.

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At Assepoester in Arnhem, which, despite its name, is about the least Cinderella-esque you can get when you’re in the market for a big white dress.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Get engaged. Oh wait, that’s not true. Um, get engaged and not regret the experience.

When my ex asked me to marry him, I knew it was coming and I kept thinking, no, please don’t do this. But he did and I said yes, because isn’t that what you’re supposed to do when someone wants to marry you? (For the record? No, no it’s not. If only my 15-20 year old knew what I know now, about healthy relationships and boundaries and how love doesn’t require you bending over backwards to accommodate the other and erasing yourself, bad readings of Proverbs 31 and patriarchal theology be damned.)

This time, I knew what was coming and it was perfect. Low key, in the rain in an ikea parking lot (where we had our first kiss in February 2014), and I wanted this with all my heart. I want to marry L. because I can’t see a future without him, because being with him makes me grow as a person, because we complement each other in our joys and our challenges, and because waking up next to him every morning makes me feel so happy to be alive. And because I love Josie and the two are a package deal.

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shout out to Jonathan Coulton’s “Ikea” song!

4. What did you want and get?

Job prospects! I sent out about fifteen cover letters+resume sets, and have two job interviews next week. I’m not counting my chickens before they hatch, but even this amount of interest from potential employers helps. I was having a mini existential crisis every other week, fearful no one would want to hire me if I stepped off the tenure track path.  (Kudos to L., for not only listening to five million conversations that all basically boiled down to the same thing, but actively participating in them.)

Slight tether in the line now!

No longer feeling like I’m hurtling into space untethered!

5. What surprised you the most about yourself this year?

How much I mourned when we knew we would leave Utah. I always knew Utah wouldn’t be my forever home, but I don’t think I realized how attached I was to the state and the people I’ve met here until we decided to leave.

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A defense date. My advisor is dealing with some health challenges, so we’ve pushed back the idea of me defending for a while. Other thing I’d like to have is a job. And, if we’re being frivolous, I’d like an architecture Lego set because they look like fun. (Santa L. got me this for Christmas! I’ll be building the White House in little Lego bricks in January.)

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My sister and I at Dinosaur National Monument.

7. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did! I kept losing weight, started Jillian Michael’s Body Revolution program (it’s dorky but it works!), and tried to put down roots in Utah.

Next year’s resolutions: more writing (both of the personal essay and fiction kind–it’s been forever since I wrote fiction!), and riding my first century. Hopefully an organized one, but a practice solo one is fine too. If I’m really brave, I’ll join a cycling club. Also, I’d like to start really cooking again, trying out new recipes and getting back into a meal-planning groove.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Surviving the upheaval that was spending 2×2 months in the Netherlands and balancing the need to see family and friends with the work I needed to do on my dissertation.

Time spent with my mom? Priceless.

Time spent with my mom? Priceless.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Um, failing to adequately prepare for the move because we were being moved and I didn’t realize how much there is left to do? Also, failing to anticipate just how much stuff L. has acquired. The amount of things I did not know the basement held was mind-boggling.

10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
Skype with friends. Cuddle time with Josie the Dog. The Salt Lake Public Library (oh, how I will miss that place!)

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Meet Lion, Lamb, Rhino, Gorilla, and Froggie. We are obviously super talented at thinking up names for stuffed animals.

11. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)
TV
: Gallavant! Season two premier is this Sunday! Go watch!

Still a fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, SHIELD, Bones, Castle, iZombie (although it’s getting very drama-y and I really want them to resolve the story arc with Major in a way that he doesn’t end up dead, in jail, or something even more dire. And Bones seems to be jumping the shark a little bit. And Castle is doing weird things with the Castle-Beckett relationship. But at least Brooklyn Nine-Nine is pretty much consistently funny!). And NCIS, NCIS LA are consistent favorites, with Criminal Minds and Hawaii Five-O a good back-up.

Books: Andy Weir’s The Martian, Brandon Sanderson’s Legion, Shadows of Self, Warbreaker, Rithmatist, and especially his Steelheart series, Rachel Held Evan’s Searching for Sunday, Jeanne Ray’s Calling Invisible Women, Jon Ronson’s So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars,  Terry Tempest William’s When Women Were Birds, pretty much all cozy mysteries written by Elizabeth Peters ever, and SP Bailey’s Millstone City. See my Goodreads Year in Books here.

