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.

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?

2014 in review

Click on the links for 2011, 2012, and 2013‘s answers to these questions.

1. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 27, and spent it with L., who I had just started dating. It was low-key and filled with coffee and books, just the way I like it. (This also answers the “did you fall in love this year” question, because: yes. So much yes.)

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At my local Beans and Brews, the day after my birthday.

2. What are your strongest memories from this year, and why?
The moment I realized I wasn’t lonely anymore, that I had finally built up enough of an existence in Utah.

3. What did you do this year that you’d never done before?
Visit the Idaho State Fair–or Idaho itself for that matter. It sounds like a flippant answer, but L. and I come from vastly different families, and going to (and enjoying) the Idaho State Fair is part of that.

4. What did you want and get?
Access to a car. As much as I am a pedestrian at heart, having a car makes everything so much easier.

5. What surprised you the most about yourself this year?
I have become a dog person. (Or at least a Josie person. I’m not convinced my love for Josie has spread to all dogs yet.)

Josie the Dog

Josie the Dog

6. What would you like to have next year that you didn’t have this year?
A Ph.D (or, if I’m being really bold, a job offer). I am ready to start a new phase in my life.

7. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I did! I discovered the joys of yoga, bought a road bike, and managed to lose twenty pounds through a combination of more exercise and less food.

8. What was your biggest achievement of this year?
Probably finally losing a significant amount of weight, and doing it in a fairly relaxed manner.

IMG_08079. What was your biggest failure?
I’m lactose intolerant, and yet I can’t seem to just stop eating cheese.

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you'd think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you'd be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

L. is also lactose intolerant, so you’d think between the two of us, there would be no dairy in the house. But you’d be wrong. (Picture taken in Muiden, the Netherlands.)

10. What did you rely on when you were overwhelmed?
A combination of dog walking, venting to others, and mindless Facebook browsing.

11. What are your strongest recommendations for entertainment from this year? (books, television, movies, music, etc)
This was the year of Pentatonix, Jonathon Coulton, and a couple new-to-me tv shows like SHIELD, Brooklyn 9-9, and Eureka (loved that show so much!). Book-wise, this was the year of cozy mysteries, with Rhys Bowen’s Evan Evans and Her Royal Spyness series a clear winner. (I also read a lot of baaad cozy mysteries. I need to learn discernment when it comes to this genre, clearly.) This was also the year of Mario, as I played countless hours of Mario Kart and developed a strong love for Yoshi.

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

Yoshi riding Yoshi here!

12. What song will remind you of this year?
Ikea, from Jonathon Coulton. L. and I have a thing for Ikea and like to belt out this song in the car.

14.  What was your most enjoyable purchase?
I think my road bike. It was a big purchase, but I love how I feel when I use it.

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Salt Lake City

15. Did you travel? If so, where?
A conference in Texas, a conference in Denver, a couple trips to see my dad in California, a weekend in Disneyland with L.’s family, and an epic LDS immersion tour from New York to Nauvoo, in which I honed both my ideas for my dissertation and my passing-as-a-Mormon skills.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

Right after the Giants became the national league champions. Certainly a night to remember.

At a Cardinal's game in St. Louis.

At a Cardinal’s game in St. Louis–the first non-Mormonism related thing we’d done in a week.

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In Nauvoo, Illinois.

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The Kirtland temple, the highlight of my research trip. Mostly because I was a little done with the missionary narratives being presented at the other historic sites (you know, since I’m not actually a Mormon) and I loved this tour, given by an actual historian, so much.

16. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Blogging, honestly. It’s one of my goals for 2015.

17. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Worrying about finding a job when I defend, even though that’s still a while off. (L. has banned me from searching job sites lest my anxiety levels surge to immangeable heights. I am trying not to mind that if I go the non-academic route, my advanced degrees are … not of much use.)

18. Compared to this time last year, how are you different?
Biggest difference? I’m a European living in the US, not an American living in Europe. Either way, I’m still foreign, so there’s that.

19. Compared to this time last year, how are you the same?
I’m still an overachieving, overthinking nerd that regards my library card as my most prized possession. I suspect that won’t ever change.

20. What’s a life lesson you learned this year?
Clearly not how to pose for pictures. I can do one face, and one pose, and anything else turns out like this.

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Muiden, again.

curmudgeons unite!

To mark my last weekend in Utah until the end of February (I leave for Europe this Saturday), L. and I planned out a whole day of romance. We started with breakfast at Finn’s, checked out the Festival of Trees in Sandy, before braving terrible, terrible traffic to go look at the lights at Temple Square (so pretty!), and then dinner at Texas de Brazil.

10858440_899906400043928_5706535193963367200_nBig conclusion of the day? Though we like each other very much, we don’t like other people enough to want to shuffle past decorated trees in a crowd. Curmudgeons and wholesome, family-friendly fun apparently do not mix. Which is probably why the only picture we have of all the trees is one featuring the Grinch..

and that is why I love reading

On Thursday, I went to a lecture at the Salt Lake public library about James Audubon.

Screenshot 2014-08-08 17.01.15The City Library has a copy of The Birds of America, with 435 life-sized, hand-colored aquarium prints featuring 497 species of birds. After yesterday’s lectures, I could tell you a lot about both Audubon and the way the books were produced, but I’ll resist. You can always go read the Wiki entry.

The people at the lecture were mostly members of the Great Salt Lake Audubon Society, with a few other bird watchers mixed in, and me. No, I haven’t suddenly become a bird watcher. I went because I read  and loved Okay For Now, in which the folios play a big part. Months ago, I stumbled upon the library’s copy, which is under glass on the fourth floor, immediately flash-backed to Okay For Now, and spent fifteen minutes poring over the illustration. When I saw the lecture announcement, I decided to attend. And that is why I love reading: one chance encounter with a YA book and there you go, I know more about Audubon than I would ever really want to.

to the library!

I turned in the keys to my office at the U on Friday. It was quite bittersweet–I have loved having that office.

ImageAnd although I’ll obviously miss the stipend and support that came with the fellowship most, I’m not kidding when I say how much I loved being able to request every single book in the library that struck my fancy to be delivered to my office, if I wanted to.

Anyway, when a Facebook friend asked where I would be going, now that my fellowship is at an end, my sister A. quipped, “to the library!” Which is totally true. As I have lackluster discipline at best (though the SelfControl app certainly has helped with that!), it’s probably a good idea to go work at the library every once in a while, instead of my house with its myriad distractions (netflix! dog! laundry! snacks!). And since I have the downtown public library, the university library, and the Church History Library to choose from (all within what, a three mile radius of my house?), A. was more right than she knew.

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This seemed appropriate in light of my last post.

smart car in the city

So, L. has a smart car. Do you know what happens when you drive a smart car in Salt Lake City? You get looked at lot. Complete strangers will glance over, look away, glance again, then nudge their neighbor, laugh, and point. SUVs and trucks will not like it one bit when you pass them on the highway. At gas stations, people will constantly ask you how your mileage is, or start talking about electric cars, or just do the point and laugh thing again. We also hear a lot of clown car jokes.

And although I’m a pretty good driver, I’m also an insecure driver, and it took me forever to learn that people weren’t staring at me because I was committing some horrendous traffic violation or something. Now, I just politely smile back, and enjoy parking in tiny spaces, like this one.

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Which is an appropriate segue into a video L. showed me the other day. It perfectly highlights the awesome ridiculousness of the car–and why common sense should prevail and the car should stay in the city.