MoviesThe MartianInside Out (Bing Bong! Sob), Paddington, I guess Star Wars: The Force Awakens if only for the resulting cultural conversation, Going Clear, and The Good Dinosaurs for the incredible artwork, even if the settings didn’t always make sense (self-domesticating dinosaurs?). We also saw a lot of bad movies.

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having dinner out with my mom right before I left to go back home to Utah.

12. What music will remind you of this year?

We saw Pentatonix in concert. The venue wasn’t the best (an arena with terrible acoustics), but it was a fun night nonetheless.

At Lagoon (an amusement park) the day after I got home. Jet lag and roller coasters mix just fine, apparently.

At Lagoon (an amusement park) the day after I got home. Jet lag and roller coasters mix just fine, apparently.

13.  What was your most enjoyable purchase?

The annotated autobiography of Laura Ingalls Wilder. Amazon had a 30% off deal on black friday/cyber monday and I splurged on the book.

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with E. and C. at a Mets game in New York.

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At the Natural History Museum, true highlight of the trip.

14. What did you wear in 2015?
Pants bought at Costco! Seriously, I have one pair of jeans from the Gap that I hardly ever wear because all the pants I found at Costco are so super comfy. Also a lot of work out capris because let’s face it, I work from home and the dog doesn’t care what I wear.

At Schiphol Airport, right before I got on a plane and flew away from all these people I love so much.

With A. at Schiphol Airport, right before I got on a plane and flew away from all these people I love so much.

15. Did you travel? If so, where?
Two trips to the Netherlands, a couple crossings over to Germany (including a fun trip to Berlin!), several unrelated flights to California to present at a conference, see my dad, and to check out where we wanted to live. Idaho, to see L.’s family. Road trip with E. to Dinosaur, CO. Wanted to make it over to DC to see my sister but didn’t (resolution for next year!). Did make it to New York to see her. A trip to Escalante National Monument with my dad, and a trip to Cedar City’s Shakespeare festival that included a nearby hike at Kanarra Creek–highly recommended!

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slot canyons galore!

 

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Road biking, probably.

visiting my grandmother on my dad's side.

visiting my grandmother on my dad’s side.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Can I say dissertation writing? It was brutal.

18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Planning to join the smug marrieds in May, a notion both wonderful and terrifying. (Not the marrying part, but the host of societal expectations that come with marriage.)

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?

I still laugh way too hard at puns. The more terrible, the better.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?

It’s an ongoing internalization of the lesson my old therapist told me years ago: be kind to yourself. Once you’ve got that down, I think, the rest falls into place.

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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.

Mt. Tamalpais (California recap part two)

Though the Giants game was obviously the highlight of my fall break, this expedition takes a deserved second place: a hike at Mt. Tamalpais State Park, up near Muir Woods and Mill Valley. It was beautiful.

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It was also brutal. The trail wound up and down in the hills, and I could still feel the ache in my legs three days later. Worth it, though, for the views alone.

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well, that was exciting

I had two days off teaching last week (fall break!), so I took advantage of that and flew to California to visit my dad. What was on the agenda, you ask? Well, book stores, coffee houses, crosswords, a hike, and…a Giant’s game. The fifth game in the national league championship series, to be exact!

On our way to the stadium, someone heard us talking Dutch and asked where we were from. This gave my dad the perfect opportunity to use his favorite line, “I flew six thousand miles to see this game!” It’s true, too–dad always plans his trips around baseball and football. (You should have heard him complaining the one time a European colleague of his had organized a conference on Super Bowl weekend. Never again.)

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Before the game

We had seats in the bleachers, as far up as you could get. The game wasn’t electrifying all the way through, there were stretches where you could tell the teams were evenly matched, at least at the moment. But at the end, oh, at the end, when Ishikawa did that all-important home run? Screaming ensued, pure chaos erupted, and the Giants were headed to the World Series.

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It’s hard to do it justice: my dad recapped the game for my sisters in an email, and I’ll quote him here, “The photos that I took don’t do right to the atmosphere, anyway. If you really want to know what it was like you should look at them and at the same time put your fingers in the outlet.” Yeah, that seems about right.

Taken right after the win. I was too excited to hold my phone steady enough for a non-blurry picture.

Taken right after the win. I was too excited to hold my phone steady enough for a non-blurry picture.

on long distance

I think my family is more suited to long-distance living than others, given as we’ve been doing it for a while. It can make things a little complicated, to have my sister and I in the States, my mom and my other sister in the Netherlands, and a dad who flies back and forth between the two, but with Skype, Whatsapp, and frequent flyer miles, we make it work. It can make me kind of jealous, sometimes, when my friends take their family clans for granted, because I don’t have that and will likely not have that. But on a day-to-day basis, I think it’s a miracle my family has survived all that it has and come out as intact as it as, so who am I to complain if it takes some juggling of time zones?

This past weekend, though, I missed my family fiercely. Easter weekend always meant visiting my mom, eating sumptuous feasts, enjoying the sun in her yard, and other such low-key family togetherness. Easter has always been my mom’s holiday, while I associate Christmas much more with my dad. But this Easter weekend, I was stuck so many thousand miles away, and although I did make scones so we’d have some kind of special breakfast, it wasn’t the same and I will confess to crying a little bit that morning.

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I mean, look at all this food! Our breakfast of scones, bacon, and eggs seems paltry by comparison.

It’s something I’ve been working out over the past few months, as L. and I have gotten more serious: being with L., and imagining a happy future with him, means not forgetting about my Dutch side (as if that could happen–if I’m not paying attention and L. asks me something, I’m as likely to blurt out something in Dutch as I am in English) but kind of putting it on hold, if that makes sense. And as happy as I’ve been, it’s also been kind of a mourning process that there are some things I can’t share with L., because of language barriers or cultural differences or whatever.

This isn’t L.’s fault–he’s never been anything but appreciative of my Dutch side, and we already talked about the possibilities of moving to Europe for a while someday, and he listens to me talk about Europe with genuine interest. He practices the vowels in my name in an attempt to get them authentically right, texts me Dutch phrases with a little help of Google Translate, and tells me we can go to the Netherlands any time I want. So he’s doing everything right. It’s just the reality, that a future with L. most likely means  living an ocean away from my friends and family and a place that still very much feels like home. I expect it will get easier over time, even if it’s a bittersweet kind of process right now.

But in the meantime, I’m particularly grateful for Skype, as it got me a little closer to my other home.

And for F., A’s boyfriend, who captured this picture of my mom and my sister, skyping with me and obviously having fun while doing it. It makes me homesick and happy at the same time, which, all things considered, is not a bad place to be.

twenty-seven

I turned 27 on Saturday, March 1st. I spent it with L., a wonderful guy I’m dating, and whom I’ve been quiet about because it’s been going so well and I didn’t want to jinx it. On Friday, we drove down to Provo to see John Lithgow’s “Stories by Heart,” in which he mixed a PG Wodehouse and a Ring Lardner story with stories of his own childhood and was absolutely captivating for two hours. Thank you, E., for gifting me the tickets!

On Saturday, I got to sleep late, skype with my family (who, in three different skype conversations, all proceeded to sing me happy birthday because my family is adorable), bake a cake (Smitten Kitchen’s bittersweet chocolate and pear, in case you were wondering), and spend about two hours at the Sam Weller’s bookstore, combing every shelf to my heart’s content. L. bought me two (second-hand) books, Madeleine L’Engle’s And Both Were Young, and Zoe Ferraris’ Kingdom of Strangers, both authors I’ve read before and both books I didn’t know existed, so that was exciting.

On Sunday, I first went to church (and even went up when it was time for the birthday blessing/prayer, even though my introvert self resisted the idea of getting up in front of everyone), then met up with L. again, for a walk through Liberty Park in the sun and an afternoon spent at Beans and Brews, with a book, a muffin, and a soy hazelnut latte.

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Yes, I have once again managed to find a guy that thinks reading together at a coffee place is a perfectly reasonable and wonderful way to spend an afternoon. I’m sure you see why I like him.

I have been swamped with papers to write and chapters to research and a bunch of other stuff to do, so it was absolutely lovely to take the weekend off. You know me, I like low-key birthdays, and this was about as low-key as it gets, and about as perfect.

happy valentine’s day, indeed

Yesterday, I got an unexpected present. There was a padded envelope in the mailbox with my name on it, and inside, I found this:

WP_000864After Christmas break, Dino had stayed with E., and I am delighted to have him back with me.

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With a sister like this, who needs a date? Thank you, E.